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Satellite saves athletes

in a serious spot of trouble

SPOT Gen 3 satellite devices rescued 45 Marathon des Sables participants from the Sahara Desert, and now even more athletes will be safeguarded as they’re put to the ultimate test.

By Jadranko Zec

The stuff of legends: the Marathon des Sables is arguably the toughest footrace on Earth. This gruelling multi-stage adventure comprises a six-day, 251km ultramarathon – roughly the distance of six regular marathons. The longest single stage is 91km long. This multiday race is held annually in the Sahara Desert of southern Morocco. Yes, Marathon des Sables, or “Marathon of Sands”, puts athletes to the most brutal test in one of the world’s harshest environments. Cutting across this ocean of sand, with athletes carrying all their essential supplies except for water and a tent, is unrelentingly hard, and getting lost likely means insufferable peril.

To provide a lifeline for these athletes, satellites services are used. Due to the remoteness and huge expanse of the desert, which lacks terrestrial infrastructure needed for communications, satellite is the only enabling technology. Globalstar Europe Satellite Services has been tracking the marathon participants and safeguarding them when they need the security most. Over the last three years, 45 athletes in the Marathon des Sables (MDS) have been rescued thanks to SPOT Gen3 satellite devices. These athletes were rescued within minutes.

To continue safeguarding these athletes, Globalstar Europe Satellite Services is extending its support of the MDS for an additional three years. With this support, more than 1,450 athletes competing in all MDS events and sister events, Raid Amazones, will carry SPOT Gen3 devices for safety and tracking. Since 2015, MDS organisers have used SPOT Gen3 to track and safeguard participants competing in the world-famous footrace across the Sahara desert in Morocco. This year, MDS has expanded its reach beyond this flagship race to a series of international events. In 2017, MDS will use SPOT Gen3 at its new events in Fuerteventura and Peru.

 

The Fuerteventura event will have a similar format to the full events but will be held over three days across 120km and is called the Half Marathon des Sables (HMDS). At each event, MDS officials will use SPOT to monitor the location of athletes and in the event of an emergency, to coordinate support teams including security and medical vehicles, helicopters and even a camel.

Raid Amazones is a female-only event with 140 teams taking part in different sporting trials over six days. Now in its 16th year, two upcoming Raids are taking place in Cambodia. The decision by the Raid organisers to introduce the rugged and lightweight SPOT satellite trackers will ensure all athletes can stay connected with officials during the event, and, should emergency help be needed, officials will be alerted instantly. During the Raid, every morning for six days, 370 women will set off on different sporting trials: a foot race, mountain biking, canoeing, orienteering and archery.

“SPOT devices and the Globalstar satellite network have an unbeatable reputation for reliability and reach. The Amazones taking part in Raids will benefit from SPOT’s accurate tracking and S.O.S. function while their families and friends around the world can keep up with their progress in real-time online despite being thousands of miles away,” says Nicole Ribera of Raid Amazones.

For both Raid and MDS events, SPOT partner, WAA Tracking, will process the tracking data from the SPOT devices and enable family, sponsors and supporters to follow the race live and to track the performances of their favourite athletes.

 

MDS & Raid Amazones upcoming races

Events using SPOT Gen3 include:

  • New HMDS race in Fuerteventura, September 25-30, 2017
  • New MDS race in the Ica Desert, Peru, November 26–December 6, 2017
  • Raid Amazones in Cambodia, December 1-11, 2017
  • Raid Amazones in Cambodia, March 4-14, 2018
  • MDS Morocco, April 6-16, 2018

 

Want an uber-connected world, benefits and all? Only with satellites

Satellite has broken from a niche to the mainstream market and is the only technology able to connect everything, everywhere. No longer is connectivity reserved for the urban elite.

By Rupert Pearce

The promise of a truly connected world, in which people talk to people and machines talk to machines, has been a long time coming. In 2016, we saw that the world of “uber” connectivity didn’t simply arrive but drove change at an unprecedented rate.

IT research and advisory firm Gartner estimates that the Internet of Things (IoT) will have reached well over 20 billion devices by 2020. What is not always appreciated is that this genuine revolution is being driven largely through the unique capabilities of satellite-based telecoms. Satcoms is already an integral component of the infrastructure behind uber connectivity.

There are a number of key reasons why satellite-based telecoms has such an important part to play in the emergence of IoT.

Terrestrial telecoms infrastructure, while it will always be a core component of connectivity, has a number of practical limitations. The most obvious is the inability of terrestrial networks to deliver universal coverage. Satellite telecoms have the ability to reach the most remote locations, where it is simply uneconomical to build and maintain terrestrial infrastructure, including in the air and on the oceans.

Only satcoms can transform the Internet of Everything into the Internet of Everywhere.

Another unique attribute of satcoms is reliability. Relying solely on a ground-based infrastructure leaves us exposed, as seen with the hurricane in the Caribbean and East Coast of the United States, for example. Originally conceived for government use, satellite networks are physical private networks in space with far fewer entry points than terrestrial networks. They provide an invisible and resilient overlay for terrestrial networks that guarantee constant connectivity, even if a terrestrial connection fails. Because of their inherent security, satcoms are often the network of choice for critical infrastructures such as smart grids, even though adequate terrestrial coverage exists.

Satcoms also provide special capabilities, which cannot be achieved through terrestrial networks. Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS), which deliver vital capabilities such as GPS (Global Positioning System), is one of many examples where only satellite can deliver.

In a world where both physical and cyber threats are ever present, satcoms have two intrinsic advantages; greater inherent resilience to cyber security breaches and the ability to be deployed anywhere at a moment’s notice. Global IoT networks delivered via satellite are already providing effective border control solutions. Furthermore, they can even support initiatives to collect biometric data to give forgotten citizens in developing countries an identity.

IoT: Global wealth and a wealth of opportunities

According to Forbes, it is estimated that IoT will be worth some $14 trillion to the global economy by 2022. If this is to be achieved, then no one should be left out of the reach of connectivity. Unlike earlier generation networks, the next phase of investment cannot primarily serve an urban “elite”; it should be available to everyone, everywhere.

New societal and business opportunities are also being created through IoT – opportunities that will only be truly realised with the full participation of satellite connectivity.

Right now, satcoms are being deployed alongside terrestrial networks to support the development of the first smart cities; enabling the secure management of a city’s assets. Satellite-delivered services are also playing an important role in the development of smart transport networks and initiatives such as the connected car.

Smart agriculture is considered one of the most important initiatives in a world where, by 2050, the human population is forecast by the US Census Bureau to reach 9.3 billion. Farmers can increase production through the use of “sensing” technology, turning traditional farms into “intelligent farms”, and by using automated agricultural vehicles capable of ploughing or harvesting without a human driver at the wheel.

Rather than being considered a solution for niche services, satcoms has now entered the mainstream with even traditional telcos using satcoms to make their networks more efficient and extend their reach. Governments and regulators need to protect and nurture this industry if they are to drive economic growth and protect against vulnerabilities emerging from the universal reliance on connectivity.

 

Rupert Pearce is Chairman of ESOA, the EMEA Satellite Operators Association, and CEO of Inmarsat.

