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Today’s newsletter:
🌕 Closure on moon landers
🛰️ Constellations on constellations

One Lander to Rule Them All (For Now)

Graphic: SpaceX

ICYMI: Blue Origin has lost its federal lawsuit over NASA’s Human Landing System (HLS) contract. Yesterday, Court of Federal Claims Judge Richard Hertling ruled against Blue Origin in its lawsuit against NASA. Hertling did not share many details in his 192-word statement.

What happened? NASA initially intended to award two separate HLS moon lander contracts. Then, citing budgetary constraints, the agency decided to go with one company: SpaceX. 

Blue Origin protested NASA’s decision to award SpaceX a $2.9B moon lander contract. Blue’s proposal, in partnership with others, was ~$6B. Jeff Bezos personally stepped in after NASA picked SpaceX, offering to waive $2B in NASA payment, should the space agency pick the Blue Moon lunar lander. 

  • In reaction to the verdict, Bezos tweeted: “Not the decision we wanted, but we respect the court’s judgment, and wish full success for NASA and SpaceX on the contract.” 
  • On brand as ever, Elon tweeted a meme in response to the news. 

As a result of the verdict, NASA and SpaceX will resume work on the lander ASAP. 

  • “It’s been disappointing to not be able to make progress,” Pam Melroy, NASA’s deputy administrator, told the NYT
  • In a statement, NASA said that it “continues working with multiple American companies to bolster competition and commercial readiness for crewed transportation to the lunar surface.”

But! Surprise, surprise…this story may not be over. Congress has directed NASA to back two moon lander programs, citing the need for more redundancy and competition.

Get Those Files in by End of Week

Photo: Astra

Astra, Hughes, Inmarsat, and Telesat filed plans yesterday with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to build satellite constellations in low-Earth orbit (LEO). The FCC parcels out and regulates radio frequency (RF) usage in the US. 

Why all at once? A coincidence? But of course not. Yesterday was the deadline for the FCC’s new processing round for satellite V-band applications. Details: 

  1. Astra, which has a critical launch coming up, filed an application for up to 13,620 LEO satellites. 
  2. Hughes applied for 1,440 LEO satellites. 
  3. Inmarsat is requesting US V-band access with a future 198-satellite constellation. 
  4. Telesat has applied to build more satellites to extend its current network, theoretically bringing its constellation size to 1,671.

An open question: How many satellite constellations is too many satellite constellations?


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In Other News

  • Thomas Pesquet, a French astronaut at the International Space Station, called in to international climate talks in Scotland. 
  • SpaceX’s Crew-2 Dragon may land before the Crew-3 mission launches. 
  • Discovery’s Space Titans series started streaming yesterday. 
  • Stephen Colbert cracked a joke about SpaceX’s broken space toilet. What is it with late night hosts and space recently?

The View from Space

An aurora seen from space. Photo: NASA