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India says yes to Artemis.

Welcome to the Artemis Accords, India. New funds for Apex, Virgin Galactic, D-Orbit. SpiderOak’s OrbitSecure success. Ovzon 3 delayed again. And more!





New US-India space agreements, including Artemis. Apex and Virgin Galactic get new funding, D-Orbit gets new contracts. SpiderOak’s OrbitSecure success. Baby come back, you can get the booster at sea. Lawmakers support Space Force charging for their services. Ovzon 3 delayed… again. We speak with Munich Re Ventures about their investment thesis. More coverage of the Spaceport America Cup. And more!

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T-Minus Guest

Timur Davis and Peter Ortez, Director and Principal at Munich Re Ventures, on building the "picks and shovels" for the space industry.

You can follow Timur on LinkedIn and Peter on LinkedIn.

Selected Reading

FACT SHEET: Republic of India Official State Visit to the United States- The White House

Spacecraft builder Apex raises $16 million from a16z and Shield Capital, reveals first customers- CNBC  

Virgin Galactic raises $300 million, seeks another $400 million to expand spacecraft fleet- CNBC

D-Orbit Secures Four Multi-Million Contracts with ASI and ESA- Spacewatch.Global

Safran and Terran Orbital sign a Memorandum of Agreement to produce satellite electric propulsion systems in the United States of America- Press Release

Spideroak Demonstrates Successful Deployment Of Orbitsecure- Press Release

Rocket Lab to Launch Multiple Satellites as Part of Upcoming Recovery Mission- Press Release

House lawmakers back Space Force fees for use of launch ranges- C4ISRNET 

Ovzon 3 on course to miss regulatory deadline after latest delay- SpaceNews

The Newest and Largest Starlink Satellites Are Also the Faintest- Sky & Telescope 

The Zero Debris Charter- ESA

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>> Maria Varmazis: The United States has been rolling out the red carpet for India's official state visit with Prime Minister Modi over the last few days. And in the flurry of announcements and sound bites from this important trip, it would be easy to miss some big space related news. India has signed the Artemis Accords.

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Today is June 23rd, 2023. I'm Maria Varmazis, and this is T Minus.

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New U.S. India space agreements, including Artemis, Apex, Virgin Galactic, and D Orbit get new funding. SpiderOak's OrbitSecure success. Baby Come Back, you can get the booster at sea. And today, I am speaking with Timur Davis and Peter Ortez, Director and Principal at Munich Reventures on picks and shovels for the space industry. And what's that mean? We'll tell you. Stay with us.

