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The FAA concludes its Starship mishap investigation.

The FAA closes the Starship mishap investigation. Biden nominates a new FAA Administrator. A GAO report deems NASA’s SLS as unaffordable. And more.





The FAA has closed the SpaceX Starship Super Heavy mishap investigation. US President Biden has nominated Mike Whitaker to be Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration. The US Government Accountability Office reports NASA’s Space Launch System as “unaffordable”, and more.

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T-Minus Guest

Our guest is award winning Science Communicator Maynard Okereke, better known as the Hip Hop M.D. 

You can connect with Maynard on LinkedIn and find out more about his work at his website.

Selected Reading

FAA Closes SpaceX Starship Mishap Investigation- FAA.gov

Diverse Leaders Applaud President Biden’s Nomination of Michael G. Whitaker for Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration- The White House

NASA’s mega moon rocket is ‘unaffordable,’ according to accountability report- CNN

ULA Atlas V NROL-107 SEP 09, 2023 08:51 AM (SILENTBARKER)

Rocket Lab Announces Launch Window for Next Capella Space Mission- Business Wire

South Africa Joins China’s International Lunar Research Station - SANSA 

10 African teenagers' paintings displayed in the China Space Station- CGTN

Eutelsat partners with Karista's Spacetech fund- Press Release

SpinLaunch and Sumitomo Form Strategic Partnership to Expand Global Commercialization of Sustainable, Low-Cost Space Solutions- Business Newswire

Pixxel and SkyFi join forces for easy access to Earth Observation data- Press Release

Ball Aerospace Completes Testing on Space Systems Command Operational Weather Monitoring Satellite- PR Newswire

US Space Force eyes partnerships for tactical satellite communications- C4ISRNET

Journey of Discovery: Space Dynamics Lab-Built AWE Instrument Prepares for Launch at Space Center- USU 

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>> Maria Varmazis: So earlier this week, SpaceX stacked Starship in Boca Chica to much excitement for its fans. But hold on steady, we all said, not until the FAA says go, which apparently is a lot closer than we had realized.

>> Unidentified Person: T-minus 20 seconds to LOA. Go for deploy.

>> Maria Varmazis: Today is September 8, 2023. I'm Maria Varmazis.

>> Alice Carruth: I'm Alice Carruth. And this is T-Minus.

[ Music ]

>> Maria Varmazis: The FAA closes the Starship mishap investigation. Biden nominates a new FAA administrator. A GAO report deems NASA's SLS as unaffordable. And more.

>> Alice Carruth: And our guest today is award-winning science communicator Maynard Okereke, better known as the Hip Hop M.D.

[ Music ]

>> Maria Varmazis: And now, on today's intelligence briefing. It's some of the FAA news that SpaceX has been waiting for. The aforementioned federal agency says they've closed their SpaceX Starship mishap investigation of the first flight test that happened this past April. The result of that investigation? A to-do list of 63 corrective actions that SpaceX must take, if they haven't already, that is. And those changes include, and I quote, redesigns of vehicle hardware to prevent leaks and fires, redesign of the launch pad to increase its robustness, incorporation of additional reviews in the design process, additional analysis and testing of safety critical systems and components, including the autonomous flight safety system, and the application of additional change control practices. It's not at all unlikely that with all the work that SpaceX has been doing to its testing site in Boca Chica and to its latest Starship iteration, many, perhaps most, of these corrective actions are already in place, or more. Yeah, that's speculation on our part, admittedly. But yes, it's a promising sign for things to come. But not to be a wet blanket, but sometimes we got to be. In big, bold letters, the FAA makes sure to mention in their note that, yes, the investigation is closed, but that does not, quote, signal an immediate resumption of Starship launches at Boca Chica. Now, I'm not going to stop you if you want to book a flight and a long reservation at Margaritaville Boca Chica for a few weeks through the rumored end of September flight test. But caveat emptor, because that next OFT is not a sure thing at all until the FAA gives it its official blessing. And speaking of SpaceX, it is due to launch again this evening. No, not the Starship, as we've just explained, but another 22 Starlink satellites are set to take off on a Falcon 9.

>> Alice Carruth: And back to the FAA, US President Biden has nominated a new administrator for the Federal Aviation Administration. Mike Whitaker previously served as the deputy administrator at the FAA. The position has sat vacant for over a year while the US administration found the right candidate. Whitaker has 30 years of aviation experience managing large organizations, and the White House says he knows how to work in government and across the aviation community to get big things done.

