Virgin orbit – Jenam 2011 Mon, 03 May 2021 07:02:55 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Virgin orbit – Jenam 2011 32 32 Long Beach-based Virgin Orbit Capitalizes on Unique Air Launch System to Provide Launch Capability in Brazil Sun, 02 May 2021 20:39:31 +0000

Image source: Virgin Orbit

“The Launcher One’s first flight since installation would transform Alcântara into the second orbital-class spaceport in all of South America, and only the fifth in the entire southern hemisphere,” notes Virgin Orbit.

“The people of Brazil have been working patiently and diligently on the orbital launch for many years now, and it will be a tremendous honor to help make this vision a national reality,” said Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart. “There really is no better place on the planet than Alcântara for an equatorial launch site. And with hundreds of miles of transverse range on our flying launch pad, the potential is limitless. We look forward to working with our colleagues at AEB and FAB to bring this new vital capacity to Alcântara. ”


As previously reported by (part of our continuing series “The Future of Long Beach in Space”), QinetiQ (a defense and security company) and HyperSat (a geospatial analysis company) have chose Virgin Orbit to launch a series of six hyperspectral satellites into low earth orbit. “in part because of the unmatched agility, mobility and responsiveness offered by the aerial launch, which allows for shorter call times and more flexible scheduling for customers, as well as direct injection on precise target orbits. ”



Long Beach is also home to Rocket Lab, located at 3881 McGowen St. which launches self-made rockets from a facility in New Zealand to deliver small satellites to low earth orbits, and Relativity, HQ at 3500 E Burnett, is now developing a printed rocket. Space X recently agreed to use part of Long Beach Port’s T Jetty as a marine terminal to dock ships and unload equipment for rocket recovery operations on the West Coast.


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Moderna just made Pfizer vaccine’s biggest weakness even bigger Sun, 02 May 2021 11:54:00 +0000

Pfizer (NYSE: PFE) and Moderna (NASDAQ: ARNM) have been close rivals in the COVID-19 vaccine race since they announced the start of their Phase 3 vaccine trials – the same day in July. But Pfizer was ahead on the way to the finish line. The large pharmaceutical company obtained the FDA’s first Emergency Use Clearance (EUA) for a vaccine against the coronavirus in December.

Yet Moderna was not far behind – the smallest biotechnology companyThe latter’s vaccine did not get its EUA until seven days later.

The two companies have since pursued competition largely in tandem. So far, 49 million Americans have received both doses of the Pfizer vaccine – developed under the code name BNT162b2, but now called Comirnaty – while 40 million have completed their regimens of the Moderna vaccine, also known as mRNA-1273. The two companies are also working on booster shots and are conducting the necessary clinical studies that will also allow them to start immunizing children and adolescents. But Comirnaty has a great weakness. And this weakness, along with the latest news from Moderna, may help mRNA-1273 take a leap forward.

A doctor in his office has a patient vaccinated with a coronavirus vaccine.

Image source: Getty Images.

A key difference between the two mRNA vaccines

Pfizer and Moderna have both developed mRNA vaccines for COVID-19. They use messenger RNA to trick the body into producing a key protein found on the surface of the coronavirus. Then the immune system creates antibodies that recognize this protein, thus preparing the body to fight the coronavirus. But their vaccines are not the same. One of the big differences from the start has been their storage temperature requirements. And this is where Pfizer’s weakness lies.

For longer periods, Comirnaty should be stored at ultra-cold temperatures – between minus 112 degrees Fahrenheit and minus 76 degrees Fahrenheit. The vaccine can be stored at standard refrigerator temperature for five days.

As Pfizer collected more data, it was able to relax some guidelines for short-term storage. For example, the company said earlier this year that its vaccine can be stored at relatively higher temperatures (minus 13 degrees Fahrenheit to 5 degrees Fahrenheit) for two weeks. These are temperatures that standard pharmaceutical freezers can maintain. The Food and Drug Administration has approved these new storage guidelines.

Thus, pharmacies and healthcare facilities can easily store Pfizer vaccine for 19 days. I count the refrigerated temperature period and the pharmacy freezer temperature period.

Easier from the start

Moderna’s mRNA-1273 offered an easier storage profile from the start. Right now, the guidelines say it can be stored at standard refrigerator temperatures (35.6 degrees Fahrenheit to 46.4 degrees Fahrenheit) for one month. It can be stored for up to seven months in a standard freezer. But this week, Moderna said additional research has shown that mRNA-1273 can be safely kept at refrigerator temperature for up to three months. The FDA has yet to approve these new guidelines.

Moderna is also studying new formulations of its coronavirus vaccine that would further improve its storage profile.

