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Signals and Space | V1 | Issue 28 | 10.23.23

Varda looks Down Under to land. Space junk's back in the atmosphere. Canada puts its money where its EO is. Lockheed Martin’s Space 2050. And more!



Good morning,

We're here in Las Vegas covering the ASCEND conference. Hit us up if you're around and have something to share with the community. We'll be collecting soundbites for the podcast.

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

  • Eric Ingram, CEO of SCOUT Space, on the mission of SCOUT Space, space sustainability, and access to spaceflight.
  • Eliana Sheriff, better known as “Ellie in Space,” discussing her focus on the space industry.
  • Nicolò Boschetti discusses his research on cybersecurity in space.
  • Emma Louden, a Ph.D. candidate in astrophysics at Yale University, discussing her workforce initiatives and outlook for the space industry.
  • Dr. Nelson Pedreiro, Chief Engineer for Lockheed Martin, discusses Lockheed Martin’s vision for the future of space through the Space 2050 program.



Space Agency Awards SpiderOak Resilience Research Agreement

  • What: The Space Development Agency has awarded SpiderOak a research agreement to integrate its OrbitSecure software into the Space Force's Rapid Resilient Command and Control effort.
  • Who: Space Development Agency, SpiderOak, US Space Force
  • Why: As satellite networks expand, the need for robust cybersecurity solutions becomes crucial. This initiative could set the standard for securing satellite networks across multiple stakeholders.


Satellite Tech

Neuraspace and Arcsec Partner to Detect Space Debris

  • What: Neuraspace and Arcsec are partnering to develop a new method for detecting space debris.
  • Who: Neuraspace, Arcsec
  • Why: The project aims to improve space traffic management by enhancing the accuracy of orbit calculations and risk assessments, a growing concern as low-Earth orbit gets busier.

StarWin and Avanti Communications to bring ground-breaking SatCom on the move capabilities to Africa

  • What: StarWin has successfully tested its Electronically Steered Phased Array Antenna terminal for Communications on the Move on Avanti Communications’ high-speed HYLAS 4 Ka-band satellite.
  • Who: StarWin, Avanti Communications
  • Why: This development marks a significant milestone for mobile satellite communications, particularly for government, military, and enterprise customers across Africa.


Business & Investing

Space Investment Quarterly Reports

  • What: Space Economy investments rose 17% YoY in Q3, totaling $3 Billion across 103 companies.
  • Who: SpaceCapital, Various Space Companies
  • Why: The figures indicate a sustained investment interest in the space sector despite economic headwinds, providing ample opportunities for both startups and established firms.

Skykraft Raises $120M AUD for Satellite Communications

  • What: Australian company Skykraft has raised $120 million AUD for its aviation satellite communication project.
  • Who: Skykraft
  • Why: The significant investment underscores the commercial viability and interest in satellite communications, particularly for air traffic control applications.

Dhruva Space's New Manufacturing Facility

  • What: Dhruva Space announced plans for a new 280,000 sq foot manufacturing facility.
  • Who: Dhruva Space
  • Why: The facility represents a significant expansion of India's capabilities in satellite manufacturing, reflecting the growing space economy in the country.

Indian Space Startup Raises $26.7 Million for 3D-Printed Rocket Engines

  • What: Agnikul Cosmos has raised $26.7 million in a Series B round for launching satellites using 3D-printed rocket engines.
  • Who: Agnikul Cosmos
  • Why: This funding round signifies the growing importance of 3D printing technologies in reducing the cost of space missions.

Seraphim Space/Generation Space Accelerator Launches Mission 12

  • What: Seraphim Space has announced the next cohort of 12 space startups participating in its accelerator program.
  • Who: Seraphim Space, Various Startups
  • Why: Accelerator programs like this play a vital role in nurturing early-stage companies, affecting the long-term landscape of the space industry.

UK Space Agency Unlocks Space for Business

  • What: The UK Space Agency is launching an 18-month program to help businesses leverage satellite data and services.
  • Who: UK Space Agency
  • Why: The initiative aims to drive economic growth by making space technology more accessible to businesses, potentially affecting 17.7% of the UK's GDP.

Cognitive Space raises 4m to further fuel its mission of intelligent space automation

  • What: U.S. startup Cognitive Space has raised $4 million in a seed-plus funding round to fuel its mission of intelligent space automation.
  • Who: Cognitive Space, Space Development Agency
  • Why: With two new contracts from the Space Development Agency, Cognitive Space is well-positioned to influence the future of satellite constellations and intelligent automation in space.


