Main Engine Cut Off

Off-Nominal 32 - Well Within the Kill Zone

Jake and Anthony are joined by Lord British himself, Richard Garriott de Cayeux. Richard is a storied video game designer/developer, an entrepreneur, an astronaut who flew to the ISS for a week, and an adventurer with so many tales it’s hard to keep up. Richard is also the son of Owen Garriott, a NASA astronaut who flew on Skylab II and STS-9.

Richard joins us to talk about growing up as the son of an astronaut, to tell tales of spaceflight and undersea adventures, to ruminate on the commercial spaceflight industry, and to blow our minds with stories of dodgy Russian safety protocols.

Also, our fundraiser is over and we’ve made a significant impact on two organizations working hard to bring racial equity to STEM and space. We raised nearly $35,000!

Episode T+166: Laura Klicker and Daniel Gillies, Astrobotic

Two members of the Astrobotic team join me for a conversation: Laura Klicker, Payload Systems Management Lead, and Daniel Gillies, Mission Director for the Griffin/VIPER mission. We talk about Astrobotic’s first Peregrine mission coming up next year, the very exciting VIPER mission to the south pole of the Moon in 2023, payload management across multiple flights, the technical aspects of their various vehicles, and a whole lot more.

This episode of Main Engine Cut Off is brought to you by 38 executive producers—Brandon, Matthew, Simon, Lauren, Kris, Pat, Matt, Jorge, Brad, Ryan, Nadim, Donald, Lee, Chris, Warren, Bob, Russell, John, Moritz, Joel, Jan, Grant, David, Joonas, Robb, Tim Dodd (the Everyday Astronaut!), Frank, Julian and Lars from Agile Space, Tommy, Adam, and seven anonymous—and 397 other supporters.

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Episode T+165: Caleb Henry on the OneWeb Acquisition, Starlink Antennas, C-Band Drama, and More

Caleb Henry of SpaceNews returns to the show to talk about the OneWeb acquisition and related fallout, Starlink antennas, the ongoing C-band drama including the satellite-buying bonanza, and he helps us understand the FCC-GPS-Ligado situation.

This episode of Main Engine Cut Off is brought to you by 38 executive producers—Brandon, Matthew, Simon, Lauren, Kris, Pat, Matt, Jorge, Brad, Ryan, Nadim, Donald, Lee, Chris, Warren, Bob, Russell, John, Moritz, Joel, Jan, Grant, David, Joonas, Robb, Tim Dodd (the Everyday Astronaut!), Frank, Julian and Lars from Agile Space, Tommy, Adam, and seven anonymous—and 397 other supporters.

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Episode T+164: An Announcement, and a Check-in on International Space Policy and NSSL Phase 2

To start, there’s exciting news! My son is due at the end of August, and so I’ll be taking some time off after he arrives. Before that, I wanted to check in on two storylines.

Professional shit-stirrer Dmitry Rogozin made it pretty clear that Russia is not interested in the Artemis Program, while various countries around the world partner with NASA on it. And we’re only a few weeks out from the NSSL Phase 2 awards and there is some related budgetary considerations being debated, so it’s a good time to circle back on that.

This episode of Main Engine Cut Off is brought to you by 38 executive producers—Brandon, Matthew, Simon, Lauren, Kris, Pat, Matt, Jorge, Brad, Ryan, Nadim, Donald, Lee, Chris, Warren, Bob, Russell, John, Moritz, Joel, Jan, Grant, David, Joonas, Robb, Tim Dodd (the Everyday Astronaut!), Frank, Julian and Lars from Agile Space, Tommy, Adam, and seven anonymous—and 392 other supporters.

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NASA Updates Planetary Protection Policies, Downgrades Most of the Moon

Jeff Foust, for Space News:

The first of what are formally known as NASA Interim Directives revises planetary protection classification of the moon. Mission to the moon had been in Category 2, which required missions to document any biological materials on board but set no cleanliness standards on them. That classification was driven by concerns spacecraft could contaminate water ice at the lunar poles.

Under the new directive, most of the moon will be placed in Category 1, which imposes no requirements on missions. The exceptions will be the polar regions — north of 86 degrees north latitude and south of 79 degrees south latitude — which will remain in Category 2. Regions around Apollo landing “and other historic sites” will also be in Category 2, primarily to protect biological materials left behind by the crewed Apollo landings.

