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 Area Wing; Lt. Col. Jack Lovin, USSTRATCOM; Marcy Steinke, Maxar Applied sciences; Jason Crusan, NASA. Credit score: 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 house business. We endeavored to have a good time headline-grabbing breakthroughs in addition to outside-the-limelight improvements. We made our choices after an open nomination course of that concluded with a reader ballot.
The winners listed beneath had been honored throughout an awards luncheon held Dec. 19 on the Metropolis Membership of Washington. The luncheon was organized in partnership with the Washington Area Enterprise Roundtable.
A particular due to Cobham for sponsoring this yr’s SpaceNews awards.
UNSUNG HERO OF THE YEAR: Jason Crusan, NASA
NASA’s exploration finances is dominated by huge packages: the Area Launch System, the Orion spacecraft and their related floor techniques. They entice the dominant share of public consideration — in addition to the angst once they encounter delays and different difficulties.
Nonetheless, inside NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate is a comparatively small workplace addressing the query of what further capabilities will likely be wanted, past SLS and Orion, to allow human exploration of the moon and Mars. The Superior Exploration Methods division, led since its institution in 2012 by Jason Crusan, is engaged on quite a lot of initiatives to develop capabilities wanted for future exploration.
One of many division’s best-known efforts is Subsequent Area Applied sciences for Exploration Partnerships, or NextSTEP. This began as a sequence of partnerships with business to check the event of habitation modules that may very well be used both for NASA missions, just like the Deep Area Gateway, or for industrial functions like future house stations. A second part of that effort entails six corporations finding out or constructing floor prototypes of their modules.
NextSTEP has grown past habitation module research, although. This system not too long ago awarded research to a number of corporations on an influence and propulsion module that will kind the core of the Deep Area Gateway, incorporating electrical propulsion know-how that will even have industrial functions. Different NextSTEP efforts embrace improvement of Three-D printer prototypes that may very well be key for future exploration missions and, most not too long ago, a name for proposals for the event of applied sciences to utilize sources on the moon and Mars.
Crusan’s division oversees different initiatives related to growing key exploration applied sciences and capabilities, usually working cooperatively with corporations and universities. One instance is the Lunar Cargo Transportation and Touchdown by Delicate Landing, or CATALYST, program, offering technical help to corporations growing industrial lunar landers. That effort is prone to tackle new prominence with President Trump’s Dec. 12 directive ordering NASA’s human spaceflight program again to the moon.
Superior Exploration Methods could have a low profile in comparison with packages like SLS and Orion, however the initiatives it’s finishing up beneath Crusan’s management could also be crucial to creating these bigger packages a long-term success.
STARTUP OF THE YEAR: Kymeta
Kymeta may not seem to be your typical startup, however it was solely 5 years in the past that the corporate spun off from Mental Ventures, an mental property juggernaut usually derided as a patent troll. With $12 million in early funding from Invoice Gates and others, Kymeta got down to use metamaterials to construct a greater antenna for cellular functions.
This yr, Kymeta delivered on that promise, lastly transport its eagerly awaited product: a flat, light-weight antenna terminal with no transferring elements.
Clients starting from railroads to farmers began utilizing Kymeta’s mTenna flat-panel antennas this yr to help high-throughput communications on the go. The U.S. Federal Emergency Administration Company deployed Kymeta’s antennas in Puerto Rico this fall after Hurricane Maria destroyed cellphone towers throughout the island.
Kymeta’s product cargo cemented its place because the frontrunner of a brand new breed of flat-panel antennas that promise to open new markets, increase the potential of high-throughput satellites and allow low-Earth-orbiting megaconstellations to attain their full potential.
The Redmond, Washington-based firm’s antennas use digital steering as a substitute of mechanical techniques to trace satellites and enabling steady service whereas switching between beams.
Kymeta additionally accomplished a brand new related automotive trial this yr, taking a Toyota RAV4 on a two-week highway journey throughout america to display KĀLO, a bundled service combining Kymeta’s mTennas and KyWay terminal with Intelsat’s satellite tv for pc capability that supplied cellular web entry alongside each stretch of the crosscountry route.
Kymeta anticipates increasing the rollout of its antennas in 2018. Borrowing meeting strains from LCD tv producer Sharp, Kymeta is within the technique of mass-producing antennas the satellite tv for pc business will use to attach the world’s planes, trains and cars, to not point out loads of ships, tractors and development tools.
