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The US Space Force temporarily halts its use of generative AI.

Space Force pauses AI use. The ViaSat-3 Americas satellite is performing at less than 10% capacity. NASA takes its time on OSIRIS-REx samples. And more.





The US Space Force pauses the use of generative AI technology. Investigation continues into the malfunctioning ViaSat-3 Americas satellite which is performing at less than 10 percent capacity. NASA Scientists explain why they haven’t opened the main TAGSAM capsule on the OSIRIS-REx, and more.

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T-Minus Guest

Our guest today is the Program Coordinator for the Maine Space Complex. Emily Dwinnells shares with us some more details about Maine's Space Conference which is taking place in Portland on November 5-7. 

You can connect with Emily on LinkedIn and find out more about the Maine Space Conference on their website.

Selected Reading

US Space Force pauses use of AI tools like ChatGPT over data security risks- Reuters

Space cybersecurity takes center stage in Estonia- Cybernews

India to conduct key test in crewed space mission on Oct 21- Reuters

Viasat won't replace damaged Americas satellite, moves up financial targets- CNBC 

Bad weather delays SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch of NASA's Psyche asteroid mission to Oct. 13- Space

Spacewalks Postponed as Managers Review Leak Data – Space Station


Auriga Space Secures $5 Million In Initial Funding for Electromagnetic Space Launch- PR

China builds world’s largest deep sea telescope to hunt for cosmic neutrinos- SCMP

Maine Space Conference

India to conduct key test in crewed space mission on Oct 21- Reuters

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>> Maria Varmazis: For the opening of today's show, I asked my marketing intern to write and deliver the script.

>> AI: As an AI, I acknowledge that the US Space Force has temporarily halted its use of generative AI due to data security concerns. This decision underscores the ongoing need for robust security measures and ethical considerations in AI development. While devoid of emotions, AI recognizes its role in safeguarding sensitive data, emphasizing the imperative balance between technological progress and security within space exploration.

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Today is October 12, 2023. I'm Maria Varmazis, and this is T-Minus.

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The US Space Force implements a new AI policy. The ViaSat-3, America's satellite, is performing at less than 10% capacity. When will NASA open the TAGSAM on the Osiris Rex vehicle? And our guest today is the program coordinator for the Maine Space Complex. Emily Dwinnells shares with us some more details about Maine's Space Conference, which is taking place in Portland, Maine, on November 5th through 7th. Stay with us for that and more.

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Onto our intelligence briefing now. And how's about a bit of space cybersecurity news to start things off for today written by a human being this time? The US Space Force put their use of generative AI tools like ChatGPT on hold since the end of September. Now, the incredible potential of AI for transforming how people work and how quickly people work is not something they're disputing, and the Space Force is emphasizing that this is a pause and not a stop. And indeed, since a September 29th memo ordering the pause, any Space Force guardian seeking to use an AI tool on a government machine needs explicit approval by the Chief Technology and Innovation Office first. In the next month, the Space force says they'll have some formal guidance on how they plan to use AI in "a responsible and strategic manner." So why the pause on AI? The risk here that the Space Force needs a minute to suss out is the security of data and information that might be fed into tools like ChatGPT. That feeding of data, or data aggregation, is, after all, a key part of the learning process for large language models that power AI. But once it's been fed to the AI, it's best to assume the confidentiality of that information can never be assured. So just to be sure, I even asked ChatGPT about this directly. Should we ever give it any confidential information? And this was its answer?

>> AI: No, avoid inputting confidential information into ChatGPT. AI models lack the necessary security measures for safeguarding sensitive data, creating privacy, and security risks. Always use secure channels for confidential information and consult with experts for data protection compliance. Duh.

