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A recipe for space success.

SpaceX breaks new records at its KSC launch pad. The Dream Chaser is prepared for its move to Florida. MDA Space releases its Q1 financials. And more.




SpaceX has exceeded the amount of launches from its Kennedy Space Center pad that was held by NASA’s Space Shuttle. Sierra Space’s Dream Chaser Tenacity, has successfully completed its rigorous environmental test suite at NASA’s Neil Armstrong Test Facility in readiness for first flight. MDA Space has released its Q1 financial report, and more.

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T-Minus Guest

Our guest today is John Quinn, Co-founder and CEO at Exos Aerospace.

You can connect with John on LinkedIn and learn more about Exos Aerospace on their website.

Selected Reading

SpaceX breaks Space Shuttle pad record with Falcon 9 Starlink mission – Spaceflight Now 

SpaceX fires up Starship rocket for upcoming 5th test flight (photos, video)- Space

Sierra Space Reinvents Space Transportation with Dream Chaser®

MDA Reports First Quarter 2024 Results

Terran Orbital Releases Inaugural Environmental, Social, and Governance Report- Business Wire

China launches its 1st MEO broadband communication satellite - CGTN

Joint Bahraini-Egyptian Venture Secures Spot on 2026 Chinese Lunar Exploration Mission- Space in Africa

Signing Of The ESA-SATCEN Administrative Arrangement

U.S. National Science Foundation suspends UTEP's aerospace grant - KVIA

Lab to provide optical payload for upcoming U.S. Space Force mission- Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

John McFall: Para-astronaut on a mission to open up space

DoubleTree by Hilton Chocolate Chip Cookie – First Food Ever Baked in Space – Touches Down in New Display at the Smithsonian

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[MUSIC] For three decades from 1981 to 2011, NASA's Workhorse Space Shuttle was the go-to vehicle for space travel from the United States.

It completed 135 missions over that period, most from the same launch pad.

Impressive numbers, I'm sure you'll agree.

But what if I told you that someone, not naming names yet, but someone has smashed the record for the number of launches from the 39A Shuttle era launch pad in Florida.

Wanna take a guess?

Yeah, we all know who.

[MUSIC] Today is May 9th, 2024.

I'm Maria Varmazes and this is T-minus.

[MUSIC] SpaceX, surprise, breaks new records at its KSC launch pad.

The Dream Chaser is prepared for its move to Florida.

MDA Space releases its Q1 financials.

And our guest today is John Quinn, co-founder and CEO at Exos Aerospace.

We're gonna be talking about the benefits of reusable rockets, so let's stick around for that chat.

[MUSIC] Let's start our Thursday briefing now with a little bit of space history.

Some of which is being made before our very eyes.

The historic launch complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center was the pad used for 82 launches of NASA's Space Shuttle.

And now, it's home to no other than the newer course, SpaceX's Falcon 9.

And between the Falcon 9 and the Falcon Heavy rocket, my fave, SpaceX has now exceeded the amount of launches from this historic pad that was held by the shuttle.

SpaceX reached the milestone with the Starlink 656 mission, which launched on a Falcon 9 rocket yesterday, marking 83 total orbital launches from the KSC pad.

That's one more than the shuttle launches that took place over the 30 year history of that program.

So bravo and congratulations SpaceX for once again, smashing the records previously set for all space flights.

And speaking of SpaceX, we're still waiting on the fourth flight of their mega heavy Starship.

And the company is already gearing up for flight number five.

Starship held a static fire of its upper stage for flight five at its star base in Boca Chica, Texas yesterday.

All six of the 165 foot tall vehicles wrapped their engines, or ignited, while it remained anchored to the pad.

SpaceX is currently waiting on a new launch license from the FAA to conduct Starship's flight test number four.

Sierra Space's Dream Chaser space plane, also known as Tenacity, has successfully completed its rigorous environmental test suite at NASA's Neil Armstrong Test Facility in Ohio in readiness for its first flight.

The Dream Chaser and its shooting star cargo module were subjected to multiple cold hot cycles to provide a realistic thermal simulation of the flight environment.

The vehicle is now preparing to be shipped to Florida ahead of its inaugural launch, which is expected to be later this year.

