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

The future is nuclear.

Lockheed Martin wins DRACO contract. Aerojet Rocketdyne set to be purchased and demo updated radioisotope power system. Boeing faces financial woes. And more.





DARPA’s Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Operations (DRACO) with NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate selects Lockheed Martin for demonstration spacecraft.  Aerojet Rocketdyne will build and demonstrate key components for an updated radioisotope power system under a multi-million dollar contract for NASA’s robotic deep space exploration program. L3Harris gets the greenlight from the Federal Trade Commission to proceed with purchasing Aerojet Rocketdyne, and more.

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

Our guest today is Jules Lancee, Founder of We Work In Space.

You can connect with Jules on LinkedIn and visit We Work In Space online.

Selected Reading

Lockheed Martin Selected to Develop Nuclear-Powered Spacecraft- PR Newswire


FTC won’t block L3Harris purchase of Aerojet Rocketdyne; CEO says deal to close this month- Breaking Defense

Boeing’s Starliner losses total $1.5 billion with NASA astronauts still waiting to fly- CNBC

Kleos Space (ASX:KSS) begins bankruptcy proceedings- The Market Herald

16 Companies Chosen for Space Systems Command LEO Communications- Via Satellite

India's offer to privatise rocket has 20 potential bidders- Reuters

Pixxel Wins Grant to Build Multi-Payload Satellites for India’s Air Force- Via Satellite

Scottish spaceport near protected areas approved despite local opposition- The Guardian

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


[ Music ]

>> Maria Varmazis: Nuclear thermal propulsion systems. That phrase sends a shiver down the spine of many a space nerd who have been dreaming of nuclear engines since, oh, I don't know, 1961 or so. Two years ago, many people were thrilled to hear that DARPA was dusting off this idea and finally developing it into a proper project. And today, we're finding out who won the contract to bring this dream to reality.

[ Music ]

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

[ Music ]

Lockheed Martin wins the DRACO contract. Aerojet Rocketdyne to demo an updated radioisotope power system, and L3 Harris gets the greenlight to purchase them. Boeing faces financial woes, and our guest today is Jules Lancee, founder of the website We Work in Space, which focuses on promoting non-technical roles across the aerospace industry. Stay with us.

[ Music ]

