The winners of the 2017 SpaceNews Awards for Excellence & Innovation. From left, Planet’s Richard Leshner; H.E. Sylvie Lucas, ambassador of Luxembourg; SpaceX President and COO Gwynne Shotwell; ILS President Kirk Pysher; Col. Steven Lang, 45th Space Wing; Lt. Col. Jack Lovin, USSTRATCOM; Marcy Steinke, Maxar Utilized sciences; Jason Crusan, NASA. Credit score rating: Kate Patterson for SpaceNews
WASHINGTON — SpaceNews established the Awards for Excellence & Innovation to honor the well-known champions and the unsung heroes shaping the worldwide home enterprise. We endeavored to have a very good time headline-grabbing breakthroughs along with outside-the-limelight enhancements. We made our selections after an open nomination course of that concluded with a reader poll.
The winners listed beneath had been honored all through an awards luncheon held Dec. 19 on the Metropolis Membership of Washington. The luncheon was organized in partnership with the Washington Space Enterprise Roundtable.
A specific as a consequence of Cobham for sponsoring this yr’s SpaceNews awards.
UNSUNG HERO OF THE YEAR: Jason Crusan, NASA
NASA’s exploration funds is dominated by large packages: the Space Launch System, the Orion spacecraft and their associated flooring methods. They entice the dominant share of public consideration — along with the angst as soon as they encounter delays and completely different difficulties.
Nonetheless, inside NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate is a relatively small office addressing the question of what additional capabilities will seemingly be needed, previous SLS and Orion, to permit human exploration of the moon and Mars. The Superior Exploration Strategies division, led since its establishment in 2012 by Jason Crusan, is engaged on various initiatives to develop capabilities needed for future exploration.
Considered one of many division’s best-known efforts is Subsequent Space Utilized sciences for Exploration Partnerships, or NextSTEP. This started as a sequence of partnerships with enterprise to test the occasion of habitation modules that will very nicely be used each for NASA missions, similar to the Deep Space Gateway, or for industrial features like future home stations. A second a part of that effort entails six firms discovering out or establishing flooring prototypes of their modules.
NextSTEP has grown previous habitation module analysis, though. This technique not too way back awarded analysis to numerous firms on an affect and propulsion module that can sort the core of the Deep Space Gateway, incorporating electrical propulsion know-how that can even have industrial features. Totally different NextSTEP efforts embrace enchancment of Three-D printer prototypes that will very nicely be key for future exploration missions and, most not too way back, a reputation for proposals for the occasion of utilized sciences to make the most of sources on the moon and Mars.
Crusan’s division oversees completely different initiatives associated to rising key exploration utilized sciences and capabilities, often working cooperatively with firms and universities. One occasion is the Lunar Cargo Transportation and Landing by Delicate Touchdown, or CATALYST, program, providing technical assist to firms rising industrial lunar landers. That effort is liable to sort out new prominence with President Trump’s Dec. 12 directive ordering NASA’s human spaceflight program once more to the moon.
Superior Exploration Strategies might have a low profile as compared with packages like SLS and Orion, nevertheless the initiatives it is ending up beneath Crusan’s administration may be essential to creating these larger packages a long-term success.
STARTUP OF THE YEAR: Kymeta
Kymeta could not appear to be your typical startup, nevertheless it was solely 5 years up to now that the company spun off from Psychological Ventures, an psychological property juggernaut often derided as a patent troll. With $12 million in early funding from Bill Gates and others, Kymeta obtained down to make use of metamaterials to assemble a larger antenna for mobile features.
This yr, Kymeta delivered on that promise, lastly transport its eagerly awaited product: a flat, lightweight antenna terminal with no transferring components.
Shoppers ranging from railroads to farmers started using Kymeta’s mTenna flat-panel antennas this yr to assist high-throughput communications on the go. The U.S. Federal Emergency Administration Firm deployed Kymeta’s antennas in Puerto Rico this fall after Hurricane Maria destroyed cellphone towers all through the island.
Kymeta’s product cargo cemented its place as a result of the frontrunner of a model new breed of flat-panel antennas that promise to open new markets, improve the potential of high-throughput satellites and permit low-Earth-orbiting megaconstellations to achieve their full potential.
