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Space Science

First Private Manned Orbital Flight Announced 165

Miroslav Ambrus-Kis wrote in to tell us that Inter-orbital Systems has announced that Nebojsa Stanojevic and Miroslav Ambrus-Kis will be the astronauts aboard the first completely private orbital flight. This is part of their bid for the Google Lunar X-Prize.
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First Private Manned Orbital Flight Announced

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  • by happy_place ( 632005 ) on Monday September 14, 2009 @11:37AM (#29414283) Homepage
    Those names don't sound like Astronauts... they sound suspiciously like... Cosmonauts! ;)
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ColdWetDog ( 752185 )

      Those names don't sound like Astronauts... they sound suspiciously like... Cosmonauts! ;)

      No, according to the TFA, they are "Tweeting Experienced Explorers".

      Whatever the Hell that happens to be.

    • Re:Not Astronauts! (Score:5, Informative)

      by janek78 ( 861508 ) on Monday September 14, 2009 @11:43AM (#29414389) Homepage

      Nebojsa is a perfect name for someone attempting a feat like this - it translates as "Fear not".

    • How About calling them Spacenauts. Give a different name for private space pioneers.

    • Bah. Luxemburgish Weltraumonauten are the best! (As soon as Luxemburg will have a space program... in 2355...)

    • One's a Serb, one's a Croat. May I suggest "ethniklashinauts [theonion.com]?"

      Quite seriously, good for them.

  • But I would give next to zero chance. But good luck, guys. It takes a decent amount of money to get something off the ground, let alone get it up there and back.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    And the solution is called Energia [energia.ru].

    Go Soyuz !

    Yours In Akademgorodok,
    K. Trout

  • While there's certainly room for improvement over NASA's methods, a two order-of-magnitude improvement from a startup seems absurdly optimistic, no matter what modular rockets and other mission design innovations they use.

    However, I wish them the best of luck, and even if costs creep up to $8 million a person, then it will still be a worthwhile endeavor.

  • by Kelz ( 611260 ) on Monday September 14, 2009 @11:56AM (#29414615)
    Am I the only one extremely excited to hear a company name like "Inter-orbital Systems?" All of my geek-neurons register glee.
  • Why this matters... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Fished ( 574624 ) <amphigoryNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday September 14, 2009 @11:59AM (#29414661)

    Okay, so personally I think this particular company doesn't seem to have much chance of succeeding. They don't seem to have the funding or the infrastructure. But what's important is this: for the first time ever we're seeing private companies trying to develop launch capabilities. And not just one or two, and not just so they can resell to governments (like SpaceX), but a bunch of them, with many different business models. You throw enough paint at the wall, some of it might stick. And, eventually, I think it is possible to dramatically reduce launch costs this way--which makes things like solar power satellites and space tourism practical.

    In 50 years, the space industry could be transformed by this sort of thing into an actual, profit-making enterprise. And it's only once there is profit to be had that the ideal of true multi-planetary life can become a reality.

    • by Sir_Dill ( 218371 ) <slashdot@zac[ ]a.com ['hul' in gap]> on Monday September 14, 2009 @12:47PM (#29415359) Homepage
      SpaceX has been profitable since last year according to the website.

      OrbitalSciences also looks as though its been profitable for a while (NYSE:ORB)

      The space industry is going to move faster than I think anyone expects. We have China and India getting into the mix pretty heavily now as well. I think we could see space become bigger than it was in the 60's both politically and commercially.

    • But what's important is this: for the first time ever we're seeing private companies trying to develop launch capabilities. And not just one or two, and not just so they can resell to governments (like SpaceX), but a bunch of them, with many different business models.

      Huh? Where have you been for the past thirty plus years? There's been a steady stream of hopeful startups since the mid 70's at least. More than a few have gotten hardware off the ground, and one (Orbital Sciences) has flown multiple commerc

      • And that's if you use the all too common screwball definition that doesn't consider companies like Boeing and Lockheed as private.

        To be fair, Boeing and Lockheed developed much of their tech on government contracts, and these remain a major source of their revenue. I get the general impression (and will happily admit to being wrong, if I am) that most of the space tech Lockheed, especially, sells is basically recycled military equipment.

