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Signals and Space | V1 | Issue 25 | 10.02.23

The implications of a federal shutdown on space. One giant web of communication constellations. Space Systems Command makes cybersecurity selections. 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.

Happy October! Let's start today with logistics. We're attending a huge slate of events this Fall. You should really check them out. We'll be onsite doing interviews and chatting with you to learn how we can better serve the community. Hit us up if you plan to attend. We hope to see you there:

We're also attending the Space Happy Hour at AWS HQ2 next week in Arlington, VA. Hope to see you there as well (shoutout to Craig Baerwaldt for all he does to grow the community).

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

  • Chris Richardson, Co-founder of the community Beyond Earthbound.
  • Sita Sonty, the newly-appointed CEO of Space Tango, discussing her vision and future plans for the company.
  • Alan Stern, the Principal Investigator for NASA's New Horizons mission, discussing his ongoing research and upcoming suborbital flights.
  • Aravind Ravichandran, the Founder and CEO of TerraWatch Space, for our monthly Overview segment about the Earth Observation industry.
  • Former NASA Astronaut Jan Davis, discussing her new book "Air Born: Two Generations in Flight," where she explores the parallels between her spaceflights and her father's military service.



Xage Awarded Space Force Cybersecurity Contract

  • What: Xage Security has been awarded a $17 million contract by the Space Force's Space Systems Command to secure ground and space architectures with zero-trust cybersecurity.
  • Who: Space Force's Space Systems Command, Xage Security
  • Why: Zero-trust cybersecurity is becoming pivotal in securing assets in space and on Earth. The contract emphasizes the importance of robust cybersecurity measures in the evolving landscape of space operations.

Johns Hopkins APL Contract for Classified Satellite Network

  • What: Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) has been selected to evaluate the software and cybersecurity of ground systems for a new classified satellite network.
  • Who: Space Force's Space Systems Command, Johns Hopkins University APL
  • Why: The $10 million contract signals the increasing importance of vetting the security and effectiveness of ground systems, especially as space becomes a strategic domain for national security.


Earth Observation

NOAA’s On-Ramping Opportunity

  • What: The US Office of Space Commerce and NOAA have opened a request for information for additional vendors for Radio Occultation Data Buy II.
  • Who: US Office of Space Commerce, NOAA, PlanetiQ, Spire Global
  • Why: The move seeks to diversify data sources for Earth observation, offering opportunities for new players in the sector.


Emerging Tech

GalaxEye and ideaForge Partnership

  • What: GalaxEye and ideaForge have signed an MoU to develop Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Foliage Penetration Radar.
  • Who: GalaxEye, ideaForge
  • Why: The partnership aims to enhance aerial surveillance and mapping capabilities, particularly for Indian security forces. This collaboration marks a significant step in leveraging space-based technology for terrestrial applications.

Omnispace and Lacuna IoT Connectivity

  • What: Omnispace and Lacuna are collaborating on a new Internet of Things (IoT) service offering low-power, worldwide connectivity.
  • Who: Omnispace, Lacuna Space, Viasat
  • Why: This collaboration signifies the growing potential of IoT in space, offering new avenues for data collection and communication that could transform various industries.

Zenno and D-Orbit Partnership

  • What: Zenno Astronautics and D-Orbit have executed an MoU to develop new space applications for superconducting electromagnets.
  • Who: Zenno Astronautics, D-Orbit
  • Why: The partnership could lead to innovative solutions for challenges like reaction wheel desaturation and radiation shielding, thereby advancing the capabilities of satellites and other space systems.

BlueHalo Milestone in SCAR Program

  • What: BlueHalo demonstrated its BADGER ground terminal, a key component of the $1.4 billion Satellite Communication Augmentation Resource (SCAR) program.
  • Who: BlueHalo, Space Rapid Capabilities Office
  • Why: The demonstration is a crucial milestone, validating the progress towards enhancing U.S. satellite communication and operation capacities.

Taiwan's SpaceTech Collaboration

  • What: Taiwan has launched its first international SpaceTech startup collaboration project.
  • Who: Taiwan
  • Why: The project positions Taiwan as an emerging player in the global space industry, focusing on startup collaborations to drive innovation.

Axiom Space and AWS Partner for In-Space Data Processing

  • What: Axiom Space, AWS, and other partners are collaborating on in-space data processing and cybersecurity, particularly focused on human spaceflight and low-earth orbit research.
  • Who: Axiom Space, Amazon Web Services, Japan Manned Space Systems Corporation, Southwest Research Institute, SpiderOak
  • Why: Efficient and secure data processing in space is crucial for the success of future commercial space stations like Axiom's, making these tests a significant step toward commercializing low-earth orbit.



