Northrop Grumman launches its final Antares 230+ rocket. Voyager Space and Airbus to partner on Starlab. US Senate plans to mitigate space junk. And...
Weather conditions delay launch and reentry.
Weather causes delays for AX3 and PACE. Intuitive Machines lunar lander to launch Feb 14. Greece announces a €60M Earth observation constellation. And more.
The return of the Axiom 3 crew and the launch of the NASA PACE mission have been delayed due to weather conditions in Florida. Intuitive Machines has successfully completed all integration milestones for its IM-1 mission Nova-C class lunar lander, and is looking to launch on February 14. Greece is looking for proposals for its planned €60-million Earth observation microsatellite constellation, and more.
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Our guest today is Robin Dickey, policy analyst at The Aerospace Corporation’s Center for Space Policy and Strategy.
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[MUSIC] Poor weather conditions are enough of a headache for us everyday folks here on Earth.
Atmospheric rivers hitting the United States West Coast, hail, thunderstorms and tornadoes threatening the US Southeast.
So imagine trying to plan a launch or reentry in either of those sets of weather.
Yeah, that's not happening.
Sorry, AX3 and PACE, you're scrubbed for today.
[MUSIC] Today is February 6th, 2024.
I'm Maria Varmausis and this is G-minus.
[MUSIC] Weather causes scrubs for AX3 and PACE, Intuitive Machines' Lunar Lander to launch on Valentine's Day, February 14th.
Greece announces a 60 million Euro Earth observation constellation.
And our guest today is Robin Dickey, Policy Analyst at the Aerospace Corporation's Center for Space Policy and Strategy.
Talking about planning for collision avoidance in space.
It's a super important subject, so stay with us for the second part of the show.
[MUSIC] Onto today's Intel Briefing.
The AX3 mission wants to come home, but it just does not seem to be catching a break.
The Dragon capsule that is due to return the four man all European crew to Earth is delayed from undocking from the International Space Station for a second time.
NASA says mission teams continue to review weather conditions off the coast of Florida, which are currently not favorable for reentry.
The new target opportunity for space station departure and splashdown of the Dragon spacecraft and Axiom crew members is planned for midnight this evening, Florida time.
And those poor weather conditions have also caused SpaceX and NASA to scrub the launch of the PACE mission, which was due to lift off this morning.
The Earth observing spacecraft PACE, which stands for Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, Ocean Ecosystem, is now looking to launch as early as 1.33 AM EST from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.
Let's hope that the southeast coast and a lot of the rest of us catch a break from this crazy weather pattern.
Speaking of an upcoming highly anticipated launch, Intuitive Machines has successfully completed all integration milestones for its IM1 mission, Nova Sea Class Lunar Lander.
The vehicle is safely encapsulated within SpaceX's payload fairing in preparation for launch.
Intuitive Machines and SpaceX are targeting a multi-day launch window that opens no earlier than 12.57 AM EST on Valentine's Day, February 14th.
The IM1 mission will be the company's first attempted lunar landing as part of NASA's Commercial Lunar Payload Services Initiative known as CLIPS.
Going to European news now and Greece is looking for proposals for its planned 60 million euro Earth Observation Micro-Satellite Constellation.
OHB ELAS, TALIS ELAS, and CETAEL ELAS were all selected for the study phase of the project's development in 2023.
That part of the project was completed last month.
Now the country is looking to move into the development phase.
Once operational, the constellation will provide the country with optical, multi-spectral, and hyper-spectral Earth Observation data.
This project is one element of Greece's larger micro-satellite program, which has a total budget of 130 million euros.
There's no crying in baseball or space for that matter, but I think that is where the parallels end, or do they?
What does baseball have to do with space?
Well, forgive me for saying his name fellow Bostonians, but A-Rod or Alex Rodriguez is a famous former Major League baseball player.
And now an entrepreneur with an interest in satellite to sell services.
A-Rod is investing in Link Global and planning on taking the company public through a special purpose acquisition, aka a SPAC merger.
Interesting to hear those are back.
Okay, so it's not A-Rod himself leading the charge, but his company that's looking to merge with Link.
Link and Slam Corp.
The SPAC have announced that they have entered into a definitive business combination agreement to merge.
The boards of directors of Link and Slam have each approved the merger, which is expected to close in the second half of this year.
