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How not to handle safety concerns

European Spaceflight Update
Issue 26. Subscribers: 578 
Thanks to World Satellite Business Week and the first day of the International Astronautical Congress, this week’s news section is large. So I’ve introduced a bit of order with subheadings. Let me know if they’re useful. Due to the aforementioned large new section, this week’s main story is a short one.
To my 45 new subscribers, welcome, and I hope you enjoy your first issue. If you have any comments, suggestions, or tips, please reply to this mail.

How to turn safety concerns into a PR headache
Last week, French launch startup HyPrSpace announced a test firing of its hybrid Joker Mk2 rocket engine, which is equipped with an aerospike. By all accounts, the test was a huge success. The company confirmed successful ignition, steady state, thrust modulation, shutdown, and re-ignition of the engine. 
With the announcement, HyPrSpace released a picture of the Joker Mk2 engine in action. Once the awe of seeing a working aerospike engine had subsided, it was difficult not to notice what looked like an unsecured N2O cylinder a little too close to the test bench. 
As is the way with anything a company posts on the internet, comments on this exact observation began to appear. In fact, the Space Industry Centre For Excellence in the UK shared the European Spaceflight post that included the image with a caption that asked students of their propulsion test safety course if they would set up a test stand in this way. This was, however, only one of several on both the European Spaceflight post and on HyPrSpace’s own post on LinkedIn
The response
As far as I’ve been able to locate, there have been two responses to the safety questions. The first was made by HyPrSpace communications manager Clément Fillot on the European Spaceflight post. Fillot assured a commentator that the bottle was empty and that the installation was safe. This left me asking why the cylinder was there at all if it was empty, among many other lingering questions.
The second comment was, surprisingly, even less helpful than the first. This one came from the company’s CEO and CTO Alexandre Mangeot, who responded to one of several comments on the HyPrSpace post by stating, “No worries! It is not our first barbecue.” As PR interactions go, this one ranks up there among some of the least advisable.
This really is a case study in public relations for launch startups. I genuinely like HyprSpace and I think they’re developing one of the most novel propulsion systems of any European launch startup. But they really need to do better when it comes to PR and comms. It’s not just for appearances. It’s a vital element of building both customer and investor trust, both of which are vital for the success of a startup.
HyPrSpace comment
In response to a request from me, HyPrSpace supplied the following statement from CEO and CTO Alexandre Mangeot. 
“First of all, we are very happy to have reached this key milestone demonstrating our ability to control the engine and its start/cut-off processes, plus the thrust modulation capability.
To answer the few safety concerns we have read. Although we definitely understand them given the perspective of the picture, I can ensure you the test was performed under safe conditions.
  • The bottle was farther than it seems.
  • The bottle was empty.
  • The bottle was disconnected from the engine (the run tank is not in the picture).
  • And needless to say that everyone was at safe distance.
Be assured, and please assure everyone, that we have at heart the safety of the people working around us.”
Spain gets ready for space - Spanish launch startup PLD Space completed a full-duration hot fire test of its suborbital Miura 1 launch vehicle for the first time. The successful completion of the test paves the way for a maiden flight of the vehicle before the end of 2022. Miura 1 will enable PLD Space to offer microgravity research services while also acting as a tech demonstrator for the company’s larger orbital-class Miura 5 launch vehicle.
IAC 2022
You know Susie, the spacecraft from Arianegroup - ArianeGroup unveiled its SUSIE (Smart Upper Stage for Innovative Exploration) spacecraft concept on the first day of IAC 2022. The new spacecraft is intended to equip Europe with independent crew and cargo capabilities. It will initially be launched from an Ariane 64 offering space for a crew of five or up to 7,000 kg in cargo to low Earth orbit. The vehicle will stand 12 meters high with a diameter of five meters. It has a mass of 25 t putting it at the very edge of the Ariane 64 launch vehicle’s current capabilities. In addition to low Earth orbit, the addition of a Space Transfer Module would offer access to lunar orbit.
You get funding. You get funding. You all get FUNDING - During a presentation at IAC 2022, French Prime Minister Élisabeth BORNE announced that France was preparing to invest €9 billion in space programs over the next three years. This would be an increase of 24% over the past three years. The funding would be utilized for four priorities: autonomous access to space (SUSIE?), constellations/space services, climate, and military.
