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Africa’s space industry is about to lift off.

The African space industry is projected to be worth over $22B by 2026. SDA satellite launch gets delayed. Amazon sued for launch provider choice. And more.





The African space industry is projected to be worth $22.64 billion by 2026. The launch of 13 Tranche 0 Space Development Agency satellites has been delayed until Saturday at the earliest. An Amazon shareholder sues Jeff Bezos and the board alleging that the company failed to fully vet a decision to award launch contracts, and more.

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T-Minus Guest

Our guest today is Africa Space Policy Analyst Ruvimbo Samanga.

You can connect with Ruvimbo on LinkedIn.

Selected Reading

African Space Industry Annual Report, 2023 Edition- Space in Africa

SpaceX delays launch of 13 satellites for US Space Force to Sept. 2. Here's how to watch online for free.- Space.com

Amazon shareholder sues board, Bezos over Blue Origin launch contracts- Reuters

Crashed Russian mission left a crater on the moon, NASA images show- Reuters

China starts preparation for manned moon project, aiming for 2030- CGTN

Intuitive Machines Announces $20 Million Equity Investment- Global Newswire

SatixFy Announces Strategic $60 Million Transaction including a Commercial Agreement & Subsidiary Sale with MDA- Business Wire

Sita Sonty Joins Space Tango as CEO- Space Tango

‘A big responsibility’: astronaut from UAE on longest ever Arab space mission- The Guardian

Trends That Impact Perceptions of the Chinese Space Program- AU

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>> Maria Varmazis: How much do you know about Africa's growing space economy? I'd wager probably not as much as you'd like. Well, we're going to help with that in today's show because there is a lot going on in the African continent when it comes to space. And you should know about it. Did you know that Africa's space economy is projected to be worth over 22 billion US dollars by 2026? We'll take a closer look throughout today's episode.

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Today is September 1st, 2023. I'm Maria Varmazis.

>> Alice Carruth: I'm Alice Carruth. And this is "T-Minus."

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>> Maria Varmazis: New data points from the African Space Industry 2023 Report: The launch of SDA Tranche 0 satellites gets delayed until Saturday. Amazon sued for its choice of launch provider for Project Kuiper.

>> Alice Carruth: And our guest today is Africa Space Policy Analyst Ruvimbo Samanga. Stay with us for that at the end of our briefing.

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>> Maria Varmazis: Now, on to today's Intelligence Briefing. With the BRIC Summit still underway in Johannesburg, a lot of the world is paying attention to what's going on in Africa, and that includes space activity and the growing African space market. In fact, the African Space Industry just put out its annual report for the 2023 space economy in the African continent with some interesting points. Here are a few that we think you might find interesting. As we mentioned at the top of the show, the African space economy showed some healthy growth in 2022. And as a result, the report projects that despite some overall budget cuts to space programs on the continent, Africa's overall space economy will be valued at 22.64 billion US dollars by 2026, with an approximately 16% growth rate. The report notes that the priority for many African nations over the next five years for space includes growth along the lines of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals. So both Earth observation capabilities and digital inclusion are major drivers of interest in space applications. Fifteen African nations, as of this June, have invested nearly 5 billion US dollars in 58 satellite projects. And the continent is heavily expanding its space infrastructure, including new launch facilities and ground stations. And to support all this growth and innovation, there are currently 318 new space companies in Africa, largely focusing on emerging technologies, including AI and machine learning, robotics, big data analytics, small satellite constellations, and spacecraft propulsion. Now, there's a lot, lot more in this report, and I can't cover all the highlights here. But we highly recommend you read the report for yourself and dive into the details. You can find it at spaceinafrica.com/reports. And we'll, of course, also link it for you in our show notes.

>> Alice Carruth: And I'll be speaking about this growing space economy across the African continent later in the show with Ruvimbo Samanga, so stay with us for that chat. Now, delays are an unavoidable part of space, and the latest postponement has affected the launch of US Space Force's satellites. The liftoff of 13 Tranche 0 Space Development Agency satellites has been pushed back until Saturday at the earliest. SpaceX's Falcon 9 is currently scheduled to lift off from California's Vandenberg Space Force Base on September the 2nd at 7:26 a.m. local time.

