Good morning. This space of the newsletter is typically reserved for a witty intro, but sometimes we ‘gotta just deliver the goods (aka, the news) upfront. Just over an hour ago, NASA gave the ‘go’ for a cryogenic propellant tanking test with SLS.
There’s plenty more news from the last few hours, because of course it all comes in a wave all at once. We’ll catch you up on everything else that’s happening in the rest of today’s newsletter.
In today's newsletter:
🚀 SpaceX petition
📝 Two RFA deals
💸 The term sheet
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A Moonshot from Brownsville
Spaced Ventures is waging a longshot bid to amass retail investors and petition SpaceX to raise a community round.
In under a week, the space crowdfunding investment platform has passed $11M in pledges from users. The tally includes pledges from both unaccredited and accredited investors. Spaced Ventures’ MO is opening up space private markets to everyday investors. The high-risk, high-reward proposition is possible thanks to Reg CF. It’s a new-ish SEC rule that lets startups raise $5M via crowdfunding offerings each year.
To be crystal-clear, SpaceX isn’t affiliated with this campaign and hasn’t endorsed it.
How it happened: Other Reg CF platforms have petitioned SpaceX to do a community raise in the past. Spaced Ventures asked users to pick the private space company they’d like to invest in most. The overwhelming majority (80+%) picked SpaceX.
How it'd work: Spaced Ventures wouldn’t charge carried interest or management fees. It’s running the CF campaign on a first-come, first-serve basis. A pledge ≠ a binding commitment to invest. It’s a non-binding indication of interest. CEO Aaron Burnett told Payload that Spaced Ventures would likely set up two special purpose vehicles (SPVs).
- One SPV would be for smaller checks from unaccredited investors (Reg CF).
- The other would be for larger investments (Reg D).
For anything to materialize, SpaceX would need to take Spaced Ventures up on the offer. That’s very far from a given. SpaceX fundraises these days tend to include three commas.
Why would SpaceX ever entertain this? There are a few reasons, Burnett told Payload:
- SpaceX could bring everyday investors (and superfans) onto its cap table without the disclosures, overhead, or short-term market pressures of being public.
- The rocket and satellite powerhouse would control the terms of the private offering. It could maintain selectivity when setting a valuation and selecting investors. SpaceX could opt to only take on, say, Starlink customers as new investors, Burnett said.
- If Spaced Ventures can aggregate enough investor interest, it could secure a warm intro to SpaceX leadership.
So, that’s the working theory…how’s it going? As of this writing, 758 individuals have pledged $11,400,782. The median check size is $1,000, Burnett said. The average is far higher, at around $15,000, as some whales have pledged larger check sizes (think $1M and up).
You're saying there's a chance...To get SpaceX’s attention, let alone cap table access, Burnett thinks table stakes are $20M–$30M. His current magic number is $25M. Spaced Ventures is 45% of the way toward that goal.
- Burnett hopes the stars will align and that the petition to raise could reach $50M.
- But even if Spaced Ventures was to hit the bullish target, SpaceX still needs to pick up the phone and hear Burnett out.
- And that, we can’t emphasize enough, is still a longshot.
Payload takeaway: There’s loads of investor interest in backing SpaceX. Moreover, investors may not be all that price-sensitive. SpaceX was last valued at $125B pre-money, the highest for any American startup.
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RFA Is Wheeling and Dealing
On Days #2 and #4 of IAC in Paris, German launch startup Rocket Factory Augsburg (RFA) signed a pair of launch contracts with Spaceflight Inc. and Indian space situational awareness (SSA) startup Digantara.
- Spaceflight signed a launch contract that will see RFA take the Seattle company’s Sherpa space tug to orbit.
- Digantara inked a deal with RFA to deepen ties between the two companies. This included an agreement to launch two Digantara SSA birds on RFA ONE.
RFA ONE? It’s a 30-meter, three-stage launch vehicle under development, expected to deliver 1,350 kg payloads to LEO and debut in 2023.
A Sherpa hitches a ride
Spaceflight CEO Curt Blake cited price, flight cadence, and launch facility access as the primary reasons behind choosing RFA ONE for its growing Sherpa product lineup. RFA and Spaceflight are targeting mid-2024 for their first launch, and didn’t say how many missions they intend to fly together.
👀 While we’re here 👀
Tuesday’s Spaceflight contract announcement included a reference to RFA launching from the UK. This is the first time the company has said it may launch from one of several launch facilities under development in the UK. It’s unclear which UK spaceport RFA has its eye on.
Safer and more precise
Digantara was founded in 2018 and is working towards launching a 40-satellite LEO SSA constellation. The RFA agreement will see a pair of Digantara SSA satellites launched aboard RFA ONE flights. The deal also lays the groundwork for integrating Digantara’s S-MAP into the RFA tech ecosystem, enabling safer launch, early operations, and last-mile space services.
The twin Digantara birds that will ride aboard RFA ONE are expected to be launched no earlier than 2024.
What's next for RFA? The German launcher hot-fired its Helix engine for a 74-second, long-duration test this July. Later this year, RFA plans to conduct an integrated stage test of Helix.
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In Other News
- Starlink will seek an exemption from US sanctions on Iran, per an Elon tweet, so that it may provide satellite internet service to Iranian citizens.
- Momentus ($MNTS) completed Vigoride vibration testing. SpaceX is set to launch the spacecraft in December.
- Saudi Arabia is planning to send two astronauts to the ISS aboard Ax-2, Axiom’s second commercial astronaut mission to the ISS (h/t Joey Roulette).
- OneWeb sent 36 broadband satellites to India to be integrated onto ISRO’s GSLV rocket.
- Valery Polyakov, a cosmonaut who holds the record for the longest consecutive number of days spent in space, died this week at the age of 80.
- Northrop Grumman ($NOC) opened a new advanced space assembly and test facility on its Baltimore campus.
- Swarm launched a new asset tracking product with 100% global coverage, a $99 sticker price, and a $5 monthly subscription fee.
The Term Sheet
- Intuitive Machines announced plans to go public via SPAC merger with Inflection Point Acquisition Corp ($IPAX). The transaction will generate $330M in gross proceeds and grant the combined entity an enterprise value of $815M (Via Payload).
- SpinLaunch raised a $71M Series B led by ATW Partners, bringing the company’s total fundraising to $150M.
- Morpheus Space, a propulsion developer, raised a $28M Series A led by Alpine Space Ventures.
- OneWeb plans to raise ~£3B ($3.4B) of debt to fund the second generation of its LEO broadband constellation.
- Spaced Ventures’ petition to have SpaceX conduct a community raise passed $11M in pledges from 750+ individual investors (via Payload).
- U-Space, a French nanosatellite developer, raised €7M (~$6.94M) in a seed round led by Karot Capital, Bpifrance, and BNP Paribas Développement.
- Avio completed its acquisition of avionics company Temis.
- XindeZhitu, a manufacturer of remote sensing satellites, raised an undisclosed amount of funding from Ningxia Yuxing and Tianjing Zhuoyue.