You want to do what with a magnet? - Italian space logistics company, D-Orbit signed a hosted payload service contract with New Zealand-based Zenno Astronautics. The contract will see a D-Orbit ION space tug carry a prototype of Zenno’s next-gen magnetic torquer (a device that is designed to de-tumble, stabilize, and control the attitude of a spacecraft by aligning it to the Earth’s magnetic field) to a 550 km Sun-synchronous orbit. The launch is slated for Q4 of 2023. The contract also includes an option for a follow-up mission.
A mysterious customer reveals themselves - Danish satellite manufacturer GomSpace has been awarded a 43 million SEK (approximately €4 million) contract from Unseenlabs for six satellites. The contract announcement reveals the mysterious customer GomSpace first announced in July with an authorization to proceed agreement worth 12 million SEK (which is part of the 43 million SEK award). Delivery of the satellites is expected in the second half of 2023.
It’s shark week! - Italian IoT connectivity startup Cshark signed a launch contract with Sidereus Space Dynamics to deploy its constellation of IoT picosats. The Italian launch startup is developing a small single-stage-to-orbit rocket called EOS that is designed to be capable of delivering 15 kg payloads to low Earth orbit. To date, Sidereus Space Dynamics has raised approximately €1.5 million in seed funding and completed initial tests of its 2.2 kN MR-200 rocket engine.
Their rocket is called what now? - Swiss space tech company Beyond Gravity announced that it will supply composite parts from its FlexLine product line for French launch startup HyPrSpace’s OB-1 (Orbital Baguette 1) launch vehicles. HyPrSpace is developing a range of launch vehicles capable of carrying between 200 and 250 kg payloads to low Earth orbit. Both the OB-1 Mk1 and Mk2 launch vehicles are powered by hybrid aerospike engines, with the second stage on both vehicles using the same hybrid engine with a more conventional bell nozzle.
You should get that node checked out - The Swedish Space Corporation (SSC) has been awarded a €1.1 million contract by ESA to support the development of the company’s optical communications project, NODES (Network of Optical stations for Data transfer to Earth from Space). The grant is part of the agency’s ScyLight programme which supports the research, development, and evolution of optical communication. The first development milestone of the SSC NODES project is the construction and commission of a ground station in Western Australia. Construction of the station is being led by French company Cailabs with trials expected to begin in early 2024.
It has to be at least 3 times bigger - South Korean satellite service provider KT SAT Corporation has signed a contract with Thales Alenia Space for its KOREASAT 6A communications satellite. The geostationary satellite will replace KOREASAT 6 offering both fixed and broadcasting satellite services to South Korea. The 3.5 metric ton satellite will be built on the Thales Spacebus 4000B2 platform and will be fitted with six BSS transponders and 20 FSS transponders. The satellite is expected to be delivered in late 2023 and will offer a design life of 15 years.  
Who needs contractors when you can buy them - Italian rocket builder Avio announced the acquisition of the total share capital of Italian aerospace and defence firm Temis. The company supplies a number of components for Avio’s Vega vehicles including telemetry systems, cameras, separation command units, and heat flux sensors. The acquisition was financed partly in cash and partly by treasury shares in the portfolio, as authorized by the Avio shareholders’ meeting held in April 2022. Avio also announced H1 results of €134 million, up 5% year-on-year.
I can see my house from here - OHB Sweden and Spanish Earth observation payload manufacturer SATLANTIS signed an agreement to build a pair of submetric Earth observation microsatellites. The satellites will be built on OHB’s InnoSat microsatellite platform. Once launched in 2024, the satellites will be utalised for specialized applications like methane emissions detection, and applications requiring a multispectral resolution of 80 cm.
I can also see my house from here - Finish Earth Observation data provider ICEYE and Spanish Earth observation payload manufacturer SATLANTIS announced plans to develop and manufacture a four-satellite Earth observation constellation. The Tandem4EO constellation will consist of two radar and two VHR optical satellites, each capable of under 1-meter resolution imaging.
Is there space for a pool table? - Small satellite builder Berlin Space Technologies announced plans to open a new factory in the German capital. The new factory will be utilized by BST to mass manufacture 200 to 500 kg satellites. It is expected to achieve initial operational capacity by mid-2023 and ramp up to the production of 200+ satellites a year later. BST predicts the full capacity of the new factory to be several thousand satellites per year.
It’s mine, it’s all mine! - Italian space services company Telespazio has been selected as the exclusive provider for the defence and security services that will be provided by the EUTELSAT Konnect VHTS satellite. The role is part of the agreement Eutelsat signed with Space Alliance, a joint venture that includes Telespazio and Thales Alenia Space, which built the Konnect VHTS satellite.
