Search This Blog

Loading...

Friday, June 30, 2006

China Wants ISS Access

The People's Republic of China have a new space mission: cooperation. The Chinese space agency is making overtures to America in an effort to join the International Space Station project in the years ahead as a space partner. Nonetheless, the politics is complex.

The U.S. government has been concerned by the missile technology transfer policies to such nations as Iran and North Korea. Commercial satellite booster technology transfer from the U.S. to China in the late 1990's sparked new restrictions on space commerce in 1998.

"Let's join hands and work together to create a bright future for the peaceful use of space," China's first astronaut Colonel Yang Liwei,[pictured above], recently told journalists.

China has been gathering space technology transfer with intensive effort the past decade or so. It has entered the commercial launch sector, it has cooperated in space flights with the European Space Agency and Brazil. And, it has launched two human missions to space with another launch slated with a crew of three for 2007 along with its first unmanned probe to the Moon next year.

NASA Administrator Michael D. Griffin plans to visit China later this year for "space talks" but to what extent international cooperation may extend depends on other foreign policy interests. China has expressed interest in launching a space station, landing robotic probes on the Moon by 2010, and cooperating in the international human exploration of the lunar surface by 2024 too.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

1st Launch Set for Monday August 14 at the New Mexico Spaceport


The Southwest Regional Spaceport will roar to life Monday, August 14 with its inaugural first launch. The sounding rocket of UP Aerospace will blast-off from the high desert facility in Upham, New Mexico. The SpaceLoft XL rocket is set to speed to the edge of space with a number of small payloads and experiments. A KRQE-TV report tells more.

The first launch will provide data in support of the FAA/AST spaceport license application expected to be approved in early 2007. A second spaceport launch is being planned for late October in conjunction with the 2006 X-Prize Cup events.

The SpaceLoft XL is a 20-foot-tall, single-stage, 800-pound solid-fuel rocket that is designed to accelerate to five times the speed of sound, or nearly 3,400 mph, in 13.5 seconds.

Moon-Mars Budget Upheld by House of Representatives

The U.S. House of Representatives fought back a challenge to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration budget for the next ensuing federal fiscal year that would cut $700-million for sending humans to Mars. The amendment to cut funding was rejected by the House on a recorded vote of 145 to 274.

Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass. sought to stop NASA's early stage preparatory work to send a humans to Mars while leaving NASA's $16.7 billion dollar budget intact. A similar effort to cut the Moon-Mars mission funding lost on a 196 to 230 vote last year. The June 28 House vote demonstrates a 44-vote pick-up of support and a 51-vote decline in opposition over the fiscal year for the long-range project.

Another amendment by Reps. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., and Jim Ramstad, R-Minn. failed to cut $476-million from the NASA Mars initiative and redirect the funding to law enforcement on a recorded 185 to 236 vote. The numbers show increasing Congressional support for the NASA budget.

With the final passage vote of 393 to 23 recorded Thursday, the Senate is expected to to debate a similar measure this summer. A House-Senate conference committee will recommend how best to resolve NASA funding differences by late summer or early fall.

Gulf Coast Spaceport Plan Advancing to FAA Hearing

The Gulf Coast Spaceport advanced one step closer to reality in Texas this week with a $50,000 appropriation to the Gulf Coast Regional Spaceport Development Corp. by Brazoria County leaders. The purpose of the funding is to enable construction that includes the launch pad and a road and other improvements at the site. The FAA/AST plans a hearing Tuesday, July 11, 2006 to recieve public comment on an environmental assessment.

A spaceport plan was put together in 2000 with the State of Texas awarding $330,000 for the spaceport site near the Brazoria Wildlife Refuge. Texas officials have said up to 7,000 jobs could be created at off-site locations through an operating commercial spaceport.

Another Texas Spaceport will also be the subject of a FAA/AST hearing in July on the Blue Origin site for the launch of the "New Shepard."

Texas is pursuing three spaceport sites with the help of state economic developers. The locations of the three sites in relation to those active and proposed around the United States are denoted on this map.

British Look at Alt.Space Regs

With United Kingdom firms Virgin Galactic and Strachaser advancing plans to launch suboritbal spacecraft from American soil, the British National Space Center is to commence review of a regulatory scheme for launch license. Great Britian is a signatory to the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, the 1968 Agreement on Rescue and Return, the 1972 Liability Convention and the 1976 Registration Convention and thereby required to regulate the space activities of their nationals from any location on the planet under international law. The U.K. Parliament enacted an Outer Space Act in 1986 enabling a regulatory license regime to be set in motion.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration expects to regulate the launch license of Virginia-based Space Adventures when it launches the new Explorer spacecraft from Russia. The FAA/AST will also issue launch license for flights of Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo from Mojave and New Mexico next year and beyond.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Kennedy Countdown Begins!

