Armadillo Aerospace Space Tourism Flights to Undercut Virgin Galactic By Half

Space Tourism Firm to Offer Suborbital Joy Rides at Lower Costs

An American space tourism company that arranges multimillion-dollar treks to the International Space Station for the ultra-wealthy has struck a new deal to offer suborbital spaceflights for nearly half the going cost. The price is still steep though: $102,000 for the works.


Russia Consolidates Cosmonaut Corps, Names Two New Trainees

Expedition 20 - the first six-strong International Space Station crew - assembled in the Zvezda module for the welcoming ceremony immediately after hatch opening following the arrival of ESA astronaut Frank De Winne, Russian cosmonaut Roman Romanenko and Canadian Space Agency astronaut Robert Thirsk with the Soyuz TMA-15 spacecraft on 29 May 2009. Credit: ESA

Officials decided this week to consolidate Russia’s cosmonaut corps under the nation’s space agency, Roscosmos. Russia currently has three teams of cosmonauts under the control of the Gagarin Cosmonauts Training Centre, RSC Energia, and the Institute of Medical and Biological Problems of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

During a meeting chaired by Roskosmos Head Anatoly Perminov on Wednesday, the Cosmonaut Selection Interagency Board also named two cosmonaut candidates of RSC Energia: Sergey Kud-Sverchkov and Andrey Babkin. They will undergo training at the Gagarin Cosmonauts Training Centre. The board also made several decisions about future ISS crew assignments.

Russia Wants Commercial Space Investment, Designer Proposes Reviving MAKS

RIA Novosti reports that Russia is looking to follow NASA’s lead in attracting private investment into human spaceflight as a proposal to revive a long-mothballed shuttle project is floated.

“Manned space systems have become rather expensive and private investment should be attracted more actively, like it is in the U.S.,” Roscosmos head Anatoly Perminov said.

It’s not clear whether he was referring to the six-person Soyuz replacement that Roskosmos is building or other projects that have been floating around the Russian space sector for years. One of these programs is the air-launched MAKS orbital mini-shuttle that Molnia R&D General Designer Vladimir Skorodelov has proposed reviving:


U.S. Government Embraces Prize Contests to Meet Challenges

Government contests offer different way to find solutions for problems
The Washington Post

The U.S. government is giving away prizes. In seeking solutions to problems, it has discovered the magic of contests, or challenges — also known as open grant-making or open innovation. Or crowd-sourcing.

Whatever you call this new way of doing business, it represents a dramatic departure from the norm for the bureaucratic, command-and-control federal government. To be sure, the agencies won’t abandon the traditional method of doling out grants to predictable bidders. But in the new era of innovation-by-contest, the government will sometimes identify a specific problem or goal, announce a competition, set some rules and let the game begin.


SpaceX, Orbital Sciences in Good Position to Benefit From NASA Commercial Shift

Artist's conception of Orbital Sciences Corporation's Cygnus freighter approaching the International Space Station.

Commercial Companies Ready to Blaze New Trails in Space

[SpaceX] has already successfully won a NASA contract for $1.6 billion to transport cargo to the space station aboard its Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket. Another firm, Virginia-based Orbital Sciences, is building its own Taurus 2 rockets and unmanned Cygnus spaceships in a $1.9 billion contract to haul supplies for NASA as well.


Arizona Could Benefit From New NASA Plan, But Giffords Still Skeptical

Asteroid Ida

The Tucson Chronicle has an interesting article about how NASA’s new human spaceflight program could bring substantial federal funding to Southern Arizona. This prospect poses an interesting dilemma for Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, a critic of the program who chairs the House Committee on Science and Technology’s subcommittee on space and aeronautics.

