The US signs an agreement to launch from Australia. MDA contracts with SpaceX. AFRL leads the first international CRADA with Indian startups. And...
IM (not George) JETSON.
The Netherlands and Iceland join the Artemis Accords. Kuva Space raises €16.6M. Intuitive Machines gets a nuclear-powered satellite contract. And more.
The Netherlands and Iceland sign the Artemis Accords. Finnish Earth observation company Kuva Space has successfully raised €16.6M in a latest funding round. The US Air Force Research Laboratory Space Vehicles Directorate has awarded Intuitive Machines a Joint Energy Technology Supplying On-Orbit Nuclear Power (JETSON) Low-power Mission Application contract worth $9.49 million, and more.
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Our guest today is David Caponio, Senior Vice President of Product and Business Development at Vast.
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>> Maria Varmazis: Last time we checked in with the Artemis Accords, we had Germany signing on in September as the 29th signatory of the agreement, on best practices for space. So, congratulations today to The Netherlands for becoming the 31st signatory of the Artemis Accords. Yes, I know. Did I miss something? Did we all miss something? No, it's not just you.
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Today is November 2nd, 2023. I'm Maria Varmazis, and this is T-Minus.
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The Netherlands and Iceland join the Artemis Accords. Kuva Space raises 16.6 million Euro. Intuitive Machines gets a nuclear-powered satellite contract. And T-Minus Producer Alice Caruth speaks to David Caponio, Senior Vice President of Product and Business Development at Vast. Stay with us.
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Here's our Intel Briefing for today. Yesterday at the Dutch Ambassador's residence in Washington D.C., The Netherlands Space Office Director, Harm van de Wetering, signed The Netherlands onto the U.S.-led Artemis Accords, making The Netherlands the 31st country to join the agreement. Van de Wetering said this, "NASA and The Netherlands have been strong partners in space from the early days of spaceflight. Pushing boundaries by technology brings new responsibilities. By signing the Artemis Accords, we underline the values we share in space, and we acknowledge that we have a common responsibility." And as for Artemis Signatory Number 30, that was actually Iceland. If you're wondering where that announcement went, well so are we. Apparently, Iceland became an Artemis Accords signatory in October, but there was no ceremony to mark the occasion, and in fact, Iceland joining Artemis wasn't even made public by NASA or Iceland until yesterday's announcement about The Netherlands, where there was one sentence mention of it at the bottom of a press release. I guess they just wanted to be really low-key about it.
The European Space Agency has outlined its Space Safety Program plans on how to boost awareness of threats from space to vital infrastructure, both on earth and in orbit, and how to protect them, plus its planned use of artificial intelligence to significantly improve the sustainability, security, and resilience of ESA space missions and operations. Primary space-based threats include space weather, naturally occurring space-borne objects like meteoroids and artificial space debris. ESA member states have encouraged the agency to adopt a zero-debris approach for its missions, and to enable other actors to pursue similar paths. ESA says this will put Europe at the forefront of sustainability on earth, and in space, while preserving the competitiveness of its industry.
The latest Polaris spaceplane demonstrator MIRA has successfully conducted its first flight at a German airfield. According to the company's statement, MIRA conducted a perfect first flight without any issues. The vehicle flew for approximately two and a half minutes and covered a distance of nine kilometers. The main objective of MIRA was to flight test a linear aerospike rocket engine under contract with the German Armed Forces. The initial flight testing was executed under turbine power, while aerospike testing will follow by the end of this year. MIRA being the fifth demonstrator in the Polaris fleet, is also the last demonstrator on the roadmap towards the company's planned spaceplane.
Finnish earth observation company Kuva Space has successfully raised 16.6 million Euro in a latest funding round. The company says it will use the capital to accelerate the development of its patented hyperspectral camera and space technology, double its team size, and launch its AI analytics platform. Kuva space also plans to expand its presence in key markets, starting with the United States. The company's commercial microsatellite is equipped with a patented hyperspectral camera and can distinguish nearly any material on earth and its condition through its distinct spectral signature. Kuva says that they can monitor things like crop types, plant health, and biomass, biodiversity, soil conditions, seaweed growth, algae blooms, and marine chemical pollutants at scale.
