Space Investment showing signs of stabilizing. Rocket Lab’s launches payloads from New Zealand. Space Command HQ debate continues to cause drama. And...
Budgets, busts, and booms in the space militarization market.
US House calls for cuts to Space Force’s FY24 requests. Space Delta 9 prepares for potential conflicts in space. Ramon. Space raises $26M. And more.
US House Appropriations Committee recommends cuts to Space Force’s FY24 budget requests. Space Delta 9 prepares for potential conflicts in space. Israel-based Ramon. Space raises $26 million for space-resilient computing infrastructure. British space startup Odin Space has successfully demonstrated the operation of its space debris sensor technology in orbit, and more.
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Our guest for today’s show is Joshua Western, CEO of Space Forge, on in-space manufacturing.
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>> Alice Carruth: We cover a lot of ground here at T-Minus. Here's a little sneak peek behind the curtain for the crew. We've organized our reporting with critical information requirements around 18 different space industry segments, and there's emerging intelligence on nearly all of them every week, but one particular segment seems to drive the industry more than any other, and that ladies and gentleman, is military space.
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Today is June 28th, 2023. I'm Alice Carruth, and this is T-Minus.
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US House Appropriations Committee recommends cuts to Space Force's FY24 requests. Space Delta 9 is preparing for potential conflicts in space. Ramon.Space has announced that it's raised 26 million US dollars and our presenter Maria Varmazis speaks to Joshua Western from Space Forge about in-space manufacturing. You don't want to miss a minute, but first onto today's briefing.
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The House Appropriations Committee approved a $826.4 billion US defense budget for Fiscal Year 2024, recommending nearly $1 billion in cuts from the US Space Force's $30 billion request, citing program performance concerns. This includes a lack of long-term budgeting for certain programs such as the Next-Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared program, Deep Space Advanced Radar Capability site, and GPS user equipment increment two.
The largest cuts are proposed for classified programs, communication satellite programs, and GPS systems. The Space Force budget request is 15% larger than this year's budget. The committee highlighted several poorly performing acquisitions, such as the GPS Next Generation Operational Control System and the Space Command and Control Program. It also questioned the proposal to cancel the next-gen OPIR missile warning geostationary satellite without sufficient analysis, given its strategic importance.
The committee warns the Space Force against relying on continued double-digit budget increases to cover future shortfalls or reduce acquisition risk. These developments underscore the importance of effective performance, planning and justification in the acquisition and funding of space programs. Regardless of the concern expressed by the US Congress, a new report released by Market to Market still expects the space militarization market valued at $53.7 billion US in 2023 to reach $88.6 billion US by 2030, growing at a compound annual growth rate of 7.4%.
The report identifies increasing geopolitical tensions and advancements in the space sector as the driving factors for growth. In particular, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance are expected to drive market demand. In what should come as no surprise, the US will continue to hold the largest market share during the forecast period due to the presence of major space militarization manufacturers.
Elsewhere in military space, a report from Defense One published last night details how Space Delta 9, a unit of the US Space Force, is preparing for potential conflicts in space in response to provocations from Russia and China. The unit trains guardians in both offensive and defensive strategies to preserve access to space. It primarily emphasizes space domain awareness to prevent operational surprises and respond to threats to friendly capabilities, likening the unit's activities to the neighborhood watch of the space domain.
However, at a recent Mitchell Institute event, Major General David Miller, Director of Operations, Training and Force Development for US Space Command, argued that counterspace weapons are vital for space superiority and security. We're left wondering, as the in-space economy continues to grow rapidly, what sort of offensive capabilities should we expect to see in the near future?
Ramon.Space, a space-resilient computing infrastructure provider, announced today that it's raised $26 million US from Ingrasys, a subsidiary of Foxconn Technology Group, and the Strategic Development Fund, an Abu Dhabi-based investment firm. Built around in-house radiation hardening technology, Ramon.Space's platform provides storage, computing, and connectivity capabilities for space missions. The technology offers a foundation for satellite communications, remote sensing, autonomous robotic spacecraft, and space exploration.
