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Fueling astronauts for EVAs.

Axiom and GU Energy Labs partner on astronaut fuel. iQPS to launch its satellite with Rocket Lab. Sierra Space gets $22M to mature its VORTEX engine. And more.





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Axiom and GU Energy Labs partner on astronaut food for spacewalks. iQPS contracts with Rocket Lab to launch its Earth observation satellite. Sierra Space has been awarded over $22 million by the Department of Defense to mature its new VORTEX engine, and more.

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T-Minus Guest

Join us as we discuss Skyrora with Head of Business Operations, Derek Harris.

You can connect with Derek on LinkedIn and find out more about Skyrora on their website.

Selected Reading

Axiom Space and GU Energy Labs Team Up to Fuel Astronauts- Axiom

Rocket Lab Inks Dedicated Launch Deal with Japanese Earth Imaging Company iQPS- Rocket Lab 

Redwire’s Navigation Technology Enabling JAXA, NASA Mission to Explore Cosmic Mysteries- Redwire

U.S. Government Awards Contract to Sierra Space to Develop Powerful New Upper-Stage Rocket Engine- Press Release

SpaceX delivers 650+ Starlink Terminals to Hawaii Emergency organizations after Maui Wildfires- Tesmanian 

A Rare Look Into the Finances of Elon Musk’s Secretive SpaceX - WSJ

SDA Contracts SpaceX, Kuiper, and Aalyria for LEO Backhaul Study- Via Satellite  

Satellite startup True Anomaly opens Colorado factory- C4ISRNET 

NASA’s buildings are even older than its graying workforce- Ars Technica 

Artemis 4 astronauts will be 1st crew to use NASA's moon-orbiting Gateway in 2028- Space

USSPACECOM Hosts UK, Australian, Canadian, and USSPACEFOR-INDOPAC Delegation- DoD

Russia’s Luna 25 spacecraft captures first image of Moon surface- TASS

HyImpulse to Debut SR75 Rocket No Earlier than December 1- European Spaceflight

The Lunar Race Between India and Russia: What’s at Stake?- The Diplomat

Revolutionising Space Traffic Management in Africa- Space In Africa

Solar storm prediction! X-class solar flares likely today, may spark blackouts- Tech News

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[ Music ]

>> Alice Carruth: Anytime an astronaut gets out of a vehicle while in space it's called a "spacewalk" or an "AVA." The first person to go on a spacewalk was Russian cosmonaut Alexei Leonov in 1965. It was 10 minutes long. A quick dip into the unknown so to speak. Spacewalks have become much longer since then. Have you ever questioned how an astronaut refuels when outside of the space station for hours at a time?

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Today is August the 18th, 2023. I'm Alice Curruth.

>> Brandon Karpf: And I'm Brandon Karpf and this is "T-Minus."

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>> Alice Carruth: Axiom is Axiom and GU Energy Labs partner on astronaut fuel. iQPS contracts with Rocket Lab to launch its Earth observation satellite. Sierra Space has been awarded over 22 million U.S. dollars by the Department of Defense to mature its VORTEX engine.

>> Brandon Karpf: And our guest today is Skyrora's Head of Business Operations, Derek Harris. So, stay with us for that.

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>> Alice Carruth: On to today's briefing. If you've ever watched an EVA, that's an extravehicular activity in case you were wondering, than you know that they are long, and in fact, the longest EVA on record is from March 2001 when Expedition 2 astronauts, James Voss and Susan Helms conducted a spacewalk during STS-102 that lasted 8 hours and 56 minutes. But has it ever occurred to you that people in those suits still have to function like the rest of us mere mortals on spaceship Earth. No, I can't say I've given it much thought either. But thankfully the folks at Axiom have. When in their EMU, that's an Extravehicular Mobility Unit, the astronauts have to refuel themselves. Axiom Space has partnered with GU Energy Labs to develop an advanced in-suit nutrition system. The ultimate goal - astronauts will fuel up inside the AxEMU by consuming GU Energy Gels traditionally used in ultra-marathons, long distance triathlons, and other physical strenuous activities. I mean, it makes sense, as EVAs are as extreme as an extreme sport. GU says that their goal is to provide critical nutrients at a convenient hands-free delivery format to help fuel astronauts as they push the limits of human space exploration. Hands-free -- definitely an interesting idea.

