Tag Archive for: Space

The Chinese satellite manufacturer and constellation operator, Changguang Satellite Technology (CGST), has successfully demonstrated space-to-ground high-speed laser communications. This breakthrough could help China overcome data transmission bottlenecks and significantly improve the speed and efficiency of getting data from space down to the ground.

The test was conducted using CGST’s Jilin-1 MF02A04 remote sensing satellite in cooperation with the Aerospace Information Research Institute (AIR) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). CGST is an offshoot of the state-owned Changchun Institute of Optics, Fine Mechanics and Physics (CIOMP), which is under the umbrella of CAS.

During the test, the connection speeds achieved an ultra-high-speed of 10 Gbps, which is a significant improvement compared to the previous best of 1 Gbps using radio frequency transmissions. This breakthrough signals numerous advancements in key technologies and marks the first ultra-high-speed (10Gbps) application for commercial purposes in China.

CGST, established in 2014, currently operates 108 remote sensing satellites in orbit. The company plans to expand its Jilin-1 constellation to include 300 satellites by the year 2025. With this technology, CGST aims to enhance its data transmission capabilities and support a wide range of applications, including remote sensing and Earth observation.

The successful demonstration of space-to-ground high-speed laser communications by Changguang Satellite Technology (CGST) and the Aerospace Information Research Institute (AIR) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) involved the development of several key technologies. These technologies include atmospheric channel prediction, task planning and scheduling, rapid capture, signal chain construction, adaptive optical correction of laser signals, and error-free transmission under complex atmospheric conditions.

The Jilin-1 satellites, operated by CGST, generally provide panchromatic imagery with resolutions between 0.50 and 0.75 meters. Other satellites in the Jilin-1 constellation have various capabilities, including video, multispectral, multipurpose, and infrared imaging. During the transmission tests, CGST published images delivered to Earth, showcasing the capabilities of their system.

This breakthrough is expected to enhance China’s space information network by improving the transmission capacity and security. As China plans to expand its low Earth orbit satellite constellations, the use of high-speed laser communications, along with potential inter-satellite laser links, can help overcome challenges associated with limited global ground station infrastructure.

It’s worth noting that while the tests demonstrated the accuracy of narrow beam optical transmissions of data through the atmosphere, Chinese sources did not mention details regarding the development of cost-effective optical terminals, which are essential for the practical implementation of laser communications technology. However, this successful demonstration marks a significant step forward for China in the field of high-speed space-to-ground data transmission.

The U.S. Space Force has awarded L3Harris Technologies a $29 million contract to design a sensor payload for tracking hypersonic missiles from medium Earth orbit. This contract positions L3Harris as a potential third vendor in the MTC Epoch 1 program, which focuses on missile warning, missile tracking, and missile track custody.

Millennium Space Systems and Raytheon Technologies have already been selected by the Space Force to design sensors for MTC Epoch 1. The inclusion of missile-detection satellites in medium Earth orbit is part of the layered missile defense system of the United States, which currently involves ground, sea-based, and space sensors. The low Earth orbit layer is the responsibility of the Space Development Agency and the Missile Defense Agency.

L3Harris is already contracted to produce low Earth orbit missile-tracking satellites for the Space Development Agency and the Missile Defense Agency. The addition of a third vendor like L3Harris helps reduce risk and non-recurring engineering not only for MTC Epoch 1 but also for future epochs, as stated by Col. Heather Bogstie, senior materiel leader for resilient missile warning, tracking, and defense at Space Systems Command.

The agreement between the Space Systems Command and L3Harris Technologies for the design of a sensor payload was funded by a congressional add-on. The one-year “Other Transaction” agreement allows L3Harris to design the sensor payload, and if successful, the Space Systems Command will have the option to purchase up to three payloads and satellites.

Millennium Space Systems and Raytheon Technologies are already under contract for one initial satellite each, with the option to acquire up to three additional satellites once their designs are proven and matured.

Additionally, Parsons was awarded a $55 million contract for the Epoch 1 ground system last month.

The planned constellation for MTC Epoch 1 consists of at least six satellites, which will be deployed in medium Earth orbit starting in late 2026.

