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The TROPICS of New Zealand. Plus Loft and Microsoft call the Ball.

Rocket Lab to launch TROPICS in NZL. Ball partners with Loft and Microsoft. GAO confirms what the Space Force knows. ITU to update spectrum regs. And more.





Rocket Lab and TROPICS to launch from NZ. Ball Aerospace teams up with Loft Orbital and Microsoft. The GAO confirms what the Space Force knows about sustainment. Spectrum regulatory changes from the ITU might be coming soon. Our conversation with Brandon Bailey of The Aerospace Corporation about the cybersecurity of spacecraft. And more.

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T-Minus Guest

Our guest today is Brandon Bailey, Senior Project Leader at Aerospace Corporation. He joins us to discuss Aerospace Corporation’s SPARTA framework. Learn more about SPARTA here: Space Attack Research & Tactic Analysis (SPARTA) | The Aerospace Corporation  

Selected Reading

The Spaceport Bottleneck | The Space Review 

Preventing sticker shock with transparent pricing | SpaceNews 

How Virgin Orbit's Fallout Could Impact SoCal's Space Operations | dot.LA 

Canada proposes to develop robotic lunar rover for Artemis | SpaceNews 

Rocket Lab to Launch NASA’s Cyclone-Tracking Satellite Constellation from New Zealand | RocketLab USA 

Ball Aerospace, Loft Federal and Microsoft to Collaborate on SDA's NExT Program | PRNewswire 

US Space Force to simplify timelines, purchases as launches surge | C4ISRNET  

Space Force calls its new satellite acquisition program a win | Federal News Network

Satellite Control Network: Updating Sustainment Plan Would Help Space Force Better Manage Future Efforts | U.S. GAO

ITU Finalizes Report on Preparatory Studies for WRC-2023 | Spacewatch.global 

Connecting the Dots | European space investments get serious | SpaceNews

Tlon Space, the Argentine space startup that is about to overcome gravity | Rosario3

Scientists blasted Barbies with liquid nitrogen to test a new method of moon dust cleanup – and it worked extremely well | Live Science

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Maria Varmazis:    Originally, Rocket Lab was going to launch NASA's new TROPICS Earth observation satellites, which are meant to help better model and track tropical storms from Wallops in Virginia. But then they had missed the window for the 2023 hurricane season in North America. Well, change in plans. Good thing Rocket Lab has another launch complex in New Zealand.

Maria Varmazis:    Today is April 11th, 2023. I am Maria Varmazis, and this is TMinus.

Maria Varmazis:    A bit more on Rocket Lab and TROPICS, while Aerospace teams up with Loft Orbital and Microsoft. The GAO confirms what space force already knows, the ITU says changes might be coming. Plus, my conversation about cybersecurity for spacecraft with Brandon Bailey of the Aerospace Corporation. Lots more today, so stay with us.

Maria Varmazis:    Here are our stories for today. Next month, firm Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand, Rocket Lab USA will be launching two electron rockets. On each of the rockets will be small satellites for NASA's new TROPICS constellation, an Earth observation satellite constellation that will specifically look at storms, like hurricanes, and help us better understand how such storms form, and lead scientists to better storm modeling and prediction. The constellation named TROPICS is an acronym for TimeResolved Observations of Precipitation, Structure, and Storm Intensity with a Constellation of Smallsats. The constellation itself will consist of four small CubeSats that will be at an altitude of 550 kilometers and an orbital inclination of 30 degrees. Originally, TROPICS was going to launch from NASA's Wallops facility in Virginia, as we mentioned at the top of the show. But by moving them to the New Zealand Launch Complex, the constellation will now be a lot more likely to be up and running in time for the 2023 hurricane system here in North America. Will McCarty, program scientist for the TROPICS mission, said this about the upcoming mission. The ability to advance our understanding of tropical cyclones from space has been limited by the ability to take frequent measurements, particularly from microwave instruments that see into the storms. Historically, satellites have been too large and expensive to provide observations at a time frequency that is consistent with the time scales at which tropical cyclones can evolve. The CubeSat era has allowed for smaller, less expensive satellites. With modern small satellite design, we designed a constellation that optimizes the scientific utility of the mission in a way that we can launch in a costeffective manner. These factors enable TROPICS to provide a new understanding of tropical cyclones by decreasing the time by which a given storm is revisited by the satellites. The first mission launch is called Rocket Like a Hurricane, and is expected as soon as May 1st. And the second launch is called Coming to a Storm Near You, expected no earlier than May 16th. The mission patches are also pretty awesome, by the way.

