<img height="1" width="1" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=205228923362421&amp;ev=PageView &amp;noscript=1">

The good, the bad, and the ugly of space finance reports.

Rocket Lab reports promising financial earnings. Astra founders move forward with their buyout plans. Northrop Grumman warns of layoffs. And more.




Rocket Lab reports financial results and shares a backlog of contracts valued at over $1 billion dollars. Astra Space Founders have offered to buy out the struggling company for $278 million. Northrop Grumman has warned employees that it could be facing layoffs at their space facility in southern California following a termination of a Space Force contract, and more.

Remember to leave us a 5-star rating and review in your favorite podcast app.

Miss an episode? Sign up for our weekly intelligence roundup, Signals and Space. And be sure to follow T-Minus on Instagram and LinkedIn.

T-Minus Guest

Our guest today is Aerospace Engineer and Space Agrifood Advocate, Allen Herbert.

You can connect with Allen on LinkedIn.

Selected Reading

Rocket Lab Announces Fourth Quarter and Full Year 2023 Financial Results, Issues Guidance for the First Quarter 

Astra Space founders propose buyout at fraction of 2021 valuation- Reuters

Virgin Galactic Announces Fourth Quarter and Full Year 2023 Financial Results and Provides Business Update

Northrop Grumman warns space sector employees of potential layoffs - SpaceNews

Abu Dhabi sovereign fund to invest space tech, AI this year | Reuters

Spacetech startup for propulsion systems Spacefields raises first institutional funding - The Economic Times

US tells Musk to allow service in Taiwan - Taipei Times

Record-breaking Army astronaut receives rare qualification device | Article

Korean researchers create an electrostatic environment that simulates the moon's surface

It turns out that Odysseus landed on the Moon without any altimetry data- Ars Technica

NASA Names New Station Manager, Space Operations Deputy

T-Minus Crew Survey

We want to hear from you! Please complete our 4 question survey. It’ll help us get better and deliver you the most mission-critical space intel every day.

Want to hear your company in the show?

You too can reach the most influential leaders and operators in the industry. Here’s our media kit. Contact us at space@n2k.com to request more info.

Want to join us for an interview?

Please send your pitch to space-editor@n2k.com and include your name, affiliation, and topic proposal.

T-Minus is a production of N2K Networks, your source for strategic workforce intelligence. © N2K Networks, Inc.

We're kicking off our daily Intel briefing with a slew of investment stories.


It's the usual good, bad and ugly when it comes to the space industry.


So let's start with the positive outcome and future-facing Rocket Lab, shall we?


Today is February 28th, 2024.


I'm Alice Carruth, and this is T-minus.


Rocket Lab reports promising financial earnings.


Astra founders move forward with their buyout plans.


North at Grumman Wands of Layoffs in California.


And our guest speaking with Maria in the second half of the show is aerospace engineer Alan Herbert.


They'll be exploring African and Diaspora science fiction, so stay with us for that chat.


In an industry usually dominated by one provider, Rocket Lab has slowly but surely carved out their share of the profit.


In fact, during the investor's call, the company's CEO talked about a backlog of contracts valued at over US$1 billion.


Yes, that was a B.


Peter Beck proudly discussed the strong year that the company had experienced thanks in part to new contracts from the Space Development Agency and new HACE contracts.


Rocket Lab set new launch records conducting 10 missions with its Electron rocket last year.


And moving forward, its focus will also be on developing its new vehicles, including the Neutron rocket.


In terms of numbers, Rocket Lab grew revenue 16% year on year, with fourth quarter revenue just shy of the $62.9 million that Wall Street expected.


The company also discussed refinancing their $100 million term loan facility with Hercules Capital into a larger longer duration and cost-effective $120 million equipment lending facility with Trinity Capital.


Rocket Lab's projected first quarter revenues expected between $92 million and $98 million, so we're expecting big things and great outcomes in 2024.


Next up is the bad news.


Aster Space founders have offered to buy the struggling company for $278 million.


According to a regulatory filing, founders Chris Kemp and Adam London have proposed to acquire the small rocket maker, once valued at more than $2 billion.


Shares in Astra have fallen 99.6% since the company went public in 2021, spurred by a few mission failures and delays in test flights.


Here's hoping that the buyer will save the company from closure and reverse the fortunes of this once-promising organization.


So I guess that makes Space Tourism Company Virgin Galactic the ugly.


Sorry guys.


The company had an investment call yesterday to update its fourth quarter and year-end financial results.


