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F


  

Reusable Launch & Space Vehicle News
February 2003

Armadillo X Prize Vehicel
Copyright of Armadillo Aerospace

An artist's composite rendering of Armadillo Aerospace 's X Prize
vehicle under development.(Large Image
)


Other RLV News Sources
Space Frontier Society * Space Access Society Updates *
NASA SLI News * NASA SpaceTransportation * Space-Travel.com at SpaceDaily
NASA Watch Launch System News * OrbiReport - Space Transportation News *
Spacetoday.net (Jeff Foust): Launch Vehicles

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.

See the Space Log for entries
on related topics such as amateur rocketry, space businesses, etc.

RLV News Archive Directory

Special Topics


February 28, 2003

Tell Your Senators to Save Rocketry! - now's the chance to get rocketry fuels exempted from the Homeland Security Act's explosives list. (Links to Senators' websites)

SpaceX Updates... The SpaceX website (flash only, ugggh!) has posted some updates on progress in the development of the Falcon partially refurbishable launcher. (Click on the "Updates" tab, the front page has only old news). Topics include:

  • Installation of flight test stands at a former Naval engine test site in Texas is underway. This is the same site where Beal Aerospace tested its engines.
  • First stage construction started.
  • Major redesign of propellant tanks "will give the Falcon one of the best mass ratios of any launch vehicle out there".
  • Flight, engine and ground controller computers now working
  • Engine igniters tested
  • Lease signed for launch pad 3-West at Vandenburg AFB. They will use it for polar launches while they will use pad 46 at KSC for equatorial orbits.
  • Main engine castings delivered but there have been problems with the turbopump manifolds castings.

Columbia links...

February 27 2003

Columbia links...

NASA RLV Technology Development... These two documents outline how NASA expects to develop new technology that leads to operational RLVs. Also, they discuss how NASA evaluates the achievements and shortcomings of previous programs.

The "structured approach" involves four phases:

  1. Basic lab studies and tests of components
  2. Flight tests of components typically going "piggyback" on an existing system.
  3. Flight demonstrators
  4. Operational vehicle development.

Those proposing new projects must decide where they fit in this scheme. A particular technology will be assigned one of nine divisions of the Technical Readiness Level (TRL) from basic principles up to flight proven hardware.

In addition, there is a new Integration Readiness Level (IRL) rating accorded to new systems at the vehicle stage.

Appendix B Technology Assessment Database in Structured Approach... gives an interesting table showing the status of various technologies such as thermal protection systems and reusable engines and what TRL rating they have.

Appendix C Flight Options Database provides a table of ELVs, proposed RLVs, sub-orbital rockets and even NASA balloons. Includes cost per flight data.

[I thank Don Doughty of NSS/Boston for these links.]

Now we're up to $50 billion... Meanwhile, despite fancy organizational charts and strategies, NASA continues to push RLV development farther and farther into the future. In this article Space taxis: alternatives beyond the shuttle - csmonitor.com - Feb.26.03 - the reporter says NASA tells him

  • that a shuttle "replacement is decades away."
  • "next-generation shuttles...are still in the realm of science fiction."
  • NASA is "not set to make the $50-billion decision on what the next-generation shuttle will be until 2009."
  • " the technology necessary to do what NASA wanted to do [e.g. 50 flights per year] has still yet to be invented."
  • "the only way to solve the problem is to build the orbiter from stronger and lighter materials that don't exist yet."

Geesh! I guess the Kistler K-1 is just a figment of my sci-fi imagination. It was 75% built for ~$0.5 billion, and many people in the independent launch companies think that Kistler way overspent. Can a slightly more capable, man-rated K-2 (my name) really cost 100 times as much to develop??

... I'd certainly agree, though, that deep space transportation needs significant development - NASA planner says space travel hinges on new technology - HoustonChronicle - Feb.26.03. I wish NASA would concentrate on that and just pay private companies for LEO transportation.

February 25, 2003

Prospector 3 launch success... Last Saturday the Cal State Long Beach/Garvey Spacecraft team succesfully launched and recovered their Prospector 3 sounding rocket : Thrust Vectoring Successfully Demonstrated on P-3 Launch and Recovery - CSULB - Feb.22.03.

