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A fine is a tax for doing something wrong. A tax is a fine for doing something right.

The US looks to tax rocket launches. Varda raises $90M in a series B funding round. Sierra Space puts their stake in the satellite bus business. And more.




US President Joe Biden wants rocket launchers that use American airspace  to pay taxes into a federal fund that finances the work of air traffic controllers. Varda Space has raised $90 million in a Series B funding round. Sierra Space introduces the Sierra Space Eclipse satellite bus line, and more.

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T-Minus Guest

Our guest today is Richard Cooper, Vice President, Strategic Communications and Outreach at the Space Foundation.

You can connect with Richard on LinkedIn and learn more about the Space Foundation and the 39th Space Symposium here.

Selected Reading

Biden Takes Aim at SpaceX’s Tax-Free Ride in American Airspace - The New York Times

Varda Announces $90 million Series B Funding to Build Factories in Space

Sierra Space Unveils the Revolutionary Eclipse Satellite Bus Line: Introducing Velocity, Horizon, and Titan

Virgin Galactic countersues Boeing about mothership project - SpaceNews

New Shepard’s 25th Mission Includes America’s First Black Astronaut Candidate- Blue Origin

DARPA Awards Phase Four $14.9M Contract to Develop Air Breathing Electric Propulsion for Very Low Earth Orbit Operations 

China, Thailand sign pacts on outer space, lunar outposts- Reuters

ESA - 3D-bioprinted blood vessel

Space experts foresee an “operational need” for nuclear power on the Moon- Ars Technica

SAIC Appoints Srini Attili as New Civilian Business Group Executive

Industry Executive Allen Flynt Joins Axiom Space as Chief Officer, Mission Services

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We're just days away from the total solar eclipse in North America, and the weather forecast looks a little cloudy.

Don't despair, y'all.

We're sure that the total eclipse will be a huge event no matter where you're watching across the continent.

It's the taking part that counts, right?

So how about an eclipse joke to lighten the tension?

How does the man in the moon cut his hair?

It clips it!

You know it.


Twenty seconds to L-O-N, we're in for a report.

Today is April the 5th, 2024.

I'm Alice Kruth, and this is T-minus.

The US looks to tax rocket launches.

VARD erases 90 million in a Series B funding round.

Sierra Space puts their state in the satellite bus business.

And our guest today is Richard Cooper, Vice President of Strategic Communications and Outreach at the Space Foundation.

Richard will be speaking to Maria about the 39th Space Symposium which starts on Monday, April 8th, so stay with us for that chat.

Let's dive into our intelligence briefing, shall we?

And we start today with some tax news.

Tis the season after all.

US President Joe Biden wants rocket launches that use American airspace to pay taxes into a federal fund that finances the work of air traffic controllers.

You see, unlike airlines which pay federal taxes for air traffic controllers work for each time their planes take off, commercial space companies are not required to pay for their launches.


That seems a little unfair.

And the Biden administration agrees.

Hidden in the latest budget proposal is a caveat suggesting that for-profit space companies should start paying for their use of government resources, which includes the Federal Aviation Administration and air traffic controllers.

Thank you New York Times for thoroughly vetting the budget to find the new proposal.

The administration is looking to work with Congress to overhaul the tax structure and split the cost of operating the nation's air traffic control system.

The new proposal is based in part on an independent safety review report commissioned by the FAA which advises that the federal government update the policies to charge commercial space companies.

We will see what the commercial space companies have to say about that.

And speaking of those commercial space companies, we have some updates from a few.

Varda Space has raised 90 million in a Series B funding round.

Varda successfully launched and re-entered its first hypersonic re-entry capsule, the Winnebago One, which was the first ever commercial spacecraft to land on US soil when it returned in February.

The capsule's payload included an experiment to reformulate Bretonovir, a drug primarily used to treat HIV.

The company's core mission, and what they say is their biggest challenge, is to expand the economic bounds of humankind by creating a microgravity-enabled life science sector.

The new funding will be put towards future microgravity pharmaceutical production.

Sierra Space are yelling PIVOT and are planting their flag in a new area of space manufacturing, this time by introducing a new line of satellite buses.

The Colorado-based commercial space company has introduced the Sierra Eclipse Bus Line, which the company says is designed to meet the rapidly evolving demands of the modern space industry.

We will be on the lookout for the three new spacecraft at the Space Symposium next week.

We mentioned last week that Boeing was suing Virgin Galactic over lack of payments and misappropriation of trade secrets, and it seems the commercial space tourism company's response is to countersue.

Virgin Galactic alleged that Boeing did not uphold their end of the contract, performing "shoddy and incomplete work".

The filing went on further stating that "Boeing's failures with respect to this agreement with Virgin Galactic are consistent with Boeing's record of poor quality control and mismanagement.

