Space Tourism

ramonmercado

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Wyle To Prepare First Passengers For Virgin Galactic Maiden Spaceflight

illustration only
by Staff Writers
El Segundo, CA (SPX) Jul 09, 2007
Virgin Galactic, which expects to become the world's first commercial spaceline, has contracted Wyle to provide chief medical officer, medical data analysis, and program management services to advise and guide the preparation of its first passengers for spaceflight. Wyle's Life Sciences Group, which has more than four decades experience supporting NASA's human space program, provides medical screening and qualification, training, data and risk management, and mission and ground operations support to space transportation providers and operators, spaceports, and regulators through its Commercial Human Spaceflight Services unit.
Virgin Galactic, part of businessman Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group, will fly its passengers on sub-orbital flights aboard its SpaceShipTwo, built by Burt Rutan's Scaled Composites. The first 100 passengers, who have already paid the full $200,000 fare, are referred to as "Virgin Galactic Founders."

The contract places Wyle at the forefront of the evolving commercial human spaceflight industry. While Virgin Galactic's test flight program is scheduled to begin in the latter part of 2008, preparations for its Founders group are already underway through the Wyle contract.

Dr. James Vanderploeg, a senior member of the Wyle team, serves as Virgin Galactic's chief medical officer. In this role Dr. Vanderploeg provides advice and guidance concerning medical history evaluations, training requirements, and protocols and strategies relating to Virgin Galactic's aerospace medical needs.

"Supporting one of the leading proponents of private human space travel is both exciting and professionally rewarding," said Dr. Vanderploeg. "Wyle has the right blend of experience and knowledge to successfully support this rapidly maturing industry."

Virgin Galactic, with plans for its maiden flight in 2009, will initially operate from the Mojave Spaceport in California, eventually establishing its headquarters and moving its U.S. operations to Spaceport America in New Mexico.

"We are delighted to bring Wyle on board the Virgin Galactic team," said Alex Tai, chief operations officer of Virgin Galactic. "It became obvious that they bring invaluable experience and resources into this important element of the program."

Wyle, which recently published a report entitled "Commercial Human Spaceflight Participant Biomedical Data Collection" for the Office of Commercial Space Transportation of the Federal Aviation Administration, is also providing ongoing expertise in the development of Virgin Galactic's medical data management plan.

"We are thrilled to provide our medical and program management expertise to prepare Virgin Galactic's passengers for what I am sure will be the thrill of a lifetime," said Dr. Vernon McDonald, director of Wyle's Commercial Human Spaceflight Services unit. "Our services will ensure their Founders are healthy and well prepared for spaceflight to maximize their overall experience."

Wyle, a privately held company, has been involved in the U.S. manned space program since the early 1960s. It is a leader in providing high tech engineering services, testing and research to commercial, industrial and government customers. The company also provides aerospace services, life sciences, special test systems and other services to the aerospace, defense, nuclear power, communications and transportation industries.

www.space-travel.com/reports/Wyle_To_Pr ... n_999.html
 

WhistlingJack

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Explosion Kills Three at California Airport

Published: July 27, 2007 at 6:34 AM

Explosion kills three at Calif. airport

MOJAVE, Calif., July 27 (UPI) -- An explosion at the Mojave, Calif., airport killed three employees of a private spaceship company and injured another three.


The Thursday afternoon explosion occurred at a remote test site of Scaled Composites, which in 2004 became the first company to send a reusable manned rocket -- SpaceShip One -- into space, as workers were testing the propellant flow system for SpaceShip Two, the Los Angeles Times reported.

"We felt it was completely safe. We had done a lot of these (tests) with SpaceShip One," company founder Burt Rutan said at a news conference.

Rutan said officials don't know why the blast occurred but said the suspected source of the explosion, nitrous oxide, is usually "not considered a hazardous material," the Times reported.

© Copyright 2007 United Press International. All Rights Reserved.
 

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Virgin unveils spaceship designs

Virgin Galactic has released the final design of the launch system that will take fare-paying passengers into space.
It is based on the X-Prize-winning SpaceShipOne concept - a rocket ship that is lifted initially by a carrier plane before blasting skywards.

The Virgin system is essentially a refinement, but has been increased in size to take eight people at a time on a sub-orbital trip, starting in 2010.

Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson said the space business had huge potential.

"I think it's very important that we make a genuine commercial success of this project," he told a news conference in New York.

"If we do, I believe we'll unlock a wall of private sector money into both space launch systems and space technology.

"This could rival the scale of investment in the mobile phone and internet technologies after they were unlocked from their military origins and thrown open to the private sector."

The 'experience'

Virgin Galactic has contracted the innovative aerospace designer Burt Rutan to build its spaceliners. The carrier - White Knight Two (WK2) - is said to be very nearly complete and is expected to begin flight-testing later this year.

SpaceShipTwo (SS2) is about 60% complete, Virgin Galactic says.

Both vehicles are being constructed at Mr Rutan's Scaled Composites factory in California.

The rocket spaceliner will carry two pilot astronauts and six ticketed passengers. They will fly initially from a new facility called Spaceport America in the New Mexico desert.

The journeys will last about two-and-a-half hours from beginning to end.

Passengers on SS2 will climb to an altitude of 110km, from where they will get to experience weightless for a few minutes, and see the curvature of the Earth and the black of space.

Seats cost $200,000. Virgin Galactic says more than 200 individuals have booked, and another 85,000 have registered an interest to fly.

Tens of millions of dollars in deposits have already been taken, the company adds.

Satellite potential

Sir Richard said the launch system would also be made available to industrial and research groups.

"The fact that this system will have the capability to launch small payloads and satellites at low cost is hugely important," he told the launch event at the American Museum of Natural History.

"As far as science is concerned, this system offers tremendous potential to researchers who will be able to fly experiments much more often than before, helping to answer key questions about Earth's climate and the mysteries of the Universe."


Others, such as EADS Astrium, have competing concepts
The designs released on Wednesday are a clear evolution of the concept that won the $10m Ansari X-Prize in 2005 for the first successful, privately developed, sub-orbital human launch-system.

The most obvious difference is the scale. At 18.3m (60ft) in length, SS2 is twice as big as its predecessor.

Virgin Galactic said in a statement: "It incorporates both the lessons learned from the SpaceShipOne programme and the market research conducted by Virgin Galactic into the requirements future astronauts have for their space flight experience.

"It also has built-in flexibility to encompass future requirements for other scientific and commercial applications."

A SS2 simulator is now available to train the pilots.