>> Maria Varmazis: Well, there you have it. It makes a great deal of sense that the US Space Force is slowing things down here to better ensure its data security, and it's also a good reminder for organizations of all kinds. Assume anything you feed AI is essentially public. Data varies on this, but between four and 11% of employees are believed to have pasted confidential information into ChatGPT, and whichever number you want to believe it's still higher than zero. And while we're on the topic of cybersecurity for space, for our listeners in Europe, the Third Annual Software-Defined Space Conference is happening in Estonia from the 31st of October to the second of November. Estonia is home to the NATO cooperative Cyber Defense Center of Excellence. And as you might imagine, this year's agenda for the Software-Defined Space Conference does have quite a focus on cybersecurity lessons learned from the war in Ukraine for space systems. We've got a link in our show notes for you for more information about the upcoming conference if you'd like to learn more. If you paid a mere $750 million to place a vehicle in space, would you be happy with it performing at less than 10% capacity? Well, it seems that ViaSat is. The company is continuing investigations into the ViaSat-3 America satellite malfunction but maintains that its current and imminent satellite fleet, as well as support from third parties, "will meet the current and future needs of its customers." ViaSat expects to finalize a $420-million insurance claim on the malfunctioning vehicle before the end of the year. And I'm sure that makes the 90% loss of capacity a little easier to swallow. Yesterday, we received an update from NASA's first asteroid sample return from the Osiris-REx team. Our producer, Alice Carruth, spoke to NASA scientist, Dr. Jason Dworkin, about the results that have been shared, so far, from the asteroid Bennu.

>> Jason Dworkin: The reason to go to this asteroid was to understand the earliest phases of a solar system, the most primitive objects, and how the Earth, or other body, got its water or any other compounds that maybe led to life. And so, these are the types of compounds we're looking for, and that tells us that we picked the right asteroid, and that tells us that our plans look at the detailed organic chemistry. That is the chemistry that is relevant to life and is inside waiting to be analyzed. The amounts are so high, that means that should be an easier time than it could be. It means that we have the right plan, the right tools, the right people to conduct this and that we should anticipate lots of exciting discoveries about the nature of the organic compounds and the volatiles in the water and the minerals to be capping over the next two years for the science team and the next decades for humanity.

>> Alice Carruth: And my understanding is you haven't actually had the opportunity to open the main capsule yet. Why is that? What is it that's kind of caused that delay for you to be able to see the full sample?

>> Jason Dworkin: So it's a complex device. We've opened up the capsule, and inside the capsule is the canister, and inside the canister is the TAGSAM head. Inside the TAGSAM head is the main SAM. So we've opened up everything except for the TAGSAM head. That's been flipped over. We saw the rocks that were on the surface of it. There was a lot of dust that went to the outside where we need to be patient, because every, every speck of dust is important. To rush and open it up right now would damage -- assure that we wouldn't have a chance to properly put it in containers. So instead of barreling forward into the main sample, we need to be patient and make sure that we do our duties, make -- be responsible for the future generations of sampling analysts, to make sure we've taken all proper care for all the sample on the outside, but that's all put away, because one, it could be a different type of material, because there was a process that pulled material out of the inside of the canister and got it through the perf plates, through the walls of the TAGSAM head. So there was some physics that happened there. So we already have a natural sample distribution. So we want to preserve that. But also, as I said that every speck is precious. Every drain of dust is a new discovery waiting to happen. So let's not throw it away to save a couple of weeks.

>> Maria Varmazis: Overnight storms have delayed the launch of NASA's next asteroid mission. Psyche was due to take off this morning on a SpaceX Falcon heavy from Florida, but unfavorable weather overnight has pushed back the launch window until Friday morning. The pesky leak on the Russian module on the International Space Station has, unfortunately, caused further issues for the US Space Agency. NASA postponed a spacewalk that was planned for today, October 12th, and have already postponed an EVA planned for October 20th. NASA says its engineering and flight control teams are continuing to review data and video associated with a coolant leak from a backup radiator on the station's Nauka Multipurpose Laboratory Module. US Space Systems Command is seeking proposals from US companies, academia, and others to partner on advances in space domain awareness through Project Apollo. The first three-month innovation cycle kicks off on October 26th at Space System Command's newly opened Space Domain Awareness Tools, Applications, and Technology Lab also known as TAP in Colorado Springs. We've added the link to the SDA TAP Lab in our show notes for further details. Auriga Space has come out of stealth mode and announced $5 million in initial funding towards their proposed electromagnetic space launch system. Auriga says their electromagnetic technology simplifies the launch mechanism and reduces its mass and need for fuel. The result of this, they say more efficient and less expensive launches. The company plans to use the funding to advance prototypes and expand their Los Angeles base. Scientists in China have started building the world's largest deep-sea Neutrino telescope in the Western Pacific Ocean. The project known as Trident is expected to study the universe's most extreme phenomena, such as supernova explosions and black hole eruptions. The telescope is expected to be completed in 2030.

