Hello and welcome back to Max Q. I’m writing to you from Florida, where NASA scrubbed Monday’s launch attempt of the Artemis I mission. In this issue:
- NASA’s Artemis I launch is scrubbed
- T-Mobile and SpaceX’s new partnership
- News from Astrobotic, Violet Labs and more
By the way… TechCrunch Disrupt finally returns — live and in person — to San Francisco on October 18-20. We’re excited to share the complete agenda, you’ll hear from game-changing leaders like: Serena Williams (Serena Ventures), Mark Lore (Wonder Group), Ami Gan (Onlyfans), Johanna Faries (Call of Duty), Chris Dixon (a16z), and many more! In addition to hearing from these leaders, you can get your how-to on over at the TechCrunch+ stage, and check out roundtable discussions and breakout sessions. Whatever you do, start planning your schedule now so you don’t miss a lick of all this startup goodness. Register before September 16 and save $1,100.
After much fanfare, including a crop of celebrity appearances and the arrival of Vice President Kamala Harris, NASA said it was scrubbing the first-ever launch attempt of the mega moon rocket due to technical issues.
The mission was scrubbed at T-40 minutes after engineers were unable to resolve an engine bleed issue. “The engine bleed couldn’t be remedied,” NASA communications officer Derrol Nail said. NASA has another launch opportunity on September 2, but Nail suggested that “we must wait to see what shakes out” from the data as to whether a launch can be attempted on that date.
The two-hour launch window was meant to open at 8:33 AM ET, but at 8:35 AM NASA officially called off the mission. The first issue that emerged was what looked like a crack in the rocket’s core stage thermal protection material, though this was later identified as a crack in the foam, not the actual tank. Engineers also identified a bleed in a liquid hydrogen line meant to cool the four engines on the bottom of the rocket’s core stage.
T-Mobile and SpaceX have announced that Starlink satellites launched next year will be able to connect directly to the carrier’s phones over existing cellular bands. The companies hope to enable global roaming wherever satellite coverage exists, and the service may potentially be added for free to existing T-Mobile plans.
SpaceX’s Elon Musk and T-Mobile’s Mike Sievert announced the “technology alliance” at the space company’s Starbase in Texas.
“It’s a lot like putting a cellular tower in the sky, just a lot harder,” said Sievert. “Your phone doesn’t really know it’s connecting for space. It’ll think it’s connected to a cell tower, because that phone is using industry standard technology communication protocols and it has the spectrum already built in, as the vast majority of phones in circulation today do.”
Imagine building some of the most sophisticated hardware-driven technologies in the world — spacecraft, drones or autonomous vehicles. Then imagine being unable to easily share your data to different teams, having to use clunky user interfaces and relying on a single person manually inputting data in an Excel spreadsheet to bottom-line your project.
“You’d be shocked at how archaic the tools are,” Lucy Hoag, co-founder of Violet Labs, said. To solve this problem, Violet Labs is developing a cloud-based platform that can act as a single source of truth, collecting the data from all the tools and making them easily accessible across teams. The idea has found resonance with investors: The startup just closed a $4 million seed round to accelerate product development as Hoag and Caitlin race to market later this year.
More news from TC and beyond
- Astrobotic will be sending its CubeRover platform to the moon under a new award from NASA. The company will use CubeRover to test technologies for surviving the lunar night and communicating across greater distances on the moon’s surface.
- Atlas Space Operations, a company that provides ML-driven software to help satellite operators connect to ground stations, raised a $26 million Series B to grow its platform.
- Blue Origin’s next mission is set to launch on August 31 from the company’s site in West Texas. There are 36 payloads on the manifest.
- Boeing’s first crewed Starliner mission could take place as early as February 2023, NASA said. It will be an eight-day mission to the International Space Station.
- HawkEye 360 signed a two-year Cooperative Research and Development Agreement with the U.S. Army to develop radio-frequency sensing data that could provide tactical support to the military.
- NASA awarded $19.4 million to Astrobotic, Honeybee Robotics and Lockheed Martin to build solar array prototypes and perform environmental testing for the moon.
- NASA pushed forward the launch of the Lunar Trailblazer mission by two years, to mid-2023. The spacecraft will fly as a secondary payload on Intuitive Machines’ second lunar lander mission.
- Orbex, a launch company based in the United Kingdom, will be hiring 50 staff in the next six months. The blitz will “support the company’s final push” to its first orbital launch attempt, Orbex said in a statement.
- Sierra Space said the private space station Orbital Reef, which the company is designing in partnership with Blue Origin, is advancing to the design phase with NASA after completing a key review.
- SpaceX will use both Falcon 9 and Starship rockets to complete its Starlink constellation, the company told the U.S. Federal Communications Commission.
- The SpaceX Starship that will land on the moon for an uncrewed demo mission may only be a “skeleton” of the rocket that will carry humans for the Artemis III launch in 2025.
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