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Much ado about an explosion at Blue.

Landspace first to orbit with methane. Blue Origin BE-4 rocket engine explosion. Hanwha enters the satellite internet game. JWST anniversary. And more!





Landspace is first ever to orbit with methane. Much ado about an explosion at Blue? Hanwha Systems enters the satellite internet game. Mothballs for Janus. We speak with Tom Patterson, Managing Director at Accenture, on advancements in post-quantum cryptography for multi-orbit satellite communications. And it’s the one year anniversary of the first images from the James Webb Space Telescope, so in honor of the Webbiversary, we also chat with NASA Astronomer Karl Gordon where he guides us through the new Webb image NASA released today.

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T-Minus Guest

Tom Patterson, Managing Director at Accenture, on advancements in post-quantum cryptography for multi-orbit satellite communications.

You can follow Tom on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Selected Reading

LandSpace claims win in the methane race to orbit via second ZhuQue-2 launch- NASASpaceFlight.com

China plans to send two rockets for crewed moon landing- Reuters

Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin BE-4 rocket engine explodes during testing- CNBC

OceanMind Extends Vessel-Tracking Data Deal With Spire- Via Satellite

Hanwha Systems obtains license for satellite internet service in S. Korea- Korea Herald 

£20 million UK Space Agency funding to support aerial connectivity- GOV.UK

NASA decides not to launch two already-built asteroid probes- Ars Technica

Webb Celebrates First Year of Science With New Image- NASA

Lunar Orbital Congestion IV- Policy Recommendations- Forbes 

NatSec100 2023- Silicon Valley Defense Group

Here come the Moon landing missions (probably)- Ars Technica 

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>> Maria Varmazis: What's the big deal about being the first to get to orbit with a methane powered rocket? Well, quite a bit, actually. For one thing, methane is a lot cheaper than more traditional rocket fuels, but it is harder to work with. Making methane and rocketry work has been an engineering challenge many nations and companies have been racing to conquer. And yesterday, we officially got our winner: LandSpace's ZhuQue-2.

