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SLIM lets the sun shine in.

SLIM powers up. Korea certifies its satellite navigation system. Iran sends three satellites of its own to orbit. GSA annual summit gets underway. And more.




JAXA reestablishes contact with SLIM after a recent shift in lighting conditions allowed it to catch sunlight and generate the power that it needs for its mission. The Korea Augmentation Satellite System (KASS) has been officially certified by the Korean authorities. Iran says it successfully launched three satellites into space over the weekend, and more.

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T-Minus Guest

Our guest today is Dr. Carlos Mata, CTO at Scientific Lightening Solutions on managing lightning risks in spaceports. 

You can connect with Carlos on LinkedIn and learn more about Scientific Lightening Solutions on their website.

Selected Reading

Japan's SLIM probe regains power more than a week after moon landing | Reuters

Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, Scientific and Technical Subcommittee, 61st session, 995th meeting | UN Web TV​​

Korea’s KASS satellite navigation system certified by national authorities and enters operational service | Thales Alenia Space

Iran launches 3 satellites into space as tensions rise : NPR

Northrop Grumman Satellite-Refueling Technology Selected as First Preferred Refueling Solution Interface Standard for Space Systems Command (SSC)

FACT SHEET: Biden-Harris Administration Announces Innovation Engines Awards, Catalyzing More Than $530 Million to Boost Economic Growth and Innovation in Communities Across America | The White House

We're heading for Venus: ESA approves EnVision

A handful of space companies are running out of cash and time. Here are three at risk

Competing In Space: A Joint Product Of The National Space Intelligence Center And The National Air And Space Intelligence Center

Redwire Space Announces Strategic Expansion of its In-Space Manufacturing Technology Portfolio to Tap into Global Semiconductor Market

Visually impaired people can now listen to an eclipse. Here’s how.

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One lesson that's been driven home for me these last weeks is that for space missions, it really ain't over until it's over.

Even though Astrobotics Paragreen suffered an anomaly that prevented it from attempting a lunar landing, that they were still able to salvage some of the payload missions and even get the lander to a controlled re-entry to Earth is pretty remarkable.

And in that spirit, even though JAXA's slim moon lander didn't have an optimal soft landing on the moon and generating solar power has been a problem, all it needed was a little shift in the light, really, and over the weekend, that's exactly what it got.

It ain't over.

Today is January 29, 2024.

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

Slim lets the sun shine in.

Korea certifies its satellite navigation system.

Iran sends three satellites of its own to orbit.

And our guest today is Dr.

Carlos Mata, CEO at Scientific Lightning Solutions on managing lightning risks in spaceports.

Carlos is attending the Global Space Port Alliance annual summit in Orlando, Florida today and I had an electrifying conversation with him about lightning risks at spaceports and for spacecraft.

Sorry for the pun, but I learned a ton and you might too.

Definitely tune in.

Let's take a look at our Intel briefing for this Monday.

Slim is in operation.

And no, not talking about any holiday weight gain here.

We're talking about Japan's moon lander, the slim or smart lander for investigating moon, which landed softly on its nose on the lunar surface last week.

JAXA says the vehicle has regained power, despite not being able to generate electricity after landing because its solar panels were at the wrong angle.

Well, a recent shift in lighting conditions allowed it to catch the sunlight and generate power that it needs for its mission.

And JAXA says it has reestablished contact with the lander on Sunday.

On a post on X, JAXA shared a photograph taken by Slim of a nearby rock that it nicknamed "Toy Poodle."

Zero relation to the transformers on the moon that I can't stop nerding about.

JAXA says the lander will analyze the composition of rocks in its search for clues about the origin of the moon.

We should note that while this boost of power is good news, JAXA has not said how long Slim will continue to operate on the moon even with this energy burst.

But it has previously said that the lander is not designed to survive a lunar night.

The United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, Scientific and Technical Subcommittee is meeting in Vienna this week.

