WASHINGTON — As NASA continues to encourage the commercial use of the International Space Station, some potential customers, and the companies supporting them, are running into problems making full use of it.
At a workshop on ISS utilization here Feb. 17, organized by Houston-based NanoRacks, agency officials emphasized their efforts to increase commercial use of the ISS as part of a long-term transition to future commercial facilities.
PARIS — Geospatial imagery and services provide DigitalGlobe on Feb. 27 said its WorldView-3 satellite is the key to driving growth both with the company’s dominant customer, the U.S. government, and in the global commercial market.
The showcase feature of WorldView-3, which entered service Oct. 1, is its 30-centimeter-diameter ground sampling distance. On Feb. 22 the U.S. government, as expected, authorized the commercial sale of 30-centimeter-resolution imagery, giving DigitalGlobe a long-sought weapon with which it will now attack the global market for aerial imagery.
DigitalGlobe is now, in effect, equivalent to the first on its block with a new iPhone. None of its competitors have 30-centimeter-resolution capability.
Just before 11am on September 1, a mighty Soyuz‑FG rocket will blast off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome deep in the desert steppes of Kazakhstan.
On board will be a space capsule containing three highly-trained cosmonauts bound for the International Space Station (ISS). The crew will be commanded by Colonel Sergei Volkov, a 42-year-old Russian who will be leading his third mission into space.
Assisting him will be 35-year-old Danish Flight Engineer Andreas Mogensen, the holder of a doctorate in engineering from the University of Texas. The third crew member will be a 55-year-old English soprano called Sarah Brightman.
Project Panther — the major economic development project that area officials are working to attract to Oak Hill — involves aerospace-related metal manufacturing that could support a proposed spaceport at the Volusia/Brevard county line or possibly commercial spaceflight operations elsewhere.
The name of the company that has hired a site selection consultant to evaluate potential locations remains anonymous, but interviews with several Volusia County civic leaders this week revealed it’s an aerospace company looking to build a manufacturing facility.
Economic development boosters say the project is pivotal to efforts to attract higher-paying jobs and tap into the growing commercial space market that NASA and Space Florida are trying to develop in the region.
The recent flood of investment in audacious commercial space projects is spookily reminiscent of the late-1990s satellite gold rush, which famously turned into a rout.
Google stepped up last year with its nearly $500 million purchase of satellite imaging startup Skybox and followed that up with a $900 million investment in SpaceX’s newly announced plan to deploy a 4,000-satellite Internet-delivery constellation, which is also being backed by Fidelity Investments. Meanwhile, chipmaker Qualcomm and Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group have cast their lot with the 650-satellite OneWeb Internet venture led by O3b founder Greg Wyler.
These proposed mega-constellations bear a striking resemblance to the Teledesic and Skybridge Internet-in-the-sky ventures of yesteryear, which never got off the drawing board. By contrast, mobile telephony ventures Globalstar — Qualcomm was a ground-floor investor — and Iridium, along with machine-to-machine (M2M) messaging service provider Orbcomm, did manage to launch large low-orbiting constellations, only to declare bankruptcy shortly thereafter.
The new crop of financiers, a combination of venture capitalists, institutional investors and well-heeled technology giants, are not oblivious to the history — clearly they are betting that a different set of circumstances will carry the day this time around.
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 v1.1 has conducted a Static Fire – or Hot Fire – test at Cape Canaveral’s SLC-40 ahead of Sunday’s mission to loft the ABS-3A and Eutelsat 115 West B satellites into orbit. This mission won’t involve a propulsive landing on the company’s ASDS, although it will still provide another milestone for SpaceX – via the first dual passenger launch for the Falcon 9.
Astronauts Barry “Butch” Wilmore and Terry Virts floated outside the International Space Station Wednesday for the second of three spacewalks to help ready the lab complex for dockings by commercial crew capsules being built by Boeing and SpaceX. Back inside the station’s airlock, Virts reported a small amount of water in his space helmet, but officials said he was never in any danger.
Even so, given a near-catastrophic helmet leak in July 2013, engineers will need to troubleshoot the latest issue to make sure the suit’s internal systems are healthy enough for Virts and Wilmore to carry out a third planned spacewalk Sunday.