DARPA Requests $50.5 Million for XS-1 for FY 2017

XS-1 vehicle (Credit: Boeing)
XS-1 vehicle (Credit: Boeing)

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is requesting $175.24 million for fiscal year (FY) 2017 for the development of space systems and technology, an increase of $48.5 million over current fiscal year spending.

The ambitious XS-1 program, which aims to develop fully-reusable launch vehicle system, once again tops DARPA’s space spending with proposed spending of $50.5 million. The program received $30 million for FY 2016.

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Who Will Become the World’s First Commercial Spaceline?

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

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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XCOR, Midland Work Out Deal on Texas Hangar

XCOR_SXC_logoThe Midland Development Corporation and XCOR have struck a deal relating to the company’s hangar in Texas.

XCOR agreed to give Hangar A — or half of the building XCOR occupies at the Spaceport Business Park — back to the city. The more than 40,000-square-foot space would cost about $7.5 million to build, which is the same amount of tax revenue that MDC gets in one year.

XCOR will also pay $6,000 a month to lease its remaining half, or Hangar B.

In exchange, the MDC passed an agenda item reimbursing XCOR for about $795,500 for improvements to Hangar A…

(XCOR has) come to the conclusion that they basically had more space than they really needed at this point,” said Robert Rendall, MDC board member. “At the same time, we had prospects that are interested in coming to the Spaceport business park, so it was just a good opportunity for us to relook at their needs and our needs and possibly provide space for other companies that wanted to come in without having to build them a building right now.”

Read the full story.

XCOR Engineers Announce Major Breakthrough in Engine Technology

Lynx engine hot fire. (Credit: XCOR)
Lynx engine hot fire. (Credit: XCOR)

MOJAVE, Calif., 14 December 2015 (XCOR PR) — XCOR Director of Engineering and acting CTO Michael Valant announced today that his team has reached an important milestone in the development of the reusable 5K18 Lynx main propulsion rocket engine. His engineers were able to ‘close the loop’ of the thermodynamic system under test conditions, a key technology for the Lynx sub-orbital vehicle.

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Sidewalks Defeat Spaceflight in Mojave

SpaceflightvsSidewalkspollParabolic Archers have spoken, and they have confidence in Kern County than they do in two of Mojave’s space companies.

Seventy-four percent of voters said that Mojave would get sidewalks before either XCOR or Virgin Galactic flew their vehicles above the Karman line at 100 km. Only 26 percent of voters expended the opposite result.

The majority is probably correct here. Barring any significant delays, work is expected to begin on sidewalks for downtown Mojave toward the end of 2016. It’s not clear how long it will take to complete, but the work is unlikely to stretch out very long.

Meanwhile, XCOR is still building the Lynx Mark I, which cannot get above the Karman line. And Virgin Galactic is building the second SpaceShipTwo, which might or might not be able to reach that altitude.

I’ve posted a new poll about the battling space billionaires. Vote on whether you are on Team Allen, Team Bezos, Team Branson or Team Elon,

As I always say: Vote early. Vote often. Just vote, dammit! Vote!

 

Video: XCOR CEO John Gibson at ISPCS

Video Caption: Just as many companies in rapidly evolving industries, XCOR is seeking how to be market relevant and profitable in the next stages of its lifecycle. My role and challenges reflect the evolution of the company and the focus on translating current and future market opportunities into a successful, private enterprise. Experience in the civil aviation sector brings many insights and parallels to this market evolution and its future opportunities.

Departed XCOR Founder Establishes Consulting Group

agile_aero_logoXCOR Founder Jeff Greason, who departed the company this week, has established an aerospace consulting operation called Agile Aero. The group has a website that was created on Nov. 17 for which Greason is listed as the registrant. The following description is on the website:

Agile Aero, Inc. is a group of aviation and aerospace professionals with expertise in many aspects of advanced aerospace vehicle design, construction, and operations; rocket propulsion; and the regulatory environment for these activities.

We provide consulting services in these areas, but our focus is on a larger goal. We have seen in our careers many advanced aerospace projects falter because of the long development cycle for custom aerospace vehicles. In recent years, there have been breakthroughs in rapid development and prototyping of rocket engines, of satellites, and of many subsystems for advanced vehicles. But the integrated vehicles are still developed with older, slower methods. Agile Aero intends to bring modern rapid prototyping to complete vehicles, for space launch, for hypersonic air vehicles, and for innovative aircraft.

