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Basking in Aditya’s glow.

India’s Aditya-L1 reaches its final destination. China prepares its lunar lander for launch. ArianeGroup reportedly increases support for MaiaSpace. And more.




India’s Aditya-L1 solar observatory reaches its final destination. China moves its lunar lander to its spaceport ready for a launch in the first quarter of this year. ArianeGroup reportedly increases financial support for MaiaSpace to €125 million, and more.

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T-Minus Guest

Our guest today is John Rendon, CEO of the media company The Rendon Group.

You can connect with John on LinkedIn and learn more about the company on their website.

Selected Reading

Aditya-L1: India's Sun mission reaches final destination

China says it will launch its next lunar explorer in the first half of this year- AP News

ArianeGroup to Increase MaiaSpace Investment to €125M - European Spaceflight

University of Glasgow - Self-eating rocket could help UK take a big bite of space industry

Regulatory filing reveals ABL Space Systems targeting $100M in new funding

SpaceX targets February for third Starship test flight - SpaceNews

Sidus Space Achieves Critical Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Hardware Contract Milestones as its Nears the Launch of LizzieSat-1 in March 2024

John Kraus photos

The New Space Race Is Causing New Pollution Problems - The New York Times

USSF announces selections for Space Strategic Technology Institute 2

Enlightenment Capital Announces New Space Platform Auria- Boecore

NASA Selects Bold Proposal to "Swarm" Proxima Centauri with Tiny Probes - Universe Today

NASA/JAXA XRISM Mission Reveals Its First Look at X-ray Cosmos

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Today is a new day and dear listeners, we have to turn a corner and see positivities in all the so-called bad news that we have shared this week. When a mission doesn’t meet its objectives, it’s seen as, and often reported as a failure, and then we all get bummed about it, but we shouldn’t let the conversation end there. After all, failure is an opportunity to learn. We pick ourselves up and try again, because we learn through doing, and there are a lot doing great things in space.


Today is January 10, 2024. I’m Maria Varmazis. And this is T-Minus.

India’s Aditya-L1 reaches its final destination. China prepares its lunar lander for launch. ArianeGroup reportedly increases financial support for MaiaSpace.

And my guest today is John Rendon, CEO of the media company The Rendon Group. John was involved in the Inter Astra Event T-Minus attended last year which is making waves in the space industry so stay with us for that chat.


Hey, yesterday was kind of a bummer huh? Let's start off today instead with some good news. And little surprise that it's coming from India right now. Last year, right after ISRO’s Chandrayaan-3 landed successfully at the Lunar South pole, ISRO followed close behind that mission with another one, this one headed to the sun. That was in September, the Aditya-L1 solar observation mission, which is India's first space-based mission to study the sun. And today ISRO announced that Aditya has reached its final destination at lagrange point 1 or L1, a mere 1.5 million kilometers from Earth. Parked there, Aditya-L1 and its seven onboard instruments will soon be studying different parts of the sun, including its corona, photosphere and chromosphere. Cool! Or since it's our sun, perhaps I should say, extremely hot.

Staying in Asia and China’s space agency has shared images showing its latest lunar explorer has arrived at the launch site in preparation for a mission to the moon in the first half of this year. State broadcaster CCTV posted the photographs on its website of the unit as it was unloaded from a large cargo airplane earlier this week and then transported by flatbed truck to the Wenchang launch site on southern China’s Hainan island.

European spaceflight is reporting that ArianeGroup is looking to increase their investment in MaiaSpace to 125 million euros. MaiaSpace was founded in 2021 with the aim of developing a partially reusable microlauncher. ArianeGroup has invested approximately €40 million euros into the launch company so far, and the report says it has committed an additional €85 million to the cause. making the company one of the most well-funded launch startups in Europe.

