January 2002 test
flight of Amadillo
Aerospace's rocket powered
vertical-takeoff-and-landing prototype. The vehicle has a
seat for a pilot but in this instance was remotely controlled.
Still image taken from video
When one engine
failed to shut down, pilot Dick Rutan used a manual shut off
valve to turn off the engine. He then "dumped the remaining
liquid oxygen, using the jettison capability built in to the
EZ-Rocket for that purpose. The 11th flight of the EZ-Rocket
lasted two minutes and 24 seconds."
Jeff Greason saw the flight as a validation of their system
design that insures that an electrical problem can't stop an
engine unexpectedly but if the problem prevents turning off
the engine the pilot has the option to shut the engine down
Again...To demonstrate "rapid re-usability and
to prepare for The Oshkosh air show", the XCOR
EZ-Rocket will fly again on Thursday, June 27th, winds permitting.
Upper Stage Info...Kistler Aerospace recently posted
a supplement to its User's
Guide. The Addendum
A: K-1 Active Dispenser (pdf 1MB) document describes the
expendable upper stage for the
K-1 . The Active Dispenser can provide LEO plane changes,
put payloads in GEO, etc. For example, from Kistler's launch
site in Woomera, Australia the 4,090 kg module can put up to
800kg into GEO .
I grant will fund the design "of a small, reusable rocket-powered
booster demonstrator that will provide configuration and technology
traceability to and risk mitigation for a future space launch
vehicle that will be capable of orbiting small satellites (100-1000
will provide "a test bed for technologies being developed
by AFRL and SBI. This will include evolution of technologies
aimed at improving launch responsiveness and reliability through
inspection and reuse."
the demonstrator "may be converted to revenue service for
small payloads and to improve the performance of present sounding
rocket and target vehicles."
X Prize Article in the
July issue of Discover Magazinereviews the status of the program and focuses on
a few of the entrants. In particular, it profiles Brian Feeney
who heads the Canadian da
Vinci project, Len Cromier and his Pan
Aero project, Burt Rutan and the 2-stage Proteus
system, and Steve Bennett of Starchaser
expect within a year Feeny will make the first launch attempt
of the X Prize competitors . However, the article emphasizes
Rutan's capabilities and that he might scoop everyone (he would
not tell them the status of his project.)
will carry the da Vinci vehicle to 80k ft (~24km) where it will
fire twin 5000 pound thrust engines for 2 minutes, then coast
to over 100km. A shuttlecock-like ballute opens up to slow the
vehicle during re-entry and then a parafoil brings it in for
a landing. The engines were made by an "unnamed California
company that spent $20 million developing them". (I wonder
what company this is...)
discusses his Pan Aero jet/rocket combo vehicle and the struggles
to obtain the $2.4 million he needs to build it. The article
mentions Starchaser's Nova
launch last year but also reports on the harsh criticisms of
Bennett by other British rocket developers.
As far as
the X Prize program is concerned, the article implies that it
has full funding but I don't think that is the case. I would
expect that they would make a major announcement if they had
reached the full $10 million after so many years of sitting
at around $5 million.
Drop Tests...The German Phoenix prototype vehicle
will begin air drop tests in Sweden next year.
goal of the Phoenix project, similar to the X37/X38 projects,
is to test the automatic landing system and other autonomous
systems for the unpowered 6.9m long vehicle, which will
be dropped from a helicopter from 2.5km.
is a forerunner to the two stage reuseable Hopper.
The unmanned Hopper consists of a reusable first stage and
an expendble booster to take payloads of 7.5tons to orbit.
The package would be sled launched, perhaps from the ESA
Ariane spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.
Space Renaissance? In the 1940's and 1950's
there were a number of exciting
high altitude projects such as manned balloons that rose to
nearly 35km and even a parachutist dive from 31km.
Sub-orbital rockets helped to further development of rocketry
and carried out various types of scientific research.
quickly moved public focus to orbital and deep space missions.
