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Astra plays the reverse card on stock split.

Astra’s reverse stock split. Benchmark gets a series B. Astranis lands a deal in the Philippines. Key lessons from Ukraine for US Space Command. And more!





Astra’s planned reverse stock split. Benchmark gets a series B, and Astranis lands a deal in the Philippines. Key lessons from Ukraine for US Space Command. Longshot wants to make space launch less of a launch and more of a throw. And today we speak with long-time friend of N2K Networks, Kathleen Smith from ClearedJobs.net on workforce strategies, jobs, and recruiting in the cleared aerospace and space communities.

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T-Minus Guest

Kathleen Smith from ClearedJobs.net on workforce strategies and cleared jobs in the space industry.

You can follow Kathleen on LinkedIn.

Selected Reading

Astra plans a reverse stock split, seeks to raise up to $65 million in offering- CNBC

Muon Space Awarded Additional Funding for Space Weather Data Collection- Press Release

Benchmark raises $33 million in Series B round - SpaceNews

Astranis to bring satellite internet to 2 million people in the Philippines next year- CNBC

Russia-Ukraine war holds key lessons for US Space Command: top official- The Hill

Defense Innovation Unit teams with companies on space-based internet- C4ISRNET

Orion Space Solutions and Microsoft are revolutionizing U.S. national security space domain with the NEXUS Space Network- Press Release

Scientists Have Found a Hot Spot on the Moon’s Far Side- The New York Times  

Iris satellite ATC system takes a step forward with ESSP management- Airport Technology

NASA Expands Options for Spacewalking, Moonwalking Suits, Services- NASA

Longshot Space wants to make space launch dumb — and really cheap- TechCrunch

New ExoMars lander contract will be issued in a few months- Space  

Why Africans must go to space- Gadget

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>> Maria Varmazis: If you're a company listed on the NASDAQ, your stock price needs to stay over $1 a share, or you risk being removed from the stock exchange. In other words, you'll be delisted. Back in April, Astra got a much-needed extension on their NASDAQ listing as they'd received warning that their price had been below $1 for too long. This week, we're learning about Astra's plans for raising its stock price and staying on the NASDAQ. Is this a much-needed lifeline or a sign of greater troubles? We'll take a look.

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Today is July eleventh, 2023. I'm Maria Varmazis and this is T-minus.

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Astra's planned reverse stock split. Benchmark gets a Series D, and Astranis lands a deal in the Philippines. Key lessons from Ukraine for US Space Command. Long shot wants to make space launch, well, less of one. And today, I'm speaking with long-time friend of the show, Kathleen Smith, who is chief outreach officer at ClearJobs.net on workforce strategies, jobs, and recruiting in the cleared aerospace and space communities. Stay with us.

