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Chinese satellites cause a stir down under. North Korea is planning to launch a satellite this week. Russia blames Luna-25’s engines for the crash. And more.





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EOS Space Systems warns Chinese surveillance satellites were and are keeping a keen eye on two military exercises held in Australia. The Japanese Coast Guard says that North Korea is planning a space launch as early as Thursday. The head of Russia’s Space Agency says that the Luna 25 crash was caused after the spacecraft’s engines failed to shut down correctly, and more.

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T-Minus Guest

Our guests today are Trudy Kortes, Director of NASA STMD Technology Demonstrations, and Greg Richardson, Director of COSMIC, about the NASA-created consortium for space mobility and ISAM capabilities.

You can connect with Trudy on LinkedIn and find out more about COSMIC on their website.

Selected Reading

China’s Constant Spying On Australian Drills From Space A Sign Of Shifting Orbital Balance- The Drive

World's first high-orbit synthetic aperture radar satellite enters operational orbit- CGTN

New 'AI-brained' Chinese satellite has just been launched- Interesting Engineering 

North Korea's space launch program and long-range missile projects- Reuters

HKUST Launches Hong Kong's First Higher Ed Satellite- Pr Newswire

Russian space agency chief blames decades of inactivity for Luna-25 lander’s crash on the moon- AP

Hughes Awarded Space Force IDIQ Contract for Low Earth Orbit (LEO) Satellite Services- PR Newswire

Space Development Agency taps Mynaric for optical ground station project- Mynaric

Umbra Selected by AFWERX for SBIR Phase II Contract- PR Newswire

Ecuador Minister and CNT Inaugurate O3b mPOWER Terminals in the Galapagos- Via Satellite

Quant Data & Analytics to Leverage Satellogic Imagery in Saudi Arabia - Via Satellite

CSA Awards $1.03 Million for Industry-Academia Collaborative Research including for Quantum Technology - SpaceQ 

Russia's Moon Crash 'Speaks Volumes': A Storied Space Program Falls Short. Again.- RFE

Despite the Luna-25 failure, Russia is not a declining space power 

The failure of Luna 25 cements Putin’s role as a disastrous space leader | Ars Technica 

The New Race to Reach the Moon—and Find Water - WSJ 

We need to get our space junk problem under control- The Washington Post

Why Your NASA T-Shirt Is Behind the Curve- Newsweek

LA Company Squid3 Space Develops Camouflage for Satellites - Parabolic Arc 

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>> Maria Varmazis: Large scale surveillance by satellite was for a long time the monopoly of the American Military. But as many, if not most, T-minus listeners likely know China has been building up its own surveillance capabilities and satellite for several years now. According to a 2022 Pentagon report, China's satellite systems in orbit have doubled since 2018 alone. And its satellite fleet is the second largest in the world, right behind the U.S. And they're using that fleet to keep an eye on other country's militaries. A famous quote from the film "Casablanca" seems apt right now.

>> Rick: On what grounds?

>> Renault: I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!

>> Croupier: Your winnings, sir.

>> Renault: Oh, thank you very much. Everybody out.

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>> Today is August 22, 2023. I'm Maria Varmazis and this is T-Minus.

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Chinese satellites cause a stir down under. Japan says North Korea is planning to launch a satellite later this week. Roscosmos says "Luna 25's engines failed to shut down, causing the spacecraft to crash land on the moon. And our guests today are Trudy Kortes, Director of NASA STMD Technology Demonstrations and Greg Richardson Director of Cosmic about the NASA created consortium, or space mobility and ISAM capabilities. You don't want to miss it.

