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The stars aren’t aligning for Astra.

Astra defaults on its recent debt agreement. SpaceX breaks reuse records. ESA holds its space summit in Seville. And more.





SES releases positive financial results but discloses power issues with its O3b mPOWER satellites. SES and Intelsat are awaiting a big payout from cell service providers. NASA and Axiom sign a fourth agreement to send private astronauts to the International Space Station, and more.

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T-Minus Guest

Our guest today is Ché Bolden, President and CEO of the Charles F. Bolden Group.

You can connect with Ché on LinkedIn and learn more about the Bolden Group on their website.

Selected Reading


SpaceX launches Falcon 9 booster from Cape Canaveral on recording-breaking 18th flight– Spaceflight Now

Flight test of new commercial carrier rocket succeeds in NW China- CGTN

Italy, France and Germany agree on launches of Ariane 6 and Vega-C- Reuters

Norway's Andøya Spaceport: A New Era for European Space Ambitions

New funding secured for the Cornwall Space Cluster- South West Tech Daily

Surprise! Asteroid 'Dinky' is actually a double space rock, NASA's Lucy probe reveals (photo)

Can Australia defend its place in space?

Net zero by 2050? The answer is up in space - New Statesman

NASA Astronauts Accidentally Lose Tool Bag During Space Walk

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>> Maria Varmazis: Maine, the way space should be. Today, I'm coming to you from the very first Maine Space Conference in Portland, Maine, bringing together the growing space economy in the state of Maine to help it grow, and hopefully, to establish greater space infrastructure here, namely a spaceport. We'll share more details about the conference in tomorrow's show.

[ Audio Clip Space Launch ]

Today is November 6, 2023. I'm Maria Varmazis and this is "T-Minus".

[ Audio Clip Space Launch ]

Astra has defaulted on its recent debt agreement. SpaceX breaks reuse records. ESA holds its space summit in Seville. And our guest today is Che Bolden, President and CEO of The Charles F. Bolden Group on Inter Astra and their vision for the future of space industry workforce. Stay with us. On to today's intelligence briefing. Not great news for Astra unfortunately. The company has been struggling to raise needed funds and said, late on Friday, that it has defaulted on its recent debt agreement. You may remember that the company had a one to 15 reverse stock split in September in an effort to bring its stock price up over $1.00 a share to avoid being delisted from NASDAQ. Unfortunately, it was too little avail as, right now, they are trading at around $0.92. And as part of its debt agreement, Astra needed to have at least $10.5 million on hand, but it came up short and still owes $8 million on the aggregate principal. In a statement to the SEC, they noted the company is engaged in continued discussions with a number of other investors regarding potential additional debt and equity financings and other strategic transactions. The company can provide no assurance that it will be able to consummate any additional transaction in a timely manner or at all. We should know more about Astra's future with the company's Q3 filing expected next week. We live in crazy times and we can dismiss another SpaceX record. We're getting too used to their engineering achievements, but the 18th flight for a Falcon 9 booster really shouldn't be sniffed at. SpaceX broke the re-flight record on Friday evening with the launch of 23 more starling satellites from Cape Canaveral. The launch brings the total starling satellites launched in 2023 up to 1,711. And what seems to be a vehicle inspired by SpaceX, i-Space, the Chinese company, not the Japanese entity, successfully launched and landed a test rocket last week. Beijing Interstellar Glory Space Technology, which is also known as i-Space, launched its methane liquid oxygen rocket, called Hyperbola-2, and landed it a minute later. It was the first test for the reusable vehicle system. i-Space was the first private Chinese company to reach orbit in 2019 with the solid-fueled Hyperbola-1 rocket. The 22 nation European Space Agency held ministerial talks in Seville today. At the space summit, Italy, France, and Germany reached a deal over future launches of the delayed Ariane 6 and Avio's smaller Vega C rockets. European states have been at odds over medium term budgets and schedules stretching beyond the first 15 flights of Ariane 6. Italy has been campaigning for the Vega C rocket to be marketed separately from Ariane Group subsidiary, Ariane Space, which currently sells and operates all major European launches. The new agreement opens the door to Vega C being operated independently by Italian manufacturer, Avio, in addition to the current arrangements carried out by Ariane Space. Tomorrow, the ESA nations will hold a joint session with the European Union on competitiveness in space. And speaking of Europe, Norway is the latest nation to open a sovereign spaceport. The Andoya Spaceport is set to become the first operational orbital spaceport in continental Europe, in competition with the likes of SaxaVord, who we spoke to last week on the show by the way. Andoya Spaceport has been launching suborbital vehicles since the 1960s, but Norway says the site's northern location offers unique advantages for launching into highly sought-after retrograde and polar orbits. German company, Isar Aerospace, is planning to conduct its first test flight from the spaceport later this year. The UK's Cornwall Space Cluster has secured one million pounds of funding to further develop the data space and aerospace sectors. These sectors currently employ over 1,300 people and contribute close to 100 million pounds to the local economy. Cornwall is the location of the UK's horizontal spaceport which held its first launch earlier this year. The ambition is to more than double the value of these sectors by 2030. And NASA's Lucy has sent back images of its first asteroid encounter and the results have overdelivered. The asteroid, Dinkinesh, which means marvelous in the language of Ethiopia, is a small space object that is part of the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. And is a binary asteroid. Okay, binary asteroid, what does that mean? Well, little Dinki is actually two space rocks. Lucy captured the images as it passed the binary asteroid at a cool 10,000 miles per hour. The vehicle is able to autonomously track asteroids during its high speed fly by and capture data like the size of the space rocks. It's pretty amazing technology, isn't it? We look forward to further Lucy updates as it continues its exploration. And that concludes our intelligence briefing for today. As always, you'll find links to further reading in our show notes. We've also added a few opinion pieces in there for you, one on Australia defending its place in space, and another on the UK's plans for a net zero industry in 2050 by utilizing space. All these stories in more at space.n2k.com. Hey, "T-Minus" crew, every Monday, we produce a written intelligence roundup, and it's called Signals and Space. So, if you happen to miss any "T-Minus" episodes, this strategic intelligence product will get you up to speed in the fastest way possible. It's all signal, no noise. You can sign up for Signals and Space in our show notes or at space.n2k.com. Our guest today is Che Bolden, President and CEO of the Charles F. Bolden Group. The Bolden Group manages the space conference, Inter Astra. And I started by asking Che how the idea was developed.

