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India’s push into the reusable landing vehicle market.

ISRO test flies the Pushpak RLV. DIU selects three commercial companies for future missions. SpaceX launches the 30th cargo mission to the ISS. And more.




The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has successfully conducted the Pushpak Reusable Landing Vehicle LEX 02 experiment flight at the Aeronautical Test Range in Chitradurga. The US Department of Defense and the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) are working with three companies to provide logistics services enabling low-cost, responsive access to geostationary and other orbits beyond low Earth orbit. SpaceX’s Falcon 9 launched the Dragon capsule resupply mission heading to the International Space Station (ISS), and more.

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T-Minus Guest

Our guest is Rebecca Boyle, science journalist and author of “Our Moon: How Earth's Celestial Companion Transformed the Planet, Guided Evolution, and Made Us Who We Are”. 

You can connect with Rebecca on LinkedIn and learn more about her book here.

Selected Reading

ISRO successfully conducts second Pushpak RLV landing experiment | India News - The Indian Express

Intuitive Machines improves cash position to best since IPO after historic moon mission

Companies Selected for DIU Orbital Logistics Vehicle Project

NASA Science, Hardware Aboard SpaceX's 30th Resupply Launch to Station

Mars Sample Return Dominates House Hearing on NASA Science – SpacePolicyOnline.com

NASA Sees Progress on Blue Origin’s Orbital Reef Life Support System

Mission X Update #2: Fly, Fix, Fly

Astralintu and D-Orbit Sign MOU to Bring Space Cloud Services and Its Benefits to Latin America

NASA, Health and Human Services Highlight Cancer Moonshot Progress

Space tourists and crew suffer high radiation risks – regulation is needed to protect them

ESA - New missions selected for the fourth edition of the Fly Your Satellite! programme

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[MUSIC] Reuseability in space has long been the desire of many a space agency and commercial companies.

SpaceX cracked the landing and reuse of boosters, which has been since followed by Rocket Lab amongst others.

Now we're seeing a surge towards the use of reusable launch vehicles.

Stand aside Polaris Space Plains, ISRO has rolled out the pushback.

Okay, Alice, happy Friday.

>> What you got for me?

>> Happy Friday, Maria.

>> Do you know I don't have a space joke for you this week because I've been told that space jokes suck.

I think it's something to do with the vacuum.

>> You got me, you got me.

You got me.

>> Good, good one, good one.

[MUSIC] >> Today is March 22nd, 2024.

I'm Rhea Varmausus.

>> I'm Alice Carruth and this is T-minus.

[MUSIC] >> ISRO test flights the push pack reusable launch vehicle.

The IEU selects three commercial companies for future missions.

SpaceX launches the 30th cargo resupply mission to the ISS.

>> And our guest today is Rebecca Boyle, science journalist and author of Our Moon, how Earth's celestial companion transformed the planet, guided evolution, and made us who we are.

She has some fascinating insights to share with us, so stay with us for that chat.

[MUSIC] Let's dive into Friday's briefing, shall we?

The Indian Space Research Organization, better known as ISRO, has successfully launched the push pack reusable landing vehicle Lex02 experiment flight at the aeronautical test range in Chitradurga.

ISRO took to social media to share that ISRO nails it again.

Push pack, the winged vehicle landed autonomously with precision on the runway after being released from an off nominal position.

Push pack, which is the name of a mythical vehicle of Lord Vishnu, was released from a Chinook helicopter from a four and a half kilometer altitude.

The vehicle was made to undertake more difficult maneuvers with dispersions, correct both cross range and down range, and land on the runway in a fully autonomous mode.

It's the second test of the push pack design and part of India's attempts to make space more affordable and sustainable.

The winged body and all flight systems used in the first test known as RLV Lex01 were reused in the Lex02 mission.

ISRO says that this repeated success is a critical step towards future orbital reentry missions for the Indian Space Agency.

Can we just say that we weren't surprised to read the next headline?

Intuitive machines is doing well financially after their commercial lunar land and mission success.

During their investor call, the company revealed that its cash balance at the end of the year was just $4.5 million, partly the result of paying down $12 million in debt off its balance sheet.

However, after their I am one mission, the company saw about $50 million in, quote, "warrent exercises from an institutional investor and raised $10 million through equity."

