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.”


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.


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.


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


NewSpace 2011: Suborbital Spaceflight Panel


Gary Martin: Director, Code V, NASA Ames


  • Dougal Maclise: Manager, NASA CRuSR program
  • Sean Mahoney: COO, Masten Space Systems
  • Khaki McKee: Program Manager, XCOR Aerospace
  • Will Pomerantz: Vice President, Virgin Galactic
  • Tim Pickens: Dynetics


NewSpace 2011: NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver

Deputy NASA Administrator Lori Garver

Lori Garver:

  • When she first met Pete at NSS, they both had the goal of creating a space-faring civilization
  • NASA has a sub-role in developing a space-faring civilization
  • ISS is now built and permanently occupied….that is a space-faring civilization, if you ask me
  • An international community living and working outside the planet
  • We want to go further….NASA role is to develop those technologies to expand humanity beyond LEO
  • Having folks who follow will make that civilization possible
  • Remembered that when Rick Tumlinson told her that he was forming a separate organization (Space Frontier Foundation) from NSS about 20 years ago….
  • The SFF’s ideas are no longer revolutionary….
  • Was given a speech to read, but you guys are like family to me so won’t read it….going through the agenda and discuss what NASA is trying to do to evolve space….
  • (more…)

NewSpace 2011: Jim Muncy and Pete Worden

Jim Muncy:

  • Welcome to the revolution. They say that every year. (Ed. Note: Maybe need a newer slogan)
  • This year is a critical time in humanity’s emergence for our home planet. NOT because of the drama going on over the retirement of shuttle.
  • Times when humanity is going down a slow river, other times riding the rapids….(guess which one we’re on now….NO, not the slow river….the rapids….)
  • Why are we on the rapids….combination of everything….the debate over our future…all the work going on in commercial space….but, will this amount to anything? will we do space in a new and different way that will allow us to explore space…
  • We have a lot of friends inside and outside of NASA who are committed to this revolution, including NASA Ames Head Honcho (aka, Center Director) Simon “Pete” Worden
  • Worden has been associated with more revolutionary technology than anyone inside of NASA…

Pete Worden:

  • We’re the coolest center in NASA, especially given the heat wave hitting the rest of the country….(Laughter)…
  • Exciting time….goals that we’re focused on are being adopted by others…
  • We are on the verge of humanity’s permanent expansion into the solar system and beyond….
  • this will only happen once, and this country is leading it…
  • Will only happen if the private sector begins to lead that change, and he’s happy to see it happening…
  • Returning to NACA type role, helping to midwife new industries….NACA was focused on aviation, NASA now playing same role in space



NewSpace 2011 Begins…

….Well, not yet.

The 8 a.m. start time has come….and gone. There’s a bit of a backup at the registration table. When this does start, Jim Muncy will talk for 15 minutes and then the big draw of the day, NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver.

Today has a heavy presence of NASA folks mixed in with commercial space speakers. The full schedule for today is after the break.

Update: Despite the early delay, they are now back on schedule.


Masten Space Systems Announces Management Overhaul

MSS PR – MOJAVE, Calif., July 27, 2011 –
Masten Space Systems, Inc., a leader in the emerging commercial spaceflight industry, announced today the expansion of its management team through several key appointments. Founder David Masten, has been named chairman and chief technology officer. Joel Scotkin will be the new chief executive officer, and Sean Mahoney will assume the role of chief operating officer.

“I’m a technology guy. What I love—what I do best—is build rockets and lead technology development,” said David Masten, long-time rocket entrepreneur and founder of Masten Space Systems. “Joel has been a huge supporter of the company for many years. He has been far more than an investor—he is a key member of the team, and I’m thrilled that he has agreed to join us full-time to help build the company.”