January 2009


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Jeff Foust of The Space Review writes on the latest in the world of space tourism (as originally posted on Personal Spaceflight):

Our first stop is Davos, Switzerland, where Space Adventures’ Eric Anderson says “business is good” for the space tourism company. Anderson, attending the World Economic Forum, said he’s looking for additional customers, but potential clients “should not expect any bargains because of the global financial turmoil.”

While we’re in Europe, check out a Flight International report on new European vehicle studies funded by the EU’s Future High-Altitude High-Speed Transport (FAST) 20XX program, to the tune of nearly $10 million. The effort is looking at two concepts: a relatively near-term (circa 2015) suborbital vehicle and a long-term hypersonic point-to-point transport. (How long term? Try 2075.) The funding is only for early-stage technology studies; where the money would come from for further development, even of the suborbital vehicle, is unclear.

The prospects for space tourism in China is examined in an Asia Times article this week. Industry officials agree that there’s tremendous potential in the Chinese market given its size, but for US companies export control restrictions would make it difficult to do business there. Also, the lack of a commercial space regulatory framework in China would hinder any effort for a domestic space tourism industry to develop.

There is, though, interest in space tourism in Mexico. The English-language Guadalajara Reporter said that an anonymous local businessman has signed up to fly with Virgin Galactic, becoming the first person from Mexico’s second-largest city to reserve a flight to space. Viajes Capistrano, the tourist agency who is one of five in the country that sells Virgin Galactic trips, is planning to make a bigger push for clients in the city in coming weeks.

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“In 2030, the Gleneagles Lunar Space Station will be the world’s most exclusive resort.  On entering, the Virgin Galactic spaceship at Auchterarder, space tourists will fasten their seat belt, hear the rockets roar and feel the sudden power of 4G acceleration.  As the spaceship reaches the stratosphere they will gaze down on Planet Earth for the most exclusive view in the world…”

So writes Ian Yeoman, author of Tomorrow’s Tourists: Scenarios and Trends.  (The Future Foundation: $60.95).

Chapter 16 of Yeoman’s book, in fact, discusses space tourism as a metaphor for the changing concept of luxury and the tourist’s desire for new experiences, whether it be space travel or something rather more down to earth.

Sixty bucks may seem astronomical in price, but Yeoman may be sharing some unique insights into the future of the “space tourist” industry.

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The 12th Annual FAA Commercial Space Transportation Conference will happen February 5-6, 2009 at the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington, Virginia.

 

Highlights of the event include panels featuring many of the leaders within the NewSpace industry, such as:

 

·       Steve Landeene, Executive Director of Spaceport America

·       Gwynne Shotwell, President of Space-X

·       Will Whitehorn, President of Virgin Galactic

·       Bill Richardson, Governor of New Mexico

·       Paul Eckert, Coordinator of the Space Investment Summit Coalition

 

The event promises to be a good one and promotes itself as having an “expanded focus on commericial issues” and covering great topics for entrepreneurs of the growing NewSpace industry.

 

For the full program, all conference information, and registration, please visit http://www.aiaa.org/events/ast

 

There is a special one-day rate available for those who are available to attend sessions on one day only. To register at this rate, please contact Sandra Turner, AIAA Conference Registrar, at sandrat@aiaa.org.


 

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“I started at 9 am, its 1am a 18 hour day in the shop  on hard concrete. My feet hurt.”

 

So writes Paul Breed, founder of Unreasonable Rocket.  What I liked about this blog posting was that it reflects — unapologetically — the harsh reality every NewSpace start-up must face.

 

NewSpace companies, if they are to succeed, need to run like hell from the disease spreading throughout this world, the disease of the “bailout” mentality (or what I like to call, the “Would you like to Super-Subsidize that?” Syndrome).

 

It was Thomas Paine who once said, “That which we obtain too cheaply, we esteem lightly.” In other words, if you don’t work hard for it, you ain’t gonna appreciate it.  I am sure that if Paul Breed and company at Unreasonable Rocket can successfully launch a rocket, they will remember those 18 hour days…

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Some days I wake up and I feel like I’m 100 years old.  Joints crack.  Back aches.  Feet swollen.  And I ain’t even 40 yet.  But I shouldn’t say I feel like I’m 100 years old anymore.  Soon to be Centenarian and near-term Virgin Galactic passenger has recently undergone medical tests to determine if his body is suited for the rigors of space travel.  Many critics have speculated that the 96-year old writer who popularized the Gaia theory will not pass.  Yet, Lovelock himself begs to differ:

“My heart was performing like an average 20 year old, [the Virgin Galactic medical team] said”.  Sounds like all of us may soon be eating his nearly 100-year old dust.

For Lovelock’s latest book, click here.

