Tag Archives: space tourism

Packing for Interstellar Space Voyage: What to Bring?


Contemplating the idea of a manned voyage to another star raises many confounding questions, including one that has been around since the days of the first travelers: What to pack?

To build a closed environment that can sustain astronauts and perhaps their descendants during the long mission is going to require many kinds of technological innovations, some of them needed just to clothe the interstellar travelers, said Karl Aspelund, a professor of textiles, fashion merchandising and design at the University of Rhode Island.

“The longest time anyone has been in space is around 400 days. Now we’re suddenly talking years, decades, possibly even generations,” Aspelund said last week at the 100 Year Starship Symposium in Houston, a conference about interstellar space travel. “That changes everything.”

An interstellar mission is most likely going to be a very extended trip, considering the nearest stars are light-years away. Aspelund estimated that every person aboard a ship on a 30-year voyage would need to pack about 100 cubic feet of clothing. For 10 people, that means enough clothes to fill a railcar. Based on current launch costs, so much mass could add $18 million to $36 million to the price tag for the mission simply for shirts, pants and underwear, he calculated.

Clearly, future astronauts will have to pack lighter.

“We might have to rethink the idea of clothing altogether,” Aspelund said. “We might have to really re-evaluate what constitutes being dressed and undressed.”

Aspelund is only half joking when he contemplates sending spaceflyers onto a starship naked. He concedes there are good reasons ? culturally as well as individually ? why humans couldn’t just discard clothes on an interstellar mission.

But researchers will need to find ways for clothes (and everything else astronauts pack) to be used sustainably, he says.

So far NASA hasn’t figured out many good ways to do laundry in space. Astronauts on the International Space Station have been known to rarely change outfits.

“It’s basically a flying dorm room, by the sound of it,” Aspelund said of the space station. “The solution to keeping things clean is exactly the dorm room solution: You stuff it into a hole and you never see it again. That’s not so good if you’re not going to be coming back, or if you’re going to be out there for years.”

Aspelund plans to write a grant and collaborate with other researchers on the issue of cosmic duds and space laundry. The solutions may require completely different types of textiles that are more durable and recyclable, or new ways to clean existing materials.

On an even deeper level, the issue forces people to question just what items are essential for life on Earth and whether those same items are essential in space.

“We have things that are absolutely critical to our well-being on the planet,” Aspelund said. “This project, the 100 Year Starship, inspires a completely fresh look. Suddenly we step back from Earthly concerns.”

This article originally published at Space.com

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/09/26/packing-for-space-voyage/

Balloon Capsule That Will Take People To The Edge Of Space Completes Test Flight

A commercial spaceflight company that wants to send people on balloon-powered capsule trips to the edge of space has completed a prototype test of its ambitious endeavor.

On October 24, 2015, World View Enterprises based in Arizona, where the test also took place sent a one-tenthscale replica of the final vehicle to a height of 30,625 meters (100,475 feet) using a high-altitude balloon filled with helium. Now, the company is working towards its goal of sending humans high into the sky by 2017.

This test flight is symbolic of a major step towards a new era of accessible space travel for us all, CEO and co-founder Jane Poynter said in a statement. Of course, this vehicle will not actually be going to space defined as the Karman line, 100 kilometers (62 miles) up. However, what it will do is still pretty impressive.

Check out a video of the test flight above. World View.

World View is buildinglargercapsules for passengers to travel high into the sky, from where they will be afforded views of the curvature of Earth. Each Voyager capsule, weighing 4,500 kilograms (10,000 pounds), will be carried upwards by a football pitch-sized balloon, taking no more than two hours to ascend to its maximum altitude of 30 kilometers (19 miles).

The capsule then detaches from the balloon and a parasail unfolds, known as the ParaWing, which a pilot on board can use to steer the capsule back to the ground anywhere up to 480 kilometers (300 miles) from the original launch site. The total time of the flight is up to six hours.

Sound unbelievable? Well, this latest successful test proved the entire concept, albeit with a 10% scaled version. But the company is confident that the first planned human flights in just two years can be achieved. Full-scale unmanned tests are expected in the coming months.

While each individual system has been analyzed and extensively tested in previous test flights, this significant milestone allowed us to test and prove all critical flight systems at once, said Chief Technology Officer and co-founder Taber MacCallum in the statement. Now were ready for the next major phase of development full scale system testing.

MacCullum told IFLScience that the pilot on the first human flight would likely be former NASA astronaut Mark Kelly, whose twin brother Scott is currently taking part in the Year In Space mission on the ISS. The process to pilot andland the capsule wont be unlike flying the Space Shuttle, said MacCullum. Both are essentially big gliders, with which Mark already has extensive experience.”

