June 9, 2003 

Interview* with Gary Hudson
Space Entrepreneur & RLV Designer
* via email


If you think it's hard to convince people today that small private space companies can do things that NASA can and can't do, you should have tried it in the 1970s and the pre-Challenger 1980s. Though funding and public interest in the US space program fell drastically by the end of the Moon Race, NASA's victory in that contest gave it tremendous prestige and made it synonymous with all things space for many years afterwards. The suggestion that a startup firm could develop a large rocket vehicle of any sort was usually taken as a joke or worse.

Nevertheless, a few stubborn rocketeers made the effort. Robert Truax, for example, proposed his suborbital space tourist Volksrocket in 1978. Gary Hudson wanted to go for a real spaceship. One that you just get into, takeoff vertically, and go to orbit. You should be able to return safely and repeat the flight within a short time.

Original Roton
Credits: Tom Brosz
Image of the original Roton design with rocket tipped rotors. (Wired - May.1996)

Since the early 1970s he had studied designs for single-stage-to-orbit (SSTO) and vertical takeoff and landing (VTOVL) reusable launch vehicles (RLV) like those proposed by Philip Bono. Gary thought they were within reach and by 1980 was advocating SSTO and VTOVL approaches while everyone else was focused on the new Shuttle program.

In 1982 he founded a company called Pacific American Launch Systems that attempted to develop a small commercial RLV. Unable to raise sufficient funding, the company's Phoenix never flew but Gary continued to pursue the development of SSTOs. In 1989 the Aerospace Corporation did a study of the Phoenix for Vice President Dan Quayle's Space Policy Advisory Board. (Though the report was titled Phoenix:SSX, the vehicle studied differed in several ways from the SSX design of the late Maxwell Hunter). The positive judgement from that report helped to kickoff the successful DC-X demonstrator program of the early 1990s.

In 1996 Gary began working with Bevin McKinney who had invented a radical SSTO concept that used a rocket-tipped rotor propulsion system (Insanely Great? or Just Plain Insane? - Wired - May.1996). The rotors provided lift with the rockets and from the propeller effect while in the atmosphere. Furthermore, the spinning would provide pumping action on the fuel and thus eliminate the weight of separate pumps. The rotors would also provide for a helicopter-like landing.

The company Rotary Rocket was formed to pursue the Roton design and after it raised enough funding to begin hardware development, the company attracted a tremendous amount of attention. Several comsat constellation projects in low earth orbit began around this time and they promised to provide a solid market for a low cost vehicle that could carry replacement satellites to orbit. Excitement grew that finally low cost access to space was at hand. Unfortunately, when Iridium and GlobalStar went bankrupt, investment in Rotary and several other startup RLV companies disappeared and Rotary closed in 2000. However, before the company shut down, it did manage to test the rotor landing system with three low altitude flights of the full scale ATV (Atmospheric Test Vehicle).

Since leaving Rotary, Gary has pursued several projects via his firm HMX. One project involved an interesting proposal for supplying cargo to the ISS with a reusable capsule launched atop an expendable Titan II. Unfortunately, as discussed below, NASA was not enthusiastic about the Alternate Access to Space program and has not pursued any of the AAS proposals.

I contacted Gary via email to discuss the history and status of RLV development and to hear about his current projects. The following is that interaction assembled into a conversational interview format. [Note: I've added links to some of the items that Gary discusses.]

ATV in flight
The Atmospheric Test Vehicle (ATV) in a test fight in 1999. (Rotary Rocket - Wayback machine)

HS: I once heard the physicist Richard Feynman make comments to the effect that he felt extremely frustrated with the slow day-to-day progress being made by theorists in developing a framework for particle physics but when he stepped back and looked at the long term, big picture, he was always surprised by the tremendous progress that had been made.

You've been working on private space related projects for decades now. It must have been incredibly difficult to be taken seriously back in the 70s and 80s when almost everyone took it for granted that only NASA could do anything space related. I know that you are very disappointed with all the setbacks of the past few years, but when you compare today with the early days of private space development, do you see substantial progress or do you feel like we are still struggling just to reach the first rung of the ladder to space?

Hudson: : It is difficult to objectively answer this question. The last few years have been rough for many of the players in the emerging space industry, and often for varying reasons. I guess I would have to say that I feel we have wasted decades and I am both frustrated and angry about that waste.

