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.
Space Force is everywhere but Alabama.
New Space Force missions in Colorado Springs. Florida’s home for STARCOM HQ. NASA’s new satellite tsunami detector. UAPs, but no ETs. And more.
The US Air Force announces the creation of four more Space Force missions in Colorado Springs. Space Training and Readiness Command (STARCOM) headquarters announced at Patrick Space Force Base in Florida. NASA introduces a new experimental monitoring system to detect tsunamis called GUARDIAN. Futurama announces a return to the silver screen, and more.
Remember to leave us a 5-star rating and review in your favorite podcast app.
Lukas Nyström, Chief Technology Officer at Satcube, on satellite manufacturing, near-shoring, and supply chain management.
You can follow Lukas on LinkedIn.
We want to hear from you! Please complete our 4 question survey. It’ll help us get better and deliver you the most mission-critical space intel every day.
Want to hear your company in the show?
Want to join us for an interview?
Please send your pitch to email@example.com and include your name, affiliation, and topic proposal.
T-Minus is a production of N2K Networks, your source for strategic workforce intelligence. © 2023 N2K Networks, Inc.
[ Musical Flourish ]
>> Maria Varmazis: Drama, drama, drama. In case you haven't been paying attention to what's going on in US politics and news, and no, we won't get into it because that's a different show, but here in the US, we do seem to like the drama lately in the latest twist in whether or not the US Space Force will or won't relocate from Colorado Springs to Alabama. Four new Space Force missions have been announced in, want to guess? Colorado Springs, and that could be a new tally mark in the stay column for Space Force HQ.
[ Music ]
Today is June 1, 2023. I'm Maria Varmazis, and this is T-Minus.
[ Music ]
New Space Force missions in Colorado Springs. Florida's home for STARCOM HQ. NASA's new satellite tsunami detector. UAPs but no ETs, and my interview with Lukas Nystrom, Chief Technology Officer at Satcube, all about supply chain management and automation for satellite manufacturing. Stay with us.
[ Music ]
Let's take a look at the Intel Briefing for this first of June, shall we? Now adding to the ongoing saga of the Space Force, will they/won't they headquarters move to Alabama, the Air Force announced the creation of four more Space Force missions in Colorado Springs. The selection of Colorado Springs sidesteps the political debate initiated during President Trump's final days in office when he selected Alabama as the preferred location for the headquarters. Now that decision is still under review. The Air Force has been slowly but surely consolidating space operations in Colorado Springs, with at least 20 space missions now based there and the introduction of a space curriculum at the Air Force Academy. Other new permanent locations for Space Force missions include New Mexico, and most recently, Florida. The Guardian's plan to establish the headquarters for its Space Training and Readiness Command, or STARCOM, Patrick Space Force Base in Florida. This development will introduce hundreds of personnel to the Florida space coast to create training programs for Space Force members, including space Delta 10 for wargaming and tactics. STARCOM is responsible for education, training, and development of space professionals. But hey, wait a second. That actually sounds a lot like what we do at N2K Space. So STARCOM, give us a call. Now we'll keep close tabs on the evolving Space Force Headquarters decision, and we'll keep you informed of the latest, of course, but with these recent announcements, it's admittedly not looking good for Alabama. We do love an acronym on T-Minus, and today we're going to bring you in all uppercase GUARDIAN, and no, we're not talking about the Space Force kind, and get ready, this is one of those dreaded acronym sandwiches. Okay, here we go. The GNSS Upper Atmospheric Real-Time Disaster information and Alert Network, also known as GUARDIAN, is NASA's new experimental monitoring system to detect tsunamis. The system uses data from clusters of GPS and other wave-finding satellites to look for signals of developing disastrous waves. The waves cause air ripples in the Earth's atmosphere that can distort the signals from nearby navigational satellites ever so slightly. So NASA hopes that these signals will allow the agency more time for early tsunami detection. And how about that NASA panel yesterday about unidentified aerial phenomena? Did you hear about that? Well, if you missed it, our interns were there with matching "Please Abduct Me" T shirts and alien antennae hoping against hope that we'd learn something exciting. Alas, nothing revelatory. The NASA team was unequivocal in their denials. Quote, "There is absolutely no convincing evidence of extraterrestrial life associated with UAPs." That being said, NASA's experts tasked with studying UAPs also emphasized that they lack substantial data to understand the events reported over the years. The panel which is separate from the Pentagon's own research effort, is working towards developing a roadmap for NASA's future unclassified science-based study of UAPs. Now the group noted that the current data collection efforts are unsystematic and fragmented across various agencies. So they advocated for more targeted data collection, the Pentagon's all-domain Anomaly Resolution Office is increasing its efforts as well, announcing the development of purpose-built sensors in collaborations with NASA, the Five Eyes Alliance, and universities to improve data collection and analysis. So while some UAP sightings have been demystified, the panel stressed the need to reduce stigma about reporting strange phenomena to enhance data quality. NASA's final report is due in late July. Our friends at Space News are reporting that Boston-based startup, Fortify, has raised $12.5 million from investors. Fortify is developing a digital composite manufacturing platform for applications, including satellites. Their customers and now investors include Lockheed Martin Ventures and Raytheon Technologies RTX ventures, who both believe that the company offers a strategic advantage to the defense industrial base. And now over to our International Desk for some updates. Made in Canada will soon be on the labels of satellites and space domain awareness tech after MDA and Thoth Technology announced a partnership. MDA plans to integrate their commercial data services with Thoth's ground-based