>> Maria Varmazis: Space is hard and expensive. No new news there. But really a new report from the US Government Accountability Office goes as far as saying that NASA's Space Launch System, the heart of NASA's Artemis Program, is actually unaffordable, in their own words. The report goes even further to allude that senior NASA officials deem the rocket to be unsustainable at current cost levels. The good news is that the US Space Agency does recognize the issue and, quote, with input from NASA management, the SLS Program has developed a roadmap outlining short-term and long-term strategies that it hopes will result in future cost savings. Again, no new news here, everybody. Just carry on.

>> Alice Carruth: Virgin Galactic launched another commercial flight this morning from its New Mexico base. Galactic 03 took off from Spaceport America at 8:34 a.m. local time, taking three paying passengers to the edge of space. The space tourism company did not announce the crew of the mission in advance of the flight, nor did they live stream the launch. But we have it on good authority that on board the 90-minute mission was Ken Baxter who purchased the first ticket sold to a civilian to be a passenger on Virgin Galactic in 2004. This is the company's fourth space flight from New Mexico this year.

>> Maria Varmazis: United Launch Alliance has announced the next window of opportunity to launch a US spy satellite. An Atlas V rocket is due to lift off on Saturday morning from Florida carrying the Silent Barker NROL-107 mission, a joint National Reconnaissance Office and US Space Force capability to improve space domain awareness.

>> Alice Carruth: Rocket Lab has announced its next schedule. Electron launch will happen later this month. The launch window opens September the 19th for the We Will Never Desert You Mission to launch from the company's facility in New Zealand. The Electron will carry a satellite for Capella Space, a leading provider of commercial synthetic aperture radar imagery.

>> Maria Varmazis: And now on to some strategic partnership announcements. First up is China and South Africa who have signed a memorandum of understanding on the International Lunar Research Station cooperation between China's National Space Administration and the South African National Space Agency. The signed MOU marks South Africa's formal entry into China's ILRS Program. The agreement comes in the same week that 10 African youth art pieces have gone on display in the Tiangong Chinese space station. The 10 pieces were selected from 2,000 entries to the My Dream Painting Competition for African Youth. The top ten entries have earned the Tianhe Award named after the core module of China's space station. The artworks were transported to the space station on the Shenzhou-16 manned spacecraft in May.

>> Alice Carruth: The next partnership announcement is from Karista and Eutelsat Communications. This agreement will see Eutelsat become a new subscriber to the venture capital firm's Spacetech Fund. Karista says this will add to the VC's ability to fully harness the unprecedented momentum that is building up in the space economy. For Eutelsat, the new partnership consolidates its existing close ties with the industry's innovative start-ups and plays a key role in the development of a vibrant space economy featuring the latest in space technology in France and across Europe.

>> Maria Varmazis: And now we have a partnership announcement between kinetic launch company SpinLaunch and Japanese investment group Sumitomo Corporation. The aim of the partnership is to expand the global market for affordable and sustainable space services that SpinLaunch bases its business model on. Sumitomo has also made an undisclosed investment in SpinLaunch. Through the agreement, Sumitomo obtains the right to represent SpinLaunch's mass accelerator launch services and related hardware products in Japan.

>> Alice Carruth: What happens when a hyperspectral company and a geospatial company partner up? Apparently endless possibilities for Earth observation? On to our final strategic partnership announcement on the show between India's Pixxel and US based SkyFi, through this partnership, Pixxel's hyperspectral data products will integrate into SkyFi's platform, enabling users to access and utilize a wealth of information for diverse applications. According to the press release, Pixxel's Imaging Technology, paired with SkyFi's mission for making Earth observation data and analytics easily accessible, is set to reshape the landscape of how business and individuals can access hyperspectral data.

>> Maria Varmazis: And we'll conclude our daily briefing with some good news for Ball Aerospace, who have concluded testing on the Weather System Follow-on Microwave Satellite this week. This testing completes the first two satellites that Ball is delivering for the US Space Force's Space Systems Command next-generation operational environmental satellite system. Congratulations to them.

[ Music ]

>> Alice Carruth: As always, you'll find links to further reading on all the stories we've mentioned in our roundup today. And we've included a few extra. One on the US Space Force's search for a partner for tactical satellite comms, and another from Space Dynamics Lab at Utah State University, achieving a significant milestone for NASA's aim or Atmospheric Waves experiment. They're all at the selected reading section at space.n2k.com, and click on this episode.

