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The space sandwich.

Orbit Fab and ClearSpace announce partnership. Belgium signs the Artemis Accords. Five companies picked for ESA and EU Flight Ticket Initiative. And more.




ClearSpace and Orbit Fab announce a strategic partnership to advance in-space refueling and servicing capabilities. Belgium has become the latest country to add its signature to the Artemis Accords. The European Space Agency and the European Commission have selected five companies that will launch institutional missions into space in the framework of the Flight Ticket Initiative, and more.

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T-Minus Guest

Our guest is Robert Ganim, Starburst Aerospace's Director of Government Affairs. 

You can connect with Robert on LinkedIn and learn more about Starburst on their website.

Selected Reading

ClearSpace And Orbit Fab Partner To Create In-Space Refueling Service

Belgium Becomes Latest Signatory to the Artemis Accords

PLD Space, selected by ESA and the European Commission for the Flight Ticket Initiative launch contracts

NASA System Predicts Impact of a Very Small Asteroid Over Germany

Eutelsat Signs GEO/LEO Deal in South Africa - Via Satellite

Horizontal Integration Facility designs reveal full extent of ELA's value offering to launch vehicle providers and payload customers. 

U.S. government awards NOAA millions for wildfire response research | Space

Freedom Space Technologies Awarded Contract in Partnership with OMNI Federal to Support Space Force Space Systems Command FORGE C2 Mission- Business Wire

China takes its chip war to space as it uses Tiangong space station to test processors and gain a tech edge- South China Morning Post

January/February 2024 - Former Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart on the Milestones, Hopes, and Heartbreaks of Virgin Orbit’s Journey | Via Satellite

Launch Into a Galaxy of Playfulness with Limited-Edition OREO Space Dunk Cookies

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[MUSIC] Psst, I'm just giving you a heads up for today's show.

We're talking about Belgium at the top of the show and I don't know about you, but I always think of fries or frites when I think of Belgium.

And at the bottom of the show, we're talking about cookies.

I know, kinda wild for a show about space to make you wonder about snack time.

But my apologies in advance to any hungry listeners.

[MUSIC] Today is January 24th, 2024.

I'm Maria Varmasas and this is T-minus.

[MUSIC] Orbit FAB and Clear Space partner on in-space refueling services.

Belgium signs the Artemis Accords.

ESA and the EU select five companies for their flight ticket initiative.

And my guest today is Robert Gannum, VC Starbursts, Director of Government Affairs on how startups need to navigate policy.

It's a great chat, so stick around for the second part of the show.

[MUSIC] Space companies, when their powers combine, they can be a powerful force to push technologies forward.

And in that spirit, today two in-orbit servicer companies, Clear Space of Switzerland and Orbit FAB of Colorado, announced that they're entering a strategic partnership to advance in space refueling and servicing capabilities, especially to their customers in the US, the UK, and around the world who need satellite refueling.

In this new partnership of compliments, gas stations in space Orbit FAB is bringing a fuel depot on board a Clear Space refueling shuttle, with the goal of creating a refueling service architecture.

Belgium has become the latest country to add its signature to the Artemis Accords.

Belgium's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Haja Labib, commented, Belgium has always had its feet on the ground and its head in the stars.

Our country is one of the world leaders in space exploration.

The signing of the Artemis Accords reflects our ongoing commitment to sustainable and responsible space, and will strengthen our ties with international partners.

It will also open up new economic opportunities for our companies, which have world-renowned expertise in the space sector.

And yesterday, we shared the news that Orbex had been selected by the European Space Agency and the European Commission as one of five companies that will launch institutional missions into space in the framework of the Flight Ticket Initiative.

And the other companies that we did not mention included Spain's PLD Space, France's Ariane Space, Germany's ISAR Aerospace, and Rocket Factory Augsburg.

This program aims to create a pool of private launch providers to meet the space access needs of European institutions.

Each of the companies will receive a frame contract as part of the initiative, allowing them to compete for task orders for launching specific missions.

Officials did not disclose the anticipated value of those contracts or how many launch companies competed to participate in the program.

A small asteroid about three feet in size disintegrated harmlessly over Germany on Sunday.

You might have seen the videos on social media, it's very cool.

Approximately 95 minutes before it impacted Earth's atmosphere, NASA's Scout Impact Hazard Assessment System, which monitors data on potential asteroid discoveries, gave advanced warning as to where and when the asteroid would impact.