Sounding rockets and science projects with high altitude balloons
continued but mostly far from the spotlight.
we are seeing a gradual rise in interest in sub-orbital, high
altitude activities. The X Prize and commercial projects are
bringing a focus on sub-orbital vehicles and on the argument
that the development of low cost, robust rocket vehicles for
sub-orbital applications can, in fact, be the first step to
low cost orbital vehicles.
tourism flights and high altitude space diving are some
of the new public activities we can expect to see develop, while
industrial applications such as remote sensing from heights
intermediate between aerial photography and satellites may appear.
advantage of Near Space, as it is called, is that it
is a whole lot cheaper than outer space to use and explore.
For example, amateur groups comprised of ham radio enthusiasts,
students and educators, have been launching high altitude balloons
as a cheap way to reach space-like conditions for payloads such
as cameras and science experiments.
should begin to think of the road to space as a continuous one,
rather than as one that begins with a big ditch that must be
jumped over but otherwise ignored.
Space section, which provides news and resources
on the exciting developments at our high
altitude shore to space.
vehicle was built on a miniscule budget of half a million dollars
per year by the ISAS
(Institute of Space and Astronautical Science).
The flights of a few meters in altitude of the LH2/LOX powered
vehicle, however, are providing lots of useful data on reusable
operations and technologies.
For $100 million
they say they could build a high altitude sub-orbital test vehicle
in four years.
In the meantime,
they will continue with testing the RVT and expanding its flight
sending our vehicle to the height of 100 meters in our next
flight. Our next test will be an in-flight engine restart. We
love danger. "
Scramjet Engine Test... A DARPA
and ONR project carried
out a wind tunnel test on May 30, 2002 that provided the "first
demonstration of net positive engine thrust for a fully installed,
hydrocarbon-fueled scramjet missile engine."
The test is
the first step of the HyFly
hypersonic missile program, which seeks by 2006 to "flight-test
a missile demonstrator able to cruise at speeds of up to Mach
6 to a range of 600 nautical miles using liquid hydrocarbon
test, carried out at
a wind tunnel at NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, Va.,
was the first "full-scale, fully integrated hypersonic
cruise missile engine using conventional liquid hydrocarbon
fuel." The engine
demonstrated "robust operation at simulated hypersonic
cruise conditions (Mach 6.5 at 90,000 feet altitude)".
who invest in companies developing commercial space launch vehicles
will receive a tax credit. The legislation delineates two categories
of tax credits -- one for small vehicles and the other for large
vehicles -- thereby assuring that the investors in both small
start-up aerospace launch vehicle companies and well- established
aerospace companies benefit."
is a winged rocket vehicle that serves as a glide-back first
stage. In the typical configuration (there are a number of variations
), two StarBoosters sandwich a core stage that takes the payload
This May the
team successfully launched a nearly 2 meter long model of the
system as shown in the photo above.
Here the core
module held the single rocket thruster but the two StarBoosters
were radio controlled and instrumented for capturing data during
their return. At an apogee of about 700m they separated without
problem and began their flight downward.
which was heading towards the crowd of onlookers, was instructed
to open its parachute early and it landed safely. The other
one was successfully pulled up into horizontal flight under
the control of a pilot on the ground. It suffered minor damage
after its chute was deployed too late.
2 is planned for a sub-orbital demonstrator.
on Launchers...At the recent Space
Access meeting the suggestion of sponsorships came
up several times as a source of funds for private rocket companies.
for example, are covered by logos and ads from various auto
and non-auto related companies.
We can expect
to see rockets decorated in a similar fashion in the future.
Pizza Hut already put it's logo
on a Russian Proton rocket in July 2000.
RLV's begin to appear in X-Prize attempts and commercial launches
they will probably receive tremendous publicity. When XCOR,
for example, flew its EZ-Rocket in 2001, there were reports
about it in numerous major
newspapers, magazines, and TV news programs. The possibility
of such media attention
should attract considerable interest from potential sponsors.
probably would not cover the total project costs, they could
nevertheless provide a significant revenue stream.
states that the HTHL system has higher development costs but
considerably lower operating costs and is also safer and more
amenable to new markets.
