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New Microgravity Service, Ariane 6 Tests Resume, Iran Debuts with Private Cubesats

From the groundbreaking microgravity service for biotech introduced by Germany’s NewSpace trio to the much-anticipated resumption of Ariane 6 tests, and Iran’s remarkable debut with private cubesats aboard a Soyuz rocket. Stay updated with the latest space industry insights and trends in our comprehensive newsletter. Dive in to discover more!

Precious Weekly: October 16 — 22, 2023

New Microgravity Service, Ariane 6 Tests Resume, Iran Debuts with Private Cubesats

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Launch Updates

🇺🇸 Virgin Galactic will perform a spaceflight with a suborbital research mission in early November, featuring two researchers, from Southwest Research Institute and from the International Institute for Astronautical Sciences (IIAS) onboard. The researchers will collect biomedical data, test a mockup of an astronomical camera planned for a future suborbital flight, and conduct a fluid dynamics experiment. [Virgin Galactic]

The first-ever private Iranian satellite to be launched aboard Soyuz-2 via 🇷🇺 Glavkosmos in December. Developed by satellite manufacturer 🇮🇷 SpaceOMID, the Kosar Earth-imaging cubesats will fly as a secondary payload. [TS2 Space]



  • To optimize the 🇪🇺 Ariane 6 testing schedule, the sequence has been adjusted to reduce any impact on the overall schedule. Upcoming milestones include combined tests (launch rehearsal with ignition of the main stage) in October and November in Kourou, French Guiana, and an upper stage firing test in December in Lampoldshausen, Germany. [ESA]
  • 🇺🇸 Astroforge, a deep space venture targeting asteroid mining, has successfully tested its 100 kg Brokkr-2 spacecraft in preparation for its mission to be launched in Q1 2024 aboard Falcon 9. While this particular journey won’t involve actual mining, it will provide a detailed analysis of the asteroid’s geology. The asteroid is undisclosed. Dawn Aerospace delivers a propulsion system for AstroForge’s first asteroid mission. [Forbes]
  • 🇦🇹/🇺🇸 Gate Space, an in-space mobility company, performs successful ignition of all four thrusters in a hot-fire of GATE Jetpack. This propulsion module is developed “to turn satellites into fast and nimble assets in space, capable of collision avoidance maneuvers and precise positioning.”  [Gate Space]



🇦🇺Neumann Space, an electric propulsion developer, partners with 🇺🇸SpinLaunch to test its Neumann Drive, using solid metal as a propellant, for SpinLaunch’s kinetic launch system for satellites compatible with the 10,000G force. [Neumann Space]

🇩🇪 Rocket Factory Augsburg (RFA), Yuri, and ATMOS Space Cargo – have unveiled “Eva”, an end-to-end microgravity service tailored for biotech research and product development set to be operational by 2025. RFA will manage the launch services, deploying ATMOS’s Phoenix capsule, which houses Yuri’s ScienceTaxi, into the target orbit. [RFA]

@aliceinwondernewspace shared a Russian commercial space map by ANO NTI Platform shown at an event by the Agency for Strategic Initiatives. It reveals over 50 Russian space firms across 20 sectors. We translated the map for our subscribers. Key stakeholders in Russia are gearing their focus toward UAVs and smallsats in VLEO.

Russian Commercial Space Map

Speaking about UAVs. 🇷🇼In collaboration with the Rwandan government, SoftBank successfully tested its 5G communications payload on a solar-powered High Altitude Platform Station (HAPS) UAV in the stratosphere, marking the world’s first publicized 5G delivery from such a UAV. Achieving 5G connectivity for 73 minutes at 16.9km altitude, the test even facilitated a 5G Zoom call between Rwanda and Japan. [Via Satellite]

🇶🇦 Qatar Airways selects Starlink to offer passengers complimentary high-speed internet connectivity onboard select flights. So far, it’s the largest airline to adopt Starlink’s satellite internet system. [Qatar Airways]

🇮🇳 India to launch a space station by 2035 and perform a crewed lunar landing by 2040. The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) is currently testing the Gaganyaan capsule and has plans for crewed missions in the coming years. [Space Daily]

🇮🇳 The Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Centre (IN-SPACe) will build a spaceport for private companies in Thoothukudi, Tamil Nadu by 2025. [The New Indian Express]

