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The head of one space advocacy organization congratulated the launch industry recently for its “blistering pace” of launches in 2003. Jeff Foust writes that, in fact, the industry has been anything but hectic.
Does the SpaceShipOne suborbital RLV represent the first step towards a true orbital RLV? Taylor Dinerman weighs in with his opinions about what that and other such vehicles under development can accomplish.
The Columbia accident made it clear that not only are there significant issues with the shuttle, NASA itself is in need of a new direction and appropriate funding. Taylor Dinerman describes the current predicament and what can be done to change it.
Next month a pair of rovers will land on Mars, following in the tire treads of another rover mission, Sojourner. The Space Review reviews a new book that provides a detailed behind-the-scenes look at the little rover that could.
Don’t write off Europe’s plans for future space science missions just yet, argues David Parker.
Proponents of suborbital RLVs believe such vehicles are a first step towards orbital RLVs, a claim dismissed by some critics. Clark Lindsey explores the issue by interviewing several experts who have varying opinions on the role of suborbital RLVs.
On Monday the National Air and Space Museum opens its new Udvar-Hazy Center, home to the space shuttle Enterprise and other aircraft and spacecraft. Jeff Foust offers a sneak preview of the museum, and notes that space aficionados might initially be disappointed.
A collection of a dozen images of the NASM’s new Udvar-Hazy Center.
In weeks a flotilla of spacecraft will arrive at and land on Mars. Taylor Dinerman looks at how these spacecraft fit into a bigger plans: eventual human missions to the Red Planet.
If you were in downtown Washington last Thursday and thought you saw a rocket parked along Independence Avenue, you weren’t hallucinating: SpaceX came to town to unveil its Falcon launcher. Jeff Foust reports on the unveiling and the company’s plans for its next launch vehicle.
A collection of images from the December 4 unveiling of the Falcon launch vehicle in Washington, DC.
Recent speculation suggests that the US could be on the verge of going back to the Moon and establishing a base there. Taylor Dinerman notes that such a base could have a strategic as well as a scientific role.
Cape Canaveral is a venerable spaceport, but one that is also expensive and inflexible. Winston W. Gardner, Jr. argues that without critical upgrades, the Cape runs the risk of becoming obsolete.
While nearly everyone agrees that the US needs a new “vision” for space, few can agree on what that vision should be. Jeff Foust reports on a recent forum where the NASA administrator, members of Congress, and others shared their opinions on a space vision.
One of the driving forces in the development of RLVs has been space-based missile defense designs. Taylor Dinerman looks at how the two became intertwined and what the future prospects for both are.
Mars Direct has emerged as the leading architecture for human missions to Mars, but that doesn’t mean that there’s no room for improvement. David Boswell offers some suggestions for refining the design of Mars Direct.
Last month a new team announced a late bid to win the X Prize. On Saturday that team backed up their bid with hardware and detailed plans. Jeff Foust reports from Huntsville, Alabama.
A collection of nearly a dozen images from the November 22 Liberator event in Huntsville.
What role can public space travel—aka space tourism—play in developing a new national space vision? Derek Webber offers a modest suggestion in an open letter to NASA Administrator Sean O’Keefe.
Space assets played a critical role in the invasion of Iraq earlier this year. Taylor Dinerman believes that space technology, properly applied, can help deal with the current situation there.
The US reaction to China’s first manned spaceflight has been relatively muted. Taylor Dinerman suggests that the best response might be revitalizing America’s own national space strategy.
Money is often the critical missing ingredient in a wide range of space ventures. Jeff Foust reports on two alternative funding schemes that seek to harness the power of a large number of ordinary investors.
The latest buzzword in space policy is “vision”, and the need to develop one. Jeff Foust suggests that with a lack of consensus on how to develop this vision, let alone what that vision should be, any hope for developing a lasting vision could be doomed.
