Space is not just the final frontier. It’s the citizen-science frontier. Thanks to rapid advances in technology, it’s now possible for citizen scientists to build high-quality space-science hardware with off-the-shelf components.

Interest in citizen science and participatory exploration has exploded in recent years. New technologies are making it easier for private citizens  to become involved in the scientific process. More and more, the professional scientific community is recognizing the importance of contributions made by dedicated amateurs. Citizen scientists are discovering exoplanets and dinosaurs, monitoring climate and endangered species, and helping to map the human genome.

The development of low-cost reusable suborbital spacecraft will be the next great enabler, allowing citizens to participate in space exploration and space science.

Citizens in Space, a project of the United States Rocket Academy, is riding this new wave of citizen science citizen space exploration.

XCOR Lynx with Atsa Suborbital Observatory space telescope

For the first phase of our project, we have acquired an initial contract for 10 suborbital spaceflights with one of the new space transportation companies — XCOR Aerospace. This represents, to the best of our knowledge, the largest single bulk purchase of suborbital flights to date. We will be making payload space on these flights available to citizen scientists and to professional researchers who play by our open-source rules. We expect to fly up to 100 small experiments in our initial flight campaign. For information on submitting payloads, see our Call for Experiments.

Citizens in Space will also select and train 10 citizen astronauts to fly as payload operators. We have three astronaut candidates already in training. We’ll be recruiting seven more over the next 12 to 24 months.

For more information on our program, click here.

Sierra Nevada Dream Chaser commercial lifting-body spacecraft landing

Sierra Nevada continues to make progress on its Dream Chaser spaceplane.

On 10 July, Sierra Nevada completed acquisition of Orbital Technologies Corporation (Orbitec), which has been developing life-support and thermal management systems for Dream Chaser. Orbitec is also expected to play a key role in development of Dream Chaser propulsion.

Orbitec has developed a new engine technology called the VCCW (“vortex combustion cold-wall”) thrust chamber, which can be applied to hybrid or liquid-propellant rocket engines. There has been some speculation that Sierra Nevada might use this new technology to improve the performance of the Dream Chaser’s hybrid rocket motor. However, Charles Lurio of The Lurio Report suggests that Sierra Nevada plans to abandon the hybrid motor in favor of a liquid-propellant (nitrous oxide/propane) rocket engine, which would be developed by Orbitec using the VCCW chamber. The advantages of this engine would include better performance, more consistent thrust, easier thrust-vector control, and better reusability.

On 23 July, Sierra Nevada announced that it has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). Sierra Nevada will work with JAXA on potential applications of Japanese technologies and the development of mission concepts for Dream Chaser. Sierra Nevada and JAXA will also explore the possibility of launching and landing Dream Chaser in Japan.

Sierra Nevada previously signed similar agreements with the European Space Agency and the German Aerospace Center.

Sierra Nevada touts Dream Chaser as “the only lifting-body, low-g reentry spacecraft with the capability to land on commercial runways, anywhere in the world.” Dream Chaser is being marketed as a “multi-mission space utility vehicle” able to “retrieve, repair, replace, assemble or deploy items in space” as well as servicing the International Space Station.

Leave A Comment, Written by Astro1 on July 30th, 2014 , Sierra Nevada

Doug Shane, president, The Spaceship Company

The Spaceship Company announced today that Doug Shane has been named as president.

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Leave A Comment, Written by Astro1 on July 30th, 2014 , Virgin Galactic

Russian Soyuz rocket rollout

“This deal is looking worse and worse all time.” Those words were famously spoken by Lando Calrissian in Star Wars Episode V (The Empire Strikes Back), but they could also be applied to NASA’s Commercial Crew program.

NASA sold the Commercial Crew program to Congress with the promise that the expenditure would end US dependence on the Russian Soyuz capsule and launcher. But according to NASA’s deputy space-station program manager Dan Hartman, that won’t happen. This week, Hartman told the NASA Advisory Council that some US astronauts will continue to ride on Soyuz vehicles as long as ISS is operational.

