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Delays to Boeing’s manned mission to the ISS.

Boeing delays manned mission to ISS. Pixxel raises over $36 million in a series B funding. Pentagon purchases Starlink services for use in Ukraine. And more.





Boeing delays manned mission to ISS. India-based Pixxel raises over $36 million in a series B funding led by Google. The US Department of Defense signs an agreement to purchase Starlink Satellite services from SpaceX for use in Ukraine. The US Air Force has announced that Brig. Gen. Kristin Panzenhagen will replace Maj. Gen. Stephen Purdy as the next commander of Space Launch Delta 45, and more.

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T-Minus Guest

Our guest for today’s show is Peter w Singer, a Strategist at New America, a Professor of Practice at Arizona State University, and Founder & Managing Partner at Useful Fiction LLC.

You can follow Peter on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Selected Reading

Boeing indefinitely delays Starliner astronaut mission for NASA after discovering more issues- CNBC

Google leads funding round for Indian space startup Pixxel- Reuters

Elon Musk’s SpaceX Wins Pentagon Deal for Starlink in Ukraine- Bloomberg

Space Force selects new leader for Eastern Range- SpaceNews

Space Force exploring options to build weather monitoring constellation- SpaceNews

New North Korean space rocket features engine from ICBMs, analysts say- Reuters

Latitude's rocket engine pushed to its limits in new test campaign- Latitude

CGI Federal Successfully Demos Microsoft Azure Satellite Backhaul for U.S. Marine Corps- Via Satellite

World's 1st 'hacking sandbox' satellite and more to ride on SpaceX's next NASA cargo launch- Space.com

Growing hacking threat to satellite systems compels global push to secure outer space- Cyberscoop

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>> Maria Varmazis: I have been working in communications for more than a little while now, so I can tell you a bit of insider knowledge here. When someone calls a last-minute end-of-day press conference, the news is either really good or really bad, usually the latter. So with just a few weeks left before Boeing's Starliner scheduled crew flight test coming up, when yesterday many of us saw a sudden 5 p.m. press conference announced with NASA and Boeing, I swear you could hear a collective, "uh-oh."

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Today is June 2nd, 2023. I'm Maria Varmazis and this is T-Minus.

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Boeing's Starliner delayed. Pixxel raises a Google-led Series B. The Pentagon by Starlink for use in Ukraine. Changes in Space Force leadership. North Korea is in a sharing mood. And my conversation with futurist and author Peter W. Singer, the managing partner at Useful Fiction, about the future of space tech and the power of narrative. It's a fascinating Friday conversation. Definitely tune in for this one.

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Here is our intel briefing for today. No, it's not happy news to report about Boeing's Starliner program today. Yesterday, Boeing announced that Starliner's crew flight test, which was rescheduled from April to July 21, is unfortunately yet again delayed. Its rescheduled flight test date is currently pending due to two issues discovered just before Memorial Day. One of the problems found involves a protective glass cloth tape wrapped around wiring harnesses throughout Starliner. Recent tests found that in some corner cases, this tape is potentially flammable.

And a second issue is regarding a possible failure point in Starliner's parachute system, specifically the soft links between Starliner and its parachutes, which were found to have had a lower load limit than required. This means should one of the three parachutes failed during landing, it's possible that the other two lines holding up Starliner could snap. Both of these issues present serious safety concerns, so understandably, the crew flight test is off for now with no revised target for a launch date at this time, NASA awarded Boeing about $5 billion to develop Starliner, which as you likely know, directly competes with SpaceX's Starship on the NASA Commercial Crew Program.

Boeing is on a fixed-cost contract with NASA, and the subsequent delays in the Starliner program have cost Boeing about $833 million to cover. As Boeing nails down the issues and figures out their remediation options, we'll learn more about their path forward here as well as any potential timeline estimates, and we'll be sure to keep you updated too. And I should mention, if you want to hear more about the Boeing Starliner program, do check out our conversation with Florida Today's Space Editor Emre Kelly from our May 17th episode.

