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It’s all about space debris and who is going to manage it.

FAA proposes rule to reduce debris from commercial space vehicles. NASA seeks help to deorbit the ISS. Report says AUKUS pact should extend to SDA. And more.





The FAA proposes a new rule to reduce the growth of debris from commercial space vehicles. NASA seeks proposals for a vehicle to deorbit the International Space Station. A new MITRE Report suggests that the trilateral agreement between the US, UK and Australia should extend to Space Domain Awareness, and more.

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T-Minus Guest

Our guest is Michelle Lucas, Founder and CEO of STEM non-profit Higher Orbits.

You can connect with Michelle on LinkedIn and learn more about Higher Orbits on their website.

Selected Reading

FAA Proposed Rule Would Reduce the Growth of Debris from Commercial Space Vehicles- FAA

NASA Seeks Proposals from US Industry for Station Deorbit Spacecraft- NASA

AUKUS security pact should expand to include space monitoring: MITRE

Maxar restructures into 2 businesses- Advanced Television

HawkEye 360 Announces RFIQ Product for a Deeper Look at RF Activity Using an Industry-Leading Range of Radio Spectrum- PR Newswire

China Science Status- X

China Space Station: China launches first live science class from Mengtian lab module- CGTN

Maine Space 2030 Pitch Competition

Hidden in the Arctic, Sweden is quietly winning Europe’s next big space race- The Guardian

Space Force revising commercial space strategy to make it “actionable”- Space News

Close-up Ignition of a Rocket Engine in Slow Mo - The Slow Mo Guys

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>> Maria Varmaziz: Orbital debris from launch has been a growing concern, but one that most nations are fine to monitor with best practices. But commercial space is no longer a baby. Maybe it's in that awkward teenager stage now but either way, it's growing up right before the FAA's own eyes. And my goodness, it's time to put some rules in play to keep everybody safe with great power, great responsibility and all that. So to Crib, the Old PSA, it's 10 p.m., do you know where your upper stages are?

>> Unidentified Person: T-Minus, 20 second at the LOA. Go for deploy.

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>> Maria Varmaziz: Today is September 21, 2023. I'm Maria Varmazis, and this is T-Minus.

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The FAA proposes new rules to reduce debris from commercial space vehicles. NASA seeks help to deorbit the ISS. A MITRE report says the AUKUS Pact should extend to space domain awareness. And our guest today is Michelle Lucas, founder and CEO of Stem nonprofit Higher Orbit.

