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In this edition:
- Cuts are coming to Astra
- News from NASA, Starlink and more
Astra, a rocket startup that went public last year, told investors on Tuesday that it has cut 16 percent of its workforce as part of a broader strategy to shore up a shrinking bottom line and cut costs.
The company also said it would cut short-term investments in space services to grow its core business: namely spacecraft launch and engines. This latter segment in particular has become a growing source of revenue for Astra, with the company reporting 237 orders taken for its spacecraft engines to organizations including Maxar, OneWeb and Astroscale. This represents a 130% increase over the last quarter.
The layoffs cast an unflattering light on Astra’s rapid growth: CEO Chris Kemp told investors on a call Tuesday that the company had tripled in size in a year, swelling to more than 400 people. Given this number, Astra has cut its workforce by at least 64 people.
Major space companies, including SpaceX and Relativity, are pushing for the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to stick to its purview – spectrum use – as it looks to potentially update its rules for in-space servicing, assembly and manufacturing (ISAM) missions ).
The FCC can and should do a lot to support ISAM missions that fall squarely within its regulatory boundaries, the companies said. SpaceX and others, as well as startups like Orbit Fab, which wants to build refueling depots in space, and Starfish Space, which is developing a satellite servicing vehicle, have presented recommendations related to spectrum and ISAM. The committee also heard from Blue Origin, Lockheed Martin, United Launch Alliance and other space companies and industry groups.
Here’s SpaceX: “The Commission must tread carefully with this potentially important but still nascent industry, being careful not to inadvertently stifle innovation by going beyond the authority expressly delegated to it by Congress.”
More news from TC and beyond
- An apple is investing $450 million in upgrades to Globalstar’s terrestrial infrastructure and satellite network to support the deployment of Emergency SOS via satellite for iPhone 14 users. (An apple)
- China It is reportedly abandoning plans to make the Long March 9 heavy-lift rocket booster expendable in favor of a reusable booster. (SpaceNews)
- NASA didn’t move the Space Launch System rocket back to the safety of the hangar before Hurricane Nicole approached, so the $4.1 billion rocket escaped the storm on the launch pad. While engineers continue to check the rocket for damage, the agency decided to move the next launch date to November 16. (NASA)
- Northrop GrummanAntares’ Antares rocket sent a Cygnus spacecraft to the International Space Station to resupply cargo, a successful mission even though one of the capsule’s solar arrays failed to deploy properly. (Northrop Grumman)
- A rocket laboratory there was tons of news this week—in addition to releasing its quarterly financial results, the company also announced that it won a $14 million contract to supply separation systems for the US space force’s satellites. (A rocket laboratory)
- A rocket laboratory set a launch date for its first mission from American soil: December 7. My personal suggestion: come to the TC Sessions: Space event on the 6th, then take a direct flight to Virginia. Just saying. (A rocket laboratory)
- Seraphim announced the latest cohort of space startups to participate in the Seraphim space accelerator and the Generation Space Accelerator. (Seraphim)
- SpaceX will impose lower speeds on Starlink users who use large amounts of energy during peak hours in an effort to limit network congestion and increase performance. (CNBC)
- Starfish Space has provided more details about its demonstration mission to dock a satellite in space next year. (GeekWire)
- Virgin Orbit has received a $25 million cash injection from Richard Branson’s Virgin Group as the startup’s cash flow continues to dwindle. (Virgin Orbit)
- Voyager Space Nanoracks has a new CEO: NASA astronaut and former OneWeb Technologies president Tim Kopra. (Voyager)
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