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And now, on today's intel briefing. So, just in case you doubted it or needed additional confirmation, "That monopoly on satellite-based military surveillance previously enjoyed by the U.S. is officially over," says ABC News Australia. That's from news via EOS Space Systems, an Australian commercial space company based in Canberra, which has been keeping an eye on the positions of and optical surveillance data gathered by Earth observing satellites belonging to China. "Those satellites," says EOS Space Systems, "were and are keeping a keen eye on two military exercises this year, one of which is the Malabar Maritime Exercises currently underway. And the Talisman Sabre War Games that happened in July, which is a major land, air, and sea military exercise held across Northern Australia. That includes participation from the militaries of about 13 countries including Australia and the United States. Specifically, three surveillance satellites in geostationary orbit. "We're keeping an eye on Talisman Sabre," says EOS Space Systems. And for Exercise Malabar in which Australia, the U.S., India, and Japan are currently participating. It's a fleet of low-Earth orbit satellites that are doing the surveillance heavy lifting. James Bennett of EOS systems said this to ABC News Australia, "We've seen over 300 satellites surveying ground-based activities. And the number of overflights is over 3,000 since the start of the Malabar exercise centered around the Sydney, Harbor Bay area." So, yes, Exercise Malabar is still underway near Sydney, as is the surveillance. But yeah, none of this comes as any surprise to any of the militaries involved as you might expect. In a reply to ABC News, the Australian Defense Force said this -- "The ADF takes prudent measures to safeguard the information security of Australian and participating forces. And Australian Defense tracks satellite movements as part of broader space domain awareness efforts." And speaking of China's satellite surveillance, the country's National Space Administration has said that its L-SAR4 01 satellite, that launched last week, has entered its operational orbit. This spacecraft is the world's first high orbit synthetic aperture radar satellite, or SAR satellite. China says that the SAR antenna has successfully deployed and will carry out in orbit testing. The L-SAR4 01 satellite will be used to collect time sensitive data for the country's disaster prevention and reduction. The website Interesting Engineering has produced a piece on a Chinese satellite that they're dubbing the "New AI-brained satellite," and you can read more about that story in our show notes. And staying in the region, the Japanese coastguard has said that North Korea is planning a space launch as early as this Thursday. The launch will be the second attempt this year by North Korea, who is currently banned from such activities under UN Security Council Resolutions. Nevertheless, a launch attempt in May ended with the vehicle plunging into the sea. That vehicle was reportedly carrying a recognizant satellite. North Korea has notified Japan that it will attempt to launch another satellite between August 24 and 31st. And that the rocket will fly over the waters west of the Korean Peninsula, East China Sea, and the Pacific. The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology plans to launch a multi-spectral optical satellite at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center is Gansu with Chang Guang Satellite Technology Company on August 25. This satellite, which is known as HKUST-FYBB#1 will be used for tracking remote sensing data related to global environment, disaster, and sustainable development. The launch marks a first by a university in Hong Kong to initiate a satellite mission. The launch also marks the university's first step towards building a remove sensing satellite constellation, and a comprehensive environmental monitoring and disaster forecasting system. The head of Russia's Space Agency says that the Luna 25 crash was caused after the spacecraft's engines failed to shut down correctly. Roscosmos Director General Yury Borisov has blamed the country's decade's long pause in lunar exploration for the collision, which occurred over the weekend. Now, all eyes remain on India's Chandrayaan-3 mission, which is planning a soft landing at the Lunar South Pole tomorrow. The Moon's South Pole is a region that many national space agencies and private companies are vying for to expand knowledge of the much desired resource of lunar water ice. Hughes Network Systems has been awarded a five-year indefinite delivery, otherwise known as IDIQ contract by the U.S. Space Force for proliferated low-Earth orbit satellite based services. The contract is valued at up to 900 million, but don't let that figure full you. Last year, the Pentagon had over 15,000 companies on IDIQ contracts with a ceiling value totaling a whooping $98 trillion. However, only 355 companies, which amounts to just 2.3% received any money off of these contracts, and that totalled $4 billion which amounts to less than 1% of the contract value. So, it's a little misleading. But still, a big win for Hughes Net. So, congrats. The U.S. Space Development Agency seems to be handing out contracts like candy lately. Yesterday, we told you about the Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin contracts worth $1.5 billion collectively. And today, Mynaric has announced that they have been selected by the agency to contribute an optical ground terminal demonstration. The mission, which is slated for 2025, is to demonstrate the successful connection between various space-based optical communications terminals and an optical ground station designed by Mynaric. This program will serve has risk production for follow on demonstrations focusing on communications between the Optical Ground Station and the Tranche 0 transport layer space vehicles. Mynaric didn't release the contract value. The U.S. Airfoce AFWERX program has selected Umbra for a SBIR Phase II contract worth $1.25 million for the development of its space-based moving target indication. The Air Force plans to use the technology to develop and demonstrate maritime and ground moving target indication capabilities. SES says the first O3b mPOWER terminal built for Galapagos Telecommunications Company, CNT, was inaugurated last week on Santa Cruz Island in the Galapagos. The announcement comes after CNT recently signed a deal to increase its capacity agreement with SES from 1.5 gigabits per second to 2.5 gigabits on the 03b constellation, with plans to migrate to 03b mPOWER. CNT wants to double the speed of the Internet and establish a fee Wi-Fi zone for users in the Galapagos Islands. U.S. based Earth Observation Company, Satellogic has signed an agreement with Saudi-based Quant Data & Analytics. Quant will use Satellogic's satellite imagery to serve the property tech landscape in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Region for monitoring of urban development and compliance with environmental and zoning regulations. The Canadian Space Agency has awarded six grants totaling just over 1 million Canadian dollars to support industry academia collaborative research. The agency says the projects had to have already received an NSERC Alliance Grant for research on a topic related to one of the priorities identified in the space strategy for Canada or to further the research in the field of quantum technology.