radar technology to provide sovereign monitoring in deep space over Canada. MDA is currently the only non-US space-based contributor to the US Space Surveillance Network. Combined with MDA's expertise, Thoth's Ontario-based radar facility hopes to advance, develop, and deliver capabilities in deep space radar surveillance and space domain awareness. ID Quantique announced that they're joining TESAT to equip the EAGLE 1 satellite with advanced security features, facilitating the EU's quantum communications infrastructures from space. EAGLE 1 is a satellite based QKD, or Quantum Key Distribution system, and it's set to enhance secure transmission of encryption keys across geographically dispersed regions. ID Quantique will develop a space-qualified cryptographic key generation system while TESAT will manufacture that QKD payload. These advancements aim to ensure the security of cryptographic applications for industries such as government, telecommunications, cloud providers, and banking. Co-funded by the European Space Agency and the European Commission, EAGLE 1 is slated for launch in 2024. And for a bit of background in case you're not super familiar with quantum key distribution or quantum communications in general, and though it may sound like science fiction, quantum cryptography is a very real technology. The threat posed by quantum based techniques to break some of today's most popular encryption algorithms is just as real. Many nation states are already investing in a "collect now and decrypt later" strategy where they just scoop up as much encrypted information as possible today, expecting to decrypt it using quantum computation in the near future. Quantum key distribution is a core technology to ensure the security of encrypted communications against such attacks. While South Korea has achieved significant progress in its space program, such as the recent successful launch of the homegrown Nuri rocket and the Lunar Orbiter Danuri, political disagreements are hampering efforts to create the Korea Aerospace Administration or KASA, South Korea's proposed equivalent of NASA. Despite President Yoon Suk Yeol commitment to establish KASA by year's end, the Ministry of Science and ICT's proposed legislation has not yet gained national assembly approval, largely due to conflicts with the opposition Democratic Party of Korea over its positioning and leadership. New Zealand has unveiled its national space policy, marking its growth as a leading spacefaring nation. The policy outlines a growing and innovative space sector focused on protecting national security and economic interests first and foremost, with provisions that enable international business cooperation. The policy emphasizes the importance of a responsible and sustainable use of space, and also proposes regulations for safety and security. The policy will serve as a reference point for future space policy creation in New Zealand, guiding the nation's decisions around public policy, business growth, and national security. We've included a link to the aforementioned policy in our show notes, by the way, space.n2k.com. And finally, in the show notes, you'll also find an excellent bit of journalism from the New York Times, The Times tracked several oil tankers faking their locations while transporting Russian oil in an apparent effort to deceive their American insurer. Much of the data used in the research was derived from space-enabled data, including from Planet Labs, Copernicus Sentinel 2, Maxar Technologies, Marine Traffic, Spire Global, and Equasis. It's a great practical demonstration of the value and usefulness of space technology.
[ Music ]
And that is it for our briefing for today. Hey T-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. So send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or send us a note through our website so we can connect about building a program that can meet your goals. Coming up, I speak with Lukas Nystrom, Chief Technology Officer at Satcube all about supply chain management and automation for satellite manufacturing. Stay with us.
[ Music ]
[ Musical Flourish ]
We've all heard about the supply chain woes over the last few years, and I'm sure many of us experienced them firsthand. Now Satcube, which is a manufacturer of communication satellites, managed to mitigate much of the supply chain disruptions. So here's Lukas Nystrom, Chief Technology Officer at Satcube, who sat down with me to explain how they did it.
[ Musical Flourish ]
>> Lukas Nystrom: From the start, when Satcube was founded, we've always -- or we made the decision early on that we would do all manufacturing in house, and the reason for this when we started was that we saw that there would otherwise be supply chain and quality issues. So we set up our own factory in Kulsta, which is a city in Sweden. The factory was very small. We were able to produce a few -- like 100 units per year. We then quickly outgrew that facility, and we moved to a new one, which is the current one that we are occupying, and we have a capability of doing around 500 units per year, which is now starting to be a bottleneck in our business plan. So we need to upgrade this facility. So we are building everything from scratch. So it's basically just an open floor, where we let our architects design how the workstations should look. What's the best workflow? How do we optimize the incoming goods, production, assembly, testing, outgoing goods? So just in general, the production chain to streamline the process, to make it more lean.
>> Maria Varmazis: Are there any interesting technologies? You mentioned some of the lean processes being integrated. Any technologies of interest that might be enabling this build out?
>> Lukas Nystrom: So many of the advantages of moving to this larger facility where we're able to build the entire chain from scratch is that we can, from the start, start to build a process which we can not fully automate. So it's not conveyor belts, but it's semiautomated, and we're building it in a modular fashion where we can gradually upgrade the level of automation. So the initial installed capacity will be around 5,000 units per year, but we have already prepared for some small changes where we can move from 5,000 to 15,000. And then there are some larger investments, CapEx investments, that we need to do, to scale up to 50 or even 100,000 in the same facility. So it's just a matter of making the production more efficient by using, for example, automated screwing stations instead of manually doing all the torque drives.