Muon Space has been awarded a Hydrosat contract for its first constellation as a service spacecraft that will integrate Hydrosat's multispectral and thermal infrared imaging instruments. According to the press release, this partnership marks an advancement of Hydrosat's plans to deploy a constellation of LEO small sats that provide critical data for improving agricultural water use efficiency in response to increasing scarcity of fresh water due to climate change. Muon Space will equip one of its constellation as a service satellites launching in 2024, with Hydrosat's second demonstration commercial imaging payloads. That payload is designed to measure multispectral service reflectants, and land surface temperature. These capabilities will contribute to the efforts of both companies to collect important remote sensing data that targets key climate applications.
The U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory Space Vehicles Directorate, has awarded Intuitive Machines, a Joint Energy Technology Supplying On-orbit Nuclear power, known as JETSON, low-power mission application contract. The $9.49 million award calls for Intuitive Machines to develop technical solutions for satellite positioning and maneuverability using radio isotope power systems in support of NASA's GATEWAY, a multipurpose outpost orbiting the moon. Yes, nukes on a satellite. Pete McGrath, Intuitive Machines Vice President of Business Development said this of the award, "Developing the ability to expand power sources beyond solar, which require heavy battery storage, could remove the burden of constantly worrying about a spacecraft's arrays relative to the sun, and potentially deliver long-term stability for satellites that would otherwise lose power over time." Yes, I still love that nuclear-powered satellite bit, too.
Virgin Galactic has completed its sixth space flight this year from Spaceport America, in New Mexico. The Galactic 05 mission saw the company's spaceship converted into a sub-orbital space lab for space-based research. The crew included planetary scientists and associate vice president in Southwest Research Institute's Space Sector, Dr. Alan Stern and bioastronautics researcher for the International Institute for Astronautical Sciences, Kellie Gerardi. Alan and Kellie conducted human-tended research during the suborbital space flight. Alan's mission was also a training flight for a future suborbital spaceflight as part of NASA's Flight Opportunities Program. And Alan used a biomedical harness to collect physiological data related to human spaceflight and conducted practice activities for an astronomical experiment on the NASA flight. As for Kellie, she flew three payloads, two of which evaluated novel healthcare technologies in micro-gravity conditions. Her payloads collected biometric data with the astro-skin biomonitoring device, and examined how confined fluid behaves to inform future healthcare technologies in space. More details about their missions can be found through the links in our Show Notes.
Hybrid Rocket Engine Design and Manufacturing Company Firehawk Aerospace have announced the development of a 30-square mile launch range in West Texas. The site will serve as a testing range for the company's current and future flight test contracts for the United States government and other partners. Currently, Firehawk manufactures their product at their Dallas headquarters, and now performs static fire tests of their hybrid rocket engines at their two-acre test site in Midland, Texas. The new launch range will enable testing of the propulsion system in flight.
And continuing on Monday's program theme about India's heyday in space, the Mauritius Research & Innovation Council has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Indian Space Research Organization to develop a joint small satellite. No further details about the small satellite were released with the announcement.
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That concludes our Intelligence Roundup for today. You'll find links to further reading in our Show Notes, including an announcement from Rocket Lab welcoming Lieutenant General Nina Armagno to the company's Board of Directors. They're all at space.n2k.com.
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Today is the last day of the Beyond Earth Institute's symposium exploring new commercial LEO destinations. One of the leading commercial space stations is Haven-1, which is being developed by Vast. T-Minus Producer Alice Caruth caught up with Vast Senior Vice President of Product and Business Development, David Caponio.
>> David Caponio: Well, we're a relatively new company, founded just about two years ago, with a vision of creating an artificial gravity space station. Last May, we announced our first space station called Haven-1. That's a single Falcon-9 module space station to be launched by August 25. And then to be, shortly thereafter, crewed with a four-person crew from Space-X's Dragon Launch, and then a total mission lifetime of three years, with 40 days of crew time spread out over four missions.
>> Alice Caruth: Wow.
>> David Caponio: Yes.
>> Alice Caruth: So, you've come in at an angle that other companies aren't doing in that CLD area, of bringing in artificial gravity.
>> David Caponio: Correct.
>> Alice Caruth: Why are you doing that? What's the benefit of having that artificial gravity environment, when others are looking for microgravity for experiments, for example?
