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The highs and lows of space launch.

Rocket Lab successfully launches a satellite for Synspective. Space One’s Kairos explodes after take off. The FAA requests a large budget for AST. And more.




Rocket Lab successfully deploys a fourth synthetic aperture radar satellite to Synspective’s Earth-observation constellation. Space One’s Kairos vehicle exploded seconds after launch from the Kii peninsula in western Japan.  The FAA has requested $57.13 million for its Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST) for fiscal year 2025, and more.

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T-Minus Guest

Our guest today is Holly Pascal, NASA Engineer and Founder of the Women's Aerospace Network.

You can connect with Holly on LinkedIn and learn more about the Women's Aerospace Network on their website.

Selected Reading

Rocket Lab Successfully Launches 45th Electron Mission, 4th for Longtime Partner Synspective

Japan's first private-sector rocket launch attempt has exploded shortly after takeoff- The Independent


Request for Information (RFI) Space Domain Awareness (SDA) Geosynchronous Satellite

AST SpaceMobile Updates Licensing Administration of its Satellite Constellation | Business WireSpace Force mulls refueling as industry calls for funding, standards

POLARIS Spaceplane Update

SpaceX prepares third test of Starship rocket

Analyzing the Psychological Impact of the First Mars Habitat Simulation | KBR

NASA uses world’s fastest supercomputer to simulate Mars crew landings - Interesting Engineering

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[SOUND] Absolutely nobody, and I mean nobody, has ever said launching anything to space was ever gonna be easy.

I will admit, some organizations are absolutely making it look like it's no sweat.

How is it we're at a place where companies like SpaceX can launch three rockets in one day and it doesn't even make headlines?

And just three months into the year, we're already at three successful launches for Rocket Lab 2.

But inevitably, at this kind of a fast launch pace, there will be mishaps, anomalies, failures.

That is to say, stuff's gonna blow up.

I mean what?

How hard could it be?

It's just actual rocket science.

[MUSIC] Today is March 13th, 2024.

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

[MUSIC] Rocket Lab successfully launches an SAR satellite first-inspective.

Space 1's Kairos explodes after takeoff.

The FAA requests a large budget for AST.

And we're celebrating Women's History Month with our guest today, Holly Pascal.

Holly is a NASA engineer and founder of the Women's Aerospace Network.

She'll be joining me later in the show, so stay with us for that chat.

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

Rocket Lab insinpective are going to party, piramu, fiesta, forever.

Their dedicated mission, all night long, all night, launched successfully last night from Aja, New Zealand.

It was the 45th launch of Rocket Lab's Electron and the third launch for Rocket Lab this year.

And this launch took inspectives Strix 3 satellite to a sun synchronous orbit.

Strix 3 is the fourth synthetic aperture radar or SAR satellite to add on to the company's Earth observation constellation.

Let the music play, on play, on play.

That song's going to be in my head all day.

[MUSIC] But of course, not every company can achieve the highs of space launch like Rocket Lab.

Space 1's vehicle, which is aiming to be Japan's first commercial rocket to get to orbit, experienced a Rudd or Cato shortly after takeoff.

And a Rudd is a rapid, unexpected disassembly.

And a Cato is a catastrophe after takeoff for those not familiar with the acronyms.

The Kairos vehicle, which is a small solid fuel rocket, exploded seconds after launch from Hiei Peninsula in western Japan.

Space 1's president Masakazu Toyoda said in a statement after the explosion that the rocket terminated the flight after judging that the achievement of its mission would be difficult.

Kairos was carrying an experimental government satellite that can temporarily replace intelligence satellites in orbit if they fall offline.

Space 1 says that the launch is highly automated, requiring only about a dozen ground staff.

And that the rocket self-destructs when it detects errors in its flight path, speed, or control system that could cause a crash that endangers people on the ground.

The company is looking into the cause of the termination.

We've talked a lot about the U.S. budget request for NASA and the U.S.

Space Force this week, but neglected to mention that the Federal Aviation Administration has also released its budget request for fiscal year 2025.

Unlike NASA, the FAA is not restricted in its budget needs for the next two years.

In fact, the agency has requested $57.13 million for its Office of Commercial Space Transportation, or AST.

That is a 36% increase from the $42 million it received in the fiscal year 2024 spending bill that was passed last week.

The FAA has been calling for new hires in the Office of Space Transportation to keep up with the increase in flight cadence.