TURNAROUND OF THE YEAR: Worldwide Launch Providers
The yr bought off to an all-too-familiar begin for Worldwide Launch Providers. The U.S.-based industrial arm of Russian rocket maker Khrunichev hadn’t launched a single satellite tv for pc in six months due to an in depth name throughout Proton-M’s launch of a industrial satellite tv for pc the earlier June.
The rocket’s second-stage engine clocked out early throughout the misssion, forcing the automobile’s Briz-M higher stage to increase its burn to soundly ship Intelsat-31 to its vacation spot. Given Proton’s current spotty monitor file, Khrunichev couldn’t shrug this one off. Launches had been suspended whereas investigators dug into Proton’s shut name with an depth usually reserved for rocket explosions.
In January, simply as Proton was about to be cleared to return to flight, Khrunichev encountered a much bigger drawback: a manufacturing facility had used the unsuitable solder for a batch of engines, together with those already put in on Protons assembled for upcoming missions.
Fixing the supplies mixup consumed practically half of 2017, pushing Proton’s return to flight to June. Regardless of the late begin, ILS accomplished all three industrial missions on this yr’s manifest.
With the late September launch of AsiaSat-9 — ILS’s ultimate mission of 2017 — Proton has 12 consecutive successes, passing the 1 in 10 failure price insurers had crafted charges round. At 15 consecutive successes, ILS expects extra underwriters to return to Proton because the rocket rebuilds belief.
Cheaper insurance coverage ought to solely assist ILS develop its manifest, which withered on account of Proton’s failure-a-year efficiency between 2010 and 2015.
Whereas the Russian authorities plans to make use of Proton 5 or 6 instances subsequent yr, ILS itself at the moment has only one launch offered for 2018: a late-in-the-year twin mission carrying Eutelsat 5 West B and Orbital ATK’s satellite-servicing Mission Extension Car-1.
Nonetheless, ILS delivered this yr’s clients 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 switch orbit at costs ILS President Kirk Pysher stated will enable the rocket to compete head-to-head with SpaceX’s Falcon 9. The 5-meter payload fairing, in the meantime, will accomodate larger satellites in addition to clusters of smallsats megaconstellation clients wish to catapult into orbit all of sudden.
ILS can be planning a Proton Mild meant for three-ton payloads, however that challenge is on maintain till Proton Medium is full.
ILS isn’t out of the woods, however after a pivotal 2017 the corporate is on the right track.
BREAKTHROUGH OF THE YEAR: Planet completes ‘Mission 1’
When Planet introduced plans in 2013 to construct the world’s largest constellation of Earth-observing satellites able to offering day by day international imagery, it was exhausting to consider the tiny startup (or anybody for that matter) might accomplish that. Positive, cubesats had been small and cheap, however they didn’t produce high-quality pictures and had few dependable rides into orbit. Planet noticed that firsthand when it misplaced 26 satellites in a 2014 launch failure and eight extra in 2015.
Nonetheless, there was all the time one thing concerning the Planet workforce that made their claims unattainable to dismiss. Possibly it was their engineering experience and Silicon Valley-style ingenuity. In spite of everything, these had been the identical individuals who pushed commercial-off-the-shelf to the restrict by sending smartphone know-how into house once they labored on the NASA Ames Analysis Heart. Plus, as a substitute of following business norms, they adopted an strategy, now broadly often known as agile aerospace, that features speedy prototyping, on-orbit testing and mass manufacturing.
In the meantime, Planet stored rising organically and thru sensible acquisitions: it purchased BlackBridge and its RapidEye Earth-observing satellites in 2015 and, earlier this yr, bought Google’s Terra Bella and its SkySat high-resolution imaging fleet. In 2017 alone, Planet has launched 146 satellites on three continents.
With its present constellation, Planet is gathering 1.four million pictures 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 anybody else who needs to see adjustments occurring on the bottom. Planet’s breakthrough is its capacity to supply clients day by day pictures of Earth’s whole landmass, a objective it refers to as “Mission 1.”
For an encore, Planet is constructing a platform that employs machine studying and object-recognition software program to assist clients discover solutions to their questions. What number of ships are transferring out and in of Shanghai’s ports each day? What number of buildings are beneath development in Texas? The corporate plans to create an index of bodily adjustments similar to Google’s web index. It’s one other audacious objective and Planet has loads of competitors, however we’d be silly to dismiss it.
