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Using BRICS to build in space.

Russia welcomes BRICS to add to the country’s space station. Astranis’s Arcturus experiences an anomaly. US and Japan hold space cooperation talks. And more.





Russia's space agency is welcoming BRICS partners to build a module for the country’s planned space station. Astranis has announced that its satellite Arcturus is no longer fulfilling its mission to provide broadband connectivity in Alaska. The US Space Force has held the first-ever Space Engagement Talks with Japan, and more.

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T-Minus Guest

Our guest today is Phnam Bagley, Founding Partner of Nonfiction on space architecture.

You can connect with Phnam on Linkedin and learn more about Nonfiction on their website.

Selected Reading

Russia offers BRICS partners a module on its planned space station- Reuters

Astranis Reports Issues With Solar Array on its First Satellite - Via Satellite

DEL 15 activates two subordinate squadrons: 15th CACS, 15th ISRS- Spacecom.mil

US, Japan host first-ever Space Engagement Talks-Spacecom.mil

Japanese insurers reach for the stars with space policies- Nikkei

China tests main rocket engine for manned lunar missions- CGTN

Skyroot static Fire-Twitter

BT embraces small satellites to plug internet black spots around the UK- Evening Standard

SpaceX launches Starlink satellites from Florida, setting stage for Falcon Heavy mission- Florida Today

Elon Musk's SpaceX: How the world's richest person leads the space exploration pioneer- Business Insider

What’s next for the moon- MIT Technology Review

Thorium Space CEO Pawel Rymaszewski Outlines Ambitions for Commercial Debut- Via Satellite

Bronze Age discovery made at Shetland spaceport site- BBC

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>> M: Back in 2001, the term BRIC or B-R-I-C, was coined to group together Brazil, Russia, India and China. The BRIC nations were grouped together because they were and are working towards economic progress without or perhaps in spite of more US- or Western-centered interests. South Africa was soon added to the BRIC making them BRICS, and here we are two decades later, and the BRICS are continuing to build up and align around their own agenda. And especially with China and India in the group, you just know one of those priorities is space.

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Today is July 24th, 2023. I'm Maria Maria Varmazis, and this is T-Minus.

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Russia's space agency is welcoming BRICS partners to build a module for the company's planned space station. Astranis satellite Arcturus is no longer fulfilling its mission to provide broadband connectivity in Alaska. The US Space Force has held the first ever space engagement talks with Japan. And our guest today is Phnam Bagley, founding partner of Nonfiction, on space architecture and design. Stay with us.

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Now let's dive into today's intel briefing, shall we? Although the event is a month away, the 15th BRICS group of nations summit happening in Johannesburg, South Africa is already generating some headlines. News today from the BRICS meeting on space cooperation via Interfax has Russia's space agency welcoming BRICS partners to build a module for Russia's next planned space station, which is called the Russian Orbital Station or ROS. Other news from this meeting today is that the ROS now has some target completion dates with a target launch for the initial module for the ROS as 2027, and Russia is looking at 2032 for an overall completion date for the six-module station.

According to Reuters, over 40 countries have expressed interest in joining the BRICS club, with 22 nations including Algeria, Argentina, Iran and Saudi Arabia formally asking to join up. Other nations, including Egypt, Indonesia, Mexico, Turkey, and United Arab Emirates, all have indicated some kind of interest. That said, the BRICS nations themselves haven't determined if they're going to let more nations into their club, but from a space point of view, many of the interested nations are growing their own space programs and have already worked with India and China for space launch capabilities.

A BRICS module on the ROS could be a tempting carrot, so to speak, for nations looking for a foothold in LEO. All this news about space activities for BRICS nations and the BRICS-interested, while NASA's administrator Bill Nelson kicks off a tour in South America to tout the Artemis Accords, including in the BRICS-interested nation of Argentina. We'll keep an ear out for any further space-related updates from the summit over the next month.

American communication satellite provider Astranis announced that its satellite Arcturus is no longer fulfilling its mission to provide broadband connectivity in Alaska. According to the company's CEO, John Gedmark, the satellite has experienced an anomaly with a vendor-supplied component called the solar array drive assembly. Gedmark says that, quote, "The solar array drives rotate the solar arrays to make sure they're always pointed at the sun, and an issue with that component can mean the satellite cannot maintain full power to the payload 24/7." Now the company says that they've found the sources of failure and they know how to fix it for future spacecraft. Astranis is working on a backup plan to launch a special multipurpose satellite that can operate as an on-orbit spare and bridge to a full replacement satellite. The satellite named UtilitySat is in the final stages of integration right now, and Astranis hopes it will be launched before the end of the year.

