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SpaceX is breaking records… again.

SpaceX and China are keeping up the fast launch pace. Canopy Aerospace lands a Phase 2 SBIR award. Terran Orbital partnering with Lockheed Martin. And more.





SpaceX plans the 29th CRS mission to transport scientific experiments to the International Space Station. SpaceX reaches 5,000 Starlink satellites in space. China and Belarus have signed a joint declaration on cooperation on the International Lunar Research Station program. Canopy Aerospace secures an $850,000 NASA SBIR Ignite Phase II contract, and more.

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T-Minus Guest

Our interview today is a preview of our new mini-series called AWS in Orbit. Our guest is Kathy O’Donnell, leader of Space Solutions Architecture for AWS, and she’ll be telling us about AWS customers pioneering space innovations at the intersection of cloud computing, space technology, and generative AI.

You can find out more about AWS in Orbit at Space.n2k.com/AWS

Selected Reading

NASA’s SpaceX CRS-29 Mission Flies Research to the Space Station

Space Coast breaks yearly orbital launch record

Launch Roundup: SpaceX surpass 5,000 active Starlink satellites; China to send taikonauts to space station - NASASpaceFlight.com

SpaceX Plans to Deploy Thousands of Satellites in Earth's Orbit

Canopy Aerospace Receives NASA SBIR Ignite $850k Phase II Award to Democratize Access to Low-Earth Orbit (LEO)

Terran Orbital Selected to build Satellite Buses for SDA Tranche 2

Progress Continues Toward NASA’s Boeing Crew Flight Test to Station

Belarus and China Sign Declaration for ILRS program

Netherlands to build laser pointer for ESA black hole space mission


Rock collected by Apollo 17 astronaut in 1972 reveals moon's age- Reuters

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>> Maria Varmazis: It's kind of hilarious, kind of unfair when you are by far and away the frontrunner in a thing and then you just keep breaking your own record, and then get real impressed about it every time. But yeah, yet again, Space X has broken its own launch record with its 58 Starlink Mission Launch on a Falcon 9. Space X continued to chant, "We're number one!" as it bumped its own previous record this last Saturday and they'll be giving themselves some more high-fives and patting themselves on the back. In a just a few more days, next Saturday, when they launch another two missions breaking their own yearly launch record yet again.

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Today is October 24th, 2023. I'm Maria Varmazis and this is "T Minus."

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Space X and China are keeping up the fast launch pace. Canopy Aerospace lands a Phase II SBIR award for their thermal protection systems. Terran Orbital will be working on the SDA's Tranche 2 Beta constellation. And for our guest conversation today, we have something new for you listeners. Today, we're giving you a preview of our new mini series called "AWS in Orbit." And I'll be speaking with Kathy O'Donnell, Leader of Space Solutions Architecture for AWS, and she'll be telling us all about AWS customers who are pioneering space innovations at the intersection of cloud computing, space technology, and generative AI. It's a fascinating conversation and you don't want to miss it.

