Posted on

SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket to deliver an Astrobotic lander and NASA water-hunting rover to the Moon in 2023

SpaceX is set to send a payload to the Moon in 2023, using its larger (and infrequently used) Falcon Heavy launch vehicle. The mission will fly a lander built by space startup Astrobotic, which itself will be carrying NASA’s VIPER, or Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (this is the agency that loves torturing language to come up with fun acronyms, after all).
The launch is currently set for later in the year, and this would be Falcon Heavy’s first Moon mission if all goes to plan. It would not, however, be SpaceX’s first lunar outing, since the company …

Read More

Posted on

SpaceX launches 60 more Starlink satellites, now at 300 launched in just over one month

SpaceX has launched another batch of Starlink satellites, keeping up its rapid pace of launches for the broadband constellation it’s deploying in low Earth orbit. This now makes 300 Starlink satellites launched since March 4, with 60 on each of five flights between then and now.
The most recent launch before this one happened on March 24, with prior flights on March 14, March 11 and March 4 , respectively. That pace is intentionally fast, since SpaceX has said it aims to launch a total of 1,500 Starlink satellites over the course of this calendar year. Before that especially busy month, SpaceX also flew four other Starlink missions, …

Read More

Posted on

NASA SBIR march 21

NASA’s SBIR program regularly doles out cash to promising small businesses and research programs, and the lists of awardees is always interesting to sift through. Here are a dozen companies and proposals from this batch that are especially compelling or suggest new directions for missions and industry in space.
Sadly these brief descriptions are often all that is available. These things are often so early stage that there’s nothing to show but some equations and a drawing on the back of a napkin — but NASA knows promising work when it sees it. (You can learn more about how …

Read More

Posted on

Relativity Space lands first Department of Defense launch contract

Relativity Space already has a significant volume of launch contracts on the books – more pre-sales for its Terran 1 rocket than any other launch vehicle in history, in fact, according to CEO and co-founder Tim Ellis. But its latest customer is a key one: The U.S. Department of Defense, which has contracted Relativity Space to launch a payload on its behalf as part of the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU)’s continued efforts to find responsive launch partners capable of sending payloads with a mass between 450 kg and 1,200 kg (roughly 1,000 to 2,650 lbs) to low-Earth orbit.
“It’s a bigger satellite, and …

Read More

Posted on

SpaceX flies Falcon 9 rocket booster for a record 9th time, delivers 3rd batch of Starlink satellites in two weeks

SpaceX has delivered another 60 Starlink satellites to orbit — meaning it has sent 180 in total to join its 1,000+ strong constellation in the past two weeks alone. Today’s launch also set a record for SpaceX for its Falcon 9 rocket reusability program, since it was the ninth flight and ninth landing for this particular first-stage booster.
The booster was used previously on a variety of missions, including five prior Starlink launches, as well as the Demo-1 mission for the company’s Crew Dragon capsule, which was the uncrewed test flight that proved it would work as intended from launch all the way …

Read More

Posted on

Max Q: Starship’s good landing (and less good post-landing)

Max Q is a weekly newsletter from TechCrunch all about space. Sign up here to receive it weekly on Mondays in your inbox.
Sometimes even the biggest successes look like failures on video. That’s the theme of this week, because the biggest news by far was SpaceX’s test launch of its latest Starship prototype in South Texas.
It looked fake — but the fireball proved it wasn’t
SpaceX’s test flight was a launch of the 10th Starship prototype, to a height of around 32,000 feet, at which point it used its Raptor engines to flip into a flop …

Read More

Posted on

Virgin Galactic Chairman Chamath Palihapitiya sells off remaining personal stake in the space company

The man who arguably ushered in the current SPAC rush with the merger of Virgin Galactic with his Social Capital Hedosophia holding company has divested the remainder of his personal holdings in the space tourism company. Chamath Palihapitiya, who serves as the Chairman of Virgin Galactic’s board, still holds 6.2% ownership in the company in partnership with investor Ian Osborne, but his solo holdings are now at zero.
Palihapitiya sold 3.8 million shares in December 2020, noting that he was selling that equity “to help manage [his] liquidity” in order to provide funding for “several new projects starting in 2021.” At the time, …

Read More

Posted on

SpaceX’s Starship prototype flies to 32,000 feet and sticks the landing in third flight test

SpaceX has launched SN10 — the tenth iteration of its current prototype series of Starship, the heavy-lift reusable spacecraft it’s developing. Starship SN10 took off from Boca Chica, Texas, where SpaceX is developing the vehicle. It flew to a height of roughly 10 km, or 32,000 feet, before performing a maneuver to re-orient itself for a friction-assisted landing descent.
Unlike the last two Starship prototypes to fly this high, however, the roughly six-minute flight did not end in a fireball [UPDATE: Well, not immediately. The rocket did blow up while stationary on the landing pad a few minutes after landing, potentially due …

Read More

Posted on

Space startup Gitai raises $17.1M to help build the robotic workforce of commercial space

Japanese space startup Gitai has raised a $17.1 million funding round, a Series B financing for the robotics startup. This new funding will be used for hiring, as well as funding the development and execution of an on-orbit demonstration mission for the company’s robotic technology, which will show its efficacy in performing in-space satellite servicing work. That mission is currently set to take place in 2023.
Gitai will also be staffing up in the U.S., specifically, as it seeks to expand its stateside presence in a bid to attract more business from that market.
“We are proceeding well in the …

Read More

Posted on

Astra awarded NASA launch contract for storm observation satellites

Astra, the Alameda-based space launch startup that recently announced its intent to go public via a SPAC merger, has secured a contract to deliver six cube satellites to space on behalf of NASA. Astra stands to be paid $7.95 million by the agency for fulfilment of the contract. This will be a key test of Astra’s responsive rocket capabilities, with a planned three-launch mission profile spanning up to four months, currently targeting sometime between January 8 and July 31 of 2022.
The satellites are for NASA’s Time-Resolved Observations of Precipitation Structure and Storm Intensity with a Constellation of SmallSats (TROPICS) mission, which …

Read More