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If you like it then you should put a Blue Ring on it.

Space Development Agency awards SpiderOak a new research agreement. Space investments are up in Q3. Blue Origin unveils its new spacecraft platform. And more.





The Space Development Agency is awarding SpiderOak a new research agreement, tasking them to look into integrating the company’s OrbitSecure software suite into the Space Force's Rapid Resilient Command and Control effort. Space Investment company SpaceCapital has released their third quarter findings showing space economy investments rose 17% YoY, totaling $3B across 103 companies. Blue Origin has unveiled a new spacecraft platform focused on providing in-space logistics and delivery, and more.

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T-Minus Guest

T-Minus is heading to ASCEND in Las Vegas next week so all week we will be featuring speakers from the event (there’s still time to join us- sign up here). Our guest today is Journalist Eliana Sheriff, better known as “Ellie in Space”.

You can connect with Eliana on LinkedIn and follow Ellie in Space on YouTube.

Selected Reading

Space Agency Awards SpiderOak Resilience Research Agreement- PR 

Space Investment Quarterly Reports

Blue Origin Unveils Multi-Mission, Multi-Orbit Space Mobility Platform

Starship fully stacked while team prepares for a launch rehearsal.

Starfighters Space Announces Two New Contracts to Help Provide Critical Research as the USA Ramps Up its Hypersonic Testing and Development Initiatives- PR

USNC Awarded $5M NASA Nuclear Propulsion Contract

​​Berkeley Space Center at NASA Ames to become innovation hub for new aviation, space technology

Request for Information - TraCSS Presentation Layer- SAM.gov

Indian Space Startup Raises $26.7 Million Series B To Launch Satellites Using 3D-Printed Rocket Engines- Forbes

Seraphim Space/Generation Space (USA) Accelerator Launches Mission 12

South Korean President Kicks Off ADEX With Export, Space Push- Aviation Week Network

How to make space-based solar power a reality

‘These Spam Callers Are Getting Out of Hand’: Dude Contacts the ISS With Homemade Antenna

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>> Maria Varmazis: The U.S. economy is massive by most standards. It's the world's largest economy by nominal GDP and the second largest by purchasing power. Yes, it is taking a bit of a beating right now with the crazy interest rates. Mortgage rates, for example, are expected to average at 6.7% for the year, but you know who isn't hurting? The space sector. Space economy investments rose 17% year-on-year in Q3, totaling $3 billion across 103 companies. And the government is handing out contracts like Halloween candy, all treats, hopefully no tricks.

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Today is October 17, 2023. I'm Maria Varmazis, and this is T-Minus.

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The Space Development Agency awards SpiderOak a new research agreement. Space investments are up in Q3. Blue Origin unveils its new spacecraft platform and more. And T-Minus is heading to ASCEND in Las Vegas next week. So all week this week we are featuring speakers from the event. And today, our producer Alice Carruth will be speaking to Ellie in Space. Stay with us.

