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Signals and Space | V1 | Issue 31 | 11.13.23

The stars aren’t aligning for Astra. ESA adopts a Zero Debris Charter. Galactic cuts. A mixed bag of Q3 reports. Space and Veterans. And more!



Good morning,

I hope everyone had a nice Veterans Day weekend. My wife and I (both Navy vets) enjoyed quality time in San Diego with our Navy family. We attended a retirement ceremony for one of our friends who just finished 29 years of service. Talk about a storied career. If you've never attended a Navy retirement, it's worth it. While every service has its own unique culture, none of them celebrate tradition quite like the Navy.

We were also reminded just how much of the space community is driven by military vets after we published our Veterans Day Special and received a lot of great feedback. Next year we'll share even more of your voices. Thanks for writing in.

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

  • Ché Bolden, President and CEO of the Charles F. Bolden Group, discusses the development of Inter Astra and their vision for the future space industry workforce.
  • Dr. Annika Rollock, Director of Engineering at the Aurelia Institute, discusses the Space Architecture Trade Study.
  • Ronald Birk, AAS president and Aerospace Corporation's lead on space enterprise evolution.

  • Aravind Ravichandran on our monthly update about the Earth Observation market.

  • Veterans in space share their stories for Veterans Day.


Emerging Tech

Firefly and Fleet Space Lunar Mission

  • What: Firefly Aerospace has signed an agreement with Australia's Fleet Space Technologies to deliver and operate Fleet’s Seismic Payload (SPIDER) to the Moon's far side.
  • Who: Firefly Aerospace, Fleet Space Technologies.
  • Why: This partnership is significant in the lunar exploration field, marking a collaboration that extends international involvement in lunar missions and reflects the growing interest in exploring the Moon's far side.

SpaceRake's SBIR Award for Satellite Communication

  • What: SpaceRake received about $1.8 million from the US Space Development Agency to develop miniaturized satellite optical communication systems.
  • Who: SpaceRake, US Space Development Agency.
  • Why: This funding is pivotal for advancing satellite communication technologies, emphasizing the growing need for more efficient and compact systems in the rapidly evolving space industry.

Sierra Space's New Rocket Engine Test

  • What: Sierra Space successfully tests a new 5,500-pound force hypergolic rocket engine, capable of continuous throttling and efficient performance.
  • Who: Sierra Space.
  • Why: This development represents a significant advancement in rocket technology, with potential applications in various space missions requiring precise control and maneuverability.


Business & Investing

Funding for Cornwall Space Cluster

  • What: Cornwall Space Cluster in the UK has secured £1 million in funding to develop the Data, Space, and Aerospace sectors. The aim is to more than double these sectors' value by 2030.
  • Who: Cornwall Space Cluster, UK horizontal spaceport.
  • Why: This funding boost is a crucial development for professionals in the space industry, highlighting the growing investment in regional space clusters and their potential impact on local economies and technological advancements.

Space Forge Awarded Funding

  • What: Space Forge, a UK in-space manufacturing company, has received £499,000 from the UK Ministry Of Defense's Defence Technology Exploitation Programme, in collaboration with Northrop Grumman.
  • Who: Space Forge, UK Ministry Of Defense, Northrop Grumman.
  • Why: This funding signifies the UK government's commitment to fostering innovation in space technology, particularly in enhancing defense supply chains. It underscores the growing importance of in-space manufacturing capabilities in national defense strategies.

Virgin Galactic Workforce Reduction

  • What: Virgin Galactic announces layoffs as part of a workforce reduction, citing market uncertainty, high interest rates, and geopolitical unrest. The company is refocusing efforts on developing the Delta spaceplane, aiming for weekly flights.
  • Who: Virgin Galactic.
  • Why: This news is crucial for space industry professionals as it highlights the challenges even prominent companies face in the volatile space sector. The shift in focus to the Delta spaceplane also indicates a strategic pivot in commercial spaceflight offerings.

Rocket Lab Q3 Results and Electron Return

  • What: Rocket Lab updates investors on Q3 results and plans a return to launch for its Electron vehicle after addressing a launch failure in September due to an unexpected electrical arc.
  • Who: Rocket Lab.
  • Why: This update is crucial for the space industry as it demonstrates Rocket Lab's commitment to addressing technical challenges and ensuring the reliability of its Electron vehicle, a key player in the small satellite launch market.

Astra Defaults on Debt Agreement

  • What: Astra has defaulted on its recent debt agreement, struggling to raise necessary funds. The company engaged in a 1-to-15 reverse stock split in September to avoid Nasdaq delisting but is currently trading at around 92 cents. Astra needed a minimum of $10.5 million on hand but fell short, still owing $8 million on the principal. The company's Q3 filing next week may reveal more about its future.
  • Who: Astra.
  • Why: This development is significant for space industry professionals as it highlights the financial challenges and volatility in the space sector, emphasizing the importance of robust financial strategies for sustainability in this competitive market.

Astra Founders' Buyout Offer

  • What: Astra's founders have offered to take the company private at a value of about $30 million, proposing to buy out all outstanding stock at $1.50 per share.
  • Who: Astra, its founders CEO Chris Kemp and CTO Adam London.
  • Why: This potential buyout reflects the challenges Astra faces in the public market and signifies a strategic shift that could impact the company's future direction in the competitive space launch industry.

BlackSky's Q3 Financial Results

  • What: BlackSky, a geospatial intelligence company, reports a net income of $675,000 for Q3 2023, marking an improvement from the previous year's net loss.
  • Who: BlackSky.
  • Why: This financial turnaround is significant for the Earth observation sector, demonstrating BlackSky's growing success in providing valuable geospatial intelligence and its potential impact on various industries.