Now let's move over to some business news now. Bangalore, India-based space technology company Pixxel has raised over $36 million US dollars in a Series B funding round led by Google. Pixxel launched its first Pathfinder satellites last year, and aims to put a constellation of over 30 hyperspectral Earth observation microsatellites into a sun-synchronous orbit in the coming years. The company aims to collect data and produce analytical tools to mine insights from that data, detecting, monitoring, and predicting global phenomena. Pixxel is one of six companies that recently signed agreements with the US National Reconnaissance Office to produce hyperspectral imagery for the strategic commercial enhancements program. Pixxel has raised over $71 million US dollars to date.

Bloomberg News is reporting that the Pentagon has signed an agreement to purchase Starlink satellite services from SpaceX for use in Ukraine. The US Defense Department has not disclosed the contract value or terminal quantities, but has stated that the satellites constitute a vital layer in Ukraine's overall communications network as the country faces continued conflict with Russia. SpaceX sent Starlink ground terminals to Ukraine at the start of the conflict, but warned late last year the company could not continue to fund the use of its terminals indefinitely. SpaceX has over 4,000 Starlink satellites in low Earth orbit (or LEO) which communicate with designated ground transceivers and is used by over 1.5 million customers worldwide.

Change of command is coming up on June 30th and Space Launch Delta 45, the Space Force unit that oversees launch operations in the Eastern Range, will have a new leader. The US Air Force announced that Brigadier General Kristin Panzenhagen will replace Major General Stephen Purdy as the next commander of the launch site. Panzenhagen was previously a Senior Military Assistant to the Undersecretary of the Air Force, and Senior Material Leader of the Integrated Ground Enterprise Directorate at the National Reconnaissance Office. Purdy will be moving to the Pentagon to become Military Deputy to Frank Calvelli, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Space Acquisition and Integration.

Now staying with the Space Force for a moment, and the military branch updated its requests for information looking to identify industry sources capable of providing a spacecraft bus and integration support for a low-Earth orbit polar-orbiting sun-synchronous weather sensor to meet space-based environmental monitoring requirements. The weather sensor is expected to be provided as government-furnished equipment. The USSF RFI is also requesting the company provides post-launch support services.

Now going to a completely different country, North Korea. North Korea state media has made the rare move to release images of its failed rocket launch, enabling analysts from around the world to view the spacecraft in detail. In a report by Reuters, global experts say that the photographs appear to show a new design of their rocket and that the vehicle most likely uses engines developed for the country's intercontinental ballistic missiles or ICBMs. North Korea's Chollima 1 suffered from a second-stage malfunction during its first launch attempt on Wednesday. The rocket was said to be carrying the country's first military reconnaissance satellite. South Korea is working to recover parts of the North Korean rocket from the Yellow Sea. Images from parts that have already been recovered appear to show a section designed to join two stages, and a liquid propellant tank. Efforts continue to recover more of the spacecraft.

French rocket company Latitude successfully conducted the second test campaign for the first version of its 3D-printed Navier rocket engine. This latest campaign validated the performance under maximum constraints for the Navier engine. This first version of the 3D-printed rocket engine will pave the way for a second iteration of Navier, nine of which will power the first stage of their Latitudes rocket Zephyr. The first launch of Zephyr is scheduled for the end of 2024 from either SaxaVord in Scotland or Kourou in French Guiana.

CGI Federal has become the first Microsoft global partner to deploy and demonstrate the Azure Orbital Cloud Access satellite backhaul. During the same demonstration, the company also tested Nokia private 5g communications for the US Marine Corps. CGI held the demonstrations at the Marine Corps Platform Integration Center at Blount Island Command. Microsoft announced Azure Space last year, a set of products and services that will provide access to the cloud from anywhere on the planet. Microsoft aims to use Azure to bring satellite-based communications into their enterprise cloud operation to organizations worldwide. However, they are currently focusing on government agencies as its initial customer base.

