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SES satellites soar.

SES revenue up 10% and waiting for next payout. NASA and Axiom sign a fourth agreement to send astronauts to the ISS. Brazil deforestation is down. And more.





SES releases positive financial results but discloses power issues with its O3b mPOWER satellites. SES and Intelsat are awaiting a big payout from cell service providers. NASA and Axiom sign a fourth agreement to send private astronauts to the International Space Station, and more.

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T-Minus Guest

Francis Walker, Associate Principal at Corgan on designing Spaceports around the world.

You can connect with Francis on LinkedIn and learn more about Corgan on their website.

Selected Reading

SES H1 2023 Results

Satellite operators poised for $9 billion payday after clearing C-band spectrum- Ars Technica

NASA Selects Axiom Space for Fourth Private Astronaut Mission to International Space Station- Axiom

Sierra Space and BioServe Space Technologies to Demonstrate In-Space Stem Cell Production to Better Treat Cancer Patients on Earth- Sierra Space

Deforestation in Brazil's Amazon fell 66% in July- Reuters

Huge Solar Arrays Permanently Installed on NASA’s Psyche Spacecraft- NASA

Fight for a Space National Guard Moves to Next Round- Air and Space Forces

Ariel Passes Major Milestone

Russia opens facility in SA's North West to help protect the ISS from space junk- News24

Enhancing ‘lethality’: First Space Force ‘operations’ doctrine cements role within Joint Force- Breaking Defense

Rogers demands Pentagon comply with Space Command inquiry- C4ISRNET

Aeolus reentry map- ESA

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>> Maria Varmazis: While launch and rocketry are fun and flashy, the real power movers and shakers in the space economy are, and have been for some time, satellites. By many common estimates, the satellite industry comprises over 70 percent of the entire space economy. In 2021, it was purported to be worth $279 billion. It's amazing to cover the satellite behemoths like Intelsat and SES like we will be today, where in some cases a billion dollars or so is considered kind of a rounding error.

>> Unidentified Person: T-Minus 20 seconds to LOA. Go for the floor. Today is August 4, 2023. I'm Maria Varmazis.

>> Alice Carruth: I'm Alice Carruth, and this is T-Minus.

[ Music ]

SES releases positive financial results but discloses power issues with its O3b mPower satellites. SES and Intelsat are awaiting a big payout. NASA and Axiom sign a fourth agreement to send private astronauts to the ISS.

>> Alice Carruth: And our guest today is Francis Walker, Director at Corgan's London studio on designing spaceports around the world. You don't want to miss it.

[ Music ]

>> Maria Varmazis: Happy Friday, everyone. Let's take a look at our intel briefing for today. Looking at the first half of the year financials, it's good news, everyone, for satellite giant SES. The company says they grew by 10 percent in the first half of the year when compared to last year, with total revenue at 987 million euros in that time, roughly equivalent to $1.08 billion. The company is expecting that performance to sustain through the year with an expected year-end revenue of 1.95 to 2 billion euros projected for 2023. Something that did come up in the half-year financial results call yesterday, though, is worth noting, though we don't want to be alarmist about it either. SES interim CEO Roy Pinto said the company has seen intermittent power trip-offs on a few of the power modules aboard the company's second generation of O3b satellites, the O3b mPower satellites. When speaking about the power trip-offs on the four O3B mPower satellites in medium Earth orbit, Pinto said this. These trip-offs were recovered quickly and without impact on the performance of the mPower payloads. We will continue to investigate this phenomenon. All in all, says Pinto, we are not overly concerned. But we want to make sure that we have no hiccups when we deploy these services. But we're not really worried about any long-term or even short-term impacts of it. Along those lines, Pinto says the new satellites are still on track to be online for commercial service by the end of this year. SES is fifth and sixth O3B mPower satellites are due to launch in the third quarter of the year. And the plan is for the entire satellite fleet of 11 to be launched by next year.

>> Alice Carruth: And on a related note, both SES and Intelsat are expecting a bit of a payout towards the end of this year from telecommunication companies like T Mobile, Verizon, and AT&T via the FCC as a thanks for clearing out the lower 300 megahertz of the C-band spectrum to give space for terrestrial 5g operators, a bit of a payout to the tune of approximately $4 billion for SES and about 5 billion for Intelsat, thanks to Intelsat's latest satellite, a Maxar built Galaxy 37 that launched yesterday on SpaceX's Falcon 9.