Over to Scotland now and University of Glasgow engineers have built and fired the first unsupported ‘autophage’ rocket engine which consumes parts of its own body for fuel. The so-called ‘self-eating’ rocket has several potential advantages over conventional rocket designs. According to the University, The engine works by using waste heat from combustion to sequentially melt its own plastic fuselage as it fires. The molten plastic is fed into the engine’s combustion chamber as additional fuel to burn alongside its regular liquid propellants. The team’s design developments are being showcased this week as a paper presented at the international AIAA SciTech Forum in Orlando, Florida. The engineers say that they successfully test-fired their Ouroborous-3 autophage engine, producing 100 newtons of thrust in a series of controlled experiments. The autophage engine is one of 23 space technology projects  selected to share 4 million pounds in funding from the UK Space Agency and STFC. The Glasgow team received £290,000 to help establish further pilot testing of the prototype engine.

ABL Space Systems is looking to raise $100M in new funding as the company closed over $40 million in new capital, according to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. ABL has raised $420 million from investors since it was founded in 2017. You can read more about that story in the tech crunch article we have linked in our show notes.

During the NASA media update that we ran with as our top story yesterday, the SpaceX representative said that the company is targeting February for their next Starship test. Jessica Jensen, vice president of customer operations and integration at SpaceX, said securing an updated Federal Aviation Administration launch license was the key factor driving the schedule for the vehicle's third test flight. She went on to say that the Starship hardware will be ready this month.

An update now on the Astrobotic Peregrine lunar lander mission. The vehicle is at an approximate distance of 192,000 miles from Earth, which is 80% of the way to lunar distance. Although it is approaching lunar distance, the Moon won't be there. The company says that Peregrine remains on our nominal trajectory for the mission, which includes a phasing loop around Earth. This loop goes out to lunar distance, swings back around the Earth, and then cruises out to meet the Moon. This trajectory reaches the Moon in about 15 days post-launch.

Astrobotic's current hypothesis about the Peregrine spacecraft's propulsion anomaly is that a valve between the helium pressurant and the oxidizer failed to reseal after actuation during initialization. This led to a rush of high pressure helium that spiked the pressure in the oxidizer tank beyond its operating limit and subsequently ruptured the tank. While this is a working theory, a full analysis report will be produced by a formal review board made up of industry experts after the mission is complete. There is no indication that the propulsion anomaly occurred as a result of the launch. Peregrine continues to leak propellant but remains operationally stable and continues to gather valuable data. Astrobotic estimates that it will run out of propellant in about 35 hours, an improvement on yesterday's update. The team is working around the clock to generate options to extend the spacecraft's life.

Sidus Space says it has  achieved critical Artificial Intelligence and hardware contract milestones as the Company prepares for the commencement of its satellite constellation scheduled for launch in March 2024. SpaceX’s Transporter-10 mission from Vandenberg Space Force Base, California will carry Sidus Space’s LizzieSat-1 to orbit. The milestone is part of the NASA Phase 2 Sequential award to Sidus. 

And we’re finishing our round up with a story about a picture. Yup, audio only podcast talking about an image, again. But this one had us a little excited. Space photographer John Kraus captured an image of Blue Origin’s New Glenn first stage hardware on the move at the company’s Merritt Island campus this morning. It’s presumably headed to LC-36- Blue’s launch complex at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station just nine miles away from their rocket factory. Could we be seeing testing ahead of the inaugural launch in August of this year? Watch this space!


<Selected reading articles only>

That concludes our briefing for today. We encourage you to follow the links in the selected reading section of our show notes to learn more about any of the stories we have mentioned. We’ve added four additional stories today- a new york times piece on space causing pollution problems, The US Space Force selections for their space strategic technology institute, an announcement for a new space platform and one on a NASA proposal selection to swarm Proxima Centauri. They’re all at space.n2k.com and click on this episode title.


<Wednesday Programming Note> Hey T-Minus Crew, if you find this podcast useful, please do us a favor and share a 5-star rating and a short review in your favorite podcast app. It will help other space professionals like you find the show and join the T-Minus Crew. Thank you, we really appreciate it.

<Guest intro and segment>

My guest today is John Rendon, CEO of the media company The Rendon Group. John was involved in the Inter Astra Event T-Minus attended last year which is making waves in the space industry. John started by telling me about his background.

