Hello and welcome back to Max Q!
In this issue:
- Virgin Galactic aims for a triumphant return
- Vast aims to launch the space station in 2025
- News from SpaceX and more
Virgin Galactic will return to the skies later this month in a crewed mission that the company hopes will end the nearly two-year gap since its first and only crewed flight in July 2021.
The space tourism company said Monday it will send a crew of four into space by the end of May. The main objective of the mission is to validate the spaceflight system and the “astronaut experience” before the official launch of commercial service in June. Virgin Galactic took humans to space for the first time in July 2021, with a crew that included billionaire founder Richard Branson. The company was undoubtedly riding high after that mission, but VG has been plagued with problems ever since.
Some of the biggest names in the space industry are billionaires: Elon Musk. Jeff Bezos. Richard Branson. The latest person to join this small cadre, at least in terms of personal net worth, is Jed McCaleb. His space station company, Stretched outpartners with SpaceX to be the first private company to launch and operate a fully commercial station in orbit.
The average American is probably not familiar with McCaleb, a software developer who was one of the creators of the now infamous Mt. Gox Bitcoin exchange and a founder of the crypto protocol Ripple. By some estimates, his fortune is said to be worth about $2.5 billion. When Vast emerged from stealth in fall 2022, it was greeted with more than a little skepticism. The company said it launched with a mission to build the world’s first artificial gravity space station – and gave few other details.
“I don’t blame people for being skeptical,” McCaleb said in a recent interview. “Obviously I’ve never done anything in aerospace before, so it’s a big step.”
The public’s doubts about McCaleb are likely to fade quickly today, with news that the company is aiming to launch the first commercial space station into orbit as early as August 2025. It’s an aggressive timeline, one that surpasses other station developers – and it’s all funded by McCaleb himself.
More news from TC and beyond
- Astroscale and Momentus submitted a joint proposal to NASA outlining their plans to boost the orbit of the Hubble Space Telescope. (Astroscale)
- Axiom Space is gearing up for its second private crewed spaceflight mission to the ISS, now scheduled for launch on May 21. (TechCrunch)
- from China spaceplane may have caught and released an object in space several times during its recent test flight. (Space news)
- Impulse Space said the Saiph thruster is now space-qualified and ready to launch on the company’s inaugural mission scheduled for October. Saiph thrusters will power the company’s first spacecraft, Mira. (Impulse)
- JSX, a charter aircraft operator, has provided Starlink for its fleet of 40 Embraer jets. (Aviation Week)
- Rocket laboratory has won another multi-CubeSat launch contract from NASA, following the successful deployment of a batch of satellites under a separate contract with the space agency last weekend. (Rocket laboratory)
- virgin job received more than 30 “indications of interest” in its bankruptcy proceedings, including multiple bids from parties reportedly interested in continuing operations and retaining current employees. (virgin job)
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