Sierra Space secures $229 million in Series B Funding. US Space Systems Command opens the TAP Lab. Blue Origin announces its new CEO. And more.
Pop the kettle on, UK Space is entering the chat.
The UK Space Conference opens with news from UKSA, MDA, and Skyrora and Spirit Aerospace. Rocket Lab opens a new production facility in Maryland. And more.
The UK Space Conference opens with announcements from the UK Space Agency and Open Cosmos, MDA, and Skyrora and Spirit Aerospace. Thales Alenia Space to provide an S-Band Tracking, Telemetry and Command Transponder for Turkey’s AYAP-1 lunar spacecraft. Rocket Lab expands its production into the former Lockheed Martin Vertical Launch Building in Middle River, Maryland, and more.
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Our guest today is Karolina Dubiel, Founder of Girls in Aerospace Foundation.
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>> Maria Varmazis: For those of us in the U.S., our Thanksgiving holiday is coming up and right now my mind is filled with a huge to do list of all the food shopping and cooking that I've got to do over the next few days. Let's see, cranberries, yams, potatoes and so many pies. Okay, now I'm getting a little hungry. But while we're all distracted stateside, giving thanks, our friends across the pond in the UK are quite busy with plans of their own. The UK Space Conference, in fact, which is happening right now in Belfast. Quite a bit of news is happening there too, and we'll guide you through it.
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Today is November 21st, 2023. I'm Maria Varmazis and this is T-Minus.
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The UK Space Conference opens with announcements from UKSA, MDA and Skyrora and Spirit Aerospace. Thales Alenia, to support Turkey's Lunar Mission. Rocket Lab expands its production into Maryland. And our guest today is Karolina Dubiel, founder of Girls in Aerospace Foundation. Stick around for the second part of the program for our chat.
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Let's take a look at our intel briefing for this Tuesday and bring our focus back to Belfast. Lots of announcements for the fast growing UK space sector coming out of Northern Ireland today alone and to start, let's get a little bit of context first about just how fast the UK space industry is growing and where? Part of the chatter at the UK Space Conference today was that space clusters, which are funded in part by the UK Space Agency, are growing and working together to grow the UK space economy. Do you want to guess how many UK space clusters there are? Five, maybe 10? And would you believe me if I told you that there are actually 15 active space clusters in the UK? Yeah, there are. And if you'd like to familiarize yourself with them, we've got a link to a UK space cluster directory, put together by Catapult Satellite Applications in our show notes for you. Definitely go check it out. Okay, so, with that context in hand, on to some news from the UK Space Conference and Open Cosmos has announced that it is building the UK pathfinder satellite for the Atlantic Constellation. The UK Space Agency is providing three million pounds to support the build of the new satellite. The pathfinder satellite will be built by Open Cosmos at its headquarters in Oxfordshire, using the same design as three of the Portuguese satellites. The four satellites will be launched in the same orbital plane, constituting the first batch of the constellation. Another big announcement today, Skyrora and Spirit Aerospace used the UK Space Conference to announce a collaboration on orbital launch capability. Spirits presence in UK Space is growing both at its Scotland and Northern Ireland facilities. Collaborative goals also include the research of space technologies, particularly in additive manufacturing. Skyrora will provide Spirit with access to Skyprint 2, the largest in-house hybrid 3D printer of its kind in Europe. Skyrora is aiming to be the first UK company to vertically launch satellites from the British Isles, specifically from SaxaVord Spaceport in Unst. Matt Archer, director of Launch UK Space Agency said, "Relationships such as this will not only build our domestic space flight capability, but also help deliver the government's ambition for the UK to be Europe's leading provider of small satellite launch by 2030, creating highly skilled jobs and local opportunities across the UK." Another announcement at the UK Space Conference came from MDA. The company announced an expansion in the UK and plans to more than double its UK workforce and operational footprint over the next 12 months. MDA plans to hire 75 new employees in the UK by the end of 2024, which would again double its current UK workforce. The company is now actively recruiting for entry level to senior positions in critical engineering disciplines that include systems, payload, antenna, software, electronics and assembly, integration and test. In addition to the workforce, MDA also plans to expand its footprint in the UK with the lease of a new facility in Stevenage and expansions to its facilities in Manchester and Didcot. Thales Alenia Space has signed a contract with Tubitak Space Technologies Research Institute to provide a communications transponder for Turkey's first lunar mission. The Lunar Research Program is an integral part of the National Space Program led by the Turkish Space Agency. Tubitak Space Technologies Research Institute is designing, developing, integrating, testing, launching and managing the operations of the AYAP-1 spacecraft. With this project, Turkey aims to successfully carry out its first lunar mission and become one of the few countries that can conduct activities on the Moon with its own capabilities. Thales Alenia Space will provide an S Band tracking, telemetry and command transponder for