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Anticipating touchdown.

Intuitive Machine’s Nova to attempt to land on the moon. Rocket Lab and Varda return a capsule to Earth. ERS-2 reenters Earth’s atmosphere. And more.




Intuitive Machine’s Nova to attempt to land on the moon. Rocket Lab and Varda return the W-1 to Earth carrying pharmaceutical crystals. The European Space Agency’s ERS-2 is deorbited and burned up in Earth’s atmosphere on reentry, and more.

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T-Minus Guest

Our guest today is Space Business Advisor and Strategist, Tony Colucci.

You can connect with Tony on LinkedIn.

Selected Reading

Watch Intuitive Machines' private Odysseus lander attempt historic moon landing today

Rocket Lab Successfully Returns Spacecraft Capsule to Earth, Brings Back Pharmaceuticals Made in Space | Business Wire

Voyager Vitality! Terran Orbital’s CAPSTONE Nanosatellite Exceeds Expectations

ESA - ERS-2 reenters Earth’s atmosphere over Pacific Ocean

ESA - Ariane 6 arrives at Europe’s Spaceport via Canopée

Cabinet approves amendment in the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) policy on Space Sector

Deputy Secretary General: NATO is strengthening its partnership with the space industry , 20-Feb.-2024

OSC Announces Opportunity to Provide Commercial SSA Data Quality Monitoring Services

General John W. Raymond Joins Board Of Impulse Space; Company Recently Selected For Two SBIR Awards By SPACEWERX

Blue Origin Debuts New Glenn on Our Launch Pad

Blue Origin has emerged as the likely buyer for United Launch Alliance | Ars Technica

Elon Musk’s SpaceX Forges Closer Ties With U.S. Spy and Military Agencies - WSJ

Data centers in space | CIO

Delta eclipse flight to let passengers spend ‘as much time as possible’ in totality

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[MUSIC] Usually in space we talk about things going up, like rockets or payloads or stocks, but lately stuff's been going down.

The old ERS-2 satellite re-entered the Earth's atmosphere.

We've got Vardis Space's payload finally coming back to Earth after many, many months delayed on orbit.

And shortly, we're gonna be seeing another lunar landing attempt, this time from Intuitive Machines.

Actually, that's helping Intuitive Machines stock go up.

Up 325% year to date, in fact.

That is a rally to the moon.

[MUSIC] Today is February 22nd, 2024.

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

[MUSIC] Intuitive Machines Nova Sea to attempt to land on the moon.

Rocket Lab and Varda return a capsule to Earth.

ERS-2 re-enters Earth's atmosphere.

And our guest today is Space Business Advisor and strategist, Tony Colucci.

[MUSIC] Here is the Intel briefing for today.

And today is the big day for Intuitive Machines Odysseus Lander, making its lunar landing attempt today.

If successful, this will be the first time we see a commercial space company make a soft lunar landing.

And it would be also a big win for Intuitive Machines, of course, as well as for NASA's Commercial Lunar Payload Services or Clips Program.

Now, a little show note here.

We published T-minus in the late afternoon US East Coast time, which happens to be right around the expected landing time for Odysseus.

So as of the time of me recording this audio for the show, we're just a few hours away from the landing attempt.

So I'm also nervously waiting to see how it's all gonna go.

When this show is published later today, I'll be watching to see what happens along with many of you, I'm sure.

So in tomorrow's show, we'll tell you all about Odysseus's epic journey and how it went.

In the meantime, we're cheering on the Intuitive Machines team.

Go Odysseus.

And speaking of an epic journey, Rocket Lab and Vardis Space have successfully returned to Earth, the world's first space manufacturing mission conducted outside of the International Space Station.

Rocket Lab conducted in-space operations, deorbit, and reentry positioning maneuvers for its spacecraft with the Vardis team managing the capsule's hypersonic reentry, parachute deployment, and touchdown in the designated zone at the Utah test and training range.

Most impressively, Vardis capsule on a hypersonic reentry trajectory landed within the incredibly tight boundaries of the mission's landing zone that demanded pinpoint accuracy with a margin of error of less than 0.05%.

Rocket Lab's photon spacecraft housed Vardis manufacturing capsule on orbit and burned up on reentry.

Vardis Winnebago or W1 capsule had been stuck in space while the company's navigated reentry licensing hurdles and the like.

And Vardis had planned to return the spacecraft last July, but was unable to secure the required permissions to return it to Earth until earlier this month.

The capsule carried a batch of pharmaceutical crystals of the drug Retonovir, which is used to treat HIV AIDS, and it was manufactured on orbit.

Vardis will conduct laboratory analysis of the space-grown crystals and determine its next steps for commercializing orbital drug processing and microgravity manufacturing.

