Results of EXOS Aerospace SARGE Launch at Spaceport America

SARGE launch at Spaceport America. (Screenshot from Exos Aerospace webcast)

Spaceport America, NM and Greenville, TX (EXOS Aerospace/Spaceport America PR)Spaceport America, the world’s first purpose-built commercial spaceport and EXOS Aerospace Systems & Technologies, Inc., a leading developer of reusable space launch vehicles based in Greenville, Texas, announce a successful test launch of their newest vehicle, SARGE.

(more…)

GPS Glitch Limited Altitude of Exos SARGE Rocket

SARGE launch at Spaceport America. (Screenshot from Exos Aerospace webcast)

Space News reports that Exos Aerospace’s SARGE launch from Spaceport America last month failed to reach its intended altitude due to a glitch in its GPS system.

In a mission report provided by the company a week and a half after the launch, Exos said that a GPS receiver on the rocket stopped providing data during the rocket’s ascent. That triggered an automatic shutdown of the rocket’s engine 38 seconds after liftoff, versus a planned duration of 62 to 65 seconds, said John Quinn, chief operating officer of Exos, Sept. 5.

As a result of the early engine shutdown, the rocket reached a peak altitude of 28 kilometers, rather than the planned 80 kilometers. Quinn said an extrapolation of the rocket’s performance during that powered phase indicated the rocket might have been able to reach nearly 90 kilometers had the engine fired for the full duration.

The cause of the GPS unit malfunction in the rocket is still being studied. The unit started providing data again later in the flight, and an inspection turned up no obvious damage to the unit, cabling or antennas. There were separate dropouts of telemetry from the rocket during the flight, according to the mission report.

China’s OneSpace Launches Suborbital Booster

OneSpace launched the OS-X1 suborbital rocket on Friday from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in another step toward orbital flights for the Chinese commercial launch company, according to media reports.

Gbtimes reports the solid-fuel Chongqing Liangjiang Star booster reached an altitude of about 35 kilometer during a 3m 20s flight. The first flight of the suborbital rocket was conducted in May.

The flight was captured from space by the Jilin-1, which was passing overhead at the time.

The suborbital flights are testing technology for the company’s larger OS-XM orbital booster. The company is planning a flight test of that rocket by the end of the year.

The flight came two days after Chinese rival iSpace launched its Hyperbola-1Z suborbital rocket from Jiuquan. iSpace also has plans for an orbital launch vehicle and a space plane.

A third commercial launch firm, Landspace,  plans to launch the orbital Zhuque-1 rocket next month.

Chinese Startup iSpace Launches Suborbital Rocket

Hyperbolic XQS-1X rocket (Credit: iSpace)

Chinese commercial launch provider iSpace successfully launched its Hyperbola-1Z suborbital booster with three payloads aboard from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on Wednesday at 1 p.m. local time (0500 UTC), according to media reports.

The 9-meter (29.5-foot) tall, single stage solid-fuel rocket reached an altitude of 175 km (108 miles) and deployed the three suborbital payloads. One of the payloads parachuted back to Earth, media reports say.

In April, the company launched the suborbital Hyperbola-1S rocket to an altitude of 40 km (29.85 miles).

iSpace completed a series A round of fundraising in July that brought the total amount raised to 600 million yuan ($90 million) in 2018. The round was led by Matrix Partners China.

The company has plans to develop an orbital satellite launcher as well as a space plane.

Japan’s PD Aerospace Aims for Space Tourism Flights in 2023

A planned suborbital space plane. Credit: (PD AeroSpace Ltd. / Koike Terumasa Design and Aerospace)

An update on the Japanese start-up PD Aerospace, which has plans for a space tourism vehicle that would take off from the runway.

The Nagoya-based company plans space flights to an altitude of 110 kilometers by the spacecraft, capable of carrying six passengers and two pilots, at a price of 17 million yen ($153,000) per person.

“We would like to open a new space era (with the spacecraft),” said Shuji Ogawa, the 48-year-old president of PD AeroSpace.

Last summer, the company successfully carried out a combustion experiment of the spacecraft’s pulse detonation engine, which is switchable from an air-breathing mode to rocket mode.

According to the company plan, the spaceship will change its mode of combustion at an altitude of 15 km to ascend further, and passengers will be able to enjoy a near weightless experience for about five minutes while staring down at Earth.