The Redmond, Washington-based agency’s antennas use digital steering instead of mechanical methods to hint satellites and enabling regular service whereas switching between beams.
Kymeta moreover achieved a model new associated automotive trial this yr, taking a Toyota RAV4 on a two-week freeway journey all through america to show KĀLO, a bundled service combining Kymeta’s mTennas and KyWay terminal with Intelsat’s satellite tv for pc television for laptop functionality that provided mobile net entry alongside every stretch of the crosscountry route.
Kymeta anticipates growing the rollout of its antennas in 2018. Borrowing assembly strains from LCD television producer Sharp, Kymeta is throughout the strategy of mass-producing antennas the satellite tv for pc television for laptop enterprise will use to connect the world’s planes, trains and vehicles, to not level out a great deal of ships, tractors and growth instruments.
TURNAROUND OF THE YEAR: Worldwide Launch Suppliers
The yr purchased off to an all-too-familiar start for Worldwide Launch Suppliers. The U.S.-based industrial arm of Russian rocket maker Khrunichev hadn’t launched a single satellite tv for pc television for laptop in six months as a consequence of an in depth title all through Proton-M’s launch of a industrial satellite tv for pc television for laptop the sooner June.
The rocket’s second-stage engine clocked out early all through the misssion, forcing the auto’s Briz-M greater stage to extend its burn to soundly ship Intelsat-31 to its trip spot. Given Proton’s present spotty monitor file, Khrunichev couldn’t shrug this one off. Launches had been suspended whereas investigators dug into Proton’s shut title with an depth often reserved for rocket explosions.
In January, merely as Proton was about to be cleared to return to flight, Khrunichev encountered a a lot larger downside: a producing facility had used the unsuitable solder for a batch of engines, along with these already put in on Protons assembled for upcoming missions.
Fixing the provides mixup consumed virtually half of 2017, pushing Proton’s return to flight to June. Whatever the late start, ILS achieved all three industrial missions on this yr’s manifest.
With the late September launch of AsiaSat-9 — ILS’s final mission of 2017 — Proton has 12 consecutive successes, passing the 1 in 10 failure value insurers had crafted fees spherical. At 15 consecutive successes, ILS expects further underwriters to return to Proton as a result of the rocket rebuilds perception.
Cheaper insurance coverage protection must solely help ILS develop its manifest, which withered on account of Proton’s failure-a-year effectivity between 2010 and 2015.
Whereas the Russian authorities plans to utilize Proton 5 or 6 cases subsequent yr, ILS itself in the meanwhile has just one launch supplied for 2018: a late-in-the-year twin mission carrying Eutelsat 5 West B and Orbital ATK’s satellite-servicing Mission Extension Automobile-1.
Nonetheless, ILS delivered this yr’s shoppers safely to orbit whereas endeavor the introduction of two new well-timed merchandise: a two-stage Proton Medium on faucet for 2018 and a 5-meter payload fairing envisioned for 2020.
Proton Medium is designed to haul roughly 5 tons to geostationary change orbit at prices ILS President Kirk Pysher acknowledged will allow the rocket to compete head-to-head with SpaceX’s Falcon 9. The 5-meter payload fairing, within the meantime, will accomodate bigger satellites along with clusters of smallsats megaconstellation shoppers want to catapult into orbit abruptly.
ILS might be planning a Proton Gentle meant for three-ton payloads, nevertheless that problem is on preserve until Proton Medium is full.
ILS isn’t out of the woods, nevertheless after a pivotal 2017 the company is heading in the right direction.
BREAKTHROUGH OF THE YEAR: Planet completes ‘Mission 1’
When Planet launched plans in 2013 to assemble the world’s largest constellation of Earth-observing satellites capable of providing day-to-day worldwide imagery, it was exhausting to contemplate the tiny startup (or anyone for that matter) would possibly accomplish that. Optimistic, cubesats had been small and low cost, nevertheless they didn’t produce high-quality photos and had few reliable rides into orbit. Planet observed that firsthand when it misplaced 26 satellites in a 2014 launch failure and eight further in 2015.
