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Sunday, December 31, 2006

Space Tourist Queue Grows!

The hottest tourist ticket for the ostentatiously fashionable haut monde among the nine million millionaires worldwide is a reserved ticket to space aboard one of several spaceships set to enter the commercial market in the coming months. With ticket prices ranging between $100,000 to $200,000, the travel time will be only two hours with five minutes of weightlessness and seeing the curvature of Earth and the blackness of space at more than 65-miles altitude as the high point of the journey.

"We have a list of 3,000 people ready to sign up for a quick trip to space at $200,000,” Dr. Chirinjeev Kathuria, CEO of PlanetSpace, which plans to launch suborbital tourists perhaps from Columbus, Ohio by 2008.

Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic has over 300 people signed-up via contract to pay the full cost of a suborbital flight, and over 30,000 have indicated their willingness to pay the $20,000 deposit for flights for a suborbital space ride beginning in 2009 from the high desert of New Mexico.

Space Adventures has flown four "private space explorer" tourists at $20,000,000 each the past six years with the fifth set for March of 2007 for the creme de la creme orbital flights to the space station. The Russians say their spacecraft are now booked. The firm has over 200 people who have either paid the deposit money of $10,000 for a future suborbital spaceflight or the full amount when such rides become available for $100,000 per ticket aboard a Russian suborbital spacecraft now in fabrication. The vehicle will fly from the UAE in late 2008 or 2009.

Rocketplane's "Chuck" J. Lauer boasts similar numbers for suborbital flights from Burns Flat, Oklahoma at $192,000 per ticket. Jim Benson of BensonSpace is planning a vehicle to engage the market and sign-up potential passengers as is Jeff Bezos of Blue Origin in Texas and Steve Benette of Star Chaser in New Mexico.

There is a rapidly building queue of suborbital space tourists. So, if your plan is to wait to reserve your ticket, your wait could continue as hundreds make the deposits in 2007 to GO in 2008 or 2009.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Ring in the New Year at Saturn!

LAUNCH the FLASH Cassini "Rings in the New Year." It is best reflected upon with a little music by Martin St. Pierre! Requires a return to Spaceports in a second window to launch both FLASH and music.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Excalibur Almaz to Bring 2nd Private Space Station to Orbit?

Excalibur Almaz Ltd., An Isle of Man company, will fly civil astronauts to orbit for research and tourism. The commercial space firm will seek to develop and market the use of Almaz capsules [PPt.]. and advance a second orbital private space station venture in 2007.

The company has assembled a team from the Isle of Man, the United States, Russia, the Ukraine and Continental Europe to begin work towards refurbishing and flying a capsule in space based upon the design of the Almaz capsules.

Excalibur Almaz Ltd.'s Chief Executive Officer, Art Dula of Houston, Texas hired former NASA astronaut Leroy Norman Chiao, Ph.D. in July 2006 as the Executive Vice President for Space Operations and a Director of Excalibur Almaz Limited.

Dula, a professor of space law at Houston University, is working to make the law of the Isle of Man compatible with existing international space law and to encourage Manx private activities in outer space.

Will Orion Go to a NEO Asteroid Prior to the Moon? Maybe so.

The American space agency NASA is seeking to define a human mission to an asteroid as a part of the Orion program development as first mentioned on this BLOG in November. The Orion program is a significant part of the the overarching Constellation program to extend human presence at the moon, on Mars and beyond.

A space trek to an asteroid could return samples from a targeted rock as well as serve to hone astronaut proficiency and test needed equipment for other space destinations like the moon, Mars, and the hundreds of asteroids in Near Earth Orbit.

Veteran shuttle and international space station astronaut Ed Lu has been considering similar missions to the asteroids for a number of years now primarily to avoid Earth-asteroid collisions. Lu says [audio] that NASA is looking into use of Orion technology earlier than 2020 which is suggestive of a human mission to an asteroid prior to a lunar surface mission.

A human voyage to an asteroid would not only trial run Orion equipment -- particularly putting high-speed heat shield technology through its paces -- but also could become part of the test program for lunar landings, Lu told's Leonard David this week.

Spaceport Woomera Australia RocketplaneKistler Pad Delayed

Spaceport Woomera Rocketplane-Kisler Pad Delayed
NASA Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) Phase-1 winner Rocketplane-Kistler (RpK) has indicated that construction on the Woomera outback South Australia launch site has been delayed because of design changes. It was hoped that the first demonstration launch might occur in 2008.

