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Of Mice and Mars.

SSC assigns new launches to SpaceX and ULA. The FAA concludes its Super Heavy safety review. HawkEye360 wins $12.25M NIWC Pacific contract. And more.





US Space Systems Command has assigned new launches to SpaceX and ULA for fiscal year 2024. The Federal Aviation Administration concludes its SpaceX Super Heavy safety review. HawkEye360 has been awarded a $12.25 million contract by the Naval Information Warfare Center Pacific, and more.

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T-Minus Guest

Our guest today is space communicator Yumna Majeed.

You can connect with Yumna on LinkedIn and follow her work on Instagram.

Selected Reading

SpaceX, ULA Secure Additional Launch Assignments for NSSL Phase 2 Contract - GovCon Wire

FAA completes safety review of SpaceX Starship-Super Heavy license- Reuters

HawkEye 360 Awarded $12.25 Million Phase II Contract by the Naval Information Warfare Center (NIWC) Pacific

SpinLaunch Announces New Leadership Roles to Accelerate the Commercialization of Low-Cost, High-Performance Space Solutions- Business Wire

MDA Completes Acquisition Of Satixfy Digital Payload Division

University of Luxembourg SnT signs Rideshare Agreement with Alba Orbital to deploy a Pico-satellite in Late 2024

China launches new cartographic satellite - CGTN

U.S. Space Force chief urges universal rules to keep China in check - Nikkei Asia

Japanese scientists grow mouse embryos in space for first time. Are human births next?- South China Morning Post

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>> Maria Varmazis: So many of us grew up wanting to be an astronaut. Well, I say us, but really I'm only referring to Brandon Karpf on our team, our fearless leader. Alice is on the edge of whether or not she'd want to fly to space. And me personally, I'm a wimp. I'm definitely out. But one girl was all in at 14 until her dream was crushed. Yumna was told by her teacher, her science teacher at that, that there's no such thing as space. Despite her early setbacks, Yumna is now a space communicator in Pakistan. Stay with us for her story in the second part of our show today.

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Today is November 1st, 2023. I'm Maria Varmazis, and this is T-Minus.

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Space Systems Command has assigned new launches to SpaceX and ULA. The FAA concludes its super heavy safety review. HawkEye 360 has been awarded a $12.25 million contract by the Naval Information Warfare Center Pacific. And later in the show we'll be sharing Yumna Majeed's story on taking the cosmos to the classroom.

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On to today's Intel briefing, and we're starting with a slew of SpaceX news again. Musk's company and the United Launch Alliance, or ULA, have been assigned new launch service missions for fiscal year 2024 under phase two of the US Space Force National Security Space Launch contract vehicle. Space Systems Command announced that SpaceX received 10 mission assignments, while ULA received 11. The launches are expected to happen over the next two to three years in support of various mission areas.

The missions marked the fifth and final order period of the follow on NSSL contract awarded to SpaceX and ULA in August 2020. SSC has ordered a total of 48 NSSL missions over the five year phase two award. According to the press release, the launch services will support space missions, including the Space Development Agency's missile warning and tracking constellation and the National Reconnaissance Offices spy satellites.

And staying with SpaceX, it feels like we've been waiting for months, and well, it's only been since late September actually, since Mr. Musk said they would be holding the second test of the Super Heavy. And it seems that the company is one step closer to that finally happening. The FAA has completed the safety review portion of the SpaceX Starship Super Heavy License evaluation. And according to the Federal Aviation Administration, the safety review is focused on issues that affect public health and safety of property. It consists of evaluating the applicant's safety organization, system safety processes, flight safety analysis and quantitative risk criteria for launch, reentry and vehicle disposal.

The FAA says it is continuing to work on the environmental review, and as part of its environmental review, the FAA is consulting with the US Fish and Wildlife Service on an updated biological assessment under the Endangered Species Act. The FAA and the USFWS must complete this consultation before the environmental review portion of the license evaluation is complete. One step closer but that's still a mountain of red tape and paperwork to climb.

