Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic Goes Public With Extravagant Promises to Keep

Richard Branson wears the SpaceShipTwo flight suit. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

After 15 years of making extravagant but unkept promises to fly more than 600 “future astronauts” to space, Richard Branson must now please an entirely new group of people who are usually much shorter on patience: shareholders.

Following the completion last week of a merger with Social Capital Hedosophia (SCH), the British billionaire’s Virgin Galactic suborbital “space line” will begin trading under its own name on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on Monday.

Going public now is an unusual move for a space tourism company that hasn’t flown a singlet tourist to space since Branson announced the SpaceShipTwo program in 2004. Some might see it has putting the cart before the horse.

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Hermeus Raises Seed Funding for Hypersonic Aircraft from Khosla Ventures, Announces Advisory Board

Hypersonic vehicle (Credit: Hemeus)

ATLANTA, GA – Hermeus Corporation, a startup increasing the speed of air transportation by developing hypersonic aircraft, today announced a Seed round investment. The round was led by Khosla Ventures, with additional participation from private investors. The financing will further the development and test of Hermeus’ hypersonic propulsion system.

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X-60A Hypersonic Flight Research Vehicle Program Completes Critical Design Review

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio (AFRL PR) – The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), Aerospace Systems Directorate, High Speed Systems Division, in partnership with Generation Orbit Launch Services, Inc., is developing the X-60A vehicle. It is an air-dropped liquid rocket specifically designed for hypersonic flight research.

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U.S. Air Force Designates GOLauncherOne Hypersonic Flight Research Vehicle as X-60A

GOLauncherOne hypersonic vehixcle. (Credit: Generation Orbit)

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio (USAF PR) – The Air Force has designated the GOLauncher1 (GO1) hypersonic flight research vehicle as X-60A.  The vehicle is being developed by Generation Orbit Launch Services, Inc. under contract to the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), Aerospace Systems Directorate, High Speed Systems Division.

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Reaction Engines: New Investors Bring “Invaluable Expertise” to SABRE Program

SABRE engine (Credit: Reaction Engines)

ABINGTON, UK, 12 April 2018 (Reaction Engines PR) – Reaction Engines Limited (‘Reaction Engines’) today announced that it has raised a further £26.5 million in a strategic fundraising by securing backing from some of the most influential names in aerospace and finance which will support its development of SABRE™ – a revolutionary new class of aerospace engine combining jet and rocket technologies.

New strategic investors are Boeing HorizonX Ventures, the investment arm of Boeing, the world’s largest aerospace company and leading manufacturer of commercial jetliners and defence, space and security systems; and Rolls-Royce, a pre-eminent engineering company focused on world class power and propulsion systems whose experience and capability in building complex engine systems is well known.

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Reaction Engines Receives $37.6 Million Investment

Skylon with the SABRE engine. (Credit: Reaction Engines)

Reaction Engines has received a large investment by Boeing HorizonX and two other companies, CNBC reports.

The U.S. industrial giant joined Rolls-Royce and defense company BAE Systems in a $37.6 million fundraising round for U.K.-based propulsion company Reaction Engines. This is both the second foreign investment and the second space investment for Boeing HorizonX Ventures, which contributed to the $15 million funding round for Australian satellite company Myriota last month.

Reaction Engines’ advanced propulsion “could change the future of air and space travel,” according to Boeing HorizonX vice president Steve Nordlund.

“We expect to leverage their revolutionary technology to support Boeing’s pursuit of hypersonic flight,” Nordlund said in a statement.

Reaction Engines, which has now raised more than $140 million over the last three years, is developing a hybrid jet and rocket engine. In theory, the company’s SABRE engine will be capable of operating as a jet at take-off and transitioning to a rocket at higher altitudes.











DARPA Selects Orbital ATK for Hypersonic Engine Research Project

DARPA’s new Advanced Full Range Engine (AFRE) program seeks to develop and demonstrate a new aircraft propulsion system that could operate at subsonic through hypersonic speeds and lay the framework for routine, reusable hypersonic flight. (Credit: DARPA)

DULLES, Virginia 23 January 2018 (Orbital ATK PR) – Orbital ATK (NYSE: OA), a global leader in aerospace and defense technologies, has entered into a contract with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to study potential integration of turbine and hypersonic engine technologies into a new aircraft propulsion system under DARPA’s Advanced Full Range Engine (AFRE) program.

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DARPA Awards Aerojet Rocketdyne Contract to Develop Hypersonic Advanced Full Range Engine

DARPA’s new Advanced Full Range Engine (AFRE) program seeks to develop and demonstrate a new aircraft propulsion system that could operate at subsonic through hypersonic speeds and lay the framework for routine, reusable hypersonic flight. (Credit: DARPA)

SACRAMENTO, Calif., Oct. 09, 2017 (Aerojet Rocketdyne PR) — Aerojet Rocketdyne, Inc., a subsidiary of Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings, Inc. (NYSE:AJRD), has entered into an agreement with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to develop and ground test an innovative propulsion system under the agency’s Advanced Full Range Engine (AFRE) program.

