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Astra will produce Firefly’s engines, Xplore is developing XLEO hosted payload platform, Kenya plans to launch a rocket

Precious Payload Market Update: September 20, 2021 — September 26, 2021

Every Monday we share the latest developments in the small satellite industry. This is a great overview if you want to keep up with small satellite trends — sign up for our newsletter.

Our picks from this week in Payloads & Rockets:

  • Upcoming launch providers are racing to get to orbit while it’s still a thing. Collaboration between the competitors such as Firefly Aerospace and Astra (albeit in different classes) becomes an acceptable solution:

According to a document seen by The Verge and people familiar with the arrangement, Astra signs a $30 million deal for the rights to manufacture Firefly Aerospace’s Reaver rocket engines in-house. Astra engineers have been already picking apart the engine for detailed inspection, said a person familiar with the terms, who, like others involved in the deal, declined to speak on the record because of a strict non-disclosure agreement. (Refer)

  • Can it be the first glimpse of what SPAC-sceptics have been warning us: public companies optimizing their signaling to maintain and grow their share price?
  • Also, it should have been a moment for engine developers betting on the booming smallsat launchers market to shine. Ursa Major Technologies, anyone? Should not they be providing solutions for companies that are struggling with core engine technology?
Firefly's Reaver engine test

Firefly’s Reaver engine test. Image: Firefly Aerospace

Rocket Lab will launch Astroscale’s debris removal ADRAS-J spacecraft to LEO aboard Electron in 2023. The mission will rendezvous with a piece of debris — a spent rocket stage, traveling at around 27 000 kilometers per hour. It requires absolute precision for the launcher when it comes to orbital deployment. (Refer)

Spaceflight Inc., signs launch agreements with Astrocast, Canon Electronics, Capella Space, GeoJump, HawkEye 360, Orbit Fab, Loft Orbital, N.A.S.A., NearSpace Launch Inc. / Inter-Modal Holding L.L.C., Portland State Aerospace Society, Space Products and Innovation (SPiN), Spacemanic, University of Toronto Aerospace Team, Xona Space Systems, and several undisclosed government organizations to execute missions to trans-lunar orbit, low-lunar orbit and beyond to geosynchronous equatorial orbit (GEO). (Refer)

Sub-surfacing Imaging from space company Lunasonde partners with Exolaunch to fly a portion of their Gossamer satellite constellation to SSO aboard Exolaunch’s manifested rideshare slots on the Falcon 9 Transporter missions in 2022. (Refer)

Synspective Inc. also partners with Exolaunch to launch the third satellite of a planning 30 SAR constellation, dubbed “StriX-1”, aboard a Soyuz-2 launch vehicle in mid-2022. The companies extend collaboration after the second Synspective’s demonstration “StriX-beta” SAR satellite, which is currently in final preparations for launch by Q4 2021. (Refer)

Spire Global Inc. secures its first large-scale, commercial IoT customer, Australian-based Myriota, to deploy its Internet of Things (IoT) services by leveraging Spires existing constellation, allowing improved latency to more areas by Q4 2022. (Refer)

ISRO and Bhutan’s Department of InformI.S.R.O. Technology and Telecom (DITT) will develop a small satellite to be launched in Q4 2021. (Refer)

To allow young Indian startups to access testing facilities and technical expertise, ISRO signs an MoU with Skyroot Aerospace Pvt. Ltd. and Agnikul Cosmos Pvt. Ltd. to support the development and testing of subsystems/systems of their small lift LV’s by 2022. (Refer)

Washington-based Xplore secures a $2M contract from National Security Innovation Capital to speed up work on payload hosting spacecraft Xcraft, designed to reach destinations ranging from LEO to the moon, Mars, Venus, and asteroids. Xplore will host Accion Systems’ next-generation ion thruster, dubbed TILE, for a mission to LEO in 2023. (Refer)

Astranis will launch its first commercial satellite that will provide internet services across Alaska in a direct-inject mission to GEO aboard SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket as a secondary payload (Viasat-3 as primary) slated for launch in Q2 2022. (Refer)

Xona Space Systems raises a new funding round co-led by Seraphim Space Investment Trust and MaC Venture Capital, with participation from others completing the funds, required for its first LEO Satellite Navigation Mission that will demonstrate the capabilities of its PulsarTM precision LEO PNT service by Q3 2022. (Refer)

In collaboration with the Japanese International Cooperation Agency Expert team (JICA), Kenya Space Agency will launch the Nakuja-2 rocket as part of the development of indigenous rockets that plans to launch nanosatellites to LEO by 2024. (Refer)

Singapore-based Aliena PTE Ltd (Aliena) signs a contract with Orbital Astronautics Ltd (OrbAstro) to fly its propulsion demonstration system onboard an OrbAstro ORB-12 (12U-class satellite) scheduled for launch by Q3 2022. The ORB-12 Strider mission is expected to transition more to the microsat class and will host a variety of payloads for in-orbit testing and demonstration found here.

OrbAstro also has plans to launch five commercial satellites plus its first satellite for an in-house project aboard PSLV rocket as a secondary payload (OceanSat3-primary) and three Falcon 9 rideshare missions for its 6U-class nanosatellites (ORB-6) starting 2022 with further large nanosat and microsat constellations missions from 2023. (Refer)

Argentinian Innova Space signs an LSA with Singapore-based Equatorial Space Systems that will offer its Volan rocket launcher under-dev for Innova’s upcoming IoT 100-pico satellite constellation by 2023. (Refer)

Taiwan’s National Space Organization (NSPO) announces plans on spending 25.1 billion NTD to manufacture ten optical and radar satellites forming a part of FORMOSAT 8-10 series constellations, expected to be launched by 2025-2028, in hopes of building their domestic satellite supply chain. (Refer)

Finland-based ReOrbit secures a contract from Japanese-based Warpspace Inc., which will work to design a Spacecraft Bus for WarpHub’s IdnterSat constellation expected to be placed in MEO by Q4 2022. (Refer)

Glasgow Prestwick Spaceport signs an MoU with London-based satellite launch provider Astraius for ‘horizontal’ launch services that it plans for small satellites to LEO, SSO, Equatorial, and Geo-Synchronous Transfer Orbit starting 2023. (Refer)

Terran Orbital, the parent company of Tyvak and PredaSAR, leases space to enhance its satellite design, engineering, and development capabilities to support new customers like Lockheed Martin, which plans to buy a pair of 12U CubeSats for its In-space Upgrade Satellite System (LINUSS) demonstration mission, expected to be launched by Q4 2021. (Refer)

Iraq unveiled plans to build and launch a communications satellite and issued a tender inviting developers to design, build, launch and operate the satellite to help modernize the country’s telecommunications services. (Refer)

Meteorological intelligence startup Tomorrow.io partners with AstroDigital to build the first two demonstration satellites of a potential constellation of 30 satellites based on Astro’s Corvus-XL satellite platform equipped with storm-tracking radars to improve weather forecasts with plans to launch by 2022. (Refer)


Check out Precious Payload Market Update: September 13, 2021 — September 19, 2021.