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RLV News
Space Transport Developments & Commentary

March 2005
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Scaled Composites photos
SpaceShipOne on first rocket powered flight Dec.17th, 2003.

RLV (Reusable Launch Vehicles) News offers brief articles and comments concerning developments in the area of space transport, which includes vehicles for earth launch to orbit, suborbital spaceflight, and in-space vehicles. It also provides lots of links to news articles, announcements by commercial rocket developers, NASA events, etc.

The RLV Countdown: Part 1 and Part 2 sections provide information and
links for various reusable space transportation systems around the world.

RLV Table compares a selection of space transport vehicles.

RLV History looks at earlier vehicles and designs.

See the Advanced Rocketry Section for entries on
advanced amateur & student rocketry, experimental rocketry,
& innovations by small rocket companies.

The Space Log contains news about
amateur space activities, space businesses, etc.

RLV News Archive Directory

March 31, 2005

12:50 pm: NASA misses the point ... Robert Zimmerman argues that NASA has failed to heed the main criticisms of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board. Space Watch: A cultural change at NASA? - UPI - Mar.31.05.

Though the board did criticize NASA's safety culture, its critique was far more fundamental, describing in detail the long-term and widespread failures of NASA's entire management -- not just its safety management -- resulting not only in an inability to face squarely the important technical problems that directly caused both the Columbia and Challenger accidents, but also a failure to build an effective shuttle replacement, as well as properly manage the entire U.S. manned-spaceflight program.

He goes on to point out several management failures such as leaving a gap in human spaceflight capability between the end of the shuttle program in 2010 and the first CEV crew flight in 2014 despite the fact that buying Soyuz rides to the ISS is prohibited.


... there is NASA's current plan to replace the shuttle with the CEV. In an effort to manage construction as closely as possible, NASA would require the contractors that build the spacecraft to submit 129 different monthly, quarterly, annually, and continuously updated reports, covering everything from safety to how each contractor organizes its workforce.

What makes NASA's approach disturbing is how much it resembles NASA's past dependence on "bureaucratic accountability," as noted by the CAIB report. Rather than allow contractors the freedom to work and innovate, NASA has decided to burden them with endless paperwork under the assumption NASA must review their work in tedious written detail to determine whether the work is being done correctly.

There's one way to fix the situation but it hasn't happened yet:

Put simply, organizations are made up of people, and if the people do not change, it is almost impossible to change the organization. Without an aggressive housecleaning of the mid-level and upper-level NASA staffers who -- as the CAIB remarked -- spent "as much time making sure hierarchical rules and processes were followed as they did trying to establish why anyone would want a picture of the orbiter," nothing significant is ever going to change.

Unfortunate, but such a housecleaning at NASA has not yet occurred. Most of the people in charge today at all levels also were in charge prior to the Columbia accident.

He hopes Michael Griffin will refocus NASA from managment by powerpoint to the technical work of engineering.

12:05 pm: News briefs ... Just heard that a NASA Robotic & Human Lunar Exploration Meeting is currently happening at the University of Maryland and will continue through tomorrow. (See the agenda.) Guess it is too late to arrange to pack the audience with people wearing LEAD t-shirts ...

... Only 28 shuttle flights remain before the program ends. Already the ET and SRB production lines are shutting down: Notes from the NASA Integrated Space Operations Summit 2005 - NASA Watch - Mar.30.05 ...

... Yesterday was supposed to be Kistler's big day in court but have heard yet if it's plan to get out of bankruptcy was accepted.

12:05 am: Teacher near space adventure ... X-Rocket starts its suborbital spaceflight service with high altitude supersonic jet flights for its own "Teacher in Space Program":

Teacher In Space Candidate Completes Proficiency Flight

Maching Bird 1 take off
Photo copyright X-Rocket
Maching Bird 1, a former Czech Air Force MiG-21UM
trainer, takes off from Reno's Stead Field.

Reno, NV – March 30, 2005 – For pilot Bob Ray, it was a routine proficiency flight, but for teacher Pam Leestma, it was the flight of a lifetime and the first step toward realizing her lifelong dream of traveling into space.

Ray and Leestma, a 30-year-veteran teacher from Valley Christian Elementary School in Bellflower, California, took off from Reno Stead Field at 12:15 pm in a two-seat MiG-21UM supersonic jet trainer owned and operated by commercial spaceflight company X-Rocket, LLC. Leestma was selected as a spaceflight candidate in X-Rocket’s Teacher in Space program.

The former Czech Air Force MiG-21UM, now dubbed Maching Bird 1, is one of the highest performance civilian aircraft in the US and the first step in X-Rocket’s plan to open space to all Americans. Leestma’s flight was no tourist ride, like the MiG flights sold to American tourists in Russia. “During today’s flight, Pam filled important crew functions,” said pilot Bob Ray, “including helping to monitor instruments and perform traffic watch.”

For Pam Leestma, today’s flight seems only natural. Her cousin, David Leestma, is a NASA Shuttle astronaut, and she has had a long-time fascination with spaceflight. “This is the adventure of a lifetime,” Leestma said. “To see God's Earth from such a vantage point makes me think of the teachers who inspired engineers, scientists, and mathematicians to achieve things such as this. I hope to continue to inspire the next generation to find their dreams, achieve them, and make a difference in our world.”

“X-Rocket’s Teacher in Space program will help teachers like Pam Leestma realize their dreams,” said company president Edward Wright. X-Rocket plans to operate a fleet of suborbital aerospace trainers that will serve multiple functions, from advanced test pilot training to adventure tourism experiences to Teacher in Space flights. The company’s motto is “Spaceflight for the rest of us.”

During the 1980’s, NASA created its own Teacher in Space program, which was later replaced by the NASA Educator Astronaut program. Problems with the Shuttle program have prevented NASA from actually flying any teachers in space, however, and the planned replacement of the Shuttle with a Crew Exploration Vehicle will reduce the number of available flight opportunities for all NASA astronauts. Newspaper articles have spoken of possible layoffs in the NASA astronaut office, so opportunities for NASA to fly educator astronauts will remain scarce.

“This is where private enterprise can play a role,” Wright said. “Suborbital vehicles now under development will carry people into space much more affordably than the Shuttle or CEV. For under twenty million dollars, we could fly 200 teachers a year, four from every state in the union. Imagine thousands of astronaut teachers in schools all across the country, within the next decade. For decades, we’ve told students that if they studied math and science, they could grow up to become astronauts and go into space, but in reality, kids had a better chance of growing up to become NBA basketball players. What message does that send? Suppose we could turn that around, and show kids that they have a realistic chance of going into space? How cool would that be?

“X-Rocket is currently seeking sponsors to help make that happen. Today’s flight is only the beginning.

“Pam Leestma has shown that America’s teachers have the Right Stuff. We don’t intend to let them down.”

Several photos are available in the X-Rocket press area.

March 30, 2005

5:45 pm: More AERA ... Alan Boyle reports on the AERA announcement and on a conversation with Bill Sprague, the company's chairman, who says the project is on schedule: Take a virtual space ride - Cosmic Log/MSNBC - Mar.30.05.

5:25 pm: AERA ... The AERA Gallery now provides animations and still images of the Altairis vehicle design. As expected, the Altairis looks very similar to their Liberty vehicle entry in the X PRIZE (under their previous American Astronautics name).

The AERA site doesn't yet provide any specifications on the vehicle or views of the return phase. The Liberty uses a booster with a single pressure fed liquid bi-propellant engine with LOX/Kerosene that fires for 81 seconds. The crew module separates from the booster after the engine shutdown and the crew module ascends to over 100 Km. The booster and crew module each returns via parafoils for landings on airbags.

There's no indication yet as to what stage the Altairis vehicle design has reached. For example, has it passed a preliminary design review, critical design review, etc.? If they plan to fly by next year, it sure seems they would need to be past or very close to the CDR by now. The Press-Enterprise article says that there were hardware components in the AERA facility in Temecula, California, so maybe they have started construction.

The Press-Enterprise article also states that AERA currently has $1.2 million but needs to raise $15 million to $20 million to build the vehicle. Before flying passengers they would also, of course, need to get an AST license, which presumably would require several test flights. I hope they can do it but it sure seems ambitious to plan on flying ticketed passengers in 2006.

5:25 pm: News briefs ... Tom Hill reports on a presentation by Burt Rutan at the National Air and Space Museum's Udvar-Hazy Center: An Evening with Burt Rutan - Space What Now? - Mar.26.05 ...

... Via Transterrestrial comes links to some new space blogs including the Space Law Probe, which says it is "Not for lawyers and astronauts only". The blog is associated with the site Spacelawstation.com: The planet's space law portal, which offers a lot of interesting space law related resources such as a list of Space Lawyers, Space Law Cases, and Space Law Books. (No section yet with space lawyer jokes ... Sorry, I couldn't resist.) More space law links. ...

... Note that I maintain a list of space related blogs and bulletin boards on a separate page.

11:05 am: News briefs ... The AERA animation of their vehicle design will be posted on their website at 1:30 pm EST today. In the meantime, see the description here: Space tourism propelled by rocket science: PREVIEW: A television feed shows a five-minute trip on a spacecraft from AERA Corp. -PE.com (Riverside CA) - Mar.30.05 (via spacetoday.net) ...

... The return-to-flight program reaches a milestone with the rollout of the Discovery to the VAB: Discovery rolls toward a return to flight - collectSPACE - Mar.29.05 * Discovery rolls closer to launch: Revamped orbiter arrives at VAB to prepare for trip to launch pad - Florida Today - Mar.30.05. ...

... Spaceflight Today offers regular updates on the Discovery mission here: STS-114 Shuttle Report | Mission Status Center.

