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Business Briefs – Maxar Splits in Two, Ceres-1 & Ariane 6 Suffer Setbacks

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
September 21, 2023
Filed under , , ,
Business Briefs – Maxar Splits in Two, Ceres-1 & Ariane 6 Suffer Setbacks
Artist’s impression of Ariane 6 rocket in flight. Image credit: Arianespace

Welcome to Biz Briefs! In today’s edition, Maxar Technologies is splitting into two companies, Ceres-1 became the second small-satellite launcher to fail this week, Ariane 6 suffered a setback during testing, Astroscale won a satellite servicing contract, Varda Space lacks a license to bring its capsule back to Earth, and much more.


Maxar Technologies splits into two business units

Maxar Technologies is splitting into two separate business units. Maxar Space Infrastructure, headed by Chris Johnson, will handle the company’s manufacturing operations. Dan Jablonsky will head up Maxar Intelligence, which will oversee remote sensing activities. The move comes after Maxar was acquired by private equity firm Advent International for $6.4 billion in May 2023.

The Aerospace Corporation combines groups

The Aerospace Corporation is combining its Space Systems Group and Defense Systems Group into one unified organization to better serve its government customers.

Booster Bytes

Galactic Energy suffers first launch failure

Commercial launch provider Galactic Energy suffered the first failure of its Ceres-1 rocket in 10 launch attempts on Thursday (September 21). Chang Guang Satellite Technology’s Jilin-1 Gaofen-04 B Earth observation satellite was lost when the rocket failed after liftoff from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. The cause of the failure is under investigation.

Ariane 6 experiences setback

Engineers are delaying a planned October 3 long-duration engine firing for the Ariane 6 booster. ESA announced on its website that an anomaly was detected in the thrust vector control system for the Vulcain 2.1 engine during preparations for the test. The system maintains Ariane 6’s attitude by gimballing the engine during flight.

Ax-3 Commander Michael López-Alegría (left), Pilot Walter Villadei, Mission Specialist Alper Gezeravcı, and Mission Specialist Marcus Wandt. Image credit: Axiom Space.
Ax-3 Commander Michael López-Alegría (left), Pilot Walter Villadei, Mission Specialist Alper Gezeravcı, and Mission Specialist Marcus Wandt. Image credit: Axiom Space.

Axiom Space announces astronauts for third ISS mission

Axiom Space announced the crew for its third commercial mission to the International Space Station. Axiom Chief Astronaut Michael López-Alegría will command the mission with Italian Air Force Col. Walter Villadei serving as pilot. ESA project astronaut Marcus Wandt of Sweden and Turkish Air Force pilot Alper Gezeravcı will serve as mission specialists.

ArianeGroup invests millions more in MaiaSpace

ArianeGroup made a €27 million (USD $28.8 million) investment in its subsidiary MaiaSpace in June. ArianeGroup previously invested €6 million (USD $6.4 million) into the company. MaiaSpace is developing a partially reusable small-satellite launch vehicle named Maia the company is hoping to fly in 2025. MaiaSpace said it has accelerated the pace of work on the new booster in recent months.

SpaceX tests Raptor vacuum engine

SpaceX conducted a hot fire of its Raptor vacuum engine after cooling it down to simulate conditions it will face when it lands on the Moon. The company is developing the Human Landing System to return astronauts to the lunar surface as part of NASA’s Artemis program.


Kayhan Space raises $7 million

Kayhan Space, a provider of high-performance software and solutions for space mission operations, raised $7 million in an oversubscribed seed extension round to accelerate commercial delivery of the industry’s first autonomous space traffic coordination (STC) framework. Venture capital firms Space Capital and EVE Atlas funded the extension round.

Prewitt Ridge raises $4.1 million seed round

Prewitt Ridge, a requirements management and digital thread company, raised $4.1 million in seed funding to accelerate the growth of its digital engineering platform. The round was led by Squadra Ventures, with the participation of Stage Venture Partners, Aurelia Foundry, Wonder Ventures, Haystack, Acequia, TechStars, GC&H and leading angel investors. Prewitt Ridge was founded in 2019 by former SpaceX and Slingshot Aerospace engineer Steven Massey and Zeke Brechtel, a former engineer at SpaceX.


