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RocketLab Reuses Rutherford Engine, Clearspace’s Debris Target Meets Space Junk, HEO Raises $8M

In this week’s space industry update, we delve into RocketLab’s innovative reuse of their Rutherford engine, the unexpected and ironic encounter of Clearspace’s debris target with space junk, and the impressive $8M funding secured by HEO. Stay tuned to our newsletter for the latest insights and developments in the aerospace sector, and discover how these events are shaping the future of space exploration and technology.

Precious Weekly: August 21 — 27, 2023

RocketLab launch: Rocketlab Reuses Rutherford Engine

Image: RocketLab

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Launch Updates

🇺🇸 Rocket Lab’s 40th Electron mission successfully reuses a Rutherford engine (for the first time!) while deploying Capella Space’s Acadia satellite. [SmallsatNews]

🚀🇯🇵JAXA’s SLIM Moon lander launch was scrubbed: Set to launch on the H-2A rocket, the compact lander aims for pinpoint lunar touchdown and will study Shioli crater. [CNN]



🇲🇾Independence-X Aerospace’s re-entry test: The company tested the dynamics of its MERCAP (Microgravity Experiment Re-entry Capsule). The capsule was lifted using a high-altitude balloon and released from 20km. The company plans suborbital and orbital tests with a bio payload from 🇬🇧SpaceBorn United. [Independence-X]

Image: HAB launch of the Independence-X capsule

In early August, a Red Kite rocket motor, developed by 🇩🇪DLR and Buyern-Chemie, underwent two successful tests at the 🇸🇪Esrange Space Center. The engine will be used by 🇸🇪Swedish Space Corporation (SSC) for suborbital flights starting February 2024. [Swedish Space Corporation]

🇺🇸 Tomorrow.io reveals inaugural images of its satellite-based weather radar scanning the Southwest Pacific Ocean. The company plans a constellation of over 30 satellites for comprehensive global weather insights. [Axios]

🇺🇸 Orbital Sidekick (OSK) unveils first hyperspectral images from its initial three satellites, part of the upcoming GHOSt constellation, showcasing methane detection capabilities. OSK, targeting oil and gas infrastructure monitoring, plans to expand the constellation with three more satellites by 2024. [Via Satellite]


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  • 🇵🇪 The Peru Air Force hints at a potential spaceport development, following an April agreement with the US Space Command. [The Rio Times]
  • 🇺🇸LA-based startup, Squid3 Space, unveils a satellite camouflage to enhance operations and reduce light pollution. [Parabolic Arc]
  • 🌌 The target for the Clearspace-1 space debris cleanup mission scheduled for 2026 was hit by space debris. [Space.com]
  • 🇪🇺SAB Launch Services is considering the possibility of docking its IOSHEX orbital vehicle with the Space Rider spaceplane. By using robotic arms, they aim to exchange payloads with the Space Rider’s cargo bay and manage the return of experiments or materials from IOSHEX operations. [European Spaceflight]
  • 🇺🇸 Momentus will provide hosted payload services to 🇪🇸Fossa Systems’ IoT constellation, enhancing its capacity. This will act as a technology demonstrator platform, separate from FOSSA’s planned satellite launches in 2024 and 2025. [SmallSatNews]
  • 🇺🇸 Astrobotic is building a simulated lunar test field on Earth for its lunar technologies, using acquired in 2022 Masten Space’s Xodiac rockets. [Moon Monday]
  • 🇺🇸 True Anomaly opens its GravityWorks spacecraft manufacturing facility in Colorado, with federal approvals to test Jackal autonomous orbital vehicles for non-Earth imaging and rendezvous operations. The facility aims to produce a satellite every five days. [True Anomaly]
  • 🇦🇷Satellogic partners with 🇸🇦Saudi-based Quant Data & Analytics for a 3-year strategic alliance, leveraging high-resolution satellite imagery to revolutionize real estate data and analytics in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf. [Satellogic]


Funding, Grants, and Contracts 

🇦🇺 Australian startup HEO secures $8M in funding for its non-Earth imagery services, leveraging 39 space sensors from partners for satellite inspections and space debris monitoring. The funding round was led by Airtree Ventures. [SpaceNews]

🇨🇦The Canadian Space Agency awards six grants totaling $1.03M for industry-academia collaborative research, including a new unmanned stratospheric glider platform for Earth observation and satellite testing. [SpaceQ]


Jeff Foust brilliantly examines the smallsat launch industry in his The Space Review newsletter—the Small Satellite Conference reveals SpaceX’s rideshare and Rocket Lab’s Electron as dominant choices, with the sector’s future remaining dynamic (and with about zero remaining alternatives for the US and European customers and aggregators).


Discover our smallsat updates from last week – read now!


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