The FAA and DoT propose new rules for government and commercial space launches. Northrop and Lockheed share SDA Tranche 2 Transport Layer contract....
Viasat-Inmarsat merger completes.
Viasat finalizes merger with Inmarsat. US State Department outlines space diplomacy plan. Space Command assumes all missile defense responsibilities. And more
Viasat completes acquisition of Inmarsat. The US State Department has released a 25-page document outlining a path to improving diplomatic efforts in space. US Space Command announces that they have assumed all missile defense responsibilities from US Strategic Command per the 2022 Unified Command Plan signed by President Joe Biden. North Korea’s rocket suffers a second stage malfunction. SpaceX marks 200th successful launch, and more.
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Laura Crabtree, CEO of Epsilon 3, on digital transformation for the ground segment, aerospace manufacturers, and managing risk as an aerospace company.
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>> Maria Varmazis: We love a scrappy underdog story in the space industry, succeeding against the tough odds and doing more with less. It tugs at the heartstrings, doesn't it? Well, when the big players also have big news, we understandably let them have their time in the spotlight, and ViaSat is pretty, pretty big and just got bigger.
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Today is May 31, 2023. I'm Maria Varmazis, and this is T-Minus.
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The ViaSat-Inmarsat deal is done. Space diplomacy gets a spotlight from the State Department. DARC completes its CDR, Sierra Space powers up Dream Chaser, and my conversation with Laura Crabtree, cofounder and CEO of Epsilon 3 on the digital transformation for ground segment and aerospace manufacturers.
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Let's take a look at today's Intel Briefing, shall we? And an update to some big satellite-related news to top off our show today. With all regulatory challenges now cleared, the ViaSat acquisition of British satellite telecoms company, Inmarsat, has officially closed. With this acquisition, ViaSat now has 19 satellites on orbit, covering the Ka, L, and S bands. ViaSat's press release about the deal's completion says that, "The company's assets, once fully integrated, are expected to increase the pace and scope of innovation in the global satellite connectivity sector, offering new and improved capabilities to customers that will address the ever-increasing speed, flexibility, reliability, coverage, and security that they demand." We should note that while ViaSat corporate will stay in Carlsbad, California, its new global international business headquarters will now be based in London, which is where Inmarsat had been based, as well. From satellites to space diplomacy now, and the US State Department has released a 25-page document outlining a path to improving diplomatic efforts in space. This first strategic framework for space diplomacy outlines how State Department diplomacy will advance continued US space leadership, with an aim to expand international cooperation, promote responsible behavior from all space actors, strengthen the understanding of and support for US National Space policies and programs, and promote international use of US space capabilities, systems, and services. Space relations have traditionally been governed by NASA or the Pentagon, but this new document suggests a larger diplomatic endeavor. The document states that space-related issues, activities, and programs will be addressed at the highest levels of foreign governments but fall short on explaining how that's going to happen. And a notable update now from Colorado Springs. US Space Command announced today that they have assumed all missile defense responsibilities from US Strategic Command, per the 2022 Unified Command Plan signed by President Joe Biden. In addition to planning support, Space Command will also provide Asset Management, warfighter involvement and capability development, network management and defense, mission specific intelligence and missile defense joint training, education, and exercise support. The head of US Space Command, Army General James Dickinson, shared that, "This transfer is the culmination of a comprehensive study on the roles, responsibilities, and authorities associated with the missile defense enterprise. Integration of systems and fighting doctrine is critical to modern warfare," he said. Now, it's been a while since we dumped a load of acronyms on you, and it's coming up next. So Happy Hump Day, and here they are. Lockheed Martin has signed a cooperative research and development agreement (known as a CRADA) with the US Army Combat Capabilities Development Command's, Aviation, and Missile Center, known as AVMC, to advance Beyond Line of Sight known as BLOS connectivity. Did you get all that? The agreement will see Lockheed Martin and AVMC jointly developing and demonstrating