And continuing with business updates, Taren Orbital have reached a deal with a shareholder group that was calling for CEO Mark Bell to resign.
Bell said of the deal, we have had a very constructive dialogue with the investor group and appreciate their input towards achieving our shared goal of driving shareholder value.
We're pleased to have come to an agreement and look forward to furthering our constructive relationship with the investor group.
And under the terms of the agreement, the company's board has agreed to identify and appoint an independent director to fill its vacant seat.
In connection with the agreement, the parties have also agreed to customary standstill voting and other unknown commitments.
US Space Force Command has awarded Lockheed Martin a firm fixed price contract valued at $66 million for risk reduction activities and early design work in support of the mobile user objective system known as Muoss Service Life Extension Program.
The satellite based network provides the US military with ultra high frequency voice and data communications.
The Muoss constellation consists of four active satellites and one on orbit spare all built and operated by Lockheed Martin.
Virgin Galactic have found themselves grounded again.
The space tourism company disclosed to the Federal Aviation Administration that a small part unintentionally detached from the mothership during its latest space flight.
According to the company's statement, they became aware that an alignment pin detached from the launch pylon of the mothership, VMS Eve, during flight.
The pin in question helps ensure the spaceship is aligned to the mothership when mating the vehicles on the ground during pre-flight procedures.
The company says that they notified the FAA on January 31st in accordance with regulations and is conducting a review in conjunction with the FAA.
And for its part, the FAA says it will carry out a mishap investigation and that the agency must approve Virgin Galactic's final report, including the corrective actions before they can return to flight.
Starburst Aerospace and Air Lab are jointly launching the Air Lab Innovation Challenge as a collaborative effort to source innovative complementary solutions with the air traffic management domain.
The Innovation Challenge will launch at the Singapore Air Show in February 2024.
A pitch event with five pre-selected global startups will be held, with the winners awarded the opportunity to be selected for a proof of concept with Air Lab.
Australia will soon be receiving a German launch startup, High Impulse SR-75 Rocket, and its support systems for its maiden flight to take place in March.
It was originally slated to take its first flight from Saksavort in the United Kingdom, but financial issues forced work at Saksavort to be temporarily slowed, and High Impulse had to look for an alternate launch location.
High Impulse announced the change of its maiden flight of SR-75 to South Launch Kuniba Test Range in Australia in November 2023 at Space Tech Expo in Bremen, Germany.
Now, in addition to validating SR-75 as an effective suborbital launch system, the Australian launch will also serve to certify other critical elements of the company's larger SL1 launch vehicle.
And continuing its regulatory challenges in southern Africa, Starlink's application to operate in Botswana ahead of a planned launch in Q4 2024 has been rejected.
Regulators found that the company did not provide all the required information.
The specifics of the missing information have not been shared, and the company has yet to respond to the issues.
The South African government also recently rejected Starlink's application due to non-compliance with a mandatory requirement of 30% ownership by historically disadvantaged individuals.
In addition, legislators in Zimbabwe rejected Starlink's application on an EU investigation into X, another Elon Musk-owned company.
And that concludes our briefing for today.
Please follow the links in the selected reading of our show notes to find out more about any of the stories that we've mentioned.
And today we've included a piece from Sierra Space on sustaining life beyond Earth, an announcement from the UK's Harwell campus on leasing at the site, and a story on how space infrastructure stayed aloft in the recent challenging funding climate.
Those links and more can all be found in the chat box below.
And more can also be found on our website, which is at space.n2k.com.
And just click on this episode title.
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[MUSIC] Our guest today is Robin Dickey, Space Policy Analyst at the Aerospace Corporation.
Now, Robin's area of research focuses on things that can happen at the intersection of space and international relations, geopolitics, and norms of behavior.
And she came on the show to share details about her latest paper on what space can learn from maritime norms.
The paper I wrote is called Space in Parentheses, Ships Passing in the Night.
And the idea of this paper is how can we translate existing norms or rules of the road that we see in domains like the maritime domain, for example, and turn them into something that we might be able to use in space.
Of course, there's a really big challenge in space today as it gets more crowded, as more and more different actors are sending satellites up and operating in space.
There aren't that many understandings or rules yet on how to do things like prevent collisions, how to operate in relation to each other when there's so much going on, things are traveling so quickly, upwards of 17,000 miles per hour.
