Some Austin startups are doing work that's out of this world.
Amid all the headlines of the Billionaire Space Race— the competition among Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson to launch rockets and take tourist space flights— you may have missed the launch of these Austin projects.
From lunar missions to satellites and training the next generation of space explorers, these Austin startups are on the cutting edge of space tech:
A robotics, software, and building materials developer known as ICON has had their materials appear in 3D-printed East Austin homes and in a partnership with the Texas Military Department for 3D-printed barracks. But they're also making progress on space projects.
Last month, the company announced it was awarded a government research contract that includes funding from NASA to develop a space-based construction system that may support future Moon exploration.
The company now has a division focused on space. CEO Jason Ballard said the company was honored to start the work, which will be known as Project Olympus and the Olympus Construction System.
"Building humanity's first home on another world will be the most ambitious construction project in human history and will push science, engineering, technology, and architecture to literal new heights," Ballard said. "NASA's investment in space-age technologies like this can not only help to advance humanity's future in space, but also to solve very real, vexing problems we face on Earth."
We are one step closer to landing on the Moon! After successfully completing @NASA's Critical Design Review (CDR), our Blue Ghost lunar lander is on schedule for a September 2023 landing in Mare Crisium. Congrats BG team! https://firefly.com/firefly-aerospace-is-one-step-closer-to-landing-on-the-moon/\u00a0\u2026 #Fireflypic.twitter.com/d4Rb3BsyKe— Firefly Aerospace (@Firefly Aerospace) 1635169797
Even though their September test launch wound up in flames, startup rocket company Firefly is on schedule for a lunar mission after completing NASA's critical design review in October. CEO Tom Markusic remarked on the milestone, calling it "another step in an aggressive schedule."
"Meeting it continues to showcase our spacecraft team's ability to consistently deliver incredible work," Markusic said. "This mission is a forerunner of what we see as a growing cadence of recurring data and payload service missions in cis-lunar space that will kickstart a lunar economy."
The spacecraft, which has been dubbed the Blue Ghost lunar lander, has plans to touch down in the Mare Crisium lunar basin in September 2023 carrying ten NASA payloads and several commercial payloads.
But they won't stop there: the 2023 launch will be the first of what they expect to be yearly lunar surface missions for Firefly.
Building an array of communication systems satellites, UAVs, launch vehicles, and other space platforms, CesiumAstro has raised more than $14 million in venture capital and is looking to make a couple dozen more Austin hires. CEO Shey Sabripour founded the company in 2017 after a stint at Firefly, where he worked as chief technology officer.
In September, CesiumAstro announced a successful launch and deployment of its first 2 satellites, a move Sabripour described as getting them "one step closer to transforming in-orbit and aircraft connectivity."
"We will see major advancements over the course of the next decade which will revolutionize a highly-anticipated era of connected mobility," Sabripour said. "Our suite of core technologies is fully elevated through consistent and frequent testing as we initiate our first fleet deployments."
Now, CesiumAstro, which boasts that its satellites provide an on-orbit testbed for the next generation of wireless communications and sensing technologies, has entered its next phase of testing. The satellites are running experiments over the next few months through which the company offered demonstration partnerships with interested commercial and government organizations.
Based in both Austin and El Segundo, California, Slingshot Aerospace started in 2017 and quickly secured key contracts with NASA, the U.S. Air Force, and others.
One contract was with the U.S. Space Force for a tool to train the next generation of space operators and engineers through simulations. But in September, the company announced it will be available for commercial use through a partnership with STEM3 Academy in an effort to make the space industry more accessible.
"The growing space industry needs top talent but many are not trained in fundamental spaceflight astrodynamics, which creates a barrier to entry. We've created a tool that enables companies to incorporate astrodynamics into their training curriculum, blasting the doors wide open on recruiting," CEO Melanie Stricklan said. "At the same time, young students who are interested in space can more easily understand complex methodologies through visual and collaborative learning, empowering them to develop concepts through investigative and explorative means—making space for everyone."
Working in realms like clean energy and mining, Hypersciences does not define itself as an orbital space company and said it's looking to revolutionize multiple industries. Still, the company specializes in the application of hypersonic technology, which powers engines with velocities five times the speed of sound, and has made aerospace core to their research. They also supply equipment as a first-stage rocket replacement.
Mark Russell, a former lead engineer and manager for Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin, founded the Washington-based company in 2014, bringing on a team that includes Leon Vanstone, founder of the Texas Rocket Engineering Lab. The startup also has a key office in Austin.
"After years of looking at rocket after rocket, and trying to predict how they would fail, I realized that we needed a new way to fly," Russell said during an interview at South by Southwest in 2019.
He said he was drilling one night at 2 in the morning, in a hole that was over 3 kilometers when he had an "aha!" moment. "I'd seen a technology called ram accelerator from the University of Washington where it was just a tube filled with natural gas and air and you could take a projectile and fly through it and exit at multiple times the speed of sound putting vehicles to the edge of the atmosphere so you only need a teeny little rocket to get you into space," Russel said. "That put me down a path of both merging that aerospace with the underground solutions."
