NASA has awarded Cedar Park company Firefly Aerospace with $93.3 million to deliver a module of 10 science experiments and technology demonstrations to the moon in 2023.
The company, which specializes in providing spacecraft and other space technologies, will not perform the launch itself but will create the spacecraft and lander, known as the "Blue Ghost," for the mission.
The award is a part of NASA's Commercial Lunar Payload Services, an initiative that brings American companies into upcoming lunar projects.
Firefly's lander will head for the Moon's Mare Crisium basin, a basin on the "light" side of the moon facing Earth. The spacecraft will be loaded up with technologies meant for testing the moon's mantle, a laser that will identify the exact distance from Earth to the Moon and other tools to test the Moon's surface. The project is also a part of the Artemis project and will help gain information for future human habitation.
Firefly will develop the "Blue Ghost" at its Cedar Park location, according to lander program manager Shea Ferring.
"We are utilizing our Austin-based AS9100-certified engineering, test, and production facilities to build and operate world-class spacecraft," Ferring said. "NASA's support for our lunar program allows us to increase our capabilities for in-space services to the benefit of both U.S. government and commercial customers."
Although this isn't Firefly's first NASA order, it is the first delivery project awarded to the company and by far its largest-scale project to date. Dr. Max Polyakov, founder of Firefly's largest investor Noosphere Ventures, said in a press release that the contract is rewarding and will help the company gain recognition toward national projects in years to come.
"This award is further validation of Firefly, its team and its mission to become a versatile provider of a broad range of space-related services,'' Polyakov said. "It's extremely gratifying to know that NASA recognizes the tremendous talent we've assembled at Firefly. Our recently appointed board members bring the highest level of U.S. Government expertise and provide strategic guidance to further strengthen the company as we move into this next phase of accelerated growth. It's an exciting time.''
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When Gov. Greg Abbott announced that he would rescind business capacity limits and a statewide masking mandate on Texas Independence Day, he framed it as a step forward. "With this executive order, we are ensuring that all businesses and families in Texas have the freedom to determine their own destiny," he said during a press conference at a Mexican restaurant in Lubbock.
But some local restaurants and bars, which have been caught in the regulatory crosshairs since Texas' first positive COVID test 364 days ago, have chosen to ignore Abbott's overture. Instead, they will continue to maintain pandemic precautions once the executive order takes effect next week, citing a desire to keep their staff and patrons safe.
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(AUSTIN, TEXAS) Austonia has hired Claire Partain as a reporter covering Austin FC, the MLS expansion team that will be Austin's first major league sports franchise.
Partain is a former sports editor for the The University Star, Texas State University's daily newspaper. She edited, covered sports, produced podcasts, and hosted a pre-game TXST football tailgate live series. Partain has been freelancing with the company since January, prior to accepting a staff position.
A native of Fairfield, Texas, Partain grew up playing youth soccer. In her high school years, she played alongside her mother in what was then called the Freestone County Hispanic Women's Soccer League.
Claire's coverage philosophy: "I like to bring out the humanity of sports, and I want to make this the most accessible sports coverage possible."
She notes that soccer is the predominant sport for young people. "It's a global sport, and we're more connected to the world than older generations."
That approach fits the team's already visible presence in Austin, says Austonia CEO Mark Dewey. "Austin FC has established itself as a leading Austin brand, one that stands for a more unified Austin community, a bigger global presence for Austin and fun. Austonia shares those values."
Partain's soccer coverage begins immediately, with her free, hosted text service—Austonia FC. For updates, special access and inside info, all moderated by Claire, sign up below.
Austonia is the city's independent, free, locally-owned and all-digital source for Austin news, information and entertainment.
Connect with Austonia through its daily email newsletter and text updates, @austonianews Instagram feed, @austonianews and @austinist Twitter feeds, @austonianews Facebook page and its website austonia.com.
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Austin Public Health will release another batch of first dose COVID-19 vaccine appointments for Thursday on Wednesday evening. A department spokesperson estimates between 3,000 and 4,000 slots will be available.
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