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Friday, April 28, 2006

The Hubble Space Telescope: Will it be saved?

The Hubble Space Telescope recently imaged Comet Schwassmann-
Wachmann 3's break-up. The HST has delivered astronomical results since 1990. But NASA chief Mike Griffin will decide the future of the space-based telescope following the July launch of the STS-121 . NASA Goddard scientist Dr. David Leckrone recently indicated that the $2 billion telescope could continue operating for years if it had human service missions to tend to its instrumentation.

Perhaps a space shuttle mission will be in its future. Hopefully, a SpaceX Falcon 9 Dragon human space capsule may be able to service HST again in 2010 to operate in tandem with the planned James Webb Telescope for years.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Is The Law Congruous to Expanding Space Tourism?

While the fledgling space tourism companies are hard at work to build a viable global space industry, the FAA/AST is establishing a regulatory regime that is global in application to the American start-up space tourist industry. A new 'White Paper' examines the legal issues of the nascent industry, spaceports, and globalization of space tourism entitled: "Is International and Municipal Law Congruous to the Development of Fledgling Commercial Space Businesses?" accompanied by a Power Point slide presentation.

The legal issues reviewed are: 1] Where does airspace end and outer space begin? 2] What is the legal status of a spaceflight participant?
3] What are among the safety issues that must be regulated? 4] What legal impact does assumption of risk pose to tourists? 5] What obligations are there for third-party liability? 6] What financial responsibility is there to launch licensing? 7] What are the regulatory obligations of the spaceport? 8] What growing complexity does utilization of a foreign spaceport portend to the future?

The research explores the globalization of spaceports and why it is in the interest of foreign nations to back the construction of such facilities and provide support to Virgin Galactic, Space Adventures, Rocketplane, and other space flight participant vehicle launches. The White Paper was prepared by Jack Kennedy for the University of North Dakota Space Studies Department.

Challenger Center Auction Astronaut "Adventures"

The Challenger Center 20th Anniversary Auction is now open. The auction will run to May 29, 2006, with proceeds going to Challenger Center for Space Science Education in order to help continue the mission of Flight 51-L. Auction items range from space memorabilia donated by astronauts and even special "adventures" with astronauts, to celebrity memorabilia; from exotic vacations, hotel stays and gourmet dinners to high tech merchandise, according to Challenger Center board chairman and former astronaut Joe Allen.

Support Challenger Center and the hundreds of thousands of young people who are experiencing the excitement of hands-on participation in a space mission at one of the more than fifty centers around the nation and the world. You, too, can "touch the future!"

Friday, April 21, 2006

Rocket Firms To Send Teachers

Three fledging rocket firms have pledged resources to provide a Teachers to Space flight program at the behest of the Space Frontier Foundation and announced at the Space Access Society annual gathering in Phoenix, Arizona. Texas-based Armadillo Aerospace, Oklahoma's Rocketplane and California's XCOR Aerospace have committed to providing a ride for a teacher, valued at between $100,000 and $200,000.

The Foundation's Teachers In Space program was first announced several weeks ago at the National Science Teachers Association conference. Its goal is to send hundreds of teachers a year into space. The group is seeking private and government support for "scholarships" that can be used by teachers to buy rides on any proven vehicle. Although commercial flights will not be available for more than a year, the Foundation is developing this program now, so once the firms are flying and capable, the first teachers will be selected. As a first step, Teachers In Space is asking for selection criteria suggestions on its web site. Also see:

Thursday, April 20, 2006

"Gentlemen Start Your Engines!"

The Mayor of Las Cruces announced "Gentlemen, Start Your Engines" following approval of the city council's conveyance of nearly 12 acres at the West Mesa Industrial Park to Rocket Racing League the past week. Rocket racing is expected to bring in excess of $34 million to the city economy. The X-Prize Cup, meanwhile, is expected to bring over 20k people to the city in late October adding more rocket fuel to the Las Cruces economy boomlet.