March 29, 2005

12:20 pm: AERA announcement just arrived:

AERA Corporation Releases Animated Presentation of Altairis Rocket
Which will Begin Taking Tourists into Space in 2006

Video News Release will be available globally via satellite Wednesday March 30 and will also be posted to the www.aeraspace.com website

(Temecula, CA) An animated presentation of the AERA Corporation Altairis rocket, which will begin taking tourists into space in 2006, will be available via satellite to news stations across the globe on March 30. The same animation will also be made available on the www.aeraspace.com website.

The video animation will allow anyone to see what the future of space tourism will look like.

"We wanted as many people as possible to be able to see the near future where the wonder and awe of space travel will become a reality for many not just a select few," said Bill Sprague, Founder, CEO and Chief Scientist of AERA Corp.

The release of the design of the rocket closely follows AERA's recently signed agreements with the United States Air Force and the Florida Space Authority to use Cape Canaveral for launch, flight operations and landing.

"As companies work to make space accessible to the masses the Florida Space Authority will work with them to make individuals dreams of space flight come true," said Paul Altier, Manager of Spaceport Operations at the Florida Space Authority.

The United States Air Force will also be working with AERA and added that they will be "providing oversight to ensure flight and public safety attention is maintained," said Rick Blucker, Chief of Plans and Programs with the 45th Space Wing at Patrick Air Force Base in Florida.

The agreements with the Florida Space Authority and the United States Air Force are critical elements to having a legitimate and ongoing outer space tourism program.

"Having those agreements signed for us is like a large commercial carrier opening a hub at a major airport without a hub you have no airline and without an agreement like this you have no space program," said Sprague.

Television news producers please contact Mike Garcia for satellite feed coordinates. Individuals will be able to view the presentation beginning at 5:00 EST on March 30th at www.aeraspace.com.

11:25 am: News briefs... Masten Space Systems reports on progress with their igniter and other projects: Update - MSS blog - Mar.26.05 ...

... Recent Space Show interviewees who discussed topics related to space transport include Sam Dinkin, a columnist for the Space Review, John Jurist who writes about medical issues related to space tourism, and regular guest Robert Zimmerman who talked about the recent AST meeting and the FAA guidelines for commercial suborbital spaceflight. ...

... Speaking of the AST, today through Thursday it is holding a public meeting "on the draft regulatory language including changes to the commercial space transportation regulations governing licensing and safety requirements for launch. The meeting will take place at the Holiday Inn-Capitol, 550 C Street SW, Washington, DC in the Discovery I Conference Room." ...

... Today Kistler is supposed to find out if its plan for emerging from Chapter 11 bankruptcy is accepted by the court.

March 28, 2005

2:30 pm: News briefs... To obtain engines that can last for "hundreds of flights, not just a few", Armadillo Aerospace is shifting its engine development away from hydrogen peroxide fuels to LOX/Methanol biprops according to the latest update from John Carmack: Pyrolusite, peroxide, Lox - Armadillo Aerospace - Mar.27.05 ...

... Sam Dinkin continues his interview with David Urie of Rocketplane Ltd: Rocket plane venture star (part 2) - The Space Review - Mar.28.05. Urie reports that the company just completed its preliminary design review. The critical design review will take place this fall and then construction of the vehicle will begin with the goal of passenger operations by 2007. Total cost of the project is in the $40M+ range....

... Rand Simberg examines the potential plusses and minuses of a Michael Griffiin administration at NASA: Rocket Man - Tech Central Station - Mar.28.05 ...

... Jeff Foust looks at the complexities of the global launch industry: Stagflation, overcapacity, and the commercial launch industry - The Space Review - Mar.28.05 ...

... From his experience on the Moon-Mars Commission, Neil deGrasse Tyson has become more optimistic about prizes as motivators and about commercial space development in general: Blue Ribbon Buoyancy - Astrobiology Magazine - Mar.23.05. (Via a posting on the Space Arena forum.)

2:15 am: Alt.space moves on ... It is a shame that perhaps the first ever mention of the phrase "alt.space" in the Washington Post came in an article like this: Telecom Mogul's Lofty Dreams Plummet: Fun-Loving Space Aficionado and Eccentric Rebel Accused of Tax Evasion - Washington Post - Mar.26.05.

However, the Anderson situation seems more of an embarrassment than a setback for the movement. After all, with the SS1 going into the Air & Space Museum this summer and over a hundred million dollars committed to the SS2, it is hard to portray private space development as nothing but the fanciful dreams of a small scattering of wacky, feckless eccentrics.

If Anderson's arrest had occurred a few years ago when MirCorp was one of the biggest and most visible entrepreneurial space firms around, I think it would have made a much bigger impact. Paul Allen, Richard Branson, and others might not have come to support private space projects if such an event resulted in a widespread public impression that such endeavors were not only crazy but also tainted with illegality.

As I tried to argue with the timeline exercise, private space development has now grown beyond any one person or company. It is hardly invulnerable and there are major challenges ahead, but there is a robustness and a growth to the movement that will allow it to pass quickly over this small bump in the road to space.

2:15 am: Support your favorite rocket projects such as those at Rocketforge by shopping at the Rocketforge CafePress site, which includes a store section for Masten Space Systems.

Be sure to attend NASA sponsored conferences while wearing LEAD T-Shirts to express your preference for Option D in the NASA Lunar Roadmap.

See also the links to other Rocket Company shops.

2:15 am: News briefs ... ... As shown with the SS1, composites will play a significant role in many RLV designs. Boeing and Airbus are going bigtime with composites in their airliners and this will push the development of these materials and expand the industrial infrastructure supporting them: Evolution and Revolution- Aviation Week - Mar.27.05. This should in turn help to support their use in RLVs. However, there do seem to be some problems to work out: We Don't Know As Much As We Think We Do - Transterrestrial Musings - Mar.14.05 ...

... Another update on the Cosmos 1 project: First solar sail continues methodical launch checklist - Spaceflight Now - Mar.26.05 ...

... Well, for starters it helps to be Boeing or LockMart: Want to succeed as a space contractor? Here's how - Florida Today - Mar.27.05 ...

... NASA once talked about keeping the shuttle program running till 2020 or longer. Looks like it will be a challenge even to keep it going until 2010: Report criticizes shuttle workforce planning - spacetoday.net - Mar.27.05...

... Keith Cowing is finding lots of problems and raising many questions regarding the GWU Astronaut Space Safety 2005 study: How to Waste $300,000 (Substantially Updated and Expanded) - NASA Watch - Mar.27.05

March 26, 2005

1:55 am: News briefs ... Leonard David reviews the issue of medical requirements for people who want to take suborbital space tourism flights: Doctor's Orders: The Right Stuff for Space Tourists - Space.com - Mar.25.05 ...

... The FAA and the Air Force move to coordinate their policies and practices with respect to commercial expendable vehicle launches: FAA Announces Next Step in Commercial Space Launch Partnership - FAA - Mar.24.05 ...

... Rand Simberg is not a fan of uncrewed shuttle flights, which were recommended in the study from George Washington University: Clueless At GWU - Transterrestrial Musings - Mar.25.05 - as recommended

March 25, 2005

1:15 pm: News briefs ... A hot gas blowback during a SpaceX engine test damaged some wiring on the test stand. This will cause a delay of a week or so for the pad hotfire test at Vandenberg: Minor Damage to SpaceX Engine Test Stand - SpaceRef - Mar.25.05 ...

... Speaking of rocket engine tests, NASA did a firing of a subscale version of the shuttle solid rocket boosters: Marshall booster rumbles, smokes: Engineers work with model to improve reusable shuttle part - Huntsville Times - Mar.25.05 ...

... A crowd of Marshall employees and their families came out to see the test. Rocket Test Draws a Crowd - WHNT-TV, Huntsville, AL - Mar.24.05. I like the comment "They came to the East Test Area because the test was loud, and it was exciting." Something for the X PRIZE Cup promoters to consider. They better emphasize the boom, fire and flash if they want to get a couple of hundred thousand people to drive out into the desert to see the event ...

... The announcement of the Volvo/Virgin Galactic contest winner has gotten quite a bit of press (via spacetoday.net):

... The Vega may have twice the payload of the Falcon I, and neither is flying yet, but it still seems to say something about government vs. private development that the Vega is taking much longer (it began in 1998) and a lot more money (US$300M) to build it: Vega on track to meet 2007 deadline - ESA - Mar.16.05 ...

... More about the Shuttle safety study carried out by a group at George Washington University: NASA Needs Shuttle Replacement as Soon as Possible - Bloomberg - Mar.24.05. (I don't see the report posted yet at the GWU Space Policy Institute). It urges NASA to use uncrewed shuttle flights for the ISS missions and to restart the X-38 project.

2:15 am: Japan news briefs .... Yoshifumi Inatani, leader of the Japanese RVT project, argues in support of the pursuit of reusable rocket vehicles: "The Next Goal for Rockets" or "The World of the Swindler?" - ISAS/JAXA - March.2005 ...

... To encourage interest in space tourism in Japan, Patrick Collins has created the website SF/J Space Future Japan (English).

(Links via a HS reader in Japan.)

2:15 am: News briefs ... The Crosslink magazine, published semiannually by Aerospace Corporation, offers lots of interesting articles. See, for example, the issue Rocket Science - Crosslink - Winter 2004, which includes the articles History of the Dyna-Soar and Future Launch Systems ...

... This well written piece by Ben Berry nicely describes the Virgin Galactic Press Conference in New York City where the Volvo XC90 V8 contest winner was formally introduced yesterday: Branson and Volvo announce Virgin Galactic Spaceflight winner - Space Race News!/Rockets Away - Mar.25.04

March 24, 2005

5:00 pm: News briefs... Robert Zimmerman observes that it is Congressional earmarks, not the VSE, that is grabbing money away from the approved science projects: Space Watch: NASA impeded by science lobby - UPI - Mar.24.05 ...