>> Maria Varmazis: NASA and Axiom Space have signed a mission order for a fourth private astronaut mission to the International Space Station. The Axiom Mission 4, also known as Ax-4, is targeting a launch no earlier than August of next year and is expected to spend up to 14 days docked to the ISS. According to the press release, the Ax-4 crew members will train with NASA, international partners, and SpaceX for their flight. SpaceX is contracted as Axiom's launch provider for transportation to and from the space station and will work with the private astronauts to familiarize them with systems, procedures, and emergency preparedness for the Dragon spacecraft.

>> Alice Carruth: Speaking of the ISS, one of the experiments that arrived at the station today onboard Northrop Grumman Cygnus is hoping to help patient's on Earth undergoing treatment for blood cancer. Sierra Space in collaboration with BioServe Space Technologies at the University of Colorado Boulder and other partners is aiming to grow hematopoietic stem cells in microgravity. Now, what is that crazy word I just said? Well, hematopoietic stem cells are multi-potent primitive cells that can develop into all types of blood cells. The aim of the experiment is to better understand how the cells from a healthy donor's bone marrow or blood can be transplanted into a matched recipient. Hematopoietic stem cells can be obtained from donated umbilical cord blood, which are closer in nature to embryonic stem cells and offer a lower risk of complication. When grown on Earth, hematopoietic stem cells normally change into dedicated blood cell lines, which is not optimal for patient recovery. This study team has sent stem cell samples from multiple umbilical cord blood donors to look for beneficial differences during the cell growth experiment. The stem cell samples will be frozen at different time points while in orbit and sent back to Earth for analysis, a super cool example of how space is helping us here on planet Earth.

>> Maria Varmazis: And staying with the space benefiting Earth theme, Brazil's space research agency INPE has said that deforestation in the country's Amazon fell in July to its lowest level for the month since 2017. And why is a space agency involved in this? Well, that information came from data collected by satellites. The data indicated that 193 square miles of rainforests were cleared in the last month, which is a 66 percent drop from the same period a year ago. Now, let's hope that's a trend that stays in the right direction.

>> Alice Carruth: Amen. Huge solar arrays have been tested and permanently installed on the Psyche spacecraft in preparation for its 2.5-billion-mile journey to study a metal-rich asteroid of the same name. The solar arrays will produce more than 20 kilowatts of power when the spacecraft is near Earth but are primarily designed to work in the low light of deep space. The asteroid Psyche will be traveling so far from the Sun that even these massive arrays will only generate just over two kilowatts of power at that distance. NASA says that the vehicle's electrical needs are only a little more than that of which is needed to power a hairdryer. I do love these crazy comparisons. SpaceX's Falcon Heavy is due to launch Psyche as early as October the fifth of this year.

>> Maria Varmazis: All military branches in the US have a National Guard except for the Space Force. But that may change if the US Senate and House can come to an agreement. Good luck with that. For the second year in a row, the House approved the creation of a Space National Guard as part of the National Defense Authorization bill. The Senate, however, didn't fully agree and included a provision which would require the Pentagon to contract with a federally funded research and development center for an independent study of the best courses of action. These include space units staying in the Air National Guard, a Space National Guard, or folding everyone into the Space Force. The study would include cost benefit analyses of each and would be due by February 2025. That's not the outright approval that anyone was looking for. But I guess it's a step in the right direction. Guardian Guard does have an appealing ring to it, doesn't it?

>> Alice Carruth: Absolutely. If you've ever worked at a space program, then you know that there are a lot of reviews and critical milestones that the program must meet throughout its development. Reaching those milestones are a pretty big deal to those involved, so congrats to the European Space Agency's Ariel Mission for passing its payload preliminary design review. The next generation mission to observe the chemical makeup of distant extrasolar planets is not expected to launch until later this decade. But, as a result of this latest achievement, Ariel's payload critical technology is now considered at Technical Readiness Level 6. This indicates that the mission can now proceed to payload critical design review and begin to manufacture its first prototype models. Kudos to that team.

>> Maria Varmazis: And, you know, we've covered a lot of space debris stories this week, so it's only fair that we cover one more just to close out our briefing today. Russia has opened a facility in South Africa that will be used to detect threats from space junk. The space debris detection facility is stationed at the South African National Space Agency's Hartbeeshoek facility in the northwest of the country. A spokesperson for Roscosmos said that the facility will help detect potentially dangerous situations for spacecraft, and we say that the more organizations working to monitor space debris the better.

>> Alice Carruth: You can find links to all the stories we have covered today in our show notes at space.n2k.com. We've even included one on the Space Command HQ. We at T-Minus have put their story to bed, but apparently some politicians have not. So it's your call if you want to read more on that or not.

