Good morning. Two housekeeping items before we dive in to today’s main event:
- If you’re at Satellite 2023 in DC, stop by the conference floor at 3:30 to hear Rachael moderate a panel with leaders at Firefly, Millennium, Redwire, and the DIU (Defense Innovation Unit) about next-gen power systems and space operations.
- If you’re in Austin for SXSW, come to the SkyFi Summit this morning to hear Ryan host a live Pathfinder podcast on EO with leaders from SkyFi, Umbra, Albedo, and Firehawk. And because we’re recording today, we’ll release the episode on Wednesday morning.
🚀 Civil + defense space funding
🔫 Pale Blue water thrusters
🔁 People on the move
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Unpacking the FY 2024 Budget
As we noted last Friday, the White House has requested $27.2B for NASA next year. That’d represent a 7%—or $1.8B—increase over the 2023 enacted level.
Updated timetable: The agency’s FY 2024 Budget Request presentation gives top billing to the agency’s presence in LEO, from the ISS through CLD; establishing a “sustainable” lunar presence; and further developing “Moon to Mars” technology.
NASA also offered an up-to-date timetable for key missions and milestones. Note the ramp in Starship and SLS flights that are expected in the back half of this decade:
If you’re scratching your head looking at the acronyms on the left, allow us to help:
- ESDMD = Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate
- SOMD = Space Operations Mission Directorate
- SMD = Science Mission Directorate
- STMD = Space Technology Mission Directorate
Dissecting directorate and top line item funding changes
NASA’s directorates and top programs would see the following budgetary boosts, if the Presidential Budget Request was enacted (a big if):
- Science would receive $8.26B in funding, a 6% boost
- Exploration would receive nearly $8B in funding, a 6.7% boost
- Space Technology would receive $1.39B in funding, a 16% boost
- Space Operations would get $4.54 in funding, a 6.7% boost
- Aeronautics research would receive $996M, a 6.5% increase
- STEM engagement would receive $158M, a 10% jump
- Safety, Security, and Mission Services and Construction and Environmental Compliance Restoration would receive $3.82B, a 7.9% increase over FY 2023 enacted levels
As The Planetary Society notes, some programs would see annual funding decreases:
- NASA requested $751M for its Heliophysics division, which is a 6.7% decrease over 2023 enacted levels.
- Meanwhile, the agency earmarked $2.5B and $1.23B for the SLS and Orion vehicles, which represent 8.5% and 3.6% decreases, respectively.
HLS: Human Landing System funding is set to substantially jump—by 27%—if the 2024 budget’s request of $1.88B is enacted.
A word on military space funding
The Pentagon’s budget requests an unprecedented $33.3 billion for the space domain. As the DoD’s press release states, the investment will be spread across “vital space capabilities, resilient architectures, and enhanced space command and control.” Some of the investments highlighted:
- $5B to develop new missile-warning and -tracking constellations in LEO; overhead infrared space systems; and “associated ground architectures”
- $4.7B for “secure/survivable/jam-resistant capabilities” and SDA’s Transport layer
- $3B to buy an additional 15 launches and upgrade DoD ranges
- $1.3B for follow-on position, navigation, and timing (PNT) and GPS support and upgrades
Finally, the Pentagon earmarked $3.3B for Space Force readiness.
Pale Blue Flies Water-Based Thrusters in Space
Japanese startup Pale Blue announced that it successfully tested its water propulsion thrusters in space for the first time. The propulsion system, which is installed on Sony’s “EYE” satellite, operated for 2 minutes without hiccups.
“Water propulsion has been well known to exist, but I think performance has been the big reason why people wrote off water,” Pale Blue COO Toku Sakai told Payload. “That was the key pain point that we were able to unlock with our propulsion technology.”
Water Propulsion Method
Water propulsion creates thrust by heating water to generate steam and then expelling out the nozzle. Weighing just 1.4kg, the thrusters can be appended to a microsatellite to help maintain its orbit.
Pale Blue is betting that the cost-effective and sustainability properties of water positions it well to be the preferred fuel for next-gen satellite thrusters.
- It’s a cost-effective propellant compared to Xenon, a commonly-used noble gas which has seen prices surge during the Russian-Ukrainian conflict.
- Water is an abundant resource, not just on Earth but also on the Moon, making it a sustainable long-term solution.
- Because water is not pressurized, in-space refueling can be a much simpler process.
What’s next: In the next few weeks, the Pale Blue thrusters will exit test mode and begin maneuvering Sony’s satellite into its targeted orbits. Going forward, with a successful demonstration under its belt, the company will look to expand the commercial use of its propulsion system beyond Sony and into the broader nano-satellite market.
CesiumAstro's SATCOM Terminal is Here
CesiumAstro has introduced a Ka-band SATCOM terminal that scales for airborne, commercial, and defense missions across all domains. Multi-beam active electronically steerable array (AESA) technology supports multiple constellations in multiple orbits simultaneously.
Flat-panel AESA enables reliable, high-speed connectivity with no moving parts, reducing downtime due to maintenance. All at a compelling price point because of the terminal’s components and mass manufacturing processes.
- Make-Before-Break Handover: Maximize quality of service and eliminate disruptions with seamless satellite-to-satellite handover between orbits and networks
- Multi-Constellation Connectivity: Broad Ka-band frequency coverage with software-defined functions enables seamless simultaneous connectivity to multiple constellations
- Scalable Platform: Tile-based architecture allows the antenna to scale to support many platforms, both large and small, spanning aircraft, boats, vehicles, drones, and spacecraft
Headquartered in Austin, Texas, with offices in Broomfield, Colorado, El Segundo, California, and the UK, CesiumAstro builds high-throughput, software-defined phased array communications payloads for airborne and space platforms, including satellites, missiles, UAVs, and more.
In Other News
- Kymeta shipped its first electronically steered LEO terminals for OneWeb.
- L3Harris won a $765.5M NASA contract to develop the imager for NOAA’s GeoXO satellites.
- OneWeb signed a letter of intent with AWS to explore cloud based connectivity.
- NASA estimates a cost of $1B to procure an ISS deorbiting space tug, and plans to refine the estimate via an RFP process.
- Kazakhstan has reportedly seized Russian assets at Baikonur spaceport due to an unpaid debt of 2B rubles ($26.5M).
On the Move
- GomSpace, a CubeSat manufacturer, named Carsten Drachmann as its new CEO. Drachmann previously served as CEO of Zero-Error Systems.
- NorthStar brought on Johanne Lecomte, former Thales executive, as VP of global sales & business development.
- SDA announced Alex Cacioni and Charles Law as the new Inmarsat and SES representatives, respectively.
- Space Partnership tapped Dr. Joanna Hart as its director. Hart has spent the last five years at the UK’s Science and Technology Facilities Council.
- Australian astronaut Katherine Bennell-Pegg will receive basic training with ESA.
- Avanti promoted two members to its executive team: Donald Walker, senior VP of government & defense, and Marios Fotiou, senior VP of solutions engineering and delivery.