Table of Contents
Spacex Leads the Way Towards Privatized Space Exploration
Commercial Space Travel Takes Flight at Stanford
An Interview With Richard Branson
NASA To Privatize Space Travel After Last Shuttle Lands
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SpaceX Leads the Way Towards Privatized Space Exploration
SpaceX Page 3
Sunday, SpaceX's Dragon flew upwards from Cape Canaveral into history, marking the first privatized supply launch into space. A half-ton of cargo is currently en route to the International Space Station (ISS), and is scheduled to arrive this Wednesday. While perhaps not as glamorous an event as the memorable launch of Scaled Compositesâ€™ SpaceShipOne in 2004, it has a far greater impact on the feasibility of future private Space exploration. Until today, only government agencies have sent cargo to the ISS or anywhere in space. This was one more pivotal step towards real progress and future pioneering capabilities.
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SpaceX Page 5
On the surface, this is nothing more significant than a routine space shuttle docking. However, the accomplishment is one more important milestone towards competitive commercial spaceflight, as opposed to government controlled operations. In 1984, President Reagan signed the Commercial Space Launch Act which first allowed private companies to launch their own satellites without going through NASA by way of the Space Shuttle. In 1990, President Bush signed the Launch Services Act which broke the monopoly of the Space Shuttle by requiring NASA to use commercial providers for their primary payloads when possible.
â€œSince man first walked on
the Moon in 1969, the country and the worlds has been fascinated with space travel and exploration.â€? The Ansari X Prize, which was awarded to Scaled Composites for being the first commercial spaceflight, was what initially drove many companies to focus on the private business of space flight. Investors have begun to see the limitless possibilities of controlling resources and modes of travel unavailable to the vast majority of people on earth.
We are approaching the time of the next pioneer era. Instead of heading west for gold, people may soon be heading to the asteroid belt for exotic minerals not found on earth. Since man first walked on the Moon in 1969, the country and the worlds has been fascinated with space travel and exploration. People had high hopes for reaching the other planets and eventually beyond. Unfortunately, government agencies being what they are, the dreams soon faded as future missions beyond were scrapped in favor of other government pet projects. It is sad that Neil Armstrong died without ever seeing a human step foot on Mars, when we have had the potential to do it for many years now. It is very possible that private companies may soon beat NASA to Mars, especially if the President continues to delay such missions. When that happens, perhaps NASA will become obsolete, or nothing more than a regulatory agency which oversees commercial spaceflight. -Joseph Pharnes
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l e v ra
T e ac
p S l rcia
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If all goes well, private entrepreneurs will launch a vibrant new space industry into lofty heights -- replacing the space shuttle, lowering the cost of reaching orbit, creating a space tourism industry, mining asteroids, and even exploring Mars.
Stanford Page 7
Engineers, economists, future astronauts and top Obama Administration officials gathered at Stanford University on Friday at a â€œSpace Entrepreneurshipâ€? conference, hoping to kindle a new vision for space through privatized spaceflight.
Page 8 Orbit “We are placing our bets on American industry,” said Lori Garver, deputy administrator for NASA. “Cargo flights under way are developing the capability of launching people to space from the U.S. on privately owned and operated rockets over the next three years.”
sponsored the conference. “We hope to bring engineers, economists and policy makers together ... to think through the regulatory barriers that will help develop that sector.” Participants described various efforts in the burgeoning commercial space industry:
Added FAA’s George Nield: “In the next few years, we will see multiple companies on a regular and frequent basis completing suborbital human space flight.”
The Boeing Company and Space Adventures Ltd., based in Vienna, Va., aims to provide transportation services to destinations in low Earth orbit, providing transportation to the International Space Station and future platforms in space. The spacecraft, which can carry seven people, will be able to fly on multiple launch vehicles and will be operational by 2015. There is not yet a price, but NASA’s Garver said it was “a fraction of the cost” of current missions.