[ Music ]

>> Maria Varmazis: Hey, T-Minus crew. Tune in tomorrow for T-Minus Deep Space, which is our show for extended interviews, special editions, and deep dives with some of the most influential professionals in the space industry. Tomorrow we have Francis Walker talking about designing spaceports in depth. So check it out while you're mowing the lawn, grocery shopping, folding the laundry, or driving your kids to the game. You don't want to miss it. Oh. And, T-Minus crew, one last programming note from me. Now, I will be away from the microphone for the next two weeks. So starting on Monday, the 7th, your host for the next two weeks is the absolutely amazing Alice Carruth, T-Minus producer extraordinaire, who will be covering for me on the mic while I'm gone. And, as always, you're in the best of hands.

>> Alice Carruth: Bless you, Maria. Bring me to tears.

[ Music ]

>> Maria Varmazis: Our guest today is an architect that focuses on designing spaceports. Francis Walker works at Corgan, a large, US-based architecture firm. Now, I started off by asking if Francis could walk me through his thoughts on where we are with spaceports now and where we should be thinking about taking them in the future.

>> Francis Walker: I'm the director of Corgan's London studio. Corgan are a large US-based architect with core expertise in aviation datacenters, commercial healthcare, education. My focus is on aviation and, by extension, vertiports and, in particular, spaceports. As a firm, we've been doing aviation since commercial aviation was a new thing. And we've looked at a lot of projects internationally. And we've looked around the world at doing airports and doing aviation work. And, you know, that there are big aspects about airports which are about security, operation, commercial drivers but also about how the passenger feels when they come to the airport and the idea of gateway and the idea of arriving in a new place. And, you know, when we work with countries, they're very invested and understand the value of the airport being a gateway. So if we extrapolate that to spaceports, there's no more romantic gateway for us right now than the gateway to space. And because we have that sort of expertise in how things operate but we also understand the value of the experience being memorable and of kind of the psychological and emotional challenges that people will face when traveling. There's a certain amount -- they might be traveling for the first time and, in the context of space, there is going to be an increasing number of people traveling for the first time in a way that very few people until now have traveled. So what did they need to reassure them, to give them some comfort, some orientation, some stillness, whatever it is that they need to facilitate the -- or to alleviate the stress of that journey. It's kind of the same conversation that we have in aviation and in vertiports with EV, too, which is another emerging modality that involves us leaving the ground. Infrastructure tends to be a heavy word that is used in heavy ways. But we tend to stick cooler words in front of infrastructure to try and paint a different picture. So we talk about evolutionary infrastructure, which is very much about space and very much about helping us move forward as a species into space in a way that is meaningful and that can be scaled up and that can take root because I'm not the expert on the challenges that a person faces going into space. As you know, there is a whole group of experts around the health and well-being of astronauts. That's a separate subject for me. What I'm interested in and what I'm curious about is a number of things that happen on our planet that are related to it. So, from the perspective of spaceports, it's about education. It's about community. It's about a number of things that, as an architect, we think about all the time. So we think about cities, and we tend to take the cities that we live in for granted that this is how a city functions. But, actually, the way that we are organizing cities, if we use spaceports and we use air mobility as the kind of driver, it's very different from the automobile which, you know, American cities and European cities are essentially from the horse and car to the automobile. The diagram for those cities and the way lives are organized is very similar. With spaceports with EV, too, and with changes in technology and lifework balance, I think that is a really interesting time for us to think about how spaceports can influence a -- how space as a network, global network can start to shape different types of communities. I think that's really interesting and worth thinking about now.

>> Maria Varmazis: I'm curious what kinds of things does someone need to see or experience before they're heading off into space? Like, what kind of experiences do you want to build in to make that journey more exciting, comforting? I'm not even sure if I'm asking the right question. But I'm just really curious about that experience that you're building.

>> Francis Walker: I think it's extremely significant. I think that, if I was to imagine 24 hours before launch what do I want, you'll want your loved ones around you. But you'll also want to -- I think you're -- you'll have heightened senses about your home planet, you know, because that's kind of the context that we're thinking about this in. So we're doing some work with some clients where we're talking about that a lot. And we're talking about across all the types of sensory experience. Connection to nature is the thing that comes back a lot. And it's a really interesting -- I wouldn't call it a paradox, but it's a really interesting scenario where you're about to leave the planet. It's never sort of been more important to you, and you're open to it. So one example we did on a sort of a concept design that we're working on for a spaceport is prelaunch, there's almost like a contemporary version of a forest clearing. And we kind of designed the residential spaces around this courtyard. And this courtyard was a forest, and in the center of the forest was a clearing. And it had a view up to the night sky. And that was all you could see. And what we -- what we really liked about that was it was sort of connecting us with a very, very sort of tribal past and a very sort of -- you know, going back a long way to the very origins of how we started to organize as a society and the idea of sharing stories and looking up to the skies and doing these things. It felt like a nice point of departure and a nice complement to the fact that you're essentially being strapped into a machine and fired up at ridiculous velocity up into the sky.

