Orbital Micro Systems Selects AAC Clyde Space for New Smallsat Addition for their GEMS Constellation

Orbital Micro Systems (OMS) has selected Glasgow-based AAC Clyde Space to provide a 6U smallsat bus for the UK Space Launch Program (UK-SLP).

The mission is planned for 2021, which will be the first launch from UK soil through the UK-SLP project that is managed by Lockheed Martin.

Under the terms of the contract, OMS and AAC Clyde Space will collaborate to integrate the instrumentation and bus for launch. The companies previously collaborated on the IOD-1 GEMS mission, which successfully deployed the first commercial microwave radiometer in space.


AAC Clyde Space’s EPIC 6U smallsat platform.

The new 6U smallsat will carry OMS’s next generation, miniaturized, microwave radiometer as a part of the company’s Global Environmental Monitoring System (GEMS) constellation of satellites. The radiometer will monitor 118GHz and 183GHz frequency bands to gather temperature and humidity measurements at multiple altitudes as it orbits the earth.

According to the firm, GEMS is a groundbreaking Earth Observation (EO) solution which uses passive microwave soundings to record temperature and humidity at multiple altitudes regardless of cloud cover. The measurements can provide identification of precipitation type and density at altitude as well. The data collected by GEMS satellites magnifies the volume of microwave soundings available from government satellites and improves the precision and clarity of weather forecasts across the globe.


Orbital Micro Systems IOD-1 GEMS 3U demonstration satellite deployed 3 July 2019.

Access to the unique GEMS data is available through OMS’ International Center for Earth Data (ICED) located in Edinburgh, Scotland. Data from the IOD-1 GEMS satellite is currently provided to government and commercial entities, including the aviation and maritime sectors, as well as insurance and government organizations. When it achieves full deployment with some 50 satellites, the GEMS constellation will deliver near real-time data for any point on earth at approximately 15-minute intervals.


William Hosack

William Hosack, CEO for OMS, said the company is delighted to, once again, work with Clyde Space, and leverage their expertise and commitment to engineering outstanding bus products. Clyde Space shares in OMS’s vision in leveraging space technology for improving weather observation capabilities on Earth. The firm looks forward to working even closer with Clyde Space to deliver essential weather data to commercial and government organizations worldwide.

For more information about Orbital Micro Systems, please visit .

Consortium Plans to Launch in 2022 the First, Global, VDES Satellite Network

A newly established consortium is going to develop a network for LEO satellites delivering ice chart data to ships at sea.

This will significantly improve navigation for ships in rough seas and raise security for the crew on board. The network will also allow the satellite operator Sternula to launch its first of a total of 50 smallsats.

A new research project called MARIOT (Maritime IoT) is going to develop a LEO satellite network based on the new VDES (VHF Data Exchange System) technology. The network will be the first of its kind and establish a stable, low-cost data connection for maritime safety and navigation services. The consortium behind the project is headed by the Danish satellite operator Sternula.

The SATCOM developers GateHouse, Space Inventor, and Satlab as well as Aalborg University, and the Danish Meteorological Institute also participate in the project which will initially focus on the need for improved communication and navigation services in the Arctic Ocean.

VDES technology is the second generation of the Automatic Identification System (AIS). Today, the AIS standard is used to monitor marine traffic by more than 200,000 ships. However, AIS has a limited reach of only 30 nautical miles and is also limited to transfer on only certain types of data. VDES will enable global connectivity through satellite networks as well as efficient transfer of more data types.

In addition to shipping companies operating in the Arctic Ocean, the VDES network is also relevant for maritime security and navigation services, e.g., for sailing directions and coastal monitoring, and can also be used by the maritime industry to monitor marine engines and critical equipment on board. The contribution from GateHouse is mainly related to data communication—more specifically, by ensuring that data can be communicated to and from the individual satellites to the ground station. This includes inter-satellite capabilities and advanced algorithms for data routing in satellite constellations.

GateHouse, Space Inventor, and Satlab will develop the hardware and software components for the project while Aalborg University―based on its extensive experience with launching smallsats―will contribute with technology and expert knowledge. The Danish Meteorological Institute will participate with their ice chart service, which is in development and will be tailored to the VDES network. The MARIOT project will be managed by Sternula and is sponsored by the Danish Innovation Fund.


