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Signals and Space | V2 | Issue 5 | 02.05.24

Guardians heading to the galaxy. China injects funds into commercial satellite launches. Starlab chooses Starship. Enhancing Europe’s space sector. And more!



Good morning,

933 million US dollars. That's the size of a Series A investment round announced last week by Shanghai Spacecom Satellite Technology.

Now I've heard of a few massive early stage investments in the past, but nearly $1 billion is insane. Quite possible the largest ever (if you know of one larger, please respond and share). Granted, it does appear that most of the money is coming from the Chinese government... So does it really count as an investment round when it's essentially a state-owned operation?

They're reportedly using the money to build a low-Earth orbit satellite constellation for internet connectivity. LEO megaconstellations, enter player 3...

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


  • Dr. Carlos Mata, CTO at Scientific Lightning Solutions, discusses managing lightning risks at spaceports.

  • Yashas Karanam, Director of Bellatrix Aerospace, discusses advancements and innovations in aerospace technology.

  • Kevin Brown, Senior Vice President of Business Development at All Points Logistics, discusses launching a new business line for the space industry, called Space Prep.

  • Valerie Vasquez, Director of Global Public Policy and Regulatory Strategy at True Anomaly, explores the evolving landscape of space policy and regulation.

  • Niamh Shaw, Irish Engineer, Scientist, Writer, and Performer, shares her unique journey combining science and art to communicate space exploration's wonders to a broader audience.



Shanghai-backed firm raises $933 million to build satellite constellation

  • What: Shanghai Spacecom Satellite Technology has raised $933 million in a Series A funding round to build a low-Earth orbit satellite constellation for internet connectivity.
  • Why: This significant investment reflects the growing global competition in satellite internet services, aiming to challenge the dominance of SpaceX's Starlink. It underscores China's ambitious plans to expand its influence in the space sector and enhance its technological capabilities in global communications.

Northrop Grumman Satellite-Refueling Technology Selected as First Preferred Refueling Solution Interface Standard for Space Systems Command (SSC)

  • What: Northrop Grumman's Passive Refueling Module has been selected as the first preferred refueling solution interface standard for SSC satellites, aiming to develop in-space refueling technologies.
  • Why: The selection of Northrop Grumman's technology as a standard for satellite refueling is a pivotal step towards extending the lifespan of space-based assets. This technology enables the refueling and thus the operational extension of satellites, reducing the need for replacements and contributing to the sustainability of space activities. It highlights the growing importance of in-space servicing and refueling technologies for the future of space operations and sustainability.

ESA Signs A New Tripartite Collaboration To Strengthen Ties In The European Space Sector With EIB And EC

  • What: The European Space Agency (ESA), the European Investment Bank (EIB), and the European Commission (EC) have formalized a collaboration to enhance the European Space Sector by improving access to funding.
  • Why: This partnership aims to strengthen Europe's competitive edge in the global space sector by making financial resources more accessible, thereby supporting innovation and development in space technology. It represents a strategic move to bolster the European space industry's capabilities and ensure its projects are well-funded and sustainable.

Rocket Lab Announces Proposed Offering of $275 Million Convertible Senior Notes

  • What: Rocket Lab plans to raise $275 million through the sale of convertible senior notes to fund growth initiatives and reduce debt.
  • Why: This financial strategy highlights Rocket Lab's confidence in its future growth and its efforts to strengthen its financial position. It reflects the company's ambition to expand its launch services and technological capabilities in the competitive space industry.

Los Alamos National Laboratory orders second satellite from NanoAvionics for GTO mission

  • What: Los Alamos National Laboratory has contracted NanoAvionics to build a second satellite for a mission focused on testing advanced sensors and subsystems in Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit.
  • Why: This mission emphasizes the importance of continuous innovation and testing in space technology, particularly for understanding Earth's dynamic radiation belts. It contributes to the advancement of space weather monitoring and the development of new technologies for future space exploration and Earth observation efforts.



“Pact for the Future”

  • What: The UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space released a "Pact for the Future" to enhance global governance in space, addressing sustainable use, space debris, and space traffic management.
  • Why: This initiative underscores the urgent need for international cooperation to ensure the sustainable and peaceful use of outer space. It highlights the challenges of an increasingly congested orbital environment and the importance of developing comprehensive frameworks for space exploration, utilization, and the protection of space assets.

Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, Scientific and Technical Subcommittee, 61st session, 995th meeting

  • What: The UN COPUOS Scientific and Technical Subcommittee is meeting in Vienna to discuss developments in space exploration and the use of space science and technology for sustainable development.
  • Why: This meeting underscores the importance of international cooperation in the peaceful exploration and utilization of outer space. It serves as a platform for discussing the challenges and opportunities presented by space exploration, including geopolitical, environmental, and technical aspects, which are critical for shaping future space policies and ensuring sustainable space activities.