Is there a way to salvage the shuttle and station programs? In his new “Monday Analysis” column, Taylor Dinerman argues that there may be a way to convert the ISS into a useful platform for future human exploration.
The suborbital vehicle industry has faced uncertainty for months regarding whether they would be regulated as launch vehicles or aircraft. Jeff Foust reports that the uncertainty has been removed, at least for the near term, but the industry continues to press for legislation to ensure a favorable regulatory environment.
One of the factors that jump-started the Space Age was a desire by the US to find out what was going on within the USSR. Taylor Dinerman reviews a new book that provides the most complete record yet of America’s first spy satellites.
The cost of building and launching spacecraft is prohibitive for students, but there is still a way to give them the experience of spaceflight. L. Paul Verhage reports on balloon-launched “near spacecraft” being built and flown by amateurs across the US.
Many developing countries have embarked on programs to build spacecraft or launch vehicles in a bid to gain international prestige. Jeff Foust reports on how some believe the money spent on those projects could be better used for space technology applications that offer greater benefits for those nations.
China made spaceflight history last week with its first manned mission. Does Shenzhou 5 present a new opportunity to bring China into the International Space Station project? Some experts suggest this could be the case, provided barriers in both China and the US can be overcome.
The Defense Department has become interested in small boosters that can launch on relatively short notice, and industry has responded with a bevy of proposals. However, are there any payloads that require “operationally responsive” vehicles, and can such vehicles launch cheaply?
In recent months it appeared that if anyone was going to win the X Prize, it would be from among the existing teams. Now, though, a new team plans to enter the race, and thinks they can win it before the prize expires. Jeff Foust reports from Los Angeles.
The recently-announced Heinlein Prize plans to award a half-million dollars to someone who has made “practical accomplishments” in commercial space. Jeff Foust argues that rather than rewarding past achievements, a better use of the money would be to support future endeavors.
Over five months after Scaled Composites unveiled SpaceShipOne, its X Prize entry, the company has made progress towards launching humans on suborbital spaceflights. Jeff Foust reports on what Burt Rutan had to say about the past, present, and future of the project at a conference last week.
About 75 people gathered in New Mexico earlier this month to discuss the research into, and the hazards threatening, a space elevator. The second in a two-part report on the prospects and challenges a space elevator faces.
The space elevator had long been dismissed as a science fiction concept perhaps centuries away from actually being built, but new studies suggest a space elevator could be built in the near future for a modest cost. The first in a two-part report on the prospects and challenges a space elevator faces.
Small satellites have a great deal of potential but are still seeking a niche in the overall spacecraft market. Jeff Foust reports that a new application, the inspection and servicing of other spacecraft, could be the key to getting smallsats out of the lab and into orbit.
Another asteroid impact threat came and went last week. Fraser Cain wonders if the uncertainty surrounding impact predictions will prevent governments from taking the needed action to stop a real impact threat.
Past efforts to develop reusable launch vehicles have failed miserably, primarily because of the technological challenges and corresponding high costs. Jeff Foust argues that a business case for orbital RLVs doesn't exist today, but that suborbital vehicles may offer a solution.
Even the “cleanest” spacecraft sent to Mars are teeming with terrestrial microorganisms that pose a threat to any indigenous Martian life. Jeff Foust reports that one scientist has proposed a radical solution: picking up our trash.
There’s been no shortage of opinions about how to get the commercial space industry out of the doldrums. Jeff Foust checks in with a multinational economic organization that is the latest to take a stab at the problem.
NASA has always been thought to have a broad base of support among the American public. However, Jeff Foust reports that a detailed analysis of a recent poll suggests that this support is weaker among certain groups.
Last week, more than a month ahead of schedule, an independent panel of astronomers published its final report on the future of the Hubble Space Telescope. Jeff Foust reviews the report and its implications.
The Hubble Space Telescope is one of the most successful spacecraft missions in history, but ultimately that mission has to come to an end. Jeff Foust reports that NASA and the astronomical community are trying to figure out when Hubble’s mission should end, and what to do with the spacecraft afterwards.
