<img height="1" width="1" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=205228923362421&amp;ev=PageView &amp;noscript=1">

Signals and Space | V1 | Issue 14 | 07.17.23

A space segment for the belt and road? Saudi Arabia and China get cozy. Astra plays the reverse card on stock split. Much ado about an explosion at Blue. And more!



Signals and Space | V1 | Issue 14 | 07.17.23

A space segment for the belt and road? Saudi Arabia and China get cozy. Astra plays the reverse card on stock split. Much ado about an explosion at Blue. 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, 7/10/23: A space segment for the belt and road? Saudi Arabia and China get cozy.

  1. China's Long March 2C Launches Internet Tech Test Satellite

    • Who: China's space program, Long March 2C rocket, and Guowang or China SatNet.
    • What: A Long March 2C rocket launched an "internet technology test satellite", possibly related to Guowang, China's broadband constellation project.
    • Why: This represents an ongoing expansion of China's satellite network and space program, emphasizing the development of its internet broadband capabilities.
  2. Space Pioneer Secures Series C Funding for Tianlong-3

    • Who: Space Pioneer of Beijing.
    • What: Space Pioneer has announced its latest Series C funding round, set to support the development of the medium-lift 2-stage reusable Tianlong-3 rocket.
    • Why: The new rocket, designed to use kerosene liquid oxygen propellant, will support the launch of satellites for GuoWang or China SatNet, underscoring the growth and financial success of Space Pioneer.
  3. Saudi Arabia and China Deepen Space Exploration Ties

    • Who: Representatives from the Saudi Space Agency and several Chinese commercial space companies.
    • What: The Saudi Space Agency met with government officials and business leaders in the Chinese space sector to develop partnerships and further the space exploration agenda.
    • Why: The meeting illustrates efforts to create research and development partnership opportunities, signaling a deepening collaboration in space exploration between Saudi Arabia and China.
  4. Bids Open for Long March 6 Rideshare Launch

    • Who: China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), commercial satellite companies.
    • What: CASC is opening up spots on a Long March 6 rocket to commercial partners through an auction-based system.
    • Why: This gives commercial satellite companies a chance to launch their payloads while supporting China's continued expansion and commercialization in the space sector.
  5. ISRO Hands Over Smallsat Launch to Private Sector

    • Who: Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), private industry.
    • What: ISRO has decided to transfer its small satellite launch vehicle (SSLV) service entirely to the private sector.
    • Why: The transfer represents India's push to increase private industry's role in space and potentially accelerate the pace of smallsat and nanosat launch services.
  6. Australian Government Slashes Space Budget

    • Who: Australian government, Space Industry Association of Australia.
    • What: The Australian government plans to cut $1.2 billion from its space budget, potentially affecting a program to launch four satellites between 2028 and 2033.
    • Why: This decision, a "budget repair" move, has drawn criticism due to potential impacts on Australia's international reputation and contributions to global space efforts.
  7. First US Space Force Guardian of the Year Announced

    • Who: Space Force Captain Victoria Garcia.
    • What: Captain Victoria Garcia has been named the first US Space Force Guardian of the year by Military Times.
    • Why: In response to Russia's assault on Ukraine, Garcia led an operation to protect U.S. satellite networks in Europe, highlighting the importance of space-based operations in modern warfare.
  8. A SpaceX Falcon 9 Completes Record-Breaking 16th Flight

    • Who: SpaceX.
    • What: A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket has successfully completed its 16th flight, deploying 22 second-generation Starlink satellites.
    • Why: This record-breaking launch further tests and proves the limits of rocket reusability, emphasizing SpaceX's continued dominance in the commercial space sector.
  9. Potential Sale of Ball Aerospace Unit

    • Who: Ball Aerospace, potential bidders including Blackstone, Veritas Capital, BAE Systems, General Dynamics, and Textron.
    • What: Ball Aerospace's acquisition is reportedly being pursued by various entities, with the unit potentially worth over $5 billion.
    • Why: If successful, the sale would allow Ball Corp to concentrate on its beverage packaging operations and reduce its debt load, illustrating the ongoing reorientation and consolidation in the aerospace and defense sector.
  10. Featured interview: Laura Forcyzk, Founder of Astralytical, on navigating a career in aerospace. You can follow Laura on LinkedIn, Twitter, and on her website.