The US Space Force has held the first ever space engagement talks with Japan. Deputy Chief of Space Operations, Strategy, Plans, Programs and Requirements, Lt. General Philip A. Garrant, led the talks aimed at enhancing combined space operations and establishing a bilateral roadmap for future collaboration. According to the Space Force press release, the joint space engagement talks serve as a model of the US-Japan alliance's commitment to space collaboration and reinforces the significance of partnerships in achieving shared objectives.

And staying with Japan, the country's largest non-life insurer has started investing in space insurance. Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance, which is a unit of MS&AD Insurance Group, is betting that the segment will eventually become a major revenue source. The Tokyo-based company was the first to underwrite a space project in Japan, and is the only insurer with dedicated operations for space and aviation insurance in London, according to a senior specialist for aerospace insurance at Mitsui Sumitomo.

China has conducted a new trial run of the main rocket engine for its planned crewed lunar mission, according to the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation. The agency says that the ignition test provided crucial information for the future development of the rocket. The engine will be used for the first stage of the Long March 10, and the boosters for China's moon landing mission.

Indian rocket company Skyroot has announced the second static test fire of the Raman-II engine. The test was held at the Indian Space Research Organization's ISRO propulsion complex, and according to Skyroot, the engine performed satisfactorily during the 100 seconds of burn. Modification in the fuel injection enabled the attainment of seven-bar absolute pressure.

UK telecoms company BT is looking to space to help increase internet coverage across rural parts of the country. BT has announced that it is using London-based firm OneWeb's constellation of small satellites to help plug gaps in remote locations. BT successfully demonstrated satellite internet use on the remote island of Lundy, which lies 12 miles off the coast of Devon, increasing their download speeds from 10 megabits to 75 megabits. The company has a goal of covering 90% of the UK with decent mobile internet speeds by 2028.

Florida's Space Coast held its 36th launch of the year this weekend, when SpaceX's Falcon 9 lifted a further 22 Starlink satellites into orbit. Starlink launches are hardly a novelty these days. SpaceX has launched five batches of the internet satellites to orbit this month alone. The next launch though is less of the ordinary. Currently scheduled for Wednesday, the triple-core Falcon heavy rocket's mission will lift the largest commercial communication satellite ever built. HughsNet's EchoStar Jupiter 3 satellite. Man, what we would give to see that one take off in person. If you're in Florida, enjoy the show.

And as always, we have included links to all of the stories we've covered in today's show in the Selected Reading section of our show notes, which you can always find at space.n2k.com. And we've included further reading with the business insiders piece on Elon Musk, and MIT's Technology Review on what's next for the moon, and a lot more.

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Hey, T-Minus crew, every Monday we produce a written intelligence product. It's called "Signals in Space", and if you happen to miss any T-Minus episodes, this strategic intelligence roundup will get you up to speed in the fastest way possible. It's all signal, no noise. You can sign up for "Signals in Space" in our show notes or at space.n2k.com.

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Our guest for today's show is Phnam Bagley, who is the founding partner of Nonfiction. Phnam is a space architect, and I started off by asking what that job entails.

>> P: It's very much related to studying life support systems and systems engineering and all the work that aerospace engineers do, but the main difference is a good space architects really puts the human at the center of all decisions. Humans are not machines. They're not zeros and ones. They don't do things that are 100% predictable, you know, things that we can fix very easily. So we have to take into account the fact that we live, the fact that we breathe, the fact that we have good and bad days, the fact that we need to be productive because going to space is still quite expensive, and so thinking about, you know, what do you do during 8, 10 hours a day that you're working on maintaining the station?

What do you do on your time off besides looking out of the window and staring at this beautiful Earth? What do you do when you're having, you know, problems with isolation and perhaps depression and things like that, because we can't go on a stroll outside and touch a tree and feel better about ourselves? There are many limitations about the extreme environment of space that we have to take into account, and our job as a space architect is to, you know, make sure that this comfort and these options are available to these people.

