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Space threats 2024.

CSIS releases the 2024 Space Threat Assessment Report. MDA Space to continue robotic support on the ISS. Orbex receives £16.7m in Series C funding. And more.




The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) released their 2024 Space Threat Assessment Report highlighting the proliferation of counterspace capabilities worldwide, particularly among major powers like China and Russia. MDA Space has been awarded a $250 million contract extension from the Canadian Space Agency to continue supporting robotics operations on the International Space Station from 2025 to 2030. UK launch company Orbex has received £16.7m in a series C funding round, and more.

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T-Minus Guest

Our guests today are Praveen Kurian and Joe Poist from SAIC.

You can connect with Praveen and Joe on LinkedIn and learn more about SAIC on their website.

Selected Reading

Space Threat Assessment 2024

Nasa chief warns China is masking military presence in space with civilian programs

Member Roundtable: The Space Race Returns

MDA Space Awarded $250m Contract Extension To Support Robotics Operations On The International Space Station

Iridium Announces First-Quarter 2024 Results


Orbex Secures £16.7m Investment for Rocket ‘Ramp Up’ Period

D-Orbit Announces In-Orbit Edge Computing Collaboration with SkyServe STORM 

BlueHalo Completes USSF SCAR Program Milestone at Space Symposium

Momentus and Ascent Solar Technologies Partner to Bring to Market Leading-Edge Solar Arrays- Business Wire

TRANSFORMERS ONE Trailer Launch in Space

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So if this isn't your first time listening to Team Minus and you know me, then you know I'm normally the one cracking jokes and making light of every situation that I can.


Life's a little too serious, don't you think?


So I struggled with today's serious subject of space warfare and the threats from China.


Did you hear about China's new space program?


I hear it's going to be a long march.


Today is April the 18th, 2024.


I'm Alice Carruth and this is Team Miners.


CSIS releases the 2024 Space Threat Assessment Report, MDA space to continue robotic support on the ISS.


Orbex receives £16.7 million in serious sea funding.


And our guests today are Praveen Kurian and Jo Poist from SAIC.


They'll be talking to Maria Varmas is about their latest contract with the federal government to update launch ranges and equipment.


So stay with us for that chat.


Okay, let's get into the intelligence briefing.


The Centre for Strategic and International Studies, otherwise known as CSIS, released their 2024 Space Threat Assessment Report.


CSIS is a bipartisan non-profit policy research organisation dedicated to advancing practical ideas to address the world's greatest challenges.


The annual report uses open source information to produce an assessment of threats to US national security space systems posed by foreign government capabilities.


And boy, it's a hot topic right now.


We'll get to yesterday on Capitol Hill in the moment, but back to the 60+ page report which highlights growing space and counter space capabilities of nations and their threats to US space assets.


The report states that as the space domain becomes more congested and contested, collaboration between government agencies and private industry becomes imperative.


Synergy between government oversight, regulatory frameworks and private sector innovation is essential for maximising the potential of space while mitigating risks and safeguarding national interests.


Some of the critical insights from the report include a concerning proliferation of counter space capabilities worldwide, particularly among major powers like China and Russia.


These nations have been particularly active developing and deploying a wide array of anti-satellite weapons from direct to sent missiles to sophisticated cyber and electronic warfare tools aimed at disabling or destroying space assets.


This trend signifies a strategic push to gain a competitive edge in space, underscoring the potential for space to become a contested domain in future conflicts.


The report also highlights that China's military civilian fusion policy blurs the line between civil and commercial activities and military endeavours, encouraging the acquisition of cutting-edge technologies, including space technologies, to achieve both economic and military dominance.


Another critical issue highlighted is the environmental impact of space activities, particularly the generation of space debris from asset tests.


The report calls for greater awareness and action to address the sustainability of space operations, emphasising the importance of preserving the space environment for future generations.


Lastly, the rise of commercial space sector, especially in China, marks a significant shift towards a more dynamic and competitive space economy.


This development not only fosters innovation but also poses new challenges and opportunities for space security and governance.


Overall, the assessment emphasises the escalating focus on space as a domain of national security concern, driven by its indispensable role in modern military operations, economic frameworks and technological advancements.


So given the growing concerns with the space domain, it should come as no surprise that NASA Administrator Bill Nelson has been spending a lot of time in DC talking to lawmakers about international space programmes.


Just yesterday he testified before the House Appropriations Committee on NASA's Budget for 2025, during which Nelson said of China that "we believe that a lot of their so-called civil space programme is a military programme, and I think, in effect, we are in a race."


Nelson has made the case that the US needs to get to the moon before China due to concerns that Beijing may make claims to territory up there.


Meanwhile, the US House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party held a round table titled "The Space Race Returns Yesterday".


