A Brief History of Spaceport America

Sunset at the “Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space” terminal hangar facility at Spaceport America. (Credit: Bill Gutman/Spaceport America)

UPDATED: 8/20/19, 12:08 p.m. PDT

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Sometime in 2020, if all goes according to plan, British billionaire Richard Branson will board Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo VSS Unity at Spaceport America in New Mexico and take the first commercial suborbital space flight in history.

The landmark flight, which Virgin has been trying to conduct for 15 years, will also be the culmination of a 30-year effort by New Mexico to become a commercial space power.

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This Week on The Space Show

This week on The Space Show with Dr. David Livingston:

1. Monday, August 19, 2019; 7-8:30 PM PDT (9-10:30 pm CDT; 10-11:30 PM EDT) No show on Monday which is now reserved for special programming.

2. Tuesday, August 20 , 2019: 7-8:30 PM PDT (9-10:30 pm CDT; 10-11:30 PM EDT): We welcome back RAND SIMBERG to talk about Planetary Protection and tiny tardigrades having crash-landed on the Moon.

3. Wednesday, Wednesday, August 21 , 2019: Hotel Mars. See Upcoming Show Menu and the website newsletter for details. Hotel Mars is pre-recorded by John Batchelor. It is archived on The Space Show site after John posts it on his website.

4. Friday, August 23, 2019; 9:30-11 AM PDT; 11:30 AM-1 PM CDT; 12:30-2 PM EDT. We welcome back JEFF GREASON to the show.

5. Sunday, August 25, 2019 12-1:30 PM PDT, (3-4:30 PM EDT, 2-3:30 PM CDT): Welcome back to JOHN BUCKNELL re space nuclear propulsion.

Softbank Writes Down $424.7 Million Investment in OneWeb

Ouch!

Citing a story in the Sunday Telegraph, City A.M. reports that Softbank took a £380 million ($424.7 million) impairment loss on its investment in OneWeb. Softbank is the largest shareholder in the Internet satellite company.

Airbus, Qualcomm and Virgin Group are among other shareholders in the London-based satellite firm, which boasts a valuation of more than $1bn (£823m) and has earned sought-after “unicorn” status.

In addition to the Softbank writedown, some early investors have lost as much as half of the value of their stakes, according to the report

Oneweb, which secured $1.25bn in its latest Softbank-led funding round, has ramped up its plans for satellite production amid competition from Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’s Amazon.

Rocket Lab’s Electron Booster Orbits Four Satellites

Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket successfully orbited four small satellites on Monday from its launch complex on the Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand,

Rocket Lab’s eighth mission carried four satellites, including: a Cubesat for French maritime surveillance company UNSEENLABS ; BlackSky’s Global-4 Earth-imaging satellite; and two U.S. Air Force Space Command experimental satellites designed to test new propulsion, power, communications, and drag technologies.

Aevum Wins USAF Contract to Explore Autonomous Launch Capabilities for Responsive Launch and Space Logistics

Ravn air-launch system (Credit: Aevum)

Huntsville, Alabama – The U.S. Air Force (USAF) has awarded Aevum a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I contract for its fully autonomous launch and space logistics service. Aevum’s unique platform can launch small satellites with response times as low as 180-minutes, measured from mission conceptualization to orbital insertion to data downlink, to any low Earth orbit.

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NASA Television Coverage Set for Uncrewed Soyuz Mission to Space Station

Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft docking at the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — An uncrewed Russian Soyuz spacecraft is set to launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Wednesday, Aug. 21, at 11:38 p.m. EDT (8:38 a.m. Aug. 22 Baikonur time) on a test flight to validate the spacecraft’s compatibility with a revamped Soyuz booster rocket. The booster will be used to transport crews to the International Space Station beginning in spring 2020.

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Rocket Lab Launch Reset for Tuesday New Zealand Time

Electron lifts off with U.S. Air Force satellites. (Credit: Rocket Lab)

After a scrub due to high winds, Rocket Lab has rescheduled its latest Electron Look Ma, No Hands launch for no earlier than Tuesday, Aug. 20 at 12:12 am NZST (12:12 UTC/8:12 am EDT).

Rocket Lab’s eighth mission will carry four satellites, including: a Cubesat for French maritime surveillance company UNSEENLABS ; BlackSky’s Global-4 Earth-imaging satellite; and two U.S. Air Force Space Command experimental satellites designed to test new propulsion, power, communications, and drag technologies.

Rocket Lab will webcast the launch at www.rocketlabusa.com.

Kleos Space Luxembourg: A Space-powered Data Business

Andy Bowyer (Credit: Luxembourg Space Agency)

Andy Bowyer, CEO and Founder of Kleos Space Luxembourg, shines a light on dark activity at sea.