Now let's take a look at some financials.

MDA Space has released its Q1 financial report.

The Canadian satellite communications company reported a backlog of $3.3 billion at quarter end, up 169% from the same period in 2023.

MDA also shared revenues of $209.1 million in Q1 2024, which were also up from 2023.

And they say were driven by execution on their backlog and strong contributions from the robotics and space operations business.

And you know it's a quiet day in the space news world when the next story makes the cut.

Terran Orbital has released its inaugural Environmental, Social and Governance report.

And according to the press release, this report demonstrates Terran Orbital's commitment to operating with environmental responsibility, social consciousness, and strong corporate governance practices throughout its business activities.

Way to be transparent, I guess.

China has launched its first broadband communications satellite to operate in medium Earth orbit.

A long March 3B carrier rocket deployed the new satellite into space from the Xinjiang Satellite Launch Center in southwestern China's Sichuan province.

The satellite, named SmartSkyNet101, was originally developed by Tsinghua University, and will be part of an eight-meo communication satellite constellation, deployed in an orbit at an altitude of 20,000 kilometers.

The Bahraini National Space Science Authority says that a joint Bahraini Egyptian venture has been selected to join China's Chang'e 7 lunar exploration mission, which is slated for 2026.

The partnership submitted a proposal as part of a global competition hosted by the Chinese Space Agency.

The mission entails developing, testing, and deploying a multi-spectral camera to analyze lunar surface materials.

The European Space Agency and the European Union Satellite Center have signed an administrative agreement.

The new arrangement builds on the successful structured relationship and mutually beneficial cooperation between Satzen and ESA through the coordination of activities of mutual interest.

The cooperation explores the added value of space assets to the development of European capabilities to serve all member states of ESA and the EU and to support efforts to better protect Europe and its citizens from crises and risks.

Over to some controversy now in Alice's neck of the woods.

The University of Texas, El Paso, also known as UTEP, has been told by the United States National Science Foundation, or NSF, to suspend work on the Regional Innovation Engine and Aerospace Center, pending further review.


UTEP won the inaugural NSF Regional Innovation Engines Award for up to $160 million, but it seems that the university became aware of potentially incorrect statements in its proposal to the National Science Foundation for the program.

UTEP then conducted a review and found that the statements in question committed resources to the grant that, "Mmm, UTEP does not have."

The university sent a letter today informing the NSF of the erroneous claims.

The man leading the UTEP Aerospace Center, Dr.

Ashon Choudhury, has been replaced.

We feel like there's a lot more to come from this story in the coming weeks and months, so stay tuned.

And the payload for the upcoming US Space Force, Victus Hayes mission is being worked on by the Lawrence Livermore National Lab.

Victus Hayes will be a tactically responsive space mission to demonstrate the ability to rapidly characterize an on-orbit threat.

The Optical Space Domain Awareness payload will use Lawrence Livermore National Lab monolithic telescope technology, NEET.

The mission is expected to launch before fall 2025.

And that concludes our briefing for this Thursday.

Check out the links to further reading in our show notes.

We've included a BBC piece on ESA's ARA astronaut John McFall and his mission to improve access to space.

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[Music] Our guest today is John Quinn, co-founder and CEO at Exos Aerospace.

I asked John to tell us the nexus of how Exos came to be.

[Music] So we founded Exos Aerospace and within a few years we went to launch of our first rocket.

We flew that rocket three times and on the fourth flight we had a rud.

Rapid unscheduled disassembly.

We did have a failure in the payload section.

It was an aluminum body and while the tanks were fine and everything else, that one little piece on the payload section weakened and the nose cone actually slipped down into our payload section and the vehicle came apart.

So we said, you know what?

We need to do some stronger materials for that section at least.

And what we ended up doing is we found this company that actually built the tanks for the lunar lander.

And they were high-pressure and carbon composite linerless tanks.

And they were really amazing technology and these guys helped us build a hypersonic reusable launch vehicle prototype that we contracted to the Air Force to create.

And with a team of seven people, we went from a napkin design for that advanced vehicle to the vehicle actually hovering 10 feet off the ground in front of us as a final acceptance for the Air Force.

And I was so impressed with the company and the way they worked.

