Orbit Fab, one of the companies competing in this year’s TechCrunch Disrupt Battlefield in San Francisco this week, has closed a seed round of $3 million.The funding comes from Type 1 Ventures, TechStars and others, and will help Orbit Fab continue to build on the great momentum it has already bootstrapped with its space-based robotic refueling technology.You might remember the name Orbit Fab from a milestone accomplishment the young company achieved earlier this year: Becoming the first startup to supply water to the International Space Station, itself an achievement but also a key demonstration of the viability of its technology for use in orbital satellite refueling.Refueling satellites could have tremendous impact on the commercial satellite business, extending the operating life of expensive satellites considerably, which translates to better margins and more profitable businesses.Thanks to co-founders Daniel Faber and Jeremy Schiel’s connections in the space industry, from more than 15 years working in space technology businesses in a leadership capacity, the company was able to demonstrate its technology working in space less than a year after Orbit Fab was actually founded.Faber, Orbit Fab’s CEO, and Schiel, the startup’s CMO, met when both were working at Deep Space Industries – Faber as CEO and Schiel as a contractor.
New Zealand-based launch provider Rocket Lab has announced its next commercial mission, “As The Crow Flies,” taking an Astro Digital satellite to orbit in October.Interestingly, this launch originally had a different payload, but was switched out on fairly short notice — not exactly a common practice in this business.The launch, scheduled for a two-week window starting October 15, will take a single spacecraft created by Astro to low Earth orbit.But this mission wasn’t scheduled to launch for some time yet.October’s launch, the fifth this year from Rocket Lab, was set to be another customer’s, but that customer seems to have needed a bit of extra time to prepare — and simply requested a later launch date.And because the weather is fine, and one Electron rocket is much like another, Rocket Lab and Astro Digital just decided to use that launch window anyway and head to orbit a bit early.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk delivered an update about Starship, the company’s nest generation spacecraft, which is being designed for full, “rapid reusability.” Musk discussed the technology behind the design of Starship, which has evolved somewhat through testing and development after its original introduction in 2017.Among the updates detailed, Musk articulated how Starship will be used to make humans interplanetary, including its use of in-space refilling of propellant, by docking with tanker Starships already in orbit to transfer fuel.This is necessary for the spacecraft to get enough propellant on board post-launch to make the trip to the Moon or Mars from Earth – especially since it’ll be carrying as much as 100 tons of cargo on board to deliver to these other space-based bodies.The Starship Mk1, Mk2 and the forthcoming Mk3 and Mk4 orbital testers will all feature a fin design that will orient the vehicles so they can re-enter Earth’s atmosphere flat on their ‘bellies,’ coming in horizontal to increase drag and reduce velocity before performing a sort of flip maneuver to swing past vertical and then pendulum back to vertical for touch-down.In simulation, as shown at the event, it looks like it’ll be incredible to watch, since it looks more unwieldy than the current landing process for Falcon boosters, even if it’s still just as controlled.This liquid-oxygen powered rocket, which is about 1.5 times the height of the Starship itself, will have 37 Raptor engines on board (the Starship will have only six) and will also feature six landing legs and deployable grid fins for its own return trip back to Earth.
SpaceX is taking the steps necessary to begin test flying the orbital-class version of its Starship spacecraft, with new documents filed by the company (via Teslarati) with the FCC seeking necessary permissions for it to communicate with the prototype while it’s in flight.The company filed documents with the U.S. regulatory agency this week in advance of the flight, which lists a max altitude of 74,000 feet, which is a far cry from Earth orbit but still a much greater distance vs. the 500 or so feet achieved by the squat ‘Starhopper’ demonstration and test vehicle that SpaceX has been actively operating in preparation for Starship .SpaceX CEO Elon Musk confirmed that prep was underway via tweet.Musk has previously said that he hoped to follow the Starhopper’s most recent and final successful test quickly with tests of the full-scale vehicle.Like with that low-altitude test, SpaceX will aim to launch and land the Starhopper, with touch down planned just a short distance away.Assembly and construction of the Starship prototype looks to be well underway, and Musk recently teased a Starship update event for September 28, which is likely when we’ll see this prototype assembled and ready to go ahead of its planned October first test flight window.