And in the meantime, we here at T-minus want to know what's the customs form look like for reentry for something like this?

Has anyone thought of that?

Can you imagine the customs officer asking if there's anything to declare?

And as we talked about at the top of the show, speaking of commercial lunar missions, Terran Orbital's 12U nanosatellite built for advanced spaces Capstone, which stands for assist lunar autonomous positioning system technology operations and navigation experiment mission, who in support of NASA has surpassed 450 days in orbit around the moon.

Launched on June 28th, 2022, the space vehicle based on Terran Orbital's proven Voyager platform continues to demonstrate stability and performance while supporting critical lunar navigation experiments.

The spacecraft is forging a new lunar path in support of NASA's Artemis program.

Envarta space's W1 vehicle wasn't the only spacecraft to reenter Earth's atmosphere yesterday.

The European Space Agency's European remote sensing satellite, or ERS-2, came to a fiery end as it crashed into our atmosphere somewhere between Hawaii and Alaska.

The vehicle was launched over 30 years ago and had long come to the end of its mission.

PISA has been working to deorbit the satellite since 2011 and the altitude had been declining steadily ever since.

ERS-2 reentry was natural.

All of its remaining fuel was depleted during deorbiting to reduce the risk of an internal malfunction causing the satellite to break up into pieces while still at an altitude that was used by active satellites.

Arian-6 has arrived at the home of Europe's spaceport in French Guiana and is ready to be assembled.

The rocket was transported from mainland Europe by a custom built ship called Canapé.

And Canapé arrived with the central core for Arian-6's first flight.

Having collected the upper stage from Bremen, Germany, Canapé moved on to La Havre, France to load the main stage of Arian-6.

Arian-6 is expected to launch this summer, fingers crossed.

India is open to foreign investment in the space industry for the first time.

The nation's cabinet approved the amendment in foreign direct investment policy in the space sector.

The approval sees the satellite subsector divided into three different activities with defined limits for foreign investment in each sector.

The government said in a statement that foreign companies could invest in the manufacture of components and systems or subsystems for satellites up to 100% without approval.

Foreign firms planning to build satellites in India would not require government approval for up to 74% of their investment.

And for the investment in launch vehicles, investment could go up to 49% without such approval.

The statement said that this increased private sector participation would help to generate employment, enable modern technology absorption and make the space sector in India more self reliant.

It's expected to integrate Indian companies into global value chains as well.

NATO has held its first Space Reverse Industry Day and the event gave space companies the opportunity to share their unique perspectives and help shape NATO's commercial space agenda.

Discussions range from addressing commercial challenges with public sector organizations, exploring initiatives for new multinational space investments, considering space innovation activities through Diana to streamlining and enhancing space standardization and interoperability.

Space companies from 21 NATO nations took part in this event.

NATO Deputy Secretary General, Mircea Giovanna highlighted the importance of cooperation with the commercial space industry to ensure alliance security.

He said that this is not a job for NATO alone.

It is something we must do together.

The Office of Space Commerce has announced an opportunity for commercial space situational awareness or SSA companies to participate in the OSC's Consolidated Pathfinder project.

Through its partnership with NASA, OSC is preparing to place a new order in the global data marketplace to purchase SSA data quality monitoring services.

More details about the proposal request can be found by following the link in our show notes.

The former chief of the US Space Force General John W.


Raymond has joined the board of directors at Impulse Space.

General Raymond said of his appointment that this innovative company, led by our nation's leading propulsion experts, is focused on responsive space mobility.

I look forward to working closely with the team to advance our nation's freedom to maneuver in the domain which is so vital to our national security.

Now, Impulse Space was recently awarded two Ciber contracts to help advance in orbit operational capabilities with tactically responsive space or TACRS initiatives.

The awards were granted through a spaceworks program aimed at supporting cutting edge projects that could enable the space force to more effectively respond to situations on orbit. 232 companies submitted 302 proposals in response to the challenge with Impulse Space being one of 19 awardees and the only company to receive two awards.

And we finish our Intel briefing today with our favorite thing to do on our audio only podcast, which is talk about an image.

Okay, it's a little more than that, but you'll find a link in the show notes to see the impressive photo of Blue Origin's new Glenn vehicle rolled out and upended for the first time on the pad at Launch Complex 36.

Blue Origin says this milestone represents the first view of the advanced heavy lift vehicle, which will support a multitude of customer missions and company programs, including returning to the US Space Force.

Returning to the moon as part of NASA's Artemis program.

It is a beauty and we can't wait to see it in flight.

And speaking of Blue Origin, we've included a story in our show notes from Ars Technica on their likely purchase of ULA.

A story from the Wall Street Journal on SpaceX forging closer ties with the US military and there's even one on data centers in space.

