Two Chinese companies — CAS Space and Space Transportation — are pursuing the suborbital tourism market, with the former closely copying Blue Origin’s fully reusable New Shepard vehicle and the latter developing a winged vehicle that could be adapted for hypersonic point-to-point travel between distant locations on Earth.
CAS Space, a.k.a., Guangzhou Zhongke Aerospace Exploration Technology Co., Ltd., is developing a single-stage reusable rocket that lands under its own power topped with a capsule that descends under three parachutes.
The first half of 2022 was a busy period in suborbital space with 23 launches conducted that did not involve tests of ballistic missiles or defensive systems. Twelve people flew above the Karman line, new boosters and space technologies were tested, and the first commercial suborbital launch was conducted from Australia. And some science was done.
We covered the above mentioned flights in depth in a story published on Tuesday. In this piece we’ll look a broader look at who launched what, when, where, why and on what.
For decades, the suborbital launch sector was largely a backwater. Militaries tested ballistic missiles, scientists conducted experiments, and engineers tested new technologies. A sounding rocket is small potatoes compared with orbital rocket launches and the glamor of human spaceflight. Few people paid much attention.
All that has changed in recent years as Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin and their billionaire owners — Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos — started launching themselves and others on suborbital joyrides. Startups have been conducting suborbital flight tests of new orbital launch vehicles designed to serve the booming smalls satellite market. Suborbital has become a much more interesting sector.
This year has been no exception. The first half of 2022 saw Blue Origin send 12 people into space on two New Shepard flights, a Chinese company conduct six launches in a program to develop aa suborbital spaceplane and hypersonic transport, South Korea and Iran perform flight tests of three different smallsat launchers, Germany test technologies for reusable rockets, and first-ever commercial launch from Australia. And, a great deal of science was done.
HOUSTON (Venus Aerospace PR) — Venus Aerospace, a startup developing hypersonic aircraft, raised a $20 million Series A funding round led by Prime Movers Lab, which invests in breakthrough scientific companies that reinvent and transform the way we live and operate.
MOJAVE, Calif., January 25, 2022 (Stratolaunch PR) – Stratolaunch, LLC is pleased to announce a research contract with the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL).
Stratolaunch, under partnership with Booz Allen Hamilton, is on contract with AFRL to examine and assess the feasibility of hypersonic flight tests of a wide range of Air Force experiments and payloads on a frequent and routine basis.
Stratolaunch supports national security objectives for hypersonic offensive and defensive weapons development through the design, manufacture, and operation of a fleet of reusable hypersonic aerospace vehicles air-launched from its globally deployable carrier aircraft, Roc. The company plans to augment existing Department of Defense flight test resources through affordable, commercially contracted, rapid turnaround hypersonic flight testing for the Department of Defense and its prime contractor partners.
“Our goal is to provide affordable and routine access to the hypersonic flight environment,” said Dr. Daniel Millman, Chief Technology Officer for Stratolaunch. “We look forward to sharing lessons learned from this collaboration with AFRL, yielding powerful and practical research results benefiting the nation.”
Stratolaunch’s mission is to advance high-speed technology through innovative design, manufacturing, and operation of world-class aerospace vehicles. For the latest news and information, visit www.stratolaunch.com and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.
MOJAVE, Calif., November 1, 2021 (Stratolaunch PR) – Stratolaunch today announced that the Honorable Daniel Goldin, longest tenured National Aeronautics and Space Administration (“NASA”) Administrator, and Dr. Kamiar Karimi, former Senior Technical Fellow at the Boeing Company (“Boeing”), have joined its Board of Directors.
Talon-A airframe nears completion and begins systems installation
Roc carrier aircraft to complete additional flights this year
Hypersonic flights on track to test next year
MOJAVE, Calif., September 27, 2021 (Stratolaunch PR) – Stratolaunch is pleased to announce an important milestone for its Talon-A hypersonic test vehicles. The company successfully completed its Critical Design Review (“CDR”), a multidisciplinary technical review that ensure systems meet specified performance requirements.
Virgin Galactic’s record of delays and broken promises raises doubts about its ambitious supersonic aircraft project as company founder Richard Branson fights to save his struggling empire in the midst of a global pandemic.
Updated on 10/27/20 at 12:39 p.m. PDT to include spending comparison of Virgin Orbit to Rocket Lab.
by Douglas Messier Managing Editor
Richard Branson’s dream of a suborbital Virgin Galactic vehicle zipping passengers between distant cities at hypersonic speeds above Mach 5 (6,174 km/h, 3,836 mph) is dead. At least for now.
In August, the space tourism company he founded pivoted to a slower supersonic Mach 3 (3,704 km/h, 2,302 mph) business jet. Virgin Galactic unveiled a mission concept for an aircraft that would carry 9-19 passengers at a cruising altitude of 60,000 ft (18,288 m).
Boom Supersonic’s recent rollout of its XB-1 supersonic demonstrator aircraft marked a milestone in an accelerating race to revive an era of civilian supersonic travel that ended when the Concorde jetliner was retired in 2003.
XB-1, aka Baby Boom, is set to begin flight tests next year from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California. The Mach 2.2 (2,717 km/h, 1,688 mph) vehicle is the precursor to Boom’s 55-seat Overture airliner, which is scheduled to begin carrying passengers in 2029.
ATLANTA (Hermeus Corporation PR) — Hermeus Corporation, the aerospace company developing Mach 5 commercial aircraft, has partnered with the U.S. Air Force and the Presidential and Executive Airlift Directorate to work toward hypersonic travel for the Department of Defense. This award comes under an Other Transaction For Prototype Agreement Direct to Phase II contract through AFWERX after Hermeus successfully tested a Mach 5 engine prototype in February 2020.