Space Experience Curacao and XCOR Aerospace plan space tourist flights from the Caribbean

Space Experience Curacao has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with XCOR Aerospace to begin passenger flights of the Lynx suborbital spacecraft from this Caribbean island in 2014. This announcement follows a similar arrangement with Yecheon Astro Space Center in South Korea announced last December.

XCOR Aerospace is one of two companies currently offering reservations for suborbital spaceflights, the other being Virgin Galactic.

A copy of XCOR’s press release follows:

October 5th, 2010, Mojave, CA and Curaçao: Space Experience Curaçao (SXC) and XCOR Aerospace, Inc. jointly announced today the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the wet lease of a production version of the Lynx suborbital spacecraft, pending United States government approvals to station the vehicle on the island of Curaçao in the Netherlands Antilles. With a planned start date in January 2014, SXC will market, and XCOR will operate, suborbital space tourism flights and scientific research missions out of Space Port Curaçao.

Space Experience Curacao Architectural Concept
Space Experience Curacao Architectural Concept

Recently, the Curaçao government and airport authority announced their intentions of investigating and creating the conditions suitable for the formation of a vibrant and active commercial space flight services industry. An investigation of the legal and regulatory framework necessary to enable a robust flight services industry in Curaçao has commenced. investment in the spaceport infrastructure and operator has been committed and made by Curaçao Airport Holding, N.V., the company responsible for overseeing Curaçao airport operator. SXC is the entity chosen by the Curaçao government and airport holding company to create a robust suborbital space flight business focused on research missions, space tourism, and science & technology education. SXC has in turn selected the XCOR Lynx as its vehicle of choice for Curaçao operations.

“SXC has chosen the Lynx due to its innovative but straightforward and robust design, as well as its enormous commercial potential and competitive viability” said Ben Droste, Co-Founder and Managing Partner of SXC. “The combination of the Lynx experience with the beautiful and highly suitable location of the Caribbean Island of Curaçao is a winning experience in our book. Spaceflight participants will not only have the incredible experience of flying in XCOR’s Lynx spacecraft beyond Earth’s atmosphere, they will have the added benefit of taking off from and returning to one of the world’s best vacation destinations.”

“Space Experience Curaçao, with the strong support of Curaçao Airport Holding, has worked diligently to secure this MOU with XCOR” remarked SXC Co-Founder and Managing Partner, Harry Van Hulten, “with the full support of the government of Curaçao, the Netherlands and thanks to the vision and entrepreneurial spirit of Curaçao Airport Holding, SXC is in the position of making this first concrete step in procuring a Lynx Mark II wet lease contract.”

“Building on our international wet-lease agreements model, XCOR is committed to continuing coordination efforts with the US Departments of State, Defense and Commerce and other relevant US agencies regarding export control and operation of suborbital vehicles at non-US locations,” said XCOR COO, Andrew Nelson. “We think the wet lease model enables us to address these issues, while allowing us to continue to create new high technology jobs, compete effectively in international markets, and provide our clients like SXC, and their clients, an incredible experience and valuable service – we can’t wait to fly from Curaçao!”

The Demise of Rocketplane

Rocketplane, one of the NewSpace companies that tried to offer suborbital space tourism, quietly filed for liquidation in June, unnoticed until it was reported in an informative article in the Oklahoma Gazette on July 7. An excellent article in today’s Space Review analyses the decline of Rocketplane and its implications for other NewSpace companies.

Virgin Galactic Appoints Former NSS Executive Director George T. Whitesides As Its First Chief Executive

Former NSS Executive Director George Whitesides joins Virgin Galactic from his recent role as Chief of Staff of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). At NASA, Whitesides was responsible for working to implement the NASA Administrator’s policy agenda and staffing decisions.

Prior to his role as NASA Chief of Staff, Whitesides served as a member of the NASA Presidential Transition Team, Executive Director of the National Space Society, and Chair of the Reusable Launch Vehicle Working Group of the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee. Whitesides’ earlier career experience in the aerospace industry took place at Orbital Sciences Corporation, Blastoff Corporation and the Zero Gravity Corporation. A licensed private pilot and certified parabolic flight coach, Whitesides is a graduate of Cambridge and Princeton Universities and a former Fulbright Scholar.

Welcoming Whitesides, Virgin Galactic President, Will Whitehorn, said: “We are delighted that George has agreed to become our first Chief Executive to guide the Galactic project as it transitions into a fully fledged operating business. George brings with him a wealth of experience in space business, policy and regulation. He joins Virgin Galactic at a momentous moment in the development of the company. Test flying of the first SpaceshipTwo (VSS Enterprise) has commenced and our future home at Spaceport America in New Mexico is at an advanced stage of construction. In addition our commercial team has accepted over $65m worth of reservations from 335 future astronauts and the Company is holding deposits of over $45 million.”

Commenting on his appointment, George Whitesides added: “I am honored to be given the opportunity to lead this historic business which will open the experience of space travel to people around the world. There is much to achieve at Virgin Galactic over the coming years as the company moves from the extensive test flying program and FAA licensing process into commercial operation of frequent spaceflights from our new home at Spaceport America in New Mexico. There is a great team at Virgin Galactic and I’m greatly looking forward to growing the business and establishing operations at the Spaceport.”

