The Downlink

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This week’s episode is a part one of two on PNT – positioning, navigation, and timing. All three parts come from the space-based Global Positioning System, or GPS. Anything from precision farming and guided missiles, and the operational synchronization of critical infrastructures like dams and refineries depends on GPS. Thing is, if something goes wrong, there’s no “plan B”. Laura Winter speaks with Dana Goward, a retired Coast Guard captain, who’s now serving on the National Positioning, Navigation and Timing Advisory Board, and president of the Resilient Navigation and Timing Foundation.

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Commercial space companies involved in anything from cargo delivery to support NASA’s Artemis program, to space domain awareness, and even mining the moon and asteroids are preparing to go to the lunar neighborhood and set up shop. They’re wondering whether the Department of Defense is going to join them in the cis-lunar region to sustain friendly commercial activity, and are concerned about the future if it doesn’t. Laura Winter speaks with Namarata Goswami, an independent scholar on space policy and great power politics and co-author of the book “Scramble for the Skies”, and Brien Flewelling, Exoanalitic Solutions chief architect for space situational awareness and “innovation boffin”. This is part one of a two-part series.

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The U.S. Department of State quietly launched a new organization that’s fusing commercial satellite imagery with social media posts to provide evidence of Russian war crimes to prosecutors, such as those in the International Criminal Court. It’s called the Conflict Observatory.
Laura Winter Speaks with Nathaniel Raymond, a war crimes investigator and the Executive Director of Yale University’s Humanitarian Research Lab, who worked with the State Department in standing up the Conflict Observatory; and Steve Wood, a former geospatial intelligence analyst, who is the Senior Director of Maxar Technologies’ News Bureau, which supplies the media and the U.S. government with unclassified satellite imagery documenting Russia’s war in Ukraine.

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This week in Paris Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Emmanuel Macron announced a further deepening of their defence cooperation. This time it includes the space domain. To understand why this agreement is significant, Laura Winter speaks with Narayan Prasad, a long-time space entrepreneur based in Berlin, and Pranav Satyanath, a research analyst with the Takshashila Intitution’s Strategic Studies Programme in Bangalore.

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China celebrates Space Day of China with announcements, putting the U.S. on notice that it means to get to and stay on the moon sooner rather than later, according to Malcolm Davis, a senior policy analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute. Laura Winter also speaks with Hawkeye 360’s CEO John Serafini and National Security Space Association Executive Director and Founder Steve Jacques about their announcement of a new commercial space initiative that aims to provide immediate humanitarian aid to the people of Ukraine.

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U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris announced that the United States is unilaterally giving up direct-ascent anti-satellite (ASAT) testing. This type of ASAT test is known to create orbital debris, which almost everyone agrees is a danger to space-based infrastructure. But was this ban the right thing to do? That depends on the perspective. Laura Winter speaks with U.K. Amb. Aidan Liddle, Britain’s Permanent Representative to the U.N. Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, Switzerland, and spacepower expert Col. M.V. “Coyote” Smith, USAF (Ret.), who is an Associate Professor and Director at the Air Command and Staff College, at Maxwell Air Force Base, in Montgomery, Ala.

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