Last week: JUICE: shake well to fully deploy. First island chain gets a boost from space. IRIS2 blooming in Europe for satellite connectivity. And...
Signals and Space | V1 | Issue 7 | 05.30.23
Last week: The Quad flexes space. SpaceX lives by the sword. A saturation of satellite successes. Galactic gains for Virgin. And more!
Signals and Space is your weekly intelligence briefing to ensure you know what's going up and what’s going on in space—and why it matters.
Here’s what we covered last week:
Monday, 5/22/23: The Quad flexes space.
- Quad Leaders Summit Highlights Space Cooperation
Who: US President Biden, Australian PM Albanese, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio, and Prime Minister Modi of India.
What: They convened at the fifth Quad Leaders Summit in Hiroshima and identified the space sector as core to their strategic cooperation. The initiatives outlined include data sharing on climate change, space situational awareness, and enhancing commercial space sectors.
Why: The quad's cooperation aims to grow their respective space industries, supporting emerging Indo-Pacific nations, and improving global security measures.
- US-Australia Agreement on Lunar Mission Support
Who: US President Biden and Australian Prime Minister Albanese.
What: Announced an agreement for the transfer of sensitive US launch tech and data to Australia, aiming to establish an Australia-based ground station for lunar mission communications support.
Why: The collaboration aims to improve communication support for lunar missions in the Artemis program, enhancing the program's operational efficiency and reliability.
- FCC Approval of Viasat-Inmarsat Acquisition
Who: Viasat and Inmarsat.
What: The FCC has approved Viasat’s proposed acquisition of Inmarsat, which is expected to create a significant new player in global communications.
Why: The merger aims to increase operational efficiency, decrease operating costs, and expand services to Internet of Things technologies around the world.
- Umbra and Ursa Space Partner for SAR Imagery
Who: Satellite operator Umbra and data analytics firm Ursa Space.
What: Announced a partnership to create advanced uses for synthetic aperture radar (SAR) imagery, overcoming imaging challenges such as darkness and bad weather.
Why: The partnership aims to explore use cases like tracking oil production, maritime domain awareness, and flood analytics, enhancing the capabilities and applications of SAR satellites.
- Planet Labs Unveils Land Monitoring Machine Learning Applications
Who: Planet Labs, in collaboration with Royce Geo, Windward, and Microsoft.
What: Demonstrated the use of commercial satellite imagery in uncovering illicit activities and released a large training dataset for land monitoring machine learning applications.
Why: This initiative is intended to enhance machine learning capabilities for land monitoring and make satellite data more accessible and searchable, enabling improved monitoring of changes over time and potentially uncovering illicit activities.
- Impact Observatory Launches AI-Based Land Use Monitor
Who: Impact Observatory.
What: Launched an early access program for IO Monitor, a tool that combines AI with satellite imagery to classify and monitor land use.
Why: This tool aims to provide users with a cost-effective way to monitor changes in land use, which could aid in environmental management and urban planning.
- SpaceX and T-Mobile Proposal Faces Challenge from AT&T
Who: SpaceX, T-Mobile, and AT&T.
What: AT&T challenged a joint SpaceX and T-Mobile proposal to add direct-to-cellular communications on Starlink satellites.
Why: AT&T claims that current FCC rules don’t support this use of T-Mobile's terrestrial spectrum. The decision from the FCC is still pending.
- Stoke Space Receives Funding from CIA's VC Arm
Who: Stoke Space and In-Q-Tel.
What: Stoke Space, a launch vehicle startup, has received funding from In-Q-Tel, the CIA’s venture capital arm.
Why: This positions Stoke among a select group of launch companies backed by In-Q-Tel, furthering Stoke's development of a fully reusable launch vehicle.
- Space Force Enters the Metaverse
Who: The U.S. Space Force.
What: The Space Force has replicated launch operations at Cape Canaveral in a 3D metaverse, using real-world telemetry data and high-resolution satellite imagery.
Why: This initiative illustrates how military operations can use metaverse tech for planning and training, potentially enhancing the efficiency of operations amidst increasing launch rates and spaceport congestion.
- Featured interview: Melissa Quinn, Head of Spaceport Cornwall, on what’s next for domestic launch services, providers, and users in the UK. You can follow Melissa on LinkedIn and Twitter.
Tuesday, 5/23/23: SpaceX lives by the sword.
- SpaceX Steps In with the FAA To Be Jointly Sued
Who: SpaceX and the FAA.