... Alan Boyle on the Volvo space tourism contest: Ticket to ride ... in space - Cosmic Log/MSNBC - Mar.24.05 ...

... I assume this it is the Cosmopolis C-21 mockup that is being exhibited, along with the Kliper mockup, and not an actual vehicle: Russia Exhibits Space Shuttles At Expo'2005 - RIA Novosti - Mar.24.05 ...

... Russia and Kazakhstan are discussing a collaborative project involving the launch of small satellites (160kg range) via a second stage rocket carried by a MIG-31. Most of the elements of the system and infrastructure already exist according to the article: www.spacenews.ru article in Russian. (Link via F. Novoshilov) ...

... I wonder if Griffin will consider uncrewed flights? Safety report calls for uncrewed space shuttles - New Scientist - Mar.24.05 ...

... Mark Whittington discusses how NASA might employ a commercial approach to lunar development: A New Way to Explore the Moon - The Washington Dispatch - Mar.24.05.

11:25 am: Space contest news.... The winner of the Volvo/Virgin Galactic space tourist contest winner has been revealed as Doug Ramsburg of Colorado:

(Links via spacetoday.net.) ...

... More about the Centennial Challenges announcement: NASA announces prizes for space breakthroughs - MSNBC - Mar.24.05 * NASA Details Cash Prizes for Space Privatization - Space.com - Mar.23.05 ...

... Since I would prefer a pummeling with a tire iron to watching "The Apprentice", I'll have to find out from someone else what kind of space prize will be contested for there: Space-Related Prize on "The Apprentice"? - NASA Watch - Mar.23.05 .

11:25 am: Zero Gravity opportunities ... Xero will begin offering rides on its parabola flying plane this summer in northern Sweden: Zero-Gravity Flights to Take Off From Sweden This Summer - Space.com/AP - Mar.24.05.

It will be interesting to see if they can make it a successful business with $9.6K ticket prices. If so, that certainly would make the case stronger for suborbital spaceflights tourism. People who can afford that much to experience weightlessness during a 90 minute ride in a plane will probably pay $100K-200K for an actual ride into space.

I got a feeling, though, that many wealthy European space enthusiasts will prefer to spend the $9.6K to buy a plane ticket to Miami and to ride twice on the Zero-G plane.

11:25 am: Flight School news.... Alan Boyle reports that Freeman Dyson was a big hit at the Flight School meeting: Dyson's sphere of influence - MSNBC - Mar.24.05 ...

... Alan also passes along the news that the launch of the Cosmos 1 solar sail will be delayed till late May and that the next ISS tourist will likely be a Japanese citizen: Space dreams deferred - MSNBC - Mar.24.05 ...

... Progress in the development of Very Light Jets (VLJ), or Microjets, was the other topic of the meeting: Personal Travel on 'Microjets' Expected to Grow - LiveScience - Mar.23.05

11:25 am: News briefs ... The April issue of National Geographic will include an article about the SS1: SpaceShipOne - National Geographic Magazine - April.05 issue ...

... The GAO recommends improvements in NASA's Prometheus 1 nuclear powered spacecraft development program: GAO Report: NASA's Space Vision: Business Case for Prometheus 1 Needed to Ensure Requirements Match Available Resources - SpaceRef - Mar.23.05 ...

... There will be a number of new procedures and restrictions on the next shuttle flight: Up and Down: NASA Plans for Discovery's Launch and Landing - Space.com - Mar.24.05.

March 23, 2005

8:00 pm: Centennial Challenges announced: NASA Announces First Centennial Challenges' Prizes - NASA - Mar.23.05. As expected, NASA will collaborate with the Spaceward Foundation to sponsor tether material and power beaming competitions in 2005 and 2006. Prizes will be $100K, $40K, and $10K for first, second and third place finishers, respectively.

See also NASA Follows X Prize Footsteps - Wired - Mar.23.05. (Links via spacetoday.net.)

4:30 PM: Robust waverider? I'm gradually reading through the thesis The Decision Maker’s Guide To Robust, Reliable And Inexpensive Access To Space by Gary N. Henry, Lt Col, USAF - Air War College - Feb.2003 - pdf (link via Sam Dinkin). It provides a lot of interesting background info on rocketry, vehicle design, and launch industry economics. In looking ahead to the collision, however, I'm wondering how in the world he concludes that a

"two-stage-to-orbit space launch system using a first stage waverider design leveraging combined cycle engine technology is the best and fastest route to R2ISA [robust, reliable, and inexpensive space access]"

And he is not talking about $50 per kg to LEO but simply breaking the limit of $2000 per kg. I hope some knowledgable aerospace types will critique his analysis.

12:50 pm: Attracting capital ... Ester Dyson's "Flight School" conference is happening today and it has an impressive list of speakers from the worlds of both alt.space and VLJ (Very Light Jet) aviation.

As mentioned before, the registration price was very high and it was not, as claimed, the first gathering where both entrepreneurial financiers and engineers from startup space companies could interact. However, the meeting certainly offers an opportunity to educate potential new investors about the industry and that's clearly beneficial to its growth.

Alan Boyle, who is attending the meeting, reports on efforts to go beyond angel investors and attract institutional investors to the space startups. In the article - Spaceflight industry ready for takeoff: Startups reach out to investors interested in money, not just glory - MSNBC - Mar.22.05. - he talks with XCOR spokesman Rich Pournelle and two investors in XOR, Joe Pistritto and Lee Valentine.

Pistritto has noticed a change in the attitude of financial people after the SS1 flights: "The industry has suddenly become real." Valentine wants to help advance his own personal space vision but another reason he got "involved with XCOR in the near term is to make money." Perhaps now there is a better chance to convince others as well that the entrepreneurial space industry is a place to make money. ...

... This article also discusses the Flight School meeting and says that "Jeff Bezos and numerous other CEOs and representatives of venture capital firms" are attending: 'Seeds of a Revolution' Could Help Change NASA - Space.com - Mar.23.05 ...

... Alan reports on the Centennial Challenges announcement this evening: Space-elevator boosters play role in challenge - Cosmic Log/MSNBC - Mar.23.05 ...

12:50 pm: News briefs... Glenn Reynolds hopes that Mike Griffin can do the tough things necessary to get NASA into shape. He believes that space exploration is more than just for pure science but is vital to the long term prospects for humanity. "Let's get those space settlements going": A New Captain for the Titanic? - TCS: Tech Central Station - Mar.23.05 ...

... Meanwhile, NASA will try to keep the shuttle as far away from people as possible during both takeoff and landing: NASA to enhance public safety around shuttle - spacetoday.net - Mar.23.05. Here is a Media Advisory that expresses NASA's concern for the public safety even more emphatically (and humorously). ...

... Understanding the full extent of the debris problem continues to be a challenge: Defining the debris threat: What can shuttles withstand? - Spaceflight Now - Mar.22.05 ...

... For the SS1 archives. Here is a set of articles at Popular Mechanics I happened to come across: 'SpaceShipOne' X Factors: How backyard engineering won the private space race. - Popular Mechanics - Dec.14.04.

2:20 am: Near space for kids... JP Aerospace continues their pongsat program, this time with a high altitude balloon:

Ping Pong Balls to the Edge of Space.

On April 9th, JP Aerospace will carry 140 student projects from around the world to the edge of space on a high altitude balloon.

These experiments are part of JP Aerospace’s PongSat® program.

A PongSat is an experiment that fits inside of a ping pong ball. Students as young as eight are running their own space programs. Experiments range from plant seeds to computers with sophisticated sensors. For several months, students from Belgium, California, and Texas have been mailing their PongSats to JP Aerospace. In a couple of weeks these ping pong ball "satellites" will be flown to the edge of space on a research balloon platform. During the flight, the PongSats will experience cold down to -90 degrees Fahrenheit, vacuum, cosmic rays, and zero gravity during the descent.

After landing, the PongSats are returned to the students along with a video of the mission. The student will then inspect their experiment and study the results.

This high altitude balloon mission, “Away 26,” is being flown to test telemetry systems for high altitude airships. Whenever JP Aerospace flies to the upper atmosphere, space is set aside for PongSats. The students get to go along for the ride.

Even the youngest students can be space scientists, flying real missions to a place where few “real” scientists get to go. JP Aerospace has flown 1600 PongSats involving over 6000 students.

Away 26 is the eighty-sixth mission flown by JP Aerospace. JP Aerospace is a volunteer-based space program dedicated to building and flying low-cost space systems.

The PongSat program is open to everyone and is free of charge to schools and individuals. For more information or fly your own PongSat visit www.jpaerospace.com.

Photographs available at www.jpaerospace.com.

Mission Details:
• Mission Name: Away 26
• Mission Type: Unmanned High Altitude Balloon
• Maximum altitude: 110,000 feet
• Vehicle weight 25 pounds
• Total Flight Time: Four hours
• Number of PongSats: 140
• Flight systems include: Full command control telemetry system, Dual GPS tracking, Live video
downlink, digital still camera and environment measuring sensors.

March 22, 2005

10:45 pm: Challenging space elevator tech ... Ed Wright tells me that NASA will reveal the first two Centennial Challenge contests on Wednesday: NASA Announces First Two Centennial Challenges - NASA - Mar.22.05.

The partner for the contests will be the Spaceward Foundation, whose "flagship project" is Elevator2010.org. This project had previously announced its sponsorship of the "Space Elevator Climber Competition" and the "Space Elevator Tether Competition". I presume that NASA will be increasing the size of the awards from the current $50K for the top prizes.

