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Lockheed Martin’s Space 2050 with Dr. Nelson Pedreiro.

Lockheed Martin has created Space 2050 for customers and experts to come together and discuss a future vision for space capabilities and missions.





Learn about Lockheed Martin’s vision for the future of space with Dr. Nelson Pedreiro. Space 2050 invites discussion about the future of space in five areas: a “smart” world enabled by ubiquitous communications, extraplanetary operations, space logistics, mission operations command utilizing artificial intelligence and machine learning, and space defense to strengthen 21st Century Security. 

You can connect with Nelson on LinkedIn, read more about Space 2050 here and participate in the discussion at AIAA’s ASCEND conference.

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>> Maria Varmazis: Welcome to "T-Minus," deep space, from N2K Networks. I'm Maria Varmazis, host of the "T-Minus" space daily podcast. Deep space includes extended interviews and bonus content for a deeper look into some of the topics that we cover on our daily program. And we talk a lot on this program about technologies of the future, but what does that really look like? So let's learn about Lockheed Martin's vision for the future of space with Dr. Nelson Pedreiro and the space 2050 vision. Now space 2050 invites discussion about the future of space in five areas. A smart world enabled by ubiquitous communications. Extraplanetary operations. Space logistics. Mission operations command utilizing artificial intelligence and machine learning. And space defense, the strengthened 21st century security. It's the main topic for the Ascend Conference in Las Vegas from October 23 through 25th. "T-Minus" will be there to share all the excitement with you.

>> Nelson Pedreiro: My name is Nelson Pedreiro and I'm the chief engineer for Lockheed Martin space. This is actually a new assignment for me. I'm just transitioning from a prior role as the vice president for the Lockheed Martin space advanced technology center which is really the innovation labs for space.

>> Maria Varmazis: Well, congratulations. There is so much I could ask you about today, but we're going to stick to the topic of space 2050 for today. Could you just give me sort of the pitch on what space 2050 is please?

>> Nelson Pedreiro: So this actually started about a couple years ago in my prior role leading the advanced technology center for Lockheed Martin space. Right? The innovation labs for space. And in that organization we have two primary roles. One is envisioning the future and determining what kind of capabilities and technology will enable that future so that our customer missions can be properly executed. The other piece is prioritizing these capabilities and technologies and then go and develop those. Making sure that we can realize, we can implement, that vision. Right? So these are the two things. So it's based if this is really an initiative that I kicked off about two years ago, as I mentioned, to envision the future, identify and prioritize capabilities, and then start developing those. The 2050 mark is somewhat arbitrary, but it's not totally arbitrary. There is some thought that went into that. I really did not want it to be too far out like the 2100 or further out because it then becomes more of a science fiction exercise. But I wanted it far enough out so this is, you know, when we started about 20 years -- 20 years out or so -- that there is enough time for us to really develop remarkable novel disruptive capabilities. So that all has a balance there that we selected that. And so this is what it is in a nutshell.

>> Maria Varmazis: Excellent. Well, thank you. You anticipated my question about why 2050 very well. So yeah. If you could talk me through some of the high level bullet points and maybe any future space missions that might support that capability, that would be great.

>> Nelson Pedreiro: So on this initiative what I challenge our team to do, it's really to envision space at large. The broader space ecosystem. And frankly it was interesting because as we started, myself included, we were all thinking about this what are we going to do in space. Right? On the moon. On Mars. In cislunar. In low Earth's orbit. And so on. But then I paused and I said, "Hey, you know, how do we get to space?" Access. We've seen over the past few years significantly decrease in launch costs. Right? What else do we think is going to happen in this kind of time frame? But even beyond that, what's happening on Earth? Because what we do in space, the systems are designed, they're built. Today they're out on Earth, the workforce and so on. So we really took a step back and spent at least a little bit of time thinking about what's happening on Earth, how to get access to space. And then of course we're all passionate about space. We spend the majority of time thinking about space. Now in terms of missions we cast a very broad net. At Lockheed over the years our portfolio is very broad, but every mission falls in one of these three categories. Right? To protect. To connect. And to explore. And frankly when you think more broadly about our space industry, our space community, if you will, beyond Lockheed and so on, most of the missions we do, they fall on to those three categories. So this is what we've been doing over the past several decades, and this is what we foresee doing in the future. So when we talk about which missions, it's really a broad set of missions. It's remote sensing where you have assets in space looking down on Earth for various different reasons. It's real communications. Right? Communication satellites. Communication to the public. Broadband communication. Protected communication to the military. It's really, you know, broad at large. Communicating as we establish a presence on the moon, Mars, and beyond. So communicate into deep space, into the moon and Mars, cislunar. And then exploring. Actually the timing for this conversation is great. Right? Because just -- just recently we had OSIRIS-REx bring back the capsule. And we're all, you know, eager to see what the scientists are going to find on those -- on those samples there. So explore. And actually not so recent as O-Rex, but it looks like every day we have some new discovery from James Webb Space Telescope. Right? So my team, you know, in my prior role that I'm just transitioning out actually built the near infrared camera which is one of the primary scientific instruments on James Webb that provided those remarkable images that, you know, help us learn so much about our origins in the universe and so on. So it's really a broad cast. I could -- you know, I could pick one and if you'd like to do that, I can definitely do that. I could pick one or two mission areas and delve a little bit deeper in terms of the technologies and so on. But really broad and including defense. The defense aspect of that.

