Space Tourism

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Will Tourists Beat the Government Back to the Moon?

Will Tourists Beat the Government Back to the Moon?

Joshua Tompkins

On July 20, 1969, astronauts Neil Armstrong and "Buzz" Aldrin stepped onto the Sea of Tranquility, becoming the first humans to grace the moon. Shortly thereafter, the Soviets, plagued by system failures of their Soyuz 7K-L1 spacecraft, abandoned all hope of doing the same.
Now the Russians may get to the moon after all, at least if the Arlington, Virginia, firm Space Adventures has its way—and you can tag along (if you start routinely winning the lottery). The company, which has sent two wealthy businessmen, Dennis Tito and Mark Shuttleworth, to the International Space Station atop Russian rockets, has announced a joint venture with the Russian Federal Space Agency (FSA) to embark one cosmonaut and two billionaires on a trip around the moon in an upgraded Soyuz craft by 2010. The ticket price: $100 million per person.

The 8- to 15-day mission, which would mark the first time humans have ventured beyond Earth's orbit since the last Apollo mission in 1972, might include a stop at the ISS after launching from Kazakhstan. Then the crew would rendezvous with a rocket already waiting in orbit to blast toward the moon. Traveling at more than 24,000 miles an hour, the Soyuz would use the moon's gravity to slingshot around to the farside and then return home. If the flight is a success, the company will launch increasingly more ambitious missions, says Space Adventures president and CEO Eric Anderson. "Eventually we'll land on the moon," he predicts.

He says that modifying the Soyuz will be far less expensive than building a new craft. Space Adventures plans to work with the FSA to improve the guidance and communications systems. To make sure their passengers get their nine figures' worth when they pass within 62 miles of the moon's surface (for about 30 minutes), Anderson says, "we're going to put in a bigger window."

Yet the most important upgrade, FSA deputy head Nikolai Moiseyev told the RIA Novosti wire service, will be reinforced heat shields that allow the craft to roar into Earth's atmosphere not once but twice upon returning—first to slow down using the drag from atmospheric gases and a second time (after ascending to cool off) to touch down back in Kazakhstan. In contrast, the life-support system will require less work, Anderson says, because cosmonauts have already spent as long as two weeks in low-Earth orbit in a Soyuz.

So which of the world's 2,000 or so sufficiently affluent people (by Anderson's reckoning) might book a ticket? "We're talking to a few key individuals," he says, but the only name he'll drop is Gregory Olsen, the scientist who has plunked down $20 million to become Space Adventures's third visitor to the ISS in October.

Money aside, you must also possess impeccable health, because a medical crisis midflight could prompt an emergency return to Earth. The Federal Aviation Administration's Civil Aerospace Medical Institute has issued health guidelines for the U.S. space-tourism industry but has no power to enforce them. (Even if it did, the FAA has no jurisdiction over this mission, since it occurs in foreign territory.)

Perhaps more vital is psychological fitness. The trip will require three people to share a space that Anderson equates to a large SUV. NASA astronaut Michael Foale, who has traveled in a Soyuz to the ISS, calls it "cramped" but notes that the passengers won't be stuck in their seats. "You can turn around, go upside down," he says.

The biggest challenge, according to Foale, is adjusting to "the complete dependence you have on your other crewmates being helpful and considerate." Which makes one wonder how billionaires will fare flying 500,000 miles in coach.

Moon
 

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Japanese Entrepreneur Next Private Space Explorer

Space Adventures Announces Japanese Entrepreneur As Next Private Space Explorer

Daisuke Enomoto
Arlington VA (SPX) Nov 04, 2005
Space Adventures announced Thursday that Hong Kong resident and Japanese entrepreneur Daisuke Enomoto (Dice-K) will be the next private space explorer candidate.
The company which organized the spaceflights to the International Space Station for the world's first private explorers Dennis Tito, Mark Shuttleworth and Greg Olsen, disclosed that Dice-K's expedition is currently planned for October 2006.

In conjunction with the Federal Space Agency and the Rocket Space Corporation Energia, Space Adventures continues its commitment to opening the final frontier for private citizens. Dice-K has already begun cosmonaut training at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia.

Dice-K, founder of DICE-K.com commented, "I am proud to be the first private citizen from Japan to begin training for an orbital spaceflight. I hope that by my interest in space exploration many others will be encouraged to learn more about the mysteries of the black sky. For the past 30 years, I have dreamt of seeing our Mother Earth from space."

"We are excited to announce that Dice-K will be the next private space explorer to visit the International Space Station," said Eric Anderson, president and CEO, Space Adventures.

"It will be another proud moment at his launch, not only for Space Adventures, but for Japan as a country. We encourage people from all around the world to explore the final frontier. We congratulate Dice-K and wish him well in his training."

Dice-K is a 34 year-old, Japanese national that has been living and working in the Pacific Rim (USA, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan) for the last 15 years. He was the Executive Vice President, Chief Strategic Officer and member of the Board of Livedoor, a publicly traded TSE (Tokyo Stock Exchange:4753) company in the IT industry.

During his tenure with Livedoor, the company experienced exponential growth with the market capitalization growing from $150 million (USD), when Dice-K joined to approximately $1.5 billion (USD). The current market capitalization of Livedoor is approximately $5 billion (USD).

Currently, he is an independent investor providing investment and strategic business advisory services for select companies such as Net Village OSE (Osaka Stock Exchange:2323) company in mobile contents. For more information, please visit www.DICE-K.com.

Space Adventures, the only company to have successfully launched private explorers to space, is headquartered in Arlington, Va. with offices in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Moscow and Tokyo.

It offers a variety of programs such as Zero-Gravity and MiG flights, cosmonaut training, spaceflight qualification programs and reservations on future suborbital spacecrafts.

The company's advisory board comprises Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin, shuttle astronauts Sam Durrance, Robert (Hoot) Gibson, Byron Lichtenberg, Norm Thagard, Kathy Thornton, Pierre Thuot, Charles Walker and Skylab astronaut Owen Garriott.

http://www.spacedaily.com/news/tourism-05zr.html
 

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Trip Into Moon Orbit May Cost Tourists $100 Million

A flight to the Moon may cost space tourists $100 million, a senior official of the Russian Space Agency said Tuesday, reports RIA Novosti.

"A project for a flight around the Moon really exists and we are currently studying it," said Alexei Krasnov, the head of the agency's department of piloted programs. "This flight may cost some $100 million for a tourist."

According to Krasnov, a modernized cargo spacecraft Soyuz with a Russian cosmonaut and one-two space tourists on board will be put into low earth orbit and docked with the International Space Station.

After that, an upper-stage rocket will be launched from the Baikonur space center to be docked with the Soyuz.

"The power of the upper stage will provide the flight around the Moon and return to Earth," Krasnov said, adding that the trip would last from eight to ten days.

He also said there was a number of criteria for space tourists, including education, medical factors, the ability to handle stressful situations and language skills, among others.

"Fluent spoken and written English is a compulsory demand for all ISS candidates," Krasnov said. "Russian and English studies are included in the training program."

He said Russia was cooperating in the space tourism industry with the United States, Japan, China, Brazil, Malaysia and South Korea.

http://www.physorg.com/printnews.php?newsid=8667
 

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Virgin Spaceport to Be Built in N.M.

By JANE WARDELL | AP Business Writer
Posted December 13, 2005, 7:46 PM EST



LONDON -- Virgin Galactic, the British company created by entrepreneur Richard Branson to send tourists into space, and New Mexico announced an agreement Tuesday for the state to build a $225 million spaceport.

Virgin Galactic also revealed that up to 38,000 people from 126 countries have paid a deposit for a seat on one of its manned commercial flights, including a core group of 100 "founders" who have paid the initial $200,000 cost of a flight upfront. Virgin Galactic is planning to begin flights in late 2008 or early 2009.

New Mexico Economic Development Secretary Rick Homans said construction of the spaceport, to be built largely underground in the south of the state near the White Sands Missile Range, could begin in early 2007, depending on approval from environmental and aviation authorities.

Virgin will have a 20-year lease on the facility, with annual payments of $1 million for the first five years and rising to cover the cost of the project by the end of the lease.

"Experts predict that thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars of private investment will be created in the next 20 years as the private sector develops new commercial markets in the space industry in New Mexico," Homans said in London. "Virgin is the beginning and many other space companies will follow."

Virgin Galactic said it had chosen New Mexico as the site for its headquarters because of its steady climate, free airspace, low population density and high altitude. All those factors can significantly reduce the cost of the space flight program.

The spaceport, to be located some 25 miles south of the town of Truth or Consequences, will be constructed 90 percent underground, with just the runway and supporting structures above ground.

Stephen Attenborough, the Virgin Galactic executive in charge of marketing the space flights, said the 100 founder members were committed to "stepping up to the plate" and boarding a flight early in the operations.

"Many of the others will need to wait until the price comes down and will want to wait for proven reliability and safety," he said.