And this is the eighth time in history that a small earthbound asteroid has been detected while still in space before entering and disintegrating in our atmosphere.

The asteroid's impact produced a bright fireball known as a bull-eyed, which was seen as far away as the Czech Republic and may have scattered small meteorites on the ground at the impact site, about 37 miles west of Berlin.

The asteroid was later designated 2024 BX-1.

And that asteroid was first observed less than three hours before its impact by Christian Sarnesky at Pistexco Mountain Station of the Konkoli Observatory near Budapest, Hungary. 70 minutes after 2024 BX-1 was first spotted, NASA's Scout reported a 100% probability of Earth impact and began to narrow down the location and time.

And since the asteroid disintegrated over a relatively populated part of the world, as I mentioned at the top of the story, many photos and videos of the fireball were posted online minutes after the event.

It did make for a pretty light show and thankfully no one was harmed.

Peratus South Africa and UTelsat OneWeb have partnered to enhance Peratus' connectivity offering in South Africa.

Peratus South Africa already provides Geo-satellite services through its long-standing partnership with UTelsat Group.

And this new agreement further strengthens its satellite connectivity services through a combined Geo-Leo offering to address businesses operating in remote parts of the country, notably retail, banking, mining, agriculture, and tourism.

Equatorial Launch Australia has shared completed designs for its horizontal integration facility buildings.

The facilities include a state of the art assembly integration and testing space for each of up to seven rocket launch companies to be based at the Arnhem Space Center.

The delivery of the new facility designs completes the company's plans for its space launch complex, which is a designated area of the space port at which each resident launcher will locate for all preparatory work prior to and including lift off.

And is comprised of up to two launch pads and one horizontal integration facility building for each launch company.

Construction is expected to begin alongside launches at the site later this year.

Over to the US now, and the Biden-Harris administration has awarded the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, as well as the Department of Commerce, more than a combined $34 million in funding to aid in wildfire preparedness and response efforts.

Some of the funding will be shared with six research universities that are all part of NOAA's Cooperative Institute system.

And the aim is to improve how scientists study and forecast wildfire behavior, as well as provide enhanced warnings and early detection of such disasters.

Ground software as a service provider, Freedom Space Technologies has been awarded a contract with OmniFederal to support the modernization activity known as Future Operationally Resilient Ground Evolution System, or FORGE, command and control known as C2 for the US Space Systems Command Space Sensing Directorate.

The intent of FORGE C2 is to provide an operational system that will transition the capabilities of legacy and future assets to a missile warning ground baseline owned and maintained by Space Systems Command without degrading existing operational capabilities.

Freedom Space will deliver software solutions for FORGE C2 that will bridge the architecture of the government's existing systems with a new prototype that is being developed.

And that wraps up our briefing for today.

Stay with us for my chat with Robert Gannum, Starburst's Director of Government Affairs on startups and navigating policy.

If you want to learn more about any of the stories that I've mentioned today, then we've included links for further reading in our show notes.

And we always sprinkle in a few extra for you.

And today we've included a piece on the chip wars in space, semiconductors, not potato chips, and another with former Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart.

A little programming note, tomorrow is our 200th episode.

Yeah, I cannot believe we managed it either.

We, all of us here at T-minus, we would really love to know what you think of this podcast.

For real, all the good, the bad, and the ugly comments are welcome.

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You can email us at space@n2k.com or submit the survey in the show notes.

And I know I say this every episode, but for real, your feedback ensures that we deliver the information that keeps you a step ahead in the rapidly changing space industry.

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[MUSIC] My guest today is Robert Gannum, Director of Government Affairs at Starburst.

Now, Robert spent many years in the government policy world before joining Starburst, so I asked him for his perspective on what's driving innovation in the United States.

When I talk about great power competition, I'm referring to competition between the United States and China, primarily China's considered the pacing threat according to our national defense strategy.

Russia is in there too, although Russia, and this is my personal view, Russia to me continues to be a global disruptor of US interests, but I view them as primarily their regional strength is Europe.

Whereas China, Chairman Xi has made it very clear that he wants to displace the United States as the world's economic superpower.

And so we have been watching China for many years now, building up their capabilities with the intent of essentially usurping the United States as the world's foremost power.

So a big piece of that is technology and innovation.