>> Maria Varmazis: That makes sense, and one thing I noticed, and we talked about this a little bit before the interview, was talking about keeping the supply chain more local and the advantages in that. Could you expand a little bit on that?
>> Lukas Nystrom: When we started, we knew that, okay, many of the parts will always be sourced from all around the globe because the industry is, by definition, global. So some suppliers are around in Europe. Some are in Asia. Some are in the US, and then literally all over. So we saw that there is a potential risk that it's going to be difficult to source, and if there is only one component that we can't get ahold of, then the entire production is just stopped. So we had a strategy from the start to try to source as much as possible locally, and that meant that we would only source the very specialized components from others, so like the very core, small building blocks, and then, we do all of the assembly ourselves. So that means that we have much less risk in the supply chain, which we were very happy about when the pandemic hit. Because of course there were issues with semiconductors, but at least many of the larger components we could still source easily because it was meant to be easy from the start. So we were impacted, but not that heavily.
>> Maria Varmazis: As you look ahead to developments in satellite technology, what's of interest to you? What are you looking at for -- as potentially new or interesting technologies?
>> Lukas Nystrom: One of the key drivers, at least to us, is trying to optimize the power-added efficiency or the energy consumption of the system. So this is a common metric in the telecom sphere is to look at watts per megabit per second. In SATCOM, on the space side, this has been a big thing because you're very short on power. On the ground, there are a lot of terminals that consume a lot of power because it hasn't really been a bottleneck. We're seeing that the -- if you consume an excessive amount of power, it has like a snowball effect. If you consume more power than you need so you drain batteries faster, but you also increase the strain on the electronics because of thermal issues, they grow exponentially. So then you need bigger heat sinks, which means that you need fans, and then, you need to do IP protection of those fans. So everything just sort of explodes. So one of the key areas of interest and research for us is trying to look for energy-efficient solutions. And this implies that we're looking at low loss internal technologies, trying to use as much airfield structures and metallic structure as opposed to the more conventional substrate-based or PCB-based antennas, which tend to dissipate more heat than they need to. And the other factors are on the semiconductor side. So there are some advancements on semiconductors and amplifiers that are interesting to look at where you can try to optimize the overall efficiency on the amplifiers themselves. So for example, looking at Doherty amplifiers as a way to maybe be more -- not just have a very high efficiency at the saturated power, which has been a big, big selling point from the amplifier vendors, but to actually try to optimize for the operational conditions of the amplifier, which most of the time, is quite far backed off from the saturated power.
>> Maria Varmazis: And given the use case for Satcube, I imagine all these developments make a lot of sense, given the context in which your products are used. So that makes a lot of sense. Is there anything else that you wanted to mention about either Satcube or the new production facility?
>> Lukas Nystrom: I think it's maybe worth revisiting the supply chain aspect again. So we talked about it from a purely logistical perspective, that it simplifies sourcing, if you can do it locally. Another aspect is the increasing geopolitical situation where both Europe and the US are trying to actively onshore more of the semiconductor technologies, and more generally, the manufacturing of components. So it's important to just think about these geopolitical aspects when doing your supply chain analysis to make sure that you're not putting all your eggs in one basket, which eventually might be a non-grata region, and then you'd have to do all your sourcing again and you might have a stop somewhere.
[ Music ]
>> Maria Varmazis: Our thanks to Lucas Nystrom from Satcube for speaking with us today.
[ Music ]
We'll be right back.
[ Musical Flourish ]
And welcome back. You know, many of us have our comfort TV shows that we like to watch or rewatch, even if you've seen it a zillion times, when it just feels like you want to have the media equivalent of comfy sweatpants on. Cabletv.com says the top three comfort shows for Americans, are Friends, The Office (the US version, presumably), and Star Trek, though I have to wonder which Star Trek or do they mean the entire franchise collectively? For me, I've certainly watched and rewatched Star Trek: The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine many, many times. But one of my fav comfort shows is the outstanding sci-fi cartoon Futurama. And if you're like me, and really, really love Futurama, after many years on and off and back on again and then back off the air, you probably think the show ended rather nicely a few years ago. After all, it put a rather lovely bow on Fry and Leela's story, and it felt like the show had finally gotten the ending it really deserved. And you'd be technically correct, which is the best kind of correct, but --
>> Good news everyone.
>> Super fans probably know this, but just in case you missed it, Futurama is actually coming back again. The show announced its return earlier this year to some joy and confusion, and today we're learning that Futurama is coming back on July 24th this summer, and that new episodes will be streaming on Hulu. So fellow Futurama fans, were walking on sunshine. Mark your calendars for July 24th, and until then, just like Fry's dog, it might feel like 1,000 summers, but new Futurama episodes, we will wait for.
[ Music ]
That's it for T-Minus for June 1, 2023. For additional resources from today's report, check out our show notes at space.n2k.com. 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. 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.
[ Music ]