Commercial Crew Announcement this Week?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Charles now tells me that NASA is likely to inform the companies of their decision on Thursday morning. There is usually a lag between that action and a public press conference.

UPDATE: NASA will publicly announce the winners on Friday morning.

Charles Lurio of The Lurio Report has emailed me saying that he has heard from a very reliable source that NASA will announce the next round of commercial crew funding on Thursday or Friday. This is no independent verification of this report.


FAA Plans Public Telecons on Commercial Space Regulations

 FAA Commercial Space Transportation
Advisory Committee Teleconferences


Tuesday, August 14, 2012
Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Tuesday, October 23, 2012
1 p.m. EDT

Length: Approximately 1 hour


The purpose of these three teleconferences is to assist the FAA early in its development of regulations to protect occupants of commercial suborbital and orbital spacecraft. Although the FAA has not yet targeted a date for proposing regulations to protect the health and safety of crew and space flight participants, the FAA believes that the development of sound and appropriate regulations for human space flight can only be achieved with a deliberate, multi-year effort. Moreover, the FAA believes that early industry input into this regulatory effort before any formal proposal by the FAA is critical.


China Test Fires Engine for New Long March 5 Rocket

China’s new rocket engine has passed its 200-second test. The test took place in an open field 50 kilometres from Xi’an, capital of Shaan’xi province, in northwest China.

The engine was assembled three years ago and has already undergone two tests which lasted 600 seconds each. Sunday morning’s test was to determine if it remains in peak condition. The engine can carry a load of 25 tons. That’s 16 more than the engine in the Long March 2 F, which carried the Shenzhou-9 mission last month. The new engine is fuelled with kerosene and liquid oxygen. That enables a saving of almost 10 million yuan in propellant load.

China is the second country in the world to master the technology, after Russia. The engine will be used in the new Long March 5 rocket in 2014.

Come Celebrate the Curiosity Landing in Pasadena

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Pasadena, CA, July 19, 2012 (BlackStarr PR) — On August 4th, The Planetary Society, with CEO Bill Nye the Science Guy and BlackStarr will host a public evening event in celebration of the historic landing of the Curiosity on the surface of Mars. Our Martian Party kicks off after the first day of The Planetary Society’s Planetfest and spans two floors for an out-of-this world experience! As you mingle with your friends and make new ones along the way, keep your eyes peeled back for space industry persons of interest from Virgin Galactic, SpaceX, and NASA. During the course of the evening, catch sightings and conversations from the most interesting Space Entrepreneurs, Sci-fi Authors, Screen Stars, and Personalities.


ESA Studies Future of Europe’s Launch Services

Soyuz launch complex in Kourou. (Credit: ESA – S. Corvaja, 2011)

PARIS (ESA PR) — Today, Europe enjoys autonomous access to space, while holding a leading position in the world launch services market. ESA has begun work on a new strategy to ensure that both can be maintained sustainably in future.

ESA has begun investigating the feasibility of a new approach for European access to space, aimed at making Europe’s launch services fully self-sufficient over the long haul.

The idea behind this New European Launch Service – NELS – is to deliver competitive launch services to both governmental and private European customers while keeping pace with the rapidly changing worldwide launch market.


Ad Astra Achieves Two Advances on VASIMR Engine

A VASIMR powered space tug. (Credit: Ad Astra Rocket Company)

Houston, Texas (Ad Astra PR) – Ad Astra Rocket Company reports two important advances with its VX-200 high power VASIMR® engine prototype:

1) a significant increase in its high power performance over previous test data obtained in late 2010, and
2) demonstration of the VASIMR®-unique feature called “Constant Power Throttling” (CPT).

These results will be presented on Monday July 30, 2012 at the 48th American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics’ (AIAA) Joint Propulsion Conference in Atlanta, Ga. USA, in the paper entitled: “VASIMR® VX-200 Improved Throttling Range.”


Planetfest 2012 to Celebrate Curiosity Landing

The Planetary Society is holding its Planetfest Event this Saturday and Sunday in Pasadena to celebrate the landing of the Mars Curiosity Rover. The details:

August 4, 2012, 9:30 am – 5:00 pm
August 5, 2012, 2:00 pm – 11:30 pm or later

Pasadena Convention Center
300 E. Green Street
Pasadena, CA 91101


The program will feature leaders in space exploration, including:  Charles Elachi, Director of NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory; Bill Nye (the Science Guy®); planetary vulcanologist Rosaly Lopes; Jim Bell, PanCam lead on the Spirit and Opportunity rovers and member of the Curiosity team; Planetary Society blogger Emily Lakdawalla; Mars rover driver Scott Maxwell; NASA Planetary Science Division Director Jim Green; former “Mars Czar” Scott Hubbard; Star Trek™ actor Robert Picardo; historian Shelley Bonus; author and space historian Andrew Chaikin; space artists; and private space entrepreneurs.