WK2 is 23.7m-long (78ft). Its wingspan is unchanged at 42.7m (140ft), but it will now sport four Pratt and Whitney PW308 engines.

Virgin Galactic is one of several companies hoping shortly to offer space trips.

Amazon.com entrepreneur Jeff Bezos has his own scheme, as does the Paypal founder, Elon Musk. Even Europe's EADS Astrium, the company that coordinates the manufacture of the Ariane 5 rocket, is developing a commercial suborbital ship.

Currently, the only way to buy a trip into space is to pay for a seat on the Russian Soyuz launcher. Tickets purchased through Space Adventures cost a reported $20m and take the recipient to the International Space Station for a short holiday.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/7205445.stm

Cool video animation link on page.
 

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US space tourist to follow father into orbit
by Staff Writers

Space

Star City, Russia (AFP) Sept 23, 2008
US multi-millionaire businessman and space tourist in training Richard Garriott said Tuesday it was his lifelong dream to go into orbit, following in the footsteps of his astronaut father.
"Every youngster in the world" wants to fly into space, Garriott said at the Star City cosmonaut training centre near Moscow, where he is preparing for an October 12 launch to the International Space Station.

But "growing up with both a father who was an astronaut as well as all of my neighbours who were either astronauts or NASA engineers, that dream sunk in even more deeply," added Garriott, the son of US astronaut Owen Garriott.

Garriot said he had received spaceflight advice from his father, who in 1973 spent two months aboard Skylab, the first orbiting space station, and then returned to orbit aboard the space shuttle 10 years later.

Richard Garriott paid more than 30 million dollars (20 million euros) to be launched into space from Russia's Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, according to Space Adventures, the US-based company that organised his trip.

During his voyage with Russian cosmonaut Yuri Lonchakov and US astronaut Michael Fincke, Garriott will monitor communication systems, according to the Star City training centre.

Garriott, who made his fortune developing computer games, said he hoped to find ways to make space travel profitable and financially self-sustaining.

"As an entrepreneur, I believe strongly that space is a place where businesses can and should be profitable," he said.

With his planned launch, Garriott hopes to join the exclusive club of space tourists who have paid millions to go into orbit.

The five space tourists so far have been American Dennis Tito, South African Mark Shuttleworth, Greg Olsen of the United States, Iranian-born Anousheh Ansari and Hungarian-born Charles Simonyi.
 

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Richard Garriott of course being Lord British, creator of the Ultima series of computer RPG's. Damn they were fantastic games. IV and V were my favourites.
 

ramonmercado

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U.S. space tourist blasts off in Russian rocket
http://www.newsdaily.com/stories/tre499 ... zakhstan/#
By Maria GolovninaPosted 2008/10/12 at 1:18 pm EDT

BAIKONUR, Kazakhstan, Oct. 12, 2008 (Reuters) — U.S. video game magnate Richard Garriott blasted off into space aboard a Russian rocket on Sunday watched by his father, a NASA astronaut who went into space at the height of the Cold War

U.S. space tourist Richard Garriott (L) looks out of a window as Expedition 18 Flight Engineer Yuri Lonchakov works during their launch aboard a Soyuz spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan October 12, 2008. Garriott, a video game developer from Texas, paid $35 million to fly into space alongside U.S. astronaut Michael Fincke and Russian cosmonaut Lonchakov. REUTERS/NASA TV

The Russian Soyuz TMA-13 spacecraft lifted off in clear weather from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on the Kazakh steppes just after 1.00 p.m. (3 a.m. EDT).

A video game developer from Texas, Garriott paid $35 million to fly into space alongside U.S. astronaut Michael Fincke and Russian cosmonaut Yury Lonchakov.

Garriott's father, Owen, watched the blast off through binoculars on an observation platform and Garriott's girlfriend, Kelly Miller, burst into tears.

"I am very happy for him. It is one of the things he really wanted to do," Miller said as others opened Champagne to celebrate the successful launch.

"I can see he is really enjoying it like a little kid in the candy shop," Miller said.

Space officials said the Soyuz rocket had reached orbit safely and would dock with the International Space Station in about two days.

"He made it, he made it into orbit. It is marvelous," said Owen Garriott, a physicist who was selected as an astronaut by NASA for his scientific background. He spent 60 days in space in 1973 and another ten days in 1983.

After 10 days in space Garriott will return to Earth with the ISS's former crew aboard a Soyuz re-entry vehicle, a three-person capsule which has malfunctioned on its last two flights.

In April, a Soyuz capsule landed 420 km (260 miles) off course after explosive bolts failed to detonate before re-entry, sending the craft into a steep descent.

Last year, a Soyuz capsule carrying Malaysia's first astronaut also made a so-called "ballistic" landing, similarly blamed on faulty bolts.

(Editing by Janet Lawrence)
 

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Teddybears go on Space Picnic.

Teddy take-off: bears launched into space
www.space-travel.com/reports/Teddy_take ... e_999.html

CU Spaceflight said the aim of the experiment was to find out which of the four spacesuits, each designed by a different group of students, best insulated the cuddly toys from the -53 degrees Celcius (-63 degrees Fahrenheit) temperatures.
by Staff Writers

London (AFP) Dec 5, 2008
Four teddy bears, fully decked out in custom-made spacesuits, were launched to the edge of space this week as part of a British university experiment.

Blasting off from Cambridge University's Churchill College on Monday, they were attached to a helium balloon and fitted with multiple cameras, a GPS receiver, flight computer and radio for the two-hour nine-minute flight, which saw them rise 30 kilometres (18.8 miles) above sea level.

The spacesuits were designed by local schoolchildren, as part of a project to engage youths in science and engineering, organised by the Cambridge University Spaceflight student club.

CU Spaceflight said the aim of the experiment was to find out which of the four spacesuits, each designed by a different group of students, best insulated the cuddly toys from the -53 degrees Celcius (-63 degrees Fahrenheit) temperatures.

"We want to offer young people the opportunity to get involved in the space industry whilst still at school and show that real-life science is something that is open to everybody," said Iain Waugh, CU Spaceflight's chief aeronautical engineer.

"High altitude balloon flights are a fantastic way of encouraging interest in science. They are easy to understand, and produce amazing results."

A Cambridge University spokeswoman noted: "No treasured possessions were endangered in this experiment."
 

