Michael Griffin reported to work late last month as the 11th administrator of NASA. By his own admission, Griffin will be “spending a good deal of my time reviewing our progress toward returning the space shuttle safely to flight,” so it remains to be seen if his experience as a flight instructor and instrument-rated multi-engine pilot will result in a renewed emphasis on aeronautics research.
In the race for space tourism dollars, Oklahoma-based Rocketplane is vying for a head start by refurbishing hardy Learjet 25 airframes as the platforms for suborbital reusable launch vehicles capable of carrying up to four people to altitudes of 330,000 feet.
Two teams, one American and one Canadian, are poised to capture the Ansari X Prize by mid-October, having announced initial launch dates of their privately funded suborbital space vehicles within days of each other.
Before it adjourned for its summer recess, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted to authorize an extra $1.3 billion for NASA over the next two years to fund earlier cuts in aeronautics research.
Reno start-up Aerion, which is developing a supersonic business jet (SSBJ), is evaluating different means of demonstrating full-scale supersonic natural laminar flow performance, including use of a rocket sled. To verify the feasibility of such a test, the company plans to conduct an evaluation test on a supersonic rocket sled at Sandia National Laboratories, Livermore, Calif., this summer.