>> Brandon Karpf: Or a messy one.

>> Alice Carruth: True.

>> Brandon Karpf: When Virgin Orbit went bankrupt earlier this year, they left the stream companies wondering how they were going to get their vehicles into orbit. One company that seems to be doing very well out of Virgin Orbit's demise, is Rocket Lab. They've just announced a new contract with Q-shu, Pioneers of Space Incorporated, also known as IQPS, a Japan-based Earth imaging company. iQPS was originally manifested on "Cosmic Girl," but will now launch on the Electron as early as next month. Rocket Lab will carry iQPS's QPS SAR-5 satellite named "TSUKUYOMI-I" into orbit on a dedicated electron mission from New Zealand. The mission has been named "The Moon God Awakens" an acknowledgement of Tsukuyomi, the Japanese God of the Moon.

>> Alice Carruth: And speaking of Japan, JAXA, and NASA with ESA participation are working on a joint mission that will launch next week. The X-ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission, known as XRISM, will study cosmic extremes; the universe's hottest regions, largest structures, and objects with the strongest gravity. The XRISM spacecraft features a Sun sensor system onboard designed by Redwire and will investigate the x-ray sky using high-resolution spectroscopy. XRISM is scheduled to launch from Japan's Tanegashima Space Center on August the 25th.

>> Brandon Karpf: Sierra Space has been awarded over 22 million U.S. dollars in a contract with the Air Force Research Lab. The firm fixed price contract is for the maturation of their advanced upper stage engine known as the VR35K-Alpha. The company has successfully completed a hot fire test campaign of this new vortex engine this spring, marking a significant maturation milestone for the upper stage engine that Sierra Space is developing in conjunction with the AFRL. The U.S. Department of Defense says this contract provides for "leveraging the test data from the first phase 3 small business innovation research component, an integrated breadboard engine test to develop flight weight engine component designs." The sole-source acquisition contract was awarded by the Air Force Test Center at Edward's Air Force Base in California.

>> Alice Carruth: Elon Musk is becoming a bit of a hero in times of crisis. First, he sent Starlink terminals to support Ukrainians in their conflict with Russia. Now, he's sent them to Hawaii's Emergency Management Response Teams to help with the aftermath of fires in Maui. More than 650 kits have been distributed to over 40 organizations on the island to support recovery efforts. SpaceX's Starlink is aiming to facilitate Internet access in even the most remote locations to aid with emergency response needs. And speaking of Mr. Musk, we've included a link to a "Wall Street Journal" piece about the SpaceX CEO and the company's financial standings in our Show Notes. You can find them at space.n2k.com.

>> Brandon Karpf: The Space Development Agency has recently made awards totally 1.6 million U.S. dollars to SpaceX, Kuiper Government Solutions, and Aalyria Technologies to conduct a study for a potential low Earth orbit backhaul capability. The 90-day project will examine connecting commercial or other existing LEO systems to the proliferated warfare space architecture known as PWSA, to provide further resiliency by quickly moving Broadband data between edge and main networks worldwide and give the PWSA transport layer, the greater ability to transmit and receive general high bandwidth data across its systems. These awards were made under these space development agency's system technologies and emerging capabilities broad agency announcement based on a special notice posted in late May.

>> Alice Carruth: Brandon, what's the True Anomaly?

>> Brandon Karpf: [Moan].

>> Alice Carruth: It says, "space startup" of course.

>> Brandon Karpf: Of course.