Ed isn't impressed: "Never let it be said NASA doesn't support *practical* approaches to space access". I'm rather more positive about the contests and think they will be interesting and fun competitions for students in engineering and material sciences. I hope, though, that more near term technologies will be focused on in subsequent competitions.

10:45 pm: Homer's advice ... Too bad that Homer Hickam's Tuesday Wall Street Journal editorial - Shuttle Fatigue - is not in the free section. The author and former engineer at NASA has some strong advice for Mike Griffin. He urges the incoming administrator to "put the Space Shuttle in the museum where it belongs and implement with urgency the design, construction and flight of a new crewed space vehicle before every good engineer you've got walks away in disgust."

He says that it just isn't possible to "keep [the shuttles] flying on schedule and safe" and that "most NASA engineers in the trenches know it."

He advocates concentrating on the CEV and notes that most NASA engineers

"have never worked on a program that produced a spacecraft. Never! Can you imagine being an aerospace engineer and spending an entire career designing and designing again, but never being allowed to actually build and fly anything?"

I would note, however, that this lack of experience doesn't seem to be preventing NASA from specifying in great detail how the contractors should develop the CEV system.

10:45 pm: News briefs... The latest space race article from Irene Mona Klotz reports on the space tourist contest sponsored by Volvo: Space Race 2: Free tickets to ride - UPI/WashTimes - Mar.22.05. Nice to hear that the winner is a "die-hard space buff", so I assume he will actually take the space ride rather than cash. ...

... Space Race News! notes that the Romanian ARCA rocket team has recently posted a couple of news items about their project.

1:05 pm: The Rocket Company is now available for preorder from AIAA and will ship on July 15th. (Sometime between now and then it will become available at Amazon and other online stores.) Congratulations to Patrick, David and Doug. It will be great to see it in print. Two sample chapters are still available here.

1:05 pm: News briefs... Rand Simberg posts some comments on my recent item about NASA and on my private space development timeline: Alienating Constituencies - Transterrestrial Musings - Mar.22.05 ...

... Speaking of rocket companies and private development, we shouldn't forget that one startup in the past did in fact succeed in becoming a major aerospace firm. Here is a description of how Orbital Sciences got its start: HBS Working Knowledge: Entrepreneurship: Let's Start a Rocket Company! - Harvard Business School - Mar.21.05. (After implying otherwise, I was once firmly reminded by an OSC person that the Pegasus was the first privately developed orbital rocket.) ...

... At the Orlando meeting in January, Dr. Anatoly I. Kuzin, deputy director of Khrunichev, discussed the VSE and how Russia might participate in the effort. He shows, for example, a design for a new manned vehicle : Preliminary analysis of "The Vision for Space Exploration" program and estimation of the role of Russian space firms in its realization - (pdf) (Via HS reader F. Novozhilov)...

... Speaking of Russian manned vehicles, the Kliper will be on display at a meeting in Japan: New Russian Shuttle To Be Displayed For The First Time In Japan - RIA Novosti - Mar.21.05 ...

... The Shuttle Discovery has built an impressive resumé: Discovery returns to center stage: Shuttle's epic legacy grows as rollover nears - Florida Today - Mar.21.05 ...

... This article assumes the worst about a shuttle rescue mission and its aftermath: The mission NASA hopes won't happen - USATODAY.com - Mar.22.05. But Keith Cowing thinks a rescue mission would hardly mean the end of manned spaceflight in the US for "decades" or kill the ISS: USA Today's Doomsday Scenario - NASA Watch - Mar.22.05. Here's more on the shuttle rescue scenario: Shuttle Rescue: Four Astronauts Train for the Unthinkable - Space.com - Mar.21.05

1:55 am: Private space progress ... I've posted a new, improved version of my timeline for private space development: Climbing a Commercial Stairway to Space: A Plausible Timeline? Vers 2.0.

Don't know if any of it will actually come true but in creating the timeline I've become very impressed with the breadth and depth of the alt.space movement. The number of entrepreneurial projects is large and growing. The technical sophistication of the projects is typically quite high. The number of rich investors has grown significantly and the movement doesn't depend on the generosity of any one space mogul. (Though clearly a lot is riding on the continuing support of Robert Bigelow for space habitat development and the America's Space Prize.)

So unless there is a major recession or other huge disaster, I think we will witness a lot of exciting accomplishments in private space development in the coming decade.

March 21, 2005

12:30 pm: NASA priorities and process ... Gil Moore has spent several decades in the space education field and currently leads the Project Starshine student satellite program that has successfully launched three spacecraft from the shuttle and involved "over one hundred thousand students in 43 countries" in the projects.

He has sent an open letter to Michael Griffin lamenting the cancellation of the Shuttle Get Away Special (GAS) program and the general failure of NASA to support access to space for student projects: Remarks at the funeral of NASA's Get Away Special Program - An open letter to Dr. Michael Griffin - SpaceRef - Mar.20.05.

He recognizes the challenges facing NASA with the return to flight program and in finishing the ISS but argues that there are other priorities as well:

But what is the educational community supposed to do...just forget about the space program? Are only the physical and intellectual elite to have access to space, once again? What about the outstanding legacy GAS flight programs at Utah State University, the University of Michigan, and the University of Louisville, to name but a few, that were turning out generations of space-wise students, before the Columbia accident changed the entire landscape of educational space experimentation? Does NASA have a plan to provide an alternative avenue for students to do their own enthusiastic, creative and unfettered experiments with their own space hardware, as they have done for the past twenty years in the SSIP, GAS and Hitchhiker programs?.

He has heard rumors that

...NASA is working DARPA to fly one or more Falcon expendable launch vehicles from the Wallops Flight Station, and that there will be an opportunity to fly educational satellites, like Starshine 4/5, for example, on at least one of those missions. That sounds like a great start, but how about making that an annual event?

NASA needs to do more than just talk about education:

It's all well and good for NASA administrators and Air Force generals to make speeches deploring the "greying of the space industry" and delineating in great detail the workforce crisis that is nearly upon us, due to the rapidly looming waves of retirements of space employees. They warn us in sepulchral tones that our nation is in imminent danger of losing our technological leadership in space, following which everything else will go to pot. ... but it's now time for the leaders of our country to put their monies where their mouths are. There is no, repeat no, substitute for actually letting students fly their own hardware in space. Giving them lectures and letting them follow government employees around in the workplace and showing them Earth images and webcasts of astronauts working in space and rovers working on Mars are all marvelous things to do, but they are not sufficient to motivate today's youth to join us in the president's announced program to go back to the Moon and on to Mars. They need to be able to fly experiments of their own.

It's not as if huge costs are involved.

How about your subsidizing a program to deploy Cubesats from converted camera pods on the outside of government and commercial ELVs, as proposed by a former GAS student who now runs his own aerospace company? Or how about the aerospace industry providing machining support to Cal State Long Beach and its struggling, small aerospace company partner to help them build a very small, nanosat launch vehicle to orbit Cubesat-class satellites. [My links]

He suggests some new approaches to substitute for the GAS such as

sponsoring development of a stabilized ELV bus with self-contained power, telemetry and video transmission, and maybe even a payload retrieval system, so the students can adapt their GAS experiments to the ELV world, and then giving them frequent repetitive launch opportunities, like they had in the GAS program. "Stop and start" just doesn't cut it in the educational world, especially when graduate students are involved...

... This command to kill the GAS follows similar "top-down" policies at NASA that seem oblivious to any other input. NASA was also urged by a space science committee to revitalize its sounding rocket program but instead the program is steadily fading away. For relatively little money, it could fund flights on the new RLV suborbital rockets and thus help both science and the development of new launch technologies. ...

... It certainly seems strange that NASA is initiating the VSE by alienating virtually every natural constituency that it has. In addition to this hit on space education, the science community is becoming convinced that the VSE just means big cutbacks in its funding (At NASA, Clouds Are What You Zoom Through to Get to Mars - NY Times - Mar.21.05), the aviation community is now sure that NASA wants to eliminate all aeronautical research (Congress Quizzes NASA On Cuts in Aeronautics Spending - Space News - Mar.21.05), closing a research center or two will certainly reduce its circle of friends (NASA BRAC: a bad idea - The Space Review - Mar.21.05), and cancelling the Hubble repair mission angered every astronomy fan in the country.

It's not as if NASA has a shortage of waste. It could clearly accomplish much more with its 16 billion dollar budget. Often it appears, however, that particular NASA programs are cut not because they are failing or because they lack cost-effectiveness, but because they are small and don't have the political clout to fight back. Meanwhile, the huge Shuttle and ISS programs relentlessly suck up all funding in sight.

I hope the new administrator will allow for rational input from outside sources to make a difference in NASA policies and that he will better communicate the reasons for cutbacks and convince people that they are made for sound, long term strategic reasons rather than just short term programmatic convenience.

12:30 pm: News briefs... In the latest issue of The Space Review, Sam Dinkin surveys the Rocketplane Ltd plans for a suborbital tourist service: It's about engineering at Rocketplane - The Space Review - Mar.21.05 ...

... Sam also interviews David Urie, vice president and program manager at Rocketplane: Rocket plane venture star (part 1) - The Space Review - Mar.21.05 ...

... Dr. John Jurist discusses the oxygen requirements for passengers on a suborbital spaceflight: Human factors in commercial suborbital flight: Getting adequate oxygen - The Space Review - Mar.21.05

March 20, 2005

3:20 pm: CEV spiral ... Rand Simberg corrects the date given Friday for the CEV downselect to two contractors. From the presentations shown at the March 11th Exploration Systems NASA/Industry Days, the schedule actually goes as follows:

  • Proposals are due no later than 2:00 pm, May 2, 2005
  • Source Evaluation will begin immediately after the deadline
  • Contract award is planned for no-later-than 5 September 2005

... The presentations include a timeline chart called "Spiral I Program" that shows the various phases of the program NASA believes will lead to crewed flights in 2014. Interestingly, there is a one bar simply labeled "ETO [Earth to Orbit] ETO - Non Traditional Approach - Potential Commercial Solution". In other words, all this other stuff may be irrelevant if those entrpreneurial guys get there first. ...

