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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

SpaceShipTwo to Fly 50 Times in 1st Year of Operational Status

In an exclusive interview with Flight International, SpaceShipTwo (VSS2 Enterprise) chief pilot Stephen Johnson says the suborbital spacecraft will probably fly 50 times in its first year of commercial operation from New Mexico. Once operational in 2009, Johnson, chief test pilot David Mackay, chief training pilot Al Hoy, Scaled's SS1 test pilot Brian Binnie, and Virgin Galactic chief operating officer Alex Tai will fly the SS2 and its WhiteKnight 2 (WK2) carrier aircraft will lead the initial flights. Initial test flights will be conducted at the Mojave Spaceport in California.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

New Mexico Governor Touts the Future as Spaceport Cause

“It’s America’s future, and it’s going to be here in Southern New Mexico,” Governor Bill Richardson told a crowd in Las Cruces Monday urging voter support for a tax referenum to help build the $225-million Spaceport America at Upham, NM.

“The spaceport is about creating opportunity, research, creating jobs, creating a reason for our young people to graduate from high school and college and find good paying jobs and exciting jobs here in Southern New Mexico," Richardson said of the .25 % gross receipts tax [.pdf] referenda in three counties April 3rd.

New York to Bombay in 45 minutes- Chirinjeev Kathuria

The Silver Dart hypersonic glider, developed by Chicago-based PlanetSpace, could fly suborbital from New York to Bombay in 45 minutes, says Chirinjeev Kathuria, see CNN-IBN VIDEO. Between 2009 and 2012, PlanetSpace hopes to have demonstration flights delivering crew and cargo to the International Space Station as well as the point-to-point travel within the globe. PlanetSpace is looking for a spaceport partner now in Ohio and, perhaps, an alternative state.

Space Base Stockholm Takes to Fashion Look of the Future

The Obi One Kenobi-look
'Space Base Stockholm' took to fashion as a part of the events to mark Sweden's ESA astronaut Christer Fuglesang’s stay aboard the International Space Station. [Video in QT7]

"As part of Space Base Stockholm, there was the idea to combine the interests of the target group for fashion with space and the special aesthetics of space. What brings space and fashion together? We wanted to find these connections, and see how they have formed over time," said Johan af Geijerstam, freelance project and production manager in fashion and PR. [More Fotos]

Japan has also entered the space fashion design with some examples from the Hyper Space Couture Design Gallery and a clip from the Fashion in Space Show.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Ohio Nears Deal with PlanetSpace

Dr. Chirinjeev Kathuria and Geoff Sheerin of the NewSpace firm PlanetSpace are nearing a deal with Ohio state and local officials to build a spaceport at the Rickenbacker Airport just south of Columbus on U.S. 23, The Columbus Dispatch disclosed Sunday.

The much wondered about PlanetSpace plan is to launch closer to the Great Lakes region as their rocket boosters would require a water landing and recovery. The space firm has discussed launching their space shuttle-like glider with Camp Perry officials near Port Clinton, on the shores of Lake Erie and landing at the proposed Rickenbacker Spaceport.

PlanetSpace indicates 500 jobs will be created in three years with an investment of over $110-million. Ohio economic development officials have not indicated the level of incentives being provided to seek to close the deal with PlanetSpace.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Space Weaponization Predicted by People's Liberation Army Colonel W/O New Arms Treaty

An influential senior colonel in the People's Liberation Army has indicated that there will be an arms race in space without a space treaty to ban their use.

Senior Colonel Yao Yunzhu, 52, brought up China's recent successful test of an anti-satellite weapon during a World Economic Forum. The director of the Asia-Pacific Office at the Academy of Military Science in Beijing said, "My prediction: Outer space is going to be weaponized in our lifetime."

"My wish is we really want to keep space as a peaceful place for human beings," she said, adding that China would like all countries to come to a consensus that space should be used only for peaceful purposes."

AGI provided a powerful animation w/sound of the anti-satellite test and the challenges posed by the weapon debris in orbit. Timothy Keating, commander of U.S. Northern Command noted, ""This is a cause for concern ... In executing this test they have created potential significant problems for international space flight."

Spaceport Sweden Opens

Spaceport Sweden is now open for business setting the stage for human suborbital flights to space through the Aurora Borealis on what may prove to be one of the more interesting tourist destinations on or off the planet.

The official inauguration of Spaceport Sweden was made today at Kiruna Airport beginning with the signing of a contractual agreement with Virgin Galactic to launch from the spaceport and carry commercial paying passengers into space from the location.

Virgin Galactic plans to launch humans to space from California and New Mexico within the United States and from Sweden from within the European Union. The space firm plans to take over 500 people to space in its first year of commercial operation and over 50,000 to space during its first decade of offering commercial spaceflights for people from around the globe. Prices will be in the $200,000 range initially but experts expect those prices to drop rapidly. The European Space Agency (ESA) is supporting commercial space tourism.

