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Amazon Secures SpaceX Launches, India’s Space Tech Accelerator, and Firefly’s Miranda Hot Fire Test

From Amazon’s decision to buy SpaceX launches to India’s first commercial space tech accelerator, and Firefly’s Miranda engine fiery triumph, explore space’s forefront in the new issue of Precious Weekly digest.

Precious Weekly: November 27 — December 3, 2023

Firefly's Miranda Hot Fire Test

Image: Firefly’s Miranda engine hot fire test

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Launch Updates

🇪🇺 ESA, 🇫🇷 CNES, and 🇫🇷 ArianeGroup are targeting 🚀 the first launch of Ariane 6 between mid-June and the end of July 2024. [ESA]

🇺🇸 Amazon buys three SpaceX rocket launches for Project Kuiper. With 77 launch orders from 🇺🇸 Blue Origin, 🇺🇸 United Launch Alliance, 🇫🇷Arianespace, and 🇺🇸ABL, Amazon adjusts launch plans due to delays. [CNBC] Project Kuiper will offer private connectivity into AWS, giving commercial and government customers more flexibility, security, and control over their data. [Amazon]

🇺🇸 BryceTech releases a new global launch and satellite updates report. Key highlights: in Q3 2023, 605 spacecraft were launched, with 543 being commercial. SpaceX led with 519 spacecraft launched. Communications satellites dominated (88%), smallsats constituted 29% of launches and 9% of total upmass. [Bryce Briefing]

🇺🇸 Firefly Aerospace is set to launch the 🚀 “Fly the Lightning” mission, featuring 🇺🇸 Lockheed Martin’s Electronically Steerable Antenna (ESA) payload Tantrum for rapid on-orbit calibration aboard the Alpha rocket in December. Launch date to be announced. [Lockheed Martin]

🇺🇸 RocketLab completed payload integration for 🚀 the 42nd Electron launch. “The Moon God Awakens” is scheduled for the 13th of December with a dedicated SAR mission for Japanese 🇯🇵 iQPS. [RocketLab]

🚀 MAIUS-2 sounding rocket was launched from the 🇸🇪 Esrange space center with research experiments that studied extremely cold particles, “in fact the coldest in the whole universe at that given time”, onboard on December 2. [SSC]

🇩🇪 Rocket Factory Augsburg (RFA) fully books 🚀 the second test flight of its RFA ONE rocket scheduled for 2024, through the DLR Microlauncher program—the German government anchors the launch, featuring diverse payloads for various entities. The payloads include:

  • MIDAS mission for DLR Cologne
  • SpaceMast camera for DLR Braunschweig
  • Platform-9 in EnduroSat’s Shared Satellite Constellation
  • VIBES Pioneer, a 3U cubesat for Hochschule Bremen
  • PW-Sat3 for the University of Warsaw
  • Vyoma’s pilot mission Flamingo
  • 3Cat-8 mission for Spain’s Universitat Politecnica De Catalunya
  • MOVE-BEYOND mission for Germany’s Technische Universität – WARR e.V. [Via Satellite]



  • 🇨🇳 China unveils recent images of the fully assembled Tiangong space station, featuring the Tianhe core module, Wentian and Mengtian experiment modules, and extensive solar arrays. Crewed since June 2022, China hints at expansion, planning three additional pressurized compartments for a future 180-ton, six-module assembly. [Ars Technica]
  • Congrats, 🇳🇿 Zenno, an early Precious Payload’s Launch.ctrl adopter! Zenno’s Z01 SuperTorquer, powered by superconducting technology, lifts off on 🇺🇸 SpaceX’s “Korea 425” mission aboard 🇮🇹 D-Orbit’s ION Satellite Carrier. It’s the first in-orbit mission to demonstrate capabilities created by high-temperature superconducting electromagnets for fuel-free spacecraft attitude control. [Zenno]
  • 🇺🇸 Firefly Aerospace achieves a key milestone, completing its Miranda engine’s first hot fire test in just over 12 months. The engine will power Northrop Grumman’s Antares 330 and the MLV (Medium Launch Vehicle). [Firefly]
  • 🇩🇪 UNIO achieves a milestone with its bridge product, enabling seamless 5G to satellite connectivity for connected vehicles in a live demonstration in Munich. Full customer rollout of the product is planned for H2 of 2024. [Unio] Btw, the satellite direct-to-device market emerging as a major new market this decade—read more insight from Euroconsult’s ‘Prospects for Direct to Handheld and IoT Markets’ here.
  • 🇩🇪 Polaris Spaceplanes successfully ignited its AS-1 engine. The company’s flight demonstrator MIRA is to become the first aerospace vehicle to operate a linear aerospike rocket engine in flight. [Polaris Spaceplanes]
  • 🇺🇸 Launcher (a 🇺🇸 VAST company) completes a successful 90-second test fire of its E-2 (SN1) engine at 55% power, meeting key milestones for the US Space Force TACFI contract. [Launcher]
  • 🇦🇺 Gilmour Space Technologies reveals a behind-the-scenes look at the 150kN Eris Stage 2, set for integration into the rocket. Test Flight 1’s first orbital launch is now scheduled for 2024. [Gilmour]



