‘Earthie’ Plushie Toy Sold Out After Making Waves Onboard The ISS

The successful and historic first flight test of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon carried an adorable cargo to the International Space Station on March 2. Earthie …

Little Earthie meets Mother Earth in a photo taken by NASA astronaut Anne McClain. SpaceX’s “super high tech zero-g indicator” plushie has sold out, according to its maker Celestial Buddies. The company promised that the famous toy will go back in stock in April. ( Anne McClain | Twitter )

The successful and historic first flight test of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon carried an adorable cargo to the International Space Station on March 2.

Earthie, a blue and green plushie that has arms and legs, joined the dummy pilot, Ripley, in a journey toward low-orbit, and spent the past week observing astronauts do their workinside the orbiting outpost.

Unfortunately, for anyone who wants to take home the stuffed toy, its maker Celestial Buddies announced that Earthie had completely sold out.

Famous Toy

In a post on its website, the company revealed that it had no idea that the toy will be flying alongside Ripley, who is named after Sigourney Weaver’s character in Alien, during the flight test. Little Earthie was a last minute addition to the mission to serve as a “super high tech zero-g indicator.”

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk shared a video of the toy that can be seen floating gently inside the capsule in zero gravity on Twitter.

Earth floats gently in zero gravity pic.twitter.com/XUH3KeDPVe — Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 2, 2019

Celestial Buddies shared that it has received overwhelming interest over the plushie. By the time Crew Dragon lifted off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, its entire inventory had been completely wiped by the number of orders they receive from those who want to take home a memento of the historic event.

Even the astronauts aboard the ISS are completely enamored by the little Earth with its beady eyes and perennially open mouth.

.@AstroAnnimal welcomes humans aboard the first @SpaceX#CrewDragon to visit the station and introduces two special guests, Ripley and Little Earth, ushering in the era of @Commercial_Crew. #LaunchAmericapic.twitter.com/QqzEEgDWzt — Intl. Space Station (@Space_Station) March 3, 2019

Earth Plushies To Go Back On Sale In April

Celestial Buddies promised that it will have more Earth plushies on hand, but those who want one will have to wait until next month.

“We apologize for our current lack of Earths… we have never had a product on backorder before… but we have never had one of our products launched into space before, and we were taken totally by surprise,” the company said.

Celestial Buddies also has other plushies that are equally adorable like the “Our Precious Planet,” which is a larger and more detailed version of Earthie. Perhaps one should get the Mars plushie in anticipation for SpaceX’s journey to the red planet in the future.

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Eric Stallmer on long-awaited space tourism

SpaceX [earlier this month launched] Demo 1, which is a demonstration vehicle that can dock with the Space Station, just not with passengers on it this …

Virgin Galactic, which has been trying to launch space tourism for more than a decade, recently completed its second test flight, renewing predictions it could begin passenger flights as early as this summer. Senior editor Jeri Clausing talked with Eric Stallmer, president of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, about the latest developments.

Q: Are we going to see passenger flights soon from Spaceport America?

Eric Stallmer

Eric Stallmer

A: I think so. … I think they are getting close. I don’t have a specific date, but I know that they have a staff there. That staff is growing. I would not be surprised if later this spring more and more people started getting based out of there to prepare for potential summer flights.

Q: What more do they have to do as far as testing? Are there certain FAA requirements, a checklist of sorts that they have to complete?

A: No, I think they’ve met all the FAA requirements. I think it’s just a cautious redundancy to make sure that all systems are good. You know, they’ve got two test flights under their belt, which is great. The more the better. And they just want to prove out all possible scenarios. And I think that they’re just erring on the side of caution. If you are taking up passengers, that is the best and most sensible approach to take. So I wouldn’t be surprised if they do four more test flights, maybe, and see where that gets them.

Q: You mentioned a race of sorts between companies vying to launch passenger flights. Who else is in the running for flights this summer?

A: Blue Origin. That’s Jeff Bezos’ company. It’s merely speculation on my part … because they hold their cards close to the chest, so to speak.

Q: What is the difference between Virgin Galactic’s spacecraft and Blue Origin’s?

A: They are two entirely different vehicles. Virgin’s is more of a space plane where Bezos’s Blue Origin uses more of a capsule. The Virgin vehicle takes off horizontally and lands horizontally. Blue Origin’s will take off vertically and land vertically. So that’s really two different approaches. I’ve been inside both vehicles. I think both offer ample passenger room to unbuckle and go weightless. And so both will be an incredible experience for the customer.

Q: What about Elon Musk? Isn’t he supposed to be taking someone to the moon?

A: There is a contract out there for him to take a passenger around the moon. It wouldn’t be to the moon. I don’t know the date on that yet. It’s kind of a moving target. It could be 2023 or so.

Q: It looks like 2019 is going to be an exciting year for your group.

