briefs ... The
Vinci Project, a Canadian X Prize entry, has greatly revised
their web site. Seems to include additional info such as a page
on the evolution
of the vehicle design. ...
... The October/November
2002 issue of the Smithsonian Air & Space Magazine has
a couple of interesting articles (but unfortunately not available
on line so head for the newsstand or library):
High: My Climb to the top in the F-104 by George j. Marrett
- reviews the F-104,
including info about the version with rocket augmentation.
Scramble: A University of Queensland Lab has Supersonic Success
by Luba Vangelova - a lengthy article about the HyShot
scramjet project and recent flight.
Space fable - How
The West Wasn't Won (NAFA) at Space Future
briefs ... Leonard
David surveys the challenges involved in developing vehicles for
space tourism - Creating
Commercial Spacecraft for Space Tourism - Space.com - Nov.27.02
NASA seeks new RLV engine Sources
Sought Notice: Next Generation Launch Technology (NGLT) Prototype
Engine Demonstration (PED) - SpaceRef - Nov.26.02
Updates ... XCOR
reports that it "has submitted all of the final reports for
[their] various RASCAL
contracts, and is now looking forward to RASCAL phase II beginning
early next year." XCOR collaborated with Coleman
Aero to compete with 5
other teams for the DARPA program that seeks to develop
a reusable small payload delivery system with a horizontal takeoff
and landing first stage and an expendable rocket powered second
will participate in various space related panels at the upcoming
Los Angeles Science Fiction Conference (LOSCON)
on Nov.29-Dec.1. They will talk "about present projects and
future plans, as well as showcasing some never before seen EZ-Rocket
and test footage, including highlights from AirVenture 2002".
The "main panel will be on Saturday, November 30 at 1:30
Check out the cool look-down
view onto the Xerus in flight as rendered by Mike Massee.
press attention for XCOR : XCOR
stars on newsstands:Magazines sing Valley firm's praises - AV
Press - Nov.24.02.
XCOR has some most excellent calendars and other items available
in their store.
Prize Updates... Armadillo
reports on starting construction of a new sub-scale unmanned
test vehicle that should start flying by the end of the year.
Also, they recently began receiving parts for a full scale mockup
of their X Prize vehicle (e.g. photo
Rockets has posted its team briefing
report (pdf 599kb) on its X
Prize entry page. ...
Prize competitors list still includes Cerulean
Freight Forwarding. However, this organization was re-organized
after the death last year of one of its founders and is now called
Technologies. Their redesigned vehicle is no longer called
Kitten but tentatively renamed Tigre,
which will hold 3 passengers and a pilot instead of the X Prize
minimum of 2 passengers and a pilot...
The X Prize vehicle from the Canadian da
Vinci project has received the name Wild
This article - '60s
idea for orbital plane back - L.A.Daily - Nov.24.02 - notes
the similiarities between NASA's new orbital space plane and the
DynaSoar project of the early 1960s....
Boeing's X-37 contract will allow the company to
"...complete the final assembly of the X-37 Approach and
Landing Test Vehicle and conduct an atmospheric flight test in
April 2004. The contract also initiates a design for an additional
X-37 long-duration orbital vehicle, currently scheduled to be
inserted into low Earth orbit by a Delta II booster in July 2006."
Awarded Contract to Complete X-37 Development and Flight Test
- Boeing - Nov.25.02
O'Keefe presents the motivations behind his remake of NASA plans
including the decision to drop the X-38 : NASA's
Master Plan by Sean O'Keefe - IEEE Spectrum : Opinion - Nov.02
The presentation given in October at the World Space Congress
on the Alternate
Access to Station program at NASA is available at Spaceref:
Alternate Access to Station Concept - 53rd International Astronautical
Congress - SpaceRef - Nov.22.02 - Powerpoint
Presentation (1.6MB). The program wants to "[e]stablish
feasibility of commercially produced autonomous cargo vehicle[s]"
and to change the approach so that "NASA
seeks to purchase services rather than vehicles".
Simberg points out the self-fulfilling nature of NASA's pessimism
towards RLVs - A
Policy Cul De Sac - Transterrestrial Musings - Nov.21.02 (re-titled
at Fox News.) ...
If the NASA policy really is to fly the shuttle until 2020, then
it better get serious now about safety issues - Spacelift
Washington: The Future of Shuttle Safety (Part I) A Conversation
with Richard Blomberg - SpaceRef - Nov.20.02.
