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Saturday, March 31, 2007

Elon Musk Interviewed by BBC

BBC Radio conducted a 20-minute audio interview some several weeks ago with SpaceX CEO Elon Musk and SpaceX General Counsel Tim Hughes discussing the profession of engineering, the space enterprise, space markets, the launch vehicles, and problem solving of interplanetary spaceflight.

Musk talks about how he views Boeing and Lockheed as quasi-governmental agencies through the level of government contracting the firms undertake. He states that America's return to the moon is not doomed to be a failure but it is doomed to be expensive using the model of large federal prime contractors.

The SpaceX CEO explains that the commercial launch sector should be viewed as the minor and premier leagues with suborbital the minor league and the orbital the premier league. Musk also enlightens listeners to the five segment costs of his launch firm.

Friday, March 30, 2007

"No Tax, No Spaceport!" New Mexico Governor Tells Voters

New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson told Southern New Mexico voters yesterday one simple message: A no vote means no spaceport.

As the debate heats in the final hours before the votes are counted (April 3) Tuesday night on the one penny on every four dollars spent in retail sales tax, Richardson advised voters if the referendem fails the spaceport "is dead," period. He noted that the Virgin Galatic venture will be lost to such states as California or Texas.

Estimates are that the average taxpayer will pay about $2.50 per month in additional taxation to fund the spaceport bond debt. Advoactes point to the additional revenue streams that will be created by new jobs and growth flowing from Spaceport America construction at a site in southern Sierra County known as Upham.

The Las Cruces Sun-News provides Richardson's complete remarks.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Southern New Mexico Voters Hear Final Arguments on Spaceport Tax Referendum

Dona Ana County Commissions took point /counter-point on the Tuesday, April 3rd referendum vote on the 0.25 gross receipts in combined 20-minute news video interviews with ABC-7 reporter Jayme Rubenstein. Commissioner Kent Evans argued for the tax and Commissioner Oscar Vasquez Butler argued against it. The video provides an overview of the two arguments in favor and opposed to the local option spaceport tax.

CubeSats Set to Launch April 17

The Russian-Ukrainian launch of a Dnepr booster to ferry multiple satellites including the MAST mission to space has been reset for April 17. The Dnepr was to launch to space on March 27 but was delayed while launch controllers at in Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan worked technical issues with the booster.

Tethers Unlimited, Inc. will seek to test the "Multi-Application Survivable Tether" as a means to lower costs to space launch and repair of on-orbit satellites in the future.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Virginia Governor Kaine Backs Spaceflight Liability and Immunity Law to Boost Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport

Virginia Governor Timothy Kaine has offered an Amendment in the Nature of a Substitute to the Virginia Spaceflight Liability and Immunity Act with the support of its original patron Delegate Terry G. Kilgore. The revised measure is expected to pass at the April 4 reconvened session of the 2007 General Assembly.

The landmark legislation should lower insurance costs for human-rated commercial space launch firms that opt to use the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport for space tourist flights as well as provide some measure of protection to the commercial space launch firm in the event of the worst case flight scenario.

The Spaceflight Liability and Immunity Act will become effective July 1, 2007 until July 1, 2013 when it is anticipated that the FAA will begin to review possible spaceflight passenger regulations.

The Amendment in the Nature of a Substitute enjoyed the support of the Personal Spaceflight Federation consisting of several of the commercial space launch firms including SpaceX, t/Space, Virgin Galactic, XCOR Aerospace, Space Adventures, Space Dev, Air Launch, Kistler Aerospace, Rocketplane, Armadillo Aerospace, Scaled Composites, Bigelow Aerospace, and others.

UPDATE: SpaceLawProbe provides an insights to Virginia legislation while The Bristol Herald Courier publishes a guest commentary.

Planetary Scientists Study Saturn North Pole Atmospheric Hexagon

An odd, six-sided, honeycomb-shaped feature circling the entire north pole of Saturn has captured the interest of scientists with the Cassini mission.

The atmospheric feature was already imaged by NASA’s Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft over two decades ago. The fact that it has appeared in Cassini images indicates that it is a long-lived feature. A second hexagon, significantly darker than the brighter historical feature, is also visible in the Cassini pictures. The spacecraft's visual and infrared mapping spectrometer (VIMS) is the first instrument to capture the entire hexagon feature in one image.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Virgin Galactic / New Mexico Sign MOU for Spaceport America

New Mexico officials Monday afternoon revealed a Memorandum of Understanding signed with Virgin Galactic expressing the intent of the state to lease to the fledgling commercial tourist spaceliner firm Spaceport America facilities expected to be completed in Southern New Mexico's Chihuahuan Desert by 2010.

The terms of the MOU set forth that the parties will execute a binding legal agreement for a 20-year lease that would make the British firm the anchor tenant at the $198 million facility planned for southern Sierra County, about 45 miles north of Las Cruces. The memorandum of agreement calls for Virgin Galactic to pay New Mexico about $27.5 million over 20 year lease period. Alan Boyle provides details.

Meanwhile, Dona Anna County pro-spaceport advocates are trolling for voters to cast yes votes in a referendum one week away that are deemed essential of the spaceport bond funding. The Guardian provides a perspective on the April 3rd vote and the referendum impact.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Tethers Unlimited MAST Test Launch Delayed Temporarily

Tethers Unlimted, Inc. [TUI] was to launch the "Multi-Application Survivable Tether" (MAST) Experiment on a Russian Dnepr booster to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) Tuesday, March 27. The launch has been delayed. It was to be launched as a part of the University CubeSat program. There will be 7 CubeSats launhed aborad the Dnepr booster, six 1-U CubeSats along with a single 3-U CubeSat. A new launch date has yet to be announced in what is expected to be a slight delay only.