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Let's kick off our briefing, today, with a round of financial news. As we mentioned at the top of the show, according to an SEC filing made on Monday, small launch vehicle and electric propulsion engine-maker Astra is working on raising new funds through a reverse stock split and a subsequent $65 million common stock offering. The reverse stock split will be at a 1 to 15 ratio and would help boost the company's share price and is expected on or before October second. Now, as of the time of this recording, Astra's stock price is trading at around $0.40 a share, and to stay on the NASDAQ, you need to be consistently trading at at least over $1 a share. The company was warned last October they were in danger of being delisted, and successfully got an extension to boost their stock price this past April. So let's do a little napkin math on what exactly a reverse stock split would mean for Astra. So if the 1 for 15 reverse stock split were happening today at today's stock prices, and say you were the happy owner of 60 shares of Astra, the $0.40 stock price would multiply by 15, so that would bring things up to $6 a share. Hooray! And instead of owning 60 shares, you'd have to divide those shares by 15, so now you'd only own 4 shares, instead of 60. In the end, the value of what you own is the same. So the company's value overall remains unchanged. However, the company's stock price is now much higher, which for Astra, is understandably a big priority right now. That said, reverse stock splits can be a bit of a red flag about a company's overall performance, but I don't have a crystal ball, here. So whether this is a sign of greater struggles for Astra remains to be seen. Partnerships between the US military and commercial space sector continue to scale up. Earth observation small set company Muon Space is announcing that they've won a 2-year extension to their contract to collect ionospheric data with their MuSat2 satellite mission for the Air Force and the Defense Innovation Unit. The contract now will last through September 2024. The data from MuSat2 will be used to help the Department of Defense refine existing ionospheric and weather prediction models, train AI and machine learning models, and make more effective climate change assessments. Space News is reporting that propulsion systems startup Benchmark has raised a series B round to the tune of $33 million. The company has been researching chemical, electric, and hybrid propulsion systems and is ready to move to the development and production phase of things. And in an interview with Space News, Benchmark CEO Ryan McDevitt says this funding will help them take that next step and help support customer missions that are launching in the near term. And in an exclusive to CNBC, San Francisco based Astranis has announced a signed deal to deliver dedicated satellite-based internet service to the Philippines, aiming to connect up to 2 million people. The satellite is due for launch in 2024. Astranis' distinct model combines compact satellites akin to SpaceX's Starlink and a geosynchronous orbit to maintain a fixed location. Now, let's shift to US National Security Space. At a recent Mitchell Institute event, General Shaw, US Space Command's Deputy Commander highlighted three areas of space segment vulnerabilities drive by observations from Russia's war against Ukraine. First is Russia's cyberattack against the ViaSat network illustrated the interconnectedness of the cyber and commercial space domains. Second, the use of sat com jamming by both sides disrupted satellite communications, and third, the conflict has witnessed the largest navigation war in history, severely disrupting positioning, navigation, and timing technologies. These incidents underscore the need for improved defense mechanisms and a potential area for offensive capabilities. And for business, might indicate some excellent targets for investment and innovation. The defense innovation unit, in collaboration with the Space Force and the Air Force research laboratory is advancing the development of a hybrid space architecture to provide internet connectivity from space, C4ISR Net reports. DIU's main challenge is to integrate diverse network technologies and programs from all of the various military services. Commercial space firms are partners in this project, with the goal of integrating their capabilities into the network. Now, despite challenges, upcoming demonstrations are expected to drive investment and prompt military adoption of commercial technologies. The architecture is also anticipated to streamline the military's relationship with commercial imagery and communications providers, allowing for data purchases on a case-by-case basis. And extremely relevant to our last two stories, Orion Space Solutions has announced a partnership with Microsoft to develop the NEXUS Space Network, which is an AI enabled distributed data system that operates across different military network domains. This network aims to enhance data interoperability and synchronized decision making for joint forces and their allies. By integrating Orion and Microsoft's NEXUS electromagnetic data as a service capabilities, they plan to address a backbone gap for the combined joint all domain command and control initiative. And we'd like to acknowledge in full disclosure that Microsoft is an N2K sponsor. Scientists have discovered that rocks beneath an ancient volcano on the moon's far side are unusually warm, indicating a large granite slab that solidified from magma. What's interesting in this finding is that it relies on data from the Chinese spacecraft [inaudible] 1 and [inaudible] 2. The discovery also points to the existence of a significant formation of granite, a material scarce in the solar system, and typically formed in the presence of water and plate tectonics. European satellite services provider will commercialize ViaSat's Iris Project, a tool developed alongside [inaudible] and the European Space Agency to optimize airline routes and reduce emissions through digital satellite communication. Launching in 2024, Iris aims to ease congested VHF channels, improving air space use and decreasing travel disruptions, potentially cutting a plane's CO2 output by 10%. Airlines, including Easy Jet and ITA Airways have already signed up for the service. NASA has awarded Axiom Space and Collins Airspace $5 million each to advance spacesuit development for low-Earth orbit and lunar missions. Axiom Space will adapt a space suit designed for the lunar surface for low-Earth orbit use, while Collins airspace will modify a microgravity suit for lunar operations. These steps aim to foster innovation, enhance redundancy, expand capabilities, and add some more juice to the space economy. The contracts allow competition for task orders through 2034 with the possibility for vendors to commercialize the space suits, aiding in NASA's long-term exploration goals for the Moon and Mars. Longshot Space is working on a kinetic launch system to propel objects into orbit for about $10 a kilo. For comparison, SpaceX's Falcon 9 Rideshare has a price tag of about $6,500 per kilo. Now, Longshot is attempting to design their system to use compressed gas to yeet a projectile down a concrete vacuum chamber. They face some major challenges, such as a significant land footprint, potentially kilometers in length, and loud sonic booms. Longshot, however, remains undeterred, hoping to partner with the US Department of Defense to subsidize its launch system development. They seem to have gone full space balls on this one, as CEO Mike Grace says, they're making it bigger, not smarter. Borrowing a line from Dark Helmet -