Tuesday, 7/11/23: Astra plays the reverse card on stock split.

  1. Astra Announces Reverse Stock Split and Stock Offering

    • Who: Small launch vehicle and electric propulsion engine maker Astra
    • What: Astra is raising funds through a reverse stock split and a $65 million common stock offering.
    • Why: To boost the company's share price and avoid delisting from the Nasdaq, the firm aims to improve its financial health and raise funds for its operations.
  2. Muon Space Extends Contract with Air Force and Defense Innovation Unit

    • Who: Earth observation smallsat company Muon Space, Air Force and Defense Innovation Unit
    • What: Muon Space has won a two-year contract extension to collect ionospheric data with their MuSat-2 satellite mission.
    • Why: The data collected will be used to refine ionospheric and weather prediction models, train AI/machine learning models, and assist with climate change assessments.
  3. Benchmark Raises $33 Million in Series B Funding

    • Who: Propulsion systems startup Benchmark
    • What: Benchmark raised $33 million in a series B round.
    • Why: The funds will support the firm's transition from research to the development and production phase of chemical, electric, and hybrid propulsion systems.
  4. Astranis to Deliver Satellite-based Internet Service to Philippines

    • Who: San Francisco-based Astranis
    • What: Astranis has signed a deal to deliver dedicated satellite-based internet service to the Philippines.
    • Why: Astranis aims to connect up to 2 million people in the Philippines, providing a much-needed internet service to the region.
  5. General Shaw Highlights Space Segment Vulnerabilities

    • Who: General Shaw, US Space Command’s deputy commander
    • What: Shaw discussed three areas of space segment vulnerabilities as observed from Russia’s war against Ukraine.
    • Why: These incidents underscore the need for improved defense mechanisms and potential areas for offensive capabilities and investment opportunities in the commercial sector.
  6. Defense Innovation Unit Advancing Development of Hybrid Space Architecture

    • Who: The Defense Innovation Unit (DIU), in collaboration with the Space Force and the Air Force Research Laboratory
    • What: The DIU is advancing the development of a Hybrid Space Architecture to provide internet connectivity from space.
    • Why: The project aims to streamline the military's relationship with commercial imagery and communications providers, prompt military adoption of commercial technologies, and integrate diverse network technologies from different military services.
  7. Orion Space Solutions and Microsoft Partner to Develop NEXUS Space Network

    • Who: Orion Space Solutions and Microsoft
    • What: The two companies are partnering to develop the NEXUS Space Network, an AI-enabled, distributed data system.
    • Why: The project aims to enhance data interoperability, address a backbone gap for the Combined Joint All-Domain Command and Control initiative, and synchronize decision-making for Joint Forces and their allies.
  8. European Satellite Services Provider to Commercialize ViaSat's Iris Project

    • Who: European Satellite Services Provider, ViaSat, Inmarsat, and the European Space Agency
    • What: The Iris project, a tool developed to optimize airline routes and reduce emissions through digital satellite communication, will be commercialized.
    • Why: Iris aims to improve airspace use, ease congested VHF channels, reduce travel disruptions, and potentially cut a plane's CO2 output by 10%.
  9. NASA Awards Axiom Space and Collins Aerospace to Advance Spacesuit Development

    • Who: NASA, Axiom Space, and Collins Aerospace
    • What: Both companies were awarded $5 million each to advance spacesuit development for low Earth orbit and lunar missions.
    • Why: The contracts aim to foster innovation, enhance redundancy, expand capabilities, and contribute to the space economy while aiding NASA's long-term exploration goals for the Moon and Mars.
  10. Taiwan to Launch Triton, Its First Domestically Engineered Weather Satellite

