A Look Back at the Space Year That Was

Total solar eclipse photographed from NASA Armstrong’s Gulfstream III. (Credit: (NASA/Carla Thomas)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

I realize it’s a bit late, but here’s a look back at the major developments in space in 2017.

I know that I’m probably forgetting something, or several somethings or someones. Fortunately, I have eagle-eyed readers who really seem to enjoy telling me just how much I’ve screwed up. Some of them a little too much….

So, have at it!  Do your worst, eagle-eyed readers!


XCOR Owes $27.5 Million to Creditors, Orbital Outfitters Out of Business

Lynx engine hot fire. (Credit: XCOR)

The numbers are in on XCOR Aerospace’s bankruptcy, and as one would expect, they’re not real pretty.

The company has $1.1 million in assets and $1,424.66 in cash, according to documents filed with the Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of California. XCOR owes $27.46 million to creditors, with $23.6 million in unsecured debts and $3.86 million in liabilities secured by assets.


Midland Looks Forward to Lynx Flights Next Year

Full-scale Lynx mockup (Credit: XCOR)
Full-scale Lynx mockup (Credit: XCOR)

Midland Spaceport Development Corporation President J. Ross Lacy said on Tuesday that he expects XCOR’s Lynx Mark I to make its first flight from Midland International Air & Space Port in the second quarter of 2016.

“Right now, we’re looking at XCOR to probably have their first launch here second quarter of ’16,” Lacy said during a MSDC meeting. “Orbital Outfitters’ building is moving along very nicely; they’ve also got the altitude chamber facilities inside that building. The XCOR hangar is almost complete, and we’ve already got half of their staff out here right now.”


Midland, XCOR Celebrate Spaceport License

Officials from XCOR and Orbital Outfitters journeyed to Midland for a celebration of the FAA granting a spaceport license to Midland International Airport. This Tweet was the only official word out of XCOR about the celebration.

Statement on Midland Airport Spaceport License

Lynx cockpit view. (Credit: XCOR)
Lynx cockpit view. (Credit: XCOR)

MIDLAND, Texas (Press Release)—In a joint release today, the Midland International Airport, Midland Development Corporation, XCOR Aerospace and Orbital Outfitters announced the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approval of a Commercial Space Launch Site License (Spaceport) for the Midland International Airport (MAF). Midland International Airport is the first primary commercial service airport to be certified by the FAA under the Federal Aviation Regulation (FAR) Part 420 as a spaceport and will furthermore be referred to as the Midland International Air & Space Port.


Orbital Outfitters Gives Midland Preview of Vacuum Chamber Complex

orbital_outfittersOn Wednesday, representatives of Orbital Outfitters and Holder Aerospace gave an overview of the vacuum chamber complex they plan to build to the Midland Development Corporation (MDC).

The complex features three chambers — a vacuum system, an observation room and safety support systems — according to a presentation made by co-developers Holder Aerospace and Orbital Outfitters. Two of the chambers will be used to test the space suits that Orbital Outfitters are custom-building for XCOR Aerospace’s Lynx space vehicle.


CSF Adds Six New Members

csf_logo_newestWashington D.C. (CSF PR) – The Commercial Spaceflight Federation is pleased to announce the addition of six new member organizations. Bigelow Aerospace and Orbital Outfitters have joined as new Executive Members and Moon Express has moved up from Associate to Executive Membership. ASRC Federal, Spaceport Sweden, and World View Enterprises have joined as Associate Members.

“The CSF membership is representative of all facets of space exploration,” said CSF President Michael Lopez-Alegria. “This diversity is indicative of a growing, thriving sector, with each company contributing to the overarching success of the commercial space exploration industry.”


Jeff Feige Takes Over as SFF Chairman From Bob Werb

sff_logoNYACK, NY (SFF PR) — The Board of Directors of the Space Frontier Foundation announced today that Bob Werb, Co-Founder and long-time Chairman of the Board, has retired from the position, and that they have unanimously elected space entrepreneur Jeff Feige to take over as the Foundation’s new Chairman.

“Bob’s extraordinary vision and leadership permeates every corner of our organization,” said Foundation President James Pura. “As we celebrate the 25th anniversary of our founding, you can look back at 25 years of his passionate contribution of ideas, common sense, and business excellence to nearly everything we’ve done to advocate for an open frontier in space for everyone.”


Orbital Outfitters Moving to Midland

spacesuit_orbital_outfittersMIDLAND, Texas (MDC PR) – The Midland Development Corporation approved an agreement with Orbital Outfitters for the location of their Space Pressure Suit Manufacturing and Development business at the Midland International Airport (MAF).