HawkEye 360 has been awarded a $12.25 million contract by the Naval Information Warfare Center Pacific to share satellite RF data, analytics and training with partner nations in Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands. This phase two contract reflects HawkEye 360's continued work with the Indo Pacific Partnership for Maritime Domain Awareness, which was endorsed by leaders of the Quad Nations, and that would be Australia, India, Japan and the US. HawkEye 360 has served as a commercial partner to the program since late last year.

There's been a shakeup in leadership at kinetic launch company SpinLaunch. The company has announced major executive appointments that they say will provide additional expertise in global investments, partnerships, commercialization and go to market strategy. Domhnal Slattery has been elected chairman of SpinLaunch's board of directors. Tech investment veteran Greg McAdoo joins the board of directors, and the company announced two new senior advisor positions from telecommunication and tech backgrounds.

An acquisition update for you now. And MDA has completed the previously announced purchase of SatixFy Space Systems UK, which is the digital payload division of SatixFy Communications Limited. Mike Greenlee, CEO of MDA, said this, "this acquisition bolsters MDA's, digital satellite capabilities and advances our satellite systems strategy as we continue to invest and expand in next generation satellite technology and talent to meet growing customer demand."

Alba Orbital has signed a launch services agreement with the University of Luxembourg's Interdisciplinary Center for Security, Reliability and Trust to deploy a 1p PocketQube satellite in orbit on an upcoming Alba launch via SpaceX next year. And PocketQube for in orbit technology operations, otherwise known as Poquito [phonetic], is a tiny five by five by five centimeter satellite that will host an even smaller five by five by 0.2 centimeter satellite as its primary payload.

China launched its Tianhui-5 cartographic satellite to space earlier today. The Chinese Space Agency says the spacecraft will be collecting information on geographic mapping, land resource survey and scientific experiments. China is close to its 500th mission for the Long March Carrier rocket series. And while we're on the subject of China, did y'all see the Shenzhou 16 landing. Talk about a rock'n'roll reentry. We are glad to see the taikonauts out of the capsule in one piece.

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And that concludes our briefing for today. As always, you'll find links to further reading in our show notes, and we've also included a link from a story in Nikkei, Asia, on Space Force urging universal rules. They're all at space.n2k.com.

Hey T-Minus crew, if you find this podcast useful, please do us a favor and share a five star rating and a short review in your favorite podcast app. That will help other space professionals like you to find the show and join the T-Minus crew. Thank you so much for your support. We really appreciate it.

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Our guest today is space communicator Yumna Majeed. Yumna runs Cosmos to Classroom in Pakistan, and she shared her incredible story with T-Minus producer Alice Carruth and started by sharing what inspired her to become a space communicator in Pakistan.

>> Yumna Majeed: I- I studied in a public school in Pakistan, so when I was 14, I shared a dream of becoming an astronaut in my classroom. And my science teacher told me that there is no such thing as space, and if you try to go up there you will die. And because of this, I was discouraged. I- I stopped talking to all my class fellows, and later I changed my class.

So one day I was playing in ground with my new class fellows and an ex-classmate came and she said, hey Yumna, is that you. I was like, yeah, that's me. She said you are normal. I said, yeah, I'm normal. Why are you asking like this? She said since you have a dream to go to a place which does not even exist, we thought you are a mentally disabled child.

>> Alice Carruth: Wow. How do you overcome that kind of adversity?

>> Yumna Majeed: It was, at that time it was shocking, but I laughed. I didn't actually, the friends I was playing with, they laughed a lot that my ex-classmates are calling me a mad child. But I would say throughout my school life, my college life, my university life, I have tried so hard to fit in. I have tried so hard to fit in among my class fellows that I am like other peoples.

But later when I got into the science communication and space education part, I realized that some people are born to stand out. I just, at platforms like Ascend, we came across likeminded people who love space, you know. We are space lovers, space enthusiasts. But around me there were not a lot of people who were into space back then. But over the last eight years, very happy to say that I am seeing a space ecosystem being built in Pakistan.

