2014 in Review: Mojave’s Difficult Year

Mojave Air and Space Port CEO Stu Witt (Credit: Bill Deaver)
Mojave Air and Space Port CEO Stu Witt (Credit: Bill Deaver)

“2014 will be a fun ride. We welcome you to get onboard, strap in and hold on!”

Stu Witt

CEO & General Manager
Mojave Air and Space Port
Jan. 9, 2014

Stu Witt had a lot of reasons to be optimistic as 2014 began. The Mojave spaceport was on a roll. On Jan. 10, Scaled Composites conducted the third powered flight of SpaceShipTwo in less than 9 months. XCOR was making steady progress on the Lynx and a new hydrogen engine for ULA, Stratolaunch was busy building the world’s largest aircraft, and other tenants such as Masten and Firestar had successes over the past year.


Space Angels Network Tours SoCal Space Companies

Space Angels trip members watch the firing of an XCOR Lynx thruster. (Credit: Space Angels Network)
Space Angels trip members watch the firing of an XCOR Lynx thruster. (Credit: Space Angels Network)

LOS ANGELES, Calif. – September 29, 2014 (Space Angels PR) – Earlier this month Space Angels Network hosted an exclusive Expedition to Southern California space companies, offering unique insights inside the private space industry. The companies, located in Los Angeles and at the Mojave Air & Spaceport, included SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, Masten Aerospace, XCOR Aerospace, Whittinghill Aerospace and Firestar Technologies.


Witt: 2014 Going to be a Great Year in Mojave

Mojave Air and Space Port CEO Stu Witt (Credit: Bill Deaver)
Mojave Air and Space Port CEO Stu Witt (Credit: Bill Deaver)

Mojave Air & Space Port New Year’s Greeting
By Stuart O. Witt

Happy New Year!

On January 1, 1914 America entered the commercial air service arena with a flight that lasted just a few minutes and carried one passenger sitting on a wood seat across a short distance in south Florida. Today millions of passengers will board commercial aircraft and statistically all will reach their destination safely, in large part because of the robust industry in which we are a central participant.

Things occurred in the first 100 years of commercial air travel that no one could have predicted 100, 80 or even 70 years ago. If you asked anyone in 1925, “Within the next 70 years will people board a pressurized aircraft powered by jet engines and be fed steak and lobster, watch the latest movies or television while talking via telephone to their home or office?” they would have laughed in your face. But it did happen and the quality of life for all people has grown exponentially with our industry.


Commercial Spaceflight Federation Announces New Members

Washington D.C.
(CSF PR) – The Commercial Spaceflight Federation announced today that several companies have joined the organization.

“Interest and activity in commercial spaceflight continue to blossom at both traditional and new space companies,” said CSF President Michael Lopez-Alegria. “It is very satisfying to see the Commercial Spaceflight Federation’s membership expand to include such a preponderance of the players in the commercial space panorama.”


Mogul Wars in Mojave? SpaceX Invades Virgin Territory….

Home of SpaceShipOne? Not really. Not anymore, at least. The  actual space plane is hanging in the Smithsonian. There is a full-scale model at the spaceport which you can view. If you know where to look for it. Which most people don’t. Which sort of defeats the purpose of the sign. But, I digress….in a photo caption, of all places. What’s up with that?

At noontime on Monday, workers from the Mojave Air and Space Port who ventured into town to frequent Stoken’ Donuts and other popular lunch spots saw quite a startling sight. A truck was driving through downtown pulling a large billboard advertising jobs at SpaceX, which is located about 100 miles to the south in Hawthorne.

Elon Musk’s rocket company took it to the streets — literally — in an effort to lure away workers from the bustling desert spaceport, which is home to such companies as Virgin Galactic, Scaled Composites, XCOR, Masten Space Systems and Firestar Engineering. Apparently heeding some friendly advice, the driver reportedly stayed in town and did not enter the grounds of the airport.

The mobile recruitment campaign has Mojave buzzing. The simplest — and most logical — explanation is that SpaceX is growing rapidly and needs to recruit qualified workers. And Mojave is certainly a good place to accomplish that task.

Another school of thought is that SpaceX is striking back at Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, which has hired a number of former SpaceX employees. (I like this theory a whole lot better. Mogul vs. Mogul. Clash of the egos. Battle of the billionauts. I mean, the headlines alone are just….priceless.)

