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HobbySpace.com Special Report

NewSpace in 2007
Ups and Downs in entrepreneurial spaceflight
December 31, 2007

Genesis II
Genesis II went into orbit on June 28, 2007.

I present here a compilation of major news and events in NewSpace during the year 2007. Most of the list came from postings on my Space Transport News blog, which had over 2000 entries in 2007. It's a subjective list, of course, and I surely left out some items that others might think should be included.

There were many positive developments during 2007 but also a number of disappointments and setbacks. Overall there was a net positive step upwards and the year sets the stage for even bigger steps to be made in the next couple of years.

The primary goals of NewSpace are to bring about significantly lower cost access to space and to involve a much larger segment of society in space activities. These goals came a bit closer in 2007 but are still not quite within reach. This posting - Slow revolutions ... - Space Transport News - June.23.07 - summarizes how I view the process that is happening with entrepreneurial spaceflight.

To make some sense of the great number of entries, I've partitioned the review into the following categories.

For each category, I split the entries into Ups and Downs according to whether the events represented positive or negative steps towards NewSpace goals.

Access to Space

 X Prize Cup  2007
Armadillo Aerospace's Mod vehicle comes in for a landing on the first leg of its first attempt at
the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge prize at the X PRIZE Cup on Oct.27, 2007.
See X PRIZE Cup 2007 review.


  • By far, the worst event for NewSpace in 2007 was the tragedy in Mojave on July 26th when the Scaled Composites engine test stand exploded and killed Glen May, Eric Blackwell, and Todd Ivens. The exact cause of the accident was not immediately known (there was no engine firing at the time). For details, see the many Space Transport News postings in July about the accident. A safety panel report is expected to be released in early 2008. The accident will delay the SpaceShipTwo program by up to a year.

  • Fuel sloshing in the second stage prevented the SpaceX Falcon 1 from putting a dummy payload into orbit on its second test flight.

  • Armadillo Aerospace failed to win either level 1 or 2 of the Lunar Lander Challenge (LLC) due to ignition problems with their engines.

  • None of the other 9 teams that signed up for the LLC made it to the competition.

  • Rocketplane Kistler (RpK) failed to attract sufficient investment to meet its COTS milestones and its agreement with NASA was terminated.

  • Congress cut funding for the COTS ISS resupply program for 2008 and placed restrictions on the the second round competition that would use money made available by the RpK agreement cancellation.

  • Delays for most of the "land, refuel and fly" types of suborbital spaceflight projects and only Blue Origin and Armadillo had untethered rocket-powered test flights (as far as we know).

  • Bigelow Aerospace has not yet been able to arrange transportation to the Sundancer for crew visits after it launches in 2010.


Falcon 9 first stage test
Falcon 9 first stage firing tests began in the autumn in Texas.


  • Before its second test flight, the Falcon 1 had an amazingly fast one hour turnaround after a hot fire abort. This is exactly the sort of operational robustness that must be achieved with rocket technology before we can obtain low cost access to space.

  • Falcon 9 passed a major design review and the first stage firing tests began. A new Merlin engine was developed. Dragon capsule also passed a design review.

  • Armadillo Aerospace carried out dozens of tethered and untethered flight tests at the Oklahoma spaceport, including a full LLC Level 2 flight sequence.

  • Armadillo announced the development of the modular vehicle concept. Modules can be combined to achieve high altitudes. Armadillo built and flew Mod within a couple of months.

  • Armadillo got an Air Force SBIR grant for vehicle development.

  • Several of the LLC teams made good progress even though they weren't ready for the X Prize Cup in October. Some of them should begin test flights in early 2008.

  • Blue Origin flew Goddard twice untethered in 2007. Unknown if they did tethered flights.

  • Blue Origin began construction of a second vehicle that should go to high altitudes.

  • New COTS round attracted several impressive proposals for ISS resupply systems. Some of the teams included collaborations of new and old space firms. Assuming funding cutbacks and restrictions are worked out, the program should initiate at least one new low cost space access project.

  • AirLaunch LLC continued to progress under its DARPA grants towards an orbital test.

  • XCOR received Air Force money to develop a high altitude (200k ft) vehicle.

  • XCOR began flying the first Rocket Racer, which uses an engine with a piston pump. XCOR will use similar engines for their high altitude vehicles.

  • ARCA Space began flight tests of its balloon launched suborbital spaceflight system.

  • A Japanese suborbital RLV project was announced that would continue the work started with the RVT reusable test vehicle. See also this posting from the ISPS.

  • Several small companies such as Masten Space, TGV Rockets, etc., continued to make progress with their vehicle projects during 2007.

  • Giant EADS Astrium unveiled the design of a rocketplane for the space tourism market. It is seeking over 1 billion Euros of investment to initiate development of the vehicle.

  • Bigelow announced a study with Lockheed-Martin to investigate use of the Atlas V 401 to send crew and cargo to their habitats. (Lockheed-Martin had presented studies at a conference that dealt with manned flights with the Atlas V.)


NewSpace in Orbit

Genesis II
Genesis II was launched into orbit on June 28, 2007 by a Russian Dnepr rocket.


  • Bigelow Aerospace's Genesis II made it to orbit and it and Genesis I continue to work well.

  • Bigelow announced they would skip the launch of the intermediate Galaxy module and instead move directly to a launch the crew capable Sundancer in 2010. See the ambitious plan that he laid out at the Space Foundation symposium in April. See also this announcement in August and this plan to support capsule development.