The flight provided an "initial demonstration of thrust vector control, an improved engine chamber design and the first use of a new set of flight control avionics." Videos will be made available of the flight later.

OSP animations... The SLI News site has posted animations of the four leading concepts for the OSP design showing launch, docking with the ISS and landing.

Columbia links...

February 24, 2003

OSP heads for the Apollo era... The latest issue of Aviation Week - Orbital Space 'Plane' Could Be a Capsule - AvWeek - Feb.24.03 (paid subscription required) - reports that all of the OSP teams have looked at capsule designs to fulfill the OSP role. (See artwork shown previously)

(Note that the same three teams of major contractors that were selected in the SLI milestone review last year seemed by default to have become the teams for the OSP.)

A Northrop Grumman/Orbital Sciences team has even studied the Apollo command module and found it to be a "pretty minimal-capable solution".

The recently released OSP requirements, however, include a demand that the vehicle deliver an injured crew person to "definitive medical care within 24 hours." This means that the vehicle must provide high cross range capability in order to reach suitable landing spots without delay. This pushes for a winged design.

Current technology development projects include:

  • X-37 - Boeing testbed that will launch in 2006 on a Delta 4 or Atlas 5 and demonstrate reentry and autonomous landing capabilities.
  • Demonstration of Autonomous Rendezvous Technology - Orbital Sciences - a small test spacecraft will be launched in 2004 from a Pegasus and then rendezvous with a target satellite and carry out several maneuvers with respect to the satellite.
  • Pad Abort Demonstration - Lockheed-Martin/Rocketdyne - will use a 200,000-lb.-thrust system to demonstrate techniques for lifting the OSP off the ELV in case of emergency.

February 23, 2003

Canadian Arrow engine test postponed... Geoff Sheerin of the Canadian Arrow X Prize team reports that the tests, see below, will be delayed about 10 days due to the need to replace some fittings on their LOX lines and because of severe weather ( -35 wind chill).

Suborbitals article on Spaceflight News... Jeff Foust (spacetoday.net) has written an excellent article about the Suborbital Institute's recent lobbying campaign on Capitol Hill : Suborbital activists go to Washington - Spaceflight Now - Feb.22.03.

Entrepreneurial space... Edward Tenner, author of "Why Things Bite Back: Technology and the Revenge of Unintended Consequences", writes in a Wash Post editorial about the need for an entrepreneurial approach to space development: NASA's Next Mission? Attracting the Next Bill Gates - Washington Post - Feb.23.03

February 22, 2003

Launch planned for student rocket with thrust vectoring ... A launch of the Prospector 3 by California State University, Long Beach and Garvey Spacecraft Corporation (GSC) is planned for this weekend. It will take place at the Mojave Test Area, site owned and operated by the Reaction Research Society.

According to the CSULB web site:

"The flight is scheduled to include take-off with a 500 lbf engine (using LOX and ethanol) followed by a nose down then nose up pitch maneuver. The thrust vector control system will be an open loop control system acting only in one axis and will serve to generate data on rocket dynamics and compare these with analytical model predictions for integration into the 2-axis closed-loop control system to be flown at a later date.

"The Prospector-3 rocket will also fly two sets of payloads developed by USC students involved in the USC Microsatellite Program. One of these payloads will be bonding samples to test this technology for use in MEMS applications. The other will be a flight computer and launch environment (including high frequency accelerometers) data recording system."

See info on previous launchings of the Prospector series at Garvey's Kimbo Rockets site.

February 21, 2003

Columbia news... More information appearing about prior concerns with the Columbia wing : Risk Of Burn-Through Raised At NASA In 1988 - Aviation Week - Feb.21.03... More about the seconds : New data shows Columbia's state in final moments- Spaceflight Now - Feb.21.03

The market waits... Despite Columbia there remains a surprisingly strong level of interest in space travel. As I discussed yesterday in the Space Log section, the recent Gallup poll - Support for NASA Shuttle Flights Remains Firm Three in four Americans want funding levels maintained or increased - Gallup - Feb.17.03 - found that "3 in 10 Americans would like to take a space shuttle flight at some time in the future. This number is just slightly below the 34% who expressed this desire in 1991, and the 38% who said that shortly following the 1986 Challenger explosion."

