contracts specify (some say over-specify) that the
deliver (~50kg) to LEO "anytime, any inclination".
use a reusable manned jet powered vehicle to carry a small
expendable rocket stage that takes the payload to orbit.
mass injection (e.g. water) for the turbjet to achieve
extra thrust at high altitudes.
high flight rates and low cost (~$750,000 per launch)
capable of operating from a small airfield with minimal
support infrasturture required.
teams are now in the process of presenting their results to
DARPA. In an interview with Space News, the project manager
Preston Carter stated that three of the teams chose to go with
an existing aircraft. However, two of these designs fail to
meet the program goals and the other one would require so many
modifications to the aircraft it probably would be cheaper to
design a whole new vehicle.
it appears that they will go with a design that uses a new vehicle
and it's not clear if that will fit into the overall budget
of $88 million (including the currently contracts.) This March
1st there will be a downselect to two teams who will each receive
abour $10 million for a 1 year advanced design phase. Then in
2004 one team will be selected to build the system for a 2006
The newly formed Suborbital Institute (SOI), first mentioned
back in December, will host
breakfast on Capitol Hill this February 10th. Afterwards members
of SOI will meet
with various congressional staffs to present briefings on
issues involving regulation, insurance, and inland spaceports,
which are of great importance to the successful development
of a suborbital transportation industry. Contact Pat
Bahn if you are interested in participating.
check your X-43C proposal to conform to the latest mods :
to a Previous Presolicitation Notice: X-43C Hypersonic Demonstrator
Vehicle - SpaceRef - Jan.30.03
Came across this item - Seattle
firm's space-tug design impresses NASA - Puget Sound Business
Journal - Jan.27.03
- at Spacetoday.net.
It's about Andrews
Space & Tech's design for the NASA alternative access
to the ISS contract.
vehicle could deliver cargo to the ISS up to 20 times. It uses
an inflatable ballute to slow the vehicle during re-entry. NASA
seems happy with their approach but since NASA has decided for
the OSP it's not clear if it will continue the alternate access
Services, as well as Boeing and LockMart, also got a similar
design contract. There is an interesting interview
with Charles Miller of CSI at the Spaceshow
on Aug.27, 2002. Miller talks extensively about their
standardize container approach to cargo delivery, patterned
after the standardised containers used on trucks and ships.
Their containers could be used on many different vehicles. They
are using the Delta II, Kistler K-1, and a design from HMX as
New X Prize Teams... The official X
Prize press release is now available.
& Defense Dept. to Emphasize RLV Tech Development...
The latest issue of Aviation Week reports that NASA's Next Generation
Launch Technology (NGLT) program will takeover several projects
previously funded by the "defunct" SLI program. These
span both near and far term technologies.
with the military on RLV tech will grow and "tighten".
the near term a major priority will be the development of
reusable hydrocarbon engines, such as the RS-84
at Rocketdyne. The program will concentrate on ways to "prevent
coking residue buildup" when kerosene or similar fuels
are used to cool the engine. In addition, they will develop
"materials that can withstand the oxygen-rich engine
environment through repeated firings."
the far term, hypersonics
research remains a major priority for both NASA and the military.
In particular, there will be a strong effort to fly the X-43C
in 2007. This version of the X-43
series, will test a hydrocarbon scramjet developed under the
decision on whether to re-start SLI's "aggressive"
push towards a 2nd gen RLV will be postponed to 2004. In the
meantime, NASA and the Defense Department will work to tighten
their coordination of RLV development plans.
team, mentioned below as one of the new teams htat recently
X Prize contest, is now listed under American
Astronautics Corporation. The entry page also now includes
briefing (pdf, 76kb). They have a website
and a section
on their The Spirit of Liberty vehicle but no content
Hudson talks to the Transterrestrial Muse... Rand
Simberg has posted an interview with long time RLV developer
Entrepreneur Profile: Gary Hudson - Transterrestrial Musings
More X Prize Teams On Line...
The official X
Prize team list now includes the rest of the 4 teams first
mentioned last week. This follows the posting of IL
Aerospace Technologies over the weekend. The new teams
More on Peter Diamandis's recent remarks about the X
Prize competition at - Panel
says space tourism prospects upbeat for 2003 - Spaceflight Now
- Jan.19.03. ...
An environmental assessment has been completed for a large spaceplane
to land at Edwards Air Force Base in Mojave, Ca. - No
major pollution foreseen from spacecraft - L.A. Daily News -
Jan.20.03 (link found at spacetoday.net).