A: It’s going to be very, very exciting because it’s not just these two suborbital vehicles with Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic, but it’s also the commercial crew program with SpaceX and Boeing to take astronauts to the International Space Station. SpaceX [earlier this month launched] Demo 1, which is a demonstration vehicle that can dock with the Space Station, just not with passengers on it this time. So they are getting extremely close, and I think Boeing isn’t too far behind.

Q: So are we looking at the potential for space tourism to the Space Station, too?

A: I wouldn’t say immediately, because NASA has first dibs on these commercial space vehicles. But I think by proving out this technology, this will open up a lot of doors to what are the possibilities of bringing passengers to a space station, whether it’s the International Space Station or a commercial space station.

Q: Virgin founder Richard Branson in the past has talked about using his space planes to dramatically reduce the time to fly from, say, New York to Dubai. Is that still on the horizon?

A: I don’t know where Branson and Virgin stand on that, but I do know that there are several companies looking at those hypersonic flights, and I think SpaceX is one of them. The idea of point-to-point travel, of being able to get from Washington to Singapore in an hour and a half, is very appealing.

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Futuristic entrepreneurs are helping us reach for the stars

The latest giant leap belongs to the intrepid Elon Musk and his SpaceX mission. The launch of its privately built Crew Dragon capsule earlier this …

Houston, there is no problem. America is back in the space race.

“We’re really at the forefront,” says US President Trump. “Nobody is doing what we’re doing.”

He’s right. But in a break with tradition, the US is now leaning on its entrepreneurs, rather than the Federal Reserve, to fund its interplanetary aspirations.

The latest giant leap belongs to the intrepid Elon Musk and his SpaceX mission. The launch of its privately built Crew Dragon capsule earlier this month opened “a new era in American excellence”, according to the head of Nasa.

And in February, SpaceX’s Falcon managed its first safe re-entry. In doing so, it went straight into the record books at warp-speed as the most powerful operational rocket in the world.

Hot on the tail of the SpaceX and Tesla founder are Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and his Blue Origin venture and Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, both seeking to take tourists to the edge of space.

The President’s response to the baton being handed over from public to private? It’s “better than us paying for them”. Not least, he said, because of the finances. “If the government did it, the same thing would have cost probably 40 or 50 times that amount of money.”

Again, he has a point. SpaceX lists the price of a Falcon 9 rocket launch as $62m, which is a phenomenal saving on the funds that past US governments ploughed into space exploration.

Remember it was President John F Kennedy who framed the dream of “landing a man on the moon”, and then commissioned Apollo with eye-watering amounts of public money.

According to John Logsdon, former director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University: “in 2010 dollars, the Apollo project cost $151bn; by comparison, the Manhattan Project cost $2bn and the Panama Canal, $8.1bn.”

Successive governments signed a lot of cheques to keep the US up in space, but the state could only go so far. Indeed, in recent years it seemed that the dream was dead – until entrepreneurs took up the torch.

And let’s come back down to earth. From the prospects of the 100-year life to cures for cancer and the search for singularity, enterprise is increasingly the driver of positive progress and uplifting change for more and more of us.

Yet, if you dip into science fiction, you’ll know that all too often the private sector is the proverbial bad guy. Check out the dystopian future of Blade Runner or Alien, and it’s an evil corporation that sits at the heart of inter-galactic havoc.

The state, in contrast, is more often than not portrayed as the benign force. Take the new Netflix revamp of Star Trek – a smorgasbord of public ownership wrapped up in a cuddly federation of planets.

But the truth needs to stand in the way of a good story. If you’re looking to those with the most optimistic vision of our future, you’ll probably find it in business.

That’s not to say that business doesn’t have its villains, but rather that every time a politician makes a grandiose statement about the future, it’s more than likely from here on in to be a game-changing entrepreneur that turns the rhetoric into reality.

The United Nations could therefore do well by driving the idea that the way to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals is to ally them to the future talents, passions and vision of our entrepreneurs.

Governments and activists should be celebrating the hope that, someday soon, a billion-dollar unicorn could be a purposeful and profitable solution to some of our greatest challenges.

If you believe that capitalism is a curse, this is isn’t the column for you. But you might want to park the prejudice.

In a world where the World Bank has estimated that 69 of the globe’s top economies are corporations, it’s in all of our interests that business delivers on its potential as a positive force for change.

From this vantage point, even space exploration could – in the long run – seem like one of the more limited breakthroughs that next generation capitalists could deliver.

Think instead of pressing problems closer to home that could have an innovative commercial answer – like the reversal of global warming through the replacement of carbon fuels, or the end to the blight of plastic through new degradable technologies.

Back to President Trump once more. “Rich guys, they love rocket ships,” he said. Just over a century ago, two young entrepreneurs, the Wright brothers, had the same seemingly privileged hobbies to do with the novelty of flight and the gumption to make a dream come true – which we have to thank for commercial air travel.

