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Hurricane hunters deployed in space.

NASA’s TROPICS successfully lift off to LEO. Artemis 2 to test high-speed video from the moon. Virgin Galactic announces next space flight. And more.





The first two of NASA’s hurricane hunting cubesats were successfully launched into space on board Rocket Lab’s Electron vehicle, which lifted off from New Zealand. NASA says it is planning on using lasers to enhance communication between spacecraft starting with the Artemis 2 mission. China has reportedly completed the second mission of its reusable spaceplane after completing 276 days in orbit, and more. 

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T-Minus Guest

Our featured guest today is Dr. Lindsey Polley, Director at VentureScope. She joins us to discuss emerging space technologies and the MACH37 business accelerator program.

You can follow Lindsey on LinkedIn and MACH37 on their website.

Selected Reading

Rocket Lab launches NASA TROPICS cubesats- SpaceNews

Artemis 2 will beam high-speed video from the moon using lasers- Space 

China’s mystery reusable spaceplane lands after 276 days in orbit- SpaceNews

Virgin Galactic Announces Crew for Return to Space in Late May- Virgin Galactic

Japan plans expansion of homegrown GPS network to 11 satellites- Nikkei Asia 

Space Force wants key allies to join 24/7 GPS ops center- Breaking Defense 

Mexico Space Agency, Microsoft sign new agreement on the sideline of FAMEX 2023- SpaceWatch Africa

ENENSYS Multi-Wide Beam Technology selected by Thales Alenia Space - SpaceWatch.Global

Thales Alenia Space Signs Contract With ASI - SpaceWatch.Global  

Accenture and Cervest Collaborate to Bring Innovative Solutions to Clients Seeking Resilience Amid Increased Climate Risk- Accenture

Globalstar Targets More Growth With Band 53 Opportunities- Via Satellite 

Why you don’t want ‘phantom energy’ on a spacecraft- Pursuit by The University of Melbourne

Scientists ask meteorite hunters to stop using magnets to test finds- NewAtlas  

Roy Bridges, Senator Mark Kelly inducted into US Astronaut Hall of Fame- collectSPACE 

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>> Maria Varmazis: If you've ever spent time at a coastal location during hurricane season and wondered why there isn't more dedicated research into storm predictions, then NASA has the answer to your concerns, loaf-sized CubeSats. And I just love it when NASA uses everyday objects to describe scale. They're going to help us monitor storm activity from 550 kilometers from above the Earth's surface. Two are now up and two more need to be deployed in the next 60 days to achieve mission success.

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Today is May 8, 2023. I'm Maria Varmazis and this is T-Minus.

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NASA's TROPICS CubeSats successfully lift off to LEO. Artemis II to test high-speed video from the moon. China lands a reusable space plane, and Virgin Galactic announces its next spaceflight. And stick around for my discussion with Dr. Lindsey Polley, Director of Disruptive Technologies at VentureScope on accelerating the growth of new solutions for today's space challenges.

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Now back to our intelligence briefing for today. The first two of NASA's hurricane-hunting CubeSats were successfully launched to space onboard Rocket Lab's Electron vehicle, which lifted off from New Zealand.

So let's talk about TROPICS, which stands for -- are you ready for this? -- Time-Resolved Observations of Precipitation structure and storm Intensity with a Constellation of Smallsats. Wow, that is a mouthful. I can understand why they shortened it. The complete constellation will eventually see four small satellites in low Earth orbit, or LEO, dedicated to monitoring storm activity. In order for the constellation to be a success, the next two CubeSats need to be launched within 60 days. The current plan is for a second Electron vehicle to launch the final two TROPICS CubeSats in about two weeks. This is a slight pivot from NASA's initial constellation plan. TROPICS was initially a six-satellite constellation, but the first two CubeSats failed to reach orbit last June. Astra had won the original $8 million dollar contract to launch three sets of CubeSats for NASA, but their rocket's upper stage ran out of fuel and shut down prematurely. Astra then decided to retire the Rocket 3.3, forcing NASA to find a new way to launch the four remaining satellites, and then Rocket Lab was tasked with launching the constellation last November and had originally planned to lift off from Wallops Island in Virginia, but the company then moved the launches to New Zealand to ensure that the CubeSats made it to space before the next storm season in the U.S.

