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space (spās) n. 1. space beyond the atmosphere of the earth.

prag·ma·tism (prgm-tzm) n. A way of approaching situations or solving problems that emphasizes practical applications and consequences.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Antarctican Telescope is Open for Business

The South Pole Telescope, built with money from NSF, Kavli Foundation of Oxnard, Calif., and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation of San Francisco, is open for business. Scientists say the first observations were completed on February 16.

Antarctica, with its cold dry air, makes it a great place to look for dark energy, the mysterious stuff that is all the rage with cosmologist. (Except Louise Riofrio ).

Atlantis is Rolling Back to the VAB

After the External Tank was damaged by hail Monday night, NASA has decided to roll Atlantis back into the VAB. The rollback should be this weekend.

They are definitely not launching in March. Wayne Hale, shuttle manager, said "It will be about a month before we can talk about heading back to the launch posture."

The next available launch window is in April.

NASA plans to have 4-5 shuttle launches this year.

Largest Lake every Found on Titan

Researchers have discovered what they believe to be 1100km lake on Saturn's largest moon Titan. It is slightly smaller than Earth's largest lake, the Caspian Sea.

Unlike lakes on Earth, this new lake is likely filled with liquid methane.

New Star Trek Movie


(from PR Newswire)

Star Trek," one of the most popular and successful franchises in the history of movies and television, returns to the big screen under the creative vision of J.J. Abrams, the force behind "Lost," "Alias" and "Mission Impossible III" for Paramount Pictures.

The team behind the film will include Alex Kurtzman & Roberto Orci ("Mission Impossible III") who wrote the screenplay and will executive produce with Bryan Burk. J.J. Abrams and "Lost" co-creator Damon Lindelof will produce. The film will begin shooting this fall for a Christmas Day 2008 release.

One of the most popular film and television franchises of all time, "Star Trek" has encompassed 726 total episodes for television in six different series, beginning with the original 1966-1969 series created by Gene Roddenberry. The 10 "Star Trek" films have grossed in excess of $1 billion at the worldwide box office. The original characters have been named among the 50 greatest TV characters of all time and the Enterprise has lent its name to two proposed spacecrafts.

"If there's something I'm dying to see, it's the brilliance and optimism of Roddenberry's world brought back to the big screen," said Abrams. "Alex and Bob wrote an amazing script that embraces and respects Trek canon, but charts its own course. Our goal is to make a picture for everyone -- life-long fans and the uninitiated. Needless to say, I am honored and excited to be part of this next chapter of Star Trek."

Brad Grey, chairman and CEO, Paramount Pictures, said, "We could not be more thrilled to be back in business with J.J. Abrams. The revival of the 'Star Trek' franchise is an important part of Paramount's turnaround."

    Tuesday, February 27, 2007

    SS2 Video

    If you haven't seen this video, it is awesome.

    MSNBC (click on the launch button next to the article).

    SpaceShipFour (SS4)

    Will Whitehorn mentioned SS4 in Flight International:

    Meanwhile, Virgin Galactic has begun studying a SpaceShipFour (SS4) that could serve as a satellite launcher

    SpaceX may have competition.

    NASA and Virgin Galactic have Conflicting Stories

    NASA said last week that they will not be buying seats on SS2.

    it does not include training of NASA astronauts, an agreement to buy seats on a Virgin Galactic flight, or provision of technical advice by NASA to Virgin Galactic.

    Will Whitehorn, President of Virgin Galactic told Flight International:

    NASA had budgeted to buy seats on SS2 flights for astronaut training after the first six months of commercial operations. He also expected NASA to conduct research flights where scientists would fly with their microgravity experiments.

    So guys, which is it?

    SS2 Flight Rate

    Rand Simberg has issues with my comment on SS2 flight rate recently.

    I see no reason that they shouldn't have a much higher flight rate than that. I'd think that they could probably fly every day, as long as they make the hybrid motor easy to refuel.

    He is correct, of course. However, I assume that in the beginning the flights will be less often as problems will show themselves up front. I see more of an exponential cure of flights starting with one every few weeks to get the kinks out. And closer to once per day when they are close to starting service.

    Also, based on history, SS1 was flown months apart except for the X-Prize run, so I am trying to be conservative.

    Editorial: Irans Motives

    After Iran's reported missile launch earlier this month, they have now come out and said it was for research purposes.


    I suppose researching long range missile technology that could hit Europe is still research. But I think they are trying to imply that it was all pure scientific, peaceful research. Deputy head of Iran's Space Research Center, Ali Akbar Golrousaid the launch “was aimed at improving science and research for university students.''

    I think they are taking a page from China's playbook. Perform an action that is obviously provocative and then release in a press conference how it was for the greater good of mankind.

    “Investment in space is very serious and requires time, but we are trying to speed this up,'' IRNA quoted Soleimani as saying.

    This is probably true and very disturbing. Iran's is a lot like China except without the lucid periods.

    Iran hopes to launch four more satellites by 2010, the government has said, to increase the number of land and mobile telephone lines to 80 million from 22 million. It also hopes to expand its satellite capabilities to increase Internet users to 35 million from 5.5 million in the next five years.

    I am sure all their satellites are for Internet uses.

    Space is becoming a very dangerous place.

    March 15 Launch may be Postponed due to Hail

    The March 15, 2007 launch of Atlantis may be postponed due to hail damage to the External Tank (ET) last night.

    NASA will wait to decide for sure at the Flight Readiness Review (FRR) closer to time. If Atlantis misses it's March window, it will have to wait until April.

