SpaceShipOne

It’s been ten years since its first flight into space. Jeff Foust reflects, and he has a new book out to commemorate it:

People have written a lot about this long gap in suborbital spaceflight, and a thorough examination of the causes is beyond the scope of a single post. Virgin Galactic has gone through an extended technical development, including a recent switch in hybrid rocket motors; it now plans to begin flights late this year, about seven years later than its original plans announced in September 2004. XCOR Aerospace’s progress has been hindered at times by limited funding, as Forbes recently reported, although the company announced last month it raised more than $14 million in a Series B funding round that should allow it to bring the Lynx to market. Blue Origin, meanwhile, keeps its plans under tight wraps; it would seem that founder Jeff Bezos, who is also funding the 10,000-Year Clock, is not in a particular rush.

And John Carmack always treated Armadillo as more of a hobby. No, it’s not any single reason (“space is hard”). As I tweeted yesterday, the problem with commercial space, until recently, is that the people with good ideas couldn’t get money to execute them, and the people with the money picked bad ideas. In the case of Virgin, it started when (the late) Jim Benson sold Burt Rutan a bill of goods on hybrids, and people who didn’t understand the technology thought that it would scale easily (though it was never a good idea). It all cascaded from there.

[Update a while later]

The top five posts on this page are my reporting that morning from Mojave.

[Sunday-afternoon update]

Dale Amon remembers that day as well.

[Bumped]

SpaceX Launch Attempt

They had to scrub the Orbcomm delivery mission yesterday due to a pressurization issue in the second stage (unclear if it was a vehicle or GSE umbilical problem). They’re making another attempt today, and fueling, but they’re not webcasting. No explanation why, but the disappointment on Twitter is palpable.

[Update a while later]

Another scrub, with no details.

[Update a few minutes later]

Hearing now they got weathered out by lightning 18 minutes before T-0.

Biting Commentary about Infinity…and Beyond!