Monthly Archive for July, 2011

Awesome Pic: ISS Astronauts Watch Atlantis Return to Earth

This unprecedented view of the space shuttle Atlantis, appearing like a bean sprout against clouds and city lights, on its way home, was photographed by the Expedition 28 crew of the International Space Station. Airglow over Earth can be seen in the background. Image Credit: NASA

Video: Neil deGrasse Tyson on the Future of NASA


Did Richardson Oversell Spaceport America’s Potential?


Bloomberg News has a story looking at the challenges facing Spaceport America as it nears completion in the New Mexico desert. The article raises the real possibility that then-Gov. Bill Richardson sold the project to the state’s taxpayers based on overly optimistic economic assumptions:

Now, Governor Susana Martinez, a Republican who replaced Richardson in January, has ordered an audit of the spaceport’s spending and said the facility must secure private investment to augment the public money. Spaceport director Christine Andersen, who took charge in February, disavows the earlier job projections, calling them a “feel-good plan.”

Continue reading ‘Did Richardson Oversell Spaceport America’s Potential?’

George Whitesides: Virgin Galactic Making Good Progress


Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides gave two talks at NASA Ames this morning — the first at the NewSpace 2011 Conference and another for the students at the Singularity University.

Whitesides’ 30-minute address to the Space Frontier Foundation’s annual gathering followed a familiar script, with updates on testing (going great), sales (growing steadily), the Spaceship Company (hiring rapidly), and the engine development (making progress). He used up most of his time making the address, and then took three questions before time ran out.

The Singularity University presentation seems to have been more freewheeling and, according to one person who saw both, much better than his NewSpace address. Whitesides touches upon of what it’s like to work for Richard Branson (great), the competition (we like it), and ITAR (bad, very very bad).

My notes on the NewSpace presentation follow. I’ve also included a collection of Tweets on Whitesides’ Singularity University session.

Continue reading ‘George Whitesides: Virgin Galactic Making Good Progress’

Picture: Jon Goff’s Sticky Boom System


Altius Space Systems Founder Jon Goff with his Sticky Boom system for orbital capture.

The Ares is Dead! Long Live the Ares!


The Space Frontier Foundation had an Irish wake for the NASA’s Ares rocket program last night. This poster explains their antipathy toward the program.

In reality, the Ares I rocket is dead, although ATK is trying to resurrect it as a commercial rocket using an Ariane 5 upper stage. The Ares V (the larger rocket in the photo) should have been listed as a survivor; it has morphed into the Congressional-mandated Space Launch System.

Senate Subpoenas NASA Documents on SLS Program


Aviation Week
reports that subpoenas are flying on Capitol Hill:

The chairman and ranking Republican of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee have made good on their threat to subpoena documents related to NASA’s selection of a design for the heavy-lift Space Launch System (SLS), setting up a showdown over the agency’s pace in meeting a congressional order.

The subpoena from Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), the panel chair, and ranking minority member Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) went to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden on July 27, after the committee and its staff apparently were unsatisfied with NASA’s progress in meeting the 2010 NASA Authorization Act’s call for a heavy-lift launch vehicle.

NASA is closing in on its reference design for the heavy-lift SLS, which Congress says in the authorization language must be able to lift 130 metric tons to begin moving human explorers beyond low Earth orbit. Last week the agency sent the Senate panel a letter on its progress. It also has given senators and committee staffers a peek at some 6,000 pages of documents from the protracted reference-design selection process.


Virgin Galactic Appoints First Chief Financial Officer


VSS Enterprise drops from WhiteKnightTwo. (Credit: Clay Observatory)

VIRGIN GALACTIC PR — PASADENA, Calif.– Virgin Galactic, the world’s first commercial spaceline, owned by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group and Aabar Investments PJS, has appointed Kenneth H. Sunshine as its first Chief Financial Officer.

In this newly created role, Sunshine will be responsible for managing the company’s financial strategy, driving growth and overseeing all finance and accounting functions as Virgin Galactic transitions from a development project to a commercially operational business.

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NewSpace 2011: The Next Big Thing….Featuring Virgin Galactic


We’re moments away here at New Space from a talk by Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides. Also on this morning’s agenda, a business plan competition featuring 5 teams competing for a $25,000 first prize. And a panel discussion titled, “War Stories from the Entrepreneurial Frontier.”

I’m Tweeting this talk at

NewSpace 2011: Orbital Spaceflight and Beyond


A Boeing CST-100 crew module docks at a Bigelow Aerospace space station. (Credit: Boeing)


  • Dennis Stone: Manager, Program Integration, NASA Commercial Crew and Cargo Program


  • Brent Jett — Deputy Manager, NASA CCDev (JSC)
  • Garrett Reisman — Project Manager for CCDev 2, SpaceX
  • Mark Sirangelo — Chairman, Sierra Nevada Space Systems
  • Gerard Szatkowski — SmallSat Project Manager, United Launch Alliance

Continue reading ‘NewSpace 2011: Orbital Spaceflight and Beyond’