Nonetheless, there was on a regular basis one factor in regards to the Planet workforce that made their claims unattainable to dismiss. Presumably it was their engineering expertise and Silicon Valley-style ingenuity. In any case, these had been the an identical people who pushed commercial-off-the-shelf to the prohibit by sending smartphone know-how into home as soon as they labored on the NASA Ames Evaluation Coronary heart. Plus, instead of following enterprise norms, they adopted an technique, now broadly usually generally known as agile aerospace, that options speedy prototyping, on-orbit testing and mass manufacturing.
Within the meantime, Planet saved rising organically and through smart acquisitions: it bought BlackBridge and its RapidEye Earth-observing satellites in 2015 and, earlier this yr, purchased Google’s Terra Bella and its SkySat high-resolution imaging fleet. In 2017 alone, Planet has launched 146 satellites on three continents.
With its current constellation, Planet is gathering 1.4 million photos per day overlaying 300 million sq. kilometers. Planet’s dataset has been embraced by farmers, environmentalists, intelligence analysts, human rights activists, hedge fund managers and anyone else who must see changes occurring on the underside. Planet’s breakthrough is its capability to produce shoppers day-to-day photos of Earth’s entire landmass, a goal it refers to as “Mission 1.”
For an encore, Planet is establishing a platform that employs machine learning and object-recognition software program program to help shoppers uncover options to their questions. What variety of ships are transferring in and out of Shanghai’s ports every day? What variety of buildings are beneath growth in Texas? The company plans to create an index of bodily changes much like Google’s net index. It’s one different audacious goal and Planet has a great deal of rivals, nevertheless we’d be foolish to dismiss it.
DEAL OF THE YEAR: Maxar Utilized sciences
After MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates revealed plans in February for a $2.4 billion merger with DigitalGlobe to create a joint agency generally known as Maxar Utilized sciences, it was easy to see how the puzzle gadgets match collectively.
Since Canada’s MDA bought satellite tv for pc television for laptop builder Space Strategies Loral in 2012, the company has been growing its presence in america and looking for a foothold throughout the worthwhile U.S. authorities market. As part of its U.S. Entry Plan, MDA appointed American citizen Howard Lance, the earlier Harris Corp. chief govt, as its president and chief govt in 2016 and established SSL MDA Holdings Inc., which manages the company’s worldwide operations from its headquarters in San Francisco. Shopping for DigitalGlobe with its strong ties to U.S. safety and intelligence companies was a logical growth.
DigitalGlobe, within the meantime, has been diversifying its enterprise to share geospatial imagery and data with a wider pool of worldwide authorities and industrial shoppers. Nonetheless, the company remained intently reliant on a single contract: EnhancedView, which provides geospatial imagery and data to U.S. authorities shoppers by the use of the U.S. Nationwide Geospatial-Intelligence Firm. About 45 p.c of DigitalGlobe’s revenue was tied to EnhancedView, which may account for about 15 p.c of Maxar Utilized sciences’ enterprise.
Plus, every firms are geospatial-imagery specialists: MDA is assumed for synthetic aperture radar whereas DigitalGlobe is assumed for electro-optical imaging. DigitalGlobe boasts a fleet of high-resolution Earth-observation satellites and MDA operates many of the flooring stations that purchase, course of and distribute these imagery merchandise world vast.
As a result of the proposed merger was launched, further gadgets have fallen into place. MDA SSL, a primary communications satellite tv for pc television for laptop producer, is establishing WorldView-Legion, DigitalGlobe’s next-generation Earth-imaging constellation.
It’s too shortly to see how your complete puzzle will look as quickly as its completely assembled, nevertheless with 6,500 staff in america, Canada and world vast, it’s clear Maxar Utilized sciences possesses some spectacular capabilities in spacecraft manufacturing, satellite tv for pc television for laptop flooring methods, home robotics, Earth imaging and geospatial-data analysis.
GOVERNMENT AGENCY OF THE YEAR: 45th Space Wing
The 45th Space Wing at Patrick Air Strain Base, Florida, spent a bit of 2017 throughout the crosshairs of giant Atlantic hurricanes. Nonetheless the wing has not let storms derail its plans.
