Max Q: Abnormal • TechCrunch

Max Q: Abnormal • TechCrunch

Max Q: Abnormal • TechCrunch

Hello and welcome to Max Q! Last week was not the most successful for space missions. We will come back to this a little later.

In this problem:

  • First, a botched Virgin Orbit launch…
  • … followed by one from ABL Space Systems
  • News from Rocket Lab, World View and more

After Virgin Orbit’s failed launch last Monday, during which the mission experienced an “anomaly” that prevented the rocket from reaching orbit, I returned to the company’s finances – and things didn’t don’t show up well.

For Virgin Orbit, this year has probably been completely turned upside down. The company was aiming for three launches this year, but everything will remain anchored until the cause of the anomaly has been identified and resolved. It is not known how long this will take, but probably at least three months. Add that delay to Virgin’s dwindling cash reserves and you have a foundation that is suddenly much more fragile than before.

cosmic girl in virgin orbit and rocket launcherone

Picture credits: Virgin Orbit/Greg Robinson

The first attempt at orbital launch by the start-up ABL Space Systems ended in failure last Tuesday after the simultaneous shutdown of the nine engines of the first stage of the RS1 rocket. The rocket then hit the launch pad and was destroyed on impact.

ABL President Dan Piemont told TechCrunch that while the investigation into the failure is still in its early stages, “the concurrency of the shutdown is a strong piece of evidence, but it will take more than time to the team to narrow down contributing factors and a root cause.”

“The Flight 2 vehicle is fully assembled and ready to begin its flight campaign, so we are working to begin as soon as the Flight 1 investigation is complete,” Piemont said.

ABL Space RS1 rocket shortly after launch

Picture credits: ABL Space RS1 Rocket

More news from TC and beyond

  • Capella area added $60 million in growth equity funding to its Series C through investor Thomas Tull’s US Innovation Technology Fund. (Cappella)
  • Elon Musk said SpaceX has a “real chance” to attempt Starship’s first orbital flight test as early as next month. (Twitter)
  • Europe first spaceport on the continent, in Sweden, was inaugurated by Swedish dignitaries and other officials. (Great North)
  • of ispace The HAKUTO-R lander has completed its second orbital checkout maneuver and has now been in deep space for over a month. (ispace)
  • Israel’s The Air Force will set up its own “space administration”, similar to the US Space Force. (i24)
  • Planet Labs completed the acquisition of Salo Sciences, a climate technology company. (Planet)
  • Augsburg Rocket Factory and the UK’s SaxaVord Spaceport have signed a multi-year launch agreement, which sees RFA making its first launch from this site by the end of this year. (FRG)
  • rocket lab is now targeting Jan. 23 for its inaugural Electron launch from Virginia. The launch will carry three satellites for HawkEye 360. (Rocket Lab)
  • Russia will send an unmanned Soyuz capsule to the International Space Station to return three astronauts to Earth, after the discovery of a coolant leak on the Soyuz currently attached to the ISS. (The New York Times)
  • Aerospace Slingshot hired Thomas Arend, who until now served as vice president and head of product management at Astra, as its new chief product officer. (slingshot)
  • The Federal Communications Commission voted to establish a brand new Space Office that will handle all affairs related to satellite communications and more. (Tech Crunch)
  • The US Air Force Research Laboratory and SpaceWERX are supporting a Space Regulatory Bootcamp for founders and regulatory professionals looking for guidance in navigating the complex world of space regulation. The Bootcamp will take place in February. (CPSA)
  • United Launch Alliance The Vulcan Centaur rocket begins to roll towards the launch pad ahead of its first test flight. (ULA)
  • World Vision, a startup that uses stratospheric balloons for Earth observation (and soon…tourism?!) goes public through the SPAC merger. (Tech Crunch)

Max Q is brought to you by me, Aria Alamalhodaei. If you enjoy reading Max Q, consider passing it on to a friend.

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