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Wings for India’s first Vyomanauts.

India selects its first four Vyomanauts. UNSEENLABS raises €85 million in a new funding round. The FAA closes its Starship mishap investigation. And more.




India bestows wings and introduces to the world the selection of the first four Vyomanauts. France-based UNSEENLABS has raised €85 million in a new funding round. The FAA has closed the SpaceX-led mishap investigation of the Starship Super Heavy Orbital Test Flight 2 launch that occurred in November 2023, and more.

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T-Minus Guest

Our guest is Eleftherios Kosmas, discussing the work of the Libre Space Foundation.

The website for the Libre Space Foundation is Libre.space.

Selected Reading

Meet 4 astronauts selected for Gaganyaan mission- India News

UNSEENLABS announces a record-breaking fundraising of €85 million


New funding to put the UK at heart of next generation telecommunications services - GOV.UK

Cambrian Executive

Intuitive Machines’s X Update

FAA closes Starship investigation as SpaceX seeks license for next launch

Varda’s drug-cooking Winnebago will be remembered as a space pioneer | Ars Technica

Is the FAA Ready for More Space Travelers? | U.S. GAO

Universal Hydrogen Successfully Powers Megawatt-Class Fuel Cell Powertrain Using Company’s Proprietary Liquid Hydrogen Module | Business Wire

Advanced satellites, space station and historic moon mission: China’s rocket launches will increase 50% this year

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[SOUND] A little etymology lesson for everybody today.

The term astronaut derives from the Greek words, astronaut for star and naftis for sailor.

So when you put them together, you get star sailor.

And astronaut commonly refers to all those who have been launched as crew members aboard NASA spacecraft.

Russia opted for the name cosmonaut, which comes from the Greek words, cosmos meaning universe, making cosmonaut a universe sailor.

And in recent years, we've also had taikonaut, which is a mashup with the Chinese word taikon, meaning space or cosmos.

But the official Chinese name is yuhangguan, meaning travelers of the universe.

And today we're being introduced to India's first four viyomonauts.

The word is another mashup, this time with the Sanskrit word viyomon, meaning the heavens.

Though I've also seen gagannauts using the Sanskrit word gagann for sky or space.

Well, whatever we are going to call them, let's welcome our four new sailors of the heavens, shall we?

[MUSIC] >> T-minus. >> 20 seconds to L-O-N, T-minus.

>> Open aboard.

[MUSIC] >> Today is February 27th, 2024.

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

[MUSIC] India selects its first four viyomonauts.

Unseen Labs raises 85 million euros in a new funding round.

The FAA closes its Starship Mishap investigation.

And our guest today is Eleftherios Cosmas, Vice Chair of the Libre Space Foundation, discussing open source space technologies.

Stay with us.

[MUSIC] We're starting today's intelligence briefing with an announcement from India.

Late last year, India unveiled its ambitious lunar roadmap 2047, which includes in its goal, a dedicated Indian space station in low Earth orbit by 2028, and a completed lunar base by 2047.

But to do any of that, you've got to get humans into space first.

And today, ISRO announced that huge next step in India's national space program.

The world's first viyomonauts are here.

And from this group will be the first explorers that India sends to space from its home soil in 2025.

The four test pilots from the Indian Air Force, who are now India's first viyomonauts, are Group Captain Prashant Nayir, Group Captain Ajit Krishnan, Group Captain Angad Pratap, and Wing Commander Shubhanshu Shukla.

And yes, ISRO is using the term viyomonauts, so we will be following their lead.

Three of these four men will form the crew for the Gaganyan, which will be India's first crewed orbital spacecraft.

Gaganyan is expected to launch sometime in 2025 and will be orbiting the Earth at about 400 kilometers.

First up, though, is a crucial test with ISRO's humanoid robot, Vyometra, to make sure that the Gaganyan crew capsule is safe to house real humans in space.

That test is scheduled for later this year.

Should that test prove successful, the runway will be clear for three viyomonauts to go to space, where they will orbit the Earth for three days.

During the ceremony where these four men were announced, India's Prime Minister Modi pinned golden wings to each viyomonaut and said, "After 40 years, an Indian will go to space.

