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InfoBeam – Part II
Latest News Items, by the editors

Alan Shepard Award

Educators who have demonstrated a commitment to inspiring students’ interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) may apply now to receive the 2013 Alan Shepard Technology in Education Award.

InfoBeamFig18 Given annually by the Astronauts Memorial Foundation (AMF), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the Space Foundation, the award recognizes outstanding contributions to technology education by K-12 educators or district-level education personnel.

The Space Foundation will present the award, which is named after Mercury Astronaut Alan Shepard, on April 8, 2013, at the opening ceremony of the Space Foundation’s 29th National Space Symposium at The Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Submissions for the 2013 award must be mailed and postmarked no later than January 14, 2013. The winner will be announced in early March 2013.

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AMOS_ad_SM0912 Resilience + Reliability Revealed

Inmarsat has introduced new promotional initiatives for its BGAN Link service tailored to meet the needs of customers in Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America, such as organisations that require high monthly volumes of broadband data for sustained periods of operation in remote sites.

BGAN Link is targeted at construction, oil and gas, mining, humanitarian aid and banking and finance sectors across the globe
Inmarsat’s new promotional initiatives for Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America are aimed at meeting the need in these dynamic regions for a predictably-priced service customers will want over an extended usage period.

BGAN Link is available for a fixed monthly price in a choice of four data packages. Customers requiring total cost control can select an option that cumulatively monitors daily usage to ensure monthly allowance is not exceeded.

BGAN Link is delivered over Inmarsat’s proven L-band network, guaranteeing that a connection can be maintained even during extreme weather conditions, making it ideally suited for typical office applications such as email, internet and intranet access, and VPN access to corporate networks from remote locations.

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No Dogs Here With Best Of Breed

Kratos Defense & Security Solutions, Inc. has announced that its SAT Corporation subsidiary has significantly increased its Interference Detection and Geolocation (iDetGeo) service coverage by activating two additional operating sites in Maryland and Hawaii.

InfoBeamFig19 SAT Services are used by satellite providers, broadcasters, cable operators and other content distributors to find and mitigate signals that interfere with their communications services.

With the new, strategically-placed sites, SAT can provide signal monitoring, interference detection, characterization and geolocation service coverage on 1,127 beams from 269 commercial communications satellites—or close to 90 percent of the world’s global Fixed Satellite Services (FSS) constellation.

Additionally, the new sites further SAT’s “split site” geolocation capability, which allows for data acquisition at two geographically separated antenna sites.

Split site technology supports multi-beam geolocation and enables SAT to increase the number of instances where a geolocation result can be completed.

The new facilities join SAT’s six operating sites based in the United States, the United Kingdom, Cypress, India, Singapore and South Korea, making it the only solutions provider offering a cost-effective managed solution for interference detection on a global basis.

GlobeCast_ad_SM0912 The new sites add enhanced trans-Atlantic coverage between North America, South America, Europe and Africa, supporting virtually 100 percent of the commercial video content distributed within the United States.

The new operations are hosted at teleports operated by SES in Woodbine, Maryland, and Sunset Beach, Hawaii, as part of a previously announced partnership between the two companies. SAT’s dual-antenna iDetGeo services are supported by SES’s dual 7.3m antenna systems at Woodbine and dual 4.8m antennas at Sunset Beach.

The services employ SAT’s industry-leading Monics(R) and satID(R) products for RF monitoring, detection, characterization and geolocation to provide customers with 24x7 C-band, X-band, and Ku-band interference mitigation capability.

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MSG-3 Spins Out The Weather Report

It scans Earth’s surface and atmosphere every 15 minutes in 12 different wavelengths, to track cloud development.

InfoBeamFig20 The Spinning Enhanced Visible and Infrared Imager (SEVIRI) instrument on MSG-3 captured its first image of the Earth. This demonstrates that Europe’s latest geostationary weather satellite, launched on 5 July, is performing well and is on its way to taking over operational service after six months of commissioning.

The European Space Agency (ESA) was responsible for the initial operations after launch of MSG-3 and handed the satellite over to EUMETSAT on July 16th.

The first image is a joint achievement by ESA, EUMETSAT, and the European space industry. For its mandatory programs, EUMETSAT relies on ESA for the development of new satellites and the procurement of recurrent satellites like MSG-3.