The Boeing-built X-37B space plane commissioned and operated by the U.S. Air Force has now broken its own record for time spent in space.Its latest mission has lasted 719 days as of today, which is one day longer than its last mission which ended in 2017, as noted by Space.com.It’s not an overall record, since geocommunications satellites typically have life spans of five years or more, but it’s nonetheless an impressive milestone for this secretive Air Force vehicle, which is all about testing and developing U.S. technologies related to reusable spaceflight and more.The X-37B began its current mission in September 2018, when it launched atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.The specific details of the spacecraft’s missions are classified, but in addition to apparently spending ever increasing amounts of time up in space (each successive mission of the space plane has lasted longer), it’s also “operating experiments which can be returned to, and examined, on Earth.” These tests involve tech related to guidance, navigation, thermal protection, high-temperature materials and durability, flight and propulsion systems and more, which is basically not saying much since that’s just everything involved in space flight.There’s no crew on board operating X-37-B, but the vehicle can autonomously descend back through Earth’s atmosphere and land horizontally on a runway, just like the NASA Space Shuttle used to do when it was in operation.
Orbital launch firm SpaceX has raised more than $1 billion (£790m) in the past six months as it prepares to assemble a network of thousands of small relay satellites as the backbone of a worldwide broadband service, the company said in regulatory filings on Friday.One equity round worth $486.2 million began in December and another offering of $535.7m begain in April, the firm disclosed.SpaceX launched the first 60 “production” satellites for the Starlink service on Thursday.The company has said launch was carried out for demonstration and testing purposes, and the satellites are not destined to form part of the service’s eventual mesh network.The satellites deployed at an altitude of 273 miles, or 440 km, and are gradually climbing to their operational altitude of 550km.About 400 satellites are needed for “minor” coverage and 800 for “moderate” coverage, the company’s chief executive, Elon Musk, has said.
Breaking into the launch industry is no easy task, but New Zealand’s Rocket Lab has done it without missing a step.The company has just completed its third commercial launch of 2019, and is planning to increase the frequency of its launches until there’s one a week.Although it has risen to prominence over the last two years at a remarkable rate, the appearance of Rocket Lab in the launch market isn’t exactly sudden.One does not engineer and test an orbital launch system in a day.The New Zealand-based company was founded in 2006, and for years pursued smaller projects while putting together the Rutherford rocket engine, which would eventually power its Electron launch vehicle.Far from the ambitions of the likes of SpaceX and Blue Origin, which covet heavy-launch capabilities to compete with ULA to bring payloads beyond Earth orbit, Rocket Lab and its Electron LV have been laser-focused on frequent and reliable access to orbit.
After years of development and delays, SpaceX’s Crew Dragon is ready to launch into orbit.It’s the first commercially built and operated crewed spacecraft ever to do so, and represents in many ways the public-private partnership that could define the future of spaceflight.Launch is set for just before midnight Pacific time — 2:49 Eastern time in Cape Canaveral, from where the Falcon 9 carrying the Crew Dragon capsule will take off.It’s using Launchpad 39A at Kennedy Space Center, which previously hosted Apollo missions and more recently SpaceX’s momentous Falcon Heavy launch.Feel free to relive that moment with us, while you’re here:The capsule has been the work of many years and billions of dollars: an adaptation of the company’s Dragon capsule, but with much of its cargo space converted to a spacious crew compartment.
Virgin Galactic laid claim to spaceflight in December when its rocket-powered SpaceShipTwo reached 51.4 miles (82.7 kilometers) above Earth's surface.The space plane headed out for a fifth supersonic powered test flight on Friday, this time with a third person on board.Virgin Galactic revealed there was a third crew member besides the two pilots.The surprise addition was Beth Moses, the company's chief astronaut instructor, who spent 24 years working at NASA."She will provide human validation for the data we collect.Including aspects of the customer cabin and spaceflight environment from the perspective of people in the back," Virgin Galactic tweeted.