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Today is July 12, 2023. I'm Maria Varmazis, and this is T-Minus. LandSpace is the first ever to orbit with methane. Much ado about an explosion at Blue? Hanwha Systems enters the satellite internet game. Mothballs for Janus. And I'm speaking today with Tom Patterson, managing director at Accenture, on advancements in post-quantum cryptography for multi-orbit satellite communications. And after my chat with Tom, we're doing something a little special for today's episode. It's the one-year anniversary of the first images from the James Webb Space Telescope, after all. So in honor of this Webbiversary, I'm chatting with NASA astronomer Karl Gordon, where he'll guide us through the new Webb image that NASA released today. Definitely don't miss it. Now let's start off with our intel briefing for today. Now, as I mentioned at the top of the show, LandSpace -- a private commercial space company based in China -- holds the title for first to orbit with a methane powered rocket. The medium-launch vehicle, ZhuQue-2 -- which is powered by four methalox (or methane-liquid oxygen) engines -- launched yesterday from the Jiuquan Space Launch Center, successfully making it to orbit on what was LandSpace's second orbital attempt. Their first attempt was unsuccessful last December. Many companies had been trying to crack the methalox nut, certainly SpaceX has, as has Relativity Space, which made an orbital flight attempt with its successful Terran 1 launch earlier this year, but it didn't make it to orbit, unfortunately. Now, traditional rocket fuels aren't just terrible for the environment, they're bad for the wallet, too, hugely expensive. And as companies are trying to continually drive the price of launches down while getting rocket reusability up, getting cheaper propellant to work for their rockets presents massive cost savings. Now, methane is a natural gas. I'm not saying it's great for the environment, but it's comparatively better, more so than traditional options, anyway. And in terms of a balance sheet, it is a lot cheaper. LandSpace's website says using methalox propellant presents for them a 50 to 90% cost savings. No wonder companies are racing to make it work for them. In any case, a hearty congratulations to LandSpace and the ZhuQue-2 for this historic first and making it happen with methalox. And also out of China today, there's news that as the nation builds out lunar mission plans, they're adding a crewed two-rocket Moon landing to their ambitions. The official announcement is that China plans on sending two simultaneous missions to the Moon by 2030. And the idea is that this dual-rocket approach will circumvent the challenges of getting enough power to send a spacecraft to the Moon with both humans and lunar landing gear on board at the same time. The proposed approach here is to send a lunar lander down first and humans afterward into separate but coordinated rides. No superheavy lift needed, perhaps. It's a fascinating proposed approach, to be sure, and one we're definitely going to be keeping an eye on. And speaking of keeping an eye on things, if you've been keeping an eye on the headline news, you've probably heard a little bit about this one already. But in case you haven't heard, news is making the rounds that, in late June, about 10 seconds into engine testing, a Blue Origin BE-4 rocket engine exploded. Now, nobody was hurt. And Blue Origin confirmed to CNBC that they've figured out a proximate cause. And according to people who've seen a video of the explosion, it not only decimated the engine being tested, but it also did quite a number on the test infrastructure as well. That engine, if it hadn't had a rapid unscheduled disassembly, was going to finish testing this month and then be part of ULA's second Vulcan rocket launch. So that's not happening anymore, clearly, but Blue Origin says they're going to stay on schedule for engine delivery commitments this year. And ULA seems like they're not sweating it either, apparently, telling CNBC that they're not concerned about the BE-4 engines already on its upcoming Vulcan Cert-1 mission, saying, "both onboard engines successfully passed acceptance testing." No, it's not great when something blows up, but that is testing for you. Better in testing than on a launchpad, that's for sure. Now let's take a look at new deals in space. Marine enforcement firm OceanMind has extended its agreement with Spire Global for automatic identification system vessel tracking data to identify suspected illegal fishing activities. OceanMind's monitoring supports enforcement officials, seafood buyers, and NGOs by ensuring fishing compliance. And with Spire's data, has verified over $600 million worth of tuna imports globally. Of note, this update comes one week after HawkEye 360 announced a contract with the government of Australia to provide a similar service near the Pacific Islands. Hanwha Systems -- the defense and communication technology unit of the Hanwha Group -- has obtained a government license to operate as a satellite Internet service provider. The Hanwha Group is one of the massive South Korean chaebols -- which is a type of large, family-owned conglomerate -- that's characteristic of the South Korean economy, with diversified operations across sectors like defense, telecom, manufacturing, finance, and energy. The Seoul-based company will provide high-speed Internet service using low Earth orbit satellites from OneWeb, in which it holds an 8.8% stake. With target customers and business, government organizations and the military, Hanwha also plans to serve sectors such as aviation, shipping, automotive, and urban air mobility. The UK Space Agency has announced a record 20-million-pound investment for the development of future telecommunication technologies. The funds will provide dedicated connectivity for emergency services and bring Internet access to rural areas through drones or high-altitude platforms. The initiative forms part of the European Space Agency's Advanced Research in Telecommunication Services Program, underscoring the UK's commitment to space-based telecommunications and continued partnership with the EU after BREXIT. The investment also supports the country's fast-growing satellite communications industry. NASA has officially mothballed the Janus mission due to a delayed launch and budgetary constraints after spending nearly $50 million on its development. Now, Janus was originally scheduled to study binary asteroids along with the Psyche spacecraft, but a launch delay caused by software testing issues on Psyche changed the position of Janus's target asteroids, making them unreachable. NASA considered repurposing Janus for other missions, like the asteroid Apophis, but dropped the project due to budget and priority constraints in light of the Mars Sample Return and Europa Clipper missions. The spacecraft are set for long-term storage. And, as always, be sure to check out additional stories we think you'll find interesting in the Selected Reading section of our Show Notes. It's space.n2k.com. And that wraps it up for our intel briefing for today. Coming up next is my chat with Tom Patterson of Accenture, and then afterward, for the first-year anniversary of the first Webb images, I'm speaking with NASA astronomer Karl Gordon. 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 in your favorite podcast app. It will help other space professionals like you to find the show and join the T-Minus crew. Thank you so much, we really appreciate it.