    NASA is hoping to get 4-5 shuttle launches this year and can ill-afford to push Atlantis back much.

    For more information.

    NASA's Inflatible Structures Plan

    Here is an overview of NASA idea to use inflatable structures for a moon base. Bigelow Aerospace is working to provide modules to NASA.


    NASA's Exploration is Off Target

    NASA has already started to miss schedule targets for ESMD. From NasaWatch:

    "... Within the program, three of the four projects are rated yellow: Orion, Ares and Ground Operations. Mission Operations Project is rated green at this time. ... Green is on target, yellow is off target but recoverable, red is unrecoverable." (emphasis mine)

    Praying for SpaceX and RocketPlane/Kistler.

    More on COTS Finalists

    The print version of Space News has an article on SpaceX and Rp/K's COTS milestones. According to Brian Berger, here are where the two companies are at (hat tip RLV & Space Transport News):

    * has "built a structural engineering model of the Dragon capsule"
    * made the Dragon's "heat shield support structure and nose cone" plus some other components
    * currently assembling a Falcon 9 first stage;
    * the first stage should be finished structurally, i.e. less the engines and internal plumbing, by end of March
    * has test fired the upgraded Merlin 1C engine dozens of times
    * hoping to launch the Falcon 1 in mid-March
    * First Falcon 9 demo flight in September 2008

    * raised $45M last fall and they are making progress towards an unspecified financial milestone in May
    * is nearing completion of an agreement with NASA to use the Michoud facility in New Orleans to build the K-1 and the cargo module for it.
    * some K-1 components have been in storage at Michoud for several years. Other hardware will need to be shipped there.
    * plans "to have the K-1 first stage assembled by September, followed sometime later by the second stage.
    * After checking out the full system with both stages together, it will be partially disassembled and flown "to Australia in time for a mid- to late-2008 launch"
    * First COTS demo flight in 2009

    Monday, February 26, 2007

    Colonization Blog

    Darnell Clayton has a new blog on ways to colonize space.

    Information on SpaceShipTwo

    Leonard David has an article on the progress of SpaceShipTwo. Here are some things to note:

    Whitehorn said more than 100 test flights are scheduled to give spaceliner operations a good shakeout. He estimated the first commercial flights will occur by the end of 2009 and possibly sooner if the planned trial runs prove to be trouble-free.

    Whitehorn said that flight tests of the SpaceShipTwo/White Knight 2 will take place out of the inland spaceport at Mojave, Calif. “I imagine even the early flying program of commercial flights in late 2009 will be from Mojave,” he said.

    After those initial flights, he said the company also plans to use New Mexico’s Spaceport America, especially as more facilities are added there around 2010. At least “that’s the scenario we’re working on at the moment,” Whitehorn said.

    It that comes to pass, the test flights are going to have to start soon, perhaps later this year. At 1 flight/week, it would take two years to make 100 test flights.

    Iran Launches a Space Capable Missile

    Iran has reportedly launched a missile, built internally, that can reach the edge of space. Iran's Defense Ministry has not released the date of the test, however.

    This does not represent an increase in Iran's missile capability "The performance is similar to that of existing solid-propellant Iranian tactical missiles," Doug Richardson, editor of the defence industry publication Jane's Missiles and Rockets has said.

    Iranian defence minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar said that Iran was planning to develop its own satellite and launch technology.

    Friday, February 23, 2007

    State of Private Space

    Clark Lindsey gives an overview of the progress being made in the private sector and asks when NASA will make use of it. I think they are to a certain extent (with COTS and agreements), but they are stuck on Ares.

    Fight in New Mexico over X-Prize Cup Funding

    If you live in New Mexico, here it is:

    All....we are at a critical point with the X PRIZE CUP. We need a mass calling campaign starting tomorrow morning! Our messages of support for the X PRIZE and Spaceport America must get in before NOON tomorrow or we are in danger of loosing everything we have been fighting for! Please contact everyone you know who believes in what we are trying to accomplish. I will be on the phone at 8 in the morning. Please join's what you need to know:

    The Governor had pushed for $1 million to be allocated for assistance in producing the X PRIZE Cup this year. That money has been removed by an unknown senator. In order for us to have those appropriations returned to the legislation we need "all hands on deck" to call Senate Minority Leader Lee Rawson 505-986-4703 and promote their support of our event. Please also contact Senator Tim Jennings (D), Co-Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, and ask that he help convince Sen. Rawson to add back the $1 million originally proposed. This money is crucial to our ability to produce the "space" portion of this show. Without the state's support we are in jeopardy of loosing major assets of content.

    Short Speaking points:

    1. Education Program. Last year over 8,000 school kids from all over NM where bussed in for the event. Astronauts, engineers and the Governor entertained the classes.

    2. This year's education program is slated to triple in size. Math and Science K-12 is our intended reach.

    3. We have the support of the following entities: City of Las Cruces, Mesilla Valley Economic Development, Dona Ana County, Sierra County, Otero County, City of Alamogordo, Holloman AFB, Kirtland AFB, Sandia National Labs, White Sands Missile Range, NASA, DARPA, DOD

    4. We are in discussions with National Geographic and the Discovery Network to showcase the event in an hour-long nationally broadcast event.

    5. Last year, with little effort, we exceeded 50 million media impressions. This year we are making our media and promotion plan a high priority. We hope to achieve over 2 million Webcast viewers.

    6. A renewed cooperation between the XPC and the local business community has begun to bare fruit. Committees are being formed and outreach has been increased.