TUI is developing a lassos-new system to be used to capture and one day launch new spacecraft to space along with MAST. The MAST test will deploy 3 mini-satellites along with a tether to study how well tether propulsion technologies will work in the space environment. [Video 1 and Video 2] UPDATE: Launch re-set for April 17.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

2007 Space Elevator Prize to Heat-Up in New Mexico Desert

Click to expand the graphic.
The Space Elevator Competition will be a part of the X-Prize Cup in Southern New Mexico again in late October with the contest going into a sudden death overtime in 2006. Most observes believe the NASA prize money will be won this year as teams line-up.

Meanwhile, Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson has hosted a segment on NOVA in January 2007 about the space elevator theory with a strong emphasis on the Space Elevator Context at the X-Prize Cup. The 12-minute video is on the web now for viewing.

"There are kids here that will know more about space elevator technology than NASA scientists ..." Video of the University of Saskatchewan's Qualification Climb.

Global UFO Data Demand Crashs French Space Agency Web Server

Unidentifed Flying Object [UFO] case files have been opened by France with global Internet demand for the web site so high that the French Space Agency CNES server went into a denial of service [DOS] mode much of the weekend.

France is the first national government to fully disclose some 10,000 investigative documents
relating to 1,600 sightings spanning the past fifty years of UFO reports through the Office for the Study of Unidentified Aerospace Phenomena. The UFO reports include including photographs, police reports, and videos sent in by witnesses.

Of the 1,600 cases registered since 1954, nearly 25 percent are classified as "type D", meaning that despite good or very good data and credible witnesses, we are confronted with something we can't explain. Linked is a report from The Sunday Times of London.

''The Web site exploded in two hours. We suspected that there was a certain amount of interest, but not to this extent,'' Jacques Patenet, who heads the Group for Study and Information on Unidentified Aerospace Phenomena told the Chicago Sun-Times.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Kistler K-1 to Boost Passengers to Bigelow Space Hotels in 2012?

Rocketplane-Kistler (RpK) and Bigelow Aerospace have executed a Letter of Intent to ferry space passengers to and from a Bigelow Space Habitat at some future point.

George French III announced the Letter of Intent to those attending the Space Access '07 in Arizona Friday morning. Jeff Foust writes at Personal Spaceflight that "once Rocketplane’s K-1 is ready to carry passengers, and once Bigelow’s modules are in orbit, they’ll do business to ferry passengers to and from the facilities" and "by 2012" notes Rand Simberg at Transterrestrial Musings.

It was noted that Rocketplane-Kistler are still looking for an orbital spaceport within the domestic United States to launch and land the K-1 booster. At this point the commercial space firm plans to use the spaceport in Woomera, Australia.

One launch expert noted recently that the K-1 will have difficulty obtaining a launch spaceport within the United States with the current configuration unless the K-1 designers are willing to splash and "get wet."

Space Access 07 Wraps-Up

Space Access '07 wraps-up tonight in Arizona with participants hearing from several leaders of the commercial space launch effort as one more year passes.

Ian Kluft is providing a complete overview of conference with outline notes and pictures while bloggers Henry Cate, Rand Simberg, Jeff Foust, and Clark Lindsey provided impressive minute-by-minute coverage among them from Phoenix during the three day conference.

Space advocate leader Rick Tumlinson, CEO of Orbital Outfitters, Ltd., provided the conference a wonderful quote from T. E. Lawrence stirring the conference with his usual populist oratory.

“All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible.”

"Keeping my eyes on the sky" is a salute to all participants of Space Access '07 and a musical wish for an enjoyable Saturday evening of post-conference fun before getting back to day dreaming!

Friday, March 23, 2007

Bloggers Highlight Space Access

Space Access '07 is ON in Phoenix Arizona with speaker-after-speaker devoted to technology, politics, and business of radically cheaper space transportation with some of the best space bloggers keeping the rest of us informed. It may be one of the best space conferences in the country from the "insider" perspective.

Rand Simberg at Transterrestrial Musings, Jeff Foust at SpacePolitics and Personal Spaceflight, Clark Lindsey at HobbySpace, and Henry Cate at Space Access ‘07 are each blogging the conference to give readers a virtual presence. The bloggers provide excellent annual coverage. Hats-off to Bloggers!

Falcon-1 Stages 1 and 2 Bump

Stages 1 and 2 collided on the Falcon-1 launch earlier in the week resulting in the vehicle's failure to achieve orbit as had been planned confirmed SpaceX CEO Elon Musk in a report today from Space Daily.

Onboard video shows the Stage 2 exit cone running into the integral interstage on top of Stage 1 during staging separation, with an obvious "bump" effect on the motion between the large first stage and fully fueled second, reported Space Daily yesterday.

"An impact from orbital debris or during stage separation would simply dent the metal, but have no meaningful effect on engine performance," Musk added that "There is substantial inflation pressure on the nozzle, so, even if the skirt dented, it would undent immediately after ignition."

Thursday, March 22, 2007

$198-Million Approved for New Mexico Spaceport Prior to Referendum Vote April 3

The New Mexico Spaceport Authority approved a $198-million estimate for the construction of Spaceport America in the Southern New Mexico desert at Upham during a Tuesday meeting of the authority membership in Santa Fe.

Dona Ana County residents are set to vote on a 0.25 gross receipts tax (GRT) and the reduction from $225-million to $198-million should be welcome news to county voters who will decide the future of the spaceport with the referendum vote.

