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Signals and Space | V1 | Issue 9 | 06.12.23

Harnessing power from the sun. What’s going on with LEO? Hey Sailor, try before you buy. Hyped for Hypersonic. Big brother enters the space race. 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, 6/05/23: Harnessing power from the sun.

  1. Caltech's MAPLE Demonstrates Wireless Power Transmission in Space

    • Who: California Institute of Technology (Caltech)
    • What: Caltech's space solar power prototype, MAPLE, demonstrated successful wireless power transmission in space for the first time.
    • Why: This proof of concept could democratize access to energy in the future by allowing us to tap into the unlimited supply of solar energy in space and transmit it to any location on earth.
  2. Shenzhou 15 Crew Returns to Earth

    • Who: Chinese Taikonauts Fei Junlong, Deng Qingming, and Zhang Lu.
    • What: The Shenzhou 15 crew successfully landed at the Dongfeng landing site after a mission at the Tiangong Space Station.
    • Why: This mission marks a significant milestone in China's plan to continuously operate the Tiangong Space Station over the next decade.
  3. Northrop Grumman Awarded Contract for Space Internet Services

    • Who: Northrop Grumman, U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL).
    • What: Northrop Grumman has received a contract worth over $80 million to conduct communications experiments using commercial space internet services.
    • Why: The AFRL's Defense Experimentation Using Commercial Space Internet program aims to integrate commercial space internet services with military platforms and weapon systems, enhancing the military's communication capabilities.
  4. NATO's DIANA Partners with Starburst and MIT

    • Who: NATO's Defense Innovation Accelerator for the North Atlantic (DIANA), Starburst Aerospace, Mission Innovation X at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT MIx), MassChallenge.
    • What: DIANA has partnered with Starburst Aerospace, MIT MIx, and MassChallenge to expand resources for startups from NATO nations.
    • Why: This partnership aims to foster emerging and disruptive dual-use technologies that address critical transatlantic defense needs and security challenges.
  5. US Space Force Prepares for Future Operations with NATO

    • Who: US Space Force, NATO.
    • What: US Space Force's Chief Operations Officer, Lt. Gen. DeAnna Burt, visited the NATO Space Center at Ramstein Air Base in Germany for a briefing on NATO space operations.
    • Why: This visit aims to understand how the US can best integrate and support the Alliance’s space mission, promoting information sharing, capability building, and multilateral cooperation among NATO Allies and Partners.
  6. US Air Force Celebrates Fixed-Price Contracts

    • Who: US Air Force.
    • What: The US Air Force has lauded fixed-price contracts in a new report to the US Congress.
    • Why: Fixed-price contracts, as seen in high-performing Space Force satellite programs, can help control costs and increase efficiency compared to traditional “cost plus” acquisitions.
  7. Congress Requests Review of NOAA's GeoXO Program

    • Who: US House Science Committee, Senate Commerce Committee, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
    • What: Congressional committee members have asked for a review of NOAA’s Geostationary Extended Operations (GeoXO) program due to concerns over cost overruns and delays.
    • Why: This review will evaluate whether NOAA has followed best practices and statutory guidance in setting cost estimates for GeoXO, with the aim of preventing further overruns and delays.
  8. Arcfield Nets US Intelligence Space, Ground Systems Integration Contracts

    • Who: Arcfield, a U.S. intelligence agency.
    • What: Arcfield has been awarded $158 million in multiple classified systems contracts by a U.S. intelligence agency.
    • Why: Arcfield's work will continue to support systems engineering and integration capabilities for the U.S. Intelligence Community and the Department of Defense.
  9. BlackSky Secures Contract for Tactical Imagery Services

    • Who: BlackSky Technology, an unnamed international ministry of defense.
    • What: BlackSky has been awarded a multimillion-dollar contract to provide advanced tactical imagery and analytics services.
    • Why: BlackSky's services support a number of international customers with their satellite constellation and Spectra AI tasking and analytics platform, offering rapid on-demand imagery and analytics.
  10. Cybersecurity Startup Galvanick Raises $10M in Seed Round

    • Who: Galvanick.
    • What: Cybersecurity startup Galvanick announced a successful seed round, raising $10 million.
    • Why: Galvanick focuses on cybersecurity solutions for protecting industrial infrastructure against cyber attacks, an area of increasing concern in the space industry.
  11. Featured interview: Nate Mason, Principal at Starburst Aerospace, on the Starburst business accelerator program, new technology opportunities in the space sector, and startups to watch in 2023. You can follow Nate on Twitter and LinkedIn and learn about Starburst on their website.

Tuesday, 6/06/23: What’s going on with LEO?

