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HobbySpace.com Special Report

NewSpace in 2009
Ups and Downs in entrepreneurial spaceflight
February 2, 2010

Falcon I launch - Sept. 28, 2008

In 2009 Masten Space Systems won both the Level I second place purse and
the Level II first place purse in the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge. (Video)


A Good Year

The bottom line at the top: 2009 was an exceptionally good year for NewSpace.

I begin here with an overview of developments in the NewSpace industry and community and then follow with a compilation of links to articles and blog postings concerning major events and accomplishments during the year. (See my discussion in the 2008 review of what I mean by the term NewSpace.) The list comes primarily from a scan of postings on my Space Transport News blog, which again saw a very busy 12 months. Please compare this review with the 2008 and 2007 reviews.

See also Alan Boyle's article The year in space - Cosmic Log/msnbc.com - Dec.21.09, which includes developments in NewSpace.

Major Progress

In 2009, progress occurred across a range of important areas including hardware development, vehicle flights, finance, markets, regulations, and spaceports. Such progress began to gain attention more broadly as illustrated by the Aviation Week cover above. Another sign of this came from the Augustine panel's recommendation that NASA use commercial services for access to LEO. This was a major milestone in the decades long battle by advocates of boosting the commercial role in space development.

Top Ten

The detailed accounting of NewSpace progress in 2009 is very long, so I will first give a short list here of the top ten NewSpace successes in 2009. The order is somewhat arbitrary. It's difficult to know which of these will have the most lasting long term impact.

  1. Falcon 1 launches RazakSAT
    The Falcon 1 launch in September of 2008 was the fourth attempt to launch a Falcon 1 and was the first to be successful. That launch proved that the basic system worked but it only orbited a dummy payload. The successful launch of RazakSAT in July 13, 2009 proved that the vehicle could do what it was designed to do. It was the first successful orbiting of a satellite by a private company with a ground launched, liquid-fueled rocket.

  2. Augustine Committee backs commercial space transport
    The Human Spaceflight Review committee heading by Norm Augustine brought great attention to the commercial space transport industry when it recommended that NASA use commercial vehicles for access to low earth orbit for not only cargo but also crews. To the surprise of many, the panel included a strong NewSpace representation with Jeff Greason (XCOR chief) and Leroy Chiao (former astronaut involved in entrepreneurial companies like Excalibur Almaz).

  3. Masten wins the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge, Level 2
    This major upset in the NGLLC competition was a good sign that the entrepreneurial industry's capabilities are broadening. More and more firms are showing they can also do sophisticated reusable rocket vehicle development.

  4. XCOR announces Lynx II lease to Korean firm
    This $28M deal with the South Korean firm Yecheon Astro Space Center was an important indication of growing success of entrepreneurial firms in finding funding and new markets. It also helps a new type of vehicle to enter the commercial suborbital spaceflight arena.

  5. SpaceShipTwo rolls out
    After delays due to the accident at Scaled and the challenges of building a larger vehicle than originally expected after the SS1 victory in the X PRIZE, the SS2 design was unveiled on December 7th. Initial tests will begin in 2010 and lead to rocket flight tests late in 2010 or early 2011.

  6. Suborbital space science & tech R&D applications grow
    Momentum grew in 2009 for using the new reusable suborbital space flight vehicles for a wide range of science experiments and engineering R&D. Alan Stern is providing strong leadership in this area.

  7. Centennial Challenges awards $3.5M in four different competitions
    2009 was a tremendous year for NASA's Centennial Challenges program with substantial prizes awarded in four different competitions.

  8. Armadillo initiates series of flights to higher altitudes
    Armadillo Aerospace won second place in the NGLLC Level II competition and also made significant progress in several areas including the start of flights to higher and higher altitudes with their vertical takeoff-vertical landing vehicles.

  9. Two private visitors to the ISS including the first non-techie
    Charles Simonyi became the first private passenger to pay for a second flight to the ISS and Guy Laliberté became the first person from the arts community to go to space. Guy Laliberté participated from orbit in a global fundraising event for his charity that include many famous celebrities and performers.

  10. Investment in NewSpace ventures grows substantially
    Despite the turmoil in the financial world in 2009, private investment in NewSpace ventures grew substantially. For example, Virgin Galactic got a commitment of $280M, SpaceX got $60M, and XCOR got $28M.

