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AUTHOR ARCHIVE

Vacations in Space and Fireballs Over the UK

Work on The Voyager Station, the world’s first “space hotel,” is set to begin in 2025. Developed by the Orbital Assembly Corporation, or OAC, the hotel will operate in low Earth orbit and will come equipped with restaurants, a cinema, spa, and accommodations for 400 people.

The Voyager Station will orbit Earth and will be built inside a large rotating circle that will generate artificial gravity at a similar level to that of the Moon.

A series of pods will be attached to the outside of the hotel, that would house a gym, kitchen, restaurant, bar, and crew quarters, along with other modules that will be leased or sold to private companies and governments.

The idea of a circular space station that orbits the Earth dates back to Wernher von Braun, a German-born American aerospace engineer and space architect in the mid 1900’s. von Braun was an architect on NASA’s Apollo program.

OAC hopes it can bring von Braun’s idea “full circle” and be operational by 2027. FOR a more detailed look…check out our Space Hotel piece on Space Channel .com or watch for our show Space Tourist! On our streaming channel.

The space investment sector seems to really be heating up.

Rocket Lab USA, a space-transportation startup, will merge through a SPAC with Vector Acquisition Corp, who is backed by a private equity firm named Vector Capital. According to the deal, the joint venture is valued at $4.1 billion including debt.

Rocket Lab is a front-runner among a new class of “small-launch providers,” and has launched 97 satellites for both government and private clients. While a small number of companies tend to steal the spotlight with large launches, there are over 100 new small-rocket endeavors that exist to serve lighter satellites, including Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit LLC.

SPAC mergers are becoming increasingly common in the space economy. Another of Branson’s enterprises, Virgin Galactic, used this tactic to go public in 2019. Rocket Lab has a bright future, and I’m sure it won’t be the last SPAC merger in the final frontier.

Finally, there was much excitement over in the UK, as a mysterious event happened in the skies outside of Liverpool.

Several bizarre lights were spotted by a driver on his way to work that appeared to be falling from the sky. Video was captured by St Helens resident Aiden Macartain, of bright lights with flaming tails that appeared to be plunging to Earth early in the morning.

“I initially thought it was an aircraft but I saw five or six of them in different places and descending at different points,” said Macartain. “They were like falling lights, I was stunned when I saw it.”

Scientists from the UK Fireball Alliance,…yes, there is such a thing :)…. confirmed that just hours later, a meteor event had occurred in the UK, and it’s set to break the world record as the most reported meteor ever – with 852 reports on the International Meteor Organization’s website.

“This meteor fragmented a lot, as you can see in the videos. Most of the meteoroid vaporized during the six seconds of visible flight,” said Luke Daly from the University of Glasgow.

From what goes up, to what comes down, subscribe to our Flight Crew Newsletter for the latest updates and news in the space industry.

Perils of Commercialization in Space

The commercialization and militarization of space is a story we’ve been following for some time, and recently, there’s been an uptick in activity around the world, and in space.

Let’s start with China,
A recent Pentagon report highlights the PLA’s pursuit and development of counter-space capabilities, including kinetic-kill missiles, ground based lasers, orbiting space robots and surveillance technology which can monitor objects within their field of view and enable counter-space actions.

China has also built an expansive ground support infrastructure to support its growing on-orbit fleet and related functions including spacecraft – direct ascent, co-orbital, electronic warfare, and directed energy capabilities – that can contest or deny an adversary’s access to space during a crisis or conflict.
a Pentagon report

As threats to the sovereignty of space continue to escalate, governments around the world are working to stabilize the domain for commerce and exploration.

Another major driver we’re seeing today is the militarization and defense of space, and just look no further than the us with space forced and space command. You have to believe that if the us is saying, we are going to start spending significant more on we are going to build out our infrastructure, because we can’t afford to be last. You better believe every other country is listening to them and saying the exact same thing. because they don’t want to be left behind. In my mind, the countries that are building infrastructure today will be very well positioned for for the future, and no country wants to lose that race and the militarization of space could be a big driver of space revenues going forward.