The committee known as COP UOS was set up by the General Assembly in 1959, and it is the only committee of the General Assembly dealing exclusively with international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space.

The committee is used as a forum to monitor and discuss developments related to the exploration and use of outer space, alongside the technical advancements in space exploration, geopolitical changes and the evolving use of space science and technology for sustainable development.

And we will bring you updates out of that meeting when we have them.

The Korea Augmentation Satellite System known as CAS has been officially certified by the Korean authorities.

This navigation system is the result of a collaboration between TELUS-Alenia Space and the Korea Aerospace Research Institute known as CARI for the Korean Ministry of Land Infrastructure and Transport.

The CAS system is initially operating via the MiyaSat 3G Geostationary Satellite launched in 2022 and will soon be supplemented by KoreaSat 6A, which is under development by TELUS-Alenia Space for KTSAT Corporation, the Republic of Korea's leading satellite communications operator.

KoreaSat 6A will carry a satellite-based augmentation system, or SBAS payload, designed also by TELUS-Alenia Space to improve service continuity and operational availability.

The Korean regional system will initially focus on aircraft applications, especially safety of life services used in flight phases, including landing, to enhance flight safety and efficiency while reducing the environmental impact of aviation.

Iran says it successfully launched three satellites into space over the weekend.

Footage released by the Iranian state television showed a nighttime launch for the Simorg rocket, which reportedly took place at the Imam Khomeini spaceport in Iran's rural Semnon province.

State media named the launched satellites MADA, KAYAN-2, and HATF-1.

It described the MADA as a research satellite, while the KAYAN and the HATF were described as "nanal satellites" focused on global positioning and communication.

Iran's information and communications technology minister said the MADA had already sent signals back to Earth.

Northrop Grumman's passive refueling module, or PRM, has been selected as the first preferred refueling solution interface standard for use across space systems command satellites.

The company is collaborating with SSC, Defense Innovation Unit, and other customers to develop in-space refueling technologies for the U.S.'s space-based assets.

The refueling interface system Northrop Grumman is developing includes elements to successfully dock and transfer fuel, as well as a refueling payload that handles fuel transfer.

The company says that it has already completed numerous successful design reviews and rigorous test campaigns of the PRM.

The White House has announced 10 U.S. regions that are emerging as innovation ecosystems and receiving over 530 million U.S. dollars of investment, catalyzed by the U.S.

National Science Foundation's Regional Innovation Engines Program.

The Biden-Harris administration is awarding the 10 NSF Regional Innovation Engines, 15 million dollars each in federal investment, with over 365 million dollars in matched contributions from non-federal partners.

Over the next decade, these 10 NSF Regional Innovation Engines will be eligible to receive upwards of 2 billion dollars, with a goal of stimulating economic growth across a range of sectors, including space and defense.

The full list of the selected regions can be found in the selected reading section of our show notes.

The European Space Agency has officially adopted its next mission to Venus.

ESA's Science Program Committee has completed the study phase for its "envision mission," which will look at Venus from its inner core to its outer atmosphere, giving important new insight into the planet's history, geological activity, and climate.

Following selection of the European industrial contractor later this year, work will then begin to finalize the design and build of the spacecraft.

The plan is for Envision to launch on an Ariane 6 rocket in 2031.

Today is the annual Global Space Port Alliance Summit in Orlando, Florida.

GSA Chairman Dr.

George Neeld sent us this update.

I'm Dr.

George Neeld, Chairman of the Global Space Port Alliance.

I'm going to just summarize some of the exciting things going on here at our Global Space Port Alliance Space Port Summit in Orlando.

We've had some outstanding speakers, including former NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstein, Colonel Shannon De Silva from Space Force, as well as a number of very interesting panels.

Pam Underwood, the Director of Space Force from the FAA, has also been here.

Some of the things we've talked about include all of the exciting things going on in commercial space right now with exponentially increasing number of launches and increased number of space sports both in the United States and all around the world.