And staying with a congratulatory theme, British space startup ODIN Space has successfully demonstrated the operation of its space debris sensor technology in orbit. ODIN's demo sensor was integrated to the D-Orbit ION satellite that was part of the recent SpaceX Transporter-8 mission. The data captured by the demo sensor marks an important step in creating vital information about small space debris. It brings the company a step closer to producing its fully commercial sensor, capable of mapping debris between 0.1 millimeters and 1 centimeters, measuring its size and location.
Staying in Europe and continuing with that positive news, a German startup, Airmo, has announced its pre-seed funding round of $5.7 million US, which the company says it plans to use to launch a satellite constellation to monitor greenhouse gases. Airmo's satellite will be equipped with spectrometer and light detection and ranging technology (or LIDAR to most of us) to detect and measure greenhouse gas emissions. The company claims that their micro-LIDAR monitoring service provides the most precise and close to real-time insights into people's impact on the climate.
Now we've been rooting for PLD Space and their first test flight from Spain but it seems that we will have to wait a little longer for that first launch. The rocket company says that the weather has now caused a delay for the first flight of its suborbital rocket to at least September after technical issues caused initial scrubs. Spain has restrictions in place throughout the summer to prevent wildfires that extend to rocket engines. Sensible, really.
The push for the moon's south pole is heating up, and our friends down under want to be in on the action. Australian startup Fleet Space has been awarded over $2.5 million US by the Australian Space Agency for its Moon-to-Mars Demonstrator program. We love an acronym on this show and this has to be a new favorite. Fleet Space has been chosen for the project Seismic Payload for Interplanetary Discovery, Exploration and Research Demonstration mission, known as SPIDER, on a commercial lunar payload services delivery. This will be the first step of SEVEN SISTERS, an Australian mission to explore the moon and Mars.
We've got some new hires in the space industry to congratulate. The first is the United Nations has announced that Aarti Holla-Maini will lead the Office for Outer Space Affairs as its Director. Holla-Maini lives in the UK and is a satellite expert. Her resume is impressive, having previously been the long-term Secretary General for the Global Satellite Operators Association, and a member of the World Economic Forum's Global Future Council on Space, and is also an expert advisor on the Space Traffic Management for European Union studies, among many other roles. Best of luck to Aarti.
And our guest coming up is Josh Western, CEO of Space Forge which has just announced the appointment of Andrew Pollack as Managing Director of new US Space Operation. We'll be hearing more about that company in just a moment.
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Well, that concludes today's briefing. There were so many reports and additional stories that we just didn't have time to dive into today, but we've included them in our show notes for you to digest when you have the chance. 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 on your favorite podcast app. It will help other space professionals like you find the show and join the T-Minus crew. Thank you, we really appreciate it.
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Our presenter Maria is out for the week on a much-needed vacation, but before she departed the studio, she spoke to Joshua Weston at Space Forge, and she started off with asking what does Space Forge do?
>> Joshua Western: Really we're an advanced materials company, but our edge is that we happen to produce those materials in space. We do that on a platform of our own invention, ForgeStar, the world's first returnable [inaudible] launch for a satellite platform. We effectively operate as miniature factories in space to produce these materials that are simply impossible to manufacture on Earth.
>> Maria Varmazis: So why is this important that we make things in space and get things back onto Earth? Basic question, but like what what's behind your mission? Why is it driving you?
>> Joshua Western: Earth is the best place to look at how to answer this question. First, Earth is a wonderful place to live. It's basically a terrible place to build. Every industrial process that we have, we have to fight against the natural constraints of our planet to achieve it, whether or not that's making house bricks all the way through to making the world's most advanced semiconductor chips. That's because we have to contend with gravity, a dense ambient atmosphere filled with contamination, and a fairly consistent, albeit rising, temperature across the planet. In space, you have microgravity, you have the complete absence of atmosphere, known to us as high-purity vacuum, and you have plus or minus 250 degrees Celsius just depending on which way you're facing. And what those three aspects of the environment that you're surrounded by in space enable is ultimately, it's far superior manufacturing baseline for almost any industrial process.
