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Electron’s no show post MECO blow.

Rocket Lab experiences a RUD. AST SpaceMobile makes the first 5G call between a cell phone and satellite. ABL selected for a responsive launch demo. And more.





Rocket Lab experiences a Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly (RUD) after launch in New Zealand. AST SpaceMobile makes the first 5G call between a cell phone and satellite. Millennium Space Systems achieved operational readiness of the VICTUS NOX space vehicle just 37 hours after launch, and more.

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T-Minus Guest

Our guest today is Kate van Dam, Head of Strategy at SkyFi.

You can connect with Kate on LinkedIn and learn more about SkyFi on their website.

Selected Reading

Rocket Lab Launch Update- Business Wire

AST SpaceMobile Achieves Space-Based 5G Cellular Broadband Connectivity From Everyday Smartphones, Another Historic World First- Business Wire

Millennium Space Systems' VICTUS NOX space vehicle operational in just 37 hours- PR Newswire

ABL selected for tactically responsive launch demonstration- PR

NASA Kennedy Ready for Artemis II Moon Mission Ground Systems Testing- NASA

NOAA Awards Contract for Ocean Surface Winds Data Pilot- NOAA

Maduro says Venezuelan astronauts could go to Moon in Chinese spaceship- AFP

VIDA's ESG risk management software attracts €3M investment from Cusp Capital- Tech.EU

At Hawaii space conference, DoD space monitoring challenges in the spotlight- Breaking Defense

How to land a space gig- The Space Review

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>> Maria Varmazis: Saying space is hard does come across sometimes a little bit like thoughts and prayers, but for space. Still, we don't want to be too down on launch companies when anomalies inevitably occur, especially those working on offering healthy competition to Space X. So, while nobody likes a RUD, better luck next time and try, try again Rocket Lab.

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>> Maria Varmazis: Today is September 19, 2023. I'm Maria Varmazis and this is "T-Minus."

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Rocket Lab experiences a RUD. AST Space Mobile makes the first 5G call between a cellphone and a satellite. Millennium Space Systems achieve operational readiness of the VICTUS NOX space vehicle just 37 hours after launch. And our guest today is Kate van Dam, Head of Strategy at SkyFi on Earth observation platforms for commercial use. Stay with us.

