Tag Archives: space tourism

Want to get a close look at the Russian spaceport during a launch? You can!

The space tourism company that has partnered with the Russians to fly tourists to ISS is now offering a nine-day tour of Russia’s launch facilities, including watching a Soyuz manned launch for the bargain price of $14,495.

Guests will get to see the launch of the Soyuz spacecraft on its way to the International Space Station and experience the live Soyuz-International Space Station docking at Mission Control Center. “We will observe the early morning roll-out of the Soyuz Rocket and follow it to the launch pad site together with the press, military personnel, cosmonauts, and their relatives,” said MIR Corporation President Douglas Grimes. “The following day we will gather in a VIP seating gallery at Mission Control Center for the live satellite feed of the Soyuz docking.”

Guests also have the option to participate in cosmonaut training themselves: They can experience up to 4 Gs on the world’s largest centrifuge, take a parabolic zero-G simulation flight, don a spacesuit, and learn how to handle “typical space tasks.”

Why the Goldwater Institute sued to block Tucson space deal

Link here.

The fundamental reason is that the Institute believes that, in signing its deal with World View to build its headquarters and launch site in Tucson, Pima County violated several laws as well as Arizona’s constitution. We are supposed to be a nation of laws, and thus government officials should not be allowed to violate those laws, even if they have the best of intentions.

I must say that, though I have no doubt that putting World Views space tourism balloon company in Tucson would be financially good for the city and Arizona, allowing elected officials to break the law to make deals with private companies is a very bad way to do it, and will in the end lead to far worse consequences.

Pima county files motion to dismiss World View lawsuit

In the heat of competition: The Arizona county government that made a deal with the space tourism balloon company World View to help them build their launch facilities in Tucson has filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit by the Goldwater Institute that claims the deal is illegal.

I don’t know if the deal was illegal, but I suspect that even if it was the county will win and the deal will go through. Too much money at stake.

Worldview tests subscale prototype of its balloon and capsule

The competition heats up: Worldview, the company planning to sell tickets for high-altitude tourist flights to the edge of space, successfully completed this weekend a test flight of a 10-percent scale prototype of its capsule and balloon.

The balloon reached an altitude just over 100,000 feet, just under 19 miles. The capsule then separated and landed safely using a parafoil. This success keeps them on schedule for their first commercial flights in 2017.

XCOR gets funding from Chinese venture capital firm

The competition heats up: The suborbital space tourism company XCOR has received an influx of capital from a Chinese venture capital firm.

The amount was not disclosed, but the infusion of cash can only help the company move forward on its effort to build a suborbital reusable space plane for carrying tourists.

House Science Committee approves changes to space law

In a series of party line votes, the House Science Committee has approved a number of changes to the laws that govern the private commercial space industry.

Almost all of the changes were advocated by the industry itself, so in general they move to ease the regulatory and liability burdens that has been hampering the industry since the 2004 revisions to space law. While it is very unlikely commercial space can ever get free of strong federal regulation, these changes indicate that they can eventually get some of the worst regulations eased.

I should note also that, as expected, the Democrats opposed any easing of federal power. To them, all things must be controlled by the government, and to ease any regulations is to commit the most horrific of crimes. Note also that the Democratic lead in this opposition came mostly from Congresswoman Donna Edwards (D-Maryland), who has announced her intention to run for the Barbara Mikulski’s senate seat. This mark-up hearing thus gives us an idea of the future impact of Edwards should she win.

XCOR progress report in construction of Lynx

The competition heats up: In a press release today XCOR announced new progress in the assembly of its Lynx suborbital space plane.

They revealed that they have “bonded the XCOR Lynx Mark I strakes to the Lynx spacecraft fuselage.”

To be honest, my impression of the work at XCOR from the photo at the link is that of one or two guys working in their spare time in their garage on restoring a classic car. Though I wish them well, the progress seems very slow, and piecemeal. In fact, it reminds me much of Richard Branson’s many false promises at Virgin Galactic. For example, back in 2012 XCOR announced a test flight schedule for 2013. None of those flights ever happened. Then in 2014 they said they hoped to begin flight tests before the end of that year. Again, nothing happened.

At least with this most recent release they aren’t saying when they plan to fly, since from the picture it appears they are quite a long ways from doing so. It is far better to make real promises that false ones, and XCOR might have learned that lesson watching the public relations problems Richard Branson has had in recent years.