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Virgin Galactic 'mothership' to take first flight
www.newscientist.com/article/dn16268-vi ... light.html
by Rachel Courtland

Virgin Galactic's WhiteKnightTwo is set to take is maiden flight in the next two weeks. The flight will be the first of dozens planned for the high-altitude craft, which could become the first privately-owned vehicle to carry tourists to the edge of space.

The high-altitude plane is designed to loft an eight-passenger craft called SpaceShipTwo to an altitude of 15 kilometres.

There, the spaceship will detach from WhiteKnightTwo and fire a rocket to take passengers some 100 km above the Earth, where they will experience several minutes of zero gravity (see illustration). The pair are scaled-up versions of a carrier plane and spaceship that won the $10 million Ansari X prize for private spaceflight in 2004.

Since WhiteKnightTwo's unveiling in July, the plane has passed engine and runway tests and taken small hops off the ground. The vehicle, which was developed at Scaled Composites in Mojave, California, is now ready to take off, says Virgin Galactic president Will Whitehorn.

"The first flight test will happen very quietly, as these things tend to do, but it will be before Christmas," Whitehorn told New Scientist.

Piloting WhiteKnightTwo may take some finesse. The plane is comparable in size to Boeing's B-29 Superfortress, a heavy, long-range bomber that flew during World War II.

Twisting effect
The craft has two fuselages, each with a cabin, that are connected by a 42-metre-long wing capable of holding 17 tonnes of weight.

"The configuration makes a lot of sense" for carrying heavy payloads, says MIT aeronautical engineer John Hansman.

But as WhiteKnightTwo begins to fly at higher altitudes, pilots might have to watch for effects such as "flutter," where aerodynamic effects exacerbate natural twisting in the wings.

"In very severe cases, you get into an oscillation that actually builds and blows the airplane apart," Hansman told New Scientist. WhiteKnightTwo might be less susceptible to this effect, since it is made of fairly stiff carbon composite, Hansman says.

Glide tests
If WhiteKnightTwo's test flights go well, the firm plans to begin carrying SpaceShipTwo into the air in mid-2009. In its first solo flights, SpaceShipTwo will gently glide back to Earth without firing its rockets, slowly exploring its ability to reach suborbital space.

To ensure safety, WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo may require 100 to 200 test flights before the pair are ready to accept passengers, Whitehorn says.

This testing regime should still put the firm on track to take its first passengers to the edge of space as early as 2010, Whitehorn says.

Virgin Galactic has accumulated some $40 million in deposits from almost 300 interested space farers since the company began selling tickets in 2005.

Climate studies
But the firm will have competition in the suborbital space tourism market. On 2 December, XCOR Aerospace announced it would sell rides on its two-seat spacecraft Lynx for less than half of Virgin's $200,000 ticket.

If WhiteKnightTwo's initial flights go well, the plane will carry atmospheric testing equipment on the rest of its test flights, Whitehorn says.

The equipment, part of a collaboration with the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, will test the air at high altitudes, which are understudied because they are difficult for most aircraft to reach.

The data collected could also help calibrate NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory, which will launch in 2009 to measure carbon dioxide levels in Earth's atmosphere, Whitehorn says.
 

rynner2

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SNP calls for spaceport in Moray

The Scottish National Party is calling for an RAF airbase in Moray to become the UK's first commercial spaceport.

The party's Westminster leader, Angus Robertson, wants Virgin Galactic to use RAF Lossiemouth in his constituency as a base for space tourism.

The base has already been identified by Virgin as a possible location for a commercial space enterprise.

"The prospect of space flight from Scotland is a serious and exciting one," Mr Robertson said.

Virgin Galactic's mothership, which will be used to launch tourists into space, took to the skies over California on Sunday, and the test flight was watched with interest in Moray.

The airbase is more used to accommodating rescue helicopters and Tornado jets, but Mr Robertson thinks there is also room for spaceships.

"Virgin Galactic proposals are an iconic and inspirational opportunity, which would bring technology investment, jobs and tourism, as well as science and educational opportunities," he said.

"I am keen to meet with the science and innovation minister, Lord Drayson, and discuss in detail how this cutting-edge project can be taken forward.

"It would be a mistake to underestimate the tremendous potential of these flights which will probably also launch satellites into orbit, as well as offering tourist flights into near Earth orbit."

Speaking earlier this month, Virgin Galactic president Will Whitehorn said wealthy space tourists could be blasting off from Lossiemouth within five years, but another Scottish airbase and one in south-west England were also suitable.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/7799502.stm
 

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The future first clown in space to advocate for water
www.space-travel.com/reports/The_future ... r_999.html

by Staff Writers
Montreal (AFP) Sept 2, 2009

Cirque du Soleil founder and soon to be space tourist Guy Laliberte will launch an art project promoting access to potable water for all when he blasts off for the International Space Station, he said Wednesday.
The multimedia event is scheduled to start at 1200 GMT on October 9 and will touch 14 cities on five continents, he told a video press conference from Star City, Russia where he has been training for his 12-day stay aboard the orbiting laboratory.

"It will start with the Moon, the Sun and a drop of water," he said, noting the life sustaining powers of water and threats to humanity such as water pollution and melting polar ice.

Water woes are "the greatest challenge currently facing humanity," he said, adding that former US vice president Al Gore, singers Peter Gabriel and Shakira, Canadian environmentalist David Suzuki and astronaut Julie Payette, among others, have agreed to participate in the event from the ground.

The Canadian billionaire is to become the first artist in space and the seventh space tourist to rocket into orbit when he joins the crew of a Soyuz space ship for a September 30 launch to the International Space Station.

A former tightrope walker and fire-eater now dubbed the "first clown in space," he said he also hopes to turn cosmonauts into clowns by urging his Soyuz crew to don red clown noses during the trip.

Born in Quebec, Laliberte in 1984 turned a small acrobatic troupe into a global entertainment empire that now employs 4,000 people and generates 800 million dollars in ticket and merchandise sales annually.

He is now estimated to be worth 2.5 billion dollars, and is ranked 261st richest man in the world by Forbes magazine.
 

escargot

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The 'space clown' blasted off this morning.
£35m it's cost him - yikes.
 

rynner2

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An interesting piece on the rituals that have grown up around Russian space flights:

Russian space flights marked by ritual, tradition
The Associated Press
Tuesday, September 29, 2009

MOSCOW — The launch of a Russian Soyuz rocket Wednesday that will carry Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberte and two other crew members to the International Space Station will be marked by rituals dating back to the pioneering Soviet space missions of the 1960s.

The activities of the astronauts in the days leading up to the launch from Baikonur, located in the bleak Central Asian steppes, are carefully choreographed, with crews repeating many of the mundane activities of their predecessors.

