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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Aldrin and Ansari to Discuss Future of Space Travel on CNN

Apollo era space legend Buzz Aldrin, the second man to set foot on the Moon in 1969 and NewSpace heroine Anousheh Ansari, the first female space tourist in 2006, will be among a special CNN panel to discuss the future of space flight in a landmark one-hour special expected to be viewed by 190-million households around the planet.

CNN will broadcast the program from Singapore on Thursday 23 November enabling Aldrin and Ansari to discuss how our lives are set to be dramatically changed by stunning advacements in
in travel. Professor Lino Guzzella, Chair of Thermotronics at Zurich’s prestigious ETH and designer of the world’s most fuel efficient vehicle and Ian Pearson, a futurologist at the UK’s British Telecom, complete the distinguished panel.

Richard Quest and his eminent guests explore how close we are to the reality of a family vacation in space, in addition to looking at the possible benefits of a driverless car, hypersonic air travel and other areas which indicate that science fiction is rapidly becoming science fact. The program is entitled CNN Future Summit.

Singapore Spaceport Advances

"The suborbital space transportation two stage system named Explorer is now being built in Russia and will have the capacity to transport up to five people to space at a time," Michael Lyon told the publication Today in Singapore.
Billion dollar deals are underway between Singapore and the United Arab Emirates regarding a proposal to send humans to space from the Spaceport Singapore. In the next 36-months humans will be aboard the Explorer lofted from the Changi Airport in what tourism experts believe will be a one billion dollar annual industry in the years ahead.

Virginia-based Space Adventures and Texas-based Prodea Systems owned by the Ansari family are investment partners along with UAE the Crown Prince of Ras Khaimah in the $115-million Singapore spaceport.

Point-to-point spaceport travel will evolve in the years ahead raising a number of legal issues. The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore is now reviewing the international treaty issues in preperation.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Back to the Future: the Moon

On January 20, 2009 a new President of the United States will take the oath of office and, if as planned and, within the first 100-days of office, the new President will witness the new unmanned Ares-I launch. It will be the first test of the vehicle by the federal space agency marking the impending retirement of the space shuttle fleet by mere months, if not weeks.

"Swiftly, aggressively and largely unnoticed by the rest of the nation" is how Howard Witt of The Chicago Tribune phrased it Sunday, in a reference to the nation's neo-lunar space hardware being brought together by NASA's research centers and private contractor Lockheed Martin and others.

The international space players in Russia, the European Union, China, and India are shaping new programs and new technologies that will challenge America's goal of returning to the moon before the 50th anniversary of the first human steps on the lunar surface.

Some believe that despite NASA's bureaucratic culture of the past 35-years, there is a growing synergy of determination to make the lunar objective more rapidly because of the utilization of proven technologies from Apollo and the space shuttle. Others question whether the program has staying power.

The real question is whether the individual who will take the presidential oath on January 20, 2009 will act to ensure the neo-lunar Orion program success.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Engaging Young Minds in STEM

Six-to-seven thousand 4th- through 7th-grader students gathered at the 2006 X-Prize Cup from throughout New Mexico and west Texas recently in an inspirational site earlier this month.

The young minds appeared to be engaged watching rockets soar, Rocketman fly above the airport runway, and watch as a NASA F-18 roared in a low flight pass above them. Students gathered by the dozens in a huge tent on the hour to hear one astronaut after another tell tales of the flights to orbit.

After two years of attendance at the X-Prize and seeing the thousands of youngsters walking, listening, and watching, it makes one wonder if there are moon and asteroid miners, Mars scientists, astrobiologists, and space engineers walking among them. Let us hope the X-Prize, Governor Bill Richardson and, more importantly, their teachers, continue to posture the young minds of the region to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

Saturday, October 28, 2006

STS-125 'Flight of Opportunity' Prime Crew Named to Save HST

NASA astronaut veteran John M. Grunsfield, PhD is expected to be named to the prime crew for the 2008 Hubble Space Telescope repair mission. The crew will be formally announced at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland Tuesday by NASA Administrator Michael D. Griffin.

