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.

 

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.

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.

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

This video, released by the B612 Foundation, shows an alarming number of explosions (both air and ground bursts) due to asteroid strikes, recorded during the period between 2000 and 2013.

Written by Astro1 on April 22nd, 2014 , Planetary Defense

SpaceX successfully launched a Falcon 9 rocket today, on the CRS-3 mission to the International Space Station. The Falcon 9 successfully deployed its secondary CubeSat payloads, and the Dragon capsule is now on its way to ISS.

The hoped-for test of the Falcon 9 first-stage recovery may not be successful, however. SpaceX founder Elon Musk said the chances of recovering the first stage were not looking good due to high sea states. (Waves over six feet have been reported.) SpaceX previously estimated that the chances of recovering the stage on the first test mission were low, probably no more than 20-30%, and several trials will likely be needed to achieve success.

[Update: Apparently, the first-stage landing went went better than expected. A tweet from Elon Musk says, “Data upload from tracking plane shows landing in Atlantic was good! Several boats enroute through heavy seas. Flight computers continued transmitting for 8 seconds after reaching the water. Stopped when booster went horizontal.]

[Update 2: The Coast Guard reportedly located the stage April 22, but it’s likely in bad shape after being battered by waves for several days.]

Written by Astro1 on April 18th, 2014 , SpaceX

Just ahead of the SpaceX 3 mission to the International Space Station, SpaceX conducted a test flight of the Falcon 9 Reusable first stage at its test facility in McGregor, Texas. On April 17, The Falcon 9R reached altitude of 250 meters, hovered, then landed.

Falcon 9R replaces the earlier Grasshopper test vehicle, which had only a single engine. SpaceX says the new vehicle is essentially a complete Falcon 9 v1.1 first stage with legs, although some sources claim it has only three engines rather the full nine. During the first test, the legs were fixed, but they will be retracted during future tests. The rocket will move to New Mexico for higher-altitude flights at a more remote site.

Written by Astro1 on April 18th, 2014 , SpaceX Tags:

Artist's conception of Kepler 186-f

Astronomers using NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope have discovered the first Earth-size planet orbiting a star in the “habitable zone” — the range of distance from a star where liquid water might pool on the surface of an orbiting planet. The discovery of Kepler-186f confirms that planets the size of Earth exist in the habitable zone of stars other than our sun.

While planets have been found in the habitable zone before, but all were at least 40 percent larger in size than Earth, and understanding their makeup is challenging. Kepler-186f is more reminiscent of Earth, NASA says.

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Written by Astro1 on April 17th, 2014 , Astrobiology, Astronomy, Space Settlement

SkySat-1 captured this video of downtown Dubai on April 9, 2014. The video shows Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, which appears to move due to changing perspective during the satellite pass. Jet airliners can be seen flying across the the frame (one is merely a shadow), and cars moving along the highway.

Rumor has it that Skybox Imaging may be acquired by Google, so this could be a preview of what we’ll see in a future version of Google Earth.

Written by Astro1 on April 17th, 2014 , Skybox Imaging

Orbital (free space) settlement under construction

The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 established rules that allowed settlers on the western frontier to form new states under the Articles of Confederation and, later, the Constitution of the United States. At that time, the “western frontier” meant Ohio. Today, the Northwest Ordinance is considered one of the most important pieces of legislation in US history.

Just over 200 years later, Representative (and future House Speaker) Newt Gingrich introduced a bill in Congress: House Resolution 4286, “The National Space and Aeronautics Policy Act of 1981.” One particularly interesting aspect of the bill was Title IV, inspired by the Northwest Odinance.

Title IV offered a framework for future space settlements to join the Union, first as territories, later as states — just as Ohio and other western settlements joined the Union in the 19th Century.

The bill had 13 co-sponsors, but it went nowhere in Congress and the idea of a “Northwest Ordinance for space” quietly disappeared (although Gingrich mentioned it again during his campaign for President in 2012).

This bill represents an early attempt to answer questions of governance in space, which will inevitably arise with the establishment of the first permanent space settlements later in this century.

Title IV — Government of Space Territories

Constitutional Protection

All persons residing in any community in space organized under the authority and flag of the United States shall be entitled to the protection of the Constitution of the United States.