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And now, on today's intelligence briefing. The FAA is proposing a rule to limit the growth Of orbital debris, the ongoing existential challenge to space sustainability that certainly isn't getting any better right now. In this new rule being proposed, orbital debris from the upper stages of commercial launch vehicles or components from launch or reorbit and this includes objects in earth orbit over five millimeters in any dimension have to be disposed of within 25 years, postlaunch by a number of possible means. Some direct options include setting it up to burn up in the atmosphere or have it move or have Something move it via active debris removal to a nonprotected disposal orbit outside of the increasingly crowded low, medium, and geostationary orbits. Standard recommended practices for a while now have recommended the orbiting upper stages of vehicles in under 25 years. But this would make it a rule. The FAA's notice says it doesn't expect making it official will be too heavy a lift for space operators. Here's a quote from the Rulemaking notice, "given that most current launch vehicles have been designed to minimize or eliminate normal operations, debris, release, the FAA anticipates that this proposed requirement would impose no more than a minimal burden on operators for compliance. Operators usually meet this requirement because they want to minimize the release of debris and the possibility of damage to their deployed payloads. Since commercial launches are deploying increasing numbers of payloads which could result in additional debris released, the FAA finds it appropriate to require that all operators limit their release of debris. And the FAA also notes in The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that given how briefly upper stages are needed for emission, it might make a lot more sense for this potential rule to actually put a five-year limit on debris instead of 25. So do you have thoughts, concerns, words of support? Well, the 90-day public comment period is officially open on Rin 21 20 AK 81, otherwise better known as mitigation methods for launch vehicle upper stages on the creation of orbital debris. We've got a link in our show notes for you if you want to share your take with the FAA. And speaking of space debris, it's not going to get much bigger than the International Space Station when it comes to the end of its life in 2030. NASA has released a request for proposals seeking a vehicle that can assist deorbiting the station. NASA says the safe deorbit of the International Space Station is a shared responsibility of all five space agencies, and that would be NASA, ESA, JAXA Roscosmos, and the Canadian Space Agency through partner contributions based on mass percent ownership by agency. So if you think that you can maneuver and assist a vehicle the size of a football field and land it well away from populated areas around the globe, then this RFP is for you. The agencies have been looking at their current options for deorbiting the ISS, but they've decided that a new spacecraft solution would provide more robust capabilities for responsible deorbit. The US plans to transition its operations in low Earth orbit to commercially owned and operated platforms to ensure continued access and presence in space for research, technology development and international collaboration. A new report by the MITRE Corporation is calling for the Trilateral Security Pact between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States to extend to space domain awareness. The report suggests that extending the relationship will not only improve trilateral security, but also lay the groundwork for a global network to keep the tabs on satellites and dangerous space debris in Earth and cislunar orbits. The paper was released at the annual Maui Optical and Space Surveillance Technologies Conference, known as AMOS, and states this the US, Australia and the UK have formed a pact for naval nuclear propulsion information sharing, named AUKUS. If modeled similarly, this trilateral alliance could have a lot of promise to help tackle the challenges that make the space environment less stable. US space company Maxar Technologies has announced a reorganization that includes eliminating executive positions. The company, headquartered in Colorado, has divided itself into two separate businesses Maxar Space Infrastructure and Maxar Intelligence. Maxar Space Infrastructure will oversee spacecraft manufacturing, and Maxar Intelligence will be responsible for the satellite imagery part of the business. Maxar has reported that there would also be a small number of job cuts, although it did not specify the numbers of staff affected. Defense technology company HawkEye 360 has released its RFIQ product, which introduces flexible spectrum collection options. The company said in its announcement that customers can use RFIQ unprocessed, in-phase and quadrature data to analyze signal characteristics or survey radio frequency activity over large regions of the Earth. RFIQ data is derived from HawkEye 360s radio frequency sensing constellation of satellites. The company currently operates 21 satellites and is continuing to expand the constellation to address clients increasing demands for RF intelligence with two more clusters expected to launch this fall. And the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, was a tweet, a buzz this morning with news of a failed launch in China. China Science reported that the launch of the Jilin-1 Gaofen-04 B satellite on Thursday, carried by a Series 1 private commercial carrier rocket, was unsuccessful. An abnormal performance was detected during the flight of the rocket. Very few details about the launch are available, but China Science says the cause of the failure is currently under investigation. And speaking of China, the country is working to bring space science education to the classroom. The Shenzhou 16 crew livestreamed a science lab from the Mengtian Lab module of the China Space Station for the first time today. Over 2500 students attended the class from across China. The crew demonstrated experiments in the microgravity environment aimed at inspiring young people to pursue careers in space. And tomorrow, we'll find out if Chandrayan Three's, Pragyan Rover and Vikram Lander will wake up successfully with the start of the new lunar day, after being in sleep mode for the last few weeks, and that's Earth weeks, of course. We all have everything crossed that the little rover that could wakes up and continues ISRO's run of success. Do you have an innovation, an idea, a space startup, or a small company looking to grow, or a big space business idea you want to launch? Well, the State of Maine is interested. Maine Space 2030 are looking for students, researchers, entrepreneurs and businesses to lead growth in the aerospace industry. They are inviting individuals and companies to pitch their ideas at the inaugural Main Space 2030 Pitch competition. And if you're interested, we've included a link with further details in our show notes for you.

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And that concludes our briefing for today. In addition to further reading on all the stories that we've covered in our daily show today, we've also included links to stories on Esrange in Sweden and one on remarks made by General Chance Saltzman, Chief of Space Operations for the US Space Force at AMOS. You can find them all in the selected reading section of our show notes and at space.n2k.com. Hey, T-Minus crew, if your business is looking to grow your voice in the industry, expand the reach of your thought leadership or recruit talent, T-Minus can help. We'd love to hear from you. Send us an email at space@n2k.com or send us a note through our website so we can connect about building a program to meet your goals.

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Our guest for the show today is Michelle Lucas, founder and CEO of Stem nonprofit, Higher Orbits. I wanted to know more about Michelle's background and what led her to starting the organization.

>> Michele Lucas: Look, I've been a space geek my entire life. I fell in love with space when I was a very, very small girl, and it happened by me watching the first ever space shuttle launch. And from that point on, I said I wanted to go work in the space industry. Being from the South Side of Chicago, people looked at me like, I don't know, maybe I'd grown a second hat or something like that, because it wasn't just that I was a girl saying this. I was anybody saying this. It wasn't something that was the term Stem didn't exist. And it wasn't just that people weren't talking about Stem. Most people in my area weren't even talking about going to college. I'm a first-generation college student, and I went to school with the sole goal of going to work at NASA. And when I graduated, I went to Johnson Space Center because that was the home of human spaceflight. And that was what I really wanted to do with human spaceflight. Don't get me wrong, the rovers and satellites and all that is fascinating, but my passion was human spaceflight. And so, I went on to work at NASA's Johnson Space Center on the Paleo Stage Review panel for the International Space Station, but then realized that operations was a little more my daily wick and I went on to become a flight controller for the International Space Station and Operations Planning, and then I became an astronaut technical instructor. So I taught all of the astronauts who were going to the International Space Station, both as visiting crew members and space station crew members. I taught them about daily operations on board the International Space Station, integrated training, and spent a lot of time in Russia, Germany, and Japan training our international partners as well. It was- they were dream jobs that, if I'm really honest, I don't know that I could have even dreamed that I would get to do. And they taught me the importance of team work. I, you know, it's funny, as a teenager, I hated teamwork. Those words made me want to run and scream. And then I got to NASA, and I was just so appreciative to be a tiny teeny tiny piece of that team that got to help humans live and work in space. And so I feel very fortunate to have done all of that.