>> M: It's so interesting to think about the comfort of people and bringing sort of humanity back into the space experience. Can you give any examples of stuff that you've done so we can understand a little bit of what you've worked on?

>> P: So my firm works in both Earth and space, and really, a lot of the technologies that we're developing is available to everyone here on Earth. You can actually purchase them. But we always have in the back of our mind, how are these technology going to be translated to the extreme environment of space? For example, we designed this band that helps you fall asleep in 15 minutes. Sleep is a little bit of a problem when you go into space because you experience 16 sunrises and sunsets a day. You are not experiencing the comfort of gravity pushing your body against a mattress. You're away from your family. I mean, a lot of things are going on.

So tackling the neurological aspect of sleep through this kind of technology, it can be very helpful. And in turn, you know, if we know how to solve sleep problem in extreme environments like space, perhaps we can touch more people on this planet. So the circle is very important to us. And in space in particular, we've developed food systems, right? There's a military kind of like background to everything related to space. People don't cook food in the kitchen or eat it in the dining room. They prepare everything in a galley and they just find themselves in a corner to eat their, you know, their tortilla-covered beans or a meal in, right? Not necessarily the sexiest thing.

But yeah, so changing the language is number one. Changing the experience is really what's at the core of what we do, right? Instead of creating all of these foods that sound very novel and probably fun for about five days, we actually want to come back to why we eat food on this planet, why are certain foods connected to certain cultures, why do they create comforts for ourselves, why do we eat junk food once in a while to make ourselves feel better, and not take away these things from our humanity, but really re-injecting them in a way that's actually productive.

And I think what we're doing in space architecture is really redefining how we design habitats. We need to think of them more as homes than survival tents. So in survival tents or in, you know, analog astronaut environments, you know, you have the extreme environment outside, and then you're trying to put systems together next to each other, and then see how humans react to them. Right? You put the beds next to the galley next to the storage unit next to things like this, and it's quite military -- militaristic in some ways.

And so here, redesigning the way we think about habitats, how do we make people live in the environment they want, right? Let's say we have detachable sleep pods that, you know, if someone want to sleep by themself on the other side of the station, by all means, do it, right? Designers and architects should give options for that. If I want to eat looking at the Earth versus eating at the communal table, I should be able to do that. If I want to go to the bathroom and experience something that's more akin to a spa rather than the utilitarian toilet that seems to break every two weeks up there, you know, I should be able to do that.

So these are the type of things that we're working with, with a company like ZeroSpace and other groups. So and it's very interesting right now to work with these kind of companies, because traditionally, you know, they have thought about the utilitarian function-based aspects of things, you know, what functions, what is not going to kill the astronauts, what is going to make sure that we can integrate the labs that make them productive up there? And all of this is not going away, for obvious reasons, but we need to make sure that it's, you know, space 2.0, space 3.0, doesn't look like what we've been seeing aboard the assets, which is really an accumulation of stuff, 23 years of stuff --

>> M: A good way of putting it.

>> P: -- and then humans just like taking the remaining space and trying to make a life out of it. And I think that was fine for a long time because astronauts were highly trained, you know, superhumans, but now we're starting to see different profiles of people going up there, commercial astronauts, people who could just go up there for a few days, haven't spent 10 years, you know, training in the harshest conditions in order to go up there, and that's going to become more and more common. You know, I like to make people realize that most of us on this planet have the opportunity to go to space in our lifetime and none of us are willing to, you know, go into these like vomit machines and all of that for a number of years. We want to prepare ourselves pretty quickly, go up there, experience it, and then come back to Earth.

>> M: I think your point is excellent because, especially as you said, as commercialization in space grows, it's not unreasonable to say human beings should be able to expect not just some level of comfort, but also beauty. And one of the things I really love about what your design firm does is the tagline about making science-fiction into reality. As someone who enjoys science-fiction, a lot of those dreams are really beautiful, and you have some of the best artists ever thinking of these incredible things, and it's really exciting to see people like yourself working on bringing that into reality instead of everything -- you know, it has its place, but being purely utilitarian. Your point about the ISS is a good one.

