Program Updates from ISPCS

The second SpaceShipTwo is carried aloft by WhiteKnightTwo on its first captive carry flight. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)
The second SpaceShipTwo is carried aloft by WhiteKnightTwo on its first captive carry flight. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

NASA and various commercial companies gave updates on their programs during the International Symposium on Commercial and Personal Spaceflight this week in Las Cruces, NM.

What follows are summaries that include:

  • suborbital programs (Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin)
  • commercial cargo (SpaceX, Sierra Nevada Corporation)
  • commercial crew (NASA, Boeing, ULA).

The summaries are based on Twitter posts from attendees. A big thanks to Thanks to Tanya Harrison (‏@tanyaofmars), Frank Slazer ‏(@FSlazer), Jeff Foust (‏@jeff_foust), Michael Simpson ‏(@SpaceSharer), and Melissa Sampson (‏@DrSampson) for the coverage.

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Blue Origin to Ramp Up Flight Rate

New Shepard booster executes a controlled vertical landing at 4.2 mph. (Credit: Blue Origin)
New Shepard booster executes a controlled vertical landing at 4.2 mph. (Credit: Blue Origin)

Blue Origin President Rob Meyerson says the company plans to ramp up New Shepard flight tests as the year progresses.

After completing two successful flights of its New Shepard suborbital vehicle in two months, Blue Origin plans to increase the frequency of future test flights, with dozens more planned before the company is ready to start flying people….

“We expect to shorten that turnaround time over time this year, and fly this vehicle again and again,” he said. Those upcoming tests will use the same New Shepard vehicle that flew the previous two flights, with hardware and software modifications as needed between flights.

Meyerson said the company still plans to perform “dozens” of test flights of New Shepard over the next couple of years before the company is ready to carry people on the vehicle. “It really depends on how the flight test program goes,” he said. “It could be a little faster than that, or it could be a little longer than that, depending on what we learn.”

Blue Origin, though, does expect to start carrying uncrewed research payloads on New Shepard later this year. The company has been working with researchers at Purdue University, the University of Central Florida and Louisiana State University to provide initial “pathfinder” experiments that will fly on the vehicle. “We hope to fly those payloads this year,” he said.

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Blue Origin Looks for Washington State Incentives to Build Rocket Engine

BE-4 staged combustion testing (Credit: Blue Origin)
BE-4 staged combustion testing (Credit: Blue Origin)

Blue Origin President Rob Meyerson told business leaders his company looking for economic incentives to build the BE-4 rocket in Washington State where it is being designed.

At its Kent headquarters, Blue Origin employs more than 400 engineers who design and build development models of both its space rockets and the engines that power them.

“Building the engine near the engineering team that designed it … has benefits,” said Meyerson, speaking at the Economic Forecast Conference at the Seattle Westin Hotel. “But there are other factors.”

He lamented the fact that two tax incentives that applied to Blue Origin’s work — the high-technology research business and occupation tax credit and sales-tax exemption — were both allowed to expire at the beginning of 2015.

And he called for the passage of House Bill 2226 in the current legislative session, which would extend to manufacturers of spacecraft the same aerospace-industry incentives available to Boeing and its suppliers in the commercial-airplane business.

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CSF Adds New Member Companies

CSF_logo2WASHINGTON, D.C. (CSF PR) — The Commercial Spaceflight Federation welcomed several new member companies at its Executive Board meeting this week, expanding its membership to more than 60 companies.

Spaceport Camden of Camden County, Georgia joined CSF as an Executive Member. Steve Howard, Spaceport Camden project leader, will represent his organization on the CSF Board of Directors. “CSF’s mission strategically aligns with Camden’s goals, and we are pleased to join other industry leaders as part of this organization,” Howard said.

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