And there's a lot of talk of us falling behind China.

I personally don't think that we are behind China yet.

I think we can fall behind China if we don't move quickly enough.

And I think there's been a realization across government, not just within the Pentagon, but across the interagency, that this isn't a problem that needs to be dealt with.

And now both the Trump and Biden administrations have taken policy steps to deal with this.

That's what I'm talking about when I talk about great power competition.

Yes, yes.

There definitely feels like there's a lag behind what commerce is doing, what technology is doing, and where policy is coming in.

I'm curious how you feel like military investment comes into play here.

How much that is also driving innovation in the sector.

So there's been a shift at the height of the Cold War.

The US government spent about 80% of R&D in the United States basically came from the US government, 20% was coming from industry.

That essentially has flipped.

And so now we see the overwhelming majority, perhaps 80% or so of R&D coming from the private sector, while 20% is coming from the public sector.

That's been a change that the federal government has struggled to adapt to.

But that provides a really great opportunity for government to leverage all of this commercial R&D.

So we're really good, in my opinion, at the early stage stuff on the government side.

Like DOD does not have a research development test and evaluation problem.

DOD's issue is on transitioning that technology to a contractor program of record.

It's a procurement issue.

So there's absolutely a role for military investment to play.

And we have to be careful when we talk about investment.

I'm not talking about DOD going into a company and being an equity investor.

I don't think that's a great idea for DOD.

I'm not convinced it's an appropriate role, although I'm hoping to gain persuaded otherwise.

But it's really essentially DOD.

Rapidly acquiring commercial technologies that can be delivered to the warfighter more quickly than our traditional acquisition procedures have allowed.

Yeah, and there seems to be some promising movement there.

It seems that they recognize certainly that there's the gap there.

And to me, it seems like they're working to address that.

But I guess it does remain to be seen.

Yeah, they definitely are.

I mean, there's a lot of really good, smart and talented people in the department who are working very diligently to address this problem.

It's just when you kind of zoom out and you look at it from the whole work and department wide perspective, it's an issue of inertia.

I mean, it takes a long time to move and change the culture of a bureaucracy as large as DOD.

But they are taking steps and they're doing far more engagement with the early stage Startabiga system than they were just a few years ago.

I mean, there's a lot more work to be done, but they are making progress.

I don't want to exclusively beat up on DOD.

There's lots to be critical about.

But I also want to acknowledge that there are really talented people at the department trying to figure this out.

And I don't know that DOD will ever operate at the speed that the commercial sector would like them to.

But General Sultzman, Chief of Space Operations, has said, "We're going to move basically at the speed of government on this."

And at least my interpretation of what he's saying is that we're going to try to do a better job.

We're going to try to move faster, but we're never going to match the speed of the private sector.

So I view that as a plea from General Sultzman to the commercial sector like, "Hey, help some patients bear with us, but please continue to work with us because we're going to continue to try to work with you."

One thing I'm very curious about, especially when we talk about policy, when I talk to commercial space, folks from commercial space, I'm just going to put it out really broadly, policy comes up as the big, "Oh, it's so slow.

It's so behind."

I'm curious what your perspective is in terms of what the ecosystem is for commercial space and what commercial space could be doing better.

Outside of policy issues, how we could drive innovation without just dumping on policy as being the big boat anchor on people's necks, that's a good question.

I think policy is such a big part of it, though.

I think this is a naval analogy, and I'm paraphrasing, but it's something like commerce follows the flag where essentially the private sector is going to respond to, I use this term hesitantly because it's, I think it can be overused and no one has to find it, but demand signals coming from government.

I don't think that the commercial space sector, especially as great power competition heats up can escape policy.

I just don't.

I think the desire to separate the commercial sector from policy is it's aspirational, and I don't think it's realistic.

What they can do in the meantime is, when we talk about dual use, I mean, the company's not dual use if they're not commercially viable.

I would argue that the best thing the commercial space sector can do is continue to innovate, continue to pursue commercial markets, and through that, they will and have been developing technologies that will be valuable to the Department of Defense and the Space Force and our combat commands.

That's fair enough.

It's a curiosity question on my part, but that's absolutely fair.

I'm always very curious to get people's perspective about what you've noticed on the macro level in terms of coming from a different world, moving to the space sector.

What have you noticed?

This is what's different.

It operates in a certain quirky way that's different from other sectors.