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That concludes our daily briefing for today. We have our conversation with Emily Dwinnells about the Maine Space Conference still to come. And if you want to find out more details about any of the stories we've mentioned in this episode, you can find links to further reading in our show notes. 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, and we'd like to hear from you. So just 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 today is the program coordinator for the Maine Space Complex. Emily Dwinnells shares with us some more details about Maine's Space Conference, which is taking place in Portland, Maine on November 5th through 7th. And yes, T-Minus will be there, and we've included a link to register in our show notes if you want to join us.

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>> Emily Dwinnells: This is our first Maine Space Conference. It is going to be held in Portland, Maine, on the dates of November 5th through 7th. So we'll kick off Sunday evening, and we'll be wrapping up Tuesday afternoon, and we've got a pretty exciting agenda. We're going to cover a lot of different topics ranging from education, and the future of space, as well as some of the operational aspects of space, running a space port, space data analytics, space start-ups and business funding, as well as policy and sustainability. So we've got a pretty wide array of topics, and we're excited to put that in the frame of Maine. I think we have a pretty exciting agenda, and we'd love to tell you what we're up to.

>> Maria Varmazis: Excellent. So I'm going to ask the question. Many people, I'm sure, have asked you why Maine? Like what's going on in Maine that we want to put a spaceport there. What is going on that is of interest to Maine about space?

>> Emily Dwinnells: Excellent question. So a fun fact that very few people know, although some who have maybe visited the state have some sense of is that Maine actually has this unique geographic advantage where it hangs out over the eastern seaboard. It's not just a straight shot up the coast. It actually hangs out over the coastline and that puts it in a great location, geographically relative to the rest of the states, to launch southerly into polar orbit. And as some of your followers may know, polar orbit is pretty hot right now because it's where most of the activity happening in low-earth orbit is launching into. So, it's a natural advantage that we have that we realized and decided to explore further. I was kind of leading that initially, but as it's developed and the program has developed, and the concept of the space complex has developed, it's actually grown beyond just the ability to launch from Maine. It's also looking at our data and analytic resources in Maine and what kind of expertise and knowledge cluster we have there, as well as innovation. And we've got around 85 companies that are related to the aerospace-based industry in Maine right now. So we've got a small but mighty sort of corps there. So it's a combination of what we're doing in terms of building upon that strategic advantage to get more rockets into polar orbit, as well as our natural knowledge clusters and expertise.

>> Maria Varmazis: I know workforce development is something that you are particularly very interested in. And I know you're leading a breakout session on that during the event. So first, before I get into the breakout, I wanted to ask you sort of what the State of Maine is doing in terms of workforce development for the space industry.

>> Emily Dwinnells: So Maine actually has a really deep history, and again, a skill cluster or knowledge cluster around manufacturing, and you know, with everything that happened during COVID, the onshoring of a lot of pieces and parts of the entire value chain of space, as well as, sort of, you know, more proprietary parts. Maine has got an excellent sort of base of manufacturing that isn't necessarily focused on space wholly but has adjacent skill sets that lend itself really well to space. And from the workforce development research we've done, that is one of the areas we found companies really struggle is with those technical jobs that just can't be filled in other areas. So we've got a robust tech school network here and programs, and we are working right now to collaborate with the state and other organizations to develop those and have that space lens put over those skill sets so that they can graduate into the space market. So it's not just tech, it's also, you know, the four-year degree and, and advanced degree component, as well, but it's got a good balance of the two.

>> Maria Varmazis: That makes a lot of sense. Yeah, so, transitioning into sort of what you will be discussing, your breakout session is called addressing the workforce shortage, which is such a hot topic in aerospace. I mean, it's like all everybody's talking about. So I would love to get your thoughts, maybe what you're thinking of. maybe directing in the breakout session a little preview if you would.

