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In the business of space, the only way is up.

Space Investment showing signs of stabilizing. Rocket Lab’s launches payloads from New Zealand. Space Command HQ debate continues to cause drama. And more.





Private investment in the space industry is showing signs of stabilizing according to the Q2 report from Space Capital. The UK ranks third globally in space deals, according to a recent report from Seraphim Space. SpaceX is forecasting a doubling of its revenue to a whopping $8 billion this year. Firefly aerospace has reportedly told CNBC that it is close to announcing an oversubscribed capital raise, and more.

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T-Minus Guest

Our guest today is Jonathan Dagle, Policy Committee Chair at the National Space Society.

You can connect with Jonathan on LinkedIn and find out more about NSS on their website.

Selected Reading

Private investment in space firms shows ‘signs of stabilization’ in Q2 after steady decline- CNBC

Seraphim: Investment deals take off as UK ranks third globally- City AM

SpaceX Forecasts Doubling of Revenue to $8 Billion- The Information

Rocket builder Firefly is close to announcing oversubscribed capital raise- CNBC 

Baby Come Back: Rocket Lab Electron parachutes down after Māhia launch- NZ Herald

U.S. Pushes Military Cooperation in Space- The Wall Street Journal

Space Force should offer European allies protection from anti-satellite attacks: Saltzman- Breaking Defense

A Cyber Force? Senate Proposes Study With Lessons Learned from Space Force- Air and Space Forces

Schriever slated for new $150 million building, initial funding delayed in Space Command fight- Gazette

LightRidge Solutions Acquires Trident Systems- Business Wire

The Weird Reason Buzz Aldrin Wears Three Watches On His Arms- IFLScience

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>> Alice Carruth: After a tumultuous year, and change for the space market, there are some indications that things are turning around in a big way. New market reports are painting a rosier picture than we've seen in months. Investment deals are approaching new highs. The UK is showing up to play. SpaceX is reporting revenue targets the size of a sizable island country. And maybe, just maybe, we'll see a comeback of the space back.

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>> Alice Carruth: Today is July 18th, 2023. I'm Alice Carruth. And this is T-Minus.

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>> Alice Carruth: Space investment is showing signs of stabilizing. Rocket Labs' Baby Come Back mission launches payloads from New Zealand. The Space Command HQ debate continues to cause drama. And our guest for today's show is Jonathan Dagle, Policy Committee Chair at the National Space Society.

