While Reaction Engines’ rocket designer Alan Bond still hopes to see his airbreathing-rocket powered Skylon space plane design fly one day and may even ride in it inside its passenger cabin himself when it does so, he told the audience at the European AstroFest astronomy conference in London in February, that Skylon would not actually have a pilot, using on board systems and command data links to control the craft instead.
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At the International Institute of Space Commerce’ sponsored event “Space Tourism: Risks and Solutions” workshop which was held at Lloyds of London under an arrangement with the Broker Aon, the insurance of suborbital space tourism was discussed. Apart form the obvious risks to astronaut human life and third party life and property, other risks were considered including political, reputational and financial risks. However, it was the risk to the passengers and their potential for claims, along with how to insure the spaceplane hulls, that most exercised most of the attendees.
The news that Lockheed Martin has finally got back into commercial manned spaceflight transportation by joining the Sierra Nevada led team building the second Dreamchaser spaceplane will probably be a relief to its board. For while Lockheed Martin beat its main rival Boeing to the glory of building the Orion space capule for NASA’s long range manned exploration extravaganzas (to borrow from Neil Armstrong’s quip: Orion was the one part of Project Constellation that could not be “executed”) in truth, this victory was a slightly hollow one.
As the British Army (along with the Royal Navy/Royal Marines and the Royal Air Force) finally moves from its old 9mm Browning L9A1 (GP-35/Hi Power) semi-automatic pistol to the even higher magazine capacity (17 shots compared to 13), lighter (due to its partial polymer construction), and quicker-on-the-draw (due to its trigger-within-a-trigger safety catch) 9mm Glock 17 (Gen 4) for its standard service sidearm, it has to be noted that not all moves to new service weapons have been successful. And sometimes space travellers can be affected as well.
Men dressed in space suits have been seen around London’s landmarks as part of marketing efforts for the Lynx Space Academy – a competition to pick and train astronauts from suborbial spaceflights. The competition’s advertising line for the flight is compelling: “Leave a Man…Come Back a Hero.”
The most recent update of NASA’s Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) programme (and its CCiCap follow-on) had one interesting point: all three of the leading commercial firms involved, Boeing, Sierra Nevada and SpaceX, plan to have their own test-pilot astronauts fly the initial suborbial and later initial orbital manned launches of their spacecraft: the CST-100, the Dreamchaser and Dragon respectively. These should take place in the 2015-16 time frame.
Northrop Grumman, the manufacturer in its Grumman-guise of the world’s only proven manned lunar lander, the Apollo programme’s lunar excursion module (LEM), has been awarded a contract to provide design studies for another lunar lander – this time from the commercial lunar tourism firm, Golden Spike.
On the successful firing of its Merlin 1D engine, Space Exploration Technologies, with more than a note of self congratulation, states that the “enhanced design makes the Merlin 1D the most efficient booster engine ever built” further noting that it has “a vacuum thrust-to-weight ratio exceeding 150″,
Flushed with success from its Falcon 9/Dragon launch to the International Space Station, Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) launch firm has announced that it now has a commercial launch contract with Intelsat to launch commercial communications satellites via its Falcon 9 Heavy rocket.
The United Kingdom’s Institude of Directors (IoD) has commissioned a report into Britain’s Space Industry. The report called Space: Britain’s New Space Infrastructure notes how well the space business is doing in the United Kingdom. While it reports that this is mainly on the back of “downstream” activities like satellite television and space insurance., it also states that Britain has found itself a successful niche role in spacecraft manufacturing via Astrium and Surrey Satelltie Technology Limited (both firms are owned by EADS).
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