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Signals and Space | V2 | Issue 3 | 01.21.24

Nothing runs like a Deere on Starlink. SDA Tranche 2 awards for L3Harris, Lockheed and Sierra. Peregrine heads back down to Earth. 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...


  • Michelle Hanlon, Co-Founder and CEO of For All Moonkind, discusses the controversy surrounding sending human remains to the moon in the first commercial lunar payload services attempt.

  • Tyler Glymph, a Geology and Astronomy student, discusses supporting students in transitioning from academia to the space industry workforce.

  • Bryce Kennedy, Space Lawyer and President of the Association of Commercial Space Professionals, discusses the implications of sending human remains to the moon on the Astrobotic mission.

  • Michael Jones, Executive Chairman and Group CEO of Equatorial Launch Australia, discusses the development of the first commercial launch facility in Australia.



Space Investment Quarterly Reports

  • What: The Space Capital report for Q4 and 2023 indicates a downturn in equity investment in the space industry, with a 25% decrease compared to 2022. Venture capital investments saw a significant drop, and the overall number of investment rounds was the lowest since 2015.
  • Why: This trend is critical for space industry professionals as it reflects the changing investment landscape and challenges in securing private market capital. However, the Q4 rise in investments and the strong performance of infrastructure companies suggest a potential rebound and continued interest in the sector.

Middle East cash injection to propel space industry to $75bn

  • What: The Middle East is projected to increase its space industry spending by 92% over the next decade, reaching $75 billion by 2032. The United Arab Emirates has notably surpassed $6 billion in space investments in 2023.
  • Why: The rapid growth in the Middle East’s space sector, especially in the UAE, highlights a shifting global space economy. The region's increasing involvement is important for space professionals to monitor, as it represents new opportunities and partnerships in the global space market.

John Deere Announces Strategic Partnership with SpaceX

  • What: John Deere has partnered with SpaceX's Starlink to provide satellite connectivity to farming equipment in remote locations, aiming to enhance precision agriculture technologies.
  • Why: This partnership marks a notable convergence of space technology and agriculture, showing how satellite communications can revolutionize traditional industries. It's a significant development for space professionals, highlighting the diverse applications and market expansion of space-based technologies.

Plans for a National Rocket and Space Center in the Yucatán Peninsula

  • What: Merida Aerospace plans to build a National Rocket and Space Center in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, focusing on education, public engagement, and the development of astronautical technology.
  • Why: The establishment of this center in Mexico signifies the growing global interest and investment in space technology. It presents opportunities for industry growth, talent development, and international collaboration in the Americas.

Mage Networks Signs Memorandum of Understanding for Telesat Lightspeed Services

  • What: Telesat and Mage Networks signed a MoU to expand broadband internet services in Canada using Telesat Lightspeed Low Earth Orbit satellite services.
  • Why: This partnership is indicative of the expanding role of satellite technology in bridging digital divides, especially in remote and underserved areas, showcasing the growing market for satellite-based internet services.

Berkeley SkyDeck and Berkeley Space Center Join Forces for Air and Space Accelerator Track

  • What: Berkeley SkyDeck, in collaboration with the Berkeley Space Center, relaunched its Air and Space Track to support startups in space exploration and commercialization.
  • Why: This initiative highlights the growing trend of academic and industry collaboration in fostering innovation and entrepreneurship in the space sector, crucial for nurturing new talent and ideas.

BlackSky Wins Initial Task Order Exceeding $1 Million Against New Multi-Year Contract

  • What: BlackSky secured a multi-year contract over $1 million from Indonesia's Ministry of Defense for high-frequency imagery and analytics services.
  • Why: This contract demonstrates the growing global demand for space-based intelligence and Earth observation capabilities, highlighting the strategic importance of satellite data in defense and security sectors.



Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee Hearing - Returning to the Moon: Keeping Artemis on Track

  • What: A US Federal Government hearing discussed the progress and challenges of NASA's Artemis program, with debates over its strategy, tactics, and programmatic structure.
  • Why: The hearing underscores the ongoing scrutiny and evolving expectations of major space missions like Artemis, highlighting the importance of aligning technological, financial, and policy considerations for future lunar exploration.

Office of Space Commerce Initiates TraCSS Pathfinder Projects

  • What: NOAA's Office of Space Commerce started the TraCSS Pathfinder project with COMSPOC, LeoLabs, and Slingshot Aerospace to enhance space situational awareness in low Earth orbit.
  • Why: This project is vital for managing the increasingly crowded space environment, especially in low Earth orbit. It represents an important step in ensuring safe and sustainable space operations.



Axiom and SpaceX are disrupting Europe’s traditional pathway to space

  • What: Axiom Space and SpaceX have delayed their mission launch to the ISS, now targeting January 18, due to additional pre-launch checkouts.
  • Why: This collaboration between Axiom and SpaceX demonstrates the evolving landscape of space missions, with private companies playing a larger role and offering new avenues for accessing space, impacting traditional space agency approaches.

Stem Cell-Derived Brain Organoids on Ax-3 Mission Seek to Improve Modeling for Neurodegenerative Diseases

  • What: The AX-3 mission to the ISS includes an experiment with stem cell-derived brain organoids to study neurodegenerative diseases in microgravity.
  • Why: This research underscores the unique opportunities provided by the ISS for medical research, potentially leading to breakthroughs in understanding and treating conditions like Parkinson's disease and multiple sclerosis.