DEAL OF THE YEAR: Maxar Applied sciences
After MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates revealed plans in February for a $2.four billion merger with DigitalGlobe to create a joint firm known as Maxar Applied sciences, it was simple to see how the puzzle items match collectively.
Since Canada’s MDA purchased satellite tv for pc builder Area Methods Loral in 2012, the agency has been increasing its presence in america and searching for a foothold within the profitable U.S. authorities market. As a part of its U.S. Entry Plan, MDA appointed American citizen Howard Lance, the previous Harris Corp. chief govt, as its president and chief govt in 2016 and established SSL MDA Holdings Inc., which manages the corporate’s international operations from its headquarters in San Francisco. Buying DigitalGlobe with its robust ties to U.S. protection and intelligence businesses was a logical development.
DigitalGlobe, in the meantime, has been diversifying its enterprise to share geospatial imagery and knowledge with a wider pool of worldwide authorities and industrial clients. Nonetheless, the corporate remained closely reliant on a single contract: EnhancedView, which supplies geospatial imagery and knowledge to U.S. authorities clients by way of the U.S. Nationwide Geospatial-Intelligence Company. About 45 p.c of DigitalGlobe’s income was tied to EnhancedView, which can account for about 15 p.c of Maxar Applied sciences’ enterprise.
Plus, each corporations are geospatial-imagery specialists: MDA is thought for artificial aperture radar whereas DigitalGlobe is thought for electro-optical imaging. DigitalGlobe boasts a fleet of high-resolution Earth-observation satellites and MDA operates most of the floor stations that acquire, course of and distribute these imagery merchandise world wide.
Because the proposed merger was introduced, extra items have fallen into place. MDA SSL, a number one communications satellite tv for pc producer, is constructing WorldView-Legion, DigitalGlobe’s next-generation Earth-imaging constellation.
It’s too quickly to see how your entire puzzle will look as soon as its totally assembled, however with 6,500 workers in america, Canada and world wide, it’s clear Maxar Applied sciences possesses some spectacular capabilities in spacecraft manufacturing, satellite tv for pc floor techniques, house robotics, Earth imaging and geospatial-data evaluation.
GOVERNMENT AGENCY OF THE YEAR: 45th Area Wing
The 45th Area Wing at Patrick Air Pressure Base, Florida, spent a piece of 2017 within the crosshairs of huge Atlantic hurricanes. However the wing has not let storms derail its plans.
As Hurricane Irma pounded the Florida coast in September, the SpaceX Falcon 9 launch automobile was scheduled for its first flight with the Air Pressure X-37B Orbital Take a look at Car. Whereas the wing continued to make storm preparations, the Falcon 9 efficiently lifted off from the Kennedy Area Heart’s Launch Complicated 39A.
“This phenomenal workforce makes the unattainable doable,” says Wing Commander Brig. Gen. Wayne Monteith.
The 45th Area Wing racked up greater than two dozen launches and landings in 2017, putting over $6.5 billion of nationwide safety 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 together with SpaceX, United Launch Alliance, Orbital ATK and others. The “Drive to 48” has led to a number of enhancements for the house business, a very powerful being the primary use of autonomous flight security techniques for booster launches and landings.
GOVERNMENT LEADER OF THE YEAR (MILITARY): Gen. John Hyten, USSTRATCOM
It’s exhausting to consider any current authorities civilian or uniformed chief who has formed the controversy about navy house greater than Gen. John E. Hyten.
When Hyten was a colonel within the U.S. Air Pressure 20 years in the past, he raised eyebrows together with his prediction that there can be a warfare in house. “It simply appeared apparent to me,” the now four-star commanding normal of U.S. Strategic Command stated not too long ago.
He additionally presciently warned that rising rivals like China had been making ready for the day when navy battle moved into house. “So our job was going to be like combating warfare in some other area: deter that battle and if it does occur…work out methods to combat it and win.”
Hyten was a “house warfighter” earlier than the time period was even a part of the navy lexicon.
Hyten led Air Pressure Area 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 however nonetheless retains an in depth eye on house.
To provide house forces larger visibility and standing, Hyten reorganized STRATCOM and created a Joint Pressure Area Element Command led by Air Pressure Area Command chief Gen. John Raymond. Hyten known as this a serious improvement in evolution of house as a navy mission. By this time subsequent yr, STRATCOM could have air, land, maritime and house elements.