Soyuz serves as both transportation system and “lifeboat” for ISS astronauts, and NASA expects any new crew vehicle will do the same. NASA wants some astronauts to continue to ride on Soyuz and some Russian cosmonauts to ride on US vehicles, so it can continue to operate the station with a mixed crew even if one vehicle has to depart due to an emergency. “It doesn’t make much sense for three Russians to leave and expect the four Americans onboard to operate the Russian segment and vice versa,” Hartman said.

This revelation represents just the latest in a long string of broken promises from the Commercial Crew program.

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20 Comments, Written by Astro1 on July 29th, 2014 , Commercial Space (General), Space Policy and Management

SpaceX has released a statement on the results of their latest booster-recovery experiment. SpaceX reports that “following last week’s successful launch of six ORBCOMM satellites, the Falcon 9 rocket’s first stage reentered Earth’s atmosphere and soft landed in the Atlantic Ocean.”

According to SpaceX, “This test confirms that the Falcon 9 booster is able consistently to reenter from space at hypersonic velocity, restart main engines twice, deploy landing legs and touch down at near zero velocity.”

The booster tipped over after touchdown (as expected), causing the structure to rupture. Based on the result of this test, SpaceX says it is now “highly confident of being able to land successfully on a floating launch pad or back at the launch site and refly the rocket with no required refurbishment.”

The next recovery test won’t occur for a while. The next two launches are for geostationary satellites with high delta-v requirements. These missions do not allow enough residual propellent for booster recovery. (In the long term, SpaceX plans to switch these missions to the Falcon Heavy.)

The next attempt at water landing will be on flight 13 of Falcon 9 (an ISS resupply mission). If that goes well, SpaceX will attempt to land on a solid surface on flights 14 and 15 (an ORBCOM satellite launch and another ISS resupply run).

Leave A Comment, Written by Astro1 on July 23rd, 2014 , SpaceX

NASA Technology Mission Directorate Vision for In-Space Manufacturing

The National Research Council has released a report, commissioned by NASA and the US Air Force, on 3D Printing in Space.

Although fairly positive about the long-term value of 3D printing in space, the study throws some cold water on its near-term prospects.

“Many of the claims made in the popular press about this technology have been exaggerated,” said Maj. Gen. Robert Latiff (USAF-ret.), chairman of the committee that wrote the report.

The report says that 3D printing could contribute to space missions by enabling on-orbit manufacturing of replacement parts and reducing logistics, but the specific benefits and scope of the technology’s use remain undetermined.

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3 Comments, Written by Astro1 on July 21st, 2014 , Innovation

Boeing/DARPA Experimental SpacePlane (XS-1) concept

Following DARPA’s announcement of three Experimental SpacePlane (XS-1) teams, the Boeing Company released an illustration of its XS-1 design concept.

“Our design would allow the autonomous booster to carry the second stage and payload to high altitude and deploy them into space,” said Will Hampton, Boeing XS-1 program manager. “The booster would then return to Earth, where it could be quickly prepared for the next flight by applying operation and maintenance principles similar to modern aircraft. Drawing on our other innovative technologies, Boeing intends to provide a concept that uses efficient, streamlined ground infrastructure and improves the turnaround time to relaunch this spacecraft for subsequent missions.”

Boeing and its subcontractor Blue Origin will receive $4 million for the XS-1 Phase I study. DARPA plans to hold a Phase II competition next year for the follow-on production order to build the vehicle and conduct demonstration flights.

Steve Johnston, director of Boeing’s Phantom Works Advanced Space Exploration division, said that “Developing a vehicle that launches small payloads more affordably is a priority for future US Defense Department operations.”

Leave A Comment, Written by Astro1 on July 15th, 2014 , Blue Origin, Boeing, Military Space

DARPA Experimental SpacePlane-1 (XS-1) launch

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has announced the selection of three teams to conduct Phase One design studies for the agency’s Experimental SpacePlane 1 (XS-1).

DARPA has selected Boeing (working with Blue Origin), Masten Space Systems (working with XCOR Aerospace), and Northrop Grumman Corporation (working with Virgin Galactic) to design the reusable experimental spaceplane, which is expected to fly ten times in ten days, fly to Mach 10+ at least once, and launch a 3,000-5,000 pound payload to orbit.

