XCOR Lynx main engine test

XCOR’s director of engineering and acting chief technology officer Michael Valant has announced the achievement of an important milestone in the development of the reusable 5K18 main rocket engine for the Lynx spacecraft.

XCOR engineers have successfully “closed the loop” of the thermodynamic system under test conditions. The 5K18 engine uses a novel method to drive essential engine parts using waste heat from the rocket engine, eliminating the need for large, heavy compressed-gas tanks in the vehicle. This technology is an important part of the Lynx “instant reusability,” which will allow the vehicle to fly multiple times per day without costly servicing of components.

The engine has already had hundreds of successful test firings in its basic “open-cycle” form.

“There’s still some work to do to improve the cycle efficiency before this engine is ready for flight,” Valant said, “but this is a massive step forward for us in the development of this groundbreaking technology.”

Written by Astro1 on December 14th, 2015 , XCOR Aerospace

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

XCOR Aerospace CEO Jay Gibson

XCOR Aerospace has announced the appointment of John H. (Jay) Gibson II as its new president and chief executive officer. Gibson succeeds Jeff Greason, who will continue with the company as chief technology officer and chairman of the board. The transition will allow Greason to dedicate more of his time to XCOR’s technical programs.

Gibson previously served as senior vice president for global mission support at Beechcraft, assistant secretary for financial management for the US Air Force, and deputy undersecretary for management reform at the Defense Department.

“There could not be a more opportune moment for XCOR to welcome Jay onboard,” Greason said. “This year is vital to XCOR’s plans. With the commencement of the Lynx flight test program on the horizon, Jay’s arrival allows the team to focus on getting Lynx in the air, moving forward on plans for our orbital vehicle, and transitioning XCOR to a more efficient and effective company. Jay delivers the depth and breadth of leadership and experience necessary to elevate XCOR to the next level.”

“I am excited to join this exceptional team at a critical time on the XCOR journey to making space accessible to everyone,” Gibson said. “The potential of commercially reusable rockets and vehicles in the payload and passenger markets is incredible. This is a rare opportunity to participate in the continuing development of the space industry. “


Written by Astro1 on March 16th, 2015 , XCOR Aerospace

XCOR Lynx spacecraft cockpit -- cutaway view

The Lynx Cub Payload Carrier will be on display this Friday (6 Feb 2015) during Innovation Day at Space Center Houston.

The Lynx Cub Carrier is a platform designed to carry multiple small experiments aboard the XCOR Lynx suborbital spacecraft. The Lynx Cub Carrier fits in a space behind the pilot’s seat (“Payload A” in the illustration above). It can accommodate up to 15 four-inch cubes or a combination of larger experiments up to 12 inches in length.

The Lynx Cub Payload Carrier was developed by the United States Rocket Academy with support from the State of Texas Aerospace Technology Research and Operations (ASTRO) Center (formerly the Space Engineering Research Center), the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering at Texas A&M University, and XCOR Aerospace. The first flight article, which will appear at Space Center Houston, was finished in 2014. It was previously displayed at events such as the National Space Symposium, International Space Development Conference, and the National Science Teachers Association conference.

The Lynx Cub Carrier will be on display in the Space Center Houston lobby from opening until 2:45 PM. Along with the Lynx Cub Payload Carrier, the display will feature related experiment hardware, a model of the XCOR Lynx spacecraft, and citizen astronaut candidates to answer questions. At 2:45 PM,  the Lynx Cub Carrier will move to Johnson Space Center’s Gilruth Conference Center for “Texas: the Space State,” a presentation by Citizens in Space at the Space Exploration Educators Conference. Other parts of the display will remain available in the lobby until 4:00 PM.

Other exhibitors at Innovation Day will include the Lunar and Planetary Institute, the Texas Space Grant Consortium, Microsoft, Nanoracks, and the NASA Commercial Crew Program.

Written by Astro1 on February 4th, 2015 , Citizens in Space, Events, XCOR Aerospace

Earth and Moon from cockpit of XCOR Lynx spacecraft

This artist’s conception shows the Moon as it might appear from the cockpit of the XCOR Lynx spacecraft.

