Friday, October 14, 2011

Spaceport America Gearing Up For Launches

While NASA struggles to get its astronauts back into low Earth orbit, two commercial space launch companies are preparing to increase launches at the country's first commercial spaceport, north of Las Cruces, New Mexico.

UP Aerospace announced it will be launching nine new missions from Spaceport America in 2012 and 2013, and Virgin Galactic cut the ribbon at their new spaceship assembly building and hangar in preparation for their first launch, tentatively scheduled for 2012.

Both companies have already had successful launches of their commercial spacecraft and are building toward more regular launches. UP Aerospace has already made good use of its SpaceLoft rocket and Virgin Galactic is busy testing its SpaceShipTwo craft even as I write these words.

The fact is, though some people continue to have their doubts about the commercial space industry, these two companies have slowly been building a viable business model. And though SpaceX does not launch from Spaceport America, it too has been very successful, and is planning a possible mission to the International Space Station sometime before the end of this year.

The march toward a commercial space industry has been long and fraught with disaster, but that dopes not mean the progress has been halted. Just the opposite. With every failed attempt to get a commercial spacecraft launched the industry has a whole has learned valuable lessons that have helped them reach ever greater heights.

“Spaceport America has an established history with UP Aerospace, and we congratulate this forward-thinking company on its new launch contracts with NASA and the Department of Defense,”

NASA’s Office of Chief Technologist Launch Opportunities Program awarded UP Aerospace a contract to integrate technology payloads and launch them into space on up to eight flights using its SpaceLoft rocket. This contract reserves two launches with options on purchasing up to six additional flights in 2012 and 2013.

The first launch for NASA is still in the planning phase, but is expected in the first quarter of 2012, according to a news release from NMSA. The second contract was issued by the Defense Department’s Operationally Responsive Space Office, and will be a suborbital flight also planned for the first quarter of 2012.

“We have a great relationship with Spaceport America,” said UP Aerospace President Jerry Larson. “We are excited to see business ramping up for our SpaceLoft launch vehicles, and look forward to meeting the needs of our customers.”

Click here to read more about the activity at Spaceport America.

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