On Friday, May 12, 2006, the X-Prize will host a grand opening open of an office at the Sugerman Space Grant Building at 3050 Knox Street on the campus of New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, New Mexico on Friday, May 12, 2006 between the hours of 2:30 PM and 4:00 PM. For details about the event, contact Joylynn Watkins of the New Mexico Space Grant Consortium at 505-646-6414.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

FAA/AST Asserts Space Treaty Law to Regulate Globally

The FAA/AST asserts the power to regulate suborbital space tourism globally under international treaty law when a U.S. firm is involved with the space launch regardless of the spaceport used. Under proposed regulatory rules open for comment and expected to come into force by the end of the year, any launch involving a a suborbital spacecraft by a U.S. citizen or firm is subject to U.S. regulation in conformity with existing international treaty obligations under Article VII and Article VIII of the Outer Space Treaty, Article I of the Convention on International Liability for Damage Caused by Space Objects, and Article I and Article IV of the Convention on Registration of Objects Launched into Outer Space.

Space Adventures plan to launch a Russian-made "Explorer" suborbital vehicle from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Singapore in 2008. Virgin Galactic is also looking at a launch sites in Sweden and Scotland as well as its headquaters site in New Mexico in 2009.

Las Cruces Becoming Center of American Space Tourism

The founders of the New Mexico Space Alliance (formerly Space Task Force) probably never anticipated Las Cruces "becoming the center of the American space tourism industry," as recently described by The Space Review. Nonetheless, it is becasue of the tenacious vision of men and women - like retired Col. Len Sugerman, Ben Boykin, Averett Tombes, Dr. Patricia Hynes, Donna Nelson, Dwight Harp, Lonnie Sumpter, Representative Ed Boykin, and a host of others - that a spaceport dream is turning-to-reality. In the initial fulfilllment of the work of these early spaceport pioneers, The Land of Enchantment will host what has been referred as a "Rocket Rodeo" October 19-22 as yet another precursor to humans going to suborbital space in 2008.

The spirits of Dr. Robert Goddard and Dr. Wernher von Braun must be pleased with New Mexico heralding yet another era in space complete with a modern human spaceport.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Oklahoma Spaceport to be 1st?

The Burns Flat Oklahoma Spaceport hopes to be the first to launch a suborbital revenue space flight aboard a RocketplaneXP in late 2007 if the necessary FAA/AST approvals are provided. A Los Angeles woman is reportedly paying the $192,500 to $250,000 ticket price (depending on which seat) for the first commercial 2,500 mph, 62.5 mile ride to the edge of space aboard the 'souped-up' rocket enhanced Learjet.

Rocketplane won the so-called 'O-Prize' from the state of Oklahoma, a five-year tax credit valued at $17.25 million, for the first space firm to operate from the former Clinton-Sherman Airpark. Ex-NASA astronaut John Herrington is expected to pilot the first test flight next year.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Ruissan President Putin Ponders Space Tourism

Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke from the Kremlin with International Space Station Russian cosmonaut Pavel Vinogradov and U.S. astronaut Jeff Williams in a special tribute to Cosmonauts Day, marking Gagarin's pioneering orbit around the Earth on April 12, 1961. During the connection cosmonaut Vinogradov said: "I would like to invite Vladimir [Putin] to visit us. He has been out to sea in a submarine, has learned how to operate strategic aircraft and feels at home in the Su-27 fighter." The Russian president replied: "Maybe during vacation." Putin sounded like a would-be space tourist.

