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Good morning. Look alive, launch lovers. Falcon 9 and Dragon are ready for a Halloween liftoff at Launch Complex 39A.

Today’s newsletter: 
🤝 OneWeb, NEOM
🌑 Artemis Accords 
📝 Contract report


If Your Futuristic City Doesn’t Have High-Speed Satellite Connectivity…Is it Really a Futuristic City?

NEOM and OneWeb have formed a $200M joint venture (JV) to bring satellite-based connectivity to the Middle East and nearby East African nations. OneWeb will partner with NEOM Tech & Digital Holdings Company, a newly formed subsidiary. 

…NEOM? The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) has earmarked $500 billion for a desert mega-city, which is currently under development. NEOM’s first borough is slated to be completed by 2025. 

NEOM’s proposed site covers ~10,230 square miles—33x the size of NYC—in a northwestern Saudi province bordering the Red Sea. NEOM blueprints, seen by the WSJ in 2019, lay out ultra-ambitious visions for the smart-city state: flying taxis, robot butlers, all-seeing AI surveillance, geoengineering, and end-to-end connected infrastructure.

What’s the catch? Costs and KSA’s iron-fisted ruling class, to start. But for our purposes, focus on the tech challenges facing NEOM. The data-driven megacity will have enormous bandwidth requirements, in an area with minimal high-speed broadband penetration. 

  • The partnership will “transform businesses and rural communities in the region where access to fiber-like internet was previously unimaginable,” NEOM/OneWeb’s press readout states. 

Where OneWeb comes in: The company’s low-Earth orbit (LEO) constellation—over halfway complete—could help NEOM and KSA leapfrog more capital-intensive connectivity infrastructure buildouts. OneWeb, KSA’s only licensed satellite operator, will finish building Saudi ground stations in 2022 and launch commercially in 2023. 

Putting aside the many make-or-break variables that could determine NEOM’s fate, this partnership could still be a formative one for all parties involved. Once online, OneWeb’s service will likely be popular in under-connected parts of Saudi Arabia, neighboring Gulf states, and the wider region.


Poland joins the Artemis pack

NASA Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy and Polish Space Agency (POLSA) President Grzegorz Wrochna. Photo: US Mission in the UAE

ICYMI: Poland signed the Artemis Accords Tuesday, joining 12 other countries in a US-led agreement to pursue cooperative and sustainable space exploration.

NASA announced the founding group of eight member countries at last year’s International Astronautical Congress (IAC). It’s incrementally added more since. The agreement establishes principles for peaceful space exploration, and directs member states to register space objects and provide emergency assistance, when/if necessary.

More significantly, joining the accords is a prerequisite for participation in the Artemis lunar exploration program.

  • NASA’s inspector general expects the agency to spend $86 billion on Artemis through 2025. 
  • Artemis Accords also propose norms for exploration deeper into space, including crewed missions to Mars.The

Shooting for the moon: In 2014, Poland joined the European Space Agency (ESA) and established its own program, POLSA. But Polish contributions to space  predate 2014. In the last four decades, “over 80 instruments designed and constructed by Polish scientists and engineers have been used in various international space missions,” POLSA President Grzegorz Wrochna said in Dubai. 


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In Other News

  • China conducted its 40th orbital launch of the year, a new record. The country targeted 40+ launches in 2021, a goal that it has well in hand.
  • NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter completed its 14th successful flight on Mars. Astra is pushing back a launch planned for this week, saying range improvements at the Kodiak, AK spaceport were not completed in time. 
  • DARPA transitioned new optics technology to a handful of Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) project prototypes. 
  • Russia launched a cargo resupply spacecraft for the ISS carrying almost three tons of food, fuel, and supplies.

Contract Report

Via Payload: Verizon and Project Kuiper formed a “5G + LEO” pact. More here

New SaaS: Satellogic signed a letter of intent (LOI) with Paraguay’s space agency. The Earth observation (EO) company will serve as Paraguay’s “space-as-a-service” provider. The arrangement lets the Paraguayan government tap EO data without having to launch and operate a constellation itself. 

Full circle: SpaceX won a contract to launch MBZ SAT—an Emirati imaging satellite—in 2023, the UAE announced in Dubai. 

Deorbit: The UK Space Agency awarded deorbiting contracts to Astroscale and ClearSpace. The Swiss and Japanese companies, respectively, received just under $1M to conduct feasibility studies, per SpaceNews. Also…Swedish Space Corporation and Bradford Space signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to jointly develop orbital debris removal services.

Best of the rest: Synspective and Orbital EOS will partner to share synthetic aperture radar (SAR) imagery. Italy’s D-Orbit and Oman’s ITCO signed an MoU to manufacture satellite parts in the sultanate. AAC Clyde Space, ORBCOMM, and Saab signed an MoU to develop a new maritime comms network. 

…hitchhikers of LEO? ESA is accepting applications for a ride to space and back on the reusable Space Rider, set to launch in 2023. Fun fact: Space Rider is roughly the size of two Chrysler Pacificas. See the ESA spacecraft’s mission roadmap below.


Space Rider’s Route

Graphic: ESA