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Let's take a look at our Intel Briefing for today. It absolutely stinks to report on an anomaly, but that is the news unfortunately from the launch of "We Will Never Desert You" which was Rocket Lab's 41st mission this morning for Capella Space from a Mahia, New Zealand. Now, liftoff of the Electron rocket was successful and the rocket also successfully completed its first stage burn and stage separation, but right around the point at that stage 2 ignition started, about 2-and-a-half minutes into flight, an anomaly occurs and unfortunately with the second stage failure a loss of vehicle was declared, meaning a mission failure. In addition to the Electron rocket, a Capella Space, Acadia radar-imaging satellite, the Capella 12, was also lost. Nobody likes a rapid unscheduled disassembly, and Rocket Lab Founder and Chief Executive, Peter Beck least of all. He wrote this on X aka Twitter, "Tough day. My deepest apologies to our mission partners Capella Space. Team is already working on root cause. We'll find it, fix it, and be back on the pad quickly." And Rocket Lab's 41 flights so far, this is the fourth failure with stage separation and ignition of the second stage proving to be the source of a lot headaches for the company. It is tough out there for space docks right now and unfortunately Rocket Lab's stock dropped a little over 7% today in the news of the anomaly, mostly negating any gains made this calendar year; currently trading a little over 4.5 dollars a share. AST SpaceMobile has successfully made the first ever 5G connection for voice and data between an everyday unmodified smartphone and a satellite in space. The company demonstrated a call from Maui, Hawaii USA to a Vodafone engineer in Madrid, Spain using AT and T Spectrum and AST SpaceMobile's BlueWalker 3 test satellite. The 5G call was placed from an unmodified smartphone located in a wireless dead zone in Hawaii. In a separate test, the company also broke its previous space-based cellular Broadband data session record by achieving a download rate of approximately 14 megabits. I can't even get connectivity in my kitchen. I don't know about you, but we're still buzzing about last week's VICTUS NOX launch and we just found out that there's merch, which is pretty great. And the latest news is that Millennium Space Systems completed checkout and achieved operational readiness of the VICTUX NOX space vehicle just 37 hours after launch. That's 11 hours ahead of the 48-hour goal. Full mission operability comes only days after the 60-hour activation and 24-hour launch notifications were given by Space Force leadership. This is a huge achievement by all the companies involved and, again, congratulations. ABL has been selected by US Space Systems Command's assured access to Space Office for a tactically responsive launch demonstration. The 15 million dollar contract is part of ABL's existing strategic funding increase and tactical funding increase program contract, and compliments to the company's ongoing work for low-cost, flexible launch supporting tactically responsive space. And NASA is preparing for Artemis II with a series of ground demonstration tests at Kennedy Space Center. According to NASA, these integrated system verification and validation tests will put the mobile launcher Launchpad 39B, and in some cases, the four astronauts flying on the mission to work evaluating that the ground equipment is ready to support launch. The first test is slated for later this month and will demonstrate activities required to get the crew to their spacecraft and rocket on launch day. Following completion of all the testing, teams will roll the mobile launcher to the vehicle assembly building, slowly, to prepare to integrate the Artemis II Moon Rocket, Woo-hoo! NOAA has awarded a commercial weather data pilot contract to Spire Global Subsidiary Incorporated from Ocean's Surface Winds Pilot Program. The study will demonstrate the quality and impact of commercial data on NOAA's Weather Forecast models. This contract award constitutes the next round of NOAA's commercial weather data studies with a particular focus on Ocean Surface Wind data. The contract amount was not disclosed with the announcement. And this next story is no bullpucky, a chemical manufacturing company in Japan has been working on creating liquid biomethane from cow waste to be used as rocket fuel. And you want to know how they transform cow poop into fuel? Well, they ferment the dung and urine in a plant constructed on a dairy farm, makes sense, before transporting the generated biogas to a factory in Obihiro. The methane is then separated from the product, cooled, and made into liquid biomethane. Simple, right? Air Water Incorporated says it will begin conducting trials this year with the fuel to be loaded on a rocket created by space startup firm, Interstellar Technologies, Incorporated; gives new meaning to "This mission is BS," because, yes, it really might be. Venezuela and President, Nicolas Maduro says "The first Venezuelan man or woman could land on the Moon on a Chinese spacecraft." Maduro visited Beijing last week and signed a host of agreements to extend cooperation including in space. The countries agreed to train Venezuelan astronauts in China with plans to eventually send them to the Moon. Munich-based company, VIDA has successfully raised 3 million euros in funding. The geospatial software company helps infrastructure investors manage impact sustainably assessing, monitoring, and reporting climate risk and other critical environmental markers. VIDA was established in 2018 with support from the European Space Agency, and somewhat related, stay with us for our chat on Commercial Earth Observation platforms with SkyFi's Kate van Dam.

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That concludes our Intelligence Briefing for today, but you'll find links to further reading on all of the stories we've mentioned in this show in our Show Notes along with a piece on the US Department of Defense space monitoring challenges and a piece for anyone starting in the space industry, with an article from the Space Review called, "How to Land a Space Gig." They're all at space.n2k.com and just click-on this episode. Hey, "T-Minus" crew, if you're just joining us, be sure to follow "T-Minus Space Daily" in your favorite podcast app. And also, if you can do us a favor, share the Intel with your friends and coworkers. Now, here's a little weekly challenge for you, by Friday we would love if you would show 3 friends or coworkers this podcast. A growing audience is the most important thing for us and we would love your help as part of the "T-Minus" crew. If you find "T-Minus" useful and we really hope you do, please share it so other professionals like you can find the show. Thanks so much. It means a lot to me and all of us here at "T-Minus."

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Our guest today is Kate van Dam, Head of Strategy at Commercial Earth Observation platform SkyFi. Now, I wanted to know the story behind SkyFi and how the company arrived at what they're doing today.

