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Planetary defense gets some time in the sun.

The White House on planetary defense. Farewell Virgin; hello Deloitte. A space security camera. Lifeline for Astrocast. Opportunities from USSF. And more.





Planetary defense gets some time in the sun. Farewell Virgin Orbit; hello Deloitte Space. Physical security, otter pups, and satellite… cameras? Astrocast gets a lifeline. Contracts and requirements from NRO and Space Force. A doctor, an astronaut, and four more astronauts walk onto a basketball court. All this and more in today’s episode of T-Minus.

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Selected Reading

How Rapid Growth in Drone Use and EU Regulations Will Accelerate Demand for Satellite Connectivity | Via Satellite 

How NASA Artemis astronauts learned they'd been picked for moon mission | The Washington Post

New Planetary Defense Strategy Outlines Key US Government Goals | OSTP | The White House 

Deloitte Announces Formal Space Practice to Connect Organizations in Rapidly Growing Global Space Ecosystem | Deloitte 

Redwire to demonstrate a security camera for military satellites | SpaceNews 

Yahsat Takes Significant LEO Step Investing in Astrocast | Via Satellite

Kleos Space, Spire Global get contract extensions from NRO | SpaceNews

Safran’s resilient PNT system, NAVKITE, developed with French navy commandos | SatNews

Space Force seeking more narrowband communication satellites | C4ISRNET

Space Force asks industry input for second phase of MEO missile warning/tracking | Breaking Defense

Eutelsat Hotbird 13F Reaches Orbit | Via Satellite

AST SpaceMobile Updates on BlueWalker 3 Sat-to-Cell Tests | Via Satellite 


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Maria Varmazis:    NASA's DART mission was a smashing success, pummeling the asteroid day Dimorphos and proving that slamming a satellite into a big old space rock can, indeed, alter its orbit. Good to know should something dangerous be heading Earth's way. But about that, while we do track there really massive objects near Earth's orbit, there are a bunch of smaller rocks in our planet's way that could actually cause trouble, and we don't actually know nearly as much about these potentially dangerous Near-Earth Objects as we should yet. And now, the White House says it's time we changed that.

