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The Astronaut wears Prada.

Axiom partners with Prada on next gen spacesuits. Booz Allen awarded a $630M contract with the US Space Force. Comtech to support US Army SATCOM. And more.





Axiom Space is working with fashion giant Prada on NASA's next generation lunar spacesuits for Artemis III. Booz Allen Hamilton awarded a $630-million contract with the US Space Force to support systems engineering and integration of next-generation space-based missile warning, environmental monitoring, and surveillance, reconnaissance, and tracking. Comtech Telecommunications to provide Enterprise Digital Intermediate Frequency Multi-Carrier modems (EDIM), in support of US Army satellite communications digitization and modernization programs, and more.

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T-Minus Guest

Our guests today are Sam Savitt and Josh Kramer from Duke University’s rocketry team Duke Aero on preparing for the 2024 Spaceport America Cup. 

You can find out more about Duke Aero on their website and learn about the Spaceport America Cup through organizers The Experimental Sounding Rocket Association (ESRA).

Selected Reading

Axiom Space, Prada Join Forces on Tech, Design for NASA’s Next-Gen Lunar Spacesuits

U.S. Space Force Awards Booz Allen $630m Contract- PR

Comtech Awarded $48.6 Mln Contract By U.S. Army- RTTN

NASA Selects Commercial Smallsat Data Acquisition Contractors- PR

Starfish Space wins NASA contract to plan demonstration of orbital debris inspection- Geekwire

Firefly Aerospace Completes Blue Ghost Lunar Lander Structure Ahead of Moon Landing for NASA- PR

Russia pinpoints cause of moon shot failure, looks to bring next missions forward- Reuters

Cosmic Girls™ Foundation Launches Global Competition to Empower Girls for Space- EIN Presswire

Astroscale Ships World’s First Debris Inspection Mission to Launch Site- PR

SPACECOM Hosts Multinational Tabletop Exercise as Allied Cooperation in Space Ramps Up- Air and Space Forces

The high optical brightness of the BlueWalker 3 satellite- Nature

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[ Soundbite "The Devil Wears Prada" ]

>> Maria Varmazis: Miranda Priestly didn't see it coming, but spacesuits, so hot right now.

[ Soundbite Space Launch ]

Today is October 4, 2023. Happy World Space Week, I'm Maria Varmazis and this is "T-Minus".

[ Soundbite Space Launch ]

Axiom partners with Prada on next generation spacesuits. Booz Allen awarded a $630 million contract with the U.S. Space Force. Comtech to support U.S. Army SATCOM. And our guests today are from Duke University's Rocketry Team on preparations for the 2024 Spaceport America Cup.

[ Soundbite "T-Minus" ]