The countdown to the Saturday, July 1st, 3:49 pm launch of the STS-121 space shuttle Discovery from Cape Canaveral's Kennedy Spaceport commenced Wednesday at 5 pm. While the weather forecast has diminished, Florida's unpredictable summer weather may yet enable an on-time launch as the window opens. NASA engineers have been doggedly advancing the shuttle launch campaign preperations as insider excitement starts to build among those most familiar with the importance of having a successful return to flight in what may well be one of the last space shuttle missions between now and 2010. Reports on the flight of STS-121 to the ISS may be viewed on NASA-TV on the Web.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

My Own Private Spaceship

If you care about space, you want to work for the rocket geek billionaires, or so reports National Public Radio today. Click the link to hear the report.

Teachers Experience Zero-G

Inspiring over 10,000 public school students to study science, technology, engineering, and mathematics by 240 weightless-experienced teachers is the goal of the Northrop Grumman funded Zero-G flights from the Kennedy Space Center.

The Zero-G teacher flights recently started. Listen and watch the excited teachers on a NBC video report with the teachers on the first Zero-G-1 flight. The video is best viewed in full-screen mode.

The Space Frontier Foundation is advocating sending 100 teachers per year to suborbital spaceflight by the end of the decade. The program envisions giving a $150,000 to $200,000 voucher to the two teachers selected annually from each state to fly one of the commercial suborbital spacecraft now under development.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Russian Suborbital Faces 100-Test Flights

The Russian Zhukovsky air base near Moscow will be the spaceport for as many as 100-test flights of the suborbital "Explorer" human-rated spacecraft to be used by Space Adventures in the years ahead.

The Myasishchev Design Bureau is building the Explorer with funding from Space Adventures and other partners. After the test flights at the Zhukovsky spaceport, the vehicle will be used to launch space tourists from Singapore and the United Arab Emirates. Space Adventures is also said to be in "informal" talks with New Mexico's Southwest Regional Spaceport and others once the testing is complete. Initial flights will originate in Russia. The Zhukovsky Spaceport boasts Europe's longest runway, at 5.4km (3.35 miles), and a government-controlled flight test zone of 40,000km2 (15,000 miles2) along with the Gromov Flight Research Institute.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Space Telescope: "HELP!"

The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) has lost its primary scientific instrument: the premier camera known to produce the most spectatuclar pictures of distant planets, stars of our Milky Way Galaxy, and far away galaxies. The aging instrument is long overdue for a retrofit of its primary science instruments, gyros, and power supply. With the re-entry break-up of Columbia over the skies of Texas and the subsequent delays of return to flight missions, the needed astronaut flight to fix the $2-billion dollar telescope in Earth orbit has been placed at-risk.

NASA Administrator, Dr. Michael Griffin, has vowed a space telescope repair mission before the Hubble Space Telescope is lost prior to mid-2008. But the latest failure signals U.S. space policymakers and shuttle engineers that help is needed soon. The future of the space telescope may well be riding on the level of success of the launch of Space Shuttle Discovery slated for July 1st.

If the shuttle mission next month is a undisputed success, Griffin is likely to approve a Hubble repair mission after October. If, on the other hand, there is trouble with the large fuel tank during the flight and further delay ensues, the space telescope could be lost. Scientists, however, hope to work a temporary solution to get the telescope main camera back on-line by June 30.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Corn Ranch Texas Spaceport Hearing Set July 25

The Jeff Bezos inspired Blue Origin space project has achieved the milestone with the FAA/AST and will the subject of a public hearing Tuesday July 25 in Van Horn, Texas. The Culberson County, Texas Corn Ranch, spaceport site is the subject of a draft environmental impact statement for subsequent use by the "New Shepard" spacecraft.

Blue Origin has been the more secretative among the fledgling commercial suborbital space ventures over the past five years. More information is coming to light about the Washington State-based venture as the regulatory process advances. Bezos acquired 165,000 acres to build basic structures, such as an engine test stand, fuel and water tanks and an office building. The initial infrastruture is expected to be complete by year end. The New Shepard is designed to take off and land under its own propulsion, using as propellants confirmed to be hydrogen peroxide and kerosene with three suborbital space astronauts.

