Soviet Gear, Internet Funds Drive Other Vehicles
By Frank Morring, Jr.
Source: Aviation Week & Space Technology
Dula has a long history working with Russian space companies, going back to the early days of the post-Soviet Russian Federation. His company management includes a couple of cosmonauts, and its list of advisers includes George Abbey, who helped oversee the merger of the U.S. and Russian government space-station efforts as director of Johnson Space Center and a staffer on the old White House Space Council.
Dula says Excalibur Almaz has raised $49 million to reach this point, and is working on “bridge” financing to market its wares. The company has an “expedition” model for financing its operations, with the customers paying for the outfitting and use of the space assets. Dula cites a study he commissioned with Futron Corp. that suggests there are a few dozen potential customers with the funds and interest to buy tickets.
“Do they need a telescope?” he says. “Do they want to mount a tether to drag on the lunar surface to pick up surface samples, do they want to do scientific work in zero gravity? We're just building the expedition.”
Blue Origin received $25.7 million from NASA in the first two rounds of the Commercial Crew Development effort, but did not bid on the Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) round that distributed $1.1 billion among Boeing, Sierra Nevada and SpaceX. It declined comment on whether it will take part in the human-rating competition NASA is running in parallel with the CCiCap development.
In May, company officials said Blue Origin is at work on separate vehicles for two different flight profiles. The New Shepherd suborbital vertical-takeoff-and-landing spacecraft would fly space tourists and scientific researchers and return to a powered landing. An unnamed seven-seat orbital capsule would use the Atlas V to reach space initially, although the company has plans “several years in the future” to build its own partially reusable launch vehicle to propel its human space vehicle to orbit (AW&ST May 7, p. 29).