Wind energy companies blown away by new safety

What happens when you combine satellite, wind energy teams and tracking devices? How about better operational efficiency and a healthier bottom line? Gavan Murphy, Director of Marketing EMEA at Globalstar, explains how technology is making it possible to increase the safety of wind energy workers, however remote their working environment. Happy teams mean companies retaining key workers, which means happy business. Thank you satellite!

By staff Writer

Ensuring the welfare of skilled and professional crew is more important than ever. Even today when investment in technology is under ever-closer scrutiny, commercial organisations recognise the need to do more to promote crew safety. Critically, these companies have also woken up to the additional business benefits. Companies today take the view that retaining the most expert, knowledgeable staff is good for business and is an important human resources issue.

Highly experienced team members often perform duties more rapidly than more junior employees, and they have more know-how to draw upon when faced with challenging situations, including crises. Being able to rely on these highly experienced teams encourages better overall efficiency when carrying out specialist operations or even when providing ongoing maintenance.

Whether in heavy construction, utilities, or developing alternative energy, improving working conditions and promoting welfare for crew is essential. There is added urgency for safeguarding wind energy staff working in potentially hazardous environments. Introducing reliable, resilient tracking of remote workers and instant connectivity with colleagues and security teams not only ensures optimum resource allocation, it helps alleviate the risk for workers carrying out complex and dangerous tasks.

To add to the safety imperative, access by the emergency services in remote, mountainous areas, in deserts or at sea, requires specialist support such as an air ambulance. All told, wherever they are, crew members require a communications system they can trust, rain or shine, 24/7 to keep them in touch with colleagues. When there’s an emergency, lone, remote and at-risk workers need to know they can rapidly summon rescue, and that first responders can speedily pinpoint their location. In these situations, a satellite-based tracking and communications solution offers the only viable communications lifeline.

Global wind energy developer GE Renewable Energy is internationally recognised as having the highest standards for health and safety in the alternative energy space. GE wanted to identify and deploy a communications solution in order to safeguard its crews in new wind energy development sites across Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The solution needed to have the best possible reach and reliability, and with the greatest ease-of-use for staff, particularly when they are faced with the most challenging situations such as during an emergency. The company considered a number of alternative service providers and technologies, including GSM and radio.

 

SPOT Gen3 from Globalstar emerged as the winner for its reliability, ubiquitous reach and, in particular, the ability for users to summon help with just the touch of a button. In the event of an emergency, GE wind energy workers only need to press SPOT’s SOS button to alert first responders via the GEOS International Emergency Response Coordination Centre (IERCC). The user’s GPS co-ordinates are instantly transmitted via the Globalstar network.

GE equipped its wind energy employees in Pakistan and Morocco with SPOT Gen3 devices, while further SPOT deployments in new markets across Europe, the Middle East and Africa are planned. Supplied by Globalstar’s value added reseller, Crambo Wireless, GE will provide SPOT units to wind power workers in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, and elsewhere in Africa, as well as Central Europe and the Balkans. By mid-2017, GE personnel working at approximately 70 wind farms in EMEA and Asia are expected to have enhanced safety thanks to SPOT.

Carlos Chivite Trincado, Environment Health and Safety Technical Director at GE Renewable Energy, said: “We've been using SPOT for over five years in Europe. Our wind installations can be located in the middle of the desert, such as in Pakistan and Morocco, or they can be positioned high in the mountains or on the coast, all areas where GSM might not reach. We need to know our staff, wherever they are, can work safely and are connected. We must be confident in our workers’ security before we undertake any new wind energy development.”

GE’s security department is now always aware of employees’ locations as they traverse remote terrain – sometimes with the assistance of security teams and escorts – to and from wind installations.

“The peace of mind that SPOT gives is an important part of providing the best possible working conditions for our crews as they operate in some very challenging circumstances,” Chivite Trincado added.

 

The grass ain't greener

Kepler-186f is the first Earth-sized planet discovered in the potentially 'habitable zone' around another star, where liquid water could exist on the planet's surface. Its star is much cooler and redder than our sun. If plant life does exist on a planet like Kepler-186f, its photosynthesis could have been influenced by the star's red-wavelength photons, making for a colour palette that's very different than the greens on Earth. This discovery was made by Kepler, NASA's planet hunting telescope.

What is it?

Have you ever wondered what a comet is composed of? Thanks to this NASA/ESA infographic, we can see what interplanetary dust particles lurk inside a comet.

60 seconds with Bas Lansdorp on colonising Mars

Bas Lansdorp, space pioneer and the Mars One co-founder and CEO, shares some insight into his plans to establish human settlements on the Red Planet.

By Jaden Hare

Settling on Mars, according to space pioneer Bas Landorp, the CEO and Co-founder of Mars One, is humanity’s next passion. Mars One, which consists of two entities, the not-for-profit Mars One Foundation and the for-profit company Mars One Ventures, was created with the intention of landing the first humans on Mars and establishing a permanent human colony there by 2026. Since revealing its big ambitions, Mars One has seen a flurry of curiosity, questions and scepticism. In order to address some this intrigue, Lansdorp answers some questions for Satospace.com...

Q:Why should we go to Mars?

A: “Why did Columbus travel west? Why did Marco Polo head east? It is because of that pull of the unknown, the prospect of adventure that compels humans to seek new frontiers to explore? There are a number of reasons to travel to Mars. The first is the realisation of an amazing dream. Sending a manned mission to Mars is a fantastic adventure. Imagine living on another planet, millions of miles from Earth, looking up into the sky with the knowledge that one of the stars is actually the planet you were born on. Those who observed Neil Armstrong land on the moon all those years ago still remember every detail – where they were when it happened, who they were with, and how they felt. The moment the first astronauts land on Mars will be our moment to remember.

Q: In addition to adventure, what is another reason to go to Mars?

A: solid reason is good old-fashioned curiosity. Where did Mars come from? Can it teach us about Earth’s history? Is there life on Mars? These are just three of the hundreds of burning questions for scientists all over the world.

Q: What would our going to Mars mean?

A: “Progress. You could say that sending people to Mars is ‘the next giant leap for mankind’. This mission will jumpstart massive developments in all kinds of areas, a few examples being in recycling, solar energy, food production and the advancement of medical technology.

Q: Mars One plans to send four people to Mars biannually starting in 2027. How will the people be chosen?

A: Several months before the first human departure, the Mars One selection committee will determine which groups in training are ready to depart for Mars. At least six groups are expected to be ready for the trip. Because this mission is humanity’s mission, Mars One intends to make this a democratic decision. The whole world will get to vote on which of the four groups will be the first humans on Mars.

Q: Will you be amongst the first humans on Mars?

A: I am absolutely not qualified to be in one of the first crews: I am stubborn, easily annoyed and impatient. These are all good qualities for entrepreneurs, but not for Mars settlers. Perhaps when there are 20 people on Mars, the time will be right for me to go.

Q: How will you finance this project and make it sustainable?

