Category Archives: Spaceflight & Parabolic Flight

Space tourism roundup – June.4.2019

A sampling of recent articles, videos, and images related to commercial human space travel:

** Beth Moses talks about her SpaceShipTwo flight and what she is doing to prepare others for such flights:

Describe to me the experience of being in space. We all saw that picture of you staring out the window in complete awe.

It was just magic and almost indescribable.

I felt very fortunate to fly where I did and the day I did. I felt like the Earth was so beautiful, but even more so than you can describe or can be imagined. I happened to fly on a day where we had snow on the mountains in the southwestern United States. And I remember vividly that appearance of glistening white mountaintops and blue Pacific Ocean and the green of the Earth. I told someone the other day I felt like Earth was wearing her diamonds for us that day, because it was so, so glistening and sharp.

It just took my breath away. It was amazing

“The face you make when you look back on Earth from space. Our Chief Astronaut Instructor, Beth Moses, is the 571st person to fly to space and the first woman to fly on board a commercial spaceship.” – Virgin Galactic

Clash: Compare the real flight to the simulations.

Moses: The Gz [force through the head] was of a much lower duration. I reached our expected Gz on boost and re-entry, but was pleasantly surprised at how short it was. It just ramps up and then ramps off. You take a breath and realize, ‘Oh this is high G,’ and you take another breath and say, ‘Oh, this is high G.’ By the time you’ve finished your second breath, it’s done, and you’re back to normal G. The Gz felt like the centrifuge, but the Gx [force through the chest] I didn’t perceive as strongly as I did in the centrifuge. I don’t know why. Maybe it was because I was so happy to be going up. So Gz felt like the NASTAR centrifuge, Gx did not. Both maximums were about 3.6.

Clash: Will you fly again?

Moses: I would love to go back up, but I also want to get future astronauts up there as fast as possible. So it depends on what we still have to test, how many test flights we have and for what reasons. We’re actually still mapping that out. But I will not nominate myself. There are lots of other skill-sets and factors that need to be tested, so I will train other folks to do those tests. I’m not trying to blindly hog evaluations. But if there are evaluations that need my particular skill-set, I might fly again. We’re still working that out.

** Richard Branson remains steadfastly upbeat about Virgin Galactic’s prospects: Richard Branson: We’re at the dawn of new era of space exploration (Opinion) – Richard Branson/CNN

I said after the flight on December 13, as I stood with our pilots, Frederick “CJ” Sturckow and Mark “Forger” Stucky, that when you set off on important adventures, exceptional people come forward to join the journey — people who are consistently by your side and on your side, people who share your dreams and people who help make them reality. Reaching space has been the ultimate team effort.

It is evident that we are finally at the dawn of a new age of space exploration, which will see reusable space vehicles built and operated by commercially successful private companies, transforming our business and personal lives in ways that we have yet to comprehend fully.

Standing on the flight line, I could hear my dad in the back of my mind saying, as he often did, “Isn’t life wonderful?”

** Land Rover designed the Astronaut Edition Range Rover just for “Virgin Galactic’s Future Astronaut customers”:

** Suborbital space tourism will be a lot safer than climbing Mt. Everest, thankfully: Everest deaths: Four reasons why this climbing season went wrong – BBC News

Over the past two decades, the average annual death rate of climbers on Mount Everest has remained at about six.

But this spring, at least 10 people have already been reported dead or missing on the world’s highest peak.

This is also the season that saw a record 381 climbing permits issued by the Nepalese government.

In reality, this means about 600 people were preparing to embark on the climb, with permit holders accompanied by support staff up the mountain.

** Virgin Galactic & Blue Origin near space tourism operations. VG is currently installing the interior seating in a SpaceShipTwo rocketplane and plans to begin flying customers this year. Blue Origin expects to fly people on the New Shepard for the first time in 2019, though ticket sales have yet to begun. So suborbital space tourism may finally get off the ground this year:  Suborbital space tourism nears its make-or-break moment – The Space Review

After the Ansari X Prize was won in October of 2004, I was sure that there would be regular space tourism services available by 2008. (I lost a bet, in fact, that there would be services by then.) Here it is 15 years later and I’m still waiting to see routine flights of public citizens to the edge of space.