SpaceX is set to launch its 28th commercial resupply mission to the ISS this weekend. The payload includes research, logistical supplies, and necessities for the Expedition 69 crew currently aboard the ISS. The mission will also be carrying six CubeSats which will be released into orbit as part of the Nanoracks 26 mission. One CubeSat, known as Moonlighter, is being launched as a cybersecurity testing target. MITRE was developed by the Aerospace Corporation with help from the Air Force Research Laboratory and Space Systems Command.

Now speaking of cybersecurity, cybersecurity in space has been a growing issue that global experts are looking to counter with a new set of industry standards. The Space Systems Cybersecurity Standard Working Group met in Rome and virtually this week to discuss the growing problem of protecting assets in space. With the growth of the commercial space industry, there is a larger market for off-the-shelf space products that introduce more cybersecurity risk. Now IEEE, a.k.a. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, which houses the working group, has introduced industry standards, but adoption will be voluntary. You can read all about those recommendations, and all of the stories that we've covered in today's show in the Selected Reading section of our website over at space.n2k.com.

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And that is it for our intel briefing for this Friday. Stay with me for my conversation with Peter W. Singer, Managing Partner at Useful Fiction, on the power of storytelling to produce change in the space sector.

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Today I'm talking to Peter W. Singer, a strategist and futurist, and a managing partner of a business called Useful Fiction, which brings together narrative and nonfiction products to help organizations tell their important and real stories. We start with what Useful Fiction is, and how Peter started his business.

>> Peter Singer: I've written a number of nonfiction books on topics that ranged from cybersecurity, to robotics, the future of warfare, and yet it was when I teamed up with a friend and now my business partner August Cole, who was the defense industry reporter for The Wall Street Journal, so had done a lot of space work as well, we teamed up and we wrote a novel called Ghostly that some of your listeners might be familiar with. Ghostly was a novel that imagined what a war between the US and China and Russia might look like (timely), but it's different in that the form of the novel was really a way of sharing nonfiction research.

It was a novel, but with 27 pages of footnotes, and every single technology in it, every single trend, even some of the quotes from the characters were actually pulled from the real world. It had a very important space element to it, helping to introduce to readers both, you know, what's going on in space, particularly Chinese efforts, but also the importance of space to not just the modern economy, but to the military, and that if there are vulnerabilities there, it could very much hamstring the US military.

What happened is that book, it sold well, but even more, it ended up having greater policy impact than any of our nonfiction products had. We were invited to share its real-world lessons everywhere from the White House, to invited to testify to Congress four different times, to, you know, briefings on the deck of aircraft carriers, you name it. What was really interesting -- and this points to the power of story -- is that it wasn't just briefings on, you know, share the real-world lessons. It changed policies. There were three different government investigations launched to keep things that happened in our novel, our useful fiction, from coming true.

So it, you know, it kind of didn't predict the future but prevented a future. The flip side is there were a couple of programs launched to make things in the book come true, most notably a $3.6 billion Navy ship program that they titled Ghostly. Gave me zero dollars for it, so but what came out of it is that we realized that there was an effect that could happen when you bring together the power of the oldest communication technology of all, story, but apply it to nonfiction, apply it to real-world problems.

>> Maria Varmazis: Yeah, there's so much going on in space, especially in this new space era that we're in. And you were mentioning earlier that you've done some work for both the DoD and for a conference Inter Astra. Can you tell us a little bit about the items that you did there?

>> Peter Singer: Inter Astra, if folks are not familiar with it, is a really fantastic conference on exploring the present and future of space. People behind it are Che and Charlie Bolden. Che, a former Marine officer turned just wonderful business entrepreneur, and then Charlie Bolden, you know, former head of NASA, astronaut, Marine General, you name it. And so what we did for them is two things. One, we created a different kind of pre-read. You know, if you've ever gone to events, you know, typically, things are sent out to people beforehand, "Here's a bunch of articles you ought to read," and, you know, no one reads it.

>> Maria Varmazis: Yeah.