"Without financial support from Dona Ana County, we have to stop the project and all the plans to create a new industry and new jobs in southern New Mexico," Rick Homans, the New Mexico Secretary of Economic Development noted Tuesday.

The state of New Mexico already has appropriated $115 million for the project and also expects about $25 million in federal funds over the next five years. The state expects three local counties to provide $58 million from tax revenues to help build the spaceport, including $49 million from Dona Ana County.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Zero-G Flight With Professor Stephen Hawking on E-Bay

Experience history in the making with an amazing opportunity to join Professor Stephen Hawking, the world-renowned physicist and expert ongravity, as he realizes his life-long dream of floating weightless aboarda specially modified plane known as The ZERO-G Experience™ on April 26,2007 launching from the Kennedy Space Center in Central Florida.

The unique opportunity is now open for bid on e-Bay for a Zero-G flight with Professor Stephen Hawking and experience zero gravity by his side aboard a special plane.

The experience will be auctioned on eBay from March 16th through March 26th. All proceeds raised through this auction will benefit Starlight Starbright Children's Foundation.

The once-in-a-lifetime auction package includes two tickets aboard the Zero-G, zero-gravity flight with Hawking as well as a dinner and lecture with Hawking. Hotel accommodations for three nights are provided through JW Marriott Hotel Grande Lakes in Orlando, Florida.

Professor Hawking has generously donated two tickets to the Starlight Starbright Children's Foundation, with all proceeds going toward helping seriously ill children and their families.

UPDATE: Michael Belifore announces winning bid at $75,100.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

SpaceX CEO Musk Declares: "a very good day" for Falcon 1

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk declared "a very good day" for his commercial space launch firm despite the strong possibility that Falcon 1 may have re-entered the atmosphere prior to making orbit. See the launch here.

The Falcon-1 data link was lost at 5 minutes, 5 seconds into the second stage burn to orbit. All was nominal prior to loss of data with cheers filling the mission control as the vehicle first stage seperation and the second engine igition pushed the spacecraft through the atmosphere. MORE!

"I just wanted everybody to know that we in the Washington, D.C., office are celebrating with champagne. We don't have any information yet from the launch control center, but the Falcon clearly got to space with a successful liftoff, stage separation, second stage ignition and fairing separation," says Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX vice president of business development. However, what happened during the second stage burn is not clear. LiveUpdates.

Meanwhile, Gwynne Shotwell, vice president for business development notes that test-stand firings of the SpaceX-developed Merlin liquid-oxygen/kerosene engine for the Falcon 9 have been under way for a couple of weeks, and are “proceeding smoothly" with an anticipated first launch in the summer of 2008, according to Flight International.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Falcon 1 'Scrubbed' for the Day

-LIVE VIDEO -The Falcon 1 scrubbed a launch attempt Monday after two countdown procedures. The mission control expects a 24-to-48 hour turnaround for the next launch attempt Tuesday or Wednesday.

"The launch will be postponed if we have even the tiniest concern," the SpaceX Falcon 1 owner said in e-Mail earlier Monday in anticipation of a potential "terminal count abort." No information has been released yet on the exact nature of the anomaly data analysis.

The SCRUB came after "very successful static fire [video] (Thursday) that proceeded smoothly with no aborts," says SpaceX CEO Elon Musk in an e-Mail Saturday.

Musk says the text firing [video] was almost perfect noting that "The only remaining concern is that the GPS portion of the guidance system showed an anomaly about 15 minutes *after* the static fire. Falcon 1 is designed to achieve its target orbit purely on inertial navigation, so the GPS, while helpful for improving orbit insertion accuracy, is not flight critical. "

The visual data from the launch of Falcon 1 should be excellent as "there will be a total of 12 cameras looking at the rocket on launch day, including two thermal imaging and two vehicle cams, so no shortage visual data," Musk says.

MSCNB's Science Editor Alan Boyle provides a more detailed report.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

JP Aerospace Airship-to-Orbit Concept Intriguing Possibility

The JP Aerospace concept of an airship-to-orbit (ATO) is intriguing in the effort being waged across the new commercial space industry to reduce the per pound costs from ground-to-space, [video animation].

The "space blimp" to ATO has three system components to seek to achieve a radical new means to access Low Earth Orbit with a lighter than air, helium-filled lift vehicle. The first stage, known as Ascender lifts a payload to 30-to 40 km to the second system element known as Dark Sky Station. The third element of the system would be known as the Orbital Ascender designed to lift from the air station into space.

As envisioned by designers lead by John Powell ("JP"), an orbital payload would reach LEO in three to nine days in aerodynamic V-shaped balloons for both ground to station operations and from the station to orbit.

While skeptics and critics abound, the innovative Rockoon designs of experimental lighter-than-air vehicles to near-space altitudes still hold potential for break-through despite the many challenges. Today, JP Aerospace conducts commercial flights to high altitudes. One such near-space flight recently involved The Space Show [video].

Building the Highway to Space

The bold business venture Space Port America at Upham needs a $25-million highway access to Interstate 25 in the New Mexico high desert if it is to be the paved highway to the heavens instead of dirt road [CBS video].

The New Mexico legislature has been considering just such a measure this session offered by Rep. Dan Silva, D-Albuquerque to acquire rights of way, construct drainage improvements, and pave roads to the yet to be constructed spaceport. Heath Haussamen reports from Santa Fe that the bill passed the House 62 to 5 but no action in the Senate has been forthcoming.

