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China welcomes private companies to use its space station, and another alternative to the ISS

Precious Payload Weekly Smallsat Market Update: March 8 – 13

We believe in the power of satellite technology and can’t wait to bring you up to speed on everything you need to know about the smallsat industry. This is a new take on our weekly newsletter, and we’re going to start with some launch updates and highlights that are making headlines right now and end with some of our favourite articles from the past week.

Launch Updates

If you have a commercial mission, China could be the place to go. China’s Tianhe space station can soon be available for commercial missions and activities, with the potential to accommodate other countries and regions.


The world has a lot going on right now—we’ve got the current instability in Europe, Russia stopping all ties with the west in the space industry. On top of that, we’ve got the political situation in space with China raising the commercial rideshare activities. So what does it all mean? 

Well… almost non of the public SPAC space companies are now trading above the listing price, and their stock is in really bad shape. We’re still recovering from a pandemic, and changing political situations affect things like commercial rideshare activities.

In the next couple of weeks/months, several big space conferences are taking place offline (Paris Space Week, Satellite DC, 37th Space Symposium in Colorado, SpaceOps in Abu Dhabi). This time will be crucial to understand which direction in the space industry is taken and whether investors are giving cold feet to space companies or if we continue experiencing high investment amounts in the announcements of new rounds and satellites.

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These Soyuz missions are looking for a new launch: StriX-1 demonstration satellite for Japanese company Synspective, Swedish National Space Agency-funded MATS microsatellite, four GRUS remote sensing microsatellites for Japanese based Axelspace, Sentinel 1C radar satellite for Europe’s Copernicus Earth-observation program, two pairs of satellites for Europe’s Galileo navigation constellation, ESA’s Euclid infrared space telescope and EarthCARE satellite, and many others. [Source]

US-based Momentus’ Vigoride 3 tug completes its system-level thermal vacuum testing and is scheduled for launch in June 2022. [Source]

US’s Astra Space determines electrical and software failures during the LV0008 Rocket 3 launch — affecting payload fairing separation and another affecting the upper stage’s TVC. [Source]

Spire Global will build four 6U Lemur satellites for Sierra Nevada Corporation to conduct radio frequency (RF) collection and analysis. [Source]

Japanese start-up ElevationSpace, developing a platform “ELS-R” that can conduct space experiments, test, and manufacturing inside the satellite to replace ISS, has secured $2.7M of seed-funding to accelerate the development of the tech- demo satellite. [Source]

Virgin Orbit to make its inaugural launch from Spaceport Cornwall and get to orbit the first Wales-developed satellite in summer 2022 using Cardiff-based startup Space Forge’s returnable platform ‘ForgeStar’. [Source]

Scottish PocketQube satellite manufacturer Alba Orbital signs a deal with Rocket Lab to launch a smallsat cluster, Unicorn-2, via Electron launch vehicle. [Source]

Argentina’s Satellogic Inc. launches a new Mark V satellite model and four other updated NewSats Mark IV as a part of SpaceX’s Transporter-4 mission onboard a Falcon 9 rocket. [Source]

USA’s AST SpaceMobile signs a multi-Launch agreement with SpaceX to launch the BlueWalker 3 test satellite, the first BlueBird satellite, along with frameworks for future launches. [Source]

Check out Precious Payload Weekly Smallsat Market Update: March 1 – 7