There were 12 suborbital flights last year that tested inflatable heat shields, scramjet and hypersonic propulsion, spy satellite cameras, and reusable launch vehicle technologies. Flights were conducted from the United States, India, Japan, Germany, Brazil and North Korea.
Once a sleepy backwater largely focused on scientific research, the suborbital launch sector has boomed in recent years. Private companies and governments across the globe conducted 29 flights to test orbital and suborbital launch vehicles and a range of technologies last year.
Resplendent in a blue Virgin Galactic flight suit, Richard Branson was in an exuberant mood as he sat at the New York Stock Exchange doing a TV interview on Oct. 28, 2019. His space tourism company had just gone public in a $774 million merger with billionaire Chamath Palihapitiya’s Social Capital Hedosophia special purpose acquisition company.
Virgin Galactic now had an estimated market value of more than $2.2 billion despite never having flown a single passenger or earned any serious revenue in 15 years. Virgin Galactic would have $450 million to complete its flight test program and begin commercial flights — if the company’s Securities and Exchange Commission filings were to be believed — in June 2020. Branson and the Mubadala Investment Company, an Abu Dhabi government sovereign wealth fund, would divide up $274 million to offset about $1 billion in investment made thus far.
KENT, Wash. (Blue Origin PR) — Today’s NS-23 launch is scrubbed due to weather. We’re continuing to track the weather in West Texas. Our next launch window for NS-23 opens tomorrow at 8:30 AM CDT / 13:30 UTC. Live webcast starts at T-20 minutes.
New Shepard’s 23rd mission, a dedicated payloads flight, will fly 36 payloads from academia, research institutions, and students across the globe.
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.
Blue Origin today announced its sixth human flight, NS-22, will lift off from Launch Site One on Thursday, August 4. The launch window opens at 8:30 AM CDT / 13:30 UTC. The webcast will start at T-30 minutes.
The first half of 2022 saw more commercial travelers — 16 — launch into space than the 10 professional astronauts who work for government-run space agencies. However, those numbers come with an asterisk or two.
Four of the 14 astronauts who launched into orbit flew on Axiom Space’s privately funded and operated crew flight to the International Space Station (ISS). Blue Origin launched 12 individuals into space on two flights of the company’s New Shepard suborbital vehicle.
The other 10 astronauts who launched to ISS and the Tiangong space station worked fulltime for NASA, European Space Agency (ESA), China Manned Space Agency, or Russia’s Roscosmos State Space Corporation. SpaceX flew American and European astronauts to ISS on the company-owned Crew Dragon spacecraft under a NASA contract. The Russians and Chinese flew aboard government-owned and operated spacecraft.
DENVER, July 22, 2022 (Space for Humanity PR) — Today, Space For Humanity (S4H), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, announced its selection committee has chosen Sara Sabry to become the organization’s second sponsored Citizen Astronaut. Sara will become the first Egyptian to fly to space when she flies aboard Blue Origin’s NS-22 flight.
Sara, 29, is an Egyptian mechanical and biomedical engineer and founder of Deep Space Initiative (DSI), a nonprofit which aims to increase accessibility for space research. Sara became Egypt’s first female analog astronaut in 2021, when she was selected to complete a two week analog Moon mission, which simulated the extreme conditions astronauts experience in Space. She will join five other crew members including Coby Cotton, Mario Ferreira, Vanessa O’Brien, Clint Kelly III, and Steve Young aboard New Shepard to experience the cognitive shift of the Overview Effect and incorporate that new found perspective into a social impact project with the support of S4H’s Citizen Astronaut Program (CAP).
“When we dare to dream big, we achieve things deemed impossible, we break boundaries, write history, and set new challenges for the future,” said Sabry. “I am incredibly excited that Space For Humanity has offered me this opportunity and I am honored to be representing Egypt in Space for the first time. My ancestors have always dreamt big and achieved the impossible, and I hope to bring that back. This is just the beginning.”
SEATTLE, Wash. (Blue Origin PR) — Blue Origin today announced the crew flying on its NS-22 mission will include Dude Perfect cofounder Coby Cotton, Portuguese entrepreneur Mário Ferreira, British-American mountaineer Vanessa O’Brien, technology leader Clint Kelly III, Egyptian engineer Sara Sabry, and telecommunications executive Steve Young. Sara will become the first person from Egypt to fly to space; Mário will become the first from Portugal. Vanessa will become the first woman to reach extremes on land, sea, and air, completing the Explorers’ Extreme Trifecta, a Guinness World Record.
Virtuoso adds spaceflight partner to its exclusive global portfolio
Limited number of remaining seats available to Virtuoso’s global client base
NEW YORK & TUSTIN, Calif. (Virtuoso/Virgin Galactic PR) — Virtuoso®, the leading global network specializing in luxury and experiential travel, and Virgin Galactic (NYSE: SPCE), an aerospace and space travel company, today announced a strategic partnership to make a limited number of seats for Virgin Galactic’s spaceflight experience available to Virtuoso’s global client base.
MESA, Ariz., July 14, 2022 (Virgin Galactic PR) – Virgin Galactic Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: SPCE) (the “Company” or “Virgin Galactic”), an aerospace and space travel company, today announced it has signed a long-term lease for a new final assembly manufacturing facility for its next-generation Delta class spaceships. Located in Mesa, Greater Phoenix area, adjacent to the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport, the facility will be capable of producing up to six spaceships per year and will bring hundreds of highly skilled aerospace engineering and manufacturing jobs to the area.
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.
Virgin Galactic has seen the departures of its director of safety and chief legal officer over the past month.
Chief Legal Officer and General Counsel Michelle Kley is leaving Virgin Galactic as of July 19 after two years and seven months with the company. She will become chief legal officer at Volta, a company that runs an electric vehicle charging network.
Her departure comes as Virgin Galactic battles lawsuits from unhappy shareholders who claim to have lost money since the company went public more than 2.5 years ago.
Kley joined Virgin Galactic as executive vice president, chief legal officer, general counsel and secretary in December 2019. She previously served as senior vice president, chief legal officer, general counsel and secretary at Maxar Technologies from July 2016 to March 2019.
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.
DLR flies three-stage sounding rocket for the first time.
Component structures, measurement methods and evaluation algorithms tested for the re-entry phase.
A modular and distributed data acquisition system allowed the efficient recording of data from the different experiments.
Focus: space travel, aerodynamics, sounding rockets.
ANDOYA, Norway (DLR PR) — Reusable carrier systems are exposed to high loads and temperatures when returning to the surface. The German Aerospace Center (DLR) has now successfully tested component structures, measurement methods and evaluation algorithms for the re-entry phase with the flight experiment STORT (key technologies for high-energy return flights from carrier stages).
In the early morning of June 26, 2022, the three-stage rocket experiment was launched from the Andøya Space launch site in northern Norway. At the apex of the trajectory at an altitude of 38 kilometers, the upper stage reached a flight speed of around 9,000 kilometers per hour, which corresponds to a Mach number of over eight. It then fell into the Atlantic Ocean more than 350 kilometers from the starting point.