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.
SPARKS, Nev., September 16, 2019 (SNC PR) – Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC), the global aerospace and national security contractor owned by Chairwoman and President Eren Ozmen and CEO Fatih Ozmen, announced that former NASA astronaut and Glenn Research Center director, Janet Kavandi, will join SNC as Senior Vice President for the company’s Space Systems business area.
After 25 years with NASA, Kavandi retired this month as director at Glenn, having led the center’s Moon to Mars work. She is joining SNC in a period of growth for the company’s space initiatives and two years before the first of six missions for SNC’s Dream Chaser® spacecraft to service the International Space Station under contract with NASA.
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (NASA PR) — Former astronaut and long-duration spaceflight pioneer Owen Garriott, 88, died today, April 15, at his home in Huntsville, Alabama. Garriott flew aboard the Skylab space station during the Skylab 3 mission and on the Space Shuttle Columbia for the STS-9/Spacelab-1 mission. He spent a total of 70 days in space.
“The astronauts, scientists and engineers at Johnson Space Center are saddened by the loss of Owen Garriott,” said Chief Astronaut Pat Forrester. “We remember the history he made during the Skylab and space shuttle programs that helped shape the space program we have today. Not only was he a bright scientist and astronaut, he and his crewmates set the stage for international cooperation in human spaceflight. He also was the first to participate in amateur radio from space, a hobby many of our astronauts still enjoy today.”
Without the influence of gravity, astronauts experience bone loss and it takes research in space to figure out how to reverse that.
MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. (NASA PR) — Spaceflight is hard on the human body. Adapted over generations to meet the rigors of an environment with gravity, all of the normal rules about staying healthy on Earth don’t apply in zero gravity. Long-term space exploration depends on knowing how to keep humans strong and well, so NASA has been studying the consequences of short-term trips in space for years, with the International Space Station contributing significantly to the understanding of how to keep astronauts healthy.
Amid uncertainty about the Commercial Crew schedule, NASA has issued a pre-solitication procurement notice to secure additional rides with the Russians for its astronauts.
“NASA is considering contracting with the State Space Corporation ‘Roscosmos’ for these services on a sole source basis for two (2) Soyuz seats and associated services to the International Space Station (ISS) on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft vehicle. This transportation would be for one crewmember in the Fall of 2019 and one crew member in the Spring of 2020,” the agency said in the Feb. 13 notice.
In its annual report issued last week, NASA’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) pushed back against complaints that the space agency has bogged down the Commercial Crew Program (CCP) with unnecessary bureaucratic paperwork.
“It should be recognized by all parties, both internal and external to NASA, that the certification process is not merely a ‘paperwork’ process; it involves considerable detailed technical activity by both NASA and the partners,” ASAP said.
WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA astronaut E. Michael “Mike” Fincke has been added to the crew of the Boeing CST-100 Starliner’s Crew Flight Test, scheduled to launch later this year.
Fincke takes the place of astronaut Eric Boe, originally assigned to the mission in August 2018. Boe is unable to fly due to medical reasons; he will replace Fincke as the assistant to the chief for commercial crew in the astronaut office at NASA’s Johnson Space Center.
Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud has appointed his nation’s first – and thus far, only – astronaut to head up a newly created national space agency.
Prince Sultan bin Salman, who flew into orbit aboard the space shuttle Discovery in 1985, was appointed to the position. Salam, 62, is one of the king’s second son.
As a payload specialist aboard the flight, Salam helped to deploy the ARABSAT-1B satellite from the shuttle’s cargo bay for the Arab Satellite Communications Organization (ARABSAT). His flight marked the first time an Arab, a Muslim and a member of a royal family traveled to space.
HOUSTON (NASA PR) — The largest and most complex international construction project in space began on the steppes of Kazakhstan 20 years ago today. Atop its Proton rocket, on Nov. 20, 1998, the Zarya Functional Cargo Block (FGB) thundered off its launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome into cold wintry skies. Zarya was built by the Khrunichev in Moscow and served as a temporary control module for the nascent ISS.
Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) has conceded the Senate race to Republican rival Rick Scott after a recount. Scott, who is leaving his job as Florida governor, won by 10,033 votes out of more than 8.1 million cast.
Nelson, who has been a strong supporter of NASA, has held the Senate seat for 18 years. He previously served in the House of Representatives from 1979 to 1991.
During his time in the House, he flew into space as a payload specialist aboard the space shuttle Columbia in 1986.
Scott has also been a strong supporter of the space program during his time as governor. Space Florida, which serves as the state’s space agency, has spent millions of dollars on infrastructure improvements and other incentives at Cape Canaveral to lure commercial companies to operate there.
Nelson was one of three prominent space advocates to lose re-election bids. Rep. John Culberson. Republican lost his bid to continue representing Texas’ 7th district. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) will also be departing after 30 years in the House.
Psychologists have identified five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. These stages are clearly on display in Virgin Galactic’s Rocket Man, Nicholas Schmidle’s profile of Mark Stucky in The New Yorker. A substantial part of the story chronicles how the test pilot dealt with the death of his close friend, Mike Alsbury, in the breakup of SpaceShipTwo Enterprise during the vehicle’s fourth powered flight four years ago.
It’s a touching portrait of Stucky’s grief for his fellow Scaled Composites pilot, with whom he had flown while testing the suborbital spacecraft being developed for Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic. (Stucky later moved over to Virgin, which took over the SpaceShipTwo program after the accident, to test the second SpaceShipTwo, Unity.)
However, Schmidle tells only half the story in his otherwise insightful profile. He places nearly all the blame on Alsbury, while ignoring the findings of a nine-month federal investigation that identified systemic flaws in the development program and the government’s oversight that contributed to the accident.
It’s similar to the flawed, self-serving narrative that Branson used in his latest autobiography, “Finding My Virginity,” complete with a not-entirely-fair jab at the press coverage of the crash. The billionaire uses pilot error to obscure a decade of fatal mistakes and miscalculations. (more…)
EDWARDS, Calif. (NASA PR) — Former NASA research pilot and astronaut Richard “Rick” Searfoss died Sept. 29 at his home in Bear Valley Springs, California. He was 62.
Searfoss, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel, served as a research pilot in the flight crew branch at NASA Dryden (now Armstrong) Flight Research Center in California from July 2001 to February 2003, having brought with him over 5,000 hours of military flying and 939 hours in space.
He flew on three space flights, onboard space shuttles Columbia and Atlantis, logging 39 days in space. Searfoss was the pilot for his first two space missions, STS-58 and STS-76, landing both times at Edwards Air Force Base in California. Once at Dryden, medical staff was standing by for the astronauts as well as personnel who supported the NASA convoy team in preparing the shuttle for its return ferry flight to Florida.
Four-time Oscar nominee Michelle Williams is set to play Christa McAuliffe, the New Hampshire schoolteacher who died with six other crew members aboard the space shuttle Challenger in January 1986, in an upcoming movie named after the spacecraft.
“We are more than humbled and extremely grateful for the opportunity to help tell the story of Christa McAuliffe and the Challenger mission,” Argent Pictures’ Ben Renzo toldDeadline.
“Christa McAuliffe’s legacy deserves the strength, courage, experience and humanity that Michelle Williams brings to the role. The entire Argent team is honored and eager to responsibly capture and share the events and personal journeys of those surrounding this important historical moment with audiences around the world to help remember and further appreciate the sacrifices Christa and rest of the Challenger crew made to further our journey into space.”
Space Miles, through their sub-brand The Space Shuffle® are soon to launch continuous online competitions to win sub-orbital space flights.
The format of The Space Shuffle online competition will be to answer three questions and the winner will be the first correct entry chosen at random when the trigger point of 45,000 entries has been reached.