What: Environmental groups are suing the FAA over SpaceX's Starship launch, arguing not enough was done to protect nearby wildlife and environments around Starbase in Boca Chica, Texas. SpaceX filed a motion to intervene, joining the lawsuit as a co-defendant with the FAA.
Why: SpaceX is worried about potential future delays and scrutiny for Starship launches which could impact any business or endeavor depending on them, like Starlink. The motion allows SpaceX to represent its interests directly.
- Division of Virgin Orbit’s Assets
Who: Virgin Orbit, Rocket Lab, Stratolaunch, and Vast Space.
What: Virgin Orbit’s assets will be divided between Rocket Lab, Stratolaunch, and Vast Space following Virgin Orbit's bankruptcy proceedings.
Why: This division of assets will provide the purchasing companies with additional resources, potentially enhancing their capabilities in the space industry.
- Progress on OneWeb Satellite Network Portal
Who: Arctic Space Technologies and OneWeb.
What: Arctic Space Technologies and OneWeb have finalized the design and obtained approvals for the OneWeb Satellite Network Portal (SNP), a hyperscale satellite ground station in Sweden.
Why: This move will boost OneWeb's connectivity, benefiting their customers across industries including maritime and aviation.
- Viasat Acquires Inmarsat, Partners with FreeWave
Who: Viasat, Inmarsat, and FreeWave Technologies.
What: Viasat is progressing with its acquisition of Inmarsat, having received FCC approval. Inmarsat has also selected FreeWave Technologies as a partner for global IoT solutions.
Why: The acquisition will broaden Viasat's capabilities, while the partnership with FreeWave will enhance connectivity solutions across various industries.
- L3Harris Technologies Bags New Contracts
Who: L3Harris Technologies, US Air Force Research Lab, IARPA.
What: L3Harris Technologies have announced new contracts for space-based communications and data analysis.
Why: The contracts will advance research into satellite communications systems and human mobility analysis, potentially improving responses to disaster relief efforts.
- Ursa Major Receives AFRL Contract for Hypersonics
Who: Ursa Major and the Air Force Research Laboratory.
What: Ursa Major has been awarded a contract to advance U.S. hypersonics defense programs and space launch capabilities.
Why: The contract will further the development of Ursa Major's hypersonic Draper engine and Arroway reusable liquid oxygen and methane staged combustion engine, potentially strengthening America’s counter-hypersonic capabilities.
- Successful Demonstration by the Spaceport Company
Who: The Spaceport Company and Evolution Space.
What: The Spaceport Company held a successful demonstration of its offshore platform, hosting four sounding rocket demonstrations by Evolution Space.
Why: This marks a milestone for the Spaceport Company as it demonstrates the proof of concept for their floating spaceport prototype.
- Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai Volcano's Impact on Ionosphere
Who: Scientists at Institute for Space-Earth Environmental Research at Japan's Nagoya University.
What: The Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai submarine volcano explosion caused a disturbance in air pressure that affected the ionosphere, disrupting satellite communications.
Why: This event shows the potential effects of massive natural phenomena on satellite operations, a significant concern for space companies and agencies.
- Featured interview: Steven Tomaszewski, Senior Director at Aerospace Industries Association, on national security space considerations and policy. You can connect with Steve on LinkedIn or Twitter and find out more about the Aerospace Industries Association on their website.
Wednesday, 5/24/23: A saturation of satellite successes.
- Astranis Successfully Tests Payload and Continues Satellite Production
Who: Astranis, a satellite manufacturer based in San Francisco
What: The company announced their Arcturus satellite, after reaching geostationary orbit over Alaska, successfully completed an end-to-end payload test, connecting to a ground station in Utah and user terminals in Alaska. Astranis' CEO revealed future plans for a total of 9 satellites, with 5 already having customer orders.
Why: This story is important as it highlights a successful payload test, a significant step towards establishing reliable broadband internet services. The company's plans indicate robust demand in the satellite industry.
- Satellite Vu Secures Significant Series A2 Funding
Who: Satellite Vu, a British climate tech company
What: The company has raised a Series A2 investment of $15.8 million, bringing their total investment to $37.9 million in Venture Capital funding. The new funds will support their thermal-imaging satellite constellation.
Why: Satellite Vu's successful fundraising reflects the continued interest and growth in Earth observation technology, particularly with a focus on climate-related data.
- Key Developments from GEOINT Symposium
Who: Northrop Grumman, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), and others.
