Tag: virgin galactic

UK Space Agency Invests £1.15 Million in Launch Research


UK_space_agencySWINDON, UK (UKSA PR) — We are investing £1.15 million to fund preparatory research about sub-orbital spaceflight and small satellite launches from the UK.

In 2015, the National Space Policy set out the government’s ambition to establish a spaceport in the UK. In February 2016, proposals were invited for industrial research projects to investigate the challenges associated with the introduction and operation of commercial viable services in the UK, and to identify the underpinning technological developments required to support these activities.

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UK Government Awards Launch Feasibility Studies


UK_flagSpace News reports the British government has awarded contracts totaling approximately $2 million to five groups for feasibility studies on launching out of the United Kingdom.

Airbus Safran Launchers, the prime contractor for Europe’s Ariane 5 and future Ariane 6 rockets, which has said was interested in a small-satellite launcher in addition to commercializing its work on a suborbital space-tourism vehicle.

Deimos Space UK associated with Firefly Space Systems of the United States, developing a vertical-launch rocket.

Lockheed Martin of the United States, proposing a version of its Athena small-satellite vertical-launch vehicle.

Britain’s Orbital Access associated with BAE Systems and Reaction Engines Ltd., proposing to use a modified version of Reaction Engines’ single-stage-to-orbit technology, whose development is being partially funded by the British government.

Virgin Galactic, which is proposing its SpaceShipTwo suborbital vehicle, designed in the United States.

Read the full story.


Virgin Galactic to Begin SpaceShipTwo Flight Tests Next Month

VSS Unity roll out on Feb. 19, 2016. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

VSS Unity roll out on Feb. 19, 2016. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

Virgin Galactic says it will begin flight tests with its second SpaceShipTwo in August at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California, a company official told Bloomberg News.

The tests, which will likely begin with captive carry flights, will come nearly two years after the first SpaceShipTwo crashed on Halloween morning 2014. Co-pilot Mike Alsbury died in the accident.

The story says that powered flights of the suborbital space plane will begin in 2017.


Report: 3,600 Smallsats to Clog Space in Next 10 Years

Eight small-sized satellites total a big bonus for science. The Edison Demonstration of Smallsat Networks (EDSN) mission was to have used a swarm of small spacecraft to carry out scientific measurements. (Credit: NASA Ames Research Center)

Eight small-sized satellites total a big bonus for science. The Edison Demonstration of Smallsat Networks (EDSN) mission was to have used a swarm of small spacecraft to carry out scientific measurements. (Credit: NASA Ames Research Center)

$22 Billion Smallsat Market Forecast

Paris, Washington D.C., Montreal, Yokohama, July 7, 2016 (Euroconsult PR) — According to Euroconsult’s latest report, Prospects for the Small Satellite Market, we are on the cusp of a major revolution for the space sector and overall space ecosystem, as more than 3,600 smallsats are expected to be launched over the next ten years, a significant increase from the previous decade.

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Entrepreneurial Lingo Lesson: The Pivot


twist_chubby1_disrupt copy
First in an irregular series on entrepreneurial buzz words

Come on let’s pivot again,
Like we did last quarter!
Yeaaah, let’s pivot again,
Like we did last year!

Do you remember when,
ROI was really hummin’,
Yeaaaah, let’s pivot again,
Pivotin’ time is here!

Heeee, and round and round til IPO we go!
Oh, baby, make those investors love us so!

Let’s pivot again,
Like we did last quarter!
Yeaaah, let’s pivot again,
Like we did last year!

There comes a time in the existence of many startups when there an urgent need to change direction. You set up the company to pursue a goal, but for one reason or several — a lack of a market, shortage of investment, regulatory hurdles, a flawed concept — you have to direct all that talent, technology and enthusiasm toward a new objective that will keep the company in operation.

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Virgin Galactic Taps Tim Buzza to Lead LauncherOne Program

George Whitesides

George Whitesides

With Virgin Galactic President Steve Isakowitz heading out the door for the Aerospace Corporation, CEO George Whitesides has made an interim appointment in the meantime.

“I have asked Tim Buzza, the program director of LauncherOne, to step up and lead our LauncherOne enterprise as we search for Steve’s successor. Tim joined Virgin Galactic in 2014, and has led the overall program management of LauncherOne since early 2015. Prior to joining Galactic, Tim served as the Vice President of Launch and Test at SpaceX, in addition to prior leadership roles at Boeing and McDonnell Douglas. Tim will be supported by our Senior Vice President of Business Development and Advanced Concepts, Barry Matsumori, who was previously SpaceX’s Senior Vice President of Sales and Business Development, as well as key roles at Qualcomm, Space Systems Loral and General Dynamics.”

