A couple of updates on Excalibur Almaz, whose Soviet-era space station and capsule were seen being shipped from one location to another on the Isle of Man. Excalibur Almaz Founder and CEO Art Dula told The Independent there wasn’t much to see there:
The company is “still in business and still on the Isle of Man,” he insisted. Refusing to divulge where the equipment is being taken, saying it is “a confidential business matter”. Mr Dula said: “There is a capsule on the Isle of Man, there is a space station on the Isle of Man and they are staying there. I was in communication yesterday with the transport museum in Jurby because we try to keep our equipment so that the public can see it. We think these are good educational exhibits… but they are not just museum exhibits, they are actual spacecraft.”
While “there aren’t any facilities on the Isle of Man for working on this equipment,” the company had gone there because “we got a very nice deal on rent from the Isle of Man government”.
But the lease ran out, which is why the equipment has been moved from the hangar at Jurby Airfield, he explained. There are no launch facilities on the Isle of Man either, which means that the company had never intended to launch missions from there anyway, Mr Dula said.
A report by IOMTodaycontradicted this report, reporting without attribution the space station and capsule are headed off the island:
This week its Soviet era space station and capsule were transported by JCK from storage at Balthane to the Sea Terminal, from where they are being shipped to Southampton and then onwards to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia….
The company said it was now working with the International Space University in Strasbourg to transform a space capsule into a reusable orbital laboratory used to research microgravity.
One of the company’s two space stations and its remaining return capsule has been seen heading for the Isle of Man’s port on the back of a truck. The company’s phone number has been disconnected. And the company hasn’t put out a press release since July 2012.
The departure of a Russian space station from the Isle of Man signifies the “end of Manx space tourism,” according to a government minister.
Space exploration and tourism company Excalibur Almaz imported two capsules in 2011 and planned to use them for space holidays costing £100m.
The company was unavailable to comment on where the 11m (36ft) long space station, built in the 1980s, is going….
Manx Economic Development Minister Laurence Skelly said: “I am saddened to see the end of the potential space tourism project – however it is not the end of the Isle of Man’s space industry which is alive and well.”
Excalibur Almaz hoped to use two leftover Soviet-era Almaz space stations and a pair of return capsules to launch its own space program. The company had a difficult time finding anyone to fund the program. Last year, the company auctioned off one of the return capsules.
Along the way, Excalibur Almaz has been sued twice [here and here] by investors for alleged fraud. The company and its founders, Art Dula and J Buckner Hightower, have denied the claims.
IOMToday reports that Excalibur Almaz is denying charges that it fraudulently took funds from an investor to use Soviet-era space hardware for human stations:
“These allegations are baseless and will be vigorously defended. To set the record straight, Excalibur Almaz is not out of business and is vigorously pursuing a profitable commercial space program utilizing proven Russian flight hardware capable of re-use, contrary to recent allegations.”
In a lawsuit, Japanese investor Takafumi Horie accused Excalibur Almaz founders Art Dula and J Buckner Hightower of misleading him in order to obtain a $49 million investment in the company. Horie says the Soviet-era Almaz space station hardware the company purchased were museum pieces that could never be launched into space.
Is this the end of the line for Excalibur Almaz, the Isle of Man company that had a dream of turning old Soviet space hardware into gold?
An anonymous bidder snapped one of the company’s space capsules for $1 million euros ($1.39 million) on Tuesday during an auction at the Kunsthaus Lempertz auction house in Brussels, Belgium. The vehicle had flown into space unmanned on two occasions during the 1970’s as part of the Soviet Union’s space station effort and had been refurbished by Excalibur Almaz.
The auctioned capsule was one of four reusable reentry vehicles (RRV) owned by Excalibur Almaz, which also acquired a pair of Almaz space station modules that never flew. The company’s intent has been to recycle the hardware for use in crewed missions to Earth orbit, cislunar space, libration points and deep space. However, the company has never announced a customer.
Whether Excalibur Almaz is still pursuing this aim is unclear. An email to Rob Lazaro, who is listed as the company’s public relations director on its website, has not been returned. The last news update on the site is from July 2012.
Excalibur Almaz Limited (EA), the international commercial space exploration company, is exporting two partially completed Almaz space stations from Russia to the IOM today. The stations and Excalibur Almazâ€™ reusable return vehicles were developed by EAâ€™s Russian associate, JSC MIC NPO Mashinostroyenia.
Sea Launch Investor Group Includes Familiar Names Space News
The unidentified investor group providing initial financing to Sea Launch Co., the commercial launch provider that is in Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings, includes an Isle of Man-based company created in 2005 to build a space tourism business using existing Russian hardware, according to industry officials.
Commerce Magazine has an interesting interview with Leroy Chiao, calling the former astronaut a rising star in the area of space commercialization. Chiao talks about his transition from NASA to private industry, the future of space commercialization, and his work as vice president of Excalibur Almaz, which is transforming left-over Soviet military Almaz space station hardware into an orbiting tourist outpost. It’s worth a read.