And we'll be hearing from FAA Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation, Kelvin Coleman, on tomorrow's program about the review committee that was announced for Part 450 last month.

So, tune in for that chat.

Space Systems Command is looking to develop a constellation of next-generation spacecraft to investigate adversary satellites in and around the geosynchronous equatorial orbit belt.

The primary objective of the constellation of the rendezvous and proximity operations space vehicles is to detect, track, and characterize resident space objects using electro-optical sensor payloads.

Data collected from spacecraft developers might be used by the US government to determine a pool of vendors to compete for a classified study, leading to a formal system concept review.

And we've included a link to the request for information in our show notes.

Space-based cellular network provider AST Space Mobile has updated its constellation filing with the International Telecommunication Union, as well as its related filings for its V-band application with the Federal Communications Commission.

The company says that the decision to update the licensing administration of the constellation filing comes as the FCC has continued its supplemental coverage from space rulemaking process, demonstrating continued leadership in direct-to-device regulation globally.

The final draft rules unveiled last month represent a step forward for the company's planned service offering.

And we're back to the lows again with the news that Polaris space planes have experienced damage to their MIRRA test vehicle.

The MIRRA demonstrator was damaged in a takeoff incident during a test flight that was part of the company's preparation for the vehicle's first rocket-powered flight.

The German aerospace startup is developing a novel, reusable space launch and hypersonic transport system.

During the test, MIRRA was on the runway traveling at approximately 170 km/h when it was hit with a combination of landing gear, steering reaction, and sidewind.

The resulting hard landing concluded the flight far more rapidly than Polaris would have liked.

The company has downplayed the incident, stating that they already have identified the issue and will promptly rectify it.

Most of MIRRA's subsystems remain undamaged, but the glass-fiber sandwich airframe will require rebuilding.

Their statement on LinkedIn reads, "However, we don't have to wait for the rebuild since MIRRA's larger sisters, MIRRA 2 and MIRRA 3, are already in preparation."

And we couldn't finish today's roundup without mentioning tomorrow's planned third test flight for the Starship Super Heavy.

SpaceX is aiming to launch its mega rocket for a third flight from Boca Chica, Texas at 8am Eastern Time.

SpaceX has warned that the timing is tentative, and the company said on its website that, quote, "the schedule is dynamic and likely to change."

And lest we be accused of counting our Starships before they launch, I should mention that as of the time of this recording mid-afternoon on Wednesday, SpaceX still do not have their FAA launch license.

But if that comes through before tomorrow morning, we will be bringing you that news and updates on the launch itself on tomorrow's show.

But for now, we just want to wish the whole team Godspeed.

[Music] And that concludes the briefing for today.

Stick around for my chat with NASA engineer Holly Pascal about her new endeavor, the Women in Aerospace Network.

You'll find links to all the stories that we've mentioned in our show notes, along with a study on the psychological impact of the first Mars simulation mission.

All those links can be found at our website, space.n2k.com, and just click on this episode title.

Hey, 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.

That will help other space professionals like you to find the show and join the T-Minus Crew.

Thank you so much.

We really appreciate it.

[Music] [Music] We're celebrating Women's History Month with our guest today.

Holly Pascal is a NASA engineer and the founder of the Women's Aerospace Network.

She shared with me her vision for the network.

I'm a systems engineer over at NASA headquarters and founder of the Women's Aerospace Network.

The goal of it, the vision, the mission is to empower women, not just in the United States, not just in STEM, but women around the globe, who are interested in aerospace and really honing in on the principle that aerospace is awesome, first of all, and you don't have to be an engineer or in STEM to be able to get into the industry.

That is such an important message.

It's one I wish I could have heard when I was much earlier in my career.

So, I'm so glad that that message is being shouted from the rooftops, because it really, really needs to be said.

I'll say I'm sort of new to aerospace myself.

I've only been in it for about a year doing this job.

I have to say when I was coming from the outside, I was in a different field.

I was in cybersecurity.

It was a little intimidating.

I'm used to being in a STEM world where there aren't a lot of women, but coming into aerospace especially, it's like, wow, there really are not a lot of women in this field.

I can imagine, I mean, you work at NASA, you understand better than anybody, what it's like to work in such a competitive, highly advanced field.

What was your motivation for starting this network?

I mean, I've sort of gone through what I would imagine, but I want to hear it from you.

Yeah, so you really hit it on the nail, Maria.