    7. We are staunch supporters of the Gross Receipts Tax proposed in Dona Ana County to support the completion of the New Mexico Spaceport. We are lending assistance anywhere we can.

    8. This event will help secure southern New Mexico's dominance in the personal space flight industry. Already, major players in this field have relocated or are in discussions to relocate to southern NM creating jobs in all facets of launch operations and manufacturing. Some would say that is a direct result of the X PRIZE Cup.

    Bigelow to Build Moon Base

    Robert Bigelow announced, in an interview with Alan Boyle, that Bigelow Aerospace will be using their inflatable modules to construct "space villages."

    According to Bigelow, after he launch of the first orbiting space hotel into low earth orbit in 2010, Bigelow Aerospace will move their focus to the 1st Earth-Moon Lagrange point, or L1. Lagrange points are locations in space where the forces of gravity balance to keep a permanently stable position.

    Mr. Bigelow plans to turn L1 into "construction zone" where the large inflatable complexes will be expanded, assembled, and lower to the lunar surface. Once on the moon, the modules will be covered in lunar regolith, or dust, to protect the "space villages" from radiation.

    According to Mr. Bigelow:

    Yes, our concept of lunar base construction would be to assemble various modules and propulsion/power buses in L1, and that would constitute the base. Those propulsion systems are full of fuel, and they are integrated into the overall structure in such a way that the entire structure lands as a unified base – which essentially was once a spaceship in L1, but is landed on the surface of the moon.

    Bigleow has been in talks with NASA on the concept. Apparently the construction of an inflatable base and the regolith radiation protection are two different ideas that NASA is interested in. NASA has also been in talks with ILC Dover, Lockheed, and Boeing about lunar bases.

    Bigelow says they are working on an innovative solution to moving the regolith on the complex:

    The last thing you want to do is handcuff yourself to an Earth solution for moving material – a strategy that would be just crazy to apply to a lunar application. We have enough problems as it is keeping the machinery running – Caterpillars, loaders, excavators, all kinds of machinery.

    So our solution is something entirely different, involving a method where no machinery actually is used. We’re going to be trying the method this year, using one of our steel simulators as a prototype, because it’s the size of vessel that mimics the full-scale module. We’re actually going to try in Las Vegas to apply our solution for covering up a full-scale module, involving only two people, with a depth of soil on the crown of at least 2 or 3 feet. We’ll give you more on this later as we progress with this experiment.

    Later this year they plan on conduction Earth based tests of the technology. Genesis I is going better than expected, and Genesis II is expected to launch in April. A larger test module, Galaxy, will launch next year.

    Retraction: NASA will not be Buying Seats on Virgin Galactic

    To Bad.

    Thursday, February 22, 2007

    Mars Rovers on their Own

    NASA is trying out some new software on the Mars rover Opportunity. It will allow the little robot to explore autonomously, with little to no human intervention.

    The new software, called D*, allows the rover to plan its out routes up to 50 meters long. Previously it planned 3 or 4 meter routes around obstacles.

    NASA has allowed the continued operation of the Mars rover on he condition that the engineers try out advanced software, like D*.

    Wednesday, February 21, 2007

    Virginia Senate Passes Spaceflight Immunity and Liability Act

    The bill that would limit space flight company's liability in the case of an accident during launch, has passed the Virginia Senate.

    US and Japan Agree to Monitor China's Space Activities

    Vice President Dick Cheney and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, made an agreement today to monitor Chinese military activities in space.

    In January, China launched an ASAT weapon at one of their own satellites, creating the largest orbital debris field in history and breaking a 20 year silence on ASAT weapons testing.

    Buzz Aldrin on Orion

    Popular Mechanics has an interview with Buzz on going back to the Moon.

    NASA Signs Agreement with Virgin Galactic to Buy Seats

    According to Will Whitehorn, Virgin Galactic's President, NASA and Virgin Galactic reached an agreement with NASA early this morning. In the agreement, NASA will provide "expertise" and Virgin Galactic will sell "[seats] on VG for early astronaut training."

    This is a great step forward for NASA using private space to not only save money but get a better product, in this case actual space experience for astronauts in training.

    Mr. Whitehorn said with characteristic British wit, "They obviously believe in [Virgin Galactic] and who am I to question them?" he said.

    Virgin Galactic plans to use SpaceShip 2, an evolution of the famous SpaceShip 1, the first privately funded ship to read outer space in 2004. It will likely be launch from a larger aircraft from around 50,000ft.

    Virgin Galactic hopes to begin service to the general public in 2008.

    Spaceref has more.

    Satellite Market Growing

    According to a Teal Group study, the commercial communications satellite is beginning to look up.

    "Last year marked the second consecutive year of growth in the number of commercial communications satellites launched to geostationary orbit," says Marco Caceres, Teal Group senior space analyst. "This hasn't happened in at least the past 20 years, and it may signal the start of an up cycle for the overall market."

    Other satellite market findings Teal Group will detail at the conference include:

    • Orders for more than 200 geostationary commercial communications
      satellites worth more than $25 billion through 2016.
    • Orders for more than 100 low earth orbit mobile communications
      replacement satellites, worth up to $4 billion in business.
    • Next-generation U.S. military satellite programs estimated at a total
      cost of $100 billion.

    Cash for Writing about Space

    (From PR- Newswire)
    The start-up media company New Forks, LLC ( announced today the winners of its Space Writing Contest. Two $3,000 prizes were awarded for the best space journalism pieces submitted in the "published" and "unpublished" categories. New Forks Contest winners Lois Elfman of New York and Nancy Atkinson of Illinois, were notified about their $3,000 prizes on January 30, and each received a check for the winning amount.