>> Maria Varmazis: Jeff Bezos and the Amazon board are defendants in a new case alleging that the company failed to fully vet a decision to award launch contracts for the Project Kuiper satellite program to Blue Origin. An Amazon shareholder filed the complaint against the billionaire and his company, claiming that the board awarded contracts worth billions of dollars to Blue Origin and did not consider rival SpaceX. The plaintiff says that the contracts were the second largest capital expenditure in Amazon's history at the time and that all transport providers should have been considered for the Kuiper constellation of satellites, which are expected to begin launching later this month.

>> Alice Carruth: Now, what happens when you crash land on the moon? You make a big hole, of course. NASA has released photographs of a 10-meter crater that the US Space Agency says was caused by the Russian Lunar 25 module that crashed last month. The images were captured by NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft. And we've included them in our show notes.

>> Maria Varmazis: The Chinese space agency is asking the public to suggest names for the new generation crewed spacecraft and crewed moon lander. China expects to launch an unmanned moon orbiter and lander like previous Chang'e lunar missions. The agency says a Chinese taikonaut will reside in the orbiter and land on the moon. The China-manned space agency plans to land the first Chinese person on the moon by 2030.

>> Alice Carruth: Commercial lunar lander company Intuitive Machines has raised an additional 20 million US dollars in capital. The company entered into a definitive securities purchase agreement with an unnamed institutional investor for the issuance and sale of stock and warrants in exchange for the 20 million equity investment. The agreement is expected to close on September the 5th, subject to customary closing conditions. Intuitive Machine CEO Steve Altemus says quote, "We continue to execute and lead the development of Lunar Space and the expected launch of IM-1 mid-November and IM-2 and IM-3 launches in 2024."

>> Maria Varmazis: Space technology company MDA has acquired the digital payload division of SatixFy Communications, also known as SatixFy Space Systems UK. MDA will integrate SatixFy Space Systems into MDA UK, the company's existing UK subsidiary. MDA paid 40 million US dollars for SatixFy Space Systems UK. The company also paid an additional $20 million in advanced payments under new commercial agreements, which includes the previous $10 million advanced payment made in June to be applied to future orders of space-grade chips. The transaction is subject to customary closing conditions and is expected to close in the fourth quarter of this year.

>> Alice Carruth: Friend to "T-Minus" space, Sita Sonty, has been announced as the new CEO of Space Tango. Space Tango provides automated microgravity solutions for research and manufacturing. We wish Sita the best of luck in her new role.

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>> Maria Varmazis: And that concludes our intel briefing for today. You'll find links to further reading on all the stories we've mentioned in our show notes. We've included a piece from The Guardian on Sultan al-Neyadi's mission on the ISS and another on trends that impact perceptions of the Chinese space program. They're all at space.n2k.com and click on this podcast.

>> Alice Carruth: Hey, "T-Minus" crew, tune in tomorrow for "T-Minus Deep Space," our show for extended interviews, special editions, and deep dives with some of the most influential professionals in the space industry. Tomorrow, we have Ruvimbo Samanga talking about space policy across Africa. Check it out while you're mowing the lawn, grocery shopping, folding laundry, or driving your kids to the game. You don't want to miss it.

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Our guest today is Ruvimbo Samanga. Ruvimbo is an African Space Policy Analyst currently working for Access Partnership and sits on the board of the Space Arbitration Association. She spoke to me about why we should be paying attention to the growing space industry across the continent.

>> Ruvimbo Samanga: Africa certainly has a lot to say when it comes to space. We do understand that we are an emerging region and that there is lots yet still to cover. But we are at such a pivotal moment of our global conversation that to make it truly meaningful needs every single diverse voice to speak into it. And I really hope that Africa will have its platform, not only to share its story but to have its story included in the greater narrative of what's currently happening. So the national institution so far that has coordinated the African Office Space Program would be the African Union Commission. And under this African Union Commission, we will also soon have the development of the African Space Agency, which is intended to coordinate the activities of all African states, all 55 of them. With regards to policy, quite recently, Ghana was the latest country, I believe the 10th, to enact a space policy. And essentially, what it is is a framework to guide different institutions on how they can manage their program. And each country will have its own needs and will align its policy with that need. So we see with countries like Egypt that just signed international partnerships for development of manufacturing, assembly, integration, and testing facilities, that is the building of local capabilities. And then we see with countries like Kenya, which is about to enact a private sector bill, that they're looking towards business development and the enabling of a very active startup. [Inaudible] Morocco. Zimbabwe, of course, launched a satellite recently. Rwanda has been paving an impressive path as well, and a number of others that I think will have a lot of ambitions in the coming years.

