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Signals and Space | V1 | Issue 16 | 07.31.23

Using BRICS to build in space. Space investors go full Oprah. What do satellite spectrum licensing regs have to do with space debris? The future is nuclear. 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, 7/24/23: Using BRICS to build in space.

  1. BRICS Nations Welcomed by Russia to Contribute to New Space Station

    • Who: Russia's space agency
    • What: Invited the BRICS group (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) to collaborate on Russia's next planned space station, the Russian Orbital Station (ROS).
    • Why: To facilitate international collaboration and integration, creating a more global approach to space development and exploration.
  2. Astranis Satellite Failure

    • Who: Astranis, a US communications satellite operator
    • What: Announced their Arcturus satellite's failure in providing broadband connectivity to Alaska due to a component malfunction.
    • Why: They aim to rectify the issue in future satellites and plan to launch a replacement, UtilitySat, by year-end.
  3. US Space Force Squadrons Activated

    • Who: US Space Delta 15
    • What: Activated the 15th Command and Control Squadron (CACS) and the 15th Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Squadron (ISRS).
    • Why: The aim is to enhance protection and surveillance of US space assets, ensuring space superiority.
  4. First-Ever US-Japan Space Engagement Talks

    • Who: US Space Force and Japanese space officials
    • What: Held the inaugural Space Engagement Talks to improve combined space operations and establish a roadmap for future collaboration.
    • Why: These talks underline the importance of international partnerships in accomplishing shared space objectives.
  5. Mitsui Sumitomo Investing in Space Insurance

    • Who: Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance, a Japanese insurer
    • What: Began investing in space insurance.
    • Why: They are betting on the growth of the space industry and expect space insurance to become a significant revenue source.
  6. China Tests Engine for Crewed Lunar Mission

    • Who: China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation
    • What: Conducted a trial run of the main rocket engine for its planned crewed lunar mission.
    • Why: This test provides crucial data for the future development of the rocket, bolstering China's lunar ambitions.
  7. Skyroot's Successful Engine Test Fire

    • Who: Indian rocket company Skyroot
    • What: Announced the successful static test fire of their Ramen II engine.
    • Why: This marks a significant step forward for India's domestic space industry and contributes to the company's broader launch ambitions.
  8. BT Increases Rural Internet Coverage via Satellites

    • Who: UK telecoms company BT
    • What: Announced it's utilizing OneWeb's satellite constellation to improve internet coverage across rural parts of the UK.
    • Why: This move aims to bridge the digital divide by bringing improved connectivity to hard-to-reach areas.
  9. SpaceX's Falcon 9 Launch

    • Who: SpaceX
    • What: Conducted the 36th launch of the year from Florida's space coast, delivering 22 Starlink satellites into orbit.
    • Why: This contributes to SpaceX's goal of providing global broadband internet coverage through the Starlink network.
  10. Featured Interview: Phnam Bagley, Founding Partner of Nonfiction on space architecture. You can connect with Phnam on Linkedin and learn more about Nonfiction on their website.

Tuesday, 7/25/23: Space investors go full Oprah. You get money, and you get money!

  1. Impulse Space Raises $45 Million in Oversubscribed Series A Round

    • Who: Impulse Space, a space logistics firm, along with its investors, RTX Ventures, Founders Fund, Lux Capital, Airbus Ventures, and Space Capital.
    • What: Raised an oversubscribed $45 million series A round to support their LEO Express-1 mission and the development of the Helios delivery vehicle.
    • Why: This funding will help Impulse Space expand its capabilities in last-mile orbital payload delivery services for small satellites, thereby contributing to the growth of the LEO economy.
  2. NASA Tipping Point Program Awards for Lunar Projects

    • Who: NASA, Astrobotic, and Blue Origin.
    • What: NASA's Tipping Point program awarded $34.6 million to Astrobotic for a demonstration on the Moon, and $35 million to Blue Origin for their Blue Alchemist program.
    • Why: These investments will aid in the development of lunar power transmission and the production of scalable solar power systems from lunar dust respectively, advancing NASA's lunar mission objectives.
  3. Spire Global Receives ESA Contract for EURIALO Project

