Personal Spaceflight: Web Articles

Orbital Technologies and RSC Energia to Launch World's First Commercial Space Station - Orbital Technologies

"Private Russian company and lead contractor for the Federal Space Agency of the Russian Federation collaborate to commercialize space."  This facility appears to be on a path to compete with the Bigelow Space Station concept, but apparently on a smaller scale.  The competition heats up.  

Public Offerings for Space Travel | R&D Mag

Space tourism has already enjoyed a nearly 10-year run with steady business (only seven customers, but at $20-35 million apiece). Most of us will never get the opportunity, but we might be able to soon own a piece of the action if space entrepreneur Elon Musk is ready for shareholder meetings. Camille Ricketts of the blog Green Beat thinks it’s one way for the entrepreneur to keep the wheels turning and the rockets burning on his high-flying SpaceX and Tesla ventures.

Entrepreneurs Enter the Commercial Space Race | NYTimes.com

At the Bigelow Aerospace factory here, the full-size space station mockups sitting on the warehouse floor look somewhat like puffy white watermelons. The interiors offer a hint of what spacious living in space might look like.

“Every astronaut we have come in here just says, ‘Wow,’ ” said Robert T. Bigelow, the company founder. “They can’t believe the size of this thing.”  Four years from now, the company plans for real modules to be launched and assembled into the solar system’s first private space station. Paying customers — primarily nations that do not have the money or expertise to build a space program from scratch — would arrive a year later.

An Inflatable Space Station

6 Private Companies That Could Launch Humans Into Space | Space.com

"The era of private spaceflight is breaking new ground with the first test launch of the new Falcon 9 rocket by the company Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), which hopes to use the booster to fly its Dragon spaceship on space station trips. And with NASA's space shuttles retiring this year, SpaceX is not alone in the bid to launch cargo and astronauts into space.  NASA has tapped SpaceX and another company – Virginia's Orbital Sciences – to build unmanned cargo ships to stock up the International Space Station after its final two shuttle missions fly later this year. SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket is poised to make its first test flight this weekend (now it's today).

After that, the agency plans to modify the Lockheed Martin-designed Orion capsule as a space station lifeboat. Aerospace juggernaut Boeing is also hoping  to compete for commercial crew capabilities.  But while giants like Lockheed Martin and Boeing duke it out, some smaller – but equally ambitious – companies have joined SpaceX in the race to build the next spacecraft to put Americans in space. Here's a look at six smaller companies vying for the future of human spaceflight."  See the whole article (above) for a profile of 6 companies that could launch humans into space. 

High-Tech Space Planes Taking Shape in Italy, Russia | Space.com

The U.S. Air Force's secretive X-37B space plane may eventually get some company in low-Earth orbit as other countries such as Italy and Russia push forward with plans for their own reusable winged spaceships.

Italy's prototype space plane, named Pollux, successfully carried out high-speed maneuvers that slowed it down from a falling speed of Mach 1.2 during a test flight in April. More recently, Russia has begun considering whether to revive a Cold War era, air-launched mini-shuttle in response to the U.S. X-37B space plane debut.

This Land - A New Exit to Space Readies for Business | NYTimes.com

Barry digs into the local scene and discovers some background stories about SpacePort America that's emerging from the barren flats of New Mexico.

"This is not a secret government project, or some NASA reception hall for alien dignitaries. This is Spaceport America, a $198 million endeavor by the State of New Mexico to plumb the commercial potential of the suborbital heavens — a place once known only to astronauts, dreamers and the occasional chimp.

Space tourism. Scientific research. Satellite deliveries. All possible up there, where the stars glitter like spilled coins. Who knows? One day you might decide to skip another two-week vacation in the Wisconsin Dells for a two-hour trip into space. Fly Virgin Galactic. See the sights from as high as 80 miles up. Five minutes of weightlessness guaranteed. Just $200,000."

Northrop Grumman Foundation Now Accepting Teacher Applications for 2010 Weightless Flights of Discovery Program - Yahoo! Finance

"The Northrup Gumman Foundation is accepting teacher applications for the 2010 Weightless Flights of Discovery program, a unique initiative that places teachers on micro-gravity flights to test Newton's Laws of Motion and energize students in the formative middle-school years. Middle-school math and science teachers in public schools are welcome to apply for the program."

A SpacePort Field Guide: SpaceWorks Commercial

"The Spaceport Field Guide (SpFG) is a Google Earth-compatible file developed by SpaceWorks Commercial that provides a database of worldwide launch sites and associated facilities. The tool offers information about global spaceports including location, current and potential facilities, current and potential launch vehicles, and a rating of operational readiness (as defined by a Spaceport Readiness Level or SpRL).The tool is available for free download from the SpaceWorks Commercial website. SpaceWorks Commercial, a division of SpaceWorks Engineering, Inc. (SEI), provides this software as an educational service to the community."

Private space stations edge closer to reality - Space.com/msnbc.com

"With two prototype modules for a commercial space station already circling the Earth, Bigelow Aerospace is gearing up for a full-scale assault on space.

For the upstart firm, it's about volume — and not entirely in the sense of quantity or number of items sold. The company's expandable module designs are designed to offer low-cost commercial volume in space — for rent or lease — not only to private-sector interests, but also to national space agencies."

This is a recent update on Robert Bigelow's strategy for commercial space habitat applications. It confirms earlier speculations about his development of human life support systems and living accommodations. Jobs for a couple of ex-astronauts are open.

Veteran astronauts find new roles in commercial sector | Spaceflight Now

"Two former space shuttle and space station commanders are now competitors in the nascent world of commercial human spaceflight, a start-up industry still in its infancy but likely close to receiving a major boost from the White House.

Ken Bowersox and Frank Culbertson are vice presidents at Space Exploration Technologies Corp. and Orbital Sciences Corp., two U.S. companies at the forefront of the private space industry."

Astronauts get to vote for commercial space with their feet which indicates they feel this industry has a great opportunity to grow.