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Signals and Space | V1 | Issue 2 | 04.24.23

This week: A Symposium, a wet dress, a new fund, and it’s only Monday. Aggressors on the horizon, and above it. Big trouble in little Vulcan. 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 this week:

Monday, 4/17/23: A Symposium, a wet dress, a new fund, and it’s only Monday.

  1. SpaceX Starship's first integrated flight test:
    • Who: SpaceX
    • What: Starship's first integrated flight test delayed due to a frozen pressurization valve
    • Why: To launch the massive Starship, powered by 33 Raptor engines using liquid oxygen and methane as propellant
  2. UK Space Agency's International Bilateral Fund (IBF):
    • Who: UK Space Agency
    • What: Announced £20 million for the IBF to support international relationships in the space sector
    • Why: To fund research in industry, academia, and international partners, including emerging space nations
  3. Orbit Fab's Series A funding round:
    • Who: Orbit Fab
    • What: Raised $28.5 million in Series A funding
    • Why: To develop on-orbit refueling services, extending the life of satellites and preparing for their first on-orbit services in 2024
  4. SpaceX Transporter 7 rideshare launch:
    • Who: SpaceX
    • What: Launched over 50 spacecraft to sun-synchronous orbit on a Falcon 9 rocket
    • Why: To deliver microsatellites and nanosatellites to augment existing constellations
  5. Chinese Space Station's oxygen and water regeneration:
    • Who: Chinese Space Station
    • What: Produces 100% of its oxygen supply and recycles 95% of its water resources
    • Why: To reduce the amount of supplies needed from the ground by six tons a year
  6. Boeing's Protected Tactical Satcom Prototype (PTS-P):
    • Who: Boeing
    • What: Developing the PTS-P, an anti-jamming payload for the US Space Force Wideband Global Satcom 11 satellite
    • Why: To counter GPS jamming techniques and improve the resilience of position navigation and timing systems
  7. FAA's consideration of airspace sharing near launch sites:
    • Who: FAA
    • What: Considering delaying commercial space launches to minimize disruption to commercial air travel
    • Why: To ensure fair use of airspace and reduce flight delays, fuel consumption, and CO2 emissions
  8. NASA's super pressure balloon launch:
    • Who: NASA
    • What: Launched a pumpkin-shaped super pressure balloon from Wanaka Airport, New Zealand
    • Why: To test the balloon's super pressure technology and search for new large galaxy clusters using an onboard telescope from Princeton University
  9. Featured interview: Our featured guest is Steve Luczynski, Board Chair of the Aerospace Village, on the Aerospace Village nonprofit, their mission, their programs, and their upcoming activities at the RSA ConferenceYou can follow Steve on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Tuesday, 4/18/23: Aggressors on the horizon, and above it.

  1. US Space Force's focus on space domain awareness:
    • Who: US Space Force, Lt Gen Philip Garrant
    • What: Funding additional sensors on the ground and in space, starting in 2024
    • Why: To ramp up needed capabilities and protect large, expensive satellites in geostationary orbit (GEO) from potential orbital attacks
  2. ADLER-2 satellite for debris tracking:
    • Who: Austrian Space Forum
    • What: ADLER-2 satellite launched on SpaceX's Transporter 7 rideshare
    • Why: To enhance debris tracking in low-earth orbit (LEO) and study clouds and aerosols in the atmosphere
  3. Lockheed Martin's in-orbit servicing experiment:
    • Who: Lockheed Martin
    • What: Successful in-orbit servicing experiment with two cubesats
    • Why: To demonstrate the viability of their in-orbit servicing operations
  4. Amazon Web Services' third annual space accelerator program:
    • Who: Amazon Web Services, 14 participating companies
    • What: Four-week program starting in May
    • Why: To provide technical and business support for startup space companies
  5. European Space Agency's human spaceflight initiatives:
    • Who: European Space Agency (ESA), Director General Josef Aschbacher
    • What: New space summit in Seville, Spain to discuss human spaceflight program and launch strategy
    • Why: To guide planning and evaluate cost estimates for European human spaceflight infrastructure in orbit and on the moon
  6. Rocket Lab's new hypersonic launch vehicle:
    • Who: Rocket Lab
    • What: New rocket called HASTE (Hypersonic Accelerator Suborbital Test Electron)
    • Why: To accelerate the development of hypersonic technology and provide hypersonic launch test capability under the MACH-TB project and DIU's HyCAT program
  7. Synthetaic's AI tool for satellite photos:
    • Who: Synthetaic, AI company
    • What: Rapid Automatic Image Categorization (RAIC) tool
    • Why: To find any large object in satellite photos of Earth within 24 hours, improving object tracking capabilities
  8. Featured interview: Chad Anderson, Founder and Managing Partner at Space Capital, on the state of the space economy, venture capital, the unique challenges and opportunities for space businesses. Chad just published his book, The Space Economy, available now. You can follow Chad on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Wednesday, 4/19/23: Big trouble in little Vulcan.