What: Several announcements were made at the GEOINT Symposium, including Northrop Grumman's Preliminary Design Review for a missile system, NGA's new mission statement emphasizing its space role, and DARPA's contracts for novel radar technology. NRO released a proposal for remote sensing technology, showcasing its interest in commercial innovations.
Why: These developments underscore the rapid pace of advancement in the space and defense industry, with increasing public-private partnerships and focus on cutting-edge technology.
- Japan's Expanding Use of Space for Defense
Who: Japan, with references to China and Russia
What: According to a report, Japan plans to expand the use of space for its defense, focusing on the safety of intelligence-gathering satellites, in response to China and Russia's increasing use of space for military purposes.
Why: This news highlights Japan's strategic shift towards a more defensive stance in space, potentially triggering geopolitical and defense dynamics.
- NASA's SBIR Program Selections
Who: NASA and 92 small businesses across 28 US states
What: NASA has selected 112 proposals from these businesses to receive Phase II funding as part of its Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. The program has awarded approximately $98 million to these businesses in this funding round.
Why: This demonstrates NASA's commitment to fostering innovation and supporting small businesses, potentially leading to significant advancements in space technology.
- Featured interview: Marie Planchard from Dassault Systèmes who is the lead for 3D Experience Works Engagement on supporting student competitions such as the Spaceport America Cup. You can follow Marie on LinkedIn and learn more about Dassault Systèmes on their website.
Thursday, 5/25/23: Galactic gains for Virgin.
- Virgin Galactic Returns to Space
Who: Virgin Galactic
What: The company completed its first flight to space since July 2021, with two pilots and four Virgin Galactic employees onboard. This is expected to be the last test flight before commercial operations begin.
Why: In the wake of Virgin Orbit's folding, Virgin Galactic's successful flight represents a major achievement for the parent brand. It signals a significant step towards making space travel accessible to the public.
- Space Force Partners with Air Force for Offensive Space Cyber Operations
Who: U.S. Space Force and U.S. Air Force's information-warfare wing
What: They are collaborating to enable offensive cyber operations from space, in response to cyber threats targeting U.S. satellites.
Why: The partnership underscores the need to strengthen cyber defenses in the space domain, particularly against cyber warfare groups from nations like Russia and China.
- South Korea Delivers First Commercial-Grade Satellite into Orbit
Who: The Ministry of Science and ICT and the Korea Aerospace Research Institute
What: They successfully launched the Nuri rocket, carrying eight new satellites into orbit. This marks the first time a South Korean domestically-made rocket has delivered a commercial-grade satellite into orbit.
Why: This achievement is a significant milestone in South Korea's space program, indicating its growing capabilities in the space sector.
- Space Force Develops 'Everything Network' for Space Operations
Who: U.S. Space Force
What: They are developing an 'everything network', or Integrated Operations Network (ION), for rapid data sharing in any format from any source. They also plan to build a space-oriented metaverse, called the SpaceVerse.
Why: The ION and SpaceVerse are ambitious projects that could revolutionize Space Force operations by providing a fully digitized service and managing a vast backlog of data.
- Advances in Pentagon's Primary AI Initiative, Project Maven
Who: National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA)
What: They have made significant advances in Project Maven, a Pentagon initiative aimed at integrating AI into military operations.
Why: These advancements in AI and machine learning enhance capabilities in maritime domain awareness, target management, and object detection. They also assist in assessing supply chain risks.
- Fleet Space Technologies Raises Funds in Series C Round
Who: Fleet Space Technologies
What: The company raised over $33 million US dollars in a Series C funding round.
Why: Fleet Space operates a satellite-based mineral exploration constellation, ExoSphere. The funding will help expand operations and increase their client base.
- Dish in Talks to Sell its New Satellite to Amazon
Who: Dish and Amazon
What: Dish is reportedly discussing the sale of its new satellite to Amazon for mobile phone service provision.
Why: Federal regulators have set a June 14 deadline for Dish to meet certain network coverage milestones, which, if not met, could lead to financial penalties. Selling the satellite to Amazon could help Dish meet these targets.
- Study on Effects of Noise Pollution from Spaceports
Who: A team from Brigham Young University
What: The team received nearly $1 million from the US Army Corps of Engineers to research the impact of noise pollution from Spaceports on wildlife.
Why: With the increasing number of launches at spaceports like Vandenberg Air Force Base, it's important to understand the environmental impact of these operations.