ESA, Airbus, Voyager MOU for Starlab

  • What: ESA signs a Memorandum of Understanding with Airbus and Voyager for collaboration on the Starlab space station, post-International Space Station era.
  • Who: European Space Agency, Airbus, Voyager Space.
  • Why: This collaboration is pivotal for Europe's future in space, outlining a commitment to sustained access and commercial presence in low-Earth orbit, and highlighting the importance of international partnerships in space exploration.



Israel Intercepts Ballistic Missile in Space

  • What: Israel's Arrow missile-defense system reportedly intercepted a ballistic missile fired by Houthi rebels in Yemen outside of Earth's atmosphere.
  • Who: Israel Defense Forces, Houthi rebels.
  • Why: This event may represent a new frontier in space-based defense capabilities, illustrating the evolving nature of military technology and the potential for conflicts extending into space. It underscores the need for continued attention to space security and defense technologies.

SES Defense Contract for Satellite Services

  • What: SES Space & Defense awarded a nearly $270 million contract by the U.S. Department of Defense for Medium Earth Orbit satellite services.
  • Who: SES Space & Defense, U.S. Department of Defense.
  • Why: This contract underscores the increasing reliance on satellite services for defense applications, highlighting the strategic importance of satellite communication in modern military operations.

X-37B's Seventh Mission Launch Scheduled

  • What: The Department of the Air Force and the US Space Force plan to launch the seventh mission of the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle, with a wide range of test objectives.
  • Who: Department of the Air Force, United States Space Force.
  • Why: The X-37B's mission underscores the importance of reusable space technology in military operations and experiments, reflecting the evolving role of space assets in national defense.



ESA Space Summit: Ariane 6 and Vega-C Rockets

  • What: At the ESA Space Summit in Seville, Italy, France, and Germany reached an agreement on the launches of Ariane 6 and Avio's Vega-C rockets. This deal comes amid debates over budgets and schedules, with a potential for Vega-C to be operated independently by Avio.
  • Who: European Space Agency (ESA), Italy, France, Germany, Avio.
  • Why: The agreement is critical for the European space sector, highlighting the importance of collaboration and strategic planning in managing complex, multinational space projects and the potential for new operational models in the industry.

Norway's Andøya Spaceport Opens

  • What: Norway has opened the Andøya Spaceport, set to be the first operational orbital spaceport in continental Europe. The spaceport, having launched suborbital vehicles since the 1960s, now aims to launch vehicles into retrograde and polar orbits.
  • Who: Norway's Andøya Spaceport, German company Isar Aerospace.
  • Why: The opening of Andøya Spaceport signifies a significant step in Europe's space capabilities, especially for launches into specific orbits. This development is crucial for industry professionals focusing on European space advancements and global competition in spaceport infrastructure.

ULA's Vulcan Rocket Prepares for Launch

  • What: United Launch Alliance's new Vulcan rocket is entering final processing milestones ahead of its inaugural launch scheduled for Christmas Eve from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.
  • Who: United Launch Alliance, a Lockheed Martin and Boeing company.
  • Why: The upcoming launch of the Vulcan rocket is a significant development in the space launch sector, showcasing advancements in rocket technology and enhancing the competitive landscape of commercial space launch providers.

UKSA Funding to RFA UK

  • What: The UK Space Agency has granted £3.5 million to Rocket Factory Augsburg’s UK subsidiary, RFA UK, as part of ESA's Boost! Program, supporting their planned launch from SaxaVord Spaceport.
  • Who: UK Space Agency, Rocket Factory Augsburg’s UK subsidiary (RFA UK).
  • Why: This funding demonstrates the UK's commitment to developing its domestic launch capabilities, which is pivotal for the country's growing role in the global space industry and the diversification of launch sites in Europe.


Policy & Law

ESA Adopts Zero Debris Charter

  • What: ESA Member States, Associate States, and Cooperating States have adopted the world's first zero debris charter at the European Space Summit. The charter aims to significantly limit the production of debris in Earth and Lunar orbits by 2030 for all ESA missions, programs, and activities.
  • Who: European Space Agency (ESA) Member States, Associate States, and Cooperating States.
  • Why: This initiative marks a critical step towards sustainable space operations, emphasizing the urgent need for global cooperation to address the growing challenge of space debris and its threat to space infrastructure.

US-ROK Space Industry Symposium

  • What: The Republic of Korea and the United States held the ROK-U.S. Space Industry Symposium in Seoul, focusing on space industry cooperation and policy exchange.
  • Who: Governments of the Republic of Korea and the United States.
  • Why: This symposium signifies strengthening international collaboration in space, crucial for shaping future policies and fostering partnerships in space exploration and industry between the U.S. and South Korea.


Science & Research

NASA's Lucy Mission Discovers Binary Asteroid

  • What: NASA's Lucy mission has revealed that the asteroid Dikinesh is a binary system, consisting of two space rocks. Lucy captured these images during a high-speed flyby.
  • Who: NASA, Lucy space probe.
  • Why: The discovery by Lucy offers significant insights into the nature of asteroids, contributing to our understanding of the solar system. This information is vital for space professionals interested in planetary science and asteroid exploration.

Euclid's First Images Released

  • What: The European Space Agency has released the first images captured by the Euclid telescope, showcasing high-resolution astronomical images covering a large area of the sky and peering into the distant universe.
  • Who: European Space Agency (ESA).
  • Why: The release of these images highlights the advances in space telescopes and astronomical research, offering new insights into the universe and supporting the broader scientific community's quest to understand cosmic phenomena.

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