Richardson to Announce Support for Spaceport Tax Monday in NM

2008 Democratic presidential candidate and New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson will appear in Las Cruces Monday afternoon to announce his support for a proposed 1/4 percent gross receipts tax increase to help fund Spaceport America.

An election on whether to increase the tax in Dona Ana County is tentatively set for April 3, though the county commission must formalize that in a vote that will be held early next month. If the tax is approved, 75 percent of revenue will go directly to spaceport infrastructure and operations, and 25 percent will come back to Dona Ana County to be invested in related projects, according to Heath Haussamen's BLOG.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Iran Preparing Orbital Launch

It is believed that Iran will launch the Shahab 3 booster.
Iran is preparing to launch an orbital satellite soon using one of its converted 30-ton balistic missile according to Alaoddin Boroujerdi, the chairman of the Iranian parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Commission as reported by Aviation Week & Space Technology magazine. The U. S. Defense Intelligence Agency has told the Congress that Iran may be capable of developing a 3,000-mi. range ICBM by 2015.

FAA-AST Preparing for the Worst; Seeks the Best

The first commercial, passenger-carrying sub-orbital flights are expected to begin in 2009, according to the Space Frontier Foundation. Along with this fantastic accomplishment comes danger, and the very real risk of accidents, destruction of property on the ground, and the death of pilots, passengers and uninvolved citizens.

When a commercial spacecraft crashes, as is inevitable with all modes of transportation, there is the very real possibility that Congress will ground the emerging commercial spaceflight industry.

The FAA's Office of Commercial Space Transportation (FAA-AST) is the US Government agency responsible for regulating the safety of the NewSpace industry, and this office is preparing for the day when the inevitable happens.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Blogger Reviews Clinton and Giuliani on Space Issues

Kathleen Connell's blog today has a piece entitled:"Early Front Runners Clinton, Giuliani and Space" in which she describes the established presidential frontrunners insights on space issues as the 2008 presidential race begins. Hopefully, more information will come to light on the various primary candidates of both parties prior to popular votes next year enabling more informed citizen decisions on presidnetial space leadership for the future. Commentary on presidential candidate positions on space-related matters are welcomed from both Republican and Democratic advocates so long as they are relevant to space policy.

Virginia Spaceport Advocacy Expands to Money in 2007

Virginia's state legislature now has more than 12% of the 140-member House and Senate on public record seeking "to make the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport the premiere commercial hub for space travel." Legislators also have a growing number of legislative measures calling for studies, an areospace council for the governor, and tax breaks and iron-clad liability waivers for space launch firms who may use the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport in the years ahead.

Left largely unrecognized and underfunded, the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport is basking in legislative attention since the first orbital launch departed the FAA-AST licensed commercial launch pad at Atlantic, Va. last month. Space advocates are calling upon the General Assembly to not only study the development of the spaceport for a wider array of suborbital passenger and orbital cargo flights but provide more money.

The decade old commercial spaceport, first licesed by the FAA in 1997, gets only $100,000 annually from the Virginia treasury while Maryland provides $150,000 and is expected to nearly double that amount later this year. Virginia space advocates are urging people to contact legislators to not only pass the tax breaks and liability waivers for commercial space launch firms to locate in the state but to increase the funding for the spaceport operations.

A space advocay group is forming a political action committee (PAC) to assist legislators with pro-spaceport views in the 2007 state election cycle. The legislation being considered this year will give the PAC a record on which to base funding decisions this fall, an organizer said.

The Space Frontier Foundation has already e-mailed its Virginia network to get involved in the political process and support the spaceport legislation last week. Other space advocacy groups are being asked to do likewise.

India Successful With Re-Entry Capsule Recovery Experiment

India's space scientists are celebrating another leap forward in the nation's space technology today as the Space Capsule Recovery Experiment (SRE-1) successfully splashed down in the Bay of Bengal off the coast of Sriharikota. The nation's navy and coast guard are searching for the space capsule.

The cone shaped space capsule that was launched on top of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle was India's first attempt to orbit a capsule and safely return it to earth. Three parachutes were used to slow its speed five km above sea level. The capsule splashed down at 36 km per hour. The parachute, pyro devices, avionics packages of triggering unit and sequencer, telemetry, tracking system and sensors for measurement of system performance apparently have worked.

Only five other countries, Russia, America, France, Japan, and China have mastered the complex techniques associated with orbital reentry. It is seen as India's first steps towards undertaking a manned mission perhaps as early as 2014. India has not announced specific plans for a manned space mission, but an unmanned moon mission is scheduled for 2008.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

MARS Gearing-Up for April 21 Night Launch Over Atlantic

The Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport is gearing-up for its second orbital launch between 3:30 AM and 6 AM in the pre-dawn hours of April 21st. The 2nd launch follows the roaring success of the first ever utilization of the FAA-AST commercial licensed spaceport last December along the Virginia Atlantic coastline, according to Dr. Billie Reed, the launch director for the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority.

