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Signals and Space | V1 | Issue 30 | 11.06.23

India’s heyday in space. Now offering satellite imagery resolutions in meters, centimeters, and smoots. Space Bills. SaxaVord Spaceport. And more!



Good morning,

To all our new followers from the Beyond Earth Symposium, welcome!

Last week we learned that Miriam Kramer, author of the Axios Space newsletter, is moving on to bigger and better things, leaving the space beat altogether. Axios has already removed the newsletter from their website. It appears they don't plan to continue the coverage.

I'll miss Miriam and her work. It was all signal, no noise. That's the sort of content I like.

If you know anyone looking to fill the gap in their inbox, please forward them this newsletter. We strive to carry the standard. And we wish Miriam good luck on her next adventure.

It's a rapidly changing world out there so let's get to it. Here’s what happened last week and why it matters...

T-Minus Interviews

  • Steve Luczynski, Board Chairman of the Aerospace Village, discusses recent updates on cybersecurity in space.
  • Alejandro Roman Molinas, General Director of Aerospace Development at the Paraguayan Space Agency, reveals the strides Paraguay is making in aerospace development.
  • Space Communicator Yumna Majeed discusses her journey from having her space dreams crushed at a young age to becoming the leading space communicator in Pakistan.
  • David Caponio, Senior Vice President of Product and Business Development at Vast, on the development of commercial space station Haven-1 and the future of commercial Low Earth Orbit destinations.
  • Frank Strang, CEO of SaxaVord Spaceport, goes deep on the impending first launch from the spaceport, the origins of the idea, and future expectations.



The Cyber-Space Connection

  • What: The article explores the intertwined nature of cybersecurity and space, emphasizing the importance of cybersecurity measures in space assets.
  • Who: Forbes Tech Council.
  • Why: As space assets become integral to national security and daily life, ensuring their cybersecurity is imperative for safeguarding national interests and promoting a secure space environment, pertinent for all space industry professionals.

China, U.S. and EU sign milestone declaration to teamwork in AI safety

  • What: The US, China, and the EU have signed a declaration to work together on AI safety, which could have implications for space technologies and operations.
  • Who: US, China, EU.
  • Why: International cooperation in AI safety is crucial for managing the potential risks associated with the integration of AI in space technologies, which is increasingly becoming a focus area in the space industry.


Emerging Tech

Rocket Lab Plans Venus Mission

  • What: Rocket Lab is planning a mission to Venus, scheduled as soon as late 2024, to explore the possibility of life in Venus' clouds.
  • Who: Rocket Lab.
  • Why: This mission could provide critical data on extraterrestrial life conditions, expanding our understanding of habitable zones in the solar system, which is vital for the scientific community and future exploration missions.

European Space Agency Shares Space Safety Programme Plans

  • What: The European Space Agency (ESA) unveils its Space Safety Programme to address threats from space to vital infrastructure on Earth and in orbit, and plans to use AI for improving mission sustainability and resilience.
  • Who: European Space Agency.
  • Why: This initiative by ESA to employ AI and focus on space safety can set a precedence for other space agencies, ensuring a safer and more sustainable space environment, a key concern for space industry professionals.

Polaris Spaceplane Update

  • What: The Polaris spaceplane demonstrator MIRA conducted its first flight at a German Airfield, testing a linear aerospike rocket engine under contract with the German Armed Forces.
  • Who: Polaris Spaceplanes, German Armed Forces.
  • Why: Successful testing of new propulsion technologies like the aerospike rocket engine could disrupt the traditional launch market, providing more efficient and cost-effective launch solutions which is vital for the burgeoning space economy.


  • What: NASA and ISRO continue collaborative work on NISAR, a dual-frequency synthetic aperture radar mission to study Earth’s forests and wetlands.
  • Who: NASA, ISRO.
  • Why: NISAR will provide invaluable data on Earth’s ecosystems and their role in climate change. This collaboration further cements the partnership between NASA and ISRO, setting a precedent for future global space projects.

Starlink achieves cash-flow breakeven, says SpaceX CEO Musk

  • What: Elon Musk announced that Starlink, SpaceX's satellite internet service, has achieved cash-flow breakeven.
  • Who: SpaceX, Elon Musk.
  • Why: Achieving cash-flow breakeven is a significant milestone for Starlink, indicating a level of financial sustainability that is encouraging for investors and stakeholders in the satellite internet and broader commercial space sector.


