posts two papers from the recent World Space Congress - Space
Access for Small Satellites on the K-1 (673kb pdf) & The
K-1 Active Dispenser for Orbit Transfer (665kb pdf)
EELV companies start looking at carrying the CTV on their vehicles:
LM To Study Launching ISS Crew Atop Heavy-Lift Delta IV, Atlas
V - Aviation Week - Oct.31.02...
has posted a short page
on the DC-X. USL was founded by Pete Conrad and several other
people involved with the DC-X project. The page includes a flight
Rand Simberg this week talks about the direction of NASA's vehicle
development and the need for a broader based public discussion
on it : Good
Money After Bad - Transterrestrial Musings - Oct.31.02 * at
Elon Musk's SpaceX joins the club : STA
announces SpaceX as new member - SpaceX PR/SpaceRef - Oct.30.02
The SpaceX Falcon
is not a RLV (though partially recoverable) but I'll continue
to include items here about it and similar small company launch
systems that I find particularly interesting. While RLV's will
be required to provide dramatically lower launch costs, it's my
belief that entrepreneurial startup companies are also essential
components in making lower launch costs happen regardless.
Proposed for Orbital Space Tourists... Two fellows
at the Aerospace
Corporation in a forthcoming Acta
Astronautica paper propose a 2 stage RLV system with kerosene
engines to support a space tourism business. The system would
provide low operations costs and a high flight rate and thus bring
cost to orbit down to $15k per seat: Space
tourism 'viable at $15,000 a seat' - New Scientist - Oct.30.02
to knock the proposed vehicle based only on a New Scientist article
but as described it hardly sounds new or radical. Many RLV designs
would bring down costs dramatically if a market became available
that drove launch rates into the thousands per year.
briefs ... XCOR displayed the EZ-Rocket at the recent
airshow at Edwards AFB : XCOR
EZ-Rocket featured at Edwards AFB, CA. Open House and Air Show
- XCOR PR - Oct.28.02 - includes a number of photos
... EELV's for the CTV - NASA
Working with Contractors to Explore Shuttle Successor - Space.com
... Ozark Propulsion Labs and Maryland Delaware Rocketry
recently launched a big recoverable rocket : Big
Eastern Rocket - HobbySpace News. ...
goes for an Orbital Space Plane (previously known as CTV)...
Keith Cowing at Spaceref reports on a weekend meeting of NASA
managers that examined the Integrated Space Transportation Plan
Looks to Replace Space Shuttle With Orbital Space Plane - SpaceRef
like the CTV (Crew Transfer Vehicle) concept has triumphed. The
CTV will officially become the Orbital Space Plane (OSP - my acronym)
and will launch "aboard an EELV (Delta IV and/or Atlas V)
rocket." It will serve to send crews to the ISS and will
remained docked there for long periods to act as a crew rescue
Instead of leading a major vehicle development project, SLI will
shrink to a technology R&D program. The bulk of the SLI money
will instead go to the OSP and to shuttle upgrades to make it
"more reliable and more economical to operate." The
program will continue. (Nothing said as to whether the OSP could
carry out the SMV (Space Maneuvering Vehicle) tasks that the Air
like the shuttle could operate for another couple of decades under
this scenario. Not sure how the shuttle could be made more economial
without significant hardware enhancements such as flyback boosters,
a hardened thermal protection system, etc.
briefs... Aviation Week reports on the CTV & SLI
Overhauling SLI To Fund Station Lifeboat - Aviation Week - Oct.25.02
...X43A, B & C projects will continue DOD
To Stay Involved With Hypersonics, NASA Says - Aviation Week -
Speaking of the CTV, one long time RLV News reader, John Shields,
thought I was flippant and inconsistent in the remarks I made
about the CTV and X
-38. He made some good points, and since it looks like
the CTV has become the centerpiece of NASA vehicle development,
I will post his comments and give my response.