Astroscale wins $25.5 million military contract

The U.S. Space Systems Command awarded Astroscale’s U.S. subsidiary a $25.5 million contract to advance space mobility and logistics capabilities. Under the contract, Astroscale will deliver the prototype of a servicing vehicle capable of performing in-space refueling for compatible satellites by 2026.

ABL Space awarded launch contract

ABL Space has won a $15 million contract from the Space Systems Command for a tactically responsive launch demonstration. ABL will be required to quickly integrate and launch a payload on short notice. Firefly Aerospace conducted a tactically responsive launch with 24-hours notice on September 14.

The Exploration Company's Nyx reusable space capsule.
Nyx reusable space capsule. Image credit: The Exploration Company.

The Exploration Company signs deals with Axiom Space, NewSpace India

The Exploration Company of France has signed an agreement to fly its Nyx cargo ship to Axiom Space’s private space station no earlier than 2027. The flight is contingent on a number of milestones being met in 2025.

The Exploration Company will launch a 40 kg (88 lb) reentry demonstrator on an Indian PSLV rocket scheduled for launch in January 2024. The spacecraft will reach an altitude of 500 km (311 miles) before reentering the atmosphere and landing in the ocean.

ENPULSION wins contract from Plan-S

Plan-S of Turkey selected ENPULSION to supply NANO electric propulsion systems for its CONNECTA Internet of Things satellite constellation.

Mergers & Acquisitions

General Atomics acquires EO Vista

General Atomics has acquired EO Vista, a Massachusetts company that develops advanced space-based and airborne electro-optical payloads. General Atomics specializes in the research, design, and manufacture of first-of-a-kind electromagnetic and electric power generation systems. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Sen. Warren concerned over L3Harris acquisition of Aerojet Rocketdyne

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has expressed concerns about the Pentagon’s role in the approval L3Harris Technologies’ acquisition of rocket engine manufacturer Aerojet Rocketdyne in July.

“It is imperative that the public be informed about potential conditions of the deal, what enforcement and oversight mechanisms exist to enforce promises made by L3Harris about the deal, and what information the DoD provided to the Federal Trade Commission,” Warren wrote in a letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin that was also signed by Reps. John Garamendi (D-Calif.) and Mark Pocan (D-Wisc.).


Pixxel Partners With Sanborn, SkyFi

Pixxel announced two partnership’s for distribution of its hyperspectral dataset. Sanborn, a geospatial solutions company, will use the data to provide their customers with advanced insights into agriculture, forestry management, mining, natural resource management, and the impact of extreme events such as floods and wildfires.

Pixxel also announced a strategic partnership with SkyFi under which its hyperspectral products will be integrated into SkyFi’s geospatial platform.

Amazon Web Services signs MOU with ISRO

Amazon Web Services (AWS) signed a memorandum of understanding with the Indian Space Research Organisation and the Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Centre under which AWS provide access to satellite imagery and data, technical support to eligible space startups at no cost, and educational programs in cloud computing, artificial intelligence, machine learning, analytics and security.

Hanwha Phasor signs agreement with OneWeb

Hanwha Phasor signed a user terminal development agreement with OneWeb. The two companies will collaborate on the development of a new in-flight connectivity terminal that will enable aircraft passengers and crew to communicate using OneWeb’s satellite broadband network.


FAA proposes rule to reduce orbital debris

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) published a proposed rule designed to reduce the growth of orbital debris from commercial space vehicles. The rule would provide launch providers with five options to dispose of spent upper stages.

Germany signs Artemis Accords

The German government joined 28 other nations in signing the Artemis Accords, a U.S.-developed set of guidelines for the exploration and development of space.

Varda Space lacks approvals for satellite landing

Varda Space Industries has been forced to delay the landing of a capsule holding crystals produced in orbit due to the lack of a reentry license from the FAA. The company had planned to land the capsule at the U.S. Air Force’s Utah Test and Training Range in July, a date that then slipped to early September. The capsule contains crystals of ritonavir, a drug used to treat HIV.

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