TechCrunch Space: Building (and testing) for the future

Hello and welcome back to TechCrunch Space. It’s becoming a habit to open each TechCrunch Space newsletter with a bit of an update on Boeing’s Starliner mission, so bear with me. Per NASA officials, the spacecraft will now return its two-person crew to Earth no earlier than June 26, instead of the originally planned date of June 14. In other words, they’ll be spending at least 20 days on board the International Space Station instead of just eight. 

Read my story from last week on the causes of the additional delay and what it might mean for Boeing’s Starliner program.

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The space industry is all abuzz about how SpaceX’s Starship, Blue Origin’s New Glenn and other heavy-lift rockets will change just about everything. One likely consequence is that spacecraft will get bigger — much bigger — as engineers work outside the constraints of low mass requirements. 

There’s one problem: The current testing regime for spacecraft is focused on payloads four meters or less across. Gravitics and NASA are looking to change that, with a new agreement aimed at addressing this dearth of testing and qualification methods for larger spacecraft. 

Image Credits: Gravitics (opens in a new window)

Like many highly valued startups, SpaceX sometimes allows its employees to cash out some of their shares by selling to company-authorized outside investors.

TechCrunch has gotten a peek at an internal SpaceX document about such a tender offer from May 2022. Musk posted on X last month that SpaceX holds such sales for employees about every six months.

These documents offer interesting insights into the investors who are authorized to buy these secondary shares, and the good deals they get. Click the link above to take a look.

South African businessman Elon Musk arrives at the Tenth Breakthrough Prize Ceremony at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles, California, on April 13, 2024. (Photo by ETIENNE LAURENT/AFP via Getty Images)
South African businessman Elon Musk arrives at the Tenth Breakthrough Prize Ceremony at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles, California, on April 13, 2024.
Image Credits: ETIENNE LAURENT/AFP / Getty Images

Launch of the week

Congratulations to Rocket Lab for nailing its 50th Electron rocket launch! To commemorate the massive milestone, the company posted this pretty poignant video on X that sums up just how far Rocket Lab has come.

Did you know…that we posted the agenda for this year’s space programming at TechCrunch Disrupt? We are incredibly excited by this year’s lineup, which includes some of the top founders and investors operating in the space industry. Plus fireside chats with none other than Rocket Lab’s Peter Beck and Bridgit Mendler of Northwood Space. Click the link above to learn more.

This week in space history

In last week’s ‘This week in space history’ column, we detailed the flight of Sally Ride, the first American woman to go to space. This week we’re commemorating her return. On June 24, 1983, she concluded her historic trip when the Space Shuttle Challenger touched down in California.

Image Credits: NASA

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