Revolutionary flight opportunities
Although the space age is more than 50 years old, the current space paradigm is rather constrained. Space activities are still dominated by government programmes and their commercial contractors. Telespazio VEGA is confident that we are about to experience a major shift in suborbital space access.
For over a decade, Telespazio VEGA has been monitoring suborbital reusable launch vehicle (sRLV) developments. New entrepreneurial ventures are developing suborbital commercial systems to serve both existing and new markets. All of the new entrepreneurial ventures are founded by individuals from outside the established space industry.
They are focusing their initial efforts on suborbital reusable launch vehicles (sRLV) that cross the threshold of space (about 100km) instead of an orbital RLV, mainly because they require significantly less funding and because they can be developed and tested more rapidly.
The sRLV typically offer one to four minutes of microgravity at the apex of flight and vary between vertical take-off and landing (e.g. UP Aerospace) and horizontally launched winged vehicles (e.g. XCOR Aerospace). Numerous sRLV – mainly from the US – are currently in active planning, development or operation as shown in the following figure.
Telespazio VEGA has been actively promoting the rapidly emerging market of commercial suborbital spaceflight and, with its first flight opportunity, taken the initial steps discussed during the workshop SubSpace 2011 and Next Generation Suborbtial Researchers Conference (NSRC) in 2012.
Two German universities were the first clients to take the opportunity of flying their scientific payload – material sciences experiments with fluids and gases - on board Armadillo Aerospace’s sRLV named “Suborbital Transport with Inertial Guidance” (STIG-B). With the successful test flights of Blue Origin’s New Shepard suborbital vehicle, demonstrating the engineering feat of a powered, vertical rocket booster landing, another German university experiment is poised to take advantage of their first payload carrying flight in 2016.
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It is our goal to enable organisations to take advantage of the opportunities offered by sRLVs.
Just like us, the providers have achieved technical and business maturity to serve and expand the market. On the one hand there exists the commercial suborbital space access providers; on the other hand there is a scientific community and commercial industry with R&D experiment types as well as unconventional future applications. These two entities are worlds apart in some ways. We offer the bridging factor between these two domains to smooth the suborbital flight process.
Telespazio VEGA provides an end-to-end package of services for each key step of the suborbital flight, from initial enquiry through payload integration, to the return of the payload to its customer after the flight. In detail, the following services are included:
- Assessment of the payload to determine the best fit among the launch providers
- Contractual services to ensure all legal, regulatory and fiscal requirements are fully met
- Logistics services to transport the experimental payload to/from the launch site
- Integration services to ensure the payload can operate as expected aboard the vehicle
- Operations support from pre-launch through payload recovery
- Consultation services to tailor current and future customer needs to specific flight services
Since Telespazio VEGA offers sRLV flight services via a range of systems and operators, it allows customers increased flight opportunities and reduced costs. We help to choose the right vehicle for the particular experiment, considering all aspects of a successful suborbital flight.
Customers should take maximum advantage of these new capabilities!
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There are many different research areas that can currently benefit from suborbital space access as well as lesser known future applications and markets. Basic and applied research under microgravity has great potential in the domain of earth/space science, biological, physical, and human subjects. Material production and testing can take advantage of the reduced sedimentation and buoyancy environment. Brands and products flown on suborbital vehicles can be promoted with an innovative, prestigious, and high tech angle. In addition, these suborbital vehicles can open up other capabilities such as satellite deployment, remote sensing, point-to-point transportation.
New entrepreneurial ventures are developing sRLVs to provide a competitive way to access microgravity. They seek to offer a more flexible, efficient, cost-effective and frequent access to space for spaceflight participants and payloads. SRLVs will be able to achieve much higher levels of reliability and safety than expendable vehicles.
These sRLV companies are creating a new spaceflight industry targeting high flight rates, quick turnaround, and relatively low costs. Across providers, anticipated operational capabilities include delivering up to 600 kg of cargo capacity to an altitude over 100 km, providing several minutes of microgravity and performing multiple flights per day. As a result, these untraditional suborbital vehicles will be less expensive per minute of microgravity than simulators (drop towers, parabolic flights, and sounding rockets).
Shape the market with us
The baseline for suborbital space activities is the increasing interest in space tourism. However, proving they are safe enough to fly passengers will require many test flights, which means the first revenue earning flights will carry science and engineering payloads instead of “space tourist” passengers.
One example of an area that is currently exploiting this new access to microgravity is biomedical research. It is currently producing unique results that will benefit greatly for the improved access enabled by sRLV services.
We do not know what these future markets will be - but you will know if you decide to shape the market with us. We are certain that the microgravity market will be very diverse and can be expected to develop rapidly, once the full range of sRLV services become available.
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