Let's take a look at our intel briefing for today. We've been using nuclear batteries or radioisotope power systems on spacecraft for many decades, now. They're what's keeping Voyager 1 and 2 rocking and rolling way out in interstellar space, after all, but those are batteries. What about harnessing the power of nuclear reactions to propel spacecraft? On paper, nuclear engines are 3 to 5 times more powerful than existing chemical propulsion systems, which could drastically reduce the transit time for long distance destinations like the Moon or Mars. And that's one of the reasons why many people have been dreaming of it for decades, but there's good reason it's been mainly a dream until recently. The major downsides of nuclear engines historically is that they were difficult and risky to make, they required large reactors that would be really heavy to launch, and primarily when you're talking about enriched nuclear fuel, it's just really dang expensive. But as with many things in space, stuff gets smaller, stuff gets more efficient, and that means stuff gets a lot cheaper, and suddenly we can do a lot more out there than we thought. And you might not have known this, and I certainly didn't, but the miniaturization revolution has been making its way through nuclear power in the last few years, and that's undoubtedly why DARPA decided that the time was right to revisit this technology. Two years ago, DARPA kicked off a project called Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Operations, or DRACO, with NASA's space technology mission directorate. Their goal was to do an in-space flight demo of a nuclear thermal rocket engine by 2027, and yesterday, DARPA announced that they've tapped Lockheed Martin to develop this demonstration spacecraft. The system that Lockheed is developing will use a fission-based reactor to heat hydrogen propellant to create thrust. And Lockheed, in turn, says that nuclear reactor will use a new advanced reactor fuel called high-assay, low-enriched uranium, or HALEU, which can squeeze a lot more power per unit of volume, allowing for a much less expensive and physically smaller reactor. I am one of those aforementioned space nerds whose been very excited about nuclear engines, so I will be watching news on this one as work continues, for sure. This could be a serious game changer for long duration space missions if it's successful. And continuing with the nuclear energy theme, Aerojet Rocketdyne announced today that they will build and demonstrate key components for an updated radioisotope power system under a multimillion-dollar contract for NASA's robotic deep space exploration program. The Battelle Energy Alliance, acting on behalf of the US Department of Energy's Idaho National Laboratory recently finalized Aerojet Rocketdyne's phase two contract for the next generation radioisotope thermoelectric generator. The company is working with Teledyne Energy Systems, Ball Aerospace, and RGS Development BV on the multiyear effort. And speaking of Aerojet Rocketdyne, L3 Harris has been given the greenlight by the Federal Trade Commission to proceed with its purchase of the company. L3 Harris CEO Chris Kubasik told investors that quote, "The FTC will not block our acquisition of Aerojet Rocketdyne. Therefore, we are moving forward to close the transaction on or about July twenty eighth." Both companies had been sent a second request for information by federal regulators over anti-trust concerns associated with the deal. We hope to bring you an update on the story in tomorrow's show. Boeing's Starliner program continues to be plagued with bad news. Their finances have taken the latest hit with Q2 results reporting a 257 million US dollar charge for the Starliner Astronaut Spacecraft program. The latest figures bring the program's today overrun costs to 1.5 billion US dollars. Starliner was scheduled to launch NASA astronauts to the International Space Station this month, but once again, pushed back the schedule after discovering issues with the vehicle. And more financial woes in the industry, Luxembourg-based defense and intelligence company Kleos Space has started bankruptcy proceedings. The company has been unsuccessful in its bid to raise more funds. Kleos Space recently reported problems with some of its launch satellites, leading to their write-off. The company had launched three clusters of four satellites to detect radio frequency signals and determine their location. Kleos Space had been providing radio frequency monitoring data to both government and commercial customers and had also signed agreements with the National Reconnaissance Office. So to balance the financial bad news, we have some good news to share. The US Defense Information Systems Agency and the US Space Force's Space Systems Command has awarded 16 companies 5-year contracts to establish commercial communications for military use. The companies receiving the awards are SpaceX, Capella Space, Black Sky Technology, SES, Echo Star Corporation, ViaSat, Amazon's Kuiper, IntelSat, One Web Technologies, AIRINC, Artel, PAR Technology Group, Right Net, SatCom Direct, Trace Systems, and UltiSat. Whew. Space Systems Command says this multiple partner, multiple award contract model is a first for government sat-com procurement, and promises to deliver capabilities to the war fighter faster and at a lower cost compared to traditional one contract per mission partner task order. Reuters is reporting that India's effort to privatize part of its space program by opening bids to build its small satellite launch rocket has attracted interest from 20 companies. India is following the United States by opening launch and other space businesses to private investment. India's newly created space regulatory body, the Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Center, known as INSPAC, opened the process earlier this month. But not every company is eligible to bid for the program. According to INSPAC, eligible companies have to be profitable, and the lead bidder in a consortium has to have at least 5 years of manufacturing experience, and annual revenue of over 48.8 million US dollars. India is aiming to increase its share of the global satellite launch market by 5-fold within the next 10 years. And staying in India for a moment, Earth imaging firm Pixel has been awarded a grant from the Indian Air Force's iDEX Prime program to manufacture small, multi-payload satellites. The satellites will include electro-optical, infrared, synthetic aperture radar, and hyperspectral applications. The funding is part of a Spark Grant program offered by the Indian government to enable Indian innovators and entrepreneurs the ability to deliver technologically advanced solutions and propel deep tech innovations. And you know, our friends in Scotland seem to have space port fever with the third launch site moving forward in North Uist. Plans to build the space port on the small, Hebridean island have been given the nod to proceed. The space port proposal is being led by the Western Isles council, who bought the site, which was previously a farm, for 1 million pounds, and is developing it with the private military contractor Kinetic and space industry firms [inaudible] Group and commercial space technologies. The facility hopes to host up to 10 suborbital rocket launches a year.

[ Music ]

And that concludes our briefing for today. As always, you can find links to further reading on all the stories we've covered today in our show notes at space.n2k.com. Hey, T-Minus crew, if your business is looking to grow your voice in the industry, expand the read of your thought leadership, or recruit talent, T-Minus can help. We'd like to hear from you. Just send us an email at space@n2k.com or send us a note through our website so we can connect about building a program to meet your goals.

