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SES and Intelsat parting ways. NorthStar and Rocket Lab weighing parts.

Intelsat and SES merger off. Starfish Otter Pup spins out. NorthStar pivots to Rocket Lab. SDA taps SAIC for BMC3. Ecuador signs Artemis Accords. And more!





Intelsat and SES call off the merger. Anomaly affects the Otter Pup. A Russian hacker claims they’ve got Maxar satellite access if you have coin. SDA taps SAIC to make an app store for BMC3 LEO satellites - and yep we’ll translate that for you. NorthStar pivots from Virgin Orbit to Rocket Lab. NASA opens Earth Information Center. Ecuador joins the Artemis Accords. Danti unveils a search engine for geospatial data. And Kim Macharia, Executive Director at the Space Prize Foundation, joins us to discuss the space workforce.

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T-Minus Guest

Kim Macharia, Executive Director at Space Prize Foundation, joins us to talk about space education and empowering women to participate in the space economy.

You can follow Kim on LinkedIn and Twitter, and Space Prize Foundation on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Selected Reading

Intelsat ends merger talks with rival satellite communications giant SES- CNBC 

Starfish Space Otter Pup Mission update- LinkedIn 

Military Satellite Access Sold on Russian Hacker Forum for $15,000- HackRead 

Upcoming Space Force-NRO critical thinking wargame to focus on space conflict in 2030- DefenseScoop 

Great Power Space Competition Event Details- Liberty Alliance 

SAIC to build software app factory for Space Development Agency- Breaking Defense 

Mynaric selected by Raytheon Technologies to supply optical communications terminals for SDA Tranche 1 Tracking Layer program- Press Release

Space Force Budget Brief: New Priorities and Long-Term Developments Toward a New Architecture- Aerospace Corporation

NorthStar pivots to Rocket Lab following Virgin Orbit’s collapse- SpaceNews

SIA President Tom Stroup Testifies Before Congress on Satellite’s Role in Agriculture- Via Satellite

NASA opens Earth Information Center amid budget uncertainty- SpaceNews

NASA Welcomes Ecuador as 26th Artemis Accords Signatory- NASA    

Startup Danti unveils search engine for geospatial data- SpaceNews 

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>> Maria Varmazis: Intelsat and SES said back in March that they were just talking about merging. If it happened, these two giants, already two of the biggest players in the satellite communications world, would make a veritable $10 billion satellite colossus. But yesterday, both parties walked away from merger talks, saying, you know, thanks for the chat, but I'm just not feeling it.

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Today is June 22nd, 2023. I'm Maria Varmazis, and this is T-Minus.

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Intelsat and SES call things off. An anomaly affects the Otter Pup. Russian hackers say they've got Maxar satellite access for sale. SDA taps SAIC to make an app store for BMC3 LEO satellites, and yes, we'll translate that for you. And my interview today is with Kim Macharia, executive director at the Space Prize Foundation, on space education and empowering women to participate in the space economy. Stay with us.

