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All is fair in space and war.

The US and Japan call to ban nuclear weapons in space. Benchmark deploys its electric propulsion in LEO. Tyvak delivers the Hera Milani to ESA. And more.




The United States and Japan are co-sponsoring a UN Security Council resolution that calls for a ban on any nuclear weapons in orbit. Benchmark Space Systems has successfully deployed its next-gen Xantus electric propulsion aboard Space Solutions’ 12U cubesat in low Earth orbit.Terran Orbital’s subsidiary Tyvak International has delivered the Hera Milani satellite to the European Space Agency, and more.

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T-Minus Guest

Our guest today is Nick Searra, Executive Director of the Interstellar Foundation.

You can connect with Nick on LinkedIn and learn more about the Interstellar Foundation on their website.

Selected Reading

US and Japan seek UN resolution calling on all nations to ban nuclear weapons in outer space- AP News

A Suspicious Pattern Alarming the Ukrainian Military - The Atlantic

Ready for take-off: A look inside the IDF's new Space Directorate Unit

Press Release: Benchmark Electric Propulsion Thrusters On Orbit And Poised For First Fire

Space Workforce 2030 Names New Executive Director in Landmark Partnership

Spire Global to Enhance AI-Driven Weather Prediction in Collaboration with NVIDIA

Terran Orbital’s Milani Satellite Delivered to the European Space Agency for Hera Mission- Business Wire

China building giant hypersonic railgun for space launches - Asia Times

While USSF Budget Dips, Funds for New Nuclear Command and Control Satellites Jump

1st Space Brigade’s tactical close space support is on the move

Biden’s tax proposals would hurt commercial space

ESA - Operations begin to de-ice Euclid’s vision

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[MUSIC] Today is one of the two days a year where there are equal amounts of night and day, thanks to the tilt of the Earth relative to the sun.

Today, instead of being above or below the equator, the sun is right over the equator.

And that means it is the equinox.

Today is the first day of the new year for many cultures around the world.

And for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, today is also the vernal equinox, meaning happy first day of spring everybody.

Let's keep that bright and cheery feeling with us as we dive into some decidedly less happy stories today.

Yeah, we're gonna need it.

[MUSIC] >> Team, minus 20 seconds to L-O-I, we're open aboard.

[MUSIC] >> Today is March 19th, 2024.

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

[MUSIC] The US and Japan call on nations to ban nuclear weapons in space.

Benchmark deploys its electric propulsion in Leo.

Tyvek delivers the Hera Miliani satellite to ESA.

And our guest today is Nick Ciara, Executive Director of the Interstellar Foundation.

We'll be discussing the foundation's work to continue the concept of the golden record, so stay with us for that fascinating chat.

[MUSIC] Let's dive into our Intel briefing for today.

Whether or not your take on the Russian nukes in space headlines a few weeks ago is that it was overblown or underplayed, that headline certainly got people's attention.

The story was that Russia reportedly had some kind of anti-satellite capability that may or may not have involved nuclear weapons.

Russian President Putin later refuted these assertions and said that Russia had no plans for nukes in space.

And I am hedging the language here because there is a lot of uncertainty in political posturing wrapped up in all of this, to say the least.

Nevertheless, any kind of nuclear weapon placed into orbit would be a violation of the UN Outer Space Treaty, of which the United States and Soviet Union were both signatories in 1967.

Quick refresher on Article 4 of the treaty.

State parties to the treaty undertake not to place in orbit around the earth any objects carrying nuclear weapons or any other kinds of weapons of mass destruction, install such weapons on celestial bodies or station weapons in outer space in any other manner.

End quote.

So that's the treaty.

Back to today, in response to the assertions about possible nuclear weapons in space, the United States and Japan are cosponsoring a UN Security Council resolution that seems to essentially reaffirm Article 4 of the Outer Space Treaty.