Self Government

Whenever any such community shall have acquired twenty thousand
inhabitants, on giving due proof thereof to Congress, they shall receive from Congress authority with appointment of time a place to call a convention of representatives to establish a permanent constitution and government for themselves.

Admission to Statehood

Whenever any such community shall have as many inhabitants as
Shall then be in any one of the least numerous of the United States such community shall be admitted as a State into the Congress of the United States on equal footing with the original states.

Title IV could be seen to conflict with the Outer Space Treaty, which prohibits nations from making claims of national sovereignty on celestial bodies. So, modifications to the Treaty would be needed. It would need conflict, however, in the case of orbital or free-space settlements, such as those proposed by Professor Gerard K. O’Neill, which are not tied to the surface of a celestial body.

This is an example of the type of legislation Congress could pass which creates incentives for private enterprise to develop space, without costing the taxpayers any money. Unfortunately, Congress shows little interest in such far-sighted legislation today, and “space policy” centers around uninspiring questions such as which heavy-lift vehicle to build.

Written by Astro1 on April 17th, 2014 , Space Policy and Management, Space Settlement

Virgin Galactic and Land Rover have announced a long-term global partnership.

The partnership, announced at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum on New York’s Hudson River, will feature Land Rovers as part of Virgin Galactic’s ground operations. Land Rover will base vehicles at Virgin’s development center in Mojave and its operational site at Spaceport America in New Mexico.

Land Rover vehicles will be used to transport Virgin’s future space travelers around Spaceport America, including the drive from the terminal building to SpaceShip Two / White Knight Two prior to launch.

The announcement was made in dramatic fashion aboard the former USS Intrepid, a historic aircraft carrier now anchored on the Hudson River. Virgin and Land Rover brought a full-size replica of SpaceShip Two Enterprise to New York, where it joined the British Airways Concorde and its namesake, the Space Shuttle Enterprise. Alongside SpaceShip Two was Land Rover’s Discovery Vision Concept, a concept car showing Land Rover’s vision for future sport-utility vehicles. More than 200 VIP guests attended the event.

The SpaceShip Two mockup will remain on display at Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum for public viewing from 15-22 April.

Virgin Galactic SpaceShip Two and Land Rover Discovery Vision Concept

Written by Astro1 on April 14th, 2014 , Virgin Galactic

Sierra Nevada Dream Chaser lifting-body spacecraft landing at proposed Houston Spaceport a

Sierra Nevada Corporation is investigating the possibility of using the proposed Houston Spaceport (at Ellington Airport, just north of Johnson Space Center) as a landing site for its Dream Chaser lifting-body spacecraft.

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Written by Astro1 on April 10th, 2014 , Sierra Nevada, Spaceports

XCOR Aerospace Lynx Mark I cockpit and other components

XCOR Aerospace has received the Lynx Mark I cockpit from AdamWorks, Inc of Centennial, Colorado.

XCOR CEO Jeff Greason said, “The successful pressure testing of the Lynx cockpit and its delivery is a major milestone for us. This will enable us to accelerate toward integration, ground testing, and first flight over the rest of this year.”

XCOR selected AdamWorks to build the carbon-fiber cockpit in August 2012. AdamWorks also built the main components of of the internal pressure vessel for Sierra Nevada Corporation’s DreamChaser flight-test article, as well as numerous other aerospace projects.

Written by Astro1 on April 9th, 2014 , XCOR Aerospace

Boeing / USAF X-37B

Lieutenant Colonel Peter Garretson asks whether the US Air Force will have a role in planetary defense and asteroid mining, in the March-April 2014 issue of Air and Space Power Journal.

Lieutenant Colonel Garretson and other Air Force strategists have repeatedly raised the topic of asteroid impacts over the years. Nevertheless, the Air Force has not adopted planetary defense as a formal mission:

Despite its potential severity, few Airmen seem to have an appetite for a subject not perceived as “real” war fighting and considered a “low-probability event.” An earlier cadre of Air Force Space Command advocates [submitted] a package to the Joint Requirements Oversight Council to establish a formal mission requirement. In accordance with the wisdom of the time, the council denied it. Let’s repeat that: no requirement to protect planet Earth exists.