Elected officials heard from space experts that discussed China's ambitions in space and how the United States can sustain its upper hand alongside its allies and partners.


The experts participating in the round table included former NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstein, former Chief of Space Operations for the US Space Force retired General John Raymond and CEO of United Launch Alliance Tori Bruno.


The discussion centred on the need for more support for the federal and commercial space players in the US, and highlighted the areas of concern as outlined by General Raymond.


"There's a full spectrum of threats that exist today.


Everything from reversible jamming of GPS and communication satellites to directed energy threats think lasers that can blind or dazzle satellites to satellites that are on orbit that have characteristics that could be a weapon as well."


I'll give you a couple of examples.


China has a satellite that has a robotic arm that can reach out and grab another satellite in space.


Geeks like Tori will tell you that satellites don't like to be grabbed, and that'd be a bad day for that satellite.


So we're talking, I know we're focusing on China, I think it's also important to note that the same thing applies to Russia.


They're doing all these same similar types of things.


Russia has a satellite that they launched first in 2017, then in 2019.


I deemed it the nesting doll satellite.


If you've seen the Russian doll inside of a doll, they have a satellite that launches, the doll opens up, if you will, another satellite comes out, and then it opens up and a projectile doll comes out designed to kill a U.S. satellite.


They launched that in 2017.


They launched that again in 19.


In 19, they put it up right next to one of our satellites, and we called them out on it, and then eventually they moved away and shot the projectile in an area of space where there was another satellite.


There's a direct-ascent ASAT threat, so missiles that can launch from the ground.


That 15-minute trip to space, if there's a satellite in low-earth orbit, both China and Russia have missiles that can launch from the ground and blow up a satellite in a handful of minutes, which is a destructive test.


China demonstrated that in 2007.


Russia has demonstrated that more recently.


Then there's cyber threats.


Cyber threats are basically computers in space.


Just as there's cyber threats to computers on the ground, there's satellites.


There's cyber threats to satellites as well that we're concerned about and that we're working hard to understand the cyber train so we can protect and defend from those threats as well.


Then recently, I just read in the paper that there was talk about Russia potentially launching a nuclear weapon in space.


There's this whole spectrum of threats that are out there.


We're trying to build systems and build architectures that are resilient by the design of that architecture to be resilient to that whole series of threats.


That's really the hard work the space force is doing today.


It's clear today that space is a war-fighting domain just like air land and sea.


It's clear that we've got to be able to deter conflict from beginning or extending into space.


We do not want to get into a fight that either begins or burns.


We would like to be able to deter that from happening.


If you can deter that from happening, then you can deter conflict from spilling over into other domains.


All valid points are likely to keep us up at night.


Thank you for that, General Raymond.


On to other news from around the world now.


An MDA space has been awarded a $250 million contract extension from the Canadian Space Agency to continue supporting robotics operations on the International Space Station from 2025 to 2030.


MDA space has worked alongside CSA and its international partners to provide operational readiness of the mobile service system since 2001.


The new contract will be added to the company's backlog in the second quarter of fiscal 2024.


Satellite Communications Company Iridium reported financial results for the first quarter of 2024 and reiterated its full year 2024 outlook.


Net income was $19.7 million or $0.16 per diluted share for the first quarter of 2024 as compared to the net income of $9.8 million or $0.08 per diluted share for the first quarter of 2023.


The company ended the quarter with 2,333,000 total billable subscribers, up over $150,000 from the same period last year.


You can hear more about Iridium's mission in the chat that we published last week as part of the AWS In Orbit series, and I'll add that program as a link to our show notes.


UK launch company Orbex has received £16.7 million in a series C funding round.


The company says that the funding will help ramp up the development of Prime.


Its 19-metre two-stage rocket designed to transport small satellites into low-earth orbit.


The aim is to ensure full readiness and scalability for its launch.


Orbex says it will soon enter a new phase of growth with a series D funding round, which will aim to secure its long-term prospects as the leading orbital launch business in Europe.


Good luck with that.


Italy's DOrbit has announced a new partnership with SkyServe.


The aim of the collaboration is to enable edge computing capabilities with the SkyServe storm platform aboard some of the ion satellite carriers that make up the fleet of orbital transfer vehicles that the company already has in orbit.


As part of the mission Matterhorn, SkyServe's storm will leverage DOrbit's live Earth observation data feed on board computer data distribution resources to process images directly in space and deploy geospatial end-use applications.


The mission is designed to enable geospatial organisation and analytics companies to deploy artificial intelligence models on satellites, aiming to significantly enhance in-orbit data processing and analytics capabilities.


The future is here, people.


And that concludes our briefing for today.


