Relativity now has a hell of a backlog, plenty of facilities, and the holy grail that is both an east and west coast launch site, if they can successfully build one at Vandenberg. I honestly wouldn’t bet on the latter.
Intelsat ordered four from Maxar and two from Northrop Grumman, while SES ordered two each from Boeing and Northrop Grumman with two more yet to be announced. This is huge for satellite manufacturers who have been hurting in recent years after a dip in orders. This is all in preparation for clearing C-band spectrum that has been reallocated towards 5G deployment in the US and will be auctioned off late this year.
It was never a question that Spaceflight would be interested in the SpaceX rideshare program. It’s a perfect match—inexpensive slots offered by SpaceX which can be taken advantage of to sell the end-to-end services offered by Spaceflight at a solid margin. They’re also manifesting two BlackSky satellites on the next Starlink flight, just like we saw a few days ago with Planet flying SkySats on the previous flight.
Still a long way to go on this, but this has been part of the work the Space Acquisition Council has been doing to try and stabilize small launch providers through the economic instability of recent months. They’re purchasing two rideshare launches from each of the following: Aevum, Astra, X-BOW, Rocket Lab, Space Vector, VOX Space (Virgin Orbit).
Big podcasting week. I just posted an episode here, had NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine on Off-Nominal, and I also appeared on my friend Brendan Byrne’s Are We There Yet? podcast, as well.
After the bizarre departure of Doug Loverro and the epic triumph of SpaceX DM-2, this news makes perfect sense and I, like damn near everyone who follows space, am thrilled to see it.
Importantly, this contract is only for work through 2020, culminating with Preliminary Design Review. That means there is going to be an additional contract or two for the development, launch, and checkout of the vehicle.
This feels like a natural extension for Astroscale, who until now has been focused on satellite end-of-life and debris removal services.
We’ve put together a fundraiser with the help of our Off-Nominal Discord community to benefit two fantastic organizations that are helping make our space industry a better place: Black Girls Code and the Banneker Institute at Harvard.
Very special thanks to the 414 of you out there supporting Main Engine Cut Off for the month of May. MECO is entirely listener- and reader-supported, so your support keeps this blog and podcast going, growing, and improving, and most importantly, it keeps it independent.
Though NASA and its projects provide a source of hope through scientific advancement and inspiration, those things can often feel unreachable to many of us. However, the platform it provides for representation and for role models to step forward into the public eye is hugely important.
Virgin Orbit carried out their first flight this past weekend, and as most first launch attempts go for a new launch vehicle, it ended in a failure. But not without checking off a ton of items on the rundown.
It’s worth reading Jeff’s article on these changes. They make so much sense that I almost have nothing to say about it.