The Rocket Age and the Space Age

V-2 and Sputnik

The V-2 rocket and a model of Sputnik 1.

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The first successful launch of Germany’s A-4 ballistic missile and the orbiting of the first artificial satellite, Sputnik-1, took place 15 years and one day apart. The two achievements are related in more ways than their proximity on the calendar.

On Oct. 3, 1942, an A-4 developed by Wernher von Braun and his German Army team reached an altitude of 85 to 90 km (52.8 to 55.9 miles) after launch from Peenemunde on the Baltic Coast.

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A Short Review of Virgin Galactic’s Long History

SpaceShipTwo fires its hybrid engine. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Today, Sept. 27, marks the 15th anniversary of Richard Branson announcing the launch of Virgin Galactic Airways. It’s been a long, winding road between that day and today, filled with many broken promises, missed deadlines, fatal accidents and a pair of spaceflights.

This year actually marks a double anniversary: it’s been 20 years since Branson registered the company and began searching for a vehicle the company could use to fly tourists into suborbital space.

Below is a timeline of the important events over that period.

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SpaceX Aborts 150-meter Starhopper Flight

The clocked ticked down to zero, but when it came to go, SpaceX’s Starhopper vehicle failed to lift off from its launch pad at Boca Chica Beach in Texas.

After the last-second abort, Elon Musk’s rocket company scrubbed plans to fly the Raptor engine equipped vehicle to 150 meters (492 ft). SpaceX said it could try again as early as Tuesday.

It would have been the second flight test for Starhopper. The vehicle flew to about 20 meters altitude on July 25.

Starhopper is a test vehicle to develop technologies for SpaceX’s planned SuperHeavy Starship — a fully-reusable rocket and spacecraft system designed for human trips to the moon and Mars.

A second Starhopper is being built in Florida for testing there.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) gave permission for a flight to only 150 meters (492 ft) instead of the 200 meters (656 ft) that SpaceX requested. It also raised the liability insurance requirement for the flight from $30 million to $100 million.

Residents of nearby Boca Chica Village have been told to stay outside during the test in case an “over pressure event” (i.e., explosion) breaks windows in their homes.

NewSpace vs. Big Rocket: FAA’s Overhaul of Launch Regs Splits Industry

Two Launches in One Week: On Aug. 14, 2017, a Falcon 9 launch vehicle lifts off Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in the photo on the left. It was carrying a Dragon resupply spacecraft to the International Space Station. In the image on the right, a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket lifts off Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Aug.18, 2017 placing in orbit NASA’s Tracking and Data Relay Satellite. (Credit: NASA/Tony Gray and Sandra Joseph)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

According to who you talk to, the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) proposed streamlining of launch and re-entry regulations is either a prudent step forward that provides much-needed flexibility while protecting public safety or a a confusing mess that’s a massive step backward.

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SpaceX Says Nitrogen Tetroxide Leak Resulted in Destruction of Crew Dragon Vehicle

An instrumented mannequin sit in the Crew Dragon spacecraft for the Demo-1 mission. (Credit: SpaceX)

HAWTHORNE, Calif. (SpaceX PR) — On Saturday, April 20, 2019 at 18:13 UTC, SpaceX conducted a series of static fire engine tests of the Crew Dragon In-Flight Abort test vehicle on a test stand at SpaceX’s Landing Zone 1, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

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FAA Accepts Camden County Georgia’s Launch Site Operators License Application

Spaceport Camden launch complex (Credit: Camden County)

WOODBINE, Ga. (Spaceport Camden PR)–The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has notified Camden County, Georgia that it has completed an initial review of the Spaceport Camden Launch Site Operator License application and found it to be complete enough to accept and begin the 180-day review process. According to the FAA it “anticipate[s] making a license determination, in accordance with 14 CFR § 413.15, on or before December 16, 2019.”

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NASA Opens Up International Space Station to Private Astronauts

Space tourist Guy Laliberte (front, far right) aboard the International Space Station.
Guy Laliberte (first row, far right) aboard the International Space Station.

WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — As part of NASA’s mission to stimulate a low-Earth orbit (LEO) economy, NASA is enabling up to two short-duration private astronaut missions per year to the International Space Station beginning as early as 2020.

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Three Virgin Galactic Crew Presented with Commercial Astronaut Wings at 35th National Space Symposium

The curvature of the Earth from SpaceShipTwo. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., April 9,  2019 (Virgin Galactic PR) — The three-person crew from Virgin Galactic’s second space flight have received Commercial Astronaut Wings from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Chief Pilot, Dave Mackay, Lead Pilot trainer, Mike ‘Sooch’ Masucci and Chief Astronaut Instructor, Beth Moses, were presented their wings at the 35th Space Symposium, where it was also announced that Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company (TSC) are to be presented the Space Achievement award later this week.