>> Maria Varmazis: If you could talk a little bit about one or two mission areas, I would be fascinated to hear more.

>> Nelson Pedreiro: Let me start then with -- with what we think is going to be happening on Earth that is relevant to the space community and future space missions. So in this kind of time frame if we're talking 2050, right, it's time it's far enough that we really think we're going to be seeing -- and we're going to drive. We're not just going to be seeing. We're going to drive a whole new level of integration in design and analysis tools. If you look back at the past 25 years or so, you know people who work in the field, they all realize how far along we've come in terms of design and analysis tools for space systems. What we're seeing is another quantum leap in terms of those advancements to the point where the space professionals, folks like me and you know around the industry, we're really going to be able to -- to play a different role. We're going to focus much more in terms of what are the missions, what are the objectives, what do we want to achieve. And a lot of the process of designing, analyzing, and even prototyping is going to be automated. So that's on the design front. Today we are already seeing mass production of satellites. You look at One Web. You look at Space X. Actually Lockheed was in year's best when we did the iridium 70 satellites or so. We were -- kind of pioneered that. Today we're actually at a different level mass producing that. And that's fantastic. We see that continuing, accelerating. What we're missing today that we believe we're going to have in this kind of time frame, 2050, is automating the development and prototyping. Right? Development and prototyping today, it's still very human intensive, very laborious. It's not highly automated. We believe we're going to be able to do that through the automation of design and analysis tools and through the automation of manufacturing and so on, but in a manner that's tailored. So think about printing a satellite. Think about no harness spacecraft integration. When you do things like this what's exciting about it is that we're now -- the speed of innovation is only limited by the speed of ideas. And we also are going to totally change the whole balance between recurring and non recurring costs. Right? So think about a production line of spacecraft similar to what we have production line for automotive today, but that not all spacecraft need to be the same because you're inserting your technology and you're tailoring them to the mission. In order for producing and developing, for developing fast, and you're producing [inaudible] now you need to get these assets to space. And so let me talk a little bit about access and then I'll talk about the missions in space. So in terms of access we've seen a tremendous reduction in cost on that. We see that continuing. And I think that's fantastic. But when we talk about 2050, that's time enough that we should also be exploring different ways to get to space. Think about [inaudible]. Think about space elevator. Right? So I'm trying to be provocative here, but when you think about it --

>> Maria Varmazis: Space elevator?

>> Nelson Pedreiro: Yes. Absolutely.

>> Maria Varmazis: I'm a fan of that idea, but man. Yeah.