You'll find links to all those stories and to the ones we've mentioned throughout the show in the selected reading section of our show notes and at space.entuk.com.

Just click on this episode title.

Hey, T-minus crew, if your business is looking to grow your voice in the industry, expand the reach of your thought leadership or recruit talent, T-minus can help.

We'd love to hear from you.

Just send us an email at space@entuk.com or send us a note through our website so we can connect about building a program to meet your goals.

Our guest today is space business advisor and strategist Tony Kaluci.

Tony and I started our chat with him telling me more about his background in the space industry and how he became a business strategist in the industry.

I graduated with a degree in astrophysics from UNM.

I did some graduate work in astrophysics working on the Galileo mission to Jupiter.

We were involved with the imaging system that took all the pictures that are now part of the Great NASA collection of solar system photos.

We're involved with studying the atmospheres of the moons of Jupiter.

Then I went to work for Rockwell International out on the west coast in California where I was doing classified engineering work on the Star Wars program, which before your time, Maria, but was one of the early space program.

I am familiar with it, though, I will say.

Well, that work was interesting and fun and we learned a lot.

I went back to school.

I got my MBA at the Wharton School in Philadelphia and then went to use aircraft company.

They were the world's leading manufacturer of commercial communication satellites.

And I had the pleasure of working with them and handling international business.

I worked everywhere, Australia, Indonesia, all over Asia, the Middle East.

And that was a lot of fun and exciting.

It was a great, great place to learn.

In fact, in those days, Hughes was kind of the training ground for many of the aerospace companies up and down the west coast.

So that was a great experience.

After that, I went to Space Systems L'Oreal and I liked the joke that myself and a large number of folks went from Hughes in Southern California up to SSL in the Bay Area.

And shortly thereafter, SSL became the world's leading manufacturer of commercial communication satellites.

So not sure how much credit we get, but we'll take whatever we can get there.

So that was a wonderful experience.

I was with SSL for over 20 years and again, working worldwide on business development and strategy.

And we did we did two space startups from within SSL.

And then I retired took my first retirement there at the end of 2018. 2019 got involved in acquiring a space startup that had got into some financial difficulties and worked on that for for a couple of years.

And that's kind of when I got exposed to the tremendous ecosystem here in New Mexico, supporting space and technology startups.

And then I took my second retirement in 2022, at the end of 22.

And so I've been working with those startups here since then.

And that's kind of been exciting.

And it's interesting because we have a lot of brilliant people, both those both younger and more senior, who are doing a lot of interesting things that are creative and innovative and unprecedented.

And it's just exciting to be able to, you know, to kind of work with them and try to help them move forward.

You're advising a number of different from startups to more established friends.

I mean, I'm so curious on the macro level, because I imagine things really vary from company to company, but especially right now with all of the changes and all the progress, especially with commercial space going on, what are you seeing in terms of what companies are doing?

What maybe common pitfalls or common advice you find yourself giving all these different groups?

Well, you know, that's maybe that's the most interesting part.

Each entity and, you know, I'm advising right now for and there are several others that I talk with informally and there's there are new ones coming into the ecosystem every day.

But what I find interesting is that the there are no no common set of problems.

Each one has its own unique situation.

Some of them are, as you said, some of them aren't brand new startups.

Some of them are, you know, have been established and are now growing and expanding and entering new markets.

And that's a set of challenges that's a little different from a new startup.

One case, a couple of young folks coming out of out of Berkeley actually working with a with under the tutorship of Los Alamos.

And so starting, you know, with a brilliant idea and a set of capabilities in a technical area and in the strategy and business development, but no knowledge of all of them.

You had other factors that you have to think about.

And the one that I guess I would say if I had one thing to say to startups, it would be find yourself someone who understands the regulatory environment for your particular industry.

Because a lot of times folks don't think about that, especially folks who have no experience in the industry.

And they don't realize that every industry, every business has some sort of regulation.

It's easy to comply with if you do it up front.

But if you don't and you make a mistake and you get down the road and then you find out you've done something you shouldn't have done or didn't have the right licensing, whatever it may be.

It can be can be very, you know, a very big issue for a young company.

That is wise advice indeed.

When you look back at everything that you've done, I mean, what are your thoughts about how space has changed in that time?

I mean, the technology has obviously changed a lot, but I'm thinking about things like even culturally.

I mean, there's there's a lot wrapped up in it.

I mean, when you look back on it, what are your thoughts on it?

It's a great question.

And it's an interesting way to think about it.

Of course, if you look back to, let's say, to the previous generation, space was always government sponsored.

It was too big and too expensive to approach in other ways.

And I would say over the last 20 years, you know, really with Elon Musk and SpaceX, space has become much more commercial, far more activity.