"The question that one would have to ask is, 'Is this a cause that's worth risking one's life for,'’ and that's a question that I frequently ask myself and having seen these pictures and knowing what's in store for us in the future. I can say with a resounding yes that this is very important work that we're doing," Grunsfeld, an astronomer, has said.

Grunsfield has twice been a part of shuttle mission HST repair crews in 1999 and 2002. He along with HST repair mission commander Scott Altman, rookie pilot Greg Johnson, Michael Massimino, also a veteran HST mechanic, space flight rookies Mike Good, Andrew Feustel, and Megan McArthur, consist of the planned HST mission crew team designated STS-125 'Flight of Opportunity.'

The May 2008 shuttle flight of Discovery will be the fifth repair mission to the HST since 1993. A second space shuttle crew will be on stand-by (Launch On Need) at the cape for any needed rescue mission to the space telescope of the prime crew. The LON will demand double-duty of Kennedy spaceport launch crews.

GLONASS Navigation Satellites To Challenge GPS and Galileo

The Russian parliament approved by a unanimous vote a pact with India that enables the Indian government to begin cooperation in space, space technology transfer, and improvements to the Global Navigational Satellite System (GLONASS), the alternative to the Pentagon-controlled US Global Positioning System (GPS).

Under the GLONASS agreement, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) will launch Russian navigational satellites Glonass-M using Indian space launch vehicles and jointly develop with Russia a new generation navigational satellite Glonass-K. The Russians plan to have 24-GLONASS navigation constellation in orbit before the end of the decade.

Last week the European Union openly stated that its new Galileo global navigation system would also have military applications set to become operational in 2011. China has joined with the EU in the development of the satellite navigational system.

The Galileo system will have greater accuracy than the Amercican GPS navigational system when fully deployed. HERE is a 3-system comparison.

Friday, October 27, 2006

SpaceShipOne Replica Arrives at New Mexico Museum of Space History in Alamogordo

A full-scale replica of SpaceShipOne, the first human commercial space vehicle to fly to space, has arrived at the New Mexico Museum of Space History in Alamogordo this week. A grand opening of the new exhibit is being planned by the International Space Hall of Fame Foundation in the near future.

NASA Administrator Expected to Approve Space Telescope Repair

NASA Administrator Michael D. Griffin plans a news conference Tuesday to announce the fate of the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope along "with the astronauts who would carry out the mission"at the Goddard Space Flight Center. A Power Point slide presentation on the history of the HST is HERE.

If Griffin approves a final shuttle service mission of the 16-year old orbital telescope, it would extend the life into the next decade for utlization by nearly 7,000 astronomers. The service mission would add new hi-tech instrumentation and continue the operational status to 2013 or longer. The service mission to the telecope is expected to launch in 2008.

U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., one of Capitol Hill's most prominent supporters of saving the HST, will join Griffin Tuesday in what is seen as a sign of a forthcoming favorable mission approval announcement.

First 'Nerd' to Space!

Charles (Károly) Simonyi, a 58-year old billionaire software engineer, is set to become the 5th space explorer 'tourist' on the March 9, 2007 Soyuz taxi mission to the International Space Station.

The Hungarian-born creator of Micosoft Word and Excel , Dr. Simonyi will become the 450th human to space and 'the first nerd to space' by his own discription.

Unlike Dennis Tito, Mark Shuttleworth, Greg Olsen, and Anousheh Ansari before him, Dr. Simonyi holds pilot licenses for jets and helicopters and has more than 2,000 hours of flying time. He has as much flying time as many of the NASA astronauts.

Dr. Simonyi says he has but three goals as a part of his multimillion dollar space flight, "One of them is to advance civilian spaceflight, the second to assist space station research and the third to involve kids in space sciences."

Virginia-based Space Adventures, Ltd.'s Eric Anderson noted that "It's not the dreamers, it's the doers that have created this new market" for commercial space flight.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

GAO Says FAA Needs to Do More Space Tourism Regulation Now

The General Accounting Office (GAO) issued a 60-page report Wednesday enttiled "FAA Needs Continued Planning and Monitoring to Oversee the Safety of the Emerging Space Tourism Industry in which it concludes that the Federal Aviation Administration needs to do more to ensure the public safety.