VG touted the six human space flights held in 2023 as a huge success and talked of increases to its revenue but skirted around the details of its business moving forward.


They're currently going through an FAA investigation after a part fell during its January flight and they're only expected to hold one more crew flight this year.


They say that they're planning to open a new manufacturing facility for their next-generation space planes later this year.


Virgin Galactic's stock took a tumble following the earnings call.


Over to other news now and Northrop Grumman has warned employees that they could be facing layoffs at their space facility in Southern California following a termination of a Space Force contract.


The US military branch cancelled a multi-billion dollar communication satellite program which was led by the DOD contractor.


Northrop Grumman has said that it's working to match affected employees with existing job openings and opportunities.


The company has warned that as many as 1,000 employees could be affected by the cancelled contract.


Abu Dhabi's Muba Dalla investment company is expected to invest capital into artificial intelligence and space technology this year, according to its managing director.


The sovereign wealth fund is expected to invest more in the US and across Europe.


Muba Dalla controls $276 billion of assets.


Director Caldoon Mubarak said at a conference that "we are in the business of driving progress and investing in solutions to global challenges".


While they don't come bigger or more expensive than space, that's for sure.


Indian Space Company SpaceFills has raised $800,000 in a seed round.


The Bengaluru-based company designs and builds dual-use rocket propulsion systems for aerospace, space and defence applications.


The company was founded by three students who had established India's first student rocketry team at Veer Surendra Sai University of Technology.


SpaceFills had unveiled and tested India's first aerospace rocket engine in 2023.


It also filed six patents on technologies developed in-house.


The company currently employs only 12 people full-time.


The funding will be used to grow the workforce.


SpaceX is in hot water with the US federal government over allegedly withholding service of its military-focused Starshield system for US troops in and around Taiwan.


Starshield is a program that SpaceX launched in December 2022 to provide secure satellite internet access to the military and government agencies.


US Representative Mike Gallagher sent a letter to SpaceX CEO Elon Musk to say he's learned from multiple sources that Starshield is inactive in and around Taiwan, despite a contract with Pentagon to serve US troops in the region.


SpaceX and Musk have not publicly responded to the letter from Gallagher.


And we finish our briefing with a story from the Army.


Colonel Frank Rubio has been awarded the Army astronaut device during a pinning ceremony at the Pentagon.


The Army awards the astronaut device to personnel who complete at least one operational mission in space.


With the award, Rubio joins Colonel Anne McClain and Colonel Andrew Morgan as the only active duty soldiers authorized to wear the device.


Rubio spent 371 days aboard the International Space Station from 2022 to 2023, breaking the record for the longest space flight for an American astronaut.


You'll find links to further reading on all the stories I've mentioned in this episode in our show notes.


And I've added a few extra.


A great piece from ours, Technica on Odysseus' technical issues and appointment announcements from NASA.


Pay T-minus crew, if you find this podcast useful, please do us a favor and share a five-star rating and a short review in your favorite podcast app.


It will help other space professionals like you find the show and join the T-minus crew.


Thank you.


We really appreciate it.


Our guest today is aerospace engineer and agri-food advocate, Alan Herbert.


Maria spoke with Alan about how science fiction influenced his career.


I always tell people my STEM was lost in space, star track in space 1999.


I wanted to be scotting.


I mean, lost in space, I thought I was supposed to be a physicist like Dr.




But when I saw star track for the first time, I said, oh, I want to be an engineer, aerospace engineer.


I had never heard of it in a school I grew up in, Berkeley of all places in Los Angeles.


Berkeley, California.


Berkeley, California.




And there was no STEM program in my elementary or junior high school.


So I figured all this out myself.


And here I am an aerospace engineer working with agri-food development.


Last time we talked for the show, we were talking a bit about like what you were doing when you were like the last four years to now, agri-food.


But let's go back a little bit further when we talk about sci-fi and what that introduced to you.


And also, that spark that ignited in you.


I mean, it ignited the spark to really look deeper.


And that's why I'm an aerospace engineer.


But years and years ago, I remember reading, oh, it was a documentary of Torney Morrison.


She's an African-American writer.


And she said that there's a book that you cannot find that you would like.


Write it yourself.


And so I started writing African science fiction basically back then.


I don't want to age myself, but that was almost 40 years ago.


We can edit the age out.


Just kidding.


Just kidding.


I don't want to do that.


So I started writing again.


My wife encouraged me.


I started writing again.


But if I wasn't a person in the vacuum, history is so very important.


I mean, it is one of the most important things.