DARPA Experimental SpacePlane-1 (XS-1) staging

Program manager Jess Sponable said that DARPA “chose performers who could prudently integrate existing and up-and-coming technologies and operations, while making XS-1 as reliable, easy-to-use and cost-effective as possible. We’re eager to see how their initial designs envision making spaceflight commonplace—with all the potential military, civilian and commercial benefits that capability would provide.”

According to a DARPA press release, the XS-1 program “aims to develop a fully-reusable unmanned vehicle that would provide aircraft-like access to space and deploy small satellites to orbit using expendable upper stages. XS-1 seeks to deploy small satellites faster and more affordably, and develop technology for next-generation hypersonic vehicles.

“XS-1 envisions that a reusable first stage would fly to hypersonic speeds at a suborbital altitude. At that point, one or more expendable upper stages would separate and deploy a satellite into Low Earth Orbit (LEO). The reusable first stage would then return to earth, land and be prepared for the next flight. Modular components, durable thermal protection systems and automatic launch, flight and recovery systems should significantly reduce logistical needs, enabling rapid turnaround between flights.”

In addition to creating vehicle designs, the three teams will identify and conduct critical risk reduction of core component technologies and processes and develop a technology maturation plan leading to fabrication and flight-test.

DARPA expects the teams to “explore alternative technical approaches from the perspectives of feasibility, performance, system design and development cost and operational cost. They must also assess potential suitability for near-term transition opportunities to military, civil, and commercial users. These opportunities include both launching small payloads per the program goals as well as others, such as supporting future hypersonic testing and a future space-access aircraft.”

DARPA did not announce the size of the contracts, but previous statements place the awards at about $3 million each. (Boeing has just announced that its award is $4 million.)

Technology developed in the XS-1 program could transition into future fully reusable orbital systems, such as XCOR’s Lynx Mark V (the successor to the Lynx suborbital spacecraft) or Blue Origin’s VTVL system. DARPA has not specified a launch or landing mode, but it is anticipated that XS-1 concepts will include both vertical and horizontal takeoff and landing systems.

2 Comments, Written by Astro1 on July 15th, 2014 , Blue Origin, Boeing, Masten Space Systems, Military Space, XCOR Aerospace

Virgin Galactic SpaceShip Two first powered flight test

Parabolic Arc reports that Virgin Galactic’s launch license is being held up by a technical glitch in regulatory law, which prevents the company from having an active experimental permit and launch license at the same time.

Virgin Galactic has been testing SpaceShip Two under an FAA experimental permit, but the permit will no longer be useable once the launch license is issued. That presents a problem for Virgin, which expects experimental flight testing to continue for some time. As a result, Virgin Galactic has asked the FAA to place its launch-license application on hold. Without such a request, the FAA would be required to issue a launch license or deny the application within 180 days of application.

Virgin Galactic’s launch-license application has been on hold since January, according to Parabolic Arc.

The Suborbital and Orbital Advancement and Regulatory Streamlining (SOARS) Act, introduced by Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA, who represents the district containing the Mojave Air and Space Port) and Rep. Bill Posey (R-FL), would fix thus technical problem. If the SOARS Act is not passed, Virgin Galactic will ask the FAA to resume processing of its launch-license application once flight testing is completed.

Leave A Comment, Written by Astro1 on July 12th, 2014 , Virgin Galactic

Astronauts George Zamka (left) and Kenneth Ham (right)

Space News reports that Bigelow Aerospace has hired two former NASA astronauts, Captain Kenneth Ham (USN) and Colonel George Zamka (USMC-ret.). The hi rings are said to represent the start of a commercial astronaut corps for the space stations Bigelow plans to launch beginning in 2017.

Capt. Ham is a former naval aviator with 6,000 flight hours in more than 40 different aircraft, more than 300 carrier landings, and 612 hours in space. He flew two Space Shuttle missions to ISS, as pilot of Discovery on STS-124 in June, 2008 and commander of Atlantis on STS-132 in May, 2010.

Capt. Ham holds an MS in aeronautical engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School. He currently serves as chairman of the Department of Aerospace Engineering at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.

Col. Zamka has logged more than 5,000 flight hours in more than 30 different aircraft and 692 hours in space on two Shuttle flights. Zamka flew to ISS as pilot of Discovery on STS-120 in October, 2007 and commander of Endeavour on STS-130 in February, 2010.

