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New space moon race. History never repeats itself, but it does often rhyme.

Luna-25 sends first data to Russia. ISRO holds parachute testing for human spaceflight programs. China launches the first GEO SAR satellite. And more.





The Russian Space Agency says that they are already processing data from Luna-25. The Indian Space Research Organisation successfully conducted a series of drogue parachute deployment tests which will help their astronauts land safely from space. The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp also announced that it launched the first geosynchronous orbit synthetic aperture radar satellite for disaster monitoring, and more.

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T-Minus Guest

Our guest today is Annika Wollermann Umpierrez, Chief Commercial Officer at Polaris. 

You can connect with Annika on LinkedIn and learn more about Polaris on their website.

Selected Reading

Russia's moon craft starts processing first data - space agency- Reuters

First plane lands at Vostochny cosmodrome’s airport- TASS 

ISRO conducts successful parachute tests for Gaganyaan Mission- New Indian Express 

Not Just Moon: Isro’s Aditya-L1, India’s first Solar mission, reaches spaceport- Times of India

China's Kuaizhou-1A rocket launches five satellites for smart transportation security- CGTN

China launches world's first high-orbit synthetic aperture radar satellite for disaster monitoring- CGTN 

Space on agenda for Biden's trilateral summit with S. Korea, Japan - Breaking Defense 

U.S. military and allies get a feel for the value of commercial satellite imagery- SpaceNews

The space industry is starting a green revolution- TechCrunch

How the Space Force is preparing its ground systems for ‘dynamic’ ops- C4ISRNET

India embraces America’s vision for outer space- The Hill

‘I’m not littering – the Nanofiche is very small!’: meet the man who sends art to the moon- The Guardian 

China makes Chang'e 5 moon samples open to international researchers- Space.com

NASA's James Webb Space telescope captures image of most distant star, ‘Earendel’ that is hotter than the Sun- Mint

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>> Alice Carruth: The Cold War space race was a struggle between the Soviet Union and the United States. The pursuit for both was the domination of spaceflight technologies. The technological advances were seen as a necessary for national security and political superiority. It was a remarkable time in history, with many far-reaching achievements in science, space exploration and technology. And, right now, it looks like history is about to repeat itself.