It says this is for a generic craft but I assume it's in preparation
for the option of the X-37/OSP to land there rather than at
This item might be a little more interesting than I first thought.
I'll keep you posted if anything emerges.]
Israeli X Prize Team ...
An new entry from Israel - IL
Aerospace Technologies -
has now been added to the team list. Their Negev
5 consists of a hybrid motor (HTPB (rubber) and LOX ) powered
module that first rides a balloon to 25km before firing. See
their team briefing
(pdf, 114kb) for more details.
Prize Team Updates...
Prize entry page for Funtech
Systems has been updated. It now includes a team
briefing (pdf, 65kb) about their organization and the Aurora
will be entry pages for the four new teams ready sometime next
X Prize Teams...
Jeff Foust has a brief report on the space tourism meeting today
in Washington D.C. - More
X Prize competitors on the way - SpaceToday.net - Weblog - Jan.16.03.
Peter Diamandis, chairman of the X Prize, stated that there
will be four new competitors announced next week. He also is
confident that there will be manned test flights this year and
a winner within 12 to 18 months.
briefs ... Buzz Aldrin talks about RLV's, space tourism,
and orbital hotels in- Heavenly
Hiltons By Buzz Aldrin and Ron Jones - TCS: Tech - Jan.16.03.
(BTW: Buzz will talk today at the Washington
Space Business Roundtable meeting on space tourism. Jeff
Foust said he may post a summary of the meeting on his weblog.)
In his latest Spacefaring
Web essay, John
Carter McKnight offers some good advice on how space tourism
companies should take advantage of the showbiz tactics of P.T.
Barnum to market space travel to the public....
While Taylor Dinerman has some suggestions to Sean O'Keefe on
the ISS and RLV development - O'Keefes
First Year at NASA: Getting the Details Right, But...- Space
Equity.com - Jan.15.03.
Plans... I should have mentioned below with regard
to Rand Simberg's interview that Jeff Greason briefly outlines
the plans for XCOR. (I was spurred to this after seeing his
comments highlighted in a sci.space.policy posting by Jim
Kingdon). The XCOR
roadmap goes roughly as follows:
is their main project
are in the process of raising funding for it.
the funding is in hand they will begin construction and
reach revenue producing flights in 3 years
revenue is mainly from sub-orbital tourism. [He doesn't
say this but I take it for granted.]
will also carry an expendable upper stage to put "very
small payloads (10kg) into LEO". (i.e. smaller than
50-100kg but a similar goal)
a 2nd-gen system with a larger sub-orbital vehicle and expendable
the expendable upper stage with a reusable stage
that point the price should be low enough for orbital passenger
sure like this roadmap. It makes my Stairway
to Space Timeline look more plausible.
Tourism Financing Study... This paper -
Developing Viable Financing Models for Space Tourism
by Fabian Eilingsfeld & Daniel Schaetzler - 2002 - Spacefuture
- does some in depth analysis of financing for space tourism,
especially sub-orbital tourism.
concludes that "a commercial `X-Prize'-type vehicle could
be developed and brought to operating capability for under $100
million while still returning up to 35% (IRR), given that the
vehicle's time-to-market is kept to a minimum."
Usual Approach To Space Tourism... On the other hand,
there are many who still believe only NASA, ESA and the major
aerospace companies can get us to space - Space:
Final Vacation Frontier? - Wired - Jan.15.03.
article says that Astrium has done some paper studies of RLVs
for tourism, i.e. "the
company has also drawn up plans for a "space coaster," a vehicle
capable of carrying up to 12 passengers. The coaster looks like
a space shuttle with a glass dome for the passengers piggybacking
on the ship."
vehicle would "be preceded by six-passenger "space-hoppers"
that could bring people into sub-orbital flight -- not high
enough to be in outer space, where the space station orbits,
but high enough to see the blackness of space and for passengers
to experience weightlessness." This will follow, I suppose,
from the current German Hopper
Greason Meets the Transterrestrial Muse... Rand Simberg
has posted an interview with Jeff Greason of XCOR.
They particularly focus on the regulatory challenges for the
development of sub-orbital vehicles - Space
Entrepreneur Profiles - Jeff Greason
- Transterrestrial Musings - Jan.14.03.
Sees Bleak RLV Status... Aviation
Week just issued its annual Aerospace Source Book for 2003.