Alan Evans, chairman of Rocketplane Kistler Australia, indicated to Adelaide Now that work on the site was expected to begin in May. Kistler received a $272 million contract from NASA to launch commercial resupply rockets into space to the orbital space station from Woomera last August. The first demonstration launch is expected in 2010.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

"What Goes Up ....... "

In a video that would cause Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci to sprout wings of joy at seeing his conceptual 15th century flight machine evolve into rockets taking humans to the moon, Vanna Bonta rocks out human ingenuity from caveman to outer space in a tech beat that features the soulful violin of Martin St. Pierre. The unusual mix works in a visual collage of human yearning, sparked imagination, beauty, and rockets on the cosmic stage. On YouTube: "What goes up ...." [best view in FULL SCREEN Video] Five Stars!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Ohio Seeks Deal with PlanetSpace

The state of Ohio is endeavoring to close a deal with PlanetSpace to build commercial space facilities just south of Columbus at the extra-wide, extra-long runways of the Rickenbacker airport. A preliminary incentive offer may include a multimilliondollar package of tax credits, grants and other incentives that could include loans or abatements tied to its locating a major base of operations in Ohio, according to today's Columbus Dispatch.

A Ohio Department of Development spokeswoman was quoted as saying that the "unique and exciting project" could have significant benefits to central Ohio. The project is expected to bring 500 jobs within three years relating to launch facilities, manufacturing operations, research and development facilities, an astronaut training center and other operations.

"We’re very excited about the proposal from the state of Ohio. It’s in line with what we were expecting," Planet-Space Company chairman Chirinjeev Kathuria told the Columbus journalist. "Nova Scotia has made us an offer and one other state is interested in talking to us, but right now our focus is on trying to do a deal with Ohio."

Titan Flyby 13 January 07

The Cassini spacecraft will make it 23rd flyby of the Saturian moon Titan 13 January 2007. Cassini will perform 21 more flybys of Titan by May 2008. Titan is extremely interesting to scientists in and of itself, but Titan's gravity is being used to modify Cassini's orbit and conserve fuel. Cassini is being maneuvered into position so that it can get a close-up look at Saturn's moons Tethys, Rhea and Iapetus in the summer of 2007. The December flyby of Titan sought to determine if underground oceans of hydrocarbons exist.

COROT Expected to Add to ExoPlanet Discoveries

"COROT is an important stepping stone in the European effort to find habitable, Earth-like planets around other stars," says Kevin Corren in a BLOG post earlier today.

The human effort to find exoplanets will be aided by COROT's design to scan 120,000 stars of the Milky Way to detect undiscovered Earth-like planets with nitrogen and hydrogen atmospheres circling about their solar systems.

Arianespace and Starsem successfully launched the stellarobservation satellite COROT for French space agency CNES Wednesday in what may add untold scientific findings to the growing list of extrasolar planets now numbering 209. Ian Roxburgh, professor of astronomy at Queen Mary, University of London, expects the newest space telescope to begin returning meaningful data by summer 2007.

Exo-solar planets are those found beyond our solar system's eight, nine should you still include Pluto, in orbit around other stars Light Years distant. The largely French-funded project will aid in the quest to answer the central question of humanity: "Are we alone?" If, as expected, it identifies nearby stars as having planets just like Earth, it will have huge implications for the likelihood of life elsewhere in the universe.

Russians to Build Spaceport at Kourou Centre Spatial Guyanais

The Russian Space Agency has started construction of a new spaceport at Kourou, French Guiana along the South American Equator in February. Anatoly Perminov predicted the first blast off in 2009 of a Soyuz-2 1B booster from the new Kourou location in Moscow this week.

Construction of the new Russian launch facilities at the “Centre Spatial Guyanais” (CSG) will enable greater integration and synergy among the Russian and European space agencies in the years ahead. The Russians have repeatedly pitched the possibility of the European Union investment in the development of upgraded Soyuz boosters and a new spacecraft called Kliper after the Russian and French governments formally agreed to bring Soyuz to Kourou in November 2003.