Governor Bill Richardson, the leading spaceport proponent, called a special session of the New Mexico Legislature for Tuesday to resolve the roads issue saying, "voters in southern New Mexico want assurances that the state is keeping its commitment to build the road to the new Spaceport, which we intend to move forward immediately," he told the Los Alamos Monitor Sunday.

The spaceport highway measure stalled in the 2006 session after the legislature approved $100-million of the $225-million spaceport funding. It appears that the $25-million funding measure stalled again in 2007. However, Haussamen notes that New Mexico Secretary of Economic Development and Spaceport Authority Chairman Rick Homans may have found an alternative route to getting the highway built [CBS video].

The highway funding progress comes just as Dona Ana County voters go to the polls April 3 to determine the future fate of the spaceport with a referendum on a 0.25 gross receipts tax that would help fund bond debt to build a portion of the commercial designed spaceport.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

'Seven Sister' Caves Found Near Mars Volcano Arsia Mons

The US Geological Survey (USGS) have found seven underground caves on Mars and given names Dena, Chloë, Wendy, Annie, Abbey, Nikki and Jeanne near the Arsia Mons volcano region near the equator of the Red Planet.

Using THEMIS (Mars Odyssey's Thermal Emission Imaging System), researcher Glen Cushing from the USGS in Flagstaff, Arizona seven possible openings. The caves have been probed using thermal infrared imaging, which shows that their temperature is pretty constant at any time of day. In daylight, the spots are cooler than the rest of the surface, but not as cool as shadowed areas, and at night the spots are warmer than their surroundings.

Vertical "skylight" entrances to caves below the surface have been spotted from the Mars satellite image data. The caves may be the only natural structures capable of protecting primitive life forms from micrometeoroids, UV radiation, solar flares and high energy particles that bombard the planet's surface, according to the BBC.

"They don't have the rims or sprays of surrounding dust that impact craters have. The data suggest that the holes are at least 80 metres deep,Nature quoted Cushing as saying at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in League City, Texas. MSNBC Science Editor Alan Boyle provides more journalistic analysis along with Nature's Katharine Sanderson.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Space Probe Reveals Abundant Water Ice of Mars South Pole

The Martian South Pole has an abundent amount of water locked under the planetary ice covering an area larger than the state of Texas in data revealed by the the European Space Agency Mars Express spacecraft Thursday.

Radar remote sensing by the Mars Express indicate that water deposits are up to 2.3 miles thick under a polar cap of white frozen carbon dioxide and water, and appear to be composed of at least 90 percent frozen water mixed with Martian dust. The south pole data was gathered over 2005 and 2006 in what is the most accurate analysis to-date of a water volume estimate at the south pole.

Additional data is being gathered presently by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter [video] now in its first months of operation from orbit of the planet [video]. The Martian poles are also a target of NASA's Scout program Phoenix mission set to launch from the Kennedy Spaceport in August 2007. Phoenix will land on the icy northern pole of Mars.

Water on Mars was discovered to be flowing in very recent times on the Red Planet [video]. Mars surface rovers "Spirit" and "Opportunity" are in their third year of mobile operations [video 1 and video 2].

China May Beat America Back to the Moon In Only A Decade

The next human on the Moon may be Chinese.
The next 'small step for man, one giant leap for mankind' may be that of a Chinese Taikonaut 太空人, as the American space agency buckles under the twin pressures of NASA lunar program budget cuts and and a determined and well-funded effort by the Beijing-lead People's Republic of China [video of Shenzhou 6].

The House Committee on Science and Technology was advised Thursday by NASA Administrator Michael Griffin that the Chinese are developing the technological capability of landing a human on the surface of the Moon within the next 10 years. A Chinese robotic probe to the moon is scheduled to be launched later this year to be followed by a second-phase project involving unmanned lunar landers and lunar soil sample returns.

"I cannot speculate and won't speculate on what China's intensions are. I just don't know that," said Griffin. "As a matter of technical capability and political will, if the Chinese choose to do so, they can mount a lunar mission within a reasonable number of years, say a decade."

"If they wanted to mount a lunar mission, they could do so," Griffin said. "And yes, they could get to the moon before we return." A "few billion extra" dollars would allow NASA to send crews to the moon in 2017, Griffin told members of Congress.

U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), chairman of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee for NASA, called Thusrday for a bipartisan, House-Senate NASA summit at the White House to begin to solve the funding and directional problems at the space agency. The Senator will seek to infuse $1-billion to supplement the NASA budget this year.

MORE from The Houston Chronicle, The People's Daily and The Asia Times. The Chinese space program has paid a high price in the 1990's to achieve where the program is today [video]. The most recent orbital flight of Shenzhou 6 is documented in video segments 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport Launch Campaign Begins for 2nd Orbital Rocket w/NFIRE Payload

The FAA-commercial licensed Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at the Wallops Island launch facility is gearing-up for its second orbital launch of a Mintour-1 booster configured by Virginia-based Orbital Sciences with a launch window extending from April 21 through May 1, 2007 and from 0800-1100 GMT (4:00 a.m. to 7:00 a.m.).

The planned April 21st launch will carry a special military payload known as NFIRE (Near Field Infrared Experiment ) for the for the Missile Defense Agency. The NFIRE test is aimed at perfecting a sensor system that could track and destroy enemy missiles.

The Mintour-1 was first launched from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport December 16 with a USAF TacSat-2 and a NASA science payload GenSat-1. Both are in successful orbital operations today. The launch was witnessed hundreds of miles from the launch facility along the Virginia Atlantic Ocean coast.

