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Hurt by space debris? Call Lee’s injury attorneys.

FAA looks at risks associated with reentry disposal of satellites. SpaceX launches twice in one day from Florida. ISRO says the US wants its tech. And more.





The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) releases its paper on “Risk Associated with Reentry Disposal of Satellites from Proposed Large Constellations in LEO”. A SpaceX Falcon 9 carrying 22 Starlink internet satellites into space lifted off from Florida’s Space Coast just eight hours and 42 minutes after a Falcon Heavy launched the Psyche mission. India’s Space Research Organization chairman S Somanath says the US has appealed to India to share space technology with them after seeing the development of Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft, and more.

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T-Minus Guest

Our Guest today is ASCEND Speaker and CEO of SCOUT Space, Eric Ingram.

You can connect with Eric on LinkedIn, learn more about SCOUT on their website and join him at ASCEND next week.

Selected Reading

P.L. 116-260 Risks Associated with Reentry Disposal of Satellites from Large Constellations


Readout of Low Earth Orbit Research and Development Workshop- The White House

SpaceX knocked out 2nd Space Coast launch on same day as Falcon Heavy success – Orlando Sentinel

Impressed by Chandrayaan-3, American space experts wanted India to sell its tech to US: ISRO chief- WION

Big money is back as space tech start-up raises $120m- Australia Financial Review

China launches Earth-observing satellite - CGTN

China to launch Shenzhou-17 spacecraft to its space station in October - CGTN

It’s a new dawn for Dhruva Space, revealing grand plans for its 280,000 square-foot Design, Engineering, Assembly, Integration & Testing Facility for large-scale Spacecraft Manufacturing- PR

Spectrum Venture Ligado Nears Bankruptcy After Government Talks Collapse - WSJ

America officially has its first Space Ranger - Task & Purpose

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>> Maria Varmazis: Hi listeners, before I start on the news for today, just a quick heads up. Are you a fellow catastrophizer? Do you really, really not need to know new fun and exotic ways to potentially die because you've already kinda got a long list? Then you might want to hang on tight for this next one, because yay! New nightmare fuel just dropped.

[ T-Minus Intro ]

