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Tis But A Scratch.

NASA’s SpaceX Crew 8 reaches the ISS. SpaceX’s Transporter 10 mission carries 53 payloads to LEO. Terran Orbital wins a $15.2M contract from AFRL. And more.




Crew-8 arrives at the International Space Station. SpaceX launches the Transporter 10 rideshare mission carrying 53 payloads to low Earth orbit. Terran Orbital has been awarded a $15.2 million contract to supply Ambassador Class satellite platforms complete with solar arrays and support equipment to the Air Force Research Laboratory, and more.

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T-Minus Guest

Our guest today is John Thompson.

You can connect with John on LinkedIn and learn more about NASA Student Launch and American Rocketry Challenge.

Selected Reading

Four Crew-8 Members Enter Station for Six-Month Mission

NASA addresses the crack in the hatch of Crew-8 spacecraft | Digital Trends

SpaceX launches 53 satellites on Transporter-10 rideshare flight, nails rocket landing (video) | Space


Muon Space Establishes Communications, Confirms Health of Weather Satellite

Texas greenlights negotiations with SpaceX for Boca Chica State Park land exchange

Terran Orbital Awarded a $15.2 million Contract from the US Space Force

AAC Clyde Space wins SEK 56.2 M order from LusoSpace

Portugal Passes New Legislation to License Launch Centers - European Spaceflight

Historic licence for Queensland spaceport | Australian Space Agency

NASA Awards Contracts for Flight, Payload Integration Services

Viasat Chosen To Power Inflight Connectivity on Icelandair's New Airbus Aircraft

Blue Origin targets 2025 for cargo lander's inaugural moon trip, with humans to follow

NASA Joins Rice University for 2024 Space Studies Program

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[MUSIC] Can you imagine this?

30 minutes ahead of a launch, a crack is found on the hatch.

One would assume that the mission would be over so that the crack could be investigated.

But in this case, no.

NASA's response to the crack found on the hatch of the SpaceX Dragon capsule this week reminded us of one iconic line from Monty Python.

>> Tis but a scratch.

>> A scratch?

>> Your arm's off.

>> No it isn't.

>> Well what's that then?

>> I've heard worse.

>> You liar.

>> Come on you pansy.

>> Any excuse for Monty Python, huh?

[MUSIC] >> T-minus. >> 20 seconds to L-O-I, T-minus, open aboard.

[MUSIC] >> Today is March 5th, 2024.

I'm Maria Varmasus and this is T-minus.

[MUSIC] NASA's SpaceX Crew 8 reaches the ISS.

SpaceX's transporter 10 mission carries 53 payloads to Leo.

Taren Orbital wins a $15.2 million contract from AFRL.

And our guest today is John Thompson.

He'll be sharing his experience with mentoring student rocket reteams and the NASA Space Flight Challenge.

Stay with us.

[MUSIC] Let's take a look at our Tuesday Intel briefing.

Yesterday Crew 8 were launched from Florida to the ISS.

And as of early this morning on Tuesday, they are aboard the International Space Station.

Crew 8 is now hanging out in microgravity with the Expedition 70 crew.

A snug fit of about 11 crew and all in low Earth orbit for the next few days.

That is before Crew 7 takes their own ride home.

And speaking of that ride home, as we mentioned at the top of the show, shortly before the launch of the Crew 8 mission, a crack was found in the hatch of the Dragon capsule.

The aforementioned crack was only discovered in the seal of the hatch 30 minutes prior to liftoff.

It was estimated to be just 0.02 inches in size and is predicted to swell and close on reentry.

The crack was noted in the mission control room with SpaceX stating, and I quote, "The engineering team here is comfortable proceeding."

That Dragon capsule will return four members of Crew 7 home sometime next week.

And on to more SpaceX news now.

They're really on a roll after three successful launches in 24 hours.

That's pretty noteworthy in and of itself.

And at the time that we published yesterday, the transporter 10 mission lifted off from California.

The 20th flight of the Falcon 9 for 2024 carried 53 payloads to low Earth orbit.

On board the rideshare mission were constellation updates for companies such as Spire and ISI, tech demonstrations from global customers such as Portugal, Germany and Taiwan.

And we should note, we covered the Tyrone's IRIS F1 during our chat with Tanzu last year, we'll link to that chat in our show notes.

And a series of first launches for customers such as Tomorrow I/O and Cytus Space.

And Cytus Space's LizzieSat TM1 satellite was launched on a Pathfinder and Technology demonstrator mission.

