Musk Pulls Back on SpaceX Work, Lays off 25 Percent at Tesla as Cash Reserves Shrink

An updates on Elon Musk, who is now trying to balance CEO commitments to both SpaceX and Tesla Motors, his electric car company. Facing a severe credit crunch that has cut off access to capital, Musk fired the previous CEO, laid off 87 Tesla employees, and delayed the launch of a battery-powered Model S sedan.

In an interview with The New York Times, Musk said he would have to cut back his time on SpaceX from about 70 percent to 50 percent so he could take over as Tesla CEO from Ze’ev Drori.


Korean Astronaut: Next Stop, the Moon

Korean astronaut So Yeon Yi recently spoke with the Space Generation Advisory Council’s Regional Coordinator for Asia Pacific, Bee Thakore, about her trip to the International Space Station.

Bee: Would you like to travel to Moon or Mars?

So Yeon Yi: Definitely! I pray that they pick me for Moon. I would love to see both Moon and Mars.

Bee: What do you plan to do now that you have attained your dream of being an astronaut?

So Yeon Yi:
Before becoming an astronaut I was not as aware of the strides that we need to bring in our educational systems and how important it really is to provide the young people – students in schools and colleges with the right tools and above all, inspiration. I am considering furthering research and being very active in inspiring the young generation.

Google X Prize Competitor Odyssey Moon Teams Up with NASA to Build Lunar Lander

Lunar Lander Prototype – The Odyssey Moon “M-1” lunar lander will be adapted from the Common Spacecraft Bus developed at the NASA Ames Research Center. Pictured above is the Hover Test Vehicle used for ground testing. (Photo courtesy NASA and OMV)


Cape Canaveral, FL – Odyssey Moon Ventures LLC, a U.S. company developing commercial systems for lunar exploration, announced today that it has partnered with NASA for the development of a robotic lunar lander. The unique public-private partnership will combine NASA expertise with innovative approaches to commercial space systems, resulting in new industrial capabilities for the company and benefits to the American space program.


Double Double Toil and Trouble: More Ares Problems Bubble to the Surface

Just in time for Halloween, problems with the Ares booster have resurfaced to haunt NASA. Oh, this one’s a doozy: a modest wind off less than 13 miles per hour could send the booster slamming into the launch pad at takeoff. The Orlando Sentinel‘s Space Editor, Robert Bloch, has the scoop.

Meanwhile, The Huntsville Times reports that agency officials are downplaying the problem:

“The head of NASA’s Ares rocket program defended the design of the launch vehicle Monday, dismissing critics that claim it would be unstable at launch.

“Recent published reports say the Ares rocket could drift during launch because of winds, striking the tower. However, all rockets move during launch, said Steve Cook, manager of the Ares program at Marshall Space Flight Center.”

Space Entrepreneurs Promise Point-to-Point Travel, Low-Cost Launches

Spinoffs Expected From Suborbital Vehicle Work
Space News

The development of commercial suborbital space vehicles should lead eventually to businesses such as commercial hypersonic point-to-point air travel and low-cost launches to low Earth orbit, according to spaceship builders, venture capitalists and other entrepreneurs who gathered here October 22-23 to take part in the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight.

The key to making those businesses profitable will be achieving safe, affordable and reliable access to space, Jeff Greason, president of XCOR Aerospace of Mojave, Calif., said at the conference, which was hosted by the New Mexico Space Grant Consortium. The private suborbital flight enterprise “builds up the infrastructure we need to go do the bigger and better things,” he added.

Europe Looks at Space Tourism Certification as FAA Tells Millionauts They’re On Their Own

Rob Coppinger has a couple of interesting stories over at Flight Global concerning divergent approaches to regulating space tourism. Europe is looking at certification while millionauts in America would be left with caveat emptor.

EASA’s Space Tourism Approach Requires Certification

“The European Aviation Safety Agency has unveiled its proposed regulatory approach for suborbital aircraft at a space safety conference in Rome. Its proposals are that designers and operators of such vehicles will have to be fully certificated before the first commercial flight, including operations, flight crew and passenger licensing and continued airworthiness.”

Little progress means no change for US space tourism rule

“For customers, only an informed waiver is required to show that the individual understands the risks involved and the vehicles they fly in do not have to be certificated by the FAA. Its office of commercial space transport is overseeing the nascent industry.”

Phoenix Mission Team Wins National Space Club Award

23 October 2008

PASADENA, Calif. — The National Space Club presented NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander mission team with its Astronautics Engineer Award last night in Huntsville, Ala. Phoenix Project Manager Barry Goldstein of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., accepted the award on behalf of the team at the Space Club’s 20th Annual Dr. Wernher von Braun Memorial Dinner.

The nonprofit National Space Club established the Astronautics Engineer Award in 1991. It is given to scientists and engineers in the United States who have led and made significant contributions in rocketry and astronautics. Past recipients include NASA’s Return to Flight Team and Alan Stern, former associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.


Bye-Bye Branson: Armadillo, Rocket Racing Promise Half-Price Space Tourist Flights

New effort: Space flights for $100,000
Associated Press

“Rocket Racing, Inc., the company that hopes to stage NASCAR-style races in the sky, is joining Texas-based Armadillo Aerospace to offer space flights from $100,000 or less at New Mexico’s spaceport. Gov. Bill Richardson made the announcement Friday. The companies plan to fly evolutions of existing vehicles into space. By next year, they hope to build an initial manned vehicle prototype, with the first space flights as early as 2010.”

