Max Q: Space is vast

Hello and welcome back to Max Q!

In this issue:

  • Virgin Galactic aims for a triumphant return

  • Vast aims to launch space station in 2025

  • News from SpaceX, and more

Virgin Galactic aims for triumphant return with crewed flight at the end of May

Virgin Galactic will return to the skies later this month in a crewed mission that the company hopes will bring to an end the nearly two-year gap since its first and only crewed flight in July 2021.

The space tourism company said Monday it will send a crew of four to space in late May. The main objective of the mission is to validate the spaceflight system and “astronaut experience” before officially commencing commercial service in June. Virgin Galactic took people to space for the first time in July 2021, with a crew that included its billionaire founder, Richard Branson. The company was no doubt riding high after that mission, but VG has been plagued by issues since.

Virgin Galactic VSS Unity in flight
Virgin Galactic VSS Unity in flight

Virgin Galactic VSS Unity. Image Credits: Virgin Galactic

Vast and SpaceX aim to put the first commercial space station in orbit in 2025

Some of the biggest names in the space industry are billionaires: Elon Musk. Jeff Bezos. Richard Branson. The newest person to join this small cadre, at least by personal net worth, is Jed McCaleb. His space station company, Vast, is partnering with SpaceX to be the first private company to launch and operate a fully commercial station in orbit.

The average American is likely unfamiliar with McCaleb, a software developer who was one of the creators of the now-infamous Mt. Gox Bitcoin exchange and a founder of the crypto protocol Ripple. According to some estimates, his fortune is said to be worth around $2.5 billion. When Vast emerged from stealth in the fall of 2022, it was greeted with more than a little skepticism. The company said it was launching with a mission to build the world’s first artificial gravity space station — and provided few other details.

“I don’t fault people for being skeptical,” McCaleb said in a recent interview. “I’ve clearly never done anything in aerospace before, so it is a leap.”

The public’s doubts about McCaleb are likely fading fast today, with news that the company is aiming to put the first commercial space station in orbit as soon as August 2025. It’s an aggressive timeline, one that outpaces other station developers — and it’s all being funded by McCaleb himself.

Vast Haven-1 space station
Vast Haven-1 space station

Image Credits: Vast

More news from TC and beyond

  • Astroscale and Momentus submitted a joint proposal to NASA detailing their plans to boost the Hubble Space Telescope's orbit. (Astroscale)

  • Axiom Space is gearing up for its second private human spaceflight mission to the ISS, now scheduled to launch on May 21. (TechCrunch)

  • China's spaceplane may have captured and released an object in space multiple times during its recent test flight. (Space News)

  • Impulse Space said its Saiph thruster is now space-qualified and ready for launch on the company's inaugural mission set for October. Saiph thrusters will power the company's first spacecraft, Mira. (Impulse)

  • JSX, a charter plane operator, has made Starlink available across its fleet of 40 Embraer jets. (AviationWeek)

  • Rocket Lab landed another multi-CubeSat launch contract from NASA, following the successful deployment of a batch of satellites under a separate contract with the space agency last weekend. (Rocket Lab)

  • Virgin Orbit received more than 30 "indications of interest" in its bankruptcy proceedings, including multiple bids from parties reportedly interested in continuing business operations and retaining current employees. (Virgin Orbit)

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