Col. Zamka left NASA in March 2013 to become Deputy Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation at the Federal Aviation Administration. Bigelow says that Zamka will remain in DC to provide a company interface with the US government as well as foreign customers.

Leave A Comment, Written by Astro1 on July 11th, 2014 , Bigelow Aerospace

US Capitol building

Two new bills before Congress seek to boost the commercial space industry.

The SOARS Act (HR 3038) is meant to stimulate suborbital and orbital human spaceflight, while the ASTEROIDS Act (HR 5063) focuses on deep space.

SOARS stands for Suborbital and Orbital Advancement and Regulatory Streamlining. The SOARS Act was introduced on 2 August 2013 by Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Rep. Bill Posey (R-FL), but it received little attention until December when Rep. McCarthy spoke about it during a meeting of the House Subcommitte on Space and Aeronautics.

McCarthy represents the district that includes Mojave Air and Space Port, while Posey’s district includes Cape Canaveral.

Posey is also sponsoring the ASTEROIDS Act, which stands for American Space Technology for Exploring Resource Opportunities in Deep Space. The bill was introduced this week by Posey and Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-WA).

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The following experiments may inspire the creativity of citizen scientists who want to fly experiments in space. Performed aboard the International Space Station, they could easily be replicated aboard a suborbital flight. (We would like to remind everyone that our Call for Experiments is still open.)

In the first video, International Space Station science officer Don Petit uses an inexpensive speaker to demonstrate the effects of acoustical energy on water in a microgravity environment.

A variation on this experiment uses a different type of fluid, which does not behave in a classical “Newtonian” manner. In the following video, Don Petit uses a cornstarch mixture as an example of a non-Newtonian fluid.

Leave A Comment, Written by Astro1 on July 11th, 2014 , Microgravity Tags:

Austin-based Firefly Space Systems apparently intends to follow the SpaceX path of evolving its expendable launcher into a reusable system. According to this promotional video, “In the future, additional cost savings will be gained as Firefly’s launchers have been designed with reusability in mind.”

Leave A Comment, Written by Astro1 on July 7th, 2014 , Firefly Space Systems Tags:

Firefly small commercial launch vehicle

FireFly Space Systems, a startup space-launch company based in Austin, Texas, has officially announced its first product — a small-satellite launcher called FireFly Alpha, designed to place 400 kilograms (880 pounds) into Low Earth Orbit.

Firefly Space Systems, which also maintains a facility in Hawthorne, California, was founded by veterans of the emerging commercial space industry. CEO Thomas Markusic formerly served as vice-president of propulsion at Virgin Galactic, senior Systems engineer at Blue Origin, and principle propulsion engineer and test-site director at SpaceX.

Firefly Space Systems, which completed a seed-funding round in January, seeks to “lower the prohibitively high costs of small satellite launches to Low Earth and Sun Synchronous Orbits with the goal of revolutionizing broadband data delivery and earth observation missions.” Firefly will offer small-satellite customers dedicated launches for $8-9 million, according to Markusic.

Firefly Alpha will be a two-stage, single-core rocket. (The artist’s concept shown above is presumably a follow-on version, with two strap-on boosters). In time, Firefly Space Systems intends to evolve its launchers into reusable systems. (See Firefly Space Systems To Pursue Reusable Launcher.)

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1 Comment, Written by Astro1 on July 5th, 2014 , Firefly Space Systems Tags:

XCOR Lynx suborbital spacecraft

XCOR Aerospace has acquired Space Expedition Corporation, the previously independent Dutch company which served as general sales agent for the XCOR Lynx and XCOR’s first wet-lease customer. The new sales entity, XCOR Space Expeditions, will continue to focus on sales, commercial partnerships, and participant training on a global level. XCOR Space Expeditions will also serve as a sales channel for future wet-lease customers.

According to a press statement, the acquisition signals XCOR’s commitment to being “the most active space flight company in the world,” with the highest frequency of flights and fastest learning curve.

“For the past two years, SXC has provided XCOR Aerospace with an expanding roster of new customers and commercial partners,” XCOR chief executive officer Jeff Greason said. “We look forward to making the most of their expertise and insights with customers and commercial partners. With their sales and marketing engine now a part of the XCOR brand, we deepen the connection between customers and Lynx.”

