Space Business: Hard Landing

After Japan's ispace's failed Moon landing, the company's market capitalization was knocked off by $200 million by investors at the Tokyo Stock Exchange.

What is the cost of a failed Moon Landing to a company's bottom line? Japan's Ispace lost more than 200 million dollars. Investors at the Tokyo Stock Exchange slashed the market value of the company by about $200 million the morning following the failure of its Hakuto-R to land on the Moon. The company has the first insurance policy ever on a lunar lander, which may help make up for some of its losses.

Despite its failure, ispace engineers believe that their lander ran out of fuel just at the right moment and crashed into the Moon. However, the company has managed to successfully fly a vehicle deep into space. ispace has plans for at least two additional attempts. Once on its own, and once in a joint team with Draper to fly scientific sensors to South Pole of the Moon.

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Stocks of Intuitive Machines, a NASA contractor that has its own plans for landing robots on the Moon soared by over 20% at the NASDAQ in New York. It's impossible to determine the exact reason for the stock price movements, but it is possible that the market views the Moon mission as a zero sum game.

NASA has approximately $2.6 billion in funding to hire private companies to deliver instrumentation to the Moon by 2028. However, it has only committed about $280 millions. The companies that are competing for these contracts - including US companies Astrobotic, Firefly - are asking for cargo from businesses and researchers. However, for now, the majority of funding for lunar transportation will come from public funds.

NASA officials are nervous about the failure of the three last attempts to land softly on the Moon. They're betting that the first-time companies will succeed. Space-as-a service, which was successful at replacing the Space Shuttle in low-Earth orbit, is now about to be tested in deep space.

Intuitive machines is planning to launch two landers on Falcon 9 rockets in June 2023 and November 2023. Astrobotic, too, is scheduled to launch a lander. However, it must wait for United Launch Alliance's Vulcan rocket to reach the launch pad. The mission was originally expected to take place in early May.

Astrobotic is still as excited about the delay. The space agency needs to do more reconnaissance and build infrastructure on the regolith before a new astronaut class touches down.

NASA officials are confident that they will receive support from Congress. The most recent Republican budget proposal proposed massive cuts in spending for the space agency. Anyone betting on the moon economy this summer should be hoping NASA comes out relatively unscathed.

Virgin Galactic, a space tourism company founded by Richard Branson said yesterday that their spacecraft had successfully completed a glide test flight in New Mexico. This is the first time Virgin Galactic has flown their vehicle since 2021 when Branson, three other crew members and Jeff Bezos went to the edge in Blue Origin's New Shepard.

Virgin engineers are working on a fix to the VSS Unity wings that cracked after landing.

SpaceX is facing launch site issues. SpaceX's Starship made its first flight, and it was just as exciting as expected. The vehicle flew for a short time before it began to tumble. Finally, the self-destruct order was given. The rocket's imperfection is to be expected in a test flight. However, regulators and observers were both surprised by the dust clouds and debris that were thrown up during the launch. SpaceX did not have the infrastructure in place to control the exhaust force. The Federal Aviation Administration will likely require major changes before the next Starship test flight.

AST call home. AST SpaceMobile is building a satellite network that will connect mobile phones outside the range of cell towers. The company made its first test call with a satellite. Abel Avellan, the founder of AST SpaceMobile, called the demonstration an important milestone. However the company must still receive regulatory approval before it can begin to operate its service.

The company plans to launch 16 satellites equipped with infrared sensor to collect data for crop forecasting and irrigation.

Falcon Heavy will launch ViaSat-3 today. Yesterday's launch of the third most powerful rocket was delayed due to bad weather. Weather delayed the launch of what is now the third-most powerful rocket in existence yesterday.

Space diplomacy Watch. US signed a new agreement on space cooperation between South Korea and the US as part of a tightening technology ties that the two countries have been pursuing in response to the tensions with North Korea.

Last week, I said that Starship was great but we need more medium-lift missiles.

Last year, the lunar economy didn't wait for Boeing's Space Launch System.

This is issue 178. I hope you have a fantastic week! Please send your predictions for the next space tourist mission, tips and informed opinions, to EMAIL.