    • Who: European Space Agency (ESA) and Spire Global.
    • What: Spire Global has been awarded a €16 million contract for the EURIALO project, which aims to determine the exact position of a plane by geolocating its radio frequency signals.
    • Why: The project is designed to provide an independent assessment of a plane’s location, increasing the reliability and safety of global aviation systems.
  4. Space DOTS Secures $1.5 Million in Pre-Seed Funding

    • Who: London-based space startup, Space DOTS.
    • What: Raised $1.5 million in pre-seed funding to commercialize their first product, the Barnacle DOT.
    • Why: The funding will help Space DOTS further its mission to accelerate materials development and mitigate mission failures, contributing to the overall reliability and success of space missions.
  5. Maxar Technologies Completes Critical Design Review for L3Harris Technologies

    • Who: Maxar Technologies and L3Harris Technologies.
    • What: Completed the first Critical Design Review of the Maxar 300 series bus as a part of the Space Development Agency’s Tranche 1 Tracking Layer program.
    • Why: This marks a significant step in the program that aims to provide warning and tracking of missile threats, enhancing global security.
  6. Atomos Space to Launch Internally Designed Spacecraft

    • Who: Atomos Space and SpaceX.
    • What: Atomos plans to launch two internally designed spacecraft, Quark and Gluon, on SpaceX's Transporter-10 early next year.
    • Why: The mission aims to demonstrate Atomos’ Quark Orbital Transfer Vehicle's capabilities in rendezvous, docking, refueling, and orbital transfer, which could revolutionize in-space services.
  7. Delay in STARCOM’s Orbital Warfare Exercise

    • Who: Space Training and Readiness Command (STARCOM) and Space Force.
    • What: The first STARCOM exercise, Red Skies, has been delayed without an official reason.
    • Why: This delay follows the recent change in command for STARCOM and highlights the challenges in coordinating complex space exercises.
  8. Updates on ISS Expedition 69

    • Who: The crew of the International Space Station (ISS) Expedition 69.
    • What: The crew has been working on various science experiments, with a theme of water in space.
    • Why: These experiments contribute to our understanding of human health, robotics, and the potential for long-term life support in space, thereby supporting future human space exploration missions.
  9. Featured Interview: Tan Zu, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University Taiwan. You can connect with Tan Zu on LinkedIn and learn more about National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University on their website.

Wednesday, 7/26/23: What do satellite spectrum licensing regs have to do with space debris?

  1. Rejection of the Satellite and Telecommunications Streamlining Act

    • Who: US House of Representatives, Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and various space advocacy and industry groups such as The National Space Society, The Space Frontier Foundation, and Beyond Earth Institute.
    • What: The House of Representatives rejected the Satellite and Telecommunications Streamlining Act, HR 1338. This proposed bill aimed to update regulations around satellite spectrum licensing and includes a provision for specific, measurable, and technology-neutral performance objectives for space safety and orbital debris.
    • Why: The bill was controversial due to its perceived overreach into the responsibilities of the FCC, with many arguing that the FCC lacks the authority and expertise to regulate space commerce and space safety effectively.
  2. Space Force's Commercial Augmentation Service Reserve (CASR) Draft

    • Who: US Space Force, Space Systems Command’s Commercial Space Office (COMSO), and the commercial satellite industry.
    • What: The Space Force released a draft reserve plan named CASR. The plan would allow the Space Force to call upon commercial satellites in times of conflict.
    • Why: This plan is seen as a space equivalent to the existing Air Force and Navy civil reserve fleets, enhancing US military capabilities in space during times of need.
  3. Increase in Military Space Spending

    • Who: The US military and Space Foundation.
    • What: The Space Foundation’s report highlights a significant increase in military space spending, rising to an estimated $54 billion in 2022 from $45 billion in 2021. It's expected to increase further in the coming years.
    • Why: The US military is increasingly looking to space for defense, driving this surge in spending. However, actual spending figures for other countries, like China, remain unclear.
  4. Power Outage at Johnson Space Center

