US Space Force assigns 12 new missions to SpaceX and ULA. GAO finds red flags in Space Force procurements. Is China planning to spy from Cuba? And...
Intel from China’s “Space Day.”
Reflections from day one of China’s Space Conference. UAE’s busy week. Space Force buys Blue Halo's phased array. Takeaways from Symposium. And more.
China's Space Day and the China Space Conference. The United Arab Emirates' space program has a busy week ahead. Blue Halo's phased array finds a buyer in the U.S. Space Force. Some takeaways from last week’s Space Symposium. And our interview with Mathieu Bailly, VP of Space at CYSEC, about the unique security challenges of the space industry.
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Our featured guest today is Mathieu Bailly, VP of Space at CYSEC, about the CYSAT Conference this week in Paris and unique security challenges for the space industry.
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>> Maria Varmazis: Last week we were busy covering the Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colorado but space knows no borders and things are busy down here on the blue marble. So now, we're turning our attention to the China Space Conference, which is happening this week in Hefei, Anhui Province from April 23rd to April 26th. Today is April 24th, 2023. I'm Maria Varmazis, and this is T-Minus. News from China Space Day and the China Space Conference. The United Arab Emirates Space Program has a busy week ahead. BlueHalo's Phased Array finds a buyer in the Space Force. Some takeaways from last week's Space Symposium. And an interview with Matthew Bailey, Vice President of Space at CYSEC about the unique security challenges in the space industry. Stay with us. Here is your intel briefing for today. As we mentioned at the top of the show, it's the week of the China Space Conference, this year being held in Hefei. And today, April 24th also happens to be China's Space Day which is a national celebration of achievements in space, marked specifically on the 24th as that's the day the nation had launched its first satellite, the Dong Fang Hong 1 back in 1970. This year, China is also celebrating the 30th anniversary of its founding the CNSA or the China National Space Administration. Given the major anniversary this year, there have been a number of big announcements about China's recent space accomplishments, as well as upcoming space initiatives. So, let's take a look at what's been reported so far.
This year has already marked an increase in Chinese private sector involvement in space with 21 commercial launches in 2023 alone. For just one example, the Hyperbola-1, the four-stage small solid launch vehicle made by i-Space of Beijing has already completed five flights with another 10 scheduled this year.
As part of the opening ceremonies for Space Day, China unveiled its first global color image map of Mars, assembled from over 14,000 images taken by the moderate resolution imaging camera onboard the Tianwen 1 Mars Orbiter.
Looking ahead, China's Deep Space Exploration Lab, or DCEL also mapped out their long-term goals. Coverage from China and Asia space flight on Twitter reports that DCEL is looking beyond research stations on the Moon and is considering plans for a Mars research station. DCEL and China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation or CASC also said that we should see test flights of a two-stage reusable variant of the Long March 9 super-heavy rocket by 2033.
As part of the Space Day announcements, China also said that earlier this year, it gave 1.5 grams of lunar soil collected with its Chang'e 5 to France, after giving a similar amount to Russia last year.
And speaking of the Chang'e 5, China is also working on a sample return mission for Mars using a lander based on the Chang'e 5's design though the Mars iteration will have additional sampling capabilities through either a crawler robot or a Mars helicopter. The goal is to collect 500 grams worth of samples and then get it back to Earth. This Mars sample return will be part of China's Tianwen 3 mission with a target 2030 launch and return to Earth by July 2031.
Changing focus now to Inmarsat. Inmarsat continues to work to recover services for L-band phones that have been down for nearly a week. The satellite service provider has restored maritime and aviation safety capabilities on its I-4 F1 satellite over the Asia Pacific. The 18-year-old spacecraft suffered an outage on all services, except for its global satellite phone service on April 16th after a partial loss of power. Inmarsat engineers are still investigating the root cause of the power issue.