Trevor Beattie, a London-based advertising director who paid for his ticket within days of Branson's announcement of the company's launch, said he was not concerned about safety.

"My only concern is that the longer they leave the launch, the more likely we all are to be hit by a bus," said Beattie, who has dreamed of going to space since watching the 1969 moonwalk.

Branson formed Virgin Galactic after watching SpaceShipOne, a craft designed by Burt Rutan and funded by Microsoft Corp. co-founder Paul Allen, become the first privately manned rocket to reach space last year. SpaceShipOne went on to win the $10 million Ansari X Prize with two suborbital flights in five days from Mojave, Calif.

Virgin Galactic has a deal with Rutan to build five spacecraft, licensing technology from Allen's company, Mojave Aerospace Ventures.

Virgin Galactic plans to operate its initial flights from the Mojave base ahead of the projected opening of the New Mexico spaceport in late 2009 or early 2010.

Virgin Galactic also unveiled its logo -- the pupil of an eye incorporating an eclipse. Branson's iris will be used for the final design.

Branson is due to join New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson in the United States on Wednesday to unveil the spaceport plans.

Source
 

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US draws up space tourism rules

Space tourists must be screened to ensure they are not terrorists, according to proposed regulations from the US Federal Aviation Administration.
The draft report's suggestions aim to prevent a terrorist from destroying a spacecraft or using it as a weapon.

However, the report has no strict proposals on the health of any would-be space tourists.

The suggestions will affect Sir Richard Branson's enterprise which aims to launch people into space this decade.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is attempting to regulate the commercial space industry in a bid to ensure minimum safety standards.

It has recommended security checks similar to those for airline passengers.

The FAA also suggests space tourism companies check the global "no-fly" list, from the US Homeland Security Department, to exclude potential terrorists.

"New technologies carry new risks. Nonetheless, Congress recognises that private industry has begun to develop commercial launch vehicles capable of carrying human beings into space, and greater private investment in these efforts will stimulate the nation's commercial space transportation industry as a whole," said the report.

"The public interest is served by creating a clear legal, regulatory, and safety regime for commercial human spaceflight."

Companies should give passengers safety advice including the number of flights the spacecraft has been on and any problems they have experienced with the craft, according to further recommendations in the report.

Space tourists should also be given pre-flight training to handle emergency situations such as a loss of cabin pressure or fire.

However, the FAA has so far left any medical requirements in the hands of the tourist, who should decide themselves if they are fit to fly.

The draft regulations could come into force soon, as the first space tourists have already made it into low orbit around the Earth.

In 2004, Burt Rutan witnessed the successful launch of SpaceShipOne, as his team won the $10m prize for having the first private ship to fly 100km above Earth's surface.

By the end of this decade, Virgin Galactic aims to take people into space from a spaceport in New Mexico.

After consulting the public, the FAA should publish its final report before June 2006.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/4589072.stm
 

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Human spaceflight goes commercial

We are about to witness a revolution in human spaceflight.

Launching people into space has until now been the almost exclusive preserve of superpower governments. But, according to industry experts and entrepreneurs, the commercial exploitation of space is about to open a new frontier for mass tourism.

For one of the pioneers of this revolution, Burt Rutan of the Californian company Scaled Composites, it reminds him of the imaginings of his youth.

"Everyone dreamed of travelling in space during the Sixties. When we saw how much progress was made in 10 or 11 years, we all not only dreamed but knew that we would be flying in space," he told The X Factor programme on BBC Radio 4.

For most, the dream faded. It seemed clear that only military test pilots would ever get to space, and even they would have very few missions.

The US space shuttle, America's only route for humans into space in the last 25 years, was so ambitious and complex that it became prohibitively expensive and, with two fatal accidents, unreliable.

Nasa and the US Air Force tried several projects to produce space planes, from the first X-15 to the latest X-43. All eventually ran out of money.

Looking to longevity

The spirit of the X-planes, however, lived on in private enterprise. "X" in this case stands for experimental, the unknown.

It led a young entrepreneur called Peter Diamandis to propose the X Prize in the hope that it might do for spaceflight in the 21st Century what the Orteig Prize did for aviation in the 20th. That stimulated Charles Lindbergh's first solo, non-stop crossing of the Atlantic in an airplane.

Lindbergh actually crossed the Atlantic to win a $25,000 prize. Nineteen competitors spent $400,000 attempting to win this prize and Orteig didn't pay a cent to anyone but the winner.

"That's an amazing, high-leverage mechanism," said Peter Diamandis, president of the X Prize Foundation.

Erik Lindbergh is the grandson of Charles and an advocate of private spaceflight.

He commented: "Before my grandfather made his flight, pilots were known as barn-stormers, daredevils, flying fools, and they didn't have a very long life expectancy.

"After he made his flight, people who flew in airplanes were known as pilots and passengers. That's the shift in perspective, what the X Prize is trying to change today in relation to spaceflight."

The X Prize offered $10m to the first privately funded spacecraft to take the mass equivalent of three people on a sub-orbital flight over a 100km high, twice within a fortnight.

The money was made possible by telecommunications millionaires Amir and Anousheh Ansari. It seemed a very difficult challenge; but not for Burt Rutan.

He had already designed dozens of different innovative aircraft, including the Voyager plane that was the first to fly non-stop around the world without refuelling. His first spacecraft was called, logically, SpaceShipOne.

'Shuttlecock' innovation

"To do SpaceShipOne I had to go five times as fast and five times as high as anything I had done before, so it was a big jump; but I didn't look at it that way," Burt Rutan told the BBC.

"I looked at it from the viewpoint of how strong does it have to be. And I didn't think of altitude as being a big deal, I just thought of the loads on the ship and I worked out the physics and thought that this might be hard, it may turn out to be dangerous, but it is worth doing," he recalled.

SpaceShipOne had several innovations. It is made of carbon fibre composite which makes it light, heat resistant and prevented thermal expansion.

It is launched from the air by another innovative craft called White Knight which carries it to nearly 50,000ft (15,200m) before releasing it, avoiding many of the risks of a rocket launch from the ground.

Once released, SpaceShipOne is powered by a hybrid rocket consisting of solid rubber fuel and a liquid oxidiser, giving the simplicity of solid fuel, like a firework, but the controllability of a liquid which can be turned on and off.

After a few minutes in space, during which the pilot can experience weightlessness under a black sky, the final innovation comes into play.

The twin tail structure lifts to make the craft behave rather like a shuttlecock, causing high drag to slow it down in the thin atmosphere and keep it the right way up regardless of the angle of re-entry.

Thanks to these innovations, the vehicle became the first privately funded spacecraft in June 2004 and went on to perform the double flight needed to win the X Prize later that year.

Rush to space

Burt Rutan's vision had been funded by Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen who is one of a new breed of space entrepreneur nicknamed "thrillionaires". These are mostly people who have made their fortune through software or the internet and are looking for exciting if risky investment opportunities.

Another in this league is Sir Richard Branson, who has now teamed up with Burt Rutan to order five spacecraft, much bigger versions of SpaceShipOne called, inevitably, SpaceShipTwo. President of his new company, Virgin Galactic, is Will Whitehorn.

"SpaceShipOne was designed to prove a concept, SpaceShipTwo is designed to prove the safety and commercial viability of air-launched spacecraft in the future," Whitehorn told the BBC's X Factor.

"It is going to be much bigger, six passengers and two pilot seats, about the size of an executive jet. Its carrier aircraft, White Knight Two, will be about the size of a 757. It will lift SpaceShipTwo to 55,000ft to launch it almost outside the atmosphere.

"That means a short rocket burn with much less environmental impact than anything that has been done before. It will be the foundation of a completely different approach to spaceflight which I think will take off over the next couple of decades."

By late 2008, Virgin Galactic hope to be flying fare-paying passengers into space from a new spaceport under construction in New Mexico.

Tickets have initially been priced at $200,000 each, and already several million dollars have been taken in deposits.

Sir Richard Branson believes that the price will fall in a few years to around $50,000, a cost not far above that of adventure holidays such as Everest expeditions or trips to Antarctica.

He is confident of a huge demand, and expects to have five spaceships in service, performing two or three flights a day.

Moon target

He may not have the market to himself. Several well-funded teams that came too late to win the X Prize have not been put off and claim to have a variety of rockets and space planes nearing readiness for test flights.

Some are thinking beyond sub-orbital flights that only give you a few minutes in space. But to reach full Earth orbit requires speeds at least six times higher and consequently greater problems during re-entry, problems which even the space shuttle has not overcome fully.

One other strategy is to use the old, tried and tested technology of Russia.

The company Space Adventures is the only one to have sent fare-paying passengers into space already. Dennis Tito, Mark Shuttleworth and Greg Olsen each paid around $20m to fly on a Russian Soyuz rocket to the International Space Station for a whole week in orbit.

Space Adventures recently announced plans to use Russian technology for sub-orbital flights from spaceports in Dubai and Singapore.

