Hello and welcome back to Max Q.
In this issue:
I sat down with Astra CEO Chris Kemp and Chief Engineer Benjamin Lyon to learn more about the company’s philosophy and trajectory.
“The expectation I think that a lot of people have is every launch has to be perfect,” Kemp told TechCrunch. “I think what Astra has to do, really, is we have to have so many launches nobody thinks about it anymore.”
How many launches? Eventually, Astra wants to achieve a daily launch cadence; in the interim, the company is aiming for weekly launches as early as next year. It’s a critical part of how the company aims to win amongst an increasingly crowded field of small launch developers — not by being flawless, but by being so low-cost and high-volume that the relative risk of a few catastrophic failures ceases to matter.
Next up for Astra is a trio of launches for NASA under the agency’s TROPICS program. When Kemp discussed the launches with NASA’s Will McCarty at Astra’s Spacetech Day, he reiterated Astra’s perspective on reliability, though it veered close to sounding like a hedge: “I know the team will do everything we can to make sure all three launches and all your satellites are deployed, but it’s good to know that the price point of three launches allows NASA to enable a mission where even if only two are successful […] it is nice to know that even NASA is designing constellations so that the overall constellation performance is the end goal, not thinking about every single satellite, every single rocket launch.”
World, meet Sagittarus A*, the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way. The black hole was captured in an image for the first time, a landmark scientific achievement that’s gained a lot of media attention. But the role of simulations and synthetic data in the process has been massively overlooked.
TechCrunch’s Devin Coldewey lays out how scientists used synthetic datasets and simulations to assemble the image of the black hole, “despite its relative closeness and the interference from light-years’ worth of dust, nebulae and other vagaries of the void.” Click the link above to learn more about how scientists did it.
I feel like this is the only time I’ll be able to slip in a Nietzsche quote, so allow me the indulgence: “He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.”
Max Q is brought to you by me, Aria Alamalhodaei. If you enjoy reading Max Q, consider forwarding it to a friend.