Funds Flight Demonstrators... SLI
awards Boeing $301 million for X-37
orbital flight demonstrator and $53 million to Lockheed-Martin
for a "reusable launch pad abort demonstrator" : NASA
Awards Contracts for Flight Demonstrators - NASA PR - Nov.20.02
award continues its on-going X-37
contract and will lead to a "progressive series of approach
and landing tests and a space transportation research orbital
vehicle. The atmospheric tests are scheduled for mid-2004 and
the orbital flight is scheduled for mid-2006."
Lockheed test-bed vehicle will provide "the capability to
test technologies in a launch pad abort situation." It will
"use fully instrumented mannequins to provide data on crew
environments during the test and check out of crew escape propulsion
systems, parachute deployment, vehicle orientation, landing techniques,
and external aeroshell configurations."
Commission Backs Space Tourism... The Commission
on the Future of the United States Aerospace Industry released
its final report yesterday. The commission gave space a high priorty.
3: Space (pdf,1.275MB) of the report surveys the problems
of the space segment of the industry and included the high cost
of access to space as a crucial problem.
gives a nice table detailing launch costs for a wide array of
launchers. BTW: the Orbital Science Pegasus is highest at more
than $25K per pound.)
it does not recommend the pursuit of a particular launcher technology.
It just gives general backing to SLI and urges that NASA and the
Defense Department work more closely together to develop RLV systems.
commission notes the depressed state of launch demand, which has
resulted in severe launcher overcapacity. Surprisingly, the commission
that the only space launch sector with growth potential over the
next two decades is passenger space travel. All other sectors—
both commercial and governmental—have flat-line outlooks."
Here "passenger space travel" refers to space tourism.
It even recommends that NASA "fly private citizens on the
about the report at
the Orbital Space Plane becomes operational, the shuttle would
still be required for shipping large cargo loads to the ISS. However,
only a small (2-3) crew is needed in that case and NASA may even
use the extra space to install ejection seats :
Considering Reducing Shuttle Crews As Orbital Space Plane Comes
Online - Aviation Week - Nov.19.02
has become convinced of the impossibility of near term, large
reductions in launch costs - O'Keefe
Says SLI's 90% Launch Cost Reduction Goal Was Unrealistic - Aviation
Week - Nov.18.02 ...
Others aren't sure that the new plans really provide a clear roadmap
for cost reductions of any size - Space
plane plan frustrates advisory panel - Florida Today - Nov.19.02...
The Air Force has begun a program to "develop revolutionary
and innovative technologies by the year 2010 that will permit
a doubling of rocket propulsion capabilities over 1993 state-of-the-art
technology" - Combine
Solicitation: Program Research and Development Announcement PRDA
03-01-PKT, Integrated High Payoff Rocket Propulsion Technology
IX (IHPRPT) - Air Force/SpaceRef - Nov.18.02
HobbySpace Interview...Please check out A
Conversation with Paula Berinstein, the author of the
book Making Space Happen: Private Space Ventures and the
Visionaries Behind Them. We discuss a wide range of topics
related to non-governmental development of space such as sub-orbital
RLV projects, commercial lunar missions, and others.
The Canadian da
Vinci X Prize entry gets another sponsor: The
DA VINCI PROJECT Relies on ANSYS to win International X PrizeRIZE®
Competition - ANSYS Inc - Nov.14.02
The latest Armadillo
update includes a video of the Tube launch and flip at Burns
Flat and a summary of the main suspects for the failure and planned
fixes. They are proceeding with design of the next vehicle that
will use "four large engines that are differentially throttled,
instead of the single large engine and four solenoid controlled
Space Equity provides a status report on the X Prize in its latest
Current Status of the X-Prize - Space Equity - Nov.15.02...
A review of the studies of the Kankoh-maru design for a space
tourism vehicle : Japanese
Rocket Society's Rocket Symposia 1995-2001 by Yoshifumi Inatani
- posted at Space Future
brief... A flight at the Burns Flat, Oklahoma of Armadillo
in a crash. New frame under construction. More details in
John Carmack's next log update in a day or two.
Arrow Wants You!... Check out the Canadian
Arrow's fancy new astronaut
candidate site. They are looking for "three pilot-astronauts
to train for the Canadian Arrow X PRIZE flights." Selection
will occur by March 31, 2003. Application
to Obtain Senior Discount Cards... NASA latest 15 year
plan requires the shuttles to keep flying until the middle of
the next decade. Will they make it? Probably. Fifty year old B-52s,
afterall, keep flying, although they periodically undergo major
overhauls and undergo less stressful flight regimes.
the shuttles have begun to show their age. Last summer the discovery
of fuel line cracks caused a significant delay in flights and
expensive repairs. Now metal fatigue is showing up in some oxygen
pipes to the cabin of Endeavour : Shuttle
oxygen leak points to metal fatigue - New Scientist - Nov.15.02.
