Enter the arena (3/13/23)
Good morning. This week, you can catch the Payload team all over the country, at SXSW in Austin and Satellite in DC. Shoot us a note if you want to meet up.
Today’s newsletter: ✈️ CesiumAstro IFC testing📡 LeoLabs Argentina radar🗓️ The week ahead
Was this email forwarded to you? Sign up here.
CesiumAstro Enters the IFC Arena
CesiumAstro announced this morning that it is officially getting into the in-flight connectivity (IFC) market.
The company is planning to test a flat active phased array payload that can connect with satellites in orbit more easily and effectively than current systems, and has several demonstrations with Airbus set for the coming year.
Active phased arrays
Usually, the dishes that provide satellite connectivity to aircraft are housed within a rounded bubble, and they’re mechanically steered to maintain a strong connection as the plane maneuvers. These systems are prone to losing connection with satellites as they pass out of view or as the plane banks.
Cesium’s solution to these problems uses multiple electronically steered beams to maintain a “make-before-break” connection, meaning that it autonomously creates a new connection with a service satellite before breaking its connection with the last one. The arrays provide a more reliable, resilient higher-throughput internet connection, CesiumAstro CEO Shey Sabripour told Payload.
Keeping it cheap
“You can build a product for space, but now you have to take that product—which for LEO has to be already an order of magnitude cheaper than traditional aerospace—and now you have to bring it down another order of magnitude to be affordable by commercial aircraft providers,” Sabripour said. “That's really the key.”
The company began its conversation with Airbus three years ago, Sabripour said, and expects to ship its first models in the next few months for testing.
Looking ahead: The company is planning several demonstrations with Airbus this year, including a demo from a rooftop, a moving car, and a helicopter.
CesiumAstro is hoping to secure FAA certification of its arrays by Q1 2025, and begin commercial service soon after.
LeoLabs Announces Argentina Radar Site
LeoLabs' New Zealand radar site. Image: LeoLabs
LeoLabs announced that it has selected a site in Argentina for its next ground radar for remotely identifying and tracking objects in space. The new site, called the Argentina Space Radar (AGSR), is expected to be completed later this year.
Keeping an eye on orbit: The Menlo Park, CA-based startup is building out a global network of ground radars to identify and track spacecraft and debris in orbit. It’s got a need for speed, popping up new radar sites back to back around the globe.
Most recently, the company unveiled a site in Western Australia (WASR).
LeoLabs currently operates 10 radars at six sites around the world.
Before LeoLabs, “nobody had contemplated a worldwide network of radars,” CEO Dan Ceperley told Payload in January when the company unveiled WASR. “We’re in the business because nobody else knew how to build radar sites quickly.”
The company uses its tracking data to support a handful of other products, from collision avoidance analysis to an insurance tool.
Down to Argentina: When it comes to tracking objects in space, the southern hemisphere is a bit of a blind spot. Three of LeoLabs’ radars—the two at WASR and another in New Zealand—are currently tracking the sky above the southern hemisphere from Earth, but the other side of the planet is currently left untracked.
The Argentina site will begin to fill that gap in tracking data. “As our third radar site in the Southern Hemisphere and our first in South America, the Argentina site is critical to closing the global SSA gap in coverage and enhancing scrutiny of events happening over this part of the world,” Ceperley said in a press release.
What’s next? LeoLabs is eyeing a handful of other radar sites around the world, and is planning several new openings in 2023 and 2024.
Meet ITA at Satellite
The Italian Trade Agency, in collaboration with ASI, Italian Space Agency, is proud to announce its participation at the latest edition of Satellite in Washington, D.C. from March 14-16.
The Italian pavilion will be spotlighting an industry-leading delegation (Booth #2461) of 8 Italian companies including:
AdapTronics | Argotec | Breton | Connex Itaiana | Latitudo 40 | Nurjana Technologies | Roboze | Zoppas Industries
If you’ll be attending Satellite, make sure to stop into our “Propulsion and Prosecco” networking happy hour event on Tuesday March 14th from 2:00-4:00 PM, featuring notorious Italian hospitality along with the opportunity to meet and discuss with our delegation of companies – RSVP below!
This will be the ITA's second aerospace exhibiting event of the year, continuing to build on the momentum from last year's launch of our "There's a Lot of Space in Italy" campaign to further promote the Italian Space sector in the US.
In Other News
Crew-5 safely splashed down off the coast of Florida.
Relativity scrubbed its maiden launch at T-0 after calling a last-second abort during initial engine firings.
PLD Space, a micro-launch startup, is set to launch its first rocket from Spain.
Rocket Lab postponed its second launch from Wallops due to inclement weather on Saturday.
China’s Long March 2D rocket broke up over the US after a loss of control on Mar. 7.
The Week Ahead
All times in Eastern.
Monday, March 13: Satellite 2023 kicks off in DC and lasts through Thursday. Down in Austin, SXSW continues and runs through Sunday. At 1pm, NASA will hold a telecon on the FY2024 budget request.
For those of you in Austin for SXSW, check out this guide put together by the Aerospace Industries Association. It includes all of the SXSW aerospace and defense events under the sun happening over the next four days.
Tuesday, March 14: At 3:30pm, Payload’s Rachael Zisk will host a panel on leveraging next-generation power systems and rapid reconstitution for space operations on the Satellite conference floor. SkyFi and Payload are holding an all-day Space Meet-Up + Coffee summit in Austin. SpaceX plans to launch a cargo resupply mission to the ISS at 8:30pm.
Wednesday, March 15: At 8AM, MIT Media Lab, SEI, and the Aurelia Institute will kick off the seventh annual Beyond the Cradle, focused on the next chapter of space exploration. Later, at 10:30am, Axiom will reveal its lunar spacesuit prototype design at an event in Houston. SpaceX will round off the day with a Starlink launch from Vandenberg at 2:18pm.
Thursday, March 16: SpaceX’s cargo resupply mission is expected to dock with the ISS at 7:07am.
Friday, March 17: At 8:37pm, SpaceX plans to launch two SES communications satellites aboard a Falcon 9.
The View from Space
Payload is partnering with SkyFi to host a full day event focused on bringing space technology to the masses. Starting at 9am, fuel up with free coffee at our Space Meet-Up + Coffee and meet your space friends in person. Catch lightning talks on Little Place Labs and Albedo, along with panels on investment outlook, the value of Earth observation, and mentoring the next generation of the aerospace industry.
Sign up now for the SkyFi Summit!