Dreaming of Suitcases in Space

Daisuke Wakabayashi in The New York Times:

The mission to turn space into the next frontier for express deliveries took off from a modest propeller plane above a remote airstrip in the shadow of the Santa Ana mountains. Shortly after sunrise on a recent Saturday, an engineer for Inversion Space, a start-up that’s barely a year old, tossed a capsule resembling a flying saucer out the open door of an aircraft flying at 3,000 feet. The capsule, 20 inches in diameter, somersaulted in the air for a few seconds before a parachute deployed and snapped the container upright for a slow descent. “It was slow to open,” said Justin Fiaschetti, Inversion’s 23-year-old chief executive, who anxiously watched the parachute through the viewfinder of a camera with a long lens.

The exercise looked like the work of amateur rocketry enthusiasts. But, in fact, it was a test run for something more fantastical. Inversion is building earth-orbiting capsules to deliver goods anywhere in the world from outer space. To make that a reality, Inversion’s capsule will come through the earth’s atmosphere at about 25 times as fast as the speed of sound, making the parachute essential for a soft landing and undisturbed cargo.

More here.