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Astropolitics played out in Europe.

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.





US private equity giant KKR buys a minority stake in German space and technology company OHB. SpaceX held a Super Heavy booster static fire with mixed results. The Federal Communications Commission launches an inquiry to advance its understanding of non-federal spectrum usage, and more.

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T-Minus Guest

Our guest today is Emre Kelly, Space Editor at Florida Today.

You can connect with Emre on LinkedIn and follow Florida Today on their website.

Selected Reading

OHB strengthens the capital base to implement the corporate strategy, the Fuchs family remains the majority shareholder in the long term- OHB

RFA secures €30m investment from KKR- Rocket Factory

SpaceX conducts a mostly successful test of its Super Heavy booster- Ars Technica

FCC Launches Technical Inquiry Into Spectrum Usage Data- FCC

Astra lays off 25% of workforce, reallocates engineers, in an effort to fight dwindling cash reserves- TechCrunch

LeoStella unveils its largest smallsat to target SDA contracts- SpaceNews

NearSpace Launch and SEOPS Partner to Deliver the OctoBus Space Vehicle- Ein Presswire

Capella’s Earth-imaging satellites are deorbiting faster than expected- TechCrunch

Indian equipment for China’s Tiangong space station faces export delay- South China Morning Post    

China authorizes smart robots to provide maintenance service for FAST- CGTN  

Permission granted for Koonibba Test Range upgrade- SpaceConnect 

Lockheed Martin Opens Facility for Rapid Development of Small Satellites- Lockheed Martin  

Experts warn Australia's space industry 'in limbo' after axing of key programs - ABC News   

Spacecraft, Landers and Rovers Could be Recycled for Parts on the Moon - Universe Today

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>> Alice Carruth: How does geopolitics play out in the space arena? We have treaties, laws in space. We even have international cooperation such as the Artemis Accords. Astropolitics, as it's known, has its foundations in geopolitics and encompasses the complex dynamics of the human relationship to the space enterprise. All sounds really fancy, right? But what if we just call it as it is? Playground dynamics in space. Who are you going to partner with against the bullies?

>> Unidentified Person: T-Minus 20 seconds to LOA. Go for the floor.

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Today is August 7, 2023. It's SmallSat week in Logan, Utah. I'm Alice Carruth, and this is T-Minus.

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KKR buys a minority stake in OHB. SpaceX fires up the Super Heavy with mixed results. The FCC is reviewing nonfederal spectrum usage. And our guest today is Emre Kelly, Space Editor at Florida Today on the increasing launch cadence in the Sunshine State.