    • Who: Taiwan Space Agency, Arianespace
    • What: Taiwan's first domestically engineered weather satellite, Triton, is set to be launched on an Arianespace Vega C rideshare mission.
    • Why: The Triton satellite is designed to enhance typhoon path and heavy rainfall predictions, marking a significant milestone for Taiwan's space industry

  11. Featured interview: Kathleen Smith, Chief Outreach Officer of ClearedJobs.net, on workforce strategies and cleared jobs in the space industry. You can follow Kathleen on LinkedIn.

Wednesday, 7/12/23: Much ado about an explosion at Blue.

  1. LandSpace Achieves Orbital Success with Methane-Powered Rocket

    • Who: LandSpace, a private commercial space company based in China.
    • What: LandSpace successfully launched its methane-powered rocket, ZhuQue-2, to orbit from the Jiuquan space launch center. This is LandSpace’s second orbital attempt with the first being unsuccessful last December.
    • Why: The successful launch marks the first to orbit using a methane-powered rocket, representing a significant achievement in reducing launch costs and environmental impact. Methane as a propellant could present a 50-90% cost savings on propellant costs, according to LandSpace.
  2. China Plans Two-Rocket Moon Landing

    • Who: The Chinese government.
    • What: China plans to launch two simultaneous missions to the Moon by 2030, aiming to send a lunar lander first and humans afterward in two separate but coordinated missions.
    • Why: The dual rocket approach could overcome the power challenges associated with sending a spacecraft to the Moon with both humans and lunar landing gear on board at the same time.
  3. Blue Origin BE-4 Rocket Engine Explosion

    • Who: Blue Origin.
    • What: During engine testing, a Blue Origin BE-4 rocket engine exploded 10 seconds into testing.
    • Why: Despite the explosion, Blue Origin maintains they will stay on schedule for engine delivery commitments this year. United Launch Alliance (ULA), the intended user of the engine, has also expressed no concerns over the engines already on board its upcoming Vulcan Cert-1 mission.
  4. OceanMind Extends Agreement with Spire Global

    • Who: OceanMind, a marine enforcement firm, and Spire Global, a data and analytics company.
    • What: OceanMind extended its agreement with Spire Global to use Automatic Identification System vessel-tracking data for identifying suspected illegal fishing activities.
    • Why: OceanMind's monitoring supports enforcement officials, seafood buyers, and NGOs by ensuring fishing compliance. With Spire's data, it has verified over $600 million worth of tuna imports globally.
  5. Hanwha Systems to Operate as Satellite Internet Service Provider

    • Who: Hanwha Systems, the defense and communication technology unit of the Hanwha Group.
    • What: Hanwha Systems obtained a government license to operate as a satellite internet service provider using low-Earth orbit satellites from OneWeb.
    • Why: The company plans to provide high-speed internet service to various sectors, including business, government organizations, the military, aviation, shipping, automotive, and urban air mobility.
  6. UK Space Agency Invests in Future Telecommunication Technologies

    • Who: The UK Space Agency.
    • What: The agency announced a record £20 million investment for the development of future telecommunication technologies.
    • Why: The funds will support dedicated connectivity for emergency services and bring internet access to rural areas. The investment underscores the UK's commitment to space-based telecommunications and its continued partnership with the EU after Brexit.
  7. NASA Cancels Janus Mission

    • Who: NASA.
    • What: NASA has officially mothballed the Janus mission due to delayed launch and budgetary constraints after spending nearly $50M on development.
    • Why: A launch delay, caused by software testing issues on another spacecraft called Psyche, changed the position of Janus's target asteroids, making them unreachable. Given budget and priority constraints with other missions like Mars Sample Return and Europa Clipper, NASA decided to put the spacecraft into long-term storage.
  8. Featured interview: Tom Patterson, Managing Director at Accenture, on advancements in post-quantum cryptography for multi-orbit satellite communications. You can follow Tom on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Thursday, 7/13/23: Boom arms getting stuck: so hot right now.