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Alas, many of you likely mistook my previous entry as an thinly veiled Cold War-style attack on the Russians.  However, it ain’t so.  I have a lot of respect for the Soyuz peeps, because their willingness to work with Space Adventures and Dennis Tito was, in my opinion, the beginning of it all.

Click on the image above to hear interviews with the fortunate few who hitched rides with the Russians to spend a few nights at the International House of Space-cakes (the ISS).  (Although consider yourselves forewarned: for the sake of time, the videos could have been edited down a bit.)

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So, the Russians have done the predictable and slammed the door in Eric Anderson’s face.  Many in the NewSpace community are up in arms over this.  Dear Russia, how could you string us along like that?  What cockpit teasers!

Yeah, when oil was trading for twelve cents a barrel, you were begging Dennis Tito to cough up some of that Wilshire 5000 green to your withering space program.  But then oil (and natural gas) prices went apeshit (for reasons that, ironically, were likely caused by us), popping around 140 bucks a barrel, and then you dumped us when we needed you most.  And so you know what we say…

Nice job.

Thanks a lot.

We appreciate it!

Thank you, Russia, for reminding us who we are.  The Wright Brothers did not need you to master human flight.  Nor did the men and women who built Apollo 11.  Rutan, et. al likewise did not seek your Rubles nor beg for use of your Star City training program when it decided to win the X-Prize.  And if Falcon-9 successfully launches, Musk will have his Paypal-eBay money to thank for that…not you.

So, again, we thank you, Russia.  You have reminded us what we need to do: innovate our asses off, take risks, and capitalize on the opportunity you have so kindly given us to democratize space…with or without you.

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“Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?”

“Germans?”

“Forget it.  He’s rolling.”

When I heard about this insanely cool thing called *SecondSolar*, I thought of Belushi in one of my favorite scenes from Animal House.  For those wacky Germans have done it again.  This time the folks at Different Futures have built a life-sized rocketship — ride? ship? toy? — sans rocket engine but with the opportunity to check out its insides and all.

Sure engineers born without funny bones will thumb their noses at such a project.  (Perhaps the machine breaks a few cardinal rules of aerodynamics).  But I think they’d be missing the point: to send a very distinct message to everyone — especially children — that, as we say at 62 Mile Club, “Space…it’s closer than you think!”

Click here for some VERY COOL construction photos.

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Although not obviously an event relating to “private space”, we thought you might want to know that the Black Card Circle Foundation will be throwing a special evening at the newly built “LA Live” Ritz-Carlton in the heart of Downtown Los Angeles.  The event will take place Saturday, February 07, 2009 @ 7:00 PM.

This Black Tie event will be attended by guests of the Black Card Circle Foundation and its benefiting charities.  For photos from Black Card Circle’s previous event at the Beverly Wilshire Four Seasons in Beverly Hills click here.

In addition to the opportunity to network, there will be live music, hors d’oeuvres, sponsored premium drinks, fresh hand-rolled Cuban seeded cigars and exclusive Ritz-Carlton | Black Card Circle gift bags.

The Black Card Circle Foundation Black Tie Charity Event will be supporting the Black Card Circle Foundation Inc., an IRS recognized 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization committed to empowering underprivileged children and the voiceless in society.

For more ticket information, feel free to click on the Golden Lion knocker above…or if you’re feeling less bold, the link below also works.

http://blackcardcirclefoundation.eventbrite.com/

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Recently, Will Whitehorn, President of Virgin Galactic, was featured in “50 LES50NS”, the website that offers “straight talk from the world’s top business leaders”.  In the video interview (“Moving into New Markets”), Whitehorn tells the tale of the Virgin brand’s incredible transition from record label to successful airline.

 

Although the piece is not necessarily about space, Whitehorn seems to be suggesting that other Fortune 1000 non-space companies ought to follow Virgin’s lead.  As Whitehorn explains: “It doesn’t matter if your brand’s come out of the music business and is going into the airline business. As long as you have the approach to the marketplace right, the brand can transfer into anything.”  Heck, one’s brand could even transfer from the online marketplace to commercial aerospace – just ask Jeff Bezos.  (While you’re at it, ask Mr. Bezos why he went with Blue Origin(huh?) and not Amazon Aerospace?  Me thinks major AMZN shareholders may know the answer.) 

 

What if Whitehorn’s got the right idea and sooner than we think there will be other major non-space companies, with strong, internationally recognizable brands – like Disney, Tata, and Sohu – who will venture into the commercial space sector?  Things could get interesting…

 

So, if the notion of a Google Galactic seems all too improbable, keep in mind that prior to June 22, 1984, Virgin was known solely as the wild long-hairs who launched the Sex Pistols and Boy George.  Which makes me wonder: how huge were the bollocks on the first customers of that inaugural Virgin Atlantic flight?  (Answer: probably the same size as those of passengers on the first launch of Facebook Galactic, inc…coming one day to a spaceport near you.)