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Signals and Space | V1 | Issue 35 | 12.11.23

India is all in on the moon. The space mission that keeps on giving. 2023: Iran’s animal space odyssey. Going DARC for space domain awareness. And more!



Good morning,

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


  • Jaume Sanpera, CEO and Founder of Sateliot, discusses the use of narrowband IoT coverage in conjunction with satellites.
  • Aiga Stokenberga and Baptiste Tripard discuss leveraging AWS cloud AI and space capabilities for infrastructure monitoring in developing countries.
  • Aravind Ravichandran provides updates on the Earth Observation Market and reflections on the year in the monthly Overview segment.
  • Davis Cook, CEO of Research Institute for Innovation and Sustainability, discusses the evolution and economic impact of space development in Africa.
  • Somaya Aswadi, member of the Afghan Girls Robotics Team and student at Stony Brook University, shares her journey and the team's defiance against the Taliban's edicts against education for girls.



Aalyria Wins Contract with European Space Agency to Build 5G/6G Connectivity Platform

  • What: Aalyria awarded a contract to develop a 5G/6G connectivity platform.
  • Who: Aalyria, European Space Agency.
  • Why: This project, aiming to integrate terrestrial and non-terrestrial networks, highlights the growing importance of advanced communication technologies in space. Aalyria's establishment of a UK-based entity signals a strategic move to foster innovation and competition in the European space sector.

Spire Global Awarded Space Services Contract by Lacuna Space

  • What: Spire Global to build and operate six satellites for Lacuna Space's IoT constellation.
  • Who: Spire Global, Lacuna Space.
  • Why: This contract marks a significant collaboration in the IoT and satellite industry, aiming to enhance global connectivity. The operation from Spire's Glasgow facility reflects the growing prominence of UK-based space technology firms.



Investing in Space: Why Amazon Bought Rocket Launches from Rival SpaceX

  • What: Amazon purchases rocket launches from SpaceX for Project Kuiper.
  • Who: Amazon, SpaceX.
  • Why: This strategic decision, driven by an FCC deadline, underlines the competitive and pragmatic nature of the satellite broadband market. Amazon's move to use SpaceX, despite being a direct competitor, showcases the industry's dynamic nature and the need for reliable, timely launches.

Virgin Galactic: Richard Branson Won’t Invest More Money in the Space Tourism Company He Founded

  • What: Richard Branson announces no further investment in Virgin Galactic.
  • Who: Virgin Galactic, Richard Branson.
  • Why: This decision follows a 16% stock tumble and comes amidst the company's restructuring efforts, including layoffs and reduced flights. The announcement raises questions about the financial stability and future strategy of the space tourism firm.

Landmark Moment for UK Association to £80 Billion Horizon Research Programme

  • What: UK secures involvement in Horizon and Copernicus programs.
  • Who: UK Science and Technology Sector, European Space Agency.
  • Why: This move secures significant funding and collaboration opportunities for UK-based researchers and businesses in the space sector. It's a strategic step to foster innovation and secure a competitive edge in the global space industry.

Exolaunch USA Wins Launch Contract from Capella Space for Pioneering SAR Satellite Mission

  • What: Exolaunch USA secures a contract to launch Capella Space’s Acadia-5 satellite.
  • Who: Exolaunch USA, Capella Space.
  • Why: This partnership is significant for synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellite missions, enhancing Earth observation capabilities. The launch adds to the growing portfolio of private sector-led space missions, showcasing the vitality of the commercial space sector.

SpaceX's Tender Offer Values Startup at $175 Billion or More

  • What: SpaceX's valuation potentially exceeds $175 billion.
  • Who: SpaceX.
  • Why: This valuation reflects SpaceX's robust growth, driven by Starlink sales and ongoing developments in the Falcon 9 and Starship programs, underscoring the company's leading role in the commercial space sector.

NorthStar Earth & Space Closes CA$20 Million Series D Financing Round

  • What: NorthStar Earth & Space raises CA$20 million for space-based SSA service.
  • Who: NorthStar Earth & Space.
  • Why: This funding will launch the first commercial space-based situational awareness service, enhancing satellite and debris monitoring. It's a crucial development for maintaining a sustainable space environment amid increasing orbital activity.