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

>> Alice Carruth: Today is August 14, 2023. I'm Alice Carruth, and this is T-Minus. Russia receives its first data from Luna-25. India holds parachute testing for human spaceflight programs. China launches the first geosynchronous orbit synthetic aperture radar satellite. And our guest today is Annika Wollermann, Chief Commercial Officer at German-based spacecraft manufacturer POLARIS. On to today's intel briefing. It's the Race for the Moon 2.0 edition. On Friday, we reported that Russia launched its Luna-25 spacecraft that put the country in a head-to-head race with India to be the first nation to soft land on the lunar South Pole. And it's all the industry has continued to talk about. The Russian space agency says that they're already processing data from Luna-25. Roscosmos switched on the scientific equipment on the vehicle and says that the first measurement data on the flight to the Moon has been obtained. Luna-25 is expected to reach the Moon on August the 21st. At about the same time, the Indian Chandrayaan-3 mission is expected to land at the same coveted location, the Moon's South Pole, where ice is the new gold. Russia has also announced that it plans to launch further lunar missions and then explore the possibility of a joint Russia and China crewed mission and even a lunar base. This announcement has left analysts drawing parallels to the Cold War era space race. Back then, the Soviets were the first to conduct a soft landing on the Moon, but it was the Americans that were the first to land humans on the surface. It all sounds very familiar as NASA is focusing on the Artemis missions and returning astronauts to the Moon next year. Meanwhile, the Russian Space Agency has announced that the airport of the Vostochny Cosmodrome has received the first airplane. The airport is still under construction, but the test flight was held to check the technical readiness of its runway. The aircraft was operated by the crew of the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center, headed by the commander of the joint aviation detachment. And back to India's human spaceflight ambitions, the Indian Space Research Organization, known as ISRO, successfully conducted a series of drogue parachute deployment tests, which will help their astronauts land safely from space. The tests are for the Gaganyaan mission, which will take three crew members into a 400-kilometer orbit for a three-day mission and bring them back to Earth by landing in the Indian Sea. That mission is expected to be held next year. And India is not just reaching for the Moon. The country's first solar mission is expected in the coming weeks. The Aditya-L1 spacecraft has reached the launch facility in Andhra Pradesh. Aditya-1 will observe the Sun from 1.5 million kilometers above the Earth's surface. ISRO hopes to launch the vehicle by the end of this month. China launched five new satellites to orbit on Monday. The vehicles will be part of the country's very high frequency data exchange system satellite constellation. Chinese media says that the satellites will be used for an integrated transportation security system of land, sea, air, and space, meaning that it will offer a basic guarantee for maritime intelligence shipping communications, ocean situational awareness, and intelligent ocean exploration. The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp also announced that it launched the first geosynchronous orbit synthetic aperture radar satellite for disaster monitoring over the weekend. The L-SAR4 01 satellite aims to improve the accuracy and efficiency of disaster event information and enhance the comprehensive prevention and control capabilities of natural disasters. In the face of China's fast-growing space capabilities, the US is ramping up space collaboration with key Asian allies Japan and South Korea. The upcoming trilateral summit at Camp David on August the 18th will further address space cooperation. While historic tensions have previously hindered Japan, South Korea collaboration, recent steps, such as data sharing accords, joint monitoring initiatives, and cross-national private sector investments indicate increasing regional interoperability and a warming relationship. With Japan's established space assets and South Korea boosting its space budget, the US sees a strategic opportunity to enhance space defense and surveillance in the Western Pacific region. Space News is reporting that, during a recent South American military exercise, US Space Force and allies utilized commercial satellite imagery to locate illegal fishing boats. This demonstrated the utility of unclassified commercial satellite data for maritime security and military applications, enhancing data sharing among international partners. Despite the increasing availability of such imagery, the DoD has been slow to integrate these commercial capabilities into operations. Space Systems Command has initiated efforts like the SRT program to bridge this gap, emphasizing the timeliness of data and expanding collaborations with commercial partners. SRT, or Surveillance, Reconnaissance, and Tracking, is Space System Command's program to procure data from commercial satellites in near real time for mission critical and tactical operations. Once overlooked regarding its environmental impact, the space industry is facing scrutiny similar to the global aviation industry for its carbon emissions. A recent study highlights significant climate effects and potential health risks from rocket launches, particularly from standard rocket fuel RP-1. However, the industry is undergoing a green transformation. Companies are exploring propane, notably bio propane as a cleaner fuel alternative, potentially reducing CO2 admissions by 96 percent. Additionally, initiatives like Scotland's Sutherland Spaceport, which aspires to be the first carbon neutral spaceport, signify the industry's involving sustainable approach. Certainly more work to be done, but the focus is there. And a few forward-looking statements to finish off today's intel brief. That's a business store joke for those who missed it. Last week saw a host of hugely positive second quarter earnings reports from the likes of BlackSky, Redwire, Rocket Lab, Spy Global and ViaSat. Will that sunny outlook hold for the quarterly reports released this week? We'll be hearing from Astra, Intuitive Machines, Momentus, CyberSpace, and Terran Orbital. Stay tuned for our reporting on their results as well. That concludes our briefing for today. As always, you can find links to all the stories we've covered for further reading in our show notes. And we've also included some opinion pieces on how the Space Force is preparing its ground systems for dynamic ops and one on India embracing America's vision for outer space. You can find them all at space.n2k.com. Hey, T-Minus crew. Every Monday we produce a written intelligence roundup. It's called Signals and 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. Our guest today is Annika Wollermann, Chief Commercial Officer at POLARIS. POLARIS is developing a new style of launch vehicle. I started off asking Annika how the company started and what they're aiming to achieve.