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And on to our "Intel Briefing" for today. It's not you, it's me. Or maybe it is you. Satellite communications giants Intelsat and SES, both based on Luxembourg, after months of talks, are deciding to not merge. The two satellite communications companies confirmed yesterday that they're ending merger negotiations. These two companies are massive players in the satellite field, and a merger would have made a behemoth of a company, in a transaction that would have potentially been worth around $10 billion U.S. This merger may have helped to fend off the growing competition in the field that's likely nipping at their heels, while overall revenues for satellite communications continue to contract a bit year over year. It's worth a quick compare and contrast to other similar deals in sat comms that have gone through. Just a few weeks ago, in fact, competitors Viasat of the U.S. and Inmarsat of the U.K. successfully completed their own merger deal, and it was valued at about $7.3 billion U.S. Plus last year, Eutelsat of France and OneWeb of the U.K. also announced their own $3.4 billion merger. In the meantime, Intelsat and SES remain rivals, or perhaps we should say after this failed merger talk, frenemies? Now friends of the show, Starfish Space and Launcher provided an update yesterday on the status of the Otter Pup, a testbed for the company's in-space satellite servicing capabilities. The Otter Pup, which was stacked on top of Launcher's Orbiter SN3, launched on the June 12th Transporter-8 mission, and was meant to test key technology invented by the Starfish team, including satellite rendezvous, proximity operations, and docking capabilities. According to the update from the two companies, after Orbiter separated from the rideshare, it quote, experienced an anomaly which induced a high rotation rate far outside the bounds of normal operating conditions. After an emergency deployment of Otter Pup from the Orbiter, ground stations were able to make contact with the Otter Pup, but it is also experiencing excessive rotation. Right now the companies say that it's unlikely that the Otter Pup will be able to continue with its mission, but they are still trying to stabilize, so they aren't giving up hope yet. And I know it's not the update anyone wanted for this mission, and we applaud both companies for their transparency about the situation. Now we've spent a good deal of time with Trevor, Austin, and Michael at Starfish, and we can tell you firsthand that they are the sort of people who won't let any setback get in their way. We here at T-Minus wish them the best and are rooting for the Otter Pup. And now an update from our N2K colleagues over at the CyberWire that's of particular interest to us here at T-Minus, access to a U.S. satellite is being hawked in a Russophone cybercrime forum. HackRead reports that a Russian-speaking hacker is offering access to a Maxar Technologies U.S. military satellite for $15,000. The account posting the offer, Labs 666, offers to receive funds through the trusted third party payment service Escrow. Now, it's difficult to know what to make of the claim, which seems a little excessive for credibility. This could be a hoax or it could be legitimate, and as soon as we hear any updates, credible ones, that is, we will be sure to let you know. The Space Security Defense Program, which is a collaboration between the Space Force and the National Reconnaissance Office, is hosting an unclassified brainstorming event focused on the U.S.' role in future space conflicts. Participants from industry, academia, and government are invited to explore solutions to key challenges in the rapidly evolving space environment, such as the rise of AI, information manipulation, and adversary space capabilities. The conference will examine multidomain solutions to threats across all space operations, including ground, link, and on orbit. The event, which is the first Innovation Foundry event, organized by the Space Security Defense Program, will take place from August 22nd to the 24th in Tampa, Florida, and applications are due by July 16th, and a link to apply if you're interested is in our show notes, which is space.n2k.com. Now we told you at the top of the show we'd translate this acronym salad for you, so here goes. The Space Force's SDA, or Space Development Agency, has selected SAIC, and yes that's technically an acronym, but that's really their company name, to build a cloud-based application factory for designing, testing, and deploying cyber-resilient battle management command and control communications, known as BMC3 software, for LEO, or low earth orbit satellites. Likened to Apple's app verification process, the environment will support in-space satellite upgrades. The application factory will develop and validate what it's calling compute modules that allow satellites in the proliferated warfighter space architecture, or PWSA, to exchange data. Now this initiative is part of the SDA's plans to launch its first data transport satellites in 2024, contributing to the Defense Department's joint all-domain command and control concept for linking sensors and shooters across all military services. In related news, the artist formerly known as Raytheon Technologies, now called RTX, has chosen Mynaric to provide optical communications terminals for the Space Development Agency's Tranche 1 Tracking Layer program. The seven-satellite mission, awarded to RTX earlier this year, will use Mynaric's Condor Mark-3 terminals. Deliveries are expected to take place in 2024. The program aims to identify and track hypersonic weapons and advanced missiles, with a satellite constellation offering missile warning and tracking capabilities to the U.S. Department of Defense. Mynaric's Condor terminals will also supply Northrop Grumman's 14 satellites for the same Tranche 1 Tracking Layer program. And in the show notes, we've also included a deep dive from the Aerospace Corporation on the Space Force 2024 budget request. If RDT&E and manpower trends are your thing, be sure to check it out. SpaceNews is reporting that NorthStar Earth & Space has signed a multi-launch contract with Rocket Lab to deploy its Space Situational Awareness satellites. The agreement follows the bankruptcy of Virgin Orbit, the original launch provider. Rocket Lab will launch NorthStar's first four satellites in Fall 2023. The satellites, provided by Spire Global, will contribute to a platform tracking objects as small as 5 centimeters in low earth orbit. At least 12 satellites are needed for full commercial services, and NorthStar's deal with Spire includes options for up to 30 satellites. The agreement with Rocket Lab also encompasses two additional missions that could launch as early as 2024. Testifying before Congress yesterday, Tom Stroup, president of the Satellite Industry Association, called for financial incentives, funding, and regulatory changes to boost satellite technologies for rural areas. Stroup emphasized the vital role of satellite technology in enabling next-generation farming, broadband access, and robust IOT connectivity for agriculture.