: While I'll be the first to claim that NASA/our-good-friends-on
-capital hill has made the transition from ELVs to RLVs almost
criminally slow, I think we need to appreciate what O'Keefe
is trying to do here. For one thing, I believe it was you who
complained that SLI was designed with the (stupid) assumption
of "anything you want as long as it carries 7 passengers and
50,000 lbs of cargo". Well, I think this SLI transition to the
CTV will allow a reassessment of that theory and will hopefully
result in smaller, less expensive and less developmentally risky
wasn't criticising the design or scope of the CTV hardware. As
you say, going from an oversized next-gen shuttle truck down to
a small passenger van is a positive step and something I applaud.
Rather it is the CTV "program" that looks to be similar to the
shuttle's. When O'Keefe began to indicate that he would move vehicle
development to a CTV emphasis, I thought this was great because
it would result in getting a vehicle in the air much sooner, e.g.,
by 2006 or 2007.
the comments in the letter indicate that, in fact, the CTV would
become operational in 2010, just a couple years before SLI's 2012
target for a full RLV system. (Of course, that date wasn't
realistic. NASA years must be multiplied by significant factor
to convert to real time) An 8 year program is comparable to that
for the shuttle development.
Secondly, your little blurb implies that the x-38 was far ahead
of the x-37 developmentally, which I don't think is true. As
I understand it, the huge parachutes (in addition to being a
really kludgy low-tech solution in the age of ubiquitous Unmanned
Aerial Vehicles) apparently had a fair amount of technical issues
regarding unfolding and control. In contrast, the x-40a seems
to fly just fine and is a more advanced solution to boot (think
about it: which vehicle would YOU rather pilot? *ESPECIALLY*
in higher-than-expected winds?).
re-read my blurb but I don't see that I implied much at all about
the X-37. I just wanted to indicate that it was in the mix of
programs that will be affected by the new CTV program. Since it
is a prototype for an unmanned SMV that the Air Force would use
for various on-orbit operations it really should be on a completely
separate track but my impression is that it is not.
Thirdly, your article states that the O'Keefe correspondence
says *explictly* that the CTV won't be ready until 2010 at the
"earliest" (and thereby implies that the x-38 CRV would be ready
far earlier). However, if you simply read the O'Keefe letter
carefully, it turns out that what you wrote is fairly misleading,
since O'Keefe *also* explicitly states that a preliminary version
of the CTV tailored to ONLY bring astronauts BACK (as opposed
to up and back) could be ready by 2008, which is the SAME "earliest"
date as for the x-38 derivative.
I should have pointed out the 2008 date but I still believe the
plan is not especially ambitious.
X-38 was a relatively low budget program that intended not only
to get a credible prototype in the air but also to show a new
way for NASA to carry out development projects. It was sort of
NASA's DC-X that would prove that it could also operate in something
like a 1950's X vehicle mode, i.e. a small, highly skilled and
motivated team, using COTS equipment as much as possibile, would
get something done quickly, cheaply and successfully.
in parallel, SLI was gearing up to spend multi-billions on RLVs,
first on studies and later on hardware. O'Keefe comes along and
says that instead NASA will spend those billions on a CRV/CTV.
It would seem to me that with that kind of increase in funding
money, it should do much better time-wise than the original little
program that was going along quite well but constrained by its
Personally, I think that O'Keefe is doing the best he can in
the face of NASA "tunnel vision" from the "old guard" and from
idiotic congressmen whose sole purpose in life is to bring money--
*ANY* money-- into their district. So, why not use your site
to heap criticism where criticism is due, but applaud when someone
steps up to the plate with much-needed change?
don't see that it was idiotic to question both the motivation
for the cancellation and the way it was done. If I had worked
on the X-38 I would be stunned that, instead of my team getting
a pat on its collective back for doing a lot on a modest budget,
the whole thing is junked with little explanation (at least not
until much later.) Asking my Congress-person to look into the
matter is what he or she is there for.
hope for the best from O'Keefe and, in principle, scaling down
SLI and going for a small reusable spaceplane are positive steps.
I certainly believe he is doing what he thinks is best for the
agency and for US space development.
if you step back and forget that he is involved, it looks suspiciously
like same ol'same old: X-33, X-34, X-38, SLI are all RLV programs
canceled after large investments of person-years and money. The
CTV (or OSP) - a new program, a new mix of letters. Will it be
any different? I would have more confidence that it would be if
O'Keefe challenged the agency to do it on much faster schedule.
