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Nothing runs like a Deere on Starlink.

Space Capital shares investment quarterly reports. SDA releases a draft solicitation for T2TL Gamma. SpaceX’s Starlink partners with John Deere. And more.




Space Capital finds commercial space companies raised $17.9 billion in 2023, which is a drop of 25% from 2022. The US Space Development Agency is seeking industry feedback for the final of three types of Tranche 2 Transport Layer (T2TL) space vehicles known as T2TL Gamma. John Deere signs a deal with SpaceX’s Starlink that will see the satellite company provide connectivity to farming equipment in remote locations, and more.

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T-Minus Guest

Our guest today is For All Moonkind Co-Founder and CEO Michelle Hanlon.

You can connect with Michelle on LinkedIn and learn more about For All Moonkind on their website.

Selected Reading

Space Investment Quarterly Reports

Middle East cash injection to propel space industry to $75bn- AGBI

Draft Program Solicitation Tranche 2 Transport Layer Gamma

SpaceX launches 23 Starlink satellites on company's 300th successful mission- Space

John Deere Announces Strategic Partnership with SpaceX to Expand Rural Connectivity to Farmers through Satellite Communications

PowerLight joins Blue Origin to study power beaming system for the moon

Japan startup eyes fusion laser to shoot down space junk from ground - Nikkei Asia

Lunasa Space Announcement 

Plans for a National Rocket and Space Center in the Yucatán Peninsula Are Underway

Pale Blue Dot: Visualization Challenge

NASA Selects 12 Companies for Space Station Services Contract

Space startup Pixxel eyes satellite launches by mid-year, constellation by 2025

Update #17 for Peregrine Mission One- Astrobotic

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Nothing like dropping some cold hard data to back up an assertion, huh?

Well, good news, everyone!

Space Capital has published their report on Q4 and on all of 2023, and the data confirms what a lot of you are telling us that you were experiencing last year.

Namely, getting access to private market capital hasn't been easy.

And if an understatement, huh?

Today is January 16, 2024.

I'm Maria Varmausis, and this is T-minus.

New Space Capital report takes a look at 2023 for the space industry.

SDA releases a draft solicitation for T2TL Gamma, SpaceX and John Deere announce a new partnership.

And our guest today is for all-moonkind co-founder and CEO, Michelle Hanlon.

Happy Tuesday, everybody!

Let's take a look at today's Intel briefing.

The Space Capital team have published their look at Q4 space market financials, as well as the entire 2023 calendar year for the industry.

And some takeaways from this latest report.

Equity investment in 2023 overall was down compared to 2022.

Last year in all, commercial space companies raised $17.9 billion, which is a drop from 2022 of 25%.

Of that raised capital, venture capital investments showed the biggest drop year over year.

In 2022, VC investments totaled $14 billion, and in 2023 it was less than half that at $6.8 billion.

Seed investment also continued its downward slide starting in 2021, which was down again in 2023 with 161 seed rounds compared to 188 in 2022.

And overall, investment rounds also were down to 417 last year in all, which is a low that we haven't seen since 2015.

So yeah, that's the macro picture for last year.

Now, if we dig into the Q4 review specifically, perhaps we can find some more hopeful signs.

Q4 saw a 31% rise in investment over Q3, and the overall deal count in Q4 was the highest that the space sector has seen since Q4 2022, which the Space Capital report says may indicate growing investor confidence.

A strong standout in performance not just in Q4, but in 2023 in general, well, those would be infrastructure companies, which Space Capital defines as hardware and software to build, launch, and operate space-based assets.

And those infrastructure companies saw their second strongest year on record last year.

Infrastructure companies got $2.6 billion of investment in Q4 alone.

Other bright spots?

Government funding, and not just in the US, but globally, is providing quite a bit of buoyancy for space companies in these rough financial waters.

And with geopolitical competition being what it is right now, we should expect that government funding support to continue.

There is a lot, lot more to this report, and as always, we highly recommend that you dig in.

