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Biz Briefs – Stoke Space Announces $100 Million Investment; Northrop Grumman Dumps Private Space Station Plan

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
October 5, 2023
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Biz Briefs – Stoke Space Announces $100 Million Investment; Northrop Grumman Dumps Private Space Station Plan
Starlab space station in orbit.
Image credit: Nanoracks.

Welcome to Biz Briefs! In this edition, Stoke Space announced a $100 million investment, Northrop Grumman ditched plans to develop a private space station, Booz Allen Hamilton and Astroscale won big contracts, China selected companies for commercial cargo, spaceflight operators got a regulatory reprieve, Axiom Space teamed with Prada to develop lunar suits, and much more.

Top Story

Stoke Space announces $100 million investment

Stoke Space announced today (October 5) that it had “$100 million in new Series B investment to drive continued growth and innovation. This investment more than doubles the company’s total funding, which now sits at $175 million. The company also announced the official name of its first rocket: Nova.”

“The funding round was led by Industrious Ventures with participation from the University of Michigan, Sparta Group, Long Journey, and others,” the press release continues. “Existing investors Breakthrough Energy, YCombinator, Point72 Ventures, NFX, MaC Ventures, Toyota Ventures, and In-Q-Tel also participated.”


Booz Allen Hamilton wins $630 million contract

The US Space Force has awarded Booz Allen Hamilton a seven-year, $630 million to support systems engineering and integration of next-generation space-based missile warning, surveillance, reconnaissance, and tracking. Booz Allen will support Space Systems Command in engineering resilient space sensing capabilities. The firm will integrate the Next Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared program, which is an upgrade of the US missile warning and tracking capabilities.

Astroscale ADRAS_J satellite
ADRAS-J satellite. Image credit: Astroscale.

Astroscale wins grant, ships inspection satellite

Astroscale won a grant from the Japan Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology worth up to US $80 million to develop a mission to inspect a large, defunct satellite in Earth orbit. The project is divided into three phases: Astroscale Japan will receive up to JPY 2.69 billion (USD $18 million) for Phase 1, and up to JPY 12 billion (USD $80 million) for all three phases.

Astroscale also announced that its Active Debris Removal by Astroscale-Japan (ADRAS-J) inspection satellite is ready to be launched aboard a Rocket Lab Electron rocket. ADRAS-J is designed to rendezvous with and inspect a Japanese spent upper-stage rocket. The mission is part of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA) Commercial Removal of Debris Demonstration program.

NASA selects Commercial Smallsat Data Acquisition contractors

NASA has selected seven companies to provide commercial data in support of the agency’s Earth science research under the Commercial Smallsat Data Acquisition Program. The maximum potential value of contracts under the five-year program is $476 million. NASA selected the following companies for the program:

  • Airbus DS Geo, Inc. of Herndon, Virginia,
  • Capella Space Corp. of San Francisco,
  • GHGSat, Inc. of Montreal,
  • Maxar Intelligence, Inc. of Westminster, Colorado,
  • Space Sciences and Engineering (doing business as PlanetiQ) of Golden, Colorado,
  • Spire Global Subsidiary, Inc. of Vienna, Virginia, and
  • Umbra Lab, Inc., of Santa Barbara, California.
Falcon 9 Transporter-7 rideshare mission lifts off
Falcon 9 lifts off on the Transporter-7 mission on April 15, 2023. Image credit: SpaceX.

NASA awards launch contract to SpaceX

NASA selected SpaceX to launch the Tandem Reconnection and Cusp Electrodynamics Reconnaissance Satellites (TRACERS) mission aboard a Falcon 9 rocket. TRACERS consists of a pair of small satellites that will study space weather and how the Sun’s energy affects Earth’s magnetic environment. SpaceX will launch the satellites as part of a rideshare mission. NASA did not announce the amount of the contract.

AFRL awards JETSON contracts

The US Air Force Research Laboratory awarded three contracts worth a total of $60.2 million for its Joint Emergent Technology Supplying On-orbit Nuclear Power (JETSON) mission application program. The contracts included:

  • Lockheed Martin: $33.74 million to mature the technical design of the JETSON spacecraft’s systems and subsystems.
  • Westinghouse Government Services: $16.97 million to mature relevant technologies, conduct analyses and trade studies, and explore risk reduction strategies on a nuclear fission system.
  • Intuitive Machines: $9.49 million for a new spacecraft concept and design description that employs a compact radioisotope power system, electric and/or hybrid propulsion, and related support systems.

CMSA selects four companies for commercial cargo

The China Manned Space Agency recently awarded contracts to four state-owned companies – China Academy of Space Technology, Shanghai Academy of Space Technology, Chinese Academy of Sciences Shanghai Engineering Center for Microsatellites, and AVIC Chengdu Aircraft Design & Research Institute – to develop more affordable cargo ships to support the Tiangong space station. Blaine Curcio looks at whether the program represents a significant step forward for commercial space or more of the same.

Comtech wins US Army contract

Comtech won a $48.6 million contract to deliver modems in support of the US Army’s satellite communications digitization and modernization programs.

Outpost wins NASA SBIR Ignite contract

Outpost won a NASA Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) Phase 2 Ignite contract to continue development of the company’s Cargo Ferry, which would return cargo from the International Space Station (ISS) and future commercial space stations.

