Last year was a busy one for suborbital flights as Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic conducted a combined four flights of their crewed suborbital vehicles. Despite hopes to the contrary, neither company flew paying tourists on their spaceships.
There were also 26 sounding rocket launches that carried scientific experiments and technology payloads above the atmosphere. The year saw:
Japanese startup Interstellar Technologies conduct a successful launch of its Momo commercial sounding rocket;
Texas-based Exos Aerospace continue to struggle with its reusable SARGE booster; and,
the first suborbital launch ever achieved by college students.
Video Caption: Witness the intersection of hard science and science fiction and how one inspires the other. The cast of The Expanse sits down with brilliant minds from Blue Origin to discuss life beyond our planet. » The Expanse returns 12/13.
About The Expanse: The disappearance of rich-girl-turned-political-activist Julie Mao links the lives of Ceres detective Joe Miller (Thomas Jane), accidental ship captain James Holden (Steven Strait) and U.N. politician Chrisjen Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo). Amidst political tension between Earth, Mars and the Belt, they unravel the single greatest conspiracy of all time.
WASHINGTON, DC (Blue Origin PR) — Today, Blue Origin is proud to announce a national team to offer a Human Landing System for NASA’s Artemis program to return Americans to the lunar surface by 2024.
Blue Origin has signed teaming agreements with Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Draper. These partners have decades of experience supporting NASA with human space flight systems, launch vehicles, orbital logistics, deep-space missions, interplanetary navigation and planetary landings.
PARIS (IAF PR) — On 22 October 2019, Blue Origin Founder, Jeff Bezos, is to receive the International Astronautical Federation (IAF) Excellence in Industry Award at the 70th International Astronautical Congress – IAC 2019, to take place from 21 – 25 October in Washington D.C., United States.
The IAF Excellence in Industry Award recognizes an industry organization for outstanding and sustainable advancements in space, showing the merits of leadership in developing and executing landmark commercial and civil space missions and for being a role model for cooperation in the global space industry workforce.
For its first awardee, the IAF has selected Blue Origin for its significant and sustainable contribution towards enabling an enduring human presence in space through its New Shepard launch system and BE-3 liquid hydrogen rocket engine.
Designed for human spaceflight and operational reusability, New Shepard has made 11 historic flights to space. These missions have long-term benefits destined to ignite a new era of commercial human access to space at a dramatically lower cost and with increased reliability.
The IAF Excellence in Industry Award Ceremony will take place on Tuesday 22 October 2019 from 08:00 – 08:25 in the Grand Ballroom of the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.
Jean-Yves Le Gall, IAF President, Pascale Ehrenfreund, IAF Incoming President, and Bruce Chesley, IAF Vice President for Industry Relations, will announce Blue Origin as the 2019 Recipient. The Ceremony will be followed by a fireside chat interview with Jeff Bezos.
CNBC reports that Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin plans two more flight tests of the reusable New Shepard booster and capsule before flying people on suborbital flights. The additional tests could delay the first human flight into next year.
CEO Bob Smith has talked about the first crewed flight of New Shepard happening as early as the end of 2018 – but that goal has steadily been pushed back. Smith, in an interview with CNBC on Tuesday, explained why Blue Origin has delayed the first crewed flight and continued to test.
“It’s really the robustness of our entire system. It’s not one individual thing that’s driving [these delays],” Smith said. “It’s us being cautious and thorough with the total systems we need to verify.”
He noted that Blue Origin has been pushing the limits of its software and hardware, as well as testing its BE-3 rocket engine for extreme and unexpected situations.
Blue Origin has filed an application with the Federal Communications Commission to conduct the 12th New Shepard launch no earlier than Nov. 1.
New Shepard consists of a reusable booster and capsule. The capsule lands by parachute while the booster touches down using landing legs.
Blue Origin has recovered the capsules and boosters on 10 of the 11 flights. On one flight, the booster crashed while the capsule landed safely.