We have lots of folks traveling to space now and including different kinds of people, not just government astronauts, but regular people as well.

And we've also talked about the size of the space economy, which is large and growing on the way to a trillion dollars every year by 2040 or so.

In addition to all those exciting developments, we also identified some of the challenges and improvement opportunities that we're facing right now.

We'd love to be able to have a commercial space flight research alliance, including government, industry, academia, and the international community to work on some of the programs that would benefit from research being done at our universities and other educational centers.

We also are addressing human space flight training.

NASA has its astronauts regularly flying T-38 jets to maintain their readiness to fly into space.

And with a few tweaks of the law by Congress, we can allow people to buy tickets to fly in former military or high performance aircraft so that they can get that same kind of preparation for space flights in the future.

We've talked about the need for spaceport infrastructure funding.

How important that is?

We fund lots of infrastructure for roads and highways and bridges for seaports and airports and railroads.

Today we have no infrastructure funding for space-related activities, including spaceports.

That's really something we need to address.

We also would like to talk about point-to-point transportation through space, which I think is going to be a huge game changer for national security missions and also for the economy in general.

And there's lots of challenges there, but a huge payback and there's activity just around the corner for that.

So those are some of the issues we're talking about.

And we've drafted some potential legislation to deal with that, call it the Commercial Space Flight Operations Act of 2024.

And that is now available on our GSA website.

And that includes those issues, plus a number of others, including the proposal to recognize Commercial Space Flight as an independent mode of transportation by moving the Office of Commercial Space Transportation out from under the FAA and putting it back at the Department of Transportation where it was first established back in 1984.

So we appreciate any feedback or suggestions folks have on that proposed legislation and look forward to a very exciting year in commercial space and spaceports in 2024.

And that concludes our briefing for today.

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

And we've even included a few extra for you, like some great analysis from Michael Sheetz at CNBC on space companies that are running low on cash, as well as a joint report on the U.S. competing in space and an announcement from Redwire on their focus on semiconductors for in-space manufacturing technology.

AT-Minus Crew, every Monday we produce a written intelligence roundup, and it's called Signals and Space.

So if you happen to miss any T-Minus episodes, this strategic intelligence product will get you up to speed in the fastest way possible.

It's all signal, no noise.

And you can sign up for signals and space in our show notes or over at space.ntuk.com.

[Music] Our guest today is Dr.

Carlos Mata, CTO at Scientific Lightning Solutions on managing lightning risks in spaceports.

And Carlos is attending the Global Spaceport Alliance Annual Summit in Orlando, Florida today.

He explained to me how lightning solutions work for spaceports.

[Music] So the difference between spaceport operations and other facilities is mainly the criticals of assets that they have, right?

So when you're dealing with the managing lightning risks in spaceports, you're looking at comprehensive ways to mitigate lightning-related risks, not just to protect the spacecraft, the ground support equipment, fuel storage facilities, but also people.

And that is the common thing that every industry has.

People doesn't change whether you are in power generation plans, chemical plans, or spaceports.

So you've got to make sure that you're able to, number one, identify the risks.

Number two, quantify them.

And number three, either mitigate them or manage those risks.

Is there anything you can walk me through in terms of what that mitigation management looks like in general?

I'm just very curious what that looks like.

So let me give you an example.

In the case of your house, that is an extremely valuable asset to you.

In the case of a power generation plant, it's an extremely valuable asset for a power utility.

But when you start looking at the dollar value associated with those assets, you don't come anywhere near close to the dollar value of the assets that you're trying to protect in spaceports.

And what makes it a little more challenging is that spacecrafts are designed to be the lightest that you possibly can.

So you don't add a lot of protection.

So these are very vulnerable, extremely expensive and vulnerable assets.

In your house, you have the option of installing a lighting protection system, installing search protecting devices, installing a unit, right?