Whatever the case, I’ll keep my eyes open and my camera phone at the ready in case the rolling billboard shows up again. Who knows, maybe SpaceX will send a plane towing a banner next time. That would be a lot more appropriate for Mojave. And more interesting to see.

Mojave Spaceport to Extend Utilities to North Side Test Area

Mojave Air and Space Port. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

By Douglas Messier
Parabolic Arc Managing Editor

Tenants on the north side of the Mojave Air and Space Port will be getting power, water and high-speed fiber services early next year under a $1.3 million project approved by the East Kern Airport District Board of Directors on Tuesday.

Chief Operating Officer Kevin Wojtkiewicz estimated that the work could take two to three months to complete.


Firestar Selected for SBIR Contract for Green Propulsion System

On Thursday, NASA announced the selection of 39 proposals for Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II awards. Parabolic Arc will be looking at several of the proposals being undertaken by companies we have been following. This post looks at Firestar Engineering, a company based in Mojave, Calif., that is developing non-toxic propellant that will be tested at the International Space Station next year.

Firestar Engineering, LLC
Mojave, CA

PROPOSAL TITLE: Low Energy Electronic Ignition System for NOFBX Thrusters
SUBTOPIC TITLE: Propulsion Technologies

Estimated Technology Readiness Level (TRL) at beginning and end of contract:
Begin: 3
End: 5


Mojave: Come See What All the Excitement is About

To boldly go…. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

The Mojave Air & Space Port has been getting a bit of press lately.

If you want to see what all the excitement is about, drop by this Saturday for the spaceport’s monthly open house.

Plane Crazy Saturday
“October Skies” in Mojave!
OCTOBER 20, 2012
10 A.M. – 2 P.M.

This Plane Crazy Saturday event features:

  • Displays by XCOR Aerospace, Masten Space Systems & Firestar Technologies
  • Tours of Orbital Sciences Corporation’s L-1011 “Stargazer”
  • Special Presentation in EKAD Board Room by ‘STARGAZER PILOT’ Bill Weaver at 11 a.m.

Weaver has flight-tested all models of the Mach-2 F-104 Starfighter and the entire family of Mach 3+ Blackbirds-the A-12, YF-12 and SR-71. During one harrowing flight, his SR-71 broke apart at 78,800-feet when the aircraft was doing Mach 3.18. Come hear how he survived.

Weaver will also talk about his flights on Orbital Sciences Corporation’s L-1011, which has been modified to carry the Pegasus satellite-launch vehicle.

The California Pilots Association is having its annual meeting in Mojave this week. So, there will be a lot of planes to see.

And the Mojave Makers will be having an open house at their Maker Space.


Need a Job? They’re Hiring in Mojave

By Douglas Messier
Parabolic Arc Managing Editor

There are several hundred open positions in Mojave as companies such as the Spaceship Company, XCOR and Scaled Composites begin to ramp up operations.

“It’s ironic that we’re having a recruitment problem in Mojave,” said Stu Witt, CEO and general manager of the Mojave Air and Space Port. He added that this is a good problem to have.

The Spaceship Company, which is building WhiteKnightTwos and SpaceShipTwos for Virgin Galactic, has engineering and production positions open. The company is holding a jobs fair in Wichita, Kansas, on March 14 to recruit prospective employees there.

Scaled Composites has 11 positions featured on its website, including aerodynamicist, composite fabricator, manufacturing engineer, and purchasing manager.

XCOR is staffed up on the engineering side but is looking to build out its business operations. The company is seeking a director of retail sales and channel operations to oversee sales to individual passengers and organizations that want to fly experiments on the suborbital Lynx vehicle.


Automobile Industry Looks to Space to Improve Fuel Efficiency

Clean-suited technicians assemble a TE generator for a spacecraft. NASA's expertise in this technology can help cars and trucks to run more efficiently. (Credit: JPL)

By Bob Silberg
Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Next time you’re pumping gasoline into your car or truck, think about this: Three-quarters of the energy in that pricey petroleum will be wasted. Only about 25 percent of the energy in every gallon of gasoline you buy actually helps your vehicle to run. The rest is converted to heat, which is radiated uselessly off of your engine or blown out of your exhaust pipe.

What if you could recover some of that wasted energy? You’d need less gas, which would not only save money, but also reduce carbon emissions and the need for foreign sources of fuel. But is there a practical way to turn a car’s heat into useful energy?