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Signals and Space | V1 | Issue 19 | 08.21.23

New space moon race. History never repeats itself, but it does often rhyme. Q2 reports roll in for Intuitive Machines, Astra and AST SpaceMobile. 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, 8/14/23: New space moon race. History never repeats itself, but it does often rhyme. 

  1. Russia's Luna-25 Mission

    • Who: Russia and its space agency, Roscosmos.
    • What: Launch of Luna-25 spacecraft to the lunar south pole, with data processing already begun.
    • Why: To soft land at the lunar south pole around the same time as India's Chandrayaan 3, emphasizing the presence of lunar ice which is deemed valuable.
  2. Russia-China Joint Space Ambitions

    • Who: Russia and China.
    • What: Announcement of further lunar missions, possible crewed missions, and a lunar base.
    • Why: Amplifying the intensity of the new space race, echoing cold-war era parallels.
  3. Vostochny Cosmodrome's Airport Development

    • Who: Russian Space Agency.
    • What: The airport at the Vostochny Cosmodrome received its first airplane, while still under construction.
    • Why: Testing the technical readiness of its runway and furthering Russian space infrastructure.
  4. India's Human Spaceflight and Solar Missions

    • Who: Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
    • What: Parachute deployment tests for the Gaganyaan Mission and preparation for the Aditya-L1 solar mission.
    • Why: Pioneering India's human spaceflight program and studying the sun from an exclusive orbit.
  5. China's Satellite Endeavors

    • Who: China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp.
    • What: Launch of five new satellites for an integrated transportation security system and the L-SAR4 01 satellite for disaster monitoring.
    • Why: Boosting security and disaster prevention capabilities through advanced satellite systems.
  6. US-Japan-South Korea Space Collaboration

    • Who: The U.S., Japan, and South Korea.
    • What: An upcoming summit addressing enhanced space cooperation amid China's growing space capabilities.
    • Why: Strengthening space defense and surveillance in the western pacific region, leveraging mutual strengths.
  7. U.S. Space Force's Commercial Satellite Integration

    • Who: U.S. Space Force.
    • What: Usage of commercial satellite imagery in South American military exercises to locate illegal fishing boats.
    • Why: Demonstrating the value of unclassified commercial satellite data for varied applications and emphasizing international data-sharing.
  8. Space Industry's Carbon Emissions

    • Who: Global space industry.
    • What: A study pointing out rocket launch emissions and the exploration of cleaner fuel alternatives.
    • Why: Addressing environmental concerns and the industry's push towards sustainability.
  9. Second Quarter Earnings Reports

    • Who: Space companies like BlackSky, Redwire, Rocket Lab, Spire Global, Viasat, Astra, Intuitive Machine, Momentus, Sidus Space, and Terran Orbital.
    • What: Positive earnings reports from several companies with anticipation for upcoming quarterly reports from others.
    • Why: Reflecting the financial health and potential growth of space-related businesses.
  10. Featured interview: Annika Wollermann Umpierrez, Chief Commercial Officer at Polaris. You can connect with Annika on LinkedIn and learn more about Polaris on their website.

Tuesday, 8/15/23: Q2 reports roll in for Intuitive Machines, Astra and AST SpaceMobile.

  1. Q2 Financial Reports: Intuitive Machines, Astra, and AST SpaceMobile

    • Who: Intuitive Machines, Astra, and AST SpaceMobile.
    • What: Released their Q2 financial reports.
    • Why: Important updates on company progress and financial health in the growing space sector.
  2. Intuitive Machines Lunar Mission

    • Who: Intuitive Machines.
    • What: Announced launch date for their first lunar lander mission set for November this year on SpaceX's Falcon 9.
    • Why: A significant development in private lunar missions, further solidifying public-private collaborations in space exploration.
  3. AST SpaceMobile's BlueBird Satellites

    • Who: AST SpaceMobile.
    • What: Progressed in 4G LTE cellular broadband capabilities; now focusing on BlueBird satellite manufacturing and upcoming trials with Telefónica.
    • Why: Advancing space-based broadband services and expanding connectivity for underserved regions.
  4. Astra's Q2 Developments

    • Who: Astra.
    • What: Announced delays, job cuts, and restructuring, but also highlighted new shipments and mission readiness.
    • Why: Despite challenges, Astra continues to make progress in its business objectives.
  5. Planet's Acquisition of Sinergise