>> Che Bolden: All of the experiences I was given, both growing up and then, in my time in the military, really did set the stage for what I- what I consider to be, you know, true like calling type work now. So, as I kind of mentioned earlier, I grew up in the shadow of Shuttle, but I really didn't pay that much attention to the space business, you know. My father being an astronaut was, to me, akin to my father having worked at one of the petroleum plants that were nearby that we worked. Or if he had been an engineer, or even a teacher, for that matter, you know, he's just my dad. He was always at my sister and my events. But space, to me, was a job. It was not until I had retired from the Marine Corps, set out on my own to try to become an entrepreneur, and I was trying to find where I fit. And there were only two things that I knew that I was pretty decent at. I know leadership, whether I'm a good leader is not the point, but I know what good leadership and bad leadership is. And so, I think that I've gained enough experience and expertise to be able to help people kind of ferret out where good leaders are and where they aren't. And I also know people. You know, I just- I have a good way and relationship with people in which I can connect with them and have them connect with other people. And so, when I started to think about areas to put those two things together, I, almost circumstantially, got exposed to an event. My father, who founded the company, I am the President and CEO of the Charles F. Bolden Group, like I said, it's named after my dad. He founded this company based off his relationships. And one of the more enduring relationships he has is with a family in Israel, the Ramon family. Ilan Ramon was the first Israeli astronaut and he, unfortunately, perished on Columbia in 2003. His wife, Rona, and my father still maintained a relationship with my parents until her death. But what she did after her husband died, and unfortunately, subsequently after her son died, is she created the Ramon Foundation, which is a not for profit in Israel intended to increase and enhance Israeli aerospace and get Israeli technology kind of more on a larger world stage. And so, they had organized an event called Space Tech. They asked if we could help based off of the expertise of the people that we have brought to the Bolden Group, and we said, yes. Their first question was they wanted us to organize a fireside chat with some more luminaries within the space industry. And they requested some of the traditional names that most people would be familiar with. We recommended to them that we'd take this from a different angle because we knew what was possible and what was out there. And so, rather than going after the big names that they had asked us for, we went after who we knew were big names, but maybe the rest of the world didn't. And so, with this keynote event for the Ramon Foundation Space Tech, we went and got Gwynne Shotwell, the CEO from SpaceX, Ellen Stofan, who is now Undersecretary at the Smithsonian, and then, Her Excellency, Sarah Al Amiri, who is with the United Arab Emirates. And we set a fireside chat with those three leaders within the space industry to have a discussion with Charles Bolden, the former NASA administrator, about the business and the future of space. That panel went off better than we ever could have imagined. Number one is, it was no doubt in anyone's mind that these three ladies were leaders and titans of industry. And I think people, if they had any issues with them being female, that was erased very quickly. So, we were proud that we were able to help people figure that piece out. We also were able to put, you know, especially looking back in hindsight with today happening, we put a Muslim woman into an Israeli event where it was nothing but both people focusing on their expertise and their capabilities and none of the other political baggage behind it. The second part of that, and this long story will come to a close here, is that.

