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Space Businesses

Excalibur Almaz To Offer Commercial Orbital Flights 76

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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  • Going to the moon is a big elliptical orbit. The Apollo missions had an abort of just letting the vehicle pass the moon and head back to earth. I think one of the early missions used it, and Apollo 13.
  • Circular velocity is less than escape velocity.

  • Re:Excellent! (Score:3, Informative)

    by Shakrai ( 717556 ) on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @03:57PM (#29110483) Journal

    I'll go buy myself a ticket as soon as the proceeds from my uncle's estate come in

    Why wait? I'm gonna book my flight now using my Visa card. Yeah, it's over my limit and I'll never be able to pay it back, but so what? It works for Washington and Wall Street ;)

  • by FleaPlus ( 6935 ) on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @03:59PM (#29110507) Journal

    Nice submission, although here's a few more details from my own submission:

    Excalibur Almaz has come out of stealth mode and unveiled their reusable spacecraft [spaceflightnow.com] capable of carrying a crew of three and/or cargo to orbit for up to a week. According to VP (and former NASA astronaut) Leroy Chiao, the spacecraft [excaliburalmaz.com] are designed to be launched on a variety of rockets, and are modernized versions of vehicles developed and flight-tested for the Soviet Union's military space station program (the company has also purchased some of the space stations for potential future use). EA plans to begin flight tests in 2012, with revenue flights starting in 2013. The company will likely be competing with the SpaceX Dragon [spacex.com] and Bigelow Aerospace's recently-announced "Orion Lite" [space.com] for a chunk of the emerging commercial orbital transportation market.

    An interesting bit of trivia is that the original Soviet Almaz space station [astronautix.com] carried a rapid-fire cannon [wikipedia.org] and performed a successful test-firing on a target satellite. I'm assuming the space stations which Excalibur Almaz bought don't have the cannons anymore. :(

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @04:01PM (#29110537)

    As far as I know, you don't need anything close to escape velocity to get into a stable orbit (Circular or otherwise)

    LEO only needs a speed of ~7km/s, and GEO is only ~3km/s (but is much higher than LEO) - ES is more like ~11 km/s

  • by natehoy ( 1608657 ) on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @04:18PM (#29110769) Journal

    Ridiculously oversimplified response:

    Once you achieve orbital velocity, you've "hit" orbit. If you have too much power, your orbit will be higher than you planned. If you have too little power, your orbit is lower than you planned (possibly not achieving orbit, of course). Your orbit will continue as long as you have momentum, which is eaten up by the miniscule amounts of atmosphere and space junk bouncing off you as you orbit. To come back to Earth, slow down and you'll fall out of orbit and end up on the planet somewhere. A Geosync circular orbit can be achieved approximately 26,000 miles up. So, roughly put, you figure out how much fuel you need to reach a given speed at 26000 miles, and you're largely good.

    To get to the Moon, you have to hit a moving target whose distance averages about 239,000 miles from Earth. Or, roughly put, you have to go nine times as far and you have to hit a teensy tiny little moving target at that distance.

    >>>>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.

    Getting to the moon is achieving a lot more velocity than an orbit, THEN adjusting to get a proper orbit around the Earth to match the Moon's orbit THEN adjusting that orbit to achieve an orbit around the Moon so you can control the descent of your landing vehicle from a stable orbit (or maybe you meant "impact" literally - grin). THEN you can start working out the maths to land your instruments on the Moon.

  • Re:But what science? (Score:4, Informative)

    by FleaPlus ( 6935 ) on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @04:50PM (#29111293) Journal

    I wonder, what science do they think people will be using this for? I guess it could replace some of the Shuttle-only payloads we used to fly, but for anything else the ISS is a much more capable research laboratory. I should know, keeping them doing science is my job these days.

    I guess it might have better downmass? Usually, though, you only want to bring it home if you think the long term exposure effects are interesting. This won't be very long term.

    My understanding is that a large part of the problem is that it takes a terribly long time to get anything launched to the ISS and you have to go through a substantial amount of red tape. Currently, you need a lead time of years to fly an experiment on the ISS, which makes it really difficult to do meaningful science in the fast-paced scientific environment. Heck, a grad student putting together an experiment would be lucky to have the experiment results back before they finished their PhD. Hopefully the more rapid access from commercial providers (SpaceX Dragon, Bigelow Aerospace's Orion Lite, and now Excalibur Almaz) will help change that picture.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @10:49PM (#29114321)

    Let me correct you on a few points.

    > A capsule that has not produced in 30 years

    The last flight of TKS spacecraft - and VA capsules are the part of it, it's those capsules which EA bought - was after Chelomey's death, in 1985. So, about 24 years.

    > as well as a new service module

    If you read the sources, you'll find that the capsule doesn't need the service module to get launched into space. Saves money, too.

    > Heck, the thing weighed 20 tonnes

    That was for the full TKS, not the VA capsule. VA was about 7 tons at launch, under 4 tons at landing (massive escape system, which jettisoned in flight, among other things...). The rest of TKS was FGB - which was used as the basis for many Mir modules and Zarya, the first ISS module.

    To launch only capsule into space, the rocket doesn't need to be Proton - in fact, the article mentions Soyuz launcher as a possible option.

    > not including the weapons that were on it (cannon and later missiles; Interesting about that).

    Aw c'mon, not too many spacecrafts carried weapons ;) especially massive ones.

    > I think that by 2013, SpaceX and Orion Lite will be running passengers to a BA space station.

    SpaceX Dragon's isn't proven to be reusable, is it? And a capsule which flies 10 times instead of just one (a particular instance of VA flew 3 times to orbit during testing phase) could turn costing less.

    > And even then, I seriously doubt it.

    Here I have to agree :( . The guys still have a long and winding road ahead of them. Will watch 'em tho'.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 18, 2009 @10:57PM (#29114383)

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

    Not on the technical ground, mind you; on political one. Energia, the Soyuz maker, didn't want Chelomey's company to be their rival in manned spacecrafts, and Energia was powerful enough to get the project closed after Chelomey's death.

    TKS development started in late 1960-s, while Soyuz spacecraft development started in 1960. And that decade have seen a huge advancement in rocketry.

Heuristics are bug ridden by definition. If they didn't have bugs, then they'd be algorithms.