>> Maria Varmazis: You know, when you put it that way!

>> Francis Walker: Yeah. You kind of want to look at that sideways a little bit, you know.

>> Maria Varmazis: It's so fascinating to hear about sort of thinking about the broader human journey. And taking that into -- building that into the spaceport. You mentioned something about also the idea of community. Could you speak a little bit more on what you mean about that and maybe how that weaves into your ideas there.

>> Francis Walker: Yeah, yeah. Of course, it's probably important for me to caveat by saying that I have friends and colleagues developing spaceports that are heavily involved in the regulatory side and the safety side and the risk issues. We need to resolve those kinds of parameters before we can really push forward and establish. But the way that we're thinking about it is, if we can align the structure of education and the opportunities that exist in space and create a platform for the coming generation to have a path to space, I'm a big believer in not knowing what the answer is; but I'm smart enough to know that smart people will come along if we give them the platform and the opportunity to develop some of these things. Where I get really interested in it is we tend to have siloed expertise in different areas. And I see space as a place where people with different lenses on the same challenge can cross-pollinate and can come together. And you have physicists with artists with people that are experts in agriculture with people that know robotics. And I think the big jump, the big leap forward comes from getting those people to fork [phonetic] to look the same way. You know, if you look at where we send our talent tends to be where we make big jumps, right. So everyone went Silicon Valley in the '50s and '60s, and look where we are know. And they went to Wall Street in the '80s. And, you know, it's up to us where we -- those parts that we build. And I just find it really interesting. And I learned a lot from my children about where their interests lie. I have three daughters, and I want them to have interesting careers. And they can go do what they want. But one thing that I think is significant for them is, is there an interesting way to help? Is there an interesting way to get involved in some of these innovations and some of these developments that, you know, like I say, I don't know what those developments are going to be. I just know that if we can get good people to face in that direction, that it's going to be really interesting what they can come up with. And that's what architects kind of do. We provide spaces for people's lives to unfold. And so it's sort of incumbent on us to provide that backdrop for cool stuff to happen, right.

>> Maria Varmazis: So much really interesting stuff to think about. So I've been chewing on this one a while. So thank you so much for joining me today.

>> Francis Walker: Thank you, Maria. Cheers.

[ Music ]

>> Maria Varmazis: We'll be right back. Welcome back. Now, what are the chances of you getting hit by a meteorite?

>> Alice Carruth: None, I hope.

>> Maria Varmazis: A minor one we'd hope. Yes. Calculations vary, but one number I've often heard is something like 1 in 1,600,000. So, you know, slim. And the chances of getting hit by space debris from a spacecraft reentering the atmosphere. Well, ESA estimates that it's three times as unlikely as a meteorite so, again, slim. But don't tell me the odds, ESA also says, because when it comes to reentering their own satellites, they want to implement best practices for human safety concerns. And that's just what ESA did with the reentry of Aeolus on July 28. Now, ESA just published a really cool blog post showing the final path of the wind measuring satellite, which it called a first of its kind assisted reentry. They guided the satellite to take a really long road from the North Pole to the South Pole over the Atlantic Ocean, and then it began burning and breaking up over Antarctica, all the while as far away from human habitation as possible. This path, says ESA, lowered the risk of debris falling from three times less likely than a meteorite hitting you to 150 times less likely than a meteorite hitting you. Those are some odds. Now, any fragments that may have hit the ground, according to ESA's Space Debris Office, are somewhere over Antarctica. But nobody was around to see any potential debris fall because, of course, that was the whole idea. So why did ESA put in the extra work to deorbit Aeolus as safely as they possibly could? Well, here's the explanation from Holger Krag, head of ESA's Space Safety Program. Space is limited and shared; and, therefore, space sustainability must be a global effort. To ensure spaceflight for the future, we need to significantly improve the way we design and operate missions today. With Aeolus, we decided to go well beyond what Aeolus was required to do. We hope that, by acting as a role model, we can encourage other actors in space to similarly ensure their missions are flown sustainably. Here's hoping.

[ Music ]

>> Alice Carruth: That's it for T-Minus for August 4, 2023. For additional resources from today's report, check out our show notes at 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 of the rapidly changing space industry. We're privileged to 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.

>> Maria Varmazis: 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 n2k.com. This episode was produced by the one and only Alice Carruth, mixing by Elliott Peltzman and Tré 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.

[ Music ]

>> Unidentified Person: T-Minus done.

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