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ASK OCE — March 17, 2006 — Vol. 1, Issue 6

A new Space Race is on. A growing number of American and international companies are joining the fray with the thumbs-up from international governments, private sector advocates, and even NASA – to provide space travel and space transport services more economically and to more people then ever before. Its not a fantasy that is decades away. Its happening now. What follows is a roundup of some of the notable players in “Space Race: Version 2.0.”

Virgin Galactic

With charismatic CEO Sir Richard Branson at the helm, and the success of the Virgin-sponsored and Ansari Prize winning SpaceShipOne, Virgin Galactic may be the strongest player in the current suborbital tourist flight market. It intends to start operations at the proposed $225 million spaceport near New Mexico’s White Sands Missile Range by 2010.

New Mexico officials are scheduled to begin construction at the 27 square-mile site sometime in 2007, finishing by early 2010. Virgin would lease facilities at New Mexico’s Southwest Regional Spaceport for a 20 years, paying $1 million for each of the first five years and subsequently “scaling it to the success of the program” in the remaining years, according to a Virgin official.

Virgin Galactic claims that more than 38,000 people from 126 countries have already expressed interest in buying a ticket, including more than a 100 “Founders” willing to fork over the $200,000 fare upfront for the first available seats.

The Newest Collaboration

Virginia-based Space Adventures, Russia’s Federal Space Agency and the financial backers of the $10 million Ansari X Prize recently announced a collaboration to develop a new generation of suborbital passenger spacecraft.

The “Explorer” is based on the Russian C-21 concept and would be flown up by a carrier aircraft, then launched to the edge of space. It would achieve a suborbital altitude of 62 miles. At this height, the five passengers on board would experience a few minutes of weightlessness and have the opportunity to see the Earth against the black backdrop of space.

International Spaceports Announced

Space Adventures of Virginia also laid out its plans in February for suborbital spaceports to be built in Singapore and the United Arab Emirates. The $265 million price tag will be covered in part by oil revenues and private investment.

The company says that the UAE project already has a pledge of $30 million with another $30 million promised – from His Highness Sheikh Saud Bin Saqr Al Qasimi, the emirate’s ruler.

The Singapore spaceport will function as both a base for suborbital flights and as a private astronaut training facility. Proposed offerings would include zero-gravity flights, high-altitude jet rides, centrifuge rides, and space simulations.


On February 5th, Rocketplane Limited Inc. of Oklahoma City signed an agreement with Hokkaido Aerospace Science and Technology Incubation Center of Japan to take experiment specimens into space. Rocketplane is currently designing the XP Spaceplane that will make suborbital flights by early 2007.

The XP has a LearJet fuselage and will have four seats. It is set to take off and land at Oklahoma’s spaceport located at the mothballed Clinton Sherman Air Force Base.

After test flights are successfully completed, the XP will conduct research flights and deploy satellites.

From Amazon to the Final Frontier

In early 2007, founder Jeff Bezos is expected to open a spaceship R& D complex for his Blue Origin aerospace company. Bezos is currently revamping warehouse space in a Seattle suburb, where he intends to manufacture and design spacecraft and rocket engines.

It is believed that Bezos’s ultimate goal is orbital flight and the eventual colonization of space. Test launches will eventually be conducted at Bezos’s 165,000-acre ranch in Van Horn, Texas. His vision includes a spaceport where three-person flights could launch off once a week.

In This Issue

Message from the Chief Engineer

A View From Outside: Space Race, Version 2.0

This Week in NASA History: Pioneer 10 and 11

Admitting Mistakes: A Lesson from Wernher Von Braun

APPEL Holds Masters Forum, PM Challenge

CPMR Spotlighted in Engineering Management Journal

Common Traits of Great Groups and Their Leaders

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