Commerce holds space situational awareness talks with industry. The UN calls for better space governance. China’s developing a new spaceport. And...
DARPA, debris, and de-risking with simulation.
Space news for the summer solstice. A slew of New Space funding. DARPA, SpaceLogistics, and Intelsat towards ISAM in 2025. Rockets and sharks. And more!
Happy summer solstice! A whole slew of funding rounds just announced - we’ll take a look at three of them. DARPA, SpaceLogistics, and Intelsat have their eye on 2025. Also, rockets and sharks, awesome together? Or terrible? And for our interview today, we speak with Steve Bleymaier, CTO for Aerospace & Defense at Ansys, on managing risk via modeling and simulation and the Ansys Startup program.
Remember to leave us a 5-star rating and review in your favorite podcast app.
Steve Bleymaier, CTO for Aerospace & Defense at Ansys, on managing risk via modeling, and simulation as a strategy for early-stage startups via the Ansys Startup program.
You can follow Steve 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.
[ Music ]
>> Maria Varmazis: I've said it before and I'll say it again: The funding environment for new space companies has been tough this year. But there are some indications that things may be turning around. A few million here, a few million there, new VCs entering the market. Hi to our new listener, Justus Parmar, founder of Fortuna Investments, and a whole slew of new investments announced this week. So let's dive in.
[ Music ]
Today is June 21, 2023. Happy solstice! I'm Maria Varmazis, and this is T-Minus.
[ Music ]
A whole bunch of funding rounds just announced, we'll take a look at three of them. DARPA and SpaceLogistics have their eye on 2025. Also, rockets and sharks, awesome together, or terrible? And for our interview today, I'm speaking with Steve Bleymaier, CTO for Aerospace and Defense at Ansys, on managing risk via modeling and simulation as a strategy for early-stage startups via the Ansys Startup program. Let's take a look at today's intel briefing and start off today's show with startup funding news. First up is space situational awareness software startup Digantara of Bengaluru, which just announced a $10 million Series A1 funding round. They're working on the "Space-Mission Assurance Platform," or "Space-MAP" to crowdsource and parse data about craft and debris on orbit from private-sector sources and government agencies. The idea behind Digantara's software is to add an additional layer of contextual information to already available situational awareness data to help militaries, commercial customers, and insurance companies make more informed decisions and better understand their risk exposure to debris and other spacecraft on orbit. Digantara's latest funding round was led by Peak XV Partners and also include Kalaari Capital, Global Brain VC of Japan, Campus Fund and IIFL Wealth. Another space situational awareness software company is next up. And this one is Vyoma of Germany, which just announced their 8.5 million Euro Seed extension round with Safran Corporate Ventures as co-investor. Vyoma's data source for on-orbit object monitoring will come from their own space-based telescopes, which the company is already developing. This will allow them to keep an eye on orbits from low Earth to geostationary with a centimeter level resolution. The plan is for Vyoma's first telescope fleet to launch next year. And according to Vyoma's announcement, the new funding they've just received will allow them to explore sensor diversification and data fusion. And the last bit of funding news for today isn't about space situational awareness, but it is about space safety. You noticing a trend yet? SCOUT Space of Virginia announced that it closed an oversubscribed Seed round, though the amount was not disclosed. The company makes software that helps spacecraft better see and understand what's around it and make decisions autonomously, and is working on building observation spacecraft to improve real-time traffic management in space. SCOUT has thus far raised $5.5 million in VC funding. And this latest Seed round was led by Decisive Point, with additional funding from Noblis Ventures Fusion Fund, Techstars, and VIPC. Now moving on from funding news to technological developments now. The partnership between DARPA and Northrop Grumman's SpaceLogistics is progressing towards a 2025 launch of a satellite repair robotic vehicle under the Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellites program. This involves the deployment of autonomous robotic arms developed by the US Naval Research Laboratory, capable of inspection, orbital adjustment, repair, and upgrade missions. The robotic payload is due to be incorporated into SpaceLogistics's Mission Robotic Vehicle and launched on the SpaceX Falcon 9. The MRV, designed for a 10-year orbital life, will install mission extension pods -- basically small propulsion jet packs -- on commercial satellites. The jet packs are intended to provide six years of life extension for a typical 2,000-kilogram satellite in geosynchronous orbit. SpaceLogistics sees potential for wider capabilities, including spacecraft mobility and logistics, hosting space-domain awareness sensors, countermeasures, and the ability to upgrade installed pods. The company is also developing direct repair solutions, aiming to lower costs and increase benefits for government and commercial customers. And in related news, Intelsat has ordered a second Mission