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Space Command is staying Rocky Mountain High.

Space Command is staying in Colorado. The US Senate agrees with the House to make cuts to the Space Force’s budget. FCC presents new spectrum rules. And more.





The US Administration makes the decision that Space Command is staying in Colorado. The US Senate agrees with the House to make cuts to the Space Force’s requested budget for fiscal year 2024. The FCC’s Chairwoman introduces new spectrum rules for commercial space launches. Planet announces a restructuring and cuts to its workforce, and more.

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T-Minus Guest

Our guest today is Kathy Steen, Senior Program Manager at the Hyperspace Challenge.

You can connect with Kathy on LinkedIn and learn more about the Hyperspace Challenge on their website.

Selected Reading

Statement from Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder on U.S. Space Command- Defense.gov


Contracts For July 28, 2023- Department of Defense

Rosenworcel Introduces Spectrum Rules for Commercial Space Launches- FCC

Planet lays off about 10% of workforce as satellite imagery company restructures- CNBC

Tilebox raises $1.7M to enhance space data management- tech.eu

Hisdesat will launch the first satellite of the SPAINSAT NG programme next summer- SpaceRef

Chandrayaan-3 leaves earth's orbit, heads towards moon- Tribune India

China's Shenzhou-15 taikonauts meet press after returning to Earth- CGTN

NASA Mars Ascent Vehicle Continues Progress Toward Mars Sample Return- NASA

Indiana University launches space law courses, satellite cybersecurity program- Herald Times

Redwire Hires Veteran Aerospace Executive as Company Positions for More Strategic Growth- Redwire Space

Iridium Board of Directors Approves Additional $400 Million Share Repurchase Program; Authorizations Now Total $1 Billion- Iridium

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>> Maria Varmazis: Relief. A feeling of reassurance and relaxation following release from anxiety or distress. It can come in many forms. Relief after a contract is awarded. Relief after finalizing new rules. Relief after closing a funding round. And we'll bring you more on those stories, but for now, relief that we can finally put this story to bed. Space Command is staying in Colorado.

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Today is August 1, 2023. Happy Women Astronomer's Day! I'm Maria Varmazis and this is T-Minus.

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It's officially official. Space Command is staying put in Colorado. The US Senate agrees with the House to make cuts to the Space Force's budget. FCC introduces new spectrum rules for commercial space launches. And our guest today is Kathy Steen, Senior Program Manager at the Hyperspace Challenge. Stay with us.