These rituals are thought to bring good luck to missions launched from Baikonur, home of the world's oldest manned space program.

Among the traditions witnessed over the years by reporters for The Associated Press, or reported in the Russian media, are the following:

CARNATIONS FOR YURI: Before leaving for Baikonur, crew members lay red carnations at the monuments of the first Soviet cosmonauts in Star City outside Moscow and visit the office of Yuri Gagarin, the first human in space, and write their names in the visitors' book.

ARRIVAL: Cosmonauts arrive in Baikonur on different planes and without their spouses. They check into the Kosmonavt hotel and walk down the alley where every tree was planted by cosmonauts who successfully returned from space.

MOVIE NIGHT: On the night before the launch, the cosmonauts watch "The White Sun of the Desert," a 1969 comedy about a Russian soldier fighting in Central Asia. On Tuesday, Laliberte and his crew mates posed for journalists in T-shirts with images of the film's main characters.

MUSIC: Before leaving for the launch, the cosmonauts sip champagne and leave their signatures on the doors of their hotel rooms. Then they ride aboard a minibus to the launch pad listening to "Grass Near Home," a 1983 hit of Soviet rock band The Earthlings.

BLESSING: After the Soviet era, black-robed Orthodox priests began to bless each rocket before launch.

SOAKING THE STAND-INS: 30 minutes before the launch, when the main crew is sealed in the spaceship, the cosmonaut's stand-ins, who act as backup for the regular crew, are "soaked" by gulping vodka shots with journalists at a shabby cafeteria near the launch pad.

SOILING THE WHEEL: The cosmonauts get out of the bus near the rocket and urinate on its right rear wheel. The rite dates back to Gagarin himself, who reportedly did not want to soil his space suit during the takeoff.

MASCOT: A mascot,usually a stuffed animal named "Boris," hangs in front of the crew. When the toy begins to float, the cosmonauts know they are approaching near zero gravity.

LANDING: After the landing in Kazakh steppe, the cosmonauts sign their capsule, which is charred by the heat of re-entry, and drink a bottle of vodka stashed before the launch. After a helicopter ride to Baikonur, they plant a tree near the Kosmonavt hotel.

RETURN TO MOSCOW: Upon their return to Star City outside Moscow, they pay a final visit to Gagarin's monument and go to the church of St. Prince Daniil of Moscow, where they kiss the saint's relics.

http://www.dailyadvance.com/news/world/ ... 65129.html
 

Xanatic_

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Kind of jarring to see something scientific like space travel being mixed with silly rituals and religion.
 

Timble2

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Since we've now got a clown in space, do you think we could persuade them to push him out of the airlock (without a spacesuit)? That'd make me laugh.... :twisted:
 

rynner2

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Very long article..

Your flight is now departing from space terminal 1: The amazing story behind Branson's Virgin Galactic project
By Angus Batey
Last updated at 10:44 PM on 5th June 2010

This is Sir Norman Foster's Virgin Galactic terminal building in the New Mexico desert: like the futuristic aircraft ready to shuttle tourists to the edge of our atmosphere, it is about to move from technical drawing to reality. Angus Batey reports on the final leg of Sir Richard Branson's most spaced-out venture yet

...

Virgin Galactic is very close to realising the dream of making travel to the edge of space available to ordinary people - and those customers with £140,000 to spare are going to double the number of the world's astronaut corps almost overnight.
'New Mexico passed the legislation in March to allow for informed consent of participants,' stresses Will Whitehorn, Virgin Galactic's MD.

'As of now, under U.S. law these people are participating in this space programme. They're astronauts - it's a legal reality. There's been just over 500 people in space since 1961 - we hope to carry 500 in our first year.'

etc...

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/moslive ... oject.html
 

ramonmercado

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'Space hotel' plan unveiled in Russia
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-11440701

View out of the International Space Station, over the Caspian Sea Hotel guests would view the Earth 'through large portholes', the company said

A Russian company has unveiled an ambitious plan to launch a "cosmic hotel" for wealthy space tourists.
Continue reading the main story
“Start Quote

The hotel should be comfortable inside, and it will be possible to look at the Earth through large portholes”

End Quote Sergei Kostenko Orbital Technologies

Orbital Technologies says its "comfortable" four-room guest house could be in orbit by 2016, Russia's RIA Novosti news agency reports.

Guests would be ferried to the hotel on a Soyuz shuttle of the type used to transport cosmonauts to the International Space Station (ISS).

The Moscow-based firm did not reveal how the hotel would be built or funded.

Up until now space tourists, such as American businessman Dennis Tito, have squeezed into the cramped ISS, alongside astronauts and their experiments.

The new hotel would offer greater comforts, according to Sergei Kostenko, chief executive of Orbital Technologies.
High flyers

"Our planned module inside will not remind you of the ISS. A hotel should be comfortable inside, and it will be possible to look at the Earth through large portholes," he told RIA Novosti.
Continue reading the main story
Related stories

* 'Space hotel' test craft launched
* Roll-out for Branson's spaceliner
* Human spaceflight goes commercial

The hotel would be aimed at wealthy individuals and people working for private companies who want to do research in space, Mr Kostenko said.

It would follow the same orbit as the International Space Station.

The first module would have four cabins, designed for up to seven passengers, who would be packed into a space of 20 cubic metres (706 cubic feet).

Mr Kostenko did not reveal the price of staying in the hotel.

However he did say that food would be suited to individual preferences, and that organisers were thinking of employing celebrity chefs to cook the meals before they were sent into space.

It is not clear how the "cosmic hotel" would be built, but the company's website names Energia, Russia's state-controlled spacecraft manufacturer, as the project's general contractor.

Energia builds the Soyuz capsules and Progress cargo ships which deliver crew and supplies to the ISS.
Safe haven
Continue reading the main story
“Start Quote

Why Russia would spend the required funds is a compelling question”

End Quote Jim Oberg Space consultant

Mr Kostenko said that "a number of agreements on partnership have already been signed" with Energia and the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos).

The project has Russian and American investors willing to inject hundreds of millions of dollars, he added.

Alexey Krasnov, head of manned space missions at Roscosmos, told the Associated Press news agency the proposed hotel could provide a temporary haven for the crew of the ISS, in case of an emergency.

However, doubts about the project were raised by Jim Oberg, a Houston-based space consultant and expert on the Russian space program.

"Why Russia would spend the required funds is a compelling question that has significant implications for its future commitment to the ISS," he told AP.