Now people want to learn about space. Now people- people want to bring space companies, space conferences to Pakistan. And I term it like space is new cool in Pakistan. So I am seeing improvements, and I hope they'll see much more in the near future.

>> Alice Carruth: So the first Pakistan born woman has just gone to space with Virgin Galactic. What kind of impact has it had in the nation seeing a woman go to space from your country? Has it been aspirational and inspirational to the next generation?

>> Yumna Majeed: Yes. Personally, for me, representation matters. I think a day before she flew to space, we presented a paper at IAC Baku, which was about diversity in astronaut profile selection where we studied profile of a lot of astronauts to see what is the criteria of selecting an astronaut and how many nations have an astronaut? How many nations still don't have? And unfortunately, at that time, there was no representation of Pakistani astronauts.

So the part I contributed to in the paper was specifically South Asian and Muslim astronauts. Thanks to UAE and Saudi Arabia, now we do have Muslim male as well as female representation. But when we look at South Asian culture, we have a- a completely different set of struggles and barriers, especially for women.

And these challenges are deeply rooted in our culture and society. It's- it's not related to religion at all. It's more a cultural thing which needs to be improved. So I really wanted to see how a South Asian girl can have a role model. And when I looked up at the profiles of all the astronauts, I could only find one astronaut who was Kalpana Chawla, who passed away in the mission.

So for me, representation matters a lot. No matter how she went when she went, the country has an astronaut now. So it should definitely inspire a lot of students, but I would say that a lot of people are random people over social media. They shared it with me, and they were like hey, you know what, that's not right. And like some negative comments. But again, I would say that for me, representation matters. She went up there. She fulfilled her dream. She was passionate about getting it, and she got it. So I think that's what matters the most.

>> Alice Carruth: Tell me about your day-to-day role. You're an educator in Pakistan. Where are you based, and what kind of students do you reach on a daily basis?

>> Yumna Majeed: I'm based in Lahore. That's like the heart of Pakistan but close to Islamabad our capital. And when I started, my day-to-day routine was quite difficult because I was a student in a medical school, and we used to have lab duties from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. with a very short break and just a few lectures every day.

What I used to do during my medical school was I used to bunk a small period during my lab time, and I used to carry my teaching kit and the telescope that I got to my college. And when the time got, used to come, I was like, hey, can you please replace me for an hour or so. I will just go to the school nearby, and I will do the session, and I will come back.

So for four years, I did that. But it was good that I was able to manage it well. I just wanted to create a balance between both. So the number of outreaches was not that much. It was like maybe 10 to 11 in a year. And then slowly it became two per month and then two per week, and now it's almost every day.

So what type of students? Now the [inaudible] what type of students? I- I- I love to work with public school students because of their curiosity, their innocent questions, as well as the students from all other schools who comes to me. Kids are kids. They are curious. The only difference is that unfortunately, the public school students, they don't have access to the information. They don't have access to the resources where they can also learn about space. And other students from private schools, they're lucky enough to have the access to learn about things.

And the good part is that they do learn about things, space things, and they learn so much that they can just put you on hold if you are giving them a lecture on space. So I love interacting with such kids who know more about black holes, dark matters and stuff like that. And at the same time, I love explaining it to the students who don't know actually anything about it.

>> Alice Carruth: At the moment there's a lot of focus on what's going on in Asia. Obviously, your neighbors in India have been doing incredible things. Are you seeing that in Pakistan? Are you seeing a rise of space startups? How's the space agency grown to be more aspirational? What are you seeing in your nation?

>> Yumna Majeed: We do have our space agency, which was made way before [inaudible]. But unfortunately, due to some reasons, we are way behind. And I think looking at them being very successful at what they are doing, we should definitely learn from them.