MSG is a joint cooperative program undertaken by ESA and EUMETSAT. ESA is responsible for the development of satellites fulfilling user and system requirements defined by EUMETSAT and of the procurement of recurrent satellites on its behalf. ESA also performs the Launch and Early Orbit Phase operations required to place the spacecraft in geostationary orbit, before handing it over to EUMETSAT for exploitation.

EUMETSAT develops all ground systems required to deliver products and services to users and to respond to their evolving needs, procures launch services and operates the full system for the benefit of users.

MSG-3 is the third in a series of four satellites introduced in 2002. These spin-stabilized satellites carry the primary Spinning Enhanced Visible and Infrared Imager, or SEVIRI.

The prime contractor for the MSG satellites is Thales Alenia Space, with the SEVIRI instrument built by Astrium.

SEVIRI delivers enhanced weather coverage over Europe and Africa in order to improve very short range forecasts, in particular for rapidly developing thunder storms or fog. It scans Earth’s surface and atmosphere every 15 minutes in 12 different wavelengths, to track cloud development.

SEVIRI can pick out features as small as a kilometer across in the visible bands, and three kilometres in the infrared. In addition to its weather-watching mission and collection of climate records, MSG-3 has two secondary payloads.

The Geostationary Earth Radiation Budget sensor measures both the amount of solar energy that is reflected back into space and the infrared energy radiated by the Earth system, to better understand climate processes. In addition, a Search & Rescue transponder will turn the satellite into a relay for distress signals from emergency beacons.

The MSG satellites were built in Cannes, France, by a European industrial team led by Thales Alenia Space, France. More than 50 subcontractors from 13 European countries are involved. The last of the series, MSG-4, is planned for launch in 2015.

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New Buses To Catch

ATK has announced an expanded product line of small, agile satellite buses designed for a wide range of missions in civil, national security and commercial applications.

InfoBeamFig21 Designed to meet the growing demand for affordable small spacecraft with dependably fast delivery, ATK’s family of agile buses are built for near-term and long-term markets.

ATK’s demonstrated expertise in the small satellite industry with nearly three decades of experience in government and commercial space programs has resulted in a premier product line that has grown over the past few years to address the changing space market.

The Company’s demonstrated capability to build small satellites quickly and effectively positions ATK as a leader in new space markets that include science and Earth observation small satellites and complex on-orbit satellite servicing missions.

“Our expanded family of space platforms will enable us to capitalize on the up-swing we expect to see in a number of our targeted market segments. Our diversified, balanced approach across multiple markets will take best advantage of the increase in microsat missions, continued demand for small, rapidly-developed spacecraft and the game-changing, on-orbit satellite servicing market,” said Tom Wilson, Vice President and General Manager, ATK Space Systems Division.

“We intend to build on our 100-percent on-orbit mission success rate by aggressively opening markets for new capabilities across all space sectors –military, intelligence, civil, commercial and international.”

The ATK A-series product line consists of four basic configurations, A100, A200, A500, and A700, with elevated platforms of A150, A250, and A550 for broader capability and flexibility for customers.

The products are designed for a range of mission requirements based on mission class, design life, propulsion, pointing accuracy, payload mass and launch compatibility. The ATK A series is also compatible with most launch vehicles.

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InfoBeamFig22 Inmarsat In Mali Brings The Phones As Refugees Flee

Refugees fleeing conflict in Mali are using BGAN and IsatPhone Pro to keep in touch with loved ones.

The Inmarsat-sponsored emergency communications agency Télécoms Sans Frontières (TSF) has deployed its expertise to help thousands of Malians at two refugee camps in neighboring Burkina Faso.

“BGAN is being used to help the UNHCR carry out its assessment mission, but we are also providing humanitarian calls,” explained TSF spokeswoman Laure Crampe.
“Over the coming days we aim to offer free calls to at least 100 families each day at the refugee camps located in Ferrerio and Djibo.”

The UN estimates that around 250,000 Malians have crossed borders, seeking refuge in Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Niger and Algeria.

This migration follows the March coup by rebel factions who seized control of Mali’s northern region. The conflict exacerbates a serious food crisis already affecting Mali and other countries since harvests failed last year in the Sahel region, which is inhabited by 18 million people from eight countries.

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MIT Developed “Microthrusters” Could Empower Small Sats

As small as a penny, these thrusters run on jets of ion beams.

by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office

InfoBeamFig24 A penny-sized rocket thruster may soon power the smallest satellites in space.