>> Tom Stroup: Costs are dropping for both space and ground systems, which has resulted in a decrease in the cost of capacity of 90% over the past eight years. Most importantly, satellite services are available now across the entire country without the need for additional buildout. As the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation notes, no single broadband technology holds all the advantages. With finite resources and widely varying topography, we need a flexible combination of all available access technologies to bridge the digital divide. In order to further [inaudible].

>> Maria Varmazis: He proposed a seven-point strategy. Financial incentives for rural broadband expansion, funding for satellite broadband and IOT in rural areas, technology-inclusive program requirements, streamlined regulations, spectrum protection, private-public partnerships, and investing in satellite R&D. NASA has opened the Earth Information Center at its headquarters, a public facility aimed at showcasing the data collected by its Earth Science Spacecraft. The EIC's goal is to make NASA's crucial environmental data more accessible to the public and decision-making agencies such as the Department of Agriculture, the Environmental Protection Agency, and FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency. However, funding for future earth science missions, including the Earth System Observatory, is uncertain due to fiscal constraints and the recent debt ceiling agreement. NASA Administrator Bill Nelson has stated that while science missions will continue, some may be delayed depending on final appropriations. And welcome to the Artemis Accords, Ecuador, now the 26th country to sign the cooperative principles guiding space exploration. The agreement was signed by Gustavo Manrique Miranda, Ecuador's foreign affairs minister, and Karen Feldstein, NASA's associate administrator for international and interagency relations. SpaceNews reports that tech startup Danti has emerged from stealth, announcing a $2.75 million pre-seed funding round. Danti is building a search engine for geospatial data to help users access information about Earth's locations using natural language. Led by Tech Square Ventures, the round will be used to fast-track the development of Danti's search engine for U.S. intelligence agencies and early commercial customers. The firm recently secured a $75,000 prize from the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency for an application that assists nonexpert users in processing geospatial data into actionable intelligence. On a somber note, Virgin Galactic announced that Evan Lavelle, the chair of the company's board of directors, died unexpectedly following an illness on June 20th. Mr. Lavelle joined the company's board in October 2019 and was appointed chair in April after serving as interim chair since February 2022. Ray Mabus, former secretary of the U.S. Navy, will serve as interim chair. Rest in space, Mr. Lavelle. And a brief shoutout for everybody's favorite orange behemoth, the ULA Delta IV Heavy, had a successful launch last night, which marks the second to last time we'll see that big guy go. It had a classified satellite for the NRO aboard, the NROL 68 Mission, nicknamed Nusquam Celare, meaning Nowhere to Hide.

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And that rounds it out for today's "Intel Briefing." Stay with us for my conversation with Space Prize Foundation executive director, Kim Macharia. 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. Send us an email at space@n2k.com, or send us a note through our website so we can connect while building a program to meet your goals.

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Today on the show I'm speaking with Kim Macharia, who is the executive director at the Space Prize Foundation. She's a diversity and inclusion advocate, and she's working to empower women to participate in the space economy. One of the many ways she's doing that is through the Space Prize Foundation, so I started by asking her to tell me a little bit more about it.

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>> Kim Macharia: Hi, my name is Kim Macharia, and I am a diversity and inclusion advocate within the space sector. Space Prize is a nonprofit that's relatively new. I feel like I keep saying that. We've been around for a year and a half now, so we've been able to launch some really fun initiatives around gender equity and this notion of universal space literacy since our inception. When we were founded, we actually had a contest planned that I got to spearhead over here in New York. We ran a Space Prize Challenge, as we like to call them, for high school girls, and we gave away a zero-G flight plus a bunch of other amazing perks that I wish I could have had when I was a kid to five deserving women. They were each - each student was from a different borough here in New York City. And after that contest, we expanded to Paris and Portugal. We're hoping to do some more cities this year, different countries, and we also have free education curriculum that we distribute to teachers and students throughout the globe.

>> Maria Varmazis: What kind of barriers are young women encountering today that may be keeping them out of an industry that they're very interested in, specifically the space industry?