Blue Origin plans to be open for commercial suborbital flights by 2010 and progress to orbital flights later in the next decade. The New Shepard spacecraft will join a number of suborbital spacecraft planned for debut soon including the Oklahoma-based-Rocketplane, the Mojave-based SpaceShipTwo, and the Space Adventures-isnpired and Russian-designed Explorer. More from Flight International and and MSNBC's Alan Boyle.

Russians Forge Agreement with ESA and JAXA on new Human Orbital Spacecraft

The Russian space agency is forging an agreement with the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Japanese space agency (JAXA) to begin a modest study of a post-shuttle era human orbital launch vehicle over the next two-years. The initial effort will be focused on a larger Soyuz spacecraft capsule. While falling short of a new winged vehicle design known as Kliper, the two-year technology transfer may evolve to a subsequent joint development program to the larger design goal advocated by the Russians.

The division of labor among the three space agencies is yet to be finalized but the Europeans have agreed to invest in the start-up collaboration with an Advanced Crew Transportation System (ACTS) design. The Europeans have demanded a "mission critical" role in the spacecraft development. Neither ESA or JAXA have developed a human rated space vehicle in the past.

The ESA has previously approached NASA to participate in the development of the Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) but was rebuffed as a partner in the venture. The U.S. does not want to contribute to technology transfer from its planned post-shuttle space vehicle.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Spaceport Alliance Seeks FAA Airport Improvement Funds

The Southwest Regional Spaceport (New Mexico) and the Mojave Spaceport (California)
proponents have agreed to form a spaceport alliance to encourage the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to provide development grant funding from the Airport Improvement Program. The spaceport alliance comes to the FAA for funding amidst FAA Administrator Marion Blakey's call to cut nearly $1 billion from the Airport Improvement Program (AIP), the program that gives federal dollars to airports in the form of grants for maintenance and improvements. That would cut airport funding by more than one third.

The House Appropriations Committee, however, passed the transportation funding bill and restored the $1 billion for airports cut proposed by President Bush. (The bill still has to be passed by the full House and the Senate.) The recommended measure includes $3.7 billion for the Airport Improvement Program as opposed to the $2.7 billion that was recommended by the FAA.

New Mexico officials have been lobbying for $25 million from the federal government to help fund development of the Southwest Regional Spaceport (SWRS). The funds would come from different federal budgets including the Departments of the Interior, Transportation and Defense as well as NASA.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

What is a President to do?

The North Korean Taepodong 2 rocket/missile has caused quite the international diplomatic stir this week with the United States, South Korea, Japan, and Australia urging the North Koreans not to test-fire the rocket. South Korean leaders have noted that the North Koreans have the right to test a missile or to launch a Sputnik-like "beeping" satellite.

The United States military is said to have activated its unproven and newly configured anti-ballastic missile system to attempt a take down of the Taepodong 2 from Fort Greely, Alaska. There are 9-missile inceptors said to be readied. Two U.S. missile-guilded destroyers are now off the coast of North Korea to provide tracking data for the ground-based anti-missile system. There is no relaible evidence of a WMD payload aboard the Taepodong 2. [NPR Radio analysis.]

What is a President to do should the missile arc downward toward U.S. territory?

International law generally enables the United States to gather intelligence, monitor the launch, track the rocket and satellite to space orbit; however, IF the Taepodong 2 were to arc back toward U.S. territory, U.S. rights under international law may change. The president may have the right to order the military to attempt to take down the Taepodong 2 with or without a confirmed WMD payload.

North Korea is NOT a signatory to any of the five major UN Space Treaties. The U.S. also withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM) in 2002.

New National Space Policy Soon?

U.S. President George W. Bush is expected to reveal a presidental National Space Policy this month for the first time in his nearly 6-year old administration. The last National Space Policy was adopted by President Bill Cinton on 19 September 1996 as a Presidential Decision Directive /PDD/NSC 49.

The Bush space policy review commenced in 2002 with National Security Presidential Directive/NSPD-15. The National Security Council (NSC), with the assistance of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), was directed to conduct a review and report but no action was taken on a national space policy in 2003.

President Bush has previously issued National Security Policy Directive/NSPD-23 for a National Policy on Ballistic Missile Defense on 16 December 2002; National Policy Directive/ NSPD-27 relating to U.S. Commercial Remote Sensing Policy on 25 April 2003; and, nearly two years later, on 6 January 2005, National Security Policy Directive/NSPD-40 relating to U.S. Space Transportation Policy.