>> Alice Carruth: They're based in Colorado and have unveiled their 35,000 square foot manufacturing facility for military satellites and software. They're calling it, GravityWorks and it will host the production of the company's Jackal spacecraft. True Anomaly says that the new facility will allow them to be able to produce a mission-ready satellite every 5 days, oof!

>> Brandon Karpf: Ars Technica reported this week that NASA faces an alarming infrastructure challenge; 83% of its facilities exceed their design life with an annual maintenance funding gap between 259 million to over 600 million U.S. dollars. While immediate risks and destruction from natural weather events garner the most attention, Erik Weiser, Head of Facilities at NASA, highlighted the agency's "increasing state of decline in its infrastructure." Deferred maintenance poses risks to mission success with the majority of buildings rated marginal to poor. This infrastructure problem parallels concerns about an aging workforce with 25% of NASA's employees nearing retirement. NASA's future depends on addressing both the personnel and facility resources. To bring it home on a personal note, anyone who has worked for Uncle Sam should not be particularly surprised by this revelation. During my years in the navy, I worked and lived in some pretty decrepit facilities. An ounce of preventative maintenance is worth a pound of cure, but that sort of investment always takes a backseat to current operations. It's a sad truth, but for the past 30 to 40 years the government hasn't had the foresight to invest in long-term infrastructure projects. If I can editorialize for a second, that needs to change.

>> Alice Carruth: NASA's officials confirm that Artemis 4 set for a 2028 launch, will be NASA's first mission to use the Moon-orbiting Gateway space station. While initial elements of the Gateway are launching before Artemis 3 in 2025 and 2026, it won't be operational until Artemis 4. Gateway smaller than the ISS will house 4 astronauts for up to 90 days and operate autonomously for 3 years; essential for learner research as well as Mars exploration, it will study radiation risks crucial for long-term Moon and Mars missions. The European Space Agency and Japan will contribute modules and in return receive flight opportunities for their astronauts.

>> Brandon Karpf: On August 16th, key military leaders from the UK, U.S., Australia, and Canada met at U.S. Space Command Headquarters in Colorado. For those keeping count to that as 4 of the 5 I's, no word yet on where New Zealand was; their focus, bolstering collaborate efforts to detour space demand aggression. Though we don't have a full readout yet from their meetings, this sort of international partnership emphasizes the importance of the United Military Space Power to defend global interests against emerging threats both in space and on the ground. And of course, we will continue to watch this closely and report on any notable updates.

>> Alice Carruth: And we've been watching Russia's Luna-25 spacecraft all this week and the vehicle sent back its first image of the Luna surface showcasing the southern polar crater Zeeman. This crater intrigues researchers due to its unique features. Luna's-25's main mission; soft-landing technology potentially at the Moon's South Pole and explore lunar resources, structure, and effects of cosmic rays. The craft also can produce time-lapsed films and respond to imaging commands from Earth. We're all desperately waiting for its landing attempt on Monday.

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>> Brandon Karpf: And that concludes our briefing for today, but you can find links to all of the stories we've covered in our Show Notes and we have included a few extra for you as well. There's one on a new launch license for HyImpulse from Scotland's SaxaVord Spaceport; a great piece from a friend of the pod and previous guest, Namrata Goswami on the lunar race between Russia and India, and finally, one on revolutionizing space traffic management in Africa. And hey, "T-Minus" crew, we do have a new survey out. It's one big important question; what new feature do you think we should work on next? The link is at the top of the Show Notes and we'd greatly appreciate your feedback. And as always, you can also email us at space@n2k.com. Thanks crew.

>> Alice Carruth: And tune-in tomorrow for "T-Minus Deep Space," our show for extended interviews, special editions, and deep dives with some of the most influential professionals in the space industry. Tomorrow we have, Derek Harris talking about Skyrora Space. Check it out while you're mowing the lawn, grocery shopping, folding laundry, or driving your kids to the game. You don't want to miss it.

