Hello everyone, welcome back to TechCrunch Space. Mark your calendars, everyone: Boeing and NASA plan to launch the first manned Starliner mission as early as May 1.

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SpaceX is in the final stages of certifying a second launch pad for astronaut launches, which should ease congestion at the launch site and help the company expand the number of people it can send into space. As a first step, the company used a second launch pad to launch an unmanned Crew Dragon capsule to the International Space Station. Next up: the crew.

SpaceX Dragon SLC-40

Image Source: space exploration technologies corp. (opens in new window)

Rocket Lab completed its fourth launch from Virginia last Thursday, with an Electron rocket carrying a classified payload for the National Reconnaissance Office. This is Rocket Lab’s fifth and final mission for the NRO under a contract signed in 2020. Watch the launch replay here.

Image Source: rocket lab (opens in new window)

what are we reading

I’ve secretly been wondering how the rise of NewSpace companies affects recruitment and retention at agencies like NASA – so I was pleased to see this Bloomberg report looking at exactly that question. The situation is a little more complicated than it seems at first glance.

Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center

Image Source: NASA

This week in space history

On March 30, 1982, the space shuttle Columbia landed at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. The shuttle was carrying astronauts Jack R. Lusma and C. Gordon Fullerton, who were returning home after a successful eight-day mission.

On March 30, 1982, Space Shuttle Columbia STS 3 was unable to land at Edwards Air Force Base in California due to weather conditions, and landed at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico along with its escorting T-38 jets. Image Source: Photo by Buddy Mays/Getty Images.

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