>> Annika Wollermann: POLARIS, we're a German startup based in Bremen so north in Germany. And we are a spinoff of the renowned German Aerospace Center, the DLR. And to put it in one sentence, our vision is an airline-like semi-single-staged orbit spaceplane operation, which is completely reusable and capable of a variety of especially bidirectional space transportation missions. And we're aware that this an ambitious vision, and probably a couple of those terms I've just mentioned are able to trigger extensive discussions by themselves. For example, the semi space-to-orbit aspect, which with today's technologies we agree that a true single stage to orbit is not possible. But with future technological advancement and especially with the help of horizontal launch support system for which we're actually in the process of pivoting one, we are definitely keen to view this vision and to show that also German deep-tech startups can dream big.

>> Alice Carruth: I like it. I love your ambitious approach. Now, you're new to POLARIS. Can you tell me a little bit about what attracted you to this company and what it is that you're doing for them?

>> Annika Wollermann: Yeah. So many, therefore, it's helpful to know a bit better where POLARIS is coming from. So, as I said, it emerged from the DLR because our founder, Alexander Kopp, worked there for several years as a system engineer. I think his position was called like advanced space launcher in hypersonic vehicles so really cool sounding position. And POLARIS nowadays really capitalizes on like three decades of the space transportation research of this very institute. But this scientific concept reached a stage where there was enough research done, and it just needed to be realized and also commercialized. That's why I entered the game. But, back then, that was the point when Alexander quit his job at the DLR, actually moved back to his parents farm and started developing the very first demonstrator in their shed. So it's a real-life startup romance. And here, more than four years and 22 test flight later, here we are. And I'm really looking to drive this concept down the commercial runway.

>> Alice Carruth: So POLARIS has taken a kind of scaled approach to your demonstrations over the last few years. Can you talk us through how it is you're working on coming from a small-scale vehicle up to what it is you're hoping to achieve eventually.

>> Annika Wollermann: So we have this successful history of our demonstrator projects. And we are right now developing, building, assembling our fourth demonstrator, a 1:6 scale version of our spaceplane, which will demonstrate or pilot test our newly developed linear aerospace rocket engine, which we maybe can catch up at a later stage of this discussion. It's a very interesting chapter in itself. And, yes. So we have a successful history, a trajectory of those demonstrator. We just started with what we have. And, I mean, this is what you have to do in space, right. You just have to start. You have to build. You have to get out and test there. I mean, otherwise, you cannot improve, especially when it comes to technologies like the Aerospike engine. There has never been a linear Aerospike engine in flight being tested before. So we're at a point where we just go out there, test, have success. I mean, until now, we were on the success side. But, of course, there will be some fails upon our roadmap. But that's space, and we're just keen enough to go out and try a test, go back, optimize the -- our concept and then go out there, do another flight, campaign, refurbish the demonstrator, build a new one. And that's how we technologically derisk our roadmap. But also -- and that's where my position is coming in -- we are also financially derisking our roadmap because our demonstrator, a fully functioning commercial drones, high velocity drones that are able to generate and not only able, they actually already generate revenue, which is financially derisking our roadmap to the point that we are almost mirroring 101, the amount of -- the amount of money that we raise through investments with already secured revenue.

>> Alice Carruth: Obviously, you're aiming to get POLARIS to be commercially viable. What is your main payload that you're thinking is going to really bring that profit into POLARIS?

>> Annika Wollermann: At POLARIS, we like to say or to claim that our spaceplane applications start where conventional rocket applications reach their limits. And, yes, that's a bold statement. But, I mean, startups need bold statements, don't they. And we really like to emphasize that also we call our spaceplane a multi-purpose platform for space transportation because you want to emphasize that we're more than just a launcher. Our spaceplane is capable of both suborbital and orbital missions. And we also like to claim that we're enabling true launch as a service solution. That's our USP.

>> Alice Carruth: So we talked about point to point a little bit earlier and how it is such a big buzz right now. Is POLARIS looking to do point-to-point transportation from Europe to the US and around the world?

>> Annika Wollermann: That is one of the use cases that we perceive in the longer term, and it's definitely an interesting market. But we -- as I just said, we are more than that. And our main focus is really on the bilateral or bidirectional space transportation so from the Earth to the low Earth orbit and also, most importantly, back. And there we have a couple of advantages compared to conventional vertical rocket launching systems.

>> Alice Carruth: Can you talk me through those advantages compared to what other companies are offering on the market right now.