The possibility that Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine could be stored for up to three months in a standard refrigerator could give it an even greater head start in the market. Pfizer ensures the safe transport of its vaccines with special thermal containers. But in small healthcare facilities, the problem is on-site storage. Many doctor’s offices or pharmacies may prefer to stock up on the vaccine that can be stored in the refrigerator for a long time. They may have limited freezer space – or no freezer space at all.

And in some countries, temperature requirements could be decisive when it comes to choosing which vaccines governments and healthcare providers choose. Nigeria, for example, said earlier this year that it would favor vaccines that require less cooling.

An evolving vaccine situation

When COVID-19 vaccines began rolling out, countries were simply aiming to vaccinate as many people as possible, as quickly as possible. So they ordered what was available. But as various vaccine makers continue to ramp up production and refine their offerings, countries will have more choices – and a little more time to consider those options. This is when Moderna could take the lead.

Will this mean major market dominance for Moderna and a big loss of revenue for Pfizer? No. Certainly, mRNA-1273 could move into the top spot due to its easier storage requirements. But if that happens, Pfizer’s Comirnaty will stay close behind it. No company can produce enough doses to immunize more than 7.8 billion people around the world with the speed needed. Moderna and Pfizer each aim to produce 3 billion doses of their coronavirus vaccines next year, and each requires one person to receive two doses. So even if a country prefers Moderna’s vaccine, for example, it will likely have to order doses from another vaccine manufacturer to cover all of its citizens.

The more manageable temperature requirements of the Moderna vaccine will not upset Pfizer’s prospects for billions of dollars in Comirnaty’s sales. But this latest news is likely to lead to a increase in orders for mRNA-1273, and could significantly increase sales of Moderna products in the long term.

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Why this space expert thinks that “hundreds of thousands of humans” could live in space by 2050 Sun, 02 May 2021 11:53:00 +0000

Space attorney Robert Jacobson, former director of the Space Angels Network and founding member of consultancy firm Space Advisors, has spent the past decade advising investors and entrepreneurs on the potential of “space” as a. that field of activity.

Last week I was able to sit down with Jacobson by phone to discuss his new book – The space is open for businessand why he thinks the next 30 years could be a renaissance for space companies and a great opportunity for investors looking to get on the ground floor of the space business.

Image source: Getty Images.

Things are moving faster than you think

It’s only been a little over a decade since the first SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral (and Jacobson was there to witness it!) And just under a decade since SpaceX carried out its first mission. refueling to the International Space Station. . Meanwhile, SpaceX – one of the first promising space start-ups spotted by Jacobson and his crew – has grown into a true space company and a worthy rival to incumbent US space entrepreneur United Launch Alliance.

As quickly as this change has happened, you might be shocked to learn how much more could change if the space industry has just a little more time to grow. In all of recorded history, for example, fewer than 600 humans have ever left Earth’s atmosphere, Jacobson says. But by 2050, it is possible that we may start to see “hundreds”, then “thousands” and finally “hundreds of thousands” of people not only visiting space, but living and working there.

What it will take

Princeton professor and space activist Dr Gerard K. O’Neill presented the roadmap to getting there in his founding work The high frontier, explains Jacobson, describing how a series of large space stations equipped with machines to create artificial gravity could be placed at “Lagrange points” between the Earth and the Moon. Because humans evolved to live in gravity, and the physical deterioration of astronauts living aboard the International Space Station is well documented, it is believed that large space stations providing artificial gravity would be superior to lunar colonies in supporting large populations in space.

Cost and capacity (i.e. payload) have always been the biggest hurdles in building such stations, of course. But Jacobson believes the latest generation of heavy-lift rockets, and SpaceX’s Starship in particular, could be the key to solving both of these issues.

Elon Musk estimated the cost of operating the rocket at just $ 2 million per flight, and “Starship is designed to carry 100 to 150 metric tons,” Jacobson notes, “and could perform multiple flights per day. when Starship becomes operational, evolving space activities become more likely to occur. “

Consider that the current International Space Station weighs just over 400 metric tons and required about 40 total rocket launches to be assembled – mostly space shuttle launches costing $ 1 billion and more. So much for a ton, Starship has the potential to reduce the number of flights required by 90% – and allow the construction of even larger space stations, at a significantly reduced cost.

As for populating these stations with people, the “hundreds of thousands” of inhabitants may seem overkill today, as every eye turns to NASA for its once or twice a year launches of three or four astronauts at a time. . But consider that Starship is designed to carry up to 100 passengers at a time and to be launched multiple times per day. One hundred passengers multiplied by three launches per day multiplied by 365 days per year means that – in theory at least – “a single spacecraft dedicated to orbital operations could put more than 100,000 people into space in any given year” .

And SpaceX’s Musk expects Starship to be ready for human spaceflight as early as 2023.

Several paths to space (investment)

Of course, SpaceX and Starship can’t do this job on their own – and they’re not the only companies to follow in space. During our discussion, Jacobson highlighted two other companies that investors need to keep their eyes on.