JOHN:  A thousand years ago, when I was young, I served as executive director and political director of the Democratic Party of the United States, the youngest one in the history of the country. At that time, I worked for President Carter and the Carter administration  and have provided support on and off, um, over the last thousand years in 142 countries,  um, And spend a lot of time, uh, meeting new people, learning new things and I'm fortunate enough to have the world as a teacher.

And when I looked up, I see space. Um, I will tell you my first space connection was Leonard Nimoy.

MARIA: What a connection to have! My goodness! 

JOHN: who I met in 1974, uh, probably a long time before many of your listeners were actually concepts, uh,

MARIA: Yeah, maybe. 

JOHN: but, but since then, and over the last two years, uh, our global strategic engagement practice has focused more and more on space as an extraordinary opportunity, both to get countries to come together.

Uh, but also to understand the magnitude of the enterprise. And so I'm fortunate and honored to be your guest today. And thank you for having me and happy new year, by the way.

MARIA: Oh, Happy New Year to you as well. Well, uh, the honor is mine. Thank you so much for joining me and for sharing your story with me and my audience. Now, I know the introduction that we had was through the InterAstra event. Can you explain a little bit of your connection to that event? 

JOHN: Sure. One of the original founders of that event, Che Bolden, who is the son of director Bolden. Uh, of NASA, uh, he and I are very close friends. And when IntraAstro began, which was about, I think now 20 months ago, uh, he, uh, invited us to come and participate. So I, I went, um, and it served as a foundational meeting, particularly in the design of the, uh, session done by, um, Uh, Candy Huff, who did an extraordinary job making sure it was a totally learning environment and not a speaking environment first.

And so, uh, Che invited me the first time. I learned a lot at the first one, found it to be extraordinarily helpful. And so I came along with team members to the second one.

MARIA: That's fantastic. I'm, I'm curious about any takeaways that you had from this year. I, I did not attend, so I've only heard about it in, in passing, but, uh, it sounded like a really extraordinary time. Anything that you can share with our audience about it?

JOHN: Sure. No, I delighted to do that. I think I think, um.  My first really big takeaway came from the magnitude of the enterprise. Uh, there were a number of people who were talking about how, so this year, different than last year, and I'll, I'll come back to last year a second, but this year, uh, the magnitude of the enterprise for people to work in space, there is a long tail of people to work on space here on earth and the absence. 

Aerospace programs focused on space seem to be a really significant strategic shortfall.  And so I took that away as  a very big epiphany, if you will. I began conversations with different university presidents in the United States, encouraging them to look at creating space programs to build a workforce for the future.

Not for next year, but maybe 5 or 10 years out and even had discussions with some of them about opening campuses in space. 

MARIA: Opening campuses in space. Well, that's a fascinating idea.

JOHN: So, you know, they're taking a hard look at both building a workforce to work on space in order for people to work in space  and also taking a look at opening campuses. Probably on the space station, obviously,  but potentially that's a lunar opportunity as well. Now, what I learned in the first one is the significant difference between old space enterprises and new space enterprises. 

The old space enterprises would be the cast of characters, the usual cast of characters that everybody associates with big, uh, launches and big satellites and the new space crowd would probably be within the last five years.  The irony is that in conversations I've had with CEOs is when new space companies are acquired. 

By old space companies, the old space companies try to force them in to the old space structure and process, which immediately kills off innovation. It's fascinating description. The 2nd thing I focused on at the 1st conference was, um, the difference between the space to earth opportunities and the space to space opportunities and some of that bridge the 2.

The really significant observation I had, which is probably part of your question, was the difference between horizontal and vertical launch,  which deserves a lot more attention, I think, than it's getting.

MARIA: I would agree with you on that for sure. Um, that's, that's one that I also, my producer's very passionate about because she used to work at a spaceport, so she's, uh, really strong on that one. Given the, the range of people that you've spoken with and also just your professional experience, I, I'm so curious, what excites you about what's going on in space right now and where things are going?

Because you have a fascinating perspective. I'd love to know, like, what, what makes you go, that's so cool. I can't wait to hear more about that. 