The device, designed by Paulo Lozano, an associate professor of aeronautics and astronautics at MIT, bears little resemblance to today’s bulky satellite engines, which are laden with valves, pipes and heavy propellant tanks. Instead, Lozano’s design is a flat, compact square—much like a computer chip—covered with 500 microscopic tips that, when stimulated with voltage, emit tiny beams of ions. Together, the array of spiky tips creates a small puff of charged particles that can help propel a shoebox-sized satellite forward.

“They’re so small that you can put several [thrusters] on a vehicle,” Lozano says. He adds that a small satellite outfitted with several microthrusters could “not only move to change its orbit, but do other interesting things—like turn and roll.”

Mini ion thrusters are manufactured using micro-manufacturing techniques. This image shows an example of the different parts comprising a thruster. The finalized device is at the bottom right, measuring 1 cm by 1 cm and 2 mm in thickness.

Lozano and his group in MIT’s Space Propulsion Laboratory and Microsystems Technology Laboratory presented their new thruster array at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics’ recent Joint Propulsion Conference.

InfoBeamFig25 Today, more than two dozen small satellites, called CubeSats, orbit Earth. Each is slightly bigger than a Rubik’s cube, and weighs less than three pounds. Their diminutive size classifies them as “nanosatellites,” in contrast with traditional Earth-monitoring behemoths. These petite satellites are cheap to assemble, and can be launched into space relatively easily: Since they weigh very little, a rocket can carry several CubeSats as secondary payload without needing extra fuel.

But these small satellites lack propulsion systems, and once in space, are usually left to passively spin in orbits close to Earth. After a mission concludes, the satellites burn up in the lower atmosphere.

Lozano says if CubeSats were deployed at higher orbits, they would take much longer to degrade, potentially creating space clutter. As more CubeSats are launched farther from Earth in the future, the resulting debris could become a costly problem.

“These satellites could stay in space forever as trash,” says Lozano, who is associate director of the Space Propulsion Laboratory. “This trash could collide with other satellites. … You could basically stop the Space Age with just a handful of collisions.”

BridgeTech_ad_SM0912 Engineering propulsion systems for small satellites could solve the problem of space junk: CubeSats could propel down to lower orbits to burn up, or even act as galactic garbage collectors, pulling retired satellites down to degrade in Earth’s atmosphere.

However, traditional propulsion systems have proved too bulky for nanosatellites, leaving little space on the vessels for electronics and communication equipment.

In contrast, Lozano’s microthruster design adds little to a satellite’s overall weight. The microchip is composed of several layers of porous metal, the top layer of which is textured with 500 evenly spaced metallic tips. The bottom of the chip contains a small reservoir of liquid — a “liquid plasma” of free-floating ions that is key to the operation of the device.

To explain how the thruster works, Lozano invokes the analogy of a tree: Water from the ground is pulled up a tree through a succession of smaller and smaller pores, first in the roots, then up the trunk, and finally through the leaves, where sunshine evaporates the water as gas. Lozano’s microthruster works by a similar capillary action: Each layer of metal contains smaller and smaller pores, which passively suck the ionic liquid up through the chip, to the tops of the metallic tips.

InfoBeamFig26 The group engineered a gold-coated plate over the chip, then applied a voltage, generating an electric field between the plate and the thruster’s tips. In response, beams of ions escaped the tips, creating a thrust. The researchers found that an array of 500 tips produces 50 micronewtons of force — an amount of thrust that, on Earth, could only support a small shred of paper. But in zero-gravity space, this tiny force would be enough to propel a two-pound satellite.

Lozano and co-author Dan Courtney also found that very small increases in voltage generated a big increase in force among the thruster’s 500 tips, a promising result in terms of energy efficiency.

“It means you have a lot of control with your voltage,” Lozano says. “You don’t have to increase a lot of voltage to attain higher current. It’s a very small, modest increase.”

Timothy Graves, manager of electric propulsion and plasma science at Aerospace Corp. in El Segundo, Calif., says the microthruster design stands out among satellite propellant systems for its size and low power consumption.

“Normally, propulsion systems have significant infrastructure associated with propellant feed lines, valves [and] complex power conditioning systems,” says Graves, who was not involved in the research. “Additionally, the postage-stamp size of this thruster makes it easy to implement in comparison to other, larger propulsion systems.”

C-Com_ad The researchers envision a small satellite with several microthrusters, possibly oriented in different directions. When the satellite needs to propel out of orbit, onboard solar panels would temporarily activate the thrusters. In the future, Lozano predicts, microthrusters may even be used to power much larger satellites: Flat panels lined with multiple thrusters could propel a satellite through space, switching directions much like a rudder, or the tail of a fish.