A: Our revenue model is based on the media value of that adventure, intellectual property rights, several other business cases, investments and donations. Mars One receives donations from over 100 countries every month. At this moment, the revenue generated from donations is not enough to finance the mission, but with every step Mars One takes and with every contract that is signed, more people donate and the average amount goes up. We expect that revenues from donations can contribute substantially to our mission by the time our first unmanned mission lands on Mars.

The mission to Mars will primarily be financed through investments. In March 2013, Mars One closed a very successful investment deal and is currently in the final stages of a much larger investment round.

Q: What’s the next step?

A: The next step for Mars One will be a listing on the stock exchange to enable supporters to own part of the mission to Mars. People are investing in Mars One because they believe in a return on their investment. This return will come from several revenue streams, such as media exposure and intellectual property rights. Designing, building and testing the hardware for our mission will result in new intellectual property rights, such as recycling and growing food with less water and energy, for example.

 

Bas Lansdorp will reveal his plans in details at the 2nd Global SatShow, taking place in Istanbul, Turkey, from November 29-30. In his session titled “Address: Colony Street, No: 2025, Mars”, Lansdorp will cover the why and how of Mars exploration and answer questions including who will be the first human to step foot on the Red Planet? What will it take to establish a colony there? Is this just a dream or can it come to pass?

 

 

Ever wonder what

is happening

above our heads?

There are eyes in the sky, this is true. The heavens above are peppered with satellites. Some are for Earth observation, some are for communications and some for broadcast. But where are they? Who owns them? What are they doing? This infographic indicates who owns which satellites, and shows in white those that are operational, the ones that are not functioning in orbit in light grey, and the ones that are adding to the mounting space junk in faint grey. Infographic found on vyperlook - many thanks to the artist for a view to the "Space Architecture".

Australia to host

global “Space Olympics”

Capital city Sydney wins race to host COSPAR 2020, bringing together space scientists from around the world

By Marcus Strom for The Sydney Morning Herald

Sydney will host the world's biggest gathering of space scientists in 2020, at the start of the decade when humans are planning to travel to Mars.

Dubbed the "Space Olympics", the world assembly of the Committee on Space Research, or COSPAR, will convene in Sydney's new billion-dollar convention centre in Darling Harbour.

"This is a ringing endorsement of our people, infrastructure and high regard in the global space community," Science Minister Greg Hunt said.

The successful bid defeated a field of cities including Shanghai, Valencia, Prague and Lausanne.

Australia's Chief Scientist Alan Finkel was delighted that Sydney will host COSPAR 2020.

"We come to the table with a bold vision for our nation's place in science – and through science, our place in space," Dr Finkel said.

NSW Minister for Tourism and Major Events Stuart Ayres said: "Up to 3,000 international space experts will descend on Sydney with more than $10 million direct expenditure expected."

The announcement is expected to trigger further debate about whether Australia should have a space programme. Australia and Iceland are the only member nations of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development without a formal space programme, and Iceland is expected to join the European Space Agency soon.

New Zealand launched its space agency in July.

Professor Russell Boyce is head of space research at UNSW Canberra. Working with the Australian Academy of Science, he led Australia's bid for COSPAR 2020.

"While we have no formal space agency, we do, in fact, have a space programme," Professor Boyce said.

"COSPAR 2020 will follow on from the International Astronautical Conference in Adelaide. All these activities in Australia should help reverse the brain drain in space science – these events are laying the seeds of an Australian space agency," he said.

Professor Boyce said Australia needed a coordinating framework, but it was probably too soon for the announcement of a formal agency.

COSPAR 2020 will take place within the timeframe that Elon Musk's SpaceX programme is expected to start sending missions to Mars. The billionaire entrepreneur announced in September he would begin missions to Mars as soon as 2018 with hopes of landing humans there in 2024.

NASA and the European Space Agency are taking a longer time to get there, expecting to have humans on Mars by the late 2030s, but they expect that to start a permanent presence on the Red Planet.

Lyn Lewis-Smith, Chief Executive of Business Events Sydney, which helped coordinate the bid, said: "We have vigorously pursued this important gathering, which will enable high-tech jobs to be further developed on

our shores."

 

Life on Mars:

the 1000-year project

From small habitation modules to creating an atmostphere a 100 years later, to the cultivation of flowering plants after six centuries of missions to Mars, achieving life on the Red Planet is broken down into clear phases in this brilliant infographic seen on coolpicturegallery.US - another example as to why Satospace.com loves infographics.

Life on Mars: the 1000-year project

Cheers to satellite ensuring the perfect pint!

By enabling a tracking and monitoring solution, Globalstar’s LEO satellite fleet and the Internet of Things make sure that beer drinkers in the United States get artisanal brews of the highest quality.

By Cynthia Ritchie

For American beer lovers, the mission is beautiful: broaden the country’s ale drinking horizons. This was the goal for Matthias Neidhart, founder and proprietor of B. United International Inc, the Connecticut-based company that has been importing high-quality craft beers from all around the globe for more than 20 years. Originally from Germany, one of the world’s great brewing nations, Neidhart wanted to highlight the complexity and depth that only true craft and microbrewery produced ales can deliver. Who’d have thought that his quest to provide only the highest quality artisanal brews, including ciders and meads, would depend on satellite and the Internet of Things (IoT)?

The basic list of ingredients in beer can often seem simple enough: yeast, barley, hops and water. However; ensuring that they are combined in the conditions that yield the best possible taste and aroma requires a tightly controlled environment. Brewing beers and ales of the highest quality that truly represent the craftsmanship of the brewer is a complex task. Furthermore, the quality of the ingredients plays an integral role and in order to achieve the best flavours, B. United sources its hoppy nectars from exotic corners of the world, including South Africa and Asia. Considering this together with the fact that nearly three quarters of the hundreds of beers which B. United imports originate in Europe, it’s clear to see that managing the logistics of this endeavour is no simple task. And this is where satellite steps in to save the day.

As if the challenging weren’t enough, there is still the transport to contend with. Transporting the beer, especially if the trip involves crossing thousands of miles of land or sea, comes with many risks that can have seriously detrimental effects on the product by the time it eventually reaches its destination. Shipments conveyed in tanks that are at the wrong temperature or pressure, or which have suffered impacts, almost inevitably result in beer of insufficient quality and taste – and this usually ends up as expensive wastage. Fortunately for B. United as well as American beer lovers, Neidhart discovered a high-tech monitoring solution for tracking and monitoring his temperature- and pressure-controlled tanks, enabling him to eliminate spoiled beer and costly waste. This technology could ensure that the beers he imports from all over the world reach customers in the United States in the best possible condition, tasting as good State side as they do in their country of origin.

The empowering solution

Neidhart deployed Ovinto Sat, a tracking platform that enables the location and conditions of any tank to be closely monitored. At the backbone of the solution is Globalstar’s STX3 satellite chipset which operates via Globalstar’s low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellite fleet, the only complete second generation fleet in orbit today. Ovinto Sat also includes small sensor devices installed in each of B. United’s seven large stainless steel tank containers. The sensors monitor numerous metrics that help ensure optimum beer quality, including verifying that the correct temperature range and pressure in each tank are maintained. Critically, since there is no power source in a closed container, these sensors consume a very low amount of energy and, therefore, can continuously monitor the contents of the tank even on long journeys.