Orbital Sciences will again be using the Minotaur to boost a payload to low earth orbit from the facility for the USAF. The commercial spaceport pad sustained no significant damage coming from the December 16 launch with range, operations, and pad utilization at an exteremely competitive cost, according to Dr. Billie Reed.

Meanwhile, the Virginia General Assembly is considering a bill offered Friday entitled the Spaceflight Liability and Immunity Act. The measure would grant immunity to spaceflight entities providing spaceflight activities to any participant in a suborbital flight.

The bill also provides a state corporate income tax exemption for the sale of passenger tickets on a suborbital spaceflight conducted by a spaceflight entity and any gain recognized as a result of resupply services contracts entered with the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services division of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

India Awaits Tricky Reentry Maneuver This Coming Week

The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) Space Capsule Recovery Equipment (SRE-1) is exepcted to splashdown in the Bay of Bengal Monday in a tricky maneuver that, if successful, will mark a leap forward in space technology for the spacefaring nation placing it among an elite club of countries with satellite reentry technology.

Reentry into Earth's atmosphere — that of overcoming the heat generated by friction as a spacecraft slows in the atmosphere — has historically been a significant challenge as painfully evidenced throughout the Space Age. Deorbit, reentry, and recovery is critical to the future of India's lunar sample recovery program and human space flights.

The spacecraft was launched January 10 from India.

SpaceX and Bigelow Delay Commercial Space Launches

SpaceX has delayed the second launch attempt of the second Falcon-1 orbital booster until mid-February while Bigelow Areospace has delayed the launch of the Genesis-2 inflatable space station until April.

The two private space firms are viewed as critical leaders in the commercial space business in 2007 with SpaceX providing new low-cost lift capacity while Bigelow is building low cost orbital habitats. Both firms are expected to aid the business of the other as the booster capability of SpaceX improves and the Bigelow inflatatable space stations increase size and features at the end of the decade.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Space Travel Major Business of Future, Space Expert Says

"Space travel services for the general public have been widely recognized as the major space business of the future. They could grow to more than $ 100 billion a year and employ millions of people," Patrick Collins, professor of environmental policy at Azabu University in Kanagawa Prefecture, told The Japan Times today.

A "situation of not pursuing space travel is because of a 'culture of monopoly' by government space agencies and their reluctance to take risks. But it has wasted way too much money," Collins, an expert on the economics of space tourism told the newspaper.

"Once we start living in space, it will lead to a 'world renaissance,' Collins declared. "Then, we can sit on the ceiling, our clothes and hairstyles change and flying will be a part of our culture. Just the vision that there is such a new world is extraordinary . . . its educational benefit for children alone will be worth more than the cost of developing space-tourism vehicles."

Saturday, January 13, 2007

ESA Funds Starchaser Space Tourist Plan for Thunderstar

The European Space Agency (ESA) has awarded Starchaser PLC of Manchester, England a nearly $194,000 contract to make an assessment of its THUNDERSTAR / STARCHASER space tourism reusable spacecraft. The award is to determine the feasibility of the spacecraft and rocket to meet the expectations of suborbital space tourists.

Starchaser expects to start launching tourists to suborbotal space from Spaceport America in the Southern New Mexico high desert by late 2009 and be among a mere handful of space launch tourist firms.

ESA's Survey of European Privately-Funded Vehicles for Commercial Human Space Flight was initiated last July as a means to stimulate European aerospace firm interest in technology innovation and the epected demand for space tourism.

"Project Enterprise" is also underway in Europe as a part of the European Space Tourism project.

McNaught May Be Brightest Comet In Human History

In case you missed the last chance to see Comet McNaught, the European Space Agency is keeping track. It could emerge as the brightest comet in recorded history as it emerges in the the Southern Hemisphere perhaps visable in daylight. Here is an Image from Massachusetts.

Commercial Space Legislation on the Virginia Political Agenda

Fifteen of Virginia's 140 state legislators are now advancing four slightly differing versions of a study resolution "to make the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport the premiere commercial hub for space travel in the United States." The four legislative measures are now pending in the Rules Committees of the Virginia House and Senate. Details about each proposal are available here.

The Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport is expected to complete a $500,000 study by October of facility suitability for orbital rocket launches by COTS firms like SpaceX, Rocketplane-Kistler, and others in COTS-2. The legislators also recognize the potential $1 billion space tourism market by 2020. See the Virginian Pilot.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Pioneer Sergei Korolyov's Memory Honored

The memory of Sergei P. Korolyov, the now renouned rocket pioneer who placed the world's first satellite, Sputnik, and put the first man, Yuri Gagarin, in space, was honored in Moscow's Red Square. The largely unknown man of his time was a significant contributor to the Space Age with only Wernher von Braun deemed his contemporary equal in the early stages of human space flight. The BBC tells a more complete story of how his life is being feted in Russia today marking 100 years since his birth and 41 years from his death.

