Space Adventures suborbital push in jeopardy?

Last February Space Adventures made a big push to develop a suborbital spacecraft that would compete with Virgin Galactic, Rocketplane, and others in the suborbital space tourism arena. The Explorer vehicle would be based on a vehicle designed by Myasishchev Design Bureau in Russia to compete for the Ansari X Prize; the Russian space agency Roskosmos would be involved as well as Prodea, the company founded by Amir, Anousheh, and Hamir Ansari. Around the same time as this announcement Space Adventures also announced that it was involved in spaceport development efforts in the UAE and Singapore. Those announcements, along with Space Adventures’ track record in orbital space tourism, immediately put the company among the leading contenders to develop a successful suborbital space tourism business.

Since those announcements, though, there has been virtually no news about the effort coming out of Space Adventures and its partners. In an article published online on Friday, Flight International reports that those plans “hang in the balance”, following the completion of a feasibility study that had been in the works for months. Space Adventures will make a decision to proceed or not in the next couple of months, according to the article, but Roskosmos has already indicated that they are no longer involved with the effort.

My own angle on this: I spoke very briefly with Anousheh Ansari about this when she attended the FAA’s Commercial Space Transportation Conference last month. Her keynote address focused completely on her trip to the ISS, with no mention of any suborbital plans, so I asked her about it during one of the breaks. (To her credit, she didn’t leave after giving her speech, but in fact stayed the entire day, and could be seen leafing through some of the reports distributed at the conference during the sessions.) She said that the feasibility studies were ongoing, and that Prodea had not made a decision whether and how to proceed, nor did she give a timetable for any decisionmaking.

Space Adventures has a very strong brand in the space tourism field because of their work getting various clients to the ISS, so it would seem natural that they would also get involved in the suborbital field as well. It remains to be seen, though, whether they have the ability and interest in continuing with the development of a new vehicle, instead of perhaps partnering with one or more of the existing suborbital players (as they had previously indicated), helping shape the customer experience, selling tickets, and getting a cut of the revenues.

1 comment to Space Adventures suborbital push in jeopardy?

  • […] Posted: Monday, March 05, 2007 6:42 PM by Alan Boyle Two of the darlings of the commercial space race, California-based SpaceX and Nevada-based Bigelow Aerospace, are apparently planning to conduct their second launch attempts a little later than previously advertised. SpaceX’s millionaire founder, Elon Musk, reported today that the launch window for his company’s second Falcon 1 rocket has been moved back from this week. You might recall that the first rocket failed last March, due to a corroded nut that led to a fire during launch. Here’s the update from the SpaceX Web site: “The launch window is now March 19th to 22nd (California time). During extended ground testing in late February, one of our second stage thrust vector control boards indicated a problem. Although our analysis showed substantial margin for flight, we decided nonetheless to increase the robustness of certain of the components and run a delta qualification. “The upgraded boards will be installed this week. If all goes well, Falcon 1 will do a static fire next week and then launch in the week of the 19th.” Bigelow Aerospace hasn’t yet nailed down a date for the follow-up to last July’s successful launch of its Genesis 1 inflatable orbital module – but in the past, the company has said it’s aiming for a launch from Russia’s Dombarovsky missile base sometime around April 1. Now Russia’s Federal Space Agency says Genesis 2 is on the schedule for an April 26 launch – on the same day that physicist Stephen Hawking is due to take a weightless airplane flight. The latest report on Genesis 2 comes via Clark Lindsey’s RLV and Space Transport News, which is a great source of information about the commercial space race. Be sure to check with that Weblog as well as Jeff Foust’s Personal Spaceflight blog for updates during these next few days, when I’m out of the office and (mostly) out of the blog race. P.S.: Don’t miss Foust’s update on Space Adventures’ suborbital aspirations. […]

Leave a Reply




You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>