This is a sight that can only be seen from space: The Moon against a black sky, with the Earth in daylight. Fewer than .00001% of the world’s population have had the opportunity to see this sight. That number will increase dramatically in the next few years, when suborbital spaceflight becomes commercially available.

At first glance, the Moon appears oddly dark. We usually think of the Moon as being quite bright, almost a pure white. That’s because we’re used to viewing it at night when our eyes are dark adapted. In reality, the surface of the Moon is fairly dark, as shown by observations and photos taken by the Apollo astronauts and the samples they brought back. Seen from space, with the sunlit Earth as a reference, the Moon shows its true color.

For a more complete explanation of the Moon’s appearance from space, read this article.

Written by Astro1 on October 9th, 2014 , Lunar Science, XCOR Aerospace

XCOR Lynx spacecraft under construction

XCOR Aerospace is reporting progress on its path toward commercial space flight. Some of that progress is shown in new photos, which XCOR has publicly released for the first time.

XCOR recently completed integration of the Lynx spacecraft fuselage and cockpit, as shown above. XCOR is currently in the process of bonding the fuselage, cockpit, and wing strakes together. The company is also integrating subassemblies, such as the landing gear, and engine components (shown below).

At the same time, XCOR continues to test the Lynx propulsion system, using a non-flight fuselage for cold flow and hot firing.

“Teams are working in parallel to finish Lynx,” XCOR President Andrew Nelson said. “We are hiring shop staff and engineers to prepare for the final stretch leading up to test flights. I’m proud of what the team has accomplished this year. The excitement in the hangar is palpable.”

“The team at XCOR has been working a long time to reach this goal,” said XCOR CEO Jeff Greason. “We always knew there would be a day when we could see a spacecraft forming in our hangar. Today is that day.”

XCOR technician Ray Fitting prepares LOX pump for fitting on Lynx truss

Written by Astro1 on October 7th, 2014 , XCOR Aerospace

cowboy, horse, and spaceship

The Federal Aviation Administration’s Officer of Commercial Space Transportation has granted final approval for Midland International Airport’s launch-site license.

Midland International Airport is the first airport with commercial service to be licensed as a spaceport. From this point on, it will be known as Midland International Air & Space Port.

The license approval clears the way for XCOR Aerospace to begin its move to Midland from its current location in Mojave, California. Midland International Airport has already begun renovating a hangar facility for XCOR Aerospace, which will be ready for initial occupancy by April 2015.

Midland Development Corporation chairman Robert Rendall said, “We see the private space sector becoming a vital part of our future economy. The spaceport is co-located with our commercial airport which will allow Midland to attract additional aerospace companies to the community.”

Director of airports Marv Esterly said, “The proximity of the airport to the spaceport allows us to take advantage of existing infrastructure, lowers cost to operators, and offers us a competitive advantage over operations at remote locations.” The spaceport business model is to start small and expand as needed while leveraging existing facilities to keep costs low. Over the next few years, Midland will work to adapt the current spaceport concept to accommodate other types of launch vehicles and the needs of aerospace companies as they arise.

Written by Astro1 on September 17th, 2014 , Spaceports, XCOR Aerospace

cowboy, horse, and spaceship

The wait is almost over for XCOR and Midland, Texas. This week, renovation work officially began on the building which will become the new XCOR headquarters at Midland International Airport. The work opens the way for the beginning of commercial human spaceflight in Texas.

Work on the XCOR headquarters building began with a ceremonial wall-breaking on Friday. The building is expected to be ready for initial occupancy by April, although some renovation work will continue until next summer.

Midland International Airport expects to receive a spaceport license from the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation by September 15. Recently, it appeared that the license might be in jeopardy due to environmental concerns surrounding the lesser prairie chicken, which was recently added to the Threatened Species list. Those concerns have been resolved by an agreement between Midland Airport and the US Fish and Wildlife Service, which will monitor the local prairie-chicken population during the first few flights of the Lynx spacecraft.