Extension Pod from Northrop Grumman's SpaceLogistics, marking the fourth mission-extending deal between the two companies. The pods will be paired with unspecified Intelsat satellites in geostationary orbit by 2026 to extend their service life by at least six years. This new contract further demonstrates Intelsat's commitment to space sustainability and self-insurance in orbit, according to Intelsat CTO Bruno Fromont. And earlier this morning, the Indian launch services startup Skyroot announced a successful flight qualification test for their Raman-1 engine, used for roll attitude control of the Vikram-1 rocket. It was the first-ever private company test completed at the Liquid Propulsion Systems Center of India's space agency ISRO. Our sincere congratulations to the team at Skyroot on this milestone. NASA has partnered with GHGSat under the Commercial Smallsat Data Acquisition program to procure methane emission data. This partnership will provide GHGSat's greenhouse gas data to the scientific community in an effort to advance NASA's Earth science and climate change objectives. GHGSat, which currently has nine satellites in orbit and three more planned for launch, offers a unique capability to measure greenhouse gas emissions down to individual facilities, aligning with the US government's climate priorities. GHGSat's high-resolution emissions data will be used in research projects focused on both human-induced and natural methane emissions globally. Telstra and OneWeb have formed a partnership to implement large-scale low Earth orbit backhaul for commercial mobile networks. This collaboration, following successful testing in Australia, will transition hundreds of Telstra's mobile base stations from traditional satellite backhaul to OneWeb's LEO solution. Telstra's customers in the most remote areas of Australia may receive up to 25 gigabytes per second of capacity, enhancing real-time applications such as voice and video calling. OneWeb, which currently has over 630 satellites in orbit, expects to provide global coverage by the end of the year, with worldwide service anticipated in early 2024. And up here in the Northern Hemisphere, at least, it's officially summertime. And you know what that means. That's right, shark week. So what do sharks and space have in common, other than a new blockbuster from the shark NATO team probably? A recent study has raised concerns about the impact of launch activities on marine life, specifically sharks, near Brazil's Alcantara launch center. Now, the study revealed a significant decline in shark populations around the launch sites, likely due to the noise, seismic vibrations, and increased electromagnetic activity. But most worrying was the discovery of rubidium -- a component in space propulsion systems -- in the muscle tissue of several shark species. Rubidium, while rarely found in wild animals, is toxic to reproductive organs and has potential for bioaccumulation and biomagnification throughout the food chain. This highlights an overlooked environmental impact of increased space activities and underscores the need for effective conservation and biomonitoring programs in the vicinity of coastal spaceports. And finally, we've added a story to the selected reading section on our website from CSO online all about why CISOs -- and that's chief information security officers for those uninitiated -- should be more concerned with space-based security threats to their infrastructure. We've been saying it all this time. It's an excellent overview that demonstrates the growing attention being paid to the space sector. And you can read about it at space.n2k.com. And that concludes our intel briefing for today. Now, stay tuned for my chat with Steve Bleymaier, CTO for Aerospace and Defense at Ansys, on managing risk via modeling, and simulation as a strategy for early-stage startups. And hey, T-Minus crew, if you find this podcast useful, please do us a favor and share a five-star rating and a short review in your favorite podcast app. It'll help other space professionals just like you to find the show and join the T-Minus crew. Thank you so much, we really appreciate it.
[ Music ]
My guest today is Steve Bleymaier, who is the CTO for Aerospace and Defense at Ansys, which makes engineering simulation software. So I started off by asking basically for the nutshell version of what Ansys's software does and how it's used.
>> Steve Bleymaier: Ansys is the leader in engineering simulations, a physics-based engineering simulation. And we help companies around the world, you know, develop products that you rely on every day. So from mobile devices to cars to planes and everything in between, you know, over 10,000 customers worldwide in all verticals. The customers use our simulation software to design their products in a digital domain, on the computer. And they're able to predict performance in all the multi-physics domains. So there's no need for expensive and time-consuming physical prototypes. You're able to reduce risk, reduce costs, get your product to market faster, meet schedule, and increase performance. And it's like a virtual sandbox. It's, you know, allowing those engineers to play around with virtual prototypes, get that predictive insight into how things are going to perform, they're able to solve technology problems and get that design right and save, you know, that money and that time from physical prototyping. And so it's a huge saver, huge saver for companies and extremely valuable.