The design of the Orbital Space Plane has focused on two distinct concepts: a capsule versus a winged vehicle. Jeff Foust reports that the decision NASA eventually makes will depend on what NASA’s ultimate goals for the program are.
Suborbital RLV companies are facing a number of regulatory issues that must be solved before they can fly, including the question of whether they will be regulated as launch vehicles or aircraft. Jeff Foust reports on a recent hearing that sought to bring these concerns to the attention of Congress.
The aftermath of the Columbia accident has raised questions regarding how dangerous human spaceflight is and should be. Jeff Foust looks at the issue, including one former astronaut’s thoughts on the risks and who should decide when it is too risky.
The phrase “faster, better, cheaper” (FBC) became a mantra at NASA in the 1990s, with mixed results. The Space Review takes a look at one book that offers an overview of FBC and the lessons learned from both successful and failed missions.
The term “space industry” is tossed around quite frequently, typically without ever being clearly defined. Jeff Foust argues that when the term is defined, it is far too inclusive, encompassing companies that merely use space as a means to an unrelated end.
Aviation Week magazine released last month its list of the top 100 “stars” in aviation history, including a number of people involved in space. A.J. Mackenzie reviews the list and finds a number of puzzling, if not disturbing, discrepancies.
NASA focused on small spacecraft missions for most of the 1990s, but now is turning its attention to larger, more capable, and costlier missions. Jeff Foust reports on one such initiative, Project Prometheus, which faces a number of serious, but not insurmountable, technical and political challenges.
What influence has the boom-and-bust cycle of the early Space Age had on society today? The Space Review reviews Rocket Dreams, which offers one compelling alternative view of the Space Age and how it affects our view, and our expectations, of space to this day.
Amateurs routinely build aircraft, yachts, even submarines: why not manned spaceships? Andrew Case argues that the era of homebuilt suborbital spacecraft may be just around the corner.
Space enthusiasts and entrepreneurs have been looking for the ultimate book that describes the merits of commercial space in such a way to excite investors and bureaucrats alike. The Space Review examines two recent books on commercial space and find that both, while interesting, fall short of the mark.
Although a recent Space Review essay suggested that a space race with China was unlikely and undesirable, not everyone is convinced. Mark Whittington argues that the US must challenge China to a space race, but one that is far different than the one waged with the former USSR.
The Columbia Accident Investigation Board came to Washington last week for its final public hearing. Jeff Foust attended and provides some details and insights about the hearing and press conference.
Countless books have been written about all aspects of the Apollo program; do we really need another one? The Space Review examines Apollo: The Epic Journey to the Moon and concludes that the answer is a definite maybe.
Some Americans believe that China’s impending first manned space flight could trigger a new space race. Jeff Foust suggests that a space race like the one with the former Soviet Union is both unlikely and undesirable.
For several years NASA and others have argued that the agency is facing a potentially debilitating “brain drain” from retirements. A.J. Mackenzie argues that not only will new legislation not help the problem, there may not be a problem in the first place.
The history of Mars exploration is littered with failed missions, from the earliest Soviet spacecraft to Mars Polar Lander. Jeff Foust looks at Mars missions and finds out what some experts believe makes Mars exploration so difficult today.
Why did hundreds of high school students gather in a muddy Virginia field on a rainy Saturday this month? Jeff Foust reports that they were there to launch rockets and boost their chances of pursuing a career in space.
It’s rare for a politican to say more than a few words about space policy today. One exception is Congressman Dave Weldon, who devoted an entire speech to the topic last month. We publish excerpts from that speech ranging from the future of the shuttle and Orbital Space Plane to the role of American military space power.
For the past several years the entrepreneurial reusable launch vehicle industry has tried to cope with the collapse of the LEO launch market. Jeff Foust reports that the industry has largely put those problems behind it as it takes on new markets and new challenges.