    "I'm very honored and grateful to have won," said Nancy Atkinson, winner of the "published" category, "I've been writing about space exploration for several years, and it's a thrill to have your work recognized in this way."

    Lois Elfman, winner of the "unpublished" category said, "Winning this contest has motivated me to keep exploring new and diverse venues in my writing."

    "Our contest was a success and we are delighted with the results," said David Bullock, President of New Forks, LLC. "The two winning articles grasped onto the idea of what we're looking for in future New Forks publications. Ms. Elfman and Ms. Atkinson have truly set the tone for what we are trying to accomplish. Both articles give the company and its employees a direction for further speculation and inquiry about space and the space sector," he said.

    The contest opened on Sept. 14, 2006 and ended at midnight on Dec. 31, 2006. Submitted works were judged by David Bullock, President of New Forks, LLC, Prof. U. R. Rao, Former Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization, and Maura Mackowski, a Science Writer, Historian, and member of the National Association of Science Writers.

    Lois Elfman won in the Unpublished Works Category. She wrote a human-interest feature article on a topic of her choosing from the subject of space and the space sector. New Forks will publish an edited version of her work in its yet-to-be-released initial publication on space and the space sector, scheduled for sometime this year.

    Nancy Atkinson won the Published Works Category award for, "From Kendall County to Mars." Her article about Neil Mottinger, a previous resident of Oswego, Illinois was published in the Ledger-Sentinel Newspaper in December 2003. Ms. Atkinson told the story of Mottinger's journey within the space sector to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, where he worked in several senior positions including the recent Mars Exploration Rovers (MER) mission.

    New Forks, LLC ( is an independent, start-up media company based in Grand Forks, North Dakota.

    Contact: David Bullock, President of New Forks, LLC. Tel. 347-404-5431

    Source: New Forks, LLC
    CONTACT: David Bullock, President of New Forks, LLC., +1-347-404-5431,

    Web site:

    Catch a Spacwalk and Shuttle Q & A

    On Thursday, February 22 at beginning at 4:00 a.m. EST, NASA TV will air the the fourth spacewalk in three weeks when Commander Alegria and Mikhail Tyurin will free an antenna stuck on the Russian supply space craft, Progress.

    At 7:40 a.m. EST they will switch to a Q&A session with STS-117 crew who is at Kennedy for a dress rehearsal of the upcoming March 15th launch of Atlantis. The shuttle crew includes Commander Rick Sturckow, Pilot Lee Archambault and Mission Specialists Patrick Forrester, Steven Swanson, John "Danny" Olivas and Jim Reilly.

    The future launch schedule of the shuttle can be found here.

    For NASA TV downlink, schedule and streaming video information, visit:

    Charles Simonyi getting ready for his April Lauch

    The world's 5th space tourist is getting ready for his launch on April 7th. He has finally received his own spacesuit. He is currently getting ready to go to Star City to complete his training.

    He has a blog about his experience at his web site

    Tuesday, February 20, 2007

    Editorial: China’s Future in Space

    Since its January 11 anti-satellite, or ASAT, test, many articles and editorials have been written about China’s intentions and goals. The basic idea seem to fall into three categories:

    Regardless of which theory you hold, there seems to be something different about this event in China’s developing space program.

    China began their space program in cooperation with the USSR in 1956 with the launch of their first satellite Dongfanghong I in 1970 adding China as the fifth space fairing nation. They began a manned program in 1968, finally in 2003 becoming the third country in history to launch a man into orbit.

    Up until recently China has followed the standard progression the US and USSR set before them. Admittedly, the US and USSR both pursued ASAT technology, with the Soviet Union performing 5 intercepts with 7 launches between 1963 and 1972. However all of these tests were with dummy satellites and it was in the mist of the cold war.

    It was no surprise to anyone interested in such things that China had developed ASAT capability. It was, however, more than a little disturbing that they would destroy an actual satellite without any prior reporting to the international community.

    I think what scares us is that China doesn’t seem to play by the rules. They don’t back off when everyone points a finger at them. In a sense they are less controllable with the traditional carrot/sticks. They are a potential super-power who occasionally acts like a rouge-nation.

    The really unnerving thing about it is the way China acts like the peaceful party in this dance. They are all pushing for space weapons treaties. The problem is, you can’t trust a treaty with someone who acts like they are the only kid in the playground.

    And frankly that scares the hell out of me.

    History of Space Communications: Sputnik 1, The Beginning

    Note: This is the beginning of a series of articles on the evolution of communications in space and where we might be headed. I hope you enjoy -djs

    The first satellite was launched into orbit by the USSR in October 4, 1957. It was called Спутник-1, or Sputnik-1. Sergei Korolev lead the project to launch the worlds first artificial satellite.

    Sputnik-1 was a 58 cm spherical ball made of aluminum alloy. It sported four whip-like antennas between 2.4 and 2.9 m in length. It used two transmitters at 20.005 and 40.002 MHz to broadcast radio beeps.

    It did not have two-way communications ability, but rather acted as a beacon. The duration of the radio beep encoded temperature and pressure. The signal was also used to measure the electron density of the ionosphere. It was a simple, repetitive beeping broadcast to anyone who was willing to listen and was received by HAM radio operators world-wide. It continued sending out its signal until October 26, 1957 when the batteries died.

