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Signals and Space | V2 | Issue 20 | 05.20.24

Destinations with Sierra Space. Keeping the Mars Sample Return Program alive. The A Team in space-based broadband. Introducing the Chief AI Officer. And more!



Good morning,

I want to highlight two impactful stories you may have missed last week, and an engaging interview we published this week. First, NASA and the European Space Agency have teamed up on the ExoMars mission, a significant international collaboration aimed at advancing scientific research on Mars. Second, Aerospacelab has broken ground on Europe's largest satellite manufacturing facility, positioning itself as a major player in the industry and enhancing Europe's satellite production capacity.

Additionally, we had a fascinating interview with Dr. Kathy Sullivan, former NASA Astronaut and former head of NOAA. She discusses how environmental intelligence from space shapes our daily lives, offering valuable insights into the practical applications of space technology.

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


  • Steve Taylor, President of the Experimental Sounding Rocket Association (ESRA), discusses the upcoming Spaceport America Cup.

  • Dr. Kathy Sullivan, former NASA Astronaut and former head of NOAA, discusses how environmental intelligence from space shapes our daily lives.

  • Sophie Alcorn, Immigration Lawyer, discusses her work in helping international professionals join the US space industry.

  • Uma Bruegman, Executive Director of the Space Safety Institute at The Aerospace Corporation, discusses the institute's recent initiatives and future plans.

  • Bryce Kennedy, President of the Association of Commercial Space Professionals (ACSP), discusses new changes at ACSP.

  • Shawn Buckley, Vice President of Destinations at Sierra Space, on the future of habitats in space.


Aerospacelab Breaks Ground on Europe's Largest Satellite Manufacturing Facility

  • What: Aerospacelab has started constructing a new manufacturing facility in Belgium, which will be Europe’s largest, capable of producing up to 500 satellites per year.
  • Why: This facility positions Aerospacelab as a significant player in the satellite manufacturing industry, potentially boosting Europe's capacity for satellite production and innovation.

AT&T and AST SpaceMobile Announce Definitive Commercial Agreement

  • What: AT&T and AST SpaceMobile have formalized their partnership to deliver space-based broadband directly to cell phones, advancing from their previous Memorandum of Understanding.
  • Why: This agreement marks a significant step toward expanding global connectivity, showcasing the increasing collaboration between telecommunications and space technology companies to bridge digital divides.

AST SpaceMobile Provides Business Update and First Quarter 2024 Results

  • What: AST SpaceMobile reported Q1 operating expenses of $56 million and announced the expected delivery of 5 Block 1 satellites to Cape Canaveral by July or August for launch into low Earth orbit.
  • Why: These milestones are crucial for AST SpaceMobile's goal of commercializing space-based cellular services, demonstrating significant progress in deploying their network infrastructure.

Spire Global Announces First Quarter 2024 Results

  • What: Spire Global reported Q1 2024 revenue of $25.7 million, a 6% year-over-year growth, and a net loss of $25.2 million, a 43% decline year-over-year.
  • Why: These results highlight Spire Global's growth trajectory and the financial challenges it faces, emphasizing the importance of expanding its client base and services to achieve profitability.

ISS National Lab Announces Up to $750,000 in Funding for Technology Development in Low Earth Orbit

  • What: The ISS National Lab is offering up to $750,000 for technology development projects in low Earth orbit, targeting various fields including chemical synthesis and in-space manufacturing.
  • Why: This funding aims to leverage the unique environment of the ISS to advance technology that can benefit industries on Earth, fostering innovation and enhancing the commercial utilization of space.

AAC Clyde Space wins SEK 27.0 M order for 16U satellite

  • What: AAC Clyde Space secured a SEK 27.0 million order to build a 16U satellite for ESA's ARTES Scylight program, focusing on optical and quantum direct to earth communication.
  • Why: This project will push the boundaries of satellite communication technology, emphasizing the importance of innovation in maintaining Europe's competitive edge in space.

Terran Orbital Reports First Quarter 2024 Financial Results

  • What: Terran Orbital reported Q1 2024 revenue of $27.2 million, down 3% from Q1 2023, citing supply chain issues with a subcontractor. Increased cost of sales led to a gross loss.
  • Why: These results highlight the ongoing challenges in the supply chain affecting the space industry, underscoring the importance of vertical integration to mitigate external risks.

Terran Orbital is Awarded Subcontract by Lockheed Martin for SDA’s Tranche 2 Tracking Layer

  • What: Terran Orbital was selected by Lockheed Martin to produce 18 satellite buses for the Space Development Agency's Tranche 2 Tracking Layer contract, part of a missile warning and tracking system.
  • Why: This contract emphasizes Terran Orbital's critical role in national defense projects and strengthens its relationship with major defense contractors.

Infinite Orbits Raises €12M to Build the First Solution For Satellite Life Extension

  • What: Infinite Orbits secured €12 million to develop its "Endurance" satellite life extension project, leveraging autonomous vision-based navigation technology.
  • Why: This funding accelerates the advancement of satellite life extension services, which are essential for sustainable space operations and reducing space debris.