[ Music ]

Now, today, I'm speaking with Tom Patterson, who is the managing director at Accenture, working in their Emerging Technology Security Group. He is the company's global lead for quantum and space security. And we're talking about an interesting experiment that the company recently did. Now, here's the headline: "Multi-orbit communications link showcasing post-quantum crypto." Now, there's a lot there. So, Tom, can you take that apart a bit and explain what this experiment is about and why it was done?

>> Tom Patterson: It is really interesting and there is a lot packed into that one experiment. So the real issue around what we call "quantum security," around 2015, it's jumped off of paper and into practice. And so we started to have our first quantum machines not just being theorized but being built. Very small. They only lasted for less than a second, but they worked. And it proved out the math that had been there around this concept of quantum physics. And that really is what started this concept of, well, that's going to bring lots of goodness into the world; it can do all sorts of new things. But with all sorts of new technology, there's always people like myself that look at, well, what else is going to come with that?

>> Maria Varmazis: What's the bad part?

>> Tom Patterson: And so it turns out that once these quantum computers get here -- and they're years away, not decades away or, you know, lifetimes away anymore. They're evolving very rapidly. So we know that they're coming. And once they get to a certain size, they're going to be able to do something called "factoring." And, again, that sounds boring, it sounds math-related, it sounds like, oh, that's for somebody else to care about. But the problem is that all of our public-key encryption is based on a simple assumption that anybody can multiply two prime numbers together and get a big prime number. That's easy to do. You can do it on a calculator. You can do it on your watch. Any kind of a computer can do it. And so that's how our security is built now. We just assume that anybody can multiply two together, but nobody's got a big enough computer to take that new big number and figure out what the two factors were: what are the two numbers that were used to multiply together. And it's that shared secret, it is what runs all the public-key encryption that we use. So that what runs our banking sector. It's what defends our governments and our militaries, all of our secrets. What you're listening to today with the HTTPS, all of that is built on this simple concept that we're never going to be able to build a big enough supercomputer to figure out how to reverse and factor that big prime number. Comes along a quantum computer can do it in less than a second. So since we know that's coming, we need to come up with a new way to encrypt, a new way to keep our secrets secret. It doesn't require quantum physics, it just requires different math. Since we know this is how quantum computers will be able to break down a factor, we need a new way. So about 10 years ago, NIS started a global campaign to come up -- the smartest mathematicians in the world to come up with a new way. And we are -- this now in 2023, we're to the point where there is a brilliant candidate algorithms out there, a set of algorithms out there, that use a concept called "lattice" instead of factoring, not susceptible to any kind of a quantum computer. So we should be good for another while. And so that race is happening now to get this new concept, what we call "crypto agility," put into the most important critical infrastructure components of the world. And one of those is space. And space has been overlooked for a long time from a security perspective, because it was always one government talking to one satellite or one handful of satellites, and that's all we had. You know, right now, we're about 5,000 satellites globally circling the Earth, artificial satellites circling the Earth. Which is a big number, and it took us decades to get to that number. Within 10 years, we'll have 100,000 satellites. And most of these are going to be from small private companies, not giant governments. And we need a way to protect them from these coming attacks. So if you look forward, it's going to take a few more years for the quantum computers to get here, and it's going to take a few more years to get to all these new 100,000 satellites up there. They're going to arrive at about the same time. So we want them to arrive in a way that's defensible. And that's what Accenture really focused on. We have a group that is chartered to put cyber into space. And so the term "cyberspace" has been bandied around a lot, but it doesn't generally talk about space. So we are putting cyber into space and are dedicated to go do that. And so the first experiment we did with post-quantum security was, back in March, we did it with a great company called QuSecure -- which builds, we think, a really great, you know, easy-to-use implementation of crypto agility. And this is where, today, if there's a problem, you rotate the cryptographic key. So if someone stole your key, you'd pop in a new one. We know how to do that. That happens, you know, millions of times a day all over the world. We know how to rotate keys. It's the algorithm that stays the same, day in and day out. With crypto agility, we're now able to rotate the algorithms as easily as we rotate the keys. And that's a new concept for people. Usually, you put it in, you bake it in, and you forget about it. But with quantum computers coming and all these different kinds of attacks and all these clever people and well-funded adversaries, we can't really rely on whatever we put in today being perfect for tomorrow. So we need the ability to adapt. And that's especially true when you talk about space. You're going to build a satellite, launch a satellite on a rocket, shoot it up into the space, and then leave it alone and never be able to send a repairman. And so because of that, we need to make sure that we get this right. So we've demonstrated, along with QuSecure, the concept of putting crypto agility into space, both at the low Earth orbit -- which is where the bulk of these satellites will be -- and what's called "geosynchronous orbit" -- which is 22,000 plus miles up, that can sort of just hover over a location for its toll point. It rotates as the Earth rotates. And so with both of those satellites, kinds of satellites, and orbits, it was really important to try and use crypto agility in all of space. And so what we did was we sent an encrypted message up, bounced it off an existing low Earth orbit communication satellite, and we then simulated a quantum attack. We said, okay, let's fast-forward a couple of years, there is a quantum computer that will be able to decrypt that message that you just sent. And we don't want that, it could be a war message, or it could be, you know, a secret business message. And so we then said, okay, simulate this attack, this capability of an attack is here. So it then called up to the geosynchronous satellite above it and said, push me a new algorithm that's secure against this type of attack we just sensed. And it puts down one of these new NIST algorithms, pushed it in, rotated the keys, rotated the algorithm, and then the message went on its way from one Accenture outpost, on one part of the US, to another Accenture outpost in another part of the US with no skip. Nothing was missed. And this was done in low Earth orbit and in geosynchronous orbit. And we did it for two reasons. One, this is going to be really important to have this capability in space, but also to demonstrate to those on Earth that haven't yet adopted crypto agility that however complex you think your enterprise is, you know, it's not as hard as -- space is hard, you know.