That would require that NASA do project development differently
than it has in the past.The program will extend across at least
2 administrations. A lot can happen in 6-8 years.
course, this discussion skips the whole question as to whether
NASA should be developing vehicles to begin with. But that's a
matter for another blurb.)
I occasionally add commentary to the news items posted here to
provide some color and perspective. I try to confine it to policy
and economic issues, for which I think I can make intelligent
comments, and not on the technical aspects of the various RLV
approaches. I have a Phd in physics but that doesn't make me a
rocket scientist by a long shot!
brief ... The Space
Transportation Association, headed by Frank Sietzen who is
also editor of the NSS
Ad Astra magazine, defends the Shuttle against Rand Simberg's
and arrows : STA
Responds to Fox News Article on Shuttle, SLI - STA PR/Spaceref
Membership list.) [Rand's response
XCOR will bring the EZ-Rocket for display at the Edwards
Air Show in Southern California on Saturday, October 26th.
(Static display only, no flights.)
brief ... Rand Simberg says we should eliminate "'Shuttle'
from our national space vocabulary". Instead of focusing
on a s-----e replacement, NASA should focus on nurturing a private
space transportation industry: A
Shuttle By Any Other Name - Transterrestrial Musings - Oct.24.02
CRV becomes Slow CTV... Rep. Ralph M. Hall [Democrat-Texas]
has released letters (PDF
file, 559kb) exchanged with Sean O'Keefe about the cancellation
of the X-38/CRV (Crew Rescue Vehicle) and NASA's plans for a seven
passenger CTV (Crew Transfer Vehicle) to take its place. (I assume
the CTV program will absorb the X-37 project.)
in a press release - Rep.
Hall Releases O'Keefe's Responses on Crew Return Plans for the
Space Station - House Science - Oct.22.02, O'Keefe indicates
that, in fact, the CRV was canceled before any detailed "quantitative
analysis" was carred out.
" 2010 is estimated to be the 'earliest' availability date
for a Crew Transfer Vehicle (CTV) to support crew return functions
on the International Space Station." and "No estimates
of the cost to develop and operate a CTV are provided."
nearly 40 years after lifting bodies began flying at Edwards and
more than 20 years since the first shuttle flight, NASA will requre
8 years and, no doubt, several billion dollars to build a small
spaceplane module without even a reusable first stage to get it
that the X-38/CRV was supposed to represent a new development
approach for NASA in which a small, highly focused team, using
cheap-off-the-shelf technology as much as possible, would design,
build, and fly a vehicle in a short time frame. It's replacement
CTV looks to be a return to business as slow as usual.
Recoverable Falcon... Elon Musk's Space
Exploration Technologies (mentioned earlier)
has now posted a much more informative set of web pages. It gives
a number of details about the 2-stage Falcon, which later will
become the 2nd and 3rd stages of a 3 stage vehicle.
Falcon's 1st stage is recovered:
1st Stage is a recoverable portion of the launch vehicle. The
recovery system uses flight proven technology by deploying a
hypersonic drogue just after stage separation. At 20,000 feet
the main parachute is deployed for a ocean landing."
stage employs a single LOX/kerosene engine. The first stage engine
produces 60,000 lbf thrust and is based on the Apollo Lunar Module
descent engine and uses a "low cost single shaft turbopump".
The pressure fed second stage engine produces 7500 lbf thrust.
system can place 1000lbs (454kg) into LEO. The
company says it will carry out its first launch in late 2003.
brief... Another billionaire's space company makes
a deal for insurance coverage: Aon
Space To Supply Insurance Brokering, Risk Management Services
for Orbital Recovery Corp.'s Satellite Retrieval System - Orbital
Recovery PR - Oct.22.02 ...
will guide military, civilian space activities - Air Force News/Spaceref
- Oct.22.02 :
be working closely with NASA, as NASA continues to be involved
with reusable launch vehicle technology. It's in a technology
development phase now, but there's not a doubt in my mind that
we will have a reusable launch system,' [Undersecretary of the
Air Force Peter B.] Teets said."
brief... Robert Becerra, a Florida based attorney,
will appear on The
Space Show this Wednesday (8-9pm PST), October 23th to "discuss
the typical requirements to obtain a license from the FAA for
launches of expendable and reusable vehicles, and for reentry
vehicles." The program is available live via internet streaming
goes into standby mode: NASA
delays review of Space Launch Initiative requirements - SLI News
- Oct.22.02. The review will take place after NASA:
its assessment of its Integrated Space Transportation Plan,
ascertains the role of the Department of Defense in the SLI,
determines the future requirements of the International Space
Station and firms up the agency’s future space transportation
is that all?
