Tag: virgin galactic

An Update on SpaceShipTwo

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SpaceShipTwo glides to a landing during a test flight on June 26. (Credit: Virgin Galactic/Chris Van Pelt)

SpaceShipTwo glides to a landing during a test flight on June 26. (Credit: Virgin Galactic/Chris Van Pelt)

An update on SpaceShipTwo from Virgin Galactic’s Mark Butler:

The Las Cruces-based Butler said Virgin Galactic has big plans for 2016, including the introduction of a new spaceship. He said Virgin Galactic hopes to debut the spaceship on Feb. 19 in California and begin testing again. The company may also perform test launches in New Mexico this year, as the goal is to start launching people into space in 2018.

As launching commercial flights into space becomes more of a reality, Butler said the company plans on shifting more of its operations to New Mexico. He said Virgin Galactic has 600 employees, most of whom are based in California where the company is manufacturing and testing its spaceships. There is a team of about 20 people based in Las Cruces, but Butler said the company plans to move 100 to 120 of its employees to the city in the coming years.

Read the full story.

FAA Releases Annual Compendium of Commercial Space Transportation

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faa_compendium_2016The Annual Compendium of Commercial Space Transportation: 2016

Executive Summary

The size of the global space industry, which combines satellite services and ground equipment, government space budgets, and global navigation satellite services (GNSS) equipment, is estimated to be about $324 billion. At $95 billion in revenues, or about 29 percent, satellite television represents the largest segment of activity. Following this is government space budgets at $76 billion, or 24 percent, and services enabled by GNSS represent, about $76 billion in revenues. Commercial satellite remote sensing companies generated on $1.6 billion in revenues, but the value added services enabled by these companies is believed to be magnitudes larger. Because remote sensing value added services includes imagery and data analytics from other sources beyond space-based platforms, only the satellite remote sensing component is included in the global space industry total.

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Legislative Fiscal Impact Analysis on Spaceport America Measure

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

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

The following is the New Mexico legislative fiscal impact report for SB-157, a measure introduced by State Sen. Lee Cotter (R-Las Cruces) to restrict use taxes collected in Sierra and Dona Ana counties to paying off Spaceport America bonds. Revenues in excess of what is needed to pay off the bonds are being used to fund spaceport operations.

The analysis indicates that excess revenues could be used to pay off the two bonds one year earlier than their 2029 maturation date. However, the restriction would put a gap in the spaceport’s operating budget that would have to be paid by state taxpayers. Spaceport officials are already seeking $2.26 million from the state government for the upcoming 2017 fiscal year to fund operations.

The revenue gaps at the $225 million spaceport have been caused by delays by anchor tenant Virgin Galactic, which plans to fly tourists to space from the facility. New Mexico officials are hoping flights begin in Fiscal Year 2018, which will begin on July 1, 2017. Virgin Galactic has not given an estimate for when service will begin.

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State Senator Seeks Spaceport America Tax Relief for Local Residents

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The Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space terminal hangar facility (center), Spaceport Operations Center (Left) and "Spaceway" (Runway) at Spaceport America. (Credit: Bill Gutman/Spaceport America)

The Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space terminal hangar facility (center), Spaceport Operations Center (Left) and “Spaceway” (Runway) at Spaceport America. (Credit: Bill Gutman/Spaceport America)

New Mexico State Sen. Lee Cotter (R-Las Cruces) has renewed efforts to bring tax relief to residents of Dona Ana and Sierra counties relating to their support of Spaceport America.

In 2007, residents of the two counties agreed to increase their taxes to help fund the construction of the facility, which is located outside of Truth or Consequences. The taxes remain in place to pay off bonds sold to fund Spaceport America’s construction.

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Report: Drones Flying From Spaceport America

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

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

It appears as if something is finally flying out of Spaceport America:

Google is testing solar-powered drones at Spaceport America in New Mexico to explore ways to deliver high-speed internet from the air, the Guardian has learned.