If such problems continue to appear, there will be increasing
pressure to speed up the development of the CTV else repair costs
will eat up the transportation budget.
Hall: Never Say Die X-38
... Rep. Ralph
M. Hall of Texas points out the gap beween 2006 and 2010 when
there will be no return vehicles available for the ISS.
Hall and Gordon Comment on NASA's New Transportation Plan - House
Science Committee Democratic PR - Nov.13.02
committement to supply Soyuz vehicles expires in 2006 and an operational
CRV in the latest NASA plan will not appear till 2010. (Because
of restrictions on dealings with Russia due to sales of nuclear
and military items to Iran, NASA cannot simply buy or trade for
Soyuz modules.) Hall continues to push for the X-38 development
path, which he believes will lead to quicker development of a
Spaceplane by 2006... According to the article, NASA
chief outlines plans for orbital space plane - Florida Today -
Nov.14.02, NASA will build a demonstration version of the
CRV/CTV in four years and the first operational version by 2010.
probably refers to the X-37
project (see Cowing's
review, part 2), which apparently is now seen as a general
spaceplane technology testbed rather than just a military space
maneuvering vehicle (SMV) prototype as originally envisioned.
(There is also the related Autonomous
Rendezous Experiment project.)
briefs... The Canadian
Arrow and daVinci
projects are looking for passengers for their X Prize vehicles
scientists plan to launch ordinary Canadians into space - CBC
NASA Space Trans Plan Released... It's official - NASA
may deliver a reusable crew return module by 2010 and a crew transfer
vehicle by 2012. (See timeline
chart at Spaceref.) A decision on a full RLV perhaps by 2009
and first flight around 2015. The shuttles will run at least till
2015. (~5 launches per year for around $3.5B
=> $700M per flight).
NASA now claims SLI's original goal of a next-Gen RLV by 2010
is not feasible because of the drop in the commercial launch market
(so the contractor can no longer expect to amortize part of the
cost of development with commercial business) and the "the
fact that four independent estimates have projected the total
development cost of the new RLV at $30-35 billion." (I wonder
if these studies will ever become publicly available?)
I'm sure these numbers must be a bit surprising to companies like
& Technology and Space
Access that always claimed numbers in the $6 Billion range
for their shuttle replacement sized vehicles. Even LockMart gave
a $6 billion number for VentureStar. Where did the factor of 5
suddenly come from?
like a comfy full employment decade and a half for the majors
when these development contracts are dished out.
Receives Awards... Three magazines recognize XCOR
for its achievements with the EZ-Rocket and small engine development:
Popular Science, and Scientific American Honor XCOR and the EZ-Rocket
- XCOR Aerospace - Nov.13.02
the articles at
Prize Updates... The X
Prize site recently added some additional info about the entries:
brief... News briefs...
NASA's grand new scheme for RLV development, the Shuttle program
and the ISS for the next 20 years is described in detail by Keith
Big Change: NASA Hits the Ground Running - Spaceref - Nov.11.02
Carmack has posted
a report and a video at the Armadillo web site about the first
hover tests of the Tube vehicle (see below)..
Also, the report describes tests of the rocket launched emergeny
parachute system and includes a video...
I would expect many of the X Prize vehicles will use emergency
parachutes of some sort. See my entry
in the Space Log section about airframe parachutes
and the first "real life" deployment by a Cirrus aircraft.
article about space tourism, X Prize, & Starchaser - Space
tour pioneer aims for star prize - Guardian - Nov.11.02
briefs... More articles on NASA's switch from shuttle
replacment to CTV.
briefs... NASA announces officially that it will change
its 2003 budget request to reflect changes in its plans for vehicle
Statement on the Integrated Space Transportation Plan - NASA PR
- Nov.8.02 * at
Info... The site Human
Access to Space: An Introduction to RLVs, built by Cornell
undergrads, provides a good overview of RLV issues and a nice
list of RLV
particular, the X-33
Liquid Hydrogen Tank Failure Investigation section provides
an informative overview of the composite tank failure .
