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Elon’s ambitious space plans.

Musk announces Starship plans at the IAC. China and Russia outline future space station projects. Northrop Grumman partners with Voyager on Starlab. And more.





SpaceX CEO Elon Musk outlines an ambitious launch timeline for the Starship at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Azerbaijan. China and Russia present plans for future space stations at the IAC.  A new partnership between Voyager Space and Northrop Grumman's will see the Cygnus spacecraft provide cargo resupply services for the Starlab space station, and more.

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Our guest is Steve Wolfe, President of the Beyond Earth Institute.

You can connect with Steve on LinkedIn and learn more about the Beyond Earth Institute on their website and at space.n2k.com/BeyondEarth.

Selected Reading

China to double size of space station, touts alternative to NASA-led ISS- Reuters

Russia talks a big future in space while its overall budget is quietly cut- Ars Technica

Voyager Space Announces Teaming Agreement with Northrop Grumman for the Starlab Space Station- PR Newswire

Start Your Engines: NASA to Begin Critical Testing for Future Artemis Missions

LMI Awarded $98M Small Business Innovation Phase III Contract Through Use of RAPTR™, a Proven and Trusted Modeling, Simulation & Analysis Tool for the Space Force- PR

UK joins mission to trace Universe back to the Big Bang - GOV.UK

Pale Blue Raises $7.5M in Series B Round, to build production facility

DoD Needs to Step Up Support for Commercial Space, Silicon Valley Defense Group Says- Via Satellite

New ‘Hyperspace Challenge’ aims to pair mature space tech with DOD, Space Force - Nextgov/FCW

Israel Aerospace Industries sells spy satellites to Azerbaijan

Jupiter-sized objects in Orion Nebula baffle scientists- Al Jazeera

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>> Maria Varmazis: [Music] The 74th International Astronautical Congress ends tomorrow in Baku, Azerbaijan. And today, one of its guest speakers spoke virtually to great global interest. Yes, Elon Musk himself came to the IAC and shared some of his thoughts and predictions for what's next from SpaceX and specifically the still-grounded Starship.

>> Unidentified Person: T-Minus. Twenty seconds to [inaudible].

>> Maria Varmazis: Today is October 5th, 2023. I'm Maria Varmazis, and this is T-Minus.

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Elon Musk announces ambitious Starship plans at the IAC. China and Russia outline future space station projects. Northrop Grumman partners with Voyager Space on StarLab. And our guest today is Steve Wolfe, president of the Beyond Earth Institute, on the event happening in November. So stay with us for more details.

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And now let's take a look at today's Intel briefing. And we're starting our show today with Elon, Elon, Elon, and his comments earlier today to the packed audience at the IAC. One eye-watering prediction from Musk came when asked about when he thought we might see Starship make any kind of landing on Mars. His response, and I quote, is, "I think it's sort of feasible within the next four years to do an uncrewed test landing on Mars." Given that Starship hasn't even reached orbital Earth space yet, that is certainly an aggressive timeline. Decide for yourself if you find it credible. When speaking of very long-term goals, if you've been following Musk for some time, you're undoubtedly aware of his goal to make humans an interplanetary species. So his vision, he told the IAC, is to make Starship a generalized transport system to anywhere in the solar system, with minor modifications, and those are his words. Musk said, "Yeah. Starship should be able to land on the moon and Mars. And for Mars, you can go to the asteroid belt, moons of Jupiter and Saturn, ultimately all the way out to the Kuiper Belt and the Oort Cloud. Dream big, why not.? To support interplanetary goals at SpaceX, Musk says he expects in the not too distant future that they'll be launching up to 10 times a day, thousands of times per year likely using platform-based launches from ocean locations to support that goal. So let's come back to Earth for just a second, because we've been reviewing a lot of interesting predictions from Musk's talk so far. And just in case we need to say it, Starship needs to first successfully go orbital, and it also needs to successfully land before we get ahead of ourselves on next steps. So perhaps let's hear from the man himself on when we might expect to see Starship show off its full reusability and make a landing back at the Mechazilla Tower at Boca Chica.

>> Unidentified Person: We have a giant custom designed tower with massive mechanical arms that will literally try to catch the booster and catch the ship, which sounds insane. I mean, I haven't even seen a sci-fi movie that does this, you know. But the theory should work. Let's just say success is in a set of possible outcomes. And let's say, I'm sure the probability is, but success is somewhere in that is success possible? Yes, I think it's possible. In terms of catching it, I think it'll be a few flights. So for the ship, it'll be when you see the ship landing at a precise position in the water, that's when we will try to catch the ship with our Mechazilla on the tower. The booster, obviously, booster flights, we've done many times on Falcon 9. So we're much more familiar and have a much higher confidence with booster recovery. So booster, I think there's a decent chance, depending on when our licenses are granted, that we would catch the booster in the next year, or maybe less than a year. And then hopefully, if we get lucky, we'll catch the ship towards the end of next year.

