Max Q: Up, up and away

Hello and welcome back to Max Q. The big news from me this week is that…I’m buying Twitter! Just kidding. But I do occasionally tweet over at @breadfrom ; say hi, or send an email to [email protected].

In this issue:

  • Diversity and inclusion in the space industry
  • A roundup of Elon’s antics
  • This week with founder Luisa Buinhas

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Major space companies pledge to boost diversity and publicly share hard numbers

This week 24 companies, including ULA, SpaceX, JPL and Rocket Lab, pledged to improve diversity and inclusion , with regular check-ins to keep each other honest. What, specifically, does that mean? According to the Space Workforce 2030 pledge, the companies agreed to “significantly increase the number of women and employees from underrepresented groups in our collective technical workforce,” and in senior leadership positions; to work with universities to improve the diversity of aerospace engineering programs; and to sponsor K-12 programs that reach at least 5 million kids annually.

The companies say they will aggregate their numbers on the employment goals and present them at the Space Symposium conference each year. They’ll also meet to share best practices, and encourage others to join the pledge.

Image Credits: Getty Images

Our coverage of Elon’s Twitter bid

Stay with me here: Elon Musk’s offer to buy Twitter isn’t exactly space news, but seeing as how Musk is the head of the world’s most successful space company, it feels worth mentioning. TechCrunch covered the story from a few different angles; I’ve rounded them up below:

elon musk

Image Credits: Getty Images

This week with…Luisa Buinhas

Luisa Buinhas is a space systems engineer and co-founder of German startup Vyoma GmbH , a venture that aims to join observational data of space debris with satellite operations. Vyoma won the Startup Space pitch competition at Satellite 2022.

TechCrunch: What are you working on? 

Luisa Buinhas: At Vyoma, I support Phase B activities of our satellite mission. Critically, on this very week, we are conducting the final evaluations of potential ground communications networks that we will use to talk to our satellites. At the same time, I intend to finalize and submit to DLR (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft-und Raumfahrt, or German Aerospace Center) a proposal we have on the pipeline dealing with automation of decision-making in space traffic management.

What’s something that happened in the news in the last week that you can’t stop thinking about?

The announcement of three new heavy-lift rockets that will put thousands of Amazon’s Project Kuiper satellites in low-Earth orbits. In total, 3,236 new satellites will be added to an already crowded space in the coming years. Although there is value in providing broadband connectivity, particularly to remote corners of the world, this will further stress an over-congested space environment and exacerbate the issue of space debris.

Seven billion people on the planet depend on space-based services, from navigation to communications and weather forecast. With the increase in space traffic, the risk of these services start being disrupted because of in-orbit collisions (between satellites or between satellites and debris) rises exponentially, bringing life here on Earth to a standstill — even flights cannot take off without satellite services! As a tragedy of the commons, this is yet another reminder of the extreme importance of keeping our orbits clean for generations to come.

What are you looking forward to next week?

Since we moved to a new office here in Munich recently, I look forward to decorating it with new furniture and matching wall art this week. On a personal level, a friend of mine who I have not seen (in person) in three years is coming to Munich tomorrow and I could not be happier to catch up. Finally, Easter is just around the corner, so I look forward to catching a flight back to Lisbon for a few days and go chocolate egg hunting with family. To our dismay, our dog always ends up discovering (sniffing out) the secret locations where we hide the chocolate, so Easter games are a lot more fun for her.

What song has been on repeat?

Lately, I’ve had a huge nostalgia of my teenage years living in São Paulo, Brazil, so Zeca Pagodinho (“Seu Balancê”) and Zélia Duncan (“Catedral”) have heavily featured on my playlists.

More news from TC and beyond

  • Axiom Space‘s Ax-1, the company’s first fully private mission, docked with the ISS on Saturday morning. The four-person crew will spend eight days aboard the station.
  • Northrop Grumman began construction on a 25,000-square-foot facility in Albuquerque, New Mexico, that provide space systems engineering and integrated mission operations services the U.S. military.
  • Pythom Space responded to safety concerns raised by folks in the industry and the media after the startup released a video of a test of the first stage of its Eiger rocket. (You can watch the video below.) “Virgin had several accidents, including fatalities,” the startup says. “ABL blew up their second stage last month, Astra have been blowing up more rockets than we can count. What puts them and Pythom apart is neither that we are safer or more unsafe. The difference is we are more transparent.”
  • Rocket Lab broke ground on a 250,000-square-foot facility in Virginia where it will manufacture the Neutron rocket. The site is adjacent to NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, and near to Rocket Lab’s existing launch pad for the Electron rocket and a second launch pad site for Neutron.
  • Space Capital published its Space Investment Quarterly report for the first quarter of this year. The firm found that $7.2 billion was invested into 118 space companies in Q1. Investment in the top 10 rounds made up $4.4 billion, or 61% of that overall number.
  • Space Perspective released a first look of the interior of Spaceship Neptune, the company’s suborbital passenger capsule. Space Perspective wants to sell six-hour luxury journeys to suborbital space, with each ticket coming in at $125,000.
  • SpaceX scored a contract from South Korea to launch five Earth observation satellites onboard a Falcon 9 by 2025.
  • Texas Governor Greg Abbott said he will work to ensure that SpaceX’s operations remain in the state. “I have worked with Elon Musk very closely with regard to Tesla and the Giga factory in Austin, Texas,” he said. “And we will be working with him very closely, every step of the way in Boca Chica for the future of SpaceX. We want that future and that vision to come from Boca Chica, from Brownsville, Texas.”
  • United Launch Alliance ordered 116 RL10C-X engines for its Vulcan Centaur rocket from Aerojet Rocketdyne. This is the largest order for RL engines ever, Aerojet said .

Pythom Micro-Jump from Pythom on Vimeo .

Finally…a favor

Found , the TechCrunch podcast where founders talk about the stories behind their startups, is nominated for a Webby for best technology podcast. Help them win the People’s Voice Award by casting your vote before April 21 here .

Max Q is brought to you by me, Aria Alamalhodaei. If you enjoy reading Max Q, consider forwarding it to a friend. 

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