Good morning. Payload is excited to participate in The Economist's first Space Economy Summit on Oct. 11-12 in LA + virtually. The event—which is focused on using space to maximize returns to Earth—is geared to a mainstream industry audience who can benefit from engaging with space.
The event promises to bring together experts and decision makers from across the industry for discussions that will shape the future of the space economy. You can email the event team if you’re interested in partnering on or speaking at the event!
In today's edition...
🧑🚀 Starliner’s first crewed launch slips
🌟 Starburst teams up with NATO
🛫 Dream Chaser powers up
💫 Payload’s picks
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Boeing Stands Down from Crewed Starliner Launch
Starliner docking with the ISS last year. Image: Boeing
Starliner isn’t yet ready for a crew. Just a few weeks before the Boeing-built capsule was scheduled to deliver its first passengers to the ISS, NASA and Boeing leaders announced that two major issues with the craft will delay the first crewed mission even longer.
The announcement follows a review by NASA’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel last week, which warned against rushing into a crewed flight before all of Starliner’s potential safety concerns could be thoroughly investigated and addressed.
The issues: In reviews late last week, the Boeing team identified two issues with the Starliner craft that could cause disaster in certain flight scenarios:
Parachutes. The soft links that run from the capsule to its parachutes aren’t as strong as they need to be. If one of the three chutes doesn’t deploy, the team found that it’s likely the links to the other two could snap.
Tape. There are hundreds of feet of wiring harnesses strung throughout the vehicle, and these harnesses are wrapped up in a type of glass cloth tape called P-213. Recent tests showed that this tape might be flammable in certain circumstances.
Looking back: Boeing and SpaceX were selected at the same time in 2014 to build commercial crew transport vehicles to send astronauts to the ISS. Neither vehicle met the original target of flying in 2017, but SpaceX beat Boeing to the punch, launching its first crewed mission in 2020 (and nine others since).
Boeing has met many of the milestones for its $4.2B fixed-price contract already, having flown two test flights of Starliner so far.
Looking forward: Starliner won’t fly in July as previously planned. Boeing is spending this week figuring out exactly what needs to be done to get Starliner ready to fly again. The capsule will likely need to complete additional test flights before it can fly a crew. Boeing VP and program manager Mark Nappi declined to provide a timeline for the capsule’s first crewed mission until the team has completed its review.
Meet Nightingale 1
CesiumAstro’s complete communications solution requiring only data and power connections—a true out-of-the-box active phased array payload. Built with modular, software-defined digital components, Nightingale 1 supports TDD (time division duplex) communication and mission data downlink.
•Flight-ready payload – combines backend modules with an antenna
•Phased array – no body pointing of satellite or gimbled antenna required
•Used for high-speed downlink
Headquartered in Austin, Texas, with offices in Broomfield, Colorado; El Segundo, California; and the United Kingdom, CesiumAstro builds high-throughput, software-defined phased array communications payloads for airborne and space platforms, including satellites, missiles, UASs, and more. CesiumAstro's full-stack, multi-mission hardware and software solutions enable a range of commercial, government, and defense objectives. CesiumAstro provides full in-house design, manufacturing, and testing capabilities based on the ISO AS9100 standard.
NATO Casts a Wider Net with New Partners for Accelerator
NATO’s Defence Innovation Accelerator for the North Atlantic (DIANA) has teamed up with Starburst Aerospace, Mission Innovation X at MIT (MIT MIx), and MassChallenge for its next program, which will send alliance resources to innovators in several fields, including hypersonics, energy and propulsion, and space.
Why the partners? Starburst, MIT MIx, and MassChallenge offer experience in aerospace and defense accelerators and innovation. Starburst has worked with 140+ companies at its space-related accelerators since 2012. Together, these partners will help expand DIANA to launch competition-style programs.
NATO program background: The NATO accelerator provides resources from member countries to deep tech companies working on emerging and disruptive dual-use technologies, addressing critical transatlantic defense needs and security challenges.
The program focuses on energy resilience, secure information sharing, and sensing and surveillance.
Those participating in the accelerator will be eligible to raise funds from the NATO Innovation Fund, which plans to invest €1B ($1.1B) into dual-use tech startups.
Dream Chaser Powers Up in Preparation for Maiden Flight
An artist rendering of Dream Chaser. Image: Sierra Space
Sierra Space turned on its Dream Chaser spaceplane for the first time Wednesday, checking off a major milestone before its first flight to the ISS, which is expected at the end of the year.
Dream Chaser 101
The autonomous spaceplane is designed to launch vertically atop a heavy-lift rocket, but land horizontally on a runway. The Dream Chaser is derived from the HL-20 spacecraft, a space shuttle replacement concept that NASA ultimately canceled.
At 30 ft (9 m) long, the Dream Chaser is one-quarter the size of the space shuttle orbiter.
The cargo bay can transport ~5,500 kg to the ISS
Seven astronauts will be able to ride on board once it’s crew-rated.
Liftoff: The company expects Dream Chaser to be ready to begin executing its ISS CRS transport contract by the end of the year. However, any delays may come from its ride to orbit.
The spaceplane’s maiden voyage will be on ULA’s next-gen Vulcan rocket, which has yet to fly itself. Dream Chaser is set to fly on Vulcan’s second-ever launch, which will occur no earlier than December.
The good and the bad: Spaceplanes have a checkered history, including multiple shuttle accidents and enormous cost overruns. Consequently, NASA has preferred the more reliable capsule designs over the last decade. However, if efficiently executed, the spaceplane’s horizontal runway landing could provide significant cost and convenience benefits.
Join Us in LA
Payload presents a night for space industry founders and investors with our partners at a16z, First Resonance, IRocket & Nuview. The party starts at 6pm PST at Members Restaurant & Lounge in West Hollywood. Food and drinks will be included.
The event is nearly sold out, but if you are a leader in the space community or invest in space, we have a few spots left for executives. Make sure to apply (we can only let a few more people in).
In Other News
Russia’s first lunar mission in nearly 50 years has been postponed by a month, and is expected to launch in August.
North Korea vowed to attempt another spy satellite launch in the near future.
New Zealand unveiled its national space policy.
Moon landings could kick up enough debris to affect lunar orbiters.
📖 What we’re reading:
A team of Japanese researchers is exploring wooden satellites. Preliminary tests aboard the ISS revealed wood is quite resilient to the vacuum of space (3 min read).
Debra Werner and the AIAA asked five experts about building the space economy (8 min read).
Parallax looks at a record-setting experiment in orbit to quickly communicate with Earth (3 min read).
The State Department released its first Strategic Framework for Space Diplomacy this week, and Polaris took a deep dive into what it will take to train future space diplomats (3 min read).
👀 What we’re watching:
🏆 ICYMI, here were the three most-read stories on our website this week:
The View from California
Throwback to when US poet laureate Ada Limón visited JPL mission control in January. Last night, she unveiled her poem that will travel on the Europa Clipper mission.