>> Now you see that evil will always triumph because good is dumb.

>> Maria Varmazis: The European Space Agency is set to issue a new contract for a Mars lander, replacing the Russian component of the delayed XO Mars mission. The launch, now expected no earlier than 2028, has been set back by technical issues, geopolitical conflict, and the pandemic, to name a few. ESA's budget of $17.6 billion over three years includes $370 million for XO Mars. The rover will drill for signs of Martian life deeper than NASA's Perseverance can reach. Speaking of NASA, NASA's humanoid robot - yes, they have one named Valkyrie - is headed to Australia to test remote dexterous manipulation capabilities in a collaboration with Woodside Energy. This project has potential implications for increasing safety in Earth-based industries and enhancing robotic capabilities for NASA's Artemis missions. Future applications could include remotely operated robots performing essential activities in harsh environments on the Moon or Mars. Taiwan's first domestically engineered weather satellite, Triton, is set to be launched from French Guyana in September on an Arianespace Vega-C rideshare mission, as confirmed by the Taiwan Space Agency. Built with local components, including a homegrown global navigation satellite system, Triton is designed to enhance typhoon path and heavy rainfall predictions by collecting C surface wind data. This move marks a significant milestone for Taiwan's space industry after 8 years of development on the Triton project. And as always, we've got some links to fantastic stories we highly recommend you read if you have the time. There's a great story today called, "Why Africans Must Go to Space". You can read it and other stories in the 'Selected Reading' section in our show notes. Just head over to space.n2k.com for more.

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And that wraps it up for our intel briefing for today. Now, stay with us for my chat with Kathleen Smith, Chief Outreach Officer of ClearedJobs.net. And hey, T-Minus crew, if you're just joining us, be sure to follow T-Minus Space Daily in your favorite podcast app. And also, if you could do us a favor, share the intel with your friends and co-workers. Here's a little challenge for you: by Friday, please show three friends or co-workers this podcast. A growing audience is the most important thing for us, and we'd love your help as part of the T-Minus crew. If you find T-Minus useful, please share so other professionals just like you can find the show. Thank you so much! It means a lot to all of us.

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For anyone considering working in any military-adjacent field, having security clearance can be a great differentiator for a jobseeker. So how do job candidates with clearance find the right roles for them? Friend of the show, Kathleen Smith, Chief Outreach Officer of ClearJobs.net has been helping employers and jobseekers find each other for some time, now, and she has some great advice to offer. So first, why should prospective employees with security clearance consider a job in space?

>> Kathleen Smith: If you love a puzzle, welcome to working in the space world! Because we've got every single puzzle out there you can think about. I think that what's very interesting is the security-cleared world is very dubious to a lot of people. They're like, okay, we've got mission and we've got spies, and things like that. And it's understanding that we're in the security-cleared world, we're working on different programs, and projects, and information that are classified at various different levels. So you have things that are at a basic level, I mean, even your bank tellers have the public trust, which is considered a security clearance. But then you go all the way up to, you know, the full scope polys, and that's working with very compartmentalized information that really needs to stay inside a very secure facility. If you're interested in that kind of work, and interested in that kind of work within space, I would definitely go to work for one of these companies that is doing both commercial space and defense or intelligence community space work, because that is the best way, as I said, to build your street cred. Prove to them that you have a skillset, you have a problem-solving mentality, you like to take apart things and you have the initiative to do that. And then they'll say, okay, you're someone that we would like to have work on this other really cool stuff because I think that's the other misconception about working in a cleared community is that it's all boring. We're only doing military things, when in actuality, you're working on cutting edge stuff that no commercial company is going to be working on because there isn't a revenue component. There is a security component, there is a safety component, and those are critical issues that come up regularly versus hey, are we going to meet our balance sheet this year as far as, you know, going public or something like that. So understanding why things are security cleared really helps you understand if you want to go into that industry or not. And it's funny, when I talk to people about working in the cleared community, they think it's only 1 or 2 specific kind of jobs, and I think that people are doing that same kind of misconception about working in the space world, because we need everything. We need people who are going to build robots, we have people who are cybersecurity engineers because there are cybersecurity issues in space.