[ Music ]

Our guest today is Jules Lancee, founder of the website We Work in Space. Jules is looking to showcase nontraditional careers in aerospace and careers across continents. I started off by asking him how he got involved in the space industry.

>> Jules Lancee: I have a background - my early part of my career was in healthcare innovation, both nationally and internationally exploring the future of health and care, and how it impacts the work that we do in hospitals and medical centers. However, my passion for space and aviation was really unstoppable. Although I liked health innovation, I always wanted to fly, and I wanted to go to space. And at some point, I realized that one of them, at least, was sort of within range of the possibilities. And so I went to flight school, and got my pilot's license. So that is checked.

>> Maria Varmazis: That's cool! Yeah.

>> Jules Lancee: Yeah. The other one was - proved a bit more difficult. Of course, I joined the [inaudible] by the European Space Agency together with 22,000 others, and I've worked on a lot of space health projects. For example, through the space generation advisory council trying to combine my health expertise with my passion for space, but I never really found a paid position in that field in the space health field. It was quite niche. And then I went to International Space University and studied space there. It's there where I realized that space health was only one of the niches in space next to many others like space law, business development, HR, marketing, design, etcetera, you name it. And that is why I started weworkinspace.com to connect the [inaudible] space professional community with each other, with resources, with jobs, and next to running my own space company - who would've thought that - I work as a freelancer for clients in aviation and space.

>> Maria Varmazis: Cool origin story for We Work in Space. So you just mentioned it and how you came up with the idea, tell me a little about the website, how it works, how people should use it, that kind of thing.

>> Jules Lancee: Well, you know, space is booming. That's why this podcast exists, that's why you have many guests on the show, of course. There's a lot of investment in space companies. There's companies starting to offer services in space tourism, for example. There's all kinds of new satellite constellations on the rise. New space companies are creating fascinating new concepts, and so while this space is booming, this exponentially increasing industry, the need for employees and skills increases, as well. And while engineers are essential to these efforts, to anything that's going on in space, of course, space is more than engineering and offers plenty of opportunities for people passionate about space. But as I said, when you go look for a job in space, all you find is companies looking for satellite engineers or rocket scientists, and that is not me. Many others are not, too.

>> Maria Varmazis: Me neither, yeah.

>> Jules Lancee: No, exactly. So many of these job listing platforms, they're almost always geared towards engineering roles. And clearly, plenty of other jobs exist in the industry. And so whether you are a lawyer, medical professional, a designer, there's a place for you and it's our goal to help you find that next step in the industry and on the other hand, help companies find and recruit new talents for their companies. So it started off as a hand-picked job listing, a big job board, and a bi-weekly newsletter. Where we are now is that we have an automated job board, we are present on LinkedIn to stream all those new opportunities through to a growing audience, we have featured companies, we started a portrait series of people already doing the non-tech space work to inspire others to make that next step to show what it can be like to work in a non-tech space job, which companies are out there recruiting for them, and then there's a recruitment branch where we can help companies find those new talents from our pool of non-tech space enthusiasts or professionals, really. Yeah.

>> Maria Varmazis: What do you think that companies could be doing better to recruit non-engineering talent? I've often heard that companies have a hard time finding people that maybe, as you said, because there is so much emphasis on the engineering side that people who are not engineers don't even realize there is a job for them. What recommendations do you have for companies to do better on that front?

>> Jules Lancee: Yeah, that's a tough question. It's the same question as I have to recruit new people to find We Work in Space, of course. It's hard when you look outside of the space sector to find new personnel or new candidates. To be honest, I didn't really crack that puzzle, yet. I for one, it helps show to see what you can do in the space sector. So in comparison to other sectors, I always find people in the space sector so much more passionate than many other places. Almost everyone working in the space industry is a space fanboy or fangirl, really.

>> Maria Varmazis: Yeah. That's very true.

>> Jules Lancee: Yeah. I think that helps, and I think that showcasing what you can do in space, and that's what we tried to do with the portrait series of showing how people do the non-tech space work. It helps - it's what we see that also helps get more people to our platform, to our LinkedIn channel.

