<img height="1" width="1" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=205228923362421&amp;ev=PageView &amp;noscript=1">

India’s moonshot, take 2.

Chandrayaan-3 to the moon. JAXA’s not having a great year. Space Command HQ drama impacting budgets. A new partnership between Sweden and Latvia. And more!





India’s moonshot, take 2. JAXA’s not having a great year. The Space Command HQ drama is impacting budgets. A new partnership between Sweden and Latvia. Our conversation today is all about space launch and commercial airspace with Pam Underwood, Director at the Office of Spaceports for the FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation.

Remember to leave us a 5-star rating and review in your favorite podcast app.

Miss an episode? Sign up for our weekly intelligence roundup, Signals and Space. And be sure to follow T-Minus on Twitter and LinkedIn.


T-Minus Guest

Pam Underwood, Director of the Office of Spaceports at the Federal Aviation Administration, on the FAA’s role to enable a safe and sustainable global spaceport industry.

You can follow Pam on LinkedIn and at the FAA Office of Spaceports.

Selected Reading

India Launches Lunar Mission: The Country’s Second Attempt To Put A Lander And Rover On The Moon- Forbes

Chandrayaan-3 launch video- Twitter 

SpaceX Starlink launch scrubs seconds before Friday liftoff; set for weekend- Florida Today 

Elon Musk's SpaceX nears $150 billion valuation after secondary share sale- CNBC

Japan space agency rocket engine explodes during test- Reuters

Investing in Space: Why Blue Origin's engine explosion matters- CNBC 

ULA's Vulcan Rocket to Debut in Q4 With a Fix for Anomaly Uncovered in March- Via Satellite

Hill battle over SPACECOM HQ seeps into Pentagon's annual $4.1B reprogramming request- Breaking Defense  

SSC Signs Latvian Ground Segment Deal - Via Satellite  

Orbital Composites wins $1.7 million Space Force contract- SpaceNews 

A New Study Reveals Evidence Of Diverse Organic Material On Mars- Astrobiology

South Australian Space Park fails to launch- Cosmos Magazine

This Virginia spaceport is firing up its local economy- Marketplace 

The sound of Aeolus will blow you away- ESA

Life of Aeolus composer: @jamiepereramuso on Twitter


T-Minus Crew Survey

We want to hear from you! Please complete our 4 question survey. It’ll help us get better and deliver you the most mission-critical space intel every day.

Want to hear your company in the show?

You too can reach the most influential leaders and operators in the industry. Here’s our media kit. Contact us at space@n2k.com to request more info.

Want to join us for an interview?

Please send your pitch to space-editor@n2k.com and include your name, affiliation, and topic proposal.

T-Minus is a production of N2K Networks, your source for strategic workforce intelligence. © 2023 N2K Networks, Inc.

>> Maria Varmazis: India is hoping the second time is the charm for its lunar landing ambitions. Israel sent the Chandrayaan-2 to the moon in 2019, but while the orbiter did great, the lander unfortunately crashed on the lunar surface. Today, the Chandrayaan-3 launched with the hopes that this time India's lander and rover will have a soft introduction to the lunar surface.

[ Music ]

Today is July 14th, 2023. I'm Maria Varmazis, and this is T-Minus.

[ Music ]

India's moon shot take two. Jack says not having a great year. The space command drama is impacting budgets now. A new partnership between Sweden and Latvia. And my conversation today is about deconflicting space launches and commercial airspace with Pam Underwood, director at the Office of Space Ports for the FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation. Stay with us.

[ Music ]

