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Signals and Space | V1 | Issue 8 | 06.05.23

Career Notes with Sita Sonty. A Chinese civilian joins the Tiangong crew. Viasat-Inmarsat merger completes. Space Force is everywhere but Alabama. 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.

Here’s what we covered last week:

Monday, 5/29/23: Memorial day special. Career Notes with Sita Sonty.

Tuesday, 5/30/23: A Chinese civilian joins the Tiangong crew.

  1. Shift Change on the Tiangong

    • Who: Chinese astronauts aboard the Tiangong Space Station, new crew of three, including China's first civilian astronaut.
    • What: The old crew has completed a six-month stint and is being replaced by a new crew, who will also serve for six months.
    • Why: This is a routine shift change but it also marks China's first civilian astronaut in space.
  2. Shenzhou 16 Mission

    • Who: Aerospace engineer Zhu Yangzhu, payload specialist Gai Haichao, and commander Jing Haipeng.
    • What: Shenzhou 16 crew lifting off to replace the Shenzhou 15 crew aboard Tiangong Space Station.
    • Why: This is a routine mission change and allows for the continuous scientific research and educational outreach on the Tiangong Space Station.
  3. Failed Lunar Landing Mission

    • Who: Japan’s ispace.
    • What: A lunar landing mission failed due to a software problem that incorrectly measured the spacecraft’s altitude.
    • Why: Understanding the reasons for the failure will help improve future missions.
  4. Solar Energy from Space Project

    • Who: A Japanese public-private partnership led by a Kyoto University professor.
    • What: A plan to beam solar energy from space using a series of small satellites.
    • Why: The goal is to demonstrate this technology before anyone else, to use as a bargaining chip in space development talks with other countries.
  5. United Arab Emirates' Asteroid Belt Mission

    • Who: The United Arab Emirates.
    • What: A planned mission to study the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, set to launch in 2028.
    • Why: This mission aims to gain insights into the genesis of life on Earth by studying various asteroids.
  6. Arabsat's New Satellite

    • Who: Arabsat, a Saudi Arabian satellite communications company, and Airbus Defence and Space.
    • What: The launch of the Badr-8 TV broadcast and telecoms satellite.
    • Why: This new satellite is part of ongoing efforts to expand and improve satellite communications capabilities.
  7. Russia's Kondor-FKA Satellite

    • Who: Russia's Space Force.
    • What: The launch of the Kondor-FKA n°1 military satellite for Earth Observation.
    • Why: This satellite will add to Russia's capabilities in Earth imaging and military reconnaissance.
  8. Telesat's LEO 3 Demonstration Satellite

    • Who: Global operator Telesat and Canadian company Space Flight Laboratory.
    • What: A contract has been awarded to manufacture a Low Earth Orbit (LEO) demonstration satellite.
    • Why: The aim is to provide continuity for testing campaigns following the decommissioning of Telesat’s Phase 1 LEO satellite.
  9. Spain Joins Artemis Accords

    • Who: NASA and Spain.
    • What: Spain has signed the Artemis Accords, a set of principles to guide space exploration cooperation among nations.
    • Why: This expands the international collaboration for future space exploration.
  10. NASA’s Inspector General Audit on the Space Launch System Project

    • Who: NASA and the Office of NASA’s Inspector General.
    • What: An audit report released highlighting schedule delays and cost increases related to the Space Launch System project.
    • Why: The audit provides insights into the problems faced by the project and how NASA might mitigate them in the future.
  11. NASA and US Department of Education Collaboration

    • Who: NASA and the US Department of Education.
    • What: A memorandum of understanding to strengthen collaboration between the two agencies.
    • Why: The collaboration aims to increase access to high-quality STEM and space education to students and schools across the US.
  12. Featured interview: Josef Aschbacher, Director General of the European Space Agency, about ESA's cybersecurity strategy, security by design, and digital transformation. You can follow Josef on LinkedIn and Twitter and find out more about ESA on their website.

Wednesday, 5/31/23: Viasat-Inmarsat merger completes.