XCOR hopes to begin test flights of the Lynx spacecraft this winter. If everything remains on schedule, Lynx Mark I flight tests will likely begin at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California, then finish up in Texas.

The renovation work officially began with a wall-breaking ceremony on Friday. A number of XCOR and Midland officials participated in the ceremony, including Andrew Nelson, chief operating officer of XCOR Aerospace; Midland Mayor Jerry Morales; Robert Rendall, chairman of the Midland Development Corporation; Pam Welch, executive director of the Midland Development Corporation; and John Love III, chairman of the Midland Spaceport Development Board. Also present was Chuck Sturgeon of the N.C. Sturgeon construction firm, which is performing the renovation work.

The renovated building will provide enough hangar space to house a wide-bodied jetliner, which will someday serve as the first stage for XCOR’s three-stage orbital launch system, the Lynx Mark V. The need for a large hangar to house the Lynx Mark V was one factor which motivated XCOR’s decision to move to Midland.

Future Lynx spacecraft will be developed in Texas, but XCOR plans to build an assembly facility for production vehicles in Florida. XCOR wants to separate production work from research and development for efficiency reasons.

Once XCOR completes its move to Texas, Midland will be the site for future Lynx test flights. According to this week’s press release, XCOR also plans to conduct commercial Lynx flights from Midland (a fact not previously revealed). XCOR plans to conduct commercial flights from other locations as well, including Kennedy Space Center in Florida and Mojave Air and Space Port in California. XCOR also markets Lynx vehicles to commercial customers on a wet-lease basis.

Written by Astro1 on August 16th, 2014 , XCOR Aerospace

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.


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

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.”

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

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


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

XCOR Lynx spacecraft ground operations

The FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation is requesting public comments on a draft environmental assessment for the Midland International Air and Space Port, the planned future home of XCOR Aerospace.

To operate a commercial spaceport, the City of Midland must obtain a launch-site operator license from the FAA. The environmental assessment is a license requirement.

The proposed launch-site license would allow the City of Midland to modify the existing airport boundary, install above-ground propellant storage tanks, and construct a concrete pad for engine testing.

According to the proposal, XCOR Lynx launch operations would begin in 2014 and continue through 2018. The frequency of launch operations would be one launch per week initially, increasing to two launches per day, five days a week. Fifty-two annual launch operations are proposed in 2014, increasing to 520 in 2018.

The draft environmental assessment analyzes possible effects on air quality, land use, plants, fish and wildlife; floodplains; hazardous materials, pollution prevention, solid waste; historical, architectural, archaeological, and cultural resources; natural resources and energy supply; noise; socioeconomic impacts, environmental justice, and children’s environmental health and safety risks; water quality; and wetlands.

A copy of the draft environmental assessment is available on the FAA Web site.

The FAA will hold a public meeting to discuss the draft assessment on 8 April 2014 from 5:30 to 8:30 PM at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin. The meeting will take place in the Foyer Room at the Center for Energy and Economic Diversification. The public may also submit written comments by 21 April, 2014.

Written by Astro1 on March 24th, 2014 , Spaceports, XCOR Aerospace

cowboy, horse, and spaceship
The Federal government shutdown could delay the issuing of spaceport license for Midland International Airport, according to this west Texas news report.

The spaceport license was originally expected by the end of this year, but now is not expected until February 2014. The license “remains at the environmental assessment stage” at the FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation.

It’s also reported that Midland Development Corporation has purchased 374 acres of land for $4 million in connection with the spaceport project, which is intended to bring XCOR Aerospace to Midland sometime next year. The exact timing of the move remains up in the air, however. A contractor is currently being selected to renovate hangar and office space for the company, which recently hired five employees in Midland as part of its transition from California to Texas.

XCOR plans to display its full-scale Lynx mockup at the Commemorative Air Force Airsho 2013 in Midland on October 12-13.

Written by Astro1 on October 10th, 2013 , Spaceports, XCOR Aerospace

Sony Pictures Television is developing a new reality TV show where celebrities will compete to go into space aboard the XCOR Lynx spacecraft, according to various Hollywood websites such as Hollywood Reporter and Variety.