How do we keep those things from colliding into each other from everything going bad in space and making it unusable in the future?
And surprisingly, there's a lot of lessons that you can learn from the norms that we have in the maritime domain in particular.
So I was excited to kind of tie those two together.
>> It's a great analogy.
I've heard many times, I'm sure you have as well about the space being this new ocean.
The Maritimes do come up a lot when we talk about space.
But specifically, this paper mentions coal regs.
So can you tell the audience what that means?
I'm sure some of them know, but some of them might not.
So let's just start with that.
So coal regs is a convention on collision regulations, how to prevent collisions at sea.
And the version that I focus on, there'd been a couple iterations, but the 1972 version is the big one.
And it is a hefty document.
It's pretty long and it even gets technical in some areas, but includes rules on everything from who has right of way in different situations.
But also what kind of beeps on your horn do you have to make if you're going to try to dodge out of the way of someone else?
What are the lights and the sound signals that you make?
And so not everything quite makes sense for space, but there's some pretty good nuggets in there that do translate.
>> How do we translate all that?
Obviously not everything's going to apply, but a lot of it might.
I would imagine this also assumes good intentions as opposed to maybe or two adversarial parties or maybe trying to push somebody else out of the way, so to speak.
>> How would that work?
>> So I mean, to start, there are other treaties, for example, or agreements, negotiations in the maritime domain that focus on how militaries should interact with each other and how not to make each other mad and start conflict.
But the coal rigs is really focused more as a safety issue of preventing accidents.
And so there's a couple challenges that I like to think of when you're trying to apply this in the space domain.
And I use this as the introduction to my paper is, imagine you're on two ships, but it's so foggy that you can't see each other.
Your horn's broken, your light and your sound signals are broken, so you can only actually get in touch with the other captain at the ship by email.
Oh, and also, you can't actually maneuver your ship that much because you never get to refuel it.
You've had one batch of fuel and you're never going to get to replace it, so anytime you change your direction, you are going to lose some of the lifetime of your ship.
And that's a pretty loose analogy, but that's a bit of an inkling of some of the problems that you have in space because the operators aren't on the satellites the way that captains are on their ships.
Instead, they're in buildings on the ground, sometimes on opposite sides of the planet from each other, so fog horns and light signals are not going to help you communicate.
And instead, you need to be able to pick up the phone or answer an email in order to start that communication.
Also, knowing where you are, where someone else is, where things are going, that can be difficult in space because of the vast size of the space domain, the vast number of objects, how quickly they're moving.
There's a lot of math involved and there's a lot of high-tech sensors that you need in order to be able to see what's going on.
And not everyone necessarily has access to that same level of information and technology, even though there tends to be some baseline of warnings and alerts that are sent out.
So having all of those issues of awareness and communication and the whole point that up until now you haven't been able to refuel satellites very much, so you launch them and then that's done.
You never touch it again.
So every time you maneuver, you're cutting short that lifetime.
All of those factors add up to make things more difficult.
But that said, you can still apply some basic principles that you see in coal rigs to make things safer and more understandable.
An idea that gets tossed around that is not a good idea is the idea that there should be a norm of a minimum safe distance or basically a spherical radius around your satellite that says, "Don't go in here."
And this doesn't work because of several physics reasons that first of all, if you're actually in the same orbit as something else, even if you're right next to each other, because changing speed means you change your altitude.
And I'm using a lot of terms that I'm sure the physicists would get mad at me for oversimplifying, but basically-- We'll ask them to forgive you.
If you're next to each other in the same orbit, you actually aren't at that much of a risk of colliding because you can't really slide into each other.
And so that means things right next to each other might not actually pose a huge hazard for some things.
Whereas on the other hand, if you're on the other side of the world, but on a path that's going to intersect with another satellite, that might mean that in the next 15 minutes or so, you're going to potentially collide or pass really close to each other.
So the maritime domain also doesn't do minimum safe distance.
Instead, they set out a series of criteria for what could constitute a risk of collision and they task the captains, or if you translated to space the operators, with the choice of looking at these criteria, what is a risky collision?
What might I need to move to avoid?
And some of those are, how maneuverable am I?
How easy is it for me to get out of the way?
Are there hazards?
So in space, that would be debris in particular.
Are we aware of that?
And how good is our sensing?
How aware are we of where we are?
