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Signals and Space | V1 | Issue 24 | 09.25.23

It’s all about space debris and who is going to manage it. Electron’s no show post MECO blow. India advances its human spaceflight plans. Space Solar Power. 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.

OSIRIS-REx is back! Yesterday morning, the spacecraft landed at the Utah Test and Training Range. After 7 long years, the mission has successfully returned, bringing with it about 8.8 ounces of regolith from the asteroid Bennu. That's pretty incredible.

Dante Lauretta, a planetary scientist at the University of Arizona and the principal investigator for the mission, put it perfectly: "This is a gift to the world." 

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

T-Minus Interviews

  • Tom Marotta, CEO of the Spaceport Company, discusses the latest developments and updates since his last appearance on the show.
  • Kate van Dam, Head of Strategy at SkyFi, on Earth Observation platforms for commercial use.
  • Andy Atherton, COO at Solestial, breaks down the development of solar technology for spacecraft.
  • Michelle Lucas, Founder and CEO of STEM non-profit Higher Orbits, discussing her organization's efforts to promote STEM education.
  • Dr. Paul Jaffe, an electronics engineer at the Naval Research Laboratory, goes deep on solar power satellites and power beaming from space.


Earth Observation

Major UK Methane Leak Detected from Space

  • What: A major methane leak was detected in the UK from space for the first time.
  • Who: UK scientists, GHGSat
  • Why: This discovery underlines the critical role of Earth observation satellites in monitoring environmental hazards and climate change.

NOAA Awards Contract for Ocean Surface Winds Data Pilot

  • What: NOAA has awarded a Commercial Weather Data Pilot contract to Spire Global for an Ocean Surface Winds Pilot program.
  • Who: NOAA, Spire Global
  • Why: This initiative could potentially improve weather forecasting by integrating commercial data, beneficial for various sectors including shipping and environmental monitoring.

SkyWatch Partners with SatelliteVu

  • What: SkyWatch announces the availability of SatelliteVu's high-resolution thermal imagery on its EarthCache platform.
  • Who: SkyWatch, SatelliteVu
  • Why: The partnership offers new avenues for environmental monitoring and climate change mitigation, enhancing Earth Observation capabilities.

California Bill on Greenhouse Gas Emissions

  • What: A new California bill aims to force large companies to disclose their greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Who: California State Government, Large Companies
  • Why: If passed, this bill could increase demand for Earth Observation satellites to monitor and verify emissions data.


Emerging Tech

Malaysia Considers Developing a Rocket Launch Site

  • What: Malaysia is exploring the feasibility of establishing a space launch site.
  • Who: Malaysian Space Agency, Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation
  • Why: Malaysia's potential entry into the launch market capitalizes on its geographical advantages and could bring a new player into the competitive arena.

AST SpaceMobile Achieves Historic 5G Space-Based Connectivity

  • What: AST SpaceMobile successfully made the first-ever 5G call between an unmodified smartphone and a satellite, achieving a download rate of approximately 14 Mbps.
  • Who: AST SpaceMobile, Vodafone, AT&T
  • Why: This achievement could revolutionize how we think about mobile connectivity, effectively eliminating "dead zones" and increasing the potential for global communication infrastructure.

HawkEye 360 Announces RFIQ Product

  • What: HawkEye 360 has released its RFIQ product, offering deeper insight into radio frequency activity.
  • Who: HawkEye 360.
  • Why: With the expansion of the satellite constellation, HawkEye 360 addresses increasing demands for RF intelligence, opening new avenues for defense and commercial applications.



ABL Space Systems Secures Contract for Tactically Responsive Launch

  • What: ABL has been awarded a $15 million contract for a tactically responsive launch demonstration.
  • Who: ABL Space Systems, US Space Systems Command
  • Why: The contract is a sign of growing confidence in ABL's capabilities and highlights the U.S. military's interest in flexible, low-cost space access.

NASA Seeks Proposals for Station Deorbit Spacecraft

  • What: NASA has issued a Request for Proposals for a spacecraft to assist in deorbiting the International Space Station by 2030.
  • Who: NASA, ESA, JAXA, Roscosmos, Canadian Space Agency.
  • Why: As the ISS reaches the end of its operational life, a safe deorbit strategy involving multiple space agencies becomes paramount. This RFP opens the door for innovative solutions from the commercial space sector. 


Human Spaceflight

India Accelerates its Gaganyaan Human Spaceflight Program

  • What: A key flight test for India's first crewed space mission, Gaganyaan, is scheduled for October. Astronaut training is in progress, and the mission aims to send astronauts to a 400-kilometer low-Earth orbit for three days.
  • Who: Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)
  • Why: This development puts India on the map as a contender in human spaceflight and could potentially make it the fourth country capable of sending humans to space.

