Category Archives: Space participation

LEGO offers new International Space Station kit

LEGO will release the International Space Station kit on February 1st. The highly elaborate kit (list price $69.99) is in the IDEAS line of models “inspired and voted for by LEGO fans”:

Packed with authentic ISS details, including a posable Canadarm2 and 2 rotating joints that coincide with 8 adjustable ‘solar panels’, this 864-piece set is a wonderful gift idea for space enthusiasts, adult LEGO fans or any experienced builder. Beautiful centerpiece This awesome LEGO spaceship model comes with a display stand, a buildable mini NASA space shuttle and 3 mini cargo spacecrafts, plus 2 astronaut microfigures to create a striking centerpiece in any room. Illustrated instructions are included, plus a 148-page booklet with fascinating ISS facts and information about the LEGO fan who created this space model kit and its LEGO designer [Christophe Ruge].

The LEGO International Space Station model kit.

The announcement on Twitter:

A skilled builder shows how it’s done”

collectSPACE says:

LEGO first announced that it was producing the International Space Station as a toy set in June 2019, after it won a fan poll in celebration of the 10th anniversary of the LEGO Ideas website. The space station received 45 percent of the more than 22,000 votes cast in a competition against three other possible sets.

The LEGO ISS got its start five years earlier, when Christoph Ruge, a LEGO and space enthusiast from Germany, first submitted his design for the space station brick-built model to the LEGO Ideas website. It qualified for a review by the LEGO team, but was rejected in 2015.

In 2018, Ruge re-entered his space station after scaling it down to match the size of the shuttle included in a winning LEGO Ideas project, the “Women of NASA” set released in 2017. (The orbiter included in the ISS set coming out Feb. 1 is similar to, but not identical to the “Women of NASA” model.) Again, LEGO’s design team did not select Ruge’s ISS to go forward, but then the anniversary vote came about.

The complete LEGO ISS kit.

More at:

LEGO ISS on display.

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Space tourism roundup – Jan.12.2020

A sampling of recent articles, videos, and images related to commercial human space travel (see also previous space tourism related posts):

** Plan to attend the Space Tourism Conference – “Profiting from the Space Experience Economy”. The STC will be held on April 28, 2020 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Las Angeles, California.

The Space Tourism Conference (STC) is an annual event that will be produced with support from the Space Tourism Society (STS), the world’s leading space tourism advocacy organization for over 20 years.

The April 28 conference date was deliberately chosen as the anniversary of Dennis Tito’s lift-off into the history books in 2001 as the world’s first private space tourist. Tito’s flight jump-started the space tourism industry, generating massive consumer awareness as to the possibilities of private space travel and commercialization of space through earth-based experiences.

Dennis Tito enters the ISS on April 30, 2001.

A hallmark of the STC is a dynamic mix of executives and cross-section of industries:

space tourism flight providers private space station developers space enterprise strategists space investors entertainment executives astronauts media producers architects digital media experts futurists scientists space-themed fashion lifestyle designers consumer brands esports artists musicians high tech leaders

Attendees can expect concrete, actionable information, real-world use cases, and stellar deal-making.

PLUS you’ll have an insider track to the growth areas in space tourism, including earth-based space experiences, such as Zero Gravity aircraft flights. 

** The Space Show – Mon, 12/30/2019John Spencer of the Space Tourism Society, which is organizing the above conference, talked about “space tourism, The Space Tourism Society, earth tourism analogs, social profits compared to financial profits, space tourism careers and opportunities plus more”:

** See You in Orbit? Our Dream of Spaceflight: the Sweeping History and Future of Space TourismAlan Ladwig, formerly of NASA, spoke recently to the Future In-Space Operations (FISO) study group about the history of space tourism and its future prospects. He focused in particular on his experiences with the Teacher in Space Project and other NASA programs that intended to send civilian, non-government employees to orbit on Space Shuttle flights.

Here is the audio of his presentation to the FISO group and his slides (pptx):

Alan covers these topics in detail in his new book, See You In Orbit?: Our Dream Of Spaceflight(Amazon commission link).

** Yusaku Maesawa is looking for a girlfriend to take on a  trip around the Moon aboard a SpaceX Starship:  Yusaku Maezawa’s real decision. Looking for his “life partner”.

** Virgin Galactic update from CEO George Whitesides: Virgin Galactic ticket sales will re-open this year, CEO says – CNBC

    • Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides on Thursday revealed the company has seen steadily increasing demand from prospective space tourists.
    • “Later on in the year we’ll re-open those sales,” to fly to space, Whitesides told CNBC.
    • In the past tickets have gone for $250,000 per person but the company may increase its prices substantially for the first commercial flights.

