Space Industry Briefing
24th February 2021
Rocket & Launch Industry
Planetary & Space Exploration
Regulation, Legislation & Public Policy
Corporate Development & Funding
Satellite Industry
Country Space Initiatives
Luxembourg Space Industry
Rocket & Launch Industry
Firefly Aerospace looks to raise $350m to develop larger launcher

Small launch vehicle developer Firefly Aerospace, which is preparing for the first orbital launch of its Alpha rocket, is seeking to raise $350m from investors to scale up production and work on a larger launch vehicle. Having secured $200m in previous rounds from asset manager Noosphere Venture Partners, Firefly says it is open to a wider range of sources for the new funding round.

Best source: SpaceNews
SpaceX launches 143 satellites on inaugural rideshare mission

SpaceX has set a new mark for the number of satellites deployed with a single launch, with 143 spacecraft placed in orbit by a Falcon 9 rocket in the company's first dedicated rideshare mission, Transporter-1. SpaceX's SmallSat Rideshare service will add to the competition among providers of launches for smaller, low-cost satellites.

Best source: CNBC
See also: Spaceflight Now
France’s ThrustMe successfully tests iodine electric propulsion system in space

The world's first iodine-fuelled electric propulsion system has been tested in space aboard a Spacety satellite. Developed by French start-up ThrustMe, the system is unusual in using iodine, which is cheaper than alternatives as well as non-toxic and stable. Advocates say the system could also solve the problem of space debris, since when a satellite is no longer needed, the thruster could change its orbit, causing the spacecraft to fall into the atmosphere and burn up.

Best source: Digital Trends
See also: European Space Agency
Start-up tests biofuel-powered hybrid engine for small launch vehicle

BluShift Aerospace, a US start-up aiming to develop small launch vehicles, has successfully tested a hybrid rocket motor with the first commercial launch of a rocket powered by biofuel. The Stardust launch vehicle tested the use of nitrous oxide and a proprietary organically-derived solid fuel that the company says can be sourced from farms around the world, is completely non-toxic and carbon neutral, and costs less than traditional rocket fuel.

Best source: BBC News
See also: SpaceNews
China’s i-Space suffers failure during second orbital launch attempt

A second commercial launch by Chinese space firm i-Space has ended in failure after its new Hyperbola-1 rocket malfunctioned during its ascent from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. The setback comes 18 months after i-Space became the first nominally private launch company in China to place a satellite in orbit with its first Hyperbola-1 rocket. Images from the latest launch suggest that significant changes had been made to the rocket's design. The failure follows a recent major funding round and the mooting of plans for an initial public offering.

Best source: SpaceNews
Planetary & Space Exploration
European Space Agency signs €650m contract with Airbus for NASA Moon mission modules

The European Space Agency has signed a €650m contract with Airbus Space and Defence to manufacture three more service modules for NASA’s Orion crewed spacecraft for missions to the Moon. The modules, in addition to three already in production, will consolidate Europe's role in NASA’s Artemis programme, which aims to develop a sustainable presence on the Moon and in its orbit.

Best source: BBC News
Chinese and UAE missions reach Mars orbit

With the Hope mission returning its first image of Mars, the United Arab Emirates has become the first Arab nation to conduct a scientific mission to the planet's orbit, with the aim of studying the weather and climate systems. China's Tianwen-1 orbiter has also sent back its first images of Mars, ahead of a scheduled landing of a rover on the planet's surface in May or June.

Best source: BBC News
See also: CNN
Space agencies sign agreement to study Mars ice search mission

NASA, the Canadian Space Agency, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and Italian space agency ASI have signed an agreement to co-operate on a mission to search for ice deposits beneath the surface of Mars. The International Mars Ice Mapper mission, which would see a spacecraft launched no earlier than 2026, would pave the way for human missions to the planet. Under the agreement, the agencies will study concepts for the mission and assess potential roles and responsibilities.