Already, you can buy tickets for (as-yet-unscheduled) flights aboard SpaceShipTwo, the crew vehicle developed by Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic.And at a NewSpace conference in Seattle last month, Blue Origin—helmed by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos—announced that it has plans to sell tickets to wannabe space tourists as early as next year.Both companies have solid plans to cash in on human space travel (and then, of course, there’s SpaceX, which will focus first on shuttling astronauts to and from the space station).Branson has said that Virgin Galactic is in a race with itself, not other companies, to achieve safe human space flight.But with Blue Origin aiming to start selling tickets next year, both companies could be competing for business sooner rather than later.It’ll be like reliving the first flights of Alan Shepard and Gus Grissom, says veteran NASA astronaut Tom Jones.
A suborbital space flight service for tourists could be launching from a spaceport in Italy within a couple of years after Virgin Galactic inked an agreement with two of the country’s largest aerospace companies.The agreement with Italy’s leading private space company SITAEL, and ALTEC, a public-private company owned by both the Italian Space Agency and Thales Alenia Space, outlines plans for a spaceport to be constructed in the province of Grottaglie in the south of the country.Besides providing launch facilities to take wealthy folks on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to the edge of space, the spaceport will also be used by customers such as the Italian Space Agency as a science platform for high-frequency space research, Virgin Galactic said in a release.Virgin Group founder Richard Branson said he believes the collaboration will provide “a real impetus as we strive to open space for the benefit of life on Earth … together, we will help to expand opportunities for science, industry, and the millions of people who dream of experiencing space for themselves.”Virgin Galactic recently completed the second successful rocket-powered test flight of its latest SpaceShipTwo plane called VSS Unity, the two-crew, six-passenger aircraft that will take space tourists on their thrilling trips to a point 62 miles above Earth.Depending on how the trials progress, Virgin Galactic could launch its first commercial service for tourists from its existing Spaceport America in New Mexico.
There are moneyed folks around the world right now with an eye on the ride of a lifetime with Blue Origin, the space tourism company led by Amazon boss Jeff Bezos.But to be at the front of the line, they’ll need to buy a ticket the moment they become available.Well, news from those in the know indicate that Blue Origin will start selling seats for its sub-orbital space trips as early as next year.Rob Meyerson, vice president at Blue Origin, revealed the tidbit during a recent presentation, Space News reported.He added that the company also plans to begin flying its first test crews “soon,” though he didn’t offer a more specific time frame.As for ticket prices, that’s also yet to be determined.
No price was given, but the company said it expects to conduct the first passenger tests of the New Shepard launch system “soon.”As Jeff Foust reports in SpaceNews, Blue Origin Senior Vice President Rob Meyerson made the announcement during his keynote address at the Amazon Web Services Public Sector Summit, held earlier this week in Washington DC.“We plan to start flying our first test passengers soon,” he told the audience, adding that, “We expect to start selling tickets in 2019.” No price was given for a ride aboard the New Shepard reusable launch system, but it likely won’t come cheap.Estimates range from $50,000 (£37,700) to $250,000 (£188,400) per seat.The New Shepard capsule accommodates six astronauts, and it has a reasonably spacious 530-square-foot interior — a space that’s 10 times larger than NASA’s Mercury capsule.The New Shepard reusable rocket is driven by a single BE-3 engine, which provides 110,000 pounds of thrust.
Blue Origin flew its New Shepard system for the eighth time on Sunday, launching from West Texas at about noon local time.During the 10-minute flight, the capsule reached a record height of 107 kilometers, and both the booster and capsule landed safely.Although it has yet to make a formal announcement, the company seems to be getting closer to flying people on the suborbital tourism launch system—and perhaps beginning ticket sales.Not only was this the second flight of a new version of the capsule with large windows, but the webcast's host, Ariane Cornell, repeatedly discussed the customer experience.Cornell, who oversees business development for Blue Origin, spoke about how customers will fly into West Texas on a Friday (complete with panoramic views of the region), spend a day of "fun" flight training on Saturday, and then the launch into space itself on Sunday.Her repeated emphasis on the customer experience, rather than the technical performance of the vehicle often discussed in previous webcasts, may be the harbinger of a marketing campaign built around ticket sales.
