The US Senate just advanced a bill that will honestly further cause more beef between Blue Origin and SpaceX and this all goes back to not only the two companies competing for the lunar lander contract but also two billionaires who seem to genuinely dislike each other. NASA last year only got 25% of the amount they requested from Congress for the lunar lander program and due to a shortage of funds could not follow the initial plan to pick two companies to build landers. When SpaceX won the contract in part due to the cost they offered to build the lander under. While Blue Origin needed $6 billion to build theirs and used more tried and true concepts SpaceX was requesting only $2.9 billion to build theirs.
In what has become known as the China Bill, a series of programs to spend government money to bolster US innovation against China, NASA would get a further $10 billion unlocked for the funding of a second lander. Right now due to Blue Origin and the third company Dynetics filing complaints with the government accountability office the SpaceX contract is frozen while the contract is reviewed. If the GAO rules in favor of Blue Origin and/or Dynetics the Artemis's 2024 moon landing date will no longer be viable. The redo of the contract would take months and months to complete and would push back the whole program. Another issue with the working of this amendment to the bill right now is that it appears the $10 billion would only go to the additional contractor chosen. That would leave SpaceX still getting $2.9 but the other contractor getting over 3 times the amount of funding. If SpaceX runs into any issues then it could easily be pointed at as they were trying to do it as cost-effectively as they could but money was given to another overpriced lander without it being split evenly.
At this point, it appears there is going to be no quick and easy solution to what could be done. Ideas have been thrown around that NASA could revise the contract and add on another contractor but this not only sets a bad precedent but they would have to wait and hope this bill passes quickly enough to give them the money that they currently do not have. At the end of this though you have two competing billionaires who dislike each other and really dislike the given success each one has had in space albeit SpaceX is easily the much more successful company at this point.
Honestly, I could write about the different launches SpaceX has recently had but nothing special has happened. They continue to nail each take-off and landing with the booster seemly getting better at landing on the actual X on the drone ship (typically it lands a little to the left or right of the X but recently man it has almost been dead center on it). That is not to say that there has not been any news because it's SpaceX of course there is more news! The news though is rather different and something I certainly did not expect to see about the Starlink program.
SpaceX has been in talks with airlines to be the airline provider for inflight wifi! Now this makes a ton of sense and there is a demand for it but with how the Starlink program had been rolling out I didn't even stop to think that they would pivot to snapping up some partners like this! Currently, there is one main player in this field and that is ViaSat who runs the inflight wifi for Delta Airlines and is planning on launching 300 new and updated low orbit satellites to connect with airlines. SpaceX is not alone in this field and the other company trying to break in is the United Kingdom's OneWeb which entered bankruptcy last year after having launched 182 of its planned 640 into orbit. OneWeb was pulled out of bankruptcy with both the UK government and Indian Telecom giant Bharti Global pouring in a ton of cash. This at least to me seems to give OneWeb an edge when it comes to British and Indian airlines as they would want to do whatever they could to maximize their investment!
SpaceX has recently also applied for approval in testing a brand new design for its Starlink terminals. Currently, the terminal is a single 23-inch dish that contains both the download and upload antenna. This new configuration is two square satellite dishes with one being for uploading and the other for downloading. Each dish would measure roughly 12 inches by 12 inches so they would be a little smaller however there are going to be two of them. Not much is known about why this is or if this could have to do with the cost of the manufacturing of the terminals but it will be something to keep an eye on for sure!
This company could be one of my favorite space companies and one day could end up rivaling my love for SpaceX. While SpaceX has a firm grip on the rocket reusability technology right now Relativity aims to change that. First, though we have to discuss their rocket gunning for the Falcon 9 the Terran-R the construction of this rocket is completely different from anything else out there right now. Most if not all of the rockets are built from parts that are specifically constructed through the standard rocket-making process. Relativity does not do this at all. They are 3D PRINTING their rockets with the goal of being able to 3D print the WHOLE thing! This includes the first and second stages and payload fairings. However, 3D printing them isn't where they plan on stopping. Rather they are aiming to recover all of this!
As it is right now SpaceX easily recovers its first stage and tried for years to perfect "catching" their payload fairings but this was just too difficult so now they fish them out of the water in hopes of using them again. SpaceX's second stages are not recovered and most of the time burn up in the atmosphere upon reentry. A few months ago SpaceX parts were found in the Washington area and it was part of the second stage that survived reentry. They have also been seen burning up upon reentry along the west coast recently. If relativity is able to pull this off man SpaceX could have a really big rival in the future as 3D printing allows for rockets to be made to different specifications and drives down cost. Then to further be able to reuse the second stage.... well not even SpaceX has been able to do that so that would be a huge leap in technology! Below are some renderings from the company about what the rockets will look like!