Good morning. Congrats to Firefly for launching DoD’s VICTUS NOX mission late last night with just 24 hours notice. That’s one small step for tactically responsive launch.
In today's edition...
🪖 DoD’s plan for safe space
🔥 Stoke’s static fire
💫 Payload’s picks
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The DoD Releases a Plan for Protecting Space Assets
The Pentagon is ready and willing to target adversaries’ space assets if conflict spills over into the domain, according to an unclassified policy report submitted yesterday to Congress.
The report, entitled “Space Policy Review and Strategy on Protection of Satellites,” outlines the Pentagon’s preparations to defend its space assets from attack if war breaks out in space. The 2022 and 2023 National Defense Authorization Acts (NDAA) mandated the review of the US space policy and the report.
“It’s the clearest and most comprehensive unclassified articulation yet of our approach to protecting national security interests in space,” DoD Assistant Secretary for Space Policy John Plumb said in a press briefing, also noting that releasing the report in an unclassified format is “a key step towards normalizing space as an operational domain.”
A position of strength: The report identifies China as the strongest adversary and risk to US operations in space, followed by Russia. Both nations have extensive counterspace capabilities, including direct-ascent anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons and jamming technology.
When it comes down to it, the report states, “DoD will leverage a breadth of options across all operational domains to deter aggression and, if deterrence fails, to prevail in conflict.”
Resilient and distributed: The resilience of satellite systems is top of mind for the DoD as it builds its new space architecture.
“We’ve come a long way in how we’re approaching resilience,” Plumb said on the call. “It’s baked into all of our conversations. And it’s not just satellites, it’s also the ground architecture.”
To build resilient systems, the DoD is pursuing a number of approaches, including proliferated architectures, diverse approaches to reach similar results, and deception of adversaries as to the nature and location of space assets.
Staying alert: Space situational awareness also makes the list of the US military’s priorities in space.
“In an increasingly dynamic and congested space domain, SDA requires an integrated sensor system that leverages DoD, other US government, and international and commercial partner services,” the report states. “Providing space operators with relevant, timely data can help to prevent operational surprise and support efforts to protect and defend space assets.”
ZERO-TRUST FOR ZERO-GRAVITY
Radical increases in the number and use of satellites are ushering in an era where operators are now using third-party ground stations, splitting the roles of spacecraft, and even sharing payload operators with other entities. In this hybrid, multi-party environment, security can no longer be based on trust.
OrbitSecure is SpiderOak’s Agile, Secure, lightweight communications and extreme key management solution created to protect Missions, Spacecraft and Payloads.
Leveraging a combination of blockchain/distributed ledger, and public-private key cryptology, OrbitSecure is designed to securely orchestrate end-to-end transmission and storage of sensitive tasking, communications, and data over untrusted networks, bringing Zero-Trust security to Zero-Gravity environments.
One Hop This Time
Static fire test of Stoke’s second stage vehicle. Image: Stoke Space
While all eyes remain on Starship, another rocket startup is quietly ticking off milestones in its pursuit of full reusability.
Stoke Space completed a static fire of its fully reusable second-stage rocket earlier this week. The prototype—which looks more like a fiery Tin Man than a final product—also underwent avionics, power systems, navigation, heat shield, and tank pressurization testing.
The company announced a hop flight is up next.
Stoke Space 101: Founded in 2019, and armed with ~$75M of funding, Stoke has set out to build a fully reusable 30-meter-tall two-stage rocket. Instead of pursuing an incremental strategy in rocket building, the Kent, WA-based company has embedded full reusability into its design from the onset.
Its primary focus has been on developing the elusive fully reusable second stage rocket.
The second stage problem: Given the shielding and fuel requirements needed for a second stage vehicle to execute a controlled landing, a rapid and fully reusable upper stage rocket has proven difficult to achieve with legacy architectures—necessitating novel and inventive solutions.
The shuttle achieved the feat, but refurb between flights was far from fast.
SpaceX is attempting to solve the problem by maneuvering Starship into a belly flop to break its fall, before rightsizing for a controlled landing.
Like the shuttle and SpaceX’s Falcon, Stoke has also chosen a radical approach for its second stage rocket.
How it works: The spacecraft resembles a traditional reentry capsule, with a large circular heat shield. To power the vehicle, 30 small thrusters are arranged in a circle around the perimeter of the heat shield.
Hyrdolox fuel is channeled into the 30 combustion chambers, creating thrust.
The exhaust pushes against the heat shield, improving efficiency by creating what is known as an aerospike effect.
Instead of an ablative heat shield—as in Dragon and Orion capsules—in which protective material burns off, Stoke employs a liquid-cooled shield designed for reusability.
For the test firing, only 15 thrusters were used.
The unique design—which looks like a showerhead with jets solely around its edges—allows Stoke to incorporate a sturdy heat shield for reentry, thrusters for in-space maneuvering, and legs for a controlled landing.
If successful, the company will look to pair the second stage with a first stage booster to create a fully reusable rocket.
With the company nailing its final static fire, the only question now is wen hop?!
See You In October!
Join Payload and Linde at Lil' Simmzy's for an evening of networking on October 10th. Food and drinks will be provided. Don't miss this opportunity to connect with space industry professionals!
In Other News
Firefly successfully launched DoD mission VICTUS NOX with just 24-hour notice.
Germany became the newest signatory of the Artemis Accords on Thursday.
Virgin Galactic ($SPCE) plans to launch its fourth commercial spaceflight on Oct. 5.
NASA released its UAP report and appointed a head of UAP research.
KaleidEO, an Indian satellite image analysis company, has proven that its processing algorithms work in orbit.
China’s People’s Liberation Army added a base focused on space situational awareness.
SpaceX tested its Raptor engine lunar descent burn.
📖 What we’re reading:
👀 What we’re watching:
🏆 ICYMI, here were this week’s three most-read stories on our website:
The View from Space
Image: A Sun Question by Eduardo Schaberger Poupeau
Royal Museums Greenwich announced the winners of its annual astronomy photographer of the year competition. This image took top honors in the sun category, but you can see all the winners here.