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Happy Friday, everyone. Let's take a look at today's Intel briefing. It's bullet point number four in a massive release from the White House from India's official state visit to the United States this week. And it's all about space. India has signed the Artemis Accords, which advance a common vision of space exploration for the benefit of all humankind. India joins 26 other countries committed to peaceful, sustainable, and transparent cooperation that will enable exploration of the Moon, Mars, and beyond. NASA will provide advanced training to Indian Space Research Organization, or ISRO, astronauts, with the goal of launching a joint venture to the International Space Station in 2024. Additionally, NASA and the ISRO are developing a strategic framework for human spaceflight cooperation by the end of 2023. Did you get all that? Anyway, was there any doubt or debate that India would or even should sign onto the Artemis Accords? Absolutely, there was. Now, right now, India is in a perhaps [inaudible] if not politically tricky situation of being courted by Chinese and American political interests on a number of fronts, a situation that has only become more fraught for India since the War in Ukraine began. But we shouldn't forget that neighbors China and India aren't, shall we say, on the rosiest of terms, and do share a politically disputed border. The trackers of the Artemis Accords say that it's too U.S. centric and doesn't serve everyone's interests well. So, India signing onto Artemis can be seen as India pulling up a little closer to the U.S.'s view on space, and away from China's own International Lunar Research Station, or ILRS, agreement, which could have other political ramifications outside of the space domain, and frankly the scope of this podcast. By signing onto the Artemis Accords, India and ISRO will be able to much more easily collaborate with and access information from the other signatories. And the signatories will, of course, benefit from the incredible capabilities and expertise that ISRO will bring to bear here. Moving on from politics to funding news now. Apex spacecraft manufacturing has raised 16 million U.S. dollars in a Series A funding round from Andreessen Horowitz and Shield Capital. Instead of the more traditional model of building out a satellite for a specific customer, Apex is building for speed and making a bet that if it builds out a pipeline of its off the shelf configurable Aries satellite buses, customers will buy up those production slots. And this approach seems to be working so far. They've announced their first three customers; a tier one defense prime, Orbit Fab, and Ubotica. Katherine Boyle at Andreesen Horowitz said this about their investment in Apex. We led the seed round in Apex last summer with the belief that both commercial companies and the defense industrial base needs space manufacturers that could address component bottlenecks and move faster than once thought possible. After witnessing the pace and demand for their product, we're proud to now co lead Apex's Series A less than a year later. The first Aries bus demonstration mission will launch on the SpaceX Transporter 10 rideshare in early 2024. And for fundraising of a different kind, through an at the market stock offering, Virgin Galactic has raised 300 million U.S. dollars, and has plans for a subsequent stock offering to raise an additional 400 million. Given the company has plans to launch its first commercial spaceflight next week with another flight in August, Virgin Galactic has big plans ahead. The new money raised says the company will be used for general corporate purposes, including working capital, general and administrative matters, development of its spaceship fleet, and other infrastructure to scale its commercial operations. D Orbit announced four new contracts thanks to Italy's recovery and resilience plan framework. Of the four contracts, two are for ASI, the Italian Space Agency. One is worth 235 million euro, with the orbit as part of a consortium led by Thales Alenia Space. And this will be for a two satellite mission with ground segment operations for Italy's first national on orbit servicing demonstration mission. And the second is a 4.8 million euro contract solely for D Orbit for ASI's in orbit space lab in low Earth orbit. Safran and Terran Orbital have announced that the two companies are joining forces to explore creating a U.S. based production line for Next Gen electric satellite propulsion systems. The proposed location is Terran Orbital's Irvine, California location. The new line would not only provide a local source of satellite thrusters, but also potentially double Safran's international production capacity, aligning with growing global demand from enumerable propulsion systems. SpiderOak, a cybersecurity provider, announced the first successful spaceflight of their orbit secure platform, an end to end data security solution for space systems. It was deployed on a Ball Aerospace prototype payload in low Earth orbit. And the system showcased the data security platform in a space operational environment. OrbitSecure, which uses a combination of no knowledge encryption and distributed ledger software, is positioned as a data resilience platform for multivendor low Earth orbit networks. Rocket Lab announced yesterday that their upcoming Baby Come Back mission will deploy seven satellites and aim to recover the rocket's booster at sea. The 39th electron launch will feature NASA's Starling mission, testing autonomous swarm navigation technologies with four CubeSats. The flight will also carry Space Flight Laboratory's Telesat LEO 3 demo satellite, and two Spire Global 3U satellites for weather intelligence. This upcoming mission scheduled for July 14th is not just a deployment operation, but also a major step in Rocket Lab's budding recovery and reuse program. The House Armed Services Committee has approved a language that allows the U.S. Space Force to alter its service charges for launch providers as part of the proposed 2024 Defense Authorization Act. If approved, the Space Force will collect fees for indirect costs related to private company use of military launch ranges, which is a departure from the current model that only covers direct costs. The change reflects a shift in perspective, viewing the ranges more as service providing spaceports. Swedish sat com service provider Ovzon announced that the launch of Ovzon 3, its first broadband satellite, will likely be delayed again until at least late 2023 due to final assembly, testing delays, and a switch in launch providers from Aireon Space to SpaceX. Ovzon previously postponed the launch back in February due to production delays for manufacturer Maxar Technologies, which led to the launch provider switch. The satellite's manufacturing delays have increased the project's overall costs by around 25 million dollars, and may require regulatory extensions from the International Telecommunication Union. New research has shown that SpaceX's second gen Starling satellites, dubbed minis, are less bright than the first gen predecessors, despite being four times the size. To reduce their luminosity and address concerns from astronomers, SpaceX applied a reflective dialectic layer to the spacecraft body and oriented the solar panels to avoid reflecting sunlight towards Earth. Data collected from over 500 measurements showed that these mitigation strategies made the minis 12 times dimmer than the unmitigated satellites, reducing their impact on celestial observations. And just a quick plug here for the selected reading section on our website, which is at space.n2k.com, we like to include stories there that we couldn't cover in this show, but think you'll still find very interesting, like ESA's new Zero Debris Charter, and their updates to their internal space debris mitigation standards. Hot topic as always. Definitely worth reading more there. So, check it out at space.n2k.com.