NewSpace Event Reviews

HobbySpace posted the following event reviews and interviews in 2009:


This highlight video was shown at the NGLLC awards ceremony in Washington D.C. on Nov.5, 2009.

NewSpace Pioneers Pass Away

Deaths in 2009 of pioneers in entrepreneurial space:

NewSpace Ups and Downs in 2009

Below I give a detailed accounting of significant NewSpace accomplishments in 2009. In a manner similar to last year's review, I've partitioned the list 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.

NewSpace in Orbit

Falcon I launch - Sept. 28, 2008
SpaceX successfully launched the Malaysian RazakSAT spacecraft on a Falcon I
rocket on July 13, 2009. (Video) This was also the first time that SpaceX or any private
company had successfully place a working satellite into orbit using a liquid fueled rocket.
The firm's Falcon I launch in 2008 had placed a dummy payload into orbit.

NewSpace developments and projects directly involved with launch to orbit or orbital operations.




Access to Space

Armadillo Aerospace's began in the autumn a series of flights going to higher
and higher altitudes. Videos of Armadillo boosted hops - Oct.31.09

Hardware development and vehicle flights by NewSpace style companies that demonstrated continued progress towards low cost space transportation, whether orbital or suborbital.




Private/Commercial Human Spaceflight

Guy Laliberté talks with Bono from the International Space Station on October 9th
as part of the One Drop Foundation's Poetic Social Mission global event.

Developments specifically related to human spaceflight, suborbital and orbital.




Other NewSpace Projects, Firms & Developments

First flight of Armadillo Aerospace's SuperMod vehicle
in Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge
Level II competition on Sept.13.09.

This section deals with a broad range of projects, companies, and miscellaneous infrastructure developments within the NewSpace industry and community.




Space Prizes

Falcon I launch - Sept. 28, 2008

Award ceremony in Washington DC on Nov. 5th. L-R: Doug Comstock (NASA Innovative
Partnerships), Dave Masten (Masten Space), Charles Bolden (NASA Administrator),
Peter Diamandis (X PRIZE Foundation), Phil Eaton (Armadillo Aerospace),
Mitch Waldman (Northrop Grumman). Masten holds a $1.15M check from NASA for
winning the Level II first place purse ($1M) and Level I second place purse in the NGLLC
competition. Eaton holds $500K for winning the Level II second place purse. (Armadillo won
Level I first place in 2008.)

This section deals with the various space related prize competitions in 2009.



  • There was again no X PRIZE Cup type of contest in 2009. The Lunar Lander Challenge flights took place at times and places of the teams' choosing. Some public viewing was allowed but limited.

  • There were no winners in the Centennial Challenges tether strength competition. The Lunar Regoz Challenge expired with no winners.



A video tour of the New Mexico spaceport under construction near
Las Cruces, NM. Here's a longer article plus another video tour:
Bus ride launches Spaceport tourism - KRQE News 13 New Mexico

Developments with commercial spaceports.



  • Currently there are far more spaceports in waiting than vehicles to fly at them.


Michael Mealling ignites Atlanta with a five minute talk in September 2009
about commercial spaceflight: Here is the talk with the slides
visible and synchronized: Zentation.com Presentation - Space

As they say, "no bucks, no Buck Rogers". This section reports on developments in raising money during 2009 for NewSpace ventures.



  • The financial crisis that hit the US and then the rest of the world in the fall of 2008 affected investment in NewSpace companies to some degree but as indicated above, progress continued and new investment continued to be found.

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


Regulations & Insurance

View from 100km above Mojave
(Photo credit: Michael Mealling)
Unreasonable Rocket's Blue Ball vehicle, which flew in the Northrop Grumman
Lunar Lander Challenge
, was displayed in the exhibition room at the Space Access'09
conference in April. Testing of advanced rocket vehicles like this one built by
small companies and amateur groups requires considerable knowledge of
how to deal with FAA regulations, insurance, etc..

Small companies are especially impacted by regulatory and liability matters since the firms typically have limited funds for dealing with extensive paperwork requirements, lawyers, etc. This section links to various items in 2009 that involved these issues.



Armadillo Aerospace's flight to 2959 ft (902 m) on November 3, 2009.



The Art of C. Sergent Lindsey
NewSpace Watch at NSG



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