For nearly a dozen years, Virgin Galactic has used the number of individuals who have flown into space as a target to shoot for once the company began suborbital space tourism service. Virgin promised to double the number, which was around 500 when the company launched in 2004, within the first year of operation. That year was originally targeted for 2007 in the confident days after the success of SpaceShipOne.
That goal has long since faded away, and it’s unlikely Virgin will double the number of space travelers during the first year. In any event, the number of space travelers cited by Virgin has always been a bit misleading. The company’s well heeled customers, who are paying upwards of $250,000 per flight, will actually be joining a much more elite group on their suborbital flights.
During the New Space Conference in July, I asked Vulcan Aerospace President Chuck Beames whether the company had made a fundamental mistake with Stratolaunch Systems. Shouldn’t it have figured out what sort of air-launch rocket it was going to use first before building the world’s largest aircraft to launch it from?
Mike Alsbury’s day began with a 3 a.m. wake up at his home in Tehachapi, Calif. He showered, dressed and ate a breakfast that likely consisted of an apple and a granola bar.
Alsbury rarely awoke at so early; but this Oct. 31 was a flight test day. That meant a lot of people were getting up early for the latest milestone in the Tier 1B program. At least that’s what they called it at Alsbury’s employer, Scaled Composites. The rest of the world knew it as WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo – the foundation of Sir Richard Branson’s suborbital space tourism program. Scaled built and tested the vehicles for the British billionaire’s spaceline, Virgin Galactic.
One Year Ago, the Ansari X Prize Turned 10 It Was an Uncomfortable Birthday
By Douglas Messier Managing Editor
The planes kept coming and coming. One after another, they swooped out of a blue desert sky and touched down on the runway at the Mojave Air and Space Port. By mid-morning there were at least a dozen private jets stretched along the flight line running east from the Voyager restaurant toward the control tower. And even more were on their way.
And to what did Mojave owe this ostentatious display of wealth by the 1 percenters? They had come to the sun-splashed spaceport last Oct. 4 to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Ansari X Prize. A decade earlier, Burt Rutan and his Paul Allen-funded team had won $10 million for sending the first privately-built manned vehicle into space twice within a two-week period.
Eleven years ago today, Brian Binnie flew SpaceShipOne to an altitude of 112.014 km (69.6 miles), breaking a record of 107.8 km (67 miles) set by Joe Walker in the X-15 rocket plane 41 years earlier. As Binnie landed the small, experimental space plane at the Mojave Air and Space Port before a cheering crowd, he clinched the $10 million Ansari X Prize for Burt Rutan and his financial backer, Paul Allen.
The air during the post flight events was full of promises, boasts and hopes that today appear positively cringe worthy.
The 31st Space Symposium is taking place all week in Colorado Springs. It’s already generated some news, with ULA unveiling its new launch vehicle [here and here], Paul Allen demanding the company change the rocket’s name, and Rocket Lab showing off its electric motor.
I wasn’t able to attend this year, but I’ve been monitoring the events via Twitter. Today’s most interesting session appears to have been a launch vehicle panel that included Aerojet Rocketdyne, Arianespace, Blue Origin, Orbital ATK, SpaceX and ULA.
Paul Allen is not amused that ULA has named its new launch vehicle Vulcan, but the company says its all cool.
“Vulcan is a trademark of Vulcan Inc. and we have informed ULA of our trademark rights,” Chuck Beames, president of Vulcan Aerospace, a division of Paul Allen-backed Vulcan Inc., told Reuters. “Paul Allen and Vulcan were early leaders within space exploration with the launch of SpaceShipOne more than a decade ago.”
The name, which was determined by a public vote, was cleared by ULA’s legal department prior to being offered as a ballot choice.
ULA spokeswoman Jessica Rye is confident the company took all necessary steps to use the name.
“We have done our due diligence regarding the legal right to use the name Vulcan,” she said via e-mail. ” ULA is committed to taking every reasonable step to avoid any confusion with other entities using this name and we are confident we can do so.”