During the test, VSS Unity was taken up to an altitude of 50,000ft via a carrier aircraft dubbed VMS Eve.From there, the fancy spaceplane was dropped to glide through the air without firing its hybrid rocket engine and make a successful landing.The test, a precursor to powered flights, was pretty much similar to the previous six glides and focused on stability and control of the craft.However, on this occasion, the vehicle also descended while going transonic, with speeds around Mach 0.9 – the maximum it could achieve without a rocket-powered boost, according to Virgin Galactic.In order to replicate the conditions of a powered flight, the plane carried a water ballast that simulated the weight and positioning of the motor and was jettisoned at an altitude of around 22,000ft.It also had a thermal protection system (TPS), a protective silvered film which protects the vehicle from extreme heat generated by air friction during rocket-powered boost and supersonic re-entry.
In a nondescript warehouse tucked behind Copenhagen, Denmark’s opera house, a few dozen rocket scientists meet every week to discuss what has become their collective obsession: sending an astronaut into suborbital space.Russia ticked the suborbital box over 55 years ago and NASA has literally sent people to the moon and back.Others made more an impression through their failures to ascend as expected, like the Nexø I, which reached less than 20 percent of its intended altitude before plummeting back into the Baltic.Although the group holds its weekly meetings on Sunday, there were still a few members about, toiling with electronics while the machine shop was silent.CopSub members are committed to its mission and, for many of its volunteers, the warehouse acts like a home away from home.The organization is relatively flat and roles often overlap.
NASA plans to probe the seemingly empty space that lies between stars via its new CHESS mission, helping researchers understand the earliest parts of a star’s slow formation.CHESS, in this case, is short for Colorado High-resolution Echelle Stellar Spectrograph, a special payload that will be sent into space on the suborbital sounding rocket called Black Brant IX.The launch will take place next week.The CHESS mission ultimately aims to investigate the space between stars; though it appears empty to the naked eye, NASA assures us that is isn’t, saying instead that it is home to charged plasma particles, neutral molecules and atoms, and more.Scientists call these clouds of particles, atoms and molecules the ‘interstellar medium,’ and they float around in reservoirs that researchers want to explore.Studying these molecules and atoms involves using the CHESS tool to measure the light making its way through them.
The US space organization tonight will try, yet again, to launch a rocket from the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia to make fake clouds along the East Coast.ET -- is to test a new system that helps scientists study auroras and the ionosphere.If the launch goes as planned, a NASA sounding rocket (a small, sub-orbital rocket often used in research) will release several soda-sized canisters of vapor tracers in the upper atmosphere that may appear as colorful clouds.The clouds may be visible from New York to North Carolina and westward to Charlottesville, Virginia.The tracers use vapors made up of lithium, barium and tri-methyl aluminum that react with other elements in the atmosphere to glow, letting researchers visually track the flows of ionized and neutral particles.It's a bit like being able to dye the wind or ocean currents to be able to get a visual picture.
The early morning hours on the US east coast might be unusually colorful Friday, as NASA plans to produce artificial blue-green and red clouds that may be visible from New York to North Carolina.It's not the launch of a new era of geoengineering or a bizarre upper-atmospheric art project.It's a test of a new system that helps scientists study the auroras and ionosphere.A NASA sounding rocket (a small, sub-orbital rocket often used in research) will launch from Wallops Flight Facility off the coast of Virginia and release several soda-sized canisters of vapor tracers in the upper atmosphere that may appear as colorful clouds.The tracers use vapors made up of lithium, barium and tri-methyl aluminum that react with other elements in the atmosphere to glow, letting researchers visually track the flows of ionized and neutral particles.It's a bit like being able to dye the wind or ocean currents to be able to get a visual picture.
More companies to encourage the drive to space.I wish them good luck.Canada may have a launch system in place near 2020 with a similar payload system.The company plans on bringing in Cyclone-4 rocket made in Ukraine to launch from a facility on Cape Bretton island in Nova Scotia.
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