Space Adventures, NASA Launch Student ISS Experiments Contest

Astronaut Shannon Walker activates NanoRacks experiments. Image credit: NASA
WASHINGTON — NASA announced it will provide support to Space Adventures, Ltd. of Vienna, Va., to conduct a global competition for students to design experiments that will be performed in space and broadcast around the world.

NASA entered into a non-reimbursable Space Act Agreement with Space Adventures for astronauts aboard the International Space Station 250 miles above Earth to conduct the winning experiments on the orbiting outpost. The experiments will be performed on the U.S. portion of the space station that has been designated as a national laboratory.

The National Laboratory Education Initiative seeks innovative ways to use the unique microgravity environment of the space station to promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education. The contest is designed to encourage students from 14 to 18 years old to develop STEM skills through practical experience. The goal is to develop creative and analytical abilities by working on teams to solve problems using the latest information technology and tools.


Armadillo, Space Adventures Want Information on Suborbital Spacesuits

Space Adventures, Ltd., the only company currently providing human space mission opportunities to the world marketplace, along with their partner Armadillo Aerospace, LLC, released a Request for Information (RFI) solicitation today in an effort to gather information on the industry’s capabilities in designing and fabricating a spacesuit for suborbital spaceflight.  Last year, Space Adventures entered into an exclusive marketing agreement with Armadillo Aerospace, a leading manufacturer of reusable rocket power vehicles, and together the companies are developing a commercial passenger suborbital space program.

“A key part of the development program is the selection of a spacesuit design for integration with the ongoing vehicle cabin mock-up and test program to ensure maximum safety, mobility and comfort for our clients,” said Tom Shelley, president of Space Adventures.  “Space Adventures is playing an active role in the solicitation and selection of a suit design because of the impact that the space suits will have on the experience for our customers.” (more…)

Space Needle, Space Adventures Launch Suborbital Space Trip Competition

Space Adventures is teaming with the Space Needle to send a lucky winner into space to celebrate the 50th anniversary next year of the famous structure that graces the Seattle skyline. It’s an interesting competition: there will be 1,000 entrants picked randomly in December who will compete in a separate “skill-based competition” to win a suborbital spaceflight worth $110,000 on an unspecified vehicle. There are no details on precisely what the competition will entail other than they will include “various tests and challenges” to be conducted throughout December.


TEDxMidTownNY Event to Feature Shelley, Zerkin


On Tuesday, March 8, 2011, the TEDxMidTownNY headline speaker will be Tom Shelley, Vice President of Space Adventures, Ltd., the only company providing human space missions to the world marketplace. He will provide an “Overview of the Human Spaceflight Training Market.” Tom will share his insights and discuss developments in commercial space transportation and other related industries.

The second speaker for this event will be Noah Zerkin, Research Engineer in the Neurology Department at the Human Aerospace Lab at Mount Sinai Medical Center. Noah designs and fabricates prototype sensor modules for automated mobile neurovestibular evaluation of human subjects who have spent extended periods in microgravity (i.e. at the International Space Station). Noah is also the inventor and developer of the Zerkin Glove, a low cost glove for interacting with virtual objects in an augmented environment, and the author of Augmentation featuring his views on the coming AR revolution.


Virginia Spaceflight Funding Bill Heads to the Governor

Pad OA at Wallops Island. (Credit: Orbital Sciences Corporation)
Jack Kennedy tells me that a measure to earmark funding for the Virginiia Commercial Space Flight Authority has passed the House of Delegates by a vote of 89-8 after being approved unanimously by the Senate. The measure now heads to Gov. Robert McDonnell for his signature.
The bill earmarks any state income tax generated by human space flight or human space flight training to be directed to the space authority. The measure was supported by Virginia-based Space Adventures because it would direct taxes that it pays to the state toward improving facilities on Wallops Island that it might use for its activities. Space Adventures has said that it will not directly fund infrastructure improvements.

Virginia Commercial Spaceflight Bill Approved by Senate Committee

Pad OA at Wallops Island. (Credit: Orbital Sciences Corporation)

Jack Kennedy reports that a bill that direct tax revenues from Virginia companies engaged in commercial human spaceflights or commercial spaceflight training to the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority has been reported out of the Senate Finance Committee.


Jeff Manber: Hire Capt. Kirk as Space Adventures’ Spokesman

Jeff Manber isn’t very impressed with Space Adventures’ plan to send humans around the moon. He’s skeptical about whether the company has actually sold a $150 million ticket, thinks their promo video has crappy production values, and says they should hire James Tiberius Priceline (William Shatner) as a spokesman. He also questions the wisdom of spending $150 million to be a guinea pig on Russia’s first ever lunar human flight. (A good question, actually.)