What is our knowledge of the probability of the error in our measurements so that we know how well we know what's going on?
And so all those factors you can use to judge whether or not there's a high probability of collision and therefore whether or not you need to move out of the way.
I'm thinking of the maritime equivalent of you sort of know who needs to yield to who, so you don't have the maritime game of chicken.
It is so much more complicated with space.
I can just imagine people going, well, who's going to move first?
Because as you said, it's a fuel burn and then that just decreases their emission longevity and nobody wants that.
Does that come into play about maybe who has more fuel left potentially?
Yeah, there's a couple of ways to think about it.
And who has more fuel left or who's technically more maneuverable is a pretty technical question, which might be hard to answer on the spot.
But the way that the Kohlregs Agreement does it, which is translatable, is they basically make categories.
So it's not like you have X amount of maneuverability and you have Y amount of maneuverability and Y is more so they have to move.
So like fishing ships typically have right of way because if you're, especially if you're actively fishing, that limits how much you can move.
Sailing boats are not as maneuverable as other kinds of powered vessels.
Powered vessels typically get out of the way of sailing ships.
End ships called vessels not under command, which means things that can't steer at all.
Those always have right of way.
And that's a pretty easy translation in space.
Debris always has right of way.
It's not going to move so you better.
And similarly, a number of satellites and they typically know who they are, at least the operators do, don't have much maneuverability.
They weren't designed to maneuver much in space at all.
Or they were meant only for that finite amount that helps to keep them oriented in the right space in orbit.
And then there's other categories of satellites that are generally maneuverable and some that do automated maneuvers.
So there's not an operator that pushes a button to say get out of the way.
It's calculating and doing those maneuvers automatically.
And so you can build that set of categories of automated maneuver.
We should calculate that so they should move out of the way of the operator maneuvered ones in most cases.
And the Space Safety Coalition, which is a great group, had put out a series of best practices, which uses exactly a set of four or five categories to help determine that.
So there's ways to simplify.
I was going to say, I can see this either going, getting really complicated really quickly, or as you were saying, sort of you have a very flexible framework or just like keep the categorization not too overly complex.
I could see that working out really well as well.
And you might not be able to resolve every situation in terms of, well, what if there are two satellites in the same category of maneuverability?
But if you use those categories that vastly limits the amount of times that you might have to negotiate, call each other, work it out, rules of thumb, just to make the number of decisions that actively have to be adjudicated smaller can make it a lot easier, especially as we get more crowded.
So a big kind of arc of my study of norms of behavior over the last couple of years has been moving from how do we get to norms in space to what should those norms be?
And so this paper was a really specific exercise taking one document and translating it to space.
But there's tons of other examples and analogies out there that could be translated.
So I was hoping to use this paper as a bit of a call to action of any number of documents and analogies could be used.
We don't have to start from scratch in every case in space, as long as you're being smart about the physics and the unique legal environment of space, making sure that actually squares.
[Music] We'll be right back.
And we love it here on T-minus when space and art collide.
I mean, what art form hasn't seen inspiration from the cosmos?
Poetry and performance art, photography and paintings.
For as long as humans have been looking up at the night sky and wonder, it has been a part of our mythologies and our creations.
Isn't that night sky view what inspired almost all of us to become the space nerds we all art today?
And many more of us left brain space nerds also like to tap into the right side of the brain and make art about it too.
Space, it's for the whole brain.
And that's why we're excited about a new space art contest that just opened yesterday.
Now, I should mention it's for the kids.
And it's open to the youth ages 15 to 18, split into different age groups, of course.
So kiddos, imagine what would it look like to live in space?
That's the theme for this year's Art Space Challenge.
The competition is open to under 18s from all over the world.
And the calling is seeking drawings, paintings or written poetry, showcasing what it would look like if we lived in space.
And the best part, the winning artwork and poetry will make it into space.
The final deadlines for submissions is midnight universal time on April 5th, 2024.
So don't delay.
Two representatives from each age division, one art and one poetry, will be presented from onboard the International Space Station.
So go get your kids involved.
We would love to see what they create.
I mean, the fridge door is nice and all, but it's got nothing on the cupola.
That's it for T-minus for February 6th, 2024.
For additional resources from today's report, check out our show notes at space.entuk.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 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 Varmausis.
Thanks for listening.
We'll see you tomorrow.
[Music] [Music] T-minus.