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Signals and Space | V2 | Issue 19 | 05.13.24

The Milo Space Science Institute. A recipe for space success. Back to the VAB. Godspeed Starliner. Batten down the geomagnetic hatches. And more!




Good morning,

Last week had its ups and downs. Starliner's Crew Flight Test seems to be in a bit of trouble, which is a shame on a whole lot of fronts. The issue was with ULA's Atlas V and not Starliner itself.

Meanwhile, Redwire continues to advance bioprinting human tissue, this time with heart tissue printed on the ISS. My bet is still on biotech as the next big market for the space industry, and Redwire is making rapid progress. And out of the far east, China has started its strategic expansion into global communications with its first MEO comms satellite launch.

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.

-- Brandon Karpf, Vice President of N2K


  • Rachel Tillman, Founder of The Viking Mars Missions Education and Preservation Project, discusses preserving the history and educational impact of the Viking Mars missions.

  • John Quinn, Co-founder and CEO at Exos Aerospace, discusses the benefits of reusable rockets and the founding journey of Exos Aerospace.

  • Sara Kelley, Program Director at the Endeavour Scholarship Organization, discusses the continuation of Astronaut Al Worden's legacy by inspiring future explorers globally.

  • Brendan Curry, a DC-based space policy expert, discusses his 2009 visit to Chinese space assets and insights into China's current space endeavors.

  • Dr. Sharon Lemac-Vincere, Senior Teaching Fellow at the University of Strathclyde, discusses the upcoming Space Cyber Executive Course and Conference.

  • David Thomas from the Milo Space Science Institute on Arizona State University's work to expand international space cooperation.


SpaceX Environmental Impact Statement for Starship

  • What: The FAA is preparing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for SpaceX's proposed Starship operations at Kennedy Space Center, with public scoping meetings scheduled.
  • Why: The EIS will assess the environmental impacts of SpaceX's plans for frequent launches, crucial for regulatory compliance and sustainable space exploration practices.

SpaceX Sets New Launch Record at KSC

  • What: SpaceX has surpassed the number of Space Shuttle launches from NASA's historic Launch Complex 39A with its Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets.
  • Why: This milestone underscores SpaceX's dominant position in commercial spaceflight and highlights the efficiency and frequency of their launch operations, crucial for their expansive satellite projects like Starlink.

Sierra Space's Dream Chaser Preps for Flight

  • What: Sierra Space's Dream Chaser has completed environmental tests and is preparing for transport to Florida for its upcoming launch.
  • Why: The Dream Chaser represents a significant advancement in reusable space transportation technology, offering a flexible and sustainable alternative for cargo and potentially crew missions to the ISS.

Starliner’s Crewed Mission Delayed

  • What: Boeing's Starliner first crewed mission has been postponed until at least May 17 due to a valve issue on the Atlas V rocket.
  • Why: This delay highlights the challenges and stringent safety standards in human spaceflight, emphasizing the importance of reliability and caution in crewed missions.

NASA expands Wallops Island launch capabilities

  • What: NASA is conducting an environmental assessment for a major expansion at Wallops Island, aiming to increase its launch capacity by nearly 200%. The expansion includes constructing new launchpads and other infrastructure enhancements.
  • Why: The expansion is intended to alleviate launch congestion at primary sites in Florida and California, diversifying NASA's launch capabilities and improving operational flexibility for both government and commercial space endeavors.


Starlink's Financial Outlook

  • What: Starlink is projected to reach $6.6 billion in revenue in 2024 according to a Quilty report, despite SpaceX not publicly disclosing financials.
  • Why: This revenue projection highlights Starlink's growing influence in the global broadband market and its critical role in funding SpaceX's broader space ambitions.

MDA's Strong Q1 Financial Results

  • What: MDA Space reported a significant increase in their backlog and revenues in Q1 2024, driven by their Robotics & Space Operations.
  • Why: The financial growth of MDA illustrates the robust demand for satellite communications and robotic technologies, essential for current and future space missions.

Terran Orbital's ESG Report

  • What: Terran Orbital published its inaugural Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) Report.
  • Why: This report highlights Terran Orbital's commitment to sustainability and corporate responsibility, reflecting broader industry trends towards environmental consciousness in space activities.

