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(15 December 2020 – Thales) Thales Alenia Space and Telespazio, forming the Space Alliance, have signed the contracts with the Italian Ministry of Defence and with the Italian Space Agency (ASI), to launch the development of two additional satellites and the upgrade of ground, logistic support and operational segments to complete the COSMO-SkyMed Second Generation constellation (CSG).

Thales Alenia Space is the lead of a consortium with Telespazio and Leonardo, within the overall COSMO-SkyMed Second Generation programme. Telespazio is responsible for designing and developing the CSG Ground Segment, including the security aspects, as well as the Integrated Logistics and Operations (ILS&OPS) services, and Leonardo’s space line of business provides specific satellite units. Thales Alenia Space is responsible for the design and development of the four CSG satellites and the end-to-end system design, integration and commissioning.

Artist’s impression of aCOSMO-SkyMed Second Generation satellite in orbit (courtesy: Thales Alenia Space)

Leonardo’s space line of business contributes to the program by supplying the star trackers (A-STR) for the orientation of the satellite, Photovoltaic Assembly (PVA) and sophisticated units that process and distribute electric power throughout the satellite, maximizing its power efficiency.

The two new Satellites, to be built by Thales Alenia Space, will ensure the constellation completion and the full operational capacity of the SAR (Synthetic Aperture Radar) observation services provided by the four satellites of the COSMO-Second Generation replacing the previous COSMO-SkyMed first generation still operative despite exceeding the satellite lifetime.

The new satellites will contribute to the continuous monitoring of the Earth’s surface, to safety-related needs and to the management of natural events including support to damage assessment activities and rescuing operations. They will complete the constellation, along with the Proto-Flight Model (PFM) Launched in 2019 and the Flight Model 2 (FM2) – currently under integration phase in Thales Alenia Space Assembly Integration and Test (AIT) Facilities in Rome – and scheduled for launch at the end of 2021 with a VEGA-C launcher.

“We are extremely satisfied to have signed this contract, which will enable the completion of the Second Generation of COSMO-SkyMed, guaranteeing a further leap forward in terms of technology and performance for the entire constellation, consolidating Thales Alenia Space’s leadership in the Earth Observation radar sector worldwide,” commented Massimo Claudio Comparini, Senior Executive Vice President Observation, Exploration and Navigation at Thales Alenia Space. “I therefore believe that it is particularly important to thank the Italian Space Agency and the Ministry of Defence for their commitment to the national space industry in achieving this result. Keeping the entire COSMO-SkyMed constellation at the cutting edge by means of two additional second-generation satellites to be built is of paramount importance to preserve the leadership of our entire industry and its supply chain in a constantly evolving space market”.

“We are proud to confirm the role of Telespazio in making such a strategic asset and are grateful to the Italian Space Agency and the Ministry of Defence for the contract on the third and fourth CSG satellites”, commented Luigi Pasquali, CEO of Telespazio. “The users’ community can rely on the operational continuity of the COSMO-SkyMed system and benefit from the evolutions and improved performances achieved at both Space and Ground Segments level thanks to these additional two second-generation satellites.”

The primary goal of CSG is to provide a dual – civil and defense – user base with Earth Observation services through a broad portfolio of products, obtained in various operational modes of the SAR sensor, in both narrow field and ultra-fine resolution modes and wide field modes.

The design of the second-generation SAR sensor, together with the flexibility features provided by the Ground Segment, represent an important improvement of the state-of-the-art technology for the Earth Observation systems based on radar technology, in terms of image quality, planning and image-acquisition versatility, sensing agility and ground-based updating and processing capabilities, including data exploitation.

The versatility and electronic agility of the CSG SAR payload enable a new operational mode, which allows the simultaneous acquisition of two areas located hundreds of kilometers apart on the Earth’s surface.

About COSMO-SkyMed

The program financed, by the Italian Space Agency, Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Education, University and Research, is the first dual-use Earth Observation satellite system. Its satellites monitor the entire Earth from space, day and night, under any weather conditions, using high-resolution X-band radars. The program is the result and expression of the finest skills in the Italian space industry, with Leonardo and its joint ventures, Thales Alenia Space and Telespazio, assisted by a significant number of innovative small and medium Italian enterprises. More specifically, Thales Alenia Space in Italy is the prime contractor, responsible for the entire system, including both space and ground segments. Telespazio developed the ground segment and hosts the Constellation Control Center at the Fucino Space Center. Leonardo also contributes to the programme by supplying the star trackers for the satellite positioning, the Photovoltaic Assembly (PVA) and power units for electric power distribution and management. e-GEOS, a company founded by Telespazio (80%) and ASI (20%), is responsible for the worldwide marketing of the COSMO-SkyMed products and services.