Returns for the X Prize...The Advent
Launch Services company initially planned a large vehicle
called the Mayflower Rocket that would take 6 tourists to 110km.
The vehicle was a bit unusual in that both the takeoff and landing
would occur at sea.
approximately $10M effort was to be funded by payments from those
joining the Civilian Astroanuts Corps who would get a ride
on the Mayflower in return. The prospective pilot for the rocket
even got an appearance on the David Letterman show. Unfortunately,
the project shut down in 1999 because of the slow rate at which
people and sponsors were signing up. According to the article
Tourism Company Shuts Down - Spaceviews - Apr.15.99, they
refunded $200k raised from 62 candidate space tourists who had
put deposits down.
the Houston based project now continues with a scaled down version
of the vehicle for the X Prize. Their entry
page recently received an upgrade and a data
sheet (575kb pdf) describes the vehicle, the flight profile,
the liquid methane/LOX engine, and other aspects of the project.
finally came across an image
on the web of Rutan's mystery plane, mentioned here previously
as possibly a first stage in his X Prize entry....
See videos of the recent flight of Japan's Phase I prototype at
Speed Flight Demonstration - NASDA....
Chamber of Commerce commission recommends that NASA use its purchasing
power, for products and services like launch vehicles, as a tool
to encourage their development: Government
Urged To Be Reliable Buyer Of Space Products - Aviation Week -
Rebel Rocketeers vs the Establishment...As reported
in several places, the X Prize managed to get the rest of the
$10 M purse by making a bet with an insurance company that a winner
would occur by January 1, 2005. See the X
Prize Fact Sheet for a brief report on the scheme.
A good part of the $5 million previously raised includes funds
promised by FirstUSA credit card and some other sponsors (that
is, this money only appears if a winner appears.) Not counting
this money, I assume the X Prize used whatever cash they had to
make the bet with the insurance company.
rather surprised that an insurance company agreed to such a deal
without at least getting a committment for some advertising rights
if they lose. My guess is that the company contacted various experts
at NASA, the big aerospace companies, and DC beltway gurus who
dissed the whole X Prize concept and promised there was no way
little startups and amateur groups could possibly succeed at launching
X Prize thus becomes more than just an interesting race. Like
low cost jet aircraft, which has been relentlessly criticized
as an impossible dream by many in the mainstream aerospace industry,
the X Prize competitors will try to open an alternative route
to the development of new rocket vehicles.
Phase I Vehicle Flies...Mentioned here
earlier, a spaceplane prototype called the Phase
I vehicle made a successful low altitude autonomous takeoff,
flight and landing today on Christmas
prototype will only make subsonic flights to test the autonomous
control and guidance systems. A
II vehicle will fly at supersonic speeds in tests next year
at the Esrange
center in northern Sweden. The vehicle will drop from a balloon
at 30km and reach speeds up to Mach 1.2. It will land with the
aid of parachutes and airbags.
X Prize Publicity... Space.com
confirms that the X Prize now has the full $10 M purse.
