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A warm “Hello!” to the FCC Space Bureau 👋

FCC Space Bureau debuts. Arianespace reusable rockets will be a while. A date with HAKUTO lunar lander. AI adds speed to edge computing in space. And more.





The FCC Space Bureau makes its debut. Arianespace says its reusable rockets might be a while. iSpace’s HAKUTO-R lunar lander sets a date. AI brings speed to edge computing on satellites. CAS Space works towards reusable rockets. Eclipse is ready to invest in the physical industrial evolution. Zhanna Malekos-Smith on the US-Japan Space Pact Agreement.

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T-Minus Guest

Our guest today is Zhanna Malekos-Smith, Senior Associate at CSIS and Cyber Law Fellow at the Army Cyber Institute, on the US-Japan Space Pact Agreement and the meaning of “peaceful purposes.”

You can find more of Zhanna’s recent work at https://www.csis.org/people/zhanna-l-malekos-smith 

Selected Reading

FCC Opens Space Bureau to Modernize Satellite Policy | Via Satellite 

Europe will Introduce a Reusable Launch Vehicle in the 2030s, says Arianespace CEO | European Spaceflight 

ispace Announces Earliest Scheduled Lunar Landing Date for HAKUTO-R Mission 1 | ispace 

Chinese launch company tests vertical rocket landings with jet-powered prototype | Space.com 

Spiral Blue puts AI in space with new satellite computer | Space Connect 

Microsoft Azure enlists generative AI to help Pentagon look for satellite imagery | Geekwire 

Midland Spaceport Development Board to be reestablished pending state funding | NewsWest9 

S Korea to conduct 1st launch of commercial-grade satellite | Phys.org

Eclipse eclipses previous fundraises with a whopping $1.23 billion across two new funds | TechCrunch

Forging the New Economy: Eclipse Fund V and Early Growth Fund II | Eclipse.vc 

A New Membrane Could Lead to Space Telescopes with Flexible Mirrors! | Universe Today

New Zealander without college degree couldn't talk his way into NASA and Boeing—so he built a $1.8 billion rocket company | CNBC 

X-15 And The Pioneers Of Hypersonic Flight | Supercluster 

Four entrepreneurs welcomed to UK Space Agency accelerator programme | SpaceWatch.Global

Cosmonaut Korsakov tells why he took flags of Kyrgyzstan and Bishkek into space | 24.KG 

Tiny Spacecraft Using Solar Sails Open Up a Solar System of Opportunity | Universe Today 

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>> Maria Varmazis: It's been the feeling for a little while now, the FCC's international bureau was perhaps taking on a bit too much at once and that maybe that was keeping it from being as responsive as it had liked. So now, to keep things nimble, the FCC has split the international bureau in two. Everybody, please welcome to the stage, the FCC Office of International Affairs and the FCC Space Bureau.

Today is April 12, 2023. I'm Maria Varmazis, and this is T-Minus.

Say hello to the FCC Space Bureau. Ariane Space and reusable rockets might be a little while. AI is very, very much on the scene, and my interview with Zhanna Malekos-Smith, on this year's new U.S.-Japan Space Pact Agreement. All this and more, so please stay tuned.