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On today's intel briefing, Germany's OHB, one of SpaceX's biggest clients for institutional satellite launches in Europe, is about to undergo some major changes. The US private equity giant KKR is stepping in to purchase a minority stake, which indicates a high confidence in OHB's potential. But what's more interesting is OHB is planning to delist from the stock exchange. CEO Marco Fuchs believes that, as a private entity, they can make faster decisions and have more agility, essential in the dynamic commercial satellite market. KKR's involvement will not only increase OHB's working capital but will also give it a much needed boost to its space subsidiary, Rocket Factory. One eye-catching insight, the geopolitical landscape is influencing space investment decisions. The Russia Ukraine situation is prompting Europe to look seriously at Space-based defense. And OHB is at the forefront of this with projects like ODIN'S EYE, a space-based early warning system against ballistic and hypersonic missiles that OHB is involved in developing. While all of this is happening, the Fuchs family, which has been at the helm of OHB since 1981, remains firmly in control. They're not just about business. They see SpaceX as both a partner and a mentor. For all of us keen on the space industry's future, this move signals an accelerating race in the commercial satellite and space defense arenas in Europe. Keep your eyes on OHB and the private equity markets in the coming months. If you're a certified space nerd like I am, then I'm sure you were glued to Sunday's test of the SpaceX Super Heavy booster. The static fire saw 33 engines ignite and also saw the first use of the company's new enhanced water suppression system. It wasn't all good news, though. If you'd blinked, then you'd have been forgiven for missing the short 2.74 second burn. Four of the 33 engines prematurely shut down, and the test was only half the length of what was expected. It's unknown at this time if SpaceX plans to conduct another static fire ahead of their next Super Heavy test launch. The Federal Communications Commission, known as the FCC, is looking to advance its understanding of nonfederal spectrum usage. The commission has launched an inquiry that plans to take advantage of new data sources, methods, and technologies and will explore how these new tools can promote effective spectrum management and identify new opportunities for innovation. The review will also include input from academia, industry, government, and international bodies. The FCC says that, as the radiofrequency environment becomes more congested, leveraging technologies such as artificial intelligence to understand spectrum usage and draw insights from large and complex datasets can help facilitate more efficient spectrum use, including new spectrum sharing techniques and approaches to enable coexistence among users and services. As we dropped our daily news roundup on Friday, Astra dropped the news that they've laid off 25 percent of its workforce since the start of the last quarter. The company also shared the news that it's relocating many of its engineers and manufacturing staff away from the launch side of the business to focus on spacecraft manufacturing. Astra is facing dwindling cash reserves and says that these layoffs will save the company some 4 million US dollars per quarter by the end of the year. The news is expected to delay testing of Astra's Rocket 4 and Launch System 2.0. As I mentioned at the start of this episode, it's SmallSat week in Logan, Utah, and we've already had a few stories come out of the conference. The first comes from LeoStella, and it's unveiled its largest vehicle to date. The LS300 satellite bus has more than doubled the massive is LS200 predecessor, LeoStella part owner BlackSky plans to use the new vehicle for its upcoming third generation geospatial intelligence satellites. The next news is from NearSpace Launch, who have partnered with SEOPS to build a new on-orbit launch platform called OctoBus. The two companies hope that their combined launch experience will help them carve out a larger portion of the available market. Satellite data is showing that Capella Space's Earth observation satellites are descending from orbit at a much faster rate than the company had planned. Capella has launched ten satellites since 2018. Five have reentered Earth's atmosphere this year, including three satellites that were on orbit for less than two and a half years. Two other satellites are set to deorbit in the coming months after launching only last year. Capella's CEO told TechCrunch that some of the satellites have been deorbiting faster than expected due to the combination of increased drag due to much higher solar activity than predicted by NOAA and less than expected performance from a third-party propulsion system. The cliché space is hard is an overused saying, but it definitely gets harder when you have to deal with export controls, which the Indian Institute of Astrophysics and the Chinese Space Agency are learning the hard way. China has been waiting for equipment for their Tiangong space station from Indian scientists for over a year, and it seems that political tensions between the countries are not helping with the situation. The Indian team applied for an export license for their Spectroscopic Investigations of Nebular Gas, known as Sing, over a year ago; and the equipment is still sitting in the cleanroom waiting for the all clear from the Ministry of External Affairs. Sing was supposed to arrive in China last year to be launched in mid 2023 but had originally been delayed due to COVID. Staying with China and the country plans to use robots to perform maintenance on the 500-meter aperture spherical radio telescope known as FAST. According to the China Media Group, the robot systems and platforms have passed the acceptance tests for maintenance services for the world's largest single dish radio telescope. Chinese media says that the robots have been used as they're able to undertake operations that cannot be conducted by humans. The maintenance will be led by the Guizhou Radio Astronomy Observatory in partnership with other agencies. Australia's space program has seen some turbulent months after the government axed many key programs, but there is good news for their Koonibba launch facility. The test range in the South of the country will be upgraded to a permanent suborbital launch site. The facility is run by the Koonibba Community Aboriginal Corporation and recently received a grant for 4.5 million Australian dollars for the developments. The head of the Australian Space Agency says that the news is a major milestone for southern launch. Enrico Palermo says, Having a test range like this on our doorstep will make it easier for our local inventors to test and validate their technology, as well as providing a safe return destination for international space missions. Now the site has also recently signed an MOU with UK-based Space Forge as a reentry location for their vehicle. We've included further reading on the Australian space industry in our show notes. Visit space.n2k.com.

