Monday, October 08, 2012

Meanwhile, Back at the Dawn of the New Space Age...

While national governments and the space agencies that represent them continue to micromanage and act as "project supervisors" rather than the "customers" they actually are, the real stories of our next great space age slowly flow across the internet.

Here are three of the more indicative from SpaceX, Reaction Engines and Virgin Galactic:

  • Of course, the US isn't alone in developing new and innovative ways of getting to space. But while the Americans at SpaceX used innovative procurement methodologies to drive down the cost of a traditional rocket launcher, the Brits at Reaction Engines seem to be in the midst of creating a real revolution in technology. According to the October 8th, 2012 article on the UK based Engineer website titled "Skylon and SABRE: your questions answered," the company is testing (not just building) a combined cycle, air breathing rocket/jet engine which they think is capable of reaching Earth orbit in a single stage, then returning to land like an airplane. With a genesis going back to the 1980's (when the original design was known as HOTOL or HOrizontal Take-Off and Landing) the current design is starting to show promise, at least according to the October 4th, 2012 Parabolic Arc article "Skylon Update: Big Bucks, Buck Rogers."

  • Of course, some companies are well past the development stage and even almost through the testing stage. Once those stages are taken care of, all you really need is the proper corporate structure and this seems to be the story behind the October 8th, 2012 article on the Space Travel website titled "Virgin Galactic Acquires Full Ownership of The Spaceship Company." According to the article, the "completion of the acquisition comes as Virgin Galactic and Scaled (Composites) begin to plan the handover of the SS2 (Space Ship 2) development program to Virgin Galactic." The article gives no indication of when commercial operations will begin, although the flight test program "is well under way" along a path which will lead to "commercial operations, which will be based at Spaceport America in New Mexico."

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