>> Maria Varmazis: I was going to say, do you have a favorite? I know there's - I actually I saw them earlier. There's a lot - I don't know, is there a favorite story that you might want to recount for people? Or it's hard to choose, I suppose.

>> Jules Lancee: So I like in our portrait series that there's so much diversity in all the backgrounds of people. Some people are even from a tech background and choose to do non-tech work, but the diversity in backgrounds coming - people working in space education, space finance, space business development, entrepreneurs, as well, communication, marketing. There is so much to do in the space sector. That really surprised me and that makes me really happy to share these stories with our audience.

>> Maria Varmazis: That's wonderful. Last question, because I know we've covered a lot of ground. So say my podcast gig doesn't work out and I'm looking for a job, what non-engineering type of roles in space companies do you see as being especially in demand? Companies are really looking for these folks and they maybe are having a hard time finding those roles.

>> Jules Lancee: Space companies are looking for marketeers, for business developers. I see a lot of these positions. Also, a lot of roles in finance and HR and recruitment, which is kind of ironic, maybe. Of course, looking for staff a lot as the industry is growing. These are positions that I see pass by a lot. Yes. Also, there's a growing demand for people in design, for example. Designers, not necessarily graphical or visual designers, but also to help the process - to help designing processes or surface design, design your products so that they tailor the needs of customers better. These are also very often positions that pass by.

>> Maria Varmazis: That makes a lot of sense given the commercial growth, as well. So I'd imagine optimization in that regard would be something a lot of companies are looking for. So what are the reactions that you've been getting from people when you talk about your new project?

>> Jules Lancee: Yeah. So reactions have been really great, both on the job-seeker side as well as on the company side. So job seekers are just people passionate about space are saying I wish this website existed when I was looking for a job. I can't believe that this didn't - it wasn't here already. And also, companies react enthusiastically, submitting their open positions through our online form or inquiring about services. For example, now a client wishes to showcase their non-tech employees through our portrait series to showcase to the world that you don't need to be an engineer to work at that particular company. So we're seeing really a growing follower base, which is really cool to see. I started it in March last year, and soon the amount of followers on for example, LinkedIn started growing, and growing. And now, every week there is so much traction. It's really cool to see. So I'm looking forward to see that I can bring this to a point that this is the go-to spot for the non-tech professional that wants to work in space, or that is looking for a new step in his career, his or her career. So yeah, that's really cool to see. Yeah.

>> Maria Varmazis: I look forward to seeing it grow. I think you're well on your way, and congratulations on it. And thank you for doing this, because again, as a non-technical person, this is a very needed project. So thank you. Jules, it's been a pleasure speaking to you. Thank you so much for talking to me, today.

>> Jules Lancee: Thank you for having me. Thank you.

[ Music ]

>> Maria Varmazis: We'll be right back.

[ Music ]

Welcome back. If either Voyager can hear me out there in interstellar space right now, their ears, so to speak, must be burning because I'm talking about them twice today. A very unique bit of space memorabilia went up for bid on Sotheby's today. Maybe a treat as much for the audio file as for the space fan. The master audio recordings of the entire Voyager golden record, in excellent condition still in their boxes, on two double-sided reels of quarter-inch reel to reel tape were up for bid. And these happen to be directly from the personal collection of Ann Druyan and Carl Sagan. Yes, you can buy the copies of the golden record anywhere you want online and listen to the sound clips and music anywhere on YouTube, really. But these are the originals, and you really can't beat the provenance of who it belonged to. The estimated monetary value of these recordings is around 500,000 US dollars, Sotheby said. But a piece of history like this is surely priceless and belongs in a museum. Perhaps that's why when bidding closed earlier today, this item received zero bids. It will be interesting to see where it goes next, perhaps to the makers of music, all worlds, all times.

[ Music ]

That's it for T-Minus for July twenty-seventh, 2023. For additional resources from today's report, check out 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 world's preeminent intelligence and law enforcement agencies. This episode was produced by Alice Carruth, mixing by Elliott Peltsman and Trey Hester, with original music and sound design by Elliott Peltsman. Our executive producer is Brandon Karpf. Our chief intelligence officer is Eric Tillman, and I'm Maria Varmazis. Thanks for listening. We'll see you tomorrow.

[ Music ]

Similar posts

Stay in the loop on new releases. 

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