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US Private Moon Race Ignites, ABL Gears Up for Flight 2, and Qosmosys Secures a Record $100M for Lunar Lander

Welcome to the latest issue of Precious Weekly, your trusted source for all things smallsat and launchers. This week, we delve into the thrilling acceleration of the US private Moon race, ABL’s anticipation for its second flight, and the impressive funding milestone achieved by Qosmosys for their lunar lander. Dive in to stay informed on these space frontiers and more. Remember, in the vast universe of news, Precious Weekly is your guiding star!

Precious Weekly: October 23 — 29, 2023

US Private Moon Race Ignites

Photo by George Desipris 

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Launch Updates

The US private Lunar race is on:

  • 🇺🇸 ULA targets December 24, Christmas Eve, for the inaugural Vulcan rocket launch with Astrobotic’s commercial lunar lander and a payload for Celestis onboard. This launch is a big moment for ULA as it prepares to sell, and a big moment for Blue Origin to demonstrate the BE-4 engines. [ULA]
  • 🇺🇸 Intuitive Machines’ IM-1 lunar lander mission with NASA’s CLPS payloads scheduled to lift-off with SpaceX in November is postponed to January. The reason is not specified. [Intuitive Machines]

🇺🇸 SpaceX will launch four 🇪🇺 Galileo navigation satellites over two Falcon 9 launches in 2024 due to issues and delays with European rockets. [WSJ] 

🇩🇪 German Offshore Spaceport Alliance (GOSA) plans its inaugural launch from its mobile sea platform in April-May 2024, featuring four suborbital rockets: SDART rocket by 🇳🇱 T-Minus Engineering, Recruits rocket by 🇩🇰 Copenhagen Suborbitals, Aquila Maris rocket by 🇩🇪 Space Team Aachen,  Nova I rocket by 🇩🇪 FAR. [European Spaceflight]

🇨🇦 MDA will fly its next-gen Earth observation constellation CHORUS to MEO with SpaceX aboard Falcon 9 in Q4 2025. Chorus can provide a 700km-wide imaging swath down to sub-metre high resolution. [MDA]

🇺🇸 AFRL, 🇩🇪 DLR MORABA, and 🇸🇪 SSC, successfully launched hypersonic research mission with HIFLIER rocket from Esrange Space Center on October 10. The rocket reached an apogee of 190km. The mission, reaching Mach 6, carried two experiments, a forebody experiment, and a transpiration cooling technology test. [SSC]



🇺🇸 Sierra Space completed the first Dream Chaser’s mission Flight Operations Review at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, a crucial step in preparation for the inaugural mission to the ISS. [Sierra Space]

🇺🇸 ABL readies its 1-ton class launch vehicle RS1 and a modular ground system GS0 for shipment to Alaska for a series of checkouts in Kodiak and then a Stage 1 static fire test before Flight 2. After the unsuccessful Flight 1 in January, the company decided to move to the second iteration (Block 2) instead of using the backup Block 1 vehicle for a new launch. ABL also upgraded its launch mount system. Block 2 design scope includes 20% higher thrust, 20% more propellant, detachable Stage 1 Aft Module, modular Stage 1 engines, and a lightweight Stage 1 tank. [ABL]

🇩🇪 Isar Aerospace achieves milestone with Aquila engine, completing 260-second hot fire test—an even longer time than the engine needs to endure during flight. [Isar]

Teams from CNES, 🇪🇺 ESA, Arianespace, and ArianeGroup successfully conducted a nighttime wet rehearsal for the 🇪🇺 Ariane 6 rocket. This crucial test, focusing on system robustness and emergency procedures, precedes a full engine firing set for November. [ESA]

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🇺🇸 Rocket Lab to resume Electron launches before year-end after September’s flight anomaly. FAA authorized the company to return to flight from its New Zealand facility. [RocketLab]

🇺🇸 Varda Space signed an agreement to land their second reentry capsule mission in Australia after the FAA denied reentry approval for their first mission for landing in the Utah desert. [Ars Technica]

🇨🇲 Cameroon begins technical studies to launch a space program. [Financial Afrik]

A nuclear company 🇫🇷 Framatome sets up a space division Framatome Space. The company already supplies the space industry with domes for the tanks of launchers and hafnium for the hardened alloys for spacecraft. [Frantamome]


Funding, Grants, and Contracts 

🇸🇬 Qosmosys, building a lunar spacecraft with lunar lander ZeusX, raises $100M in Seed funding from a group of private investors. [Qosmosys]

🇺🇸 Terran Orbital’s Tyvak Internationa got a $4.7M ESA contract for proximity operations and an on-orbit servicing mission to deploy a nanosat from Space Rider, the European uncrewed robotic laboratory. Also, Terran Orbital received another $7.7M contract from Lockheed Martin — in an Engineering Change Proposal (ECP) to host additional payloads. The company is building 42 satellite buses for Lockheed Martin to fulfill the SDA’s Tranche 1 in 2024 + to build 36 more for Tranche 2 in 2026. [Terran Orbital]

🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia has issued the first satellite investment license to 🇭🇰 ASPACE of HKATG. The Hong Kong-based company will invest $200M to pioneer advanced satellite manufacturing and launch capabilities in the Kingdom from the ground up. [South China Morning Post] [HKATG]



🇪🇺 ESA’s ‘Fly Your Satellite!’ program is back: student teams can propose their cubesats or pocketqubes till January 21, 2024. Launch in 2025. [ESA]


Discover our smallsat updates from last week – read now!


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