The series is titled Milky Way Mission and will feature ten celebrities living at an astronaut-training “boot camp.” The Dutch television network Nederland 1 has reportedly ordered an eight-episode run, which will be produced by Tuvalu Media and Simpel Media (both of which are Dutch). Sony will offer the series to international markets at the MIPCOM show in Cannes next month.

The producers are working with Space Expeditions Corporation, which is marketing the XCOR Lynx. SXC is also based in the Netherlands. The first season will feature Dutch celebrities, but the future episodes would be recast if it sells internationally.

Mark Burnett, producer of Survivor and The Voice, is reportedly seeking backers for a similar reality show, which would feature Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShip Two.

Burnett has been floating ideas for a space-based reality show for more than a decade. In 1999, he signed an agreement with MirCorp, which had leased the Russian Mir space station, to produce a show called Destination Mir. Unfortunately, the man behind MirCorp turned out to be a tax cheat, who went to prison for failing to pay over $200 million in taxes to the US government.

Earlier this year, Citizens in Space was approached by a reality-show producer at one one of the major US networks. Unfortunately, the producer wanted us to violate some known laws of physics (we were asked to make people weightless without leaving the ground), so nothing came of the discussion.

Written by Astro1 on September 25th, 2013 , Virgin Galactic, XCOR Aerospace

XCOR Aerospace Lynx engine test

Mojave, California — XCOR Aerospace announced a first in aviation and space history, the firing of a full piston pump-powered rocket engine. This breakthrough is the foundation for fully reusable spacecraft that can fly multiple times per day, every day. It is a game changing technology that has the power to fundamentally alter the way we as a society view, visit, and utilize the abundant resources around our planet and in our solar system.

The initial portion of XCOR’s pump test program culminated in a 67-second engine run with the propulsion system mated to the flight weight Lynx fuselage. After the installation of the flight sized liquid oxygen tank, the next test sequence will extend the engine run duration to the full powered flight duration of the Lynx Mark I suborbital vehicle.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Astro1 on March 26th, 2013 , XCOR Aerospace

Chief test pilot Col. Rick Searfoss (USAF-ret.) talks about the experience citizen space explorers can expect to have in the XCOR Lynx.

Written by Astro1 on March 14th, 2013 , XCOR Aerospace

Ford Model T

In 2007, Time magazine proclaimed the Ford Model T to be one of the “50 Worst Cars of All Time.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Astro1 on February 19th, 2013 , Commercial Space (General), Virgin Galactic, XCOR Aerospace

Texas Governor Rick Perry devoted almost a full minute to commercial spaceflight during his State of the State Address.

Companies like Blue Origin, SpaceX, and XCOR Aerospace are helping to make Texas the Space State.


Written by Astro1 on January 31st, 2013 , Blue Origin, Commercial Space (General), SpaceX, XCOR Aerospace Tags:

AXE plans to do training for its citizen astronauts in Orlando, Florida. They’ve started running this commercial to give contest applicants a taste of what’s in store.

It appears that AXE’s advertising department needs a good technical editor, though. The L-39 Albatros is strictly a subsonic airplane.

The space camp, called the Axe Apollo Space Academy, will take place in December of 2013, according to a press release from XCOR Aerospace. 100 finalists will take part, competing for a chance to win one of 21 flights. (The 22nd flight will be awarded early this year, in a drawing to take place after the Super Bowl on February 3.


Written by Astro1 on January 11th, 2013 , Citizen Exploration, XCOR Aerospace

Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin joined AXE, a personal-grooming brand of Unilever, to announce one of the largest spaceflight contests ever. The Apollo Space Sweepstakes, also known as the AXE Apollo Space Academy, is a worldwide contest that will select 22 citizen astronauts to fly into space on the XCOR Lynx spacecraft.

“Space travel for everyone is the next frontier in the human experience,” said Aldrin, lunar-module pilot for the historic Apollo 11 mission. “I’m thrilled that AXE is giving the young people of today such an extraordinary opportunity to experience some of what I’ve encountered in space.”