The investigatory arm of the United States Congress report cites the emergence of six spaceports in five states with each now holding FAA launch site license. It also notes an additional eight in four states pending FAA/AST approval.

"To carry out these responsibilities and address the serious safety implications of the industry’s expansion, for people both on the ground and in the launch vehicles, FAA will need sufficient expertise, either in-house or available from an impartial source, to evaluate a range of highly complex launch technologies," the GAO report states.

Jim Ball, spaceport development manager at Kennedy Space Center, noted that he is "impressed with the steps the FAA is going through" to ensure public safety at spaceports and in the flight vehicles. Ball is reviewing the Shuttle Landing Facility — a 2.8-mile long landing strip built especially for the reusable shuttles — could be used for space tourism after the shuttles retire in 2010. Jeff Foust provides more background on the GAO report HERE.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

"All Systems Go" at FAA/AST

"All systems go" was the pronouncement by Federal Aviation Administrator Marion Blakey at last Thursday's Wirefly X-Prize Executive Summit in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Alan Boyle reported that Blakey encouraged space entrepreneurs to jump in and keep opening up the final frontier.

"Now from the government’s perspective, our official policy is this … to embrace the private sector’s daring spirit and clever ingenuity. And yes, you better believe that includes space tourism," Blakey said.

"We are in the business of encouraging and enabling the private sector. We develop regulations to make this high-risk business as safe as possible…And we make sure potential passengers are properly informed and are willing to accept the risks that remain. And then? Well, then we’ll step aside … get out of your way … and let you do what you do best: innovate." The full text of her remarks are HERE.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

X-Prize Rocketman at the Organ Mountains of New Mexico

Rocketman above the desert facing the Organ Mountains seperating Las Cruces from White Sands, New Mexico.
Rocketman put on a show for thousands at the Wirefly X-Prize Cup last weekend. It made some wonder if future lunar explorers could use similar technology to traverse the Moon's topography or simply to cross a large crater wall. Watch the video of one of his three flights.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Thunderhawk X-Racer Name Associated with 'Bird of Prey'

"Thunderhawk" is the first official name given a Mark-1 X-Racer as it was revealed by the Rocket Racing League at the 2006 Wirefly X-Prize Cup. The name was matched to the first X-Racer after an on-line voting competition ended last June among 10 top names. Michael Higgins of New Market, Maryland submitted the winning name "Thunderhawk" associating it with a bird of prey. He was awarded a prize by New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson.

The first rocket races will be held in Las Cruces, New Mexico in October 2007. Three space racing teams have formed to fly the $1.3-million dollar vehicles. As many as ten teams are expected to compete next year in the desert to the delight of thousands. Earch X-Racer will be powered by engines being developed by XCOR.

Anousheh Ansari Vows Suborbital Space Flight Competition

American space explorer Anousheh Ansari told an audience Saturday afternoon that she will continue with the development of the new Explorer commercial passenger spacecraft in partnership with the Russians to bring "more competition to the suborbital space business." Noting that more spaceports and spacecraft are needed to insure a thriving commercial space industry, Ansari says she will continue investment in the Russian-made suborbital spacecraft in response to this Blogger's question.

Ansari also noted that no American presidential candidate had contacted her with regard to her challenge to fly with her on a suborbital flight but that she was now urging astronauts to become more active in politics. Moments later Ansari was presented a "Space Ambassador" Award by astronomer Alan Hale at the X-Prize Cup.

"I am confident that in 20 years' time, private orbital flights will be a reality," she said. "Once a shuttle capable of making the trip to the moon is developed, I want to be one of the first people to fly on it."

NASA's Griffin Proposes Purchase of Human Suborbital Flights

NASA Administrator Michael D. Griffin told the commercial space community last Thursday in Las Cruces, New Mexico that the federal space agency "will purchase seats for [commercial] suborbital flights for certain experiments, and possibly astronaut candidate proficiency, if and when they become available."

