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Signals and Space | V1 | Issue 23 | 09.18.23

Breaking human spaceflight records by chance. Could K2-18 b be showing signs of life? Firefly is quick to conquer the night. Space has a workforce problem. 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.

Biggest story of the week: Victus Nox. Hands down the most impressive feat this year. Here's what happened and why it matters: Firefly Aerospace launched its Alpha rocket to LEO carrying a payload for the US Space Force, known as Victus Nox (conquer the night), within 27 hours of launch notice. The previous record was 21 DAYS. The payload portion was equally impressive. Within 58 hours of notice, Millennium Space Systems prepped the payload, transported it 165 miles to Vandenberg, and integrated it with Alpha. This feat shows the US can quickly deploy assets in space when needed, providing a strategic advantage in the event of a contested space domain during armed conflict. Read more about it here.

In my unit, we always abbreviated two-word missions by combining the first two letters of each word. Not sure if it was intentional, but shout out to whichever Major on the Space Force staff named this mission VINO (VIctus NOx). Cheers 🍷🍾

It's a rapidly changing world out there so let's get to it. Here’s what happened last week and why it matters...


Bill Murray, Co-founder of rocket motor manufacturing company, Ursa Major, discusses the latest advancements in rocket motor technology.

Sassie Duggleby, co-founder and CEO of Venus Aerospace, discusses the future of hypersonic space travel.

Stephan Reckie, Executive Director at the Global Entrepreneurship Network, discusses entrepreneurship in space around the world.

Dr. Shawna Pandya, a Canadian physician and scientist-astronaut candidate with the International Institute for Astronautical Sciences, discussing her role and contributions to the field.

Zeke Clayson, Shiv Patel, and Frank Spellman, graduate students from George Washington University’s Space Policy Institute, discuss their paper on the commercial space mission authorization regime.


Cybersecurity PSA.

What: A major cyberattack targeted MGM Resorts, initiated possibly through LinkedIn.

Who: MGM Resorts, unknown hackers.

Why: With aerospace companies increasingly targeted, this event serves as a reminder to audit publicly available information that could be exploited.

Selected Reading: Ransomware in the casinos.


Ball Aerospace to Build NOAA Constellation.

What: Ball Aerospace awarded a NOAA contract to build a sounder for the GeoXO satellite program.
Who: Ball Aerospace, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Why: The sounder will provide 3D profiles of the atmosphere over North America, significantly enhancing weather prediction models. This could have broad commercial applications ranging from agriculture to disaster management.
Selected Reading: Ball Aerospace Selected to Build Instrument for NOAA's GeoXO Constellation


Space Forge and NGC Partner for In-space Manufacturing.

What: Northrop Grumman UK partners with Space Forge to advance in-space manufacturing.
Who: Northrop Grumman UK, Space Forge.
Why: In-space manufacturing could be a game-changer for the global semiconductor market and this partnership brings together the expertise of the UK and US space industries.
Selected Reading: Big Law Follows Private Sector into Space Race

Water-Based Space Thruster.

What: European Space Agency introduces a new thruster designed to run on water as a propellant.

Who: European Space Agency, Imperial College London.

Why: Utilizing water as a propellant opens up sustainable and efficient ways to maneuver spacecraft, especially small satellites.

Selected Reading: Mini space thruster that runs on water

AWS and ISRO Cloud Computing Engagement.

What: Amazon Web Services India and ISRO sign an MOU to advance space-tech via cloud computing.

Who: Amazon Web Services India, ISRO, Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Centre.

Why: The collaboration opens up cloud technologies to space startups and research institutions in India, accelerating innovation in the space sector.

Selected Reading: Amazon's AWS ties up with ISRO to advance its AI capabilities with cloud technologies- Myind

Autonomous Satellite Clusters for National Security.

What: Sandia National Laboratories has released the conclusion of a six-year study on enabling small and inexpensive satellites to operate autonomously as a single unit.