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And we're concluding our intel briefing today with some more good news. Congratulations to Lockheed Martin on opening a new facility in Colorado. The SmallSat development site is aimed at streamlining small satellite processing and enabling high rate delivery. The multimillion dollar facility will house the company's space development agencies Tranche 1 transport layer satellites, among other small sat programs and technology demonstrators. Hey, T-Minus crew. Every Monday, we produce a written intelligence roundup. It's called Signals in Space. If you happen to miss any T-Minus episodes, this strategic intelligence product 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 today is Emre Kelly, Space Editor at Florida Today. Emre is joining Maria Varmazis for a second time to give us an update on the launch cadence that he is seeing in the Sunshine State.

>> Maria Varmazis: Well, thanks for joining me. And so much for us to talk about, but one thing I really wanted to ask you since you are in Florida on the Space Coast is about some of the changes that the FAA has recently made to deconflict the airspace, the increased cadence of launches going up and, you know, airspace is a shared commodity. What effects have you seen, if any, on those changes? Like, what's life like on the Space Coast with those changes?

>> Emre Kelly: Right now, it's a little bit hard to tell because we're in summertime. And if a launch scrubs or if it delays, chances are it's weather related. But I'm sure as weeks and the months go by and the cadence continues to pick up, well, we'll see that come through. Yeah. I mean, the deconfliction between airspace and launch providers pretty much kind of had to happen. If we're looking at 50, 75, 100, 125 launches a year, changes just going to have to be made. You can't just block out a huge portion of the airspace that many times that often and, you know, expect the airlines and passengers to be happy about it. So the FAA and, on the flip side, the Coast Guard when it comes to maritime traffic, have made a lot of changes to the hazard areas around launches. And, you know, one of the things to keep in mind is that at least half of the launch cadence right now, it's SpaceX's Starlink missions.

>> Maria Varmazis: Yep.

>> Emre Kelly: And those aren't, like, super time sensitive, you know, DoD assets that need to be on orbit right now. So if folks need to work around something, SpaceX can probably wait a few days and launch later. Yeah. When it comes to maritime traffic, typically, Sunday afternoons are the worst. You've got cruise ships coming in, cruise ships going out, boaters, you know, and whatnot. So it's -- it's air traffic. It's boat traffic. And then for the rest of the folks out there regular old traffic for people wanting to see launches. But, you know, it's not like it was during the shuttle days where there's a million people in town for a launch. It's obviously less, and it's more because it's so consistent. But, yeah. I mean, the launchers are, at this point, you know, I believe the next launch will be the 39th. So we're just over halfway through the year. So, you know, we're probably expecting about 75. And the Air Force and Space Force are preparing for a couple 100 in the coming years. So that deconfliction between airspace and maritime traffic and emergency operations and 100 different factors is going to need to continue.

>> Maria Varmazis: Yeah. It makes sense. And especially, I mean, it is the busiest spaceport in the world but especially in the coming years is, if we see more spaceports being built, some really interesting lessons to be learned from what's going on in Florida for other locations that are going to be no doubt much busier. So it sounds like it's manageable. And as someone who lives there, it's like, have you seen a -- in your day-to-day life, have you seen, like, any kind of really significant difference? Or is it just sort of business as usual?

>> Emre Kelly: The difference is that it's more business as usual than it was before, you know. A lot -- of course, a lot of these launches are between 10pm and 5am. So those, while they are, of course, still launches, they're not -- I don't think the public necessarily sees them the same way that they did before. You've got a lot of folks, you know, my friends and coworkers included who wake up the next day and they're like, they didn't launch last night? And I'm like, No. Of course it launched last night, you know.

>> Maria Varmazis: Was there any doubt?

>> Emre Kelly: Yeah. Right. But it's kind of getting to the point where maybe, I don't know, 110 years ago someone would have said, Did that plane take off yesterday? You know, those days are kind of transitioning to more towards today where we don't even know what the latest airport schedule is. So people still, of course, they want to see the big ones. They want to see Falcon Heavy. They want to see Artemis. They want to see crewed launches. But in terms of locals and local traffic, it's -- it's much more sustainable now than it was before.