Earth Observation

China Launches Earth-Observing Satellite

  • What: China has launched a new Earth observation satellite named Yunhai-1 04.
  • Who: China
  • Why: The satellite aims to provide atmospheric, sea, and space detection services, marking China's continued expansion into Earth observation technology.

Canada Invests Over $1 Billion in Earth Observation Satellites

  • What: The Canadian government has allocated over $1 billion CAD for the RADARSAT+ program, aimed at developing a successor to the existing RADARSAT Constellation Mission (RCM).
  • Who: Canadian government, Canadian Space Agency
  • Why: This massive investment underscores the critical role Earth Observation (EO) plays in both governmental and commercial sectors, ensuring continuity in essential data services.


Human Spaceflight

China Announces Shenzhou-17 Spacecraft Launch

  • What: China plans to launch the Shenzhou-17 spacecraft to its Tiangong Space Station.
  • Who: China
  • Why: The planned mission highlights China’s ambitious goals in human spaceflight and further establishes its growing presence in space.

India Aims for Crewed Moon Mission by 2040

  • What: India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has directed the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) to aim for a crewed Moon mission by 2040.
  • Who: ISRO, Indian government
  • Why: This ambitious target not only elevates India's space program but also adds a new dynamic to the international space exploration landscape.



Two Vega VV23 Payloads Fail to Deploy

  • What: Two cubesat payloads failed to deploy after being launched aboard the Vega VV23 flight managed by Arianespace.
  • Who: European Spaceflight, Arianespace
  • Why: The failure highlights the risks and challenges in satellite deployments, even as the launch market expands.

ESA Ariane 6 Testing

  • What: The European Space Agency plans another hot fire test for their Ariane 6 rocket to address a Thrust Vector Control anomaly.
  • Who: European Space Agency, SABCA
  • Why: The anomaly could set back Europe’s independent access to space, adding urgency to these tests for maintaining a competitive position in the global launch market.

PLD Space's Orbital Launch Plans

  • What: Spanish company PLD Space aims for its first orbital launch from French Guiana in Q1 2026.
  • Who: PLD Space
  • Why: This is a significant step for European private launch capabilities, potentially strengthening the continent's position in the global commercial launch market.

Japan’s Ministry Selects ispace for Grant

  • What: ispace receives an approximately $80 million grant from Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry for developing a lunar lander.
  • Who: ispace, Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry
  • Why: This grant underscores the increasing role of private companies in national space strategies and offers a significant financial boost to ispace for its lunar ambitions.


Ground Segment

Request for Information - TraCSS Presentation Layer

  • What: NOAA is seeking commercial System Integrator and Cloud Management Services for the Traffic Coordination System for Space (TraCSS).
  • Who: NOAA, Commercial System Integrators
  • Why: The development of TraCSS is critical for managing increasing space traffic and ensuring safe operations.


Emerging Tech

US Interested in ISRO's Technology

  • What: The US has shown interest in India's ISRO technology after the success of the Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft.
  • Who: ISRO, NASA
  • Why: The interest from the U.S. reflects the growing capabilities of ISRO and indicates potential future collaborations or competition between the two nations in space technology.

Blue Origin Unveils Multi-Mission, Multi-Orbit Space Mobility Platform

  • What: Blue Origin has unveiled Blue Ring, a new spacecraft platform designed to provide a range of in-space services.
  • Who: Blue Origin
  • Why: Blue Ring aims to be a one-stop-shop for various in-space needs, potentially simplifying the logistics of space missions and reducing costs.

USNC Awarded $5M NASA Nuclear Propulsion Contract

  • What: NASA has awarded $5 million to USNC for the development of nuclear thermal propulsion systems.
  • Who: NASA, USNC, Blue Origin
  • Why: Nuclear propulsion could revolutionize space travel, making missions faster and more energy-efficient.

EVA: Germany's Microgravity Service for Biotech Research

  • What: Three German companies are launching EVA, an end-to-end service for microgravity research and in-orbit product development.
  • Who: Rocket Factory Augsburg, Yuri, ATMOS space cargo
  • Why: This service could revolutionize microgravity research, providing a flexible alternative to the International Space Station for experiments.

AI is giving the growing space industry a boost

  • What: AI technologies are increasingly being integrated into various sectors of the space industry, driving innovation and efficiency.
  • Who: General space industry
  • Why: The adoption of AI can automate complex processes and enhance data analytics, providing significant advantages in a competitive and rapidly evolving industry.

