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By Aria Alamalhodaei

Thursday, October 06, 2022

Hello and welcome back to Max Q. This week was the week of ambitious timelines. See below. In this issue:

  • Relativity and Impulse plan Mars mission for… 2024!?
  • NASA wants to launch Space Launch System in… August?!
  • News from ispace, SpaceX and more

By the way…TechCrunch is excited to announce the launch of TC Sessions: Crypto, taking place on November 17 in Miami, Florida. This is our first dedicated foray into the cryptoverse, and we can’t wait to hear from some of the leading movers, shakers and risk-takers in web3, DeFi and NFTs. Take advantage of our special launch pricing. Buy your pass or startup exhibitor package today and save $250 and $200, respectively.

OK, on to the news.


Relativity and Impulse eye 2024 for Mars mission

Relativity Space, a 3D-printed rocket startup that’s planning its first orbital test launch this year, said Tuesday that it is planning to send a Mars lander and rover vehicle made by Impulse Space to the red planet as early as 2024. With the announcement, both companies aim to drastically push forward the timeline for a fully private rocket launch to Mars.

The exclusive agreement between the two companies is through 2029. As Impulse details on its website, after Terran R launches the payload on the correct orbit to Mars, the Cruise Vehicle would inject the Entry Capsule into the Martian atmosphere. From there, the Lander would use in-house Impulse engines to land on the planet’s surface.

Relativity founder Tim Ellis has always been explicit about his long-term vision of going to Mars. “Our long-term mission remains that we want to help build an industrial base on Mars and help make humanity multiplanetary,” he told TechCrunch in June. Even so, while this news is not exactly surprising, the planned launch schedule is still very ambitious.

Relativity and Impulse eye 2024 for Mars mission image

Image Credits: Impulse Space

NASA’s mega moon rocket could see its first launch this summer

NASA announced Wednesday that it is targeting as soon as late August for the first flight of the massive Space Launch System rocket, though agency officials stressed that the dates are tentative and dependent on teams completing remaining work.

Even a tentative launch date is an encouraging sign that NASA is on track to completing the remaining work required to get SLS and Orion, the capsule that will sit on top of the rocket, ready for launch. This uncrewed mission, called Artemis I, is the first in a series of planned flights as part of the agency’s ambitious Artemis program. The goals of the Artemis program are, in the short-term, to return humans to the moon by as soon as mid-decade. In the long-term, the agency sees Artemis as the beginning of a new chapter in space exploration, one that could take humans farther into the solar system than we’ve ever gone before.

“We’re trying to make sure that everybody understands this is the first time that we’re going to try and launch this vehicle,” Jim Free, NASA’s associate administrator for exploration systems development, said during a media briefing. “We’re going to be careful. We’re going to work hard to meet the attempts on those dates that I gave you and do our best to position ourselves to have the confidence in those dates.”

NASA’s mega moon rocket could see its first launch this summer image

Image Credits: Aubrey Gemignani/NASA / Getty Images

More news from TC and beyond

  • Amazon is looking to hire managers in India to launch their Project Kuiper internet service in that country, according to job listings.
  • Blue Origin announced the six-person crew for its next New Shepard mission, which includes a YouTuber and the first people from Portugal and Egypt to fly to space. This will be the sixth crewed flight Blue has conducted, and the third this year. The flight date has yet to be announced.
  • China seems to be developing a fully reusable version of one of its heavy-lift rockets, à la Starship.
  • Draper, leading a team that includes General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems, ispace and others, was awarded $73 million to send three payloads to the moon for NASA.
  • HawkEye 360 opened a new 19,000-square-foot facility in Virginia for satellite manufacturing, software development and data processing. The facility will give Hawkeye “end-to-end responsibility” for the manufacture of its satellites, the company said in a statement.
  • ispace is on track to launch its Mission 1 lander to the moon as early as November 2022. The company will be launching the payload on board a SpaceX Falcon 9.
  • NASA awarded SpaceX a $255 million contract to launch the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope in 2026.
  • NASA‘s water-hunting VIPER mission to the moon was delayed by a year, to 2024. The delay is due to the agency requesting further testing from Astrobotic of the company’s lander, which will deliver the VIPER robot to the lunar surface.
  • SpaceX‘s Crew-25 mission to send astronauts to the International Space Station was delayed to no earlier than September 29, so that the company can complete some work on the Dragon crew capsule and the Falcon 9 booster.
  • The United Arab Emirates is launching a 3 billion AED ($820 million) National Space Fund to further boost the country’s space sector and diversify its oil-reliant economy. The first investment will go toward the establishment of a remote sensing satellite constellation.
More news from TC and beyond image

Image Credits: Astrobotic

Record-break of the week

SpaceX launched 46 Starlink satellites to orbit on Friday, marking the space company’s 32nd mission so far this year, and 125th Falcon 9 mission overall. That means SpaceX has officially broken its record for the number of orbital launches in a year (the previous record of 31 launches was set last year) — and it’s only July!

How many launches do you think they’ll hit this year? >50 seems like a pretty sure thing…


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

Record-break of the week image

Image Credits: SpaceX

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