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SpaceX Reports Surge in Launch Orders

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BREAKING NEWS: Jim Tighe to Depart Scaled Composites — UPDATED

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SpaceShipTwo on a glide flight with WhiteKnightTwo above it. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

SpaceShipTwo on a glide flight with WhiteKnightTwo above it. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

Updated with statement from Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The chief aerodynamicist credited with designing SpaceShipTwo is departing the program on the eve of a crucial series of flight tests designed that Virgin Galactic hopes will lead to the start of commercial suborbital space tourism operations early next year.

Multiple sources have confirmed that Jim Tighe announced on Thursday that he would be leaving his position as chief aerodynamicist at Scaled Composites in two weeks for a job at an unnamed aerospace company. It is not clear what prompted the move.

Update: Reports indicate Tighe will be working for an aviation start-up based in Silicon Valley.

Continue reading ‘BREAKING NEWS: Jim Tighe to Depart Scaled Composites — UPDATED’

Satellite Operators Tell ESA to Stop Bickering, Move Fast on Building Ariane 6

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Artist's impression of Ariane 6. (Credit: ESA)

Artist’s impression of Ariane 6. (Credit: ESA)

Space News reports that European satellite fleet operators want ESA to move forward quickly with building an Ariane 5 successor:

A group including the world’s largest commercial satellite fleet operators has written the European Space Agency urging that it approve a new-generation Ariane 6 in time for a first launch in 2019 or face relegating the European rocket to commercial also-ran status.

The letter to ESA Director Jean-Jacques Dordain makes clear that these fleet operators have a ho-hum view of the Ariane 5 ME vehicle that ESA governments are weighing alongside a new-generation Ariane 6.

Given the advent of electric propulsion and the dramatic launch-cost reduction offered by Space Exploration Technologies Corp., the operators say, the new Ariane 6 needs to be in service by 2019 or face the risk that Europe’s Arianespace launch consortium will be permanently sidelined.

The letter was signed by six members of the European Satellite Operators Association. Signatories included the chief executives of Intelsat, SES, Eutelsat, Inmarsat, Hispasat and HellasSat.

That’s a pretty weighty group. Maybe it will break the impasse over what to do next.

Ariane 5 ME is an interim step that would allow the Ariane 5 to carry heavier payloads. The launch vehicle carries one large communications satellite and a lighter one.

WhiteKnightTwo Visits Spaceport America

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WhiteKnightTwo visited Spaceport America for the first time in three years on Wednesday. Below, you can see a full-scale model of SpaceShipTwo on the ramp. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

WhiteKnightTwo visited Spaceport America for the first time in three years on Wednesday. Below, you can see a full-scale model of SpaceShipTwo on the ramp. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

LAS CRUCES, NM., Sept. 11, 2014 (NMSA PR) – Virgin Galactic, the privately-funded space company owned by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group and Abu Dhabi’s aabar Investments PJS, deployed WhiteKnightTwo to Spaceport America for two days of flying in the New Mexico and El Paso air space. With this exercise, the world’s first commercial spaceline continues its test program incorporating pilots and team members who are responsible for the flight program.
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CSF Elects Frank DiBello as New Chairman, Adds New Associate Member

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Space Florida President Frank DiBello

Space Florida President Frank DiBello

Washington D.C. – The Commercial Spaceflight Federation is pleased to announce that it has elected Frank DiBello, President and CEO of Space Florida, as its new Chairman succeeding Stuart Witt, CEO of Mojave Air & Space Port. At its semi-annual Board of Directors meeting this week in Jacksonville, Florida, the CSF also elected Mike Gold of Bigelow Aerospace and Sean Mahoney of Masten Space Systems to the Executive Committee of the Board, joining DiBello, Tim Hughes (SpaceX), Rob Meyerson (Blue Origin) and Mark Sirangelo (Sierra Nevada Corporation), who were reelected.

