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GRAVITY | Disclosure Report #102

From an Undisclosed Location, a candid discussion about events in space which appear to be out of place. Featuring Harvard Professor Avi Loeb and Cosmic Zoologist Dr. Arik Kershenbaum

Moon Mortgages and Alien Biochemistry

Are you in the market for a new home? Well you’re in luck, because you might be able to live on the Moon for just $325k… a month.

NASA plans to land the first woman and the next man on the moon by 2024 as part of the Artemis program, and a study by financial experts from Money, Dot Zinc subsidiary, and a credit broker for consumer credit products earlier this month estimate the cost of building a fully-functioning house on the moon at around $48 million.

We’re talking air seals, industrial-grade air conditioning and heating, meteor-proof windows, insulation and power supplies. And don’t forget about greenhouses, a food supply, and a water supply, since the moon’s exosphere can’t support life as we know it.

Residences and settlements on the moon may happen sooner than you think. Will we be the only ones in space when we get there, and what might aliens look like if we find them?

Arik Kershenbaum, a scientist at the University of Cambridge, proposes that the answer might be hiding in plain sight.

In his new book, “The Zoologist’s Guide to the Galaxy,” Kershenbaum stresses that the “universal laws of biology” that began with Charles Darwin would apply to extraterrestrials as well.

Kershenbaum argues that biochemistry and planetary environments aside, some version of Darwinian selection would be taking place.

He also states, “Finally, possibly inevitably, a social and intelligent organism, with the skill of language, develops complex technology. It is hard to see how any other outcome is possible. Soon, they will be building spaceships and exploring the universe — if they manage to avoid destroying themselves first.”

Although Kershenbaum acknowledges that not everyone would agree with theories, he adds that the likelihood of meeting intelligent aliens anytime in our lifetime is “so remote as to be almost dismissed.”

We’ve previously reported on the United States Defense Department’s Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force, and the details from their recent reports.

According to John Ratcliffe, Trump’s former intelligence director, US Military pilots and satellites have recorded “a lot more” UFO sightings than the public is aware.

After being asked about an upcoming government report on “unidentified aerial phenomena,” Ratcliffe said the report will confirm previously unreported sightings all over the world.

“…We are talking about objects that have been seen by navy or air force pilots, or have been picked up by satellite imagery, that frankly engage in actions that are difficult to explain, movements that are hard to replicate, that we don’t have the technology for. Or traveling at speeds that exceed the sound barrier without a sonic boom,” said Ratcliffe.

The report is scheduled to be released in early June by the defense department and intelligence agencies. Sightings of unidentified aerial phenomena are investigated by analysts, who attempt to rationalize the events, often as weather disturbances or technology from foreign nations.

“But there are instances where we don’t have good explanations,” says Ratcliffe. “So in short, things that we are observing that are difficult to explain – and so there’s actually quite a few of those, and I think that that info has been gathered and will be put out in a way the American people can see.”

I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait for that June report. We’ll be sure to inform you when it is released publicly. Subscribe to our Flight Crew Newsletter for future updates.

Rwanda Enters the Space Race

Exciting news out of Africa: Rwanda is establishing a Space Agency!

Rwanda’s Chamber of Deputies, the lower house in its national legislature, voted on the law on March 10th, stating: “[The] establishment of Rwanda Space Agency aims at having coordination of Rwanda’s space sector activities geared towards securing communication, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) as well as purchasing and playing a custodian role of national spatial data and imagery.”

The Rwanda Space Agency would send Rwandans to the United States and Israel to receive training in able to support Rwanda’s space efforts.

This is not the first time Rwanda has been involved in the new space economy. They joined 2 satellite missions in 2019, one in partnership with the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency, and another with United Kingdom-based communications company OneWeb.

With the “liftoff” of RSA, we now have 20 African countries with space institutions and programs. Very exciting stuff.

Heading north in the international space economy, Airbus has just announced that it has been selected to study spacecraft manufacturing in space by the European Commission.

In an announcement that came March 11th, Airbus will be part of the Horizon 2020 Programme, and the 3 Million Euro contract will last 2 years.