Arianespace has been successfully launching the Araine-V and other spacecraft boosters for decades. The decision to build the first spaceport infrastructure at Kourou was made in 1964 and completed in 1968. The spaceport has continued to grow the past four decades.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Commercial Moon Launch Planned by US Company on Russian Booster for Spring

The first commercial mission will be boosted to the Moon in the spring of 2007 known as Lunar Trailblazer [video] by TransOrbital, Inc., on a Russian Dniepr-1 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The La Jolla, California-based firm has been planning the lunar trek for years and has obtained the necessary permits from the U.S. Department of State and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Upon making orbit, the Lunar Trailblazer will fire a solid rocket boosting it to trans lunar injection (TLI) to the Moon. On lunar orbit, the spacecraft will commence data collection for a high-resolution lunar surface atlas and take images of the Apollo era hardware left on the Moon between 1969 and 1972.

Since the lunar gravity is unsteady, the spacecraft will not be able to maintain orbit after its fuel supply lapses. The spacecraft will crash into the surface carrying a special commercial capsule.

Thousands of people have paid to have messages, business cards, art or the ashes of loved ones sent to the moon on the Trailblazer robotic probe, which if successful will slam into the lunar surface and smash any doubt about the commercialization of space. In all, 22 pounds of personal effects will remain intact, housed in a protective capsule that will tunnel 13-16 feet into the lunar surface.

Comet Wild2 Data Causes Rethink of the Origin of Life

Results from the Stardust mission that returned last January 2006 to Earth with tiny particles from a July 2004 rendezvous with Comet Wild2 now has scientists rethinking the idea of the origin of life itself no less. The early solar system was shaken and stirred far more than astronomers ever thought, analysis of dust collected from a comet reveals. Comets may have brought exotic ingredients to the primordial stew that formed life on Earth.

The microscopic particles of dust from the tail of a comet collected from the Stardust spacecraft encounter have been analyzed by a one-of-a-kind atomic-resolution electron microscope and a team of 200 scientists. The group have been given a unique and unprecedented look at the building blocks of life. The samples contain clues to how the sun and planets formed from a giant gaseous cloud more than 4.6 billion years ago.

The most significant scientific surprise has been that Comet Wild2 contained a mineral called osbornite that forms at extremely high temperatures - nearly 5,000 degrees - and must have come from near the sun. The finding suggests the solar system couldn't have formed as was previously thought, from a slowly inward condensing cloud known as a solar nebula. Because the comet formed near the cold outer edges of the solar system, there must have been a great deal of mixing in the cloud. Material wasn't moving only inward; some was moving outward in a more dynamic solar formation process than previously suggested in theory.

Organic materials have also been found in the microscopic dust particles, older than the solar system, could reveal clues about the origin of life and whether it exists elsewhere in the universe. Because there was some sort of mechanism that spread matter from the inner solar system to the outermost area where comets were formed, the same stuff must have been sprinkled on all the other comets and planets in the solar system.

Monday, December 25, 2006

So Korean Female Said to be Leading Candidate for Space

Two South Koreans were named Monday evening as the final two astronaut candidates to fly to the International Space Station in 8 April 2008 by the Ministry of Science and Technology. Mr. Ko San and Miss Yi So-yeon were named after a lengthy process from among 36,206 applicants.

Yi So-yeon, a 28-year-old Ph.D. student in bio-technology systems at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, is said to be the leading "highly competitive" candidate for the Russian Soyuz flight to the orbiting space station.

Miss Yi, an advanced practitioner of taekwondo, Korea’s indigenous martial art, said "I am vying to be Korea’s first astronaut. I want to offer hope to many engineers and researchers" and "I want to boost the self-confidence of women," she said Monday.

The second candidate is Ko San, 30, a researcher at the Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology. He specializes in artificial intelligence at the institute.

It will be decided in March 2008 whether Miss Yi or Mr. Ko will be sent into the orbit aboard the Soyuz TMA-12 after the results of 15-months of training at the Russia’s Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center beginning in February 2007.

Soyuz-Fregat Readied for ESA COROT Mission December 27

The Baikonur Cosmodrome is in the final hours of the launch campaign of the COROT mission set to blastoff aboard a Soyuz-Fregat from Kazakhstan December 27. COROT scientists hope to discover the first planets elsewhere that closely resemble the Earth in size and composition. [Video report]

COROT (pronounced 'Coreau') stands for 'Convection Rotation and planetary Transits'. The name describes the scientific goals of the mission. 'Convection and rotation' refer to the capability of COROT to probe into stellar interiors studying the acoustic waves that ripple across the surface of stars (a technique called 'asteroseismology'). 'Transit' refers to the technique by which the presence of a planet orbiting a star can be inferred from the dimming starlight, caused when the planet passes in front of it. To accomplish its two scientific objectives, COROT will monitor about 120,000 stars with its 30-centimetre telescope. More from the BBC and The Times of London.