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Let's take a look at our briefing for today, shall we? Rack up another win for space cybersecurity firm SpiderOak. They've announced that the Space Development Agency is awarding them a new research agreement tasking them to look into integrating SpiderOak's orbit secure software suite into the Space Force's rapid resilient command and control effort. This would be to secure command and control networks as the Space Force augments its satellite network with satellites run by allies and commercial organizations. As these satellite networks expand and government, civil, and commercial satellites all communicate with the ground and each other and back again more and more, there's a lot of sensitive data on the move, so the goal here is to keep that sensitive data secured as it moves across satellites or ground stations no matter who owns that satellite or ground station. There was no disclosed monetary amount attached to this research agreement with the Space Development Agency. It's worth noting that last month another space cybersecurity company, Xage, was awarded a $17 million dollar contract for a cybersecurity project with the U.S. Space Force's Space Systems Command. Space investment company Space Capital has released their third quarter findings. In Q3, space economy investments rose 17% year-on-year, totaling $3 billion across 103 companies. According to the report, over the last 10 years there's been $283.9 billion invested into 1,796 unique space companies. Space infrastructure companies brought in $1.6 billion of private investment during the third quarter. That brings the sector to $8.4 billion in investment year-to-date, surpassing the total $8.3 billion invested in 2022. Venture capital accounted for 50% of the third quarter's investment in space infrastructure, tracking with the historical trend of VCs representing the primary contributors to space investment. Looking at the global market, the top five countries receiving investments are now the USA, China, Singapore, France, and India. You can find more information following the link in our show notes. Blue Origin has unveiled a new spacecraft platform focused on providing in-space logistics and delivery. The company is calling it "Blue Ring." The company says their new vehicle will serve commercial and government customers and can support a variety of missions in medium Earth orbit out to the cislunar region and beyond. The Blue Ring platform plans to provide end-to-end services that span hosting, transportation, refueling, data relay, and logistics, including an in-space cloud computing capability. Paul Ebertz, Senior Vice President of Blue Origin's In-Space Systems, says, "We are offering our customers the ability to easily access and maneuver through a variety of orbits cost-effectively while having access to critical data to ensure a successful mission." No details of when Blue Ring is expected to be operational. To launch or not to launch, that is the question on every SpaceX fan's lips this morning after the company took to the platform formerly known as Twitter to show images of a stacked and ready Starship ready for a wet rehearsal. SpaceX is desperate to launch Starship for a second time from its Boca Chica Starbase in Texas, but it's still waiting on approvals from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department and, of course, the FAA launch license. Starfighters Space has been contracted to assist with two hypersonic research projects under the auspices of a nationally recognized aerospace manufacturer and affiliates. The first contract was initiated by a partner which is participating in the development of a new type of hypersonic platform. Under the terms of this engagement, engineers will work with Starfighters Space to conduct high-cadence operational testing at Starfighters' Kennedy Space Center headquarters. The second contract with the aerospace manufacturer is focused on advancing Department of Defense research and development on hypersonic defense programs. The program is driven by an initiative of the Defense Innovation Unit and its mission partners to prototype a suite of modern, low-cost, high-cadence, dual-use airborne testing platforms aimed at accelerating the evaluation of potential systems, concepts, technologies, and mission sets. And you can hear more about Starfighters Space in Episode 127 of our show when I got to speak to Tim Franta, who is the Vice President of Development for Starfighters Space. NASA has awarded $5 million to the Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation, known as USNC, to develop and mature nuclear thermal propulsion systems for the advancement of America's civil science and cislunar capabilities. The contract will allow USNC to take their designs from paper to concept and to test the fuel that the company has developed. The company will also collaborate with its commercial partner Blue Origin to mature the design of a nuclear thermal propulsion engine specifically optimized for near-term civil science and cislunar missions. The University of California Berkeley has announced that it is working with NASA's Ames Research Center and developer SKS Partners to create research space for companies. The Berkeley Space Center will be built with the aim of collaborating with UC Berkeley and NASA scientists and engineers to generate futuristic innovations in aviation, space exploration, and how we live and work in space. The center will provide 1.4 million square feet of research space on 36 acres of land at NASA Ames's Moffett Field in Mountain View leased from NASA. Construction for the center is tentatively scheduled to begin in 2026, subject to environmental approvals. Then NOAA Office of Space Commerce is seeking commercial systems integrator and cloud management services for the Traffic Coordination System for Space, also known as "TraCSS." The TraCSS will be developed to fulfill the 2018 U.S. National Space Council Space Policy Directive-3, which instructed relevant U.S. government agencies to begin reassigning many aspects of space traffic management and space traffic coordination serving non-military U.S. space operators. TraCSS is the Department of Commerce's enterprise solution for ingesting, archiving, processing, and disseminating space situational awareness data and products. More details can be found in the RFP, which we've linked for you in our show notes. Indian space company AgniKul Cosmos has raised $26.7 million in a series B round. The new capital brings the startup's total funding raised to $40 million. The Chennai-based startup designs and manufactures rockets for satellites under 100 kilograms in weight. Their launch vehicle, the Agnibaan SubOrbital Technological Demonstrator, which is also known as "SOrTeD," integrates 3D-printed components such as Agnilet, a patented 3D-printed rocket engine. AgniKul says the new funding will be used for the company's maiden launch, which is expected later this year. Seraphim Space, known as "Generation Space" in the U.S., has announced the next cohort of 12 space startups participating in its Mission 12 Accelerator program. The companies selected are from the U.S., U.K., India, Poland, and Singapore. The program has helped 91 startups, and the Mission 12 cohort will be joining an impressive alumni of space tech companies who have collectively raised over $320 million since 2018. The full list of participants can be found by following the link in our show notes.

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And that concludes our briefing for today. You'll find links to further reading on all the stories that we've mentioned and a few that we didn't have time for, like the opening remarks of South Korea's president at the country's largest ever defense exhibition this week or how to make solar-based solar power a reality. Those stories are in the "Selected Reading" section at space.n2k.com. Hey, T-Minus crew, if you're just joining us, be sure to follow T-Minus Space Daily in your favorite podcast app. And also, if you could do us a favor, share the intel with your friends and co-workers. So here's a little challenge for you. By Friday, please show three friends or coworkers this podcast. A growing audience is the most important thing for us and we would love your help as part of the T-Minus crew. If you find T-Minus useful, and we really hope that you do, please share it so other professionals like you can find the show. Thank you so much for your ongoing support. It means a lot to me and to all of us here at T-Minus.