>> Maria Varmazis: No, I'm loving it. Don't even worry about it. I'm enjoying this journey a lot, so thank you.

>> Che Bolden: Yeah, we, you know, we had an opportunity to freelance, if you will, they gave us the ability to do the keynote closing. And with that keynote closing, just had a random idea that we would ask two of our advisors, Karen Nyberg, who was an ISS astronaut and Doug Hurley, her husband, who was the last Shuttle pilot and the first Dragon pilot, interesting distinction. And he also happens to be a Marine and we also happened to be in a squadron together years and years ago. So, I asked the two of them if they'd be willing to just have a discussion about their lives, and it's what we were calling an astro family. And we had them, they talked for probably 60, 65 minutes. And I can only speak for my dad and I because it was a virtual event, but we were both on the edge of our seats. You know, I grew up in this lifestyle they were describing, but I hadn't seen it through the eyes of what they- how they were describing. So, in essence, Doug and Karen met as astronauts, fell in love, got married, had their child, Jack, as astronauts. So, they started a family as an astro family. You know, if you were to project ourselves forward into some, you know, unknown future, we would assume that everybody would be an astro family, well, they really are an astro family. And all the things that they discussed around conduct the conduct of their lives, just obviated any of the technical discussions around what it meant to be an astronaut or a flight director or whatever. They just- it laid out that the business of space as we know it is not what we know. I mean, we've got to worry about education, health, clothes, insurance, investment, how to we entertain ourselves, what's our psychological well-being, all of these things came out through this very short fireside chat with this husband and wife talking about what it meant to live and work in space. And so that's what-.

>> Maria Varmazis: To be human in space, truly, yes, yeah, yep.

>> Che Bolden: Exactly, exactly. And that's when the lightbulb went on is, you know, if you go and look across what I am labeling, what we are labeling the space scape, you'll see a variety of different organizations putting on these events. And these events, you know, they've got the allure and the attractiveness of being space events. Well, they're space events that talk about space as we know it, i.e. launch, you know, rockets and what not, capsules, satellites, satellite communication. And to the exclusion of almost everything else because that's where the technology is, that's where the money is, and that's where the greatest strides have to be made because the sooner we can get the cost of those things down, the sooner everybody else can get into it. But there's enough people working on that problem. There's no one else worrying about what's next. And so, we came up with Inter Astra, and that's Latin for among the stars. And that's double entendre, if you will, if that's the right term, is we're pulling together all these people that we consider stars, so they're among other stars. And we're talking about doing work out and amongst the cosmos, amongst the stars. So, that's why Inter Astra was our name. You know, I guess to kind wrap this part up is, so Inter Astra, you know, the vision we have for Inter Astra is fueled by those experiences that we, my father and I and others had collectively, where we know that there is a business around space. There is a business aspect of space. And just like Bloomberg is the business of finance, Inter Astra is the business of space. And it will be the global public square for the business of space. And it's got three parts to it. The first one, which is what you're familiar with, is the retreat which we're a couple of days away from the second retreat. But it's a gathering of luminaries and thought leaders from across any vertical that you can think of. We have entertainers coming, we have space professionals, astronauts, interior designers, educators, high school students. You know, we tried to pull in every component of humanity to have the conversation about, what does the business of space mean? And most importantly, where are those opportunities moving forward, because that's where a lot of people really are looking for guidance and help. And we think that we're set in a position to do that. The other two components of Inter Astra are outgrowing- outcroppings of what we're doing here coming up, and we'll start to focus on those a little bit more, but I can just tell you in a nutshell, both of them are intended to create a more equitable ecosystem to support the business of space. Representation is important. Solid, strong science is very important. And most importantly, that science and how it applies to humanity as opposed to just doing science for science's sake, we want everything to kind of point back so that people can understand the benefits of space exploration, you know, space inhabitation, cohabitation, I don't know the right word. But living and working in space. People need to understand the impact that that's going to have on their lives here on terra firma because that's really the only thing that matters. We, human beings, live on earth. Right now, as my father says all the time, there is no plan B, you know. Mars, while a lot of people want to go to Mars, that is a really hostile place to be, and it won't be a natural life that we're accustomed to. This is where we live and where we belong and we will always come back to, and so, if we don't protect the earth, if we don't demonstrate the value of what space brings back to us here on earth, then, we've kind of- we're losing the picture.

