Slip (11/10/21 Newsletter)

To: Payload Subscribers

November 10, 2021

Good morning. Heinz teamed up with Florida Tech astrobiologists to make “Martian” ketchup, using tomatoes grown in Mars-like conditions for nine months. In case you’re wondering, Martian ketchup pairs best with Matt Damon-prepared potatoes. 

Today’s newsletter: 
🛰️ Capella, SDA integration
👩‍🚀 An Artemis update
💸 The term sheet

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 Capella in Position

Capella SAR image of the La Palma Volcanic Eruption, taken 9/30/31. Via Capella

Yesterday, Capella Space said it would install optical communication terminals (OCT) on its commercial synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellites. Capella aims to integrate new commercial craft with the SDA’s National Defense Space Architecture (NDSA) by adding inter-satellite links from a partner. More on that in a sec.

Catching up: The SDA is building a network of satellites in low-earth orbit for military communications and data-gathering missions. The network will consist of several layers; each will serve a different Pentagon space priority. The network will include a transport layer of data communications satellites and a tracking layer of sensor satellites, among others.

X-ray vision: Capella’s specialty is SAR, so the company is able to provide imagery of the Earth’s surface, even in darkness and bad weather. That’s invaluable for militaries looking to modernize their eyes in space.

With the announcement, Capella is reaffirming a commitment to staying “in lockstep” with the SDA as they build out a next-gen space stack, Capella CTO Christian Lenz told Payload. Capella is “positioning ourselves to make sure we’re ready for when the Department of Defense wants to procure SAR imagery from us, and we are able to deliver it in whatever format and medium that they’re looking for,” per Lenz.

About that partner: Capella will team up with Mynaric, a laser communications company with a track record of compatibility with SDA standards, to integrate OCTs on its satellites. The new hardware will allow efficient, low-latency data transfers from Capella space assets to government counterparts and Earth terminals.  

  • Over the next year, the two companies will work to verify the technical compatibility of the system, Lenz said. Capella plans to install OCTs on its satellites starting in late 2022.

 Artemis III Slips a Year

Image: NASA

ICYMI: The Artemis program faces delays and cost overruns. Yesterday, NASA pushed back American astronauts’ moon return trip to 2025 and revised Orion cost projections upwards by $2.6B ($6.7B → $9.3B across 12 years).

Administrator Bill Nelson pinned development hiccups on “nearly seven months of litigation” (read: Blue Origin’s lawsuit). Agency leaders also pointed to Covid, associated supply chain and workforce struggles, and storm damage. 

  • On a brighter note, the agency said it was “very happy” to be working again with SpaceX—and lauded the continued Spaceship work in Boca Chica. 
  • “We are facing a very aggressive and good Chinese space program,” Nelson cautioned. He said NASA will be as “aggressive as we can be, in a safe and technically feasible way, to beat our competitors with boots on the moon.”  

Updated timelines:  

  • Artemis I—SLS/Orion will launch an uncrewed mission in Feb.
  • Artemis II—The crewed lunar flyby mission will be pushed from April 2023 to May 2024. 
  • Artemis III—Pushed from 2024 to no earlier than 2025. 
  • Gateway—The orbiting lunar outpost, planned for later this decade, is on schedule. 
  • Spacesuits—One or more contract awards are coming next year. Expect 2024 demos for the space fits, which will be worn on the ISS and the moon’s surface. 

All eyes on: SLS. Is the super-heavy (but super expensive) rocket still fit for the job? NASA leadership found itself facing the question from multiple reporters yesterday. 

+ “A big boy.” That was Nelson’s nickname for an asteroid that NASA will soon target in a planetary defense test mission. “You wouldn’t want it to hit Earth,” he observed. At least everyone can agree on that… 


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In Other News

  • ULA delayed the STP-3 mission due to a “space vehicle processing issue.” ULA’s Atlas V will now launch a couple weeks later than initially planned, on Dec. 4, with a Space Force payload. 
  • Japan launched nine small satellites into orbit with Epsilon 5, a domestically built rocket.
  • Momentus (NASDAQ:MNTS) has $178M on hand, following its Q3 SPAC. The space company says it reserved a spot for the planned Vigoride vehicle on SpaceX’s Transporter-5 mission.
  • Planet will hold a virtual investor day next Thursday (Nov. 18), as the company prepares to go public via SPAC.  
  • EchoStar, (NASDAQ:SATS) a satellite communications company, reported Q3 net income of $33.4M.
  • St. Jude named a new building at its Memphis campus after the Inspiration4 mission. 

Term Sheet

  • Viasat agreed to acquire Inmarsat in a deal valued at $7.3B
  • HawkEye 360, a developer of a space-based radio frequency (RF) mapping and analytics system, raised $145M of Series D funding led by Insight Partners and Seraphim Space Investment.
  • Mynaric, a manufacturer of laser communication equipment used in aerospace applications, is targeting an $80M IPO on the NASDAQ exchange, currently scheduled for tomorrow. The German company already trades on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange.
  • Spartan, a developer of radar technology, raised $15M of Series A funding led by Prime Movers Lab.
  • Maritime Launch Services, which aims to develop Canada’s first commercial spaceport, will go public through a reverse merger with Jaguar Financial Corporation. It’s unclear if the merger will be approved, or whether it would help MLS raise new capital. If approved, the combined entity will trade on the TSX Venture Exchange.
  • Solstar, a space communications company, has launched a Reg. CF crowdfunding campaign with a fundraising target of $3.5M

View from the Gulf

Love us some acrobatics when disembarking from the Dragon capsule. Image: NASA