A ticket aboard a Voyager capsule will cost you $75,000 (50,000), significantly less than other high-altitude commercial endeavors such as Richard Bransons Virgin Galactic, but still obviously too dear for many. Nonetheless, initially expensive space tourism ventures like this could make space or at least near-space more accessible and hopefully drive the price down in the future.

Image in text: The scaled test flight on October 24. World View.

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/space/balloon-will-take-people-edge-space-capsule-completes-test-flight

This Space Elevator May Someday Reach the Moon


A space elevator capable of shuttling robots or humans from the Earth to space remains decades away. But a company headed by a former NASA researcher says it can build a space elevator on the moon using today’s technology.

The LiftPort Group wants to raise $8,000 on the crowd-funding website Kickstarter for its first step — creating a floating balloon platform tethered to the ground so that a robot can climb 1.2 miles into the sky. But the fundraiser also marks the return of a company that had closed during the 2007-2012 economic recession.

“About six months ago we had a fundamental breakthrough — a breakthrough we think will transform human civilization — and we want you to be a part of it,” says Michael Laine, president of the LiftPort Group.

The breakthrough will allow the LiftPort group to build a space elevator on the moon using existing technology and a single-launch rocket solution that has “Sputnik-like simplicity,” Laine says, adding that the concept could become a reality within eight years.

Staying Down to Earth

A space elevator on the moon would face fewer complications than a space elevator on Earth because the moon has less gravity and practically no atmosphere — factors that would otherwise place great stress on whatever material makes up the space elevator’s tether.

Laine worked on space elevator concepts with the NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts research team from 2001-2003. He went private with the LiftPort Group in 2003 and experimented with robots that climbed as high as 1 mile up a tethered balloon platform, before the company shut down.

Such balloon platforms don’t just help aim for the moon. They could also act as cheap communications “towers” on Earth to help provide wireless Internet, monitor crops, watch out for forest fires or even carry cameras to provide an eye in the sky in the aftermath of natural disasters.

The newly resurrected LiftPort Group has set a relatively modest fundraising goal because it’s still training a new group of volunteers. Many former LiftPort members have gone on to other projects — Tom Nugent, a former research director for LiftPort Group, co-founded a company called LaserMotive that has experimented with using lasers to power climbing robots and drones.

Laine also emphasized his vision of Kickstarter as being more important for gathering a community rather than simply raising money. He pointed out how most people contributing to the top Kickstarter projects contributed relatively little in terms of money, but instead brought their enthusiasm to the projects.

Shooting for the Moon

Still, modest steps have not prevented the LiftPort Group from planning what to do in case it raises more than the $8,000 in its first Kickstarter project. Its list of “Stretch Goals” pegged at successively higher funding targets include adding more sensors and having the robot climb to almost 19 miles up.

The most ambitious goal of raising $3 million — a target Laine doesn’t expect to hit in the first Kickstarter — would allow the LiftPort Group to carry out a one-year feasibility study for the moon space elevator project. But Laine did express the wish to hit a $100,000 target.

“If we ‘only’ hit $8,001, then we are going to remain a ‘hobby’ team,” Laine said. “If we can hit this number, then LiftPort is a ‘…before this decade is out…’ Lunar Elevator company!”

The LiftPort Group is not alone in its long-term space elevator quest. Seattle-based LaserMotive has previously won the Space Elevator Games, a NASA-sponsored contest. Across the Pacific, Japan’s Obayashi Corp has set the goal of building a space elevator by 2050.

This article originally published at InnovationNewsDaily

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/08/29/liftport-space-elevator/

Space Tourism Could Help Save Planet Earth


Opening spaceflight up to the masses could help spark a global conservation ethic that stems the tide of environmental destruction on Earth, NASA’s science chief says.

Seeing our fragile Earth hanging alone in the blackness of space tends to be a life-altering, or at least perspective-changing, experience. If more people around the world are treated to that unforgettable sight, humanity might handle the planet with a bit more care, said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.

“Ultimately, my vision is that lots of people get to go to space,” Grunsfeld said here Saturday (May 18) at Maker Faire Bay Area, a two-day celebration of DIY science, technology and engineering. “If we get more people, we’ll have folks who can articulate a view of the Earth that leads to more people who want to keep the Earth a nice place to live.”

Our Changing Planet

Grunsfeld is a former NASA astronaut who flew on five space shuttle missions from 1995 to 2009, including three that serviced the space agency’s iconic Hubble Space Telescope. He said the view looking down changed dramatically from his first flight to his last.