A human mission to an asteroid “certainly requires homework to be done” in picking safe and useful objects to visit, said Mark Sykes, director and CEO of the Tucson-based Planetary Science Institute. “A lot of that work can be done in Arizona,” he said…


Aerojet, FTT Form Partnership to Compete for NASA’s New Engine


Aerojet, a GenCorp (NYSE:GY) company, and Florida Turbine Technologies (FTT) announced today that the companies have entered into a strategic partnership to compete for research, development and production on NASA’s new hydrocarbon engine and advanced upper stage engine. This expands the very successful teamwork that Aerojet and FTT have underway on the U.S. Air Force Hydrocarbon Boost Technology Demonstrator (HBTD) and Upper Stage Engine Technology (USET) programs.


Google Lunar X Prize Deadline Likely to Be Extended One Year

1-Year Deadline Extension Proposed for Google Lunar X Prize
Space News
April 12, 2010

Teams competing for $30 million in awards as part of the Google Lunar X Prize are likely to have one additional year to reach the lunar surface and win the $20 million grand prize under a set of proposed rules issued to competitors. The proposed extension is being welcomed by many of the teams involved in the competition who face the daunting task of raising money for their efforts in a difficult financial environment.


X PRIZE Plans $100 Million in Prizes Over Next Decade


The X PRIZE Foundation (XPF) is transforming its vision to address worldwide challenges in the areas of Energy & Environment, Exploration of the Oceans and Space, Life Sciences and Education & Global Development. The Foundation aims to launch $100 million in prizes over the next 10 years, accelerating the rate of positive change with competitions that capture the public imagination and inspire results.


Rice Business Plan Competition Awards $125,000 in Space-Related Prizes


The 2010 Rice Business Plan Competition (RBPC) awarded more than $1 million in cash and prizes at an awards banquet on April 17. The world’s richest and largest business plan competition in the world brought 42 teams from across the globe to pitch their new technology business plans.

NASA Johnson Space Flight Center in Houston awarded $110,000 in prizes, including by the new $50,000 “Game Changer” award. The Heinlein Prize Trust also gave out a $15,000 Space Commercialization Award.


India Aims at Capturing Piece of Space Tourism Market

GSLV Mark III engine test (Photo: ISRO)
GSLV Mark III engine test (Photo: ISRO)

An article in The Economic Times looks at India’s ambitious space agenda, which include powerful cryogenic engines, lunar and martian colonization, and grabbing a piece of the space tourism market:

“Space tourism is something where India can play a niche role with its affordable solutions. However, this will take some time,” says Ajey Lele from the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA).

But the fact that this is an achievable challenge was evident when he said: “India’s Chandrayaan programme was less costly than the private jet gifted by Mukesh Ambani to his wife.”


Cecil Field Joins Commercial Spaceflight Federation

Cecil Field in Jacksonville, recently designated a commercial spaceport.


The Commercial Spaceflight Federation is pleased to announce that Cecil Field Spaceport in Jacksonville, Florida, which received its spaceport license from the Federal Aviation Administration earlier this year, has joined the Federation as an Executive Member, having received unanimous approval by the Commercial Spaceflight Federation’s Board of Directors.

Cecil Field (airport code VQQ) is located approximately 15 miles west of downtown Jacksonville, Florida, and is one of five airports run by the Jacksonville Aviation Authority.  As a decommissioned naval airbase, Cecil Field has four, 200-foot wide runways, three of which measure 8,000 feet. The fourth runway is 12,500 feet in length, one of the longest in Florida.  Using this infrastructure, Cecil Field is preparing to become a base for suborbital commercial human spaceflight in Florida.

Florida Governor Charlie Crist visited Cecil Field Spaceport on January 13, shortly after Cecil Field received its FAA spaceport license on January 11.  During the visit, Governor Crist stated, “It’s a wonderful accomplishment to have the opportunity to get into the commercial space industry and do it right here from the First Coast.”


Space Adventures to Market Armadillo Suborbital Flights


Space Adventures, Ltd., the only company currently providing human space mission opportunities to the world marketplace, today announced that the company has entered into an exclusive marketing agreement with Armadillo Aerospace, LLC, a leading developer of reusable rocket powered vehicles. Space Adventures will exclusively market and sell commercial passenger experiences on Armadillo Aerospace’s future suborbital spaceflight vehicles that are currently in development.