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If at first you don’t succeed, π, π, π again.

Starship launches for a 3rd test flight. Interlune announces $15M in new investments. ESA announces partnership to develop a lunar mission control. And more.




SpaceX launches Starship for a third test flight from Boca Chica. Lunar mining company Interlune says that it has raised $15 million, adding to previous rounds of angel investments. The European Space Agency, the German space agency DLR and the Free State of Bavaria have signed a letter of intent to collaborate on the development of lunar mission control capabilities at ESA's Columbus Control Centre, and more.

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T-Minus Guest

Our guest today is FAA Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation (AST) Kelvin B. Coleman.

You can connect with Kelvin on LinkedIn and learn more about AST on their website.

Selected Reading

SpaceX Starship lost on return to Earth after completing most of test flight- Reuters

Mining helium-3 on the Moon has been talked about forever—now a company will try | Ars Technica

NASA Awards Grants for Lunar Instrumentation

NASA's Space Tech Prize Bolsters Diversity, Inclusivity Champions

Study documents headaches experienced by astronauts in space | Reuters

Sidus Space Receives Signals from LizzieSat™ after Successful Launch and Deployment on the SpaceX Transporter-10 Rideshare Mission | Business Wire

ESA - From Munich to the Moon

QuickLogic and Zero-Error Systems Partner to Deliver Radiation-Tolerant eFPGA IP for Commercial Space Applications

SatixFy’s Space Chips Advance into Customer Testing Stage | Business Wire

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[MUSIC] Today is Pi Day.

No, not the scrumptious dessert or chicken pot.

Today is about the mathematical constant.

National Pi Day is celebrated on March 14th, also written as 3.14 by us Americans who put our months first in our dates.

And while I personally would not recommend rounding Pi to three, though I know some engineers who might for some back of the napkin math, three is a lovely prime number, isn't it?

And just so happens, third time's the charm for Starship.

[MUSIC] Today is March 14th, 2024.

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

[MUSIC] Starship launches for a third test flight.

Interloon announces $15 million in new investments.

ESA announces partnership to announce a lunar mission control.

And our guest today is FAA Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation, Kelvin B.


Kelvin will be sharing some updates to the announcement that the FAA is setting up a committee for input to the part 450 launch and reentry license.

So stay with us for that chat.

[MUSIC] Let's take a look at our Intel briefing for today, shall we?

>> Five, six, five, four, three, two, one, go.

[NOISE] >> At 8.25 AM Central Time from Boca Chica, there was a third Starship Orbital Flight Test or OFT.

But really, we should say OMG.

Less than a year has elapsed since the very first Starship Flight Test.

And this third test of the rocket that's poised to monumentally change the future of space industry and exploration.

Well, it far exceeded expectations.

Starship went orbital, people.

>> [INAUDIBLE] >> Engine, cut off.

>> There we go.

>> [APPLAUSE] >> As you heard there by the call out and from the crowd behind us.

>> [INAUDIBLE] >> Starships, six Raptor engines have successfully shut down.

We have a call out for nominal orbital insertion, which is incredible.

Look at these views, Dan.

>> When you talk to folks in the space industry, as I do, you notice a lot of common threads and conversations.

And one of them is how eagerly folks in military, government, and commercial space are waiting for SpaceX's Starship to start launching missions, payloads, and people to orbits, the moon, and beyond.

That is because Starship has the aim of being the first fully reusable spaceship that also has enormous carrying capacity.

Those two considerations combined mean getting to space, once Starship is a go, will be cheaper by huge orders of magnitude.

And cheaper to get to space means more will be getting to space for less and more frequently.

So no surprise, anyone who's got a hint of space geekery in them had a big smile on their face this morning because SpaceX's Starship had its third orbital flight test and it did way, way better than I think even SpaceX was expecting.

So quick checklist of what went well in today's test.

Starship successfully lifted off, yes.

All 33 Raptor engines on the Super Heavy booster fired, yes.

Starship's hot staging separation, a success there too.

The Super Heavy booster headed back to the ocean.

We saw it starting its landing maneuvers, but not all engines fired at that point apparently and it had a hard water landing, not the controlled landing that we were looking for.