... Henry Vanderbilt says that t/Space hasn't actually made a decision about whether to bid for the CEV or not.

3:20 pm: News briefs... Much of the commercial launch industry seems to be coalescing into two camps: International Launch Services (Lockheed-Martin, Khrunichev, and RSC Energia) and Launch Services Alliance (ArianeSpace, Boeing and Mitsubishi) : Launch Services Alliance Holds First Press Conference - SpaceRef - Mar.17.05.) ...

... I don't have a subscription to read the full article, but apparently the Near Space Maneuvering Vehicle project, of which JP Aerospace was once a contractor, is being scaled back by the Air Force. ...

... Speaking of JP Aerospace, check out the videos they are posting, especially this long fall to earth. ...

... There are job openings at Starchaser.

March 18, 2005

3:55 pm: News briefs ... Two finalists in the CEV competition will be announced on May 2nd: The future of space travel: The next space race is about to begin as eight private consortia finalize their bids for the lucrative contract to replace NASA's retiring space shuttle - The Advertiser - Mar.19.05 (via spacetoday.net) [Mar.20: see correction above] ...

... Miscellaneous problems are hindering the return to flight: ISS gyro problem will not delay shuttle launch - spacetoday.net - Mar.18.05 * Shuttle troubles: - Cosmic Log/MSNBC - Mar.17.05 * NASA: Space Station Work Put Off for Now - MSNBC - Mar.17.05 ...

... The Shuttle Getaway Specials program was intended to give low cost access to space for experiments built by university and other research groups. Thought the waiting times were long, some groups did successfully take advantage of the opportunity The program is now being canceled: Farewell to Getaway Specials - NASAWatch - Mar.18.05. I hope that Griffin, who comes with a science background, will put a priority on helping university groups get payloads into space in a timely and low cost manner. ...

... NASA Watch offers links to a couple of rapid prototyping projects at NASA: ISFR - Exploration Science & Technology Division and Electron Beam Freeform Fabrication - NASA. The latter site offers an interesting video showing the buildup of layers for a metal frame.

1:15 am: News briefs ... You will soon find out if you are the lucky winner of a ride to space: Volvo and Sir Richard Branson Unveil Winner of Trip to Space - PR Newswire/Volvo - Mar.17.05 ...

... The upcoming 21st National Space Symposium will include a discussion panel session that includes some representatives from the alt.space universe: Entrepreneurs featured at space symposium - Space Foundation - Mar.17.05. I find this rather encouraging, seeing as how the Space Foundation is an organization sponsored primarily by the mainstream aerospace industry. ...

... Here's a marvelous set of photos from the recent Atlas V launch: Photo Gallery: Atlas 5 rocket launches Inmarsat 4-F1 - Spaceflight Now - Mar.17.05....

... An item here yesterday mentioned rapid prototyping for space applications. Such a system might actually be able to make copies of itself. A Slashdot posting points to a NASA report from 1980 - NASA's Advanced Automation for Space Missions - IslandOne - 1980 - that looks at the possibilities of self-replicating systems (SRS) for lunar industrialization.

March 17, 2005

2:15 pm: News briefs... Robert Zimmerman examines the heavy paperwork and regulatory requirements that CEV contractors must endure: Space Watch: Spacefaring by bureaucrats - UPI - Mar.17.05 ...

... The print version of Space News recently published in its editorial section a three part essay by Robert Zubrin on how NASA's Moon exploration progam should proceed. The pieces have now been posted on the Mars Society website:

12:45 pm: News briefs ... Keith Cowing points out that a spare parts making system could come in quite handy for those living in space: Making Spares - On-orbit? - NASA Watch - Mar.17.05. There has been talk over the years of using rapid prototyping technologies in space but, as far as I know, NASA has never tried to develop a system to test on the ISS. As Bob Zimmerman recently pointed out, there are a lot of technologies and techniques like this that need to be developed before long duration deep space missions become practical and the ISS is the obvious place to test them. ...

... Starting to sink in at KSC that it won't always take 10,000+ people to launch a crew to orbit: Launch work force likely to decline: Space panelists stress options - Florida Today - Mar.17.05 ...

... Meanwhile, the struggle to launch the next shuttle continues: Shuttle launch schedule may slip: May 15 liftoff could be delayed - MSNBC - Mar.16.05 ...

... Jeff Foust spots in this article - JAXA seeks to bodily go, and to go it alone - Daily Yomiuri - Mar.16.05 - a sign of Japanese interest in developing their own human spaceflight capabilities: Japanese space policy - Space Politics - Mar.17.05. Unfortunately, it sounds like the usual government space agency PR fluff involving grandiose 20 year plans and the launching of crews on $100M expendables.The Japanese auto companies did not start on their road to catching up with and surpassing the US auto industry by emulating Edsels and finned Cadillacs. If JAXA really wants to get on a practical path to orbit, it should fund innovative projects like the RVT and support private development of low cost space transports.

March 16, 2005

1:55 pm: News briefs ... The third Minotaur-1 launch is in preparation: Steering system work delays Minotaur rocket launch - Spaceflight Now - Mar.15.05. It will launch the XSS 11, a 100Kg microsat that will demonstrate rendezvous and proximity operations with other satellites.

The number of payloads in this mass range seems to have fallen far short of what was expected back in the 1990s when launchers like the Minotaur-1 and Athena-1 were developed. The Minotaur-1 from Orbital Sciences offers similar capabilities as the Falcon-1, which SpaceX says will fly for around $6M per mission. It would be interesting to know what Orbital is charging for this flight. Lower launch prices might inspire a greater number of microsatellite projects. ...

... A reader sends me these links to articles involving Russian launch systems: Russia Wants To Build A New Extra-Heavy Launcher - Mar.8.05 * France, Russia Ink Deal On Rocket Launchers - Mar.15.05 * The Promise Of Modular Launch Vehicles - Mar.7.05.

March 15, 2005

2:20 pm: News briefs ... AERA Space will unveil its vehicle design on March 30th: Firm books launch services: The deal with the Air Force comes as the local company prepares to unveil its spacecraft. - Riverside [Ca] Press Enterprise - Mar.15.05 ...

... The latest article from Irene Mona Klotz reports on the SS1 journey to Washington and the status of some former X PRIZE projects: Space Race 2: SpaceShipOne, post X Prize - UPI/WashTimes - Mar.15.05.

(Links via spacetoday.net)

10:35 am: News briefs ... Access to the ISS is becoming a big messy problem for NASA due to political restrictions on funding of Soyuz flights: No plan B for outer space - Economist - Mar.10.05. Shuttles can remained docked for only a couple of weeks at a time and so for long term stays the astronauts need a Soyuz there as an emergency escape vehicle. After expiration of an agreement with Russia in 2006, NASA will need to pay for the vehicles. Congress, however, won't let NASA buy Soyuz flights as long as Russia is helping Iran with its nuclear projects. My guess is that the Administration will take advantage of a clause in the law that lets NASA get around this limitation for dire situations. ...

... Here's the current schedule for flights to the ISS. NASA ISS Flight Program Launch Schedule 10 March 2005 - SpaceRef - Mar.14.05 ...

... In discussing Walt Anderson's arrest, I mentioned that MirCorp had been one of the companies supporting a commercial parabolic flight service called Xero that would operate out of northern Sweden. Now comes news that Xero will begin flights this summer: Zero-gravity flights taking off this summer - USATODAY.com - Mar.14.05 (via spacetoday.net). Even with a weak dollar and the inclusion of lodging, the $9,615 package sounds pricey compared to Zero-G's $3750. ...

... Rand Simberg discusses possible problems with composite structures in airliners and what this might imply for their use on space transports: We Don't Know As Much As We Think We Do - Transterrestrial Musings - Mar.14.05 ...

... It would be interesting to hear the comments on this issue from a famous composite air and space craft builder in Mojave: Scaled Composites set to expand - AV Press - Mar.14.05.

March 14, 2005

11:45 am: More about Griffin... Jeff Foust provides additional info about Michael Griffin: Getting to know Michael Griffin - The Space Review - Mar.14.05. It will certainly be interesting to hear Griffin's first public statements after his nomination to find out if he strays significantly from any of his previously stated views on the Shuttle program, the future of the ISS, the need for a heavy-lift vehicle (HLV), etc.

Though I'm still very skeptical that a HLV will get Congressional approval anytime soon, it's possible that Griffin's anti-Shuttle/pro-Heavy Lifter views could actually compliment each other. The shuttle constituency in Congress might support a faster shut down of the program in exchange for a shuttle-derived HLV as this offers the possibility that shuttle related employment in their states could be maintained.

11:45 am: News briefs... Scaled is growing: Spaceship firm to expand: Rutan to add hangar, about 70 employees - L.A. Daily News - Mar.13.05 ...

... Taylor Dinerman suggests that a single organization should be set up to coordinate US government space access R&D: Time for a space access organization? - The Space Review - Mar.14.05. (Note that Griffin may revitalize RLV efforts at NASA since he is quite knowledgeable about why the X-33 and X-34 programs failed.) ...

... Yet another article claiming that a crewed orbital vehicle (pun intended) is currently far beyond the capability of private space developers: The Vision for Space Exploration needs transformational technology by Eric R. Hedman - The Space Review - Mar.14.05. We will see. ...