Even so, I have been consistently very skeptical of this project. In fact, back in October 2013, in describing the effort of Blue Origin in the suborbital tourism trade, I predicted the following:

That the present ship [Blue Origin’s New Shepard] is being designed for suborbital tourist flights makes it a direct competitor of Virgin Galactic and XCOR. And considering the problems that Virgin Galactic has with SpaceShipTwo [written one year before its crash], and that XCOR doesn’t have the big bucks of Bezos, Blue Origin might actually be in the lead in the race to put the first tourists in space.

It appears now that this prediction was right on the money.

An update on Sarah Brightman’s astronaut training

The competition heats up: New detailed photos of Sarah Brightman’s training for her September tourist trip to ISS have been released.

The photos appear to dispel the rumors that Brightman might be replaced with her backup tourist for the flight to ISS.

Some might consider this flight nothing more than a publicity stunt. While it surely is that, for Brightman it also is a dream come true. And the publicity will not simply be good for her career, it will do wonders to sell the idea of space tourism and space exploration.

In fact, there is never really any downside to freedom and allowing people to follow their dreams, and this tourist flight to ISS will prove it.

Russians to offer tourists six-month tour on ISS

The competition heats up: The Russians are considering offering tourists the ability to buy a full six month tour on ISS when they resume tourist flights in 2018.

They don’t yet have any customers for such a flight, but in order to make some money, or “lowering the budgetary load” as they put it, they are considering offering it.

Russian tourism flights to resume in 2018

The competition heats up: Faced with the loss of income from NASA in 2017, when private commercial ferries take over the job of bringing Americans to ISS, Russian officials today revealed that they plan to resume launching tourists to the station in 2018.

The problem the Russians will have then is that they will have competition from the American companies, who will likely be able to compete in price with them, and will be easier to work with.

Virgin Galactic test flights to resume in 2015?

I’ll believe it when I see it: The executive director of the New Mexico Spaceport Authority, which runs Spaceport America, said Tuesday that she hopes Virgin Galactic will resume test flights of a SpaceShipTwo suborbital ship sometime in 2015, with commercial flights beginning in 2016.

She claimed that work on the new ship is about 80% completed, with construction of another ship also underway.

Forgive me if I have my doubts. Virgin Galactic has spent more than a decade making these promises, with no results.

A new song for space

At a press conference Sarah Brightman yesterday revealed that she is working with Andrew Lloyd Webber to create a new song to sing when she visits the International Space Station later this year.

She also said that she will sing it from the station near the end of her visit. While the reason she gave for this schedule was because she needed time to adjust to weightlessness, I also see this as good marketing, allowing time for a pr build-up to get the largest audience possible.

Sarah Brightman’s first day of astronaut training

The competition heats up: A press conference in Russia highlighted the first day of astronaut training for space tourist Sarah Brightman.

A ten minute video excerpt of the conference is below the fold. The most interesting part of the video, however, has nothing to do with Brightman. Instead, it was what was said by her back-up space tourist, Satoshi Takamatus. Since the age of six he had wanted to be an astronaut. At 22 however Japan’s space agency rejected him because he wore glasses or contacts. He then became an advertising executive who in 2001 arranged to shoot a commercial on ISS using Russian astronauts. While in Russia, he apparently met the right people and, using those contacts, has now come back at 53 as a paying customer. If Brightman has any issues that prevent her from flying, he will step up and replace her. If not, he is tentatively scheduled to fly himself in ’17 or ’18.
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Virgin Galactic outlines near term test flight schedule

The competition heats up: In a newspaper interview, the CEO of Virgin Galactic has outlined the company’s flight plans for SpaceShipTwo in the coming months, leading hopefully to its first commercial flights.

“We expect to get to space altitude in a short number of flights, assuming the rocket performs as expected,” Whitesides told the Journal. “Scaled made it to space in four flights with SpaceShipOne. I believe it will be a little more than that for us, but not dramatically so.”

Once SpaceShipTwo successfully reaches space, Scaled Composites will turn over the rocket to Virgin Galactic for its commercial operations based in New Mexico. Virgin has already taken control of the mothership, which it flew to Spaceport America for some initial test operations in September. “Once we take control of SpaceShipTwo, we expect to do some more testing here in New Mexico, but that will primarily be efficiency testing rather than technology testing,” Whitesides said. “It will give pilots an opportunity to train at this airfield after Mojave to practice things like coming in on final approach.”

As much as I have expressed strong skepticism in recent months of Virgin Galactic’s promises, I truly hope this happens, and soon.