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T-Minus is heading to ASCEND in Las Vegas on October 23rd through 25th. This week, we are featuring speakers from the event, and today our producer Alice Carruth spoke to Eliana Sheriff, a space journalist known as "Ellie in Space." So Alice started by asking Eliana what drew her to focus her reporting on the space industry.

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>> Eliana Sheriff: So I actually got my start reviewing Starlink, and this was in the better-than-nothing beta days when Starlink was highly sought after, but not rolled out to everyone yet. It was still kind of in the, you know, early days, and so we were able to get in the program. I made, you know, your typical review video, but then I'm like, you know, no one is covering this extensively. There are SpaceX channels, there's Tesla channels, but no one has a dedicated Starlink channel, and so I'm like, well, as a journalist, sometimes you're assigned a beat, whether that be crime news or health news. I'm going to do Starlink news, and so I started covering the development of Starlink. People are having questions like, "I've been on the waitlist for two years now. When is it going to be rolled out to my area?" And so these were developments that I could, you know, kind of make like a news update, following the news cycle, and then I started to look into just the overall mission of SpaceX, which is obviously a part of Starlink, and seeing what they were doing with Starship. I took my first trip to Starbase in September of 2021, fell in love, not only with Starbase, but the mission of, you know, the world's first fully reusable rocket and just how many doors that would unlock, right? Elon calls it the "holy grail of rocketry." And so that has really piqued my interest and, you know, the interest of people around the globe. I have fans from around the world. It's really cool to go down to Starbase, notably during the April launch, and meet these people in person and just share this love of, you know, challenging the impossible and turning sci-fi into reality and seeing it right before my eyes.

>> Alice Carruth: And you really focus on the new space industry, which is kind of lagging, I think, when it comes to communications. What's your take when it comes to how a lot of these companies outside of SpaceX really relay their stories of what they're doing?

>> Eliana Sheriff: Yeah, I think that, you know, there is -- it would be nice if they had a little bit more transparency. I'm talking about, you know, Blue Origin, for example. They can -- and even SpaceX can be kind of secretive about what they're working on. However, SpaceX is unique because they give the public, you know, this window into what they're doing, doing it on the side of the road, building rockets on the beach down in Boca Chica. So, you know, you can get an aerial view. You have people that are tracking the daily movements, so it's not a huge secret, whereas Blue Origin is behind closed doors. So it would be nice to hear more about, you know, from some of the engineers in these companies, maybe do a social media spotlight, but I think for some of the companies, whether it's because, you know, it's for competition reasons, they don't want to be super open with that stuff, or maybe it's just not the priority, maybe just actually, you know, building the thing is the priority.

>> Alice Carruth: So you're based in Texas and there's been a huge development in the last few years when it comes to Boca Chica's development but also spaceports that are developing over in -- Houston's got the spaceport which is now a commercial hub for new space, and I believe there's even one up in Midland, Texas, area as well. What are you seeing in the state? Why do you think Texas has really become this new hub for new space?

>> Eliana Sheriff: I think there is a lot of support for space here in Texas. I mean, obviously, when people think about the space industry, they're going to think about the Space Coast in Florida just because, you know, that's where a lot of this has happened, but Texas has a deep history with the space industry already, and I think Texas is just a very, you know, business-friendly state. It's a big state. You know, there's really populated areas like where I'm living here in Austin, and then there's some not-so-populated areas like McGregor, Texas, for example, where SpaceX does a lot of its engine testing, and so I think Texas has a lot to offer. It's hard to tell how much of, you know, the public in Texas is aware of the state's involvement. I feel like I'm kind of in an echo chamber with seeing all the space enthusiasts, for example, on social media, but I think Texas is becoming, just even with all of the tech companies, for example, moving to Austin, I think Texas is becoming a place for a lot of industries to relocate and enjoy, so especially with Starbase. I mean, Starbase has absolutely changed the area of Brownsville and, you know, this area that was quite poor and really struggling, and so it's amazing what it can do, not just for the mission of the space company, but for, you know, all the surrounding people living there that are getting jobs, that real estate prices are finally starting to go up, so there's a ripple effect for sure.

>> Alice Carruth: So switching gears a little bit, you are going to be partnering with ASCEND for the conference that's coming up in Las Vegas in October, the 23rd to the 25th, and you've been part of the ASCEND media team for quite some time. Can you tell us a bit about what happened in 2022 and what you're looking forward to at this event this year?