... Here's another version of the AP article about Blue Origin and West Texas: Space dreams boost tiny Texas town: Amazon.com founder wants to use ranch as spaceport - MSNBC/AP - Mar.13.05

1:35 am: News briefs... Henry Vanderbilt, chief of the Space Access Society, will be on a special edition of The Space Show this evening 7-8:30 pm (Pacific Time). They will discuss the Space Access '05 Conference, which will take place this April 28-30 in Phoenix, and, I'm sure, a range of topics dealing with the question of how to lower the cost of access to space. Connection info.

March 13, 2005

1:15 pm: News briefs... Here's a long article in praise of Burt Rutan and private space development: The starship enterprise - Sunday Times - Mar.13.05 (via spacetoday.net) ...

... While looking for Mike Massee's pictures of the ATV, I found these photo sets of the SS1 flights:

... This seems like another one of those - let's do something just to show we are doing something - kind of bureaucratic bungles: Launch schedule off Web - SantaMariaTimes - Mar.13.05 (via spacetoday.net) ...

... More kudos for Griffin: Griffin can 'get the job done' for NASA: Colleagues laud nominee's ability - Florida Today - Mar.13.05 ...

... Florida Today supports the RtF: 6 reasons why the shuttle's return to space is vital to human exploration of the moon and Mars - Florida Today - Mar.13.05

2:50 am: News briefs... The old Rotary Rocket hangar has a new tenant so the ATV has been moved out and there will be another attempt to move it to the Classic Rotors museum: This Week at Mojave - Alan's Mojave Airport Weblog - Mar.12.05. See Mike Massee's photo record of what happened the last time they tried to fly it out by helicopter ...

... More about the impact of Jeff Bezos and Blue Origin on West Texas: Amazon.com founder's space venture has West Texas county abuzz - DentonRC.com(Texas)/AP - Mar.12.05 (via spacetoday.net) ...

... Michael Griffin has the endorsement of Pete Worden, who was a favorite candidate of many alt.spacers: Former NASA Exploration Chief Gets Nod as Next NASA Administrator - Space.com - Mar.11.05. A range of space advocacy groups, including Space Frontier Foundation, the Mars Society, and the National Space Society, have praised the selection of Griffin.

2:50 am: A Japan and Euro scan... Surveying a sample of Japanese and European space sites, I came across some miscellaneous items of interest. For example, here is an innovative hybrid engine powered sounding rocket in development in Japan: Hybrid Rocket 'CAMUI' - ISAS/JAXA - Feb.7.05. Besides the technology involved, I thought the intended application was quite interesting:

In recent years, chemical-weather interaction is attracting wide attention because, for example, an atmospheric chemical model experiment proved that the progress of global warming exacerbates the descent of stratospheric ozone to the troposphere, which further accelerates global warming (Sudo K., Takahashi M., Akimoto H., Geophysical Research Letters, Vol. 30, pp. 24, 2003).

Research on such phenomenon requires the collection of atmospheric constituents in the stratosphere and the identification of the composition of minor chemical constituents by analysis with high-performance instruments on the ground. Sounding rockets provide the sole means for such sample collection because neither aircraft nor balloon can reach the upper stratosphere at 50 to 60km altitude. Sounding rockets are also used as a means to produce a microgravity environment extending for several minutes. The environment is created by ballistic flights of small rockets at altitudes from 100 to 200km.

While none of the manned RLV projects I'm aware of will reach anywhere close to 200km, they do go above 100km and so could sample the atmosphere for some part of this range. Such vehicles could make more frequent measurements and at lower cost, perhaps by piggybacking the instrumentation on tourist flights ...

... I've not found any news or reports regarding further development of the suborbital RVT project. ...

.... Here's a report on an investigation in Japan of the potential benefits of a dense fuel: LNG Propulsion System Flight Demonstration Project - JAXA - Nov.5.04 ...

... There was a test last year by Japan of a flexible reentry shield: Flight experiment by a deployable flexible structure - ISAS/JAXA - Sept.9.04 ...

... The German EADS company carried out a successful drop test of the Phoenix spaceplane prototype last year but, in general, Europe's current plans for future launchers don't involve any near term hardware development: ESA - Launchers Home - Next generation launchers - Nov.22.04. ...

... They do offer future launcher wallpaper image and screensaver at ESA - Launchers Home - Screensavers and wallpaper ...

... Alan Bond's Skylon website is looking spiffier than the last time I looked but he is still waiting for $10B to fall from the sky to build the single stage to orbit vehicle. The Skylon's Sabre propulsion system uses a heat exchanger to cool and collect oxygen during the ascent. An anonymous private benefactor paid for development of a prototype test system that is shown in some pictures here: Heat Exchanger Research

March 11, 2005

8:55 pm: News briefs... John Carmack reports that a recent tethered hover test resulted in a broken "recovery strap" and the vehicle landing "hard on its side." Broken Vehicle - Armadillo Aerospace - Mar.11.05. The fall came after the engine was cut off because of chugging. He said the last two crashes "were due to engine problems, rather than electronics problems. We need to get a truly reliable engine before we fly another vehicle." ...

... Michael Griffin contributed to a report, sponsored by the Planetary Society, that laid out a long term plan for the VSE: Extending Human Presence into the Solar System: An Independent Study for The Planetary Society on Strategy for the Proposed U.S. Space Exploration Policy - July 2004 (pdf). (Summary in HTML) ...

... Someone has pointed out that this report includes the statement (p.29): "However, no human-rated spacecraft has been developed in the past 20 years." The report came out a month after "Mike Melvill earned his FAA astronaut wings." I hope Mr. Griffin no longer agrees with such a wrong-headed dismissal of suborbital spaceflight.

Such a statement well illustrates the "aerospace culture" that ignores real progress that is happening outside the mainstream companies. The SS1 offers substantial support to the possibility of incremental development of low cost launch systems starting with suborbital flight and eventually reaching orbit.

6:10 pm A good pick for NASA ... Michael Griffin seems like an excellent choice for NASA - Griffin to be new NASA administrator - spacetoday.net - Mar.11.05. He has worked both at NASA and in the private aerospace industry and yet has always seemed a bit of an independent sort.

He is certainly no alt.spacer but from what I've read about him he has always been a "space guy" who really wants to make spaceflight practical and lower cost and has been open to new ideas on how to make this happen.

For example, in this report last year to Congress - Statement By Michael D. Griffin - House Science Committee Hearing: "Perspectives on the President's Vision for Space Exploration" - SpaceRef - Mar.10.04 - he said:

For advocates of spaceflight, including myself, more money is always better, and is certainly preferable to less money! But I would submit that our first order of business is to examine our culture, the aerospace culture, and ourselves, to understand why we believe it costs so very much more to operate in space than to perform almost any other human activity.

Here are more of his written presentations to Congress: Mike Griffin - On The Record - NASA Watch.

He seems to be getting a good reception all round: Reaction to Griffin Nomination - NASA Watch.

2:45 pm News briefs ... Check out the webcast of the ILS Atlas V launch of the Inmarsat 4-F1 satellite scheduled for today between 4:42-4:57 p.m. EST...

... Space Frontier campaigns for the Centennial Challenges program:Congress Should Fund Space Prize Now! – White House Budget for Centennial Prize should be Raised to $200 Million - Space Frontier Foundation - Mar.10.05. ...

... Another reason for a Moon base: Could a Lunar Gene Bank Save Our Species? - ABC News - Mar.10.05

1:25 am: News briefs... Macho contractors like Boeing and LockMart fear not monstrous red tape attacks for they will have trusty cost-plus contracts by their sides: tSpace Wimps Out - NASA Watch - Mar.10.05 ...

... NASA will host a meeting to discuss its "Advanced Docking Berthing System (ADBS) Project" for the CEV program: NASA Notice of Exploration Mission Docking Systems Forum ...

... Current and archived reports on the Shuttle program's return to flight can be found at New Scientist Special Report on Return of the Space Shuttle and Spaceflight Now | STS-114 Shuttle Report and NASA - Return to Flight.

March 10, 2005

6:00 pm: Final journey for the X-Champ ... Alan Boyle reports on the tour that White Knight and SpaceShipOne will take this summer on their way to Washington D.C where SS1 will go into the Smithsonian.: SpaceShipOne due for coast-to-coast trip: Rocket plane heading to air show, then to museum - MSNBC - Mar.10.05.

9:15 am: News briefs... Illustrating von Braun's famous dictum, T/Space can offer lower cost space exploration but NASA's demand for a river of reports overwhelms it: Paperwork stops space privateers building lunar lander - New Scientist - Mar.12.05. ...

... More on the SS1 and Smithsonian:

(News links via spacetoday.net)

2:30 am: News briefs... The SS1 is officially donated to the Smithsonian: Smithsonian Hails SpaceShipOne and Lands It for Display - Washington Post - Mar.10.05....

... And the Smithsonian gives an award to the SS1 project: Smithsonian honors Paul Allen, private spaceship crew - AP/OregonLive.com - Mar.9.05 (via spacetoday.net). ...

... Robert Zimmerman says that the ISS offers an essential platform for developing the methods and technologies for crewed missions to Mars: Space Watch: Going to Mars in Earth orbit - UPI - Mar.10.05 ...

... Here's yet another article on the AERA Space project: Space Tourism Group Picks Florida Launch Site - Space.com - Mar.9.05 ...

... Backscattered X-Rays can reveal problems in the ET tank insulation: STS-114 Shuttle Report | Detectors help guard against flaws in shuttle's tank foam - Spaceflight Now - Mar.9.05.

March 9, 2005

2:20 am: News briefs ... AERA Space is reviewed by Irene Mona Klotz: Space Race 2: A new AERA in space:- UPI/NewKerala - Mar.8.05 ...

