First Powered Flight of SpaceShipTwo

Virgin Galactic, the world’s first commercial spaceline owned by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group and Abu Dhabi’s aabar Investments PJS, completed the first rocket-powered flight of its space vehicle, SpaceShipTwo (SS2), on April 29. The test, conducted by teams from Scaled Composites (Scaled) and Virgin Galactic, officially marks Virgin Galactic’s entrance into the final phase of vehicle testing prior to commercial service from Spaceport America in New Mexico.

“The first powered flight of Virgin Spaceship Enterprise was without any doubt, our single most important flight test to date,” said Virgin Galactic Founder Sir Richard Branson, who was on the ground in Mojave to witness the occasion. “For the first time, we were able to prove the key components of the system, fully integrated and in flight. Today’s supersonic success opens the way for a rapid expansion of the spaceship’s powered flight envelope, with a very realistic goal of full space flight by the year’s end. We saw history in the making today and I couldn’t be more proud of everyone involved.”

The test began at 7.02am local time when SS2 took off from Mojave Air and Space Port mated to WhiteKnightTwo (WK2), Virgin Galactic’s carrier aircraft. Piloting SS2 were Mark Stucky, pilot, and Mike Alsbury, co-pilot, who are test pilots for Scaled, which built SS2 for Virgin Galactic. At the WK2 controls were Virgin Galactic’s Chief Pilot Dave Mackay, assisted by Clint Nichols and Brian Maisler, co-pilot and flight test engineer, respectively, for Scaled.

Upon reaching 47,000 feet altitude and approximately 45 minutes into the flight, SS2 was released from WK2. After cross-checking data and verifying stable control, the pilots triggered ignition of the rocket motor, causing the main oxidizer valve to open and igniters to fire within the fuel case. At this point, SS2 was propelled forward and upward to a maximum altitude of 55,000 feet. The entire engine burn lasted 16 seconds, as planned. During this time, SS2 went supersonic, achieving Mach 1.2.

“We partnered with Virgin Galactic several years ago with the aspiration to transform and commercialize access to space for the broader public,” said His Excellency Khadem Al Qubaisi, Chairman of aabar Investments PJS. “Today’s test is another key milestone in realizing that aspiration. Our partnership goes from strength to strength, and is an excellent example of aabar’s desire to participate in the development of world class technologies that are commercially viable and strategically important, both for the company, its shareholders, and for Abu Dhabi.”

The entire rocket-powered flight test lasted just over 10 minutes, culminating in a smooth landing for SS2 in Mojave at approximately 8am local time.

“The rocket motor ignition went as planned, with the expected burn duration, good engine performance and solid vehicle handling qualities throughout,” said Virgin Galactic President & CEO George Whitesides. “The successful outcome of this test marks a pivotal point for our program. We will now embark on a handful of similar powered flight tests, and then make our first test flight to space.”

In the coming months, the Virgin Galactic and Scaled test team will expand the spaceship’s powered flight envelope culminating in full space flight, which the companies anticipate will take place before the end of 2013.

“I’d like to congratulate the entire team,” said President of Scaled Kevin Mickey. “This milestone has been a long time coming and it’s only through the hard work of the team and the tremendous support of Virgin Galactic that we have been able to witness this important milestone. We look forward to all our upcoming tests and successes.”

Video of SpaceX Grasshopper 250m Test

SpaceX’s Grasshopper flies 820 feet, tripling its March 7th leap. Grasshopper is a 10-story Vertical Takeoff Vertical Landing (VTVL) vehicle that SpaceX has designed to test the technologies needed to return a rocket back to Earth intact. While most rockets are designed to burn up in the atmosphere during reentry, SpaceX’s rockets are being designed to return to the launch pad for a vertical landing.

National Space Society Adds to Its Leadership Team

The National Space Society announces the selection of four new additions to its leadership team:  Dr. Stanley G. Rosen to the newly created position of Vice Chairman of the Society’s Board of Directors, Bruce Pittman as Senior Vice President and Senior Operating Officer, Dr. Paul Werbos as Executive Vice President and Chair of the Policy Committee, and Craig Andrew Max IV as Assistant Secretary.

In announcing the appointments, Kirby Ikin, Chairman of the Board, welcomed the experience these officers will bring to the Society, stating “The appointments will enable NSS to operate more efficiently and be better able to carry out its mission of providing grass roots support for space exploration, space settlement, and utilization of space resources down on Earth.”