This is disappointing for sure but it is hardly unusual that a technology takes a lot longer than expected to reach the market.

I enjoy listening to Jonathan Strickland on the TechStuff Podcast tell captivating stories behind the development and commercialization of technologies. He explains the science and engineering in a clear and straight-forward manner while also drawing fine verbal portraits of the fascinating characters involved and vividly depicting the often bitter and complex battles among them.

Many of the technologies we take for granted today saw decades pass between the initial key invention(s) and commercial success. I just listened, for example, to a podcast about compact audio cassette tapes and another on video cassettes. (These are in a series from Strickland on the development of media starting with records and films.) While not nearly as challenging as high altitude rocket transportation, there was still a considerable gap between the initial invention of flexible audio tape in Germany in the 1930s and high-fidelity audio cassettes in the 1970s.  The first video tape recorders appeared in the 1950s but the first successful home video recorders didn’t appear until the mid-1970s.

Technological devices typically involve multiple sub-technologies that must work well together as a system. Finding the optimum combination of technologies that synergize into an affordable, practical product seldom happens on the first try. Instead an evolutionary competition occurs with the fittest combo eventually winning after a long struggle that leaves behind a trail of failed designs and bankrupted companies.

In the mid-2000s, there was at least a half-dozen companies making serious efforts at a suborbital vehicle for space tourism. There was no grand overarching roadblock that a few keen outsiders saw that the companies didn’t. Rather, each encountered particular individualized hurdles that tripped them up.

For example, Virgin Galactic could have developed a SpaceShip 1.5 vehicle that involved modest improvements to the 3-seat SpaceShipOne and starting flying within a couple of years after the XPRIZE. Burt Rutan has said he had customers requesting flights on the SpaceShipOne. Instead, VG decided to jump straight to an elaborate 8-person vehicle. Unfortunately, the company ran into tremendous difficulties in scaling up the hybrid rocket motor used on the SS1 and even today does not have a motor that can send the SS2 above 100 km, which was the altitude boundary for the XPRIZE.

XCOR made good progress on low-cost, reliable liquid-fueled rocket engines but could not raise sufficient funding to bring the Lynx spaceplane to fruition. Rocketplane Ltd.‘s design based on a converted Learjet turned out not to be viable and by the time they changed the design they were out of money. Similarly, TGV Rockets fell short of funding to build the Michelle-B, a vertical takeoff and landing rocket vehicle similar to Blue’s New Shepard.

Blue Origin had plenty of funding but, after flying a couple of prototype vehicles, the company decided to focus on developing a new liquid hydrogen propulsion system that could be used for the booster of a suborbital vehicle and also for the upper stage of an orbital launcher. A highly reusable LOX/LH2 engine is no trivial technology so there’s little surprise it took them a few years to develop.

The suborbital space tourism story is just another confirmation that a new technology needs multiple entrants, all trying their hardest to make their designs work.

So, if the SpaceShipTwo and New Shepard vehicles do start flying regularly, does that guarantee a successful space tourism business? No, of course, not. No untried business is a guaranteed success. However, there are many positive signs.

For example, several hundred people have signed up for SS2 flights and most have waited patiently for many years. Only a few percent canceled after the 2014 accident and many of these dropped out not because of safety concerns but because they were discouraged by the additional years of waiting to fly.

If 600 people each year attempt to scale Mt. Everest, despite an annual average of 6 deaths, just to brag about the ordeal they overcame, we can be sure there will be no shortage of customers willing to pay for the totally unique thrill of riding a rocket straight up to the edge of space and encountering the awesome view of a glittering cosmos above and a glistening Earth below.

** A UBS Global Research view of commercial space travel:

** Russia’s KosmoKurs (КосмоКурс) is developing a suborbital vertical takeoff and landing rocket vehicle similar to Blue Origin’s New Shepard and also intended for tourism services. Like the New Shepard, up to six passengers would ride in a capsule that detaches from a booster and returns via parachutes. The goal is to build the vehicle by 2023.

** A customer for a Circumlunar Mission offered by Space Adventures wanted his deposit back as delays grew ever longer: Space Adventures reaches settlement with would-be lunar tourist –

[Harald] McPike, an Austrian businessman and adventurer who lives in the Bahamas, filed the original suit in May 2017, seeking the return of a $7 million deposit he paid to Space Adventures for a $150 million seat on a Soyuz mission that would go around the moon, and additional damages. The defendants in the suit included Space Adventures; Tom Shelley, the company’s president; and Eric Anderson, the company’s chairman and chief executive.

