10/6/21 Payload Newsletter

To: Payload Subscribers

October 6, 2021

Good morning. This is the last weekly newsletter that was sent to Payload subscribers, in advance of us flipping the switch to a daily send schedule. Read on for more details.

Highlights this week:
🚀 Our future
🚗 Honda rockets?
🛰️ Russian movie at ISS


What’s next for Payload?

Dear Payload nation, 

We’re breaking protocol today to mark a special occasion: This newsletter is getting an upgrade. Rather than dedicating this real estate to the biggest space story of the week, just this once, we’d like to walk through what you can expect from us going forward. 

The big change: Next week, we’re flipping the switch from a weekly newsletter to a daily one. The details: 5X sends/week, no weekend publishing. Monday through Friday at the same time: 9AM EST. 

  • Though this change goes into effect now, next Monday is a federal holiday in the US. That gives us a grace period to ease into things, with four newsletters in the first week of our new schedule.

Why we’re doing this: Payload is optimized to serve you space news in a prompt and consistent manner. We aim to offer analysis on key developments as they’re happening. By the same token, we know that you keep busy schedules.

We think a redesigned daily newsletter allows us to strike the perfect balance between being timely and respecting your time. The new Payload is streamlined, short, and sweet—without skimping on substance.

  • As a part of this transition, we plan on introducing more original reporting into the mix. But our curation isn’t going anywhere.
  • We’ll retain sections like “The Term Sheet” as a recurring part of the daily newsletter.
  • We’ll also experiment with new and unique content (that you won’t want to miss) towards the end of some newsletters.

Last but certainly not least…Once we flip the switch, we’d really love to hear from you. Drop us a reply with your feedback next Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday. Tell us what you think; Let us know what you liked or didn’t like. Or, if the spirit moves you, just reach out and say hey!


The Downlink

Rendering of a circulative renewable energy system on the moon. Source: JAXA/Honda

Commercial Launch
Honda aims to get into rocket-launching business

The automaker is working on the development of small, reusable rockets, which could eventually win it share in the LEO satellite launch market. Honda has earmarked $45 billion in R&D spending across six years for rockets and a bevy of other emerging technologies.

  • Honda’s rocket work started in 2019, but now R&D seems to be moving forward in earnest. The company says it’s currently working on combustion, fluid, control, and navigation technologies.  
  • In addition, the conglomerate’s R&D division has clearly been thinking about how its various technologies might contribute to lunar space colonies.

That’s not the only auto-meets-space story coming out of Asia. Geely, one of China’s largest automakers, has started mass-producing satellites. Geely says it hopes to eventually produce 500 spacecraft/year in its eastern Chinese factory. Geely’s constellation will be used for navigation and connectivity services in an eventual fleet of self-driving cars. 

Policy
Continuing resolution ensures funding for NASA facility repairs

President Biden has signed a continuing resolution (CR) that ensures the US government will stay funded through December 3. The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 65-35 and the House of by a vote of 254-175. In the crosshairs of a potential government shutdown, NASA will now stay funded until another CR or FY22 budget bill is passed. 

The CR provides $321 million for NASA’s Construction and Environmental Compliance and Restoration program, which will be used for repairs at NASA facilities damaged by Hurricanes Zeta and Ida. NASA Administrator Bill Nelson tweeted his gratitude to Congress for passing the CR, noting that it will help fix infrastructure and allow the agency “to continue venturing out farther into the cosmos.”

Sponsored

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Formlogic is looking for exceptional people across all departments. To find out more, check out Formlogic opportunities here.


In Other News

Russian film crew arrives at the International Space Station (ISS)
Along with cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov, the crew is part of a unique mission to film a feature-length fictional movie in space. Shkaplerov will remain at the ISS until March, while the film crew will stay for 12 days. 

US Air Force signs $20 million contract with Tomorrow.io to monitor weather
The contract will fund a constellation of small satellites equipped with advanced radar to measure precipitation.

SoftBank acquires Alphabet’s Project Loon patents
The Japanese conglomerate acquired ~200 patents from Alphabet’s now-defunct high-altitude balloon broadband project. A SoftBank subsidiary will use the IP to push forward with its own high-altitude  connectivity service.

China delays launch of next mission to space station
The launch date of the Shenzhou 13 crewed spacecraft (originally scheduled for Sunday) has been pushed back to a “later date in October”.

Blue Origin’s former comms lead writes letter describing “toxic” workplace
A group of 21 current and former employees published an open essay in Lioness, alleging a culture rife with harassment, burnout, and lax safety measures at Blue Origin. The company largely denied the claims in a public statement. 

Lynk demonstrates global satellite connection for mobile phones
The Virginia startup says it’s connected hundreds of phones with a satellite, demonstrating two-way data transmission without any add-on hardware. Lynk aims to provide satellite-based internet connectivity to phones located anywhere in the world.

William Shatner is heading to space next week
William Shatner, who in a past life played Captain Kirk in Star Trek, will be on the next Blue Origin flight. He’ll be joined by Audrey Powers, Blue Origin’s VP of mission and flight operations, Chris Boshuizen, and Glen de Vries.


The Term Sheet

  • Astrome, a developer of satellite communication technology, raised $3.4 million of funding co-led by Urania VenturesLakshmi Narayanan, and Indian Angel Network.
  • Launchspace Technologies, a provider of various space-based data services, raised $55,143 of equity crowdfunding via NetCapital.
  • Valley Tech Systems, a hypersonic propulsion startup, reached an agreement to be acquired by Voyager Space for an undisclosed amount.

Payload Insights


The View From Space

Expedition 65 crew moving the Soyuz spacecraft from the Rassvet module to the Nauka module of the International Space Station (ISS). Source: Roscosmos | September 2021

Launch Control

Oct 6: JAXA/Epsilon/Raise-2 @ 8:51PM ET from Uchinoura Space Center, Japan
Oct 16: ULA/Atlas V/Lucy @ 5:34AM ET from Cape Canaveral, FL
Oct 30: SpaceX/Falcon 9/Crew-3 @ 2:43AM EST from Kennedy Space Center, FL