[SVSW] Participated as a Sponsor in the Silicon Valley Space Week. Business Opportunities and Innovative Methodologies Arising from International Situation.
On October 11–14, 2022, SatNews, a media company that provides satellite business news for the military and civilian sectors, sponsored the Silicon Valley Space Week (SVSW). SVSW is an intensive conference on satellite-related business, like the World Satellite Business Week (WSBW) that we introduced before.
This is a two days program, the first half is Satellite Innovation 2022, which focuses on innovations using satellites, such as debris removal, and the second half is MilSat Symposium 2022. This event discussed security and commercial satellites. WARPSPACE was a badge sponsor for MilSat Symposium 2022. CSO Mori attended the event on-site and reported the venue.
The Potential of Optical Communications: How to Transport Big Data from Space Utilization?
MilSat Symposium 2022 featured many optical communications providers, including Skyloom, Mynaric, and Aalyria Technologies, which was founded by a group of core engineers who reunited after the dissolution of Google X. They featured a variety of presentations and discussions on the latest technologies and the future of optical communications.
Especially important among these was the panel on “Improving Secure Data Distribution using Cloud Services and Big Data in Next-Gen Ground Networks”. These panel speakers were Campbell Marshall, COO of the aforementioned Skyloom, and Dr. Brian Barritt, CTO of Aalyria Technologies.
Skyloom is collaborating with SPACE COMPASS, a joint venture of SKY Perfect JSAT Corporation and NTT, a satellite operator that provides “SKY PerfecTV”. On the other hand, Aalyria Technologies aims to provide high-speed wireless communication networks that connect the world using optical communications.
As the title indicates, this panel was not focused on “optical communication technology” like the panel that WARPSPACE participated in at WSBW. They discussed the possibility of using optical communications as an alternative for transmitting big data such as Earth observation data, which is needed by various businesses from primary to tertiary industries, at higher speeds and with higher efficiency than ever before. In other words, the overall concept of the panel was “How do we process big data?” However, even in such an abstraction, optical communication is being discussed as an important new technology.
Other speakers included Dr. Derek Tournear, Director of the Space Development Agency (SDA), who gave a Keynote speech and also spoke on “RF Interference, Jamming, and Cyber Concerns” by Tim Deaver of Mynaric, and the launch of an optical communication demonstration satellite by Katherine Monson, COO of Hedron.
The potential of optical communication technology was discussed in various sessions. These sessions showed once again that optical communications are attracting attention as an indispensable infrastructure for future space businesses.
Geopolitics of Space Development: Electric Propulsion System Using Iodine?
Former NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine’s Keynote Speech introduced PHASEFOUR, which is developing an iodine-based electric propulsion system as a next-generation propulsion system for deep space exploration.
The electric propulsion system has been used for Hayabusa and Hayabusa2 at JAXA ISAS, and xenon gas was used as propellant. In addition to xenon gas, rare gases such as krypton are also used, but these are very expensive to procure because these are contained only in the air and must be separated by large-scale equipment. Therefore, PHASEFOUR is developing an ion engine that can use iodine as a propellant, which is close in molecular weight to xenon, can be stored in high density and solid, easier to produce than xenon or krypton gas, and is produced in large quantities in the state of Ohio where PHASEFOUR is located, thus lowering supply chain risk and price.
Moreover, large-scale equipment for producing rare gases (especially xenon) is concentrated in Russia and Ukraine, and the supply of these gases is heavily dependent on both regions. Therefore, the price of rare gases have dramatically increased under the current situation in Ukraine.
It is interesting that in addition to the above advantages of iodine, the background of our dependence on the resources that Russia possesses, and the problems that have emerged regarding the supply of rare gases, is also a tailwind for this project.
In addition to rare gases, plutonium-238, which is used in radioisotope batteries (nuclear batteries) for NASA’s space exploration, has also been largely dependent on Russia for its supply, although this was not mentioned in this speech. Therefore, the geopolitical viewpoint of “Which country is holding back the special resources that are important for space exploration?” This geopolitical viewpoint will be important to foresee future trends in space industry.
Innovative Methodology for the Space Industry: Two-Year Update Plan
Dr. Derek Tournear, Director of SDA, gave a very interesting Keynote Speech. He announced that the U.S. Space Command is planning to install a constellation of satellites in Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) that will relay time-sensitive military data, such as tracking missile launches, and that optical communication terminals will be installed in the constellation. Particularly notable is the way of approach. Until now, the mainstream methodology for space utilization planning has been to “spend a large budget over a long time to launch a large satellite with a high degree of certainty” but this time, he said
“We will plan and launch a satellite every two years. If it fails, start over with a different approach.”
He proposed an innovative and agile “SDA style”. This style was first proposed by him three years ago and was initially criticized as unfeasible, but it was gradually recognized as “fast, cheap, and good” and is now used by other departments of the United States Department of Defense (DOD) for procurement.We are reminded once again that new technologies and methodologies such as these will make possible a future that no one previously thought possible.
In this year’s SVSW, WARPSPACE didn’t have a presentation or booth, but we were reminded of how important optical communication is as a technology at the cutting edge of the satellite business and security. In addition, WARPSPACE is planning to participate in the conference next year, based on the connections made through participation as a badge sponsor.
(Written by Junichiro Nakazawa)