The sensors in Ovinto Sat enable B. United to know precisely where the containers are – even when they travel well beyond the reach of cellular networks – as they make their way across land and ocean to the United States. This helps supply chain operations run smoothly and allows B. United to give accurate delivery times to its customers. B. United will share data in real-time with both its hospitality industry business customers and consumers, a policy that Neidhart believes demonstrates his commitment to satisfying customers.

Thanks to the enabling satellite network of Globalstar, B. United always knows how far the beer has travelled and can constantly monitor environmental conditions within the tanks. With this solution, Neidhart and his team can be confident that the beers, ales and meads he imports are delivered to his retail customers in peak condition and that they consistently delight beer drinkers in bars, pubs and restaurants across the United States. This is because the Ovinto Sat solution ensures that B. United minimises the beer’s exposure to pressure and temperature fluctuations, resulting in complex brews all naturally refermenting and tasting exactly the same on arrival in the United States as when they left the brewery in their home country.

Magic: tiny bubbles

It’s all about the bubbles, explains Neidhart, adding that, traditionally, brewers often had to use forced carbonation after transporting beers, rather than the natural refermentation that can take place in the tanks while in transit. The result was always sub-optimal at best, and thoroughly disappointing or undrinkable at worst, he says.

“From a flavour and aroma perspective, natural refermentation and forced carbonation are like day and night,” Neidhart explains. “Natural refermentation produces the tiniest possible CO2 bubbles and these integrate very well with the complex flavour and aroma compounds of highest quality brews. Forced carbonation, on the other hand, results in giant CO2 bubbles that can greatly distort the true flavour and aroma profile of any brew. What is the measuring stick for the highest quality champagne? The size of the CO2 bubble; the tinier the bubbles, the higher the quality.”

After a journey of 10 days from Europe or four weeks from Japan, the taste of craft beers can change, Neidhart explains. “On arrival in the United States, we review the data from Ovinto and analyse samples in our lab to determine the best way for us to put the beer in kegs for onward delivery to our customers,” he says.

An extra key ingredient in the beers which Neidhart distributes is passion, he says: “We are determined to provide the American market with unique world beers that are truly alive, with live yeast, not over-manufactured, pasteurised or bland ‘industry beer’. We’ve been a successful and growing company since our inception over 20 years ago. I know that our commitment to these highest standards is what underpins our competitive advantage.”

 

 

Mission Extendable

By Jadranko Zec

The life of a satellite can be lengthened thanks to the ingenious Space Tug. Also known as the Rescue Tug, the MET vehicle can, additionally, redeploy satellites to new orbital roles and create in-orbit backup. Able to prolong operators’ revenues and defer CapEx, it’s no surprise that big players bought into the concept.

The costs associated with manufacturing and launching a satellite are phenomenal. As is the act itself of placing a bird in space; it’s the culmination of scientific excellence and intellectual co-operation, it indicates the level of development of humankind. It is, therefore, regrettable, both financially and personally, that such a technological feat has a lifeline. The satellite will only be in operation for a defined amount of years, after which it will retire, adding to the volume of debris drifting around in outer space.

Having to replace birds can be a damning situation for satellite operators. They need a satellite functioning in order to serve their customers, but such phenomenal capital expenses (CapEx) can put a company in a strangle hold, seeing it grapple, like a beached fish caught in the mud, with tightening margins and end users looking to squeeze capacity costs in a market that has become increasingly competitive. For many satellite operators in a pinch, being able to defer such CapEx would be like a lifesaver preventing them from going under, for the others under less pressure, it would enable them to bolster their business and strengthen their position. But this has just been a financial dream – until now that is.

Orbital ATK provides co-operative in-orbit satellite life extension and manoeuvring services to geosynchronous (GEO) satellite operators with its Mission Extension Vehicle (MEV). Frequently described as the “Space Tug” or “Rescue Tug”, the MEV docks with existing satellites, providing the propulsion and attitude control needed to extend their lives. Capable of docking with virtually all GEO satellites, the MEV offers minimal interruption to satellite operations.

Functions and benefits

In order for the MEV to safely rendezvous and dock with an orbiting satellite, a suite of integrated proximity sensors is used. A simple mechanical docking system attaches to existing features on the satellite, creating a firm connection between the bird and MEV. This docking system is compatible with an estimated 80% of all GEO satellites in orbit today. Once docked, the MEV will take over the attitude and orbit maintenance of the combined vehicle stack to meet the pointing and station needs. When the GEO satellite no longer requires the service, the MEV will undock and move away to begin service for the next satellite.

The MEV provides a 15-year design life and sufficient fuel to enable well in excess of 15 years while docked with a typical 2,000 kg GEO satellite. The rendezvous, proximity and docking systems of the MEV allow for numerous dockings and undockings during the life of the MEV.

This Space Tug means satellite operators can significantly extend satellite mission life, enabling them to activate new markets, drive asset value and protect their franchises. This breakthrough innovation provides satellite operators unprecedented flexibility in asset deployment, enabling game-changing advances in financial and operating flexibility, and risk mitigation. Extending the life of a satellite will prolong the satellite operator’s revenues and defer CapEx. Unused satellites outside the normal geostationary orbital arc can be redeployed back to their previous locations or to start new orbital roles, which could potentially bring new markets online for the satellite operator. The MEV can also create in-orbit backup as well as protect satellite revenues from procurement delays and launch failures.

Orbital ATK has its eye on the future, focusing on the MEV’s offering new and improved capabilities. The company is investing significantly in in-orbit servicing and is working closely with US Government agencies such as NASA and DARPA to develop the next-generation space logistics technologies. These include robotics and high-power solar electric propulsion. Future services of the MEV are expected to include fluid and gas replenishment; inspection and repair; replacement or enhancement of parts; incorporation of auxiliary propulsion, navigation, power, payloads and other

functions to enhance the performance or extend the satellite's life; and capture and recovery or removal of derelict satellites.

Debut customer: Intelsat

Satellite operator Intelsat has announced that it will be using an MEV to dock with an old satellite currently outside of its normal orbital arc. In October, the company’s CEO Stephen Spengler told analysts that Intelsat will be the debut customer for the MEV-1, the first of its kind due for lift-off in late 2018. The MEV-1 will be launched on a Proton medium-power rocket, together with the Eutelsat 5 West-B satellite, followed by in-orbit testing and a demonstration with an old Intelsat satellite. Upon success, MEV-1 will then relocate to the Intelsat satellite scheduled for the mission extension service for five years.

Intelsat CEO Stephen S

“The objective here is twofold. First is to serve our customers and if we have an opportunity to extend the life of a particular satellite that has good health otherwise, besides running out of fuel, we will do that. It gives us the ability to extend revenues and services for customers, specifically for our wide beam services, where appropriate,” said Spengler.

“[The use of MEV-1 would] allow us to delay some CapEx which gives us the additional advantage of allowing innovation to continue and allow the replacement with the latest technology when we do. So, we are very supportive of not only Orbital ATK’s efforts in this regard, but others as well as we believe it’s an important part of the innovation in our sector and will allow us to be more CapEx-effective and efficient and also support our customers,” added Spengler.

