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2014 in Review: Mojave’s Difficult Year

Mojave Air and Space Port CEO Stu Witt (Credit: Bill Deaver)

Mojave Air and Space Port CEO Stu Witt (Credit: Bill Deaver)

“2014 will be a fun ride. We welcome you to get onboard, strap in and hold on!”

Stu Witt

CEO & General Manager
Mojave Air and Space Port
Jan. 9, 2014

Stu Witt had a lot of reasons to be optimistic as 2014 began. The Mojave spaceport was on a roll. On Jan. 10, Scaled Composites conducted the third powered flight of SpaceShipTwo in less than 9 months. XCOR was making steady progress on the Lynx and a new hydrogen engine for ULA, Stratolaunch was busy building the world’s largest aircraft, and other tenants such as Masten and Firestar had successes over the past year.

Continue reading ‘2014 in Review: Mojave’s Difficult Year’

Moon Express to Locate Test Operations in Florida

An artist illustration of the Moon Express MX-1 lunar lander on its mission to the moon. (Credit: Moon Express)

An artist illustration of the Moon Express MX-1 lunar lander on its mission to the moon. (Credit: Moon Express)

Florida Today reports on Moon Express relocating part of its operations to Florida:

Silicon Valley-based Moon Express tomorrow will announce plans to sign a five-year lease with Space Florida to base its propulsion and test flight operations at Launch Complex 36, the site of former Atlas pads that launched NASA spacecraft to the moon and Mars.

The announcement comes several months after the privately-funded company began testing a small, doughnut-shaped spacecraft at Kennedy Space Center’s shuttle runway, a precursor to the vehicle it hopes will capture the Google Lunar XPRIZE….

An initial group of 25 to 50 employees will include some relocating from the company’s headquarters at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California, and an office in Huntsville, Alabama. Among them is Tim Pickens, lead designer of the engine for SpaceShipOne, the first privately developed craft to put people in space in 2004.

They will also include local hires, potentially building up to a team of 100 or 200 employees here, ranging from machine shop workers to spacecraft engineers….

The state agency recently approved spending $250,000 to match Moon Express’ first investment in facility upgrades at Launch Complex 36, one of two state-run pads on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, that Richards said over time could top $10 million.

NASA, Boeing & SpaceX Discuss Plan for Launching American Astronauts


HOUSTON (NASA PR) — NASA, Boeing and SpaceX will hold a news briefing on NASA Television at the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston at noon EST (11 a.m. CST) Monday, Jan. 26, to highlight key development activities, test plans and objectives for achieving certification of two American crew transportation systems.

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Roscosmos Merged With United Rocket & Space Corporation

Dmitry Medvedev meets with Igor Komarov. (Credit: Government of Russian Federation)

Dmitry Medvedev meets with Igor Komarov. (Credit: Government of Russian Federation)

The  Russian space agency Roscosmos is being merged with the United Rocket and Space Corporation, the government-owned company that is consolidating all of the nation’s space assets under its control. Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin Tweeted:

The Government expects Roscosmos to put forward a draft law on creating a state corporation in the coming days Putin supported Medvedev’s proposal to create a state corporation on the basis of Roscosmos and United Rocket and Space Corporation

He is, of course, referring to President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.

The Russian government has Tweeted a picture of Medvedev meeting with URSC Director General Igor Komarov, who is apparently now the head of Roscosmos. That means Oleg Ostapenko is out as Roscosmos chief.

The appears appears to be modeled on the Rosatom State Nuclear Energy Corporation, which consolidated Russia’s nuclear industry. It’s an interesting move given that the United States and Europe are looking to the private sector to be innovative and carry more of the burden in space.

Seattle, Mojave Duel to be Silicon Valley of Space

Elon Musk (Credit: SpaceX)

Elon Musk (Credit: SpaceX)

With last week’s visit of Elon Musk and his announcement of a new facility to design and build a 4,000-satellite constellation, Seattle Weekly is reviving the region’s claim to be the “Silicon Valley of space.”