  1. Viasat-3 Satellite "Unexpected Event"
    • Who: Viasat, a major satellite corporation.
    • What: The first in the much-anticipated Viasat-3 satellite constellation, which was launched in late April, experienced an "unexpected event" during the deployment of its reflector. This might impact the performance of the Viasat-3 satellite significantly.
    • Why: This could be a significant setback for Viasat's plans for updating its global satellite internet capabilities, which are designed to offer unprecedented data throughput. Viasat's stock price has fallen following the news.
  2. US Senate's NASA Budget Recommendations

    • Who: The US Senate and NASA.
    • What: The Senate's recommended NASA budget for the financial year 2024 is slightly less than NASA requested, but still substantial at 25 billion dollars.
    • Why: If approved, this budget would support progress on the Artemis Campaign and other projects, although the absence of certain projects in the bill, such as the Mars Sample Return mission, might indicate difficulties for these efforts.
  3. Pulsar-based Timing for Deep Space Navigation

    • Who: Scientists at the US Naval Research Laboratory.
    • What: They are developing celestial navigation techniques using pulsars as precise cosmic "clocks" for deep space position, navigation, and timing.
    • Why: This technology could potentially enhance the accuracy of current GPS systems and offer navigation capabilities beyond the reach of existing GPS signals.
  4. Optus and Starlink Partnership

    • Who: Optus, an Australian telecommunications provider, and Starlink.
    • What: They've agreed on a partnership to provide "straight-to-mobile" voice and data services in remote areas across Australia.
    • Why: This partnership will significantly increase mobile coverage across Australia, without requiring any special hardware for customers.
  5. HawkEye 360's Series D-1 Funding

    • Who: HawkEye 360, a space-based radio frequency data and analytics provider.
    • What: Secured $58 million in a Series D-1 funding round led by BlackRock.
    • Why: The new funds will be used for the development of new space systems and expanding analytics for high-value defense missions.
  6. Next-Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared Program Concerns

    • Who: The Senate Armed Services Committee and the US Space Force.
    • What: The Committee expressed concerns about the US Space Force's decision to eliminate one satellite from the Next-Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared program.
    • Why: There are concerns about potential mission gaps, though the Space Force reassures that the reduction will not affect the mission.
  7. Biden's Nominations for Key Space Roles

    • Who: President Biden and three Lieutenant Generals nominated for key roles in the US Space Command and Space Force.
    • What: Biden has nominated Lieutenant General Stephen Whiting, Lieutenant General Michael Guetlein, and Lieutenant General Philip Garrant for key roles.
    • Why: These nominations are crucial for the functioning and direction of US space operations, but are currently delayed due to Senator Tuberville's objections to the US military's abortion policies.
  8. China's Ultra-low Orbit Satellite Constellation

    • Who: China's Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation.
    • What: Started building an ultra-low orbit satellite constellation, with the first launch set for December 2023.
    • Why: This satellite constellation will offer high-value near-Earth observation at lower costs and support global 15-minute response capabilities.
  9. RS21's External Funding

    • Who: RS21, an Albuquerque-based data science company.
    • What: Secured its first external funding of $3 million from Thayer Ventures.
    • Why: The investment initiates a Series A funding round targeted at $5 million to drive expansion, including developing an AI-backed platform to predict satellite faults.
  10. Virgin Galactic's Second Commercial Spaceflight

    • Who: Virgin Galactic.
    • What: Announced the flight window for their second fully commercial spaceflight, Galactic 2.
    • Why: This flight, carrying three private passengers to space, marks another step in the evolution of commercial space tourism.
  11. Guam's Interest in Aerospace Industry

    • Who: Lt. Governor Joshua Tenorio of Guam.
    • What: Announced the intention to establish Guam as a significant player in the aerospace industry at the 2023 Aerospace States Association Annual Meeting.
    • Why: Guam aims to expand operations at the Guam International Airport and introduce space flights, following failed plans with Virgin Orbit and looking towards opportunities with the Space Force National Guard.
  12. Featured interview: Sita Sonty, Global Space Lead for the Boston Consulting Group, on space environment management. You can follow Sita on LinkedIn.

