NSRC 2012 Wrap-up

Dr. Alan Stern
Dr. Alan Stern

Alan Stern just wrapped up things here at NSRC in Palo Alto with an observation that was at once both simple and profound. He said, and I paraphrase:

We’re moving from an era of limited access to space using very expensive vehicles (Atlas V, space shuttle) to almost unlimited access with much more affordable systems. Multple companies will be providing regular access to space using different technological approaches that will give the system true redundancy. And the only real limitation is the number of payloads people want to fly.


Canada Launches Review of Aerospace and Space Programs

MONTREAL, QUEBEC, Feb 27, 2012 (Industry Canada PR) — Today, the Honourable Christian Paradis, Minister of Industry, pledged continued government support of Canada’s aerospace and space sectors and officially launched the Review of Aerospace and Space Programs and Policies.

“The Harper Government is focusing on what matters to Canadians-job creation and economic growth,” said Minister Paradis. “Canadian aerospace and space sectors are leaders in their fields, and our government wants to ensure that they continue to create quality jobs across the country today and in the future. This comprehensive review will examine how we can maximize our efforts, together with industry, to sustain Canada’s leadership position.”


JAA Assesses Horizontal Rocket Flights From Cecil Field Spaceport

Cecil Field in Jacksonville, recently designated a commercial spaceport.

JAA PR (January 25, 2012) — The Jacksonville Aviation Authority Board of Directors has accepted a grant from the Florida Department of Transportation to conduct an Environmental Assessment, which will examine the environmental impacts and investigate the feasibility of the operation of a Concept ‘Y’ Horizontal Launch – Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV) at Cecil Spaceport.

While Concept ‘X’ and Concept ‘Z’ Vehicles take-off using the typical turbojet engines to reach a predetermined location and altitude before igniting a rocket engine, Concept ‘Y’ Vehicles are powered by a rocket engine for the entire span of their operation.

In January 2010, after completing the original Environmental Assessment and Launch Site Operator’s License application process, JAA was issued a Commercial Spaceport license from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The license allows the airport to accommodate 52 horizontal takeoffs annually of sub-orbital horizontal launch vehicles.


Company Plans Suborbital Launches Using MiG Fighter

Premier Space Systems' Mig-21UM jet during a test flight. (Credit: Premier Space Systems)

I saw an interesting presentation at NSRC yesterday by Scott Powell and Arif Karabeyoglu on a new plan to launch suborbital payloads using jet aircraft.

Their company, Premier Space Systems, is developing a system that uses Soviet-era MiG-21UM to air launch payloads weighing up to 45 kg (99 pounds). The company is developing 10-inch and 22-inch LOX-parafin hybrid rockets, which are being tested in Butte, Montana.


Norway’s Andøya Rocket Range Looks for Renaissance

Andøya Rocket Range PR — In its 50th year, Andøya Rocket Range and the Norwegian sounding rocket community is once again a rising star. After years of recess and declining funding for sounding rocket missions, two new projects were given “good to go” in December 2011 by the Norwegian Space Centre and the Norwegian Research Council.

ICI-4 will be the fourth sounding rocket project led by Professor Jøran Moen from the University of Oslo. The two-stage rocket will be launched from Ny-Ålesund at Svalbard, late 2013. The single-stage MAXIDUSTY I will mark the re-entry of Tromsø University into the sounding rocket community. Launch will take place from Andøya during the summer of 2013. Both will be based on the Hotel Payload concept from Andøya Rocket Range, and they will be built, integrated and tested on-site at ARR.


Rocketplane Global Out of Bankruptcy, Seeks Funding for Space Plane

The Rocketplane has been revived.

Rocketplane Global, which went under two years ago, is out of bankruptcy and searching for about $100 million in investment to build its six-passenger suborbital space vehicle.

Speaking at the Next-generation Suborbital Researchers Conference in Palo Alto, Calif., Vice President of Business Development Chuck Lauer said the firm came out of bankruptcy last  year under a new Wisconsin-based holding company called Space Assets, LLC. Original backer George French is involved in the new venture.


NSRC 2012 — Jeff Greason’s Lunchtime Keynote

XCOR CEO Jeff Greason

Jeff Greason, CEO of XCOR

  • suborbital spaceflight is not just about flying rich playboys into space
  • They’re doing it for a broader reason — because they feel that it matters as a broader way of getting people out into space — expand humanity
  • Introduced Tuskegee airman Le Roy Gillead who is scheduled for a flight….standing ovation
  • One of the key benefits — making microgravity into something you can just go and do…without spending years and years waiting to do one flight that might or might not work
  • Previously, might have to wait for six years to fly an experiment
  • People would get fed up working with government regs, with the long timetable, etc. (more…)

NSRC Day 2

Hey everyone.

