This Luxury Space Balloon Lets You Glide 100,000 Feet Above the Earth With a Cocktail in Hand

By Michael Verdon

“If you’re looking for the fury and vibration of a rocket, you’ve come to the wrong place,” says Jane Poynter, cofounder of Space Perspective. “Our Spaceship Neptune offers a gentle ride into space that lets clients absorb the astronaut experience.” 

The football-field-sized space balloon carrying the bulbous cabin into the sky at 12 mph (picture the pace of a leisurely bike ride) is in market contrast to the thunderous Flash Gordon blastoffs of Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin. Spaceship Neptune’s swanky, pressurized lounge is a panopticon of windows and includes a bar and bathroom. There’s even Wi-Fi. Instead of g forces gluing fliers to their seats, eight passengers and one pilot will sit in recliners, chatting and sipping cocktails as they gradually zoom out on Kennedy Space Center—Spaceship Neptune’s home port—until it becomes the Florida peninsula, then the East Coast and, eventually, a grand view of Earth itself. 

“Some people would love to go pre-dawn,” says Poynter, “so you can really experience the extraordinary sky and see the iconic blue line that separates the Earth below and space. There’s almost a crazy rainbow effect.”

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US-based Space Travel Company Space Perspective Raises US$ 7M

By Komal Pattanayak

Florida, US-based company Space Perspective, a space travel company that was established so that humans would explore space for the betterment of all, raised US$ 7 million in seed financing on 3rdDecember 2020.

The financing round was led by Prime Movers Lab and Base Ventures who is a leading Silicon Valley tech fund. Other participants in the round include world-renowned entrepreneur, author and business strategist Tony Robbins and venture capital firms Kirenaga Partners’ Central Florida Tech Fund, 1517 Fund, Schox, E2MC Ventures and SpaceFund Venture Capital. Anton Brevde of Prime Movers and Kirby Harris of Base Ventures will join the Space Perspective Board of Directors.

The funds raised will be used for the development and early flights of Spaceship Neptune, a space balloon capable of carrying passengers to the edge of space. The infusion of capital advances the human space flight company another step closer to fundamentally changing the way people have access to space for research and tourism.

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University of Zurich and Airbus grow miniature human tissue on the International Space Station ISS

Kennedy Space Center, Florida, 26 August 2021 – With the next supply flight to the International Space Station (ISS), the Space Hub of the University of Zurich (UZH) and Airbus Defence and Space are bringing an experiment into space, which is intended to further advance the industrial production of human tissue in zero-gravity conditions. With this step, space could become a workshop for producing miniature human tissue for terrestrial use in research and medicine. Initial preparatory tests on the ISS 18 months ago were successful.

The process for the joint “3D Organoids in Space” project comes from Zurich scientists Oliver Ullrich and Cora Thiel, pioneers in research on how gravity influences human cells. Together with Airbus, they have developed the process to project maturity. The Airbus Innovations team led by project manager Julian Raatschen is developing the hardware and providing access to the ISS. From the idea to the first production test in space it took the project partners only three years to complete various test phases and highly competitive internal selection procedures. “We are the first to show that the path to production in space is feasible, not in theory, but in practice,” says Oliver Ullrich.

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Silicon Valley’s most successful incubator is doubling down on space tugs

TransAstra CEO Joel Sercel with a prototype of a solar thermal engine.

By Tim Fernholz

TransAstra was founded in 2015 with the goal of mining asteroids. Yet harvesting resources out in the solar system, for all its appeal, is still far from feasible. Moving orbiting spacecraft around Earth? That is a service companies are willing to pay for, right now.

The trick of space business might be developing a lucrative path to a far-off vision. Elon Musk may want to retire on Mars and SpaceX may enable him to do so, but what’s significant about the firm is that it earns money providing space services in demand right now.

TransAstra founder and CEO Joel Sercel will, in theory, perform a similar sleight of hand: When its first spacecraft, dubbed Worker Bee, reaches orbit in 2023, it will show off a novel thruster technology called solar thermal propulsion, and earn money by precisely positioning satellites launched on larger rockets. And if that succeeds, it will launch a fleet of solar-powered spacecraft into orbit—and perhaps realize a larger vision of harvesting commodities from asteroids.

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The startup’s purpose is to provide cargo services for China’s space station

By Jide Olugbodi

A Chinese business is working on a spacecraft that will be able to supply space station of China, with the small demo launch planned for 2022. InterSpace Explore, based in Beijing, struck a deal with Galactic Energy, a Chinese commercial launch company, on August 4 to launch the Zengzhang-1 demo returnable satellite on the Ceres-1 solid rocket in the year 2022.

