Week in Review: Gliding Toward the Future With Russia’s Donald Trump

Parabolic Arc’s Week in Review….

Space Tourism Turns Ten: The space community celebrated the 10th anniversary of the first private spaceflight by Dennis Tito. Since that time, six other millionaires have followed on seven government space missions (Charles Simonyi flew twice).  Truly private sector spaceflight — using its own vehicles — is still waiting in the wings.

Two Steps Forward, One Back. In Mojave, SpaceShipTwo made its sixth glide flight – and second in five days – amid reports that engine development is also accelerating. Meanwhile, in New Mexico, Virgin Galactic Vice President Will Pomerantz promoted development opportunities near Spaceport America as the Legislature slashed the project’s budget.

Plus ca change… On Thursday, officials from NASA and the CCDev winners held a press conference at the Kennedy Space Center to discuss the future of America’s space program as workers prepared Endeavour for the penultimate mission of the Space Shuttle program. More than 700,000 people – including President Barack Obama and Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords – gathered the next day only to have NASA cancel the launch because of a problem with an auxiliary power unit. Problems with APUs bedeviled STS-2 in 1981.

Putin Channels The Donald. Russia’s leader for life fired Roscosmos Head Anatoly Perminov after seven years on the job and replaced him with retired Army Gen. Vladimir Popovkin, who formerly served as director of Russia’s Space Forces. Putin said that Perminov was too old to serve, but the real reason was a series of embarrassing launch failures and program delays. Thus, Putin is no more honest when firing people than Trump has been about Obama’s birth certificate. Pray these two never face each other at a summit meeting.

The Next Great Leap. China unveiled details of a space station it will launch by 2020 that looks a lot like Mir circa 1996.It’s little wonder that efforts to create a new space race with China have fallen short. The country has launched six people into space over eight years; the most recent mission was over 2.5 years ago.

Space Adventures to Announce Circumlunar Flight News

Space Adventures Hosts Tele-conference to Announce Circumlunar Mission Developments and Market Outlook for Orbital Spaceflight

WHAT: As we celebrate the 10 year anniversary of Dennis Tito’s pioneering orbital spaceflight, please join Eric Anderson and Richard Garriott as they outline the future of private exploration and announce new developments regarding the company’s circumlunar mission.

Space Adventures, the only company that has provided human space missions to the global marketplace, became world renowned on April 28, 2001 with the launch of Dennis Tito, the first privately-funded spaceflight participant. Since then, the company has launched six other individuals to space.

WHO: Eric Anderson, Chairman of Space Adventures
Richard Garriott, Vice-Chairman of Space Adventures and 1st Second Generation American Astronaut

WHEN: Thurs., May 5, 2:30 p.m. (EDT)

RSVP: Please reply to this e-mail or contact Stacey Tearne at +1 202 256 7917 to request dial-in information.

A Note to Readers — PA Upgrades

Parabolic Arc is undergoing some upgrades in order to deal with some performance issues. We are shifting it over to new server arrangement that should increase the site’s reliability.

The change has solved a problem readers were having in posting comments on the site. I apologize for the difficulties you all have been having over the last couple of weeks. It took longer than we expected to fix it.

The change over has resulted in a few issues, particularly with some of the text display. I’ll correct those as I have time.

Thank you for your patience.

Endeavour Launch Scrubbed, Reset for Monday

NASA PR — Shuttle launch director Mike Leinbach stated that Endeavour’s launch will be no earlier than Monday at 2:33 p.m. EDT. Engineers need that time to troubleshoot an issue that resulted in today’s launch scrub.

During today’s countdown, engineers detected a failure in one of two heater circuits associated with Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) 1. Heaters are required to keep the APUs’ hydrazine from freezing on orbit. Attempts to activate the heater were not successful and engineers now believe the problem might be associated with a Load Control Assembly, which is a switchbox, located in the aft end of Endeavour, or an electrical short in the wires leading into or out of the switchbox.

Putin to Perminov: You’re Fired!

Roscosmos Head Anatoly Perminov

As expected, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has fired Roscosmos Head Anatoly Perminov, ending his seven-year reign as head of the Russian space program. The dismissal, officially because Perminov was about the exceed the 65 year age limit for government officials, came after an embarrassing series of failures and harsh criticism that Roscosmos was falling behind on key projects. His departure was announced earlier this month.

Putin appointed former First Deputy Defense Minister Vladimir Popovkin to replace Perminov. Popovkin, 53, previously served as commander of Russia’s Space Forces. He retired from the Army with the rank of general in March 2009.

Perminov’s downfall began in December when a Proton rocket failed, sending three valuable navigational satellites crashing into the Pacific. The failure, caused by a fueling error, infuriated Russia’s political leadership because the satellites would have completed the nation’s high-profile GLONASS navigational constellation. An angry Russian President Dmitry Medvedev fired the deputy heads of Roscosmos and Energia and reprimanded Perminov for the accident.

Matters grew worse in February when a launch stranded a military satellite in a useless orbit. Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov ripped into Roscosmos, accusing the agency of making silly mistakes and falling behind in the production of spacecraft.

The final straw seems to have been a brief delay in the much-hyped launch of a Soyuz flight intended to mark the 50th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s historic spaceflight. Following the delay, which caused top Russian leaders to alter their travel plans, Ivanov said that Perminov would have to retire due the government’s age limit.

