Removing Space Junk and Detecting Leaks from Space - March 2021 (2/2)

And a brief spotlight on SpaceTech for Agriculture

Every fortnight you will receive the TerraWatch Space newsletter, compiling some interesting developments in space tech, links to the recent episodes of my podcast or a long-read analysing a major trend in the space industry.

Seen from Space

Some notable developments in the space industry since the last edition.

  • Astroscale, a Japanese company has launched its demonstration mission to prove that it can capture defunct satellites/debris in orbit and then burn up in the atmosphere. For a future in space, we need such debris removal initiatives and in-orbit satellite servicing to work, technically & commercially (very soon!)

  • Yet another SPAC deal from Redwire Space, a conglomerate of companies developing technologies such as navigation sensors, solar arrays, in-space manufacturing and robotic arms. Redwire has an interesting acquisition-binge model and unlike quite a few other reported SPACes, is already profitable.

  • ABL Systems, a rocket company reported a fundraise of USD 170 million to become the umpteenth unicorn in the space industry, and the European Space Agency poured money into two launch startups from the UK: Orbex and Skyrora (if you are wondering what’s up with this market and why we have so many rocket companies, check out the recent episode of my podcast - see below)

  • Indian space startup Pixxel has raised USD 7 million to build a hyperspectral satellite constellation, that will enable insights for applications that are very relevant for India including detecting gas leaks and analysing pest migration patterns in agriculture (and in the future, prospect asteroids for mining).

  • Utilis Corp. raises USD 6 million to use process SAR data to detect leaks in critical infrastructure up to 10 feet (3m) underground and locate drinkable water. And the best part? Part of its analytics was developed for detecting water on Mars. Time to finally get excited about what happens after launching satellites?

    As we continue to launch hundreds of commercial satellites to monitor the Earth for good, it’s worth remembering that data collected from the same satellites are used in battlefields and in geopolitics for spying. On the same note, Myanmar’s first satellite is unfortunately stuck on the International Space Station and they could be used by the military for unintended purposes.

P.S: Yes, you can see the ship, still stuck in the Suez Canal from space.

Spotlight: SpaceTech for Agriculture

A short briefing on some recent developments of commercial space technologies used in the agriculture sector - I will be looking into other important verticals in the upcoming editions!

The agriculture sector is undergoing a digital revolution, of sorts, partly powered by space. Whether it is efficient irrigation or soil carbon sequestration for sustainable agriculture or water management for efficient crop yields, satellites have a huge role to play. In fact, the role of space in agriculture is emphasised even more by multi-million dollar investments in at least three satellite different constellations focused on collecting data for use in farming - SatRevolution from Poland, EOS Data Analytics from the USA and ConstellR from Germany (there is probably more!).

Given that agriculture and land use contribute to about 24% of the global greenhouse gas emissions, the sector is still ripe for innovation and I expect space technologies to be a differentiating factor both in the growth of the AgTech sector and in addressing the emissions. But, I imagine much of this contribution to be in the background, and not so much in the foreground (as seen from the FarmersEdge case).

The TerraWatch Space Podcast

Links to the recent episodes of my podcast aimed at demystifying space tech

Since the last edition of this newsletter, two episodes of the podcast have been released - one with Delian Asparouhov on being a VC while also founding an in-space manufacturing company (Varda Space), and the other with Pierre Lionnet, an experienced market analyst, on all things rockets, launcher economics and a realistic assessment of the recent developments in the launch sector.

Subscribe to my podcast on your favourite app from some exciting episodes coming up - geopolitics in space, Starlink & satellite communications and more.


One cool application of space technology on Earth that caught my attention

As we are enjoying some amazing footages of the (harmless) Fagradalsfjall volcano eruption in Iceland, it is worth remembering that without an efficient warning system volcanoes are capable of killing humans within a few minutes after eruption. Here is where satellites can be extremely handy, especially those that can collect thermal radiation data such as NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites. These satellites can measure subtle changes in the land surface temperature in and around the volcano that can potentially lead to an eruption and making the authorities to issue a warning alert.

That’s it for this time. In case you have any thoughts, recommendations or requests, just hit reply. See you next time!

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Founder, TerraWatch Space - Advisory Services & Thought Leadership in the Space Industry