>> Maria Varmazis: One of the things that I'm really impressed by, when I looked at the Inter Astra guest list, for example, is you do have an amazing cross section of people, and they're not always the same people you see at every event. What would you urge others who are listening, how can people do better on this? Because it shouldn't be just, you know, you guys are doing an amazing job building up these voices, but it should be everybody working on this.

>> Che Bolden: You know, Maria, it makes me very, very happy that you noticed what we've done as far as changing the way it looks. At its core, Inter Astra's about an equitable community, or I'm sorry, representative community that creates equitable opportunities. To that end, we set out intentionally to make sure that our community represents humanity. And so, right off the bat, you take a look just at the numbers. The world population is roughly 51, 52 percent female, 49, 48 percent male. Inter Astra was intended to look exactly like that. Last year, we had 59 percent female, 41 percent male, but we were close to the actual representation. If you go to any other traditional space event, you know, you're lucky if you get 20 percent female. So, that was the very first thing we looked at. The next one we looked at is representation across ethnic and cultural lines as well. And while we haven't hit the numbers that we want, you know, we had a roughly 12 percent of an international presence last year, we want that to eventually grow to 50. People of color ended up being in the double digits, the low double digits. We want that to be closer to 20 percent to 25 percent. Again, these are things we want. We want every gathering that we support and the eventual outgrowth of that to be something that is representative of all humanity, not just of the United States, not just of Europe, not just of the West, we want it to look like it's a representation of humanity itself. So, that when we finally do make first contact, they get to see humans, not, you know, black humans, white humans, Jewish humans, Palestinians, all of that. It's important to recognize the differences culturally, ethnically, and whatnot, in order for us to really embrace what we are as humans. But it's not important for our success to bifurcate or isolate individual groups in order to proceed and do things. And so, Inter Astra is supposed to be a lens by which people can see themselves doing what they need to do in the business of space.

>> Maria Varmazis: We'll be right back. Welcome back. Astronauts hate this one neat trick for space debris. Last week during a spacewalk, there was what NASA termed, and I swear this is their term, not mine, an orbital oopsie. Houston, it's not a big problem. Astronauts, Jasmin Moghbeli and Loral O'Hara were busy doing some repair work on the ISS solar arrays and you know how hard it is to keep track of the tool you're using when your head's down fixing something. Well, add in space to that, and it ramps up the difficulty for sure. And perhaps you might see that tool bag you swear you just put down drifting away into the wild black yonder. A tool bag that the astronauts Moghbeli and O'Hara had just used for their repairs got misplaced during their Thursday spacewalk and, well now, it's somewhere out there. Thankfully, its trajectory is not expected to cause any imminent issues for the ISS. Now, misplaced tools do happen to the best of us. And sometimes, when it happens in space, those tools drift away and become space debris. Other times, they stay close, like a towel that cosmonauts use to clean their space suits during a spacewalk outside the ISS. It stayed right there on the side of the ISS for a decade before it was retrieved in 2019. While a towel is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have, "The Hitchhiker's Guide" oddly has little guidance on what to make of a hitchhiking towel.

>> [Soundbite] If you want to survive out here, you've got to know where your towel is.

>> Maria Varmazis: That's it for "T-Minus" for November 6, 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. We're privileged that N2K and podcasts like "T-Minus" are part of the daily routine of many of the most influential leaders and operators in the public and private sector, from the Fortune 500 to many of the world's preeminent intelligence and law enforcement agencies. N2K's strategic workforce intelligence optimizes the value of your biggest investment, your people. We make you smarter about your team while making your team smarter. Learn more at n2k.com. This episode was produced by Alice Carruth, mixing by Elliott Peltzman and Trey Hester, with original music and sound design by Elliott Peltzman. Our executive producer is Brandon Karpf, and I'm Maria Varmazis, thanks for listening. We'll see you tomorrow. [Soundbite] "T-Minus".

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