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Scrub happens, and then you fly.

Starliner launch gets scrubbed. Privateer Space raises $56.5 million and acquires Orbital Insight. Rocket Lab completes its Archimedes engine. And more.




A noisy oxygen pressure relief valve on the ULA Atlas V's Centaur second stage causes a scrub for Boeing’s Starliner crewed testflight. Privateer Space has raised $56.5 million and also acquired analytics firm Orbital Insight. Rocket Lab has completed the first full assembly of its new Archimedes 3D printed, reusable, rocket engine for the Neutron medium lift launch vehicle, and more.

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Our guest today is DC-based Space Policy Expert Brendan Curry.

You can connect with Brendan on LinkedIn.

Selected Reading

Atlas V Starliner CFT

Welcome to the Crew, Orbital Insight! - Privateer Space

Rocket Lab Announces First Quarter 2024 Financial Results Reflecting Year-on-Year Revenue Growth of 69%, Sequential Quarterly Growth of 55%, and Continued Growth in Q2 2024- Business Wire

Rocket Lab Completes Archimedes Engine Build, Begins Engine Test Campaign- Business Wire

Rocket Lab Selects Subcontractors to Support SDA Satellite Constellation Development- Business Wire

Sidus Space is teammate on $30M Intuitive Machines-led Moon RACER Team for the NASA Lunar Terrain Vehicle Services Contract to Support the Agency’s Artemis Campaign

NGA Announces First Commercial Solutions Opening- National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency

National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency creating space intel hub

China launches new Long March-6C, puts 4 satellites into orbit - CGTN

NATO plans to defend space but will have to work with the commercial sector for its tech- Euronews

General Assembly debates Russia’s veto of space arms race resolution- UN News

AST SpaceMobile Welcomes Andrew Johnson as New Chief Legal Officer- Business Wire

US Sailing’s Hans Henken sets course for space after Paris 2024

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[MUSIC] As one of the great philosophers of our time once said, a scrub is a guy who thinks he's fly and is also known as a disappointing end to a launch.

No, we don't want no scrubs, but they are pretty inevitable.

Sorry, Starliner, but when human beings are atop those rockets and tons of repellent, you absolutely cannot be too careful.

And remember, well, scrub happens, but then you fly.

[MUSIC] Today is May 7th, 2024.

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

[MUSIC] Starliner launch gets scrubbed.

Privateer space raises $56.5 million and acquires orbital insight.

Rocket Lab completes its Archimedes engine.

And our guest today is friend of the show and DC-based space policy expert, Brendan Curry.

Brendan and I spoke about his 2009 trip to China to visit their space assets.

And it's a great insight into what we're all watching play out today in China.

So stay with us for that chat.

[MUSIC] Let's take a look at our Tuesday Intel Briefing, shall we?

And it's a scrub for yesterday's much anticipated Starliner crewed flight test.

And it's not Boeing's fault, so everybody please stand down on that one.

It was a noisy oxygen presser relief valve on the Atlas V's Centaur second stage.

It's always a valve, isn't it?

At a press briefing last night, ULA President and CEO Tori Bruno said while they were able to get the valve to stop buzzing, making a change in the Centaur's state with a crew aboard, according to ULA's flight rules, automatically triggers a scrub.

So that is exactly what happened about two hours before the planned launch time yesterday.

NASA says the next launch attempt for Starliner will be no earlier than this Friday evening Eastern time, May 10th.

And should the problematic valve need a full replacement, ULA's Tori Bruno also noted that the launch attempt is really much more likely to be next week.

In any case, we'll share more details once the specific launch time is announced.

Privateer Space has raised $56.5 million and also acquired analytics firm, Orbital Insight.

The new funding allowed Privateer to close the deal to buy Palo Alto-based Orbital Insight on April 17th.

The merger will add mapping and intelligence services to Privateer's space data offerings.

Privateer Space is led by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, aka The Woz.

Privateer closed its series A funding round in April, according to an exclusive report by Reuters.

Onto a slurry of Rocket Lab news now, starting with their Q1 financial report.

The company closed the quarter with more than a billion dollars in backlog.

It held four successful launches this quarter from the United States and New Zealand and is predicting between 105 and 110 million dollars in revenue for the second quarter of this year.

The launch company also used its update to announce that it has completed the first successful assembly of its new 3D printed reusable rocket engine for the Neutron medium lift launch vehicle.

Rocket Lab has now begun an intensive test campaign of the Archimedes engine and it will feature a number of engine system activations leading up to a first hot fire.