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And with that, we are at the end of our Intel briefing for today. And, hey, T Minus crew, before the break, we've got two quick programming notes for you. First up, tune in tomorrow for T Minus Deep Space, our show for extended interviews, special editions, and deep dives, with some of the most influential professionals in the space industry. Tomorrow, we have a deep dive interview with Timur Davis, Director at Munich Reventures, and Peter Ortez, Principal at Munich Reventures, on the ins and outs of their in space economy investment thesis. Check it out while you're mowing the lawn, grocery shopping, folding laundry, or driving your kids to the game. You don't want to miss it. And secondly, on a personal note, all next week for our regularly scheduled daily show, I'll be out on vacation. But not to worry. The show goes on. After an intense week of on the ground coverage from the Spaceport America Cup, our one and only amazing T Minus producer Alice Carruth, will be in the host chair for the whole week next week. You all are in excellent hands.

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Today, I'm speaking with two people for my interview; Timur Davis, Director at Munich Reventures, and Peter Ortez, Principal at Munich Reventures. Let's start off with context setting here and get an introduction to what Munich Reventures is and what it does, with Peter Ortez answering first.

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>> Peter Ortez: Munich Reventures is the corporate venture arm of Munich Re, which is a large global reinsurer and insurer. One of those areas that Munich Re is quite active in is the insurance of space assets. So, ensuring launch vehicles, ensuring stuff in space is a key area of activity that Munich Re operates in and is one of the leaders in that sector. And so as investors at MRV, we are looking quite broadly in a bunch of different topics, and one of those topics is space. And our investment thesis really centers around what's coming next for the space industry. If we think back a few years, we can look to the, you know, Leo revolution as a huge topic that pushed the economics of space in a different direction. And for the space insurance industry, Munich Re was, instead of having to think about, instead of insuring, you know, $100 million spacecraft, you know, maybe we're insuring $100 million spacecraft. And so our current investment thesis has really centered around what we're calling the in space economy, the idea of companies that are, you know, doing space based services for space based applications.

>> Timur Davis: Yeah, I'll just add a couple of quick things. On the insurance topic, what's really interesting is that historically space insurance has been similar to the space industry itself, right? Very sort of one off exquisite products with very specific applications that are very expensive. Peter said, as the trend has shifted from one $100 million spacecraft to $101 million spacecraft, the insurance industry has been a little bit slow to catch up. And so in terms of the topics that we've been focusing on with our in space economy thesis, it's essentially what Peter just said, it's about sort of the infrastructure that would make the business model close. So, we invested in a company called Orbit Fab with kind of this idea that if a future space economy emerges, refueling will need to be a key part of that. You know, when you purchase your car, you don't kind of drive it off the lot until it runs out of fuel and then dump it at the side of the road and go purchase a new car. We then expanded our thesis with sort of the second big topic, which is space domain awareness. And there we invested in a company called OKAPI:Orbits, which is a space domain awareness slash, you know, space traffic management company, where again, we led the seed round. And here, you know, the idea is as you have more spacecraft in space and they're now being refueled and doing useful, you know, sort of services on each other, you need to have a way, you need to have some kind of highway traffic control. And then finally, third, we invested earlier this year, earlier in 2023, in a company, we led the Series A of Starfish Space, which is a company doing both mission extension in GEO as well as debris removal in LEO. And there the idea is old space is not dead, right? GEO satellites are still incredibly important and incredibly relevant. And if anything, I think we're starting to see the pendulum maybe start to turn a little bit in the favor of GEO. And in that case, if you can extend the life of a 20 year asset to 25 years or what have you, then there is, you know, tremendous economic benefit that you can create. And, in fact, those, you know, those economic models can be sort of completely rewritten. And then on the LEO kind of debris removal side, you know, I think there's still questions around how the business model of debris removal will work, but ultimately it's going to be critically important in LEO to have, you know, a safe and clean, you know, highway that the SDA guys will then be able to help monitor.

