A Summary of NSRC Day 1

Precise thrust vector control and deep throttling enable pinpoint booster landing. (Credit: Blue Origin)
Precise thrust vector control and deep throttling enable pinpoint booster landing. (Credit: Blue Origin)

The three-day Next-Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference began today in Colorado. Although I wasn’t able to attend, I have compiled highlights of a very newsworthy day via Twitter posts. (You can follow along with hashtag #nsrc2016.)

Below is a summary of news and updates provided by Blue Origin, Masten Space Systems, World View Enterprises, Exos Aerospace, Virgin Galactic, Near Space Corporation, and NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program.

Blue Origin

NASA announced that it has added Blue Origin to its Flight Opportunities Program, which purchases flight from providers for microgravity experiments., Announcement

NanoRacks announced the company was making hardware for experiments exclusively for Blue Origin’s New Shepard vehicle. Announcement

Brett Alexander
Director of Business Development and Strategy
Blue Origin

  • Next New Shepard flight, which is will occur soon, will feature a larger tilt in the landing of the rocket stage
  • The capsule on this fly will be be fitted with a bad parachute to test how spacecraft lands with only two working chutes
  • An in-flight abort test that will separate the capsule from the booster will be conducted later this year
  • Payload pricing is in the $50,000 to $100,000 range
  • Paying customers will ride on New Shepard in two years
  • The company has done minimal maintenance on New Shepard between flight tests
  • Company work force now up to 650, will double in the years to come

Erika Wagner
Business Development Manager
Blue Origin

  • Entire New Shepard flight takes 11 minutes, with 3-4 minutes of microgravity time
  • Research and tourism flights will be separated
  • New Shepard flights being conducted every 8 weeks; could do multiple flights per week in theory
  • New Shepard’s large windows provide stunning views
  • Announced a new payload locker with a larger interi0r volume
    Mid-deck lockers with smaller compartments ideal for K-12 student research
  • Starting price for K-12 education payloads is $5,300
  • Vehicle provides a “cleaner” environment that parabolic aircraft flights for microgravity research
  • Developing procedures to load experiments on vehicle as late as 30 minutes prior to launch
  • Working on getting FAA license to carry paying payloads

Carl Carruthers
Chief Scientist, NanoRacks

  • New Shepard platform has 2U (10x10x20 cm) volume, which is a lot of space
  • NanoRacks has flown 350 payloads on various platforms since 2009

Masten Space Systems

Masten flight tested terrain relative navigation technology that NASA will use on its Mars lander in 2020.

Sean Mahoney

  • Masten has flown five vehicles on more than 350 tethered flights and 40 free flights
  • Vehicle’s flight profiles can be customized to meet needs of customers
  • Masten has designed a small XL-1 lunar lander that has completed a preliminary design review
  • Company has a design for a high-altitude vehicle capable of reaching 100 km, but there’s insufficient demand to build it

Exos Aerospace

John Quinn
Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer

Company building two SARGE sounding rockets
Launches targeted for November at Spaceport America in New Mexico
Six launches planned for 2017
Cost is $250,000 per flight, a figure the company wants to reduce
Charges $10,500 for a CubeSat launch, which is within reach of high schools

Virgin Galactic

Will Pomerantz
Vice President for Special Projects

  • Second SpaceShipTwo named Unity will fly sometime soon
  • No specifics about flight test schedule
  • Expects to go quickly through captive carry and glide flights to powered tests
  • Can remove seats and replace them with experiment racks in about an hour

World View Enterprises

The stratospheric balloon company announced it will work with Ball Aerospace on commercial remote sensing applications for its Stratollite platform. Announcement

CEO Jane Poynter said the company started out focusing on tourism flights, but pivoted to research applications due to market demand. She talked about the use of World View’s stratospheric balloons for remote sensing, communications, atmospheric science and weather forecasting. She said human tourism flights are several years away.

Poynter said it was a “very difficult” decision to keep World View in Tucson, Ariz.,  because Cecil Spaceport in Jacksonville, Fla. made a very attractive offer.

Near Space Corporation

Near Space Corporation announced a $1.4 million upgrade to the Johnson Near Space Center in Oregon in support of the new collocated Tillamook UAS Test Range. Announcement

Flight Opportunities Program

NASA announced that it has added Blue Origin to its Flight Opportunities Program, which purchases flight from providers for microgravity experiments. Announcement

Steve Jurczyk
Associate Administrator for Space Technology

  • Flight Opportunities Program has been a great success
  • Program has provided funding for 46 flights with 172 payloads
  • NASA wants payload developers to work directly with flight providers to submit unified proposal
  • NASA doesn’t have a strategy to move forward with flying researchers with their experiments aboard vehicles