    • Who: NASA, Johnson Space Center, and the crew of the International Space Station (ISS).
    • What: A power outage occurred at the Johnson Space Center, causing a 90-minute disconnection with the ISS. It’s the first time NASA has had to use backup systems to take control.
    • Why: This incident highlights the importance of backup systems and international cooperation, as Russia was able to relay the problem to the astronauts aboard the ISS.
  5. NASA Tipping Point Funding

    • Who: NASA, Astrobotics, Blue Origin, and nine other US companies.
    • What: NASA has granted Tipping Point funding totaling nearly $70 million to Astrobotics and Blue Origin. A further $80 million was divided among nine other companies for the development of technologies supporting long-term exploration on the Moon and in space.
    • Why: This funding is aimed at promoting the development of innovative technologies such as lunar surface power systems and in-space 3D printing tools, to bolster America's future space exploration capabilities.
  6. China's First Flat-Panel Stackable Satellite Launch

    • Who: China's Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center, Skysight, and GalaxySpace.
    • What: China launched its first flat-panel stackable satellite with a flexible solar wing, along with three remote sensing satellites.
    • Why: This launch represents the latest advance in China's growing space capabilities. The satellites will be used for remote sensing observation.
  7. Leaf Space's Series B Funding Round

    • Who: Leaf Space, a global provider of ground segment data collection services for satellite operators, and the European Investment Bank.
    • What: Leaf Space successfully raised 20 million euros in a series B round, in addition to 15 million euros in venture debt through the European Investment Bank.
    • Why: This funding will support Leaf Space's ongoing operations, serving its approximately 40 government and commercial customers worldwide.
  8. Featured Interview: David Luber, Deputy Director of the Cybersecurity Directorate at the National Security Agency, on space systems as critical infrastructure and cyber defense.

Thursday, 7/27/23: The future is nuclear.

  1. Lockheed Martin Secures DRACO Contract

    • Who: Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and Lockheed Martin.
    • What: Lockheed Martin has been selected by DARPA to develop a demonstration spacecraft powered by nuclear thermal propulsion under the Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Operations (DRACO) project.
    • Why: The development of nuclear engines is crucial because they are several times more powerful than existing chemical propulsion systems. This could substantially reduce the transit time for long-distance missions to places like the Moon or Mars.
  2. Aerojet Rocketdyne's Contract for Radioisotope Power Systems

    • Who: Aerojet Rocketdyne and NASA.
    • What: Aerojet Rocketdyne has secured a contract to build and demonstrate critical components for an updated radioisotope power system, an essential tool for NASA's deep space exploration program.
    • Why: Radioisotope power systems have been used in spacecraft for decades and play a vital role in the longevity and success of deep space missions. The upgrade aims to further advance these systems.
  3. L3Harris' Acquisition of Aerojet Rocketdyne

    • Who: L3Harris and Aerojet Rocketdyne.
    • What: L3Harris has been approved by the Federal Trade Commission to proceed with its acquisition of Aerojet Rocketdyne.
    • Why: This acquisition is noteworthy as it was previously under scrutiny for potential antitrust concerns. The approval paves the way for a more substantial presence in the aerospace industry.
  4. Boeing's Financial Struggles

    • Who: Boeing.
    • What: Boeing's Starliner astronaut spacecraft program has reported a $257 million US dollar charge, bringing the program’s overrun costs to $1.5 billion dollars. The program's schedule has been further delayed due to vehicle issues.
    • Why: The financial struggles and delays in the Starliner program demonstrate the challenges faced by major aerospace companies in their endeavors to advance human space travel.
  5. Bankruptcy of Kleos Space

    • Who: Kleos Space.
    • What: Kleos Space, a Luxembourg based defense and intelligence company, has initiated bankruptcy proceedings due to failed fundraising efforts and operational issues.
    • Why: The company's bankruptcy highlights the high-risk nature of the space industry, particularly for companies specializing in advanced technology like satellite clusters for radio-frequency signal detection.
  6. Massive Contract Awarded by the US Defense Information Systems Agency and the U.S. Space Force

    • Who: US Defense Information Systems Agency, U.S. Space Force’s Space Systems Command, and 16 different companies.
    • What: Sixteen companies, including SpaceX and Amazon’s Kuiper, have been awarded five-year contracts to establish commercial communications for military use.
    • Why: This unprecedented multiple partner/multiple award contract model aims to deliver capabilities to the military more quickly and at a lower cost compared to traditional procurement methods.
  7. Indian Space Program Privatization