Titan Flyby Readied for 28th

The Cassini spaceprobe orbiting the planet Saturn will conduct a close encounter flyby of the Saturian moon Titan Thursday 28 December 2006. On this flyby, radio science instruments will measure Titan's gravity field in search for a potential subsurface ocean at a distance of 807 miles altitude.

The dynamic surface of Titan has been surprising with sightings of a volcano, hydrocarbon lakes, sand dunes, mile-high moutain ranges, indications of shoreline, impact craters, global climate changes, cloud movement and upper atmopshere. It is the more Earth-like of any other body in the solar system.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Whip It UP!

Micro-satellite rocket launch obsolescence could come rapildy if California company Launchpoint Technologies has its way with high-speed accelerator that whips a projectile as heavy as 220 pounds around a circular 1.5-mile-radius vacuum tunnel where powerful electromagnetic motors inside the tunnel will accelerate the unit. Strapped to a magnetic sled, the projectile circles until it reaches a velocity of six miles per second and then ejects it from a launch ramp into space, according to New Scientist.

Launchpoint Technologies has been awarded $500,000 by the USAF to study the concept reports Popular Science and CNN. Military spy micro-satellites could be slung into orbit for $50,000, a small fraction of the current $5-million launch cost, IF the project shows merit.

Discovery Lands at Kennedy

After over 5.3-million miles of space travel over 13-days, the Space Shuttle Discovery STS-116 mission safely navigated the weather to land at the Florida Kennedy Spaceport enabling mission planners to stay on track for the scheduled retirement of the fleet in the fall of 2010 while continuing the construction of the orbiting space station.

With the final missions of the fleet now counting down over the next 30-months or so, the space shuttle fleet will resume with six shuttle launches planned in 2007 beginning in March with return flights in June, September, October, and December with each dedicated to space station construction missions.

Hopes were dashed for White Sands on-lookers as the weather improved at the cape to allow a landing without rain or clouds impeding the Kennedy Space Center.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

White Sands Option Favorable but NASA Worst-Case Scenario

Northrup Strip at White Sands Missile Range in N.M.
The latest forecast from the Spaceflight Meteorology Group calls for a chance of showers and low clouds at the Kennedy Space Center on Friday and high crosswinds at Edwards Air Force Base in California's Mojave Desert creating a "buzz" that STS-116 Discovery may land at Northrup Strip. The forecast for Northrup Strip at White Sands Space Harbor, New Mexico, where only one shuttle (STS-3 in 1982) has ever landed, calls for acceptable weather conditions. NASA still hopes to land at Kennedy but the weather must play out. There is only an 8% chance that both Kennedy and Edwards will be closed by weather at Friday afternoon landing time. The turnaround processing time from White Sands could delay subsequent shuttle launches in the limited manifest.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Shuttle Departs the Space Station

The Space Shuttle Discovery undocked from the International Space Station Tuesday and is now enroute to a Friday Earth landing.

Monday, December 18, 2006

SpaceX Passes COTS Review

Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) has passed system requirements review for its Falcon 9 booster and Dragon capsule cargo variant for NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) contract. SpaceX is developing the Falcon 9 to boost a 19,100lb payload into LEO at a cost of $29-million each.

The Dragon capsule is being developed for NASA as a payload delivery system and, perhaps, a human-rated capsule for commercial astronauts and space tourists to the private Bigelow Aerospace commercial space station expected to be launched by 2010.

The first two flights of the Falcon 9 booster are expected in the first six months of 2008 on non-NASA COTS flights booked prior to the contract award to service the orbiting international space station. The initial launches are slated for the Kwajalein Atoll spaceport in the Pacific Ocean.

Dream Chaser Readied for 2008

Space Dev has been awarded a $330,000 contract from Benson Space Company to further develop the Dream Chaser suborbital and orbital commercial spacecraft. The Phase-1 contract will ready the vehicle and engine design specs for fabrication. A subsequent Phase-2 contract is expected to build the spacecraft for the initial test flights in late 2008, acoording to Jim Benson.