... Alan Boyle discusses the most important element required for commercial spaceflight: Fuel for the space race - Cosmic Log/MSNBC - Mar.8.05. (SpaceX, Armadillo Aerospace, and TGV Rockets should be included on the list of launch vehicle projects with significant funding.) ...

... Volvo's space tourism contest seems to be attracting a significant number of participants: 135,000 Want Volvo to Take Them to Space - Volvo/PR Newswire - Mar.3.05

March 8, 2005

9:40 pm: Amateur suborbital rocket ... The CSXT project reports that subsequent analysis has confirmed an altitude of 72 miles for the GoFast! rocket launched last May 17th: GoFast Rocket Maximum Altitude Verification - CSXT - Mar.8.05 (pdf). This makes it the "the first Civilian and Amateur rocket to successfully exceed the 62 mile (100km) international definition of space."...

... More info about the project at Derek Deville's Civilian Space eXploration Team and GoFast! Rocket Earns Top Technology Award for 2004 in Aerospace Engineering's Annual Review Magazine - Go Fast! - Jan.26.05.

9:40 pm: Heavy lift is a drag ... Rand Simberg takes issue with Taylor Dinerman's assumption that a consensus exists in support of a new heavy lift vehicle (HLV) for the VSE program: The (Non) Case For Heavy Lift - Transterrestrial Musings - Mar.8.05 ...

... Robert Zubrin has had a three part series in the Space News editorial section in which he also argues for a HLV. Here is a PDF file with the first two parts: How to Build a Lunar Base: Part 1: The Launch Issue - Robert Zubrin - Space News - Mar.05 ...

... In my opinion, there is no better way to kill the VSE program than to start it off with a costly expendable rocket program. With the two EELVs underused and more expensive than promised, legislators will be in no mood to fund yet another rocket program. Congress is already lukewarm and skeptical of the VSE. Proposing a HLV will support the critics who claim that the program is just more make-work for the aerospace industry.

Even if a HLV somehow got approved by Congress, it means the whole VSE program becomes dependent on it and vehicle development projects are typically plagued with delays and overruns. All those big modules that it is meant to carry won't fit on any other launcher. So if it is delayed, or if after development it is grounded for a long period, so is the whole program.

If Bigelow proves that large inflatable spacecraft are viable - Progress Made on Inflatable Private Space Module - Space.com - Mar.8.05 - then that also undercuts the need for heavy lift. The currently available launchers, as well as new commercial ones in development, are capable of taking inflatables to orbit that expand to significant size. They can in turn be combined to create very large structures. NASA could contract with commercial companies to deliver fuel and cargo to LEO for them at low cost.

This sure seems to me a much more robust and flexible approach that putting all the VSE eggs in one HLV.

8:30 am: News briefs... Alan Boyle reports on the AERA Space project: Dark horse makes bold claims in space race: Aera announces launch pact, plans flights in 2006 - MSNBC - Mar.8.05....

... Even suborbital researchers don't get all that many opportunities to fly so it's a major disappointment when a sounding rocket fails: Poker Flat rocket crashes - Fairbanks Daily News-Miner - Mar.7.05. This mission was to reach 500 miles in altitude. Current commercial crewed RLV designs will only reach 60 to 70 miles. However, for some types of research, the higher flight rates should make up for shorter flight times and lower altitudes.

March 7, 2005

5:15 pm: The new X PRIZE Foundation web site offers a lot of great info. For example, check out the X Prize CUP and Personal Spaceflight Expo page. It provides much more detail on the rocket competitions than previously released. There is also a tentative schedule.

In 2005 there "will be a 4-day event and [it] will feature our Personal Spaceflight Exposition and provide an introduction of the overall XPC&PSE." So no flights at this year's event. The 2006 event will offer some exhibition flights at White Sands and then the full XPC&PSE with rocket races begins in 2007 at the Southwest Regional Spaceport in Southern New Mexico.

( Link via Space Race News)

4:55 pm: Falcon I delay ... This week's print edition of Space News reports that the SpaceX Falcon I launch will be delayed till at least May. The main holdup is the need for additional testing of the thrust termination system. This system is used rather than explosives to abort the launcher if a problem occurs. It will offer lower operational costs and will significantly reduce the time needed for launch preparation. However, the initial cost is higher and more testing is required to meet Air Force standards. SpaceX hopes to carry out a pad test at Vandenberg in about 4 weeks with a 5 second firing of the main engine.

4:35 pm: Kistler crunch time ... The bankruptcy court for Kistler Aerospace will decide on March 29th whether to accept Kistler's debt restructuring plan. If it doesn't, then the company may have to liquidate. The company claims that if it gets the go-ahead, it will get $15M from its main backer (Bay Harbour Management) to stay in operation while it raises additional capital over the coming months.

The company believes it can attract investors because it will have a good chance to win at least part of the $160M NASA plans to offer to commercial companies for ISS resupply (see March 2nd news). Last year SpaceX successfully challenged a NASA launch service contract with Kistler because the award had not been open to other bids.

The biggest creditors include Aerojet and Northrop-Grumman. The company claims that after successful launches of the K-1 and after winning an ISS resupply contract, it would be worth between $112M and $175M. The current liquidation value is around $3.9M. Randy Brinkley, a former NASA official who is CEO of Kistler, indicated that the creditors had signaled their approval of the reorganization plan. If things go according to that plan, the first launch of the K-1 would occur in 2007.

12:50 pm: Suborbital surveying ... Sam Dinkin points out that the basis for claims from Virgin Galactic of 7000 potential customers for its $200K tourist flights comes only from the response to its online questionnaire: Banking on £805 million of promises - The Space Review - Mar.7.05. Sam says the press should have made this clear in their articles.

At this point, though, the big question is whether Branson is encouraged enough by this response and by the various market studies to go through with the $100M+ investment needed to get the SS2 vehicles built and flying. Market surveying is hardly an exact science and he will be making a big gamble no matter what. Most people today will give answers to such surveys based only on a vague impression of what a suborbital spaceflight would be like and how safe it will be. Their responses will surely be quite different once they see vehicles flying routinely.

12:50 pm: News briefs ... John Jurist continues his series on the physical effects of suborbital spaceflight: Human factors in commercial suborbital flight: what do I breathe, and why? - The Space Review - Mar.7.05 ...

... Taylor Dinerman looks at the possibilities for a heavy lift launcher: Heavy lift: examining the requirements - The Space Review - Mar.7.05. And here's another view: The Promise Of Modular Launch Vehicles by Josef Pinkas - Spacedaily - Mar.7.05 ...

... SS1 engineer Jim Tighe is voted Design News Engineer of the Year: Space Cadet - Design News - Mar.7.05 ...

... The AERA announcement mentioned here on Saturday is now posted on its website: Aera Corporation Signs Launch Support Agreement With The United States Air Force: Company to Conduct Spaceflight Operations from Cape Canaveral , FL - AERA - Mar.7.05.

March 5, 2005

3:00 pm: News briefs ... The following "Latest News" message is posted on the AERA Space home page but the full news release is not yet linked: Aera Corporation Signs Launch Support Agreement with the United States Air Force - Company to Conduct Spaceflight Operations from Cape Canaveral, FL. I think it will be released on Monday...

... The shuttle thermal protection can also get a fatal hit while in orbit: Debris is shuttle's biggest threat: Study: Junk can be catastrophic - Florida Today - Mar.5.05...

... NASA preparations for the next launch ramp up: Shuttle mission simulation tests post-Columbia team - Spaceflight Now - Mar.4.05....

... Alan Boyle comments on the Walt Anderson situation: Behind bars, in the stars - Cosmic Log/MSNBC - Mar.4.05. Good to hear that Orbital Recovery will go on regardless:

"Walt Anderson contributed to the early stages of the structure of Orbital Recovery. He has not been involved in the operations of the company for some time," Lenorovitz told me. "The recent events are a personal matter for Mr. Anderson and have no relevance to the company."

March 4, 2005

4:15 pm: Space money briefs ... Walt Anderson reveals the grand plan behind his financial planning: Tax Case Defendant Says Money Was to Do Good - Washington Post - Mar.4.05. More links at NASA Watch and comments from Rand Simberg ...

... I maintain a list of what I call "Space Angels" , i.e. angel investors in space projects. Even without Anderson, the list shows that some serious money is going into private space development.

Robert Bigelow, for example, has indicated that his total expenditure on space will eventually add up to as much as half a billion dollars. He already has some impressive hardware to show for it. Elon Musk is spending several tens of millions on SpaceX. Jeff Bezos appears to be planning investments in that range as well.

So the loss of Anderson from the list (assuming he is actually convicted) may seem like a big setback to private space development, but it is hardly a fatal blow. The telecom recession had already greatly reduced his funding of space projects and there are a number of other space moguls who are moving on with their own projects ...

... A HS reader thought I went too far in criticizing Ester Dyson's conference on entrepreneurial space development. I thought I was quite mild in my comments but I certainly agree that the alt.space community should welcome new participants, especially those who can help bring in new investment to a young and fragile spaceflight industry.

4:15 pm: News briefs ... Here is another interesting FAA/AST report: "The Commercial Space Transportation: 2004 Year in Review summarizes U.S. and international launch activities for calendar year 2004 and provides a historical look at the past five years of commercial launch activities." ...

... I just heard about the debut of a newsletter called Rockets Away that is devoted to "adventures in commercial spaceflight": Rockets Away - Barnstorms Cyberspace - eMediaWire/PR - Mar.4.05 (via spacetoday.net). Here's the March issue and the archive page. ...

.. A market is opening in the East for Space Adventures : Space tourism firm extends business to China - Travel Daily News - Mar.4.05.

March 3, 2005

3:10 pm: Congratulations to Steve Fossett and the whole Global Flyer team!