Accomack County Supervisor Ron Wolff’s constituency meeting will be held at the NASA Wallops Visitors’ Centre on Chincoteague Road March 19 at 7 p.m. to discuss and preview details of the planned April 21st orbital launch from the commercial spaceport.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Eric Anderson Touts Space Commercialization to VOA

With the launch of the fifth commercial space tourist, software developer Charles Simonyi, to the Interntaional Space Station now but days away, Eric Anderson, president and CEO of Space Adventures believes that a new for-profit-driven space race is a positive sign for the future in an interview posted on the Voice of America [video].
Anderson believes space is an incredible new frontier for business. The Virginia-based Space Adventures has earned over $120 million in sales for offering commercial seats to the public.

"When you find millions of people who want to go into space and we find a way to be able to take them there, that creates the opportunity for space entrepreneurs,” Aderson told VOA.

Anderson believes that 30 to 40 years from now it will be within the reach for the great percentage of the world population to travel to space. "What we are doing today is much more than just rich people buying trips to space. It is actually the catalyst that will open up the future where all of us will be able to go to space."

New Mexico to Repeat Space History with April 3 Ballot?

The “People for Aerospace” have posted a new 7-minute video on their website which explains some of the many reasons being touted to vote "yes" April 3rd for the 0.25 GRT tax in Southern New Mexico. The film features New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, former New Mexico Governor Garrey Carruthers, New Mexico Secretary of Economic Development Rick Homans, and Las Cruces Mayor Bill Mattiace, as well as space business leaders Tim Pickens of Orion Propulsion, Steve Bennett of Starchacer Industries. There is a strong emphasis on education among advocates and in the video from New Mexico educational leaders. The political spot concludes that the spaceport may fail without a affirmative "yes" vote on the single ballot question April 3rd.

Florida Seeks Commercial Horizontal Launch Spaceport

The 2007 Strategic Business Plan for Florida Space was released Tuesday to the public after having been presented to Florida Gov. Charlie Crist and key members of the state legislature in which one of the top short-term priorities is to immediately secure a Federal Aviation Administration license to operate at least one horizontal launch “spaceport” as part of a wide-ranging effort to maintain a foothold in commercial space travel.

The Business Plan envisions such a commercial spaceport being used for suborbital space tourism, travel and cargo operations and other commercial launch activities. The report recommends multiple Florida commercial spaceports to claim a large share of the fledgling space tourism business growth.

Florida Space is also looking to commercialize the space shuttle runway following the retirement of the space shuttle fleet in 2010 as a part of its business plan.

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush created a Commission on the Future and Aeronautics that recommended the creation of the business plan made public this week.

New Mexico Local Spaceport Tax Options Tightened Prior to Vote

Dona Ana County, New Mexico Commissioners Tuesday night voted 4 to 1 in favor of a resolution to earmark and create conditions for use of a 0.25 gross receipts tax (GRT) if passed by county voters in the April 3rd election. [SAMPLE BALLOT]

The county commission embraced conditions that would lead to a repeal of the tax if conditions are not meet in the development of the New Mexico Spaceport dubbed "Spaceport America," to wit:
  1. That the state obtains a Federal Aviation Administration license and the acceptance of the accompanying environmental impact statement; and,

  2. That Virgin Galactic signs a lease to use the facility, and that the cost of the Virgin Galactic facility does not exceed $225 million; and,

  3. That bond debt the tax would repay won’t be sold until the conditions are met; and,

  4. That the county be enabled to expend 25 percent of the tax money for local educational purposes.

Heath Haussmen's New Mexico Poltics Blog provides more information daily on the Southern New Mexico spaceport tax debate. Haussmen has posted video of Governor Bill Richardson's endorsement of the spaceport tax referendum Tuesday, April 3. The governor referenced the spaceport in his re-election campaign ad last fall.

The regents of New Mexico State University this week approved a symbolic resolution expressing NMSU's support for a planned spaceport north of Las Cruces at Upham. Regents president Steve Anaya said, "The spaceport is very important to southern New Mexico ... from an economic standpoint but also for the university."

Atlantis Launch Probable May 11

Space Shuttle Atlantis may launch to the space station on May 11, 2007 after repairs are made following the estimated 7,000 strikes to its body from a hail storm last month. Engineers are concentrating on sanding down a dye that was applied to the fuel tank last week. It'll help workers find small divots in the tank caused by a February hail-storm.

While NASA has not ruled out a late-April launch, that appears to be a long shot at best given the repairs and supporting analysis that is required. The May 11 date is guesstimate. Until the damage assessment is complete, there is no way to generate a credible repair flow and launch processing schedule.

The current space shuttle launch manifest is:

05/11/07: STS-117/ISS-13A (S3/S4 solar array/truss)
07/19/07: STS-118/ISS-13A.1 (S5 truss element)
10/25/07: STS-120/ISS-10A (Node 2 connecting module)
12/29/07: STS-122/ISS-1E (European Columbus module)
02/07/08: STS-123/ISS-1J/A (Japanese experiment module)
04/24/08: STS-124/ISS-1J (Japanese Kibo research module)
07/24/08: STS-119/ISS-15A (S6 solar array element)
10/23/08: STS-125 (Hubble Space Telescope servicing)
11/20/08: STS-126/ISS-ULF-2 (logistics mission)

Japanese Kibo Readied for ISS

An an elaborate $3-billion Japanese science laboratory known as "Kibo" - a Japanese word for "hope," is being readied for launch to the International Space Station at the Kennedy Space Center after arrival Monday.