This latest plan is not the first time a space hotel has been mooted.

In 2009 the Barcelona-based architects of The Galactic Suite Space Resort said their orbiting hotel was on target to accept its first paying guests by 2012.

In 2007, Genesis II, an experimental spacecraft designed to test the viability of a space hotel, was successfully sent into orbit by Bigelow Aerospace, a private company founded by an American hotel tycoon.
 

ramonmercado

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Vid at link.

Gliding spaceship brings space tourism closer
http://www.newscientist.com/blogs/short ... eflig.html
13:10 11 October 2010


Paul Marks, chief technology correspondent
VirginG.jpg

(Image: Virgin Galactic)

SpaceShipTwo, the craft in which Virgin Galactic hopes to fly more than 370 paying space tourists to suborbital altitudes, made its first solo unpowered flight on 10 October - in a flight test designed to assess its performance when returning to Earth.

Slung between the twin fuselages of the carbon-fibre, four-engined WhiteKnightTwo mothership, SpaceShipTwo - named the VSS Enterprise - was carried to an altitude of 13.7 kilometres (45,000 feet). Then, using a novel release mechanism developed by Mojave, California based Scaled Composites, the maker of both the aircraft and the spacecraft, SpaceShipTwo was released to fly alone for the first time.

Video footage shows a smooth release and a seemingly trouble-free glide back to a landing at Mojave Air and Space Port in California. Much post-flight analysis remains to be performed, but Virgin and Scaled Composites say the release mechanism, handling, and flight controls appear to have worked as they were designed and simulated to.

"The VSS Enterprise was a real joy to fly," reports Peter Siebold, one of yesterday's test pilots and a veteran of the the Ansari X-Prize winning SpaceShipOne campaign. "Especially when one considers the fact that the vehicle has been designed not only to be a Mach 3.5 spaceship capable of going into space but also one of the worlds highest altitude gliders."

Further tests need to be done before the paying public can venture aboard, however, and they will be riskier.

In an actual suborbital space shot, SpaceShipTwo will be released, point its nose upward and then fire its novel hybrid rocket motor when it's clear of WhiteKnightTwo. Reaching speeds of 3.5 times the speed of sound, it will soar to a target suborbital altitude of 100 kilometres, as did its much smaller predecessor, SpaceShipOne.

The motor is dubbed a hybrid because it burns both gaseous and solid propellants: nitrous oxide gas ferociously oxidises a solid rubber-like fuel. But no-one has built a such a large hybrid rocket before - and a major accident highlighted the risks in 2007.

George Whitesides, until recently chief of staff at NASA, and now CEO of Virgin Galactic, says: "Our challenge going forward will be to complete our experimental program, obtain our Federal Aviation Administration licence and safely bring the system into service at Spaceport America in New Mexico."

On the ground, things are moving fast, too: an inauguration ceremony for the Spaceport America runway is due to be held on October 22.
 

rynner2

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British pilot unveiled as first captain of Virgin Galactic space flights
A British pilot is set to fulfil his childhood dream by becoming the first captain to fly tourists into space.
7:00AM BST 02 Aug 2011

David Mackay, 53, will be the chief pilot for Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic when it begins the first sub-orbital space flights by 2013.

More than 400 passengers have already paid £125,000 for the privilege of a weightless flight 100km above the earth's surface.

Mr Mackay, of Salisbury, Wilts., has held a lifelong ambition to a space pilot after watching the 1969 moon landings on TV as a schoolboy.
He said: ''I was a frustrated astronaut all my life. I grew up at a time when space seemed to have no boundaries and lots of us presumed humans would be living on the moon and landing on Mars.
''When I was 12, I saw the Apollo moon landings and I thought that was really fantastic and exciting and thought that's what I want to do.
''I found out that those astronauts were ex-test pilots, so I rather ambitiously decided that I would join the RAF, become a test pilot, then become an astronaut.''

Mr Mackay has temporarily swapped his home for the Mojave Desert testing ranges in California taking test flights in Virgin's WhiteKnightTwo 'mothership'.
He spent 16 years with the RAF before joining Virgin Atlantic in 1995, working as a captain with Virgin Atlantic.
Mr Mackay is one of four pilots selected to become Virgin Galactic test pilots working with the development team at Virgin's Spaceport centre in the US.

The WhiteKnightTwo is a jet-powered cargo aircraft which will be used to launch the SpaceShipTwo spacecraft carrying commercial passengers.
Mr Mackay said his experience made him the obvious choice to be the first pilot to take tourists into space.
He added: ''I've been involved with it for a long time. There's quite a bit of test flying to be done yet.
''So by the time it comes to the first commercial flight I will be as experienced as anybody on the project, so it makes sense for the most experienced people to be on that first flight.''

It will take about an hour for the mothership to reach an altitude of 50,000ft before the spacecraft it is carrying is launched.
The spaceship will then fire its rocket motor and accelerate to 2,500mph in less than a minute as it leaves the atmosphere.

Describing what the passengers will experience, Mr Mackay said: ''It will be close to 4g acceleration which is a huge push in the back.
''So it will be a very exciting rocket ride, it will last about a minute and they will be pinned back into their seats.
''There will be a bit of noise and vibration so they'll definitely know they are on their way into space.''

Once the ship is 360,000ft above the planet, passengers will be allowed to unstrap their seatbelts and experience weightlessness.
They will see the Earth from above before the craft makes its return in the three-and-a-half hours journey.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/spac ... ights.html
 

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Almost there.



$7M spaceport runway extension OK'd
http://www.physorg.com/news/2012-03-7m- ... n-okd.html
March 30th, 2012 in Space & Earth / Space Exploration

This Oct. 22, 2010, image shows Virgin Galactic's White Knight Two mothership on the runway at Spaceport America in Upham, N.M. The nearly two-mile-long runway at Spaceport America in southern New Mexico will have to be extended to accommodate Virgin Galactic's sleek rocket-powered spacecraft, spaceport officials confirmed Thursday March 29, 2012. (AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan, File)

(AP) -- The nearly two-mile-long runway at Spaceport America in southern New Mexico will have to be extended to accommodate Virgin Galactic's sleek rocket-powered spacecraft, spaceport officials confirmed Thursday.
New Mexico Spaceport Authority board members voted during a regular meeting Wednesday to extend the runway by another 2,000 feet. Spaceport America is the world's first terminal, hangar and runway built specifically for commercial space travel.

