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Psyched for Psyche.

NASA launches its Psyche mission. The SLS audit report is released announcing a new contract. Maersk buys Starlink for 330 of its vessels. And more.





Psyche lifts off from Florida to study a metal-rich asteroid with the same name. NASA is preparing to award a sole-sourced services contract, known as the Exploration Production and Operations Contract to Deep Space Transport, LLC, a newly formed joint venture of The Boeing Company and Northrop Grumman Systems Corporation for Artemis V. Maersk has announced that it will be adding SpaceX’s Starlink to more than 330 container ships, and more.

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T-Minus Guest

On October 14, an annular solar eclipse will cross North, Central, and South America. This eclipse will be visible for millions of people, but what causes an annular eclipse and how does it differ from a total eclipse? We ask Dr. Chas Miller from New Mexico State University’s Astronomy Department.

You can connect with Chas on LinkedIn and learn more about the eclipse here.

Selected Reading

Psyche - NASA Science

IG-24-001 - NASA's Transition of the Space Launch System to a Commercial Services Contract

Maersk signs deal with Starlink for its Ocean fleet | Press Release

Starlink - Direct to Cell

Stratolaunch Announces Contract with US Air Force Research Laboratory

Joint Statement on U.S.-Singapore Space Dialogue - United States Department of State

New satellite agreement to strengthen strategic partnership between France and Mongolia | Thales Alenia Space

Big Bang: Cardiff uni part of space telescope mission - BBC News

Bezos Splits with Orbital Reef. Now what? - SpaceWatch.Global

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[ Music ]

>> Maria Varmazis: We're all psyched for Psyche and I thought we need to go with some metal puns or jokes to start our show with today. And I have a feeling I might regret this but, Alice, do you know any good ones?

>> Alice Carruth: I do, Maria. Okay. The adjective for metal is metallic but not so for iron, which is ironic, don't you think?

>> Maria Varmazis: Okay. Thanks, Alanis. What have I started?

>> Alice Carruth: I've got another one. Okay. All day long I drill holes in metal and bolt them together. At first, it's boring, then it's riveting.

>> Maria Varmazis: Ah, okay. I promise we won't let her do this for the rest of this show.

>> Alice Carruth: You're such a party pooper.

[ Music ]

>> Maria Varmazis: Today is the 13th of October. Happy 248th birthday to the US Navy. I'm Maria Varmazis.

>> Alice Carruth: I'm Alice Carruth and this is "T-Minus".

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>> Maria Varmazis: NASA launches its Psyche mission. The SLS audit report is released announcing a new contract, Maersk buys Starlink for 330 of its vessels.

>> Alice Carruth: And Maria will be speaking to Dr. Chas Miller from New Mexico State University's Astronomy Department about tomorrow's annual eclipse.

[ Music ]

>> Maria Varmazis: On to today's intelligence roundup. Come on feel the noise. It was no quiet riot for NASA's Psyche mission today, which successfully lifted off from Kennedy Space Center on its SpaceX Falcon Heavy ride this morning. And it also has since successfully deployed. It's on its six-year 2.2-billion-mile journey now to study the deep space asteroid Psyche which has long caught the attention of astronomers for being really reflective because it appears Psyche is almost all metal, which is weird because we usually think of asteroids as being more ice and rock, and easy listening than heavy metal.

What else is made of metal though? Well, our planet's core. So, Psyche's metal composition has some scientists theorizing that it could have been the start of a planet some time ago. And by studying it, we can hopefully better understand how our planet's core came to be. But that's just one theory because Psyche could be made of rock and metal, or mostly all metal, or possibly something else entirely. We won't know until we can study it more closely. And onboard Psyche are a multispectral imager, a gamma ray, and neutron spectrometer, and a magnometer to help scientists do just that.

So, when will we start unraveling this metal mystery? Well, Psyche's average distance from the sun is three astronomical units so it's not exactly close by. The mission Psyche spacecraft will make a quick swing by Mars for a gravity assist in 2026 and then it's expected to arrive at Psyche herself who is the width of Massachusetts minus Cape Cod apparently, hanging out between Mars and Jupiter in 2029.

>> Alice Carruth: NASA's Office of the Inspector General has released an audit of the space launch system known as SLS. NASA's total Artemis campaign costs are projected to reach 93 billion US dollars from fiscal year 2012 through 2025, with SLS program cost representing 26% of that total. In an effort to increase the affordability of Artemis, NASA is preparing to award a sole-source services contract known as the Exploration Production and Operations Contract to Deep Space Transport LLC.