Also at the meeting, the full Board approved adding Interflight Global Corporation to the associate membership of the organization.

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Spaceflight Offers First Deep Space Rideshare Opportunity

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SEATTLE (Spaceflight PR) — Spaceflight is proud to announce the first ever commercial rideshare opportunity to deep space in Q3 2016. We are manifesting customers up to 300 kilograms on a commercial Earth Escape mission. With positive C3, we will be able to launch the first CubeSats and SmallSats outside of low Earth orbit.

For this specific mission, our pricing is:

deep_space_rideshare_costs

For our standard pricing, please visit our website pricing, or contact us at info@spaceflightservices.com if you have any further questions on this launch opportunity.

Phil Brzytwa & The Spaceflight Team

Putin Takes Direct Control of Russian Military Industrial Complex

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Vladimir Putin inspects construction at Vostochny. (Credit:  Presidential Press and Information Office)

Vladimir Putin inspects construction at Vostochny. (Credit: Presidential Press and Information Office)

Russian Leader-for-Life Vladimir Putin has tightened his already tight control over Russia’s military industrial complex, taking personal control of the commission responsible for carrying 0ut Russia’s defense orders and demoting Dmitry “Trampoline Rocket” Rogozin in the process.

The Moscow Times reports that Putin warned of burgeoning security threats facing Russia as he took personal control of the Military-Industrial Commission. Under Rogozin, the commission has been unable to break a cycle of “widespread corruption, inefficiency and incompetence” that have made it difficult for contractors to deliver as promised.

“I hope the commission’s new status [under the presidential administration] and its broad powers will allow it to better coordinate the interaction between the Defense Ministry and other departments and enterprises of the military-industrial complex,” Putin said Wednesday.

Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, the commission’s previous chief, has been dumped down to the position of deputy following the reshuffle.

The new arrangement “will increase the efficiency of state policy in the military-industrial sphere and the … security of the country,” Putin said during a meeting of the commission, according to a transcript on the Kremlin’s website.

Rogozin’s role had been to oversee the defense and space sectors. Despite his demotion, he will continue to have a major role in the space industry, which is being consolidated under a single government-run corporation. Last week, Putin gave him the responsibility for overseeing the completion of the new Vostochny spaceport, which had been managed by Roscosmos.

Putin’s move was made amid a major effort to modernize Russia’s military forces and capabilities. Russia also wants to reduce its dependence on foreign suppliers at a time when it’s facing sanctions over its annexation of Crimea and hostile actions in eastern Ukraine.

Snecma Vinci Engine Completes Development Tests

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Vinci engine (Credit: Snecma)

Vinci engine (Credit: Snecma)

VERNON, France (Snecma PR) – The fifth development model (M5) of the Vinci® rocket engine designed by Snecma (Safran), has successfully completed its ground firing tests.

Vinci® is a new-generation cryogenic rocket engine – fueled by liquid hydrogen and oxygen – intended for the upper stages of the upcoming Ariane 5 ME and Ariane 6 launch vehicles. It can be restarted in flight, and develops three times more thrust than the HM7B engine now powering the upper stage of the current Ariane 5 ECA launcher.

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Lucky Golfer to Win Trip to Space on Lynx

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Lynx cockpit view. (Credit: XCOR)

Lynx cockpit view. (Credit: XCOR)

AMSTERDAM (KLM PR) — It has been announced that the first player to make a hole-in-one on the 15th hole of the KLM Open will win a trip into space courtesy of XCOR Space Expeditions.

As part of a prize package worth US$100,000 this latest offering for an ace is sure to make an unprecedented impression on players and spectators of the event, which will be held at the Kennemer Golf & Country Club from the September 11-14.

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Branson Says First Flight From New Mexico in February or March

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In this clip from “The Late Show With David Letterman,” Virgin Galactic Founder Richard Branson says he will be on the first flight of SpaceShipTwo from New Mexico in February or March 2015.