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You can find the full list of recipients in our show notes, along with all the other stories we've mentioned in this episode, and we've added a few extra opinion pieces in our selected reading section today, including many on Russia's failed Lunar landing, as you might imagine, one on Space Junk, and another on NASA's misplaced branding in fashion. Hm. You can find all those articles and a whole lot more at space.n2k.com. Hey T-Minus crew. We have a new survey out. And it's just big one important question that we'd love to know the answer to. What new feature do you think we should add next? The link is at the top of the show notes and we'd greatly appreciate your feedback. And as always, you can email us at space#n2k.com. Thanks crew.

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Our guests today are Trudy Kortes, Director of NASA STMD Technology Demonstrations, and Greg Richardson, Director of COSMIC about the NASA created consortium for space mobility and ISAM capabilities. You know, what, I'll let them introduce themselves.

>> Trudy Kortes: I'm Trudy Kortes. I work for NASA. I am the Space Technology Mission Director. I am their Director for Technology Demonstrations at NASA. And that means is we test technologies and capabilities that we need for future missions in a relevant environment.

>> Maria Varmazis: And our second guest today, Greg, why don't you go ahead and introduce yourself?

>> Greg Richardson: My name is Greg Richardson. I am at the Aerospace Corporation where I've been for the past 23 years. And in 20 of those 23 years, I have been working on ISAM, In Space Servicing Assembly and Manufacturing. So, just really excited to be able to talk to more folks about what COSMIC is, what we're doing, and how those pieces fit together with what we're trying to do here in Aerospace and what NASA is working on.

>> Maria Varmazis: What a great introduction to exactly the topic for our conversation today. Thank you so much. So, yes, COSMIC, the consortium for space mobility and ISAM capabilities. I want to make sure that we give our listeners sort of the overview. So, Trudy, do you want to give us the overview of what COSMIC is? Sort of the pitch on its mission.

>> Judy Kortes: NASA thought it was important to form a nationwide alliance or a coalition of interested parties. And those interested parties are government industry members and academia to come together and start talking about how do we further this suite of capabilities for future use in space missions. Our tagline for this, or main mission is incorporating it such that it becomes a routine part of what we do in space missions and space architectures. And that's the real goal that we're going after. And Greg, and I, and a few others have been working together for about the last two years to formulate this and get it set, and talk to a lot of those partners that I just mentioned to give feedback on how we go forward with this. And so, that's the main goal to kind of look at, you know, research, technology, different aspects of this, and really move the ball down the field, so to speak.

