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2022 feels a lot like 1969.
In many ways, the second half of the year for the space industry has been about the moon – NASA's Artemis I mission finally got underway, a consortium of companies put the CAPSTONE satellite in lunar orbit, a surprise SPAC deal popped up for moon-focused venture Intuitive Machines, and Japanese company ispace is ready to launch its first cargo mission to surface.
Even one of the more difficult stories of this year – the bankruptcy of Masten – was largely about the moon. And that may yet have a promising future, with Pittsburgh-based lunar company Astrobotic acquiring the company's assets.
With NASA's Orion beaming back stunning images of our planet as it whipped by the moon, I spoke to Airbus Ventures partner Lewis Pinault. The VC arm of the European aerospace giant has taken stakes in a variety of space companies – one of which is ispace – and Pinault explained why organizations from companies to government agencies are eyeing the moon as "a potential resource for minerals, for energy."
"In the 1970s it was acts of novel imagination, a dream that we wish for to come true, and now we're living in a world where [a lunar economy] starts to look possible," Pinault said.
The next couple years should see a variety of spacecraft and robots sent to the moon. While Pinault sees lunar tourists as a "potentially distracting" future part of the lunar economy, he believes the likes of NASA's crewed Artemis missions would ideally establish a "kind of Antarctic-type explorers' base, for researchers and engineers learning more about the moon."
However the future shakes out, it's clear a lunar economy is no longer fiction.
- AWS completes prototype software experiment with a satellite in orbit: Amazon's cloud computing division conducted the test over the past 10 months, using a D-Orbit satellite. – CNBC
- France's Macron visits NASA and meets with VP Harris. The French president met with Harris at NASA's headquarters in D.C., in a meeting over cooperation in space with the U.S. – Reuters
- China delivers 3 more crew to its space station: The trio of Chinese astronauts, or taikonauts, arrived at the Tiangong space station and began China's first crew rotation, replacing the three who have been on the orbiting facility for the past six months. – SpaceNews
- International Astronomical Union issues warning over brightness of AST's prototype satellite: The organization said measurements showed the BlueWalker 3 satellite "has become one of the brightest objects in the night sky," which it is now talking to the company about. – IAU
- NASA cancels greenhouse gas-measuring GeoCarb mission after cost forecast more than tripled. The agency's total cost estimate for GeoCarb rose to over $600 million, well beyond the original estimate of $171 million, and is expected to "have a detrimental impact" on NASA's group of Earth science missions. – NASA
- SpaceX cargo mission arrives at the ISS. The company's 26th cargo flight for NASA docked with the space station carrying about 7,700 pounds of research, supplies and more, including the second set of iROSA solar arrays. – NASA
- AST SpaceMobile looks to raise $75 million in public stock offering, in a deal run by B. Riley and expected to close on Dec. 2. – AST SpaceMobile
- SiriusXM orders two more satellites from Maxar, for launch in about four years. The radio broadcaster has ordered 13 satellites to date from the space company. The value of SiriusXM's order was not disclosed. – Maxar
- Arianespace to launch two Intelsat satellites on Arane 6. The companies modified an existing contract to use the yet-to-debut Ariane 6 rocket to launch satellites IS-41 and IS-44 in 2025. – Arianespace
- Maxar to take $65 million charge after satellite for EchoStar delays further. The company disclosed the charge in a filing, after delaying delivery of the Jupiter 3 satellite to the end of April 2023. – Via Satellite
- NASA awards $57.2 million contract to Austin-based ICON for lunar tech development: Building upon work ICON did under a NASA small business contract, the company will "develop construction technologies that could help build infrastructure such as landing pads, habitats, and roads" on the moon's surface. – NASA
- Satellite imagery specialist EdgyBees names Shay Har-Noy as CEO. He previously spent time in leadership roles at Spire and Maxar. – SpaceNews
- Dec. 2 & 3: Reagan National Defense Forum in California, with companies such as Satellogic attending.