That might be a bit of a surprise to Silicon Valley, the home of some cool space start-ups and the source (via Google) of a lot of Musk’s satellite money.

The moniker is also probably surprising to some folks in Mojave, which also has staked its claim to that title from time to time. Valley Public Radio talks to Mojave Air and Space Port CEO/General Manager Stu Witt and Leonard David of about Mojave, commercial space and the loss of SpaceShipTwo.

Is Kern County The Next Frontier For Aerospace Innovation?

It’s a bit of a disappointing discussion. Both Leonard and Stu appear more afraid of the government coming in with regulations than they are of Scaled continuing to kill people on this program. Ten years, four deaths and one wrecked spaceship later, and this program hasn’t come anywhere near space.

That’s not exactly a shining example of NewSpace competency. And shouldn’t that raise some basic questions about Scaled, its design and safety protocols, and Virgin Galactic’s rush to move forward?

And, as the FAA’s George Nield has pointed out, these guys aren’t exactly the Wright brothers. They’re not inventing a new mode of transportation from whole cloth. People have been flying into space for more than 50 years. There’s a lot of good, proven safety practices out there. Without some mandatory regulations, Nield fears that some irresponsible operator will ruin it for everyone in the industry.

That’s the argument, anyway. Whether you agree with it or not, it would have been nice if it had come up in the discussion. I guarantee you it will be a point of contention at the FAA Commercial Space Transportation Conference next month.

Ukrainian Space Workers Rally for Back Pay

The first stage of Orbital Sciences Corporation's Antares rocket is shipped out from Yuzhnoye design bureau in Ukraine. (Credt: Yuzhnoye)

The first stage of Orbital Sciences Corporation’s Antares rocket is shipped out from Yuzhnoye design bureau in Ukraine. (Credt: Yuzhnoye)

Interfax-Ukraine reports that workers at the A.M. Makarov Southern Machine-Building Plant (PA Yuzhmash) in Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine held a rally to protest the lack of pay and work.

The workers build Zenit and Cyclone-4 boosters as well as the first stage of Orbital Sciences Corporation’s Antares launch vehicle and the fourth stage for Europe’s Vega rocket. They are also involved in Dnepr, a decommissioned ballistic missile that has been converted into a satellite launcher.

The report indicates that since last July, employees have been working only three days per week and are pay $200 to $300 only once or twice per month. There’s also been a lack of new orders for their products.

The company owes about $150 million in back salaries and other payments, according to the story.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, whose country is responsible for much of Ukraine’s misery, Tweeted the following:


Video: NASA, Scott Kelly Get SOTU Shout Outs From President Obama


President Barack Obama recognizes NASA and Astronaut Scott Kelly at the 2015 State of the Union Address.

Atlas V Launches U.S. Navy Satellite

Atlas V launches MUOS-3 satellite. (Credit: ULA)

Atlas V launches MUOS-3 satellite. (Credit: ULA)

Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., (Jan. 20, 2015) – A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying the third Mobile User Objective System satellite for the United States Navy launched from Space Launch Complex-41 at 8:04 p.m. EST today. The MUOS-3 spacecraft will ensure continued mission capability of the existing Ultra High Frequency Satellite Communications system that will provide improved and assured mobile communications to the warfighter.

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Video Look at Upcoming Year-Long Mission on ISS


Video Caption: The launch of Soyuz TMA-16M will return three veteran space fliers to the International Space Station, with two of them embarking on the first ever yearlong mission to this vehicle.

NanoRacks: The Fastest Space Manifester in the West


nano_racks_logoWebster, TX—January 13 2014 — NanoRacks successfully manifested payloads onto SpaceX-5 in record time: nine days. Historically, it takes months, years even, to successfully manifest a payload for delivery to the International Space Station. But that speed is too slow for the agile commercial space industry.

NanoRacks was able to manifest CubeSats under a nine day deadline, and MixStix experiments in under one-month. That’s how little time there was to manifest payloads onto SpaceX-5 after the loss of Orb-3, and the company, working side by side with NASA and our customers, made it happen.

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