** Virgin Galactic’s second SpaceShipTwo nears completion: Second Spaceship in Virgin Galactic’s Fleet Completes Major Build Milestone – Virgin Galactic

Virgin Galactic Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: SPCE) (“VG” or “the Company”), the world’s first commercial spaceline, announced today that it has reached the “Weight on Wheels” milestone in the build of its second commercial spaceship. In this milestone, all major structural elements of the vehicle were assembled, and the vehicle deployed its main landing gear and carried its own weight for the first time. The milestone signals strong progress in the manufacture of Virgin Galactic’s space vehicle fleet by The Spaceship Company, VGH’s wholly-owned aerospace development subsidiary.

“The Virgin Galactic fleet.” The second SS2 on right is about 80% complete. Credits: Virgin Galactic

This Weight on Wheels milestone has been reached considerably faster than it took to get to this stage with the first spaceship in the Virgin Galactic fleet, VSS Unity, which is currently in flight test. This pace has been achieved through a more efficient, modular assembly process, as well as experience curve benefits.

With the spaceship now capable of bearing its own weight, the assembly team is hard at work connecting the vehicle’s integrated systems, including the flight control systems from fuselage to tail booms, as well as completing the final structural closeouts.

As this work is completed, the spaceship will be positioned in the hangar for the start of integrated vehicle ground testing, which will verify the integrity of all systems. This step is a precursor to the start of its flight test program.

Beyond today’s Weight on Wheels milestone for the second space vehicle, the Virgin Galactic spaceship fleet is already advancing to its third spaceship, also currently under construction in Mojave. Structural and system part fabrication for that third vehicle is now over 50% complete.

George Whitesides, CEO of Virgin Galactic said: “Reaching the Weight on Wheels milestone considerably faster than was achieved for VSS Unity is a huge accomplishment and is a testament to the growing expertise and capabilities of the company. We now have two spaceships that are structurally complete, with our third making good progress. These spaceships are destined to provide thousands of private astronauts with a truly transformative experience by performing regular trips to space.’’

**  Virgin Galactic (SPCE) is now a publicly traded company (see last roundup) . Here are some articles about how the stock is doing:

** Virgin Galactic opens a program to prepare customers for rides to space: Virgin Galactic Kicks off Astronaut Readiness Program – Virgin Galactic

Virgin Galactic has kicked off its Astronaut Readiness Program – the process of preparing Future Astronaut customers for their flights to space. As the first and only private company to have put humans into space in a vehicle built for commercial service, we are now finalizing all elements of the customer experience, including the recently unveiled customer spacesuits, created in partnership with Under Armour, and the interior of our Gateway to Space headquarters at Spaceport America. The next phase in this process is to ensure that Future Astronauts are optimally prepared to fly to space.

The Astronaut Readiness Program launched [last November] at the Under Armour Global HQ in Baltimore where we were joined by Future Astronauts who will be among the first to fly with Virgin Galactic. Guided and instructed by some of our key team members, they carried out a number of flight preparation activities. Through completing this unique program they are helping us to tailor and perfect the program for those who follow.

Virgin Galactic Chief Pilot Dave Mackay talks with future adventure travelers on SpaceShipTwo rocket planes. Credits: Virgin Galactic

** On December 11th, Blue Origin flew an uncrewed New Shepard again (see the report on the flight here). This was the 6th flight of that vehicle, which had only inspections after each flight rather than major refurbishment. Achieving fast, airliner-like turnarounds is key to lowering the cost of flying rocket powered vehicles.

However, there have been long breaks between New Shepard flights and no explanation for the gaps. Company officials say that they need a few more test flights before they will put people on the vehicles so that might mean many months if they do not speed up the flight rate.

Here is an interview from last fall with with Blue Origin chief executive Bob Smith about the company and its space tourism plans:  Blue Origin CEO on rocketry, space tourism and the relationship with Amazon – CNBC

** The sights of earth from space will draw many people to go there, especially after rocket transport ticket prices drop with vehicles like the SpaceX Starship. Most who have gone to space have said it was one of the greatest experiences of their lives and they never tired of watching the ever-changing earthscapes below.

Helen Sharman certainly appreciated the view during her space trip: Helen Sharman: ‘There’s no greater beauty than seeing the Earth from up high’ – The Guardian

A couple of relaxing tours of earth as seen from the ISS:

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AIAA & Blue Origin sponsor HS student competition to send experiment to space

An announcement from the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) and Blue Origin:

AIAA and Blue Origin Partner to Launch Experiments
Designed by High School Students into Space

January 9, 2020 – Reston, Va. – The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) and Blue Origin have partnered to create Design/Build/Launch (DBL), a new competition designed to launch experimental payloads to study the effects of short-duration microgravity.

