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DoD’s new plan for commercial space integration.

DoD releases its new space strategy. Dawn to supply propulsion to Cislunar Technologies. AFRL to work with Astrobotic on liquid engine development. And more.




The US Department of Defense has released a new Commercial Space Integration Strategy. The US White House has instructed NASA to establish a unified standard of time for the moon and other celestial bodies. Dawn Aerospace to supply green propulsion technology to Japanese company, Cislunar Technologies, and more.

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T-Minus Guest

Our guest today is Nick Shave, Managing Director of Astroscale UK.

You can connect with Nick on LinkedIn and learn more about Astroscale on their website.

Selected Reading

2024 DOD Commercial Space Integration Strategy

Exclusive: White House directs NASA to create time standard for the moon- Reuters

Dawn announces lunar mission customer, Cislunar Technologies  

Astrobotic and U.S Air Force Announce Rocket Research and Development Collaboration

Boeing's 1st Starliner astronaut launch delayed again, to May 6- Space

China successfully launches new remote sensing satellite - CGTN

Chinese space junk falls to Earth over Southern California, creating spectacular fireball (photos, video)

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Earns Neil Armstrong Space Flight Achievement Award

Dr Alan Stern joins ispace US in Advisor role

The menace the U.S. confronts from space- The Hill

The race to fix space-weather forecasting before next big solar storm hits- MIT Technology Review

JAXA and Toyota's 'Lunar Cruiser' moon rover is now a Transformers toy

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No business can hope to succeed without a clear plan, and the same principle should be applied to state agencies.

It's why a strategy on how the military works with commercial space companies is vital.

It's a pathway on how to integrate commercial products and services to support national security.

And the United States has just set out its vision for exactly that.

T-minus, 20 seconds to LOS, we're open aboard.

Today is April 3rd, 2024.

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

DoD releases its new space strategy, dawn aerospace to supply propulsion tech to CIS lunar technologies, AFRL to work with Astrobotic on liquid rocket engine development, and our guest today is Nick Shave, managing director of AstroScale UK.

We will be discussing the pressing need to address space debris, so stay with us for that chat.

[Music] Let's dive into our briefing today.

The United States Department of Defense has released a new commercial space integration strategy.

The strategy, which the Department of Defense says is in line with the national security strategy, and the 2022 national defense strategy seeks to align department efforts and drive more effective integration of commercial space solutions into national security space architectures.

The US military says that it recognizes that the commercial space sector is developing capabilities and services that have the potential to support national security.

The new strategy is based on the premise that the commercial space sector's innovative capabilities, scalable production and rapid technology rates, provide pathways to enhance the resilience of DoD space capabilities and strengthen deterrence.

John F.

Plum, assistant secretary of defense for space policy, said in a press release that the commercial space sector is driving innovation, but the impact on national security will be measured by how well the department can integrate commercial capabilities into the way we operate, both in peacetime and in conflict.

The commercial space integration strategy highlights four priorities to achieve integration, and here they are.

First, to ensure commercial solutions are available when needed, the department will use contracts and other agreements to outline requirements.

Second, DoD will achieve integration of commercial solutions during peacetime, including in planning, training and day-to-day operations, to allow the department to seamlessly use commercial space solutions during crisis and conflict.

Third, DoD will protect and defend against threats to US national security space interests, including those in space and on the ground, and where appropriate, commercial space solutions.

DoD will promote the security of commercial solutions through three lines of effort, norms and standards, threat information sharing, and financial protection mechanisms.

And lastly, the strategy emphasizes that the department will use its full range of available financial, contractual and policy tools to support the development of new commercial space solutions.

There's a lot in that, and we look forward to seeing how this strategy gets implemented.

Moving on to other items now, this is an interesting one.

The United States wants to create a standard time for the moon.

The White House has instructed NASA to establish a unified standard of time for the moon and other celestial bodies.

The head of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy instructed the space agency to work with other parts of the US government to devise a plan by the end of 2026 for setting what it is calling a coordinated lunar time or LTC, according to Reuters.

The LTC would provide a timekeeping benchmark for lunar spacecraft and satellites that require time precision for their missions.

