Author: Doug Messier

Excalibur Almaz Sez: We Are Not a Scam

An Almaz space station module being transported on the Isle of Man. (Credit: Excalibur Almaz)

An Almaz space station module being transported on the Isle of Man. (Credit: Excalibur Almaz)

IOMToday reports that Excalibur Almaz is denying charges that it fraudulently took funds from an investor to use Soviet-era space hardware for human stations:

“These allegations are baseless and will be vigorously defended. To set the record straight, Excalibur Almaz is not out of business and is vigorously pursuing a profitable commercial space program utilizing proven Russian flight hardware capable of re-use, contrary to recent allegations.”

In a lawsuit, Japanese investor Takafumi Horie accused Excalibur Almaz founders Art Dula and J Buckner Hightower of misleading him in order to obtain a $49 million investment in the company. Horie says the Soviet-era Almaz space station hardware the company purchased were museum pieces that could never be launched into space.

Read the full story.

Some Reading Material on SpaceShipTwo and Virgin Galactic

WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo just after takeoff from the Mojave Air and Space Port. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo just after takeoff from the Mojave Air and Space Port. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

A sampling of some recent Virgin Galactic articles for you all to peruse:

Space Tourism? Meh!

Arianespace CEO Stephane Israel thinks space tourism is pretty much a waste of time and money. [Space tourism is a waste of humanity’s time, says Arianespace chief executive Stephane Israel]

I link to this not as an endorsement of his ideas but as the starting point for discussion.

I mean….10 years, four powered flights, one wrecked ship, one dead pilot and three dead engineers, close to a half billion spent, and not a single voyage anywhere near space….It’s less of an indictment of space tourism than the entire argument of how much better the private sector can do space than the whole NASA/Big Aero industrial complex.  If NASA had spent this much time and effort and produced so little, everyone would be rightly mocking it.

5 Companies in Trouble

Space News looks at five companies facing serious challenges — Virgin Galactic, Orbital Sciences, Sea Launch, Globalstar and Iridium — and looks at they might meet them. [Top 5 Companies To Watch]

The editors ask the right questions — how much more of his own money will Richard Branson invest, what will aabar investments do? — but unfortuately must rely on Virgin’s public claims about cancellations, new signups, and what comes next. Based on the company’s previous claims, what I’m hearing here in Mojave, and Branson’s desultory press conference in Mojave the day after the accident, such claims should be viewed with serious skepticism.

Another Look Inside VG

Virgin Galactic’s official media partner, NBC News, has an article about how Virgin Galactic’s engineers are dealing with the loss of SpaceShipTwo. You can find Alan Boyle’s story on the NBC News website.

XCOR Aerospace Announces Latest Milestone in ULA Program

XCOR’s XR-5H25 engine during its successful hot fire. The plume is clear because the propellant used is liquid hydrogen. (Credit: XCOR/Mike Massee)

XCOR’s XR-5H25 engine during its successful hot fire. The plume is clear because the propellant used is liquid hydrogen. (Credit: XCOR/Mike Massee)

Mojave, CA, November 20, 2014 (XCOR PR) — XCOR Aerospace today announced it has completed the latest test series for the liquid hydrogen engine it is developing for United Launch Alliance (ULA). This is an important milestone in the long-running LH2 (liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen) program. It is also a step toward running the engine in a fully closed cycle mode.

In its most recent milestone, XCOR successfully performed hot fire testing of the XR-5H25 engine’s regeneratively cooled thrust chamber,with both liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen propellants supplied inpump-fed mode, using XCOR’s proprietary piston pump technology.

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CASIS Awards 3 Materials Science Research Grants


casis_new_logoKENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL., November 19, 2014 (CASIS PR) – The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) has announced grant awards for three projects focused on materials science from the International Space Station (ISS), totaling approximately $800,000 in funding. These awards stem from the CASIS Request for Proposals (RFP) “Materials Science in Space.” CASIS is the nonprofit organization managing research onboard the ISS U.S. National Laboratory.

The purpose of this RFP was to seek flight research investigations that develop new or improve existing materials that will have direct terrestrial benefit. Awardees include:

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Lunar Mission One Crowdsourcing to Moon’s South Pole

Lunar Mission One lander (Credit: Lunar Missions)

Lunar Mission One lander (Credit: Lunar Missions)

LONDON (Lunar Missions PR) — Lunar Mission One, an ambitious and pioneering lunar mission, has been announced today. The mission is raising initial development funding through Kickstarter, the crowdfunding platform, giving people from around the world the opportunity to support and be a part of the mission.

As overall technical advisors for the first stage of the project, Lunar Mission One has engaged RAL Space, which has been involved in developing more than 200 space missions and has supported NASA and European Space Agency missions.