🇺🇸 UC Berkeley and SKS Partners unveil a 14.57-hectare innovation hub, the Berkeley Space Center, at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley. Construction is set to start in 2026. [Berkeley]

🇫🇷 Latitude has doubled its factory floor space in Reims from 1,500 to 3,000 sqm in preparation for the first flight of its Zephyr launch vehicle. The company will conduct the first flight of Zephyr, capable of delivering 100 kg to LEO, in 2025. The larger facility could support the production of between five and ten launch vehicles per year. [European Spaceflight]

🇺🇸 The Space Force is finalizing its roadmap to partner with commercial companies, and the 🇺🇸 US military is exploring options to utilize commercial satellite networks, as reported by SpaceNews. Why is this significant for commercial payload developers? A look at recent funding and contracting news shows that defense guys are major players in today’s commercial space market.


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Funding, Grants, and Contracts 

🇮🇳 Agnikul has secured $26.7M in a Series B round, with participation from Celesta Capital, Rocketship.vc, Artha Select Fund, and others. The startup, known for its 3D-printed rocket engines, will use the funds for its first commercial launches, infrastructure development, and talent acquisition. Their maiden launch is slated for the end of 2023. [Agnikul]

Japan is granting moon exploration startup 🇯🇵 ispace a subsidy of up to $80M (12 billion yen). Tokyo-based ispace, after a failed lunar landing earlier this year, plans its second moon lander launch next year and a NASA-backed mission in 2026. The grant will fund the Series 3 spacecraft development, targeting to transport over 100-kg payloads to the moon by 2027. [Reuters]

🇺🇸 K2 Space has secured an additional $7M in funding led by Alpine Space Ventures, a European fund spearheaded by several early SpaceX engineers. K2 Space to develop two large satellite buses, Mega and the larger Giga satellite, designed for up to 15 tons of payload, believing that the future, especially in a post-Starship era, will benefit from bigger satellites. The company has also got three contracts from the U.S. Department of Defense, totaling a potential value of $4.5M. [TechCrunch]

🇺🇸Anysignal, a space radio developer, has emerged from stealth, revealing $5M in funding with contribution from Blueyard Capital, First In, Also Capital, Acequia Capital, and Caffeinated Capital, behind a multi-purpose space radio platform. [SpaceNews]

🇨🇦 The Canadian Space Agency has been allocated $739M to develop a next-gen environmental satellite system dubbed RADARSAT+, a successor to the existent RADARSAT Constellation Mission. [Canadian Space Agency]

🇺🇸 Hawkeye 360 secures an additional $10M in Series D-1 funding round, with contributions from Lockheed Martin Ventures and other insiders, to focus on delivering sophisticated RF intelligence systems globally. [Hawkeye 360]

🇺🇸 Atomos has been awarded a $1.6M contract by 🇺🇸 AFWERX (Technology Directorate of the Air Force Research Laboratory) to test multi-party rendezvous in space. This initiative aims to explore the potential of satellite servicing and other in-orbit activities. [SpaceNews]

🇺🇸 BlackSky Technology secures a contract from the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory to build an automated target recognition service capable of real-time vehicle tracking from space. The contract sum is not disclosed in the news. [Via Satellite]


Space Debris [Experimental flow — read as a story]

The issue of space debris is prompting innovative solutions to ensure the safety of our orbital highways

A potential upgrade of star trackers could enable more satellites to actively monitor space debris. 🇵🇹NeuraSpace and 🇧🇪Arcsec collaborate to develop the technology. [SpaceNews]

Recent research reveals that the stratosphere, situated over seven miles above Earth, is littered with tiny metal fragments from decommissioned spacecraft that burned up on re-entry. This discovery, reported by NOAA and supported by data from a research plane above the Arctic, identified rare metals used in satellites and rocket boosters within the stratosphere’s particles. With over 5,000 satellites launched in the past five years, understanding this phenomenon is crucial. [Weather.com]

Moreover, Earth’s lower orbit is on the verge of overcrowding, with over a million satellites projected to occupy this space, as indicated by filings in the ITU database. These filings suggest a surge in mega-constellations aimed at internet services. Of course, the sheer volume poses challenges like collision risks (remember Kessler Syndrome?). [Space.com]

In a move towards cleaner skies, Privateer’s Wayfinder has integrated debris removal pricing from Kall Morris Inc (KMI), offering a unique public insight into debris removal costs. [Privateer]


Discover our smallsat updates from last week – read now!


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