Hello and welcome back to Max Q! There was a lot of Starship news this week, thanks in part to an informative Twitter Spaces with SpaceX CEO Elon Musk. Read on for all the juicy details.
In this issue:
- Environmentalists sue over Starship
- Nuview’s plan to make a 3D map of the world
- News from Maxar and more
A coalition of advocacy groups filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) over its handling of the environmental assessment of SpaceX’s launch plans in southeast Texas.
The FAA gave the green-light to SpaceX’s Starship launch program last summer, with the stipulation that the company perform a series of measures to mitigate environmental impacts to the surrounding area. But the lawsuit says this analysis, and the mitigating measures it required, are not sufficient to offset or even fully understand the full effects of repeat Starship launches.
While the FAA has grounded Starship pending an investigation into the April 20 flight test that ended in a mid-air explosion, the suit is asking the court to rescind SpaceX’s launch license to fly the rocket altogether, until a full environmental assessment is complete.
Dozens of established players and newer entrants are competing to bring the most cutting-edge remote sensing data to customers. These companies may use hyperspectral, thermal, radar or optical instruments — but none, as of yet, use light detection and ranging (lidar), a technology that’s best-known for its use in self-driving cars. Nuview, a geospatial technology company that emerged from stealth, wants to change that.
The company aims to build out a constellation of 20 commercial satellites outfitted with its proprietary lidar system. The “endgame,” as Nuview founder and CEO Clint Graumann put it, is to map the entire land surface of the Earth with lidar — on an annual basis.
More news from TC and beyond
- Astrobotic confirmed its first mission has slipped from May 4 because the launch provider, United Launch Alliance, is continuing to investigate an anomaly with the Vulcan Centaur rocket. (Astrobotic)
- The European Space Agency is embarking on a feasibility study to examine what’s needed to develop a reusable, heavy-lift rocket for Europe. (ESA)
- Evolution Space, a company developing a very small launch platform, passed the Kármán line for the first time last month. (Evolution)
- Generation Space, Seraphim Space’s U.S. arm, announced the eight startups participating in its accelerator. (ADS Advance)
- Lockheed Martin is reorganizing its space business into three key sectors: commercial civil; national security; and strategic and missile. (SpaceNews)
- Maxar completed its $6.4 billion sale to private equity, with the company announcing last Wednesday that it was no longer listed on the New York Stock Exchange. (TechCrunch)
- Orbex said that construction has begun at Scotland’s Sutherland Spaceport, which will be the first vertical launch spaceport on the U.K. mainland, once completed. (Orbex)
- Phase Four, a plasma-based satellite propulsion system developer, scored an undisclosed amount of funding from Veteran Ventures Capital. (Veteran Ventures)
- Rocket Lab launched two satellites for NASA’s TROPICS mission. Plus, CEO Peter Beck has a great new profile in Bloomberg Businessweek. (Rocket Lab/Bloomberg)
- SpaceX is spending a lot of money on Starship development — around $2 billion this year alone. How long can the company operate before it needs to raise incremental funding? (Quartz)
- Starship’s self-destruct command didn’t work immediately during this most recent launch test, with 40 seconds passing before the rocket blew itself up. (TechCrunch)
- Virgin Orbit’s bankruptcy sale will proceed, with the final sale of assets (or the company) closing by June 2, according to filings in the Delaware Bankruptcy Court. (Parabolic Arc)
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