On to today's intel briefing. Now here's a headline I had to read a few times to make sure I had this one right. Axiom Space is working with fashion giant, Prada, as in, "The Devil Wears", for a killer colab on NASA's next generation lunar spacesuits for Artemis III. That means, when the first woman lands on the moon, she'll be doing it in high-tech safety and style. Axiom x Prada actually makes a ton of sense. Now who better than a luxe fashion house to work with highly specialized textile design and the most stringent of client requirements? When it comes to working with tough design constraints and something that's meant to be worn, high-end fashion is where you're going to find that expertise. "We're thrilled to partner with Prada on the Axiom Extra Vehicular Mobility Unit or AxEMU Spacesuit", says Michael Suffredini who is the CEO of Axiom Space. "Prada's technical expertise with raw materials, manufacturing techniques, and innovative design concepts will bring advanced technologies instrumental in ensuring not only the comfort of astronauts on the lunar surface, but also, the much needed human factors considerations absent from legacy spacesuits." And I'm just imagining a press gaggle with the astronaut, "You look great, who are you wearing?" And she's like, "Thanks, it's Prada." And moving on, a huge congratulations to our friends at Booz Allen Hamilton for being awarded a seven-year 630 million single award contract with the U.S. Space Force. Now this contract is to support systems engineering and integration of next generation space-based missile warning, environmental monitoring and surveillance, reconnaissance, and tracking. As part of this work, Booz Allen will support space systems command in engineering resilient space-sensing capabilities. In addition, the firm will integrate the Next Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared Program, a $14.4 billion project to upgrade U.S. missile warning and missile tracking capabilities to combat emerging missile threats. Booz Allen says they will leverage capabilities and mission expertise in digital engineering, mission integration, agile software development, cybersecurity, change management, AI and machine learning all to help the Space Force achieve its vision for a digital service. And staying with the U.S. Military for a moment, the Army has selected Comtech Communications to provide enterprise digital intermediate frequency multicarrier modems, also known as EDIM, in support of satellite communications digitization and modernization programs. The contract is worth $48.6 million. Comtech will be designing, developing, testing, and delivering EDIM units to the U.S. Army. They will also be providing hardware, software, and sustainment services to support performance enhancements for EDIM solutions. NASA has selected seven companies to provide commercial data in support of the agency's earth science research. Airbus, Capella Space, GHGSat, Maxar Intelligence, Space Sciences and Engineering, a subsidiary of PlanetiQ, Spire Global Subsidiary, and Umbra Lab have all been selected for the fixed price, indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity, multiple award contract. The maximum potential is cumulatively worth $476 million among all the contractors selected and the contracts are effective for a period of five years, with an option to extend services an additional six months. Yesterday, we discussed the first FCC fine for space debris management. And today, we're pleased to announce that the U.S. Space Agency is making moves to prevent issues with space junk. Starfish Space has been awarded a contract from NASA to study the feasibility of inspecting orbital debris. And if you haven't heard of the amazing Otter Pup's work, then we suggest you check out Episode 109 of our show and our chat with Michael Madrid. The NASA Small Business Innovation Research Program contract requires Starfish to use its full-scale Otter satellite servicing vehicle to rendezvous with, and inspect, large pieces of space debris. Starfish's software for relative navigation and autonomous guidance will be tested on the Otter Pup prototype spacecraft in the coming months. Firefly Aerospace has completed the development and assembly of its Blue Ghost Lander structure and fluid systems. Firefly's Blue Ghost is slated to land on the moon in 2024 as part of NASA's commercial lunar payload services, or CLPS initiative. This mission is one of three task orders that Firefly won under NASA's CLPS, counting for more than $230 million in awards. Russia's Space Agency, Roscosmos, has blamed a malfunction in an onboard control unit for its failed lunar landing mission in August. The Luna-25 spacecraft crashed into the lunar surface after the propulsion system failed to switch off, blasting for one and a half times longer than necessary, and sending the craft hurdling towards the moon. This was the first Russia lunar landing mission in nearly 50 years, and Moscow says it is now working to speed up the timeline for a further two missions to the moon. And what better way to celebrate the United Nations World Space Week than with the introduction of a new international charity and competition aimed at encouraging more girls to pursue careers in space? Cosmic Girls Foundation's Mission is to launch dreams in girls and girls into space, creating a game-changing platform to support female astronaut talent. And the Royal Dutch Mint has unveiled a new Women to Space coin in collaboration with Cosmic Girls with the aim to address gender disparities in space exploration. As a female forward space communications platform, we could not be more excited about this. And that concludes our intelligence briefing for today. You'll find links to further reading on all the stories we've mentioned in our selected reading section of our show notes. And we've added two additional stories in there, one on Astroscale moving their debris inspection mission to its launch site and another on the USSPACECOM hosting tabletop exercise with allies. They're all at space.n2k.com. Hey, "T-Minus" crew, if you find this podcast useful, please do us a favor and share a five-star rating and a short review in your favorite podcast app. It'll help other space professionals like you to find the show and join the "T-Minus" crew. Thank you so much, we really appreciate it. It's registration week for the 2024 Spaceport America Cup. Student teams from across the world have been working on building their teams and ideas for rockets to compete in the world's largest intercollegiate rocket competition. We spoke with Sam Savitt and Josh Kramer from Duke University on how they are preparing for the competition which will be held next June.