Anything that comes to mind when you think of that?

It's such a small community.

I'm used to the broader aerospace and defense community, which is huge, but the commercial space sector is really small.

It's one of those things where you start to see the same people over and over again at various industry conferences, which I actually like because we actually get an opportunity to get to know these people.

I think it's in a way it can be more conducive to finding different opportunities to collaborate and partner on different engagements.

To take it even further out, another thing I've observed is, and this is relevant to space, but it goes beyond space, it's just the sheer size of the American innovation ecosystem.

It is massive, and it is not something that I understood or appreciated at all in my earlier career positions when I was more or less trying to be a policy wonk.

It surpasses any other country.

There is more private capital here than any other country.

For all the doom and gloom that is out there about the state of America and the economy and us potentially falling behind China and other adversaries, we have a ton of stuff going on here that no other country even approaches.

It's all in a lot of its indigenous.

We're not stealing IT to develop these technologies.

You're just really smart people developing these technologies and building these businesses.

That encourages me and gives me a lot of hope.

It makes me believe, and I truly tend to be an optimist.

I really believe that we will maintain our technological edge and come out on top in large part because of the robustness and diversity of the startup ecosystem that we have here, not just in space, but aerospace and defense and really just detect world more broadly.


Well, thank you for that perspective and a dovetail to that question.

Given that you work in the VC space and you see a lot of different ideas coming in, I guess my next question is if you had a call to action for people who are trying to come up in the commercial space industry who've got a great idea, what words of encouragement, words of advice, what would you tell them?

I suppose this might be generic, but I would tell them that given, even despite the macroeconomic challenges right now, there's less private capital out there.

There is still capital, but VCs are being pickier.

The era of free money, as people were calling it, is over, at least for now.

If you have a good idea though, there's money out there.

People are still going to fund great ideas.

If you're passionate about something and you truly genuinely believe that what you want to build can work and that there's a market for it, then I would argue that you should not be discouraged by the current background of economic trends and don't be discouraged by all the people who are going to tell you you're crazy for trying to start a new company in this environment.

Then just go for it because there's one, you can't predict the future.

So you have no idea what things are going to look like six months or a year or two years from now.

And two, there's never going to be an ideal time.

Don't sit around and wait for circumstances to be perfect, whatever that means to you, because that's just an excuse to delay and delay and delay.

So the key is to take action.

So if you have a good idea, just take action.

We'll be right back.

Welcome back.

And well, I didn't have it on my bingo card for today, but who would have guessed that cookies could get you to the Carmen line?

Just right up to it.

Space perspective has got to have the busiest PR team in the business, I swear.

They've paired up with Oreo cookies, America's favorite cookie.

Their words not mine.

For a galaxy inspired limited edition cookie, that's also a chance to win a ride to the edge of space.

Yes, on a space perspective, space balloon, you guessed it.

The new Oreos are called space dunk cookies.

And the insides are blue and pink.

Okay, I'm going to read this from the press release in their own words.

The otherworldly cookies also feature one of five galactic embossments.

And for the first time in Oreo cookie history, a small cutout in the cookie itself, allowing fans to peer through the cookie and see the colorful cream.

Wow, seeing into a cookie from a little hole in the middle of the cookie will wonders never cease.

Still, it's for a chance for a really nice ride.

And with tickets on a space perspective space balloon at $125,000 per seat versus a package of limited edition Oreo spaced on cookies for $4.50, it's much cheaper to just eat a whole lot of Oreos for a chance at a ride.

It'd be what, like a little under 28,000 packages of Oreos to match the price of one ticket to space.

Yes, I did the math.

And I also read the fine print.

So you can enter the sweepstakes once a day until April 5th, 2024.

Not much time.

Plus you can get a bonus 10 entries, just 10, not 10 a day.

So with entries open now already, you've got 72 days.

So 82 entries maximum per person.

Anyone know how many packages of this flavor are being made?

Any of our stats pros or min max are listening want to run some probabilities here on the space version of the golden ticket?

Not that I am going to do this, but you know, in theory, if somebody wanted to, I'm just saying.

That's it for T-minus for January 24th, 2024.

For additional resources from today's report, check out our show notes at space.n2k.com.

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.

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 Varmausas.

Thanks for listening.

Hope you're not too hungry.

See you tomorrow.

[MUSIC] T-minus.


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