    But from that simple beep came a new universe. Sputnik-1 pushed the United States into a space race that would eventually drop twelve men on the Moon and (hopefully) move out civilization into the stars.

    Listen to a recording of Sputnik-1’s broadcast.

    India Plans to Luanch Men into Space

    After China's manned space missions over the last few years culminating with the destruction of a weather satellite last month, India is, predictably, working on a manned space program.

    A top ISRO scientist is quoted as saying: "This is a step in the direction of future plans of ISRO to send man to the planetary targets like moon and mars."

    India is planning an unmanned moon probe, Chandrayaan-1, next year.

    NASA is Expecting Private Companies on the Moon

    At least Pete Worden is.

    "I'm quite optimistic that privately funded science missions are going to be a wave of the future," said Pete Worden, director of NASA's Ames Research Center. "Probably some of the first ones will be astronomy-related."

    Monday, February 19, 2007

    New Space Review Out

    Stephen Metschan has yet another way of pulling of the VSE with EELVs.
    How will global warming debate affect space tourism?
    A plan for new space to make money based on new industry plans in the past.
    Discussion about the Fermi Paradox
    Review of: Into the Black
    A remake of the stupidest movie in history.

    ULA Delta II launch a success

    We have liftoff of the THEMIS spacecraft.

    What did China's ASAT Test Mean

    According to Joe Kahn, New York Times Beijing bureau chief.
    Navy Adm. William J. Fallon says it was a setback in relations, but we should continue to pursue relations with China.

    Round-up of New Space

    The Lafayette Journal Courier has a basic roundup of new space projects. I would beg to differ with them on this, though:

    Other companies like Armadillo Aerospace, a Texas firm, and Bigelow Aerospace, a Nevada company developing inflatable space habitats, aren't as far along.

    Bigelow isn't as far along? They have hardware in orbit. To me that is pretty far along, but that is just me.

    Friday, February 16, 2007

    SpaceX and Rocketplane Kister pass their first COTS Milesones

    NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) paid for two milestone this month. SpaceX finished their Preliminary Design Review while Rocketplane Kistler finished their Systems Requirements Review (SRR).

    I have been a part of both of those reviews in the last year, so I lift a glass and toast them both. Better you than me :)

    Future for SpaceX:

    On Feb. 8 SpaceX, of El Segundo, Calif., received NASA approval of a preliminary design review for the first orbital demonstration of its Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon reusable spacecraft. That flight, planned for September 2008, will be the first of three outlined in NASA's agreement with SpaceX. The company completed a project management review for the mission in September 2006 and a system requirements review in November 2006. SpaceX delivered its preliminary design review data to NASA Jan. 22. The critical design review is set for this summer.

    Future for RocketPlane Kistler:

    On Feb. 6, Rocketplane Kistler of Oklahoma City established the requirements for interfaces between its two-stage K-1 reusable cargo transportation system and the International Space Station. The requirements review was the third of numerous milestones NASA will use to measure the company's progress toward a full demonstration of its launch capability. Both the first and second stages completed critical design reviews before Rocketplane Kistler joined the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services Project. Those vehicle components are being transported to NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans to begin the assembly phase.

    Thursday, February 15, 2007

    SpaceX is Moving to Hawthorne

    SpaceX is pulling all their facilities together in Hawthorne, CA.

    Musk said he chose to move to Hawthorne because the city had space available and was "very proactive" in wooing the company. "I've rarely felt more loved," he said.

    Atlantis Rolling and NASA Moving Fall Launch to August

    NASA New Shuttle Schedule

    Atlantis is rolling to it's launch pad for it's March 15 launch to the ISS. NASA is also trying to move the September 7 launch:

    Meantime, NASA is aiming to move up the planned Sept. 7 launch of a module that will serve as the cylindrical gateway to European and Japanese laboratories at the space station, officials told Local 6 News partner Florida Today on Thursday.

    The new targeted liftoff date is Aug. 26, NASA Shuttle Program Manager Wayne Hale said during the STS-117 preflight briefings.

    Spaceport in UAE

    Virigin Galactic's second spaceport may be in the UAE

    Richard Branson, the British founder of Virgin and its myriad of business units, is a frequent visitor to the UAE and is rumoured to be in discussions to make it a hub for commercial space travel.

    Bahrain is also being considered, according to a report in Arabian Business magazine.

    The first location for Virgin Galactic will be the Mojave Spaceport in the Californian desert, but this is expected to be used primarily for space tourism.

    More SpaceShip 2 Photos

    Here are some more photos of mock-up of SpaceShip2's interior.

    NASA Exploration Screwed

    The Budget is official and it screws NASA exploration budget. $500 million less than they were supposed to get. Wells dems the breaks...

    Using the Moon as Grad School for Exploration

    Trudy Bell has an article on how NASA is using the Moon as a "test bed" for honing their exploration skills and tools.

    I think that is best argument for the current plan over a Mars Direct approach, like Robert Zubrin would promote. Being three days out is much better than being 6 or more months out when something needs to be refined.

    There is really no good analog for being off planet on Earth. So I am happy with the gradual expansion of human controlled areas.

    Space Colonization and Evolution

    Leonard David has an article on Moon, Mars, and Beyond and evolution.

    "Given that there will be the first child born on the Moon, as well as Mars, will that person be a Homo sapien, he asked. Could the differences of gravity, radiation exposure mean those children would be unable to return to Earth?"

    I am not sure that it is that drastic, but it is definitely interesting to see what different environments will do to grow the human race.

