In 2008, RocketShip Tours began booking passage to the edge of space onboard an XCOR Lynx spacecraft. The Lynx vehicle will carry a pilot and one passenger in a front seat position, offering a unique perspective during flight.
During 2008, Scaled Composites and Virgin Galactic unveiled and conducted the maiden flight of a new airplane, WhiteKnightTwo, a “mother ship” designed to carry SpaceShipTwo into the upper atmosphere, launch the spacecraft into a suborbital trajectory, and return to base. SpaceShipTwo has room for six passengers and two pilots.
Smartphones are advanced mobile phones with features similar to personal computers. Devices released in 2008 such as the Apple iPhone 3G and the T-Mobile G1 put the power of space products and services into pockets everywhere.
In 2008, ICO Global Communications began testing a mobile TV service using a satellite over the United States designed to deliver up to 15 television channels for entertainment starting in 2010. ICO also plans to offer navigation and emergency services and is experimenting with delivering Internet service to cars.
Japan’s Quasi-Zenith Satellite System will supplement GPS coverage over areas of Japan that prove difficult with GPS alone. The first launch is expected in 2010.
The Global Navigation Satellite System, or GLONASS, is the Russian equivalent of the U.S. GPS and is designed for both military and civilian use. The network became operational in 1995, but declined during Russia’s economic downturn and is in the process of being reconstituted. In 2008, the system added ## additional satellites to expand the constellation to ##. However, GLONASS signals are encoded in such a way that equipment manufacturers cannot easily incorporate them into user terminals compatible with GPS or some of the newer global navigation satellite systems coming on line.
The U.S. Navigation Signal Timing and Ranging Global Positioning System (NAVSTAR GPS or GPS) is the only fully operational satellite-based navigation network. Best known from its widespread commercial applications, the network was deployed and is operated by the U.S. Air Force. The GPS fleet consists of ## satellites in MEO, and has been in full operation since 1995.
Bigelow Aerospace, an entrepreneurial company, is developing a second type of in-space platform: an inflatable habitat. Essentially a compressed module that expands once deployed in space, the habitat is designed to accommodate experiments and sustain human occupants in the future.
In addition to satellites and spacecraft, a third major facet of in-space activity involves in-space platforms. In-space platforms are facilities or modules constructed or placed in space with the intention of creating a permanent or semi-permanent location and resource base for staging further space activities. The International Space Station is the only operational in-space platform.
The SpaceShipTwo vehicle, scheduled to begin commercial service by 2010, is the product of The Spaceship Company, a joint venture between Scaled Composites and Virgin Galactic. The design of SpaceShipTwo is similar to that of SpaceShipOne, the only suborbital spacecraft with a demonstrated capacity for carrying humans. A carrier aircraft, WhiteKnightTwo, unveiled in July 2008, is designed to carry SpaceShipTwo to launch altitude and release the spacecraft, which will then ignite rockets to achieve suborbital altitude before returning to the Earth. SpaceShipTwo can accommodate up to six passengers and two pilots. In addition to human suborbital spaceflight, Virgin Galactic has explored the idea of launching suborbital cargoes aboard SpaceShipTwo, such as U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration climatology experiments.