That any nuclear weapons in orbit would be quote, unprecedented, dangerous, and unacceptable according to Linda Thomas Greenfield, US ambassador to the United Nations.

In response to this, Russia's Deputy UN Administrator Dmitry Polyansky said the proposed resolution is, and I quote, yet another propaganda stunt by Washington, very politicized and divorced from reality.

In any case, we'll keep an eye on this story as any developments unfold.

Moving on.

Ukraine's military has raised concerns that weapons used by Russia against the European nation are aimed using satellite imagery provided by US-based companies.

The Atlantic magazine spoke to an unnamed member of the Ukrainian military about several incidents that indicate the use of Earth observation satellites during the conflict between the two nations.

The report states that, and a quote, "Suspicious cases have added up, and because many satellite imagery companies offer a backlist of archived images marked with dates and coordinates, it's possible to browse tens of thousands of images taken of Ukraine and notice suggestive patterns."

And it's not just the Ukraine conflict that has seen an increase in the use of space-based assets in conflict.

In the Middle East, Israel has established a space directorate unit since the start of its conflict with Hamas in the region.

The unit, which was started in February, has been tasked with consolidating all missions beyond Earth's atmosphere.

On to other news now.

Benchmark Space Systems has successfully deployed its next-gen Zantas electric propulsion and will undergo a subsystem health check and operational verification.

This includes a range of firing modes aboard Orion Space Solutions' 12-view CubeSat in low Earth orbit.

The company's first electric propulsion system in space launched aboard the SpaceX Transporter 10 rideshare mission and is tasked with end-to-end mission operations for Orion Space Solutions satellite.

Once the mission objectives are met, the Zantas metal plasma thrusters will be used to de-orbit the spacecraft.

Former Slingshot Aerospace Executive Melanie Strickland has been named by the Space Foundation and the Aerospace Corporation as the inaugural executive director of Space Workforce 2030.

The aim of the Space Workforce 2030 initiative is to build an inclusive workforce to meet the burgeoning demands of the space industry.

And we're sure that we'll be hearing more about that initiative at the Space Symposium in Colorado Springs next month.

Spire Global has announced a partnership with NVIDIA to advance AI-driven weather prediction.

Through this collaboration, Spire's radio occultation data and proprietary data assimilation capabilities will be integrated with NVIDIA's Earth2Cloud platform to leverage AI to accelerate climate and weather predictions.

Terran Orbital subsidiary Tyvek International has delivered the Hera Milani satellite to the European Space Agency.

Hera Milani is a nanosatellite funded by Italy and the vehicle aims to detect dust and inspect the de-demose asteroid following the dart impact.

Remember that one?

As one of the first ESA deep space nanosatellites, Milani will be launched aboard ESA's Hera mothercraft in 2024 and will travel for hundreds of thousands of kilometers to reach the asteroid.

Milani will be the first nanosatellite to ever orbit an asteroid.

That's super cool.

Over to China now and there are reports that the nation plans to build.

I can't believe I get to say this.

A giant rail gun to launch its Tengyun space plane, combining electromagnetic launch and hypersonic flight.

The China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation, also known as KASIC, aims to use a giant electromagnetic launch track to accelerate a hypersonic aircraft to Mach 1.6, separate from the track, ignite its engine, and then enter near space at seven times the speed of sound.

That sounds really cool.

The Tengyun is designed to carry crew and cargo into orbit and release satellites into space.

It may conduct other missions, such as docking with or capturing satellites or surveillance.

China has constructed a two kilometer low vacuum track, high speed, maglev test facility in Shanxi Province.

That facility needs to be extended for the space plane to reach optimum speeds of 5000 kilometers per hour, which is expected in the coming years.

Wow, I cannot wait to see that.

And we've added a slew of military news and opinion pieces in addition to links to further reading on all the stories we've mentioned in our show notes.

Check out the pieces on planned funding for nuclear command and control satellites, the Army's space and missile defense command's new tactical space control technology, and a piece on how President Biden's tax proposals could hurt commercial space.