Staying in the region now and it looks like it's going to be a record-breaking week for the United Arab Emirates' space program. The UAE's Rashid rover is scheduled to land on the Moon on April 25th. And later this week, the first Arab astronaut will step outside the International Space Station. So, the UAE lunar rover aims to make a soft landing onboard the Japanese Hakuto-R mission 1 spacecraft. After some initial health checks, the rover is set to begin a 14-day science mission to study the Moon's geology, soil, and dust, and capture images.
And Emirate astronaut Sultan AlNeyadi is expected to perform his first space walk to retrieve a piece of communication hardware on April 28th. Dr. AlNeyadi arrived on the international space station on March 3rd for a six-month mission.
BlueHalo says Space Force's Rapid Capabilities Office or RCO is its first customer for a new Phased Array antenna that the company developed for military and commercial markets. The US Space Force is aiming to replace decades-old parabolic satellite dishes with electronic phased array antennas. BlueHalo won a $1.4 billion contract with the Space RCO for the Satellite Communications Augmentation Resource Program or SCAR in 2022. The program aims to modernize the Satellite Control Network or SCN of ground terminals that track US military and intelligence satellites on GO.
And the UK is also focusing on GO or GO stationary orbit. Their military has released a request for information solicitation for ground-based electro-optical sensor solutions capable of providing space domain awareness for UK space assets. The new sensor is expected to be capable of residence space object tracking and will be located at a UK military base in Cypress.
The Aerospace Corporation has been selected by NASA to lead a consortium to develop in-space servicing capabilities. The group will focus on in-space servicing, assembly, and manufacturing or ISAM capabilities in space that can extend the life of missions or manufacturing in space. The Aerospace Corporation announced the consortium for space mobility and ISAM capabilities dubbed COSMIC on April 19th at the Space Symposium. NASA selected Aerospace Corporation for the role in February under its existing NASA specialized Engineering, Evaluation, and Test Services contract.
The next SpaceX Falcon 9 mission is scheduled for Tuesday from Vandenberg. The Payload is another batch of Starlink satellites which continue to cause issues for ground-based astronomers. SpaceX has launched over 4000 Starlink satellites to date and efforts to make them less bright are not yielding the results promised. The mega constellations cause issues for Earth-based observers who are likely to continue to raise alarm over interference from the LEO communication system.
And speaking of SpaceX, the blowout from last week's starship launch continues to make headlines. Aftermath images from the powerful rocket resemble a war zone with scattered debris, a crater under its launch mount, and dense in-storage tanks with damage to nearby vehicles. CEO Elon Musk took to Twitter to say that SpaceX did try to design a water-cooled steel plate to go under the launch mount but that it wasn't ready in time for last week's launch. There are also questions around missing camera equipment. AFP staff photographer Patrick Fallon says his remote system along with some others have gone missing after the launch. The equipment that was recovered from over 1000 feet from the launch pad also sustained significant damage from the rocket blast. The next starship launch attempt is expected in the next one to two months.
Okay. That's our briefing for today. And hey, T-Minus crew, every Monday we produce a written intelligence roundup, 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.
Up next is a roundup of last week's Space Symposium, some key takeaways from the event to cover there, and after that is my interview with Matthew Bailey at CYSEC about security challenges in the space industry and the CYSAT conference in Paris later this week. Stay with us. So, last week was the 38th Annual Space Symposium in Colorado Springs. And our executive producer Brandon Karpf was there. So, let's get into some of the key takeaways from this year's event. Brandon, could you describe a little bit for me what it was like on the show floor? I mean, it's a conference and it's conferencey, but tell me a little bit about it.
>> Brandon Karpf: Sure. So, very obvious the three different communities of professionals from this industry, right? So, you have the military, NATSAC, you know, National Security Space, you know, everyone in their uniforms from the Space Command, the Space Force, the other joint force members, you know, I saw some navy and army and marines there as well. As well as the international military. Actually a surprising number of foreign military. Everyone from Australians, you know, the five Is, Australians, the UK, Canada. But also other members of NATO so quite a bit from Germany, France, Italy, and other partners as well. So, that was the first population, you know, representing quite in strong numbers. The second population, you know, obviously the commercial space but, you know, the traditional bigs, right? We're talking those that you would expect Boeings, Lockheed, Northrop, etc. Those kind of old-breed space companies as the second big population. And then --
>> Maria Varmazis: The primes, right?