About The Space Alliance

The Space Alliance, founded in 2005, is a strategic partnership between Leonardo and Thales, the major industrial groups in the aerospace industry in Italy and France. It includes two joint ventures: Telespazio (Leonardo 67%, Thales 33%) and Thales Alenia Space (Thales 67%, Leonardo 33%). The complementary capabilities of Thales Alenia Space in satellite systems and Telespazio in the services associated with them provides the Space Alliance all the assets needed to respond positively and effectively to the needs of the market, which today are increasingly focused on applications related to space technologies. In this scenario, Telespazio and Thales Alenia Space have a unique offering of its kind, ranging from the field of communications to navigation, as well as scientific research and observation, which enables both companies to consolidate their position in the aerospace and defence and security markets.

About Thales Alenia Space

Drawing on over 40 years of experience and a unique combination of skills, expertise and cultures, Thales Alenia Space delivers cost-effective solutions for telecommunications, navigation, Earth observation, environmental management, exploration, science and orbital infrastructures. Governments and private industry alike count on Thales Alenia Space to design satellite-based systems that provide anytime, anywhere connections and positioning, monitor our planet, enhance management of its resources, and explore our Solar System and beyond. Thales Alenia Space sees space as a new horizon, helping to build a better, more sustainable life on Earth. A joint venture between Thales (67%) and Leonardo (33%), Thales Alenia Space also teams up with Telespazio to form the parent companies’ Space Alliance, which offers a complete range of services. Thales Alenia Space posted consolidated revenues of approximately 2.15 billion euros in 2019 and has around 7,700 employees in nine countries.

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Northrop Grumman completes validation test of new rocket motor for United Launch Alliance

Northrop Grumman completes validation test of new rocket motor for

(21 January 2021 – Northrop Grumman) Northrop Grumman conducted a validation ground test of an extended length 63-inch-diameter Graphite Epoxy Motor (GEM 63XL) today in Promontory.

This variation of the company’s GEM 63 strap-on booster was developed in partnership with United Launch Alliance (ULA) to provide additional lift capability to the Vulcan Centaur rocket.

Northrop Grumman conducted a validation test of its GEM 63XL rocket motor on Jan. 21 at its Promontory, Utah, facility. The GEM 63XL will support the United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan Centaur launch vehicle. (courtesy: Northrop Grumman)

“This new motor optimizes our best-in-class technologies and leverages flight-proven solid rocket propulsion designs to provide our customers with the most reliable product,” said Charlie Precourt, vice president, propulsion systems, Northrop Grumman. “Evolving the original GEM 63 design utilizes our decades of GEM strap-on booster expertise while enhancing capabilities for heavy-lift missions.”

During today’s static test, the motor fired for approximately 90 seconds, producing nearly 449,000 pounds of thrust to validate the performance capability of the motor design. Additionally, this firing verified the motor’s internal insulation, propellant grain, ballistics and nozzle in a hot-conditioned environment.

Northrop Grumman has supplied rocket propulsion to ULA and its heritage companies for a variety of launch vehicles since 1964. The GEM family of strap-on motors was developed starting in the early 1980s with the GEM 40 to support the Delta II launch vehicle. The company then followed with the GEM 46 for the Delta II Heavy, and the GEM 60, which flew 86 motors over 26 Delta IV launches before retiring in 2019. The first GEM 63 motors supported ULA’s Atlas V rocket in November 2020.

Northrop Grumman solves the toughest problems in space, aeronautics, defense and cyberspace to meet the ever evolving needs of our customers worldwide. Our 90,000 employees define possible every day using science, technology and engineering to create and deliver advanced systems, products and services.

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SSC and Airbus Defence and Space Netherlands to collaborate in optical communication

SSC and Airbus Defence and Space Netherlands to collaborate in

(21 January 2021 – SSC) SSC and Airbus Defence and Space Netherlands (Airbus DS NL) have signed an MOU for collaborative activities regarding ground equipment for space-to-ground optical communication.

The agreement will accelerate the development of commercially viable optical ground stations that will be offered by Airbus DS NL and used by SSC in delivering ground network services.

One of the collaborative activities in developing this capability includes optical communication tests against the CubeLCT optical terminal on the Photo Images Cross Laser (PIXL-1) Mission, organised in close co-operation with project partner TESAT. PIXL-1 will be launched the 22nd of January.

