Category Archives: Spaceflight & Parabolic Flight

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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See You In Orbit?: Our Dream Of Spaceflight

Space tourism roundup – Oct.24.2019

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

** Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic move agonizingly slowly towards operational flights. After successful tests early this year (SpaceShipTwo in  February and New Shepard in May ), there seemed to be high momentum in both programs towards more frequent flights,  including New Shepard flights with people finally on board. However, neither program has flown since those tests.

Virgin Galactic has focused instead on outfitting the interior of the SpaceShipTwo with seats and other features needed for the spaceflight participants. VG has also been moving its base of operations from Mojave, California to Spaceport America in New Mexico (see entry below about the spaceport).  Blue has been upgrading the New Shepard for operational spaceflights. Both companies claim they will do a few more test flights and then start flying customers in 2020.

“The New Shepard booster lands during Mission NS-11 on May 2, 2019.” Credits: Blue Origin

Here are some misc. items about the state of the two programs:

** Under Armour debuts specially designed space wear for Virgin Galactic flyers:

** In July, Virgin Galactic announced plans to go public via a merger with Social Capital Hedosophia (SCH), a publicly traded company created solely to acquire a revenue producing company. The company claims a value of $1.5 billion.  By 2023 they project flying SpaceShipTwo vehicles 270 times per year and carrying over 600 people. Annual profits are predicted to reach $275M.

[ Update: VG statement on the shareholder approval: Virgin Galactic Completes Merger with Social Capital Hedosophia, Creating the World’s First and Only Publicly Traded Commercial Human Spaceflight Company – Virgin Galactic.

Virgin Galactic (“VG”), a vertically integrated aerospace company, and Social Capital Hedosophia (“SCH”), a public investment vehicle, today announced the completion of their previously announced business combination. The resulting company is named Virgin Galactic Holdings, Inc. (“VGH”) and its common stock, units and warrants are expected to commence trading on the New York Stock Exchange under the new ticker symbol “SPCE”, ”SPCE.U” and “SPCE WS”, respectively, on October 28, 2019. The Company manufactures its space vehicles in Mojave, California, through its aerospace development subsidiary The Spaceship Company, with commercial operations centered at Spaceport America in New Mexico.

VG already has customer reservations from more than 600 people in 60 countries representing approximately $80 million in total collected deposits, and over $120 million of potential revenue. The completion of this merger and trading as a public company are the next milestones on the path towards building a thriving commercial service business and investing appropriately for the future.

]

This week the merger was approved by SCH shareholders:  Virgin Galactic merger wins shareholder approval – SpaceNews.com

[SCH] said it expects the merged company to start trading Oct. 28 under the Virgin Galactic name and the ticker symbol SPCE. Virgin Galactic founder Sir Richard Branson, speaking at a conference in Israel Oct. 23, said he planned to be at the exchange Oct. 28 to ring the opening bell, according to Israeli media reports.

The merger will make Virgin Galactic the first publicly traded company whose primary line of business is human spaceflight. Large aerospace companies such as Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman have long been traded on stock exchanges, but space is only a small part of their overall business.

Earlier items about the merger:

** Spaceport America declared ready for operations at open house event in August:

Virgin Galactic today revealed the first look at the interior fit-out of its Gateway to Space building at Spaceport America in New Mexico. The work completed showcased two floors of the building primarily focused on spaceflight operations, which also incorporates communal spaces designed for use in the future by Virgin Galactic customers, along with their friends and families. Completion of this interior work means the spaceport facility is now operationally functional and able to support Virgin Galactic’s flight requirements.

** Profile of a Virgin Galactic spaceflight participant: She was first Pakistani to visit the North and South poles. Now she’ll be the first in space – Orlando Sentinel

After travels to the North and South Poles and skydiving over Mount Everest, Namira Salim wants to go to the next level of adventure:

The Earthly accomplishments were fine, sure, but for Salim, whose dreams have turned skyward since birth, they just filled the gap while she waited to obtain the “first” she’s been after all along.

“I’ve been inspired to do more,” she told the Orlando Sentinel while on a trip to Cocoa Beach for the Apollo 11 moon landing 50th anniversary. “So first of all, I think I should go as far as possible on Earth before I break the orbit.”

That’s right — the “first” that Salim is seeking won’t take place on our planet at all, not really. She wants to become the first Pakistani to fly to space. And with her $200,000 ticket on Virgin Galactic’s suborbital flights, she’s well on her way.