A newly-formed joint venture of the Boeing Company and Northrop Grumman services corporation for the production services integration and launch of at least five on up to 10 SLS flights beginning with Artemis 5 in 2029. Boeing and Northrop Grumman currently supply the SLS core and upper stages on boosters that power the SLS. The audit projects that a single SLS rocket produced under the new award will cost approximately $2.5 billion. A figure NASA hopes to reduce by 50% through workforce reductions, manufacturing and contracting efficiencies, and expanding the SLS's user base. The report warns that failure to achieve substantial savings will significantly hinder the sustainability of NASA's deep space human exploration efforts. You can read the full report by following the link in our show notes.

>> Maria Varmazis: European logistics company Maersk has announced that it will be adding SpaceX's Starlink to more than 330 container ships. The internet service is expected to be completed by early 2024 and is expected to provide internet speeds of 200 megabits per second. Maersk says the connections will bring significant benefits in terms of both crew welfare and business impact. The new deal follows positive testing on 30 Maersk vessels.

>> Alice Carruth: And in another update for SpaceX's Starlink service, the space company has released a new website promoting Starlink for cell phone services. The Starlink Direct to Cell page boasts a tagline "Seamless access to text, voice, and data for long-term evolution for LTE phones across the globe." SpaceX says Direct to Cell will also connect the Internet of Things or IoT devices with common LTE standards. The tech service is expected to roll out in 2024 with voice and data and IoT following in 2025.

>> Maria Varmazis: Stratolaunch has announced a contract with the US Air Force Research Lab to conduct the first flight test of the company's second reusable Talon-A hypersonic test vehicle, also known as TA-3. Talon-A vehicles are rocket-powered, autonomous test beds with the ability to fly a variety of hypersonic flight profiles while carrying customized payload experiments on board. This is the second contract between Stratolaunch and AFRL, which supported the TA-1 launch late last year. No details about when the test flight would be held were shared in the press release.

>> Alice Carruth: The United States and Singapore held the first bilateral space dialogue in Washington DC earlier this week. The meeting was designed to strengthen bilateral exchanges and entrench cooperation in civil space matters. Both delegations were represented by a range of ministries and agencies involved in civil space activities. The nations discussed the observation, expanding cooperation on space-related use cases such as maritime domain and joint efforts to promote the sustainability of the after-space environment. The discussions concluded with both nations agreeing to continue to work together and to explore joint research and development collaborations, policy discussions, industry engagements, and educational exchanges.

>> Maria Varmazis: Thales Alenia Space has signed a partnership agreement with the Mongolia Ministry of Digital Development and Communications. The deal was signed in the presence of the President of Mongolia and the President of France during the Mongolian President's state visit to France. Thales Alenia Space will build a Ku Band satellite to be named "Chinggis Sat" after Mongolia's national hero Chinggis Khan aka Genghis Khan that will make high-speed internet available throughout Mongolia. The communication satellite will enable wider access to services such as telemedicine, e-learning, e-government services, and support the growth of high value-add sectors of Mongolia's economy.

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>> Alice Carruth: And that concludes our briefing for today. You'll find links to further reading on all the stories we've mentioned in our show notes. And we've included a few extra, one on Cardiff University's involvement in the LiteBIRD telescope and an opinion piece on what's next for Orbital Reef. They're all at space.n2k.com and click on this episode title.

>> Maria Varmazis: Hey, "T-Minus" crew, tune in tomorrow for "T-Minus Deep Space", our show for extended interviews, special editions, and deep dives with some of the most influential professionals in the space industry. And tomorrow we have Dr. Chas Miller talking about the annular solar eclipse. Check it out while you're mowing a lawn, grocery shopping, folding laundry, maybe before the eclipse happens, or driving your kids to the game. You definitely don't want to miss it.

[ Music ]

>> Alice Carruth: So, Maria, I went to the Sunspot Solar Observatory in New Mexico this weekend and I learned some really cool facts. Did you know that the Earth is the only planet in our solar system that experiences a solar eclipse?

>> Maria Varmazis: I honestly did not know that, no.

>> Alice Carruth: So, apparently the Sun, which is 400 times larger than our moon is also 400 times the distance away from the Earth and that's what makes them appear to be the same size in our sky.

>> Maria Varmazis: Okay. Well, Dr. Chas Miller did not mention that when I spoke to him earlier this week. But I did talk to him about what causes an annular eclipse and he got into the details with me. And Dr. Chas Miller is from New Mexico State University's Astronomy Department so he was the perfect person to walk me through it.

>> Dr. Chas Miller: On the 14th, we're going to see a solar eclipse. So, that is when the Moon passes between the Earth and the Sun, so blocks out part or all of the Sun. So, the upcoming eclipse is called an annular eclipse. And so, I can talk a little bit about what that word means. It doesn't mean yearly. In fact, solar eclipses can occur as often as twice a year, they don't happen every month. They can happen as common as twice a year. But as you mentioned, they don't happen everywhere on the Earth. The shadow of the Moon is actually quite small when it reaches the Earth. So, there is a limited area on the Earth where you can see a given solar eclipse. Of course, it has to be daytime during the time that the eclipse is occurring for you to be able to see it, so half the Earth couldn't possibly see it. But even on the side --

>> Maria Varmazis: Yeah, makes a lot of sense.