SES

Earlier this year in April, satellite operator SES entered into discussions with two specialist builders, as the company sought out a space tug vehicle. According to sources, the two specialists were Orbital for its ATK Vivisat vehicle and MDA Corp, better known as the builders of the Canadarm that was used in numerous space shuttle missions. In order to refuel an aging satellite, ATK Vivisat uses a small satellite that attaches itself to the target, whereas MDA has a roving in-orbit tanker that reaches the satellite and refuels it before departing.

In the past, SES has suggested that it would build a docking mechanism onto its upcoming satellites with SES-16 as a possible candidate. In its annual report, SES stated: “New satellites will include the proper receiving hardware and will deliver modules that connect to the hardware of the satellite in orbit when needed. New satellites that are launched will act as delivery systems, disposing of the old module and installing a new module before beginning their own mission.”

Considering the benefits of deferring CapEX and prolonging revenues, as well as potentially opening up new markets, it’s easy to understand why satellite operators and savvy companies are buying into this innovative and game-changing concept. Viva the Space Tug!

 

Beware

the wrath

of the sun

Skin disease and cancer, solar flares, coronal mass ejections and “World War C” – the sun poses a big threat to humankind, but the threat to data centres is propably far greater than most realise

By Adrienne Harebottle

“The victim was stretched out over the sacrificial stone. In seconds, a priest with an obsidian knife broke open his chest and ripped out his still beating heart, dashing it against the sacrificial stone.” The words of Dr Brian Fagan and Chris Scarre in their book “Ancient Civilizations” forge a graphic portrayal of an Aztec sun god sacrifice. This ancient nation performed many macabre rituals in order to appease their gods, but the most important sacrifices were those that they believed would strengthen the sun. Of all the Aztec gods, the sun was the most vital; as the powerful creator of all, so could it be the destroyer of all. Thus, the Aztecs surrendered human blood in order to help the solar deity defeat the stars and rise victorious in the morning, allowing the existence of humankind to continue for another day.

The idea of the sun turning against us is an enthralling notion. Let its rays not reach our fragile, pale blue planet and we’d face a chilling death. Conversely, let us move too close to it and we’d perish faster than in the worst hell fire. Only a little imagination is required to create the most pandemonic fates. Considering this, it’s easy to see why the Aztecs sought to appease the sun. Most wise they were.

World War C

But one attack from the sun will likely evade even the most creative of imaginations. How about one that trumps all cyber-attacks? One that triggers a kind of “World War C” – with the C standing for coronal mass ejection, something commonly called a solar flare. What is that? Picture the sun spitting at you, that burning web of fiery gob would be the solar flare. Moving from saliva to more scientific terms, solar flares and coronal mass ejections are the result of magnetic activity on the sun that causes large amounts of very hot and very fast-moving energy and particles to be flung into space. There are differences between these two sunny phenomena, but for the sake of simplicity let’s consider them the same for now.

On a good day, a coronal mass ejection is responsible for beautiful visions. It would produce a cloud of material that, after about two days, would reach and interact with the Earth’s atmosphere. Such an interaction is associated with aurora borealis and aurora australis, or, respectively, the celebrated Northern and Southern Lights. But on a day that’s less than good? Coronal mass ejections could disrupt radio and satellite signals, and even interfere with electric power grids on Earth. And here, the dark side of the sun appears.

What do you think might happen to a data centre should such a discharge hit Earth? The particles in a coronal mass ejection travel at about 200-1,200 kilometres per second (124-621 miles per second), a velocity that creates strong magnetic fields that induce currents in conducting materials – think about the effect on cables carrying electricity. Geomagnetic squalls brought on by solar storms in the upper layers of our atmosphere induce currents in long conductors on the Earth’s surface, such as power lines. These additional currents could overload the electric grid system, triggering a voltage collapse at best, or, at worst, permanently damage extra-high voltage transformers, which are as costly as they are powerful, due to melted windings. The sun is currently in a very active phase, with solar flares and coronal mass ejections occurring on a regular basis. If the energy from one of these solar phenomena were to squarely strike the Earth’s magnetic field, humankind could see widespread electrical surges and blackouts, with the duration of outages plausibly dragging on for months as utility companies scramble to try fix the extensive damage. And if this flare strikes a very developed area with a significant amount of transformers, then increase this devastation multifold. A solar storm strikes: say goodbye to the most vulnerable technologies, including electrical grids and other similar large systems, transcontinental pipelines and telephone systems – basically the electrical and communication systems that data centres tend to depend on.

Mayhem

It could be worse still; the data centre’s IT infrastructure itself is also susceptible to a “solar attack”. Fortunately, while the risk of a coronal mass ejection causing extensive electrical damage is high, the potential of direct damage to electronics in the form of an electromagnetic pulse is a lot lower. It’s still possible, but less likely. This is because of the different electrical characteristics: an electromagnetic pulse is a sudden, high-intensity event while a solar storm is lower in intensity and longer in duration, typically inducing currents in very long conductors of 300 kilometres or more. This may offer a flicker of relief during the onslaught of the sun, but should such an event occur, the overall picture would be a very dark one.

The ability to unleash such mayhem in virtually a blink of the eye is what cyber terrorists can only dream of. And unlike the case now out in the field, where companies and governments are constantly preparing to stave off and counter cyber-attacks from around the world, there is no stopping the sun. The only thing we can do is hope our planet proves to be too small a target for that massive burning globe – that and an Aztec human sacrifice perhaps?

 

When the sun struck…

Devastation caused by solar flares have been recorded, proving that the potential for significant electrical damage is not simply a matter of theory

 

  • The Carrington Event: Telegraph operators were left shocked, both electrically and figuratively, when a solar flare struck in 1859. The solar event was so powerful that even some of their telegraph offices were set on fire.
  • Hydro-Quebec: In 1989, Canada was affected, with the solar flare bringing down the Hydro-Quebec power grid. The voltage oscillations from the solar flare caused problems in surrounding regions, seeing more tripping of protective equipment that nearly resulted in the outage of the Northeast Power Coordinating Council (NPCC) and the Mid-Atlantic Area Council (MAAC) in a cascading collapse. Additionally, permanent damage to a generator step-up transformer at a nuclear station in New Jersey was also reported.

 

Expert answers

Dr Art Poland, long-time scientist at Goddard Space Flight Center and astrophysicist at George Mason University, explains solar flares and coronal mass ejections

Q. Solar flares and coronal mass ejections are both the result of magnetic activity on the sun. So then what’s the difference?

A. Solar flares develop much more rapidly, with much more energy than coronal mass ejections.

Q. Naturally, solar flares have very high temperatures. But in what high-frequency parts of the electromagnetic spectrum do solar flares release energy?

A. Solar flares can produce x-rays and even gamma rays.

Q. How fast do the particles in a coronal mass ejection travel?

A. Very! The material in a coronal mass ejection travels at about 200-1,000km per second (124-621 miles per second).

Q. Which of these solar phenomena produces shorter wavelengths?

A. Solar flares usually produce shorter wavelengths, sometimes including gamma rays. High-frequency, short-wavelength gamma rays are the most energetic types of radiation known in the universe.