I think one
should be careful about stating what lessons the X-33 project
teaches with regard to RLV or reusable SSTO feasibility. I don't
want to go too far into X-33 implications, but I'll make a few
you would build a spherical tank to obtain minimal structural
weaknesses and, second best, a cylindrical tank with spherical
caps. A triangular tank, on the other hand, provides all sorts
of challenges. The extensive structural reinforcements needed
with the X-33 tank, in fact, obviated the lightweight advantages
of the composite material. The aluminum replacement that was
under design before the project cancellation actually weighed
about the same as the original composite tank.
brings up the fact that the other two competitors for the
X-33 chose conventional cylindrical structures. Instead of
vehicles with which incremental steps could be made, NASA
selected the LockMart design that required successful development
of several leading edge technologies before it could leave
- No X-33
technology was found to be completely out of reach. For example,
an aluminum LH2 tank would have sufficed and the aerospike
engines, which had initial problems, eventually came along
quite nicely. However, the development problems and delays
led to high skepticism within NASA that the orbital VentureStar
was feasible, at least within the budgets they had in mind.
This, coupled with the big overrun in the project cost, led
to the project cancellation.
Tube Takes Off... John Carmack reports
on the ERPS (Exp. Rocket Propulsion Society) mailing list
that the Tube
rocket hovered successfully on Tuesday. After an inital problem
due to the nozzle too close to the ground ("Krushnik
effect"), the tethered vehicle was placed on blocks
and then it lifted off a few feet and came back down safely. A
video will be posted in the next log update at Armadillo
says the emergency parachute system will be tested this Saturday
and then the vehicle will be ready for flight tests that will
probably take place in Burns
due to problems with the FAA in Texas.
go to RLV News reader Yossi Preminger for passing along this news
into the News... The Beamed Energy conference mentioned
below is getting quite a bit of news play. In particular, Gregory
Benford's plan to test microwave beaming to the Cosmos
sail has received considerable notice
physicist announces plans for satellite to be 'boosted' into orbit
by a microwave beam - UC Irvine - Nov.5.02
David reports on the Cosmos plans and other news from the conference:
Propulsion: Out Of the Lab Into Space - Space.com - Nov.5.02
Keep up with
the latest at the ISBEP
Conference News Page
I Test Goes Well... The second test flight of the Japanese
I spaceplane quarter scale prototype took place today on Christmas
Island in the South Pacific. Japan's
unmanned experimental space shuttle passes second test - Spacedaily
- Nov.5.02 * Videos
of both flights at National Aerospace Lab HSFD. The jet powered
vehicle will test autonomous takeoff and landing systems at subsonic
speeds. Landing descent angles will follow close to those of a
Meeting in Huntsville ... This week the leading lights
of the beamed
energy propulsion world will meet in Huntsville for
the first major conference on the topic -
out the program,
whose breadth and depth indicates to me that the field has moved
from the fringe to the mainstream of propulsion alternatives.The
topics span a wide range of laser and microwave propulsion schemes
both for ground and in space applications. Also, a healthy number
of experimental results will be presented.
include Jordin Kare and Leik Myrabo, pioneers in the field and
frequent speakers at the Space
Access Meetings. BTW: Andrew
V. Pakhomov, head of the laser
propulsion group at the University of Alabama at Huntsville
and co-organizer of the conference, has told me he will try to
attend the next SAS meeting.
RLVs and Conjectures ... Carlton Meyer, who publishes
Magazine of Future Warfare, has posted the essay Scrap
the Space Shuttle Program. He makes what I consider a
number of valid points including the fact that the 4 billion or
so dollars that go each year to support 3 to 5 shuttle launches
could instead go to accelerate the development of far cheaper
and more practical vehicles.
favored alternative is the Space
Ramp, which employs a jet or rocket powered rocket sled as
a first stage catapult for a reusable orbital vehicle.
a sled launcher is a perfectly valid proposal, I think he makes
a number of claims that are highly debatable, to say the least.
For example, he greatly overstates the significance of the X-33
cancellation. The X-33 program involved all sorts of technical
and management flaws that have little to do with SSTO feasiblity.
makes a more relevant comparision to two
stage RLV systems, but here I also think he too quickly dismisses
the advantages of a booster stage. A detailed cost analysis, as
well as more experimental data, are required to determine whether
a fixed ground catapult system reduces costs so much that it trumps
the capabilities and greater flexibility of a two stage RLV.
