Commercialization: April 2007 Archives

Hawking Experiences Microgravity: "Noted wheelchair-bound physicist Stephen Hawking proceeds to the Zero Gravity Corp. airplane for his first flight in microgravity. Zero-G founder Peter Diamondis, left, and a caregiver joined Hawking on the flight that took off from the same runway the space shuttles land on at Kennedy Space Center. Hawking suffers amyotrophic lateral sclerosis disease which has cost him also all of his neuromuscular control. He said he wanted to make the flight because it is as close as he can come to going into space right now. The flight was made aboard a modified Boeing 727 that flies steep parabollic arcs between 24,000 feet and 32,000 feet, inducing about 25 seconds of free-fall at a time. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett"

More photos here

Hawking In Flight Video

Editor's note: ZeroGravity Corp. Has released some video highlights of Professor Hawking's flight yesterday .... video below. If you look closely you will see that Hawking's name badge is upside down while is he is floating. That is a ZeroG tradition. Only once you have experienced weightlessness do you get to have your badge turned right side up - which is usually done with some fanfare and applause.

NASA Science Statement on Stephen Hawking's Zero Gravity Flight

"The following is a statement from Alan Stern, NASA associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at Headquarters in Washington, regarding renowned physicist Stephen Hawking's flight aboard Zero Gravity Corporation's Boeing 727. ... "Space is as much a place for scientists, I believe, as the arctic, Antarctic, and the deep ocean. And Dr. Hawking is showing the way."

NASA's Centennial Challenge for Improved Astronaut Gloves Set

"NASA is offering a total of $200,000 for the team that can design and manufacture the best astronaut glove that exceeds minimum requirements. An additional $50,000 goes to the team that best demonstrates Mechanical Counter Pressure gloves."

NASA Astronaut Tore Spacesuit During Mission, KUTV

"Bob Curbeam was part of the Space Shuttle Discovery crew that flew to the space station in December. According to NASA, during one of the spacewalks, he accidentally tore his glove while doing some hand-intensive activities outside of the space station."

NASA GRC Solicitation: Microgravity Aircraft Services - RFP Release

"NASA/GRC plans to issue has issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) for the following Commercial item/services: Operation of an aircraft in support of microgravity research. Contractor will be required to manage and operate their own aircraft which performs microgravity flights that meet NASA performance requirements while carrying NASA operated experiments."

Making Commercialization More Difficult - Instead of Easier - at NASA, earlier post

Editor's note: The more I read the documents associated with this draft solicitation, the more convinced I am that the NASA civil servants who wrote this procurement are going out of their way to make it hard - if not impossible for a private contractor to meet these requirements. In so doing they serve to safeguard NASA's current monopoly. It is no secret that the folks at JSC see the operation of their reduced gravity airplane as a God-given right (or at least one handed down by George Abbey) - one they will not easily give up.

Editor's note: I just received this from ZeroG:

"For Peter, and everyone who helped us into Zero G: I just wanted to thank you again for the fantastic experience we all had while flying in Zero G. Just as you said, I have seen nothing but smiles all day. When Stephen saw the news video on your laptop, over dinner after the Zero G flight, this is what he said:

"After 40 years of disinterest, space travel is finally coming back into the news."

May this wonderful trend continue! Thanks, regards and have fun, Sam Blackburn"

Professor Stephen Hawking Experiences the Freedom of Weightlessness During Historic Zero-Gravity Flight Out of Kennedy Space Center

"It was amazing. The zero-g part was wonderful," said Professor Stephen Hawking. "I could have gone on and on space here I come!" Hawking added, "I recommend the experience to everyone and I hope that many will follow me and experience weightlessness. There are a few people and organizations I would like to thank. First I'd like to thank Zero Gravity Corporation, The Shaper Image and Peter Diamandis for arranging this for me. Second, I'd like to thank Space Florida and the NASA Kennedy Space Center for being my host. The Space Shuttle Landing Facility is the first step to the moon and Mars. It is very special for me, to fly into weightlessness from here."

