Good morning, especially to the 136 of you who joined us this week. We’re excited to have you on board.
For our LA readers, last call: Register for the happy hour we’re co-hosting with Crowell and Galvanick on May 10, from 5–8pm Pacific. Find the details below.
In today’s newsletter:
🛰️ Ukraine constellation
👩🚀 Reader survey
🌑 Moon rocks
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Ukraine Victory Fund
The Halifax International Security Forum (HFX), a DC nonprofit focused on strategic cooperation between democracies, has launched the Ukraine Victory Fund. The initiative, which was requested by Kyiv, aims to raise $10M to fund a dedicated satellite constellation (DSC) with Satellogic.
“What happens in Ukraine is going to affect all of us,” HFX president Peter Van Praagh told Payload. “And all of us have to do what we can to help Ukraine win.”
Imaging Ukraine: When Russia first invaded Ukraine, prominent Ukrainian entrepreneur and investor Max Polyakov pleaded with the West to share satellite imagery with Ukraine. Ukraine Minister of Digital Transformation Mykhailo Fedorov amplified that call soon after, asking satellite operators to share imagery and aid the war effort.
Since then, the space industry has risen to the challenge. Orbital imagery has been an invaluable source of intelligence for tracking and revealing Russian troop movements, bombed-out buildings, mass graves, and humanitarian/evacuation routes across the country. EO companies, including Maxar, Planet, MDA, and Satellogic, have been providing satellite imagery to Ukraine, allies, and humanitarian groups at no cost.
Still, Ukraine’s on-orbit capabilities are incomplete. The government doesn’t operate its own orbital assets, so commercial providers—and their government customers buying and directing it—are in the driver’s seat.
Time to change drivers
“The most important thing is that it’s the Ukrainians who are pointing the camera and seeing what they want to see,” Van Praagh said. “If this is a fight for Ukrainian sovereignty, as a free country, I don’t see how other companies or other governments should be telling Ukraine what it is that Ukraine should want to be seeing.”
Satellogic’s DSC service, which allows users to operate their own fleet of satellites over a specific region, is catered to Fortune 500s and governments. As part of its partnership with HFX, Satellogic has agreed to provide Ukraine the capability for $10M, which is a sizable discount.
HFX aims to raise the full $10M to deliver DSC service to Ukraine. As a nonprofit, Van Praagh said, HFX typically only raises money to support its own projects. This is the first time it’s raising for a third party.
- HFX is tapping its own network, but also cold-calling and seeking out donations from wherever it can find them.
- So far, HFX has raised ~$100,000.
HFX is actively seeking donations for the fund and encourages anyone interested to reach out.
ICYMI: We’ve launched an audience survey that will help us make Payload an even better experience for you. Roughly 350 readers have already answered. What’s in it for you? A couple things:
- Your answers will help us improve the Payload newsletter and determine which new products to launch.
- Five respondents will be picked at random to win a $50 Amazon Gift Card and a Payload jacket (retails for $60).
And, while we’re on the topic of surveys…
Wednesday, we polled Payload readers on whether you all agree with NASA Administrator Bill Nelson’s recent comments to Congress. ICYMI, Nelson advocated for moving to fixed-price contracts, and said that cost-plus “has been a plague on us in the past.”
So, what was the verdict? Do y’all agree? Drumroll please…
Yes won with a resounding 86% of all votes.
Last Chance to Register for LA Event
Join us and our partners, Crowell & Moring and Galvanick, for networking + drinks in El Segundo. As space is limited, registration is required. Drinks and conversations are on us.
For the latecomers and procrastinators, today is the last day to register if you want to be considered so be sure not to miss out. We are really looking forward to meeting some of you IRL.
In Other News (earnings…earnings everywhere)
- Boeing ($BA) will relocate headquarters from Chicago to Arlington, VA, the WSJ reports.
- Crew-3 undocked from the ISS and splashed down off the coast of Florida. Separately, SpaceX launched a new set of Starlink satellites.
- Trimble ($TRMB) booked a record $994M in Q1 revenues and reported $1.47B in ARR (both figures +12% YoY). Q1 net income was $110M.
- EchoStar ($SATS) Q1 revenues grew 3.9% YoY to $502M, while net income grew 14.7% to $89M.
- Kratos’s ($KTOS) space, satellite, and cyber unit generated $72.5M in Q1 revenue (+24% YoY).
- Virgin Galactic ($SPCE) expects to test-fly VSS Unity in Q4, and says the launch of its commercial service has slipped yet again to Q1 2023. In Q1 of this year, Virgin lost $93M on $319,000 in revenue, and ended the quarter with $1.22B in cash/equivalents.
- Astra ($ASTR) lost $86M on $3.9M in Q1 revenue, and spent $15M in capex. The company ended the quarter with $255M in cash/equivalents.
Techstars Space is hosting an AMA with partners from NASA JPL, the US Space Force, and Spacewerx. and founder alumni from Orbit Fab, Lux Semiconductors, and Urban Sky on May 9th at 5pm PST. RSVP here to learn more about the upcoming Techstars Space program, which runs from September to December. And if you’re a space founder, applications are open until May 11.
Geek Out: Moon Rocks
NASA has broken open a 50-year-old can of Moon rocks to look for any clues that might give the agency a leg up on its next missions to the lunar surface.
It’s no small feat to preserve something in perfect condition for five decades, which only raises the stakes for when scientists unseal the samples.
The sample in question was one of two vacuum-sealed on the moon during the Apollo 17 mission. They’ve remained, cooled and untouched, in NASA’s custody ever since. The NASA teams have been able to verify that the vacuum lock remained intact, keeping the sample pristine.
Researchers with the Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science Division at JPL, which is responsible for safeguarding all NASA’s extraterrestrial samples, cracked open the Apollo-era sample container on Feb. 23. Another science team, the Apollo Next Generation Sample Analysis Program, has been slowly extracting gasses from the container since then.
50 years ago, the technology didn’t exist to precisely analyze the gasses in the samples. Now, though, mass spectrometry technology is able to measure the mass of all unknown molecules in the sample and use the info to determine what they are. Another instrument, called a manifold, was specifically designed by a Washington University team to pierce the casing and funnel out the gas without letting any escape.
Up next? The exciting stuff. (Yeah, we mean rocks.) Since the sample was freezing cold when taken, there’s an outside chance it might have intact water or C02 inside. Understanding the precise chemical composition of the equatorial region of the Moon from Apollo-vintage visits could give an Artemis-era NASA a leg up as it prepares to land on the lunar south pole.
The View from Space
Behold the Extremely Large Telescope under construction in the Chilean highlands. As our email friends at Planet’s Snapshot newsletter wrote yesterday, “call it space satellites photographing Earth telescopes photographing space if you’d like.”