Today is October 16,2023. I am Maria Varmazis, and this is T-Minus. The FAA releases a paper on the risks associated with reentry disposal of satellites. Space X launches twice in one day from Florida. ISRO says the US wants its space tech and T-Minus is heading to Ascend in Las Vegas next week, so all week this week we'll be featuring speakers from the event starting with SCOUT Space's CEO, Eric Ingram. And now, onto today's intelligence briefing. The FAAs been noticing with a number of satellites in low Earth orbit has mushroomed as of late, and thought hmm, has anyone looked into the number of how that many satellites might impact us here on Earth? Should they reenter the Earth's atmosphere and not entirely burn up? Yeah. So, the FAA contacted the aerospace corporation to look into this and do the math. The report from the FAA took a close look especially at Starlink satellites because well, there are a lot of them. And the report says that "Yes. Starlink satellites are designed to fully burn up," or in the lingo, "Demise on reentry." So, should that hold true? The risk of space debris to those of us on Earth should remain zero. However, the FAA and the aerospace corporations report argues that "Despite Space X's claim of fully demiseable Starlink satellites, inevitably, statistically, some don't burn up completely as designed." So, if you multiply those edge cases by the sheer number of Starlink satellites expected by, oh I don't know, 2035, and the numbers aren't exactly great news as we seek to put more and more and more satellites into LEO. So, the new report from the FAA to Congress says that by 2035, if the number of satellite constellations grows to projected levels -- and I'm going to quote the FAA executive summary here: "85-percent of the expected risk to people on the ground and aviation from reentering debris in 2035 are from Starlink satellites. If that happens, the report projects that quote, 'The total number of hazardous fragments surviving reentries each year is expected to reach 28,000. And the casualty expectation,' -- which is the number of individuals on the ground predicted to be injured or killed by debris surviving the reentries of satellites being disposed from these constellations would be 0.6 per year. Which means that one person on the planet would be expected to be injured or killed every two years.'" But wait, there's more! The report goes on to say this: "Some debris fragments would also be a hazard to people in aircraft. Projecting 2019 global air traffic to 2035, and assuming that a fragment that would injure or kill a person on the ground would also be capable of fatally damaging an aircraft, the probability of an aircraft downing accident -- defined in Aerospace Report as a collision with an aircraft downing object in 2035, would be 0.0007 per year." Well, that is lovely Monday morning reading. Especially as the United States and China are working fast on their own military satellite's constellations in LEO, to say nothing of global businesses like OneWeb and Amazon Project Hyper, and of course, the aforementioned Starlink owning Space X. Which, as you can imagine, really took issue with being directly called out in this report and wrote their own response directly to Congress. And the letter from Space X, obtained by Ars Technica, was penned by Space X principal engineer, David Goldstein, and says the report by the FAA, "Relied in error on a deeply flawed analysis that falsely characterizes reentry disposal risks associated with Starlink, while failing to evaluate reentry disposal from any other large constellation operator whether US or foreign." The letter goes on to refute some base assumptions in the FAA's report, saying that it relies on, "Flawed methods and outdated studies developed decades ago," and that crucially current Starlink satellites have a, "Greater than 99-percent success rate for post-mission disposal." Space X, I want to believe, I really do. And listeners, you can do the reading and form your own conclusions on this one. We have links to the FAA's report as well as Space X's response letter in our show notes. Moving on. US Federal Departments and agencies gathered at a workshop last week to explore opportunities and potentially pivotal programs for collaborative low Earth orbit research. According to the White House, the participants discussed safety protocols and standards to ensure timely access and flight safety too, within and through, Leo, among other opportunities for research and development. Gotta wonder if the FAA report was mentioned at all. And we mentioned on Friday, the Space X liftoff transporting Psyche on the first leg of its mission to the asteroid of the same name. But, most impressively, it wasn't the only Space X mission on Friday. And it wasn't even the only launch in Florida. Eight hours and 42 minutes after the Falcon Heavy launched the Psyche Mission, a Falcon 9 carrying another 22 Starlink internet satellites into space lifted off. It was the 56th launch from the Space Coast this year, just one launch shy of the record from the total number of launches in 2022. India's Space Research Organization Chairman, S. Somanath, says the US has appealed to India to share space technology with them after seeing the development of the Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft. Speaking at an event over the weekend, ISRO head, S. Somanath, said that five or six people from NASA JPL came to ISRO headquarters before the soft landing took place on August 23. S. Somanath told the crowd, quote, "We explained how we designed Chandrayaan-3 and how our engineers made it and how we're going to land on the moon's surface, and they just said, 'No comments. Everything's going to be good.'" He went on to say that the NASA employees asked him if they would sell the technology to America. Canberra based space technology company, Skykraft, has raised $120 million Australian dollars to fuel its ambitious aviation satellite vision. Skykraft aims to improve communications between air traffic control and aircraft flying over remote areas through their satellite communication constellation. The company has spent two years raising the funds needed to get hundreds of its satellites into low Earth orbit. Skykraft launched their first satellites to orbit on a Space X rocket in January, with a second batch joining them in June. China launched a new Earth observation satellite over the weekend. A Long March 2D rocket transported the Yunhai 104 satellite to orbit. China says the satellite will provide detection services of the atmosphere, sea, and space and will provide information that would aid disaster prevention and mitigation. And China has announced that it plans to launch its next Shenzhou-17 spacecraft this month. The next generation of the Shenzhou vehicle will head to Tiangong space station, docking with the forward port of the Tianhe core module of the China space station, forming a combination of three modules and three spaceships. Indian satellite company, Dhruva Space, has announced that it will soon start the construction of a 280,000 square foot manufacturing facility in Hyderabad. Dhruva expects to manufacture, assemble, and test large-scale satellite infrastructure at the new site. The building is expected to be completed in the next 18 to 24 months. 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 added a "Wall Street Journal" article on "Ongoing Spectrum Legal Arguments" for some extra-light reading. T-Minus is heading to Ascend in Las Vegas on October 23 through 25. So, this week we're featuring speakers from the event starting with SCOUT Space's CEO, Eric Ingram. And I started off by asking Eric to explain the mission of Scout Space.