🇪🇸 Elecnor Deimos and 🇪🇸 Kreios Space will develop the world’s first commercial satellite for Very Low Earth Orbits (VLEO)—between 150 and 300 km. The satellite will utilize air-breathing electric propulsion (ABEP) technology. [Elecnor Deimos] Last week, 🇪🇸 Kreios partnered with 🇬🇧UK climate tech space startup Prometheus Space Technologies to integrate high-accuracy VLEO imagery into Prometheus Fire Guardian. The cutting-edge solution enhances wildfire protection and risk management. [Prometheus]

A satellite imagery analysis provider 🇫🇷 Kayrros launches a public version of its methane tracking map. The platform uses data from the ESA’s Sentinel-5P satellite and a sensor on the ISS. [SpaceNews]

🇺🇸 Loft Orbital announces YAM-6, the first virtual mission-enabled satellite, allowing deployment of customer-developed software apps for real-time data analysis in space. YAM-6’s payloads include a hyperspectral imager, an RGB imager, a software-defined radio, and real-time connectivity via an inter-satellite link. [Loft]

🇮🇳 Tata Advanced Systems (TASL) and 🇦🇷 Satellogic partner to build optical sub-meter resolution LEO satellites at TASL’s satellite assembly, integration, and testing facility in Vemagal, Karnataka, India. The TSAT-1A will be the first satellite launched under this partnership. The launch date is not mentioned. [TASL]

🇺🇸 Spire Global launches a specialized high-resolution weather forecasting service for utilities and commodity traders. Offering precise, customizable forecasts up to six days in advance, with resolutions as fine as 1 km, it covers global locations, including remote areas and open oceans. [Spire]

🇺🇸 Rocket Lab expands its space systems business with a new facility in Middle River, Maryland, supporting composite product development for space applications and Neutron rocket. [RocketLab]

Australian space imagery and analytics startup 🇭🇲 HEO opens a US office in Washington, DC, to work with DoD and government organizations. [HEO]

Italy’s 🇮🇹 Apogeo Space released its first batch of nine pico-satellites for its private IoT constellation. Launched by 🇺🇸 SpaceX aboard 🇮🇹 D-Orbit’s OTV, the pico-satellites will shorten the revisit time by increasing the frequency of service, as well as introducing new features such as two-way satellite communication. [Apogeo Space]

🇩🇪/🇺🇸 Exolaunch will launch Capella Space’s SAR mission for Acadia-generation satellite on SpaceX’s Transporter-11 mission. [ExoLaunch]


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New Accelerator Cohorts

India’s 🇮🇳 KickSky launches Pratham, the country’s first VC-backed space technology accelerator. The inaugural batch, featuring startups from India and Nepal, officially kicked off on December 1, 2023, at the Bangalore International Center:

  • 🇳🇵 Voyager Mayeen — Smallsat launch vehicle manufacturing in Nepal.
  • 🇮🇳 Vellon Space — Building “Vellon Space-Lab,” a reusable unmanned orbiting space station for facilitating space experiments, manufacturing, technology demonstration, and explorations.
  • 🇮🇳 Flywheel Aerospace — Developing cubesats and subsystems.
  • 🇮🇳 OrbitAID Aerospace — On-orbit service for space applications, specializing in orbital fuel stations and sustainability.
  • 🇮🇳 Xovian Aerospace — Geospatial & Signal Intelligence from Space.
  • 🇮🇳 AugSenseLab — Specializing in Computer Vision and Artificial Intelligence R&D.


Funding, Grants, and Contracts 

🇺🇸 Ursa Major successfully closed a $138M Series D and D-1 funding round led by Explorer 1 Fund and Eclipse. The funds will be used to advance the development of Lynx, its solid rocket motor program, and expand production capacity. [Ursa]

🇺🇸 SpaceX acquires parachute maker 🇺🇸 Pioneer Aerospace for $2.2M. [TheInformation]

🇰🇪 Kenya-based climate startup Amini raises $4M, led by Salesforce Ventures and Female Founders Fund. Plans to launch its first satellite in 2025 for improved African environmental data. The company is still refining constellation plans but envisages at least six satellites.


🇺🇸 Astra raised $2.7M additional debt from JMCM and ACME Ventures, along with co-founders Chris Kemp and Adam London. [Astra]

🇨🇳 Shanghai plans to dominate commercial space, aiming for an annual output of 50 rockets and 600 satellites by 2025, backed by a $28.2B investment. Notable companies like 🇨🇳 Landspace and 🇨🇳 Deep Blue Aerospace are part of the city’s space ecosystem. [SpaceNews


Detective Story

Read this fascinating article “The Case of the Missing Vega AVUM Propellant Tanks” by Andrew Parsonson to learn more about Vega launch delays.



Discover our smallsat updates from last week – read now!


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