Best source: NASA
Experts warn of space mining war pitching US against China and Russia

Experts believe increasing national competition to establish a mining base in space could result China and Russia being ranged against the US. The key driver of the sector is a US-led legal framework for lunar mining, the Artemis Accords, signed by Australia, Canada, the UK, Japan, Luxembourg, Italy and the United Arab Emirates. Since the accords were announced, China has approached Russia with a proposal for the joint establishment of a lunar research base, a signal of increased space co-operation, according to analysts.

Best source:
Regulation, Legislation & Public Policy
European Court of Justice suspends Commission’s Galileo deals with Thales and Airbus

The European Court of Justice in Luxembourg has suspended the European Commission's signing of contracts valued at €1.47bn with Thales Alenia Space and Airbus Defence and Space for 12 new second-generation Galileo satellites, following a suit brought by the losing bidder for the contracts, OHB SE. In its complaint, OHB alleges theft of trade secrets and seeks the cancellation of the contract award.

Best source: SpaceWatch.Global
See also: Space Intel Report (subscription required)
Dubai creates space court to decide commercial disputes

Dubai has established a Court of Space to adjudicate on international space disputes. A global initiative that will operate in parallel to the Dubai International Financial Centre Courts, which deal with corporate and investor litigation, the forum will be based on common law and the British court system, and is independent of United Arab Emirates law. The court will specifically focus on commercial space disputes, with the judges being trained in deciding space litigation.

Best source: The National
Legislation strengthening legal framework for space companies approved by Luxembourg parliament

Luxembourg's Chamber of Deputies has approved two pieces of legislation intended to enhance the country's legal framework for space activity authorisation and supervision, ratification of the UN Convention of the Registration of Objects Launched into Outer Space November 12, 1974, and the Law on Space Activities. The latter is seen as a key measure for the Luxembourg Space Agency and development of the space sector, providing a framework for the authorisation and supervision of space activities including risk management and state liability, and designed to create an attractive environment for business operators, investors and entrepreneurs.

Best source: Luxembourg Space Agency
See also: Parabolic Arc
Corporate Development & Funding
Investment in space industry overcame impact of pandemic in 2020: report

Investment in the space industry continued to grow in the fourth quarter despite the impact of Covid-19, according to a report by Space Capital. It says that investment for the final three months of 2020 reached $5.7bn, taking the year's total to $25.6bn. The infrastructure segment of the industry experienced a record year for investment at $8.9bn, representing a significant rebound from the downturn triggered by the pandemic in the second quarter.

Best source: Space Capital
Small launch start-up Astra to go public at $2.1bn valuation

Small payload launch provider Astra plans to go public on the Nasdaq exchange by merging with special-purpose acquisition company Holicity, a deal expected to close in the second quarter. Astra is set to raise up to $489m, which would value it at $2.1bn, and plans to use the proceeds to ramp up production. It currently has 50 customer launches planned and contracts worth more than $150m.

Best source: The Verge
See also: Astra
Private equity and SPACs among financing sources for space sector

Investment will continue flowing into space companies from government agencies, private equity firms and public markets as some investors in the sector look for exits while others seek opportunities for growth, according to industry participants and finance providers. In the past year, private equity firms have acquired space companies including Blue Canyon Technologies, Braxton Science & Technology, NanoRacks and Tethers Unlimited, while venture capital has poured into Iceye, Kymeta and Relativity Space. Special purpose acquisition companies that offer companies a short cut to going public are also courting space businesses.

Best source: SpaceNews
Musk says Starlink will conduct IPO once cash flow is more predictable

SpaceX has widened the scope of the public beta test of its Starlink satellite internet service and is now accepting $99 pre-orders from potential customers in the US, UK and Canada, although capacity is limited. CEO Elon Musk has confirmed that Starlink is likely to go public once its cash flow is predictable, noting that SpaceX faces a period of deep negative cash flow over the next couple of years while Starlink becomes financially viable.

Best source: Bloomberg (subscription required)
See also: Ars Technica
ESA and DFKI launch joint technology transfer lab focusing on space applications of AI

The European Space Agency and the German Research Centre for Artificial Intelligence are launching ESA_Lab@DFKI, a joint technology transfer lab at Kaiserslautern in Germany. Scientists from the two organisations will work together on AI systems in areas such as satellite autonomy, the interpretation of complex data gathered by space missions, and collision avoidance.