>> Alice Carruth: Obviously, a lot of the nations that have been involved in space for quite some time started off with government-led initiatives. But there's also a growing commercial space industry across the whole continent of Africa as well. Can you talk a little bit about some of the companies that have started to build over there?

>> Ruvimbo Samanga: Certainly. There are at least 283 or more new space companies, as we refer to them, operating in Africa. Majority of them, of course, operating in the downstream, which would be the use or derivatives of data analytics or information derived from space and application systems again in the Earth observation market. But we also see some up-and-coming players in the components manufacturing market. I'll touch on a few which come to mind quite easily. NewSpace Systems, located in Cape Town, has been manufacturing, assembling, and, I perceive, integrating and testing satellites for the last couple of years as well on behalf of South Africa. We also see that they are companies that are utilizing new methodologies for existing challenges or providing new solutions. I will touch on Hypernova Space, again from South Africa, that is developing interesting propulsion mechanisms for future space transportation. So that's quite interesting as well. And even more, just away from the commercial front, we have a lot of stakeholders that are developing new outreach methods, new ways of preparing us for future space exploration. And I'll touch on again a good friend, Dr. Adriana Marais, who is the head of Proudly Human. And they are conducting off-world experiments in different sites like Antarctica and the Maghreb Desert. And these are all indicative of a need to prepare our collective consciousness towards a future settlement in space. I think these are all quite innovative. Away from that, we can also touch on the huge agri-tech industry. I think there are about 40 precision farming companies. Majority of them, especially in eastern Africa and West Africa as well, which highlight not only a need for food security solutions in Africa but, I think, a desire to create challenges that speak to, again, our local heritage, which is an agricultural continent. And last but not least, industrial and international industrial partnerships, which are looking at utilizing small satellites for diverse purposes, especially related to climate change, to wildlife and conservation, to water resource management as well. I cannot name the full depth and breadth of them all, but I think it all just speaks to our desire to not only be, I think, up takers of this different data and products but also contributors as well. And I do see a research and development base forming in Africa. One interesting fact is the majority of the founders and CEOs of these startups are below the age of 35. So it's a youth revolution as well. We see a very young population of entrepreneurs coming up.

>> Alice Carruth: That's really exciting that you've got such a growth in such a young area as well in Africa. And you touched a little bit on ground-based infrastructure. What's going on across the continent right now with that infrastructure development?

>> Ruvimbo Samanga: I believe a lot is happening behind the scenes. I do believe there's one publicly profiled project, which is the Djibouti Spaceport. And an interesting fact about spaceports is they, of course, have the geographical advantage of being located around the equator or having most efficiency when located near the equator. And I believe there are about 13 equatorial countries. And if I'm not mistaken, at least nine of them are located in Africa. And that's quite an impressive geo-location advantage that I think will be made great use of, I think has already been made great use of by the Kenyan Spaceport, which is not operational at the moment but provides a lot of prospect. And, of course, along the other countries, such as Somalia, I believe, has plans to pursue a spaceport application. So, to that end, I'll say there's a lot of investment for critical infrastructure in space. And it certainly will go towards such initiatives. I cannot remember the figures, but I do know that if all the opportunities for spaceports were fully utilized in Africa, it will double launch capabilities as they currently stand. So I really throw it out there to the powers that may be that this is an opportunity we should be making great use of. And perhaps private sector can help us do so because they bring the innovation and the experience. And again, international collaborations can help us learn from the successes and perhaps pitfalls of the past.

>> Alice Carruth: I'm excited to hear that there is more development going on across the continent. And I'm excited to hear a lot more about the African Space Agency and how you're working together as a continent. Obviously, we've seen this model happen across Europe before. And it's been a huge success. What is Africa doing as a collective to figure out things like policy for launch, safety standards, you know, that kind of thing?