The construction of the new building, on approx. 2 acres of land at MAF, will completed by December 2015. The building will include an altitude chamber complex to support the testing and qualification of space and pressure suits, small space systems and components testing and flight crew training operations and will be made available for use by UTPB.

Orbital Outfitters specializes in the design, development, and manufacturing of space and pressure suits, with a secondary line of business focusing on the production of full-scale space vehicle mockups. The company works closely with XCOR Aerospace, whose new R&D Center will be located on the flight line at MAF in a soon-to-be renovated ~60,000 sq. ft. hangar testing and office facility.


Orbital Outfitters Moving to Midland

orbital_outfittersThere’s a report out of Midland, Texas about plans for Los Angeles-based spacesuit manufacturer Orbital Outfitters to move there:

This week Midland Development Corp. approved a nearly $7 million agreement which will permit Orbital Outfitters to manage and operate a $3.2 million altitude chamber facility, which MDC will own. According to news reports, the board will also provide the firm with an incentive of $2.2 million to construct its headquarters in the Lone Star State city, along with $1.5 million to assist in its relocation from California.

The agenda for MDC’s meeting on Jan. 24 lists three measures concerning Orbital Outfitters: an economic agreement, the lease of a two-acre tract at the Midland International Airport by the city of Midland, and a sublease of that tract to the company. No details are provided.

Orbital Outfitters will join XCOR Aerospace, which has an agreement with Midland to move its research and development facility to the West Texas city. Lee Valentine, who is one of XCOR’s lead investors, also is a co-founder of Orbital Outfitters.

Space Access 12: Jeff Feige of Orbital Outfitters

Jeff Feige
Orbital Outfitters

  • Clients include XCOR, SpaceX and NASA
  • Primarily produce spacesuits
  • Lately been involved in developing vehicle mockups
  • Spacsuits are not stand-alone off-the-rack but are integrated subsystem of the vehicle — need to be integrated with environmental and life support systems, seats, doors, etc.
  • Many questions to consider in developing suits
  • How much mobility?
  • What are realistic emergency scenarios
  • Would occupants have to bail out?
  • What are you protecting the wearer from other than pressure loss? Fire? Chemicals? Thermal?
  • Doesn’t agree with the we don’t need a suit, my vehicle is robust
  • Of course it’s a robust vehicle
  • “Well…shit happens”
  • Spacesuit is a last line of defense
  • Several examples of incidents in spaceflight without spacesuits
  • Soyuz 11 — crew died when spacecraft depressurized in space and crew didn’t have pressure suits on — suits would have saved the crew
  • Apollo-Soyuz crew nearly died when gases from RSC thruster entered cabin through an open vent during descent — crew not wearing suits
  • spacesuits were not integrated into space shuttle — retrofitted after the Challenger accident



SpaceX Subcontractors Revealed!

When NASA released its CCDev 2 agreement with SpaceX, the space agency redacted the names of the company’s partners on human-rating the Dragon spacecraft. A recent PowerPoint presentation given by NASA official Maria Collura reveals them publicly. And the partners are…

Ahhhh, you didn’t think I’d tell you before the break, did you?

C’mon, click to continue reading. You’re dying to know…. 🙂


Space Access ’11: Orbital Outfitters

Orbital Outfitters
Jeff Feige

Founded in 2006 to serve the NewSpace industry….

No significant improvements in space suits over the past few decades

Existing spacesuits not the right solution for the emerging industry – affordable and reliable

Suit Design Priorities (in that order)

  1. Safety
  2. Performance – enable wearer to perform whatever tasks you’ve laid out for them – differs
  3. Maintain comfort

No such thing as a one-suit-fits-all – need customization to fit different vehicles


Commercial Spacesuit Companies Compete for Market Share

The FAA’s 2011 U.S. Commercial Space Transportation Developments and Concepts: Vehicles, Technologies, and Spaceports report has a section that looks at commercial spacesuits being developed by American companies.

One of these companies, ILC Dover, has been building spacesuits for NASA for decades, producing the suits worn on the moon by Apollo astronauts and space shuttle astronauts. The David Clark Company has been around since 1941, producing pressure suits for Chuck Yeager, Gemini astronauts, and the space shuttle program. The third company, Orbital Outfitters, is a newcomer that is designing pressure suits for XCOR’s Lynx suborbital vehicle.

The relevant section from the report is reproduced after the break.


Orbital Outfitters Skydiving Expert Dies in Accident

A man who helped lead an effort to establish orbital skydiving as a new extreme sport was killed last week in a diving accident in Switzerland.

Eli Thompson headed up the Space Diver Dive team for Orbital Outfitters, a California-based start up company that is designing suits for high-altitude diving and suborbital space flights. Thompson was killed in a skydiving accident in Lautterbrunnen, Switzerland on August 28.