>> Kim Macharia: I believe that some young women tend to second guess themselves when it comes to their own ability to exceed and excel in an industry that is viewed as being a bit elite and elusive, and a boys' club, right? I think that it's more of a cultural mindset shift that has to take in place in order for us to see some significant change happen in the pipeline in that area, because when I work with these women, they're still excelling, right, in all of these same areas that young men are excelling in, so that's not really the issue. They just seem to have more doubts around themselves. They struggle more to find the right support, mentorship especially, which is why as a part of our program, each of our winners from my New York City contest, they got a year of mentorship from a leading woman in the aerospace sector. And I thought that that - that's really what I - what excited me the most about getting to work on this specific program was that aspect, and we've also been able to bring in leaders from the space sector to engage with the girls directly outside of our mentorship program. For instance we had a round - private roundtable session with the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., and the young women got to speak to the ambassador about the relevance of the SDG's as it relates to space exploration and spaceflight. And watching them feel empowered and seeing the positive reaction that they were getting from the ambassador, that's the exact kind of, you know, confidence boost that I think these young women needed in order to believe that they really can continue, after their participate in our program, to pursue something in the space sector, because they feel like they have a chance to make a genuine valuable contribution to the industry.

>> Maria Varmazis: That's so important, because that second guessing, I mean, it holds people back before they even get a chance to start, and it was something that we were chatting about before we started recording the interview, is I'm of an age where I remember when a lot of these discussions were becoming a lot bigger about getting more women, more underrepresented groups, into space, and even at my age, I'm like, the needle hasn't moved as much as I would have thought. And there are so many thoughts on why this is the case, but I'm curious to get your opinion on what's going on? Like, why are we still seemingly stuck here?

>> Kim Macharia: Yeah, I mean, when you look at the numbers, about 20% of the industry's workforce is made up of women, and that number has hardly shifted over the last two to three decades, which is quite unfortunate. And I believe that there's an issue when it comes to women getting promoted once you're in that midlevel position to getting senior level positions. And if we don't - again, going back to, like, the notion of needing to see representation and have mentorship from folks who have been there, done that, there aren't a lot of women who get the chance to make it to those C-Suite positions, not because there aren't plenty of qualified women out there, because they're not being properly considered and evaluated for the positions. If you talk to some folks who are - who are in the recruiting business for positions of that caliber, they often don't have women on their list of top candidates that they are automatically beginning to consider, and I think that not enough effort and programming and such has been developed in order to tackle that issue within the pipeline. There are plenty of fantastic programs available for young women in high school and in college now, even, but I think we're neglecting the importance of that midlevel to senior level transition, and the support that's needed in order to enable that proper increase that we want to see in - in - with women being represented in senior level positions, and I think if we could have that increase happen, that will also help us, again, to tackle the issue that we see at earlier points in the pipeline.

>> Maria Varmazis: This brings up a point that comes up a lot also in discussions about retention. A lot of folks get completely burnt out. Many people of color, many women, just kind of find, like, it's just not a comfortable place, or just for many sorts of reasons, don't want to stay anymore. And that's a huge cultural shift. What should companies be thinking about doing there? Not an easy problem, but any thoughts on that?

>> Kim Macharia: I mean, I think some of the similar structures and fellowships and such that have been set up for students of younger generations can easily - relatively easily be translated into creating programs that can assist, again, that difficult transition of mid to senior level positioned folks. I know that Carmen Fellowship, I feel like, does a really great job at promoting young leaders who are on the cusp of being able to have those opportunities, but I think many other companies could model programs after things like the Carmen Fellowship in order to assist with that gap. That, and also providing solid resources to their employees through the inception of the company. I think diversity often isn't baked into the foundation of a company, and I think more companies are trying to do that, but once you're kind of already established, it is more of an uphill battle. I mean, last year I was serving as the chair of the Space Frontier Foundation, and we had a special competition that we ran at the International Space Development Conference over in D.C. that year, and we had a competition that was around supporting diverse founders, specifically, and we had workshops and such for the students to think about how they can, again, bake in inclusion and diversity into the very foundations of the companies that they would like to create. And they were quite receptive to it, so I think it's also a matter of simply being exposed to best practices, because most folks also struggle with the how do I go about doing this with my business? And once they get to a point of struggling a little bit too long, they kind of - no, I wouldn't say give up, but they don't give it as much energy as it properly deserves, because you know, we work in the space sector. Space is very, very hard. There's so many problems, and things breaking down all the time, it makes sense why folks may put a complex nuanced issue like DEI over in the corner, but I think as many of us know, innovation is extremely enhanced by having a diverse workforce, and so it needs to be prioritized from the beginning if you want to have a company that can stand the test of time.

