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Signals and Space | V1 | Issue 26 | 10.09.23

Irregular Warfare in Space. The Astronaut wears Prada. First fine dished out for space debris management. Elon’s ambitious space plans. Stoke unveils a bright future for Nova. And more!



Good morning,

To all our new subscribers, welcome to Signals and Space, the companion newsletter to the T-Minus Space Daily podcast! This is a weekly roundup of all the space industry intel we cover throughout the week. This intro is 10x longer than usual, so please bear with me.

It's Indigenous Peoples' Day in the United States. In recognition of today's holiday, we published a fantastic T-Minus Career Notes interview with retired NASA astronaut and first member of a Native American tribe to fly in space, John Herrington. His story is powerful. I found it personally motivating and I strongly recommend you check it out.

Second, we must consider the horrific attack against the people of Israel. This is already one of the deadliest terror attacks in history with more than 700 reported dead and thousands of casualties. Regardless of your position on the status of Palestine, the indiscriminate murder of civilians is evil and morally condemns the perpetrators. As President Biden said, "Israel has a right to defend itself – full stop." To the many Israelis I personally served with, I wish you good hunting and I pray your families are safe.

And finally, a plug for all the awesome events we're attending in the coming weeks. You should really check them out. Hit us up if you plan to attend. We hope to see you there:

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

  • Tim Franta, Vice President of Development for Starfighters Space, discussing the future of supersonic flight.
  • Dan Dumbacher, Executive Director of AIAA, discussing the upcoming ASCEND event.
  • Sam Savitt and Josh Kramer from Duke University’s rocketry team Duke Aero, discussing preparations for the 2024 Spaceport America Cup.
  • Steve Wolfe, President of the Beyond Earth Institute, discussing the organization's upcoming event in November.
  • Dr. John J. Klein is a senior fellow and strategist with Delta Solutions and Strategies, discussing his new book "Fight for the Final Frontier: Irregular Warfare in Space."



FCC's First Space Debris Penalty

  • What: The FCC fined Dish Network $150,000 for failing to dispose of its EchoStar-7 satellite properly.
  • Who: Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Dish Network
  • Why: The penalty marks the FCC's first action against space debris but pales in comparison to the scale of the issue. With Dish Network's substantial revenues, the fine is unlikely to be an effective deterrent. The space industry should brace for stiffer regulations, potentially modeled after EU's stronger penalties for internet companies.

Starfish Space wins NASA contract to plan demonstration of orbital debris inspection

  • What: Starfish Space has been awarded a NASA contract to study the feasibility of inspecting orbital debris.
  • Who: NASA, Starfish Space
  • Why: Orbital debris is a growing concern for both private and public space initiatives. This contract represents a step forward in active debris management, making it a vital development for professionals in satellite operations and space sustainability.

Good heavens: How light pollution is threatening our sky

  • What: An article discussing the increasing problem of light pollution and its impact on astronomy.
  • Who: Astronomers, Environmentalists
  • Why: Light pollution is a growing concern that not only affects stargazers but could also impact satellite operations and astronomical research.


Human Spaceflight

Firefly Aerospace Completes Blue Ghost Lunar Lander Structure Ahead of Moon Landing for NASA

  • What: Firefly Aerospace has completed the development of its Blue Ghost lunar lander, scheduled to land on the Moon in 2024 as part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services initiative.
  • Who: Firefly Aerospace, NASA
  • Why: This marks a significant milestone in NASA's CLPS initiative and shows that smaller aerospace companies can successfully compete for and execute high-value lunar contracts.

Start Your Engines: NASA to Begin Critical Testing for Future Artemis Missions

  • What: NASA has commenced a series of test fires for its upgraded RS-25 engines, which will power future Artemis missions.
  • Who: NASA, Aerojet Rocketdyne, L3Harris Technologies
  • Why: The tests are a critical milestone for NASA's Artemis missions, which aim to return humans to the Moon. They also represent a continuity of technology from the Space Shuttle era to the new generation of space exploration.


Business & Investing

Stoke Space Announces $100 Million in New Investment

  • What: Stoke Space has raised $100 million in Series B funding to accelerate its reusable rocket development.
  • Who: Stoke Space, Investors
  • Why: With the new capital, Stoke is cementing its place in the growing market of reusable launch vehicles. The funding will likely expedite its plans, making it a key player to watch in the industry's shift towards sustainability.

Machina's $32m Series B Fundraise

  • What: Machina Labs has raised $32 million in a Series B round.
  • Who: Machina Labs, Investors
  • Why: Machina is at the intersection of AI and robotics, focused on manufacturing. This investment indicates confidence in their approach to leverage cutting-edge technologies in the aerospace sector.

Let's Create a Cape Canaveral in the North

  • What: An op-ed discusses the potential for creating a new launch hub in Scotland, likening it to Cape Canaveral in the U.S.
  • Who: Skyrora’s CEO
  • Why: The proposal underscores the growing interest in diversifying launch locations, and if realized, could significantly boost the UK’s space industry.

