The new economy of space has been made possible by the new generation of launch companies — the old new generation now, actually, as SpaceX and Rocket Lab cement their reputations. Now it’s up to the likes of Astra, Firefly Aerospace, Relativity Space and Launcher to change the game — as the CEOs of those companies will explain at our virtual TechCrunch Sessions: Space event on December 14-15.
These companies all have very different approaches to the orbital launch services industry. Launcher is focusing on efficiency, for instance, with a 3D-printed copper liquid engine that it says is among the most fuel-efficient out there. Lower costs, less fuel per launch, and subsequently more space for payloads mean it can undercut competitors in the increasingly competitive small launch market.
Astra, on the other hand, intends to lower costs by making the launch vehicles as cheap as possible and throwing caution to the wind. Launching from Kodiak, Alaska and brazenly accepting a higher risk per launch, Astra’s philosophy is that demand will soon be so great that speed and convenience will grow in value, and its portable launch vehicle will be ready.
Firefly Aerospace has a larger launch vehicle that can take up to 1,000 kg to orbit, and has begun diversifying as well. A $93M NASA contract for an upcoming mission to the lunar surface shows that the company has escape its complicated past and is ready to become a major new force in the industry in the Artemis Era.
First, of course, they have to get to orbit — as difficult a task as it ever was, but one that each company is progressing towards at their own pace. The CEOs of all three companies — Max Haot from Launcher, Benjamin Lyon from Astra, and Lauren Lyons from Firefly — will be on stage with us to discuss the challenges and opportunities of the new launch (and funding) ecosystem in detail.
Like them but unlike them is Relativity Space, whose co-founder and CEO Tim Ellis will also be joining us for a fireside chat. Relativity is building the first all 3D-printed rockets, from nosecone to tail fin, and 2022 is looking like their year to finally put their big promises to the test. If their approach works, it could irreversibly change rocket engineering and the launch world.
Lastly but certainly not least, we have Peter Beck, founder and CEO of Rocket Lab, coming to TC Sessions: Space as well. Growing quickly and putting satellites into orbit by the dozen, Rocket Lab’s Electron is an established presence in launch but only the first step in Beck’s long-planned expansion into larger launch vehicles, satellite design, and more.