The vehicle design is based upon the HL-20 orbital spacecraft developed at NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va. The Dream Chaser will be designed for 4 to 6 passangers to launch vertically and land horizontally in direct sight of onlookers. Former NASA astronaut Hoot Gibson has signed on with BensonSpace as chief test pilot.

Lift-off of Japan H2-A Rocket

In Japan, the launch countdown proceeded to liftoff of the KIKU No. 8/ H-IIA F11 at the Yoshinobu Launch Complex of the very scenic Tanegashima Spaceport 1:30 AM EST Monday. The launch was a JAXA Live Internet Broadcast . The H2-A rocket is the workhorse of Japan's space program. The vehicle carried the largest Japanese satellite to a planned 36,000 km geo-orbit. It is the nation's 11th launch.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Working in Space

The STS-116 Discovery will resume spacewalking and shaking Monday.

Solar Array Retraction Requires 4th Spacewalk Monday at ISS

The older 115 foot solar array of the International Space Station remains 35% open requiring an unprecedented fourth spacewalk by a pair of astronauts Monday by two of the Discovery STS-116 mission crew members.

Meanwhile the additional spacewalk will add a day to the space shuttle flight requiring a Friday, December 22nd landing at either the Kennedy, Edwards, or White Sands spaceports. Only STS-3 has ever landed at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

VA Spaceport Scores 1st Minotaur Launch

The FAA-AST commercial licensed Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport was all "GO" [video] Saturday morning as the Minotaur 1 roared through the dawn sky over the Eastern Shore with an on-time and picture perfect lift-off. The launch marked the first flight from the commercial launch pad operated by the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority. Congratulations Dr. Billie Reed! [See Slide Show] The launch was sighted as far away as Norton, Va. over 400-miles west of Wallops Island this morning.

Calling Virginians to Help!

Are you a Virginian who wants to make a difference in space commercialization? If YES, click here.

Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport Countdown Webcast Underway

Friday, December 15, 2006

Wallops Launch On for Saturday

"The software problem that would have affected the ability of the TACSAT2 satellite to track the sun with its solar panels has been corrected and tested to the satisfaction of the Air Force Research Lab," says Dr. Bill Reed, Exeutive Director of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, in a morning e-Mail.

"Everything is in motion for a launch attempt at 7:00am, Saturday 12/16/06. The Launch Vehicle, Spaceport and NASA Range, and both satellites are GO for launch at T-5 hours and holding. The weather is forecast to be excellent during the launch window. Closure of the air space by FAA, closure of the ocean areas by the Coast Guard, and closure of the back bay areas by VA Marine Police is underway," Dr. Reed noted.

To view the launch webcast click HERE. Dial 757-824-2050 for launch information.

United Launch Alliance Lifts-Off

A history-making launch of the United Space Alliance Delta-2 ocurred from Vandenberg's Air Force Base Space Launch Complex 2-West pad overlooking the Pacific Ocean yesterday.

The National Reconnaissance Office satellite payload roared off the pad under the direction of the newly formed organization that brings together the Boeing Delta and Lockheed Martin Atlas rocket lines under the United Space Alliance banner last December 1st. ULA was created to combine the engineering, manufacturing and launch operations of the rocket programs in an effort to reduce costs.

The space launch merger has opposed in U.S. District Court and before the Federal Trade Commission by Elon Musk's SpaceX (Space Exploration Technologies Corporation) which plans to use the Falcon 1 and Falcon 9 boosters to compete for contracts against the more mature launch firms. Space X plans a lunch of its Falcon 1 from the Kwajalein Atoll.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Solar Geomagnetic Storm Alert!

"We're looking for very strong, severe geomagnetic storming" to begin probably around mid-day Thursday, Joe Kunches, lead forecaster at the NOAA Space Environment Center has noted. Continuous solar flares like those that have occurred in recent days are rather rare. There were two X-class flares Tuesday followed by several M-class flares subsequently. The storms may disrupt radio signals, electric grids, and damage orbiting TV, communication, and remote sensing satellites. The orbiting astronauts are in no immediate danger.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

TacSat2 Delays Mid-Atlantic Spaceport Launch Until Saturday

A software glitch discovered in pre-flight checkout of the TacSat-2 micro-satellite continues to delay the maiden voyage to orbit from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) at least until Saturday at best according to reports from the NASA Wallops Flight Facility. The USAF satellite to be launched from the East Coast FAA-AST approved commercial launch pad on a converted ICBM configured by Orbital Sciences. The launch window runs through Dec. 22, with the launch time from 7 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. each day.