“As a founder of SXC, and through my background in e-Business and Formula One, I understand that exceptional engineering and design are vital for performance and the overall customer experience,” said Michiel Mol, a new XCOR board member. “XCOR Aerospace is the best I’ve seen in spacecraft and rocket engine design. XCOR Space Expeditions will provide direct connection to the XCOR brand and more up-to-date information about Lynx for individual ticket holders, wet-lease customers,and commercial partners.”

4 Comments, Written by Astro1 on June 30th, 2014 , XCOR Aerospace

Scaled Composites SpaceShip One / White Knight

Ten years ago today, on 21 June 2004, Mike Melvill flew SpaceShip One to an altitude of 100.124 kilometers, becoming the first pilot to qualify for the FAA’s commercial astronaut wings. The flight was a milestone for Scaled Composites in its quest to win the $10-million Ansari X-Prize, which was finally won on 4 October 2004.

At the time, many people assumed that suborbital spaceflight would soon be commonplace. Today, however, some view the event with ambiguity, if not disappointment, as commercial suborbital flights have not yet begun.

When viewed in systems-engineering terms, the delay in the start of the commercial operations should not be considered surprising, though, or cause for great concern. The late G. Harry Stine pointed out that human beings tend to view progress in linear terms. Our brains are hard-wired that way. But, in fact, technological progress and economic growth (like biological growth and most other natural phenomena) are not linear. They follow exponential growth curves.

As a result, Stine pointed out, human beings almost always overestimate what can be accomplished in the near term and underestimate what can be accomplished in the long term.

What we are seeing today, with delays in suborbital spaceflight, confirms the first half of Stine’s prediction. There is every reason to believe that suborbital spaceflight will confirm the second half of his prediction, too, in the years to confirm — as did computing, communications, aviation, and many other industries.

Leave A Comment, Written by Astro1 on June 21st, 2014 , Scaled Composites

Virgin Galactic SpaceShip Two second powered test flight

NASA and Virgin Galactic have announced twelve experiments to fly on the SpaceShip Two research flight. The experiments were selected by NASA through its Flight Opportunities Program.

The twelve experiments span a range of topics including biological monitoring, on-orbit propellant storage, and next-generation air traffic control systems. As required by the Flight Opportunities Program, each payload is an engineering experiment designed to advance a field relevant to NASA’s overall technology roadmap.

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Leave A Comment, Written by Astro1 on June 3rd, 2014 , Virgin Galactic

SpaceX Dragon V2 capsule

Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) unveiled the next iteration of its Dragon capsule during a Thursday evening event at SpaceX headquarters. According to SpaceX, the bullet-shaped Dragon V2 will fly unmanned in late 2015, manned in 2016, with NASA personnel in 2017.

This animation shows how Dragon V2 will perform in flight:

The complete webcast of the unveiling is online here:

Leave A Comment, Written by Astro1 on May 30th, 2014 , SpaceX

Stanford Torus space-settlement design

(Los Angeles, CA) – A new strategy for space development will be presented at the International Space Development Conference, which takes place at the Sheraton Gateway Los Angeles Hotel this week.

Citizens in Space, a project of the United States Rocket Academy and the Space Studies Institute, will present “The Great Enterprise: From Citizen Space Exploration to Space Settlement” in the Redondo California Ballroom at 3:00 on Saturday, May 17.

“The Great Enterprise is a theme developed by the Space Studies Institute over the past several years,” said Robin Snelson, executive director of SSI. “The end goal of the Great Enterprise is the permanent human settlement of space.

“Space settlement was envisioned by SSI founder Dr. Gerard K. O’Neill, Princeton physics professor and author of the best-selling book ‘The High Frontier,’ nearly 40 years ago.

“O’Neill’s vision inspired the creation of space-advocacy groups like the National Space Society, the sponsor of the International Space Development Conference. Despite the widespread interest in O’Neill’s ideas, space settlement has remained an elusive goal.

“A new strategy is required. Dr. O’Neill showed that permanent human settlement of space is a realistic goal, but we need a practical path to reach that goal. The old belief that government will step in with large sums of money has led nowhere and failed to inspire the general public.”