Maria Varmazis:    Definitely check those out when you can. And I should note, both mission launch dates are in New Zealand standard time. There's a new collaboration in the works from Ball Aerospace, Loft Federal, and Microsoft today. The three companies announced that they're teaming up for the Space Development Agency, or SDA's, experimental testbed program called National Defense Space Architecture Experimental Testbed, or NExT, which will send 10 satellites with experimental payloads into orbit. While Ball Aerospace 1, the 176 million dollar contract from the SDA back in October last year, and as leading payout and spacecraft integration and testing, the company is also working with Loft Federal, which is a subsidiary of Loft Orbital, for further spacecraft integration and testing. Loft Federal will also procure the commercial launch services and handle the constellation's operation once everything is on orbit. The satellites themselves will be using Loft Orbital's [inaudible 00:00:41] bus, and will run on Loft Orbital's commercial offtheshelf satellite operation software called Cockpit. Microsoft will be handling the cloud and ground station infrastructure with a combination of Azure Orbital Ground Station, and Azure government airgapped cloud. According to the SDA, the next constellation is separate from the SDA's [inaudible 00:00:41] constellation, but they'll experiment with seeing if they can work together. In any case, NExT is set to fly in 2024. The third phase of the National Security Space Launch contracts will be open for solicitation this summer. And in advance of that, the U.S. Space Force says they're working on making sure the contracts will make things faster and easier for the Space Development Agency to buy and schedule missions. Flexibility is the keyword for the SDA for Phase III. Phase III will be splitting launch providers into two groups. The first group is a proving ground allocated for smaller companies so they can compete with each other and not get drowned out by the established big players. Those guys, they're expected to be just two companies, and will have their own second group just to themselves. And, of course, they'll get the more difficult missions. This week, SDA's director Derek Tournear said this. We're going to try to launch the satellites as soon as they're ready, and launch as quickly as possible. I think the industry is now in a position where they can support it both from the satellite vendor side, where they've gotten into this more of a commoditized assembly line mindset, and then the rocket side. The Phase III missions will be able to be modified with much less notice than before. And that's key, given how much the pace of launches has already picked up. If you think it's fast now, it's only going to get faster. And just think of where we're going to be in Phase III, which will be used to fund missions from fiscal years 2025 to 2034. A new report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office, or GAO, echoes what the Space Force has been saying, U.S. military satellite antennas, the 19 antennas that make up the Satellite Control Network, or SCN, are showing signs of their age. Like the best of us, as we get up into our golden years, they're getting hard to maintain. And the SCN communicates with and controlled U.S. government satellites, which means we are asking a whole heck of a lot more from this aging infrastructure. In fact, the GAO reports that the utilization rate for the SCN has been running an average of 75% for the last decade. Higher than the 70% level that the Space Force says is the commercial industry standard threshold. Given that the SCN uses parabolic antennas that can only make one contact at a time, system availability issues are a pressing concern here. Space Force says it's working on a fix to add 12 new antennas by 2025. That's the Satellite Communication Augmentation Resource; a.k.a., SCAR, which are phase array, meaning they can contact up to 20 satellites at once, not just one. The Space Force says they're also collaborating with other federal agencies and even commercial providers. Meanwhile, Space Force CITO Dr. Lisa Costa says for other parts of the Space Force that need updating, specifically the software side of things, it might be actually better to start completely anew instead of trying to upgrade outdated tech. It's not how things are normally done, she notes, but it has its advantages. Namely, speed. I fundamentally believe that we will get ahead much quicker if we don't try to dig ourselves out of tech debt, but we just leap over that and move to softwaredefined everything and modern systems that keep evolving over time, said Costa this week in a keynote address at the Mitchell Institute second annual Spacepower Security Forum. Keep your antenna up for more news on this front later this year. The International Telecommunications Union, or the ITU, say they've approved a major report in preparation for the World Radio Communication Conference 2023, or the WRC 2023, meaning any issues with the current allocations of the radio frequency spectrum, or satellite orbits, may soon have solutions of some kind. We'll find out more on exactly what changes might be coming later this year when WRC 2023 takes place in late November in Dubai. We should note the ITU only holds a review of this kind every three to four years. So, it's pretty important. Some commentary from ITU's Secretary General Doreen BogdanMartin, the global management of radio frequency spectrum and associated satellite orbits is at the heart of ITU's strategic goals to achieve universal connectivity and sustainable digital transformation. With the uptake of innovative digital services accelerating worldwide, it is critical that we ensure they are secure, reliable, affordable, and accessible, especially to the 2.7 billion people worldwide who remain offline. There's a great story in Space News highlighting the recent spate of adventure capital funding for the space industry in Europe. In comments to space news, Dutch investor OTB Ventures cofounder and general partner Adam Niewinski says there are a number of factors at play here.