MARS is being touted as a viable launch site for BensonSpace, PlanetSpace, Rocketplane-Kistler, and SpaceX.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Spring Tax Referendums to Test Support for Spaceport America

Southern New Mexico voters of Dona Ana, Otero and Sierra counties counties are going to be put to the test next April 3rd on support of the $225-million Spaceport America now under construction in the high desert of New Mexico at Upham.

Voters will be asked to approve a one-quarter of 1 percent tax increase, a business gross receipt tax hikes, which would amount to 25 cents on every $100. The tax revenue would then be used to help fund construction of the base for Virgin Galactic's fleet of new commercial spaceliners set now to launch from Upham in 2009 with hundreds of commercial passengers already with reservations. Virgin will pay $1 million annually for its use.

New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson must succeed with a Federal Aviation Administration-AST spaceport license application; a $100 million state bond issue; winning county plebiscites; convincing the state legislature in January to give $25 million for transportation infrastructure construction; raising the remaining federal funds and not busting the $225 million spaceport price tag approved by the state’s legislature.

Monday, December 11, 2006

NASA Requests Commercial Orbital Transportation Services Information for 2009 Launch

NASA expanded the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) today with a Request for Information (RFI). The information gathered from space launch firms will be used to gain knowledge on space station resupply opportunities prior to flight demonstrations of the COTS-1 contracts of SpaceX and Rocketplane-Kistler (RpK) and the solicitations of other vendors for COTS-2. provided more details about NASA's desire for an operational April 2009 commercial ISS resupply flight.

Inland Missile Silo Spaceport to Make FAA-AST Application

Frontier Astronautics has new digs for a private spaceport in a former Atlas-E nuclear missile silo on the the windswept plains northwest of Cheyenne at Chugwater, Wyoming . From there, they are making application to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA-AST) for an inland spaceport license supported by Wyoming Economic Development officials.

Tim Bendel, 37, bought the former missile silo for less than $400,000 last March and since that time has been transforming the former nuclear missile launch site to a privately-owed space company. "This is the beginning of the free market for space travel," he recently told the Denver Post.

Frontier Astronautics [ppt.] has contracts with SpeedUp of Tehachapi, Calif., which is developing personal rocket-powered crafts, and Masten Space Systems of Mojave, Calif., which is developing launch vehicles that take off and land vertically.

Space Clothier to Engage Market

Orbital Outfitters, Ltd. has entered the new frontier of fashion with spacesuits. For those preparing to be space flight participants or "private explorers" or just space tourists with one of the nearly half-dozen or so space launch companies, leasing a vogue pressurized spacesuit is a must.

Rick Tumlinson, the Virginia stock company's president and chiarman, noted that the firm has its first customer contract for the first prototypes of Industrial Suborbital Space Suits (or IS3 suits) next year with XCOR.

XCOR's chief executive officer, Jeff Greason, told MSNC's Alan Boyle that his company would work closely with Orbital Outfitters to come up with the suit design saying, "Orbital Outfitters has found an innovative approach that can meet our price and performance requirements."

Minotaur Launch Scrubbed!

A NO GO! The launch of the Minotaru 1 rocket from Wallops Island has been scrubbed for today due to a problem with the TacSat-2 satellite. No word at this time on a new launch date. More information will be available Monday afternoon. See graphic of the Minotaur rocket.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport Launch to be Webcast Monday

The Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport launch will be webcast live Monday morning 7 AM EST here. The launch may occur just prior to sunrise and be viewed along the entire Atlantic Coastline. The launch window runs from Dec. 11 to Dec. 20, from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. each day. The launch event timeline places the rocket payload in orbit in 9-minutes. Thousands from throughout the Virginia-Maryland-Washington, D.C. are expected to come view the sunrise launch of the Minotaur I rocket. One of the best locations to view the launch is from Assateague Island.

