Updates on Virgin Galactic and Spaceport America

SpaceShipTwo glides over the Mojave Desert after being released from its WhiteKnightTwo mother ship. (Credit; Virgin Galactic)

The Next Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference is being held in Colorado through Wednesday. I wasn’t able to attend this year, but the following folks are there tweeting away:

Jeff Foust‏ @jeff_foust
Rand Simberg‏ @Rand_Simberg
Colorado Space News‏ @CO_Space_News

Below are updates on Virgin Galactic and Spaceport America based on their tweets.

George Whitesides
CEO
Virgin Galactic
The Spaceship Company

  • good progress on glide test flight program in 2017
  • Six glide flights so far; 1 more SpaceShipTwo glide flight scheduled before powered flight tests begin in 2018
  • a lot of work underway to prepare SpaceShipTwo for powered flights
  • Italian space agency ASI has signed letter of intent to purchase research flight with Italian payload specialist scheduled for 2019
  • suborbital payload capacity is 1,000 lbs. (453.6 kg) w/ 500 cubic feet (14.16 cubic meters) of pressurized usable volume
  • integration of biological payloads within two hours of flight
  • access to payloads within 30 minutes of land, possibly as short as 5 to 10 minutes
  • company will complete facilities at Spaceport America in 2018
  • working on $1 billion investment by Saudi Arabia that was announced in October

Dan Hicks
CEO
Spaceport America

  • Commercial space industry is worth $339 billion annually and is growing
  • Users of Spaceport America benefit from large area of restricted airspace (adjacent to White Sands Missile Range)
  • Developing a infrastructure development plan that will include a payload processing facility with a cafeteria
  • Officials will present plan to New Mexico lawmakers in several months
  • UP Aerospace plans a sounding rocket launch from Spaceport America in January
  • UP Aerospace using a new rocket motor test facility at the spaceport
  • Possibility of conducting orbital launches from Spaceport America that do not involve dropping hardware over land

  • Cameron Garner

    The amount of volume in a square foot is… zero. Just sayin. Cubes, anyone?
    Seems like of lot of volume for only 1,000lbs? Has payload capacity been published previously (and was it significantly different?)?

  • Ignacio Rockwill

    Interesting that the Spaceport America rep didn’t mention Exos, my understanding is they were trying to get a flight off this year. They should be flying in early 2018.

    VG and SS2, I want you to succeed, but you’re just not making much progress.

  • duheagle

    Commercial space industry is worth $339 billion annually and is growing

    Almost zero of which dollars are attributable to anything going on at Spaceport America.

    Users of Spaceport America benefit from large area of restricted airspace (adjacent to White Sands Missile Range)

    Very restricted. So restricted, in fact, hardly anything flies there.

    Developing a infrastructure development plan that will include a payload processing facility with a cafeteria

    Let us fervently hope no biology experiments wind up accidentally dropped into the steam table.

    Officials will present plan to New Mexico lawmakers in several months

    In the meantime, we’ll be polishing up our tap dancing skills.

    UP Aerospace plans a sounding rocket launch from Spaceport America in January

    Someday we may be the Wallops Island of the Desert Southwest – except without any cargo launches to ISS.

    UP Aerospace using a new rocket motor test facility at the spaceport

    Too bad all the other small rocket companies already seem to have their own test stands located elsewhere – i.e., not The Back of Beyond. Compared to Spaceport America, even Mojave is a bustling metropolis.

    Possibility of conducting orbital launches from Spaceport America that do not involve dropping hardware over land

    Interesting trick. I wonder who the possibility is? Stratolaunch? Virgin Orbit or VOX? Thus far Virgin Galactic can’t even seem to conduct suborbital launches without dropping hardware over land.

  • Search

    Incredibly they intend to go shake down the NM legislature again for some “development plan” money. Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me. You would think the $1B Saudi investment would carry VG a while but who knows.

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  • duheagle

    One would think that. But VG has a fairly hellacious burn rate it seems. When it came to going 10 years or more without finishing a suborbital spacecraft, the late XCOR was at least an order or magnitude more economically efficient.

    As for the Saudi billion, I suspect it’s mainly a matter of coming late to the party and finding all the good space companies with no need of their money. Given that the Saudis have a long history of high living on money that isn’t going to last forever, the VG investment is more like the solid gold plumbing fixtures and other sparkly gee-gaws that have proven so impressive to the arriviste tribal barbarians of the world.