Richard DalBello Appointed to Head NOAA’s Office of Space Commerce

Rich DalBello (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

WASHINGTON (Commerce Department PR) — Today, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo announced that Richard DalBello, a venerable figure in government and the private-sector satellite industry, has been appointed to be the new director of NOAA’s Office of Space Commerce (OSC), the coordinator of space commerce policy activities within the U.S. Department of Commerce. DalBello officially will begin his duties on May 9.

OSC’s key mission is to foster the conditions for the economic growth and technological advancement of the U.S. commercial space industry, issuing, enforcing and maintaining operating licenses for private remote sensing space systems and positioning the nation as a leader in space. OSC is also responsible for modernizing and managing the U.S. systems for space situational awareness.

DalBello has more than 30 years of public and private sector commercial space experience. In his previous position as Virgin Atlantic’s Vice President of Global Engagement, he managed international business development for the company’s fleet of carrier aircraft and space vehicles.


Mojave Spaceport CEO Karina Drees to Become Commercial Spaceflight Federation President

Karina Drees

Washington, DC (CSF PR) – Commercial Spaceflight Federation announced today that Karina Drees will join the organization as its new president, effective January 4, 2021.

Since 2012, Drees served as CEO and General Manager of Mojave Air & Space Port (MASP) and held several other senior leadership positions at the company. She is currently the vice chair of the Federal Aviation Administration’s Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC) and has been an active member of the CSF Board of Directors for five years, including serving as treasurer from 2017 to 2020.

“Karina brings an impressive amount of senior leadership and business acumen to CSF, as well as in-depth knowledge and experience in the policy and regulatory arenas and the proven ability to grow an organization and build strategic alliances with key industry stakeholders,” said Audrey Powers, CSF Chairwoman of the Board of Directors and Vice President of Legal and Compliance for Blue Origin.


Commercial Spaceflight Federation Welcomes New Board Leadership

WASHINGTON, D.C. (CSF PR) – The Commercial Spaceflight Federation (CSF) elected new Board Leadership and Officers at its bi-annual Board of Directors meeting in Washington, D.C., on September 29, 2020.

Audrey Powers is CSF’s new Chairwoman of the Board of Directors. Powers is the Vice President of Legal & Compliance for Blue Origin. She is a seasoned policy and regulatory expert and has testified before Congress on commercial spaceflight regulatory matters.


Virgin Galactic Promises New Mexico that 2018 will be the Year

Sunset at the “Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space” terminal hangar facility at Spaceport America. (Credit: Bill Gutman/Spaceport America)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Virgin Galactic Vice President Richard DalBello was in Sante Fe, NM on Wednesday with an optimistic message about the company’s plans to fly tourists to space from the state-owned Spaceport America.

“We think we’re at the beginning of a very exciting period,” he told a legislative committee in Santa Fe. “We know you’ve waited a long time and we are coming.”


Virgin Galactic Spins Its Way Back to Rubber Engine for SpaceShipTwo

SpaceShipTwo in powered flight. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)
SpaceShipTwo in powered flight. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

Despite Richard Branson’s increasingly dire pronouncements (The Time for Climate Action is Now) about how rising global temperatures and sea levels threaten the planet (and his private island home), it looks as if Virgin Galactic will go back to using a carbon spewing rubber hybrid rocket engine to power SpaceShipTwo.

That’s the word from Virgin Galactic officials in Mojave, who say that the rubber/nitrous oxide engine they previously abandoned is now performing better than the supposedly superior nylon/nitrous oxide engine they abandoned it for in May 2014. It’s not entirely certain, but it looks that way.


Smallsat Launch Providers Eye Reusability, Mass Production to Reduce Costs

 Liquid Oxygen engine main valve test on Test Stand 1. (Credit: Firefly Space Systems)
Liquid Oxygen engine main valve test on Test Stand 1. (Credit: Firefly Space Systems)

Via Satellite has an interesting report on a smallsat launcher panel that took place last Thursday during the Hosted Payload and SmallSat Summit in Washington, D.C.  The panel, which included executives from DARPA, Firefly Space Systems, Spaceflight Industries and Virgin Galactic, featured discussion on the relative merits of reusability vs. mass production of launchers.

“I think everyone can unanimously agree that costs are far too high in launch,” said P.J. King, co-founder of Firefly. “There are many reasons for that, but if you are going to approach the problem of reducing cost, you’ve effectively got two ways to do it: one is to mass produce and lower the unit costs on an expendable vehicle. The other way is to create a reusable vehicle. We have an eye on both.”

…Not all are pursuing reusability — Rocket Lab, for example, posits that expendable launchers are better for the pace of its business — but rapid manufacture is nearly unanimous, with modular systems dominating most approaches.

King said mass production is the easier of the two, and constitutes Firefly’s primary focus for its early rocket development. Founded less than two years ago, the company recently test fired its first stage engine for Firefly Alpha, a dedicated SmallSat launch vehicle designed to deliver 400kg to Low Earth Orbit (LEO). Firefly plans to build as many as 50 Alpha vehicles per year.

“We are going to be doing three to four suborbital launches first — starting in 2017 to assure people — before we kick into orbital flights in the first quarter 2018,” said King.

Richard DalBello, VP of business development and government relations at Virgin Galactic, said the revamped rocket is now much more aligned with the size of the small satellites the company sees in the market, but that the upgrade will require switching from WhiteknightTwo to a larger carrier aircraft.

“We hope to be starting test launches in the latter part of 2017 with commercial operations in 2018. For a lot of the companies we are talking to, that’s a timeframe that works out well; that’s a planning cycle that works. If we can hit those marks, we think that there will be demand in that time period,” he said.

Read the full story.

Year in Review: A Look at Virgin Galactic Developments in 2014

WhiteKnightTwo visited Spaceport America for the first time in three years on Wednesday. Below, you can see a full-scale model of SpaceShipTwo on the ramp. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)
WhiteKnightTwo visited Spaceport America for the first time in three years on Wednesday. Below, you can see a full-scale model of SpaceShipTwo on the ramp. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

Continuing our look back at 2014, we review progress at Virgin Galactic. While the loss of SpaceShipTwo on Oct. 31 understandably dominated the headlines, there were a number of other newsworthy developments at the company last year.