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Signals and Space | V1 | Issue 18 | 08.14.23

Astropolitics played out in Europe. Boeing Starliner eyes the ides of March. Rocket Lab earnings signal more space market strength. Virgin Galactic delivers on its space tourism promise. And more!



Signals and Space | V1 | Issue 18 | 08.14.23

Astropolitics played out in Europe. Boeing Starliner eyes the ides of March. Rocket Lab earnings signal more space market strength. Virgin Galactic delivers on its space tourism promise. 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, 8/07/23: Astropolitics played out in Europe. 

  1. KKR Invests in OHB

    • Who: KKR (U.S. private equity giant) and OHB (a German space company and a significant client for SpaceX in Europe).
    • What: KKR is purchasing a minority stake in OHB as OHB plans to delist from the stock exchange to gain more agility in the satellite market.
    • Why: The investment signals increasing confidence in OHB, particularly as Europe looks towards space-based defense, like OHB's Odin's Eye, in light of geopolitical tensions such as Russia-Ukraine.
  2. SpaceX Super Heavy Test

    • Who: SpaceX.
    • What: A static fire test for the Super Heavy booster which had some engines shut down prematurely, leading to a shortened test.
    • Why: This raises questions about the readiness of the Super Heavy booster for upcoming tests and launches.
  3. FCC's Inquiry on Spectrum Usage

    • Who: Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
    • What: An inquiry to better understand non-federal spectrum usage leveraging new data sources, technologies, and AI.
    • Why: As the radiofrequency environment becomes more congested, efficient spectrum use and management are crucial for innovation and coexistence among users.
  4. Astra's Workforce Reduction

    • Who: Astra, a space startup.
    • What: The company has laid off 25% of its workforce and is shifting focus from launching to spacecraft manufacturing.
    • Why: Financial challenges require cost-cutting measures, signaling potential delays in Astra’s future launches.
  5. News from Smallsat Week

    • Who: LeoStella, BlackSky, NearSpace Launch, and SEOPS.
    • What: LeoStella unveiled a larger satellite bus, LS300, and NearSpace has partnered with SEOPS for a new on-orbit launch platform, OctoBus.
    • Why: These announcements indicate continued growth and innovation in the smallsat sector.
  6. Capella's Satellite Issues

    • Who: Capella Space.
    • What: Their earth observation satellites are deorbiting faster than anticipated.
    • Why: This could be due to increased solar activity and underperforming third-party propulsion systems, affecting the company's satellite lifespan and data collection.
  7. Export Control Challenges for India and China

    • Who: Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Chinese space agency.
    • What: Delays in the export of the "Spectroscopic Investigations of Nebular Gas" (Sing) equipment from India to China.
    • Why: Political tensions, compounded by earlier COVID-related delays, have stalled collaborative space projects.
  8. Robot Maintenance for China's Telescope

    • Who: China Media Group, Guizhou Radio Astronomy Observatory.
    • What: Using robots for maintenance on the Five-hundred meter Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope (FAST).
    • Why: Robots can perform tasks that humans cannot, ensuring the longevity and functionality of the telescope.
  9. Australian Koonibba Launch Site Upgrade

    • Who: Koonibba Community Aboriginal Corporation, Australian Space Agency, Space Forge (UK-based).
    • What: Upgrading the Koonibba test range to a permanent suborbital launch site.
    • Why: The upgrade will bolster the Australian space industry, facilitating both domestic and international missions and collaborations.
  10. Lockheed Martin's New Facility

    • Who: Lockheed Martin.
    • What: Opening of a new small satellite development site in Colorado.
    • Why: To enhance the processing of small satellites, supporting a variety of programs and technology demonstrations.
  11. Featured interview: Emre Kelly, Space Editor at Florida Today. You can connect with Emre on LinkedIn and follow Florida Today on their website.

Tuesday, 8/08/23: Boeing Starliner eyes the ides of March.

