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Hello and welcome back to Max Q! Quick heads up: We’ll be taking a brief break for the next two weeks due to Christmas and New Years, respectively, but we’re excited to dive back in with you in 2024.

In this issue:

  • AstroForge reviews setbacks — and successes — during first mission
  • Terran Orbital CEO says company is not looking for a buyer
  • News from the FCC, Terran Orbital and more

Asteroid mining startup AstroForge is racing against the clock to complete its refinery demonstration on orbit after encountering a number of unexpected setbacks before and after launch, the startup said in a candid blog post published last week.

This demonstration mission may prove to be a case study in the difficulties of putting hardware on orbit for the first time. Such challenges are often gestured to in the common refrain that “space is hard,” but they are rarely elaborated upon with much detail.

AstroForge is changing that. In the blog post, the company dives into the problems it encountered — some even before the mission launched.

asteroid on path to earth

Near-Earth asteroid, computer artwork. Image Credits: Science Photo Library – ANDRZEJ WOJCICKI / Getty Images under a Royalty-Free license.

Terran Orbital CEO Marc Bell told employees last week during an all-hands meeting that the company is not looking for a buyer in an effort to quash a report that it was seeking bids by the end of the month, according to sources who spoke to TechCrunch.

In a separate email simply titled “WSJ,” which was sent to all staff, Bell said the WSJ got the story “very wrong” and “we are working with them to correct.”

“My goal is to keep us independent and turn us into a Prime. Nothing has changed.”

Terran Orbital logo

Image Credits: Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images / Getty Images

More news from TC and beyond

Amazon’s Project Kuiper successfully validated key technology that will increase throughput and reduce latency for customers using its satellite internet service, the company said last week.

Apex Space, a satellite bus manufacturing startup, has opened a new headquarters and production facility in California that will eventually scale up to manufacture 50 satellite platforms annually.

Blue Origin is aiming to finally conclude a more than 15-month pause in operations of its New Shepard suborbital rocket, with the company announcing that it will fly an uncrewed mission as early as December 18.

Helicity Space has closed a $5 million seed round to accelerate development of fusion propulsion, a technology that could finally unlock fast, efficient travel in deep space.

In Orbit Aerospace wants to be the third-party logistics provider for Earth to space commerce and science.

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission has made a final denial of Starlink’s application for $885 million in public funds to expand its orbital communications infrastructure to cover parts of rural America, saying the company “failed to demonstrate that it could deliver the promised service.”

True Anomaly has closed $100 million in new funding, a strong signal that the appetite for startups operating at the intersection of space and defense is far from abating.

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