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And now, let's take a look at today's intel briefing. And there's finally a decision. US Space Command Headquarters has its home officially now in Colorado Springs. The news from the Pentagon and the White House yesterday is that President Biden made his decision based on input from the Department of Defense and the Department of the Air Force. And the decision went through a thorough and deliberate evaluation process. "The call to have US Space Command in Colorado Springs," Says Pentagon Press Secretary Brigadier General, Patrick Ryder, "Has the full support from Secretary Austin, Secretary of the Airforce Kendall, and US Space Command Commander, General Dickenson." The Pentagon, locating headquarters, US Space Command in Colorado Springs, ultimately ensures peak readiness in the space domain for our nation during a critical period. It will also enable the command to most effectively plan, execute, and integrate military space power into multi-domain global operations in order to deter aggression and defend national interests. And a supporting note from General Dickenson now, "I welcome this final decision. Since its establishment in 2019, US Space Com has been focused on operating and delivering exquisite capacity to the joint force to deter, and if needed, prevail in conflict. Our priorities to ensure mission success and care for our people remain unchanged. We will continue to meet our directives to deliver space effects to the war fighter and protect and defect the space domain. Now, with all absolute, genuine, due respect to all involved here, here's hoping that this is the last time that we have to talk about this Space, HQ as political football story. It's all over but for the crying." From Senator Tuberville from Alabama who has been fighting hard for the relocation to his state. "But, like a Scooby Doo villain shaking their fists at those darn metaling kids," Tuberville says, 'No. This is absolutely not over. I will continue to fight this as long as it takes to bring Space Command where it would be best served, Huntsville, Alabama." In any case, moving on. It's not very often that the US Senate and House agree, so I guess we'll have to take the small win on this one, even if it is at the cost of $1 billion off the Space Force requested budget for fiscal year 2024. The US Senate Appropriations Committee agreed with the US House that cuts should be made due to scheduled delays and performance problems. The cuts are spread across multiple programs through research development, testing and engineering, and procurement areas, and we'll know more specifically once the budget is voted on. And staying with the US Department of Defense Procurement, KBR Wiley Services has been awarded a $24.9 million cost-plus fixed-fee contract from the Air Force research lab. The agreement is for the development of robust capabilities to better understand and predict motion, perform data association, initial orbit determination, and maneuver detection. AFRL is looking for a better understanding of chaotic orbits in what's called the "X-Geo domain." It's a term used to refer to the outer space beyond geosynchronous orbit out to the moon. The agreement further covers N-body problems, which is the problem of predicting the individual motions of a group of celestial bodies interacting with each other gravitationally and improved gravity models including developing and evaluating space situational awareness frameworks, with an emphasis on non-traditional orbits. To understand the technical trades associated with the larger SSA or Space Situational Awareness architecture. Work will be performed at Kirkland Airforce Base, New Mexico, and is expected to be completed by August 31, 2028. The chairwoman of the Federal Communications Commission, Jessica Rosenworcel, has introduced new spectrum rules for the commercial space launches. Chairwoman Rosenworcel said in a press release from the FCC, that "These rules will ensure that commercial space launches have the necessary spectrum resources for reliable communications no matter their mission. These updates will promote economic strength, safety, competitiveness, and innovation. I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting this latest action to continue the United States' long history of space leadership." The rules would adopt a new allocation in the 2025 to 2110 MHz band for space operations on a secondary basis. Expand the spectrum available for commercial space operations on a secondary basis in the 2200 to 2290 MHz band, from four channels to the entire band. And adopt licensing and technical rules for space launch operations. It also directs the Office of Engineering and Technology to open a public notice, opening a new docket for comments on the expanded federal use of the non-federal satellite bands. Satellite imagery company, Planet, has announced a restructuring plan that will lead to them laying off 117 employees, which amounts to about 10 percent of their workforce. The announcement came from Planet CEO, Will Marshall, in a company-wide note. In that note, Marshall took responsibility for the decisions that led to the layoffs. And he expressed his remorse for the situation and acknowledged the significant impact this would have on the affected employees and their families. The decision was made in order to increase the company's focus on high priority growth opportunities and operational efficiency. Planet says that these changes will better support its long-term strategy and path to profitability. Australian space data platform, Tilebox, has raised $1.7 million in a precede round. The company says it will use the capital to expand the team and enhance its platform capabilities. Tilebox says, it "enables space companies to develop their in-house data pipelines 10 times more efficiently and effectively than currently possible." And they say this is achieved by eliminating friction between teams and the costly maintenance of suboptimal solutions. Over to Europe now, and Spanish satellite operator, HISDESAT, has announced that the first satellite in the Spain Sat, NG program, which is aptly named SPAINSAT NG 1, will be ready for launch next summer. The satellite will be receiving a ride share on the SpaceX's Falcon line. SPAINSAT NG 1 will provide secure and reliable communications for the Spanish armed forces and other government agencies. And the team behind the Chandrion 3 mission have provided us with a little update. The vehicle has completed its orbit around the Earth and is now heading towards the moon. The Indian space research organization excitedly shared next stop the moon, after announcing the successful move into translunar orbit. The vehicle is planning lunar orbit insertion on August 5. And they hard-landed back on Earth in early June and they're finally out of quarantine now. Three Chinese Taikonauts from the Shenzhou-15 crew, were introduced to the press in Beijing earlier today to discuss their recent mission. The stringent human spaceflight program in China now has the three Taikonauts on observation. They will be allowed to resume regular training once they've completed further health checks.

