Citizens in Space will present papers at two small-satellite conferences this month.

On Thursday, 23 April 2015, Citizens in Space project manager Edward Wright will address the 12th Annual CubeSat Developers’s Workshop on the topic of “The Lynx Cub Payload Carrier and Suborbital Flight Opportunities for Small Payloads on the XCOR Lynx Spacecraft.”

The talk will take place during the Launch Capabilities, Testing, and Simulation session on Thursday afternoon.

On Monday, 27 April 2015, Wright will address 2015 Interplanetary Small Satellite Conference on the topic of “Testing Interplanetary CubeSat Payloads Using Reusable Suborbital Spacecraft.” The talk will take place during the Propulsion Systems and Launch session.

In addition, Citizens in Space will have an exhibit table at both events, with the Lynx Cub Payload Carrier and other flight hardware on display.

“The Lynx Cub Payload Carrier is a versatile system that installs in the cabin of the Lynx spacecraft, behind the pilot’s seat,” Wright said. “It allows small experiments to be carried as secondary payloads on any Lynx flight. The Lynx 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 can all benefit from the convenient simple interfaces, rapid integration, and affordability of the Lynx Cub experiments.”

The Lynx Cub Carrier provides physical and electrical accommodations for up to 15 small experiments based on the CubeSat form factor. The CubeSat form factor is an international standard commonly used in small satellites. “The use of the CubeSat form factor allows satellite developers to test their payloads and other hardware on suborbital flights at very low cost, with minimal modifications,” Wright said. “Testing hardware on a reusable suborbital vehicle such as the XCOR Lynx will help developers work out bugs in advance, providing greater mission assurance for satellite launches where there is no do-over.”

Lynx Cub Payload Carrier

The XCOR Lynx is a reusable, piloted suborbital spacecraft currently under construction by XCOR Aerospace in Mojave, California. XCOR expects the Lynx to be ready for flight test some time later this year.

The 12th Annual CubeSat Developer’s Workshop takes place at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo on 22-24 April. More information is available at

The 2015 Interplanetary Small Satellite Conference takes place at Santa Clara University on 27-28 April. Full details can be found at

Written by Astro1 on April 16th, 2015 , Citizens in Space

Boeing CST-100 mockup

Boeing will name its first commercial astronaut this summer, according to an article in Space News.

The Boeing astronaut will be one of two persons to fly the CST-100 capsule on its first crewed test flight in 2017. The other crew member will be a NASA astronaut. Boeing also plans to unveil the CST-100 spacesuit, being developed by David Clark Company, at the same time.

Written by Astro1 on April 15th, 2015 , Boeing

United Launch Alliance Vulcan rocket logo

At a press conference on Monday, United Launch Alliance CEO Tony Bruno unveiled long-awaited plans for the company’s next-generation launch system.

The new launcher, designed to replace the Boeing Delta and Lockheed-Martin Atlas rocket families, is currently named Vulcan. (Although, Paul Allen’s Vulcan Aerospace has protested ULA’s use of the name, a matter which may be resolved in court.)

ULA says the Vulcan rocket will cut launch costs in half through what the company calls “smart reusability.” Rather than attempting to recover the entire first stage, like their competitor SpaceX, ULA will recover and reuse only the main engines, which represent 90% of the stage’s cost. To protect the engines during reentry, ULA will use an inflatable aerodynamic heat shield, which the company is developing under a NASA technology demonstration program. After reentry, the engine pod will deploy a parafoil for further deceleration. When the engine pod has slowed sufficiently, a heavy-lift helicopter will snag the parafoil and carry the engines to a waiting barge. (Air grab is a technique that has been used before, to recover film capsules from spy satellites, but it has never been used to recover engines.)

As expected, the Vulcan first stage will use two methane-fueled BE-4 engines from Blue Origin. The stage will also accommodate up to six solid-fueled strap-on motors. The combination of engines and solid-fueled motors will give Vulcan about 20% greater payload capability than the Atlas V.

If ULA meets its planned schedule (which the company admits is challenging), Vulcan will begin flying in 2019 using the existing Centaur upper stage powered by Pratt & Whitney RL-10 engines. Later, the Centaur will be replaced by an Advanced Cryogenic Evolved Stage (ACES), which will allow Vulcan to achieve the same payload capability as the Delta IV Heavy. For ACES propulsion, ULA is evaluating new engine designs, from Blue Origin and XCOR Aerospace, in addition to the RL-10.

ULA is also taking a novel approach to second-stage reusability. Rather than returning the stage to Earth for refurbishing, ULA is designing the stage so it can be restarted and refueled on orbit. This is possible due to an advanced integrated fluids system, which captures boil-off gasses from the liquid-oxygen and -hydrogen tanks. A small internal-combustion engine (about the size of a lawn-mower engine, but with much higher performance) will burn those boil-off gasses. The integrated fluids system will provide vehicle power, depressurize the propellant tanks, and provide attitude-control thrust. This system will allow the stage to operate on-orbit for weeks or months, rather than hours, with unlimited engine restarts. It will be able to maneuver between various orbits in the Earth-Moon system and return to a space station in Low Earth Orbit for refueling and reuse.

The internal-combustion engine for the integrated fluids system will incorporate race-car technology developed by the Roush Fenway Racing team.

United Launch Alliance Advanced Cryogenic Evolved Stage (ACES)

From a geopolitical and national-security viewpoint, the first stage is most important. It will eliminate ULA’s dependence on Russian rocket engines, which now power the Atlas V. But for space exploration and development, the advanced upper stage may prove far more interesting. ULA is arguably playing catch-up with the first stage, working to achieve low cost and reusability which SpaceX is already demonstrating in the Falcon 9. Recovering the main engines may save 90% of the vehicle cost, but it will also limit flight rate since the engines will have to be integrated into a new vehicle. (Based on comments made during the press conference, ULA seems to feel that 20 launches per year would be a large market.)

With the new upper stage, however, come new capabilities. The flexibility of the Advanced Cryogenic Evolved Stage will enable a new mode of operations, which ULA calls distributed lift. The ability to reuse the upper stage as a space tug means that payloads do not need to fit on a single rocket, but can be assembled on orbit. That, in turn, means more efficient payload packaging and innovative architectures. ULA believes that distributed lift will enable concepts such as commercial habitats, propellant and water depots, asteroid mining, and lunar bases.

United Launch Alliance "distributed lift" concept

Written by Astro1 on April 15th, 2015 , Blue Origin, United Launch Alliance, XCOR Aerospace