Blue Origin Conducts Astronaut Rehearsal for Future Customer Flights

Blue Origin’s Audrey Powers simulates astronaut ingress on New Shepard Mission NS-15. (Credit: Blue Origin)

VAN HORN, Texas (Blue Origin PR) — Blue Origin successfully completed its 15th consecutive mission to space and back today and conducted a series of simulations to rehearse astronaut movements and operations for future flights with customers on board. This mission marked a verification step prior to flying astronauts.


Virgin Galactic Delays Space Tourism Flights to 2022, Lost $273 Million Last Year

WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo fly right overhead. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)
  • Rollout of Second Spaceship Scheduled to Take Place on March 30
  • Announced Expected Timing of Revenue-Generating Flight with the Italian Air Force
  • Next Rocket-Powered Spaceflight Targeted to Occur in May

LAS CRUCES, N.M. (Virgin Galactic PR) — Virgin Galactic Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: SPCE) (“Virgin Galactic” or the “Company”), a vertically integrated aerospace and space travel company, today announced its financial results for the fourth quarter and full year ended December 31, 2020.


NM AG: Excess Local Tax Revenues Improperly Spent to Support Spaceport America Operations

The Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space terminal hangar facility (center), Spaceport Operations Center (Left) and “Spaceway” (Runway) at Spaceport America. (Credit: Bill Gutman/Spaceport America)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Excess local tax revenues collected to support Spaceport America have been improperly spent on the facility’s operational costs, the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office has concluded.


Preparations Underway for First Human Spaceflight from Spaceport America

SpaceShipTwo Unity on its second glide flight over Spaceport America. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

SIERRA COUNTY, NM, December 7, 2020 (NMSA PR) — The New Mexico Spaceport Authority has started preparations ahead of Virgin Galactic’s first powered spaceflight from Spaceport America. The flight window will open on December 11, pending good weather conditions and technical readiness.


NASA Selects 31 Promising Space Technologies for Commercial Flight Tests

by Nicole Quenelle
NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program

NASA has selected 31 promising space technologies for testing aboard parabolic aircraft, high-altitude balloons, and suborbital rocket-powered systems. By exposing the innovations to many of the rigors and characteristics of spaceflight – without the expense of an orbital flight – NASA can help ensure these technologies work correctly when they are deployed on future missions.

“By supporting suborbital flight testing, our Flight Opportunities  program aims to help ensure that these innovations are well-positioned to address challenges and enable NASA to achieve its lunar ambitions, while also contributing to a growing and vibrant commercial space industry,” said Jim Reuter, associate administrator of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD). The Flight Opportunities program is part of STMD.


Monday Musings: Brazil’s Choices, VG’s Finances & More

Launch trajectories from Alcantara (Credit: AEB)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

A few thoughts as we begin week 403 of the Covid-19 lock down….

Location. Location. Location.

The three most important words in real estate. And Brazil’s Alcantara Launch Center has got it.


Virgin Galactic Crew and Customers to Receive Space Pins from the Association of Space Explorers

Chief Astronaut Trainer Beth Moses floats in the cabin as David Mackay and Michael “Sooch” Masucci pilot VSS. Unity. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

WASHINGTON (Virgin Galactic PR) — Crew and customers who fly to space on Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo, will be awarded space pins by the Association of Space Explorers (ASE).

The first pin was presented to Virgin Galactic Chief Astronaut Instructor, Beth Moses, at the International Astronautical Conference in Washington DC.


Virgin Galactic Entering Next Phase of SpaceShipTwo Flight Tests

View of SpaceShipTwo Unity from the tail boom. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

SpaceNews has an update on Virgin Galactic’s progress in testing SpaceShipTwo Unity.

Speaking at the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight here Oct. 10, George Whitesides, chief executive of Virgin Galactic, said he expected at least one more powered flight test of the vehicle before the end of this year.

“We’re entering into the next phase of our test flight program,” he said. “The next phase of flight will entail longer burns and higher duration, and that’s exciting for the team.”

Not all of those flights, though, will involve flights that go higher and faster. “We’ll do a variety of different things as we expand the envelope and try to understand abort scenarios and other things,” he said. “We have a lot of work still to go, but we’re making good progress.”

You might recall that the previous test flight in July the suborbital vehicle fired its engine for 42 seconds and reached an altitude of 170,800 ft, which are both records for the program.

McCarthy and Virgin Galactic Hope Commercial Space Measure SOARS

Capitol Building
By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

In a move that would have a major impact on how Virgin Galactic and other space companies operate, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has introduced legislation that would simplify the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) permitting and licensing procedures for new commercial spacecraft.

The Suborbital and Orbital Advancement and Regulatory Streamlining Act (SOARS) also would broaden the definitions of launch vehicles and launch services to include the WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft and spaceflight participant training conducted aboard it.

Another section of the measure would require the FAA to undertake a three-year demonstration project “to evaluate the benefits of using experimental aircraft for both the direct and indirect support of commercial space launch and reentry activities.”


