Good morning. On this day in 1977, Enterprise landed its fifth and final test flight at the Edwards Air Force Base in California. The real-life Space Shuttle Enterprise, that is, not a Star Trek version. Prince Charles attended the test flight; he can vouch for us…
A raise and rebrand
🔁 On the move
“Your address, in orbit”
ICYMI: Blue Origin and Sierra Space will build the Orbital Reef outpost in low-Earth (LEO), the two announced in Dubai yesterday. Blue and Sierra are partnering with Boeing, Redwire Space, Genesis Engineering Solutions, and Arizona State University on the private space station. Each organization brings a unique skillset to the table. Genesis, for example, will contribute a one-person spacecraft dedicated to “routine external operations and tourist excursions.”
- The ETA for initial operations is the second half of this decade.
- Orbital Reef will fly over Earth in a mid-inclination, 500-km orbit.
When you’re building something new for space, you must also develop an Earth-based metaphor as a mental shortcut (ie, gas stations in space, space ports, or space tugs). We don’t make the rules; we just report them.
Orbital Reef’s chosen metaphor? “Mixed-use business park” in space. “Orbital Reef will be the premier mixed-use space station in LEO for commerce, research, and tourism by the end of this decade,” per the project website. Design elements offer some insight into tenants that could one day inhabit Orbit Reef:
- Habitation modules will have panoramic Earth-facing windows. Orbital Reef promo materials tout “breathtaking views of our home planet, with 32 vibrant sunrises and sunsets each day.” Perfect for tourists.
- Research facilities will have large labs, a suite of standardized interfaces, closed-hatch modules, technical support as needed, and other “end-to-end services.” Leases can be configured for the end customer, ranging from the space “novice” to seasoned LEO operators.
Another metaphor? Just like Amazon Web Services, Orbital Reef is being marketed as flexible, pay-as-you-go infrastructure. Orbit Reef, its developers suggest, will abstract away the complexity of LEO logistics for end users, be they governments or companies.
LEO neighbors? Nanoracks, Lockheed, and Voyager announced plans to launch and assemble a private space station—Starlab—last week. Starlab initial operations are targeted for 2027. We have to ask: Which station reaches LEO first: Starlab or Orbital Reef? Will both come online before the International Space Station (ISS) is retired? Drop us a line and chime in with your thoughts.
Drop the ‘Analytical.’ And ‘Space.’ Just…’Hedron’
Today, Cambridge, MA-based “Hedron” said it’s closed a $17.8M Series A. The on-orbit communications company (née Analytical Space) has officially rebranded to Hedron. Justin Timberlake from The Social Network would approve.
The cap table: Fidelity-affiliated Fine Structure Ventures led the round, joined by Lockheed Martin Ventures, Republic Labs, Lime Street, and Explorer 1. Existing investors The Engine, Flybridge, Yard Ventures, NKM Capital, and Space Angels also participated.
“Since our founding [in 2016], our goal at Hedron has been to provide low-latency access to space-borne data,” CEO and cofounder Dan Nevius said in a statement. Hedron plans to launch a network of data relay satellites that tackle latency bottlenecks (lag) facing remote-sensing constellations.
Put simply—It takes too long to get valuable imagery down to Earth. “Currently, satellite data is backwards-looking…a representation of what happened in the world two hours ago or yesterday,” Hedron Chief Commercial Officer Katherine Monson told Payload. “We’re moving into what’s happening now.”
- Hedron’s software-defined system is backwards-compatible, meaning it can receive and downlink data from legacy on-orbit satellites.
Hedron’s Series A “allows us to start building the first plane of backbone satellites,” Monson said. While the backbone will consist of owned and operated satellite network nodes, Hedron also plans to eventually offer terminals that can be fitted to others’ spacecraft.
Looking forward: Hedron, which plans to deploy its first demonstration satellite next year, is currently focused on wildfire mitigation and maritime monitoring pilot programs.
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In Other News
- NASA and SpaceX completed the Crew-3 mission’s flight readiness review. The launch is scheduled for 2:21 AM ET on Halloween.
- Firefly Aerospace has completed a critical design review of the Blue Ghost lunar lander.
- Japan launched a replacement navigation satellite last night on a Mitsubishi-built H-2A rocket.
- SpaceX rockets could maybe take cosmonauts to space, according to Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin.
🔁 On the Move 🔁
Changing of the guard: Stephen Spengler and Randolphe Belmer are stepping away from the CEO posts at Intelsat and Eutelsat, respectively. Spengler will retire once Intelsat emerges from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection (likely by end of year). After six years of leading Eutelsat, Belmer will depart in early 2022 to become chief executive of French tech firm Atos.
Other industry moves: CNN reports that Mark “Forger” Stucky, former head of Virgin Galactic’s test pilot program, joined Blue Origin’s Advance Development Programs team. Also at Blue, Doug Kohl was promoted to test team leader in the lunar and space development program unit. German rideshare provider Exolaunch hired Chris Hearsey, formerly at Bigelow Aerospace, as US CEO. Corbett Hoenninger was promoted to senior director of operations at Sierra Space. Rogue Space Systems Corporation promoted Trisha Navidzadeh to CTO. And L3Harris named Daniel Zoot as the new corporate VP of its Japanese office.
In the EU: The European Space Agency (ESA) selected three new directors. Simonetta Cheli will serve as the new director of Earth observation, effective Jan. 1. Francisco-Javier Benedicto Ruiz will step into the role of navigation director on Feb. 16. Finally, Géraldine Naja will be ESA’s inaugural director of commercialization, starting next Monday (Nov. 1).
Woz watch: Privateer, the debris tracking/space mapping venture cofounded by Steve Wozniak and Alex Fielding, hired Moriba Jah as chief scientific advisor. Jah is an astrodynamicist, space environmentalist, and associate professor at UT Austin.
(Ex) NASA watch: The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), steward of the International Space Station, named former NASA Chief Scientist Waleed Abdalati as a director. Separately, retired NASA astronaut James F. Reilly II joined Booz Allen as an executive advisor.
The View From Space
75 years ago Sunday, a 35-millimeter motion picture camera took this photo, the first-ever from space. While the V-2 rocket carrying the camera crash-landed at a speed of 500 feet/second, fortunately, the reinforced steel cage carrying the film survived the impact.