President Obama has proposed a sweeping upheaval of NASA’s human spaceflight program, first outlined in his 2011 budget request: canceling the current program that would send astronauts back to the oon and investing in commercial companies to provide transportation to orbit. Rather than operate its own shuttles, NASA would buy space for its astronauts on commercial “space taxis.” NASA would shift its focus to unmanned exploration of the mysteries of deep outer space. The plan has been cheered by many so-called “New Space”advocates, who assert that traditional NASA programs are too big, too expensive and too slow. But major challenges remain. “Commercialization can suddenly become an important and maybe leading part of our space exploration,” said Ward Hanson of the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, the nonpartisan economic policy research organization, which
Bigelow Aerospace, in North Las Vegas, Nev., is assembling the solar system’s first private space station: expandable modules that could hold 36 people. Paying customers would primarily be nations that do not have the funding or expertise to build their own station. A 30-day trip to a Bigelow XCOR Aerospace
Stanford Page 9 station would cost about $25 million a person. Two major companies offer “space tourism.” The Mojave-based Virgin Galactic takes passengers 50,000 feet up on its 1.5-hour flight aboard its “mother ship,” then launches them into outer space at four times the speed of sound -for four to five minutes -before returning to Earth. The company is testing the system now. More than 500 people have already signed up, at $200,000 a seat. Another company, XCOR Aerospace, in Midland, Texas, offers a trip up to 100,000 feet -- the engines turn off after reaching Mac 3.5 -- then passengers coast for several minutes, before gliding back down. A test program starts this summer. It costs $95,000. Companies are also stepping in to launch much smaller and lower-flying satellites, capable of quickly measuring all the agricultural acreage on Earth, for instance. There also is a role for “food trucks” to serve these satellites.
“We are beginning the dialogue of the emerging space sector,” said Stanford aeronautics professor G. Scott Hubbard, who conceived the Mars Pathfinder mission. “It is an American approach to things,” he said. “Entrepreneurship can lead to the future growth of a business ecosystem.” -Lisa M. Kreiger
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Branson Page 11
An Interview With
Richard Branson The founder and chairman of Virgin Group the founder and chairman of Virgin Group, Richard Branson’s newest business venture is to explore space. Through his company Virgin Galactic, he aims to develop tourism into space. We sat down with Mr. Branson to ask him a few questions about Virgin Galactic.
O: Mr. Branson, what made you decide to found Virgin Galactic?
RB: I wanted to create a spaceship where
myself and my children could go into space, and our friends could go into space. The best ideas come from people just wanting to create, like [Google co-founder] Larry Page in his garage just wanted to create a product that he could play with, and then you go and try to make sure that you can pay the bills at the end of the month.If I'd gone to the accountants and said, could you please work out the profit and loss of starting a spaceship company—especially when we didn't even have a spaceship— they would've laughed at me.
O: Do you think space travel should have always been privatized?
RB: If they'd used just a small fraction
of that money as prize money and given it to the best commercial companies, that money would've been far better spent.
O: Why is Space exploration so interesting to you?
RB: I think it just simply goes back to
watching the moon landing on blurry black-and-white television when I was a
teenager and thinking, one day I would go to the moon—and then realizing that governments are not interested in us individuals and creating products that enable us to go into space. In 1995, after making billions of dollars in the music and airline businesses, Mr. Branson registered a new company, Virgin Galactic (the name "sounded good"), at London's Companies House. Then the company started searching for rocket scientists and the right technology. Several years later, in July 2002, Virgin's team traveled to California to check on American aerospace designer Burt Rutan's progress on the Virgin Atlantic Global Flyer, a plane built "to circumnavigate the globe non-stop on a single tank of fuel," according to Virgin's website. Virgin discovered that Mr. Rutan intended to compete for the X Prize with SpaceShip One, the world's first privately developed spacecraft, financed by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. Mr. Branson quickly struck a deal: Virgin would license Mr. Rutan's SpaceShip One technology from Mr. Allen if he won the competition. In 2004, Mr. Rutan did just that, and Virgin Galactic was off to the races. Fast forward to this October, when Mr. Branson and his children Sam and Holly christened Spaceport America, which advertises itself as "the world's first purpose built commercial spaceport" and is located about 55 miles north of Las Cruces, New Mexico. In typical outsize Branson fashion, the 61-year-old rappelled from the ceiling of the hangar—now called the "Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space"—and, while dangling in midair, chugged from a bottle of champagne in front of a large crowd to celebrate.
