Virgin Galactic vs. XCOR: Two Very Different Approaches

Space Up Houston August 2011 from Schipul – The Web Marketing Co. on Vimeo.

Virgin Galactic’s Will Pomerantz and XCOR Aerospace’s Khaki McKee both gave updates on their companies’ suborbital vehicles during the recent Houston SpaceUp conference. For the benefit of those who don’t have time to watch the full video above, I’ve summarized their presentations below in a convenient side-by-side table to allow for an easy comparison.


Video: SpaceUp Houston’s Commercial Space Panel

Space Up Houston August 2011 from Schipul – The Web Marketing Co. on Vimeo.

A video of the Commercial Spaceflight panel at SpaceUp Houston that featured:

  • Will Pomerantz: Virgin Galactic
  • Neil Milburn: Armadillo Aerospace
  • Khaki McKee: XCOR Aerospace
  • Mike Burghardt – The Boeing Company
  • John Curry – Sierra Nevada Corporation
  • Jeff Patton: United Launch Alliance.

XCOR Wins NASA Contract for Suborbital Flight Services

August 12, 2011, Mojave, CA (XCOR PR):
  NASA has selected XCOR Aerospace to provide suborbital flight and payload integration services for research and scientific missions in a program that will offer up to $10 million dollars in contracts to match payload customers with flight vehicle services. The awards were announced by NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program, a part of NASA’s Office of the Chief Technologist at NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC that is managed at Dryden Flight Research Center in Edwards, California.


NASA Selects 7 Companies for Suborbital Research Flights

SpaceShipTwo glides downward on its first test flight. (Photo: Mark Greenberg)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has selected seven companies to integrate and fly technology payloads on commercial suborbital reusable platforms that carry payloads near the boundary of space. The selected companies are:

— Armadillo Aerospace, Heath, Texas
— Near Space Corp., Tillamook, Ore.
— Masten Space Systems, Mojave, Calif.
— Up Aerospace Inc., Highlands Ranch, Colo.
— Virgin Galactic, Mojave, Calif.
— Whittinghill Aerospace LLC, Camarillo, Calif.
— XCOR, Mojave, Calif.

As part of NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program, each successful vendor will receive an indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract. These two-year contracts, worth a combined total of $10 million, will allow NASA to draw from a pool of commercial space companies to deliver payload integration and flight services. The flights will carry a variety of payloads to help meet the agency’s research and technology needs.


SwRI Scientists Prep for Suborbital Science Missions

SWRI — PR Boulder, Colo. — July 25, 2011 — Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) announced in February that it had contracted multiple suborbital flights for its own astronaut payload specialists as part of a larger effort to promote the development of commercial human spaceflight. Preparations for these flights are proceeding and will be flown on a combination SwRI manifest of XCOR Lynx I and Virgin Galactic SpaceShip2 vehicles. The Lynx I missions will reach altitudes of about 200,000 feet; the SpaceShip 2 missions will reach altitudes near 350,000 feet.


XCOR’s Lynx to Fly Suborbital Observatory

PSI PR — The Planetary Science Institute (PSI) and XCOR Aerospace have signed a Memorandum of Understanding that lays the groundwork for flying the human-operated Atsa Suborbital Observatory aboard XCOR’s Lynx spacecraft.

The Atsa project will use crewed reusable suborbital spacecraft equipped with a specially designed telescope to provide low-cost space-based observations above the contaminating atmosphere of Earth, while avoiding some operational constraints of satellite telescope systems.


Space Access ’11: XCOR’s Jeff Greason

XCOR CEO Jeff Greason

Jeff Greason
CEO, XCOR Aerospace

One of few companies in NewSpace not founded by someone with deep pockets

Right now, things are going well…money isn’t falling out of the sky, but excellent income stream on contracts

XCOR is on track already to be tied for best year ever

Several contracts that are in the works that he hasn’t announced yet…if they are finalized, XCOR will have best year ever


XCOR Made Significant Technological Progress in 2010

The FAA’s 2011 U.S. Commercial Space Transportation Developments and Concepts: Vehicles, Technologies, and Spaceports report highlights a pair of significant advancements by XCOR Aerospace in 2010. They involve significant progress on a new type of piston pump engine that could make turbopumps obsolete. XCOR also completed a series of crucial wind tunnel tests on its Lynx suborbital vehicle.