  1. Boeing Starliner Crew Launch Update

    • Who: NASA, Boeing, and Starliner Manager.
    • What: Starliner expected to be ready by early March 2024. Further parachute testing scheduled for November.
    • Why: Starliner has faced delays, but NASA’s Commercial Crew manager notes it's 98% complete in terms of certification progress. This comes despite the program being $1.5 billion over budget due to delays.
  2. Amazon Kuiper Satellite Launch Update

    • Who: Amazon, United Launch Alliance (ULA), and Kuiper satellite program.
    • What: Amazon plans to launch its first two Kuiper satellite prototypes on an Atlas V rocket instead of the previously announced ULA Vulcan launch.
    • Why: To avoid further delays and ensure the rollout of half of the planned 3,200 Kuiper satellites by 2026.
  3. Firefly’s Elytra Fleet Announcement

    • Who: Firefly Aerospace.
    • What: The introduction of the new Elytra orbital vehicles fleet.
    • Why: Elytra’s fleet will offer quick launch and satellite servicing capabilities in space. The first mission will launch next year on Firefly’s Alpha rocket.
  4. Redwire’s Financial Updates

    • Who: Redwire, a space infrastructure company.
    • What: Positive Q2 financial results with significant revenue growth and increased contracted orders.
    • Why: Demonstrates the company's strong financial performance and growth in the space sector.
  5. Dish and EchoStar Merger

    • Who: Dish and EchoStar.
    • What: Merger of satellite giant EchoStar with broadband company Dish.
    • Why: Aims to promote growth and build a sustainable long-term business. The merger also underscores their historical connection.
  6. NOAA License Modification for Commercial Satellites

    • Who: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and commercial satellite operators.
    • What: Modification of licenses to allow commercial satellites to offer their full remote sensing capabilities to the public.
    • Why: Fulfillment of a previous commitment to the industry and to maintain U.S. leadership in remote sensing.
  7. UK Space Agency’s Bilateral Fund Investments

    • Who: UK Space Agency.
    • What: Announced recipients for the initial phase of its International Bilateral Fund investments.
    • Why: Strengthen international collaborations, advance space research, and stimulate investments in new technologies.
  8. Warpspace’s Optical Communication Modems and Routers Project

    • Who: Warpspace and Japan's government.
    • What: Selection of Warpspace for a project centered on developing interoperable optical communication systems for satellites.
    • Why: Bolster Japan's position in the growing field of inter-satellite optical links and encourage global competition.
  9. Pale Blue and Yonsei University Partnership

    • Who: Pale Blue, a Tokyo-based company, and Yonsei University in South Korea.
    • What: Collaboration to provide Resistojet propulsion system for two 6U satellites.
    • Why: Promote sustainable space technologies and strengthen Asian partnerships, amidst a warming relationship between South Korea and Japan.
  10. Eutelsat and Thaicom Partnership

    • Who: Eutelsat and a Thaicom subsidiary.
    • What: Collaboration to enhance satellite services over Asia.
    • Why: Increase connectivity across Asia and anticipate growth in the Asian space market.
  11. Thailand's Spaceport Feasibility Study

    • Who: Thailand government.
    • What: Fast-tracking a feasibility study for a spaceport.
    • Why: Utilize its equatorial location for optimal rocket launches and position Thailand in Southeast Asia's growing space economy.
  12. Featured Interview: Part one of a two part interview with Kaylin Trychon and Steve Luczynski, from the Aerospace Village, on the nonprofit’s mission, their programs, and the upcoming DEF CON hacker convention. You can connect with Kaylin and Steve on LinkedIn and find out more about the Aerospace Village on their website.

Wednesday, 8/09/23: Rocket Lab earnings signal more space market strength.

  1. Rocket Lab Stock Surges

    • Who: Rocket Lab and its founder and CEO, Peter Beck.
    • What: Successful launches in the US and New Zealand resulted in 12% revenue growth YoY in Q2, announcement of 10 new contracts for 2023 and 2024, and expectations of revenue growth between $73-77 million for Q3.
    • Why: Their consistent successful launches, advancements in Neutron rocket, and signed contracts demonstrate a solid foothold in the space industry.
  2. Firefly Aerospace Partners with Xtenti

    • Who: Firefly Aerospace and Xtenti.
    • What: Announced partnership to conduct a responsive space demonstration for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) in 2024, featuring the Firefly Alpha rocket and Xtenti's FANTM-RiDE small-satellite dispenser.
    • Why: The demonstration will showcase the ability to modify payloads swiftly after launch without affecting the rocket booster.
  3. Artemis II Crew's Orion Capsule Preview

    • Who: Artemis II crew and NASA.
    • What: The crew visited the Lockheed Martin-built Orion capsule that they'll be using for their lunar mission in the coming year.
    • Why: This mission is part of NASA's efforts to return humans to the moon, but concerns linger regarding SpaceX’s Starship readiness for Artemis III in 2025.
  4. Lockheed Martin's T1TL Progress

