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In this ever changin’ world, you’ve got to live and let fly.

Rocket Lab launches the NROL-123 satellite. Varda shares results from its drug manufacturing mission. Soyuz MS25 aborted 20 seconds before flight. And more.




Rocket Lab launches the NROL-123 satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office, from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport within NASA Wallops in Virginia. Varda Space has released results from its first orbital drug manufacturing mission called Winnebago-1. Roscosmos aborts the Soyuz MS25 mission 20 seconds ahead of liftoff, and more.

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T-Minus Guest

Our guest today is Geoffrey Mattson, CEO of Xage Security.

You can connect with Geoff on LinkedIn and learn more about Xage Security on their website and read about the JCDC 2024 Priorities here.

Selected Reading

Rocket Lab Successfully Launches Fifth National Security Mission for NRO

Live coverage: Dragon flights return to Cape Canaveral’s pad 40 with SpaceX’s 30th cargo mission to the Space Station – Spaceflight Now

Return of the Ritonavir: A Study on the Stability of Pharmaceuticals Processed in Orbit | Biological and Medicinal Chemistry | ChemRxiv | Cambridge Open Engage

Advanced Space Demonstrates Artificial Intelligence for Spacecraft Autonomy at the Moon

NanoAvionics selects Neuraspace for Enhanced Safety and Sustainability in Space Operations

Sidus Space Establishes Two-Way Communications with State-of-the-Art Hybrid 3D-Printed LS-1 Satellite- Business Wire

TTTech Aerospace and Réaltra collaborate on compact TTEthernet switch solution for space applications

ReOrbit Signs MoU with SatSure and KaleidEO to Offer Comprehensive Space Infrastructure Solution

China launches relay satellite Queqiao-2 for Earth-moon communication - CGTN

Soyuz MS-25 set to launch to the International Space Station with crew from Russia, Belarus, and NASA - NASASpaceFlight.com

Four Veteran Space Industry Leaders Join Astrobotic as the Company Builds Griffin-1

Russia warns US against using SpaceX for spying

Space Force hosts annual Guardian Field Forum- United States Space Force 

High School Students Contribute to Exoplanet Discovery

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[MUSIC] Now you did, you know you did.

But if this ever changing world in which we live in, makes you get an air fry.

Say, "Limit, let's fly."

[MUSIC] Say, "Limit, let's fly."

[MUSIC] T-minus, 20 seconds to alloy.

Open aboard.

[MUSIC] Today is March 21st, 2024.

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

[MUSIC] Rocket Lab launches the NRL-123 satellite.

Varda shares results from its drug manufacturing mission.

The Soyuz M25 launch aborted 20 seconds before flight.

And our guest today is Jeffrey Mattson, CEO of Zage Security.

We'll be discussing CISA's 2024 joint cyber defense collaborative priorities and how they relate to the space industry.

Space and cyber, you know you need to pay attention.

So stick with us for that chat.

[MUSIC] It's the Thursday Intel Briefing everybody.

Let's roll.

Chuck Up!

Another outstanding mission launched with a fantastic name for Rocket Lab.

That mission for the National Reconnaissance Office, NRL-123, is called Live and Let Fly.

Ooh, another episode where I'm going to have a song stuck in my head all day now.

The National Security Mission Live and Let Fly launched aboard a Rocket Lab electron rocket from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Space Port within NASA Wallops in Virginia.

This mission is part of an NRO RAZR, or Rapid Acquisition of a Small Rocket Contract, which enables the NRO to launch small satellites quickly via the commercial sector.

A quick recount of the numbers for this mission.

It was the 46th launch of the electron overall.

It was the fourth launch of the year for Rocket Lab in all.

And it also happens to have been the fourth time Rocket Lab has launched from pad 0C, which is Rocket Lab's own dedicated pad on Wallops.

Fellow US East Coasters, if you are awake in the weasest of the morning hours at 3.25am this morning, you might have seen the NRL-123 mission launched from Wallops.

I'm a night owl, admittedly, but even at those hours I have to admit I was fast asleep.

Well, next time.

And at the time of this recording, we are counting down to the 30th SpaceX cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station, which is expected to lift off around the time that we published at 4.55pm from Florida.

It'll be the first time a Dragon 2 spacecraft will launch to the ISS from pad 4D at Cape Canaveral.

The capsule will be carrying over 6,000 pounds of cargo and science to the ISS, which will dock autonomously to the zenith port of the orbiting lab's Harmony Module on Saturday morning if all stays on schedule.

VARDA space has released results from its first orbital drug manufacturing mission called Winnebago One.

The California-based company is the first to independently launch process materials in space and bring them back to Earth.

VARDA ran a crystallization demonstration using the small molecule Retonavir because of its challenging crystallization landscape.

