Today, astronauts Scott and Mark Kelly are visiting the White House to talk to the President about developing innovative new space technologies. One critical area for technology development is making satellites more affordable, adaptable, and adept at providing the sorts of real-time information that will help advance knowledge out in space and on Earth.
WASHINGTON (NOAA PR) — On September 15, 2016, NOAA awarded contracts to GeoOptics, Inc., and Spire Global, Inc., as part of the Commercial Weather Data Pilot.
GeoOptics and Spire Global will each provide space-based GNSS radio occultation data to NOAA for the purpose of demonstrating data quality and potential value to NOAA’s weather forecasts and warnings. This approach is a win-win solution. Both NOAA and the commercial firms will gain a trial run of the NOAA evaluation process, a necessary first step to considering sustained operational use of new commercial weather data.
If the current schedule holds, Virgin Galactic’s revamped LauncherOne program will enter commercial service sometime in 2018 after roughly a decade of development. During that period, the program has been redefined several times, lost two of the key people hired to lead it, and changed its launch platform from WhiteKnightTwo to a jumbo jet. The estimates for the initial flight tests also have slipped by about four years from 2013 to 2017.
Below is a timeline of the program’s major events, milestones, announcements, hires and departures, and other things. Feel free to let me know if I’ve missed anything significant.
Virgin Galactic is developing a rocket more powerful than LauncherOne to fulfill a recent order for 39 launches from its global satellite Internet partner OneWeb, according to sources familiar with the program.
LauncherTwo will use Virgin Galactic’s largest liquid fuel engine, NewtonThree, in its first stage, according to sources that insisted upon anonymity. A new engine, NewtonFour, will be developed for the second stage.