The latest news on space startups

Check out the following space startups, which are currently pioneering breakthrough innovations in spaceflight. Despite how ramifications from the Covid-19 pandemic contributed to worry around funding for this vertical, overall investment in space startups didn’t languish as much as some forecasted, which hopefully gives those in this space the green light for continued exploration.


Space startup Rocketlab enjoyed the successful deployment of its first Photon satellite (appropriately named First Light) at the end of August. Launched from one of the startup’s Electron rockets, First Light’s successful foray into space demonstrates the viability of Rocketlab’s larger Photon technology platform. The platform itself is meant to kick off a “fundamental shift in what it means to do things in orbit and to do business in orbit," according to Rocket Lab founder & CEO Peter Beck, and, as reported by Forbes, “can be configured in a multitude of ways to provide solutions for [Rocketlab’s] customers.”


Alameda-based rocket launch startup Astra—whose founders aim to make it “the FedEx Corp. of space”—might be a few years old, but its operations have mostly been shrouded in secrecy until recently. Bloomberg reported that the team at Astra designs compact rockets that will place satellites into orbit for as little as $1 million per launch, as well as on a daily basis. If this goal seems intense, that hunch wouldn’t be wrong, but Astra has enjoyed the backing of the U.S. government (the Pentagon’s Darpa arm, specifically), which is making rapid space travel a priority. Just last month Astra launched Rocket 3.1 in its first test mission, and though the flight ended before reaching orbit, Astra planned for this contingency, hoping instead to reach orbit within three test flights.


ispace is a Japanese space startup that recently debuted designs for a spacecraft that, though originally slated for a moon landing in late 2021, will now land on the moon in 2022. While NASA tapped Draper to lead and develop overall guidance around a future human lunar excursion that is currently planned for 2024, ispace is part of a larger team working in service of this mission, and its HAKUTO-R lunar lander is tasked with delivering various payloads to the moon ahead of this goal. The HAKUTO-R includes a camera that will transmit 4K images back to the team on earth, solar panels for a power source and fuel tanks for propellant, and compartments that will transport necessary materials for planned lunar surface experiments, laying the groundwork for eventual human visitation.