Now let's take a look at our intel briefing for this Friday. It's a joyous noise from India today with the launch of the Chandrayaan-3 lunar lander and rover to the moon. Israel's LVM3M42 stage rocket launched the Chandrayaan-3 to orbit earlier today from Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Southern India. Shortly after launch, Israel tweeted this. Chandrayaan-3 in its precise orbit has begun its journey to the moon. Health of the spacecraft is normal. Israel's previous attempt for a lunar landing, the Chandrayaan-2 was painfully close to success. There was a comms failure unfortunately with the lander when it was just a smidge over two kilometers from the lunar surface, and it subsequently crashed. But Israel is saying they're confident that they've learned from that experience and made necessary modifications to ensure mission success this time. And the orbiter from Chandrayaan-2 mission is still in lunar orbit and working well. So, today's launch of the Chandrayaan-3 does not include an orbiter of its own, and that actually may be a contributing reason to why this mission is actually a little cheaper than its predecessor. Chandrayaan-3's total estimated price tag is about 75 million US dollars, or 6.1 billion rubies compared to Chandrayaan-2's eight billion Rupee cost. The low cost is an accomplishment in and of itself quite frankly. In any case, it's a month-long trek to the moon for Chandrayaan-3, so we'll find out on August 23rd the projected landing date at the lunar south pole for how it goes. If Israel is successful with Chandrayaan-3's soft landing on the moon, that will put India in rare company. Only nation number four to soft land on the moon after the US, the former Soviet Union, and China. And for a bit of cool trivia, both Chandrayaan-2 and 3's lunar landers are named Vikram after Vikram Sarabhai considered the father of India's space program. And the video of today's launch and onboard views are really cool. We'll link to them in the show notes for you. You definitely want to check them out. Shout out to the SDSC second launch pad's launch tower. Such a cool looking launch tower in my opinion if one wants to get nerdy about space infrastructure, why not? In other news, it was a scrub for a SpaceX Starlink launch earlier today at Cape Canaveral in Florida just moments before liftoff. No reason for the scrub was given by SpaceX, but the launch has been rescheduled to early tomorrow morning. I know TLC. We don't want no scrubs, but they do happen even to the best of us. And really, SpaceX fans have no reason to sweat it right now. The company itself seems to be doing pretty great financially, which is something a lot of other space companies wish they could be saying right now. This week SpaceX held a routine secondary share sale by existing investors and raised its overall company valuation to an eye-watering 150 billion dollars. CNBC reports that the secondary stock sale was at $81 per share and will sell up to $750 million in shares total. As I mentioned, this is a secondary sale. So, while it bumps up the company's valuation, it's not a fundraiser for SpaceX, but rather a way for investors to get some cash back. So, after all those happy stories, let's talk about engine explosions, shall we? It's kind of a bummer after all that happy stuff, but in any case. Yesterday we talked about news coming to light about the late June Blue Origin BE4 engine explosion that happened during testing. And today, man, it's just been a tough year for Japanese space, hasn't it? Jack says Epsilon-S second stage rocket motor exploded during testing today 57 seconds into the combustion test. The small lift Epsilon-S rocket, whose engines use solid fuel, is the new special, yes, like S for special, version of the previously pretty dependable Epsilon rocket, though the sixth and final flight of the regular Epsilon last October, which was a rideshare, suffered a stage-three ignition failure, and the flight had to be terminated. All other Epsilon missions, however, completed successfully. The plans are for the Epsilon-S rockets to start launching after April 2024. And going back to the Blue Origin BE4 explosion, I'm going to give a call out to something in our selected reading which you can find at space.n2k.com, and that is an excellent counterpoint to a point of view about that explosion. Frankly one that I espouse as well, but this article actually gave me a lot to think about. It's by the one and only Michael Sheetz on why even though Blue Origin and ULA are saying that the BE4's explosion and testing is no big deal, Sheetz is saying, actually, yes it is, given how delayed this engine has been and how this engine explosion happened in acceptance testing when the engine is considered mostly finished. It's a great read, as you might expect from Sheetz. Definitely you should give it a read if you haven't yet, and I'm curious to hear your thoughts. Is saying that's why we test too flippant in a situation like this, or should we be more critical? Yes, you can add us at T-minus daily on Twitter in fact. And speaking of ULA, CEO Tory Bruno told the press Thursday that the company has fixed the issues that caused the Centaur-5 Upper Stage to explode during its 15th test, a qualification test, back in March, and that the Vulcan Centaur should be ready to launch in Q4 this year. There will be several payloads launching aboard that Vulcan Centaur including Astrobotics lunar lander. The decision over the location of the US Space Command headquarters. Yes, it is still going on. It has now impacted the Pentagon's annual 4.1-billion-dollar reprogramming request as allegations surfaced that Representative Mike Rogers is delaying approval to force a choice between Colorado and Alabama. The disputed funds would be shifted from one program to another according to urgency, which is a common Pentagon practice. The delay could impact the space development agency's request for an additional 108 million US dollars and the space force's 1.35 million reprogramming request. Swedish Space Corporation has announced a partnership with Ventspils University of Applied Science and VIRATEC in Latvia to boost its ground station network. The deal will add large antenna to the space corporation's CONNECT network enhancing their ability to support a broader range of missions including lunar and deep space. This partnership is part of SSC's ongoing efforts to expand its global network of CONNECT lunar stations and strengthen its position as a leading provider of communication services in the lunar and deep space markets. Space News reports that Orbital Composites has secured a 1.7 million contract from the US Space Force to space qualified technology for manufacturing and 10AN orbit. Under the Small Business Innovation Research Contract, the startup will collaborate with partners like Axiom Space, Northrop Grumman, and the Southwest Research Institute. The goal is to test robotic technology to 3D print and 10A for satellite based cellular broadband and space-based solar power ensuring the tech can withstand the harsh conditions of space. This effort marks a significant step towards large scale in space manufacturing and assembly potentially reducing costs by two orders of magnitude. A study using data from NASA's Perseverance rover has revealed evidence of diverse organic material on Mars indicating a more complex organic geochemical cycle than previously understood. Researchers detected signs of molecules associated with aqueous processes suggesting that water may have played a crucial role in the formation of organic matter on Mars. This discovery implies that the building blocks for life may have existed on the planet longer than previously thought. It's important to note that organic matter may have formed from various processes, not just life related ones. And is it just me or has Australia's space industry been a bit hot and cold lately? The future of the 66-million-dollar Australian Space Park in South Australia is uncertain following the state government's withdrawal of funding for a shared manufacturing facility. The initiative was touted as the country's leading satellite manufacturing hub with major players like Airbus expressing interest. The government will now concentrate on the Lot 14 Space Precinct in central Adelaide. The sudden change has led to two companies withdrawing from the park. Industry confidence has taken a further hit as federal funding cuts target multiple space projects creating uncertainty within Australia's emerging space industry. And, you know, we've mentioned them a bunch today but just a reminder, we always have links in our selected reading section of our show notes. You can find all those links and more at space.n2k.com.