$10 million is in place,' said Peter Diamandis, Chairman and Founder
of the X Prize in St. Louis, Missouri. That money is secure and
available to January 1, 2005 he announced today at the World Space
article at CNN also gives a generally positive report on the X
Prize project, Armadillo Aerospace and the other entrants: Armadillo,
Romanians join private space race - CNN.com - Oct.16.02. Great
to see the X Prize starting to get some attention. I expect that
as test flights begin, the publicity will quickly grow. Proabably
soon, bookies in Las Vegas will start taking bets on the competitors.
like the Jan.1, 2005 date has become the de facto deadline since
the sponsors will withdraw their money then. Since several teams
have indicated they will begin test flights in 2003, looks like
there is a fighting chance of making the 2005 deadline.
the Reusable Anthem... Rand Simberg gives a good rendition
of why RLVs trump ELVs in his Fox News column: Throwing
Away Our Future - FOXNews.com - Oct.17.02.
brief... Houston Chronicle offers a short article on
John Carmack's "violent game creations" and rockets:
creator taking a shot at space race - HoustonChronicle - Oct.17.02
Down? ... Space.com
reports that the "chatter" going around the World
Space Congress this week in Houston says that the SLI will undergo
radical restructuring and reduction in scale. Much of the money
intended for SLI will go to the ISS, a crew rescue vehicle, and
would bet that SLI will ends up as a small program supporting
various RLV technologies - e.g. kerosene engines, lightweight
structures, etc. - but not vehicle development.
brief... Pop Sci gives a nice report on the HyTech
scramjet engine and vehicle project : Scram!
- Popular Science - Oct.02. See also the previous entry
here about HyTech and other hypersonic programs.
Prize: Two New Entries and a Test Launch... X
Prize announces at the World Space Congress that two new entries
signed up for the contest: Armadillo
page) and the ARCA
Team of Bucharest, Romania:
PRIZE Competition Heats Up with entry of two new teams to
win the $10 Million "New Race to Space"- X Prize PR/Spaceref
release on the X Prize site - Oct.16.02]
Argentine team of Pablo De Leon plans to launch in 2003 a half-scale
version of the Gauchito.
See the Asociación Argentina de Tecnología Espacial (AATE)
site and their Rocket
Projects page for more info.
In addition, the X Prize organization introduced a new "trustee
& benefactor". Perhaps she is bringing more money.
I've heard a rumour that the project is now fully funded but
an announcement would come later.
Frankly, I've never thought that the fact that the purse had
not yet reached $10M was an issue. First of all, raising the
additional money would obviously become much easier once viable
competitors start making test flights. Secondly, anyone who
needed the purse to pay for their project shouldn't be in the
contest to begin with. As discussed
previously, America's Cup entrants pay $70-80M to
go for a trophy with no purse at all. Similarly, no car racing
team pays for its operations through winnings (well, maybe Ferrari
which has won every Formula 1 race this year!) Sponsorships
pay the bills.
Space Tourism Project?...Patrick Collins, of Space
Future and a professor at Azabu University in Japan, will
try to convince Malaysian officials of the viability of space
serious about space tourism - New Straits Times (Malaysia) -
claims that a RLV with a 20-30 passenger capability is under
check out as well this paper by Prof. Collins recently posted
at Space Future: Meeting
the Needs of the New Millennium: Passenger Space Travel and
World Economic Growth by Patrick Collins - IAF Congress 2001
brief...Check out Armadillo's Tube
Vehicle status. The streamline vehicle (jpeg)
includes a ballistic parachute system for emergencies...
is funding a flexible, space based telemetry and range safety
system that will allow launches from just about anywhere in the
US and at a much lower cost than current systems: SLI's
Space-Based Telemetry And Range Safety Project Demonstrated -
KSC PR - Oct.10.02
Flights Approved - Space Log
Air Force & NASA Sign Agreement on RLVs...NASA
Watch is reporting that NASA and USAF this morning signed
a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) that deals with development with
Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV) developmen. The MOA divides up responsibilities
between the two and establishes a connection "between the
DoD's National Aerospace Initiative (NAI) and NASA's Space Launch
should be revealed this afternoon about the collaboration at the
Transportation Association Town Hall Meeting.
and Pentagon Pledge Cooperation In Space But Provide Few Details
- Space.com - Oct.8.02 (5pm)
Tourism Study Shows Strong Market - Space Log
Event Promotions...In the Space
Log section I wrote an article the other day called
Space Events about the rise of companies in the business
of organizing and promoting advanced rocketry and space related
Technologies, for example, helped to organize a recent OK
Spaceplanes event in which several hundred paper airplanes
made by Oklahoma school kids were carried by a high altitude balloon
and released at 100k ft. Similar to JP
program, the idea is to use high altitude balloons and rockets
for educational and entertainment projects. (The
Oklahoma activities have been helped along by the development
of the Oklahoma
you are involved in a high altitude rocket or ballooning project,
you might consider contacting one of these
companies to help organize and promote events centered
around a launching.
particular, Joan Horvath, president of Takeoff says "We'd
like to encourage your readership that is actually flying vehicles
(or close to it) to contact us to get involved in our flying-for-the-public
activities. We also will have some ability to loft small scientific
or educational payloads as we build up our flight schedule."