I find this result quite amazing. This resilient public desire for going to space should be quite encouraging for those developing vehicles for suborbital tourism.

News briefs... Leonard David reports on the state of space tourism development: After Columbia - Space Tourism Supporters Vow to Carry On - Space.com - Feb.21.03...

... NASA will probably get most of the OSP funding that it wants but there's going to be lots of questions from Congress about it: NASA Releases Initial Requirements For Orbital Space Plane - Av. Week - Feb.21.03.

February 20, 2003

Armadillo X Prize - In flight 1
In flight (768 x 1024)
Armadillo X Prize - Main parachute
Main parachute and drogue (768 x 1024)
Armadillo X Prize - landing
Crushable cone at top of vehicle absorbs impact
and is replaced after each landing (1024x768)
Crush test
Photo of prep for big crush test
Pilot in mockup
Photo of pilot in cockpit of mockup
(686x1024)

More artwork:
Preparation (same as top of page)
In flight # 2 (768 x 1024)
Drogue opens (768x1024)
Main parachute & drogue # 2 (768 x1024)

All images under copyright of Armadillo Aerospace.

Armadillo X Prize vehicle artwork... Over at the ARocket forum John Carmack posted more information about the Armadillo X Prize vehicle and provide links to some new artwork of the current design (see above).

The drogue shoots from the bottom of the vehicle as soon as the engines stop. The drogue pulls out the main parachute and the vehicle comes down head first. This allows the front of the vehicle to have a simple, crushable nose cone for absorbing the impact of landing.

As mentioned before, the pilot and passengers will be seated in a look-down postion so that on the return and landing they will be facing upwards. Carmack says the vehicle will "fly a low acceleration trajectory so we burn out above most of the atmosphere" and therefore the stresses in that position will not be severe. Then on reentry and landing, when the loads are much larger, they will have firm support in the upward orientation.

They have looked at rotatable seats but found these impractical for the amount of space they have.

Note that this configuration is only for the X Prize. He has indicated that a next generation vehicle after the X Prize will be larger and allow for more comfortable configurations.

My thanks to Andrew Case for the link info. Thanks also to Armadillo for posting the new info and imagery.

News briefs... Jeff Foust warns that US rocket propulsion companies are facing a severe shortage of customers : Main engine cutoff : Is the American rocket propulsion industry in danger of extinction? - The Space Review - Feb.17.03 ...

... The latest Armadillo Aerospace update includes a video of their drop test of a crushable nose cap of the same size that will top their X Prize vehicle. The vehicle will return upside down by parachute and needs to absorb safely the impact of the landing of the 2400+ lb empty weight structure. ...

... Came across a couple of interesting news group items. Here is a nicely compact summary of the X-20 - Dyna-Soar vehicle : Dyna-Soar review...by Franklin Ratliff - Space Policy Digest - Feb.20.03 ...

... Henry Spencer, in a thread at sci.space.policy about the OSP, mentioned that Rotary Rocket's ATV demonstrated not only the Roton's landing system but also a high mass fraction. Gary Hudson confirmed that the fraction was around 0.935. Something to remember when you hear sweeping statements that SSTO structures are impossible with current technology.

February 19, 2003

National Academy urges revitalization of suborbitals... While space tourism is expected to be the big market that will drive the suborbital RLV industry, the traditional scientific suborbital market should not be ignored. Sounding rockets have been used since the 1940s for a wide range of scientific missions including atmospheric, magnetospheric, astronomy and microgravity studies. (See, for example, NASA Rockets to Explore Northern Lights Next Week - National Geographic - Feb.13.03)

The number of sounding rocket launches sponsored by NASA has steadily decreased over the years. However, this has less to do with a lack of interesting experiments than with a lack of funding.

