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Max Q: Rocket Lab Reveals Neutron and Other Private Space Station News

Hello and welcome back to Max Q! There has been a TON of space news this week so I won’t wander around too much other than reminding you that a lot of the people below will be at the TC Sessions on the 14th and 15th: Space! This contains Peter Beck, CEO of Rocket Lab, Nanoracks’ Jeffrey Manber, and many, many others. It’s going to be a really great event and we want you to be there – see the end of this post for more details.

Questions, comments, feedback, compliments: aria.techcrunch@gmail.com.

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Rocket Lab reinvents rocket design with the neutron launch system

On Thursday, Rocket Lab finally released a much-anticipated update on Neutron, its medium-lift launch system, and The company did not disappoint. Neutron offers a number of surprising operational and development innovations that differ from other missiles in its class – I’ll cover a few here.

The first is the material used: Rocket Lab opted for carbon composites for the body of the rocket and forego metal alternatives. This is interesting because SpaceX is known to have ditched carbon composites for stainless steel for the Starship system, but CEO Peter Beck told me that the lighter structure offers huge benefits in terms of weight and performance.

The other notable change I’ll mention here is the payload fairing. Traditionally, a missile is stacked vertically, with the second stage lying like a nose cone between the first stage at the bottom and the fairing at the top. This is not the case with Neutron.

Instead, the company decided to attach the siding to the first tier and place the second tier in it. When the rocket is ready to deploy its payload, the fairings open mechanically, like a strange alien flower or large claw!

These are just a few details about the design – Read the full story for more.

Neutrons second stage and payload labeled Sayonara. Credit: Missile laboratory (opens in a new window)

NASA is giving over $ 400 million to Blue Origin, Nanoracks and Northrop Grumman for private space stations

Big news this week in the world of commercial space stations: NASA has awarded three companies more than $ 400 million in design advancement agreements for private targets in low earth orbit.

The three companies that received the agency’s Commercial Low Earth Orbit (LEO) Destinations Program awards are Nanoracks, which raised $ 160 million for “Starlab”; Blue Origin, which received $ 130 million for “Orbital Reef”; and Northrop Grumman for $ 125.6 million for a station that doesn’t yet have a flashy name.

This first series of awards will help companies develop their designs, which are set to continue through 2025. In a second phase of the program, NASA intends to certify one or more stations (from this group of companies) for human use or other newcomers) and eventually become one of many customers who purchase in-orbit services and use of the stations.

More news from TC and beyond

Astro scale raised $ 109 million Series F scale its on-orbit service technology, which is designed to extend the life of satellites and reduce orbital debris. (The startup’s CEO and founder, Nobu Okada, will join us on stage TC Sessions: Space 2021 this year.)

Isar aerospace won and € 11 million ($ 12.4 million) award by the federal government and the German Aerospace Center for the further development of the startup’s Spectrum launcher in return for transport services of up to 150 kilograms of payload on two separate flights.

Northrop Grumman won a massive $ 3.19 billion Order from NASA to build boosters for the agency’s heavy-lift rocket Space Launch System. The company has been commissioned to build boosters for nine SLS flights.

Phase four, a drive startup, has the specifications of its Next generation high frequency plasma thrusters, which the company says offers important performance enhancements to give spacecraft greater maneuverability in orbit.

Q-CTRL, a startup offering quantum control engineering solutions, closed a $ 25 million Series B funding round under the direction of Airbus Ventures. The company develops space-qualified quantum sensors and exploration technologies for the earth and beyond.

SpaceX sent a stack of 48 Starlink satellites and two satellites into orbit for geographic information company BlackSky on Thursday evening. It was the ninth mission for this particular Falcon 9 booster. Check it out here again.

Varda Space Industries, EXPLORE and Neutron star systems took first, second, and third place (respectively) in the Hyperspace Challenge, an accelerator operated by the Air Force Research Laboratory and CNM Ingenuity as part of the United States place Force’s SpaceWERX program.

Attend TC Sessions: Space

Last year we hosted our first special space event and it went so well that we decided to host it again in 2021. This year it will be on December 14th and 15th and it will again be a fully virtual conference so people from all over the world can join – and you can too.

Check out a little taste of the early agenda of click here. Suffice it to say, you won’t want to miss out.

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