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Good morning. Human spaceflight buffs will have to wait a wee bit longer for two missions planned for this week. Blue Origin’s NS-20 flight has slipped to Thursday, due to high winds out in West Texas. Meanwhile, SpaceX and Axiom’s ISS mission slipped to no earlier than April 6. 

In today’s newsletter…
🚀 FY23 budget request
🛰️ Pixxel Series A
📅 On the move

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  White House Releases FY23 Budget Request

Less than a month after the budget for FY22 was finally approved, President Biden has released his budget request for FY23. 

NASA funding: The budget proposes $26B for NASA in 2023, $2B (~8%) increase over FY22 enacted levels. Here’s how that breaks down, taking the broad view:

  • $7.5B for Deep Space Exploration Systems
  • $4.3B for Space Operations
  • $1.4B for Space Technology
  • $8B for Science
  • $971M for Aeronautics
  • $150M for STEM Engagement
  • $3.2B for Safety, Security, and Mission Services
  • $424M for Construction and Environmental Compliance & Restoration
  • $48M for Inspector General (OIG)

Our fav topic (deep space, duh)

The $7.5B for Deep Space Exploration Systems—i.e., Artemis—represents a ~$700M increase over FY22 enacted levels. The request includes $2.6B for SLS, $1.4B for Orion assembly and testing, and $779M for Gateway lunar station development. 

  • The budget for FY23 includes ~$1.5B for Human Landing System, but doesn’t specify how much each contractor will receive (more on HLS here). 
  • The budget request also allocates $224M to support commercial space station development, $122M more than the agency requested for 2022 (more on life after the ISS here). 

NASA mission manifest:  The agency says it’s still planning on launching Artemis III, the next crewed mission to the lunar surface, in 2025. It’s worth noting, though, that NASA OIG has doubts that mission components will be ready in enough time.

  • Over the next six years, NASA hopes to support 19 crewed, 47 Moon-to-Mars, 55 Science, 19 Climate & Green Aeronautics, 13 ISS Crew Rotation, 27 ISS Resupply, & 20 Technology missions, launches, demonstrations, instruments, or flights.

Military space funding 

Of the $773B requested by the White House for the Pentagon, $130.1B is set aside for R&D, which represents an all-time high. The US Space Force (USSF) would get $24.5B, with $15.8B for R&D, $4B for ops/maintenance, and $3.6B for procuring satellites and launches. 

  • The Space Development Agency (SDA) is set to be integrated into the USSF, and as such, the proposed FY23 budgets are combined. 
  • Example: The USSF budget calls for $1B “resilient missile warning/missile tracking to address hypersonic and maneuverable RVs (re-entry vehicles).”

The throughline: USSF and SDA are focused on building a more resilient web of space assets, based on “proliferated architectures” and hybrid systems. “The budget maintains America’s advantage by improving the resilience of U.S. space architectures to bolster deterrence and increase survivability during hostilities,” the White House writes.

Best of the rest

  1. A boost in Earth observation: The budget proposal suggests $6.9B in funding for NOAA, including $2.3B for a new fleet of weather satellites and $88M for the Office of Space Commerce (a $78M over FY21 enacted levels). 
  2. More commerce: $11.7B in discretionary funding for Commerce, a $2.8B or 31.2% boost over the 2021 enacted level.
  3. Modern accounting tools: $2M is provided to the Bureau of Economic Analysis to develop “new data tools to measure the space economy.”
  4. Licenses for launch: The FAA requested $42.8M for the Office of Commercial Space Transportation, $15.3M more than the office received in 2021 and 2022. That includes $6.2M for streamlining the licensing process and $2.2M to develop a human spaceflight program.
  5. Broadcast central: The FCC requested $390.2M, including $18.4M for the international bureau and $17M for the wireless telecom bureau.

  Pixxel Announces $25M Series A, Led by Radical Ventures

Hyperspectral imaging startup Pixxel has raised a $25M Series A to fund the development of its constellation’s first segment. Radical Ventures led the round, with participation from Seraphim, Lightspeed Partners, Blume Ventures, Sparta LLC, and Relativity cofounder Jordan Noone.

CEO Awais Ahmed told Payload that the new capital should cover ~1/6th of the company’s full-size hyperspectral satellite constellation. 

Pixxel 101: the backstory, in brief

  1. To validate its technology, Pixxel launched a hyperspectral camera last year with NanoAvionics and Dragonfly Aerospace. The startup released its first images from that camera this week. 
  2. Ahmed said Pixxel is uniquely positioned to leverage “India’s low-cost supply chain,” and stay lean without compromising on quality.
  3. “Almost all of our constellation design and engineering is in-house, while manufacturing of various components happens globally.”Of Pixxel’s 50+ customers, more than 95% are commercial.
  4. Finally, a question we have for all space founders—Was it hard to raise in 2022? For Pixxel, “not particularly,” per Ahmed. “We ran a tight and efficient process and brought onboard investors who clearly understood the value proposition.”

Read the full interview, which goes deeper on hyperspectral’s value prop, Pixxel’s development philosophy, and next steps for the startup.


In Other News

  • Terran Orbital finished its first day of trading on the NYSE up 7.6%. $LLAP, the company’s ticker, is a tribute to “live long and prosper,” Terran CEO Marc Bell told CNBC. 
  • SpaceX won’t make new Crew Dragons and will cap the reusable, human-rated capsule fleet at four, Reuters reports. SpaceX is instead funneling resources into developing Starship, and sharpening its focus on the next-gen launcher, Gwynne Shotwell said.
  • Eyes on the prize…“Starship, if it achieves its design objectives, would be able to affordably replace everything that Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy, and Dragon can do,” ex-NASA astronaut/SpaceX exec Garrett Reisman told Reuters. 
  • Tianzhou-2 undocked from Tiangong on Sunday night. The spacecraft, now free of the Chinese space station, will reenter Earth’s atmosphere “at an appropriate time under ground control,” per CGTN. 
  • Singapore became the 18th country to sign the Artemis Accords.

On the Move

  • Boeing (NYSE:BA) defense, space, and security chief Leanne Caret will retire later this year. Ted Colbert, CEO of Boeing Global services, will fill Caret’s position once she steps down.
  • Blue Origin Senior VP of Blue Engines John Vilja has departed the company. Linda Cova will lead the Engines team, including BE-4 engine development, in an interim capacity until the company names a permanent lead.
  • MDA hired Anita Bernie as managing director for UK operations.Dark Fission Space Systems is former Momentus (NASDAQ:MNTS) President Fred Kennedy’s new venture. The startup aims to commercialize nuclear thermal propulsion.
  • Stratolaunch appointed Zachary Krevor as president and CEO. Krevor was previously the company’s COO.
  • ThinkOrbital hired Jim MacConnell as VP of technical development.
  • Impulse Space Propulsion hired Barry Matsumori as COO.
  • The Aerospace Corporation hired Sean Wilson as director of technical communications.
  • OSD, or the Office of the Secretary of Defense, has sworn in MIT prof Vipin Narang as principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for space policy.

The View from a Falcon 9’s Belly

Image: SpaceX

SpaceX recently encapsulated Transporter-4’s 40 payloads within a Falcon 9’s fairing. SpaceX says the rideshare mission includes cubesats, microsats, picosats, hosted payloads, and an orbital transfer vehicle.