>> Eric Ingram: SCOUT is an acronym -- or a backronym; we're not sure which one -- that stands for Space Craft Observing and Understanding Things. So, we like to make it a -- a cheeky, easy-to-define thing about what we're doing. But spacecraft autonomy is definitely area-focused for the company. You could think about it, the same vision systems in software that a Tesla uses to navigate autonomously. We're developing similar things but for satellites. And space is pretty crowded and it's going to get quite a bit more crowded over the next decade. The number of active satellites in orbit is expected to increase 40x in that time. The way space craft usually move is with human-in-the-loop operations to reduce risk, at least previously, you know, humans basically had to be there to sign off or digitally sign off with what the maneuver is and make sure things are going well. As you increase the quantity of maneuvers happening in space; as you increase the complexity of those maneuvers, especially with things like satellite servicing becoming the norm, hopefully, human-in-the-loop actually invites more risk. The timelines and distances associated with these maneuvers are ones that -- that the latency involved with having a human click the ne-- you know, go to next step button, are risky and invites danger and invites mistakes. So, especially with the rapid increase in compute power and capabilities with machine learning and computer vision, all that fun stuff, this is an area that is right for modernization and I think we're -- we're doing a pretty good job of making it there.

>> Maria Varmazis: So, when I think about where we are right now in terms of safety in space, how do we get to the goal of having our satellites not have all these near misses, and how do we get to that place we really need to be?

>> Eric Ingram: The short answer is being collectively proactive. Unfortunately, humanity is not really a very proactive species. But we're at a point right now where we've not yet crossed the precipice that ends us in the wild-e future where space is unusable. So, we have time now where we can put norms in place, regulations, common practices. Work on these things that can get us all on the same page of how to sustainably operate in orbit, and the things we need to do to ensure the utility of that commons in the future. You know, it's going to come down to business agreements. It's going to come down to regulations. It's going to come down to industry groups. It's going to come down to politics. A lot of that stuff in technology, and a lot of that interconnects and interweaves to make it a very complex ecosystem. But, you know, if we have these channels of dialog where we're able to share data, share knowledge about the things around us and work towards common understanding of what's going on in orbit so that we can all at least have the same baseline understanding of what's happening around all of our assets in orbit. That is the first step in addition to all the other first steps. You know, there's a lot of good conversations going on. FCC, I think, just issued their first ever fine about improper leaving of a space craft in orbit. And so, there's -- the mindset is shifting, it's just a matter of whether we can collectively get there quick enough to ensure we don't have cleanup to do.

>> Maria Varmazis: Let's -- let's get into a little bit on -- on what you at SCOUT are actually doing. Like, what the technology is that you're deploying and how -- how you are approaching this problem. We touched on it a little bit, but could we get a little bit more in detail, please?

>> Eric Ingram: So, we are developing vision capabilities for satellites. What that practically means is we are developing the vision systems, meaning the actual payloads that go onboard customer's spacecraft and the software to make them smart. Most of our IP is on the software side, but unfortunately, most satellites do not have the sensors and compute onboard to handle what we need to do, so, we develop vision systems, which again, comprise of cameras and computer board which houses all of our capabilities. We connect directly with the host spacecraft that we're on to better enable or augment their mission. So, with these systems they can either utilize them for relative navigation for things like satellite servicing, or they can be used for long-range observations like space-to-man awareness in different orbital regimes. Those payloads, in turn, work as data collectors for us. So, we can utilize that data to not only train our models to -- to make them better so we can always be improving in our mission, but we can then repackage that data and -- and provide it to additional customer bases for their uses. So, i.e., things like space traffic management, national security related things, and everything in between.

>> Maria Varmazis: That's such a fascinating approach. And I would love to know a little bit about how you thought of that approach because it's not the way I often hear people trying to, "crack that nut," so to speak. So, it's a really interesting way of doing things.

>> Eric Ingram: The space industry is funny in that they're not always open to things that have worked in other industries. So, the model we utilize is not that much different from, like, a cell phone carrier. They sell you the phone and then they charge you for the data. But, you know, you have the phone, and you can use the phone wherever -- for whatever you want, but then you're paying for the data each month, that sort of thing. And there's plenty of other different industry examples that are similar to that. So, what we tried to do is look at innovative ways that we can incorporate proven business models in other industries into space. And we're actually finding a lot of attraction with this. So, we -- we've already ha-- got several commercial partners who either have or will have our vision systems onboard their spacecraft and providing them services and capabilities while also collecting that data that we can share with other customer bases down the road. So, we're able to generate revenue for the payload itself, but then generate hopefully recurring revenue on the data collected by those payloads. So, long-term benefit to both us and the host customer, and hopefully for the entirety of the space ecosystem as well. Because more data is more knowledge, and more knowledge is less risk.

>> Maria Varmazis: So, I'm going to totally switch topics now. At the end of this month, I know you'll be at Ascend in Vegas, and you will be moderating a panel there. Can you tell me a little bit about that panel that our listeners can look forward to?

