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Good morning. Hope you had a lovely Twosday. It will be a while before the next 2/22/22 rolls around.

In today’s edition: 
🛰️ Satellite OSINT
📊 $SPCE Q4
💸 The term sheet

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  OSINT Via Satellite

Image: ESA/SentinelHub/Atlantic Council/DFRLab
Image: ESA/SentinelHub/Atlantic Council/DFRLab

Intelligence agencies have their own tactics and techniques to follow the latest military developments near Ukraine. But spies aren’t inclined to share all that classified information with the rest of us. 

Satellite imagery, along with other sources like social media posts and video geolocation/metadata, enable open-source intelligence (OSINT) analysis from publicly available data. Coupled with extra legwork from analysts, reporters, and open-source sleuthers, this data means that anyone who wants to follow along doesn’t need to be left in the dark.

The space angle: Commercial satellite imagery in particular has made it impossible for Moscow to conceal a military buildup in Belarus and forces massing near Ukraine’s border in recent weeks. Reuters, the BBC, the NYT, and countless other newsrooms have tapped a glut of imagery from space to track the latest developments nearly in real-time.

  • One Maxar image from Monday, for example, shows field tents set up after Feb. 5 that are roughly seven miles from the Ukraine border. Other images show a recently established field hospital and activity ramping up at an aerodrome in Belarus. 
  • Analysts have also tapped satellite images to track land clearing, equipment transporters, troop movements, and aircraft deployments.
  • Capella Space has supplied synthetic aperture radar (SAR) imagery in recent weeks that shows the forward march of Russian military forces. With SAR, “seeing” through wintry conditions/cloud cover and following ground-level changes is no problem. 

It’s not just commercial Earth observation (EO) companies or proprietary datasets that can come in handy in the OSINT department. Researchers this week also referenced heat-sensing and wildfire data from NASA to cross-check FSB claims. And the Atlantic Council, a DC think tank, has used ESA satellite data to track military positions in recent weeks.

Reality check: Commercial satellite imagery has enabled those with the know-how to essentially become intelligence analysts, no security clearance needed. What was once private can now be shared for the world to see in plain sight.

As Axios recently put it, “the images are showcasing the abilities of Earth observing satellites that are often marketed as climate intelligence platforms, but in reality are also used for less advertised national security purposes.” 

  • And…“The primary source of funding for nearly all of these, all of the commercial satellite imagery sector at the moment is the national security community,” the Secure World Foundation’s Brian Weeden told Axios.

  $SPCE Reports 2021 Q4 and FY Results

Virgin Galactic (NYSE:SPCE) announced its Q4 and FY 2021 results after market close yesterday. A few key numbers from Q4 results:

  • $141,000 in revenue
  • Losses of 31 cents per share
  • Adj. EBITDA losses of $65M
  • Net loss of $81M

The company had $931M in cash, cash equivalents, and marketable securities as of the end of 2021. 

Company losses were lower than expected, but so were earnings. Virgin Galactic is hoping to bounce back this year with more ticket sales for its commercial astronaut tourist flights and beginning commercial service for several new vehicles in the coming year.

  • In January, Virgin Galactic offered $425M in convertible bonds, increasing gross proceeds, which it reported would be used for R&D on its Delta class spaceship along with other G&A matters.

Looking forward: Virgin Galactic is working to implement updates before beginning commercial flights later this year.

  • Virgin Galactic has sold about 750 of 1,000 available tickets, CEO Michael Colglazier said yesterday. Tickets recently went on sale to the general public at a price point of $450,000. 
  • The company is also working on a fleet enhancement program for “mothership” Eve and spaceship Unity, which is targeted for completion in Q3 2022.

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In Other News

  • Wales dropped a space industrialization strategy that could add £2B (~$2.7B) to the Welsh economy by 2030. 
  • The UK Ministry of Defense published a policy paper outlining its combined space operations vision for 2031.
  • Astra’s (NASDAQ:ASTR) LV0008 investigation consists of 1) flight data review, 2) timeline reconstruction, 3) fault tree analyses, and 4) implementing corrective/preventive actions. The company plans to return to the launchpad after its investigation.
  • By the same token, Astra faces lawsuits from at least six legal firms representing individuals/institutions who lost money after investing in $ASTR.
  • Relativity CEO Tim Ellis tells Ars that “we are definitely launching this year.” The company expects to take Terran 1 on a few orbital hops before quickly pivoting to Terran R development.
  • China has denied claims that a rocket due to crash into the moon in a couple weeks is of Chinese origin. 
  • Agile Space Industries is suing NASA contractor Masten Space Systems, Delaware News reports. The manufacturer alleges that it has not been paid for work done on eight specialized thrusters for Masten’s lunar lander. 

The Term Sheet

  • SkyFi raised a $7.15M round with participation from J2 VenturesMoving CapitalCapital Factory, and Bill Perkins.
  • Arkisys opened a Reg CF fundraising round on Netcapital, a crowdfunding website. The space infrastructure is raising at an implied valuation of $15.2M
  • Aerospacelab raised a €40M (~$45.5M) Series B co-led by Airbus Ventures and XAnge.

The View from New Zealand

Rocket Lab has completed its third launchpad and second at Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand, the company announced today.