To achieve an initial operational capability against asteroid threats, Garretson argues that the USAF should complete a survey of Near Earth Objects using a space-based telescope in a Venus-like orbit (estimated to cost about $500 million) and develop ready-to-launch reconnaissance probes (about $150 million each) and interceptor busses (about $250 million each).

Garretson also argues that the USAF should prepare for a world economy that expands outward into the solar system as companies like Planetary Resources begin to mine the asteroids:

Developing the requisite technology allows the Air Force to play a role similar to its function in aviation, whereby the service’s investment in jet engines and large aircraft catalyzed intercontinental air transport—a mode of transportation that now accounts for 35 percent of global trade by value. By retiring the risk for deep-space transportation and noncooperative capture and deflection, we not only would advance Air Force and US security equities in concert with pursuing a global public good, but also would lay the foundation for a revolution in space transportation and wealth generation.

If we wish to become the visionaries who lead America toward becoming a true spacefaring nation—one that survives such long-term existential threats as asteroids—then we must pursue not simply narrow military power. Just as Rear Adm Alfred Thayer Mahan set us on the right course in naval power and as Brig Gen William “Billy” Mitchell did so in airpower, we need to invest in general spacefaring and its supporting industry. The Air Force is missing the boat (or spacecraft). If the service truly wants to be America’s Space Force, it can’t shy away from this “growth industry” and what will likely become the most essential defense mission of a space force / space guard: planetary defense — the single mission that provides a deep-space requirement. To cede this requirement is to fall into the same precedent as the Army Air Corps, which conceived of airpower as nothing more than a supporting function for land power. A space force cannot just look downward; it must look outward to the source not only of danger but also of wealth and opportunity.

Written by Astro1 on April 6th, 2014 , Military Space, Planetary Defense, Space Policy and Management

Before he was recruited by XCOR Aerospace, Brian Binnie gave Forbes magazine adventure columnist Jim Clash this interview about winning the Ansari X-Prize.

Written by Astro1 on April 4th, 2014 , Scaled Composites, XCOR Aerospace

XCOR Aerospace senior test pilot Brian Binnie

XCOR Aerospace has hired celebrated aviator and commercial astronaut Commander Brian Binnie (USN-ret.) as senior test pilot. In that position, Binnie will work closely with XCOR Chief Test Pilot and former NASA Space Shuttle commander Col. Rick Seefoss (USAF-ret.)

“Brian and I have been friends and colleagues for many years and I have always wanted to work together in a flying environment,” Searfoss said. “Combining our backgrounds as government and commercial astronauts and our broad experience across a number of rocket powered craft, I feel this builds on XCOR’s strong culture that emphasizes safety and professionalism.”

XCOR Founder and CEO Jeff Greason said, “Brian, [XCOR Aerospace chief engineer] Dan DeLong and I worked together at Rotary Rocket. Brian was a consummate professional and leader there, and we’ve stayed in close contact over the years, so I know he will make a great contribution to our efforts at XCOR and getting the Lynx flying soon.”

“I’m very pleased to be part of the XCOR Team and look forward to working with friends and colleagues on many of the exciting development efforts at XCOR including the family of Lynx vehicles,” Binnie said. “I look forward to seeing the Lynx flying soon and making a contribution to the program.”

Brian Binnie is a decorated aviator who piloted SpaceShip One on the Ansari X-Prize award winning flight, which broke the winged aircraft altitude record previously held by the X-15. Binnie also flew the Roton Rocket Atmospheric Test Vehicle, a unique prototype of a single stage to orbit system from Rotary Rocket. Binnie has over 5300 hours of flight time in 85 different aircraft types and 29 years experience as a test pilot. As a naval aviator, he flew the A-7 Corsair II, the A-6 Intruder, the F/A-18 Hornet and the AV-8B Harrier. Binnie is a 1988 Graduate of the United States Naval Test Pilot School. He received his Bachelors in Aerospace Engineering and Masters in Thermodynamics from Brown University and a second Masters degree in Aeronautical Engineering from Princeton University.

Written by Astro1 on April 3rd, 2014 , XCOR Aerospace

Jonathan Oxer from Freetronics talks about the Ardusat project and shows his Arduino-based cluster board for running Arduino sketches in space. Recorded at the Melbourne Connected Community Hackerspace.

Written by Astro1 on April 3rd, 2014 , Nanosatellites