Hey, T-Minus crew, if you're just joining us, be sure to follow T-Minus Space Daily in your favorite podcast app.

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Thank you so much for your support, everybody.

It means a lot to me and all of us here at T-Minus.

Our guest today is Nick Ciara, Executive Director of the Interstellar Foundation.

And I started off by asking Nick about the foundation's mission and what motivated him to start it.

In 1978, Carl Sagan and Francis Drake and a team of people, including Carl Sagan's wife, Ann Durian, put together something called the Golden Record.

And they put that on Voyager spacecraft.

That got sent out into space and left our solar system in 2018.

It's actually, it went quiet last week.

And we'll be traveling around the Milky Way Galaxy for about four billion years.

And I watched the documentary on the Golden Record about two years ago.

I had co-go at the time.

And I was like, oh, I hope that we're putting messages like this on all of the spacecraft that we send out there.

And I sort of looked and saw that the New Horizons mission didn't have anything on it.

And there was like a sense of sadness and then also the sense of potential opportunity to go like, oh, wow, this should be being done.

And then I thought, cool, let's start this foundation.

That's how we are going.

Oh, wow.

OK, so tell me, for folks who may not know what the foundation's goal is, can you tell me a bit about its mission?


We try to make messages that encapsulate the amazingness and awesomeness of humanity and some of the not so awesomeness of it and the amazing awesomeness of our planet.

And we send those messages into space.

We generally hitch rides on spacecraft.

And we're sort of working to build this incredible archive of who we are.

How are you doing that?

Because I was looking on your website and there were some really cool descriptions of what you're doing.


So we're a nonprofit and we try to sort of promote space missions that we're able to get onto.

But what we try to do is we essentially create these messages, which are not as large as the Golden Record.

Unfortunately, they're a little bit smaller.

And then we kind of stick them onto the side of spacecraft.

Another organization that is doing something similar just landed on the moon with this latest mission, the Space to the Ark Mission Foundation.

And they were there in turrets of machines lander.

They were on that mission.

And our next mission is going to be with the Firefly Moon Mission in May.

And essentially what we do, we come together as a group.

We have sort of two main themes that we look at.

The one is the what do we say?

And the other one is how do we say it?

And how do we say it is universal communication or the attempted universal communication or communication of vast time scales?

And then the what do we say is really kind of looking at representation and how do we how do we represent the human, represent the planets in an equitable way?

I would love to hear more about that, honestly.

So could you, as much, let's see.

Well, I'll give you a good example.

So Wikipedia is 27 gigabytes.

It's amazing to put in a message.

It's super small in terms of its size.

It's incredibly factual.

And it's a great thing to add to a message.

But it is 90% written by men.

Most those men are from the same cultural background.

And while that doesn't make it incorrect in any way, having put our first message together, it's really sort of evident that what you emphasize and what you highlight is part of the narrative of that particular story.

So it's a fairly sort of like one aspect of of humanity.

And we can come together on a group of 100 people, 1,000 people, 5,000 people, and we're still not going to be able to represent what is essentially eight billion different perceptions of what being human is.

So what we try to do is we really try to sort of expand that into basically asking the public and asking people to participate in a way that is able to give us sort of a more wider representation of the planet.

And I think that's just something that the Golden Rekord didn't have.

They didn't have the opportunity to do that from a technology perspective at the time.

And they were trying to think progressively about it, but they also just didn't have the time and the tools to do that.

My impression of it is that it was a really good but very last minute idea that they managed to scramble together.

And it's amazing that it came together the way it did.

But yeah, you have so much more time now.

And I was looking around the website and also you're doing some hopefully I'm getting this Christmastime collaborations with a number of different academic institutions as well.

Can you tell me a bit about that?

Yeah, so I think our collaborations are amongst sort of a lot of different areas.