This project, coined the PERIOD project, or PERASPERA In-Orbit Demonstration, will focus on the construction of major satellite components, spacecraft component assembly, and satellite payload replacements.

Airbus will help pioneer the manufacturing of large structures in space and transform the way they are designed. Objects made in space has significant advantages to building on Earth and transporting to space and will be able to circumvent many previous launcher mass and volume limitations.

Silvio Sandrone, head of Space Exploration future projects at Airbus, stated, “Airbus has been working on in-orbit manufacturing technologies for more than a decade and the PERIOD program will help Europe move its combined technological know-how to the next level… Future large-scale space systems can only be manufactured and assembled in orbit, so it’s crucial that Europe is at the forefront of this key capability.”

Until we’re able to build large scale spacecraft in orbit, we’ll continue to get creative on land… or water.

NASA’s James Webb space telescope, or Webb for short, will face a strange threat later this year. With a protective shield the size of a tennis court and a mirror as tall as a 2 story building, Webb is too large to transport on a plane.

As a result, Webb will need to be transported by ship from Southern California to its launch site in French Guiana. Along the route to South America, the ship will need to pass through the Panama canal as well. A long journey over sea leaves the telescope open to many risks, including pirates.

Although some playful commentary has surrounded the issue, it’s still a valid concern. NASA has shrouded the trip in secrecy, to maintain an edge ahead of the historic journey.

Webb has been ongoing for over 20 years, and it would be tragic for something to happen that prevents its late October launch date. Its date of departure will remain under wraps to protect Webb from pirates who may want to hold the irreplaceable craft ransom.

Although many are eager to hear Webb’s progress and transportation updates, Christopher Conselice, an astrophysicist at the University of Manchester, poses a simple and valid question:

“Why would you announce that you’re going to be shipping on a certain day something that is worth over $10 billion… that you could easily put in a boat” and sail away with?

Just as we thought this telescope has faced every problem under the sun, we find one more: pirates.

We’ll continue to keep tabs on this story, however strange it gets. Subscribe to the Flight Crew newsletter for future updates.

Vacations in Space and Fireballs Over the UK

Work on The Voyager Station, the world’s first “space hotel,” is set to begin in 2025. Developed by the Orbital Assembly Corporation, or OAC, the hotel will operate in low Earth orbit and will come equipped with restaurants, a cinema, spa, and accommodations for 400 people.

The Voyager Station will orbit Earth and will be built inside a large rotating circle that will generate artificial gravity at a similar level to that of the Moon.

A series of pods will be attached to the outside of the hotel, that would house a gym, kitchen, restaurant, bar, and crew quarters, along with other modules that will be leased or sold to private companies and governments.

The idea of a circular space station that orbits the Earth dates back to Wernher von Braun, a German-born American aerospace engineer and space architect in the mid 1900’s. von Braun was an architect on NASA’s Apollo program.

OAC hopes it can bring von Braun’s idea “full circle” and be operational by 2027. FOR a more detailed look…check out our Space Hotel piece on Space Channel .com or watch for our show Space Tourist! On our streaming channel.

The space investment sector seems to really be heating up.

Rocket Lab USA, a space-transportation startup, will merge through a SPAC with Vector Acquisition Corp, who is backed by a private equity firm named Vector Capital. According to the deal, the joint venture is valued at $4.1 billion including debt.

Rocket Lab is a front-runner among a new class of “small-launch providers,” and has launched 97 satellites for both government and private clients. While a small number of companies tend to steal the spotlight with large launches, there are over 100 new small-rocket endeavors that exist to serve lighter satellites, including Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit LLC.

SPAC mergers are becoming increasingly common in the space economy. Another of Branson’s enterprises, Virgin Galactic, used this tactic to go public in 2019. Rocket Lab has a bright future, and I’m sure it won’t be the last SPAC merger in the final frontier.

Finally, there was much excitement over in the UK, as a mysterious event happened in the skies outside of Liverpool.