space-enabled defense systems. Okay, oh, and there's more. The partnership will conduct design, development, integration, and test risk-reduction activities at AVMC's Redstone Arsenal, Alabama based System Integration Lab (You got it. It's known as the SIL.) to identify and develop concepts of operations for linking ground-based platforms to the space domain. Northrop Grumman Corporation has successfully completed the critical design review, or CDR (more acronyms) and software demonstration for the US Space Force's Deep Space Advanced Radar Capability Program known as DARC. The aerospace and defense company says DARC will be the first to provide an all-weather at-all-times capability in support of the Space Domain Awareness Mission. With this milestone completed, the program will turn its focus to the factory acceptance testing of key subsystems starting later this year. Now, welcome back to Earth, the four Axiom II mission astronauts who splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico overnight. The all-civilian crew completed 20 experiments during their time on the International Space Station. SpaceX's Crew Dragon Capsule safely transported the astronauts home after eight days on the ISS. And soon after the splashdown, SpaceX launched again from the West Coast of the US, doubling the record for consecutive orbital launch successes. Their latest Falcon 9 took off from Vandenberg Space Force Base, transporting 52 Starlink satellites. This mission marks the 200th successful launch of the company's Falcon 9 rocket. Kudos to SpaceX for reaching such an amazing milestone, and tip of the hat to the hardest working rocket in space, the Falcon 9. And continuing with success stories, Sierra Space has announced that they have reached a critical milestone in their mission and have powered up their Dream Chaser space plane. Sierra Space simulated the power that will be generated from Dream Chaser solar arrays once in orbit and activated the plane's integrated systems exercising flight computers, base processors, and low-voltage distribution units. The test was a key moment for the progress of space technology after years of design and development. But with every success story, there often comes a test failure right behind, unfortunately, and right now North Korea is recovering their rocket and analyzing data after their vehicle suffered a second-stage malfunction. South Korea says the rocket flew southward carrying the North's first military reconnaissance satellite known as Cheollima-1. The launch has caused outrage from the West as it violates UN Security Council resolutions that banned the country from conducting any launch based on ballistic technology. And now over to Spain, and Spain's first privately developed rocket is experiencing launch delays after the first attempt by PLD Space from the company's launchpad in Médano del Loro was scrubbed. The Miura 1 satellite was due to launch from the pad located at Spain's National Institute for Aerospace Technology based in El Arenosillo, Huelva, on May 31st. Weather permitting, PLD space will attempt to launch again in the coming days, vamos mura! And a belated Happy birthday to the Very Large Telescope at the European Southern Observatory in Chile. The hard-working telescope turned 25 last week, and with the new upgrades, the VLT plans to remain at the forefront of astronomy, helping us to uncover the secrets of the universe and providing us with some pretty awesome views. And the European Space Agency is inviting European companies to submit proposals for commercial cargo transportation services to and from the ISS and future outposts. You can read more about that and all of the other stories that we've covered in today's Intel Briefing at our website, space.n2k.com. We've even included a few stories that we didn't mention for your reading pleasure.
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And that's it for today's Intel Briefing. Stay with us for my conversation with Laura Crabtree, CEO and cofounder of Epsilon 3 on digital transformation for the ground segment aerospace manufacturers and managing risks as an aerospace company. And hey, T-Minus crew, if you find this podcast useful, please do us a favor and share a five-star rating and short review in your favorite podcast app. It really does help other space professionals just like you to find the show and join the T-Minus crew. Now thank you very much. We really appreciate it.
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My guest for today's interview is Laura Crabtree, CEO and cofounder of Epsilon 3. She's going to walk us through where new developments in software are helping drive innovation on the hardware side of things.
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>> Laura Crabtree: We are helping space companies and other complex engineering companies move faster in their integration, test, and operations realm by helping them organize and communicate better via a platform that's hosted on cloud or on-prem services.