Japan’s Space Walker Aims for Space Tourism Flights & Small Satellite Launches

Credit: Space Walker

TOKYO — A Japanese startup named is developing a new launch vehicle that will orbit small satellites and carry tourists on suborbital flights beginning in 2027.

Credit: Space Walker

Space Walker plans a series of suborbital flight tests with a prototype vehicle. The system will then be outfitted with a second stage capable of launching small satellites into orbit.

Credit: Space Walker

The final version of the Space Walker system would carry six passengers and two pilots beginning in 2027.

The program includes IHI Corporation and JAXA as partners.

The company was founded by Koichi Yonemoto, a professor at Kyushu Institute of Technology who formerly worked at Kawasaki Heavy Industries. Partners in the venture include IHI Corporation and the Japanese space agency JAXA.

Review: Rocket Billionaires Elon Musk & Jeff Bezos Battle for Control of Space

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Rocket Billionaires: Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and the New Space Race
by Tim Fernholz
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018
304 pp., illus.
ISBN 978-1-328-66223-1
US$28

In 2004, a small vehicle named SpaceShipOne built by Burt Rutan and his team at Scaled Composites and funded by Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen flew three suborbital flights, becoming the first privately-built crewed craft to exit the Earth’s atmosphere. For their efforts, Rutan and Allen won the $10 million Ansari X Prize.

Rutan quickly teamed with another billionaire, Richard Branson, to build a successor vehicle named SpaceShipTwo for Virgin Galactic that would carry two pilots and six passengers on commercial suborbital flights as early as 2007. It didn’t quite work out as planned; 14 years later, SpaceShipTwo hasn’t flown anyone to space.

(more…)

The Adventures of SpaceShipTwo: Inverted Flight, Wonky Gyros & an Impatient Billionaire

SpaceShipTwo glides to a landing at Mojave Air and Space Port. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

Nicholas Schmidle has an interesting profile of Virgin Galactic test pilot Mark Stucky in the New Yorker that sheds some light on what’s been going on at Richard Branson’s space company. I’ve excerpted some interesting passages below.

If you’ve been watching the videos of  SpaceShipTwo VSS Unity‘s first three powered flights and thinking to yourself, Gee, it looks like that thing really wants to roll…well, you’d be right. Here’s an account of the first flight on April 5.
(more…)

NASA Selects US Firms to Provide Commercial Suborbital Flight Services

NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program has selected four companies to integrate and fly technology payloads on commercial suborbital reusable platforms that carry payloads near the boundary of space. The selection is part of NASA’s continuing effort to foster a viable market for American commercial reusable suborbital platforms that allow testing of new space technologies within Earth’s atmosphere.

Through these new awards, selected companies will receive an indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract for integration and flight services, drawing from a pool of commercial space companies. The five-year contracts have a combined potential contract value of $45 million. The flights will carry a variety of payloads to help meet the agency’s research and technology needs.

The selected companies are:

  • Aerostar International (Raven Aerostar), Sioux Falls, South Dakota
  • Blue Origin Texas, LLC, Van Horn, Texas
  • Up Aerospace Inc., Littleton, Colorado
  • World View Enterprises, Inc., Tucson, Arizona

NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) is charged with maturing crosscutting technologies to flight readiness status for future space missions. The agency’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California, manages the Flight Opportunities Program for STMD.

During the coming year, STMD will make significant new investments that address several high priority challenges for achieving safe and affordable deep space exploration. It continues to solicit the help of the best and brightest minds in academia, industry, and government to drive innovation and enable solutions in important technology thrust areas. These planned investments are addressing high priority challenges for achieving safe and affordable deep space exploration.

For more information on the program, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov/flightopportunities

Space Miles® to Launch Suborbital Spaceflight Competitions

Space Miles Press Release

Space Miles, through their sub-brand The Space Shuffle® are soon to launch continuous online competitions to win sub-orbital space flights.

The format of The Space Shuffle online competition will be to answer three questions and the winner will be the first correct entry chosen at random when the trigger point of 45,000 entries has been reached.

www.thespaceshuffle.com

Competitions will start when sub-orbital flights are generally available to the public. Tickets will be $10 but pre-registrants will get 20% discount on their first five entries.

