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Spaceflight makes a launch deal with German startup

Seattle-based Spaceflight Inc. and Rocket Factory Augsburg, a German launch startup, say they’ve signed a memorandum of understanding that calls for Spaceflight’s Sherpa orbital transfer vehicles to ride on the RFA One rocket.

In an announcement made today at the International Astronautical Congress in Paris, the companies said they’re targeting mid-2024 for their first launch.

Spaceflight Inc. handles pre-launch logistics and arranges for payloads to be sent into orbit on other companies’ launch vehicles. Rocket Factory Augsburg, or RFA, joins a list of Spaceflight launch providers that also includes SpaceX, Rocket Lab, Northrop Grumman and Europe’s Arianespace consortium.

RFA, plans to launch its three-stage, 100-foot-tall rocket from facilities in French Guiana, Britain and other locales, starting in 2023. Eventually, RFA intends to conduct launches on a weekly basis.

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Satellites plus cellphones add up to a new frontier

Today’s big iPhone reveal adds Apple to the list of companies aiming to combine the power of satellite communications with the power of everyday cellphones — a list that includes other tech heavyweights such as T-Mobile and SpaceX, Amazon and Verizon, OneWeb and AT&T. Also on the list: a startup that’s carving out a niche on the satellite-cellular frontier.

“We’re years ahead of anybody else, and so we’re in a great position,” said Charles Miller, co-founder and CEO of Virginia-based Lynk. “We’ve been talking for a while about what a huge business this is, and a bunch of other companies are now starting to wake up.”

Specialized satellite phones have been around for decades, but the new crop of space-based telecom services is meant to make use of the billions of smartphones that are produced for the general market.