Commercial Space Stations in Trouble

  • What: Blue Origin is reconsidering its partnership for building a commercial space station; Northrop Grumman may also withdraw its bid.
  • Who: Blue Origin, Northrop Grumman, Sierra Space, Voyager Space, Airbus, NASA
  • Why: These shifts indicate uncertainty about the financial viability of commercial space stations, impacting NASA's plans to find successors to the ISS.

Astroport's European Subsidiary

  • What: Astroport Space Technologies has partnered with Interflight Global Europe to launch a European subsidiary.
  • Who: Astroport Space Technologies, Interflight Global Europe
  • Why: The new subsidiary will focus on lunar infrastructure, supporting both NASA's Artemis program and commercial mining missions, indicating a move toward global lunar operations.

Axiom Space, Prada Join Forces on Tech, Design for NASA’s Next-Gen Lunar Spacesuits

  • What: Axiom Space is collaborating with fashion brand Prada to design NASA's next-generation lunar spacesuits for the Artemis III mission.
  • Who: Axiom Space, Prada, NASA
  • Why: The partnership underscores the increasing convergence of technology and lifestyle industries. Prada's experience with high-end materials and design may bring a fresh perspective to space apparel. For professionals, this partnership indicates that non-traditional collaborations can yield innovative solutions.

NASA Selects Commercial Smallsat Data Acquisition Contractors

  • What: NASA has selected seven companies to provide commercial data for its Earth science research, under contracts cumulatively worth $476 million.
  • Who: NASA, Airbus, Capella Space, GHGSat, Maxar Intelligence, Space Sciences and Engineering, Spire Global, Umbra Lab
  • Why: The story highlights NASA's commitment to utilizing commercial solutions for Earth science research. Companies working in Earth observation or data analytics should consider this an encouraging sign for future public-private partnerships.

Pale Blue Raises $7.5M in Series B Round

  • What: Japanese space startup Pale Blue has closed the first phase of its Series B funding round, securing approximately $7.5 million.
  • Who: Pale Blue, New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO)
  • Why: The funding will accelerate the mass production of propulsion systems, a crucial component in space exploration and satellite operations. This story signifies a growing interest in deep-tech startups within the space sector.

Voyager Space Announces Teaming Agreement with Northrop Grumman

  • What: Northrop Grumman and Voyager Space have entered into a partnership to provide cargo resupply services for the Starlab space station.
  • Who: Northrop Grumman, Voyager Space, Airbus Defence and Space
  • Why: The partnership is a major step in the commercialization of space stations and shows a trend towards collaborative efforts in space infrastructure development.

Rocket Lab Opens Engine Development Center in Long Beach

  • What: Rocket Lab has opened an engine development center in Long Beach, California.
  • Who: Rocket Lab
  • Why: This move is a strategic expansion for Rocket Lab, providing them with additional capabilities to innovate and meet growing demand for various types of launches.


Earth Observation

NASA Announces Launch Services for Pair of Space Weather Satellites

  • What: NASA has selected SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket for the TRACERS mission, aiming to study space weather and its effects on Earth's magnetic environment.
  • Who: NASA, SpaceX, University of Iowa, Southwest Research Institute, Millennium Space Systems
  • Why: Understanding space weather is crucial for both satellite operations and Earth-based technology. This mission could yield data that improves our resilience against solar storms.

HOTSAT-1: 'World's thermometer' sends back first pictures

  • What: SatVu's HOTSAT-1 has sent back its first thermal images of Earth, marking the company's move into commercial operations.
  • Who: SatVu
  • Why: HOTSAT-1 data could be transformative for various sectors, from environmental monitoring to energy efficiency, thereby aligning with global Net Zero goals.


Emerging Tech

Nuclear-Powered Spacecraft Contracts

  • What: AFRL awards Lockheed Martin, Intuitive Machines, and Westinghouse Government Services contracts for developing nuclear-powered spacecraft.
  • Who: U.S. Air Force Research Lab (AFRL), Lockheed Martin, Intuitive Machines, Westinghouse Government Services
  • Why: Fission-powered spacecraft could provide more reliable and efficient power for future space missions, making this a game-changer in spacecraft design.

Aluminum Extraction from Lunar Soil

  • What: Colorado School of Mines received a $2M grant from NASA to develop technology for extracting aluminum from lunar soil.
  • Who: NASA, Colorado School of Mines
  • Why: This research aims to reduce the costs associated with Moon exploration, enabling more sustainable lunar bases.


Policy & Law

Shutdown Averted, Government Funded Until November 17

  • What: The U.S. federal government has averted a shutdown, extending its funding until November 17, 2023. The continuation resolution also extends the learning period for commercial spaceflight companies until January 2024.
  • Who: U.S. Federal Government, Commercial Spaceflight Companies
  • Why: This temporary relief allows for continued operations in both government and commercial space sectors. However, the short-term nature of the resolution means companies should be prepared for potential disruptions come mid-November.

China to double size of space station, touts alternative to NASA-led ISS

  • What: China plans to double the size of its Tiangong space station and offer it as an alternative to the ISS.
  • Who: China, International Partners
  • Why: China's growing space station capabilities present a geopolitical shift in space exploration and offer new platforms for international cooperation.