“The Earth looks totally different now,” Grunsfeld said. “We are very visibly and significantly modifying the surface of the Earth, modifying the atmosphere. You can see that easily from space.”

Back in the 1960s, Apollo astronauts noted that national borders aren’t visible from space. But this inspiring observation, which lent some much-appreciated perspective at the height of the Cold War, is no longer true, Grunsfeld said.

“It looks like a Rand McNally map. You can see where there’s rich countries and poor countries,” he said. “You can see where people have agriculture and irrigation and where people don’t. It’s very clear.”

The planet’s shrinking pockets of wilderness are also clearly visible, Grunsfeld said.

“You can see the boundaries of national parks,” he said. “They look like somebody’s drawn a dark line around them, with trees inside and nothing outside. It’s really very striking.”

Spaceflight Opening Up Soon?

To date, about 530 people have flown in space, most of them NASA astronauts or Soviet/Russian cosmonauts. But the list could soon start getting much longer.

Virgin Galactic’s suborbital SpaceShipTwo made its first rocket-powered test flight last month, and the six-passenger vehicle may start flying paying customers later this year or in 2014, company officials have said. About 580 people have put deposits down for a seat, signing on to pay a total of $200,000.

And SpaceShipTwo isn’t the only game in town. Another suborbital craft, XCOR Aerospace’s Lynx rocket plane, could be operational by about the same time as Virgin’s vehicle. XCOR is charging $95,000 per seat for a ride on the two-seat Lynx.

The suborbital flights envisioned by SpaceShipTwo and Lynx will be much different, and much briefer, than an orbital mission aboard the International Space Station or NASA’s now-retired space shuttle. But suborbital space travelers will experience a few minutes of weightlessness and see a black sky and the curvature of the Earth, officials with Virgin Galactic and XCOR say.

Orbital space tourism is already a reality, but the list of spaceflyers is very short. Since 2001, seven different paying customers have flown to the International Space Station aboard Russian Soyuz capsules, plunking down tens of millions of dollars for the privilege.

Image courtesy of NASA/NOAA/GSFC/Suomi NPP/VIIRS/Norman Kuring

This article originally published at Space.com

Read more: http://mashable.com/2013/05/20/space-tourism-save-earth/

Singer Sarah Brightman Will Ride Russian Rocket to Space


British soprano singer Sarah Brightman has announced her plans to ride a Russian rocket into space for a 10-day visit to the International Space Station.

Brightman made her announcement today from Moscow during a press conference with Roscosmos (the Russian Federal Space Agency) and Space Adventures, the Virginia firm that brokered the deal.

“Throughout most of my life I’ve felt an incredible desire to take the journey to space that I have now begun,” Brightman said. “A journey into space is the greatest adventure I can imagine.”

The singer will be the eighth private citizen to pay her way to space. The last space tourist, Canadian Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberte, flew to orbit in 2009 for about $35 million. Space Adventures is not releasing the cost of Brightman’s ticket, but it is almost certainly more than Laliberte’s.

“The price of the flight is confidential, but it is a roundtrip ticket,” said Eric Anderson, chairman of Space Adventures.

Brightman, who rose to fame starring in the original Broadway production of “Phantom of the Opera,” said space has influenced her from a young age.

“My music has always been inspired by space,” Brightman said. “It was because of seeing the first man on the moon back in the ’60s that actually inspired me and gave me the courage to go into the career that I had. At moments when I’m feeling nervous onstage or I’m feeling unsure I actually look to the stars and the planets and space and it gives me courage and inspiration.”

Brightman will begin a six-month cosmonaut training regime in Star City, Russia after she completes a year-long world tour for her new album, “Dream Chaser,” starting in January. She will be part of a three-person crew launching on a Soyuz spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan sometime after that. She will spend 10 days aboard the space station, which orbits Earth from 240 miles overhead.

“The final scheduling and details of my trip by Soyuz rocket to the International Space Station will be determined very shortly by Roscosmos and the ISS partners,” Brightman said.

Now that NASA’s space shuttles are retired, Russian Soyuz spacecraft are the only vehicles currently able to carry people to the space station. Since most spots on the capsules are needed to transport professional astronauts and cosmonauts, seats available for tourists have become scarce. However, a new plan for International Space Station crewmembers to begin serving out yearlong missions, rather than their usual six-month stints, has opened up some room on future Soyuz flights.

There is rumored to be a long waiting list of interested millionaires and billionaires ready snatch up these available spots, so Brightman may have had competition for the opportunity.

