Relativity scrubs launch today again

Relativity today was once again unable to complete the first launch of its Terran-1 prototype rocket.

The failure to launch was not for want of trying. The first countdown was first put on hold at T-1:10 when a boat entered the range. Once removed, the launch team picked up the count from that point without any recycle, but at T-0 the rocket’s internal computer sensed an issue and aborted the launch.

The launch team then reassessed, adjusted that issue, and tried again for a launch at the last second of the launch window, essentially duplicating the circumstances of an instantaneous launch window. The count this time got down to T-45 seconds when once again the rocket’s internal computer sensed an issue and aborted the launch.

No word yet on when the company will try again. If anything, Relativity’s launch team is getting a lot of practice and training with each launch attempt, critical knowledge needed for future launches.

Some space startups threatened by Silicon Valley Bank failure

Link here. The companies mentioned in the article are Astra, BlackSky, Planet, Redwire, Rocket Lab, and Space Perspective.

Rocket Lab has about 8% of its cash assets now trapped by the closure. All the companies had loans from Silicon Valley Bank, some of which were paid off prior to the crash. This quote suggests the situation is critical for some space startups:

“It’s a very serious situation,” said a space sector entrepreneur who asked not to be identified. “Our balance is suddenly only $450. There has been no communication from SVB even after the event became known. Our primary SVB liaison, who has been very attentive in the past, is unreachable by any means. It’s appalling.”

Live stream of the first launch attempt of Relativity’s Terran-1 rocket

I have embedded below the live stream of the first launch attempt of Relativity’s Terran-1 rocket, presently scheduled with a three hour launch window that opens at 1:00 pm (Eastern). The live stream will go live at noon.

The first launch of a new rocket is exceedingly challenging, and almost never succeeds. The key however is the data obtained that can be used to make the next launch attempt a success.

A lot rides on this launch. Relativity already has obtained $1.2 billion in launch contracts plus more than $1 billion in private investment capital, despite having never launched anything. Moreover, the Terran-1 rocket is really a prototype for its larger Terran-R rocket, which is intended to compete directly for the larger payloads that companies like SpaceX and ULA launch.

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March 10, 2023 Quick space links

Courtesy of BtB’s stringer Jay.




  • Chinese pseudo-company Laser-Starcom, a startup of space laser communication, “raises 10s of millions of Chinese Yuan in round A”


SpaceX successfully launches 40 OneWeb satellites

SpaceX today successfully launched another 40 OneWeb satellites, using its Falcon 9 rocket lifting off from Cape Canaveral.

This was SpaceX’s third launch for OneWeb, helping to replace the Russians who broke its contract with OneWeb after its invasion of the Ukraine. The first stage completed its thirteenth flight, landing safely on a landing pad at Cape Canaveral. As amazing as this record is, it is not a record for the most reflights, which presently stands at fifteen. The fairings completed their sixth flight.

As of posting not all of OneWeb’s satellites have been deployed.

The 2023 launch race:

16 SpaceX
7 China
3 Russia
1 Rocket Lab
1 Japan
1 India

American private enterprise now leads China 17 to 7 in the national rankings, and the entire world combined 17 to 12. SpaceX alone leads the entire world combined, including American companies, 16 to 13.

Another orbital tug & servicing company raises investment capital

Starfish Space, a new entrant into the orbital tug & servicing industry, has successfully raised $14 million in new investment capital, in addition to the $7 million it had raised in a previous fund-raising round.

The company hopes to launch a test satellite later this year, dubbed Otter Pup, which will undock from the orbital tub of another company, Launcher Space, do maneuvers, and then redock.

Starfish’s plan calls for Otter Pup to be sent into orbit this summer as a rideshare payload on SpaceX’s Transporter-8 mission. The spacecraft will be deployed from Launcher Space’s Orbiter space tug, and then will execute a series of maneuvers with a xenon-fueled electric propulsion system to move away from the tug.

