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Good morning. JWST will release its first full-color images on July 12. Only 40 days to go…

In today’s newsletter:
👩🏼‍🚀 EVA awardees
🚀 Arroway
📝 Contract report
📈 Payload Insights

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New Moonwalking Fits 

Image: Collins Aerospace

NASA has named the long-awaited designers who will build the next generation of spacesuits.  Axiom Space and a team led by Collins Aerospace have won the agency’s Exploration Extravehicular Activity Services (xEVAS) contract, and will dress the next astronauts to return to the lunar surface.

The background: NASA’s astronauts need new clothes for a new era of spaceflight. The old spacesuits that have been used for EVAs for the last four decades have been showing their age recently. Last month, NASA pressed pause on spacewalks due to water leaking in the helmet of astronaut Matthias Maurer’s suit mid-EVA.

NASA had been designing its own spacesuit for Artemis through its Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit (xEMU) program, which would have replaced the old batch. The agency spent ~$420M designing spacesuits over a whopping 14 years of development. 

  • In August, a NASA Office of Inspector General report found that the suits would not be ready in time for the planned launch of Artemis III, the next crewed NASA mission to the moon. 
  • The same report found that if NASA continued developing its own spacesuits, the total cost of development would top $1B.
  • Instead of finishing development on the suits, NASA decided to roll the dice with the commercial sector, in the hopes they’d be able to field new EVA suits quicker and cheaper.
  • NASA passed on the lessons learned from xEMU development to the companies vying for the xEVAS contract, but didn’t stipulate that bidders use xEMU design elements in their proposals.

Contract deets: Through the xEVAS contract, NASA may procure up to $3.5B worth of spacesuits from now through 2034. The agency said it will release the exact value of the contracts, which includes a certain guaranteed amount for each contractor. The two companies will have the opportunity to compete for future task orders.

Full circle: During a Wednesday NASA presser, Axiom CEO Michael Suffredini said his company needs spacesuits anyway. It is building its own space station, after all. Both Axiom and Collins aim to secure other customers for their spacesuits. And with a handful of new space stations destined for LEO in the near future through either NASA’s Commercial LEO Destinations program or private development, the market for these suits may well continue to grow.

+ While we’re here: Check out Pathfinder #0001, where Suffredini and Payload’s Ryan Duffy chat more about Axiom and its grand plans. Listen on Spotify or Apple

Ursa Major Unveils Arroway

A render of Arroway, Ursa Major’s newest engine. Image: Ursa Major

Ursa Major has unveiled its engine for heavy launch vehicles. The Colorado startup is calling its latest propulsion product Arroway, a nod to Dr. Ellie Arroway, Jodie Foster’s character in Contact.

Arroway specs: 200,000-pound thrust, liquid oxygen and methane staged combustion, mostly 3D printed, and reusable. 

  • Timeline: Arroway is available to order now. Ursa Major is targeting initial hotfire tests in 2023 and engine deliveries in 2025. 
  • Engine family: Ursa Major also offers Hadley, an oxygen-rich staged combustion engine with 5,000 pounds of thrust. Ripley, the startup’s second product, is 10X more powerful.
  • Plugging market gaps: In a previous interview with Payload, Ursa Major CEO Joe Laurienti estimated that Russia’s war against Ukraine created $2.1–$2.4B of “immediate market vacuum” in launch. 

“Arroway engines will be one of very few commercially available engines that, when clustered together, can displace the Russian-made RD-180 and RD-181, which are no longer available to US launch companies,” Ursa Major wrote in today’s announcement.

The startup’s strategy: As we wrote in April, “Ursa Major wants to turn the industry playbook of vertical integration on its head. Rather than build all or most of a vehicle, this horizontal integration evangelist is heads-down making liquid rocket engines for three verticals: 1) space launch, 2) on-orbit propulsion, and 3) hypersonics.”

+ Sneak peek: “I think we need a thriving rocket engine industry and we need more than one company that sells rocket engines,” former Blue Origin president Rob Meyerson says in next week’s edition of Pathfinder. “And I think that’s why Ursa Major is bound for good things.”


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In Other News

  • Astra ($ASTR) conducted a static fire test in advance of the TROPICS-1 launch.
  • Arianespace plans to debut Vega C in the first week of July and Ariane 6 late this year.
  • China launched nine satellites on a Long March 2C. The satellites will provide navigation and communication support to self-driving cars, per SpaceNews.
  • ICYMI…read the second installment of our orbital debris series.

The Contract Report

  • Axiom Space and Collins Aerospace won NASA contracts to develop next-gen space suits for Moon walks on Artemis missions and space walks outside the ISS (via Payload). In other space outfitting news, Boeing selected ILC Dover as a provider of ascent/entry suits for Starliner.
  • SDA awarded a $324M seven-year contract to General Dynamics Mission Systems ($GD) and Iridium Communications ($IRDM) to establish the ground operations and integration segment of its Tranche 1 constellation.
  • Astroscale and OneWeb, along with the ESA and UK Space Agency, have partnered to launch space junk servicer ELSA-M by 2024, with a €14.8M ($15.8M) investment (via Payload).
  • Precious Payload and Turion Space have joined forces to create an online service for booking commercially available spots on Transporter rideshare missions. They’re calling it “Expedia for space.”
  • NASA awarded Ball Aerospace ($BALL) and Raytheon Intelligence & Space ($RTX) with two ~$5.2M contracts to develop ocean color sensors for NOAA’s next-gen geostationary weather sats.
  • Sierra Space and Spirit AeroSystems ($SPR) signed a LOI to build Shooting Star cargo modules for the Dream Chaser spaceplane.
  • Space Systems Command awarded five launch task orders to ULA and three to SpaceX.
  • SatRev, a Polish satellite operator, will partner with the Legnica Special Economic Zone to create the country’s first nanosat factory.
  • Sidus Space ($SIDU) selected L3Harris ($LHX) for “mission-critical” operations software for its LizzieSat constellation.

Payload Insights

Source: Bloomberg, Payload Data | 05.31.22

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