the AYAP-1 spacecraft, a key unit to establish a communications link between the spacecraft and the ground station. Rocket Lab has announced the expansion of its space systems business with a dedicated production and development complex in Maryland. The 113,000 square foot former Lockheed Martin vertical launch building in Middle River has been home to aerospace manufacturing since 1929. Lockheed Martin used to build its flying boats there, as well as well, during World War II, the B26 Marauder. Richard Nixon was stationed there as a U.S. Navy JAG lawyer, monitoring procurement during the war. The facility will support the development and manufacture of carbon composite spacecraft buses, structural panels and assemblies, satellite dispensers, aerostructures and heat shields, composite over wrap pressure vessels, solar panel substrates, launch vehicle structures and a whole lot more [brief laughter]. The site will also play a role in the development and long term supply of carbon composite structures for Rocket Lab's new medium lift launch vehicle, the Neutron. Earth-observation Company Satellogic has been granted a remote sensing license by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, also known as NOAA. Satellogic initiated the license application for its Aleph-1 Constellation as a critical step in establishing an end to end U.S. pixel path and expanding support for customers with NOAA requirements. Sattelogic has its corporate headquarters in the British Virgin Islands, with its main operations hub based in Uruguay. With the license, Sattelogic is now subject to NOAA's oversight as the company pivots operational control of its satellite constellation to its U.S. personnel and expands their ground station network to include U.S. based ground stations. According to the press release, the license was granted following a NOAA and interagency review of the Sattelogic Constellation, assessing national security, foreign policy, and U.S. international risks and obligations. North Korea plans to attempt another satellite launch in the coming days. Pyongyang notified Japan that it is planning a third launch attempt from the nation between November 22nd and December 1st. The rocket launch will attempt to put a military spy satellite in orbit.
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And that concludes our briefing for today. Links to further reading can be found in our show notes as always and at our website space.n2k.com. And we've included a few extra stories for you to enjoy, ones from the South China Morning Post on China's space projects in Africa. And now there is an update on the Centaur V preparations and there's a piece from NASA Spaceflight on Boeing's Starliner crew launch. Hi, T-Minus crew, if you're just joining us, first of all, welcome and be sure to follow "T-Minus Space Daily" in your favorite podcast app. And if you could do us a favor, please share the intel with your friends and coworkers. So, here's a little challenge for you, by Friday, maybe around the Thanksgiving table, hmm? Please show three friends or coworkers or hey, family members this podcast. A growing audience is the most important thing for us, and we would really love your help as part of the T-Minus crew. If you find T-Minus useful and as always, we really hope you do, please share it, so other professionals like you can find the show. Thank you so much for your ongoing support, it means a lot to me and all of us here at T-Minus.
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Our guest today is Karolina Dubiel, founder of Girls in Aerospace Foundation. And I started off by asking Karolina to tell us about how she started the educational outreach group.
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>> Karolina Dubiel: So, Girls in Aerospace was not something that I imagined ever growing this large. I never started it with the idea that I was starting a global nonprofit or a global movement of any sort. I started it right after my 15th birthday and at the time I was a cadet in the Civil Air Patrol, which is the United States Air Force Auxiliary. And in the Civil Air Patrol, we had the opportunity to go on orientation flights or O-rides. And this is essentially when you go up in a little Cessna Skyhawk with the instructor and they give you the controls for a little bit and you get to play around with the aircraft, learn about flying and then you land back on the ground and you go to your mom and you're, like, "Oh, that was crazy, I flew a plane!" So, I got the chance to do that before I ever got the chance to even drive a car at age 15. And I was originally -- I was raised half and half Poland and the U.S. because both my parents were Polish immigrants. So, I had a lot of Polish friends back home and I remember calling them saying, "Guys, I just flew a plane. I haven't even driven a car and I just flew a plane. This is crazy." And these girls who were just as passionate about aviation as I was and just as interested in the subject matter were saying, "You flew a plane for free. You didn't have to pay for the gas or the flight instructor or anything, that's crazy. I don't have those kinds of opportunities here." And that really made me realize how privileged I was to be in a country and specifically in an area that had aviation opportunities. And that's when I kind of sort of brewing, you know, what could I do to bring aviation to my friends in Poland specifically and eventually that mission grew to what can I do to make aviation accessible? So, that's where it started in my bedroom during COVID and we started doing online webinars during lockdown and all of that and eventually it progressed to more in person programs as well as more mentorship, individualized programs. But now it's a global organization, but at the time, it was just me trying to share this little bit of aviation that changed my life.
