Starfighters to Launch Suborbital Payloads From Cape Canaveral

Starfighters plans to use its growing fleet of F-104 fighter jets to launch payloads on suborbital flights from its base at the Kennedy Space Center. Under the plan, the Mach 2 jet would fly to an altitude of 60,000 feet and then fire off a 19-foot, 900-pound rocket with a payload attached, according to a NASA press release.


Documents: Google Lunar X Prize Master Team Agreement

Here are PDF versions of the two agreements currently governing the Google Lunar X Prize and proposed revisions in the Master Team Agreement:

(Note: Click on the image on the page that appears to get to the document.)

NASA Analysis: Falcon 9 Much Cheaper Than Traditional Approach

SpaceX's Falcon 9 on the pad at Cape Canaveral. (Credit: Chris Thompson/SpaceX)
SpaceX's Falcon 9 on the pad at Cape Canaveral. (Credit: Chris Thompson/SpaceX)

A NASA analysis shows that it cost significantly less for SpaceX to develop the Falcon 9 using the COTS private-partnership approach than it would have under NASA’s traditional approach to contracting.

Under methodology #1, the cost model predicted that the Falcon 9 would cost $4.0 billion based on a traditional approach. Under methodology #2, NAFCOM predicted $1.7 billion when the inputs were adjusted to a more commercial development approach. Thus, the predicted the cost to develop the Falcon 9 if done by NASA would have been between $1.7 billion and $4.0 billion.

SpaceX has publicly indicated that the development cost for Falcon 9 launch vehicle was approximately $300 million. Additionally, approximately $90 million was spent developing the Falcon 1 launch vehicle which did contribute to some extent to the Falcon 9, for a total of $390 million. NASA has verified these costs.

The conclusion is included in Appendix B of the recently released Commercial Market Assessment for Crew and Cargo Systems report. Read the full appendix after the break.


This Week on The Space Show

The Space Show
schedule for this week…

Monday, May 30, 2011, 2-3:30 PM PDT. We welcome Marimikel Charrier to the program to discuss the upcoming New Space Conference July 28-31 in Mountain View, CA.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011, 2-3:30 PM PDT. We welcome back Dr. Tom Matula to discuss moving space commerce beyond NASA into the future. Dr. Matula is a business school professor with specialties in marketing and finance.

Friday, June 3 , 2011 , 9:30-11 AM PDT. We welcome back Dr. John Brandenburg, author, plasma scientist , nuclear physicist, and long time proponent of humans to Mars. This will be a follow up discussion to his last visit on the Show which was Feb. 22 of this year.

Sunday, June 5, 2011, 12-1:30 PM PDT. We welcome Tom Hoffman to the program. Tom is a student in the Space Studies program at UND, he survived my commercial space class this past semester with flying colors, and has done some very interesting work about scenarios depicting the future of space commerce which we will be discussing during this program.

Copenhagen Suborbitals Aims to Launch on Wednesday

Copenhagen Suborbitals is aiming for a Wednesday, June 1 unmanned test flight for its suborbital space tourism vehicle. The launch window extends from June 1-5. The rocket will be launched from a steel catamaran at sea.

The company’s goal is to launch tourists on suborbital flights in a single-seat capsule to altitudes above 100 kilometers (62.5 miles).

No launch time has been announced, so look for updates on the group’s website.  There will also be live coverage and events in Denmark.




On launch day, our support group Copenhagen Suborbitals Support is organising a couple of launch parties in Denmark, open for the public, where the launch can be seen live, including uncut radio communication and other events.

House Hearing Spotlights Concerns About NASA Commercial Cargo Program

The House held a hearing on NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program last week. The majority Republicans and minority Democrats both expressed concerns about the schedule and reliability of cargo delivery to the International Space Station by SpaceX and Orbital Sciences Corporation set to begin within the next year. Republicans seem a bit more skeptical about the effort, however, questioning market viability and other issues.

Press releases from both parties describing the hearing and their concerns follow after the break.


Analyst Rips SpaceX on Price Increases, Schedule Delays

Artists conception of SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft in orbit

Loren Thompson has a piece on in which he tries to tear down what he views as myths and falsehoods concerning Elon Musk and SpaceX. Among other things, the Lexington Institute chief operating officer doesn’t believe Musk’s numbers:

The easiest ways to track prices in the launch services market are to follow cost per launch and cost per pound lifted into orbit — metrics that may diverge considerably depending on the intended payload size and orbital plane. Measured either way, SpaceX tends to over-promise when it announces a new vehicle and then raise prices later. For example, the price of a Falcon 1 launch was initially stated at about $6 million in 2003-2004, but then gradually rose to about $11 million in 2010-2011. The price of a Falcon 9 launch rose from $35 million prior to 2008 to $60 million today. The lower prices were quoted before the two vehicles had actually been launched, so the later prices presumably reflect complications encountered in development — a key problem when implementing any new business strategy. Similarly, the per-pound cost of launching payloads into orbit on either vehicle has risen over 100 percent since initial estimates were made by the company.