>> Maria Varmazis: We say it all the time here.

>> Tom Patterson: It has a lot of really absolutely unique difficulties that we have to overcome in space. And so we were able to push crypto agility into space and make it work seamlessly from one ground station to another. We can do this and are doing this with banks and with governments and transportation companies, manufacturing companies, all these groups on Earth that also really need this same kind of defense.

>> Maria Varmazis: I was wondering what the multi-orbit aspect of it -- because that's so cool. Why multi-orbit? And you just explained it really well. So thank you. That was really neat.

>> Tom Patterson: Yeah. So low Earth orbit is really cool and it's going to change our world. The big push in space now is called "sat-to-cell." So the next generation of cell phones will automatically be able to route your signal off of a low Earth orbit satellite. And that is because they're close enough where you don't need a giant satellite dish to communicate with them. You can do it with an antenna and a chip. And so because of that, that low-power capability, it's going to really open up and change our world. And we want to make sure that that there's a security system for those LEO sats. LEO -- low Earth orbit -- satellites need the same kind of security systems in space as we all enjoy here on the ground.

>> Maria Varmazis: That's fantastic. And the resilience against data harvesting, that's also the other part that I hear about so much, where people are worried about all that data being gobbled up to be decrypted later. And it sounds like in this case that threat essentially is neutralized or mitigated at least.

>> Tom Patterson: It's neutralized. You know, there will probably be more threats in the future that we don't know about, and that's why we like this concept at Accenture, pushing crypto agility as opposed to just the next algorithm. And so you make this change once and then you don't have to worry about this problem going forward. But steal now and decrypt later, absolutely a problem, you know, with groups. It's kind of easy to steal encrypted data, because we don't guard it as much. You know, we guard our open secrets, but we don't guard our encrypted data because we trust the encryption. And so in governments first and now in all sorts of industries that have intellectual property or have embarrassing, you know, things that they wouldn't want to get out or their secret formula to their whatever, all of those kinds of secrets are just being -- I say "just," they're being encrypted well by today's standards with just encryption. And that's what's getting stolen today.