Roscosmos: No Contracts Signed Yet With Space Adventures for Billionaut Flights

A Russian Soyuz spacecraft in orbit

An interesting notice from the Roscosmos website:

Space Adventures, which had announced the conclusion of an agreement with Russian Federal Space Agency and Rocket Space Corporation Energia (RSC Energia) to commercially offer three seats on the Soyuz spacecraft bound for the International Space Station (ISS), beginning in 2013, has not signed any contract neither with Roscosmos, nor with RSC-E, Roscosmos Human Spaceflight Directorate Head Alexey Krasnov told Marker.

According to Krasnov, the a.m. negotiations may commence in spring, provided that Space Adventures finds funding for increasing of Soyuz production, from four to five space vehicles per year.


Video: Whitesides, Anderson Talk NewSpace

Watch live streaming video from dldconference at

Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides and Space Adventures Chairman Eric Anderson talk NewSpace at the DLD Conference in Munich.

Eric Anderson: We’ve sold a $150 million ticket for a circum-lunar mission that will start in 2015. Need to sell a second ticket; finalizing that sale now.

The video cuts off early, but Jeff Foust (@jeff_foust) Tweeted some additional notes:

— Whitesides: Virgin will spend about $500M before operations begin in 2012.

— Whitesides: expect Virgin Galactic to be cash flow positive “very quickly” once ops begin, flying ~500 in 1st year.

— George Whitesides says that if the US Gov’t allows the export of the WK2/SS2 system, the 1st place it will go is Abu Dhabi.

The Billionauts are Back!

The Soyuz -- soon to fly again with billionauts aboard!

Pop the corks! Light up those Cubans with $100 bills! And order that Beluga caviar by the ton!

Yes, prospective billionauts around the world are celebrating today. They will soon have rides into orbit, thanks to a new deal between the Russians and an American space tourism company:

Space Adventures, the only company that has provided human space mission opportunities to the world marketplace, announced today the conclusion of an agreement with the Federal Space Agency of the Russian Federation (FSA) and Rocket Space Corporation Energia (RSC Energia) to commercially offer three seats on the Soyuz spacecraft bound for the International Space Station (ISS), beginning in 2013.

These seats will be made available through the increase of Soyuz production, from four to five spacecraft per year. Each flight will be short duration, approximately 10 days, and will contribute to the increase of launch capacity to the ISS.


Eric Anderson Elected New Chairman of Commercial Spaceflight Federation


The Commercial Spaceflight Federation, representing 37 companies employing thousands of Americans nationwide, has selected its next Chairman of the Board, Eric C. Anderson, who holds the position of chairman of Space Adventures, Ltd.  Anderson was elected by a diverse cross-section of industry leaders at a recent board meeting.  Anderson succeeds Mark Sirangelo of Sierra Nevada Space Systems, who has completed his appointed term as Federation Chairman.  Mr. Sirangelo will continue on as an officer and board member of the Federation as Chairman Emeritus.

Bids in for CCDev 2: Boeing, Orbital Sciences, SpaceX, Sierra Nevada and Virgin Galactic

Boeing's proposed commercial capsule.
Artist's conception of Boeing's commercial crew module. (Credit: Boeing)

Bids were submitted to NASA yesterday for phase 2 of the Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) program, the space agency’s effort to field commercial crew launchers and spacecraft to service the International Space Station.  At stake is about $200 million in contracts that will be awarded in March.

According to press releases and media reports, the bids include Boeing’s CST-100 crew transport, SpaceX’s Falcon 9/Dragon system, Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser shuttle, and a new lifting-body vehicle from Orbital Sciences Corporation. Media reports indicate that Virgin Galactic has partnered with both Sierra Nevada and Orbital Sciences in separate bids.


Flying to the Moon: Cheaper Than Running for Governor of California

The San Jose Mercury News looks at space tourism today. Some interesting excerpts:

Space Adventures has already sent eight paying passengers into space using Russian Soyuz spacecraft, and Google co-founder Sergey Brin has placed a $5 million down payment and is first in line for a future flight into orbit. Now, the company is advertising a trip around the moon for two paying passengers, something the company’s president, Tom Shelley, says could happen in three to four years. At $100 million a seat, a trip to the moon is a bit steep, but it’s less than one Silicon Valley tycoon spent trying to get to Sacramento.

[Editor’s Note: This last bit is a reference to former eBay CEO Meg Whitman, who spent in excess of $160 million — most of it her own money — in a failed bid to become California’s governor. Don’t feel too bad for her, though; it was just a bit over 10 percent of her net worth.]


Researchers Begin Work on Space Tourism Passenger Requirements

UTMB experts researching commercial space guidelines
The Citizen Bay Area

Vanderploeg, who serves as Virgin Galactic’s chief medical officer, and UTMB physician Dr. Richard Jennings, medical director for Space Adventures, will collaborate with scientists at the Johnson Space Center and Wyle Integrated Science and Engineering Group to conduct research projects for the FAA’s Air Transportation Center of Excellence for Commercial Space Transportation.