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Isakowitz Leaves Virgin Galactic to Run Aerospace Corporation

Virgin Galactic President Steven J. Isakowitz (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

Steven J. Isakowitz (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (Aerospace Corp PR) — Steve Isakowitz, president of Virgin Galactic, has been elected president of The Aerospace Corporation effective Aug. 1. He will assume the position of Aerospace president and CEO upon the retirement of Dr. Wanda Austin on Oct. 1.

“After a year-long search process, the board of trustees is pleased with the result. Building on Dr. Wanda Austin’s legacy of excellence and accomplishment, Steve Isakowitz has the right set of skills and experience—in government and industry—to lead Aerospace in a rapidly changing environment of constrained customer resources, challenging threats, and exciting new space technologies,” said Ambassador Barbara Barrett, chair of The Aerospace Corporation board of trustees.

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Smallsat Roundup: Japanese Launcher, Australia Nanosats & Virgin Funding

LauncherOne ignites after being released from Cosmic Girl 747. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

LauncherOne ignites after being released from Cosmic Girl 747. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

Japanese Startup: Nikkei Asian Review has an interview with Takahiro Inagawa, CEO of Interstellar Technologies, about his company’s plans to develop a cheap booster for launching small satellites. “Our focus is not to develop high-end rockets but something simple and affordable, just like the Super Cub (Honda Motor’s popular small motorbike),” Inagawa said. The company plans its first sounding rocket launch this summer. http://asia.nikkei.com/Tech-Science/Tech/Hokkaido-startup-aims-high-in-small-satellite-launches

Orders for Virgin Galactic’s LauncherOne: Business Insider Australia reports that Australian startup Sky and Space Global plans launch part of its constellation of voice and data network nanosats aboard Virgin Galactic’s LauncherOne. “It is expected to not only deliver substantial cost savings, due to LauncherOne’s ability to carry multiple nano-satellites simultaneously, but will enable us to bolster our bandwidth capacity as we launch further nano-satellites into orbit,” said company founder Meir Moalem. http://www.businessinsider.com.au/australias-sky-and-space-is-using-virgin-galactic-to-launch-nanosatellites-2016-6

UPDATE: The agreement is only a letter of intent, which falls short of firm orders for launches.

Virgin Galactic Fundraising: Sky News says that Richard Branson is raising up to $300 million for “existing shareholders” for Virgin Galactic.  “The latest injection of capital is aimed at accelerating the development of Galactic’s commercial satellite venture and expanding production capacity at the company’s headquarters,” Sky News reports. Virgin Galactic declined to comment. http://news.sky.com/story/1716551/branson-injects-cash-into-galactic-space-race

SpaceShipTwo Update Video


Whitesides, Masten Engineer Selected for Space Camp Hall of Fame

George Whitesides

George Whitesides

HUNTSVILLE, Ala., (U.S. Space & Rocket Center PR) — The U.S. Space & Rocket Center® is pleased to announce the selection of three outstanding individuals who make up the 2016 class of the Space Camp® Hall of Fame: Jason Hopkins, an aerospace engineer and business development specialist at Masten Space Systems and a former NASA Fellow; Dr. Amy Kaminski, Senior Policy Advisor, Office of the Chief Scientist, NASA; and George Whitesides, CEO of Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company.

In honor of the 30th anniversary of its release, the Rocket Center is also inducting the cast of “Space Camp,” a movie that launched the dream of attending Space Camp for thousands of children. Larry B. Scott, who played Rudy Tyler in the movie, will accept the induction of the cast into the Space Camp Hall of Fame.

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NSRC Day 3 Summary

Test flights will eventually take place on Masten Space Systems' Xaero vehicle. (Credit: Masten Space Systems)

Test flights will eventually take place on Masten Space Systems’ Xaero vehicle. (Credit: Masten Space Systems)

The Next Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference finished up today in Colorado. There were provider presentations from Masten Space Systems and Virgin Galactic. Three researchers also presented results from suborbital microgravity flights.