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New FAA Rule Would Streamline Commercial Launch & Reentry

WASHINGTON (FAA PR) – The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) today posted a proposed rule (PDF) that would streamline federal commercial space transportation requirements for future launch, reentry, and launch-site providers, and maintain safety during launches and reentries. The proposed rule follows the National Space Council’s 2018 ‘Space Policy Directive 2’, which called on the Secretary of Transportation to review and revise the Department’s commercial space launch and re-entry licensing regulations. It will expand national and international access to the economic, scientific, and educational benefits of traveling to space.

“These rules will maintain safety, simplify the licensing process, enable innovation, and reduce costs to help our country remain a leader in commercial space launches,” said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao.

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NOAA, FAA AST Space Programs Get Funding Boosts

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Last week, we took a look at the significant increase in NASA’s budget for FY 2019. In this story, we will examine the budget increases for the Commerce Department — which manages the nation’s weather satellites — and the Department of Transportation, which oversees commercial launches. We will also take a look how the White House’s National Space Council fared.

Commerce Department

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

NOAA’s satellite programs received $1,45 billion, which is an increase of $55 million over FY 2018. The bulk of the funding is designated for the GOES-R,  Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) and Polar Follow-on (PFO) programs. The amounts include:

  • JPSS: $548 million
  • GOES-R: $408.4 million
  • PFO: $330 million

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Virgin Galactic Pilots Awarded Commercial Astronaut Wings

Richard Branson with the pilots of SpaceShipTwo. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

Washington D.C., USA (7 Feb 2019) — In another historical moment for the commercial spaceflight industry, Virgin Galactic was proud today to see its pilots Mark ‘Forger’ Stucky and ‘CJ’ Sturckow, awarded Commercial Astronaut Wings by the U.S. Department of Transportation in recognition of the company’s ground-breaking first spaceflight from Mojave Air and Space Port CA, on December 13th last year.

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Ceremony for Virgin Galactic Pilots to be Webcast

Richard Branson with the pilots of SpaceShipTwo. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

The ceremony on Thursday where the two Virgin Galactic pilots who flew above 50 miles in December will be awarded commercial astronaut wings will be webcast on the FAA’s YouTube channel. The 30-minute ceremony will begin at 2:30 EST/11:30 PST.











Camden County Georgia Submits Launch Site Operator License Application to FAA

Spaceport Camden launch complex (Credit: Camden County)

WOODBINE, Ga. (Camden County PR) — Today, the Camden County Board of Commissioners formally submitted its application for a Launch Site Operator License (LSOL) to the Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation. The successful submission of the LSOL marks more than three years of work to comply with the detailed regulatory requirements necessary to conduct orbital and suborbital launches from southeast Georgia.

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Praise from FAA for Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo’s Flight Above 50 Miles

SpaceShipTwo’s two pilots after landing. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

Statement of FAA Assistant Administrator Bailey Edwards
on the Successful Virgin Galactic Flight

Let me start by congratulating Virgin Galactic on a successful flight and return from space for the first time since 2004. We applaud your determination and pioneering spirit that delivered today’s milestone flight.

This year, it seems that we continue to reach new milestones within an industry that truly seems to see no earthly bounds. If you’re looking for the next big thing, commercial space is it. Safely growing this aerospace sector is a priority of President Trump, Vice President Pence and Transportation Secretary Chao who represents us with the President’s National Space Council.

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The Federation Welcomes Monteith Appointment to Head FAA AST

Wayne R. Monteith

WASHINGTON (CSF PR) — “On behalf of the commercial spaceflight industry, the Commercial Spaceflight Federation welcomes Brigadier General (Ret.) Wayne Monteith as the FAA’s new Associate Administrator for the Office of Commercial Space Transportation. He brings a wealth of space knowledge and leadership to the office, and we look forward to continued collaboration on policy and regulatory issues to continue the rapid growth of the U.S. commercial space transportation industry.

“Previously, Gen Monteith has held a variety of senior positions in the U.S. Air Force, including leadership of 15,300 military, civilian and contractor personnel responsible for launching U.S. government and commercial satellites from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.  He also had been the Air Force’s Assistant Deputy Under Secretary for Space.

“The FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation is pivotal to the commercial space industry’s continued growth and innovation. We are confident that Gen Monteith will continue its strategic role in the regulation and promotion of commercial launches and reentries that will strengthen and expand our nation’s space transportation capabilities and infrastructure.

“The Commercial Spaceflight Federation also thanks Kelvin Coleman for his leadership as Acting Associate Administrator. His leadership and deep understanding of the commercial space industry has been strategic and instructive during the transition. We are extremely appreciative of Kelvin’s commitment and look forward to continuing to work with him in his role as Deputy Associate Administrator and the rest of the talented, devoted team at AST.”