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>> Alice Carruth: On to today's briefing. The last 12 months have been a real challenge for the business of space. But private investment in the space industry is showing signs of a major comeback. The financial pendulum is swinging, with investment inflows showing signs of stabilizing, according to a Q2 report from the Space Capital. A healthy $4.9 billion US dollars poured into the space infrastructure companies during the second quarter of this year. Thanks largely to Maxar's 4.1 billion equity value go private sale. This trend signals a healthy pipeline for space startups. Moreover, the UK is emerging as a major player, ranking third globally in space deals, according to a recent report from Seraphim Space. A total of 39 deals were reported in the last 12 months, surpassed only by the US and China. Seraphim's VP, Maureen Haverty highlighted the uptick in collaborative efforts in space-based communications and internet meant to counter the behemoth that has become SpaceX's Starling, pushing companies to join forces in response. And speaking of SpaceX, the industry launch leader is forecasting a doubling of its revenue to a whopping $8 billion US dollars this year. This projection is inspiring a renewed enthusiasm among investors, and defying the recent downturn in private tech valuations. The bottom line is, the space industry's financial landscape is evolving, with a return to a healthier dynamic where disciplined investors are making the most of lower valuations. The most recent market reports are painting a glowing picture of the opportunities to come. We're seeing the industry not just survive but find new ways to thrive. It's certainly an exciting time to be part of the space race. And staying with that increase in investment theme, Firefly Aerospace has reportedly told CNBC that it's close to announcing an oversubscribed capital raise. Firefly is riding the coattails of their first successful orbital launch last year, and has recently announced the acquisitions of Spaceflight Inc. and assets from Virgin Orbit. The company is now valued at over $1 billion US dollars and has reportedly gained more commitments to invest than initially planned, at a time where most space startups are struggling to raise funds. Good luck to them. Baby Come Back seems like an odd name for a mission to orbit, but hey it's got us all singing the player tune and smiling at Rocket Lab's latest success. The company's 39th Electron mission launched from their site in New Zealand. The Electron deployed 4 NASA Starlings, 6U CubeSats, and 2 Spire 3U CubeSats to sun's synchronous orbit. The final payload was a Spaceflight laboratory and Telesat Leo 3 demonstration satellite, following the decommissioning of Telesat's phase one vehicle. The Electron rocket booster used in the mission detached and parachuted into the Pacific Ocean and was recovered by a boat. Rocket Lab hopes to reuse it in future missions. We like to cover news stories on this show, launches, announcements, mergers, et cetera. But when we read the Wall Street Journal article on the US pushing for military cooperation in space, we thought it was worth mentioning as part of our intel briefing. It's not new news. It certainly isn't followed a proposed treaty, but it is something we're all increasingly aware of with the current conflict in the UK. Which has made it clear, access to and use of space is fundamental to modern war, as said by General Saltzman. US adversaries have developed significant capabilities in space. And we at T-Minus see this as an area of increasing concern. You should check out our sister podcast The CyberWire and their extensive coverage of cyber security conflicts in space for more details on why space is a key area we should be aware of. We've included the journal article in our show notes for you to read. And speaking of General Chance Saltzman, the US Chief of Space Operations has openly stated that he supports defending European satellites against attacks. Warning that any destruction of a friendly satellite will be considered an act of war. Saltzman was in the UK at the Royal International Air Tattoo when he said the remarks explaining that the US should be no different to how it currently provides air defense cover by protecting communication nodes, regardless of the country that has contributed to those nodes. So, given that information, it should come as no surprise that the US Senate is looking to the Space Force for answers to a possible new military branch. They have started debating the 2024 National Defense Authorization Act, which is proposing the possibility of an independent cyber force. The proposal is directing the Secretary of Defense to work with the National Academy of Public Administration to evaluate whether the US should establish a separate service dedicated to cyber operations or refine the existing US Cyber Command approach, which is based on the US Special Operations Command model. We will certainly keep you updated once that bill is passed. And are you as frustrated with the Space Command HQ debacle as we are? It seems the latest twist in their where will they put the Space Command HQ saga, is a halt in funding for a new $150 million US dollar National Space Defense Center building at Schriever Space Force Base. The building plans to be home to over 600 staff, that would monitor threats in orbit and develop solutions in the event of an attack. The request is separate from any spending on a permanent headquarters building for the command. But as with politics the world over, there's always a gray area to be exploited. I'm sure we'll have the next installment to the drama soon.

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>> Alice Carruth: And a final story for your daily briefing, congrats to LightRidge Solutions on acquiring Trident Systems, a provider of high performance space electronics and C4ISR solutions. Financial terms of the transaction have not been disclosed.

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>> Alice Carruth: 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, do us a favor and share the intel with your friends and coworkers. Here's a little challenge for you. By Friday, please show three friends or coworkers this podcast. A growing audience is the most important thing for us, and we'd love your help to be part of the T-Minus crew. If you find T-Minus useful, please share so other professionals like you can find the show. Thanks. It means a lot to me.

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>> Alice Carruth: Our guest for today's show is Jonathan Dagle, Policy Committee Chair at the National Space Society. We wanted to cover a lot of topics with Jonathan, but our host Maria Varmazis started with a topic that's been discussed a lot in the space industry following the Titan ocean accident. What does an incident like this mean for space and commercial space?

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>> Jonathan Dagle: It's a very difficult question because of the recent loss of life. So, it's a difficult topic to discuss. But there are already opinion pieces describing how this is evidence that the learning period is a bad idea. And so, the learning period, which is you know, sort of the term of [inaudible], is a construct which goes back to the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act in 2004. And this act was passed in response to the Ansari X Prize, that Scaled Composites was the winner of by launching their SpaceShipOne into a high altitude that met the requirement, 100 kilometers. So, they won that prize. And the prize was specifically to open the opportunity to commercial human space flight. As a result, Congress passed this law. And the idea was there were two elements. First, the learning period was a period of 8 years in which both industry and the government were supposed to learn about how commercial human space launch would work, and what sort of regulatory structure would be needed. The second part was an informed consent regime, as it is called. And that means that people that participate in these flights are informed that it's an inherently dangerous activity, and they are doing so at their own risk. So, in a way, that's very similar to the Titan submersible, which also had the similar construct. Although they were operating in international waters and were not regulated in the same way.