    • Who: Lockheed Martin and the Space Development Agency.
    • What: Successful completion of a critical design review for the Tranche 1 Transport Layer program (T1TL).
    • Why: This review ensures Lockheed Martin's designs meet all mission requirements and production can begin.
  5. Funding Boost for Starfish Space

    • Who: Starfish Space and the US Air Force.
    • What: Starfish Space received a $1.8 million funding increase to continue developing their Cephalopod software.
    • Why: This software aids in satellite guidance, navigation, and control, continuing Starfish’s collaboration with the Air Force Research Lab.
  6. Spire's Contract with GHGSat

    • Who: Spire and GHGSat.
    • What: A contract awarded to Spire by GHGSat to build, launch, and manage four 16U satellites for monitoring greenhouse gas emissions.
    • Why: It emphasizes GHGSat’s dedication to climate innovation in partnership with the UK Space Agency and Satellite Applications Catapult.
  7. KKR Invests in Rocket Factory Augsburg

    • Who: KKR and Rocket Factory Augsburg (RFA).
    • What: KKR becomes a majority stakeholder in RFA after a €30 million investment.
    • Why: The investment will aid RFA in its upcoming first stage test at Scotland’s SaxaVord Spaceport.
  8. Space Situational Awareness Mission

    • Who: EnduroSat and Vyoma.
    • What: Partnership to develop Europe’s first commercial mission for in-situ space situational awareness using microsatellites.
    • Why: This mission aims to use optical telescopes to monitor space objects and map orbital environments, ensuring safer space operations.
  9. UAE's Space Ambitions

    • Who: The United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre.
    • What: Plans to send astronauts to space every 3-5 years, with four qualified astronauts already trained.
    • Why: The UAE aims to strengthen its presence in space, working alongside regional partners like Bahrain, Kuwait, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia.
  10. China's Satellite Launch

    • Who: China.
    • What: Launch of the HJ-2 06 earth observation satellite to help in monitoring disasters and other ecological activities.
    • Why: This marks the 482nd flight of China's Long March carrier rockets, showcasing China's consistent advancements in space endeavors.
  11. Featured interview: Part two of a two part interview with Kaylin Trychon and Steve Luczynski, from the Aerospace Village, on the nonprofit’s mission, their programs, and the upcoming DEF CON hacker convention. You can connect with Kaylin and Steve on LinkedIn and find out more about the Aerospace Village on their website.

Thursday, 8/10/23: Virgin Galactic delivers on its space tourism promise.

  1. Virgin Galactic's First Commercial Flight

    • Who: Virgin Galactic, Spaceport America, three commercial passengers (Jon, Keisha, and Anastatia), NASA veteran CJ Sturckow, and first-time space pilot Kelly Latimer.
    • What: The first commercial passengers went to space, reaching an apogee of 88.5 kilometers/ about 54 miles above Earth.
    • Why: This is a fulfillment of Virgin Galactic’s longstanding promise to initiate commercial spaceflight.
  2. Viasat's Q2 Financial Reports

    • Who: Viasat
    • What: Reported $780 million in Q2 revenue, a 36% increase from last year but is investigating issues with its ViaSat 3 Americas satellite.
    • Why: Despite technical issues, the company shows strong financial performance in the satellite communications sector.
  3. BlackSky's Q2 Financial Reports and Contract with Rocket Lab

    • Who: BlackSky Technologies, Rocket Lab
    • What: BlackSky reported $19.3 million in revenue in Q2, a 28% increase from the prior year and secured a five contract deal for launches with Rocket Lab.
    • Why: Reflects growth in the earth observation sector and continued partnership with a leading global launch provider.
  4. Rocket Lab's New HASTE Agreement

    • Who: Rocket Lab and an undisclosed customer
    • What: New agreement for a HASTE mission launch from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport next year.
    • Why: Continued growth and partnerships for Rocket Lab after a successful test launch earlier this year.
  5. NASA's Contract with Spire Global

    • Who: NASA, Spire Global
    • What: NASA renewed its contract for earth observation data, with a $500,000 increase from the previous award.
    • Why: Continuation of collaboration to benefit US government-funded research and federal agencies.
  6. HawkEye 360's Satellite Issues

    • Who: HawkEye 360, Enpulsion (Austria-based)
    • What: HawkEye satellites are facing issues due to a propulsion system failure and are seeking permission for altitude adjustments.
    • Why: Addressing technical challenges and ensuring the operational viability of their satellite constellation.
  7. OneWeb's Partnership with IP Access International