As Hurricane Irma pounded the Florida coast in September, the SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle was scheduled for its first flight with the Air Strain X-37B Orbital Check out Automobile. Whereas the wing continued to make storm preparations, the Falcon 9 effectively lifted off from the Kennedy Space Coronary heart’s Launch Difficult 39A.
“This phenomenal workforce makes the unattainable doable,” says Wing Commander Brig. Gen. Wayne Monteith.
The 45th Space Wing racked up larger than two dozen launches and landings in 2017, placing over $6.5 billion of nationwide security and industrial satellites in orbit and making Cape Canaveral the busiest spaceport on this planet.
Monteith is rallying his troops as he embarks on what he calls a “Drive to 48.” That’s 48 launches a yr by 2021, a median of roughly one per week.
This surge in East Coast launch operations is projected as Blue Origin begins to fly along with SpaceX, United Launch Alliance, Orbital ATK and others. The “Drive to 48” has led to numerous enhancements for the home enterprise, a really highly effective being the first use of autonomous flight safety methods for booster launches and landings.
GOVERNMENT LEADER OF THE YEAR (MILITARY): Gen. John Hyten, USSTRATCOM
It is exhausting to contemplate any present authorities civilian or uniformed chief who has shaped the controversy about navy home larger than Gen. John E. Hyten.
When Hyten was a colonel throughout the U.S. Air Strain 20 years up to now, he raised eyebrows collectively together with his prediction that there generally is a warfare in home. “It merely appeared obvious to me,” the now four-star commanding regular of U.S. Strategic Command acknowledged not too way back.
He moreover presciently warned that rising rivals like China had been preparing for the day when navy battle moved into home. “So our job was going to be like combating warfare in another space: deter that battle and if it does happen…work out strategies to fight it and win.”
Hyten was a “home warfighter” sooner than the time interval was even part of the navy lexicon.
Hyten led Air Strain Space Command from 2014 to 2016, and served as its vice commander from 2012 to 2014. He now runs the nation’s nuclear enterprise at STRATCOM nevertheless nonetheless retains an in depth eye on home.
To supply home forces bigger visibility and standing, Hyten reorganized STRATCOM and created a Joint Strain Space Component Command led by Air Strain Space Command chief Gen. John Raymond. Hyten generally known as this a critical enchancment in evolution of home as a navy mission. By this time subsequent yr, STRATCOM might have air, land, maritime and home components.
Although Hyten isn’t immediately overseeing navy home operations, he intends to play a key perform shaping future requirements for model new satellite tv for pc television for laptop constellations.
He worries that the Pentagon is being complacent about U.S. home dominance and by no means preparing for a future when home will seemingly be contested.
Hyten not too way back issued a stark warning: “Our adversaries are establishing capabilities to differ the soundness of power on this planet. We’ll’t allow that to happen.”
GOVERNMENT LEADER OF THE YEAR (CIVIL): Étienne Schneider
A member of the Luxembourg Socialist Workers’ Get collectively would look like an unlikely champion of asteroid mining ventures. Nonetheless Étienne Schneider, who represents his social gathering in Luxembourg’s coalition authorities as deputy prime minister and minister of the financial system, has flip into the biggest proponent of the rising home sources enterprise amongst authorities officers in any nation.
Beneath Schneider’s administration, the nation established its SpaceResources.lu initiative in 2016, offering 200 million euros — and ensures of a nice licensed regime — to attract home sources firms to the nation. That has lured firms along with Deep Space Industries and Planetary Sources from america, and ispace from Japan, to rearrange locations of labor in Luxembourg. In July, Luxembourg’s parliament handed legal guidelines that grants firms working from the nation rights to deal with sources they extract, similar to a U.S. regulation handed in 2015.
Nonetheless, these efforts have attracted further than merely lunar and asteroid mining firms. In November, Spire launched it might arrange its European headquarters throughout the nation, which may in the end host as many as 250 staff. In flip, the Luxembourg Future Fund would participate in Spire’s $75 million Sequence C funding spherical. Schneider hailed the deal as the most recent milestone in “our authorities’s three-decade historic previous of attracting ground-breaking firms on this sector,” courting once more to the formation of Luxembourg-based satellite tv for pc television for laptop operator SES throughout the 1980s.
