Good morning. It’s been a longgg time coming—today, Boeing will make a third attempt to reach the ISS with Starliner. Boeing’s uncrewed capsule is stacked atop an Atlas V and United Launch Alliance is targeting a liftoff for OFT-2 at 6:54 pm Eastern tonight. Weather is 70% favorable.
In today’s newsletter:
🏕️ Space Camp
💫 Evasive maneuver
📝 Contract report
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Off to Space Camp
London-based Seraphim, which bills itself as the first and largest space-focused investment fund, has announced the ninth cohort to participate in its Space Camp program. The 11-week accelerator pushes founders to hone their investment pitch and connect with mentors, culminating in an investor day.
The seven startups selected for Mission 9:
- Ntention, a Norwegian company building interactive extended reality and robotic systems for astronauts
- Lunasa Space, a UK-based in-orbit services startup with an orbital transfer vehicle as its first offering
- ODIN Space, or The Orbital Debris Impact Network, which is creating a space situational awareness (SSA) payload
- Smart IR, which is building graphene-based tiles for thermal management on satellites
- AIRMO, a German emissions-monitoring startup
- Cislunar Industries, an American company working on in-orbit manufacturing using materials harvested from orbital debris
- Deep Planet, which uses EO data, IoT sensors and AI to help winemakers monitor their crop health
Space Camp: Seraphim began Space Camp in 2018 as a way to get involved with early stage startups before they were ready to raise the Series A and later stage funding rounds that the investment fund is focused on.
“What it builds for us is this firehose of investments, ultimately, that can go into our fund,” Rob Desborough, a managing partner at Seraphim Space and CEO of Space Camp, told Payload. “So when we’re writing a $25 million ticket at Series B, we can do that with real conviction, because we found that company potentially pre-incorporation four or five years earlier.”
Since its inception…
…Seraphim has led eight cohorts and 55 total companies through Space Camp. All but one of those companies are still operating today. Cohort companies have collectively gone on to raise $180M from 70 different investors.
- The fund taps its network for insights into investable emerging technologies, then looks to its own pipeline for early, early-stage teams building in the space.
- Space sustainability has a huge footprint in the Mission 9 cohort. “I think that is a sign of the times, in terms of deal flow,” said Desborough.
Space Camp aims to help talented founders with great ideas avoid a great pitfall for early-stage startups: a bad pitch. Of the participants, “70 to 75% are PhD-level engineers, astrophysicists, quantum scientists,” said Desborough. “So if you give those guys five minutes to pitch, you’ll get four minutes and 58 seconds of science, two seconds about a value proposition or business. We’ve got to really invert that, turn it on its head.”
Up next: Though the UK-based Space Camp is open to startups from across the globe, Seraphim will start a San Francisco spinoff in September and an Asia-Pacific spinoff, potentially in Singapore, next year, Desborough said.
ESA Dodges Debris
We haven’t seen the last of the debris cloud created by a Russian ASAT test last November. At the time, the debris field forced astronauts aboard the ISS to shelter in place while the station navigated around.
Now, ESA says that its Sentinel 1A spacecraft had to make a last-minute maneuver to avoid a head-on collision with a chunk of junkfrom Kosmos-1408, a Soviet-era spy satellite. How the near-miss went down, per ESA Ops…
- Mission control had less than 24 hours of warning before the collision would have occurred.
- The team adjusted Sentinel 1A’s orbit by 140m to get around the piece of debris, which was several centimeters wide.
- Sentinel 1A orbits at ~690km. Kosmos-1408 orbited ~200km below, but when kaboomed the explosion “the energy released during its explosion pushed fragments of it all the way up, intersecting our orbit.”
The big picture
ASAT testing has been widely decried across the space industry and by major spacefaring powers after the Russian test in November. The practice creates debris fields that spread out into other orbits, endangering spacecraft at a wide range of altitudes.
The Sentinel mission control team was able to navigate around this particular piece of debris. Other operators may not be so lucky, whether due to a lack of warning or an inability to quickly maneuver satellites from their set orbits. Collision could set off a chain reaction (the dreaded Kessler effect). More sustainable, responsible behavior in space is needed to maintain the safety of the orbital environment.
+ Sound familiar? Read the first part of our deep dive into debris here.
In Other News
- Polaris Dawn kicked off its first day of training.
- AAC Clyde Space says it will be cash-flow positive this year.
- NASA is pausing spacewalks to look into a water leak that occurred with a spacesuit earlier this year, per SpaceNews.
- NOAA is predicting a below-normal hurricane season in the Central Pacific this year.
- The US Fish and Wildlife Service issued a “final biological and conference opinion” dated May 12 on Starbase/SpaceX’s expansion plans in Boca Chica, Bloomberg reports.
- SWF, or the Secure World Foundation) announced a new space sustainability fellowship.
- NASA’s CAPSTONE team held an AMA on Reddit.
The Contract Report
- OneWeb signed MoUs with A) Uzbekspace to explore launching services in Uzbekistan and B) Spanish telco Telefónica to provide backhaul connectivity services across Europe and Latin America.
- L3Harris ($LHX) was selected by the DoD’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC) for a “Data Readiness for AI Development” contract, covering a five-year blanket purchase agreement.
- Arcadia Space, a Spanish green propulsion developer, is partnering with ArianeGroup to investigate sustainable space transportation for the ESA.
- Satellogic ($SATL) teamed with German risk intelligence provider Mayday.ai to “democratize data intelligence for risk and disaster management.” The EO company also signed an agreement with UP42 to offer direct access to its data.
- NASA awarded Peraton a contract worth up to $339.1M over seven years to continue operating the Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility in Palestine, TX. The agency also awarded a few others this week, including a cybersecurity contract worth up to $622.5M to Booz Allen Hamilton ($BAH).
- SkyFi will offer Albedo’s 10cm visible imagery, launching in 2024, on its app.
- DIU selected Ultra Safe Nuclear and Avalanche Energy to develop next-generation nuclear-powered spacecraft for in-space demonstrations.
- Veritas Imagery Services, a UK-based satellite imaging company, is working with nighttime imaging provider NOKTOsat to help local governments cut energy spending on street lights.
- ESA awarded Airbus a contract to continue developing LISA, the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna.
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The View from SLC-41
An Atlas V stacked with Starliner was rolled out to the pad yesterday ahead of tonight’s OFT-2 launch. After an unsuccessful first OFT in Dec. 2019 and an OFT-2 attempt that never left the pad last August, tonight’s launch will be the third try at sending Starliner to the ISS.