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Nuggets from space.

K2 Space raises $50M in new funding. Skylo raises $37M. Intuitive Machines and SpaceX are launch ready. Poor weather delays Japan’s H3 launch. And more.




Satellite manufacturer K2 Space has raised $50 million in new funding. Direct-to-device satellite connectivity service provider Skylo Technologies has raised $37 million in an equity round. Intuitive Machines and SpaceX have completed tests ahead of their planned IM-1 launch on a Falcon 9 rocket, and more.

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T-Minus Guest

Our guest today is Nic Ross, Founder and CEO of Niparo.

You can connect with Nic on LinkedIn and learn more about the ESA ESTEC Space Sustainability Workshop  on their website. 

Selected Reading

K2 Space, a startup with SpaceX veterans building monster satellites, raises $50 million

Skylo Technologies Raises $37 Million From Intel Capital, Innovation Endeavors, BMW i Ventures, Samsung Catalyst, Next47 & Seraphim Space

Intuitive Machines and SpaceX Complete Successful IM-1 Test Campaign

SpaceX Commitment To Space Sustainability 

Sidus Space on Schedule to Launch Next Two LizzieSat™ Satellites

Air Force, Space Force announce sweeping changes to maintain superiority amid Great Power Competition

NordSpace Successfully Tests Flight Ready Liquid Rocket Engine, Prepares for Canada’s First Commercial Space Launch

Japan delays H3 rocket's second launch due to bad weather | Reuters

China plans to launch two test satellites into lunar orbit - CGTN

Turkish astronaut Gezeravcı appointed to space agency board - Türkiye News

Algeria Reveals Planned Updates to its Space Programme

A chicken nugget in space? One company is sending objects into orbit

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Just a quick reminder, tomorrow is Valentine's Day, and what a sweet gift for a lot of us space geeks to know that in the wee hours of the day, there's going to be a new launch to get a commercial space lander on the moon.


And this attempt is by Intuitive Machines, and they're hoping that this mission will get their lander, named Odysseus, softly landed on the lunar south pole.


Commercial space has been having a tough time getting to the moon lately, so unlike Odysseus from Legend, here's hoping this journey is uneventful and without detours.


Today is February 13, 2024.


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


K2 Space raises $50 million in new funding.


Skylo raises an additional $37 million.


Intuitive Machines and SpaceX are ready for launch.


Our weather delays Japan's H3 launch.


And our guest today is Nick Ross, founder and CEO of Niparo.


And Nick recently participated in the ESA-S-Tech Space Sustainability Workshop, and he spoke with me to tell me more about some key takeaways from that event, especially as it relates to spacecraft re-entry and pollution in the upper atmosphere.


Stay with us for that and more.


And we'll start our daily briefing today with a sprinkle of investment news, starting with satellite manufacturing company K2 Space.


The company has raised $50 million in new funding, and K2 was founded by brothers Karan Kunjur and Neil Kunjur nearly two years ago, and plans to launch their first satellites later this year.


They also build buses.


K2's mega-class satellite bus is sized to fit in heavy and super heavy rockets.


K2 has already been awarded about $6.5 million in Department of Defense contracts over the last eight months.


And the brothers say that they plan to use the new funding to add a 150,000 square foot facility later this year to their base in Torrance, California, and grow the company to more than 50 employees.


And staying with the investment news and California, California-based direct-to-device satellite connectivity service provider Skylo Technologies has raised $37 million in an equity round.


This raise brings Skylo's total equity fund raising to $153 million.


Skylo aims to provide a network to connect new devices, including low-band-with-internet-of-things hardware, as well as high-band-with smartphones via existing satellites, but without extra antennas or bulky equipment.


With this new investment, Skylo plans to expand the company's scale and business operations to better support smartphones, wearables, IoT devices, and mobile network operator customers.


Skylo says this is a major step in the company's commitment to making standards-based, non-terror terrestrial networks more accessible and efficient for numerous sectors, including consumer, automotive, agriculture, energy, transportation, and beyond.


As we mentioned at the top of the show, Intuitive Machines and SpaceX have completed tests ahead of their planned IM-1 launch on a Falcon 9 rocket.


The launch window for the IM-1 mission opens in the early hours of tomorrow in Florida.


The Intuitive Machines-1 mission objective is to place a Nova Sea lander, called Odysseus, at Crater Malapart A near the south pole of the moon.