At the top end of the market, they are considering a space expedition that would include an orbit round the back of the Moon in a Russian rocket with an additional upper stage. For that, the recommended retail price is $100m.

The sky would seem not to be the limit for space tourism. This does seem to be a market set for considerable growth in the years ahead.

"I think people should get ready for a lot of dreaming and a lot of adventure and excitement in space," said Peter Diamandis.

"Kids out there, it's going to be an amazing 30 or 40 years in spaceflight. Get ready to have some fun."

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/4828404.stm
 

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Published online: 13 July 2006; |
doi:10.1038/news060710-10

The inflatable space hotel
US millionaire punts roach motel into orbit.
Heidi Ledford



On 12 July, a rocket took off from a Russian base carrying, among other things, one miniature inflatable space hotel filled with a few cockroaches and several Mexican jumping beans. Borne aloft by a former intercontinental ballistic missile, Genesis I carried Robert Bigelow's dream of a functioning space hotel one step closer to reality.

Just over nine hours later, Bigelow Aerospace reported that its unit had successfully expanded, making those cockroaches and jumping beans the first guests to skitter around a 4-metre-wide watermelon-shaped hostelry, 550 kilometres above Earth.

A US hotelier and millionaire, Robert Bigelow's goal is to create a station at least three times the size of Genesis I, to host both researchers and holidaymakers. But for Bigelow's dream to become a reality, he will first have to convince the world that his inflatable designs can withstand the harsh environment beyond Earth's atmosphere.

Pack it in

Inflatable designs are not new in the world of space architecture. Each delivery of goods into space is limited by the size and power of the launch vehicle; an inflatable design allows engineers to compress a large structure into a small, light load.

The question is, how long do they hold up?

Larry Bell
Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture at the University of Houston, Texas



Genesis I weighed in at about 1,360 kilograms and took up about half its inflated size. Once aloft, it was inflated with compressed air.

Bigelow estimates that his team could create a structure with a core volume of 660 cubic metres using only two of his full-scale inflatable modules. The International Space Station currently has a habitable volume of 425 cubic metres.

Pop goes the hotel




NASA's TransHab was an inflatable structure that never made it into space thanks to budget cuts.

© NASA

But there are obvious disadvantages to inflatable craft. For a giant balloon floating in space, there is always the risk of being punctured.

Constance Adams and her team at NASA dealt with these problems when designing an inflatable called TransHab in the late 1990s. The solution, they found, lay in technologies that had already been developed to make bulletproof vests. By weaving together layers of a synthetic ceramic fabric like Kevlar, Adams and her team created a structure that could withstand the equivalent of a 2-centimetre meteoroid.

The TransHab project was eventually dropped due to budget cuts, but gave Bigelow his inspiration. The walls of his module are made from more than 40 centimetres of layered material, including synthetic ceramics.

Built to last

"The question is, how long do they hold up?" says Larry Bell of the Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture at the University of Houston, Texas. "Look at your lawn furniture or awnings and so on, and see how they stand up to ultraviolet radiation. Ultraviolet degrades a lot of synthetic structures."

There is also a question of how the material withstands the trauma of being packed for launch, says Bell. "If you fold something very thick very tight, you risk damaging the surface fibres. The inner fibres get crunched, and the outer ones get stretched."

Despite these caveats, the advantages of greater volume packed into less space make such structures a serious option. "Inflatables have permeated the culture in just five or six years," says Adams. "Those guys who do the pretty, airbrushed pictures of travelling to Mars — they're always putting an inflatable in there."

Larger picture

Genesis I should remain in orbit for several years, where it will be monitored to see how it fares. And, with any luck, onboard cameras will send back snaps of the cockroaches and jumping beans to see whether they survived the launch.

Bigelow has already laid plans for the launch of Genesis II this autumn. Although he's not ready to send up people, he will be sending their photographs: you can send your picture into space for US$295.

And in the long term, Bigelow is setting his sights on a US$50 million race to build an orbital vehicle capable of carrying seven astronauts by the end of the decade.

Story from [email protected]:
http://news.nature.com//news/2006/060710/060710-10.html

060710-11b.jpg
 

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Internet billionaire aims to build spaceport in Texas

The 2200 residents of Van Horn, Texas, US, seem to be embracing the idea of having a spaceport in their backyard.

Blue Origin, a company headed by Amazon.com founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, has applied to build a launch site for its planned New Shepard space rocket about 40 kilometres (25 miles) north of Van Horn.

A prototype of the rocket could make up to 10 suborbital test flights in 2006. And the rocket – which would take off and land vertically – could be ready to take passengers to the edge of space and back by as early as 2010.

But first the US Federal Aviation Administration, which regulates commercial spaceflight, must approve a draft of an environmental impact assessment that the company recently filed.

More tourists
On Tuesday, the town of Van Horn held a hearing about the environmental impact of building the launch site on 7527 hectares (18,600 acres) of a larger piece of property owned by Bezos, which is known as "Corn Ranch".

"People are excited about it," says cattle rancher Ron Helm, who spoke at the hearing and used to raise cattle on ranches abutting the proposed spaceport. "We know a lot of the Blue Origin people. They've been honest about their dealings."

The region already sees a fair amount of tourists who visit the nearby Guadalupe Mountains National Park and Big Bend National Park. But a spaceport could bring even more tourists – and their dollars – to the area.

"Who would have thought Van Horn, Texas, would be on the cutting edge of space technology?" Helm told New Scientist.

Precision landing
Blue Origin has kept its plans for the rocket and launch site largely under wraps until the environmental assessment draft was released in June. "We're not going into any details beyond the environmental assessment," company spokesman Bruce Hicks says.

But the assessment shows that at least three tourists could fly on the rocket, which would consist of a propulsion module with a crew capsule on top.

Tourists would experience a flight lasting nearly 10 minutes. The rocket would fire its engines for two minutes, then coast to an altitude of 99,060 metres. Should something go wrong during launch, the crew capsule could detach from the propulsion module and parachute back to Earth.

But if the launch was successful, the rocket would then fall back to Earth. It would restart its engines at an altitude of several hundred metres, when it was less than 15 seconds from landing.

The company aims to have its rocket make a precision, vertical landing on a concrete pad 6.1 kilometres (3.8 miles) away from the launch pad. It also says it could make about one suborbital launch per week depending on market demand.

http://www.newscientistspace.com/articl ... texas.html
 

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NASA Invests In Private Sector Space Flight With SpaceX And Rocketplane-Kistler

by Staff Writers
Washington DC (SPX) Aug 21, 2006

NASA is making an unprecedented investment in commercial space transportation services with the hope of creating a competitive market for supply flights to the International Space Station (ISS).
Two industry partners will receive a combined total of approximately $500 million to help fund the development of reliable, cost-effective access to low-Earth orbit. The agency is using its Space Act authority to facilitate the demonstration of these new capabilities.

NASA signed Space Agreements Aug. 18 with Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) of El Segundo, Calif., and Rocketplane-Kistler (RpK) of Oklahoma City to develop and demonstrate the vehicles, systems, and operations needed to support a human facility such as ISS. Once the space shuttle is retired, NASA hopes to become just one of many customers for a new, out-of-this-world parcel service.

The venture marks a break with tradition for the 48-year-old space agency. "This is the first opportunity NASA has taken to engage entrepreneurs in a way that allows us to satisfy our needs and lets commercial industry gain a foothold. It could, and should, have profound impacts on the way NASA does business," said Marc Timm, acting Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) Program executive in NASA's Exploration Systems Mission Directorate.

Alan Lindenmoyer, manager of the Commercial Crew and Cargo Program Office at NASA's Johnson Space Center, said NASA's offer of seed money fulfills President Bush's Jan. 14, 2004 directive to promote commercial participation in space exploration. The 2005 NASA Authorization Act also calls on the agency to advance space commerce.

"We are directly tied to the Vision for Space Exploration and the law of the land," Lindenmoyer said. "COTS marks a significant NASA activity to implement the commercialization portion of U.S. space policy."

The demonstrations are scheduled to begin as early as 2008 and continue through 2010 or later. COTS will be carried out in two phases. Phase 1, unveiled Aug. 18, will include safe disposal or return of spacecraft that successfully dock at ISS and deliver cargo. A follow-on option to demonstrate crew transportation also is planned. Once demonstrated, NASA plans to purchase transportation services competitively in Phase 2.

Partners will be paid only if they succeed. Payments will be incremental and based upon the partners' progress against a schedule of performance milestones contained in each Space Act agreement. The agreements were tailored to the individual partners and negotiated before partnership selections were made. NASA will gauge progress through site visits and milestone achievements.

Usually, the space agency issues detailed requirements and specifications for its flight hardware and it takes ownership of any vehicles and associated infrastructure that a contractor produces.

For COTS, NASA specified only high level goals and objectives instead of detailed requirements where possible, and left its industry partners responsible for decisions about design, development, certification and operation of the transportation system. Because NASA has a limited amount of money to invest, it encouraged the partners to obtain private financing for their projects and it left them free to market the new space transportation services to others.