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>> Kate van Dam: We are the geospatial hub for the world and the place you go for all things earth observation. We have two cofounders at SkyFi, Bill Perkins who is, depending on the day, one of your most successful oil and gas traders. At one point, he wanted to just get some satellite imagery and was surprised that it took him 6 months; lots of sales peoples, extremely cumbersome process and a lot of that is just dictated by the fact that most of these companies, even a new space, are really incentivized by where the fundings come from which is, of course, the government. And so, Bill met our other cofounder, Luke Fischer who is our CEO and SkiFi came about and really the way that we look at this is, satellite imagery should be easy to access. You shouldn't have to talk to a sales person. You shouldn't have to have a lot of money. You should be able to buy archive image; there are satellites going around all the time. So, we really look at it at SkyFi in three verticals: First, we have our standard platform. There, you right now, can go on SkyFi.com or you can download the app. You can task a satellite. You can purchase satellite imagery and the cool thing is is right now it's just satellites, but we have atmospheric balloon partners and we're really looking to integrate anything that takes a picture of Earth. The second portion is open data, right? So, those many of your listeners will be familiar with Sentinel and Landsat which are, you know, [inaudible] and then the NASA/USGS satellites and that's free, right? Usually 10 meter resolution, but you could still use it for a ton of different things. The problem is open data does not mean accessible data. You know, what we're doing is we're integrating open data onto our platform and you can, for free, pull Sentinel-2 data up, that's what we're starting with. So, we're excited about that. And then the final pillar that we are is Insights. And like the way that we look at our platform with all these partnerships, Insights is our analytical platform and in that case, you're going to be able to where we're partnering with different analytical partners whether they're NB devs, so any NB Developers out there listening to the podcast we're very interested in what you can bring to the table or like AI companies things like that, and so, so those are really a platform, open data Insights is how we're looking at bringing really the world more accessible to everyone.

>> Maria Varmazis: There's a lot of partners that SkiFi's working with. I would love to know like what kind of insights the value that these partners are bringing and what kind of things you're seeing people doing with these partnerships.

>> Kate van Dam: Yeah, it's really cool. So, the markets currently exist and, again, we're big believers and this market isn't even open yet, right? There's a lot of folks out there that don't even know how and when to use Earth Observation imagery, but right now we're working with city planners, you know, you have your real estate, agriculture AG is obviously big, but again, that's a very large market that hasn't necessarily been accessible unless you are a large AG company. Mining, and so we have a really great relationship with a mining company, and also the regulators, right? And so, that's kind of the cool thing is when you're bringing something that is just really -- it's truth, right? It's imagery and then the analytics added to that you have that. And then you have finance, so hedge funds and actually some -- we've been talking to some crypto folks, insurance, and then disaster response, and I think the tragedies that we're seeing in Maui and places like this really support how useful, even before and after imagery can be, whether it's in the middle of a disaster or in response to one or even ideally in preparation for it and then, also the government, right? So, we're really [inaudible] we're actually looking at some cool NATO opportunities, so not just within the US, and some NGO use cases that really overlap that we've been talking to some demining an NGO coming out of Switzerland that's working on the Kharkiv region of Ukraine, and so there's a lot of these use cases that really overlap, so it's not necessarily boutique in industry when you start putting this together as an aggregate.

>> Maria Varmazis: That makes sense. And you mentioned sort of areas where it's underutilized and I'm always fascinated by where people see opportunity for EO to really make an impact that people didn't think of it before, because even now some of the markets where it's being used, I think if you had told me 5 years ago, that's how it would be used, I'm like wow! Really?! That's such a cool idea. I never would have thought of that. So, I am curious where you think more inroads can be made, one of the industries could be using it.

>> Kate van Dam: You know, one of the interesting things that I never even thought about and, again, is logistics. And we have a company that's actually using SkiFi data. They're a construction company, but they're like "Look, every week we have to take and change how you move around a construction site," right? And so this isn't some big corporation, this is like a construction company and they're like and we can just pull an image off of your database and they're like instead of paying someone to go out with the drone and them map it, we can literally just order and have that in our inbox and so it's even like what we would, you know, I think what would traditionally be deemed a small use case, I mean that could be huge. People are doing construction all over the world. There are some really cool conservation efforts too that I think can use it. I have a little bit of a bleeding heart, so I love to like figure out, you know, how can we get somebody sitting, you know, an NGO worker, I don't know, an MSF or International Red Cross sitting in Darfur, right, in response to moving logistics in a country with limited infrastructure, basic data, literally right to the palm of their hand in order for them to make a decision that is based on updated data and right there. There's no convoluted requirements or anything like that. So, I think it's in a lot of what we, again, would deem those small use cases that can make a really big impact and, you know, I always use the example GPS, right? Twenty-five years ago, 30 years ago, that was really just for government and military use and now, I mean, I think we're raising an entire generation that is may find it challenging to use a paper map, you know?