Spire Global is one of them. The satellite company analyzes data from its private constellation of 100 Earth observation satellites to provide marine and aviation industry customers with information and weather forecasts, to monitor vessel traffic, optimize air traffic routes and monitor global warming trends. Spire plans to go public in a SPAC IPO sponsored by NavSight Fund (NYSE: NSH) this summer.

Redwire Space is another. The self-proclaimed “Preeminent Space Infrastructure Developer” specializes in technologies that will be essential to building 21st century space stations, including “In-Orbit Maintenance, Assembly and Manufacturing (OSAM) capabilities” and additive manufacturing (3D printing) of parts for “robotic assembly” in space. This company is also due to go public soon, after the company SPAC Genesis Park (NYSE: GNPK) acquires it in Q2 2021.

Meanwhile, in the meantime, Jacobson urges investors to keep an eye on the “small space” and in particular on small rocket launchers like Rocket Lab and Virgin Orbit. While they might not be as sexy as Starship and its multitone payloads, Jacobson believes there is still room in space for small rocket launchers performing functions such as sending out small satellites in specific orbits, replacing dead satellites when they fall from larger constellations and performing. Launch missions “on demand” for clients such as the US military.

Space, in short, is much larger than SpaceX’s stock alone – and it’s finally open for business.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a premium Motley Fool consulting service. We are motley! Questioning an investment thesis – even one of our own – helps us all to think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.

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Virgin Orbit to bring its first orbital launch capabilities to Brazil Fri, 30 Apr 2021 17:04:42 +0000

Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne rocket – carrying a payload of 10 small satellites – deploys from Cosmic Girl, the company’s modified 747, on January 17, 2021. Photo courtesy of Virgin Orbit.

The Brazilian space agency and the Brazilian Air Force have called on Virgin Orbit to bring orbital launch capabilities to the country, which has never completed a successful indoor launch into orbit, the company said on Wednesday.

Virgin Orbit’s LaunchOne system – which deploys from the company’s modified Boeing 474 aircraft during flight – allows for a smaller launch footprint, requiring no ongoing infrastructure development or facility expansions.

The launches would take place from the Alcântara launch center, on the north coast of Brazil, near the equator. Virgin Orbit’s launch system will fly from the existing air base and travel hundreds of miles before launching the rocket directly over the equator or other optimal locations for each individual mission.

“Alcântara is one of the most ideal places in the world to launch rockets. It is close to the equator, which increases the payload capacity of the launcher and allows a wide range of azimuths for launches, with access to all orbits, ”said Brazilian Space Agency President Carlos Moura in a press release.

Alcântara will become one of the only continental space ports in the world capable of reaching any orbital tilt, according to the announcement. Since its construction in 1982, Alcântara has hosted dozens of unmanned suborbital research rocket launches but has never been used to reach orbit.

“When we put the Center into operation, we will overcome a historic challenge for the program, which means a commitment to Brazil and the global community towards ever greater achievements for humanity,” Moura said.

The first flight since the installation will make Alcântara the second orbital-class spaceport in South America and only the fifth in the southern hemisphere, according to the announcement.

All the equipment required for launches is fully transportable, allowing the team to safely transport the entire system, perform a launch, and return to one of the company’s other facilities without further ado. construction beyond the airbase, Virgin Orbit said.

“The people of Brazil have been working patiently and diligently on the orbital launch for many years now,” Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart said in a statement, “and it will be a great honor to help make this vision a reality. national. “

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Stratolaunch sends world’s largest aircraft on second test flight Thu, 29 Apr 2021 22:26:41 +0000

Stratolaunch’s Roc carrier plane flies over California’s Mojave Desert. (Stratolaunch via Twitter)

Stratolaunch, the aerospace company founded by the late Seattle billionaire Paul Allen, put the world’s largest plane through its second flight test today, two years after the first flight.

“We are in the air!” Stratolaunch reported in a tweet.

Today’s liftoff from Mojave Air and Spaceport in California at 7:28 a.m. PT marked the first time that the aircraft, nicknamed Roc after the giant bird in Arab and Persian mythology , has taken off since the acquisition of Stratolaunch by Cerberus Capital Management in October 2019.

Roc climbed to 14,000 feet and traveled at a top speed of 199 mph during a flight that lasted three hours and 14 minutes – which is almost an hour longer than the first flight of the April 13, 2019. During this previous flight, the aircraft reached a top speed of 189 mph and a maximum altitude of 17,000 feet.

Zachary Krevor, chief operating officer of Stratolaunch, said today’s flight met all of its test targets by verifying the performance of improved instrumentation, a more robust flight control system and ‘an environmental control system that allowed pilots to work in a pressurized cockpit. Krevor said the crew included Chief Pilot Evan Thomas, Pilot Mark Giddings and Flight Engineer Jake Riley.