Who: Sandia National Laboratories, Air Force Research Laboratory

Why: The ability for satellites to work together autonomously could revolutionize national security missions, including surveillance and emergency response. This is a significant leap in satellite technology.

Selected Reading: Increasing national security with satellites that team together- Sandia National Lab


Firefly Wins NASA Cislunar Contract.

What: Firefly Aerospace awarded an $18 million NASA contract to provide radio frequency calibration services from lunar orbit.
Who: Firefly Aerospace, NASA.
Why: Being part of NASA's Commercial Lunar Payload Services, this contract brings Firefly closer to becoming a key player in lunar services, a market that's expected to grow significantly.
Selected Reading: Firefly Awarded $18 Million NASA Contract

Leidos Contracts Rocket Lab for Launches.

What: Rocket Lab has signed a contract with Leidos to launch four HASTE missions scheduled for 2024 and 2025.

Who: Rocket Lab, Leidos, U.S. Department of Defense Test Resource Management Center.

Why: The partnership marks a significant milestone for Rocket Lab in securing defense contracts, thereby diversifying its revenue streams.

Selected Reading: Rocket Lab Signs Deal with Leidos to Launch Four HASTE Missions- Business Wire

Iran Announces Public Procurement Tender for Navigation Satellites.

What: Iran's Space Research Center announces a public procurement tender for its inaugural space navigation satellite.
Who: Iranian Space Agency, Iranian Space Research Center
Why: This move can potentially challenge the existing geopolitical dynamics in space navigation and further complicate US-Iran relations.
Selected Reading: Iran Announces Tender for First Space Navigation Satellite


UT Austin Cislunar Research.

What: University of Texas at Austin received a $4 million grant for research on activity in cislunar space.

Who: University of Texas at Austin, U.S. Air Force, University of Washington, Texas A&M University, University of Colorado, Boulder.

Why: The research aims to provide the U.S. Air Force with tools for advanced space domain awareness, crucial for both defense and commercial activities in cislunar space.

Selected Reading: UT Will Lead $4 Million Research Collaboration


Frank Rubio Accidentally Sets Spaceflight Record.

What: US Astronaut Frank Rubio sets a new record for the longest space mission by a US astronaut, clocking in at 371 days in low Earth orbit.
Who: Astronaut Frank Rubio, NASA, International Space Station.
Why: The increasing duration of manned space missions pushes the boundaries of human capabilities in space, serving as an essential proving ground for long-term missions to the Moon, Mars, and beyond. Rubio's extended stay was unintentional but offers invaluable data on human health in space.
Selected Reading: NASA Astronaut Frank Rubio Longest US Spaceflight Record

Axiom's Next Commercial Crew.

What: Axiom Space announced the first all-European commercial astronaut mission to the ISS, slated for January 2024.
Who: Axiom Space, ESA.
Why: This signifies a growing trend of international commercial missions to the ISS, opening avenues for future international collaborations in space.
Selected Reading: Axiom Space Announces Ax-3 Astronaut Crew


Open Cosmos' Big Raise.

What: Open Cosmos raises $50 million in Series B funding to accelerate international growth and expand its satellite-based analytics and insight solutions.
Who: Open Cosmos, Impact Investors
Why: The investment signals strong market confidence in satellite-based analytics and is indicative of the growing commercial opportunities in space tech.
Selected Reading: Open Cosmos Raises $50M

Astra Space Reverse Stock Split.

What: Astra Space's Board approved a reverse stock split at a ratio of 1-for-15 to prevent delisting.

Who: Astra Space, Inc.

Why: The reverse stock split is a strategic financial move to stabilize the company's standing in the stock market, crucial for future investments.

Selected Reading: Astra Space, Inc. Announces Reverse Stock Split

Starlink Terminals Finally Turning a Profit.

What: SpaceX announces it's no longer taking losses on producing Starlink satellite antennas.

Who: SpaceX.

Why: Achieving cost-efficiency in antenna production is a key step for Starlink's profitability and broader adoption.

