Government satellite week in review – they’re watching you

We’re rapidly approaching the Labor Day Holiday and the unofficial end of the summer season. But while many people are preparing for their one last weekend at the beach, the space industry is abuzz with exciting news and announcements that are destined to change and shape the way we work and live. Satellite and space news takes no vacations!

Here are some of the top articles and news stories that we read this week:

High-Res Satellites Want to Track Human Activity From Space
If you’re the paranoid type that already thinks people are watching you…well…you may not want to read the rest of this. You’ll certainly not want to read the Wired article at the other end of the link above.

Why? Because, it’s most likely going to confirm your suspicions and result in you crafting some fine tin foil headwear.

According to the article, a company called DigitalGlobe is going to be launching a fleet of satellite that they’ve ominously coined, “WorldView Legion,” which will give them the ability to take extremely high resolution images of much of the globe every 20 minutes. These photographs from space will be so clear that the article authors suggest that they will enable the people viewing them to make out what book is sitting on a coffee table.

Well…I’ll save them the time and effort. This is the book sitting on MY coffee table.

All joking aside, this level of clarity in satellite imagery is a huge step up from what’s already available in the marketplace, and could have multiple practical applications by giving companies, government and other entities unprecedented intelligence about human activities and behaviors.

Air Force stands up new Space Operations Directorate
Understanding the increasingly contested nature of space and the fact that space is now a war-fighting domain, the U.S. Air Force has established a new Space Operations Directorate that was slated to become operational this week.

In an attempt to get the Space Operations Directorate off the ground, the Air Force has been naming people to the 43-person staff, including two new personnel – Shawn Barnes, who was named assistant deputy chief of staff for the Space Operations Directorate, and Maj. Gen. Pamela Lincoln, who was named assistant to the deputy chief of staff for space operations.

According to Secretary of the Air Force, Heather Wilson, “Mr. Barnes and Maj. Gen. Lincoln are experienced leaders who will provide the vision and direction for our new Space Operations Directorate. This is one more element of the plan to ensure our space forces are organized, trained, and equipped to prevail in any conflict.”

All-electric satellites halfway to becoming half of all satellites

The future of satellite propulsion? It’s electric!

According to Northern Sky Research (NSR), electric spacecraft are the future of the satellite industry. In this article from Space News, they quote numbers from Senior NSR Analyst Carolyn Belle showing that operators ordered 26 electrically propelled satellites from 2012 to 2016 — 20 all-electric spacecraft, and six “hybrids” that will rely on chemical propellant for orbit raising.

That means that 25 percent of satellites ordered during that four year period utilize electric propulsion or a hybrid electric/chemical propulsion system.

The allure of electric propulsion for spacecraft is easy to see and understand. By utilizing electric propulsion systems, satellites weigh less. They can then either be loaded up with more payloads, or shrunk down to decrease the cost of launch.

Either way, it looks like the benefits of electric propulsion have it poised to be the propulsion choice of the future for satellite operators.


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