Space Business Forum: More Money, Less Bureaucracy Needed

7 Expert Answers for How Big Business Will Spend Cash in Space
Joe Pappalardo
Popular Mechanics

Of all the tons of fuel that drives modern space flight, cash is the most critical. That was the stark reality brought front and center on Wednesday at the first-ever Space Business Forum in New York, where leading rocket scientists, military officers and even hedge-fund managers crunched the numbers to illuminate the future of the space industry. From the European influence on suborbital tourism to why the Air Force doesn’t trust private rockets, and from the increasingly outsourced business model at NASA to a place for that other “green” movement, here’s a news analysis of where the power lies.

Challenges Ahead for New Space Investors
Tariq Malik
Space.com

“New startups hoping to make their mark on the space industry still face high entry barriers just to cover their initial costs, investors said Wednesday.

“The high cost and risks associated with new commercial ventures, as well as the bureaucratic government hoops they have to jump through, provide substantial barriers for nascent companies aiming for space, experts said during the 2008 Space Business Forum here presented by the Space Foundation, a non-profit advocacy organization.”

XCor Unveils the Lynx; New Vehicle Will Fly to the Edge of Space

XCOR Lynx

XCOR PRESS RELEASE

Los Angeles, March 26, 2008 – A small California aerospace company today unveiled a new suborbital spaceship that will provide affordable front-seat rides to the edge of space for the millions of people who want to buy a ticket.

The company, XCOR Aerospace, of Mojave, CA, announced that its two-seat Lynx suborbital spaceship will carry people or payloads to where they will experience weightlessness and see the stars above and the Earth and its atmosphere below. This will launch XCOR into the emerging space tourism market, estimated at over a half-billion dollars.

The Lynx will offer affordable access to space for individuals, researchers and educators,” said XCOR CEO Jeff Greason. “Future versions of Lynx will offer ever-improving capabilities for scientific and engineering research and commercial applications.

The spaceship, roughly the size of a small private airplane, will first take off in 2010 and will be capable of flying several times each day.

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More on Cape Breton

The opposition Liberal Party is calling upon the Nova Scotia government to actively support PlanetSpace’s plan to build a commercial spaceport on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia.

“The government should be saying, ‘What is it that we can do? Is there a role for the province to play to making it a reality? Is it feasible?’ Those kinds of questions need to be asked so that some economic activity will be happening,” said opposition leader Stephen McNeil said.

Meanwhile, a couple of Canadian newspapers also have weighed in on prospects of a spaceport at Cape Breton in Nova Scotia. The Cape Breton Post says that prospects for the spaceport receded after PlanetSpace failed to win a $170 million award from NASA’s COTS program.

The Halifax Chronicle Herald reports that PlanetSpace officials are hoping to get a piece of a $2.3 billion NASA procurement contract expected to be awarded later this year. However, the company believes prospects are good even if they don’t receive the funding.

New Documentary, Orphans of Apollo, Chronicles Mir Effort

A new documentary is out that chronicles efforts to commercialize the Mir space station. “Orphans of Apollo: The Battle of the Mir & the New Space Revolution,” a film by Michael Potter, recounts efforts by MirCorp during the 1990’s to jump start the space tourism industry. Producers invite you to:

“Join 5 brothers in arms, board a private Gulf Stream jet and fly to Russia and watch them at the negotiating table as they close out the most remarkable business deal of the final frontier. Listen to the key players of the management team struggle with issues of branding, finance, technology and engaging in the ultimate slug fest with the most powerful governments in the world. Can these dreamers replace the bureaucratic and government vision of space with a radically new vision of individuals and private enterprise developing space for all of mankind? Have they found the final frontier?

Yes, they venture into space in order to make billions, but they also go to space with the deep conviction, vision and idealism to save Earth itself. Resources captured in space and sent back to Earth have the potential of solving the entire planet’s energy problems.”

You can learn more about the film and view a trailer at the film’s official website. There is also a trailer on the site.

Scaled Composites Appealing Fines

Scaled Composites is appealing $28,000 in fines levied by California safety officials relating to a July explosion last year that killed three employees and injured three others.

The Bakersfield Californian has details, as does Space.com here. Neither story indicates why the company is appealing the fines, which were levied for citations alleging the company failed to adequately train workers and to maintain a safe working environment. The company has not commented publicly.

CalOSHA’s accident report indicates the employees were watching a cold-flow test from behind a chain link fence when the explosion occurred. Aviation Week reports this preliminary report points to an oxidizer tank as the cause of the explosion. The company is developing the suborbital tourist vehicle SpaceShipTwo for Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic.

Texas Spaceport sites stagnant

Despite a $2 million investment, Texas officials have had no success in attracting private space companies to any of three potential spaceport sites in the southern part of the state, The Brownsville Herald reports.

So When Will It Fly?

Cosmic Log’s Alan Boyle has an interesting interview with Scaled Composites’ Burt Rutan on progress developing SpaceShipTwo. Rutan expects to build 40-45 of the vehicles over the next dozen years with the aim of flying about 100,000 on suborbital hops.

Rutan also says the company does still not know the cause of the explosion that killed three employees last summer. California safety officials issued citations totaling $25,000 for safety violations at the Mojave facility.

Fourth Annual “Flight School” Workshop Planned for June

Imaginova Corp. and Esther Dyson of EDventure announced today that they will jointly present Flight School 2008: Where the Rubber Meets the Clouds. The intensive three-day workshop allows participants to identify and address the major challenges facing entrepreneurs in private aviation and commercial space. Flight School 2008 will take place June 4 to 6 at the St. Julien Hotel in Boulder, Colorado.

Flight School 2008 participants will include entrepreneurs, marketers, equipment manufacturers, aircraft and facilities operators as well as analysts, investors and regulators. They will come together to share experiences, refine strategies and better understand each other’s common pursuits and competitive positions.

“Personal spaceflight and private aviation start-ups are transforming the establishment in an exciting way,” said Dyson, creator of the Flight School workshops, chairman of EDventure and former host of PC Forum. “Years ago, I watched the Internet and the PC transform information technology from a world of scientists and government-funded high priests into a vibrant, innovative sector of commercially energized and fearless start-ups who have changed the world. Flight School 2008 is assembling the pioneers who will lead a similar transformation in air and space.”

Planned discussion topics for Flight School 2008 include:

  • The air traffic control challenge: Growing up around an old model
  • Air taxis: What have we learned so far?
  • Air charter economics: Can they last?
  • Safety, reliability and innovation
  • Environmental issues: Facing the facts
  • Finance: Where the money meets the clouds
  • Insurance and legal issues
  • Sizing the commercial space market
  • The aftermarket: Hotels, tours and training

Flight School 2008 workshop sessions will be moderated by Dyson; Lon Rains, Editor-in-Chief of Space News and Christian Kjelgaard, Senior Editor of Aviation.com.

Virgin Galactic Unveils SpaceShipTwo Model

Entrepreneur Richard Branson has unveiled a model of the spaceship he hopes will take paying passengers on suborbital flights beginning next year. Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo is expected to begin test flights later this year. Flight Global reports that the spacecraft is expected to roll out in May.

Bigelow Aerospace Eyes Atlas 5 for Space Station

Robert Bigelow is planning to use the Atlas 5 rocket to launch tourists to his planned orbital space facility beginning in about 2011. The Las Vegas-based company is currently in negotiations with Denver-based United Launch Alliance to develop a human-rated of the Atlas rocket.

Space.com has the full story here.