There’s further to return again from Schneider and Luxembourg. In a speech in November on the NewSpace Europe conference in Luxembourg, he acknowledged the nation was working to establish a nationwide home firm that will act as a public-private partnership with enterprise capital funds to place cash into extra room firms. “Luxembourg is ready and desirous to assist and nurture the rising number of industrial home initiatives,” he acknowledged.
The give consideration to deal with sources has not been with out some controversy. “Some people on this nation thought that I had flip into totally mad as soon as I launched this initiative,” he acknowledged on the conference. Nonetheless he’s participating in a protracted recreation with the initiative. “There’s an enormous likelihood that the official language of home will sooner or later be Luxembourgish.”
CORPORATE LEADER OF THE YEAR: Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX President and COO
SpaceX President and COO Gwynne Shotwell, correct, and Jeff Hassannia, Cobham Superior Digital Choices’senior vice chairman for enterprise enchancment and know-how, on the SpaceNews Awards for Excellence & Innovation. Credit score rating: Kate Patterson for SpaceNews.
SpaceX is indelibly linked to its founder, Elon Musk, who has crafted a imaginative and prescient for the company of constructing humanity as a multiplanetary species. He has attracted rock-star ranges of publicity which might be unprecedented inside the home enterprise. When Musk spoke on the Worldwide Astronautical Congress in Australia in September, organizers wanted to take very important crowd administration measures, recalling the chaos of when he spoke on the same conference a yr earlier in Mexico.
Nonetheless, Musk is a busy man. Together with SpaceX he moreover runs electrical automotive agency Tesla, has a startup generally known as Neuralink that is rising brain-computer interfaces and one different startup, The Boring Agency, that wishes to alleviate web site guests jams with tunnels. Evidently, he can’t commit all his time to SpaceX.
What helps maintain SpaceX focused on ending up its rising manifest of launches and quite a few enchancment initiatives is the company’s president, Gwynne Shotwell. Whereas she is simply not as well-known as Musk, her administration has been necessary to SpaceX’s success. Changing into a member of SpaceX in 2002 as vice chairman of enterprise enchancment (and one amongst its first staff), she has been overseeing the company’s growth right into a critical drive inside the home enterprise.
“After I started I was the seventh employee at SpaceX, and we’ve got now just about 7,000 people now,” she acknowledged in a November conference speech. She’s sought to go looking out the right mix of staff who work on the occasion of current autos along with people who cope with the operations of present ones, similar to the Falcon 9 and Dragon. “We would like that launch cadence. That’s the gasoline for SpaceX’s enchancment.”
She’s helped guarantee that SpaceX has a great deal of gasoline this yr. The company has had a file yr with virtually 20 launches, and Shotwell acknowledged in a November interview that she wants to increase that launch value by 50 p.c in 2018, in the end reaching 30 to 40 launches a yr. These launches are supporting the occasion of the Falcon Heavy, the crewed mannequin of Dragon and, most not too way back, the company’s proposed BFR vehicle.
Nonetheless whereas she’s focused on Spacex’s operations, she shares Musk’s imaginative and prescient of individuals going to Mars. “What’s all this leading to?” she requested in that November speech after recounting the present agency successes and near-term plans. “These are all stepping stones alongside the path of us rising an space transportation system capable of taking individuals to completely different planets.”
COMPANY OF THE YEAR: SpaceX
For numerous years, SpaceX supplied varied ensures to the home enterprise: frequent launches, reusable rockets, and a model new heavy-lift vehicle.
And, for lots of that time, SpaceX struggled to ship, as a consequence of delays, technical points, and two high-profile launch failures.
Nonetheless, 2017 was the yr SpaceX truly started to carry by the use of. The company entered the yr nonetheless recovering from its closing mishap, the September 2016 pad explosion. The company returned to flight in January, launching the first 10 Iridium Subsequent satellites from California. A month later SpaceX launched Kennedy Space Coronary heart’s Launch Difficult 39A, closing used on the end of the shuttle program, once more to life launching Falcon 9 rockets whereas repairing the company’s Cape Canaveral pad damaged in closing yr’s explosion.
