SPACe, Global Space Budgets and Storing Data in Space - March 2021 (1/2)

Decoding space tech for those outside the 'space bubble'

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

Seen from Space

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

  • SpaceX, which is busy launching its Falcon 9s and belly-flopping its Starship prototypes, wants to begin connecting trucks, ships and jets to the internet through its Starlink satellites (already 1,200 of them in orbit, with services now available across the UK, Germany and New Zealand ).

  • Russia & China (which is already building its space station) want to build a scientific research station around the Moon together. With the US leading efforts on the Artemis mission and the Gateway program together with some partners, will this lead to a healthy competition on Earth or an unnecessary confrontation in space?

  • LyteLoop, a startup that aims to store data using light (photons) beams transmitted between satellites has raised USD 40 million. This could have consequences on how we approach data security as we can finally look to move away from the power-hungry data centres around the world.

  • Robots can not only dance, but also repair satellites in space or change their batteries, and soon help build our bases on Moon and Mars. Japanese space startup Gitai has raised some funding to work on exactly that. With a fresh increase in its space budget, and startups like Gitai, i-space, Astroscale and Axelspace, Japan seems all set to continue to be an important player in space.

  • A consortium of Australian companies is developing a satellite to provide automated bushfire detection and tracking. Fireball.International can detect a bushfire within minutes by analysing satellite data and sensors in real-time, and send notifications to emergency responders when it does detect a fire.

  • ClimaCell, a Boston-based company that offers weather software (mobile app and APIs) announced its plans to builds its own satellite constellation, producing radar data that will be used to improve its own weather forecasts (I wrote a piece about what this could mean for the future of observing the Earth from space).

Spotlight: SPACs in Space

There were announcements about a couple more SPAC merger deals in the space industry - launch company Rocket Lab (which also announced Neutron, a competitor to SpaceX in the coolest way possible) and a satellite data analytics company, Spire. ICYMI, there has been 7 SPAC merger deals so far in space tech. I decided to consolidate them together as it was becoming hard to track (thank me later!). Probably, more to come but apparently, most of Wall Street thinks SPACs are a joke (even the SPAC renaissance man Chamath has sold off his personal stake in Virgin Galactic)

P.S: If you are still wondering what a SPAC actually means, I would suggest this explanation video from CNBC.

Spotlight: Space Budgets

Space in Africa did an excellent job compiling and analysing the space budgets of countries across the world. Over the last three years, governments spent a combined total of USD 216.27 billion on space activities. Although the Covid-19 pandemic had an impact on the fiscal budgets of some countries more than others, there has no significant impact on space activities yet.

In case, you are one of those wondering why countries are continuing to invest in space technologies when we have so many challenges on Earth (pandemic aside), I have a podcast episode coming up on the geopolitics of space, why investing in space is the way to go for showing both the soft power and hard power of countries. Subscribe to my podcast!

P.S: The report on space budgets from Space in Africa can be downloaded for free.

The TerraWatch Space Podcast

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

Since the last edition of this newsletter, there have been three episodes of the podcast - two on investing in space tech from two prominent investors and one on space tourism with a space industry analyst who has been tracking the developments over the years.

Subscribe to my podcast on your favourite app from some exciting episodes coming up - in-orbit manufacturing, launcher economics, satellite internet and more.


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

You might have seen satellite images showing a drop in NO2 (nitrogen dioxide) emission levels during the Covid-19 lockdowns last year. So, the fact that we can monitor emissions from satellites should come as no surprise. But, to actually build this tool and make it into a product for commercial use is quite impressive. Kayrros, a French startup has successfully detected at least 13 methane emission events from natural gas pipelines around the globe, using data from space and notified the related authorities. Given that methane’s global warming potential is at least 84 times greater than carbon dioxide over 20 years, we are reaching a point where we can make companies accountable for their actions, thanks to data from space (this is only going to get better, as more and more data is about to be collected from satellites).

That’s it for this time. See you next time!

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Founder, TerraWatch Space