And now to a story that sounds straight out of Austin Powers . . .

>> Unidentified Person: Using these lasers.

>> Maria Varmazis: NASA says it's planning on using lasers to enhance communication between spacecraft, starting with the Artemis II mission. NASA's Orion Artemis II Optical Communication System, also known as the O2O, will be tested onboard the next crewed mission around the moon. NASA expects the O2O system to share high-resolution images and videos from the lunar region, enabling terrestrial viewers to see the moon like never before.

>> Unidentified Person: Fire the laser.

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>> Maria Varmazis: And they say that planes, trains, and automobiles are the ultimate ride, but that was before they heard of space planes, and yes, of course, they're a thing. And China has reportedly completed the second mission of its reusable space plane which launched last August. The spacecraft completed 276 days in orbit before landing. China's space agency has not released details of the mission, or pictures, and the craft reportedly released an object into orbit mid-flight, leaving us all hanging on the edge of our seats and desperate to find out more.

But in any case, speaking of mystery, who is the next 007? Well, all is revealed, if we're talking about Virgin Galactic's astronaut program, that is. The space tourism company announced its next mission to space from New Mexico's Spaceport America later this month, with two pilots and four employees on board. The company says this is the last mission to validate the astronaut experience ahead of their first commercial flight, Galactic 01, expected in late June.

And back to Asia now, and Tokyo's space policy committee has revealed plans to expand Japan's version of the global positioning satellite network. Japan currently has four satellites in geosynchronous orbit and is proposing to add seven more to its network, with the aim of relying less on the American GPS system. But before Japan commits millions to move away from the GPS system, they should consider this new offer. The U.S. military is inviting them and six other U.S. allies to join forces on the GPS network. According to Space Force's 2nd Space Operations Squadron Commander, the U.S. is extending collaboration opportunities to Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the U.K., France, Germany, and Japan to participate in operations of GPS constellations by assigning their own military personnel to serve alongside the U.S. military. The country's already collaborated in the U.S. military's Schriever Wargames, which exercise space conflict scenarios, so the gesture is really taking the partnership from play to reality.

And on to Mexico. The country's space agency has announced a new agreement with Microsoft to help train staff and advance programs within the agency. The general director of the AEM welcomed the alliance, which he says will strengthen innovation and promote talent that is the heart of the institution. It's hoped that the alliance will also help support startups in Mexico's growing space sector.

A brief business news roundup for you now. And Thales Alenia Space, which is a joint venture between France's Thales Group and Italian defense conglomerate Leonardo, they've selected ENENSYS's satellite modulation technology for a new high-Ka capacity ground system. Thales Alenia Space is developing a ground segment solution in the market with a total capacity of 500 gigabits in Ka band. ESA and the French Space Agency are financially supporting the program. Thales Alenia Space is also enjoying renewed support from the Italian Space Agency after being selected to lead a consortium to develop a space factory for the Italian National Recovery and Resilience Plan. The space factory will offer means and tools to produce advanced satellites for Italy, and it aims to create an advanced production hub for domestic, European, and international space programs.

And staying with the climate theme that we started with at the top of the show, Accenture has announced a new collaborative agreement with Cervest to expand the company's capabilities to deliver climate risk assessments. The software companies plan to collaborate to put effective climate strategy and adaptation at the core of long-term business plans.

Satellite communications company Globalstar has announced plans to commercialize its Band 53 spectrum. The company has signed a new partnership for a terrestrial service using its Band 53 spectrum and it's expecting this deal to bring in significant near-term revenue with potential for long-term gains. Globalstar expects to close another deal for critical infrastructure in Canada to use its Band 53 spectrum and expects to replicate this exact opportunity with many other geographies.

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And I feel like we barely scratched the surface on today's news from the aerospace industry, so if you want to read about why scientists are asking meteorite hunters to stop using magnets, and more, head to the selected reading section on our website at space.n2k.com. And stay with us for our discussion with Dr. Lindsey Polley, Director of Disruptive Technologies at VentureScope on accelerating the growth of new solutions for today's space challenges.