If all goes well, the Otter Pup will return to the vicinity of the Orbiter, and then use an electrostatic-based capture mechanism to latch onto a docking target on the space tug. It could take months to test out the Otter Pup’s systems and tweak them as necessary for its test hookups.

Though the company says it will offer tug services once operational, it appears it is mostly aiming for the satellite robotic servicing market. It, like Astroscale, has developed its own docking capture device, which it will try to convince satellite companies to attach to their satellites. It will then use this to dock and service those satellites. Since these capture devices are proprietary, the number that each company gets onboard satellites will determine that company’s future sales.

This orbital servicing industry appears to be growing very quickly, now that launch costs have come down by about 90% since the arrival of SpaceX. For example, the orbital tug company Momentus is getting ready to launch its third mission.

Space Force assigns launchpads to four smallsat rocket startups

The Space Force has assigned launchpad space at Cape Canaveral to four different new smallsat rocket startup companies, ABL Space Systems, Stoke Space, Phantom Space, and Vaya Space, none of which have yet launched.

There are currently four active launch complexes on the Eastern Range; Launch Complex 37 for ULA Delta rockets; Launch Complex 40 for SpaceX Falcon 9 rockets; Launch Complex 41 for ULA Atlas rockets; and Launch Complex 39A, which is owned by NASA.

ABL Space Systems, which has the RS1 rocket, has been allocated property at Space Launch Complex 15. ABL’s first orbital attempt in January failed. Stoke Space was allocated property at SLC 14. The launcher is based in Washington state and working to develop a fully reusable rocket. And Phantom Space and Vaya Space were allocated space at SLC 13. Phantom Space is developing the Daytona Launch System and executed a successful hot fire test in November.

This article provides a nice overview of the four companies, of which Vaya is the newest entrant into the smallsat rocket industry.

Space Force officials have made it clear they want to maximize use of their facility at the Cape, while helping to energize this private commercial market.

Relativity scrubs launch attempt today

After several countdown recycles Relativity’s launch team finally decided to scrub today’s first launch of its 3D-printed Terran-1 rocket.

At one point the countdown got to T-1:10, but was aborted at that point because the temperatures in the oxygen tank were not within acceptable values.

The launch window was three hours long, and it appeared they simply ran out of time. As of posting more details have not yet been released. The link above goes to the live stream.

Watching the first launch attempt of Relativity’s Terran-1 rocket

I have embedded below the live stream of the first launch attempt by the rocket startup Relativity today of its 3D-printed Terran-1 smallsat rocket, with a launch window of three hours beginning at 1 pm (Eastern). The live stream begins about an hour before launch.

The first launch of a new rocket is exceedingly challenging, and almost never succeeds. The key however is the data obtained that can be used to make the next launch attempt a success.

A lot rides on this launch. Relativity already has obtained $1.2 billion in launch contracts plus more than $1 billion in private investment capital, despite having never launched anything. Moreover, the Terran-1 rocket is really a prototype for its larger Terran-R rocket, which is intended to compete directly for the larger payloads that companies like SpaceX and ULA launch.
» Read more

UK awards $1.9 million in development grants to universities and private companies

The space agency of the United Kingdom today announced the award of nearly $1.9 million in grants to six universities and two private companies to do a variety of space engineering research.

The stated goal of the grants is to encourage the growth of a private space sector in the UK, as stated by one official in the press release:

Today’s funding is part of the government’s strategy to use our £5 billion investment in space science and technology to grow our £16.5 billion commercial space sector to create the businesses, jobs and opportunities of tomorrow, and the space clusters from Cornwall to Scotland.

The university research from these grants will thus hopefully produce viable products that the researchers can then use to establish private space companies.

South Korea commits $38 million to support space startups

The South Korean government has now established a space investment fund committed to raising $38 million to support startups in its nascent private space industry.

It will be interesting to see which management companies are selected to operate the fund and how the investment process will work. This initiative can potentially create exciting new opportunities for startups, entrepreneurs, researchers, and other stakeholders in the space industry and position South Korea as a leader in this field.