SmallSpark Demonstrates AI-Designed Rockets

  • What: SmallSpark Space Systems successfully tests its AI-designed solid rocket motors.
  • Who: SmallSpark Space Systems
  • Why: The use of AI in rocket design could radically speed up development cycles, allowing for quicker innovation and potentially disrupting traditional design paradigms.


Policy & Law

FAA Highlights Satellite Reentry Risks

  • What: The FAA released a report detailing risks associated with the reentry of satellites into Earth's atmosphere, especially focusing on SpaceX's Starlink satellites.
  • Who: FAA, Aerospace Corporation, SpaceX
  • Why: The FAA’s report argues that an increasing number of satellites, especially Starlink satellites, could pose a non-negligible risk to life and property on Earth and in the air. The report has spurred an intense debate, given its specific focus on Starlink, and merits close attention from space industry professionals concerned about policy regulations and public relations fallout.

Burned-up space junk pollutes Earth's upper atmosphere, NASA planes find

  • What: A new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reveals that space junk reentering Earth's atmosphere is leaving behind detectable levels of heavy metals in the stratosphere, such as lithium, aluminum, copper, and lead.
  • Who: NASA, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
  • Why: The study emphasizes the need for sustainable practices in satellite deployment and disposal. With the increasing number of satellites, it's essential to consider the environmental impacts they can have upon reentry.

Details emerge of near collision between Australian and Chinese satellites

  • What: A near miss occurred between an Australian Skykraft satellite and a Chinese Yaogan 37 satellite, both in low Earth orbit.
  • Who: Australia's Defence Space Command, Skykraft, United States Air Force, Chinese Yaogan 37 satellite
  • Why: This incident highlights the increasing risks in crowded orbits and emphasizes the need for international cooperation to avoid potential collisions and the generation of space debris.

SpaceX, Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic executives urge senators to improve the FAA

  • What: Executives from SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic have called on senators to streamline authorization processes for commercial human space activities.
  • Who: SpaceX, Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic, U.S. Subcommittee on Space and Science
  • Why: The call for improved regulation comes amidst a period of rapid innovation and competition in the commercial space sector. A streamlined process could enhance safety and maintain U.S. leadership in space.

Varda Looks to Australia for Reentry

  • What: Varda Space Industries plans to land its re-entry capsule at Koonibba Test Range in Australia after experiencing regulatory hurdles in the United States.
  • Who: Varda Space Industries, Southern Launch, FAA, US Air Force
  • Why: The story highlights the challenges faced by commercial space companies due to slow FAA approvals. This has wider implications for the industry, pointing to possible bottlenecks in scaling space operations.

Pakistan Joins China's Lunar Program

  • What: Pakistan has signed an agreement with China to participate in a lunar research station.
  • Who: China’s National Space Administration, Pakistan
  • Why: This partnership expands China's geopolitical influence in space and points to a multi-polar space environment, affecting global space strategies.



Starfighters Space Announces Two New Contracts for Hypersonic Testing

  • What: Starfighters Space has secured two contracts focused on hypersonic research and testing.
  • Who: Starfighters Space, Defense Innovation Unit
  • Why: The contracts highlight the growing focus on hypersonic technologies within defense initiatives, potentially affecting future military operations and policies.

Danti Secures $1.2M Contract for AI-Powered Data Search for U.S. Space Force

  • What: Danti has been awarded a $1.2 million contract from AFWERX to provide AI-powered geospatial data search capabilities to the U.S. Space Force.
  • Who: Danti, AFWERX, U.S. Space Force
  • Why: The contract emphasizes the increasing role of AI in military space operations, especially in the handling and analysis of geospatial data.

Space Force Commercial Surge Capacity

  • What: The US Space Force has finalized a plan outlining how it will scale up the use of commercial capabilities during a conflict.
  • Who: US Space Force, commercial satellite companies
  • Why: The development signifies a critical step in integrating commercial capabilities into defense strategy, offering both opportunities and obligations for space companies.


Science & Research

Low Earth Orbit R&D Workshop by The White House

  • What: A workshop held by U.S. federal departments and agencies to explore collaborative opportunities in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) research.
  • Who: United States federal departments and agencies
  • Why: The workshop is a significant signal that the U.S. government sees value in coordinated, multi-disciplinary research in LEO. This could be an opportunity for companies to engage in public-private partnerships for space exploration and commercialization.

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