Astroscale's ADRAS-J Mission for Debris Removal

  • What: Astroscale's ADRAS-J mission, focused on safely approaching and characterizing existing space debris, is ready but facing launch delays.
  • Who: Astroscale, Japanese Space Agency (JAXA), Rocket Lab
  • Why: This mission is critical for tackling the growing problem of space debris, which poses risks to both manned and unmanned missions in orbit.


Human Spaceflight

Astronauts Return After Record-Breaking Mission

  • What: NASA Astronaut Frank Rubio and two Russian cosmonauts returned to Earth after a record-breaking 371-day mission.
  • Who: NASA, Frank Rubio, Roscosmos
  • Why: The extended mission, caused by space debris, brings attention to the challenges and risks of long-duration space missions and the issue of space debris.

FAA Concludes Blue Origin Investigation

  • What: The FAA has concluded its investigation into the Blue Origin New Shepard 23 mishap, requiring 21 corrective actions.
  • Who: FAA, Blue Origin
  • Why: The FAA's requirements signal increased scrutiny on commercial spaceflight safety, impacting the timeline for Blue Origin's future launches.


Business & Investing

Sierra Space Secures Record Investment

  • What: Sierra Space closed a $290 million Series B funding round, reaching a total investment of $1.7 billion and a valuation of $5.3 billion.
  • Who: Sierra Space, MUFG Bank, Kanematsu, Tokio Marine & Nichido Fire Insurance
  • Why: The massive investment indicates strong investor confidence in Sierra Space's ambitious projects like LIFE commercial space station and Dream Chaser spaceplane. The funding will accelerate the commercialization of space services and capabilities.

VCs Look to Emerging Space Agencies

  • What: Venture capital is increasingly focusing on countries with growing space agencies, such as India.
  • Who: Venture capitalists, emerging space agencies
  • Why: The investment shift signifies a diversification in the global space industry, offering new opportunities and challenges for startups and investors alike.

Eutelsat and OneWeb Merger Completed

  • What: Eutelsat and OneWeb have completed their merger, forming a new entity called Eutelsat Group.
  • Who: Eutelsat, OneWeb
  • Why: The merger positions Eutelsat Group as the world's first geo-leo satellite operator, opening up new markets and setting a revenue growth target of two billion euros by 2027. This is a strategic move to counter competitors like Starlink.

Partnership Troubles for Blue Origin and Sierra Space

  • What: Blue Origin and Sierra Space's partnership for the Orbital Reef space station appears to be in jeopardy.
  • Who: Blue Origin, Sierra Space
  • Why: The state of this partnership could have ramifications for the commercialization of low-earth orbit and future commercial space stations.


Policy & Law


Pentagon plans to transfer ‘high accuracy’ space tracking data to Commerce

  • What: The US Department of Defense will transfer its space situational awareness program to the Department of Commerce in 2024.
  • Who: US Department of Defense, Department of Commerce
  • Why: The shift signifies a broader role for the Department of Commerce in regulating and overseeing commercial space activities. This aligns with increasing commercial space traffic and the need for a centralized system to manage it.

US exploring potential space force hotline with China

  • What: The US Space Force is considering establishing a direct communication line with its Chinese counterparts.
  • Who: US Space Force, Chinese Military
  • Why: As activities in space intensify, the need for communication to de-escalate potential conflicts is paramount. This hotline could be a critical step in international space diplomacy.

US-China Rivalry Spurs Investment

  • What: The geopolitical rivalry between the US and China is driving investments in space technology.
  • Who: US, China
  • Why: The competitive landscape is accelerating technological advancements and funding opportunities, which any space industry professional should closely monitor for potential collaborations or market entry.

Integrated Deterrence Strategy Flaws

  • What: An opinion piece discusses the limitations of an ‘integrated deterrence’ strategy in space.
  • Who: The Hill
  • Why: Understanding the policy framework and its potential weaknesses is critical for those involved in the defense sector or planning to work on government contracts.

UK's Funding Call for Space Technologies

  • What: The UK Space Agency has announced a funding call of up to £65 million for space technologies and applications.
  • Who: UK Space Agency
  • Why: The funding aims to accelerate the route to market and catalyze investment into the UK space sector, supporting high-risk, high-reward projects.



Japan startup to develop refueling satellite for U.S. Space Force

  • What: Tokyo-based startup Astroscale has been contracted by the US Space Force to develop an in-space refueling satellite.
  • Who: US Space Force, Astroscale
  • Why: The contract indicates the growing importance of in-space servicing and debris removal, potentially extending the lifespan of existing satellites and making space activities more sustainable.