Retonavir, by the way, is a drug commonly used to treat HIV.

The process was designed to stress-test the company's hardware, process capability, and ability to return materials from space.

VARDA says their spacecraft and crystallization hardware performed flawlessly, demonstrating outstanding performance throughout in-orbit operations, reentry, and recovery operations.

As a result, they successfully crystallized the least stable, metastable Form 3 in orbit (I don't know what that means, but hopefully you do) and then they brought it back to Earth, which is no small feat, and even though I don't know quite what a least stable, metastable Form 3 means, I'm nonetheless super impressed.

This demonstrated both process control and physical stability for both the Retonavir that was crystallized in space and all Retonavir control samples.

VARDA says that this is the first step in commercializing microgravity drug development.

That is honestly really incredible.

Advanced Space says it has performed the successful use of machine learning in CIS-LUNAR space.

The CIS-LUNAR Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment, better known as Capstone spacecraft, has been testing new software that is laying the groundwork for what advanced space is calling substantial and transformative advancements in autonomous navigation in orbit.

Capstone mission continues and Advanced Space expects further demonstration experiments.

European Space Traffic Management, or STM company Neurospace, has been selected by Kongsberg NanoAvionics to provide an STM solution based on artificial intelligence for its own end-to-end small satellite mission services.

NanoAvionics will make Neurospace's STM system for collision analysis, maneuver planning, and improving space sustainability.

CIDAS Space has established two-way communications with its 3D-printed satellite, LizzieSat, which is now in low-Earth orbit.

The satellite is focused on Earth observation and remote sensing solutions powered by geospatial artificial intelligence.

There's a theme going on today's episode.

CIDAS Space has two additional LizzieSats manifested for launch before the end of the year.

Ireland-based Realtra Space Systems Engineering and Austria's TT-Tech Aerospace are jointly developing a modular TT Ethernet switch for the space transportation market and low-Earth orbital infrastructure.

The partnership development is part of the European Space Agency's Future Launcher's Preparatory Program, or FLIP, which provides opportunities for new business, collaborations, and product development within the European space industry.

And, speaking of international partnerships, Helsinki-based Reorbit has signed a memorandum of understanding with Bengaluru-based Earth Observation Company, SATSUR, along with its subsidiary, CollideEO.

The companies say that the partnership will pave the way for the future of EO constellations to network and communicate with each other, enhancing mission efficiency through integrated functionalities.

China has launched a communications satellite that will act as a bridge between ground operations on Earth and an upcoming mission on the far side of the Moon.

The Chui-Chao-2 relay satellite lifted off atop a Long March 8 Y-3 carrier rocket.

According to Chinese media, the spacecraft entered the planned orbit for Earth-Moon transfer as planned, and the solar panels and communication antennae were unfolded afterward, marking a successful launch mission.

Chui-Chao-2 will orbit the Moon and relay signals to and from the Chang'e-6 mission, expected to be launched this May.

And the latest launch of astronauts heading to the International Space Station was aborted a mere 20 seconds ahead of liftoff earlier today.

The aborted launch of the Russian Soyuz spacecraft from Kazakhstan was reported by Roscosmos as due to a slump in the current of a chemical power source.

It wasn't immediately clear what exactly the current fluctuation affected.

The crew, consisting of a Russian, a Belarusian, and an American, were safely evacuated.

It was later announced that the launch will happen as soon as tomorrow, March 22nd.

That's it for our Intel briefing for today.

Just head to the selected reading section of our show notes for links to further information on all the stories that we've mentioned.

And we've included a few extra stories for you.

One is on new veteran space team members joining Astrobotic.

Another is on Russia warning the United States against using SpaceX for spying.

And a third is on the Space Force's annual Guardian Field Forum.

Hey T-Minus Crew, if your business is looking to grow your voice in the industry, expand the reach of your thought leadership, or to 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.

Our guest today is Jeffrey Mattson, CEO of Zage Security.

Now the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, or CISA, recently released the 2024 Joint Cyber Defense Collaborative, or JCDC, Priorities.

And I spoke to Jeff about what the priorities are and asked if the space community is paying enough attention to cybersecurity in general.

I think the awareness on the commercial side of the importance of cybersecurity in space is growing.

But I think it's something that we need to reemphasize with that community.

So the importance of both military and commercial satellite technology from a strategic perspective is that, you know, one of our stated strategies with Space Force, which is, as you know, interested with protecting the satellite system in the US and for our partners, is to be able to leverage the commercial satellite system, in particular the proliferation of low orbit satellites to create a much larger potential attack surface, or, you know, our near peer competitors, who would like to impact our ability to operate our satellite system.