>> Maria Varmazis: Oh, there -

>> Kathleen Smith: There are quite a few. There are policy issues, there are diplomatic issues, there's even people who have to figure out how to cook meals in space. So you need to be a chef. So don't think that you have little or no opportunity in the space world. If this is something that inspires you, because that's the one thing that I run into with a lot of people looking for a job: they're just looking for a job. They're not looking for something that's going to inspire them, that they're passionate about. And we learned this with the pandemic that if you don't really love what you do, and if you don't really have the passion to deal with the day-to-day stresses, this is probably not the career for you. And we found that with many of the questions that I ask on our podcast about how do you deal, now, with people wanting to be remote and hybrid? And in most of the space jobs, it was all on site because you either had - you were working in a security-cleared facility, or you were working in a very competitive field and people did not want you working from home and being hackable. And now, they had to all learn about remote and hybrid, and so you still have those opportunities in the space world, as well, but we are dealing with a lot of people returning to the office and how do you have the work-life balance that we all got used to in the pandemic? So it is - it's still a very interesting time where we go through do you want to support the mission? Even if it's, you know, commercial or cleared. Are you a problem-solver? Are you willing to work with a team of people? Because I don't really - I haven't seen a lot of sole contributors within the space world. I've seen a lot of team players, and a lot of people who thrown into teams that they didn't want to be a part of, which is why I say if you're looking for some really good skill set development, go to any of the hacker conferences and go to a CTF. Get thrown into a team that you've never worked with before, an adversary you've never seen before, and specific time constraints and energy constraints, -- which, gee, that's real life - and learn how to navigate that. It's not only your tactical skills, but it's going to be your soft skills, as well.

>> Maria Varmazis: Yeah. I was going to say that's always something that when I'm listening to career development podcasts in my spare time, it's the soft skills, often, they come up as a real differentiator for folks. Because of course, we always need people who have a specialized technical knowledge, and those folks are always going to be in high demand. But it feels like that competitive advantage can be if you really can nail those soft skills, and that's a skill that can be developed. You don't have to be a natural extrovert or people person. It's something you can learn, and it's something I am very encouraged to hear you talk about that, as well.

>> Kathleen Smith: It's something that I talk about a lot, and I was just trying to remember the names of the characters on Big Bang Theory. So - I'm not going to remember.

>> Maria Varmazis: Sheldon.

>> Kathleen Smith: Sheldon! So everyone wants to work with a Sheldon, but no one wants to work with a Sheldon. So you know, being able to be a Sheldon, but also understand you might be a follower, you need to be a leader. How do you mitigate dissension? How do you mitigate people disagreeing? How do you move past that? How do you move past being emotional? Because I can tell you, space is a high-stress job and if you don't know how to manage yourself and you don't know how to manage those - your interactions with other people, you're going to shortchange yourself, as far as your career. So I talk ad nauseum about volunteering in the community, volunteering at events, learning what it's like to be stressed and have a mutual goal, and how do you work together and do it without, you know, killing each other. How do you work on your communication skills? Because I think when you're trying to support the overall development of a space program and you all have a different vision in your mind, and you're trying to develop the solution, and sometimes you all have the same vision, but you can't communicate it well, you are then just creating your own roadblocks. So I even have this in, you know, my team and I will sit and we'll talk about something, and I know we all have the exact same vision in mind.