Business & Investing

Skyroot's Successful Funding Round

  • What: Skyroot Aerospace has raised $27.5 million in a new funding round led by Singapore's Temasek.
  • Who: Skyroot Aerospace, Singapore's Temasek, and other Indian space startups like Agnikul Cosmos.
  • Why: This funding round signifies a growing momentum in India's private sector space race, spurred by the government's ambitious space plans and recent successes like Chandrayaan-3 moon mission. The capital infusion is expected to accelerate Skyroot's commercial rocket launches, contributing to India's burgeoning space industry.

Space Solar-Thales Alenia Innovation Partnership

  • What: Space Solar announces an innovation partnership with Thales Alenia Space to continue collaboration on a commercial space-based solar power system.
  • Who: Space Solar, Thales Alenia Space, UK Government’s Department of Energy Security and Net Zero, European Space Agency.
  • Why: This partnership could lead to revolutionary advancements in harnessing solar energy from space, aligning with global clean energy goals. It's a step towards commercializing space-based solar energy, potentially reshaping energy security and contributing to net-zero targets.

MDA Completes Acquisition Of Satixfy Digital Payload Division

  • What: MDA has completed the acquisition of Satixfy Space Systems UK, bolstering its digital satellite capabilities.
  • Who: MDA, Satixfy Space Systems UK.
  • Why: The acquisition is a strategic move to advance MDA’s satellite systems strategy, reflecting a broader industry trend of consolidations to bolster technological capabilities and meet growing customer demand.

Kuva Space Raises €16.6M

  • What: Finnish Earth observation company Kuva Space secured €16.6M in funding to accelerate the development of its hyperspectral camera, expand its team, and launch its AI analytics platform.
  • Who: Kuva Space.
  • Why: This funding will bolster Kuva Space’s capabilities in Earth observation technology, which is crucial for various sectors including agriculture and environmental monitoring, underlining the significant investment interest in Earth observation technologies.

UNIIQ invests € 350,000 in the space startup Spherical Systems

  • What: Netherlands space startup Spherical Systems has raised almost €1 million in funding to develop a chip designed for extreme conditions in space.
  • Who: Spherical Systems, Investors including UNIIQ.
  • Why: The funding will enable Spherical Systems to demonstrate its technical and commercial relevance globally, and the development of space-hardened chips is crucial for enhancing the reliability and performance of space systems, which is a significant concern for space industry professionals.


Earth Observation

HawkEye360 Wins $12.25M NIWC Pacific Contract

  • What: HawkEye360 awarded a $12.25 million contract by the Naval Information Warfare Center Pacific to provide satellite RF data, analytics, and training to partner nations in Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands.
  • Who: HawkEye360, Naval Information Warfare Center Pacific, Indo-Pacific Partnership for Maritime Domain Awareness.
  • Why: This contract underscores the growing role of commercial satellite technology in supporting governmental maritime domain awareness and international partnerships in a geopolitically significant region.

China Launches New Cartographic Satellite

  • What: China launched the Tianhui-5 satellite for geographic mapping, land resource survey, and scientific experiments.
  • Who: Chinese space agency.
  • Why: This launch is part of China’s broader ambitions in space exploration and earth observation, offering critical data for various sectors while inching closer to a significant milestone in its Long March rocket series.

Hydrosat & Muon Space Team Up for 2024 Launch

  • What: Muon Space awarded a contract by Hydrosat for a spacecraft integrating multispectral and thermal infrared imaging instruments, advancing Hydrosat’s plans for a LEO smallsat constellation.
  • Who: Muon Space, Hydrosat.
  • Why: This partnership marks progression in deploying constellations aimed at addressing climate change issues like freshwater scarcity, highlighting the growing focus on leveraging space technology for climate and environmental monitoring.



Pentagon Awards Contracts for 100 Satellites

  • What: The Space Development Agency (SDA) awarded two contracts totaling $1.3 billion for the Tranche 2 Transport Layer – Alpha to Northrop Grumman and York Space Systems for creating a total of 100 communication satellites, under the Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture initiative.
  • Who: The contracts were awarded to Northrop Grumman and York Space Systems, with Northrop Grumman to design and build 38 data transport satellites, and York to build 62 satellites.
  • Why: The contracts signify a substantial investment in improving encrypted military communications. The interoperable Alpha and Beta satellites aim to provide resilient space-based capabilities, essential for modern military operations and defense strategies.