Russia celebrates Cosmonauts Day on April 12 to mark the anniversary of the day in 1961 when Yuri Gagarin became the first man to travel into space and orbit the Earth on board the Vostok-1 spacecraft.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

25 Years Ago: April 12, 1981 "HAIL COLUMBIA!"

The Space Shuttle Columbia (STS-1) lifted-off from the Kennedy Space Center at 7 AM on April 12, 1981 - 25 years ago - as a marvel of post-Apollo engineering and with the hope that space flight would become routine. Having stood with the thousands of on-lookers cheering on Columbia that historic day, it did seem a new era was born. The Space Shuttle has made significant contributions to human spaceflight history the past quarter of a century. But it is time to build new vehicles and new spaceports to achieve a new human destiny - a Return to the Moon with thousands of humans to space. STS-1 launch video - Throttle-up!

Monday, April 10, 2006

2006 X-PRIZE CUP SET OCT. 20-21: Las Cruces, New MeXico

The 2006 X-Prize Cup is set to open in the desert of Southern New MeXico October 20-21 with exciting new events. The kick-off will be a Personal Spaceflight CEO's Summit Thursday and Friday October 19-20 followed by the opening Friday of the X-Prize Cup Expo running through Sunday, October 22. VIP Tickets are $99; $10 general ticket admission per day. Over 20-powered rocket flights are planned.

The Personal Spaceflight CEO's Summit will include speakers Eric Anderson of Space Adventures, Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Galactic, Elon Musk of SpaceX, Bob Bigelow of Bigelow Aerospace, and several others. There is also discussion of a Space Law conference on Wednesday, October 18th being planned in Southern New MeXico.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

SS2 to Fly Through the Aurora Borealis at Sweden Spaceport

Virgin Galactic has an amazing new spaceport plan for the northern tip of Sweden which will offer one of the most thrilling rides in history. Sir Richard Branson's space firm will loft passengers aboard SpaceShipTwo through the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights in 2011 for what may prove to be the one of the more colorful spaceflights of the fledging commercial era.

Virgin's European space centre space will be built and in-operation in 2008 at Kiruna in the far north of Sweden. It is a place so close to the North Pole that it is near to the Northern Lights, said Will Whitehorn, the president of Virgin Galactic. The spaceport will also be near the famed Sweden Ice Hotel site of the James Bond movie, Die Another Day.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Hundreds of Teachers Going Suborbital?

The Space Frontier Foundation has formally announced a project to fly hundreds of teachers in space within the next few year with science teachers from across America showing their support April 7 by signing a declaration saying they want to go into space.

"We want to fly many more teachers than the original NASA Teachers in Space program would have flown, and we want these teachers to return to the classroom within a few days to inspire thousands of students to pursue academic excellence and possibly space careers," said Space Frontier Foundation co-founder and space expert Rick Tumlinson.

Perhaps a high school science text book publisher will step-up and donate $200,000 to put the first teacher in suborbital space. Or, Sir Richard Branson may donate a seat to the Space Frontier Foundation's Teachers in Space.

X-37 Flys from Mojave Spaceport

The X-37 flew from the Mojave Spaceport Friday on a successful autonomous flight and landing at Edwards Air Force Base. The only reported "anomaly" was that it went off the runway, a DARPA spokeswoman said.

The X-37 was lofted to 37,000 feet by the White Knight, the same vehicle that took SpaceshipOne spaceward in 2004. The X-37 is largely classified for national security but was viewed as a potential military space bomber. Friday's test flight is expected to be the first of several.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Diamandis Seeks to Reinvent Philanthropy

Peter Diamandis is looking to reinvent philanthropy to areas where society needs a breakthrough idea. "What a prize does is change the conversation about something. It no longer is 'Will it occur?'but 'When will it occur?' " Speaking to the InvestMidwest Venture Capital Forum, the Harvard Medicial School graduate and founder of the innovative $10-million X-Prize said, prizes focused on energy, medicine, genetics and even on education and poverty would enable positive change.