>> Josh Kramer: My name is Josh Kramer. I'm a senior here at Duke University. This year, we have really moved up our design timeline because we really wanted to be on top of things, and make sure that we could produce the highest quality product that we could. So, we started our design over the summer, had a couple high level design reviews right before school started. And then, we've had a really, really good recruiting push. We got a lot of freshmen in the door. And one of our big focuses as a club is education and teaching students about the aerospace industry and how to get involved. And so, thus far, we've made really, really good progress towards designing that rocket. And we'll have our completed design by the end of this semester, and then, plan to manufacture once we get to the spring.

>> Maria Varmazis: That's exciting. And so, Sam, for you, I'm curious to hear maybe thoughts on previous years and any learnings from previous years that you're going to take into 2024.

>> Sam Savitt: Hi, I'm Sam Savitt. I'm a junior at Duke University studying mechanical engineering. The biggest thing for Spaceport America and our team is that it's a huge learning experience. Every time we go, we learn an invaluable amount of lessons, and our postmortems take hours because there's so many things that people want to make sure that we don't repeat in terms of mistakes and things that we want to do more of. I think that's why our design cycle is so much earlier this year because, in the past two years, we've ended up pushing our manufacturing late into the year, almost running out of time before our test launch in April. So, Josh and the leadership have done a really good job of getting started early on this rocket. But we've got a lot of really cool new knowledge as well in terms of rocket design propulsion. We've got two new student-developed propulsion teams, both liquid and solid which, I think, is really cool. Payloads doing some really neat stuff this year as well, so it's all building on top of each other.

>> Maria Varmazis: Josh, is there anything you wanted to add to that as well about what you're, looking back and also, looking forward for this year?

>> Josh Kramer: Yeah, absolutely. Well, we're a really young club, so Duke AERO used to be a model airplanes club up until about 2018. And so, we haven't been to Spaceport all that many times. And so, we've just got a couple launches out there. And I'm extremely proud of the way that our club has developed so quickly and started doing incredibly well out there. And we hope to continue that tradition and keep that knowledge alive and well even as we start to graduate some of our more senior members. So, despite not having been out there more than a few times, it's been an incredible experience.

>> Maria Varmazis: I can absolutely imagine. It looks incredible, just as a spectator. And it just seems like an absolutely amazing experience. So, we've been talking a little bit about manufacturing, and on the background, I know that you all are, I think, working with Protocase. So, Sam, could you tell me a little bit about Duke AERO working with Protocase for Spaceport America Cup?

>> Sam Savitt: Absolutely. So, we started working with Protocase last year for Spaceport America Cup 2023, when Protocase launched their initial partnership with the Cup. They had their $1,000.00 credit offer that didn't end up, I think, getting as much publicity as they had hoped for, but it's something we took note of when they announced it. And it ended up being a really important part of our payload experiment which is why it's something that I spent a lot of time working with. We had a test launch in April that we had to have our rocket ready by. And we had a lot of parts that were really complicated to manufacture and machine. We have a lot of machining capabilities and limitations on campus. And so, when we had to have certain parts, specifically, we had rails for our payload system that we had to manufacture. We ended up leaning on Protocase to get those rails simplified and manufactured for us. And they ended up at out doorstep which was pretty awesome to have because, in general, it's incredibly difficult to get precisely machined, custom manufactured parts like that in about a two weeks' timeframe. And so, that's really efficient aerospace right there. Yeah, it was awesome.

>> Maria Varmazis: Yeah.

>> Sam Savitt: And it allowed our rocket to launch on time and it allowed us to have our payload experiment ready to go. So, it was a great experience working with Protocase.

>> Maria Varmazis: That's awesome. And I can understand maybe why you're going back to them this year as well with that success there. Josh, wanted to also see if there's anything you wanted to add to that?

>> Josh Kramer: Yeah, obviously, through last year, they were able to provide us with some parts that we honestly just couldn't really make on our own because we do pride ourselves as being one of the teams at Spaceport that makes almost everything. We do our own body tube layups. We machine almost all of our components. We've started building our own flight computers. And we really pride ourselves on that. But at the end of the day, there's just certain things that students can't do themselves. And so, to be able to have a corporate sponsor come in and say, "Hey, we want you guys to be able to make really cool, really advanced designs, and we want to be able to help you with that and facilitate that", was really, really cool. And we were very grateful for their help.