Orbital debris -- NASA image
Graph of orbital debris. Image credit: NASA.

SCOUT Space wins space debris tracking contract

SCOUT Space was selected as a subcontractor by the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) in support of the Space Debris Identification and Tracking (SINTRA) program. SCOUT will work with Leidos to support prime contractor SRI International, which leads one of four teams selected for the SINTRA program. The program aims to track space debris smaller than 10 cm. IARPA is the research and development arm of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

Planet expands contracts with Canadian governments

Planet Labs has expanded contracts with existing customers across the Canadian provincial governments, including British Columbia, the Northwest Territories, Quebec, and Alberta. Planet data and solutions will be used to support critical disaster response efforts during the Canadian fire season and to monitor the impacts of the climate crisis on ecosystems, such as permafrost melt.

Serco awarded Eumetsat contract

Serco has been awarded a new six-year, €21 million (USD $22.1 million) contract by the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT) to run the Copernicus Analyst and Controller Service. Serco is partnered with Telespazio Germany GmbH on the contract.

EOS rocket. Image credit: Sidereus Space Dynamics.
EOS rocket. Image credit: Sidereus Space Dynamics.


Sidereus Space Dynamics of Italy raised a seed+ round of €5.1 million (USD $5.37 million) to continue development of the company’s EOS small satellite launch vehicle. The round was led by Primo Space and CDP Venture Capital SGR via the Italia Venture II – Fondo Imprese Sud fund.


Northrop Grumman abandons space station plans, joins Starlab

Northrop Grumman has abandoned plans to construct its own commercial space station and signed a teaming agreement to support the Voyager Space-led Starlab station. Northrop Grumman will develop fully autonomous rendezvous and docking technology for its Cygnus cargo ship that will provide resupply services for Starlab.

Northrop Grumman had been developing its own station under a $125.6 million, milestone-based agreement with NASA. The space agency said it had paid $36.6 million to Northrop Grumman to date for the milestones the company met. NASA plans to distribute the remaining funds to three other companies – Voyager Space, Blue Origin, and Axiom Space – that were also awarded contracts to develop private stations. The funding distribution is contingent on NASA and the three companies agreeing to additional milestones.

Axiom Space & Prada team on lunar suits

Axiom Space and Italian fashion house Prada announced they will work together on developing lunar suits for NASA’s Artemis III mission, which will attempt to land astronauts at the south pole of the Moon in 2025.

“We are thrilled to partner with Prada on the Axiom Extravehicular Mobility Unit (AxEMU) spacesuit,” said Axiom Space CEO Michael Suffredini. “Prada’s technical expertise with raw materials, manufacturing techniques, and innovative design concepts will bring advanced technologies instrumental in ensuring not only the comfort of astronauts on the lunar surface, but also the much-needed human factors considerations absent from legacy spacesuits.”


Six companies join Hyperspace Challenge business accelerator

Six companies from four countries are participating in the Hyperspace Challenge business accelerator’s 2023 program run by the US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and CNM Ingenuity. The companies will have the opportunity to learn from the US Space Force’s Space Rapid Capabilities Office. The cohort includes:

  • Phase Four of Hawthorne, California: Changing the Way We Move in Space,
  • Dawn AeroSpace of Delft, The Netherlands: From Earth to Space. From Space to Everywhere Else,
  • of Brooklyn, NY: Data at the Speed of AI,
  • Magdrive, Harwell Innovation Campus of Harwell Oxford, England: Next Generation Spacecraft Propulsion,
  • TRL11 of Irvine, California: Video Solutions for the New Space Economy, and
  • High Earth Orbit Robotics of Haymarket, Australia: Pioneering in-orbit satellite inspection to monitor space objects and their environment.
Launch of Blue Origin's New Shepard
New Shepard launches to space. Image credit: Blue Origin.


Spaceflight Providers Get Regulatory Reprieve

Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin, and SpaceX got a temporary reprieve last week from regulations designed to protect passengers and crew on commercial spaceflights. A temporary spending bill that funds the federal government through November 17 included a three-month extension to the so-called learning period in place since 2004 that limits the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) ability to formulate safety regulations. Meanwhile, experts are divided on how soon the FAA should regulate the industry, if at all.

FAA updates recommended practices for commercial spaceflight safety

The FAA updated its non-binding recommendations for commercial spaceflight safety for the first time since they were initially issued in 2014.

FAA submits report to Congress on risk of debris

The FAA’s report to Congress evaluates the risk to people on the ground and in aircraft due to debris from random and controlled reentries of satellites and how the FAA commercial space licensing process might address it.

UK Space Agency announces space tech funding

The UK Space Agency announced it will award up to £65 million (USD 79.1 million) for ground-breaking innovations to boost the nation’s leadership in space technologies and applications.


Rogue Space Systems appoints new CSO

Rogue Space Systems appointed former Exolaunch USA CEO Chris Hearsey as its new chief strategy officer.

Orbit Fab appoints new chief engineer

Orbit Fab named Kevin Smith as its chief engineer. Smith formerly served as senior propulsion engineer at Astrobotic supporting the Peregrine and Griffin lunar lander programs, and at Moog where he worked on space fluids products.

Editor’s note [10/5/2023]: This article was updated after publication to include the breaking news that Stoke Space announced a $100 million investment. The headline was also updated.

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