In addition, Cytus Space's Astra, which stands for autonomous satellite technology for resilient applications, in an ongoing partnership with NASA and Cytus Stennis, was also deployed.

Astra is a hardware and software payload developed by the Autonomous Systems Laboratory team at the NASA site near Bay St.

Louis, Mississippi.

And another first was for the Environmental Defense Fund's Methane SAT vehicle for global methane monitoring.

The satellite built by BAE Systems will provide the public with reliable scientific data about the sources and scale of methane emissions globally, with the ultimate goal of driving reductions in the near future.

And some of the deployed vehicles from the rideshare have already successfully come online.

Muon Space proudly shared that their MuSat 2 vehicle is already operational.

And MuSat 2 has advanced software-defined radio frequency instrumentation to gather new insights for Department of Defense weather monitoring.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission has voted unanimously to pursue an exchange that would give 43 acres of Boca Chica State Park in Cameron County to SpaceX.

The state park land would be swapped for 477 acres adjacent to a wildlife refuge.

The vote grants Texas Parks and Wildlife Department staff the authority to begin negotiations with SpaceX for the land swap, including conducting environmental assessments that could take up to 18 months.

And we should mention the third test flight of the Starship from Boca Chica seems imminent.

SpaceX held a wet-dress rehearsal for the Super Heavy Booster yesterday.

CEO Elon Musk shared on his Platform X that Starship Flight 3 is preparing for launch, and he shared that alongside images of the successful fueling test.

And yesterday we were talking about Lockheed Martin's bid to buy out Terran Orbital.

And today we're sharing another win for the satellite manufacturing company.

Terran Orbital has been awarded a $15.2 million contract to resupply Ambassador Class satellite platforms complete with solar arrays and support equipment to the Air Force Research Laboratory.

The contract, managed through Accient Corporation, will integrate payloads onto SBUG Grand-Size space vehicle platforms to support specific United States Space Force missions.

And delivery is planned in the fourth quarter of 2024.

Sweden-based AAC Clyde space has won a £4.3 million order for 11 satellite kits from Portuguese company Luso Space to be delivered in the fourth quarter of 2024.

The EPIC 8U variant will be co-designed by AAC Clyde space and Luso space and built in Portugal.

And staying in Portugal, Portugal has passed an amendment to its existing space law that outlines specific rules for licensing space launch centers within the country's borders.

Licensing of launch facilities like the licensing of space operations in the country will be conducted by Anacom, Portugal's National Communications Authority with input from the Portuguese space agency.

There is currently no publicly announced commercial entity looking to pursue the development of a space port.

But the new legislation also defines a launch center as an installation intended for the return operations of space objects, which is being considered for the European Space Agency's Space Rider program.

And Australia has issued its first orbital launch license, the Gilmore Space's Space Port.

The Bowen Orbital Space Port is located in North Queensland.

Gilmore Space is planning the first test flight of its three-stage Aeris rocket from that facility this year.

The Australian Space Agency says that they will need a separate license for the launch itself.

Well, that was a lot to unpack, and we've barely scratched the surface.

Oh yes, that scratch joke continues.

If you want to learn more about any of the stories that we've mentioned today, then head to the selected reading section of our show notes to find links to further reading.

We've also included a NASA announcement for contract awards for flight and payload integration services, an announcement from ViASAT, who have been chosen to provide in-flight connectivity to Iceland Air, and more details about Blue Origin's plan to send a cargo lander to the moon in 2025.

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Our guest today is John Thompson.

Now, John mentors students for rocketry competitions, supporting the future space workforce in their early STEM endeavors.

So I started by asking John about mentoring and his involvement in the American Rocketry Challenge.

The American Rocketry Challenge is going on.

It's like 21st year.

It started off as a small idea and it just blossomed.

I mean, it just really progressed.

And then you have the one group called the National Association of Rocketry has been the backbone of supporting and promoting this interest.

And it's like a STEM outreach, but it teaches students from middle school to high school engineering basics.

What they're being exposed to here does not really change into the real world of engineering.

The end state is to build a rocket, carrying a sensitive payload, and the payload is a raw egg.

And they have to launch it to a certain altitude, keep it afloat for a certain amount of time.

I think it's like between 45 seconds and 47 seconds.

And it all has to come back intact with an onboard electronic altimeter that records the flight data.

So then they have to download the data, read the data, look at the telemetry files, and then actually study how the rocket performed.