    Production Increase of the Ariane 5

    The two companies responsible for producing the Ariane 5 rocket for the ESA have decided to increase production. I wonder if this has anything to do with France's desire to join the "2nd Space Race?"

    Benson Space Company to offer Contest for Space Rides

    Jim Benson comment on Space Pragmatism (awesome!) and said:

    Because of these tax problems, Benson Space Company will offer a contest for Dream Chaser spaceship rides. It will be a contest and not a drawing. People can submit their email address now at in order to be notified when the contest begins.

    Jim Benson

    When you fill it out you will get the following response:

    Thank you for sharing the dream of spaceflight.

    When I was a little boy, I used to dream of blasting off and flying around in a spaceship to have exciting adventures and to explore the Solar System. Now, with the formation of Benson Space Company and the building of our Dream Chaser™ spaceship, this dream is becoming a reality, and I want to share it with you.

    Until now, space travel has been for the privileged few: government scientists and astronauts, and the ultra-wealthy spending $20 million or more. The Dream Chaser™ will change all that. Our spaceship is causing a fundamental shift in the way humanity approaches space flight.
    I have worked my whole life to bring the dream of commercial space travel into reality, and I am proud to say the time is here. The time is now, and I am inviting you to join me on this greatest of all adventures.

    Over the next several weeks we will finalize the details of our Free Trip To Space contest.I am looking forward to sharing the dream of space travel with you, and I will send you the details of our first contest when it is officially launched in the upcoming weeks on our web site.

    This will be a very innovative contest, and we hope to award free astronaut-making trips to several people, and we plan to offer a very low cost “Second Chance” if you don’t win one of the free trips.

    I greatly appreciate your taking the time to join our mailing list, and am looking forward to announcing our exciting contest as soon as possible.
    I appreciate your taking the time to join our mailing list.

    Onward & Upward,

    Jim BensonPresident & CEO

    Wednesday, February 14, 2007

    Mock-up of SpaceShip 2

    A mock-up of the cabin of SpaceShip 2 was unveiled at the Science Museum in central London. I must say it is pretty sexy.

    NASA's Guts

    While a panel of people reviewed the "Astronaut Farmer", Matt Bramanti made the profound statement:

    "I think the reason the space program once had such support behind it -- support from the average Joe -- is that it wasn't about science, it was guts. It was steely-eyed missile men staring down the Russians. And NASA did it fast. Now, their goals aren't so clear."

    I would argue that in the last few years there goals have become clearer, but they are still full of scientists who are interested in research and engineers worried about not screwing up rather than "steely-eyed missile men" with "guts."

    Fist Couple to Honeymoon in Space Website

    --Press Release--

    Loretta and George Whitesides, the first couple to honeymoon in space, launched a new website on Valentine's Day to share the excitement of their upcoming adventure with the public.

    "Growing up, we both had the dream to go to space," said George Whitesides, newlywed and Executive Director of the National Space Society. "We feel incredibly lucky to be able to achieve that dream together."

    Loretta and George are two of 100 Virgin Galactic 'Founders'- the people who have paid in full to be the first to fly on Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic Spaceline.

    "We hope that with our flight, we can help bring love and peace to a place that is very important to us – space," said Loretta, who is the Executive Director of Yuri's Night, a worldwide celebration of spaceflight.

    The sub-orbital spaceflight will launch the couple over 100 km high, past the boundary of space. The flight will include several minutes of weightlessness, a view of the blackness of space and the curvature of the Earth.

    The Space Love website will document the preparation and lead-up to the flight, and include suggestions for others who wish to celebrate their own honeymoons, anniversaries or even weddings in space.

    George and Loretta are no strangers to weightlessness, with both having flown as crew for Zero G Corporation's weightless flights. "We have even had our first Zero G kiss," commented Loretta, adding, "weightlessness just has a magic to it."

    For more information on their space honeymoon, please visit

    Tuesday, February 13, 2007

    The Word from Space Tourists

    Homer Hickam, the author of the (awesome) "Rocket Boys" (October Sky for those of you who don't read) is helping Anousheh Ansari, of X-Prize fame, to write a book about her experience as a space tourist on the ISS last year.
    Dr. Charles Simonyi, the creator of Microsoft Word, announced his web site about his upcoming experience as the 5th space tourist to go to the ISS.

    Bigelow Updates

    Bigelow Aerospace has added two new things to their website:

    A new update on Genesis I's performance by Deputy Program Manager Jay Ingham alluded to in Jim Oberg's piece. Sounds like everything is going beautifully.

    Two new wallpapers to our wallpapers section for your desktop viewing pleasure

    Correction on Bigelow's Annoucement

    Robert Bigelow's announcement will be at the Ball Aerospace Exhibit, not the Bell Aerospace Exhibit. I was wondering about that...

    Is the Moon Worth It?

    Ken Murphy responds to yesterdays Space Review article lammenting our choice to send humans to the Moon.

    More Bigelow Aerospace News

    Alan Boyle has musings about what Bigelow might be planning with his forthcoming April 10th announcement. It is interesting to note that is in close proximity to the Genesis II launch.

    Chains Wants Space Weapon Talks

    China wants to begin work on an international space weapons treaty. No, that isn't a joke.

    China has always advocated the peaceful use of space, and advocates strengthening international exchanges and cooperation on the peaceful use of outer space," [Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu ] said at a regularly scheduled news conference.

    Except of course when they created the largest Earth orbit debris event in history with a space weapon last month. But they said they won't do it again.