>> Maria Varmazis: That makes sense. Yeah. I was wondering about Falcon Heavy. I mean, that, it's impressive. So I imagine that would be more of a marquee event. But, yeah. For a standard old Falcon 9, I guess maybe not so much. That makes sense. So that's so cool that it's become a normal thing. That's -- just sort of blows my mind. So let's shift gears entirely to I'm thinking about October specifically. The learning period may or may not end for FAA's looking at space tourism and regulation there. We don't know. We have no way of knowing if it's going to or not. It's up to Congress. But there are a lot of people wondering what the effect of the Titan submersible tragedy might have on Congress's actions on what the FAA is doing. And I know you've done some reporting on this, so I'm curious. What did you learn about the effects of the Titan submersible tragedy on -- potentially on space tourism?

>> Emre Kelly: Yeah. I mean, I think at the beginning a lot of people were a little skeptical about whether there would be any effect at all. And it does seem like they were -- they have a right to be skeptical. But, at the same time, these types of folks who have this kind of disposable income to go on these types of trips, one of the people who went on, you know, submersibles have flown on Blue Origin. So it's not totally unheard of that these demographics sort of cross over, whether it's going in a submersible or going on a very brief Blue Origin flight. In terms of impacts to the space industry, it's very different. Basically, any way for a human to get to space right now is pretty tightly regulated. And if anything goes wrong, the investigation is going to be pretty intense. It's going to take a long time. You know, if we're talking about something like SpaceX's Crew Dragon, NASA had input on Crew Dragon, right. SpaceX took years and years and years to develop Crew Dragon. It's flown several times. NASA technology is involved. NASA expertise is involved. Government regulations are involved. And it seems like the issue with the Titan submersible is less regulated. It's not like NASA came in and sent advisors for years at a time at the factory floor and helped, help them develop these capsules because this was -- this was a NASA desire, a NASA contract. So, to a degree, same goes with Blue Origin. They've received NASA contracts to fly science payloads but to a lesser degree than I would say Crew Dragon. But there are just regulations in place, totally different kinds, especially when you're flying from US soil and in US airspace and everything from what time you can launch to the environmental impacts of the launch to, you know, how you return and where you return are very tightly regulated. You know, the experts and folks we talk to pretty much said that. They don't expect many impacts on the cadence of spaceflight tourism. It could be something where folks look at that and say, if there's someone with the money to go to space, how can I be pickier and make sure I'm choosing safe, reliable flights? How can I -- you know, are there experts out there I could maybe hire as a personal consultant, right? Like, should I be flying this? Should I be flying that? So I -- it doesn't seem like it's going to impact really spaceflight much at all.

>> Maria Varmazis: That's a really great, interesting point. That was sort of the next sentence that came out of a lot of people's mouths. And just like the general public was, oh. That happened in the ocean. What about in space? And it's just very interesting to hear that a lot of the experts are not maybe as concerned as people might have thought. But that -- it does make sense given the existing regulations there. And I guess it remains to be seen what Congress will do in October. But, anyway, Emre, thank you so much for joining me today and for walking me through these items. And I appreciate you coming back on the show. It was good talking to you.

>> Emre Kelly: Of course. Yeah. Happy to be here. Thank you.

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>> Alice Carruth: We'll be right back. Welcome back. Sustainability is the new buzz term in the space industry. We've been focused on the reduce, reuse, and recycle method on spaceship Earth for some years now, so it's no surprise that companies are working on ways to use the same methods in space. One of those companies is Australian based Incus who are working on additive manufacturing in space. The company is developing a technique known as lithography based metal manufacturing, or LMM. They plan to combine a metallic powder with a binding agent, then cure the resulting blend using ultraviolet light. Afterwards, it's sintered together to make a completed part without all the waste of traditional subtractive manufacturing processes. The European Space Agency is apparently impressed and is backing their research to figure out how the process can be used on the moon and avoid problems from the lunar dust. The results are not there yet, but we're excited to hear about developments in recycling in space in the near future.

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That's it for T-Minus for August 7, 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 that we deliver the information that keeps you a step ahead of 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 n2k.com. This episode was mixed 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 Alice Carruth. Thanks for listening.

>> Unidentified Person: T-Minus done.

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