Hey, T-Minus crew, every Monday we produce a written intelligence roundup. It's called "Signals and Space," and 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, and you can sign up for "Signals and Space" on our show notes or at space.n2k.com.

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On an audio note now, some trivia for you. Did you know that the cluck is the most basic sound of the goose? And another sound is a moan, which is more seductive. And I say this because you might be hearing the full range of geese noises today in the background of my interview, and you can tell us what they were saying about the aerospace industry after our chat, and that chat was with Dr. Lindsey Polley about the kind of innovation that's needed to accelerate the growth and maturity of technology solutions available in the space market. How do we address operational gaps, and how do we ramp businesses quickly to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow? Here's more in our conversation.

>> Dr. Lindsey Polley: Hi, I'm Dr. Lindsey Polley, currently dual head as the Director of Disruptive Technologies for VentureScope as well as the Director of Cyber and Space Intelligence at MACH37.

VentureScope was established about 14 years ago in 2009. VentureScope focuses on strategy, deep tech, and venture investments, so we support global, private, and public sector clients, thinking through and addressing complex problems that they're facing related to the emergent technology landscapes. That includes things like problem deconstruction, innovation strategy investments into venture and venture advisory services, and lean startup methodology. So a big part of that is investigating and qualifying growth investment opportunities in emergent and deep tech market trends and market segments.

But the more interesting entity, probably for your audience, for this audience, is MACH37, and MACH37 is a cyber accelerator, was originally stood up by the state of Virginia in 2013, but eventually became fully owned and operated under VentureScope. So it is, at its core, a startup accelerator designed to facilitate the creation of next-generation cybersecurity companies who are pushing the envelope on new capabilities, and that includes any market or domains where security is important, so things like space, quantum, and generative AI.

>> Maria Varmazis: So what areas of emerging technology in the commercial sector do you find particularly interesting?

>> Dr. Lindsey Polley: That's a great question. So from MACH37's perspective, since we are focused on cyber, I think one big trend in particular that we are currently seeing and going to be seeing for the foreseeable future is securing the supply chain for technology components and materials that are not just important for traditionally built space assets but particularly for the materials and technologies needed for additive manufacturing for space in particular. So things like 3D-printed rockets and satellite components that can be printed either here on Earth but that can also function as an in-space 3D printing hub so that if you have a satellite or other type of space asset and you have a special component that gets damaged by space debris or just becomes non-functioning for some reason, we can then 3D-print that component and have it available much faster because it is much, you know, in much closer proximity to the actual asset. Of course, then this is actually dependent on the other, you know, other segments like on orbit servicing market to continue to mature and develop its specialized branches for, you know, in-orbit component repair, but we are getting there.

And then another topic that's very important, particularly for MACH37, like I said, since we do have a cyber focus, and actually serves as a current gap, is the need for more cyber-related companies that are specifically designed for and oriented to the new space economy, so what I like to call the "cyberforce space market," while large-scale commercial human travel to space is still a little bit off. There's things like in-space manufacturing and logistics for both space and Earth use that are being developed which will require other segments like rapid space-to-Earth and Earth-to-space launch, and launch and flight navigation systems. Most of all, that needs to be, you know, it's highly automated, automated for safety reasons, obviously, because of the craft volume increase, and anything that's automated is a target because it has less eyes on it and is dependent on those systems functioning at 100% every single time.

So we really need cybersecurity tools that are oriented to this new domain for things like data security, communication security, ensuring appropriate sensor calibrations, you know, for -- to allow for close-proximity maneuvering, and as more humans begin going into space, these systems will need to be bulletproof, for lack of a better world -- for lack of a better word. They will need to be, you know, able to function and withstand attacks at large scales and be able to warn operators.

>> Maria Varmazis: Absolutely. And are we seeing challenges in adoption, or is maybe the market maturity not there yet, or are people understanding the needs and the challenges that are presented by this?