>> Maria Varmazis: Time will tell. And speaking of ambitious space plans announced at the IAC, China and Russia both took to the stage over the last few days to outline their respective plans for space stations. China says it plans to double the size of its existing Tiangong space station in the coming years, and will offer astronauts from other nations an alternative platform as the International Space Station nears the end of its lifespan. China has increased the expected lifespan of its celestial palace by 10 years, and says it is already in discussions with international partners to use the station in the near future. The Director General of Roscosmos, Yury Borisov, also discussed space station ambitions at the IAC, and Borosov says Russia plans to design, manufacture, and launch several modules by 2027 for the Russian Orbital Station. The Russians plan to position the station in polar orbit. Russia says it will develop new transportation vehicles for the station, and for further deep space exploration, including a nuclear powered, deep space transport vehicle called the Nuclan [assumed spelling]. Borisov also outlined plans to develop the [inaudible] mega constellation to satisfy the country's demand for communications. Russian media is reporting that the country's space budget is smaller than expected, and certainly does not seem large enough to meet their ambitions. We mentioned this earlier this week that there were rumors that Northrop Grumman was dropping its space station ambitions, but it seems that rather than undertaking that big project alone, they're looking to combine their work with others. They've announced a new partnership with Voyager Space that will see Northrop Grumman's Cygnus spacecraft provide cargo resupply services for the StarLab space station. Now StarLab is being built and operated under a transatlantic joint venture between Voyager Space and Airbus Defense in space. Northrop plans to update the Cygnus spacecraft to be fully autonomous for rendezvous and docking with StarLab. They do say that space is the ultimate team sport, and it seems that commercial companies are opting to collaborate rather than trying to figure out the next generation of space stations alone. It's almost like this approach has been a proven success before, huh? NASA is starting a series of test fires of its newly upgraded RS-25 engines, which will be used to power the Space Launch Systems or SLS rocket to the moon. The RS-25 engine, used during the space shuttle era, continues to be a key focus as NASA looks to future Artemis missions. A series of 12 tests stretching into 2024 are scheduled to occur on the Fred Hayes test stand at NASA's Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. The tests are a key step for lead SLS engines contractor Aerojet Rocketdyne, an L3 Harris Technologies company, to produce engines that will help power the SLS rocket, beginning with the Artemis V. The U .S. Air Force awarded a five year indefinite delivery and indefinite quantity small business innovation research phase 3 contract to LMI. The contract comes with two initial task orders to expand support to the space security and defense program and the space war fighting analysis center. The total value of the contract is worth $98 million and LMI says it will be used to further develop the company's rapid analysis and prototyping toolkit for resiliency also known as Raptor. Japanese space startup, Pale Blue, has completed the first close to a Series B round raising approximately $7.5 million. The company has also been selected for the demonstration of mass production or DMP phase of the Deep Tech Startup Support Funds/Deep Tech Startup Support Project of the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization. Pale Blue says they plan to use the new funding to accelerate research and development for mass production of propulsion systems while establishing a production base. The UK Space Agency has announced a partnership with the Japanese led LITEBird mission. LITEBird stands for Light Satellite for the Study of B-Mode Polarization and Inflation from Cosmic Background Radiation Detection. The mission plans to analyze variations in light left over from the Big Bang to test whether the current theory of how our universe expanded immediately after it was formed is correct. The UK Space Agency has committed an initial 2.7 million pounds to this mission to fund a group of UK scientists to design elements of LITEBird's highly specialized science instruments and analyze their findings and production [music] of the telescope's lenses and filters by Cardiff University, which is the only institution in the world with the expertise needed to make them. The UK Space Agency intends to invest a total of 17 million pounds throughout the life of the mission, slated for launch before 2030.

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That concludes our briefing for today, but you'll find links to further reading on all the stories we've mentioned in today's episode in our show notes. We've also included some extra stories, and one of them is on a call for the DOD to step up support for commercial space companies. Another one's an announcement from our friends at the Hyperspace Challenge coming up next month. And there's one on Israeli companies selling spy satellites to Azerbaijan. You could find all these stories and more at space.n2k.com. Hey T-Minus crew, every Thursday we sit down with industry experts in a segment we call industry voices, all about the groundbreaking new products, services and businesses emerging around the world. Every guess on Industry Voices has paid to be here. We hope you'll find it useful to hear directly from businesses about the challenges that they're solving and how they're doing it. Today you'll hear from Steve Wolfe about the Beyond Earth Institute Conference. Visit space.n2k.com/beyondearth to learn more.

