Send literally anything you like into space*

You wait ages for an exciting space story, and then two come along at once, brilliant!

Masten Space Systems claim that they

will fly anything you want into space and back for $250/kg:

And this week they’ve been testing their snappily named XA-0.1B-750 reusable launch vehicle.

From the press release

Masten Space Systems completed their first vertical take-off, vertical-landing (VTVL) rocket flight demonstration Friday. The demonstration proved out the design and controls of the 730lb rocket-powered vehicle, known as XA-0.1B-750 or “Xombie”, its internal nickname.

While the vehicle was attached to a safety tether, it took off, ascended a few meters, descended, and shut down its engine as designed. The instant the engine shut off the entire team yelled, “YES!”

“This is the first big step to providing fully reusable spaceflight,” said company CEO David Masten. “Larger vehicles, using the same technologies tested here, will be capable of taking a 100 kilogram (220 pound) payload to 120 kilometers (75 miles) and be reused without requiring lengthy refurbishment.”

The Masten team must be pretty confident, as they’ve already started selling payload slots with a guaranteed 100% refund.

And they’re going to open up the space payload market to amateurs. Seriously. Their website offers punters the opportunity to

Create winning science fair projects.
Build your own mini-Hubble telescope.
Customize your own earth imaging platform.

Brilliant!

*Due to the ITAR regs, you have to be a US citizen to pop a payload into orbit. Bah.

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SpaceshipTwo rocket motor test

Virgin Galactic and Scaled Composites have been testing the short burn nitrous booster that will fling their SpaceShipTwo vehicle into space. Space fans will recall that Scaled Composites’ Ansari X Prize winner, SpaceShipOne was little more than a high altitude glider with a gert big rocket strapped up it’s behind, impressive though it was. SpaceShipTwo, however, is going to be able to deliver payload to orbit.

From the press release (.pdf)

28th May 2009:

In the desert of southern California, Virgin Galactic’s key supplier Scaled Composites and its subcontractor SNC
(Sierra Nevada Corporation) have successfully completed the first tests of the innovative rocket motor that will propel space tourists, scientists and payloads into space.

The hybrid Nitrous Oxide system being used is the largest of its kind in the world and it will send Virgin’s customers up into sub-orbital space at speeds over 2500 mph (4000kmh), to heights over 65 miles (110km) above the Earth’s surface, before the spaceship descends back down through the atmosphere using its pioneering feathered re-entry system.

There’s tons more video and impressive multimedia fakery at the Virgin Galactic site.

Space Monkeys!

It’s a week for 50th anniversaries, clearly. Yesterday it was COBOL, today The Register reports the 50th anniversary of the first primate space flight.

On May 28, 1959, Able, an American born rhesus monkey and Miss Baker, a Peruvian squirrel monkey were strapped into the nose cone of a liquid-fueled Jupiter missile by NASA scientists and launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, to an altitude of about 360 miles.

Space monkeys Able and Baker, we salute you. Per Ardua Ad Astra. Some day, we will make it to the ships.

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