June 15, 2024

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Boeing and SpaceX had a big week

Boeing and SpaceX had a big week

A SpaceX Starship launches during its fourth flight test from Boca Chica Beach on June 6, 2024 in Brownsville, Texas.

Brandon Bell | Getty Images

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Overview: Star Week

For long-time Space Investing readers, you may have noticed that this newsletter arrives a day later than usual – I apologize for the delay, but I assume many of you (like me) were watching a live stream or two on what was a historic day for our space travel.

Boeing Starliner fulfilled NASA’s long-awaited dream When Butch Wilmore and Sonny Williams exited the capsule and onto the International Space Station. Yes, the docking process got a little murky, but the company and the agency managed to get to the space station despite more helium leaking and some troubling thrusters. Launches may get attention, but I know that most Starliner participants didn’t feel comfortable until the “contact and capture” call confirmed the spacecraft’s arrival.

As Starliner approaches its milestone, SpaceX The spacecraft lifted off from the pad for the fourth time. Each of these giant rocket test flights has traveled farther than the last, but for the first time, this flight has covered this distance. Starship checked off the most important development boxes – all while delivering a show with an interesting ending, with a cracking camera peering through the soot at the little cover that could make it happen.

The special, juxtaposed moments of Star stuff It brings up a question I’ve been asked more than a few times: What’s the difference between Boeing and SpaceX?

I usually get this question in the context of comparing Starliner to SpaceX’s Dragon, now a veteran of human spaceflight, or the latest dominant company in winning government contracts for launches, exploration missions, and more.

Look, I have zero tolerance for mistakes (to borrow words from NASA’s CAPCOM yesterday regarding the International Space Station’s safety policies) for confusing the risks of the Starliner crew with the fourth Starship test. The simple fact is that one is carrying a load of two precious souls, and the other is hundreds of launches away from matching that.

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Boeing’s Starliner capsule is seen approaching the International Space Station with two NASA astronauts aboard on June 6, 2024.


But one aspect of the rides reveals a difference in how companies approach space: visuals.

Starliner had the classic Space Coast launch views for a few minutes…and then there were just a few animations with telemetry data overlays. For the next 25 hours, we didn’t see Butch or Sonny, nor did we see the view from the Starliner flight. Why? Apparently it wasn’t Contract condition After “mission critical phases,” Boeing does not expect to add this feature “For a few flights.”

On the other hand, the spacecraft was launched cinematographic It provided near-continuous live views on board from dozens of angles during the flight. Millions have now watched the rocket’s Raptors crackle on takeoff after sunrise, the booster glides back through the atmosphere, the ground buzzing from below, the returning rainbow plasma, that flutter doing its best. Terminator 2 impression.

The difference in spaceflight visuals belies the spirit behind what SpaceX versus Boeing does: SpaceX sells the future, while Boeing delivers on the deal.

Public interest, judged by the imperfect measure of viral social media posts, also shows this difference. While my recent coverage of the vehicles was in favor of the Starliner by a ratio of 10 to 1, I couldn’t open Instagram, TikTok, X, Reddit, or even LinkedIn yesterday without seeing the Starship. The few Starliner posts I saw were from official NASA accounts or from industry insiders celebrating the milestone.

For someone who follows the industry as closely as I do, it has never been lost on me what an incredible feat Boeing has achieved in safely transporting astronauts to the space station. After all, in the grand scheme of American human spaceflight history, the Starliner is the only sixth vehicle built by the United States to carry astronauts into orbit.

But Boeing’s achievement was applauded by the public, while Starship captured their attention. The difference, from someone who works in a TV newsroom, comes in part from an appreciation for the power of amazing live presentation.

what’s up

  • NASA rejects private proposal to restart old Hubble Telescope: SpaceX, along with billionaire astronaut Jared Isaacman, signed a study agreement with the agency in September 2022. Although Hubble continues to suffer from faulty gyroscopes and switches to a more limited operating mode, an official said the agency fears “potential risks such as the premature loss of Science and some technological challenges. – Space news
  • China’s lunar return mission is on its way back to Earth: The Chang’e spacecraft collected 6 samples, raised the Chinese flag on the far side of the moon, then lifted off from the surface and is expected to land on June 25. Watchman
  • Russian cosmonaut reaches 1,000 total days in space: Oleg Kononenko, currently on his fifth space flight, has set a new cumulative space-time record for anyone. – AP
  • Axiom shows progress in lunar spacesuits: The company said it has completed testing at SpaceX headquarters on how to use the Axiom Extravehicular Mobility Unit (AxEMU) with parts of the Starship. – Axiom
  • Inspector General audit finds NASA too aggressive in commercial lunar shipping program, Also known as CLPS. The review found that the agency’s “increasingly risk-averse practices and policies” “led to higher costs and delayed delivery dates.” – NASA or I.G
  • Slingshot launches AI satellite tracker alongside DARPA Saying that the AI ​​system called Agatha will be able to identify “anomalous spacecraft within large satellite constellations.” – Space slingshot
  • cess and planet Implementing a data migration demonstration for NASA, The companies claim that it is the first commercial method for transferring data between satellites in multiple orbits. The companies performed the demonstration for NASA, as the agency searches for a proprietary development alternative to the TDRSS (Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System). – Via satellite
  • Rocket laboratory NASA’s Electron launch completes PREFIRE, with the two missions launching within 11 days of each other. PREFIRE (Polar Radiant Energy in Far-Infrared Experiment) are climate-focused satellites that will measure heat lost to space from Earth’s polar regions. – Rocket laboratory
  • Start-up test of the massive K2 satellite fires the thruster, A krypton-powered Hall effect thruster that the company says will use 20 kilowatts of power, making it four times more powerful than any known Hall effect thruster launched to date. The company is preparing to launch its first satellite later this year. – Space news
  • FAA adds Virgo galaxy and Sierra Space to track live flight data, with the companies joining SpaceX as part of the regulator’s Space Data Integration (SDI) programme. The tool allows the FAA to reopen airspace more quickly after a spacecraft is launched or re-entered. – Angolan Armed Forces

Industry maneuvers

Market movers

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In sight

  • June 7: SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket launches Starlink satellites From Florida.
  • June 8: SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket launches Starlink satellites From California.
  • June 8: Virgin Galactic Unity launches the Galactic-07 mission From New Mexico.
  • June 12: SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket launches Starlink satellites From Florida.
  • June 13: NASA spacewalk On the International Space Station.