Maria Varmazis:    But the fact that ESA is awarding contracts to smaller players and not just big names like Airbus and Thales is a good sign for the health of the space business ecosystem in Europe. He adds this. If you had asked me three years ago, I would be a bit skeptical. But today, I'm far more optimistic in terms of how Europe is going to be catching up with the U.S. and China. TLON Space, a startup based in Argentina, is getting ready for the first orbital flight test of its small launch vehicle, the Aventura I rocket. TLON says its twostage rocket designed for nanosattelites and picosatellites, will be the lightest in the industry at under one ton of weight, with an expected launch cost of 50 to 70,000 dollars to get a one kilo nanosattelite to orbit. It has a 25 kilogram payload capacity and is just 10 meters tall. And the first stage is reusable. If all goes well, it will be on its way to flying six commercial missions in the second half of this year. Satellite view has been awarded over 300,000 pounds from the Energy Entrepreneurs Fund to develop its satellitebased infrared monitoring system for commercial solar farms called Sarm PV. By providing highresolution IR imaging to solar providers, satellite view will help those providers find temperature anomalies in their solar farms, which could indicate infrastructure problems that might otherwise go unnoticed for longer periods. The goal is to improve efficiency of power generation through solar cells by between 2 to 4%, and reduce overall costs for solar providers. Some executives on the move. All Space, a multiorbit antenna manufacturer, has hired Charles Hannaford as their new chief development officer. Hannaford joins All Space from his former post as chief of staff at SES. And the Nonprofit Space Foundation has named Major General Heather Pringle of the U.S. Air Force as its new CEO. Pringle will be retiring from military service this summer and joining the Space Foundation on July 1st.

Maria Varmazis:    Okay, those are the headlines for today. Be sure to check out our selected reading in our show notes today over at space.n2k.com. Highlights include a feature on transparent pricing practices from Space News, how Virgin Orbit's collapse could affect the space business ecosystem in Southern California, and Canada's grand visions for space and the Moon beyond Artemis II, and Canadarm, of course. Up next after this break is my interview with Senior Project Leader Brandon Bailey at the Aerospace Corporation. Don't go anywhere.

Maria Varmazis:    We're not shy about using acronyms in aerospace. And now I'm going to add a new one to your list that you need to know, SPARTA. Now, that stands for Space Attack Research and Tactic Analysis. And it's a framework to help space professionals understand what they need to do to make their spacecraft and space systems more resilient against cyber-attacks. As we saw with the Viasat attack last February, unfortunately space systems increasingly are being targeted. And nobody wants to see millions of dollars of development and years of hard work disabled by a cyber-attack if they can help it. So, this is SPARTA. Okay, rather, this is where SPARTA, the new security framework, can help space professionals. Now, I spoke with Brandon Bailey, senior project leader for the SPARTA Project at the Aerospace Corporation, to walk me through SPARTA's genesis and purpose.