>> Nelson Pedreiro: Exactly. Exactly. So when I think about a space elevator, right, I'm trying to be a little provocative here, but when you think about it, it's not a new concept. It does not violate any laws of physics. It is a really, really hard engineering problem. But if we have shown over the years that when we put our mind -- as a community, aerospace community, when we put our minds to it, and there is the will, we can make things happen. Now why is that interesting? Because it's not only a matter of cost because it would be costly to develop such a system, but once it's developed, right, we have continuous access to space. But it's also a very different kind of access. Right? Because now you eliminated launch loads. And when you go look at the systems that we develop today, a lot of the design features that we have to put on like -- think about James Webb. This very six and a half meter segmented pristine optical system with exquisite instruments. Right? Optical instruments. And you put that on a launch vehicle and you shake that and you launch it. Right? And so a lot of the -- a lot of the design challenges are associated with just a launch environment. But then when it's in space it's a more benign environment from that perspective. So if you can -- if we can get something like a space elevator to work, it also totally changes how you design systems and things like that. So we're talking about, you know, not qualitative change. Hey, I'm going to reduce the cost 10%. We're talking about quantitative change. Right? We can now do things very, very differently and so on. So that's the part. The other part about access that I wanted to talk about is not just access to space itself, but it's the fact that we've already seen tremendous interest in cislunar. We talk a lot about low Earth's orbit, mid Earth's orbit, and geostationary. So LEO, MEO, GEO. We're now seeing already a lot of interest in going beyond cislunar. And so a little deeper into space. So that's -- that's maybe a geographical expansion. But also there is a political expansion. Right? We are seeing -- I like to tell my team that space is cool again. And that's just fantastic. There is private capital coming into space. There is a lot of interest in space that attracts, you know, the most important thing. And now this conversation is the people, is the talent. That attracts new talent. So it's [inaudible] sense in space that we're seeing. I think it's just eye watering. It's a fantastic time to be in space. We're very fortunate to -- you know, to be here today. But there's also political expansion. Right? Where in this kind of time frame every country will either have their own assets or interest, their own interest, in space even though they might have been manufactured, launched, and operated by partnership with another nation. And so on.

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>> Maria Varmazis: We'll be right back.

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>> Maria Varmazis: Indeed yes. We're seeing things moving quickly in that direction. Yeah. Yeah.