NASA Associate Administrator Rex Geveden has been assigned by the agency's administrator look into commercial suborbital space flight capability under NASA's Innovative Partnership Program. Griffin also told space business executives, "just as NASA pilots fly T-38s and micro-gravity aircraft flights to maintain proficiency, we should consider how we might use these future suborbital flight opportunities."

As Space Frontier Foundation co-founder Rick Tumlinson reminded, the key is to get the contracts let for some suborbital flights with NASA to enable firms to leverage liquidity by booking seats.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Armadillo: No Prize but Success

Armadillo Aerospace failed to win the 2006 Lunar Lander Challenge sponsored by the X-Prize Cup and NASA the past weekend. Nonetheless, the team did put on a performance through great effort for the audience of thousands in the high desert of Las Cruces, New Mexico October 20 and 21. Personal Spaceflight did have a video of one of the 3 successful "Pixel" flights. John Carmack vows to be back next year to try again.

Masten Space Systems' Michael Mealling indicated that they too plan to compete in 2007 after determining time was too short to be successful this year. A Masten prototype was displayed for the Lunar Lander Challenge at the X-Prize Cup.

Saskatchewan Team Makes Time

The University of Saskatchewan Space Design Team (USST) did complete a 58 second climb at the Space Elevator Games held as a part of the 2006 X-Prize Cup in the Chihuahua Desert near Las Cruces but ...

The judges of the games found the details of the rules did not make USST the winner of $200,000 and the first NASA Centenial Challenge prize. The Saskatchewan Team placed angled mirrors directly beneath the ribbon, and then pointed an arc light at the mirrors to direct the beam upward. The doubt as to their success rested with whther or not the vehicle made a powered descent. But late Sunday the judges decided to disqualify the team finding that they had exceeded the time by just TWO SECONDS! Here is Alan Boyle's description.

Gore Challenges Space Policy

Al Gore challenged the new U.S. Space Policy adopted by President George W. Bush comparing it to the U.S. policy of Iraq and one of space domination contrary to international law. Gore's remarks were made at the Wirefly X-Prize Executive Summit held in Las Cruces, New Mexico Thursday, October 19. Here is a video segment of Gore's remarks in which he urges analysis of the new space policy refering to it as "fuzzy" and "chaos."

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Armadillo to Test-Fly for FAA

Reports are circulating in Las Cruces that the a FAA test-flight Thursday will be the determining factor for an FAA license to fly Armadillo Aerospace’s attempt to win the Lunar Lander Challenge, a competition funded by NASA. The Constellation Prize is on of the premier events at the X Prize Cup event being held in Las Cruces New Mexico this weekend. Thousands are beginning to coverage upon Las Cruces for the Second Annual X-Prize Cup. For the past two days about 250-to-300 business people, engineers, and local/state elected politicans have discussed the impact of rocket technology and commercial human space flight on the New Mexico economy.

Monday, October 16, 2006

New Mexico Museum of Space History Named Repository

The New Mexico Museum of Space History and the the New Mexico Spaceport Authority have enetered into an agreement making the museum the new repository for Spaceport America artifacts. Spaceport pictures, unique items, debris, documents, and other materials that need to be preserved and kept for future generations will be kept in Alamogordo, New Mexico, according to Rick Homans, New Mexico Secretary of Economic Development and chairman of the New Mexico Spaceport Authority.

"The space age started here in the Tularosa Basin," said Jim Harris, president of the Otero County Economic Development Council . "It is a natural progression" for the museum to house the NewSpace artifacts.

"When Spaceport America comes to southern New Mexico, the world will come to southern New Mexico ... This is what will create the jobs," said New Mexico state Rep. Terry Marquardt.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Validating a Viable Spaceport

The Virginia-based Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport was featured in a story published in the Virginian-Pilot Friday noting the decade-long effort by business and government officials to tout the site for commercial lauch activities. The first is set Monday, December 11 with three more orbital launch attempts in 2007.

Dr. Billie Reed, the Executive Director of the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority was quoted as saying, "This validates us as a viable spaceport. Having an orbital launch to your credit makes you real."

Jon Glass, writing for the Virginian-Pilot, noted that "the spaceport plans to use the upcoming launches as a sales pitch to lure more customers, showing that it can rapidly ramp up for launches at a small fraction of the cost charged by competitors."

