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China's Tiangong-1 Finally Crashes Back to Earth

02. April 2018, Veronika Sax - Miscellaneous

After much anticipation, China’s high-profile space project, Tiangong-1 has finally come crashing down to Earth.

As Mike Wall writes for Space.com, the U.S. Strategic Command’s Joint Force Space Component Command (JFSCC) reported that the prototype space station broke apart and is thought to have largely burned above the southern Pacific Ocean as it re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere Sunday at about 8:16 p.m. E.D.T.

It’s not clear if and how much of the spacecraft landed on the Earth’s surface, with officials only saying it landed “above the South Pacific,” according to BBC News.

But astrophysicist Brad Tucker, of Australian National University, tells Reuters that small remnants of the defunct lab — about 10 percent — probably landed about about 60 miles from Tahiti. That amount would be equal to around 1,600 pounds.

“Most likely the debris is in the ocean, and even if people stumbled over it, it would just look like rubbish in the ocean and be spread over a huge area of thousands of square kilometers,” he says.

Former U.S. astronaut Leroy Chiao tells CNN, however, that major pieces are unlikely to have made it to Earth’s surface. If they did, they are at the bottom of the ocean by now, he says.

For months, experts had been trying to predict where and when the lab would come back down to Earth. Before the crash, China’s space agency had suggested it would land close to Sao Paulo, Brazil, Reuters reports.

As reported by Smithsonian.com last month, the 9.5-ton Tiangong-1 launched in 2011 and was never meant to be a permanent fixture in the sky. It had only a two-year operational lifespan with a mission of preparing China’s space agency to assemble and operate a much larger space station in the early 2020s. The agency also plans to put a man on the moon and send a mission to Mars, according to CNN.

China has not been allowed to participate in the International Space Station for political reasons.

China first announced Tiangong-1 had ceased to function in March 2016, without further explanation, CNN reports, and it’s been on international agencies’ radar since then.

Despite lots of media attention around the de-orbiting, such re-entries are fairly common. As Smithsonian.com reported, SkyLab, the United States’ first manned space station, fell back to Earth in 1978 after eight years in space. The entry was largely uncontrolled and its debris landed in an unpopulated area of Western Australia.

But these days, uncontrolled re-entries like that of Tiangong-1 are against international best practice, according to CNN. As Wall reports, China’s space agency contends they had “control” over the craft since they could provide location information at all times. “But for other space-faring nations, a ‘controlled’ re-entry is one performed under the guidance of a spacecraft’s handlers,” Wall writes.

Source: www.smithsonianmag.com


KOREAN POSITIONING SYSTEM K P S TO BE GROUND TESTED IN 2021

13. February 2018, Veronika Sax - Miscellaneous

Building its own Navigation Satellite System by 2034, Korean will start ground testing the KPS in 2021. 
The System will comprise  seven navigation satellites with three of them geostationary above the Korean Peninsula.

Since Korea is currently relying on the US GPS system, which has suffered repeated local area jamming emanating from North Korea, they aim to have regional and independent positioning and navigation signals to prevent nationwide chaos.

Read more


GPS TEMPORARILY DISABLED

12. February 2018, Veronika Sax - Miscellaneous

 

"Red Flag": US Air Force is preparing for a military conflict in which the satellite navigation system is unavailable. GPS is operated by the US Department of Defense and currently has 31 satellites in orbit. Now, training missions must be carried out without the familiar system. The exercise, which runs until 16th of February, will also have an impact on the civilian population.

Read more

 

Picture: © APA/AFP/US AIR FORCE/KAMAILE CASILLAS


SECOND GPS III SATELLITE ASSEMBLED, READY FOR TESTING

26. June 2017, Veronika Sax - Miscellaneous

 

In a specialized cleanroom designed to streamline satellite production, Lockheed Martin is in full production building GPS III - the world's most powerful GPS satellite, according to the company. The company's second GPS III satellite is now assembled and preparing for environmental testing, and the third satellite is close behind, having just received its navigation payload.

In May, the U.S. Air Force's second GPS III satellite was fully assembled and entered into Space Vehicle (SV) single line flow when Lockheed Martin technicians successfully integrated its system module, propulsion core and antenna deck. GPS III SV02 smoothly came together through a series of carefully-orchestrated manufacturing maneuvers utilizing a 10-ton crane.

GPS III SV02 is part of the Air Force's next generation of GPS satellites, which have three times better accuracy and up to eight times improved anti-jamming capabilities. Spacecraft life will extend to 15 years, 25 percent longer than the newest GPS satellites on-orbit today.

"Now fully-integrated, GPS III SV02 will begin environmental testing this summer to ensure the satellite is ready for the rigors of space," said Mark Stewart, vice president of Navigation Systems for Lockheed Martin. "This testing simulates harsh launch and space environments the satellite will endure, and further reduces any risk prior to it being available for launch in 2018."

