Officials Working To Diversify Spaceport America

The Albuquerque (NM) Journal (11/9, Robinson-Avila) reported that because Virgin Galactic flights are now further in the future, Spaceport America is “struggling on a limited budget” that is requiring it to prioritize construction projects. Spaceport America Executive Director Christine Anderson stated that spaceport’s readiness has prompted “a lot of advertising and publicity,” and interest from several companies that could one day operate there. According to the article, the spaceport does still need to draw in “a range of supply firms” to succeed.

Another Albuquerque (NM) Journal (11/9, Robinson-Avila) article noted that while spaceport officials say they are looking to bring in more companies, some experts think that more should have been done before the facility became “a one-trick pony whose fortunes would rise or fall with the anchor tenant.” Furthermore, the current situation with Virgin Galactic comes as there is more commercial space competition from states “like Texas, California and Florida, where deeper pockets and decades of involvement in the space industry offer competitive advantages.”

Commercial Spaceflight Industry Does Not Want More Regulations. Bloomberg News (11/8, Levin) reported that the FAA’s “hands-off approach” to commercial spaceflight regulation, established by Congress, may change depending on the results of the investigation into what caused Virgin Galactic’s Oct. 31 test flight crash. The FAA said, “We will look to utilize any and all available platforms to leverage lessons learned that will result in increased safety. … We know that spaceflight is inherently risky and we expect that valuable lessons will be learned from these unfortunate events that will lead to increased safety and help this industry continue to evolve.” Meanwhile, Eric Stallmer, president of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, said that the industry does not want more regulation, especially during “this learning period.”

Meanwhile, Space News (11/7, Foust, Subscription Publication) reported that the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST) has been praised by commercial space industry leaders for the way it has handled the Orbital Sciences and Virgin Galactic accidents, but it could be experiencing a “strain” by having to deal with two incidents simultaneously. Several people, like Stallmer, thought that the AST could be given more resources to handle the situation. FAA spokesman Hank Price wrote in response to a question, “AST is devoting significant resources towards both its oversight of the Antares investigation with Orbital Sciences, and its support of the NTSB-led SpaceShipTwo investigation. … “As necessary, we will prioritize our activities going forward to meet our public safety mandates.” Meanwhile, Stallmer believes that Congress may not necessarily increase oversight and could extend the current regulation regime.

Florida Today (11/8, King) noted that Congress may hold a hearing into the accidents. While it is unclear how Congress could proceed, Stallmer reportedly noted that “budget realities” prevents NASA from ending its reliance on commercial companies for spaceflight.

Whitesides: Virgin Galactic’s New SpaceShipTwo Will Be Flying By April. In continuing coverage of October’s Virgin Galactic test flight failure, the Daily Mail (UK) (11/9, Crone) reports that Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides said that a replacement SpaceShipTwo, called the SS Voyager in “tribute to both Nasa and Star Trek,” will be flying by April. Whitesides also said that LauncherOne, “a 50ft long unmanned rocket that will carry small satellites into orbit.” will be unveiled in about 18 months.

Former ESA Official Says Spaceship Had Too Few Safeguards In Place. The Daily Mail (UK) (11/7, Charlton) reported that Tommaso Sgobba, the former head of fight safety for the ESA, said that Virgin Galactic has too few safety standards in place to avoid a deadly accident, according to a statement to the Financial Times (11/7, Wright, Subscription Publication). According to the Daily Mail, Sgobba thought that an accident was bound to happen because SpaceShipTwo was designed to handle “one, not two, problems.”

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