The hottest moment of the flight came on touchdown, when one of the mammoth plane’s landing gears adjusted the runway while the other was still in the air. “We originally landed on a report, but that’s exactly the technique we prefer to use when landing in a crosswind,” Krevor told GeekWire on a post-landing teleconference. “Although we stayed within our crosswind limits, we did have a bit of crosswind, and the crew did a great job bringing down the plane.”

Since Roc’s first flight in 2019, the 10-year-old company’s business model has changed: During its early years, Stratolaunch focused on using Roc as a flying launch pad to send rockets and their payloads in orbit. The concept capitalizes on the air launch system launched by SpaceShipOne, which has secured financial support from Allen and won the $ 10 million Ansari X award in 2004,

The new owners still plan to use Roc for the aerial launch, but the current focus is on using the aircraft as a test bed for Stratolaunch’s hypersonic flight vehicles. regular operations, maybe next year, Stratolaunch could start launching its Talon- A prototype hypersonic aircraft.

David Millman, chief technology officer of Stratolaunch, said the company plans to build three hypersonic vehicles. He said this should pave the way for hypersonic testing at least once every 17 days, matching the pace of the X-15 rocket plane’s flights in the 1960s,

Hypersonic flight at five times the speed of sound is a big problem for military applications. Russia and China are reportedly working on hypersonic weapon systems, and the US military is keen to keep pace. Stratolaunch expects its technology to be in the Pentagon’s plans.

“This is exactly one of the areas that we are looking at: How can we help the Defense Department mitigate the risk for all of its extensive flight tests,” Millman told GeekWire.

Millman said Stratolaunch’s Talon test rig would be able to carry payloads, test materials, and fly a variety of profiles that can help the Pentagon determine the characteristics of hypersonic flight before performing full-fledged expensive flights of its own hypersonic vehicles.

“What we’re doing is providing a way for them to test a lot of their technologies in a simpler, repeatable, useful way so that they can access their global tours much faster,” said Millman.

Stratolaunch has not ruled out possibly pursuing other applications for its launch system, including sending payloads of satellites and crewed space planes into orbit.

Hadley engine for Stratolaunch Talon-A
Stratolaunch’s Talon-A hypersonic vehicle is expected to use Ursa Major Technologies’ Hadley rocket motor, shown in the foreground. The airframe structure of a Talon-A prototype designed for flight separation testing is visible in the background. (Photo Stratolaunch)

Other companies, including Virgin Orbit, are also working on next-generation air launch technology. Such systems promise greater versatility and faster response time for launching payloads, as carrier planes can take off from a wide variety of runways, fly over inclement weather, and theoretically launch their payloads into no. any desired orbital tilt.

Stratolaunch’s twin-fuselage, six-engine Roc aircraft is in a class of its own, thanks to its world-record wingspan of 385 feet. By comparison, the wingspan of the modified Boeing 747 that Virgin Orbit uses reaches 211 feet. The previous record holder was the Spruce Goose, a prototype seaplane that debuted in 1947 and had a wingspan of 320 feet. Built by Mojave-based Scaled Composites, Roc has the capacity to carry over 500,000 pounds of payload.

This is an updated version of a report first released at 10:31 a.m. PT on April 29.

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Brazil calls on Virgin Orbit to set up nation’s first orbital launch capabilities Thu, 29 Apr 2021 19:56:55 +0000

The Alcântara launch center in Brazil, which will soon host the launch services of Virgin Orbit.

Brazil is a further step towards establishing national orbital-class launch capabilities. Wednesday, the Brazilian space agency (AEB) and Brazilian Air Force signed a contract with Virgin orbit to establish commercial launch services at the 39-year-old Alcântara spaceport on the north coast of Brazil.

Virgin Orbit will use Alcântara’s existing infrastructure to perform launches. Its LauncherOne rocket and custom 747-aircraft “launch pad” will take off from the existing Alcântara air base and land at other Virgin facilities.

Built in 1982, Alcântara is located just two degrees south of the equator, a location that makes it one of the few continental space ports in the world capable of reaching any orbital tilt. Despite this, the spaceport has remained mostly inactive due to past launch failures, a number of failed international partnerships, and the proximity to the much more active European spaceport in French Guiana.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro attempted to launch the country’s space program in March 2019, when the government officially opened the Alcântara spaceport to US satellite launches. If Virgin Orbit succeeds in setting up launch services, Alcântara would become the second orbital-class spaceport in all of South America, and only the fifth in the entire southern hemisphere.

AEB President Carlos Moura said Alcântara has unlimited and unlocked potential as a spaceport.