After voting on this move earlier this year, yesterday the FCC officially split what was once the International Bureau into two parts; there's now an Office of International Affairs, which is dedicated to working with overseas regulatory authorities, like the International Telecommunications Union, or the ITU, and now there's also a Space Bureau, which is meant to be faster and more agile in response to the breakneck pace of changes in the space economy. The Space Bureau will be the lead on all space policy, analysis, and rules, and it will be the coordinating body for all U.S. federal agencies when it comes to figuring out space policy. And yes, it will continue to carry out satellite and Earth Station authorizations. FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, said this; this reimagined Space Bureau we're launching today is going to support United States leadership in the emerging space economy, promote long-term technical capacity to address satellite policies, and improve our coordination with other agencies on all of these issues. The new chief of the FCC Space Bureau, by the way, it's Julie Kearney, who has extensive private sector experience specifically in the connections industry. She said this as the Space Bureau opened yesterday; "We really see that we have a key role in promoting U.S. leadership and promoting industry and government cooperation. The first thing we're really focused on is modernizing regulations to match our new reality and supporting tech innovation, and simultaneously focusing on orbital debris and space safety and looking to our colleagues within the FCC and industry to prioritize the regulatory processes and transparency. As we await the launch of ESA's Juice atop an Ariane 5 rocket, hopefully tomorrow, and we'll cover that more in detail once it launches, there's other news from Arianespace that we should mention specifically today. In an interview with France Info Radio, Arianespace CEO, Stéphane Israël said that "work continues apace on their new Ariane 6, which is expected to make its first flight later this year and Arianespace hopes their next generation rocket will be in use for the next decade or so. As a result, Arianespace is not hopping on the reusable launch vehicle train in the imminent future. Instead," Israël said, "the reusable rocket coming from Arianespace, which is called the Ariane Next, would make its debut sometime in the 2030s." There is room for debate if reusable rocket technology existed during Ariane 6's initial development stages and that's Israël's explanation for why there's no such technology in the Ariane 6. However, an analysis from EuropeanSpaceFlight.com pushes back on that a little bit, saying that indeed the technology existed at the time of Ariane 6's early development, think early 2014 or so, but SpaceX was still kicking the tires on the Falcon 9 at the time, so perhaps Arianespace just missed their window. Mark your calendars, Tuesday, April 25 at 1640 UTC, is when the HAKUTO-R Mission 1Lander, the lunar lander by Japanese private company, ispace, will make its historic lunar landing attempt. If it's successful, it will make history on at least two fronts; it will make Japan the fourth nation to successfully soft land on our moon, and it will also be the very first privately funded spacecraft to do that as well. The Chinese Academy of Sciences, or CAS Space, has released a video of their jet engine powered reusable rocket successfully making a launch and a vertical landing on a sea platform. It's only a model, as the rocket is about 2.1 meters tall and 93 kilograms, but it's a proof of concept for CAS Space, and yes, SpaceX is already doing this and certainly CAS Space is not the only organization also working on reusable rocket stages either, but if organizations like CAS Space and others are able to successfully scale up their efforts here, SpaceX's drone boats will have plenty of company. Were you wondering when we would start seeing a lot more AI in space? So was I, and I guess that answer is today. Two AI related announcements today in the space economy to cover, one is from Australian space startup, Spiral Blue. Their Space Edge One is what they say is the most powerful Space Edge computer built, launched back in January, and it's an NVIDIA Xavier NX based AI device that's churning through its data in real-time in space, up there on the craft. That's what edge computing means after all. All the data heavy lifting is happening on orbit by the spacecraft, not by computers on the ground combing through reams and reams of data from the satellite. Capabilities like vessel detection, cloud clipping, canopy mapping, fire severity, water body mapping, all being done onboard the satellite itself. This means the SE-1 specifically ascending much more efficient targeted data for the end user down here on Earth. And speaking of down here on Earth, we still do have satellites sending lots of data from space, so Microsoft is leaning on AI to help make sense of it all. It's Azure Space, says the company, can lean on generative AI like the kinds it used for making its search engine, Bing, to make sense of space data. In a demonstration for the defense innovation unit, Microsoft showed a demo of an end user asking a question in natural language, like how you and I speak now, to help find locations from satellite data. If you're going to Space Symposium in Colorado next week, apparently they'll be showing more of this capability there. South Korea is getting ready to launch their very first commercial grade satellite on the KSLV-2 Nuri, Korea's home grown rocket from Naro Space Center as soon as May 24. The Nuri will be carrying the NEXTSat 2 and seven cubesats. Some are bound for low Earth orbit, or LEO, and others for Sun-synchronous orbit. The NEXTSat 2 was developed by the Satellite Technology Research Center of the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology. This will mark the third launch for the Nuri rocket in total, and this launch will also be the first time that the Nuri rocket will be jointly manufacture by a private company. Switching over to Texas now, the Midland Space Port Development Board is dusting itself off and saying that after shutting down in 2019, due to a lack of funding, the time is right to get more investment from the state. Midland International Air and Space Port has had its FAA Commercial Space Launch License since 2014. Now that they've formed a board, Midland is eligible for state funds should they become available. Right now they're waiting on word from state legislator that the 350 million dollars in funding that State Governor Abbott recommended to create a Texas space commission actually goes through. We'll keep you posted if it does. Venture from Eclipse just announced that they've raised 1.2 billion, with a B, billion dollars across two new funds, bringing the total amount of capital they manage to 4 billion dollars. Why am I telling you this? They're specifically looking to bring that money to industries that make important things, physical things, and help bring them to the digital era. They call this the "Industrial Evolution." Here's the list of what kind of companies they're looking to invest in; manufacturing, supply chain, transportation, healthcare, semiconductor and energy. All of that's pretty fascinating and definitely something to keep an eye on in the long-term. Okay, so those are our headlines for today, some neat stories for you in our selected reading today, including a profile on the CEO of Rocket Lab over on CNBC. This story's pretty unconventional and very fascinating, definitely worth a look. That's space.n2k.com for more. Right after this break is my interview with Zhanna Malekos-Smith, senior associate at CSIS, about the U.S.-Japan space pact agreement and what it means for the state of peaceful purposes in space. Stay with us.