In a secretive project codenamed SkyBender, the technology giant built several prototype transceivers at the isolated spaceport last summer, and is testing them with multiple drones, according to documents obtained under public records laws.

In order to house the drones and support aircraft, Google is temporarily using 15,000 square feet of hangar space in the glamorous Gateway to Space terminal designed by Richard Foster for the much-delayed Virgin Galactic spaceflights.

The tech company has also installed its own dedicated flight control centre in the nearby Spaceflight Operations Center, separate from the terminal….

Google is paying Virgin Galactic $1,000 a day for the use of a hangar in the Gateway to Space building, but had to split its SkyBender tests into two separate flight campaigns to ease Virgin Galactic concerns.

Read the full story.

Aabar Investments Refinancing $2.5 Billion Loan

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aabar_logoReuters reports that Virgin Galactic partner Aabar Investments is trying to borrow $2.5 billion to refinance a loan that is due in April.

Aabar has a chequered past, having borrowed aggressively to build up its holdings around the turn of the decade but then suffering heavy losses as investments turned sour. For example, IPIC’s 2011 net profit was all but wiped out due to losses worth $3.42 billion by Aabar’s holdings in German carmaker Daimler and UniCredit.

It has since kept a lower profile as it seeks to repair its reputation within Abu Dhabi and manage its existing commitments….

The 2013 loan was split between tranches lasting three and five years, which were each denominated in dollars, UAE dirhams and euros. Among the banks to have backed the loan were Bank of America-Merrill Lynch, HSBC, JP Morgan and National Bank of Abu Dhabi, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Read the full story.

 

A Close Look at Spaceport America’s FY 2017 Budget Request

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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)

Attention New Mexicans!

Have you been wondering exactly what Spaceport America costs to operate? Curious about what officials spend money on? Anxious to know what this is going to cost you in the fiscal year ahead?  Dying to learn how much anchor tenant Virgin Galactic is contributing to the budget?

Well, look no further. Parabolic Arc has the spaceport’s budget request for FY 2017, which begins on July 1. There’s a full description of spending and projected revenues right after the break.

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Character, Candor & Competence: Lessons From the SpaceShipTwo Crash

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SpaceShipTwo right boom wreckage. (Credit: NTSB)

SpaceShipTwo right boom wreckage. (Credit: NTSB)

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

One of the most interesting aspects of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation into the SpaceShipTwo crash was how it pulled back the curtain on what was actually going on in the program being undertaken in Mojave. Over the years, the rhetoric has been frequently at odds with reality.

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Who Will Become the World’s First Commercial Spaceline?

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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)

With Blue Origin’s successful re-flight of its reusable New Shepard booster and capsule on Friday, the company jumped ahead in the competition to fly people into space on a commercial basis.

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Stu Witt Retires From Mojave Spaceport in Style

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Stu Witt (center) stands with Congressman Kevin McCarthy, X Prize Chairman Peter Diamandis, Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides and others in front of a replica of SpaceShipOne. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

Stu Witt (center) stands with Congressman Kevin McCarthy, X Prize Chairman Peter Diamandis, Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides and others in front of a replica of SpaceShipOne. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

They came to Mojave from near and far — from the dusty desert communities of Lancaster, Boron and Ridgecrest to the snow swept tundra of Sweden — to send Stu Witt off in style. One of the most powerful men in Washington, D.C. played hooky from Congress to wish his friend a happy retirement.

Hundreds of people gathered on Jan. 8 to mark the end of Witt’s nearly 14-year term as CEO and general manager of the Mojave Air and Space Port. The event featured a reception and a long parade of friends and colleagues singing his praises.

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Check Out Virgin Galactic’s New Flight Suits

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Video Caption: Astronauts piloting Virgin Galactic’s commercial space flights will suit-up in these one-piece uniforms by Yohji Yamamoto and Adidas’ brand Y-3.