Sharam: "Be the Change"

Iranian Sharam Tayebi is the superstar of the Grammy award winning DJ/production duo (w/ Ali ''Dubfire'' Shirazinia) Deep Dish. Sharam is now putting the finishing touches on a new single called "Be The Change" dedicated to fellow Iranian-American Anousheh Ansari, the first female private space explorer.

The vocals are by Anousheh Khalili (yes another Anousheh), who also did the vocals on hit singles "Say Hello" and "Flashdance." The next single release by Deep Dish is expected to be an immediate hit -- "Be The Change" [sample MP3] featured on cosmonaut Anousheh Ansari's web page.

Cassini to Survey Titan Again

The twenty-third flyby of the Saturnian moon Titan by the Cassini spacecraft is now on close approach. The vehicle is scheduled to deploy its synthetic aperture radar instrument for more scanning of surface features. Titan is clearly one of the more scientifically interesting and more Earth-like bodies in the solar system. The Cassini spacecraft will make the flyby again on Saturday with the closet approach about 3 AM. This flyby comes on the heels of the release of imagery showing the existence of lakes of liquid methane. Scientists are using the flybys of Titan to seek evidence of underground hydrocarbon oceans feeding the surface lakes.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Spaceport Sweden Announcement Set

Spaceport Sweden will be formally announced at the Kiruna Airport 26 January 2007 as a partnership among Swedish Space Corp. , ICEHOTEL, LFV Group (Luftfartsverket) and Kiruna’s business-development company Progressum. Kiruna is also home to the orginial Ice Hotel and home of the Esrange sounding rocket range.

The spaceport will be designed to be "first and most obvious" human suborbital space gateway from Europe with Virgin Galactic operating SpaceShipTwo (SS2) from this location by 2010. The announcement has been expected for months.

Virgin Galactic expects to launch 500 people to space during its first year of operation and 50,000 passengers with the first decade of its commercial scale space flights.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Virginia Seeks Study of Space Commercialization at MARS

With enthusiasm for Virginia's first commercial spaceport launch last month capturing attention of some state policymakers, the 2006 Virginia legislative session commenced today with two House resolutions being filed calling for the creation of study groups on commercialization of space at the FAA-AST licensed commercial Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) at the NASA Wallops Flight Facility. The resolutions seek to enable 'next generation' commercial cargo flights to the International Space Station and commercial space tourism from the Virginia spaceport facilities.

House Joint Resolution 695 was introduced today by State Delegate Lynwood W. Lewis, Jr. (D-Accomac) requesting a study to (i) identify any federal or state regulatory impediments, including taxation, to the development of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport; (ii) identify threats to the spaceport’s viability, such as encroachment, zoning, mineral exploration and exploitation, and noncompatible uses of the spaceport; (iii) identify potential economic development opportunities and marketing strategies to attract launch companies to Virginia; (iv) identify potential state legal barriers to human spaceflight, including liability and assumption of risk issues; (v) identify specific areas where the Commonwealth needs to invest in infrastructure and marketing in order to enable the achievement of the spaceport's full potential; and (vi) develop a long-term strategic plan to make the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport the premiere commercial hub for space travel in the United States.

On Monday, HJR 621 was pre-filed by Delegate Terry Kilgore (R-Gate City) with a slightly smaller scope a study committee membership. The resolution offered by Delegate Lewis includes Maryland economic development officials. Maryland and Virginia reached a compact in 2004 to jointly support the commercial spaceport.

Dr. Billie Reed is the excutive director of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport and Dr. John Campbell is the director of the NASA Wallops Flight Facility.

India Launches Test Re-Entry Capsule to Low Earth Orbit

India has launched the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle PSLV-C7 rocket with four satellites with one among them a test re-entry capsule that will advance the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) space program to take steps to a 2014 human launch effort.

The successful launch occured from the Satish Dhawan spaceport near Bangelore at 9:23 AM Wednesday morning in India, (10:53 p.m. EST Tuesday). Only the 4th nation looking to launch humans to orbital space, India appears to be seeking to master hi-tech rocketery engineering after Russia, America, China, and the European Union.

The Space Capsule Recovery Experiment (SCRE-1) is a 550 kg hypersonic aero-thermdynamic capsule intended to demonstrate Indian technology for a microgravity space platform. After the initial space test over 13 to 30 days, the capsule will be de-orbited for recovery in the Bay of Bengal.