Kibo includes a bus-sized pressurized module where astronauts can conduct microgravity, life science and engineering experiments, an exposed platform for experiments outside the station, storage vessels and a small robotic arm to tend to outside experiments without the need for a spacewalk.

The Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency, known as JAXA, has anticipated that the space lab will be attached by the space shuttle to the space station later this year but the recent delays may push the first of three lab assembly missions into early 2008. Kibō is the largest single ISS module in the station assembly now planned.

Space Station assembly has progressed slowly since 1998. The $100-billion international construction project [construction video] is expected it to be complete with the last space shuttle mission in 2010. Once complete, the space station will easily be seen from Earth, [video].

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Resources Abound on Saturn Moons Providing Opportunities for Future Space Colonists

Liquid methane seas has been located on the Saturn moon Titan larger than any of the Great Lakes of North America and several seas on Earth.
Sometime perhaps in the late 21st Century, Titan will be the commercial fuel depot of the outer solar system for human colonists making their way beyond the Jovian moons, [video].

With the huge seas of hydrocarbons (liquid methane or ethane), located in the northern hemisphere of the smog-covered Saturnian moon Titan, the possibilities of fuel processing and in-situ resource gathering is abound. With raw hydrocarbon compounds located on Titan and the possibility of water on the moon Enceladus [video], the commercial development opportunities in the late 21st or early 22nd centuries are significant.

The Cassini-Huygens continues to explore new worlds "where no man has gone before," on The Incrediable Journey [video]. The radar data of the Huygens lander is depicted in videos 1 , 2 and 3-QT. Most videos are best viewed full-screen w/audio.

New French Guyana Spaceport May Launch Humans by 2015

The Russian Space Agency has placed the symbolic corner stone for what may prove to be the first human gateway to space from South America while marking a new era in European space efforts, reports Russian space expert James Oberg.

The European Space Agency and the Russian Space Agency are looking ahead to more significant commercial launch opportunities at the growing Kourou Spaceport location in French Guyana with not only possibilities emerging to provide supplies to the International Space Station using the newly developed space tugs ESA Jules Vern and the Russian Parom but human spaceflight missions perhaps by 2015 with a new Soyuz capsule capable of cislunar flight. [Typical Soyuz launch video.]

The possible French-Russian partnership for a new Soyuz human-rated space capsule is under active review by the two governments. The European human spaceflight possibilities emerge at a time when NASA will be trying to test a new human-rated capsule called Orion.

The new launch pad corner stone, taken from the first Russian space launch pad at Baikonur in the former Soviet Union's now-independent Kazakhstan in central Asia, was washed by the flames of booster rockets that carried the first Sputniks, and a few years later, the first humans into orbit. It may be awash in the booster flames of 21st Century European commercial cooperation in space from the New World into the New Frontier or New Horizon.

SpaceX Has Date With Destiny

The SpaceX Falcon-1 is being prepared for its second attempt for space history as the launch date draws Elon Musk and his launch team closer to offering commercial launch services to NASA and private firms such as Bigelow Aerospace.

With the Dragon human and cargo space capsule and the Falcon-9 heavy waiting in the wings to be flight tested, the Falcon-1 holds the future of the commercial space launch firm on the Kwalajein Atoll's Omelek Island launch pad for what may yet be the first privately developed, liquid fueled rocket to reach orbit.

One year ago the Falcon-1 booster literally fell pray to the Kwalajein environment when a corroded bolt nut caused a fuel leak that left the booster tumbling out of control [launch video]. The cost of a second launch anomaly this month would be high for the SpaceX effort to effectively compete against United Launch Alliance's proven Atlas and Delta boosters.

If successful next week, the Falcon booster is scheduled to make four flights from Omelek Island in 2007 before returning to the US mainland's Vandenberg USAF spaceport in California for 2008.

Orbital Satellite Repair Era Near

Autonomous Space Transport Robotic Operations satellite (ASTRO)
American, European, and Russian space agencies are working to develop a new capability to service and re-fuel orbital satellites autonomously on-orbit thereby maximizing the return on investment (ROI) on the expensive hardware and delaying its replacement perhaps by years.

The need for an on-orbital service capability is essential to cost reduction and extention of a satellite operational life span. The necessity of cost reduction is driving new a new, innovative class of orbital mechanic vehicles designed to service and extend older satellites functions.

Commercial, civilian, and military satellites are generally very expensive to develop, build, and launch. The loss of a satellite because of on-orbit hydrazine fuel depletion to maintain operational orbital inclination is frustrating especially when the electronics of the spacecraft are in sound working order.

Satellite designers are looking to in-situ servicing of the electronics boxes and software, low-noise amplifiers, and anything with moving parts that is likely to wear out in addition to adding grapple fixtures to make it easier to recover the satellite for refueling and component replacement.

Constellation Services International (CSI), Kosmas Georing Services, NASA, the United States Air Force, DARPA, the Russian Space Agency, Orbial Recovery Corporation, and others are carefully looking at on-orbit vehicle service and repair.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Masten Space Systems Seeks Lunar Landing Challenge Win

Matsen Space Systems will seek to participate in the Lunar Lander Analog Challenge in what may prove to be a very competitive event set for October 2007 in Southern New Mexico.

Masten, a commercial suborbital launch development company, expects to compete against [video] Armadillo Aerospace and, perhaps,[video] Blue Origin in the annual quest to win NASA Centennial Prize money at the X-Prize Cup.

Michael Mealling, the vice-president for Business Development for Masten Space Systems, recently pointed to the space launch firm's hope to make quick turn-around time with each flight. The firm seeks to build the capablility of refueling and service of the suborbital spacecraft within one hour.