Time is the one thing we can't buy back. But I will admit that as each year goes by, the scale of the task becomes easier to achieve, and I do believe that real progress is being made. I am continually amazed by how much easier the job of getting to orbit is today than even a few years ago. Software, avionics and manufacturing technology have all improved measurably. This means that the number of people required to design a launch system is continually declining, and since manpower is the single highest cost of any development, this is good news. Very good news, in fact.

In addition, the interest in new projects seems to be increasing, and a heartening sign is that people of means are funding their own projects, such as Elon Musk (SpaceX) and Jeff Bezos (Blue Origin).

HS: When the LEO constellation projects looked very promising in the mid-1990s, suddenly there appeared 4 or 5 startup companies beginning to design and build RLVs to provide replacement satellite services. They faded away when their funding dried up after the constellations went bankrupt. It seems clear to me that if Iridium, Globalstar and Teledesic had been successful that we would have at least 2 or 3 low cost RLVs in operation today.

Yet I still read comments from people in the mainstream aerospace community stating that RLVs are out of reach with today's technology. I've been amazed by the widespread acceptance, for example, that the OSP will need 10 to 15 billion dollars and eight years of development and even then start out with an ELV first stage.

I know you could say a lot about NASA and its internal politics and culture in this regard, but why is it so hard to convince the wider aerospace community of the viability of low cost RLVs?

Phoenix-L SSTO
Credits: Tom Brosz
Phoenix-L SSTO design from the 1980s. See History of the Phoenix ...- reprint at Space Future
Hudson: Let me start by saying that OSP is a joke. No sorry, that was too kind. It is an embarrassment. NASA has totally screwed the pooch on OSP, and one hopes that if there is any justice in Washington DC, they will be called to account and pay a heavy price. The question remains, is there justice?

As for convincing people of the merits of RLVs, I don't bother any longer. Those that get it, get it. Those that don't, don't. Never the 'twain shall meet. What amuses me is how all the major contractors in the SDIO SSRT program of 1991 could show with confidence that VTOL, VTHL and HTHL SSTO would work, some could show it could be accomplished in a few years time for under $2B, and NASA could still fail to build the suborbital X-33 for a similar amount of money.

Ultimately, someone with the power of the purse needs to look NASA in the eye and ask why every single space transportation project attempted by the agency since Shuttle (X-33, X-34, X-37, X-43, X-38, SLI and now OSP) has either failed or been put on life support. And post-Columbia, I might add Shuttle to that failed list.

It is really hard to convince anyone a private team with a few percent of the cash and 1/100th the staff can do better, but history is replete with stories of just how to do that. But first, to clear the air, someone needs to spank NASA and send them to bed without their supper, metaphorically speaking.

HS: You went to the GAO to protest the decision by NASA to reject the HMX proposal for a flight demonstration contract under the SLI program. The legal wording is a bit much for me but was the argument essentially that NASA should order launch services, as instructed by the Commercial Space Act, rather than insist on specifying the details of the vehicle implementation? Though the challenge was denied, do you feel you made your point?

HMX Capsule on a Titan II
Credits: Tom Brosz
Composite image of an HMX XV Transfer capsule on a Titan II to supply cargo to the ISS. Designed under the Alternate Access to Space program.

Hudson: Thousands of words could be written about this matter (and in fact were). When I read the GAO summary I wonder if they and we are talking about the same case. Here is a brief summary of the facts not in dispute.

NASA awarded HMX a contract extension to a 2002 unsolicited $250K contract meant to evaluate the feasibility of reusing Titan II ICBMs in support of the NASA MSFC AAS program. The conclusion of that effort, briefed in November 2001, was that the Titan could be refurbished for AAS missions without significant risk and for about $25 million per flight. HMX had assembled a team including Aerojet, Universal Spacelines, United Paradyne and the Virginia Space Flight Center (Wallops) to accomplish this task. This price per flight was consistent with current manpower loading costs used by Lockheed-Martin for the USAF Titan II SLV program, and all savings over the current Titan costs were well accounted for through the purchase of off-shore propellants, use of modern flight guidance and avionics systems plus lower launch costs at Wallops vis Vandenberg. NASA concurred in the finding and the X-37 Program Office then awarded us a further $250K extension to determine if the Titan II could be used to launch the X-37. We performed that work in cooperation with Boeing Phantom Works (BPW), which received a similar study contract. Both Boeing and HMX concluded that the Titan II could launch the X-37, unshrouded (this is a key point to remember).