"Launching a satellite we've done in the past, recovering one, we'll do for the first time,” said ISRO Chairman, Madhavan Nair adding, "Certain inputs like re-entry, thermal protection systems and software we develop will be useful for a manned mission also. But manned mission is a long way to go." Nair added "at least eight years for a manned mission to the moon from India," in contemplation of cislunar human travel.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

British Eye Moonraker Mission

The British are eyeing two independent missions to the Moon --- one called "Moonlight" and the other "Moonraker" starting in 2010, should the government decide to fund the projects.

Moonlight would despatch four suitcase-sized darts on to the lunar surface craters from orbit hitting the Moon at a high velocity and penetrating to a depth of six feet. Seismometers coud be attached to the darts to listen for "Moonquakes" providing new insight into the make-up of the lunar interior. Mookraker would be designed to land on the surface of the Moon to search for suitable sites for a human base.

Proponents in the United Kingdom believe a "go-it-alone" Moon strategy would provide a technological benefit to the British aerospace industry for what is rapidly turning into a 21st-Century space race, according to the BBC story.

Elon Builds More than Rockets!

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk co-founded a Silicon Valley start-up known as Tesla Motors. The new firm with 70-employees is building a mass-market electric sportscar that looks a little more like a Ferrari than a Prius. It is almost rocket science to get 125 miles per gallon in the hot ride!

Hawking to be Tourist Astronaut

Renowed physicist StephenHawking will be a flyer aboard the suborbital SpaceShipTwo (SS2) 'Enterprise' in 2009 sponsored by Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Galactic. Dr. Hawking, 65, has expressed the desire to fly suborbital during a BBC Radio 4 interview in November of last year.

Hawking uses a wheelchair and communicates with the help of a computer because he suffers from a neurological disorder called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, has done groundbreaking research on black holes and the origins of the universe, proposing that space and time have no beginning and no end.

Monday, January 08, 2007

'MAVEN' and 'The Great Escape' Studied for 2011 Scout Mission

NASA today gave preliminary approval to study two possible missions to Mars for final down select to one by January 2008 and a launch window in 2011 and a maximum mission cost of no more than $475 million.

The Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution mission or MAVEN would provide first-of-its-kind measurements, address key questions about Mars climate and habitability, and improve understanding of dynamic processes in the upper Martian atmosphere and ionosphere.

"We're going to solve the mystery of Mars' lost atmosphere," said Dr. Bruce Jakosky, lead scientist on the MAVEN proposal. "We'll explain where it went and how it went there."

An alternative mission called "The Great Escape" would directly determine the basic processes in Martian atmospheric evolution by measuring the structure and dynamics of the upper atmosphere. In addition, potentially biogenic atmospheric constituents such as methane would be measured.

Meanwhile, the Phoenix Mars polar lander mission launch campaign is underway for 3 August 2007 as the first Scout-1 mission --- a little more than 200 days to liftoff.

NASA Found Mars Life in 1976?

Was it 'techno-blindness?' A simple mistake, perhaps? Whatever you call it, the scientific argument is being advanced now that the Viking 1 and 2 landers on the surface of Mars in 1976 found evidence of microbes of life thirty years ago. The logic, if it holds, is that planetary scientists did not understand Mars-life and the environment as well as they do today.

In an American Astronomical Society research paper released Sunday afternoon, Dr. Dirk Schulze-Makuch presented a theory that NASA was looking for Earth-like life, not Mars-like life forms.

The Washington State University astrobiology professor believes that life on Mars could have evolved there with an internal fluid consisting of a mix of water and hydrogen peroxide. Micorobe life could have evolved because a water-hydrogen peroxide mix stays liquid at very low temperatures, or -68 degrees Fahrenheit, and doesn't destroy cells when it freezes and thereupon sucks water vapor out of the atmosphere to live.

Schulze-Makuch said that NASA's Viking probes wouldn't have noticed alien hydrogen peroxide-based life and, in fact, would have killed it by drowning and overheating the microbes in the attempt to find Earth-like life forms in error. [Radio Interview on topic and New Scientist reports.]

Entrepreneur Simonyi to Orbit April 9 for ISS Orbital Stay

Software entrepreneur Charles Simonyi's flight aboard Soyuz TMA-10 previously scheduled for 9 March has been delayed to 9 April so as not to conflict with the space shuttle STS-117 flight to the international space station.

Simonyi, 58, paying an estimated $21-million for the Soyuz taxi flight to the orbital lab, will biomedical experiments while at the space station. As the fifth commercial cosmonaut, he is following in the footsteps of private space explorers Dennis Tito, Mark Shuttleworth, Greg Olsen, and Anousheh Ansari.