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And that concludes everything for today. You can read more about all the stories that we covered for you today in our show in our show notes over at space.n2k.com. We've also included a few extra stories for you to read up on. 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, if you could do us a favor, share the intel with your friends and coworkers. Now, here's a little challenge for you. By Friday, please show three friends or coworkers this podcast. That's because a growing audience is the most important thing for us, and we'd love your help as part of the T-Minus crew. So, if you find T-Minus useful, please share so other professionals just like you can find the show and join the crew. Thank you so much for your support. It means a lot to all of us.

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And our guest today is Kathy Steen. She's the Senior Program Manager at the Hyperspace challenge and I'll let Kathy introduce herself to you.

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>> Kathy Steen: Hi. My name is Kathy Steen. I'm the Senior Program Manager of the Hyperspace challenge, and I'm excited to talk to you about our upcoming 2023 program.

>> Maria Varmazis: Thank you so much for joining me, Kathy. Let's start with the very beginning. What is the hyperspace challenge?

>> The hyperspace challenge is an accelerator funded by Airforce Research Labs and the United States Space Force through a partner intermediary agreement with CNM Ingenuity. So, I am a central New Mexico Community College employee who works on finding and helping to transition technology into and out of the Air Force research labs and Space Force. All right. So, the Hyper Space Challenge has been around for some time. Can you go into some detail about maybe what the Hyper Space Challenge is looking for, who it's looking for? What kind of companies it wants to accelerate?

>> Kathy Steen: Sure. So, yes. We've been around since 2018 and in the past, we've looked for startup companies and universities who had some technology that was unknown to Air Force research and labs in Space Force that might be of high use to them or high value to them. There's a little bit of a difference this year in that we are actually looking for that are ready or near ready to deploy. And our sponsor this year is the Space Rapid Campadilities office. So, they came to us, and they said, "We have a problem that we need to solve. We need to protect our assets in space. And we need to know what may exist out there commercially that we could rapidly deploy if a call came down and we needed to do that. So, we're staying in our lane of absolutely looking for technologies that are not known to the government, but we're moving a little bit more towards technologies that are ready versus technologies that needed assistance in developing. So, we're saying that we have traditionally been a business accelerator, but we're actually, this year, a partnership accelerator.

>> Maria Varmazis: Excellent. Okay. So, once a company has done that, what's involved next? So, what's involved when they're part of the challenge?

>> Kathy Steen: So, if they are selected, there is a down-select process, so based upon the applications, then we will do onboarding with them in late September; early October, because we need to know what are they looking for? What will help them becomes a partner with the government or with Space-Rapid Capabilities office? And based upon that initial introduction and sharing, then we will start some programming in October that will be virtual. No more than 3 or 4 hours of their time, but something that help them be ready, when they arrive in Albuquerque on November 1 and 2 for a live event, where they will actually get to visit with Space Rapid's Capabilities' office about their technology and how it could assist the office. And then there'd be some other programming and some other agencies that are on-hand and on-site to also work with and help the company develop more partnerships. So, application. Acceptance. Three to four hours of virtual October and then full two days on November 1 and 2 in Albuquerque.

>> Maria Varmazis: Excellent. Cool. I would love to hear any success stories that you would like to highlight because I was looking on the website, there are some great stories there from companies that have been through and really had some great transformation. So, could you walk me through some?

>> Kathy Steen: Sure. I mean, everybody always likes to tell the story of 2018 with Crowd AI, which is a company that was processing data and using automated processes to see what is coming in from the data from space. And they were able to adapt that technology to actually looking at rooftops for the Air Force. So, nobody has to climb up on the rooftop and see if it needs any repair. They can just do that through imaging, and it saved the Air Force a ton of money. Another local success story that people always like to tell is RS-21. They had software that could look at cells -- human cells -- and it could predict when something was going to go wrong, and so they were using it for cancer. And one of their scientists looked at the problem statements that we had in 2020 and said, "It can detect any anomaly." And so, they were able to apply what they were doing to satellite health. So now, they can monitor satellites and if there is an anomaly that might indicate that satellite is in trouble, they can warn the satellite operator in enough time that they can do a self-correction.

