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Tapping into potential in space.

Sierra Space secures $229 million in Series B Funding. US Space Systems Command opens the TAP Lab. Blue Origin announces its new CEO. And more.





Sierra Space secures $229 million in Series B Funding. The US Space Systems Command, the Space Force field command, has opened a Tools Applications and Processing Lab called TAP. Blue Origin has announced that Amazon Executive Dave Limp will replace outgoing CEO Bob Smith, and more.

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T-Minus Guest

Our guest today is Sita Sonty in her new role as CEO of Space Tango

You can connect with Sita on LinkedIn and learn more about Space Tango on their website.

Selected Reading

Sierra Space Increases Total Investment to a Record $1.7 Billion with $290M Series B Funding, Bringing Valuation to $5.3 Billion- PR

Space Systems Command’s New TAP Lab kicks off with Project Apollo to accelerate innovation in space domain awareness- PR

Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin to replace CEO Bob Smith with outgoing Amazon exec Dave Limp- CNBC
Former Chief Scientist of the United States Air Force Dr. Mark J. Lewis Appointed to Voyager Space Advisory Board- PR Newswire

Chinese researchers explore building underground moon shelter- CGTN

GalaxEye and ideaForge ink pact to build UAV Foliage Penetration Radar- PR

Omnispace and Lacuna Showcase Breakthrough NGSO IoT Satellite Connectivity- PR Newswire

Zenno Astronautics and D-Orbit execute MOU for new space applications for superconducting electromagnets- PR

The new $3b robot factory shooting for the moon- AFR

US-China rivalry spurs investment in space tech- BBC

The failure points of an ‘integrated deterrence’ strategy in space- The Hill

NASA's delayed VERITAS Venus mission tests key technology in Iceland (photos)- Space.com

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>> Maria Varmazis: Last year, commercial space grew eight percent year over year, and reached 427.8 billion US dollars in revenue. And that's according to the Space Foundation Space Report. And though this hasn't been the easiest year financially for a lot of companies, admittedly, strong players in commercial space continue to grow a pace. And speaking of strong players, when the dust settles on 2023, we're going to see a lot of big winners from the likes of Sierra, who announced some big financial news of their own today.

>> Unidentified Person: T minus 20 seconds [inaudible]. Go for deploy. Blast off.

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>> Maria Varmazis: Today is September 26, 2023. I'm Maria Varmazis, and this is "T-Minus".

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Sierra Space secures $290 million in series B funding. US Space Systems Command opens the TAP Lab. Blue Origin announces its new CEO. And our guest today is Sita Sonty, in her new role as CEO of Space Tango. You don't want to miss it.

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On to today's intelligence briefing. Some big money news today from Sierra Space, which is announcing that it has closed $290 million in investments from its series B round, bringing the overall total funds raised from series A and B to 1.7 billion US dollars. This latest round was co-led by a coalition of Japanese partners, including MUFG Bank, Kanematsu, and Tokio Marine & Nichido Fire Insurance. The company is working on both the Large Integrated Flexible platform, or LIF, Commercial Space Station and Science platform, as well as the Dream Chaser commercial space plane. And clearly investors are seeing the potential for this company's work and what it calls "the commercialization of space in the orbital age"; because if you do some back-of-the-napkin math with this latest amount raise and add in existing active contract, roughly you get a company valuation at an eye-watering $5.3 billion. Not bad, Sierra Space, not bad at all. The US Space Systems Command, which is the Space Force field command, has opened a tools application and processing lab called "TAP". The lab in Colorado Springs aims to address critical challenges in space domain awareness. TAP Lab is designed to encourage government, industry, academic, and allied collaboration, and will engage external partners through the initial offering, which is called "Project Apollo". Space Systems Command says, "Project Apollo is a collaborative tech accelerator for US companies, university affiliated research centers, federally funded research and development centers, industry experts, and Space Force guardians to band together to solve critical space domain awareness challenges. The registration for Project Apollo is slated for kickoff on October 26th. And you can get more details by following the link to the release in our show notes. Some executive news now, and starting with Blue Origin, which has announced that Amazon executive Dave Limp will replace outgoing CEO Bob Smith. Smith announced that he plans to retire later this year, but will stay on at Blue Origin to help with the transition until January 2024. And the next appointee news comes from Voyager Space, who have announced that Dr. Mark J. Lewis has joined the company's advisory board. Dr. Lewis is the former deputy under secretary of defense, and Voyager says that he brings extensive expertise across national security, scientific discovery, and academic research to the company. Researchers from the Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology have introduced a study on long-term shelter in lunar lava tubes. The Chinese researchers are hoping to send rovers to probe lunar lava tubes at Mare Tranquillitatis and Mare Fecunditatis, as the primary exploration targets, and have shared the design of the exploration plans. China has plans to have humans on the Moon by 2030, but it's not known if or when they plan to explore this proposal for long-term shelter. India-based Earth observation company, Galexi, has signed a memorandum of understanding with drone technology company, ideaForge. The companies plan to use this partnership to jointly develop an unmanned aerial vehicle foliage penetration radar that will use ideaForge's expertise in UAV technology, and Galexi's synthetic aperture radar technology. The product will be customized for Indian security forces for enhanced aerial surveillance and mapping capabilities. Omnispace, Viasat, and Lacuna Space are working together to create a global open standards-based internet of things service, which could pave the way for a range of IoT and direct-to-devise satellite services. The new service offers low-power ubiquitous connectivity worldwide for a broad range of IoT devices and markets. Omnispace and Lacuna Space have already successfully tested the technology, leveraging Omnispace's existing network of assets outside of Europe. Space logistics company, D-Orbit has announced a special commercial partnership with Zenno Astronautics, to collaborate on the development of new space products and services. New Zealand headquartered spaceflight systems company, Zenno, says they hope to combine technologies and fields of expertise with the orbit to develop two new uses for superconducting electromagnets in space applications. The two companies plan to create practical solutions for the first fuel-free desaturation of reaction wheels in high-altitude orbits and radiation shielding of hardware using super-conducting electromagnets.