“I think it speaks for itself the reasons why we would be so honored to have Ms. Brightman fly with us,” Anderson said. “This is a very special woan who communicates and can transmit passion and emotion through music. If she is able to take that experience and carry that and communicate that back into the world so that millions of people can experience it, I think that will be a fantastic thing.”

Brightman will be working with UNESCO as an Artist for Peace ambassador to use her spaceflight as a tool to inspire people, especially girls and women, to pursue education in science and technology, and to communicate the need for environmental protection, she said.

“I am determined that this journey can reach out to be a force for good, a catalyst for some of the dreams and aims of others that resonate with me,” Brightman said.

“When you’re up there, Sarah, in the space station looking down on that perfect blue sphere that is Earth, you’re not going to see political boundaries, you’re going to see one perfect Earth that was created for everybody,” said Neil Ford, UNESCO’s director of public information.

Brightman isn’t the first musician to pursue spaceflight. Former ‘N Sync band member Lance Bass underwent cosmonaut training in Russia in 2002 in preparation for a trip on the Soyuz planned for that year. However, his funding, which was based on a plan to air a documentary of his training and voyage, fell through and he never flew.

When she launches, Brightman will be the first recording artist to travel to Earth orbit.

The first space tourist to fly, American investor Dennis Tito, made his trip in 2001 for a reported $20 million. Since then, six other people have brokered trips through Space Adventures to ride on Russian spacecraft to the space station. One of them, Hungarian-American computer software billionaire Charles Simonyi, flew twice, in 2007 and 2009.

Image courtesy of Flickr, jiazi

This article originally published at Space.com

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/10/10/sarah-brightman-russian-space/

Tourist Trips on Russian Spacecraft Start at $150 Million


Space tourists may soon be able to pay their own way to the moon onboard old Russian spacecraft retrofitted by a company based in the British Isles.

The spaceflight firm Excalibur Almaz estimates that it can sell about 30 seats between 2015 and 2025, for $150 million each, aboard moon-bound missions on a Salyut-class space station driven by electric hall-effect thrusters.

Excalibur Almaz founder and chief executive officer Art Dula estimates it will take 24 to 30 months to develop the remaining technology needed and to refurbish the ex-Soviet spacecraft and space stations the company already owns. It bought four 1970s-era Soviet Almaz program three-crew capsules and two Russian Salyut-class 63,800-pound space station pressure vessels.

Declaring that he is ready to sell tickets and that a 50% return on investment could be achieved in three years, Dula told the Royal Aeronautical Society’s third European space tourism conference on June 19, “At $100 million to 150 million [per seat, we can sell] up to 29 seats in the next 10 years, and that is a conservative estimate. We [chose] not to use, for this presentation, the aggressive estimates.” [Gallery: Private Space Stations of the Future Imagined]

Those conservative and aggressive estimates are from management consultancy Futron’s market study, Market analysis of commercial human orbital and circumlunar spaceflight. In 2009, Excalibur Almaz officials told SPACE.com the company’s first flight would be in 2013.

Recycling Spacecraft

The architecture for the lunar mission involves a Soviet Almaz Reusable Return Vehicle (RRV), which can carry three people, launched by a Soyuz-FG rocket. This rocket also launches Russia’s Soyuz manned capsule. The RRV weighs 6,600 pounds and has a habitable volume of 159 cubic feet. The lunar flight also uses a Salyut-class 63,800-pound space station that is launched by a Proton rocket. While Excalibur Almaz intends to use the Soyuz-FG and Proton initially, Dula did not rule out using other rockets, including Space Exploration Technologies’ (SpaceX) Falcon 9 in the future. Dula said Excalibur Almaz would wait for the Falcon 9 to accumulate enough flights that it became feasible to insure the space station module aboard the rocket.

“Our customers are private expedition members and I think it is fundamentally different to tourism,” Dula said. “What we are offering [with the lunar flight] is more like expeditions.”

Once in orbit, the station and RRV will dock and the station’s propulsion system, which is a group of electric hall-effect thrusters, propels the stack out to the moon. Excalibur Almaz is in talks with Natick, Mass.-based Busek Space Propulsion to develop the hall-effect thrusters needed. Dula described an electric system for the station module that would use up to 100,000 watts of power for its thrusters. If a solar or cosmic radiation event threatened a flight’s crew and passengers, the company could run power through “electrical lines around the station and keep most of the charged articles away — protons you can keep out with an electrical field.” He also said the station would have a refuge area crew and passengers could use to protect against radiation storms.

In addition to electric thrusters to propel a space station to the moon, Excalibur Almaz must pay for the development of digital flight-control computers, life support systems and an in-space propulsion system. Dula indicated that his company has spent about $150 million on the in-orbit space propulsion module.