Okay, Starship meanwhile continued on and hit orbital speed.

And while it wasn't planning to today, as you heard in the audio clip at the top of the show, it also hit orbital insertion.

And Starship also tested its cargo bay doors, which it's gonna need to open and close successfully if it's going to insert SpaceX's own payloads, not to mention customer payloads, into orbital space.

And that was another checkbox ticked there.

Reentry for Starship began somewhere over the Indian Ocean, but we didn't have a full reentry for Starship as it was declared lost once both the Starlink network and the NASA tracking and data relay satellite system lost contact with it.

But all in all, pretty fantastic progress for SpaceX's third Starship test.

By the way, the onboard videos, yes, videos plural are absolutely astounding, especially during reentry.

Just trust me on this one and go check it out.

I have never seen anything quite like it.

All right, moving on from the Starship news now.

Lunar mining company Interlun has emerged from stealth mode, announcing that it has raised $15 million, adding to previous rounds of angel investments.

The company, started by former Blue Origin Management, plans to harvest Helium 3, which is both rare and in limited supply on Earth.

Sci-Fi come real, yes, we go.

Former Blue Origin president Rob Meyerson said in an interview that Helium 3 is the only resource out there that is priced high enough to support going to the moon and bringing it back to Earth.

And that there are customers that want to buy it today.

Commercial applications of Helium 3 have not been widely explored.

The material does not occur naturally on Earth and it exists only in very limited quantities from nuclear weapons tests, nuclear reactors, and radioactive decay.

Interlun is planning to launch a demonstrator mission in 2026.

And staying with the moon, NASA has awarded five scientists and engineers grants to support the development of instruments for potential use in future lunar missions.

The development and advancement of lunar instrumentation, or DALI, grants, are expected to support the agency's commercial lunar payload services or clips program and the Artemis campaign.

Each of the selected scientists has granted approximately $1 million per year to develop their instrument.

And more details can be found by following the link in our show notes.

Staying with NASA now, NASA has announced the first winners of the agency's Space Tech Catalyst Prize to expand engagement with the underrepresented and diverse individuals in the space industry.

The program was designed as part of NASA's broader commitment to inclusivity and collaboration.

And the winners are receiving $25,000 each to create more inclusive space technology ecosystems.

And once again, you'll find the list of recipients by following the link in our show notes.

A study by the Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands has released its findings on headaches experienced by astronauts in space.

And the results show that astronauts are more likely to experience headaches in space than previously known.

The study involved 24 astronauts from the US, European and Japanese space agencies who traveled aboard the International Space Station for up to 26 weeks.

All but two of them reported experiencing headaches in space.


Cytus Space says it has received multiple signals from its LizzySat satellite after launch and deployment to low Earth orbit as part of SpaceX's transporter 10 rideshare mission on March 4.

The team received multiple signals on its FCC approved prime radio frequency and continues to monitor communications with the satellite from its operations center in Florida.

Two more LizzySat satellites are expected to launch from Cape Canaveral later this year.

And Cytus Space says they will provide tailored intelligence solutions for industries such as defense, agriculture, maritime and oil and gas.

The European Space Agency, the German Space Agency, DLR and the Free State of Bavaria have signed a letter of intent to collaborate on the development of lunar mission control capabilities at ESA's Columbus Control Center, also known as COLCC in Oberpfaffenhofen, I hope I said that right, Germany.

The primary responsibility of the COLCC currently lies in managing operations for Columbus, the European laboratory aboard the International Space Station.

The new expansion of operations will support key European contributions to the lunar Gateway Space Station, paving the way for developing operational concepts for infrastructure and human missions to the Moon and Mars.

And that's all we have time for in today's briefing.

Check out our show notes for further information on all the stories we've mentioned and we've also added some announcements from SatexFi on their testing of space chips and a partnership announcement between quick logic and zero error systems.

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@n2k.com or send us a note through our website so we can connect about building a program to meet your goals.

[Music] [Music] Our guest today is FAA Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation, Kelvin B.


I started our chat by asking Kelvin to explain to us about his role and what goes on at AST.