Two Founders Depart XCOR, Greason Remains on Board

Jeff Greason
Jeff Greason

MOJAVE, CA, November 23 (XCOR PR) —  XCOR Aerospace announced earlier today that two of its original founders, Chief Technology Officer Jeff Greason and Chief Engineer Dan DeLong, are stepping back from their current positions. With the first Lynx closer to completion, both want to turn their attention to pursue other interests. The two stood at the cradle of the Lynx reusable launch vehicle and have been working painstakingly on the revolutionary spacecraft for the last years. Greason will maintain his position on the company’s Board of Directors.

XCOR CEO Jay Gibson: ‘Both Jeff and Dan are true pioneers in our business. It’s their vision and their perseverance that helped us getting to where we stand now. We owe both men a lot of gratitude for all the time, energy and groundbreaking ideas they have been contributing to our company and the industry and of course we look forward to possibly working together in the future. Lynx is now in the good hands of XCOR’s highly capable and talented Technical, Engineering and program teams. 2016 Will be an exciting year in which we’re about to reach some truly significant milestones. Lynx will be the world’s first Instantly Reusable Launch Vehicle (I-RLV) and over 350 clients are as eager as we are to undertake the first trip into space. Next to that we will keep investing in our own facilities in both Mojave and Midland, where LYNX’s orbital successor will be one of the strategic focus points.’

Editor’s Note: A third founder, Aleta Jackson, has also left XCOR. She’s not speaking about it on the record at the moment.

XCOR Completes Lynx Simulator

XCOR’s senior test pilot Brian Binnie and senior engineer Erik Anderson performing a Lynx mission in the Simulator. (Credit: XCOR)
XCOR’s senior test pilot Brian Binnie and senior engineer Erik Anderson performing a Lynx mission in the simulator. (Credit: XCOR)

MOJAVE, Calif., November 16, 2015 (XCOR PR) – XCOR Aerospace announced today that it has completed work on its Lynx simulator system, built by Protobox LLC in conjunction with the Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio.

This simulator will provide XCOR invaluable training as the test pilot team prepares for Lynx flight test.

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Latest Images of XCOR’s Lynx Under Assembly

Chine panels being fitted to the side of the Lynx. (Credit: XCOR)
Chine panels being fitted to the side of the Lynx. (Credit: XCOR)

“You’re looking at our first fit-up of the chine panels to the sides of Lynx,” says XCOR Engineering Manager Brandon Litt.

These images are from XCOR’s September Lynx report. (more…)

Meet XCOR’s Latest Invention: The Trunnel

A modified F-250 pickup truck will be used for scale model Lynx testing. (Credit: XCOR)
A modified F-250 pickup truck will be used for scale model Lynx testing. (Credit: XCOR)

A while ago, I mentioned that XCOR had developed some cool things that it hadn’t publicized yet.  Here’s one of them.

Meet the trunnel. XCOR has modified a Ford F-250 pickup so that it conduct tests with a one-third scale model Lynx on the Mojave runway at 100 mph (160 kph).

Modified F-250 pickup truck conducting a tuft test. (Credit: XCOR)
Modified F-250 pickup truck conducting a tuft test. (Credit: XCOR)

It is now conducting tests (below) to make sure it has gotten the air flow right before putting a Lynx model on top.

The trunnel conducts a rudder test. (Credit: XCOR)
The trunnel conducts a rudder test. (Credit: XCOR)

They’ve also done tests on the rudder.

The trunnel (Credit: XCOR)
The trunnel (Credit: XCOR)

And off the trunnel rides into the Mojave sunrise.

I think once it completes tests on the Lynx, XCOR should lease thing out to a movie company as a supervillain or superhero vehicle. Or simple mount a gun and go bullseye some womp rats over in Beggar’s Canyon.

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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Midland Looks Forward to Lynx Flights Next Year

Full-scale Lynx mockup (Credit: XCOR)
Full-scale Lynx mockup (Credit: XCOR)

Midland Spaceport Development Corporation President J. Ross Lacy said on Tuesday that he expects XCOR’s Lynx Mark I to make its first flight from Midland International Air & Space Port in the second quarter of 2016.

“Right now, we’re looking at XCOR to probably have their first launch here second quarter of ’16,” Lacy said during a MSDC meeting. “Orbital Outfitters’ building is moving along very nicely; they’ve also got the altitude chamber facilities inside that building. The XCOR hangar is almost complete, and we’ve already got half of their staff out here right now.”

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