So rather than having a few very high orbit military satellites provide all of our community control, for instance, we'd like to be able to leverage the proliferation of commercial satellites, low orbit, to be able to provide redundant functions for command and control.

And it's much harder to take out 4,000 commercial satellites that are buzzing all over the stratosphere than it is to take out four or five high orbit military ones.

So it's very important that our commercial partners understand the strategic importance of cyber security in their systems, because by extension our near peer competitors will use cyber attacks against them, as well as the military satellites, in order to go after the soft underbelly of our strategic operations, which is, you know, we've grown extremely dependent as a military force on satellites and satellite communication.

We've had superiority there for a long time, and we've had very low vulnerability for a long time, but that's changed with the potential for kinetic attacks.

But also we've seen, you know, in the real world, fiber attacks, such as Viacet 2022 was used in the actual combat situation to prevent command and control in real time.

And we'll see more of those types of attacks in the future.

So we are, you know, very eager to work with Space Force and with the extended satellite community to be able to harden our satellite systems and prevent a cyber attack.

The good news is that the technologies that are available to protect these systems, they really have matured recently, and, you know, it is possible to deploy them very quickly and at a relatively low cost, and they are very, very resilient to cyber attacks.

Secure by Design is a principle that is said a lot in cyber security.

It makes a lot of sense.

When we talk about space assets, though, especially when we have assets that are quite old in some cases, my mind just kind of goes, how is that going to work?

Excellent question, Ray, because Secure by Design is becoming the major focus in cyber security, as you're probably aware.

And what we've seen is we have security devices and security appliances that are being targeted and exploited by malicious actors as a way to hack into enterprises and into the military.

So for instance, right now, well, last year you saw Citrix bleed and it was an attack on a BDI solution from Citrix.

But even recently, CISA has put out a directive to its very alarming with regard to Avante VPN servers, which are very, very popular VPN server in Fortune 500 companies.

It says that basically certain vulnerabilities within them have caused them to be susceptible to attacks that are undetectable and very persistent.

And so their customers are strongly advised to consider whether they want to go forward with them future.

And the reason for this is, you know, looking at the code base in some of these appliances, like not to pile on Avante, but they're a pretty good example is some of the code.

If you look at the XAPQ tools running, they're over 20 years old.


So they've accumulated, in many cases, these appliances have millions, millions of lines of software and a lot of it has been accumulated over time.

And it's really just impossible to do that type of development without creating vulnerabilities in the process.

So a lot of these devices are really are insecure by design.

And in the past, there wasn't as much of a problem because hackers were going after things like going after your vulnerabilities and your PC, right, or in your web browser.

And we've put up pretty good defenses against those.

And so now they're, they found that these security devices and access devices are soft targets and really easy to exploit.

So they're going after them.

So anything we deploy in space to defend space has to have a very long life has to be extremely secure and has to be built with secure software design principles in the design process and then hardening through vulnerability testing.

And then it has to have sort of architecturally have built in security.

So for instance, a lot of these security devices like ours, they aren't trusted to store the keys of certain applications or certain assets they're talking to.

And some of these systems have centralized key stores, which is huge, huge problem because if you're able to compromise one system, you have access, you have the keys to the kingdom essentially.

So for instance, what we do is we have a way of polynomial based algorithm that allows us to shard the keys over a certain number of distributed systems so that you would have to, you know, compromise every one of them.

And that way we consider ourselves to be even quantum proof in terms of decryption.

So a lot goes into creating a second modern stack, but then you talk about the assets that we're protecting.

And the fact that they can't really be patched and the fact that they were developed over a longer period of time and some of them are, are legacy.

You know, in bear in mind that we are protecting the satellites you're protecting really three things.

One is the network itself that the satellite is a part of.

So that's the terrestrial network, the modems and bias at the modems were attacked and the satellite links.

And then we're also protecting the assets, the satellite assets, any type of industrial or military equipment that's part of that network.

And then finally, we're also protecting the data streams.

So the data that's streaming off of the satellite is extremely valuable and extremely sensitive.

We have to make sure that it's available to our partners.

We have to make sure it's not tampered with.

We have to make sure that it is not available to parties that we don't want it to be available to.

I'm going to do this in real time, essentially.

So it's kind of a tall order.

However, the way our system works in a way a modern zero trust overlay works is the principle of zero trust is an evolution and, and the concept of protection and cybersecurity.

Protection used to be things like firewalls and certain types of VPNs or jump posts.

Protection used to be let's sort of put some roadblocks in the way that would keep attackers out.

The principle of zero trust is saying, look, we're mature enough now that what we should do is if you need to access something, we'll make sure you are exactly who you say you are.

We'll give you access to only that thing.

Well, only for the period of time you're supposed to have it.

And if it's something very sensitive, we'll also limit what you can do and we'll record what you can do.

