Thursday, October 19, 2006

 
News from X Prize Cup

An article on MSNBC has the latest from the International Symposium for Personal Spaceflight precursor to the X-Prize Cup. (A number of neat videos are available here).

It's "Space-Traveler"

Buzz Aldrin, whose encyclopedic knowledge of all things space can be heard in this past interview from The Space Show, believes that "Astronaut" is not the correct term for people who pay to fly to space. My impression of his point was that this is similar to someone who is not in the military -- someone who should not be called a soldier (he suggested that being a NASA astronaut entails personal sacrifice in some way). He prefers the term "Star-flyer" for someone whose paid to fly above 100km and "Star-traveler" for someone who's paid to go to orbit.

Race for the X Prize, race to commercial sub-orbit, race to commercial orbit

It is appearing that the commercial suborbital space race has usurped the race to win the X Prize. This new prize is sure to be followed by the race to orbit. Here are the noteworthy entrants in the race to dub the first Star-flyers:

1) Virgin Galactic
2) Rocketplane Kistler
3) The Benson Space Company
4) PlanetSpace
5) DreamSpace Group
6) Armadillo Aerospace
7) ... and many others

The Da Vinci Project has an offshoot entitled "The Dreamspace Group" whose XF1 concept looks like it was inspired by the Transformers (besides being based on the X-36) and Mobile Suit Gundam.



Suborbital rides may turn out to be a passing craze that lasts only 5-10 years. Bungee Jumping was very new for a while. Commercial enterprises devoted to access to suborbital space are a probably part of a necessary trend and serve as a stepping stone to self-sustaining commercial operations in orbit. So the race that follows the commercial suborbital race will be the race to orbit.

So among the current entrants in the suborbital race who will be able to make the transition to the orbital race?

Venture capital and space tourism?

If Futron Corporation is such a good assessor of the space industry, why don't they start a venture fund? That way institutional investors can have access to an industry that they might otherwise be weary about investing in.

Venture Capital companies seem to be a largely internet and biotech related institution and have yet to branch out into space related ventures. NASA is trying to change that with Red Planet Capital, but a perusal of the their website reveals that they probably won't be investing in any of the space tourism companies. The closes I was able to find after a brief web search was this company: Ranger Aerospace LLC, which invests in aviation services and aerospace support companies in North America and Europe.

SpaceHab still on life support

SpaceHab's business is based mostly around the shuttle. Its stock is somewhere near an all-time low, with a market cap under $9 million. SpaceHab's days (in its current form) seem numbered. Though its payload processing business could conceivably be in the black post-shuttle (related news story here), it would seem that SpaceHab would be a good target for merger or acquisition, post SpaceHab Chapter 7, perhaps by SpaceDev.

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