A good plan that Jake of WeMartians fame called months ago. His episode about planetary protection with Dr. Wendy Calvin—a member of the Planetary Protection Independent Review Board that had influence on these changes—is seriously worth a listen.

Let’s take some shots on goal.

Defense Production Act Giveth, Defense Production Act Taketh Away

The rideshare contracts that SMC planned for 6 companies have been withdrawn. The list of companies included—Aevum, Astra, X-Bow, Rocket Lab, Space Vector and VOX Space (Virgin Orbit)—was lacking some big name, high visibility players, and it seems like leaving them out came back to bite.

I’m guessing it was going to be more pain than warranted to see this batch of contracts through to the finish line, unfortunately.

In other Defense Production Act news, LeoLabs is being awarded a $15 million contract. It’s a small amount, but will obviously be a huge help to a small company like LeoLabs. More interesting to me is the fact that the Department of Defense sees LeoLabs as highly valuable, enough so as to make sure they survive 2020.

A Few Thoughts on OneWeb’s Acquisition by the UK Government and Bharti Global

I’ve been kicking the news on this one around my head for a bit. I can’t quite come up with a grand unifying theory, but there are a couple of good reasons, though.

For Bharti—a huge telecom operating in India, parts of Africa, and a few other countries—the move makes a ton of sense. Constellations like OneWeb are going to be a huge factor in getting more connectivity to remote parts of the world. It’s a no-brainer for a telecom like Bharti, but it seems like they were looking for a complementary partner in the deal.

Turns out the UK is that partner. Aside from the obvious historical connections between the countries, they complement each other well because they are geographically distinct markets, so won’t compete for concurrent throughput.

The UK government, who wants and needs some new projects for growth and related economic reasons post-Brexit, might like the idea of providing services throughout remote regions of the country and the rest of Europe.

The UK also has a pretty good space sector at the moment, but intends to see more growth there. As far as their relationship with Europe, there is definitely some saltiness around being “left out” of the recent Copernicus contracts. It’s not surprising when you look at the ESA contributions, but I think the UK would quite like to have a huge launch contract to hold over Arianespace’s head—they have 19 of 22 launches left to go.

The UK and Bharti Global both put up $500 million for the acquisition, but there’s a lot of funding left to dump into this project for it to be successfully completed, so let’s see where that comes from.

I was wrong that Amazon would want the spectrum, but it sounds like they had other, more promising irons in the fire.

Thank You to June Supporters!

Very special thanks to the 422 of you out there supporting Main Engine Cut Off for the month of June. MECO is entirely listener- and reader-supported, and it’s your support keeps this blog and podcast going, growing, and improving, and most importantly, it keeps it independent.

And a huge thanks to the 38 executive producers of Main Engine Cut Off: Brandon, Matthew, Simon, Kris, Pat, Matt, Jorge, Brad, Ryan, Nadim, Peter, Donald, Lee, Chris, Warren, Bob, Russell, John, Moritz, Joel, Jan, Grant, David, Joonas, Robb, Tim Dodd (the Everyday Astronaut!), Frank, Julian and Lars from Agile Space, Tommy, Adam, and seven anonymous executive producers.

If you’re getting some value out of what I do here and want to help support Main Engine Cut Off, join the crew of supporters and producers!

There are other ways to help support, too: head over to the shop and buy yourself a shirt or a pair of Rocket Socks, tell a friend, or post a link to something I’m writing or talking about on Twitter or in your favorite subreddit. Spreading the word is an immense help to an independent creator like myself.

Episode T+163: Suborbital Crew, Virgin Galactic to ISS

NASA recently established the Suborbital Crew office within the Commercial Crew Program, which will focus on developing a plan to fly personnel on suborbital spaceflights. At the same time, Virgin Galactic signed an agreement with NASA to provide private orbital spaceflights to the ISS.

This episode of Main Engine Cut Off is brought to you by 38 executive producers—Brandon, Matthew, Simon, Kris, Pat, Matt, Jorge, Brad, Ryan, Nadim, Peter, Donald, Lee, Chris, Warren, Bob, Russell, John, Moritz, Joel, Jan, Grant, David, Joonas, Robb, Tim Dodd (the Everyday Astronaut!), Frank, Julian and Lars from Agile Space, Tommy, Adam, and seven anonymous—and 385 other supporters.

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