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The Second Space Age is Beginning…and It’ll Be Awesome

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Video Caption: Will Pomerantz, Virgin Galactic’s VP of Special Projects, explains how the second space age promises to open up a new world of exciting opportunities.

Space Startup Weekend Underway

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Brainstorming (Credit: Douglas Messier)

Brainstorming (Credit: Douglas Messier)

Hey all.

I’m skipping most of the sessions at NewSpace 2014 today to participate in Startup Weekend: Space at the Rainbow Mansion in Cupertino. On a team working on a very cool business plan.

This is a lot of fun. Looking forward to pitching to judges on Sunday evening.

Look for updates over the weekend @spacecom

Judge Recommends Mediation in SpaceX-USAF Dispute

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ULA_logoSpace News has an update on SpaceX’s lawsuit against the U.S. Air Force over the 36-core bulk buy from ULA:

Judge Susan Braden on July 24 directed the two sides to explore a third alternative: mediation. As part of that process, she directed the Air Force to provide SpaceX with information by Aug. 18 on the missions in question to allow the company to determine which ones it could launch. She also ordered the service to explain to SpaceX how it plans to execute the block-buy contract with ULA during the next six months.

At the same time, Braden asked SpaceX to provide, by Sept. 10, a list of proposed issues for mediation, potential mediators and a timetable. The Air Force will then have until Oct. 14 to determine whether SpaceX’s proposed terms for mediation are acceptable.

Meanwhile, Braden denied a motion from ULA to dismiss the lawsuit. ULA had argued that SpaceX waited too long to challenge the contract and thereby waived its legal standing to do so.

But Braden said ULA “has no basis to challenge” SpaceX’s standing. She was silent on the Air Force’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit, which is based on a similar argument.

Read the full story.

GAO: NASA Needs Executable Business Case for SLS

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Artist rendering of the RS-25 engines powering the liftoff of the 70-metric-ton (77-ton) lift capacity configuration SLS from the pad. (Credit: NASA)

Artist rendering of the RS-25 engines powering the liftoff of the 70-metric-ton (77-ton) lift capacity configuration SLS from the pad. (Credit: NASA)

Space Launch System: Resources Need to be Matched to Requirements to Decrease Risk and Support Long Term Affordability
Government Accountability Office
Published: Jul 23, 2014

What GAO Found

The Space Launch System (SLS) program is making solid progress on the SLS design. However, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has not developed an executable business case based on matching the program’s cost and schedule resources with the requirement to develop the vehicle and conduct the first flight test in December 2017 at the required confidence level of 70 percent. NASA uses a calculation referred to as the “joint cost and schedule confidence level” to estimate the probable success of a program meeting its cost and schedule targets. NASA policy usually requires a 70 percent confidence level for a program to proceed with final design and fabrication.

Continue reading ‘GAO: NASA Needs Executable Business Case for SLS’

CubeCab Wins $20K in NewSpace Conference Pitch Competition

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The CubeCab team with their over sized novelty check. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

The CubeCab team with their over sized novelty check. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

A Mountain View, Calif., company called CubeCab that is focused on launching CubeSat into space inexpensively won the $20,000 grand prize in the “Lightning Pitch” competition at the NewSpace Conference on Thursday.

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Space Angels Network Forms Partnership With Space Foundation

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space_angels_networkSeattle, Washington, 24 July 2014 (Space Angels PR) – Space Angels Network, a global network of seed- and early‐stage investors focused on aerospace‐related ventures, and Space Foundation, a global non-profit organization advancing space-related endeavors to inspire, enable, and propel humanity, are proud to announce their new partnership. Through this partnership both organizations will work together to accelerate the growth of the emerging space ecosystem, by promoting entrepreneurial activity and encouraging private investment in commercial space ventures.

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Virgin Galactic Hires USAF Pilot

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Todd Ericson (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

Todd Ericson (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

MOJAVE, Calif., July 24th, 2014 (VG PR) – Virgin Galactic, the privately-funded space company owned by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group and Abu Dhabi’s aabar Investments PJS, announced today that Todd ‘Leif’ Ericson, former Operations and Maintenance Group Commander for the United States Air Force (USAF) has joined the company’s cadre of space pilots.

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Layoffs Reported at SpaceX

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UPDATE: A Friday evening communication from SpaceX Communications Director John Taylor:

“I can tell you that there was an annual review cycle completed recently, along with some rebalancing of resources. Our resulting headcount reduction was less than 5 percent. SpaceX expects to see net positive employee growth in 2014 of approximately 20 percent.”

A reliable source reports SpaceX fired 200 to 300 people over the past week, reportedly for poor performance.

However, speculation focuses on the possibility that the company is experiencing a cash-flow crunch. The company has added thousands of employees in recent years despite a launch rate that is low compared with its main rival, United Launch Alliance.

I’ve asked SpaceX for a comment, but the company has not responded yet.

Virgin Galactic Gears Up for Resumption of Flight Tests

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WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo on the tarmac on Wednesday, July 23, 2014. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo on the tarmac on Wednesday, July 23, 2014. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

Update: No flight on Friday, but there was a hybrid engine test of about 60 seconds on one of the test stands that reportedly went well.

After a six-month gap in flights, it looks as if SpaceShipTwo will once again fly in the Mojave sky, possibly as early as Friday morning.

On Wednesday, SpaceShipTwo was outside on the tarmac underneath its WhiteKnightTwo mother ship for what Virgin Galactic described as a “dry run” for upcoming test flights. There is a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) indicating that the Mojave Air and Space Port’s tower will be open early on Friday morning. It’s possible this is being done to accommodate a SpaceShipTwo test flight, although sometimes the tower opens early for other reasons.

If there is a flight tomorrow, my best guess is it will involve a captive carry or un-powered drop test to evaluate modifications that have been made to SpaceShipTwo. But, perhaps they will surprise us with something more ambitious.

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ATV Ready for its Re-entry Close-up

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Artist’s view of ATV-5’s destructive reentry into Earth’s atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean. (Credit: ESA–D. Ducros, 2014)

Artist’s view of ATV-5’s destructive reentry into Earth’s atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean. (Credit: ESA–D. Ducros, 2014)

PARIS (ESA PR) — As ESA’s remaining supply ferry to the International Space Station burns up in the atmosphere, its final moments as its hull disintegrates will be recorded from the inside by a unique infrared camera.

An ESA-led team designed and developed the Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) Break-Up Camera in just nine months in order to make it on board in time.

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