Hawking goes zero-G: 'Space, here I come', MSNBC (with video)

"He had a wonderful time. Far beyond our expectations," Diamandis said. "The medical indications were better than expected." After six parabolas, Zero Gravity tried to call it quits, but Hawking insisted they do more, said Noah McMahon, chief marketing officer for Zero Gravity and Hawking's coach for the flight. They decided to keep going because he was doing so well."

Space Florida Microgravity Center Named for Stephen Hawking

"Space Florida announced the renaming of its innovative microgravity center to honor the acclaimed cosmologist and theoretical physicist. The new name will be the Stephen Hawking Microgravity Education and Research Center."

Weightless Over Cleveland - Part 2: Learning to Fly, SpaceRef

"The next parabola was truly unique. As Matt yelled out "Zero G" everyone cheered - and suddenly there I was. After imagining what it would be like for nearly all of my 50 years, I was weightless. The only word I can find that describes the experience was "perfectly natural". It wasn't profound as I somehow thought it might be. As each parabola came and went I would become quickly accustomed to how to function in weightlessness - with a new skill added with each brief exposure. Adapting to weightlessness is something humans do automatically."

X Prize Expands

The X PRIZE Foundation and Holloman AFB Announce Partnership to Present World's Largest Air & Space Flight Demonstration

"This year's expanded Wirefly X PRIZE Cup activities are expected to result in an 8-fold increase in competing teams and crowds. The flights and ground events will be held in Las Cruces, N.M. and HAFB in Alamagordo from October 24 28th, 2007. Last year, the Wirefly X PRIZE Cup attracted one actual vehicle competing for the $2M Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge (NG-LLC) and an estimated crowd of 15,000. This year's expanded plans are expected to attract up to 8 viable competing spaceships for the NG-LLC, and crowds exceeding 100,000, including a group of more than 10,000 schoolchildren."

Out of This World Weightless Flights By Zero Gravity Corporation Lift Off From Las Vegas

"Zero Gravity Corporation, the first and only FAA-approved provider of commercial weightless flights, has officially launched regular service from Signature Air Terminal at McCarran International Airport. This, combined with the recently announced relationship with Sharper Image to sell ZERO-G flights in its stores throughout the nation, truly brings an incredible adventure - previously only available to astronauts - directly to the general public. To blast off the attraction, ZERO-G hosted a private VIP flight with notables including Apollo-11 astronaut, Buzz Aldrin. Key Las Vegas casino executives and Vegas entertainers also participated in the flight to experience weightlessness for the first time."

Simonyi Returns to Earth

Space Adventures' Client, Charles Simonyi, Returned to Earth After Completing Longest Duration Private Spaceflight

NASA Space Station Status Report 21 April 2007

"The 14th crew of the International Space Station, Commander Michael Lopez-Alegria and Flight Engineer Mikhail Tyurin, along with spaceflight participant Charles Simonyi landed their Soyuz spacecraft in the steppes of Kazakhstan at 7:31 a.m CDT Saturday."

Commercialising space Ready for take off?, Economist

"Peter Diamandis, the man behind both these American firms and the founder of the X Prize Foundationa charity that financed a competition that led in 2004 to the first manned private-sector flight into spacesees entertainment and tourism as "profitable stepping stones" to the commercialisation of space."

How Safe Is the Race To Send Tourists into Space?, Wall Street Journal

"But how safe is the space tourism business? The Wall Street Journal Online invited Patricia Smith, who heads the Federal Aviation Administration office responsible for overseeing the nascent industry, to discuss the topic with space entrepreneur Peter Diamandis, a co-founder of Space Adventures and chairman of the X Prize Foundation, which awarded a $10 million prize to Burt Rutan's SpaceShipOne in 2004. Their conversation, carried out via email, is below."