- ESA Receives 'Space for Climate Protection' Award
Who: European Space Agency (ESA)
What: The ESA was awarded the 'Space for Climate Protection' Award by the International Astronautical Federation.
Why: This award acknowledges the ESA's Earth Observation Dashboard collaboration with JAXA and NASA, which showcases how remote sensing data can support climate protection and provide crucial environmental information globally.
- Featured interview: Jon Check, Executive Director of Cyber Protection Solutions at Raytheon Intelligence and Space. He joins us to discuss Raytheon’s support for the National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition. You can follow Jon on LinkedIn and Twitter.
Friday, 5/26/23: Quantum leaps in global navigation.
- The UK's Royal Navy Tests Quantum Navigation System
Who: The UK's Royal Navy and physicists at Imperial College London.
What: They have successfully tested a quantum navigation system that uses the quantum behavior of super-cooled rubidium atoms to enable precise positioning without the use of GPS.
Why: GPS systems are vulnerable to manipulation, attack, and service loss. This new technology aims to provide a secure and reliable alternative for navigation, particularly useful in conflict areas and situations where GPS accuracy is crucial.
- UK Aerospace, Defense, and Space Industry Boost Economy
Who: UK's aerospace, defense, and space trade group, the ADS Group.
What: They reported that UK-based aerospace, defense, and space industry added over 37 billion pounds to the UK economy in 2022, with an additional 36 billion pounds generated in UK exports and 83 billion pounds in total sales.
Why: This indicates the significant contribution of the space and defense industry to the UK's economy, despite reporting rising costs and output challenges.
- Space Force Awards Northrop Grumman Weather Satellite Launch Contract
Who: The US Space Force and Northrop Grumman.
What: The Space Force has awarded a $45.5 million contract to Northrop Grumman to launch a small weather satellite.
Why: The satellite, designed by General Atomics, will be used to demonstrate commercial weather imaging technologies for military use, enhancing strategic and tactical decision-making.
- Impulse Space to Host Fuel Depot for In-orbit Refueling Demonstration
Who: Orbit Fab and Impulse Space.
What: Orbit Fab has selected Impulse Space's orbital vehicle to host a fuel depot for an in-orbit refueling demonstration for the US Space Force.
Why: This demonstration, planned for 2025, is expected to increase the operational lifespan of spacecraft and could revolutionize space logistics and mission capabilities.
- Space Force Considers Monitoring Tech for Fitness Test
Who: The US Space Force.
What: Space Force is considering updating its annual fitness test to include wearable fitness trackers.
Why: This technology could provide a more accurate and individualized assessment of fitness, enhancing health monitoring and performance in high-stress environments.
- NASA Completes TROPICs Constellation
Who: NASA and Rocket Lab.
What: The final two storm tracking satellites of NASA's TROPICS satellite constellation were deployed in orbit.
Why: The completion of the TROPICs constellation is expected to enhance our understanding of tropical storm systems, supporting improved forecasting and hazard mitigation strategies.
- SpaceX Starship Program's Total Investment
What: SpaceX's court filings estimate the company's total investment in the Starship program to be up to $5 billion.
Why: This showcases the high stakes involved in developing new spacecraft and infrastructure for future space exploration and commercial space activities.
- UAE Space Agency Partners with Planet for Climate Monitoring
Who: The United Arab Emirates’ Space Agency and Planet.
What: They are partnering to build a regional satellite system to monitor climate change.
Why: The data collected will be used to assess damages caused by extreme weather events, informing climate policy and response strategies.
- NASA and Intuitive Machines Change Landing Site for Lunar Mission
Who: NASA and Intuitive Machines.
What: They have moved the landing site for the first Commercial Lunar Payload Services mission.
Why: The move aims to manage risks for future Artemis landings and gain insights about the terrain and communications near the Moon’s South Pole, a potential site for sustained human presence.
- Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (JUICE) Ready for its Journey
Who: European Space Agency (ESA).
What: ESA confirms that JUICE has reached its final form and is ready to begin its journey to Jupiter.
Why: The successful deployment of all solar panels, antennas, probes, and booms marks a significant milestone in the mission's preparation. JUICE will study Jupiter's icy moons and their potential habitability.
- Featured interview: Former NASA Astronaut Colonel Eileen Collins talking about current human spaceflight launches and future missions to Mars. Col. Collins has released a new book “Through the Glass Ceiling to the Stars: The Story of the First American Woman to Command a Space Mission” and you can connect with her on LinkedIn.