Hello and welcome back to Max Q. Before we get into this week’s news, a quick note: I’ll be experimenting with the newsletter over the next few weeks, trying out new segments and features, and I want to hear from you: What do you like to read? What do you want more of? What bores you to tears? Send me an email with your feedback on aria.MovieUpdates@gmail.com† You can also find me on Twitter at @breadfrom†
In this release:
- Elon Musk gives an update on Starship
- OneWeb says goodbye to Soyuz
- Another landing system for the moon
- … plus a new segment – read on.
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NASA gives another company the chance to send a lander to the moon. Nearly a year after the agency announced that SpaceX was beating competitors (including Blue Origin and Boeing) for the occasion, the agency said it would open competition for a second lunar lander under a new contract called Sustaining Lunar Development.
NASA came under fire from both private industry and Congress when it selected SpaceX as the sole contractor for the Human Landing System (HLS) contract, the first contract for a lunar lander. Blue Origin even went so far as to sue NASA in federal court. But this time, NASA administrator Bill Nelson said the agency was all about fostering competition.
“We believe, and Congress does, that competition leads to better, more reliable results and benefits everyone,” he said. “It benefits NASA, [it] benefits the American people. The benefits of competition are clear.”
The agency will release a draft request for proposals at the end of the month, HLS program manager Lisa Watson-Morgan told reporters. A final application for proposals will follow later in the spring, which will be open to all American companies in addition to SpaceX.
Firefly Aerospace may be heading to public markets through a merger with a blank check company, a recent filing with the FCC suggests.
The small-scale start-up has just closed a $75 million funding round led by AE Industrial Partners. The company acquired a stake in the launch company of Noosphere Ventures, a fund of Ukrainian entrepreneur Max Polyakov. Noosphere has sold its stake in Firefly after it came under scrutiny by the US Committee on Foreign Investment
The new FCC filing, which relates to a proposed launch of Firefly’s second Alpha rocket from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base this spring, adds that the acquisition included “the majority of Firefly Aerospace’s equity capital” and was performed by “special purpose vehicles operated by AE industrial partners.”
Inflation doesn’t just show up at the gas pump. SpaceX is also raising prices for everything from its Starlink satellite broadband service to launch.
Regarding Starlink’s price hike, SpaceX cites inflation as the sole reason behind the new pricing structure: “The sole purpose of these adjustments is to keep pace with rising inflation,” it wrote in an email to existing customers. The company also offered a $200 partial refund for hardware return cancellations if a customer has been on service for less than a year, or a full refund if it’s been less than 30 days.
Dedicated launches on both Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets are also increasing in price, jumping from $62 million and $90 million to $67 million and $97 million, respectively. Rideshare launches on a Falcon 9 have also seen a price increase — from a $1 million base rate for loads up to 200 kilograms to $1.1 million.
This week with… Casey Handmer
Casey Handmer was born and raised in Australia, where he completed a bachelor’s degree in Mathematics and Physics. He immigrated to the US in 2010 and earned a PhD in theoretical physics, followed by stints at Hyperloop One and NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. In 2021, he founded Terraform Industries to capture atmospheric carbon and convert it into cheaper gigaton-scale natural gas.
MovieUpdates: What are you working on?
Casey Handmer: Professionally, the life of a founder is never dull. Lots of work on rentals and facilities, with breaks for chemistry and math. When I’m not working, I’m raising my two wonderful children and training to join the local Search and Rescue team.
What happened in the news this past week that you can’t think of?
NASA has announced the 5,000th confirmed exoplanet. By the way, my wife Dr. Christine Moran the deputy manager of the NASA exoplanet program! James Webb Space Telescope will probably be able to get atmospheric spectral data from some of them. Some of these planets can look very similar to Earth! How smart will we be to study them better in the future?
What are you looking forward to next week?
So many things! An old friend is coming to town, I’m giving a talk with some people from ARPA-E, and I think I might even get to visit a nearby power station!
Which song is on repeat?
I alternate between the Dune movie soundtrack and exceptionally late romantic French pipe organ improvisations.
More news from TC and beyond
- Blue origin announced that it had selected a replacement passenger to take Pete Davidson’s seat on the next New Shepard mission to suborbital space: Gary Lai, the missile system’s chief architect and one of the company’s first 20 employees.
- Elon Musk said the first orbital flight test of the super-heavy reusable rocket Starship could take place from SpaceX’s sprawling launch site in Texas as fast as may† The company is still awaiting the Federal Aviation Administration’s final environmental assessment, a legal requirement before any launches.
- NASA has ordered 12 more missions under its Commercial Resupply Services-2 contract — six to SpaceX and six to Northrop Grumman. The two companies will provide resupply services to the ISS until 2026.
- OneWeb has signed a launch services agreement with SpaceX after announcing earlier this month that it would no longer use Russia’s old Soyuz missile system. OneWeb had successfully used Soyuz to launch all of its 428 broadband satellites currently in orbit, but the company decided to look for another launch provider after it refused to capitulate to a list of Russian demands — including the warranty. that his satellites would not be used for military purposes.
- SpaceX ended its long-standing business partnership with launch service provider Spaceflight Inc. SpaceX reportedly notified Spaceflight of the decision via text message, just minutes before emailing rideshare customers. Yaks.
- United Launch Alliance aims to make the maiden flight of the Vulcan Centaur rocket by the end of this year, CEO Tory Bruno said during a panel at the SATELLITE 2022 conference. The heavy-lift rocket has been in development since 2014. (H/T to the numerous room reporters who covered the conference live.)
- the big Bear has completed qualification of its £5,000 Hadley rocket engine and has begun supplying engines to two customers, ArsTechnica reports. In December, I covered the company’s Series C and talked to founder Joe Laurienti about the company’s ambitions.
Found is a show about founders and business building, with people who actually do the work. Every week, News editor Darrell Etherington and editor-in-chief Jordan Crook interview an early stage aspiring founder about how they took the plunge to get started, how they navigate everything from creating product roadmaps to raising funding from some of the world’s best investors, and how they interact with failures. This week they spoke with Laura Crabtree, co-founder and CEO of Epsilon3. Check it out below.
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