1:45 pm: News briefs... Robert Zimmerman finds that NASA's data and analysis supporting the cancellation of the Hubble repair mission seem very weak and to have come after the decision was already made: Space Watch: Backing a bad Hubble decision - UPI - Mar.3.05 ...

... Three anonymous participants in the "commercial space flight industry have made a "$3 million pledge toward the campaign to ensure a fifth season for the recently canceled Star Trek: Enterprise." Investors in space flight industry contribute $3,000,000 to TrekUnited Money pledged to fund a fifth season of Star Trek: Enterprise - Trek United - Mar.2.05. Note that if the program does not return next year, the contributors get their money back. ... Rand Simberg notes that many Trekkers are not interested in real space travel: Saving Star Trek - Transterrestrial Musings - Mar.2.05. ...

... I wonder where Florida Today got their cost estimate for NASA's lunar exploration plans? Call it moon glow: Growing global interest in lunar exploration makes the time ripe for cooperation - Florida Today - Mar.3.05. I don't think NASA has yet given an official estimate.

March 2, 2005

4:00 pm: News briefs... Whoa! Anderson is in much deeper trouble than I first thought: Man of Many Names Now Called No. 1 Tax Cheat - NY Times - Mar.2.05. Could mean not only a huge penalty but a long prison sentence as well. It will be ironic if Orbital Recovery does well and he views his one space business success from jail. ...

... Microgravity researchers probably won't offer much of a market for suborbital RLV companies. NASA is cutting them off at the knees: UCI-designed research project won't reach orbit - KRT Wire - Mar.1.05 (Via spacetoday.net). Just not right for NASA to lure scientists into these fields with the promise of sustained funding and then abruptly cut them off due to a policy change. I'm sure there are many university groups that have put in dozens of person-years of work into experiments that will never fly. ...

... More about Shuttle TPS repair techniques: Equipping Discovery: New Tools to Return Shuttles to Flight - Space.com - Mar.2.05.

1:05 am: NASA wants proposals ... NASA has issued its formal "Request for Proposals" for the CEV system: NASA Issues Solicitation for Crew Exploration Vehicle - NASA - Mar.1.05. The page at NASA - Exploration Systems - Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) Procurement gives the links to the documents.

1:45 am: Update: The doc files are listed at Crew Exploration Vehicle, Solicitation. The Statement of Objectives gives a readable overview of what NASA wants in a CEV system. ...

... The latest Aviation Week reports that NASA has allocated $160M in the 2006 budget request for commercial transportation to the ISS. There will be "more in the pipeline, and [NASA} plans to start spending it before the end of this calendar year." A RFP will be issued this summer for "commercial crew and cargo" services and the first contracts would be awarded by the end of the year.

NASA hopes that the commercial services could begin to supplement the Russian and ESA cargo deliveries by 2010 when the shuttle program ends.

Combining this with the Bigelow launch contracts to whomever wins the America's Space Prize creates quite a substantial lure to attract entrants into the commercial orbital spaceflight business.

1:05 am: FAA/AST news ... The FAA Commercial Space Transportation office will hold public meetings on March 29-31, 2005 to receive comments on its draft "changes to the commercial space transportation regulations governing licensing and safety requirements for launch: FAA: Licensing and Safety Requirements for Launch: Availability of draft regulatory language - Notice of public meeting - SpaceRef - Mar.1.05 ...

... I think I missed this. AST's annual review of vehicles, spaceports, and other launch related topics is now available. The 2005 U.S. Commercial Space Transportation Developments and Concepts report is 60 pages long and includes a lot of great background info on the state of the launch industry.

1:05 am: News briefs ... Andew Case, acting chief of the Suborbital Institute, gives his views on the comments made by Boeing's Jim Albaugh that were mentioned below. ...

... Burt Rutan continues to spread the good word: SpaceShipOne's Rutan: Space resorts in 25 years - CNET - Mar.1.05 ...

... And Branson does as well: Thousands keen for space flight - BBC - Feb.28.05 ...

... Sort of like one of those small Mercedes versus a big old Buick: Soyuz a Smoother Ride than Shuttle, Astronaut Tells Students - ARRL - Mar.1.05 ...

... It would certainly get interesting if the Chinese joined in: China Will Propose That NASA Use Shenzhou for International Space Station Duty - SpaceRef - Mar.1.05

March 1, 2005

2:30 pm: News brief... Irene Mona Klotz profiles SpaceDev: Space Race 2: SpaceDev's ride to orbit - Washington Times/UPI - Mar.1.05. (Via a HS reader.) ...

... Jim Albaugh, president and CEO of Boeing Integrated Defense Systems (IDS), sounds like an alt.spacer:

The bottom line, Albaugh said, was that this industrial transformation wasn't happening. "Any honest assessment of aerospace will conclude that ours is a static industry. It took us 66 years to go to the moon. By 2035, yet another 66 years will have passed. And where will we be then? What is the next 'giant leap for mankind?' Where is the innovation? What was the last real breakthrough technology that transformed aerospace? Where is the next one?" Albaugh had the courage to state publicly what many have been thinking. The aerospace industry has become so risk-averse that it has lost the power to innovate - a far cry from the trail-blazing days of the first half of the 20th century, when risk-taking mavericks and innovation were synonymous with the business.

- excerpt of an article in Jane's Defense Weekly, Feb.25.05. (Via a HS reader.)

12:30 pm: Follow the Global Flyer ... The Virgin Atlantic Global Flyer is off on its one man nonstop journey around the world. You can follow its course via this tracking page and get the latest news on the mission log.

12:30 pm: News briefs... Armadillo did some more hover testing last Saturday according to an entry on the Official Armadillo Q&A thread ...

... The RtF program moves along: KSC workers connect external tank, boosters: NASA: Work going smoothly - Florida Today - Mar.1.05 ...

... Another discussion of shuttle flight risks: Weighing the risks of chasing a dream: Flights of discovery always require element of danger, experts contend - Florida Today - Feb.27.05. ...

... Hailing the progress made in private spaceflight development last year, Rick Tumlinson talks about how to keep the momentum going: 2004: A Historic Year (But Only If ...) - ad Astra/Space.com - Mar.1.05...

... Rand Simberg muses some more about Dyson's space get together.

2:30 am: Emerging alt.space ... Ester Dyson edits the Release 1.0 newsletter, which has been quite influential in the cyberspace/dotcom business world for many years. She also organizes the PC Forum, a "premier gathering for technology-industry executives, investors, entrepreneurs, thinkers and policymakers." (Her famous dad Freeman Dyson currently runs the Space Studies Institute.)

Now she is showing an interest in entrepreneurial space and aviation. The Release 1.0 / PC Forum / Flight School meeting in March will bring together "pioneers and entrepreneurs " in both commercial space and the Very Light Jet/Air Taxi movement. (The latter includes companies like Eclipse that I often mention in my SciTech entries in the Space Log.) Cyberspace to Outer Space, Let's Have a Conference and Go There - NY Times - Feb.28.05

She claims this will be a new kind of meeting, but as both Rand Simberg (False Advertising - Transterrestrial Musings - Feb.28.05) and Keith Cowing point out (Esther Dyson - Latecomer to Space Commercialization - NASA Watch - Feb.28.05), there have been many such conferences for a long time.

In particular, the annual Space Access Society meetings, organized by Henry Vanderbilt, have done a great job for over a decade in focusing "on the technology, politics, and business of radically cheaper space transportation [and] featuring leading players in the field."

Skip the overpriced Flight School and head for the Space Access '05 Conference, April 28-30, 2005 in Phoenix, Arizona.

2:30 am: News briefs ... Walt Anderson, of MirCorp and Rotary Rocket fame, has been arrested for tax fraud: Space entrepreneur indicted on tax fraud charges - spacetoday.net - Feb.28.05.

It has hardly been a secret that his Gold & Appel Transfer holding company was based in the Bahamas for tax avoidance reasons. The IRS and other authorities often do nothing about tax shelter schemes for years and then suddenly pounce on them. Usually the cases are fought in the courts for years and end in some sort of settlement involving a large fine and perhaps a short prison sentence..

It will be interesting to see how Anderson's situation affects Orbital Recovery Corp. I doubt that it will have much impact since the company seems to have become essentially a European firm run by a collaboration that includes Dutch Space, ArianeSpace, and several other notable companies. ESA also funded the "definition phases." Production of the first space tug is supposed to start soon, with the first flight in 2008.

Anderson is also a partner in a competitor to ZERO-G called XERO to be based in Kiruna, Sweden. The company seems to be alive since it recently participated in a tourism exhibition in Monte Carlo.

Anderson generally keeps a low profile (until this week, at least!) but you can hear an interesting Spaceshow Interview with him from April 25, 2004. An article from the NY Times magazine in 2000 profiles Anderson and the MirCorp project with hyperactive prose: American Megamillionaire Gets Russki Space Heap! - New York Times Sunday Magazine - July.23.00 .(This interview with Rick Tumlinson gives another perspective on what happened to MirCorp.)

2:30 am: News briefs ... Sam Dinkin examines the costs of our space albatross: Return the albatross to flight - The Space Review - Feb.28.05 ...

... Burt sees an approaching era of exciting space projects that will rejuvenate Mojave: Space travel boosted: Mojave will benefit, Burt Rutan asserts - L.A. Daily News -- Feb.26.05. ...

... Cosmos 1 gets more attention: Space yacht rides to stars on rays of sunlight - Guardian - Feb.27.05 ...

... The Space Review offers a reprint of the article by by Thomas Olson, Paul Contursi, and David Livingston on the “warning signs” for space enterprises that may not be all they are promised to be: The Space Review: The "signal-to-noise ratio" in financing new space startups

Continue to February 2005

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