Greetings from the Next-generation Suborbital Researchers Conference in Palo Alto. We’re well into Day 2 here of the three-day conference.

Things here at the hotel got off to a chilly start this morning. Apparently the water heating system failed here and a number of guests ended up with very cold showers. This matches the rainy and chilly weather outside.

A lot of the content this morning is fairly technical, so there hasn’t been a lot of blog about yet. Most of the news was made yesterday and I’ve posted most of the press releases here on Parabolic Arc already.

XCOR CEO Jeff Greason is speaking at lunch today, so look for that here and on Twitter @spacecom. And there are some interesting sessions this afternoon.

Astrobotic Wins Additional Task in NASA Lunar Landing Contract

PITTSBURGH, PA – February 28, 2012 (Astrobotic PR) —
NASA has awarded Astrobotic Technology Inc. an additional task in its $10 million Innovative Lunar Demonstrations Data (ILDD) contract under which NASA buys information about the company’s commercial robotic expeditions to the Moon. The $100,000 task order brings total funding under the ILDD contract thus far to $610,000.


New Center for Microgravity Research and Education in Florida

ORLANDO, Feb. 27 (UCF PR) — More jobs and economic investment may be coming to Central Florida thanks to the creation of the new Center for Microgravity Research and Education.

The center (microgravity.physics.ucf.edu) will conductfundamental research in ground-based laboratories, on parabolic microgravity airplane flights, with a laboratory drop tower, and on suborbital rocket flights. The center will also develop experiments for the International Space Station.


Near Space Corp. to Build First Commercial High Altitude Balloon Flight Facility

Palo Alto, CA, February 27, 2012 (NSC PR): Near Space Corporation (NSC), one of seven suborbital flight providers selected to support the NASA Flight Opportunities Program, is proud to announce the creation of the first commercial high altitude balloon flight facility. Located in Tillamook, Oregon, the $6.9 million first phase will include 31,000 square feet of construction. It will serve as NSC headquarters and will house engineering, manufacturing, payload integration, and flight operations at a single location. The new facility will enable an unprecedented level of responsiveness and an increased capacity to meet the growing needs of NSC customers.


SwRI Moves Up XCOR Lynx Experiment Flights

Boulder, Colo. — Feb. 27, 2012 — Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) has reached an agreement with XCOR Aerospace, Inc. to conduct pioneering suborbital space missions with Institute payload specialist astronauts flying aboard one or two test missions in the XCOR Aerospace Lynx Mark I vehicle. The flights will test capabilities of the Lynx vehicle with actual researchers and research experiments aboard.

In 2011, SwRI and XCOR Aerospace inked a deal for six SwRI suborbital flights aboard Lynx, with options for three more. Today’s announcement moves the first such flights ahead of XCOR’s commercial services to be a part of XCOR’s Lynx test flight program.


Astronauts4Hire Announces Commercial Astronaut Training Programs

Palo Alto, California (A4H PR) – After more than a year of development, Astronauts for Hire (A4H) is proud to announce its proposed training programs for Research Specialist Astronauts and Operations Specialist Astronauts. These programs, which were developed by the nonprofit in close consultation with former NASA astronauts and astronaut instructors, are the most comprehensive commercial scientist-astronaut training guidelines available in the world.


Virgin Galactic selects NanoRacks for SpaceShipTwo Research

Gear down. (Photo: Mark Greenberg)

MOJAVE, Calif. – (Feb. 27, 2012) Virgin Galactic LLC, the world’s first commercial spaceline, announced today that it has selected NanoRacks LLC to construct a rack system to allow research payloads to fly to space aboard Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo (SS2). With these new racks, SS2 will allow researchers to conduct experiments during several minutes of microgravity using a mounting system also employed on the International Space Station (ISS).


XCOR Aerospace Closes $5 Million Round of Investment Capital

27 February 2012, Mojave, CA and Palo Alto, CA (XCOR PR):  XCOR Aerospace announced today that it recently closed a $5 million round of equity funding.   The round, combined with cash on hand plus anticipated and existing contracts should fund the company through production of its Lynx Mark I Suborbital vehicle.

The financing included participation of new and previous investors. Among them are Esther Dyson, Pete Ricketts (co-owner of the Chicago Cubs) and several top Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and former venture capitalists.