And then they want to figure out how they can improve it.

So they have to basically meet all these criteria.

And the goal is they have a score sheet and you're trying to get down to the lowest score number.

So the closer to zero, the better chances you have.

And so what happens, the students submit a proposal to the National Rocketry.

Once they get accepted, they actually have to go and do the work.

So you have mentors like myself.

I'm a National Rocketry member that is a mentor and an advisor.

So I can give them advice, but I can't touch any of the rocket.

They have to build it from scratch.

They have to do the research.

They have to do the work.

But they also have to do a critical design review.

So they have to look at software.

They have to design the rocket, understand the basics, the center of gravity, where the center of pressure is on the rocket, and understand what they're doing.

And then they have to launch it.

They can do as many test launches as they want to.

And then once they want to go official, they have to have two good flights that meet their criteria and they reach out to the National Rocketry.

It has a website that has a list of all the people who are mentors.

There's hundreds of people across the United States that are on the list.

And all they have to do is basically come and observe the two official flights and record their data.

They submit the information to the DNAR.

And if they get selected, because they make the cut on the point factor, then they get invited to go to Virginia, to the planes, and do their competition contest.

And it's basically one good flight that they have to reach the criteria.

And you're trying to get to the-- you're trying to meet the timeline, you're trying to have a rocket come perfectly intact.

And the top first 15 placers get some cash prizes, which goes back towards them and to the school.

And the first place winning team actually gets $20,000.

And then what happens on top of that, Raytheon, which is one of the aerospace companies that's helped sponsor this, flies the winning team to Paris to compete at the Farm Bear Air Show against the European teams.

And they could win up to $60,000.

And so then they get exposed to all these engineering departments.

And also on top of that, the first 15 place teams get invited by NASA to participate in the NASA student challenge, which they have to build a bigger rocket.

And they have to have a target altitude that reaches either between-- that has to be above 3,000 feet and has to stay below 6,000 feet.

So they have to pick a target that they want to go for.

And they also have to launch a payload that does something independent of the rocket, like it has to deploy independently.

They could make a lander that deploys its legs and simulates collecting soil.

So it has to actually do something.

And this year, the theme is the Artemis theme.

So they have a college bracket group of students that actually could do the NASA student challenge.

So that is the college level for the NASA student challenge.

But the middle school and high school teams that get invited by this can do-- they basically have to use a lower impulse motor as compared to the college team.

I mean, every time I hear about different rocketry challenges, I'm always-- I'm really impressed by the real amount of work that these students are doing and how much it sets them up to just like yourself really inspire a lifelong love of-- not just space, but also just rockets.

I mean, they're really cool.

Yeah, it's really cool.

And like I said, it gives them a lot of exposure.

And the biggest-- I think the biggest reward we get as a mentor is seeing these students actually go on to college or go to universities like the Emery really, Aeronautic University.

And I get a lot of thank yous from the parents going, hey, you inspired our students.

And it rubs off.

So that's really cool.

Oh, that's so rewarding.

I'm wondering if you have any, I guess, anecdotes or stories from-- I mean, you've done a bunch of these.

Any favorite memories that come up when you think on the ones of the past?

In 2019, when they had the 50th anniversary of Apollo landing, NAR actually did a really big challenge where they had to launch three raw eggs to simulate three astronauts, three Apollo astronauts.

They had to launch the rocket up to 836 feet because that was the time and central time when they landed on the moon.

And it all has to come back intact.

So when you start adding another egg, you add more weight.

So you have to do with the weight impulse.

And you have to do a lot of calculations and a lot of math.

And the teams actually make the cut.

They have to go out and do a lot of practice tests.

You can't wait until the last minute to do your homework, so to speak.

You have to be really aggressive at the forefront and do a lot of prior planning.

And it was really impressive.

I was a volunteer at the 2019 TARC event.

I was one of the field guys.

And Trip Barber, who's the president of NAR, he's a 30-year career Navy guy.

That's now the president.

And he really had the planning down because three days prior, you have to go out and set up the field to planes.

So I think they had like 830 teams that year.

So you have a lot of pads, a lot of preparation.

And he had everything down to the T, like a timeline, like a schedule.

I mean, we were there at eight o'clock in the morning, setting up everything.

And then by 3.30, we were done.

And of course you have to do with humidity, the heat, and in Virginia.

So that was really memorable because we were done by 3.30, ready to go for the next morning.

That's coordination and dedication.


And then for all the schools, you know, to get out there and fly it.