Carry 39A on-line allowed SpaceX to lastly hit its stride. By the middle of December, SpaceX had carried out a record-high 17 launches in 2017. (One more launch, of a fourth batch of Iridium satellites, is scheduled to occur sooner than the highest of the yr.) This yr’s tempo included two launches two days apart on reverse coasts, and three launches inside two weeks.
SpaceX moreover turned reusability from an experiment — one which, initially, resulted in a sequence of failed landings — right into a day by day part of its operations. With worthwhile demonstrations of “flight-proven” first ranges in 2017, SpaceX has been able to persuade even comparatively conservative shoppers, like NASA and Iridium, to fly on reused boosters to economize or time.
SpaceX will need the momentum it constructed up in 2017 for its even bigger plans in 2018. The company is planning to increase its launch value by as a lot as 50 p.c in 2018, which can seemingly be assisted by the present completion of repairs to its Cape Canaveral launch pad. The long-delayed Falcon Heavy rocket is slated to launch as shortly as January, and SpaceX has two essential check out flights of its industrial crew vehicle scheduled for later in 2018.
SpaceX nonetheless has ambitions for Mars, which agency founder and CEO Elon Musk updated in a September conference cope with that attracted worldwide consideration. Musk acknowledged the first launches of SpaceX’s deliberate BFR rocket to Mars would possibly occur in 2022, a timeline he admitted was “aspirational.” Nonetheless, SpaceX demonstrated in 2017 what was beforehand thought-about aspirational, like extreme flight fees and reusability, is likely to be achieved, in the end.
Agency of the 12 months: SpaceX
Runner up: Planet
Finalists: Arianespace; Maxar Utilized sciences; Nanoracks
Firm Chief of the 12 months: Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX
Runner up: Jeffrey Manber, Nanoracks
Finalists: Rick Ambrose, Lockheed Martin; Jason Andrews, Andrews Space; Kirk Pysher, ILS
Authorities Chief of the 12 months (Military): Gen. John Hyten
Runner up: Brig. Gen. Wayne Monteith, 45th Space Wing
Finalists: Robert Cardillo, Nationwide Geospatial-Intelligence Firm; Gordon Roesler and the DARPA Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellites workforce
Authorities Chief of the 12 months (Civil): Étienne Schneider
Runner up: George Nield, FAA’s Office of Industrial Space Transportation
Finalists: Jean-Yves Le Gall, CNES; Catherine Mealing-Jones, U.Okay. Space Firm
Authorities Firm of the 12 months: 45th Space Wing
Runner up: Indian Space Evaluation Organisation
Finalists: FAA’s Office of Industrial Space Transportation, NOAA’s Nationwide Environmental Satellite tv for pc television for laptop, Data, and Information Service
Deal of the 12 months: Maxar Utilized sciences
Runner up: Planet buys Terra Bella
Finalists: Speedcast buys UtilSat; Teledyne buys e2V; Virgin Group lands $1 billion Saudi funding
Breakthrough of the 12 months: Planet completes Mission 1
Runner up: SpaceX’s reusable Falcon 9 booster
Finalists: Spectrolab’s XTJ Prime picture voltaic cell; Lockheed Martin’s SPIDER flat optical instrument; Sodern’s Auriga miniaturized star trackers; Space System Loral’s Extraordinarily Extreme Density Satellite tv for pc television for laptop
Startup of the 12 months: Kymeta
Runner up: Sky and Space World
Finalists: LeoLabs; Made In Space; Rocket Lab
Turnaround of the 12 months: Worldwide Launch Suppliers
Runner up: Orbital ATK
Finalists: Alaska Aerospace Corp.; Spacecom; SpaceX
Unsung Hero of the 12 months: Jason Crusan, NASA
Runner up: Frank “Ceppi” Cepollina, NASA
Finalists: R. Gilbert “Gil” Moore, Utah State School; Tom Mueller, SpaceX; Man Perez, OHB; Eric Rehder, Boeing Spectrolab