…The Korean Ministry of Science and ICT plans to invest 5 billion won [$3.8 million] this year to create a fundraising fund. The goal of creating a total fund of more than 50 billion won [$38 million] by 2027 is ambitious and demonstrates the government’s commitment to promoting private investment in the space industry.

It is very unclear what this project entails. Will the government budget the investment capital, or is it establishing a private venture capital investment firm that will in turn seek out the money from the private sector?

Either way, it appears the South Korean government wants to encourage the growth in a private commercial space industry.

SpaceX launches another 51 Starlink satellites into orbit

SpaceX today successfully placed another 51 Starlink satellites into orbit, using its Falcon 9 rocket and launching from Vandenberg Space Force Base.

The first stage completed its 12th flight, landing safely on a drone ship in the Pacific. The fairing halves completed their fifth and second flights, respectively.

The 2023 launch race:

15 SpaceX
7 China
3 Russia
1 Rocket Lab
1 Japan
1 India

American private enterprise now leads China 16 to 7, and the entire world combined 16 to 12. SpaceX by itself leads the entire world, including other American companies, 15 to 13.

ESA attributes Vega-C launch failure to faulty nozzle from the Ukraine

The European Space Agency (ESA) has concluded that the launch failure of the second stage of Arianespace’s Vega-C rocket on December 20, 2022 was caused by a faulty nozzle produced by a company in the Ukraine.

[T]he Commission confirmed that the cause was an unexpected thermo-mechanical over-erosion of the carbon-carbon (C-C) throat insert of the nozzle, procured by Avio in Ukraine. Additional investigations led to the conclusion that this was likely due to a flaw in the homogeneity of the material.

The anomaly also revealed that the criteria used to accept the C-C throat insert were not sufficient to demonstrate its flightworthiness. The Commission has therefore concluded that this specific C-C material can no longer be used for flight. No weakness in the design of Zefiro 40 has been revealed. Avio is implementing an immediate alternative solution for the Zefiro 40’s nozzle with another C-C material, manufactured by ArianeGroup, already in use for Vega’s Zefiro 23 and Zefiro 9 nozzles.

The press release goes to great length to reassure everyone that these Ukrainian nozzles are still flightworthy, that the fix is merely changing the material used in the nozzle’s throat insert.

Endeavour docks with ISS

Endeavour tonight has successfully docked with ISS.

When the spacecraft got within about 70 feet of the station, there was a delay of a little more than an hour while ground controllers installed a software overide to a sensor for monitoring the position of one of the 12 hooks on Endeavour, used to lock it to ISS’s docking port. Though visual and other data showed the hook was working, the sensor could not, and without that software override Endeavour would automatically abort the docking.

This same sensor had caused a delay in the opening of the capsule’s nosecone yesterday shortly after launch.

As of posting the hatch had not yet been opened, something that should occur in about an hour or so. Though Endeavour is docked, more checks needed to be done beforehand.

Rocket Lab might forgo use of a helicopter in recovering its Electron 1st stages

According to Rocket Lab’s CEO, Peter Beck, the company might abandon the use of a helicopter and the in air capture of the first stages of its Electron rocket 1st stages and instead simply fish them out of the water, refurbish them, and then reuse them.

In the second attempt last November, Rocket Lab called off the helicopter catch because of a momentary loss of telemetry from the booster. The company instead allow the stage to splash down in the ocean, where a boat recovered it and returned it to Rocket Lab’s facilities. “This turned out to be quite a happy turn of events,” he said on the call. “Electron survived an ocean recovery in remarkably good condition, and in a lot of cases its components actually pass requalification for flight.”

He said the company is planning an ocean recovery on an upcoming flight after incorporating additional waterproofing into the vehicle “Pending this outcome of testing and analysis of the stage, the mission may move us towards sticking with marine recovery altogether and introduce significant savings to the whole operation.”