There's very little need to go and make red Solo cups in space. You don't need to worry about something like that, but there are things where it can really count, high-purity semiconductors, next-generation alloys, all the way through to things that make up, for example, the pharmaceuticals and the drugs that we might use in COVID vaccination, or treating some of the world's most aggressive cancers. We are finding the opportunity to use space to produce things that simply we've hit the limit here on our planet.
>> Maria Varmazis: But there's also radiation out in space that makes things really challenging, too, of course. That's not a small thing, but your company has a very, very unique approach. The whole ForgeStar platform, I think is just really fascinating. Can you talk about how you came up with this idea, and how you came up with ForgeStar?
>> Joshua Western: I can't take the credit for coming up with ForgeStar. My contribution was the name. We had originally hoped to call it StarForge, and then we found out that was trademarked by George Lucas, so that was not a battle we wanted to get into when we were but two people working in a garage. So my co-founder, Andrew, who's a fantastic engineer, developed the ForgeStar concept.
It really came about from two directions. The first of those was that there wasn't scalable infrastructure available to us in space to build things. If we wanted to go to the International Space Station, you know, you're confined into a very small experimentatious space, and then you have to, you know, wait for the astronaut to be ready, have some availability to fine tune your experiment or kick it off or to even collect the product. So we needed to find a way that we could do in-space manufacturing in a way that was scalable.
The second limitation was that there was no return infrastructure available from space. We had no way of getting the product. We were, again, on something like the International Space Station, where we could only use cargo return flights to get home. So that really that from those two axes, the vehicle of ForgeStar was born out of frustration that we couldn't believe that there wasn't a way to access the space environment to produce these next-generation semiconductors and alloys and be able to bring them back. And we started as a payload company with developing our core semiconductor techniques, and then everything else was built around serving that payload, and it's been a- yeah, been a hell of a journey.
>> Maria Varmazis: I was going to say talking about payload return, Pridwen, it's been in the news a lot. It visually- we don't often get really cool visuals like that when we talk about like space industry but man, Pridwen looks really cool. I can't help but --
>> Joshua Western: I- yeah, I [inaudible] the amount of credibility that animation has done for us has been phenomenal, yeah.
>> Maria Varmazis: I believe it. From a marketing perspective, that is gold.
>> Joshua Western: Yes, absolutely. I'm enjoying having people send it to me, saying that they finally understand what it is that I'm talking about, which is really helpful because for years, we've been incredibly secret squirrel about what we've been building, and until now, the only way that I've described Pridwen is like Mary Poppins but in space. Now that people can see that it looks a bit like an upside-down umbrella, the- where I at least got that analogy from, even though it doesn't look anything like a carpetbag-carrying nanny.
>> Maria Varmazis: How do you envision it being used in the long term?
>> Joshua Western: With Pridwen, what we're finding is that in many ways, we're not finding anything. We're yet to find its limit of operation. We're yet to find the limit of its size of operation. We're yet to find an environment or a landing location that it can't work with. From a return perspective to Earth, we are unique in that we are relatively geography agnostic as to where we come to.
By and large, that means we can either come back to a sea location or we can come back to our land location. Very few vehicles are compatible with that. They also need vast expanses of empty land to be able to operate. Because we're so much more gentle in our return operation, we can really shrink the footprint of our return locations, allowing us to target much smaller areas to return payloads to our customers or experiments to researchers much more easily and closer to where their end labs might be.
That then has a very useful application that when we're trying to land things on the Moon or Mars, and we're trying to do site selection and worry about jagged rocks and things, you suddenly also need a much smaller area to select your landing location for planetary exploration. So we're seeing a huge array of opportunities both in how we serve humanity and people back here on Earth, but also how we reach further into our solar system, both in this one and perhaps even beyond, one day.
>> Maria Varmazis: One day, one day, but even in this solar system, that's a fascinating prospect. I mean, for something that's returning back to Earth, potentially is this something where, you know, I'm just imagining somebody standing out in the parking lot, maybe not literally that much, but this kind of going whoop, and getting something, maybe not like that, but that would be great.