>> Maria Varmazis: So let's dive into the concept of digital transformation of the space industry. It's a pretty broad term. So what do you mean by that?
>> Laura Crabtree: On the digital transformation side, there are a lot of different meanings, but to me, it basically just means a digital thread of everything that you are doing to build, integrate, test, and operate your vehicle, whatever that vehicle might be. It could be a launch vehicle. It could be a small sat. It could be a large geostationary satellite, and I think for the current state of things, there are a lot of digital tools that people use. But it's very hard to trace from one tool to another. And so, I think part of that digital transformation has to be what data goes into one system from another, and how do you share data across systems and across personnel? Because just having something digitally doesn't necessarily mean that it's easily accessible.
>> Maria Varmazis: Right, you can drown in data, essentially, and you know, collecting a lot of data and then not knowing what to do with it can be a real problem. So yeah, what does that landscape look like? Is it just sort of a mess of different data sources and different programs that aren't speaking to each other generally?
>> Laura Crabtree: Yeah, I mean, in my past life, I worked in a lot of simulation and training and a lot of integration and test, and we had very large data files that we would store on a distributed file server. And we would ask people to go review the data, and nobody ever would because the barrier to entry was so high. Similarly, we had a lot of data that was gathered on how we were operating a vehicle, how we were making decisions, that we probably could have learned a lot more from if we had had the metadata easily accessible. And so, I think, over the course of, you know, the last five years, there's been a lot of movement in how we think about the decision-making process and how we think about the data transfer between different companies, different groups within a certain company, and different people, and I think that you're going to see a lot of change in that in the coming years, as well.
>> Maria Varmazis: What's driving that specific -- it's interesting that it's the last five years or so. Is it something in the workforce that's maybe changing, or just the speed at which companies are delivering new craft, or is it all of the above and extra?
>> Laura Crabtree: I think it's the startup kind of ecosystem that has emerged over the last, I want to say five years, but maybe it's been a little bit longer than that, and I think it started with -- probably 10 years ago with SpaceX launching Falcon 9 and people having more access to space. A lot of startups came out of the woodwork at that point, and we've seen small companies trying to do more with a very small team. And in order to do that, you have to have really good tools and really good communication to be able to move as quickly as they want to move. And before then, there wasn't a huge ecosystem to support enterprise-type software tools specifically made for the space industry. So I think it's a combination of all those things that we've seen kind of the boom in enterprise-type software for space.
>> Maria Varmazis: That's interesting. So given that we're seeing more of this adoption, what are some barriers that you've seen that are maybe preventing some companies that might want to move ahead but haven't been able to? What are they encountering?
>> Laura Crabtree: I think they, small companies, probably want to move as quickly as they can, and they don't know the types of software that are out there. So, you know, really figuring out what the landscape looks like now with respect to software is really helpful, and getting the word out about what you're doing, if you're in the software space, is helpful, so that companies kind of know, what the landscape looks like. Additionally, when you look at specific companies who have a lot of kind of barriers to making decisions, that's something that also kind of helps kind of slow things down. So if you make decisions more quickly, something that, you know, we learned at SpaceX was basically make a decision. If it's the wrong one, you can always make a different decision, but if you sit on a decision for a really long period of time, you're basically maybe going to make the right decision, but maybe not, and it's always better to make a wrong decision than make no decision.
>> Maria Varmazis: Oh, interesting. So in a way, it's also a bit of a cultural thing, too. That's really interesting. Okay. Yeah. It's interesting to hear that we're seeing adoption of these new tools that I feel like maybe in other sectors in the broader tech world have already been there a little bit, and the space industry is just getting there now. Do you see that maybe reflecting a growing maturity or willingness to move into sort of some standard best practices that have been available in other industries?