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That concludes our briefing for today. You'll find links to further information on all of the stories we've mentioned in our show notes. We've included a piece on Advanced Navigation's new factory, a BBC interview with NASA administrator Bill Nelson, and an opinion piece on the US Space Force from the Hill. They're at space.n2k.com, and just click on this episode. Hey, "T-Minus" crew, if you're just joining us, welcome, and be sure to follow "T-Minus Space Daily" in your favorite podcast app. And also, if you could do us a favor, share the intel with your friends and coworkers. And here's a little challenge for you, by Friday, please show three 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. So if you find "T-Minus" useful, and we really hope you do, please share so other professionals like you can find the show. Thank you so much. It means a lot to me and all of us here at "T-Minus".

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Our guest today is Sita Sonty, in her new role as CEO of Space Tango. Now, Sita is a longtime friend of our show, and I wanted to start with what drew Sita to Space Tango.

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>> Sita Sonty: So back in the days when we had our last conversation, when I was with Boston Consulting Group pleading commercial space, very often I would be asked, "What's the make or break and key success factors in the space industry?" And I would always say it comes down to three things, talent heritage, so who's on your team, customer heritage, who is actually giving you your revenue on a fundamental basis, but also places their trust that you're actually executing on what they need in space, and then fight heritage, can you design the payload in a way that it actually does the thing that it needs to do in a manner that's expected, right? So those three heritage areas were almost like a philosophy that I would proselytize. And I would do that actually as an intentional methodology for due diligence in addition to a lot of the standard financial assessment information. So it's safe to say I applied the exact same model because the stakes couldn't be higher if it's both me and my future, but more importantly, it's the future of this incredible company. I want to make sure that that kind of due diligence fits into the value proposition, and oh boy does it in space. Space Tango as a company has the most extraordinary talent heritage in the founder and president, Twyman Clements. He's an absolute genius. His vision and his ability to build a team around him that really has a family feel is the testament to his leadership, his management, and frankly, the talent that he's surrounded himself with. So I look at it as where there is great talent and where there are good people, that humanistic element always has to prevail. This company also has customer heritage. So this is something that you and I have talked about in the past, Maria, which is that very often space companies and/or financial institutions who are developing the methodology to justify the investment will talk about capturing the TAM, the total addressable market, or a percentage thereof, for this segment of the industrial economy, or that segment of the luxury economy, for example. Well, those are abstractions if they don't translate to real revenue from real customers. Space Tango has flown 261 payloads. Just think about that number, right? And for a company that's been -- you could say below the radar for a minute, you can also say just humbly doing its business of being the science prime in space for years. That's just a matter of words, but the meaning is the same. There's customer heritage here. It is robust in nature. And it's customers like Mount Sinai, Cedars-Sinai, University of California in San Diego, Florida Institute of Technology, prestigious institutions who have placed their trust in this company historically; their trust and their revenue, right? I mean, this is translating into real dollars. That's not hypothetical and it's not abstract. And so for me, customer heritage box checked Space Tango is walking the walk and has been walking the walk in microgravity for years. And then, finally, flight heritage, all those payloads that we're talking about; not only sustaining the trust so that some of those same customers come back to us, but more importantly, designing a product roadmap which we're in -- actually knee-deep in doing right now, where we go from what we have today, the CubeLab, into what's going to be a really exciting product and service that we're going to roll out in the next few months. That's part of why I think Space Tango came beckoning. And that's why Twyman and I are such great collaborators, because it's one thing to take what they have today -- what we have today, but then have a vision for how you can grow it with a successful business model attached, leveraging existing customers, but really tapping into markets that are now suddenly becoming available

>> Maria Varmazis: You anticipated my next question about your vision because that -- I'm sure that's why they brought -- they asked you to come onboard. I would love to know whatever you can share. I'm sure some of it is still very in development, but maybe your long-term vision also; like what do you envision for that?

