What the first six months of 2022 looked like in space


We’re halfway through 2022. The year has flown by, but it’s filled with big news and firsts for the aerospace industry. Here’s our summary of events beyond Earth over the past six months.

Q1

The year started with a bang as JWST successfully unfolded, reaching its new home a million miles away from Earth and beginning to prepare its instruments for scientific operations.

In February, the FAA granted Astra the first streamlined Part 450 license, opening the doors to faster and more efficient launch rights for commercial rocket companies. Jared Isaacman and SpaceX also announced the ambitious Polaris program.

Russia invaded Ukraine in late February (and the war has been raging for 126 days). Commercial satellite operators stepped up to the plate, bringing satellite images to the forefront of OSINT and meeting the Ukrainian government’s needs for space-based intelligence. On the broadband front, SpaceX and Iridium shipped terminals and satphones/push-to-talk devices to Ukraine.

In March, Astra first entered orbit and President Biden finally signed the Federal Appropriations Act for FY22.

Fundraising: Radian emerged from stealth and announced his spaceplane plans and $27.5 million seed. E-Space has raised a $50 million starting round, Aerospacelab has raised a $40 million Series B, CesiumAstro has raised a $60 million Series B, and Slingshot Aerospace has raised a $25 million Series A-1.

And that’s not all, folks – for more details, check out our Q1 2022 news roundup.

On to Q2 and April

With Space Symposium dropping mid-month, we’ve witnessed a flurry of blockbuster announcements. Chief among these was Amazon’s block-buy of its most commercial launches ever, with Project Kuiper reserving up to 83 flights from ULA, Arianespace and Blue Origin. Space tourism had a moment when World View and Space Perspective made business moves.

New rocket engines were tested, with SpaceRyde and Launcher each announcing major milestones. Ursa Major production units came off the line and the Colorado startup struck a huge engine deal with Phantom Space.

The White House announced a unilateral ban on direct-ascent (anti-satellite) ASAT (anti-satellite) tests, paving the way for other countries to announce similar bans.

On the war front, the loss of Antonov aircraft in Ukraine impacted the shipment of GEO components as satellite operators looked for other ways to transport flight units. ESA also withdrew from Roscosmos lunar missions. HawkEye360 and NSSA launched a Ukraine aid initiative for the space industry.

Fundraising: ConstellR acquired hyperspectral imaging company ScanWorld, Capella raised a $97 million funding round and RFA won €11 million in a German microlauncher competition.

Be able to

Rocket Lab attempted to capture the first helicopter of the first stage of Electron in the early days of May, eventually dropping the stage before fully securing it. Also Boeing’s Starliner capsule finally reached the ISS. ESA had to maneuver a satellite around a piece of debris created during the Russian ASAT test last November. NRO announced its largest satellite image tenders ever. Finally, Transporter-5 has put some of your satellites, spacecraft and tugboats into orbit.

Fundraising coverage: Three propulsion startups — Firehawk, Adranos and X-Bow Systems — have raised Series A rounds. AstroForge has raised a $13 million seed round.

June-

NASA has awarded its commercial EVA spacesuit contracts to Axiom and Collins Aerospace. Sony opened the doors to a new laser communications company. Ursa Major unveiled its new Arroway engine design. The FAA has finally released its finding that there is no significant environmental impact on Starship, removing the biggest hurdle between the giant Mars rocket from launch. SFL passively carried debris out of the runway with drag sails for the first time. Sierra Space has announced its own astronaut training program. And NASA and Rocket Lab launched CAPSTONE, a groundbreaking mission to a unique orbit around the moon.

Fundraising Coverage: Ion-X has raised a €3.8 million funding round. QuadSAT received €500,000 in ESA funding.

deep breath

Phew, that was a lot. To many more launches, exciting firsts and positive space vibes for the second half of 2022!

This story originally appeared on Payload and has been republished here with permission.


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