>> Eliana Sheriff: Yeah, so I found out that there was going to be this ASCEND space conference in Las Vegas. One of my subscribers said that, you know, one of his friends who is a student was going, and I had never heard of it, and so I reached out to them and they said, "Oh, we're doing, you know, an ASCEND insider's leg of the program, which is basically for media to partner with us." And so I went last year. It was kind of more informal, and then I also went to SciTech in January, which was in the Washington, D.C., area, and that was sort of, you know, more of a -- I was the reporter on scene and interviewing various heads of space companies and just really interesting people, and so I think ASCEND is going to be really great this year. I obviously have a better idea since I was at the one last year. It was really fun, and I think that, you know, they're just going to continue to grow the program. ASCEND is definitely a different feel than SciTech. SciTech is a bit bigger, but it's much more technical, Sci-Tech. So ASCEND is very fun and I'm really looking forward to it. It sounds like they've, you know, this year is going to be even bigger and better, which is what you want to see with, you know, an annual conference. So it'll be a great time.

>> Alice Carruth: So there's quite a huge list of people that are speaking at this conference this year. Is there anyone in particular that you're really looking forward to go and speak to or to listen to their presentation?

>> Eliana Sheriff: Well, it sounds like we might have an opportunity to hear from the -- Pam Melroy, the NASA Deputy Administrator, so obviously, that is, would be a great opportunity. Back in January, I was able to interview William Gerstenmaier, a.k.a. Gerst, and he is a former NASA employee now working for SpaceX, and that was the first time that I've ever been able to get anyone from SpaceX to go on camera, right? They're not allowed to be interviewed, and so that was pretty huge. And so I'm looking forward to hopefully being able to interview him again, but there's -- there's always, it seems like, new faces. I mean, they're -- different people were there last year. SciTech had some, you know, a different feel, so I think, you know, I think it's important to even talk to people that maybe their names, you know, aren't as recognizable, but I mean, it's just incredible how many companies and startups and, you know, things are going on in the space industry. It's not just all about, you know, rocket launchers, for example. There's a big effort to figure out how we're going to clean up space junk and space debris, and so there's like a whole section of companies just focused on that specific niche, and so I think that, you know, figure out what's going on beyond the obvious things in the space industry.

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

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Welcome back. Amateur radio, also known as "ham radio," is the use of radio frequency spectrum for the purposes of exchange of non-commercial messages. The term "amateur" is used to differentiate it from commercial broadcasting, public safety, like police and fire, or professional two-way radio services like maritime, aviation, taxis, that kind of thing. Astronauts aboard the ISS are often hams themselves and it's not unheard of for them to make contact with folks on the ground, and educational outreach by the astronauts via amateur radio like ARISS, or amateur radio on the ISS, is a pretty beloved mainstay of ISS programming with students around the world, and hams who just want to get the epic QSO, and that's "contact" in ham-speak, often, though not always, often will coordinate the chat with the ISS to be respectful of the astronauts' time and to maximize the number of hams who can get the much desired contact with the ISS. But you should note that I said "often, but not always," because, in fact, hams can absolutely just try to contact the ISS astronauts, well, on their own, and many would rather do it on their own, thank you very much. It's just a bit of a gamble. You have to have the ISS above you hoping to catch a very busy astronaut on their scant off-time, unscheduled, and that they just happen to be listening in for a contact. But making that contact is a goal for many a ham around the world. So if the ISS happens to be on a path near you and you are a licensed amateur radio operator and you try and try and try and basically politely spam the ISS call sign, NA1SS, with your own call sign and hope for a voice contact, well, and just keep trying. Persistence can pay off. In fact, this last May, when a man named Doug in the United States, using his homemade handheld antenna, pointed at the skies above, Doug with the call sign KB8M tried and tried and tried until he heard back.

>> Woody Hoburg: Kilo Bravo Eight Mike, NA1SS, [inaudible] loud and clear aboard the space station. Welcome aboard.

>> Mara Varmazis: And that was from the voice of astronaut Woody Hoburg, no less. The consummate ham, Doug responded with a short and professional --

>> Doug: Thank you much, 73.

>> Maria Varmazis: And "73" means "best regards" in ham radio speech, for those of us not as familiar with the lingo. It was a brief conversation to be sure but an incredibly cool one, nonetheless. That is the power of amateur radio. Doug recorded his contact with the ISS on video and you can see the quick video on YouTube, and for all that persistence, physical proof of Doug's QSO will be in the form of a postcard noting his successful contact with the ISS. Hopefully the video counts as a QSL report, Doug, 73.

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And that's it for T-Minus for October 17, 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 Elliott Peltzman and Tre 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. We'll see you tomorrow.

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>> Robotic Voice: T-Minus.

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