Luxembourg Space Agency Q&A

Can you tell a little bit about how you ended up in the space industry?

Well, I think you can do lots of things in your life if you have a skill. An engineering skill, or a commercial skill, a marketing skill, finance, or what have you.

The important thing, however, is the context you’re working in. The work is the same, whether you’re engineering in a nuclear substation, or an automotive company. The engineering is very similar to space engineering in a lot of senses, but the context is different, and the parameters are different.

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Luxembourg, NorthStar to Cooperate on a Common Clean Space Initiative

MONTREAL (Luxembourg Space Agency PR) — During the visit of Luxembourg’s Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of the Economy, Étienne Schneider to the NorthStar Earth & Space headquarters in Montreal, a cooperation was launched to enable a Clean Space initiative to foster sustainability in space.

The Clean Space initiative would evaluate the use of NorthStar Earth and Space Information services with the support of Luxembourg’s insurance, financial and satellite operator communities to address some of the key issues related to space traffic management, sustainable commercialization of space activities, insurance products for space operations to promote growth in commercial space activities, and satellite operational challenges.

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New Chinese Booster Launches 3 Satellites

Xinhua reports that a new Smart Dragon-1 booster launched three satellites into orbit from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on its maiden flight.

The rocket, developed by the China Rocket Co. Ltd. affiliated to the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALVT), blasted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China at 12:11 p.m. (Beijing Time).

The three satellites, respectively developed by three Beijing-based companies, will be used for remote sensing services, communication and Internet of Things.

Different from the carrier rockets of the Long March family, the new Dragon series is developed in a commercial mode to meet the market demand of launching small commercial satellites, said Wang Xiaojun, head of CALVT.

The SD-1, with a total length of 19.5 meters, a diameter of 1.2 meters, and a takeoff weight of about 23.1 tonnes, is a small-scale solid-propellant carrier rocket capable of sending 200 kg payloads to the solar synchronous orbit at an altitude of 500 km.

ISRO Asks Private Companies to Build PSLV

PSLV booster launches EMISAT. (Credit: ISRO)

The Times of India reports that ISRO is asking commercial companies to build its workhorse booster for the first time:

In a major push for PM Narendra Modi’s Make-in-India initiative, the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) has finally invited Indian companies to build five Polar Satellite Launch Vehicles (PSLVs).

Confirming this on Friday, Isro chairman K Sivan told TOI: “At this moment we have called for an EOI (expression of interest), and it is not open for any foreign firm. Isro has been considering this for a while, and we think this will boost the Make-in-India initiative of the government.”

Babin Disappointed in NASA Decision to Make NASA Marshall Lead Center for Lunar Lander

Astronauts explore a crater at the lunar south pole. (Credit: NASA)

DEER PARK, Texas – Congressman Brian Babin (TX-36) issued the following statement in response to NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine’s announcement today awarding the lunar lander program management to Marshall Space Flight Center.

“I am disappointed by the decision from NASA to not place the lunar lander program management at the Johnson Space Center (JSC),” said Babin. “Marshall Space Flight Center does tremendous work for our nation’s space program, but the knowledge base and skill set for this task unquestionably resides at JSC where the Apollo lunar lander program was successfully managed. Yesterday, I joined Senators Cruz and Cornyn in sending a letter to NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine requesting that this decision be reconsidered.”

To view the letter sent to Administrator Bridenstine, please click here.

Northrop Grumman Becomes First Commercial Partner to Use Vehicle Assembly Building

From left to right, Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana, Northrop Grumman Vice President and OmegA Capture Lead Kent Rominger, and Col. Thomas Ste. Marie, vice commander of the U.S. Air Force’s 45th Space Wing, cut the ribbon in High Bay 2. (Credits: NASA/Kim Shiflett)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — After spending more than 50 years supporting NASA’s human spaceflight programs, the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), a landmark at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, is getting its first commercial tenant.

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NASA Selects Smallsat Proposals for Satellites to Study Space Weather

In this image, taken by the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory on Feb. 27, 2000, a coronal mass ejection is seen erupting from the Sun, which is hidden by the disk in the middle, so the fainter material around it can be seen. (Credits: ESA/NASA/SOHO)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has selected two proposals to demonstrate small satellite technologies to improve science observations in deep space, which could help NASA develop better models to predict space weather events that can affect astronauts and spacecraft.

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NASA Marshall to Lead Artemis Program’s Human Lunar Lander Development

Astronauts explore a crater at the lunar south pole. (Credit: NASA)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala., August 16, 2019 (NASA PR) — NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine was joined Friday by U.S. Representatives Mo Brooks and Robert Aderholt of Alabama and Scott DesJarlais of Tennessee at the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, to announce the center’s new role leading the agency’s Human Landing System Program for its return to the Moon by 2024.

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