Dive deep into the latest trends and insights in the small satellite market with our no-fluff, high-value newsletter. In this edition titled ‘The Meg 2: Bandwagon rideshare, Circular Responsibility, and Smallsat Standouts,’ we cut through the noise to deliver the most pertinent updates and analysis. Whether you’re a seasoned space industry professional or a curious enthusiast, stay ahead of the curve with our comprehensive coverage of the smallsat sector.
Precious Weekly: August 7 — 13, 2023
Image: AI-crafted depiction based on the ‘Megalodon SpaceX’ motif
Hello everyone! We’re back from our summer break, recharged, and ready to dive deep into the space industry’s latest. With Smallsat 2023 week wrapping up, the shifting tides in the space sector are clearer than ever.
The Meg 2: Bandwagon rideshare
Remember our discussion about SpaceX’s potential as a ‘market maker’ or ‘market killer’? Well, their strategic moves are unfolding right before our eyes. Beyond just overshadowing rideshare platforms, SpaceX is also challenging micro launchers aiming at specialized orbits. Using insights from their dominant Transporter missions, they’re gearing up for a series of launches across different inclinations. But here’s the twist: it’s not just about immediate profits. It seems SpaceX is playing the long game – reducing competition, ensuring a presence in every niche, and continuously learning from the market. The space race is heating up, and we’re here to break it down for you.
Another thought. Firefly, after its comeback, quickly shared plans for an OTV and lunar lander. With their recent acquisition of Spaceflight, they’re bringing these plans to life. Here’s a trend we’ve spotted: new launch companies are diving into OTV development because just launching stuff isn’t that profitable. Meanwhile, OTV-only companies are trying to expand by offering smallsat buses. It’s like a loop: launch companies want OTVs, OTV makers want to build satellite buses, and then they all hunt for bigger projects and constellations. Everyone’s looking for the big payday, but is it really out there?
🇺🇸 SpaceX unveils new Bandwagon rideshare missions targeting mid-inclination orbits (approximately 45 degrees) between 550 to 605 kilometers. Catering to the second most sought-after orbit after SSO, four Bandwagon launches are planned for April and November 2024, and February and May 2025. [SpaceNews]
🇺🇸Firefly Aerospace introduces Elytra orbital vehicles’ line:
- Elytra Dawn for LEO missions.
- Elytra Dusk for tasks from LEO to GEO.
- Elytra Dark for missions from LEO to lunar orbit.
Incorporating tech from Firefly’s Alpha, Blue Ghost lunar lander, and the acquired 🇺🇸Spaceflight’s Sherpa. The first Elytra mission, in collaboration with 🇺🇸Xtenti’s FANTM-RiDE™ dispenser, is slated for 2024 on Firefly’s Alpha for 🇺🇸NRO. [Firefly Aerospace]
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🇬🇧 In-Space Missions secures funding from the 🇬🇧UK Space Agency for Faraday Dragon, an Asia-Pacific rideshare satellite for payloads from 🇹🇭 Thailand, 🇸🇬 Singapore, and 🇹🇼 Taiwan. Slated for a 2026 launch, it boasts a 60kg payload capacity, 200W power, and 1 TByte data storage with a high-rate downlink. [In-Space Mission]
🇨🇳 Commercial Chinese launch provider Galactic Energy launched its seventh Ceres-1 rocket from Jiuquan spaceport on August 10, carrying seven satellites:
- Xiguang-1 (01): A hyperspectral satellite from Xi’an Zhongke Xikuang Aerospace.
- Star Pool-1B: An integrated sensing satellite by Elliptical Space and Time.
- GeoSat Intelligent Emergency-1: An AI-centered satellite with high-resolution cameras.
- Xi’an Hangtou -88, -96, -104, and -112: Optical satellites for ecological sustainability in Qinling, Shaanxi.
The company is now gearing up for China’s first commercial sea-based rocket launch, set to take place off the coast of Haiyang, Shandong province, between August 20 and the end of the month. This sea launch will deploy the Tianqi 21-24 satellites for Guodian Gaoke’s IoT constellation. [SpaceNews]
🇺🇸 Amazon shifts the launch of initial prototype satellites for its Project Kuiper from the delayed Vulcan launch to ULA’s Atlas 5 rocket flying in September. The company aims to meet the FCC’s July 2026 deadline to position half of its 3,236 satellites in orbit. [News from Smallsat Conference]
🇺🇸 BlackSky buys five more Electron launches from Rocket Lab’s New Zealand facility starting in 2024. These launches will deploy BlackSky’s Gen-3 satellites, designed to produce images with up to 35 cm resolution. 🇺🇸 Rocket Lab has successfully launched six missions for BlackSky since 2019. [BlackSky]
🇯🇵 Japanese launch startup, Interstellar Technologies, is set for a static fire test this year, aiming for an orbital launch of its Zero rocket in 2025 from Japan’s Hokkaido Spaceport. Comparable in size to Rocket Lab’s Electron, a Zero rocket is designed to transport nearly 900 kg to LEO. Interstellar has already performed three successful suborbital launches. The company also has future plans to introduce Deca, a larger launch vehicle, in 2030. [SpaceNews]
We’re excited to partner with 🇫🇷 French startup HyPrSpace, advancing their “Orbital Baguette” rockets. Having showcased their technology with various small-scale demonstrators and multiple firing tests, they’re setting sights on a suborbital launch test in 2025. The inaugural orbital launch is slated for 2026. Secure an OB-1 launch now via Launch.ctrl by Precious Payload. [SatNews]
- 🇺🇸 ExoTerra Resources’ Halo thrusters gain flight heritage. [News from Smallsat Conference]
- 🇹🇷 Roketsan successfully launched its probe rocket from Igneada, marking a milestone for Turkey’s domestic space and defense technology. The event, highlighted by the 🇹🇷Defence Industry Agency tweet, was a significant step forward for Turkey’s space ambitions. [ANews]
- 🇮🇹 Sidereus Space is gearing up for the Green Run, leading to low-altitude experimental flights. Testing will occur in Italy and other global sites, advancing space transport. The focus is on perfecting EOS, a 4-meter tall next-gen single-stage orbital vehicle, designed for on-demand nanosatellite and payload deployments.