  1. NUVIEW's New Funding

    • Who: NUVIEW, a Florida-based earth observation company. Investors include Leonardo DiCaprio, MaC Venture Capital, Broom Ventures, Cortado, Florida Funders, Industrious, Liquid2, and Veto Capital.
    • What: NUVIEW announced plans for the world's first commercial LiDar (Light Detection and Ranging) satellite constellation, backed by $1.2 billion from early adopter agreements and a consortium of funders.
    • Why: The LiDar technology offers advantages such as the ability to ‘see’ through thick vegetation or clouds, and at night. The planned constellation will help track and mitigate the effects of natural disasters and climate change, benefiting researchers, governments, and enterprises.
  2. Space Systems Command Awards Contract to L3Harris

    • Who: US Space Systems Command, L3Harris Technologies.
    • What: A nearly $29 million sensor payload design contract has been awarded to L3Harris Technologies for SSC's medium Earth orbit Missile Track Custody program's Epoch 1 constellation of satellites.
    • Why: This contract makes L3Harris the third vendor for SSC's program, which aims to deliver the latest Overhead Persistent Infrared sensing technology into a new satellite constellation in MEO.
  3. Westinghouse Electric and Astrobotic's Partnership

    • Who: Westinghouse Electric Company, Astrobotic.
    • What: The companies signed a Memorandum of Understanding to explore collaboration on space technology programs for NASA and the Department of Defense.
    • Why: The partnership aims to develop space nuclear technology and delivery systems, such as a scaled-down version of the 5-megawatt eVinci™microreactor for spacecraft in orbit or deployment on the Moon or Mars.
  4. Thales Alenia Partners with Serco

    • Who: Thales Alenia Space, Serco.
    • What: The companies announced a partnership to implement the DestinE Core Service Platform (DESP) as part of the European Commission's Destination Earth (DestinE) initiative.
    • Why: Thales Alenia Space will handle the run time orchestration platform and all cybersecurity management of the DESP Framework, developing digital models of Earth to anticipate extreme events and adapt policies to climate-related challenges.
  5. Momentus' Contract with Apogeo Space

    • Who: Momentus, Apogeo Space.
    • What: Momentus announced a contract to provide orbital transportation services for nine of Apogeo’s IoT constellation picosatellites.
    • Why: This deal is part of Apogeo’s plan to build a 100-satellite constellation providing global connectivity to IoT devices.
  6. Blue Origin's New Shepard Launches Resumption

    • Who: Blue Origin.
    • What: Blue Origin announced plans to resume New Shepard launches, pending approval from the FAA.
    • Why: Operations were grounded due to an engine failure, but the company has since resolved the issue and is looking to resume flights.
  7. Blood Stem Cells Experiment in Space by Chinese Scientists

    • Who: Scientists at the Shenzhen Institute of Advanced Technology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
    • What: The scientists conducted a first-of-its-kind experiment to produce blood stem cells in space, with the stem cells brought back to Earth by the Shenzhou 15 spacecraft.
    • Why: This experiment is a significant step towards creating early-stage blood stem cells in space.
  8. Russia's Luna 25 Moon Lander Launch Delay

    • Who: Russia.
    • What: The agency reported that the Luna 25 Moon Lander's launch has been delayed until August.
    • Why: This is Russia's first lunar expedition since the fall of the Soviet Union, making it a highly anticipated mission.
  9. NASA's Psyche Asteroid Mission Back on Track

    • Who: NASA.
    • What: An independent review concluded that the Psyche asteroid mission is back on track for a launch in October, after being delayed due to software problems.
    • Why: The mission aims to explore a unique metal-rich asteroid orbiting the Sun between Mars and Jupiter.
  10. Featured interview: Liam Kennedy, Inventor of ISS-Above and education partner with the ISS National Lab (Part 1 of 2). You can follow Liam on LinkedIn and ISS-Above on Twitter and on their website.

Wednesday, 6/07/23: Hey Sailor, try before you buy.

  1. OneWeb's Maritime Offer

    • Who: OneWeb.
    • What: OneWeb has launched a free trial offer for maritime customers.
    • Why: As part of an effort to compete in the satellite internet sector, OneWeb has initiated an enterprise try-before-you-buy deal. This move targets potential customers in the maritime industry who operate in regions covered by OneWeb's 634 low earth orbit satellites.
  2. Starlink's Expansion to Mongolia

    • Who: SpaceX, Mongolia's Prime Minister.
    • What: Discussions have been held regarding the potential expansion of Starlink, SpaceX's satellite internet service, into Mongolia.
    • Why: After registering Starlink in Mongolia in 2022, the company plans to extend its services into the region. This move marks SpaceX's continued efforts to expand its global customer base.
  3. Chinese Commercial Launch

    • Who: A Chinese commercial launch company (name not specified).
    • What: The company conducted its second orbital mission, launching a record 26 satellites.
    • Why: The mission, which launched several experimental and commercial remote-sensing satellites, indicates the growth and advancements in China's space sector.
  4. US Aerospace Defense Contractor Malware Attack