I love history.


I have an uncle that taught African history as a physical state in the '70s.


And so that sparked me too.


So even when I started writing, you started looking at, okay, in terms of African-Americans, even Africans, who was writing before, obviously before me, of course.


And so you started learning that even the beginning of the 20th century, there was a woman named Pauline Hopkins, who wrote a book about a hidden advanced African civilization in Ethiopia, sound familiar.


And this is 1906.


Gee, I wonder if a certain comic book series got inspired from that.




I'm sorry, 1902.


And so then W.E.


Duboy, a lot of people heard of him.


He wrote a science fiction book called Comet about a comet hitting Earth, which was very interesting.


I did not know he wrote science fiction.


Yes, he did.








I went to UMass.


He spent a lot of time at UMass.


So like our library is named after him.


So he's big deal.


So I did not know.




That's really cool.


That's why we're talking.


And then there's a guy named George Shuler.


He was in the Harlem Renaissance.


He wrote the 1930s fictionalized African civilization called the Black Empire.


Again, almost like Wakanda.


We have mid 20th century Samuel R.




A lot of people, he wrote first, even TV stuff.


So he was a very big writer back then.


And then of course we all know, Attivia Butler, Kendrick.


I mean, that's Wally One, but she wrote many science fiction books as a woman back in 1979.


Her stories, one of them was a mini series on FX.


And so she has a big impact.


And then, you know, you come into today, you have Nola Hopkins, N.K.


Jamison, Nity Okrafer.


I mean, they mixed a lot of Black identity and arts and different things in their stories, even African mythology and things in there and even in their own stories and with even advanced civilization.


And then there's some African ones, Ben Oakley from Nigeria, Lauren Bukes from South Africa.


One of my favorites is Stephen Barnes.


Not a lot of people have heard of him.


He wrote a book called "Lions Blood" and he's written some Star Wars things.


But his book "Lions Blood" was an alternate history as it if West Africa came to America and they brought slaves from Europe.


So it was a very different, it's called "Lions Blood" and there was another one called "Zulu."


So he did two stories and he also has written, like I said, for Star Wars and different things.


So he's done a lot of different things and a lot of people hadn't heard of him.


And then there's more younger people, which I love when younger people write science fiction because they have the inner, they have a whole different perspective than someone such as Octavia Butler where she looked at technology different.


So there's a young lady out of London.


She's African called Timmy O.


And this wasn't really an African story, but it was African writing about, it's called "Terra 2" and it's about a group of teenagers, 16 teenagers going to a new Earth.


So that was a good one.


And then there's a guy named Momo Batran.


Recently he wrote a book about Africans going to Mars.


And what's so amazing, Maria, is that people want to see themselves in things.


And I remember again, old science fiction movies that had that many black people that liked the 50s, 40s.


In the 60s they started it.


I remember I was watching "Destination Space."


I don't know if you've heard of it.


It's a 1950s.


I've heard of it.


I won't say I've seen it, but I've heard of it.




And wow, there's one black guy in it who's on the space station.


And so it really didn't happen until "Outer Limits."


And then of course "Star Trek."


But a lot of people looked at Aurora, which she was amazing, but I wanted to be Scotty.


I was like, "You say it."


You mentioned seeing yourself and your stories reflected.


And to me, it's also when humanity continues our exploration of the cosmos, we've got to bring our whole selves into it.


All our experiences inform who we are.


And what does it mean to have a story about black people on the moon?


Well, for me, like Toni Morrison said, I like Ben Bova, Alistair Reynolds, and Kim Stalingh Robinson.


And then some of them I read, some of the ones that they consider after "Future," some of that may not be.


I said, "You know, but I want to read something that I really, really would like."


And so I started writing myself.


And as I was saying, I wrote the first story when I was in college.


It was called "Darkness Europe."


And then I started writing in like three different categories, Maria.


I looked at Earth, space, and time travel.


I love time travel shows.


The Earth ones, one of them talks about the first African man rocket that goes into space.


This is more, it would be more today, you know, not way in the future, I hope not.


But it talks about that, a young kid doing that.


And then I write, then on Earth also, children's books looking at agri-food development, space agriculture, food and space, basically, for young people.


And then I look at space.


I lived in the Mesa region, Middle East, Africa, and South Asia for four years, where I live in Abu Dhabi.


And so I started writing with the characters from that region, because by the year 2100, two out of three people in the world will be in that region.


And that region is really growing, you know, a lot of things are going on technology-wise that a lot of people don't know.