The Mojave, California-based commercial space launch firm is building [video] Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) know as the XA-0.1. The XA-0.1 uses four Liquid Oxygen/Isopropyl Alcohol rocket engines, each of which produce up to 500lb of thrust at full throttle.

Use of its planned planned XA-0.2 may occur for use in the New Mexico competition if development funding becomes available. The XA.02 may be capable of carrying 2-5 passengers to altitudes in excess of 200km.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

ARIANE-5 Boosts Two Satellites from Kourou Spaceport Sunday

The Ariane-5 has successfully boosted an Indian telecommunications satellite and a British military satellite to Low Earth Orbit Sunday evening clearing the French Guyana at Kourou launch pad at 6:03pm [Video].

The Ariane-5 launched India's INSAT-4B, and the United Kingdom's Skynet 5A as the orbital payload now making their way over the next several days to GEO.

Following a Saturday launch delay resulting from uncertainity with water deluge cooling system signal switch at the Kourou Spaceport, the Ariane-5 booster roared to life on a picture perfect night boost to orbit.

"With this first launch of the year 2007, Arianespace has once again demonstrated its leadership,"said CEO Jean-Yves Le Gall. "The satisfaction of every customer is our keyword, offering the bestpossible Service & Solutions to each one."

"This will be the first in what we believe will be an extremely busy year" with six more Ariane-5 rockets are set to launch, with a payload of 10 satellites due for Earth orbit. An Automated Transfer Vehicle Jules Verne spacecraft for the International Space Station is also due to be launched, Le Gall noted.

The Kourou Spaceport in the French Guyana of South America is soaking-up more of the global commercial satellite launch market share with the Ariane-5 ECA . The French commercial space launch firm Arianespace has now boosted more than 60% of the operational commercial satellites to space. The role of the Kourou Spaceport will grow even more in the next decade.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle Seeks to Boost Future Island Commercial Space Industry

Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle announced [23 min. video] this past week a Memorandum of Understanding agreement with California-based NASA Ames Research Center to create innovations in space and aerospace.

The agreement to "investigate opportunities for collaboration" on space projects isn't about either the state or NASA spending any money; it's more about changing Hawaii's reputation, Gov. Lingle said.

"Both in commercial space and aerospace initiatives, and even perhaps one day in space tourism flights which might take off from Hawaii," Lingle told KMGB9 News. Gov. Lingle has been promoting a package of bills in the state Legislature to expand science and math education and develop new technology businesses in the islands.

Potential space-related industries include space tourism, communications, conducting biological research in space's zero gravity, tapping the moon for solar energy and installing lunar Internet cameras to recreate the experience on Earth of visiting the moon, said S. Pete Worden, director of NASA Ames Research Center.

Officials at the University of Hawaii have told Leonard David that work is underway to develop both a booster and small satellites that can be cheaply lobbed into Earth orbit — and even to the Moon — from the military’s Pacific Missile Range at Barking Sands, Kauai.

Isolated Hawaii has long been known as one of the best spots on the globe for viewing deep into space through telescopes operated by astronomers from about a dozen countries atop Haleakela on Maui and Mauna Kea on the Big Island. The two inactive volcanoes' top observatories also provide an edge to astronomers at the University of Hawaii, who have access to those telescopes as well as the university's own facilities at the summits.

Friday, March 09, 2007

New Mexico May Legislate Come Back for Ninth Planet Pluto

New Mexico may be known as "The Land of Enchantment," but it may be in a state of becoming the "global center for astronomy, astrophysics and planetary science" as state legislators meeting in "The City Different" vote on on HOUSE JOINT MEMORIAL 54 Tuesday to declare Pluto a planet, according to Wired.

Introduced by Rep. Joni Marie Gutierrez, (D-Dona Ana County), the measure not only declares Pluto a planet but honors Clyde Tombaugh, the astronomer from Las Cruces, New Mexico that discovered the now disputed planet in 1930 if passed by legislators meeting in Santa Fe. notes that "New Mexico could effectively secede from the astronomical community if a resolution to call Pluto a planet is passed." The international debate is expected to rage as the New Horizons spacecraft draws closer to what was once known as Pluto.

Bupa Travel to Offer Suborbital Space Tourist Insurance

Travel insurance company Bupa Travel is planning to offer space tourist negligence insurance coverage at the same time a number of space launch firms plan to begin suborbital space tourist flights in 2009, reports The Guardian Unlimited, UK.

"We provide insurance cover to people in 190 countries so it wouldn't be a giant leap to add outer space to that list," said Nick Potter head of Bupa Travel. "We are looking into space tourism as a real market for the next generation of travellers, especially as Russian cosmonauts have already taken tourists up into space."

"Obviously we have to take into account various issues, such as the effect such a journey would have on the human body, although clarity will come in this new area of travel within the next decade," added Potter.

Atlas-V Centaur Boosts Orbital Express from Cape Canaveral

Photo: ULA Pat Corkery.
The Atlas-V Centaur launched from Complex 41, Cape Canaveral, Florida at 10:10 PM EST tonight successfully placing The Space Test Program 1, satellites Orbital Express in-space refuel system system/ASTRO (Autonomous Space Transfer & Robotic Orbiter), NextSat, MidStar-1, FalconSat-3 , STPsat-1, CFESat, and NPSat-1 (Naval Postgraduate School Satellite-1 into an unusually complex ascent to Low Earth Orbit (LEO).