    • Who: Planet.
    • What: Finalized acquisition of Sinergise to enhance its earth observation platform.
    • Why: Strengthening of earth observation capabilities and growth in geospatial data sector.
  6. Astrobotic's Lunar Surface Simulator

    • Who: Astrobotic.
    • What: Initiated construction of a simulated lunar surface for testing and research.
    • Why: Enhancing capabilities in lunar landing technologies and providing a research environment for lunar missions.
  7. Rocket Lab's NASA Collaboration

    • Who: Rocket Lab and NASA.
    • What: Announced a double launch deal for NASA’s PREFIRE climate change mission.
    • Why: Increasing collaboration between commercial launch providers and government agencies to fulfill research objectives.
  8. Viasat's Ground Station in Japan

    • Who: Viasat and Infostellar.
    • What: Inaugurated a Real-Time Earth ground station in Hokkaido, Japan.
    • Why: Streamlining data delivery and strengthening capabilities for LEO missions globally.
  9. Roscosmos and the International Astronautical Congress

    • Who: Roscosmos.
    • What: Plans to attend the 2023 International Astronautical Congress after skipping the 2022 event; yet to receive partners for its new space station project.
    • Why: Emphasizing Russia's role in international space collaborations, though recent efforts seem to be facing challenges.
  10. Executive Moves: Vast and Orbex

    • Who: Vast and Orbex.
    • What: Leadership reshuffles; significant new hires, including former SpaceX exec Alex Hudson for Vast and Lesley Still for Orbex.
    • Why: Bolstering their expertise and leadership as both companies push forward in space tech and launch operations.
  11. Featured interview: Bryce Kennedy, President of the Association of Commercial Space Professionals (ACSP). You can connect with Bryce on LinkedIn and find out more about ACSP on their website and their bootcamp at space.n2k.com/ACSP.

Wednesday, 8/16/23: Traffic report from lunar orbit.

  1. Russia’s Luna-25 Enters Lunar Orbit

    • Who: Russia and Roscosmos (the Russian Space Agency)
    • What: Luna-25 reached lunar orbit, the first mission to the moon for Russia in 47 years. The spacecraft has been sharing images of the Earth and Moon.
    • Why: To continue lunar exploration and pave the way for an upcoming planned landing.
  2. India’s Chandrayaan-3 in Final Lunar Orbit

    • Who: India and the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)
    • What: Chandrayaan-3 has reached its final lunar orbit, preparing for a powered descent to the lunar surface.
    • Why: To continue lunar exploration and position India prominently in the space race.
  3. Delay in Russia's New Spacecraft

    • Who: Russia and Roscosmos
    • What: Delay in the launch of the new spacecraft, the transport spaceship Eagle.
    • Why: Specific details have not been released, but the launch is postponed until 2028.
  4. SpaceX's Starship Report to FAA

    • Who: SpaceX and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)
    • What: SpaceX handed over a report concerning its April 20 Starship flight test anomalies, preparing for potential license modification.
    • Why: To address safety concerns, meet regulatory requirements, and acquire authorization for future launches.
  5. DARPA's Lunar Economy Study

    • Who: US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)
    • What: Announcement of a 10-Year Lunar Architecture capability study to define opportunities and technical challenges for lunar activities.
    • Why: To foster rapid scientific and commercial activity on the Moon.
  6. US Space Force Satellite Deactivation

    • Who: US Space Force
    • What: Decommissioning and placing GSSAP Space Vehicle 2 in a graveyard orbit after being in service since 2014.
    • Why: Natural progression of satellite lifecycle and maintenance of operational fleet.
  7. Integrate Secures Funding and Space Force Contract

    • Who: Seattle-based company Integrate
    • What: Raised $3.4 million in funding and obtained a $1.25 million Space Force contract for software management services.
    • Why: To enhance the Space Force’s program management software platform.
  8. Terran Orbital's Financial Update

    • Who: Terran Orbital
    • What: A reported revenue increase and ambitious annual target, highlighting a significant deal for Rivada's LEO constellation.
    • Why: To communicate financial health and market position amidst investor concerns.
  9. European Space Agency on Climate Change

    • Who: Josef Aschbacher of the European Space Agency (ESA)
    • What: Highlighted global warming concerns and emphasized the importance of tackling climate change.
    • Why: To address funding challenges and advocate for continued leadership in environmental monitoring.
  10. ESA's MTG-S1 Weather Satellite Development