“Airbus Netherlands will be an important partner as SSC continues to add optical communication solutions to our global network of ground stations. Their modern infrastructure and industry-leading knowledge will be a vital contribution to our service offering”, says Stefan Gardefjord, CEO at SSC.

Optical communication between ground stations and satellites in orbit enables broadband connectivity via space, providing a secure and efficient solution for the fast-growing worldwide demand for data.

“Optical communication will be a game changer in this era in which we increasingly share data. We have a strong desire to work with Swedish Space Corporation to further build up our capabilities for optical ground stations, as they have been at the forefront of ground stations services for decades”, says Maarten Schippers, CEO at Airbus Defence and Space Netherlands.

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ESA books two payload missions on Airbus Bartolomeo platform

ESA books two payload missions on Airbus Bartolomeo platform

(21 January 2021 – Airbus) The European Space Agency (ESA) and Airbus have agreed on service orders for two independent payload missions to be launched to the Bartolomeo payload hosting facility on the International Space Station (ISS) in 2022 and 2024, respectively.

The European Space Agency (ESA) and Airbus have agreed on service orders for two independent payload missions to be launched to the Bartolomeo payload hosting facility on the International Space Station (ISS) in 2022 and 2024, respectively. (courtesy: Airbus)

The first payload mission is ESA’s Exobiology Platform (EXPO). This facility carries a set of radiation experiments aimed at better understanding the evolution of organic molecules and organisms in the space. Placed in a Zenith-facing slot, the facility will connect two scientific modules to Bartolomeo. These modules will host everything needed for the experiments, including the scientific sample containers, fluidics systems and sensors related to the individual experiments called Exocube, IceCold and OREOcube. At the end of the three-year mission, the samples will be returned to Earth for detailed investigation and analysis.

The second payload is the Euro Material Ageing experiment platform (SESAME), developed by the French Space Agency (CNES). This mission will study the ageing behaviour of new materials in space and will also make use of Bartolomeo’s payload return option. After a year of exposure in space, the experiments will be returned to Earth, allowing scientists to thoroughly investigate the samples and fully understand the effects of the space environment on the materials.

These service orders, amounting to € 6.5 million, are the first under a new framework agreement which ESA and Airbus have put in place, pre-defining the overall commercial conditions for ESA payload missions on Bartolomeo.

“With this framework contract, we are making it significantly easier for ESA to use the Bartolomeo Service for quick and affordable use of the ISS,” said David Parker, ESA Director of Human and Robotic Exploration. “Commercial arrangements have been streamlined, which enables our researchers to enjoy the full benefits of Bartolomeo’s short lead times and high flexibility. We are very pleased to have the first two ESA payloads secured on the platform, and are looking forward to using this new European asset on the ISS.”

Andreas Hammer, Head of Space Exploration at Airbus, said: “We are looking forward to working with our partners at ESA on bringing these two and future payloads to space – and back again as needed. The strong interest from across ESA and other institutions as well as a number of commercial players confirms the need for our efficient and affordable payload hosting solutions in LEO.”

Airbus’ Bartolomeo platform was launched and robotically attached to the ISS Columbus Module in 2020. Following the final connection of the cabling during an Extravehicular Activity (EVA), or ‘spacewalk’, in early 2021, the platform will be ready for in-space commissioning.

Bartolomeo is an Airbus investment into the ISS infrastructure, enabling hosting of up to twelve external payloads in the space environment, providing unique opportunities for in-orbit demonstration and verification missions. It is operated in a partnership between Airbus, ESA, NASA and the ISS National Laboratory.

Bartolomeo is suitable for many types of missions, including Earth observation, environmental and climate research, robotics, material sciences and astrophysics. It provides sought-after payload-hosting capabilities for customers and researchers to test space technologies, verify a new space business approach, conduct scientific experiments in microgravity or enter into in-space manufacturing endeavours.

Launch opportunities are available on every servicing mission to the ISS, which occur about every three months. The payload accommodation allows slots for a wide range of payload mass, from 5 to 450 kg. As an evolution of the platform, Airbus will provide optical data downlink capacity of one to two terabytes per day.

Payloads can be prepared and ready to operate within one and a half years after contract signature. Payload sizes, interfaces, preparation before launch and integration processes are largely standardised. This reduces lead times and significantly reduces costs compared to traditional mission costs.

Airbus offers this easy access to space as an all-in-one mission service. This includes technical support in preparing the payload mission; launch and installation; operations and data transfer; and an optional return to Earth.

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