Amazon has signed a contract with SpaceX for three Falcon 9 launches to support deployment plans for Project Kuiper, Amazon’s low Earth orbit (LEO) satellite broadband network. Project Kuiper satellites were designed from the start to accommodate multiple launch providers and vehicles, allowing us to reduce schedule risk and move faster in our mission to connect unserved and underserved communities around the world. Our earlier procurement of 77 heavy-lift rockets from Arianespace, Blue Origin, and United Launch Alliance (ULA) provides enough capacity to launch the majority of our satellite constellation, and the additional launches with SpaceX offer even more capacity to support our deployment schedule.

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 is a reusable, two-stage launch vehicle designed for the reliable and safe transport of people and payloads into Earth orbit and beyond, and it has completed more than 270 successful launches to date. Project Kuiper has contracted three Falcon 9 launches, and these missions are targeted to lift off beginning in mid-2025.

Project Kuiper recently launched two prototype satellites, and tests from the mission have helped validate our satellite design and network architecture. We are preparing to start satellite manufacturing ahead of a full-scale deployment beginning in the first half of 2024, and we expect to have enough satellites deployed to begin early customer pilots in the second half of 2024.

Project Kuiper makes first contact with prototype satellites

On October 6, 2023 an Atlas V rocket from United Launch Alliance (ULA) lifted off from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida. It carried two prototype satellites from Amazon’s Project Kuiper, our low Earth orbit (LEO) satellite broadband initiative, into space before deploying them at an altitude of 311 miles (500 kilometers) above Earth. The launch marked the start of our “Protoflight” mission.

We hit our first major mission milestone at 2:53 p.m. EDT when our mission operations center in Redmond, Washington, confirmed first contact with KuiperSat-2. This is when the satellite and one of our telemetry, tracking, and control (TT&C) antennas established a telemetry link for the first time. We made first contact with KuiperSat-1 at 2:54 p.m. EDT.

First contact is one of several key steps in our Protoflight mission. It allows us to begin downlinking data on satellite health and establish more regular communications with the satellites. “The launch today started a new phase of our Protoflight mission, and there’s a long way to go, but it’s an exciting milestone all the same,” said Rajeev Badyal, vice president of technology for Project Kuiper. “I’m tremendously grateful to the Project Kuiper team for their dedication in getting us to this point, and to our partners at United Launch Alliance who helped us deploy our first spacecraft ever into orbit.”

Source: Amazon

Astrolab’s Flexible Logistics and Exploration (FLEX) rover is shown in this rendering using its robotic arm to deploy a small plant pod designed by Interstellar Lab on the lunar surface. The plant pod is one of the payloads FLEX will carry to the Moon on Mission 1, which is expected to be completed as soon as mid-2026.

HAWTHORNE, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)—Today Venturi Astrolab, Inc. (Astrolab), announced it has reached an agreement with eight enterprise customers to use its Flexible Logistics and Exploration (FLEX) rover to deploy the customers’ payloads on Astrolab’s upcoming mission to the Moon which is known as Mission 1. Five customers are releasing details of their payloads today: Argo Space, Astroport, Avalon Space, Interstellar Lab, and LifeShip. Three more customers are contracted with Astrolab but intend to release details of their payloads at a future date, closer to launch. Collectively, these eight contracts are valued at more than $160 million.

As part of Mission 1, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) will transport Astrolab’s Flexible Logistics and Exploration (FLEX) rover to the lunar surface. SpaceX will use the Starship launch and landing system for this mission as soon as mid-2026. Following landing on the Moon, FLEX will deploy payloads for each of the customers. SpaceX and Astrolab expect Mission 1 to be completed as soon as mid-2026.

“Our entire Astrolab team is excited to welcome these businesses to Mission 1,” said Jaret Matthews, CEO and Founder, Astrolab. “Together, they represent a cross-section of the emerging lunar economy. As we get closer to our launch date, we expect to make additional customer announcements.”

Matthews added that given FLEX’s total payload capacity of 1,500 KG, Astrolab is able to substantially lower the cost of deploying payloads on the lunar surface while providing unparalleled maneuverability, range, power, and communications capabilities. The company estimates its prices are approximately ten times more affordable than those of competitors.

The Astrolab customers announced today include:

Argo Space Corp. (Argo) of Hermosa Beach, California intends to use FLEX to deploy a demonstration payload that will advance the development of Argo's unique, scalable technology designed to harvest low-concentration water from Lunar regolith. Argo’s novel processing approach will economically extract water outside of permanently shadowed regions (PSRs). This mission is a major step in the company’s efforts to use water from regolith for commercial applications to make in-space transportation abundant and build a Lunar economy. “We’re excited to work with Astrolab on this and future missions to catalyze a commercial Lunar economy and a sustained presence on the Moon,” said Robert Carlisle, CEO, Argo Space.