As Elon Musk has said, “The best part is no part.” It appears that by having the stage come down softly and controlled by parachutes it is possible to get it out of the water fast, without much damage. If the first stage can then be reflown then it makes sense not to bother with the helicopter recovery.

Beck also indicated during his phone presentation that the company is still targeting fifteen launches in 2023, and that the demand for launches has allowed the company to maintain its launch prices, with the prospect of raising them soon.

UK’s bureaucracy blasted for delaying Virgin Orbit launch

At parliamentary hearings yesterday, the United Kingdom’s Cival Aviation Authority (CAA) was heavily criticized by commercial satellite companies for delaying the launch Cornwall launch by Virgin Orbit by six months.

The harshest words came from a manager at Space Forge, that lost a satellite on that launch when Virgin Orbit’s rocket failed to reach orbit.

Patrick McCall, non-executive director at Space Forge, told MPs on the Science and Technology Select Committee, that if the company sought to launch again in the UK it would be given “short shrift” by investors. “I think unless there is a seismic change in that approach the UK is not going to be competitive from a launch perspective,” he said. “There is no chance that Josh Western [the Space Forge CEO] would win the argument to do the next launch in the UK. Even if the UK came and said you can do it for free, I would say don’t do that.

“I don’t think it’s deliberate, I think people at the CAA want to make it happen, but it’s not working, and either we change that with a seismic shift or we save the money and spend it on other things which are achievable.”

The delay also caused Virgin Orbit serious financial problems, as it prevented it from doing any other launches in 2022, resulting in a significant loss of income.

The committee chair, MP Greg Clark, underlined the testimony afterward:

“It’s a disaster isn’t it?” he said: “We attempted to show what we are capable of, and the result is it’s now toxic for a privately funded launch. We had the first attempted launch but the result is that you as an investor in space are saying there is no chance of investors supporting another launch from the UK with the current regulator conditions.”

During the hearings CAA officials justified their actions, and appeared unwilling to consider any changes.

There are two spaceports now being built in Scotland. If the CAA is not forced to change, it is very likely that commercial satellite companies will find other places in Europe to launch, such as the new Esrange spaceport being developed in Sweden.

SpaceX successfully launches its Endeavour capsule carrying four astronauts

Capitalism in space: SpaceX tonight used its Falcon 9 rocket to successfully launch its Endeavour capsule from Cape Canaveral, carrying four astronauts to ISS.

This was Endeavour’s fourth flight. It will dock with ISS in about 24 hours. The four-person crew included two Americans, one Russian (the second to fly on a Dragon capsule), and the first citizen of the United Arab Emirates to fly on an American spacecraft. He will stay on the station for six months.

The Falcon 9 first stage was making its first flight, and successfully landed on a drone ship in the Atlantic. This was only the fourth new first stage used by SpaceX since January 2022 (out of 75 launches), and the second launched this year.

The 2023 launch race:

14 SpaceX
7 China
3 Russia
1 Rocket Lab
1 Japan
1 India

American private enterprise now leads China 15 to 7 in the national rankings, and the entire world combined 15 to 12. SpaceX alone leads the entire world combined, including all other American companies, 14 to 13.

ULA about to be sold?

According to anonymous sources cited by Eric Berger at Ars Technica today, the rocket company ULA may be sold by the end of this year.

The potential sale has not been disclosed publicly, but three sources confirmed to Ars that potential buyers have been contacted about the opportunity. These sources said a deal is expected to be closed before the end of this year and that investment firm Morgan Stanley and consulting firm Bain & Company are managing the transaction.

Berger correctly lists either Lockheed Martin or Boeing as the most likely candidates to purchase the company, simply by buying out their partner in the consortium. Both companies have strong reasons to obtain this company after the Vulcan rocket is flying. Boeing’s future building SLS is questionable, especially once Starship/Superheavy becomes operational. Lockheed Martin meanwhile has been very carefully moving into the new industry, investing heavily in the rocket startups ABL and Rocket Lab. It might want to own outright ULA, so it can better manage it.