The X-37 Program Manager of the date was highly enthusiastic and really wanted to implement the X-37 option. BPW concluded that the Delta II really couldn't do the job and so baselined the HMX option as their primary launcher. HMX also bid a test flight to qualify the stack using a dummy X-37 aeroshell under the TA-10 NRA proposal (part of the SLI effort). Once flown with the dummy payload, the Titan II would have been qualified to launch the X-37 orbital vehicle.

During the proposal effort, as permitted under the terms of the NRA solicitation, HMX regularly engaged in dialogue with NASA MSFC. At one point we informed MSFC that it was our intention to take advantage of a specific clause in the request for proposal that permitted the contractor (HMX) to take "exception and propose deviations" to the form and substance of the NRA TA-10. We did so, explaining that we were going to bid without detailed cost and pricing data, as permitted under the Commercial Space Act of 1998. (Kistler Aerospace had done exactly the same the year before in their successful bid for a TA-10 contract, so we felt we were on firm contractual ground.) Shortly thereafter we received a formal call from the MSFC Contract Office informing us they would not respond to our inquiry (a violation of the NRA rules) and that they would entertain no further discussion with us (also a violation of the rules). The supportive TA-10 Program Manager was reassigned to a new job by Dennis Smith, then SLI Program Manager and now, interestingly enough, the architect of the OSP project. In spite of this negative turn of events, we still made our proposal (and a subcontract proposal for Boeing) since it was too late to do anything else. A few weeks later, we submitted our bid.

The bid was rejected on two principal grounds. One was our refusal to give cost and pricing data, which the law specifically excludes. The other was a technical and schedule objection. NASA made several grievous technical errors (getting the payload to orbit mass wrong by many hundreds of pounds being just one) and made schedule objections which were ludicrous. In one case the GAO quoted NASA as saying the Titan IIs could not be refurbished as fast as we planned because they had been in the desert for 15 years without maintenance, when NASA knew they were kept in pristine condition with regular maintenance by a team of USAF technicians. NASA knew this because they had accompanied HMX to visit the Titan storage facility.

In any case, MSFC refused to give us the award and directed the unwilling BPW to use the Delta II. Of course, only a year later, they have had to abandon Delta II since it can't perform the mission, and are now proposing a hugely more expensive shrouded Delta IV flight. Industry observers, commenting recently in Space News, wonder: why bother flying the X-37 under a fairing and what in the devil that will teach us about flying an OSP? Of course, it is only a mater of time before MSFC kills X-37 altogether.

HS: I assume that weight growth had pushed the X-37 beyond the Delta II even if it flew unshrouded?

Hudson: My understanding was that there was no weight growth, though NASA claims this to save face. I have the original X-37 Boeing weight numbers and I know exactly how much margin they are holding back from NASA. I am fairly sure the thing that torpedoed the plans to use Delta II was that it couldn't take the loads imposed by the winged X-37 on top of the stack, unlike the Titan II, which we showed could handle the loads. The Delta II has a high acceleration profile (from the solids) and probably also overheated the X-37, but of that I am not certain.

Frankly, the only reason why X-37 has lived as long as it has was due to pressure from Chairman Dana Rohrabacher. MSFC knew they would have to keep X-37 alive until he left his subcommittee chair in fall 2002, but they didn't count on the Columbia accident and the house waived term limit rules to bring the Chairman back. So now they are in a pickle.

Finally, I can answer your question! I do feel we made our point, even if GAO completely missed it. (GAO said we should have protested prior to proposal submission, a nice theory that fails the test of sanity in the government procurement process.)

HS: There doesn't seem to be much of a tradition of investigative journalism within the aerospace press. When you talk about your case and the X-37 situation, it reminds me of the X-34 cancellation, which I saw as an outrage if not a scandal. As I understand it, in the aftermath of the two Mars mission failures, all major projects got hit with system reviews to avoid any more embarassing public disasters. For the X-34, they added so many additional safety requirements that it crossed their cost limit and so was canceled. This happened even though, in traditional X project spirit, Orbital had built 3 vehicles just so it would have backups if one was lost. In addition, NASA had required that they use the Fastrac engine, which as far as I know, was a project that simply faded away without ever flying an engine or making any public accounting whatsoever.

You surely know more about what really happened in these cases than I do. However, the fact that I have to guess as to what happened [in these and your cases] rather than go to a NASA web page and read a clear and full summary of such projects [and how decisions regarding them were made] absolutely amazes me. And I'm even more amazed that the aerospace press lets them get away with it.