Per Koch

Business Development Manager at GateHouse, Per Koch, said that, today, the satellite communication networks used by ships in high-latitude seas are often expensive, inept for small amounts of data, and, in some cases, do not even cover seas in remote regions. This is an issue―especially in the Arctic Ocean―where optimized navigation services can significantly reduce the length of shipping routes, e.g. by placing routes closer to the Arctic. VDES offers a faster and more efficient data connection compared to other SATCOM services on the market, and after the VDES standard was assigned global radio frequencies last year, the company now has the opportunity to launch the first global VDES network improving navigation services and security for ships sailing through treacherous passages

NASA to Study the Sun with Six Smallsats

NASA has selected a new mission to study how the Sun generates and releases giant space weather storms – known as solar particle storms – into planetary space.

This information improve understanding of how our solar system works as well as, ultimately, helping to protect astronauts traveling to the Moon and Mars by providing better information on how the Sun’s radiation affects the space environment they must travel through.


A new NASA mission called SunRISE will study what drives solar particle storms – giant surges of solar particles that erupt off of the Sun – as depicted in this illustration. Understanding how such storms affect interplanetary space can help protect spacecraft and astronauts. Image is courtesy of NASA.

The new mission, called the Sun Radio Interferometer Space Experiment (SunRISE), is an array of six cubesats operating as one very large radio telescope. NASA has awarded $62.6 million to design, build and launch SunRISE by no earlier than July 1, 2023.

NASA chose SunRISE in August 2017 as one of two Mission of Opportunity proposals to conduct an 11-month mission concept study. In February 2019, the agency approved a continued formulation study of the mission for an additional year. SunRISE is led by Justin Kasper at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California.

The mission design relies on six solar-powered cubesats – each about the size of a toaster oven – to simultaneously observe radio images of low-frequency emission from solar activity and share them via NASA’s Deep Space Network. The constellation of cubesats would fly within 6 miles of each other, above Earth’s atmosphere, which otherwise blocks the radio signals SunRISE will observe.

Together, the six smallsats will create 3D maps to pinpoint where giant particle bursts originate on the Sun and how they evolve as they expand outward into space. This, in turn, will help determine what initiates and accelerates these giant jets of radiation. The six individual spacecraft will also work together to map, for the first time, the pattern of magnetic field lines reaching from the Sun out into interplanetary space.


NASA JPL artistic rendition of a SunRISE smallsat.

NASA’s Missions of Opportunity maximize science return by pairing new, relatively inexpensive missions with launches on spacecraft already approved and preparing to go into space. SunRISE proposed an approach for access to space as a hosted rideshare on a commercial satellite provided by Maxar of Westminster, Colorado, and built with a Payload Orbital Delivery System, or PODS. Once in orbit, the host spacecraft will deploy the six SunRISE spacecraft and then continue its prime mission.

Missions of Opportunity are part of the Explorers Program, which is the oldest, continuous, NASA program designed to provide frequent, low-cost access to space using principal investigator-led space science investigations relevant to the Science Mission Directorate’s (SMD) astrophysics and heliophysics programs. The program is managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, for SMD, which conducts a wide variety of research and scientific exploration programs for Earth studies, space weather, the solar system and universe.

Nicky Fox, Director of NASA’s Heliophysics Division, said the agency is so pleased to add a new mission to the fleet of spacecraft that help to gain better understand of the Sun, as well as how the star influences the space environment between planets. The more that is known about how the Sun erupts with space weather events, the more their effects on spacecraft and astronauts can be mitigated.

X2nSat Working with New Mexico State University Students on 2020 Pacific Cup Race SATCOM Project

New Mexico State University’s College of Engineering and the Department of Biology are collaborating with X2nSat in order to create a device to measure Pacific Ocean temperatures in real time during the 2020 Pacific Cup race.

The Pacific Cup is a race that started in 1980 and now takes place every other year where sailors start from San Francisco and sail the open ocean to Hawaii’s Kaneohe island. The race is usually considered something sailors do for fun; however, this year NMSU and X2nSat want to put the boats to work.

