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The demise of BaaS fintech Synapse could derail the funding prospects for other startups in the space | TechCrunch


Welcome to TechCrunch Fintech! This week, we’re looking at the long-term implications of Synapse’s bankruptcy on the fintech sector, Majority’s impressive ARR milestone, and more!  To get a roundup of TechCrunch’s biggest and most important fintech stories delivered to your inbox every Tuesday at 7:00 a.m. PT, subscribe here.  The big story Last week, we […]

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Space VC closes $20M Fund II to back frontier tech founders from day zero | TechCrunch


Gone are the days when space and defense were considered fundamentally antithetical to venture investment. Now, the country’s largest venture capital firms are throwing larger portions of their money behind so-called hard tech startups at the earliest stages. This about-face has led some in the industry to question whether smaller investing shops will be able […]

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Microsoft’s new 'Volumetric Apps' for Quest headsets extend Windows apps into the 3D space | TechCrunch


Microsoft announced on Tuesday during its annual Build conference that it’s bringing “Windows Volumetric Apps” to Meta Quest headsets. The partnership will allow Microsoft to bring Windows 365 and local PC connectivity to Quest headsets, enabling developers to extend their apps into the 3D space. “We’re deepening our partnership with Meta to make Windows a […]

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TechCrunch Space: Star(side)liner | TechCrunch


Hello and welcome back to TechCrunch Space. For those who haven’t heard, the first crewed launch of Boeing’s Starliner capsule has been pushed back yet again to no earlier than May 25. From NASA: “The additional time allows teams to further assess a small helium leak in the Boeing Starliner spacecraft’s service module traced to […]

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Seraphim’s latest space accelerator welcomes nine companies | TechCrunch


U.K.-based Seraphim Space is spinning up its 13th accelerator program, with nine participating companies working on a range of tech from propulsion to in-space manufacturing and space situational awareness. The intense 12-week program is designed to get seed and Series A companies “investment ready,” the firm says, by providing specialist mentorship, networking opportunities and intensive […]

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Starfish Space and D-Orbit complete orbital rendezvous, bringing Otter Pup mission to a close | TechCrunch


Starfish Space’s ambitious first mission to demonstrate on-orbit rendezvous and docking tech has officially come to a close, with the startup managing to complete some of the objectives thanks to a little help from an unexpected partner: space logistics company D-Orbit. Starfish launched its first spacecraft, called Otter Pup, nearly a year ago with ambitious […]

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TechCrunch Space: You rock(et) my world, moms | TechCrunch


Hello and welcome back to TechCrunch Space. Happy belated Mother’s Day! Want to reach out with a tip? Email Aria at aria.techcrunch@gmail.com or send me a message on Signal at 512-937-3988. You also can send a note to the whole TechCrunch crew at tips@techcrunch.com. For more secure communications, click here to contact us, which includes SecureDrop instructions […]

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Xona Space Systems closes $19M Series A to build out ultra-accurate GPS alternative | TechCrunch


For decades, the Global Positioning System (GPS) has maintained a de facto monopoly on positioning, navigation and timing, because it’s cheap and already integrated into billions of devices around the world. But Xona Space Systems thinks a more accurate system will be necessary to scale autonomous vehicles (AVs), advanced robotics and other technologies for the twenty-first century.

The startup plans to launch a satellite constellation in low Earth orbit that would act as a commercial GPS alternative. Called Pulsar, the network could potentially cost less to operate while offering more accurate geolocation data.

Xona was founded in 2019 by seven Stanford graduate school alumni; most met during grad school. CTO Tyler Reid went on to get his PhD there and worked in the university’s GPS Research Lab, later joining Ford’s autonomous vehicles group in 2017. He worked on “localization requirements,” or the level of navigation performance an autonomous vehicle or Driver Assist function needs to operate safely, and trying to develop or procure that tech.

Many vehicles today that integrate autonomous features use a combination of technologies, like cameras, lidar sensors and radar sensors to navigate. But Xona’s CEO Brian Manning said that while these sensors work well in structured environments, like cities, their efficacy is degraded in unstructured environments, like the middle of a desert. Fortunately, being unimpeded by buildings and other features, GPS tends to work very well in those places.