NSIL and ARIANESPACE sign an MoU for Long-term partnership to support Satellite Launch missions

  • What: NewSpace India Limited (NSIL) and Arianespace have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to support satellite launch missions, focusing on serving the global commercial satellite launch service market.
  • Why: This partnership between NSIL and Arianespace aims to leverage their respective strengths to address the growing demand for launching communication, Earth observation satellites, and satellites for mega constellations. It signifies the importance of international collaboration in the competitive space launch sector and the strategic move to enhance global access to space.

Space Force to start charging more spaceport fees this summer

  • What: The Space Force will increase spaceport fees for launch customers starting this summer, as authorized by the Fiscal Year 2024 National Defense Authorization Act.
  • Why: The increase in fees is intended to improve and maintain the infrastructure necessary for supporting an increasing number of launches. It aims to make Space Force facilities more competitive and sustainable, reflecting the growing commercialization of space and the need for modernized spaceport operations.



UAE's first female astronaut to graduate from NASA training program in March

  • What: Nora Al Matrooshi, the first female astronaut from the UAE, will graduate from NASA's training program, becoming eligible for space missions including those to the ISS and future lunar explorations.
  • Why: Al Matrooshi's graduation represents a historic milestone for the UAE and highlights the increasing diversity and international collaboration in human spaceflight. Her eligibility for future missions underscores the global nature of space exploration efforts and the importance of including a diverse range of perspectives and experiences in the advancement of space travel and research.

Space Force Guardian set to launch to International Space Station on NASA mission

  • What: Space Force Colonel Tyler "Nick" Hague is set to launch to the ISS as part of the NASA SpaceX Crew-9 mission this August, marking his first launch as a Space Force Guardian.
  • Why: This mission signifies the Space Force's active participation in human spaceflight and collaboration with NASA, reinforcing the role of the military in space exploration and operations, and marking a symbolic step for the Space Force in establishing its presence in space.



White House official urges more 'real' Pentagon investment in space mobility

  • What: A White House official has emphasized the need for the Pentagon to increase its investment in space mobility and logistics, highlighting the importance of such capabilities for future space operations.
  • Why: This call for increased investment underscores the strategic significance of space mobility and logistics for national defense and space exploration. It reflects the growing realization that advancing these capabilities is essential for maintaining technological and operational superiority in space, particularly in the face of evolving challenges and opportunities.

Space Development Agency Awards Momentus Contract Modification to Develop Defense Applications for Vigoride Orbital Service Vehicle

  • What: The Space Development Agency has awarded Momentus a contract to adapt the Vigoride Orbital Service Vehicle for Department of Defense missions.
  • Why: This contract underscores the military's interest in utilizing commercial space capabilities for defense applications. It highlights the strategic importance of on-orbit servicing and logistics technologies for enhancing the flexibility and responsiveness of defense space operations.



Launch Records Topple in 2024 with Busiest January of Space Age

  • What: January 2024 saw a record number of space launches, marking the busiest start to a year in the history of space exploration.
  • Why: This record-setting pace reflects the accelerating pace of space activities worldwide, driven by advancements in launch technology, increased commercial investment, and the expanding scope of scientific missions. It underscores the dynamic nature of the current space age and the growing accessibility of space.

Iran launches 3 satellites into space as tensions rise

  • What: Iran has successfully launched three satellites into space using the Simorgh rocket, with the launches reportedly taking place at the Imam Khomeini Spaceport.
  • Why: Iran's satellite launches are significant for their implications on both technological capabilities and geopolitical tensions. The successful deployment of these satellites, including a research satellite and two nanosatellites focused on global positioning and communication, showcases Iran's growing capabilities in space technology. However, it also raises concerns regarding the dual-use nature of such technologies and their impact on regional and international security dynamics.

PLD Space awarded PERTE contract to develop space launcher for 40.5 million euros

  • What: PLD Space has been selected for a 40.5 million euro contract to develop a Spanish launcher for small satellites as part of the Aerospace PERTE project.
  • Why: This contract signifies a major step towards establishing a sovereign satellite launch capability for Spain, aiming to enhance its position in the competitive small satellite market. It underscores the national strategic importance of having direct access to space, facilitating advancements in satellite technology and applications.

Starlab Space Selects SpaceX’s Starship for Historic Launch

  • What: Starlab Space has chosen SpaceX's Starship to launch its commercial space station into low Earth orbit in a single mission.
  • Why: This selection underscores the significant capabilities of SpaceX's Starship in terms of payload capacity and its potential impact on future space station deployments. It also highlights the growing trend of commercial entities leveraging advanced launch vehicles for ambitious space projects, signifying a shift towards more accessible and efficient space operations.

SpaceX: DOD Has Requested Taking Over Starship For Individual Missions

  • What: The Department of Defense (DOD) has expressed interest in taking over SpaceX's Starship for specific missions, suggesting a unique operational model where the DOD would directly operate the launch vehicle.
  • Why: This interest from the DOD highlights the strategic importance of SpaceX's Starship for national security missions and represents a novel approach to leveraging commercial space capabilities for government operations. It also underscores the increasing intersection between commercial space innovation and military strategic needs.