    • Who: European Space Agency (ESA)
    • What: Equipped MTG-S1 weather satellite with advanced instruments to enhance atmospheric observations.
    • Why: To improve weather forecasting and monitor air quality over Europe.
  11. Hack-A-Sat Contest at DefCon

    • Who: Space Force, Air Force Research Laboratory, and international teams
    • What: A cybersecurity competition to hack a live satellite in low earth orbit.
    • Why: To stress-test space cybersecurity measures and highlight the importance of protecting space assets.
  12. NASA's Funding for Space Weather Center

    • Who: NASA and the University of Michigan
    • What: A grant of $9.7 million to establish a Space Weather Center of Excellence.
    • Why: To improve space weather predictions and manage risk from harmful solar radiation.
  13. Ireland's CubeSat Launch Plans

    • Who: Ireland, University College Dublin, and the European Space Agency
    • What: The launch of EIRSAT-1, Ireland's first CubeSat, to track cosmic gamma ray bursts.
    • Why: To modernize gamma ray burst detection and position Ireland in the expanding space industry.
  14. Featured interview: Izzy House, presenter of the Space Marketing podcast. You can connect with Izzy on LinkedIn and find out more about her work on her website.

Thursday, 8/17/23: BAE agrees to a billion-dollar deal to buy Ball Aerospace.

  1. BAE Systems Agreement to Acquire Ball Aerospace

    • Who: BAE Systems and Ball Aerospace
    • What: BAE Systems finalizes an agreement to purchase Ball Aerospace for $5.6 billion.
    • Why: Ball Aerospace, also a manufacturer of spacecraft and defense components, aims to decrease its nearly $10 billion debt. The acquisition is expected to generate approximately $4.5 billion post-tax for Ball.
  2. Momentus Financial Woes

    • Who: Momentus, an in-space transportation company
    • What: Announces layoffs of 30% of its workforce due to financial challenges.
    • Why: Despite achieving their first million-dollar revenue quarter, the company disclosed insufficient cash to fund the upcoming year and is in need of additional capital.
  3. Chandrayaan-3 Lunar Lander Progress

    • Who: Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO)
    • What: Detached the Chandrayaan-3 lunar lander from its propulsion section.
    • Why: To make a soft landing attempt on the lunar south pole in the following week.
  4. Equatorial Launch Australia & INNOSPACE Deal

    • Who: Equatorial Launch Australia and Korean aerospace company, INNOSPACE
    • What: Signed a multi-launch contract.
    • Why: INNOSPACE is set to become the first commercial 'resident launcher' at the Australian spaceport, with launches starting in 2025.
  5. NASA's SpaceX Crew-7 Preparations

    • Who: Astronauts from Roscosmos, ESA, NASA, and JAXA
    • What: Entered quarantine ahead of their mission aboard the Dragon spacecraft, Endurance.
    • Why: It marks SpaceX's eighth human spaceflight and NASA's seventh crew rotation to the ISS since 2020.
  6. Texas A&M Space Institute Establishment

    • Who: Texas A&M University
    • What: Launching the Texas A&M Space Institute and a new facility.
    • Why: With a $350 million state investment, the focus is on mission training, robotics, and lunar and Martian research to strengthen regional space exploration leadership.
  7. SpeQtral Quantum Communication Mission

    • Who: SpeQtral, Kongsberg NanoAvionics, and Mbryonics
    • What: Partnership for SpeQtral-1 mission, an in-space demonstrator for quantum key distribution.
    • Why: If successful, the mission will provide a new capability for secure global communications.
  8. MyRadar's Orbital Wildfire Resilience Project

    • Who: MyRadar
    • What: Secured a NOAA Phase II grant for a project using satellites and AI to enhance wildfire resilience.
    • Why: Aims to develop swift wildfire alerts through a satellite constellation, providing global coverage.
  9. Kodiak Pacific Spaceport Complex Reopening

    • Who: Alaska Aerospace
    • What: Reopened the Kodiak Pacific Spaceport Complex for public tours.
    • Why: As part of the efforts to renew their land lease and possibly expand, they are enhancing public communication and involvement.
  10. Astrobotic's Lunar Simulator Test Bed

    • Who: Astrobotic (formerly Masten Space Systems) and NASA
    • What: Building a lunar simulator test bed and collaborating for the 2023 TechRise Challenge.
    • Why: The challenge will utilize Astrobotic's Lunar Surface Proving Ground to fly student payloads, further promoting space education and research.
  11. Featured interview: Scott Sacknoff and Emily Carney from Space 3.0 Foundation. You can connect with Scott and Emily on LinkedIn and find out more about Space 3.0 Foundation on their website.