They used six Sigma tools and kind of remind me of my Florida power and light days.

But on a very small scale and I purchased part of the company, right that.

Of course, that allowed us to work through COVID because we were working on a defense project, right?

And I also secured the right to acquire the rest of the company as long as we could get them on contract with NASA within about three years.

So a year and a half later, they were on a contract with Intuitive Machines, EG NASA, under the CLIPS program and building the locks and methane tanks for the Odysseus lunar lander that on February 22nd of this year landed on the moon.

So now we're focused on two verticals.

One obviously with a reusable rocket.

We're one of three in the United States that are actually licensed to fly reusable rockets.

You know, the other two have probably 15,000 and 12,000 employees and we have 15.

They've included the tank company guys.

We have 30, you know, we can actually put a rocket in space and bring it back 20 minutes later.

Having done some really critical research, whether it's for universities, Biomed or for material sciences for less than it costs them to just fuel the rocket.

You're building reusable engines.


So this that's a challenge.

I mean, to put it mildly, I mean, can you tell me a bit more about that?

Because a lot of companies are like, listen, reusable is great, but that's not the way we want to go.

It's just too hard or we like, you know, SpaceX owns that, you know, tell me about you guys going after that.

Think about it.

How many times do we get in our car, start it up and shut it down, and we don't even think of it is my car going to start, right?

Well, we can take rocket engines just like airplanes to that same place.

And reusability at scale, the carbon composites, why wasn't our first rocket carbon composite?

Because they're expensive.

But when you can divide that by 20 or 50 or 100 flights, it's marginal, right?

So that's where reusability can pay.

Yeah, it's quite a differentiator too.

I mean, it's definitely, you know, it's one of those things when we think super long term, it makes a lot of sense, just it can be so hard to get there.

It's just, it's really cool to see that you all are working on that, which is just kudos.

That's really wonderful to see.

I'm so curious.

I mean, given that you what you all are working on, you've got to have a really cool long term vision.

And I'd love to hear a little bit more about that, what you all are thinking.

Yeah, so here's what gets me up in the morning.

I'll talk about launch, right?

The mission that's before us to advance into hypersonics to where we can fly around the world and, you know, half the time and, or a quarter of the time, or, you know, a tenth of the time, we can go around the world in a couple hours is at our fingertips, right?

We have that capability today.

We just can't do it cost effectively.

So reusability comes in.

And that's, that's kind of our first mission.

Because we could fly a test flight in a hypersonic regime, Mach 2, Mach 3, whatever, and we could test materials.

And it doesn't cost a million dollars to do a test, right?

So now for thousands of dollars or tens of thousands of dollars, we can go test different materials and figure out that maybe a four dollar a square foot material will get us up to Mach 3.

But, you know, we have to spend $50 a square foot for that same material to get us to Mach 4.

Well, then we should really be focused on Mach 3 vehicles, right?

And tomorrow, something news kind of come out that'll make Mach 3.5 that same cost effective model.

So we need to have that national capability to test.

And that's where our reusable rockets come in.

And that expands into orbital, just like SpaceX is doing.

So that's number one.

Number two is tanks.

And that's a focus on tank technologies.

And while I say, yeah, it's probably a larger revenue capability than we would have with doing launch and rockets, because I don't think there's a launch company that's profitable yet.

So you need that side that makes money.

And certainly this is one for us, which is those type five line or those composite tanks that are sitting on the moon, because again, a focus on Earth, and we're going to solve one problem.

And if we just solve that, it changes the world.

You've seen the 85, 90, 100 year old person dragging an oxygen bottle around them on this big, bulky, heavy tank, right?

And we have a tank that clips on your belt, uses liquid oxygen and has little heaters in it.

And it can supply oxygen for the same amount of time as that big, clunky bottle they carry around behind them.

And then I look at the seven, eight year old kid who's sitting on the sidelines with an oxygen bottle on a tank, because he doesn't have good lung capacity and thinking, you know, he could be out there playing with one of these coke size, you know, 16 ounce coke size bottles hanging on his belt.

He'd be running around playing soccer right now.

So again, yeah, it's really amazing technology.

It goes to space, but how can it change Earth and make life better here?

I love it.

