Explore the frontier (11/17/22)
Good morning. Thanks to all 94 of you who joined us live yesterday for a discussion on managing space missions. For those that couldn't attend in real time, stay tuned for the Youtube upload soon.
In today's newsletter:
🎙️ Q+A with Rep. Johnson
🎈 SpaceRyde launch agreement
📝 The contract report
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An Exit Interview with Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson
Figuring out how the US remains a leader in low Earth orbit after the ISS is steered into an ocean graveyard should be a top priority for Congress in 2023, according to outgoing Science, Space and Technology Committee chair Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX.)
There are no follow-on plans for a government-run space station in low Earth orbit after NASA and its international partners retire the ISS in 2030. Instead, companies like Axiom are building commercial stations where the government can be a customer alongside private astronauts, space tourists, film crews, and others who want to conduct experiments in microgravity.
“Ensuring a US presence in low Earth orbit and a seamless transition to alternate platforms following the end of ISS operations will also require congressional attention, because this transition will be challenging, and we need to get it right,” Johnson told Payload. She is retiring in December after 15 terms on Capitol Hill.
Johnson made history during her almost 30-year tenure on the Science, Space, and Technology Committee, including becoming the first African American and the first woman to lead the panel. But the achievements she’s most proud of include getting NASA priorities into the CHIPS Act and her work on commercial space regulations, she said.
Younger lawmakers with growing space interests in their home districts are ready to step up to the plate as NASA’s next champions, Johnson predicted.
“As they wrestle with competing priorities, I hope my colleagues in Congress don’t lose sight of just how much exploring the frontiers of space benefits us here at home,” she said, highlighting technology such as GPS, weather forecasting, and communications.
Johnson answered some questions in writing about her proudest space achievements as leader of the committee, whether she’ll be hitching a ride to orbit any time soon, and what’s next for her after leaving Congress.
Up, Up, and Away
Canadian launch startup SpaceRyde has inked a deal with ISILaunch, a launch services company based in the Netherlands, to launch four customer payloads on its balloon-lofted rocket.
The SpaceRyde approach: The launch startup is building a rocket that utilizes a stratospheric balloon instead of a first stage. The balloon is meant to lift the main rocket above 99% of the atmosphere, where the thrusters will fire up to bring customer payloads the rest of the way to orbit, from LEO to the Moon.
Once in space, the rocket takes on a new role. The craft is planned to be maneuverable in space, and capable of performing in-orbit refueling and life extension services. Each customer launch is also meant to add another servicer to SpaceRyde’s network.
SpaceRyde launches start at $250,000 for payloads up to 25kg. Each additional kg after that will run customers $10,000, up to a maximum of $1M per launch.
Right now, the rocket system is still in development, and the company has a series of test flights planned for 2023. Commercial flights are slated to begin in 2024.
The agreement: Through this contract, ISILaunch will pair customer payloads with four SpaceRyde flights in 2024. The two companies will work together to customize the missions to each client’s specific needs. And SpaceRyde will also get four additions to its planned Rocket Network out of the deal.
Exotrail Provides End-To-End Space Logistics
In the 60's end-to-end logistics models transformed the shipping industry. Now, commercial routes in space are ripe for the same disruption.
Exotrail has created the MobilityHub™, a family of mobility solutions to provide customers with an end-to-end service spanning software, orbital vehicles, and propulsion systems.
MobilityHub™ is the GoogleMaps, the car, the engine, and the fleet optimization for your space mission, all in one. Leaders like CNES and York Space Systems are already planning to use Exotrail technology for things like post-launch satellite deployment across orbital planes and for mission propulsion around the Moon.
Exotrail is an end-to-end space mobility operator dedicated to making satellites sustainable both economically and environmentally. Its mission is to enable small satellites to move in space, optimize their deployment, increase their service performance, and reduce space pollution.
In Other News
The Contract Report
- SpaceX was awarded $1.15B through a NASA contract modification for a second lunar lander mission.
- Inmarsat won a $410M contract from the US Army to support the latter’s Blue Force Tracker (BFT) satcom network.
- Ball Aerospace ($BALL) was awarded ~$78M in a USSF contract modification to build WSF-M, a weather satellite.
- The NGA doubled the ceiling value of its five-year economic indicator monitoring contract with BlackSky ($BKSY) to $60M.
- D-Orbit and NPC Spacemind inked a deal to launch two cubesats and validate a dispenser system on orbit.
- Advanced Space received a $72M contract from AFRL to demonstrate SSA, object detection, and tracking functions around the Moon.
- SciTec received a $10.7M follow-on Phase III SBIR contract from the Missile Defense Agency for space data software and analytics.
- ReOrbit announced a contract with ESA’s InCubed program to demonstrate in-orbit satellite autonomy and networking.
- SFL won a contract for the development and provision of support services for 15 additional HawkEye 360 RF microsats.
- ClearSpace, a debris removal startup, partnered with Intelsat to extend the life of a GEO satellite set to run out of fuel in 2026–2028.
- LEOcloud and Microsoft teamed up with Axiom to advance cloud infrastructure in LEO.
- Synspective and GCRS agreed to co-develop SAR products for critical infrastructure and the mining industry in India and South Asia.
- Canadensys Aerospace was awarded $43M from CSA to build the first Canadian lunar rover, as part of NASA's CLPS program.
- Arkisys and Precious Payload announced a partnership to sell hosted payload slots on the Port.