[vimeo 57152173 w=700]

AXE, which is known as LYNX in some parts of the world, secured 22 seats aboard the namesake spacecraft through Space Expedition Corporation.

AXE global vice president Tomas Marcenaro said, “The AXE Apollo launch is the biggest and most ambitious in the AXE brand’s 30 year history. For the first time, we’re simultaneously launching one global competition in over 60 countries offering millions of people the opportunity to win the most epic prize on earth: a trip to space Yes, actual space.”

“There’s no bigger hero than an astronaut,” AXE said, “so AXE is giving fans a chance to experience an adventure unlike any other.”

Astronaut candidates can sign up between now and February 3 at AXEApollo.com. Contest rules and terms vary from country to country.

Written by Astro1 on January 9th, 2013 , Citizen Exploration, XCOR Aerospace

Dr. Jason Reimuller of the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado spoke at the American Geophysical Union’s Fall Meeting on Monday.  In a session on “Exploring Geoscience Frontiers with Low-Cost Access to Space,” Dr. Reimuller talked about his plan to study polar mesospheric clouds (also called noctilucent clouds) with funding from NASA’s Flight Opportunities program.

Dr. Reimuller’s experiment plan calls for a week-long campaign with multiple flights of the XCOR Lynx spacecraft operating from a high-latitude launch site. Elmendorf AFB, Alaska and Kiruna, Sweden are possibilities. Reimuller plans to conduct one initial flight from Mojave to gather baseline instrument data prior to the high-latitude deployment.

The first year’s campaign, flying on the Lynx Mark II, would use a Canon EOS-30D camera with a linear polarizer as the primary instrument. In later years, the Lynx Mark III would carry a dedicated external observatory.

XCOR Lynx with Atsa Suborbital Observatory space telescope

Reimuller considers the ability to fly multiple times per day to be a key advantage for reusable suborbital spacecraft. Based on past experience with aircraft experiments, he believes the ability to tweak an instrument and refly within two hours is important.

Reimuller doesn’t expect to use the full capacity of the Lynx every day, however. Instead, he expects there will be some flights available for other researchers who want to piggy-back onto the high-latitude deployment.

Would there be takers for those flights? Certainly. We spoke to another atmospheric researcher later in the day who told us about her own requirement for high-latitude missions. In fact, we would likely take advantage of such an opportunity ourselves. Once our High Altitude Astrobiology experiment is successfully demonstrated, we will want to repeat the experiment at various geographic locations, including multiple latitudes.

Written by Astro1 on December 4th, 2012 , Atmospheric Science, XCOR Aerospace

XCOR Lynx spacecraft wingXCOR Aerospace has announced that Alliant Techsystems (ATK) will build the wings and control surfaces for the Lynx Mark I spacecraft. XCOR has issued the first phase of a two-phase contract to ATK’s Aerospace Structures Division.

Andrew Jackson, vice president of ATK’s Aerospace Structures Division Launch Segment, said “This partnership with XCOR will provide unique insights and innovations. ATK is honored to continue our heritage in creating composite manufacturing solutions for spaceflight and excited to engage in this commercial environment with XCOR.”

XCOR CEO Jeff Greason said, “Our engagements with ATK impressed me from the start, not only due to their position as a leader in the industry, but through their immediate grasp of the unique challenges we face in the construction of Lynx wings. The story of Lynx is the story of sound design and reliable engineering.  We could not be more thrilled to work with ATK.”

XCOR chief operating officer Andrew Nelson said, “We are establishing a model of how smaller new space companies may utilize established government primes as our suppliers. ATK has demonstrated they are nimble, cost effective and can leverage deep experience from prior larger projects.”

The initial wing and control surface design has been developed by XCOR to rigorous design standards to enable the craft to perform tens of thousands of flights to and from suborbital altitudes exceeding 100 kilometers.  ATK will create a detailed design ready for manufacture, working with structural and flutter analysis experts from Quartus Engineering in San Diego, CA.

Written by Astro1 on November 14th, 2012 , XCOR Aerospace