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Our guest today is Steve Wolfe, president of the Beyond Earth Institute. Steve starts off by telling us about the organization's mission.

>> Steve Wolfe: [Noise] The Beyond Earth Institute is a nonprofit think tank that is focused on policy and regulatory issues that will help us to get closer and closer to a future where humans can live and work and drive in outer space. So we're very much oriented in our agenda to the human factors. What does it mean for humans to inhabit commercial space stations, for example, that are being planned for the next, over the next 10 years to be deployed? The commercial space stations will replace the ISS, for example. So we have our organization is looking at a wide range of issues to support this eventual future for where humans can one day even migrate, choose to migrate beyond the planet.

>> Maria Varmazis: One of the things that I find very impressive about Beyond Earth is that there's an emphasis on practical solutions for stakeholders who are working in this industry right now and who are trying to form this future and do it in a safe and inclusive way. And especially when we talk about things, like, space policy, the need is extraordinarily pressing. It feels like maybe to me because I've been a little bit outside this world for a bit, but almost all of a sudden Leo's getting really, really crowded. We're really realistically talking about, you know, a cis-lunar future, not in the very long term, but in the near term. And now there are all these sort of policy questions that have come up about how do we govern all that, how do we do it in a fair way? And that's one of the many things that Beyond Earth Institute is really looking at. Could you tell me a little bit about the event that just happened recently about policy pathways towards space migration? It seems really in line with all this.

>> Steve Wolfe: Yeah. So we just had a wonderful webinar where we were asking this really big question about what it's going to take for us to from a policy standpoint, get to a space migration future. No question can be bigger. And we had these real policy insiders, like, Pete Warden, who was a former director of the Ames Research Center, Jim Muncie, who is the long time Washington space policy operator, Greg Autry, who is at the University of Arizona, Michelle Hanland, Space Law Professor at Ole Miss, and others. And this conversation helped us to -- we got into, you know, big issues, but we often talked about issues, like, mission authorization. So we understand that the Outer Space Treaty requires that nation stays [inaudible] the space activities of the [inaudible] that the federal government, U .S. government, and other nations around the world are trying to understand how we're going to manage this in a world where [inaudible] activity is going to be increasingly more prevalent as we're shifting. We're generally taking position that we have to move, we have to share the responsibility, particularly Department of Commerce has to take a larger role in this. So we got into this issue somewhat. We also were talking about is there an appropriate place for the US to set goal for the potential human creation of human communities beyond Earth. You know, there's no absolute answers to some of this, and Congress and the United States is grappling with this even as we speak [inaudible] some responsibilities. We're just looking to continue to contribute to this conversation.

>> Maria Varmazis: It strikes me that while this conversation is very US centric understandably, the event happening in November, which we'll talk about in just a second, has a much more almost like a much more global emphasis. The event in November is the Beyond Earth Symposium, November 1st and 2nd. And I was so impressed by the number of guests from a number of international agencies taking the global perspective on all these policy questions and the governance issues. So this is the second time this event is happening because last year was the inaugural one. Is that correct?

>> Steve Wolfe: That's right. Last year was the inaugural one. It was very successful. You had mentioned international, and so we're moving -- we are actually going to lead off with a strong international program where we'll include representation from Italy, from India, and Japan, because there's a shift going on where United States is really going to be a player and certainly will be continued to be the dominant player. But other nations are very eager to get into become more and more involved in a space domain. There's a recognition now that we're moving from spaces being a place where we do, where we do science and exploration to a domain that has great economic potential and that's very appealing to nations around the world, even emerging nations.

>> Maria Varmazis: This event, November 1st and 2nd, who is it for and who do you hope will attend?

>> Steve Wolfe: The program is for the stakeholder community that are focused on space policy and the human dimension of space. So when you think about the entire space industry, it's maybe about four or $500 billion, and there's a small but growing segment of that that is involved in getting people into and out of space and it's really that segment of the space community that that we're most interested in and so we are attracting companies, folks from NASA, folks from the administration, Department of Commerce, Department of Transportation, FAA of course, and particularly the Capitol Hill as well as the academic community. So we're kind of bringing all these folks together for this discussion. We're gonna be fortunate to have Ken Bowersox, who's the associate administrator of NASA. And he oversees ISS, but he's also overseeing the transition from ISS to these commercial space station actors. And, you know, we'll also have folks, like, John Shaw, who's the Lieutenant General from the US Space Force. He's retiring. Armin Deputy Commander of the US Space Command. He's very forward thinking in terms of the potential for human activity, even national security personnel in space. Jeff Manber, who's CEO of Voyager Space, will join us. And he's a longtime space person formerly with Nanoracks. We're very fortunate to have a very full roster. I certainly encourage everyone to go to the beyondiversesymposium.org to take a full look at everything that is being offered at the conference.