Video: Morpheus’ Wild Ride

Video Caption: Today the Morpheus team attempted a hover test under tether. This test was the next incremental step in a series of planned tests leading to free flight. Among previous tests were component tests, subsystem tests, integrated vehicle tests, and in the last week successful strap down engine ignition and firing tests. The particular test today was intended to demonstrate a 40 second engine firing while maintaining altitude of five feet above the tether point. Shortly after ignition the vehicle pitched over and control authority was lost. The multiple redundant thrust termination system (a precursor to the flight termination system) executed and aborted the test. The test team then executed all nominal and contingency procedures required to safe the vehicle. All ground crew had been evacuated to 1000ft well before the test, per procedure.

The team is examining the on-board data and the vehicle hardware to assess the issue or issues as well as reviewing ground procedures. There are a number of ideas and theories but first reports are usually wrong so we won’t speculate yet. The vehicle appears to be in good condition and only minor damage to some ground wire and hardware was experienced.

Why NASA Selected the CCDev 2 Winners

Illustration of SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft arriving at the International Space Station. Credit: NASA
I’ve done a deep dive into NASA’s selection process for its CCDev 2 awards. NASA chose eight finalists for due diligence and made four awards totaling $269.3 million, all largely focused on human vehicles. Today, I’ll be examining the six finalists that applied for funding to build commercial crew spacecraft. The information below comes from the Selection Statement signed by Philip McAlister, acting director of Commercial Spaceflight Development, which provides an in-depth description of the evaluation and award processes.

CCDev 2 Applications Selected for Due Diligence and Awards



CCDev 2 Technical Approach Rating

CCDev2 Business Information Rating

CCDev 1 Awards

CCDev 2 Awards

Total CCDev Awards
The Boeing Company

CST-100 Crew Vehicle

$18 million

$92.3 million

$110.3 million


Human-rated Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft


$75 million

$75 million

Sierra Nevada Corporation

Dream Chaser Spacecraft

$20 million

$80 million

$100 million

Blue Origin

Orbital Crew Vehicle

$3.7 million

$22 million

$25.7 million

Orbital Sciences Corporation

Prometheus Spacecraft




Excalibur Almaz

Orbital Crew Vehicle





$311 million


Ratings Key
Very High Level of Confidence
High Level of Confidence
Moderate Level of Confidence
Low Level of Confidence
Very Low Level of Confidence


Space Shuttle in Twilight as New Commercial Era Dawns

Officials from NASA and the four CCDev 2 winners held at press conference at the Kennedy Space Center on Thursday morning to discuss the awards and where the companies are heading with their programs over the next year. The event had a fascinating mood to it as NASA and its partners looked forward while soon-to-be-laid-off workers prepared Endeavour for the penultimate flight of the space shuttle program set for the following day.


SpaceShipTwo Glides Again

SpaceShipTwo glides downward on its first test flight. (Photo: Mark Greenberg)

SpaceShipTwo made its sixth glide test (and second in five days) in Mojave on Wednesday in a sign that the flight test program is speeding up.

Flight: 57 / GF06
Date:27 Apr 11Flight Time:16 min, 7 sec
SS2 Pilot:StuckySS2 CoPilot:Alsbury
GS Crew:Binnie, Kelley, Bassett, Tighe, Reid, Glaser, Inks, Verderame, Maisler, Knupp

Evaluate stability and control
Continued flutter envelope expansion
Pilot proficiency

Clean release at desired altitude. Glide test objectives complete without issues.

Video: Virgin Galactic Promotes Development Around Spaceport America

Virgin Galactic touts Spaceport business: krqe.com

Addressing the New Mexico Commercial Real Estate Development Association, NAIOP, Virgin Galactic Vice-President Will Pomeranz said each space tourist who comes here will bring an entourage that will need a complete spectrum of travel and tourist destination services.

“They are going to be coming with their loved ones, their immediate family and most of them with a lot of others as well,” he said.

So, Pomeranz urged the New Mexico developers to consider investing in the construction of the facilities needed to cater to wealthy space tourists, calling them “a lot of individuals and a lot of companies who have a lot of walking-around money.”

“If you spend $200,000 on a luxury experience, you are probably willing to pay a fair amount for a hotel, and a meal and a rental car,” he added.

NM Legislature Slashes Spaceport America Budget

Spaceport America budget cut 57 percent

Las Cruces Sun-News

Spaceport America’s operating budget was slashed 57 percent in this year’s legislative session, spaceport officials heard for the first time Wednesday.

The agency received about $1.17 million in the current fiscal year that ends June 30, according to spaceport Director Christine Anderson. But it’s slated to get about $500,000 next year, she said. The reduction is concerning, said spaceport board member Ben Woods, also a vice president at New Mexico State University.

“We do have a responsibility to find out how the actions of the Legislature affect the operation of the spaceport,” he said, during a public meeting in Elephant Butte. “Obviously that affects everything we do.”

The state budget assumed that the spaceport would receive, in addition to the half-million dollars, about $200,000 as part of the first lease payments from Virgin Galactic, the main tenant at Spaceport America, Anderson said. But she said those payments hinge upon the company moving into the under-construction terminal-hangar building in the coming year, which isn’t guaranteed.

Read the full story.

Happy Tenth Birthday, Space Tourism!

Parabolic Arc’s Fun With Numbers Tour continues this morning with a look at space tourism on this 10th anniversary of millionaut Dennis Tito’s historic flight to the International Space Station. And what a decade it’s been — for government space travel. Here’s why:

Table A(wesome): Human Spaceflight From Dennis Tito to Today

No. of Flights

No. of Crew Members

No. of Space Tourists

Percentage of  Total Flights

Percentage of Total Crew

Percentage of Tourists on Crews

Space Shuttle



































As Table A shows, space tourism has been making steady if unspectacular progress over the last decade. From zero percent on April 27, 2001, space tourism has climbed to nearly 3 percent of all crew members sent into space. Good job!