>> Maria Varmazis: Right. You're on the same team. Yeah!

>> Kathleen Smith: We're on the same team, we're on the same vision, but we don't have the communication skills developed to be able to overcome that and get caught up in our frustration and our emotion. And fortunately, everyone I work with now, I've worked with for 20 years and they can call me on my stuff and say, "You're wrong".

>> Maria Varmazis: So that comes with time.

>> Kathleen Smith: Yes, it does. It does.

>> Maria Varmazis: That definitely can come with time. It becomes like family at that point when you all know each other's - where the bodies are buried, so to speak.

>> Kathleen Smith: No, we don't talk about that. There are no bodies here.

>> Maria Varmazis: No, no, no. There are no bodies. There are no bodies.

>> Kathleen Smith: There are no bodies.

>> Maria Vamazis: Thank you for walking me through sort of these - not just how to think about a career in space, but also the many misconceptions, because there are a lot. And again, because of, I don't know, maybe pop culture has something to do with this. Maybe just a lack of knowledge generally, there's a lot of misconceptions out there. So -

>> Kathleen Smith: Yeah. I think that, you know, pop culture, you know, so I'm Trek-y, not a Star Wars person, so you know, that - we all have that division. You know, live long and prosper. I practiced for years to be able to do that. I think that we all like to put something in a box. We like to make it simple, and space is not simple. And if you're not looking at it through a 3D or 5D matrix, you're shortchanging yourself. And you can always create a niche in this space, you just have to find what it is rather than thinking I need to be a check off who knows how to, you know, engage the warp engines. But you know, there was the doctor, there was, you know, this cook, and the chef, and everything like that. So we need to eat well in space, so you know, be sure that you can go out there and make a really good sushi.

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

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And welcome back. And friends, today, we are talking about Albedo.

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That clip was Albedo.0.39 from the Vangelis album of the same name. And if you're a fan of the original Carl Sagan Cosmos TV show, that is the album the show's theme song comes from. A little trivia for you, there. And albedo, what is it? It's a ratio of how reflective a celestial body is with zero being zero reflectivity and 1 meaning absolutely perfect reflectivity. In the Vangelis song, the 0.39 refers to the reflectiveness of Earth, though it's been a few decades since that song was written, and thanks to advances in satellite imagery, current thinking is that Earth's average albedo is a little lower and closer to 0.30. Anyway, for comparison, bright Venus in our night skies has an albedo twice of Earth's, more than twice of Earth's at 0.75. But the Moon's is a lot lower than you might expect. Only 0.07. Can you imagine a full moon if it was higher than that? Wowza. In any case, we're talking about albedo today because of a very cool exoplanet discovery found via ESA's [inaudible] mission that's making some cool headlines. Ultra-hot exoplanet LTT9779B is officially the most reflective exoplanet ever found with an albedo of - ready for this - 0.8. This fascinating planet reflects 80% of the light that comes its way for a number of reasons. One is that it is super, super hot. How hot is it? Well, the star facing side reaches 2,000 degrees Celsius, or a bit over 3,600 degrees in freedom units. The reason for that unbelievable heat is that this planet is in very close orbit to its star. Even though it's the size of Neptune, it makes its orbit around its star in about 19 hours. The exoplanet is also covered by metallic clouds that rain down titanium, and the clouds themselves are made of both titanium and silicate, AKA glass. So it's not a big exaggeration to say this planet is quite mirror-like. Quote, it's a planet that shouldn't exist, said Vivian Parmentier, co-author of the study on this exoplanet, and researcher at the observatory of Côte d'Azur. We expect planets like this to have their atmosphere blown away by their star, leaving behind bare rock. Well, way to defy expectations, LTT9779B. This extraordinary planet is currently the largest known mirror in the universe.

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And that's it for July eleventh, 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 Peltsman and Trey Hester, with original music and sound design by Elliott Peltsman. Our executive producer is Brandon Karpf. Our chief intelligence officer is Eric Tillman, and I'm Maria Varmazis. Thanks for listening.

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