>> Brandon Karpf: The primes, exactly.
>> Maria Varmazis: The primes, yes. Not the olds, the primes.
>> Brandon Karpf: Not the olds but the primes, right, yeah, sure. The consolidated, we'll call them. And then this third population or these new space companies. And it's very obvious that it's, you know, these three communities in a military space, commercial space, primes, and then new space, I actually -- I should mention the fourth which is civil space, right, NASA, ESA, JAXA, all representing there as well. But, you know, they are more similar in concerns and mindset and approach to military space as well, even though the goals and objectives are different, they all come from the same federal government-type world.
You know, the biggest dichotomy I noticed was between the traditional commercial space, the old breed and this new industry, the new space which, you know, in terms of square footage, new space was probably covering more ground in the exhibit hall, not the largest booths but just in terms of the sheer quantity of them. So, still, traditionally this environment is full of suits, right, suits and ties. And the new space is bringing in a little bit of an edgier perspective which is refreshing, it's nice to see, but it's a clash of cultures at this event. It was actually a really interesting combination, diverse, you know, perspectives from all of those four different communities.
>> Maria Varmazis: Hm, so more jeans and T-shirts, and maybe with a blazer on top for business purposes but, you know.
>> Brandon Karpf: Exactly. Yeah. So, I mean, certainly, it's still plenty of suits and ties but it's starting to transition into this new -- brave new world of the space economy and what's happening in the new space environment.
>> Maria Varmazis: So, in terms of the breakdown that you saw for the new space folks, what did you see in terms of what people were presenting? What did they want to show to the world?
>> Brandon Karpf: So, the first one I would mention is the workforce. That phrase was on everyone's tongue, this idea of the concerns around the workforce on everything from the diversity of the workforce, the capabilities, the pipeline, you know, training knowledge, skills, development of the workforce. You know, and most of the discussions that I heard and was around for around workforce were talking about getting people in the door. Only a few were discussing what we do with them once they're in the door. And so, you know, talking about diversity and bringing new people and new mindsets into these organizations, only a few were discussing once they're there, how do we keep them around, how do we help them grow, help them feel welcome and comfortable and feel like they're contributing. So, that's the first throughline that I noticed.
>> Maria Varmazis: Yeah. So, aside from workforce issues, what else were you hearing about?
>> Brandon Karpf: Yeah, so, you know, traditionally this industry is seen kind of a hardware industry. And that still shows up on the exhibit floor. What we're seeing more and more is the transitioning from atoms to bits. So, this idea that software is starting to really make an entry into every aspect of this industry. That's always a challenge. But also, a discussion of capabilities and needs within the industry, most definitely and especially on the ground segment.
Now these companies are really starting to think about their broader business models and the commercial capabilities, and what commercial capabilities are going to require as they look toward other industries like the financial industry, the healthcare industry, agriculture, you know, maritime shipping and transportation is their requirement of having a fully integrated and effective, almost automated data plane, data and analysis plane as the ground segment. So, starting to see a number of companies --
>> Maria Varmazis: Responsive.
>> Brandon Karpf: Exactly. And, you know, those companies and other initiatives aren't going to have a space person on staff. What they're going to have are data analysts, marketing professionals, you know, strategists who are looking at that data and want to use that data but don't necessarily have the background and expertise to make sense of it without an analytical plane or a way of actually getting the data into their, you know, into their in-sites platforms.
So, what I had noticed was at the edge of, you know, by no means was this, you know, huge but I think it's going to be growing over the next year and beyond where a number of core, key companies starting to discuss that part of the industry, what they're doing for data transfer, what they're doing for data security, and what they're doing for data analytics, on the analytics plane of the ground segment. So, getting useful information from space systems to the end users and developing those business models.
>> Maria Varmazis: So, Brandon anything else you want to mention about Space Symposium as a wrap-up?