“The burgeoning Do It Yourself movement provides a model for the new strategy,” said Edward Wright, founder of the United States Rocket Academy and program manager for Citizens in Space. “530,000 people attended Maker Faires last year. Citizen-science projects and hackerspaces are springing up all over the country. Space advocacy organizations must tap into that community to a create a Do It Yourself space movement.

“All progress starts at the low end. We will outline a path for incremental development, beginning with low-cost suborbital spacecraft that are already under construction, followed by practical, achievable steps, leading ultimately to space settlement.”

“Now is the time for a new type of space movement, based on individual initiative and enterprise,” said Robert Smith, evangelist with the Space Studies Institute. “It is time we moved beyond mere advocacy. We must roll up our sleeves and take the bull by the horns. As the saying goes, ‘If you want something done right, do it yourself.’”

Leave A Comment, Written by Astro1 on May 12th, 2014 , Citizens in Space, Space Settlement

(Redwood City, CA) A new research platform that promises to dramatically reduce the cost of access to space for small scientific and education payloads will be publicly unveiled at MakerCon, which takes place at the Oracle Conference Center in Redwood City next week.

The Lynx Cub Payload Carrier, developed by the United States Rocket Academy, Texas A&M University, and the Space Engineering Research Center (a Texas state agency) will fly on the XCOR Lynx spacecraft. A fully reusable, piloted, suborbital spacecraft, Lynx is designed to fly four times a day. The Lynx Cub Payload Carrier will fit behind the pilot’s seat and carry up to 15 small experiments on each flight.

he Lynx Cub Carrier will be unveiled by United States Rocket Academy founder Edward Wright during a presentation on “Citizen Science and Citizen Space Exploration.” The presentation takes place on Tuesday, May 13 at 2:55-3:15 PM, in Room 102/103 of the Oracle Conference Center.

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Leave A Comment, Written by Astro1 on May 8th, 2014 , Uncategorized

(College Station, Texas) The United States Rocket Academy announced the delivery of the first Lynx Cub Payload Carrier, a new research platform which promises to dramatically reduce the cost of access to space for small scientific and education payloads.

The Lynx Cub Carrier will fly on the XCOR Lynx spacecraft, which is now under construction at the Mojave Air and Space Port.

“The Lynx Cub Payload Carrier is a versatile system that installs in the Lynx cabin, behind the pilot’s seat, allowing small experiments to be carried as secondary payloads on any Lynx flight,” said United States Rocket Academy chairman Edward Wright. “The Cub Carrier can be installed and removed quickly for frequent, low-cost flight opportunities.

“The Lynx Cub Carrier is an ideal platform for small materials-processing, fluid-physics, life-science, and engineering experiments. University teaching and research, K-12 education, citizen science, government and industrial R&D will all benefit from the convenient simple interfaces, rapid integration, and affordability of Lynx Cub experiments.”

The Lynx Cub Carrier was developed by the United States Rocket Academy and the Space Engineering Research Center, part of the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station (TEES), with support from XCOR Aerospace. Design and fabrication of the Lynx Cub Carrier were performed by Texas A&M faculty and students and TEES researchers.

Citizens in Space, a project of the United States Rocket Academy, will use the Lynx Cub Carrier on 10 Lynx missions. The Lynx Cub Carrier will also be made available to other XCOR customers, as ready-to-fly hardware or as an open-source hardware design.

“Lynx Cub payloads are based on the popular 1U, 2U, and 3U CubeSat form factors, which are de facto international standards for small scientific payloads,” said Chip Hill, Director of the Space Engineering Research Center. “The payload carrier provides physical accommodations, electrical power, and limited thermal control for Lynx Cub experiments.”

The Lynx Cub Carrier will be part of the XCOR Lynx flight-test program, which is expected to begin later this year.

“For the test flights, we will load the Lynx Cub Carrier with payload simulators, accelerometers, gyroscopes, and environmental sensors,” Wright said. “While XCOR is proving out the vehicle, we’ll be gathering baseline data on the thermal environment, acoustical environment, acceleration, vibration, and other parameters — data that will help guide experimenters in their payload design.”

