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Reusable Launch & Space Vehicle News
May-June 2002

Armadillo Test Flight
Copyright 2002- Armadillo Aerospace
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 (10MB).

Other RLV News Sources
Space Frontier Society * Space Access Society Updates *
NASA SLI News * SpaceTransportation at MSFC *
NASA Watch Launch System News * OrbiReport - Space Transportation News

This section contains brief articles concerning developments in the field of reusable launch and space vehicles with links to news sources, NASA, company sites, etc.

RLV News Archive Directory


June 28, 2002

EZ Abort...The EZ-Rocket took off on Thursday from Mojave airport as planned, just two days after a flight on Tuesday. However, an electrical problem caused a premature end to the flight: EZ-Rocket Flight Eleven: Safe Abort Demonstrated - XCOR - June.27.02.

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."

XCOR’s CEO 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 manually.

June 27, 2002

Knocking SLI...Space activist Charles Lurio gives thumbs down to SLI in a full page editorial in the latest issue of Aviation Week: End SLI's Bold Walk Into the Past by Charles A. Lurio - Aviation Week - June.24.02

June 26, 2002

EZ 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.

Kistler 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 .

June 25, 2002

EZ Touch-and-Go...Today on it's 10th flight, XCOR's EZ-Rocket shut off its engines in flight, landed and rolled for a few hundred feet, then re-started the engines, took off and landed again: XCOR EZ-Rocket Performs Touch-and-go: First time ever for rocket powered airplane - XCOR PR - June.25.02

Starbooster Gets Air Force Grant...Starcraft Boosters, the company developing Buzz Aldrin's Starbooster concept (see article below on prototype tests carried out with Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo) will receive a Small Business Innovation Research grant from the Air Force: SBIR Awarded Phase I Contract by Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) - Starcraft PR - June.24.02 (pdf 22kb)

The Phase 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 lbm). "

Presumably, this is the Starbooster Flight Demonstrator shown on their web site. See also the drawings of the booster and 3 configurations.

The demonstrator 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."

Subsequently, the demonstrator "may be converted to revenue service for small payloads and to improve the performance of present sounding rocket and target vehicles."

June 21, 2002

X Prize Article in the July issue of Discover Magazine reviews 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 Industries.

[Aug.3.02: The article is now available on line - The X-Prize : Does anyone hear Charles Lindbergh chuckling - Discover Magazine - July.02]

The authors 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.)

A balloon 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...)

Len Cormier 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.

Phoenix Drop Tests...The German Phoenix prototype vehicle will begin air drop tests in Sweden next year.

The primary 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.

The Phoenix 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.

For more info, see the RLV Page at Astrium and also the AIAA Conference paper mentioned below.

Near 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.

Sputnik, though, 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.

Now, however, 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.

Sub-orbital 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.

The biggest 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.

Perhaps we 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.

Checkout the new Near Space section, which provides news and resources on the exciting developments at our high altitude shore to space.

June 20, 2002

News briefs...University of Florida and 6 other schools recieve SLI funds for developing vehicle monitoring systems and other RLV support technologies - NASA picks UF to head $16 million project to research spaceflight - Florida Today - June.17.02

June 17, 2002

RVT - Japan's Answer to the DC-X...The Space Future Journal provides an interview - The leading edge of Japanese rocketry - Space Future Journal - May.15.02 - with designers of the RVT (Reusable Vehicle Test) that made several flights in 2001.

The 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 envelope:

"We're 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. "

News briefs...Johns-Hopkins Applied Physics Lab releases more information about the DARPA funded Hypersonic engine test - APL Technology Cornerstone of First Fully Integrated Hypersonic Cruise Missile Engine Test - APL PR - June.17.02...

...XCOR plans to fly the EZ-Rocket at the Mojave Civilian Flight Test Center on Wednesday, June 19th. [Postponed to Friday, June 21st due to high winds.]