RLV for the Disco Days...Long before the X Prize
and serious talk of space tourism, Bob
Truax offered a detailed design for a high-altitude (80km)
sub-orbital rocket that was simple and cheap enough for a private
company to build. (Gary Hudson's Osiris and Phoenix were much
larger vehicles and intended for orbit.)
Knievel's X-1 Skycycle for the Snake River Canyon jump.
The Skycycle used a steam powered engine (see Juan Lozano's
Rockets page). Here
he would use 4 surplus Atlas vernier rockets along with gyros
and other parts taken from vehicles like the X-15 and Polaris.
The 8 meter
tall vehicle was only 0.6 m in diameter so the single passenger
would have a cramped fit. However, a small window would provide
a nice view during the 10 minute flight. The vehicle would be
recovered by helicopter after a parachute landing into the sea.
Repeated flights would cost as little as $10k each (in 1978
to beat the Shuttle into space (or at least to the edge) and
show how RLV's should be designed. He thought, correctly as
it turned out, that the Shuttle was "too sophisticated,
making for unacceptable turnaround times." Unfortunately,
he never got the funding to prove his point.
The odds may
may have caused the hesitation of investors. Truax estimated
"a 90% to 98% chance for survival in the first piloted
flight." Perhaps Pinto-rocket was a better description!
Truax is now over 80 but is still aiming for the sky. Last December
he placed an offer
at eBay on a 1 pilot/2 passenger sub-orbital vehicle
powered by a steam rocket. The minimum bid was $50k but there
were no takers as far as I'm aware.
there's a demand, there will be commercial firms rushing to
make a profit on it.
apparently can't envision that happening for space travel:
there will be high demand for the only two existing space
transportation vehicles envisioned for commercial travel through
the next two decades: Russia’s cramped Soyuz capsule and NASA’s
proposed reusable launch vehicle, which has yet to be built."
[my emphasis] -
Poll: Rich Market For Space Tourism - Aviation Week - May.22.02
Missiles & RLVs...Aviation Week (May 20, 2002)
and SpaceNews (May 20, 2002) both report on a growing effort
by the Air Force to develop hypersonic missiles (a previous
report here mentioned DARPA's HyFly
goal seeks a ramjet/scramjet missile that can reach Mach 8.
This would gradually be pushed up to Mach 14 by 2012. Such a
missile not only can catch most any moving target, it allows
the launch platforms (e.g. battleships and bombers) to remain
at a much farther distance from the battlefield.
Aerospace Initiative" is being developed that would include
a joint effort with NASA to build follow-ons to the current
(or HyperX) project.
Both articles use the Istar
RBCC (rocket based combined cycle) image at Media
Fusion, except AvWeek calls it the X-43B and SpaceNews calls
it the X-43C.
In a "dual-use"
pitch, the expectation is that a high Mach missile would in
turn lead to a reusable air-breathing first stage booster for
a rocket powered second stage.
Wants a 2-Way Lifeboat... AvWeek also has an article
about the CRV vs CTV battle within NASA. Rather than spending
a billion dollars testing a X-38 Crew Rescue Vehicle (CRV) prototype
that can only go one way (down), O'Keefe wants to develop a
single Crew Transfer Vehicle (CTV) that can go both up and down.
It could perhaps
even go up on an EELV.
NASA has still
not officially announced the X-38 cancellation and it is catching
lots of heat from both the Texas congressional delegation and
the Europeans (who will ask for a reimbursement of the $100
million they've spent if it is canceled.) I would imagine NASA
will try to sell both groups on the CTV once NASA agrees internally
on a design.
design decision is obviously the crew size. A "three-up,
four-down" would allow for a full seven man ISS crew since
both the CTV and the Soyuz could be attached to the station
at the same time. Such
a CTV would fit on a Delta IV or Atlas V.
NASA is also thinking of a much larger "seven-up, seven-down"
design, which might require the big SLI shuttle replacement
have gone to the basement and pulled out the blueprints and
studies for every spaceplane design the agency has ever worked
on including Langley's HL-20,
or Personal Launch System. The HL-20 was studied in the 1980's
and early 90's and a mock-up was built (see picture
at Astronautix.com). It was a 2-way vehicle loosely based
on the Russian
BOR-4 and would carry two pilots and eight passengers. A
Titan IV booster was the design launcher and it had solids attached
to allow for a powered abort.