Diamandis got a chuckle from his business audience when he noted that aviators spent a total of $400,000 to pursue the $25,000 Orteig prize, won by Charles Lindbergh for his 1925 flight from New York to Paris. "Orteig didn't spend a penny on any of the losers; now, that's an efficient market," Diamandis said.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Entrepreneur Musk Re-Fuels SpaceX w/$100 Million

Entrepreneur Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, has pledged an additional $100-million of his personal fortune to his fledgling small-rocket company. Determined to see his Falcon series of boosters to successful Earth orbit despite the March 24 loss of the first Falcon 1 spacecraft to a fuel line leak, and amid seemingly eroding Air Force support, Musk is pumping in more hard cash.

Immediately following the loss of Falcon 1 at the Kwajalein Atoll on the central Pacific Ocean launch site, Musk said "come hell or high water, we are going to make this work."

Outback Spaceport Advocated

Australian astronaut Andy Thomas, veteran of 177-days in space, is advocating to the Australian Science Minister Julie Bishop investment of $150-million in the Woomera rocket range for an international spaceport for tourists. Dr. Thomas said he had spoken with the University of Adelaide about conducting a feasibility study of a 10-year plan.

"This project needs bipartisan support and it's in Australia's long-term interest," Thomas, a past Mir Space Station crew member, said. "I think that's something that Australia needs to get on board with. One of the best places in the world to run commercial space flights is Woomera."

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Ex-Astronaut John Herrington to Pilot Rocketplane

Ex-NASA astronaut John Herrington, 47, an Oklahoma native and a member of the Chickasaw Indian tribe, lectured at the University of North Dakota Wednesday afternoon providng insights about his flight aboard STS-113 to the International Space Station. Moreover, Herrington discussed his future plans to pilot the new RocketplaneXP to suborbital space next year. In the one-hour lecture on Real Player video, the chief test pilot for Rocketplane Limited Inc. with 330 hours in space, including nearly 20 hours of extra-vehicular activity, describes the planned flight of the Rocketplane at 29:30 into the vid.

Lloyd's Considering Virgin Galactic Liability Insurance

Virgin Galactic has turned to Lloyd's of London and Hiscox Plc. for possible insuance to cover SpaceShipTwo and to protect Virgin against claims from people living nearby the launch site in case of pollution or a crash occurring over their homes in Southern New Mexico or in northern Sweden. Space passengers, however, may not be covered by insurance, at least initially, until a safety record for the flights is established. The $200,000 per ticket passengers may have to assume the risk of the suborbital flight.

Spacediving: Next Extreme Sport?

One extreme sport that suborbital rockets now under development may enable is Spacediving. Joe Kittinger, Jr. is the last spacediver over White Sands, New Mexico in 1960. He still holds the record of a 102,800 feet space jump. The jump resulted in free fall for 4.5 minutes at speeds up to 714 mph and temperatures as low as -94 degrees F.

In the near future extreme sports space divers may take a rocket fight to the edge of space, proceed to jump out, and while wearing a counter pressure suit, free fall to earth 50 miles (more or less) with the guaranteed thrill of a lifetime. A space board ride through the atmosphere add to the exciting possibilities!

The best book on the topic is entitled: The Pre-Astronauts published in 1995. Development of spacediving may enable greater safety for a stricken space vehicles in the future if the technology is perfected.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

New Mexico Spaceport Plans 1st Suborbital Launch

The New Mexico Spaceport may swing into action in June with its first suborbital launch by UP Aerospace's SpaceLoft XI carrying several university student payloads. Bulldozers push dirt,
concret is being poured, a rocket launch rail has arrived that upon being errected will be visable for miles around the Upham desert. A Launch Control Center, the Payload Assembly and Intergration Building, the mobileVehicle Assembly Building, and a Doppler Sonic Detection and Ranging Weather Station is either in-design or now under construction on the 70 square kilometer (27-acre) site.

"The first commercial space launch will happen this year from this launch pad that we're standing on," said Lonnie Sumpter, with the New Mexico Office for Space Commercialization.

Ex-Microsoft Exec to be 5th Orbital Tourist

Space Adventures has struck a deal with former Microsoft software developer Charles Simonyi to be the fifth space tourist to be launched by a Soyuz to the International Space Station in the spring of 2007, Russia's Federal Space Agency disclosed.