Virgin Galactic, which will be the spaceport's anchor tenant, determined through a battery of test flights and simulations that more room would be needed for landings under certain circumstances.

"It's really being done for safety," spaceport spokesman David Wilson said. "It was a guess until they started dropping it and simulating and doing different scenarios, how this thing was going to behave on the runway. This is all a product of the testing and the characteristics of the vehicle."

Backed by British billionaire Richard Branson, the commercial space line has been developing its craft and rocket engines in California's Mojave Desert. The company plans to begin moving into the hangar and terminal facility later this year, and the runway extension is not expected to cause delays.
The runway was dedicated by Branson and other officials in October 2010 with much fanfare.

Stretching across a flat dusty plain 45 miles north of Las Cruces, the runway is designed to support almost every aircraft in the world, day-to-day space tourism flights and payload launch operations. It is 42 inches thick and includes a 14-inch layer of concrete.

The extension will cost $7 million, Wilson said. Money will be reassigned within the spaceport's $209 million taxpayer-financed budget to absorb the cost of the change.

Designing the extension will take six to eight months.

Virgin Galactic has said rocket testing is continuing and commercial flights are at least a year away.

Wilson said the extension did not come as a surprise to spaceport board members. As part of the agreement Virgin Galactic had with New Mexico to build the spaceport, any technical changes that resulted from development of the spaceship technology would have to be accommodated by the state.
One scenario considered was if the rocket ship's engines did not fire. That would require the craft to glide back to the spaceport, loaded with unburned fuel. That would mean the craft would be heavier and would require more room to land.

Other factors involve New Mexico's altitude and high temperatures, which make the air thinner.

"That dictates longer runways," Wilson said.

Branson and Virgin Galactic officials have said repeatedly that everything possible will be done to ensure safety once commercial flights begin.
Unlike experimental programs run by NASA, Wilson said Spaceport America and Virgin Galactic are based on business models and investments.
"Obviously safety has to be at the highest level, especially when you're talking about commercial passenger service," he said.

Branson announced last week that Virgin Galactic had netted its 500th customer, actor Ashton Kutcher. Others include Hollywood types, international entrepreneurs, scientists and space buffs.

At $200,000 a ticket, the space tourists get a 2 1/2-hour flight with about five minutes of weightlessness and views of Earth that until now only astronauts have been able to experience.
 

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New Rocket Plane to Begin Space Tourist Launches in 2014
http://www.space.com/16071-xcor-lynx-sp ... urism.html
by Denise Chow, SPACE.com Staff Writer
Date: 08 June 2012 Time: 11:11 AM ET

An artist's rendition of XCOR Aerospace's Lynx space plane high above the Earth. Roughly the size of a small private airplane, the craft is designed to make several flights a day into a zero-gravity environment.
CREDIT: Mike Massee/XCOR

NEW YORK — Thrill seekers looking for the ultimate rocket ride may soon turn that dream into a reality aboard a new suborbital spaceship, a winged rocket plane slated to start launching space tourists from California and a tiny Caribbean island by 2014.

The Mojave, Calif.-based XCOR Aerospace is developing the suborbital Lynx space plane to carry paying passengers to the upper reaches of the atmosphere, to altitudes up to and exceeding 62 miles (100 kilometers). XCOR is aiming to begin operational Lynx flights from California's Mojave Spaceport in 2013 and from the Dutch-controlled island of Curacao in the Caribbean a year later, said Andrew Nelson, XCOR's chief operating officer.

XCOR officials unveiled their launch targets Thursday (June 7) during a news briefing here to announce a new partnership with Space Expedition Corporation (SXC, formerly Space Expedition Curacao), a Netherlands-based space tourism firm that will now act as the sales agent for future Lynx flights. The swanky event was held at the Park Avenue Armory, where artist Tom Sachs is currently showcasing his "Space Program: Mars" art installation on Manhattan's Upper East Side.

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As part of the agreement, SXC will be responsible for selling seats aboard the Lynx space plane for flights departing from Mojave and from the picturesque island of Curacao, a territory that remains under the Kingdom of the Netherlands. [Photos: XCOR Aerospace's Lynx Space Plane]

"Today, we are at the dawn of a new space age," Nelson told an audience that included officials from Curacao and the Mojave Spaceport, and Michael Lopez-Alegria, a former NASA astronaut and the current president of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation. "The old ways of government-designed space exploration are slowly drifting away, and a new commercial space industry is being born right before you."

XCOR's two-seat Lynx space plane is designed to carry one pilot and one passenger, making it an intimate and extremely personal journey, he added. The reusable vehicle will be capable of flying up to four flights per day, and is able to take off and land on a conventional airport runway.

"Ladies and gentlemen, the saying 'the sky is the limit' is something of the past," said Abdul Nasser El Hakim, Curacao's Minister of Economic Development. "In Curacao, we say 'the space is the limit.'"

Watchmaker Luminox also recently announced a partnership with SXC to provide special timepieces for the firm's space tourists. The watches are being developed to withstand the G-forces that will be encountered during the flight.


A ride aboard Lynx will retail at $95,000, company officials said, which includes the cost of pre-flight training sessions to prepare passengers for the experience. While this may seem like a steep ticket price, it is still cheaper than the company's competitors, such as Virgin Galactic's $200,000 price tag for a seat aboard its SpaceShipTwo suborbital rocket plane.

Virgin Galactic is expected to carry out a series of critical tests later this year and could begin flying paying customers by the end of 2013, company officials have said.

By providing lower cost suborbital flights, XCOR and SXC are hoping to make commercial spaceflight more accessible to the public, said Michiel Mol, CEO of Space Expedition Corporation. XCOR and SXC together have taken over 175 reservations from clients eager to launch aboard the Lynx spacecraft.

"It's becoming available to all," Nelson of XCOR said. "Space, in a certain era, was something you saw and you were amazed [by], but perhaps you didn't feel like you were really going to be the one to participate in. But now, we can transfer ourselves into the faces and the names and the sights that we're seeing develop in front of us. I think it's going to revolutionize the way we view space, the way we approach space, the way we create new industries."

And as the development of commercial suborbital and orbital vehicles continues at an aggressive pace, the possibilities for this burgeoning private industry are limitless, said Rick Searfoss, a former NASA astronaut and space shuttle commander, and XCOR's chief test pilot.

"The world, in general, doesn't realize how quickly it will be upon us," Searfoss said. "We just don't know — we cannot imagine what this might lead to. Who knows where we might go, where we might be 20 to 30 years from now?"
 