And you can make it a very strong and resilient structure, but the spacecrafts are not.

So we have to develop tailored and specialized lighting protection systems, not just to prevent lightning from striking the assets, but to keep those indirect effects, the electromagnetic environment, the induced voltages and induced currents away from these critical assets that are vulnerable.

And again, you get some limitations on what you can do to protect them.

So the design of lighting protection systems, specialized lighting protection systems is one of those.

The installation of lightning monitoring equipment to warn you when lightning is coming, when it's closed, when it's about to happen, and when it has happened, quantify the potential damages if any that you may have had.

Because the last thing that you want is to launch an asset that has been compromised and then find out after it's been deployed in space that it has a problem.

Right, right.


So you got to identify all of those things.

And after you've done that, if you have to read test, you read test.

If you have to make some changes, you have to make some changes, repair whatever you need to do.

But when you launch them, they have to be ready to operate for many, many years without any lightning side effects.


Now, you've been doing work like this for quite some time.

And I imagine in your conversations with people who don't have this area of expertise, you must have heard things that surprise people where I imagine there's a lot of misinformation about how lightning works, how it affects operations.

What are some common things that you find yourself addressing when talking to people like me who have either misconceptions or just are straight up wrong about something?

Gosh, that is an excellent question.

And it gives me time to address something that is a particular problem in this industry.

Generally, there is a broad lack of understanding about the lightning process.

And that unfortunately gives room to a lot of practices that are probably not the best.

And what I mean by that, this is not a regulated business.

It's something that electrical engineers, for the most part, do not learn in school.

So you graduate, you come out, you're working, and you're looking for the help of a lightning protection specialist.

And you can get a broad range of people who don't know what they're talking about, but they just found a sales job in which they're supposed to sell these individual pieces of equipment to the other end of the spectrum, where you have people who have background education on the subject, have been keeping up with their education and now can provide with some decent solutions.

The biggest misconception, perhaps, you will find is that people believe that there are devices that can eliminate lightning.

And they are actually sold, and they are sold quite expensively.

And as a result, there is a lot of litigation when these facilities that are supposed to be protected by these devices that are supposed to eliminate lightning get struck by lightning, and now you have a lot of damage to the facilities.

So most of these cases end up in court.

There are lengthy processes, tedious.

And that's probably one of the biggest misconceptions there is.

And I think that it's also important to state that lightning is not as bad as everybody paints it.

We've been dealing with lightning for quite some time.

Some of the larger launch pads at Kennedy Space Center, for instance, receive an average 35 strokes per year, and because they are properly protected, they don't exhibit any damage or any problems.

So we understand lightning to some extent, maybe a lot more than what I'm trying to convey here, we know how to protect against it, and we do it.

So it is doable.

There is no need to believe that you have to eliminate it to solve the problem.

Sometimes in order to address the problem, you just have to understand it and manage it.

And that is what lightning protection is.

One of the reasons that you're talking to me today is about also the Global Spaceport Alliance.

I was wondering, is there anything specifically for people who are listening who are involved in infrastructure and spaceport operations that you just want them to know any advice or anything that might guide a conversation with you that would be helpful?

I have to elaborate quite a bit there.

I'm not trying to keep this brief again.

You don't have to if you don't want to.

This is some really good questions that you're asking.

The best way that I can put this is many, many years ago when the Apollo program started, Apollo 12, the rocket which actually struck by lightning as it was launched, it actually received two strikes.

It triggered the lightning.

Lightning probably wouldn't have been there if you hadn't been because of the rocket and the plume.

Some systems in the rocket reset and the rocket was able to continue flying, but that gave birth to something called the lightning launch commit criteria or the LLCC, which is a series of measures that I have put in place to prevent that from happening again.

We started back then.

There were some series of rules and devices that were listed that you were supposed to install around your launch pads to try to predict or understand whether the clouds are left were electrified or not and whether it was a good idea for you to launch a vehicle into that environment or not.