A fully reusable New Shepard rocket lifts off for a suborbital trip to space. Credits: Blue Origin

AIAA and Blue Origin invite high school students to develop creative research proposals in the fields of microgravity science or space technology and pair the experiment with a public outreach plan to share the excitement of space with others. The top proposal will be launched on Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket and receive a $1,000 grant to prepare and develop the experiment for flight.

“There’s no better way to learn than by doing,” said Dan Dumbacher, AIAA executive director. “These students have an amazing opportunity to contribute to space research while learning how transformative aerospace can be while gaining the skills that will serve them well throughout their careers!”

AIAA and Blue Origin representatives will judge the submitted proposals on the basis of scientific/technical merit, outreach creativity, and feasibility. The winning payload is expected to fly on New Shepard in 2021. Postflight, the students will be recognized and have the opportunity to deliver their final report at ASCEND, an AIAA event dedicated to the space economy.

“Blue Origin is passionate about the future of living and working in space. Through payloads on our reusable New Shepard vehicle and our non-profit, Club for the Future, we are inspiring students to pursue careers in STEM and inviting them to visualize their own possibilities in space,” said Dr. Erika Wagner, payload sales director for Blue Origin. 

Timeline:

Proposals Due 3 April 2020
Announcement of Winning Team 22 May 2020
Experiment Flies 2021
Final Report Presentation at ASCEND November 2021


Who can enter?

All active high school students, between 9th and 12th grade (or equivalent homeschooling levels) at the time of their submission. Multiple students may collaborate on a single proposal, and a lead faculty advisor must be named to receive the payload development award. The competition is open to both U.S. and international students. Please see aiaa.org/dbl for more information.

About Blue Origin: For information on Blue Origin, visit www.blueorigin.com and follow @BlueOrigin on Twitter and Instagram. To learn more about Club for the Future and our space mail program, visit clubforfuture.org and follow @ClubForFuture on Twitter and Instagram.

About AIAA: The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) is the world’s largest aerospace technical society. With nearly 30,000 individual members from 85 countries, and 95 corporate members, AIAA brings together industry, academia, and government to advance engineering and science in aviation, space, and defense. For more information, www.aiaa.org, or follow us on Twitter @AIAA.

About ASCEND: A new event by AIAA, ASCEND is designed to drive the $1 trillion space economy forward, bringing together technical and business leaders to solve problems that affect the entire planet and beyond. The international forum also is convening traditional and nontraditional players to help build the space economy. ASCEND’s inaugural event is 16–18 November 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. For more information, please visit https://www.ascend.events/, or follow us on Twitter @ascendspace.

Rocket Lab to launch ALE Sky Canvas – “Shooting stars. On demand”

Spaceflight has arranged a Rocket Lab Electron launch for the Sky Canvas spacecraft owned by the Japanese company ALE Co., Ltd. Sky Canvas will create “Shooting stars. On demand”.

Spaceflight’s Third Rideshare Mission with Rocket Lab to Launch
ALE’s Space-related Entertainment Satellite

Man-made shooting stars to provide both entertainment and scientific understanding

Seattle – Nov. 5, 2019 — Spaceflight, the leading satellite rideshare and mission management provider, today announced it has arranged for Tokyo-based ALE to launch its entertainment and science satellite on Rocket Lab’s next Electron launch. The mission, called “Running Out of Fingers” by Rocket Lab to signify its tenth mission, represents Spaceflight’s third launch with Rocket Lab this year. It follows the launch of seven spacecraft on its inaugural “Make it Rain” mission in June and three on the “Look Ma No Hands” mission in August.

Like the previous missions, Spaceflight managed the launch capacity procurement, integration, and mission management services for the rideshare spacecraft. The Electron, carrying the ALE satellite, will lift-off from Rocket Lab’s Launch Complex 1 at the southern tip of Mahia Peninsula, on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island. The launch window opens on 25th November NZDT.

“Our experience offering end-to-end launch services across multiple launch vehicles continues to be highly valued by organizations — regardless if they’re a newer customer like ALE, or an experienced constellation developer,” said Curt Blake, CEO and president of Spaceflight. “Our expertise and long-standing relationships provide reliability, flexibility, and the confidence that we’ll get customers to space as efficiently as possible. We’re really looking forward to taking ALE on our third Electron launch this year.”

ALE’s Sky Canvas, the world’s first man-made shooting star project, will deploy to a 400km circular Sun Synchronous orbit, which is beneath the International Space Station. The company’s satellite will create man-made shooting stars by safely releasing particles, precisely controlling the reentry location, date, and timing. When the particles re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere, they fully burn up, creating the appearance of shooting stars on the ground.

