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Good morning. Happy Earth Day. Shoutout to all the space companies out there working on climate change mitigation tech from orbit.

In today’s newsletter:
🚀 ISRO, OneWeb
🐦 Geek out: animal tracking

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ISRO to the Rescue

The GSLV rocket taking off
The GSLV rocket. Image: ISRO

OneWeb has found another launch provider: NewSpace India, the commercial arm of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). The two have inked a deal to start launching satellites later this year from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, India.

Left in the lurch

The LEO broadband constellation developer was launching with Roscosmos…until March. Since then, Soyuz hasn’t been flying Western payloads, leaving OneWeb without a ride to orbit. 

  • In March, OneWeb announced a launch deal with cross-town LEO rival SpaceX beginning later this year. 
  • Chris McLaughlin, chief of government, regulatory, and engagement at OneWeb, said at the time that OneWeb and Starlink don’t see one another as competition, as they serve different market needs and user bases.
  • The partnership announcement with SpaceX left a lot of questions unanswered, including how many launches the company had procured. The ISRO deal confirms that OneWeb will seek out multiple launch providers to complete its constellation.

The latest with ISRO

India’s space agency has been signing partnerships, building rockets, and planning ambitious missions over the past few years, and much of that planning should be coming to fruition by the end of the year: 

  • The Chandrayaan-3 lunar lander mission is planned for August. If successful, the mission would make India the fourth spacefaring nation to successfully land a craft on the Moon. Chandrayaan-2 crash-landed in 2019.
  • The inaugural flight of ISRO’s Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV) is targeted for July through September.
  • In February, ISRO launched the EOS-04 radar imaging satellite aboard its Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV).

This isn’t the first time OneWeb and ISRO have linked up. In 2021, OneWeb and NewSpace India signed a letter of intent to begin launching satellites on the agency’s Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) Mark 3, its largest rocket, and PSLV. 

Launch details…can we have any more? 

Not right now. ISRO and OneWeb didn’t divulge much about the partnership, including the number of launches procured, how many satellites will be launched, or when exactly the launches will take place. We also don’t know which comes first: the chicken, the egg, a SpaceX/OneWeb launch, or an ISRO/OneWeb one. McLaughlin told SpaceNews that the launches will use GSLV, but declined to expand on the announcement further.

Read/share online.

In Other News

  • Planet revealed the details of its next-gen constellation, Pelican. The fleet of 32 EO satellites will capture 30cm resolution images with a higher revisit rate than its SkySats, and will be equipped with inter-satellite links.
  • SkyFi has hired Kammy Brun as its new VP of strategy and business development. Brun was previously Managing Director of HEAD Aerospace in France.
  • SpaceX launched a batch of Starlink satellites on a Falcon 9 from Cape Canaveral.

Geek Out: Earth Day edition

A cuckoo bird wearing a transmitter. Image: Natural History Museum of Denmark

You’ve heard of the Internet of Things. Now get ready for the Internet of Animals.

An international consortium of scientists, the International Co-operation for Animal Research Using Space (Icarus) initiative, is working to create a global tracking system for animals. The goal: to better understand the changing global environment and how animal species are responding.

Scientists involved in Icarus attach small microchips or tracker tags to animals. The trackers measure location (duh) as well as the animal’s temperature. The Icarus team has an instrument aboard the ISS, which is used to receive data transmissions from these tracking devices and beam the data back to researchers at home. Currently, operations on the ISS are paused, as Roscosmos has pulled out of the consortium.

There’s still so much we don’t know about animal behavior on Earth, and how it affects and is affected by changes in the global ecosystem. Bird migration routes, for example, are largely a mystery to researchers who lack the technology to track birds’ exact movements. Many birds are responsible for seed dispersal as they migrate, and by better understanding the individual routes and choices made by migrating birds, scientists could make better inferences about how plant species spread across the world. Birds can also spread diseases where they travel, and tracking their individual migration patterns can help researchers understand and potentially slow the spread of disease.

Animal behavior can reveal environmental changes before they’re detectable by other space-based tracking technology, per Icarus. “Rather than globe-orbiting sensors capturing images of the planet’s surface for subsequent interpretation, animals, through countless individual movement decisions, seek out their preferred conditions, sensing the quality and health of ecosystems in real time,” said Martin Wikelski, director at the Max Planck Institute for Animal Behavior in Germany and Icarus originator.

Icarus has been tracking 15 species globally with tags that have been collecting data since March 2021. The tags are small and inexpensive, and with buy-in from more scientists across the globe, the group believes it can eventually track hundreds of species and thousands of individual animals, each beaming data to a network of data relay satellites in orbit, helping us to better understand and mitigate environmental changes across our planet.

The View from Pittsburgh

The Peregrine lunar lander. Image: Astrobotic

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