    It is unlikely the US will be part of such a treaty, as President Bush signed an order last October opposing treaties limiting the US right to develop and deploy space weapons.

    Using Near-Earth Asteroids as Stepping Stones to Space

    USA Today has an article on using Near Earth Asteroids as destinations for missions. This can be done, according to Kelly Humphries, a spokesman for NASA's Johnson Space Center with the same hardware we use to go to the Moon.

    Asteroids, not just for destruction and extinction any more...

    SpaceDev's Starsys Division Successfully Tests Advanced Information Systems

    SpaceDev subsidiary Starsys announced today that it has successfully completed a test of the low disturbance actuation system for a ground link antenna pointing gimbal. This is being developed for the General Dynamics GeoEye-1 satellite and if fully realized, is a $2 million dollar contract for Starsys.

    SpaceDev continues to slowly improve their presence in private and public space. I think they are the tortoise in a industry of hares.

    Monday, February 12, 2007

    IEEE Spectrum Article on Bigelow Aerospace

    There is an article in IEEE Spectrum on the Genesis I module built by Bigelow Aerospace an launched to orbit last year. It was written by MSBNC's own James Oberg.

    Huge Announcement from Bigelow Aerospace, April 10th

    Bigleow Aerospace is making a big announcement at the National Space Symposium on April 10th at the Ball Aerospace Exhibit Center.

    In the works of Mr. Bigelow himself, "we will be presenting our business plans that we have kept to ourselves until now. ... This information that we plan to announce on April 10 at the [Ball] Aerospace Exhibit Center should help support the private space movement."

    I'm Getting Goosebumps. Am I going to be their, Hell yeah I am.

    ISS has a Brown-out

    The ISS apparently had a power loss on Sunday. You think it is bad to be without power at home...

    China's ASAT Wasn't Just About Politics

    It was also the single worst debris event in history.

    But China's Jan. 11 test of a primitive anti-satellite weapon against an aging weather satellite boosted the population of trackable debris by more than 900 objects--an instantaneous 10% increase in the 50-year figure--that threaten all spacecraft flying below about 2,000 km. (1,243 mi.).

    Luckily, Fox News is reporting China isn't planning any more ASAT tests. An their word is as good as their bond, right?

    Hike Mars!

    For all you hiking lovers out there, the ESA has produced contoured hiking maps for Mars.

    Viginia Spaceport

    Virginia is working on a bill that would "liability lawsuits over accidents" for space launch companies. That is a big deal in the launch world.

    ET Throws up on the Cyclon

    Roswell, NM is building the worlds first extra-terrestrial theme park. No it isn't a joke. I might be really fun.

    Rocketeers has a New Cover

    Check out the cover of Michael Belfiore's forthcoming book, Rocketeers.

    Space Review is Out

    Europe in the 2nd Space Race

    A French parliamentary group (not sure what that means) has said the the 2nd space race has started with India and China's lunar plans as well as China's ASAT Test last month. They believe Europe should be part of it. I welcome more countries going into space (particularly friendly ones).

    Some of their advice:

    • France should begin preparing nuclear-powered satellites to permit deep-space exploration, using expertise at the French Atomic Energy Commission and in French industry.
    • Europe’s heavy-lift Ariane 5 rocket should be made capable of launching astronauts within five years.
    • France and other European governments should give assistance to companies that propose to develop suborbital flight systems designed to create a space-tourism industry.

    Griffin's Speech on the 2008 Budget

    Michael Griffin gave a speech to the National Space Club on February 7 about the 2008 budget.

    I believe that everyone here knows that "the gap", as we have labeled it, between shuttle retirement in 2010 and operational deployment of Orion and Ares has been a publicly stated concern of mine since my Senate confirmation hearing. I know that I am joined in this concern by many of you, and by many others in the space policy arena, in both the legislative and executive branches of government. This is expressed in the NASA Authorization Act by the requirement that we develop the capability of "launching the crew exploration vehicle as close to 2010 as possible". But despite that concern, given the press of our existing commitments, the best we had been able to do was to hold the presidentially mandated date of "not later than 2014".

    That date is now in jeopardy. For at least four years, and maybe more, we will be forced to rely on services-for-hire from our international partners to meet our logistics and crew rotation requirements for the International Space Station. We're trying to hedge our bets with the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) agreements, whereby we're providing "seed money" for the development of commercial capability. But by the very nature of the Space Act agreements underpinning the COTS effort, NASA cannot guarantee a successful outcome for these ventures.

    It is interesting to note that he says the Ares/Orion development is in jeopardy of missing their 2014 drop dead date and the COTS program is a "hedge." So we are pitting one gamble against another. That's America at its best.

    Friday, February 09, 2007

    The Lunar Base

    Jeff Foust has an article in the The New Atlantis on NASA's plan to build a Moon base.

    Thursday, February 08, 2007

    Bigger and Better Videos from Bigelow

    If you like the last Genesis I video, check this one out.

    ULA and SpaceDev to compete on the LEO Front

    SpaceX and Rp/K watch out, ULA and SpaceDev are coming too. I guess ULA figured out how much money was going to be made. Heaven help us.

    United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin, and SpaceDev, a small entrepreneur driven company, both expect to compete in the developing arena, company officials said at the 10th annual commercial space transportation conference.

    "We're very excited about the new low earth orbit marketplace," said George Sowers, an executive with ULA.

    The joint venture's Atlas V and Delta IV heavy lift vehicles are proven, reliable and available right away when NASA begins purchasing non-governmental launch services to re-supply the International Space Station, perhaps as soon as 2010, Sowers said.