A Factory Full of GPS III Satellites

Right behind GPS III SV02, eight more contracted GPS III satellites are moving through production flow at Lockheed Martin's nearly 40,000 sq. ft., state-of-the-art GPS III Processing Facility near Denver.

GPS III SV03 recently completed initial power on of its bus, which contains the electronics that operate the satellite. The company received SV03's navigation payload from its supplier, Harris Corporation, in May. After further system testing, SV03 will be ready for full integration later this fall.

GPS III SV04's major electronics are being populated as it prepares for its own initial power on. This satellite's navigation payload is expected to arrive and be integrated into its space vehicle before the end of the year.

Components of the next six satellites, GPS III SV05-10, are arriving at Lockheed Martin daily from more than 250 suppliers in 29 states. To date, more than 70 percent of parts and materials for SV05-08 have been received. The company was put under production contract for SV09-10 in late 2016.

All of these satellites are now following the Air Force's first GPS III satellite, GPS III SV01, through a proven assembly, integration and test flow. SV01 completed its final Factory Functional Qualification Testing and was placed into storage in February 2017 ahead of its expected 2018 launch.

Investing in the Future of GPS III

With multiple satellites now in production, Lockheed Martin engineers are building GPS III smarter and faster. Key to their success is the company's GPS III Processing Facility, a cleanroom manufacturing center designed in a virtual-reality environment to maximize production efficiency. Lockheed Martin invested $128 million in the new center, which opened in 2011.

The company's unique satellite design includes a flexible, modular architecture that allows for the easy insertion of new technology as it becomes available in the future or if the Air Force's mission needs change. Satellites based off this design also will already be compatible with both the Air Force's next generation Operational Control System (OCX) and the existing GPS constellation.

"From day one, GPS III has been a team effort and our successes would not have been possible without a strong Air Force partnership," Stewart said. "GPS III will ensure the U.S. maintains the gold standard for positioning, navigation and timing. We look forward to bringing GPS III's new capabilities to our warfighters and beginning to launch these satellites in 2018."

The GPS III team is led by the Global Positioning Systems Directorate at the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center. Air Force Space Command's 2nd Space Operations Squadron (2SOPS), based at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, manages and operates the GPS constellation for both civil and military users.

Source:  GPS World

 

Photo: Lockheed Martin


LEAP SECOND ON DECEMBER 31, 2016

05. December 2016, Veronika Sax - Miscellaneous

The International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service (IERS) has announced the introduction of a leap second to occur at the end of December 2016.

Coordinated universal time (UTC) will sequence as follows:

  1. 31 Dec 2016 23 hours 59 minutes 59 seconds
  2. 31 Dec 2016 23 hours 59 minutes 60 seconds
  3. 01 Jan 2017 00 hours 00 minutes 00 seconds

Users are advised that the UTC data in the Galileo navigation message will change in accordance with OS SIS ICD (Section 5.1.7)

Before the leap second:

GST-UTC is 17 (GST is ahead of UTC by 17 seconds)

After the leap second:

GST-UTC will be 18 (GST will be ahead of UTC by 18 seconds)

Text source Earth Orientation Center of IERS, Observatoire de Paris, France

 


CHINA ADDS 23RD SATELLITE TO BEIDOU CONSTELLATION

15. June 2016, Veronika Sax - Miscellaneous

 

The Chinese Beidou system's 23rd satellite was launched into orbit Sunday aboard a Long March 3C rocket. The Long March 3C rocket lifted off at 1530 GMT (11:30 a.m. EDT) from the Xichang launch base in southwestern China's Sichuan province, according to the state-run Xinhua news agency.

This is the third new satellite to join the fleet this year. The 21st satellite was launched in February, and the 22nd in March. The satellite was deployed into an elliptical orbit more than 22,000 miles (35,700 kilometers) above Earth. It will power its way into a circular geosynchronous orbit over the equator in the coming weeks.

Text source GPS World

 

 


INDIA’S FIFTH NAVIGATION SATELLITE LAUNCHED

20. January 2016, Veronika Sax - Miscellaneous

The fifth satellite in the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS) constellation lifted off on time Jan. 20 from Satish Dhawan Space Center on Sriharikota Island, on India's east coast.

As in the previous four launches of IRNSS satellites, the navigation satellite rode aboard a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV). This is the 33rd launch for the PSLV.

After the PSLV-C31 lift-off at 0401 GMT Wednesday (11:01 p.m. EST Tuesday) with the ignition of the first stage, the subsequent important flight events - strap-on ignitions and separations, first stage separation, second stage ignition, heat-shield separation, second stage separation, third stage ignition and separation, fourth stage ignition and satellite injection - all took place as planned.

We are pleased to announce that the signal quality of the IRNSS Navigation Payload has been tested successfully by using IFEN´s high performance IRNSS Payload Coherence Test Receiver (PCTR).