Soft x-ray spectroscopy with high resolving power (R = λ/Δλ) and large effective area (A) addresses numerous unanswered science questions about the physical laws that lead to the structure of our universe. In the soft x-ray band R > 1000 can currently only be achieved with diffraction grating-based spectroscopy. Criticalangle transmission (CAT) gratings combine the advantages of blazed reflection gratings (high efficiency, use of higher diffraction orders) with those of conventional transmission gratings (relaxed alignment tolerances and temperature requirements, transparent at higher energies, low mass), resulting in minimal mission resource requirements, while greatly improving figures of merit. Diffraction efficiency > 33% and R > 10, 000 have been demonstrated for CAT gratings. Last year the technology has been certified at Technology Readiness Level 4 based on a probe class mission concept. The Explorer-scale (A > 450 cm2 , R > 2500) grating spectroscopy Arcus mission can be built with today's CAT grating technology and has been selected in the current Explorer round for a Phase A concept study. Its figure of merit for the detection of weak absorption lines will be an order of magnitude larger than current instruments on Chandra and XMM-Newton. Further CAT grating technology development and improvements in the angular resolution of x-ray optics can provide another order of magnitude improvement in performance, as is envisioned for the X-ray Surveyor/Lynx mission concept currently under development for input into the 2020 Decadal Survey. For Arcus we have tested CAT gratings in a spectrometer setup in combination with silicon pore optics (SPO) and obtained resolving power results that exceed Arcus requirements before and after environmental testing of the gratings. We have recently fabricated the largest (32 mm x 32 mm) CAT gratings to date, and plan to increase grating size further. We mounted two of these large gratings to frames and aligned them in the roll direction using a laser-based technique. Simultaneous x-ray illumination of both gratings with an SPO module demonstrated that we can exceed Arcus grating-to-grating alignment requirements without x rays.