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Our guest today is Skyrora's Head of Business Operations, Derek Harris. I started off by asking Derek about how Skyrora was started.

>> Derek Harris: We started roughly about 6 years ago and we are a small launch company, so we are working towards small satellites up to 315 kilograms into low Earth orbit for synchronous and polar from Scotland and I've been with the company coming on 6 years. When started out there was 4 to 5 of us in a room and it was basically building up departments to start with highlighting who we wanted to help with our engines, who we wanted to build, so the bringing in of Dr. J. J. Marlow from Kingston University. He was a professor down there. We brought him in to head our engineering here. We brought in talent from Dnipro and the Ukraine. They were, for those who may not know, Dnipro is the rocket city and has such a huge pedigree when it comes to anything space, especially engines and tanks, and actually ran most of Soviet missions. So, 6 years ago, for four people in a room, the first two years really was hard marketing and hiring. So, marketing the company to get the name out there, hiring to get the right people in. So, as I said, Dr. J.J. Marlow with being key there who bringing up. And then, from there, we've opened up the largest test engine test site in the UK, which tests are somebody killing your engines, which is based just outside of Edinburgh. We now have our production facility out in Cumbernauld, which is roughly about 55,000 square feet, which even at that, it's a large piece of -- piece of real estate, but it's still a little bit too small for where we want to get to. But small steps to get to where we need to be. We've got a bunch of sort of suite of small vehicles which people may not know. So we started off with what was called Skylark NANO, roughly about a 2 meter tall which, similar to the rockets that you may see in and about local competitions. We went to Skylark Micro, which we launched from Iceland, which are similar, about 4 meters tall. We have SkyHy, which is a hybrid, which is still currently on pause so we can find somewhere to do it. And then we had Skylark L, which is our second largest, so 11 meters long. That was what we launched attempt from Iceland last year in October. And I have to say, managing to get launch attempt out of Iceland, almost a mile or two south of the Arctic Circle, in October, I can't say how well the team did to do that. So, that brings us on to our next SKL launch, which we're hoping to be within the next few months to beginning of Q2 next year. And then, obviously, on to the main launch facility and the XL vehicle.

>> Alice Carruth: How much of you had to do to help make sure that the process is ready for you to be able to launch out of the UK? Because the UK is not new to space, it's been one of the larger satellite supplies for a longtime, but launch is certainly something a new process that's come over to the country.

>> Derek Harris: Certainly it's a new process, but it's also an archaic one. The UK actually did have a launch program back in the 1950s and 60s, so those rocketry experts out there will be citing the [inaudible] projects and of course Black Arrow for that which from Woomera in 1971 for the Prospero Mission. But after that what wasn't well-known to probably younger people and the generations, is it was canceled; to being a space failing nation and then to scrap it. We are the only country to do that which is just unbelievable. Imagine taking all that data and throwing it in a [inaudible] and set it on fire and having to start from scratch. That's really what happened. Thankfully, there are some documents that survived due to some of the engineers, engineers that like to get rid of wrecks so easily, so when we brought Black Arrow back from Australia, we donated that and some of the paperwork to the Farnborough here in the Space Transportation Museum, so please go and see it down there. But that's been a big, big thing. In 6 years it's been very, very progressive and a lot of help on all sites. So, when I say "help" I mean, discussions back and forward with the Spaceport and ourselves over requirements, the normal things you would expect from a launch company, you know, spaceport. But it goes deeper than that; it goes down to health and safety. It goes down to government and regulations, and it even goes down and the biggest one for us I would say is environmental aspect for the launch site. That's why I know there was huge amount of interaction with the public around us to make sure that Scotland is a very beautiful country. We want to remain that way. But we also want to be a space nation. So, every single part of the journey has had that interaction, whether it be with the local -- local community, whether it be with nature, Historic Scotland, governmental levels. So, there's been a huge amount of conversations over the last sort of 6 years from launchers, from launch sites and students, companies, government ministers. It's been a long journey. And it's -- we're hopefully going to come to fruition in the very near future.

