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Biz Briefs – Sierra Space Closes Big Raise, Blue Origin Names New CEO

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
September 28, 2023
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Biz Briefs – Sierra Space Closes Big Raise, Blue Origin Names New CEO
Inflatable space station modules.
Image credit: Sierra Space.

Welcome to Biz Briefs! In this edition, Sierra Space closed a big Series B round, Blue Origin is replacing its CEO as the FAA closes the New Shepard investigation, SpaceX won a Pentagon contract for Starshield, the Eutelsat-OneWeb merger closed, investors are urging Virgin Galactic to cut spending, and much more.

Raises & Funding

Sierra Space raises $290 million

Sierra Space raised $290 million in a Series B round led by Japanese investors. The company has now raised $1.7 billion and has a valuation of $5.3 billion. The round was co-led by: Japan’s largest bank, MUFG; Kanematsu Corporation, a Japanese trading company; and Tokio Marine & Nichido Fire Insurance, Japan’s largest property and casualty insurance group. Sierra Space’s existing investors also participated in the round.

German government funds micro-launcher infrastructure

The German government has committed €2 million (USD $2.1 million) for infrastructure development that would allow the launch of microsatellites from the nation’s territory. The press release announcing the funding makes specific reference to the German Offshore Spaceport Alliance, which is working on a plan to launch rockets from an offshore platform.


SpaceX wins Starshield contract

SpaceX won a one-year contract from the US Space Force for its Starshield network, which is a military version of its Starlink broadband constellation. The contract has a maximum value of $70 million.

X-Bow wins USAF contract

New Mexico-based X-Bow Launch Systems won a $17.8 million firm-fixed-price contract for designing, developing, and demonstrating propulsion technologies for advanced missiles and space launch vehicles. This contract will mature the Additive Manufacturing of Solid Propellant technology within Rapid Energetic and Advanced Rocket manufacturing (RE-ARM) objectives, producing the next version of the RE-ARM system.

Rogue Space Systems awarded STTR Phase II contracts

Rogue Space Systems has been selected for two Small Business Technology Transfer Research (STTR) Phase II awards by the US Air Force’s AFWERX directorate. The New Hampshire company will work with the University of Illinois to develop a “multi-purpose CubeSat dispenser system prototype that will solve the problem of frame style / dispenser system incompatibilities.” The goal is to produce a universal dispenser that doesn’t need to be redesigned for each launch vehicle.

Rogue is also working with the University of Utah on developing a contactless manipulation system capable of detumbling and capturing space objects. The system will be used to capture space debris and in the servicing of satellites.

Mergers & Acquisitions

Eutelsat-OneWeb merger closes

The $3.4 billion merger of Eutelsat and OneWeb has closed following a vote by Eutelsat shareholders to approve the deal. The two companies will integrate Eutelsat’s fleet of geostationary communications satellites with OneWeb’s constellation of broadband satellites in low Earth orbit.

Personnel Moves

Blue Origin replaces CEO

Blue Origin announced that CEO Bob Smith will be stepping down in January to be replaced by Amazon VP David Limp. Smith was CEO for six years. Limp oversaw the development of Amazon’s technologies and the Kuiper broadband satellite program.

Northrop Grumman elects Space Systems president

Northrop Grumman announced that its board of directors has elected Robert Fleming corporate vice president and president, Space Systems sector, effective October 9, 2023. Fleming will succeed Tom Wilson, who will take a new role in the company for personal reasons.

Human spaceflight

FAA closes New Shepard investigation

The FAA closed the investigation into the failure of Blue Origin’s New Shepard suborbital launch vehicle on September 12, 2022. The FAA said Blue Origin must implement 21 corrective actions to prevent a recurrence of the failure, which was the result of the structural failure of the rocket’s engine nozzle due to higher-than-expected engine operating temperatures. The FAA said the changes include the redesign of engine and nozzle components to improve structural performance as well as organizational changes.

Blue Origin issued a statement saying it would be flying New Shepard again soon, although the company did not give a timeline for the vehicle’s return to flight. The company has said it plans a repeat of the failed flight, which carried a load of microgravity experiments. Flights with paying customers would be conducted later.

Jon Goodwin waves during the Galactic 02 tourism flight.
Jon Goodwin waves during the Galactic 02 tourism flight. Image credit: Virgin Galactic.

Petition urges Virgin Galactic to cut spending

A London-based investor named Andy Shovel has published an open letter to Virgin Galactic CEO Michael Colglazier calling for cuts in the company’s spending and headcount. “The current burn of c$130m per quarter – in a new era of sky-high interest-rates and cash conservation for loss-making companies, is in our opinion – unsustainable,” the petition on said.

Virgin Galactic is currently operating a single SpaceShipTwo capable of carrying up to four passengers on suborbital trips and flying once per month. New SpaceShipTwo vehicles with six passenger seats capable of flying every two weeks will enter commercial service in 2026.

Parabolic Arc contacted Virgin Galactic for comment on Colglazier’s petition, but has yet to receive a response.


Sateliot, Comfone partner for worldwide 5G connectivity

Sateliot, which operates a nanosatellite constellation for the Internet of Things (IoT), has announced a partnership Comfone, a provider of mobile connectivity and roaming services. The partnership will give more than 480 mobile network operators and mobile virtual network operators around the world the opportunity to connect to Sateliot’s 5G NB-IoT nanosatellite constellation through standard roaming agreements.

Argo cargo ship rendering. Image credit: Rocket Factory Augsburg.
Argo cargo ship rendering. Image credit: Rocket Factory Augsburg.


RFA unveils cargo ship proposal

Rocket Factory Augsburg unveiled its plans for its automated Argo cargo ship, which it will submit to the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Commercial Cargo Space Initiative. RFA partnered with ATMOS Space Cargo and Sener on the project. OHB SE and MT Aerospace AG are also partners on Argo.

ispace announces new US HQ, unveils new Moon lander

Lunar transportation provider ispace technologies US has announced its new US headquarters in Denver, Colorado, and unveiled its new APEX 1.0 lunar lander for future missions to the Moon.

MDA's Canadarm on the International Space Station
Canadarm2 on the International Space Station. Image credit: MDA.


NASA seeks proposals for ISS deorbit

NASA released a request for proposal from US industry for the US Deorbit Vehicle (USDV), a spacecraft meant to safely deorbit the International Space Station as part of its planned retirement in 2030. To maximize value to the government and enhance competition, the acquisition will allow offerors flexibility in proposing firm-fixed price or cost-plus-incentive fee for the design, development, test, and evaluation phase. The remainder of the contract will be firm-fixed price.

ESA issues call for Moon mission ideas

The European Space Agency (ESA) wants your ideas for small missions to explore the Moon under its Terrae Novae 2030+ initiative. Submit your ideas by December 14. You can find all the details of the timing, process, and conditions here.

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