Saturday, December 09, 2006


The Space Shuttle Discovery STS-116 launched from the Kennedy Space Center leaving a blazing trail in a "staccato roar "over the cape turning night into day briefly. With a picture perfect departure from the Kennedy spaceport, [NASA-TV] the STS-116 mission is the 33rd for Discovery and the 117th space shuttle flight. During the 12-day mission, the crew will continue construction on the Space Station. The shuttle is now on-orbit and will dock with the ISS Monday. This may have been the last launch of the space shuttle from lanuch pad 39-B as it is to be the first site for the launch of the Orion/Ares-1 in the next decade.

Can Virginia's Spaceport be Humanized?

Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority Director Bill Reed believes that the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at Wallops Island, Virginia could eventually launch supplies to the International Space Station. It could, perhaps, be made to launch space flight participant tourists on suborbital rides above the Atlantic Ocean or to the orbiting private space stations.

The enthusiasm for the first commercial orbital launch from Virginia’s spaceport has yet to be greeted with the same level of policymaker swooning witnessed in such states as Oklahoma, New Mexico or even Ohio. But members of Gov. Tim Kaine's cabinet and several state lawmakers are beginning to understand the significance of the fledging commercial space transport industry as the Monday launch countdown to orbit of the Minotaur I rocket draws ever closer.

The Virginia commercial spaceport does not yet have a commercial suborbital human tourist launch firm contracted to operate from Wallops Island. The Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport does not yet have a NASA Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) would-be contractor seeking to launch supplies to any orbiting space station. But these variables could change.

A successful launch of the Minotaur I rocket could serve as a signal to economic development officials that the state has the capacity to do what Dr. Reed suggests. The spaceport validation launch may need to be met with a specific set of new local and state policies to make Virginia for Space Lovers too. Do you copy Richmond?

Friday, December 08, 2006

Ariane-5 Gives ESA Success

The Arianespace - AMC-18 & WildBlue-1 were launched today by European Space Agency from the French Guiana Kourou spaceport.

One of the spaceraft, WildBlue, will provide broadband internet access to rural areas of the US and Canada. The second, from telecoms company SES Americom, will provide communications to
the US and western hemisphere.

The latest version of the Ariane-5 launcher, Ariane 5 ECA, is designed to place payloads weighing up to 9.6 tonnes into geostationary transfer orbit. With its increased capacity Ariane 5 ECA can handle dual launches of very large satellites.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Mars Water Provides Tantalizing Possibilities of Subsurface Life

NASA released a video from the investigators that have discovered water flows on Mars along with new meteor impact craters. The new findings are raising the tantalizing possibility that the Red Planet is hospitable to life. The finding will heighten scientific interest in Mars for years to come.

NASA HQ Plans Mars Water Announcement Wed. 1 PM

NASA Headquaters will have a 1 PM Wednesday press conference to announce significant findings on Mars. It is the "buzz" that the space agency will make new disclosures regarding water on Mars. Aviation Week and Space Technology magazine is reporting that: "NASA is ready to announce major new findings about the presence of water currently emerging onto the surface of Mars."

Meteroids May Impact Moon Base

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration has this week announced plans for a human base at one of the poles of the Moon by 2024 but hazards for such an lunar astronaut teams are present. Meteoroids are crashing on to the Moon's surface at a much higher rate four times that previously thought, acoording to NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office.

NASA must now determine the type of shielding needed to protect international astronauts or even if it is safe to walk about the surface during meteor shows. [Audio MP3]

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Silver Dart Hypersonic Spaceport Location Undecided

The Silver Dart hypersonic glider is a product design of London, Ontario, Canada-based PlanetSpace Corporation formed in the spring of 2005 by Chicago-based entrepreneur Chirinjeev Kathuria and Canadian Arrow. The firm's plan for an orbital, eight-person spacecraft, are still in the making. The Silver Dart was unveiled as an orbital commercial vehicle about one year ago.

PlanetSpace has since been in negotiations with the Canada to build an orbital spaceport at Cape Breton in Nova Scotia in was announced last June. The past week PlanetSpace disclosed that it was in talks with Ohio economic development officials regarding rocket manufacturing and suborbital landing facilities in Columbus, Ohio. No final 'deal' has been struck for either site at this point.

NASA took a pass on the Silver Dart design to be a part of the initial $500-million Commercial Orbital Transportation System (COTS) program opting to fund SpaceX and Rocketplane-Kisler. But PlanetSpace remains determined to push forward to the COTS-2 with the hypersonic glider and, perhaps, the V-2 look-alike Canadian Arrow.

