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China’s SuperView.

China launches the SuperView Neo 3-01. Tiandu-1 & 2 demonstrate Earth-Moon transmissions. Interstellar and D-Orbit sign a launch services agreement. And more.




China launches a Long March-2D vehicle carrying the SuperView Neo 3-01 remote sensing satellite from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. Test satellites Tiandu-1 and Tiandu-2, have successfully carried out experiments  demonstrating their Earth-Moon transmission and routing. Japan’s Interstellar Technologies has signed a Framework Agreement for Launch Services with Italian space logistics company D-Orbit, and more.

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T-Minus Guest

Our guest today is Dr. Craig Brown, Director of Investment at the UK Space Agency.

You can connect with Craig on LinkedIn, and learn more about UKSA on their website.

Selected Reading

Long March-2D launches SuperView Neo 3-01

China's Tiandu satellites take Earth-Moon transmissions, routing tests - CGTN

Interstellar and D-Orbit to Enter a Framework Agreement for Launch Services – Achieves Milestone in Asian Space Transport

Aerospacelab Successfully Acquires AMOS

Open Cosmos Contract

NASA Welcomes Switzerland as Newest Artemis Accords Signatory

Contracts For April 4, 2024

Satellogic Announces $30 Million Strategic Investment from Tether Investments Limited

NASA budget woes could doom $2 billion Chandra space telescope - The Washington Post

National Guard Chief Makes Case for Space Guard: 'Would Work Exactly Like It is Right Now'

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Happy Monday everyone.

A key takeaway from the 39th space symposium last week for the N2K team was that space is growing exponentially across the globe.

We saw more international companies promoting their products in the exhibit hall and more international partnership agreements on the event's sidelines.

There were a few notable absences though, the big one being China, for obvious reasons I guess.

Today is April the 15th 2024, I'm Alice Karuth and this is T-minus.

China launches a new commercial Earth observation satellite.

Tian Du 1 and 2 successfully demonstrate Earth-Moon transmissions.

Interstellar and Deorbit sign a framework agreement for launch services.

And our guest today is Dr Craig Brown from the UK Space Agency.

Maria caught up with him last week at the space symposium to discuss the space ecosystem across the UK.

We'll also check in with UK-based launch company Skyrora to stay with us for the second part of today's show.

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

And although they may have missed the big international space event last week, China continues to make the headlines with their launch and satellite capabilities.

A long March 2D vehicle launched the Superview Neo-301 remote sensing satellite from the Jiajuan Satellite Launch Centre in Gansu Province, China earlier today.

According to the China Aerospace Science Technology Corporation, or CASC, the satellite entered the planned orbit and will "provide commercial remote sensing data services for emerging scenarios such as digital agriculture, urban information modelling and live 3D, as well as traditional fields including land surveying, mapping, disaster prevention and mitigation, and maritime monitoring."

The satellite is part of a planned 28-vehicle constellation.

All Superview satellites have been sent into sun-synchronous orbit since they started launching in 2016.

And staying in China, the test satellites Tiandu-1 and Tiandu-2 have successfully carried out experiments demonstrating their Earth-Moon transmission and routing.

The two satellites were sent into space together with the KZU-2 relay satellite in March.

Results from the experiments imply that the project could improve the accuracy for spacecraft in determining lunar orbit.

In addition, the Tiandu spacecraft has captured and sent back Earth-Moon group images.

China says it plans to test satellite-to-ground laser-ranging and inter-satellite micro-ranging methods.

It's not clear if these tests were part of the initial demonstrations.

The Tiandu satellite's mission is to inform the design of China's proposed KZU-Lunar Navigation and Communications Array, the aim of the array is to support services for future lunar surface operations.

Staying in Asia and Japan's Interstellar Technologies has signed a framework agreement for launch services with Italian space logistics company Deorbit.

Tokyo-based Marabini Corporation, which invests in both companies, also signed a letter of intent in February 2020 to study the development of an agile satellite release system.

This new agreement outlines both companies' commitment with the support of Marabini Corporation to advance their business collaboration in the future.

According to the announcement, the collaboration is expected to make a contribution to the supply of space transport services in the growing Asian space industry.

Belgium-based satellite manufacturer Aerospace Lab has completed the acquisition of Optomechanical Systems Company, AMOS.

According to the press release, the acquisition marks a significant milestone for the two aerospace companies, jointly entering into a new era in advance space technologies and opening new markets respectively.

OpenCosmos has been awarded a 3.4 million contract by the Institut d'Esteu de la Sous-Besillias de Catalunya, or IEC, to deliver a fourth satellite for the Catalonia new space strategy.

