Five years ago today, SpaceShipTwo VSS Enterprise broke up over the Mojave Desert during a flight test. Co-pilot Mike Alsbury died and pilot Pete Siebold was seriously injured.
The crash ended Virgin Galactic’s effort to begin commercial crewed suborbital spaceflights in the first quarter of 2015. Those flights are not forecast to begin in June 2020 — five years later than planned.
After 15 years of making extravagant but unkept promises to fly more than 600 “future astronauts” to space, Richard Branson must now please an entirely new group of people who are usually much shorter on patience: shareholders.
Following the completion last week of a merger with Social Capital Hedosophia (SCH), the British billionaire’s Virgin Galactic suborbital “space line” will begin trading under its own name on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on Monday.
Going public now is an unusual move for a space tourism company that hasn’t flown a singlet tourist to space since Branson announced the SpaceShipTwo program in 2004. Some might see it has putting the cart before the horse.
WASHINGTON (DLR PR) — The German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) and the Office of Commercial Space Transportation of the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) are seeking to identify the data that may need to be exchanged between United States and European Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs) prior to, during and after a space launch or re-entry operation that is initiated in one country and traverses the airspace of another country.
This data exchange should facilitate improved situational awareness, allowing US and European ANSPs to respond as necessary in the event of a vehicle failure. To this end, the FAA and DLR intend to bring together their unique capabilities using FAA’s Commercial Space Integration Lab and DLR’s Air Traffic Validation Center, located in the USA and Germany respectively.
In order to be able to cooperate and exchange data in the future, a Memorandum of Cooperation (MoC) in the development of commercial space transportation was signed by Pascale Ehrenreund, Chair of the DLR Executive Board, and Wayne R. Monteith, Associate Administrator, Office of Commercial Space Transportation, on 24 October 2019. The signatory ceremony was held at DLR’s stand at the 70th International Astronautical Congress in Washington, DC.
The MoC reflects the excellent collaboration that FAA and DLR have developed since the first Research and Development Cooperative Agreement of both establishments, which was signed in 2010.
Today, Sept. 27, marks the 15th anniversary of Richard Branson announcing the launch of Virgin Galactic Airways. It’s been a long, winding road between that day and today, filled with many broken promises, missed deadlines, fatal accidents and a pair of spaceflights.
This year actually marks a double anniversary: it’s been 20 years since Branson registered the company and began searching for a vehicle the company could use to fly tourists into suborbital space.
Below is a timeline of the important events over that period.
Last week, we took a look at the significant increase in NASA’s budget for FY 2019. In this story, we will examine the budget increases for the Commerce Department — which manages the nation’s weather satellites — and the Department of Transportation, which oversees commercial launches. We will also take a look how the White House’s National Space Council fared.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
NOAA’s satellite programs received $1,45 billion, which is an increase of $55 million over FY 2018. The bulk of the funding is designated for the GOES-R, Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) and Polar Follow-on (PFO) programs. The amounts include:
WASHINGTON (CSF PR) — “On behalf of the commercial spaceflight industry, the Commercial Spaceflight Federation welcomes Brigadier General (Ret.) Wayne Monteith as the FAA’s new Associate Administrator for the Office of Commercial Space Transportation. He brings a wealth of space knowledge and leadership to the office, and we look forward to continued collaboration on policy and regulatory issues to continue the rapid growth of the U.S. commercial space transportation industry.
“Previously, Gen Monteith has held a variety of senior positions in the U.S. Air Force, including leadership of 15,300 military, civilian and contractor personnel responsible for launching U.S. government and commercial satellites from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. He also had been the Air Force’s Assistant Deputy Under Secretary for Space.
“The FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation is pivotal to the commercial space industry’s continued growth and innovation. We are confident that Gen Monteith will continue its strategic role in the regulation and promotion of commercial launches and reentries that will strengthen and expand our nation’s space transportation capabilities and infrastructure.
“The Commercial Spaceflight Federation also thanks Kelvin Coleman for his leadership as Acting Associate Administrator. His leadership and deep understanding of the commercial space industry has been strategic and instructive during the transition. We are extremely appreciative of Kelvin’s commitment and look forward to continuing to work with him in his role as Deputy Associate Administrator and the rest of the talented, devoted team at AST.”
WASHINGTON (DOT PR) – U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Elaine L. Chao today announced Wayne R. Monteith has been appointed to the position of Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Monteith’s appointment is effective January 20, 2019.