The company has not announced when it will begin to sell tickets and what price it will charge. Tickets aboard Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo, which expects to begin commercial suborbital flights next year, cost $250,000. Virgin Founder Richard Branson plans to be aboard the first commercial flight.
Fourteen years ago, Virgin Galactic and New Mexico promised “tens of thousands” of tourists would fly to space from Spaceport America by 2019. Total thus far: 0.
by Douglas Messier Managing Editor
When they announced in December 2005 that Virgin Galactic would locate its space tourism business in New Mexico, Virgin Founder Richard Branson and Gov. Bill Richardson made a number of eye-popping claims about why taxpayers should back a plan to build the Southwest Regional Spaceport to serve as the space tourism company’s home base:
$331 million in total construction revenues in 2007;
2,460 construction-related jobs;
$1 billion in total spending, payroll of $300 million and 2,300 jobs by the fifth year of operation; and,
$750 million in total revenues and more than 3,500 jobs by 2020.
Virgin Galactic would sign a 20-year lease as anchor tenant and pay fees based on the number of launches it conducted. New Mexico would use the spaceport, Virgin’s presence and the funds generated to develop a large aerospace cluster.
Surprisingly, New Mexico would spend more money, $225 million, to develop a facility now known as Spaceport America than the $108 million that Branson planned to spend on developing a fleet of five SpaceShipTwos and WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft.
Among all the big numbers in the announcement, there was a truly astounding one that was deemed so important it was mentioned twice. (Emphasis added)
Steve Squyres, who served as principal investigator for NASA’s Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity, is retiring from Cornell University to become chief scientist at Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, the Cornell Chroniclereports.
“Cornell has been a wonderful place for me, as both a student and a professor. With the Mars rover missions behind us, it’s time for me to find a new challenge, but I will always be a proud Cornellian,” Squyres said.
“Scientist, scholar and space explorer, Steve transformed planetary exploration through his leadership of the Spirit and Opportunity Mars rovers,” said Jonathan I. Lunine, the David C. Duncan Professor in the Physical Sciences and chair of the Department of Astronomy. “Now he goes on to a new challenge, working to transform the architecture of spaceflight at one of the most innovative companies in the industry.”
“This mission [Spirit and Opportunity] was a great teaching tool,” Squyres said earlier this year for the celebration of the mission’s 15th anniversary. “It’s easy to think of science as a static body of knowledge that you learn from a textbook. It is not. We know more about Mars today than we knew two days ago. For years I’ve started each lecture with, ‘Here’s something that just came down from Mars.’”
“Steve has inspired countless students and colleagues over his decades at Cornell,” said Ray Jayawardhana, the Harold Tanner Dean of Arts and Sciences and professor of astronomy. “He brought Mars to campus and gave us all a chance to see another world close-up. His infectious enthusiasm for exploration will continue to stimulate planetary scientists at Cornell for years to come. We wish him all the best.”
NASA landed Spirit and Opportunity on Mars in January 2004 on nominal 90-day missions. Spirit last communicated with controllers on May 25, 2011 after more than seven years on the surface. Opportunity last communicated on June 10, 2018 as a dust storm engulfed the rover.
Defense Newsreports that Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin has filed a pre-award protest with the Government Accountability Office (GAO) over the U.S. Air Force’s competition for new launch contracts.
Blue Origin is arguing that the current structure of the launch service provider competition may favor incumbents and will perpetuate a duopoly, according to a Blue Origin fact sheet obtained by Defense News.
“As drafted, the LSP [launch service provider] RFP [request for proposals] includes evaluation criteria that are ambiguous and fail to comply with federal procurement statutes and regulations. This subjectivity of the criteria makes it impossible to accurately respond to the RFP,” the fact sheet states.
“To ensure the process maximizes value for the American taxpayer and protects U.S. national security interests in space, it is essential that the Air Force structure the LSP RFP in a way that fosters a fair and level playing field for new entrants.”