Hudson: You have the story exactly right, insofar as I am aware. While I am not a fan of Orbital, I have often taken their side in the X-34 matter. NASA MSFC needs a through housecleaning and it requires a persistent and competent press to get Headquarters or the Congress to do their job.

HS: Whether to go directly to SSTO rather than two-stage to-orbit (TSTO) in the first generation of RLVs leads to big arguments. I recall that you said that if the Roton's payload capability came in short of its goal, boosters could always be attached to compensate. Would this approach in general be a good compromise? That is, build a SSTO that can put some minimal payload into orbit but allows for the option of either expendable boosters or a reusable first stage whenever a heavier payload is needed.

Hudson: Adding a Delta V increment of just a thousand feet per second makes SSTO much easier. (I have been often overheard bemoaning the fact that we don't live on a planet of Venus' size; SSTO would be easy.) The way to accomplish augmentation, in my view, is not to build some type of "zero-stage" but rather treat the problem as one of an aircraft range extension or takeoff roll reduction. Add drop tanks or RATO

HMX XV Transfer Vehicle
Credits: Tom Brosz

The HMX XV Transfer vehicle proposed for ISS cargo delivery under the Alternate Access to Space program.
kits. If they are cheap enough, you punch them off like fighter drop tanks. If they are a bit more expensive, recover them as the WWII Germans did with some of their rocket-assist motors. This is pretty easy stuff, frankly. One mistake I made during the Rotary project was not telling people that it was actually a stage-and-a-half vehicle, and then never bothering to add the "half" unless really needed.

Max Hunter used to tell me that the thing that killed the cost effectiveness of the Shuttle was the decision to use solid boosters, but not for the operational reason as you may surmise. The addition of the boosters made everyone lazy. If the Shuttle had been configured as his Starclipper stage-and-a-half concept, with the only expendable part a drop tank for the hydrogen, then the design might have been successful. If boosters were ever needed they would be an afterthought such as the Atlas II strap-ons, and most likely temporary while efforts were made to lighten up the expendable tank or the reusable orbiter. That would have been the smart way to go.

HS: A stage & half approach certainly is a nice third option to point to. Have you ever written anything up on this? If not, please do.

Hudson: One more task to go on the to-do list!

HS: If you were given $300 million today to build a RLV, would you still go with the basic Roton approach?

Resources related to
RLV Development

* RLVs - General & in US
* RLVs - World, tech
* RLV News
* Propulsion & Launchers
Space Activism
* Space Businesses
* Space Tourism

Hudson: No. The Roton project was one of those train wrecks where everyone can see the bridge is out but the engineer can't slow the train down in time. And other people are throwing the switches.

Bevin's original or "classic" Roton was a fun, cool idea. Using self-pumping and some aerodynamic lift augmentation up to about Mach 1.3, it could have performed the X-prize mission or put a couple of people and a ham sandwich into orbit. One feature that was particularly appealing was that the ascent lift augmentation (about 25-30 seconds Isp) paid for the weight of the rotor on orbit, and the rotor could be used to aid re-entry and provide soft, controllable landings. We felt that was a big win.

After we found funding for that vehicle, we also found ourselves in the position that our initial funds would not see us to flight, far from it. And our prime investor told us at the outset that we had to find other investors to fund the rest of the development. That was OK by me, and off we went. But we could not find any other investors willing to build a small piloted vehicle mainly configured for human spaceflight and small cargo, and were forced to either close our doors or retool the concept to meet the need for LEO comsats. The classic Roton might have been able to fly some of the early LEO spacecraft designs, one spacecraft at a time, but soon those grew in size many-fold and instead of a thousand pounds to LEO, we were facing 7000 pounds. The classic couldn't do that, and so the Roton everyone knows emerged. In hindsight, we'd have been better off walking away then, but no one suggested we do so.

HS: In retrospect, are there any fundamental aspects of the Rotary Rocket project that you would do differently if you could do it over again?

Hudson: My response to the previous question touched on this, but I think that this subject is probably best left for another forum, such as a book. Short answer is yes, there are many things. A few key points: One is never start a project in the public eye that doesn't have all the cash in hand before you go public. (I might even amend that to wait until you are starting to fly before you go public!) Another is don't split your operation in two (in our case, the Bay area and Mojave). Third would be to control your hiring process carefully. A few hiring mistakes can consume huge amounts of management time to fix or mitigate damage.

