FIRST UP | OneWeb raises $400M • South Korea's Hanwha takes big stake in Satrec • Blue Origin "really close" to flying people
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A SpaceNews daily newsletter | Friday, January 15, 2021

Top Stories

OneWeb has raised $400 million in funding from SoftBank and Hughes Network Systems. OneWeb announced the round Friday, bringing the total it raised since filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last year to $1.4 billion. SoftBank was a leading shareholder in OneWeb before bankruptcy, and as a result of this funding round gained a seat on the company's board. Hughes announced last year it would invest $50 million in OneWeb. While OneWeb said the round "positions the company to be fully funded," it still needs to raise about $1 billion more, based on previous statements from the company's leaders. [SpaceNews]

Hanwha Aerospace, South Korea's largest defense company, is taking a 30% stake in satellite manufacturer Satrec Initiative for $100 million. Satrec Initiative builds Earth observation satellites and ground systems independently and with partners such as the UAE's Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Center. Once the deal is completed, Satrec Initiative will be managed independently but will have access to additional resources including Hanwha Aerospace's radar and infrared technologies. [SpaceNews]

Blue Origin performed a successful test flight of its New Shepard suborbital vehicle Thursday that brings the company "really close" to finally flying people. The vehicle lifted off from the company's West Texas test site at 12:17 p.m. Eastern on the 10-minute flight, with the booster and crew capsule landing separately. The launch was the first flight of this particular vehicle, which included several upgrades to the crew capsule intended to support human spaceflight. Blue Origin said it plans to fly people on that specific spacecraft, but didn't announce a schedule for doing so beyond that they're "getting really close to flying humans." [SpaceNews]

Military space systems rely on components that are no longer manufactured domestically, the Pentagon warned. In a report to Congress on the military industrial base published Thursday, the Defense Department said that space remains a "niche market" and that many systems rely on dated technology and practices, as well as fragile or foreign sources. The report cites particular concerns about gyroscopes, space-qualified solar cells and traveling wave tube amplifiers. [SpaceNews]

Other News

NASA is ready to perform a long-awaited static-fire test of the Space Launch System core stage Saturday. The test firing, scheduled for 5 p.m. Eastern at the Stennis Space Center, will complete the overall Green Run test campaign for the stage. NASA officials said this week that, if the test went well, they still hoped that the stage could be delivered to the Kennedy Space Center and integrated with the vehicle's other components to support a launch before the end of the year. In Saturday's test, the engines are scheduled to fire for 485 seconds, but engineers will get most of the data they need after about 250 seconds. [SpaceNews]

China's main space contractor has announced progress on a rocket engine for its future heavy-lift rocket. China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) said this week that it had made progress on an engine that will be used in the second stage of the Long March 9 heavy-lift rocket, expected to make its first launch in 2030. The engine is an upgraded version of the YF-77 engine used on the Long March 5, with greater thrust and efficiency. [SpaceNews]

The Orion spacecraft that will fly on the Artemis 1 mission has been handed over to teams at the Kennedy Space Center for final launch preparations. Lockheed Martin said Thursday it formally completed assembly and testing of the spacecraft and transferred it to NASA's Exploration Ground Systems program, which will be responsible for fueling the spacecraft and installing it on the SLS. NASA will soon move the spacecraft out of the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at KSC to other facilities there for that launch processing work. [Lockheed Martin]

Scientists are developing proposals for replacing the main radio telescope at Arecibo Observatory. After the telescope's observing platform collapsed last month, observatory officials and outside researchers brainstormed potential concepts for rebuilding or replacing it. One proposal would be to replace the 305-meter main dish with a platform holding more than 1,000 individual dishes, each nine meters across. That next-generation system would be nearly twice as sensitive as the original Arecibo, and have a planetary radar transmitter four times as powerful. How much that telescope would cost, and how it would be funded, are uncertain. [Science]

Cursed Rocket

"I didn't know we were going to have five hurricanes this summer, along with COVID and a few other things. I told folks that if this core stage goes to the Cape and I have five hurricanes here next summer, I'm going to bring in the exorcist."

– Kathy Lueders, NASA associate administrator for human exploration and operations, discussing at a meeting of two NASA Advisory Council committees Thursday the challenges faced last year during the Green Run testing of the SLS core stage.

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