The students at NMSU, as part of the Aggie Engineering Capstone Design Program, are working to design a device capable of measuring ocean temperatures at various depths that can also store and transmit data in real time via X2nSat’s satellite communications technology.

The NMSU team working on the sensor include mechanical engineering seniors Caleb Gustin, Joseph Moseley, Dominic Blea and Makena Sutherland, industrial engineering senior Ahmad Atiah and electrical engineering senior Rodion Shishkov. They are also being advised on the environmental impact of their project by Michelle Nishiguchi, Regents Professor and Biology department head at NSMU.

X2nSat is hoping to work with the students of NMSU to provide real-time accurate data for the entire 2,000 mile race. As well as being able to run live video updates, stream movies and videos, the firm hopes to show what satellites are capable of accomplishing.

This is something that has never been done previously – despite the likely importance of these readings, the funding and infrastructure needed in order to perform something of this magnitude had been out of reach. Now, though, with the help of X2nSat and satellite, the students of NMSU can measure ocean temperatures from San Francisco to Hawaii and build a case for environmental impact.

The Pacific Cup race will kick off the week of June 29, 2020, from San Francisco and will last anywhere from a quick six, to a leisurely 17 days, depending on how long it takes each boat to arrive.

Gabe Garcia, mechanical engineering associate professor and assistant dean of student success for experiential learning, said the project will promote partnership between NMSU students and industry. In addition, the project will demonstrate the capabilities of satellite communications over a specific region of the Pacific Ocean.

Undertaking this task from the X2nSat side is CEO Garrett Hill and the crew of the boat Big Medicine, Pete Whyte, Bryan Hill, Dominic Haugh, and Ian Chadwick in addition to X2nSat’s technical support (GNSC) crew and the engineering team.


Garrett Hill

Garrett Hill, the CEO of X2nSat, said that the company is always looking to test the capabilities of our communications. The firm believes that showing satellite’s ability to maintain live readings while in the middle of the Pacific ocean, thousands of miles from land, will be something incredible.

OrbitFab Working on Gas Stations in Space

Startup OrbitFab is working to make orbital refueling a reality and the firm has secured a new contract from the National Science Foundation’s early stage, deep tech, R&D initiative America’s Seed Fund to further the company’s goals.

The contract is specifically for development of a solution that provides rendezvous and docking capabilities in space, managing the end-to-end process of connecting two spacecraft and transferring fuel from one to the other. OrbitFab unveiled its connector hardware for making this possible last October at Disrupt, which it now refers to as its Rapidly attachable Fluid Transfer Interface (RAFTI).


16U tanker and global array with RAFTI closed.
Artistic rendition is courtesy of OrbitFab.

The RAFTI is designed as a replacement for existing valves used in satellites for fueling and draining propellant from spacecraft, but would seek to establish a new standard that provides easy interoperability both with ground fueling, and with in-space refueling (or fuel transfer from one satellite to another, depending on what’s needed).

Already, OrbitFab has managed to fly twice to the International Space Station (ISS) — last year, the firm became the first ever private company to supply the orbital lab with water. OrbitFab is not resting on its laurels and this new contract will help it prepare a technology demonstration of the docking process it’s RAFTI facilitates in their own test facilities this summer.

Longer-term, this is just phase one of a multi-par funding agreement with the NSF. Phase one includes $250,000 to make that first demo, and then ultimately that will lead to an inaugural trial of a fuel sale operation in space, which OrbitFab CMO Jeremy Schiel said should happen within two years. He noted this will involve two satellites, the company’s tanker and a customer satellite in a low LEO docking, exchanging fuel, and decoupling, and then repeating this process as many times as is possible to demonstrate the company’s capabilities.

Article source: NZE News — read the rest of the story at this direct infolink…

Astroscale Continues Progression Toward Sustainable Orbits + Their Coronavirus Response

Astroscale is still pushing forward toward the company’s mission of sustainable orbits and have completed studies for the Cabinet Office (Japan) and Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry to assess Space Situational Awareness (SSA) capabilities and architectures.

What exactly is SSA and why is Astroscale involved?