>> Laura Crabtree: There's definitely a willingness to adopt new tools now that I didn't see or witness or experience in my previous life. A lot of engineers want to build their own tools, and they want to build internal tools, which will slow you down because you're going to spend a lot of time building internal tools, and they might not be as good as tools you can buy on the market. But that's something that definitely slows people down, as well. That desire to build internal tools that maybe don't push your business forward as quickly as if you had just bought something off the shelf.
>> Maria Varmazis: Right and to put their personal stamp on something, but maybe that's not the -- not the most efficient route to go.
>> Laura Crabtree: But to their credit, in the past, you know, there weren't enterprise tools that were specifically built for the space industry. So you kind of had to build internal tools, but now you don't have to, because there are a lot of really good tools that are available.
>> Maria Varmazis: Oh, excellent. So yeah, what do you see as opportunities in -- in this digital transformation of the space industry? Like what -- looking ahead, what do you -- what are you seeing as places that this can go?
>> Laura Crabtree: Yeah, so in the in the space industry, you know, we focus a lot on automation, which is great, because as the constellations grow, as there are more assets in space, we definitely need more automation. So I think, in that space, flight software has the ability to grow, but in addition, as I'm sure you know, there are always things you need to do from the ground, either to monitor or to execute. And, you know, we're positioning Epsilon 3 to help be kind of that infrastructure to support all of the ground operations from, you know, integration test through in-flight operations, and I think there's -- you're going to see a lot of growth both in the automation space, and you know, how the -- how the ground thinks about operations.
>> Maria Varmazis: Oh, Laura, that's excellent. So I just wanted to give you sort of the floor, if there's anything you wanted to mention that maybe we haven't touched on before we close out. I wanted to give you an opportunity to do that.
>> Laura Crabtree: No, I think, you know, I'm really excited about the growth that we're seeing in the space industry. I know as I talk to different people in the community, investors who are looking at space companies, there is a lot of innovation going on out there, and I think in the next couple of years, we're going to see this industry go even crazier than we've seen it go in the past five years. So I'm really excited to be supporting a part of that, and I hope everybody else is excited about that, as well.
>> Maria Varmazis: Excellent. I certainly am as well. So that will -- I'm really looking forward to seeing how things develop. Laura, thank you so much for sharing your expertise with me today. I really appreciate it.
>> Laura Crabtree: Yeah, absolutely.
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We'll be right back.
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Welcome back, and for our closing item for today, we're taking a look at yet another amazing new find from the James Webb Space Telescope. While Webb has a number of missions to look as far away as possible, it also takes an occasional look at celestial bodies right here in our solar system, too. And recently, it turned its golden hexagons and its Near-Infrared Spectrograph (or NIRSpec) towards Enceladus, an ice moon of Saturn's that orbits the ringed planet every 33 hours. And it saw something on this moon no one had seen before -- a water vapor plume jetting out from its southern pole, spewing water at a rate of about 79 gallons a second -- and that water jet is more than 6,000 miles long. Meanwhile, Enceladus itself is only 313 miles in diameter. So that jet plume is more than 20 times the size of Enceladus. So you have a tiny ice moon, shooting a huge plume of water out, kind of doing donuts around Saturn but in water form instead of rubber, as Enceladus's orbit is basically a big water torus The current thinking is that only 30% of that water from the plume stays in the Enceladus water torus; whereas the other 70% of that water serves as a water feed source not only for the Saturnian system but also for Saturn's lovely rings. I'm just so glad this was a Saturn and Enceladus discovery. Thank goodness we didn't discover a giant jet shooting water out of the south pole of Uranus.
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And that's it for T-Minus for May 31, 2023. For additional resources from today's report, check out our show notes at space.n2k.com. And we'd love to know what you think of our podcast. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org 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. N2K Strategic Workforce Intelligence optimizes the value of your biggest investment, your people. Wwe make you smarter about your team while making your team smarter. This episode was produced by Alice Carruth. Mixing by Elliot Peltzman and Trey Hester, with original music and sound design by Elliot 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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