The satellite will join the open constellation, which means Catalonia will be able to benefit from the data of two additional satellites.

Catalonia aims to use the satellite for environmental monitoring, disaster management, urban planning, water resource management, climate research and infrastructure monitoring.

The micro-satellite will be five times larger than its predecessor and is scheduled to launch in 2025.

NASA welcomed Switzerland as the 37th country to sign the Artemis Accords during a ceremony held earlier today at the agency's headquarters in Washington, D.C.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson and Swiss Federal Counselor Guy Parmillen, along with other officials from Switzerland and the U.S.

Department of State, were in attendance.

While we were all focusing on getting to the space symposium last week, a government contract for relativity space was announced.

Relativity space has been awarded an 8,765,000 fixed-price contract for real-time floor detection in large-format additive manufacturing.

The contract is being awarded by the Air Force Research Lab.

Work will be performed at Relativity's Long Beach, California location using the company's Stargate 3D printing platform and is expected to be completed by July 2026.

Earth Observation Company Sata Logic has announced that its company has entered into a note-purchase agreement led by Tether Investments Limited to the principal amount of $30 million.

The net proceeds from the offering after deducting transaction fees and other debt issuance costs were approximately $27.6 million.

The CEO and founder of Sata Logic says that "The proceeds from Tether's investment in Sata Logic will help advance our mission as we continue to focus on our U.S. strategy, the national security market, and our global space systems opportunities.

Good luck to them."

When we're ending today's briefing on a little doom and gloom, NASA's budget woes have been making headlines again.

At the time of recording this program, we're expecting an update on the Mars sample return program, which is concerned that restrictions may shut down the mission.

We'll bring you an update on that tomorrow.

But the Washington Post is leading with concerns with the Chandra Space Telescope mission.

If Congress approves the Biden administration's 2025 budget request for NASA science missions, NASA's working on the Chandra mission say that it will be effectively terminated.

Members of the national and global Chandra community have submitted an open letter with 87 pages of signatures to Dr.

Nikki Foxx, Associate Administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate, and Dr.

Mark Clampen, Director of NASA's Astrophysics Division.

The aiming to rally support before the Chandra project must make "catastrophic irreversible layoffs" to the mission starting on October 1, 2024.

And that concludes our briefing for today.

Check out the selected reading section of our show notes for further information on all the stories I've mentioned in the show.

You'll also find a piece making the case for a space guard in the US.

And hey team minors crew, every Monday we produce a written intelligence roundup.

It's called Signals in Space.

If you happen to miss any T-minus episodes, this strategic intelligence product will get you up to speed in the fastest way possible.

It's all signal, no noise.

You can sign up for Signals in Space in our show notes or at space.n2k.com.

I wouldn't be a very good dual-nationale if I didn't have equal soft spots for the space agencies here in the US and in my native UK.

So it was a privilege to stop by the UK Space Agency booth last week at the Space Symposium to meet with the Director of Investment at UKSA.

Team minors host extraordinaire Maria Varmasa spoke to Dr Craig Brown about the recent announcements around the UK clusters.

Hi I'm Dr Craig Brown.

I am the Director of Investment at the UK Space Agency.

I'm really lucky in that I run one of the largest teams within the UK Space Agency and also one of the most diverse portfolios.

I look after our innovation program so all of the companies that we're supporting to develop new products and services will tend to come through one of my programs in the early days.

And I also look after the Space Ecosystem Development Team which supports all of the clusters of activities around the UK.


So we have been talking a bit about the clusters on our show a bit and aside from just loving the word clusters, it's a great word.

Tell me a bit about the clusters please.

Yeah well so basically a cluster is a group of companies that have common goals, perhaps common market and they come together in a geographical location and collaborate with each other and we see that there is a lot of benefits to companies that kind of operate within a cluster of activity.

And so what we've tried to do across the UK is help foster a number of different clusters of activity that have come out of I guess both organic growth within the space sector but also in some instances like in Harwell which is one of our main clusters of activity which are centered around significant amounts of government investment into that geographical location and perhaps without that government investment that cluster wouldn't necessarily exist within that shape.

But I guess clusters is quite an old fashioned way of looking at things and we're actually moving a little bit away from the idea of clusters and moving more towards space ecosystem development.

Ah, ecosystem is a great word.

Yes, so for us a cluster is an island in a sense and we want to move away from that and actually we do that quite well in the UK because each of our clusters has a certain strength and a certain uniqueness.