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


You'll also find announcements from Blue Halo and Momentus and Ascent Solar Technologies on new milestones and partnerships.


KT-Minus crew, if your business is looking to grow your voice in the industry, expand the reach of your thought leadership or recruit talent, T-Minus can help.


We'd like to hear from you, send us an email at space@ntuk.com or send us a note through our website so we can connect about building a programme to meet your goals.


Our guests today are Praveen Kurian and Joe Poise from SAIC.


Our fabulous host, Maria Varmas is caught up with the team from SAIC at the Space Symposium to ask them about the latest contract announcements and to tell us more about the company.


So SAIC has a long legacy of supporting our customers in solving the most challenging problems the government has had.


And that was how it was founded and that's how it continues to be today.


And part of that is truly finding the solutions to those problems and not just providing people to the problem.


And so part of what we as a company invest in and part of what we do and that solution could be anywhere from our work perspective, from the IT fields to the engineering fields to the science fields to any field as we try to modernise the experience whether if you went through our whole mantra of all the things that we support, we are at the heart of the solutioning those hard problems.


Plus employees, $8 billion.


So going over every single aspect of what we do, but we do have those core pieces and that's the IT, mission IT, enterprise IT, engineering services, professional services.


That would be where the core, those four pillars would be the core piece of what we do.


And then it's not just because you can say those things without really understanding that it's not just about doing those things.


It's about providing a value added solution to the customer that we make their lives easier or safer or what have you.


So we have a broad spectrum of work from PhD scientists that are doing climate modelling and weather modelling and earth science data, modelling as well as being instrument, payload managers or designers from engineering and the scientist side all the way through safety and mission assurance, independent verification and validation of all of the human spaceflight exploration missions.




Thank you very much and thank you for joining me today.


Now I understand SAIC has some really exciting new contracts to announce.


Can you walk me through some of them?


Proving Korean.


I'm the vice president for Penn Space at SAIC.


So two that we've really kicked off over the last few months.


The first one is the ground based radar, basically modernization efforts.


So the program is called GMAS.


So under the Space Domain Awareness and Combat Power PEO out of Space Systems Command for the Strategic Warning and Surveillance Systems Group, we are basically sustaining and modernizing seven ground based radars.


So they are focused on the missile warning mission.


They basically surround and provide coverage around the United States looking for missile launches, but they also have a dual function really looking at the Space Domain Awareness Mission as well and tracking satellites in space as well.


That's fantastic.


Yeah, I imagine the need is great.


And this just sounds like a really fantastic opportunity to bring things up to speed where we would like them to be.


It is.


So if you think back to back when General Gutlein was running Space Systems Command, you know, you talk about exploiting the assets, exploiting what we have, right, as one of his key tenets.


And that's really taking the radars that have been out there for decades, right, serving a purpose.


But how do we modernize them and bring them into the current age and look at, you know, leveraging the technology software that we have today and how can we get more out of the capabilities that we have.


So GMass is focused very much on doing that with the ground based missile warning radars.




Can we talk at all about the approach?


Is that something we can discuss or is that?


Well, I would just say, you know, if you look at a lot of these radars, they're massive radars, right, but they were built decades ago.


So when you look at not only the hardware technology, but really the software on the back end of how do you fuse data, how do you really look at just getting more actionable information out of it, right?


How can we process that data differently and get different results?


So the other contract that I should mention is the DTAM contract, which is looking at modernizing the launch ranges.


So both the East Coast and West Coast have launch ranges.


So Cape Canaveral, which everyone is mostly familiar with.


And the other one is out at Vandenberg Space Force Base.


So those two launch ranges have been around for decades, but if you think about the pace of launches over the last few years, it has absolutely skyrocketed, right?


The ranges and the equipment at the ranges were not really sized for the current scale of launches.


And if you look to the future, that is going to continue to grow exponentially.


So on the DTAM contract, we're looking at modernizing the ranges to support up to really 300 launches a year is the goal.


So a lot of work to really same thing, right?


There's a lot of subsystems involved in managing in a safe way the launches of satellites from the East and Western Coast.


How do we drive commonality and similar infrastructure on both coasts and really bring them into the new age?


So I imagine again, this is when we say modernizing, it means all things like hardware, software.


Hardware, software, how can you really migrate a lot of capability to the cloud, right?


A lot of capability those built decades ago is really all on-prem hardware.


How can we use the cloud to scale the abilities that we have and build common operating pictures, leverage AI and software to provide more capability with less manpower than previously required?


Fantastic, Praveen.


Thank you so much.


And I want to make sure I give you a chance to wrap up before we move over to Joe.


So anything that you wanted to mention now is your chance.




Well, I'll just say really across both contracts, if you look at what SAIC is doing, we're bringing mission expertise into an integration type of effort.