>> Maria Varmazis: So, ISAM is not brand new or anything like that, but I'd love to know why -- sort of why now? Why is COSMIC coming about now? Like is the time right for something like this? I'd love to know a little bit more about that timing.

>> Greg Richardson: Oh, absolutely. The time is absolutely right for COSMIC right now because we're at a technological tipping point. There have been advances. And I mentioned that I'd been working ISAM for 20 years. One of the early missions that I worked was a DARPA mission called Orbital Express that demonstrated in space refueling, autonomous rendezvous and proximity operations, repairing satellites by transferring hardware and that was great as a technology demonstration but what we're seeing as that technological and operational tipping point is, we're seeing operational missions beginning to ISAM services. You know, there are satellites that are in geostationary orbit right now that have life extension modules attached to them that are providing in space services. ISAM is now bigger than any one agency. It's bigger than any one part of the United States. We need to bring all of these folks together and that was recognized by the White House when they created and developed the National ISAM Implementation Plan. They said, "This is something that we're going to come together and do as a nation." That plan was released in December and one of the pieces of that plan was stand up a nationwide consortium. COSMIC response to that plan, and COSMIC is the consortium that is going to execute our piece of that big plan.

>> Maria Varmazis: COSMIC has five different focus areas. Either one of you want to talk about those different focus areas?

>> Greg Richardson: Sure. I can take the first pass at that. Part of what we're trying to do within the focus areas is identify a place where we can do more and create working products. And so, our focus areas, we have one on research and technology. And that's a really broad area. We expect that there's going to be a lot of dialogue and discussion about how we advance technologies and capabilities. But we know that advancing technology is not enough. We also are going to need demonstration infrastructure and that's focused area number two. We need test facilities, digital test, ground based test facilities, and in space test facilities for all the ISAM technologies if we ever want to get to a point where we're going to operationalize those capabilities. We have one on missions and ecosystems. That's the mission pull piece. Those are the future missions that are enabled or enhanced by ISAM. And then we've got a couple that really cross over all of ISAM. We've got policy, and regulation, anything that might stand in the way of widespread ISAM adoption. And we've got workforce development. And that is not just the future generations of scientists, engineers, and operators thinking about how they use ISAM< but also how can we reach out to the folks that are currently building satellites? That have built them in a non-serviceable way for maybe most of their career? We want them to understand what is ISAM, what can it do, and how can we design and build satellites differently? And those five focus areas represent where we expect a lot of the products from COSMIC will be developed.

>> Maria Varmazis: What would success for the COSMIC mission look like?

>> Trudy Kortes: So, I touched on it in my first comments, but we really do take seriously what we say is making this a routine part of what we do. And right now it's really not thought of in that way, but what are those things, like Greg touched on, when we put a space asset on orbit and it serves its lifetime, you know? And then it goes, you know, into some different orbit that's where it's not going to be utilized. Can we use that asset for a longer period of time? So, we're talking about, you know, just from a spacecraft aspect, refueling, relocating, augmenting, repairing, any number of things that's like, just a toolkit that would be in space that we could use, focused on robotics and autonomy capabilities. But then also, what could we be making in space that we currently, you know, cannot infer? For NASA missions, for example, we have some very long duration missions where you're potentially going to be sending humans for a long period of time. You cannot take long and think of every possible thing you might need to take with you. What can you make into or in that location where you need it? Especially things like, you know, medical supplies. What is the next big thing that you can build in orbit instead of building on the ground? You know, there's this process when you go through flight hardware build, and design, and test, on the ground before you launch it to make sure it can survive all of those, you know, launch environments. What can you remove from that so that you're making something on orbit? You take the raw materials with you and you make it there, instead of making it here and then launching it. Plus, then you, you know, have other advantages of that. Like, you're not confined to, you know, the space that's inside of a launch vehicle fairing. So, there's a lot of different applications for that. To just expand a little bit, we'll get to success, I think, when our mission designers and mission planners are thinking in that way, but they need data. What are those trades? What is that information that they need to be able to make those decisions in the way that they need? And I think that this consortium can help that in providing that information to them that, you know, preps currently doesn't exist.