She's talking about a few of them.

Yes, of course, absolutely.

So Harwell as I've mentioned is perhaps the kind of primary hub of space activity within the UK.

It's centered around a couple of significant and historic UK government investments.

So there's the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory which is one of the preeminent research laboratories within the UK with a strong interest in space.

The European Space Agency's UK Centre is based there.

They look specifically at telecommunications and data applications.

We also have a UK centre called the Satellite Applications Catapult.

The catapults are a network of centres that are set up along different industry themes.

So the Satellite Applications Catapult is the space one that's in Harwell but they cover a range of different things.

They have high value manufacturing.

They have one looking at offshore renewable energy, one on compound semiconductors.

So they're really diverse group of centres in their own right but the space one is in Harwell.

So a lot of the companies that kind of move to the UK from outside will land in Harwell and start to kind of grow their presence in the UK from Harwell.

And of course the expertise that's kind of built up around space data, space applications, particularly around the Satellite Applications Catapult that lends itself very well to a certain flavour of company that lands there.

Then you've got other clusters around the UK.

There's Space Park Leicester is the centre of the East Midlands cluster.

They have some really interesting specialisms in space instrumentation but a lot of work on earth observation.

So a lot of companies interested in building out services around climate for example will find a real good home in Leicester.

And then up in Scotland we have a couple of clusters of activity around Glasgow and Edinburgh which are looking at space data applications again but also manufacturing of small satellites.

And then of course in the far north of Scotland you have a lot of activity around launch.

So we have lots of different kind of activities that are kind of clustered but offer a unique thing to the companies that want to set up around there.

That's fantastic and you mentioned using the word sort of ecosystem.

And to me that signals something very interesting about the application of space data and space applications across a broad variety of industry but also the growth of the UK space sector.

Already a proud heritage.

A lot of fantastic application but growing at such a fast pace.

Right right.

The space ecosystem for us is the cluster of clusters.

It's about how do you network these clusters in such a way that instead of having a group of islands you actually have this constellation of activity around the UK where we have clusters working with clusters to really build on the strengths that we've got across the United Kingdom.

And I think that kind of really unique offer helps us to sell ourselves internationally.

So people can look at the UK and see us as a place where you can do pretty much everything from building satellites to launching them eventually to then being able to build out the data applications and products that we all rely on on a day to day basis.

Yeah I was going to say it also speaks very much to the utility of space for people who may not realize how much it touches in our day to day lives.

That's the secret for us.

That's why UK government is interested in this.

I would imagine.

So when we look at the contribution of space to the UK economy you look at the space vertical market it's worth around about 17 and a half billion pounds a year to the UK economy.

A big chunk.

Big amount of money.

Yeah big amount of money and well worth supporting for that reason alone.

But when you look deeper at the importance of space to society as a whole and then you look at the economic impact of space to all of the different markets which it touches upon to run about a fifth of GDP in the UK around about three hundred and seventy billion pounds a year.

A fifth of UK GDP is fundamentally reliant on data that comes from a satellite.

Wow now that's a data point.


My goodness.

Jaw drop a little bit.

That's quite amazing.

It's a big old chunk of money and you know when you think about how often before you even get into the office you've looked at your phone and looked at that little blue dot to try and get you from A to B.


How how fundamental GPS and satellite navigation has become to our day to day lives and just how many businesses that are not space businesses fundamentally rely on the logistics power of navigation.

And the same is true for timing.

So not a lot of people realize that the number of applications that we use require such an accurate timing stand.

The financial financial stuff.


But even even things as obscure as being able to manage the flow of utilities around the country so that our gas system in the UK for example will use satellite timing signals to be able to manage its network.

Our national lottery for example uses satellite communications.

So when somebody buys a lottery ticket that that information is time stamped and is sent over a satellite to make sure that it kind of gets gets where it where it's needed so that I would never thought of that.


So so all of these little things that that that we do kind of on a on a day to day that we would never even dream would involve a satellite will will quite likely have a satellite in the loop somewhere.


So looking forward as the UK space ecosystem continues to flourish.

What are you what are you most excited about?

What am I most excited about?

Well I mean I'm a space guy through and through.


I love I love my industry.

You know it's what gets me out of bed in the morning is to kind of grow our industry.

We do a lot of work in the telecommunications area.

Firstly it's a big commercial workhorse for the UK.

It's a real strength for the UK.

And we're seeing such interesting trends in satellite communications at the moment.

Not least the interest in delivering services from satellite by traditional terrestrial operators.