>> Maria Varmazis: That's an amazing story and I hope it spurs a lot of other people into action, because starting from there, during COVID no less, it is amazing looking at your website and just seeing how it started and just kind of scrolling through the timeline of, like, the events getting bigger, the impact getting bigger. What a progression that is and in not a lot of time either, so there's such a need for what you're doing. So, there are some really cool stuff going on right now with your organization. Do you want to walk me through a little bit of what's going on?
>> Karolina Dubiel: Absolutely. So, currently our main program is the Aerospace Connect Mentorship Program. I think that mentorship is probably one of the most important things in any domain, especially as a woman or as a gender minority in general in any field, having someone who looks like you or who you see yourself in succeeding in the field does a world of a difference when you're feeling down, or things are getting tough. So, I wanted to make a mentorship program that specifically paired girls one-on-one with an aerospace mentor within their desired fields, and that's where Aerospace Connect came from. So, currently it's a program that pairs anywhere from 100 to 200 girls per addition with an aerospace mentor, usually from their area in the world. We have applicants for over 30 countries in every addition. And it's a five week program where they work on a number of different skills or projects such as networking, cold e-mailing, applying for internships, aerospace fellowships. And our goal is to just give them the sense of community and support that I think a lot of girls don't feel when they feel like they're the only one in their community trying to go down this path.
>> Maria Varmazis: Yeah, and a lot of times it's questions about where do you start? What's open to you, what kind of career paths can there be? And I'm wondering are most of the people participating in this program are they going, I want to be an aerospace engineer or are there, like, a variety of different interests in this program?
>> Karolina Dubiel: So, I love how broad it is. So, some of them are super interested in things like astrophotography or astrobiology or bio astronautics, which I recently learned are two different things that I actually didn't know before I was matching people for the mentorship program. There definitely are a lot of people who are interested in just general, "I want to be an airspace engineer. I'm not sure how to delve into a more nuanced field." But there's a lot of girls who have a really, really unique path that teaches me a lot about how diverse aerospace can be. I really think that now that we're entering this new space frontier, I mean, there's people who are going to be doing marketing specifically within aerospace. There's people who are going doing psychology and warfighter survivability, where we got to make sure that our astronauts and our pilots who are flying in these new piloted aircrafts are safe. There's just so many different things to do, I think it's fascinating. And we do have mentors from all these little nuanced branches of aerospace.
>> Maria Varmazis: That's wonderful and such a great point, too. It's something that I know the industry really needs is trying to wrap its head around a little bit. I'm wondering how are you finding the girls? Are they finding you or how are you recruiting people that maybe didn't know that this was even an opportunity for them?
>> Karolina Dubiel: So, the awesome thing is I think the female aerospace community is so intertwined where one girl is going to share an opportunity with another girl and so on and so forth. So, the first edition which we ran, I believe in 2022, we did have some difficulty finding mentors. We had to cold e-mail a lot, cold call, reach out to people on LinkedIn to get the mentors that were high quality and who could give our mentees a great mentorship experience. But ultimately, after that first edition, we have mentors who have mentored for all three editions, and they keep coming back and they say, "This is an awesome program. I feel so rewarded that I'm getting to help out the next generation." And then mentees, I -- it's mostly word of mouth because especially at these school clubs like Society of Women Engineers or WoAA, you go to a club meeting, you say I'm in a mentorship program and all of a sudden our wait list is filling up. So, it's been awesome to feel like we don't have to get out there and hand out flyers or put up posters because word of mouth is really all we've needed so far.