For example, the Space Studies Board of the National Academy of Sciences released last fall a major report on the priorities over the next decade for the solar and space physics programs in the US including those at NASA, NOAA, DOD, and NSF. A draft of the report, titled The Sun to the Earth—and Beyond A Decadal Research Strategy in Solar and Space Physics, can be found at Space Studies Board - Quarterly Bulletin - Vol.13, Issue 3 July-Sept 2002 in this pdf file (733kb).

The report gives special attention to the need for suborbital flights and recommends that NASA "revitalize the Suborbital program". It also recommends that "NASA aggressively support the engineering research and development of a range of low-cost launch vehicle capabilities for scientific research."

The small startups that are developing suborbital RLVs typically cannot get the attention of NASA. Perhaps they should use this report to help fight for attention and money, at least with the Congressional committees who these days want to give space related sciences a higher priority.

Here is the section of the report (see page 19) that discusses the need for cheaper and more frequent access to space (both orbital and suborbital) for scientific research:

Access to space: The continuing vitality of the nation’s space research program is strongly dependent on having cost-effective, reliable, and readily available access to space that meets the requirements of a broad spectrum of diverse missions. The solar and space physics research community is especially dependent on the availability of a wide range of suborbital and orbital flight capabilities to carry out leading-edge science programs, to validate new instruments, and to train new scientists. Suborbital flight opportunities are very important for advancing numerous key aspects of future solar and space physics research objectives, and for enabling the significant contributions that such opportunities make to education.

Recommendation: NASA should revitalize the Suborbital program to bring the flight opportunities back to previous levels.

Low-cost launch vehicles with a wide spectrum of capabilities are critically important for the next generation of solar and space physics research as delineated in this report.

Recommendation:
1. NASA should aggressively support the engineering research and development of a range of low-cost launch vehicle capabilities for scientific research.
2. NASA should develop a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the DOD that would result in a formal procedure to identify in advance opportunities for the piggybacking of civilian spacecraft on certain USAF missions.
3. NASA should explore the feasibility of piggybacking on appropriate foreign scientific launches.

Columbia related articles... We're starting to see how the Columbia disaster will undermine support for human spaceflight:

The issue in these articles concerns the NASA budget. For those who support a different path for space development, the worry is whether there will be a significant reduction in the appeal of space travel for potential space tourists and for rich investors who will help fund the vehicles.

Other articles

February 18, 2003

Model & high power rocketry in trouble... An announcement from UPS means that it will soon be impossible to ship even Estes rockets if the rocketry groups don't succeed in getting the fuels removed from the explosives list used by the new Homeland Security Act. Details in the Space Log section.

OSP Requirements... NASA says what it wants in an OSP: Initial requirements set for Orbital Space Plane System - NASA PR - Feb.18.03. The list: Orbital Space Plane (OSP) Level 1 requirements - SLI News - Feb.18.03

OSP economics, a dismal science... Rand Simberg examines the claims by NASA officials in this article - NASA steps up planning for Orbital Space Plane: It would ferry astronauts more cheaply than shuttle - sunspot.net - Feb.5.03 - that the OSP will offer launches at $100 million a flight : One Giant Leap Backwards - Transterrestrial Musings - Feb.17.03.

NASA capabilities decreasing... And even if the economic theory was sound, can NASA actually carry out such projects when its manpower and other resources continue a steady decline:

Side Note: The NY Times article raises some good points but, as usual for the Times, they mostly interviewed people from the basic sciences rather than members of the aerospace community. Exactly why Robert Park, a professor in condensed matter physics and a dedicated foe of human spaceflight, should be held as an authority on either space science or aerospace has always mystified me. (How many space related patents does he hold?)

I've often wondered why it is there are so few spokes-persons seen in the media with regard to aerospace issues that actually come from the aerospace community. Aerospace has been one of America's premier industries for a century and it obviously has an enormous influence throughout our society.

Yet when an aerospace news topic comes up, it is typically John Pike that you hear on TV or radio. He is a very smart and articulate guy but where are the smart and articulate people who actually have worked on aviation and space projects?