>> Maria Varmazis: Part of the reason we asked you to join today was to walk me through the Ansys Startup program, which is not a brand-new program. It's been around for a little while. But, as a result, there's some companies that have sort of gone through the process. Are there any success stories from the Ansys Startup program that you could walk me through?
>> Steve Bleymaier: You bet. So the program actually began in 2016. And it's a way to provide access to those startup companies that have limited revenue, limited resources, but, you know, they need the latest engineering simulation technology in order to solve the problems and meet the schedules and the contracts that they're going for. And so we found a way to provide a business model for them to provide them full access to the latest, you know, multi-physics simulation technology. And since the program began, we've had over 1,700 companies go through the program and continue. It's actually grown. It's grown by 50% in the past two years. And so that just shows the, you know, the credibility and the value that this brings to those companies. And in my vertical that I focus on, aerospace and defense, about 15% of those 1,700 companies are in the aerospace and defense arena, so about 250 companies. One of the companies that took advantage of our offering and our technology is called Intuitive Machines. And they are -- they're one of three companies that were awarded the contract from NASA to provide a lunar landing capability. And so, you know, their scheduled, you know, to provide that lunar landing vehicle by 2026. And, you know, when it's successful, it'll be the first private company to launch and land a spaceship on the moon. And, you know, they're carrying payloads. They have many problems to solve. And so they're using our engineering software to solve problems such as liquid oxygen, methane heat transfer challenges in the propulsion system. They're using our capabilities to perform load analysis on all of their metallic components to reduce mass and weight as much as possible and still maintain that structural integrity under the high stress conditions of spaceflight. They're using our capabilities to perform multi-physics thermal and structural simulations, along with advanced material simulations to figure out how to keep electronics in cryogenic systems within temperature specs in that wide temperature range that the spacecraft experiences while it's in transit and then sitting on the Moon surface. And then finally, they're using us to optimize the high-gain antenna that's going to be used for communication within that lunar lander. So we're proud to be helping them in many ways.
>> Maria Varmazis: I've been watching Intuitive Machines with great interest, and it's really cool to know that Ansys is involved in that as well. So we'll look forward to seeing how they do on that. So when we're talking about things like simulation for these incredibly complex missions, what is simulation and modeling in this context? So I have in my mind what that might mean, but I don't know if that's actually the reality, or if I'm just thinking of something that's sort of science fiction. So what does that actually look like in the day-to-day?
>> Steve Bleymaier: I think the Ingenuity helicopter on Mars is a great example. So to accurately re-create another planet's gravity and atmosphere on Earth, it's nearly impossible. So the key to a successful maiden flight is using simulation to test the technology in Mars's very thin atmosphere. And the Martian flight environment, it's so different from Earth's. The density is 1% of Earth's. There's 95% carbon dioxide. And the gravity is a third of the Earth's. So you have to re-create that somehow. So to calculate the aerodynamic forces in that environment on the rotor blades and predict those forces, the rotor blade was divided into many slices that included span, core, twist, and suite. And that ultimately helped them to arrive at the best design for this Ingenuity helicopter. And so we've seen from the successful mission that optimal design has worked out really well for them.
>> Maria Varmazis: That's incredible to think of the, also --I mean, I'm nerding out on the computer science part -- the computing power behind all that kind of simulation. It kind of blows my mind that we can do all that now. That's quite amazing. And you mentioned there's a second company that comes to mind as well. Can you talk a little bit about that one?
>> Steve Bleymaier: Sure. The second company is Firefly Aerospace. And so they joined us in 2017, and they graduated in 2019. There is a graduation as they grow and they, you know, reach a certain threshold. But they used Ansys for, you know, many different applications -- computational fluid dynamics, heat transfer, metallic propulsion hardware. They actually calculated the value that Ansys brought to them in terms of return on investment. They estimate that we saved them 5 million in cost savings for engine cooling design, 10 million in increasing engine thrust, and 500,000 in mass optimizations. So it's great when a company does that. They don't always calculate the value, they just know that we're bringing them value as they are able to solve problems and save money and save time and reduce risk and increase performance. But it's great when a company actually calculates that value for us.
>> Maria Varmazis: Wow! The program -- I was looking on the website -- has been around since 2016. So it's had that wonderful opportunity for, as you said, companies to come through and grow and graduate. Any thoughts on maybe where the program is headed or any hopes for the future for what it might be doing as it continues to grow?