** An overview of space tourism prospects: The Coming of Space Tourism | Via Satellite

As timing for the first Earth-bound launches of space tourists grows near, the public, governments and the innovation sector continue to hold their collective breath.

Many predict that once the first space tourism mission starts flying, it will spur a lot of activity.

To Lopez-Urdiales, the world is currently in the second of three phases of space activity — the first began with government-sponsored programs like the Apollo program and continued to the present day, with space projects backed by billionaires. It’s only in the third phase — when a broader base of entrepreneurs with cool ideas are funded and can compete for market share — will space tourism be sustainable, he says.

“When that happens and the financial sector invests in not only the Musks of the world but also in folks like us, space tourism will truly take off,” he concludes.

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Videos: “Space to Ground” ISS report – July.19.2019

This week’s episode of NASA’s Space to Ground reports on activities related to the  International Space Station:

** Astronaut Training: Then and Now

Mission training for astronauts reflects the missions themselves: rigorous. In the Apollo era, astronauts and engineers prepared for the unknown as much as possible, but knew how to improvise in unprecedented situations. Currently, we’ve set our sights on going further, and our modern technology has allowed us to train much more safely – all in pursuit of our next giant leap.

** Astronaut Moments: Drew Morgan

Description: Before launching to the International Space Station on the anniversary of Neil Armstrong’s “giant leap for mankind,” astronaut Drew Morgan was making his own giant leaps out of airplanes as part of his training.

** We Go as the Artemis Generation

We Go: To the Moon and on to Mars. Our generation, the Artemis generation, will explore farther than we’ve ever gone before. The Artemis program will send the first woman and next man to walk on the surface of the Moon and build a sustainable base to prepare for missions to Mars and beyond.

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Outpost in Orbit:
A Pictorial & Verbal History of the Space Station

Space transport roundup – June.25.2019

Following up on  yesterday’s roundup, the SpaceX Falcon Heavy successfully reached orbit and deployed a big batch of satellites on board. Three ISS crew members also made it back to Earth safely via their Soyuz spacecraft.

** SpaceX Falcon Heavy completes the company’s “most difficult launch ever”, as described by Elon Musk. While the center core rocket failed to make a successful landing, everything else went quite well, including the first-time capture of a nosecone fairing in a net. The biggest challenge – multiple firings of the upper stage engine after long coasting periods – went well. In total, 24 satellites were deployed.

The launch:

The landings of the two side boosters and the miss of the central core:

The fairing on the net of the SpaceX ship Ms. Tree (formerly Mr. Steven):

More at:

** The Planetary Society’s LightSail-2 finally makes it to orbit via the FH but the mission still has two hurdles ahead before the sail begins to accelerate from the push of sunlight. On July 2nd, the CubeSat is to be ejected from the Prox-1 carrier spacecraft and then about a week later the sail will be deployed: LightSail 2 Has Launched! | The Planetary Society

** Soyuz lands safely in Kazakstan with three ISS crew members:

“The Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft is seen as it lands with Expedition 59 crew members Anne McClain of NASA, David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency, and Oleg Kononenko of Roscosmos, Tuesday, June 25, 2019 Kazakh time (June 24 Eastern time). McClain, Saint-Jacques, and Kononenko are returning after 204 days in space where they served as members of the Expedition 58 and 59 crews onboard the International Space Station. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)” – NASA

Highlights of the departure from the station and the landing:

** Chinese Long March 3B rocket launches navigation satellite: China launches new BeiDou satellite – CGTN

China sent a new satellite of the BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS) into space from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in its southwestern province of Sichuan on Tuesday. Launched on board a Long March-3B carrier rocket, the satellite was sent to a inclined geosynchronous earth orbit.

More at Chinese Long March 3B lofts Beidou-3I2 – NASASpaceFlight.com.

** India-based Bellatrix Aerospace raises $3M for development of smallsat rocket launchers and satellite propulsion systems.

“This funding will help Bellatrix to space qualify our products soon. During the coming months, we will be subjecting our thrusters to rigorous ground qualification tests and also work on key innovations that will make our products stand out. We will also be expanding to key global locations,” Rohan Ganapathy, co-founder at Bellatrix said.