>> Brandon Karpf: Yeah, it was a pleasure to be there. You know, it's a great community. It's going to grow massively in the next few years. Of course, we've seen great growth in the last, you know, in the last five, 10 years. It's only going to accelerate from here. And in a lot of ways, it reminds me of where cybersecurity was 10 years ago when we were still figuring out what it means to be a cybersecurity professional, what it means to grow in that industry, what it means to develop new business models and bring new technology, new capabilities, new services to market. And so, we're excited to be along for the ride.
>> Maria Varmazis: That is exciting. And I'm looking forward to going myself next year. And I'll have to figure out if I'm to wear a suit or jeans. We'll have to -- that will be interesting to figure out for the next year.
>> Brandon Karpf: Yeah, exactly. Or a galaxy-covered jacket, which I saw a few of those.
>> Maria Varmazis: Oh, you know, I've got one of those in my closet. That's not even a problem.
>> Brandon Karpf: Naturally.
>> Maria Varmazis: Yeah, naturally. All right. Brandon, thank you so much for walking me through the 38th Annual Space Symposium. Appreciate it.
>> Brandon Karpf: Yeah, thank you, Maria. Yeah, and thanks for the Space Symposium for having us.
>> Maria Varmazis: Up next is my interview with Matthew Bailey at CYSEC. Stay tuned. We're not a cybersecurity podcast, no, we have friends who do a great job of that already but the space industry faces some unique and complex security concerns. Thankfully, many professionals around the world working in the space industry are stepping up to meet this challenge.
>> Matthew Bailey: Hi, my name is Matthew Bailey. I'm heading the space activities at CYSEC and I'm also the Executive Director of CYSAT, the biggest event about cybersecurity for space.
>> Maria Varmazis: Excellent. Thank you, Matthew, for joining me today. So, yeah, let's dive into it because CYSAT is at the end of his month, can you tell me a little bit about what the conference is, maybe how it started?
>> Matthew Bailey: Of course, yes. CYSAT is a conference about space cybersecurity. Cybersecurity for space is a little bit of an unknown topic. It's a very recent topic for civil space missions. And it is absolutely important that, you know, we all realize how much we depend on satellites and space assets in general. And as a result, these are very valuable in terms of physical assets like satellites but also digital assets like data. And they need to be better protected and to do that, we need to create an ecosystem of companies, agencies, startups, researchers, students, everybody needs to be involved to really be able to respond to the challenges of operating satellites in the near future.
>> Maria Varmazis: This field has changed a lot, especially as more space assets are becoming digitized. What kind of developments maybe have you seen in the last year that you expect will be covered in this year's conference?
>> Matthew Bailey: Yes. Since the very beginning of space like defense and military missions have always been secured like this has always been a topic for military agencies, but not so much for commercial and civil missions. And this is really the big change that we have seen in the space market in the last couple of years. And these commercial, civil missions are taking more and more importance. So, you see the number of satellites that are being launched, SpaceX Starlink is a big example obviously with hundreds thousands of satellites that are put into orbit. But there are lots of other companies going into the space market for really business purposes.
And again, this is linked to the data and the value that these data are bringing to society and companies. And value attracts criminals so we see more and more interest from criminals to target space assets, especially since that space engineers have not been educated with security. This is a new topic for the industry. So, we're not at the level of maturity that finance and medical or other sectors are currently because they have been targeted for years and decades. Space is a new thing for hackers, for attackers. So, as well for engineers. So, we need to do better -- we need to do a better job to defend ourselves and to defend these satellites that, again, provide services that are absolutely critical to our modern digital life.
>> Maria Varmazis: Yeah, there's so many great points in that because I've been to DEFCON a few times and I remember -- and we've talked to the folks who do aerospace security, and it still feels like awareness of aerospace security in general and the security world is sort of nascent. But it's there. And then the same thing with the space economy where awareness of security is an issue that needs to be addressed is somewhat there but not where it should ideally be. And does feel a little bit, at least to me, that people are trying to meet in the middle. So, the folks who are going to be at this conference, are they predominantly from the space -- from -- I'm using space industry really broadly -- are they predominantly from the space industry, are they more maybe security professionals who are trying to enter space industry, or is it a mix?