Ouch, we shall see who comes out on top of this ugly brawl."

And VG rivals in the suborbital tourism market, Blue Origin, are focused on their next crude flight on the New Shepard.

The NS-25 mission crew includes former Air Force Captain Ed Dwight, who was selected by US President John F.

Kennedy in 1961 as the nation's first black astronaut candidate, but was never granted the opportunity to fly to space.

Blue says that the flight date will be announced soon.

And good for Captain Dwight.

Phase 4 has been awarded a $14.9 million contract by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, known as DARPA, to deliver an electric propulsion system to enable extended satellite operations in very low Earth orbit, which covers altitudes as low as 90 to 450 kilometres.

The award is part of DARPA's Otter programme, which aims to develop, demonstrate and collect on-orbit data for air-breathing electric propulsion technologies that will use ambient low-density air as propellant, enabling extended satellite operations in flio altitudes.

Super cool tech.

The China National Space Administration and Thai Ministry of Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovation jointly signed a memorandum of understanding on cooperation in the exploration and peaceful use of outer space, and an MOU to cooperate on the International Lunar Scientific Research Station.

China and Thailand will set up joint committees and working groups to strengthen cooperation in the fields of space exploration, space application and space capacity building by planning and implementing joint space projects, scientific exchange programmes and personnel training programmes.

The countries plan to exchange data and information, and jointly organise symposiums and scientific workshops.

And the European Space Agency has unveiled a 3D bioprinted blood cell which was made to help investigate how weightlessness changes the cardiovascular systems of astronauts in orbit.

ESA says that in the future, the fresh 3D bioprinting technique could also be used to test the effectiveness of drugs and the treatment of vascular diseases both on Earth and in space.

Pretty amazing.

And that concludes our briefing for today.

You can check out the selected reading section of our show notes to find links on further reading on all the stories that I've mentioned.

We've also included a piece on the need for nuclear power on the moon and new teammate announcements from SAIC and Axiom Space.

Hey Team Miners crew, tune in tomorrow for Team Miners 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 an AWS in orbit episode with Andre Kearns talking about the AWS Aerospace and Satellite and what to expect at the Space Symposium booth.

Check it out while you're out and about this weekend.

Or travelling to the Space Symposium in Colorado springs like 10,000 of us are.

This chat will help you prep for what's to come.

You don't want to miss it.

Our guest today is Richard Cooper, Vice President of Strategic Communications and Outreach at the Space Foundation.

Richard spoke to Maria about the 39th Space Symposium which starts on Monday, April 8th.

He started by telling Maria about his role at the Space Foundation.

I get to help share the story of our next great adventure with space.

The best part about that is that includes everyone.

Certainly you can be excited about what NASA and ESA and others are doing but it's also great to be able to showcase emerging countries that are looking to take their place in the space community and then of course all the companies that are driving it.

But a story isn't a story unless you look to engage more people.

So we work with educators around the world to make sure that they have the tools and the skills and the training that they need to help build that next generation of talent so that we can continue to take our missions as more bold and more boldly.

Go further than we've ever gone before.

I think we were all familiar with that phrase.

And so I get to be that storyteller of our next great adventure with space.

Rich, thank you so much for joining me.

It's so nice to meet you in advance of symposium.

I'm really looking forward to it as you know and I'm also like kind of nervous because I've never been but I really want to learn more about it before I go and you are the perfect person to walk me through it.

So what am I in for is sort of what I'm thinking but I mean what should the audience know about Space Symposium?

Well, there's nothing like it.

This started in 1984 and when Space Symposium started at the Broadmoor and it really goes to the roots of Space Foundation where there were a number of persons who work within the space community, primarily the military and national security community that saw what was happening with space and saw there was a need to start getting those participants together.

So Space Foundation formed and Space Symposium was its primary mission at that point and it has now grown to become the premier assembly of the global space ecosystem.

We bring more than 12,000 space professionals, business leaders, decision makers together to inform, engage and connect with one another.

When you come to Space Symposium, you are literally, I will call it, it is an epcot of space in so many ways because you will get to see what people around the world are doing as well as all of the companies that are in between and then all of the civil and military space players.

This shows you the full breadth and scope of what is going on in today's space and when you can set a table as we do with Symposium to bring leaders and bring experts and bring people who are at the cutting edge of what's happening next and you put those persons together and facilitate a conversation, you have a very, very rich experience that people walk away with, again, we want them to come and be informed, engage and connect, build relationships, do business, find that next partner that might be able to take your technology or mission but then also become informed on what are the issues and the challenges that are coming ahead.

