Magazine article Science News

Getting into Orbit - the Non-NASA Way

Magazine article Science News

Getting into Orbit - the Non-NASA Way

Article excerpt

Getting into orbit--the non-NASA way

The idea of sending payloads into orbit as a privately financed, commercial enterprise was a topic of conversation even in the early years of the space program, yet only recently has it seemed to be approaching reality. A major factor has been NASA's decision, following the Challenger explosion, that the only non-NASA payloads eligible to use the space shuttle will be those either specifically requiring the shuttle's capabilities or with national security implications. This month has seen a number of signs of the turning tide.

On May 1, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, whose satellites have heretofore been launched by NASA, announced that for the first time it is now seeking commercial launch services. Responses to its solicitation notice, covering rockets and services to launch five geosynchronous weather satellites (called GOES) beginning in late 1989, are due by June 15, with the winning company or consortium to be selected by early September. The satellites' manufacturer, Ford Aerospace and Communications Corp., was told months ago to modify the devices' design to allow launching by either shuttle or "expendable launch vehicles.'

Last week, a small private concern called Starfind, Inc., in Laguna Niguel, Calif., announced a plan for its proposed series of position-and-navigation satellites (the company's entire raison d'etre) to be launched by another private firm, Space Services, Inc. …

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