>> David Caponio: That's true. When we had our first conversations with NASA on artificial gravity, there were ecstatic. This has been a dream for them for the last two or three decades, since the early part of the ISS, to have some sort of artificial gravity generation on a large scale. They do have centrifuges on board, but this would be, you know, full, life size, human rated centrifuge in space, with the whole [inaudible] space station. And we did this, you know, like I said, it's the vision of the company. The founder, Jed McCaleb, who's our single founder and funder of the entire Haven-1 plan and through the future, did this because one of the major challenges of humanity living in space, is the detrimental effects of microgravity. Everything from bone loss to muscle loss, even brain effects, optic nerves, there's just been a whole host of study in microgravity on deleterious effects of microgravity. And the only way to solve that is with artificial gravity.
So, we do that with centripetal force, simply spinning the spacecraft. It's no simple feat of course, so incremental approach. And with Haven-1, even though it's a crewed space station, there's uncrewed portions that are quite lengthy, where we'll attempt to perform an uncrewed demonstration of artificial gravity. Even in a space station of that size, we're able to generate up to one-sixth gravity, which is the gravity found on the moon. We'll have an entire ISS express rack that will experience one-sixth gravity for a period of about a week, and basically will become a lunar test bed that you can do in LEO, earlier, and at a fraction of the cost.
>> Alice Caruth: So, tell me about your customer base. If you're going to be creating this artificial gravity base in LEO, who is it you're looking to attract to get out there?
>> David Caponio: Well, the unique part of our next space station, which it's kind of a working title. We're just calling it Stick [phonetic] for now. It would be a Star-Chip [phonetic] class, 7 meter on diameter, 7 modules all linked together on a 100-meter span. Spinning that end over an end, like a baton, allows you to generate zero G in the center, obviously, and then up to 1G at the ends. And then between them, you get variable gravity hitting of course, lunar gravity, Martian gravity, [inaudible] Venus, and then all the way up to eventually 1G. So, it allows for a gravity laboratory, basically, studying the effects of gravity on the human body. We know a lot about 1G. We know a lot about zero G. We don't know much about anything in between, other than you know, two weeks on the moon, six times.
So, it allows us to kind of do that quite easily in LEO, you know, and it's still in a, you know, zero microgravity environment. Testing variable gravities, you know, all the way up through 1G. And really testing, you know, if we do Martian expeditions, you know, six months to get there, 18 months on planet, six months to get back, and then you're at a third of gravity while you're on the planet, is existing in 1G during the transit enough to then, you know, exist at one-third G for another 18 months? Or something that may be a little bit higher, like over 1G, in 1.1, 1.2. Does that kind of supercharge us to then be on planet at a lesser degree? Which we have -- obviously can't be in a centrifuge when we're on planet. And then allow us to come back, maybe at that accelerated gravity, and then be back at earth at, you know, a relatively less affected state.
>> Alice Caruth: Fantastic.
>> David Caponio: So, yes.
>> Alice Caruth: What a great idea. Now, you kind of alluded to it a little bit, but you are working with NASA. Can you talk me through that agreement that came out earlier this year?
>> David Caponio: So, we were founded just after the selection of commercial LEO destinations. So, that of course is the funded Space Act Agreement with the three selectees. And we did not propose to that obviously, because we didn't exist at the time. But just earlier this year, we were selected for the Collaboration and Commercial Space Capabilities, Part 2, one of seven awardees. And even though that's an unfunded Space Act Agreement, it does allow us to start the conversation with NASA, to develop the relationship to do additional data exchanges with a lot of lessons learned from ISS. Potential access to NASA testing facilities, and potentially NASA services, like communications from TDRS. So, we're very excited to get going. We had just the kickoff a few months ago. Brought us NASA folks down to our shop in Long Beach. We have 115,000 square feet of integration and workspace there. And kind of showed them our plans and our vision for the future. So.
>> Alice Caruth: So, you're very much a future vision company.
>> David Caponio: Right.
>> Alice Caruth: And you've got a roadmap laid out for that. Can you tell us a little bit about that roadmap and what Vast is looking to do?
>> David Caponio: So, we talked a lot about Haven-1. We talked a little bit about our future space station. But also on that roadmap, there's another incremental step. As we're a young company, we want to practice in space first. So, we have a demonstration mission planned with a small spacecraft, uncrewed, unpressurized, we call Haven Demo, that will test a lot of the early, you know, initial avionics that we have, and kind of the backbone of our space station. Some of the low heritage systems, get those, you know, space heritage up to [inaudible] and ready to be incorporated into a crewed spacecraft. And then, you know, incorporating, like I said, the small artificial gravity test on a small scale in an uncrewed shorter duration, and then eventually incorporating that into a large space station full-time.