This is the company's first attempted lunar landing as part of NASA's Commercial Lunar Payload Services initiative known as CLIPS, a key part of NASA's Artemis Lunar Exploration efforts.


The science and technology payloads sent to the moon's surface as part of CLIPS intend to lay the foundation for human missions and a sustainable human presence on the lunar surface.


So, Godspeed Falcon 9 and Odysseus.


And saying with SpaceX, the company has shared plans to deorbit 100 early version 1 Starlink satellites in the coming months.


These satellites are currently maneuverable and serving users effectively, but the Starlink team identified a common issue in this small population of satellites that could increase the probability of failure in the future.


So SpaceX says that the satellites will follow a safe, circular, and controlled lowering operation that should take approximately six months for most of the vehicles.


All satellites will remain maneuverability and collision avoidance capabilities during that descent.


To date, SpaceX has initiated controlled deorbits on 406 satellites out of the nearly 6000 Starlink satellites launched.


Of those, 17 are currently non-maneuverable, passively decaying, but still well-tracked to help mitigate collision risk with other active satellites.


The other 95% of satellites that the Starlink team have initiated controlled descent for have already deorbit.


And stay with us for today's interview, by the way, about the heavy metals that are in our upper atmosphere caused by deorbiting vehicles.


Nick Ross will be my guest to explain more about why this is an issue and what's being done to look into it.


Cytus Space says its LS-2 and LS-3 LizzieSat production is underway and on schedule for launch later this year.


The LS-1 is ready for launch and has been delivered to the SpaceX launch site in Vandenberg, California earlier this month.


The Cytus team in Cape Canaveral say they're now focused on upcoming milestones for LS-2 and LS-3.


The U.S.


Department of the Air Force, civilian and military leaders, have unveiled a set of sweeping decisions designed to re-optimize the Air Force and Space Force to maintain preeminence, deter adversaries, and prevail in an era of "rate power competition."


The package of 24 key decisions aims to position the services to better confront China and maintain the hard-won superiority in air and space that has been a crucial foundation for deterrence and for protecting the United States' security.


A new command to be called the "integrated capabilities command" is being stood up to consolidate work being done separately across different commands that do not always mesh as needed.


This new command will look for opportunities to update and improve force design into the future and examine current force and current modernization efforts to prioritize them for the senior leadership to decide which ones get resourced at what level.


Nord Space successfully tested its rocket engine called Hadfield 10.


The Ontario-based company is building and planning to launch orbital vehicles in Canada.


The Hadfield series of engines are the only commercial orbital class liquid rocket engines being actively developed in Canada, designed to propel Nord Space's launch vehicle, the Tundra, to carry up to 500 kilos to low-Earth orbit.


And poor weather conditions in Japan have delayed the second test flight of JAXA's new flagship rocket, the H3 series, that was planned for this week.


The upcoming launch is considered a key test after the H3 failed during its debut flight last March.


That's when the rocket had to be destroyed, along with the Advanced Land Observation Satellite or ALOS-3.


JAXA says it will reschedule the launch and will provide more updates later this week.


China is due to launch two satellites into lunar orbit in preparation for future missions to the far side of the moon.


The Tiandu-1 and Tiandu-2 will lift off sometime in the first half of this year, along with the Chuiqiao-2 lunar relay satellite, according to state news agency Xinhua.


The twin satellites Tiandu-1 and Tiandu-2 will fly in formation in orbit around the moon to validate new technologies, including navigation calibrations and high-reliability signal transmissions.


The Chuiqiao-2 is designed to relay signals from Earth to equipment on the far side of the lunar surface as part of the Chang'e-6 mission, which will launch in May to collect samples and return them to Earth.


The development of the satellites was led by the Deep Space Exploration Laboratory, which is a collaboration set up in 2022, between the China National Space Administration and the University of Science and Technology of China in Hafei.


And Alper Gezoravsha can do no wrong at the moment.


The first Turkish astronaut splashed down from his recent trip to the International Space Station on Friday morning, and already he has been greeted by the news that he has been appointed to the board of directors of the Turkish Space Agency by the country's president.


Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan welcomed Gezoravsha home and met with him and his family in the capital city of Ankara yesterday.


Talk about a hero's return.


And that concludes our briefing for today.