Having said all that, I am still very proud of the accomplishments of Rotary Rocket. We designed and flew, in one year's time, a full-size, piloted Roton demonstrator, that showed a lightweight SSTO with composite LOX tanks could in fact be in built. It was the only flying RLV demonstrator since DC-X. None of NASA's (or should I say the taxpayer's) billions produced anything that flew with humans.

HS: I remember at your Roton presentations that when someone suggested a change to a particular component, you would explain how that would result in serious, usually detrimental, consequences to several other components and vehicle performance. Everything is so tightly interlocked on RLVs, especially SSTO designs. Although propulsion and low mass structures are obviously crucial, is the toughest challenge of RLV development not so much with the individual technologies but with the system engineering that must "assemble" a coherent design that performs well in all the different flight regimes, is robust enough for multiple flights, and provides for low operational costs?

Hudson: Absolutely. This is why NASA has failed in all its attempts to date. They no longer have any artists, only managers. Systems engineering is an art, not a science. Folks like Kelly Johnson and Burt are aircraft artists. They blend equal parts vision, engineering and intuition to make successful design. Of course, in doing so, they also produce some stinkers. That is the price of this approach. The current industry doesn't select for such individuals, and I can see no way that it ever will.

Gary Hudson
Gary Hudson at the base of the Atmospheric Test Vehicle.

HS: My impression is that you have not been exactly thrilled with RLVs for suborbital operations and skeptical of a suborbital space tourism market. Has your outlook changed? If that market does prove viable, say at the hundred million dollar a year level, will the suborbital RLVs provide valuable operational experience in running routine flights and substantially reduce the risks in the design of orbital vehicles?

Hudson: There are two basic suborbital markets for RLVs. One is passenger flights and the other is microgravity or science mission of one sort or another. There is a third large proven market for suborbital launches, but one that is -by definition-not addressable by an RLV. (Targets for missile defense.)

I think the microgravity market is completely overrated. This is an area of research which has borne fairly little fruit, and which is unlikely to do so for a long time to come, if ever. And if there is a payoff, it will almost certainly come from long duration human tended freeflyers where the disturbing torques of human presence don't exist and the microgee goes on forever. As always, I am happy to be proven wrong by events and wish those who are going after such markets well, but I am definitely in the "show me" camp on this.

HS: There are novel and interesting phenomena seen in the microgravity studies but even if you found something as revolutionary as, say, carbon buckyballs and nanotubes, you are still talking about hundreds if not thousands of personyears of lab work, both in orbit and on the ground, to get something useful out the door. So I would never try to justify a space station or even a suborbital program purely on micrograv research.

However, I think there are a number of science applications that could take advantage of a reusable suborbital. A top recommendation by a Space Studies review committee of the the National Academy of Sciences recently asked that NASA "revitalize the Suborbital program". I think RLV suborbitals could certainly do that. They are potentially cheaper than sounding rockets, they offer frequent, predictable access to space and carry a person on board to monitor the equipment. Some astrophysics experiments can run even on short flights and sensors intended for a probe could be tested and calibrated before they fly. Magnetospheric experiments, atmospheric studies, and remote sensing could also be done very well on such a platform.

I'm thinking it could be in the $100 million market range, which isn't much compared even to a [single] comsat but it would offer some nice extra income for a small startup RLV company.

Hudson: All of the money for microgravity and science work essentially comes out of the same pot. And the pot is pretty small. Those funds have to cover the work as well as the transportation, too. So I would guess that there may be $15-25 million per year for suborbital micro-gee flights and other science, at most. I'd be happy to be proven wrong, yet it is hard to make a business case in my view for such services unless something else (such as tourism) is really paying most of the operating expenses.

I've spent thirty-plus years in the business and I can tell you that every two years someone comes along and promises to make money off the suborbital government launch market. Hasn't happened yet.

Are there people who will pay for a suborbital joyride? Certainly. Might there be a $100M/year? I think that is more problematical. Once the ZERO-G aircraft people get flying, let's see how many people pay for that experience. While not a fully comparable ride, it will also be two orders of magnitude cheaper. That will tell us something. In the end, I think it possible that companies can make money in this market, but I am uninterested in it for myself or HMX. Too many entrants and too much risk. And not enough connection to why I got into this business: to open the space frontier. To me, that means orbit and beyond.

