New Mexico Spaceport Design Unveiled

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Somebody pinch me, because I still can’t believe this is going forward. The world’s first commercial spaceport took the next step today, releasing new plans and illustrations to the public today. With a building that looks like the Millennium Falcon with wings, the spaceport, and its main tenant, Virgin Galactic, are taking this whole “space is cool” concept very, very seriously.

Spaceport America will be a 9,300 square metre (100,000 square foot) hanger and terminal facility located in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Construction is expected to begin in 2008, and is expected to be completed by 2009 or 2010.

It was designed by a partnership between the American firm URS Corporation and the British architectural agency Foster+Partners, which has plenty of experience designing airports.

Virgin’s chief, Sir Richard Branson, clearly had a hand in setting some of the environmental requirements of the facility. It was designed to meet the standards of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Platinum Certification, which is the highest rating you can get from the US Green Building Council. It’ll have solar panels for electricity, a water recycling system and natural earth to provide passive energy for heating and cooling.

The terminal and hanger facility are expected to cost about $31 million, and will also serve as a tourist attraction. It will include Virgin Galactic’s pre-flight and post-flight training facilities, and contain a maintenance hanger for two White Knight 2 aircraft and five Spaceship 2s.

Branson revealed more details about Spaceship 2’s testing as well, saying, “next year will see the first test flights of Spaceship 2 and it is fantastic that we will now have a permanent home to go to, which will be every bit as inspiring for the astronauts of the future as Burt Rutan’s groundbreaking technology.”

So, Spaceship 2 tests next year, and a spaceport completed as early as 2009. Like I said… pinch me.

You can check out a full image gallery of the spaceport here.

Original Source: Spaceport America News Release

Bigelow Speeds Up Plans for a Human Habitable Space Station

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Where are you planning to go on your next vacation? Hawaii, Mexico, or Europe would be nice. But what about a trip into orbit? Space tourism entrepreneur Robert Bigelow announced this week that he’s going to be fast tracking his plans to a launch an orbital space hotel. With his current prototypes, Genesis 1 and 2 already in orbit, Bigelow has decided to skip another unmanned prototype and go straight for the habitable Sundancer module, launching as early as 2010.

Bigelow posted the news on his company’s website this week.

According to Bigelow, the incentive for the decision came from the rising costs of launching spacecraft into orbit. The company was originally planning to launch its Galaxy prototype next. This was supposed to be a 45% scale prototype module that would bridge the gap between the Genesis modules and the first human test module: Sundancer. After both Genesis modules launched successfully, and have been sending back exactly the kinds of scientific information Bigelow Aerospace required, the company decided another unmanned prototype wasn’t necessary.

The company will still construct and test the Galaxy prototype, in order to gain familiarity and experience with the subsystems, but they won’t actually launch it. This gives time in their schedule, and additional budget to move up the launch of the Sundancer prototype.

When it finally launches, Sundancer will be capable of accommodating three people in orbit. In his website post, Bigelow targeted 2010 as a possible launch date, but speculates that it might happen “much earlier than any of us had previously anticipated.” So, maybe even 2009 isn’t out of the question.

How people are actually going to reach their hotel in space, that’s another question.

Original Source:Bigelow News Release

European Space Jet Unveiled

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The European aerospace firm EADS Astrium revealed its plans for space tourism on Wednesday at a special event in Paris. The company also showed plans for a new space plane that it hopes will take customers up to space as early as 2012.

The Astrium space jet will take off and land from a conventional airport using jet engines. Once it reaches an altitude of 12 km, its rocket engines will ignite, and burn long enough to give it the momentum to reach 100 km of altitude. Passengers on board the plane will then get to enjoy a few moments of weightlessness, with a beautiful view of the Earth. Then it will descend, with its jet engines restarting, bringing it back to a safe landing. The whole journey should take about 90 minutes.

A vehicle like this could also be a precursor to suborbital space planes, which would provide rapid point-to-point transportation across the Earth.