I've recently seen Donna Shirley, the former JPL manager who ran the Mars Pathfinder mission, on a couple of shows and was quite impressed. Besides being very articulate, she seemed quite aware of and looked favorably towards the world of small startup aerospace companies. Perhaps she will become a popular alternative to the usual suspects chosen when a space issue arises.

News brief... Mark Goll's Texas Spacelines company used an HPR hybrid to inaugurate a spaceport in south Texas - Taking Flight: Elected leaders and officials gathered to witness event - Valley Morning Star - Feb.18.03 . More about the launch and Texas Spacelines in the advanced rocketry section. (Thanks to spacetoday.net for links to articles about the launch.)

Though it's a modest beginning, it's great to see such facilities starting to develop. The more spaceports that become available, the greater the options for future suborbital RLV ventures

February 16, 2003

News brief... Boeing considering an increase in the size of the X-37 : NASA plans for its future 'Space plane': may be used by 2010 for rescues - LA Daily News - Feb.16.03 ...

... Pat Bahn argues that current rocket engine technology suffers badly in terms of reliability, lifespan, and cost and proposes that suborbitals offer testbeds where improvements in those areas can be developed - Suborbital Flight Vehicles to improve propulsion technology - SpaceEquity.com - Feb.15.03....

... And Taylor Dinerman urges continued development of the SSME: The Case For a Highly Evolved Version Of the Space Shuttle Main Engine - SpaceEquity - Feb.16.03 ...

... This issue of Space Equity also includes a review of the carbon-carbon thermal protection on the leading edge of the shuttle wing and gives a scenario of how its failure can explain the data and observations of Columbia's final minutes : Reinforced Carbon Carbon (RCC) Leading Edge Panel Failure by Allan Shapiro - Space Equity - Feb.16.03 ...

... More discussion of the X Prize and suborbitals in the general press : Come fly with me... into space - Guardian - Feb.16.03.

February 15, 2003

FAA/AST yearly review available... A nice summary of the status of old and new launch vehicles and US spaceports has been released by the FAA Space Transportation office - Developments and Concepts - January 2003 - FAA / AST.

It begins with a review of the currently available US ELV's and then describes new ELVs in development.

Though the report no longer includes the term "Reusable Launch Vehicles" in the title, it still provides an excellent overview of the current US orbital and sub-orbital RLV projects and also describes some of the X Prize vehicles.

The report finishes with a look at the status of various US spaceport projects.

Seven years to build a space plane ... Space plane won't be ready before 2010 - Florida Today - Feb.15.03. Dennis Smith, OSP program manager, says "We are moving forward as fast as we can...(We) looked if there is any way we could do it faster. It isn't obvious we have options (to speed up)."

[I wonder if he has looked outside of MSFC? Note that it took 8 years to reach the Moon after Kennedy's decision to go.]

Smith goes on to indicate that it is not decided yet if the OSP will actually be a plane or a capsule.

News briefs ... The Romanian X Prize team Aeronautics and Cosmonautics Romanian Assoc. (ARCA) now has opened a nice website with details on their Orizont vehicle ...

... Canyon Space Team, an advanced rocketry group that plans to enter the X Prize competition, has posted its newletter for January. [Thanks to Andrew Case for this item.]...

... NASA gets money for new vehicle development: 2003 bill fully funds Marshall's top efforts: Space Launch Initiative, shuttle propulsion do well in spending plan - Huntsville Times - Feb.13.03...

... Columbia articles at Aviation Week: Growing Evidence Points To Columbia Wing Breach - Aviation Week - Feb.14.03 * List of recent articles....

... Marcus Lindroos comments on the OSP and combining winged vehicles with ELVs in the feedback section.

February 14, 2003

Canadian Arrow Engine Test... The Canadian Arrow X Prize team announces a test of its first stage engine. See Press release:

Canadian Arrow

Canadian Arrow Engine Test is a Go!

February 11, 2003 - The Canadian Arrow team has announced that it is set to test the largest liquid propellant engine ever built in Canada. The Arrow engine will be tested on Thursday, February 20th at a gravel pit north of London.