Berger also speculates that Amazon or Blue Origin might be bidders as well. Somehow I doubt any company associated with Jeff Bezos will buy ULA, since he already has his own plaything in Blue Origin. Stranger things however have happened.

Either way, once Vulcan flies successfully it will then be a perfect time to put it up for sale, and others to buy it. The uncertainty will be reduced, and ULA will no longer be saddled with two rocket families, Delta and Atlas-5, both of which are expensive and non-competitive. Instead, it will have solid launch contracts with Amazon and the military, using Vulcan.

Such a sale will obviously also force major changes at ULA, possibly for the better. At such times the new management often uses the change as an opportunity to clean out deadwood as well as force major shifts in thinking.

Intelsat develops airplane WiFi antenna that can access both Intelsat and OneWeb satellites

Intelsat has now completed flight tests of a new airplane WiFi antenna designed to access both Intelsat and OneWeb satellites during flight.

By using the Intelsat and OneWeb satellite networks together, Intelsat can offer the benefits of LEO’s low latency along with the redundancy GEO provides to address network hotspots that LEO networks on their own cannot address. Whether aircraft are flying polar regions or over the most populated cities in the world, the ESA antenna will offer seamless coverage from takeoff to touchdown.

At just 90 pounds and with no moving parts, the new antenna stands just 3.5 inches tall on the top of the aircraft. The terminal’s low profile has the lowest drag of any product Intelsat has ever offered.

With this antenna, Intelsat keeps itself in the game. Airlines can provide more complete coverage by using it and signing deals with both OneWeb and Intelsat to provide WiFi to passengers.

Researchers develop liquid nitrogen spray that removes lunar dust

In a significant breakthrough that might solve a problem that has been on on-going threat to future lunar exploration, researchers at Washington State University have developed a liquid nitrogen spray that appears able to remove the Moon dust that sticks to spacesuits and equipment.

The sprayer removed more than 98% of moon dust simulant in a vacuum environment with minimal damage to spacesuits, performing better than any techniques that have been investigated previously.

You can read their paper here.

During the Apollo lunar landings the astronauts found Moon dust to be a serious problem. It is not only abrasive and attaches itself to everything, it caused in some astronauts what they called “lunar hay fever”, suggesting that on longer Moon missions the dust could cause serious health issues.

The process is not yet perfected. For example, it has not yet been tested in lunar gravity. Moreover, techniques for applying this spray practically during actual lunar operations do not yet exist. Nonetheless, this appears to be the first technique found that might work.

No resolution in sight for Blue Origin’s investigation into New Shepard flight abort

According to one Blue Origin official, the company’s investigation into the New Shepard flight abort continues without resolution, nearly six months after the incident occurred shortly after launch on a flight in September 2022.

Speaking at the Next-Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference here Feb. 28, Gary Lai, chief architect for New Shepard at Blue Origin, said the company was continuing to investigate the Sept. 12 uncrewed mission, designated NS-23. On that flight, the crew capsule, which had experiments but no people on board, fired its launch escape motor about a minute after liftoff from the company’s West Texas test site.

The company has provided few updates about the status of the investigation since the incident and has not estimated either when the investigation would be complete or when New Shepard flights would resume. “We are investigating that anomaly now, the cause of it,” he said after a talk about New Shepard at the conference. “We will get to the bottom of it. I can’t talk about specific timelines or plans for when we will resolve that situation other than to say that we fully intend to be back in business as soon as we are ready.”

The pace of this investigation fits the generally slow manner in which Blue Origin appears to do everything. Six months later and it appears as if its engineers are still unclear about the cause of the abort. Nor is the company able to say when it will resume launches. This slow response matches the very leisurely pace the company set to fix its BE-4 orbital rocket engines, a pace so slow it caused a three year delay in the launch of ULA’s Vulcan rocket, and an even longer delay (with no end in sight) for Blue Origin’s own New Glenn rocket.

