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Glides like an aircraft, shoots into space.

China launches its spaceplane. The US House and Senate approve the 2024 military budget. The US White House hosts the Artemis 2 crew. And more.




China’s secretive spaceplane hitches a ride to orbit on a Long March 2F rocket. The US House and Senate approve a 2024 Defense Spending Bill providing $841.4 billion in funding for the Defense Department. Rocket Lab’s Electron returns to flight for the 10th launch of the year, and more.

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T-Minus Guest

Our guest today is the President of the Association of Commercial Space Professionals, Bryce Kennedy.

You can connect with Bryce on LinkedIn and learn more about the Association of Commercial Space Professionals (ACSP) on their website.

Selected Reading

China launches experimental spacecraft into orbit for third time since 2020- Reuters

DOD Prioritizing Cooperation With Allies in Space

Congress Passes Fiscal 2024 Defense Spending Bill, Pay Raise for Service Members

Biden hosts four NASA astronauts, the first crew aiming to fly around the moon in a half-century - AP News

Rocket Lab Reaches New Annual Launch Record with 10th Electron Mission This Year

Sierra Space’s Revolutionary Dream Chaser® Enters Final Test Campaign, Spaceplane Transitioning to Orbital Operations

Aborted test and missing parts add to European space woes- Reuters

HotSat-1: UK climate satellite suffers failure in orbit

Thales Alenia Space has selected the UK’s National Satellite Test Facility for FLEX satellite first test campaign

International, North American and European Statistical Classifications for Space Economy Measurement

GE Aerospace achieves breakthrough in hypersonic engine development- Flight Global

Mysterious, repeating fast radio burst acts like a celestial slide whistle- CNN

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>> Maria Varmazis: The Tiangong Space Station and the International Space Station are both in low Earth orbit, yes, but they're not only at different heights above the Earth, but crucially, pretty different orbital inclinations. That's why the two space stations don't often appear in the sky at the same time. And if they do, it's for a brief window. But sometimes a lucky station gazer will be able to catch both space stations in the same patch of sky at the same time. And that happened today for a lot of folks in the southern US, actually. Kind of a neat convergence. Definitely don't read into it or draw any kind of elaborate half-baked parallels into current international space affairs. No.

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Today is December 15th, 2023. I'm Maria Varmazis.

>> Alice Carruth: I'm Alice Carruth, and this is T-Minus.

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>> Maria Varmazis: China launches its space plane. The US House and Senate approved the 2024 military budget. The US White House hosts the Artemis 2 crew.

>> Alice Carruth: And our guest today is President of the Association of Commercial Space Professionals Bryce Kennedy. Stay with us for his insights into workforce development.

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>> Maria Varmazis: All right, happy Friday, everybody. Let's take a look at today's Intel Briefing. So carrying on that China-US space race, earlier this week, US Chief of Space Operations, General B. Chance Saltzman, told reporters at the Space Force Association's Space Power Conference it's, quote, "...probably no coincidence that China's own space plane may launch around the same time as the X-37B. Now, we are still waiting for the US launch on board the Falcon Heavy, but overnight the Chinese did launch their secretive space plane onboard a Long March 2F rocket. Now, we know very little about these secretive, unmanned spacecraft. And according to Chinese state media, their spacecraft will operate in orbit for an unannounced period of time before returning to a designated landing site in China. Very illuminating. During its flight, reusable technologies will be verified and space experiments conducted, but no other useful details were released. The details are just as sketchy for the US military's X-37B vehicle, and we're still waiting for a new launch date after it was pushed back due to weather issues earlier this week.

>> Alice Carruth: And as tensions with China rise, the Pentagon's top space policy official told attendees at the Space Enterprise Council's Global Space Summit in Washington, DC, that cooperation among allies is critical as global competitors increasingly look to space as the next frontier of warfare. Dr. John F Plum, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy, said that, quote, "The four structures for each of our military services - and I don't mean just the Space Force - are built assuming access to space. For the Department, space is in our DNA. It is essential to the US way of war." To prevent space competition from escalating to conflict, the US has doubled down on its combined space operations initiative designed to get ahead of the most pressing challenges coming from competitors.