Rocket Racing Inc., Armadillo Aerospace and New Mexico Create Joint Venture to Launch Private Suborbital Space Transportation Business
Press Release

Space took a giant leap closer to earth today, following the launch of a new joint venture between Rocket Racing, Inc. (RRI), Armadillo Aerospace and the government of New Mexico. With a goal of sending adventurers into suborbital space with a target price of $100,000 per ticket or less, the three companies unveiled plans to field a fleet of reusable Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) vehicles (RLV) that will take flight from Spaceport America near Las Cruces, New Mexico. Each ship is slated to provide a cabin where passengers can float weightless with a 360-degree view of space. To date, other companies in the commercial space industry have promised rides to similar altitudes featuring small porthole-sized views for more than $200,000.


Armadillo Aerospace Wins Lunar Challenge Prize

Congratulations are due to John Carmack and Armadillo Aerospace, which won part of the first phase Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge in Las Cruces, NM. From the X Prize website:

“Armadillo Aerospace has won the Level One portion of the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge! The flew at Las Cruces International Airport on October 25, 2008, and earned the $350,000 in prize money. While they made an attempt to win Level Two on the 26, they weren’t able to pull off a double victory, leaving $1.65 million worth of prize money on the table.

“Check out some highlights from the first day of competition.”

Armadillo Scraps Further Lunar Lander Attempts

“The Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge is over for the day. John Carmack and his Armadillo Aerospace team have declared no more flights today. They have run into a problem with their vehicle that needs significant testing – issues that must be addressed before flight of the craft can be resumed.”

Kaguya Captures Earth Rise in HDTV

Check out this amazing movie of the Earth rising over the Moon shot by the Japanese Kaguya orbiter.

9 October 2008

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation) successfully captured a movie of the “Full Earth-Rise” using the onboard High Definition Television (HDTV) of the lunar explorer “KAGUYA” (SELENE) on September 30, 2008 (Japan Standard Time, JST, all the following dates and time are JST.) The KAGUYA is currently flying in a lunar orbit at an altitude of about 100 km.


Three Teams Competing for $3 Billion ISS Supply Contract

Competition Heats Up for Space Station Cargo Contract

“Three U.S. firms are preparing to submit final bids for a pair of NASA International Space Station cargo services contract worth up to $3.1 billion through 2015.

“Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) of Hawthorne, Calif., and Orbital Sciences Corp., of Dulles, Va., have been honing their rival offers with the aid of $500 million in demonstration money NASA awarded under its Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program. Also in the hunt for the two contracts NASA intends to award Dec. 23 is Chicago-based PlanetSpace, a commercial space startup that has built a team around the biggest names in the aerospace business.”

PlanetSpace Adds Boeing to COTS Team

Press Release

PlanetSpace announced today it has added the Space Exploration division of The Boeing Company (NYSE: BA) to its existing teammates, Alliant Techsystems (NYSE: ATK) and Lockheed Martin Corporation (NYSE: LMT), on the proposed solution to NASA for the Commercial Resupply Services to the International Space Station.

The PlanetSpace ISS Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) team includes the following major members:

  • PlanetSpace is the overall prime contractor and manages the CRS contract.
  • ATK provides the Athena III launch vehicle and ground processing.
  • Lockheed Martin and Boeing will develop, produce and operate modular Orbital Transfer Vehicles (OTV) that serve as the cargo carriers to the International Space Station.


They’re Baaack! Garriott and Two Others Land Safely After Orbital Trip

Space tourist Richard Garriott and cosmonauts Sergei Volkov and Oleg Kononenko have landed safely in a Soyuz spacecraft in Central Asia. Early reports are that all three space travelers felt fine after returning to Earth from the International Space Station.

Garriott and Volkov are both second-generation space travelers. Richard’s father, Owen, flew aboard Skylab and the space shuttle. Oleg’s father Alexander flew aboard the Mir space station in 1991.

WhiteKnightTwo Expected to Fly Within 2 or 3 Weeks

The mothership of SpaceShipTwo is expected to take to the skies for test flights within the next three weeks, according to reports out of the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight in Las Cruces, NM.

The first flight of WhiteKnightTwo will take place more than two months after the aircraft was first rolled out amid much fanfare at the Scaled Composites production facility in Mojave, CA.

LiveScience and the Las Cruces Sun-News have more details.

XCOR: Space Travel to Only Cost Tens of Thousands Within 12 Years

The Bakersfield Californian interviewed XCOR COO Andrew Nelson and Business Development Manager Rich Pournelle about space tourism.

Q. How long do you think it will be before space travel is as accessible as commercial flights are to the population now?

A. Nelson: There’s various studies out there. We’ve looked at this one study, called the Futuron study, which said by 2020, there’s an expectation pricing could be down to $50,000, $55,000. I think that’s overshooting it a bit. Competition has an amazing way of driving down price. We’ve built a vehicle we feel is very low cost to operate, more so than our announced competitors.

Pournelle: When space travel gets to the price that people pay for a luxury car, that becomes reachable to a much larger audience.