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Here's a look at our Intel Briefing for today. We've got quite a roundup of Space X-related stories to start our show for today. So, let's get to it shall we? First up, is a Space X commercial resupply services or CRS mission for NASA, SRS 29 which is scheduled for launch sometime starting on or after November 5th from Kennedy Space Station. This 29th Space X CRS will transport scientific experiments to the International Space Station. Notable projects include ILLUMA-T which is testing laser communication technology and AWE or AWE, studying atmospheric gravity waves and both are offering potential insights into space weather and climate. This mission will also have research into ovarian health, advanced water filtration, and mucuses role in drug delivery capitalizing on the ISS's microgravity environment. Hmm, mucus. And as I mentioned at the top of the show, after hitting Starlink Launch number 58 last Saturday, there are two more Starlink launches scheduled for October 28th and yes, that's this Saturday, one from Florida and then the other from California. And with those launches, that will bring the total number of Starlink satellites in orbit to, and you need to really brace yourself for this number, over 5000, yes over 5000 Starlink satellites with these two launches. So, next time someone asks you, "How many satellites are in orbit exactly?" And you reflect that that number is always growing, I don't know about you, but I keep hearing a lot of very outdated numbers being kicked around, but if we haven't surpassed over 10,000 active satellites in orbit total at this point, with Starlink's numbers now, we've got to be awfully close if we're not already over 10K. And yeah, Elon's just submitted plans to the ITU for a 30,000 Starlink satellite strong constellation, so I guess "we ain't seen nothing yet." The overall number of Space X launches this year total is of course higher than the number of just Starlink launches; plenty of other missions for the Falcon 9's including a handful of transporter rideshares and let's not forget the Falcon heavies and does the April flight test for Starship count? I think it does, right? The latest count has Space X overall at 77 launches just this year and to goal says, Elon Musk is to make it to 100 by the end of the year. Now, we've got two months left. Certainly we're within striking distance of that 100 number, but even if we don't hit that 100 goal, getting pretty close is noteworthy on its own. And going back to that orbital flight test for Starship for a second, as of the time of this show's recording, I'm watching a video stream with a live view of Starship at Boca Chica. Shout out to the amazing crew at NASA Space Flight as always for their amazing video streams. And it looks like there may be a wet dress rehearsal today or possibly tomorrow or Thursday, for their currently fully stacked Starship. Whether or not a wet dress rehearsal for Starship happens this week, it doesn't mean that there's any news of dates for the next flight test of course, still a lot of federal regulatory clearance needed for that. And Space X isn't alone in its impressive launch cadence, China also has a number of launches scheduled this week, some for military surveillance satellites into lower earth orbit and understandably we don't have a lot of information on those, but they also have a crewed launch heading to Tiangong's Space Station tomorrow with three "taikonauts" aboard. They're scheduled to head up to low earth orbit, as I said, tomorrow making this mission China's 12th crewed mission overall. And speaking of China, China and Belarus have signed a joint declaration of cooperation on the International Lunar Research Station Program. And according to the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus, the parties will cooperate in the process of creating and operating the ILRS. "The areas of cooperation will be fundamental and applied research in the field of engineering and technologies for space use, new materials, and electronic component base, training, and advanced training of scientific personnel and specialists. By mutual agreement, the parties shall determine other areas of cooperation." Let's move on to some business announcements now. Canopy Aerospace which is a startup working on advanced manufacturing and thermal protection systems or TPS, have secured an 850,000 NASA SBIR Ignite Phase II contract. This new funding will help them develop additively manufactured TPS's or thermal protective systems, aka the heat shields that protect spacecraft during reentry, as well as hypersonic missions. Now, Canopy was established in 2021 through the NASA Startup Studio to solve a key issue, and that would be the lack of commercial supply bases for thermal protection systems. And while Canopy initially adopted traditional manufacturing methods, they've now turned to additive manufacturing to reduce waste, streamline processes, and create complex TPS shapes. Canopy says, "This approach lowers launch costs and speeds up spacecraft development." And you know, we talked about the SDA's Tranche 2 Alpha constellations in yesterday's show, and after Alpha here comes Beta. News today that Lockheed Martin has awarded Terran Orbital Corporation a contract to construct 36 satellite buses for the Space Development Agency's Tranche 2 Transport Layer or T2TL Beta constellation. The buses will be delivered to Lockheed Martin for payload integration and they will be operated jointly with the SDA. Terran Orbital is already building 42 buses for Lockheed Martin as part of the $700 million dollar contract for SDA's Tranche 1 Transport Layer set for launch in late 2024. The deployment of the T2TL Beta satellites is scheduled to start in 2026. And NASA and Boeing say things are moving along with making the key fixes to Starliner and the two organizations said yesterday that they're "finalizing preparations for the first crewed flight of Boeing's Starliner spacecraft to the ISS." The goal was initially to have Starliner ready for a launch to the ISS in March 2024, but that launch's date has been moved to the right slightly to better fit crew rotation and cargo resupply schedules. It is not scheduled for April 2024. And before the crew flight test happens, Boeing is heads down working on fixes to key system issues that were discovered in June, namely the flammable tape issue due to be finished in the next few weeks and the parachute system problems with a new parachute set due to be installed by the end of this year. Most certification products are complete with final items expected early next year. The flight software is currently in testing and ULA's Atlas V rocket, which is Starliner's ride to the ISS, is in Florida standing by for integration with Starliner. The European Space Agency has granted the Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research known as TNO, 1.39 million euros to finish the development of its high precision laser targeting mechanism. The TNO technology plans to support ESA's Laser Interferometer Space Antenna or LISA mission. LISA will be the first space-based observatory designed to study gravitational waves. ESA is planning to begin construction of the telescope next year.

