Houston Press has a long, sad look at one of the more curious NewSpace projects, Excalibur Almaz, and the man behind it, Art Dula.
Excalbur Almaz is a company based in the Isle of Man whose goal is to refurbish a couple of Soviet-era Almaz space stations and four crew return capsule for some type of space mission. The company has gone through numerous iterations, from space tourism to commercial space station to NASA commercial crew to deep space mining facility.
So far they haven’t raised enough money for any of these ideas, although the company has generated a couple of investor lawsuits alleging fraud, one dismissed and the other still pending.
There are a couple very troubling allegations that are chronicled in the story. One is that the sales agreement between Excalbur Almaz and the Russian seller stipulated that the technology was not to be modified for space flight. This is alleged in a lawsuit filed by Japanese investor Takafumi Horie.
Manx Radio has a brief interview with Leroy Chaio of Excalibur Almaz in which he describes the Isle of Man-based company’s plans for two space stations that it recently brought over from Russia:
“It’s hard to say at this point, because currently our business plan does not include using the space stations. But, basically to purchase these assets so that if in the future it does make sense to refurbish and launch the space stations, then we have these assets that can be used. So, at the moment, we don’t have a firm time table of how long these assets will be stored here and what the plan will be with them in the future.”
Sounds like they don’t have any clients or funding at the moment. It will be interesting to see how this space station project — and others — progress as NASA gets going on its commercial space transport program. The prospect for viable commercial space station and LEO transport markets would help several of the companies with fund raising and marketing.
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.