So as you get to really the new space and modernizing space, instead of the large stovepipe systems, it's really about how do you get more capability and bring all these proliferated architectures together and integrate them to deliver mission capabilities.


So with both of these contracts, along with everything else we're doing, we're really bringing SAIC mission integration capability to bear across a range of different mission areas.


So I guess one thing to add across GMAS, DTAM, and really the range of programs that SAIC is solutioning.


Digital engineering is a major part of that.


When I talked about mission integration, it's bringing, you know, SAIC has a product called Ready One, which is a full-blown digital engineering suite that we are bringing to bear across a range of programs.


It's really allowing us to look at systems of systems and closing mission threads across a range of different customers and solutioning that ahead of time digitally so that when you move to the actual hardware or software space, you really know what's going to be implemented.


So digital engineering is a major part of both of these programs as we look to modernize both the launch ranges and the ground-based missile warning radar enterprise.


Digital engineering provides that foundation to test out, hey, what provides the most value to the mission, right?


There's a range of solutions I could implement.


What which one provides the most value from a mission perspective is really what we're looking for to be as efficient with taxpayer dollars as possible.




Thank you so much.


Now we'll pass the mic on over.


Now, Joe, so again, I know we have a really interesting contract that we want to talk about, so over to you on that.


Tell me more.


Yeah, so it's the safety and mission insurance contract that we just recently were awarded by the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.


And we've been a long-standing incumbent on this work, and we've been doing this for a long time.


And the work is exciting in the sense that, one, it's for human exploration.


And when humans are in the loop, when it comes to space exploration, safety is utmost important.


And the team that we have and how we've been supporting this and the way we're going to take it into the future, which is the critical piece now, because the changing environment, as you're well aware, is the commercial providers.


And part of that is for NASA or any other customer who's going to have humans riding on something, they want that assurance and not just that, yes, we built it to the requirements and yes, it's safe and we can send humans on it.


That's not good enough in the sense it's just like an all right, we don't trust everybody's financial statements unless they have an independent agency kind of looking at that piece.


So having this expertise and the people that have been doing this for generations, people that are involved in this and ensuring the safety, it's fun, it's exciting, and it's challenging.


Right, because the piece of the challenge is that there's definitely a lot of people that are nervous.


Everyone is nervous when we're talking about safety, but it's really critical when you know your team's the one who reviewed whether it be line to code on IV and V type work or you were part of the safety team that led that hardware to be allowed to have humans on it.


So that's the exciting piece.


That's, it's an incredible responsibility, but it's also quite, I imagine quite an honor, especially when we're talking about the Artemis era.


That's got to be really remarkable to be a part of that.


And the new piece with Luthor and Perrain vehicles, all of these other pieces that are just, it's getting more exciting going back to kind of, I'd say probably what it was like I was not there for the space race.


Me neither.


I assume the excitement was very similar.




If I were to experience both.


You know, it's great to be alive now and part of this era because it is like, I also missed the first one.


So I'm really glad we're here for this one.


We'll be right back.


Welcome back.


If you listen to this show regularly, then you know that Maria and I are big Transformers fans.


We may have let you all in on this when versions of the tome robots landed on the moon courtesy of Jax as Slim earlier this year.


So it should come as no surprise that I'm really missing Maria today when I read that the new Transformers animation movies coming out this year and get this, they dropped the trailer this morning from space.


Okay, not quite space, but it was a pretty epic event.


It kicked off with a live stream countdown showing the journey up on a weather balloon.


After an hour, the craft reached its peak at 125,000 feet above the earth, revealing the trailer for Transformers one with a custom introduction video from voice stars Chris Hemsworth and Brian Tyree Henry.


Thank you Paramount for making what we know is going to be an amazing movie.


Yes, the first Transformers animation movie in four decades, even cooler by including the views of the earth as the backdrop for this trailer.


It wasn't quite Transformers on the moon, but we'll take it.


We can't wait to see it in the cinemas this September, but if you want a crew to watch it from space, then just know that we're your girls.


That's it for Team Miners for April the 18th, 2024.


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


We're privileged that N2K and podcast like Team Miners are part of the daily routine of many of the most influential leaders and operators in the private and public sector, from the Fortune 500 to many of the world's preeminent intelligence and law enforcement agencies.


This episode was mixed by Elliot Peltzman and Trey Hester with original music and sound designed by Elliot Peltzman.


Our associate producer is Liz Stokes.


Our executive producer is Jen Ivan.


Our VP is Brandon Kauff.


Our amazing presenter is Maria Valmasas, who had that great interview today.


I'm Alice Carruth.


Thanks for listening.


[Music] Team Minus.


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