Friday, 8/18/23: Fueling astronauts for EVAs.

  1. Axiom and GU Energy Labs Partner on Astronaut Nutrition

    • Who: Axiom Space and GU Energy Labs
    • What: Development of an advanced in-suit nutrition system for astronauts during spacewalks using GU energy gels.
    • Why: To provide necessary nutrients in a hands-free delivery system during long EVAs, enhancing astronaut endurance and performance.
  2. Rocket Lab Contracted by iQPS after Virgin Orbit's Bankruptcy

    • Who: Rocket Lab and iQPS (Q-shu Pioneers of Space, Inc.)
    • What: Rocket Lab will launch iQPS's QPS-SAR-5 satellite "TSUKUYOMI-I" on a dedicated mission from New Zealand.
    • Why: To fulfill iQPS's launch needs following Virgin Orbit’s bankruptcy.
  3. Joint Mission to Launch XR-ISM Spacecraft

    • Who: JAXA, NASA, and ESA
    • What: Launch of the XR-ISM spacecraft, which will study the universe’s extreme regions using high-resolution spectroscopy.
    • Why: To investigate cosmic extremes, contribute to the understanding of the universe, and apply new technology onboard the spacecraft.
  4. Sierra Space Contract with Air Force Research Lab

    • Who: Sierra Space and the Air Force Research Lab (AFRL)
    • What: A contract worth over $22 million US dollars for the maturation of the VORTEX engine, known as VR35K-A.
    • Why: Advancement of upper-stage engine development in partnership with AFRL to enhance propulsion technologies.
  5. SpaceX's Starlink Supports Hawaii After Fires

    • Who: SpaceX and Hawaii's Emergency Management
    • What: Deployment of Starlink terminals to support emergency management and recovery efforts after fires in Maui.
    • Why: Facilitate communication and internet access during emergencies in remote locations.
  6. Space Development Agency Awards to Various Firms

    • Who: Space Development Agency, SpaceX, Kuiper Government Solutions, and Aalyria Technologies
    • What: Awards for a 90-day project to study potential low Earth orbit backhaul capability.
    • Why: Enhance broadband data movement globally and provide greater data transmission capacity across the PWSA system.
  7. True Anomaly's New Facility for Military Satellites

    • Who: True Anomaly
    • What: Unveiling of their 35,000 sq. ft. manufacturing facility, GravityWorks, for military satellites and software.
    • Why: Increase satellite production capability with the aim of producing a satellite every five days.
  8. NASA's Infrastructure Challenge

    • Who: NASA
    • What: Reporting that 83% of NASA's facilities exceed their design life, with a significant annual maintenance funding gap.
    • Why: Raise awareness of the challenges NASA faces in terms of its aging infrastructure and the risks it poses to mission success.
  9. Artemis 4 to Use the Gateway Space Station

    • Who: NASA
    • What: Confirmation that the Artemis 4 mission will utilize the moon-orbiting Gateway space station.
    • Why: Capitalize on the Gateway for lunar research, Mars exploration, and studying radiation risks for long-term space missions.
  10. International Military Leaders Meet to Discuss Space Defense

    • Who: Military leaders from the UK, U.S., Australia, and Canada
    • What: Meeting at U.S. Space Command Headquarters in Colorado to strengthen collaborative efforts.
    • Why: Emphasize the need for international collaboration to deter threats in space and on Earth.
  11. Luna-25 Spacecraft Sends First Image of the Lunar Surface

    • Who: Russia's Luna-25 spacecraft
    • What: Transmission of its first image of the lunar crater Zeeman, with anticipation for its landing attempt.
    • Why: Explore the Moon's South Pole, test soft landing technology, and contribute to the understanding of lunar resources and effects of cosmic rays.
  12. Featured interview: Derek Harris, Head of Business Operations at Skyrora. You can connect with Derek on LinkedIn and find out more about Skyrora on their website.

Saturday, 8/19/23: Derek Harris, Head of Business Operations at Skyrora

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