Max Q: space becomes SPAC

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In this problem:

  • SpaceX caps Crew Dragon fleet at four

  • Funding for hyperspectral imaging startup Pixxel

  • A week with Space Capital’s Chad Anderson

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It’s the end of a (short) era. SpaceX will no longer manufacture new Crew Dragons, the spacecraft that ferry humans to and from space, and will instead focus on reusing the already existing fleet of four, Reuters reported on Monday.

Crew Dragon is owned by SpaceX first crewed spacecraft, borrowing its design from the Dragon cargo capsule which is used for ISS resupply services. Crew Dragon capsules have taken humans into space on five separate missions since its 2020 debut, including Inspiration4, a private crew mission funded by billionaire Jared Isaacman.

As the company wraps up production of Crew Dragon, it continues to work hard on developing the next-generation super-super-heavy Starship launch system. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said on Twitter that the company is targeting May for the first orbital flight test of the new spacecraft, but the company is still awaiting key regulatory approvals from the Federal Aviation Administration before that can happen. take place.

spacex crew dragon on the launch pad

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon on the launch pad for the Crew-3 mission. Picture credits: SpaceX

Pixxel, a startup with offices in the United States and India, has raised $25 million in funding to launch a constellation of satellites that will provide on-demand hyperspectral coverage. It aims to send out a constellation of six satellites capable of providing five-meter resolution over much of the Earth’s surface roughly every 48 hours.

The money will go towards building and launching the satellites, as well as a software platform for customers. Founder and CEO Awais Ahmed said it would be “a generalized platform with built-in models and analytics.”

The $25 million Series A was led by Radical Ventures, with participation from Jordan Noone, Seraphim Space Investment Trust Plc, Lightspeed Partners, Blume Ventures and Sparta LLC.

Monochrome image on the left and hyperspectral image on the right of a satellite view of the mountains.

Monochrome image on the left and hyperspectral image on the right of a satellite view of the mountains.

Picture credits: Pixell

This week with… Chad Anderson

Chad Anderson

Chad Anderson

Picture credits: Chad Anderson (Opens in a new window)

Chad Anderson is founder and managing partner of Space Capital, an early-stage venture capital firm with $100 million under management. He also sits on the board of Space Catapult in the UK and volunteers as a board director for the non-profit Explorers Club. He is also a member of the User Advisory Committee for the US National Laboratory on the International Space Station in Washington.

TechCrunch: What are you working on?

Chad Anderson: On the heels of the successful closing of $32 million for Space Capital II last month, we continue to actively invest. We have more amazing companies in the pipeline than I’ve ever seen – we’ve already made eight investments from the new fund, we have another investment closing this week and we have a term sheet for our next investment. And the Space Capital I portfolio is beginning to show significant gains as our portfolio hits key milestones and our early-stage investments transition to Series B. With three active funds under management, we now support businesses through all stages of the cycle. venture capitalists, so there’s a lot going on and we’re having a lot of fun.

What happened in the news last week that you can’t stop thinking about?

Along with a slew of mostly disappointing earnings calls from space companies deSPACs last week, the SEC proposed rules to overhaul SPACs by improving disclosure and investor protection. (Technical committee note: Find more information here.) The proposal would tighten the rules around the often unrealistic forward projections and growth forecasts for which SPACs have become notorious. And companies acquired by SPACs, as well as their officers and directors, would become liable for misrepresentations or omissions in the merger documents that SPACs file. I think it’s a very healthy development and I’ve thought about all the ways it will improve the long-term health of the category.

What are you expecting this week?

While an orbital launch from South Texas probably won’t happen this week, I’m watching progress at Starbase closely. I visited the production facility/test site/spaceport last week and the scale of what’s going on there is awe-inspiring. The first Super Heavy stage that SpaceX will likely use for its first Starship orbital test flight has just been moved to the orbital launch site, so I’m excited to see what happens next. Like many others, I can’t wait to see them get their launch license and test this thing in orbit.

What song was repeated?

“The Fresh Prince of Bel Air” theme song: “Now this is a story of how my life has been turned upside down…”

More news from TC and beyond

  • blue origin successfully sent a crew of six into suborbital space Thursday on the New Shepard rocket. This is the company’s fourth crewed mission.

  • Federal Aviation Administration delayed the publication of its final environmental assessment for SpaceX‘s Starbase/Starship in Boca Chica within a month. The new deadline is April 29. SpaceX cannot conduct Starship’s first orbital test launch until it receives this regulatory approval.

  • Impulse space propulsion closed a $20 million funding round led by the Peter Thiel Founders Fund. The startup wants to develop space transportation services, including last-mile payload delivery and space debris deorbiting.

  • Nasa could receive up to $26 billion in funding for fiscal year 2023, $2 billion more than this year, if President Joe Biden’s budget proposal is approved. That includes $7.5 billion for “Deep Space Exploration Systems,” a category that includes the ambitious Artemis program to get humans back to the moon.

  • Neuraspacea Portuguese startup that is part of the Business Incubator program of the European Space Agency, raised 2.5 million euros of Armilar Venture Partners to commercialize its space debris monitoring and collision avoidance platform.

  • rocket lab sent two payloads into orbit on behalf of Black Sky on Saturday from its launch facility on New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula. This is Rocket Lab’s 25th Electron mission and the second Electron mission of 2022.

  • Space Launch System, NASA’s massive and expensive rocket system, has begun dress rehearsal. The wet dress rehearsal is a final round of key tests to determine if SLS is ready to take flight for the Artemis 1 lunar mission later this spring.

  • SpaceX launched Transporter-4 on Friday, carrying 40 customer payloads into space as part of its popular orbital ride-sharing service.

  • PSPC: Planet, astra, red cable and AST SpaceMobile all results reported this week. Find them by clicking on the links.

  • synspectivea Japanese startup, raised $100 million build a constellation of synthetic aperture radar satellites.

  • Earth orbital closed its SPAC merger on Monday, debuting on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol $LLAP – an abbreviation of “Live Long and Prosper”.

Weekly reading

look at this fascinating twitter thread by Kevin Bell, attorney at Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. He details how a whistleblower tipped him off to a new spacecraft thruster system that used mercury, a potent neurotoxin that, once emitted, would eventually fall back to Earth’s surface. It is an illustrative case of how legal and regulatory frameworks often do not keep pace with the speed of technological development.

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