“I am excited by the connection to K-12 education,” said Dr. Justin Yates, a professor at the Texas A&M Department of Systems and Industrial Engineering who served as a project lead. “I am proud that Texas A&M University industrial engineers could play a part in this project, which will excite, engage, and educate the next generation of scientists.”

“The Lynx Cub Carrier development was a great learning experience,” said Austin Goswick, a senior Systems and Industrial Engineering student who worked on the project. “This project tested me in every way, advancing my communication skills as well as my engineering skills. I can’t wait to hear how it performs in the flight test.”

The Space Engineering Research Center, part of the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station in College Station, is also a member of XCOR’s global network of payload integrators, which provides value-added services for Lynx payload customers. TEES is an engineering research agency of the State of Texas and a member of The Texas A&M University System.

XCOR Aerospace, which is developing the suborbital, fully reusable Lynx spacecraft for a variety of scientific and commercial missions, is currently headquartered in Mojave, California. The company will relocate its headquarters to Midland, Texas later this year.

The United States Rocket Academy, a non-profit educational organization that studies and promotes the scientific, military, and commercial applications of human spaceflight, is also located in Texas. Citizens in Space is the United States Rocket Academy’s flagship program.

Leave A Comment, Written by Astro1 on May 7th, 2014 , Citizens in Space

Masten Space Systems Xeus lunar lander

NASA has announced its intent to sign three non-funded Space Act Agreements for the development of robotic lunar landing capabilities with Astrobotic Technologies, Masten Space Systems, and Moon Express.

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Leave A Comment, Written by Astro1 on May 1st, 2014 , Masten Space Systems

New “Admirals” to Play Key Role in Future Texas Space Program

(Austin, TX) Two citizen-astronaut candidates have been honored by the state of Texas. Edward Wright and Maureen Adams are among the latest Texans to be awarded commissions as Admirals in the Texas Navy by Governor Rick Perry.

Admirals Wright and Adams are two of the five astronaut candidates currently being trained by Citizens in Space, a project of the United States Rocket Academy, to fly on the Lynx spacecraft. Citizens in Space has acquired a contract for 10 flights on the Lynx, currently under construction by XCOR Aerospace. Each flight will carry up to 10 experiments, with a citizen astronaut acting as experiment operator.

The Lynx is a reusable, suborbital spacecraft designed to fly four times a day. In 2012, Governor Perry announced that XCOR Aerospace would move its flight-test center to Midland, Texas. The move is expected to occur later this year. XCOR could conduct as many as 520 spaceflights each year from Midland, according to the city’s FAA launch-site license application.

The Texas Navy was reactivated as an honorary organization by the Governor of Texas in 1958. The flagship of the Texas Navy, the retired battleship USS Texas, does not sail but is on static display at the San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site in La Porte, Texas.

Texas Navy Admirals are selected by the Governor’s office and commissioned “with the duty of assisting in the preservation of the history, boundaries, water resources, and defense of the state.”

“That is a duty we take seriously,” Admiral Wright said. “Water resources are of great concern to us in Texas, with a large part of the state locked in severe drought for the past few years. Some of the experiments we are planning are directly related to the water cycle. For example, researchers have discovered that precipitation is affected by microorganisms in the atmosphere. The Lynx may provide a useful way of sampling those organisms.”

Awarding honorary rank or titles to explorers is not a new idea, Admiral Adams said. “There is a historic tradition, dating back to the age of sea and air exploration. Columbus was honored with with title of ‘Admiral of the Ocean Sea.’ In the 20th Century, aviation pioneer Roscoe Turner was appointed as a lieutenant colonel by the Governor of Nevada, then elevated to colonel by the Governor of California. Britain awards knighthoods.”

Edward Wright is the founder of the United States Rocket Academy and program manager for Citizens in Space. He resides in Plano, Texas. Maureen Adams is a science teacher and school principal in Killeen, Texas.

Also among the Admirals commissioned by Governor Perry was Andrew Nelson, chief operating officer of XCOR Aerospace.

 

Leave A Comment, Written by Astro1 on April 30th, 2014 , Citizens in Space Tags:

The British Interplanetary Society is presenting “The Contested Future of Space Tourism,” a lecture by Mark Johnson, a graduate student in Science and Technology Studies at the University of York.

