FROM THE DIRECTOR
It is with deep sadness that I write today. Our friends and colleagues in Virgin Galactic and their partner, Scaled Composites, have suffered a tragic mishap. Our thoughts and prayers are with them and especially with the crew and families of the spaceship—the brave test pilots that make aerospace technology advancement possible.
Flight is incredibly challenging–from the very early days of aviation to today’s quest for commercial space travel. Orville Wright suffered a terrible mishap while demonstrating his plane to the army in 1908. He nearly died and his passenger, an army lieutenant, did perish. Many of us lived through the Apollo launch pad fire that killed three great pioneers of the space industry in 1967. And how can we forget the Challenger and Columbia mishaps in 1986 and 2003 respectively. But with great challenge comes great opportunity. Because of these brave souls and all the people behind the scenes working so hard to advance flight, we now have commercial air travel, space communication, space navigation and space imaging—things most of us use in our daily lives and are better for it.
There will be setbacks. It is an inevitable part of moving forward– pushing the boundaries of human achievement. We must learn from these setbacks and become better and stronger for them.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is performing a mishap investigation that will inform the way forward. We must be patient with that process and then we must be supportive of the outcome as we map the best way forward. As George Whitesides, CEO of Virgin Galactic, said, “Space is hard and this was a tough day” …but “we are going to get through it.”
To those of us in New Mexico and the other six states that now have FAA commercial spaceports; we are also at the forefront of the future of human flight. The coming months will be challenging but this is but a speed bump in this incredible journey. We must maintain our resolve, purpose and resiliency as we chart the course ahead.
Christine Anderson, Executive Director
New Mexico Spaceport Authority (NMSA)
TECHNICAL OPERATIONS UPDATE
SpaceLoft XL 9 flight from Spaceport America, Oct 23, 2014
Spaceport America congratulates UP Aerospace (UPA) on the successful execution of its SL-9 mission on Thursday, October 23. This was the ninth launch of a UPA SpaceLoft XL rocket. It was also the thirteenth launch conducted by UPA at the spaceport, and the twenty-first launch overall.
SL-9 was sponsored by the NASA Flight Opportunities Program. There were four scientific payloads on board.
* Advanced Micro Sun Sensor—Test of an advanced design sun sensor for spacecraft attitude control (NASA JPL)
* Quake 2—Instrument to study bubble formation in spacecraft liquid fuel systems (Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, aka BarcelonaTech)
* Vibration Isolation Platform—Test of a spacecraft isolation system to greatly improve the microgravity environment (Controlled Dynamics, Inc.)
* Radiation Hardened PC—Test of a computer designed to better withstand the radiation environment of space (Montana State Univ.)
In order to get the vehicle to its desired flight weight, some inert payloads also were on board.
* Cremains -human ashes (Celestis)
* Brewer’s yeast samples to be exposed to the space environment (Ninkasi Brewing Co.)
* Space-flown commemorative items such as NASA mission patches
The launch had been scheduled for Monday, October 20, but an unfavorable weather forecast prompted the decision to delay it. This was the first UPA mission and only the second Spaceport America mission overall that had to be postponed because of weather. This is a highly enviable record in the space launch industry. On launch day, there was a brief delay to check on a potential problem with one of the payloads, but otherwise, the countdown, launch, and recovery occurred as planned. Vehicle performance was nominal, landing was within the designated area within the US Army White Sands Missile Range, and recovery of the payloads was accomplished shortly after the vehicle was verified by radar to be back on the ground. SL-9 set a new altitude record for Spaceport America launches, 77.24 miles.
MEDIA COVERAGE AND OUTREACH
October was a significant month for press coverage for the spaceport and the New Mexico commercial space industry. We interviewed with The Space Review, Space.com, Albuquerque Journal and KVIA (ABC) El Paso.
In mid-October, CNN’s science and technology reporter Rachael Crane visited Spaceport America. She spent a day touring the spaceport with her film crew. CNN plans to air the special profile on Spaceport America in November. The spaceport was also visited by a correspondent for a Dutch Magazine, Elsevier.
Newly assigned, Brig General Timothy Coffin, Commander of the US Army White Sands Missile Range, visited the Spaceport this month. General Coffin has extensive space experience. We enjoyed providing him and his staff with a tour and discussing our continuing close partnership.
We were invited to provide a presentation at a UNM Mechanical Engineering Department’s graduate seminar. Despite being a Friday afternoon, there was a great turn out! We also provided a presentation to the Civil Air Patrol New Mexico Wing Conference to an enthusiastic audience.
The legislative season is beginning in New Mexico. So far, we provided testimony to the New Mexico Finance Authority Oversight Committee and the Legislative Finance Committee.
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