Considering that it has customers waiting to fly, this slow pace will not recommend it to future or even present customers. It would not surprise me if several — for both the suborbital and orbital spacecraft — quietly jump ship and arrange launch services elsewhere.

ESA invites private companies to build lunar satellites for communications and navigation

Capitalism in space: The European Space Agency (ESA) has now invited European and Canadian companies to build the lunar communications and navigation satellites that will be needed to serve the many future manned and unmanned missions presently being planned by the U.S. and Europe.

Under its Moonlight programme, ESA is inviting space companies to create these lunar services.

By acting as an anchor customer, ESA is enabling space companies involved in Moonlight to create a telecommunication and navigation service for the agency, while being free to sell lunar services and solutions to other agencies and commercial ventures.

Once Moonlight is in place, companies could create new applications in areas such as education, media and entertainment – as well as inspiring young people to study science, technology, engineering and maths, which creates a highly qualified future workforce.

According to the press release, almost 100 companies have already expressed interest.

It is however unclear how much freedom the companies will have in designing and creating these satellites, based on ESA’s own descriptions of the project. It appears that ESA wants to design them, and is simply looking for private companies to build them. Under this arrangement, ownership will not belong to the companies, even if they are given the freedom to make money selling the capability to others. In fact, past history suggests that in the end, ESA will eventually retract this part of the deal, because of its desire to fully control the satellites it designed.

Ispace provides update on its Hakuto-R1 lunar lander on the way to the Moon

Lunar map showing Hakuto-R1's landing spot
Hakuto-R1’s planned landing site is in Atlas Crater.

The CEO of the Japanese company Ispace yesterday gave a media briefing on the status of its Hakuto-R1 lunar lander, essentially stating that the spacecraft is doing fine and is on target to land on the Moon at the end of April as planned.

Ispace CEO Takeshi Hakamada said during a media briefing Monday that the flight has provided operational data that will inform subsequent missions. “We have acquired tons of data and know-how” on the lander and its subsystems, he said. “They are very viable assets for ispace.”

That includes information on the lander’s structural performance during launch and deployment, as well as the performance of thermal, communication and power subsystems. “It’s almost impossible to assume everything perfectly before the mission,” Hakamada said. “It is inevitable to face off-nominal events.” Some off-nominal events in the mission so far include thermal temperatures hotter than the company anticipated and a brief, unexpected issues with communications after the lander deployed from the Falcon 9. The thermal issues have not affected operations.

This mission, while carrying commercial payloads such as the UAE’s Rashid lunar rover, is mainly aimed at finding out these engineering details in order to make the next two missions in ’24 and ’25 more likely to succeed. The ’24 mission is also planned as a test mission, but it will carry commercial payloads for both Japanese and Taiwanese customers. On the ’25 mission, the main customer is NASA.

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 launches 21 second generation Starlink satellites

SpaceX today successfully launched 21 second generation Starlink satellites, dubbed V2-minis because they are smaller than the full version that will be launched on Starship.

The Falcon 9 rocket used a first stage flying on its third flight. It successfully landed on a drone ship in the Atlantic. The fairings were completing their second flight.

The 2023 launch race:

13 SpaceX
7 China
3 Russia
1 Rocket Lab
1 Japan
1 India

American private enterprise now leads China 14 to 7 in the national rankings, and the entire world combined 14 to 12. SpaceX alone leads the entire world combined 13 to 12.

The shift away from government schools, at all levels, accelerates

Parents are rejecting this in droves
Parents are rejecting this mantra in droves

It has been clear for decades that the public schools in most major urban areas — all of which have been run by Democrats — have been failing badly at their primary task of educating children. Two recent stories underlined this failure.

First, in Baltimore a study found that not one student in twenty-three of the city’s schools was proficient in math.