>> Steve Bleymaier: Well, I think, you know, with 1,700 startups so far, and, you know, the proof is in the pudding. I mean, they see -- startups see, you know, different companies advancing and achieving goals and, you know. So that credibility that we bring as the world's leader and largest company in engineering simulation, you know, in many cases, in many areas we're the gold standard and folks know that. So, you know, as engineers start -- I mean, as startups begin, you know, they start with a group of very driven, focused individuals, you know, outstanding professionals and engineers. And in most cases, they're aware of Ansys already. So, you know, grabbing onto us is a natural fit. So you have that group of folks, you know, and they have this vision and this goal, you know. And then they're competing for, many times, it's government contracts that they're competing for, or subcontract to larger primes but that are also part of government contracts. And the government really has many incentives for small businesses. You know, they have goals within the government to help, you know, small businesses. And so these companies, you know, they're competing. And, you know, if you don't have, you know, the best engineering simulation software, you're not going to win; you're going to be behind. So, you know, it behooves them to join and take advantage of these capabilities that can help them to achieve their visions and their goals.
>> Maria Varmazis: I can completely see that. And I would imagine that an early-stage startup, before they start to invest or if they have even access to that capital, they're trying to get access to that capital, they can say, look at what we've simulated here. You know that the simulation is valid, that it actually is modeling the variables correctly. We've put this design through its paces, right? And we know that when we have access to capital to build it, we know that we're building on some solid foundation there, right?
>> Steve Bleymaier: Yeah, absolutely. And they know they can trust, you know, our solutions because we have been around for 53 years, you know; we're not fly-by-night; and we are the world's largest in terms of providing chip-to-mission across the lifecycle from concept development to operation sustainment, you know, that multi-physics engineering simulation capability. And we're open. You know, part of the characteristics of successful companies using engineering simulation is that they are an open ecosystem, they're mission-centric, and they have connected digital thread. And we're able to help all of that become a reality for those companies.
[ Music ]
>> Maria Varmazis: And we'll be right back.
>> Alice Carruth: This is Alice Carruth, producer of T-Minus Space Daily, at the 2023 Spaceport America Cup. Day one of the competition concluded with 116 teams presenting their rockets to judges and range safety officers. The teams headed to the launch site early on Wednesday morning to finalize assembly of their vehicles at Spaceport America vertical launch site. I wanted to find out why this competition is important to the aerospace industry, and spoke to some of the people that started off as participants and volunteers.
>> Rani Bush: I'm Rani Bush, and I'm the business operations manager at Spaceport America. And I was able to come in as a volunteer in 2018 and 2019. So I was out directing traffic, eating a lot of dust, and being out on site. And, you know, it was funny because I was driving in this morning and it brought me back to that first day in 2018 when I was new to be in New Mexico and driving up, being so excited about the event. And today that, you know, came full circle. And so for me to now be on the staff side and to be walking around welcoming people, making sure that they have what they need, is just truly amazing. So I love being able to have gone full circle from being a volunteer and now being on the staff.
>> Alice Carruth: Anita Jimenez [assumed spelling] now works at the Kansas City National Security Campus managed by Honeywell, and volunteers as a judge for the competition.
>> Anita Jimenez: So in 2018, I was a student at New Mexico State University. I was part of the Atomic Aggies rocketry team, and that was our first year at Spaceport America Cup in 2018. I stayed with the team until 2022, last year, I was the student advisor at that time and, you know, I came back and wanted to volunteer. So here for Spaceport America Cup 2023, I am part of the extra volunteers for launch safety and range operations.
>> Alice Carruth: This competition continues to inspire future engineers such as Samantha Amagar [assumed spelling], who first came to the event with one of the sponsors.
>> Samantha Amagar: So I just rode around the actual competition down at Spaceport America. And I just, I'd never thought about rockets or anything like that, and I just kind of saw them. They looked pretty cool, and so I just, I went around the booths and all the tables and all the rockets and asked students just what they were doing it for and everything like that -- what type engineering they were going for. Because I always knew I wanted to be an engineer, but I never knew what kind. So I wanted to know what kind of engineering it took to build a rocket. And I eventually found out through one of the directors of the cup that every kind of engineer is taken to build a rocket.
[ Music ]
>> Alice Carruth: The airspace opened at 1 PM today. And with 116 planned launches over the next three days, you don't want to miss out on the action. You can find me on the livestream on YouTube. We've included the link in our show notes.
[ Music ]
>> Maria Varmazis: And that's it for T-Minus for June 21, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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. N2K strategic workforce intelligence optimizes the value of your biggest investment, your people. We make you smarter about your team, while making your team smarter. 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.
[ Music ]