>> Maria Varmazis: I'm going to go back to Space Prize Foundation for a moment, because I thought it was fascinating that it has an international focus and that it's continuing to grow at an international scale. Being an American, a lot of my conversations tend to be very U.S.-focused, but are the challenges in other countries and other parts of the world, are they very different than the ones that maybe we have in the United States for trying to get more women involved in, more people of color involved in the aerospace industry.

>> Kim Macharia: Absolutely. I mean, it's a blessing to be an active member of the space community within a country like the U.S. We have a fantastic public space program and amazing private companies that are breaking barriers and transforming the way in which our world works every single day. And unfortunately a number of other countries can't say the same thing. Although the global space economy will become more reliant on diverse nontraditional stakeholders in the very near future, right now folks who have a desire to engage in aerospace don't have that support, they don't have access to resources, and a lot of them don't know where to start. They have their passion and that's enough to get them, you know, taking a few steps forward, but then it comes to a certain point where they do need extra support, and because I believe that the space sector is a unique industry that affects countless aspects of our daily lives as global citizens, but it's also - it's also very young and it has a lot of unique entry points for new actors to participate. I'm really, really passionate about ensuring that folks from non-space flying countries can actually access the industry, and so reaching out to folks in other countries is really, really important to us, and right now we're starting to do that through the promotion of our education curriculum, because we think that's, you know, a fantastic resource that we can use to get young folks excited. I remember I spoke to a group of - I do work with different organizations in Africa and with - around supporting youth STEM education, and I've had workshops where - I've gone to host events and such where it's a Saturday morning and you see on your Zoom screen dozens of classrooms filled with, like, 40 students listening in, hungry for all the knowledge you have to give them. And it's truly savoring the opportunity to be around industry members who are willing to share their time and help them map out what the future could look like. And so it's something that I think Space Prize will continue to do more of. We're hoping to do more and more workshops, and not only that, give more unique transformative opportunities to folks in these regions as well.

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>> Maria Varmazis: We'll be right back.

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Welcome back. And now, over to Alice.

>> Unidentified Person: We're going on Bravo Five, Bravo Five.

>> Alice Carruth : This is T-Minus space producer, Alice Carruth, with the latest news from the 2023 Spaceport America Cup. This first day of launches was marred by weather delays and ant attacks. See yesterday's livestream for evidence of the ants. We're being attacked by flying ants, which I think you just saw me swatting away from [inaudible]. But some teams did manage to beat the notorious desert winds. Purdue University led the pack of 10 total rocket launches, and only one CATO. That's a catastrophe after takeoff to you and I. Before the range was closed, the third team to lift off was the University of College London, who we spoke to on Monday's special edition of our show. Jerome Salverage leads the team for UCL, and I caught up with him after the launch to find out how they were feeling about being third off the pads.

>> Jerome Salverage: It was - it was really exciting. I remember pitching this to the team at the start of the year and thinking, there's just no way it's going to happen. And then, as we got closer and closer and things started falling more into place, like, there was a point where it felt really surreal. I feel really proud of my team. As soon as we got here, it was four of us, and we worked really well together, I think, setting up everything. Adrian was clearing this area, August was on avionics, I was doing the manufacturing, Jen was helping with recovery, and we wouldn't be here if every single person here was not giving their best, and I think, more than anything, the team was looking out for each other. I think it's because of that that we can stand here now and appreciate this victory, not just as a solo victory, but as a group achievement.

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>> Alice Carruth: The UCL team later recovered their rocket in the desert. Initial data suggests that they came within 100 feet of their intended apogee. They're competing in the 10,000-foot category, and we'll now have to wait until the weekend to find out how they performed overall in the competition. Launches continue until Saturday at noon, mountain time, and with over 100 teams anxiously waiting to lift off, there's still lots to see between now and then.

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>> Maria Varmazis: That's it for T-Minus for June 22nd, 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 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. We'll see you tomorrow.

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