So really impressive.

Every time I learn about these rocketry competitions, especially these huge ones, these really big ones like you're talking about, I mean, as much as it should be, the focus is on what the students are doing.

I'm just always amazed by how much work is going on by so many volunteers and mentors behind the scenes.

I mean, this is a ton of heavy lift, really.

I mean, it's quite a lot, but it's really, truly to me, it strikes me as an act of love and community care to be like, "Hey, this is something I love.

I want to share it with you.

I want you to learn about it and take day or ever you will."

We say a lot, especially in engineering sort of schema that failure is a great teacher, although it's painful as it is.

And I know for many rocketry competitions, not everything works the way that we want it.

Not everything launches.

You've done a lot of mentorship.

Nobody enjoys those moments at all, but what do you tell the students when that inevitable moment can sometimes happen?

Take it back.

Like what I always tell them, when a rocket lands, make sure you take a lot of photos of how it landed on there, how the recovery device worked.

For example, we were doing a full-scale launch out in Tri-Studies with two other universities.

And our university had a really successful flight, but we have to go back and actually do another test flight with deployment, validation of the payload to make sure the remote control retention device deploys your payload and actually ejects properly.

And so everything worked perfectly and landed, but then they noticed that some of the lines and stuff were kind of twisted up how the parachute, because you have to deploy basically this constant issue, you deploy your rocket at Apogee and the drogue you deploy just after Apogee.

The drogue sheet is designed to slow down your descent rate, and then your main parachute is going to deploy at a lower altitude between 800 feet or 500 feet.

And so that's basically going to slow down the descent rate, but it's not going to drift as far.

And then the criteria is for the NASA thing, you have to basically land within 90 seconds.

And it's a little bit separate for the payload.

So there's a caveat for your payload, because that's in a different timeline.

But your main rocket has to land within 90 seconds and within 2,500 feet of where the rocket launched from.

So you take all that consideration, and then when you look at how the lines twist everything, you have to reverse engineering to make sure those lines don't get twisted.

And so you just take a lot of photos, and then you have to do more testing.

And then you can do some ground testing of the recovery devices.

I'm involved in that part of it, where I do the safety thing.

We make sure we find a good field if we have to do any ground testing, because energetics are involved.

And then you videotape it, and you watch it.

And then you just do reverse analysis, reverse engineering, and try again, and then record it.

And if you got it done to a good science, so to speak, that's what you're going to stick with.

And you have to have a checklist.

You have to have a pre-flight checklist, a post-flight checklist, because if your rocket lands and you have any kind of electronics, you got to make sure that the team that's involved with deactivating the electronics before the rocket gets picked up or so forth, you have to -- all that is included.

So that's what you do.

That is the path to engineering excellence, honestly.

John, I cannot tell you how much I appreciate you telling me all about all of these different rocketry competitions and all of the mentorships that you have done.

Is there anything you want to leave the audience with, or anything you want to let them know about that might be upcoming that you want to share?

Yeah, in April, I think April 10th to the 12th, they have the Huntsville, Alabama, is where the NASA/SEAL challenge is going to be.

And then in May is the month where they're doing the Gnarr American Rocketry Challenge in Plains, Virginia.

We'll be right back.

Welcome back.

It feels right after talking about mentoring students in rocketry and aerospace engineering to give a plug to the sixth annual Space Studies program of the International Space University, which will be returning to Houston, Texas this summer.

Houston's Rice University and NASA's Johnson Space Center will welcome students to participate in tours, lectures, and hands-on activities with aerospace experts from June 8th to August 3rd, 2024.

Yes, that would be eight -- count them eight weeks of immersive space studies.

The program aims to be educational and provide training covering both technical and non-technical aspects in an international, intercultural, and interdisciplinary environment.

Over 200 participants, lecturers, professors, staff members, experts, and executives from the American and International Space Agencies and private companies from over 30 countries attend this event.

And the program features a curriculum covering space exploration engineering, policy, business and management, and applications.

Hands-on projects, workshops, and immersive learning experiences will provide students with networking opportunities with a global community of space enthusiasts.

So with all that said, I have just one question.

Is it open to older students?

Not that old, but just slightly older.

I mean, I'm just asking for a friend.

As this sounds like something all ages would enjoy.

Okay, I am definitely talking about me.

Take me, Houston.

I volunteer as tribute.

And that's it for T-Minus for March 5th, 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, 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 Varmasus.

Thanks for listening.

We'll see you tomorrow.






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