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The ups and downs of capitalism in space

Two stories today illustrate how allowing freedom and capitalism to rule in the development of America’s aerospace industry carries with it the potential for wonderful achievements as well as depressing failures.

First the potential failure. Despite having successfully flown several missions demonstrating its orbital tug and service module for cubesats, the company Momentus has been forced to lay off 30% of its staff because of dwindling cash reserves.

Momentus reported a record quarterly revenue of $1.7 million in the second quarter, the first time it reported revenues of more than $1 million in a quarter. However, the company reported a net loss of $18.8 million and ended the quarter with $21.6 million of cash and equivalents on hand.

The company is presently scrambling to find new sources of investment capital, as it does not expect its income to grow sufficiently in the next year to keep itself above water, even though it should successfully fly more flights of its Vigoride orbital tug as well as a new service module version.

Next we have the potential achievement: The financial status of the startup satellite company Terran Orbital appears healthy and strong, mostly because of a $2.6 billion contract to build 300 satellites for the wireless communications company Rivada Space Networks. The first $180 million payment under that contract is expected this year.

At the same time, there are storm clouds in the distance, as there remain unanswered questions about whether Rivada has the resources sufficient to fulfill the contract.

During Terran Orbital’s Aug. 15 earnings call, H.C. Wainwright & Co analyst Scott Buck said Rivada’s vagueness about its plans for financing the constellation has caused “investor hesitation around the contract.”

Terran Orbital has already a number of successes building satellites for others, with its most significant achievement the CAPSTONE lunar orbiter it built for NASA. If the Rivada contract falls through I suspect the company will still be able to garner plenty of customers to survive.

For Momentus the situation is more dire, especially because it already faces strong competition from a number of other orbital tug companies.

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

 
The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit. If you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and the author gets a bigger cut much sooner.


The audiobook is also available at all these vendors, and is also free with a 30-day trial membership to Audible.
 

"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs."--San Antonio Express-News

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