Tube to Launch Soon... John Carmack reports in his
log update on progress with Armadillo's largest and first
streamlined vehicle, which they pithily call the Tube. He provides
several photos of the Tube, whose dry weight lies "just under
300 pounds[136.4kg]", including this pose
in patriotic colors.
says "all elements
are in place for a flight to moderate altitude". First, though,
they will begin with :
tests and parachute tests next week, but we still haven’t heard
from our local FAA office about our flight waiver, so we may
need to drive to Oklahoma to do the first flight at Burns
that Tuesdays and Saturdays are the primary activity days for
high altitude flights and the X Prize vehicle they will need to
work out regulatory issues, especially with the FAA. An Armadillo
rep attended a COMSTAC
meeting and also met with officials at the office of the FAA
Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation
As mentioned before,
John and several other space entrepreneurs will be speaking
on Thursday at the Southwestern
Oklahoma State University Center for Economic & Business Development
Sub-orbital RLV project... I just came across this
with Joe Latrell at SpaceFuture.
I was not aware of his Colorado based Beyond-Earth
Enterprises, which is developing the Raven
X Prize class vehicle.
vs Good Enough in Large Quantities... A RLV News reader
took issue with my statement
below that the Aerospace Corp paper was not "radical"
even though it proposes that launch prices to orbit could fall
to $15k per seat. Again, without reading their paper it's presumptuous
of me to make any statement at all about it. But since it is my
column I'll do it anyway!
I was only stating that the description of the launch system -
a flyback booster with a second stage orbital spaceplane - doesn't
sound particularly "new or radical". Instead it sounds
like they get the big drop in launch costs primarily from economies
should emphasize, though, that I think this is a good thing,
as I will explain.
I suspect that the authors show that if the space tourism market
is big enough to demand several thousand seats per year, then
the high flight rate alone will drive down costs. Just like airline
seats or widgets, the more you make and sell of some good or service,
the price of making or serving one more unit will drop since the
fixed costs - paying debt, salaries, etc. - grow slowly compared
to the production rate.
common criticism in fact of RLVs by ELV proponents, especially
those who like the big
dum booster approach, is that RLVs only achieve low
costs with very high flight rates. This is based on the assumption
that development costs of a RLV will be significantly higher than
that for an ELV of comparable payload capacity. See Economic
Model of Reusable vs Expendable Launch Vehicles - pdf-125k
chief James Wertz for such an analysis.
of scale have long been emphasized in RLV and space tourism studies.
utilization of the space transportation vehicles will be critical
-- including turnaround times of some 24 hours (roughly 100
times shorter than today's individual Shuttle experience)....
As these technical-operational goals are achieved, the price
per ticket could drop below $50,000 per passenger, and might
eventually reach the range of $10,000-$20,000."(my
Public Space Travel and Tourism by
D. O'Neil, I. Bekey, J. Mankins, T. Rogers & E. Stallmer
- March 1998 - posted at Space
biggest challenge for private company RLV builders has not been
in finding a radical new technology but in convincing investors
that a market will grow as costs go down, i.e. become elastic.
A study described in the paper Designing
Reusable Launch Vehicles for Future Space Markets by Jason
E. Andrews Dana G. Andrews - Oct.1.01 indicates that markets
could remain inelastic until prices drop to $600/lb (1320/kg).
In other words, income would actually decrease as the launch company
reduced prices until they got them below $600/lb.
the press conference last Spring for SLI's
Milestone Review, top NASA manager Dennis Smith said,
in response to a question about the 1 accident in 10,000 launches
safety goal, something to the effect that he could not conceive
of a reason there would ever be 10,000 launches. This view pervades
NASA: an RLV will only make a few flights to the ISS per year
and launch a few satellites. So dramatic advances in technology
are required to drop costs significantly for such low flight rates.
hope that the high credibility of the Aerospace Corp authors will
help to counter this view. It will bolster those who argue that
large markets await to be served by RLVs and that current technology
will suffice to lower costs without waiting several decades for
so-called 3rd or 4th generation systems.
I've skipped any discussion of the need to lower operating costs
and how sub-orbital systems will help in learning how to reduce
Rocket Society's Rocket Symposia 1995-2001 by Yoshifumi Inatani
- posted at Space Future for a similar analysis of a high
flight rate space tourist vehicle that leads to $15k tickets -
briefs ... Leonard
David reviews the status and prospects for space tourism, including
sub-orbital flights and the X Prize, in Public
Space Travel: Playground for The Rich? - Space.com - Nov.1.02...
Industry group predicts NASA will abandon 2nd gen development
and go directly for 3rd gen RLV technology - Forecast
Predicts NASA Will Cancel Second-Generation RLV - Aviation Week
- Nov.1.02 ...
CRV/CTV discussion: 'Lifeboat'
efforts sinking for NASA: Space station staffing cuts possible
because of delay - HoustonChronicle.com - Nov.1.02