Weekly Takeaways-April 27, 2023
Updated: Jun 19
Theme of the Week
Back on the Horse Over the course of an eventful week the barriers to space were dramatically lowered. On Thursday, the largest rocket in human history flew for over 3 minutes before ending with a “rapid unscheduled disassembly.” Five days later, a private company attempted to join an exclusive club by putting a lander on the moon. On the face of it, these efforts were unsuccessful. But by all other metrics they were huge steps forwards. In the olden days (only a decade ago) space was the domain of government agencies. Their missions were infamous for being overly cautious, over budget and over schedule. Then came the new space paradigm: failure is an acceptable step towards success. All successful companies go through it – but unlike buggy beta software releases that are quietly patched later, space missions tend to be public and spectacular. Doesn’t matter that the ispace lunar lander likely crashed; they are already planning to return to the moon next year, joined by Astrobotics and Intuitive Machines later this year and Astrolabs in 2026. Of course, you have to be extra careful when it comes to sending humans into space. While the second Artemis mission will be nearly two years after the first successful mission, the next Starship test flight is expected within “a few months” with “hundreds of missions” before launching humans. When you have a long trail ahead, you can either wait for perfect conditions. Or you can start riding. Last Week's Theme: World Quantum Day Edition
Thales Alenia Space announced the TeQuantS quantum satellite “aimed at developing quantum space-to-Earth communications technologies,” with support from the European Space Agency (ESA), the French space agency CNES and Austrian space agency ALR.
India announced a $730M National Quantum Mission “to scale-up scientific & industrial R&D for quantum technologies."
The US Office of the Secretary of Defense requested $75M for a “Quantum Transition Acceleration” stating that “research and development of quantum technologies is critical to maintaining the nation’s technological superiority.”
Meanwhile, the US Air Force is requesting $55.4B to fund research, development, test and evaluation efforts in fiscal 2024.
The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Quadrennial Homeland Security Review includes a focus on emerging technologies like quantum and space with the goal of “expanding its technology scouting efforts to understand new developments from the private sector.”
The technology that enables the $700B smart city market continues to grow, but it also brings vulnerability, according to a “Cybersecurity Best Practices for Smart Cities” report: “The digital transformation of infrastructure can improve daily life, but increased connectivity may also expand attack surfaces and introduce new risks.”
Included in the recent leak of classified documents:
The Pentagon confirmed that Russia’s jamming of GPS was more effective than they originally let on: “A larger problem is that Russia is using GPS jamming to interfere with the weapons’ targeting process...American officials believe Russian jamming is causing the JDAMs, and at times other American weapons such as guided rockets, to miss their mark.”
As part of China's broader strategy to establish dominance in space by 2045, they are developing the capability “to seize control of a satellite, rendering it ineffective to support communications, weapons, or intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance systems.”
The More You Know...
Contested space and the need for commercial solutions was a common theme at Space Symposium:
The head of the US Space Force wants to “aggressively dismantle old processes and procedures” citing the concerns about anti-satellite weapons and grappling satellites.
The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) released their annual Space Threat Assessment that mentioned GPS 37 times and the Ukraine conflict: “Commercial space capabilities are making a significant contribution to the fight and have provided Ukraine access to space that they do not have organically. Commercial space has served as a great equalizer, allowing Ukrainian forces to have the necessary intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance and command and control.”
The Space Foundation estimated the value of the global space economy at $469B, with the commercial sector representing three-quarters of that and "roughly 55% higher than just a decade ago," even though space investment was non-existent until roughly five years ago, according to Quilty Analytics.
The Secure World Foundation released their 2023 Global Counterspace Capabilities Report that, not surprisingly, highlighted the “growing concern from multiple governments over the reliance on vulnerable space capabilities for national security, and the corresponding proliferation of offensive counterspace capabilities that could be used to disrupt, deny, degrade, or destroy space systems.”
The Pentagon’s chief technology officer stated their goal to “incorporate the incredible innovation ecosystem of the commercial space economy and link them into our joint warfighting concepts to access and accelerate capability adoption.”
The US government designated 16 critical infrastructure sectors “so vital to the United States that the incapacity or destruction of such systems and assets would have a debilitating impact.” But surprisingly, space isn’t on that list, so the Foundation for Defense of Democracies argues it is time to change that.