** Misc. space transport items:

  • Next Atlas 5 launch delayed by battery failure – Spaceflight Now – “The next launch of United Launch Alliance’s Atlas 5 rocket with the U.S. Air Force’s fifth Advanced Extremely High Frequency communications satellite, previously scheduled for Thursday, has been delayed to no earlier than July 12 to replace a failed battery on the vehicle.”
  • STS-121 The Hardest Launch Part 4: Damage to the Heatshield | Wayne Hale’s Blog – The former Space Shuttle Program Manager recounts a case that illustrates the challenges in assessing risks for Shuttle launches in the aftermath of the Columbia loss.
  • SpaceRyde wants to make access to space more available and more affordable | TechCrunch – Canada’s SpaceRyde startup is developing a smallsat launch system using a high-altitude balloon platform. “Earlier this year, SpaceRyde launched a stratospheric balloon carrying a scaled down version of their launch platform and rocket in Northern Ontario, Canada. The test wasn’t a complete success – a modification to the off-the-shelf rocket engine they used didn’t work exactly as expected – but it did demonstrate that their in-flight launch platform orientation tech worked as intended, and Safari says the malfunction that did occur is relatively easy to fix.Next up for SpaceRyde is to work towards a full-scale demonstration of their platform, which Safari says should happen sometime next year….
  • Univ. of Washington rocketeers take the prize at Spaceport America Cup – GeekWire – Washington’s Society for Advanced Rocket Propulsion won the top prize at this year’s Spaceport America Cup competition held at the NM spaceport. “The SARP team took the Judge’s Choice and Overall Winner Award at the world’s largest collegiate rocket engineering contest, which is run by the Experimental Sounding Rocket Association and drew 120 teams from 14 countries. Each team is required to design, build and fly a rocket that can reach 10,000 feet or 30,000 feet, depending on the contest category.

** Raptor engine spotted at site of the Starship orbital demonstrator under construction in Florida.

Another Starship test vehicle is in construction at Boca Chica Beach facility and Elon says flights will take place at both places:

A comparison of the Starships in Florida and Texas:

Elon wants to speed up the Raptor and Starship program: SpaceX: Elon Musk Teases Rapid, Cheap Raptor Production to Get to Mars Fast | Inverse

SpaceX is planning to give its Mars-bound Raptor engine design a big production boost, CEO Elon Musk teased in a series of Twitter posts Monday. By the end of this year, Musk declared, the company is aiming to produce a new engine every 12 hours.

Musk suggested on Twitter that SpaceX is set to ramp up production for the engine “exponentially” soon. The sixth engine is almost done, and the firm is “aiming for an engine every 12 hours by end of year.” This should equate to around 500 engines per year, as Musk explained that a full year of production is around 70 percent of the peak daily rate.

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Safe Is Not an Option

“Cookies in Space”: Chocolate chip cookies to be first food baked in new ISS oven

DoubleTree by Hilton, Zero G Kitchen, and NanoRacks have partnered together to help introduce oven baking to the International Space Station, starting with chocolate chip cookies:

Cookies in Space:
DoubleTree Chocolate Chip Cookie to be First Food Baked in Space,
Sending Hilton Hospitality into Orbit

DoubleTree by Hilton to partner with Zero G Kitchen and NanoRacks to bring
its signature warm welcome to the International Space Station in historic scientific experiment

MCLEAN, Va.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–DoubleTree by Hilton will take its iconic warm welcome to new heights when its famous chocolate chip Cookie becomes the first food baked in space inside a prototype oven designed to make long-duration space travel more hospitable.

Later this year, DoubleTree by Hilton will make aerospace history when a batch of DoubleTree Cookie dough is launched along with the prototype oven in a rocket bound for the International Space Station (ISS) as part of a landmark microgravity experiment. Working in partnership with Zero G Kitchen, which creates appliances for microgravity use in long-duration space flights, and NanoRacks, a leading provider of commercial access to space, Hilton will be the first hospitality company to participate in research aboard the space station.

That’s only fitting for a hotel brand that at the height of the Space Race announced plans for a hotel on the moon, said senior vice president and global brand head, DoubleTree by Hilton, Shawn McAteer.

“Hilton has long been an industry innovator, and as we celebrate our 100th year, we’re excited to send our hospitality into orbit,” McAteer said. “The simple gesture of a warm cookie welcome is a favorite of DoubleTree guests around the world, and now we are sharing that moment of hospitality as part of this experiment aboard the International Space Station.”