>> Maria Varmazis: Yeah. I'm curious, any thoughts around timeline for when we see more systems being sort of resilient in this way? Because, as you said, it's years, not decades. I'm always curious to get people's take on how many -- like are we talking a decade or -- how imminent are we talking here?

>> Tom Patterson: Yeah. Here's what I tell people, and this is the first question I get from boards of directors, members, you know, every time, it doesn't matter what government, what country I'm in, it's always the same, is when, you know, what day? And there's a couple of fallacies with that question. It doesn't take magic in order to defend against this. It's not like, you know, we're jumping up and down and saying there's this new threat and there's nothing you can do about it. There is a safe response. The trick is to understand two things. One, the threat is real and it affects you. And two, it does take a long time to change over your encryption, so you need to start early. If you do it before that headline, you pop it into your five-year plan, and it's a well-managed, organized, efficient, cost-effective way that you just defend yourself as your fiduciary responsibility. If you wait for that headline to appear and then you call down to your team, you're going to be in scramble mode, and that's always, you know, less optimal, suboptimal.

>> Maria Varmazis: To say the least, yeah. Not a situation anyone enjoys being in, no. Tom, thank you so much. This was a fascinating conversation. I learned a ton. And as I said at the beginning, quantum is something that's hard for me to wrap my brain around, but you explained it so well that I feel like I understood some of that. So that's a big win in my book. Thank you so much.

>> Tom Patterson: Don't be put off by what Einstein said in the '60s. It's scared too many people for too long. It makes sense. You can wrap your head around it, and you can take action. So I was really happy to be here with you today and cover a lot of ground. There's a lot more coming.

[ Music ]

>> Maria Varmazis: We'll be right back. Welcome back. Now, one year ago today, the world was treated to the fantastic first images from NASA's largest and most powerful telescope, the James Webb Space Telescope.

>> So here it is. Can you walk us through the final image reveal? Here we go.

>> Maria Varmazis: Oh, wow.

[ Applause ]

Wow. Oh my God! That sound, that is something I recorded on my phone a year ago today when I was in a room filled to the brim with NASA scientists, engineers, and staff at NASA Goddard. We were all seeing the first images from Webb together. The pinnacle of years and years of hard work. And that reaction was specifically to everyone seeing the colorful, powerful, dramatic cosmic cliffs in the Carina nebula, undoubtedly the most famous image of the first Webb images. It's been everywhere since it came out. I know I used it as a desktop background for months. Anyway, it was truly an honor to be at Goddard to see that image for the first time alongside the many, many people who worked to make it happen. And today, in honor of the one-year anniversary of Webb's first images, NASA has released yet another phenomenal new image from Webb. Earlier today, I spoke with NASA astronomer Karl Gordon about this image and what's going on with Webb in general. What are we looking at when we see this image?

>> Karl Gordon: So we're looking at a star-forming region in Ophiuchus that's astronomically nearby at 400 light years away. And so this is a region of interstellar matter, the cloud of interstellar gas and dust, that's forming stars, you know, right now. And we see that both, on the bottom, you actually can see the interstellar matter all lit up in this kind of orange and yellow from this one star that's very bright. And then in the upper region, you can see more of these red filamentary structures. And that's actually material being expelled by the forming stars. And there's maybe 50 stars that we can see that are forming. And they're similar masses to our own Sun. So this is a possible view of how our Sun may have formed. Hard to see these because we're in the infrared. Webb observes the infrared. So we can see through the dust. Dust is actually something that gets in our way. It's actually my area of study. But it gets in our way. But now and because we've moved to the infrared, we can actually see deeper in, because the effects of dust are less in the infrared.

>> Maria Varmazis: Okay. So a year of a fantastic imagery data. Do you have a favorite -- like is that like asking you if you have a favorite child?

