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Cosmic Space

Collapse delivers death blow to Arecibo radio dish

The Arecibo radio telescope’s 900-ton instrument platform fell into the 1,000-foot-wide antenna dish this morning, adding to previous damage and putting Puerto Rico’s iconic scientific structure beyond repair.

The National Science Foundation, which funds the Arecibo Observatory through a management contract with the University of Central Florida, said no injuries were caused by the collapse.

“We are saddened by this situation but thankful that no one was hurt,” NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan said in a statement. “When engineers advised the NSF that the structure was unstable and presented a danger to work teams and Arecibo staff, we took their warnings seriously and continued to emphasize the importance of safety for everyone involved.”

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Cosmic Space

The long goodbye begins for iconic radio dish

The radio telescope at Puerto Rico’s Arecibo Observatory is on its way to extinction after 57 years of sparking dreams of alien contact — and after a grim three years of weathering nature’s blows.

Two of the cables supporting the telescope’s 900-ton instrument platform have slipped loose, ripping through the 1,000-foot-wide web of aluminum panels and steel cables that’s spread 450 feet below.

Engineers assessed the damage and determined that the risk of a catastrophic failure was too great to attempt repairs. If more cables snap, the entire platform could crash down, potentially causing the dish’s collapse and life-threatening injuries to workers.

“Although it saddens us to make this recommendation, we believe the structure should be demolished in a controlled way as soon as pragmatically possible, ” Thornton Tomasetti, the engineering firm that made the structural assessment, said in its recommendations to the National Science Foundation and the University of Central Florida, which manages operations at Arecibo on the NSF’s behalf.

“It is therefore our recommendation to expeditiously plan for decommissioning of the observatory and execute a controlled demolition of the telescope,” the firm said.

After consulting with other engineering firms and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, NSF decided to go ahead with the decommissioning.

“NSF prioritizes the safety of workers, Arecibo Observatory’s staff and visitors, which makes this decision necessary, although unfortunate,” NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan said in a statement.

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GeekWire

Tethers Unlimited delivers radios for satellites

Bothell, Wash.-based Tethers Unlimited says it has completed an on-time delivery of 15 S-band software-defined radios in support of a small-satellite constellation mission being developed by Millennium Space Systems, a Boeing subsidiary.

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GeekWire

Amergint acquires Tethers Unlimited

LEO Knight and HyperBus
An artist’s conception shows Tethers Unlimited’s LEO Knight robotic servicing spacecraft working on the company’s HyperBus payload platform. (Tethers Unlimited Illustration)

Colorado-based Amergint Technology Holdings says it has acquired Tethers Unlimited, a Bothell, Wash.-based space venture that’s working on a wide range of government-funded projects.

In a news release, Amergint said the deal will bring together the two companies’ teams to provide integrated end-to-end solutions for satellite communications and in-space services.

Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

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GeekWire

Tethers Unlimited’s radio aces first orbital test

Tethers Unlimited radio
The software-defined SWIFT-SLX S-band radio is designed to fit on a CubeSat-class satellite. (Tethers Unlimited Photo)

Tethers Unlimited weathered a wave of bad news over the winter, but now some good news has bloomed. The company, headquartered in Bothell, Wash., reports that its SWIFT-SLX S-band radio has been successfully operated in orbit.

The compact software-defined radio provided two-way communications between Harris Corp.’s first small satellite, known as HSAT-1, and the satellite’s ground operators, Tethers Unlimited said this week in a news release. HSAT was launched last November by India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, with Seattle-based Spaceflight handling logistical support.

SWIFT-SLX is designed to fit on CubeSat-class spacecraft, and can be configured to meet a wide range of mission needs, including in-flight adjustment of operating frequencies for S- and L-band communications. Development of the radio was supported with Small Business Innovation Research grants from the Air Force Research Laboratory and the Army Space and Missile Defense Center.

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GeekWire

Tethers Unlimited delivers tiny satellite transmitter

SWIFT-KTX transmitter
The SWIFT-KTX transmitter helps tiny satellites deliver big data. (Tethers Unlimited Photo)

Bothell, Wash.-based Tethers Unlimited says it’s delivered the first flight unit of a K-band radio transmitter that’s designed for use on CubeSat satellites as small as a loaf of bread.

The SWIFT-KTX transmitter builds upon Tethers Unlimited’s software-defined radio platform to transmit data at rates exceeding 100 megabits per second, the company said today in a news release. That rate is roughly on par with typical cable connection speeds.

Tethers Unlimited developed the transmitter under a Small Business Innovation Research contract from the U.S. Army’s Space and Missile Defense Command. The company said the first flight unit was delivered to a confidential customer.

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GeekWire

Tethers Unlimited finds a partner for radios

SWIFT software-defined radio
Tethers Unlimited’s prototype module for the SWIFT-KTX software-defined radio is being used for waveguide interface testing. It’s designed to transmit in the K/Ka-band radio spectrum. (TUI Photo)

Burnaby, B.C.-based Orbital Research Inc. says it will build a space-based, 26 GHz Ka-band radio receiver for use on the SWIFT software-defined radiosproduced by Bothell, Wash.-based Tethers Unlimited Inc. for small satellites.

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GeekWire

New team takes charge of Arecibo radio telescope

Arecibo Observatory
The Arecibo Observatory has a 1,000-foot-wide radio dish built into Puerto Rico’s karst terrain. (NAIC Arecibo Observatory / NSF Photo)

The 1,000-foot Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico, made famous by such movies as “Contact” and the James Bond thriller “Goldeneye,” will be under new management.

Today the National Science Foundation announced that the University of Central Florida has begun the transition process for taking on operation and management of the observatory. “NSF is currently negotiating the operations and management award with UCF,” the federal agency said in a statement.

The handover is aimed at reducing the federal outlay for the Arecibo Observatory, which has been struggling with squeezed budgets in recent years.

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GeekWire

OneRadio’s signal receiver goes to first customer

OneRadio display
OneRadio’s display shows “fingerprints” of signals across a swath of bandwidth. (OneRadio Image)

OneRadio Corp., a University of Washington spinout that focuses on sniffing out radio signals across a wide spectrum, has signed up the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory’s National Security Directorate as its first customer.

PNNL plans to use OneRadio’s wide-band radio receiver platform for security-related applications, the Seattle-based company said today.

OneRadio CEO Mohan Vaghul said he was thrilled to be working closely with researchers at the federally funded laboratory. “Our goal is to support them so that the agencies benefit,” Vaghul said.

Headquartered in Richland, Wash., PNNL provides its clients with practical solutions to prevent and counter acts of terrorism and stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction.

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GeekWire

OneRadio unveils wideband radio receiver

OneRadio display
OneRadio shows the “fingerprints” of radio signals across a wide swath of bandwidth. (OneRadio Image)

OneRadio Corp. has been working on its dragnet for radio transmissions for two years in stealth mode, but the spinout from the University of Washington’s CoMotion innovation program is finally ready to go public.

The startup plans to demonstrate its wideband radio receiver platform next week at the 2017 IEEE Radar Conference in Seattle.

“This is a great coming-out party for us,” OneRadio CEO Mohan Vaghul told GeekWire.

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