[Music] Have the pleasure of serving as the Associate Administrator for the Office of Commercial Space Transportation at the Federal Aviation Administration.

And primarily we regulate and oversee U.S. commercial launch or reentry operations.

And my role as Associate Administrator is to ensure that we're meeting our mission, which is to enable safe space transportation and we're providing value to the U.S. public and to the U.S. commercial space transportation industry.

Thank you so much for joining me today, Kelvin.

I really appreciate it.

And what brings us together today is talking about Part 450, which as someone who does not know a whole lot about regulations, I went, okay, what is that?

And I understand that it's very important.

So can we just start with the basics?

Could you walk me through Part 450 and what it's designed to do?

U.S. regulations are, we call them, they're called parts, if you will.

There's different regulations that cover different topics.

Most U.S. launch and reentry regulations are found in the Code of Federal Regulations under Sections 400.

Part 450 specifically deals with launch and reentry operations.

And so these regulations apply to any U.S. company or any U.S. citizen that is seeking to conduct a launch operation in the U.S. or anywhere else in the world or a reentry operation that will reenter into the U.S. or anywhere in the world if you're a U.S. operator conducting that reentry operation.

We stood this new regulatory part up about three years ago.

It's all-encompassing.

It it replaces four, what we call legacy regulatory parts.

In the past, if you were conducting a launch operation that fell under one regulatory part, if you're conducting a reentry operation that was a separate regulatory part.

If you were an experimental vehicle, that was yet under another regulatory part.

Part 450 pulls all of those desperate regulatory parts together under one umbrella, if you will.

And again, we address launch and reentry operations under that regulatory part.

Okay, great.

Thank you for the context there.

I really appreciate that.

So now that we're all up to speed on what it is, how has it been going?

What have we seen?

What have we been hearing in terms of its implementation?

Any opportunities, challenges there?

Sure, absolutely.

And I should mention, part 450, it really relies on performance-based procedures.

So operators understand the safety performance thresholds they have to meet.

And the regulation allows them to innovate in ways that are helpful.

And instead of the government dictating prescriptive public safety rules at an attempt to teleoperate exactly how to do it, this rule allows more flexibilities and flexibility in methods of compliance.

So again, we think that's a good deal for U.S. operators.

It also allows the FDA to shift away from what we call mission-by-mission approvals and move towards approvals of processes and methods so we can be more efficient.

We think this is really a game changer.

And we designed part 450 to allow operators to obtain a license for a portfolio of operations.

Now, more specific to your question, how's it going?

Well, I do want to mention that four or five years ago, when we were contemplating and looking at our regulations that were in the books, there was quite a bit of support from a number of stakeholders, industry, obviously, that wanted to see part 450.

We were enthusiastic about it as well.

So, you know, we moved towards putting the regulations on the books and we were successful in doing that in a record period of time.

Usually regulations take about five years to go from start to finish to complete.

We developed part 450 in about two years time period, which is really, really fast.

What we knew at that time when we published 450 was that there would be some learning that we would undergo as we implement 450.

And we've had a number of companies that have ventured into the 450 realm, if you will.

And we think it's going pretty well.

We still haven't really leveraged 450 in ways that we had really envisioned, where we could, you know, again, approve methodologies and processes, which will allow companies to, you know, move forward with the portfolio of operations.

We're still seeing one by one mission approvals that are being requested under part 450.

And again, 450 was not necessarily intended to be leveraged that way.

But we're finding ways to make that work.

So there's still some learning to be done.

And, you know, we think we're improving every day that we implement the rule.



And it sounds like there's opportunity for further streamlining with part 450.

I understand that there's sort of a new initiative around that.

Can you talk me through some of that?



So we're talking about standing up a, what we call a part 450 aerospace rulemaking committee.

Just last week, or a couple of weeks ago, actually, at our commercial space transportation conference that we co-hosted with the Commercial Space Flight Federation, I did announce that by this fall or sooner, we would stand up an aerospace rulemaking committee that would look at ways to improve a part 450.

And so this gives us an opportunity to come to the table with our industry colleagues and work out some of the kinks in part 450, figure out ways to make it more user-friendly, if you will, trying to figure out ways we can squeeze out more efficiency from, efficiencies from part 450.