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Branson Muses About SpaceShipTwo Flight in April, Point-to-Point Travel

Screenshot, Business Insider Nordic

Ah, yeah…about that….Maybe if Virgin Galactic was already in powered flights. As it is, they still have at least one more glide flight to conduct. And they haven’t conducted one of those in two months.

It’s possible they only get one powered flight test off the ground by the end of the year. Would that leave them prepared to begin commercial flights by April? Probably not. There are a lot of variables involved — number of test flights, pace of testing, problems they discover — but six months would be pushing it.

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A Niche in Time: First Flight

Richard Branson addresses the crowd before SpaceShipTwo’s glide flight. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)

Part 5 of 5

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The morning of Dec. 3, 2016, began like so many others in Mojave. The first rays of dawn gave way to a brilliant sunrise that revealed a cloudless, clear blue sky over California’s High Desert.

This was hardly newsworthy. For most of the year, Mojave doesn’t really have weather, just temperatures and wind speeds. It had been literally freezing overnight; the mercury was at a nippy 28º F (-2.2º C) at 4 a.m. As for Mojave’s famous winds – an enemy of roofs, trees and big rigs, but the lifeblood of thousands of wind turbines that cover the landscape west of town – there really weren’t any. It was basically a flat calm.

In other words, it was a perfect day to fly.

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Orbital ATK Receives $21 Million Hypersonic Propulsion Contract from DARPA

DARPA’s new Advanced Full Range Engine (AFRE) program seeks to develop and demonstrate a new aircraft propulsion system that could operate at subsonic through hypersonic speeds and lay the framework for routine, reusable hypersonic flight. (Credit: DARPA)

DARPA has awarded a contract worth $21.4 million to Orbital ATK for a research project under the Advanced Full Range Engine (AFRE) program. The defense agency is allocating $1 million in R&D funds for the program in fiscal year 2017, which ends on Sept. 30.

“AFRE seeks to develop and demonstrate a new aircraft propulsion system that could operate over the full range of speeds required from low-speed takeoff through hypersonic flight,” DARPA said in a press release announcing the program.

Hypersonic speeds are defined as Mach 5 (approximately 3,300 miles per hour/5,300 kilometers per hour) and above.

“Instead of designing an entirely new kind of engine, we’re envisioning an inventive hybrid system that would combine and improve upon the best of off-the-shelf turbine and ramjet/scramjet technologies,” said Christopher Clay, DARPA program manager. “This won’t be the first time that ambitious engineers will attempt to combine turbine and ramjet technologies. But with recent advances in manufacturing methods, modeling, and other disciplines, we believe this potentially groundbreaking achievement may finally be within reach.”

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ISRO Commissions Advanced Hypersonic Wind Tunnel

Hypersonic wind tunnel (Credit: ISRO)

SATISH DHAWAN, India (ISRO PR) — In the quest to reduce the cost of access to space and to extend the frontiers of space exploration, ISRO has ventured into Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV) and Re-entry missions, Air-breathing propulsion technology demonstration and Interplanetary missions. These missions encounter design criticalities at Hypersonic Mach number regime and need rigorous aero-thermodynamic characterisation at these Mach numbers.

In order to cater to the above need, Industrial type Hypersonic Wind Tunnel and Shock Tunnel have been established at Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC).

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The Year in Suborbital Launches

The New Shepard capsule separates from its booster as the abort motor fires. (Credit: Blue Origin)
The New Shepard capsule separates from its booster as the abort motor fires. (Credit: Blue Origin)

Although orbital launch vehicles get all the glory (and infamy when they fail), 2016 was also a busy year for the far less glamorous suborbital launch sector. There were 19 suborbital launches at various sites around the world, and two more sounding rocket launches of note where the payload didn’t go above 100 km.
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Trump’s Tax Plan Likely to Limit Options in Space

Donald Trump (Credit: Michael Vadon)
Donald Trump (Credit: Michael Vadon)

During an appearance in Florida one week before the election, Republican vice presidential candidate Mike Pence promised that he and Donald Trump would reinvigorate the nation’s space program.

However, the incoming administration’s larger economic priorities are likely to limit its options for any large-scale space exploration efforts.

President elect Trump’s biggest priority is a massive tax cut that would primarily favor corporations and upper income Americans. It would also lower taxes slightly for many middle class families while actually raising taxes for some of them. CBS News has a full analysis. Some of the highlights:

Right now, a single parent with $75,000 in income and two children can claim a head of household deduction of $9,300, plus three personal exemptions. Those steps would reduce the household’s taxable income by $21,450, to $53,550.
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