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Good morning, especially to those of you who got up early for the Crew-4 launch. Just before 4 AM Eastern, Kjell Lindgren, Robert Hines, Jessica Watkins, and Samantha Cristoforetti started their journey to the ISS on a Falcon 9 and Dragon named “Freedom.” 

We wanted to give a special shout-out to Watkins, who is set to make history as the first Black woman to conduct a long-term spaceflight and serve as a crew member at the ISS. Another first: This NASA crew is made up equally of men and women.

In today’s newsletter:
🌍 Space Industry for Ukraine
🚀 RFA Microlauncher prize
💸 The term sheet

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Aid for Ukraine

HawkEye 360 and the National Security Space Association (NSSA) have launched a joint initiative to send humanitarian aid from space industry donors to Ukraine. The campaign, called Space Industry for Ukraine, is raising money from space companies to donate to organizations supporting Ukrainian refugees and victims of war on the ground. Payload caught up with HawkEye 360 CEO John Serafini to hear more about how the initiative took shape. 

Seeing it firsthand: Serafini traveled to the border of Poland and Ukraine to volunteer with humanitarian groups after Russia’s invasion because he felt he could not sit by and watch the news anymore. At the border, Serafini said he witnessed the dichotomy between the worst and the best of humankind—the tragedy and tolls of war juxtaposed with the kindness and generosity of those who came to help.

On the ground in Poland, Serafini was “overwhelmed by the tragedy and the realization that fellow human beings could be put into such a situation, with recognition that at any point in time, any of us can be in a similar horrific experience.” Serafini said he saw firsthand what the humanitarian groups needed to continue providing aid. The foremost need: money.

Serafini, returning home and determined to help, reached out to Steve Jacques, executive director and founder of NSSA. From there, a plan was put into motion. 

Space Industry For Ukraine

HawkEye 360 and NSSA began by reaching out to space companies two weeks ago and asking for a one-time $50,000 pledge. The money raised will be donated directly to humanitarian groups and NGOs actively working in and around Ukraine. 

So far, ABL Space Systems, ARKA, BlackSky, Capella Space, ICEYE, Insight Partners, Leidos, LeoLabs, Maxar, Raytheon Intelligence & Space, Rebellion Defense, Relativity Space, Riverside Research, Rocket Lab, Velos, Viasat, The Aerospace Corporation, Cognitive Space and Shield Capital have pledged at least $50,000 each to the cause. 

  • Most contributors will be involved in choosing which NGOs receive the funds. 
  • Save Our Allies, Spirit of America, the Lions Club, and IREX are among the NGO recipients that have already been named. The group plans to select more.
  • While evaluating recipients, “we’re focused on food and we’re focused on medical supplies,” said Serafini. “We’re focused on clothing, we’re focused on getting people out and providing medical care and housing,” rather than military aid. 

So far…the initiative has raised nearly $1M. The organizers are still accepting contributions. 

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RFA Wins Big

A graphic showing three rockets from the DLR microlauncher competition: the HyImpulse SL1 qualified, the Isar Aerospace Spectrum rocket won round 1, and Rocket Factory Augsburg's RFA One won round 2.
Graphic: Andrew Parsonson

German launch startup Rocket Factory Augsburg (RFA) has won the second and final round of the German Aerospace Center’s (DLR) microlauncher competition. The award comes with a €11M ($11.7M) check and a requirement to carry 150 kgs of institutional payloads free of charge aboard the RFA One’s first two flights.

“We are very happy about the trust the German government expresses with this award. The DLR will fly payloads on our first two flights and thus acts as an anchor customer,” RFA told Payload.

The rounds

  • Selection (Nov. 2020)—Isar Aerospace, RFA, and HyImpulse qualify for the competition and receive €500,000 in funding.
  • Round 1 (April 2021)—Isar Aerospace wins the first round and is no longer in the running for the second round.
  • Round 2 (April 2022)—RFA wins the second and final round.

The RFA One rocket is designed to carry up to 1,350 kgs to orbit. As a result, the remaining payload capacity on these flights will accommodate other customers. In November, RFA signed a launch contract with the Ukrainian company Lunar Research Service to carry a tech demo aboard the maiden flight.

Mark your calendars…The maiden RFA One flight is slated to blast off at the end of 2022 from the Andøya spaceport in Norway. However, RFA has told Payload that it is not impossible that this will be postponed to early 2023. In other words…definitely possible. 

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In Other News

  • Ariane 5’s first 2022 flight is set for June 22. The European rocket will launch two GEO telco satellites, MEASAT-3d and GSAT-24.
  • US intelligence officials say Washington has been sharing commercial satellite images with Kyiv rapidly and in real-time (echoing earlier comments to this effect). Officials also say Ukraine is making “clever use” of OSINT, from satellite imagery to unencrypted radio channels, per NBC. 
  • Crew-4’s ISS research portfolio includes validating a low-cost biosensor, investigating low-resource laundry solutions, and improving manufacturing of artificial retinas. 
  • A Saturn rocket’s digital computer memory module sold for $71,335 in an auction overseen by Boston-based RR Auction last week. Gemini 3 Command Pilot Gus Grissom’s prototype pressure suit went for $64,850.
  • The Smithsonian and Meta partnered to launch a recreation of the 1969 Apollo 11 mission in VR.
  • Spire (NYSE:SPIR) added new weather insights tools to its product portfolio.

The Term Sheet

  • Capella Space, a synthetic aperture radar startup, has raised a $97M Series C, led by NightDragon (via Payload).
  • Adranos, manufacturer of solid rocket motors, announced a $20M Series A funding round led by Impala Asset Management.
  • Maxar announced a strategic investment in, which aims to use the former’s satellite imagery to create a 3D digital model of Earth.
  • Deep Blue Aerospace announced A+ round funding, led by CMBC Int’l Holdings. The Chinese launch firm will use the undisclosed funds to develop the reusable Nebula-1 kerosene-liquid oxygen rocket and the “Thunder” engine series for its first orbital launch in 2024.
  • X-Bow Systems, which produces 3D-printed solid rocket motors, closed a $27M Series A investment round led by Crosslink Capital and Razor’s Edge Ventures.
  • RFA won the German Aerospace Center’s (DLR) microlauncher competition, securing both $11.7M in prize funding and Germany as an anchor customer on RFA One’s first two flights (via Payload).
  • HyPrSpace, which is developing a rocket with hybrid propulsion (a solid and liquid motor), raised €1.1M (~$1.2M) in a round led by Bpifrance, a French public investment bank.

The View from Space

Image: SpaceX. Can you spot the Zero-G indicator doing its thing?

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