Xona Raises $19M for Satellite Navigation

  • What: Space tech startup Xona has raised $19 million in Series A funding for its high-precision satellite navigation services.
  • Why: The investment reflects confidence in Xona's innovative approach to satellite navigation, enhancing GPS precision and reliability, critical for both commercial and military applications.

BlackSky's Financial Performance

  • What: BlackSky reported a 32% increase in revenue in the first quarter of 2024, highlighting strong growth in the space intelligence sector.
  • Why: This growth demonstrates the increasing demand for real-time geospatial intelligence and the expanding market opportunities in space-based monitoring and surveillance.

Virgin Galactic's Q1 2024 Results

  • What: Virgin Galactic announced its first quarter financial results for 2024, showing continued revenue growth but also a significant net loss.
  • Why: These results highlight the challenges and financial dynamics of the burgeoning space tourism industry, including the high costs and long-term investment required to establish viable commercial spaceflight services.

Privateer Space Acquisition and Funding

  • What: Privateer Space, co-founded by Steve Wozniak, raised $56.5 million and acquired Orbital Insight, a firm specializing in geospatial analytics.
  • Why: This strategic acquisition and funding boost position Privateer Space to enhance its capabilities in space data and analytics, vital for the growing demand in satellite and geospatial services.


FAA Funding Debate for Commercial Space

  • What: There is ongoing debate over whether commercial space companies should contribute to the FAA's funding, similar to airline contributions.
  • Why: This discussion is significant as it addresses the regulatory and infrastructure costs associated with the rapidly growing commercial space sector and its impacts on national airspace management.

ESA-SATCEN Administrative Arrangement Signed

  • What: The European Space Agency (ESA) and the European Union Satellite Centre (SatCen) have formalized an agreement to enhance cooperation on space security.
  • Why: This arrangement strengthens Europe's strategic capabilities in space, focusing on security and defense, by leveraging ESA's technological expertise and SatCen's operational capabilities.

NASA Administrator's International Engagements

  • What: NASA Administrator Bill Nelson is engaging with space officials in Italy, Vatican City, and Saudi Arabia to discuss collaborations on lunar exploration and Earth science missions.
  • Why: These international engagements are crucial for fostering global cooperation in space exploration and enhancing the shared understanding and management of Earth's environment.

Space Sustainability Conference and Funding

  • What: The UK Space Agency announced £1.8 million in funding at a space sustainability conference to support new technologies in satellite applications and space manufacturing.
  • Why: This funding and conference highlight the growing global focus on space sustainability, promoting innovations that ensure the long-term usability of space environments amid increasing satellite launches and space traffic.

NATO and UN Address Space Security

  • What: NATO discusses defense strategies for space, working with commercial sectors, while the UN General Assembly debates a resolution on preventing an arms race in space.
  • Why: These discussions highlight the growing recognition of space as a strategic domain, emphasizing the need for international collaboration and regulation to maintain space security and peace.

China and France enhance space cooperation

  • What: China and France are continuing their long-standing cooperation in space research, highlighted by French contributions to China's Chang'e-6 mission, which includes radon gas measurement instruments.
  • Why: This collaboration underscores the importance of international partnerships in advancing scientific knowledge and technological capabilities in space exploration, benefiting global research and development.


NASA Glenn Facility Leasing

  • What: NASA Glenn Research Center is seeking to lease out underutilized facilities to aerospace and related industries.
  • Why: This move aims to foster collaboration and innovation in aerospace by utilizing existing resources and bringing together industry experts and researchers.


Pakistan's Lunar Mission Update

  • What: Pakistan's ICUBE-Q orbiter has successfully transmitted its first image from lunar orbit, a milestone in the country's space program.
  • Why: This achievement enhances Pakistan's capabilities in space technology and contributes to international lunar research efforts.

Bahraini-Egyptian Lunar Venture

  • What: A joint Bahraini-Egyptian venture has secured a role in China's 2026 Chang’e-7 lunar exploration mission.
  • Why: This collaboration emphasizes the growing international cooperation in lunar exploration and the importance of global partnerships in advancing scientific research and exploration capabilities.