Maria Varmazis:    Today is 4/04, April 4, 2023. I'm Maria Varmazis, and this is T-Minus. More on tracking potentially hazardous Near-Earth Objects. Virgin Orbit officially files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Deloitte is in the space business. Redwire planning a neat camera demo. All this and more. So don't go anywhere. Here are today's stories. So, remember, NASA's Double Asteroid Redirection Test, or DART Mission, from last year? The one where they smacked the satellite into the asteroid, Dimorphos, as I talked about at the top of the show, to see if they could change the orbit, and they did? Spectacularly well, I should add. Well, with the success of the DART mission firmly in mind, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, or OSTP, says it's time to think even bigger about the hazards of Near Earth Objects, and it's believed we're only tracking about 42% of the ones that exist. That's why the OSTP has announced the new National Preparedness Strategy and Action Plan for Near Earth Object Hazards and Planetary Defense. It outlines six key goals for tracking Near Earth Objects, or NEOs, and improving overall planetary defense in the next decade. These points are, number one, enhanced NEO detection, tracking, and characterization capabilities. Number two, improve NEO modeling prediction and information integration. Three, develop technologies for NEO reconnaissance, deflection, and disruption. Four, increase international cooperation on NEO preparedness. Five, strengthen and routinely exercise NEO impact emergency procedures and action protocols. And six, improve US management of planetary defense through enhanced inter agency collaboration. The full Strategy and Action Plan, which we've linked in our show notes for you, says we're doing a great job at tracking the huge NEOs, the ones that are over a kilometer in size, 95% of those we've got our eyes on and they're not a risk, the smaller NEOs, the ones that are bigger than 140 meters but under a kilometer, those are a lot harder to track. Of those, there are likely about 25,000 NEOs out there. And as we said at the top of the show, we've only detected and tracked about 42% of them. It's really important not to panic, and we should note here that not all NEOs are hazardous. But if the NEO comes within 4.7 million miles of Earth's orbit, and if it's bigger than 140 meters, then it officially meets hazardous criteria. Sadly, as you've likely heard, Virgin Orbit didn't manage to find a buyer last week, and now after laying off most of its workforce, the company has officially filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. In a press release, Dan Hart, CEO of Virgin Orbit says this. "While we have taken great efforts to address our financial position and secure additional financing, we must ultimately do what is best for the business. We believe that the cutting-edge launch technology that this team has created will have wide appeal to buyers as we continue in the process to sell the company. At this stage, we believe that the Chapter 11 process represents the best path forward to identify and finalize an efficient and value-maximizing sale. According to the UK's Telegraph, Virgin Orbit is listing its assets as worth about $243 million and its total debt of about $153.5 million as of September 30th in its bankruptcy filing. The biggest professional services firm in the world, Deloitte says they're officially getting into the space market and starting a formal space practice for both commercial and government sector clientele. Yep, they've been working with private and public space clients for over 15 years, they said, but this announcement is of a dedicated end-to-end service for what they're called calling quote, "The full possibilities of space for organizations that may stand to benefit from the opportunities that space presents." "Makes monetary sense for them," says Deloitte, "given how fast the space economy is growing." Their press release cites the space economy's forecasted valuation of $1 trillion by 2040, with a focus on the burgeoning LEO satellite market, which Deloitte says by their own research will grow to be worth as much as 312 billion by 2035. Sam Kapreilian, Deloitte Space Leader for the US consulting firm says this, "Just as environment and sustainability have very quickly become critical strategic issues for many C suites across government and commercial enterprises, we see the same occurring for space in the coming two to five years." And there's news from space infrastructure company Redwire that they're getting ready for a tech demo on a navigation camera on an on-orbit satellite later this year when they will install ExoAnalytics Solutions space-tracking software on the camera. In a story in Space News, the company says the idea behind this upcoming demo is to show Redwire's machine-vision camera, usually used for maneuvering and navigation, to show that it can be used in conjunction with the tracking software to allow them to function kind of like a security camera, monitoring and tracking any hazards that might be coming the satellite's way. This demo will take place on the upcoming Starfish Space servicer, called the Otter Pup, which we'll be launching to LEO as soon as this June. And now, some satellite news bits. Space use is also reporting that Thuraya has invested in AstroCast, which currently has 18 satellites in LEO primarily used for supporting IOT device connectivity. Thuraya is the mobile satellite services subsidiary of Yahsat, a geo-operator, and since 2019, AstroCast has been in a four-year agreement to use Yahsat's L-Band Spectrum to connect to the IOT devices that they serve. This deal was worth $17.5 million, and as part of the deal, both Yahsat and AstroCast say they're looking to extend their existing spectrum use agreement. The US National Reconnaissance Office, or NRO, has granted contract extensions to Kleos Space and Spire Global for commercially available radio frequency, or RF, data. And this shows the growing importance of parsing available data and whereas the emphasis has often been on the gathering of the data, which is also important, there's much to be found in the data that's already available. Both companies operate satellites or constellations of satellites that can detect and pinpoint RF signals, which has a lot of utility, but one of its uses is specifically for indicating attempted GPS jamming. And speaking of GPS jamming, or really more broadly, global navigation satellite jamming, Safran Electronics and Defense says its new position navigation and timing, or PNT system, is much more resilient to such interference. This came as an announcement about its new system NAVKITE, which was made to spec for the French Navy commandos. Switching to the US Space Force for a moment, they say they're looking to procure two more Mobile User Objective System, or MUO, satellites, to join the five Lockheed-built NEO satellites currently on orbit. "This would extend the utility of the constellation into the 2030s," says C4ISRNET. With a solicitation posted late in March, the Space Force says they'll award up to two contracts by September for the Early Design and Risk Reduction work, and then they'll pick a single company in the fiscal year 2025 to deliver the new satellites, with a launch sometime before the end of fiscal year 2030. MUO satellites are secure narrowband, much less prone to rain fade and terrain interference and better suited for secure communications. The MUOS Program itself, Space Force says, "will need about $2.5 billion for this program, spread out over the next four years." And the Space Force has put out an RFI from the satellite industry for its input by May 16th about possibly developing a missile warning and tracking constellation in MEO. Yes, the Space Development Agency is developing a missile warning and tracking constellation in LEO, with the first satellites for the SDA's LEO going up just over this past weekend. But again, this RFI is for developing a new such constellation in MEO, which as the name suggests, sits between LEO and GEO. And speaking of GEO, the Eutelsat Hotbird 13F has reached GEO. It's one of two Eurostar NEO satellites, which was launched to replace the three current legacy Hotbrids. These are TV broadcast satellites, serving the markets in the Europe, Middle East, and Northern Africa. The two new Eurostar NEOs have been built as part of ESA's NEOSAT partnership project with TELUS, Alenia Space, and Airbus. AST Space Mobile says their Blue Walker three downlink matched 5G speeds in their latest sat-to-cell test. CEO, Abel Avellan, said this in an investor call. "We are happy to announce that the initial test results indicate that the downlink signal strength necessary to reach 5G cellular broadband speed can be met with our technology. We have demonstrated our patented technology to validate Doppler and delay compensation, a key part of the component to be able to do 5G speed, and we continue to target to complete cellular broadband speed directly to standard modified phones. That's it for today's headlines. We've linked to new stories and sources for you in our show notes at space.n2k.com, and we've added some selected reading in there, including a piece from Satellite Today on how demand for drone tech will affect the satellite industry and a fun bit from the Washington Post about how the Artemis 2 astronauts found out they were getting assigned to the mission. It's pretty funny as most of them were late to the meeting. We'll be back right after this break. Stay with us. If you've ever thought you'd easily win a karaoke battle with an astronaut, and I don't know why you would think that but just in case you ever have, perhaps you should think again.

Tracy Dyson:    [singing] Oh, say does that Star-Spangled Banner yet wave. O'er the land of the free, and the home of the brave.

Maria Varmazis:    That was NASA astronaut, Tracy Dyson, a physical chemistry PhD who has been on two space flights, has logged 188 days in space, has done three EVAs, for a total of 22 hours and 49 minutes, and also really nailed the notoriously tricky high notes at the end of the "US National Anthem." Not a surprise. She is also one of the lead vocalists for the all-astronaut band with the perfect name for an all-astronaut band, Max Q. She and all four of the Artemis 2 crew were at the NCAA Tournament game last night between SDSU and Yukon in Houston, Texas. No word yet from Artemis 2 Mission Specialist, Jeremy Hansen, of the Canadian Space Agency when we'll hear his rendition of "Oh, Canada," but we'll keep you posted. And that's it for T-Minus for April 4, 2023. T-Minus is a production of N2K Networks, the news-to-knowledge platform for professionals. For links to all today's stories, check out our show notes at Space.n2k.com. Original music and sound design by Elliott Peltzman. Mixing by Tré Hester. Our executive producer is Brandon Karpf, and I'm Maria Varmazis. See you tomorrow.

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