>> Dr. Chas Miller: Yeah, but the side that can see the Sun, not everyone will see it because the Moon won't line up exactly from where they are. So, when you have a particular solar eclipse, you can go online and look at maps and they'll show you, it looks like little strips, they go across, and that's actually the path of how the shadow will pass on the Earth during that particular eclipse. So, you need to be somewhere in that region if you want to be able to see something interesting.

>> Maria Varmazis: Who is going to be able to see the one on the 14th? Because I'm in the Northeast, I know I'm not going to be able to see it, but who is going to be able to see this one?

>> Dr. Chas Miller: So, this is going to be mainly something that people can see in the Western United States. If you want to see the full eclipse, which we'll talk about what that means in a minute. I'm looking at a map right now and that will pass through Oregon, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, Texas, and then off into the Gulf of New Mexico. People to the sides, there's sort of a strip there, and that's where we'll talk about this "ring of fire". But if you're not on that path, you can still see the Moon passing in front of the Sun off to the side a little bit, it won't be passing directly through the middle of the Sun from your viewpoint, but you'll still see a chunk of the Sun being taken out over time and then see something else. But all the way off on the East Coast, that will be -- you'll still be able to see maybe something. So, it depends on where you are on the East Coast, you'll be able to see a little bit of the edge of the Sun get eclipsed during the time there. So, you can still do that with proper eye viewing, I must say first. You make sure that you have proper eye protection, you'll be able to look at that even as far out as the East Coast if you want to.

>> Maria Varmazis: Indeed, please do not look directly at the Sun, in case you didn't know that. My favorite little thing that comes with telescopes is please do not point your telescope at the Sun.

>> Dr. Chas Miller: Right, right. Yeah. Is anyone who noticed who's ever taken a magnifying glass and burned things using the Sun, imagine doing that to your eye? You would never want to do that. So, there are filters you can buy or that can be purchased that can filter the Sun to look at through things. But most times people don't have those and telescopes don't usually come with them. Find a group, you know, an astronomy group that may have those, search those out on the internet locally and you could then use their equipment because they know what they're doing. They use it properly, it's safe. But don't anyone else do that because that's even worse than staring at the Sun with your own eyes.

>> Maria Varmazis: Yeah, I mean, I'm laughing and I appreciate the disclaimer that my telescope came with. For all of us who have like a little one at home to look at the Moon with, you know, definitely do not point it at the Sun. All right. So, we've given the obligatory disclaimer. So, let's get into the different types of eclipses. So, I always feel funny saying annual versus annular because, to me, I live in the Boston Area so I always feel like Boston is coming out "annular". But it's not.

>> Dr. Chas Miller: It sounds like that.

>> Maria Varmazis: They're two different things, just a little bit. And then there's also a partial total, all that. So, yeah, please walk me through it.

>> Dr. Chas Miller: So, actually annular is a type of partial eclipsed. The partial eclipse means that the entire bright surface of the Sun, that the blinding part is not going to be totally covered. So, there's a total eclipse, we'll talk about later, and there will be an interesting example of that in next spring. This will not be that. But there will always for everybody who can see the Sun, even in the middle path, see the eclipse, you will be able to still see part of the bright part of the Sun, which means you must have eye protection at all times.

But if you are in the central path, the Moon is going to pass directly in front of the Sun but it won't be big enough because it's in its part of its orbit where it's a little bit closer -- or a little bit farther from the Earth than average so it looks a little bit smaller in the sky. It won't cover the whole disk of the Sun, and you'll see a little ring of the Sun still even when the Moon is directly in front of it. That ring is a shape of an annulus so that's therefore an annular eclipse and that's where that term comes from. And, you know, the fancy term is ring of fire but it's simply the Sun that you can still see if you look at the eclipse during the middle part and the Moon is right in front of it.

>> Maria Varmazis: For our friends who are not up on their Latin an annulus is a ring. Okay. So, if I understand correctly, you have done some eclipse chasing in your life.

>> Dr. Chas Miller: A little bit. Actually the very first -- you know, I've seen lots of partial eclipses, you know, because, again, you can see them from far away. I've seen an annular eclipse before ironically in Albuquerque. The very first one I ever saw was in 2012. It happened to directly pass over Albuquerque and weirdly enough, this one will too. So, Albuquerque got lucky in a way that happens to be sort of in a central path of two different annular eclipses so close together. That's an unusual thing to happen. The very first total eclipse I ever saw, I did travel like a lot of people did in the United States in 2017 to see the pass of that total eclipse. And so, I caught that in Nebraska.

