Hello and welcome back to Max Q!
In this issue:
- Isar Aerospace’s new funding
- Boeing’s Starliner crewed flight test delayed again
- News from Virgin Orbit and more
Isar Aerospace raises $165 million to bring more sovereign launch to Europe
German launch startup Isar Aerospace has scored $165 million (€155 million) in new funding as it races toward the inaugural flight of its Spectrum small rocket later this year.
The company, founded in 2018, is one of a handful of European startups looking to fill the gap in the launch market on that continent. There are just two European rockets flying today: the heavy-lift Ariane 5, built by ArianeGroup, and Italian aerospace company Avio’s Vega launch vehicle.
But Isar CEO Daniel Metzler told TechCrunch that European governments are waking up to the geopolitical and economic upsides to sovereign launch capabilities.
“If you take a look at the European Union, even Germany itself, there’s a strong focus on the automotive industry. [The space industry] is a huge opportunity at the same time to build up another economical pillar that can be extremely profitable,” he said.
NASA pushes back Boeing Starliner’s crewed flight test to July
The first crewed flight test of Boeing’s Starliner capsule is facing yet another delay, with NASA officials saying Wednesday that it is now targeting no earlier than July 21 for launch.
The space agency and Boeing blamed the delay on certification issues related to the capsule’s parachute system and other verifications on Starliner’s components and capabilities, as well as scheduling constraints with other missions scheduled to fly to and from the International Space Station (ISS).
Steve Stich, NASA’s program manager for the commercial crew program, told reporters that NASA and Boeing need to complete an additional ground test on the parachute system, as well as a test of Starliner’s abort system. Stress testing of the flight and guidance, navigation and control systems and additional testing with crew are due to be complete by the end of this month.
“The Starliner spacecraft is in really good shape,” Stich told reporters during a media briefing Wednesday, adding that it’s “largely ready for flight.”
More news from TC and beyond
- Astra said it had 278 firm orders for its Astra Spacecraft Engine and confirmed it was on track to commence test flights of Rocket 4 later this year. The company ended the last year with $103 million cash on hand. (Astra)
- China is preparing to deploy its own 13,000-satellite broadband mega constellation later this year. (SpaceNews)
- Dawn Aerospace received certification from New Zealand regulators to begin the flight campaign of its Mk-II Aurora spaceplane. (Dawn Aerospace)
- Impact Observatory closed a $5.9 million seed round to scale its data and intelligence products, which use a highly accurate, real-time map of the world and AI to generate insights. (Impact Observatory)
- Lockheed Martin established a new wholly owned subsidiary it’s calling Crescent Space Services, which will be focused on providing lunar infrastructure as a service. (TechCrunch)
- NASA’s Kathy Lueders is retiring from her position as head of human spaceflight, and will be replaced by the current deputy administrator of space operations (and former astronaut) Ken Bowersox. (Kathy Lueders)
- Planet acquired satellite data analysis company Sinergise for an undisclosed amount. (Planet)
- SpaceX had an unusual scrub and subsequent delay for the launch of a batch of Tranche 0 satellites for the Space Development Agency. (SDA)
- Starfish Space, an on-orbit servicing startup, scored a $3 million contract from National Security Innovation Capital, part of the Defense Innovation Unit. (Payload)
- United Launch Alliance encountered some hardware anomalies during load testing of the Vulcan Centaur rocket, with ULA CEO Tory Bruno saying on Twitter that an investigation is underway. (Tory Bruno)
- Virgin Orbit is laying off 85% of its workforce after failing to secure more funding, a sudden (and rather sad) end to the two-week “operational pause” the company enacted earlier this month. (TechCrunch)
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