It's free to read over at spacecapital.com, and we also have a link to it in our show notes for you.

And a region that looks set to do well in growing their space industry is the Middle East.

A new report predicts that spending in the region will increase by 92% over the next decade.

The same report says that the space industry in the region is projected to hit $75 billion by 2032.

The Middle East's space economy has trebled in 10 years, and it's forecast to make up 8.5% of the global space economy by the beginning of the next decade.

One country in particular is already showing signs of rapid growth in the space sector, and that would be the United Arab Emirates.

UAE's investments in space-related industries surpassed $6 billion in 2023, and they also recently announced plans for the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center to provide an airlock for NASA's lunar gateway.

It will certainly be a region that we watch as the world bounces back from recent investment slowdowns.

The US Space Development Agency is seeking industry feedback for the final of three types of Tronche-2 transport-layer space vehicles, also known as T2TL Gamma.

The SDA has released a draft program solicitation, which expands upon the foundation for Tronche-2 with the proliferated warfighter space architecture, also known as PWSA, previously described in the T2TL Alpha and Beta solicitations.

The agency says it expects to procure approximately 20 T2TL Gamma space vehicles, with a payload specifically designed to close future kill chains via the PWSA.

The Gamma variant will share certain baseline characteristics with the other T2TL variants like Alpha and Beta, outlined in their request for proposals, and T2TL features multiple space vehicle and mission configuration variants procured through a multi-solicitation and multi-vendor acquisition approach.

The initial launch capability is scheduled for September 2026, and you'll find the RFP in our show notes.

A huge congratulations to SpaceX for surpassing a major launch milestone this weekend.

In case you didn't hear, Sunday's Falcon 9 lift-off, which carried another 23 Starlink satellites to low Earth orbit, marked the company's 300th successful launch.

Not bad, SpaceX.

Not bad at all.

And of course, SpaceX keeps going from strength to strength and has announced a new partnership over the last few days with a somewhat surprising name.

That would be John Deere, which announced that it has signed a deal with SpaceX's Starlink that will see the satellite company provide connectivity to farming equipment in remote locations.

Yes, as you might have heard, farming is increasingly becoming reliant on data from satellites, and it's hoped that through this deal, space-based communications will also improve connectivity.

Starlink posted on the platform, formerly known as Twitter, that John Deere will begin equipping new and existing machines across the United States and Brazil with Starlink to help connect farmers with high-speed internet so they can fully leverage precision agriculture technologies.

The service is expected to roll out later this year.

PowerLight Technologies is reportedly joining Blue Origin's team, developing a power-beaming system that might someday charge up robots on the moon.

The effort is being funded by the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, also known as DARPA, as part of its Luna 10 program, which supports concepts for future lunar infrastructure projects.

Now DARPA selected 14 teams, including Blue Origins, to receive up to a million dollars each for studies that are due this spring.

Blue Origin and PowerLight are focusing on a system that could generate power for lunar operations and transmit that power to remote locations via laser light.

And staying with the laser theme, Osaka-based EX Fusion is developing a ground-based system to remove orbital debris using laser beams.

The Japanese startup is collaborating with Australian contractor EOS Space Systems.

Together, they plan on using an arsenal of laser technology, originally designed for fusion power, to effectively deal with the challenge of space debris.

In the initial stage of the developments, the laser will be employed to track space debris measuring less than 10 cm.

The subsequent phase, EX Fusion and EOS Space, aspire to enhance the laser power, aiming to decelerate debris and induce its reentry into Earth's atmosphere where it can safely burn up.

And we look forward to seeing this concept develop.

UK-based Lunasa Space has secured 611,000 euros from the European Space Agency as part of the NAVISP Element 2 program.

NAVISP, which stands for Navigation, Innovation and Support Program, aims to support satellite navigation and PNT innovative propositions with participating states and their industries, in coordination with the EU and its institutions.

The goal of Element 2 is to maintain and improve the capability and competitiveness of the industry of the participating states in the global market for satellite navigation and more broadly, PNT technologies and services.