Brandon Bailey:    So, really it comes down to there's a gap. We felt like there's been a gap in the way people understand the way threat actors could potentially attack a spacecraft. So, in my work over the past eight years or more talking to various entities about the way threat actors essentially attack a spacecraft, no one really knows the how. Like how will they do it? Some people don't believe that it's possible. And so we figured out, okay, there's an inherent communication gap here where people aren't understanding how tactics, techniques, and procedures could be implemented for a space system from cyber perspective. So, we looked at kind of what industry standard has been as it relates to communicating tactics, techniques, and procedures. So, MITRE put out a great framework, the MITRE ATT&CK framework in 2013. And it's been improved vastly over this nineyear span.

Brandon Bailey:    If you go back and look at what was first published in 2013 to today, it's quite, quite different. So, basically we have this kind of nexus of, well, we have, we have a communication gap where people aren't really understanding how the TTPs line up to space systems. And we have a good framework, a reference framework, to leverage. And MITRE had open sourced their website go, they open source basically anything, everything about ATT&CK. So, we said, well, okay, let's, back in May of this year, so, you know, six, seven, eight months ago, we decided, hey, let's, let's build a framework that mirrors the industry standard like that's already out there for TTPs, but for space, and that type of thing. So, that's what we did. And then you get into, all right, now we want to build a framework that looks like the industry standard side. Let's, what are the contents? So, that's where the years in the making comes in, comes into play. So, the content, what you put in the tactics, techniques and procedures is where, that's where it's been years in the making. So, aerospace, our subdivision, the cybersecurity advanced platform subdivision within aerospace, we had been publishing data basically since 2019 in the open side, in the unclassified internet, around cybersecurity for space systems. So, typically what we've seen is there's been a lot of information about cybersecurity, behind kind of closed doors, and not really talked about for space. And with the, kind of with what ODNI, the Director of National Intelligence and NASIC, had put out papers in 2018 time frame that really opened up Pandora's box on like what to, security of space, and cyber plays a role in that. So, we wrote, we wrote a position paper from the Center for Strategic Policy and Strategy, or CSPS, and we put that out in 2019 called Defending a Space Spacecraft in the Cyber Domain. And then we followed up with several other papers and blogs and articles talking about the problem. And so we aggregated all that data together and put it in the supported framework to make something a little more usable. Specifically, what we've done is published PDF documents that, you know, can't get updated regularly, can't be responsive to new threats and new TTPs and that type of thing. So, we wanted to make something that kind of could live, be a living and breathing capability that we can update over time.

Brandon Bailey:    And that's basically how we got to where we are. Those years of research into just space and cyber and defensive mechanisms and getting it into a digestible format, which we leverage what we consider the industry best standard with what was set forth by the ATT&CK framework back in 2013.

Maria Varmazis:    Yeah, excellent, yeah. And you mentioned years of work. And in that time, the landscape seems to have changed, or at least awareness seems to have changed when things were sort of more theoretical maybe when you began this project, and now they've become a lot more real. Is that sort of aligning with what you've seen, or do you feel like this is just sort of catching up to where things have always been?

Brandon Bailey:    So, we don't have this in the, in the IT, traditional IT world, we definitely have this large database of just past intrusions and past cyber events. Right? We have just this huge database. And the ATT&CK framework actually documents a lot of that stuff in references. So, we have just tons of data. We don't have a huge database of those things on the space side, so we're kind of in this middle ground area where some things are theoretical, what's the art of the possible, and then some things are, hey, this has been proven by threat actors, or now, or this has been proven in a lab environment in like the [inaudible 00:00:41] event at DEF CON, or this has been proven through some sort of cyber experimentation that we're aware of in our circles. So, it's kind of a mix of, you know, we've got evidence of these things happening in the wild, or we've proven it in a lab environment. And then there's a little bit of like, well, we feel like this is possible based on our research. It just hasn't been proven necessarily yet. But it's a large percentage of what's in SPARTA has been proven in labs, or in experiments, but not necessarily in the wild by threat actors yet. And that's kind of where, and so what we're trying to really get ahead of is getting that information out there of things that we think are possible or know are possible, and what are the defenses. So, that's the big, I think, benefit of the SPARTA [inaudible 00:00:41] is more in the countermeasures and the defenses that we've placed in there. It's not, hey, here's a problem, this is how someone could potentially attack you, it's yes, that's true, but here are the ways to defend against it. And that's where we put a lot of the research and work into, into the defenses side.