US Space Systems Command Launches Tech Accelerator Program

  • What: US Space Systems Command introduced its Technology Accelerator Program at the new Technology, Applications, and Process Lab, aiming to foster innovation and collaboration among industry, academia, and the Department of Defense.
  • Who: US Space Systems Command, Virginia Tech’s Applied Research Corporation, and MITRE Corporation.
  • Why: This initiative is crucial for addressing operational needs of the US Space Force, potentially speeding up the development and deployment of new technologies crucial for space domain awareness and other operational needs.

AFRL Awards Contract to Intuitive Machines

  • What: US Air Force Research Laboratory awarded a $9.49 million contract to Intuitive Machines for developing solutions for satellite positioning and maneuverability using Radioisotope Power Systems for NASA’s GATEWAY.
  • Who: Intuitive Machines, US Air Force Research Laboratory, NASA.
  • Why: This contract highlights the growing intersection of nuclear technology and space exploration, potentially revolutionizing power solutions for long-term space missions, a vital consideration for future space exploration and industry growth.



Rocket Factory UK's Funding and Launch Plans

  • What: Rocket Factory UK receives £3.5 million in funding from the UK Space Agency for launching from the Shetland Islands.
  • Who: Rocket Factory UK, UK Space Agency, SaxaVord Spaceport.
  • Why: This funding and the exclusive launch access fortify the UK's position in the European space landscape, potentially boosting local economies and advancing the region's space launch capabilities.

New Launch Assignments for SpaceX and ULA

  • What: US Space Systems Command assigned new launches to SpaceX and ULA for fiscal year 2024 under the U.S. Space Force national security space launch contract vehicle. SpaceX received 10 mission assignments while ULA received 11, supporting various mission areas over the next two to three years.
  • Who: SpaceX, United Launch Alliance (ULA), US Space Systems Command.
  • Why: The new assignments are critical for national security and demonstrate the ongoing commitment to utilizing commercial partnerships to support governmental space objectives.

FAA Concludes SpaceX Super Heavy Safety Review

  • What: The FAA completed the safety review portion of the SpaceX Starship-Super Heavy license evaluation, focused on public health and safety issues, while continuing with the environmental review in consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
  • Who: Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), SpaceX, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
  • Why: The safety review is a significant step toward operational readiness for SpaceX's Super Heavy, though the ongoing environmental review highlights the regulatory hurdles space companies face.

University of Luxembourg Signs Rideshare Agreement with Alba Orbital

  • What: An agreement for a rideshare launch has been signed to deploy a Pico-satellite, ‘POQUITO’, in late 2024, focusing on in-orbit technology operations.
  • Who: University of Luxembourg, Alba Orbital, SpaceX.
  • Why: The rideshare agreement supports educational and technological advancements, highlighting the increasing accessibility of space through commercial launch services and international collaborations.

Firehawk Aerospace Develops Launch Range

  • What: Firehawk Aerospace announced the development of a 30-square-mile launch range in West Texas for testing hybrid rocket engines.
  • Who: Firehawk Aerospace.
  • Why: The new range enhances Firehawk's testing capabilities, indicating the growing infrastructure investments in the launch sector which are crucial for advancing rocket technology and ensuring a competitive market.


Human Spaceflight

Progress on NASA’s Boeing Starliner Crew Flight

  • What: NASA announces progress towards Boeing Starliner's crewed flight to the ISS, scheduled no earlier than April.
  • Who: NASA, Boeing.
  • Why: After overcoming past hurdles, progress on this mission is critical for both NASA and Boeing, bolstering America's human spaceflight capabilities and marking a significant step towards regular crewed flights to the ISS.

Chinese Taikonauts Return from Tiangong Space Station

  • What: Three Chinese taikonauts returned to Earth after a five-month mission on the Tiangong space station, marking the successful completion of the Shenzhou-16 mission.
  • Who: Chinese Taikonauts and China Manned Space Agency.
  • Why: This mission marks a significant milestone in China's human spaceflight program, illustrating its growing capabilities and ambitions in space, which are crucial for international space politics and collaborations.


Policy & Law

ASES-ESA Collaboration for Socio-Economic Growth

  • What: ASES signs a letter of intent with ESA to leverage space technology for socio-economic growth in Senegal.
  • Who: Senegalese Space Study Agency (ASES), European Space Agency (ESA).
  • Why: The collaboration could unlock new opportunities in various sectors, contributing to economic growth, and improving living standards in Senegal, showcasing the potential of space technology in fostering sustainable development.