And if we talk about the non-governmental aspect, the private ecosystem, in the last two to three years, I would say since COVID and since Elon Musk started sending astronauts to space, Pakistani people are now really interested in space. They want to bring space companies to Pakistan. They want to bring space conferences to Pakistan. Again, I would say that space is equal in Pakistan, and we do need more support from government and bigger companies, from investors. If we get that support, I am sure there can be good space startups in Pakistan as well.

>> Alice Carruth: So what's next for you? Where are you going to take all these lessons you've learned from coming to these international conferences? How are you going to take them back to Pakistan and- and share that.

>> Yumna Majeed: I have, I would say three ways I would like to mention that how I take, what are my takeaways from these conferences? So number one is a lot of motivation. Sometimes working in the environment that I work, there are good experiences, and then there are bad experiences. Sometimes I lose my motivation that why I am doing, I can just stop working maybe for the community and start focusing on building my career, which can only benefit me and not the Community.

So the energy is drained. And coming at these international conferences, meeting your space fam is like getting yourself refueled and getting your lost energy back. So one thing is motivation.

The other part is I see the representation on the basis of nationalities and that I want to bring more people, more Pakistani people, more- more South Asian people to these platforms. I learned so much and definitely think more people, more Pakistani people should learn about them. So when I go back I try my best to at least pick one student who is actually really passionate about space. And then I try to mentor them how they can join these conferences and how they can sign up for the scholarships and all these things.

One very cute projects that I do after going back home from these conferences is I have a project called Space Meals from Planetarium [phonetic] Now. So kids who are crazy about space or parents of such kids, they come to me saying, hey, our kid loves space. And if they are based in a city, where I don't have access to and I can't go to conduct outreach over there, I ask them to give their address, and I will send something.

So when I write them back, I give them goodies like all the goodies that I collect from these International Space conferences. I just put some of them in their letter. The NASA stuff, the Blue Origin stuff. And they're really love it because we don't have such things being manufactured in Pakistan. So getting anything space theme makes their day, and it's a souvenir. I have built confidence.

I was someone who could never speak in front of people. And honestly speaking, as English is not my first language, all English that I've learned from is watching Hollywood movies and then coming to these international conference and then talking to people. So I have improved myself in so many ways by attending these conferences. I have built confidence. I have built personal skills, so that's a huge plus.

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>> Maria Varmazis: We'll be right back. Welcome back. Okay, everybody, so we've avoided the subject of reproduction in space on this program for as long as we possibly could. And no, we're still not going to explain to you why it's not going to happen like it did in For All Mankind beyond us saying that your blood doesn't circulate the same in microgravity as it does here on Earth. Going to just leave it there.

But it is one of the subjects that many scientists are trying to figure out for long term space travel. One thing that has yet to be tested is the propagation of the species. Will we, as we boldly go, be able to continue to reproduce and to grow new humans in the microgravity and radiation environment beyond Earth's protective atmosphere? It seems that we may be one step closer to understanding that.

Because for the first time, mammalian embryos have been cultivated and grown in space aboard the microgravity environment of the International Space Station, of course. The research, led by Japan's University of Yamanashi, shows mouse embryos can, at least initially, survive in a space environment.

Researchers fertilized mouse embryos and developed them to the two cell stage, froze them and then shipped them up to the ISS to be thawed and cultured by astronauts in a special machine designed expressly for this purpose. Over the course of four days, the astronauts cultured the embryos, preserving them in paraformaldehyde at the end of the experiment to be shipped back to Earth and analyzed by the research team.

The survival rate of the groups aboard the ISS was lower than the survival rate of the control group on Earth, but the researchers say that the embryos that did survive developed normally. We'll see if that matches the storyline in For All Mankind when the new series airs next week.

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That's it for T-Minus for November 1st, 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 e-mail 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.

N2K strategic workforce intelligence optimizes the value of your biggest investment, your people. We make you smarter about your team while making your team smarter. This episode was produced by Alice Carruth, mixing by Elliot Peltzman and Trey 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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