We're sure that their continued success in the commercial lunar payload services will bring further financial gains later this year once I am two launches.

The US Department of Defense and the Defense Innovation Unit, known as DIU, have announced that they're working with three companies to provide logistic services, enabling low cost responsive access to geostationary and other orbits beyond low Earth orbit.

We mentioned earlier this week that Blue Origin's Blue Ring was selected by DIU for the Dark Sky One mission and additionally Space Logistics, Northrop Grimman's in-space servicing subsidiary, is the second company that was selected.

They will provide a suite of in-space refueling technologies, including the active refueling module and passive refueling module, in concert with complimentary efforts sponsored by Space Systems Command.

And the third company selected is Skycorp.

It's now known as Space Built.

They have been awarded a contract for further validation of their approach to in-space assembly and manufacturing for their multi-orbit logistics vehicle for DoD use cases.

As we published our show yesterday afternoon, the team was all watching the Falcon 9 launch of the Dragon capsule resupply mission that's now heading to the ISS.

SpaceX makes it all look too easy.

The capsule is carrying more than 6,000 pounds of cargo to the orbiting lab and is scheduled to autonomously dock at the space station tomorrow, Saturday, March the 23rd at approximately 7.30 a.m.

Eastern time and remain on the orbital outpost for almost a month.

It seems that the US Congress has finally reached an agreement beyond a continuing resolution on the nation's budget.


But that doesn't mean that the space community can collectively move on from the stalling just yet.

The fate of NASA's Mars sample return mission dominated hearings before a House Science, Space and Technology subcommittee on NASA's Science Program.

While committee members were supportive of the program, concerns with delays of past programs like, oh, I don't know, the James Webb Space Telescope kept the members cautious.

The Mars rover Perseverance has samples ready to be returned to Earth, but questions still remain on how those samples will get back.

Current estimates put the price tag on such a mission at at least a cool $5.3 billion.

It's unclear if the new budget will allow progress for the Mars sample return program as NASA has been forced to make layoffs at the Jet Propulsion Lab while the annual budget was under dispute.


Blue Origin's orbital reef recently completed testing milestones for its critical life support system as part of NASA's efforts for a new destination in low Earth orbit.

The four milestones are part of the NASA Space Act Agreement originally awarded to Blue Origin in 2021 and focused on the materials and designs for systems to clean, reclaim and store the air and water critical for human spaceflight.

True Anomaly has provided an update on its two JACL satellites that launched on a SpaceX rideshare mission earlier this month.

The company says that although telemetry suggested that JACL 1 was in a nominal state, they have been unable to verify if either JACL is currently functional.

The engineering team has narrowed down the potential root causes of the mission challenges and is finalizing Flight Test 1 data analysis to confirm their findings.

We hope that for a campaign called Fly Fix Fly that they are able to resolve the issues and complete this first test flight.

I hate to say it but space is hard, right?

Ecuador's AsterLyn2 space technologies has signed a memorandum of understanding with Italy's deorbit to bring the benefits of space technology to Latin America through an initiative called Empowering LATAM through Space Cloud Technologies.

According to the press release, the partnership will leverage deorbit's fleet and AsterLyn2's equatorial ground station network, providing cutting-edge space cloud services to address environmental and societal challenges in the region.

The initiative aims to empower local communities and governments to harness space technologies to improve the quality of life.

That concludes our Friday briefing everybody but stay with us for my chat with author Rebecca Boyle about our moon.

You'll find links to further reading on all the headlines we've mentioned in our show notes along with a few extra for you.

We've included an update on NASA's Cancer Moonshot Campaign and a story about high radiation exposure risks to space tourists.

Those links can be found on our website at space.ntuk.com and just click on this episode title.

Hey T-minus crew, tune in tomorrow for T-minus Deep Space.

Our show for extended interviews, special editions and deep dives with some of the most influential professionals in the space industry.

Tomorrow we have Maria's full chat with Rebecca Boyle, talking about our moon.

Check it out while you're running the kids to their social engagements or weekend, catching up on the never-ending house maintenance or just simply trying to decompress from the week.

We all know that you sat show participants particularly need that.

It's a really interesting chat so join us tomorrow.

[Music] As we mentioned before the break, tomorrow we're going to have my full chat with Rebecca Boyle, science journalist and author of the book Our Moon, how Earth's celestial companion transformed the planet, guided evolution and made us who we are.