Astroport Space Technologies of San Antonio, Texas builds infrastructure for the Moon, and intends to melt regolith to make bricks for roads, launch and landing pads, and shelters. To understand the properties of the regolith in the lunar environment, the payload will demonstrate a proof of concept for a proprietary sieving and grain separation technology that mitigates electrostatic forces inherent in the regolith. This technology will isolate the regolith grains that are ideal for manufacturing lunar bricks. FLEX’s robotic arm will collect regolith for the sieving and grain separation experiment.

Separately, the Astroport payload also includes a limited number of personalized lunar simulant basalt bricks sold exclusively for placement on the lunar surface to mark the start of the first road on the Moon. “Our ideal customer for our personalized brick program is someone from an Artemis Accords signatory country who places an order for a brick to be made from the basalt soil of their respective country,” said Sam Ximenes, CEO, Astroport. FLEX will use its robotic arm to install these bricks to begin the construction of this initial lunar road.

Avalon Space of Toronto will use FLEX to conduct a series of science, exploration and sustainable development experiments focused on the emerging lunar economy, leveraging a suite of both onboard and deployed elements on the lunar surface.

I don’t think anyone doubts that there will likely be a pre-Starship and post-Starship point in human history,” said Dr. Nadeem Ghafoor, CEO of Avalon Space. “We’re thrilled to be working with Astrolab and our international and commercial partners on this first mission to help unlock the potential of this new era of beyond-Earth orbit development. The next decade is going to change everything, and we’re looking forward to doing our part to help it be as peaceful, collaborative, impactful and economically significant as possible.”

Interstellar Lab of Ivry-sur-Seine, France and Kennedy Space Center, Florida plans to use FLEX to deploy the two small plant pods on the lunar surface. Once deployed, Interstellar Lab will measure the impact of the lunar environment on the plant’s phenotype and molecular composition. "We are very excited to team up with Astrolab for our mission LITTLE PRINCE,” said Barbara Belvisi, founder and CEO, Interstellar Lab. “As Antoine Saint Exupéry wrote: "If you love a flower that lives on a star, it is sweet to look at the sky at night. All the stars are a-bloom with flowers."

“This is the first of many Interstellar Lab missions,” Belvisi added. “We look forward to helping our terrestrial customers access Space and grow a garden on the Moon.”

LifeShip, Inc. of San Diego, California intends to use FLEX to deliver a capsule containing a DNA seed bank and data archive to the lunar surface. LifeShip is saving the essence of Earth across space and time, with products for people to include themselves in the story. “This is an exciting mission! With LifeShip, anyone can be part of humanity's eternal legacy amongst the stars. People can add their DNA, photos, and stories at,” said Ben Haldeman, CEO, LifeShip.

LifeShip is establishing a seed bank of Earth's biodiversity on the lunar surface. “Humans have built seed banks here on Earth for thousands of years. This will be an off-world backup of our biosphere,” Haldeman added.

Upon completion of Mission 1, Astrolab’s FLEX will become the largest and most capable rover to ever travel to the Moon. With a maximum combined rover and cargo mass of more than two tons, the FLEX rover is nearly three times the mass of its largest predecessor. FLEX is also equipped with a highly dexterous robotic arm that can be used to deploy customer payloads, manipulate instruments, and collect samples. This increased capacity and versatility provides significantly more opportunities to conduct scientific experiments and commercial endeavors on the lunar surface.

About Astrolab

Venturi Astrolab, Inc. (Astrolab) is on a mission to move humanity forward to the next horizon by designing, building, and operating a fleet of multi-purpose rovers for all planetary surface needs. Formed by a highly specialized team of NASA veterans, former SpaceXers and JPL engineers, Astrolab is laser-focused on providing adaptive mobility solutions essential for life beyond Earth. The team has industry leading experience in terrestrial and planetary robotics, electric vehicles, human spaceflight and more. Astrolab’s depth of experience and strategic partnerships with a wide array of world-class institutions, including electric vehicle pioneer Venturi Group, enables the delivery of Lunar and Mars mobility offerings at maximum reliability, flexibility and cost effectiveness. The company is headquartered in Hawthorne, California.

Source: Astrolab

Starship returned to integrated flight testing with its second launch from Starbase in Texas. While it didn’t happen in a lab or on a test stand, it was absolutely a test. What we did today will provide invaluable data to continue rapidly developing Starship.