>> Annika Wollermann: Yes. Of course. There are several aspects, but maybe let me narrow it down to three fundamental characteristics. So, first of all, we take off and land like ordinary airplanes from runways of commercial airports all over the world. Of course, some airports are more suitable than others for our operations. But we are way more flexible than those vertical launch systems because we do not underlie the extensive launching restrictions when it comes to population density, geographic co-positioning, and so on. And as we take off and land under turbine thrust, we can operate like conventional aircraft. And also we do not require the costly and complex launch infrastructure in the first place. And this is actually key because this would enable countries all over the world to have sovereign access to space because, in fact, around today, 40 percent of the world's countries will never have independent access to space with the conventional rocket launching system. Then, secondly, there's this buzzword of responsive launch out there where, especially in a military context, it's all about the capability to react as fast as possible in the context of space. And one very important component of that is the rapid launch. And I think I do not have to say more than that we're -- only need like 24 hours until we're ready to take off. And we even have the ability to do stopovers at other airports to ultimately take off from the most suited airport, and that drastically reduces the time to final orbit. This flexibility is truly game changing, in our view, and especially in a military context, in let's say special situation, a very big value. And then, thirdly, we pursue reusability of up to 200 missions. And before the aerospace engineers of your audience start arguing that this reusability rate does not hold, it's not for every subsystem. The rocket engines will be reused probably around only 20 times. But, overall, the system will be refurbished and reused up to 200 missions. And this meets to our two main advantages. On the one hand, we will have the lowest carbon footprint from -- if you say from a holistic cradle-to-grave perspective because the emissions of the manufacturing are split upon the 200 missions and not only one missions or partially one missions, if you refurbish parts of the launch system. Some people might think it's nice to have and good to promote aspects of our operations. But, actually, big global satellite operators like Airbus or companies that rely on the downstream services of satellite like AT&T have officially committed to the 1.5 pathway of the science-based target initiative that you may know, the SBTI, or maybe Microsoft, which has announced they operate carbon negative until 2030. And, in order to do so for those companies, the current footprint of the satellite line has to be minimized, as well, because those account for their Scope 3 emissions, and these emissions are the emissions that a company has, that the company's value chain is indirectly responsible for. So that would be the case when operating satellites or using satellite services.

>> Alice Carruth: I want to switch gears a little bit for my last question for you. We don't really hear much about the aerospace industry in Germany. Can you talk a little bit about what kind of support you're getting from the German government and from the industry as a whole over there? What do you see the future being for them?

>> Annika Wollermann: So, especially in Germany, we have a really big momentum when it comes to space transportation. Mainly driven or very prominent are our three micro-launching companies that some of you have might heard of. So Isar Aerospace, the Rocket Factory Augsburg, and HyImpulse. So these have been around for a couple of years now. So there's a big awareness and also big momentum in Germany that's really looking to support those new space startups. I mean, we have also other new space startups that are just now going through the roof like LiveEO, Mynaric, Aurora, Texo [phonetic]. We have a really thriving youth-based startup culture. And I think what's also really nice that we see ourselves more as European. How do you say that. We have the advantages of being also a European startup. And, of course, with the ESA, with the European Union, with the European Commission, do not know solidly rely on our national funds and support us but really can benefit from a whole continent because, there in space, Europe really unites. And that's really nice to see.

>> Alice Carruth: We'll be right back. Welcome back. The James Webb Telescope continues to deliver on its promise to reach into the depths of the universe and deliver us with information that we can only imagine in our dreams: the most recent images of a distant star called Earendel. It's the most distant star that the space-based telescope has captured to date. Earendel is 28 billion light years away from the Earth. It's a super hot and super bright B-type star, surpassing the heat of the Sun. Scientists have concluded that Earendel is incredibly miniscule, approximately 4000 times tinier than our usual observable threshold. This designation positions it as the most remote star ever detected, having emerged just a billion years following the Big Bang. The James Webb Telescope use the gravitational lensing technique to capture this distant ball of gas. The image has been hailed as a breakthrough and offers profound insights into the early universe and its initial stars. Just incredible. That's it for T-Minus for August 14, 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 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 us 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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