FCC Nod Puts Dish-EchoStar Merger on Home Stretch

  • What: FCC approves the merger of Dish Network and EchoStar.
  • Who: Dish Network, EchoStar.
  • Why: This merger aims to consolidate satellite TV and broadband services, positioning the companies to compete more effectively in the market. It involves strategic developments like EchoStar's Jupiter-3 satellite and Dish's 5G rollout, underscoring the evolving dynamics of the satellite communications industry.



NICFI and Bezos Earth Fund to Provide Free Satellite Images

  • What: NICFI and Bezos Earth Fund partnership to offer free high-resolution satellite data.
  • Who: Norway’s International Climate and Forest Initiative (NICFI) and Bezos Earth Fund.
  • Why: This initiative supports global efforts to stop the destruction of rainforests and complements existing environmental conservation investments, with a funding commitment of approximately $18.4 million USD.

Aussie Company Quasar Joins the Global Satellite Space Race

  • What: Quasar launches "Wi-Fi for space" technology.
  • Who: Quasar.
  • Why: This Australian innovation aims to manage the anticipated surge in satellite numbers more efficiently. Quasar's technology enhances satellite tracking capabilities, crucial for space traffic management.

NOAA's Older Earth-Watching Satellites Get New 'Extended Life'

  • What: NOAA extends the life of older polar-orbiting satellites.
  • Who: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
  • Why: By innovating with cloud-based systems, NOAA extends the operational life of these satellites, which are vital for weather forecasting and climate study. This approach demonstrates cost-effectiveness and complements NOAA's newer satellite series, showing a progressive model in satellite management.



Rwanda and UAE Sign MoU on Civil Space Activities

  • What: Rwanda and the UAE sign an MoU for civil space collaboration.
  • Who: Rwanda Space Agency, UAE Space Agency.
  • Why: This partnership exemplifies the growing trend of international collaborations in space, focusing on research, development, and geospatial data sharing. It highlights the increasing role of emerging space nations in the global space sector.

UAE Organizes First Space Agencies’ Leaders Summit during COP28

  • What: The UAE hosts the first Space Agencies Leaders Summit at COP28.
  • Who: UAE Space Agency and international space agencies.
  • Why: This summit underscores the importance of integrating space technology in global climate policy. It highlights the role of space agencies in addressing climate change and the need for international cooperation in space exploration and climate initiatives.



Iran Launches Animals into Space as It Revives Bid for Human Missions

  • What: Iran's successful launch of a capsule with animals into space.
  • Who: Iranian government.
  • Why: This launch is part of Iran's efforts to establish a manned space program. It demonstrates significant progress in space technology, but also raises concerns due to the dual-use nature of rocket technology for space and military purposes.

India's First Space Station Unit Can Be Up in Just 5 Years


  • What: India aims to launch its first space station unit by 2028.
  • Who: Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
  • Why: ISRO's ambitious 2047 roadmap includes multiple lunar missions and moon tourism, marking a significant leap in India's space capabilities. This plan reflects India's intent to establish a sustainable human presence on the moon and compete in the global space economy.



Space Development Agency, Army Cooperating on Alternates to GPS Sat Signals

  • What: Development of alternative technologies to GPS satellite signals.
  • Who: Space Development Agency (SDA), U.S. Army.
  • Why: This collaboration aims to create reliable navigation systems that are less vulnerable to interference and jamming, particularly in conflict zones. The initiative includes broadcasting alternate Positioning, Navigation, and Timing (PNT) signals, reflecting the need for robust and secure navigation technologies in modern warfare and defense scenarios.



South Korea Flies Solid-Fuel Rocket Amid Space Race with North Korea

  • What: South Korea's successful test of a solid-fuel rocket.
  • Who: South Korea's Agency for Defense Development and Hanwha Systems.
  • Why: This development is part of South Korea's growing space capabilities, indicating an escalating space race with North Korea. The successful test reflects significant advancements in the country's rocket technology.