>> Peter Ortez: One thing I'd also like to mention is if you kind of look back across where we've invested and how we've invested, we're really looking at infrastructure, and to use an overused term, like platform plays in this sector. You know, it's the picks and shovels plays, it's the folks that are addressing a wide range of critical, you know, needs in this sector, gets us really excited.

>> Maria Varmazis: That picks and shovel phrase, in that fabulous piece that you published on Medium, which we'll make sure we link as well, it really stuck in my mind because it does summarize it so well. It made me wonder, because we cover these incredible companies and I'm a big fan of what they're doing, what kind of start ups are you looking at?

>> Peter Ortez: Yeah, I think, I think with respect to what we're looking at, you know, it's, it's companies with, you know, teams that have been in and around this, this industry for a bit. We like to see companies that have some sort of path to words, you know, initial commercialization, or initial, you know, derisking. What I think we're a little bit more wary of is those companies that have really grand visions, but, you know, it's only going to be an all or nothing sort of outcome, and we're not going to know until their first major milestone that may be five to ten years away. So, I think that's, that's a little bit where we, where we stay away from. And I think what we also like to see is companies that are, you know, going after sort of known or understood pockets of demand in the space industry, trying to create new markets, especially when you need a lot of capital to do that, is a bit challenging. So, you know, each of our investments has been in a sector where folks are really crying out for, hey, we either don't have this, or we want this but we want it better. And I think that's, that's really exciting. I think where we typically stay away is, you know, as I previously mentioned, those binary outcomes around, you know, whether there's capital here or not. And we also tend to stay away from spaces where we see, you know, a ton of competition from other start ups and from the incumbents. We like to look at those places where the incumbents are either not thinking or viewing it as not, you know, core to their business.

>> Timur Davis: Just to add maybe a quick thing to Peter's wonderful response, I think we want folks that have demonstrated a little bit of traction before we invest. So, although we're happy to be Steed investors, the way we say it is we don't like to fund science projects. So, we want to see technology that's, you know, at least somehow being taken out of the lab and sort of brought into more of a start up or more of a commercial domain. So, using orbits, that would be a great example, wherein they had demonstrated fluid transfer on the International Space Station by refueling a water tank with their fueling port before we had invested. And so, you know, they had their fueling port in space doing fluid transfer. That's, that's a great bit of progress that I think really demonstrates the viability of the technology. We have seen the kind of the DoD and sort of all the associated organizations and agencies play a really big role in the space for obvious reasons. And that role is, you know, if anything, increasing as geopolitical kind of situations evolve. But that having been said, we really want to focus on companies that are commercial kind of first, or dual use. And that's, I think that's an important differentiation. And then maybe third, as Peter was saying on the capital front, we are keen on folks that are, you know, as capital efficient as one can get. Obviously it's space or building stuff, you know, a lot, there are some software plays, but most things are hardware, and it's expensive, and it's complex. But I still think there are kind of different levels on that scale. You know, we, we are a little bit I would say hesitant or reticent to go kind of the most, to go to the most capital intense side of that spectrum. And we want to see folks that have innovative business models and innovative ways to be, if not capital light, at least capital medium.

>> Maria Varmazis: Given the fascinating context of MRV within the Munich regroup, so we're talking not just insurance and venture capital and insurance together. Risk is a big part of what you both are dealing with. So, this is a philosophical question admittedly. So, what is your approach to risk?