SSA refers to the tracking of objects in orbit and predicting where they will be at any given time. The data allows users to accurately interpret and characterize the activity of satellites, improving operational safety and reducing the risk of collisions. With increased congestion in orbit, there have been a growing number of commercial and civil use cases for SSA, such as asset investment protection, insurance claims, and safety of flight. Now with active debris removal and in-orbit services missions gearing up, SSA is becoming an important part of operational services.


Artistic rendition of the Elsa-d mission.
Image is courtesy of Astroscale.

At Astroscale, work continues toward the launches of the firm’s ELSA-d and ADRAS-J missions and get closer to fully operational services, the company is developing a clearer understanding of SSA needs for future servicing missions.

The use of SSA data has been making global headlines recently with the most notable from LeoLabs when they announced a close approach in late January between two large, inactive satellites. It turned out to be an extremely close call, and one with high potential of impact due to the sizes of the defunct satellites. Thankfully, the two objects passed each other and we narrowly missed seeing thousands of new pieces of debris added to our orbits. But the worrying part is that these near-miss events happen all the time. That very same week there were several other close approaches. In other words, we are on borrowed time as our orbits become more crowded.

Benjamin Franklin once stated that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” and Astroscale believes this applies perfectly to mitigating space debris. It is necessary to have actionable SSA information, timely de-orbit of satellites that can conduct collision avoidance and removal of larger defunct objects from space before they become thousands of smaller and harder to clean pieces of junk.

Together – SSA (understanding), mitigation (prevention), and remediation (cure) – are key elements of the space sustainability puzzle. The space community should apply these elements in a way that exceeds minimum standard practices, increases transparency among operators, and delivers a sense of urgency.

Astroscale is working on all these pieces of the puzzle for spaceflight safety and orbital sustainability for the benefit of future generations.

Additionally, like the rest of the world, Astroscale has been following the growing COVID-19 pandemic with increasing concern.  It is precisely at times like this, when there is so much uncertainty and fear, that it is most necessary for us all to pull together as a community.  The global Astroscale family is working to do what it can to reduce the spread of the virus and highlight the importance of connectivity to the future.

In response to the growing pandemic, Astroscale has now temporarily shut down the offices in Japan, the UK, the US and Singapore.  The firm’s global staff of more than 100 people are now all working from their homes but continuing to stay in close contact. The company is not certain when each of the offices will reopen but will keep all informed as updates occur.

With many of us in self-quarantine, satellite services are taking on increased importance as we not only continue to move our mission forward, but also check in on loved ones virtually, stream movies to pass the time, or monitor the footprint of the coronavirus spread across the globe. Our reliance on space is now greater than ever and one thing is abundantly clear – protecting each other, and maintaining sustainability of orbital services which keep us connected as a global community, is more crucial than ever.

This temporary shutdown will not delay Astroscale as the firm continues to move forward with steps to secure long-term spaceflight safety and orbital sustainability for the benefit of future generations. The company’s initial technology demonstration mission, ELSA-d, is still planned for launch in late 2020 and all is on schedule to deliver the spacecraft to the launch site on time.

Stay safe out there everyone and look out for each other.

Bankruptcy at OneWeb

The RT infosite has filed a report that OneWeb filed for bankruptcy less than a week after launching another batch of internet satellites, as the company failed to raise more funds for their program amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

The London-based venture, as well its affiliates, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Friday, March 27, saying that the proceedings are aimed at pursuing “a sale of its business in order to maximize the value of the company.”

Since the beginning of the year, OneWeb had been trying to obtain more investments. The company says that it was close to obtaining the necessary financial support, but talks failed due to market turbulence that was triggered by the coronavirus outbreak.

While the statement does not directly point at any particular investor that turned its back on the satellite internet provider, earlier reports said its largest backer, Softbank, which had already invested $2 billion in the company, refused to provide more capital. Market rout has apparently spooked other investors, such as Qualcomm, Airbus, Virgin Group, Coca-Cola, and Intelsat among others.

Bankruptcy filings reveal that OneWeb owes their launch partner Arianespace, by far, the most money (more than $238 million). Qualcomm, Deloitte and Deutsche Bank are also among top five largest creditors with unsecured claims.