O: What is Virgin Galactic up to now? RB: We've got just short of 500 people now signed up to go, which is actually
Page 12 Orbit more people than have been up to space in the history of space travel, and we hope to put those up in our first year of operation. The first commercial flight should be by about next Christmas although there have been many delays.
O: Will anyone other than billionaires get to travel into space?
RB: We hope to get the price down so that
hundreds of thousands of people out there will have the chance to become astronauts; not just, you know, a very, very few wealthy people. Tickets today cost $200,000, with deposits starting at $20,000. The Virgin Galactic website enjoins interested parties to "contact one of our Accredited Space Agents around the world."
O: Are you planning to collaborate with NASA at all?
RB: NASA has already purchased a
ticket for a flight, with the intention of conducting experiments in suborbitâ€”and why not? Unlike the old Shuttle program, which had launches a few times a year, scientists could use SpaceShip Two to conduct several experiments a week. NASA is turning itself into a body to contract out to private companies.
O: What's so important about an expensive, suborbital joy ride?
RB: If it was just about the joy ride,
that would be exciting enough in itself. But the fascinating thing about adventures like that" is that when people "push the limits" and see "what they're capable of, other byproducts come that they hadn't even thought of at the time. We can put satellites into space at a fraction of the price that it currently costs. Whereby, for instance, [on] Google, you can see what's going on six months ago, these satellites will be able to see what's going on right now. Mr. Branson, a longtime environmentalist, envisions using the satellites as a kind of celestial Earth-protector to monitor tree cutting in the Amazon, catch and identify ships illegally fishing, and test whether "global warming is a reality or not." (Mr. Branson is a believer in climate change, even if the U.S. still has "skeptics"â€”like "The Wall Street Journal," he quips.)
But it's obviously a great pity from the American taxpayer's point of view that they didn't do that 50 years ago. In future years, we hope that we can turn our technology into very fast intercontinental airline
Branson Page 13 travel. "I can't promise that we're going to pull it off, but we're definitely going to give it a try. And from suborbital we'll definitely be going orbital.
Test flights are scheduled for late 2012. Unlike SpaceShip Two, the Lynx takes off from a runway and doesn't depend on a carrier ship, so it has lower operating costs.
Analysts tell me that Virgin Galactic's mother-ship plane, WhiteKnight Two— which ferries SpaceShip Two aloft and drops it into the atmosphere—is made of light carbon and could have military applications, too. Mr. Branson isn't the only businessman exploring.
O: Could government regulation put a
damper on these private space ventures?
RB: You've got some very innovative
thinking, I think, in government in America. With officials realizing that to start a whole new spaceship industry, they need some flexibility and they don't need to strangle an industry at birth by overregulating.
O: Is Space travel the final frontier for
RB: No it isn’t. Virgin Oceanic plans to
launch a one-person submarine in 2012 to journey to the deepest part of each of Earth's five oceans. And we hope to be going 10,000 foot further down than Everest is high. So it's going to be quite an eerie, six- to seven-hour trip heading down. In jkthe history of mankind only two people ddhave ever been below 18,000 feet and the ocean is twice as deep as that. Someday he wants to build a business like Virgin Galactic, only taking paying customers— so called "aquanauts"—into the ocean's depths, but that's still some way off.
O: What advice does Mr. Branson have for aspiring entrepreneurs?