Outside of the Vision for Space Exploration offered by Bush at NASA's Washington Headquaters in January 2004, no space policy directive has been issued by this president until now. Analysts expect the new space policy to focus a space-related defense. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

ESA Boosts Space Tourism

The European Space Agency (ESA) is interested in the development of the suborbital commercial space tourist industry to the extent that it is enabling a $250,000 to $350,000 study to identify private sector firms capable of suborbital launch participation. The ESA wants to enable technology transfer to the private sector European suborbital commercial firms seeking to engage the suborbital tourist market. ESA is looking for innovative ways to boost European entry into the fledgling commercial space market.

Franco Ongaro, head of the advanced concepts and technology planning department in ESA's European Union and industrial programs directorate, told Flight International: "the assumption is that all the money and technology is in the USA. But Virgin Galactic is showing that the money can come from outside the USA."

Virgin Galactic is considering spaceports in Sweden and Scotland.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

'GIDDYUP and GO' for Discovery!

NASA officials at the Kennedy Space Center gave thumbs-up to a Saturday, July 1st, 3:48 p.m. EDT launch of the Space Shuttle Discovery for STS-121. The planned 12-day mission to the International Space Station passed a two-day intensive Flight Readiness Review Saturday. The sign-off gives the launch team the 'GO' to proceed with the final launch campaign for STS-121. ABC News video HERE.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

North Korea Plans Space Launch

Democratic People's Republic of Korea is said to be preparing for the launch of the Taepodong 2 intercontinental ballistic missile from its now space imaged [photos] Musudan military spaceport. The ICBM stands over 105' tall, nearly 8' wide with a maximum range of 9,300 miles. Intelligence satellites have detected activity at Musudan spaceport for days indicating launch preperations.

The Taepodong 2 is believed to have 3-stages. The 1st is thought to be a cluster of No Dong missiles. The 2nd stage is believed to be a No Dong missile. The 3rd stage might be a solid-fueled system.

A similar booster was used in 1998 to allegedly launch North Korea's 1st satellite on a flight path over Japan. No similar orbital launch has been undertaken the past 8-years. NPR audio.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Singapore Prepares New Spaceport Rules

The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore is in the early stages of developing a regulatory scheme to enable jetfighter, zero-g, and suborbital spaceflights from the proposed Spaceport Singapore as a business consortium manage the planning for the spaceport infrastructure now estimated to be $130-million USD. The estimated costs are based on KMPG Corporate Finance benchmarking silimar spaceport projects in the United States and Russia.

Space Adventures has pledged $10-million to the project while the balance of the investment will be sought within Singapore and other Asia-Pacific nations. The target is to achieve the required capital investment pledges by the end of the current calendar year, according to reports.

It is said that financial interest in the project also comes from the United States, Japan, and Europe. Spaceport Singapore would occupy approximately five acres (two hectares) of land adjacent to Changi Airport. The plan is to attract 500,000 to 800,000 visitor tourists a year after its initial opening in 2009, according to Sharad Somani, business advisory manager at KPMG.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Is Virgin Thinking Point-to-Point Space Travel?

Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo (SS2) reportedly will have an expanded down range enabling a launch from the Southwest Regional Spaceport in Upham, New Mexico and a landing 250-miles east at Roswell, New Mexico in what could be the first model for point-to-point commercial suborbital space travel. A flight pattern of this sort would take the SS2 across the White Sands Missle Range and the Apache Indian Reservation to Roswell. Point-to-point (P2P) would be a significant legal leap for commercial suborbital space travel.

Flight International notes that SpaceShipTwo "could have a different rocket fuel, a 140km (87 mile) apogee, increased down range, 7g re-entry loading and reclined passenger seats" in remarks of SS1 astronaut Brian Binnie and Virgin Galactic president Will Whitehorn to the Royal Aeronautical Society recently.

Meanwhile, New Mexico's Secretary of Economic Development Rick Homans has announced this week the selection of DMJM/AECOM as the design engineering firm for the Southwest Regional Spaceport.

Commercial Spaceports Expansion Expected

Commercial spaceports now number six throughout America with the addition of Oklahoma to the list including the Virginia Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, the two California spaceports at Vandenberg Air Force Base and the Mojave Airport, Florida's Cape Canaveral, and Alaska's Kodiak Island. The New Mexico Southwest Regional Spaceport is expected to gain a FAA/AST spaceport license in early 2007 to become the seventh commercial spaceport in the United States.