        • by LWATCDR ( 28044 )

          "that most of the space tech Lockheed, especially, sells is basically recycled military equipment."
          Not sure what you mean by that. Right now Boeing "owns" the Delta, Atlas, and SeaLaunch systems.
          The current Atlas has no relation to the old Atlas that was based on the Atlas ICBM from the 50s.
          The current Delta has no relation the old Delta that was based off the Thor IRBM from the 50s.
          SeaLaunch and Atlas use a lot of Russian tech and the Delta uses the first new liquid fuel rocket engine, the RS-70 developed

        • To be fair, Boeing and Lockheed developed much of their tech on government contracts, and these remain a major source of their revenue

          So what? They are still private companies who will happily sell launch services to anyone willing to plunk down the cash. Commercial launches have outnumbered government launches for decades.

          I get the general impression (and will happily admit to being wrong, if I am) that most of the space tech Lockheed, especially, sells is basically recycled military equi

    • as philosophy is to double-entry accounting.

      I got a laugh out of this, and couldn't agree more. Unfortunately I haven't played weiqi in about 15 years.


  • They haven't launched yet (and are at least two years from launch according to their plans), so there's no way to guarantee their claims.

    If you look at their news page there is a 2004 announcement that they'd be launching a satellite in 2006, but there is no news of an actual launch.

    In fact I don't even see news of a flight test of any sort, let alone a full orbital launch.

    TBH the website also looks like a pretty fly-by-night operation. You would think that a company with enough money to launch a manned space mission would be able to hire a web designer.

    • by MRe_nl ( 306212 ) on Monday September 14, 2009 @12:19PM (#29414979)

      Engr David Koni.
      Cotonou Republic Du Benin.


      It is my great pleasure to write to you and present my business proposal for your consideration and possible acceptance which you will find mutually beneficial to both parties.

      Orbital Fares and the "Free Ticket to Orbit" Option: When regular orbital tourism flights begin, the cost per spaceline ticket is expected to be $5 million, but you now have the option of spending a week in orbit for free. Buy a spaceline ticket now at the special promotional fare of $250,000 (regularly priced at $5 million), and get a full rebate two years after your orbital mission. That's the equivalent of a $5 million Ticket To Orbit For Free! We are selling ten spaceline tickets at this price.

      There are currently only eight spaceline tickets left! Tim Reed of Gladstone, Missouri purchased the first "promotional fare" spaceline ticket.

      "Promotional Fare" spaceline tickets must be purchased directly from Interorbital Systems or Astro Expeditions, LLC. IOS is the only commercial space company offering advance-purchase tickets for orbital tourism flights. If you take advantage of our special promotional offer, you can spend seven days on an orbital expedition at an up-front cost of less than $25 per minute. Each "Promotional Fare" spaceline ticket holder will fly an orbital mission with three "full-fare" astronaut-tourists and one astronaut-pilot.

      As soon as all ten of the "Promotional Fare" tickets with rebate have been sold, IOS will sell orbital spaceline tickets at the regular price of $5 million.

      • by reebmmm ( 939463 ) on Monday September 14, 2009 @12:48PM (#29415365)

        Engr David Koni -
        Your offer intrigues me. I am very excited to have been selected to receive this offer. It is a great honor as I have always wanted to be an astronaut. It is even better that you are offering me such a great opportunity for free.

        However, I am somewhat dubious though, since you state that there are ten spaceline tickets, but only eight left after a Mr. Tim Reed of Gladstone Missouri purchased one such ticket. Perhaps this was just an ambiguity and that you meant Mr. Reed is but one of two sold tickets. So I contacted Mr. Reed in Gladstone, Missouri. He was very surprised to find out that he has a ticket to orbit. He asked me what planet I was orbiting? He must be joking, of course. As such a prominent individual as Mr. Reed must have known that we would be orbiting Earth. Right? Do you offer tickets to orbit other planets?

        Also, I am a bit curious about your companies. I could only find a website called "slashdot" ("news for nerds. stuff that matters") that mentioned them. They seemed to scoff at your idea. And, in any case, I assume that this must be a new company because orbital expeditions seem like a new opportunity. So then it would seem reasonable to not yet have a website. So a print out of your website design would make me feel better about your company.

        Last question, is it possible to buy a ticket for my cat? I would surely miss my cat if I spent a week in space. Who would feed her? I assume that since it costs merely $25/minute upfront for me that my cat could fly for like $10/minute upfront. Is there are rebate available for her?