And today, here's a snippet of that fascinating conversation.

I started by asking Rebecca what we know about the origins of our moon.

[Music] So the origin of the moon is surprisingly still not totally understood.

So we have a few good theories, mostly developed after Apollo, that sometime when Earth was pretty new, something the size of Mars now smashed into early Earth and both planets were totally destroyed.

And somehow after this happened, we recolest into the moon and the Earth system that we have today.

And that's kind of been the broad outlines of the story that we've told since Apollo.

So about 50 years now, but it's not quite that simple.

And some of the ideas are because Apollo rocks initially made us think that the moon was the remains of this impactor.

It was like the leftover piece.

And then more recently, people have reexamined moon rocks with better technology and updated instruments and come to believe that the moon is totally indistinguishable from Earth on a chemical basis.

And so that says that they must have formed from the same material at the same time, which would be very strange.

Like that would take very special circumstances for that to happen.

So now we think that this collision was probably so extreme and so violent and so unique in the known universe that both planets were totally mixed and all their contents were sort of remade.

And the moon and the Earth were born from the same material after they both were destroyed.

And so it's a little more complex than we thought, I think.

So I'm just two giant debris clouds just coalescing and just happen to...

I mean, wow.


So yeah, the most recent theories are that it sort of formed one massive debris cloud.

And somehow in this cloud, Earth and the moon sort of reformed.

But we're so completely mixed that they're indistinguishable from each other anymore.

And so the moon really is a part of Earth.


On its own, if we weren't having this conversation, just that phrase is very profound.

Aside from the cool factor and because we're curious human beings, why do we want to study this?

Like what do we learn by learning more about the moon, aside from like it's there, we want to know more about it.

The moon sort of serves as a time capsule for early Earth because Earth recycles itself.

It consumes its crust and remakes itself anew in these long-term geologic and tectonic cycles.

But the moon does not.

And so we can look to the moon to find out what might have happened on early Earth when it was being hit by asteroids after it formed, what the sun might have been like and the sun was younger and how active it was or wasn't and what sort of cosmic rays were hitting this inner solar system at the time and solar rays.

So we would learn a lot about the conditions on Earth long ago that we can't study directly on Earth because Earth has erased that past.

And so that's a good reason to go back just to like learn the early history of the solar system.

But then I think it's also just a more fundamental question, like looking at the moon and how it was made and how it came to be around this planet, how this planet came to be, what the moon still does to Earth, how they affect each other, how they interact with each other today.

All of these questions we can get better answers to by being on the moon and going back to get new samples.

That's amazing.

You mentioned the moon's possible influence on life on Earth.

Can you tell me more about that?

That's fascinating.


So this was surprising to me when I wrote this book.

I mean, I kind of knew intuitively, I think most people have a sense that the moon plays a role in the tide.

I mean, that's kind of the way that we think about the moon.

Influencing Earth is through the tide.

And the tide itself is so much more complicated than I ever imagined.

Like basically it's all lies, what you have been told.

It's not just like, oh, you have to move your beach towel because now the tide's coming in.

You know, like that's what I thought it was like.

It was like, oh, the water goes up, the water goes down.

You know, and it's so much more profound than that.

It's so much more fundamental than that.

I mean, the entire planet is sloshing around every day, twice a day, and bulging and stretching and you know, contorting almost in response to the moon's tug and vice versa.

And just once I kind of realized that it was like, well, what was it doing earlier on?

You know, when it was closer and when it was a stronger gravitational pull, when it was nearby after it formed.

And a few scientists also asked this question in the last few years.

And I found this really interesting line of research that suggests that when the moon was first formed, it was much closer.

And so the day was a lot shorter, Earth was spinning a lot faster.

There are all these different effects on the tide and on just Earth systems because of the moon's proximity.

And it would have created really powerful tides, especially in the early history of Earth.

And if we think life originated in the oceans, which most people think it did, either in the warm little pools, which is what Darwin called them, tidal pools at the water's edge, or more commonly of late, people have seemed to think that it was more like in the mid ocean ridges in the bottom of the ocean where the Earth's mantle is leaking into the ocean.

And there's this interesting exchange of minerals and water and heat that may have been where life first sparked into being.