The billionaire and would-be cosmonaut's reported fiance is domestic magnate Martha Stewart. Simonyi was seen dancing in weightlessness with Stewart in a zero-gravity flight last year captured in a video.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Commercial Space Legislation to be Considered by Va. Assembly

The 2007 Virginia General Assembly convenes in Richmond next week where commercial space legislation is expected to be among the hundreds of bills and resolutions confronting the 140 members. The measures are designed to boost commercial activity at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport.

Legislation calling for the creation of a joint subcommittee to study the development and utilization of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport with four primary goals: (i) identify any federal or state regulatory impediments, including taxation, to the development of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport; (ii) identify potential economic development opportunities and marketing strategies to attract launch companies to Virginia; (iii) identify potential state legal barriers to human spaceflight, including liability and assumption of risk issues; and (iv) develop a long-term strategic plan to make the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport the premiere commercial hub for space travel in the United States.

Another measure expected to be offered would create the Virginia Space Flight Liability and Immunity Act to provide specific warnings to commercial suborbital space flight passengers launched from Virginia and authorizing waivers of liability for commercial suborbital flights.

The measure is also expected to grant tax exemptions to any commercial launch firm for (i) any gain recognized as a result of the sale of passenger tickets on a suborbital spaceflight conducted by a spaceflight entity; and, (ii) any gain recognized as a result of resupply services contracts entered with the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services division of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

People for Aerospace Campaign to Pass April 3 Referendum

The critical April 3rd referendum of voters in three southern New Mexico counties is nearing to provide tax revenue to build Spaceport America at Upham, New Mexico by late 2009 and to that end a group has formed to support passage known as "People for Aerospace."

The People for Areospace advoactes "yes" votes to adopt a 0.25 gross receipts tax on business sales in three southern New Mexico counties. The Las Cruces Sun has provided an editorail endorsement for passage of the referendums citing competition from Virginia and Texas. New Mexico Politics Blogger Heath Haussamen provides more details.

India to Have Human-Rated Spacecraft in 2014 and Perhaps ISS Access Post-2015

India's space agency plans to unveil the human spaceflight program the coming week that will propose a human spaceflight in 2014. The proposed plan may also call for the development of a two-person capsule that could be launched on the country’s GSLV launch vehicle.

The GSLV Mark III would provide more than enough payload capacity for manned spaceflight.

India is developing technology for a recoverable spacecraft that will be tested on a spacecraft scheduled for launch next week. The total cost of the manned orbital program, which has yet to be approved by the Indian government, is estimated to be approximately $2-3 billion.

India's space ambitions are being driven by an advancing economy and regional competition with the People's republic of China which may launch a three-man spacecraft later this year. Some have called the China-India competition the "New Cold War in Space."

The ISRO plan is said to also feature human missions to the Moon by 2020 which is also being discussed in China. Both China and India are planning to boost unmanned spacecraft to the moon within months. It has also been suggested that the United States might share some of its ownership rights in the International Space Station with India after 2015 as NASA's focus turns to human exploration of the moon.

Friday, January 05, 2007

The Next 50 Years in Space Survey Study is Here

SGAC, in partnership with the Frederick S. Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer-Range Future, the Boston University Center for Space Physics and the Secure World Foundation, invites input from space enthusiasts to contribute to planning the next 50 years in space. START your survey.

The results will be presented by two youth delegates at a workshop featuring prominent individuals such as Freeman Dyson, Elon Musk and, Apollo 17 moonwalker and geologist, Dr. Harrison Schmitt, held in conjunction with a conference titled, "The Future of Space Exploration: Solutions to Earthly Problems?" taking place on April 12-14 2007.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Step by Step, With Courage

The Blue Origin New Shepard "Goddard" spacecraft's initial test launch last November was a success at the FAA-AST licensed Van Horn, Texas Spaceport owned by Amazon.com's Jeff Bezos. The vertical-takeoff, vertical-landing vehicle was shown operational with [video] and still photographs released on the firm's web site Tuesday with a statement by the owner.

Blue Origin's stated intent is to provide commercial passenger service to suborbital space to altitudes exceeeding 62.5 (100km) by 2010. The design is similar to the older Delta Clipper vehicle.

Flight video shows Goddard, named after the father of modern rocketry Robert Goddard, flying to 285 feet (87 meters) altitude prior to slowly coming back down under power to a soft landing at the Texas test site.

A second test flight from december has not been released. Further tests are expected throughout 2007 from the private commercial spaceport.

2007 Key Year in Space Transportation Projects

The year ahead promises to be one of challenge and risk in terms of the nascent commercial space industry and the government civilian space programs. The challenges ahead this year are many.

The United States must demonstrate that it 'can-do' a space shuttle flight schedule that will place significant Japanese and European-made elements of the international space station on-orbit. The flight rate in 2007 leaps forward with greater demands placed on the vehicles, the launch teams, and the space crews to be builders in space. This risk of failure or delay is high as the nation seeks to retire the space shuttle fleet while testing the new space vehicles to return to the Moon.