Deployment of atomic clocks on the lunar surface is also under consideration.

Don Aerospace has announced a lunar mission contract supplying green propulsion technology to Japanese company CIS Lunar Technologies.

Now, CIS Lunar Technologies is developing the bus system for the Tsukimi, which is a Lunar Terahertz Surveyor for kilometer scale mapping project, which is led by an industry government academia consortium.

Don Aerospace will supply to CIS Lunar its system that uses non-toxic propellants, nitrous oxide, and propylene, which they say are safer, cheaper, and simpler than traditional hydrazine systems.

Don also recently announced their first deep space mission with asteroid mining company Astrophorge.

Astrophotic and the US Air Force Research Laboratory Rocket Propulsion Division at Edwards Air Force Base have entered into a cooperative research and development agreement, also known as a CRATA.

The partnership aims to enhance both organizations' capabilities and collaborate in the development of an advanced liquid rocket engine, rotating detonation rocket engine technologies, and on-base rocket flight testing capabilities using Astrophotic reusable rockets.

Astrophotic will design, develop, test, and demonstrate emerging commercial capabilities with critical applications to air and space military operations, including tactically responsive space access, hypersonic propulsion and testing, and tactical point-to-point rocket transport of cargo.

Under the CRATA, AFRL, and Astrophotic plan to use Astrophotic's Zodiac and Zogdor class vertical takeoff vertical landing rockets to flight test new liquid rocket engines, integrated systems, payloads, and concepts of operation to mature these types of capabilities.

Boeing's first crewed Starliner launch has been delayed a further five days.

NASA and Boeing had been aiming to launch on May 1, but they're now looking at May 6 at the earliest.

NASA shared this detail also.

The data adjustment optimizes space station schedule of activities planned towards the end of April, including a cargo spacecraft undocking and a crew spacecraft port relocation required for Starliner docking.

China launched a long March 2D two-stage liquid propellant rocket from Sichuan province earlier today.

The spacecraft was carrying the YALGON 4201 satellite.

YALGON 4201 is the latest addition to China's growing fleet of remote sensing satellites used for Earth observation, using reflected and emitted radiation to detect and monitor physical characteristics of objects on land and at sea.

Both the YALGON 4201 satellite and the Long March 2D rocket were designed and manufactured by the Shanghai Academy of Space Flight Technology, which is a subsidiary of CASC.

And on yesterday's show, we led with the news of space debris landing on a home in Florida, and that debris is thought to be from the International Space Station, although NASA is still working to confirm that.

And now we're hearing reports of space junk lighting up the sky over Southern California, flaming streaks of what appears to be the orbital module from China's Shenzhou-15 astronaut mission, which launched in November 2022, or seen from Sacramento to San Diego.

Apparently, the 23-ton core stage of China's Long March 5B rocket, whose launches helped build Tiangong, routinely fall to Earth in an uncontrolled fashion, and there have been no reports of damage on Earth so far.

And happy note to close out with today, the team behind the OSIRIS-REx mission have been recognized with the Neil Armstrong Flight Achievement Award.

The origins, spectral interpretation, resource identification and security, Regolith Explorer team, that would be OSIRIS-REx, y'all, received the award for exceptional performance and extraordinary perseverance in successfully delivering a sample from asteroid Bennu to Earth.

The award is given annually and recognizes the extraordinary contributions made by individuals or teams in the advancement of space exploration.

Bravo to all involved, we could not agree more with this great choice for an award.

And that concludes our briefing for today.

Head to the selected reading section of our show notes to find further reading on all the stories that we've mentioned.

Today we've included an announcement from iSpaceUS, an opinion piece from the Hill on Space Threats, and an MIT Tech review looking at the need for better space weather forecasting.

Hey T-minus crew, if you find this podcast useful, please do us a favor and share a five-star rating and a short review in your favorite podcast app.

It'll help other space professionals like you to find the show and join the T-minus crew.

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We do really appreciate it.

Our guest today is Nick Shave, managing director of Astroscale UK.

Nick started by telling me about the company's origins.

Astroscale was established just over 10 years ago now in Tokyo and Japan.