  • Several university and other small organizations around the world launched low cost nanosats (e.g. Cubesat based) into orbit in 2007.


  • No other entrepreneurial NewSpace style company has gotten a major payload to orbit yet.


Entrepreneurial Space/Rocket Related Businesses

Genesis II
Image: Aerospace Services Group
UP Aerospace launched a Spaceloft XL vehicle on April 28, 2007 with a flight manifest
that included a diversity of items from commercial and educational organizations.


  • UP Aerospace had a successful public suborbital space flight with commercial payloads. These included products intended for retail, such as space related collectables, that would use the cachet of having actually gone to space and back as a selling point. An innovative marketing idea came from Microgravity Enterprises, Inc., which launched ingredients to its Space2O water and Antimatter energy drinks.

  • UP Aerospace also had a successful low altitude rocket flight to test equipment for an unnamed client. They believe this sort of component testing service will provide a significant market for them. (Armadillo also had companies talking to it about a similar service.)

  • Celestis/Space Services space burial company flew cremated remains on the UP Aerospace flight and has payloads ready for future orbital and suborbital flights. They see a large market for this service and need more frequent access to space on low cost vehicles within the US (friends and relatives of the deceased want to observe the launches).

  • ZERO-G seems to be doing well. They now fly from both KSC and Las Vegas. A flight with Stephen Hawking attracted lots of publicity. Northrop-Grumman continued sponsoring flights with science teachers.

  • The Rocket Racing League announced it now has a full compliment of teams, First X-Racer began test flights, and exhibition events should start in 2008. First actual race in late 2008 or early 2009.


  • Only one UP Aerospace flight to space.

  • Rocket Racing didn't start exhibition events in 2007.

  • No big breakout new space business emerged that could prove to investors that this is a good area to put their money.

Space Tourism

Charles Simonyi in ISS
Charles Simonyi enters the ISS.


  • Space Adventures sent Charles Simonyi to the ISS and announced that Richard Garriott will go next year. Space Adventures says they have a queue for ISS flights for the next several years.

  • Virgin Galactic has over 200 people who have paid deposits or full ticket prices for SS2 flights. Virgin Galactic detected no effect from the Scaled accident on sign up rates for SS2 flights.

  • Virginia passed legislation to protect space tourist firms from lawsuits for accidents.


  • Russian space agency says that after 2009 it will not have enough flights for space tourists due to the need to deliver the ISS crews (which will grow to 6).

  • The Scaled accident delayed SS2 development from 2009 to 2010.

  • Other suborbital space tourism firms indicated delays, which means there will probably be no test flights to 100km in 2008.


Space Prizes

Google Lunar Prize


  • Space glove Centennial Challenge was won by Peter Homer (he was later hired by Orbital Outfitters).

  • Centennial Challenge competition events were held for space glove, lunar regolith excavation, lunar landers, power beaming, and tether strength.

  • $30M Google Lunar Prize announced.
    • So far, one team, Odyssey Moon, has officially signed up so far.
    • Another credible team led by Red Whittaker, who led the winning team for the DARPA robot urban driving contest, will sign up soon and promises to fly by July 2009.

  • A push began in Virginia to organized the V-prize for a point-to-point suborbital flight demonstration from Virginia to a European site.


  • Besides the space glove, no other Centennial Challenge space competition was won. (The Personal Air Vehicle CC did award out prize money.)

  • Congress has refused to allocate additional money for Centennial Challenge so that competitions for additional technologies can be opened.




  • RpK could not raise $500M for its COTS project.

  • No new major angel investor like Bigelow or Bezos entered the field (as far as we know).

  • No major movement of venture capital or institutional money into NewSpace.


Spaceport America
Orbital Outfitters introduces their first spacesuit at the X PRIZE Cup 2007.


  • Orbital Outfitters unveiled its first flight suit intended for commercial suborbital spaceflight operators.

  • Commercial spaceflight training is developing into a real business for companies like the National Aerospace Training & Research (NASTAR) Center. Virgin Galactic's passengers have started experiencing 6Gs in their centrifuge, which is the level they would experience during reentry on the SS2.

  • XCOR annnounced development of new engines, including a LOX/Methane engine with ATK, and the success of its piston pump program.

  • Orion Propulsion and C&Space (South Korea) made progress with their LOX/Methane engines. (Aerojet and Northrop-Grumman also announced methane engine projects.)

  • TGV Rockets announced development of a new engine and a testing program at NASA Stennis.

  • SpaceX completed development of its upgraded Merlin 1C engine.

  • Two tether tests in 2007 - YES2 and MAST - both were partial successes.


  • Still no sign that a NewSpace rocket vehicle company could build a vehicle using engines, structures, etc. obtained from low cost NewSpace suppliers. Most of the entrepreneurial launcher companies are still doing in house development to obtain most of their major components, especially engines.



Spaceport America
Winning design for Spaceport America near Las Cruces, New Mexico



  • The New Mexico spaceport authority first executive director died and then his replacement resigned a few months later.

  • Appears that the ground breaking for the NM spaceport at end of 2008 at earliest.

  • Mojave spaceport had a safety dispute with FAA, though this was settled late in December.




The Art of C. Sergent Lindsey
NewSpace Watch at NSG



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