  1. Viasat-Inmarsat Deal Concludes Successfully
    • Who: Viasat, a global communications company, and Inmarsat, a British satellite telecoms company.
    • What: Viasat has successfully acquired Inmarsat, enhancing its capabilities with 19 additional satellites covering the Ka- L- and S- bands.
    • Why: The acquisition is set to foster innovation in global satellite connectivity, with improved capabilities expected to meet customers' growing needs for speed, flexibility, reliability, coverage, and security. Viasat will continue operating from California, but its new international business headquarters will be in London.
  2. US State Department Puts Forth Strategic Framework for Space Diplomacy
    • Who: The US State Department.
    • What: A 25-page Strategic Framework for Space Diplomacy has been released, outlining the future of diplomatic efforts in space.
    • Why: The document outlines the State Department's intention to expand international cooperation, promote responsible behavior in space, and bolster understanding and support for US space policies, capabilities, and services.
  3. US Space Command Takes Over Missile Defense Responsibilities
    • Who: US Space Command and US Strategic Command.
    • What: US Space Command has assumed all missile defense responsibilities from the US Strategic Command.
    • Why: This move follows a comprehensive study on the roles and responsibilities associated with the Missile Defense enterprise. The change signals a more integrated approach to modern warfare.
  4. Lockheed Martin Enters Cooperative Agreement to Advance BLOS Connectivity
    • Who: Lockheed Martin and the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Aviation and Missile Center (AvMC).
    • What: The two entities have signed a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) to advance Beyond Line of Sight (BLOS) connectivity.
    • Why: This agreement will boost the development and demonstration of space-enabled defense systems, contributing to future operations linking ground-based platforms to the space domain.
  5. Northrop Grumman Completes Critical Design Review for DARC
    • Who: Northrop Grumman Corporation
    • What: The company has completed the Critical Design Review for the U.S. Space Force’s Deep-Space Advanced Radar Capability Program (DARC).
    • Why: DARC is set to provide an all-weather, at all times capability for the space domain awareness mission. The completion of this milestone is a significant step forward in the program.
  6. Axiom 2 Mission Astronauts Return to Earth
    • Who: The four Axiom 2 mission astronauts.
    • What: After conducting 20 experiments on the international space station, the all-civilian crew safely returned to Earth, splashing down in the Gulf of Mexico.
    • Why: This successful mission demonstrates the viability of civilian space missions and the value of scientific experiments conducted in space.
  7. SpaceX Achieves 200th Successful Falcon 9 Launch
    • Who: SpaceX
    • What: SpaceX successfully launched its 200th Falcon 9 mission, sending 52 Starlink satellites into orbit.
    • Why: This milestone highlights SpaceX's sustained success and dominance in commercial space launches.
  8. Sierra Space Powers Up DreamChaser
    • Who: Sierra Space, an independent commercial space company.
    • What: The company has successfully powered up their DreamChaser space plane.
    • Why: This is a critical milestone for Sierra Space, moving it closer to achieving operational readiness for the space plane.
  9. North Korean Rocket Suffers Stage Malfunction
    • Who: North Korea.
    • What: A rocket, reportedly carrying North Korea's first military reconnaissance satellite, experienced a second-stage malfunction.
    • Why: The launch has drawn international criticism for violating UN Security Council resolutions. The situation is being closely monitored by the international community.
  10. Spain’s First Privately Developed Rocket Experiences Launch Delays
    • Who: PLD Space, a Spanish private aerospace company.
    • What: The company's first privately developed rocket, Miura 1, has experienced launch delays due to weather conditions.
    • Why: Despite the delay, the launch represents a significant milestone for the Spanish private space industry.
  11. European Space Agency Seeks Proposals for Commercial Cargo Transportation
    • Who: The European Space Agency (ESA).
    • What: ESA is inviting European companies to submit proposals for commercial cargo transportation services to and from the ISS and future outposts.
    • Why: This initiative signals a move towards increased commercial participation in space operations, opening up new opportunities for European companies in the space sector.
  12. Featured interview: Laura Crabtree, CEO of Epsilon 3, on digital transformation for the ground segment, aerospace manufacturers, and managing risk as an aerospace company. You can follow Laura on LinkedIn and Twitter and learn more about Epsilon3 on their website.