>> Maria Varmazis: And in order to do that, the US military needs funding, which, as we've been reporting on for the last few months, has been an issue as the US budget has been kept at Fiscal Year '23 levels due to a continuing resolution. There does seem to be some progress, though, as both the House and Senate have voted on the 2024 defense spending bill, but it is still waiting for the President to sign off. The bill supports $841.4 billion in funding for the Defense Department, and of that total, $30.1 billion will go to the US Space Force, which is, we should note, about $79 million below President Biden's request. The bill also limits the use of funds for the US Space Command headquarters until reviews of the selection, which were announced earlier this year, are reviewed. That has been a point of political contention, to say the least, after the Biden administration changed the location after its original selection.

>> Alice Carruth: I hope we can put that story to bed soon. And speaking of the Biden administration, they upheld a promise to host the Artemis 2 crew at the White House yesterday. The three Americans and one Canadian crew met with the President and Vice President Kamala Harris. According to NASA, the crew talked about their training and science plans for the mission with the administration. Artemis 2 is currently set to launch in late 2024.

>> Maria Varmazis: A huge congratulations to Rocket Lab as they not only returned to flight after an explosion in September, but they also set a new record for their annual number of launches, surpassing the nine that they set in 2022. This was the 42nd electron rocket launch for Rocket Lab, and it deployed a satellite for Japan-based earth imaging company, the Institute for Q-shu Pioneers of Space, also known as iQPS. The mission was called, this is so cool, the Moon God Awakens, and launched from Rocket Lab's Complex in New Zealand. Named after the Japanese god of the moon, the iQPS SAR-5 satellite Tsukuyomi 1 is a synthetic aperture radar satellite that will collect high-resolution images of Earth. It joins another iQPS satellite already in orbit and forms part of what will eventually be a 36-satellite constellation capable of monitoring Earth at specific fixed points every 10 minutes.

>> Alice Carruth: A quick update from Sierra Space. They have delivered the first Dream Chaser space plane to NASA's Neil Armstrong Test Facility in Ohio. The plane, called Tenacity, has entered the final testing phase ahead of its first flight in 2024.

>> Maria Varmazis: Over to the other side of the pond now, and the European Space Agency is facing further setbacks with its launch vehicles. The final flight of Italy's Vega rocket has been delayed after crucial parts went missing, while the latest test of Europe's new Ariane 6 has been aborted. ESA officials say Vega's final liftoff, which had been set for spring 2024, has been delayed to September after two out of four of its large propellant tanks disappeared from a factory in Italy. Huh. As for the larger Ariane 6, the hot firing test of the upper stage in Germany on December 7th was aborted two minutes into the firing test. ESA officials say that the abort should not affect the inaugural flight of the Ariane 6, which is scheduled for June of next year.

>> Alice Carruth: Now, Maria spoke to SatView on the show a few weeks ago after their climate monitoring satellite successfully provided its first thermal imaging pictures from space, but unfortunately the UK firm says that the hot Sat I has suffered a failure in orbit. SatView says it does not expect to restore operations, even though the engineers are still in contact with the spacecraft. They say that the satellite was fully insured and a replacement will be flown in 2025.

>> Maria Varmazis: We wish you all the best, Sat View. And Thales Alenia Space has selected the UK's National Satellite Test Facility in Oxfordshire for the first comprehensive assembly, integration and test campaign of the European Space Agency's FLEX satellite. FLEX, which stands for Fluorescence Explorer, aims to provide a better understanding of the Earth's state of health and vegetation productivity on a global scale. As a prime contractor, Thales Alenia Space will lead the satellite platform assembly integration and test campaign planned in 2025.

>> Alice Carruth: The European Space Agency, along with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the European Commission's EURASAP and Joint Research Center and the US Department of Commerce and its Bureau of Economic Analysis, have released statistical classifications for space economy measurements. Huh. Maria, you had some really good thoughts about this earlier. What do you want to say?