The booster dropped satellites along its climb through the initial orbital trajectory with the Centuar upper stage firing and refiring three times during the ascent. "All systems look good," reports Atlas Mission Control.

If successful, the Orbital Express payload will mark a new era for on-orbit servicing potentially providing longer-term value to military, civil, and commercial next-generation satellites. Launch Video.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

March 8 Launch ON for Atlas V with Space Test Program-1

March 8th at 9:37 PM EST an Atlas V with the STP-1 payload has been cleared for launch by United Launch Alliance (ULA) managers from the Cape Canaveral Complex 41 spaceport.

The Space Test Program 1, an Air Force program to launch 7 seperate satellites and test the Orbital Express in-space refuling system. The satellites include: ASTRO (Autonomous Space Transfer & Robotic Orbiter), NextSat, MidStar-1, FalconSat-3 , STPsat-1, CFESat, and NPSat-1 (Naval Postgraduate School Satellite-1. The payload will be using a Centaur upper stage.

A February 2007 AIAA Aerospace America article provides details of the goals of the orbital space mission.

The Launch Hotline is: 877-852-4321. One may read the launch Blog here or watch the launch LIVE via webcast. 9:37-11:42 p.m. EST is the launch window.

Benson's Dream Chaser: Proven Design and Orbital Hertiage

The Dream Chaser traces its roots to the NASA HL-20.
Jim Benson is building a commercial spaceship of proven vehicle design and orbital hertiage based upon the old Soviet BOR-4 and the NASA HL-20 capable of suborbital [video] or orbital [video] spaceflight known as "Dream Chaser"

The Benson Space Company is raising the $50-million funding capital to build the Dream Chaser spacecraft noting that the vehicle will be boosted to space with "non-exploding, safe, hybrid rocket motors already proven for spaceflight."

Dream Chaser will have a single pilot and five commercial passengers for a vertical liftoff for a 10-minute rocket ride to weightless space and subsequenlty glide to a runway landing.

Benson notes in an interview with Dr. David Livingston on The Space Show that "personal spaceflight will have risks commensurate with an exterme sport" noting "nothing in life is risk free" as the firm offers a chance to win a free trip to space.

Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport advocates are hoping that Benson, a successful, can-do businessman, will give the Atlantic coastline consideration to be its home spaceport and thereby return the vehicle to its HL-20 roots near NASA Langley in Hampton, Va.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Virginia Governor Tim Kaine Set to Review Spaceflight Legislation

Virginia Governor Tim Kaine is set to review legislation to create the first state law regime for liability and immunity for commercial human spaceflight this week in an effort to boost the commercial space launch operator utilization of the FAA licensed Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport.

House Bill 3184, offered by Del. Terry G. Kilgore, adopted unanimously both the House and Senate of the General Assembly along with passage of an estimated 950 bills prior to the session adjournment. Legislation is now awaiting action from the governor prior to the April 4 reconvened session of the General Assembly.

Kaine is being counseled to offer amendments to the Virginia Spaceflight Liability and Immunity Act to clarify the extent of the liability immunity as well as tie the measure more tightly to the federal Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 2004 and the FAA spaceflight regulations. The recommendations flow from consultation with leading space and extreme sports attorneys from coast-to-coast.

The governor will make his recommendations to the General Assembly late this month. The 140 General Assembly members will reconvene in Richmond April 4 to give consideration to amendments offered by the governor to numerous bills after either being subject to veto or signed into law.

If the Virginia Spaceflight Liability and Immunity Act is signed into law the effective date will be July 1, 2007. The General Assembly will also institute legislative study of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport by the Joint Commission of Technology and Science.

Lunar Taikonaut Goal Advanced for 2022 by China Parlimenterian

The annual session of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) is being advised by Huang Chunping, a leading space official, that "The goal to land a taikonaut (astronaut) on the Moon can surely be achieved in 15 years" by China reports The People's Daily.

A 2022 target of placing humans on the moon again is a goal shared with the United States. President George W. Bush announced such a goal in 2004 of putting American astronauts back on the moon by 2020.

Only 12 humans have walked on the lunar surface between 1969 and 1972 during the Apollo program resulting from the policy of the late U.S. President John F. Kennedy in 1961.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

NASA Lacks Cash to Find All Killer Asteroids by 2020

The Planetary Defense Conference was told today by NASA that it could find nearly all the asteroids having the potential to threaten the Earth but it lacked the cold hard cash to build spacecraft or ground-based telescopes to get the job completed, according to AP.

NASA estimates that 2,000 asteroids have the potential to strike or explode high in the Earth's atmosphere resulting in wide spread devastation or impact the Earth threatening survival of human civilization.

But despite a 2005 directive by the Congress to NASA, the space agency lacks the $1-billion dollar costs associated with tracking and mapping the potentially catastrophic asteroids and comets by 2020. The expense of building a gravitation tractor to move a 'killer asteroid' may not gain traction in the funding sphere either.

A Japanese video annimation of an asteroid strike indicates the level of damage one could case the Earth. A NASA Flash animation on Space Rocks provdies more background. Human concern was raised by bearing witness to impacts of the Shoemaker-Levy 9 comet fragment impacts on Jupiter July 16 through July 22, 1994 seen here in video A, B and C.

NASA released a report Friday, March 9, 2007.

Genesis2 Orbital Module Liftoff Planned for April 26 from Russia

Bigelow Aerospace is reported planning an April 26 launch of the Genesis2 inflatable orbital module from Russia's Dombarovsky missile base to further the development of the private space station program. The Genesis2 is a more advanced orbital vehicle on a development track for human habitats in space and, perhaps, on the moon.