Flashback - DC-X Video On Line... A very nice video
montage of the second DC-X flight in September 1993, and of
scenes before and after, has been posted at Armadillo
Aerospace. The video was made by space enthusiast Chris ‘Xenon
In the story behind the video, he tells how, along with a friend,
he passed himself off as a reporter and obtained entry into White
Sands to see the launch.
also got to wander around the launch site the day before and take
some pictures. I like this
one - that's the way a rocketship is supposed to look!
also liked his description of the flight:
DC-X did nothing short of exactly what it was supposed to, and
did it perfectly. Watching it climb rapidly out of its exhaust
plume into the pale sky, and then come to a gentle halt with
no visible means of support is nothing short of pure science
cryogenic hydrogen/oxygen engines burn so cleanly that they
produce no visible flame, making the vehicle look like a flying
saucer that someone forgot to flatten. It appears to have no
business whatsoever just hanging there in the sky."
more astonishing is when it nonchalantly slides sideways a few
hundred feet, stops again for a couple seconds just to prove
it can, and then gently descends to the desert floor."
four little pneumatic landing struts that zip out (not quite
in synchronization with each other) make it seem all the more
likely that a little green man will pop out waving a ray gun
as soon as the dust settles."
crowd went wild..." - Chris
You can find
more info on the DC-X
RLV History section; see, for example, this list
For the politics
of the DC-X, especially as to why there was no money to build
two or three vehicles as was typical for previous X rocket vehicle
programs in case one was lost, I recommend the late G. Harry Stine's
1996 book Halfway
to Anywhere: Achieving America's Destiny in Space
(Amazon commission link). I was amazed at his
recounting of how a mid-level staffer in Congress could stymie
such a promising program.
just after the X-33 program started, Stine also gave a number
of prescient criticisms on the chosen design and his preference
for a simpler, incremental DC-XB/C approach.)
Aerospace Launches Rocket in Texas - Space Log
web site has had a major upgrade that's flashier, but, more importantly,
provides a number of additional details on their Thunderbird X
Prize vehicle. (Note that only the Flash version currently has
the new info. Sigh...)
vehicle includes two powered stages plus a crew module. The vehicle
design is now longer and slimmer than in previous drawings. The
first and second stages use kerosene/LOX engines plus strap-on
solids on the first stage. All components return by parachute,
though the crew module switches to a paraglider for the landing.
(See the flight
goal is for a manned launched is in August, 2004. According to
the article Space
countdown for Woomera - theage.com.au - Apr.14.02 , Starchaser
has obtained financing from several sponsors and raised $A1.3
million from the sale of two seats on a flight of the vehicle.
This article also says that the launchings may take place at Woomera.
definitely seems to have plenty of funding. For example, it is
also sponsoring a couple of Mars Society projects. It gave $90k
to support the Euro-MARS
hab, and the Australian
Chapter received $A41k for its Marsupial
organization seems to have transformed from an amateur/academic
project into a commercial company, but one still involving volunteers
should note that Steve Bennett, the founder and head of Starchaser,
is a very controversial figure among British amateur rocketry
enthusiasts, as indicated by the article Private
rocket launch is 'suicidal' - BBC - June.27.01. Among other
affronts, one of his early rockets failed and caused a fire that
led to the loss of access for all amateur rocketry groups to a
favorite launch site . However, the launch of the large Nova rocket
was quite impressive and the organization definitely seems to
be growing and developing into a real rocket company.