Russia has also entered the theater with a space based non-destructive anti-satellite weapon. On July 15th, an object was fired into space from Cosmos 2543, which itself was described as birthing a smaller satellite dubbed Cosmos 2542. The same object spotted earlier this year, stalking the Pentagon’s Spy Sat USA 245.

The Kremlin has claimed the event involved a small space vehicle that “inspected one of the national satellites from a close distance using special equipment”, adding the “inspection” provided valuable information which it transmitted to ground control.

The US Space Force disputes this – stating it was a space weapon test.

General John “Jay” Raymond, said “This is further evidence of Russia’s continuing efforts to develop and test space-based systems and consistent with the Kremlin’s published military doctrine to employ weapons that hold US and Allied space assets at risk.”

Gen. Raymond added the US and its allies such as the UK were “ready and committed to deterring aggression and defending the nation, our Allies and vital US interests from hostile acts in space”.

In a space strategy document published last month, the Pentagon stated “China and Russia each have weaponized space as a means to reduce US and allied military effectiveness and challenge our freedom of operation in space.”

Lieutenant General Steven Kwast (Ret.) wasn’t as vague, saying, “If we allow China to have unilateral control of space, then we’ll have given them a multi-trillion-dollar market for delivering energy and information to the entire world — and we’ll have allowed them to build a weapon that can utterly obliterate us.”

While China and Russia make headlines, there are many countries quietly entering the domain with unique goals, priorities and policy.

The UAE, Japan, Australia, India, Canada, Israel and even Iran are just some of the emerging spacefaring nations, each with a possibility of building their own private sector supporting the effort.

All of them however, have the same strategic mindset.

With multi-trillion-dollar markets in energy, information, manufacturing, and transportation at stake, competition for the high ground could present the greatest risk America will ever face.

More on this in upcoming reports.

Increasing Cost of ISS Threatens US Commercialization Efforts in Space

Recent changes in NASA’s pricing model for commercial users of the International Space Station has some companies baffled. On Feb. 25th, NASA announced a revision to their Commercial Marketing Pricing Policy first published in June of 2019.

NASA said the changes to their pricing model were a result of “discussions with stakeholders, the current market growth, and in anticipation of future commercial entities capable of providing similar services.”

Some of these price jumps include an Upmass rate, or cost to transport 1 kilo of cargo up to the ISS, increasing from $3,000 to $20,000 per kilo, a Downmass rate, or cost to bring 1 kilo of cargo back down from the ISS, increasing from $6,000 to $40,000. The cost of one hour of crew member time jumped from $17,500 to $130,000.

These changes took effect immediately, and have taken many companies by surprise.

“NASA has not done a good job communicating with the stakeholders,” said Jeffrey Manber, chief executive of Nanoracks. “We are in discussions with customers and suddenly we are being notified of a major increase.”

Nanoracks, in particular, has been forced to suspend talks with two potential customers, who can’t afford NASA’s new rates.

Manber referenced the Federal Government’s 2021 Consolidated Appropriations Act as a possible cause for NASA’s price jump, where NASA requested $150 million for LEO commercialization efforts and was provided with only $17 million.

Something that could have huge effects across the industry.

While NASA hikes its fees, China and Russia have just announced an agreement to build a lunar space station.

Despite having sent the first man into space, Russia’s space exploration has deteriorated recently as a result of corruption and lack of financing. This swiftly improves Russia’s stake in the space economy, and attempts to close the gap between themselves and Washington and Beijing in the pursuit of the Moon and Mars.

A memorandum has been signed by both countries to design a lunar station that will serve as a “complex of experimental research facilities created on the surface and/or in the orbit of the Moon”.

This is an interesting partnership to say the least, and we’ll be keeping an eye on this one.

In addition to the changes at NASA, the private sector is also in motion.