Several bizarre lights were spotted by a driver on his way to work that appeared to be falling from the sky. Video was captured by St Helens resident Aiden Macartain, of bright lights with flaming tails that appeared to be plunging to Earth early in the morning.

“I initially thought it was an aircraft but I saw five or six of them in different places and descending at different points,” said Macartain. “They were like falling lights, I was stunned when I saw it.”

Scientists from the UK Fireball Alliance,…yes, there is such a thing :)…. confirmed that just hours later, a meteor event had occurred in the UK, and it’s set to break the world record as the most reported meteor ever – with 852 reports on the International Meteor Organization’s website.

“This meteor fragmented a lot, as you can see in the videos. Most of the meteoroid vaporized during the six seconds of visible flight,” said Luke Daly from the University of Glasgow.

From what goes up, to what comes down, subscribe to our Flight Crew Newsletter for the latest updates and news in the space industry.

Perils of Commercialization in Space

The commercialization and militarization of space is a story we’ve been following for some time, and recently, there’s been an uptick in activity around the world, and in space.

Let’s start with China,
A recent Pentagon report highlights the PLA’s pursuit and development of counter-space capabilities, including kinetic-kill missiles, ground based lasers, orbiting space robots and surveillance technology which can monitor objects within their field of view and enable counter-space actions.

China has also built an expansive ground support infrastructure to support its growing on-orbit fleet and related functions including spacecraft – direct ascent, co-orbital, electronic warfare, and directed energy capabilities – that can contest or deny an adversary’s access to space during a crisis or conflict.
a Pentagon report

As threats to the sovereignty of space continue to escalate, governments around the world are working to stabilize the domain for commerce and exploration.

Another major driver we’re seeing today is the militarization and defense of space, and just look no further than the us with space forced and space command. You have to believe that if the us is saying, we are going to start spending significant more on we are going to build out our infrastructure, because we can’t afford to be last. You better believe every other country is listening to them and saying the exact same thing. because they don’t want to be left behind. In my mind, the countries that are building infrastructure today will be very well positioned for for the future, and no country wants to lose that race and the militarization of space could be a big driver of space revenues going forward.

Russia has also entered the theater with a space based non-destructive anti-satellite weapon. On July 15th, an object was fired into space from Cosmos 2543, which itself was described as birthing a smaller satellite dubbed Cosmos 2542. The same object spotted earlier this year, stalking the Pentagon’s Spy Sat USA 245.

The Kremlin has claimed the event involved a small space vehicle that “inspected one of the national satellites from a close distance using special equipment”, adding the “inspection” provided valuable information which it transmitted to ground control.

The US Space Force disputes this – stating it was a space weapon test.

General John “Jay” Raymond, said “This is further evidence of Russia’s continuing efforts to develop and test space-based systems and consistent with the Kremlin’s published military doctrine to employ weapons that hold US and Allied space assets at risk.”

Gen. Raymond added the US and its allies such as the UK were “ready and committed to deterring aggression and defending the nation, our Allies and vital US interests from hostile acts in space”.

In a space strategy document published last month, the Pentagon stated “China and Russia each have weaponized space as a means to reduce US and allied military effectiveness and challenge our freedom of operation in space.”

Lieutenant General Steven Kwast (Ret.) wasn’t as vague, saying, “If we allow China to have unilateral control of space, then we’ll have given them a multi-trillion-dollar market for delivering energy and information to the entire world — and we’ll have allowed them to build a weapon that can utterly obliterate us.”

While China and Russia make headlines, there are many countries quietly entering the domain with unique goals, priorities and policy.

The UAE, Japan, Australia, India, Canada, Israel and even Iran are just some of the emerging spacefaring nations, each with a possibility of building their own private sector supporting the effort.

All of them however, have the same strategic mindset.

With multi-trillion-dollar markets in energy, information, manufacturing, and transportation at stake, competition for the high ground could present the greatest risk America will ever face.

More on this in upcoming reports.

Increasing Cost of ISS Threatens US Commercialization Efforts in Space

Recent changes in NASA’s pricing model for commercial users of the International Space Station has some companies baffled. On Feb. 25th, NASA announced a revision to their Commercial Marketing Pricing Policy first published in June of 2019.

