Mar 3, 2020 - Science

DARPA launch challenge ends with no winner

Astra's Rocket 3.0 in Alaska. Photo: DARPA

A $12 million DARPA challenge that pushed the limits of what private rocket companies can do ended without a winner on Monday.

Why it matters: The lack of a winner two years after the competition began shows the challenges companies building small rockets face when it comes to technology development, finances and even the market for their services.

Driving the news: The contest required that teams launch two rockets from two locations on short notice, but the final team — the company Astra — wasn't able to stage its first launch in the timeframe set out by DARPA.

The big picture: The challenge was designed to simulate a real scenario in which the government would need eyes on a particular target that couldn't be seen easily or safely through other means, necessitating that they launch new satellites to orbit.

  • "We think that even being able to get to the point we got to will demonstrate to folks that this is something that is right on the cusp of the possible," Todd Master, DARPA program manager for the competition, said during a webcast of the launch attempt.

Details: An issue involving the guidance and navigation system of Astra's Rocket 3.0 canceled the launch on Monday and effectively ended the DARPA challenge.

  • Monday's launch attempt from Alaska was the final one allowed under the rules of the DARPA competition.
  • Astra isn't giving up on its vehicle, however.
  • The company plans to stage another launch attempt soon, though they don't have a date on the books yet.

Go deeper

SpaceX pushes for first crew launch amid coronavirus pandemic

NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken in SpaceX's Crew Dragon. Photo: NASA

Even in the midst of the pandemic, SpaceX and NASA are moving ahead with their plans to launch astronauts to the International Space Station for the first time in mid-to-late May.

Why it matters: The launch marks the culmination of years of work for SpaceX and NASA to get Americans flying to orbit from U.S. soil for the first time since the end of the space shuttle program in 2011.

Go deeperArrowMar 24, 2020 - Science

The coronavirus pandemic is setting back the space industry

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

From canceled conferences to a delayed Mars mission, the space industry is starting to feel the effects of the coronavirus pandemic as it spreads across the globe.

Why it matters: Hundreds of thousands of people are already experiencing the devastating effects of the pandemic.

Go deeperArrowMar 17, 2020 - Science

Space startups raised $5.7 billion in financing in 2019

A SpaceX rocket launch timelapse. Photo: SpaceX

Space-focused startups raked in $5.7 billion in financing in 2019, far surpassing the $3.5 billion raised in 2018, according to a new report from Bryce Space and Technology.

Why it matters: The report and others like it show investors still see the industry — buoyed by investor interest and new international companies — as ripe for investment.

Go deeperArrowMar 10, 2020 - Science