And our founder, Nobuo Akada, set up the company to address the in-orbit servicing opportunity that's coming.

And one of the first things we were looking at was space debris removal and reduction.

So we've established now a number of entities around the world.

So we have an entity in the US, one here in the UK, one opened in France last year.

We have also a subsidiary in Israel and we have the Tokyo headquarters.

So we're quite a global company and our focus is to make space sustainable for future generations.

That's really our mission.

And we're building technology to enable debris reduction, in-orbit servicing like refuelling spacecraft.

And also we're looking to the future to see where else we can help with assembly and manufacturing space too.

It sounds quite futuristic, but it is coming.

Yeah, I find the whole area of space sustainability just fascinating.

And the different approaches many organizations have to this incredibly challenging problem are just fascinating.

Can you tell me a bit about what Astroscale is doing, like its approach for space debris removal?

Sure, we have four main business lines in Astroscale and one of them is active debris removal, ADR.

And we are building technologies, spacecraft and systems and operations capability to go into space with quite agile spacecraft because they have to approach debris objects in orbit that might be uncooperative.

And what that means is we can't command the object that we can't control it in any way and it's not providing any data on its location or its orientation.

So we therefore have to use sensors on board our spacecraft, augmented with sensors, sensor information from the ground to work out the orientation, if it's tumbling in a particular way, and then get close from close to spacecraft gradually.

Now, what's paramount in this is not creating more debris.

So we have to do this in a very safe and robust way and reliable way and that's key to what we do.

So we've built technology which we call rendezvous proximity operations, RPO.

And that is fundamental to everything we do.

And it will also be fundamental to many things in the future, like in space assembly or refuelling spacecraft.

We've now got that capability and we're proving that in space.

We have a mission that launched a few weeks ago actually, address J.

It built in Japan.

The UK team is closely working with our Japanese colleagues on that and providing the ground segment and some of the operations capability.

And that's going really well.

So that's on route to approach a three ton rocket body that is a piece of debris in orbit that was launched by JAXA about 10 years ago.

So that's a real good demonstration of this capability I was just explaining.

I think sometimes in my mind, my mental model of what satellites can do is a little more sci-fi than reality.

I would imagine most space debris is, as you said, non-cooperative, which is such a great way of putting it.

I mean, do we have a sense?

Is it like 99% of it?

How much of it can really maneuver?

Really good question.

To try and put a percentage on it, I don't have the figure exactly to hand, but it's probably in the order of 70 or 80% is non-cooperative because there's many space agencies, including NASA and European space agency and JAXA in Japan are tracking objects in space.

And the consensus is there's about 40,000 objects in orbit at the moment in different orbits in low earth orbit in geostationary and others.

And out of that 40,000, around about 9 to 10,000 operational spacecraft.

So you can see it's probably 70, 80% that are debris objects or fragmentation objects where there's been collisions in orbit and bits of spacecraft or rocket bodies.

That's the sort of thing that we're left with out there.


Speaking of collision, I was just thinking of the near miss between the two non-maneuverable satellites, the US and I think the Soviet satellite.

It was just a few months ago in the news.

And I wonder for companies like Astroscale, is the goal to clean up everything in orbit or is it just so we just don't have those near misses or is there something in between?

Maybe my thinking is too black and white between those two spots.

No, it's a good perspective.

I think there are some specific objects in particular orbits that are dangerous and could create more debris.

And you may have heard of the Kessler effect, which was proposed by a very famous NASA scientist in the 70s.

And that's what we've got to avoid is this chain reaction in orbit.

So we really have to focus on those dangerous objects.

There's some big rocket bodies in quite congested orbits that we need to remove.

And also address that what's coming.

So we need to start to address sustainability in the predicted large constellations, some of which are already there like Starlink and OneWeb and others that are coming soon.

So we could have, I mentioned 9000 operational satellites in orbit at the moment.

We could have another 20 or even 50,000 over the next 10 to 15 years.

So that's the thing we need to really address is how do we make that sustainable from where we are today?

Yeah, and I would imagine sort of to segue a little bit.