“The problem, though, is that GPS just has nowhere near the level of accuracy or really availability or robustness to be a complimentary sensor,” Manning said.

“That’s when we really started to realize how big the gap is between your GPS is today, and where the needs of at least the automotive market are and where they’re very quickly going,” he continued. “What if we could build a new GPS using more of the SpaceX mentality instead of the government contracting mentality?”

Xona’s approach is certainly more SpaceX than Boeing. The 31 satellites that provide GPS are all exquisite, ultra-expensive, and synchronized with nanosecond precision using massive on-board atomic clocks. In contrast, Xona’s Pulsar service is built on a patented “cloud architecture for atomic clocks,” as Manning put it, which he claimed will dramatically drive down the cost of each satellite but still provide orders of magnitude higher levels of accuracy. Think an accuracy of several centimeters, rather than meters.

Xona launched its first demonstration satellite in 2022 to demonstrate the core patented IP, and that satellite has now reached the end of its life. The first production-class satellite will launch in June 2025, and will be built by Belgian satellite manufacturer Aerospacelab. Xona is eventually aiming to launch a constellation of 300 satellites. Different customer groups will be able to start benefitting from the service even before the full constellation is operational, Manning said.

The company has designed its signal to be backwards compatible with many existing GPS chipsets, though some are “forwards compatible,” Manning said. But in general, chipsets will only need a firmware update to access the encrypted Pulsar signal.

While it might be hard to compete with a free service like GPS, Xona is convinced that there will be a huge market for advanced positioning, navigation and timing services due to the rise of AVs and other tech. Investors are behind this goal: on Tuesday, Xona announced the close of an oversubscribed $19 million Series A round led by Future Ventures and Seraphim Space, with participation from new investors NGP Capital, Industrious Ventures, Murata Electronics, Space Capital, and Aloniq.

Rob Desborough, a GP at Seraphim Space, described our dependence on GPS as an “absolute” in a statement. “Outages could cause incalculable damage to the global economy, while enhancement opens up whole new industries,” he said. “Waiting for GPS to fail, or for hostile powers to spoof it, is not an option for our security or commercial industries.”

This new funding round will go toward getting the first production-class satellite up in orbit, as well as building out the ground segment to support Pulsar and growing the 25-person team.


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TechCrunch Space: Launch pad decongestion | TechCrunch


Hello and welcome back to TechCrunch Space. Let’s jump in!

Want to reach out with a tip? Email Aria at aria.techcrunch@gmail.com or send me a message on Signal at 512-937-3988. You also can send a note to the whole TechCrunch crew at tips@techcrunch.comFor more secure communicationsclick here to contact us, which includes SecureDrop instructions and links to encrypted messaging apps.

Story of the week

This week, we’ve got some very cool news from Hubble Networks, which became the first company in history to connect a Bluetooth chip to a satellite. The startup has stayed relatively low-profile, but with this tech validation they’re looking to expand — and connect possibly billions of Bluetooth-enabled devices.

One of Hubble’s satellites in a terrestrial test chamber. Image Credits: Hubble Network

Scoop of the week

Slides and audio from a nonpublic NASA meeting reveal the ambitious plans the agency has for its Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Bringing these plans to fruition is key for private space companies, including Rocket Lab, Northrop Grumman and others, and could ease launch pad congestion on both coasts.

The Northrop Grumman Antares rocket, with Cygnus resupply spacecraft onboard, launches from Pad-0A of NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, Saturday, November 2, 2019, in Virginia. Image Credits: NASA / Bill Ingalls

What we’re reading

Over at The New York Times, Kenneth Chang recounts how a group of scientists identified 27,500 newly discovered asteroids in the solar system — including around 100 “near-Earth” asteroids, or those that pass within Earth’s orbit.

Near-Earth asteroid, computer artwork. Image Credits: Science Photo Library – ANDRZEJ WOJCICKI / Getty Images

This week in space history

We’re looking ahead this week… On Monday, May 6 (today!), Boeing is hoping to make history by carrying two NASA astronauts to the International Space Station using its Starliner capsule for the first time. The mission will take off at 10:34 PM EST.

Godspeed Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams! Godspeed Starliner!

NASA astronauts Suni Williams and Butch Wilmore. Image Credits: NASA


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