Monteith is a proven aerospace leader with nearly 30 years of planning and managing activities to integrate Department of Defense, civil, commercial, and intelligence community space capabilities. Monteith is a recently retired US Air Force Brigadier General who previously served as the Commander, 45th Space Wing, Patrick Air Force Base, Florida and led operations for the busiest and most successful spaceport in the world.
Psychologists have identified five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. These stages are clearly on display in Virgin Galactic’s Rocket Man, Nicholas Schmidle’s profile of Mark Stucky in The New Yorker. A substantial part of the story chronicles how the test pilot dealt with the death of his close friend, Mike Alsbury, in the breakup of SpaceShipTwo Enterprise during the vehicle’s fourth powered flight four years ago.
It’s a touching portrait of Stucky’s grief for his fellow Scaled Composites pilot, with whom he had flown while testing the suborbital spacecraft being developed for Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic. (Stucky later moved over to Virgin, which took over the SpaceShipTwo program after the accident, to test the second SpaceShipTwo, Unity.)
However, Schmidle tells only half the story in his otherwise insightful profile. He places nearly all the blame on Alsbury, while ignoring the findings of a nine-month federal investigation that identified systemic flaws in the development program and the government’s oversight that contributed to the accident.
It’s similar to the flawed, self-serving narrative that Branson used in his latest autobiography, “Finding My Virginity,” complete with a not-entirely-fair jab at the press coverage of the crash. The billionaire uses pilot error to obscure a decade of fatal mistakes and miscalculations. (more…)
The budget of the Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation (FAA AST) would more than triple over the next five years according to a re-authorization bill hammered out by House and Senate negotiators.
FAA AST’s current budget of $22.6 million would increase as follows:
BRIGHTON, Colo. (Adams County PR) — The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has granted a site operator license to Colorado Air and Space Port after a 180-day review period, the 11th such license granted in the United States. Colorado Air and Space Port will serve as America’s hub for commercial space transportation, research, and development.
“Facilities like Colorado Air and Space Port will be developed around the country and the world,” said Mary Hodge, chair of the Adams County Board of Commissioners. “We’ll be building a hub that connects Colorado to commercial and research opportunities across the globe.”
Adams County spokesman Jim Siedlecki said the Federal Aviation Administration’s approval came through Friday. A formal announcement on the license is scheduled to take place at 11 a.m. Monday at Adams County government headquarters.
“Certainly, having the regulatory stamp of approval from the FAA does enable Spaceport Colorado to accelerate engagement and partnerships with potential users,” said Carolyn Belle, a senior analyst with Northern Sky Research who specializes in the aerospace sector.
But it’s the users, the handful of companies developing the space planes of the future, that are lagging behind the infrastructure being built to accommodate their vehicles. Dave Ruppel, airport director for Front Range Airport, said the first horizontal launch and landing at Spaceport Colorado won’t occur for at least a half decade.
CEDAR PARK, Texas, July 30, 2018 /PRNewswire/ — Firefly Aerospace, Inc. (Firefly), a developer of orbital launch vehicles for the small to medium satellite market, announced today the formation of an all-star advisory board. Members of the board act as ambassadors and advocates of Firefly and support the executive and management teams through consultation and strategic analysis. Initial appointments to the Firefly board areJeff Bingham, Robert M. Lightfoot, Jr., George Nield, and William F. Readdy.
Jeff Bingham brings nearly 40 years of governmental experience to Firefly. Instrumental in shaping space station policy, he served most recently as the senior advisor on space for the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. He was previously the associate administrator for NASA’s Office of Legislative Affairs. Jeff played a key role in ensuring continued congressional support for the ISS as the legislative coordinator for the International Space Station program. (more…)
RESTON, Va. (SES PR) – The U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao has appointed SES Government Solutions’ Senior Director of Business Development Paul E. Damphousse to the Federal Aviation Administration’s Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC), SES announced today.
The COMSTAC provides executive-level observations, findings and recommendations to the FAA Administrator regarding critical issues within the commercial space industry. Damphousse will serve as a senior industry representative and member of COMSTAC on behalf of SES GS, wholly-owned subsidiary of SES, and will advise the government during bi-annual COMSTAC meetings and through participation on the COMSTAC working groups.
The Senate Appropriations Committee has voted to increase the FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation’s budget to handle a sharp increase in commercial launches as it also seeks a streamlined regulatory process.