Russia talks a big future in space while its overall budget is quietly cut

  • What: Russia has outlined ambitious plans for space exploration, including new space stations and deep-space vehicles, despite budget cuts.
  • Who: Roscosmos, Yuri Borisov, Russian government
  • Why: Russia's announcements serve as a political statement but also raise questions about the feasibility of such ambitious projects given the budget constraints.



U.S. Space Force Awards Booz Allen $630m Contract

  • What: Booz Allen Hamilton has secured a seven-year, $630-million contract to support the U.S. Space Force in systems engineering and next-generation space sensing capabilities.
  • Who: U.S. Space Force, Booz Allen Hamilton
  • Why: This contract is significant for its size and scope, and it suggests an increasing demand for private sector involvement in military space initiatives. Companies in adjacent sectors should take note of the expertise Booz Allen is leveraging, from AI to cybersecurity, as these could be key competencies for future contracts.

Comtech Awarded $48.6 Mln Contract By U.S. Army

  • What: Comtech has been awarded a $48.6 million contract to provide Enterprise Digital Intermediate Frequency Multi-Carrier modems for the U.S. Army's satellite communications.
  • Who: U.S. Army, Comtech
  • Why: This contract signifies the Army's focus on modernizing its satellite communications. It offers a glimpse into the types of technologies that military branches are investing in, which could be beneficial for companies aiming to secure similar contracts.

LMI Awarded $98M Small Business Innovation Phase III Contract

  • What: LMI has been awarded a $98 million contract to further develop its Rapid Analysis & Prototyping Toolkit for Resiliency (RAPTR).
  • Who: U.S. Air Force, LMI
  • Why: This contract enhances the capabilities of the Space Security and Defense Program, highlighting the military's investment in developing advanced technologies for space defense.

National Security Space Launch (NSSL) Phase 3 Lane 2 Request for Proposal (RFP)

  • What: The U.S. Space Force has released an RFP for the next phase of national security launches.
  • Who: U.S. Space Force, Contractors
  • Why: This is a pivotal moment for companies in the launch sector as the Space Force seeks new partnerships. The dual-lane approach suggests a more flexible, diversified strategy for securing launch services.

Space Force Takes Over JTAGS Mission from the Army

  • What: The U.S. Space Force has assumed control of the JTAGS missile warning system from the Army.
  • Who: U.S. Space Force, U.S. Army
  • Why: The transition marks a consolidation of space missions under the Space Force, centralizing expertise and command structures for better operational efficiency.



Intuitive Machines Opens Lunar Production and Operations Facility

  • What: Intuitive Machines has opened a Lunar Production and Operations Center at the Houston Spaceport, ready to support their three NASA-awarded missions.
  • Who: Intuitive Machines, NASA
  • Why: This new facility is a pivotal step toward making the U.S. a leader in lunar missions, with the capacity to deliver both NASA and commercial payloads to the Moon’s surface.

Chandrayaan-3: Lander, Rover Revival Hopes Virtually Over

  • What: Attempts to revive the Chandrayaan-3’s Vikram lander and Pragyan rover have failed as the lunar night has set in.
  • Who: Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), European station in Kourou
  • Why: While this marks the end of ISRO's current mission to the lunar south pole, the partial success of Chandrayaan-3 remains a notable achievement for India's burgeoning space program.

China's Open Call for Lunar Collaboration

  • What: China announces it will allocate 200 kg of payload resources for international partners on its upcoming Chang'e-8 lunar mission.
  • Who: Chinese National Space Administration, International Partners
  • Why: The move indicates China's willingness to collaborate internationally on lunar missions, offering opportunities for global space companies and agencies.


Science & Research

NASA’s New Horizons to Continue Exploring Outer Solar System

  • What: NASA has updated its plan to continue the New Horizons mission for the exploration of the outer solar system starting in fiscal year 2025.
  • Who: NASA, National Space Society
  • Why: The extension of this mission allows for more data collection on heliophysics and the Sun-Earth connection, which could have implications for space weather prediction and planetary science.

UK joins mission to trace Universe back to the Big Bang

  • What: The UK Space Agency has partnered with the Japanese-led LiteBIRD mission to analyze variations in light left over from the Big Bang.
  • Who: UK Space Agency, LiteBIRD mission, Cardiff University
  • Why: This international collaboration will advance our understanding of the universe's origins and expansion, offering both scientific and commercial opportunities for advanced instrumentation.


Workforce, Careers, & Education

Call for Applications: UK National Delegate Support for ESA

  • What: The UK Space Agency is inviting applications for support in ESA’s Competitiveness and Growth program.
  • Who: UK Space Agency, European Space Agency
  • Why: This is an opportunity for UK-based companies and institutions to receive support for technology and product development, strengthening the UK’s role in the global space industry.

Cosmic Girls™ Foundation Launches Global Competition to Empower Girls for Space

  • What: Cosmic Girls Foundation has launched a global competition aimed at encouraging more girls to pursue careers in the space industry.
  • Who: Cosmic Girls Foundation
  • Why: Addressing gender disparity in the space sector is crucial for the industry's long-term success. This initiative could serve as a model for other organizations looking to diversify the space workforce.

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