>> Peter Ortez: I mean, I think risk is what makes this industry, this industry, right? It's not venture capital if there's not risk and things that are uncertain, right? Otherwise, we'd be putting our money in bonds. What we want to do here is we want to go after companies that have an edge on that risk reward balance, right, where they can see, okay, we understand the risks that are out there, and here's why we as individuals, as technology, as, you know, a business model, are uniquely positioned to gain more reward than the rest of the industry. I think, as Timur said, like we want to see somebody validating things from the outside. There are a lot of really smart people that are really going after this idea of, you know, we're engineers, we've been engineers at this company or that company for a while. We think we know how to do this in a different way. We want to take what we learned from other industries and kind of merge them into this interdisciplinary approach to, you know, the space industry.

>> Timur Davis: In some cases, we think we can help kind of bend that risk curve a little bit, or the arc of that curve, and, you know, offer some kind of advantage to our portfolio companies. And then, you know, that can help support our investment as well, right? So, using space domain awareness as kind of a low hanging fruit, one can, you know, envision a world wherein if a satellite operator uses an SDA platform to track their assets, as well as everything else, then maybe kind of their insurance premiums, or the risk of their constellation is different than folks who don't use a space domain awareness platform, right? And, and in that case, maybe, you know, pricing is a little different. Now, I'm saying this theoretically, but those, I think insurance is, you know, often overlooked, but is, especially in the space world, interestingly, is an incredibly sort of important tool to help balance and transfer some of that risk. And so we feel like there are many opportunities where Munich create kind of the broader organization, including ourselves, as the venture capital, but also all the underwriting capabilities and beyond can kind of bend that arc of risk a little bit and create, you know, unfair outcomes in, in our favor, so to speak, in terms of the risk reward balance.

>> Maria Varmazis: Thank you both so much for joining me today. I really appreciate the time. And as we often do on Fridays, I should mention this was only about half of my conversation with Timur and Peter. We're in an interesting time for demonstrations of technologies that will propel a bustling in space economy. So, how far away are we from seeing that? Find out their thoughts on that when you listen to the whole thing on tomorrow's T Minus Deep Space, our special edition for deep dive conversations.

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We'll be right back. Welcome back. And now over to Alice.

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>> Alice Carruth: Hello from a hot and blustery Southern New Mexico. This is Alice Carruth, T Minus space producer and honorary rocketeer at the 2023 Spaceport America Cup. A record number of launches were held at the competition on Thursday. A total number of 59 rockets left the pads. Some more impressive than others. And a few of those unplanned disassemblies. The atmosphere was absolutely electric as each launch countdown echoed around the vertical launch area, followed by the rush of engines igniting. Teams from Turkey and this were among those that launched on day three of the competition.

>> Unidentified Person: I am [inaudible] teams member in the [inaudible] aviation team. I am from Istanbul Technical University. We are here to represent our university. It was a long journey until we came here. We had a test launch in our country before. But here is more excitement, because all of the teams, we launched rockets together one by one.

[ Inaudible ]

>> Unidentified Person: It's also our first rocket, so we are very happy to be here. And, yeah, we are honored to take part in such a big and famous competition here in the states. Then our city is like the capital of aerospace in Italy, because we have so many companies work in the aerospace sector. And now we have this new rocket team in our technical university, which we hope that can be in the future part of this big world of the industry.

>> Unidentified Person: Five, four, three, two one.

[ Cheering ]

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>> Alice Carruth: Have you been following any of the 116 teams competing at the Spaceport America Cup? You can send me your favorite viral or e mail address space@n2k.com. I will be on the live stream for the final few days of the launches, and will bring you all the award news next Monday on our show.

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>> Maria Varmazis: And that's it for T Minus for June 23rd, 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 this podcast. You can e mail us at space@n2k.com, or submit the survey in the show notes. Your feedback ensures that we deliver the information that keeps you a step ahead in the rapidly changing space industry. We are 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. 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 Karp. Our Chief Intelligence Officer is Eric Tillman. And I'm Maria Varmazis. Thanks for listening. Have a wonderful weekend.

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