Thursday, 6/1/23: Space Force is everywhere but Alabama.

  1. US Space Force HQ Decision and New Missions

    • Who: US Space Force, Air Force, and the states of Colorado, Alabama, New Mexico, and Florida.
    • What: The ongoing debate about the relocation of the US Space Force headquarters, four new missions in Colorado Springs, and the establishment of the Space Training and Readiness Command (STARCOM) at Patrick Space Force Base in Florida.
    • Why: The new missions may influence the decision regarding the Space Force headquarters, which is under review following President Trump's preference for Alabama. The STARCOM establishment in Florida strengthens the space industry presence in the region.
  2. NASA's GUARDIAN: A Tsunami Detection System

    • Who: NASA.
    • What: The GNSS Upper Atmospheric Real-time Disaster Information and Alert Network (GUARDIAN), an experimental monitoring system designed to detect tsunamis.
    • Why: Leveraging satellite data, this system aims to improve early tsunami detection, potentially saving lives and mitigating damage.
  3. NASA's UAP Panel Findings

    • Who: NASA, Pentagon, and the Five Eyes alliance.
    • What: A discussion on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP) and the need for systematic data collection and analysis.
    • Why: While NASA found no convincing evidence of extraterrestrial life associated with UAPs, it highlighted the need for coordinated, science-based UAP study. A final report is due in late July.
  4. Fortify's Funding Round

    • Who: Fortify, Lockheed Martin Ventures, and Raytheon Technologies’ RTX Ventures.
    • What: Boston-based startup Fortify raises $12.5 million for their Digital Composite Manufacturing platform, which includes applications for satellites.
    • Why: The investment reflects the strategic advantage Fortify's technology offers to the defense industrial base, including key players like Lockheed Martin and Raytheon.
  5. MDA and Thoth Technology Partnership

    • Who: MDA and Thoth Technology.
    • What: A partnership to integrate commercial data services with ground-based radar technology for sovereign monitoring in deep space over Canada.
    • Why: The collaboration aims to advance capabilities in deep space radar surveillance and space domain awareness.
  6. Quantum Security in Space: ID Quantique and TESAT's Collaboration

    • Who: ID Quantique, TESAT, the European Space Agency, and the European Commission.
    • What: A collaboration to equip the EAGLE-1 satellite with advanced security features for the EU's quantum communications infrastructures.
    • Why: In an era of increasing cyber threats, this partnership aims to enhance the secure transmission of encryption keys across regions, helping to safeguard industries like government, telecommunications, cloud providers, and banking.
  7. South Korea's Proposed Space Administration

    • Who: South Korea's government, Ministry of Science and ICT, and the Democratic Party of Korea.
    • What: The proposed establishment of the Korea AeroSpace Administration (KASA), South Korea's equivalent of NASA, is stalled due to political disagreements.
    • Why: Despite significant progress in South Korea's space program, the creation of KASA remains uncertain, which could impact the country's future space activities.
  8. New Zealand's National Space Policy

    • Who: The government of New Zealand.
    • What: The unveiling of New Zealand's national space policy, outlining the country's focus on national security, economic interests, sustainable space use, and international cooperation.
    • Why: The policy will guide future decisions on public policy, business growth, and national security, reflecting New Zealand's status as a growing space-faring nation.
  9. Satellite Data and Oil Tankers

    • Who: The New York Times, Russian oil tankers, American insurers, Planet Labs, Copernicus Sentinel-2, Maxar Technologies, MarineTraffic, Spire Global, and Equasis.
    • What: An investigative report revealing oil tankers transporting Russian oil while falsifying their locations.
    • Why: This case demonstrates the practical use of space technology in real-world scenarios, such as detecting illicit activities.
  10. Featured interview: Lukas Nyström, Chief Technology Officer at Satcube, on satellite manufacturing, near-shoring, and supply chain management. You can follow Lukas on LinkedIn.

