Good morning, especially to Axiom. The Houston space station developer has paired with Maison Mumm to fly champagne on an upcoming mission with SpaceX.
It’s not a good morning for Dimorphos. On Monday, NASA’s DART spacecraft is set to slam into the asteroid to hopefully redirect it and test Earth’s defenses. Planetary defense missions rule.
In today's newsletter:
💎 Quindar Q+A (YC S22)
🌎 Global Renewables Watch
📖 Weekend content recs
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A Q+A with Quindar (YC S22)
Quindar is a recent space startup graduate of Y Combinator. The Denver startup aims to become the all-in-one web application for satellite constellation mission analysis, testing, and operations.
The startup’s six technical cofounders—yes, six, and all technical—believe satellite operations should look more like elegant, modern software stacks. The platform, if successful, could cut traditional dependencies on engineers, IT teams, and operations positions.
Quindar’s founders met while working at OneWeb, where they struggled with the very satellite mission management issues the startup aims to solve, such as fragmented solutions, non-scalable bespoke answers, and lacking security standards. They found too many engineers were needlessly architecting, building, operating, and maintaining processes whose first principles have not changed since the 1960’s.
Payload caught up with CEO Nate Hamet, who’s been in the space industry for eight years. Prior to his current startup, Hamet did stints at Lockheed, OneWeb, and Orbital Effects. Highlights from our convo:
- On YC…“Summer at YC has pushed us further into our customer engagement journey than we could have imagined. We have received a lot of good traction given the two months since we launched, and we’re excited to announce some of that soon.”
- On timing…“I think it was within the last year when people started to come out with more of those mega-constellation announcements, and the solution still hadn't evolved. We have to actually do this ourselves, or no one else might do it.”
- On satellite smarts…“Today, the satellites don't do enough and need to be more like IoT devices, beaming down info about what needs to happen, not relying on the ground to tell them what needs to happen.”
Read the full Q+A, which touches on space pain points, new software stacks, and broader industry trends.
Global Renewables Justice League
What do you get when Planet, Microsoft, and the Nature Conservancy walk into a bar? Probably some pretty wonky and in-the-weeds convos, but also, the potential for a productive collab.
To that end, the three organizations have just lifted the wraps on the Global Renewables Watch (GRW). They describe the tool as “a first-of-its-kind living atlas” for mapping and measuring the world’s utility-scale solar and wind farms. GRW is powered by Microsoft’s cloud and AI tools, which will use Planet’s satellite imagery as its inputs.
Planet says that GRW builds on established, peer-reviewed scientific approaches. GRW piloted the atlas by mapping solar and wind in Germany and India, and creating solar maps of Brazil and Egypt. The first full global edition drops early next year.
Finally, the initiative is forward-looking. “Because of [GRW’s] granularity, decision-makers will be able to see the underlying patterns driving renewable energy development, and importantly, to see if any of that development may cause conflicts,” Planet wrote in a blog post. Conflicts, in this context = ecological impacts, wildlife displacement, or “taking up valuable cropland.” That can assist companies and countries deciding where to deploy their next utility-level wind or solar installation.
What gets measured gets managed
Roughly three-quarters of global greenhouse gas emissions comes from energy usage, so better visibility into grid inputs is key to humanity’s decarbonization efforts.
While GRW is dynamic, it will only provide “critical data” on a biannual basis. The initiative will share the data freely. The atlas represents a time series rather than a snapshot (or, a flow rather than a stock). In terms of outputs, GRW will track renewable energy deployment targets on a country-by-country level.
Payload takeaway: Satellite imagery can excel at scale for specific use cases like this project. Measuring solar and wind on a global level would be a difficult, piecemeal process if it was done in-situ, or with drones and planes.
+ Want more? Here’s a GRW case study on measuring solar in India.
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In Other News
- Europe is upping its space cyber investments.
- Lawmakers have lined up behind the idea of Starlink in Iran.
- Open Cosmos is developing a shared smallsat constellation.
- The Fed delivered yet another 75 basis point rate hike (aka 0.75%).
- Other central banks followed in the Fed’s footsteps.
- Saudi Arabia’s mission with Axiom will include a male and female astronaut.
- A new smallsat startup—Berlin Space Technologies—emerged from stealth.
- Frontier is in talks with SpaceX to offer Starlink in-flight Wi-Fi (h/t CNBC).
- Outpost successfully tested an autonomous paraglider reentry system.
📊 For PowerPoint buffs…Check out Rocket Lab’s deck from its ($RKLB) investor day presentation and Neutron update, and Mo’s thread:
Rocket Lab post-investor day highlights:
– 27 successful orbital launches with Electron and 150 satellites deployed (second most frequently launched US rocket)
– Space Systems division has provided hardware/software on more than 1,700 satellites in space. 38% on 2021 missions
— Mo Islam 🚀 (@itsmoislam)
Sep 22, 2022
🎧 For space investors…Check out Pathfinder #0017, a double-header with Redwire CEO Peter Cannito and CTO Al Tadros. We touch on M&A, space growth markets, AE Industrial, space SPACs, geopolitics, Redwire’s technology, Europe’s space sector, and more! Listen on Spotify, Apple, or any other platform where great pods are served.
🕹️ Related…Redwire made a planetary defenders game, in honor of the DART mission. The graphics and retro vibe are 💯.
🌠 Parallax: The third edition of our weekly science newsletter explored how researchers are using machine learning to track the thickness of Arctic sea ice year-round. Read the story here, and subscribe to Parallax to keep up on the biggest stories in space science.
🎶 Finally, listen to the US Space Force’s new song (h/t Jacqueline).