FAA denies Wally Funk her Commercial Astronaut wings?

This seems fairly needlessly petty:

Federal aviation regulators have made a rare change to the requirements for its Commercial Astronaut Wings Program, meaning Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos may not officially be recognized for his spaceflight this week.

The Federal Aviation Administration changed rules for the program on the same day Bezos, his brother and two others made their historic first commercial spaceflight on Tuesday.

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Blue Origin launches, lands successfully.

Looks like it all went without a hitch.

Points to Bezos for being on the first one, too. I’m not ashamed to admit that in his place I might have been more thoughtful about acquiring that particular honor. Although I’d like to think I would have gone for it, too.

Billionaire Branson’s Blastoff Beats Bezos.

There are worse things for billionaires to compete over.

Richard Branson reached space on a test flight for Virgin Galactic before gliding back to earth and touching down safely Sunday, the latest salvo in the burgeoning space tourism business led by high-profile billionaires.

The Virgin Group founder launched Sunday with three company employees, flying 53 miles above the earth in a final test mission before kicking off commercial space flights next year. Branson – who earned his pilot’s license – tested the astronaut cabin experience.

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USAF officially interested in SpaceX’s upcoming line of suborbital strategic transport shuttles.

Excuse me: ‘Starships.’

“The Department of the Air Force seeks to leverage the current multi-billion dollar commercial investment to develop the largest rockets ever, and with full reusability to develop and test the capability to leverage a commercial rocket to deliver AF cargo anywhere on the Earth in less than one hour, with a 100-ton capacity,” the document states.

Continue reading USAF officially interested in SpaceX’s upcoming line of suborbital strategic transport shuttles.

Much as I would like to believe in native Martian Death Fungus…

…I suspect that if that fungus actually exists there, it’s because it came along for the ride. And that ‘if’ is a big if. I don’t think we’d be able to really tell without sending somebody to actually look, preferably with a full biolab included.

Moe Lane

PS: Yes, I’m assuming that the fungus would try to kill us. I don’t trust fungus in the slightest. Not on Earth, and definitely not any hypothetical Martian equivalent. I’ve seen zombie flicks. My kid played The Last of Us. I know how this ends.

PRC’s Long March 5b incompetently put in orbit, likely to irresponsibly deorbit.

I understand that the People’s Republic of China labors under the limitation of a third-rate political and economic ideology, but really, orbital mechanics are hardly new: “China launched the first module for its space station into orbit late Wednesday, but the mission launcher also reached orbit and is slowly and unpredictably heading back to Earth.” One does hope that it doesn’t land on anything populated.

Continue reading PRC’s Long March 5b incompetently put in orbit, likely to irresponsibly deorbit.

Blue Origins lodges complaint with GAO over SpaceX.

It’s about NASA lunar lander contract: “The protest focuses on the decision to award only one company, SpaceX, the lunar lander contract from a three-way competition. Alabama-based Dynetics also had developed a lunar lander for the contest.” (Via Instapundit) …Look, I like Amazon just fine. Amazon Prime, affiliate revenue, it’s my publisher.

But… Blue Origins is a privately funded spaceflight research organization that brings payloads along for the ride, and SpaceX is an unmanned and manned orbital transport enterprise. I have no doubt (and some hopes) that Jeff Bezos will eventually have an extremely profitable company and a fleet of silver rocketships; it’s just that, in the meantime, we’re trying to get back to the moon before I die of old age. Well, that’s maybe not NASA’s specific rationale – but it absolutely should be. I’d have given SpaceX the contract, too: they’ve got direct experience at this point. That includes, again, manned missions.

Moe Lane

Blue Origin has successful New Shepard launch.

Meanwhile, in real engineering

Blue Origin completed another test flight of its New Shepard vehicle April 14, putting the company on the verge of finally flying people.

Blue Origin’s New Shepard vehicle lifted off from the company’s West Texas test site, known as Launch Site One by the company, at 12:51 p.m. Eastern. The capsule, separating from its booster after the powered phase of flight, reached a peak altitude of about 106 kilometers before parachuting to a soft landing 10 and a half minutes after liftoff, three minutes after the booster made a powered landing.

Video here. New Shepard’s close enough to a rocketship to make me smile: as they say, it goes up on a pillar of fire and comes down on a pillar of fire, just like God and Bob Heinlein intended. If only they didn’t have to pop off the top every time… oh, well, it’s early days yet.