    Sowers added that the company is far along in obtaining a human rating for the Atlas V launcher, which would then make it qualified to compete to haul astronauts to the space station.

    And from SpaceDev

    Jim Benson, a space entrepreneur working to fund and build the six-person Dream Chaser tourist spaceship for launch possibly as soon as 2008, said his company's launchers and vehicles will be ready to compete for the NASA business as well.

    "I hope the COTS contractors are successful but if they are not, we're on a parallel path," Benson said.

    Wednesday, February 07, 2007

    More on China Stuff Wrangling

    Michael Krepon, a speaker on nuclear proliferation, says China is the main focus of US Space defense analysis.
    China is building a fourth space launch center on a tropical island in southern Hainan Province currently known for it's tourism.
    Here is a scary view of the country we are talking about from one of its Asian neighbors:

    China has a history of pursuing its goal of constantly sharpening its military teeth unmindful of protests from the rest of the world. More than a decade ago, China test fired missiles off the coast of Taiwan as a provocative gesture. It has not ruled out a military take over of that tiny island nation. It has surreptitiously supplied nuclear know-how and material to certain nations while professing to adhere to its NPT obligations.

    And frankly I think it (rightfully) scares India:

    Indian officials may talk of a healthy 'competition' with China in the economic and trade fields but they would not like to see Beijing far outstrip New Delhi militarily. Not as long as China continues to insist that much of the Indian Northeast is its territory. Not as long as it continues to supply, overtly or covertly, its superior arms and equipment, not to mention nuclear and missile know-how, to India's western neighbour that tries to camouflages its aggressive designs by talking of 'peace' that is conditional upon the resolution of a 'dispute' on its own terms.

    Meanwhile, back at home, the Chinese ASAT test has hyped up debate on space based missile defense and the PAC-3 missile deployment.

    After Lisa Nowak's Mess, NASA revisits Astronaut Screening

    NASA said today it will review the way it screens astronauts for mental or medical problems after the arrest of astronaut Lisa Nowak for attempted murder and attempted kidnapping.

    Ya Think?

    SpaceX Update

    This just in from Elon -

    DemoFlight 2 Launch Update

    We have recently been informed by the Kwajalein Army Range that they do not have sufficient resources to support our launch in mid to late Feb. Several range personnel critical to the launch safety process will be unavailable in that timeframe. The earliest launch window available from the Range now opens March 9.

    Additional Falcon 1 Flights in 2007

    After the upcoming demonstration flight, Falcon 1 is scheduled to launch a satellite for the US Navy Research Laboratory (funded by the Office of Force Transformation) in late summer and then a satellite for the Malaysian Space Agency late in the year. We are also building an additional Falcon 1 vehicle in the event that some promising customer discussions culminate in a fourth Falcon 1 launch this year.


    COTS Milestones; Home Grown Rockets

    Daniel Schmelzer has broken out the COTS milestones for SpaceX and RocketPlane/Kislter (they need an acronym).
    Orion Propulsion has an article in the paper (they are in Huntsville).

    For Info on Lisa Nowak

    Go to NASA Watch, or MSNBC.

    It isn't that I think I am above any of this, I just don't care.

    If you don't know what I am talking about, carry on.

    Space Prize a Winner after all

    Brian Emmett won a future spaceflight as part of a 2005 sweepstakes sponsored by software giant Oracle Corp. He gave it up after finding out he would owe $25,000 in taxes for the prize.

    Now, Jim Benson of Benson Space Co. has given it back. As part of the agreement with Emmett, the company would pay him to serve as a "test passenger," giving him a free ride into space in late 2008 when the company hopes to send its first paying tourists.

    Jim Benson broke off from SpaceDev to form Benson Space Co. and Space Dev is developing the DreamChaser spacecraft that will send Emmett into space.

    More at MSNBC.

    NASA Budget

    Here is the transcript from the 2008 NASA budget briefing.

    Fallout of China's ASAT Test

    Apparently China's recent ASAT test could start a chain reaction that would endanger everyone's satellites.
    Yale Globalization (not surprisingly) blames the US mostly for China's test. They do however, give China some blame:

    In its defense, China will likely claim that American policy is hypocritical on
    the question of weaponizing space. While there may be some truth to that,
    nothing excuses the irresponsible stunt they pulled last month.

    India is apparently building a missile defense system in retaliation to China's test.

    Tuesday, February 06, 2007

    Bigelow Aerospace has a new Video of Genesis I

    Here is a new video of the impressive Bigelow Aerospace Genesis I inflatable prototype currently in Orbit.

    Thursday, February 01, 2007

    NASA Agrees to Advise T/Space and PlanetSpace

    NASA has agreed to advise the two companies left out of the COTS contracts. PlanetSpace and Transformational Space, or T/Space, were left out of the $500 million COTS space station resupply contract, but they are not going to be left out of NASA's experience.

    They will not receive any funding but they will be given agency feedback which could keep hopes of winning resupply jobs to the international space station after the space shuttles are retired in 2010.

    In a written statement, Scott Horowitz, NASA's associate administrator for exploration systems, said the agency was "proud to reach agreements with two more private companies dedicating their own resources toward establishment of a robust commercial launch industry."

    COTS, or Commercial Orbital Transportation Services, is NASA way of getting private space into NASA business by awarding payments based on progress milestones in the hopes of getting a substantially cheaper orbital launch service.

    SpaceX and RocketPlane/Kislter won the COTS program and are working toward their first milestones currently.