>> Maria Varmazis: And Greg, I want to give you the opportunity if you want to add anything.

>> Greg Richardson: Yeah, from a consortium perspective, our vision is to make ISAM a routine part of space missions and space architectures. And in order for that to happen, we've got to get away from that one and two kind of approach. We need to get to a point where we don't have firsts every time we launch an ISAM mission. That, as Trudy mentioned, we've got procedures developed. We understand how we acquire these, build these, operate them, use them, and that we have safe, reliable, and effective in space services. When that happens and if that happens as a result of the collaboration that COSMIC engenders, that's when we know that we've done our job and COSMIC has been successful.

>> Maria Varmazis: There was just a virtual engagement session. Trudy, do you want to start us off telling us how that went and what happened there?

>> Trudy Kortes: Yeah, so that was really our first time with the broader ISAM community who is interested in this consortium to hear about how we play to operate. So, just some basics behind how we're structured, what is the governance look like, what are the different focus areas that Greg detailed out earlier? What's going to happen within those. And so, that' session that happened a few weeks ago was just that time for us to provide information almost in a webinar type of format to the community so they could start to think about the ways that they want to participate in this. It was the lead in to a kick off meeting.

>> Maria Varmazis: Greg, could you tell me a little bit about what's expected at that kickoff meeting in November?

>> Greg Richardson: Yeah, so that kickoff is the first time we're going to bring together the U.S. ISAM community. And here, we're talking about the entire U.S. ISAM community, government, industry, academia, non-profit research institutions, other consortia. We're bringing them together to talk about what's happening in ISAM, where we are as a community, and what COSMIC is going to do. And so that's the key is that that kickoff is the first time we come together and talk about work products. That we start figuring out what are the things that COSMIC does that benefit each of those stakeholders. What are the products that we can create? What are the activities that we should perform over the next year? And really have that community engagement so that they can all come together and we can focus on what we can do as an integrated U.S. community working on ISAM. So, for anyone who is working that, please go to our website, cosmicspace.org. Sign up for the newsletter. Sign up to be notified to get more information about the kickoff. We want to have you there and we want you to participate as we work together on making ISAM a routine part of space mission operations.

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>> Maria Varmazis: We'll be right back. And welcome back. You know, if you listen to our interview yesterday with Andy Williams from the European Southern Observatory, then you know that satellite constellations in low Earth orbit are causing issues for Earth-based astronomy. And while many organizations are working to find solutions in space, one L.A. company says we should be looking to the sea -- well, to a sea creature to be precise. New startup Squid3 Space is developing a smart electronic covering that can be applied to the exterior of satellites. The covering can transform spacecraft exteriors into digital and programmable surfaces. Very cool. It can render a satellite dark during its nighttime pass around the Earth, and make it light again when it enters sunlight, just like a squid adapts to the depths of the ocean. A sea-based solution for a space-based problem. Isn't nature amazing?

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And that's it for T-Minus for August 22, 2023. For additional resources from today's report, check out our show notes at space.n2k.com. We're privileged that N2K and podcasts, like T-Minus, are part of the daily routine of many of the most influential leaders and operators in the public and private sector from the Fortune 500 to many of the world's preeminent intelligence and law enforcement agencies. This episode was produced by Alice Carruth. Mixing by Elliot Peltzman and Tre Hester. With original music and sound design by Elliot Peltzman. Our executive producer is Brandon Karpf. Our chief intelligence officer is Eric Tillman. And I'm Maria Varmazis. Thanks for listening. We'll see you tomorrow.

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