    • Who: Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Center (IN-SPACe) and various private companies.
    • What: IN-SPACe is opening bids for the construction of its small satellite launch rocket to private companies, with 20 companies already expressing interest.
    • Why: This privatization effort aims to increase India's share of the global satellite launch market, following the trend set by the US.
  8. Grant Awarded to Pixxel by the Indian Air Force

    • Who: Pixxel and the Indian Air Force's iDEX Prime program.
    • What: Earth-imaging firm Pixxel has been granted funding to manufacture small multi-payload satellites equipped with various applications.
    • Why: The grant will allow Pixxel to contribute to the growing field of satellite imaging and deepen India's capabilities in space technology.
  9. Development of Third Scottish Spaceport

    • Who: The Western Isles council, QinetiQ, Rhea Group, and Commercial Space Technologies.
    • What: Plans for the construction of a third spaceport on the island of North Uist in Scotland have been approved.
    • Why: The addition of another spaceport signifies the growing interest and investment in the space industry within Scotland. This project could potentially accommodate up to ten sub-orbital rocket launches annually.
  10. Featured Interview: Jules Lancee, Founder of We Work In Space. You can connect with Jules on LinkedIn and visit We Work In Space online.

Friday, 7/28/23: US pushes for space policies and regulations.

  1. FAA Preparing for Potential Commercial Spaceflight Regulation

    • Who: The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
    • What: The FAA has formed a rulemaking committee for commercial human spaceflight occupant safety, with the aim of developing and understanding the potential costs of future regulations. This move is in anticipation of the possible end of the commercial spaceflight learning period in October 2023.
    • Why: Regardless of whether the learning period is extended, the FAA wants to be ready for the time when commercial spaceflight requires regulation. The committee will be working on their recommendations until the next summer, when they will submit them to Congress.
  2. Space Infrastructure Act Introduced in the US

    • Who: A bipartisan group of US senators.
    • What: They introduced the Space Infrastructure Act, a bill aiming to designate space systems, services, and technology as a sector of critical infrastructure.
    • Why: The purpose is to ensure that the space industry gets the resources and security protections it needs. Currently, the space industry has to collect threat and security information from various existing critical sectors.
  3. Argentina Joins the Artemis Accords

    • Who: Argentina, the 28th country to sign the Artemis Accords.
    • What: The country has signed the Artemis Accords, an agreement designed to guide international cooperation in space exploration.
    • Why: The Artemis Accords deepen international space partnerships and promote peaceful, safe, and transparent exploration.
  4. Strengthened Space Cooperation between Italy and the US

    • Who: President Joe Biden and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni.
    • What: Both countries released a joint statement reinforcing their space exploration partnership and support for the principles of the Artemis Accords.
    • Why: The statement underlines the importance of addressing space threats, fostering innovative commercial space partnerships, and promoting space-related investments and industrial collaboration, including on commercial space stations.
  5. NASA's Progress with Low Earth Orbit Platforms

    • Who: NASA and four US companies: Axiom, Blue Origin, Nanoracks, and Northrop Grumman.
    • What: NASA has held System Requirements Reviews with these companies, all of which are developing new low Earth orbit platforms for the agency.
    • Why: These efforts are in place to continue NASA’s research and technology development after the retirement of the International Space Station.
  6. L3Harris Technologies Completes Acquisition of Aerojet Rocketdyne

    • Who: L3Harris Technologies and Aerojet Rocketdyne.
    • What: L3Harris Technologies has completed its acquisition of Aerojet Rocketdyne for $4.7 billion, creating a fourth business segment within the company.
    • Why: The acquisition is aimed at strengthening the defense industrial base, enhancing competition, and accelerating innovation for a critical supplier of propulsion systems.
  7. Featured Interview: Casey Anglada DeRaad, CEO NewSpace Nexus, a non-profit company dedicated to helping new space companies get to market. You can connect with Casey on LinkedIn and learn more about NewSpace Nexus on their website.

Saturday, 7/22/23: Casey DeRaad on NewSpace Nexus and navigating government procurement.

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