Although NewSpace companies are already revolutionizing some market segments such as the the smallsat industry, progress in other areas, notably launch systems, has been much slower, with the clear exception of SpaceX.
Two companies which harbor long term crew capable orbital ambitions, Virgin Galactic and XCOR, are on the threshold of beginning suborbital passenger flights, and both will soon be offering smallsat launch services as well, where they will be joined by Swiss Space Systems. Based on a recent FAA approval, Blue Origin seems to be making progress, but in reality has made more news recently concerning what it does not want SpaceX to do (occupy KSC Pad 39A) than what it is actually has in the works.
That leaves Paul Allen’s Stratolaunch project as the only other notable NewSpace entrant actually developing hardware in support of medium lift or greater crew capable systems. As a previous story on the venture examines, the selection of a fully expendable solid fueled booster from Orbital Sciences would appear to seriously negate any opportunity for the Stratolaunch system to change the economics of space launch. If SpaceX is successful in achieving first stage recovery and re-use with the Falcon 9 at any point, the business case for Stratolaunch is going to get even more difficult.
That is not to say there will not be one at all. The ability being offered by the company, to conduct a more affordable space launch from altitude and to almost any orbit will be a powerful draw for certain customers, but it is difficult to see as a game changer. Still, it is progress, and in the long run the giant, twin hulled carrier aircraft might be expected to be launching a very different booster than the one it is going to use for its initial operations. Into that environment steps a new Executive Director, Charles Beames.
From PR NewsWire:
SEATTLE, Feb. 26, 2014 /PRNewswire/ — Vulcan Inc., the investment and project management company founded by Paul G. Allen, today announced that Charles Beames has joined Vulcan as the Executive Director, Stratolaunch. Beames brings a unique combination of leadership and expertise in space and military systems, engineering, legislative affairs and business.
Beames’ 30-year legacy in the Department of Defense includes the development and deployment of transformational airborne, ground- and space-based systems. In his new role, Beames will be responsible for creating and executing the strategic plan to realize Paul Allen’s vision of revolutionizing space transportation. He will provide overall technical leadership, project oversight and business development, all to ensure key milestones and program objectives are met.
Prior to joining Vulcan, Beames was a member of the Senior Executive Service and last served as the Principal Director, Space and Intelligence to the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, where he provided acquisition and technical oversight of a $90B space portfolio for the U.S. Department of Defense. In this role, his notable achievements include restructuring space launch acquisitions to ensure a more competitive and commercially viable industry and overseeing the acquisition restructuring of the Global Positioning System (GPS) constellation to ensure future operating ability.
“I’m excited to welcome Chuck to my executive leadership team,” said Paul Allen. “His experience and passion for space make him an invaluable asset, and he’ll play a key role in overseeing our progress in the next stage of development and the transition to full operations.” “Stratolaunch is the next step in America’s drive for even more viable and flexible commercial space transportation and is positioned to transform orbital access with its innovative air-launch system,” said Beames. “I’m honored to join Vulcan at this critical moment and look forward to realizing Stratolaunch’s vision.”
A graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy with degrees in engineering mechanics and material science, Beames also holds a Master of Science in mechanical engineering (thermal design) from Johns Hopkins University and a Master of Science degree in national security strategy from the National War College. Early in his career, he was designated a National Academy of Engineering “Top 100 Young Engineers in the U.S.” and is a recipient of both the Secretary of Defense Meritorious Civilian Service Award and the Defense Superior Service Medal.