    • Who: OneWeb, IP Access International
    • What: Partnership to combine satellite and terrestrial mobile connectivity for critical operations.
    • Why: Expansion of services, maximizing the capabilities of both satellite and terrestrial networks.
  8. Lynk Global's Partnership with Vodafone Cook Islands

    • Who: Lynk Global, Vodafone Cook Islands
    • What: Starting direct-to-mobile phone satellite service in the Cook Islands using Lynk’s satellites.
    • Why: Provides increased connectivity to remote regions, showcasing the potential for global application.
  9. Russia's Luna-25 Lunar Launch

    • Who: Russia, NASA, India (reference to Chandrayaan-3)
    • What: Russia launched Luna-25 targeting a soft landing on the moon's south pole to potentially discover water ice deposits.
    • Why: Revival of Russia's lunar exploration amidst geopolitical challenges and competition in lunar exploration.
  10. ISS National Lab's Collaboration with NASA for Disease Research

    • Who: International Space Station National Lab, NASA
    • What: Partnering to fund research that uses space's unique environment to combat diseases like cancer.
    • Why: Aligning with initiatives to reduce cancer deaths and improve astronaut health for long-duration space missions.
  11. Featured interview: Chad Anderson, Managing Partner at Space Capital on Q2 Space Investment and stabilization in the market. You can connect with Chad on LinkedIn and find out more about Space Capital on their website.

Friday, 8/11/23: The race for the Moon’s south pole.

  1. Russia Joins the Lunar South Pole Race

    • Who: Russia (Luna 25) and India (Chandrayaan 3)
    • What: Both nations aiming for soft landings on the lunar south pole in hopes of accessing potential water ice resources.
    • Why: Discovery of water resources would be a significant step for sustained human exploration beyond our atmosphere.
  2. ESA's 2023 Space Environment Report

    • Who: European Space Agency (ESA)
    • What: Released a report highlighting the increasing space debris, its concerns, and the agency's efforts in addressing it.
    • Why: Aims to ensure safe space operations and a commitment to generating no new space debris in valuable orbits by 2030.
  3. CNES Seeks Partnerships for Demonstration Missions

    • Who: CNES (the French national space agency) and BPI France
    • What: Seeking partners to purchase demonstration missions on French microlaunchers.
    • Why: Part of the France 2030 programme to transform the French economy through technological innovation.
  4. Spire Global's Record Revenue

    • Who: Spire Global
    • What: Achieved highest-ever quarterly revenue and reduced net loss, with plans for a stock split.
    • Why: Demonstrates positive financial health and trajectory towards profitability.
  5. SpaceX’s Valuation Increase

    • Who: SpaceX and Baillie Gifford U.S. Growth Trust
    • What: Valuation of SpaceX rose by 12% over the past year.
    • Why: Consistent increase in launch cadence, including Starlink satellite launches.
  6. Hypersonix-Kratos Partnership

    • Who: Hypersonix Launch Systems and Kratos Defense & Security Solutions
    • What: Announced partnership for the DART AE Hypersonic System using Kratos' rocket motors.
    • Why: To provide an affordable vehicle for hypersonic technologies testing and other applications.
  7. MDA's Satellite Contract for Telesat Lightspeed

    • Who: MDA and Telesat
    • What: Contract to build 198 satellites for Telesat's LEO constellation.
    • Why: Aims for cost-effective satellite construction and strengthening Telesat's position in LEO satellite services.
  8. Auction of Leading Edge Aerospace Assets

    • Who: Leading Edge Aerospace
    • What: Auctioning its facilities, equipment, and operations.
    • Why: Offers unique assets and technologies that would benefit parties in the aerospace sector.
  9. Galactic Energy's Satellite Launch

    • Who: Galactic Energy and Star Vision
    • What: Successful launch of seven satellites, including WonderJourney-1A with AI-driven data management.
    • Why: To enhance in-orbit data analysis capabilities and highlight China's role in the commercial space sector.
  10. Taiwan's CubeSat Project Advancement

    • Who: Taiwan's Space Agency (TASA)
    • What: Acceleration into the second phase of their 10-year CubeSat project.
    • Why: To strengthen Taiwan's position in the global satellite supply chain and encourage space start-ups to participate.
  11. Featured interview: Dan Dumbacher, Executive Director of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA). You can connect with Dan on LinkedIn and learn more about AIAA on their website.

Saturday, 8/12/23: Dan Dumbacher and AIAA’s mission to support the aerospace industry.

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