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And now some news from Nevada.

>> Alice Carruth: I'm Alice Carruth at the AIAA's ASCEND Conference in Las Vegas. We're on day 2 of this annual event and reoccurring themes for this year's discussions around the future of space are inclusion and diversity.

>> Jasmin Moghbeli: We're stronger when we collaborate, similarly we're stronger when we have people from different backgrounds whether that's different genders, different religions, different you know experiences in life, and so you're needed in these fields.

>> Alice Carruth: That was NASA astronaut Jasmin Moghbeli who shared her experience on the ISS through a live [inaudible] during day one of the conference. Each year, ASCEND's selects a Diverse Dozen, a community of thought leaders and activists with an intellect to an emotional commitment to building a sustainable off road future. Michelle Lukas, CEO and founder of Higher Orbits, was selected this year as part of the Diverse Dozen.

>> Jasmin Moghbeli: One of the things that I am passionate about is our next generation of students and explorers and my topic is about workforce, but more specifically about the fact that we need to be more diverse in our ways of finding workforce; we go to the same places and we're finding the same well of students and those are awesome students, but it doesn't fill our gaps. So, how do we diversify where we go to find our next generation of STEMS and explorer? What we need is the English teacher or the art teacher who goes, "You know what?! Johnny hears Susie. I don't know they made this picture about a planet and maybe they would be interested and trying to reach those students and you have to do it in a way that is inclusive and by inclusive, again, I'm going to diversify what that word means -- I'm going to say something that people in our industry don't love, you have to make it not scary.

>> Alice Carruth: You can hear more from Michelle on episode 120 of this program on website space.n2k.com. I also caught up with George Whitesides, former NASA Chief of Staff under the Obama Administration, a former CEO of Virgin Galactic who was awarded the AIAA David Thompson Lecture in Space Commerce. George is the cofounder of Astro Access and had this to say about why space should be for all.

>> George Whitesides: I think it's really important that during this key moment that we as a space industry make a lot of effort to include all of humanity in the process of going to space, right? And so, parlay that will mean having diverse crews, you know, men and women, different backgrounds, different identities, and also it's including folks who have disabilities or other conditions that have historically kept them out of those experiences, but what we found through some work that we've done, is that there are no disqualifying conditions, that in fact, space flight is something that can be for everyone and really needs to be for everyone if it's going to be just and equitable, and sort of the future that we all want.

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>> Alice Carruth: We'll be wrapping up day three of the conference on the show on Wednesday.

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>> Maria Varmazis: That's it for today's Intel Briefing. As always, we have all these stories and more in the selected reading section of our Show Notes. Just go to space.n2k.com and just click on this episode. Hey, "T-Minus" crew, if you are just joining us, well, welcome and be sure to follow "T-Minus Space Daily" in your favorite podcast app. And also, if you can do us a favor, share the Intel with your friends and coworkers. So, here's a little challenge for you, by Friday, please show three friends or coworkers this podcast. A growing audience after all is the most important thing for us and we would really love your help as part of the "T-Minus" group. If you find "T-Minus" useful and, of course, we always hope that you do, please share it so other professionals like you can find the show. Thank you so much for your support. It means a lot to me and all of us here at "T-Minus."

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Welcome to "AWS in Orbit." We've partnered with AWS on a fantastic project at the intersection of space technology, cloud computing, and artificial intelligence. We'll explore not just what's possible, but what's meaningful in the realm of space and cloud innovation. We dive into how AWS is supporting generative AI in the space domain. Kathy O'Donnell is the leader of Space Solutions Architecture for AWS. She walks us through some incredible case studies with AWS customers who are using generative AI and space technologies to improve life here on earth.