Though Hyten is not instantly overseeing navy house operations, he intends to play a key function shaping future necessities for brand new satellite tv for pc constellations.
He worries that the Pentagon is being complacent about U.S. house dominance and never making ready for a future when house will likely be contested.
Hyten not too long ago issued a stark warning: “Our adversaries are constructing capabilities to vary the stability of energy on this planet. We will’t enable that to occur.”
GOVERNMENT LEADER OF THE YEAR (CIVIL): Étienne Schneider
A member of the Luxembourg Socialist Staff’ Get together would appear to be an unlikely champion of asteroid mining ventures. However Étienne Schneider, who represents his social gathering in Luxembourg’s coalition authorities as deputy prime minister and minister of the economic system, has turn into the largest proponent of the rising house sources business amongst authorities officers in any nation.
Beneath Schneider’s management, the nation established its SpaceResources.lu initiative in 2016, providing 200 million euros — and guarantees of a pleasant authorized regime — to draw house sources corporations to the nation. That has lured corporations together with Deep Area Industries and Planetary Sources from america, and ispace from Japan, to arrange places of work in Luxembourg. In July, Luxembourg’s parliament handed laws that grants corporations working from the nation rights to house sources they extract, just like a U.S. regulation handed in 2015.
Nonetheless, these efforts have attracted extra than simply lunar and asteroid mining corporations. In November, Spire introduced it could set up its European headquarters within the nation, which can ultimately host as many as 250 workers. In flip, the Luxembourg Future Fund would take part in Spire’s $75 million Sequence C funding spherical. Schneider hailed the deal as the newest milestone in “our authorities’s three-decade historical past of attracting ground-breaking corporations on this sector,” courting again to the formation of Luxembourg-based satellite tv for pc operator SES within the 1980s.
There’s extra to come back from Schneider and Luxembourg. In a speech in November on the NewSpace Europe convention in Luxembourg, he stated the nation was working to ascertain a nationwide house company that may act as a public-private partnership with enterprise capital funds to put money into more room corporations. “Luxembourg is prepared and desirous to help and nurture the rising variety of industrial house initiatives,” he stated.
The give attention to house sources has not been with out some controversy. “Some folks on this nation thought that I had turn into utterly mad once I launched this initiative,” he stated on the convention. However he’s taking part in a protracted recreation with the initiative. “There’s a huge probability that the official language of house will in the future be Luxembourgish.”
CORPORATE LEADER OF THE YEAR: Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX President and COO
SpaceX President and COO Gwynne Shotwell, proper, and Jeff Hassannia, Cobham Superior Digital Options’senior vice chairman for enterprise improvement and know-how, on the SpaceNews Awards for Excellence & Innovation. Credit score: Kate Patterson for SpaceNews.
SpaceX is indelibly linked to its founder, Elon Musk, who has crafted a imaginative and prescient for the corporate of building humanity as a multiplanetary species. He has attracted rock-star ranges of publicity which can be unprecedented within the house business. When Musk spoke on the Worldwide Astronautical Congress in Australia in September, organizers needed to take vital crowd management measures, recalling the chaos of when he spoke on the similar convention a yr earlier in Mexico.
Nonetheless, Musk is a busy man. Along with SpaceX he additionally runs electrical automotive firm Tesla, has a startup known as Neuralink that’s growing brain-computer interfaces and one other startup, The Boring Firm, that desires to alleviate site visitors jams with tunnels. Evidently, he can’t commit all his time to SpaceX.
What helps hold SpaceX targeted on finishing up its rising manifest of launches and numerous improvement initiatives is the corporate’s president, Gwynne Shotwell. Whereas she is just not as well-known as Musk, her management has been important to SpaceX’s success. Becoming a member of SpaceX in 2002 as vice chairman of enterprise improvement (and one among its first workers), she has been overseeing the corporate’s development into a serious drive within the house business.
“After I began I used to be the seventh worker at SpaceX, and we have now virtually 7,000 folks now,” she stated in a November convention speech. She’s sought to search out the correct mix of workers who work on the event of recent autos in addition to those that deal with the operations of current ones, just like the Falcon 9 and Dragon. “We want that launch cadence. That’s the gas for SpaceX’s improvement.”
