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FIRST UP | Momentus CEO resigns amid U.S. government concerns • Bridenstine joins private equity firm
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A SpaceNews daily newsletter | Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Top Stories

 
The CEO of in-space transportation company Momentus resigned Monday to address U.S. government concerns about foreign control. Mikhail Kokorich stepped down from his roles as CEO and director as part of what the company said is "an effort to expedite the resolution of U.S. government national security and foreign ownership concerns." Momentus is seeking to merge with Stable Road Acquisition Corporation, a "blank check" firm that would turn Momentus into a publicly traded company. Kokorich is a Russian citizen and, among other issues, cannot access the company's technical information that is protected by export controls. Dawn Harms, a former Boeing executive who joined Momentus in 2019 as chief revenue officer, is the new CEO of Momentus. [SpaceNews]

Former NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine has joined a private equity firm. Bridenstine will be a senior adviser for Acorn Growth Companies, which invests in companies in the aerospace, defense and intelligence sectors. Bridenstine said he will support Acorn's existing portfolio of companies and assist in future investments. Acorn has not invested in pure-play space companies, but the firm sees growing opportunities as space startups mature into companies that are a better fit for private equity funds. [SpaceNews]

The Pentagon's Space Development Agency (SDA) is seeking industry proposals to develop a wide range of technologies. A broad area announcement published Monday asks companies to submit pitches for space technology projects that the SDA might be interested in funding if they meet specific needs. Those technologies include communications, navigation and missile tracking capabilities. SDA is open to funding R&D projects for technologies it might not be able to find in the open market and plans to make multiple contract awards based on the quality of the proposals. [SpaceNews]

A startup is proposing a satellite system that would produce imagery with a resolution of 10 centimeters. Albedo is part of the latest class of the Y Combinator startup accelerator and believes it can start launching satellites producing ultra-high-resolution images in 2024. Albedo plans to fly spacecraft in very low orbits to generate that imagery, and rely on on-orbit refueling to extend those satellites' lifetimes. U.S. regulations don't allow the commercial sale of imagery that sharp today, but the company's founders are confident those restrictions can at least be lessened before its first launch. [SpaceNews]

Other News


A test flight of a SpaceX Starship prototype may have to wait until tomorrow. The company appeared to be preparing for a flight test Monday at its Boca Chica, Texas, test site, but gusty winds halted those plans, suggesting a slip to Tuesday. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted early Tuesday that the company is hoping for FAA approval for a flight "tomorrow afternoon." The test flight, when it does take place, is expected to be similar to that flown by SN8 last month. [Ars Technica / Twitter @elonmusk]

The newest Starlink satellites feature laser intersatellite links. The 10 satellites, launched Sunday, are the first Starlink spacecraft to operate in polar orbits. Elon Musk said that the satellites have laser crosslinks to allow them to relay communications while out of reach of ground stations over the poles. SpaceX originally planned to include laser links on its satellites, but so far has only conducted tests involving a couple satellites. Musk said that by next year all new Starlink satellites will have laser intersatellite links. [SpaceNews]

NASA and Boeing have moved up the next test flight of the CST-100 Starliner commercial crew vehicle. That Orbital Flight Test 2 mission is now scheduled for launch March 25, four days earlier than previously announced. NASA officials hinted earlier this month that the flight could be moved up, based on the pace of preparing the vehicle for launch as well as range availability. The uncrewed test flight will last about a week and include a docking at the International Space Station. [Boeing]

Virgin Orbit will launch a smallsat for the Dutch military. The BRIK-II cubesat will fly as a secondary payload on a LauncherOne mission flying out of Mojave Air and Space Port in California later this year. The cubesat will test communications technologies and demonstrate the utility of cubesats to support military operations. Virgin Orbit will also use the cubesat to test the ability to "late load" satellite payloads shortly before launch. [Virgin Orbit]

The House appropriations subcommittee that funds NASA has a new chairman. Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.) announced Monday he had been selected to chair the commerce, justice and science subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee in the new Congress. He previously served as vice chairman of the subcommittee, which funds agencies such as NASA, NOAA and the NSF. He succeeds former Rep. José Serrano (D-N.Y.), who retired at the end of the last Congress. [U.S. House]
 

Don't Jinx It


"Every step along the way now is getting us pretty close to shipping this in August and launching at the end of October of this year. It sounds strange to say all of this is happening this year, including launch."

– Greg Robinson, program director for the long-delayed James Webb Space Telescope, discussing progress on the spacecraft during a NASA science town hall meeting Monday.
 

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