We're going to be discussing space debris cleanup strategies with Nick Ross in the second half of the show, so head over to the selected reading section of our show notes to find more information on any of the stories we've mentioned today.


We've even included a piece on Algeria's space program making some changes.


You'll find all the links on our website, space.n2k.com, and just click on this episode title.


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And our guest today is Nick Ross, founder and CEO of Niparro, a sustainable space consultancy.


Nick recently participated in the ESA/STEC Space Sustainability Workshop that just happened in January, and I asked him to tell us more about it.


What this was, or what this is, is essentially a new initiative by the European Space Agency.


And again, they've got quite a few things going on.


They've got their zero debris commitments, their green agenda.


So this is all part of those efforts and those kind of holistic picture.


And the idea was to essentially study, I better understand the atmospheric effects of spacecraft reentry in so much as this in some ways is relatively poorly understood.


And I say that both that was sort of one of my takeaways, but I think that was said by a lot of folks is quite a complex problem.


There's only a few key groups around the world doing this.


It kind of sometimes falls between the funding agencies about who would fund this.


Is it a space agency?


Is it an environmental agency?


So it's a little unclear.


That's why I think it's quite interesting that the primary study that made the headlines last October was actually NOAA.


Yeah, for listeners' edification, I mistakenly, when Nick and I were chatting about this, I called it a NASA study and he very kindly corrected me.


It was NOAA that did the study.


It was, yeah.


But it's an interesting point that I confused it also.


I think it does illustrate your point that who actually is responsible when we're talking, I mean, the tippity top of the atmosphere, whose jurisdiction is that?




And it goes straight to the question about who's responsible, what are the repercussions, what are the carrots, what are the sticks.


And so a long shot of it was this was a two-day workshop in Newark, just outside Leiden in the Netherlands.


International, they're predominantly European with obviously North American representation.


And just a lot of really interesting presentations about measurements of both natural and anthropogenic material reentry lab measurements as well, like how do you model this in the lab?


So that's a complex problem to the engineering problem.


How do you model this in a supercomputer?


And then how do you begin to tie these research areas together?


And I should say I was there, I sort of gave the kind of the space law tour at the end of the workshop, just saying some kind of personal takes on what is international space law, what about environmental, international environmental law, and kind of just kind of laying the lines and kind of with, as I say, with some of the bits that the UK has done well and is maybe trying to do better.


Could you share some of that if you don't mind?


Because I mean, this is just a fascinating area that I would love to learn more.




So going international space law, start with the outer space treaties, still very relevant, still very pertinent.


And so Article 2 about appropriation of outer celestial bodies, is that relevant?


Article 9, when people were thinking in the '60s about returning moon rock and contaminating extraterrestrial material in contamination, is that relevant?


And the kind of the jury's out, some of the language there is not super strong for in treaty language.


Article 11 and just which parts are still maybe relevant?


And obviously, to be honest, the outer space treaty is silent on a lot of these things.


It was never really designed to be a 21st century environmental treaty.


And so some of these discussions and then what came up was also, and we didn't make any immediate progress then, but this was very much to be discussed, especially with environmental academics, environmental lawyers.


What about things such as the Montreal Protocol from the '80s where ozone was considered?


And this could be of direct relevance because, and I think this is maybe one point, what's quite interesting is, to be honest at the moment, not compared to kind of natural flux of meteorites or what have you on the upper atmosphere, old rocket bodies or things that you're deorbiting is actually not a, it's of order five, maybe up to 10, 12% at the moment of that mass.


So again, estimates to give it some numbers, say you can have in your back of your mind, say about 12,000 tons, so yes, 12 kilotons, give or take of natural material per year.


So again, as I say, and again, there's basically going to have a factor of two there, either way of uncertainty.


We are floating through, we're speeding through space, things are coming our way.


Things are coming at us and that impacts us and we, again, and we've known that for a while.


And again, and you know, depending that's comet, you know, comet tails, that's why we have meteor showers.


Indeed, nothing we can do about any of that.


No, and quite beautiful, and quite beautiful to, yeah.


And then so yet last year, you know, it's estimated that, so 12 and a half, how to say 12 and a half thousand tons natural, it was about maybe about 650 tons, human made of order.


So the raw number is not large, but several key things.


One that human made numbers obviously only going to go up.


So it's not an equilibrium and that number is going to go up quickly.