It's one of the, I think the most important things that we, in the space community that we can talk about is that difference for people on Earth, for folks who maybe are feeling disconnected from the whole, like, why are we doing this whole space thing?

I mean, that is really where a lot of people's minds light up when you tell them these kinds of stories about the material difference space technology can make.

I mean, that's not small.

And that's just amazing what y'all are working on that you can make a difference there.

It's huge.

I can't even overstate that.

And, you know, recognizing beyond just the really cool mattresses that came out of the space program, you know, why do we have Flasik?

You know, why can we actually correct vision?

It's because of the space program.

Why do we have treatments for diet?

Why do we have treatments for diabetes?

It's because of the space program.

And those are things that affect millions of people.

So start multiplying that benefit for what we can do as we start to understand the capabilities of space and let your imagination go wild.

Because within the next 20 years, we're going to see more advancement than we've seen in the last 200.

And space is going to be part of making it.

I completely agree.

It's actually, it's such an exciting time to be alive.

I say it a lot.

Because what's what's going on right now is just it's fascinating to watch and seeing the people and talking to people who are building that future is honestly the best part of my job, John.

So I love talking to folks like yourself.

There's anything you wanted to mention about Exos or what y'all are working on or anything you wanted to say to the audience before we conclude.

I wanted to give you that chance.

I believe space is for the masses.

And I'd love to have 100,000 people involved with Exos going forward to do that and bringing that knowledge.

Because all we're doing is giving all the brilliant people of the world with these great phenomenal ideas.

Thousands of them that have been tested and proven on the International Space Station or disproven on ISS.

But there's still hundreds that if we just had manufacturing in space, we could go do those things that we proved on the ISS.

And that takes the world.

You know, that's not a NASA program.

That's not an Exos program.

That's somebody saying, give me an opportunity in space and I'll do something that changes the world.

So we put hundreds of those minds together, whether it's through investors or people doing research on our rockets.

And together we change the world.

We'll be right back.

Welcome back.

Do you remember life before T-minus came to air?

No, we're not sure what that was like either.

But I do remember this tale from before we at T-minus came into existence.

No, not before I was born.

I mean before the show came into existence.

The first cookie baked in space.

Oh, yes, you can smell this story for sure.

I hope you're not hungry.

So let's follow the crumbs, shall we?

In a first of its kind experiment back in 2019, Hilton became the first hospitality company to participate in research aboard the International Space Station.

Double Tree by Hilton partnered with Zero G Kitchen, creator of appliances for microgravity use in long duration space flights.

And Double Tree also partnered with NanoRacks, which is now part of Voyager Space, to help develop an oven suitable for space travel.

And after several days of delicious experimentation, I'm sure, the famous Double Tree chocolate chip cookie earned its place in space history, sending its signature fresh baked aroma, wafting throughout the space station.

That must have been quite a relief, given how the space station purportedly smells most of the time.

Now, you'd think that the astronauts on the ISS would have been able to eat those cookies, wouldn't you?

Talk about a tease.

It seems that the Double Tree chocolate chip cookie returned from orbit for testing with Neri Abite, taken away from it.

Wow, talk about self-control.

The cookies journey then continued after returning to Earth, making its way from the Johnson Space Center to Virginia, before finding its new home in an airtight exhibition box at the National Air and Space Museum.

Yes, the cookie, which is the epitome of goods that need to be eaten, is going on display, not in a cookie jar, and you'll be able to see it at the Udvar-Hazy Center.

It will become part of a new exhibit called At Home in Space, which is anticipated to open at the museum's new building in Washington, D.C. in 2026.

I will be there with bells on.

I cannot imagine that that cookie, though, will taste too good after all this time, but I'll admit, right now I could really go for a chocolate chip cookie, a fresh one, preferably.

Space is for cookies.

That's good enough for me.

[Music] That's it for T-minus for May 9th, 2024, brought to you by N2K Cyberwire.

For additional resources from today's report, check out our show notes at space.n2k.com.

For privilege 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.

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 Eibn.

Our executive editor is Brandon Karpf.

Simone Petrella is our president.

Peter Kilpie is our publisher.

And I'm your host, Maria Varmasas.

Thanks for listening.

We'll see you tomorrow.

[Music] T-minus.


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