“Alcântara is one of the most ideal places in the world to launch rockets,” Moura said. “It’s close to the equator, which increases the payload capacity of the launcher, and allows a wide range of azimuths for launches, with access to all orbits. When we put the center into operation, we will overcome a historic challenge for the program, which means a commitment to Brazil and the global community towards ever greater achievements for humanity.

Financial details of the contract were not disclosed and no timeline was given for the start of launches. Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart said his company was ready to haul the ground equipment needed to begin the launch.

“The people of Brazil have been working patiently and diligently on the orbital launch for many years now, and it will be a tremendous honor to help make this vision a national reality,” said Dan Hart, CEO of Virgin Orbit. “The space launch will bring key capability to the nation and the space community, while helping to meet the long-standing needs of the local community.”

Earlier this year, Virgin Orbit successfully introduced LauncherOne as the first liquid-fuel, air-powered orbital-class rocket to reach space.

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Virgin Orbit Selected to Bring Orbital Launch Capabilities to Brazil Wed, 28 Apr 2021 21:46:29 +0000

Virgin Orbit Selected to Bring Orbital Launch Capabilities to Brazil

Press release from: Virgin orbit
Posted: Wednesday April 28 2021

The Brazilian Space Agency (Agência Espacial Brasileira; AEB) and the Brazilian Air Force (Força Aérea Brasileira, FAB) announced today that Virgin Orbit has been selected to bring orbital launch capability to Brazil, a country that has never achieved a domestic launch into orbit. Thanks to the unique mobility and small footprint of Virgin Orbit’s air-launch system architecture, launches to a wide range of orbital tilts could quickly become possible without the need for new permanent infrastructure or expansion. existing facilities.

The launches would take place from the Alcântara launch center (Centro de Lançamento de Alcântara, CLA) on the north coast of Brazil, located just two degrees south of the equator. Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne system, which uses a custom 747 aircraft as a flying launch pad and a fully reusable first stage, could perform launches from the existing airbase at the site, traveling hundreds of miles before releasing the rocket. directly above the equator or at other optimized locations. for each individual assignment. The approach allows Alcântara to become one of the only continental space ports in the world capable of reaching any orbital inclination.

Since construction of the facility began in 1982, Alcântara has hosted dozens of unmanned suborbital sounding rocket launches – but the facility has not yet been used to reach orbit. By bringing this much-needed capacity to Alcântara, Virgin Orbit, AEB and FAB will create significant new capacity for the region while respecting the site’s promised economic value for the local population. quilombo communities. All of the equipment Virgin Orbit needs to perform an orbit launch is fully transportable, from the ground vehicles that prepare the rocket for flight to the rocket and the aircraft itself – meaning the team can transport safely the whole system, perform a launch. and return to one of the company’s other facilities without requiring any additional construction beyond the airbase.

LauncherOne’s first flight since installation would turn Alcântara into the second orbital-class spaceport in all of South America, and only the fifth in the entire southern hemisphere.

Since the start of his mandate, AEB President Carlos Moura has declared that making the Alcântara launch center a benchmark for space activities in Brazil and around the world is at the center of the priorities of the Brazilian space program. “Alcântara is one of the most ideal places in the world to launch rockets. It is close to the equator, which increases the payload capacity of the launcher, and allows a wide range of azimuths for launches, with access to all orbits. When we put the Center into operation, we will overcome a historic challenge for the program, which means a commitment to Brazil and the world community towards ever greater achievements for humanity, ”he said.

“The people of Brazil have been working patiently and diligently on the orbital launch for many years now, and it will be a tremendous honor to help make this vision a national reality,” said Dan Hart, CEO of Virgin Orbit. “The space launch will bring key capability to the nation and the space community, while helping to meet the long-standing needs of the local community. There really is no better place on the planet than Alcântara for an equatorial launch site. And with hundreds of miles of transverse range on our flying launch pad, the potential is limitless. We look forward to working with our colleagues at AEB and FAB to bring this new vital capacity to Alcântara. “


Virgin orbit: (or reply to this email)


Virgin Orbit builds and operates the most flexible and responsive satellite launcher ever invented: LauncherOne, a dedicated launch service for small commercial and government-built satellites. LauncherOne rockets are designed and manufactured in Long Beach, California, and are launched by air from our modified 747-400 carrier aircraft, allowing us to operate from locations all over the world in order to better meet the needs of each client. To learn more or to apply to join the talented and growing Virgin Orbit team, visit

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‘Failure will be a catastrophe’: Navy pilot tests spaceships for Virgin Galactic Wed, 28 Apr 2021 12:00:00 +0000

For many people, the work of test pilots has the same fascination as that of BASE jumpers and free soloists. We want to make up stories in our heads about the kind of person who embraces the motivation, the risk and even the recklessness that the activity involves, and we also want to know if we are like them – even a bit. New York writer Nicholas Schmidle, who spent four years as a reporter in Richard Branson’s space flight adventure Virgin Galactic, satisfies all these curiosities in “Test Gods: Virgin Galactic and the Making of a Modern Astronaut” . He follows, among others, Mark “Forger” Stucky, who comes to Virgin Galactic after stints with the Marines, NASA and the Air Force; and works to redraw the limits of possibility while struggling to maintain bonds with adult children who quickly withdraw. At the center of this tale, Schmidle revisits his relationship with his own father, retired Lieutenant-General Robert “Rooster” Schmidle, formerly chief of aviation for the Marine Corps. His intimate and empathetic journey with Stucky, says Nicholas Schmidle, has changed his understanding of the harsh edges and extremes that accompany “life lived on the edge of the envelope”.