This model for pursuing of commercial space services is another first for NASA and a reflection on the growing maturing of commercial space capabilities.

"This is not a traditional NASA procurement or program. We could change the economics of space flight with this," said Lindenmoyer, whose office oversees COTS. NASA expects use of this model to increase over time as the exploration program unfolds, potentially extending to the provision of power, communications, and habitation facilities by commercial entities.

Limited resources and the space shuttle's pending retirement created the need for the new service, and the emergence of enabling technology has created a favorable environment for COTS development, according to Timm. Industry interest was keen, with nearly 100 companies submitting expressions of interest and 20 companies submitting initial proposals.

NASA expects that purchasing commercial space transportation services will be more economical than developing government systems of comparable capability. This could free up additional resources for lunar missions and other activities beyond low-Earth orbit.

The biggest benefit of the anticipated cost savings is the opening of new markets for an emerging industry, according to Lindenmoyer. "If we had cost-effective access, many new markets -- biotechnology, microgravity research, industrial parks in space, manufacturing, tourism -- could start to open. That's what is so important about this effort."

SpaceX
 
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Canada Plans Its First Spaceport

planetspace-silver-dart-spacecraft-art-bg.jpg


PlanetSpace's Silver Dart spacecraft could one day launch space tourists into orbit from a Nova Scotia spaceport and land 45 minutes later in Sydney, Australia (Illustration: PlanetSpace)

by Staff Writers
UPI Correspondent
Cape Breton, Nova Scotia (UPI) Aug 18, 2006

Canada is reportedly planning to build its first spaceport, which will launch supplies to the International Space Station and even send tourists into space.
The spaceport is slated to be built in Sydney Mines on Cape Breton, in the eastern province of Nova Scotia, the New Scientist reported. The U.S.-Canadian private space firm PlanetSpace, which is constructing the rocket launch facility, is estimating it will cost about $200 million to build the spaceport.

Rockets launched from the spaceport will pass over the Atlantic Ocean on their way into space, New Scientist said.

PlanetSpace, in addition to sending supplies to the International Space Station, plans to develop a space tourism business, sending passengers into 15-minute suborbital flights. The firm plans to start construction within a year and launch its first suborbital flight by 2009.

PlanetSpace Chief Executive Officer Geoff Sheerin says the company has chosen to use ethyl alcohol fuel for its rockets because of environmental reasons.

The spaceport is predicted to bring as many as 4,000 jobs to the region.

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Japan's would-be space tourist fails medical
16:32 21 August 2006
NewScientist.com news service

Japan's first would-be space tourist, 35-year-old Daisuke Enomoto, has failed a medical test and will not be allowed to travel to space next month as scheduled, a Russian space agency official said on Monday.

"He will not be able to fly in September," confirmed Igor Panarin, a spokesman for the space agency Roskosmos. Panarin declined to provide details on the failed medical exam, saying the information was "confidential".

Enomoto, also known as "Dice-K", made his fortune in the Internet business, He agreed to pay nearly $20 million to fly to the International Space Station and has been undergoing intensive training in Russia for months.

"It is not ruled out that after additional measures are taken, he could fly in the future. But this will take time," Panarin said.

Enomoto, a self-confessed Japanese cartoon geek, said earlier he wanted to gaze down at the Earth dressed as an ace pilot from a hit animation series.

His place on the Soyuz capsule taking off on 14 September from Russia's Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan will "probably" be taken by US national Anousheh Ansari, Panarin said.

Ansari was a sponsor of the $10 million Ansari X Prize for private spaceflight, which was awarded in 2004 (see X Prize sponsor may be first female space tourist).

US millionaire Dennis Tito was the first tourist to travel in space in 2001, followed by South African Mark Shuttleworth in 2002 and US businessman Greg Olsen in 2005.

Olsen was also rejected by the Russian space agency for health reasons in June 2004 before his trip was finally authorised at the end of 2005.

www.newscientistspace.com/article/dn980 ... dical.html
 

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Iranian Woman As Next Civilian Space Traveller

by Staff Writers
Moscow, Russia (SPX) Aug 23, 2006

A US-based Iranian businesswoman, Anoushe Ansari, will travel into space as the world's fourth space tourist, instead of Japan's Daisuke Enomoto who has been ruled unfit to make the trip into space. Russian Federal Space Agency announced on Monday it had decided, on the result of a medical test, not to take Enomoto aboard the Soyuz spacecraft set to be launched on September 14.

Enomoto, a 35-year-old former Livedoor Co. executive, had been undergoing training for the trip into space in Moscow, where he currently resides.

In an entry on his Web site dated on Monday, Enomoto wrote, "Twenty-four more days until space. Two days of training left. I went to the hospital for a CT scan, which they said was the last test." Under Enomoto's 20-million-dollar contract, he had been scheduled to spend about one week on the International Space Station.

Ansari, a 39-year-old businesswoman, who will be the first female civilian space adventurer, has indicated she's ready and eager to make the trip.

Whether she will also be ready to operate the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) gear to make contacts with Earth is not known.

Ansari is the co-founder -- with her husband and brother-in-law -- of Telecom Technologies -- acquired in 2000 by Sonus Networks Inc -- and the investment firm Prodea Inc.

The Soyuz TMA-9 flight will carry ISS Expedition 14's NASA astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria, KE5GTK, and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin, RZ3FT, to the space station.

It will launch from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The return Soyuz flight would carry ISS Expedition 13 crew members Pavel Vinogradov, RV3BS, and Jeff Williams, KD5TVQ, back to Earth.

Ansari has been in Russia training concurrently with Enomoto, who was to become the fourth civilian space traveler and the first from Asia.

Previous private space explorers have included Dennis Tito, KG6FZX, in 2001, South Africa's Mark Shuttleworth in 2003 and Greg Olsen, KC2ONX, in 2005.

ARISS arranged for all three space travelers to make contacts with students on Earth during their respective stays in space.

Ansari was the winner of the 2000 National Entrepreneurial Excellent Award sponsored by Working Woman magazine.

Her family made a major contribution to the X Prize -- now known as the Ansari X Prize -- which offered a $10 million prize for the first successful private reusable space vehicle.

The prize was won in 2004 by a team headed by aerospace designer Burt Rutan.

www.spacedaily.com/reports/Iranian_Woma ... r_999.html
 

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Space Tours for Taikonauts

By Kevin Holden
02:00 AM Aug, 24, 2006

BEIJING -- An American space-tourist agency is courting the Chinese for cheap rockets and nouveau riche passengers to fly in them.

Space Adventures of Arlington, Virginia, is opening its first office in Beijing to introduce space tourism to well-heeled space tourists in the biggest and fastest-growing economy on the planet.

"Space Adventures' objective is to open the space frontier to all," including citizens of China, said Stacey Tearne, vice president of communications at Space Adventures.

A Chinese astro-preneur, Jiang Fang, is helping Space Adventures get a foothold in the Chinese market. Jiang, who heads Hong Kong Space Travel, said humanity's expanding space endeavors, somewhat paradoxically, are creating a more globalized planet.

"Right now, most of us still think of the Earth as split into China, the United States, the European Union and the smaller countries," Jiang said. "But viewed from space, we perceive an undivided, spinning blue globe."

In 2001, Space Adventures helped spark the space tourism industry by booking American tycoon Dennis Tito a seat on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft for a trip to the International Space Station.

Russia's post-communist, market-minded Federal Space Agency has since formed an alliance with Space Adventures and sent two more tourists to the ISS.

While Japan's first would-be space tourist, tech tycoon Daisuke Enomoto, was this week bumped from a Soyuz spaceflight bound for the ISS in mid-September, he could be replaced by X Prize sponsor Anousheh Ansari, who has been training at Russia's Star City cosmonaut center as a possible backup candidate for the upcoming ISS tour.

The major barrier to space is becoming cost, rather than an individual's national or political identity.

A 10-day trip to the ISS, orbiting the Earth at almost 17,000 mph, is currently priced at $20 million. An 18-day ISS mission, which will include a cosmonaut-guided spacewalk outside the station, is being advertised at $35 million.

But tickets for suborbital tours, rocketing passengers to the 62-mile-high edge of space, will be much cheaper. About two dozen private spacecraft designers -- bankrolled by luminaries like Virgin's Richard Branson and Amazon.com's Jeff Bezos -- are racing to test reusable launch vehicles for hour-long space treks.

Meanwhile, more than 200 future astro-tourists have already reserved seats on suborbital spacecraft now being developed by the Space Adventures consortium.

Space Adventures plans to start building a fleet of five-person Explorer spacecraft that will blast tourists into suborbital space for a $100,000 fare. It is also channeling more than $250 million into plans to develop, with its Russian partners, space centers in the United Arab Emirates, Singapore and other points East and West.

"Space Adventures will fly tens of thousands of people in space over the next 10 to 15 years and beyond," said Tearne.

