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You’re Going To Hear Phantom Of The Opera Belted Out From Space Before Long

space_adventuresBy now you’ve all probably heard that both Boeing and SpaceX received bids from NASA to continue developing its manned shuttle, the CST-100. Reports indicate that Boeing received a higher bid, though largely because their craft is more expensive than SpaceX’s Dragon. This means that at some point in the hopefully not so distant future NASA can stop buying American astronauts seats on Russian soyuz capsules for more than $70 million a pop. While a seat on the new space taxis will cost a bit more than a ride to the airport, they’ll be cheaper than that, and the money won’t be going to the folks who want to divest from the ISS. Part of Boeing’s 5-year, $4.2 billion contract (SpaceX’s is $2.6 billion) will enable the ferrying not only astronauts, but also giving rides to space tourists who are clients of Space Adventures.

Turns out, Space Adventures has been around for over 15 years and offers a range of space experiences. The company has sent 7 tourists into space so far, starting with Dennis Tito, who, back in 2001, was the first private citizen to explore space. Guy Laiberte, CEO of Cirque du Soleil and the first private Canadian citizen in space, is another. I haven’t heard of any of the other clients (Lance Bass trained, but didn’t actually go) before, but Sarah Brightman will change all that.

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Boeing Wins Manned Spacecraft Bid—We Think

Boeing-capsule-CST-100When President Obama announced the end of the Constellation program, many people worried about the U.S. not having a method of transport for its own astronauts. Since then, American astronauts have been buying rides to the ISS on Russian Soyuz capsules. Given that Russia will soon be bowing out of the ISS, it’s now particularly important that NASA figures out another way to transport its astronauts. Hence the Commercial Crew Program, NASA’s way of soliciting transportation services from private companies. The three contenders were SpaceX’s Dragon, Sierra Nevada’s Dreamchaser, and Boeing’s CST-100. This morning, the Wall Street Journal reported that NASA “is poised” to award the $3 billion to Boeing.

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Meet Dream Chaser, America’s Next Space Shuttle

Dream ChaserAs you probably know, President Obama announced his decision to end NASA’s space shuttle program Constellation back in 2010. Since then, the US has been paying to transport astronauts to the ISS aboard Russian Soyuz capsules. NASA designed the four-person Space Launch System, a heavy launch vehicle, to replace the retired shuttles. So I’ve just been waiting patiently for that to come to fruition, somehow unaware of the Dream Chaser spacecraft, a commercial spaceflight transport system that will be able to take a crew of seven astronauts to the ISS, despite being about 1/3rd the size of a conventional shuttle.

The Dream Chaser will ride aboard an Atlas 5 rocket, which will propel the craft into low Earth orbit, potentially ferrying astronauts to the ISS. Service—or some kind of crewed mission—is expected to begin in 2017, with the first orbital crewless flight in late 2016. Dream Chaser’s first unmanned flight occurred in 2013, when it flew successfully but crashed due to a malfunction in its landing gear. Actually, the vehicle flipped over at the very end, coming to rest in an upright position, after which the malfunctioning left landing gear deployed. I like a spacecraft with a sense of humor. Despite the rocky ending, the flight was regarded as an overall success.

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