Space Systems Command Opens TAP Lab

  • What: The US Space Systems Command has opened a Tools Applications and Processing Lab aimed at solving challenges in space domain awareness.
  • Who: US Space Systems Command, Space Force
  • Why: The new lab will provide a collaborative environment for government, academia, and industry to address space domain awareness. This is crucial for understanding and mitigating threats in an increasingly contested space environment.

SpaceX Wins Pentagon Contract for Starshield

  • What: SpaceX has secured a $70 million contract from the US Space Force for its Starshield satellite internet program.
  • Who: SpaceX, US Space Force
  • Why: This contract marks SpaceX's growing footprint in military communications, offering end-to-end satellite communication services, and elevates the commercial sector's role in national defense.

Space Force's C2 Software Plan

  • What: The Space Force is finalizing plans to procure Command and Control (C2) software for satellite maneuvering.
  • Who: US Space Force
  • Why: The new software aims to improve satellite maneuvering capabilities, enhancing the Space Force's operational effectiveness in space.

Space Force Chief on Protecting Commercial Satellites

  • What: The Space Force Chief suggests that the military may need to extend protection to commercial satellites.
  • Who: US Space Force
  • Why: As the commercial space sector grows, its assets become potential targets, necessitating new strategies for their protection.


Satellite Tech

Paratus sign re-seller agreement with Starlink for Africa

  • What: Paratus Group has signed an agreement to distribute Starlink’s high-speed satellite communication services in Africa.
  • Who: Paratus Group, Starlink
  • Why: The deal expands Starlink's global reach and could significantly impact the digital divide in various African nations, facilitating improved communication and economic development.

OneWeb Collaboration for PNT Capabilities

  • What: OneWeb and the UK's National Physical Lab have signed an MoU to collaborate on Position, Timing and Navigation (PNT) capabilities.
  • Who: OneWeb, UK National Physical Laboratory
  • Why: The collaboration aims to reduce the UK's dependence on Europe's Galileo system post-Brexit and advances capabilities in satellite-based navigation and timing.

China Launches New Remote Sensing Satellite

  • What: China launched a new remote sensing satellite, Yaogan-33 04, for scientific experiments and land resource surveys.
  • Who: China, Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center
  • Why: The launch extends China's capabilities in Earth observation and remote sensing, making it a key player to watch in the sector.

Iran's New Satellite Launch

  • What: Iran's IRGC has successfully launched its third imaging satellite, Noor-3, into orbit.
  • Who: Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)
  • Why: The launch, despite international criticisms, demonstrates Iran's growing capabilities in space reconnaissance and adds a geopolitical dimension to space activities.



Chinese Research on Lunar Shelter

  • What: Chinese researchers have proposed long-term shelter plans in lunar lava tubes.
  • Who: Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology
  • Why: The research adds to China's ambitious plans for human lunar settlement by 2030. If successful, this could be a game-changer for long-duration human presence on the Moon.

ESA's Call for Small Lunar Missions

  • What: The European Space Agency has opened a call for proposals for small missions focused on lunar exploration and science.
  • Who: European Space Agency
  • Why: As lunar exploration intensifies, opportunities for smaller missions provide a way for European entities to contribute valuable scientific and exploratory data.


Science & Research

NASA's OSIRIS-REx Capsule Secured in Utah Clean Room

  • What: NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft returned a sample from the asteroid Bennu, successfully landing in Utah and now in transit to NASA's Johnson Space Center for analysis.
  • Who: NASA
  • Why: This is NASA's first asteroid sample return mission, providing an invaluable glimpse into the early solar system and the origins of life. The sample could offer insights into asteroid composition and potential mitigation strategies for Earth-bound asteroids.

NASA’s Psyche Mission Targeting Oct. 12 for Launch

  • What: NASA’s Psyche mission, aimed at exploring a metal asteroid, is targeting October 12 for its launch.
  • Who: NASA
  • Why: The mission will provide unprecedented insights into the building blocks of planet formation, offering both scientific and potential commercial implications for mining asteroids.


Workforce, Careers, & Education

Committee on NASA Mission Critical Workforce, Infrastructure, and Technology - Meeting No. 11

  • What: NASA’s open committee on workforce, infrastructure, and technology is holding its 11th session.
  • Who: NASA
  • Why: The meeting will focus on various aspects of NASA's workforce development, providing insights into the agency's priorities and potential opportunities for space industry professionals.

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