Dr. Rosen, whose special role will be to coordinate the efforts of NSS senior leaders, is currently a Professor at the Department of Defense’s Defense Acquisition University.  Formerly be was a consultant with Toffler Associates, Director of Strategic Development and Integration for Boeing Satellite Systems, and Strategic Planning Director for the Hughes Defense Systems and Hughes Space and Communications organizations.  His previous work included scientific, engineering, program management, and strategy and policy development positions with the U.S. Air Force, and time on the staff of the Committee on Science and Astronautics of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Bruce Pittman currently serves as Director of Flight Projects and Chief System Engineer at the Space Portal at NASA Ames Research Center.  In 2011, NASA awarded him the Exceptional Public Service Medal for “exceptional leadership in pioneering the development of commercial space for public benefit.”  He was a founder and member of the startup team in a number of early growth companies including Space Hab, Kistler Aerospace, New Focus, Product Factory, Prometheus II Ltd., and Industrial Sound and Motion.  He is a member of the Executive Committee of the Space Investment Summit Coalition.

Dr. Werbos is the Program Director in the Office of Emerging Frontiers in Research & Innovation at the National Science Foundation (NSF).  Since 1988, he has also led research in a variety of other NSF areas, including fuel cell and electric vehicles, emerging technologies, cyber systems, and the sustainability part of NSF Interdisciplinary Research.  He is a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineering (IEEE) and the International Neural Network Society (INNS).  He is a winner of the IEEE’s Neural Networks Pioneer Award and of the INNS’s 2011 Hebb Award.  He is also serving on boards of NSS, Millennium Project, Lifeboat Foundation, and IEEE Energy Policy Committee.

Craig Max is an attorney with the law firm of Vanderpool, Frostick & Nishanian, P.C., with offices in Manassas, Fredericksburg, and Woodbridge,Virginia.  Specializing in tax planning, including working with nonprofits, he also is a Certified Public Accountant and Board-certified as a Trust and Estate Practitioner by the International Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners.  He has been designated a Fellow of the American Academy of Financial Management and named a Top Attorney by Northern Virginia magazine; a SmartCPA and a LegalElite by SmartCEO magazine; and a SmartCPA and a Legal Elite by Virginia Business magazine.  He is the author of numerous legal and accounting publications and holds an appointment as an Assistant Professor at the University of Maryland.

Fuller biographies of these and other NSS officers may be found on the NSS website at

Free copy of O'Neill's "The High Frontier" (until April 23)

The Space Studies Institute is offering a free electronic copy of Professor Gerard K. O’Neill’s The High Frontier through Tuesday April 23.  It’s a Kindle edition, but you don’t need a Kindle to read it. There is a free Kindle app to read it on computers, tablets, and smartphones. An Amazon account is required (also free).

In his classic 1977 book The High Frontier, O’Neill mapped out a straightforward, manifestly doable path to putting humans into space permanently and sustainably, using current-day material and know-how. His message is key to the NSS Vision of “People living and working in thriving communities beyond the Earth, and the use of the vast resources of space for the dramatic betterment of humanity.”

Free Kindle apps:

Free High Frontier Kindle edition:

Due to the nature of the Amazon international download servers, the exact time of the end of the free offer cannot be guaranteed. Regular price for the new Kindle edition of the book is $6.99.

Update: 4700 free Kindle editions were downloaded by the time the offer ended.

National Space Society Applauds NASA Asteroid Capture Plan

The National Space Society (NSS) applauds the new NASA budget item that would provide close to $100 million for a mission to rendezvous with a small asteroid and move it into orbit around the Moon where it could later be visited by astronauts.

“An asteroid capture mission is a tremendously important mission, and one that could not be more relevant to the challenges our civilization faces today,” said Mark Hopkins, Chairman of the NSS Executive Committee. “Robotic asteroid capture is the first step to exploiting the vast material resources of the solar system for a hopeful and prosperous future for mankind.”

Notes NSS Executive Vice President Paul Werbos, “Even small asteroids contain tremendous wealth—precious metals, rare strategic metals important for sustainable development, raw materials for in-space construction, and volatiles for life support and propulsion in space.”

This mission is an important precursor to enable private industry to access such resources for the benefit of all mankind and return wealth to our world economy. One medium sized asteroid, 3554 Anum, is estimated to contain $20 trillion of platinum group metals.

Robotic asteroid capture is also a key step toward an effective planetary defense. The mission will mature our ability to capture and deflect a hazardous asteroid—protecting civilization from suffering the same fate as the dinosaurs. The search for suitable targets will find huge numbers of smaller, currently unknown asteroids which pose a very real meteor threat to cities as evidenced by the explosion last month over Chelyabinsk, Russia that injured over 1000 people.