>> Dr. Lindsey Polley: That's a great question. I think there's a gap there. I think people are starting to understand the needs and the challenges and see the value there and understand that it is something that needs to happen, but we still have sort of a gap there in cybertools that are specifically developed for the challenges in space and the types of attacks that we might see in space that may differ from here on Earth, you know, degraded communications, the ability to, you know, make sure we have Zero Trust built into these systems that they can be interoperable and talk to each other. And while we do have cybertools being, for lack of a better word, repurposed for space, I think that cyber for space market is still standing up and maturing, and I think in the next, you know, three to five years, we should be seeing new tools coming online specifically built for space that will get quick adoption because of the massive growth in the new space economy.

>> Maria Varmazis: Absolutely. Are there barriers in terms of maybe policy that needs to be enacted or maybe is not reacting quickly enough to driving adoption, or any thoughts on maybe how policy can move things forward, or at least not block progress?

>> Dr. Lindsey Polley: Yeah, policy and regulation in the space economy I think is still in its infancy. We've been in space for decades now, 60, 70, 80 years, right, and we still have a massive space debris problem, and even though we have several national policies geared towards mitigating the creation of new space debris and helping to, you know, commit to cleaning up current space debris, we still haven't gotten to being able to successfully achieve that.

So policy in general is slow to move, and I don't think it's hindering anything right now, but I think it's better that we start thinking about the policy implications for things like in-space manufacturing and rapid -- rapid delivery to Earth because the volume itself is going to create its own problems with, you know, different types of low Earth orbiting assets, things that are moving at non-traditional trajectories due to orbit space servicing. So we do need to work towards getting that policy at least generally set in place so that new entrants into the space -- space economy have a general set of guidelines to understand how to better operate in space, not only for themselves, but so that we have -- we're ensuring space access for all in a safe manner into the future.

>> Maria Varmazis: So if someone is from a space -- a commercial space firm, for example, and they're interested in maybe working with a partner, how is the best way to interface with the accelerator here? I know that it's for cyber companies, but there might be some partnership opportunities there perhaps, or what would be the best way?

>> Dr. Lindsey Polley: Yeah, absolutely. So we do focus on cyber, but really anything where security is important is where MACH37 operates. You can reach us at, you know, go to our homepage, go to our contact page, and we're happy to explore any types of partnerships. We have rolling cohorts where we bring in companies of different sizes to support with connecting them with investors, connecting with potential client bases whether that be public or private, and we're always available to help.

>> Maria Varmazis: I appreciate it. Thank you so much for telling us so much about the program and also sharing your expertise with us. I really appreciate it.

>> Dr. Lindsey Polley: Thanks, Maria.

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>> Maria Varmazis: And that website where you can learn more about the MACH37 accelerator that we just spoke about is at mach37.com. And we'll be right back.

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And welcome back. So what does a state senator and a retired general have in common? No, it's not the start of some bad political joke but the result of this year's Astronaut Hall of Fame honorees. Mark Kelly and Roy Bridges, both are former NASA pilots, have now joined a catalogue of who's who in NASA space flight at a ceremony held under the display of the space shuttle Atlantis at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida. Kelly joins his twin brother Scott who was inducted in 2011, and he is only the second sitting senator to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame, the first being John Glenn. And Bridges, who describes himself as an improbable astronaut, only flew one NASA mission on the shuttle before being called back to the Air Force but later served as Kennedy Space Center Director from 1997 to 2003 and then the Director of Langley Research Center in Virginia from 2003 to 2005. We salute you for your services, sirs.

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And that's it for T-Minus for May 8, 2023. For additional resources from today's report, check out our show notes at space.n2k.com and we'd always love to know what you think of our podcast. You can email us at space@n2k.com or submit the survey in the show notes. Your feedback ensures that we deliver the information that keeps you a step ahead in the rapidly changing space industry.

We're privileged that N2K and podcasts like T-Minus are part of the daily routine of many of the most influential leaders and operators in the public and private sector, from the Fortune 500 to many of the world's preeminent intelligence and law enforcement agencies. N2K's strategic workforce intelligence optimizes the value of your biggest investment, your people. We make you smarter about your team while making your team smarter. Learn more at n2k.com.

This episode was produced by Alice Carruth, mixing by Elliott Peltzman and Tre Hester, with original music and sound design by Elliott Peltzman. Our executive producer is Brandon Karpf. Our chief intelligence officer is Eric Tillman, and I'm Maria Varmazis. See you tomorrow.

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