[ Music ]

And that concludes our intel briefing for today this Bastille Day. And hey T-Minus crew, tune in tomorrow for T-Minus Deep Space, our show for extended interviews, special editions, and deep dives with some of the most influential professionals in the space industry. Tomorrow is my full conversation with Pam Underwood of the FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation. In addition to our deconflicting airspace conversation, we also talk about how the FAA is involved in Spaceport's safety and operation. I guarantee you'll learn a lot of new things listening to this one. Be sure to check it out on the weekend while you're going out for a walk or doing errands. You don't want to miss it.

[ Music ]

[ Sound ]

Unless your job is heavily involved in the on the ground of a space port, you might know that the FAA is involved but not exactly how or what they're doing when it comes to resolving potential conflicts between space launches and commercial airspace. Don't worry, you're not alone. So, that's why I'm thrilled I got to speak with Pam Underwood, who is the director of the Office of Spaceports in the FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation, and she was happy to shed some light here. So, Pam, let's start off with the basics first. Tell me about what your office at the FAA does.

>> Pam Underwood: That's a great question. Many people are familiar with the Federal Aviation Administration and what they do for the airline industry. Of course, we regulate the airline industry. We have air traffic controllers. We certify airplanes. We manage pilot certificates. But what's little known is what the FAA also does for the commercial space transportation industry, and that's where we come in. My office, Office of Commercial Space Transportation is responsible for regulating the safety of launch and reentry and the operation of spaceports or launch and reentry sites. That's the piece that most people don't know. I've actually been with the office for a little over 17 years, and to see the growth in the commercial space transportation industry is just exciting. We don't regulate launches that are by and for the government. So, when NASA was flying the shuttle program, that was by NASA for NASA because that was a NASA purpose. We did not regulate that. But now that government agencies are using commercial industry, we regulate those activities. For example, now that NASA is using the commercial companies to do resupply of cargo and crew to the International Space Station, all of those missions are 100% licensed by the FAA because it is actually a commercial company that's conducting the launch, making those safety decisions. They're the ones that design and operate the vehicles, so therefore it requires oversight from the federal government which is where the FAA comes in. In those cases, the government, NASA in this case, is only buying services. So, it really allows them to use their program dollars more wisely and not have to own and operate vehicles, and it helps the success of the commercial industry. So, we regulate the commercial industry, but please know that does include sometimes government as a customer.

