Three Teams Qualify to Compete in DARPA Launch Challenge

The DARPA Launch Challenge aims to shift military space capabilities to enable on-demand, flexible, and responsive launch of small payloads. Three competitors successfully completed the qualification phase and will attempt to launch to low-Earth orbit from two different U.S. locations within a matter of weeks. Teams will receive notice of the first launch site a few weeks prior to launch and exact details on the payload and intended orbit just days before launch. DARPA is targeting both launches for early 2020.

The qualifying competitors are Vector Launch; Virgin Orbit, which entered the competition via its wholly owned subsidiary, VOX Space; and a third company, which requested anonymity for the first few months of the challenge. DARPA awarded a $400,000 prize to each competitor that completed the qualification phase, which included submission and acceptance of an FAA commercial launch license application. Teams will receive a $2M prize for successfully delivering payloads to orbit in the first launch. For a successful second launch, prizes of $10 million, $9 million, and $8 million are available for the top three teams respectively, ranked by factors including mass, time to orbit, and orbit accuracy.

BlackSky Releases First Images from its Global-1 and -2 Small Sats 

BlackSky announced it has completed critical on-orbit milestones with its Global-1 and -2 small sats, the first two spacecraft in its rapid revisit, Earth-imaging constellation. As part of the announcement, the company also revealed a stack of imagery demonstrating how its systems and processes are  performing. The first time-series stack highlights BlackSky site monitoring over Melbourne, Australia, in the last week of March 2019. The constellation’s goal is to provide a fast revisit rate critical for monitoring economic changes. 

Planet Signs Multi-Million Dollar Agreement with NASA

Planet signed a multi-million dollar agreement with NASA to provide Earth observation data for the identification and tracking of climate variables. Through this agreement, NASA will provide Planet data to more than 35 ongoing NASA research projects in order to evaluate how Planet’s commercial dataset can augment NASA’s own Earth science data, including the MODIS, GEDI, and ICESat-2 missions, among others. All three of Planet’s datasets, including Dove, RapidEye, and SkySat imagery, will contribute to NASA’s activities. 

Harris Awarded $84 Million Contract to Produce Experimental Space Vehicle to Enhance GPS

Harris received an $84 million contract to produce Navigation Technology Satellite-3 (NTS-3), an experimental satellite that will demonstrate new positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT) capabilities to improve the resiliency of the Global Positioning System (GPS). The Space Enterprise Consortium selected Harris as the prime system integrator to design, develop, integrate, and test NTS-3, including ground mission applications. The contract was signed in December 2018. Scheduled to launch in 2022, the PNT satellite will simultaneously broadcast military and Earth coverage signals at increased power levels, enabling it to operate in contested environments. The time keeping system will use diverse timing sources to improve mission stability, anomaly detection, and correction. 

Airbus Partners with The Climate Corporation to Empower Farmers

Airbus Defence and Space and The Climate Corporation (Climate), a subsidiary of Bayer, announced a global agreement to deliver frequently updated satellite imagery from Airbus to farmers through The Climate Corporation’s Climate FieldView, a digital agriculture platform. As a result, farmers who use Climate FieldView can access high-resolution data of their fields throughout the growing season. This will give FieldView customers the ability to more precisely monitor crop health and performance, helping them take action in the field before yield is impacted at the end of the season. They will also be able to visualize this satellite imagery alongside other data layers in their FieldView account to unlock new insights about crop health.

HERE Launches XYZ for Mapmaking and Geospatial Data Management

HERE Technologies announced the availability of HERE XYZ, a cloud-based service that provides software developers as well as novice and professional mapmakers with the tools needed for map publication and data management. HERE XYZ aims to maximize ease of use, flexibility, and interoperability by leveraging the best of the open-source ecosystem and tools from the company’s long history of building standard and high-definition maps at global scale. This approach allows developers to maintain their workflow while incorporating XYZ to address the challenge of managing large and unwieldy geospatial datasets. Data journalists, cartographers, and geospatial data providers will find the real-time nature of XYZ’s tiling capability to be useful for publishing maps that require live updates.

Riverside Research Adds Space Situational Awareness Capabilities to its Constellation Planning Tool

As a key component of a ground architecture, Riverside Research’s Collection Planning Suite (CPS) addresses the unique challenges of constellation orchestration across every phenomenology and classification. Using a model-based approach, the tool integrates and manages both government and non-government GEOINT data providers. Last week, Riverside Research announced it has completed a research and development effort to add space situational awareness capabilities to its CPS.

Peer Intel

Sweden-based Hexagon AB announced the completion of its acquisition of Virginia-based Thermopylae Sciences and Technology. Thermopylae will operate as a part of Hexagon U.S. Federal, a company operating under a proxy agreement within Hexagon’s Geospatial division.   

New Maxar CEO Dan Jablonsky published a blog post last week detailing how the company has restructured to focus on business functions rather than business units as well as announcing several changes in organizational leadership.

Image Credit: BlackSky

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