>> Nelson Pedreiro: So we see that. And then finally you get to space. Right? Which is I think what we're here to talk about, but I thought that was important to start on Earth, see how we get there. And then -- and then a little, right, let's talk about protect, connect, and explore. So one of the key missions we have today, right, remote sensing, communications, exploration and so on, we see those continuing and expanding. No question about this. We also see new missions are going to develop such as space traffic remediation. Space traffic management. [Inaudible] remediation. Space tourism. We're already seeing some movements in that direction. So there's definitely some new missions that are going to -- that are going to come. Now for us really to accelerate this, and I've got to tell you, NASA -- I don't think NASA gets enough credit for everything NASA does. Not only on technology front, but also in maintaining, sustaining, and expanding, you know, our industrial base here. The whole business about commercialization of space and so on, NASA, is when you really dive two, three levels deeper you see that NASA is behind enabling a lot of that, a lot of these new entrants. Small or not. New companies. And so on. So I wanted to -- I wanted to acknowledge that. When I think about that, one of the key elements really to democratize space, to make it more accessible, right, is infrastructure. Well, what does that mean? What does that mean? Well, it means power. It means propulsion. It means communication. Mobility. If we're talking moon and Mars, mobility. If every company that -- in the future that is going to go and has an idea to put a system or a service in space, if they have to develop their own communication systems and their own power system, then so on and so forth, it does become the barrier for entry becomes significant. If those are in place and they can just tap into it, right, then it's a whole different ballgame. Again to go back to what you focus on, your time, your energy, or resources, you focus on your mission and the unique aspects that you're bringing. That you're offering. So think about, you know, I have an idea. I'm going to put a system in space. And you know what? I'm going to have a module here that, you know, there is an infrastructure for power in space and maybe we're doing nuclear power. We're power beaming. We're beaming power to these different assets in space. So my spacecraft will have a little, you know -- receives power from that. So I don't see that, you know, the nuclear and the power beaming as replacing solar rays and things like that. But we see that as an augmentation for that. Similarly for communication. We've already seen constellations with thousands of spacecraft like Starlink. We're seeing China also has plans to put thousands of spacecraft and so on. So we see that proliferation. So that's good. Right? Because communication is a key element of infrastructure that we're going to need in space. So but when we look at that we assume that it's reliable and it's trustworthy. So if you can't count on that, then mission critical. Like not only defense, but also banking systems and things like that that run into information that goes through satellite constellations. You need to be able to trust that. So you also are going to need higher information content, higher bandwidth. Think about bits per photon. Right? If we're talking about that. And what we foresee here -- now let me pull a little bit of the technology. I already mentioned nuclear a little bit for nuclear power. Let me pull a little bit another one here which is quantum communications. And -- and people generally, and me too, when we talk about quantum communications the first thing, oh it's unbreakable. It's super secure. It's unbreakable. It is true. Check that. That's being demonstrated around the world in many laboratories and this and that and that's all fine. The quantum key distribution aspects and so on, but there is another aspect of quantum key -- quantum coms that is not as well [inaudible] and that has to do with, you know, by exploring different protocols, by multiplexing in time, space, and frequency, we can truly increase information density and information content. And we actually have demonstrated that not only in a laboratory. We did a few demonstrations in our Denver facility here. We have a -- you know, a tabletop mountain range. We demonstrated that. Actually a more stringent environment than in space because you have to deal with the atmosphere. And we demonstrated and we expect, you know, a 10X or higher order of magnitude in terms of information content. So these are the kind of technologies and capabilities that, you know, the advanced technology center is working on and developing because this really opens up a whole new capability. Right? In this case the element of infrastructure. Secure, but also higher up. And we're going to need it. Right? Because we see the proliferation of these systems. Propulsion is another element that is very critical. We see NASA funding and enabling cryogenic storage of propellants in space and so on. We see that on the -- maybe on the shorter term, the next 10 years or so very critical. But we really see on the long term nuclear propulsion being a key -- a key element because it's not only low Earth's orbit we talked about. It's MEO, GEO. It's cislunar. Right? It's across the board. It's also deep space. I was talking to you about O-Rex, OSIRIR-REx. And we built that system for NASA. Exciting. And so on. Well, it did -- it did take us several years to go rendezvous with this asteroid. Right? Collect the sample and come back. I think the rendezvous was maybe two years ago and so on. And that's all good. But as a species, humans, we need to accelerate our learning. Right? And so how do we do that? So for some of these deep space missions we can actually accelerate because the majority of the mission time is just getting where you need to go. We talk about going to the icy moons of Jupiter and things like that. Well, when we look at propulsion we can -- you know, we can start moving in that direction. And we talk about going to Mars. Right? And so on. Again nuclear propulsion will help us cut that travel transit time. So these are some of the key technology elements that we see. Let me talk about a different -- a different mission here. Let me talk about remote sensing. We do a lot of looking at the Earth and what's happening. Well, now I'm going to tie it back to what I talked to you in terms of what's happening on Earth. Right? If you're really now producing this spacecraft on a cadence. You're getting them, you know on a cadence, we can always start thinking about -- forgive me. I know some people are going to get offended, but disposable spacecraft. Your spacecraft that maybe they only need to last a couple years or so. Right? And it's not because they're not going to work longer than that. It's because you're developing new technology and so on. So you're refreshing that. And if you're talking about large constellations not only for communications, but also for remote sensing and so on, you can think about a system that is resilient and the resilience is in the architecture. It's not only on the platform per se. Right? So if you have a network of spacecraft for communications, for remote sensing, and so on, and you lose 1, you lose 2, you lose 10, you lose 100, if it's a network, you're going to have a graceful degradation in terms of performance. And you're populating this back on a cadence. So it's a different way to think about this. There are some exciting technologies since the time of Galileo. I'm talking about remote sensing. Right? Optical systems we -- the image on the focal point. Right? We collect light through a lens or a mirror, reflect on, you know, secondary, tertiary mirrors and so on, and then focus that on the focal plane and we get the image and it works very well. We're going to continue to do that. That's how James Webb works. That's how Hubble works. And all of that. Well, there is a different way to do an image. I like to call it the imaging computer. And that's interferometric imaging where you measure, you create interferogram. You collect light to interfere. You generate interferograms. And radio astronomers have been doing that for ages. Right? Now in radio astronomy the wavelength's a little longer. So it's a little easier to do than in optics. Right? You have this very, very small wavelength. Requires very, very precise control of the wave, of the path, length of light so that you can have the proper interferograms. But we've demonstrated that in the lab. We work with a number of universities. We actually showed that it works not only simulation, but actually in hardware. And the idea here is to bring image computing to a whole new level to interferometric imaging where we have thousands of lenslets. Not just two telescopes collecting light and interfering it. And you're now creating thousands of interferograms by combining light from these, you know, different lenslets on this lenslet array if you will. And you then compute an image from that. Why would we want to do that? Well, there is a 10X reduction in volume and mass on the system. It's not simple. It's complex. But you're shifting the complexity to the fabrication phase of the program as opposed to the later stages of integration and testing phase. And that is done basically on a semiconductor effect. Right? It's a solid state device. So that's interferometric imaging. And -- and, you know, now tied back that you're producing this solid state imager. So you're launching them on cadence and you have a large network. We're going to be able to observe every square meter of Earth on a continuous basis. We're going to be able to track every object on Earth. And we're going to be able to track every object in space. And we need to do that. So that's, you know -- that's -- that's a different vision for remote sensing.