>> Kathy O'Donnell: My name is Kathy O'Donnell. We're a part of Aerospace and Satellite at AWS, so we focus specifically on aerospace and satellite customers. We want to create this team to very specifically focus on bringing the cloud to space.

>> Maria Varmazis: Did you know what the meant before you applied for the job, like "bringing the cloud to space," was that a phrase that meant something to you or was that kind of like what is that?

>> Kathy O'Donnell: It did. So, when I saw the job posting and then I started researching, because I've been kicking around in finance for a while so I hadn't really been paying attention to space. I started looking into what companies were doing with space technology, and a lot of times all you think about is something like providing Internet service or GPS. The goal here was something that I thought was great, that we're transforming the future of space. We're going to develop some innovative solutions, one that had recently out was called Ground Station, so it's a pay-as-you-go service to download data from your satellites directly into AWS and I'm a huge fan. Pay-as-you-go is strictly in IT infrastructure because technology moves so quickly that it can be out-of-date, right, before you even know it and you have to keep a whole team involved to keep it up-to-date and spend more money. So, yeah, to me it made a lot of sense especially for space companies. In addition to that, what really interested me was the use cases. There's a lot going on especially in terms of earth observation and doing things like sustainability work, looking at environmental impacts, and something that was really personally important to me because I was in northern Nevada, I had grown up in Reno, forest fires are a constant issue. And a lot of people who live in northern California and that area know that there was a company called ICEYE, an Australian company. They were able to take and, I believe the numbers are 2-and-a-half million images every day, from ground cameras plus 30 gigs of satellite imagery. Put that together to immediately detect the beginning of forest fires or brush fires and within minutes, let first responders know that something is popping off. And that to me was so amazing that that concept of data fusion and speed. The whole reason that we collect all of this data is to take action, right? To move it to insight and move to action; by using AWS, that amount of storage with the analytics that we provide, within minutes, so as soon as you start seeing those plumes of smoke to say, "Hey, go check this out. Something is going on there." I mean, that just -- that saves the first responders, these are very dangerous situations when the forest fires get out of control. It saves the people living there. For me, that was very inspirational and really made me start thinking about how we can use the cloud and space to help change the way that we live on earth and make it better.

>> Maria Varmazis: Yeah, it made it really real for you. When sometimes when we talk about cloud and space it seems very abstract and kind of like well who is that for? What is that going to do? But that's a real life and death, life improvement situation which is incredibly powerful. I can totally see how that would speak to you.

>> Kathy O'Donnell: Yeah. I mean, I always appreciated like the things that our space agencies do and it's always very exciting to see, you know, space shuttles go and what's happening on the ISS, but yeah, to me that really brought it home. That the things we do in space are not just for research or for, you know, for decades down the road. They can help us right now. And by giving people like anyone access to compute, access to cloud storage, access to space data, like they can come up with the most creative and interesting ideas to change the way that that we live in positive ways, to make that positive impact on the way we live.

>> Maria Varmazis: How does cloud come into play when we're talking about these incredible things that space can do for folks on the ground, and how does AI also work into that?

>> Kathy O'Donnell: So, I think it comes in a few different ways. The first, is just dealing with the massive amounts of data. So, you can imagine if you're taking imagery of the earth that is petabytes of data coming in, so being able to store that on a cloud rather than having to spend the money to have your own storage for that really helps our customers. So, they can focus more on the mission, what they want to do with that imagery, rather than having to deal with storing all of that imagery. And that's also where AI comes into play as well, because once you have that storage you want to do something with it. And so, when you have it stored in AWS, if you build your analysis, your analytics, your machine learning on AWS, you can just immediately put it against the data that you have stored. And so, you get almost near real-time or real-time results. So, for a company that's doing something like wild fire detection, very important that, you know, data comes off the satellite, goes into storage, gets immediately put through analysis, and then gets sent off to people who can do something about it and actually take action.