– Hope Hodge Seck

The following is an excerpt from “Test Gods”.

A fraction of a second after starting the mission, Mark Stucky knew something was wrong at all. Pushing the stick forward, he had expected to enter an aggressive dive, like a kamikaze bomber rushing towards its target – in this case the dark California desert. But now his spaceship’s tail was stuck and starting to drift, twisting his carefully calibrated dive into an unintentional tail flop.

The computer on board the spaceship was going crazy – sound alerts, flashing yellow and red lights. Growling, Stucky tugged on the staff to try to stabilize himself. Nothing happened. He was now upside down and was floating out of his seat 40,000 feet in the air. The straps of his harness dug into his shoulders. The ship was falling rapidly.


An average human brain weighs about three pounds and contains nearly one hundred billion neurons; an almond-shaped cluster near the brainstem manages our response to fear. Most people panic when they are afraid. Their palms sweat, their hearts pound, and their minds freeze – at the precise moment when sharpness is needed most.

Stucky wasn’t most people.

He flipped the pitch trim switch, hoping the pair of horizontal stabilizers on the tail booms would bite the air. No answer. He reached out and switched to the emergency trim system. No answer.

Already upside down, the spaceship began to spin. Stucky counted each rotation as the diving craft passed in front of the sun.

One. Two …

Stucky remained almost mysteriously calm. Clinical. He found a strange kind of solace in moments like this. His job was dangerous enough without panic getting in the way. He was a test pilot, determined to navigate unexplored aerodynamic realms so that his fellow engineers could define the capabilities and limitations of the spacecraft; As Arthur C. Clarke said, “The only way to discover the limits of the possible is to venture a little further into the impossible.”

Each test flight offered a new adventure. But “widening the envelope”, as the test pilots described their job, was not adventurous in itself. It was a methodical process that relied as much on the discipline and rigor of the scientist as on the clever improvisation of the daredevil.

Fly, test, rate, adjust; fly, test, rate, adjust.

Stucky rummaged through a mental catalog of personal experiences and training manuals and everything he had read or heard from another pilot in search of something useful, a way to save his ship. – and his life.

He deployed the speed brakes. Nothing. Step on the opposite rudder pedal. Nothing. The spacecraft continued to fall and fire at an alarming rate, losing 1,000 feet in elevation every two seconds. The sun continued to flash in the cockpit windows.

Three four …

“We’re in a left turn,” co-pilot Clint Nichols announced over the radio, the flat voice of a clerk asking for a cleanup in aisle four.

Stucky had practiced entering and recovering from reverse tricks like this many times in other trades. However, these were unpleasant and dangerous maneuvers. In 1953, Chuck Yeager was piloting an X-1 – the same type of rocket he had used to break the sound barrier – when it entered a reverse spin at 80,000 feet and spent nearly a minute in fight to try to retrieve the plane. and stay aware of high turnover rates. “He finally regained control, at 25,000 feet. Thirty-two years later, the stunt pilot who filmed Yeager’s scenes in The Right Stuff was doing stunts for the movie Top Gun when he entered a spin. inverted, crashed and died.

Stucky was confused: he couldn’t understand why the tail had stalled. Baffled, he felt sickened that the last option to avoid near-certain death was to require him to unbuckle, crawl down, open the hatch, jump, throw his parachute, and watch the spaceship. Richard Branson’s multi-million dollar bill shattering on the desert floor and, perhaps with it, Branson’s dream of making his space tourism business, Virgin Galactic, a reality.

Stucky was chasing his own dream. He had spent nearly forty years trying to become an astronaut. He had been in the Marines, Air Force and NASA, and he was now working for an experimental aviation company, Scaled Composites, which Branson, a British showboating mogul, had hired to build and test. a spaceship for commercial purposes. It was beyond Branson’s dream to send passengers into space aboard this homemade craft they called SpaceShipTwo. But the zany are often the ones who made history. When Norman Mailer first embarked on his book on the Apollo program, he couldn’t decide whether Apollo was “the noblest expression of the twentieth century or the quintessential statement of our fundamental madness.”

