Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Meanwhile, in Suborbit ...

The NASTAR Center's Space Training Simulator. Image source:

While the Space Coast focuses on commercial crew and cargo flights to the International Space Station, a nascent suborbital space flight industry is finding its own niche.

Aviation Week reports that the the National AeroSpace Training And Research (Nastar) facility in suburban Philadelphia has trained more than 240 students for suborbital commercial flight.

Exhilaration is growing across the commercial spaceflight field, as policy changes in Washington and progress on a wide range of commercial-space ventures feed anticipation that the terrestrial economy is about to leap into low Earth orbit ...

Nastar is a harbinger of things to come in commercial space. The big money remains focused on launching government cargos and crews to the International Space Station (ISS) on for-hire spacecraft built with at least some private investment. The outlook there remains uncertain, but getting amateurs ready to fly to the edge of space is starting to generate some return on investment.

Nastar has simulators for flights on Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo and on the Atlas V, the launch vehicle of choice for three of the four Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) participants.

But while the big boys are banking on government seed money and the promise of big government contracts—NASA is ready to spend $3.5 billion with Orbital and SpaceX for 20 commercial cargo deliveries to the space station—a gaggle of smaller companies are already at work on spaceflight apps they believe will be pots of gold in the sky. Most of the near-term apps are necessarily based on suborbital spaceflight, but the private sector already is in business on the space station as well.

Click here to visit the NASTAR Center's web site.

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