Another contest where you can win a ticket to space

Spaceship Earth Grants (SEG) has launched a contest where it will give away one space flight ticket to fly on any available launch service for every 50,000 applications it receives.

The winner (or winners) will receive a trip aboard a spaceflight provider flight available at the time of the award announcement. In other words, should the likes of space tourism companies like Virgin Galactic or Space Adventures be capable of offering trips into space at the time, then the winning candidate would be booked aboard one of their flights. Subject, of course, to availability and the various restrictions one or all of these companies may impose, along with the rider that no promise is made to be able to fly on a particular carrier.

Be warned however, the application is not free. SEG will charge you from $15 to $90, the amount “dependent upon the relative wealth of the nation in which you live.”

Sarah Brightman, astronaut

The competition heats up: The start of Sarah Brightman’s astronaut training has been delayed from this fall to the beginning of 2015.

I suspect this delay has more to do with accommodating her schedule and the fact that she is very enthusiastic and well-prepared than any negative issues related to her or the mission. They have probably decided that she just needs less time to train.

Her actual flight to ISS is scheduled for the fall of 2015.

Great Britain’s proposed suborbital spaceport locations

The competition heats up: More information was released today describing Great Britain’s suggested spaceport locations.

These spaceports are specifically aimed at the suborbital space tourism market, for American companies like Virgin Galactic or XCOR, or for the developing British company Skylon.

It is interesting that 6 of 8 are located in Scotland, which might very well not be part of the United Kingdom after a vote on separation this fall.

Comparing the rocket vs balloon space tourism ride.

The competition heats up: Yahoo today published a 5 point comparison between a ride on Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo and Worldview’s Voyager balloon.

The winner, Virgin Galactic, but by a nose. As the story notes, Worldview is the better buy. “You can use the money you save for a nice vacation on Earth — where you can make new friends by telling stores about that time you went to space.”

First test flight for balloon company

The competition heats up: Worldview has successfully completed the first unmanned test flight of its stratospheric passenger balloon.

The flight brought a remote-controlled, balloon-borne craft up to a height of 120,000 feet (36.5 kilometers) and back down to 50,000 feet (15 kilometers). Then the craft was cut loose from the balloon and guided to a soft landing using an innovative parafoil.

The test over Roswell, New Mexico, marked a world record for the highest parafoil flight, World View said.

World View’s Tycho prototype is just one-tenth the size of the pressurized capsule that the Arizona-based company plans to build for its Voyager tours. But Tycho’s maiden voyage put the system’s aerodynamics to a valuable initial test, said Taber MacCallum, who is World View’s co-founder and chief technology officer (as well as Poynter’s husband).

While these balloon tourist flights won’t go as high as the suborbital flights planned by Virgin Galactic, XCOR, and others, they will last far far longer and cost a third the price. They have already sold out their first three flights.

Getting the Russian Soyuz capsule prepped to take two tourists around the Moon.

More capitalism: Getting the Russian Soyuz capsule prepped to take two tourists around the Moon.

The key detail in this story is not so much that they are beginning to figure out the engineering upgrades necessary to fling a Soyuz capsule around the Moon but that Space Adventures has apparantly finally gotten two passengers who have put down deposits for the lunar flight. For years they have said they had one ticket holder, suspected to be James Cameron, but without a second passenger the flight could not go forward. It now appears that they have gotten a deposit from that second person.

Posted on the road in New Mexico.

Some additional details about Airbus’s spaceplane, its recent successful drop tests, and the company’s future plans.

Some additional details about Airbus’s spaceplane, its recent successful drop tests, and the company’s future plans.

The design has similar to XCOR’s Lynx. It would take off and land from a runway and do a suborbital flight without the need of a mother ship.

On Monday the Russians announced that they plan to fly two tourists around the Moon by 2017.

The competition heats up: On Monday the Russians announced that they plan to fly two tourists around the Moon by 2017.

This is in conjunction with Space Adventures and the previous tourist flights that have gone to ISS. They say they have two customers willing to pay the $150 million ticket price, but they have also been saying this for years. I am not sure I believe them anymore.

The suborbital tourist company XCOR has raised $14.2 million of private investment capital.

The competition heats up: The suborbital tourist company XCOR has raised $14.2 million of private investment capital.

It looks increasingly like this tortoise is going to catch up with the Virgin Galactic hare in the race to launch the first suborbital private space tourists.

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