Sir Richard Bransonâ€™s Virgin Galactic, LLC (VG), the worldâ€™s first commercial spaceline, today announced that it will be supporting Sierra Nevada Space Systemsâ€™ (SNC) and Orbital Sciences Corporation’s (OSC) work on commercial space vehicles.
For the first time it will give not only professional scientists and other crew astronauts but also fare-paying passengers the chance to experience safe orbital space flight at lower costs.
Orbital Sciences Corporation (NYSE: ORB) today announced that it has submitted a proposal to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in response to the Commercial Crew Development-2 contract solicitation. The company also provided several top-level details of its proposal for providing safe and affordable transportation services to and from the International Space Station (ISS) and for commercial activities in Earth orbit. Orbitalâ€™s concept includes the following details:
A â€œblended lifting bodyâ€ vehicle that will launch atop an expendable launch vehicle and return to Earth with a conventional runway landing. This design derives from studies performed by Orbital for NASA under the Orbital Space Plane program between 2000 and 2003.
The vehicle would seat four astronauts, providing a cost-effective solution for NASAâ€™s astronaut transportation needs, as well as enabling future commercial applications.
The proposal baselines using a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, but is flexible enough to accommodate other launch vehicle options.
Orbital Sciences Corporation (NYSE: ORB) announced today that former White House Space Policy Director Peter J. Marquez has joined the company as Vice President of Strategy and Planning. In his new role, Mr. Marquez will be responsible for helping to develop the companyâ€™s strategic approach to opportunities in civil and military space programs that can be addressed with Orbitalâ€™s reliable and affordable small- and medium-class space systems. He will report to Senior Vice President Michael Hamel, Lt. Gen., U. S. Air Force (retired), who heads the companyâ€™s corporate strategy and development activities.
Wired has more about the X-34s from Dave Huntsman, an engineer with NASA’s Exploration Systems Mission Directorate, who spearheaded the effort to pull the hypersonic vehicles out of storage:
â€œThe real idea didnâ€™t come from me, or my Dryden buddies, or from Orbital Sciences who built them [the X-34s],â€ Huntsman wrote. â€œIt came during a week in October 2009, simultaneously, at a workshop in Dayton, Ohio (where the Air Force Research Lab is based at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base), from two different entrepreneurial space companies.â€
A Wednesday call to Orbital Sciences, the original manufacturers of the X-34, resulted in a brief conversation with a bemused company official. Barry Berneski, Orbitalâ€™s communications director, said he had read the X-34 news, but had heard nothing on the subject from inside the firm. â€œThey might be just trying get it out of Edwardsâ€™ valuable real estate,â€ Berneski said of the 59-foot-long space planes, only one of which ever flew â€” and just once â€” before the program was canceled on cost grounds in 2001…
The idea to ship the X-34s to Mojave and inspect them originated with a Dryden-based NASA engineer, Brown said. â€œWhen he found out this thing stillÂ existed â€¦ he decided people should take a look to see if it could be refurbished and made flightworthy.â€ Thatâ€™s when the contractors came to retrieve the two neglected spacecraft, pictured above en route to the Mojave.
But that doesnâ€™t mean NASA has formal plans to operate the X-34s under its own auspices, now or ever, Brown stressed. Provided theyâ€™re in flyable shape, itâ€™s far more likely the space agency will make the X-34s available to private industry. â€œThere are a number of firms interested in these things, developing communications and other technologies,â€ Brown said. â€œIt would be helpful if they had a vehicle.â€
After the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, newly independent Ukraine was left with some significant space assets from which to buildÂ a national program. Ukrainian companies build the Zenit, Cyclone and Dnepr launch vehicles that are used for satellite delivery. The nation also recently shipped the first stage for Orbital Sciences Corporation’s new Taurus II rocket.Â Ukrainian companies contribute to the construction of Russian Soyuz and Progress vehicles, which ferry crews and supplies to the International Space Station. Ukraine also has the capability of building satellites and defense systems and has ground receiving stations.
