October 2007

You can pick up a dvd copy of the commercial space themed film Postcards from the Future. Thank you Alan!


(source: Space Angels Network PR)

New Virtual Angel Investor Group Focuses on Seed- and Early-Stage Funding for Space Ventures

A virtual network of angel investors focused on seed- and early-stage investments for space-related ventures, announced today the launch of its operations in the U.S. and Canada. The company’s online platform and strategic relationships with venture finance and technology innovation organizations allow individual accredited investors to connect with space entrepreneurs for financing their innovative ventures. “There is no question that a gap currently exists in the financing spectrum available to seed- and earlystage space-related ventures, and there are many angel investors around the U.S. and Canada eager to help fill that gap,” stated Burton Lee, CEO of Space Angels Investments, which operates Space Angels Network. “We aim to provide that platform—along with exceptional service, value, and key strategic relationships—to our members.” Since the Paul Allen-backed Scaled Composites SpaceShipOne captured the Ansari X PRIZE in October of 2004, substantial public interest has centered on a number highly touted space ventures launched by prominent entrepreneurs from various industries. These ventures are primarily self-financed by wealthy individuals such as Elon Musk, Robert Bigelow, Jeff Bezos, John Carmack, and Sir Richard Branson. These original “super angels”—now referred to as “Space Angels 1.0”—are being followed by the next wave of early stage investors, “Space Angels 2.0.” Space Angels Network provides an online platform and key strategic relationships specifically aimed at these accredited investors who want to invest in private space-related ventures but prefer to syndicate their deals.

Although not directly related to the commercialization of space, these two links have cool photos from space of southern California and the recent fires affecting the area.



LA Weekly Fire page

(Source: Challenger Centers)
On Oct. 18, the Department of Labor (DOL) invited the Challenger Center for Space Science to participate in a conference with state lieutenant governors, NASA and leaders in aerospace education and industry. Discussions sparked by keynote speaker Dr. Eric Jolly, President of the Science Museum of Minnesota focused on the need for innovative solutions to inspire and motivate today’s youth in the core subject areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) to meet a critical shortfall of engineers in the workforce as baby boomers begin leaving the workforce. General consensus of the roundtable participants was that middle school hands-on laboratory experiences were a particularly successful way of impacting the pre-high school students to choose to study STEM-disciplines.

(Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
Southern New Mexico becomes the center of the universe for the personal spaceflight industry this week as many of the young industry’s heavyweights gather for the International Symposium for Personal Spaceflight and the Wirefly X Prize Cup. The symposium begins Tuesday with a public forum and continues through Thursday with a who’s who of industry experts and pioneers. Among them will be Elon Musk, founder of PayPal and launch vehicle developer SpaceX; Alex Tai of Virgin Galactic, the company planning to base part of its operations at Spaceport America; and “space tourist” Anoushe Ansari, who in 2006 boarded a Soyuz spacecraft and spent two weeks aboard the international space station. The symposium strives to foster growth in the commercial space industry by bringing some of its biggest names together in one place.

(Source: CNBC)
While NASA seems to be flying in orbital circles, with manned flight still stuck on the space shuttle, the private sector has been dumping millions into its own space ventures. “We’re trying to move the industry to a point where people believe what we say,” said Jeff Greason, a former Intel computer genius who now runs XCOR, one of a half dozen companies in the Mojave desert of California trying to get ordinary citizens into space. Jeff Bezos of Amazon.com has already tested a vertical takeoff and landing craft, which may someday carry people just beyond the atmosphere. Hotel entrepreneur Robert Bigelow already has a couple of unmanned craft in orbit.

Bigelow is offering $50 million to any American venture that can fly a fully loaded five-passenger craft into orbit by 2010. The most visible effort has been Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, already selling tickets for $200,000. But test flights won’t happen for 18 months, pushed back after a fatal explosion at the Mojave company building his spacecraft: Scaled Composites, run by X Prize-winning Burt Rutan. Three men died in a fuel flow test in July. It hit the community here hard, but it did not stop the inflow of investor money. Now, even bigger things are planned. Google is using some of its profit to encourage innovation to get to the moon as “Earth’s offshore island.” It is putting up a $30 million Lunar X prize, and most of the money will go to the first private group which can launch, land, and operatea robotic rover on the Moon’s surface.

