Rocket renaissance

Now is the era of true space enterprise! The personal space travel industry is making progress, thanks to improved regulatory decisions, availability of insurance, spaceport development, and spaceship design testing to ensure safe passage. This is presently apparent in the small start-up enterprises to build less expensive spacecraft and satellites, to provide services to the space station or lunar base, or to sign up space tourists (see Appendices C and D). Speaking before the Second International Symposium for Personal Spaceflight in October 2006, Dr. Peter Diamandis, chairman of the X-Prize Foundation, stated: "We're at the birth of a new industry ... but to advance this industry, a flourishing private market place is needed.'' At that same event, Michael Simpson, president of the International Space University, observed: "We're knocking at the door of the future ... and we are the privileged generation to see it crack open just enough!"

Relative to personal spaceflight, Popular Science magazine's editor said it best about the long-term possibilities when SpaceShipOne (see photograph in Exhibit 109) and its White Knight spacecraft won the Ansari X-Prize: "Some of the boldest, most mind-blowing innovations we've ever surveyed!'' Having made history with the first manned private spaceflight, despite a plant fire in 2008, Burt Rutan's Scaled Composites still has a commitment of $1 billion to build a fleet of SpaceShipTwo vehicles, which are powered by a hybrid rocket, partially filled with solid fuel, but no oxidant ( Because this may be safer for his passengers, Sir Richard Branson has ordered five of these vehicles at a cost of $240 million. The latter's Virgin Galactic spaceline has already banked $15.6m in passenger reservations even before that spaceliner has flown a suborbital flight. At a ticket price of possibly $1000,000-$200,000 each, the six people, plus two pilots, will get a few days of training for two hours of weightlessness in a large cabin with big windows while cruising high above the Earth. The craft will be launched into orbit from Eve, a "White Knight Two'' specially built aircraft. After separation at some 50,000 feet aloft, SpaceShipTwo will continue to an orbital peak of 400,000 feet, so travelers connected to a tether may fly around the roomy interior. Cabin seats will ensure the passengers can be comfortable during the 5g launch and re-entry. Take-off and landing of experimental flights take place in California's Mojave desert, until regular operations start around 2008 at New Mexico's Spaceport America. Virgin Galactic hopes to have 450 people on its first-year orbital flights, including the initial 100 "Virgin Founders'' from 18 countries who have already paid their deposits. Presently, Virgin's three airlines have the best safety record in the world, a feat which Will Whitehorn, president of Virgin Galactic seeks to emulate in outer space with their spaceliners! He also hopes to bring the ticket price down to $50,000 by the fifth year of operation, and $25,000 before their tenth year. The company's world headquarters will be the Upham, New Mexico spaceport, while pursuing their admirable goal of providing a foundation for actual space colonization (!2 Chief designer Rutan wants to go from mass production of suborbital spaceships, to designing an orbital system that goes to the Moon and back. But the entrepreneur, now 62, who first designed Voyager for its round-the-world flight, admits that breakthroughs like his are also beset with overcoming obstacles and ridicule from people saying "that's impossible.'' Rutan forecasts that within five years there will be competing suborbital spacelines flying up to 3,000 people, and within the next decade there will be 80,000 astronauts.

The founder of Virgin Galactic, along with son Sam and staff members have completed their training for their flights on SpaceShipTwo at the National Aerospace

2 To view video on the training of the Virgin Galactic founders, go to ?mkt = en-US&brand=msnbc&vid=ddda6712-d1a3-46c4-87b7-b90eb163d814

Training and Research Center ( Here their future passengers will also practice and prepare for spaceflight. About 60 of the first 100 VG customers, known as "founders", have also undergone the 2-day training. Dick Leland, NASTAR president, said: "This training is as much as creating mindsets, about anxiety reduction, as it is about physiological training." After the learning experience, these would-be space tourists exclaimed: "Absolutely fantastic ... Loved it ... Wow, I feel like one of the luckiest people in the world." Branson added: "It was an amazing experience. Due to the flight simulation combined with G forces created by the STS-400 centrifuge, I really felt like I was launching into space." As the CEO of the Center's parent company, Environmental Tectonics, commented: "This is the beginning of a new era in space activities!"

Further evidence of advancing manned space enterprise is the formation in 2007 of the Personal Spaceflight Federation (PSF), and the announcement of the Wirefly X-Prize Cup in Las Cruces, New Mexico near Spaceport America. After test flights of the new spaceplane and licensing by the Federal Aviation Administration, commercial operations hopefully will begin there between 2008 and 2010. Exhibit 109 highlights a few of the other creative rocket entrepreneurs, engineers, and designers leading the emerging private spaceflight industry.

Robert Bigelow, the hotel billionaire, who is innovating with orbital inflatables at Bigelow Aerospace in Los Angeles, is underwriting a $50m prize for a manned vehicle that is able to reach an altitude of 200 km and complete two orbits of the Earth (see Exhibit 111). The second feat must be accomplished within 60 days of the first orbit and before the end of year 2010! Among the commercial rewards for the winner is a chance to become a supplier for Bigelow inflatable space habitats, as small space stations or hotels ... Other encouraging trends in space commerce are the Space Frontier Foundation conferences, and even the aborted Space Entrepreneurs Trade Association. Still another example is the Space Stock Surfers Club which facilitates investment in aerospace ventures that promote space economic development (email: [email protected]).

The quintessential space entrepreneur Steve Durst is also sponsoring periodic Lunar Commercial Communication Workshops, as well as Lunar Development Conferences (see or Appendix E) Ultimately, global consortia will be formed to utilize space resources through macroprojects connected with astronomy, space-based energy, the mining of the Moon and asteroids, as well as space tourism and resorts (see Appendices B, C, and D). Increasingly, it will be entrepreneurs who will take the lead in private spaceflight, industrialization, and settlement, individuals like those described in Exhibit 109.

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