More, give me more! - Canadian Earth observation data provider NorthStar Earth & Space has signed a distribution and partnership agreement with Telespazio. Under the new agreement, Telespazio will serve as NorthStar’s exclusive distributor and value-added solutions provider for European ministries of defence, governments, agencies, and institutions. NorthStar expects to launch its first space-based system fully dedicated to space situational awareness in 2023.
A quiet agreement amongst gentlemen - ArianeGroup reached an agreement with OneWeb following the suspension of Soyuz launches in March 2022. The details of the settlement are confidential. The pair have, however, revealed that future launch opportunities aboard Ariane 6 missions for OneWeb’s second generation constellation are being explored.
Look how pretty we look now - French space logistics company Exotrail launched its new branding. In addition to a new look and feel, the names of the company’s core products were also updated. ExoOps - Mission Design is now spacestudio, SpaceVan is spacedrop, EcoMG is now spaceware, and ExoOps - Operations is now spacetower. Additionally, the company’s tagline was updated from “agile space” to “end-to-end space mobility.”
I love the smell of corporate restructuring in the morning - Swiss space tech company Beyond Gravity (previously RUAG Space) has announced an organization restructuring in line with the company’s planned privatization, which it hopes to complete by 2025. The new operational business of the company is being structured into three divisions: launchers, satellites, and lithography. The decision to create the new lithography division is the result of strong growth in that element of the company’s business that produces apertures and stabilizers for the production of semiconductors. “Our lithography business has become an important pillar in recent years and is a good example of how high-tech developed in the space sector can also benefit applications on Earth,” said CEO André Wall, who took over as the top job 100 days ago.
I space, U-Space, we all space for ice cream - French cubesat manufacturer startup U-Space has announced the closing of a €7 million seed round. The round included investments from Karot Capital, Bpifrance (through Definvest), and BNP Paribas Développement. According to the company, the investment will be utilized for research and development, the optimization of design processes, the industrialization of production, the production of specific constellations, and hiring additional personnel.
It’s not small, it’s just cold - Italian IoT connectivity startup Apogeo Space announced that it received a €262,000 grant from the Italian space agency, ASI. The grant will be used to validate the company’s PiCo-IoT constellation. The first block of PiCo-IoT satellites will be launched in the first half of 2023. The full constellation will be made up of approximately 100 satellites and is expected to be operational by 2027. Apogeo Space announced a €5 million seed round led by the Primo Space fund in May 2022.
Last one, we promise - French space tech startup Leanspace has announced the second closing of its €6 million seed round, which was initially closed in June. The additional investment was supplied by Budapest-based European Space VC Herius Capital. Herius joins existing investors Karista, 42CAP, Seraphim Space, and Bpifrance.
Aesthetics over functionality - ESA has launched a spacesuit design competition. According to the competition description, this is not a technical exercise or a call to industry for input. Rather, it’s a straightforward aesthetics design competition. “While we let our experts deal with the complication technical details, join us in envisioning how the future Europe EVA suit should look like,” explains the competition details. The designs also won’t be used for any functional prototypes or proposals. Instead, the agency intends to use the designs for ESA exhibitions and potentially for films that will educate and inspire people about space exploration.  If you’re interested, the submission deadline is 31 October.
Are we there yet? (and I’m not talking about the end of this newsletter) - The first satellite built under ESA’s Eurostar NEO programme is ready to be shipped to its launch site. Eutelsat Hotbird 13F is one of an identical pair of satellites developed by Airbus for Eutelsat as part of an ESA Partnership Project. The pair of geostationary satellites will enhance TV broadcasts to homes across Europe, Northern Africa, and the Middle East, replacing three older satellites. Hotbird 13F is expected to be launched aboard a Falcon 9 in October, with its partner Hotbird 13G following aboard another Falcon 9 in November.
There’s so much room for activities - ESA announced the opening of a new 350-square-meter environmentally-controlled cleanroom at the agency’s ESTEC Test Centre in the Netherlands. This latest addition adds to what is the largest satellite testing facility in Europe at over 3,000 square meters. The new facility will be used to house sensitive micro-vibration measurement facilities, which are used to characterize the very low vibration generated by mechanisms mounted aboard satellites.
Dude, we got so high last week - The UK Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (UKSEDS) National Rocketry Championship was concluded. The teams were challenged to achieve to build and design a mid-power rocket with the primary goal of reaching the greatest apogee possible using a 29 mm Cessaroni 2-grain motor. First place was awarded to Team Gyrocket from the University of Bristol. Second and third place both went to teams from The University of Sheffield.
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