When you come to Space Symposium, you are going to get the full immersion, all of those things and then also have the opportunity to get up close and personal with some of the exhibits that we have and those are everything from new engines to software systems to computers to remote sensing applications.

Two years ago, the JAXA brought an electric powered lunar rover that they- I think I've seen the photos of that.

And they're also, Bridgestone is bringing the lunar tire that they see being used on the moon but then again, we've had in the past, Blue Origin has brought new shepherd here.

We have had the mock-ups of the Starliner.

We have had the mock-ups of the respective other spacecraft so that people can certainly see and touch what's going on but then I will say have the experts that can help them better understand how these tools and technologies and services and products help serve their needs, their requirements and their missions.

It has always sounded like such an incredible experience.

As I said, I've seen, I know I've seen photos from it from many past years and it's always one of those like, "Oh, I wish I could go to that."

And this is the year.

Well, I'm glad you're coming.

And the part that I think we're always used to the big headline news making space players, be they civil, military, commercial, whomever they may be.

But here is where you're also going to get a chance to see that emerging tier of nations, the emerging tier of new companies, the emerging tier of leaders who are on the cusp of taking what we're doing today to that next great level.

And there's a lot of, I will say, collaboration and mentorship and I will say fellowship, that again, relationship building.

It means something.

And here is an opportunity where people can do that on a global basis for one week out of the year, but we want to make sure for the symposium experience that it extends beyond the one week in April so that people can continue to build on those relationships and do great things.

This is year 39 if I'm doing my back of the napkin math correctly and remembering the tagline also for symposium.


Any highlights that we can look forward to?

Anything that you're personally looking forward to?

For this year, the exhibit hall is always a huge attraction.

We've got 245 stand alone exhibits.

Last year, we were doing some back of the napkin math, so to speak.

Last year, we had over 700,000 pounds of freight that was for the exhibits.

And so that actually equals to be 350 Mars Curiosity Rovers.

That if we had a parking lot of that, we would have had that many because each one of those things is just around 2,000 pounds.

That's quite a lot of rovers and opportunity, but it's not just rovers that you're going to see.

You're going to see all of those particular types of items and more.

And so the exhibits are certainly part of it, but I think what you hear from the main stage and you hear from the respective sessions, this year, you're going to hear a lot about the continued emergence and capabilities of the commercial space sector.

NASA, we know, is going to talk about some sustainability approaches that they're looking for, that they're upcoming missions.

We know that we're hearing from the Space Force team that they're also going to be talking about the roles and engagements and the strategies that they have to engage commercial players to help them satisfy their respective missions.

And that is a huge shift from where space and for military and the commercial industry was just a generation ago.

The commercial industry is very much a full partner in both civil and military activities in helping to provide critical services.

The leaders of those agencies, though, understand the roles and responsibilities that they have, but they're looking as to how do we take these relationships further?

How do we build on them?

Because no business relationship should ever remain static.

And certainly in the space industry, you've always got to be ready for that cutting edge technology.

I expect you'll also be hearing more about space and artificial intelligence.

AI and machine learning and data have always been part of the space community, but now with the rise of more and more AI tools, this is now very much in the public debate, more public debate than what we've had before.

You're going to start to hear people like that talking about.

And the final piece I'll just say is the emerging international players.

When we think of large space programs, obviously we think of the United States, China and Russia, but there are new players and emerging players such as New Zealand, which is going to have a significant presence at Symposium.

The Italians have a fabulous heritage of space history.

They're bringing a number of companies as are the Brits and the French and the Australians and the Japanese.

The partnership that you see with international space agencies, with companies, is really inspiring because it's not a competitive relationship.

It is very much a partnership relationship because if you want to get where all of us want to go, we know no one can do it alone.

It's going to require relationship building.

And Symposium really puts on display how the various players and capabilities so you can forge those relationships.

You know what's been really interesting as a person who's new to the industry part of space, relatively new?

How much I've noticed that these relationships do really seem to solidify at events more so than other industries that I've been a part of, where being at Symposium is required basically.

If you're going to solidify these relationships, to me that's a really wonderful thing that face-to-face time is still so important.

I've found that to be wonderful.

It is.

And I think all of us appreciate the person-to-person networking engagement, certainly more post-COVID than ever before.

Because again, as human beings, we want that interaction.

We want that engagement.

We want to be able to look someone in the eye or shake their hand or for that matter, even see the hardware that they're talking about or the application that they're talking about.

All of us can appreciate the wonderful tools that we have that allow us to connect via Zoom, Teams, whatever it may be.

But in the end, if you can sit down over a cup of coffee, over a meal or whatever it may be and really understand that person's background, what their goals are, what their aspirations are, that allows you to find commonality that you're not necessarily going to get from the pixels on your screen.

And one of the things we put a premium on at Symposium is the ability for people to network and engage with one another.