According to McPike’s suit, he contacted Space Adventures in July 2012 about the possibility of flying on a mission around the moon that the company had been promoting for several years. In March 2013, he signed an agreement committing to participate in such a mission, and paid an initial deposit of $7 million towards the $150 million total price with the expectation that the mission would take place within six years.


Space 2.0: How Private Spaceflight, a Resurgent NASA,
and International Partners are Creating a New Space Age

Videos: TMRO Orbit 12.13 – “How we will survive out in Space”

The latest episode from the Space webcasts: How we will survive out in Space – Orbit 12.13

Engineer Brittany Zimmerman of Paragon Space Development Corporation joins us to talk about the different ways Space wants to kill you. We cover how Paragon is working on Life Support And Environmental Control Systems, including water purification to help keep us all alive on out journey to Mars. This one is an eye opener including a lot of stuff that will be required if us ugly giant bags of mostly water are to colonize the solar system.

A recent space news report:


Archaeology from Space: How the Future Shapes Our Past

Space tourism roundup – Mar.13.2019

A quick scan of the status of space tourism:

** Suborbital space tourism should finally get underway this year as Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic expect to begin taking “spaceflight participants” to the edge of space and back after they complete the remaining test flights:

Jeff Bezos, when asked about the start of New Shepard commercial flights, says:

This year. This is the first time I’ve ever been saying “this year.” For a few years I’ve been saying “next year.”

The New Shepard will take up to 6 people to over 100 kilometers. The vehicle will be controlled autonomously with no pilots aboard.

George Whitesides wants participants to unbuckle and experience weightlessness as well as a marvelous view of the earth:

Such experiences, of course, don’t come cheap with the price tag at around US$250,000 per trip. From take-off to the return landing will take 90 minutes, and passengers are likely to be at zero gravity for just five minutes. “There will be a section of the flight when passengers will be able to unbuckle their seatbelts and float around, and people can look down on to planet Earth and out into space,” he adds.

The SpaceShipTwo rocketplane is operated by two pilots and can carry up to 6 passengers to an altitude over 90 kilometers.

** Orbital space tourism will resume soon. Visits to the ISS by paying customers were suspended nearly a decade ago due to the disappearance of spare seats in Russian Soyuz spacecraft. All the Soyuz seats were needed for transporting new crew members to the station following the end of the Space Shuttle program. Now with the SpaceX Crew Dragon and the Boeing CST-100 Starliner about to start taking people to the ISS, there will be a several opportunities for paying customers to go to the station each year.

Space Adventures, which has arranged space tourism flights to the ISS for seven people, will resume its orbital space tourism business in 2021: Roscosmos and Space Adventures Sign Contract for Orbital Space Tourist Flight – Space Adventures

State Space Corporation “Roscosmos” and Space Adventures, Inc. signed a contract for the implementation of the short duration space flight of two spaceflight participants on board the same “Soyuz” spacecraft to the Russian segment of the International Space Station. The flight is scheduled to launch in late 2021.

Roscosmos and Space Adventures have been cooperating in space tourism since 2001, when the first space tourist – Dennis Tito – flew on orbit. In total, seven people have visited the space station in the frame of space tourism program with Charles Simonyi visiting the ISS twice.

“Over the last 18 years, our partnership has provided the opportunity for non-professionals to experience life in space. Our clients have spent in total close to three months in space and traveled over 36 million miles,” said Eric Anderson, Chairman and CEO of Space Adventures, Inc. “We look forward to continuing to work with Roscosmos in the pursuit of opening the space frontier to all.”

** Are space tourists astronauts or not? Soon, hundreds of tourists will go to space. What should we call them? | Ars Technica

Until now, it has been fairly easy to call men and women who have gone to space astronauts (or cosmonauts in Russia, and taikonauts in China). About 560 humans have gone to space, nearly all of them into orbit, and a lucky two dozen have gone beyond. Twelve have walked on the Moon.