So, in my entire career, I wasn't necessarily the most populated demographic, right?

So, in school, going for computer engineering, I was mostly surrounded by men in my classes and teachers and didn't really bother me to be honest at the time because that's what I expected.

And so, I never really stopped to think like, oh, maybe there's a way that I can change this.

I just sort of like, well, yeah, that's what you sign up for.

And it never truly bothered me until I started working in the field as a software engineer.

And one of my rotations I was in the engineering leadership development program at L3Harris, and one of my rotations, I got this awesome offer to come up there and start working in aerospace.

And I was thrilled.

It was like all of my dreams were coming true.

The position sounded perfect.

I was over the moon and I get there.

And I was one of two women in the entire department.

That was not something I was really expecting because on my previous jobs, it wasn't that much of a huge difference.

Yes, I was a minority, but it wasn't that alarming.

I felt incredibly alone, especially when the other woman in the department, she went on maternity leave.

So then I was the only woman in the entire department.

And I raised this to my boss and the director and I said, hey, it's kind of odd here.

What's going on and how can I help?

And they said, yeah, in this area, there's just not a lot of women in this part of the United States going for aerospace, going for STEM.

And I said, oh, okay, right.

Like, that's, I get that, but it's not really a demographic thing, a geography thing.

And I didn't quite believe it until I started trying to recruit women to come and work with me and join the company.

And I was like, wow, there, it's really hard.

There's tough pickings out there.

And so then I kind of realized like, wow, I don't want anyone else to be in the situation that I am being the only woman here.

So that's kind of what started this.

The vision started, it has a magazine.

And I had this whole crazy idea of how we were going to market it and what we were going to do.

And I wasn't actually expecting people to be so passionate and excited about it.

So since launching, we have reached over 1500 followers on LinkedIn and Instagram.

We've gotten over a third of our wait list for the first world's first women's aerospace magazine.

We have been so excited.

We're launching a podcast pretty soon, a women's space podcast.

So keep your eye out for that.

And I am just so excited and honestly thrilled by the amount of support that we've had from the community.

That's awesome.

A lot of what you're talking about in terms of sort of the woman's experience in aerospace, it gets into a lot of these like broader cultural questions that certainly like one person or a group of people cannot solve or untangle.

It is really interesting to me that I feel like sometimes there's an inherent friction to trying to get women into aerospace because people just kind of go, it's not for me.

And I don't know if people examine why there seems to be almost like a cultural resistance to getting more women into this field.

I don't know.

That's just my take.

I've only been in this world for about a year, but I've sort of picked up on that like, wow, it's tough.

I'm curious what your thoughts are because you've been in this world a lot longer than I have.

I couldn't agree more.

So not only does it kind of seem that working in aerospace is this distant thing that sure somebody does it, but they're out there and it's not really something that's advertised that, oh, yeah, you can do it.

And so honestly, it's not something I realized until I was at NASA that I could actually be one of those people working at NASA.

It's very much having the image of, yeah, there's some men in lab coats over there doing experiments, but our place is also right there with them.

And not just that, but over a diverse field.

So in my undergrad is when I first got into aerospace and I was working on a cube satellite.

It was my passion.

I was so excited for it.

I spent days and weeks and months digging through articles and trying to figure out how do you build a cube satellite?

What is this?

We were just a bunch of undergraduate kids with really no peer support or any anything that's official.

We had no idea what we were doing, but it was a passion project.

It was so much fun.

This can be really fun.

Yeah, I was going to say it sounds like fun.

And I called my grandmother.

I was so excited to tell her all about the project.

I was just rambling on and on and I was expecting her to be excited for me, proud of me.

Instead, the line went silent.

All she said was, Holly, why don't you do something useful with your life?

Like becoming a medical doctor and...

Oh, goodness.

That crushed me.

I mean, not only had I been going for computer engineering for the last three and a half, four years, but also that's not exactly the right way to approach it when somebody comes to you with exciting news.

And similarly, when I got this job at NASA, I was sharing the news with my directors and some of my previous bosses and expecting them to meet me with sad I was leaving the company, but also happy for me.

And everybody pretty much did, except there was this one person in particular.

And she looked at me and she said, wow, NASA headquarters, are you sure you're ready for that?

And she wasn't projecting anything of my skill set, right?

But instead, her own personality of being scared to take on new and scary tasks, right?

And so I looked at her and I said, of course, I'm not ready, but you know what?