>> Peter Singer: And so what we did is we worked with them. They identified a couple of key issues that they wanted their conference to explore, had different panel tracks around it. One was around the questions of the future of space, both looking outward, but looking back. What benefit will it cause for planet Earth, for the rest of us, not just for a small number of individuals, because if it doesn't, then we have a very different discussion around the space economy. Another was about who is in the future of space? It relates to diversity questions.

And a third was around questions of future competition, and even conflict in space, and how do we keep it from ruining it for the rest of us? How do we manage that? You know, and that's everything from great power rivalry to, you know, space situational awareness and deconfliction. So what we did before the conference is took those themes, took those nonfiction nuggets, and turned it into both a short story and some visual artwork that essentially envisioned the future of space.

And so what we did is we imagined it. We told them through a essentially, it was a fake newspaper profile of a space entrepreneur 30 years out. So it was a woman who's in the space business. She's imagined, but through this, almost like a New York Times Sunday Magazine profile. You know, "Meet so-and-so who's this new, interesting person." And there were some artwork for it as well, but through telling her story, we kind of built her off of both real-world people in the space economy today, but also the story of Levi Strauss.

So, you know, if space -- if the hope is that it's the next gold rush, right, well, the people that really made -- you know, some people struck gold. A lot of people did not. And the same thing is happening in the real space economy right now, but the kind of the long-term effect were the people like Levi Strauss that went out there and said, "I'm not going to be a miner. I'm going to create a hardware store. Oh, by the way, you know, I'm going to supply the miners what they need. Oh, by the way, I come up with a new different kind of product, blue jeans, and that's how I make it." And so I don't want to give away the whole story, but it's kind of around structures and regolith, which is like, not as exciting as rare earth minerals, but --

>> Maria Varmazis: Pretty cool, though.

>> Peter Singer: Yeah, cool stuff. But yeah, by telling her imagine story, you got those themes that they wanted people thinking about, engaging with before they got there, and then it also allowed people in attendance to reference something in the conversation. So the cool thing of this event and, you know, similar conferences is you get people from a lot of different backgrounds, but that means they don't have as many shared experiences.

And so what you can do, give them what we call a synthetic experience where they can say, "Oh, it's just like in that story when -- " and the other people are like, "Oh, yeah, I know that." And even if they're like, "Oh, I wouldn't have done what that character did," or I don't -- you know, but they know what each other are talking about. So we both did support on the frontend, and then what we're doing now for them is after effect. So there were three days of, you know, really great conversations, and what we've done is taken those thematic conversations and turned those into narratives.

So what are the important findings of bringing together all these great people? You know, you can generate out a conference report, and those are great but, you know, most people don't read conference reports, so we turn those into stories that envision it in a manner that strikes home. So, oh, one was on the concerns among people from across the space industry that if we don't figure out deconfliction and space situational awareness, you know, it's going to ruin it for the rest of us, that accidents could cause major, major effects. A subtheme on that was, "Hey, U.S., you need to have a little bit of modesty. You've been a space leader, but you're not the only player, and if you don't watch out, you could not be one of the leaders of this next conversation."

And so kind of taking some of those themes, we built out a scenario. It's a post-mild-Kessler effect. There's the general view of Kessler effect, which is like, we'll never be able to use space forever, and that the scientists would say, "Actually, it's not really like that." And so that's kind of how I was being, you know. So it's the way like an expert would reference it, as opposed to like, sci-fi, and so it's in the wake of it, and it's at an international negotiation where a lot like what happens in, you know, real-world arms control. You don't get the negotiation until after the bad day, and but it's told from the story of the negotiation is happening in Africa, area of kind of future space economy, but it's told from the perspective of the US government ambassador, who's sort of on the sidelines of this event, because they've been blamed in part for why things went bad.

And so the other new space powers, both private sector, but also the Africa's -- the Brazilian space -- they're basically like, "Hey, you and Russia, you had your time. You're still in there, but we're not going to let you lead the conversation anymore." And so it's this -- again, we're not saying this will happen. It's solely to give someone a way to visualize, to understand, hey, what would a Kessler effect really look like? When you say Kessler effect, what would it mean for industry? What would it mean for telecom, etc.? And then the second part, hey, when we say there's a world where the US might not be leading the conversation, it's -- we basically took the experience that US negotiators have at like certain environmental treaties, and replicate that on the space side and say, hey, this has happened in environment where you're on the sidelines.