Best source: European Space Agency
See also: SpaceWatch.Global
Space industry investment continues to grow despite impact of Covid-19

Predictions last year that the Covid-19 pandemic would halt commercial space investment have proved inaccurate, despite a slowdown midway through 2020. Funding for smallsat constellation operators and small launch vehicle developers surged later in the year, raising expectations that 2020 will have matched or broken the previous year's record $5.7bn of investment. Investors see further opportunities for companies to raise capital this year.

Best source: SpaceNews
See also: SpaceNews
Satellite Industry
Telesat selects Thales Alenia Space to construct broadband constellation

Canadian satellite operator Telesat has selected Thales Alenia Space as the prime contractor for its Lightspeed low Earth orbit broadband network. The multi-billion-dollar project will initially involve a fleet of 298 satellites, due to start offering services in 2023. Thales, which beat Maxar Technologies and Airbus Defence and Space to the contract, will provide the space and mission segments as well as being responsible for end-to-end network performance and related specifications.

Best source: SatellitePro ME
Spire satellites to host Orbitare’s Spaceloop network

Luxembourg- and Switzerland-based start-up Orbitare is to launch its satellite communication service, Spaceloop, on Spire Global's nanosatellite constellation. Orbitare will carry out two in-orbit demonstrations of Spaceloop using Spire satellites later this year, courtesy of Spire's satellite service subscription offering. Orbitare's network aims to provide affordable voice and data communication on a worldwide basis, including in areas where terrestrial networks are inaccessible. Spaceloop is co-funded by the government of Luxembourg under a European Space Agency contract.

Best source: Luxembourg Space Agency
See also: Via Satellite
Country Space Initiatives
China’s space industry out to challenge US dominance

The explosive growth of China's space start-ups is boosting technological innovation, creating new markets around the world and expanding the country's influence, analysts say. Lofty ambitions for the country's space industry, coupled with significant advances by both the country's commercial and public space sectors in recent years, are boosting China's ambition to replace the US as the world’s leading space power.

Best source: MIT Technology Review
Turkey unveils space programme including 2023 Moon mission

The Turkish government has unveiled an ambitious 10-year space programme as part of president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's vision to develop an expanded regional and global role. The plan includes missions to the Moon as early as 2023, sending Turkish astronauts into space, and developing a spaceport.

Best source: ABC News
Taiwan seeks foothold in international space economy through development of cubesats

Taiwan is looking to carve out a place in the space economy through development of cubesats. With the first two fully Taiwanese-made cubesats launched into orbit last month, the government believes the spacecraft provide unique opportunities for organisations with limited experience of space to hone their skills and test the feasibility of space technologies at an early stage. In the longer term, Taiwan is aiming to develop communication satellites for 5G networks.

Best source: Taiwan News
Luxembourg Space Industry
Gradel joins forces with LIST to develop ultralight structures in Luxembourg for space missions

Ellange-based engineering firm Gradel has partnered with the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology to develop ultralight 3D materials and structures for space missions, using polymers reinforced with carbon fibre at LIST's laboratory in Hautcharage. Initially, the company envisages manufacturing parts manually, while a parallel project will explore production by an articulated robotic arm. Leading satellite industry players Thales Alenia Space, Airbus Defence and Space and OHB have expressed their interest in the latter project.

Best source: Luxembourg Space Agency
See also: Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology
See also: Paperjam (in French)
Luxembourg start-up OQ Technology wins €2m European Space Agency contract

Luxembourg space start-up OQ Technology has signed a €2m contract with the European Space Agency. The space connectivity firm will develop a U6 nanosatellite for in-orbit testing of satellite-based internet of things software and algorithms for the in-orbit pathfinder mission, Macsat, while another Luxembourg-based company, EmTroniX, will be responsible for payload and user hardware. OQ Technology is expected to announce candidate satellite manufacturers shortly, with spacecraft flight operations from its control centre in Leudelange expected to be launched before the end of 2022.

Best source: Delano
See also: Paperjam (in French)