The Constellation program to build the Orion crew exploration vehicle and the Ares-1 and Ares-V boosters must also make significant progress throughout the year. Lockheed won the Orion contract last summer. ATK Launch Systems gained the Ares I crew launch vehicle's first stage contract. In 2007, the second stage contract will be let.

NASA will also launch in August a spacecraft to Mars to subsequently land at the Martian north pole and seeking to compound the outlandish success of the two Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity still operational after three years this month on the surface.

Internationally, China will resume its human space flights with perhaps that programs first human astronaut spacewalk as it rapidly advances the nation's human space program and embarks its first unmanned probe to the moon. The Europeans will also launch the first resupply spacecraft to the space station in July known as the Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) atop a modified Ariane 5 booster.

By late summer, the European space scientists should have the first meaningful data from the COROT space telescope searching some 120,000 stars light years away for an Earth-like exoplanet.

Meanwhile, the NASA Commercial Orbital Transportation Services contractors will push ahead. SpaceX is to launch the Falcon-1 this winter seeking to demonstrate that it has overcome its initial false start into competition with the Lockheed and Boeing's United Launch Alliance deal that marked 2006 space mergers. Rocketplane-Kisler must also demonstrate compentecy in meeting milestones in the COTS program. Both SpaceX and Rocketplane-Kistler (RpK) are slated to conduct booster tests this year.

Bigelow Areospace will launch the second private orbital space station known as Genesis-II this winter from Russia. Another success for Bigelow as witnessed last summer will begin to cement the realization that a private inflatable space station is not too distant and orbital commerce possible within the decade.

Before year end, Scaled Composites-designed Virgin Galactic White Knight 2 carrier aircraft and suborbital space vehicle, SpaceShipTwo, will be displayed and tested in its first flight from the Mojave Spaceport, if they stay on schedule. Rocketplane could also make it first suborbital test-flights from the Burns Flat, Oklahoma Spaceport later this year. Even the Russians may be ready to start the first test flight of a new suborbital space tourist vehicle from a military base near Moscow.

In New Mexico, citizens in three counties will vote on a tax referendum April 3 to begin to finalize the $225-million Spaceport America finance package. The spaceport FAA spaceport license is set for issuance this month. East Coast space business will advance forward at the FAA-licensed commercial Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport with two more orbital launches from that location in April and October.

In all, it will be a turning point year for commercial and civil space around the planet.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Russia Dominates 2006 Space Launch Demand 45% to 28%

The Russian Federal Space Agency conducted 45% of the world's spacecraft launches in 2006, maintaining its leading position among the world's spacefaring nations, noted Anatoly Nikolaevich Perminov, the Russian space program director, in a recent Moscow press briefing.

In 2006 Russia had 25 space launches, compared to the United States' eighteen or 28%. Japan and China shared third place, with six launches each. The Russian space budget was $873-million in 2006 compared to a NASA budget of over $16-billion.

The Russian federal space budget is expected to expand to $912 million in 2007 but the number of launches are expected to drop to 20. In 2007, Russia will send two piloted spacecraft and four cargo ships to the international space station.

"We have determined that one place in the Soyuz spacecraft will be always reserved for a Russian cosmonaut, another - for an American astronaut, and the third will be offered to space tourists," Perminov told RIA Novosti recently. "The list of space tourists from various countries has been filled in until 2008."

"Until 2010, the U.S. will use its space shuttles [to bring astronauts to the ISS], but after 2010 and until 2015-2020 they [the Americans] will fly to the station on board the Russian spacecraft," Perminov said, adding that Russia will start building its own space shuttles, the Clipper, in 2012.

The Russians are leading space commercialization partnering with various nations ranging from China, the European Union, and the United States on joint space ventures ranging from space tourists to the ISS aboard Soyuz to unmanned probes to the Moon and Mars.

Monday, January 01, 2007

First Suborbital Tourist to Fly This Year from Oklahoma?

Reda Anderson of Beverly Hills, Ca. is slated to be the first suborbital space tourist aboard the Rocketplane. The vehicle is to be tested this year by ex-NASA astronaut John Herrington. Michael Belfiore, a journalist for Popular Science and author of the book Rocketeers, set for July 31, 2007 publication, suggested last April that Rocketplane's first revenue passenger may be "the first" among the thousands to cross the 100 kilometer Karmen Line to space -- this time from the Oklahoma Spaceport. The year 2007 will mark a time of critcal mass for many of the entrepreneurial space firms to prove space tourism hardware viable and safe.

2007 Launch Schedule Preview

The Aug 3 Phoenix launch to Mars highlighs the schedule.

The launch manifests for NASA, ESA, RSA and JAXA civil space programs have exciting missions set to embark from various spaceports around planet Earth in 2007.