Bigelow Update

Private Space of The Future, Washington Post

"Private space exploration took a potentially significant step forward this week as Nevada-based Bigelow Aerospace announced plans to send a series of inflatable space stations into orbit over the next decade. The spacecraft, initially designed by NASA for use with the International Space Station, would be available to train astronauts from nations not currently active in space, as well as companies that could manufacture unique products in weightlessness."

Gates to join Simonyi in space?, IT Wire

"... cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin suggests it will be Bill up next the ultimate space thrill. As reported by the Associated Press, Yurchikhin told journalists: "So the next time someone will be with Bill Gates. For me this is the biggest surprise of our flight."

Patent for Winged spacecraft Assigned to Burt Rutan, USPTO

"A rocket-powered spacecraft having a wing which has hinged aft portions which can be elevated about a hinge line. Tail booms extend rearwardly from the outer ends of the aft wing portions, and rudders are mounted at the aft ends of the booms. Each tail boom supports a horizontal tail with an elevon at its trailing edge. In normal flight, the wing aft portions are not elevated, and the wing has a normal airfoil shape. During atmosphere reentry, the wing aft portions are steeply elevated to provide a stable high-drag altitude for the spaceship for speed reduction at low thermal and structural loading. After reentry, the aft wing is returned to an unelevated position which enables gliding flight to a horizontal-runway landing."

NASA Space Station Status Report 7 April 2007

"Two cosmonauts and a space flight participant launched aboard a Soyuz spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 12:31 p.m. CDT Saturday for a two-day flight to the International Space Station. Less than 10 minutes after launch their spacecraft reached orbit and its antennas and solar arrays deployed. The Soyuz TMA-10 spacecraft is scheduled to dock at the station at a little after 2 p.m. Monday."

Charles Simonyi Official Website

Bigelow Reveals Space Business Plan, Aviation Week and Space Technology/

"The Bigelow Aerospace commercial inflatable manned space module venture intends by 2015 to have three large multi-module outposts in Earth orbit to serve different user communities.

The Bigelow business plan will headline the National Space Symposium to be attended by 7,000 people in Colorado Springs, Col. this week. Company CEO Robert T. Bigelow briefed Aviation Week & Space Technology on the plan in advance."

FAA: Experimental Permits for Reusable Suborbital Rockets

"The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is amending its commercial space transportation regulations under the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 2004. The FAA is establishing application requirements for an operator of a manned or unmanned reusable suborbital rocket to obtain an experimental permit. The FAA is also establishing operating requirements and restrictions on launch and reentry of reusable suborbital rockets operated under a permit. These amendments become effective June 5, 2007."

A Vote for Space - Statement of the National Space Society on the successful Spaceport America vote in New Mexico, National Space Society

N.M. County Passes Tax Increase to Fund Spaceport, Washington Post

"Voters in a New Mexico county have approved a tax increase that will help build the nation's first commercial spaceport, state officials said yesterday. ... The $200 million spaceport is to be built in scrubland near the White Sands Missile Base and is expected to be open for business by early 2010."

ATK To Swallow Swales

ATK to Acquire Swales Aerospace

"Alliant Techsystems announced today that it intends to acquire Swales Aerospace, a premier provider of satellite components and subsystems, small spacecraft and engineering services for NASA, Department of Defense and commercial satellite customers. The transaction is subject to Hart-Scott-Rodino (HSR) review, and approval by a majority of the shareholders in the employee-owned company."

To Infinity And Beyond, Forbes

"The U.S. federal government is about to take a not-so-small step forward in its giant leap to help tourists get to outer space. Within the next few weeks, the Federal Aviation Administration will issue its regulations surrounding the "experimental permits" that private spacecraft owners will use to test their rockets. The rules essentially tell developers what they need to do once they obtain a permit and are designed to expedite research on spacecraft. The regulations will apply specifically to reusable suborbital rockets, the kind that space adventure companies such as Virgin Galactic will use to send people for a thrill ride into outer space."



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