Through an analysis of 150 Baltimore City Schools, 23 of them, including 10 high schools, eight elementary schools, three high schools and two middle schools, no students met math grade-level expectations, according to a report by Project Baltimore. Approximately 2,000 students took the state administered math exams that tested proficiency levels.

…An additional 20 schools in the district had no more than two students proficient in math, Project Baltimore reported. Another three schools in the district, which are for incarcerated students and students with disabilities, had no students that met grade-level expectations.

Essentially, just under one third of all of Baltimore’s public schools failed to teach any of their students math. Period. For any school system to accept this level of failure is beyond disgusting. Everyone who works for Baltimore’s schools should be canned, now.

Then, just days later, another story revealed that fifty-five of Chicago’s public schools were also totally incompetent at teaching math or reading, and should find other work.
» Read more

New company aims at providing floating ocean-going spaceports for rocket companies

A new startup, The Spaceport Company, is building a floating ocean-going spaceport for smallsat rocket companies, with the company’s long term goal to provide a range of floating spaceports for rockets of all sizes.

The Spaceport Company is planning to demonstrate a sea-based launch platform in May, conducting four sounding rocket launches from a modified ship in the Gulf of Mexico. “That will help us prove out our logistical, operational and regulatory procedures,” said Tom Marotta, founder and chief executive of the company, during a panel at the SpaceCom conference Feb. 23.

Those tests will be a precursor to developing a full-scale sea-based platform, based on a ship design called a liftboat. That ship can sail to a location and lower legs to anchor itself on the seafloor. The boat can then lift itself out of the water and serve [as] a launch platform.

That first orbital platform would provide launch services for smallsat rockets capable of launching up to one ton, and if the company’s suborbital test launches go well and further investment capital arrives, could be operational by 2025.

Astroscale raises $76 million in private investment capital from Mitsubishi, space tourist Maezawa, and others

The Japanese startup Astroscale, which is focused on removing orbital space junk and robotic satellite repair, has raised $76 million in private investment capital, bringing the total it has raised from private sources to $376 million.

Astroscale Holdings Inc. (“Astroscale”), the market leader in satellite servicing and long-term sustainability across all orbits, has closed a Series G round with more than U.S. $76 million in funding from new investors Mitsubishi Electric, Yusaku Maezawa, Mitsubishi UFJ Bank, Mitsubishi Corporation, Development Bank of Japan, and FEL Corporation.

The investors are of interest. Billionaire Maezawa, who has already flown to ISS as a tourist and has purchased a lunar mission on SpaceX’s Starship, contributed $23 million of the $76 million. Mitsubishi in turn has contributed at least $25 million. Both suggest Astroscale is now on very solid financial ground.

It also appears that the big players in Japan see Astroscale’s business plan as viable and expected to be profitable.

Manned Endeavour launch tonight on Falcon 9 scrubbed at T-2:12

UPDATE: New launch date, still tentative pending investigation into the technical issue that forced tonight’s scrub, is now March 2, 2023, at 12:32 am Eastern.

The fourth manned launch of SpaceX’s Endeavour Dragon capsule, carrying four astronauts, was scrubbed tonight at T-2:12 because of an issue with ground ignition system of the rocket. As of posting no additional details had been released, as the launch team was in the process of standing down, unloading the fuel from the rocket in preparation for getting the astronauts out of the capsule safely.

Assuming the issue can be fixed quickly, there is another launch opportunity tomorrow, February 28, at 1:22 am (Eastern). For SpaceX a launch scrub for technical reasons has become remarkably rare. In fact, the only other scrub since 2020 for technical reasons took place in July 2022. During that time the company successfully launched more than 100 times, thus getting off the ground as scheduled about 99% of the time, excluding weather delays.

While the Endeavour capsule will be making its fourth flight, when this launch finally takes place the rocket’s first stage is a new stage and will be making its first flight. This has also become a relatively rare event for SpaceX. In 2022, of the company’s 61 launches, only three used new first stages. So far this year this launch will be the second new stage to fly, out of the thirteen launches so far.

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