First off I have press release from SpaceX announcing that it has signed a contract with the Department of Defense's Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) Office to carry their first Jumpstart mission payload onboard the upcoming Falcon 1 launch. The flight, scheduled for June 2008, is going up from SpaceX launch complex in the Central Pacific Marshall Islands' Kwajalein Atoll. The Jumpstart mission aims to establish a preliminary framework for responsive contracting, and to demonstrate the ability to rapidly integrate and execute a mission, from initial call-up to launch. By signing this contract the Dept. of Defense has given a huge endorsement to SpaceX that I would imagine will help them gain many more payloads.
I have been kind of following JP Aerospace lately and they have been working on a new airship that they call the Tandem. The Tandem is a low cost airship capable of flight to 140,000 feet. Tandem fills the gap between free balloons and complex high altitude airships. I have always been fascinated by airships and think that a line of luxury airships would do very well. But back to the story; Tandems consist of two balloons separated by a keel. Two propellers designed for flight at 100,000 feet drive Tandems. JP Aerospace developed the Tandem as a tool to construct the Dark Sky Station, a high altitude port and construction facility. It will also be used as a "mothership" for small experimental airships, (Mach Gliders and X-Airships). High Racks, foam and carbon fiber balloon instrument carriers, have been the workhorse for development at JP Aerospace so far. Tandem will now step into that role. JP Aerospace has just come out with some preliminary sketches for the Tandem, check 'em out. For some more info visit: hobbyspace.com.
I read an interesting article on The Space Review that ponders the question of whether or not there is really a market for space commerce. I think that there certainly is, once the price comes down for the average person tourism will boom, and there are many scientific applications that can come out of space.
This isn't really NewSpace, it's about the European Space Agency, but anyway Arianespace launched ESA's Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) yesterday (March 9th). This was the first launch of an ATV. ATVs carriy propellant, oxygen, equipment, systems, food and water for the International Space Station and its crew. Once docked to the ISS, this resupply spacecraft also will be able to use its own propulsion system to increase the space station’s altitude to overcome the effects of drag as it orbits the Earth. Although the ATV was launched unmanned, its preparation at the Spaceport followed all of the procedures for a human-rated spacecraft, as it will become part of the International Space Station that is visited by crewmembers during its cargo unloading and other operations. This launch also rocketed Arianespace into the major leagues, giving it some more street cred (or "space cred") among other aerospace companies. Here's some more pictures of the Ariane 5 and the launch.
Thanks for reading,