Viasat Selects Loft Orbital for NASA Communications Services Project Real-Time Space Relay Service Demonstration

  • What: Viasat partners with Loft Orbital to demonstrate a Real-Time Space Relay service as part of NASA's $53 million Communications Services Project. The mission is scheduled for launch in Fall 2025.
  • Why: This partnership highlights the growing role of commercial satellite services in supporting NASA's communication needs, indicating a shift towards more commercial involvement in space infrastructure.


Geomagnetic Storm Affecting GPS Signals

  • What: A powerful geomagnetic storm disrupted GPS signals, particularly affecting self-driving tractors crucial for US corn planting.
  • Why: This incident highlights the vulnerabilities of agricultural technology to space weather, emphasizing the need for resilient systems to safeguard essential services during solar events.


LeoLabs Receives Order from NOAA's Office of Space Commerce to Continue Advancing the National Space Traffic Coordination System

  • What: LeoLabs received a second order to support the development of the US Traffic Coordination System for Space, focusing on enhancing space traffic management.
  • Why: Effective space traffic coordination is crucial for maintaining the safety and sustainability of space operations, particularly as satellite constellations continue to grow.

Scout Space Awarded Contract to Develop Efficient Collision Analysis Framework

  • What: Scout Space has been awarded an SBIR Phase I contract by AFWERX to develop a Collision Analysis Framework to improve spacecraft self-protection capabilities.
  • Why: Advancements in collision avoidance technology are essential for protecting valuable space assets and ensuring the long-term viability of space activities.

Booz Allen IDs Top 10 Emerging Technologies for DOD and National Security

  • What: Booz Allen Hamilton identified Alternative PNT and Space Domain Awareness Tech as top emerging technologies for the Department of Defense and national security.
  • Why: These technologies are critical for enhancing the resilience and effectiveness of military operations, ensuring secure navigation, and maintaining situational awareness in space.

ESA - The spacecraft control centre of the future

  • What: ESA plans to construct a new spacecraft control center in Germany, expected to cost €25.6 million and start construction next year.
  • Why: This new facility will enhance ESA’s capabilities in managing space missions, integrating advanced technologies for better control and efficiency, essential for supporting future complex missions.

Life360 Partners with Hubble Network to Build Global Location Tracking Network Aiming to Leapfrog Apple and Google

  • What: Life360 and Hubble Network signed a letter of intent to create a global location-tracking network using satellite Bluetooth technology and Life360's smartphone network.
  • Why: This partnership aims to revolutionize location tracking, offering enhanced connectivity and reliability, which could disrupt the market dominance of Apple and Google in this space.

Voyager Space Awarded by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center to Develop New Airlock Concept

  • What: Voyager Space received a collaborative agreement with NASA to develop an airlock for the Mars Transit Vehicle. The project will extend the Bishop Airlock design for deep space missions.
  • Why: This development is vital for future manned missions to Mars, enhancing life support and safety systems necessary for long-duration space travel.

SWISSto12 supplies Northrop Grumman with critical Radio Frequency products for a GEOStar-3 Commercial Satellite Program

  • What: SWISSto12 has delivered integrated RF Antenna Feed Chains for Northrop Grumman's GEOStar-3 satellite.
  • Why: This collaboration underscores the importance of specialized technology providers in enhancing the capabilities of major satellite programs, contributing to more robust and reliable satellite communications.

Redwire Announces Development of New European-Built Very Low Earth Orbit (VLEO) Spacecraft Platform called Phantom

  • What: Redwire Space is developing a new VLEO spacecraft platform, Phantom, at its Belgium facility for intelligence, Earth science, and communications missions.
  • Why: The Phantom platform represents an advancement in VLEO technology, promising higher resolution data for various applications and reinforcing Europe's position in the space sector.


Tanzania Plans to Establish Space Agency, Satellite in 2024/2025 Fiscal Year

  • What: Tanzania's minister of Information, Communication, and IT announced plans to establish a national space agency and launch a satellite by 2025.
  • Why: This initiative aims to enhance telecommunications, defense, and weather disaster management, signifying Tanzania’s entry into the global space community.

NASA, European Space Agency Unite to Land Europe’s Rover on Mars

  • What: NASA and ESA are collaborating on the ExoMars mission, set to launch in 2028, with NASA providing key components and a commercial launch vehicle for the ESA-led rover.
  • Why: This partnership enhances international collaboration in Mars exploration, combining resources and expertise to advance scientific research on the Red Planet.

New roadmap for pro-growth regulation in UK space sector launched as Science Minister launches new National Space Operations Centre

  • What: The UK government has launched a National Space Operations Centre and a new regulatory roadmap to support the growth of the UK space sector.
  • Why: These initiatives aim to strengthen the UK's position in the global space market, fostering innovation, investment, and international partnerships in space operations and industry regulation.