>> Maria Varmazis: Oh, that's such a cool idea.

>> Kathy Steen: I know. Isn't it? But we -- actually Varda was one of the 2021 members, and they just completed the first pharmaceutical production in space. I did not know they were members.

>> Maria Varmazis: Oh. That's so cool.

>> Kathy Steen: Yes. They have a fascinating story. Wow.

>> Maria Varmazis: Yes. They do. Yes.

>> Kathy Steen: Yeah. So, for this year's challenge, what kind of companies should think about applying; of what areas of interest are relevant to this year's challenge?

>> Maria Varmazis: Absolutely. So, the basic premise of this year's problem is that we need to protect our space assets. And that is all of the satellites and everything up there in orbit that is providing us with our, you know, GPS, our ATM, our, you know, pay-at-the-pump capabilities. And so, there's actually three parts to that that need to be developed. And one of them is to increase the space visibility and awareness. So, if a satellite's up there, they need to know what's around them, what's coming towards them, what's moving into their sphere, and what do I need to now about that? What -- is it a good action? Is it a bad action? Is it a happy incident? Is it a scary incident? And that is where the advance space analysis and vehicle autonomy comes in, is that you know, what is going on here? And then the third part is to increase space vehicle lifespan and maneuverability. So, I have seen what's coming towards me. I have realized it's not a good thing. What can I do now to get out of the way?

>> Kathy Steen: Given the proliferation of debris [laughs]. That makes a lot of sense. I think I saw the word, "Cybersecurity," Which always gets my antenna up. Is that an area also? I don't know if that's new or if it is an existing thing?

>> Maria Varmazis: That is a threat, right? Because it may not be a physical piece of something coming out of a satellite in space; it may be code that's coming out of satellite in space, and the satellite needs to know, is this friendly code that's helping me do my job better? Or is this Nefarious code that's trying to shut me down? And so, yes. And that's why, you know, other industries besides those who are traditionally in space may want to consider looking at this program and this problem statement because they may have solutions that they're employing down here on Earth that could be adapted and employed in space. All right. Does the door close at some point? Like, do they have until a certain date to indicate interest? Or, how open is this period for companies to apply?

>> Kathy Steen: So, we would like everyone to signal their interest by August 15, because we will have webinars. They're called "Ask me anything." If you're familiar with government speak, you've heard that term before. If you're not familiar with government speak, it's pretty self-explanatory. You get to ask whatever questions you may have about this problem statement to the Space Rapid Capabilities Office and -- and their employees. So -- and that happens on August 16. So, in order for us to get you the registration link to be there and hear what is actually needed, we need to have your registration by August 15th.

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>> We'll be right back.

>> Maria Varmazis: Welcome back. Now, scientific development in space continues to blow our minds and definitely gets us squealing with delight at T-Minus. And the latest news from NASA's Mars ascent vehicle definitely has us ramped up. Now, the vehicle reached some major milestones in support of the, shall we call it FRAUNT Mars sample return program. Nonetheless, if all goes to plan, this program will see the first launch of a rocket from the surface of another planet. We do love a rocket launch and that is super cool. The team developing the vehicle conducted the first and second stage solid rocket motors needed for the launch. The Mars Sample Return Program in partnership with the European Space Agency will, fingers crossed, bring scientifically selected samples to Earth for study using the most sophisticated instrumentation around the world. Now, if it's anything like the work we've seen from perseverance, it's bound to push our understanding of our neighboring planet into new territories.

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That's it for T-Minus for August 1, 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 Caruth. Mixing by Elliot Peltzman and Trey Hester. With original music and sound design by Elliot Peltzman. Our executive producer is Brandon Carp. Our Chief Intelligence Officer is Eric Tillman. And I'm Maria Varmazis. Thanks for listening. We'll see you tomorrow.

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