But this time is also ours.

The countdown is also ours."

In every nation's progress, there comes a time when the present introduces its people to the future.

Today is such a time for India.

These are not just four names or four people.

They are four powers who will carry the aspirations of 1.4 billion Indians to space.

I congratulate and wish them all the best.

India is also due to begin construction of a second spaceport.

The spaceport in Tamil Nadu is all set to have its foundation stone laid by Prime Minister Modi on Wednesday.

The Kulasekara Putnam spaceport will enable more efficient launches for smaller rockets like the SSLV or Small Satellite Launch Vehicle.

Its location allows launches directly south over the Indian Ocean.

It will provide launch pads and support facilities for ISRO and commercial missions, carrying payloads into polar orbits.

The spaceport is expected to be in active use by 2026.

Moving over to France now, and France-based Unseen Labs has raised 85 million euros in a new funding round.

The company has built a satellite constellation that detects and tracks clandestine ships across the oceans.

Between 25 and 30 percent of the round is debt, which the startup secured from a consortium of regional and national banks.

It brings total funding for the startup to 120 million euros since it was founded in 2015.

This new funding round will allow Unseen Labs to expand upon its observation capabilities with the launch of multiple satellites.

The company says it plans to increase its international presence, particularly in the American and Asian markets, which are seen as crucial for the maritime sector.

UK-based Launch Services Provider Alba Orbital has announced a multi-launch contract with Turkey-based HelloSpace Systems.

Following the successful launch of Istanbul aboard SpaceX's Transporter 8 mission in June 2023, HelloSpace is partnering again with Alba Orbital for their next phase of satellite deployment.

Under the multi-launch agreement, Alba Orbital will deliver four 3P pocket cubes, dedicated to expanding HelloSpace Systems' commercial IoT constellation.

They'll be in a Sun-synchronous orbit via SpaceX's Falcon 9 launch vehicle in 2024 and 2025.

The UK Space Agency has announced a £10 million funding competition, which will help UK companies put their technologies at the forefront of a new generation of global telecommunications services, products, and applications.

The funding is part of the UK's commitment to the European Space Agency's Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems programme called ARTEZ.

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

Australian company Cambrian Executive has conducted a suborbital launch at S-Range in Sweden.

The MAFIA's 14 flight at the Swedish Space Corporation facility was testing an experimental payload, which was integrated on a German DLR-built suborbital rocket.

Three different strains of microbes manufactured in Adelaide, Australia were on board the rocket in a purpose-built unit, which were carefully frozen and then thawed just in time to coincide with the launch.

The payload has since been recovered and will be returned to Australia for analysis.

Intuitive Machines provided an update on the Odysseus Lunar Lander on the social media platform X.

The poster had this, "Flight controllers continue to communicate with Odysseus.

This morning, Odysseus efficiently sent payload science data and imagery in furtherance of the company's mission objectives.

Flight controllers are working on final determination of battery life on the lander, which may continue up to an additional 10-20 hours."

That's nice news, which means that the commercial lunar lander is likely to reach the end of its mission in the next 24 hours.

Keep going, Odie!

We're cheering for you.

The FAA has closed the SpaceX-led mishap investigation of the Starship Super Heavy Orbital Test Flight 2 launch that occurred on November 18, 2023.

SpaceX identified and the FAA accepts the root causes and 17 corrective actions documented in SpaceX's mishap report.

The seven corrective actions include vehicle hardware redesigns, updated control system modeling, reevaluation of engine analyses based on OTF-2 flight data, and updated engine control algorithms.

The 10 corrective actions that were identified for the Starship vehicle include vehicle hardware redesigns, operational changes, flammability analysis updates, installation of additional fire protection, and guidance and modeling updates.

And the FAA were quick to point out that the closure of the mishap investigation does not signal an immediate authorization of the next Starship launch.

So everybody hold your horses.

Prior to the next launch, SpaceX must implement all corrective actions and receive a license modification from the FAA that addresses all safety, environmental, and other applicable regulatory requirements.

And that concludes our briefing for today.

But don't despair, we have included a few extra stories for you in our show notes.

