National Space Society Congratulates Tim Pickens

The National Space Society (“NSS”) congratulates one of its own, Tim Pickens, on the sale of his successful pioneering NewSpace company, Orion Propulsion, Inc. (“OPI”), to another Huntsville, Alabama-based aerospace company, Dynetics. OPI specializes in spacecraft and rocket propulsion design and fabrication, testing services, ground support equipment, and launch operations support. Mr. Pickens, who was chief technology officer for OPI, will serve as chief propulsion engineer for Dynetics.

See Dynetics press release on

OPI has built and successfully delivered critical hardware for the Ares I Upper Stage Project, and has also successfully completed a qualification test program for the Forward Propulsion System of Bigelow Aerospace’s Sundancer Project, the world’s first commercial space habitat. Prior to starting OPI in 2004, Mr. Pickens worked on Burt Rutan’s team at Scaled Composites, as the Propulsion Lead Engineer for SpaceShipOne.

“The taproot of OPI originates in the Huntsville Alabama L-5 Society’s (‘HAL5’) High Altitude Lift-Off (‘HALO’) program”, states Greg Allison, founder of HAL5 and its HALO program, as well as current Executive Vice President of the NSS. “Tim’s lead experience in helping the HAL5 effort to launch a rocket into space, and his hard work and ingenuity, enabled him to apply his enormous talents toward launching an aerospace success story. Tim’s accomplishments set the bar for the rest of us to follow”.

“NSS is gratified that its chapter system served as the breeding ground for the genesis of OPI,” added NSS Vice President of Public Affairs, Rick Zucker.

See “In Thrust We Trust” in Smithsonian Air & Space Magazine.

“Tim Pickens’ success story is a testament to what can be accomplished by dedicated individuals who support NSS chapters, projects, and initiatives. The sky is no limit for those who choose to champion projects and activities that matter,” says Gary Barnhard, Chairman of the NSS Executive Committee.

South Korean Space Center Selects XCOR's Lynx for Suborbital Operations

December 17th – 18th, 2009, Mojave, CA, USA and Yecheon-gun, ROK: The Yecheon Astro Space Center announced today that it has selected XCOR Aerospace as its preferred supplier of suborbital space launch services. Operating under a wet lease model, XCOR intends to supply services to the Center using the Lynx Mark II suborbital vehicle, pending United States government approvals to station the vehicle in the Republic of Korea.

XCORs Lynx Suborbital Vehicle
XCOR's Lynx Suborbital Vehicle

XCOR is committed to working with the US Department of State, Department of Defense, Department of Commerce and other agencies of the US government to comply with relevant laws, regulations, policies and procedures. XCOR has engaged specialized export control consultants from the Commonwealth Consulting Group of Arlington, Virginia, and legal counsel from the Washington, D.C. office of the international firm Bingham McCutchen, to assist in this first of a kind effort.

“This is a ground breaking opportunity for our company, our industry and a very good opportunity for the U.S. to set an example of responsible international commerce in space transportation,” said XCOR CEO Jeff Greason. “To our knowledge, this is the first time that a US commercial suborbital launch vehicle will undergo the export licensing and approval process. We believe there is no better pathfinder than with our partners at the South Korean Yecheon Astro Space Center.”

Yecheon Astro Space Center is a non-profit entity that operates multiple space related activities including: aerospace training center; astronomy research center; planetarium; a commercial space camp with centrifuge; and commercial helicopter tourism operation in the South Korean State of Gyeongsangbuk-do, approximately 240 kilometers (150 miles) southeast of Seoul.

Working closely with its partners, Yecheon Astro Space Center has formed a broad coalition of regional and national entities to fund the approximately $30 Million project to bring the Lynx to Yecheon for space tourism, educational, scientific and environmental monitoring missions, making it the early leader in commercial manned space flight in Asia. Under the envisioned arrangement, Yecheon will be the exclusive Lynx operational site in Korea.

“As part of our long term strategic plan, we have performed an extensive review of the suborbital vehicle suppliers over the past 18 months, and found XCOR’s Lynx to be the best mix of safe design, reliable clean propulsion, skilled team members, full reusability, ease of operation, turn around time, upfront cost and long term cost to operate,” said Mr Jo Jae-Seong, Founder and Chief Executive Director of Yecheon Astro Space Center. “We look forward to a long term relationship with XCOR and Lynx!”

“This is an incredibly important development for the New Space industry charting a course for other innovative US companies to flourish here and abroad. It will produce high paying manufacturing jobs, and allow the innovative spirit of America to take root and grow a new industry before international participants can catch up,” said XCOR Chief Operating Officer, Andrew Nelson, adding, “I think the wet lease model is an innovative means to safely operate, maintain and provide physical security for the Lynx while ensuring that US export control issues are addressed completely.

NSS Congratulates Virgin Galactic and Scaled Composites for Rollout of SpaceShipTwo

On December 7, 2009, in a star-studded ceremony at the Mojave Spaceport in Mojave, California, Virgin Galactic’s new commercial suborbital spacecraft, SpaceShipTwo (manufactured by Scaled Composites) was unveiled to the public for the first time. SpaceShipTwo, christened the “Enterprise”, is now ready to undergo the series of rigorous test flights and certification procedures which are necessary before it can proceed to operational status.

According to Gary Barnhard, Chairman of the Executive Committee of the National Space Society (NSS), “The rollout of Space Ship Two, VSS-Enterprise is the dawn of commercial passenger space flight. It blazes the path forward to tomorrow. It is jumpstarting the future of personal space flight.”

Mark Hopkins, Senior Vice President of the NSS, says, “This milestone greatly increases the significance of NSS’s Space Ambassador Program, in which the participant who best communicates the benefits of space to local communities will receive a flight assignment aboard SpaceshipTwo.”

Space Ambassador Program Director Lee Jones states, “This is no longer just a dream. It’s real. This is a truly remarkable and historic event for us all.”

Added Rick Zucker, NSS Vice President of Public Affairs, “NSS congratulates Virgin Galactic and Scaled Composites. The December 7th rollout of SpaceShipTwo marks the beginning of a new era in spaceflight activity, in which the final frontier will be opened up to private citizens for the very first time.”

Why Space Matters

The Coalition for Space Exploration (of which NSS is a member) has released a new PSA video on how space affects our everyday lives. Historically, every dollar spent on space exploration has yielded significant returns in the form of innovations that touch our lives here on Earth. We experience the benefits from space every day, each time we use our GPS systems, talk on our cell phones or get the weather forecast.

See this short video in high definition on You Tube here.

PG&E gets OK for space-based solar project

The California Public Utilities Commission has approved a space-based renewable energy contract for Pacific Gas and Electric Company in an effort to move the state a step closer to meeting its renewable energy goals. Read stories in the Sacramento Business Journal and the New York Times and see the original press release.