Musk's Launch Company...A posting on sci.space.policy
today gave the link to the website for SpaceX:
Space Exploration Technologies, the new launch company (mentioned
founded by Elon
the site only gives a one page brief description of the company
and its Falcon rocket project:
first launch vehicle, named Falcon, is a two stage, liquid oxygen
and kerosene powered rocket capable of placing half a ton into
low Earth orbit. We expect to have the Falcon ready for launch
by late 2003, with the actual liftoff date subject to Air Force
and NASA safety approval. Following this vehicle, SpaceX plans
to develop a large three stage rocket using the first and second
stages of the Falcon vehicle as its second and third stages.
That vehicle would compete in the heavy lift payload class occupied
by Arianespace, Boeing, Lockheed, China Aerospace and Russia's
drawing upon the ideas of many prior launch vehicle programs
from Apollo to the X-34/Fastrac, SpaceX is privately developing
the entire Falcon rocket from the ground up, including both
engines, the turbo-pump, the cryogenic tank structure and the
guidance system. A ground up internal development increases
difficulty and the required investment, but no other path will
achieve the needed improvement in the cost of access to space."
Prize Rocket How-to Guide...The X
Prize site has posted an excellent article from the August
2002 issue of Sport Aviation called Designing
an X-Prize Homebuilt Spacecraft by Mark
Christopher Russell ( also available in pdf
article leads you through the rocket equation with the goal of designing
a vehicle that will reach the 100km X Prize altitude for a pilot
and 2 passengers and with reasonable assumptions for structural
weight, engine thrust, etc.
Aerospace, which has built and test fired a 1000lb thrust LOX/Kerosene
regeneratively cooled rocket engine with a composite jacket. He
is also designing a 15,000 lb thrust re-usable liquid rocket engine.
In the article he assumes the availability of three of these latter
engines for his vehicle design.
provides a spreadsheet
file so you can play around with the different parameters in
designing your own homebuilt spacecraft.
"was a project engineer for the Van's Aircraft RV-8, developed
spacecraft separation systems for Boeing's Sea Launch project, and
was a lead systems engineer for loads and dynamics of the Kistler
K-1 reusable launch vehicle."
Prize Entry Updates..Some of the entry pages at the X
Prize site have been updated with new images, project descriptions,
and summary sheets in pdf files:
Briefs...The GAO has issued a review of SLI - short
GAO-02-1020 Space Transportation: Challenges Facing NASA’s Space
Launch Initiative - Spaceref - Oct.3.02, full report at 619kb
Not time for new shuttle - Florida Today - Oct.4.02]...
...SLI dropped support for
Pratt & Whitney COBRA LH2/LOX engine, but work continues on
the Boeing RS-83 - Stennis
to begin preburner testing for Boeing Rocketdyne's RS-83 engine
- NASA PR - Sept.20.02...
that the Aviation Week article mentioned earlier
on jet powered flyback boosters has now been posted on their site
for free viewing - Gas
Turbines Eyed For 'Flyback' Booster -Aviation Week - Oct.3.02.
Memories...A RLV News reader asked me what I thought
about Teledesic's announcement that it was "suspending"
plans to launch its first two satellites (Teledesic
Suspends Work Under Satellite Contract - Teledesic - Sept.30.02)
had posted a comment earlier in the Space
Log section but I didn't address the impact on RLV's
because I don't know of any company still basing a business plan
on Teledesic ever getting off the ground. (The system, in fact,
had shrunk from the initial 900 satellites in LEO to 30 in MEO.)
is worth noting, however, on its passing that Teledesic did give
a big boost to the RLV companies in the late 1990's. The announcement
of a 900 satellite system, supported by credible investors like
Craig McCaw and Bill Gates, certainly entered into their presentations
to investors and helped them get initial funding.
if the various LEO constellations used ELV's to launch the first
generation of satellites, the yearly replacement rate (say ~50
satellites per year for a 5% failure rate after the first 5 or
6 years), would have provided a very nice market for the RLV companies.
with the Iridium/Globalstar bankruptcies the startup RLV companies
could not convince investors that the constellations would provide
a realistic launch market for them. (At the past 3 Space Access
meetings, I remember the speakers for the RLV companies expressing
great skepticism that Teledesic would ever fly.)