Original Source: EADS Astrium News Release

First Female Space Tourist Will Participate in Several Experiments

The International Space Station is going to be a busy place. Right after Atlantis undocks, the next Soyuz mission, carrying the crew of Expedition 14, as well as a space tourist will launch on September 18. Iranian-American entrepreneur Anousheh Ansari will live on board the station for a week, partly as a tourist, and partly as a test subject for several research experiments. Four experiments are planned for Ansari, including two that test her blood, one to seek the cause of astronaut low-back pain, and a search for bacteria around the station.
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Virgin Galactic Updates on Plans For SpaceShipTwo

Scaled Composite’s SpaceShipOne claimed the X-Prize when it reached an altitude of 100km for the second time in less than 2 weeks. Although this was a much simpler feat than reaching orbital altitude and velocities, many believed we were on the verge of a space tourism revolution. Virgin Galactic, one of the companies attempting to make a business out of suborbital flights recently unveiled details about SpaceShipTwo at a space tourism conference in London.
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Gregory Olsen Will Be the Next Space Tourist

Image credit: Space Adventures
Space Adventures?, Ltd., the world’s leading space experiences company, announced today that American technology entrepreneur Gregory Olsen, Ph.D. will be the next private space explorer client. The company which organized the space flights for the world’s first private space explorers, American businessman Dennis Tito in 2001, and the first African in space, Mark Shuttleworth, in 2002, disclosed Dr. Olsen’s identity and his mission objectives during a press conference today in New York City.

The mission continues Space Adventures? ongoing effort to open the space frontier to more than just career astronauts and cosmonauts. Dr. Olsen is set to begin cosmonaut training next month at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia, with the launch date for the expedition currently planned for April 2005.

Dr. Olsen, CEO of Sensors Unlimited, Inc., Princeton, N.J., commented, ?I hope that by traveling to the International Space Station I can help inspire today’s youth to dream big and to realize that education hard work and a desire to achieve your vision is the magic of America. If I can do it, so can you!?

?We are excited to announce that Dr. Olsen will be the next private space explorer to visit the International Space Station,? said Eric Anderson, president and CEO, Space Adventures. ?He has such a passion for this flight and sees it as an investment in the future. Dr. Olsen not only is committed to motivating young people to study science and technology, but also plans to undertake several science and engineering projects during his flight. That he is paying for his mission privately, in addition to carrying out research and educational programs, makes him his own ?private space program.? We, at Space Adventures, are impressed by the quality and caliber of Dr. Olsen and his plans.?

In conjunction with the Federal Space Agency and the Rocket Space Corporation Energia, Space Adventures continues its commitment to opening the final frontier for private citizens. This innovative project secures the first of four seats made available exclusively to Space Adventures aboard the Soyuz TMA spacecraft traveling to the International Space Station through 2007.

Dr. Olsen, born in 1945 in Brooklyn, N.Y., was raised in a working class family. His father was an electrician and his mother a schoolteacher. He graduated from Fairleigh Dickinson University with a bachelor’s of science and master’s degree in physics. He then went on to graduate from the University of Virginia with a doctorate in materials science. From 1972 to 1983, he worked at RCA Laboratories, now known as the Sarnoff Corporation. In 1984 Dr. Olsen started his first company, Epitaxx and later sold it for $12 million (USD). He founded Sensors Unlimited, Inc. in 1992, later sold it for $700 million (USD) in 2000. Sensors Unlimited develops highly sensitive near-infrared cameras.

Space Adventures, the only U.S. company to have successfully launched private tourists to the International Space Station, headquartered in Arlington, Virginia with an office in Moscow, Russia. It offers a variety of programs such as Zero Gravity, MiG flights, cosmonaut training, space flight qualification programs and reservations on future sub-orbital spacecrafts. The company’s advisory board comprises Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin; shuttle astronauts Kathy Thomton, Robert (Hoot) Gibson, Charles Walker, Nom Thagard, Sam Durrance and Byron Lichtenber; and Skylab astronaut Owen Garriott. For more information, please visit www.spaceadventures.com.

Original Source: Space Adventures News Release

Space Adventures Seeking a Spaceport Location

Image credit: Space Adventures
Space Adventures, the world’s leading space tourism company, is currently exploring several locations around the world for construction of a space tourism spaceport. Current sites being considered are located in Australia, The Bahamas, Florida, Japan, Malaysia, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Singapore and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. Operations at the spaceport will include sub-orbital flights, a space flight training center and other activities.

“This is an ideal economic scenario for local communities. The building and then operation of a Space Adventures’ spaceport will undoubtedly bring tens of millions of dollars in the short-term and hundreds of millions in the long-term to the local economy through the increase of jobs and of tourists to the area and the required ancillary support,” said Tim Franta, space business consultant and former director of business development, Florida Space Authority. “It will be a win-win for both Space Adventures and the selected region.”

“Securing the location of a spaceport will be a progressive step for Space Adventures in its evolution from a space experiences provider to an actual space flight academy,” said Eric Anderson, president and CEO of Space Adventures. “We are aggressively seeking a location and enthusiastically look forward to the launch of the first Space Adventures’ sub-orbital flight from our spaceport in the coming years.”