>> Maria Varmazis: Yeah, so this is my opinion. I think we definitely need some better data around all of this impacts of the space economy. And I think part of the reason why many have noticed, and Michael Sheetz of CNBC recently said this one of his newsletters, that space has not expanded well outside of its bubble and hasn't made the impact on the tech world that we kind of would expect that it should. Given the humongous numbers we often hear about, you know, the impact of trillions of dollars in development and workforce. I think the reason we haven't seen that is that many of us find that those numbers don't really pass the laugh test, so to speak. And sometimes the numbers do seem to be a bit plucked out of thin air. To put it politely, they don't seem realistic in some cases. So getting some real numbers and some real stats around the actual impact of the space economy is not to be a, you know, a wet blanket on the growing industry, of course. It's to be more realistic. And so when we talk to other tech sectors especially, we can say, Here's the actual impact. The numbers are something we can more confidently stand behind. And I think maybe then we'll see a lot more traction outside of sort of the usual space bubble. So, I'm encouraged to see something like this and I'm curious to see where it will go.

>> Alice Carruth: Absolutely, I completely agree with you. And you'll find the link to that report and further reading on all the stories that we've mentioned in our show notes and at space.n2k.com. And we've also included a piece that we're interested in at T-Minus, GE Aerospace Hypersonic Engine Development. Could it be the breakthrough that the industry needs for point-to-point space transportation? Let's hope so.

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>> Maria Varmazis: Hey T-minus crew, tune in tomorrow for T-Minus Deep Space, which is our show for extended interviews, special editions, and deep dives with some of the most influential professionals in the space industry. And tomorrow we have our full chat with Bryce Kennedy, talking about preparing students for entering the space workforce. This was a really fun conversation. I think you all will really enjoy it. So check it out while you're baking Christmas cookies, doing your last-minute holiday shopping, I know who you are, recovering from your holiday work party, or maybe just putting your feet up and relaxing. You know, why not? You don't want to miss it.

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A common theme that we keep hearing in the space industry is that we have a workforce problem. And it's not just attracting the right people to pursue careers in space - it's also retaining them that's becoming an issue. And a source of the problem seems to be a disconnect between education and the industry. Are we preparing students for the workforce? Well, we speak to space lawyer and President of the Association of Commercial Space Professionals, Bryce Kennedy, for his insights.

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>> Bryce Kennedy: So I was brought on as an adjunct for an experimental class, which was really cool, this last semester at Mexico Tech. And I taught grad students in an engineering program, space law, and policy. Which I was surprised. I didn't think that I would get any bites on it. And we had a really substantial class. And one of the things that I was really surprised to see was that all of them were looking -- not all of them -- but I'd say a majority of them were looking to have a touchpoint in the space industry. And yet there wasn't a lot of knowledge about what the space industry was. It was very segmented, or very siloed to what the school taught. So here in New Mexico, we have the national labs, Los Alamos, Sandia. We also have Air Force Resource Labs, and that's kind of where they look. And so when I started really teaching a broader skills set of what space law and policy was, it was to focus on how they as managers in their fields could start understanding a broader context so that they would be more effective. And it was one of those things where I was, like, I don't know if this is going to work. It was, like, water in a desert. I was amazed to see the response and the excitement of people wanting to really understand where they'd be working. And so that got me thinking on a couple of fronts. Is one, workforce development traditionally in space has been very, back to my word, siloed, whether it's in law, whether it's in engineering. You know, because traditionally, not all classified, but the commercial industry hasn't really existed that long. And so collaboration hasn't really been needed. And so we have these industries where they just focus on, you know, we're working on their specific cog and then put it to the greater, you know, machine. That doesn't work anymore, and it is failing quite rapidly. And we're seeing that in a lot of things. The other thing that I'm seeing, too, with especially in the legal field is that you don't have to be a lawyer to have -- especially for the regulatory framework -- to participate and work with space companies. So a good example is export controls. Export controls touches everything in space. Well, technically not in space, but everything that goes to space. And you don't need to be a lawyer for that. And we've seen a lot of law students come up to us and they're, like, Boy, I wish I had known that I could have studied export controls or telecom or government contracting, and that I would have gotten pretty much a job, I don't want to say in any space company but pretty much any space company because they need those -- these things. And even beyond law students, again, you don't have to be a lawyer to do these things. And so that's why we're starting to see a shift from traditional academic mindset of this -- these siloed degrees that if I'm going to be a lawyer, I need to do this. Or if I'm going to be an engineer, I need to do this, to a broadening perspective of collaboration and, you know, looking kind of outside your scope.