The United States and Japan are close allies, especially on the space front. Beyond being signatories on the Artemis Accords, the United States and Japan signed onto the U.S.-Japan Space Pact Agreement this past January. So I spoke with an expert who could explain to me why this is an interesting step for both nations.

>> Zhanna Malekos-Smith: My name is Zhanna Malekos-Smith, I am a senior associate with the Aerospace Security Project at CSIS, the Center for a Strategic and International Studies, where I'm also an adjunct fellow in their Strategic Technologies Program, as well as a cyber law fellow with the Army Cyber Institute.

>> Maria Varmazis: Thank you so much, and you are absolutely the perfect person to speak to about the news that you sent my way actually, about a new agreement between the United States and Japan. Could you walk me through that and what that means?

>> Zhanna Malekos-Smith: Certainly, you're very kind, thank you. The U.S.-Japan Space Pact Agreement recently signed on January 13 is about promoting civil space cooperation. It reaffirms two significant programs; one, Japan's involvement in the NASA led Artemis Accords Program, which is an international space exploration program. Japan was one of the original seven parties to sign this agreement in 2020. The ambition of the program is to return humans to the moon in 2025, and also support a crude mission to Mars towards the end of 2030. Apart from affirming the vitality of the Artemis Accords Program, the U.S.-Japan Bilateral Space Pact Agreement signed this month also supports the Lunar Gateway Project, which is to develop an orbiting lunar research station around the Moon.

>> Maria Varmazis: Okay, so that's awesome. And there's been these, there are these two phrases that have been coming up a lot in the context of this agreement about the space treaty and the phrase, "peaceful purposes." Can you walk us through why those are important and why they're coming up in this agreement specifically?

>> Zhanna Malekos-Smith: Yes, so in the very title of the most recently signed space framework agreement between Japan and the United States, you'll notice that in the title it says the use of space for peaceful purposes and in my research I argue that that is significant in a forthcoming peace with CSIS, because it affirms the landmark Outer Space Treaty of 1967 and specifically echoes language in the preamble of the Treaty about the preservation of space and the exploration and use of it for "peaceful purposes." But here's where it gets interesting; because the term "peaceful purposes," is not expressly defined in the Treaty and prior to the Treaty even being signed in 1967 there was significant discussion about what does peaceful purposes mean and a divergence of views, the majority view, one held by the United States, is that the peaceful purposes as enshrined in this treaty, refers to non-aggressive activities like scientific research, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance activities. Contrast that with the minority view held by several states, such as Japan, India, and Iran, arguing that the term should be more narrowly interpreted, focusing on the demilitarization of space and that it exclusively be used for peaceful purposes. And you can go back and read on the United Nations' website, the history of this long-standing discussion about what does "peaceful purposes" mean and one of the ambassadors representing the Iranian Delegation stated that the draft treaty should stipulate, this was a recommendation he offered, that the treaty should stipulate the exploration use should only serve peaceful purposes. So--

>> Maria Varmazis: By their definition of peaceful purposes, right, non-military.

>> Zhanna Malekos-Smith: Sure and that opens up a whole other issue of how peaceful purposes is interpreted across different languages and cultures, what activities should be nestled underneath that, yes, that's a good point, Maria.