Russian state space corporation, Roscosmos, is one of OneWeb’s contractors. OneWeb has already put 74 satellites in LEO, a small portion of the company’s hundreds-strong network to provide global internet coverage, with the last two launches occurring from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. The latest mission, carrying 34 satellites aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket, was successfully launched on March 21.

Our current situation is a consequence of the economic impact of the Covid-19 crisis,” OneWeb CEO Adrian Steckel said.

Forrester Reports: Who’d Be A Constellation Provider? The OneWeb Declaration of Bankruptcy


Chris Forrester

OneWeb’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy (under the SEC’s ‘debtor in possession’ rules) on Friday, March 27, was shocking, given that the company had just launched an extra 34 satellites into orbit on March 21.

One can only imagine the nightmare – and no doubt deep depression — taking place at OneWeb’s various offices during the intervening six days.


Adrian Steckel

Following the Baikonur launch, OneWeb’s CEO Adrian Steckel said, “In these unprecedented times following the global outbreak of Covid-19, people around the world find themselves trying to continue their lives and work online. We see the need for OneWeb, greater now more than ever before.”

Steckel also spoke optimistically of more launches during the year, saying, “We think it is inevitable that there will be delays to our launch schedule and satellite manufacturing due to increasing travel restrictions and the disruption of supply chains globally. Therefore, we made the difficult decision to eliminate some roles and responsibilities as we work to focus on core operations.  We are sorry to have had to take this step and we’re doing everything we can to support those affected.”

Now the company, with its ‘debtor in possession’ bankruptcy, is actively seeking a buyer for its 74 orbiting assets and what’s left of the tarnished dream of founder Greg Wyler.

One investment banker, speaking on March 30, suggested that a potential buyer could be Eutelsat, given that the Paris-based geo-operator has no LEO plans.

However, its tough imagining how any satellite player would want the challenge of launching another 600 satellites, with the massive manufacturing obligations and with the even bigger challenge of mounting a sales and marketing campaign.

In a note on March 30, investment bank Exane/BNPP’s Sami Kassab said, “We note that Eutelsat has no broadband LEO constellation project and believe it might find an interest in looking at OneWeb for its orbital rights and market access licenses could be of value for the French operator.”

Of course, while OneWeb’s principle backer, Japan’s SoftBank, was instrumental in bringing OneWeb to its knees by declining further bail-outs, there are other investors in OneWeb who might have the deep pockets to mount a rescue, not the least if which is chip-developer Qualcomm (Q1/2020 revenues $5.07 billion) or even India’s Bharti Airtel (2020 revenues expected to be above $1 billion).

However, the challenges ahead are huge. A year ago, SES CEO Steve Collar was blunt, saying he doubted whether any of the would-be mega-constellation operators could fund the cost of finding subscribers.

Plus, the current debts are significant.  Examining the OneWeb Chapter 11 ‘debtor in possession’ documents, it is Arianespace that is the company’s top creditor and is owed $238 million in unsecured claims. OneWeb signed a contract worth $1.1 billion back in 2015 for a total of 21 launches using Ariane’s Soyuz rocket.  Three of those launches have happened, the most recent at the beginning of March when 34 satellites were orbited.

However, OneWeb also has contracts in place with Arianespace for the maiden flight of its all-new Ariane 6 rocket and has also signed options for two further Ariane 6 launches.

The company is understood to have laid off some 85 percent of its staff and has some $1.7 billion of debt.

OneWeb’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition to the Court seeks a “Restructuring to execute sale process.” The company, in its statement, stated, “OneWeb is actively negotiating debtor-in-possession financing, which, if acquired and approved by the Bankruptcy Court, will ensure OneWeb is able to fund additional financial commitments as it conducts a sale process under Section 363 of the US Bankruptcy Code. Together, these actions will allow OneWeb to meet post-petition obligations to its remaining employees and certain vendors in the ordinary course.”

Should a buyer not come forward and a full bankruptcy follow, then the 74 satellites already orbiting could fall into the hands of the UK government, along with the licenses held by OneWeb/WorldVu.