“Just like solar panels you can aim at the sun, you can point the thrusters in any direction you want, and then thrust,” Lozano says. “That gives you a lot of flexibility. That’s pretty cool.”

Article is reprinted with permission of MIT News.

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Successful Tracking Of Pseudo Ballistic Threat

The Space Tracking and Surveillance System (STSS) demonstration satellites participated in a test of the next generation of the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) weapon system, designated FTM-16 E2a, when a Standard Missile-3 Block 1B interceptor successfully engaged a short-range ballistic missile target May 10.

InfoBeamFig27a Northrop Grumman Corporation, as the prime contractor, and Raytheon Company, as the infrared sensor payload provider, built the two STSS demonstrator satellites and ground station for the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA). Two STSS-specific goals for the Aegis BMD exercise were met:

The pair of satellites collected tracking data that were used by the Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS) in real time to form a stereo track

Simulation of an Aegis Remote Engagement Authorized (REA) interceptor launch based on the STSS stereo track that was routed to the Aegis 3.6.1 simulation lab

The exercise demonstrated fire control elements of Aegis BMD 4.0.1, the second generation of the Aegis weapon system. The Aegis launch-on-remote exercise also involved the upgraded SM-3 Block 1B that incorporates an improved seeker and signal processor, allowing longer range acquisition and increased threat discrimination.

The target was an Aegis Readiness Assessment Vehicle Type A, a threat-representative, unitary, short-range ballistic missile target. This test supported the initial phase of MDA’s Phased Adaptive Approach for missile defense in Europe that features deployments of increasingly capable sea- and land-based missile interceptors and a range of sensors to address regional ballistic missile threats to Europe and to U.S. forces deployed there.

Using sensors capable of detecting visible and infrared light, STSS-D serves as the experimental space layer of the BMDS. The program’s mission objective is to provide accurate tracks of midcourse re-entry vehicles to the shooter.

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Giving Credit

Microsemi Corporation has extended its congratulations to NASA and the Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) for the historic landing of the Mars Curiosity rover.

Several of Microsemi’s space products were used in mission critical applications during the launch and flight to Mars, and continue to support the mission on the surface of Mars. These applications include: launch systems; avionics; telemetry; navigation, drive control, mission computers; cameras; and other instruments.

“Microsemi has had the privilege of providing high-reliability semiconductor solutions for groundbreaking U.S. space programs dating back to the launch of the first Atlas rocket more than 50 years ago,” said James J. Peterson, president and CEO of Microsemi. “The landing of the Curiosity rover on Mars is yet another historical milestone in space exploration, and a credit to American ingenuity and innovation. We are proud that our technology played a role in this significant event, and we salute NASA, JPL and all of the individuals on the successful landing of the Mars Curiosity rover.”

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The Biggest, Highest + Gassiest Cluster

Stars forming in the cluster at the highest rate ever observed... the most powerful producer of X-rays... the rate of hot gas cooling in the central regions... the largest ever observed.

InfoBeamFig27 The first image below shows the newly discovered Phoenix Cluster, located about 5.7 billion light years from Earth. This composite includes an X-ray image from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory in purple, an optical image from the 4m Blanco telescope in red, green and blue, and an ultraviolet (UV) image from NASA’s Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX) in blue.

The Chandra data reveal hot gas in the cluster and the optical and UV images show galaxies in the cluster and in nearby parts of the sky.

Astronomers have found an extraordinary galaxy cluster, one of the largest objects in the universe, that is breaking several important cosmic records.

Observations of the Phoenix cluster with NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, the National Science Foundation’s South Pole Telescope, and eight other world-class observatories may force astronomers to rethink how these colossal structures and the galaxies that inhabit them evolve.

Stars are forming in the Phoenix cluster at the highest rate ever observed for the middle of a galaxy cluster. The object also is the most powerful producer of X-rays of any known cluster and among the most massive. The data also suggest the rate of hot gas cooling in the central regions of the cluster is the largest ever observed.

The Phoenix cluster is located about 5.7 billion light years from Earth. It is named not only for the constellation in which it is located, but also for its remarkable properties.

“While galaxies at the center of most clusters may have been dormant for billions of years, the central galaxy in this cluster seems to have come back to life with a new burst of star formation,” said Michael McDonald, a Hubble Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the lead author of a paper appearing in the Aug. 16 issue of the journal Nature. “The mythology of the Phoenix, a bird rising from the dead, is a great way to describe this revived object.”