Q. A cloud of material produced by a coronal mass ejection would take about two days to reach the Earth’s atmosphere. What phenomena would occur from this material and the Earth's atmosphere interacting?

A. The Northern and Southern Lights, aurora borealis and aurora australis, are often associated with coronal mass ejections. Coronal mass ejections may also disrupt radio and satellite signals, and even interfere with electric power grids on Earth.

 

Adrienne Harebottle is a writer, editor and commuications specialist for the satellite, space and telecommunications markets. She has more than 10 years' experience working in media, publishing and content marketing.

Robots on Mars

Are you able to see

the world differently?

This collection of satellite images will give you a new perspective on our planet, humankind’s constructions and our actions, both good and bad, here on Earth. Can you go beyond the aesthetics to contemplate what the things you're seeing mean for our planet?

By Dee Mendonca

What is the reality of Earth in space? From such a perspective, it is only a blue ball of life suspended in a dark void. National boundaries are invisible, cultural divides are not seen, conflicts that seem so difficult to contain are reduced to a miniscule proportion. All the problems that seem to consume humankind become so insignificant; smaller than a particle of dust. What a profound experience it must be for a human to view Earth from space.

The consequence of such an experience has been noted. Dubbed “the overview effect” – a term coined in 1987 by author Frank White for his namesake book – this is the cognitive shift in awareness reported by some astronauts during spaceflight. This effect tends to take place while viewing Earth from orbit or from the lunar surface. This intense sensation results in the will to replace the behaviours of our infantile, waring planet with that of a planetary society interested in protecting the pale blue dot that we know as home.

What would Earth be able to achieve if we could experience the overview effect on a planet-wide level? If we could all have such an awakening? Could it be the stimulus needed to evoke the positive turning point in our evolution? Alas, we are not able to shoot people off en mass into space to achieve this. Fortunately, though, a project inspired by this cosmic enlightenment has shared visuals wish us here on Earth. Hoping to inspire this cognitive shift, the Daily Overview provides a new satellite image each day, sourced from Apple Maps imagery powered by Digital Globe.

The images below are proof that Earth is an incredible planet and that our potential is worth meditating on.

 

Daily Overview images by Apple Maps / Digital Globe

VSAT to the rescue

There is no doubt that satellite communications are pivotal in disaster recovery and response. But in order for VSAT to enable relief teams to the maximum, smart tools are imperative

By Adrienne Harebottle

Pandemonium: a noun comprised of the Greek word pan, meaning “all” and the word demonium, meaning “abode of demons” or “hell”. In this sense, the word coined in year 1667 means the place of all demons, yet today, we use it for situations of wild and noisy disorder, of disorientating confusion. Its synonyms include bedlam, chaos, mayhem and even anarchy. Irrespective of which meaning you take, you simply do not want to be in a place of pandemonium. Therefore, you do not want to be in the aftermath of a natural disaster.

The very nature of a disaster means that it is impossible to know where and when it will occur. Once it strikes, there is only devastation left in its wake. Ground infrastructure is usually destroyed and communications disabled. People in need of emergency medical help are cut off from those able to assist. Survivors are unable to contact family and friends, who are left anguishing over the fate of their loved ones. Emergency response teams need to reach the victims urgently, but to work effectively, they need to be in communication with each other. It is during this time that satellite plays the most important role in disaster recovery and emergency response. It is the only feasible means of critical communications.

In these situations, when it comes to saving lives, every second counts. Therefore, response teams need to be deployed and in communication with each other as quickly as possible. Here, VSAT can play a crucial role in establishing critical communications fast. Vital connections can be established almost instantaneously, allowing multiple relief agencies involved to coordinate themselves. This ensures that those there to help know exactly where that help is needed and that resources are being used in the best way possible. These connections also enable teams on site to communicate with their colleagues outside of the disaster zone. They are able to call in for additional support and delivery of provisions.

VSAT also enables news coverage from disaster zones which is imperative. Not only does it notify the world and keep people out of dangerous areas, but in-depth global coverage from disaster scenes often prompts crowdfunding on a massive scale. This boosts charities and organisations working in the field, maximising their relief efforts and getting help to those in need faster.

Get smart

It is indisputable: VSAT is needed in disaster recovery and response. What is also needed, though, are smart tools that make VSAT operation easy. The advantages of the VSAT of today are plentiful: small antennae, light weight and robust equipment, and efficiency and reliability heightened by the emergence of High-Throughput Satellites (HTS). But these can be squashed if nobody on site knows how to set up and use the technology. VSAT can only provide connectivity fast with trained people there to use it. A misaligned antenna can yield an unstable connection if any at all. And time spent trying to rectify this would be better spent saving lives. While getting everybody trained in satellite communications isn’t a realistic solution – although there are associations making up ground in training programmes – providing smart tools is a must.

The satellite industry has started offering more automated commissioning tools used to reduce the margin of error during set up. These tackle issues, such as connectivity loss or satellite interference, something that has long stained the satellite industry but is being tackled through awareness, as much of satellite interference is caused unintentionally by human error. Additionally, there are also automated maintenance tools, which can be used to control existing networks in disaster-struck regions.

Tools brought to market include Verisat’s SatGuard, a solution for identifying terminals causing crosspolar or adjacent interference. Working with an L-band interface, the tool can operate with Ka-, Ku- or C-band networks.

Integrasys developed Satmotion Pocket, simplifying the installation and commissioning through the use of a remote that could be commissioned rapidly with optimal performance and reduction in any interference. Moving from commissioning to the maintenance side, the company has also released the Alusat solution, enabling users to perform unmanned RF checks on the overall network. This would ascertain which remotes have been de-pointed or degraded and which could be used for recovery purposes. The Alusat tool is also able recover out-of-service remotes without having an installer present.

Eutelsat’s GSM Demodulation tool is used for retransmission problems. It detects the source of interference by using the location information contained in GSM beacons. The interfering station can be found a short distance from the base station and most stations are identified by Google Earth review. Once the problem source is identified, regulatory bodies can be notified to take corrective action.

With the commissioning and maintenance tools offered by the industry, in addition to the ongoing training programmes, VSAT can continue playing that life-saving role. When it comes to disaster recovery and response, human safety is the focus – and here satellite is saving lives.

 

"Paradise Lost" by American artist Terrance Lindall. The painting was to honour the 400th birthday of renowned English poet John Milton, who coined the word pandemonium in 1667.

Adrienne Harebottle is a writer, editor and commuications specialist for the satellite, space and telecommunications markets. She has more than 10 years' experience working in media, publishing and content marketing.

Man's mission to Mars

Men aren't from Mars. They just want to go there. Space pioneer Bas Lansdorp has plans to colonise Mars and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk recently made news with similar schemes. Whether this outlandish notion is better left as science fiction or a dream within reach, the fact is that eyes are set on the Red Planet. But why?

By Ash Smythe

Looking at the planets in our solar system, Mars has some similarities with Earth; it's a rocky planet with polar ice caps and distinguishable seasons. The most obvious similarity, perhaps, is a day on Mars which last 24 hours and 40 minutes. Furthermore, recent scientific evidence shows that liquid fluid once flowed along the Martian landscape, a prominent feature on Earth.

