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Good morning. We’re still digging into the results of our first reader survey, but at a high level, more than 8% of you partook.

Don’t say it. Don’t say it. 

We’re *over the moon* with that participation rate. We’ll be reaching out to giveaway winners soon.

In today’s newsletter:
🚁 RKLB Q1
🛰️ BlueWalker 3
🌕 Artemis 
🔁 On the move

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Rockets and Non-Rockets 

Image: Rocket Lab

Rocket Lab ($RKLB) booked $40.7M in Q1 revenue, which represents a 124% annual jump and quarterly growth of 48%. Net loss widened in Q1, growing ~71% YoY to $26.7M.

End-to-end space: The rocket company is executing on its strategy of building out a robust non-rocket business. Rocket Lab’s space systems unit generated $34.1M in Q1, good for ~84% of Q1 revenue. 

“We really know just about everybody in the industry from a spacecraft side. If we’re not launching them, we’re selling components into them,” CEO Peter Beck told Payload in April. In its investor deck yesterday, Rocket Lab emphasized that presence across the space value chain:

Image: Rocket Lab IR

Case in point: Rocket Lab closed its acquisition of SolAero Technologies in Q1. It is qualifying the space solar cells, expects them to be commercially ready later this year, and is producing solar panels for OneWeb’s broadband constellation. 

Back to the bread and butter: While the company booked $6.6M in revenue from one launch in Q1, launch is “lumpy” on a quarter-to-quarter basis, Beck told analysts yesterday. And things are picking up: Electron is averaging a monthly launch cadence as of Feb. 28. 

  • The company booked less revenue on There and Back Again, an R&D mission featuring Rocket Lab’s Sikorsky S-92 completing a brief mid-air helicopter snag of an Electron falling back to Earth. 
  • The mission “proved reusability technology” and gave a roadmap for future aerial catches, Rocket Lab said.  

Q2 guidance: $51M–$54M in revenue, with launch accounting for ~$19M and space systems kicking in the rest ($32M–$35M). Rocket Lab also guided to GAAP gross margins of 11%–13%. On the docket: a launch to lunar orbit with Electron, the Photon spacecraft bus, and NASA’s CAPSTONE payload. 

+ Market data snapshot: $RKLB is down ~56% YTD. The company is valued at $2.5B.

Read/share online.


Meanwhile in Midland…

Image: AST SpaceMobile

Midland, TX-based AST SpaceMobile ($ASTS) is looking ahead to the expected summer launch of BlueWalker 3 (BW3) with SpaceX. 

BW3, a 1.5-ton, 693-square-foot phased array beast, will be a testbed for the company’s space-based cellular broadband network technology. Bet the farm moment?

  • In May, the FCC granted AST SpaceMobile an experimental license to test space-to-ground transmissions between BW3 and unmodified smartphones. 
  • As of March 31, AST SpaceMobile had invested $82.7M into testing and building BlueWalker 3. The satellite has undergone 700+ tests.
  • The company plans to scale production to a second, 100,000-sq-ft. facility in Texas. It’s targeting a production rate of six satellites per month. 

Q1 business updates: AST SpaceMobile booked $2.4M in revenue and burned through nearly $70M in Q1, ending the quarter with $255M in cash/equivalents. Operating expenses increased $1.4M quarter-on-quarter to $32.7M. 

  • Earlier this month, AST SpaceMobile announced a deal to sell more stock and raise $75M. 
  • Apropos of nothing…Yesterday’s $ASTS earnings call had some fresh analyst faces (at least compared to the last one Payload tuned into).

+ Market data: $ASTS is down ~12% YTD and the company is valued at $1.3B.

Read/share online.


Artemis Status Update

We may be waiting a little longer than planned to see NASA’s massive Moon rocket get off the ground. Officially, Artemis I is still slated to lift off in August. 

A new blog post from NASA outlined every potential launch opportunity between now and June 2023, raising concerns that the already-delayed summer launch date may slip even further.

  • There are 73 launch opportunities for Artemis I between July 26 and Dec. 23 of this year. 
  • In order to launch the mission, the Moon has to be in a particular part of the lunar cycle.
  • The Moon and Earth have to be situated in a way that the rocket can reach its target trajectory.

The launch date could also determine the length of the mission, NASA said. Certain dates on its schedule are coded as short mission dates, meaning the rocket would only make a half lap around the Moon over 26–28 days. A longer mission would mean that the Orion capsule could make one and a half laps over 38–42 days.


In Other News

  • Spacecom, an Israeli satellite operator, redirected a Ku-band beam to the Indian Ocean to better serve a new maritime customer.
  • Rocket Lab has begun payload integration for the CAPSTONE lunar orbit pathfinding mission. The launcher also completed a wet dress rehearsal. 
  • ABL Space Systems has successfully completed an acceptance test for the second stage of its launch vehicle.
  • SpaceX is ~85% vertically integrated, Ars Technica’s Eric Berger reports. The company pulled more production in-house due to ongoing supply chain challenges. Also, SpaceX has “significant cash reserves,” Elon Musk said yesterday at the All-In Summit. 
  • Also…SpaceX hasn’t found any aliens yet. Were they to be discovered, it’d likely be bullish for SpaceX, the CEO opined, because the world would need to “upgrade our space technology pronto.” 

On the Move

  • JPL yesterday welcomed Dr. Laurie Leshin as its new director and the first woman to lead NASA’s prestigious propulsion lab. 
  • ULA selected Chris Ellerhorst as VP of its new program office to support Amazon’s Kuiper Program.
  • Space Foundation announced that CEO Tom Zelibor will retire next spring after the 38th annual Space Symposium.
  • OneWeb hired Jason Sperry and Drew Brandy as directors of business aviation and land mobility, respectively, and promoted Nick Maynard to marketing director of mobility. The UK-based company also brought on Stephen Beynon as chief commercial officer.
  • Carbon, a 3D printing company with space applications, appointed Phil DeSimone and Craig Carlson to its new office of the CEO. Current president and CEO Ellen Kullman will become chair of Carbon’s BoD in June.
  • Comtech Telecommunications named Ken Peterman to its board of directors.
  • Celestia UK, an Edinburgh-based SATCOM firm, appointed Dr. Carol Marsh as head of digital systems.
  • Draper, a nonprofit engineering innovation company, selected former BAE Systems executive Dr. Jerry M. Wohletz as its next president and CEO.
  • OceanGate brought Dr. Scott Parazynski, a submersible pilot and former NASA space shuttle astronaut, onto its board.
  • Agile Space Industries hired Bryce Dabbs as VP of BD and strategic finance.
  • NASA announced the crew of its next simulated mission to Mars. Brad Hensley, Jennifer Milczarski, Alejandro Diaz, and Roberto Carlino will spend 45 days in the Human Exploration Research Analog, allowing researchers to study how they adjust to isolation, confinement, and remote conditions.

The View from Space

Image: Tyler Jones/UF/IFAS

Using lunar surface samples collected on Apollo missions, University of Florida researchers successfully grew plants in lunar “soil.” The small sprouts are a flowering plant called Arabidopsis thaliana, a relative of mustard greens and vegetables like broccoli.

NASA hopes this research could help feed astronauts in deep space by allowing for farming on the Moon, or even Mars (cue The Martian references).

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