So, next time you buckle up in a 747 or a Dreamliner, rest easy that it was an entrepreneur’s dream that made it happen.

And don’t stop there, because it will be entrepreneurs, seeking to boldly go to infinity and beyond, who will be the reason why a great many more of us will soon be able to reach for the stars.

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As Space Industry Booms, Sourcing for Aerospace Contract Manufacturing Takes Off

The private aerospace industry is in the news, as Elon Musk’s SpaceX recently launched its unmanned Crew Dragon capsule, which successfully …

This Thomas Index Report is sponsored by Airmods LLC, a leading provider of engineering and fabrication support for aircraft modification centers.

Hello. In this week’s Thomas Index Report, we’re going to take a look at sourcing activity for Aerospace Contract Manufacturing by users of the Thomasnet.com platform. Our data shows that over the past six months, sourcing activity for this category is up 33% over its historical average. In addition, our data shows that sourcing activity is also up 18% or more in the related categories of Aerospace Heat Treating and Aerospace Machining.

The private aerospace industry is in the news, as Elon Musk’s SpaceX recently launched its unmanned Crew Dragon capsule, which successfully docked with the international space station. After the closing of the space shuttle program in 2011, NASA turned to SpaceX and Boeing to each deliver their own solution for bringing U.S. astronauts to the space station. It’s expected that sometime this summer, both companies will launch crews toward the station.

Other companies, such as Sierra Nevada Corp. and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, are also developing crew transport vehicles. This is in addition to the dozens of private sector launch vehicle makers that are either developing or are already successfully launching rockets to deliver nonhuman payloads into orbit.

Beyond solutions for delivering humans, satellites, robots, and platforms to orbit the earth, NASA is working with private companies to develop commercial lunar landers and other solutions for future missions to the moon. This effort follows a presidential space policy directive signed in 2017, one that directed NASA to focus on a return to the lunar surface, with an ultimate goal of missions that bring humans to Mars. Today, NASA, SpaceX, and Boeing are all involved in projects designed to deliver space crews to the red planet.

Overall, the U.S. space industry is a booming business, with a huge amount of private investment flowing into the sector. According to Bryce Space and Technology, venture capitalists alone invested 1.6 billion dollars in the industry in 2017, for a wide range of startup companies working on everything from satellite antennas to 3D-printed rocket engines. As the private sector expands its role in exploring the final frontier, we expect sourcing for aerospace-related services to continue on an upward trend.

Moving on from Aerospace, here’s a look at the top ten industrial product and service categories being sourced on the Thomasnet.com platform over the past four weeks.

  1. Steel
  2. Contract Manufacturing
  3. Material Handling Equipment
  4. CNC Machining
  5. Injection Molded Plastics
  6. Packaging
  7. Plastic Bottles
  8. Corrugated Boxes
  9. Printed Circuit Boards
  10. Food Products

To get this weekly Thomas Index Report — as well as daily news and information for industry — please sign up for our Thomas Industry Update newsletter at Thomasnet.com/ Updates.

Thanks for watching, and I’ll see you next week.

Image Credit: Thomas


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For HyperSciences, geothermal energy builds a path to space

Musk has Tesla plus SpaceX, and Bezos has Amazon plus Blue Origin. Now, meet Mark Russell, a disciple of Bezos and rocket engineer who …

These days, it seems anyone wanting to launch rockets will inevitably be compared to Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, especially if rocket launching isn’t the only business interest on the agenda. Musk has Tesla plus SpaceX, and Bezos has Amazon plus Blue Origin. Now, meet Mark Russell, a disciple of Bezos and rocket engineer who founded HyperSciences, a drilling company that uses aerospace technology to both quickly extract underground geothermal energy and put payloads into orbit at low cost.

The idea of leveraging Earth’s geothermal energy is not a new concept, but the expense and time required to reach the depth needed have been prohibitively expensive. That’s where HyperSciences comes in.

Russell and his team have developed a low-cost, multi-purpose projectile called the HyperDrone that can accelerate to velocities over five times the speed of sound and pulverize hard rock via their HyperDrill. This will enable tunneling speeds that are 5-10 times quicker than conventional methods, and more importantly, it opens up significant market viability in other industries that could benefit, namely when that acceleration is pointed skyward. NASA has already recognized this potential and is a current investor and major partner of HyperSciences.

Bringing accessible, affordable, and true green energy to the international arena is onely one component in Russell’s overarching goal in life. In a way reminiscent of the founder of another famous digging enterprise, The Boring Company, HyperSciences’ founder has both roots in space exploration and a long-term vision for a paradigm shift in space launch capabilities using the same basic technology employed in his digging operations. In fact, launching projectiles up was what inspired him to launch them down deep into the ground in the first place.