>> Sita Sonty: Absolutely. The vision for this company is, first and foremost, to actually put them on the map in an explicit way. As I said, the company, and its team, and its values are aligned with what I was raised with by my parents, which is be humble, perform the service, perform the mission, and execute, right; deliver and execute and perform. However, with the flight heritage, with the customer heritage, and with the talent heritage, putting the company on the map is actually step one in this new phase of 2.0, right, so that folks know the story and know what we've been executing on as a team. The vision for growth, however, is not just kind of public awareness, but also scalability. So one of the beauties of this company is to be able to perform with its current footprint, at its current level, without [inaudible] evaluations, and excessive capital raises, and all of this business. And yet, there is some, I would say, intellectual capital that is necessary to grow and to scale what we have. At inception, it took three years to -- from design developed to fielding the CubeLab, which is that core competency product. The company has shrunk that now to nine months. So shrinking that already is really significant. My vision is to actually shrink it down to being able to manufacture 10X of the cube labs that we have in six months or less; in three to six months. And that vision can be executed. We were actually doing a quantified model of program management to be able to get there. However, next on our product roadmap is not just scaling what we have, but actually converting it into a service. So what makes CubeLab and Space Tango's current offering so unique, you think about performing microgravity research in space, and quite often what comes to people's imaginations and actually the business models of a lot of the commercial space station providers is -- and actually, the existing model of the International Space Station, there's a glove box, there's a crew member, and there's crew time. And so you put your hands inside that glove box and you actually physically manipulate. What makes Space Tango so powerful and the Cube Lab and the future products so powerful, it's all automated; no crew time required, and operations are run from our headquarters in Lexington by this incredible team. That automation, right, enables the performance of much greater scale of scientific experimentation, the collection of data against those experiments and, dot, dot, dot, the ability to offer that data as a subscribed service to anybody who wants it. So I'm not going to get too far ahead of what our future business model announcements are going to be, but that's just the teaser. And it gives you a sense of why the right level of capital influx is really going to enable us to convert from product to service, and actually deliver really meaningful scientific research data that we know the market wants because we're the ones that have put that payload in space already.

>> Maria Varmazis: That is very exciting. Thank you for that little teaser because that's fascinating. I'm so curious your thoughts about how Space Tango might be working with commercial space stations that will be coming in the future. Is that part of the roadmap at all, or thoughts on that?

>> Sita Sonty: Absolutely. It's a great question because there's this perception of the competitive landscape. I always say whether it's to investors, journalists like yourself, my team, my friends, my family, I'm a diplomat first, so I'm always going to look for ways for us to partner. I'm not going to look for ways for everyone to cut each other out. So the way I see it is I want to be a partner to all of the CLDs. And I fundamentally believe we already are headed in that direction. We're the science prime and space. There's nobody else out there that can lay claim to that with the level of customer, and flight, and payload heritage that we have. So why don't we actually join forces, look for ways that we can integrate our solution into the development of those broader commercial space station infrastructure plans that all of the CLD providers are purporting to offer? If we can integrate those designs even now, then we actually can share and make more pie for everybody; right, we can bring more opportunity space for multiple science labs in space that have the Space Tango vision behind them, that create that broader database of scientific research data that we know our customers already have established parameters to collect on, and we can scale it in a way that enables success for all of our partners, because at the end of the day, there needs to be some of that spirit. It's interesting, I was just doing an interview a little bit earlier -- Danny was on it, and there was a question about sort of the International Space Station and space diplomacy and space policy. And it brought to mind the comment, which was historically that's been the avenue of government in sovereign nations, right? And we often hold up the ISS as this beacon -- I called it "Switzerland in space"; it's this [laughter] neutrality, right?

>> Maria Varmazis: Yes.

>> Sita Sonty: As space stations become more commercial in nature, which obviously is already happening, there's greater responsibility to create, I would argue, more literal trade space for more cooperation and less competition. And so Space Tango, that's very much part of the vision that I have for this company, is that we are always going to be the partner. Whether it's the partner to the person wanting to do the research, or collect and subscribe to the data that we generate, or it's a partner to the physical infrastructure builder, we want to be a partner to everyone, because it makes more sense to collaborate than to compete.

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>> Maria Varmazis: We'll be right back. [Music] Welcome back. And hey, remember 1992? Well, maybe, maybe not. But if you're of a certain age, then you'll be familiar with the book "Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus", which came out that year. The John Gray self-help guide of that time proposes that the reason for relationship conflicts is that each gender is accustomed to its own set of emotional balances, cultures, and values, or metaphorically speaking, we live on different planets, yada, yada, yada. Well, whatever you think of that philosophy, we humans have been pondering over the male planet of Mars for quite some time. But what of our sister planet, Venus? Well, VERITAS, which is short for "Venus and Missivity Radio Science, InSAR, Topography, and Spectroscopy" will be the first NASA spacecraft to explore Venus since the 1990s. The vehicle aims to discover the secrets of a lost habitable world on Venus, gathering data to reveal how the paths of Venus and Earth diverged. Field campaigns to help refine the VERITAS mission were held in Iceland earlier this month. Field researchers spent some time studying rocks and surfaces near an active volcano named "Askja". And does that mean that VERITAS is heading to Venus soon, not likely, as the mission has experienced several delays, and NASA says that the launch is still, unfortunately, TBD. But we hope this latest field trip gives them a boost towards liftoff.

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That's it for "T-Minus" for September 26, 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 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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>> Unidentified Person: "T-Minus" [inaudible].

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