"I have always dreamed of the wonder of spaceflight and the exploration of space has always inspired me. I consider my future flight to be a small part of an important trend to make space accessible to more people, not just to experts. I am very much in favor of commercial space travel which promises to advance technology just like commercial aviation did many years ago," 57-year old billionaire Simonyi said in the announcement.

Spaceport Plans Expand to Europe and Australia

Virgin Galactic is expanding its scope of possible spaceports to include not only the northernmost emirate Ras Al-Khaimah of the United Arab Emirates, in direct competition with Space Adventures, but also Sweden and Australia, reports

The seven-seat Virgin Galactic spacecraft SpaceShipTwo (SS2) is expcted to start construction of the commercial prototype this year. The spacecraft will be the size of a large-cabin Gulfstream IV business jet. "We have taken, for commercial reasons, the deliberate decision of not unveiling the design until early next year, " said Will Whitehorn.

Monday, April 03, 2006

FAA/AST Praised for Space Regulations

Virgin Galactic President Will Whitehorn praised the FAA/AST for its approach to regulation of the nascent space tourism industry in remarks to the European Center for Space Law. Whitehorn noted that the FAA has waived insurance and other security-related rights. He said that the FAA regulations will provide safety for people and property around the Southwest Regional Spaceport once launch operations commence in 2008 whilist enabling "adventure capitalism."

Whitehorn did express concern with International Trafficing in Arms Regulations, more commonly known as "ITAR." The federal law regulates export of space technology and may be a barrier to entry for SpaceShipTwo to operate at proposed foreign spaceports. ITAR has been the imetus for formation of the Institute for Space Law and Policy.

Bloggers Point to Southwest Regional Spaceport

New MeXico Spaceport blogger Mike McConnell created a GIS aerial map of the Southwest Regional Spaceport site enabling blogger David Simmons to find the Upham location and conduct some ground truthing as well as provide some "lats and longs " GPS coordinates with several photographs. But, perhaps, the GIS and GPS will not be needed in the short-term as construction is underway at the estimated $225-million dollar space facility. But for those desiring to look at the pre-spaceport site, McConnell and Simmons have provided a means through their respective Blogs.

The New MeXico Department of Economic Development has a web page with with information about the spaceport including a Business Plan and a Futron Economic Impact Study. The New Mexico government has even created a blog called Pulsar about the New Race to Space. The New Mexico "Space Trail" denotes a number of historic space sites too. One thing is for certain: Upham, New MeXico will never be the same! Soon it will have more visitors than it has had in population over the past 300 years along with well marked roads and highways to space.

Spaceport Sheboygan Will Evolve Over Decade

Wisconsin aerospace entrepreneur George French, president of Rocketplane, LTD, says that the Spaceport Sheboygan may have a decade evolution to reality with Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle on the verge of siging a bill to create the Wisconsin Aerospace Authority. French has said that Rocketplane will first launch from the Oklahoma Spaceport but the spacecraft his firm plans, or one like it, could one day launch from Sheboygan.

The Great Lakes Aerospace Science & Education Center at Spaceport Sheboygan, a $15-million venture, will oversee the development of the spaceport along a restricted airspace that runs along the coast of Lake Michigan from Port Washington to Manitowoc.

Rocketplane is now drawing a lot of business interest from Japan. The firm may be the first to place a tourist suborbital if it stays on its publicly announced track for a 2007 launch.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Virgin Galactic Negotiates With Bigelow on Space Hotel

Robert Bigelow, president of Bigelow Aerospace based in Las Vegas, NV. and owner of the Budget Suites of America Hotel Chain among other enterprises, has been in private talks with Virgin Galactic's Sir Richard Branson and aerospace designer legend Burt Rutan about the prospects of building a an on-orbit space hotel.

