Good morning. We’re wishing the Ax-2 crew a safe trip back to Earth today. They’re expected to undock from the ISS at 11:05am ET.
In today's edition...
🎙️ Pathfinder #0049
💲 NASA and the debt limit deal
🗓️ The week ahead
🔁 On the move
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First SpaceX, Now Impulse + Pathfinder #0049 with Tom Mueller
Shying away from the limelight is an art Tom Mueller has perfected. The SpaceX founding member and mastermind behind Impulse Space is not a frequent podcast flier, with only one previous episode in the wild (that we could find). However, Mueller recently agreed to jump into the hot seat on the Pathfinder pod.
Mueller is best known for his instrumental role at SpaceX as propulsion CTO, but he’s now turned his sights to his new venture, Impulse Space. Founded in 2021, Impulse aims to provide reliable and economical in-space transportation services. The company services include GEO/GTO/LEO logistics, in-orbit servicing, spacecraft life extension, active debris removal, and situational awareness.
The company plans to operate within Earth’s orbit and beyond, including lunar and Mars missions, which Mueller believes will open the gateway to space resource transportation, asteroid mining, in-space manufacturing, and propellant depots.
Tech and commercial traction: Mueller shared that their initial vehicle offerings include:
Mira, which will be used to transport payloads in LEO and perform on-orbit services
Helios, which will be a kick stage for transporting large satellites to GEO and beyond Earth’s orbit to the Moon and Mars
Last summer, the company announced a partnership with Relativity to launch the first private mission to Mars and just last week Orbit Fab announced that it would use a vehicle developed by Impulse Space for an in-orbit refueling demonstration.
A sneak peek…
In addition to Impulse’s origin story, Mo and Tom discuss:
Building propulsion systems
Initial target markets
Engineering thrusters vs engines
Mira’s first mission this October
Lessons learned (and memorable stories) from SpaceX
And much more…
Pathfinder #0049 is live now…
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Debt limit deal could keep NASA budget flat
Image: National Park Service
The debt limit deal reached late Saturday night contains both good and bad news for NASA.
The plan from President Joe Biden and Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), which is expected to get a vote in the House on Wednesday, would keep non-defense spending roughly flat in fiscal year 2024, with a 1% bump in 2025, according to White House officials.
By the numbers:
$27.2B = NASA’s fiscal 2024 budget request
$25.4B = NASA’s fiscal 2023 funding
It’s important to note that the debt limit deal sets the cap on government-wide non-defense spending, not on specific agencies. So it will be up to appropriators to decide how much of the non-defense pie goes to NASA, and they could either impose more significant cuts or grant some relief. But if the proposed plan is applied evenly to the space program:
The bad news: A flat fiscal 2024 budget would be $25.4B, putting the space agency about $1.8B under its request. The agency’s budget request included plus-ups for the human landing system for Artemis moon missions, space technology, biological and physical science programs, and Earth science, according to a Planetary Society analysis.
The good news: A flat budget for 2024 would be better for the space agency than two plans proposed by the GOP that would further curtail NASA’s budget. The House passed a bill this month that would cap fiscal 2024 spending at fiscal 2022 levels. If all agencies absorbed that cut equally, that would have meant $24B for the space agency.
But Republicans were also considering a plan to make even deeper cuts to non-defense discretionary spending to protect defense spending, which would amount to a 22 percent cut to non-defense agencies. For NASA, that would mean a budget of about $19.8B.
In Other News
ispace concluded that an ignored, anomalous altitude reading caused the April lunar lander crash.
Rocket Lab ($RKLB) launched the final two NASA TROPICS satellites.
SpaceX's Starship launch pad upgrades are on track to be completed in a month. The company says it will be ready to launch Starship again in August, after additional pad testing.
NASA and Boeing ($BA) are working to solve “emerging issues” before Starliner’s crew flight test in July.
India launched its first next-generation navigation satellite.
China sent a three-person crew to the Tiangong space station.
The Week Ahead
All times in Eastern.
Tuesday, May 30: The Ax-2 crew is scheduled to depart the ISS just after 11am, splashing down off the coast of Florida 12 hours later at 11:09pm. AIAA is holding its 2023 International Space Planes and Hypersonic Systems and Technologies Conference in Bengaluru through Thursday.
Wednesday, May 31: The UN Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space will meet in Vienna through next Friday. At 10:30am, the NASA Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena study team will hold a public meeting.
Thursday, June 1: At 7:09am, SpaceX plans to launch a batch of Starlink sats from Cape Canaveral. At noon, NASA will host a telecon on upcoming spacewalks. That evening, at 7pm, US poet laureate Ada Limón will unveil the poem that will be engraved on the Europa Clipper mission scheduled to depart in Oct. 2024.
Saturday, June 3: At 12:34pm, SpaceX is targeting its 28th ISS cargo resupply launch.
On the Move
Copernicus tapped Andrew Rush as president and CEO. Previously, Rush headed up Made in Space, and assumed the president and COO role at Redwire post-acquisition.
ETH Zurich welcomed Thomas Zurbuchen as organization director. Zurbuchen formerly led NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.
Arqiva named Dom Wedgwood, formerly SVP at Broadcast Technology, as CTO.
Lockheed appointed Stacy Kubicek as VP and GM of sensors & global sustainment (S&GS) of the missiles and fire control division. Kubicek has been with the company for over 12 years.
Inmarsat chief Rajeev Suri will vacate his role post-Viasat acquisition. Viasat has nominated Suri to serve on its board of directors.
Cornwall's Melissa Quinn officially stepped down as head of the spaceport.
Albedo added Jen Stewart, former DoD chief of staff, as the fourth member of its new advisory board.
The View from Space
Image: Ali Alqarni via Twitter
Astronauts need their beauty sleep, too! Saudi astronaut Ali Alqarni shared this pic of his bedroom aboard the ISS.