In addition to this full schedule, both days will have the following ongoing events and displays:

  • Touch a piece of Mars: A fragment of a real martian meteorite discovered in Sultanate of Oman.
  • See a full-size mockup of the XCOR Lynx sub-orbital vehicle
  • A space-themed art show with over 50 works of art including 4 original pieces just for Planetfest.
  • Hands-on science activities for kids of all ages (build your own Martian sundial, dirty comets workstation, First Robotics demonstrations)
  • A full-size model of the Curiosity rover that will land on Mars
  • Demonstrations and hands-on workstations for NASA Eyes on the Solar System and Google Mars
  • XBoxes with the Mars Rover Landing Game
  • The Rock Abrasion Tool (RAT) used in the current Mars rover mission and other future tech from Honeybee Robotics
  • A room full of presentations and displays about the future of space from our sponsors.

Get more information.

Altius Space Machines Wins DARPA ZombieSat Contract

Phoenix satellite concept. (Credit: DARPA)

Louisville, CO, July 30th, 2012 (Altius PR) — Altius Space Machines of Louisville, CO is delighted to announce that we have signed a contract with DARPA to provide engineering services as part of the DARPA Phoenix Program. Associated with Altius Space Machines in this contract is ROCCOR LLC. of Louisville, CO., Ecliptic Enterprises Corporation of Pasadena, CA, and The University of Colorado at Boulder, CO.


Tim Pickens Drops By The Space Show

This week on The Space Show with David Livingston:

1. Monday, July 30, 2011 2-3:30 PM PDT (5-6:30 PM EDT, 4-5:30 PM CDT): We welcome SUSAN HOLDEN MARTIN, Executive Director of The Mars Society. Ms. Martin will update us regarding the upcoming convention and more.

2. Tuesday, July 31, 2012, 7-8:30 PM PDT (10-11:30 PM EDT, 9-10:30 PM CDT): We welcome RICHARD DAVID, CEO of New Space Global, LLC to tell us about his company, NewSpace company evaluations, and more. Check them out at

3. Thursday, August 2, 2012, 9:30-11 AM PDT (12:30-2 PM EDT, 11:30AM-1PM CDT): We welcome back TIM PICKENS. Tim has engaged in new space opportunities and has much to tell and update us with regarding space and related matters.

4. Friday, August 3 2012, 9:30-11 AM PDT (12:30-2 PM EDT, 11:30AM-1PM CDT): We welcome CRISTINA CHAPLAIN of the GAO to discuss DOD Space, NASA, and Missile Defense.

5. Sunday, August 5, 2012.,12-1:30 PM PDT (3-4:30 PM EDT, 2-3:30 PM CDT):We welcome DR. JAMES SCHIER of NASA for a discussion about NASA’s Human Space Flight (HSF) Architecture Team, the future deep space exploration architecture, the Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN) Program and plans for the future evolution of NASA’s three space communications networks as well as commercial space development. Dr. Schier is also a docent at the National Air & Space Museum.


Hi all.

I am making my way from Santa Clara to back to Mojave this afternoon. It’s a trip that will take about five hours and cover roughly 300 miles, but the distance traveled cannot be measured solely in time and distance. Instead, it is a voyage between two very different cultures.

Silicon Valley is a green, leafy place with shiny office buildings where talented engineers sit in cubicles writing software that makes billions of dollars. That software has helped to make user-friendly computers ubiquitous and connected the world via the Internet.

Silicon Valley has long since transitioned from the days where engineers labored in garages to produce the first personal computers. Most of the hardware production has all be shipped away to be done by low-wage workers in distant locales.


Video Interview with Stephen Attenborough

A 24-minute Euronews interview/infomercial with Virgin Galactic Commercial Director Stephen Attenborough. The highlights:

  • “much closer than we were” to commercial flights
  • “final stage of that journey”
  • “go from milestone to milestone”
  • “hope between 18 and 24 months” to begin commercial operations
  • “driven by safety”
  • “hybrid rocket motor…chose because of its reliability and safety”
  • “right partners, right technology”

It’s the same stuff they’ve been saying for years, right down to the 18 to 24 month timetable. At some point, they’re going to be right. It’s just hard to know exactly when that will happen.

UTC Creates New Aerospace Systems Unit with Goodrich Acquisition

United Technologies Corporation has created a new UTC Aerospace Systems business unit by acquiring aerospace parts maker Goodrich Corporation and combining it with UTC’s Hamilton Sundstrand Space Systems, which has been making spacesuits, life-support equipment and other components for America’s space program for nearly 50 years.