Space Adventures recently outlined its next goal: For a cool $200 million, the company and the Russian space agency will send two private passengers on a flyby around the far side of the moon, with an optional ISS stopover.

And that mission, scheduled for around 2010, is a mere stepping stone into the space future, said Eric Anderson, president and CEO of Space Adventures: "Follow-on missions will lead to lunar orbit and an eventual moon landing."

Space Adventures' charting out of a series of lunar missions, and China's increasingly ambitious schedule to send robot rovers and then humans to the moon, could eventually dovetail in a match made in the heavens and worth hundreds of millions of dollars, Anderson said.

Anderson said he foresees an era when Chinese spacecraft could be used to shuttle tourists to orbiting space stations or to the craters of the moon.

"We plan to initiate and develop a relationship with the China National Space Administration," he said.

Anderson said China's Shenzhou spacecraft, which has already completed two manned missions, could be integrated into the planet's emerging space tourism industry.

"Space Adventures will consider the Chinese Shenzhou vehicle once it has proven its reliability," Anderson said. "The Russian Soyuz has an escape system at every phase of the launch and it is necessary that the same standards of safety be implemented and tested in any alternative vehicles."


www.wired.com/news/technology/space/0,7 ... wn_index_4
 

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Ronson8 said:
Dark Detective said:
and maybe we're on the way to wearing tin foil and going on holiday to the moon like we were promised way back when.

So who wants holiday on the moon? I've heard that it's one enormous beach and there's nothing to eat but cheese.

I have a beach house on the Moon.

“What song the Syrens sang, or what name Achilles assumed when he hid himself among women, although puzzling questions are not beyond all conjecture.”
 

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Iranian Tourist Dreams Of Seeing Earth From Space

Space-tourist-in-waiting, Anousheh Ansari. Photo courtesy of AFP.
by Staff Writers
Moscow (IRNA) Aug 31, 2006

The first woman space tourist, Iranian-born American Anousheh Ansari dreams of seeing the Earth from space. She told a news conference in the Star City on Wednesday that she expected the most fascinating moment of her flight to be her seeing the Earth against the background of black space.
Ansari said that she had not readied for a space flight since her childhood. She added that she always knew that space harbored many secrets and wanted to sort them out.

Ansari was included in the new, 14th crew that is to fly to the International Space Station instead of Japanese space tourist Daisuke Enomoto who was barred from the mission for medical reasons.

She said that when she knew that she would fly to the ISS September, she had ambivalent feelings, including sadness for Enomoto, who had been preparing to the space flight long and seriously.

She expressed the hope that the dream of the Japanese would come true in the future. Russian specialists said that Ansari could not be called just a space tourist.

"She has a big scientific program in orbit," the head of the space rocket Energia, Nikolai Sevastyanov, stressed.

The Cosmonaut Training Center's first deputy chief Valery Korzun told Itar-Tass that Ansari, the first female space non-professional, had an 'education that fully corresponds to space flights'.

Ansari has a serious research program for her ten-day space mission. She said she would carry out in space a number of the European Space Agency's studies in medicine, microbiology and other areas.

She will also take with her 'teaching materials' for instruction from space. The main goal of Ansari's mission is popularization of space research. She said she wanted to be an example for many women and girls in order they believed that the impossible is possible. She hopes to draw interest of many people in space.

Ansari said she had talked with many veteran spacemen, who advised her how to avoid unpleasant things during the flight.

But their main advice was to enjoy every moment of it, Ansari said. She added that she would share her impress ions with other people on returning from space, Ansari will fly to the ISS with the new crew on September 14.

www.spacedaily.com/reports/Iranian_Tour ... e_999.html
 

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Iranian Tourist Dreams Of Seeing Earth From Space

Space-tourist-in-waiting, Anousheh Ansari. Photo courtesy of AFP.
by Staff Writers
Moscow (IRNA) Aug 31, 2006

The first woman space tourist, Iranian-born American Anousheh Ansari dreams of seeing the Earth from space. She told a news conference in the Star City on Wednesday that she expected the most fascinating moment of her flight to be her seeing the Earth against the background of black space.
Ansari said that she had not readied for a space flight since her childhood. She added that she always knew that space harbored many secrets and wanted to sort them out.

Ansari was included in the new, 14th crew that is to fly to the International Space Station instead of Japanese space tourist Daisuke Enomoto who was barred from the mission for medical reasons.

She said that when she knew that she would fly to the ISS September, she had ambivalent feelings, including sadness for Enomoto, who had been preparing to the space flight long and seriously.

She expressed the hope that the dream of the Japanese would come true in the future. Russian specialists said that Ansari could not be called just a space tourist.

"She has a big scientific program in orbit," the head of the space rocket Energia, Nikolai Sevastyanov, stressed.

The Cosmonaut Training Center's first deputy chief Valery Korzun told Itar-Tass that Ansari, the first female space non-professional, had an 'education that fully corresponds to space flights'.

Ansari has a serious research program for her ten-day space mission. She said she would carry out in space a number of the European Space Agency's studies in medicine, microbiology and other areas.

She will also take with her 'teaching materials' for instruction from space. The main goal of Ansari's mission is popularization of space research. She said she wanted to be an example for many women and girls in order they believed that the impossible is possible. She hopes to draw interest of many people in space.

Ansari said she had talked with many veteran spacemen, who advised her how to avoid unpleasant things during the flight.

But their main advice was to enjoy every moment of it, Ansari said. She added that she would share her impress ions with other people on returning from space, Ansari will fly to the ISS with the new crew on September 14.

www.spacedaily.com/reports/Iranian_Tour ... e_999.html
 

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Lift-off for woman space tourist

Ms Ansari replaced a Japanese businessman on the trip


Soyuz launch
The first woman space tourist has blasted off on a Russian Soyuz rocket from Baikonur in Kazakhstan.
The mission is carrying Iranian-born businesswoman, Anousheh Ansari, along with a fresh crew for the International Space Station (ISS).

Ms Ansari, a 40-year-old US citizen, is thought to have paid at least $20m (£10.6m) for the mission.

Lift-off took place at 1010 local time (0410 GMT), with the Soyuz successfully entering orbit soon after.

The mission is expected to reach the ISS on Wednesday.

The Atlantis shuttle, which undocked from the ISS on Sunday to make way for the Soyuz capsule, is expected to land back on Earth on Wednesday.

'Fragile Earth'

Ms Ansari is accompanying Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin and US astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria, who will join German astronaut Thomas Reiter on the station. They represent Expedition 14. Ms Ansari is the fourth space tourist after Dennis Tito, Mark Shuttleworth and Greg Olsen.

Ahead of lift-off, Ms Ansari said she was an ambassador for attracting private investment into space programmes.


The Soyuz lifts off into a blue sky
Ms Ansari, who made her fortune in telecoms, also said the trip would put the planet into perspective.

"You'll see how small and how fragile the Earth is compared to the rest of the Universe. It will give us a better sense of responsibility."

On the ISS, Ms Ansari will carry out experiments on back pain for the European Space Agency (Esa).

Ms Ansari replaced Japanese businessman Daisuke Enomoto, who dropped out due to unspecified medical reasons.

Cosmonaut Tyurin said Ms Ansari had been "very professional" in her training.

Ms Ansari will return on 28 September with two other space station occupants.

The returning Atlantis crew installed two massive solar wings on the ISS.


http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/5355022.stm
 

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Branson unveils Virgin spaceship

The "spaceships" are designed to carry a maximum of eight people

Sir Richard Branson has unveiled a mock-up of the rocket-powered vehicle that will carry clients into space through his Virgin Galactic business.
The Virgin "spaceships" are designed to carry six passengers and two pilots to an altitude of about 140km on a sub-orbital space flight.

Tickets on a Virgin Galactic flight are expected to cost £100,000 ($190,000).

The mock-up of the spacecraft was unveiled at the Javits exhibition centre in New York on Thursday.

The Virgin craft are based on the design of SpaceShipOne, built by aviation pioneer Burt Rutan, which became the first privately built vehicle to reach space in 2004.

SpaceShipOne made three flights to altitudes just greater than 100km - the edge of the Earth's atmosphere - claiming the prestigious Ansari X-Prize.

Public access

The rocket plane was first carried to a launch altitude of 15km (50,000ft) by an aircraft, or mothership, called White Knight.

It was then released and ignited its rocket engine, which propelled it through the atmosphere.


Sir Richard tested a passenger seat inside the mock-up
The $10m (£5.7m) Ansari X-Prize was offered to the first non-government, manned flight into space.

Virgin Group has contracted Rutan's company Scaled Composites to design and build the passenger spaceship and its mothership. Virgin Galactic will own and operate at least five spaceships and two motherships.

The passenger flights, which could begin in 2009, will take off from a $225m (£127m) facility called Spaceport America in the New Mexico desert.

Will Whitehorn, president of Virgin Galactic, said the firm was in negotiations over a reality TV show.

In the show, contestants would compete to win a place on a space flight, the Press Association reported.