OneWeb’s shareholders are listed as:

  • Softbank: 37.41%
  • Qualcomm: 15.93%
  • Greg Wyler*: 11.94%
  • Airbus: 8.5%

*Greg Wyler 1110 Ventures LLC

 

OneWeb’s main backer, SoftBank, saw its share price plunging 10 percent in trading on March 30. Other investors, in addition to the listed shareholders, include Coca-Cola, Bharti Airtel, Virgin Group and others.

OneWeb’s Associated companies, also in Ch 11 bankruptcy, include…

•    Network Access Associates Limited
•    OneWeb ApS
•    OneWeb Chile SpA
•    OneWeb Communications Limited
•    OneWeb G.K.
•    OneWeb Global Limited
•    OneWeb Holdings LLC
•    OneWeb Limited
•    OneWeb Ltd
•    OneWeb Network Access Holdings Limited
•    OneWeb Norway AS
•    WorldVu Australia Pty Ltd.
•    WorldVu Development LLC
•    WorldVu JV Holdings LLC
•    WorldVu Mexico, S. DE R. L. DE C.V.
•    WorldVu Satellites Limited
•    WorldVu South Africa (Pty) Ltd.
•    WorldVu Unipessoal Lda  1021823 B.C. LTD

 

Not specifically itemized is OneWeb’s Florida joint-venture (OneWeb Satellites) with Airbus, which is building the company’s satellites.

In addition to Arianespace, other key creditors include…

  • Qualcomm: $8.0m
  • Deloittes: $6.8m
  • Hughes Network Sys.: $5.3m
  • Deutsche Bank:  $5.2m*
  • Wipro: $2.5m
  • Willis Towers: $1.9m
  • Viasat: $1.2m
  • Nokia: $988,000
  • Redapt: $662,275
  • Rockwell Collins: $596,775

*Disputed claim

 

It is expected that Chapter 11 will affect OneWeb’s London-based parent company (OneWeb Communications Ltd.) and its Jersey (Channel Islands) businesses OneWeb Ltd. and WorldVu Satellites Ltd.  The company’s latest Consolidated Financial Statements were filed in London on October 10 of  last year (for the year to December 31, 2018, the financials show that OneWeb had secured about $3.3 billion in equity and debt financing.) KPMG are the company’s auditors.

There are numerous formal Financial Charges listed against the company, notably with SoftBank Group Corp. on March 18, 2019, which granted SoftBank a Charge over the entire issued share capital of the company (both ordinary and preferred shares).

This failure is a major body-blow to the satellite industry and it will take time to unravel the complexities of the business. There is also a joint-venture in place with Airbus for a satellite-building facility in Florida near the Kennedy Space Centre.

More details will emerge as the bankruptcy process rolls on. CEO Steckel’s statement on March 27, which accompanied the liquidation announcement, was candid, but hopeful. He said, “OneWeb has been building a truly global communications network to provide high-speed low latency broadband everywhere. Our current situation is a consequence of the economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis. We remain convinced of the social and economic value of our mission to connect everyone everywhere. Today is a difficult day for us at OneWeb. So many people have dedicated so much energy, effort, and passion to this company and our mission. Our hope is that this process will allow us to carve a path forward that leads to the completion of our mission, building on the years of effort and the billions of invested capital. It is with a very heavy heart that we have been forced to reduce our workforce and enter the Chapter 11 process while the Company’s remaining employees are focused on responsibly managing our nascent constellation and working with the Court and investors.”

One might say that the two remaining major mega-constellation operators, SpaceX’s Starlink and Jeff Bezos’ Project Kuiper, both have very deep pockets. They’ll need them!

Note: Additional information about OneWeb’s Chapter 11 cases can be found at this direct infolink

Virgin Orbit and Medical Experts Design a New, Mass-Producible, Ventilator for COVID-19 Patients

Virgin Orbit has developed a new mass-producible bridge ventilator to help in the fight against the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The Virgin Orbit team has been consulting with the Bridge Ventilator Consortium (BVC), led by the University of California Irvine (UCI) and the University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin), a group formed to spawn and nurture efforts to build producible, simple ventilators to aid in the current COVID-19 crisis.

Pending clearance by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Virgin Orbit aims to commence production at its Long Beach manufacturing facility in early April, sprinting to deliver units into the hands of first responders and healthcare professionals as soon as possible.