I discuss in the Space
Log why I think the current constellations will survive
but I think they will need a few years to solidify their situation
before we'll know if they can offer a replacement business for
launch companies. I also think broadband from LEO will eventually
make a comeback, especially for mobile apps, but it will be after
the recovery from the telecom meltdown and with a much lower cost
satellite system (perhaps launched by RLVs.)
seems increasingly clear that space tourism is the one sure big
market that can get the private RLV companies into business. First
sub-orbital and then orbital.
Brief... Leonard David talks with John Carmack about
the Armadillo manned rocket flight : X-Prize
Entrant Makes Small Leap - Space.com - Oct.2.02
Going for Kerosene Engines... As first reported last
week by NASA
Watch, SLI will not renew the contract with Pratt & Whitney/Aerojet
for development of the COBRA LH2/LOX engine according to the latest
issues of Space News and Aviation Week - NASA
Shifts SLI Funds Kerosene Engines - Aviation Week - Sept.30.02.
doesn't immediately affect Boeing's RS-83 LH2/LOX engine since
its contract runs till next Spring. But all signs indicate that
SLI wants to concentrate on kerosene engines and may not continue
that program either.
that a number of people in the "independent" launch
industry, such as Mitchell Clapp of Pioneer
Rocketplane, have been promoting the advantages of such non-cryogenic
fuels, especially with regard to simpler and cheaper operations,
for many years. Expect, though, to hear NASA claiming this approach
as its own revolutionary discovery.
Power for FlyBack Boosters... Aviation Week also reports
that NASA is funding studies by General Electric and Pratt &
Whitney into the use of gas turbine engines for flying a booster
back to the launch site after it detaches from the second stage
that goes on to orbit.
separation would occur at high altitude (~60km) and at around
Mach 8, so the boosters would glide down to low altitude (~11km)
and Mach ~0.7 before turning on the engines.
of NASA Glenn's Revolutionary
Aeropropulsion Concepts program, the studies will look into
various aspects of such a system including cold-start capabilities
and robustness with respect to high vibration levels and wide
thermal variations. No current engine meets all the requirements
but modified versions of Pratt's F135 and GE's F136 engines, intended
for the Joint Strike Fighter, look promising.
Turbines Eyed For 'Flyback' Booster -Aviation Week - Oct.2.02]
Launch Project Continues..
A report at TelecomWeb - Russian
Airline Company Targets Satellite Profit In 2006 - TelecomWeb
- Oct.1.02 [link has switched from free to subscription -
Oct.7.02] - indicates that the Russian Air
Launch Corporation's plan to use Ruslan cargo planes for a
launch system remains alive.
announced back in 2000 - Space
rockets to fire from plane [Ruslan] - BBC - Apri.19.00 - the
huge planes, which can fly 120-tonne payloads, would carry a 100-tonne,
two-stage Polyot rocket to around 11km where it would perform
a "zoom maneuver".
described in Russians
to Launch Satellites by Plane - SatNews - Mar.5.01, the zoom
consists of first a dive to gain speed and then a climb at 26
degrees and the release of the payload at the apex of the trajectory.
A drogue chute would stabilize the rocket's free-fall for a few
seconds before it fires.
first launch is now expected in late 2004 or 2005. They could
fly from several
locations around the world. The target market is LEO satellites
including remote sensing and comsats. The project investement
is around $130 million and each launch would cost around $20 million
Investors Could Back New Russian Air Launcher [Ruslan] - Spacedaily
- Aug.16.01 for a cost would be around $2500 per kg for an
8 ton payload.
launched systems can offer substantial cost advantages
compared to ELVs if the carrier aircraft needs only minor modifications
so that it can still do other tasks, e.g. normal cargo delivery,
in between launch flights. A big drawback of the Orbital Science
is the cost and maintenance of the dedicated L-1011.
Since the Ruslan holds the rocket internally and just drops it
out the back door, it presumably doesn't need as much customization.
A Study of Air Launch Methods for RLVs (PDF 542kb) gives an
excellent overview of launch costs and air launch advantages &
brief... Check out the cool Xerus posters and collectables
at the XCOR