While SpaceX stole the headlines with their Dragon spacecraft making the first private cargo run to the International Space Station, they weren’t the only commercial space company to make great strides for the future. “This has been an incredible couple of weeks for the companies in the commercial spaceflight industry,” said former astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria, who is now president of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation. “Our members are working toward a common goal of opening spaceflight up to the public and expanding NASA’s reach, which will create high-tech jobs in the U.S. while building innovative technology that will improve life on Earth. The SpaceX achieved a historic first, and in just the ten days while they were in orbit, many other companies hit milestones or announced new initiatives.”
For example, on May 29 the Sierra Nevada Corporation completed a milestone for its Dream Chaser program with a captive carry flight test, marking the successful beginning of a flight test program that will continue this summer.
“The successful Captive Carry flight test of the Dream Chaser full scale flight vehicle marks the beginning of SNC’s flight test program; a program that culminates in crewed missions to the International Space Station for NASA,” said former astronaut Steve Lindsey. Lindsey joined SNC in 2011 to run Dream Chaser’s flight operations, and his resume includes service as an Air Force test pilot, a five time Space Shuttle Commander and Pilot, and Chief of NASA’s Astronaut Office.
Captive carry testing provided SNC with an early opportunity to evaluate and prove hardware, facilities and ground operations in preparation for approach and landing tests scheduled for later this year. See a video of the test below:
XCOR Aerospace announced on May 24th that their liquid oxygen piston pump is now ready for reusable spaceflight. XCOR engineers have successfully and repeatedly pumped liquid oxygen at flow rates required to supply the Lynx suborbital vehicle’s main engines, completing a key technical milestone. XCOR is now ready for main propulsion integration into the Lynx flight weight fuselage.
Excalibur Almaz announced on May 27th that it plans to launch spacecraft to space stations they will place in orbit around the moon. Using proven Russian legacy hardware, Excalibur Almaz plans to create a transport system between Earth, low-Earth orbit, and the Moon. EA is now seeking partners, investors, and customers for this next generation space transportation system.
Virgin Galactic announced on May 30th that its suborbital spacecraft, SpaceShipTwo, along with its carrier aircraft, WhiteKnightTwo, have been granted an experimental launch permit from the Federal Aviation Administration. This launch permit will allow the vehicle’s manufacturer, Scaled Composites, to continue forward with the flight test program towards rocket-powered test.
Moon Express announced on May 30th that it has acquired Next Giant Leap, LLC in the first team acquisition event of the $30M Google Lunar X PRIZE. The NGL acquisition by Moon Express will leverage and carry forward the substantial work done by NGL and its corporate partners.
Blue Origin announced on May 31st the successful completion of a System Requirements Review of its orbital Space Vehicle on May 15-16 which will help Blue Origin finalize its vehicle design. The review assessed the Space Vehicle’s ability to meet safety and mission requirements, and evaluated the technical readiness of the design, the concept of operations, the feasibility of project development plans, and planned verification activities. The review also included results from recently completed wind tunnel tests of the biconic shape, validating the vehicle’s aerodynamic design, stability and cross-range.