>> Maria Varmazis: If the learning period were to end, I mean, what would that actually look like? Like what would that introduce to the process? I mean, would that involve certifying flights for the safety of human passengers? And I mean, how burdensome would that be? Or is that already sort of figured out?

>> Jonathan Dagle: Right. So, there's a couple things to unpack there. First of all, there already is regulation that involves the commercial launches. These are just like every other rocket launch. They're licensed by the FAA and they go through the same process they would to launch, well a similar process with launching a satellite or something. So, that regulation already exists. The learning period, you know, so-called learning period really applies only to further regulation of the human safety of what's happening in the spacecraft. Now, if the learning period were to end, there have already been some proposals in the government to give broad regulatory authority to the Department of Transportation. Which presumably, would follow to the FAA. And that would, some of these proposals might involve the FAA having the regulatory authority for everything that happens in space on essentially, an American flag spacecraft. At the National Space Society we think that goes way too far. There are a lot of questions about what happens to things that are on the moon. Is that something that the FAA should regulate? What about activities you know, on other planets? This seems, this seems like a proposal that goes too far. But that might not really be what happens. The FAA might come up with other regulatory constructs, let's say. And we don't really know where those will go. But we do know that a lot of people are opposed to the learning period, and they would like to see it end. You know, while the industry of course would like to minimize the regulations they have. So, I think there's definitely an opportunity for conflict here.

>> Maria Varmazis: Yeah. Yeah. I was going to say, I'm wondering if the FAA is really equipped to take on that next level of regulatory burden, for lack of better terminology. It seems like a lot for an agency that's already very loaded.

>> Jonathan Dagle: It's a great point. Because the FAA, no one really has experience in this space activity. NASA does to some degree. And so, NASA has a different standard for their launches, which they procure under the commercial crew program. And so, SpaceX for example, is doing commercial crew launches for NASA. And they're using the same vehicle for commercial launches, which do not fall under NASA's rules for their own astronauts. Cause they only apply to NASA's government procured launches. So, one of the things that's interesting about this learning period, was that it was intended to provide a body of experience that the FAA could use in developing regulations, and also that industry could understand where the were going with these missions. So, to date, there have really only been a handful of commercial launches. Virgin, so there's three providers. There's Virgin Galactic, there's Blue Origin, and there's SpaceX. They all have very different space vehicles. So, the profiles of the missions are very different. Virgin Galactic has one commercial flight. It happened a few days ago, on the 27th of June. So, they have, even though their platform is based on the technology that won the Ansari X Prize, they have only gotten one paid commercial flight in almost 20 years. SpaceX has had three flights on the crew Dragon. And Blue Origin has had six flights up through August of last year, the last crewed flight. And then they had an uncrewed mishap with a booster in September. So, they have not flown since then. Now, that's not very many flights. And even though a long time has gone by, it's not really a lot of experience to base a regulatory regime on. So, hence the view that the learning period is not quite over. You know, I think some would like to extend the learning period forever. And I don't think that's a really reasonable approach. But I think what is premature, is just to let it expire because it's the end of the fiscal year, and we haven't really achieved all these launches. There was I guess, the original idea was that there would be dozens of launches in the first 8 years. But in fact, there were none that were actually commercially paid for. And hence, the learning period has been extended several times.

>> Maria Varmazis: It doesn't seem like many flights have really occurred yet for us to understand well, what regulations would need to be in place. But at the same time, you know, I would imagine you wouldn't want to wait so long that there's a tragedy, that perhaps could have been prevented. Obviously, we don't want that. So, and I know none of the providers want that to happen either. So, it's sort of like there is that balancing point of, at what point do we say regulations probably should be kicking in before something bad happens? I know there's philosophical debate around that as well.

