Today’s Tidbits: September 17, 2020

Today’s Tidbits: September 17, 2020

Here are’s tidbits for September 17, 2020:  People on the move (Stallmer, LaPlante, Sirangelo); Rocket Lab getting closer to Wallops launch; reality TV finding its way to space. Be sure to check our website for feature stories and follow us on Twitter (@SpcPlcyOnline) for more news and live tweeting of events.

People on the Move

  • Eric Stallmer will join Voyager Space Holdings as Executive Vice President for Government Relations and Public Policy on October 30.  He’s currently President of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, which has established a search committee to find his successor.  Voyager describes itself as a “global leader in space exploration” with a “first in industry model [that] is uniquely tailored to support the growth needs of commercial space companies by offering an alternative solution to traditional private capital models and replaces them with a longer-term approach as a provider of permanent capital.”
  • William LaPlante will become the new President and CEO of Draper on October 7.  He currently is Senior Vice President and General Manager at MITRE National Security.  Draper is a not-for-profit engineering innovation company especially well known in the space business for precision navigation and guidance systems. Among its many space projects, it is a partner both with Dynetics and with Blue Origin on their Human Landing Systems for NASA’s Artemis program.
  • Mark Sirangelo will be taking over chairmanship of the Defense Innovation Board from Eric Schmidt of Alphabet (Google’s parent company) according to Inside Defense. Sirangelo is an Entrepreneuial Scholar in Residence at the University of Colorado, but became well known in the space community during his many years as President of Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Space Systems Division. He also briefly was an advisor to NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.

Rocket Lab Getting Closer to Wallops Launch

Rocket Lab is getting closer and closer to its first launch from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) at Wallops Island, VA.

All 14 of its launches to date (12 successful) have been from Launch Complex-1 on the Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand, but the company determined it could better serve some of its U.S. customers, especially in the national security space sector, by launching from U.S. soil. It chose MARS, which is located at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, but owned by the Commonwealth of Virginia.  Northrop Grumman launches its Antares rocket with Cygnus cargo spacecraft to the International Space Station from MARS, too.

Rocket Lab built the launch pad in just 10 months and got its operator’s license from the FAA on September 1 for what it calls Launch Complex-2.  Now it has completed another milestone — a wet dress rehearsal of the Electron rocket where the rocket is rolled out to the launch pad, fueled, and countdown conducted just as it will be on launch day.

The first launch is for the U.S. Space Force, but before a date can be set NASA must certify the Autonomous Flight Termination System (AFTS) software for the mission. Rocket Lab said this will be the “first time an AFTS has been has flown from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport and represents a valuable new capability for the spaceport.”  It also is almost done with construction of its Integration and Control Facility.

Reality TV Finds Its Way to Space

With all the talk about commercializing low Earth orbit (LEO) and sending “private astronauts” to the U.S. segment of the International Space Station (ISS), it shouldn’t have been hard to guess that a reality TV show would come along where prospective spacefarers compete against each other for a chance to go.

And here we are. Deadline Hollywood announced today that a show called Space Hero is in development. The winner will get a 10-day trip to the ISS in 2023.

The show’s producers are working with Axiom Space, the company that has a deal with NASA to dock a module at the ISS with the eventual goal of separating it and flying on its own as a commercial space station.  The module isn’t supposed to launch until 2024, but Axiom isn’t waiting till then to begin sending astronauts to ISS.  It signed a contract with SpaceX in May to send four people to the ISS next year. Now this.

NASA is all in on the idea of space tourists and issued a pricing policy in 2019 so people will know how much they have to pay the agency per night to stay aboard ISS (about $35,000).  Transportation to and from ISS is not included. Axiom is brokering all the arrangements.

CNBC’s Michael Sheetz got a statement from Axiom confirming its involvement with the show.

Axiom was founded by former NASA ISS Program Manager Mike Suffredini and entrepreneur Kam Ghaffarian. Its leadership team includes three former astronauts, Charlie Bolden (also a former NASA Administrator), Michael Lopez-Alegria, and Brent Jett.

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