It’s going to be busy year in space in 2017. Here’s a look at what we can expect over the next 12 months.
A New Direction for NASA?
NASA’s focus under the Obama Administration has been to try to commercialize Earth orbit while creating a foundation that would allow the space agency to send astronauts to Mars in the 2030’s.
Whether Mars will remain a priority under the incoming Trump Administration remains to be seen. There is a possibility Trump will refocus the space agency on lunar missions instead.
Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), who is currently viewed as a leading candidate for NASA administrator, has written two blog posts focused on the importance of exploring the moon and developing its resources. Of course, whether Bridenstine will get NASA’s top job is unclear at this time.
José Mariano López Urdiales, founder and CEO of the Spanish startup zero2infinity, gave a presentation on Thursday about the company’s Bloostar balloon-launched smallsat rocket during the International Astronautical Conference in Jerusalem.
Mark Schaffer (@mgschaffer), a senior Senior Aerospace Engineer at SpaceWorks Enterprises, provided the following details via Twitter.
Rocket lifted by balloon to 20 km altitude for launch
Balloon launched from boat off Canary Islands at 27 degrees latitude
Payloads: 125kg to 400km @ 27 degrees low Earth orbit, 75kg to 600 km sun synchronous orbit
3-stage rocket with all engines using LOX/CH4
1st stage has 6 15kN LOX/LCH4 engines. 2nd & 3rd stages use same 2kN LOX/LCH4 engine; 6 engines on 2nd stage, 1 engine on 3rd
Balloon to be used as communications relay after rocket release
First test flight of orbital vehicle Q2 2018, first commercial flights after 4th test flight
Developing upper stage first
Will offer suborbital flights with 75 kg to 180km by Q4 2016
Expects $4.0M USD per launch, lower for block buy
Launch cost will be half price of competitors
Program has 25 investors from Hong Kong, France, Germany and Spain
Funding available to reach initial operations
€198M in letters of intent from customers across 7 countries.
BARCELONA, Spain (zero2infinity PR) — After many years of friendship, an Agreement was formalized between Michael López-Alegría and zero2infinity. The former NASA astronaut will advise the company in both technical and business matters.
Michael López-Alegría is a Spanish-American astronaut who flew to space four times and performed ten spacewalks. After retiring from NASA in 2012, he became President of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation in Washington, DC. His expertise in both American and Russian space programs will be an important asset in establishing human space travel in Europe. López-Alegría will put his years of experience and extensive knowledge in the field of commercial spaceflight to the service of zero2infinity, supporting its objectives and dreams of sustainable, near-space access for scientists, passengers and payloads.
One of the main objectives of zero2infinity’s project “bloon”, a manned high-altitude balloon, is to give the overview effect to the people flying it. During a Google hangout organized by zero2infinity on March 5th, 2012, about this emotional shift in perspective that is known as the “overview effect,” Lopez-Alegria said: “The Earth is covered by the atmosphere, which is analogous to the skin of an apple, that is pretty thin. Even in a balloon flight, you’d be outside this boundary just about; you’d be able to perceive what that’s like, and that just in itself, with the curvature and the blackness of the sky, will give a very strong sense of the bigger picture”.
War is Boring takes a look at zero2infinity’s plan to launch small satellites aboard rockoons (rocket balloons):
Balloon-launched rockets, or “rockoons,” sound crazy. Rocket scientist and entrepreneur José Mariano Lopez-Urdiales agrees. “Sometimes crazy is good,” he says. “If it sounds normal, everyone’s doing it.”
He’s getting two start-ups off the ground. Bloon want to take passengers into near-space for much less than other space-tourism companies. Zero 2 Infinity hopes to offer low-cost space-launch services.
But if you want to launch a small payload on your own, using a rockoon might be the way to do it. Launching from high altitudes simplifies rocket engineering, and frees designers from most aerodynamic problems, Lopez-Urdiales says.
The rocket’s shape and engines can be a lot simpler, as there’s no need to dead-lift the rocket against gravity or power through thick, sea-level air.
You don’t need thin, inefficient fuel tanks designed to knife through the air under great strain. Instead, you can use toroidal tanks shaped like tires, which are lighter and easier to recover.
Engineers can optimize the rocket engines for vacuum conditions, instead of having to work at both sea level and high altitude. That means simpler design—with vacuum sucking the propellants out of the tanks.
BARCELONA, Spain (zero2infinity PR) — The Spanish company zero2infinity, based in Barcelona, known for its extensive Near-Space ballooning experience, announced it’s been working to expand its capabilities to include a nanosatellite launch vehicle, named bloostar, to offer reliable, dedicated, launch on demand for 21st century small satellites.
zero2infinity has been operating high-altitude balloons since 2009. Flying technical, scientific and commercial payloads to over 30km altitude is its current operational activity. Using balloons as a first-stage for a nanosatellite launcher is the logical and necessary next step to address this booming and underserved market.
BARCELONA, Spain (zero2infinity PR) — The high-altitude balloon company zero2infinity, based in Barcelona, has received its first Space suit, designed by American company Final Frontier Design. This brings the company one step closer to crewed test flights, which should start later this year.
BARCELONA, Spain (zero2infinity PR) — On Friday, 6 September 2013, zero2infinity performed a test flight of microbloon 3.0 from the airport of Cordoba, Spain. microbloon 3.0 is an inflatable pod manufactured by Thin Red Line Aerospace and ascended smoothly up to 27km.
León, Spain, November 12, 2012 (zero2infinity PR) —Barcelona-based company zero2infinity has successfully launched its newest prototype, the microbloon 2.0, to the edge of Space at almost 32km in altitude, that is, above 99% of the mass of the atmosphere.
It was a major step in zero2finfinity’s mission to bring Space closer to society. Founder José Mariano López-Urdiales said: “It’s very exciting to be this close to flying people on bloon. The environmental conditions inside the pod remained comfortable at all times. The efficiency of the aviation safety agencies (AENA, AESA), local governments and especially the Spanish Air Force was key for this success. When everyone works together, anything can be achieved in Spain.”
BARCELONA, 5 October 2012 (zero2Infinity PR) — zero2Infinity, purveyor of near-space tourism, was announced today as a Yearling winner of the 2012 Bully Award honouring Europe’s leading startup companies as presented by White Bull Summits, champions of European innovation.
NEW YORK (zero2infinity PR) — zero2infinity is now one step closer to manned flight: an agreement was just signed with Final Frontier Design to buy a pressurized space suits.
zero2infinity just entered into an agreement with Final Frontier Design and became one of the first in line to buy a pressurized space suits. The aim of Ted Southern and Nikolay Moiseev, the associates behind FFD, is to develop the next generation of space suits for the new commercial space industry. They have already made pressurized astronaut gloves and two complete suit prototypes and are now seking NASA flight certification; they will start delivering suits in January 2013.
Once pressurized space suits are delivered, zero2infinity will evaluate them in some tests for the use in the first manned test flight in 2013. We hope that this is the beginning of a long and fruitful collaboration with Final Frontier Design.
An interesting concept for high-altitude flight from a Barcelona company called zero2infinity. The website ncludes the following description:
Bloon’s near-spaceship will calmly soar through our atmosphere pulled by a balloon in a clean and safe way to an altitude of 36 km. Meanwhile, the four shirtsleeves travelers on board the pod will dispose of about 3 hours to discover the amazing beauty and fragility of the Earth. There’s no need to rush. Space travel is a journey of discovering and enlightenment. Near-space travelers can have dinner, sip their favorite drink or simply relax in the warm cabin’s environment with the only worry of not missing any detail of our great world and knowing that the trip not only did no harm, but helped protect her.