Both achievements are worth a closer look. Excerpts from the report follow with my notes in italics.


SwRI Purchases Six XCOR Lynx Flights

XCOR's Lynx suborbital vehicle

XCOR/MOJAVE, Calif. — In a first for the reusable suborbital launch vehicle industry, XCOR Aerospace announced today that the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), a commercial entity, has purchased six suborbital flights to carry SwRI experiments and payload specialists.  This is the first such contract SwRI has issued, and XCOR is proud to be chosen for this opportunity.


Xtraordinary Adventures Hires Famed Spaceflight Risk Expert

XCOR's Lynx suborbital vehicle

February 19, 2011

One of the nation’s leading experts in space flight safety and risk assessment, Dr. Feng Hsu recently agreed to support suborbital space flight by helping guide the International affairs of Xtraordinary Adventures, a Florida space travel agency representing XCOR’s Lynx spaceplane.


UAE Becomes Center of Middle East’s Space Effort

The seven-state United Arab Emirates is quickly becoming the center of the Middle East’s space effort, with agreements with Virgin Galactic for a suborbital spaceport and Bigelow Aerospace to develop an orbital spaceflight program. In the process, it is riding the crest of a new commercial wave in how human spaceflight will be conducted.

UAE might have the first commercial suborbital spaceport outside of the United States should the American government allows Virgin Galactic to export its WhiteKnightTwo/SpaceShipTwo system.


NASA SBIR Contract to Fund XCOR Composite Fuel Tank Development

XCOR's Lynx suborbital vehicle

NASA recently announced that it would be conducting contract negotiations for 350 projects under its SBIR and STTR programs, which are aimed at promoting space technology development by small businesses. Parabolic Arc will be looking at a number of the proposals involving NewSpace companies that it regularly covers or which encompass interesting technologies.

LOCATION:Mojave, Calif.
PROPOSAL TITLE:Cryogenic Composite Tank Fabrication for Reusable Launch Vehicles
SUBTOPIC TITLE:Advanced Composite Tank and Materials Technologies


XCOR has conducted extensive research and development, and material characterization analysis of a nonflammable, high-strength, lightweight thermoplastic fluoropolymer composite material, trademarked NonburniteTM, which is suitable for making reusable, reliable, low cost cryogenic tanks and structures for space flight service.


KLM Support for Lynx Space Tourism Flights to Include Frequent Flyer Miles, Vacation Packages

XCOR's Lynx suborbital vehicle


Today KLM Royal Dutch Airlines announced to the Netherlands press that they were embarking upon a new relationship with Space Experience Curaçao (SXC). KLM will be supporting future suborbital flights through purchases, inclusion in their frequent flyer program, inclusion in future KLM vacation packages to Curacao, and other yet-to-be-named support. The flights will be made on the XCOR Lynx suborbital spacecraft.


KLM to Sell XCOR Lynx Tickets for Curaçao Space Tourism Flights

The spaceport terminal in Curaçao should give the one in New Mexico a run for its money.

Dutch airlines KLM will handle ticket sales and promotions for Lynx suborbital flights out of Curaçao, according to media reports. KLM has registered for the first flight from the island in the Dutch Antilles, which is set for 2014. The company will enable frequent fliers to put their points toward flights into space. The flights, which will go to an altitude of 100 kilometers, are being managed by Space Experience Curaçao under a “wet lease” agreement with California-based XCOR.

This is a significant step forward for XCOR, an engineering-focused company that has had difficulty with its marketing and promotional operations. It has pre-sold a small number of tickets, many of them to the company’s investors.

A big shout out to Clark Lindsey at Hobby Space for finding this story.