Nick Lampson (D-TX) proposes a whole series of NASA RLV's
that culminate in a " demonstration of a reusable space
vehicle capable of carrying humans from Martian orbit to the
surface of Mars and back." -
Personally, I think there
is a better chance of seeing a parade of snowmen dancing through
the center of Houston in August than of Congress passing this
bill. However, even if Texas does freeze over this summer and
the bill is enacted, Rand Simberg makes clear in his item-by-item
review - Transterrestrial
Musings - Clear Lake Full Employment Bill by Rand Simberg - May.16.02
- that there is little chance that it would succeed in reaching
its admirable goals.
Engine Race - Aviation Week (April 29,2002, pp.60-62)
reports on the "Hydrocarbon Engine War" among four
US propulsion companies. SLI's growing interest in the operational
advantages of hydrocarbon fuel over hydrogen for the first stage
vehicle has prompted the companies to design new engines.
Here is a
list of the competitors in the million lb. thrust engine race:
- AJ-1000 - derived from Russian NK-33 that Aerojet obtained
for use on the Kistler K-1.
& Whitney - AR-1000 - derived from Russian RD-180,
which is used on the Atlas V.
Decrys X-38 Cancellation - Despite needing European
support for the ISS more than ever, NASA continues it's tradition
of arbitrarily making major policy decisions without bothering
to inform its European "partners".
This is the
study that Dennis Smith says supports
NASA's contention that the commercial market requires
a shuttle sized payload for SLI's 2nd gen vehicle.
attempts to predict what size satellites the GEO market in 2020
will require. A simple extrapolation from recent trends indicates
that the maximum satellite sizes will exceed 9K kg, while most
will be in the 5K kg size.
How this in
turn implies the need for a 28K kg payload vehicle isn't clear.
NASA could help the industry best by demonstrating the assembly
of satellites in orbit from smaller modules. It's been shown
that small RLV's could reduce the cost for GEO sats with this
approach but the conservative satellite communications industry
won't try it until someone else does it first.
Force Developing "Launch Anywhere" System...Aviation
Week (May 6, 2002, p.31) reports that the US Air Force wants
to develop a space based tracking range system that would allow
launches from places other than the established spaceport ranges.
GPS and telemetry relay satellites could provide tracking for
RLV's anywhere in the world.
grew out of the recent joint NASA and Air Force study
on RLV's in which it was realized that the current ground based
system of radars and telemetry receivers greatly limits launch
options. A major selling point for a military spaceplane is
it's flexibility and fast response but this would be undercut
by the current limited launch range options.
Support the Oklahoma Spaceport - As mentioned
below, the Oklahoma
Spaceport authority is already doing a lot to help small
rocket companies and advanced amateur projects. Contact your
congressional representatives and senators to help
them obtain a $1 million earmark to support licensing for the
spaceport as well as set a precedent to help spaceport development
in other states:
From: Pat Bahn (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Subject: Space Activist Telegram #1 2002
Date: Sunday, May 05, 2002 2:43 PM
Dear Friend of the Future:
If you are getting this,
it is because you believe in a better future, or are friends
with someone who does.
Many of us are tired
of waiting for NASA to establish a future course and are willing
to try a different set of directions. Chief among this group
of new pioneers is the State of Oklahoma and the Oklahoma Space
Industrial Development Authority (OSIDA) www.okspaceport.state.ok.us.
OSIDA has been active in working with a number of small companies
in trying to pioneer a new set of space industries. OSIDA is
also working to open a commercially licensed spaceport at Burns
Flats. Licensing a spaceport requires following a complex set
of federal regulations as described by the FAA (http://ast.faa.gov).
In order to license the spaceport at Burns Flats, OSIDA is attempting
to get a congressional earmark for the 2003 budget authorization.
NASA has no interest in assisting to license an inland spaceport,
so this must be done using congressional authority.
