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Good morning. No rest for the weary—the space conference circuit must go on! Payload will be at GEOINT Symposium next week and we’d love to link up. Drop us a line if interested. 

In today’s newsletter:
🛰️ CSP awards 
🚀 Quarterly launch recap 
🤝🏻 The contract report 

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Passing the Comms Torch

An artist’s rendering of Starlink satellites. Image: SpaceX

NASA has awarded six contracts to LEO broadband operators to support the development and demonstration of near-Earth communications technology. The contracts have a combined total value of $278.5M, with each company expected to “match or exceed” NASA’s investment over the next five years.

The awardees:

  1. SpaceX, receiving $69.95M to develop Starlink, its LEO broadband constellation.
  2. Amazon’s Kuiper, receiving $67M for its optical LEO data relay network.
  3. Viasat, receiving $53.3M for its Ka-band GEO constellation.
  4. Telesat, receiving $30.65M to support its networks of C-band GEO and Ka-band LEO satellites.
  5. SES, receiving $28.96M to continue developing its C-band GEO network and MEO Ka-band network.
  6. Inmarsat, receiving $28.5M for an L-band radio frequency satellite network in GEO.

Each of the awardeed has proven communications capabilities on orbit. The Communications Services Project (CSP) contracts will ensure that these services are up to NASA’s standards and ready to support future missions. The funding is also meant to support each company’s commercial operations as the satcom industry matures and grows.

I’m too old for this: NASA has operated the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS) constellation in GEO since 1983. The agency announced in 2020 that it is planning to decommission TDRS and pass off that communications capability to commercial providers within the next decade or so.

  • “We are following the agency’s proven approach developed through commercial cargo and commercial crew services,” said Eli Naffah, CSP project manager at NASA’s Glenn Research Center, in NASA’s release.

The contract specs: Under the CSP contracts, companies will have five years to develop and demonstrate their comms capabilities are up to snuff. After that, the US space agency plans to award additional CSP contracts by 2030, transitioning over from TDRS as it’s decommissioned.


Q1 in Launch

Image: BryceTech

BryceTech has released its 2022 Q1 report examining rocket launches and satellite deployment. Who’s leading the race?

  • SpaceX tops the charts with 11 rockets launched and 502 spacecraft deployed.
  • China takes silver this quarter, with eight launches and just 38 spacecraft deployed.
  • Although Roscosmos takes bronze for launches with four, Arianespace takes third for the number of spacecraft deployed with 34 over a single mission.

Upmass: The 502 spacecraft launched by SpaceX totaled 115,969kgs deployed into orbit. The rest of the world combined didn’t even manage to half that mass.

Commercial continues to climb

Of the 624 spacecraft launched in Q1 of 2022, 88% are owned and operated by commercial companies.

  • 550 commercial 
  • 40 non-profit or academia
  • 22 government civil
  • 12 government military

This trend is a continuation of one identified by BryceTech in Q3 and Q4 of 2021. In those quarters, 82% and 78%, respectively, of all spacecraft launched are owned and operated by commercial companies.


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In Other News

  • Astrobotic unveiled the Peregrine lunar lander in its hometown of Pittsburgh, PA. Peregrine will fly to the moon on a Vulcan Centaur later this year and soft land on the surface with 24 payloads.
  • Ukraine minister Mykhailo Federov said Starlink significantly cut the time it took to restore connectivity to rural villages. A case study, via Fedorov: An internet provider restored connectivity to five villages with one dish. 
  • Related: A top Pentagon electronic warfare official said that SpaceX/Starlink “slung a line of code and fixed” issues caused by Russian SATCOM jamming in Ukraine, just a day after reports of said jamming efforts surfaced publicly.  
  • Ax-1’s return to Earth has been delayed yet again due to weather. It all but surely means that SpaceX and NASA’s Crew-4 launch, scheduled for Saturday, will slip. 
  • The National Academies have announced a call for nominations for the decadal survey on heliophysics, right on the tails of its planetary science decadal survey announcement.
  • Euroconsult’s latest report finds that the maritime satcom market made a measured rebound in 2021. The merchant sector bounced back much quicker than the cruise ship industry, which has yet to fully recover to pre-Covid levels. 

The Contract Report

  • ULA selected L3Harris (NYSE:LHX) to provide avionics and comms equipment over a five-year period, tied to its Kuiper launch contract.
  • HawkEye 360 hired Rocket Lab (NASDAQ:RKLB) to launch 15 satellites on three Electrons. The first launch is set to be Rocket Lab’s first from Virginia.
  • Northrop Grumman (NYSE:NOC) was awarded a $99.6M ground station contract by US Naval Information Warfare Center Pacific. Also, Northrop will use Ansys (NASDAQ:ANSS) simulation/digital mission services to help develop the USSF’s deep-space radar system. 
  • Northrop Australia contracted IntelliDesign to help develop and make the “sovereign SCS-200 capability,” a secure comms device set to be used by Australia’s military and department of home affairs.
  • Velo3D (NYSE:VLD) says its metal printers are being put to work in Lockheed Martin’s (NYSE:LMT) additive design and manufacturing center, a skunkworks studio of sorts for LM Space.
  • TransAstra, a YC S21 alum and orbital logistics startup, has signed a “revenue-generating” contract with ReOrbit for spacecraft development and on-orbit services. 
  • LoneStar Data Holdings says it’s contracted for two lunar missions and the build of its first payload. Not a bad way for a moon data center startup to emerge from stealth…
  • Beyond Gravity is subcontracting D-Orbit to supply structural components for the ESA’s Space Rider.
  • Astranis won a multiple-award indefinite-delivery/quantity contract to compete for orders under a $950M ceiling for USAF’s Advanced Air Battle Management System program.
  • NASA awarded Northrop and Lockheed ~$5M apiece for the initial phase of a lightning mapping study. 
  • Moody’s and Planet (NYSE:PL) formed a strategic relationship to explore pairing “high-cadence geospatial data” with ESG risk assessment. 

The View from the Space Coast

A Tesla with a NASA logo on the side door drives in the dark by NASA's Vehicle Assembly Building
Image: NASA/Joel Kowsky

A NASA-branded Tesla whizzes by the Vehicle Assembly Building after a Crew-4 dress rehearsal on Wednesday. Consider this the Need for speed space coast remix you didn’t know you needed. 

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