Paul Allen asks me this question frequently, pushing me – and the entire Vulcan Inc. team – to think creatively and push the boundaries of possibility. Not just to improve what exists, but to think about what should exist. Today, we’re announcing an innovative new approach to the commercial space industry—Vulcan Aerospace.
RRE Venture Capital and Paul Allen’s Vulcan Capital Co-Lead Investment in Future Expansion of Next-Generation Space Services Company
SEATTLE, March 11, 2015 (Spaceflight Industries PR) – Spaceflight Industries, a next-generation, integrated space products and services company aimed at transforming the use of space, today announced it has secured $20 million in Series B funding co-led by RRE Venture Capital and Vulcan Capital with additional investment from Razor’s Edge Ventures.
Spaceflight Industries (Spaceflight) is the parent company of two well-established Seattle-area aerospace and space logistics companies: Andrews Space and Spaceflight Services. These businesses have now been combined under the Spaceflight brand to form a consolidated space products and services company focused on enabling new applications through the commercialization of space. This funding will accelerate the ongoing growth and development of Spaceflight’s subsidiaries: Spaceflight Systems (formerly Andrews Space), Spaceflight Services and Spaceflight Networks, which together provide comprehensive, cost-effective small-satellite solutions and services from development to launch, communications and operations.
Forbes has published its annual list of the planet’s billionaires. A small but growing number of them are either directly supporting major space projects or doing so through the companies that they run.
2015 NET WORTH (BILLIONS)
SOURCE(S) OF WEALTH
Global satellite network
SpaceX, Planetary Resources, Planetary Ventures, Google Lunar X Prize, Skybox
SpaceX, Planetary Ventures, Google Lunar X Prize, Skybox
SpaceX, Google Lunar X Prize, Planetary Ventures, Skybox
Virgin Galactic, Planetary Resources, OneWeb
Kavitark Ram Shriram
Google, venture capital
H. Ross Perot, Jr.
Computer services, real estate
University of Phoenix
I’ve added Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook to the list this year. His company is reportedly working on a global broadband network that would involve satellites, although details of the plan have not been made public.
I’ve left off Cirque du Soleil’s Guy Laliberte, who came in at number 1006 with a net worth of $1.9 billion. Although he once took a trip to the International Space Station, he is not known to be funding any major space projects at the moment.
Update: I’ve added Charles Ergen and Peter Sperling to the list. Big shout out to Rex Ridenoure over at Ecliptic Enterprises.
The IEEE Spectrum has an interesting update on the $30 million Google Lunar X Prize, which recently slipped its deadline for landing a rover on the moon from the end of 2015 to Dec. 31, 2016.
The story confirms what I’ve suspected for quite some time now: it’s much easier to build and test hardware on Earth than it is to get it to the lunar surface. With two years, not one of the 18 remaining teams has locked down a firm launch date. If none of them does by the end of 2015, the competition will end without a winner.
SPARKS, Nev., Sept. 30, 2014 – Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) today announced a design for an integrated system for human spaceflight that can be launched to low Earth orbit (LEO) using Stratolaunch System’s air launch architecture and a scale version of SNC’s Dream Chaser® spacecraft.
There’s just one hitch: it’ll cost you $2,500. And you’ll have to come to Mojave. That’s two hitches, actually. But, you only have to stay a few hours.
The X Prize Foundation has launched a crowd funding campaign for its new initiative, the Global Learning X Prize. Anyone who contributes $2,500 will receive a ticket to the invitation-only event on Oct. 4.
So far, two people have taken up the offer out of 100 tickets available. The event includes a two-hour luncheon with speeches, etc. Richard Branson, Paul Allen and Burt Rutan are expected to attend.
Burt Rutan, Paul Allen and Richard Branson are among those who will gather at the Mojave Air and Space Port on Oct. 4 to mark the 10th anniversary of SpaceShipOne winning the $10 million Anari X Prize, Parabolic Arc has learned.
X Prize Foundation Chairman and CEO Peter Diamandis will preside over the invitation-only event, which is expected to draw hundreds of guests. The foundation sponsored the prize for the first privately-funded vehicle to fly into space twice in two weeks.