June 15, 2002

News briefs... An SLI funded LOX/LH2 engine program passes a preliminary design review - COBRA engine, an option for Space Launch Initiative, completes milestone review - MSFC/SLI - June.14.02

June 14, 2002

Successful 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 fuel."

This ground 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)".

Fully Integrated Scramjet Missile Engine Tested at Mach 6.5 - DARPA - June.12.02 (pdf 95kb). Images available at the DARPA News page.

News briefs...NASA History section provides on line the complete text of The Space Shuttle Decision: NASA's Search for a Reusable Space Vehicle by T.A. Heppenheimer - 1999 (sp4221) - NASA History (Found via a note on Rand Simberg's site.)...

...Speaking of Rand, check out his most recent Fox News essay on the X-38 and the whole concept of a Crew Rescue Vehicle - Man the 'Lifeboats' by Rand Simberg - FOXNews.com - June.13.02....

... The Invest in Space Now (H. R. 2177) legislation introduced last year by Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.) and Rep. Solomon Ortiz (D-TX) is up again for 2002 . According to the article Update on Calvert-Ortiz by Dave Kennet - SpaceEquity.com - Spring 2002 , the bill states that

"those 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."

...SpaceEquity.com reports also on a Q&A with Patti Grace Smith of the FAA's Office of Commercial Space Transportation - 7 Questions for Patti Grace Smith - SpaceEquity.com-Spring 2002.

June 12, 2002

News brief...The defense department had a session today to discuss the National Aerospace Initiative, which is a continuation of the NASA/Air Force joint studies on RLV development - Invitation to the National Aerospace Initiative - Access To Space -- Draft S&T Plan Review for Industry - SpaceRef - June.12.02

June 11, 2002

News briefs...Over a dozen papers and Powerpoint presentations are available on line at the AIAA for the 1st AIAA/IAF Symposium on Future Reusable Launch Vehicles - Huntsville, Ala. - Apr.11-12, 2002. (Thanks go to Jeff Foust for this link.) For example,

News brief...Houston Chronicle gives an interesting review of the X-38 cancellation: Project's cancellation irks NASA, partners - HoustonChronicle.com - June.9.02

 

June 6, 2002

StarBooster Model Launch
CSA - Photo by Jeff Engelman
A launch on May 20, 2002 of a scale model
of the StarBooster system.

Model Starboosters Fly...The Cal Poly Space Systems (CPSS) rocket club in San Luis Obispo, California has built and launched several scale versions of Buzz Aldrin's StarBooster of increasing size and sophistication.

A StarBooster 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 to orbit.

This May the team successfully launched a nearly 2 meter long model of the system as shown in the photo above.

CPSS Launches and Flies Back Two StarBoosters in a 3-Rocket Configuration - Cal. Space Authority - May.20.02

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.

One booster, 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.

Images and videos of this flight and previous ones are available at the CPSS site.

For more about the StarBooster, see the Starcraft Boosters site and the reports

The StarBooster 2 is planned for a sub-orbital demonstrator.

Logos 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.

Race cars, 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.

As sub-orbital 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.

While sponsorships probably would not cover the total project costs, they could nevertheless provide a significant revenue stream.

The Canadian Arrow X-Prize project seems to be finding some success already in attracting sponsors. The sponsors page lists over 20 companies.

XCOR itself is now testing the interest with a call for sponsors to help fund its exhibition of the EZ-Rocket at the Oshkosh air show this summer.

[Added an entry in the Investing section that will monitor the use of sponsorships by launch companies and other space ventures - June.13.02]

June 5 , 2002

HyShot Launching Again...The University of Queensland Centre for Hypersonics will attempt another test of its HyShot Scramjet sometime this summer - HyShot second flight lines up for takeoff - Univ. Queensland - May.22.02.

The first flight last October failed due to a problem in the 2nd stage rocket booster. (The HyShot payload was found last February deep in the South Australia desert).