>> P: Yeah, and the thing is that a lot of people think it's either function or beauty. Whereas, the way designers like myself think is that nothing can go forward if you don't think about function, aesthetics, and value at the same time. Every time we create a prototype, every time we test one, every time we pull out insights and interview stakeholders, we need to make sure that these three points of aesthetic, value, and function are taken care of because if we're not, we'll end up with the same stuff as we did before. Right? I mean, when you look at the ISS, which is, by the way, the greatest thing that was ever built --

>> M: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

>> P: -- it looks like it was built in a garage, you know, after someone went to Home Depot, you know, Stop. So look at the working out area. You know, it's just a bunch of tubes, and like a very basic treadmill with a bunch of like bungee cords on the side. Who has the motivation to work out for two hours a day for six months in these conditions? I don't.

>> M: And I think that your point is very well taken, and it actually brings me to the space food challenge, because so much of your pitch, and one of the most charming things about it, is about bringing, obviously that the nutritional value and the sustenance that the astronauts need, but also the things in food that give us comfort, that really bring the human experience and makes it what it is. So could you talk a little bit about that, because it's really fascinating.

>> P: Yeah. I mean, I think all of us, at least healthy people, eat a wide range of things, right? We eat some food that is very comforting in the morning, like a creamy coffee, for example, right? Some people like black coffee, but some of us like, you know, the pumpkin spice lattes. And what if we gave that to the astronauts or gave them the option of having this creamy, unctuous mouthfeel, you know, that really wakes the whole body up? So we created a machine that actually helps with that.

And then when we look at many cultures all over the world, and when there's a day of celebration, usually the centerpiece is a grilled protein, or like something that's been sitting in the oven for a number of hours and making the whole house smell wonderful. So why can we have to same thing, right, up there? Why do we have to eat sad chicken that comes out of a bag and rehydrated with some warm water? Like, that doesn't sound that great, right? So that's why we introduced the idea of space barbecue, and as we, you know, may know, open fire is frowned upon in space, so --

>> M: Yeah, that's -- yeah.

>> P: -- instead of doing it that way, we wanted to use, you know, microwaves to heat up the meat, and then applying laser grill marks on top of that meat. And at first, it felt like a little bit of a cheat, and then we started testing it and then eating it ourselves and realized that there is a difference. There is a difference when you apply lasers on top of protein with a carbohydrate in between, because there's a caramelization that really --

>> M: The Maillard reaction, right?

>> P: Exactly.

>> M: Yeah.

>> P: And it makes the whole thing like, look and feel so beautiful. And then, you know, when we talk about, you know, protection from radiation and sustenance, you know, after doing some research, realized that microalgae like spirulina could have some good benefits for that. And we started like buying some and growing some, and then tasting some and we realized this thing is disgusting, right? Like nobody in their right mind would eat this with a smile on their face, so we started coming up with recipes of how to hide that terrible flavor and turn it into different options of savory and sweet and sour, different flavor combinations to make that sustenance actually a part of our daily pleasure.

So yeah, so thinking about the deep space food challenge is how do we bring back pleasure into the act of eating in space, because eating in space, one's sustenance is one thing, but because foods becomes very boring very quickly up there, one of the dangers that astronauts expose themselves to is weight loss, which here, you know, on earth, were like, "Oh, weight loss, fantastic." But weight loss in space is actually dangerous because your life depends on it.

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>> M: We'll be right back.

Welcome back. And I do love it when the past, the present, and the future collide. Who doesn't, right? And a perfect example of this popped up last week in Scotland. The SaxaVord Spaceport, which we've talked about a bunch on this show, a launch site and ground station in Unst, Shetland, found the remains of what is believed to be a Bronze Age ritual cremation cemetery.

Archaeologists think that they've uncovered pits and burnt bones that could date back to 22,000 to 1,800 BCE. Fear not though, as the past will not be interfering with the present or the future of the site unless it's haunted or something. SaxaVord is supporting the excavation efforts and does not believe that it will hamper with the operations of the facility. SaxaVord Spaceport Chief Executive Frank Strang says, quote, "With Unst Viking heritage, we always had thought of that time span from the longship to the spaceship. Now we know there's been activity on our site for more than 4,000 years. It's the Bronze Age to the Space Age." That's so cool.

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That's it for T-Minus for July 24th, 2023. For additional resources from today's report, check out our show notes 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 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 ntk.com.

This episode was produced by Alice Carruth, mixing 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, and I'm Maria Varmazis. Thanks for listening. We'll see you tomorrow.

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