Max Q: off the bench

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Hello and welcome back to Max Q. Last week was a week of ambitious plans. In this release:

  • Modest profile of one of the leading specialists in space propulsion
  • A deep dive into the history of NASA Landsat
  • News from Masten Space, Swarm and more
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To the news.

SpaceX’s technical director of engines has resigned. Now he wants to fly to Mars.

You may not have heard the name Tom Muller, but if you’re a space fan, you’re probably familiar with the technology he helped create: the Merlin rocket engine that powers the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, and the Draco thrusters that power the rocket. SpaceX Falcon 9. SpaceX Dragon spacecraft.

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Mueller worked for 18 years at SpaceX before retiring. But, as he told me, “When I stopped creating, I found that I didn’t feel that way.”

Considered by many to be one of today’s leading engine specialists, Müller began sketching out a small engine. This engine is now named “Rigel” after the blue supergiant in the constellation of Orion. This became the cornerstone of Mueller’s new startup. momentum spacewhich he founded in September 2021. With the new venture, Müller wants Impulse to be the best option for economical and efficient transportation in space.

“It was supposed to be just for fun and not too serious, but then some ex-SpaceX employees started talking [to me] and wanted to help, and suddenly it became real,” he said. “Now it’s full.”

Rigel Impulse Space engine

Thruster Rigel. Image credits: momentum space

After 50 years of groundbreaking Landsat satellite imagery, NASA is ready for another 50

NASA’s Landsat satellite constellation has made history in Earth observation since the project was launched back in 1972, providing vast amounts of earth data for government, scientists and industry. Devin Koldevi of TechCrunch spoke to Jim Irons, who retired earlier this year as director of NASA’s Earth Sciences Division, about the history of the project and why it’s still relevant today.

Now myriads of constellations, like the constellation of Planet Labs, map the entire globe on a daily basis. This begs the question: why Landsat at all?

“Those of us who work with Landsat are very impressed with what commercial providers have achieved,” said Irons. “The message we want to convey is that Landsat complements this data, not replaces Landsat data. First, this open and transparent access is the key, and this is true of all data collected by NASA satellites.

“Secondly, the USGS maintains this 50-year archive of data. Is there a business case for companies to archive their data for decades so that we can observe the effects of climate change over the long term rather than just getting short bursts of data? I don’t know if there is a business case.”

Image credits: NASA

More news from TC…

  • Eutelsat as well as One Web agreed to merge valued at $3.4 billion, widely seen as SpaceX’s Starlink challenge.
  • exploration company develops brand new reusable orbital spacecraft, a la the SpaceX Dragon capsule. I sat down with CEO Helen Yubi to talk about the young startup’s ambitious plans.
  • Masten space systems filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protectiontelling a Delaware court that he owed millions of companies, including SpaceX, Astrobotic, NuSpace and others.
  • Swarm technologies was acquired by SpaceX 10 months ago. Darrell Etherington met with co-founder and CEO Sarah Spangelo (now senior director of satellite engineering at SpaceX) to discuss what Swarm was doing at the time.

Rendering of The Exploration Company Nyx orbiter. Image credits: exploration company (Opens in a new window)

…and not only

  • AST SpaceMobile signed a five-year 4G and 5G deal with Nokia build a cellular broadband network delivered via satellite.
  • Blue Origin plans to launch its sixth New Shepard rocket mission on August 4 from a vast launch pad in West Texas.
  • Boeing said it suffered additional $93 million in spending associated with its Starliner capsule, bringing the company’s total costs to nearly $700 million.
  • China has launched an experimental module for its evolving space station, which will be attached to the Tianhe module already in orbit. Unfortunately, it looks like the Long March 5B booster will re-enter the atmosphere after launch. with uncontrolled re-entry.
  • Congress passed the NASA Authorization Actpart of the wide-ranging “Creating Beneficial Incentives for Semiconductor Manufacturing (CHIPS) and Science Act” reaffirming the operation of the International Space Station until 2030 and directing NASA to develop a “Moon-Mars Program” that includes the existing Artemis program.
  • Firefly Aerospace Alpha missile is on the launch pad at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, indicating that a second test launch of the spacecraft is likely imminent.
  • NASA detailed changes to Mars sample return planto return samples collected by the Perserverance rover back to Earth by 2033. Instead of rovers and rockets, the new plan will replace the rover with two helicopters.
  • Rocket Lab and the US National Intelligence Agency now targeting 2 august for the next NRO satellite launch after the organization took longer to update the spacecraft software.
  • Rocket Lab will be provision of solar power plants for three satellites manufactured by Lockheed Martin for the US Space Force, indicating that acquisition by SolAero already paid off at the beginning of this year.
  • Roscosmosthe Russian space agency apparently intends to continue use of the International Space Station until 2028after initial hints that he would cut ties with the station in 2024.
  • Sierra Space formed the National Security Advisory Group “to help Sierra Space continue to meet the growing and complex needs of the United States and its impact on the commercial space industry.”
  • SpaceX has filed for more spectrum with the FCC, telling the regulator that it wants to “optimize performance” for Starlink customers.
  • starlink second generation satellites will emit less light than their first-generation counterparts, SpaceX said in a blog post. The company has taken “unprecedented steps” to work with the astronomy community on the issue, he said.
  • space fund I learned that space economy reaches $469 billion last year, which is 9% more than in 2020.
  • Crossbow systems launched his Bolt rocket from the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico for the first time. X-Bow Systems conducted payload vehicle testing for the Department of Energy’s Los Alamos National Laboratory.
X-Bow Systems Bolt Missile

Bolt Missile X-Bow. Image Source: Crossbow systems.

Max Q brought you me Aria Alamalhodai. If you enjoy reading Max Q, consider forwarding it to a friend.

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