Monday, April 04, 2011

Space Research, Suborbital Flights, University Satellites, Capacity Building and More...

Here's a couple of quick updates on interesting commercial space focused stories from Canada and around the world.
Michael Broadhurst.
  • While Canadian specific academic research in the area of space tourism is limited, it's worth noting that several Calgarians have so far plunked down $20,000 deposits on $200,000 tickets for short rides on the British based Virgin Galactic suborbital Spaceship Two, according to Michael Broadhurst, Vision 2000 Travel manager and prairie accredited sales agent (ASA) for Virgin Galactic who is quoted in the March 31st, 2011 Calgary Herald article "Calgarians sign up for space flights." According to his partner, Stephanie Anevich, the Toronto based executive vice-president of Vision 2000, (who I spoke with over the phone today) the company is very excited to be part of the original Virgin Galactic ASA team in Canada. Vision 2000 now has 6 ASA’s and advisers who focus on space travel.
  • But if you're going into space and expect to get thirsty during your trip, then Australian beer company Thirsty Swagman might just have a second, more palatable alternative. According to the April 4th, 2011 press release "First Beer in Space Tour Set for 2012/2013" the company is offering passengers purchasing Virgin Galactic tickets through its online website (called Beer in Space) the option of chugging down a cold one at 300,000 feet in zero gravity. According to the company founder Kenneth Hart, “beer is the nectar of the gods, and soon you can touch the heavens to drink it."
    • Meanwhile, the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) is attempting to increase its capacity, at least according to the April 1st, 2011 article "Canadian Space Agency Ramps up Capacity Building Efforts." The article comments that the CSA plan is designed to support "the continuing development of a critical mass of researchers and highly qualified people in Canada in strategic areas." These areas include atmospheric measurements using space-borne Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR), carbon cycle science with space-borne data assimilation and modeling, soil moisture measurement and applications with space-borne data plus quite a few other highly targeted and very specific areas. Of course, any preselected and highly targeted list of activities strongly suggests a government agency that already pretty much knows where it expects to spend the $2.25 million allocated to the project over the next three years.
    And finally, it's worth noting the October 2010 Popular Science article "The 123,000 MPH Plasma Engine That Could Finally Take Astronauts To Mars" which highlights the Ad Astra Rocket Company and its founder Franklin Chang Díaz, who is building a rocket engine that’s faster and more powerful than anything anyone has ever flown before (with a little help from Canadian subcontractor Nautel).

    The article seems to have encouraged others to come forward with competing designs. Here's a sample of some of the ideas being discussed, in this case from the Russian Republic.

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