One's on Varda's pioneering Winnebago One mission, another from the GAO asking if the FAA is ready for more space travelers, and a third's on a test by Universal Hydrogen at Mojavex spaceport.

You'll find them and lots more at space.n2k.com and just click on this episode title.

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Our guest today is Eleftherios Cosmos from the Libre Space Foundation, and Eleftherios started by telling me about the foundation.

Libre Space Foundation is a non-profit centered in developing open source solutions in space.

It was established in 2015 in Athens, Greece, and its main focus is developing open source solutions and technologies in order to provide the opportunity for people to access space and alleviate the barriers into participating in the space domain.


Thank you so much for joining me today, and we were chatting a little bit before, and I was mentioning that open source projects are very close to my heart.

I think what open source projects do, they're fantastic, complicated, massive projects.

They take a lot of coordination, a lot of hard work to manage, but they're also so important in what they do.

Can you tell me a little bit about why Libre Space is open source and why that is so important to its mission?

First and foremost, our organization started through the Satnux project.

Satnux is a satellite ground station network, which is also open source, of course, but when we were just a team of people working on that project, mostly on a local hacker space, the Hacker Space of Athens, Greece, which is a dedicated physical space for open source projects and open data and open hardware.

So when we started Satnux, sometimes on the point of starting Satnux, we won a monetary prize of $200,000 for the time in Greece, within a 30 meters and capital controls and stuff like that.

It was a huge lot of money for us, and we had to decide what to do.

We decided on going forward and creating an open source organization because we do believe that applying open source methodology in space can be a catalyst for innovation, collaboration and community.

Most of us are seasoned in the open source domain.

Many of us were contributors or working for open source projects and companies and non-profits like Mozilla, Red Hat, and you name it.

There were a lot of people.

For us, it is natural.

We serve that thinking that open source can be a catalyst.

We've seen it in the IT domain.

We want to take some of these ideas, certain with the space community, in order to further alleviate the barriers for participation in space, because that's the thing we want to do.

Yeah, absolutely.

There are a number of different open source projects that your foundation is working on.

You mentioned Satnux.

Can you tell me a bit more about that?

Yeah, Satnux is a satellite ground station network.

It started within HACAF on the NASA space of Southern HACAF actually, at the local HACAF space of Athens.

We were always interested in satellite communications.

Most of us are radiometers.

We did continue to work on that, even though the HACAF ended.

Sometimes we participated in the first HACA Day prize.

HACA Day is a well-known website, doing mostly HACI stuff, but in the creative way of hacking, not the cyber security way of hacking.

Not the criminal way, yes, indeed.


We got some funding, and then we started creating an organization.

At that point, we got involved with UPSAT.

UPSAT is the first open source hardware UPSAT that ever got in orbit.

Actually, interestingly, it was started as a project from the University of Patras, Greece.

At some point, we got involved.

We really designed the project, but under only one clause, everything has to be open.

So, if you want us to participate in that, we can't work without open sourcing everything.

Well, we had to negotiate some stuff, but yeah, at the end of the day, we managed to create a satellite, have it in orbit.

It worked, and we learned a lot of things.

We got again on the drawing board and started working on another project and continued working on sat-nugs.

Now, sat-nugs is really diverse.

You can see that I may have an antenna on my rooftop, which is not a really fancy antenna.

It's just a term-style type of antenna.


Yeah, but there are also ground stations with rotators, or even there are a couple of radio telescopes in Europe, in Paris, in Holland, in the Netherlands.

They do also participate in sat-nugs.

This is pretty cool because you can see a person that not really, a lot really technical, like me, and people that are familiar with your physics, which is a little bit.

Yeah, I was going to say, I would imagine, especially the academic community, would be very excited about, I mean, open source in academia.

Yeah, I want to emphasize to the listeners that the world's first open-source satellite went into orbit two years ago.

That is pretty amazing.

I remember reading about that announcement when it was launched, I think, on a Firefly rocket.

That was the cubic satellite.

Oh, okay.

I got them confused.

Yeah, well, there's time to get a little bit more.