>> Maria Varmazis: That's awesome. That's so great to hear that. And speaking of amazing mentorship and collaboration also, I know that you're working with the Cosmic Girls Foundation, and we spoke with Dr. Mindy Howard a little while ago. She's awesome, so no surprise that you're working with her. Could you tell me a little bit about your collaboration with the Cosmic Girls Foundation?
>> Karolina Dubiel: Of course. This story is something that I would not believe if I told the past me that this happened because I checked LinkedIn one day and there's a DM from Dr. Mindy Howard, who I had heard about previously, but I was too shy to even send a LinkedIn connection request because she was -- she is a big figure in the space industry, especially, I think, all women in the aerospace industry who kind of are involved in the entrepreneurship and leadership and activism side have heard of Dr Mindy Howard. And I received a LinkedIn DM from her and she's saying, "Can we have a -- can we have a conversation? I see opportunity for collaboration." I was, like, "With me?" And at first my first thought was she got hacked, her LinkedIn had to get hacked. There is absolutely no way [brief laughter]. There is no way, but I took a chance, and I wrote back, and I said, "Of course, I'm honored to hear from you." And we met and she told me about her concept for Cosmic Girls, and I was just -- I was in shock. When she said, you know, there's a possibility that we're going to be sending a girl into space to be the first female astronaut from her home country, I was absolutely in shock that I could be a part of this project. But essentially, Girls in Aerospace is contributing as one of Cosmic Girls nonprofit partners. So, Cosmic Girls has nonprofit partners from all over the world and the girls are going to apply through foundations like Girls in Aerospace. So, it's just amazing that we possibly will get to mentor a future female astronaut who's going to be trailblazing an entire community, absolutely insane. And I can't thank Dr. Howard enough for this amazing opportunity.
>> Maria Varmazis: It's just incredible to hear these things are happening and great people getting together and making amazing things happen. I mean, that's really what it's all about. You mentioned at the beginning of our chat that you're -- you were talking to your friends in Poland about opportunities there and I noticed that you're working with LOT [inaudible] to Polish Airlines, them and they're a program partner. How did that come about? That's amazing.
>> Karolina Dubiel: So, I am a huge advocate for e-mailing people for things that you might be underqualified for because you never know if they're willing to take a chance. So, that is what I did, I e-mailed one of the media partners for the airline and I said, "We have this mentorship program, we have girls who are in local aeronautical clubs and who are working on their glider license, and it would be amazing if we could have some mentors who are actual Boeing pilots for the flag carrier of Poland to mentor them." I mean, I can't think of a better way to inspire these girls and also to create a great story for the airline because social impact is so important for companies these days, I mean, this is a win, win situation. So, I reached out with a cold e-mail. They emailed back and we're able to set up an awesome partnership where now they provide us mentors who are actually real pilots with years and years of experience training on these aircraft, flying on these aircraft. So, it's been amazing to have a company that's so influential and just a multibillion dollar company and a multibillion dollar industry that believes in our little foundation and our mission, it's been absolutely incredible and so rewarding.
>> Maria Varmazis: That's amazing. I know that Poland also is doing a lot in aerospace in general, like, I keep hearing them in the news. Sounds like they're, I mean, really ramping up their aerospace programming in general, so this seems to really -- align really well with that. Any thoughts on what's going on in Poland in the aerospace right now?
>> Karolina Dubiel: I think it's amazing, especially, there's a there's a saying J-Town, which is the short saying for the Jasionka Airport, which is in quite a small region of Poland. My dad is from that area. And because of the war in Ukraine, the Jasionka Airport has been one of the main bases for the big cargo aircraft that is delivering supplies to that area. And getting recognition for those small aerial communities in Poland has had such a huge impact in the aerospace community that I can see where all of a sudden when we have that presence of advanced military technology and advanced aerospace technology in Poland, that has just brought a boom into people's interest in investing in these technologies and getting educated in these technologies. So, I think it's amazing that Poland is getting recognized for its capabilities for contributing to, I mean, defensive and offensive strategies and technologies. I think it's unfortunate that there had to be a global conflict for this to happen, of course, it's terrible, but it's amazing that Poland's ability to help in this is being recognized. That's been amazing.