You figure it out and you do it.

And so through these two examples, first of all, aerospace, like we said, isn't really something that a lot of people realize that they can get into.

And then second of all, having that community to just be that backbone of like, hey, yeah, you can get into aerospace, you can do it.

It is just kind of empowering the next generation, empowering all of us to pull together.

And so that's the vision of the Women's Aerospace Network is just have this backbone of champions and people excited for you.

Yeah, because those peers, they understand much more of the world that you are in when you are in it or trying to get into it.

Because I've had some similar conversations when I was in cybersecurity.

That was a different lifetime of similarly like many family members had no idea what I was talking about.

They're like, why are you doing, why are you hacking computers?

I'm like, that's not what I'm doing, but thanks.

What's really interesting is sometimes when I have these conversations about women in STEM, sometimes I'm not going to name names, people's hackles do get up because it almost comes across like an accusation of like men are keeping women down or something.

And it's like, that's not really, I mean, okay, different conversation.

But sometimes it can be if we don't see what we can be, it's just the insecurities are very internal.

And it's like the call is coming from inside the house.

It's like, we don't need somebody keeping us down if we don't take those opportunities ourselves.

It can be an and situation, of course, but I'm just saying a lot of times it's like, we don't know that that path exists.

We don't have a mentor.

How do you get to where you're trying to go?

And a network like what you are creating is so important.

Getting that support and somebody going, I know a way that you can get to where you're trying to go.

That can be really life changing.

And I don't say that lightly.


And that's one of the reasons that we recently launched the women's space awards.

And so that enables recognition for women in the aerospace industry to get that voice to have that opportunity to be seen and providing that visibility for the next generations and for honestly, women all over who are like, Oh, wait, she's doing that full thing.

Maybe I can do that too.

And so just raising raising the bar and just shouting from the rooftops like, Hey, yeah, you can do this, get involved and recognizing the women that have paved the way and just doing these awesome things.

So head over to women's aerospace network.com and see if you can nominate somebody who's just doing some awesome things in the aerospace industry.

That's also a place that you can sign up for the women's aerospace magazine that will be coming out in July.

[Music] We'll be right back.

We're switching it up a little now and returning to our usual geeky commentary on things that excite us and today it's computers.

No surprise to many that NASA uses software run on supercomputers to simulate future landings on the moon and Mars.

No, it's not Kerbal Space Program on the most overclocked GPU you can imagine.

No offense to any resident of Kerbin, but we need something a little more.


How about a petabyte of data being processed by 15,000 to 20,000 GPUs?

That kind of hour.

And NASA needs it because landing on the red planet in particular is way more challenging than re-entering Earth's atmosphere due to a lack of atmospheric drag.

We all might remember the seven minutes of terror with Perseverance's landing.

Now NASA has to figure out how to do a landing with humans aboard the spacecraft and potentially without any parachutes to add drag.

That is a big challenge to be sure.

And the trouble is they cannot perform like for like tests on Earth, hence the need for supercomputers.

So NASA brought in Frontier to simulate an entire test flight.

And Frontier is the world's fastest and first exascale supercomputer capable of a quintillion or more calculations per second with a theoretical peak of two exoflops a second.

And when you start getting to units like exoflop that sound totally fake, you know you're in serious territory.

NASA has already carried out numerous computational fluid dynamics simulations of a human scale Mars lander.

In the simulations, teams are experimenting with a spacecraft that would not deploy parachutes.

Instead, it would use powerful retro propulsion rockets built into the craft's heat shield.

That is an interesting idea to navigate the thin atmosphere of the red planet, to be sure.

And while their work is far from finished, Frontier is well positioned to help provide the framework for future Mars colonists.

And by the way, Frontier is the first exascale supercomputer in the world, and it's at Oak Ridge National Labs.

But within the next few years, two more supercomputers will be built within the United States.

Now imagine running KSP on not one but three supercomputers.

The fever dream of those long ago land parties for weeks like me.

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

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

As always, we'd love to know what you think of this podcast.

You can email us at space@entuk.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.

NTK 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 produced by Alice Carruth, mixing by Elliot Peltzman and Trey Hester, with original music and sound design by Elliot Peltzman.

Our associate producer is Liz Stokes.

Our executive producer is Jen Iben.

Our VP is Brandon Karp.

And I'm Maria Hermazes.

Thanks for listening.

We'll see you tomorrow.

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