>> Maria Varmazis: It is a very comprehensive vision. And there is a lot involved there. So I'm sort of still digesting it a little bit, but it's -- it's very impressive. The thought that comes to mind aside from the stuff that I was sort of geeking out on personally because you mentioned a few things I'm like I'm really, really excited about. Nuclear propulsion, for example. So just hearing you mentioning that I was like, "Yes. That's great." I'm thinking about people who are maybe beginning their careers right now and thinking, "I want to help support making some component -- several of these components happen." Obviously these are -- these are fantastic visions. But, you know, people want to work towards making that happen, seeing that real. What should we tell people who are coming up through the workforce? How do we support the workforce now to help make space 2050 happen?

>> Nelson Pedreiro: Yeah. Well, so what I'd like to tell them, come and join us. Right? And when I say join us, this is beyond Lockheed. We started this piece, but you know there are many organizations. Like NASA is fantastic. They always create a vision for the future and so on. And when you look at that, there's a lot of overlap. And other organizations do that too. When you think about a vision that is this broad and what we need to do to make it happen, this goes beyond any company or any organization. This is really it's a call to the aerospace community. Right? At large. So what I would tell them is it's an exciting time to join space, to be in space. There are many, many needs. Right? Just this brief conversation here we talked about nuclear power, talked about propulsion. We didn't even talk about in orbit assembly, repair. We didn't even talk about habitats on the moon and the whole medical aspect of that because if we're going to have humans on moon and Mars and in deep space, right, we need to make sure that they're safe, they're protected. So there's a whole element here of the psychology, of the medical aspect, of the health aspect, of that. Right? We need DNA repair technology to deal with radiation. Right? That's beyond my area of knowledge here. But it is very broad. And that's I think the message. It's broad. It will take all of us. Right? It will take a community. So my call is a call to the community to large and small companies, to space agencies at large. Let's get together because the challenges are significant. But the rewards are also eye watering. And if we pull out together and we can push in a few of these key directions here, we're going to just accelerate the future.

>> Maria Varmazis: Excellent. Well, that's -- I'm sure people hear that loud and clear. So I know you're going to be at Ascend, and there's a lot planned for that. Could you just give me a quick update on sort of what is planned for Ascend?

>> Nelson Pedreiro: We're very excited about Ascend. We -- you know, at Lockheed we have had this strategic partnership with AIAA for decades. We cherish that very much. And because as I mentioned to you this vision for the future is really a vision for the aerospace community at large, it's not any single company or any single organization, so one I was delighted when we held an event and we rolled out this space 2050 vision last year in Washington, D.C at an event. And AIAA Dan Dumbacher, executive director, was there with his team. And we actually started the conversation right away. Dan and his team saw the value and I saw immediately the value of having, you know, an AIAA kind of which is an international organization with a tremendous footprint, tremendous respect, carried the baton, right, for industry and bring us out together as a community. Right? So in a sense it's really the culmination of that. We've been working closely with AIAA. Of course we're going to have plenary talks. We're going to have a number of panels that touch on many of the aspects that we had that we talked to you in the past few minutes. But we actually went beyond that and that's what I'm so excited about that, that our -- there are over 35 technical papers distributed at I think 8 different technical sessions with representation from industry at large. Start ups. Large companies. Space agencies. NASA and others. And -- and it's really the first major step in bringing the community together towards that. Right? So I'm super excited about Ascend and I hope all of our listeners here can join us. It's going to be super exciting.

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>> Maria Varmazis: That's it for "T-Minus," deep space, for October 21, 2023. Join us at Ascend October 23rd through 25th to hear more about space 2050. We'd love to know what you think of this podcast. You can email us at space@nsk.com or submit the survey in the show notes. Your feedback ensures that we deliver the information that keeps you a step ahead in the rapidly changing space industry. This episode was produced by Alice Carruth. Mixing by Elliott Peltzman and Tre Hester with original music and sound design by Elliott Peltzman. Our executive producer is Brandon Karp. Our chief information officer is Eric Tillman. And I'm Maria Varmazis. Thanks for listening.

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