While there are, indeed, striking similarities between the two planets, there are outnumbering differences. To begin, the Red Planet is a hostile environment - and hostile in this sense outweighs the wars, genocide, human trafficking, slavery and debauchery that darkens our existence on Earth. It's hostile: you can't breath, eat or drink water (the flowing fluid is long gone and there is no edible food) - simply put, you can't live!

In short, Mars cannot sustain life as we know it because the temperature, try -38C or below at the planet's equator at night, and atmosphere isn't compatible with human survival. The Martian atmosphere is a whopping 95% carbon dioxide. On Earth, carbon dioxide is important but it's only a trace gas, currently constituting about 0.04% or 400 parts per million (ppm) of the atmosphere. On Earth, oxygen, which we all know is vital to live, is at 21% whereas on Mars, the atmosphere has only a mere 0.13%. The Red Planet's atmosphere is nearly 100 times thinner than Earth's, which contributes to the radical temperature plummets. With such a thin atmosphere, Mars cannot retain the radiant heat of the sun.

To humankind's survival, warmth is a key factor, not only because humans, as warm-blooded beings, like to stay comfortable but also because it affects the availability of liquid water, which we also know is essential to live, for people, animals and plants alike. In our solar system, though, this commodity is scarce. The so-called Goldilocks zone is a narrow region situated between the orbits of Venus and Mars where the not-too-hot and not-too-cold "just right" temperature enables water to exist in liquid form. Earth sits perfectly within this zone, however, a planet that orbits closer to the sun will see its water boil away while an orbit further from the sun will have its water freeze to ice. Mars is situated on this zone's outskirts farthest from the sun, gifting the planet with an average temperature of -60C. The low temperatures and thin atmosphere make it impossible for liquid water to exist.

With very little available water, no edible food and horrid temperatures, to name but a few factors, the Red Planet does not offer humankind a home as we have here on Earth. To live there, we'd be confined to the artificial environments that scientists have developed. Since humans have managed to survive for extended periods of time in space, it's possible to see life on Mars in this way. However, when looking at the provision of Earth-like temperatures, atmosphere, food and water, the economic expense of creating the necessary environment has crippling effects. Handicapping this further is the maintenance of this environment, with costly trips having to be made constantly in order to resupply the Mars colony.

Based on the evolution of technology achieved so far, it is reasonable to think that we'd be able to design a self-sustaining colony in future. But while this technology does not exist today, a Martian colony is not viable.

While colonising any planet in our solar system would come at an incredible price tag, perhaps Mars isn't the best choice. Why not Venus? Floating cities above the clouds of Venus may be our best bet for becoming a two-planet species. The environmental conditions are such that a human wouldn't need a pressurised suit, gravity wouldn't play a tricky factor as it's similar to Earth's and it would be easier to maintain resources as the transit times are shorter than to Mars. Maybe the "Planet of Love" burning brightly in the night's sky is where to keep our eyes.

Holy cow! Satcoms revolutionise farming

Livestock has an interesting part in the Internet of Things and as satellite proves to be increasingly fit for purpose

for agriculture, the lives of farmers will become easier

By Philip Meyers

Philip Meyers is head of innovation for Inmarsat Enterprise. He has almost 15 years of experience in telecommunications and has spent the last few years concentrating on satellite solutions and developing Inmarsat’s technology agnostic LPWAN strategy. Meyers implemented the first public LoRa network in London allowing applications in asset tracking and smart building management by using satellite backhaul.

Cows. It’s not a word you’d expect to use when discussing technology, let alone satellite communications. Yet here we are, not in a geostationary orbit, but instead in a field wandering around with our bovine friends. It seems slightly incongruent, I’m sure you’ll agree, but there is a good reason.

I’ve been working in the Internet-of-Things (IOT) world for the last year or so, more specifically focusing on low-power wide-area networks (LPWAN) such as long-range wide-area networks (LoRaWAN) and Ingenu; looking at how these solutions can blend with Inmarsat’s suite of products – although to be honest, the first three months was spent trying to figure out what the seemingly endless stream of acronyms was all about.

Through the numerous calls, presentations, trade shows, conferences and conversations, there was one clear theme that kept rearing its head as to where Inmarsat could really add some benefit, and that was agritech – the technology used in agricultural practices. And when you think about it, that synergy is entirely logical.

Farms and agricultural areas tend to be spread across larger areas. In some cases, such as in Australia, the average cattle station can spread over thousands of square kilometres. This makes them difficult to manage at the best of times. Then add in the fact that many agricultural areas aren’t serviced by the cellular networks (nobody lives there, so why would they be?), and what you have is a perfect storm of a communications wasteland. Not only is there very little safety communications for the farm workers, but any sensor networks that could be pulled together would really struggle to get their data back to base for alerts, and to a point where analytics can be applied. Cue satellite comms with a sensor network attached.

So we have a remote farm, or agricultural area, with no cellular networks available, a few thousand cows (or sheep, or goats) and a farmer who has a whole heap of problems. What could we do to help? This is where it gets interesting.

Dude, where’s my cow?

Using a combination of Inmarsat’s BGAN and a LoRa network provided by Actility, it’s possible to track objects as they move through an area. As LoRa networks can cover up to 700km2 in rural environments, this is an ideal solution for tracking cattle. Add a small tag to each cow (ear or collar) and the farmer can simply look at an app on his smart phone and see where each one is. He can also set up a geofence so that if a cow moves through the virtual barrier, he will receive an alert and can do something about it. This brings a couple of benefits: firstly, it may be possible to identify sick animals who are behaving erratically; it will also allow any theft to be monitored.

A surprising additional benefit of the agritech use case relates to the water sources that the cattle drink from. Obviously, these watering holes are remote and spread across the farm. So rather than sending a man in a van to go to each one, with the right sensor a farmer can remotely monitor his water source. These small sensors, with incredibly long battery life (up to 10 years) can monitor the pH of the water, its quality, and crucially whether there’s any water at all.

Cows to people

Now it’s not all about the cows. Farms tend to have a few humans helping out, too. So the LoRa network with the BGAN backhaul (backhaul just means aggregating all of the sensor data and sending it somewhere to be analysed) can provide data for all of the vehicles and people on the land, too. Want to monitor where the diggers are? No problem. Need to check the fuel level in the gas tank? Easy. Need to know when the secure gate at the other end of the farm is opened, and take a picture of the trespasser? Of course you can!

These are just a few of the ideas that we’ve been working on over recent months, and we have a couple of proof of concepts already in motion. The more customers that we manage to meet, the more knowledge we gain and the more use cases we come across; and that’s why I really love working with IoT. It feels like we’re at the bleeding edge of a new revolution where almost any situation can benefit from the data a simple sensor network can provide.

I did want to finish with a cow-based pun but I’m sure you’ve herd it.

 

Target:

Moon Village

The ESA chief has his eye set on the moon. The team behind forging a permanent base there shares a glance into the Moon Village.