Maria Varmazis:    That makes sense to be proactive on that case. I mean, certainly there's been a lot more attention paid to this, to different threat actors, and escalating threats, so it's good to get ahead of that. And you mentioned the reception to the framework.

Maria Varmazis:    Could you talk a little bit about how it has been received since, in the time that you've been developing it, and now that it's

Brandon Bailey:    Yeah. So, back in May when we first started talking about this, you know, I think did our due diligence of reaching out to stakeholders in the community to see, is this, we see it as a need and a gap, but is that true, right? So, we talked to isolated circles, you know, we talked to, you know, professors at John Hopkins like Dr. Rick Falco. We talked to some individuals within the MITRE Corporation that we have contacts with. We talked to people in Space Force, NASA, and others. And we said, is this really a need and a gap? And do you agree with us? And then it kind of come down to yes. So, that was the end of that, oh, let's do this. So, then it was, you know, off to do, do the work, and then we released it in October. And since October, you know, we've gotten enough of a really overwhelming great feedback from the defensive cyber operators who operate, you know, DCO operations on the ground infrastructure for space, you know, saying, hey, this really helps us understand TTPs on the space side. We've had professors at universities talk about it. We even had one professor at Indiana University who added it, as soon as he saw it, he immediately added it to the curriculum for their certification program for space systems at their building. So, it's just been overwhelming success from a feedback perspective, because it, you know, it just hasn't been brought together like that. And what I say in a lot of the briefings and presentations that I talk about is cyber and space systems traditionally has really been considered this black box. It's the boogieman that can get you as it relate to affecting your mission in a space context. And it's not really decomposed into the nuts and bolts like we typically manage cyber for IT systems. So, this really helps with that, decompose that problem into something tangible. It helps people understand in kind of layman's terms as much as possible how these can affect you on that front. So, it's just, you know, from industry, you know, we've had people from big contract vendors, I don't want to mention any names specifically, but your big, what do you consider your big box stores in the space realm, the big, the big vendors that are out there, even the commercial side of the new space contractors and commercial entities have provided some, you know, feedback, and excited to use it. We've been getting, we've even had, in the first three weeks, we've had additional TTP submissions from customers or users. So, people starting to really get into it and say, hey, did you think about this? What about adding that? That type of thing. So, overwhelming success. And we've even had some international collaboration with the European Space Agency provided some feedback too.

Brandon Bailey:    So, it's going international, so that's exciting.

Maria Varmazis:    If you'd like to look at the SPARTA matrix yourself, or if you'd like to contribute to this project, you can go to sparta.aerospace.org. And we'll put a link in the show notes for you.

Maria Varmazis:    Be right back right after this quick break.

Maria Varmazis:    Welcome back. I'm a Barbie girl in a lunar world. It's hard not to sing along, I know. I just have to read this glorious headline from space.com. Scientists blasted Barbies with liquid nitrogen to test a new method of Moon dust cleanup, and it worked extremely well. That is a great headline. Washington State University made homemade spacesuits for Barbie herself, covered her in volcanic dust, and then blasted her in liquid nitrogen to see how well it could clean the suits off. Hilarious as the imagery is, Washington State University wasn't just being mean to Barbie for funsies. This was for science. The volcanic dust is a standin for regolith; a.k.a., Moon dust, which just gets everywhere and causes serious problems for astronauts on the Moon. The liquid nitrogen did a great job. Ninetyeight percent of the dust came right off of Barbie's spacesuit. And Barbie is all smiles the whole time, even after being rolled in dust and blasted as liquid nitrogen, she still looks significantly better than most Barbies do after kids get their hands on them. The picture accompanying this story really truly is everything you could hope for. The link is in the show notes over at space.n2k.com.

Maria Varmazis:    And that's it for TMinus for April 11th, 2023. TMinus is a production of N2K Networks, your source for strategic workforce intelligence. For links to all of today's stories, check out our show notes at space.n2k.com. Our theme song is by Elliott Peltzman, mixing by Elliott Peltzman and Tre Hester. Our executive producer is Brandon Karpf. And I'm Maria Varmazis. See you tomorrow.

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