        With the greatest of respect,
        Mr. Reeb MMM

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by richmaine ( 128733 )

        That's hilarious. At first I just thought it was a mildly amusing bit of unsubtle satire. But that was before I glanced around the IOS web site and found that this is actually directly quoted from there. That makes it hilarious.

        • It made me cry. A little.
          Is the company described in TFA a bad hoax, a good troll, a Croatian 419?

          Tune in next week for more "Pigs in Spaaaaace" ; ).

    • by barzok ( 26681 ) on Monday September 14, 2009 @01:02PM (#29415563)

      TBH the website also looks like a pretty fly-by-night operation.

      Well, night launches are more spectacular to watch.

  • What am I missing? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by PinkyDead ( 862370 ) on Monday September 14, 2009 @12:10PM (#29414837) Journal

    The Google Lunar X Prize has nothing to do with manned space travel. It's about launching a robot that can deliver HD images from the moon.

    Maybe their plan is to go up there and launch the robot from orbit - just seems like an awful waste of energy.

    • RTFA. They plan to use this rocket in the Google Lunar X Prize.

      • RTFA yourself: it says nothing of the sort.

        And even if it did, it would still be ridiculous. The load characteristics of manned versus unmanned spaceflight are totally different, and more importantly the safety systems required are at a much higher level.

    • Once in lunar orbit, Nebojsa and Miroslav will split a liter of vodka and wrestle to see who will be "the robot". The winner will then paint the loser silver, hand him a HD camera, and strap him into the descent stage.
  • by fantomas ( 94850 ) on Monday September 14, 2009 @12:31PM (#29415143)

    Pah, they have no ambition. I am *planning* to go to Saturn for 2011. Ok, I have no idea how but I could probably sketch up some Photoshop pictures of my rocket, I've got some technical drawings I made when I was 7 years old.

    Seriously, can somebody point me at proof these companies can actually launch human-rated spacecraft? It seems that some fairly large nations are still struggling to make steps towards this. Can anybody explain why it will be any easier for a company like this than India, South Korea, Japan, ESA, etc? at least these companies/organisations have a track record of launching unmanned payloads of 10 -20 tonnes so I can believe they are on the way.

    Feels like vapourware to me. What happened to that dozen or so original X-Prizes companies that promised they'd be in space and carrying astronauts by now? I seem to remember it was launched in 1996 and those companies were all promising launches in about 2003?

    • Two years is a very short period of time, and do they have any orbital launches to their credit yet at all? I see sounding rockets, that's a far cry from being able to achieve orbit. What is the timeline of an unmanned orbital test?

    • I'm planning to go to Alpha Centauri! I've already got a realistic rocket concept [wikipedia.org], and Sid Meier did the simulation software to train our Assblastonauts (Yeah! They're ten times fuckin' cooler than your ones! That's why they have cooler names too!)

      Wohoo! We'll launch at time X-1. Where X is the time when you will launch yours! So we can nuke it right back to earth!

  • They are selling lunar samples from their missions to moon starting 2012 ...

    http://www.interorbital.com/Lunar%20Sample%20Return_1.htm [interorbital.com]

    • hate to reply to my posts, but this is funny:

      "What is the RIPPER?

      RIPPER is an acronym for the Robotic Interplanetary Prospector Excavator and Retriever. It is an automated two-stage spacecraft and Earth Reentry Capsule (ERC) designed to land on and return samples from the smaller extraterrestrial bodies in the Solar System. This includes the moons, the asteroids, and the comets."

      "Ripper"... how appropriate ...

  • Don't think so... (Score:5, Informative)

    by PhantomHarlock ( 189617 ) on Monday September 14, 2009 @12:51PM (#29415423)

    This company managed to launch one high powered amateur rocket in the 1990s. That's it. Nothing since then. Complete vapor. The only serious orbital launch company is currently SpaceX. The only serious near term suborbital launch companies are XCOR and Virgin Galactic, with the various VTVL / lunar X-Prize people (Masten, Armadillo, etc.) filling in a different but useful niche down the road.

    SpaceX finally succeeded in orbital launch after many millions of dollars of hardware and testing. XCOR has 66 manned rocket flights to its credit (the largest share of manned rocket flights worldwide since 2000.) Virgin/Scaled has SS1, Armadillo and Masten have a large number of VTVL flights under their belt and years of hardware development.