Interspace Explore, formally known as Beijing Interstellar Development Technology Company Ltd., acquired millions of Chinese yuan (about ¥6.48 for every dollar) from Innoangel Fund, an investment firm the next day. According to Chinese media estimates, the Zenghang-1 (Growth-1) spacecraft will possess a launch mass of roughly 350 kgs and a payload of over 100 kilos.

At a media briefing, Fu Shiming, Interspace Explore founder and a former employee of state-owned spacecraft manufacturer China Academy of Space Technology (CAST) as well as a Tiangong-2 space lab project’s member, said that spacecraft are critical to human utilization of space resources and have significant commercial and military value.

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As Commercial Space Travel Becomes Reality, Debris and Space Traffic Management Becomes More Important

By Adrian Moore and Rebecca van Burken

If the government works with private industry through strategic public-private partnerships, the U.S. can best address the threats posed by orbital debris and create sustainable policies for safe space exploration.

With Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos soaring into suborbital space, three U.S. flights to the International Space Station (ISS) in July, and SpaceX delivering 88 satellites to orbit in the last six weeks, space traffic is surging. And this is just the beginning of increased commercial and governmental activity in space.

August will see several more trips to the ISS and more launches of satellites. Additionally, the Biden administration signed an agreement with the European Space Agency to use more satellites to address climate change through earth science research. This increased space traffic serves a wide array of purposes and represents vast investments by the private space industry and government. But these investments are going to increasingly be jeopardized by the massive amount of space junk already circling Earth.

There’s plenty of room to fly up there, but, believe it or not, NASA estimates there are already 23,000 pieces of debris larger than 10 centimeters and over 500,000 pieces of smaller junk in orbit. This space junk, or orbital debris, travels at high speeds and even a small piece can cause serious damage or destruction if it hits a spacecraft or satellite.

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Lightweight Carbon-Fiber Tanks: The Future of Space Travel

By Ron Jefferson

One of the most prominent obstacles of space exploration is the weight of the rocket and the payload. Scientists must find a way to lighten the weight of the rockets so that there is more space for cargo that onboard personnel may need for scientific exploration.

Thankfully, because of ground-breaking research headed by the European Space Agency’s Future Launchers Preparatory Program, future rockets could be made using lightweight carbon-fiber tanks reinforced with plastic.

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European Robotic Arm is launched into space

The European Robotic Arm (ERA) is on its way to the International Space Station after being launched on a Proton rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, in Kazakhstan, at 16:58 CEST today.

The 11-m-long robot is travelling folded and attached to what will be its home base – the Multipurpose Laboratory Module, also called ‘Nauka’. The Proton-M booster placed Nauka and ERA into orbit around 10 minutes after liftoff, nearly 200 km above Earth.  

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China Secretly Flew A Space Plane That Takes Off Vertically Like A Rocket

China secretly conducted the first test flight of a reusable suborbital vehicle last week on Friday, edging a step closer to the development of a reusable space transportation system, according to a report by SpaceNews. 

The spacecraft took off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre on Friday and later landed at an airport just over 800 kilometres away at Alxa League in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. Not so surprisingly, no official images or footage of any kind was shared by the space agency.

Moreover, there was also no information on the flight duration, the kind of propulsion technology that was at play or even the altitude at which it flew and landed safely.

The press release did mention, however, that the spacecraft made use of integrated aviation and space technologies indicating a vertical take-off and horizontal landing profile.

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China launches secretive suborbital vehicle for reusable space transportation system

The Chinese suborbital vehicle for a reusable space transportation system launched from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert, northwest China.

by Andrew Jones 

HELSINKI — China conducted a clandestine first test flight of a reusable suborbital vehicle Friday as a part of development of a reusable space transportation system.

The vehicle launched from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center Friday and later landed at an airport just over 800 kilometers away at Alxa League in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. (CASC) announced.

No images nor footage nor further information, such as altitude, flight duration or propulsion systems, were provided. The CASC release stated however that the vehicle uses integrated aviation and space technologies and indicates a vertical takeoff and horizontal landing (VTHL) profile.

The test follows a September 2020 test flight of a “reusable experimental spacecraft”. The spacecraft orbited for days, releasing a small transmitting payload and later deorbited and landed horizontally. The spacecraft is widely believed to be a reusable spaceplane concept, though no images have emerged.

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New Plasma Thruster Concept Could Make Space Missions 10x Faster

Space travel might take less time than ever with the new plasma thruster design developed at the US Department of Energy. 

By  Rupendra Brahambhatt

Fatima Ebrahimi, a physicist from the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) has designed a plasma thruster that is likely to make space travel way faster than any other existing technology.

Fast and efficient space travel has the potential to push mankind towards a better future. There might be planets, resources, and even life forms located far away that can bring a drastic change in our knowledge, understanding, and lifestyle. There are strong chances that, if it turns out to be successful, the new plasma thruster design from Ebrahimi could change the dynamics of space travel.

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