Space is becoming a major area for start-ups and commercial investments, so I decided to start providing a weekly set of the biggest news in space, space science and space-related technology. Let me know if you appreciate this or have suggestions, and I'll make sure it develops as needed to be a useful resource.
This week there was an abundance of space news and signs from several operators that there will be an orbital traffic boom in the immediate future. We are also heading into the annual International Astronautical Congress (IAC) this coming week, so expect much more news starting tomorrow.
NASA showcased a whole new generation of space suits, including the one the first American woman and the next American man to take their feet on the moon will make for the historic moment. The new Artemis costumes are designed to scale from essentially the smallest to the largest possible human human frame, which NASA uses as a way to make the astronaut program more accessible to a wider range of Americans. The agency should go out of its way to fix it because of what happened that led to Article 2 this week.
For the first time, NASA wants to outsource the entire production of this Artemis generation space suit (including the Orion survival suit, which was also revealed today and will be worn only during flight aboard the Orion capsule). To this end, it has submitted a request for industry input on their design and development before creating a proper RFP.
As I suggested above, there was a very good reason why NASA really emphasized how inclusive its Artemis costume design is: The agency had to cancel a first all-woman space walk earlier this year as it did not have the right amount of space suits with the right size on board International Space Station. However, it aired in June, and the historic moment happened this past week, with Koch and Meir performing a roughly seven-hour space walk to repair a power check.
It is on top of the 12,000 it has already cleared, giving a total constellation size of 42,000. This is about 8 times the number of satellites currently in orbit over all orbital zones. It is a move that definitely lifts up both industry and space scientists, as it will make it much more complicated to make sure that spacecraft avoid collisions, and it can potentially hide the stars from Earth. SpaceX states that it has taken steps to ensure that it can avoid both problems, but not all are convinced.
Meanwhile, Startup Swarm has been granted FCC approval to distribute its own, much smaller constellation of 150 satellites. Swarm does not compete directly with SpaceX's Starlink – it wants to provide low bandwidth IoT connectivity. And while it doesn't seem to set up a huge volume of spacecraft, there was some concern that its toaster-sized satellites might be too small to track and pose a risk in that way.
New Zealand-born and recently US headquarters Rocket Lab managed to launch its fifth Electron rocket this year. The startup's success was more of a proof of its business model than its technology, however, because the payload that flew aboard this mission was actually one that was not planned to go up until later in the queue. Rocket Lab's original client for this has had to lose due to unfortunate circumstances and Rocket Lab was able to get the Astro Digital client to a previous ride. This type of replacement of payload in late phase has usually not been a strength for the established industry for commercial space projects.
Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic will start ferrying rich paying tourists to the border space next year, if all goes well, and now we know what to wear when they do : Under Armor. The sportswear company and Branson's space company revealed the new costumes at a handsome special event with the first tourists reserving $ 250,000 tickets aboard Virgin Galactic's atmospheric spacecraft.
Lockheed Martin has been in the commercial space business since there has been a commercial space business to be in and about a decade ago it established a corporate fund to make strategic investments in start-ups. I sat down with the fund's GM and CEO J. Christopher Moran to talk about what the fund looks like in start-ups – and the industry giant is much more interested in companies at an early stage than you might have thought. Extra crunch subscription required.