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Precious Payload helps teams ship satellites to space.

ESA Payload Masters competition, the first commercial lunar Starship mission, and Virgin Orbit to cease operations

Precious Weekly: March 27 — April 2, 2023


See news tagged with a 🚀? Click the link to reveal more about the launch or its provider on Launch.ctrl—your gateway to space! 💫



Launch Updates

🇫🇷Unseenlabs is set to launch its ninth maritime constellation satellite, BRO-9, in April via the Transporter-7 mission from 🇺🇸Vandenberg Space Force Base for geolocation of sea vessels. [SpaceWatchGlobal] [🚀More info on launch]

🇺🇸AST SpaceMobile has delayed the launch of the first five BlueBird satellites to Q1 2024 aboard Falcon 9 due to supply chain issues. [SpaceNews] [🚀More info on launch]

🇺🇸Astrolab has signed an agreement with 🇺🇸SpaceX to fly its FLEX lunar rover aboard Starship in mid-2026, marking the first commercial lunar Starship mission customer announced. We are looking forward to the next Starship launch attempt this month. [BusinessWire] [🚀More info on launch]

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Precious Payload and HOSTmi congratulate our partners 🇩🇪AZO for launching The Space Impact platform for entrepreneurs and scaleups to showcase their solutions and business models in the space industry and organizing the ESA Payload Masters competition. This initiative seeks innovative in-orbit experiments and payload technologies, targeting a broader democratization of space exploration. 

Participants can test their technology (minimum TRL 5) during the “Mission Possible” aboard Nyx, a modular and reusable orbital vehicle by 🇩🇪The Exploration Company, in 2024. Applicants must be juridical entities registered in an ESA Member State, ESA Associate Member, or Canada. 

Apply by April 30th, 2023, at https://spaceimpact.eu/


Past Flights

REXUS 29 and REXUS 30 missions get launched on 29th March from 🇸🇪Esrange Space Centre through the 🇩🇪DLR-🇸🇪Swedish National Space Agency joint program REXUS/BEXUS, enabling students to carry out experiments on research rockets and balloons. [LinkedIn] [🚀More info on launch]

🇮🇱Shavit rocket launched the Ofek-13 reconnaissance satellite by 🇮🇱Israel Aerospace Industries from 🇮🇱Palmachim Airbase on 28th March. [SpaceNews] [🚀More info on launch]



🇺🇸Virgin Orbit to cease operations due to financial restraints, cutting 90% of the staff (700 people) and retaining around 100 employees. [LinkedIn]

Space data relay service provider 🇺🇸SpaceLink has ceased operations as its parent company, 🇦🇺Electro Optic Systems, was unable to secure the necessary external capital to support SpaceLink’s continued operation. [ExTerraJSC]

🇺🇸Rosotics unveils its 3D printer, Mantis, for aerospace structures, with deliveries starting in Q3 2023 for customers who place $95,000 deposits and sign hardware-as-a-service contracts. [SpaceNews]

An undisclosed European constellation orders €1.7M-worth delivery of data processing solutions from 🇸🇪Unibap for final deliveries by Q2 2024. [SmallsatNews]

🇺🇸Lockheed Martin’s Parsec smallsat lunar constellation, set for a 2025 launch, will be managed by its lunar services subsidiary, Crescent Space Services. This subsidiary will offer infrastructure-as-a-service for lunar missions utilizing Parsec’s cislunar communications and navigation network. [SmallsatNews]


Progress Updates

First 🇵🇹Portuguese cubesat, ISTSAT-1, passes thermal vacuum tests ahead of its Ariane 6 launch in Q4 2023 for monitoring aircraft in remote areas. [SatNews] [🚀More info on launch]

🇺🇸Astra completes full-duration testing of its Rocket 4 engine, with plans to launch in late 2023. [SpaceNews]



🇩🇪Isar Aerospace raised $165M in Series C funding. The maiden launch of its Spectrum rocket is scheduled for the second half of 2023 from 🇳🇴Andøya. The payloads onboard are: [SpaceWatchGlobal] [🚀More launch info] [ViaSatellite]

  • MSAE-OTTERS by 🇩🇪DLR Responsive Space Competence Center
  • CyBEEsat by 🇩🇪The Technical University and Institute of Aerospace Engineering in Berlin
  • TOM 1, 2, 3 by 🇩🇪The Center for Telematics in Würzburg
  • FRAMSat-1 by 🇳🇴The Norwegian University of Science and Technology 
  • TRISAT-S by 🇸🇮Institute of Electronics and Telecommunications at the University of Maribor.
  • uD3PP by 🇩🇪DCUBED

🇺🇸Starfish Space is awarded a $3M contract by the 🇺🇸Defense Innovation Unit to develop its Nautilus docking and capture mechanism. [PayloadSpace]

🇰🇷South Korea plans to invest $674M in its space programs to enhance the space industry and develop the new KSLV-2 rocket, expected to debut in 2030. [SpaceNews]



Smithsonian reviews private space stations set to replace the ISS, featuring 🇺🇸Axiom Space, 🇺🇸Northrop Grumman, 🇺🇸Blue Origin, and 🇺🇸Voyager Space-🇺🇸Nanoracks. [Smithsonian]

Space propulsion companies are increasingly considering nitrous-based alternatives. [PayloadSpace]

The failure of 🇯🇵Japan’s H3 rocket on 7th March may lead to potential delays in the upcoming launch of the H-2A rocket carrying the XRISM payload, an X-ray astronomy spacecraft, and the lunar lander, Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM), initially scheduled for May. [SpaceNews]



Check out Precious Weekly: March 20–26, 2023


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