Branson was not the only one with such ambitions. He had rivals, like Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, with his space company Blue Origin, and Tesla founder Elon Musk, with his company SpaceX. They were all building rockets to get people into space, and Branson was clear he wanted to be “the first of three contractors to fight to get people into space to get there.”

Each had distinct visions for the journey. Virgin had pioneered a unique air launch system – a mother ship, WhiteKnightTwo, had been designed to transport SpaceShipTwo to around 45,000 feet so that the rocket did not waste its energy traversing the dense, lower atmosphere – while others used a more traditional vessel. ground launch system.

Virgin planned to take half a dozen passengers on a “suborbital” flight, reaching a ridge about 50 miles above Earth. By comparison, what is called “low earth orbit” begins at 100 miles above sea level; the International Space Station orbit an average of 150 miles above; The GPS satellites, which operate in “medium” earth orbit, are about 13,000 miles away.

Blue Origin shared Virgin’s suborbital altitude target for its first manned flights, but also intended to explore deep space. SpaceX was arguably the most ambitious: Musk wanted to colonize Mars, at least thirty-four million kilometers away.

But perhaps the most striking distinction came down to their belief in the human spirit. Blue Origin and SpaceX were run by tech assistants, algorithmic geniuses who trusted in mathematical power to eliminate human error, to someday make fallibility obsolete. Virgin was analog, and despite the futurism of SpaceShipTwo’s mission, the vehicle was relatively straightforward – cables and rods, no autopilot, no automation.

The fate of the ship was in Stucky’s hands.

Nichols was sure they were going to die: it was the danger of manned space flight. “If you want to build confidence in space, don’t try to send people over there,” said David Cowan, a venture capitalist who has invested in several satellite trading companies. “Any failure will be a disaster.”

The day was announced like that. On the trail, lime-colored fire trucks were ready to go. Doug Shane, chairman of Scaled, spoke the words company insiders would recognize as code for impending disaster. When he said “Blue Zebra,” his colleagues knew the worst was to be expected.

But Stucky wasn’t ready to give up just yet. As the spaceship spun and calamitously fell towards Earth, he remembered one last thing he wanted to try: he hoped it worked.


Four years later, Stucky and I were sitting around the fire pit in his backyard with glasses of whiskey when he asked if I wanted to watch the cockpit video of this flight. The coyotes howled in the distance. His wife, Cheryl Agin, drank prosecco and whispered to the two Chihuahuas at her feet.

Of course, I said.

Stucky led me through the house. He was fifty-seven, with a loose-legged walk, tousled salt and pepper hair, and sunken tanned cheeks. In other contexts, he could pass for a retired beachcomber. He wore the smirk of someone who was sure he was enjoying himself more than everyone else.

Plates and inscribed photos hung on the walls of his home office – “best pilot I’ve ever known”, flight instructor of the year, “blue sky and yippee kaye”. Cartoon stars decorated the ceiling fan. Stucky sat down behind his computer and picked up the file. He filled the screen.

The video was difficult to watch – Stucky was trying to avoid passing out; danger alert beep; flashing red lights on the cockpit console; the horizon passed.

Agin, his second wife, had crept into the room and stood over his shoulder, swallowing tears. She had never seen the video.

He hit pause. “Is this touching for you?” He asked, sounding sharper than he expected.

“It’s okay,” she replied.

They didn’t discuss much of the dangers of his job. Death was one of those things test pilots didn’t like to think about. It was “a nasty thing to think about,” Neil Armstrong said before going to the moon.

But Stucky didn’t: he was a test pilot for an experimental rocket program, an extremely risky venture. Four men had already died for the cause, including Stucky’s best friend. “A Marine Corps colonel once said to me, ‘If you want to be safe, go be a shoe salesman at Sears,’” Stucky said.

Stucky hit Play, and we were back in the middle of the flight, watching him pull and pull the controls and hear him tire of the negative g’s as the spaceship continued to spin and fall from the sky.

Test of the gods, “published by Henry Holt and Company, will be released on May 4, 2021.

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SpaceX rents space in Long Beach harbor for rocket operations Wed, 28 Apr 2021 11:03:41 +0000

Rocket return barge after recent launch – SpaceX photo (CC BY-NC 2.0)


The maritime executive

04/28/2021 07:03:41

Less than a year after canceling its second agreement with the Port of Los Angeles, Elon Musk’s SpaceX now plans to set up its West Coast operations at the Port of Long Beach. The Long Beach Harbor Board of Commissioners approved a new sublease agreement effective May 1 with Space Explorations Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) to provide the company with a marine terminal for its rocket recovery operations on the West Coast.

SpaceX will occupy about 6.5 acres on the port’s Pier T, which was once the site of a US Navy complex and used for 20 years by a commercial satellite launch company, Sea Launch. The satellite company left space in February 2020, shortly before SpaceX canceled a deal with Los Angeles. The Port of Long Beach and the city’s mayor have reported that SpaceX now plans to use the facilities at Long Beach to dock its ships and unload its equipment. The area includes a warehouse and office building of almost 61,700 square feet, in addition to more than 62,000 square feet of paved land.