And the Neutron rocket launch schedule has been adjusted to no earlier than mid-2025.

And Rocket Lab has also completed the selection of subcontractors to provide payloads and ground systems for the 18 satellites that the company is developing for the US Space Development Agency.

The launch company is the prime contractor for a 515 million US dollar firm fixed price agreement to lead the design, development, production test and operations of 18 satellites for SDA's Tronche II transport layer beta as part of the proliferated warfighter space architecture or PWSA.

And as for the subcontractors, Cesium Astro will provide its Vario Active Electronically Scanned Array Radio Frequency Communications payload.

The payload will be the first multi-beam capable KA-band communication system operating in SDA's PWSA.

Another subcontractor, Minaric, has been selected to provide Condor Mark III optical communications terminals.

And then there's Seeker Engineering selected to provide the tactical satellite communications known as TACSATCOM, Software Defined Radio or SDR, and the Network Encryption System.

Collins Aerospace will be providing the waveform for the SDR, which is the software and firmware required to transmit and receive TACSATCOM.

Redwire Space will provide antennas and RF hardware.

And last, but certainly not least of these subcontractors, Parsons will provide the Nebula Operations vendor architecture, which will be Rocket Lab's ground system for managing operations for its 18 satellites.

And speaking of contract partnerships, Cytus Space has announced that it's a teammate on the NASA Lunar Terrain Vehicle Services contract.

And that contract was awarded to the Intuitive Machines-led Moon Reusable Autonomous Crude Exploration Rover, or RACER team, which was announced earlier last month.

The contract is for the first phase of developing a crude rover for human exploration of the moon's surface.

The National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, also known as NGA, has announced its first commercial solutions opening to provide direct-to-war fighter commercial analytics for maritime domain awareness.

The goal of Project Ager is to identify a multiple-vendor approach for developing a commercial sensor architecture capable of tracking and monitoring illicit maritime activity.

Commercial vendors will work collectively to establish tasking algorithms for tipping and queuing a diverse array of sensors, conduct analysis, and deliver wholly unclassified shareable intelligence of illicit maritime activities in the IndoPATCOM area of responsibility.

More details can be found by following the link in our show notes.

And the NGA is creating a hub for Space Intelligence Collection and Decision Making that it hopes will provide collaboration amongst government agencies.

The center, which the agency refers to as JMMC, is still in the concept phase.

And China today launched a new Long March 6C rocket.

The new 43-meter-long rocket has a lift-off mass of approximately 215 tons and is capable of delivering a payload of about 2.4 tons to a 500 kilometer sun synchronous orbit.

The inaugural flight transported four satellites from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in northern China.

And that concludes our briefing for today.

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

We've added an article in there on NATO's plans to defend space, the UN General Assembly's response to the Russian veto of the Space Arms Race Resolution, and an announcement of a new appointment at AST Space Mobile.

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[Music] Our guest today is friend of the show and DC-based space policy expert, Brendan Curry.

Brendan spoke to me about his time visiting the Chinese space program in 2009, and what the United States can learn from China's approach to space.

I was fortunate enough to be with the Space Foundation at the time.

And that year for the Space Imposium, the Foundation awarded the Chen Zhu-7 mission, the Space Achievement Award.

And they were also very appreciative of receiving the award and offered to have a delegation from the Foundation come and visit and see some of their facilities.

And so that was done in the fall of 2009, and we were fortunate to see their spacecraft manufacturing facilities, essentially their version of mission control, their astronaut training facilities, and all of that is located in the Beijing metro area.

And then we were taken out to the Gobi Desert later in our trip to their main launch site, so where the vast majority of their launches were taking place, and even still today, where their manned human spaceflight missions emanate out of.

So it was a very interesting experience.

They were quite open with what they were showing us.

That said, they weren't in the middle of a heated launch campaign season or anything like that.

So there really wasn't a lot of mission-related activity going on.

So we saw a lot of facilities that were not in the middle of being used right now.

For example, their mission control center, you didn't see a bunch of people overseeing a console while a mission was going on.

When we were out at their launch site, we didn't see launch vehicles being stacked, even in their vehicle assembly buildings.

There weren't even elements of launch vehicles waiting to be stacked.

We were fortunate enough to see in their spacecraft manufacturing facilities the initial development and construction of their first manned, tended or human-tended station, Tang-1, under construction.

So it was eye-opening on a variety of different levels.

I don't know much about the Tang-1 at all.

What did you see?

It was in development, right?

So what did you see when you saw it?