The National Space Agency of Ukraine under Dr. Yuriy Alekseyev oversees the country’s space efforts.Â Although overshadowed by its larger Russian counterpart, Roscosmos,Â the NSAU is building on its Soviet-era foundation in an effort to become a force in international space.Â The agency has continued to move forward despite funding difficulties, a global recession, and the bankruptcy of the Sea Launch consortium that uses the Zenit rocket. The nation, whose commercial space industry totaled $254 million in 2009, remains heavily dependent upon the Russian market although it is making major efforts at increasing its international cooperation and standing.
The two X-34 hypersonic research aircraft developed by Orbital Sciences Corp. to serve as flight demonstrators for a NASA rocket engine technology development program in the mid-1990s were transported overland via truck from NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base to the Mojave Air and Spaceport Nov. 16-17. The two technology demonstrators will be stored temporarily at a hangar operated by the National Test Pilot School while undergoing inspections by Orbital Sciences personnel to determine if they are viable for flight.
Ukraine has shipped the first stage of Orbital Sciences Corporation’s Taurus II rocket to the United States. has reported.”The assembly of the basic part of the first stage of the booster was completed at the Makarov Yuzhny Machine Building Plant in October. The cargo left the port of Oktiabrsk in Mykolaiv region for the Wallops Flight Facility,” the Yuzhnoye State Design Office said in a statement.
Orbital Sciences Corporation announced that it held a formal dedication ceremony earlier today to mark the completion of a new facility that will serve as the Mission Operations Center (MOC) for the companyâ€™s cargo logistics missions to the International Space Station (ISS) for NASA that begin in 2011. The ribbon-cutting event was attended by NASAâ€™s Administrator Charles F. Bolden, Jr. and several other senior representatives of the space agency.
Spaceflight Nowreports that the schedule has slipped for Orbital Sciences Corporation’s test flights of the Taurus II rocket and the Cygnus freighter designed to resupply the International Space Station. The current schedule is:
Taurus II without Cygnus — July to September 2011
Taurus II with Cygnus — Two or three months later
Taurus II with Cygnus to ISS: Early 2012
OSC had been originally aiming to launch the first Taurus II in March 2011. However, that schedule had slipped several months already.
Aerojet, a GenCorp company, announced that its AJ26 engine was hot-fire tested today at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. In support of the TaurusÂ® II launch vehicle program, Orbital Sciences Corporation (Orbital), Aerojet and NASA conducted this first of three hot-fire engine tests to be performed throughout the next several weeks.
Two aerospace companies have reserved space at the Mission Support Center of the California Space Center (CSC). The CSC will be built on a 71-acre site at Vandenberg Air Force Base in Santa Barbara County. The companies â€“ SpaceX and Orbital Sciences — have requested a total of more than 25,000 square feet for offices and a command and control center. The first phase of the Mission Support Center will include about 100,000 square feet of Class-A office space a mile from the front gate of VAFB on Highway 1.
Gov. Bill Ritter today congratulated two Colorado aerospace companies for winning NASA contracts. Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Denver and United Launch Alliance of Littleton were two of four companies awarded contracts by NASA to be used for various NASA satellite launch projects.
â€œLockheed Martin and United Launch Alliance are two great companies at the forefront of one of Coloradoâ€™s largest and most innovative economic sectors,â€ Gov. Ritter said. â€œThe fact that two out of the four contracts awarded were to Colorado companies, highlights the strength of the aerospace industry here in Colorado. This will add jobs to an industry that is already strong in this state and position the aerospace industry to continue to be a huge part of Coloradoâ€™s future.â€
The contract has the ability to service 70 launch missions for NASA with a combined value of up to $15 billion for the four companies receiving awards. The other two companies awarded contracts were Orbital Sciences Corporation of Dulles, VA., and Exploration Technologies of Hawthorne, CA.
NASA has announced the awards for the NASA Launch Services (NLS) II Contract. The award will provide a broad range of launch services for NASAâ€™s planetary, Earth-observing, exploration and scientific satellites.
Currently, most DoD launches are handled by the EELV program, not known for its low costs or lack of cost growth over the last five years. EELV launches cost around $250 million a pop. Orbitalâ€™s Pieczynski estimates his company can provide Taurus 2 launches for â€œquite a bit south of $100 million a launch.â€ He would not get more specific. There are around three DoD launches for payloads of 10,000 pounds to 12,000 pounds each year, Pieczynski said.