The mission also involves development of cost-effective new technologies of crucial value both to public and private activities in space. Robotic asteroid capture will drive improvements to Solar Electric Propulsion, a critical enabler of cost-effective transportation in Earth-Lunar space and the inner solar system akin to the development of large ocean faring vessels—opening up possibilities for even more ambitious missions in the future.

“The National Space Society has been advocating the capture of asteroid resources for decades (see our Roadmap and Statement of Philosophy), and is most gratified to see this important step toward the NSS Vision of people living and working in thriving communities beyond the Earth, and the use of the vast resources of space for the dramatic betterment of humanity,” said Hopkins.

ISDC Donations – Another Way to Support the Cause

The National Space Society has sponsored an annual conference for the past 32 years, providing a venue for space-minded people to learn and share ideas about space exploration and settlement. At these events, we have featured international experts from throughout the space community and from other disciplines. We have organized space-focused contests for young people and promoted other space education initiatives. With your help, this year’s International Space Development Conference will be the best ever.

Donate now and come to the conference. Meet and talk with space industry professionals, build relationships with other U.S. and international members, and learn about the possibilities of human expansion into space.

ISDC 2013 Will Be the 'Must-Attend' Space Event This Year!

Register now! Prices go up after April 12!

NSS members know that the International Space Development Conference (ISDC) is the foremost space conference that brings together all subsets of the space community: the traditional and commercial aerospace industries, NASA and space activists from around the world. And this year, ISDC goes to the west coast to San Diego, California!

The theme of this year’s conference, Global Collaboration in 21st Century Space, relates directly to the NSS vision of globally bringing together “people living and working in thriving communities beyond the Earth, and the use of the vast resources of space for the dramatic betterment of humanity.” Global Collaboration in 21st Century Space reflects our need to strive for renewed emphasis on collaborative efforts that engage global space exploration and development in the post-Shuttle era and help leverage NASA’s efforts due to current budgetary challenges.

While the primary focus of the conference will be looking at advances in space exploration, development and settlement, we will also highlight our global efforts at the Governors Dinner & Gala on Friday evening, at which we will honor the work of India’s former President and a leading aerospace scientist/engineer – Dr. Abdul Kalam – with the National Space Society’s prestigious Von Braun Memorial Award.  Participants can also look forward to meeting science and engineering team members from the successful GRAIL Moon gravity mapping mission, X-37 B space plane, and the inspiring “seven minutes of terror” CURIOUSITY Mars landing team.  Saturday night’s dinner banquet will honor the Women of Space – women engineers and astronauts.

The ISDC 2013 Planning Committee has put together an impressive list of confirmed speakers and presenters and a comprehensive program. Confirmed speakers and VIPs include: Apollo Astronaut Buzz Aldrin, last space shuttle Commander Christopher Ferguson, shuttle astronaut and director of the “100 Year Starship” project Dr. Mae Jemison, Congressman Dana Robrabacher of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, Ian O’Neill from Discovery News, Planetary Resources Chris Lewicki, and Deep Space Industries’ Rick Tumlinson.

Programming includes sessions and tracks on everything from current Administration initiatives and outlook on the U.S. space program after the shuttle, to the exciting developments coming from commercial aerospace companies aimed at closing the current manned spaceflight gap; from Mars, Moon, asteroid and exoplanet exploration and development to the latest technological advances that will enable a longer-term and, eventually, permanent human presence in space.

Be sure to visit the official ISDC website for all of the latest information and to register today!

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Gain Visibility at ISDC – Become a Sponsor Today!

ISDC provides an excellent marketing opportunity for your company or organization through our sponsorship program. This year, we have general conference sponsorships and specific Gala sponsorships. Whether you just want an ad in the program book or if you want all of the perks that come with being the presenting sponsor for either the Conference or the Gala, there is something for every budget.

Among the perks offered for various levels of sponsorship are: ads in the conference and/or Gala programs, complimentary professional registrations to the conference, exhibit booth space, placement of literature in the registration bags, VIP Gala tickets, recognition of your sponsorship on signage throughout the Conference function space at the hotel and Gala, and much more.

In addition, there are opportunities to have your company’s or organization’s logo on a variety of conference materials and goodies, including the conference bags, hotel key cards, name badge lanyards, etc.

Or perhaps you would like to be a function sponsor for anything from a single program track to a lunch or a dinner. Meal event sponsors could also receive a speaking opportunity at the meal they sponsor. Click here for more information.