So I wrote a book called Sustainable Frontiers that I'm writing, not a book, I'm sorry, a short story.


It's about a ship that goes out looking at redoing organic waste.


I mean, all those different things.


But the crew is made up of mostly the people from the Mesa region.


So it's not just African, but it's people from that whole region.


And then I have one of my favorite ones.


I think I told you a little bit about it earlier, about a move-based election.


It's African, basically.


And so these are the different things that, you know, excite me.


And even then the time travel since I started writing, as I got older, I started reading more African history, because my uncle was a professor at San Francisco State that talked about, he taught African history.


And one of them, of course, is darkest Europe.


And then I have another one about Queen Aminareas, who, this is real, who stopped the Romans from going deeper into Africa.


After they conquered Egypt, she stopped them from going into deeper into Africa, basically.


And then I have some about black colleges in the 1920s.


So I kind of had a mixture in there where it's adventure, but it's also learning, pretty much.


And a lot of my short stories also writing a book, something I started almost 14 years ago, but I just didn't finish.


So it's just, this is something that always motivated me.


I'm a big science fiction person through TV, any shows that come on.


And in some of the science fiction stuff on TV or at the movies, I don't, I want these people are critiqued.




A science fiction fan critiquing sci-fi.


I've never heard of that.


None of us have opinions, especially strong ones.


And so you realize a lot of these stories, they were short stories, even Star Trek.


A lot of them were short stories that people had written.


I mean, I started really researching them, outer limits, all these different things, these stories, series were all short stories from somebody.


So there was an impact there.


So I write for that so that people have a different perspective.


I hope they're in an African-American community or any community, especially African-American community now that the younger people start writing, you know, and we already have a lot of writers.


There's some writers for science fiction shows.


They look at TV and movies and all these different things.


And so I'm very excited about the future.


We talked about offline, and I forgot to ask, I should have asked earlier, maybe what it's this earlier, is we were talking about like my extremely undereducated understanding of like Afrofuturism versus like African-American sci-fi stories.


And you had given me this gorgeous distinction between how I was confusing them all.


Would you mind sort of indulging me in just explaining those concepts again?


Because I'm sure I'm not the only person who's like, I think of Afrofuturism as a bubble and that's not correct.


No, I mean, it's encompassing, but not all encompassing.


If you look for the definition of Afrofuturism, you can look it up in the internet.


It expresses black identity.


I think I talked about that agency and freedom through our culture.


And then even the word didn't really come up until the 1970s.


There was a guy named Sun Ra.


If you remember Parliament, Funkadelics, all these, LaBelle, they had these futuristic clothes and all that.


So it encompassed not just writing and things like that.


It encompassed art.


It encompassed movement, dance.


It encompasses everything dealing in an African and African diaspora context, basically.


And so it was a response to not being involved, not seeing black people in the future.






Because sometimes you see these futuristic movies and it's like, we don't exist.


And they're supposed to be the year 2312 or this and that is like, we don't exist.


But this was a reaction to it.


But now here we have Black Panther, which is, they look at it as Afrofuturism, which is, you know, it has affected so many people. .


We'll be right back.


Welcome back.


A team of researchers in Korea recreated the moon's dusty, electrically charged environment right here on Earth.


They built a contraption straight out of a sci-fi flick, a Korean electrostatic environment simulator or keys to mimic those lunar conditions.


Yes, it's not new news.


We've certainly seen a few of those kicking around the U.S.


But it is a first for South Korea.


The team created the keys to test how moon dust behaves when astronauts inevitably track it back to their spaceships.


That crazy regolith gets everywhere.


So someone had to figure out how to deal with it.


Who wants to vacuum up moon dust for the next century?


That's it for T-minus for February the 28th, 2024.


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


We'd love to know what you think of this podcast.


You can email us at space@intuk.com or submit the survey in the show notes.


Your feedback ensures that we deliver the information that keeps you a step ahead in the rapidly changing space industry.


N2K's strategic workforce intelligence optimizes the value of your biggest investment, your people.


We make you smarter about your team while making your team smarter.


This episode was mixed by Elliot Peltzman and Trey Hester, with original music and sound designed by Elliot Peltzman.


Our executive producer is Jen Iban.


Our VP is Brandon Karth.


Our host Maria Valmarzis will hopefully be back on the mic in the coming days.


I'm Alice Carruth and thanks for listening.



Similar posts

Stay in the loop on new releases. 

Subscribe below to receive information about new blog posts, podcasts, newsletters, and product information.