Transformational Space Corporation, or t/Space for short, yesterday drop-tested a full-sized mockup of their proposed space capsule from a helicopter at 10,000 feet. This photo was taken from another helicopter rented by Popular Science (t/Space chipped in too) in hopes of getting a good shot for their October cover. I haven’t seen those photos yet, but if this one from one of t/Space’s people is any indication, it’ll be spectacular. I was angling to get on the chopper too, since it’s my story the PopSci photography will accompany, but the thing was too small to accommodate me as well as everyone else. Still a great feeling to know that it’s because of my story that any of this photography even exists. And one of t/Space’s NASA liaisons got to ride in the copilot’s seat for a ringside seat. Also good. Gotta keep the customer satisfied.

While most of the press is focused on the latest shuttle woes, these guys are quietly building what could very well become America’s next spaceship. So far I have the scoop on them (though that won’t last long). I’ve been on this story since May when I met t/Space CEO David Gump at the International Space Development Conference in D.C. PopSci signed me on for a small feature in the November issue, and my story was perking along at a nice steady pace until July 26, when space shuttle Discovery almost got nailed by the same flying foam problem that doomed Columbia two and a half years ago. Suddenly a low-cost program to build NASA a backup spaceship got a whole lot more relevant, especially since now all the shuttles are grounded indefinitely. My story got fast tracked to the October issue, which was then in progress. I don’t know what poor soul got bumped to make room for me, but there I’ll be, with my second cover story this year. Should be on stands mid-to-late September.

Check out Gump’s press release on the drop.

Also check out my coverage of t/Space’s last series of drop-tests for Wired News.

Stay tuned to this space for new developments on the opening of the final frontier to us regular folks; they’ll come hard and fast now. This is it, right here and now, the beginning of a brand new space age. Welcome to history.