“The cost is say $250 million; we already have much of the nonrecurring expense [engineering research and development] paid for this,” he said. This propulsion system is based on the European Space Agency’s Automated Transfer Vehicle’s propulsion module. EADS Astrium is a contractor for Excalibur Almaz. Another contractor is Russian military and industrial joint stock company Mashinostroyenia.

Building on the Past

Dula emphasized the Soviet Union’s investment that Excalibur Almaz was able to leverage. “We already have a proven [RRV] emergency escape system that’s operated nine times and one time in an actual failure, a real test and it worked,” he said. “We have reissued all the drawings for this emergency escape system to modern standards, they are ready to be built and we have a cost estimate for the first ten units.”

According to Excalibur Almaz, the Almaz program saw nine unmanned RRV test flights and use of the spacecraft for ferrying equipment and cargo to the Almaz space stations. The RRVs were in orbit for up to 175 days, and while docked with the station they were occupied to validate the life support system. While the RRVs spent time in only low-Earth orbit, the heat shield is designed to cope with the greater heat experienced from a moon-return trajectory.

Dula said that the RRV capsules can be reused up to 15 times each, according to their Russian manufacturer. “We performed technical feasibility studies of the RRV and their subsystems as well as launch vehicle compatibility and the overall program architecture,” he told the Society’s conference audience. [The 5 Most Promising Private Spaceships]

Dula also said that his space transportation system could be used by individuals, governments and private companies that wanted to conduct research or bring metals back from near earth objects, such as the billionaire backed Planetary Resources firm plans to do. He added that where governments wanted to operate on the moon, Excalibur Almaz could deliver a telecommunications satellite that would serve the moon from a Lagrange point 2 orbit and gave a price of $75 million. The L2 location is 930,000 miles from Earth, away from the sun.

The company also plans to offer other lunar Lagrange point services, such as deep space technology testing for $150 million per mission, and payload delivery to the lunar surface for $350 million. For lunar payload delivery, Excalibur Almaz is researching momentum transfer using tethers. Momentum from the 63,800-pound space station orbiting the Earth would be transferred to the payload using a tether and that payload would then be propelled to the moon.

Wider Plans

In terms of Excalibur Almaz’s wider business plans, Dula said, “We’ve got unmanned research missions, human transportation and tourism. We have commissioned market studies. We have never announced these before. We have a complete business plan for cargo deliveries for the International Space Station, we just haven’t released it.” He added that if NASA reopened bids for supplying International Space Station cargo, he would respond.

For low-Earth orbit missions, Dula said the RRVs and space stations could each be worth about $35 million per year in advertising revenue alone, according to studies paid for by Excalibur Almaz. He also confidently said of his Futron report, “There is a market for commercial dedicated unmanned scientific research missions. One of our capsules may well be dedicated to such missions.” He priced this service at $225 million and added that a manned scientific research mission would cost $495 million.

Dula is not the first to offer commercial unmanned spacecraft science missions. SpaceX is planning its DragonLab service, the first of which the company’s website launch manifest states will occur in 2014. SpaceX’s DragonLab fact sheet does not list any prices. For these missions, Excalibur Almaz would use a new module, which is being developed with the help of EADS Astrium. On its website, Excalibur Almaz describes a service module, which is used for storing consumables and acts as a habitation area, and a cargo module that can deliver up to 22,000 pounds of cargo.

Crew transport

For crew transport to low-Earth orbit, Dula said that NASA was distorting the market by paying $63 million per seat, but that his company is still part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) program with a nonfunded space act agreement. Dula said Excalibur Almaz had achieved all of its CCDev milestones on time and on budget so far.

Because of the international nature of its work, with Excalibur Almaz based on the British-dependent territory of the Isle of Man, located between Britain and Ireland, using Soviet technology, and European and potentially U.S. expertise, the company has sought the necessary approvals. “We have the state department license required to work with American, European, Russian contractors to refurbish these systems,” Dula said. “And we have the export licenses from the Russian Federation.”

The Isle of Man-headquartered company is subject to the U.K.’s Outer Space Treaty law. The U.K. Space Agency does not have any manned spaceflight rules but has talked about developing them because of suborbital spaceline Virgin Galactic. Virgin Galactic, owned by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin group, is a U.K. company. Despite its U.S. arm, Virgin Galactic LLC, which conducts the suborbital flights, Branson’s firm is still expected to obtain U.K. launch licenses. Of one thing Dula is certain, “If you don’t have an escape system, you will never get a license from the British space agency.”

Image courtesy of Excalibur Almaz

This article originally published at Space.com

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/07/02/space-tourist-trips-to-moon/