Kondoru

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Well, thats just within my price range, if only dad wasnt giving it to charity. (and hes so healthy anyway.)
 

tastyintestines

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You've given plenty of reasons why he is in correct mind to not give you a dime.
 

Mythopoeika

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tonyblair11 said:
You've given plenty of reasons why he is in correct mind to not give you a dime.

:lol:

Maybe that's why he's giving it to charity.
 

Kondoru

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So just what is wrong with space travel these days?
 

Mythopoeika

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Kondoru said:
So just what is wrong with space travel these days?

Not enough funding for big projects, I think.
It's good that private enterprise is getting involved, in spite of some of the crazy ideas.
 

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Space Tourist Trips to the Moon May Fly on Recycled Spaceships
http://www.space.com/16367-private-moon ... almaz.html
Rob Coppinger, SPACE.com ContributorDate: 29 June 2012 Time: 01:36

Excalibur Almaz Reusable Return Vehicle.
CREDIT: Excalibur Almaz

Space tourists may soon be able to pay their own way to the moon onboard old Russian spacecraft retrofitted by a company based in the British Isles.

The spaceflight firm Excalibur Almaz estimates that it can sell about 30 seats between 2015 and 2025, for $150 million each, aboard moon-bound missions on a Salyut-class space station driven by electric hall-effect thrusters.

Excalibur Almaz founder and chief executive officer Art Dula estimates it will take 24 to 30 months to develop the remaining technology needed and to refurbish the ex-Soviet spacecraft and space stations the company already owns. It bought four 1970s-era Soviet Almaz program three-crew capsules and two Russian Salyut-class 63,800-pound (29,000 kilograms) space station pressure vessels.

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Declaring that he is ready to sell tickets and that a 50 percent return on investment could be achieved in three years, Dula told the Royal Aeronautical Society's third European space tourism conference on June 19, "At $100 million to 150 million [per seat, we can sell] up to 29 seats in the next 10 years, and that is a conservative estimate. We [chose] not to use, for this presentation, the aggressive estimates." [Gallery: Private Space Stations of the Future]

Those conservative and aggressive estimates are from a market study entitled "Market analysis of commercial human orbital and circumlunar spaceflight" carried out for Excalibur Almaz by the management consultancy Futron. In 2009, Excalibur Almaz officials told SPACE.com the company's first flight would be in 2013.

Recycling spacecraft

The architecture for the lunar mission involves a Soviet Almaz Reusable Return Vehicle (RRV), which can carry three people, launched by a Soyuz-FG rocket. This rocket also launches Russia's Soyuz manned capsule. The RRV weighs 6,600 pounds (3,000 kg) and has a habitable volume of 159 cubic feet (4.5 cubic meters). The lunar flight also uses a Salyut-class 63,800-pound (29,000 kg) space station that is launched by a Proton rocket. While Excalibur Almaz intends to use the Soyuz-FG and Proton initially, Dula did not rule out using other rockets, including Space Exploration Technologies' (SpaceX) Falcon 9 in the future. Dula said Excalibur Almaz would wait for the Falcon 9 to accumulate enough flights that it became feasible to insure the space station module aboard the rocket.

"Our customers are private expedition members and I think it is fundamentally different to tourism," Dula said. "What we are offering [with the lunar flight] is more like expeditions."

Once in orbit, the station and RRV will dock and the station's propulsion system, which is a group of electric hall-effect thrusters, propels the stack out to the moon. Excalibur Almaz is in talks with Natick, Mass.-based Busek Space Propulsion to develop the hall-effect thrusters needed. Dula described an electric system for the station module that would use up to 100,000 watts of power for its thrusters. If a solar or cosmic radiation event threatened a flight's crew and passengers, the company could run power through "electrical lines around the station and keep most of the charged articles away — protons you can keep out with an electrical field." He also said the station would have a refuge area crew and passengers could use to protect against radiation storms.

In addition to electric thrusters to propel a space station to the moon, Excalibur Almaz must pay for the development of digital flight-control computers, life support systems and an in-space propulsion system. Dula indicated that his company has spent about $150 million on the in-orbit space propulsion module.

"The cost is say $250 million; we already have much of the nonrecurring expense [engineering research and development] paid for this," he said. This propulsion system is based on the European Space Agency's Automated Transfer Vehicle's propulsion module. EADS Astrium is a contractor for Excalibur Almaz. Another contractor is Russian military and industrial joint stock company Mashinostroyenia.


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EA space station concept illustration. Photo released June 1, 2011.
CREDIT: Excalibur Almaz
View full size image
Building on the past

Dula emphasized the investment by the Soviet Union that Excalibur Almaz was able to leverage. "We already have a proven [RRV] emergency escape system that's operated nine times and one time in an actual failure, a real test and it worked," he said. "We have reissued all the drawings for this emergency escape system to modern standards, they are ready to be built and we have a cost estimate for the first ten units."

According to Excalibur Almaz, the Almaz program saw nine unmanned RRV test flights and use of the spacecraft for ferrying equipment and cargo to the Almaz space stations. The RRVs were in orbit for up to 175 days, and while docked with the station they were occupied to validate the life support system. While the RRVs spent time in only low-Earth orbit, the heat shield is designed to cope with the greater heat experienced from a moon-return trajectory.

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Dula said that the RRV capsules can be reused up to 15 times each, according to their Russian manufacturer. "We performed technical feasibility studies of the RRV and their subsystems as well as launch vehicle compatibility and the overall program architecture," he told the Society's conference audience. [The 5 Most Promising Private Spaceships]

Dula also said that his space transportation system could be used by individuals, governments and private companies that wanted to conduct research or bring metals back from near earth objects, such as the billionaire backed Planetary Resources firm plans to do. He added that where governments wanted to operate on the moon, Excalibur Almaz could deliver a telecommunications satellite that would serve the moon from a Lagrange point 2 orbit and gave a price of $75 million. The L2 location is 930,000 miles (1.5 million kilometers) from Earth, away from the sun.

The company also plans to offer other lunar Lagrange point services, such as deep space technology testing for $150 million per mission, and payload delivery to the lunar surface for $350 million. For lunar payload delivery, Excalibur Almaz is researching momentum transfer using tethers. Momentum from the 63,800-pound space station orbiting the Earth would be transferred to the payload using a tether and that payload would then be propelled to the moon.