And so that's the principle of zero trust.

Now the way we can bring that to these legacy assets is ZH has a fabric overlay.

So basically it's like a virtual network that we can put right in front of any of these assets, completely surrounding and protecting them.

And it sort of acts as a proxy in front of those assets that can provide that type of modern security access.

It can control what's going into the asset.

It can control what's going out of the asset.

The controlling what goes in will make sure that nobody can take over the asset or tamper with the data on the asset.

And so that controlling what goes out means that if the asset goes rogue for any reason or is compromised, that compromise will be contained and will spread will be limited.


So, so we're able to by using this modern software approach, we can plop ourselves in front of anything and provide that type of zero trust architecture.

And when I say plopping in front of an overlay, that's also very important for this strategy of leveraging commercial satellites.

You know, we're going to have to work with a proliferation of partners, and we have to have a solution that is very easy to deploy and can be managed across the satellite system from a single control center without burdening operationally burdening the satellite partners.

So this basic simplicity of this solution is one of the reasons I think that base force was so attracted to a given that we have to extend it into the commercial satellite room as well.

A topic that gets discussed in the space world sometimes is possible designation by the US federal government of space as critical infrastructure.

People kind of aren't sure in the space world sometimes about whether or not that would actually be helpful or hindrance if space was called that.

So, I think that's a really interesting point, Riya.

I think space is probably the most critical infrastructure if they consider its strategic importance that, you know, as I said, we have our military has become dependent on having superiority in space for command and control.

It is an enormous advantage for us.

And even if we strategically decided to move away from that, that would be a long evolution, a long transition.

So it is extremely critical, I would say.

Also, you know, even regardless of the military applications, if someone for some malicious purpose were to take out GPS system, for instance, that would impact world economy in a very serious way.

So, you know, I think as I reiterate that I think it's the most critical of system.


I think that enough said on that one.

So it's not often I get to talk to somebody on the cyber side about the sort of the space cyber landscape and you have a great perspective on it.

I would just love to know your take on sort of the current landscape for space cyber, your impressions of it, like how it's evolving, how it's changed, what you hope to see more of that kind of thing.

You have seen a lot of news recently about both potential cyber attacks and potential kinetic attacks on our satellite infrastructure.

And I think that the public is becoming much more aware of the importance of our space infrastructure from a critical infrastructure point of view.

And I think they're aware, they're going to be more aware of the potential for cyber attacks on it.

And these cyber attacks are likely to come from the best hackers in the world, you know, nation state level, near peer competitors to the U.S.

And they're likely to happen with the most malicious intent.

So I'm very pleased to see that there's a broadening awareness of this pretty important issue.

And I think I'm very impressed actually with the speed with which the federal government has been moving to create partnerships in this area, commercial military partnerships that we're a part of, and to be able to address this vulnerability very quickly.

We'll be right back.

Welcome back.

Whomst amongst us who have peered into our telescopes at a young age hasn't dreamed of discovering something brand new.

Well, imagine being a high school student and being part of a project which discovered an exoplanet.

Oh, yes, that is quite a feat.

Students from the Galaxy Explorer program at the Shabbat Space and Science Center in Oakland, California made contributions to the field of exoplanet research.

Researchers from the SETI Institute worked with the students to use backpack sized digital smart telescopes.

The young citizen scientists played a role in observing and confirming the nature of a warm and dense sub-saturn planet orbiting a metal rich G2 star.

And that exoplanet is known as TIC 139 27066B.

Why can't they name it something easy like Bob?

The Galaxy Explorer program that these students are part of aims to democratize science and foster educational enrichment.

I think it's safe to say that these kids achieved that for sure.

Now, the high school students had a challenging but meaningful task to capture the second transit of an exoplanet with a poorly understood orbital period.

SETI researchers say that the students were engaged, inspired, and were easily able to set up and control the telescopes with very little training.

SETI says the discovery of TIC 139, you know, I'm just going to call it B.


Bob SETI says the discovery of Bob, the densest known warm sub-saturn within the TESS, which stands for the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite Family, marks a milestone in exploring exoplanets.

The initial clues of TIC, you know, again, I'm going to call it Bob.

The initial clues of Bob's existence was initially discovered by a citizen science group inspecting TESS photometric data, highlighting the important role of public engagement in advancing scientific knowledge.

This is a call out there to all you want to be Clyde Tombaugh's.

That is the man who discovered Pluto before he had formal training in astronomy.

In case you didn't know the reference, it could be you next.

[Music] That's it for T-minus for March 21st, 2024.

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

We're privileged that NTK 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 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 Karpf.

And I'm Maria Varmazes.

Thanks so much for listening.

We'll see you tomorrow.

[Music] T-minus.


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