By Staff Writer

If walking on the moon was a giant leap for mankind, then what will be achieved by setting up a permanent base on Earth’s only constant satellite? Establishing the Moon Village will take the efforts of numerous nations. This global project, like in the case of the International Space Station, will at the very least prove that people of different race, creed and culture can cooperate effectively, and at the most see an incredible feat realised.

"My intention is to build a permanent base station on the moon,” explains Jan Woerner, Director General of ESA. “It will be an open station for different member states and different states around the globe. [Realising this project] will be the Americans, the Russians, the Chinese. It will also be the Indians, the Japanese, and even more countries with smaller contributions.”

According to the ESA chief, building the Moon Village can begin with smaller missions which would be more economically viable.

“The advantage of the idea of Moon Village is that we don't need a lot of funding in the beginning. This means that we can start with a small landing mission, which many countries are already planning, up to a huge investment for a radio telescope, for example, on the far side of the moon. Moon Village has multiple uses by multiple users but all on a single place,” he says.

 

Receiving the commitments from a multitude of players that are needed in order to achieve this audacious plan is one thing, but keeping them up is another. While it won’t be easy, the Moon Village team believes this is possible, pointing to the success seen in the Apollo era and the fact that technology is developed at much faster rates at present.

“We did this in the 1960s within a decade and today, in terms of technology development, we're much further ahead. Of course we can do it again,” says Andreas Mogensen, astronaut at ESA. “There is a huge development cycle that has to be started again; from developing the rockets that will take us into orbit, transfer and land us on the moon, and then the bases that we'll live in on the moon. It's the entire suite of technology that we need to develop.”

The challenges don’t stop at overcoming technological hurdles, the team also needs to counter environmental threats to a moon base, with the most significant threats being solar and cosmic radiation, micro meteorites and extreme temperatures. ESA is currently working on using lunar soil to build protective domes with the help of 3D printers. In order to enable the construction of the base and sustain human life, the team will use minerals, metals and ice found in the lunar poles, noting that the moon is a great source of resources.

Only time will tell if this mountainous task will be successfuly realised and humans will begin contemplating a journey to the moon. And while considering time, it seems that 2020 may be an interesting year. The Chinese are planning a lunar sample return mission, the Russians, yielding the help of the ESA, are developing a robotic lander and NASA's Orion capsule with an ESA service module is expected fly around the moon before 2020.

 

Opportunities in the

age of the multiscreen

Advertisers are shifting to digital and mobile as consumers continue to stream content with a ravenous appetite. But in order for broadcasters to enjoy the reward, they need to overcome significant challenges. Satellite is the solution

By Jaden Hare

In the last two years, a new streaming trend emerged which saw linear TV shift into the over-the-top (OTT) realm. Today, this trend is very much alive and well with demand continuing to grow. Research by Morgan Stanley shows that OTT-only households in the United States are expected to rise from 8 million in 2014 to 14 million by 2020. While this figure is US specific, the trend is global, suggesting a robust growth opportunity. This is provided that technical challenges are overcome, however.

Mother buffer

What’s the speed bump? The rate of consumers adopting OTT is linked to buffering and freezing issues. Simply put, viewers will not accept less than a high-quality, reliable TV viewing experience, while digital advertisers, in parallel, will become unhappy. At the same time, media companies will fret in agitation about not being able to adequately scale and capture the growth potential.

Upsetting media companies is definitely less than wise. Emarketer expects to see advertisers increase digital advertising spend as a percentage of their total advertising dollars, up from 28.2% in 2013 to 37.2% in 2018. Mobile advertising spend is expected to grow from a low 5.7% in 2013 to 26.4% in 2018. How is traditional advertising spend expected to fare? Emarketer sees this decreasing from 38.1% in 2013 to 35.7% in 2018. Wanting to reap the benefits of the advertising revenues for media companies means that fixing the business model is crucial.

In addition to changing the traditional business model, the distribution model must also be addressed. And this is where the satellite industry sees an ideal marriage. Satellite is perfectly situated to deliver, with hybrid satellite services offering a compelling value proposition for broadcasters migrating to linear streaming. The limitations squeezing content distribution networks (CDN) and fiber networks can be overcome with satellite as hybrid satellite solutions perfectly complement fibre and cable infrastructure. Delivery via satellite is key in order for broadcasters and programmers to overcome the technical hurdles as satellite has a tried-and-true track record of delivering large scale, high quality, reliable and secure transmissions, regardless of the screen. Once these attributes have been secured, then the reward from those advertisers shifting their spends from traditional advertising to digital and mobile can be had.

Deploying a hybrid satellite network goes further than improving the quality of delivery. It would also offer media companies flexibility in the modes of transport with its end-to-end solutions while sticking to predictable distributions costs, too. This latter advantage contrasts current CDN unicast focused delivery models that rely on bits delivered per user which are variable attributes. Distribution via satellite enables content owners to deliver linear multicast streams close to the last mile networks, depending on fixed throughput for the

content broadcast.

Growth: tapping new markets

Looking beyond developed markets, it is clear that the broadband infrastructure needed to host multiscreen devices is lacking. Here, in these underserved, emerging markets, satellite is the problem solver. With its ubiquitous nature, broadcasters and programmers are afforded an opportunity to enter these new markets with their OTT/linear streaming of high quality and reliable content. Of these new markets, Asia could be of particular significance, where the 2020 Olympics will test new forms of content delivery including multiscreen and 4K. While host Japan looks keenly to this event to showcase the county’s UHD prowess – this nation, a true UHD technology pioneer, is focused on 8K – other Asian countries are far behind, with SD being the status quo and many consumers desperate for the broadband dream.

Only time will tell just how long this streaming binge will last and if the forecasts predicting that streaming is here to stay will hold true. But there is no uncertainty in that satellite is crucial to achieving the full potential of streaming, crucial for the high quality, reliable and secure delivery of content across all screens.

 

Droning on

As one of the hottest trends of the year, drones – and the havoc they can cause – have inspired handy ingenuity

By Staff Writer

A space-age system for detecting drones took home

the grand prize in this year’s European Satellite

Navigation Competition.

Drones certainly offer many helpful applications, however, at the same time, there are increasing safety concerns, with many cases of drones flying too close for comfort to airports and aircraft. Just this August, there was a near-collision over Munich, Germany.

In response, Dr Carmine Clemente and his team from the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland, are developing a satellite-based system for early drone detection and tracking.

It offers continuous coverage over a fixed area by sensors measuring how drones affect satnav signals. The differences between the sensors pinpoint the drones and allow their tracking, revealing the risk of collision with aircraft landing and taking off.

The €10 000 grand prize was presented to the team in Madrid’s Circulo de Bellas Artes last night. In addition, the project is set to receive an extensive package including marketing, consulting and technical assistance, boosted by the UK’s regional prize.

With the technology and a feasibility study already in place, Clemente predicts the product should be on the market within two years.

 

 

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WE WANT YOU!

 

Yes, that's right. You! Satospace wants you to contribute...

 

If you have a picture worth sharing, send it to us and we'll post it in the Eyewitness section of the website. If you have something to say, send it in a Letter to the Editor. And if you have an article that deserves attention, get in touch with us and we'll publish it in the Magazine for the world to see. Sharing is caring!