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Good morning, and happy Monday. It’s busy up above at the space station, with two US companies’ capsules currently docked to the ISS.

In today’s newsletter:
🚀 Starliner @ ISS
📊 Space economy
🗓️ The week ahead

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Starliner Arrives

Image: Samantha Cristoforetti/ESA

Beset by software glitches and leaky valves, Boeing’s commercial crew capsule has had a rocky road to orbit. But on Friday, the OFT-2 mission finally delivered Starliner safely to the ISS. 

ICYMI: The Starliner capsule is meant to provide NASA with a second way to get astronauts to the ISS (along with SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule). The craft made its first flight attempt, the original OFT mission, in 2019, but software bugs prevented it from reaching the right orbit to dock with the ISS. OFT-2 visited the launch pad for the first time last summer, but valve issues discovered on the launch pad kept it grounded. 

On Thursday, OFT-2 launched from Cape Canaveral atop an Atlas V rocket. After a brief delay in docking, which resulted in photos of the approach that look straight out of Star Wars, Starliner linked up with the station. Yesterday, the ISS crew opened the hatch and entered it for the first time to unload its ~800 lbs of cargo, including “Rosie the Rocketeer.”

Up next: Starliner will make its way back to Earth this week. Undocking is tentatively set for Wednesday, and the capsule will land in the western US. The capsule will need to make it back to the ground carrying ~600 lbs of cargo from the station.

Down the line: More certification testing will be needed before Starliner gets approval to carry astronauts to the station. 

  • A few glitches encountered during OFT-2 will need to be worked out, including a problem with the cooling system getting too cold and a glitch that caused the docking delay.
  • NASA has yet to certify Starliner’s parachutes for astronauts, an important step before loading up the capsule with a crew of four.

Some Thoughts on Sizing up the Space Economy

Citi released a report earlier this month titled “Space: The Dawn of a New Age.” The bank’s GPS group sizes up the commercial space market and forecasts that the sector will generate $1 trillion in annual sales by 2040. 

Big, if true…the shiny trillion-dollar number would represent a 5% compound annual growth rate from $370B of revenue in 2020. Citi analysts write that today’s launch costs—$1,500 per kilogram—could shrink to ~$100/kg by 2040. Or…$300/kg in a bear case scenario and $33/kg in a bull case one. The biggest driver in reducing launch costs is reusable second rocket stages: 

Image: Citi GPS

While launch gets most of the headlines—and is undoubtedly eliminating barriers of entry in space—the satellite sector still dominates the market, in terms of value. Satellites make up 70+% of today’s space market. Citi analysts envision satellites growing to $697B by 2040, or roughly 69% of the total space industry. 

  • Over the next decade and a half, internet broadband and space-as-a-service applications should siphon away market share from traditional use cases like video broadcasting. 
  • Future segments, such as space-based solar power, orbital logistics, and Moon/asteroid mining, could kick in ~$100B in annual sales by 2040. 

But…Forward-looking space economy research is highly speculative, hinging on extrapolation and plenty of if-then statements. In a report published last week, management consultant McKinsey highlights the wide divergence in forecasts about long-term growth of the space economy: 

Image: McKinsey

Snapshots in time: To level-set, the US space economy in 2019 accounted for $125B+ in real GDP output (or .6% of total US GDP) and 355,000+ private sector jobs, per BEA data. Usefully, McKinsey aggregated some other key stats in its report: 

  • The global space economy hit a new high of ~$447 billion in 2020. 
  • More than $12B in private funding is flowing into the sector annually. 
  • Around 70 countries have their own space agency.
  • Roughly 4,850 satellites are operational on-orbit and ~1,740 small satellites are launched each year.

In Other News

  • SpaceX is raising $1.73B, CNBC reports, at a valuation of ~$127B. Find more info below in Payload Insights.
  • NASA’s moon rocket will head back to the launch pad in early June for a second shot at a wet dress rehearsal.
  • China launched three test comms satellites to LEO aboard a Long March 2C.
  • Skyrora, a Scottish rocket company, has completed a key development test on its 70kN engine.
  • Blue Origin’s NS-21 flight scheduled to launch Friday, May 20, slipped. The company said that a New Shepard backup system “was not meeting our expectations for performance.” 
  • Brazil and SpaceX say they’ll use Starlink to connect 19,000 remote schools in the country.

The Week Ahead

All times in Eastern

Monday, May 23: Space Tech Expo USA, which lasts through Wednesday, begins in Long Beach, CA, and the ESA’s five-day Living Planet Symposium kicks off in Germany. At 2pm, the National Security Space Association will host a virtual conversation on the DIA’s “Challenges to Security in Space report” with DIA official Dr. John F. Huth.

Tuesday, May 24: The virtual European Lunar Symposium starts and continues through Thursday. The hatch is expected to close on Boeing’s Starliner OFT-2 at the ISS in preparation for its undocking.

Wednesday, May 25: SpaceX will launch Transporter-5. Ahead of the CAPSTONE launch (scheduled no earlier than next week), NASA, Advanced Space, and Rocket Lab will host a presser on the mission. Tentatively, Starliner will undock from the ISS and land at White Sands Missile Range, NM, pending good weather. Finally, Viasat ($VSAT) will release Q4 and FY22 results after market close.

Thursday, May 26: The House Space, Science, and Technology Committee will hold a hearing on the decadal strategy for planetary science and astrobiology, and The Aerospace Corporation will host a webinar on DEI in the space sector.

Friday, May 27: The 2022 International Space Development Conference kicks off in Arlington, VA and continues through the weekend.

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