This could happen for you in space negotiations, and that's why you don't want it to happen, right? Like, the result of that scenario came out of multiple hours of these space leaders meeting and talking about these issues, and then, you know, these are the prime things that they said, nonfiction, we want to share with people. We want them to understand risk of Kessler effect, but also not the crazy sci-fi version of it.

>> Maria Varmazis: Grounded in reality, yes, yes.

>> Peter Singer: Yeah, we want them to understand, you know, this -- or, you know, a different one was on -- it was about the role of crowdsourcing in space projects. And so we created a scenario to tell about it, and the idea was, you know, from the space economy side, we're learning new means of using the wider public, not just as an enthusiast, but like to be part of space missions, and so that's cool. That's exciting. Let's envision. Okay, but what does that mean? What would it look like in execution?

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>> Maria Varmazis: And hey, T-Minus crew, tune in tomorrow for T-Minus "Deep Space". That's our show for extended interviews, special editions and deep dives with some of the most influential professionals in the space industry. Now tomorrow, we're going to hear more from Peter W. Singer talking about his company Useful Fiction, and his views on the future of commercial space. It's a fascinating conversation, so make sure you check it out while you're mowing the lawn, grocery shopping, folding laundry, driving your kids to the game, or if you're like me, in between bouts of playing Legend of Zelda Tears of the kingdom. You don't want to miss it. And we'll be right back.

And welcome back. And live from the Red Planet, it's Friday at noon. We've seen plenty of stunning imagery from Mars before of course, but it's always several days old by the time it gets to us. But today, ESA got us about as close to real-time live TV from Mars as we can get right now, at least until someone figures out how to go faster than the speed of light, with a fun Friday project to celebrate ESA's 20th anniversary of the Mars Express Explorer. Images taken once every 50 seconds from the Mars Explorer orbiting around Mars via its visual monitoring camera were sent directly to ESA's 35-meter deep space antenna in Cebreros, Spain without delay. And a mere 17 or so minutes from the photo captures, we here on Earth got to see what Mars Explorer sees.

Now ESA hedged their bets before going live at noon Eastern today. "This is a 20-year-old camera, originally planned for engineering purposes at a distance of almost 3 million kilometers. This hasn't been tried before, and to be honest, we're not 100% certain it'll work, but I'm pretty optimistic. Normally, we see images from Mars and know that they were taken days before, and I'm excited to see Mars as it is now or as close to Martian now as we can possibly get," said James Godfrey, Spacecraft Operations Manager at ESA's Mission Control. And I'm happy to say indeed it did work.

>> Unidentified Person: Ooh, oooh. Here it is. This is the first image from Mars and it's the most live you'll ever get unless you travel to Mars, to the red planet itself. This is --

>> Maria Varmazis: For about an hour, we got basically live imagery from Mars's orbit. This feat required pointing the VMC camera right at Mars with the Mars Explorer positioned with the antenna pointed right at Earth. So with the movement of the planets, we only got about an hour's window for this to work, and during the stream, we got to see Mars clouds, craters and a polar cap. And a spate of bad weather over the ground station in Spain caused some trouble for Mars Live here and there. Isn't that always the way?

But we got some really neat just-about-live views of our neighboring planet today thanks to ESA and Mars Express. That's amazing. Mission success for hashtag #MarsLive, and a big, big thanks to ESA for this lovely view of the red planet today. Most of all, happy 20th birthday to the hardworking Mars Express.

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And that's it for T-Minus for June 2nd, 2023. For additional resources from today's report, check out our show notes at space.n2k.com. We'd love to know what you think of our podcast. You can email us at space@n2k.com, or submit the survey in our 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 at 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. Thanks for listening and have a wonderful weekend.

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