Mr Whitehorn said: "The indications are that we can create a show that would give people the chance to go into space. It would be a cross between Dr Who, Star Trek and the Krypton Factor."

Virgin Galactic is one of several private firms vying to open up public access to space.




http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/5388482.stm
 

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Space tourist in Earth touchdown

Ms Ansari was praised by fellow astronauts as 'one of the team'
The first female paying space tourist, Anousheh Ansari, has landed on the Kazakh steppe after a journey back from the International Space Station (ISS).
The Soyuz capsule also carried fellow US astronaut Jeff Williams and Russian cosmonaut Pavel Vinogradov. It landed in the 56-mile (90km) predicted zone.

The craft slowed its descent by firing rockets and opening parachutes until it landed softly on its side in a field.

A dozen helicopter rescue teams rushed over to help the astronauts out.

Ms Ansari was given a bunch of red roses by an official as well as a kiss from her husband, Hamid.

All three astronauts were carried on reclining chairs to waiting helicopters. From Kustanai, Kazakhstan, they were to fly to a training centre outside Moscow.

'Safe and sound'

The 40-year-old Iranian-born US businesswoman smiled weakly as she exited the Russian capsule.

It was the ride of a lifetime

Jeffery Williams

"They brought me home safe and sound," she said.

"Anousheh has done a good job - she's one of the team," ITAR-Tass news agency quoted her co-traveller Mr Vinogradov as saying.

Meanwhile, Mr Williams told Reuters news agency that "it was the ride of a lifetime".

The return to Earth took just over three hours. G-forces caused by heavy deceleration can be physically draining after time spent "weightless".

However, the first female Muslim space tourist insisted that "this 10 days has been magnificent for me".

She is thought to have paid at least $20m (£10.6m) for a holiday in space which she said she "hoped to do again soon".

Snails, worms and barley

Ms Ansari becomes the fourth tourist to visit the ISS after Dennis Tito, Mark Shuttleworth and Greg Olsen.

Her Soyuz craft was launched to the ISS from Baikonur, Kazakhstan, on Monday 18 September.

Ahead of her lift-off, Ms Ansari said she was an ambassador for attracting private investment into space programmes. Her family sponsored the X-Prize, which honoured the first private vehicle to make it into space.

The space explorers brought back snails, worms and barley grown during experiments aboard the ISS.




http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/5390902.stm
 

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WEB EXCLUSIVE
Unveiled! Virgin Galactic's New Ride

Eric Adams

View Photos

Virgin Galactic today unveiled a mock-up of the slick, Philippe Starck–designed interior of its SpaceShipTwo suborbital tourist vehicle. The real bird won’t be shown for at least a year, but this morning’s press conference in New York, led by Richard Branson himself and Virgin Galactic chief Will Whitehorn, gave a good peek into how the program is progressing and what these first consumer spaceflights will be like.

The cabin itself is more than three times as large as that of the X Prize–winning SpaceShipOne, accommodating six passengers and two pilots and permitting plenty of float-around possibilities during the estimated five minutes of weightlessness the vehicle will achieve at the peak of its ascent. Burt Rutan, designer of both vehicles and their motherships, White Knight and WhiteKnightTwo, and his team at Scaled Composites seem to be on track for the prototype unveiling late next year, although the stated 2009 commencement of commercial flights seems optimistic, given the apparent delays in the development of the scaled-up, more complex SS2.

But the cabin unveiled at today’s press conference, held in New York, suggests that Rutan’s strategy for making the spaceflight experience user-friendly for anyone other than hardcore test pilots could work nicely. In particular, he had to address the issue of the high-G climb out and the reentry, which was extraordinarily violent for the pilots on the three SS1 suborbital flights. SS2’s cabin has ergonomic seats that automatically recline to orient the passengers’ bodies to best absorb the G-forces. They will be at a 60-degree upright angle for the ascent and then recline to a nearly horizontal attitude for the descent, with the passengers’ legs comfortably bent in order to tolerate the high-G ride and the extreme buffeting that accompanies it. Once back in the atmosphere, the seats will return to a 60-degree angle for the glide back to the spaceport.

The fully pressurized cabin will have 15 windows, including several on the floor and ceiling, permitting passengers to see Earth from multiple angles during their free-floating period. The view will be approximately 1,000 miles in any direction. Large dials on the bulkhead will convey the mission time, speed of the spaceship, altitude and current G-forces being experienced. Passengers will wear lightweight, form-fitting pressure suits and helmets to ease movement around the cabin.

The overall flight profile, though extended, will mimic that of SS1. The enormous WK2 mothership—which will be larger than a 757 and have a cabin identical to SS2, permitting the aircraft to be used as a training vehicle for the Virgin Galactic passengers—will carry the 60-foot-long SS2 to 10 miles above sea level, about 50,000 feet, and release it. SS2’s hybrid motor will then ignite, accelerating passengers at four Gs to three times the speed of sound. For reentry, SS2’s wings will pitch upward, “feathering” in a shuttlecock formation to automatically position the ship for the steep descent. At 70,000 feet, the wings will return to a horizontal glide formation for the runway landing.

Branson, in keeping with his recently announced commitment to environmental consciousness, extolled the spaceship’s green qualities. “It might be strange to think of a space vehicle as ‘green,’ ” he said, “especially when you consider that the amount of energy released in a typical space shuttle launch could power New York City for a week. But we’ve created a fuel for SS2 that can launch eight people into space while expending the same amount of carbon dioxide as a single business-class seat on a New York–to–London flight.”

The first SS2 will be called VSS Enterprise, and Virgin Galactic expects its first full fleet to comprise two motherships and five SS2s—which would also permit the company to quickly expand its operations beyond the initial spaceport in New Mexico to other countries that permit the flights (the U.K. is high on its list). Virgin is sticking by their ticket price of $200,000 and expects to offer lotteries and other means of democratizing the opportunity, including a reality-TV game show that is now under development. Longer-term, Whitehorn says, the program is “about developing a methodology for spaceflight.” He expects to use the SS2 technology for space- and earth-science studies, to expand to orbital flights, and to begin offering high-speed “spaceline” service going from, say, London to Sydney in less than an hour.


Virgin Space
 

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Space tourism prophets predict profits
Companies reveal fresh ambitions at New Mexico symposium
By Alan Boyle
Science editor
MSNBC


Updated: 11:26 p.m. ET Oct. 17, 2006
LAS CRUCES, N.M. - Two years ago, SpaceShipOne's rocket flights proved that the private sector could put humans into space — and that private investors were willing to put millions of dollars into such feats.

But so far, only one craft has flown in space, sending test pilots to the final frontier at a expense of $25 million-plus to win the $10 million Ansari X Prize. When will the market prove that investors can actually make money on space tourism?

That was the key question hanging in the air as X Prize veterans and new entrants in the commercial space race gathered here Tuesday for the International Symposium for Personal Spaceflight. And the man who got the X Prize off the ground, Peter Diamandis, made a stab at an answer: three to five years.

Diamandis, who is chairman of the X Prize Foundation, pointed out that some space-related ventures that rely on passenger fares, such as Virginia-based Space Adventures, have already claimed profitability. And he said Zero Gravity Corp., the company he founded to offer airplane flights simulating weightlessness, was on track to turn a profit this year. He predicted that suborbital space ventures won't be that far behind.

"I think you'll see the first commercial flights in '08, two or three vehicles by '09. I think in 2012, you'll see real profits," Diamandis told MSNBC.com. "You didn't see Amazon or the Internet companies turn a real profit for three to five years. It's a very large capital investment. The most important milestone is when the first companies go public, and capital starts flowing into the market to fuel it. ... I think we could see that in three years' time."

For now, the space tourism market is largely financed by billionaires and millionaires — Amazon.com's Jeff Bezos, the Virgin Group's Richard Branson, real-estate magnate Robert Bigelow and PayPal co-founder Elon Musk — plus like-minded "angel investors" who want to get in on the ground floor, so to speak.

Investments in "new space" ventures — including the ventures supported by angels and mega-angels, infrastructure projects backed by state and local funds, and initiatives spearheaded by NASA — already amount to $8 billion, according to a tally from Chuck Lauer, director of business development for Oklahoma-based Rocketplane Kistler.

Much of that money is being spent with the expectation that future customers will pay thousands or even millions of dollars for a ride to space. That might be a $200,000 suborbital trip to altitudes above 62 miles (100 kilometers) to see the black sky of space above a curving Earth — a zero-G jaunt similar to SpaceShipOne's flights. Or it might be a multimillion-dollar journey to orbital destinations such as the space station or Bigelow's inflatable modules.

