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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
The economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic could spell major trouble for dozens of small companies working to break into the space industry.
The big picture: SpaceX, United Launch Alliance and other companies are well-established with strong customer bases and robust portfolios, but the prospects for the industry's growth hinge on smaller companies.
What's happening: Some space companies are already facing major problems in the wake of the pandemic.
What to watch: The coronavirus crisis will likely accelerate shakeouts in already crowded or overly speculative parts of the space market, experts say.
Between the lines: Larger companies like SpaceX or ULA likely have the reserves to make it through the economic downturn, but the failures of smaller companies will still affect their bottom lines.
Yes, but: Parts of the U.S. government are already working to help the space industry counter the ill effects of the health crisis.
The bottom line: The space industry will likely emerge from the coronavirus crisis smaller, leaner and with a long way to rebuild.
On Monday, President Trump signed an executive order to shore up international support for mining the Moon or other bodies in the solar system.
Why it matters: The executive order affirms NASA's hopes to one day mine the Moon for water, which can then be converted into rocket fuel, and establish a long-term presence on the lunar surface sometime after its Artemis mission in 2024.
Details: The executive order directs the State Department to find international partners that are interested in collaborating with the U.S. on creating "sustainable operations" related to commercial use of space-based resources.
"Providing private operators legal certainty in space resources utilization activities will require international consultation. This action is a step towards that process, and will support active U.S. leadership in bilateral and multilateral efforts to resolve legal uncertainties around space resources utilization."— Ian Christensen, of the Secure World Foundation, told Axios via email
But, but, but: Scientists still aren't sure how much water exists below the surface of the Moon or what form it's in.
Go deeper: Deep Dive: Factory Moon
Boeing's Starliner landing in December 2019. Photo: NASA/Aubrey Gemignani
Boeing has decided to re-fly an uncrewed test of its Starliner capsule after a troubled mission in December.
Why it matters: The decision delays Boeing's plans to fly people to space from U.S. soil for the first time since the end of the space shuttle program in 2011.
Details: Boeing announced the redo on Monday evening, putting to rest speculation from others in the industry that they might press ahead with a crewed flight despite failing to dock with the space station in December.
"This is exactly why NASA decided to select two partners in the commercial crew effort. Having dissimilar redundancy is key in NASA’s approach to maintaining a crew and cargo aboard the space station and to keeping our commitments to international partners. It also allows our private industry partners to focus on crew safety rather than schedule."— NASA said in a statement
The big picture: Years of delays have pushed back NASA's plans to get Boeing and SpaceX flying astronauts to the space station, forcing the space agency to rely on Russian rockets and capsules.
San Francisco seen by a RapidEye satellite. Photo: Planet Labs Inc.
After about 12 years of collecting photos of Earth from orbit, a set of five satellites have closed their eyes on our planet.
The big picture: Planet's RapidEye satellites, which first launched to space in 2008, contributed to a revolution in how we understand our planet.
Details: Planet acquired the RapidEye satellites from BlackBridge in 2015, and it's created the world's largest collection of 5-meter satellite imagery, according to the company.
Between the lines: While many companies are collecting and attempting to analyze the data beamed down from orbit each day, big data from space still isn't yet widely applicable to a variety of industries.
Artist's illustration of Kepler-186f. Image: NASA
A mysterious world not too much bigger than our own bathes in the red light of its star just 500 light-years away.
Details: Kepler-186f was the first Earth-sized planet found in its star's habitable zone — the part of a star's orbit that would allow liquid water to persist on a planet's surface — during the heyday of NASA's Kepler mission in 2014.
How it works: Before the end of its mission, Kepler hunted for alien planets around distant stars by watching as a planet passed between its star and the telescope to see the tiny dips in a star's light that occurred during a transit.
The International Space Station. Photo: NASA
Blue Origin is pressuring employees to launch a rocket test during the pandemic (Loren Grush, The Verge)
SpaceX loses third Starship prototype (Stephen Clark, Spaceflight Now)
Report criticizes management of ISS National Laboratory (Jeff Foust, SpaceNews)
NASA astronaut's estranged wife charged with lying about space crime allegation (N'dea Yancey-Bragg, USA Today)
Photo: ESA/Hubble & NASA, D. Leonard
The glowing arms of a spiral galaxy swirl in a new photo from the Hubble Space Telescope.
"Although only a telescope like the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, which captured this image, could give us a picture this clear, NGC 4651 can also be observed with an amateur telescope — so if you have a telescope at home and a star-gazing eye, look out for this glittering carnivorous spiral," the European Space Agency said in a statement.
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