Ian and Jordana Fichtenbaum, the husband and wife team at Zero G Kitchen responsible for the space oven concept, said the DoubleTree Cookie was their first thought when they began imagining the creation of an oven to make space travel more comfortable.

“Opening up the frontier of space means making it relatable to people’s everyday lives, and what could be more relatable than a freshly baked cookie?” said Ian Fichtenbaum, co-chef and co-founder, Zero G Kitchen. “When we first concepted the oven, we naturally thought of DoubleTree by Hilton and its signature Cookie. It is the perfect treat to bring a warm welcome to space.”

DoubleTree by Hilton is committed to inspiring the next generation of travelers to pursue careers in hospitality, so the brand will also partner with Scholastic to develop an educational program related to hospitality in space for 50,000 middle school classrooms across the United States. This supports Hilton’s Open Doors Pledge, the company’s commitment to connecting, preparing or employing at least one million young people by 2019 by helping them to reach their full potential. The program and accompanying curriculum, which includes a lesson and activity sheet, will focus on better understanding the challenges of living and working in space, and encourage students to think creatively about what innovations need to occur to ensure long-duration space travel is comfortable and hospitable.

To accompany these efforts, DoubleTree by Hilton and Scholastic will launch a student contest this fall asking U.S. middle school students to submit their own innovative proposal for making life in space more hospitable. Prizes will include a cash award, iPad and, for teachers, a complimentary stay at any DoubleTree by Hilton location. Full contest details and submission guidelines are available at www.scholastic.com/openingdoorsinspace.

Learn more about the launch and technology behind the oven by visiting www.cookiesinspace.com or www.newsroom.hilton.com/cookiesinspace.

About DoubleTree by Hilton: DoubleTree by Hilton is a fast-growing, global portfolio of more than 560 upscale hotels with more than 130,000 rooms across six continents. Over the past 50 years, DoubleTree by Hilton has maintained its philosophy that it’s the little things that make a big difference, from welcoming guests with its signature, warm DoubleTree Cookie, to serving the local community. Thanks to the dedication of its Team Members, DoubleTree by Hilton ensures the absolute best experiences for guests and continues to be a symbol of comfort through contemporary accommodations and amenities, including unique food and beverage experiences, state-of-the-art fitness offerings, and meetings and event spaces. Hilton Honors members who book directly through preferred Hilton channels have access to instant benefits. To make reservations, travelers may visit doubletree.com. Connect with DoubleTree by Hilton on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. Learn about the latest brand news at newsroom.hilton.com/doubletree.

About Hilton: Hilton (NYSE: HLT) is a leading global hospitality company with a portfolio of 17 world-class brands comprising more than 5,700 properties with more than 923,000 rooms, in 113 countries and territories. Dedicated to fulfilling its mission to be the world’s most hospitable company, Hilton earned a spot on the 2018 world’s best workplaces list, and has welcomed more than 3 billion guests in its 100-year history. Through the award-winning guest loyalty program Hilton Honors, more than 89 million members who book directly with Hilton can earn Points for hotel stays and experiences money can’t buy, plus enjoy instant benefits, including digital check-in with room selection, Digital Key, and Connected Room. Visit newsroom.hilton.com for more information.

About Zero G Kitchen LLC: Based in New York City, Zero G Kitchen was founded with a goal of building a kitchen in space, piece-by-piece, and offering its use to a variety of food researchers, educators and companies with an interest in the future of food and household appliances in space. Funded by its founders, Ian and Jordana Fichtenbaum, it is leading the way with its first appliance, a small oven.

About NanoRacks: NanoRacks LLC, an XO Markets company, is the world’s leading commercial space station company. NanoRacks believes commercial space utilization will enable innovation through in-space manufacturing of pharmaceuticals, fiber optics – and more, allow for transformational Earth observation, and make space a key player in finding the solution to Earth’s problems.

Today, the company offers low-cost, high-quality solutions to the most pressing needs for satellite deployment, basic and educational research, and more –in over 30 nations worldwide. Since 2009, Texas-based NanoRacks has truly created new markets and ushered in a new era of in-space-services, dedicated to making space just another place to do business.

About Scholastic: To learn more about Scholastic, visit our media room at: mediaroom.scholastic.com.

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Outpost in Orbit:
A Pictorial & Verbal History of the Space Station