Starship successfully lifted off under the power of all 33 Raptor engines on the Super Heavy Booster and made it through a successful stage separation. The booster experienced a rapid unscheduled disassembly after its boostback burn following the successful stage separation while Starship's 6 second stage Raptor engines fired for several minutes as the Ship climbed to an altitude of ~150 kilometers.

With a test like this, success comes from what we learn, and today’s test will help us improve Starship’s reliability as SpaceX seeks to make life multiplanetary.

We’ll continue to share updates here as the team reviews data from today’s test. Thank you to our customers, Cameron County, and the wider community for the continued support and encouragement. And congratulations to the entire SpaceX team on an exciting second flight test of Starship!

Source: SpaceX

SpaceX is targeting as soon as Monday, April 17 for the first flight test of a fully integrated Starship and Super Heavy rocket from Starbase in Texas. The 150-minute test window will open at 7:00 a.m. CT.

Starship is a fully reusable transportation system designed to carry both crew and cargo to Earth orbit, help humanity return to the Moon, and travel to Mars and beyond. With a test such as this, success is measured by how much we can learn, which will inform and improve the probability of success in the future as SpaceX rapidly advances development of Starship.

To date, the SpaceX team has completed multiple sub-orbital flight tests of Starship’s upper stage from Starbase, successfully demonstrating an unprecedented approach to controlled flight. These flight tests helped validate the vehicle’s design, proving Starship can fly through the subsonic phase of entry before re-lighting its engines and flipping itself to a vertical configuration for landing.

In addition to the testing of Starship’s upper stage, the team has conducted numerous tests of the Super Heavy rocket, which include the increasingly complex static fires that led to a full-duration 31 Raptor engine test – the largest number of simultaneous rocket engine ignitions in history. The team has also constructed the world’s tallest rocket launch and catch tower. At 146 meters, or nearly 500 feet tall, the launch and catch tower is designed to support vehicle integration, launch, and catch of the Super Heavy rocket booster. For the first flight test, the team will not attempt a vertical landing of Starship or a catch of the Super Heavy booster.

A live webcast of the flight test will begin ~45 minutes before liftoff. As is the case with all developmental testing, this schedule is dynamic and likely to change, so be sure to stay tuned to our social media channels for updates.

As we venture into new territory, we continue to appreciate all of the support and encouragement we have received from those who share our vision of a future where humanity is out exploring among the stars!


Starship orbital test flight livestream

Source: SpaceX

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. (the “Company” or "NCLH") (NYSE: NCLH), a leading global cruise company which operates the Norwegian Cruise Line (“NCL”), Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises brands, today announced its plan to improve connectivity for guests and crew at sea by offering SpaceX’s Starlink high-speed internet on its ships. Using advanced low earth orbit satellites, Starlink delivers industry leading broadband internet connectivity which will improve the capacity, speed and reliability of internet on board. The Company is currently testing Starlink, beginning with Norwegian Breakaway, with the intent to rollout this game-changing technology across its entire world class fleet in a phased manner.

"We are thrilled to offer Starlink on board our ships to improve internet connectivity at sea. This initiative is a testament to our continuous quest to find new and innovative ways to enhance the experience for both guests and crew while sailing on our award-winning brands," said Harry Sommer, president and CEO-elect of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. "Ensuring that this technology meets our high standards of excellence for our guests is incredibly important to us, which is why we are introducing this cutting-edge technology across our fleet in a phased manner. Once deployed, guests and crew will have a faster and more reliable method to stay connected with friends and family including by sharing in real-time the incredible memories they create while at sea."

"We are thrilled to offer Starlink on board our ships to improve internet connectivity at sea. This initiative is a testament to our continuous quest to find new and innovative ways to enhance the experience for both guests and crew while sailing on our award-winning brands. Ensuring that this technology meets our high standards of excellence for our guests is incredibly important to us, which is why we are introducing this cutting-edge technology across our fleet in a phased manner. Once deployed, guests and crew will have a faster and more reliable method to stay connected with friends and family including by sharing in real-time the incredible memories they create while at sea." Harry Sommer, President and CEO-elect of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd.

If trials are successful, the Company is targeting to equip 7 additional vessels with Starlink by year-end, including all three of the Company’s exciting new additions this year, Oceania Cruises’ Vista, Norwegian Viva and Regent's Seven Seas Grandeur. A comprehensive rollout plan is under development and details regarding timeline and availability on specific ships will be communicated once finalized. In addition to enhancing the guest and crew experience, the extra bandwidth will also allow for more flexibility for onboard services and improve the ship-to-shore connection for operational needs.

Source: NCL