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport Orbital Launch Set for Dec 11

USAF Minotaur on the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport launch pad at the south end of the NASA-Wallops Flight Facility for Monday December. 11 launch.
The Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at the NASA-Wallops Flight Facility is gearing-up for a Monday, December 11 launch campaign of the U.S. Air Force Minotaur solid rocket booster for the first low-earth-orbit satellite launch from the commercial pad.

Accomack County Supervisor Ron Wolff says that "people should be aware of what might happen as far as buildings shaking and windows rattling" noting that there is "the possibility of windows breaking" from the Minotaur rocket launch vibration.

"Wallops has a 61-year heritage of providing fast response launch services to government, academia and commercial organizations," Jay Pittman, the chief of the Range and Mission Management Office, said. "We are very pleased to be able to support this Air Force mission."

Laurie Nasmith, Aide to State Delegate Lynwood Lewis (D-Accomack), hopes U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Governor Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and other state officials will attend to fete the first orbital launch.

The Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport has been touted for human suborbital launches in this decade as well.

Lunar Lander Challenge Logo

Northrup Grumman is sponsoring the Lunar Lander Challenge at the 2006 Wirefly.X-Prize Cup with over $2-million in NASA Centennial Prize money up for grabs The logo above is not affiliated with Northrup Gruman but an artistic work of Peter Thrope as a reader has noted.

Buzz Aldrin Coming to X-Prize

Buzz Aldrin, the famed moon walker of yesteryear, is attending to the Wirefly.X-Prize Cup and the International Symposium for Personal Spaceflight on Oct. 17-18 and be part of the X-Prize competitions on Oct. 20-21 at the Las Cruces, New Mexico Airport.

Patricia Hynes, director of the New Mexico Space grant and symposium co-chair, was excited to hear the news and said Aldrin is indicative of the caliber of visitors the symposium and X Prize-related events is attracting this year and is sure to attract in coming years.

The symposium brings astronauts and representatives from companies in the space exploration business to discuss developments in the personal space travel industry.

Rocketman to Buzz X-Prize Cup

The Rocketman is coming to the X-Prize Cup to dazzle the thousands in attendance with repeated flyovers of the participants in between the rocket powered truck, the T-38 NASA training jets, the Lunar Lander Competition, the Space Elevator Games, rocket launches, rides, presentations, and numerous other space-related attractions.

View the promotional Rocketman video!

X-Prize Cup events Friday/Saturday Oct. 20/21 will be webcast beginning at 9 AM East Coast time zone.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

X-Prize Cup Video Released

The Wirefly.X-Prize Cup is but days away. Today a new promotion video was posted encouraging people to come join the fun in Las Cruces, New Mexico October 20-21. The countdown is underway!

Monday, October 09, 2006

North Korea Tests Nuclear Bomb

North Korea is now the ninth nation with nukes.
North Korea's regime has apparently detonated an estimated one-kiloton nuclear bomb in an underground test Monday morning. The explosion measued 4.2 on the Richter Scale in the Asian region. The explosion was estiamated to be less than 1000 tons of TNT.

On July 4th the North Koreans launched several missiles at nearly the same time the US Space Shuttle Discovery was launched from the Kennedy Spaceport. The Korean missiles were launched in defiance of international requests not to test.

It is now unclear whether or not the North Korean government can mate a nuclear bomb atop a missile with a range that could inflict damage on South Korea, Japan, or even the West Coast of the United States. If confirmed, the North would be the ninth country in the world known to have nuclear weapons. The other countries are the US, Russia, France, China, Britain, India, Pakistan and Israel.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Showtime on the Flightline!

The 2006 Wirefly X-Prize Cup opens next week in the high desert of Las Cruces, New Mexico serving to bring together thousands of space business leaders, collaborators, investors, academics, politicians, space enthusiasts, and the curious from around-the-globe. The event is a "who's who" gathering of the fledgling space industry to network, associate, and go fly.