GE_ad_SM0912 Like other galaxy clusters, Phoenix contains a vast reservoir of hot gas, which itself holds more normal matter—not dark matter—than all of the galaxies in the cluster combined. This reservoir can be detected only with X-ray telescopes such as Chandra. The prevailing wisdom once had been that this hot gas should cool over time and sink to the galaxy at the center of the cluster, forming huge numbers of stars. However, most galaxy clusters have formed very few stars during the last few billion years. Astronomers think the supermassive black hole in the central galaxy of a cluster pumps energy into the system, preventing cooling of gas from causing a burst of star formation.

The famous Perseus cluster is an example of a black hole bellowing out energy and preventing the gas from cooling to form stars at a high rate. Repeated outbursts in the form of powerful jets from the black hole in the center of Perseus created giant cavities and produced sound waves with an incredibly deep B-flat note 57 octaves below middle C, which, in turn, keeps the gas hot.

“We thought that these very deep sounds might be found in galaxy clusters everywhere,” said co-author Ryan Foley, a Clay Fellow at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass. “The Phoenix cluster is showing us this is not the case—or at least there are times the music essentially stops. Jets from the giant black hole at the center of a cluster are apparently not powerful enough to prevent the cluster gas from cooling.”

With its black hole not producing powerful enough jets, the center of the Phoenix cluster is buzzing with stars that are forming about 20 times faster than in the Perseus cluster. This rate is the highest seen in the center of a galaxy cluster but not the highest seen anywhere in the universe. However, other areas with the highest star formation rates, located outside clusters, have rates only about twice as high.

The frenetic pace of star birth and cooling of gas in the Phoenix cluster are causing the galaxy and the black hole to add mass very quickly—an important phase the researchers predict will be relatively short-lived.

“The galaxy and its black hole are undergoing unsustainable growth,” said co-author Bradford Benson, of the University of Chicago. “This growth spurt can’t last longer than about a hundred million years. Otherwise, the galaxy and black hole would become much bigger than their counterparts in the nearby universe.”

InfoBeamFig28 Remarkably, the Phoenix cluster and its central galaxy and supermassive black hole are already among the most massive known objects of their type. Because of their tremendous size, galaxy clusters are crucial objects for studying cosmology and galaxy evolution, so finding one with such extreme properties like the Phoenix cluster is important.

“This spectacular star burst is a very significant discovery because it suggests we have to rethink how the massive galaxies in the centers of clusters grow,” said Martin Rees of Cambridge University, a world-renowned expert on cosmology who was not involved with the study. “The cooling of hot gas might be a much more important source of stars than previously thought.”

The Phoenix cluster originally was detected by the National Science Foundation’s South Pole Telescope, and later was observed in optical light by the Gemini Observatory, the Blanco 4-meter telescope and Magellan telescope, all in Chile. The hot gas and its rate of cooling were estimated from Chandra data. To measure the star formation rate in the Phoenix cluster, several space-based telescopes were used, including NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer and Galaxy Evolution Explorer and ESA’s Herschel.

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, manages the Chandra Program for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory controls Chandra’s science and flight operations from Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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Monitoring Move

Kratos Defense & Security Solutions, Inc. has announced that its SAT Corporation subsidiary has received a multi-million dollar order to supply its Monics® carrier monitoring system and related products to Space Systems/Loral (SS/L) in support of one of its customers that will provide broadband communications services in remote areas.

The name of the end-user customer was not disclosed. Monics is the industry-leading Radio Frequency (RF) monitoring system that provides automatic carrier monitoring as well as advanced interference detection and analysis capabilities.

To support multi-beam monitoring of SSL’s customer’s constellation of next-generation Ka-band satellites, Monics will be implemented on SAT’s new SAT-DSP-6000 instrument.

The DSP-6000 uses advanced Digital Signal Processing (DSP) technology to produce 250MHz of instantaneous bandwidth and an extended L-band input frequency range of 900MHz to 2450MHz.

Among other advantages, this allows for much faster measurements of entire transponders and makes Monics the preferred choice for the industry’s growing Ka band monitoring needs.

Monics’ In-service In Orbit Test (IS-IOT) feature will be activated to ensure optimum performance of multi-beam satellites. IS-IOT uses advanced measurement techniques to characterize transponders in terms of gain, frequency response and phase and can do so even while the transponder is operating. transponder performance.