#COLORADO SPRINGS — Aside from the usual closing festivities, one final-day highlight of the 39th Space Symposium was a heated debate of sci-fi fandoms.

Moderated by SpaceNews Senior Staff Writer Jeff Foust, the April 11 debate saw Team Star Trek, represented by Redwire Chief Growth Officer Mike Gold and NASA Chief Technologist A.C. Charania, go head-to-head with Team Star Wars, consisting of Jessica Noble, general counsel at iSpace Technologies U.S. and Camille Bergin, better known as The Galactic Gal.

In a contentious decision, former NASA administrator and debate judge Jim Bridenstine awarded the victory to Team Star Wars, despite the audience demonstrating an audible preference for Team Star Trek (well, except for that Leonard Nimoy vs Harrison Ford applause poll).

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#WASHINGTON — A surge in demand for small satellites to support national security space programs is exposing weaknesses in the U.S. space industrial base, leading to supply chain issues as the military prioritizes rapid deployment of constellations.

In the latest sign of the strain, defense contractor #L3Harris Technologies has sued one of its suppliers, the #aerospace firm Moog Inc., in federal court, alleging Moog failed to timely deliver critical satellite components and that parts it did provide were defective.

The lawsuit, filed in late March in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, is the latest flashpoint in the space industry’s struggle to adapt to the military’s shift toward smaller, more affordable satellites, led by the Space Development Agency

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#TAMPA, Fla. — The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) has awarded #MDA Space a contract extension worth around $182 million to continue supporting robotics operations on the International Space Station until 2030.

The contract now also includes robotics flight controller duties, in addition to the operational readiness support #MDA Space has provided for the Mobile Servicing System on the ISS since 2001.

MDA Space has previously only provided training to CSA and NASA staff for operating this system, which includes the space station’s 17-meter Canadarm2 robotic arm, alongside mission planning and engineering support.

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The Center for Strategic and International Studies released its annual #Space Threat Assessment report April 17. Analysts leveraged open-source information to examine developments in space weapons and trends impacting U.S. national security space systems.

The assessment highlights the expanding anti-satellite capabilities of foreign adversaries, notably #China and #Russia, alongside the world’s growing reliance on space-based systems for critical services. The report also emphasizes the increasing vulnerability of both civilian and commercial space systems, not just to traditional “counterspace” weapons but also to #cyberattacks and #espionage.

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#WASHINGTON#Astrobotic, a company that develops vehicles for space exploration missions, is making a strategic move into the defense sector with its Xogdor reusable rocket, designed to test payloads at the edge of space.

Masten Space Systems, a company acquired by Astrobotic in 2022, started developing the suborbital Xogdor vehicle in 2021. The rocket, expected to debut in 2025, is funded by a NASA contract, “but we are also looking at applications to support the Department of Defense,” Sean Bedford, Astrobotic’s director of business development for propulsion systems, said in an interview last week at the Space Symposium in Colorado Springs.

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#WASHINGTON — Finnish #satellite company Iceye has raised $93 million in a new funding round, the company announced April 17.

Iceye operates a constellation of synthetic aperture radar (SAR) small satellites that capture imagery day or night and in any weather conditions, making them valuable tools for a range of applications including maritime monitoring, infrastructure assessment, and disaster response.

Finnish sovereign wealth fund Solidium Oy led the round, with participation from Move Capital Fund I, Blackwells Capital, Christo Georgiev and existing investors.

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#WASHINGTON — The Defense Department announced April 16 it awarded a $14.4 million contract to semiconductor manufacturer 5N Plus to boost production of space-qualified materials for solar cells.

The funding from the Defense Production Act investment program is to sustain and expand the capability to produce germanium substrates used in solar cells for defense, civil and commercial satellites.

“Space-based capabilities are vital to U.S. national security,” said Assistant Secretary of Defense for Industrial Base Policy Laura Taylor-Kale. “This effort will feed supply chains that support the space power ecosystem while also helping ensure the long-term business viability of the U.S. defense industrial base for space-qualified germanium wafers.”

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TAMPA, Fla. — #Satellite industry veteran Mark Rigolle is taking the helm of #ABS after Amit Somani’s sudden departure early this year in the latest shake-up for the Dubai-based regional satellite operator, the company announced April 16.

Rigolle, most recently chief operating officer for the proposed Rivada Space Networks low Earth orbit constellation (LEO), will join ABS as CEO April 29.

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#WASHINGTON#NASA will seek “out of the box” ideas in a bid to reduce the costs and shorten the schedule for returning samples from Mars.

In an April 15 briefing, agency officials announced they would solicit proposals from NASA centers and from industry on “innovative designs” to reshape its Mars Sample Return (MSR) effort after an internal review confirmed the ballooning costs of the overall program.

That review found that the current program would cost between $8 billion and $11 billion, the same range offered by an independent assessment completed last September. To fit that into the overall planetary science budget without affecting other programs would delay the return of samples from the early 2030s to 2040.

“The bottom line is that $11 billion is too expensive and not returning samples until 2040 is unacceptably too long,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said at the briefing.

To try to reduce costs and schedule, NASA will issue a request for proposals April 16 seeking ideas on alternative approaches for the overall MSR architecture or specific

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#WASHINGTON — Military #satellites for decades have been built like a giant toolbox with all the functions crammed into one unit. But this type of monolithic design makes it expensive, complex and less adaptable. The Space Force is now “disaggregating” #satellites, breaking down the toolbox into smaller, specialized toolkits.

The idea of disaggregating military satellite capabilities has been talked about for years, but it’s only now becoming a practical reality thanks to lower launch costs, said Cordell DeLaPena, program executive officer for military communications, positioning, navigation, and timing at the Space Force’s Space Systems Command.

During a meeting with reporters last week at the Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, DeLaPena pointed to two key programs poised for disaggregation: the Protected Tactical Satcom (PTS) constellation for secure military communications, and the Global Positioning System (GPS).

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