The event culminates with 2-full days of exhibits, demonstrations of flight hardware, new space tech business announcements, as well as the utlimate winners of competitive NASA prizes. VIP Guests will have flightline to showtime access. Those not in new Mexico may watch "LIVE" on the web October 20/21.

"Progress, potential and significant partnerships are the story this year," says New Mexico Space Grant Consortium director and X-Prize events coordinator Patricia Hynes. "That's what I have seen for the vehicles, their companies and the industry."

Rutan: Breakthrough Winner

Popular Mechanics has named Burt Rutan a 2006 Breakthrough Award winner for his ongoing breakthrough work to make space travel cost possible for more ordinary people. And if any one can do it says man-walking astronaut Buzz Aldrin, it is Rutan. In an interview with Popular Mechanics, Rutan notes, "I believe in its first 12 years, the ship I'm building in the shop can fly 100,000 people," in a reference to SpaceShipTwo. During the first year of commercial operation in 2009, it is expected that more than 500 people will fly to space aboard the SS2. That number is more humans than have flown to space aboard all government spacecraft combined in the Space Age.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Gore to Keynote Space Summit

Former Vice-President Al Gore will attend the X-Prize Cup Executive Summit (invitation only event) Thursday, October 19 in Las Cruces along with New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, NASA Administrator Mike Griffin and Anousheh Ansari in Las Cruces to kick-off the pre-flight events of the weekend.

Gore's recent documentary movie, "An Inconvenient Truth," has played at theaters around the globe. It will be released on DVD next month in which he adovoactes immediate national and global policy action to curb global warming.

Thousands are expected to coverage in Las Cruces, New Mexico from around the world for lectures, tours, and multiple NASA Cententenial Challenges for the Lunar Lander Competition, Space Elevator Games, and a host of other space-related flight activities.

Bush Issues New Space Policy

As first anticipated here last June, US President George W. Bush has issued a new 10-page National Space Policy made avaliable Friday but adopted August 31, 2006. It is the first updated space policy in nearly a decade and provides strong support to entrepreneurial space ventures while providing direction to the Department of Defense to ensure access to space. The policy also embraces the utilization of nuclear power in outer space.

Opportunity on the Edge

Mars Exploration Rover "Opportunity" is perched at the edge of the Martain "Victoria Crater." In a unique orbital image from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, scientists are using the images to decide where to send rover Opportunity to make ground observations. No decision has been made on when or where to enter the crater. Entry into the 200 feet deep crater is expected to yield new science discoveries as more layering is viewed. Planetary scientists will see a bigger slice of Martian geologic time. The robotic rover could stay in the crater for several weeks.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Spaceflight Christmas Gift?

A Christmas gift NOT to be found at Wal-Mart this holiday season is in the offering!

Neimen Marcus, a high-end catalog retailer, is offering the first space travel gift for its 2006 Christmas catalog. The fantasy gift includes a flight for six aboard the Virgin Galactic spaceliner for six with pre-flight training and a post-flight party with Sir Richard Branson at his private retreat on Necker Island in the British Virgin Islands. Place your order here.

Which One Has the 'Right Stuff?'

Space trekker Anousheh Ansari (former Virginia-turned-Texan) recently urged the 2008 presidential candidates to take a suborbital space flight to gain a greater understanding of an Earth without borders, the environment, and humanity's place on the planet and in the cosmos from her BLOG.

A quick survey of the would-be Presidents indicated that there is a natural among the suite of Democratic and GOP candidates to accept her offer. That candidate is Mark R. Warner.

Given the telecommunications business background of Ansari, there is one potential Democratic presidential candidate that must be suggested to take ride to the edge of space. He is Virginia's former state governor. Yes, perhaps one may adjudge him with "The Right Stuff" of the NewSpaceAge.

Warner shares similar telecommunications sector wealth as does the Ansari family. He is known for his willingness to embrace innovation, change, technology, and commerce. Several in the Alt.Space community see him as having the potential vision to advance entrepreneurial commercial space policies.