And then more recently, a friend of mine who had graduated from grad school with me invited my family to go join him in Australia. We travelled out there to see the latest total solar eclipse which is only viewable in a tiny section of Australia. And so, we traveled there in April and saw the total eclipse there as well. So, there's people who do this all the time when they've seen them everywhere on the Earth. So, that's my minor history of chasing that I hope to keep doing that next April when there's another one, not here in New Mexico, but close enough for just -- for me to go take a look at it.

>> Maria Varmazis: I'm curious because I've only seen a partial eclipse in my life, and that was the 2017 one when I was up here, it was partial. I remember the weird shadows on the ground, but I've never -- I have only heard anecdotes of what it's like to see a total eclipse of any kind, and I'm just really curious what it's like to experience that like what you see.

>> Dr. Chas Miller: Yeah, I've seen annular and that was before I ever saw total eclipse. And like I say, the whole Sun doesn't get covered, like over 90% does so you think, oh, it must get really dark. And it surprisingly doesn't. If you're looking around, it's still very daylight but it's a weird light even then. Like you said, it's kind of like a partial but a very deep partial eclipse where it almost seems like it's overcast but you don't see any clouds so it's like an eerie kind of light. But it's still pretty bright.

But at the total, right at the very last minute or so when those last parts of the bright part of the Sun are getting covered, the light changes pretty rapidly and it starts to go from that, you know, what we saw in the annular, to darkness. So, when you finally have the Moon totally covering the disk of the Sun, the sky above you is dark and you can see a few stars, you know, or these Venus, a couple of planets. It's not totally black where you are, it's not like nighttime. It's really weird because you can see on the horizon light because what you are in at that moment is a tube of shadow, which is moving across the Earth and it happens to be passing over you at that time.

So, all around you, miles and miles away, they are still in daylight. And you can see a ring of light, it almost looks like sunset all around you at that moment. So, but it's an odd feeling because then it's dark and what you see in the sky, you can look at with your own eye, that you don't need eye protection at that time. You can see the corona of the Sun, that's part of the Sun you can't see because the sky is too bright, it drowns it all out, but you can, at that time, see this weird glowy aura with a black disk in the middle of it just floating in the sky. It's a really odd sight and really cool. You only get a few minutes to look at it before you have to put your eye protection back on. But the feeling is the same.

And I've heard people say like it gets really cold. It does feel a little cooler, especially if you're in a place where the Sun is beating down on you. Those last minutes, you can actually tell that it gets a little bit chillier, you know, it seems like the birds get quiet or something. That might be just a feeling. You know, sort of with people, you start to get quiet. You just look at like, ooh, that's weird. And they don't know what to do, except to stare at it, which is really cool. So, there's sort of this little hush, at least where I was, where that happens because everyone is, you know, just staring at the sky.

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>> Maria Varmazis: We'll be right back. Welcome back. And I'm a little envious of folks who are going to be able to see the annular eclipse happening tomorrow. I am absolutely nowhere near the eclipse path for this one, unfortunately. And I am doubly if not triply envious of anyone who is going to get to see the eclipse while riding on a hot air balloon. The Annual International Balloon Fiesta that happens in Albuquerque, New Mexico has been going on since the 9th of October, and it's continuing through this weekend. If you've ever seen photos of dozens and dozens of colorful and unusually shaped hot air balloons looming over a beautiful desert vista, that is probably a photo from the Balloon Fiesta.

And if you're attending this year, you undoubtedly already know this, but for those of us who have it on our bucket list and are not going to be there this year, this year's festival is extra special. So, attendees of this year's fiesta tomorrow will not only have a perfect vantage point to see the annular eclipse happening tomorrow morning but the festival will also be taking advantage of the eclipse's darkness and lighting up more than 70 hot air balloons at once. It's called a balloon glow if you want to use the official term, which is something that normally can only happen at night.

So, if you're going to be there and don't have safety gear for taking a look at the eclipse safely, don't worry, NASA is also going to be at the Balloon Fiesta and they'll be giving out about 80,000 solar sunglasses for anyone who forgot theirs at home. An annular solar eclipse over a massive hot air balloon festival on a Saturday no less. I'm psyched for all of the photographers who will be there and I cannot wait to see the pictures. And, yeah, I'm feeling a wee bit envious of anyone who gets to be there in person, just a bit.

[ Music ]

>> Alice Carruth: That's it for "T-Minus" for Friday, October the 13th, 2023. For additional resources from today's report, check out our show notes at space.n2k.com. 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 we delivered the information that keeps you a step ahead in a rapidly changing space industry. We are 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.

>> Maria Varmazis: 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. Learn more at n2k.com. This episode was produced by Alice Carruth. Mixing by Elliott Peltzman and Tré 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. Have a great weekend.

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