>> Maria Varmazis: Hey, T-Minus crew, tune in tomorrow for T-Minus Deep Space, our show for extended interviews, special editions, and deep dives with some of the most influential professionals in the space industry. Tomorrow, we have the full conversation of today's interview with Maynard, including his recent work at the ISS R&D Conference on Workforce Diversity. Check it out while you're mowing the lawn, grocery shopping, folding laundry, driving your kids to the game. You don't want to miss it.

[ Music ]

Our guest today is award winning science communicator, Maynard Okereke, better known as the Hip Hop M.D. Now, I started our conversation by asking Maynard his opinion on who or what is working well in space and science communication, and what areas he thinks need improvement.

>> Maynard Okereke: I think one thing that we are doing a lot better at within the space industry is really showcasing the purpose of the technology, the purpose of exploration. We're starting to do a little bit better job at being able to bring that to the forefront. I saw that for a long time as one of the gaps in communication in general when it came to space exploration because you think about one of the main questions that you get from the general public. It's like why are we going to space? Why are we exploring space when we have all these problems here on Earth? Which is a very valid question, right? We have so many different things between food shortage, water shortages, obviously, things happening culturally, and whatnot. There's so many different problems here to be able to solve. Absolutely correct. And we should be doing a better job at solving those problems, for sure. But we're doing a lot better job at really kind of showcasing what space exploration does for us as a society, not only in advancing innovation and technology, but really also in bringing people together, because like the collaborative effort that comes with space and space exploration to be able to kind of show the humanistic side of everything. We think about things now with like civilian space exploration and the overview effect and the better appreciation that we get of planet Earth by seeing it from space. There's different aspects of that that really bring something unique and kind of a more introspective view to the general public when we really showcase what space exploration can do for us as individuals and bring us together as humanity. And I think we're starting to do a better job of that. And you think about things like James Webb Space Telescope and how that became kind of a huge fad, right, with the release of the first images and showcasing how we can literally look back into time. And we have so many different things. You know, the Double Asteroid Redirection Test where we showcase that we can redirect an asteroid. And now we have OSIRIS-REx coming back in a couple of weeks where we're going to bring back the first samples from an asteroid. So many amazing things that are now being brought to the public eye that I don't think were really brought to the public eye before. I mean, you think about all of our rovers that we send to Mars. And for the most part, we're aware of it, but really I didn't really think about it until, you know, the most recent Perseverance rover, you know, that there wasn't as much general public hype. We were just kind of like we send this stuff to space, but now it's like we're sending stuff to space for this reason, for this purpose. This is helping us innovate and find new ways and find new technologies that can be able to assist us here on Earth. We're starting to bring that a lot more to the forefront. So I think that's being done very, very well. When it comes to the side of things that we couldn't do better, I mean, I think there's a lot of work that can still be done to be able to showcase the importance of gender diversity and the importance of diversity when it comes to race as well and setting up a more inclusive space, those areas that we can definitely do better on. And we're just starting to get there. We're starting to kind of spin that wheel a little bit and find unique ways. I think a lot of times, we talk about diversity inclusion, but we think of it like, "Oh, yes, we just want to get more people of color and more people involved in this." And that's one aspect of it. But understanding the reason why, the reason why gender diversity is important, the reason why cultural diversity is important, one, is because we get to bring so many new innovative ideas to the table that you don't get if you just have a monolithic perspective. You want to be able to get so many different people, so many different people with different experiences, different lived experiences, different cultural experiences, because they all bring new ideas to the table. And the only way that we're going to advance and innovate is if we bring new ideas to the table. And you're not going to get that if you just get the same people having the same conversations and the same dialogue within people that look like themselves.

>> Maria Varmazis: That's such a great answer. Thank you so much. And one of the amazing things that you do is you have this awesome persona, like Hip Hop M.D. You've always got like the headphones. And I love how you engage with youth. I think it's really great. And I would love to know like when you're having those conversations, especially with like younger kids, about space, like what are you hearing? What's resonating when you're talking to kids?