>> Maria Varmazis: That makes me feel very old, but yes right [brief laughter]?

>> Kate van Dam: but I do think that I hope and we are betting on at SkiFi that we're going to get there with our observation imagery too.

>> Maria Varmazis: It blows my mind that in some cases and in actually many cases, it's cheaper and easier to use a satellite than a drone and that's just, that's still just sticking with me a little bit because that's -- that we are at that point is amazing. I'm curious about your thoughts on partnerships with the federal government. I know it's an area that, you know, NASA and the government is saying they want to do better on. I wanted to ask what your thoughts were. I don't know if you can comment on it, but if you can I would love to get your thoughts.

>> Kate van Dam: Yeah, absolutely. Well, we really see ourselves fitting into the federal government or NATO or even some of the different space agencies out there as really kind of using our platform as that integrator of all the different satellite companies, governments can bring their own obviously in that case onto the platform, that would be obviously built for them and also their own insights and analytical tools. Working with the government is a challenge and I will tell you that we have some amazing brilliant developers. A lot of them came from Uber. They're all in NATO countries, but even just getting a white paper through to do something that really has nothing specific to do with military or anything, but really has to do in aggregating or harmonizing different imagery in order to make it better for analytical tools, is so restrictive to any -- anyone outside of the, we are a US company. There are no -- there's no dev from any other countries that test our system, you know, we take all of the API which everybody brings their own API to the table when it comes to the satellite imagery, and we integrate it and we create our own SkiFi-specific API. So, you can actually plug directly into that if you already have an analytical platform. So, there is no -- there's nobody else's dev touching our dev, right? And we have amazing developers and [inaudible] and, again, these are all coming out of NATO countries, but there's so much hesitation even to get a Canadian and on any sort of work with the US Government I have found it to be an -- a challenge I didn't expect. And remember, I came from In-Q-Tel before this, right? So.

>> Maria Varmazis: Yeah. Yeah.

>> Kate van Dam: I've been on that side of the house and I've seen it from the inside, but now really looking through the restrictions around that, I think that it's limiting us. It's absolutely to expect a pre-series A company to move as quickly as we do and have such an amazing UX as we do and to expect all of that, to one be able to be affordable with only US engineers and also, to expect that only the brightest and the best and the coolest and the most forward-leaning are only going to come out of API, I think is unfortunately so limiting and that's even trying to look at like NASA, you know.

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>> Maria Varmazis: We'll be right back.

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Welcome back.

>> Teddy told me that in Greek "nostalgia" literally means, "the pain from an old wound."

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It's a twinge in your heart far more powerful than memory alone.

>> Maria Varmazis: Now, I don't have to look for much of an excuse to use a quote by Don Draper of "Mad Men" to be honest, but that very famous bit about the nature of nostalgia feels right when we're introducing a new term that's related, "noctalgia." This is not the pain of an old wound, no, but this mix of Latin and Greek is a new term coined to describe the pain of not being able to see the stars in a dark night's sky. This term is meant to encompass the impact of light pollution, not just from us blasting artificial light on the ground, but also the increased brightness of the sky's caused by satellites in low Earth orbit, an issue that many astronomers have and continue to raise as a serious issue for their work. And dark skies are so much of an issue that it was actually the focus of a special issue of the journal "Science" just this past summer entitled "Losing the Darkness." Noctalgia, say Aparna Venkatesan and John C. Barentine, who coined the term, is an expression of "sky grief," and that sky grief encompasses the accelerating loss of the home environment of our shared skies representing loss of science, heritage, millennia old sky traditions, place-based language, and more. "Noctalgia," there's something to think about next time you turn on the lights.

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And that's it for "T-Minus" for September 19th, 2023. For additional resources from today's report, checkout our Show Notes at space.n2k.com. 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. This episode was produced by Alice Carruth, mixing by Elliott Peltzman and Tre Hester with original music and sound design by Elliott Peltzman. Our executive producer is Brandon Karpf. Our chief intelligence officer is Eric Tillman and I'm Maria Varmazis. Thanks for listening. We'll see you tomorrow.

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