So we work a lot with UNESCO, with UNESCO archiving team.

We work a lot with Getty Images from the Getty Images archiving team.

And we found it really helpful to work with organizations that have a lot of archives themselves.

But one of the biggest problems that they face on the Golden Record and a problem that we face is the copyright problem of like as an example, we had Steve Wright, who's this musician.

He was like, yeah, sure, you can put you can put my song on his very famous song on the record.

And he said like, you know, at the end of the minute, but just do speak to the publishing house.

And then I spoke to publishing house and the publishing house was like, how long do you need it for?

And we were like, maybe 50,000 years, but potentially five million years.

We're like, we've never had that question.

We've never had that question ever before.

I just don't know what to do.

There's not a box on the sheet that says five million years and it's going to be in space.

I don't even know what the law is in space.

What is the law in space?

Nobody knows what the law is in space.

So like, it's just the complexity of having to navigate that and then having to repeat that for every single piece of content that we do.

So it really is helpful to have these collaborations that are sort of helping us with that.

But then also we've got a collaboration now with the World Scat Movement, the Global Sound Movement UNESCO, to really look at sort of a collection archive where we're actually going to be going out to hopefully with the help of like 60 million people going out and collecting songs, stories, language and sounds.

And then also video.

We're also going to try to get this archive registered as a designated World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

But that's a process we haven't really even started yet and that's unsure if that's going to happen.

And then we're going to send that into space as part of the, so that's kind of how we work with collaboration partners.

That there's like a romanticness to this idea.

So there's the, what do you preserve and send?

How do we represent all of humanity, which is not as you mentioned, it's not an easy task and certainly it's going to be because it's going to be flawed because we're human, right?

But then also how do you communicate to people or creatures that we don't know how they'll interpret what we're sending?

So how are you tackling that end of the problem?

So yes, the sort of how do we say it part?

So we kind of, you know, we use sort of maybe the golden record cover as a good sort of example of what, how we were thinking about it back then.

So like, are there things like universals that would exist everywhere?

And what we have to do is we have to make an assumption.

So we have to make the assumption that whoever finds our message, because we're not sending them like at the speed of light in radio waves, whoever finds our message is going to find the spacecraft.

So they would have had to build the spacecraft themselves.

And you know, we look at things like even converging evolution.

So eyes have evolved across multiple species.

And it's difficult to make an olifactory or a smell message for us.

So we have to kind of make something that's going to be visual, a visual message.

So we basically kind of create these, these constraints that we can then work within.

And then we think about universals.

So you know, is the electromagnetic magnetic force universal throughout the universe?

Very likely.

Maybe one that might not be so clear is like, is DNA required for life to evolve everywhere in the universe?

So that's a potential.

And we kind of look at these ways that whatever they are, you know, is water something that is always going to be required.

So we sort of start with these things and we always layer our messages starting with the small amount of information and we layer into greater amounts of information.

And then we bring in the same topics to create redundancy in that mode of communication.

And essentially whoever's finding the message would have this journey that they would need to take where there was redundancy and ways to check that what they're doing is correct in terms of their interpretation.

And then we kind of go into the fun stuff of like, you know, representing culture, representing language, explaining language.

And then we have these things where, you know, the layers of the actual physical message are analog in the beginning.

So they're microcurched.

You can basically with a magnifying glass, you'll be able to see like 10,000 pages of text within that as well.

You know, we also then need to explain how to build a digital player, access the digital information and play that on the screen.

So that's a little bit harder than you would think as we take that for granted that we all have the context of the shared system of opening up a JPEG.

JPEG is a very particular file that will probably not be here in 50,000 years just because we will have moved past that.

So I would hope it's not still around in 50 years.

We're waiting after like a couple of ways of like how we encode the information or are we include encoding packets within the message that decode what is there.

Yeah, that's a whole hour of...


Sure, sure.

Yeah, easily.