Selected Reading: SpaceX no longer taking losses to produce Starlink satellite antennas, a key step to improving profitability- CNBC

Sidus Space's Struggle with NASDAQ Compliance.

What: Sidus Space has been granted an extension of 180 days to regain compliance with NASDAQ's minimum bid price requirement.

Who: Sidus Space, NASDAQ

Why: The extension is a lifeline, but it also indicates the risks and volatility involved in investing in space startups. Investors should proceed with caution.

Selected Reading: Sidus Space Announces 180-Day Extension To Regain Compliance With Nasdaq Minimum Bid Price Requirement- PR


Massive Space Pipeline for US Export-Import Bank.

What: The US Export-Import Bank (EXIM) is processing a $5 billion pipeline of applications related to the space industry.
Who: Export-Import Bank of the US, Satellite Companies
Why: This massive pipeline highlights the growing international competitiveness of the US space sector and the role of EXIM in supporting American companies abroad.
Selected Reading: EXIM $5 Billion Space Pipeline

US President Biden and India Prime Minister Modi Discuss Space.

What: US President Joe Biden met with India’s Prime Minister to discuss cooperation in space projects.
Who: US President Joe Biden, India’s Prime Minister, India Space Research Organization (ISRO).
Why: This meeting signifies strengthening space ties between two major countries and could lead to collaborative missions and technology sharing.
Selected Reading: India, NASA Space Cooperation Planetary Defense

Germany Joins Artemis Accords.

What: NASA has welcomed Germany as the 29th country to sign the Artemis Accords.

Who: NASA, Germany

Why: The addition of Germany strengthens international collaboration in space exploration. This impacts future missions and possibly opens new avenues for commercial partnerships.

Selected Reading: NASA Welcomes Germany as Newest Artemis Accords Signatory

UK Space Agency Consults on Orbital Liability.

What: The UK is launching a government consultation on setting liability limits for orbital operations.

Who: UK Space Agency.

Why: This consultative approach could influence international regulations and set a precedent for how countries manage the emerging risks of increased orbital activities.

Selected Reading: UK Space Agency launches consultation

DoD Releases Space Policy for On-Orbit Assets Protection.

What: The U.S. Department of Defense has released a 19-page report outlining its strategy for the protection and defense of on-orbit assets.

Who: U.S. Department of Defense

Why: The report highlights potential threats from China and Russia and plans to build more resilient architectures. This unclassified strategy will likely influence future contracting and technology development in the space industry.

Selected Reading: Department of Defense Releases Space Policy Review and Strategy on Protection of Satellites


Space Traffic Management Partnership.

What: Dragonfly Aerospace selects Neuraspace for smarter Space Traffic Management.

Who: Dragonfly Aerospace, Neuraspace.

Why: As space becomes more crowded, effective Space Traffic Management is crucial for sustainability and the prevention of collisions.

Selected Reading: Dragonfly Aerospace Selects Neuraspace for Enhanced Space Sustainability through Smarter Space Traffic Management- PR


MDA Releases Software-Defined Satellite Product Line.

What: MDA reveals a new software-defined digital satellite product line, with Telesat as the anchor customer.
Who: MDA, Telesat
Why: Software-defined satellites are the future of flexible and adaptable space-based solutions, and this announcement indicates MDA's intent to lead in this emerging sector.
Selected Reading: New MDA Software-Defined Satellites

EutelSat's HOTBIRD Satellites.

What: EutelSat's HOTBIRD 13F and 13G satellites have entered full commercial service to enhance broadcast quality.

Who: EutelSat, Airbus Defense and Space.

Why: The satellites represent a significant technological upgrade that will influence the broadcasting landscape across multiple regions.

Selected Reading: Eutelsat Brings Two Hotbird Satellites

Software-Defined Satellites on Thaicom's Horizon.