Archive of HyShot articles & videos at UQ

News Brief...Boeing Rocketdyne says it's making progress on the design of the RS-84, a million pound thrust Kerosene/LOX reusable engine funded by SLI - Boeing Designing First Large Reusable Hydrocarbon Rocket Engine - Boeing PR - June.5.02

June 3 , 2002

The Advantages of Going Horizontal...Andrews Space & Tech has posted the paper - Airport-to-Orbit: The Econonmics of Horizontal RLV Systems (184kb pdf) - presented at a recent RLV conference. The paper compares development costs and life cycle costs for its HTHL launch system to two VTHL systems with similar payload capabilities: a 2-stage Bimese using LOX/LH2 and a 2-stage system with a LOX/RP first stage and LOX/LH2 second.

The paper states that the HTHL system has higher development costs but considerably lower operating costs and is also safer and more amenable to new markets.

May 28, 2002

A 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.)

The article Be Your Own Astronaut (If Bob Truax Gets His Way) - by Paul Siegler - L5 News Vol. 3 Num. 4 April 1978 (pdf 1.1MB) describes Project Private Enterprise that sought to build the reusable Volks-Rocket for $1 million.

Truax had built Evel Knievel's X-1 Skycycle for the Snake River Canyon jump. The Skycycle used a steam powered engine (see Juan Lozano's Steam 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 dollars.)

Truax hoped 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!

Note: 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.

May 23, 2002

News Brief ...The Senate Armed Forces Committee wants DOD to continue efforts "to harmonize Air Force and NASA reusable launch vehicle technology programs against Air Force and NASA requirements and architectures." National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2003 Report (excerpts regarding NASA) - Spaceref - May.23.02.

Space Immunity from Market Forces?...A Futron/Zogby survey, funded by NASA SLI, shows significant interest in space tourism among high income earners:

Futron/Zogby Public Space Travel Poll Space travel is new exciting option for those who can afford it; 7% of affluent would pay $20 million for 2-week orbital flight; 19% would pay $100,000 for 15-minute sub-orbital flight - Zogby PR - May.20.02

Usually where there's a demand, there will be commercial firms rushing to make a profit on it.

However, some 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

May 21, 2002

NASA and the Air Force to Continue RLV Studies...Following recommendations of the recent 120 Day RLV joint study team, the two will continue to "assess building a joint operations demonstrator vehicle". This vehicle could then lead to a cargo vehicle for the military and a crew vehicle for NASA. NASA and Air Force Forge Ahead with Reusable Launch Technology - NASA PR/Spaceref - May.21.02 * STA Endorses Joint NASA, USAF RLV Initiatives -SpaceRef - May.21.02 * [ Government seeks new reusable launch technology - Spaceflight Now - May.22.02 ]

May 20, 2002

Hypersonic 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 project.)

[Now online: 'National Aerospace Initiative' Pushes Dual-Use Technology - AvWeek - May.23.02]

The initial 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.

A "National Aerospace Initiative" is being developed that would include a joint effort with NASA to build follow-ons to the current X-43A (or HyperX) project.

Note: 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.

O'Keefe 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.

The crucial 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.

Not surpisingly, NASA is also thinking of a much larger "seven-up, seven-down" design, which might require the big SLI shuttle replacement system.

NASA engineers 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.

May 18, 2002

News Briefs... - Joint AIAA and NASA conferences May 21-23 in Santa Clara, California: NASA's Turning Goals into Reality AIAA's X-Vehicles Symposium + NASA - Turning Goals into Reality 2002 Conference ...

...George Mueller of Kistler Aerospace stays true to the vision of ambitious space exploration and development: Rotary Award Acceptance speech March 8, 2002 - Houston...

... Congressman 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.