>> Maynard Okereke: I think in general, what I'm seeing within our youth, and I've done a lot of events. I recently did an event for Blue Origin. They had their very first inaugural neosymposium. And they brought a lot of high school students from across the country together to be able to come up with an innovative idea that they can utilize space to be able to help humanity. And I think we're starting to see that, and that youth are starting to get excited about what space exploration can do. And I mean, I grew up kind of in the era where, you know, being an astronaut was just kind of like a fun idea. It's like, "Oh, what are you going to be when you get older?" "I'm going to be an astronaut. I'm going to go to outer space and float around." And that was kind of all we thought about when we were kids about space, and we're just astronauts and going to outer space. But now, students are starting to see all the other opportunities around space exploration other than being an astronaut, because there's so many ways that we can be able to make an impact other than being that person that literally flies in a space shuttle or a spaceship to outer space. So you think about aerospace engineering. You think about people working on the manufacturing side. You think about people coming up with innovative technologies. You think about the fusion of all these unique fields. I have a friend of mine whose title is Astro Future Biologist, and he thinks about ways that we can be able to advance biotechnology as humanity starts to explore space more and more. And so, you're getting these kind of blends of titles. You have people that are doing astrobiology. You have people that are doing so many unique things where you'd be able to merge these kind of common career paths, these common career fields that we do here on Earth, and now be able to see how they play and how they interface with space. And I think that's starting to resonate a lot more with students. The wheels are starting to spin now, and they're starting to populate these ideas of how they can be able to impact life here on Earth in so many different ways outside of being an astronaut. And to me, that's a really cool perspective, because I didn't grow up with that kind of understanding and that kind of visual perspective. And our youth are really entranced within that now. They're starting to see all these other fields that they can be able to get into, which opens the doors. Because now, it's like, OK, maybe I might not be that adventurous one that literally wants to get in a spaceship or be blasted off on a rocket to space, but I can be able to be involved in so many new things, robotics, and like you mentioned, engineering and testing, and all these different things come into play. AI even, right, where we can track asteroids and track the path of asteroids and space debris that we have in outer space. There's so many innovative ways that they can still participate in the uniqueness of space exploration outside of just the concept of being an astronaut. And I think our youth are starting to see that.

[ Music ]

>> Maria Varmazis: We'll be right back. And welcome back. And I don't know if you've heard, but today is Star Trek day. And I'm a Trekkie through and through. So you know I couldn't resist closing out the show today without mentioning the iconic franchise. We're about real space and not fictional stuff, though, here at T-Minus. Fun as it is, that's a different podcast. But I do love when worlds collide. And when it comes to the trek of stars, the influence of the show, for those of us who grok space or work in space, kind of can't be overstated. So, OK, quick quiz. Who was the first real astronaut to appear on Star Trek? That would be Dr. Mae Jemison on an episode of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" in 1993 after she had already flown on the space shuttle Endeavor. And if you were going to answer William Shatner, because he's now been to space thanks to Blue Origin, that's well after his run as Captain Kirk, and that presents a bit of a time paradox. And we don't mess with the space-time continuum like that on this show. Thank you very much. So fittingly. I'll just end our show with this tribute from none other than Dr. Buzz Aldrin, who posted his own tribute to the iconic show on his social media today, with funny pictures of him trying mightily, with mixed success, to do the Vulcan salute. And he said this. Today is Star Trek Day, a day to recognize its television debut on September 8, 1966. Over the years, I've gotten to know many of the actors. Here I am with George Takei, a.k.a. Hikaru Sulu, where helps me with my Vulcan salute. Have a great Friday, everyone, and oldly go where no man has gone before.

[ Music ]

>> Alice Carruth: That's it for T-Minus for September the 8th, 2023. For additional resources from today's report, check out our show notes at space.n2k.com. We'd love to know what you think of this podcast. You can email us at space@n2k.com or submit the survey in the show notes. Your feedback ensures we deliver the information that keeps you a -- I'm going to try that line again. Your feedback ensures we deliver the information that keeps you a step ahead in the rapidly changing space industry.

>> Maria Varmazis: We're privileged that N2K and podcasts like T-Minus are part of the daily routine of many of the most influential leaders and operators in the public and private sector, from the Fortune 500 to many of the world's preeminent intelligence and law enforcement agencies. N2K's Strategic Workforce Intelligence optimizes the value of your biggest investment, your people. We make you smarter about your team while making your team smarter. Learn more at n2k.com. This episode was produced by Alice Carruth. Mixing by Elliot Peltzman and Trey Hester. with original music and sound design by Elliot Peltzman. Our executive producer is Brandon Karpf. Our chief intelligence officer is Eric Tillman. And I'm Maria Varmazis. Thanks for listening. Live long and prosper.

>> Unidentified Person: T-Minus.

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