Friday, April 30, 2010

Reserve your suborbital seats

Most of the U.S. is at least dimly aware of Richard Branson's plan to sell seats to sub orbital space on spaceship 2.  Virgin Galactic has not been shy about promoting their business venture with Burt Rutan's Scaled Composites team.  The same populace also has a vague notion that some very wealthy folks have been able to buy their way to the International Space Station via Russian Rockets.

There are other games in town, however, with the latest and most exciting being an agreement between Armadillo Aerospace and Space Adventures.  Space Adventures is the VA based company that brokered all those flights to the space station.  They also own the parabolic flight outfit, Zero-G, to give folks a shot at some weightless fun without leaving the atmosphere.

The agreement with Armadillo allows them to offer a service between those two end points.  They are signed up to be the sole provider of suborbital trips on Armadillo rockets.  It is not clear at this point how the agreement is structured.  Will Space Adventures Own and operate the rockets or simply broker the flights?  My guess is that they will form a subsidiary company to do the former or perhaps as a branch of Zero-G.

While pure speculation, I assume that in exchange for the exclusive rights to sell flights on Armadillo craft, Space Adventures would front some money for development in addition to a signed purchase agreement.  They would be invaluable for market research and aiding Armadillo in clearing regulatory issues as well.

The intrepid Pixel rocket went from a napkin sketch to a flying craft in three months.  This next vehicle shares many design elements with a scaled up Pixel.  Hopefully they can have the propulsion system hovering by fall.

Monday, April 26, 2010

New Armadillo Aerospace video

Armadillo Aerospace has posted a nice video of their activities this past year.  The video was prepared by Matt Ross  for Space Access 2010.  Space Access is an annual meet-up of commercial space insiders.  A NASA moves toward heavier reliance on commercial services Space Access is seeing growth as ever bigger players pay attention.

Some of the highlights of the film are seeing, Armadillo's stalwart performer, pixel fly again.  It has indeed been converted to Methane/Lox and sold to NASA.  And some concepts of a larger quad vehicle sporting a manned capsule.

Some quick dimensions grabbed from the video for the new quad are; 100 inches wide and eight feet tall for the capsule.  It is not clear if those are internal or exteral dimensions.  It appears as though they are going from a 3ft tank to a 4ft tank giving 2.37 times the fuel and lox capacity.  There does not appear to be any helium pressurization tank in the design from the simple drawings shown.  They will probably end up in any final design however.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Coming soon

President Obama is set to address his NASA plan sometime next week.  I am looking forward to being pleasantly surprised.  So far things are not looking good.  Earlier this week NASA Director Charles Bolden equated an increase in the NASA budget with the creation of more jobs.  To me that signals a return to the business of using NASA strictly as a cash cow.  So far the Administrations decision to cut Constellation AND increase NASA's budget can only rate as "horrible."  The only possible positive is the chance to get human rate launchers in the US sooner via the "commercial option."  Time will tell if they can manage that project without turning it into a regulatory fiasco.

I foresee contract requirements to hire a certain number of people with a certain diversity quota.  Basically you must be bloated to play.  Hopefully I am wrong.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Falcon 9 Photos are in!

I have only had two readers and those accidental, but for you my accidental readers I post this link.  Someone has been able to get some nice shots of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket vertical at launch complex 40.  It looks very lovely with the Dragon test article sitting atop.  I wonder how they will eventually get astronauts into the capsule.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Falcon 9 Vertical

The first flight ready Falcon 9 rocket from Space Exploration technologies is now vertical at the cape!  The link I provided does a much better job than I could explaining all the details.  SpaceX should have a static fire complete in the next week or so.  That is of course baring any set backs.  Exciting stuff.  We are inching closer to that unknown date when that beautiful bird finally flies.  I hope SpaceX publishes some video of the roll out.  Geeks like me love that stuff.  A nice night shot at the pad would be welcome as well.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Yay the Cupola

I am quite excited, perhaps not quite so much as the astronauts aboard the international space station, but excited none-the-less.  The windows on the cupola, attached to the tranquility node have been opened for the first time, providing some breathtaking views of earth.  It is a good thing I am too tall to be an astronaut.  I would have wasted all my time staring out the window.  I am sure NASA needs a blogger to write about the earth turning below him right?  It would be great PR and I am only a little bit too tall.  I could hunch.

Anyway the ISS just went from dang cool to full blown awesome.  I am off to look for images have a good one.

Friday, February 12, 2010

New room and hardware delivered

Tranquility is officially attached to the International space station!  I stayed up last night watching Canada Arm2 slowly arc from the Endeavor's payload bay to the common berthing mechanism on Node 1.  Beautiful stuff.

In other wondrous news.  SpaceX has now moved all the necessary pieces of the Falcon 9 puzzle to the cape launch complex 40.  Let the assembly begin.  The inaugural launch should be showing up on a monitor near you (and hopefully me) sometime in the next 1 to 4 months.  I wish they could be a little more specific.  Actually they are.  They report launch 1 - 3 months after hardware integration is complete, but they completely neglect to project how long that integration might take.

In the mean time head over to Russel Blink's Photo stream on flickr an see if you can figure out just what Armadillo Aerospace is up to with it's trusty pixel craft.  From the looks of it, they have modified the craft from an alcohol / lox rocket to a methane / lox configuration.  The give-away is the new application of insulation on all four propellant tanks.  Methane is cryogenic.  Alcohol is not.  They also added more robust landing gear.  My assumption is that Armadillo is under contract with NASA to demonstrate a methane powered lander and is looking to pixel to fulfill that requirement while they use their modular vehicles for in-house differential throttling and multi-engine work.