The European Space Agency (ESA) has initiated a demonstration project in collaboration with Marple, a German technology firm, to utilize artificial intelligence (AI) and satellite data for certifying organic cotton farms in India and preventing fraud. The project aims to train Marple’s software to analyze imagery from ESA’s Sentinel-2 satellites, which orbit the Earth in a polar trajectory, to identify cotton fields across India and classify them based on their cultivation method.

Marple previously tested this software in Uzbekistan, achieving a 98% accuracy in distinguishing between organic and conventional cotton. Now, the project will be conducted in partnership with the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), a non-profit organization that sets a voluntary global standard for the textile industry.

The demonstration in India is particularly important for enhancing the accuracy of the software, as the country has diverse climatic conditions, a prevalence of small fields, and intercropping practices that can make distinguishing organic cotton more challenging. The software leverages a range of sensors to collect data on vegetation, water, soil, and other indices such as the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), which measures the health and density of vegetation.

The project aims to demonstrate how AI and satellite data can streamline the certification process for organic cotton farms, ensuring the authenticity of organic produce and combating fraud in the industry.

The initial outcomes from the project in India are anticipated to be available by the end of the year, and the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) intends to utilize these results to enhance yield estimations. The project aims to identify cotton fields with traditional and environmentally friendly farming practices, including smaller farms that may operate without organic certification. If fields certified as organic are found to have failed to meet the required criteria, they will be flagged for investigation prior to harvesting their cotton.

One of the challenges in the organic sector is the lack of knowledge regarding the extent to which fraudulent practices have impacted the industry. Additionally, there is currently no reliable data source regarding the number of organic cotton farms in India, making it difficult to accurately assess the quantity of organic cotton being cultivated and its origins.

The European Space Agency (ESA) is co-financing the project in India through its Business Applications and Space Solutions (BASS) program in collaboration with GOTS. They have allocated approximately 500,000 euros ($535,000) to support the demonstration, which utilizes satellite data and artificial intelligence to verify organic cotton farms and address fraud within the industry.

The U.S. Space Force has received the 10th and final GPS 3 satellite manufactured by Lockheed Martin under a contract dating back to 2008. Out of the 10 satellites produced, six have already been launched, while the remaining four are stored at a Lockheed Martin facility in Waterton, Colorado, awaiting future launch opportunities.

On February 16, the Space Systems Command announced that it had declared the 10th satellite “available for launch.” GPS 3 satellites are an upgraded version of the U.S. military’s Global Positioning System, providing enhanced positioning, navigation, and timing signals. They offer improved protection against jamming attacks for military users and feature an advanced L1C signal that is compatible with Europe’s Galileo navigation satellites, benefiting civilian users.

Scott Thomas, the GPS 3 program manager at the Space Systems Command, highlighted the significance of completing the 10th satellite, emphasizing its role in modernizing the GPS system. He acknowledged the program’s importance in meeting U.S. national security needs for both military personnel and the billions of users worldwide who rely on GPS services.

The GPS 3 program faced challenges during its production. Lockheed Martin won the competition against Boeing in 2008, but later encountered technical issues with the primary payload, causing production delays. Despite these setbacks, the delivery of the final GPS 3 satellite marks a notable milestone in the ongoing modernization of GPS technology.

Indeed, the GPS 3 satellite program experienced delays in its launch schedule, with the first satellite launching in 2018 instead of the originally projected 2014. Subsequent launches followed in 2019, 2020, 2021, and most recently last month. The launches were conducted using SpaceX Falcon 9 vehicles for five satellites, while the sixth satellite was launched on a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket.

As for the seventh GPS 3 satellite, no specific launch date has been announced yet. It is assigned to ULA’s upcoming Vulcan Centaur rocket, which is expected to replace the Atlas 5 in future launches.

Lockheed Martin, the primary contractor for the GPS 3 program, is currently working on an advanced version called GPS 3F. The company’s dominant role in the program led its only competitor, Boeing, to withdraw from the competition to build GPS 3F satellites.

In 2018, Lockheed Martin was awarded a contract worth $7.2 billion for the production of up to 22 GPS 3F satellites. As of now, ten satellites have been ordered under this contract.