>> Maria Varmazis: That is, I can imagine is very gratifying. I am also the child of immigrants, so I completely understand that feeling. That -- I -- I just -- I'm really inspired hearing how you're navigating that being both American and Polish at the same time, it is a hard balance to strike. I've been...
>> Karolina Dubiel: Especially in aerospace, I think because so much of aerospace is military, which I'm glad that right now the civilian side of aerospace is booming and absolutely taking off. That's been amazing, too. But just the kind of look down on dual citizenship in aerospace has been slightly limiting. When I look at especially military career options and knowing that I would have to give up that side of my identity to work in that realm, that has been very difficult to balance, but I'm so, so grateful for my Polish upbringing. I think that Girls in Aerospace would not be where it is today without me having that side of my culture.
>> Maria Varmazis: I hear you, and I think it's really wonderful what you're doing. So, speaking of Girls in Aerospace, I would love to know, you are still at the beginning of your journey with this amazing organization that you founded, I'm sure you've got a long term vision though. I would love to hear what your plans are in the future.
>> Karolina Dubiel: So, I like to keep it super open-ended when I think about the future of Girls in Aerospace, because I think that so much changes from year to year, especially when we talk about doing things on a global scale, countries have their aerospace economies take off completely from year to year, especially like we're talking about in Poland, where something happens on an economic or political scale and that just happens to have aerospace be at the center of that and all of a sudden aerospace is booming. So, I think our main goal right now is to bring more in person events to many parts of the world. So, right now we've mostly had in person gatherings in the U.S. specifically, mostly on a smaller community scale. Nothing too grand and massive, especially as we're coming out of the pandemic, it's been very difficult to organize things. Now that we're finally in the clear, now we're -- now we're starting to think about that, but I'd love to host conferences in Poland and in Europe in general, especially as part of the Cosmic Girls Program. I think it'd be awesome to combine those two communities into in person events. So, we're trying to keep it really open-ended, and we do have some really cool things planned that I can't quite talk about yet, but they're all centered around that in person aspect of community. I think we've really mastered the online mentorship community aspect as much as it can go, but you can't do that much when you're staring at a screen. I think at some point you've got to transition to in person events.
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>> Maria Varmazis: What a story. We will be right back.
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Welcome back. And one of the most V of VIP's came by NASA's Johnson Space Center recently, and that would be artist, Tim Gagnon, who has done countless insignia and badge designs for space missions over the years, and who I've had the pleasure of speaking with for this show, episode 103, go check it out. Tim got the red carpet treatment at Mission Control with his many mission patch designs displayed on the big screen, and rightly so. Congratulations, Tim. Oh yeah, and there was this other guy who was there this past Saturday. Let me see and check my notes here. Oh, yeah, it's America's dad, Tom Hanks. Yes, he who said he'd be the toilet cleaner if that got him into space. He of, way too many famous movie roles to possibly list here, including, of course, playing the incredible Captain Jim Lovell in the Apollo 13 movie. Well, yes, Tom Hanks dropped by Houston, and that was quite simply just to say hi to the four members of the Artemis II crew, and that would be astronauts, Hansen Wiseman, Koch, and Glover. They had a nice photo op right in front of an Orion capsule, too. But to borrow from Monty Python, "It's only a model." Oh, yeah and while Hanks was at JSC, he even said a quick hi up to the Expedition 70 crew aboard the International Space Station. Why? I mean, why not? Wouldn't you want to meet the Artemis II crew or flip side, wouldn't you want to meet Tom Hanks? Come on, he's a proper space nerd. With all due respect to Canadian Space Agency Astronaut Jeremy Hansen of the Artemis II crew and to the UK space stories, we started our show with, this story is NASA and Tom Hanks the weekend right before U.S. Thanksgiving. If this story was any more Americana, I swear a bald eagle carrying an American flag would swoop by my studio with a cold one. Don't mind if I do.
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That's it for T-Minus for November 21st, 2023. For additional resources from today's report, check out our show notes at space.n2k.com. We're privileged that N2K and podcasts like T-Minus are part of the daily routine of many of the most influential leaders and operators in the public and private sector, from the Fortune 500 to many of the world's preeminent intelligence and law enforcement agencies. This episode was produced by Alice Carruth, mixing by Elliott Peltzman and 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.
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