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Branson’s Jaw Dropping Press Conference in Mojave


By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Sonic booms are a way of life in Mojave. With Edwards Air Force Base just down the highway and an overland supersonic corridor overhead, we’re used to the Boom BOOMS that rattle our windows and shake our walls on an almost daily basis.

These can be unnerving events for newbies. I remember sitting in the Voyager restaurant years ago, before I even moved here, and almost jumping out of my booth when a sonic boom hit. The guys sitting in the booth – a pair of local pilots, I guessed – barely notice. A fighter jet out of Edwards, they said. Nothing to worry about. Just another Friday afternoon in Mojave.

On Nov. 1, a series of different booms hit the airport. They had nothing to do with flying faster than the speed of sound. Instead, they were the Thuds of peoples’ jaws simultaneously hitting the floor, followed by the THUNKS of these folks falling off their chairs. This happened five times in less than eight minutes.

The cause? Sir Richard Branson.

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Go Slow Approach Urged in Wake of SpaceShipTwo Accident

Part of SpaceShipTwo's fuselage. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)

Part of SpaceShipTwo’s fuselage. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)

Space News has an editorial on the SpaceShipTwo accident that I think is spot on:

Clearly the AST needs to wait until the NTSB presents the results of its investigation before drafting any such safety rules.

In the same vein, it was surprising to hear that Virgin Galactic intends to continue with construction of a second SpaceShipTwo vehicle with an eye toward resuming test flights in six months. Although the NTSB has raised the possibility that human error played a role in the mishap, it has not ruled out a design or mechanical issue with SpaceShipTwo.

Virgin Galactic is understandably eager to minimize additional delays to the introduction of commercial service and to demonstrate its resolve, but pressing ahead with construction — and perhaps even flight tests — while the investigation is still underway could prove problematic. One could argue that if Virgin Galactic wants to bet on SpaceShipTwo’s exoneration that’s its own business. But in doing so the company risks fueling doubts about the commercial spaceflight industry’s commitment to safety, which could invite the types of regulations it has sought to avoid, or at least defer.

That said, the AST should tread lightly in recognition of the industry’s novelty and fragility. While it can never compromise when it comes to protecting uninvolved third parties, the office also must recognize that those who are willing to pay for the thrill of going to the edge of space are risk takers by both nature and choice — this is not commercial aviation.

It’s not clear to me that Virgin Galactic is in a financial position to slow down. They’re spending an enormous amount on this program, and they don’t really have any solid revenues yet.

Read the full editorial.

DSI Appoint PR & Communications Manager

Meagan Crawford

Meagan Crawford

Houston, TX, Nov. 18, 2014 (DSI PR) – Deep Space Industries is pleased to announce the appointment of Meagan Crawford as the company’s PR and Communications Manager.  Meagan is a corporate communications and public relations expert with significant experience in marketing and business development.

“Meagan is a rare talent in the space field. She not only ‘gets it’ but she can write about it, talk about it, package it and send it out in a press release – linked to an awesome website,” said Deep Space Chair Rick Tumlinson. “She brings us a level of understanding and professionalism that will greatly enhance our ability to share the message that Deep Space is on the move!”

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Philae Lander Returns Wealth of Comet Data

Philae landing sequence (Credit: DLR)

Philae landing sequence (Credit: DLR)

DLR PR – Before going into hibernation at 01:36 CET on 15 November 2014, the Philae lander was able to conduct some work using power supplied by its primary battery. With its 10 instruments, the mini laboratory sniffed the atmosphere, drilled, hammered and studied Comet 67P/ Churyumov-Gerasimenko while over 500 million kilometres from Earth. After a triple landing, positioning it in a new, unplanned location, conditions were not optimal, but Philae was able to work for more than 60 hours and send the resulting data back to Earth. It was controlled and monitored from the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) Lander Control Center (LCC). Now, the complicated data analysis begins. DLR’s Scientific Director for the project, Ekkehard Kührt, is very pleased with the results so far. “We have collected a great deal of valuable data, which could only have been acquired through direct contact with the comet. Together with the measurements performed by the Rosetta orbiter, we are well on our way to achieving a greater understanding of comets. Their surface properties appear to be quite different than was previously thought.”

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Made in Space 3D Printer Installed on Space Station

NASA astronaut Butch Wilmore installs a 3-D Printer in the Microgravity Science Glovebox on the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA-TV)

NASA astronaut Butch Wilmore installs a 3-D Printer in the Microgravity Science Glovebox on the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA-TV)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Today, NASA took a big step toward changing the way we plan for long-duration space voyages when astronaut Barry “Butch” Wilmore successfully installed and prepared the first 3-D printer for upcoming manufacturing operations on the International Space Station.

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