>> Alice Carruth: So, obviously the UK held its first space launch back in January of this year, which was a horizontal launch, slightly different to what you guys are going to do. Is the policy already in place for you to be able to do a vertical launch from Scotland, or is that still being written as you guys develop your rocket?

>> Derek Harris: Very much. It's in place, and the licensing requirements are in place as well. So, both spaceports and ourselves are going through those. I think the only thing that slowed that down, to be honest, was with COVID because a lot of the staff had to be reallocated to help deal with that. But now that they're back, our case manager and the team down at the Civil Aviation Authority have been wonderful. It's that collaboration that I was speaking about earlier, talking back and forward as we know horizontal is different from vertical launch. And there will be some different challenges from what they've had to sort of do to for passing that license. So, having those open channels of communications has been great to do so. But we believe we're not far away from having that license. The spaceports are in the same boat in that regard, which means, really, the tech is almost there and almost built and ready to go. So it's -- as I said, it's nearly coming to fruition for the whole sector.

>> Alice Carruth: For those people who aren't used to hearing about Scotland being a launch place, what is the advantage of being able to launch from Scotland?

>> Derek Harris: Well, I think the first one you go with would be the geographical for sun synchronous and polar orbits. It's much easier to gain these orbits going from Shetland. For those who may not know where Shetland is in Scotland, if you look at the top of the map of Scotland, there's normally a box that gets added there. And this is a bit of an annoyance to them, if I'm honest, because it kind of looks like they're nowhere near us. But it's roughly about an hour or so away from the mainland by flight. And, if you go north, it -- really, you pass Iceland, Greenland. And there's not a lot of land up there, so it's a perfect way to get into that -- those inclinations. So we've got the geography for that. But I think what's also opening it up a lot is we hear this message, that Glasgow makes the second most amount of satellites outside of the US at the moment. Those small satellites, it comes down to a sort of regulatory purpose. Imagine being able to build, launch, insure everything all in the same jurisdiction and not have to worry about different ITAR or different regulations. Scotland's really trying to do it slightly differently. You're seeing a difference with the environmental approach trying to be responsible. I like to use that time rather friendly because, until we can get like zero carbon in any launch, it's always going to be as friendly as we can make it. But there is just a different attitude in Scotland, really. And the UK seems to be pushing that. And we're doing that and sort of taking it from a grip and thinking, well, it's not building a new industry, but it's taking a new way from a different sort of fresh pair of yes. And I think this is really what's attracted a lot of people to do it from Scotland.

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>> Alice Carruth: We'll be right back.

[ Music ]

Welcome back. According to space weather experts, we should be bracing ourselves for a storm. No, we're not talking about NASA's tropics warning us of the hurricane, although that's bound to happen sooner than we would like, we're talking about solar storms. It's been blamed for anomalies with satellites causing them to deorbit ahead of plan. And one weather watcher is telling us to prepare for an X-class solar flare eruption that may cause more radio blackouts. I way more, because it's already happened this month; a powerful solar flare disrupted radio and navigation signals across North America on August the 7th. But what does that all mean? Well, radiation from the flares interact with particles in the Earth's ionsphere, the region of the atmosphere at altitudes between 50 and 400 miles and it's supercharges them. These charges then affect radio and satellite signals that pass through the region. The storm has been caused by a new sun spot that has entered the Earth's facing side of the sun and experts are saying that it appears to be crackling with solar flares. Be warned, the gas giant is not happy.

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>> Brandon Karpf: That's it for "T-Minus" for August 18th, 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 in a 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.

>> Alice Carruth: 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 Tre Hester with original music and sound design by Elliott Peltzman. Thank you to our executive producer is Brandon Karpf who joined me on this episode. Our chief intelligence officer is Eric Tillman. And I'm Alice Carruth. Thanks for listening.

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>> "T-Minus," done.

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