    • Who: An unnamed US aerospace defense contractor, with findings reported by security company Adlumin.
    • What: The contractor's machines were infected with a new malicious PowerShell script, known as PowerDrop.
    • Why: The malware attack, possibly carried out by a nation-state, highlights the cybersecurity threats faced by the aerospace industry. Organizations in this sector are urged to stay vigilant against such threats.
  5. Opening of US Space Systems Command's COSMIC

    • Who: US Space Systems Command (SSC).
    • What: SSC's Commercial Space Marketplace for Innovation and Collaboration (COSMIC) opens its doors in Virginia.
    • Why: The new marketplace aims to accelerate collaboration with the industry and promote the development of commercial space technologies for the Space Force.
  6. Pulsar Fusion's Partnership with Princeton Satellite Systems

    • Who: UK-based start-up Pulsar Fusion and Princeton Satellite Systems.
    • What: The two companies are collaborating on a study of fusion-propelled spacecraft.
    • Why: The research will contribute to understanding how a nuclear fusion plasma behaves in a rocket engine, potentially enabling meaningful interstellar space travel in the future.
  7. York Space Systems Acquires Emergent Space Technologies

    • Who: York Space Systems and Emergent Space Technologies.
    • What: York Space Systems has completed the acquisition of Emergent Space Technologies.
    • Why: The acquisition will leverage Emergent's expertise in modeling, simulations, and digital engineering for space development, enhancing York's capabilities as a supplier of small satellites and components.
  8. Rocket Lab's Venus Mission Delay

    • Who: Rocket Lab.
    • What: Rocket Lab's mission to Venus has been postponed to 2025.
    • Why: The Venus mission, which aims to search for habitable conditions and signs of life, is the first fully private mission to the planet and is key to Rocket Lab's future interplanetary plans.
  9. UK Aerospace Sector Leadership Changes

    • Who: UK Space Agency's Deputy CEO Ian Annett and Melissa Quinn, formerly Head of Spaceport Cornwall.
    • What: Ian Annett is leaving his role, while Melissa Quinn has been appointed as General Manager at Slingshot Seradata.
    • Why: These leadership shifts mark notable transitions in the UK aerospace sector, shaping the future direction of the industry.
  10. Featured Interview: Liam Kennedy, Inventor of ISS-Above and education partner with the ISS National Lab for the second part of our conversation about the recent resupply mission to the ISS. You can follow Liam on LinkedIn and ISS-Above on Twitter and on their website.

Thursday, 6/08/23: Hyped for Hypersonic.

  1. Purdue University Opens Hypersonics Testing Facility

    • Who: Purdue University in collaboration with the Pentagon
    • What: They have opened a new 65,000-square-foot Hypersonics and Applied Research Facility featuring a Mach 8 wind tunnel, a hypersonic pulse shock tunnel, and an Advanced Manufacturing Technology Center.
    • Why: The facility aims to advance hypersonic weapons technology and hypersonic travel, which could dramatically reduce global travel times.
  2. United Launch Alliance's Vulcan Rocket Test Fire

    • Who: United Launch Alliance (ULA)
    • What: They have successfully completed a six-second test fire of the Vulcan Centaur rocket's two BE-4 engines.
    • Why: This is a critical step towards validating the vehicle's flight readiness, bringing it closer to its first launch.
  3. Ohio Eyes Space Command HQ

    • Who: Ohio's congressional delegation
    • What: They are requesting that the Biden Administration consider placing the Space Force headquarters at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.
    • Why: To capitalize on the ongoing selection process between Alabama and Colorado and bring potential growth and opportunities to Ohio.
  4. Space Systems Command Plans for Commercial Satellite Services in Crisis Times

    • Who: Space Systems Command's Commercial Space Office
    • What: They are developing a draft framework for calling up commercial satellite services during crises or conflicts.
    • Why: To enhance military capabilities and operations by leveraging civilian resources in times of need.
  5. Delays Feared for Artemis 3 Due to SpaceX Starship's Challenges

    • Who: NASA and SpaceX
    • What: NASA is concerned about potential delays in the Artemis 3 mission due to challenges and ongoing investigations into SpaceX's Starship.
    • Why: The delays could jeopardize the mission's target launch date in late 2025.
  6. NASA Awards $45 million to Small Businesses and Research Institutions

    • Who: NASA
    • What: They have provided $45 million in grants to 249 small businesses and 39 research institutions under the SBIR and STTR programs.
    • Why: To support innovation and technological advancement within the space industry.
  7. Firefly Aerospace Acquires Spaceflight Inc.