President Biden's Executive Order on AI

  • What: President Biden issued an Executive Order to ensure the development of safe, secure, and trustworthy Artificial Intelligence, outlining the government's strategy and regulatory approach.
  • Who: The White House.
  • Why: The executive order sets a policy framework for AI, a critical area for space technologies, impacting how AI will be governed in space applications, affecting industry compliance and innovation.

NASA Welcomes Netherlands as Newest Artemis Accords Signatory

  • What: The Netherlands and Iceland have joined the Artemis Accords, becoming the 31st and 30th signatories respectively, which aim at ensuring peaceful and cooperative activities on the Moon and other celestial bodies.
  • Who: The Netherlands Space Office Director Harm van de Wetering, Icelandic government, NASA.
  • Why: This expansion of the Artemis Accords underscores growing international cooperation in space exploration, and further establishes norms for peaceful, cooperative, and transparent activities in space, which is crucial for the space industry's sustainable growth.

Mauritius and ISRO Sign MOU

  • What: The Mauritius Research and Innovation Council and the Indian Space Research Organisation signed an MOU to develop a Joint Small Satellite, though no further details were provided.
  • Who: Mauritius Research and Innovation Council, Indian Space Research Organisation.
  • Why: This MOU signifies growing international collaborations in space technology development, fostering a more global and cooperative space community, essential for addressing worldwide challenges and advancing space technology.

Cantwell, Hickenlooper Bill to Clean Up Space Junk Passes Senate Unanimously

  • What: The ORBITS Act aimed at remediating space debris has unanimously passed in the US Senate and awaits passage in the House. The Act aims to support policies and technologies for space debris removal, listing high-risk space debris, fostering consistent orbital debris regulations, and promoting space traffic coordination.
  • Who: US Senate, Department of Commerce Office of Space Commerce, NASA, National Space Council, Federal Communications Commission.
  • Why: The Act could provide a significant step towards addressing the growing space debris problem by facilitating the development and deployment of debris removal technologies and ensuring multi-agency coordination, thereby aiding in maintaining the sustainability of space activities.

US HB6131 | 2023-2024 | 118th Congress

  • What: A bipartisan amendment has been introduced to modernize government oversight of commercial space missions, establishing a general authorization and supervision certification for outer space activities carried on by non-governmental entities.
  • Who: US Congress, Department of Commerce Office of Space Commerce.
  • Why: This amendment aims to remove legal uncertainties and promote the US as a leader in commercial space activities by streamlining the authorization process, which is crucial for fostering growth and innovation in the commercial space sector.



Intuitive Machines Lunar Mission Delay

  • What: Launch delay for Intuitive Machines’ IM-1 lunar mission to January 2024 from its initial target of November.
  • Who: Intuitive Machines.
  • Why: Despite the delay, securing a launch window marks a significant milestone towards pioneering lunar exploration and positions Intuitive Machines as a key player in the upcoming lunar missions.

Sidus Space Awarded a 5-Year $10 Million Ceiling (IDIQ) Commercial Contract to Support Commercial Lunar Transportation

  • What: Sidus Space has secured a 5-year Indefinite-Delivery/Indefinite-Quantity contract with a $10 Million ceiling to provide services supporting a US-owned company’s commercial lunar program.
  • Who: Sidus Space, unnamed US-owned lunar transportation, infrastructure, and exploration services company.
  • Why: This contract underlines the growing commercial opportunities in lunar exploration and the need for robust support services, indicating a forward momentum in the commercial lunar sector which holds potential for various stakeholders in the space industry.


Science & Research

Japanese Scientists Grow Mouse Embryos in Space

  • What: For the first time, mammalian embryos have been cultivated and grown in space, under a research led by Japan’s University of Yamanashi.
  • Who: University of Yamanashi, International Space Station.
  • Why: This pioneering research aims to understand human reproduction possibilities in space, critical for long-term space exploration and habitation, opening doors to profound biological and ethical discussions.


Workforce, Careers, & Education

Age Limit Raised for Enlistment in US Space Force and Air Force

  • What: The US Space Force and Air Force have increased the maximum enlistment age to 42.
  • Who: US Space Force and Air Force.
  • Why: The adjustment in enlistment age reflects a need for more personnel and perhaps a wider range of experiences and skills, following a recruitment shortfall, crucial for maintaining a robust defense posture.

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