A report leaked to the public last week suggests deriving a capsule-based design for the Orbital Space Plane on Apollo. Jeff Foust reviews the study and concludes that any Apollo-derived OSP will emphasize “derived” far more than it does “Apollo”.
Scaled Composites has no plans to fly its new SpaceShipOne vehicle commercially because they believe it would be too expensive to certify. Jeff Foust reports that certification is largely a non-issue for suborbital RLVs, but these vehicles do face plenty of other regulatory hurdles.
Burt Rutan ended months of speculation Friday when he and his company, Scaled Composites, unveiled the SpaceShipOne manned suborbital spacecraft. Jeff Foust provides a detailed look at the vehicle, but cautions that the privately-developed spacecraft isn’t necessarily a commercial one.
Over a dozen images of SpaceShipOne and White Knight taken during the rollout event.
Several years ago commercial suborbital spaceflight was dismissed as little more than a niche market as companies sought to develop RLVs to launch satellites. Today, Jeff Foust explains, suborbital RLVs have attracted a lot of attention, but still face significant hurdles.
Think you know everything about John Young’s career as an astronaut? Jeff Foust reports that Young surprised many last week in Washington by recounting an event from STS-1 with implications for the Columbia accident investigation.
Later this month NASA is expected to choose the landing sites for the two Mars Exploration Rovers scheduled for launch in May and June. In an article originally published in Astrobiology Magazine, Henry Bortman discusses two of the leading landing site candidates.
The loss of Columbia and subsequent suspension of Soyuz space tourism flights have raised concerns about the near-term future of public space travel. Jeff Foust argues that those concerns should be moderated between the two extremes of unwarranted pessimism and unrealistic optimism.
What’s the best way to jumpstart space development? Clark Lindsey argues that space activists should not try to turn back the clock to Apollo, but instead build a community of a million enthusiasts.
More than 30 years after Apollo 17, people are still interested to hear Gene Cernan and Jack Schmitt talk about their mission. Jeff Foust reports on a recent lecture at the National Air and Space Museum by the last two moonwalkers.
Most people are aware of the tough times currently faced by the commercial launch industry. Jeff Foust reports that those in the industry are also aware that it’s not getting better any time soon.
Does the course of events that led to the loss of Columbia seem obvious to you now? Jeff Foust cautions that “creeping determinism” may make events seem clearer now than they were to those involved during the mission itself.
The late 1990s promised a revolution in affordable space access and commercialization that has yet to be realized. Jeff Foust reviews two books that provide a broad overview of space commercialization and an in-depth look at one ill-fated company.
How has the media, which is devoting more attention to space exploration now since Challenger, handled the Columbia tragedy? Fairly well, writes Jeff Foust, but not without a few problems.
Little has been said about the scientific work the STS-107 crew had performed. Larry Klaes reminds us of that as well as the other scientific advances space exploration has provided society.
Mars has become the de facto next destination for human space exploration, in part because of the possibility of life there. However, Donald F. Robertson writes, that possibility actually makes Mars an undesirable site for human exploration and colonization.
What does a road race from L.A. to Las Vegas have to do with NASA? Jeff Foust writes that this unique “Grand Challenge” could teach the space agency new ways of developing innovative technologies—while having some fun.
Declining markets, uncertain government support, and an aging workforce all threaten to cripple the rocket propulsion industry in the United States. Jeff Foust reports on the dire predictions made recently by executives of several leading rocket engine companies.
Exploration—of land, air, or space—is a characteristically American endeavor, argues planetary scientist Alan Stern, and the Columbia tragedy offers us an opportunity to rekindle our commitment to explore.
The loss of the space shuttle Columbia is the most tragic, but not the only, example of the problems facing space activities worldwide today. Space Review editor Jeff Foust inaugurates the publication by suggesting that now, more than ever, we need to seriously ask some fundamental questions.