I mean, honestly, it's as a space geek, the idea of sending out a message into all of time and space to some unknown recipient is, it has always been, I mean, gosh, sci-fi loves that too.

But I mean, I'm just thinking of Star Trek right now.

But it is such a fun challenge and thinking of the different types of approaches, what you all are doing in terms of your approach is really fascinating, honestly.

It's just because it's such an interesting thing to try and think through.

Well, I would hope as well.

I mean, please also accept this as an invitation as well.

Come join a couple of meetings.

We have a couple of different sort of outside meetings where the whole public is sort of invited to our monthly end meeting.

But then also we have like some really fun working groups.

We really are an organization that does want to look at it from every possible angle.

So I'm not a scientist.

I'm not somebody who specializes in space exploration.

We have some incredible scientists and academics.

There's somebody who's 12 and in sort of primary school in the project.

And their voices are as listened to and questions are as important as anybody else.

So we really do kind of want to create this collaborative process.

So you and your audience are welcome to come in.

But please, you mentioned some upcoming missions.

Is there anything else coming up this year?

Yes, we've got this this mission, which is called the Aspire One mission that will launch in May.

It's going to land on the Murray-Christam crater, whereas if you look at the moon, it's the crater on the on the top right, I think, depending on where you are.

And then we've got a bunch of projects.

We've got a educational project initiative that we're doing with UNESCO through the UNESCO Associated Schools, focused on the Global South.

So that's Africa, Southeast Asia and South America.

This program with the World Scout Organization focused on the Global North.

We're also doing an archiving project where we're trying to collect archives.

We're also doing a engineering project where we're looking at the hardware and the software components.

And then we're also looking at collecting music and other information.

And I really say that maybe not to talk about what we're doing as much as to say that we need help.

And the only way that we're going to do this is with help from the public and for people to participate in any way that they are available to do it.

Because we really are trying to do this as a as a collective project.

And we just there's just a lot of stuff.

There's a lot of stuff to do.

We'll be right back.

Welcome back.

All right, speaking as a prop on New England to here, is there anything worse than waking up on a freezing cold morning and having to de-ice your windshield before you can head out?

Oh, story of my life.

It takes sprays, scrapers, and I really don't recommend this, but I know people try it.

Warm water, don't do that.

It'll totally bust your windshield.

Well imagine all that.

And then imagine doing that, but in space.

Okay, yeah.

It's an issue that the European Space Agency has been working on with the Euclid Space based Observatory.

Ice layers about as wide as a single DNA strand have accumulated on Euclid's mirrors.

Although super small, the ice appears to have caused a small but progressive decrease in the amount of starlight that the telescope is capturing.

It's been a potential problem for the highly sensitive mission that requires remarkable precision to investigate the nature of the dark universe.

After months of research, Euclid teams across Europe are now testing a newly designed procedure to de-ice the mission's optics.

If successful, the operations will validate the mission team's plans to keep Euclid's optical system as ice-free as possible for the rest of its life in orbit.

It's not as simple as simply switching on the heating and letting it blast for five minutes in the driveway as we might heat up our cars to help speed up the process.

That actually could potentially make the spacecraft unstable.

Instead, the team will begin by individually heating low-risk optical parts of the spacecraft located in areas where water released is unlikely to contaminate other instruments or optics.

ESA says they will start with two of Euclid's mirrors that can be warmed up independently.

They're doing this bit by bit, so if the loss in light persists and starts to have an impact on science, they're then going to continue to warm up other groups of Euclid's mirrors, checking each time what percentage of photons they get back.

It is absolutely amazing that they can do this to a vehicle that's over 900,000 miles away from Earth, and we here on Earth are still trying to figure out how to de-ice quickly and efficiently on our own driveways.

Honestly, bring on spring!

That's it for T-Minus for March 19th, 2024.

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

Our privilege 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 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 Varmausas.

Thanks so much for listening everybody, we'll see you tomorrow.




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