The prototype spacesuits and accompanying boots were revealed at the Foster + Partners-designed Spaceport America in New Mexico today.

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Update on Virgin Galactic-Firefly Litigation

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Credit: Daniel Mayer

Credit: Daniel Mayer

Just a brief update on the legal fight between Virgin Galactic and Firefly Space Systems.

The hearing scheduled for today in Los Angeles Superior Court has been postponed until Feb. 23. The hearing concerns a lawsuit filed by Firefly board member P.J. King seeking to overturn an arbitrator’s ruling that he must turn over documents and other materials to Virgin Galactic.

I’ve been getting some inquiries from media about the court documents. The lawsuit filed in LA County Superior Court is online at https://www.lacourt.org/. Do a search in civil cases under online services. The documents are not in the federal PACER system.

The documents for the Clark County, Nevada district court filing were not online the last time I looked. Your best bet would be to contact the parties involved. You will find contact information in the documents filed for the Los Angeles lawsuit.

For anyone who wants to get caught up on this story, here’s Parabolic Arc’s coverage to date:

Updated: Firefly Board Member Sues to Stop Alleged Virgin Galactic “Fishing Expedition” – Dec. 16, 2015

Here’s the Information Virgin Galactic Has Sought From Firefly – Dec. 17, 2015

Former Propulsion Chief Accuses Virgin Galactic of Lying About SpaceShipTwo’s Safety, Performance – Jan. 12, 2016

New Virgin Galactic Pilot Flies WhiteKnightTwo

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WhiteKnightTwo’s been flying over Mojave lately. The desert has been in the depths of its wintry worst over the past month (low temp on New Year’s morning, 22 Fahrenheit or -5.5 Celsius). It wasn’t that cold on Friday, but Latimer’s outdoor shower was undoubtedly a cold one.

Another Spaceport America Update

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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)

The Las Cruces Sun-News has an update from Christine Anderson, executive director of the New Mexico Spaceport Authority. The highlights are below.

  • Virgin Galactic remains “completely committed” to Spaceport America despite recent remarks by Richard Branson that the company also wants to fly from a British spaceport.
  • Doña Ana County officials are moving forward with a plan to pave a dirt road that will provide more direct access to Spaceport America from Las Cruces. A contract could be awarded as early as July.
  • The spaceport expects to earn $4 million in fiscal year 2017 that begins on July 1. It will still need $2.8 million from the New Mexico Legislature to cover its operating budget.
  • Officials are expecting Virgin Galactic to begin flying from Spaceport America during FY 2018. Virgin’s annual rent will increase during that year from $1 million to around $3 million.
  • ARCASpace is planning to test their AirStrato vehicle at Spaceport America this year.
  • Officials are continuing efforts to attract more businesses to the spaceport, including positioning it as a location for filming and events.

The rent hike is interesting. If Virgin Galactic isn’t flying people or launching satellites — i.e., generating revenues — by the time the rent triples, the company could face some serious challenges.

One wonders if this is what is behind Virgin’s decision to go to three shifts per day building the second SpaceShipTwo.  The other concern is that the company will try to rush the program forward and short change the development and testing processes.

Former Propulsion Chief Accuses Virgin Galactic of Lying About SpaceShipTwo’s Safety, Performance

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SpaceShipTwo after being released for its final flight. (Credit: Virgin Galactic/NTSB)

SpaceShipTwo after being released for its final flight. (Credit: Virgin Galactic/NTSB)

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Virgin Galactic’s former vice president of propulsion, Thomas Markusic, has accused Richard Branson’s space company of lying about the safety and performance of its SpaceShipTwo suborbital tourism vehicle.

“Dr. Markusic was forced to separate from VG [Virgin Galactic] because the company was defrauding the public about the ability of the vehicles to reach space and was utilizing rocket engine technologies that have a high probability of causing catastrophic failure and loss of life,” according to the document.

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