Artemis Accords Reach 40 Signatories as NASA Welcomes Lithuania

  • What: Lithuania has become the 40th signatory to the Artemis Accords, joining the international coalition dedicated to peaceful space exploration.
  • Why: The growing number of signatories reinforces international cooperation and the commitment to transparent and sustainable space exploration practices, enhancing global collaboration in lunar missions and beyond.

NASA Names First Chief Artificial Intelligence Officer

  • What: NASA appointed David Salvagnini as its first Chief Artificial Intelligence Officer, expanding his role as Chief Data Officer to oversee AI strategy and implementation across the agency.
  • Why: This appointment signals NASA's commitment to integrating AI technologies to enhance mission planning, data analysis, and operational efficiency, reflecting broader trends in the industry.

China and EU-candidate Serbia sign an agreement to build a 'shared future'

  • What: Serbia and China signed an agreement for joint development in space science and technology as part of broader industrial cooperation.
  • Why: This partnership enhances China's influence in Eastern Europe and signifies increased international collaboration in space projects, potentially impacting geopolitical dynamics in space exploration.

Senate Overwhelmingly Approves FAA Reauthorization Act

  • What: The US Senate passed the FAA Reauthorization Act with an 88-4 vote, ensuring the continued operation of the FAA and NTSB for five more years. A one-week extension was also passed to avoid a lapse before the House reviews the bill.
  • Why: This legislation secures $105 billion for fiscal years 2024-2028, crucial for maintaining US leadership in aviation and aerospace technology, including innovative propulsion technologies like hypersonics.


Chinese State-Backed Company to Launch Space Tourism Flights by 2028

  • What: CAS Space plans to begin commercial space tourism operations by 2028, offering rides to the edge of space at around $400,000 per flight.
  • Why: This development reflects China's growing commercial space sector and the increasing global competition in space tourism, expanding access to suborbital flights.

NASA’s Boeing Crew Flight Test Eyes Next Launch Opportunity

  • What: NASA and Boeing are targeting May 21, 2024, for the crewed flight test of the Starliner spacecraft, despite a recent helium leak from a reaction control system thruster.
  • Why: Successful completion of this test is critical for Boeing to validate the Starliner as a viable vehicle for NASA's crewed missions, impacting future commercial spaceflight contracts and partnerships.

New Shepard’s Crewed NS-25 Mission Targets Liftoff on May 19

  • What: Blue Origin plans to launch its NS-25 mission on May 19, 2024, carrying six astronauts, including Ed Dwight, America’s First Black Astronaut Candidate.
  • Why: This mission underscores Blue Origin’s commitment to expanding access to space and highlights the increasing role of private companies in human spaceflight.

Axiom Space Partners with Virgin Galactic to Send Second Turkish Astronaut to Space

  • What: Axiom Space and Virgin Galactic are partnering to send Turkish astronaut Tuva Atasever on a suborbital flight on June 8, 2024, to conduct microgravity research.
  • Why: This collaboration illustrates the growing opportunities for international participation in space missions and the importance of suborbital flights for scientific research and international partnerships.


SpaceX launches 50th Falcon 9 rocket of 2024 on Starlink mission

  • What: SpaceX launched its 50th Falcon 9 mission of 2024 from Vandenberg Space Force Base, carrying 13 Direct to Cell-capable Starlink satellites.
  • Why: Achieving 50 launches by mid-year demonstrates SpaceX’s capability to maintain a high launch cadence, reinforcing its dominance in the commercial launch market and the scalability of its Starlink network.

Kingston University Rocket Engineering team building the most powerful 3D-printed rocket by students in the UK

  • What: Kingston University's Rocket Engineering team is constructing the most powerful 3D-printed rocket engine created by students in the UK for the National Propulsion Competition.
  • Why: This project showcases the advancements in 3D printing technology and its applications in rocket engineering, promoting innovation and hands-on experience for future aerospace professionals.


Marble Imaging announces partnership with Reflex Aerospace for Earth observation constellation

  • What: Marble Imaging partnered with Reflex Aerospace to develop a 200-satellite Earth observation constellation, funded by the German Space Agency's small satellite payload competition.
  • Why: This initiative will enhance Earth observation capabilities, providing valuable data for environmental monitoring, sustainability, and humanitarian efforts, addressing critical global challenges.

£9 million funding for satellite instruments to monitor climate

  • What: The UK Space Agency announced £9 million in funding for 12 projects to enhance satellite-based climate monitoring capabilities.
  • Why: This investment boosts the UK's role in global climate observation, providing critical data for addressing climate change and supporting international climate agreements.


ispace EUROPE and CDS Sign Payload Service Agreement to Transport Precise Location Measurement Technology to the Moon

  • What: ispace Europe signed an agreement with Control Data Systems SRL to deliver Romanian location measurement technology to the Moon.
  • Why: This collaboration marks Romania's entry into lunar exploration, contributing to global efforts in lunar science and the potential commercial use of lunar resources.

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