The next generation spacecraft vehicles that will be used for the sub-orbital flights are now being tested. Space Adventures is the marketing and experience operations partner for several of the leading space vehicle manufacturing companies and has already taken over 100 seat reservations for explorers from around the world.

Space Adventures’ sub-orbital program will consist of a detailed four-day flight preparation and training experience. The highly focused and inspiring pre-flight agenda will familiarize each passenger with the flight program, critical vehicle systems, flight operations, zero gravity conditions, in-flight accelerations, and space flight safety procedures. On launch day, flight specialists will assist the passengers in suiting up and guiding each through the final checklist. Each flight will be directed by both a skilled-pilot and a precise computer controlled system. As each vehicle reaches their maximum altitude, the rocket engines will shutdown and the passengers will experience up to five minutes of continuous weightlessness, all the while gazing at the vast blackness of space set against the blue horizon of the Earth below.

Original Source: Space Adventures News Release

The Odds for Space Tourism – Shorter than Ever?

With ‘space tourist’ Mark Shuttleworth heading to the International Space Station this month, and other visits in the pipeline, space looks like being a busy place in 2002. But Tony Webb, founder of eSpaceLotto.com, wants to make it even busier. He talks about his program for raising the funds needed to make space tourism a reality for all.

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With ‘space tourist’ Mark Shuttleworth heading to the International Space Station this month, and other visits in the pipeline, space looks like being a busy place in 2002. But Tony Webb, founder of eSpaceLotto, wants to make it even busier. He talks about his program for raising the funds needed to make space tourism a reality for all.

In the wake of Dennis Tito’s inaugural tourist flight to the International Space Station in April 2001, the busy parade of space tourists to the Station this year includes South African Internet millionaire Mark Shuttleworth and possibly N’Sync base guitarist Lance Bass. Space is becoming accessible to a wider group than just professional astronauts or cosmonauts but only to those who can afford the vast fees, or can raise them via promotion and publicity, thanks to their high profiles.

Tony Webb, founder of eSpaceLotto is a passionate advocate for making space tourism accessible to everyone, not just the rich and famous, and is using the ‘lotto’ concept to achieve this.

“I was looking for a global solution to expand space tourism – a space lottery – and to provide an opportunity for people everywhere to ‘play the game.’ The idea came to me when I watched a TV program on the Discovery Channel a few years ago on space tourism, and I worked thereafter on making this idea come to life. We’re all on the same planet, so why shouldn’t we all have a chance to visit space?”

The idea behind eSpaceLotto appears to be simple – pay your fee, nominate the space tourism organization you would like to help through allocation of 20% of your fee, and then be in the draw for a chance to go into space.

Webb’s not the only person to have thought of this way of funding space tourism on a large scale. Apollo astronaut Buzz Aldrin in an interview in Focus magazine, titled ‘I Want You in Space,’ spoke about innovative ways for people to become involved in the space program, and the general interest in gambling. “Given that almost anybody would love to go up in space, why not combine the two things to create a space lottery?”

Says Tony Webb, “The first thing to note is that everyone who purchases a ticket at eSpaceLotto can immediately allocate 20% of the cost of their ticket (less processing fees) to an organization we are supporting. A few we have currently chosen include MirCorp, TGV Rockets, and Interorbital Systems, as well as the U.N. chartered World Space Week, whose activities around the world promote an interest and knowledge of space exploration.”

These organizations have a connection with space tourism and support for their activities will help to drive the industry according to Webb. The money for World Space Week helps fund the provision of Starry Night astronomy software to schools.

“Basically, we picked private aerospace companies and space related organizations that are doing outstanding work and that we would like to support. There are no limits to the number of private aerospace companies and space related organizations that we can support, and we would be happy to consider others.”

These select companies will have representatives reviewing the financial management and accountability of the eSpaceLotto drawings, says Webb, as a safeguard that the money will reach its target.

Jane Reifert of Incredible Adventures, one of the companies to receive support from eSpaceLotto, says, “We are honored that eSpaceLotto has chosen Incredible Adventures to supply MiG-25 ‘edge of space’ flights and zero-gravity adventures to lotto winners. We are especially looking forward to sending their first group of winners through our sixteen day Orbital Qualification Program.

“We offered our first civilian MiG-25 flight back in 1993. At that time, it was almost unheard of for someone to fly to the edge of space. Now, less than a decade later, we can arrange for civilians to visit the International Space Station.

“Several months ago, a survey conducted on our website showed strong support for a ‘space lottery’. We think a well-run, legally operated, ‘space lottery’ could go a long way toward providing the funding necessary to make incredible space adventures available to everyone.”