>> Eric Ingram: The panel I'm hosting is on who gets the right of way in space? There are no industry standards. There is not a fully fleshed out regulatory ecosystem for what you're supposed to do in orbit. And this conversation is with -- with government personnel, it's with in-space propulsion providers, data collectors from ground-based data sources, and the users of the space commons, and trying to come to a consensus on what the pathway is forward. It's going to be a long time before we have fully fleshed out regulations in place. It's going to be a while before every nation gets onboard with something like that. But what can we utilize in the meantime? Can we stand up standards and norms of operations which can inform those regulatory developments and things like that? The more we can prove out on the commercial side before there is government intervention, the more we can either inform that regulatory development or ease the restrictions caused by those regulations. And then it's, you know, what do we use as those frameworks? So, slight preface, one of the things I'm going to be asking about is how do we relate it to analogist ecosystems on Earth? So, it's not going to be like air traffic management. We're not going to have space traffic controllers sitting at every orbit, you know, telling which satellite to go where, but will it be something like maritime law? The way that that has evolved over the last 600 years or so. And, you know, looking to get some, hopefully, exciting insight from the other panelists and I'm going to try to ask some hard-hitting questions that will, you know, hopefully shake them up a little bit and get some fun responses. But this is something we all need to figure out. Because it doesn't matter whether you're a spacecraft owner or operator, if you're going to use space for any reason, ensuring that humanity is using it safely and sustainably is of utmost importance.

>> Maria Varmazis: And that panel is on Monday, October 23 for our listeners who are attending Ascend. I want to bring it back to something that you mentioned at the beginning. I know making space accessible is something that you have done a lot of work in. It's something you talk a lot about -- and I would be remiss not to ask you about that. Can you tell me a little bit about any progress that's been made in that arena in the last few years. Has there been any progress there? Like, what -- what's been going on with making space more accessible?

>> Eric Ingram: Yeah. There's been a lot happening. We did fly a second official flight in December of last year, of which I took part, and I was leading the mobility impairment group. And what we're really working on is buying down the risk for people with disabilities to go currently on several little space flights. So, one of the big concerns by the separate little space flight providers is the ability for someone with a mobility impairment or visual impairment to get in and out of their seat safely in microgravity and make sure they're able to reaffix their harnesses in microgravity. And so, the experiment I led in December is we developed analogist seats that are similar to Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic. And for 15 travelers we practiced getting in and out of those seats in microgravity. And what we found -- I mean qualitatively; I don't know if we've quantified everything, is -- is we had zero known failures to safely ingress and egress the seats, which is huge. That dataset just didn't exist before. And while it sounds simple, stuff like that goes a long way in reducing the nerves associated with the unknown. And I have to say, Astra does have ongoing conversations with pretty much every human space flight company in some way, shape, or form and we're hoping to get more interactions with more of them and hopefully they incorporate our findings into their designs and, you know, hope we're -- we're gonna work one day, not just to do parabolic flights on Zero-G airplane, but hopefully get someone into space here in the next few years.

>> Maria Varmazis: We'll be right back. Welcome back. Now, you'd be forgiven for thinking that Buzz Lightyear is joining the space force after hearing the next headline. America officially has its first space ranger. No. Pixar isn't taking over, but Virgin Galactic is the only company with a former Disney exec in charge, as far as we know. But Captain Daniel Reynolds graduated from the US Military's Ranger School becoming the first space force guardian to earn a ranger tab. Now, if you don't know what Ranger School is, it's an elite leadership school, and graduating from it is a distinct and rare honor. And to do just that, just think of the absolutely hardest military exercises you can possibly imagine, and it's harder than that. The phrase, "Train to exhaustion." Gets invoked a lot. So, Hector Reynolds, he currently serves as a test director with Fourth Test and Evaluation Squadron, Space Delta 12. And as a Ranger, he'll be helping to test the space force's satellite communications capabilities. And as if all that wasn't impressive enough on its own, he also holds a Master of Science from MIT. So, congratulations to Captain Reynolds on becoming the United States' first space ranger! I have a feeling we'll be hearing about more achievements from him in the future. Perhaps, "To infinity and beyond." That's it for T-Minus for October 16, 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 that we deliver the information that keeps you a step ahead in the rapidly changing space industry. 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. 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 Eliott Peltzman and Trey Hester. With original music and sound design by Eliott Peltzman. Our executive producer is Brandon Carp. Our Chief Intelligence Officer is Eric Tillman, and I'm Maria Varmazis. Thanks for listening. We'll see you tomorrow.

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