>> Joshua Western: If we can do that one day, I'll be very, very happy. Yeah, but certainly, I mean, you know, one of- so many of the limitations of how we can serve our customers are because of the time it takes to get from that recovery location to elsewhere. For example, you know, if you've brought a payload back down on SpaceX Dragon, phenomenal vehicle, but because of landing in the Florida coastline, you then need to get your payload out, get it to an airport, and if you're in Singapore, it's then like another 22 hours by plane to get to Singapore. So it just takes a long time. Whereas, perhaps if you could land in Australia instead, then you're only going to be six or five hours away.
>> Maria Varmazis: So at a recent event, I noticed that there was some really cool messaging about ForgeStar and the path to net zero. So can you talk a little bit about how you envision Space Forge making a positive impact there?
>> Joshua Western: Ultimately, we started Space Forge with the goal of- I mean, I- well, I almost [inaudible] to use our tagline of making space work for humanity, but we felt that the two most underserved aspects of the space environment is the microgravity and the high-purity vacuum. Traditionally, we only take advantage of it being really the ultimate high ground. Now those two aspects of microgravity and vacuum, as I've said previously, allowing you to create materials that you can't make here on Earth, allow you to create materials that effectively leapfrog our current capability.
Our focus at Space Forge specifically is on producing next-generation semiconductors in space. Those semiconductors, when returned back to Earth, consume 60% less energy than the semiconductors that we use today. So if you can imagine things like even the energy bill for 5G, for example, in the UK alone, it's almost $2 billion a year just to run the 5G cell towers. That's before you're using all your mobiles and looking at videos of cats and everything else and what's next on Netflix.
The opportunity to reduce that by 60% in one market, even in something like telecoms, means that for every kilogram of CO2 we create with Space Forge, we can prevent 80 tons being emitted on the ground. What that then led us to from that sort of burgeoning idea is that ultimately, we're going to be in a position at Space Forge to become the world's first carbon-negative space company, and arguably the world's first carbon-negative semiconductor company too.
>> Maria Varmazis: I love that. That's fantastic. I wish you all the best because that is a very admirable goal on both fronts. How will your technology at Space Forge transform the space industry and how we use space overall?
>> Joshua Western: From an industry perspective, we play an interesting position that we are firmly a hardware company, but operating in the space market where our customer is not another space company. So having the opportunity to produce things in space, which serve other industries on the ground, in electronics, whether or not that's telecom, renewable energy, automotive, quantum computing, provides us with a different lens to how we operate and how we produce our platforms and how we think about our customer bases, and I think that's really critical because the industry needs to look broader.
And I think that observation does a good job with it as to how, for example, thinks about how people use its data on the ground by climate change. As how to it come to make the world a better place, I guess is a good way to think about part of your question, it's about making space a keystone of the industries that we have on the ground. We can't produce everything in space right now, nor would you want to, but those keystone technologies like advanced chips that you can produce in space that have such a profound impact on the ground, start to make space a part of everybody's supply chain. And if you can start to do that, then you could start to move supply chain off of Earth.
And my view is that you can start to industrialize space to save Earth. That's quite profound, but I think we have a real opportunity here to redress the balance that we have as humans with the finite natural resources of this planet. We can do that by starting to move industry into space to leverage even the baseline environment that we have there, and that's even before we start to get into things like mining asteroid [inaudible].
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>> Alice Carruth: And we'll be right back.
Have you ever wondered what space sounds like? It's silent, surely. A sound needs air to travel, but guess what? Clever scientists have taken data collected by telescopes and sonified it into orchestral music. Using the same information that scientists gather to create images of the universe, we now know what galaxies sound like. I could describe it, but honestly the beauty of this is listening in. So put your feet up and enjoy this short musical story. You may want to switch it off if you're driving.
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What's a way to close out T-Minus for June 28th, 2023. I don't know about you, but I'm ready for a nap, but 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 email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or submit the survey in the show notes. Your feedback ensures we deliver the information that keeps you a step ahead of the rapidly changing space industry. 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.
This episode was mixed 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 Alice Carruth. Thanks for listening.
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