Virgin Galactic has developed the WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo air launched space system over the past six years using technology developed by Scaled Composites based on the X Prize winning SpaceShipOne which was piloted twice into space in October 2004 and now hangs in the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC. The recently developed SpaceShipTwo is capable of carrying eight people into space. The finished vehicle was officially named VSS Enterprise by Governors Richardson and Schwarzenegger at an unveiling ceremony on the 7th December 2009 before commencing test flights which are now under way in Mojave CA.

Virgin Galactic is the first space company in the world to have developed a network of over 100 accredited sales agents now accepting deposits from participants in 42 countries. Over 50% of Virgin Galactic’s current customers are from the United States.

Space Adventures enters sub-orbital space tourism market

Space Adventures, Ltd., the only company currently providing human space mission opportunities to the world marketplace, announced that the company has entered into an exclusive marketing agreement with Armadillo Aerospace, LLC, a leading developer of reusable rocket powered vehicles. Space Adventures will exclusively market and sell commercial passenger experiences on Armadillo Aerospace’s future suborbital spaceflight vehicles that are currently in development.

“I am very pleased to announce Space Adventures’ agreement with Armadillo. I plan to provide more details next month at ISDC on the reasons why we chose Armadillo as our partner and how we envision this as a critical turning point for public access to space,” said Eric Anderson, president and CEO of Space Adventures.

“A decade of research and development has gotten us to the point where we can credibly talk about commercial passenger experiences. Everything is coming together – there is enough clarity in the technical, regulatory, and market factors that it is the right time to form a solid partnership with Space Adventures to help us take things through to commercial operation,” said John Carmack, president and CTO of Armadillo Aerospace.

Costs for a flight were announced at $102,000.

Details regarding the partnership will be announced on May 27 at the National Space Society’s International Space Development Conference (ISDC)  2010 at 11:15 a.m. (CDT). For conference registration details, please visit http://isdc.nss.org/2010/.

SpaceShipTwo makes first captive flight

Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo, now dubbed the VSS Enterprise, completed its first flight March 22 — a captive flight while attached to its mother ship, the White Knight Two.

VSS Enterprise first captive flight
VSS Enterprise first captive flight

This very first captive carry was a huge success and both the mother ship and spaceship looked absolutely stunning against the blue back drop of the skies above the Mojave Air and Spaceport.

Commenting on the historic flight, Burt Rutan said: “This is a momentous day for the Scaled and Virgin Teams. The captive carry flight signifies the start of what we believe will be extremely exciting and successful spaceship flight test program.”

Sir Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Galactic added: “Seeing the finished spaceship in December was a major day for us but watching VSS Enterprise fly for the first time really brings home what beautiful, ground-breaking vehicles Burt and his team have developed for us. It comes as no surprise that the flight went so well; the Scaled team is uniquely qualified to bring this important and incredible dream to reality. Today was another major step along that road and a testament to US engineering and innovation.”

The VSS Enterprise test flight program will continue though 2010 and 2011, progressing from captive carry to independent glide and then powered flight, prior to the start of commercial operations.

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.”

Space Ambassador Program Update

Dear Space Ambassadors,

It’s truly exciting to see the development of the Space Ambassador Program nearing completion with a startup date rapidly approaching. I know there are over 3700 Space Ambassadors out there that are just as excited as we are here at NSS.

The Space Ambassador video is currently in production and final filming is projected to occur with Virgin Galactic at Oshkosh Air Venture July 28th. Final editing and approval will follow shortly thereafter.  Data base construction and power point tools are targeted to be complete and ready for Beta test August 15th with the startup date immediately after.

Full details, rules, tools and login information will be sent to all Space Ambassadors upon successful beta testing and subsequent approval by NSS. Also, for those of you who missed the Space Ambassador workshop at ISDC 2009, additional Sponsors have been added. Besides the top Ambassador being assigned duties on Space Ship Two with Virgin Galactic, additional Ambassadors will be assigned duties with Zero G of Space Adventures and Space training with NASTAR center. More sponsors are being contacted and assignments will continue to grow.

Flight and research assignments will be made at an awards presentation during ISDC 2011. The top 10 finalists will give their presentations to ISDC participants during the conference for final judging and subsequent assignment.

Calling all Space Ambassadors; White Knight Two will fly into Oshkosh July 27th for the Experimental Aircraft Associations Air Venture. It will make several low level fly bys and performance demonstrations throughout the event and will depart on August 2nd to continue testing in the Mojave at Scaled Composites. I will be there from July 31st through August 2nd and hope to meet some of you there.

More updates will be available on the NSS blog sight as well as being sent to all registered Ambassadors as we approach final rollout of the program.

See you up there,

Lee Jones

Space Ambassador Program Director

Finalists Selected for the Heinlein NewSpace Business Plan Competition

Finalists Selected for the Heinlein NewSpace Business Plan Competition

After a thorough selection process, the Space Frontier Foundation is pleased to announce the 10 finalists for the Heinlein NewSpace Business Plan Competition. The winner will be announced at the Apollo 11 Anniversary Gala during the NewSpace 2009 Conference.

NewSpace Nation

NewSpace Nation: Americas Emerging Entrepreneurial Space Industry

“Jeff Krukin has written a much needed and practical introduction to the evolving entrepreneurial space industry. Drawing on his experience as Executive Director of the Space Frontier Foundation and as a NewSpace business consultant with particular experience in state level engagement, Jeff brings invaluable insight about an emerging industry that promises to significantly impact our lives. Whether you are an investor, space exploration aficionado, or someone who just wants to know about these vehicles that will one day soon fly overhead, this primer should be on your must read list.”

– Patti Grace Smith, former Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation, Federal Aviation Administration