In order to make this
happen, we need to get report language and funding moved through
the Congress. The time is short, but the level of funding is
low. We need to work the Senate Appropriations Committee, the
Senate authorization committee for NASA (the Senate Commerce
Committee), the House Appropriations Committee and the House
authorization committee for NASA (the House Science Committee).
While there are members
of Congress signed up to support this earmark, there are apparently
severe forces of opposition gathering, particularly among certain
congressional staff. We must overcome this resistance, to make
sure that no last minute maneuvers sideline this very important
activity. We need your help to contact the following members
of congress. If you are a constituent of these Members of Congress,
your assistance is particularly vital - contact them! If you
are not a constituent of any of these Members, you can still
help - please then contact the Chairmen and Ranking Minority
Members ("RRMs") listed below.
are a constituent of any of the above named individuals, please
contact them; otherwise please contact the Chairmen and Ranking
Minority Members ("RRMs") asking them to please ---
the appropriation of $1 million to be transferred from the NASA
budget to the Oklahoma Space Industrial Development Authority;
the following report language be added to the NASA Authorization
and Appropriation Bills:
is authorized to transfer up to $2 million per year per state
to a properly constituted state space development authority
for the purpose of licensing and developing spaceport facilities."
funding level should be adequate to let OSIDA license the Burns
Flats Spaceport, a vital element of progress for the new commercial
companies. Burns Flats is being examined for use by Pioneer
Rocketplanes, XCOR Aerospace, Armadillo Aerospace, Space Adventures,
Vela Technology, TGV Rockets, and a host of other firms.
are from Oklahoma, please take time to call your Representative
and thank them for their support on this issue. The entire Oklahoma
Congressional Delegation is supporting this issue, and it is
important that they hear from constituents about their support
for this activity. Please feel free to contact your own representatives
and ask them to write their colleagues. Your congressperson
can be located by http://www.house.gov/house/MemberWWW.html
and entering your zip code.
Big Payload Fixation - The single biggest mistake
of the Space Shuttle program was in making it so big. The
huge 28K kg payload forced NASA to obtain its technologies
from the bleeding edge, especially the engines, resulting
in a vehicle that was both highly complex and very fragile.
But NASA needed the ability to launch giant spysats to get
the support of the military.
Now NASA insists that
the its 2nd gen vehicle must also offer payload capacity that
is as large, if not larger, than the shuttle. This time NASA
can't blame the Pentagon.
At the recent Milestone
Review news conference (see
below), Keith Cowing of NASA Watch, tried to push
Dennis Smith to back up his claim that the commercial market
demanded such a vehicle:
Burt Finally Go for It? Burt Rutan was one
of the first entries in the X Prize competition and is
considered to be among its strongest contenders. His Scaled
Composites company is renown for its innovative vehicles
and technologies and also for its very fast and effective
His design for the X
Prize involves a 2 stage approach. An old Powerpoint presentation
on the web site indicates that the rocket vehicle would be
carried beneath the Proteus and released at around 10km. It
would reach 140km and cost about $250k per flight.
The Proteus first flew
in 1998 and was setting altitude
records by 2000. Funding for the vehicle development apparently
came from Angel
Technologies, which wanted to fly the vehicles above large
cities to act as high altitude wireless broadband hubs.
There has long been speculation
as to why Rutan hasn't yet developed the complete X Prize
system. The usual theory is that he is waiting either for
the prize to reach full funding (the pot has been stuck for
a couple of years at half the promised $10 million purse)
or until another contender showed serious potential at winning
There are occasional
rumors that he is getting more serious about the project.
Perhaps the recent Cosmopolis
21 project announced in Russia will motivate him.
The project designs are quite similar with the Myasishchev
M-55, which also has set high altitude records, carrying a
rocket-powered lifting body. The Cosmopolis second stage so
far is just a mockup, but if funding is found it would be
a mistake to underestimate the Russian prowess in space technology.
X Prize Goes to New York
- Check out the
of the Canadian Arrow
rocket in New York on April 25th. The full
scale model was
featured in a segment of the morning news program The Today