So our telcos that we're used to working with and getting our kind of mobile phones from and now starting to wake up to the importance of satellite and the ability of satellite to deliver their services into real remote areas and wherever we are on the move outside of our cities.

So there's a convergence happening between space based telecommunications and ground based telecommunications.

That's going to be super exciting.

Especially when we get direct to sell signals right and suddenly you no longer need to be paying one thousand ten thousand a hundred thousand dollars for a satellite user terminal actually being able to get those signals direct to your phone and then having five bars everywhere you go.

Like it's the dream right.

It's the it's a game changer.

Honestly for all of us who've been on a in a rural area going I've had a flat tire in the highlands once that was not fun.

Not ideal.

Not ideal.

Well is there anything else you'd like to add before we close out today.

Well just thank you for kind of paying attention to what's going on in the UK really because I think you know I'm very proud of what we're doing in the UK.

I think you know we're not the richest space firing nation in the sense that as a as a country we don't put huge amounts of money into our space sector but we work really hard to punch above our weight.

I think our approach to commercial space I think kind of sets us apart in that sense and and long may continue.

We'll be right back.

Welcome back.

As we've been talking to the UK Space Agency it seems logical to also include Maria's chat with Nikki Finnegan from Skyrora.

They're aiming to be the first commercial orbital company to lift off from the UK.

My name is Nikki Finnegan.

I'm the head of communications and public relations at Skyrora and we are a small launcher based out of Scotland looking to conduct the first vertical commercial launch from UK soil.

Fantastic and we've been following with great interest what you've all been up to.

I think we last spoke probably around last summer not with you but someone else I should say.

So it's been a little while I know a lot of things have been going on so can you give us an update on what's the latest?

Yeah so we're kind of step by step pushing forward with developing our orbital launch capability.

Most recently that's involved a collaboration with Biasat so we did a ground test of their in range telemetry system which is an in space telemetry system and that will kind of enable continuous connection with the launch vehicle which will be saving costs for customers mainly.

So we did that in our Cumbernauld facilities which is in Scotland and that was a successful test and we just announced that this week.

Oh fantastic well congratulations.

Yeah so I know that Skyrora has the ambition of doing the first domestic launch capability.

You all are you make the launch vehicles that is but can you tell me about like the long term vision and sort of how it's going?

Yeah absolutely so we're really trying to kind of deliver the government's objective of becoming Europe's leading launch provider by 2030 for small satellites and cube satellites primarily but to do that we have a range of different capabilities we're developing so we have one of the largest hybrid 3D printers in Europe which is located in our manufacturing facility and we're using that to produce our engines so there's a lot of vertical integration happening which will be really convenient for customers and also kind of developing that localized capability for the UK.

I was going to say building all this up I know the UK has a lot of domestic talent and a great aerospace heritage.

I wonder also about the sort of the work force that you all are developing the ecosystem that's growing around you.

Yeah absolutely so we collaborate really closely with a lot of universities across Scotland there's a lot of excellent propulsion and engineering activity happening there so we're a sponsor of GU Rocketry which is the Glasgow University Rocketry Society and we really think that those next generation of space leaders are really important to engage with now and pass that kind of knowledge on.

It's so interesting especially in Scotland to see the incredible developments happening I'm thinking of Saksa board which I know you all work very closely with them.

Tell me how that's going.

Yeah so Saksa board we're really excited to be kind of working with them that's where we are looking to conduct our first demo orbital launch within the next year and they've got a lot of construction going on there right now but we've had some team members visit it and engage with the local community there and we really appreciate that relationship and hope to grow it.

Fantastic so as you all continue to grow and develop your capabilities let me know like what kind of customers are you looking to work with?

Sure so primarily we're really trying to target small and cube satellite customers our payload capacity is 315 kilos so on the smaller launch side but we're really trying to target that market niche where we can provide bespoke and agile launch services kind of as an alternative to the ride share solutions that are found in the US.

So agile meaning specifically it's almost on demand right?

Yeah so what we're hearing from our customers is last minute payload integration is a really key need that we're trying to kind of fulfill for them.

Fantastic fantastic okay anything that we haven't hit that we wanted to cover?

We're pushing forward with our 70 KN orbital engine testing at our test site in Midlothian Scotland so it's really exciting to see the team pushing forward with that and having that in-house capability is really enabling rapid iterations of our technology so we can ensure that it's successful during our demo launch.

That's it for T-miners for April 15th 2024.

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

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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 I=Eiben, our VP is Brandon Karpf and I'm Alice Carruth.

Thanks for listening. .





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