Max Q: Selling space – TechCrunch

Max Q is a weekly newsletter from TechCrunch about space. Sign up here to receive it weekly on Mondays in your inbox. This week includes two since I was out last week for a Canadian national holiday (and back today for the U.S. one, ironically). There’s plenty to cover, including Blue Origin’s bidding process, lunar landers, spaceships launching at sea, and the return of our space event.

Blue Origin’s big bid

Blue Origin is auctioning off one seat on its first-ever human spaceflight, and the bidding started at $1.4 million — or at least, the public bidding started there. Before last week, people submitted blind bids, but now Blue Origin posts the current top bid to its website whenever it hits a new high. It’s currently $2.8 million, meaning it’s doubled since the recommendations opened to public scrutiny and presumably FOMO.

Everything’s building up to June 12, when the auction will conclude with a live, real-time, online competitive bidding round. It seems likely it’ll at least cross the $3 million mark before all’s said and done, which is good news for Blue Origin since run-of-the-mill tickets for the few minutes in suborbital space going forward will probably end up more in the hundreds of thousands of dollars range. If all goes to the current plan, the winning bidder will fly on July 20 and will be accompanied by other passengers selected by Blue Origin through some other mechanism. We don’t yet know who else will be on the ride. Bezos maybe?


SpaceX’s Deimos spaceport is under construction.

ENSCO offshore oil rig is like the one SpaceX is converting. Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons / Tony Webster SpaceX is flexing its sci-fi-made-real muscle with its latest move: The company is turning two offshore oil rig platforms into floating spaceports, and one of the two, codenamed “Deimos” after one of Mars’ moons, is already being worked on. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk shared that the company hopes to have it ready for operations next year, meaning it could host actual launches in 2022.

Eventually, Deimos and its twin, Phobos, will provide launch and landing services to SpaceX’s first fully reusable launch vehicle — Starship. Starship only managed to land successfully after a high, but still very much atmospheric, flight test; however, it has a way to go before making amphibious departures and arrivals using the converted oil platforms. Putting these in the ocean presumably helps solve some key issues, not least of which is being mindful of the impact of launching massive rockets on land anywhere near people. Ditto the landings, which, at least early on, are bound to be risky affairs better carried out with a buffer of the surrounding ocean.

Landers: lunar ones

Concept graphic depicting ispace’s HAKUTO-R lander and rover. Image Credits: space There’s quite a bit of lunar lander news this week, including Japan’s opening revealing that it’ll provide commercial lunar lander service to Canada and Japan, with a ride for both provided by SpaceX and its Falcon 9 rocket. These will be two separate missions, with the first set for next year and the second location to take place in 2023.

Both will use Espace’s Hakuto-R lander, which it originally developed to participate in the Google-backed Lunar XPRIZE competition. That ended without a winner, but some companies, including space, continued to work on their landers with an eye to commercialization. The Hakuto-R being sent on behalf of JAXA will carry an adorable ball-shaped moon robot resembling a novel take on a rover. Meanwhile, GM announced this past week that it’s working with space industry veteran Lockheed Martin to develop a next-gen moon rover to provide future lunar astronauts with more speed and greater range. GM and Lockheed will still have to win a NASA contract to make the thing, but they’re excited about the prospect.

TC Sessions: Space is back in December

Last year, we held our first dedicated space event, and it went so well that we decided to host it again in 2021. This year, it’s happening December 14 and 15, and it will again be an entirely virtual conference so people worldwide can join. We had an amazing line-up of guests and speakers at last year’s event, including Rocket Lab’s Peter Beck, NASA’s Kathy Lueders, and more, and we’re already working on a fantastic follow-up agenda that’s sure to thrill all kinds of space fans.


I have always enjoyed writing and reading other people's blogs. I started writing a journal as a teenager and have since written numerous books and articles. My blog is a place where I can write freely about my personal interests and those of others.

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