The annual spaceflight symposium, held in conjunction with the X Prize Cup rocket festival, serves as an opportunity for entrepreneurs to reveal their latest ambitions on the space tourism frontier. Among the revelations:


The Canadian-based Da Vinci Project, which had been considered SpaceShipOne's closest competitor in the X Prize competition, is changing its focus from a balloon-launched ballistic rocket called Wild Fire to a sleek-looking rocket plane called the XF. Da Vinci team leader Brian Feeney said a new commercial venture, the DreamSpace Group, was being formed to pursue the space tourism market. A first-generation, one-person XF1 craft, modeled after Boeing's Bird of Prey experimental plane as well as the NASA X-36 prototype, could be flight-tested next year — with a two-person XF2 built in the 2009 time frame and a much larger XF3 to follow. Feeney told MSNBC.com that some of the development money is coming from a Canadian tax rebate for the research and development work done on Wild Fire.
California-based XCOR Aerospace is working in the background on its next suborbital rocket plane, and "we're just shy a million dollars to put that vehicle in the air," said XCOR's chief executive officer, Jeff Greason. Two years ago, the Federal Aviation Administration gave XCOR a launch license for a suborbital test vehicle, but Greason told MSNBC.com that the vehicle design has changed and that the company would likely seek a new FAA license. The rocket plane would represent a significant step in XCOR's plans to field a suborbital spaceship called the Xerus. In the meantime, XCOR is progressing with other space-related projects, including the development of a methane-fueled engine for NASA's Orion crew exploration vehicle.
British-based Starchaser Industries provided an update on its plans to develop a new line of unmanned suborbital launch vehicles based on its Storm rocket engine. That would eventually set the stage for a clustered-engine rocket capable of sending up space tourists, said chief executive officer Steve Bennett. He said Starchaser also was about to unveil Space Tourism magazine, a publication aimed at the general public rather than "space geeks."
British-based Virgin Galactic plans to begin offering suborbital passenger spaceflights in 2009, using technology scaled up from SpaceShipOne. Chief operating officer Alex Tai told the group that the company has a list of 65,000 would-be fliers from 121 countries, and has "$15 million of deposits sitting in the Virgin Galactic accounts," paid by scores of customers to reserve their seats.
Rocketplane Kistler's Chuck Lauer gave a nod to Virgin Galactic for setting the price point for suborbital spaceflights at $200,000. The company's Rocketplane XL craft is also scheduled to begin service in 2009, and Lauer suggested that suborbital craft could begin point-to-point flights soon afterward. For example, spacecraft could make jumps from Oklahoma to New Mexico to Mojave, Calif., and back. Virgin Galactic's Tai went even further, suggesting that future craft could zoom between New Mexico and Japan in just 45 minutes. "Chuck, if you can sell it to me, I'll buy it," Tai told Lauer.
Even further down the road, Tai said Virgin would like to get into the space hotel business.

Nevada-based Bigelow Aerospace may well be the company providing the infrastructure for that hotel. In fact, Lauer said transportation to Bigelow-built orbital destinations may well be a major driver for the rest of the personal spaceflight industry.

"Mr. Bigelow could be the largest buyer in the world within 10 years, maybe even within five years," Lauer said.

Of course, Lauer and his colleagues in the industry are far from objective commentators on the space tourism industry's prospects. David Livingston, a business consultant and professor who also covers the industry as a talk-radio host on "The Space Show," told MSNBC.com that the hype can sometimes get overwhelming.

"You talk to people in the real world — they don't have any respect for this industry," he said.

Some studies have estimated the potential annual market for space tourism at more than $1 billion, but taking advantage of that market requires taking high risks and investing millions or billions of dollars. "If I went by business fundamentals, I'd have a hard time with a lot that's going on in this community," Livingston said.


However, he said the space tourism industry may have a "secret weapon" to draw upon: deep-pocketed entrepreneurs who have the money and the sheer will to turn space travel into a real business. Many of them, such as Blue Origin's Bezos and SpaceX's Musk, have already navigated their way through the ups and downs of the dot-com industry — and have made millions for investors in the process.

"These guys see only success, no matter what's in front of them," he said. "They're not normal businessmen and women. ... These guys don't understand defeat. I think you'd be a fool to bet against them."

Livingston predicted that there would be a shake-out in the marketplace, with less successful players quietly fading away. But he expected the survivors to turn a profit, and turn the final frontier into a true destination for tourists. And he predicted that it won't take all that long.

"All of this is going to unfold in two to four years," Livingston said. "So if you have a decent memory, you can hold me accountable for what I'm saying."

© 2006 MSNBC Interactive
URL: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15303947/
 

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Stephen Hawking planning a space flight: report


The acclaimed British physicist Professor Stephen Hawking is planning a flight into space, a newspaper reported, in an interview to mark his 65th birthday.

"This year I'm planning a zero-gravity flight and to go into space in 2009," the scientist, who is most famous for his 1988 international best-seller "A Brief History of Time", told The Daily Telegraph newspaper.

A "zero-gravity flight" is one in which an aeroplane flies in such a way as to render its passengers temporarily weightless, mimicking the conditions in space.

Hawking's trip outside the earth's atmosphere depends on the progress of British tycoon Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic space tourism programme, which aims to carry passengers into low-Earth orbit from next year.

The Daily Telegraph said Sir Richard will sponsor Hawking's mission, waiving the estimated flight cost of 100,000 pounds (148,000 euros, 193,000 dollars).

Hawking, who is the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University -- a post once held by Sir Isaac Newton -- was diagnosed with the muscle-wasting condition motor neurone disease at the age of 22.

He is in a wheelchair and speaks with the aid of a computer and voice synthesizer.

His work has centred on theoretical cosmology and quantum gravity, looking at the nature of such subjects as space-time, the "Big Bang" theory and black holes.

Hawking said he has plans to continue working after the Cambridge retirement age of 67 and has two books in the pipeline: a children's book "George's Secret Key to the Universe" and "The Grand Design", on the philosophy of science.


http://www.physorg.com/news87421299.html
 

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And the Food? Out of This World.

Getting three stars from the Michelin guide just wasn’t enough. Now world-renowned chef Alain Ducasse is taking his stellar cuisine to the starry heavens. In October, the Russian cargo ship Progress left Kazakhstan’s Baikonur cosmo-drome, bound for the International Space Station with 13 Ducasse-created gourmet plates on board. These so-called special-event meals included roasted quail in a Madiran wine sauce, smooth celeriac puree with nutmeg, and semolina cake with dried apricots.

Ducasse isn’t the first space chef - last summer the ISS crew had its mission kicked up a notch by Emeril Lagasse. But that was a one-off; Ducasse plans to launch two new dishes every year. Sealed in aluminum alloy and manganese boxes, the meals will mark special occasions like space walks and crew changes. “My chefs expected this project to be restricting,” Ducasse says. “But they’ve been able to play with lots of products and techniques - with the pleasure of the astronauts as a goal.” Astronaut Thomas Reiter tasted the gastronomic grub aboard the ISS in December and loved it. “But,” he emailed, “we have no doubt that it would taste much better if we had some wine with it!”

- Jason Daley

http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/15.0 ... .html?pg=7
 

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Lift-off for Chinese space potato

Last year's Shenzhou VI mission saw several plant experiments
Entrepreneurs in Shanghai are pushing the city's latest food fad for Valentine's Day - a purple potato grown from seeds taken on a space mission.
The sweet potato seeds were part of experiments on China's second manned space mission, Shenzhou VI, last year.

The potatoes were then grown on the beaches of southern Hainan Island.

Supporters say space-grown produce can be more nutritious and hardier, though sceptics say similar results can be obtained in Earth-bound laboratories.

A Shanghai food and drink association invited 30 local chefs to try out a variety of recipes for the Purple Orchid III potato.

They included salads appetisers, desserts and even an iced drink, the China Daily newspaper reported.

National pride

Restaurants have since cashed in on the Valentine's link by offering them in meals for couples eating out to celebrate the day.

Purple is promoted as a colour of nobility and romance in China.

The manager of the company that grows the potato, Chang Lingen, admitted it was not much different in sweetness and smell, but tasted more "glutinous".

The Shenzhou VI space mission lasted five days in October.

Experiments exposed seeds to radiation, different pressures and weightlessness.

Officials from the space programme, which creates enormous national pride in China, say it has produced a number of mutated fruit and vegetables.




http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/6353403.stm
 

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Completley unrelated, Im doing pizza delivery tommorrow as they are going to be snowed under with orders.

(I know what I would do to a man who thought pizza romantic...)

Whats this nonsense about sensible Chinese celebrating a rather nasty western non festival anyhow?
 

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Branson's spaceport project is blasted as 'a rich man's dream'
By David Usborne in New York
Published: 06 April 2007

A spaceport in the New Mexican desert, which has Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic company as an anchor tenant, has hit unexpected turbulence in the form of local residents.

With backing from the state's Democrat Governor, Bill Richardson, as well as business leaders, construction is meant to begin soon on the 27 square mile (70sq km) facility near Las Cruces, the second-largest city in the state. Indeed, Mr Branson has signed up for a 20-year lease and expects in time to launch three space flights a day.

Last night, however, the project was in the balance as election officials in surrounding Doña Ana County, home mostly to ranchers and sun-seeking retired people, were completing their count after a referendum held on Tuesday seeking approval of a modest increase in sales tax to fund it.