>> Maria Varmazis: You've seen so much growth, and it's mind boggling just in the last few years. And I know in the news recently there's been talk about sort of the air traffic situation, especially in Florida when launches may impact commercial airspace, and I know the FAA has been doing a lot of work in coordination around those impacts. Can you walk me through what's been going on there?

>> Pam Underwood: Absolutely. So, right now when a launch occurs, there needs to have some airspace closures to be able to allow the rocket to move through where airplanes might be flying. Over the years, because I've been working in this, like I said, for a little over 17 years, the FAA has done a lot of work with our partners in the aviation industry to really reduce the conservatism in those calculations. So, a launch operator, a vehicle, a launch company needs to calculate how much closure area they need to satisfy the risk that the FAA puts forward in our regulations. So, what can we do to reduce the conservatism in those calculations? How can we sharpen our pencils? And we've done a great deal to really minimize the amount of airspace that needs to close. That's one thing that's happened a lot over the last few years. Another thing that our Air Traffic Organization has worked really hard on is how to develop procedures so that we can be very dynamic. Launch windows sometimes can be multiple hours long, and it used to be we would just close the airspace and reopen it. It didn't really matter when the launch took place during there. Now the Air Traffic Organization has built in the capability to open and close airspace. Let's say it's a two-hour launch window and they launch in the first five minutes. We'll open that immediately back up, and they're able to do that. So, dynamic closures and opening has really helped to minimize the impacts. But I think with the launch rates increasing, we need to look more now at our tools. What are the tools that we're using that could really -- because computers often streamline a lot of things, so how could we look at our tools to improve communication or how much notices for an issuance of a closure for the users of the airspace? So, that's what we're really looking at now is how to employ those tools to make it, again, a little bit easier in the future, because the launch rates aren't going to decrease. They're only going to increase, and what we need to do, there is a way to be able to equitably manage all of this, and the FAA is working hard to be at the forefront of that, not only with our space users, but with the aviation users as well. Really important to continued success.

>> Maria Varmazis: Yes, I was going to say, I mean, obviously, the FAA's mission in safety is paramount. So, how do you balance that with the impact of all those high cadence of launches and the potential impact to commercial airspace? That's got to be a very hard balance to strike.

>> Pam Underwood: Oh, absolutely. It is a tough balance, but, you know, honestly, the launch does tend to be very localized. So, there are some very busy launch corridors. Just like we have very busy airports around the country. Some of them in New York or even in Colorado, California, we've got some very busy airports. But the same thing with our spaceports. Some spaceports are busier than others. So, how do we work in those areas to manage, to find dynamic procedures that could be implemented or different routes that could be utilized even if it means opening up some what might otherwise be closed airspace for military purposes or otherwise to give more options to route people around. So, it's a minimal. There's definitely solutions there, and our Air Traffic Organization is either working hard to find those localized solutions for those areas that are more busy than others.

>> Maria Varmazis: Again, given that cadence jump, I'm imagining it's also a huge impact in terms of resourcing internally, right? So, how is that impacting you? Is there enough there or are you on a hiring spree? Like how are you handling that?

>> Pam Underwood: There's definitely resources that could be needed, and what we're trying to do is we went through a rulemaking. So, we updated our regulations, our laws, which is what companies have to satisfy for launch. In 2020, we updated those to try to be more flexible. We instituted things like being able to launch from more than one location with one license or cover multiple missions with one license. So, we're trying to streamline the administrative burden of review, so you don't have to have an application for each time or each location without compromising safety. Because then maybe one approval could cover the safety for all of it. That not only helps the FAA with resources, which we desperately need, but it also helps the industry. Industry wants to be able to get the approvals they need, know what it is that they have to satisfy and go launch. So, we instituted this new updated rule in 2020 to try to streamline that. So, we're hoping that as industry starts to phase into those regulations, we'll really start to see some benefits. In the end, yes, additional resources will be needed, but we're really trying to look at processes internally to see if we can squeeze every little bit out because nobody's ever going to say, "I have more resources than I know what to do with," so let's go tackle some of those process problems that we could hopefully get some more efficiency. For sure.