Venezuelan Astronauts Could Go to Moon in Chinese Spaceship

  • What: Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro announced that Venezuelan astronauts could land on the Moon aboard a Chinese spacecraft.
  • Who: Venezuela, China
  • Why: This marks a notable expansion of China's influence in international space cooperation and raises geopolitical considerations in the space arena.

Sierra Space's LIFE Habitat Advances

  • What: Sierra Space completed its fifth subscale test of the LIFE habitat, aimed at creating a comfortable living and working environment in Low Earth Orbit.
  • Who: Sierra Space, ILC Dover
  • Why: The advancements in habitat technology are crucial for long-term human space missions, impacting everything from scientific research to potential commercial applications.


Business & Investing

VIDA Raises €3M for ESG Risk Management Software

  • What: Munich-based VIDA successfully raised €3 million in funding for its ESG risk management software.
  • Who: VIDA, Cusp Capital
  • Why: This funding could accelerate the adoption of geospatial tech for sustainable infrastructure planning, which is an increasingly important part of the investment landscape.

Maxar Restructures Into Two Businesses

  • What: Maxar Technologies has restructured into two distinct businesses: Maxar Space Infrastructure and Maxar Intelligence.
  • Who: Maxar Technologies.
  • Why: The restructuring aims to sharpen the company's focus on spacecraft manufacturing and satellite imagery, potentially improving efficiency and market competitiveness.

Maine Space 2030 Pitch Competition

  • What: Maine Space 2030 is inviting pitches for aerospace industry growth from students, researchers, entrepreneurs, and businesses.
  • Who: Maine Space 2030.
  • Why: This competition offers a platform for emerging talent and ideas, positioning Maine as a hub for aerospace innovation.

Iridium Forecasts $1B Service Revenue by 2030

  • What: Iridium Communications’ CEO, Matt Desch, predicts $1 billion in annual service revenue by 2030.
  • Who: Iridium Communications, Matt Desch
  • Why: This ambitious forecast could indicate the growing business potential of satellite communications, especially as IoT applications continue to expand.

True Anomaly Secures U.S. Space Force Contract

  • What: True Anomaly has been awarded a $17.4 million U.S. Space Force contract for Space Domain Awareness applications.
  • Who: True Anomaly, U.S. Space Force
  • Why: The contract signifies an investment in AI and analytics to improve efficiency in Space Domain Awareness, a critical aspect of national security. 


Policy & Law

Varda Space Struggles with Reentry Permissions

  • What: Varda Space is facing regulatory hurdles in bringing its in-space manufacturing vehicle back to Earth.
  • Who: Varda Space, Air Force, FAA
  • Why: This story highlights the regulatory challenges that new space companies may encounter, emphasizing the need for comprehensive legal and governmental relations strategies.

AIA Urges Space as Critical Infrastructure

  • What: The Aerospace Industries Association has sent a letter urging the National Security Council to assess the impacts of designating "space" as critical infrastructure.
  • Who: Aerospace Industries Association, National Security Council
  • Why: The designation would have broad ramifications, from increased funding to heightened security protocols, affecting all sectors of the space industry.

FAA Proposed Rule to Reduce Orbital Debris

  • What: The FAA is proposing new regulations aimed at reducing orbital debris from commercial space vehicles. The proposal suggests a 25-year limit for debris disposal, potentially reducing it to 5 years.
  • Who: Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), commercial space operators.
  • Why: With the increasing number of payloads in space, the proposal seeks to impose formal rules for debris management, replacing the current best practices. The 90-day public comment period offers industry stakeholders an opportunity to shape these critical regulations.

STAR Act Extension for Commercial Human Spaceflight

  • What: Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy introduced the STAR Act to extend the FAA's learning period for regulating commercial human spaceflight through 2031.
  • Who: Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, FAA, Commercial Spaceflight Companies
  • Why: The extension would allow the emerging commercial spaceflight sector to develop safety standards without early regulatory constraints. Given current political climate and a potential government shutdown, the passage of this act is uncertain.

FCC Updates Spectrum Rules for Commercial Space Launches

  • What: The FCC adopted new rules to ensure commercial space launches have reliable spectrum resources for communications.
  • Who: FCC, Commercial Space Industry
  • Why: The new rules aim to promote safety and innovation in the commercial space industry, which is critical for its growth and for maintaining U.S. leadership in space.

Namibia and South Africa Explore Space Collaboration

  • What: South Africa and Namibia are exploring opportunities for space collaboration.
  • Who: South African National Space Agency (SANSA), Namibian Ministry of Higher Education, Technology and Innovation
  • Why: The meeting indicates growing intercontinental collaborations in the African space sector, opening doors for new projects and initiatives.



Change in Leadership of US Space Force

  • What: Roger Towberman retired, passing the mantle of Chief Master Sergeant of the US Space Force to John Bentivegna.
  • Who: US Space Force
  • Why: Leadership changes in military space agencies can signal shifts in operational focus and strategy, important for companies and stakeholders to monitor.