The Air Force released a solicitation for the second phase of the LSP competition in May and intends to downselect to two launch providers in 2020. SpaceX, United Launch Alliance, Blue Origin and Northrop Grumman are all slated to vie for the series of contracts, which will be awarded over 2020 to 2024 for launches scheduled through 2027.
According to who you talk to, the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) proposed streamlining of launch and re-entry regulations is either a prudent step forward that provides much-needed flexibility while protecting public safety or a a confusing mess that’s a massive step backward.
Amazon Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos sold $1.8 billion worth of shares in the company in July, according to papers filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). He netted about $1.4 billion after taxes from the sale of more than 900,000 shares.
Bezos, who is worth an estimated $116 billion, has said that he has been selling about $1 billion in Amazon stock annually to fund his Blue Origin space company.
Bezos also gave 19.7 millions shares worth nearly $36.8 billion to his former wife, MacKenzie, to settle their divorce.
Jeff Bezos and Amazon.com marked Independence Day by filing an application with the Federal Communications Commission to launch 3,236 satellites to provide global Internet services from space. The Los Angeles Timesreports:
Amazon in its FCC application said its satellites would operate at altitudes of about 370 to 390 miles (590 to 630 kilometers).
Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos last month said the Kuiper project would cost “multiple billions of dollars.” The project is separate from Bezos’ space launch vehicle maker, Blue Origin.
In its FCC filing, Amazon said it would help serve U.S. communities “by offering fixed broadband communications services to rural and hard-to-reach areas.” The Kuiper System will help mobile network operators to expand wireless services, Amazon said in its application. It also offered the prospect of “high-throughput mobile broadband connectivity services for aircraft, maritime vessels and land vehicles.”
Amazon is in a race with OneWeb, SpaceX and other companies to provide global broadband services from space. SpaceX has received approval for nearly 12,000 satellites and launched the first 60 spacecraft of its Starlink constellation in May. OneWeb launched the first six of a planned 648 satellites in February.
In addition to re-unveiling Blue Origin’s Blue Moon lunar lander last week, Jeff Bezos launched a venture called the Club for the Future to get students, parents and educators excited about his bold vision for colonizing space and preserving the Earth for future generations.
The club’s first venture aimed at kids who grew up with e-mail, instant messaging, laptops and tablets involves some old fashioned communication:
Draw or write your vision of millions of people living and working in space on the blank side of a self-addressed, stamped postcard, and send it to us. We’ll pack the first 10,000 postcards received before July 20, 2019 inside the Crew Capsule on an upcoming New Shepard flight. Your idea will launch into space! Once New Shepard returns to Earth, we’ll send your postcard back to you, officially stamped “flown to space.” To participate, follow our step-by-step guide below.
It’s a cool idea, getting something that has flown in space. However, I’m guessing a fair number of kids might never have actually mailed a postcard or bought a stamp. Fortunately, Bezos has laid out details on the terms and conditions page.
And what in addition to publicity will Blue Origin get out of it? Free art to use in its promotional campaigns.
I understand and agree that the text, photographs, drawings, and/or creations contained in or affixed to the Space Mail or other CFTF events or activities may be used in the production of promotional materials, on their respective websites, and for other purposes that CFTF or Blue Origin deems appropriate and that such materials may be distributed to the public and displayed publicly one or more times and in different formats, including but not limited to, print, online and video-based marketing, advertising, and fundraising, and in publications and promotional videos as related to CFTF or Blue Origin and its affiliates.
It will be interesting to see what sorts of art is produced by this competition.
During a presentation in Washington, DC, today, Jeff Bezos laid out a bold vision humans living in giant cylindrical floating space colonies first envisioned by Gerard K. O’Neill four decades ago.
On a more immediate, practical front, the Amazon.com founder produced updated concept art for Blue Origin’s Blue Moon lander he says would be perfect for landing astronauts at the south pole of the moon by 2024 as the Trump Administration has proposed.