RB: Think of what frustrates you—and
California's XCOR Aerospace, for instance, is building the Lynx rocket plane, which will also carry passengers and payloads.
if you're frustrated by something and you feel 'Dammit, if only people could do this better,' then go try to do it better yourself. It can start off in a really small way . . . and you'll be surprised: If you're doing it better yourself, in whatever field it is, you'll be filling a gap and you suddenly might start creating a business. -Mary Kissel
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NASA TO PRIVATIZE
SPACE TRAVEL AFTER LAST
How America gets people and stuff into orbit is about to be outsourced in an outof-this-world way. With the space shuttle’s retirement Thursday, no longer will flying people and cargo up to the International Space Station be a government program where costs balloon. NASA is turning to private industry with fixed prices, contracts and profit margins. The space agency will be the customer, not the boss. At least when it comes to the routine part of going to and from the space station, NASA hopes to rely on companies that will be the space version of FedEx and Yellow Cab. The company that has been leading the commercial space race is hoping to launch its privately built rocket and capsule to the space station late this year. It won’t carry astronauts, but if all goes well the unmanned ship will dock with the station and deliver food, water and clothing. And its major private cargo competitor may only be a month or two on its heels. Getting people to orbit on a new American ship is a different story. Some ambitious companies hope to launch astronauts that way in three years, maybe four. Until then, the Russians will fly astronauts on a payfor-play basis. Some space veterans like John Glenn, the first American in orbit, think five to 10 years is more realistic. But two of the major players have surprised people before – the tech tycoons who founded PayPal and Amazon. NASA has hired two companies – Space Exploration Technologies Corp. of Hawthorne, Calif., and Orbital Sciences of Dulles, Va. – to deliver 40 tons of supplies to the space station in 20 flights. The cost is $3.5 billion, about the same price per pound as it was during the space shuttle’s
NASA Page 13 30-year history. “It’s time. Once NASA blazes the trail, creates the technology and it’s available for private companies to take advantage of, this is the time” for the private firms to take over, said NASA commercial cargo chief Alan Lindenmoyer. NASA met on Wednesday with companies wanting to taxi astronauts to the station. The agency hopes the money it saves by not flying the shuttle can be spent on new deep-space missions that will send astronauts to an asteroid and on to Mars. Six private companies are working with NASA to send ships to the space station – either unmanned cargo ships or eventually astronauts in crew capsules. For well more than a decade, boosters of commercial space have said they are ready to take over the job of going into low-Earth orbit on their own nongovernment ships, but hadn’t done it. Now one has: Space Exploration Technologies, which often goes by the name SpaceX and is run by risk-embracing PayPal founder Elon Musk, launched his unmanned Dragon capsule into orbit last December. Now his company is lining up for the first private visit to the space station. The lower and upper stages of the rocket are at Cape Canaveral, Fla. The capsule is almost finished. “What we want to do is get back into space as quickly as possible and as sustainably as possible,” said former astronaut Garrett Reisman, who now runs SpaceX’s “Dragon Rider” program. And maybe a month or two later, Orbital hopes to have its first test flight to the station. First, it has to finish building its launch site at Wallops Island, Va., which should be done in just a few weeks. Then
later this year it will have a test launch of its new rocket, the Taurus II, and finally it will use that new rocket to launch its capsule, Cygnus, to the space station, said company spokesman Barron Beneski. “Just like a person hires FedEx to deliver a package across the country and you pay him 50 bucks, we’re delivering a 2,000-kilogram package to space, a few hundred miles above Earth, for a fixed price,” Beneski said. President Barack Obama described it last week as “a capture-the-flag moment here for commercial spaceflight.” For these companies, it’s also about capturing the cash. NASA will soon be paying the Russians about $63 million for each U.S. astronaut who flies on that country’s Soyuz rocket to the space station. For all the talk of launching soon, George Abbey, former director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center, remains skeptical: “I’m not sure it will happen anytime soon.” Former astronaut Glenn likes the idea; he just doesn’t think it will happen as quickly as the companies do. “To me that’s not all bad,” he said. “The government has always stepped out and done the things that private industry wouldn’t or couldn’t do” and then let companies run it when it is more affordable. He pointed to the Pentagon-inspired Internet. NASA is hoping these companies are ready. Just minutes after Atlantis lifted off on the final space shuttle mission, NASA spokesman Bob Jacobs turned to his counterpart from SpaceX and told him, “It’s your turn now.” -Marcia Dunn