Friday, 6/2/23: Delays to Boeing’s manned mission to the ISS.

  1. Boeing's Starliner Delayed Again

    • Who: Boeing, NASA.
    • What: Boeing's Starliner crew flight test has been delayed again due to two issues discovered regarding potentially flammable tape and a possible failure point in the parachute system.
    • Why: These safety concerns need to be addressed before the test can proceed. With the delay costing Boeing, the future path and timeline of the program will be under watch.
  2. Pixxel Raises Google-led Series B

    • Who: India-based space technology company Pixxel, Google.
    • What: Pixxel has raised over $36 million in a series B funding round led by Google.
    • Why: Pixxel plans to launch a constellation of over 30 hyperspectral earth observation micro-satellites, using the collected data for global phenomena prediction and monitoring. This funding will support their plans.
  3. Pentagon Buys Starlink for Use in Ukraine

    • Who: Pentagon, SpaceX.
    • What: The Pentagon has signed an agreement to purchase Starlink Satellite services from SpaceX for use in Ukraine.
    • Why: In the face of conflict with Russia, Starlink's communication network offers a vital layer of support for Ukraine.
  4. Changes in Space Force Leadership

    • Who: Space Launch Delta 45, US Air Force.
    • What: Brig. Gen. Kristin Panzenhagen is set to replace Maj. Gen. Stephen Purdy as the next commander of the Space Launch Delta 45.
    • Why: Regular changes in command structure are part of military operations, bringing fresh perspective and leadership skills to the forefront.
  5. Space Force Update on Environmental Monitoring Requirements

    • Who: US Space Force.
    • What: The Space Force updated its Request for Information looking for industry sources to provide a spacecraft bus and support for a polar-orbiting weather sensor.
    • Why: This sensor is expected to meet Space-Based Environmental Monitoring requirements, providing essential environmental data for various applications.
  6. North Korea Shares Images of Failed Rocket Launch

    • Who: North Korea.
    • What: North Korea’s state media released images of its failed rocket launch, showing a new design that appears to use engines developed for intercontinental ballistic missiles.
    • Why: Sharing these images allows international analysts to gain insight into North Korea's rocket technology and potential future plans.
  7. Latitude's 3D-Printed Navier Rocket Engine Test

    • Who: French rocket company Latitude.
    • What: Latitude successfully conducted the second test campaign for its 3D-Printed Navier rocket engine.
    • Why: This campaign is a crucial step in validating Navier's performance under maximum constraints, with implications for Latitude's upcoming Zephyr rocket launch.
  8. CGI Federal Demonstrates Azure Orbital Cloud Access

    • Who: CGI Federal, Microsoft.
    • What: CGI Federal became the first Microsoft global partner to deploy and demonstrate the Azure Orbital Cloud Access satellite backhaul.
    • Why: Microsoft's Azure Space aims to bring satellite-based communications into its enterprise cloud operation. This demonstration is a milestone in expanding the potential applications of this technology.
  9. SpaceX's 28th Commercial Resupply Mission to the ISS

    • Who: SpaceX.
    • What: SpaceX is launching its 28th commercial resupply mission to the ISS, including six cubesats to be released into orbit.
    • Why: This mission continues SpaceX's support of the ISS, while also providing a cybersecurity testing opportunity with the Moonlighter cubesat.
  10. Growing Cybersecurity Concerns in Space

    • Who: Space Systems Cybersecurity Standard working group, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).
    • What: A new set of industry standards is being discussed to counter growing cybersecurity issues in the space industry.
    • Why: The commercial space industry's growth introduces more cybersecurity risks. A voluntary industry standard could help manage these risks, and this working group is leading the conversation.
  11. Featured interview: Peter Singer, a Strategist at New America, a Professor of Practice at Arizona State University, and Founder & Managing Partner at Useful Fiction LLC. You can follow Peter on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Saturday, 6/3/23: Peter Singer on bringing together narrative and non-fiction in space.

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