>> Alice Caruth: What a very exciting time for you. You touched on in-space manufacturing. Is there anything else you're really pushing for and looking forward to in the future of the aerospace industry as it's starting to really take off right now?
>> David Caponio: So, we're kind of looking, you know, as NASA and all of the [inaudible] providers, is looking for that killer app. What makes sense on the manufacturing side to do in microgravity, or you know, partial gravities, as we talked about? And we're really challenging the industries, you know? But the leading candidates would be pharmaceutical, semi-conductors, but really broad in the area outside of the space industry and how can earth use microgravity and potentially artificial gravity to do things in space and bring them back down to earth to have, you know, a multiple [inaudible] effect that you can't do in 1G? So, we're excited for that. I think you know, with the -- we're now looking towards the end of the International Space Station. It's been an incredible opportunity as a laboratory. It's been, you know, highly subsidized by international space agencies. But now we're looking -- we're challenging the industry to really formulate that business plan. What makes sense? How could you get to a good bottom line of profitability to do something in space? And with us, it's finally the first commercial opportunity to really do that.
So, we're excited for that first kind of spark that will start the commercial LEO economy. We see, you know, definitely there's promise here and there. And folks kind of just, you know, getting to a point where it's making sense for them. And we just want to apply that platform for -- to make that opportunity a reality.
>> Alice Caruth: Is there anything that perhaps I haven't asked or maybe Vast wants to be able to get out there [inaudible]?
>> David Caponio: So, most of our outreach on the -- with Haven-1 is to market the seats on an individual basis. So, that's -- could be private individuals, but also sovereign individuals, too. As it is scheduled, we'll be the world's first commercial space station. So, a lot of the opportunities, a little bit restricted on ISS, can now come to bear in a pressurized cargo environment. So, in space manufacturing, potentially brand partnerships, could be realized truly on a space station of our ownership and control. That said too, we're also very interested in outreach to other sovereign entities, international space agencies, to join us on those missions. So, we've had contact with a lot of the leading ones around the world. And hope to engage nearly all of them in a couple months' time. And really communicate them and educate them, what is actually going to exist in a very short amount of time, and what opportunity could exist for crew members, for pressurized cargo opportunities, in space in just under two years?
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>> Maria Varmazis: We'll be right back.
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Welcome back. If you're 23 years old or younger, and okay, that -- this counts quite a few of us. So, if you aren't in that club, remember being 23 or younger? If that's you today, then guess what? You've never been alive when people weren't living in space. Because it's been 23 years today since the first crew docked with the International Space Station, and it has been continuously occupied ever since. And I know, we have many listeners on the younger side who may indeed be 23 or younger. Lucky you.
And I know many of us may be generously a smidge older than that. So, if your 40th birthday is coming up, my condolences, and if it happens to be on February 7th, 2024, then depending on when you were born that day, there's a decent chance as you were coming into this world, there was someone floating free and untethered in orbit high above you, for the very first time in human history. That's because on February 7th, 1984, during the STS41B mission, Astronaut Bruce McCandless II was the first human to ever space walk without any kind of tether to a spacecraft. On that day, he and his colleague, Robert L. Stewart, both performed untethered spacewalks with a manned maneuvering unit, or MMU. Yes, those epic photos of astronauts free-floating above our beautiful planet, I'm sure you know the ones, they're very hard to forget. McCandless and Stewart logged nearly 6 hours of MMU time in its very first use.
So, if we conveniently ignore time zone differences and if you accept a baseline assumption here that babies are born at a steady rate throughout the day, some napkin math for the sake of fun here after all, for all our February 7, 1984 babies listening, you've got a 25% chance of being born in the window when there was a human free-floating in space for the first time in history.
But that's the past. What about now? Well, yesterday, November 1st, aboard or really, I should say outside the ISS, there was a noteworthy occasion. The fourth ever, all-female extravehicular activity, or EVA occurred, a.k.a., a spacewalk, with Astronauts Jasmin Moghbeli and Loral O'Hara completing a six-hour, 42-minutes EVA, to perform much needed systems maintenance. And if you think an all-female EVA isn't noteworthy, please compare and contrast with the total number of all male EVA's, which I'd bet decent money most of us couldn't name offhand, versus four. I'm looking forward to this not being a noteworthy thing, one EVA at a time.
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That's it for T-Minus for November 2nd, 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. 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 Caruth, mixing by Elliott 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 so much for listening. We'll see you tomorrow.
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