>> Tom Patterson: Yes, it is asking like I have a favorite child. I have a lot of them that I really enjoyed seeing. Picking favorites is hard. I can pick a favorite from my, you know, research area, which is interstellar dust -- that's the solid matter that's in the interstellar medium, kind of tiny grains of sand is the way I describe it. And so the one I'm very excited about is actually measurements in Orion. And so this is one of those first-year programs. And there's imaging of the Orion Bar region, but also spectroscopy. So one of the really exciting things Webb can do is very nice midinfrared spectroscopy, near-infrared spectroscopy. And in fact, it's something called an "integral filled unit," which makes little images at each wavelength. And so we actually can make not only these beautiful images from the imagers, but we can also make much more detailed information at many wavelengths, at many colors. And so we can learn a lot more about the physics of the interstellar matter by looking at, you know, the particular signatures or the fingerprints of different atoms. So we can learn about how much is there, the temperature, you know, is there argon, is there hydrogen, all that stuff. And as well in the interstellar dust, there are also signatures of carbonaceous versus silicate dust. And we can learn a lot about the detailed composition from looking at those. And so we're working hard on all this, right. We haven't had the data for very long. A year is not very long when you start thinking about research. And so we're starting to really understand the science. And I think this is true for pretty much all the observations with JWST. If we only had a year's worth of JWST data or our Webb data, we'd still be working on it 10 years from now. And we're going to get 10 or 20 years of JWST data, so you can imagine how much information is in there and how long it will take us to understand it all.

>> Maria Varmazis: It feels like every other day there's a new headline that JWST has revealed some new, incredible thing. And just like it's mind-boggling to think, that's going to be just for a long time, all these new things.

>> Tom Patterson: Yeah, absolutely.

>> Maria Varmazis: Such an exciting time to be in. I feel almost sacrilegious asking about other telescopes in the context of JWST, but I am fascinated to learn about how Webb works in tandem with existing telescopes. And also like when Nancy Grace Roman comes on board, how Webb is going to work with her. So can you talk a little bit about that?

>> Tom Patterson: Webb observes in the infrared, right. Which we feel as heat. But then it's very complementary to Hubble -- which is one of the other big NASA observatories.

>> Maria Varmazis: The Hubble.

>> Tom Patterson: Who doesn't?

>> Maria Varmazis: Yeah, right.

>> Tom Patterson: I view Hubble as well, right. I don't discriminate. So Hubble is awesome. It works in the optical. It also works in the UV, which we can't see either with our eyes but you feel as sunburn if you go outside too often, right.

>> Maria Varmazis: Right.

>> Tom Patterson: And so those are two of the missions. There's also the Spitzer observatory that is no longer functional, but we still have lots of great data in the far infrared. Lots of other observatories -- X-ray, ground-based. So we really use all these things together because they tell us different things about what we're observing. And so it's not sacrilege. You know, as astronomers, we'll use every tool we've got in the toolkit. And Nancy Grace Roman Telescope is coming along, very exciting. It's Hubble size, so it'll have Hubble resolution. But it'll be able to take these huge panoramas, right. So we can take much bigger images and so we can learn a lot more. Both Hubble and Webb are much more focused observatories. I mean, beautiful pictures, they look big, they are big. But Roman will be huge in comparison to that. And so we'll be able to really survey much larger regions. And so if you put those together, we'll be able to find new things to look at for Hubble and Webb, right. And so I expect we'll be doing a lot of that when Roman launches. And I'm very excited about Roman as well. And it's coming relatively soon given how much data we already have.

>> Maria Varmazis: Karl, thank you so much for walking me through it. What a wonderful first year for Webb, and I can't wait to see what other things it'll uncover. That it's for T-Minus for July 12, 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 our podcast. You can email us at space@n2k.com, or submit the survey in the Show Notes. Your feedback ensures we deliver the information that keeps you a step ahead in 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 produced by Alice Carruth, mixing by Elliott Peltzman and Tré Hester, with original music and sound design by Elliott Peltzman. Our executive producer is Brandon Karpf. Our chief intelligence officer is Eric Tillman, and I'm Maria Varmazis. Thanks for listening. We'll see you tomorrow.

[ Music ]

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