Then there is the Spaceport America's governor -- Bill Richardson? It is time to start asking of the Republican and Democratic presidential primary candidates, 'who has the right stuff?' For space commerce, Warner is not a bad choice as a proven business technology investor.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Ozone Loss Sets New Records

Click the image.
Despite the Montreal Protocol banning man-made pollutants like chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), ozone measurements made by ESA’s Envisat satellite have revealed the ozone loss of 40 million tonnes on 2 October 2006 has exceeded the record ozone loss of about 39 million tonnes for 2000. The size of this year’s ozone hole is 28 million square km, nearly as large as the record ozone hole extension during 2000, and the depth of the ozone hole is around 100 Dobson Units, rivalling the record low ozone values in 1998.

Ozone is a protective layer found about 25 kilometres above us mostly in the stratospheric stratum of the atmosphere that acts as a sunlight filter shielding life on Earth from harmful ultraviolet rays. Over the last decade the ozone level has lowered by about 0.3% per year on a global scale, increasing the risk of skin cancer, cataracts and harm to marine life.

The Other Woman in Space

Astronaut Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper, the other woman in space the past month discusses her flight, the ongoing construction of the space station, and her very public fall during a post-flight press conference in a NPR audio.

Stefanyshyn-Piper made headlines the day after landing when she collapsed twice during a welcome-home ceremony. She said Monday, "I'm feeling pretty good."

The first-time space flyer conducted two walks in space during the flight of the Atlantis to the orbital space station. In the NPR radio interview, she describes the space station as being larger than a foootball field; and, when finished in 2010, it will be larger than two football fields. Heidemarie is interested in returning to the space station as a 180-day long-term space station crew member in the future.

Survey: Lower Cost Drives Demand for Space Tourism

Spaceport expert Derek Webber, Director of Spaceport Associates in Bethesda, Maryland and Jane Reifert, President of Incredible Adventures, Inc. of Sarasota, Florida have completed an on-line space tourist survey with interesting results for those seeking to address the"untapped market." See the Executive Summary Report. It was noted in the report that suborbital tourism begins to become much more in demand at $25,000 per ticket. Most want a vertical or horizonal rocket ride to space that expressed a preference. The report provides greater details and answers to more questions.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Space Elevator Olympic Games Set for New Mexico Oct. 20/21

The 2006 Space Elevator Games, a part of the X-Prize Cup Week in Las Cruces, New Mexico, will get underway Friday, October 20 and end Saturday October 21. The purpose is to demonstrate that wireless laser-photovoltaic power beaming and carbon nanotube tethers can take us to space one day via a space elevator.

The Space Elevator Olympic Villiage will be next to the Las Cruces Airport on the area's fair grounds where 12 climber and 4 tether from around the world in an effort to prove the skeptics wrong and begin to drastically cut the cost for space access.

"The competition is promising to be a high-octane event," according to the Spaceward Foundation which sponsors the annual event now in conjunction with the X-Prize Cup.

One commercial firm now focused on the space elevator development is the Liftport Group in Bremerton, Wash. Michael Laine explains via video. The Institute for Scientic Research in Fairmont, West Virginia provides an animation video about space elevators.

The Space Elevator Games will be held in conjuction with the with Lunar Lander Challenge Moon 2.0, the X-Prize Executive Summit, and the International Symposium for Personal Space Flight --- all a part of the X-Prize Cup Week.

SpaceX to Proceed with Next Launch in December 2006

SpaceX is likely to launch the Falcon 1 in December, 2006 from Kwajalein Atoll spaceport in a bid to get the program back on-track before year end for DARPA according to CEO Elon Musk. The first Falcon 1 launch ended seconds after launch last March with a subsequent investigation indicating a bolt nut was the point of failure. The 3rd and 4th Falcon-1 rockets are in production at the SpaceX facilities in southern California.

SpaceX plans the larger Falcon 9 for test flights in a bid to resuply the International Space Station after being named a $278 million winner of the NASA Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) in August. The space launch firm also plans to boost orbital private space stations for Bigelow Aerospace beginning in late 2008 followed by two Falcon 9 launches for NASA in 2009.

Rocketplane-Kistler Needs $10-Million for Space Act Contract

NASA Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) award winner Rocketplane-Kistler (RpK) is at risk of missing the $207-million milestone this month if it fails to raise an additional $10-million according to Flight International. The risk was created by Orbital Sciences having pulled its participation from the commercial space station supply venture last month.