JOHN: So, um, some of it's driven off of. You know what our foundations related to space are, which is not just looking up and wondering that would be like, but also the role that entertainment motion pictures, um, even, uh, series on television or streaming. Um, have had on shaping people's perspective and behavior, and I think that opens the door to the possibility  and and with that door open, I've noticed an increasing amount of collaboration, cooperation and the absence of polarization with people who work in space and those who help them get there. 

I think if we're going to find a way out of the great polarization, which is taking place, not just in the United States, but globally,  country by country, that's going to be one way that can work. The second thing is, despite people consistently fighting over, you know, global climate change, it is a global climate crisis.

The ability to get to space and see the planet from there. And understand that we're all in this together is significant. And I think that's the way that, you know, that'll be one of the drivers of change if we're to get past the roadblocks of indecision. 

MARIA: That's fascinating. And you mentioned pop culture. And I remember at the beginning of our conversation, you mentioned Leonard Nimoy. And I just, I can't help, but just comment on that. Uh, it's, I'm a Trekkie. So I, as soon as you mentioned him, that is the gateway for so many of us, although that is changing now.

Um, but it's, it is fascinating to see how that comes up, uh, in, in so many unexpected and maybe expected ways. So that's, that's really cool. Um, John, I, I just wanted to, to give you the floor, uh, before we conclude. If there's anything from, uh, your takeaway from InterAstra or anything that you wanted to comment on about space before we close out, I wanted to give you that opportunity. 

JOHN: I think the only thought I would share with you, I've touched on briefly in conversations that I've had, but, but that I think matter for those of your listeners that are in higher education.  The ability to get higher education to focus on space as an opportunity across all sciences, not just aerospace or engineering, but across all sciences, I think is essential. 

And to the extent that people are decision makers or in the circle of influence around decision makers, or even just students, I would encourage them to begin a process now, plant those seeds, and at some point, they'll take hold.  And I would encourage everybody to do that. I see this as an extraordinary opportunity for the entire planet, not just for the country. 

MARIA: That is such a wonderful way to close out. John, thank you so much for your time and for your insights. I really appreciate it. This has been a really fascinating conversation.

JOHN: And of course, be with you always.

MARIA: We’ll be right back

Welcome back

<Kicker, Fun Fact or B-Roll>

We reported about its launch back in September and now XRISM has shared its first images. XRISM, which stands for X-Ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission, has released a first look at the unprecedented data it will collect when science operations begin later this year. The satellite’s science team revealed a snapshot of a cluster of hundreds of galaxies and a spectrum of stellar wreckage in a neighboring galaxy, which gives scientists a detailed look at its chemical makeup. 

XRISM is led by the Japanese Space Agency in collaboration with NASA, with input from ESA. The objective of the mission is to investigate celestial X-ray objects in the Universe with high-throughput imaging and high-resolution spectroscopy.  The mission has two instruments, Resolve and Xtend, each at the focus of an X-ray Mirror Assembly designed and built at Goddard.

The mission team used Resolve to study N132D, a supernova remnant and one of the brightest X-ray sources in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a dwarf galaxy around 160,000 light-years away in the southern constellation Dorado. The expanding wreckage is estimated to be about 3,000 years old and was created when a star roughly 15 times the Sun’s mass ran out of fuel, collapsed, and exploded.

The Resolve spectrum shows peaks associated with silicon, sulfur, calcium, argon, and iron. This is the most detailed X-ray spectrum of the object ever obtained and demonstrates the incredible science the mission will do when regular operations begin later in 2024. Such fascinating science is still to come.


<Credits (W)> That's it for T-Minus for January 10, 2024. 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 email us at space@n2k.com or submit the survey in the show notes—your feedback ensures we deliver the information that keeps you a step ahead in the rapidly changing space industry.

N2K strategic workforce intelligence optimizes the value of your biggest investment— your people. We make you smarter about your team, while making your team smarter.

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 Jen Eiben. Our VP is Brandon Karpf.  And I’m Maria Varmazis. Thanks for listening.

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