George Whitesides, a longtime chief executive of Virgin Galactic, has left the company to pursue opportunities in public service. Whiteside will remain chair of Virgin Galactic’s new Space Advisory Board, which also includes former astronauts Chris Hadfield and Sandy Magnus.

Whitesides’ involvement started at Virgin in 2010 after serving as chief of staff at NASA headquarters. In July 2020, Virgin Galactic created a new position called “Chief Space Officer” for Whitesides, where he oversaw much of the company’s long term plans for orbital spaceflight and high-speed point-to-point travel.

Concurrently to Witesides’ departure, Virgin Galactic chairman and billionaire investor Chamath Palihapitiya, sold his remaining 6.2 million shares of the company on March 2nd and 3rd, for a reported $213 million. Palihapitiya is responsible for taking the company public through a SPAC deal in 2019.

Virgin Galactic shares have dropped more than 25% in the week following the sale, and have lost more than half its value since its all-time-high early February, dropping from $62.80 to below $30 in a matter of weeks. The shares are still in the black since 2021 began, and have increased 15% total over the past year.

Palihapitiya plans to reinvest the money from this sale “into a large investment I am making towards fighting climate change.”

“The details of this investment will be made public in the next few months. I remain as dedicated as ever to Virgin Galactic’s team, mission and prospects,” Palihapitiya said in a statement to CNBC.

As nations and commercial enterprises continue to make waves in the space Economy, we’ll keep our finger on the pulse for you. Subscribe to the Flight Crew Newsletter for updates.

Connecting the Cosmos with Gas Stations

Orbit Fab envisions a thriving in-space market for products and services that support both existing space businesses (communications and Earth observation) and new industries like space tourism, manufacturing, and mining. We offer a ubiquitous supply of satellite propellant in Earth Orbit, expanding the operational potential of new and existing space assets and enabling unprecedented business model flexibility for satellite owners. The future for satellites is no longer restricted to the fuel they are launched with. We provide the fuel that satellites need, where and when they need it, to achieve things never before thought possible.

Co-Founders Daniel Faber, CEO, and Jeremy Schiel, CMO, are working to establish the first Gas Stations in Space™ for satellite refueling. With the first successful launch within a year of founding the company behind them, the two are one step closer to making their vision a reality.

A Clean Industrial Revolution Happening in Space

Developing the first ever fully-reusable satellite to harness the benefits of the space environment to produce materials impossible to manufacture on Earth. Back on Earth our technologies are driving the clean industrial revolution with increased performance and significantly lower CO2 emissions.

The First Space Hurricane

The first observations of a space hurricane have been revealed in Earth’s upper atmosphere, confirming their existence and shedding new light on the relationship between planets and space.

China’s Three in One Martian Mission

The Chinese Mars mission called Tianwen-1, consisting of an orbiter and a lander-rover duo, is currently on its way to the red planet following its launch on a Long March 5 rocket on July 23 from the Wenchang Space Launch Center in Hainan Province.

Tianwen-1 is set to arrive at Mars on February 10th. After orbiting the planet, it will send a lander containing a rover to the surface in May. The plan is to touch down inside the huge impact basin Utopia Planitia. The main task of Tianwen-1 is to perform a global and extensive survey of the entire planet using the orbiter, and to send the rover to surface locations of scientific interests to conduct detailed investigations with high accuracy and resolution.

Tianwen-1 is going to orbit, land and release a rover all on the very first try, and coordinate observations with an orbiter. No planetary missions have ever been implemented in this way. If successful, it would signify a major technical breakthrough. Scientifically, Tianwen-1 is the most comprehensive mission to investigate the Martian morphology, geology, mineralogy, space environment, and soil and water-ice distribution.

Once the lander touches down on Mars, it will extend a ramp that allows the rover to roll down to the surface. The orbiter can be used to relay signals from the rover to Earth, and the rover can send messages to Earth on its own.

A successful landing there would extend China’s record of impressive spaceflight achievements and we’re so excited to see what discoveries are made.

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