    • Who: Firefly Aerospace and Spaceflight Inc.
    • What: Firefly Aerospace has acquired Spaceflight Inc. for an undisclosed amount.
    • Why: To enhance its on-orbit solutions and service the entire lifecycle of customers' satellites and spacecraft.
  8. SDA Awards $64 million Contract to SAIC

    • Who: Space Development Agency (SDA) and Science Applications International Corp (SAIC)
    • What: SDA has awarded a $64 million contract to SAIC to develop, implement, and maintain the BMC3 Application Factory for the PWSA.
    • Why: To enhance data communications and decision-making capabilities for the U.S. Department of Defense's JADC2 strategy.
  9. Hydrosat Acquires IrriWatch

    • Who: Hydrosat and IrriWatch
    • What: Hydrosat has acquired Netherlands-based IrriWatch for an undisclosed amount.
    • Why: To enhance Hydrosat's capability to provide climate monitoring and metrics using satellite data.
  10. ESA Project Uses AI for Organic Cotton Certification

    • Who: European Space Agency (ESA), German tech firm Marple, and Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)
    • What:They are launching a project using AI and satellite data to certify organic cotton farms in India.
    • Why: To prevent fraud and ensure accurate classification of organic and conventional cotton farming methods.
  11. UKSA Funds Methane Emissions Research

    • Who: The UK Space Agency (UKSA), Satellite Applications Catapult, and GHGSat
    • What:They have partnered on a $6.5 million project to provide satellite data on global methane emissions.
    • Why:To enable UK researchers and companies to develop new applications for climate impact.
  12. Featured interview: Dennis Burnett, General Counsel of Hawkeye 360, an American geospatial analytics company. You can follow Dennis on LinkedIn and learn more about Hawkeye 360 on their website.

Friday, 6/09/23: Big brother enters the space race.

  1. US Space Force Assigns 12 New Missions to SpaceX and ULA

    • Who: U.S. Space Force, SpaceX, United Launch Alliance (ULA)
    • What: The U.S. Space Force launch procurement office has assigned 12 additional missions to SpaceX and ULA under the National Security Space Launch Phase 2 contract.
    • Why: These missions, planned to start launching in 2025, continue the U.S. government's reliance on private space companies for its space missions. Contract values weren't disclosed.
  2. GAO Finds Red Flags in Space Force Procurements

    • Who: Government Accountability Office (GAO), U.S. Space Force
    • What: The GAO found issues with Space Force's satellite programs, specifically highlighting concerns around the Next-Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared (Next-Gen OPIR).
    • Why: The GAO report raises concerns about program costs and the ability of the Space Force to meet scheduled launch dates, which may impact national security and budget considerations.
  3. Possible Chinese Surveillance Facility in Cuba

    • Who: China, Cuba, United States
    • What: Reports suggest that China may establish a facility in Cuba capable of conducting electronic surveillance on the U.S.
    • Why: If true, this could heighten tensions between the U.S. and China and pose significant security risks due to the proximity of Cuba to Florida, home to numerous U.S. military installations.
  4. China Advances Satellite Internet Constellation

    • Who: China, Harbin Institute of Technology
    • What: China launched a stackable communications satellite as part of its efforts to build its own satellite internet constellation.
    • Why: This is a strategic move by China to rival SpaceX's Starlink and to position itself as a global provider of internet infrastructure.
  5. Nelco Invests in Piscis Networks

    • Who: Nelco, Piscis Networks
    • What: Nelco, an Indian satellite communications provider, invested over $100,000 in Piscis Networks, a network equipment startup.
    • Why: This investment aims to boost Nelco's services amidst the growing competition in the communications infrastructure industry.
  6. SES Space & Defense Teams Up with Amazon Web Services

    • Who: SES Space & Defense, Amazon Web Services (AWS)
    • What: SES Space & Defense signed an agreement with AWS to provide satellite-powered network connectivity to AWS's Modular Data Center for the U.S. Department of Defense.
    • Why: This agreement will provide defense customers with access to low-latency, cloud-based applications and services in disrupted environments.
  7. Planet's Stock Drops Amid Revenue Cut Announcement

    • Who: Planet
    • What: Planet's stock price dropped by 25% following the announcement of reductions to their annual revenue guidance in their first quarter reports.
    • Why: Although sales are down, Planet claims their balance sheet remains strong, showing the company's resilience despite market challenges.
  8. Prolonged Space Flight Affects Human Brain, Study Finds

    • Who: University of Florida, astronauts
    • What: A study found that astronauts who have been in space for over six months experienced significant expansion of the cerebral ventricles, and it took up to three years for the damage to reverse.
    • Why: The findings suggest a potential health risk for astronauts on long-term space missions, impacting future space exploration plans and astronaut health protocols.
  9. Featured interview: Elizabeth Kennick, President of Teachers in Space, on the mission of Teachers in Space and recent success stories. You can follow Elizabeth on Twitter or LinkedIn and read more about Teachers in Space on their website.

Saturday, 6/10/23: What is the Spaceport America Cup?

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