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Good morning.  It’s 4/20. What are the odds any space CEOs tweet about the cannabis-inspired holiday?

In today’s edition:
🪐 Planetary science decadal
📊 $LMT and $IRDM results
💸 The term sheet

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*insert Uranus probe joke here*

Once every blue moon ten years, NASA tasks the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine with determining the highest-priority planetary science missions for the next decade. The Academies published the fruits of their labor–- “Origins, Worlds, and Life: A Decadal Strategy for Planetary Science and Astrobiology 2023-2032”—yesterday, revealing a new ranked menu of deep-space priorities.

The survey: The National Academies received hundreds of white papers from the planetary science community, making the case for the relevance and importance of various missions to each planet in the Solar System. The completed survey makes recommendations for the highest-priority missions and how to earmark for them.

The next NASA flagship 

NASA’s next big destination after the Red Planet will be the ice giant, Uranus. The decadal survey recommended that NASA send an orbiter and probe to Uranus (*insert Uranus probe joke here*), which has not been visited by a spacecraft since Voyager 2’s flyby in 1896. The second highest priority is the Enceladus Orbilander, which would send a spacecraft to the ocean moon of Saturn.

  • The survey committee had to decide between Uranus and Neptune as the next destination. Ultimately it came down to mission readiness: no new technology would need to be developed for missions to Uranus, and the committee saw no reason that NASA shouldn’t start on the project right away.
  • The Uranus and Enceladus missions were priorities No. 3 and 4 in the last decadal survey, behind a Mars rover and Europa mission. They’ve now been bumped to the first two spots.

DEIA considerations 

For the first time, the survey looked at the state of the planetary science profession, and made recommendations based on NASA’s diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility (DEIA) needs. 

  • “While scientific understanding is the primary motivation for what our community does, we must also work to boldly address issues concerning our community’s most important resource — the people who propel its planetary science and exploration missions,” said Philip Christensen, steering committee co-chair.

Don’t look up

Everyone’s favorite potentially-dangerous-asteroid-tracking department got a shoutout from the survey. The committee emphasized the need for NASA to improve its Near-Earth Object (NEO) tracking capabilities, and outlines its top priority missions:

  • The NEO Surveyor mission, a mid-infrared instrument dedicated NEOs
  • Completing the Direct Asteroid Redirection Test (DART)
  • Up next: a flyby recon mission of an asteroid 50-100m in diameter.

The wishlist:If there’s more to go around, the survey recommends the following missions to flesh out the agency’s planetary science portfolio: a Centaur Orbiter and Lander, Ceres sample return, comet surface sample return, an Enceladus multi-flyby, the Lunar Geophysical Network, a Saturn probe, Titan orbiter, and Venus In Situ Explorer.

Exploration: The survey committee continues to recommend Mars and lunar exploration. The Mars Exploration Program (MEP) and Lunar Discovery Exploration Program (LDEP) should be dedicated programs. The Mars Life Explorer (MLE) is the next priority for MEP, and Endurance-A, a high-endurance lunar rover, is next up for LDEP.


Space Earnings

Iridium constellation
Image: Iridium

Yesterday, Lockheed Martin (NYSE:LMT) and Iridium (NASDAQ:IRDM) reported Q1 2022 financial results. To set the scene, Lockheed has a $122.6B market cap and is up 29.4% this year. Iridium is at a $5.4B market cap and up 3.3% YTD. 

$LMT 

LM Space recorded $2.6B in Q1 revenue, a 15% annual drop. 

  • The defense contractor attributed $440M of the revenue drop to the UK’s renationalization of the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE)…and $95M to “lower volume” in civil space with the Orion and human lander system (HLS) programs. 
  • That was partially offset by Lockheed’s 50% equity stake in ULA (or United Launch Alliance) and higher launch volumes for the joint venture.

Operating profit for LM Space grew 8% YoY to $245M. Lockheed’s Space Q1 operating margin—9.6%—was the lowest of any of its business lines. Proves what we all already knew…space is hard. 

$IRDM

Iridium, a LEO constellation operator and specialty broadband provider, generated $168M in Q1 revenue, up 15% year over year. 

  • Commercial service revenue came in at ~$100M (59% of overall Q1 sales). Iridium satcom products/technology can be found in everything from maritime vessels to very large link-belt excavators. 
  • Government service Q1 revenue totaled $26.5M (+3% YoY). 
  • Equipment revenue totaled $33.7M (+41% YoY). Iridium makes its own finished products, like the company’s branded satphone product line, in addition to receivers/chipsets that it sells or licenses.  
  • Engineering/support revenue rounded out the pack at $8.4M (+30% YoY). 
  • Total billable subscribers grew 17% YoY to nearly 1.8M, driven by 24% annual growth in commercial Internet of Things (IoT) subscriptions. 

Rest of year: Iridium reiterated its full-year 2022 outlook, with 5–7% growth over last year’s total service revenue of $492M. “Most of my focus is really on Ukraine and supplying the tremendous demand we’ve seen there,” CEO Matt Desch said on yesterday’s earnings call.

+ To go deeper, read our extended Q&A with Desch from Satellite 2022. 


In Other News

  • ESA has begun the integration process for the inaugural flight of Vega-C.
  • BlackSky (NYSE: BKSY) says it shifted its two newest satellites’ orbits to provide better coverage over Ukraine in February.
  • Ax-1’s departure from the ISS was delayed again due to weather.
  • Momentus (NASDAQ:MNTS) finished vibration testing of its Vigoride. The company’s first orbital transfer vehicle is set to fly on SpaceX’s upcoming Transporter-5 mission. 

The Term Sheet

  • Spaced Ventures, the space-focused equity crowdfunding site, has passed $1M in total capital commitments raised through its platform. (More on Spaced Ventures here.)
  • Infinite Composites is closing its equity crowdfunding campaign on Spaced Ventures today with $500,000+ raised, as of this writing. The startup makes linerless composite pressure vessels for spacecraft and other aerospace applications.
  • Micross Components, which provides microelectronic components for space and other applications, is now the sole asset in a new continuation fund, Behrman Capital Micross CF L.P., following its sale in February 2022.
  • Booz Allen Hamilton (NYSE:BAH) announced an investment in Reveal Technology. Reveal uses computer vision, AI, and edge computing to deliver intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.
  • ConstellR, a German space tech startup monitoring land surface temperature, has acquired hyperspectral firm ScanWorld to optimize farming with beyond-visual data (via Payload last week, announced April 11). 

The View from Space

ULA published this picture of NASA’s Pegasus barge delivering an Atlas V first stage to the cape.

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Follow us: Rachael is Payload’s reporter and Ryan is the managing editor.
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