She’s helped make sure that SpaceX has loads of gas this yr. The corporate has had a file yr with practically 20 launches, and Shotwell stated in a November interview that she needs to extend that launch price by 50 p.c in 2018, ultimately reaching 30 to 40 launches a yr. These launches are supporting the event of the Falcon Heavy, the crewed model of Dragon and, most not too long ago, the corporate’s proposed BFR automobile.
However whereas she’s targeted on Spacex’s operations, she shares Musk’s imaginative and prescient of people going to Mars. “What’s all this resulting in?” she requested in that November speech after recounting the current firm successes and near-term plans. “These are all stepping stones alongside the trail of us growing an area transportation system able to taking people to different planets.”
COMPANY OF THE YEAR: SpaceX
For a number of years, SpaceX provided various guarantees to the house business: frequent launches, reusable rockets, and a brand new heavy-lift automobile.
And, for a lot of that point, SpaceX struggled to ship, due to delays, technical issues, and two high-profile launch failures.
Nonetheless, 2017 was the yr SpaceX actually began to hold by way of. The corporate entered the yr nonetheless recovering from its final mishap, the September 2016 pad explosion. The corporate returned to flight in January, launching the primary 10 Iridium Subsequent satellites from California. A month later SpaceX introduced Kennedy Area Heart’s Launch Complicated 39A, final used on the finish of the shuttle program, again to life launching Falcon 9 rockets whereas repairing the corporate’s Cape Canaveral pad broken in final yr’s explosion.
Carry 39A on-line allowed SpaceX to lastly hit its stride. By the center of December, SpaceX had carried out a record-high 17 launches in 2017. (Yet another launch, of a fourth batch of Iridium satellites, is scheduled to happen earlier than the top of the yr.) This yr’s tempo included two launches two days aside on reverse coasts, and three launches inside two weeks.
SpaceX additionally turned reusability from an experiment — one which, initially, resulted in a sequence of failed landings — into a daily a part of its operations. With profitable demonstrations of “flight-proven” first levels in 2017, SpaceX has been capable of persuade even comparatively conservative clients, like NASA and Iridium, to fly on reused boosters to economize or time.
SpaceX will want the momentum it constructed up in 2017 for its even larger plans in 2018. The corporate is planning to extend its launch price by as much as 50 p.c in 2018, which will likely be assisted by the current completion of repairs to its Cape Canaveral launch pad. The long-delayed Falcon Heavy rocket is slated to launch as quickly as January, and SpaceX has two crucial take a look at flights of its industrial crew automobile scheduled for later in 2018.
SpaceX nonetheless has ambitions for Mars, which firm founder and CEO Elon Musk up to date in a September convention deal with that attracted worldwide consideration. Musk stated the primary launches of SpaceX’s deliberate BFR rocket to Mars might happen in 2022, a timeline he admitted was “aspirational.” Nonetheless, SpaceX demonstrated in 2017 what was beforehand thought-about aspirational, like excessive flight charges and reusability, might be achieved, ultimately.
Firm of the 12 months: SpaceX
Runner up: Planet
Finalists: Arianespace; Maxar Applied sciences; Nanoracks
Company Chief of the 12 months: Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX
Runner up: Jeffrey Manber, Nanoracks
Finalists: Rick Ambrose, Lockheed Martin; Jason Andrews, Andrews Area; Kirk Pysher, ILS
Authorities Chief of the 12 months (Army): Gen. John Hyten
Runner up: Brig. Gen. Wayne Monteith, 45th Area Wing
Finalists: Robert Cardillo, Nationwide Geospatial-Intelligence Company; 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 Workplace of Industrial Area Transportation
Finalists: Jean-Yves Le Gall, CNES; Catherine Mealing-Jones, U.Ok. Area Company
Authorities Company of the 12 months: 45th Area Wing
Runner up: Indian Area Analysis Organisation
Finalists: FAA’s Workplace of Industrial Area Transportation, NOAA’s Nationwide Environmental Satellite tv for pc, Information, and Info Service
Deal of the 12 months: Maxar Applied 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 photo voltaic cell; Lockheed Martin’s SPIDER flat optical instrument; Sodern’s Auriga miniaturized star trackers; Area System Loral’s Extremely Excessive Density Satellite tv for pc
Startup of the 12 months: Kymeta
Runner up: Sky and Area World
Finalists: LeoLabs; Made In Area; Rocket Lab
Turnaround of the 12 months: Worldwide Launch Providers
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 College; Tom Mueller, SpaceX; Man Perez, OHB; Eric Rehder, Boeing Spectrolab