This is where refueling also comes into the vision as well, which is another area, which is just sometimes I can't believe we're doing something like that.

That's just so fascinating.

Yeah, excellent opportunity, I'd say, because as we do air-to-air refueling, what customers are telling us is they want to change the dynamics of the space industry really and start to refuel.

At the moment, the spacecraft is launching to orbit and has to take its fuel with it onto orbit and it can't be refueled.

So there's significant focus on this at the moment from government and commercial customers to see how we can extend the lives of satellites by refueling on orbit.

And yeah, I think it's coming.

I'd say it's about three to five years away.

We'll start to see this in orbit actually happening.

So this is a great opportunity for us to segue into a press release about the UK Space Agency's active debris removal refueling feasibility study.

And Astroscale is a huge part of that.

So can you walk me through that a little bit, please?

Yeah, sure.

So this is a study that the UK Space Agency are looking at.

So at the moment, there's a mission that they're developing called the active debris removal mission.

It's going to go and remove two UK-licensed debris objects in launching at the end of '26.

And UK Space Agency were quite forward-looking, I would argue.

They required that mission to be refuelable.

So now they've proposed this next study, which will actually design the spacecraft, which will then go and refuel that mission and start to create a circular economy.

That's what I was saying earlier.

So we've put together an expert consortium with companies like Talus and Ineaspace and Airbus, big space companies in Europe, and OrbitFab, UK.

They're a US headquarter company, but they're building fuel valves and standardization aspects, and also another company called GMV, which are really good at ground segment and operations and flight dynamics.

So we're bringing together all of these skills with the AstraSco internal skills, and we've created a good mission definition program.

And what we hope then is the UK Space Agency will take this forward after the study, this eight-month study, into a real mission.

That's exciting.

Yeah, I'm using the word exciting, and I know that I'm full of hyperbole today, but honestly, there have been a lot of very interesting developments coming out of the UK Space Agency, a lot of really interesting movement.

Really fascinating initiatives like this one.

What is that like being in the UK part of the space industry there and seeing all this activity?

As I say, I've been in the space industry in the UK for quite some time, and the transition, which has been equivalent globally as well, from a sort of government-led space industry to real commercial, commercially driven, is happening here too.

And we're seeing many more companies, more smaller companies, startups that are getting involved in really innovative technology and mission systems.

So that's really good to be part of that.

We still have a big role in the European Space Agency as well, with the fourth largest contributor as a country to ESA.

And it's matching and combining the ESA work that we do with the commercially focused national work.

And obviously, the more government and defence side as well, which UK is quite capable of too.

So there's a lot going on, and it's a good place to be in the UK at the moment.

[Music] We'll be right back.

[Music] Welcome back.

It feels like just moments ago that we were getting pretty hyped up about Transformers on the Moon.

JAXA's slim moon lander brought with it Transformers, for real.

So that is how we ended up with Transformers on the Moon.

And JAXA has worked with Transformers toy maker Takara Tomi, not just on the Moon Transformers, but on a whole host of transforming toys.

And for all those who are fans of things that are more than meets the eye, Takara Tomi is now making a Transformer version of JAXA and Toyota's planned Lunar Cruiser.

The real Lunar Cruiser was unveiled late last year, its first concept anyway.

And should it ever become something true to life, it'll not just rove lunarly.

No, it's less rover and more RV.

The Lunar Cruiser has a pressurized interior, so it would allow multi-day trips on the lunar surface in the self-contained vehicle.

Kind of a neat idea.

Unlike the real concept though, the Lunar Cruiser toy version transforms into Optimus Prime, leader of the Autobots.

And I should say, for all you collectors, the toy is already sold out, sorry.

But it did retail for 75 bucks when it was announced.

No word yet on what nation's lunar explorer is going to embody Megatron.

If someone steps up and volunteers to host the Decepticons, believe me, I'll be sure to let you know.

That's it for T-minus for April 3rd, 2024.

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

We'd love to know what you think of this podcast.

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This episode was produced by Alice Carruth, mixing by Elliot Peltzman and Tri 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 Rhea Varmausis.

Thanks for listening.

We'll see you tomorrow.

[Music] T-minus.


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