(more…)

Latest Blue Origin Launch Tests Technologies of Interest to Space Exploration

NASA SFEM-2 team poses in front of the Blue Origin capsule after a successful launch and landing that tested sensor technologies for measuring critical data, such as acceleration, pressure, temperature, humidity, carbon dioxide levels and acoustic levels inside a spacecraft. (Credit: Blue Origin)

VAN HORN, Texas (NASA PR) — On July 18, 2018, at 8:35 am PDT, Blue Origin successfully launched its New Shepard rocket from the company’s West Texas launch site with five NASA-supported technologies onboard. For each of these payloads, this flight was one in a series of suborbital demonstrations to facilitate technology development.

The flight helped researchers collect critical data to help them confirm theories, refine previous results and fine-tune experiments for future testing.

(more…)

Blue Origin Moves Closer to Human Flights with New Shepard Test

New Shepard booster over the landing pad. (Credit: Blue Origin)

VAN HORN, Texas (Blue Origin PR) — New Shepard flew for the ninth time on July 18, 2018. During this mission, known as Mission 9 (M9), the escape motor was fired shortly after booster separation.

The Crew Capsule was pushed hard by the escape test and we stressed the rocket to test that astronauts can get away from an anomaly at any time during flight. The mission was a success for both the booster and capsule. Most importantly, astronauts would have had an exhilarating ride and safe landing.

This isn’t the first time we’ve done this type of extreme testing on New Shepard. In October of 2012, we simulated a booster failure on the launch pad and had a successful escape.

New Shepard capsule parachutes to a safe landing (Credit: Blue Origin)

Then in October of 2016, we simulated a booster failure in-flight at Max Q, which is the most physically strenuous point in the flight for the rocket, and had a completely successful escape of the capsule.

This test on M9 allowed us to finally characterize escape motor performance in the near-vacuum of space and guarantee that we can safely return our astronauts in any phase of flight.

Also on M9, New Shepard carried science and research payloads from commercial companies, universities and space agencies. Learn more about the payloads on board here.

You can also view the full replay of M9 on YouTube.

Until our next test launch, Gradatim Ferociter!

Southern Road to Spaceport America Nearly Completed

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

The long-awaited southern road that will cut travel time between Las Cruces and Spaceport America is nearing completion, the Las Cruces Sun-News reports.

Finally, after years of delays and uncertainties, the roughly 24-mile-long road is paved. Some details remain in the overall project, which Doña Ana County officials expect to be completed in August.

Doña Ana County Manager Fernando Macias said he drove the road on July 9 to see how it looked.

“From my perspective, it’s 98 percent complete,” he said. “Maybe a little bit of touch-ups (are needed) as we go along because we haven’t technically accepted the road or accepted the finality of the project.”

For years, there’s been a dirt road along the southern route, which stretches from the Upham Exit of Interstate 25 to the spaceport. But it was in poor condition, and drivers, especially those in passenger cars, found it impassable. Even people driving trucks reported frequent flat tires.

Currently, motorists must drive north of the spaceport on I-25 to Truth or Consequences and then double back on local roads to reach the spaceport.

The $14 million project is being paid for by the New Mexico Spaceport Authority, which runs Spaceport America. The state of New Mexico has spent about $225 million on the spaceport project, whose anchor tenant is Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic.

Virgin Galactic continues to test SpaceShipTwo Unity at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California. The ship is designed to carry six passengers and two pilots on suborbital flights.

 

Report: Tickets on Blue Origin’s New Shepard to Cost at Least $200,000

New Shepard crew capsule (Credit: Blue Origin)

Reuters has an update on Blue Origin’s progress toward flying people aboard its suborbital New Shepard spacecraft.

Executives at the company, started by Amazon.com Inc founder [Jeff] Bezos in 2000, told a business conference last month they planned test flights with passengers on the New Shepard soon, and to start selling tickets next year….

One Blue Origin employee with first-hand knowledge of the pricing plan said the company will start selling tickets in the range of about $200,000 to $300,000. A second employee said tickets would cost a minimum of $200,000. They both spoke on condition of anonymity as the pricing strategy is confidential.

The company will do the first test in space of its capsule escape system, which propels the crew to safety should the booster explode, “within weeks,” one of the employees said.

While Blue Origin has not disclosed its per-flight operating costs, Teal Group aerospace analyst Marco Caceres estimated each flight could cost the firm about $10 million. With six passengers per trip, that would mean losing millions of dollars per launch, at least initially.

Tickets aboard Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo cost $250,000, although early ticket buyers will pay $200,000. Richard Branson’s company says it has sold around 650 tickets for the suborbital space hop.