With this funding, Lunasa aims to develop its commercial off-the-shelf based global navigation satellite system solution.

US-based Merida Aerospace has announced plans to build a National Rocket and Space Center in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula.

The National Rocket and Space Center will be a multifaceted facility featuring cutting edge amenities such as a museum, observatory and immersive experiences for the public.

It will also house space camps designed to provide hands-on training for students and individuals interested in space operations.

The center aims to go beyond education and public engagement.

It will also serve as an active hub for the development and innovation of astronomical technology through dedicated laboratories.

Merida Aerospace aims to encourage engineers to excel in the space industry through the work at the center.

The goal is to create a talent pool capable of contributing to the growth of the space industry in Mexico.

No timeline for the opening of the center was announced in the press release.

And that concludes our daily briefing for today.

You'll find links to further reading on all the stories we've mentioned in our show notes.

And we have of course added a few extra for you to enjoy.

And the first is a link to the pale blue dot visualization challenge.

And that's a challenge to use public Earth observation data to create a visualization that furthers the sustainable development goals of zero hunger, clean water and sanitation or climate action.

The second link is to a NASA announcement of space station services contracts.

And the third is a write-up on India's Earth Observation Company Pixel.

You can find them all at space dot n2k dot com and just click on the episode title.

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[Music] Our guest today is for all Moonkind co-founder and CEO Michelle Hanlon.

I wanted to speak to Michelle about the controversy surrounding sending human remains to the moon in the first commercial lunar payload services attempt that happened earlier this month.

Michelle, thank you so much for joining me today.

It's great to have you back on the show.

It is so awesome to be here.

Thank you, Maria.

I appreciate it.

So I wanted to get your take and your expertise on the story that has been on a lot of people's minds lately about Navajo Nation's objection to the human remains that were placed on the Peregrine lander.

This is a very fascinating, tricky, multifaceted story.

Your initial thoughts on this?

So I always start by saying for me personally, I find it incredibly icky that people are sending their remains to the moon and the remains of their pets to the moon.

To me, the moon is like a national park.

You wouldn't just throw your urn into a Yosemite or Glacier National Park or anything like that.

However, the moon is not a national park.

It's not an international park.

It's not any kind of preserve or conservatory, nothing.

It is what we call just the province of all humankind, and we have no idea what that means.

So there's no rules against what you send to the moon, what you don't send to the moon.

But this, though, is a much bigger issue than just, "Oh, wow, we have to figure out what's going on.

What's going to the moon."

This has to do with voices and listening to people and understanding people's concerns.

And this is, I think, a really egregious violation of trust to an unfortunate group of a community that has very little trust in the US government as it is.

The backstory is that NASA sent Eugene Shoemaker's remains to the moon, and when the Navajo Nation found out, they were very, very agreed, and they protested.

And NASA said, "Oh, absolutely.

We're so sorry.

We'll let you know in advance if we ever do something like this again."

And lo and behold, we have NASA doing it again, but it's not NASA.


That was a distinction they also made, which- Exactly.


It's a distinction they made to be honest, felt a little bit like passing the buck, but that's just my personal take.

Oh, they're hiding behind people like me.

They're hiding behind their lawyers.

Well, NASA really doesn't have a say because this is a commercial.


So don't you think from an ethical standpoint, then maybe NASA has just sort of sent a little note to the Navajo Nation to say, "Hey, it's happening again.

It's not us.

We have nothing to do with it."

But we thought, from a moral ethical standpoint, you should know.

What said, Marie, that Celestus has been marketing this program for 20 years.

It wasn't a huge surprise.

I have on my LinkedIn from a couple of months ago showing the webpage where you can see the faces of the people who are being said to do it.

So the timing is a little suspect on the part of the Navajo.

And again, I don't blame them.

They have no reason to trust the government.

They have every reason to be angry.

And not because they have a right to say, "You shouldn't send ashes to the moon," but because they were told, they were promised by NASA that they would be informed if it happened again.