Image: New Sidereus facility view (photo from LinkedIn)
🇺🇸 Momentus, known for its Vigoride space tug, has unveiled the M-1000 satellite bus with up to 3 kW peak power and flexible configuration. This move signifies Momentus’ expansion from in-space transportation to satellite manufacturing. Emphasizing rapid production capabilities, the company has proposed its M-1000 to the U.S. Space Development Agency for 50 satellites in the Tranche 2 Transport Layer Alpha program. [Momentus]
Two groundbreaking projects are gearing up for launch with 🇮🇹D-Orbit in Q4 2023. 🇩🇪 German startup DCubed will showcase its in-space manufacturing capabilities by producing a 30-cm-long truss structure. [SpaceNews] 🇳🇿 New Zealand’s Zenno Astronautics is set to introduce an innovative propulsion system utilizing electromagnets. [TechCrunch] Notably, Zenno is an early adopter of the Precious Payload’s Launch.ctrl platform—read the case study here.
🇺🇸 gravityLab is gearing up for its gLab-1 mission in late 2024 to delve into artificial gravity. Their spacecraft, using a dynamic motorized boom, offers “programmable gravity” to simulate environments from the Moon to Mars. While other ventures like 🇺🇸 Vast Space’s Haven-1 and 🇺🇸 Gravitics are on similar paths, gravityLab aims for an earlier debut. Notably, the 🇩🇪 DLR launched the Eu:CROPIS mission in 2018 to study artificial gravity, but it faced challenges. [Techcrunch]
🇺🇸 Lockheed Martin’s new facility in Colorado for mass-producing small satellites is equipped to deliver over 180 spacecraft annually. The facility will support the 🇺🇸 U.S. Space Development Agency’s (SDA) Tranche 1 Transport Layer project. The company is on track to launch 10 satellites this year and another 42 by 2024. [SatNews]
🇺🇸 LeoStella’s new LS-300 satellite bus, designed to carry payloads up to 250 kg, meets the rising demand for advanced small satellite missions. An undisclosed customer with constellation plans will launch two LS-300 satellites next year. The LS-300 features crosslink capabilities for both radio frequency (RF) and optical communications. [Via Satellite]
🇺🇸 Astra is restructuring, cutting 25% of its workforce to focus on spacecraft engines. The move aims to secure resources for opportunities, including 278 spacecraft engine orders worth $77 million. Astra raised $10.8 million through debt sales. The company’s Rocket 4.0 testing and launch timeline is affected. [CNBC]
🇺🇸 Telesat’s fully funded LEO broadband constellation takes shape as the company shifts focus to smaller satellites, saving $2 billion in costs. The move to smaller satellites, built by MDA, follows production delays at Thales Alenia Space. The new 750 kg satellites employ digital beam-forming array antennas for improved performance. [SpaceNews]
🇦🇺 SSTL and 🇦🇺Neumann Space join forces to test an Australian propulsion system on CarbSAR Demo Mission. Neumann Drive integrates into the SSTL CarbSAR satellite, set to launch in H2 2024. The launch provider is not mentioned yet. [Neumann Space]
🇯🇵 RIKEN, 🇯🇵 Mitsui Bussan Aerospace, and 🇱🇹 NanoAvionics collaborate on the NinjaSat X-ray observatory mission, aiming to observe black holes and neutron stars in LEO over two years. 🇱🇹 NanoAvionics provided the 6U M6P nanosatellite bus and integrated 🇯🇵 RIKEN’s payloads. The satellite is set for a SpaceX Transporter 9 launch this year. [NanoAvionics]
🇫🇷 Exotrail has established two American subsidiaries: for commercial and defense space needs. The company plans to open a factory and integration facility in the US. [Exotrail]
Funding and Contracts
🇺🇸 Starfish Space secures $1.8M from US Air Force to advance its Cephalopod satellite guidance software. Building on a prior $1.7M contract, the software autonomously docks satellites. Starfish has raised $21M so far. [SpaceWatch]
🇩🇪Rocket Factory Augsburg (RFA), has secured a €30 million investment from global investment firm KKR. This funding comes after RFA’s successful upper-stage hot fire test in May 2023. [TechFundingNews]
🇩🇪 OHB SE’s shares rose after 🇺🇸 KKR revealed plans to privatize the German space firm with its founding family. Valuing OHB at around €1 billion, this highlights the growing competition in the satellite sector. The Fuchs family, holding 70% of OHB shares, won’t sell any in this deal. [Yahoo!Finance]
🇩🇪 German startup Vyoma has ordered two satellites from 🇧🇬 EnduroSat for its space debris-monitoring mission. Launching by end of 2024 (a launch provider is yet to be announced), they’ll monitor LEO objects over 10 cm. Vyoma aims for a 12-satellite constellation by 2026 and recently secured over €10 million in funding. [Endurosat]
🇨🇦 GHGSat has ordered four more 16U cubesats from 🇺🇸 Spire Global for its greenhouse gas-monitoring constellation, set for a 2024 launch. While the previous satellites were launched via SpaceX’s Falcon 9, the launch provider for the new satellites hasn’t been specified in the provided information. [GHGSat]
Discover our updates from last week – read now!