“I would not have left ‘conventional’ aerospace unless there was a path forward for spaceflight,” Russell told me in a conversation we had about his vision for his company’s inventions beyond Earth’s atmosphere. He was referring to his decision to leave Blue Origin after he’d led their crew capsule and vertical takeoff and landing vehicle development to found HyperSciences. I’d heard that Russell had history with the Bezos-led rocket company, but as a lifelong space nerd, I was very excited to hear the extent of his background in aerospace and how it tied into just about everything about his drilling company.

“I was the black sheep of the family that went into the aerospace arena instead of into mining,” he told me, jokingly, before reminiscing about his amateur astronomy hobby and desire to be an astronaut in his younger days. Russell is the third generation of a family of successful miners from Idaho.

It is Rocket Science

The future HyperSciences founder obtained a master’s degree in Aero Astro Engineering from Stanford University before spending some engineering time at Boeing first, then Kistler Aerospace, where he worked with a man who would eventually become Blue Origin’s first president, Rob Meyerson. Russell made the transition to Jeff Bezos’s space venture himself for a time, but as the company moved more in the direction of becoming a traditional launch provider, he made the decision to circle back around to his family mining days where he’d been considering some underground-type space industry ideas that needed more attention to flesh out.

The result of that return home would eventually lead to the invention of the HyperDrilland the step-change Russell was looking for to be able to turn his attention skyward again. “My brother and I drilled the deepest holes in America right after I left Blue Origin, and it all seemed like rocket science to me,” he recalled.

So, how does a drill transform into a rocket? While the technology itself is the product of very innovative and intelligent minds, the concept overall is simple. A projectile (or rocket payload, rather) is loaded into a long tube that’s been drilled underground, and then fuel is ignited in the bottom of the tube to propel it at hypersonic speed towards space, a second transfer stage possibly being implemented for orbital entry. The company calls the actual launching device the HyperCore Engine. By essentially separating the fuel and the payload of a rocket, the process of putting things into orbit becomes cheaper, safer, and achievable at a much faster rate of launch than anything even being planned by the likes of SpaceX and Blue Origin.

This kind of technology proposition gained NASA’s interest, and HyperSciences has since won a Phase I innovation award for from the agency, the testing for which was successfully completed at Spaceport America in New Mexico at the end of January this year. With this achievement under their belt, Russell’s long-time spaceflight dreams are really starting to take shape.

Looking Beyond Earth

Tying the team’s mining and space technology ambitions neatly together, Russell also told me that his time at Blue Origin contributed more than just direct experience with spaceflight development to his hypersonic launch ambitions. Bezos’s “test early, test often” philosophy was directly relevant to a technology involving speeds 3-6 times the speed of sound – frequent flight testing is a must.

“At this point I realized, you really have to change the paradigm, and you need to test an awful lot,” he explained. “I thought to myself, if you want to practice a lot in hypersonics, what you want to do is find an industry that needs this.” With HyperSciences established and making great progress, Russell’s plan looks to have worked just as he’d imagined. “Every 15 seconds, we’re firing something at hypersonic speeds. Nobody does that. NASA doesn’t do it. Boeing doesn’t do it. But we do it.”

There was yet another aspect to Russell’s plan in developing his technology that I thought was pretty exciting – crowdsourced investment. Unlike SpaceX and Blue Origin where investment isn’t really accessible to day-to-day citizens wanting to be a part of the “next big thing”, HyperSciences’ latest funding round is being hosted by SeedInvest. This approach provides a real ownership opportunity for pretty much anyone excited about things like aerospace and clean energy, and it’s open until March 22, 2019.

“Every 15 seconds, we’re firing something at hypersonic speeds. Nobody does that. NASA doesn’t do it. Boeing doesn’t do it. But we do it.”

As a native space nerd, I also had to prod Russell about taking HyperSciences’ tech to Mars – did he see a place for it there, whether it be for underground geothermal-type energy hunting or habitat digging? Turns out, he was several steps ahead of me. “I think the next bit of space exploration really does need to drill holes,” he said, acknowledging my sentiments about taking the tech off-planet. “In our patents, we have some applications that aren’t terrestrial.” How’s that for forward thinking?

“Hypersonics is not just about space. It’s a brand new way – a brand new engine,” Russell emphasized to me.

The disruptions already caused by Elon Musk in the same arenas HyperSciences is aiming for have made so many inroads where strict boundaries once stood, and it’s very exciting to see another space-driven company come along and want to keep pushing those boundaries into another phase of development all together. Visiting HyperSciences’ SeedInvest page is a great place to learn more details about the company’s plans and the benefits investors can gain by being a part of their future-forward technology.

The video below provides some exciting visuals and information surrounding the aerospace applications for HyperSciences’ technology, as demonstrated for their NASA Phase I funding award.

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