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Cold Star Project

Cold Star Project

Author: Jason Kanigan

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The Cold Star Project digs into the challenges of scaling fast that tech and Space manufacturing founders encounter. Money does not solve all problems--so what now? Listen in to discover what scaling problems you'll be running into soon, and get a serious advantage in starting to solve them before they run you over!
234 Episodes
Dr. Moriba Jah, professor at the University of Texas at Austin, past navigator for many missions to Mars, and space situational awareness expert returns to the Cold Star Project. With host Jason Kanigan, Dr. Jah digs deeper into the challenges of space object identification, tracking and orbital prediction, including: Why is it a problem that satellite orbit pathing predictions assume a spheroid shape? What issues does this create? What can we do to improve the predictive ability of satellite pathing calculations? Why do we need to improve this accuracy--what’s the rush, what’s driving this need? What is the technology behind space traffic management: what era is it from, and how does it work? Who operates it? What would a better system look like, and who should operate it? Why was the Two Line Element format chosen? What’s wrong with TLEs? It’s my understanding from speaking with our colleagues, primarily the British, that more information is available or even broadcast, but some is truncated to fit in the TLE format. Why is this done? In my own research, I found a Consultative Committee for Space Data Systems blue book from 2009, updated in 2012. From there I went on to the CCSDS website. Thinking is clearly done on the topic: why, then, is (from the outsider’s perspective, at any rate) the pace of change glacial? What would a modern satellite data communication system look like? How many lines would you recommend? What would this additional data transmission enable us to do or know? In the past year space situational awareness and space domain awareness have finally been getting more of the attention it deserves. What else needs to happen to gain the energy to make change and the funding required to do so?    Previous interview on the Cold Star Project with Dr. Jah:    Wikipedia page on Dr. Jah:   Get new episodes directly in your inbox:   Talk to Cold Star:
Starting in Europe and ending in the USA, Istvan Lorincz and the other co-founders of Morpheus Space have been on a long startup journey. We discuss: their fundraising efforts what has stood out as a key but little-mentioned factor in developing a startup the realistic expectations founders should have when deciding to form a startup.    Morpheus Space website: Get new episodes directly in your inbox:   Talk to Cold Star:
Jacob Meyer, PhD, is VP of Technology at ATSP Innovations. He has experience with SBIRs and the struggles of creating commercial products from them. Host Jason Kanigan of the Cold Star Project discusses these challenges with Dr. Meyer. USEFUL LINKS: ATSP Innovations website: OpEx Society: America's Future Series: Talk to Cold Star:
Dr. Paul van Susante of Michigan Technological University, a past guest (link below), returns to the Cold Star Project. We're discussing his participation in a number of investigative projects and NASA challenges related to powering our first projects on the Moon. Host Jason Kanigan asks Paul about the: LuSTR grant NASA Watts on the Moon centennial challenge phase I, where they won the $100k grand prize for scenario 2. They submitted to Phase II, level 1 and were selected as one of 7 teams to advance to level 2 and received $200k NASA Break the Ice challenge centennial challenge phase I where they won a runner up prize ($25k). They submitted an entry to Break the Ice phase II, level 1 and were last month selected as one of 15 teams to advance to level 2 (all US teams (13) got $38.5k) Winning several other grants and are currently working on those related to landing pad construction, site preparation, hardware testing in their dusty thermal vacuum chamber as well. USEFUL LINKS: HuskyWorks website: Paul's previous appearance on the Cold Star Project: OpEx Society: America's Future Series: Talk to Cold Star:
President and CEO of Orbital Assembly Rhonda Stevenson is our guest this time on the Cold Star Project. With host Jason Kanigan she discusses the challenges of building a truly commercial space company. We cover the capabilities of Orbital Asembly, as well as Rhonda's personal efforts to build consortiums and attract customers to the space industry.   USEFUL LINKS:   Orbital Assembly website:  OpEx Society:  America's Future Series:  Talk to Cold Star:
Just because you CAN create a product doesn't mean you SHOULD. What Scaling Problems Can You Find In SBIR/STTR Product Commercialization? While small batches may work in the lab, commercializing will require large quantities and unexpected issues from supply chain through chemical reactions may change. The results from these issues may well prove the venture impossible to complete under current conditions. David Driscoll of Storm Castle joins Cold Star Project host Jason Kanigan to discuss a real life example of struggling with scaling for commercialization. While the concept had been proven to work, making it happen at a scale that would make money turned out to be a dead end. Jason asks David: Q: What professional roles have you held? From what context are you speaking to these challenges? A: Glacigen (Founder), Montana State University (Senior Research Scientist), Storm Castle Technical Products (Current; Founder) Q: What was Glacigen all about? A: Commercialization of an advanced manufacturing technique; freeze tape casting. FTC is a hybridization of an industrial processing technique with well-established lab scale technique. It produces large area sheets of materials with highly engineered microstructures. Materials which have been known for a long time can exhibit great performance enhancement with new processing. (Flour, baking soda, eggs, sugar, etc…..could be awful or masterpiece it’s all in the processing. We tend to focus too easily on exotic alloys and entirely new materials (good and valuable), when opportunity is left on the table with respect to using existing ingredients better. Q: What kind of applications were you looking at? A: Started all over the board. FTC arrived as a solution looking for a problem. Composites of high temperature materials (hypersonics), solid oxide fuel cell electrodes, catalyst scaffolds, thermal interface materials, actuators….finally battery electrodes. In my eyes, battery electrodes represented the convergence of good technical fit with strong merit, market of relevant scale, and opportunity to address true customer pain point. Q: Which pain point is that, exactly? A: Specifically for customers of high performance applications: energy density (without destroying power density). Cost is important even for those with performance applications. Q: How did you realize commercializing this as a product, rather than having it remain as a lab invention, was important? A: That was intrinsic, and a primary motivating factor of launching Glacigen. I saw potential for real impact in the FTC process which obviously couldn’t be realized within academia. There was a commitment to commercialization from the outset, but some learning required to understand how that looks. Q: What steps did you take towards commercialization? What did you learn? (eg. would you start the process earlier?) A: Early steps were technically focused: scalability, repeatability, application-based proof of concept. Early strategic steps came after technical work, but work focused on matching applications with strong FTC applicability with customer needs ‘pain points.’ We began working with a company building EV batteries. This led to a great deal of learning that springboarded us towards conversations with larger and more established manufacturers. Engaging with the customer more intentionally, and much earlier would have been critical. The first level is understanding need, which we did reasonably well. We misidenitfied barriers to adoption, which could have - in retrospect been identified much sooner. Same applies to thinking you understand strength of market pull, pain points, value propositions etc. Those things need to be constantly tested and when necessary, iterated. USEFUL NOTES: Storm Castle Technical Products: OpEx Society: America's Future Series: Talk to Cold Star:
Mike Read is in the role of Manager, ISS Business and Economic Development Office at NASA Johnson Space Center. But what does the International Space Station have to do with the commercialization of space? Cold Star Project host Jason Kanigan asks Mike: You have a non-engineering background yet are in the space field. Tell us about how this happened What is the scope of your responsibilities in the ISS Business and Economic Development Office?  What constitutes a success over the period of a year?  Can you share some recent wins? How long is the ISS expected to be available? If/when commercial operators have private space stations in orbit, is NASA expecting to simply be a customer? Who do you want to speak with? What makes a good discussion or project for you?   Useful Links:   Houston, We Have a Podcast 2019 interview with Mike Read:  OpEx Society:  Talk to Cold Star:
CEO of Compass Technology Group LLC Becky Schultz joins host Jason Kanigan on the Cold Star Project, and our topic of discussion is commercialization of products developed through SBIR/STTR grant funding. Jason asks Becky: Tell us about your background and its relevance to SBIR/STTR awards   What was your initial intention in getting grant money: to develop tech/IP, or move towards commercializing a product? Why?   Share your experience with the grant awards process…quirks, takeaways, frustrations What problem were you solving and how did you know the market would be interested in buying?   Your focus on commercialization ⏤ success stories, struggles (supply chain, scaling manufacturing processes?) What do you recommend for those seeking grant funding, in terms of purpose/focus/approach/expectation. Useful Links:   Compass Technology Group LLC website: OpEx Society: Talk to Cold Star:
CU Aerospace President David Carroll kicks off a new season of the Cold Star Project as we discuss the challenges of productizing a new space tech invention. After the struggle of winning an SBIR, then developing the technology, what are the hurdles to commercializing the result?   Host Jason Kanigan asks Dr. Carroll:   What problem were you aiming to solve when you applied for the specific SBIR we're discussing today? Who was the customer or target user? How did you discover that a focus on having a customer was critical and a good starting point for tech development? What challenges did you have in getting the award, and then running the program? What conditions or advantages does having a partner eg. U of Illinois bring to the table? What have you seen in terms of grant awards that has made you scratch your head?    USEFUL LINKS:   CU Aerospace website:  OpEx Society:  Get new episodes directly in your inbox:  Talk to Cold Star:
Robert Twiggs and Matt Craft, through Twiggs Space Labs, have run pilot Space and STEM / STEAM training programs for kids through the state of Virginia. Bob Twiggs is known as the "Father of the CubSat" for his co-development of the CubeSat standard. As they expand to serve the rest of the United States, Bob and Matt appear on the Cold Star Project to share their practices and vision. Host Jason Kanigan asks Bob and Matt about their: Personal histories Products & program Benefits for students, teachers, space & defense businesses and the nation from the STEM / STEAM training Experience with Virginia, NASA Expectations with Primes Next Steps for themselves and those wanting to be involved. USEFUL LINKS: Twiggs Space Lab (TSL) website: TSL is very interested in working with academic institutions, aerospace and defense companies, technology companies, and federal agencies, including NASA, DoD, and NOAA. The support can take many forms including: Participating in outreach programs and mentoring students Sponsoring STEM programs by purchasing STEM products for schools Sponsoring STEM Challenges (CanSat, PocketQubes, etc.) Consulting with and advising TSL of critical skill development opportunities Promoting TSL programs and products Financial support through grants or buying STEM products for schools. Please feel free to contact TSL at Talk to Cold Star:
Bill Conley was a DARPA Program Manager, then the US Department of Defense's expert on electronic warfare for four years, and is now Chief Technology Officer at Mercury Systems. Our topic is a comparison of the 19th Century's Concert of Europe vs Modern Day's communication and methods of deterrence. Cold Star Project host Jason Kanigan asks Bill Conley: What is effective communication, especially in context of diplomacy and deterrence of conflict? Why doesn’t the Behavioralist/Rational Economics approach work in practice when it comes to national conflicts? Do you believe the match-up of 2020s China-US is similar to the 1910s UK-German? Are there historical correlations? The WWI era was about the disintegration of the old order, and paradigm shifts. Are there indicators of a similar instability of the existing order today? As a nation’s capabilities increase, so do its ambitions. Many of these ambitions seem to end up with the idea of autarky. Do you believe we’re close to experiencing another such outbreak of these ideas today? How could a modern day China-US conflict proceed?   USEFUL LINKS:   "Mitchell Hour: State of Electronic Warfare in the DOD" [Dr. Conley lecture]:  "What Is Eurasia?" [Dr. Stephen Kotkin lecture]:  Mercury Systems website:  OpEx Society:  America's Future Series:  Talk to Cold Star:
Sales trainer Wes Schaeffer is back on the Cold Star Project, and our topic is his free 12 Weeks To Peak sales accountability program. Host Jason Kanigan participated in 2022 Q4's version and 12 Weeks To Peak has been re-released for 2023. The two sales trainers share elements and results of this free accountability program for founders and salespeople. Come along with us and find out if it's right for you!   USEFUL LINKS:   12 Weeks To Peak website:  Jason Kanigan's Effective Prospecting video series:  Past appearances of Wes Schaeffer on the Cold Star Project:   "What CRM Should I Get?"  "Process Before Login" (choosing a CRM)  OpEx Society:  Talk to Cold Star:
Past Chief Software Officer of the US Space Force and Air Force Nic Chaillan is back on the Cold Star Project. Over the past year, Nic has developed his own learning platform, Learn With Nic. He has also hosted his own show, In The Nic Of Time. Host Jason Kanigan asks Nic: What have you learned in running your own show, In The Nic Of Time? What have you learned about the general state of software security in the US from your guests? Did this confirm what you already were aware of, or did they add any detail? If you could wave a magic wand and have leaders and developers realize some fundamentals of DevSecOps that are practical to implement as well as effective, what would a couple of those be? Are you still convinced we’re lagging and that China is going to overtake and “beat” us? How do you define that: simply economically, or technologically, militarily? What can we do about it, and are you seeing any evidence of leadership attempting to take action? I hear more and more Americans becoming concerned about TikTok, even leaders in fields I thought would be far away from the edges of national security. I believe we should be more explicit about what can be done with TikTok, beyond “they’re collecting all our data!”. Have your thoughts about TikTok evolved over the past year?  What’s your opinion about the InfraGard hack? To me this seems like “the security guys got hacked”. What could have been done to stop this from happening? Is it symptomatic of a condition or just bad luck? What other kinds of software-based platforms should we be worried about the security of?  Teach us a couple of DevSecOps terms that are probably new to us.    USEFUL LINKS:   Learn With Nic platform:  OpEx Society:  Get new episodes directly in your inbox:  Talk to Cold Star:
High performance culture expert Paul Rulkens returns to the Cold Star Project, and this time we're discussing how to manage smart people. In "brain" organizations, people have strong opinions and they're often right. So how do you lead these intelligent, educated and strong willed people to achieve great results?   Cold Star Project host Jason Kanigan asks Agrippa Consulting founder Paul Rulkens:   What does “High Performance Culture” mean from Paul Rulkens’ perspective? How do you know when you have it / what’s the target to be aiming for? What does a “success environment” really mean? (is your performance management geared towards accelerating the best, or is it designed to gradually improve the average? This distinction is the secret to creating outliers.)   Regarding managing smart people… What % would you typically find “smart people” in organizations? Is it the same as “high performers”?  “Only small chunks of your own time matter”--let’s discuss.   What about people who will say something like, “I line up my tasks and appointments so that I have maximum impact every moment I can? Surely larger amounts of my time and attention matter more than that!”  Assuming we have an 80/20 Rule application here (maybe it’s more like 98/2) how do we apply this as leaders of smart people? What circumstances demonstrate this concept?   When you don’t know as much about the subject matter as the smart people around you, what should you do? How can you pull the best out of your smart team?    As the leader, how can you add value to verify the smart people on the team are thinking accurately? What are your three platinum questions when you lack knowledge of any subject matter, and how do you use them? If you’re not a subject matter expert, what can you coach your team on? What else can you do?   Smart people often disagree. What should you do as a leader if your team has disagreements?  Regarding Succession planning with smart individuals, what are the 5 actions you can take when important people leave?   USEFUL LINKS:   Past appearance of Paul Rulkens on the Cold Star Project:  Paul Rulkens website: OpEx Society:  Talk to Cold Star:
We are simply not as "science-y" as we think we are. People presented to us as experts, precedent, and emotions non-factually impact our decisions--and can put the wrong people behind bars for a long time. Fashion of the moment, storytelling, and "they way we've always done things" can be enemies of improvement. Do you believe you're immune to such influences?   Lt. Col. Arthur Alphin is a firearms & ballistics expert and weapons systems engineer. In this role he is called upon in court to demonstrate how the opposing side's so-called "scientific" tests, representation of events and other issues in shooting cases simply aren't true. I discovered Art as the creator of a West Point video training series about weapons, and ask him here to elaborate on his experience and observations concerning the validity of court proceedings when it comes to shootings. You likely be extremely surprised and disturbed.   USEFUL LINKS:   Antiaircraft round screenshot referred to around 37:00: Arthur Alphin's website  Accompanying this discussion I recommend forensic criminologist Dr. Ron Martinelli's appearance on the Cold Star Project:  OpEx Society:  Get new episodes directly in your inbox:  Talk to Cold Star:
Nicolas Chaillan is the past Chief Software Officer for the US Space Force and Air Force. He lead a number of software initiatives in the US Department of Defense (DoD) and has demonstrated an impressive ability with project and change management. Host Jason Kanigan asks Nic: For those who haven’t heard of you yet, please give us the highlights of your DoD involvement and CSO experience How did you make the move to becoming a US citizen and becoming employed by the state in important roles? Can you explain DevSecOps for those outside the tech field? Why is it important and how have you contributed to US national security and administrative effectiveness with it? You’ve made no secret of the cultural and change management issues inside DoD that frustrated your work. This was what really caught my attention, as such issues are found in nearly all large organizations and are the kinds of problems I’ve seen up close for over 20 years as a change agent and OpEx guy. Can you share with us some stories exemplifying these problems, and what you recommend to improve the situation? The Waterfall vs Agile development methodology argument has been going on for some time. But according to yourself and other DoD officials I’ve spoken with, one has clearly outperformed the other and “actually works”. What has your experience been and why do you so strongly promote the methodology? You’ve repeatedly sounded the alarm about TikTok: what’s the problem with this app and why is it a danger to Americans? The tech we’re talking about--logistical and operational, decision making, infrastructure security--has a huge impact and yet is operating at a level out of sight of the general public. In a perfect world according to Nicolas, how do you see the strategic direction of US effort being applied to reach the operational state you envision? Let’s paint that picture.   USEFUL LINKS:   Link for Platform One, Iron Bank, Big Bang and more:  OpEx Society:  Get new episodes directly in your inbox:  Talk to Cold Star:
Past Comptroller General of the United States, professor at the US Naval Academy, former Defense Business Board appointee, and author David Walker returns to the Cold Star Project--and this time we're addressing the question of whether the United States will still be a superpower by 2040. David has authored the book America In 2040: Still A Superpower? A Pathway To Success. What's wrong with America's fiscal policy, how did we get here, and what can we do about it?   Host Jason Kanigan asks David Walker:   - An investigation of organizations in decline produced the book Exit, Voice and Loyalty by Albert Hirschman. Out of the three choices, Voice is your option… What made you believe writing a book was the best way of influencing others? - Let’s hear your definition of “superpower”.   - What can we learn from past major powers about the problems of maintaining economic growth and military strength over decades?   - Specifically looking at the US now, what outcomes can we expect by 2040 if we don’t change our course? And your target?   - What in your opinion is today’s greatest economic and national security threat to America? How do we handle it?   - You educated me about the concept of “the tooth and the tail” in our last discussion… What needs to change in military investing (development, procurement, deployment) to ensure America remains a superpower over the next two decades?   - What budget controls and standards changes are necessary to achieve the level of results you want to see?   - Share your views on tax policy with us and how you envision these to to alter the long term outcome of the US economic situation.    Useful Links:   Get the book on Amazon (NOT an affiliate link):  Previous interview with David Walker on cultural development in government operations:  Disclaimer: We were not remunerated in any way by David Walker for discussing his book or any other topics.    OpEx Society:  Get new episodes directly in your inbox:  Talk to Cold Star:
Dr. Yan Song is back to complete our deep dive into operationalizing cultural development. This complex, systems thinking topic concludes with Yan's Step 4, transforming the culture. But how is this actually done?   Cultural Development with Dr. Yan Song series playlist:  Slide stills:   Competence slide:  Transformation (step 4) slide:  Operational Perspective slide:  Ecology slide:  Cultural Development slide:  Key Takeaways slide:   OpEx Society:  Get new episodes directly in your inbox:  Talk to Cold Star:
Dr. Yan Song and Cold Star Project host Jason Kanigan continue our exploration of what it takes to operationalize cultural development in organizations. In this deep talk we're looking at Steps Two and (unexpectedly for me, but we didn't want to leave people stranded) Three in a four-part process. I ask Yan about the following:   I had to laugh because the points on slide 7 “Enter New Territory 1 / 4” are the same things we see in sales. We are all trapped in our mental model of limiting beliefs, and what we say we’ll do is often different from what we actually do. Is there a way we can help ourselves become more aware of these processes and contradictions?    Slide 8 is about feedback loops and learning. In my experience, feedback loops have been the bugbear of organizations: they often are missing; they frequently have bad measures when they are in place; tasks and outcomes fall between the cracks as a result--and this obviously does not lead to operational excellence. Frankly, everybody seems to believe they are doing better than they actually are (including me). I also note the time difference between the “doing” and “learning” modes… I imagine this applies to organizations as well, since they are made of people? Is there anything we can do to accelerate learning?    Slide 9 Entropy Increases… Leonard Cohen’s line “from the wars against disorder”... Yeats’ “the center cannot hold”... Why do we need a defensive system against chaos? What would happen if we adopted chaos (would we go insane, Motorcycle Maintenance style?) This Slide 9 is worthy of tremendous discussion--what’s going on here? A snapshot of human perspective, one which I certainly recognize symptoms of my own behavior in! If things are always falling apart, what hope do we have of keeping an organization together long enough to operationalize cultural development and head towards operational excellence?    On Slide 10 we see the shift we must make. However, there is a lot here to explore and unpack. I like the “collective excellence” term. We can’t achieve cultural transformation (or much at all) alone. Reminding ourselves that the topic is “Bravely entering new territory”, I think we finally see what this can mean: not only picking up new ideas from some sort of inert or “doesn’t fight back” source like a book or a video, but rather exploring the new territory of someone else’s mind and ideas. Passive sources can jarr and possibly have their ideas denied by the recipient without pushback, but a live human will probably continue to argue. What are the consequences of that? (We see it played out often in Facebook arguments where no one changes the mind of the other). How can we avoid shut down?   Cultural Development with Dr. Yan Song series playlist:  Slide stills:  Step Two slide:  Reflexive Learning Loop slide:  Double Loop Learning slide:  Unilateral decision making slide:  Mutual decision making slide:  Step Three slide:  Competence slide:   OpEx Society:  Get new episodes directly in your inbox:  Talk to Cold Star:
Now that we've covered what operationalizing cultural development means, in the first episode of this series (CSP S04E04), Dr. Yan Song returns to the Cold Star Project to tackle the next step. How do we put this into action? What is the first step in operationalizing cultural development? With host Jason Kanigan, Dr. Song digs into systems thinking and the approach he has arrived at for taking effective action on this critical organizational topic.   Jason Kanigan asks Yan: “The Truth” is a fundamental concept for both of us. Your process for operationalizing cultural development, as does mine for improving the processes of businesses, begins with confronting the brutal facts. What form does this take and what should investigators be looking for as indicators or starting points? In a slide we see a terrible condition of isolated, fearful, territory-protective people who have only the goal of personal survival. These elements come from Barry Oshry’s book Seeing Systems. How do these elements fit into a system, and how can the leader working to operationalize cultural development make use of them? It seems that by following the analysis track and improving each separately would not accomplish what we want, which is the improvement of the entire system. What, then, is the organizing principle or purpose of this system and how can we use these elements to improve it?  - I am surprised to see Patrick Lencioni’s Five Dysfunctions of a Team book in your presentation...but I probably shouldn’t be. I hadn’t thought his stuff was this high level (though I do think it is good: I think of his content as operational level but obviously I have some education to get on that point!). What is it about Lencioni’s approach that made you want to build it into your cultural development / confronting the brutal facts process? Let’s explore Lencioni’s pyramid. When initiating cultural development, from the pyramid we see that trust is the base. Trust typically comes after people see the actions of their leaders, and then those carrying out the tasks operationally can get comfortable with the conflict, need for commitment etc. But the leader has to start, it seems, from the top? Demonstrating focus on measures, proving their own accountability and commitment, then being willing to challenge the team and develop that trust? Where would you recommend people start?    Cultural Development with Dr. Yan Song series playlist:  Slide stills:  Cultural Development process slide:  Steps slide:  Hot Springs slide:  Set Up Camp slide:  Lencionoi - Collins slide:   OpEx Society:  Get new episodes directly in your inbox:  Talk to Cold Star:
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