I think it's a non-controversial statement to say that NASA messed up here.

I don't think many people would disagree.

I certainly would not.

I think that was a big mistake on their part.

I think what's really fascinating about this, and as I mentioned right before we started recording, this has been the dinner table conversation at my house.

Not that the devil needs an advocate, but just trying to think of all the different angles on this.

There's the religious and cultural aspects, which are one part.

There's also, for me, just a matter of taste.

I also find it icky.

It's not even a religious thing for me.

I just find it icky, and I can't really justify it beyond that.

I just don't want that.

I don't have a religious reason for it.

I just don't want it.

There's that, but then there's also the legal aspect of nobody is stopping anyone from doing this because there's no law saying they can't.

I know this is something you are so involved in right now.

It is a fascinating debate, isn't it, about nobody can stop someone from doing it.

There's no law saying they can't, but how do we make sure we are considerate moving forward?

As Celeste said, I have to give them some credit here.

We can't stop science in the name of every single religious belief, but at the same time, if we're taking all of humanity to space, doesn't that mean all of humanity, not just certain parts?

What do we do here?

This is such a quandary.

It is, because my initial reaction is don't let them do that.

But then what?

Where do you draw a line?

What is allowed to go?

What's allowed to go?

The fact is, astrobotic, this is how they funded part of their mission.

This is a big draw.

It costs a lot of money to send your ashes.

It's also not necessarily commercial because there are people who feel the stories are very heartfelt.

This is my mother's dying wish.

So there's no easy answer, but I can tell you the first step to finding an answer is opening the doors for more voices.

This is what really dismayed me the most out of this whole thing was the knee-check reaction of some in the commercial industry saying, "Using that religion argument."

You can't just say, "You can't rely on religion and religion can't stop science."

There are tons of religions in the world.

Just because you don't agree with the Navajo one, does that mean you shouldn't listen to them?

I feel like we've reached this point where I'm just going to give the Navajo benefit of the doubt here because I feel like they have more of a grievance than anybody else at this point.

But I would like to think that they needed to do this on this dramatic level to get attention.

How sad is that?

They should have had attention.

There are so many voices that we're not hearing in space.

To me, this event is a wake-up call to broaden our conversations.

Commercial industry can't hide and say, "I saw somebody say, 'People who aren't active in space shouldn't have a say.'"

I'm like, "Everything that happens in space is going to affect every human on earth.

Therefore, every human has a say if they want it."

Yeah, and especially if we go around and say, "Space is for everybody."

How can both of those things exist at the same time?

When I was thinking through this, going through the rhetoric in my head, I was going, "Okay, what if the Roman Catholic Church was a very powerful organization, had never forgiven Galileo, so to speak, and said, 'We don't want you studying the solar system because that goes against our beliefs.'"

And they're a big organization.

I mean, obviously, they're major, so they could grab more of a press.

There are a lot of different beliefs in the world, and when this news broke, I just remember thinking to myself, "I think commercial space just made itself a lot of enemies right now with that move of just going, 'We don't care what you think.

We're going to do what we want.'"

That just doesn't feel like it's needed right now.

Yeah, that's just me in a soapbox.

And there's also the argument that if the U.S., so we're not going to see international regulation of space for a long time, because there are just too many polarizing things happening in the world.

And so there's also the argument that, "Well, if we don't let our U.S. companies do it, then they'll just go to another country.

They'll go to India or China."

And that is also a valid argument.

But that doesn't mean we can't be responsible.

And again, I would like to think, I have no contact with the Navajo Nation.

I would like to think this isn't about, "No, stop, you can't do it."

Hey, let's figure out a way to do it where everybody can be at least content, if not happy.


So how do we build ethics into commercial space is sort of, how do we make sure that people are thoughtful about this?

Because I don't think anyone's suggesting that every commercial space company should be aware of possible objections to a mission.

For example, I'm thinking of the Starlink satellites.