>> Matthew Bailey: Yeah, that's the entire point is to bring these two industries, these two types of people together. So, we need to bring space engineers, ground segment, mission control, flight software engineers, you name it, but also project managers of space missions, executives, quality assurance, and so on, all the space professionals, we need them to meet the security professionals. We have lots of people eligible about security. Operating your satellite is not so different from operating another critical piece of infrastructure. You have lots of cloud services, you have traditional IT servers, equipment, operating systems, lots of traditional stuff, including onboard the satellite. So, it's not that much different. We just need them to talk together to stop these silos and really build a bridge where we have a place where we combine these two levels of expertise. And that's exactly the goal of the conference is to bring these two worlds together.
>> Maria Varmazis: Excellent. And, yeah, especially as the space industry starts to rely more on commercialized services, off-the-shelf services I imagine these challenges are just going to continue to scale instead of everyone trying to do something sort of homebrew and figuring out their own --
>> Matthew Bailey: Yeah. You know, that's exactly it. As I was mentioning like space industry has been very much security by obscurity type of mindset. And this is changing because we see commercial missions relying more and more on COT components, of the shelf, as you just mentioned, and these are related to the open source material, lots of public information that you can find on the internet, which is -- which provides both advantages and inconvenience. But it's still -- we're trying to advocate for better security practices in the space industry, including security by transparency.
So, and again, I really feel that this is related to bringing old lessons learned from other markets, financial services, all these guys that have been learning the hard way that they've been attacked and breached. And we have all these lessons learned that we can leverage to the space market to be a bit more faster at building the defense mechanisms that are badly needed today as we see it with the geopolitical context getting more and more tense.
>> Maria Varmazis: Absolutely. The final question. What are you -- I'm sure this is a hard question to answer. What are you most excited about the conference this year?
>> Matthew Bailey: It's the third year that we're organizing this conference. And the first year and the second year also a bit, it was very much on the high-level perspective to really raise awareness about the risks trying to show people that space assets are vulnerable just like any other piece of IT equipment embedded systems. And this year what we're really trying to bring is technical demonstrations of capabilities, services, products that are available to there, to companies to be used on the operational field very soon. So, it's really moving away from PowerPoint to really show space engineers how they can defend their products and services in the short term because that's really what is needed now.
>> Maria Varmazis: Excellent. Thank you so much for giving us the overview of CYSAT which is in Paris April 26th and 27th.
>> Matthew Bailey,3: Thank you, Maria, for having me.
>> Maria Varmazis: And you can learn more about the CYSEC Conference at cysat.eu. We'll be right back. Welcome back. And now, for a different kind of launch, and in this case, the engine for these vehicles are good old glutes and quads. Over the weekend in Huntsville, Alabama, NASA's Human Exploration Rover Challenge was back and in fine form. It was the 29th year for this competition and the first time it's been held since 2019 due to, what else but COVID. Five hundred high school and college students from around the world competed to design, develop, build, and test human-powered rovers that could handle a mighty challenging obstacle course simulating asteroid debris, boulders, erosion ruts, crevices, and an ancient streambed. These rovers have to be efficient, lightweight, and compact coming in five by five by five feet of volume. And these rovers also have to collect samples at various course locations without any cross-contamination. Quite a challenge there. This year's first-place winners are Escambia High School and the University of Alabama Huntsville. And a hearty congratulations to all the competitors this year. Keep the rubber side down. And that's it for T-Minus for April 24th, 2023. For additional resources from today's report, check out our show notes at space.n2k.com. And we'd love to know what you think of our podcast. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or submit the survey in our show notes. Your feedback ensures that we deliver the information that keeps you a step ahead in the rapidly changing space industry.
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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. And I'm Maria Varmazis. See you tomorrow.