SpaceX Starship Test 3 Part-Licensed

  • What: FCC licenses SpaceX's Starship Test 3 for communications.
  • Who: SpaceX, Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
  • Why: This partial licensing is a critical step towards the next Starship launch, signaling continued progress in SpaceX's ambitious Starship program. The "soft water landing" component suggests ongoing development and testing for future space missions.

Rocket Lab Signs Deal to Launch South Korean Satellite

  • What: Rocket Lab secures contract to launch South Korea's NeonSat-1.
  • Who: Rocket Lab, South Korea.
  • Why: This contract represents Rocket Lab's expanding role in the global satellite launch market. NeonSat-1's mission as a technology demonstration satellite further emphasizes South Korea's growing space ambitions and technological advancements.

ESA Wants to Develop a "Very High Thrust" Rocket Engine

  • What: ESA's initiative to develop a high thrust rocket engine.
  • Who: European Space Agency (ESA).
  • Why: ESA's focus on a powerful rocket engine aims to boost Europe's heavy-lift launch capabilities, aligning with global advancements in rocket technology. This development is crucial for future human spaceflight missions and maintaining competitiveness in space exploration.



US, UK, Australia Announce Trilateral Deep Space Advanced Radar Capability Initiative

  • What: Launch of the Deep Space Advanced Radar Capability (DARC) program.
  • Who: The United States, United Kingdom, and Australia.
  • Why: DARC aims to enhance space-traffic management and global surveillance of satellites in deep space, leveraging the unique geographical positioning of the three nations for global coverage. The first radar site in Australia is expected to be operational by 2026.

Collaborating Toward Integrated Commercial Lunar Infrastructure

  • What: DARPA selects 14 companies for the Luna Architecture Capacity Study (LunA-10).
  • Who: DARPA and various space companies.
  • Why: LunA-10 aims to develop scalable lunar services and technologies. The involvement of major space companies underscores the growing interest in the commercial exploitation of lunar resources and infrastructure development.



Neumann Drive Successfully Tested in Space

  • What: Successful on-orbit tests of Neumann Space's propulsion system, the Neumann Drive.
  • Who: Australian-based Neumann Space.
  • Why: This marks a significant advancement in satellite propulsion technology, with Neumann Space being the first to fire a thruster in space using Molybdenum as a solid metallic propellant. Further missions are planned to continue this innovative work.

ISRO Transitions Chandrayaan-3's Propulsion Module to Earth Orbit

  • What: Chandrayaan-3's propulsion module moved from lunar orbit to Earth's orbit.
  • Who: Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO).
  • Why: The extended mission of Chandrayaan-3 demonstrates ISRO's ability to repurpose space assets, enhancing the value and lifespan of space missions. This strategic move also aids in the preparation for future lunar missions and provides continuous Earth observations.

SpaceX Plans Key NASA Demonstration for Next Starship Launch

  • What: SpaceX to include a propellant transfer demonstration in its next Starship flight.
  • Who: SpaceX, NASA.
  • Why: This demonstration, part of a NASA contract, is a critical step in SpaceX's advancement of in-space refueling technologies. Successful implementation could revolutionize long-duration space missions and interplanetary travel.

Blue Origin Unveils Versatile Spacecraft Platform, Blue Ring

  • What: Blue Origin introduces the Blue Ring spacecraft platform.
  • Who: Blue Origin.
  • Why: Blue Ring represents a significant advancement in spacecraft technology, offering versatility for various missions and payloads. This development demonstrates Blue Origin's ongoing commitment to innovation in space exploration.

Penn Awarded $2 Million Grant from NASA for Lunar Robots Research

  • What: NASA grants UPenn $2 million for lunar robotics research.
  • Who: University of Pennsylvania, NASA.
  • Why: This grant supports the development of autonomous robots for lunar exploration. The research focuses on creating algorithms and strategies for robots to form structures, navigate, and map the moon's terrain, enhancing future lunar missions.

Toughest Material Ever Is an Alloy of Chromium, Cobalt and Nickel

  • What: Discovery of the toughest material made of chromium, cobalt, and nickel.
  • Who: Researchers in material science.
  • Why: This alloy's exceptional toughness, indicating resilience against fracturing, has potential applications in spacecraft construction. It could lead to more durable spacecraft designs, capable of withstanding extreme space conditions.

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