To these experiments and especially the NOAA experiment, the composition of what is being de-orbited is incredibly different.


Oh, indeed, yep.


The material, the raw mass might be much less your aluminum or your alloys or your aluminum.


You know, those numbers are hundreds of percent, much potentially depending on which particular copper or something, you know, and much like you'd expect from electronics or lithium.


And again, understanding quite those ratios and those percentages, but the metals on the alloys are definitely much higher.


And third, and I think in some ways most warringly or most not well characterized is, could there be something that has an oversized effect?


Is there some process in the upper atmosphere that starts some, you know, nucleation or something?


Again, this is where it goes beyond my jurisdiction on mine, but also I think is an outstanding problem and could, for example, over size effect the ozone layer.


Are we about to repeat history?


We don't know.


And so these were some of the, you know, absolutely outstanding questions.


So those were again, hey, that's obviously my take.


I was going to say, yeah, you've laid out the discussion there really well because it is a growing issue.


Heavy metals in the upper upper atmosphere, we don't know what they're going to do.


It's a huge unknowns.


As you said, more studies warranted.


And then there's the question of our laws are certainly not built for this situation.


We had nobody anticipated this happening.


So it becomes how do we mitigate this and who's responsible if, I mean, if there is a negative effect.


So, you know, are the, is it the space agencies that are going to be held responsible?


Is it private entities that are building these things?


I mean, how does that work out on a policy point of view?


There's the rub.


You know, it's almost certainly all of the above kind of answer, but just to re-emphasize one thing about it's not an equilibrium as it were.


That this, you know, there is the amount of deorbitant material is probably only going to dramatically increase.


Oh, goodness.






And the second thing is, and this was sort of this very much was my interpretation, but I say this now as a kind of a trained scientist who likes to have all the facts and details before writing the research paper.


I wonder, you know, considering is quite tricky and or very tricky and moreover just takes a lot of time and a lot of kind of nuance to get international consensus that I personally would actually maybe urge the scientists and this community who, you know, to maybe get going sooner rather than later, maybe not wait for broad consensus or actually maybe say detailed broad consensus because by the time you have that, you're probably quite far down the line.


Far along.




I could see that.


And I'm just imagining things like when we're planning on deorbitating the International Space Station.


I mean, yeah.




That's a big bit of kid.




A big bit of kid is a really good way of putting it.


It truly is.


And we don't have, nobody has answers to this yet.


And it's really, it's a tricky, timely situation though.


I mean, when you start talking about the orbiting stuff, you probably don't, you know, at some point you don't want to be building satellites that actually don't disintegrate in the atmosphere because then they become hazardous on the ground.


Of course.






So from what I could tell, it was just one of the first or few times that a bunch of people who are thinking about this from different angles got in the room together.


So that's, although it was obviously a big positive step, I think ESA will be on some level a core coordinating body in Europe.


And then whether it is a NASA or someone else in the States or elsewhere, that, you know, they would obviously be very ideally placed.


But how this goes forward is going to be interesting.


We'll be right back.


Welcome back.


You've likely been seeing stories and hearing even one from us about random odd objects making their way to space using the more generous definition of space here, but let's just go with it.




As space launch gets less expensive, we're seeing more spacecraft making their way to low Earth orbit for what seems like pennies compared to what it used to cost.


But that's not what's going on here.


These folks are using high altitude balloons.


So this is just an example of space making things cooler because space is cool.


You don't need me to tell you that.


So that is why you may be seeing an image of a chicken nugget against the curvature of the Earth and the blackness of space.


No, it's not Photoshop.


It's real.


And yes, it is a marketing stunt explicitly so.


It was sent by a marketing agency called sent into space whose entire business is sending unusual objects to space paid for by their customers, of course.


These are the folks who sent a Shakespeare portrait to space a while back for film.


We actually covered that.


You might remember.


They've also sent Barbies, Slurpees.


They even sent a full replica of Rick and Morty in their spacecraft into space for a season five promo.


Definitely prefer that approach to the whole such one sauce thing.


Anyway, so why, why do all this?


Because doesn't the chicken nugget in space get your attention?


Yeah, I thought so.


There you go.


It worked.


That's it for T minus for February 13th, 2024.


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


Thanks for listening.


We'll see you tomorrow.


T minus.


T minus.

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