>> Maria Varmaziz: Wow, what an amazing background. And now, you're also doing something really cool space related, but it is a little different. So can you tell me about that?

>> Michele Lucas: Yeah, so the great thing about life is that sometimes these journeys take you in directions you never expected. And full disclosure, I always wanted to be an astronaut. And it turns out I have a medical condition kidney stones. Yay. That preclude me from being a NASA astronaut. And so, while I enjoy training astronauts and they are still my friends and I love the technical aspect, still, I wanted to be able to give back. And I was the kiddo who got to go to space camp because of a scholarship. I never could have afforded to go otherwise. And so I wanted to be able to give back to students. And I also, having worked in the industry, saw what a need we had for better workforce development. And we have a shortage of students. And look, if we can't get kids excited about Stem using space, we're doing it wrong. There are two things kids are always excited about. It's space and dinosaurs. I only know about one of those two, space. And so I set out and started higher orbits. We are a 501 C-3 nonprofit that utilizes spaceflight as a way to get kids more engaged in Stem while building teamwork, leadership, and communication skills. And we run a program called Go For Launch that is geared at students in grades eight through 12 where they get to work with an astronaut for the entire event, like that's a huge deal to me. I mean, I was geeked out. I can tell you all about my first meeting with astronauts. I made a total idiot of myself. You know, I mean, you know, that's no shame in the game, man. I was so excited. And so to be able to bring an astronaut to work with students for two or three full days and then be a mentor, it's incredibly powerful. But additionally, the students compete to have their experiment design flown to space. And we've sent 17 experiments to space already, and we'll send three more, in theory, by the end of the year. And I say in theory because they're manifested. But we all know how rocket launch schedules go, right?

>> Maria Varmaziz: Yup. Oh, my goodness. That's amazing. So how long have you been running Higher Orbits?

>> Michele Lucas: So started the paperwork in 2013, '14, got our status in 2015, ran our first program in 2016. Since then, I have run oh, my goodness, and this is shame on me. I should know the exact number, but we're going to go with that my brain is like, I don't know, it's a lot. We've done more than 60 programs across the country, impacted more than 2,000 students since then. And so we have another program coming up, two programs coming up next month, one in Illinois and one in Texas, and we bring this all around the country. My goal is to bring a space inspired Stem event to the backyards of students all across our country, you know, on the South Side of Chicago. I was very fortunate that we have a museum of science and industry, and my mom understood the power of that and took me there. And it meant the world to me to be able to see those space exhibits. There are a lot of students who don't have access to anything space related. And yes, the internet is amazing. And the fact that you can turn on a rocket launch no matter where you are on your phone or on your iPad, that's also amazing. But there's something that is way powerful when you can get true interaction with a student that is not -- there's not a screen in the way that there is a person to person, that there's actual mentorship. And that's my goal, is to keep bringing it to the various corners of the universe of our country for students.

>> Maria Varmaziz: Oh, my gosh, what an amazing mission. And I'm sure you have a ton of stories, so I'm going to have to ask you to pick some because obviously, I'm very curious about the astronaut interactions, but I'm sure there are some that have no astronauts involved and are like your faves. So yeah.

>> Michele Lucas: It's funny because I am terrible at metrics and companies yell at me about that all the time and I'm like, yeah. But let me tell you stories because I am a storyteller at the end of the day. And we have some great students. Gosh, it is hard to pick. Well, let's- one of our students who came to us in one of our first years of the program, Abby Yonker, great, great gal, but really didn't have a lot of Stem background. Actually, had fallen in love with the idea of laying on the grass and looking up at the stars, but never thought she could do anything with that. And in fact, I will never forget as a freshman in high school, I asked her, so, Abby, like what are you interested in doing perhaps post high school? And I'm- I always- I don't like to say exactly what is it exactly you want to do because you know what, it's OK for them to change and evolve and pivot. She said, well, you know, I don't know. I was thinking maybe I'd be a professional lacrosse player. And in my head, never wanting to, of course, squash anybody's thoughts and dreams thinking, wow, like I didn't know that was a thing for guys. Nevertheless, you know, a gal being a professional lacrosse player. OK, cool, you know. So, she was at the program. She was absolutely fantastic. She was part of the winning team from that event. And how our events work is we pick winners from individual winning teams, from individual events, and then they compete against each other in a series. And generally overall series flies- has their experiment fly space- there are some- every once in a while, there's little differences, but that's that. That's in general how it works. Abby is part of that event winning team and then became part of the series winning team who had their experiment flown to space on Orbital ATK's Rocket, now Northrop Grumman. And she went from being terrified of speaking in public to being an amazing speaker on the press conference of what's on board for the International Space Station prior to the launch. She is now entering her ju- her senior year. I'm really bad at keeping track of year, senior year in aerospace engineering, and she did internships this year and last year at additive manufacturing. And so she went from a kiddo who didn't know how she could ever be part of the space industry to not only studying it, but being a part of it through internship. And so, you know, that is one of the many space kids that I am so lucky to work with. My mom jokes. I don't have any children and having children was never part of my grandmaster plan, but I now have 2000 space kids that call me space mom. And so I am the proud parent so I can gush for ages.