In 2004, the private SpaceShipOne venture clouded the picture a little bit by making a private suborbital flight. The pilots, Mike Melvill and Brian Binnie, had not trained as government astronauts, so the US Federal Aviation Administration created a new designation for them—commercial astronauts. Since then, the five crew members of Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity flights in December and February have also earned that designation. But the FAA will only recognize “crew,” not passengers.

For now, there remains no official word on what to call non-crew members. Are they astronauts, too? Space passengers? Astro-nots? In the hopes of finding a consensus, we put that precise question to the companies, some bonafide NASA astronauts, and some experts in the aerospace community.

** A space tourism guide is available at Popular Mechanics: Everything You Need To Know About Going To Space

Space has it all. Circular mountain ranges! Metallic aster­oids! Geysers of sulfur! Oceans on a steady boil! It may just be the ultimate vacation destination. But how do you pack for the moon? What are you looking at for lodging? Will you get carsick in a rocket? In the era of space tourism, these are things you need to know.

So here’s the first thing: They call it “The Over­view Effect.” It’s what happens when you see the Earth from space, all you’ve ever known just a glitter­ing orb in the cosmic empti­ness. Your sense of humanity grows. Your perception shifts. You are forever changed.

Sounds kind of scary. But then, isn’t it exactly why we travel?

** Public response to space tourism has always been robust even when such trips for the public were not feasible:

In other words, everything was in place for Pan Am’s moon mania. Pistor’s initial moon-flight booking spawned a craze that would ultimately see Pan Am field 100,000 moon reservation requests under its First Moon Flights Club, which finally closed in 1971. All members were given cards with a number—an indication of one’s place on the ever-growing queue of layman astronauts.

A membership card in Pan Am’s “First Moon Flights” Club. Credits: Jeff Gates/National Air and Space Museum

** The SpaceX StarShip flight around the Moon with Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa and a group of artists might just make the 2023 target liftoff date for the Super Heavy Booster/StarShip combo considering the rapid progress that the company is making with the StarHopper.

The StarHopper is a low altitude suborbital test vehicle, with nearly the same dimensions as the StarShip, that the company will use to master the vertical takeoff and landing techniques needed to operate the massive reusable StarShip upper stage.


The Cosma Hypothesis: Implications of the Overview Effect

Space Access 2019 – April 18-21 in Fremont, California

A reminder for the upcoming Space Access 2019 meeting:

Space Access 2019 Conference

The Technology, Business, and Politics of
Radically Cheaper Space Transportation

at the Fremont Marriott Silicon Valley, April 18-21

SA2019 Conference Presentations Schedule Now Online!

This presentations schedule represents 90% of the final SA2019 three-day program. Things have evolved toward our having three major focus areas over the three days of the program: On Thursday, we feature the current Entrepreneurial Revolution in Smallsat Launch. On Friday, the near-future transition to Reusable-Rocket Transport Networks in Cislunar Space. And on Saturday, the eventual transition to Getting There Faster: Advanced High-Energy Space Propulsion. Stay tuned for minor schedule tweaks, more detail on presentations start-time & duration, and a few final program additions in the coming weeks.

Space Access 2019 will be the next round of Space Access Society’s conference on the technology, business, and politics of radically cheaper space transportation, brought to you this year in cooperation with the Bay Area’s own Experimental Rocket Propulsion Society.

And it’s coming up fast! Five weeks from this Thursday SA2019 gets underway. The Marriott is ten miles from the San Jose Airport, 24 from Oakland – book your flights soon before fares go up. And there’s no guarantee the Marriott will honor our special $130 room rates after March 26th – our rate block is already sold out for Wednesday night, and Thursday-Saturday are going fast, so book your room soon also! Conference Registration also goes up after the 26th, from the current $180 advance rate for Regular membership to $220, other rates also rising. Register now, and join us!

Latest SA2019 info will be at

Videos: “Space to Ground” – Mar.9.2019

This week’s Space to Ground report from NASA about activities related to the International Space Station:

On Wednesday, VP Mike Pence and NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine talked with the ISS crew from NASA HQ in D.C.:

This Week@NASA reports on the SpaceX Crew Dragon mission and other recent space news:

A view of the Crew Dragon as it descended to the Atlantic ocean under four giant parachutes:

MD-1 Crew Dragon splashdown on March 8, 2019.


Sunburst and Luminary: An Apollo Memoir