What: Thaicom orders a new software-defined satellite from Airbus.
Who: Thaicom, Airbus.
Why: Software-defined satellites offer flexibility and adaptability, making them a future-proof investment for Thaicom's connectivity services in the Asia-Pacific region.
Selected Reading: Thaicom Selects Airbus for Its New Generation Software-Defined High-Throughput Satellite


Telesat's Big Launch Contract for SpaceX.

What: Telesat contracts SpaceX for 14 launches of its next broadband satellites, aimed for a 2026 launch.
Who: Telesat, SpaceX
Why: The deal signifies SpaceX's growing stature as a go-to launch provider and Telesat's ambition in global broadband services.
Selected Reading: Telesat Taps SpaceX

FAA's Stance on SpaceX Starship.

What: The FAA may advance SpaceX's Starship license by October following a review.

Who: FAA, SpaceX.

Why: Regulatory approval is a key hurdle for the commercialization of space, and this decision will be closely watched as a bellwether for future public-private partnerships in space exploration.

Selected Reading: US could advance SpaceX license

Victus Nox: A New Standard in Responsive Space Missions.

What: Firefly Aerospace successfully launched its Alpha rocket carrying a payload for the U.S. Space Force, known as Victus Nox, with only 27-hour notice. The payload was deployed to low earth orbit.

Who: Firefly Aerospace, U.S. Space Force, Millennium Space Systems

Why: This feat demonstrates a significant advancement in rapid-response capabilities for national security missions. It shows the U.S. military's growing ability to quickly deploy assets in space when needed, providing a strategic advantage.

Selected Reading: Firefly Aerospace Successfully Launches U.S. Space Force VICTUS NOX Responsive Space Mission with 24-Hour Notice- PR


ULA Launches NROL-107.

What: The United Launch Alliance successfully launches the SILENTBARKER or NROL-107 mission for the National Reconnaissance Office and the US Space Force's Space Systems Command.
Who: United Launch Alliance, National Reconnaissance Office, US Space Force
Why: As the final NRO launch aboard an Atlas V rocket, this mission marks a transitional moment for ULA and showcases the increasing integration of military and commercial space technologies.
Selected Reading: ULA Successfully Launches Joint National Security Mission

New Space Force Component at Ramstein Air Base.

What: The US Air Force announced that Ramstein Air Base will be the headquarters for a new Space Force service component for Europe and Africa, expected to be established on December 8th.

Who: U.S. Air Force, U.S. Space Forces Europe-Africa.

Why: This move amplifies the U.S. military's strategic positioning in space defense, strengthening its operational capabilities in both Europe and Africa.

Selected Reading: Newest Space Force component to stand up at Ramstein Air Base

Putin and Kim Jong Un Meet About Military Space Cooperation.

What: Russian President Vladimir Putin meets North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and promises military and space cooperation.

Who: Russia, North Korea.

Why: This meeting could signify a new geopolitical dynamic in the space race, making it essential to monitor developments closely.

Selected Reading: North Korea's Kim meets Putin at Russian space center- Nikkei


JWST Finds Bio-signatures in Exoplanet Atmosphere.

What: The James Webb Space Telescope has found potential signs of life in the atmosphere of exoplanet K2-18b. Methane, carbon dioxide, and possibly dimethyl sulfide (DMS) have been detected. DMS on Earth is produced only by phytoplankton, a form of life.
Who: Researchers at the University of Cambridge, James Webb Space Telescope.
Why: If confirmed, this could be groundbreaking for astrobiology and our understanding of life's existence beyond Earth. This could also open up new avenues for space exploration targeting biosignatures.
Selected Reading: NASA - Webb Discovers Methane, Carbon Dioxide in Atmosphere of K2-18b


The Space Industry's Looming Workforce Problem.

What: Axios reports on the difficulties the space industry is facing in attracting and retaining talent, emphasizing the need for a diverse skill set in the workforce.

Who: Axios, various space organizations.

Why: The space industry is booming but faces a looming bottleneck in workforce development. Diversifying talent is critical for the industry to maintain its growth trajectory.

Selected Reading: The space industry's looming workforce problem- Axios

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