  • 18 January is the target launch date for the Russian Progress M-60 resupply to the ISS. The mission will launch from the Baikonur comosdrome in Kazakhstan.

  • 15 February is the target launch date for the THEMIS mission to study the dynamic and colorful eruptions of auroras. The launch will be from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport aboard a Delta II.
  • 20 February is the estimated launch date for the Falcon 1 booster of SpaceX from the Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific.

  • 9 March is the target launch date for the Soyuz TMA-10 for crew rotation at the International Space Station (ISS). The mission will launch from the Baikonur comosdrome in Kazakhstan. Charles Simonyi, Ph.D. will be aboard the Soyuz taxi flight to the ISS. Flight delayed to April 9.

  • 16 March is the target launch date for Space Shuttle STS-117 Atlantis to deliver a second starboard truss segment and a third set of solar arrays and batteries. The mission will embark from the Kennedy Spaceport.
  • 17 April is the target launch date for of the Chang'e 1 to the Moon from a spaceport in the People's Republic of China.
  • 21 April is the target launch date of a Minotaur rocket with a Near-Field Infrared Experiment (NFIRE) satellite from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at the NASA Wallops Flight Facility, Wallops Island, Virginia.

  • 25 April is the target launch date for the AIM space mission designed to study the highest clouds in the earth's atmosphere -- clouds at the edge of space recently thought to be impacted by Greenhouse Gases. The launch will be from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California aboard an Orbital Sciences Pegasus XL.

  • 12 May is the target launch date for the Russian Progress M-60 resupply to the ISS. The mission will launch from the Baikonur comosdrome in Kazakhstan.

  • 31 May is the target launch date Missile Defense Agency Block 2010 Spacecraft Risk Reduction serves as a pathfinder for future launch and mission technology for MDA. The launch will be from Vandenberg Air Force Base aboard a Delta II.

  • 18 June is the target launch date for the Automated Transfer Vehicle "Jules Verne" aboard a Ariane 5ESV from Kourou, French Guiana .

  • 20 June is the target launch date for the Dawn Mission will be the first time a spacecraft will orbit two planetary bodies on a single voyage as it studies Ceres and Vesta. The Delta II booster will launch from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport.

  • 28 June is the target launch date for Space Shuttle STS-118 Endeavor to deliver the S5 Truss to the International Space Station. The mission will embark from the Kennedy Spaceport. STS-118 will also aloft the first flight of NASA's Educator Astronaut Barbara Morgan.

  • 3 August is the target launch date for the Phoenix new Mars lander mission and the first of NASA's scout missions. Phoenix will work to uncover clues in the martian arctic soils about the history of water and potential for habitability. The mission will launch from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport on a Delta II.

  • 3 September is the target launch date for the Russian Progress M-61 resupply to the ISS. The mission will launch from the Baikonur comosdrome in Kazakhstan.

  • 7 September is the target launch date for the Space Shuttle STS-120 to the International Space Station and deliver the U.S. Node 2. It will launch from the Kennedy Spaceport.

  • 6 October is the target launch date for the Soyuz TMA-11 for crew rotation at the International Space Station (ISS). The mission will launch from the Baikonur comosdrome in Kazakhstan. Malaysian doctor Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor will be on the Soyuz taxi flight.

  • 7 October is the target launch date for GLAST (The Gamma-ray Large Area Telescope) to detect gamma rays in a range of energies from thousands to hundreds of billions of times more energetic than the light visible to the human eye. GLAST will launch from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport aboard a Delta II.
  • 15 October is the estimated is launch date of a Minotaur rocket with a TacSat-3 satellite from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at the NASA Wallops Flight Facility, Wallops Island, Virginia.
  • 17 October is the target launch date for the Space Shuttle STS-122 Discovery to deliver the Columbus European Laboratory Module to the ISS. STS-122 will launch from the Kennedy Spaceport.

  • 15 November is the target launch date for the Russian Progress M-62 resupply to the ISS. The mission will launch from the Baikonur comosdrome in Kazakhstan.

  • 25 November is the target launch date for the Missile Defense Agency STSS Block 2006 demonstrate the key functions of a space based sensor, passing missile tracking data to missile defense interceptors with the accuracy and timeliness necessary to enable them to successfully intercept missile targets. It will launch aboard a Delta II from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport.

  • 5 December is the target launch date for Space Shuttle STS-123 Endeavor to deliver the pressurized section of the Kibo Japanese Experiment Logistics Module to the ISS. The launch is from the Kennedy Spaceport.

  • 6 December is the target launch date for NOAA-N Prime is a polar orbiting satellite used in weather and climate prediction by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The satellite will launch on a Delta II from Vandenberg Spaceport.

In addition, Japan's JAXA is slated to launch the Selenological and Engineering Explorer (or Moon explorer) "SELENE" in the fall of 2007.