That's not government sponsored.

We can't talk about space without talking about SpaceX and the whole concepts of reusable launch vehicles and all the aspects that that brings with it.

Not only reduced cost, which is one of the most important ones, because that encourages other businesses to move off the surface of the earth.

But also the fact that you're bringing the vehicle back and not just leaving it there, leaving it behind as debris or burning it up in the atmosphere to, you know, to add to whatever ever stuff is floating around up there.

You bring it back and you reuse it.

So that kind of innovation is what's happening today and what we all see.

When you think about what's going on right now in the world of space, is that do you feel like that's maybe what's most exciting to you?

Or is there something else where you have more of your attention?

To me, the innovation and the bright minds that are coming with ideas that, you know, folks who've been involved don't have, right?

You can't see the forest for the trees.

And so we have a lot of new concepts and ideas coming that need a lot of work and help.

And what I'm really excited by is infrastructure, the ecosystem here in New Mexico that's supporting them.

And I haven't seen that anywhere else.

It's really interesting how strong it is here.

Yeah, that was going to be my next question.

You anticipated it beautifully.

You're in New Mexico.

You've mentioned it a few times.

There's so much space activity going on in New Mexico.

What about the state makes it such a great place for that?

It's a good question.

And to be honest, I'm not sure I understand fully how it got started.

But there's a large number of the national labs here.

Los Alamos, Sandia, the Airports Weapons Lab, all the activity with the spaceport in the south.

And the government pushed to spin technologies out from the labs, from the universities into commercial startups.

And so we have a high proportion here of those kernels that's been out to technology.

And then we have a group of supporting entities.

And I won't be able to mention them all, but I'll try to mention a few.

I'll start with the New Mexico Angels, which is an angel investment group.

They don't do only space or tech, but they're a tremendous, tremendous facility for startups.

Because in addition to investing as an angel investor, they provide support for these knowledge, referrals, etc.

New Space Nexus is another great example.

Founded in 2019 was a grant from from the New Mexico government through Senator Heinrich's office.

They create a wonderful environment for startups.

Again, the same kind of thing connecting new companies with the resources they need, whether it's an advisory group, whether it's support for business development, connections with potential customers.

All of the things they need in New Space Nexus has a facility that they call the Launchpad, where if you're a startup and you need to do some manufacturing, they have facilities that you can use without cost that they put in place.

So you can get that first prototype or, you know, initial batch of your product done.

I would say that the new station in Albuquerque is supported by a number of government entities, but the leading supporter of the Air Force Research Lab is another excellent example.

And of course, Roadrunner Venture Studios, which is an investor that just got started last year and is part of America's Frontier Fund.

It's the first state venture that AFF has done.

So this infrastructure is amazing.

And the number of companies, the number of startups that are supported, probably 30 or 40 that I could think of off top of my head.

I would mention too that the reputation has grown rapidly.

A number of the entities started out New Mexico focus and have broadened their focus.

I mentioned U-Station, which supports space in particular.

They have a space cohort for 2024 that they just announced that includes three companies, not from New Mexico, two of them not from the U.S.

So I may have that number wrong, maybe three from outside U.S.

But, you know, as you mentioned, the understanding of what's here to support is growing rapidly.

[Music] We'll be right back.

Welcome back.

If you don't already have plans for the April 8th solar eclipse, well, people who chase these events are way, way ahead of you.

A number of lucky folks have made plans to see the eclipse from cruising altitude.

Delta Airlines announced that they made a special flight just for prime eclipse viewing, and that would be Flight DL-1218, an Austin, Detroit trip leaving Austin around noon local time and basically following the path of totality the whole time.

It'll make for some prime eclipse viewing for all the folks aboard and the flights on an Airbus 22300, by the way, which has extra large windows.

So when you're up there, no need to worry about bad weather or cloud cover.

Just bring those solar glasses.

But don't bother rushing out to get tickets.

That flight is already very sold out.

Trust me, I checked.

But there are a number of other flights crisscrossing the country that day that will pass the Eclipse's path.

So if you happen to be flying on Monday, April 8th, maybe check the flight path and bring those special glasses with you anyway.

And if you are on any of those flights or maybe one of the lucky few who snagged a ticket on that special Delta flight, I cannot wait to see your photos.

Please share them.

That's it for T-minus for February 22nd, 2024.

For additional resources from today's report, check out our show notes at space.ntuk.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 Karuth, mixing by Elliot Peltzman and Trey Hester with original music and sound design by Elliot Peltzman.

Our executive producer is Jen Ivan.

Our VP is Brandon Karpf and I'm Maria Varmazes.

Thanks for listening.

We'll see you tomorrow.

[Music] T-minus.

[Music] You

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