HS: I guess you know from RLV News that I'm more optimistic about the business case for suborbitals than you are. However, I certainly don't think it's a sure thing. Besides the regulations and liability challenges to overcome, the marketing for the suborbital tourism will need to be done right.

I think something along the lines of Ed Wright's space training camp approach might be the way to go. During a one or two week stay the participant would take part in various simulations and other astronaut-like training activities such as a ride on a ZERO-G flight. Everything builds up to the ride on the rocket. The fact that the ride only lasts an half an hour or so will matter less if it is seen as part of a overall space training experience.

HS: What do you think of the current leading X PRIZE designs such as Burt Rutan's SS1, Armadillo's vertical takeoff with parachute landing, etc.? If someone hired you to work on an X PRIZE project, what design approach would you favor?

Credits: Tom Brosz
Phoenix- C SSTO.
See History of the Phoenix ...- reprint at Space Future

Hudson: I don't propose to handicap any entrant. In Burt's case, HMX is under NDA; we helped him originally choose hybrid motors (based on Bevin's unparalleled experience with them) and we have provide him technical consulting. So beyond saying the obvious-that as usual, his is a highly innovative approach-I think I will let events take their course. I will offer my best wishes to one of his test pilots, however, Brian Binnie, who was in the co-pilot's seat when the Roton ATV flew down the runway at Mojave back in 1999. Brian is one of the finest men I have had the pleasure to work with. Burt is lucky to have him.

I love the "go out and do it" approach of Armadillo and think that several of the other contenders have much to recommend themselves. As for the way I would approach the problem, it depends on a number of factors. One is are we just trying to win the price or is there supposed to be residual operational value to the vehicle produced? And is operating cost or development cost the paramount consideration?

I think I might choose a winged vehicle, runway launched, using Bevin's CoolJet™ turbine accelerator (something like the MIPCC [Mass Injected Pre-Compressor Cooling] engine proposed for the RASCAL project at DARPA). The technology is well in hand and is relatively low risk for the Mach number of interest for the X-prize.

HS: Sounds very interesting. Anything on the web about the CoolJet?

Hudson: Not yet. Some patent work is in process, and the actual press of day to day business has meant that we never get around to the web site. It's still on the to-do list, too!

HS: Can you say something about the projects you are currently working on?

Hudson: HMX has finished our AAS activity for NASA MSFC (and we are unlikely to be doing more for them.) We have performed some SBIR work for DARPA on CoolJet, and recently supported Pioneer Rocketplane in their (unfortunately) unsuccessful bid to move into Phase II development on the RASCAL program. (That contract was won by some of my former employees, who started Space Launch Corporation.) And we are currently hard at work on a big effort for DARPA to build a test bench to qualify MIPCC modifications to an F-100 class turbofan engine under Mach 3+ conditions.

As always we maintain an interest in the commercial launch business, but we are not funded to do anything about that. Frankly, no more venture capitalists or investment bankers for me; we are happy to work for others as contractors but we aren't going to play the investor game again. There is too much of a disconnect between the interests of investors and customers for most such projects to have a reasonable chance of success. In mathematical terms, there is very little intersection of the sets in that particular Venn diagram.

Finally, we continue to refine the XV (Transfer Vehicle) concept we proposed to NASA under the Alternate Access program. Someday, someone may want to build such a system and we want to be prepared to do it if asked. In closing, it is amusing to note that if NASA had not bungled the AAS program, we'd have been flying Titans to the station this very year, and not a moment too soon post-Columbia, while having a system that met, in 2000, every single one of the Level One requirements NASA imposed on the OSP earlier this year.

Talk about missed opportunities! It seems to be the story of my life.

HS: Well, it's certainly looks like an interesting life so far (and I don't mean that in the Chinese curse sense either!) Best of luck with your current and future projects. Thanks.

Jerry Pournelle offers a background of SSTO/VTOVL concepts
in the 1980s via his report The SSX Concept.

The RLV History section includes links to papers by Gary Hudson
and links about Rotary Rocket.
See a video of the ATV's last flight on Oct.12, 1999.
Several former Rotary Rocket personnel have started new space related
companies including Space Launch Corporation and XCOR Aerospace.

You can contact Gary Hudson at gary@hmx.com.

Phoenix SSTO
Credits: Paul Hudson
Phoenix SSTO concept from 1985:
History of the Phoenix ...- reprint at Space Future


June.11.03. Comments by Rand Simberg at Transterrestrial Musings on this interview.



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