NASA said the changes to their pricing model were a result of “discussions with stakeholders, the current market growth, and in anticipation of future commercial entities capable of providing similar services.”

Some of these price jumps include an Upmass rate, or cost to transport 1 kilo of cargo up to the ISS, increasing from $3,000 to $20,000 per kilo, a Downmass rate, or cost to bring 1 kilo of cargo back down from the ISS, increasing from $6,000 to $40,000. The cost of one hour of crew member time jumped from $17,500 to $130,000.

These changes took effect immediately, and have taken many companies by surprise.

“NASA has not done a good job communicating with the stakeholders,” said Jeffrey Manber, chief executive of Nanoracks. “We are in discussions with customers and suddenly we are being notified of a major increase.”

Nanoracks, in particular, has been forced to suspend talks with two potential customers, who can’t afford NASA’s new rates.

Manber referenced the Federal Government’s 2021 Consolidated Appropriations Act as a possible cause for NASA’s price jump, where NASA requested $150 million for LEO commercialization efforts and was provided with only $17 million.

Something that could have huge effects across the industry.

While NASA hikes its fees, China and Russia have just announced an agreement to build a lunar space station.

Despite having sent the first man into space, Russia’s space exploration has deteriorated recently as a result of corruption and lack of financing. This swiftly improves Russia’s stake in the space economy, and attempts to close the gap between themselves and Washington and Beijing in the pursuit of the Moon and Mars.

A memorandum has been signed by both countries to design a lunar station that will serve as a “complex of experimental research facilities created on the surface and/or in the orbit of the Moon”.

This is an interesting partnership to say the least, and we’ll be keeping an eye on this one.

In addition to the changes at NASA, the private sector is also in motion.

George Whitesides, a longtime chief executive of Virgin Galactic, has left the company to pursue opportunities in public service. Whiteside will remain chair of Virgin Galactic’s new Space Advisory Board, which also includes former astronauts Chris Hadfield and Sandy Magnus.

Whitesides’ involvement started at Virgin in 2010 after serving as chief of staff at NASA headquarters. In July 2020, Virgin Galactic created a new position called “Chief Space Officer” for Whitesides, where he oversaw much of the company’s long term plans for orbital spaceflight and high-speed point-to-point travel.

Concurrently to Witesides’ departure, Virgin Galactic chairman and billionaire investor Chamath Palihapitiya, sold his remaining 6.2 million shares of the company on March 2nd and 3rd, for a reported $213 million. Palihapitiya is responsible for taking the company public through a SPAC deal in 2019.

Virgin Galactic shares have dropped more than 25% in the week following the sale, and have lost more than half its value since its all-time-high early February, dropping from $62.80 to below $30 in a matter of weeks. The shares are still in the black since 2021 began, and have increased 15% total over the past year.

Palihapitiya plans to reinvest the money from this sale “into a large investment I am making towards fighting climate change.”

“The details of this investment will be made public in the next few months. I remain as dedicated as ever to Virgin Galactic’s team, mission and prospects,” Palihapitiya said in a statement to CNBC.

As nations and commercial enterprises continue to make waves in the space Economy, we’ll keep our finger on the pulse for you. Subscribe to the Flight Crew Newsletter for updates.

Connecting the Cosmos with Gas Stations

Orbit Fab envisions a thriving in-space market for products and services that support both existing space businesses (communications and Earth observation) and new industries like space tourism, manufacturing, and mining. We offer a ubiquitous supply of satellite propellant in Earth Orbit, expanding the operational potential of new and existing space assets and enabling unprecedented business model flexibility for satellite owners. The future for satellites is no longer restricted to the fuel they are launched with. We provide the fuel that satellites need, where and when they need it, to achieve things never before thought possible.

Co-Founders Daniel Faber, CEO, and Jeremy Schiel, CMO, are working to establish the first Gas Stations in Space™ for satellite refueling. With the first successful launch within a year of founding the company behind them, the two are one step closer to making their vision a reality.

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