The $10-million represents 25% of the needed private financing to proceed the K-1 reusable launch vehicle under the NASA COTS Space Act Agreement contract. Orbital Sciences was to invest the $10-million.

The estimated cost of completing the K-1 and conducting demonstration flights isroughly $600 million. The company has pledged to NASA that it would match its investment roughly two-to-one with outside capital.

Andrews Space, Inc. was named as a strategic partner by Rocketplane Kistler in the wake of the Orbtial Sciences withdrawal. The K-1 is to launch from the Woomera spaceport in south Australia.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Lunar Lander Challenge Oct. 20

The Lunar Lander Challenge will be held at the 2006 X-Prize Cup at the Las Cruces, New Mexico airport as a part of the NASA-sponsored 'Centennial Challenge.' The most open competition for the event this year is Armadillo Areospace.

According to NASA, the Lunar Lander Challenge is designed to accelerate technology developments supporting the commercial creation of a vehicle capable of ferrying cargo or humans back and forthbetween lunar orbit and the lunar surface. The vehicle would have direct application to the space agency's goal of returning atsronauts to the surface of the Moon in 2018.

The X-Prize/NASA Centennial Challenge will help industry build new vehicles and develop theoperational capacity to operate quick turnaround vertical take-off, vertical landing vehicles, whichwill be of significant use to many facets of the commercial launch procurement market. The completeLunar Lander Challenge purse of $2,500,000 (NASA's contribution is $2 m) is divided into two levels:Level One, worth a total of $500,000, and Level Two, worth a total of $2,000,000.

To win prize money in either level, a rocket-propelled vehicle with an assigned payload musttake-off vertically, climb to a defined altitude, fly for a pre-determined amount of time, then landvertically on a target that is a fixed distance from the take-off point. After remaining at thislocation for a period of time, the vehicle must take-off, fly for the same amount of time, and landagain on its original launch pad. The primary difference between the two levels will be in the timeof flight, the surface terrain at the landing sites, and the corresponding degree of difficultypresented for precision landing and servicing of the vehicles.

Anousheh Ansari to Appear in Washington for Genomics Prize

X-Prize financier Anousheh Ansari, after leaving the Russian Space Agency quarantine at Star City, Russia, will appear in Washington, D.C. Wednesday as a part of a Genomics X PRIZE promotion.

After having traversed through Kustania, Kazahkstan to Star City, Russia for celebrations after landing from a 10-day star trek aboard the Soyuz spacecraft and the International Space Station last Friday, Anousheh has been in post-flight medical exams outside outside Moscow. This week she will fly to the United States to help X-Prize CEO and founder Peter Diamandis kick-off the prize who hosted her now famous space Blog.

The award will be the centerpiece of an ambitious effort by the X Prize Foundation to become "a global brand that establishes people as geniuses and innovators," says Diamandis, a medical doctor and former aerospace entrepreneur.

Ms. Ansari, a X-Prize Foundation trustee, will be on hand to kick-off a new prize- the $10 million genomics X Prize to traverse an unzippered human genome, crunching its 3 billion bits of DNA data in record time. The goal is to enable DNA sequencing to the point where people could get their genomes mapped and know the medical risks embedded inside.

The X-Prize Foundation is also sponsoring the X-Prize Moon 2.0 challenge in Las Cruces, New Mexico October 20-21 where Anousheh will spend time with the attendees.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Virgin Galactic to Produce Space Idol Television Show in England

SpaceShipTwo VSS Enterprise launches in 2009.
British tycoon Sir Richard Branson will market commercial space flight aboard the Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo VSS Enterprise will a made-for-television six-person contest - talent show for aspiring astronauts to be produced by the BBC and ITV in England.

"The show would be a cross between Dr Who, Star Trek and The Krypton Factor," says Virgin Galactic President Will Whitehorn. For the rest of us, however, the 70-mile altitude flight will cost $190,000 beginning in 2009.

Competition from other space carriers may drive prices down in the coming months.