Below are summaries of the sessions based on Tweets.
Continue reading ‘NSRC Day 3 Summary’

A Summary of NSRC Day 1

Precise thrust vector control and deep throttling enable pinpoint booster landing. (Credit: Blue Origin)

Precise thrust vector control and deep throttling enable pinpoint booster landing. (Credit: Blue Origin)

The three-day Next-Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference began today in Colorado. Although I wasn’t able to attend, I have compiled highlights of a very newsworthy day via Twitter posts. (You can follow along with hashtag #nsrc2016.)

Below is a summary of news and updates provided by Blue Origin, Masten Space Systems, World View Enterprises, Exos Aerospace, Virgin Galactic, Near Space Corporation, and NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program.

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Video: Musk, Bezos & Branson Talk Commercial Space


A Tale of Two Prizes

SpaceShipOne on the floor beside the Spirit of St. Louis of the National Air & Space Museum. (Credit: National Air & Space Museum)

SpaceShipOne on the floor beside the Spirit of St. Louis of the National Air & Space Museum. (Credit: National Air & Space Museum)

Two major flight-related anniversaries are being celebrated this week. Today marks the 89th anniversary of Charles Lindbergh’s historic solo flight across the Atlantic aboard the Spirit of St. Louis. Lucky Lindy took off from New York on this date and arrived in Paris some 33.5 hours later, claiming the $25,000 Orteig Prize.

Wednesday was the 20th anniversary of the launch of X Prize (later Ansari X Prize). Inspired by the Orteig Prize, it offered $10 million for the first privately build vehicle to fly to suborbital space twice within two weeks. The Ansari X Prize was won in October 2004 by a team led by Burt Rutan and Paul Allen with SpaceShipOne.

After Lindbergh’s flight, a public that had previously shunned commercial aviation embraced it with a passion. Following the Ansari X Prize, Richard Branson vowed to begin flying tourists to space aboard a successor vehicle, SpaceShipTwo, within three years. Nearly a dozen years and four deaths later, Branson has yet to fulfill this promise.

The SpaceShipTwo program has now taken longer than it took for NASA to go from President John F. Kennedy proposal to land a man on the moon to the completion of the program with the splashdown of Apollo 17. NASA launched the space shuttle Columbia exactly 20 years after the first spaceflight by Yuri Gagarin.

So, why have things taken so long? And why did one prize succeed beyond the dreams of its sponsor, while the space prize it inspired has promised so few practical results? The answer is a complex one that I addressed back in March in a story titled, “Prizes, Technology and Safety.” I’ve republished the story below with links to other posts in a series about flight safety.

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Orbital ATK Sued Over Satellite Servicing Venture


orbital_ATK_logoSpaceNews reports on the latest litigation in satellite land:

Orbital ATK is facing a lawsuit from its former partner in the ViviSat satellite servicing venture, claiming Orbital improperly shut down the joint venture to pursue the servicing business on its own.

In a suit filed April 29 with the Supreme Court of the State of New York, U.S. Space LLC alleges that Orbital ATK violated the terms of a management agreement regarding operations of ViviSat to take control of the company and dissolve it in April, a maneuver U.S. Space called in court filings “a double-cross of cosmic proportions.” The lawsuit was first reported by the legal publication Law360.

U.S. Space and ATK Space Systems created ViviSat in 2010 to develop and commercialize a satellite servicing system later known as the Mission Extension Vehicle (MEV). Under the original teaming agreement, ATK was primarily responsible for technical development of the MEV, while U.S. Space was responsible for financing and business development.

ATK supplied about $3 million through March 2013 to fund ViviSat’s operations, according to court papers. However, when ViviSat said in late 2012 that it needed an additional $200,000, ATK requested an amendment to the management agreement that would tie the funding to business development milestones.

The revised agreement, signed in April 2013, included an “amendment trigger” that would effectively give control of ViviSat to ATK, including three of four seats on its board of directors, if ViviSat didn’t achieve those milestones. That agreement also allowed the ViviSat board to dissolve the company by a majority vote.

The dispute involves whether VivaSat met the milestones in time. Orbital ATK says the suit is without merit.

Editor’s Note: This is a fine story that digs into the details of the lawsuit. My only question is: where has SpaceNews been for the last six months since the Virgin Galactic-Firefly litigation became public?

It’s a helluva story involving some rather explosive claims by two major NewSpace companies. Firefly would be effectively put out of business by a rival if Virgin wins. The lawsuit certainly qualifies as news every bit as much as the VivaSat lawsuit. Yet, it hasn’t merited a single story by the leading space news website. It’s disappointing.