You know, as you know, I'm not an aerospace engineer, but it doesn't take an aerospace engineering degree.

If you look at the heritage Soviet/Russian human space hardware, whether it's the Soyuz or their early space stations, the Salyuts, even onto the Mir program, there is a market similarity in vehicle layout and design.

So they are clearly basing their vehicle designs on a proven design that was pioneered by the Russians.

Many ways, though, the Chinese had the benefit of being a little bit having a more robust economy.

They clearly appear to be investing more in updating and modernizing, not only their facilities newer, but the hardware under construction.

It looked like a newer version of all those heritage Russian systems making their own improvements on them.

We're hearing a lot of talk right now about China and cooperation.

They had just recently announced that they want to do a lunar research station with the Russians.

And they have a number of early signatories for that initiative.

They weren't really talking that much about that.

They were focused more at the time of getting routine operations for the shipman, Shenzhen missions, and get the Tang-1 up there and start having some modicum of routine, human-tended sustained space operations in low-earth orbit.

But at the time, we were, we the United States were still operating the shuttles and finishing off completion of our space station.

And a few times they, half jokingly, but half seriously, asked for us to carry messages back to our government that we, the United States, do not have to be solely dependent on Russians, Russian vehicles for access and support of the space station.

And that they, they would be happy to talk with our, our government about them being partners in our space station.

And so we wouldn't be as beholden to our Russian partners.



How things have changed.

I was just thinking 2009 was not, in my mind, it was not that long ago, but boy, that, that, that has quite a change from now.

My goodness.

What were your takeaways at thinking on it now?

I mean, when you got back, it was just, it sounds extremely, it was like it was extremely impressive.

The scale of it, the pace of innovation, when you think back on it now, and especially given the, the, the, the breakneck speed at which China is developing their space program.

I mean, do you feel like you're, you're seeing it as it was ramping?


I mean, they're people that get overly excited here.

Essentially tomorrow we're going to wake up and see a Chinese lunar base.

And we're just going to be like, where did this come from?

You know, we're, we're totally surprised.

You know, they, you always hear the oft mentioned Sputnik moment.

The Chinese are going at their own pace.

You know, they, they have failures just like everyone else.

They have setbacks, but like everyone else, we don't hear about them as much or to the degree.

Thankfully they haven't lost any, any people in their, their program the way we have, but then at times the Russians have, but they're proceeding on, on their own timeline.

And, you know, every time there's a, you know, a milestone that's reached, I don't get too surprised about it.

I'm like, well, they don't, they're, they're kind of going along on their own, on their own schedule.

They're reaching their technical milestones.

And, but they're also taking a page from our playbook.

Again, now we're trying to internationalize the program and get, get partners involved with their programs.

And, you know, we, we can't be woefully ignorant.

I think since it is congressional budget season at every space force hearing this year and every NASA hearing we're going to, that we see this year, we're going to see China and China's progress in space be routinely brought up by members of the house and Senate that care about that.

And, you can't ignore the fact that their, their program in many ways like ours is dual use.

And they are utilizing space much in the same way as we are in terms of, yes, there is scientific in knowledge expansion and development, but there's also a military and intelligence applications that can be derived from investment in such systems.



You know, we, we often, from the US perspective, we talk about what China has sort of learned from us.

I'm wondering, how is that conversation going from your perspective in the opposite direction?

Like, are we trying to learn anything from what China is doing?

I don't mean from an intelligence point of view.

I mean, just on a macro level, you know, like, are we saying, hey, that's a really good idea.

You know, we should be taking some notes from, from how they're operating, aside from money.

Well, and, and let's, let's be honest, at least, you know, I'll never forget one time this was even further back in the past.

I sat in a Senate hearing on a NASA budget hearing and I was sitting next to a gentleman and I couldn't help but notice he was taking notes half in English and half in Chinese.

And every now and then there'd be some, some NASA jargon thrown around and he, you know, very heavily accented English would lean over to me and ask what was just said.

And he was from the Chinese embassy going to a hearing that opened to anyone on the US Congress about, you know, Congress conducting oversight on NASA.

None of us can do anything the same.

None of us can go to Beijing and as for a similar deliberative, deliberative discussions going on, how much the PLA is going to be spending on their human spaceflight program and why, or who's critical of it and why, or who's the supporter of it and why.

The interesting thing about space is that it's one of, it's seemingly the endless number of domains that we're competing with the Chinese on, whether it's economic competitiveness, the fentanyl problem, TikTok, what's going on in the South China Sea, their Belt and Road Initiative.

They're in a trade war right now with the Europeans.