In addition to the entertainment factor, the Sky Canvas project will also study the path and mechanics of shooting star particles during re-entry from the upper atmosphere. The data collected in the mesosphere will be helpful in the aerospace industry to help predict the path of satellites and artificial objects as well as contributing to scientific understanding in several technology fields including meteorology and the study of climate change.

“This launch gets us much closer to realizing the world’s first man-made shooting star,” said Lena Okajima, CEO of ALE. “We really appreciate Spaceflight`s support and attention to our mission and we’re honored to take this big step with them.”

Following this launch, Spaceflight will have launched 11 spacecraft on the Electron and has plans to continue partnering with the launch vehicle provider in 2020. Spaceflight has completed five missions already this year, with another five planned in 2019. Other noteworthy missions from the last year include Spaceflight’s GTO-1, which deployed the first commercial lunar lander aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9, and SSO-A, the company’s historic dedicated rideshare mission, successfully launched 64 unique smallsats, making it the single largest deployment of satellites from a U.S.-based launch vehicle.

About Spaceflight: Spaceflight is revolutionizing the business of spaceflight by delivering a new model for accessing space. A comprehensive launch services and mission management provider, the company provides a straightforward and cost-effective suite of products and services including state-of-the-art satellite infrastructure and rideshare launch offerings that enable commercial and government entities to achieve their mission goals on time and on budget. A service offering of Spaceflight Industries in Seattle, Wash., Spaceflight provides its services through a global network of partners and launch vehicle providers. For more information, visit http://www.spaceflight.com.

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See also Next Up: ALE’s Sky Canvas Mission – Spaceflight.

This mission took years of analysis and rigorous review. Josh Rodenbaugh, ALE’s launch campaign manager, worked closely with the Spaceflight team as a mission of this type had never been done before. ALE had already worked through the Japanese Space Agency who had conducted a rigorous review for the launch of ALE-1 earlier this year. ALE also met with other countries’ space agencies and even astronomers to work through any concerns around this unique mission. Spaceflight helped the company get the necessary permits through the New Zealand Space Agency, and worked with Rocket Lab to ensure a smooth integration process (which will begin in the next week or so). We are always happy to advocate for our customers and support new uses for satellites – opening up access to space for new business models is part of our corporate mission.

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Gemini reference book for model builders at “Space in Miniature”

Space in Miniature (SIM) is Michael Mackowski’s website devoted to space modeling.  He  includes a series of books and reports  in which he “covers various topics in the area of building scale models of real spacecraft”. He has just released a new book about modeling Gemini spacecraft:

Building Gemini Reference Book for Model Builders is Published

Lunar Rescue Gemini. Credits SIM

The ninth installment of the Space In Miniature (SIM) series of reference booklets for spacecraft modelers is now available. This 72-page soft-cover booklet describes in detail how the author, Michael Mackowski, built nine different models of the Gemini two-person spacecraft. These include some standard NASA versions as well as some proposed Gemini variants that never made it off the drawing board.

Gemini XI with an Agena. Credits SIM

While there already is a Gemini book in the Space in Miniature series, SIM #2, that volume did not have any detailed how-to articles. The new book is loaded with over 200 photos of work in progress of the following model projects:

  • Gemini IV
  • Gemini VII
  • Gemini XI with Agena
  • Rogallo Wing Capsule
  • Manned Orbiting Lab (MOL)
  • Big G
  • Winged Gemini
  • Lunar Rescue Gemini
  • Gemini to Mars

All are in 1/48th scale except for a 1/24th scale Gemini IV and a 1/72nd scale Mars mission concept and use a variety of kits and scratch-building. This book documents those builds, including how to correct the old Revell kits, and presents a bit of background on the “lost Gemini” projects that were never built. The result is the largest SIM book to date, covering a unique collection of nine historical and theoretical Gemini models built over a span of four years.

Gemini EVA. Credits: SIM

This book is printed in black and white on coated paper, and is available both as a hard copy book as well as a full-color pdf file. This guidebook will be a unique resource for the serious space modeler. A hard copy of SIM #9 – Building Gemini sells for $12 plus shipping, while a pdf download costs $10. A combination package of both the hard copy and digital version is available for only $15 plus shipping. To order, see www.spaceinminiature.com or send an email to mike@spaceinminiature.com. The other titles in the SIM series are still available.

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See also the SIM Galleryspace modeling reference materials, and SIM Paper Models. The latter includes free instructions for the Mars Insight lander:

Insight Lander Paper Model at SIM
Insight Lander paper model at SIM.