FAA Commercial Space Chief Wants Regulation Sooner Rather Than Later

George Nield

Government regulation of commercial spaceflight could come sooner rather than later, if the FAA’s chief regulator of the industry gets his way.

The Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST), under reauthorization legislation signed in February 2012, is barred from writing detailed safety regulations for commercial human spaceflight until October 2015, unless there is a serious accident in the industry before then.

The Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (Comstac), an industry-led group that advises AST, wants more time. The group recommended last year that AST delay rulemaking until eight years after the first licensed U.S. commercial human spaceflight.

But AST Associate Administrator George Nield thinks that is too long to wait.

“The U.S. has over 50 years of experience in human spaceflight,” Nield said here at a hearing of the House Science space subcommittee. “It’s true that none of those carried a spaceflight participant who actually bought a ticket, but as far as I’m concerned, the design and the operation of those vehicles really were independent of who was riding on board.”

To back up his case, Nield recounted a quick history of U.S. crewed missions, from the experimental X-15 rocketplane that took the first U.S. astronauts on parabolic flights to the edge of space through the decades-long space shuttle program that ended in July 2011 after 135 missions.

Nield made his comments during a House Subcommittee on Space hearing earlier this week that examined possible changes to the 1984 Commercial Space Launch Act.

Space News has the full story.

Axe Apollo Space Academy Report and Photos

The winners with Buzz Aldrin. (Credit: SXC)
The 23 winners with Buzz Aldrin. (Credit: SXC)

ORLANDO, Fla. (SXC PR) — Early December an epic event was organized by AXE in Orlando, Florida. Over a 100 participants from all over the world competed a 3-day space academy to win a ticket to space with SXC.



Virgin Galactic Clarifies Status of SpaceShipTwo Engine

Hybrid engine test at the Mojave Air and Space Port on Jan. 23, 2013. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

The latest edition of The Lurio Report includes an update on Virgin Galactic’s testing of SpaceShipTwo. I’m reproducing the relevant excerpt from it with the original bold emphasis included:

Around the same time stories were again heard that the present engine design would not be able to attain space altitude – at least not with a full compliment of six passengers and two crew.  Will Pomerantz, VP of Special Projects for Virgin Galactic, said in response to my query that, “Mojave’s certainly full of rumors, so it’s good to have a chance to clarify.  On the basis of the great results from PF01 and PF02 [the first two powered flights], coupled with continued ground testing, we do expect the present hybrid motor to be capable of carrying passengers into space.  As always, we’ll continue to look at a variety of ways to improve the motor’s performance and cost-effectiveness.”  (Later Pomerantz confirmed that he was referring to a full complement of passengers and crew when using the hybrid motor.)

He added that while Scaled is not working on any liquid engines Virgin Galactic is, though only for the LauncherOne orbital rocket which will be released from the WhiteKnightTwo (WK2) aircraft.

This is really interesting. Let’s dissect this statement one clarification at a time.


Cosmica Spacelines Forges Alliance for Lynx Payload Integration Services

London, England (Cosmica PR) —
Cosmica Spacelines and EMXYS announced today the signature of an alliance to jointly market and provide payload integration services on XCOR’s Lynx spaceplane. This alliance consolidates the team formed by the two companies as the leading supplier of commercial suborbital flight services for experimental payloads in the European market. Both companies are Authorized Payload Integrators for XCOR’s Lynx, a fully reusable, liquid rocket powered suborbital vehicle expected to make its first flight in early 2013 with commercial flights available after successful completion of a comprehensive flight test program.


Hermes Hits $20,000 Crowd Sourcing Target

Congratulations to STAR Systems of Phoenix, which has hit its $20,000 fund-raising target on Kickstarter to fund work on its Hermes space plane.

A description of the spacecraft and the development effort from the company’s website is shown below:

The Hermes spacecraft, named after the ancient Greek god of boundaries and the people cross them, is a suborbital space shuttle for everyone, built on the premise that anyone should be able to take a trip into space without spending their life savings. It’s inspired by people like yourself who want to go into space but don’t want to spend a fortune to get there. “There aren’t too many people who get to be astronauts,” explains Morris Jarvis, the founder of STAR Systems and the Hermes spacecraft. “I think anybody who wants to fly into space should have that opportunity.”


Blue Origin: Secrecy and Control Freakery

A couple of updates on the ever mysterious Blue Origin:

At Popular Mechanics, Dave Mosher looks at what is known and unknown about Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ secretive suborbital and orbital projects. This is mostly a compilation of what’s already been reported by Clark Lindsey, myself and others. It quotes an anonymous aerospace executive as saying:

“I get why they’re so secretive. It’s a competitive business environment. But we’ll ultimately see them open up a little bit. They’re taking public money, so they’ll have to at some point.”

True enough. But, there might be more to it.

Google engineer Steve Yegge has posted a long entry on Google+ that discusses, among other things, his previous time working for Jeff Bezos at Amazon. Yegge says that Bezos is “super smart” but that his micro-management “makes ordinary control freaks look like stoned hippies.”

I’ve included a couple of excerpts below: (more…)