So, after all that, when we started working on CubeSat designs, we were always held in the back of our minds that let's face it, rides in costs are kind of a lot.

If you do it like us, and if you're in profit, and if you try to be as impossible, because come on, we're Greeks.

I can't say that.

Yeah, I can.

You can say that.

Yeah, and we try to be as steep as possible, not because we want to allocate resources to our own person.

We want to really alleviate the barriers of participating in space technology.

What we try to do is to create solutions that are within the specs of the launch providers, first and foremost, this has to go in orbit.

But we do also want to alleviate the burden of putting a truckload of money on a satellite if you can do it another way.

And sometimes, yes, you have to do it.

Sometimes you have to test stuff.

But at least you have to have an opportunity to do research and do prototyping easily.

That's what we try to do.

So we started focusing on the Pocket Cube platform, which is 5x5x5 unit, which is really interesting to us.

And we paired that with the deployer.

We got a lot of opportunity a couple of years ago with the first Firefly mission that didn't go really perfect because space is hard.

They had to self-detract the rocket, but they also provided us another opportunity to launch again with them.

And now we do have an open source design of CubeSat, an open source design of Pocket Cube, and an open source hardware deployer to pair with that.

We try to work on more solutions.

We also do have a new design of communications board that's integrated with Sat nog.

And we do also work for the European Space Agency to develop a new protocol that would allow spacecraft identification and localization.

So the thing is that nowadays there is a trend of launching CubeSat by the hardware.

We've seen four and we will see it again.

That's really challenging for Sat nog operators.

It's difficult to figure out which of your signals you're getting is which.

It's difficult for NORAD.

It's difficult for RAD.

We do share info with NORAD, of course, when we are successfully identified stuff.

But we see that as a challenge, meaning that nowadays a satellite is deployed and it will not get identified for a buyer.

It could be for several days if we don't actively track it.

And Sat nog doesn't actively track stuff that are not to be tracked, like commercial satellites.

So the thing is we created the protocol like a beacon that would allow for us to easily, and not only for us, for any ground station network or even automated systems on board dollars, satellites maybe, I don't know, to actually identify which object is with and allow, because of the Doppler shift of the signal, allow for easy localization of the object where it is and its orbital parameters and stuff like that.

Which is really, it's an interesting concept.

It does take advantage of the fact that we do have access to one of the, if not the biggest, satellite ground station network globally.

Sat nog nowadays has around 200 operating ground stations globally and in places that, well, are a little bit uncommon.

Ground stations in Athens, ground stations in the United States of America, they're in Russia and China and they're in Japan.

All these ground station operators are working together to facilitate open data and open science.

It's really interesting.

To learn more, the website for the Libre Space Foundation is quite simply Libre.space or libre.space.

We'll be right back.

Welcome back.

In the last few years, we've seen a dramatic increase in space launches here in the US and it seems the rest of the world is also seeing the number of space flights rapidly increase.

Take China, for example.

They expected to increase launch cadence by 50% in 2024.

More than 300 spacecraft are expected to reach orbit in 2024 from China, which will set a new national record.

About 70 launches will be conducted by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation and the others will be from the many commercial companies that have started in the country.

At least two of the launches will be human space flights.

Two crewed and two resupply missions to China's Tiangong Space Station are expected to lift off this year.

And among the many other missions planned from China this year is the Chang'e-6 mission, which is slated to lift off in May.

Now, Chang'e-6 is a planned robotic Chinese lunar exploration mission, which aims to grab samples containing material ejected from the lunar mantle and thus provide insight into the history of the Moon, the Earth, and the Solar System.

No big deal.

The vehicle is expected to return those samples to the Earth later this year.

Forget the Year of the Dragon.

This is the Year of the Moon and the Year of many launches from across the globe.

That's it for T-minus for February 27, 2024.

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

We're privileged that N2K 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 Elliott Peltzman and Trey Hester, with original music and sound design by Elliott Peltzman.

Our executive producer is Jen Iben.

Our VP is Brandon Karpf, and I'm Maria Varmausus.

Thanks for listening.

We'll see you tomorrow.


[ Whileだadadada aroha Nein /

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