Whether or not these many decades afterwards you were still dealing with the same infrastructure that we put in place back then.

Mainly, it is perhaps because people are so afraid of moving towards newer technologies.

You'll be using that technology for 40 years and it has proven to work because we haven't had or we haven't triggered any lightning with any other vehicles.

Why would you change?

The challenge with that technology is that it also limits what we call the launch window because particularly here in Florida during the summertime you have lightning almost every day.

Yes, I would absolutely imagine so.

Trying to launch a vehicle during the daytime in Florida when we have low pressure systems and we have high-lying activity can be pretty challenging because we have very conservative systems that are telling us when it's a good idea and when it's a bad idea to launch.

The instrumentation has moved a long, long ways.

Nowadays we can actually imagine a 3D X-ray of lightning in real time.

That is where the technology is nowadays.

We have much more sophisticated tools that allow us to look at the anatomy of the clouds and how these electrified clouds are and where they are, but we haven't yet adjusted in starting to use a new technology.

We're limited to these older technologies that we'll be using for that long.

I think that my advice will be to start looking into new ways that will not limit your launch availability windows as much particularly given the new cadence that is suspected with all of these commercial launch companies trying to launch rockets into space.

Space force is going to be very busy and you do not want weather to get in the way.

Of course, when it is not the right time to launch, you also want to know that.

But if you can safely launch, then that is something that we should also know and that is one of the biggest restrictions or obstacles right now in the way of increasing the launch availability window.

We'll be right back.

Welcome back.

A lot of us in North and Central America have plans for April 8, 2024 that involve seeing the total solar eclipse that's going to cross over a lot of the continents.

But what if you want to see the solar eclipse but can't or at least can't very much, not because of location or logistics, but because you are visually impaired?

According to the Perkins School for the Blind, about 285 million people around the world live with blindness or visual impairment.

So if you are visually impaired in some way, are there any options for you to experience a solar eclipse that don't rely on using sight?

And up until recently, one could experience, of course, the sounds and feelings of a solar eclipse occurring, like the quiet, the cold, the reactions of wildlife and other people, but nothing much for the actual eclipse happening up in the sky.

But there are people working to change that bit by bit, and that includes the Harvard University Astronomy Lab, which has developed a small device about the size of a smartphone called the light sound.

Alison Bierla, who is the lab manager for the Harvard Astronomy Lab, worked with blind astronomer Wanda Diaz-Merced on ways to sonify a solar eclipse.

And data sonification is something we've covered quite a bit here on T-minus as it takes data and turns it into sound, which is not only beautiful to listen to and handy for an audio podcast like ours, but it also makes cosmic phenomena like gamma-ray bursts or web photos or solar eclipses accessible to a lot more people.

Here's one example of how the light sound, well, sounds, as light intensity falls, goes completely dark, and then brightens again.

[Music] We'll put a link to the light sound project for you in our show notes.

And the project has a goal of distributing over 750 light sound devices at eclipse viewing spots.

And the project is also open source.

So if you're handy with a soldering iron and a little bit of Python to get a small Arduino device running, you can even make your own.

And if that's not your idea of a fun weekend project, I get it.

And you're organizing an eclipse viewing and would like a light sound, you can actually request one from the project for free.

And if you just want to hear one in person, the light sound project has a map of where all of their devices have already been shipped for the April 8 eclipse.

The kids at the Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown, Massachusetts, just down the road from where I live, already have their own light sound ready.

And the map shows light sounds are already at a number of parks, libraries, YMCA's, universities, and community centers all across North and Central America.

But there's still plenty of time to get or make one.

So happy eclipse viewing and hearing to all.

That's it for T minus for January 29, 2024.

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

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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 Iben.

Our VP is Brandon Karp.

And I'm Maria Varmazes.

Thanks for listening.

We'll see you tomorrow.

T minus.

T minus.

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