Back in Mojave, Rutan’s company became wholly owned by Northrop Grumman and other private ventures are waiting to see if ownership by a traditional, large aerospace company is a good thing or not. Rutan says he wants to build 50 spacecraft, and not just for Branson. He has reportedly been talking to an unnamed established airline. Greason says it’s hard to tell who will succeed, and who will never get off the launch pad. But, to Greason, it’s not about being first. It’s about being able to last. For those investors who tell him they fear it’s already “too late to get in,” he points to the Wright Brothers. Yeah, they were first, but nobody’s flying airplanes made by the Wright Aircraft Company.

(Source: CNET News)
Before Virgin Group mogul Richard Branson hired him to design a futuristic tourist rocket ship, Richard Seymour’s only experience in the market was dreaming up spacecraft for the movies. Seymour said that his U.K. design company Seymourpowell, is designing the interior of the craft and the space suits that tourists will wear on their two-hour suborbital flights with Virgin Galactic. Having already sold out its first flight at $200,000 per passenger, Branson’s company is planning its first commercial launch for 2008. Seymour said that tourists will actually spend four of five days on the holiday, at Spaceport America (the launch hub). People must train in the spaceship White Knight for at least two days, learning things like “how to keep your breakfast down” at 5 Gs. Rocketing into space and back takes only a few minutes each way in the two-hour trip, a jarring experience if you’re not used to it, he said.

(Source: USA Today)
In the latest space race — to lift paying customers out of Earth’s atmosphere — aviation safety regulators occupy a new niche: They are promoting an industry expected to suffer deadly accidents instead of applying strict safety rules. FAA officials detailed their unique relationship with the emerging space-tourism industry for a gathering of air and space lawyers this month. Several firms are racing to serve people willing to pay a steep price for the privilege of floating briefly in space, perhaps in as little as two years. Some scientists believe commercial competition will fuel rapid development of space travel technology.

In the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 2004, Congress told the FAA to treat the industry more like an adventure business than an air carrier. The law protects the rights of those who wish to be among the first private citizens to go into space — likening them to visionaries and adventurers who knowingly take other risks like climbing mountains — while giving the people who operate the new types of unproven spacecraft the scientific latitude to learn from their first fatal mistakes. “This is an ultra-hazardous business,” Patti Grace Smith, the FAA’s associate administrator for Commercial Space Transportation told attendees at an American Bar Association forum on air and space law. She said part of the agency’s effort to promote the industry’s success means giving it room to fail. Visit http://www.usatoday.com/tech/science/space/2007-10-16-space-tourism_N.htm?loc=interstitialskip to view the article.

(Source: NewsOK)
Rocketplane’s recent loss of a multimillion-dollar contract with NASA may concern outsiders about the company’s future in space tourism. But the concern stops there. Instead, company officials say the halt on the NASA project means Rocketplane will be able to turn its focus to another project: getting tourists into space. “We’re looking at a stronger focus on the XP,” said George French, chairman and chief executive officer. The XP is Rocketplane Global’s tourism spacecraft.

Although Rocketplane Kistler was unable to raise enough funds to keep its NASA contract, Rocketplane Global is attempting to raise funds for the XP spacecraft; a task French said will be more successful. “XP requires lower levels of funding to move forward,” he said. Rocketplane Global will release the latest designs for the XP next week at the X Prize cup in New Mexico. French said although Rocketplane Kistler and Rocketplane Global are operated by the same parent company, Rocketplane Inc., the two subsidiaries are separate. He said a backslide for one company does not equal a backslide for the other. French said though the loss of the NASA contract may also make it look as if Rocketplane Kistler has abandoned its K-1 project, that is not the case. “We’ve always had a business plan for the K-1,” he said. “We have other customers in mind. We are looking at all of our options.”

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