And so we're working on the charter for the, what we call the spark.

We're working on that right now.

And once we get that approved, the secretary of transportation, has to approve that.

Once we get that approved by the secretary, then we'll get that spark underway, again, hopefully by the fall at the very latest.



So in the meantime, anything for that industry should know, in addition to the spark, in terms of existing tools or anything that, any kind of call to action for industry on this front?

Well, the requirement for all industry to come under the part 450 regulation is March 2026.

And I can't emphasize enough how important it is for the companies that are still operating on the legacy regulations to begin that transition sooner rather than later.

It will be a very significant challenge for us to try to do a lot of companies at once close to that March 2026 deadline.

So we're trying to urge companies to start talking to us now and begin making that migration, if you will, over to part 450 now and not wait until the 11th hour, if you will, to make that transition.

So we're really asking companies to come in and talk with us about 450, talk with us about ways that part 450 can be leveraged to benefit their programs.

And we're open to do that anytime.

We do know that there are some challenges that companies have faced and trying to demonstrate compliance.

And the part 450, we have done some things like have what we call office hours, where we dedicate time on Fridays, typically for a couple of hours for anybody from industry to talk with us, raise any questions that they have about part 450, help us or help what we help them understand what compliance looks like under part 450.

If there are specific technical issues that someone has questions about, we address those questions as well.

So it's been a good platform for us to leverage to help companies better understand what we're looking for in a part 450 and how they can go about their business to demonstrate compliance.

Okay, so very important deadline coming up, even though it's two years out, that comes fast.

And also this fall, we've got the spark.

So between those two, there's a lot going on.

You've been very generous in walking me through part 450 and the proposed streamlining.

And I greatly appreciate that.

And I wanted to make sure that as we close any last thoughts, anything that you want to make sure that people know about anything we've talked about today, I just wanted to give you the podium, so to speak.

Well, thank you.

I appreciate that very much.

And it's been a pleasure to speak with you today.

I really appreciate your time and your audience's time.

Commercial space transportation is very important for our nation.

It brings us so many benefits to our society.

It preserves our national security, it helps us in our civil exploration ventures, if you will.

It helps in our everyday lives.

And we've licensed more than 700 operations since 1989.

We had our very first commercial operation that we licensed in 1989.

And since that time, we've again licensed over 700 missions, with none resulting in any public safety issues, if you will.

No one's been hurt or injured, no significant property damage.

So we're very proud of that record.

As we see the industry increase in its cadence, we had 124 operations last year.

We'll see close to 150, maybe up towards to 175 this year.

We're really busy.

And we're very focused on meeting demand for our licensing products and services.

In order to do that, we're going to need some cooperation from industry.

Industry will need to come in with good solid applications that articulate narratives that show compliance or demonstrate compliance.

And so that's going to be needed.

And we're dedicated to working very closely with industry to, number one, meet the demand for our products and services.

At the same time, continue to push forward and advance our perfect public safety record.

We'll be right back.

Okay, welcome back.

And we mentioned at the top of the show that it's Pi Day, and as space fans and generally just nerds, we couldn't let it pass without more of a mention.

You see, Pi is used in space, yes, again, the mathematical constant.

Engineers use Pi to calculate the paths of spacecraft, including rockets and satellites.

And astronomers use Pi to calculate distances between celestial objects, such as stars, planets and galaxies.

Why isn't Pi used really?

The man himself, Pythagoras, taught that the Earth was a sphere at the center of the universe.

He may have been a little off of that theory, but he did recognize that the orbit of the moon was inclined to the equator of the Earth.

And he was one of the first to realize that Venus, as an evening star, was the same planet as Venus as a morning star.

So go out and enjoy today.

Get yourself a real slice of Pi perhaps, because it's been a pretty great day for the space industry.

And who really needs an excuse to enjoy Pi?

That's it for T-minus for 3.141592653.

I'm only going to go to 10 digits.

Let's not get irrational.

March 14, 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 Ellis Caruth, 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 Jeb Eiben.

Our VP is Brandon Karp, and I'm Maria Varmazes.

Thanks so much for listening.

We'll see you tomorrow.



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