>> Maria Varmazis: Yeah, I mean I can't help but wonder, and I am not a person who's very comfortable with law or treaties or anything like that, but I, as a person who's a nerd for language, the fact that that phrase was not defined and left open for interpretation, makes me wonder was that on prepares? Or was that sort of a placeholder for, we'll figure this out later and here we are, several decades later still trying to figure that out.

>> Zhanna Malekos-Smith: That is a good question. And I can see both sides to it, one being strategic ambiguity. At the same time, there's value in signaling to allies, partners, and your peer competitors, transparency around the term "peaceful purposes" to reduce the risk of unintentional conflict escalation here.

>> Maria Varmazis: Absolutely. So, this agreement, going back to the U.S.-Japan, the new agreement, does this actually represent a change for Japan's posture on peaceful purposes, or is it sort of a continuation of what they've been doing, or is it an escalation, or how would we characterize this?

>> Maria Varmazis: I would describe the framework agreement as an accelerator. If U.S.-Japan space collaboration, partnerships, prior to this agreement was a computer, you can think of the framework agreement as like adding hardware accelerator to enhance the performance of the computing system. So yes, it affirms Japan's commitment towards the NASA Artemis Program, the Lunar Gateway Project, and a deepening scientific and research collaboration in this space, the tenor of the agreement in the press statement talking about the agreement focuses on civil space collaboration. Interestingly the actual text of the agreement has not yet been released so I'm very careful to present this as a broad based legal agreement focusing on civil space cooperation. That said, what about deepening defense space cooperation ties between the two countries? It's an open question whether or not this agreement could be used as a vehicle for that and what we'll have, com March, is more textual nuance to chew on because the countries have announced a plan to hold a comprehensive dialog on space to build on the agreement and strengthen space cooperation. And that is for the specific framework. However, if you look at the January 11 press conference joint statement issued by the security consultative committee, there was a mentioning in that text that Japan and the United States have agreed that attacks to, from, or within space, could lead to the indication of Article V of the U.S.-Japan Treaty.

>> Maria Varmazis: And that to me, as a person who study Japan for a while, that's a bit deal. Can you, maybe I'm overstating it, but could you, for our listeners, tell them what Article V means in this context.

>> Zhanna Malekos-Smith: Sure, and it is an important legal agreement certainly. It is the, the full title, it's the "Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security Between Japan and the United States." And Article V recognizes that "Each Party regards an armed attack," which is a legal term of art, "against either Party in the territories under the administration of Japan would be dangerous to its own piece and safety and declares that it would act to meet the common danger in accordance with international law." So, while more information will be forthcoming on the nature of the space framework agreement, focusing on civil space cooperation, simultaneously we see this joint statement being put out talking about national security concerns and how to modernize the alliance. So it's a fascinating area and we'll know more in the coming months.

>> Maria Varmazis: Thank you so much for walking us through this. This is fascinating and important and I'm really glad you were here to tell us all about it, so thank you.

>> Zhanna Malekos-Smith: Thank you, Maria, it's been a pleasure and I'd say the concluding takeaways is that, peaceful purposes fundamentally is about being a good steward of space. So, thank you.

>> Maria Varmazis: Thank you so much. A quick break next. We'll be right back. Welcome back. You know, it's been 62 years to the day since the first man went to space. That would be cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin, and yes, it really has been 62 years. In the grand scheme of things, that's the blink of an eye and how far technology and engineering has come in that very short time is absolutely mind boggling. So here's a new development in material sciences that honestly sounds like pure science fiction to me sometimes; a high quality flexible mirror for space telescopes. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, have figured out a way to make prototypes of a thin, flexible membrane mirror that's high quality enough to be used for space telescopes. Yes, really. Forget folding mirrors, sorry web, next we might actually be rolling up membranes into something like a poster tube and unfurling it in space. We really do live in the future.

And that's it for T-Minus for April 12, 2023. T-Minus is a production of N2K Networks, your source for strategic workforce intelligence. For links to all of today's stories, check out our show notes at space.n2k.com. Our theme song is by Elliott Peltzman, mixing by Elliott Peltzman and Tré Hester. Our executive producer is Brandon Karpf, and I am Maria Varmazis. See you tomorrow.

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