- Where SpaceX's Elon Musk ranks in the billionaire space race ... ›
- NASA's Artemis mission could put the first Longhorn in space ... ›
- SpaceX factory could make Austin space-based tech hub - austonia ›
- Tesla and Space X CEO Elon Musk is moving to Austin, Texas ... ›
- SpaceX's Elon Musk needs to go outside, according to YETI's ... ›
Fourteen students and one teacher are dead after a shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas—a small town an hour and a half west of San Antonio—on Tuesday afternoon.
The suspect, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, is believed to have been killed by the police, Gov. Greg Abbott said in a press conference.
According to University Health Hospital officials, a 66-year-old woman and 10-year-old girl arrived in critical condition. Uvalde Memorial Hospital reportedly received 13 children for treatment and two individuals who were already deceased.
The shooter prompted a lockdown at the elementary school of just under 600 students, with San Antonio Police sending SWAT, and Eagle chopper and Crime Scene Investigators.
This is the U.S.'s 213th mass shooting of 2022.
“Especially here in Austin, there's a really, really high interest in electric vehicles and keeping that zero-emissions goal in mind,” said Rachel Reid, a spokesperson for General Motors. "And then just like anywhere in Texas, trucks are something that people use in their daily lives for things from carrying different furniture or anything from a job site or even just having the family in the backseat and being able to carry something along with them.”
Pickups play a major role in Texas culture, so much that the Texas Standard notes auto companies sometimes approach their marketing strategy by the regions of North, East, West and Texas. So, here’s a look at the pickup options in the coming years if you’re looking to go electric.
Production site and release schedule
The Silverado is being made at the company’s first fully dedicated EV assembly plant in Detroit, Michigan. Known as Factory ZERO, it’s named as such to reflect the company’s vision of a world with zero crashes, emissions or congestion.
The Cybertruck, meanwhile, will be produced at Giga Texas. At the recent opening of the factory in southeast Travis County, CEO Elon Musk addressed delays on the truck and said it would be out in 2023.
Orders are closed for the 2022 F-150 Lightning, but 2023 versions are just around the corner. They are being produced at Ford's EV center within their Rouge Complex in Dearborn, Michigan
The Silverado has an estimated MSRP starting at $39,900 with a reservation cost of $100. Depending on which feature options are added, the truck could end up costing around $80,000.
The Cybertruck also requires a reservation cost of $100 and a final price varies by the number of electric motors. So the price ranges from $39,900 for a single motor and $69,900 for a tri motor.
This year’s F-150s ranged in price from $39,974 to $90,874.
You’ll have to be at the wheel and alert no matter which car you choose since no vehicle is fully autonomous.
Chevrolet has compatible roads that drivers can use their driver-assisted technology, known as Super Cruise which includes adaptive cruise control, lane centering and hands-free operation with an attentive driver.
The Cybertruck order site doesn’t appear to have many details on what its tech will include, but Tesla has previously made plans to launch a new self-driving computer with the pickup.
The more expensive Lightning models have Blue Cruise available, which is Ford’s hands-free driving system that can be used on prequalified sections of divided highways. It includes a driver-facing camera to ensure the driver has their eyes on the road and Ford has said there’s potential for future enhancements.
Charging time and range
If you’re looking to take some road trips outside of Austin, then this is one of the critical factors you’ll consider while EV shopping.
The Chevy is estimated to reach 400 miles of range. With a 10 minute charge on a fast charger, it’ll be able to get about 100 miles of range.
It will vary by battery pack, but the Environmental Protection Agency shows the Lightning as capable of traveling between 230 and 320 mile range.
It’s yet to be realized, but Tesla is currently boasting the highest of the three with up to 500 miles of range on its Cybertruck.
Screens and storage
Of course, there are things you can do to keep busy while charging.
Generally, Tesla screens can display navigation, apps and a media player where you can access the radio and streaming services.
When it comes to loading up the vehicle, the Cybertruck flexes enough storage in the back for a motorcycle that you can transport up with a ramp.
The Silverado has a screen above the wheel that functions as a traditional dashboard and another larger screen. Chevy also replaced the space up front where an internal combustion engine would be with a “frunk.”
The Lightning also has a frunk, with Insider listing it as one of the reasons it’s perfect for road trips.
- Tesla smashes into pole in Jared Padalecki's car wreck - austonia ›
- Austin environmental groups call on city to hold off on approving ... ›
- Ford's F-150 Lightning vs. Tesla's Cybertruck: The race to become ... ›
- Austin man who fell asleep in stolen truck bed reported missing ... ›
- Tesla truck is getting redesign before work starts in Austin - austonia ›
- New state rule lets bars, taprooms reopen with food trucks - austonia ›
- Rivian secures spot as latest Tesla challenger - austonia ›