To finance its Goodrich acquisition, UTC has agreed to sell Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne to GenCorp (owner of Aerojet) for $550 million. The company will also sell its Hamilton Sundstrand Industrial unit to BC Partners and The Carlyle Group for $3.46 billion. The industrial unit manufactures highly engineered, mission-critical pumps and compressors for the global industrial, infrastructure and energy markets.


NanoRacks’ Hardware Arrives at Space Station

HOUSTON (NanoRacks PR) — The first commercial laboratory in space just welcomed a new sophisticated research capability. With the docking of the Japanese HTV-3 cargo ship, also known as ‘white stork’ or Kounotori 3, the NanoRacks’ Plate Reader is now at the International Space Station.

The NanoRacks’ MD Plate Reader-1 holds 96 samples allowing veteran space researchers and those new to space to perform the same state of the art analysis now done in laboratories on the Earth.

NanoRacks strongly believes that increasing the sophistication of the on-board research tools allows greater capture of microgravity results, rather than having to always rely on the return of payloads. In addition, use of off-the-shelf hardware, in this case a Molecular Devices Plate Reader both lowers the cost of the ISS hardware and provides greater comfort to researchers who can use the same equipment as in their own labs on the earth.

The Plate Reader will join our two research platforms and two microscopes already occupying part of the U.S. National Lab on International Space Station.

NewSpace 2012: Winners of Business Plan Competition Announced

EDITOR’S NOTE: Space Frontier Foundation requested that this story be taken down at 4:20 PDT. Apparently, they set it to post at 10 p.m. UTC and not 10 p.m. PDT. I complied with this request against my better judgment.

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (SFF PR) — The competition judges have awarded Space Ground Amalgam, LLC first place in the 2012 NewSpace Business Plan Competition and presented them with the $100,000 prize. Digital Solid State Propulsion, LLC earned second place in the competition and the $10,000 prize. In a last minute addition, Honorable Mention is given to Terapio Corporation for providing an unusually commendable technology that will address one of the inherent risks of space settlement. The hosting organization, the Space Frontier Foundation, and judges congratulate the winners and thank all the finalists for their participation. The awards were presented on July 28th at the NewSpace Awards Gala, the culminating event of the NewSpace 2012 Conference.


NewSpace 2012: Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides

George Whitesides
CEO and President, Virgin Galactic

  • George has a couple of videos, including one we haven’t seen in full length now.
  • “It’s all about space, space is what it’s all about to me.”
  • Exciting moment whose achievements will echo for thousands of years
  • Called out a customer in the audience — 1 guy — don’t know who he is — didn’t name him
  • Dave Clark is chief salesman and main squeeze of Princess Beatrice — showed him in zero g
  • Galactic has been expanding over last 8 years — first serving millionauts and scientists, orbital spaceflight (satellites), and vehicle manufacturing
  • Great patch of progress
  • Propulsion system work is moving forward
  • Now have 536 deposits….more than than ever been in space (535)
  • Spaceship Company is building no. 2 of WK2 and SS2
  • Pictures…awesome pictures….
  • Spaceport is still being built with VG beginning its commercial fitout later this year
  • Spaceport progress is a bit strange — I seem to recall last October that the basic build would be done within a couple of months with VG fitout starting sooner (end of 2011, early 2012)
  • Video No. 2: Farnsborough announcement earlier this month of LauncherOne
  • LauncerOne is a satellite launcher project (air launched from WK2) that was started about four years ago that is about four years away from entering commercial service (test launch, 2015; commercial, 2016)
  • Branson on video: “Space is Virgin territory
  • Video over: Whitesides says that this launcher project is exciting and will be a great growth area
  • interest expressed was in the “dozens, if not hundreds”
  • DARPA — ALASA to bring down cost of air-launched cargo — 100 lbs. to orbit for under $1 million
  • Spaceship Company is hiring (as is VG)
  • Spaceship Company is building Vehicle Set 2
  • A lot of glide flights over summer and then a bit into fall
  • Integrate some of the rocket systems and shooting for a powered flight “roughly by the end of the year”
  • Video No. 3: the awesome people building our awesome spaceships
  • Video over, 24 minutes out of 30 gone…five minutes of questions
  • George is biased toward taking questions from “young people”
  • Moderator is trying to get the next panel set up behind George during the Q&A for some reason — get George get off stage ASAP
  • Nope, no questions on the engines…
  • I think I saw this same presentation last year, with different videos…
  • Will answer questions from press after talk…
  • Well, that’s all there is from here….