>> Jonathan Dagle: Well, I'll just go out on a limb here a little bit. So, the Titan submersible was not regulated or reviewed by anyone else. The industry Marine Technology Society, they requested that the company submit the design for review. It's not a formal certification as far as I am aware, it's just, it was a review. And no one, they did not want to do that because they believed strongly that you know, their approach, they didn't need it. And I think that that's, that's sort of the downside. The answer to that is not to regulate these launches as if they are charted airline, you know, commercial airline flights from Washington to Los Angeles. Flying to space is still a somewhat risky thing. There is room for something between the construct of regular commercial airline travel and completely unregulated activities. You know, uncontrolled. And one of the ways to approach that is through industry bodies providing standards. And that is a way that does not require the government to provide every requirement for vehicle, and for there to be some review or some cross checking of what an individual company might do.

>> Maria Varmazis: But at this point, from my conversation with people, it sounds like well, informed consent is doing the job that it needs to do. Again, this is just opinion and speculation. I'm not, this is, I'm not speaking for anybody. It's just you know, people are going well the folks who are doing this know the risks. So, right now that seems to be good enough. And I don't know how the FAA feels about that, but that seems to be also the response to the Titan tragedy also, is that those folks knew what could happen. So, I don't know.

>> Jonathan Dagle: Yeah. Well, there are some who are definitely saying that the Titan tragedy is a beacon that indicates that the whole informed consent regime is a bad idea. And I don't think that's the case. If you look at, I mean, I don't think that the government should be in the position of telling people that they can only do things that are safe and regulated to the level of an airline or something to that effect. And if you look at adventure sports, I mean that's one of the reasons people participate in them, is that they are inherently dangerous. They provide a thrill. Whether it's whitewater rafting or flying in a you know, the jetpack man who last weekend had a tumble at the Grand Prix.

>> Maria Varmazis: Yeah.

>> Jonathan Dagle: I mean, all of these things are sort of inherently dangerous. They are not you know, there's not the safety of taking a bus or an airplane. Or even, I mean if you look at going to the deep sea, going to the Titanic in a submersible is not equivalent to taking an ocean liner across the ocean. I think James Cameron talked about the idea that what these people are doing in a submersible is really, something far beyond tourists. They're being citizen explorers, is the term that he used. And he appreciated that. But you know, you want to make sure you're doing, you're doing the activity in a way that is responsible. And you know, it's not in the interest in the companies to do things that are irresponsible as well. I mean, the ramifications of a mishap in space launch I think, are well understood by the companies. And as long as they want to stay in business, it's certainly in their interest to make sure that the activity is safe, as safe as it can be made.

>> Maria Varmazis: Absolutely. Well, Jonathan, I know we're coming close to the end of our time. I just wanted to give you the floor if there's anything you wanted to mention, to close this out. I just wanted to give you the opportunity.

>> Jonathan Dagle: Well, thank you. You know, I just encourage people to visit the National Space Society's website at space.nss.org. And if you want to connect with me, you can look me up on LinkedIn.

>> Maria Varmazis: Thank you so much for joining me. And thank you for this fascinating conversation. It's been the topic of a lot of dinner table conversations for me in the past few weeks. I'm sure for many of us. So, I'm glad to speak to you about it as well.

>> Jonathan Dagle: Thank you. It's a pleasure speaking with you.

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>> Alice Carruth: We'll be right back.

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Alice Carruth: Welcome back. It's a big week in space history, as we're days away from the 54th anniversary of the first moon landing. So, it's no surprise that Buzz Aldrin posted a picture on social media this week marking the launch day or the Apollo 11 mission. What did come as a surprise to many, is that he wears three watches, as seen in the picture. Three watches? Did he mean to do that? The answer is yes. The legendary moon walker wears two NASA issues Omega Speedmasters that have been to the moon, and a third watch that stayed behind. Aldrin says you need an odd number of watches, in case there's a discrepancy, so you can sort out which one is what. He also says that this is an approach that should be used when deciding on crew numbers. According to Buzz, we're not going to send an even number of people to Mars, because then you can have a 50/50 disagreement. You can't argue with that logic.

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Alice Carruth: That's it for T-Minus for July 18th, 2023. For additional resources from today's report, check 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 worlds' preeminent intelligence and law enforcement agencies. This episode was mixed by Elliott Peltzman and Tre Hester with original music and sound design by Elliott Peltzman. Our Executive Producer is Brandon Karpf. Our Chief Intelligence Officer is Eric Tillman. Our host is Maria Varmazis. And I'm Alice Carruth. Thanks for listening.

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