>> Emily Dwinnells: Sure. Well, this became a really interesting point of focus for me specifically because I've been working on the strategy around Maine's place or, you know, future place in the space market. And one of the things we realized is that we are, you know, vying for a position with other space-forward states like California, like Texas, like Florida, and they've got a lot of money to spend. Maine's tax base is a little bit -- it's a lot smaller. And one of the ways that we could compete is really by addressing the workforce shortage. So if companies want to enter the space industry and they want a high-quality workforce, we felt that Maine was well positioned because of that manufacturing base and because of the regional expertise that we have with schools like MIT, you know, the University of Maine, University of New Hampshire, Dartmouth, other schools, that have you know, capabilities in the advanced degrees. It was a nice way to create a niche or advantage for us that wasn't as focused on funding from the state level. In this breakout, we are going to look at what those roles are. You know, what various pieces of the value chain in space are really struggling with in terms of hiring and how to address that going forward.

>> Maria Varmazis: It is great that Maine can not only has its great robust talent pool, but it also can pull from neighboring states. So we're really not far from each other.

>> Emily Dwinnells: It's true. You know, you can get to most places in New England within, you know, within two to four hours. And we've got a real advantage in that way in that we've got some intellectual heavyweights in the area, a big concentration of them, as well as a, a great network of, of those technical trade schools.

>> Maria Varmazis: It's in a great spot to benefit from so many different things going on in the state and the region. So that's, that's fantastic. I wanted to just check in if there's anything else that maybe I forgot to ask about the main space conference that we wanted to give a plug to. I wanted to make sure that we do that.

>> Emily Dwinnells: The first Space Conference we're really interested and focused on raising awareness about who we are, what we're doing. Like I said earlier, Maine has, you know, in some ways, the state as a whole, has a bit of a marketing challenge, in that they just don't work at them. So, we're really getting the word out around what we're doing in the space industry here in Maine. What the future kind of vision for the Maine space complex is. How we hope to develop it and really giving those who are interested a sense of what we're up to here and what we hope to achieve over the next, you know, five-10 years, with regard to the space complex. So it's an opportunity for us to introduce ourselves and get to know other people and also talk about what we have going right now and the direction we're going in so that we can get others who are interested on board.

>> Maria Varmazis: It's just really exciting to hear this. Again, this is personal for me because I'm just like, as a space nerd who's lived in New England her whole life, it's so exciting to think of something more local as opposed to like, you have to go to Florida or you have to go to California. So.

>> Emily Dwinnells: That's right. And I'm sure, also, as many of your listeners know our core launches really, primarily, take place out in California, and they've started to take place a little bit in Cape Canaveral and also in Kodiak, Alaska. But there really isn't another location that's happening, that's launching very frequently into polar orbit, and it's a challenge to get on the manifest. So there is a demand for this, and we hope to -- we hope to be able to create the supply.

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

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Welcome back. The pace of progress in space happening in India is verging on blink and you'll miss it. So in case you missed it, and honestly, you might have keep an eye on October 21st as the next date of interest for India's Space Program. October 21st, says ISRO, is when they'll launch an empty module to space and then bring it back to Earth. Okay, maybe that's not so interesting on its face, but this launch and return is a test for India's Gaganyan Mission planned for next year, which will be the country's first crewed mission to space. The test flight happening on the 21st will include testing of the capsule's crew escape system, which can eject astronauts in emergencies. There's another test flight that needs to happen after October 21st, and that one will carry a female robot named Vyommitra. Well, she's kind of more of a half robot since she's only kind of an upper half, but she does have a realisticish head and articulated arms. But that is not a ding on her because she's bilingual. So on that front, she's doing a lot better than a lot of people I know. The pandemic pushed out the original 2022 timeline a bit understandably, but it's expected that the three Gaganyan crew will be launched at the end of 2024 from the Spaceport in Sriharikota, arrive in orbital space, experience the overview effect, and then splash down safely in the Indian Ocean. I've got the 21st of October marked on my calendar, and I'm wishing India all the best on its upcoming test flights.

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That's it for T-Minus for October 12, 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 Elliot Peltzman and Trey Hester, with original music and sound design by Eliot 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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