>> Maria Varmazis: How could industry be helpful in this? I know they have a lot of things that they need, and obviously the FAA is helping them out, but is there anything that would be helpful from the industry in terms of sort of deconflicting the airspace in this situation?

>> Pam Underwood: So, one of the things that we're finding, and this is back to the tool development that I said we're trying to work on, we're trying to get our industry communicating, meaning our space industry, to communicate better with the aviation industry. So, how can the FAA, whether it's a portal or something that we developed that allows launch companies to put forecast information, or we're going to be thinking about this date and this time from this location. That type for planning purposes. That way better planning helps everybody. And the same thing with the aviation industry. If there were things that are hard constraints on their end, maybe they could communicate that to the space industry. One example of that is the holiday air traffic relief programs. So, around the holidays, around Thanksgiving and Christmas, definitely a larger volume of flights. It's harder to close airspace for commercial launch just because the aviation industry is so busy. Everyone wants to go see family and grandma. It's a very important time of the year. So, it's very difficult, but if there's ways that we can look at that a little bit deeper rather than saying, "Okay. Not all day on maybe the day before Thanksgiving is that busy." Maybe between 2 a.m. and 5:30 a.m., you could do -- and that might be okay for a launch company. How could we really squeeze down those needs, and it's not just from the commercial space, but also from the aviation to be able to manage that together. That's going to be a way that we're looking at through those tools that I talked about, and that's where the aviation industry has been really cooperative to try to help us through communicating better.

[ Music ]

>> Maria Varmazis: And don't forget tomorrow on T-minus Deep Space is my conversation with Pam in full.

[ Music ]

We'll be right back.

[ Music ]

And welcome back.

[ Music ]

You're listening to the beautiful sound of wind data gathered via ESA's Aeolus satellite with the Aladdin laser played on terra firma with woodwind instruments. This music is translating nearly five years of continuous data from Aeolus's wind measuring mission with every second of this piece representing a day of data in Aeolus's life in this new musical composition called "The Life of Aeolus" by composer Jamie Perera. From 2018 to 2023, Aeolus has taken a look at everyday clouds, wind velocities, air pressure, and cloud densities. And in this piece, they're all represented by woodwinds like basons, oboes, flutes, and clarinets. And sprinkled in there are volcanic eruptions like the massive Hunga Tonga last year, hurricanes of all kinds, and some sort of global pandemic thing that started in 2020. There's even a guide available on ESA's website to the 30-minute piece. So, you can pick out the musical interpretation of various events there. It's really cool. Life of Aeolus is about 30 minutes long and has to be one of the loveliest interpretations of sonified space-based data that I have ever heard. It'd be easy to take the data and port it over to a computerized musical instruments to play, but in this case, Composer Perera opted to use real professional musicians to play this complex and fascinating score giving their real human breath to bring Aeolus's mission data to life. And if you could read sheet music well, ESA has made the Hunga Tonga eruption excerpt of the score available as wind velocity for clarinet, cloud density for flute, and wind temperature for oboe. I'm warning you it is a tough score. But if you attempt it, ESA would love to hear it. And so would I. But in the meantime, I would gladly leave this beautiful work to the professionals and listen to them tell the musical story of the Life of Aeolus. Kind of bittersweet right now as Aeolus, its mission is complete has already begun its controlled descent back to Earth with its reentry expected later this month or early August.

[ Music ]

And that's it for T-Minus for July 14th, 2023. For additional resources from today's report, check out our show notes at space.n2k.com. We'd love to know what you think of this podcast. You can email us at space@n2k.com or submit the survey in the show notes. Your feedback ensures that we deliver the information that keeps you a step ahead in the rapidly changing space industry. We'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. N2K's strategic workforce intelligence optimizes the value of your biggest investment, your people. We make you smarter about your team while making your team smarter. Learn more at n2k.com. This episode was produced by Alice Carruth. Mixing by Elliot Peltzman and Tre Hester with original music and sound design by Elliot Peltzman. Our executive producer is Brandon Karpf. Our chief intelligence officer is Eric Tillman. And I'm Maria Varmazis. Thanks for listing. Have a wonderful weekend.

[ Music ]

Similar posts

Stay in the loop on new releases. 

Subscribe below to receive information about new blog posts, podcasts, newsletters, and product information.