>> Maria Varmazis: Every year, there's always going to be new competitors, maybe who have never been to Spaceport America Cup before. Your team has learned a lot just through your experience, and I'm wondering, I know you don't want to give the whole competition away, but if you have advice for teams, especially that are new, whatever you feel comfortable sharing. I'd love to know if you have any advice for teams that are thinking about joining this year and trying to figure out how they're going to make it happen. Josh, why don't we start with you, and then, Sam, we'll go to you next.

>> Josh Kramer: Yeah, well I think Sam kind of touched on it earlier, but Spaceport is a huge learning experience. Part of the fun of it is you're getting to go out with 180 collegiate teams that are all incredibly passionate about rocketry. And so, you get to meet people from all over the world that also share the same interests and passions that you do. And getting to talk with them and, at the conference session when you can compare your designs, I cannot recommend enough, walk around, talk to other teams, see what they did, why they did it. That's one of the easiest ways to learn because, when you're in-house, you only know what your team knows. But there's other teams that have lots of experience and they're willing to share it because it's a very friendly and open community. And that was one of the things I was most impressed with at Spaceport.

>> Maria Varmazis: Yeah, I've heard that as well, that it's a really great environment like that. That's fantastic. Thank you, Josh. Sam, how about you?

>> Sam Savitt: On top of what Josh said, I think it all ties into being ambitious and really trying new things because this is one of the rare times in your life where, of course there are repercussions for what you do, but it's not like your job is depending on it. It's all for your learning, so try new things and err on the side of taking a little bit of risk and trying a new technology or going after a new idea because you have so many resources at your feet as a college student. People think rocketry is cool and people think that these huge college rocketry teams are really awesome, and they want to help you. So, people like Protocase and like all the other amazing sponsors at Spaceport are there to support you. And so, take advantage of as many resources as you can, and be ambitious.

>> Maria Varmazis: What great advice. Thank you, Sam. Thank you, Josh. I wish you both, and the whole Duke Aerospace, all the luck this year at Spaceport America Cup. Thank you so much for joining me today. For more information about the Cup, visit soundingrocket.org. We'll be right back. Welcome back. Satellite constellations are quickly becoming a big issue for ground-based observations. We've talked to astronomers working with companies like SpaceX to mitigate the problem. If you've ever looked up on a clear night, or worse, tried a long exposure photograph of the night sky, then you know that those reflective vehicles are causing a big problem. A new paper by a group of astronomers has identified the worst offender, and it's not SpaceX, no, which currently has the largest number of satellites in orbit, some 5,000 of 8,500ish currently in operation. No, it's AST SpaceMobile's BlueWalker 3. The peak brightness of the satellite reached an apparent magnitude of 0.4 which may mean little to us mere mortals that don't understand how light reflections are tracked, but here's a little explainer. The brighter the object, the lower the number assigned as a magnitude. So, currently orbiting constellation satellites have brightnesses between apparent magnitudes of four and six. BlueWalker 3's 0.4 reading makes it one of the brightest objects in the night sky. Now, AST SpaceMobile says it is working to address the concerns of astronomers, including by planning to equip their next generation satellites with anti-reflective materials and avoiding broadcasts within or adjacent to the U.S. National Radio Quiet Zone. However, the researchers note that there is another concern. The radio frequencies used by BlueWalker 3 are close to those used for radioastronomy, raising the possibility that such satellites could cause interference, making it harder for scientists to study the universe. Over to you now, satellite manufacturers, to figure out this growing problem. That's it for "T-Minus" for October 4, 2023. For additional resources from today's report, check out our show notes at space.n2k.com. And 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 that we deliver the information that keeps you a step ahead in the rapidly changing space industry. 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. This episode was produced by Alice Carruth, mixing by Eliott Peltzman and Trey Hester, with original music and sound design by Eliott 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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