>> Maria Varmaziz: Two thousand children. You know what? That is a humongous impact. Getting kids who maybe don't know how they can get into Stem is such a tricky problem, challenge. I would love to know your thoughts because I mean, I feel like a lot of people are trying to crack that nut, so to speak. What are your thoughts on that?

>> Michele Lucas: Bring up a great point. It is a challenge and it's a challenge not just in the aerospace industry. The Department of Labor suggests that we are going to have, you know, more than a million job shortage because of the incredible rate at which we are increasing the need for Stem jobs. In our industry, the space industry, things are evolving so rapidly. Jobs that exist today didn't exist five years ago. And I don't just mean and in body counts. I mean in concept and what the job actually does. And so, it is a challenge to keep up with those needs. And one of my big foot stomp things lately, because I now see it from a very different side of the world is we've got to quit going to the same well. They go to the same institutions of higher education. They go to the same programs. I mean, don't get me wrong, programs like- actually, I'm not going to name any. We're going to say there are programs out there that are definitely aimed at students who are already geeked out about Stem. And that's awesome. I want them to have those opportunities. The thing is we already have those kids, right? They're already going to study Stem. So how do we get the kids who aren't already engaged geeked out? So super excited. And that is one of our targets. Half our kids come in Stem interested. The other half are like, I don't know, Stem kind of sucks, but I would hang out with an astronaut for a couple of days. And then we bring them in and we show them that maybe it's not the narrow field that they think it is, that there are a whole lot more opportunities and options that exist. And yes, we are Stem focused, but we focus also a lot on teamwork, leadership and communication. Additionally, we do bring up that there are needs for jobs like space lawyers and ethics and things of that nature. So I think the challenge is showing students that it's perhaps more than they realize and it's going to different wells. It's trying to find these students who are not necessarily part of the usual pipeline, meeting students where they are. And that is not just from a diversity terms, it's from a geographic terms, right? And from a school terms. Let's, you know, there are some kids at community colleges that are awesome rock stars that are being overlooked because, well, we go to the, you know, top 10 schools and recruit from there. And not to say that we should stop doing that. It's not an or. It has to be and. So that's my soapbox that everybody is always thrilled to hear. But that is my impression of what is happening. And I see it frequently with people saying they don't have workforce, but then they go to the same well or they expect immediate results tomorrow. You want to invest in your workforce, you have to invest five, seven, nine years out. You got to start talking to students early so they start down that new pipeline for them.

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>> Maria Varmaziz: We'll be right back. Welcome back. And you know, Firefly has had a really good couple of weeks. Victory with a successful Victus Nox mission comes to mind. And a video that's kind of going viral right now shows off the amazing power of a test fire of their reaver engine by the Slow Mo Guys on YouTube. The Slow Mo Guys filmed their video at 2,000 frames per second. And most videos nowadays are recorded at best between 30 and 60 frames per second. So 2,000 frames crammed into one second means this is the slowest you've ever seen a rocket engine go. And recorded that slow, a rocket igniting looks and sounds really darn amazing, honestly. I'm going to just play a little taste of it for you because really, this is something you've got to see for yourself.

>> Unidentified Person: The green flame shooting out is triethyl aluminum triethyl boron, also pronounced TATB. It's a fluid that combusts when it comes into contact with oxygen/air. I love the fact that this initial puff of flame is lingering in the air because it's a great medium to see the shockwaves caused by the engine ramping up.

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As the thrust is increasing, you can now see mac diamonds appearing in the exhaust, the supersonic flows.

>> Maria Varmaziz: We've got the link for you in our show notes and at space.n2k.com. Or just look for the Slow Mo Guys on YouTube and click on close up ignition of a rocket engine in slow mo and enjoy the ride.

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That's it for T-Minus for September 21, 2023. For additional resources from today's report, check out 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 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 Varmaziz. Thanks for listening. We'll see you tomorrow.

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>> Unidentified Person: T-Minus.

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