>> Maria Varmazis: And that's not a small revolution in how things are done, I mean, not that long ago, I mean even now still. Would you like to walk us through a little bit about the [brief laughter] and it's sort of a weird question, but that's not how it's always done necessarily. In some cases that data takes forever to get where it needs to go, literally physically mailing somebody, maybe a hard drive or something.

>> Kathy O'Donnell: Yeah. Like in the past, and you know, back in my day, you know, it was stored on cassette tape, it was stored on disks and you had to, you know, it would come down, get stored by some organization over here. You would have to physically go send, in my case, an intern to go pick it up or send it through the mail, so there was a few hours of delay, and if hours at a minimum, but more days, weeks. Then you have to load it up into your systems. You have to run, you know, probably some [inaudible] or some screening on the data, because satellite imagery -- there's a lot of stuff that isn't too interesting in there, a lot of you know pictures of the ocean or clouds that, you know, you need to filter through until you get the things that you actually can take action on. So, that takes time. And yeah, and then actually publishing those results, so then what do you do? You have to call someone? Or you know, you put it in a weekly report but now because we have our cloud capabilities along with some of these space capabilities, yeah, we're talking milliseconds until we can actually like take action. So, this is an experiment that we've been running, real-world experiment that we launched in 2022. We work with T-Orbit who provided the satellite and UNIVAC who provided the space computer. We actually put AWS software on the satellite so that on the ground, [inaudible] really, the idea is basically you can sign into your AWS account, build a machine learning model, build an analytic, and just send it to the satellite. Anyone can do this. That's another cool thing about some of the capabilities that I know you'll be talking about, you don't have to be a space expert, you don't have to be a mathematician, or an engineer. In fact, in this experiment we did have data scientists building the models, but they weren't space focused data scientists, they had not done space stuff. We had them build a few different models. One in particular, detected clouds in imagery. So, they built that using our tools. We put it on the satellite and it was able to reduce the size of the images that we needed to send back down by 42%.

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>> Maria Varmazis: Listeners, that's just a preview of the full interview with Kathy O'Donnell where she speaks with me in-depth about how AWS customers are using cloud technology, generative AI, and data from space for impactful outcomes here on earth. You can hear my whole interview with Kathy in your podcast feed as part of our AWS in Orbit miniseries starting this Saturday, October 28th. And for more information about AWS in Orbit, head on over to space.n2k.com/aws.

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We'll be right back.

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Welcome back. It's an old saying that one should never ask a lady her true age, but to be honest, the inverse of that is the great feeling you can get when you tell someone your actual age and the person goes, "Wait! You're how old?! I never would have guessed." So, we're saying that to our great friend in Natural Satellite today. Miss Moon, you're looking gorgeous darling and I got to say, you don't look a day over 4.46 billion years old. But who's counting? Actually, well yeah we are counting. But we're doing so discretely. Last time we humans paid the moon a visit in-person, the Apollo 17 Msission, NASA astronauts Harrison Schmitt and Eugene Cernan brought back over 100 kilos of moon rock back to earth to study and yeah, that was in 1972. And on closer inspection, today in 2023, the zircon in some of those moon rock samples reveal that the moon is actually a little bit older than we had previously thought. Some 40 million years older in fact. And this new information comes to us from a new study, gleaned with brand new technology used on those rock samples brought back 51 years ago, and it gives greater weight to the leading theory that the moon was actually once part of earth until something really, really huge like Mars size huge smacked into us and the moon is basically what happened to all that molten magma as it cooled and slowly, slowly coalesced with dust and debris into the lovely orb that graces our night skies. We humans have actually never been super sure about the moon's precise age, so this is nice handy new information, and to be fair, I hear that once you're over a certain age, one tends to forget one's precise age or birthday anyway. So, sure, the moon is 40 million years older than we thought. Thanks to this new information glean from zircon. And one of the coauthors of this study, UCLA Planetary Scientist, Bidong Zhang, said it best, "Interestingly, all of the oldest material is found on Earth, Mars, and the Moon, are zircon crystals. Zircon not diamond lasts forever."

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That's it for "T-Minus" for October 24th, 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 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. We'll see you tomorrow.

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