I mean, what is the path for appeal for when they started lighting up the night sky that astronomers were trying to see?

I don't think Starlink anticipated that that was going to happen, but then there was a path forward for commercial space companies who may have no idea that something they might do could raise objections.

How can they be mindful of such things?

So I mean, they have the right to hide behind the U.S. government.

The FAA has to approve the payload.

And right now, the FAA doesn't care about payload so long as it's safe.


They don't care about vanity payloads and so forth.

And so we need to have a national conversation about whether we should be promoting vanity payloads and by vanity payloads, I mean payloads that are useless and don't do anything.

Again, my knee-jerk reaction is no to sort of a waste and you're junking up.

But when you think about, and I come from a cultural heritage perspective, when we think about the cultural heritage that we are protecting and so delighting over from ancient times, it's the trinkets from really rich people that were left behind in nice, you know, and we learned so much about society because of that.

And so I'm like, okay, well, you know, I don't know the answer.

Again, I think the first step to finding that answer is getting as many voices as possible.

I mean, this is fundamentally, this is what voting is all about, right?

And we just need to get people more interested in what's going on.


Yeah, just because this is the way things had been doesn't mean it's the way we should continue, especially as we move out of humanity's cradle and we move forward.

Do we have to keep doing things the way we've done it where, you know, the shiny gold things survive but maybe the textiles that were a part of everyday life, they were forgotten?

And I love the way you think about doing things differently because what we want to do at Fromm and Pine is literally protect the boot prints.

And why do we want to do that?

Because when we look back at those footsteps in Laitoli, Tanzania, the first evidence of human stamp, we didn't find those until 1970.

They were buried for three million years.

I don't want some poor slept three million years from now crawling around the moon, trying to find the boot prints, you know?

It's still this right and let's protect our past so that we can preserve our future and actually learn from our experiences as well as our mistakes.

We'll be right back.

Welcome back.

And an update on that mission that Michelle was just talking about, Astrobotix Paragreen Lunar Lander, which is operating as part of NASA's Commercial Lunar Payload Service, or CLPS.

Well, it launched on ULA's Vulcan Centaur a week ago and has really been through a gauntlet of updates since then.

The vehicle will not be able to complete a soft lunar landing as planned.

So what should Astrobotix do with the vehicle?

Well the company says it's been working with NASA and other stakeholders to find a solution to just that issue.

So let's back up for a second for those who haven't been following the story.

After the lunar lander was released from the ULA rocket, the spacecraft unfortunately experienced a propulsion anomaly that caused the team to reevaluate its mission.

A repellent leak caused the vehicle's attitude control system thrusters to operate well beyond their expected service life cycles to keep the lander from an uncontrollable tumble.

It was then concluded that the vehicle would no longer be able to complete its mission to land on the lunar surface.

Astrobotix team then started to evaluate the next steps.

The recommendation they've received is to let the spacecraft burn up during reentry in Earth's atmosphere.

And since this is a commercial mission, the final decision of Paragreen's final flight is in Astrobotix's hands.

And they shared a press release that, "Ultimately, we must balance our own desire to extend Paragreen's life, operate payloads, and learn much more about the spacecraft, with the risk that our damaged spacecraft could cause a problem in CIS lunar space.

As such, we have made the difficult decision to maintain the current spacecraft's trajectory to reenter Earth's atmosphere."

The company says that by responsibly ending Paragreen's mission, they are doing their part to preserve the future of CIS lunar space for all.

That is a noble call to be sure.

And we're expecting more updates in their press conference to be held on January 18th at noon Eastern.

That's it for T-minus for January 16th, 2024.

For additional resources from today's report, check out our show notes at space.ntuk.com.

We're privileged that NTK 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 Karuth, mixing by Elliot Peltzman and Trey Hester, with original music and sound design by Elliot Peltzman.

Our executive producer is Jen Iben.

Our VP is Brandon Karpf.

And I'm Maria Varmausus.

Thanks for listening.

We'll see you tomorrow.




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