  1. Valuations for space companies decline:
    • Who: Panelists from Citi, Space Fund, and Voyager Space at Symposium
    • What: Noted that valuations for space companies are decreasing, potentially leading to buy-outs and consolidations
    • Why: Previous inflated valuations lacked performance to back them up; investors are now more cautious and valuations are becoming more realistic
  2. DoD pushes for normalizing space as an operational domain:
    • Who: John Plumb, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy
    • What: Advocated for treating space like land, sea, or air domains
    • Why: To enhance deterrence, preserve a secure and stable space environment, and strengthen relationships with international partners
  3. United Launch Alliance Vulcan Centaur Rocket faces delays:
    • Who: United Launch Alliance (ULA)
    • What: Vulcan Centaur Rocket's first national security mission likely to be delayed
    • Why: Vulcan needs to complete two successful orbital missions before launching U.S. military and intelligence satellites
  4. Northrop Grumman reaches critical design review milestone:
    • Who: Northrop Grumman
    • What: Completed critical design review for Space Development Agency (SDA) communications satellites
    • Why: To stay on track for delivering 42 satellites by 2024, which will provide data transfer and communication capabilities
  5. UK space company Space Forge plans US expansion:
    • Who: Space Forge
    • What: Plans to set up American headquarters for manufacturing ForgeStar satellites and payloads
    • Why: To capitalize on the CHIPs Act and NASA's push for in-space manufacturing
  6. Russian cosmonauts complete spacewalk:
    • Who: Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin
    • What: Completed a nearly eight-hour spacewalk
    • Why: To relocate a radiator from the Rassvet module to the Nauka science module
  7. SpaceX launches upgraded v2 Starlink satellites:
    • Who: SpaceX
    • What: Launched 21 additional upgraded v2 Starlink satellites
    • Why: To continue expanding the Starlink satellite network
  8. NASA releases Planetary Defense strategy:
    • Who: NASA
    • What: Released a strategy focusing on interagency and international collaboration for planetary defense
    • Why: To detect near-earth objects and develop technologies to mitigate potential hazards
  9. Mars Sample Return mission may affect other NASA programs:
    • Who: NASA Administrator Bill Nelson
    • What: Requested an additional $250 million for the Mars Sample Return mission
    • Why: To keep the mission on track for an end-of-decade launch, although it may impact other NASA programs
  10. European Commission considers American launch options for Galileo satellites:
    • Who: European Commission
    • What: Looking for an agreement with private American space companies for launching Galileo geo-navigation satellites
    • Why: Due to delays in Ariane 6 production and the cancellation of launches on Russian Soyuz rockets
  11. Challenges faced by Ariane 6 detailed in Ars Technica article:
    • Who: Eric Berger
    • What: A feature piece on the challenges faced by Ariane 6
    • Why: To provide insight into the delays and issues impacting the development of Ariane 6
  12. Featured interview: Bryce Kennedy, President of ACSP and Attorney at Aegis Space Law, on recent developments in space policy and law, and how to make the space environment safe and viable for business. You can follow Bryce on LinkedIn and through the Association of Commercial Space Professionals.

Thursday, 4/20/23: Holy Starship, Batman!

  1. SpaceX Starship Test:
    • Who: SpaceX team
    • What: Starship test launch with successful main engine cutoff and super heavy booster flip, but failed stage separation and a rapid unscheduled disassembly
    • Why: To gather data for future improvements and eventually get the first woman and first person of color to the moon for the Artemis III mission
  2. Virgin Orbit Bankruptcy and Future Launch Plans:
    • Who: Virgin Orbit
    • What: Filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and plans to launch later this year
    • Why: To address past missteps, fix technical issues, and potentially find buyers
  3. ESA's Lunar Resources Campaign:
    • Who: European Space Agency (ESA)
    • What: Launched a campaign for space industry input on lunar resources utilization
    • Why: To identify knowledge and technical gaps in the lunar resource value chain, enable in-space economics, and advance applications
  4. ESA's Space-based Solar Power Contracts:
    • Who: European Space Agency, Arthur D. Little, and Thales Alenia Italy
    • What: Awarded contracts for studies on space-based solar power plants
    • Why: To assess benefits, commercial opportunities, and risks for space-based solar power in terrestrial energy and Europe's decarbonization plan
  5. NASA's COSMIC Initiative:
    • Who: NASA
    • What: Created the Consortium for Space Mobility and ISAM Capabilities (COSMIC)
    • Why: To advance in-space servicing, assembly, and manufacturing technologies and improve communication between government, industry, and academia
  6. Fleet Space Technologies' Defense Contract:
    • Who: Fleet Space Technologies and Australia's Defence Space Command
    • What: Signed a 6.4 million AUD contract for developing a LEO satellite communications system
    • Why: To focus on tactical communications and data transmission in areas with limited connectivity
  7. ELA and Phantom Space Corporation Partnership:
    • Who: Equatorial Launch Australia (ELA) and Phantom Space Corporation
    • What: Expanding partnership for developing mission profiles and launch requirements for multiple launches from Arnhem Space Centre
    • Why: To collaborate on commercial and government launch opportunities in the Asia Pacific region
  8. Aerojet Rocketdyne's Orion Propulsion Contract:
    • Who: Aerojet Rocketdyne and Lockheed Martin
    • What: Received a $67 million contract for providing propulsion systems for NASA's Artemis 6, 7, and 8 missions
    • Why: To support the Artemis program and the future of human spaceflight
  9. Firefly Aerospace's National Security Launch Plans:
    • Who: Firefly Aerospace and Northrop Grumman
    • What: Developing a medium-lift rocket for US national security launch contracts
    • Why: To compete in the National Security Space Launch Phase 3 for LEO missions
  10. Key Issues for National Security:
    • Who: US Department of Defense, US Space Command, and National Reconnaissance Office
    • What: Various updates and developments for national security space, including closer collaboration with the commercial space sector, full spectrum operations, faster adoption of commercial technology, on-orbit space operations, and space-based ground moving target indicators
    • Why: To address increasing defense and security needs in space and leverage rapid innovation for defense applications
  11. Featured Interview: Michael Madrid, Director of Strategic Relationships at Starfish Space, on in-space servicing, assembly, and manufacturing (ISAM) and Starfish Space's Series A fundraising round. Starfish Space is our T-Minus launch partner. You can follow Michael on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Friday, 4/21/23: Investing and operating in the space domain.