Sidus Space Joins NASA Lunar Vehicle Team

  • What: Sidus Space has partnered with Intuitive Machines as part of the $30M NASA contract for developing a crewed lunar terrain vehicle.
  • Why: This partnership is essential for the Artemis program, facilitating lunar exploration and supporting sustainable human presence on the Moon.


Las Vegas Spaceport Development

  • What: Construction approval has been granted for the first phase of the Las Vegas Spaceport, which includes an airstrip and future plans for a launch pad and facilities.
  • Why: This project is part of broader efforts to diversify the economic landscape of Las Vegas through high-tech industries, including commercial space travel and associated tourism.

Starfish Space and D-Orbit's Orbital Rendezvous

  • What: Starfish Space and D-Orbit completed an orbital rendezvous with the Otter Pup satellite, marking the end of the Otter Pup mission.
  • Why: This achievement demonstrates significant advancements in on-orbit servicing and satellite rendezvous technology, crucial for future satellite maintenance and debris mitigation efforts.

Redwire Bioprints Human Heart Tissue in Space

  • What: Redwire Space successfully bioprinted live human heart tissue aboard the ISS, a first in space biomanufacturing.
  • Why: This breakthrough could revolutionize medical science, potentially leading to new treatments for heart disease and advancing the capabilities of personalized medicine.

Rocket Lab’s Archimedes Engine and Financial Growth

  • What: Rocket Lab reported significant financial growth and has completed the first full assembly of its Archimedes engine, beginning its testing campaign.
  • Why: Rocket Lab’s advancements in rocket technology and financial health are critical for its competitive position in the commercial launch market, signaling robust industry growth and innovation capabilities.

Rocket Lab SDA Satellite Development

  • What: Rocket Lab has selected subcontractors for the U.S. Space Development Agency’s Tranche 2 Transport Layer-Beta satellites, involving a $515 million contract.
  • Why: This development highlights Rocket Lab’s expanding role in national defense, enhancing U.S. military communications and surveillance capabilities through advanced satellite technology.


China's First MEO Satellite Launch

  • What: China has launched its first Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) broadband communication satellite, initiating a new satellite constellation.
  • Why: This launch marks a significant step in China's expansion into global satellite communications, enhancing its capabilities in global data transmission and internet coverage.

ESA Prepares for EarthCARE Satellite Launch

  • What: ESA's mission control is conducting final preparations for the launch of the EarthCARE satellite, designed to study the Earth's atmosphere and climate.
  • Why: This mission is crucial for understanding climate change impacts and improving weather prediction models, reflecting the critical role of space-based Earth observation in global environmental management.

RTX and Maxar launch advanced satellite imagers

  • What: RTX has launched two new-generation imaging instruments onboard Maxar’s WorldView Legion satellites, aiming to enhance global surveillance and Earth observation.
  • Why: These satellites will significantly improve imaging resolution and coverage, essential for applications ranging from environmental monitoring to national security.


African Space Leadership Colloquium

  • What: The African Space Leadership Institute is hosting a colloquium on the African Outer Space Program, focusing on education, skills development, and workforce engagement.
  • Why: This event underscores the growing importance of space capabilities in Africa and aims to develop a sustainable and competitive space workforce on the continent.

Optical Payload for US Space Force Mission

  • What: Lawrence Livermore National Lab is developing an optical payload for an upcoming U.S. Space Force mission, aimed at rapid on-orbit threat characterization.
  • Why: This development is crucial for enhancing U.S. space security capabilities, demonstrating rapid deployment and technological adaptability in space domain awareness.

NGA’s Commercial Solutions and Space Intel Hub

  • What: The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency has announced a commercial solutions opening for maritime domain awareness and is creating a space intelligence hub.
  • Why: These initiatives are pivotal for enhancing U.S. defense capabilities in space and maritime surveillance, leveraging commercial technology to improve data collection and threat response efficiency.

RTX’s new missile warning system operational

  • What: Raytheon Technologies has announced the operational status of its advanced ground system for space-based missile warning at the US Space Force's Overhead Persistent Infrared Battlespace Awareness Center.
  • Why: This system enhances the US's defensive and monitoring capabilities in space, crucial in the context of increasing global missile threats and the need for robust national security space infrastructure.

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