And that's why we want people to spend time on the exhibit hall floor, meet with those additional experts, seek out other types of partners, but then again, help people see the new and emerging talent that is there.

One of the things I find very inspiring, every Symposium, is to walk the exhibit aisles and find the new country that might be displaying or on exhibiting for the first time, or for that matter, the new company.

That shows the health and growth of what is a very vibrant space economy and again, shows the promise of what's ahead.

AT Miners Crew, N2K Space is working with Amazon Web Services Aerospace and Satellite to bring the AWS in orbit podcast series to the 39th Space Symposium from April 8th to 11th.

We'll be broadcasting from the AWS booth number 1036 in the North Hall, Tuesday through Thursday from 9 to 11am.

Come by the booth to catch us in action and share your story, or email space@n2k.com to set up a meeting with our team.

We'll be right back.

Okay, welcome back.

So we can't start talking about the Space Symposium without bringing in the team from T-minus that's going to be on the ground next week.

So with me today is Brandon Kauff and Maria Balmazis.

Come on guys, what are you interested in looking at at the Space Symposium?

You can go first, boss.


All right.

Well, I'm really excited for Space Symposium Innovate.

It's the first time they're running this program, dedicated stage pitch competition.

Some of our favorite friends like Kelly Ogborn will be there.

Starburst Aerospace, our friend Rob Gannum and Liz Reynolds will be the moderator for this.

And then the companies they have presenting are some of our, you know, companies that represent across the whole community the various commercial capabilities.

So we've got in-space manufacturing, we've got unique communication networks with Hubble Network.

We've got LambdaVision who's printing corneas in spray, corneas I think in space.

What, corneas?

Is it corneas?

Retinas, corneas, that's cool.

Oh, retinas.

It's retinas.

Yeah, they're doing, I think they're doing retinas.

So there's biotech there, there's communications.

It'll be a fun event.

And I really am glad that Space Foundation is highlighting the up-and-coming innovative startups in the industry.

And G.


Well, how can I skip the, one of the big parts of our days when we're at Space Symposium.

So from 9 to 11 Tuesday through Thursday, we're going to be at the AWS booth.

And I'm going to be talking to a lot of really cool people.

And the booth number is 1036.

I should probably mention that in the North Hall.

So we're going to be talking to Hawkeye360.

We're going to be talking to Rescale.

We're going to be talking to Iridium.

And we're going to be talking with Effectual.

And we're going to be talking to Ravada too, if I remember correctly.

So, and of course, AWS will be part of this conversation.

But the gist of it is we'll be talking about how, you know, space data makes our lives better here on Earth with the work of the cloud.

And we're going to be doing this sort of live in the booth at AWS.

So if you want to see how the sausage is made podcast-wise, you can watch me interviewing people every day Tuesday through Thursday at AWS booth 1036 North Hall.

So looking forward to it.

Yeah, it's going to be a lot of fun.

And I'll be standing and hovering around.

So if Maria's busy, I mean, more than welcome to come and chat to me, standing around looking like I'm pretending to be busy outside and making sure if it's going well.

And Alice's pockets are going to be stuffed with stickers and poker chips.

So get the swag.

Yeah, I'm finding some poker chips.

I think for me, I'm really looking forward to the Space Workforce 2030 announcement on Monday.

This is the second annual report from that.

But more than anything, they've got a new leader, Melanie Strickland, who I'm a huge fan of.

She's the founder of Sling Shot Aerospace.

And now she's running this initiative, which is a joint collaboration between the Aerospace Corporation and Space Foundation.

So they're really starting to rub this up to get some proper data coming out of it.

You know, N2K is very much about workforce development and data and analysis that is going to help the industry.

So I'm really hopeful that this is going to be a good step forward for them because initially it was kind of a bit wishy-washy, but I think this is going to really start to cement and get us some really good information and insights into what's going on in the industry.

And I recall from last year's media briefing about the workforce 2030 initiative or 20, yeah, 2030.

They had some interesting data and they gave some really nice data points about getting new people into the industry, but not so much how to keep them in the industry.

So I'm really hoping that we see some discussion around that front.

I've heard that retention is definitely a new part of what they're going to be looking at and certainly moving forward.

So this is a report from 2022 to 2023.

I think 2024 is going to be far more intentional in the outlook.

And I think that's what we're going to really find out on Monday.

That's it for T-minus for April the 8th, 2024.

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

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

You can email us at space@intuk.com or submit the survey in the show notes.

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Learn more at N2K.com.

This episode was mixed 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 Iban.

Our VP is Brandon Kauff and I'm Alice Karuth.

Thanks for listening and have a great weekend.

[Music] [Music] [BLANK_AUDIO]

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