Draft Program Solicitation Tranche 2 Transport Layer Gamma

  • What: The US Space Development Agency seeks industry feedback for the T2TL Gamma, a part of the Tranche 2 Transport Layer space vehicles. The T2TL Gamma is designed for future defense capabilities with an initial launch scheduled for September 2026.
  • Why: This development is significant for the industry as it demonstrates the expanding role of space technology in defense and security. The T2TL Gamma project, integrating commercial and defense capabilities, underscores the strategic importance of space assets in national security.

SDA Awards $2.5B in Tranche 2 Tracking Layer Prototype Agreements to 3 Companies

  • What: The Space Development Agency awarded $2.5 billion in contracts to L3Harris, Lockheed Martin, and Sierra Space for building satellites for the Tranche 2 Tracking Layer constellation, with launches due by April 2027.
  • Why: This award, particularly the inclusion of Sierra Space alongside traditional defense contractors, signals a diversification in government contracts and a broader acceptance of newer space companies in critical national security missions.

Congress approves Space Force part-timers, but still no Space Guard

  • What: The US Space Force is authorized to allow troops to switch between full-time and part-time service without transferring to a Reserve component or the National Guard.
  • Why: This policy change reflects a modernization of military service, potentially increasing the appeal of the Space Force and retaining skilled personnel in an era where space capabilities are increasingly vital to national security.

SPACEWERX activity

  • What: SpaceWERX awarded contracts to 19 companies, totaling $32.3 million, for the Tactically Responsive Space Challenge to enhance US Space Force capabilities.
  • Why: This initiative shows the US military's commitment to leveraging commercial innovation for national security. It's a significant opportunity for industry partners to contribute to cutting-edge space defense technologies.

DoD ‘completely rewrites’ classification policy for secret space programs

  • What: The US Department of Defense revised its classification policy for space programs, aiming to reduce overuse of Special Access Program status.
  • Why: This policy change is crucial for fostering greater collaboration and transparency in national security space programs. It may lead to enhanced partnerships with allies and private sector innovation.



Oman unveils plans to set up Middle East’s first spaceport

  • What: Oman announced plans to establish Etlaq, the Middle East's first spaceport, in the port city of Duqm, to be operational by 2030.
  • Why: The development of a spaceport in Oman represents a significant step in the Middle East's growing involvement in the space sector, offering new opportunities for regional and global space activities.

The first large-scale vertical take-off and landing flight test mission of the Blue Arrow Aerospace Zhuque-3 reusable rocket was a complete success

  • What: Blue Arrow Aerospace successfully conducted a vertical take-off and landing test of its Zhuque-3 reusable rocket in China.
  • Why: This test marks a significant advancement in reusable rocket technology, potentially reducing the cost of access to space and demonstrating China's growing capabilities in this area.



Water on the Moon: international prize launches for purifying lunar water

  • What: The UK and Canada launched the Aqualunar Challenge, a £1.2 million prize for developing technologies to purify water on the Moon.
  • Why: This challenge is vital for lunar exploration and habitation, as it focuses on a critical resource – water. Innovative solutions in this area could be key to enabling long-term human presence on the Moon.

Update #20 for Peregrine Mission One

  • What: Astrobotic's Peregrine lunar lander experienced a propellant leak post-launch, leading to a decision to bring it back to Earth for a controlled re-entry over the South Pacific.
  • Why: This incident highlights the challenges and responsibilities in space missions, especially for commercial entities. Safe and controlled management of spacecraft anomalies is crucial for maintaining the sustainability and safety of space operations.

JAXA | Transition to the landing preparation phase for the Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM)

  • What: Japan's lunar lander SLIM successfully touched down on the Moon, marking Japan as the fifth country to achieve this feat.
  • Why: This achievement is a significant milestone for Japan's space exploration efforts. The successful landing, despite issues with the solar panel, highlights the challenges and advancements in lunar exploration technology.



PowerLight joins Blue Origin to study power beaming system for the moon

  • What: PowerLight Technologies has teamed up with Blue Origin to develop a power beaming system, potentially for lunar operations, funded by DARPA's LunA-10 program.
  • Why: This collaboration is key in advancing lunar infrastructure technologies. The project's success could lead to innovative power solutions for future lunar missions, a crucial aspect for sustained lunar exploration and development.

Japan startup eyes fusion laser to shoot down space junk from ground

  • What: EX-Fusion, an Osaka-based startup, is developing a ground-based laser system to remove orbital debris, in partnership with EOS Space Systems.
  • Why: Tackling the growing problem of space debris is vital for the safety and sustainability of space operations. This innovative approach, if successful, could provide a practical solution to mitigate the risks posed by space debris.

Spaceium Partners Space Machines for Space Cryogenic Refueling

  • What: Space Machines Company and Spaceium are collaborating on a cryogenic refueling mission in space, slated for 2025.
  • Why: This partnership marks a significant step towards sustainable space operations, as in-space refueling is crucial for extending mission lifespans and reducing space debris.

UK Sovereign Satellite Navigation Overlay Successfully Demonstrated for First Time

  • What: Viasat demonstrated the UK's first satellite-based augmentation system, UK SBAS, enhancing GPS data accuracy.
  • Why: Post-Brexit, the UK's development of an independent satellite navigation system is key for national security and technological autonomy, especially for critical navigation services.

Sidus Space Unveils Cutting-edge Multi-Material 3D Printed Space Hardware Division

  • What: Sidus Space announced its new Multi-Material 3D Printing Division, expanding beyond traditional satellite manufacturing.
  • Why: This move illustrates the growing importance of 3D printing in space technology, offering innovative solutions and potentially reducing costs and lead times in satellite and space hardware production.

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