Eastern Shore Looks for Space Activities to Help Boost Tourism

Pad OA at Wallops Island. (Credit: Orbital Sciences Corporation)
Public officials and business leaders in Virginia’s Eastern Shore are looking for increased space activities on Wallops Island to help boost tourism throughout the region. The enthusiasm was on display at a hearing last week concerning a plan by Accomack County to raise taxes on the lodging industry:

Chincoteague business owner Steve Potts said of recent local tourism developments including the prospect of space tourism, “The opportunities we have before us are probably the most exciting thing since Misty hit the beach.”

Will Ukrainian Rockets Fly from Florida?

An interesting item in today’s Florida SPACErePORT:

A delegation of executives from Ukraine’s Yuzhnoye (builder of the Zenit and Cyclone launch vehicles) is exploring opportunities for basing a new launch vehicle program at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. The Mayak family of rockets is  based on the Zenit and Cyclone vehicles and could be considered Ukraine’s answer to Russia’s Angara modular family of vehicles (built by rival rocket maker Khrunichev).

The Mayak would feature light, medium and heavy lift versions (8 tons, 20 tons, and 42 tons to LEO, respectively) and would be capable of launching humans. Yuzhnoye appears to be partnered with Excalibur Almaz to carry its commercial space station hardware and astronaut personnel to orbit. In addition to launching Mayak rockets from Florida, the discussion is focusing on opportunities for manufacturing or assembly of the vehicles on the Space Coast.


AIA, SIA Hail House Bill to Remove Satellites From ITAR List

SIA and AIA PR — SIA and AIA welcome a proposed amendment to H.R. 1540, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012, that would authorize the president to remove satellites and related components from the U.S. Munitions List, subject to certain restrictions and congressional oversight.

More than a decade ago, Congress passed legislation that required all commercial satellites, satellite components, associated technical data and related ground equipment to be treated as “munitions” for export licensing purposes. SIA and AIA have long encouraged Congress to adopt legislation that would allow the executive branch to determine the appropriate export licensing policy for commercial satellites and related items, just as it does for all other technologies that are subject to U.S. export licensing.

Zero-G Gets Safety Approval From FAA

Participants experience microgravity aboard a Zero-G Corporation parabolic flight. (PRNewsFoto/Zero Gravity Corporation, Al Powers)
ZERO-G PR – Vienna, Va. – May 27, 2011 – Zero Gravity Corporation (ZERO-G) announced today that the company had received a Safety Approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Office of Commercial Space Transportation.

Cosmica, XCOR Pitch Suborbital Research in Toulouse

COSMICA PR – Toulouse, France (May 26, 2011) – Garrett Smith, founder and president of Cosmica Spacelines and Khaki McKee from XCOR Aerospace today revealed experiment development and integration opportunities for commercial, educational and government suborbital research missions at the 3AF Toulouse Midi-Pyrenees conference. The conference, held at Airbus’ plant in Toulouse, France, is a joint event organized by the Royal Aeronautical Society Toulouse Branch and the Aeronautics & Astronautics Association of France (3AF) Toulouse Midi-Pyrenees Chapter.


ESA Names ATV After Albert Einstein

With ATV Johannes Kepler in space and ATV Edoardo Amaldi almost built, the next Space Station supply craft coming off the production line has been named after the most famous scientist of all time: Albert Einstein. Launch is expected in early 2013.

With relativity and E=mc2, Albert Einstein is a major icon of 20th century science.

His theories have been stringently tested in space and his work is used to guide spacecraft to other planets – and now he will fly into orbit. ESA has decided to name the fourth Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) after Albert Einstein.

ATVs are an essential contribution by Europe for supplying and maintaining the International Space Station. (more…)

Google Gets Lost on the Way to the Moon

Nearly four years after it was announced, the $30 million Google Lunar X Prize remains stuck on the ground, tied down by the same type of wrangling and delays that often characterize government space projects it is designed to replace.

Rules for the private moon race are still being revised. Teams have had trouble moving ahead due to the uncertainty. Deadlines have been pushed back. And there is deep frustration among competitors over the X Prize Foundation’s efforts to monopolize nearly all of the media and intellectual property (IP) rights from the contest.

The competition’s original goal – to launch a new industry by demonstrating that lunar exploration can be done quickly and cheaply by the private sector – has become lost in a complex process that has left everyone frustrated. The focus at times seems to be less on flying the missions than on who will profit from them.