Commercial Spaceflight

Termination shock

By Jonathan O'Callaghan

October 1, 2023

Starship’s slow-motion destruction in April was a rare example of a rocket’s flight termination system failing to do its job adequately. Such a failure could put people on the ground at risk, and so, SpaceX must prove to FAA that it has a fix in hand before the agency permits the company to launch its next Starship. Jonathan O’Callaghan takes us inside the technology.

Space adventurer

By Cat Hofacker

October 1, 2023

Per Wimmer, a founding astronaut at Virgin Galactic

Live from the moon in HD

By Jon Kelvey

July 1, 2023

NASA will soon pick a pool of vendors to help it achieve an ambitious plan: Delivering high-definition video of astronauts on the moon to the public and a torrent of scientific information to scientists. Jon Kelvey tells the story.

Fixing Starship

By Jonathan O'Callaghan

July 1, 2023

Looking at history, the safe bet is that SpaceX will ultimately resolve the troubles that marred its first attempt to get a Starship spacecraft into space. At the moment, SpaceX faces technical and legal challenges that could slow its hopes for a quick return to flight for its Starship-Super Heavy combination and also complicate efforts to start launching the vehicles from Florida. Jonathan O’Callaghan investigates.

Sticking the landing

June 1, 2023

Touching down on the moon safely, accurately and autonomously will require highly capable cameras and software. Dominic Maggio and Brett Streetman of Draper take us inside the flight testing of their team’s landing system.

Opening new orbits for satellite operators

September 1, 2022

Some of the most creative entrepreneurs and researchers can’t afford to buy an entire rocket to deliver their wares precisely into their preferred orbits. Often, they must compromise or expend fuel maneuvering their spacecraft after launch. Matteo Bartolini of D-Orbit describes the challenges his company faced to develop a line of satellite transporters that could be the answer.

Bending the cost curve

May 1, 2022

SpaceX’s breakthroughs in reusability sprang from the lessons of history. The coming Starship space launch attempt portends an even more profound lowering of launch costs in the years ahead. Phil Moynihan and Eugene Ustinov share their analysis.

Spaceplane catalyst

By Debra Werner

October 1, 2020

No one without the right clearance knows exactly what the U.S. Air Force’s X-37B spaceplanes do in orbit, but it must be a lot given the cumulative years they’ve spent up there. The vehicles are sparking a resurgence of interest in spaceplanes as a necessary ingredient for expanding society to space. Debra Werner tells the story.

Managing space traffic

July 1, 2020

Effective guidelines could protect the satellites that are so important in our daily lives and prevent dangerous on-orbit activities. Dean Bellamy says a U.S. Department of Commerce office should receive the funding and authority to get the rules adopted.

Don’t forget the robots

July 1, 2019

Sending an advance team of robots to the moon before U.S. astronauts arrive in 2024 would provide unprecedented opportunities for joint human-robotic exploration and testing. Gordon Roesler, formerly of DARPA, makes the case.

A peek inside The Spaceship Company

By Debra Werner

April 1, 2019

After years of testing and one tragedy, Virgin Galactic plans to start flying tourists to space later this year. Debra Werner captures what the experience will be like.

Dreaming big

By Amanda Miller

July 1, 2018

If all goes as Sierra Nevada Corp. hopes, you’ll soon be hearing a lot more about Dream Chaser, the spacecraft with a history of ups and downs. Amanda Miller toured the new Colorado facility where the first spaceflight version of Dream Chaser will be built.

Meeting millennials

By Amanda Miller

February 1, 2018

Young aerospace professionals' career goals nurtured by love of science

Connection quandry

By Tom Risen

October 31, 2017

The possibility for a larger commercial role in U.S. military and government satcom

Satellite envy

By Keith Button

September 28, 2017

A deep look at one company's plan to go up against satellites with stratospheric balloons

Lunar thriller

By Tom Risen

August 31, 2017

“The Martian” author Andy Weir weaves science with more complex characters living in a city on the moon.

Recycling rockets

By Irene Klotz

August 31, 2017

What it will take for reusable rockets to revolutionize access to space

Strategizing about Mars

By Tom Risen

May 1, 2017

Scientists and policymakers talk about the best path ahead for human space exploration

Green propellant

By Keith Button

March 6, 2017

Experiment could move industry away from longtime propellant

Correcting NASA’s course

By Tom Jones

January 27, 2017

While we should expect a hard look at NASA from his administration, President Donald Trump should give NASA the tools and resources it needs to open space to explorers and commerce.