As the COVID-19 crisis worsens and the paucity of medical equipment becomes more and more clear, the Virgin Orbit team is strongly motivated to do all that we can to help. On a normal day, the firm is building rockets and other equipment for space launch; the company’s teams are not medical doctors nor is Virgin Orbit usually a manufacturer of medical devices. However, the company does have a team of incredibly innovative and agile thinkers — experts in designing, fabricating, programming, testing — who are eager to lend a hand.

After contacting Governor Gavin Newsom last week, Virgin Orbit was directed by his office to the California Emergency Medical Services Authority (CEMSA) and put in contact with the BVC. The BVC is a team of brilliant doctors, medical device experts, and researchers at UCI and UT Austin who are working around the clock, sharing ideas across a broad national and international network to share best practices and design insights and to accelerate progress on solutions to this equipment shortage.

Today, complex, high-end, ICU-capable ventilators are sometimes the only option available for moderate cases — for people who don’t necessarily need intensive care or have partially recovered. By supplying “bridge” ventilators, Virgin Orbit’s device can free up those critical resources for the most ill.

Virgin Orbit engineers have taken rapid scaling into account from the beginning of the design process, taking advantage of the most common and robust manufacturing and assembly processes. The company’s aim is to have a functioning, deployable bridge ventilator in production in early April. Virgin Orbit would continue on to rapidly scale up to mass production in its Long Beach facility, in addition to potentially activating other manufacturers as soon as the new device is reproducible and production-ready.

Dr. Brian J.F. Wong, Assistant Chairman of Otolaryngology at UCI, said the nation faces a slow-motion Dunkirk, and getting ventilators out there is very important to save lives. The demand outstrips supply, so it is important the government, industry, academia, non-profits, and the community work together to identify solutions, and design and construct them as fast as possible.

Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart added that the company is heartbroken each night as the news is turned on and see the predicament facing doctors and nurses as they heroically work to save lives. Dan has never seen the company’s team working harder and has also never seen ideas moving quicker from design to prototype. Virgin Orbit is hopeful that this device can help as all prepare for the challenges ahead.

ICEYE Unveils 25 cm. SAR Imaging Capability with Current SAR Smallsat Constellation


A compressed preview image of ICEYE radar satellite imagery,
originally acquired at 25 cm resolution, showing oil tanks
in Rotterdam, Netherlands.

ICEYE has unveiled their latest capability of 25 cm. resolution imaging with synthetic-aperture radar (SAR) smallsats, using the company’s current on-orbit, commercial SAR satellite constellation.

With this very high resolution imaging capability, ICEYE SAR data achieves the same resolution class provided by larger, conventional commercial SAR satellites operating at their highest performance.

ICEYE successfully launched its first SAR satellite in January of 2018, ICEYE-X1, which achieved 10×10 meter resolution data capabilities, while also becoming the World’s first SAR satellite mission under 100 kilograms (220 pounds) in launch mass. With the company’s latest development of 25 cm. imaging from its current commercial SAR satellite constellation of three spacecraft, ICEYE data achieves the finest classification of resolution in the commercial SAR market.

Following standard industry definitions, the native slant plane resolution of the newly unveiled SAR data is 25 cm. in the azimuth direction, and 50 cm. in the range direction, before ground-plane adjustments are applied. The finest resolution data will be provided to customers in ICEYE’s standard product formats that are accessible with standard Geographic Information System (GIS) tools.

Pekka Laurila, CSO and Co-founder, ICEYE, stated that before, these resolutions have been exclusively reserved for the larger, traditional SAR spacecraft. This resolution is operationally expected to be available for ICEYE customers mid-2020 from the current on-orbit constellation.

Dr. Mark Matossian, CEO of the US subsidiary of ICEYE, noted that site activity monitoring based on very high resolution SAR data enables the firm’s customers to unlock new insights in virtually all use cases that use ICEYE’s current 1-meter resolution imaging.” — 25 cm. resolution SAR imaging is ground-breaking to come from the world’s smallest SAR satellites. Commercial and government SAR customers will be able to achieve very detailed change detection, perform improved object classification, and track ever smaller objects from orbit.