Suborbital Spotlight: Blue Origin’s New Shepard Platform

NASA’s Office of Chief Technologist has published detailed information about suborbital vehicles that will be available beginning in 2011 for researchers to conduct microgravity experiments. The vehicles are being built by Armadillo Aerospace, Blue Origin, Masten Space Systems, Virgin Galactic, and XCOR.

Today we will look at Blue Origin’s New Shepard system. The Washington State-based company is expected to begin commercial flight operations with cargo next year, with human flights following in 2012. The New Shepard vehicle will fly from Texas.

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XCOR-Curacao Lease Deal Worth $25 Million

XCOR's Lynx suborbital vehicle

A few additional details on the XCOR-Curacao deal, courtesy of The Wall Street Journal:

The latest such effort, slated to be announced Tuesday, is a nearly $25-million agreement between start-up space-plane maker XCOR of Mojave, Ca., a group of Dutch investors and the government of Curacao.

XCOR officials said they are currently in discussions with a number of prospective European partners. “We’ve received a lot of inquiries from around the world,” said Andrew Nelson, XCOR’s chief operating officer, including “a coupe of different locations in Europe.” The company declined to elaborate.

Read the full WSJ story.

NASA Teams Up With Teachers in Space Program for STEM Education

TEACHERS IN SPACE PRESS RELEASE

Dallas, TX – The nonprofit Teachers in Space program has been selected by NASA to create an innovative professional-development program for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) teachers.

“The NASA Education Office has selected Teachers in Space for funding under NASA’s K-12 Cooperative Agreement Notice,” Teachers in Space project manager Edward Wright said today. “Under this cooperative agreement, Teachers in Space will receive approximately $400,000 in funding and work with NASA to take STEM education to a new level.”

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Space Access 10: John Carmack of Armadillo Aerospace

John Carmack
CEO and Founder, Armadillo Aerospace

  • Showed a promotional video highlighting company’s progress
  • Played a second video in which the vehicle lost control at 4,000 feet and fell head-over-tail to the ground

Business Update:

  • Company is growing. Taken on two more full-time team members
  • Operating profit again this year – marginally profitable small aerospace company right now
  • Couple of customers paying them decent money – “We’re very distracted by these customers.” (laughter)
  • Armadillo Aerospace was operating at the margins of what they could sustain
  • Sold his software company last year – provided Armadillo with some more financial stability…
  • What we’re flying now is pretty close to what we need for reusable suborbital vehicles. A number of upgrades needed that they are working on.
  • Hoped to have a new business deal to announce for the conference…announcement due within the next month…
  • Will be conducting tests at Texas launch site, the Oklahoma Spaceport, and Spaceport America in New Mexico

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Video: Oklahoma Spaceport Seeking Spaceships

An interesting interview with Bill Khourie, executive director of the Oklahoma Space Industry Development Authority. OSIDA’s Burns Flat facility has been without a space tenant since Rocketplane moved out about a year ago. However, officials are pursuing some intriguing possibilities:

  • XCOR, which might base one of its Lynx vehicles there;
  • Armadillo, which has been developing a suborbital vehicle and has flown test flights at Burns Flat before;
  • A point-to-point corridor in collaboration with New Mexico’s Spaceport America, presumably involving Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo.

You can read the accompanying story here.

South Korean Space Center Selects XCOR’s Lynx for Suborbital Operations

XCOR's Lynx suborbital vehicle
XCOR's Lynx suborbital vehicle

XCOR PRESS RELEASE
December 17, 2009

The Yecheon Astro Space Center announced today that it has selected XCOR Aerospace as its preferred supplier of suborbital space launch services. Operating under a wet lease model, XCOR intends to supply services to the Center using the Lynx Mark II suborbital vehicle, pending United States government approvals to station the vehicle in the Republic of Korea.

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Blue Origin Moves Forward

blue_originBezos’ space flight project Blue Origin shows signs of life
TechFlash

Blue Origin recently selected three scientific projects — from Purdue University, the University of Central Florida and Louisiana University — for future test flights, though it didn’t specify when the flights would take place. The company will likely respond to a Dec. 4 NASA request for suborbital space flight companies interested in working with the agency on research programs, said Alan Stern, a planetary scientist and former NASA official now consulting for Blue Origin.

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Canadian Tech Mogul Booked for Trip Into Space

Richard Branson poses with Virgin Galactic ticketholders and staff members in front of WhiteKnightTwo.
Richard Branson poses with Virgin Galactic ticketholders and staff members in front of WhiteKnightTwo.

Ottawa man makes space reservation
The Canadian Press

After studying space physics and learning how to fly, John Criswick’s childhood dream of becoming an astronaut was shattered in 1992 when he did not get selected by the Canadian Space Agency.

But the CEO of Magmic Games should finally get his chance to go into space within the next two years – although it will cost him US$200,000. The Canadian businessman has booked a space flight with Virgin Galactic, one of many companies belonging to tycoon Richard Branson.

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Blue Origin to Begin Flights in 2011-12

blue_originSomething I didn’t see last week when looking at Blue Origin’s plans to begin flying experiments, although it is on the website:

Blue Origin expects the first opportunities for experiments requiring an accompanying researcher astronaut to be available in 2012. Flight opportunities in 2011 may be available for autonomous or remotely-controlled experiments on an uncrewed flight test.

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Blue Origin: Have Payloads, But When Will It Fly?

blue_origin

My friend Clark Lindsey at Hobby Space found this notice on the Blue Origin page:

Blue Origin has selected three unmanned research payloads to fly on the New Shepard suborbital vehicle as a part of Phase 1 of the New Shepard Research Flight Demonstration Program. These payloads were selected from an excellent field of submitted proposals.

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FAA Streamlines Environment Review for Commercial Spaceflight

XCOR's Lynx suborbital vehicle
XCOR's Lynx suborbital vehicle

FAA streamlines experimental space flight access
InfoWorld

The Federal Aviation Administration today said it would streamline the environmental review part of permit applications for the launch and/or reentry of reusable suborbital rockets to help bolster a fledgling commercial space market.

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