Rocket Lab Successfully Launches First Electron Mission of Busy 2024 Launch Schedule

  • What: Rocket Lab has launched its first mission of 2024, deploying four satellites for Spire Global and NorthStar Earth & Space, focusing on space situational awareness.
  • Why: This launch marks the beginning of a busy schedule for Rocket Lab, emphasizing the company's role in expanding space-based capabilities for Earth observation and situational awareness. It highlights the increasing demand for such services and Rocket Lab's position as a key player in the small satellite launch market.



Japan's SLIM probe regains power more than a week after moon landing

  • What: Japan's SLIM moon lander has regained power and re-established contact with JAXA after a shift in lighting conditions allowed its solar panels to generate electricity.
  • Why: This development is crucial for JAXA's lunar exploration efforts, as it enables the continuation of SLIM's mission to analyze the composition of lunar rocks, offering potential new insights into the moon's origin. The ability to recover from initial setbacks demonstrates resilience and adaptability in space missions, which is vital for the future exploration of the moon and beyond.

ispace Signs Memorandum of Understanding with mu Space for Future Lunar Missions

  • What: ispace and mu Space have signed MOUs for collaboration on future lunar missions, marking a significant step towards international cooperation in lunar exploration.
  • Why: This partnership demonstrates the growing interest and investment in lunar exploration by private companies and highlights the potential for collaborative missions to advance scientific research and commercial opportunities on the Moon.



Korea’s KASS satellite navigation system certified by national authorities and enters operational service

  • What: Korea's KASS satellite navigation system has been officially certified and has entered operational service, enhancing flight safety and efficiency, especially for Safety of Life services in aviation.
  • Why: The operationalization of KASS represents a significant advancement in satellite navigation technology and its applications in aviation and beyond. It highlights the importance of satellite-based augmentation systems in improving service continuity, operational availability, and reducing the environmental impact of aviation, thereby marking a milestone in Korea's technological capabilities in space and aviation sectors.

Airbus Announces Purchase of Eutelsat OneWeb’s Stake in Satellite Constellation Manufacturing Joint Venture

  • What: Airbus has acquired Eutelsat OneWeb’s 50% stake in the Airbus OneWeb Satellites joint venture, becoming its sole owner and aiming to increase competitiveness and efficiency in satellite manufacturing.
  • Why: The acquisition positions Airbus to better serve the growing demand for small satellites, enhancing its production capabilities and competitiveness. This move reflects the strategic importance of satellite constellations in providing global connectivity and the increasing commercial and governmental interest in space-based assets.

Quindar Secures $6M for Spacecraft Management AI, Integrates with KSAT for Mission Ops

  • What: Quindar has raised $6 million to further develop its AI-powered platform for managing satellite constellations, partnering with KSAT to support mission operations.
  • Why: This funding and partnership highlight the growing demand for advanced technologies to efficiently manage the increasing number of satellites in orbit. Quindar's AI solutions and collaboration with KSAT aim to streamline satellite operations, demonstrating the critical role of AI in enhancing the scalability and efficiency of space missions.

Rogue Space Systems Awarded a Payload Hosting Contract with Forward Edge

  • What: Rogue Space Systems has partnered with ForwardEdge-AI to integrate the advanced Isidore Quantum® encryption system into Rogue's upcoming space mission.
  • Why: This partnership underscores the importance of secure communications for space missions, with Rogue Space System's integration of ForwardEdge-AI's encryption technology marking a significant advancement in ensuring data security in space. This collaboration represents a pivotal move towards setting new standards in space mission security and efficiency.

Norwegian Microsatellite Developed by Space Flight Laboratory (SFL) Achieves Optical Satellite-to-Ground Communications Link

  • What: A Norwegian microsatellite, developed by the Space Flight Laboratory (SFL), has successfully established an optical communications link with a ground station, a milestone in satellite communication technology.
  • Why: This achievement demonstrates the potential for optical communications to enhance data transfer rates between satellites and Earth, offering a more efficient and secure method of communication. It represents a significant step forward in the development of advanced satellite communication technologies, crucial for future space missions and Earth observation capabilities.

NOAA, SpaceX Enter Cooperative Agreement for Automated Collision Avoidance R&D

  • What: NOAA and SpaceX have formed a cooperative agreement to develop automated collision avoidance technologies for satellites.
  • Why: This partnership represents a crucial step towards improving space traffic management and ensuring the long-term sustainability of space activities. It highlights the increasing collaboration between government agencies and commercial entities to address the challenges of an increasingly congested orbital environment.

Sierra Space unveils fully integrated Dream Chaser spaceplane amid testing campaign

  • What: Sierra Space has unveiled its fully integrated Dream Chaser spaceplane, currently undergoing testing for a resupply mission to the ISS.
  • Why: The development of the Dream Chaser spaceplane represents a significant advancement in reusable spacecraft technology. This initiative not only showcases innovation within the commercial space sector but also contributes to sustainable and efficient cargo transport to the International Space Station.



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