>> Maria Varmazis: Okay, so is it that the employers don't know that they don't necessarily need a lawyer, or is it a bit of gatekeeping in a way?

>> Bryce Kennedy: I think that's a really good question. I think it's both. I think it's an old mentality. If I go back to the engineers, like, all they -- job security, who wouldn't want to work for a lab? Who wouldn't want to work for Los Alamos? You know, I mean, as an engineer, it's job security to the max. It's prestige. It's all of these things, but it's a limited number. And so -- and for example, I brought on a VC from Space Fund, and she was, like, she goes, Look, we look to invest into startups. We look for engineers, a strong engineering team so we know that at least the tech will be completed, you know, within a level of accuracy. And these students were, like, Oh, wait, we could go work for -- so we could work for a startup? And she goes, Yes, you should be -- you should start thinking immediately about working for a startup because, A, and she goes, You're still young enough that you can still eat ramen for the next two years. And B, you'll get more experience than you would at a lab and be thrown into the fires and have to grow faster than any other job out there. And then you can take that and work anywhere you want. And it's like -- it's like these type of mindsets, they're just not translating the way that we're seeing it. And then back to your original question, the primes have always looked at, you know, are you a lawyer? Do you have this? Do you have that? You know, and now we're seeing, especially in the startup world, where it's, like, Do you have these skills, as opposed to, Do you have this degree?

>> Maria Varmazis: Yeah. I mean, I love education. I love higher education. I'm the daughter of a physics professor. Like, I get it, but it is a huge barrier to clear, especially now we're talking about school debt in the United States. It's not a small thing at all, but it's also the time commitment on a lot of people's time. Like, do you need four years or more in higher ed when maybe a two-year or less of a certificate program can get you the professional. I'm preaching in the choir here, but I wonder are companies set up to understand what they need or they're just going, We need a lawyer?

>> Bryce Kennedy: Right. No, I don't think they are. I don't think they are. And, you know, part of our organization at ACSP is, like, we're -- we have a huge arm of education. And it's not just educating people on the training, it's educating people on exactly this as well. Like, you don't need that. You know, one of the co-founders, Bailey, I think she's been on the podcast, too. You did Space Out, where I originally started. The reason she held, and really was the brainchild of ACSP, what started was like, she was tired of seeing commercial companies fail because they think they needed a lawyer. And while that is good for business as a law firm, her desire to see commerce succeed, companies succeed, people succeed, outweighed, you know, the desire for -- for kind of the bottom line of you just --. And it was like, you don't need a lawyer for this. And we kind of went back to first principles. Okay, so what do you need? And it's, like, you just need trained on these basic -- on some really core things. And the funny thing is, is back to higher ed, I was talking to -- I won't name the college, a university, a very, very, very, very, very prestigious, large university. They're, like, we fail at actually providing real-world experience that someone can go into an immediate job and, you know, be successful. And -- and that's -- that's where -- that's where we started these trainings, because it's, like, we -- if commerce is -- space commerce is going to take off and everyone's going to have access to it, we can't continue with just this higher ed positioning.

>> Maria Varmazis: Yeah, I mean, this gets into, like, a meta discussion that is very, for me, a dining room conversation that I have with my family a lot about, you know, the -- what classical education is meant for in terms of making, like, a well-rounded, interesting human with a lot of different varied interests. And, like, that's great. But sometimes you also need practical training. So, you know, getting a classical education is wonderful for making you an interesting person. It may not actually train you for the job that you need. Flipside, we've got this great practical need for a lot of jobs that need to be spun up quickly and, you know, for shunt -- you know, for shunting people to programs where they'll read the Iliad. Wonderful. Highly recommend [laughter], you know, is that going to help? And I get it, like, I've read The Iliad, I love it, but still, that's not necessarily what we need.