Unfortunately, the program misrepresents what citizen space exploration (or “space tourism”) is about. The announcement states:

“Space tourism”, “personal spaceflight” and “citizen space exploration” have also been suggested as alternative rubrics, each of which evokes a different form of this future. Irrespective of terminology, this trend denotes space travel for recreational or leisure purposes, rather than scientific, exploratory, communication or military purposes.

According to the World Tourism Organization, tourism is “traveling to and staying in places outside their usual environment for not more than one consecutive year for leisure, business and other purposes [emphasis added].”

If tourism were limited to leisure and recreation, business tourism would be an oxymoron, rather than a lucrative industry.

Unfortunately, some people have taken to using “space tourism” in a much more restrictive sense, to indicate what they believe to be frivolous activities, in contrast to “real” exploration. That’s why we strongly prefer the term “citizen space exploration.”

Citizen space exploration refers to any space exploration that is undertaken by private citizens, rather than government employees or their agents. Some citizen space exploration may be undertaken for recreation or leisure purposes, but by no means all.

Citizen space explorers such as Richard Garriott and Greg Olsen have performed scientific experiments aboard the International Space Station and have been honored by the Explorers Club. Anousheh Ansari blogged from ISS. To say their expeditions were not for scientific, exploratory, or communication purposes is clearly wrong.

Citizens in Space exists to promote citizen science in space. We were the first customer to sign up for flights on the XCOR Lynx spacecraft. We are collaborating with both citizen scientists and professional researchers to fly a variety of experiments. We have already been involved in the ground-based testing of biomedical devices which may be used by future space travelers.

We are hardly alone. The Next Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference is attended by hundreds of scientists and engineers who are planning similar experiments. We expect that interest in suborbital experiments will grow in the future.

If the British Interplanetary Society wants to “contest” the future of citizen space exploration, it should do so on the basis of fact, not misinformation or misunderstanding.

1 Comment, Written by Astro1 on April 24th, 2014 , Citizen Exploration

Citizens in Space has joined the lineup for MakerCon, which takes place at the Oracle Conference Center in Redwood City, California on May 13-14, 2014.

MakerCon is a premiere event organized by Maker Media, publisher of Make magazine and producer of Maker Faire. MakerCon brings together the leaders at the forefront of the maker movement. The conference provides new insights into local and global manufacturing, design, marketing and distribution, and diverse funding options to help makers bring their products to market.

Edward Wright, founder of the United States Rocket Academy and program manager for Citizens in Space, will speak on “Citizen Science and Citizen Space Exploration.” Citizens in Space has acquired a contract for 10 flights on the Lynx spacecraft, which is currently under construction by XCOR Aerospace in Mojave, California. Wright will discuss opportunities for makers to fly experiments through Citizens in Space and opportunities for citizen astronauts to fly as payload operators.

“New vehicles like the XCOR Lynx will dramatically reduce the cost of access to space,” Wright said. “and low-cost access will revolutionize the way people use space. Everyone in the professional maker community needs to think about how space fits into their business plans.”

Other featured speakers at MakerCon include Carl Bass, CEO of Autodesk; Massimo Banzi, co-founder of Arduino; Brook Drumm, co-founder and CEO at Printrbot; Eric Klein, partner at Lemnos Labs; Peter Hirshberg, CEO of The Re:imagine Group; Connie Hu, CEO of ArcBotics; Kevin Kelly, founding executive editor of Wired and founder of Cool Tools; Jason Kessler, Asteroid Grand Challenge Program Executive at NASA; Eric Pan, founder and CEO of Seeed Studios; Jose Gomez-Marquez, principal medical device designer at MIT’s Little Devices Lab; Brian David Johnson, futurist at Intel; Mickey McManus, CEO of MAYA Design; Edward Screven, chief corporate architect at Oracle; Yancey Strickler, co-founder and CEO of Kickstarter; and Leon Wong, director of market strategy at Xerox PARC.

MakerCon is presented by Intel and hosted by Oracle Corporation.

More information, including a complete list of speakers, is available at www.makercon.com. Registration is available at www.makercon.com/attend. Early-bird registration rates expire on April 27.

Leave A Comment, Written by Astro1 on April 23rd, 2014 , Citizens in Space