The Europeans are accusing them of dumping Chinese built electric vehicles in their European auto, automobile market.

So space is just one of the, one of many things that policymakers in the United States have to keep an eye on.

They don't have the transparency that we do.

I think there's probably ways though that they can still be engaged with respect to sharing kind of, I don't want to say simple data, but things where there's areas of shared concern such as debris mitigation, climate monitoring, we're doing our best to try to lead by example and set rules for the road.

That's why I think you're seeing Space Force to least notionally talking about the idea of modes of operation.

It's in CIS lunar space because one thing you keep hearing policymakers on both sides say here in Washington is that if we do let China get there wherever there is first, they're going to start dictating what the rules of the road may be.

And much as how we see how they conduct themselves on the high seas lately, which it always, you know, amounts to their, accrues to their benefit at the expense of other nation states, the concern is that they will do things that benefit solely themselves, sure solely themselves, excuse me, and at the expense of everyone else.

To me, it is amazing how much things have changed in a geopolitical point of view.

Just since the time we were talking about 2009, how much I think had we thought about what was going on back then, I think the word cooperation would have been much more prominent and it seems more competition is the name of the game now, putting it politely.

So it's fascinating.

Yeah, well, there's obviously the off referred to wolf amendment in that kind of governs NASA's cooperation or limits the ability or prohibits NASA's ability to cooperate with China.

But I do think there are things that can be done to build trust and confidence.

I don't think it's been anytime recent, but I know in years past, there's been times where we've in the military, there's a thing called mill to mill exchanges, where officers from different militaries can go visit and tour facilities and see assets of different countries.

And to a certain degree, the United States has done those exchanges with the PLA.

I don't think there's been any anytime recently, but it's better to keep the lines of communication open and then to be operating in total ignorance of each other.

I mean, cheaper is creeper.

If you look at how tense things have been with the Russians over the past 15 years at least, we're still flying a space station together.

It's almost like the Russians in the United States, where we were in a constant state of marriage counseling and the space station is the child we both care about.

We don't want to have that happen to the child.

Oh, but when ISS gets deorbitated, then what?

Yeah, ISS goes off to college and does it in whatever.

They were all sad again.


We'll be right back.

Welcome back.

This next story will either be inspiring to all of you overachievers out there or just plain impressive for all the rest of us who are just kind of mid.

It's pretty freaking impressive on its own just to be an Olympic athlete.

Unbelievable dedication to your sport and athletic ability.

Olympians really are the best of the best, aren't they?

And US Olympian Hans Henkin, who will be competing in this summer's Paris Olympics and sailing, says, yeah, that's very exciting and everything.

But what about after the Olympics?

Resting on his laurels?

Absolutely not.

How's that going on to become an astronaut?

Well, that's what Henkin has been hoping for since his childhood.

And now that his Olympic dreams are just months away, he says his astronaut dreams are the next challenge he's going to tackle.

And this is not some wild dream either.

He's got the qualifications.

He has an undergraduate and master's degree from Stanford in aeronautical and astronautical engineering.

By the way, he competed in the varsity sailing team while studying, and that's how he made his way to the Olympics.

That is seriously amazing.

You might remember that the recent NASA astronaut candidate application cycle just ended.

And if you're wondering if Hans Henkin applied, the answer is no.

He says after concentrating for so long on his sailing career, after the Olympics, he wants to get some serious space industry expertise under his belt, hopefully by, and I quote, building really, really cool engineering designs that help with space transportation.

Well, there's always four years from now when Askhan applications open up again.

And if he is accepted in the class, he'd be joining the ranks of a fellow Olympian and 2021 astronaut candidate class graduate, Christina Birch.

My unending admiration for these Paragons of Human Achievement who look at two superbly difficult things, becoming an Olympic athlete and becoming a NASA astronaut and say, why not both?

And that's it for T minus for May 7th, 2024, brought to you by N2K Cyberwire, for additional resources from today's report, check out our show notes at space.n2k.com.

We're privileged that N2K and podcasts like team 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, and many of the world's preeminent intelligence and law enforcement agencies.

This episode was produced by Alice Carruth, our associate producer is Liz Stokes.

We're mixed by Elliot Peltzman and Trey Hester with original music by Elliot Peltzman.

Our executive producer is Jennifer Iben.

Our executive editor is Brandon Karpf.

Simone Petrella is our president.

Peter Kilpe is our publisher.

And I'm Maria Varmausis.

Thanks for listening.

We'll see you tomorrow.

[Music] T minus.


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