>> Bryce Kennedy: Can you give me the cliff notes on that, because I have not yet --

>> Maria Varmazis: [Laughter] It's fine, go read it on Wikipedia.

>> Bryce Kennedy: Okay, good, yeah, who wins? The thing, too, that we're seeing, especially with the workforce, is that a lot of people just don't have the time to do this anymore. I was lucky. I kind of fell into that, you're right, that four years' position of being kind of where I am in society of I could take four years, I could just drink my face off, I could play around with all these other things. But man, a lot of people -- you know, a lot of the students that I saw, where I taught, they were the first generation to go to school and they're first-generation engineers. And so there is no -- no room for play there. This is like on multiple levels. They're going to be supporting their families. They're going to be supporting -- they're going to be breaking the mold for the first time ever. And so that's why this class touched me so deeply because higher ed was not a luxury. It is a necessity.

>> Maria Varmazis: I'm curious your thoughts on potential solutions here.

>> Bryce Kennedy: I'm going to be going back to my university to talk about more of this. They're going to have to see if this class worked, to see if this is something that students want. But a solution that I'm going to propose is that, I don't know, let's come up with a fake percentage, but say 50%. Fifty percent of, to me, class, or at least the degree should be about getting a job. Like, I don't understand how that is not just baked into the higher ed. It doesn't make sense to me. Like, when I was bringing in these speakers, I encouraged my students to network them, to create -- to find them on LinkedIn, to reach out to them, to ask them questions. And they're like, Oh, that's normal? Can we do that? I was like, You better be doing this. This is the reason I brought these -- these speakers on. You know, because -- so anyway, I -- I've seen it in every degree that I've had where that level of job outreach or career, you know, even beyond career fairs, but networking doesn't come, if at all, until the last semester, last month, last whatever. And to me, the low-hanging fruit is, like, start this early. Start this as a sophomore if you're an undergrad. Start this in your second year if you're a grad. You know, for law school, start it immediately with clerkships and internships. This should be, I think, one of the main pushes from administration to get -- to get these students jobs immediately.

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>> Maria Varmazis: We'll be right back.

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Welcome back. It's no secret in our office that Alice hates an alien story.

>> Alice Carruth: It's true. I live in New Mexico, Maria. Enough said, really.

>> Maria Varmazis: I can believe it. Right, so this one isn't quite as sensational as Roswell's spaceship crash, and, really, it may not have anything to do with aliens. But fast radio bursts were discovered in 2007, and since then, hundreds of these quick, intense events have been detected coming from distant points across the universe. According to clever researchers, the bursts can generate as much energy as the sun creates in one year or more in just a thousandth of a second. And no one has figured out what causes them. So researchers at the SETI Institute's Allen Telescope Array have worked to detect 35 fast radio bursts from one source over a two-month period. And at first they thought the signal was a repeater, like others found in their research. But a closer look at the signal revealed something new. A noticeable drop in the center frequency of the burst, acting like a celestial slide whistle. They then converted the signal into sound using a xylophone, as you do. High notes correspond to the beginning of the bursts with low notes acting as the concluding tones. It was found that the signal was not a repeat sound but wholly unpredictable. So I guess their findings have got us all asking more questions about what these fast radio bursts or FRBs really are, and what do they mean?

>> Alice Carruth: It's not aliens.

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That's it for T-Minus for December the 15th, 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 this podcast. You can email us at anytime, space at 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 ours 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.

>> Maria Varmazis: 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 Elliot Peltzman and Trey Hester, with original music and sound design by Elliot Peltzman. Our executive producer is Jen Ivan. Our VP is Brandon Karpf. And I'm Maria Varmazis. Thanks for listening. Have a great weekend.

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