Human suborbital commercial space tourism is expected to be focused intially at the Mojave and Oklahoma spaceports in late 2007 and 2008 with expansion to the Southwest Regional Spaceport in late 2009 or 2010. Meanwhile, unmanned commercial space developer SpaceX plans to use the Vandenberg spaceport initially and expand to Cape Canaveral.

Texas and Florida are expected to endeavor to join the commercial spaceport list as plans develop over the next few years and funding is put into place.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

THUMBS-UP: "An Inconvenient Truth" Narrated by Al Gore

Al Gore seems to be a man on a mission with his new Earth science movie "An Inconvenient Truth." The well-received movie is now in theaters across the nation and also in paperback book form. The Gore mission is to sound alarm as to the Earth opening to the famous Apollo 8 Earth Rise picture. It is a message of hard science with an impassioned tone of moral determination.

Gore enters the debate about how NASA Earth scientists have been muzzled from free speech and lost professional careers for speaking out against global warming and greenhouse environmental impact. The former vice-president walks his movie audience through the potential impact of ice melting and ocean rise catastrophe on human city habitations - noting "Katrina" at New Orleans. The consequences of Gore's description are staggering. The movie reviews have been quite good. One review notes that the Gore lecture-like movie does not leave his audience uplifted but empowered. Linked is Ebert & Roeper's "Two Thumbs Up." audio review. The movie film trailor is LINKED.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

FAA/AST APPROVES OKLAHOMA SPACEPORT LICENSE

The FAA/AST today approved issuance of a commercial spaceport operator's license to the Oklahoma Space Industry Development Authority for a spaceport at the former Clinton-Sherman Airpark in Burns Flat. The application has been pending for several months. A seperate FAA/AST license will be required for any launch vehicle to fly from the approved spaceport. Rocketplane hopes to launch tourists from the Oklahoma location in 2007.

Monday, June 12, 2006

ITAR Has Hamstrung the US Space Industry

The fledgling commercial space firms and the larger government contractors alike are struggling to either enter the commercial space market or regain global satellite market share while, at the same time, endeavoring to comply with the complex legal regime imposed by the Arms Export Control Act and the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) promulgated by the U.S. Department of State. It is a complex niche issue having a profound impact on American economic security.

ITAR regulated elements include rockets, launch vehicles, ablative materials, parts, spacecraft, satellites, components, propellants, inertial navigation systems, and space suits. Firms can not export for sale any of the foregoing space technology without first a State Department application and conditional license. The process is viewed both cumbersome and costly by the aerospace industry.

Furthermore, no foreign national may be employed for which technical information about the space technology may be viewed unless an express waiver is provided. The American civil space programs are also facing ITAR challenges in such things as conference invitee lists about the Hubble Space Telescope, Mars exploration spacecraft, or the orbiting ISS.

The result of the federal restrictions has been a significant loss of global commercial market for U.S.-made commercial satellites, loss of foreign national corporate joint-ventures, inability to collaborate with foreign nationals working or studying within the United States or off-shore foreign institutions on space-related technology. ITAR has created a higher barrier of entry for smaller commercial space firms proving difficult to engage without expensive expert Washington law firms. Moreover, the loss of American corporate knowledge of developing off-shore space technologies may actually be producing the national security risk that the ITAR regulations have sought to curb.

Yet the regulatory regime is difficult to analyze. While commercial space firms are afforded judicial review of license denials, the proceeding are conducted outside public scrutiny (Word.Doc) to what amounts to a body of secret law within the United States. The practice adds "additional layers of complexity," according to space law expert Glenn H. Reynolds of the University of Tennessee.

An ITAR commercial space technology isolationist policy actually is incongruous to the globalized free trade regime espoused by the United States in the World Trade Organization (WTO) and General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) international laws. Clearly, ITAR-reform is in order as a part of a national space policy. Congress needs to update the Arms Export Control Act and the ITAR regs. The international space business environment has changed. The regulations need to change so as to ensure American space industry remains competitive and innovative.

Washington attorney Berin M.Szoka and Ann K. Ganzer of the Department of State comment on ITAR in separate interviews on The Space Show (audio).

Sunday, June 11, 2006

X-Racer 'Thunder Hawk' Takes Pole Position!

The Race for Space has some new names on the circuit ... the rocket racing circuit that is set to begin in New Mexico in 2007 with a demonstration (vid) mini-race planned in October at the 2006 X-Prize Cup.