  1. VC funding in space startups:
    • Who: Space Capital
    • What: Q1 2023 numbers show a 50% decrease in VC funding for space startups compared to the previous year, with $76 billion invested globally
    • Why: Economic challenges and lean times for many companies have led to a reduction in investments
  2. Iridium Q1 2023 financials:
    • Who: Iridium, Matt Desch (CEO)
    • What: Company reports $9.8 million net income and $111.9 million EBITDA, a 9% YOY increase; revenue up 22% YOY
    • Why: Growth in commercial business, new subscribers, and equipment sales
  3. Maxar shareholders approve acquisition by Advent International:
    • Who: Maxar, Advent International, Daniel Jablonsky (Maxar CEO)
    • What: Shareholders approve $4 billion acquisition, allowing Maxar to go private
    • Why: Accelerate work on a new Earth Observation satellite constellation
  4. L3Harris awarded $145 million contract from the US Space Force:
    • Who: L3Harris, US Space Force
    • What: Contract to update space domain awareness infrastructure, specifically MOSSAIC program
    • Why: Improve machine-to-machine tasking and response capabilities for spacecraft
  5. Space Development Agency Tranche 2 solicitations:
    • Who: Space Development Agency (SDA)
    • What: Solicitations for Tranche 2 LEO constellation and Transport Layer Alpha set for summer, Tranche 2 Tracking in fall
    • Why: Further develop and expand space capabilities and technologies
  6. FCC's new rules for NGSO operators:
    • Who: Federal Communications Bureau (FCC), Space Bureau
    • What: New rules governing how non-geostationary orbit (NGSO) operators share spectrum and encourage coordination
    • Why: Manage growing number of satellite requests and prevent interference among systems
  7. Astra Space awarded $11.5 million Task Order from US Space Force:
    • Who: Astra Space, US Space Force
    • What: Task order for STP-S29B launch service to conduct scientific experiments and technology demonstrations
    • Why: Advance the Department of Defense's space capabilities
  8. NASA Administrator Bill Nelson on the US-China space race:
    • Who: Bill Nelson (NASA Administrator), House Appropriations Committee
    • What: Warns of a space race between the US and China, emphasizing the need to maintain the Wolf Amendment, a legislative provision that restricts cooperation between Chinese and American organizations in space activities, allowing collaboration only under limited circumstances with proper security review and congressional notification
    • Why: Protect lunar south polar region resources from being claimed by China
  9. US Space Command cooperation agreements:
    • Who: US Space Command, Australia's Space Defense, Italian Military, Peruvian Air Force
    • What: New cooperation agreements signed during the 38th space symposium in Colorado Springs
    • Why: Enhance the safety, stability, security, and sustainability of spaceflight for all
  10. DARPA's BRIDGES initiative:
    • Who: Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)
    • What: Seeks proposals for antenna designs, materials, manufacturing, or processing under the BRIDGES initiative
    • Why: Connect small companies to classified Department of Defense (DoD) research and development efforts
  11. Featured Interview: Scott Stalker, Master Gunnery Sergeant in the US Marine Corps and Command Senior Enlisted Leader at US Space Command, shares how the combatant command is adapting to new challenges in the digital era of space operations, new operational concepts, and building the force to deter aggression. You can follow US Space Command on LinkedIn and Twitter, and you can follow MGySgt Scott Stalker on LinkedIn.

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