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Space Businesses

Excalibur Almaz To Offer Commercial Orbital Flights 76

Posted by kdawson
from the big-circle-in-the-sky dept.
xp65 alerts to the plans of an international consortium called Excalibur Almaz Limited to open up a new era of private orbital space flight for commercial customers. The group, consisting of Russian, US, and Japanese companies, will use a formerly top-secret Soviet re-entry vehicle called Almaz to carry paying research crews on one-week missions into Earth orbit by 2013. This ambition represents a large step beyond the sub-orbital flight market so far targeted by most other private space companies. "Excalibur has raised 'tens of millions of dollars' to initiate what will become a several hundred million dollar program, [CEO] Dula tells Spaceflight Now. He has spent more than 20 years eying this specific Almaz program... He also says 'the business plan closes' generating profits within a few years. His surveys have found research and science customers for space missions that are not tourist hops, but less demanding than ISS operations."
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Excalibur Almaz To Offer Commercial Orbital Flights

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  • by Bruce Perens (3872) * <bruce@perens.com> on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @03:47PM (#29110329) Homepage Journal
    A Gemini with a hatch in its heat shield is in the Air Force Museum in Dayton. At the Udvar-Hazy museum at Washington Dulles airport, there is a non-space-capable Gemini practice vehicle that was built to hang under a Rogalo wing and has runway landing gear. The intent was that they'd hang-glide the Gemini to a precision landing.

    Reviving a 30-year-old Russian capsule which lost out to Soyuz sounds risky.

  • MAKS (Score:3, Interesting)

    by superphysics (1619033) on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @03:47PM (#29110337) Homepage
    They're displaying their craft at the MAKS Air Show in Russia. They must be hoping to inveigle some multi-million dollar passengers. How many passengers do you suppose they need to break even with that price tag? Too bad they can't demonstrate it at the MAKS too.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @03:48PM (#29110341)

    Is it easier to get something in a CIRCULAR orbit around earth, or is it easier to launch something to impact the moon.
    Getting to the moon seems like just getting escape velocity and proper aiming, but getting a proper circular orbit means achieving velocity AND THEN adjusting to get a proper orbit.
    If this is true, why aren't we seeing more moon shots?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @04:01PM (#29110539)

    Is it easier to get something in a CIRCULAR orbit around earth, or is it easier to launch something to impact the moon. Getting to the moon seems like just getting escape velocity and proper aiming, but getting a proper circular orbit means achieving velocity AND THEN adjusting to get a proper orbit. If this is true, why aren't we seeing more moon shots?

    No, it's simply not true. The "skill" required to enter an orbit was mastered almost five decades ago. It's relatively negligible. The main restriction on going places in the solar system is fuel. It takes a lot more fuel to go to the moon.

    Here's the simplified picture of what goes on to get in a circular orbit around earth:
    1.) 1 burst of fuel to reach orbital altitude
    2.) 1 burst of fuel to reach orbital velocity

    Here's what it takes to land on the moon:
    1. and 2. from above
    3.) 1 burst of fuel to escape earth orbit
    4.) 1 burst of fuel to enter lunar orbit
    5.) 1 burst of fuel to land on the moon
    6.) 1 burst of fuel to leave the moon surface
    7.) 1 burst of fuel to leave the moon's orbit and return to earth


    Also keep in mind that fuel usage is exponential. i.e. you need to carry more fuel earlier in the trip to propel the fuel you will need later in the trip. Thus expense to Mars >> expense to Moon >> expense to Low Earth Orbit > expense to suborbital hop

  • by FleaPlus (6935) on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @04:03PM (#29110559) Journal

    Is there any particular reason though why it would need to take until 2015? I imagine the development process is much simplified since the basic hardware they're using has already been developed and flight-tested, and they're just inserting in modern electronics and redesigning the service module. I'm guessing they (like SpaceX's Dragon) will probably want a few cargo flights before manned flights, of course, but I can't think of any show-stoppers.

  • by vlm (69642) on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @04:27PM (#29110925)

    Is there any particular reason though why it would need to take until 2015? I imagine the development process is much simplified since the basic hardware they're using has already been developed and flight-tested, and they're just inserting in modern electronics and redesigning the service module.

    Most "formerly top-secret Soviet re-entry vehicles" were designed to sit on top of ICBMs, and provide a ride that only a nuke would tolerate (heating, deceleration, no atmosphere, etc). On the plus side I heard some were lightly armored to discourage the star wars missile defense plan, provide some limited maneuverability on re-entry, and they are probably very reliable and stable.

    So, they don't have to bother with the aerodynamics, materials science, and control/navigation/guidance systems. Well maybe the guidance systems will need updating, unless you want to end every mission with a landing on the whitehouse lawn, downtown NYC, or Montana.

  • by 32771 (906153) on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @04:29PM (#29110959) Journal

    If you want to try it yourself check out orbiter:

    http://orbit.medphys.ucl.ac.uk/ [ucl.ac.uk]

    At least getting into earth orbit is simple, especially with the high powered experimental rocket plane they have.

    You may actually need another burn to circularize your orbit if you want to get into earth orbit. It is called apogee burn.

    This is not quite child's play but they offer you some nice tools while flying to actually get to the moon and planets.

  • by FleaPlus (6935) on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @04:29PM (#29110965) Journal

    Excalibur Almaz To Offer Commercial Orbital Flights" - perhaps more like Excalibur Almaz *hopes* to offer commercial orbital flights. Early days of space exploration and all that but more hype than activity right now. Wake me up when they've done their first test flights with their own technical staff.

    Excalibur Almaz has apparently already raised a significant amount of money, which they've used to purchase several Almaz reentry capsules and have contracted with the Russian manufacturer to make the necessary modifications. They're well past the vaporware stage by this point, with flight-tested hardware in their possession.

  • by moosesocks (264553) on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @05:24PM (#29111637) Homepage

    The USSR's later experiments in space-based weapons were even crazier [wikipedia.org], and looked incredibly [www.army.lv] badass [ninfinger.org] when mounted on the rocket.

    Fortunately, a software glitch (probably intentional) prevented the spacecraft from making orbit.

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