>> Ruvimbo Samanga: I think it's important to frame Africa's development according to three different nodes. But I'd like to add one, which maybe is not commonly agreed on, but I think is just as important. But I'll start with the primary three, which is research and development being the first, technology being the second, and innovation being the third. And the one that I'll put before all of these would be the awareness-raising node. And why I say awareness raising is important is we need to have the requisite political world to continue space programs, especially in Africa. We have to have these space ambitions contend with other existing SDG challenges. And to that end, we have not only experienced a slow progress of the development ladder because of this duality, but I think it makes it even harder to continue to move up the ladder and justify technology and innovation in the face of those challenges. So that's it. We are very much on the research and development node. And we cannot really speak to a lot of the innovations that our global peers are at. But nevertheless, I think it's important that we show our capabilities to the rest of the entire community that we have a cultural heritage that allows us to speak into research and development and industrial partnerships and maintain a voice. I will say that the vast amount of our conglomeration or consolidation of the African market has focused on research and development partnerships and a little bit of technology as well. Some of the partnerships I can talk of include the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security Partnership or GMES and Africa, which is a partnership between the AU and the EU for Earth observation. And what I find symbolic about this partnership is not only are we learning from a similar model, but I think it also demonstrates our capacity to utilize space products and services in a way that's already been done or is being done by global partners. And essentially, it started off as a 13 million euro funded project which was given to 12 different consortia of research institutes all over Africa. And they meet regularly for an important process of information sharing, knowledge sharing, best practice sharing towards the betterment of the Earth observation industry. We also have some regional initiatives which are in progress. For example, the Southern African Development Community satellite data sharing cube, or the SADC data sharing cube, which was an initiative of the 19 SADC countries to have a better access to regional structures for satellite Earth observation and sharing that data freely and openly. We also have the Africa Resource Management Project, which is, again, four countries that have come together to contribute one satellite each and share the data across those satellites. And I could touch on many other partnerships, especially for, I think, the sharing of resources, skills, and the free movement of whether it's persons or the free movement of money, et cetera, or products and services, rather. And this falls under the great umbrella of the Africa Free Continental Trade Agreement, which is a seminal document in terms of trade, I think, since the World Trade Organization. And it brings together a combined African GDP of 3 trillion US dollars. And when fully affected, this should give us the opportunity to have the free movement of products and services, but also make best use of the youth, the women and men enterprise, which is standard about 60%, and I think just the general capabilities and capacities of all members of African society. So, certainly, more to come. But for now, we await on the full coming into operation of the African Space Agency, which I'm sure will have a lot to offer the African population.

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>> Alice Carruth: We'll be right back.

>> Maria Varmazis: Welcome back! MIT and Caltech researchers who have been studying gravitational waves, you know, those massive ripples in space-time that we're all riding, are getting ready for the next generation of research. For several years, the researchers have worked with a number of sites around the world to observe those gravitational waves. And those sites are called LIGOs, or Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatories. Each LIGO's detector arm is about four kilometers long. But sometimes bigger is better. And the MIT Caltech team recently found out that they're getting $9 million over the next three years to go bigger. A lot bigger. Ten times bigger, in fact. And that's to build the next generation LIGO, which they're calling the Cosmic Explorer, where each detector side will be 40 kilometers long. Of course, the bigger your detector, the bigger the waves you can listen for. And with a bigger gravitational-wave detector, scientists will be better able to understand black holes and neutron stars, how they collide. And with the help of the Cosmic Explorer, they'll be able to look further away, which means further back in time. And with that advantage, hopefully, we'll learn more specifically about how black holes and neutron stars are formed to begin with. Now, they're still looking for sites to build the Cosmic Explorer, so it's going to be a few years. But, in the meantime, there are plenty of next-generation gravitational-wave research facilities coming online. All these global efforts to help us unravel the awesome mysteries of the universe thread by thread.

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>> Alice Carruth: That's it for "T-Minus" for the 1st of September 2023. For additional resources from today's report, check out our show notes at space.n2k.com. We'd love to know what you think of this podcast. You can email us at space@n2k.com or submit the survey in the show notes. Your feedback ensures we deliver the information that keeps you a step ahead in the rapidly changing space industry.

>> Maria Varmazis: We're privileged that N2K and podcasts like "T-Minus" are part of the daily routine of many of the most influential leaders and operators in the public and private sector, from the Fortune 500 to many of the world's preeminent intelligence and law enforcement agencies. N2K Strategic Workforce Intelligence optimizes the value of your biggest investment, your people. We make you smarter about your team while making your team smarter. Learn more at n2k.com. This episode was produced by Alice Carruth. Mixing by Elliot Peltzman and Trey Hester, with original music and sound design by Elliot Peltzman. Our executive producer is Brandon Karpf. Our chief intelligence officer is Eric Tillman. And I'm Maria Varmazis. Thanks for listening and have a wonderful Labor Day weekend. We'll see you all on Tuesday with our regular programming.

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