Max Q: The Waiting Game


Hello and welcome back to Max Q. In this issue:

  • An Artemis launch update
  • Rocket Lab and Sierra Space’s New Space Transport Agreements
  • News from Axiom, OneWeb and more

BesidesTBEN Disrupt finally returns – live and in person – to San Francisco on October 18-20. Use this link to receive a 15% discount on passes (exclusively online and expo).

NASA gives an update on the Artemis I launch

NASA said it plans to attempt the launch of the Artemis I mission on Sept. 23 and 27, dates far enough away that the agency will hopefully have enough time to fix the hydrogen pipeline problems that led to it. the rocket during the first two launch attempts.

The agency should replace and reseal leaking liquid hydrogen lines, then run tests to make sure the seal worked, Jim Free, NASA’s associate administrator for exploration systems development, explained in a media briefing. NASA will not be holding a full wet dress rehearsal in addition to these tests. All of this work will take place on the launch pad, eliminating the need for the agency to roll the massive rocket back to the Vehicle Assembly Building at the Kennedy Space Center.

The other big problem is that these launch dates must be approved by the US Space Force’s Eastern Range, which controls the launch schedule from the east coast of the United States. The Space Force will also have to grant a waiver for the rocket’s flight termination system, which is battery-powered and approved for only 25 days. All in all, my fingers are crossed that engineers can complete all the work needed for the next launch attempt.

Image Credits: Eva Marie Uzcategui / Getty Images

Rocket Lab and Sierra Space have signed separate agreements with the United States Department of Defense (DOD) to explore how their respective flight systems — the Electron and Neutron rockets from Rocket Lab, Sierra Space’s Dream Chaser spaceplane — could be used for super fast cargo delivery on earth.

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The agreements are so-called cooperative research and development agreements (CRADAs), a means of facilitating R&D work between the government and non-governmental entities such as startups and private companies. These particular CRADAs are with the US Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM), an agency under the auspices of the DOD.

Under the agreement, Sierra Space and the military will jointly explore how the Dream Chaser aircraft can be used for hypersonic space transport for land cargo and the delivery of personnel. Under Rocket Lab’s agreement, it will work with the military to investigate the use of the Electron and Neutron launch vehicles, including for cargo delivery. Although Electron has successfully orbited the Earth several times, both Neutron and Dream Chaser are still in development.

“Point-to-point space transportation offers a new opportunity to move equipment around the world quickly in hours, enabling faster responses to global emergencies and natural disasters,” said Peter Beck, CEO of Rocket Lab in a statement. “We are excited to partner with USTRANSCOM on this forward-thinking, innovative research program that could ultimately change the way the Department of Defense considers logistics response options.”

Sierra Space Dream Chaser

Image Credits: Sierra Space

More news from TC and beyond

  • albedoa startup building a satellite constellation capable of capturing visible and thermal images closed a $48 million Series A round co-led by Breakthrough Energy Ventures and Shield Capital.
  • Apple iPhone users will soon be able to send an emergency SOS via satellite connection.
  • Axiom Space won a $228.5 million NASA contract to design the spacesuits and life support systems to be worn by the Artemis III astronauts.
  • China performed two launches within two hours of each other, bringing the total number of orbital launches so far this year to 37. Meanwhile, the country is preparing a rocket to send the third module of the Tiangong space station into space in October.
  • Countdown Capital Raised $15 million for its second fund to support companies that, in the words of founder Jai Malik, want to “rebuild the American industrial base.”
  • Europe launched an Ariane 5 rocket from French Guiana on Wednesday. The rocket carried a communications satellite from the French company Eutelsat.
  • Huawei will offer satellite texting on its flagship Mate 50 series, announcing the news just a day before Apple made its own satellite equivalent.
  • Masten Space Systems held an auction for its assets as part of the ongoing bankruptcy process, with Astrobotic making the highest bid of $4.5 million.
  • Near Space Labs will share Earth observation images with researchers, nonprofits and universities for 12 months, through the Community Resilience and Innovation Earth Imagery Grant program.
  • OneWeb has suffered a $229 million impairment charge for fiscal year 2022 due to the postponement of multiple launches planned to go to space aboard Russian Soyuz rockets.
  • South Korea’s lunar orbiter successfully performed an orbit correction maneuver, an important part of its much longer journey to the moon.
  • SpaceX conducted an eight-second static fire test of all six engines on the Ship 24 prototype from its Starbase facility in southeastern Texas. The test set off a handful of grass fires in the area around the trail.
  • Taranisa company developing a crop intelligence platform has raised a $40 million Series D led by European climate technology fund Inven Capital.
  • The US Federal Communications Commission may issue new rules setting a five-year limit on the removal of satellites in low Earth orbit once they complete their mission objectives. The current recommendation for de-orbiting satellites is 25 years after mission completion.
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Photo of the week

Queen Elizabeth Apollo II

Image Credits: NASA

NASA tweeted this photo from 1969 of Queen Elizabeth II with Michael Collins, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin at Buckingham Palace. The trio met the Queen as part of the Apollo II Goodwill Tour. Whatever your feelings about the British monarchy, the world lost an epitome of the twentieth century this week.

Max Q is brought to you by me, Aria Alamalhodaeic. If you enjoy reading Max Q, consider forwarding it to a friend.