The section on Reusable Launch Vehicles (written by Marco Caceres
of the Teal
Group) is, not surprisingly, very downbeat on the prospects
for RLV development. (Essentially a repeat of last
he states that the OSP is the only NASA program now that SLI
has been downgraded and Kistler's
K-1 is the only commercial company with any chance of getting
a vehicle operational any time soon.
doesn't provide much new on Kistler except to say that its investors
continue to keep it going, though not with enough funds to finish
the K-1. The SLI
contract has also helped sustain the project but whether
the new SLI will continue this support isn't known. He speculates,
though, that the K-1 could be a useful testbed for OSP technology.
comments on the Catch-22 situation for RLVs in which no one
will provide investment until the markets are proven that can
justify the high flight rates needed for RLVs to bring down
launch costs, but the markets won't appear until RLVs bring
down the costs to less than $1000, and maybe $500, per pound.
briefly mentions "a handful of technology efforts"
such as XCOR
and the European
Test... Aerojet has posted its press release on
a test of a thruster for the ISTAR (Integrated System Test
of an Air-breathing Rocket) project - NASA,
Industry Consortium Successfully Test Full-Scale Hypersonic
Engine Thruster - Aerojet - Jan.14.03. The NASA funded
project seeks to develop a Rocket Based Combined Cycle (RBCC)
engine that can run either as a rocket or as a ramjet/scramjet.
rocket mode the engine should accelerate a craft from the
ground to a speed where it can shift to ramjet action (around
3750mph). This test was the " first successful hot fire
of a thruster using a mix of decomposed peroxide, liquid peroxide
and JP-7 jet fuel to generate combustion. This 90-percent
peroxide “tri-fluid” approach will allow the thrusters to
fit within the engine’s extremely tight packaging restraints,
yet deliver high performance."
team successfully decomposed liquid peroxide in a platelet
catalyst bed to supply hot oxygen to the combustion chamber
as an ignition source.
gained from this test series -- particularly regarding reaching
90 percent efficiency of the catalyst beds -- was the first
step needed to establish a start sequence for the full-scale
thruster. The platelet catalyst beds reached 90 percent
efficiency in six-tenths of a second."
the team demonstrated tri-fluid combustion, or the stable
operation of decomposed and liquid peroxide and JP-7. The
goal of the test was to establish an ignition start sequence
and to characterize the use of liquid hydrogen peroxide
to cool the combustion chamber walls. A reliable start sequence
was established that minimized the start transient -- the
abrupt and potentially risky physical motion of the thrusters
during ignition -- and resulted in reaching full chamber
pressure in less than one second."
schedule of the RBCC Consortium, or RBC3 (NASA, Aerojet, Rocketdyne,
& Pratt & Whitney), goes as
- longer-duration thruster tests in early 2003
- "a full-scale ground demonstration test of a rocket
based combined cycle engine"
- "flight-test a self-powered hypersonic flight vehicle
to more than six times the speed of sound, demonstrating
all modes of engine operation."
- "creation... of flight vehicles that will offer safe,
routine, affordable space access and air transportation
to any point on the globe in less than two hours."
briefs ... The Space
Frontier Foundation speaks out against the OSP -
NASA's Orbital Spaceplane Program: New NASA Program Doomed to
Failure, NASA Should Explain Failures, Foundation Tells Congress
- SFF - Jan.13.03 ....
site shows photos (at least in the Flash version of the site)
of recent tests of large steerable parachute canopies that they
will use later this year in flights of the Nova rocket. In these
tests, the parchutes used as the payload an ATV (all terrain
vehicle) with two occupants to simulate the rocket's capsule.
briefs ... See pictures of the X-38 heading for the
warehouse : X-38
Put in Storage at Johnson Space Center - SpaceRef - Jan.11.03
SpaceX has posted
some updates on their project. Tests of the "main engine
and second stage engine" will take place in "central
Texas at a former Navy test site". They selected Irvin
to supply the parachutes for the reusable first stage.
space ain't easy...
Starting a space business, whether it intends to develop a RLV
or a comsat towtruck, is very exciting but also very difficult.
Check out my Conversation
with Dennis Wingo, the founder of SkyCorp
and cofounder with Walt
Anderson of Orbital
Recovery, to hear about his companies and the challenges
a space entrepreneur faces in getting an enterprise into orbit.
lull before a busy year... Not much in the way of
announcements and events related to RLVs in the past few weeks.
I expect, though, that things will pickup considerably as the
many of the X Prize competitors should begin to carry out test
flights this year, perhaps even a manned test flight by the
end of the year.
will begin to ramp up the X-37 project and the design
of the Orbital Space Plane will start to firm up. Perhaps NASA
will even surprise everyone and award an ISS alternate access
contract to Kistler or some other private launch company.
forget the Space
Access Society meeting at the end of April. See the latest
Access Society Update for information on conference news
and registration info.