>> Maria Varmazis: Yeah. The agenda is really impressive, the different discussion areas. I mean, there's not just the global perspective of space development, which again, that's such an important discussion, especially right now. But as you mentioned, ensuring the success of commercial space stations post ISS, it's another huge discussion happening right now, thriving in space, making life science as a priority, building a system in our ecosystem. And then one that really stood out to me was the financing pathways for large scale space infrastructure. Another discussion that is happening so much right now. And these seem like very actionable and practical discussions for people in the space industry right now. I'm so curious, when you and your colleagues were building your vision for this event, what were you hoping that people would sort of, after all said and done, kind of take with them as they go back to their jobs and there, you know, day to day, what do you want them to take away from this conference?

>> Steve Wolfe: We are trying to not just report on what's happening in these different areas, we really want to advance the conversation around these particular areas that you mentioned. These are not just topic areas that we thought up for this symposium. But each one of the topic areas that you mentioned are core aspects of our policy agenda, if you will. And so if you compare last year's conference, you'll see similar topics. What we're now doing is we're taking it to the next level. And what's important about each of these topics is that they also equate to working groups within the Beyond Earth Institute that have working throughout the year to develop specific policy recommendations that will be shared at the conference. And there'll be papers that will be issued, so as you come, a bonus for coming will have access to papers specifically on commercial space stations, this lunar, the [inaudible] economy, life sciences from surviving to thriving in space, and of course on the pathways to financing a large scale infrastructure items. So we're really kind of proud, but by the time you get into this conversation with the people on these panels, they're already steeped with each other in terms of, like, working together, and then that provides an opportunity for the audience to engage with them. And then hopefully, [inaudible] that we would, you know, significantly advance the conversation sort of beyond just coming in and sort of reporting on maybe just some sort of a reporting opportunity. And so we feel it'll be much more engaging in that way. I want to certainly want to encourage everyone to check this out. And we are trying to create an environment where the notion that humankind is expanding beyond this planet. That's a natural course of everything that we do in space, and that that's a good thing. And then that's something that we should not shy away from. So when you come to this conference, that will be front and center. And if you [music] are someone who sort of holds this vision yourself, this really is the conference to come to, and one that is does so in a very sober and deliberative way. So we certainly hope that folks will go to beyondearthsymposium.org, check it out, and join us. We'd love to see you on November 1st and 2nd.

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>> Maria Varmazis: We'll be right back. Welcome back. And the James Webb Space Telescope continues to amaze and confound us all with its discoveries. And the one we're sharing with you today is no exception on both fronts, because a recent discovery is making scientists completely question our understanding of how planets are formed and even what we define as a planet. You know, this story is not Pluto's revenge, sorry, Alice. Instead, scientists using web have discovered jumbos, or Jupiter mass binary objects, like our pal Jupiter, just not quite big enough to be a star, sorry buddy. But unlike our red spotted friend, jumbos do not orbit around a star. So imagine a Jupiter sized gas giant planet-like object just hanging out in space. Definitely kind of weird. And now imagine two of them hanging out together, loitering on the cosmic sidewalk corner because, believe it or not, jumbos are apparently formed in pairs. Now this is my obligatory disclaimer that the research paper on jumbos has not yet been peer reviewed. But if this research is validated, it is going to completely break current understanding of how planets are formed. So scientists have long figured that nebulas create stars, sure, [inaudible] gas and dust clouds, but spontaneously creating planet sized objects too? Didn't see that one coming. And yes, it's not unheard of for planets to be ejected from a nebula, but for pairs of them to be co-eated? That is just weird, man. And for my favorite wrinkle on this fascinating story, these jumbos were observed in the Orion Nebula. So for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, we're coming up on prime Orion viewing time in the night skies. The Orion Nebula is at the very bottom of the hanging sword hill from Orion's belt, so if you're a fellow Northern Hemisphereer, next time you see Orion, [music] take a closer look and just think there are some jumbo shenanigans happening over there.

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That's it for T-Minus for October 5th, 2023. For additional resources from today's report, check out our show notes at space.nt2.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 Elliot Peltzman and Trey Hester, with original music and sound design by Elliot Peltzman. Our executive producer is Brandon Karp. Our chief intelligence officer is Eric Tillman. And I'm Maria Varmazis. Thanks for listening. We'll see you tomorrow.

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