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Excalibur Almaz Lunar Cycler concept art.
CREDIT: Excalibur Almaz
View full size image
Wider plans

In terms of Excalibur Almaz's wider business plans, Dula said, "we've got unmanned research missions, human transportation and tourism. We have commissioned market studies. We have never announced these before. We have a complete business plan for cargo deliveries for the International Space Station, we just haven't released it." He added that if NASA reopened bids for supplying International Space Station cargo, he would respond.

For low-Earth orbit missions, Dula said the RRVs and space stations could each be worth about $35 million per year in advertising revenue alone, according to studies paid for by Excalibur Almaz. He also confidently said of his Futron report, "There is a market for commercial dedicated unmanned scientific research missions. One of our capsules may well be dedicated to such missions." He priced this service at $225 million and added that a manned scientific research mission would cost $495 million.

Dula is not the first to offer commercial unmanned spacecraft science missions. SpaceX is planning its DragonLab service, the first of which the company's website launch manifest states will occur in 2014. SpaceX's DragonLab fact sheet does not list any prices. For these missions, Excalibur Almaz would use a new module, which is being developed with the help of EADS Astrium. On its website, Excalibur Almaz describes a service module, which is used for storing consumables and acts as a habitation area, and a cargo module that can deliver up to 22,000 pounds (10,000 kg) of cargo.


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Excalibur Almaz artist's conceptual cutaway drawing of the proposed space station. Image released June 1, 2011.
CREDIT: Excalibur Almaz
View full size image
Crew transport

For crew transport to low-Earth orbit, Dula said that NASA was distorting the market by paying $63 million per seat, but that his company is still part of NASA's Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) program with a nonfunded space act agreement. Dula said that Excalibur Almaz had achieved all of its CCDev milestones on time and on budget so far.

Because of the international nature of its work, with Excalibur Almaz based on the British-dependent territory of the Isle of Man, located between Britain and Ireland, using Soviet technology, and European and potentially U.S. expertise, the company has sought the necessary approvals. "We have the state department license required to work with American, European, Russian contractors to refurbish these systems. And we have the export licenses from the Russian Federation," said Dula.

The Isle of Man-headquartered company is subject to the U.K.'s Outer Space Treaty law. The U.K. Space Agency does not have any manned spaceflight rules but has talked about developing them because of suborbital spaceline Virgin Galactic. Virgin Galactic, owned by Sir Richard Branson's Virgin group, is a U.K. company. Despite its U.S. arm, Virgin Galactic LLC, which conducts the suborbital flights, Branson's firm is still expected to obtain U.K. launch licenses. Of one thing Dula is certain, "If you don't have an escape system, you will never get a license from the British space agency."
 

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Dont tempt me.

(but where will I get a spacesuit from?)
 

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Asteroid miners to hitch a ride with Virgin Galactic
http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn2 ... actic.html

12:30 13 July 2012 by Paul Marks

Billionaire-backed Planetary Resources, the company that in April announced ambitious plans to mine space rocks for minerals, will hitch a ride with space tourism company Virgin Galactic.

The new union is a sign that the nascent commercial space-flight industry could soon become self-sustaining. It was prompted by LauncherOne, a low-cost satellite-launching rocket that Virgin founder Richard Branson revealed on 11 July at the Farnborough International Airshow, UK.

Virgin Galactic, headquartered in Las Cruces, New Mexico, is best known for its plans to ferry paying tourists to the edge of space. The idea is to take the tourist-carrying SpaceShipTwo rocket to an altitude of 7 kilometres using aircraft WhiteKnightTwo. SpaceShipTwo will then be dropped so it can fire its engine and climb to an altitude of 100 kilometres – giving passengers a 5 minute spell in microgravity and an out-of-this-world view. An air launch means the rocket itself does not have to push through the densest part of the atmosphere, making the launch extremely fuel efficient.

The idea behind LauncherOne is to use the same process to launch satellites. From 2016, Virgin plans to sling LauncherOne beneath WhiteKnightTwo in place of SpaceShipTwo for satellite launches.

Satellite shake-up

Branson says small satellites with masses up to 225 kilograms will be able to reach orbit for about $10 million – "two to five times less" than a regular satellite launch costs.

The low cost is attractive to Planetary Resources, headquartered in Seattle, Washington, which announced its partnership with Virgin at the same air show. It plans to use LauncherOne to send up 10 satellites a year, each weighing about 50 kilograms. These will be capable of spotting asteroids of between 50 and 500 metres across that have a reflectivity suggesting they are potentially rich in minerals.

Planetary Resources co-founder Eric Anderson says Virgin's satellite launcher is more attractive than that of Orbital Sciences Corporation of Dulles, Virginia, which also offers air-launched rockets – but for satellites of up to about 1500 kilograms. "They are bigger rockets and cost ten times more than Virgin is planning," Anderson says.

Because Planetary Resources plans to start launching its satellites in one-and-a-half to two years time, however, it may have to begin without Virgin, later switching. "If Virgin aren't ready – we'll launch anyway," says Anderson.

Asteroid warning

The asteroid-hunting satellites are just a first step in Planetary Resources' plan to mine asteroids. When the satellites find promising candidates, a second fleet of reconnaissance spacecraft will examine them at close quarters. Eventually, craft yet to be developed will then mine them. In the meantime, the asteroid-hunting satellites will be able to double up as an early warning system for potentially dangerous asteroids, says Anderson.

Alan Stern, a former head of NASA's space science programme and chief scientist at lunar mining start-up Moon Express, based in Mountain View, California, is impressed by the way the commercial space firms are working together so soon: "This is a sign of a maturing commercial space economy, with business to business deals now proliferating. It is highly promising."

Planetary Resources aren't the only ones to have paid Virgin deposits for launches on LauncherOne. So have environmental monitoring start-up GeoOptics of Pasadena, California and satellite imaging firm SkyBox of Mountain View. What's more, Surrey Satellite Technology in Guildford, UK, plans to customise microsatellites called CubeSats for cheap launches in the Virgin system, according to founder Martin Sweeting.
 

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From that article:
Planetary Resources' chief engineer is Chris Lewicki, Nasa's former Mars mission manager, or as Anderson describes him: "The guy who landed three spacecraft on Mars."

He says: "They've done all this before. Actually, what they did was much harder, they had to land on a planet that's got an atmosphere, is rotating and is hard to see [because of the atmosphere].

That seems to imply that the rotation of an asteroid would be a trivial consideration. I suspect that the rotation of many asteroids would be a major- problem; any asteroid smaller than York Minster would be rotating and tumbling so fast that you would be thrown off the surface sooner or later. This would make exploiting the smaller, more numerous rocks quite challenging.
 
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