Randa Milliron, CEO of Interorbital Systems, agrees. “When Tony [Webb] came to us at Interorbital Systems with his brave new lottery concept, we found ourselves immediately in full support of the plan. Not only would he be providing prime publicity and great gaming opportunities, but he was also slinging another ‘ping’ at the world’s psyche, clearly pointing out that being Earth-locked is not the only game in town! If Tony’s venture pays off, he’ll be putting his money where his mouth is by creating a means for the general public to actually provide infusions of capital to a company like ours that’s offering space tourism opportunities. This sort of ‘gift’ will facilitate companies like ours becoming operational more quickly, which translates into more rapid access to space for eager adventure tourists. With the sort of cash flow the lottery promises, our orbital vacation packages can escalate to lunar vacation packages in a reasonably short timeframe.”

There are two competitions being run through eSpaceLotto Website – the weekly lottery and the raffle.

The first raffle involves a maximum of 10,000 “Special Offering” tickets being sold, with other raffles to follow.

For the space lottery, you need to pick between 3 and 5 correct numbers in the California Super Lotto draw each Wednesday to win a sixteen-day miniature cosmonaut training package valued at $200,000 and compete against nine other winners for the trip on the $20,000,000 Russian Soyuz rocket to space.

Webb explains the reasons for using the California Super Lotto numbers. “We could have drawn the numbers ourselves or had an independent firm do this for us but we felt that it was more transparent for all concerned to use a large, respectable lottery like the California Super Lotto. It is easy for players to check what the winning numbers are and there is no chance of error or confusion when it comes to the winning numbers.”

The price of each ticket is based on the odds of winning, according to the eSpaceLotto Website. The cost of each lottery ticket is $10, $30, $80 and $300 ($60 for the introductory Special Raffle). For example, for a $30 ticket, you need 5 out of 5 correct numbers to win. For the $300 ticket, you need 3 correct numbers out of 4. Each winning ticket may be auctioned at eSpaceLotto’s website for a cash-out option.

If a person wins the draw, they will be informed by e-mail and be required to provide evidence of identity. They may then have to wait for a period of up to 60 days to receive the miniature Cosmonaut training prize.

The lucky ten winners get to go to Star City in Moscow to compete for the chance to travel on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft to the International Space Station. While only one person may receive the chance to go the ISS, the remainder won’t lose out entirely. Webb says that they will be given the opportunity to fly on a seven day orbital flight with Interorbital Systems, which will be using its own Apollo-style capsules and its Neptune Orbital Spaceliner, a Titan II-Class Plus rocket. Launches are slated to begin in 2005, from Interorbital’s private spaceport and space tourism resort in the South Pacific Kingdom of Tonga.

Although the technology for some of these ventures has yet to be put into place, Webb does not see that as a problem. “These organizations are not kidding around. There are people there with brilliant minds and concepts that need to be supported. All they need is the funding to get it going. That’s part of the reason for doing this.”

Webb cautions that the person who eventually goes into space with the Russians will need to pass their medical tests and meet their physical requirements.

Webb projects that US$60-70 million will be raised from this global venture. So what’s the catch? What will happen if the required sums are not raised through the 10 lotteries or 10 raffles to obtain 10 immediate winners? And aren’t people risking their fee if the pool of funds raised isn’t large enough?

“That’s like saying no-one wants to go into space and we’ve all been fooling ourselves. I believe that globally speaking there are enough people out there who want to go into space to make this viable. Research has shown that 70-80% of people want to go to space and they will make this happen. This is their future. It’s [space tourism] a new industry, which represents potentially $100 billion a year.”

Webb has spent the last few years seeking legal opinions on global Internet gambling and says that the eSpaceLotto.com global project is legal and set up in full accordance with Belize Internet gaming laws. The company is headquartered outside Geneva in Switzerland. “Belize is a low tax country which does not have a tax on Internet wagers. This means that more money goes to space tourism and for the future of all mankind. In addition, many other countries are very protective of their national lotteries and will not allow any competition.”

The global space tourism lottery is now up and running, says Webb, and those interested in the concept can check out the website.

Pat Bahn, CEO of TGV-Rockets, which has also been nominated for support by the lotto money, says this is a concept that is long overdue. “I think it’s time for a space lottery to come to the [fore]front. Now that space tourism is a reality, the next thing is a lottery as a way to enable millions of people of modest means to participate in the exciting new venture for space travel.”

Jennifer Laing is a freelance space writer from Melbourne, Australia.