The Silver Dart design calls for a 8-passenger lifting body vehicle, based on the U.S. Air Force’s Flight Dynamics Laboratory-7 (FDL-7) program, to launch atop a cluster of V-2-like rocket engines to hypersonic glide speeds, and return to Earth via a runway landing.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Entrepreneurs and NASA Need to Meet at Wallops Island Soon

The collision of public and private organizational cultures has the capacity to enable positive results in American innovation. Such a result is needed at the Wallops Island, Va. spaceport between NASA and the nascent entrepreneurial NewSpace firms that might be actively recruited by state and local economic development officials.

NASA Wallops is not engaged in the launch of people, tourists, or otherwise into space. The rigor of manned space flight is out of the scope of Wallops activities. The Wallops Flight Facility remains focused on its core mission of providing high quality, low cost provision of Test and Operational Range services for NASA and the nation,” this Blogger was told in a post to the Virginian Pilot in a well-meaning yet well 'in-the-box' traditional culture statement.

NASA's organizational culture may well be focused on "providing high quality, low cost provision" of range services. But that service does not preclude niche commercial space activity on the federal launch facility by private entrepreneurial space firms. The two are not (or should not) be mutually exclusive. In fact, that is what the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport is supposed to be all about -- enabling commercial activity.

NASA Wallops organizational strengths will be of benefit to the entrepreneurial firms that may be recruited to base private facilities to fly suborbital tourist flights from the Eastern Shore range. The entrepreneurial firm strength may bring non-traditional and techno-innovation insight into the NASA culture at Wallops. There can be multi-directional and multi-dimensional positives.

Virginia's 2007 General Assembly needs to take a look-see legislative study as to why the nascent NewSpace entrepreneurs are looking to Ohio, Oklahoma, New Mexico and other locations while passing on a well-established FAA licensed commercial spaceport with "high quality, low cost provision of test and operational range services" for human suborbital tourist flights.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Buckeye Spaceport in the Making with PlanetSpace for 2007?

In a surprise disclosure, PlanetSpace is in talks with Ohio economic development officials regarding the siting of a spaceport along U.S. 23 southeast of Columbus at the Rickenbacker International Airport in Franklin County, according to Alan Boyle of MSNBC.

Indian-American entrepreneur Chirinjeev Kathuria, a major investor in Planet Space, was said to expect an approximate $20-million dollar package of tax credits, financing programs and training grants for the nascent space launch firm.

Ohio officials were told PlanetSpace would create 512 jobs directly and lead to 850 more indirect-impact jobs by the third year of operation. The venture was projected to spend $147 million on local goods and services in the first five years and generate cumulative gross revenues of $367.5 million by 2012, Boyle reported Kathuria as saying.

PlanetSpace is building the Silver Dart and the Canadian Arrow. PlanetSpace recently announced plans to build an orbital spaceport in Canada in an effort to gain contracts to transport supplies to the International Space Station in 2009 or thereafter. Here is the latest report from The Columbus Dispatch.

Friday, December 01, 2006

British May Join Americans in 2018 Moon Endeavors

The British Department of Trade and Industry said Thursday that it may join America return to the Moon with British astronauts and money to build the first lunar radio telescope to offer astronomers and physicists an unrivalled opportunity to see farther into the cosmos than ever before and in more detail.

NASA Administrator Michael D. Griffin told the British Royal Society London that the construction of a telescope is being "factored into" the mission. Plans are in the mix for a radiotelescope when the United States returns humans to the Moon in 2018.

Griffin on Friday called the exploration of space "the boldest human adventure yet conceived" and emphasized the importance of international collaboration in journeys to the moon, Mars and other destinations in the solar system in speaking to the British Royal Society.

Dr. Who Going into Space?

"My next goal is to go into space. Maybe Richard Branson will help me," stated the renowned, and brilliant astrophysicist Stephen Hawking, 64, said during remarks yesterday while accepting Great Britain's highest scientific award, the Royal Society's Copley Medal.

Hawking, a mathematics professor at the University of Cambridge, publicly appealed to Virgin tycoon Sir Richard Branson to make his dream of going into space come true in remarks to BBC 4 (audio link).

Alan Boyle reported Thursday evening that Branson and other Virgin executives indicated that if there's any way on earth to accommodate the good doctor-with-a-disability, they'll do it.