"We are talking to people who are developing hotels for space. We are also talking to people who are developing launch craft to get hotels into space. People know that we can turn something that might seem a bit bizarre into a commercial reality. Personally, I think there's a demand for space hotels," Branson said while in Dubai last week discussing a new spaceport venture there.

Bigelow will launch a habitat prototype on a Dnepr booster from ISC Kosmotras, a Russian and Ukrainian rocket-for-hire company in 2007. Bigelow has hoped to launch with Elon Musk's less-than-perfect Falcon 1.

The Next Big Thing: The Arab Spaceport Market

Space Adventures is among four space companies drawing attention to the construction of a new spaceport at Ras Al-Khaimah in the United Arab
Emirates. Eric Anderson, president of Space Adventures, has announced the first tourist to be launched from the site after forging a partnership with the UEA government and Texas-based firm Prodea owned by Ansari family last month.

Space Advetures is not alone in wanting a major slice of the Arab space market that is estimated could top $500-million with sponsorships. Lots of people in the Middle East have a disposable $200,000 for a suborbital space ride where the next spaceport is likely to be built.

Burns Flat, Okla.-based, Rocketplane Kistler, backed by American billionaire George French, is another major player in the space tourist business saying that they will launch the first commercial passangers by 2007. The third space firm deemed a serious player is Canadian Arrow backed by Canadian tycoon Geoff Sheerin, president and chief executive of Canada-based PlanetSpace and US businessman Chirinjeev Kathuria. The fourth and perhaps the frontrunner is New Mexico-based Virgin Galactic backed by Sir Richard Branson.

Some experts believe the space tourism industry has the potential to be worth billions of dollars globally within the decade.

Branson to Build Underground Mansion in Truth or Consqeuences, New Mexico

Determined spacepreneur Sir Richard Branson is building a new spaceport mansion near Truth or Consqeuences, New Mexico so he may be closer to the Global Headquarters of Virgin Galactic announed last December with Governor Bill Richardson.

Branson has reportedly purchased 142-acres of desert land on which to build the mansion. The first Virgin Galactic Spaceport is also to be an underground, eco-friendly facility designed by French artchitect Philippe Starck . The spaceport is expected to start Virgin space tourist passenger operations in 2008 along with a sister spaceport in Sweden.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

New Orbital Space Tourists Sign-Up with Russians

Two new space tourists are 'good to go' to the International Space Station aboard a Soyuz spacecraft after having signed contracts with Russian space officials. "Dice-K" Daisuke Enomoto has become a pop culture icon in Japan. He is undergoing cosmonaut training for a Soyuz booster flight departing the Baikonur Cosmodrome for the fall 2006. Enomoto will become the 4th space tourist to the ISS following Dennis Tito, Mark Shuttleworth, and Greg Olsen.

American entrepreneur Anousheh Ansari (founder of the the Ansari X-Prize) will serve as Enomoto's backup spaceflight participant. She may become the world's 1st female space tourist in 2007. Ansari's Texas-based firm Prodea has partnered with Space Adventures to build the spaceports being planned in the Middle East and Asia before the end of the decade. The Prodea firm is also investing in the Russian-made "Explorer" tourist spacecraft to launch from the new commercial spaceport facilities.

A Russian federal space official said that space tourists will only be enabled to go if they have a serious scentific inquiry to make while on-orbit. A Code of Conduct for spaceflight participants aboard the ISS were adopted some time ago.

Mojave Spaceport Readies for First X-37

The Mojave Spaceport is preparing for an unpiloted drop test-flight of the experimental spaceplane X-37 from the California desert. The X-37 will be lifted to high altitude by the White Knight carrier aircraft. White Knight successfully carried SpaceShipOne into modern space history in 2004.

The X-37 is a test vehicle resulting from the combined efforts of the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the Space and Intelligence division of the Boeing Company and NASA after more than a decade of research and design effort. DARPA utilization of the X-37 is unclear and largely classified.