The tax rise is crucial to help top up the roughly $225m (£114m) that will be needed to build Spaceport America. The plans include a 10,000ft (3km) runway for planes big enough to lift spacecraft to an altitude of 60,000ft where they can be released. There will also be a launch pad for vertical rockets and both hangar and terminal facilities.

If it turns out that voters have rejected the tax request, the spaceport will almost certainly be doomed. After the counting of some 17,168 votes last night, those in favour were leading by a mere 238 votes. Meanwhile, another 541 provisional ballots still had to be counted. Two other counties are also set to vote. If Doña Ana votes against, they may not bother trying.

In theory, the Spaceport should be a boon for the area, whichrelies on cotton and chilli farming. Mr Branson alone is planning to relocate Virgin Galactic, with 200 employees, from London to New Mexico. Another British entrepreneur, Steve Bennett, also hopes to use the Spaceport for sending tourists into space.

It seems, however, that catering to the very rich - first flights with Virgin Galactic offering five minutes of weightlessness will cost $200,000 each - does not sit well with residents.

"I do not see any reason that every time I buy a dress for my wife I should have to pay more taxes," said George Gandara, 63, a business owner. Carol Garcia, 52, agreed. "It's just a rich man's dream that he needs us to help pay for. If it's your dream, build it yourself."

The state's head of economic development, Rick Homans, defended the scheme: "On one hand, there is a healthy scepticism and a great deal of caution about the project," he said. "And on the other, there is a lot of optimism for what it could do for the state."

The tycoon has promised to begin flights as early as 2009, taking passengers not exactly into space but at least into very high-altitude excursions that will ensure brief periods of weightlessness. In time, however, he plans to sell trips that will be sub-orbital and eventually will break out of the atmosphere and into space.

http://news.independent.co.uk/world/ame ... 426218.ece
 

Kondoru

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Well, if they dont like it, Im sure there are a lot of third world countries with useless deserts who would love to have a rich man dream for them...
 

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Burt Rutan and Richard Branson Want You to Hit Space in High Style
Spencer Reiss 05.22.07 | 2:00 AM



Don't bother asking muttonchopped aerospace samurai Burt Rutan for a peek behind the 50-foot hangar doors at his Mojave, California, skunk works. He'll show off his new airships "when they're ready to fly," he huffs in an email. With SpaceShipOne, the first private vehicle to carry a human into space, safely berthed at the Smithsonian museum, the next generation is taking shape. According to industry sources, Rutan's Scaled Composites engineering crew has locked down designs and started laying up carbon fiber for two new craft: a supersize SpaceShipTwo plus a reconceived White Knight Two mother ship to haul it aloft.

This is encouraging news for billionaire mogul Richard Branson. His Virgin Galactic spaceline, the front runner in a crowded field of space-tourism initiatives that includes the Jeff Bezos-owned Blue Origin, has ordered five SS2s and two WK2s in a short-term exclusive deal. Rutan's progress is also bound to please the more than 100 wannabe astronauts who have shelled out up to $200,000 each to reserve a seat — Elon Musk of SpaceX among them. Sources expect a rollout early next year, followed by at least 12 months of testing. The first commercial passenger flights into space might start as soon as 2009.

Like its X Prize-winning predecessor, SpaceShipTwo will fling passengers to the edge of space at 3,000 mph. But while the original craft was barely a three-seater, the new version is designed for six passengers and two pilots. New features maximize the wow factor: bigger windows, more room for weightless floating, and Virgin-cool details sprinkled throughout.

The SS2 is simply a bigger version of the original rocket, but the jet-powered WK2 is a total redesign. The first mother ship had a single fuselage. The new one accommodates the expanded ship with twin hulls that hold the SS2 suspended between them. The interior of one hull is a replica of the SS2: Passengers will ride along in training for a full-on space voyage the next day. FAA permitting, the second hull will carry cut-rate day-trippers into the stratosphere. The vehicle is being engineered to perform zero-g aerobatic swoops on the way down.

Meanwhile, Virgin Galactic is busily preparing for customers. Top priority: low-cost space suits. Even a stripped-down high-altitude jet pilot's pressure suit is restrictive enough to kill the fun of going weightless, so Virgin Galactic is putting a premium on comfort. The target price is $20,000 (versus up to $20 million for NASA shuttle crew gear) for a durable unisuit with a pull-on hood for breathing, in the event of accidental cabin depressurization.

Also on the list: a suitably cool ground base. In a burst of cosmic consciousness (and economic self-interest), citizens of New Mexico voted in April for a sales tax to fund Spaceport America, a launch facility on the edge of White Sands Missile Range. Virgin Galactic signed a deal in late 2005 to headquarter its operations there. But $198 million in promised funding so far has amounted to an access road and a small launchpad, with key environmental and FAA certification still to come. Fortunately, the recently christened Mojave Air & Space Port — formerly Mojave Airport — is ready and waiting in California.

But other options are proliferating. Specs for the SS2/WK2 combo call for a 2,600-mile range, which means Virgin Galactic can fly it across the Atlantic in search of launch venues. Spaceport Sweden has already signed on for flights from its Kiruna site — just the place for midwinter jaunts straight into the aurora borealis. The UK's Royal Air Force is offering Lossiemouth base in Scotland, and various Middle Eastern and Asian governments want in. "We'll go where people are," VG president Will Whitehorn says. From there, the sky is the limit.

http://www.wired.com/science/space/maga ... ace_virgin
 

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Firm rockets into space tourism

The whole flight would last one-and-a-half hours


In pictures

The European aerospace giant EADS is going into the space tourism business.
Its Astrium division says it will build a space plane capable of carrying fare-paying passengers on a sub-orbital ride more than 100km above the planet.

The vehicle, which will take off from a normal airport, will give the tourists a three-to-five-minute experience of weightlessness at the top of its climb.

Tickets are expected to cost up to 200,000 euros (£135,000), with flights likely to begin in 2012.

There must be millions of people who have dreamt about this since they were little kids

Marc Newson, designer
"We believe it is the will of human beings to visit space and we have to give them the possibility to do that," said Francois Auque, the CEO of Astrium.

"Astrium is by far the largest space company in Europe, so we are very knowledgeable in all these matters. We believe our concept is extremely safe, extremely comfortable and cost effective," he told BBC News.

Two in one

EADS Astrium is the company that builds the Ariane rocket, which lofts most of the world's commercial satellites. Its space jet is a very different concept, however.


The passengers would get a few minutes of weightlessness
The front end of a full-scale model was unveiled at a publicity event in Paris on Wednesday. From a certain angle, the vehicle resembles an ordinary executive aircraft - but its engineers claim it is in fact "revolutionary".

The production model will use normal jet engines to take off and climb to 12km. From there, a rocket engine will kick the vehicle straight up, taking it beyond 60km in just 80 seconds. By the time the rocket shuts down, the craft should have sufficient velocity to carry it above 100km - into space.

As the plane then begins to fall back to Earth, the pilot will use small thrusters to control its attitude, guiding the vehicle into the atmosphere from where it will use its jet engines again to return to the airport.

The total journey time will be about one-and-a-half hours.

World window

Astrium says there will be room for four passengers on each mission. Towards the top of the climb, these individuals will be able to float free in the cabin and look through large windows at the planet below.

Astrium is proposing a different technical solution to the one being pursued by airline boss Sir Richard Branson and his Virgin Galactic enterprise.


SpaceShipOne was slung beneath a carrier aircraft
Branson's operation - timed to start about 2009 - is basing its vehicles on the record-breaking SpaceShipOne rocket plane which became the first privately built craft to reach space in 2004.

SpaceShipOne had to be carried to a launch altitude by another vehicle before using rocket propulsion; and on its return from space, glided to its home runway. Astrium says its decision to go with a one-stage concept was driven by safety and economic considerations.

The Australian Marc Newson was employed to design the space plane's interior. He said he had put great emphasis on the seats - which he describes as "hi-tech hammocks" - and the windows to maximise the flight experience.

Child's dream

"The windows are very similar to a civilian jet airliner but they're about 30% bigger; but more importantly, there're 15 windows and only four passengers, so there're are plenty of opportunities to float around the interior of this cabin and take different views of space, the stars, the Moon, and the Earth," Mr Newson explained.

"It will be amazing. You'll actually be outside the Earth's atmosphere; you'll be able to see Earth as a spherical object and everything else around you will be black. There must be millions of people who have dreamt about this since they were little kids," he told the BBC.

EADS Astrium says its space jet project is likely to cost a billion euros to develop. It will be looking for financial and industrial partners over the next year. It says that if development work starts in 2008, the first commercial flights could be made in 2012.

"The development of a new vehicle able to operate in altitudes between aircraft (20km) and below satellites (200km) could well be a precursor for rapid transport, point-to-point vehicles, or quick access to space," Astrium said in a statement.

"Its development will contribute to maintaining and even enhancing European competencies in core technologies for space transportation."

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/6749873.stm
 
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