May 10, 2002

Leonard David on SAS'02 - David provides an interesting perspective on the recent Space Access Society meeting: Maverick Rocketeers Pursue Cheap Space Access - Space.com - May.10.02

More on NASA's Millstone Review - NASA Watch notes that the Futron study paper was created after the press conference, though the study's results supposedly justified the large payload requirements. See public comments at SLI Requirements - Readers Comments - NASA Watch - May.10.02....

...Rand Simberg criticizes the notion that a pilotless vehicle, as promoted in most of the SLI designs, is a great advancement: Look Ma, No Pilot! by Rand Simberg - Fox News - May.9.02.

Hydrocarbon 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:

May 9, 2002

Europe 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".

Space News (May 6 issue) reports that Germany, which has invested over $90 million in the project, has yet to receive any information on the status of the X-38 despite indications that NASA has already begun to shut it down. This week Germany formally asked for a clarification: Germany Requests NASA Clarification on X-38 - Space.com/Space News Business (subscription required) - May.8.02

GEO Sat Size and the Shuttle Replacement...SLI has posted the Futron document Space Launch Initiative Market Study - Futron Analysis of GEO Communications Satellite Mass for NASA MSFC -February, 2002 (MS Word,525kb), which is an overview of an ongoing study for NASA on space markets.

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.

The study 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.

Arguably, 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.

Air 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.

The proposal 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.

May 7, 2002

Enviro Assessment for Kistler Spaceport - The FAA/AST office has posted the documentation for the environmental impact assessment of Kistler's proposed spaceport on the Nevada Test Site: Final Environmental Assessment for the Site, Launch, Reentry and Recovery Operations at the Kistler Launch Facility, Nevada Test Site (NTS) - FAA/AST - May.2002.

Its a huge document but they've broken it into several parts (and available in 3 document formats). See the Executive Summary for a quick overview.

Most of the document deals with not so piquant items like the effects of the facility on the local tortoise population, but Chapter 2 is quite interesting: Chapter 2 - [Description of the Kistler K-1 vehicle, launch facilities, operations, etc.] ...

2002 Space Trans Reveiw...Check out also AST's report 2002 Commercial Space Transportation Developments and Concepts: Vehicles, Technologies, and Spaceports (pdf 643kb), which includes a nice overview of RLV projects.

May 5, 2002

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:

Space Activist Telegram #1 2002 - May.5.02

From: Pat Bahn (bahn@tgv-rockets.com)
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.

[...See full telegram for lising of the congressional members to contact ... ]

If you 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 ---

1) Support the appropriation of $1 million to be transferred from the NASA budget to the Oklahoma Space Industrial Development Authority;

and

2) That the following report language be added to the NASA Authorization and Appropriation Bills:

"The Administrator 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."

This 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.

If you 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.

Entire message: Space Activist Telegram #1 2002 - May.5.02

News Brief - Crew as well as cargo modules may go to space via autonomous launchers: NASA Mulls Future Space Shuttles with No Pilots - Space.com - May.2.02

May 2, 2002

NASA's 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:

SLI Takes A Small Step Forward Into An Uncertain Future - SpaceRef - May.2.02

but got a muddled reply about proprietary information and an outside study that has yet to be made available.

Unless NASA learns from the mistakes of the Shuttle, X-33, and X-34 programs, the SLI will most likely result in yet another expensive disappointment.

Military Wants Variety...While there have been lots of reports of possible Pentagon interest in spaceplanes and SLI collaborations, apparently many military planners believe that for the next decade or two, no single RLV will serve all their needs: Air Force Mulls Program To Explore Future Lift Beyond RLV Proposals - Defense Daily/NorthernLight - Apr.30.02.

Ex-X-38...As indicated below, NASA officially stopped work this week on the X-38 and is shifting resources to the X-37 program: NASA halts rescue-craft work Texas lawmakers object, but plug pulled on `lifeboat' - Houston Chronicle - May.2.02.

Will 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 output.

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 the prize.

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.

The X Prize Goes to New York - Check out the photos 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 Show. .

 

 

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