    Interorbital has paper and mockups.

  • by DynaSoar ( 714234 ) on Monday September 14, 2009 @01:56PM (#29416317) Journal

    I've built things in my garage, and flown them multiple times and with more power, than the only thing these people have ever had leave the pad vertically. Sure, they've been static testing all sorts of motors. More's the pity -- I don't have to.

    These upstart startups are trying to cash in on investment money (though I do credit IOS with selling tubesat and ad space) and behaving at the functional amateur level as though they're professionals. The startups that don't rely on investors (Armadillo, Scaled until the second half of SS1, etc.) accomplish things the others don't. Still, they're spending a lot on R&D that they don't need to.

    My money, and anyone's who wants in, says an amateur-built vehicle made from commonly available materials and off the shelf parts could put itself into orbit for under 6 figures. That includes all incidentals and consultancies. The motors, a major development issue with these companies, are available from Loki Research. Their 96" x 152mm 80,000 ns P motors were used in last April's flight of the 1/10 scale Saturn V. The reason he didn't use three was that (> 200,000 ns) would put it in the FAA/OST's ball park and therefore not amateur. Neither would this be, but the point here is to hit the goal, not just go flying with my NAR and Tripoli friends. I ran the numbers on a 3P booster with 1P sustainer using their older 60" x 152 mm 50,000 ns motors. Ground launched it'd break the 62.5 mile 'space' altitude, and balloon launched it'd break 100 miles. The new motors, obviously proven, pack 60% more power. A ground launched 2.5 stage (the 3 x 1 plus 'dart' payload/nose) should do the job.

    Somebody's going to do it, before or after one of these startups. It'll be after if nobody tries before. And if it takes money, rather than investors in a commercial endeavor, sell commercials. Rocketman's GoFast, the first amateur rocket to break the space altitude was named for an 'investor' simply for the advertising. And while Dunkin' Donuts isn't likely to jump in (hey, they didn't for Astronaut Farmer, so why now?) there's some who might.

    And once a vehicle gets up there, the next step is human flight. A TV commercial costs between $500,000 and $1M to produce and run the first time. For the bottom end of that, using nothing exotic, and if not off the shelf then built from off the shelf components, a truly amateur enterprise could put a person over 62.5 miles. What are the odds that a company used to paying out that kind of money would be willing to have their name on this project, particularly if at apogee that company's catch phrase got broadcast by the amateur astronaut, for instance: "Can you hear me now? Good."

    The major difference is on return on investment. The commercial startups need to return their investors' money, plus. An amatuer project only needs to do what it sets out to do. An ad based amateur project only needs to do what an amateur project does, plus acknowledge the source of the funds, and not return anything to anyone beyond noteriety for the accomplishment. If it weren't for the scale of the designs and the lack of available components, Robert Truax would have done this years ago.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Michael_gr ( 1066324 )
      I'm confused, first you talk about getting to orbit, then you mention a height of 62.5 miles, which implies you are talking about a suborbital flight with a ballistic trajectory. So which is it?
      • by khallow ( 566160 )
        And then he talks about orbit again. The poster claims the old motors can reach the definition of space. The new motors can reach orbit.
    • by LWATCDR ( 28044 )

      You are ignoring the problem of control and guidance. A good enough guidance system could be made but then you have the issue of thrust vectoring. Fins will only get you so far so then you a thrust vectoring system. Ever notice how Tripoli seems to stay away from guidance systems? They are actually not allowed and I can think of a lot of good reasons why.
      You next issue would be cutting off the thrust. I would probably use a NOX hi-breed upper stage so you could control the cut off. For the real world you do

  • You can track their progress by checking out their Orbital Launch Simulator. [armorgames.com]

  • Looks like vaporware to me. They've not tested anything but a small engine, as far as I could tell (not the current iteration of the company). The legacy efforts they're basing this on... it's too heavy based on what I saw.
  • I predict there will never be a launch of a human into space by a large American company in the USA. The risk of litigation in the case of a mishap will prevent the US from participating in the private manned space race. Though I will retract my prediction if Congress ever passes real tort reform, but I expect the government of the USA will fall before actual tort reform passes.

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