Friday, 7/14/23: India’s moonshot, take 2.

  1. India's Moonshot, Take 2
    • Who: Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)
    • What: ISRO launched Chandrayaan-3, its lunar lander and rover mission, aiming to land softly on the lunar surface after the predecessor Chandrayaan-2's lander crash in 2019.
    • Why: If successful, India will become the fourth nation to achieve a soft landing on the moon. The mission also draws attention due to its comparatively lower budget.
  2. SpaceX's Scrub and Financial Success

    • Who: SpaceX
    • What: A SpaceX Starlink launch was scrubbed and rescheduled for the next day. Meanwhile, SpaceX has achieved a company valuation of $150 billion.
    • Why: Despite launch hiccups, the company's impressive valuation underscores SpaceX's solid financial footing in the space industry.
  3. Trouble for JAXA and Blue Origin

    • Who: Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and Blue Origin
    • What: JAXA's Epsilon S rocket motor exploded during testing, and a Blue Origin BE-4 engine explosion during testing has sparked debates about the significance of testing mishaps.
    • Why: These incidents highlight the inherent risks and setbacks in space technology development, underscoring the need for rigorous testing and iterative improvements.
  4. US Space Command Headquarters Dispute

    • Who: U.S. Space Command, Pentagon, and Representative Mike Rogers
    • What: A dispute over the location of the U.S. Space Command headquarters is delaying Pentagon's annual reprogramming request of $4.1 billion.
    • Why: The delay could impact funding for various space programs, raising questions about political influences on space operations and development.
  5. Swedish Space Corporation's New Partnership

    • Who: Swedish Space Corporation, Ventspils University of Applied Sciences, and VIRATEC
    • What: A partnership to enhance the Swedish Space Corporation's ground station network with large antennas for lunar and deep space missions.
    • Why: The partnership enhances SSC's communication capabilities for deep space missions, strengthening its position in the global space industry.
  6. Orbital Composites' Space Force Contract

    • Who: Orbital Composites, U.S. Space Force, Axiom Space, Northrop Grumman, and the Southwest Research Institute
    • What: Orbital Composites secured a $1.7 million contract to space-qualify technology for manufacturing antennas in orbit.
    • Why: This is a significant step toward large-scale, in-space manufacturing and assembly, potentially reducing costs by two orders of magnitude.
  7. Perseverance's Discovery on Mars

    • Who: NASA's Perseverance Rover
    • What: The rover revealed evidence of diverse organic material on Mars, indicating a more complex organic geochemical cycle than previously understood.
    • Why: This finding implies that the building blocks for life may have existed on Mars longer than previously thought, deepening our understanding of Mars' history and potential for life.
  8. Uncertainty in Australia's Space Industry

    • Who: Australian Space Park, Airbus, and Australian Government
    • What: The future of the Australian Space Park in South Australia is uncertain after the state government's withdrawal of funding, leading to the exit of two companies.
    • Why: This development, coupled with federal funding cuts, raises questions about the stability and future prospects of Australia's emerging space industry.
  9. Featured interview: Pam Underwood, Director of the Office of Spaceports at the Federal Aviation Administration, on the FAA’s role to enable a safe and sustainable global spaceport industry. You can follow Pam on LinkedIn and at the FAA Office of Spaceports.

Saturday, 7/15/23: Pam Underwood and the FAA’s role in global spaceport operations.

Similar posts

Stay in the loop on new releases. 

Subscribe below to receive information about new blog posts, podcasts, newsletters, and product information.