Millennium Space Systems' VICTUS NOX Operational in Record Time

  • What: Millennium Space Systems' VICTUS NOX space vehicle became operational just 37 hours after launch, 11 hours ahead of the 48-hour goal.
  • Who: Millennium Space Systems, Space Force
  • Why: This rapid operational readiness shows significant advancements in quick deployment capabilities, which is a critical factor in defense and tactical operations.

Astroscale Wins Space Force Contract

  • What: Astroscale has been awarded a $25.5 million contract to advance Space Mobility and Logistics capabilities.
  • Who: Astroscale, US Space Systems Command
  • Why: The contract signifies the U.S. military's growing focus on agile and cost-effective space solutions, which is crucial for national security.

AUKUS Pact Should Include Space Monitoring: MITRE

  • What: A MITRE report recommends extending the AUKUS security pact to include Space Domain Awareness.
  • Who: MITRE Corporation, Australia, United Kingdom, United States.
  • Why: The extension would improve security and help monitor space debris, offering a global framework for managing risks in Earth and cislunar orbits.


Satellite Tech

Satellite Tracking Challenges

  • What: A study shows that rapidly maneuvering satellites are difficult to track, increasing the risk of in-space collisions.
  • Who: US Military, COMSPOC, Space Data Association, Intelsat, SES
  • Why: With the increasing number of satellites, accurate tracking is essential for both national security and commercial interests.

NIGCOMSAT and Thales Renew Agreement

  • What: Thales Alenia Space and NIGCOMSAT have renewed their partnership to develop Satellite-Based Augmentation Systems in Africa.
  • Who: NIGCOMSAT, Thales Alenia Space
  • Why: The renewal emphasizes the growing importance of satellite navigation capabilities in emerging markets like Africa. 



Update on Stoke Space's Reusable Second Stage Rocket

  • What: Stoke Space conducted a test flight of its reusable second stage rocket, aiming for full reusability with a 24-hour turnaround.
  • Who: Stoke Space
  • Why: Achieving full reusability would be a game-changer in reducing launch costs and increasing frequency, making Stoke Space a company to watch.

Rocket Lab Experiences Anomaly During Latest Mission

  • What: Rocket Lab's 41st mission, named "We Will Never Desert You," experienced an anomaly 2.5 minutes into flight, leading to mission failure. The failure resulted in the loss of Capella Space's Acadia radar-imaging satellite.
  • Who: Rocket Lab, Capella Space
  • Why: This is Rocket Lab's fourth failure in 41 flights, highlighting the continued challenges in achieving reliable space access. This event has near-term implications for Rocket Lab's stock and long-term repercussions for customer trust.

SpaceX Breaks Reusability Record

  • What: SpaceX's Falcon 9 first stage has been reused for a record-breaking 17th time, launching 22 Starlink satellites.
  • Who: SpaceX
  • Why: In an industry where cost-efficiency is crucial, SpaceX's strides in reusability set new standards and push competitors to innovate.

Ten Satellites Incorporating Terran Orbital Buses Launch

  • What: Ten satellites using Terran Orbital buses were launched as part of the Space Development Agency's Tranche 0 Mission.
  • Who: Terran Orbital, Lockheed Martin, Space Development Agency
  • Why: This launch serves as a foundational step for the SDA's future plans and indicates a rising role for Terran Orbital in satellite manufacturing.


Science & Research

DARPA Seeking Innovative Concepts

  • What: DARPA is soliciting innovative concepts for projecting U.S. military power in space.
  • Who: DARPA, small businesses, and non-traditional defense contractors
  • Why: The call for proposals indicates an urgent need for fresh, disruptive technologies to maintain U.S. space superiority.

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Asteroid Sample Return

  • What: NASA's OSIRIS-REx is returning samples of the asteroid Bennu to Earth after seven years in deep space.
  • Who: NASA
  • Why: The return of these samples could provide invaluable scientific insights into the origins of our solar system.

NASA’s Webb Finds Carbon on Jupiter’s Moon Europa

  • What: NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has found evidence of carbon dioxide on the surface of Jupiter’s moon Europa.
  • Who: NASA, ESA (JUICE mission)
  • Why: The discovery opens up possibilities for understanding the moon's subsurface ocean and its potential habitability.


Workforce, Careers, & Education

How to Land a Space Gig

  • What: An article offering guidance on how to secure a job in the space industry.
  • Who: The Space Review
  • Why: With the space industry growing, understanding how to navigate career paths in this sector is valuable for professionals looking to break into or advance within the field.

China Space Station: Live Science Class

  • What: The Shenzhou-16 crew livestreamed a science class from China's Mengtian lab module, attended by over 2,500 students.
  • Who: Shenzhou-16 crew, China Space Station.
  • Why: China is leveraging its space station to inspire the next generation of space professionals, emphasizing the role of education in a burgeoning space industry.

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