But either way, the moon played a huge role in the movement and transport of these life forms early on.

Either it was bringing in water and then making the water recede.

So you'd have this cycle of hydration and dehydration at tidal pools, which can create more complex amino acid chains, which can lead to the building of proteins, which are the building blocks of life.

Or even if it wasn't there, it was in the bottom of the ocean.

The moon is what would have dredged these things up from the sea floor and maybe expose them to the sun for the first time where they could learn to photosynthesize.

And I don't think the moon's role in that has ever really been fully understood, or I mean, definitely not appreciated in my view.

And yeah, I think it really is important to consider when we think about looking for life on other planets or even other moons of the solar system, that this gravitational influence of our moon really plays a huge role in just the fundamental processes of life from the very beginning.

You blew my mind a little bit.

I was thinking about the admittedly cartoony model that many of us have from science classes of the static water at the shore, right?

And you see the creature coming out of the water, and maybe it's more something was yanked out of the water.

You said dredged up.

Well, yeah.

So this is much later after life has evolved and become more complex in the oceans.

Again, like looking at where the moon was at 350-ish million years ago, this isn't the Devonian period.

I found this line of research because I found a really cool study looking at coral growth rings, which are like tree rings, and you can learn a lot about the oceans and the environment in the oceans by looking at these coral growth rings.

And we found out that back then, 400 million years ago, the Earth spun every 20 hours.

So a day was 20 hours long because the moon was closer.

And so another physicist also looked at this problem and figured out that 350 million years ago, so a little after the salurian corals, the moon was still really close, Earth spun a lot faster.

The tide was really powerful.

And it turns out that at this time, this is when tetrapods are first emerging onto land.

And the theory is that the moon is what put them there.

Because there was this really high tide cycle at the time.

At this time, Pangea is starting to form.

So this is the famous super continent that gives rise to the dinosaurs and kind of, you know, the most iconic landmass in Earth history.

And it's beginning to close up at the time.

So oceans are closing and ocean basins are getting shallow and long and narrow.

And so the tides are really extreme.

And in these land masses where this is happening, we find the first fossil evidence of tetrapods, of trackways even, of vertebrates coming onto land.

And the theory is that the moon sort of stranded them.

I mean, if you're a fish and you're in shallow water and the tide is rushing out, like feet per minute, like it's 80 feet between high and low tide, you know, every four or five hours.

And so you better either get out of there or learn how to breathe the air and move yourself across the sand instead of through the water.

And that's what happened.

And I think, again, like the moon's role in this has not really been understood until really recently.

I mean, the paper that sort of shows this connection that's in the book was published in 2020.

So this is like really contemporary research, yeah, which I think is crazy because it's so intuitive.

But, you know, it hasn't really been shown in the paleontological record until really recently.

You really want to hear the rest of this chat.

It is so fascinating.

And you can hear it in tomorrow's show.

T minus deep space.

Don't miss it.

[Music] We'll be right back.

Welcome back.

We do so love a student competition on T minus.

Alice will likely be covering the Spaceport America Cup Rocket Event in June.

So when this story dropped into our inbox, we knew we had to share it.

The European Space Agency has a Fly Your Satellite program, which allows university students from across the continent and Canada to design, build, and launch a satellite.

Competition for Spaces on the program was, as you can, I'm sure, imagine, fierce.

And recently, ESA invited candidate student teams from ESA Member States and Canada to attend a selection workshop.

That workshop was held at ESA Estec in the Netherlands in February and eight teams participated.

Unfortunately, only four were chosen as finalists.

So congratulations to the winning designs.

Alia sat from the University of British Columbia, Canada.

Da Vinci Satellite by Delft University of Technology, Netherlands.

Po-Kat Lekdon from Universitat Polytechnica de Catalunya, Spain.

And Red Pill from Italy's University of Parva.

The ESA Education Office will be offering the selected teams training weeks in collaboration with the ESA Academy training program in Belgium.

Best of luck to the students as they begin this incredible adventure.

We look forward to the satellites launching.

Now that's it for Team Miners for Friday, March 22nd, 2024.

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

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Learn more at N2K.com.

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 John Iben.

Our VP is Brandon Karp.

And I'm Maria Varmasas.

Thanks for listening everyone.

Have a great weekend.

Team Miners.

[ English translation by ThatisGamberán ]

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