“It’s a good choice for the port because we offer state-of-the-art facilities and services that are perfectly suited to SpaceX’s mission,” said Mario Cordero, executive director of the Port of Long Beach. “I would like to congratulate our port team, in particular our real estate division, for developing this agreement with SpaceX.”

SpaceX reportedly approached the Port of Long Beach a few months ago looking for a location for a scaled-down operation compared to previous deals with the nearby Port of Los Angeles. In April 2018, SpaceX and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced a deal to build an aerospace plant on Terminal Island for SpaceX’s planned interplanetary rocket. The deal was for a 30-year lease on 18 acres at Pier 240 at the port, but it was canceled in January 2019.

A year later, SpaceX offered to relaunch the deal for a smaller 12-acre location at the Port of Los Angeles. For the second time, the space company has canceled the deal with the Port of Los Angeles, this time with speculation centered on tensions between Elon Musk’s other companies and California. A spokesperson for a member of the Los Angeles city council called the situation “frustrating.”

The new agreement with the Port of Long Beach is only for two years and would include a clause allowing SpaceX to cancel with 90 days notice. Port officials, however, have hinted that this could be the start of a longer and more comprehensive agreement for port facilities. It’s unclear what operations SpaceX will base in the port, as so far its rocket recoveries have been linked to the Atlantic Ocean and Port Canaveral near the Florida launch pad.

In announcing the SpaceX deal, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia highlighted the growth of the space economy in the city. He said that with more than 24 companies engaged in aerospace manufacturing, engineering and design in Long Beach, the industry has created more than 6,500 direct jobs. In addition to SpaceX, Virgin Orbit, Rocket Lab, Relativity Space, SpinLaunch, and other aerospace companies are located in Long Beach.

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SpaceX to use Long Beach port site for rocket recovery Tue, 27 Apr 2021 00:47:00 +0000

After making a deal to lease space at the Port of Los Angeles, then scrapping that plan – twice – SpaceX has a new deal: to use a waterfront facility at the Port of Long Beach for the salvage of its thrusters from rocket.

The Long Beach Harbor Board of Commissioners on Monday approved the Hawthorne Company’s use of a 6½-acre marine terminal, according to a statement from the Port of Long Beach. The site is to be used to moor ships delivering SpaceX first stage rocket boosters to shore and offload equipment. SpaceX is expected to take over the site on Saturday.

The site was previously used for two decades by Sea Launch, a satellite launch company that sent rockets into space from a modified floating oil rig in the Pacific Ocean. Sea Launch was later bought by a Russian company and its Long Beach port site has been vacant for more than a year, the port said. Prior to Sea Launch, the site was a US Navy complex.

Long Beach has a long and rich history of working in the aerospace industry, and SpaceX, led by Elon Musk, is poised to join a number of new space companies operating in the city.

Small satellite launch company Virgin Orbit is building rockets at a facility on the sprawling terrain where McDonnell Douglas Corp. and later Boeing Co. once built C-17 cargo planes. Small satellite launch company Rocket Lab also has its headquarters and rocket manufacturing plant in Long Beach, as does 3D printed rocket company Relativity Space.

In 2018 and 2020, SpaceX plans to lease a vacant site at the Port of Los Angeles to build its Starship Mars spacecraft and Super Heavy rocket thruster. But after securing approval twice from port and city officials, SpaceX changed its mind and withdrew from the deal.

Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia said he didn’t think it would happen this time around and that SpaceX’s operations at the port would add to the city’s growing “space hub”.

“We are optimistic it will be a good choice for them,” he said. “Having all these space companies here and the density … is exciting.”

SpaceX approached the Port of Long Beach a few months ago to locate some operations there, and the port was “more than happy to engage in these discussions,” said Mario Cordero, the port’s executive director. He said the port will put “maximum” effort to work with SpaceX on a common vision.

“We hope this will continue to expand employment opportunities” in the space technology sector, he said. “It’s a great opportunity right now as a stepping stone to much bigger opportunities.”

SpaceX did not respond to a request for comment.

Under the terms of the two-year agreement, SpaceX will pay $ 107,000 per month to use the Long Beach site, according to a port spokesperson. SpaceX can terminate the contract at any time with 90 days notice.

SpaceX is building and testing its Starship spacecraft in Boca Chica Village, Texas. The company recently won a contract from NASA to transport astronauts via Starship from lunar orbit to the moon’s surface.

SpaceX is still leasing a small piece of land for storage at the Port of Los Angeles. It previously carried out recovery operations for its rocket thrusters and spacecraft at this port.

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