'Thunder Hawk" captured the poll position with 18% for the name the rocket race vehicle contest featured on the new Rocket Racing League web site for serveal weeks. It was followed by "American Spirit' with 17%, "Banshee" with 16%, "Dream Chaser" and "Dragon Fire" each with 10%. The other five names polling single digits were "Sky Warrior," "Full Throttle," "Desert Thunder," "Escape Velocity," and "Flat Out."

Each of the ten planned Mark-1 X-Racer rockets will have corporate sponsors similar to NASCAR stock car racing. The liquid-fuel burning rocket racers are being built by Mojave spaceport-based XCOR. The race circuit plans to expand to Reno, Nevada and other locations throughout the United States before the end of the decade. HERE is a HOT promotional video.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Spaceport Posied for 1st Launch

The first rocket at the nanscent Southwest Regional Spaceport was errected skyward Friday on a launch rail in preperation for the maiden flight from the new spaceport expected to be the center of human suborbital space tourism within the next 36-months. KRQE-TV News video shows the site and vehicle in a video report on the launch campaign.

The UP Aerospace July launch is expected to take the first private sounding rocket from the commercial spaceport to over 100-km or 70-miles to the edge of space with a commercial payload. The payload should land 30-miles down range in the nearby White Sands Missile Range. The exact launch date has yet to be made public.

Kennedy Spaceport Set to 'GIDDYUP'

All systems are GO! vid

The Space Shuttle Discovery has been set for launch on Saturday, July 1st at 3:48 in the afternoon from Launch Pad 39B at the Kennedy Space Center, Florida in the Second Return to Flight mission to the International Space Station.

The spaceport launch widow is open between July 1 and July 19. A flight readiness review will announcement may occur June 16 setting the final target countdown and launch date with specific time.

Astronauts Steven W. Lindsey, Mark Kelly, Michael Fossum, Piers Sellers, Lisa Nowak, Stephanie Wilson, and German Thomas Reiter are set to arrive in Cape Canaveral for launch practice drills Monday. The astronauts will dock the shuttle Discovery with ISS during the 12-day flight. Reiter will stay aboard the ISS expanding the permanent crew to three.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Wallops Spaceport Launches Student Experiments

The Wallops Island Spaceport launched the NASA Orion sounding rocket on a 51-km apogee or 25-miles above the Earth filled with student experiments from around the nation relating to wireless communications, magnetic fields, fluids, and payload temperatures. Students commenced data analysis upon the payload recovery from the Atlantic Ocean just off the Virginia coast Thursday morning.

The nation's oldest launch range, the NASA Wallops Spaceport also is the site of the FAA/AST licensed commercial Mid-Atlanitc Regional Spaceport managed by the Virginia Space Flight Authority. The spaceport capabilites may be reviewed by video.

Derek Webber, a leading international spaceport expert, has noted surprise by the fact that suborbital tourism start-up companies have not expressed more interest in use of the 6,000 acre facility. Wallops was licensed by the FAA/AST as a commercial spaceport in December 1997 following the 1995 launch of the first commercial rocket from the site.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Official: "Dice-K" 4th Space Tourist

Japanese businessman Daisuke "Dice-K" Enomoto, 34, will ride a Russian Soyuz spacecraft form the the Baikonur cosmodrome spaceport to the orbiting International Space Station in September to become the 4th spaceflight "tourist" on a 10-day weightless adventure.

Millionairess Anousheh Ansari was also officially named the back-up cosmonaut putting her in-line for a possible fall 2007 Soyuz-to-ISS flight. Former Microsoft executive Charles Simonyi is to be the 5th space tourist cosmonaut next spring.

Enomoto follows previous space tourists American Dennis Tito, South African Mark Shuttleworth and American Greg Olsen in $20-million flights to the soon-to-be growing space station. American astronauts are slated to visit the station aboard Space Shuttle Discovery in July bringing needed supplies and parts.

Combined the Russians will have gained over $100 million in space cosmonaut tourism dollars with the assistance of Virginia-based Space Adventures by spring 2007.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Genesis 1 Space Hotel Launch Delayed by Russians to July 4-14

Bigelow Aerospace and Russian space officials have delayed the launch of the first "space hotel" test module known as Genesis 1 until sometime between the 4 th and 14th of July according to a company statement. The launch is planned from the Dombarovsky military spaceport in Russia.

Genesis 1 is a third-scale model of the planned space hotel to be launched on a converted Russian ICBM. The so-called space hotel is hoped to form a relatively low cost backbone to a future space tourism expansion beyond the planned suborbital space rides in 2008 and beyond for more lengthy stays in orbit perhaps as early as 2010.