The Canadian Arrow is a passenger space vehicle that is being built in London, Ontario to compete for the $10 million X PRIZE.

The engine, with 57,000 pounds of thrust, is modeled after the V-2 rocket engine. The test is one of a number of ramping-up trials, which will gradually increase and test the powerful engine that will one day fly passengers into sub-orbital space.

On February 20 th, at 1 p.m. the Canadian Arrow team will take the engine to about 30% of its capacity or 20,000 to 30,000 lbs. of thrust. The engine is fueled by a mixture of liquid oxygen and ethyl alcohol and consumes approximately 250 pounds of propellant per second.

The engine and test stand are part of an approximately 50 ft. tall structure that is surrounded on three sides by concrete walls that are two feet thick. Large beams stand between the engine test structure and the control center where the team will electronically direct and monitor the test.

“We were pleased with the success of our first burner cup test last summer,” said Canadian Arrow Team Leader Geoff Sheerin. “Now, we’ll see how the 18 burner cups that make up our main engine, function together.”

Testing RLVs... As mentioned below, the FAA's Space Transportation office (AST) has actually done a number of good things with regard to developing a regulatory environment that the industry can live with. One item discussed at the recent Suborbital Institute breakfast on Capitol Hill was the issue of licenses for RLV flight testing.

Usually rocket vehicles must get a license for each launch. That's fine for ELVs, which combine their flight test with their operational flight, but not for RLVs, which test incrementally and frequently. On the other hand as discussed below, they are not the same as aircraft and shouldn't require aircraft type certification, especially during this early phase of their development.

The AST has therefore developed a licensing scheme that takes these concerns into account and last August released an Advisory Circular that describes how an RLV developer can obtain a test flight license. See Licensing Test Flight Reusable Launch Vehicle Missions, AC 431.35-3, August, 2002 (pdf, 69kb). There is, of course, a lot of legalistic filler, but most of it is quite readable. Generally, they expect a RLV to begin with tests in a low-performance mode (e.g. low altitude, short distance) and then gradually move to high-performance tests over an unpopulated area. A flight test license would be issued according to the particular type of tests. Data from the flight tests will be used for the application for a operational license near or over populated areas.

A SHARP reentry... The fragility of the shuttle's tile based thermal protection system has been tragically emphasized by the Columbia disaster but it has long been realized that practical RLVs need to use more robust TPS systems.

New materials have in fact come available since the shuttle was developed. For example, the NASA SHARP: Slender Hypervelocity Aerothermodynamic Research Probes project has developed strong ceramic materials that can withstand extreme temperatures. These would allow for sharper edged structures than the bulbous lifting bodies like the shuttle. Such low drag structures would provide greater aerodynamic maneuverability and flexibility (see NASA Thermal Materials Test May Revolutionize Spacecraft Design - NASA Ames - 2000).

Wickham Spacecraft received a NASA grant in 2000 to develop sounding rocket tests of the materials: SHARP Spaceplane. The funding ended in 2001 but the company has continued with the program - SHARP Spaceplane Progress Report - and hopes to develop a small unmanned orbital vehicle by 2009.

February 13, 2003

Suborbital spotlight... Another press article gives a good review of the potential of suborbital space development : Stars -- and dollar signs -- in their eyes Travel: An annual federal conference ponders the future, and the potential payoffs, of commercial space tourism. - SunSpot - Feb.13.03 (found via spacetoday.net). Includes a report on the annual FAA Forecast conference held this week.

Mr. SpaceX speaks... Elon Musk talks about his company SpaceX in the article Rocket Man: Paypal Co-Founder now Banks on Space - Futuredex Magazine - March 03 Issue. (My thanks to Aleta Jackson for forwarding this link.) He claims the partially reusable Falcon will go after the smallsat market that currently relies on Orbital Sciences' Pegasus.

The Pegasus "costs $14 million to $20 million, whereas the Falcon fare may range around $6 million to $9 million per trip." He will fund the project with up to $50 million to reach operational status.

OSP Concepts
OSP Concepts - SLI News
(hi-res image)

NASA Info on the OSP... SLI News has posted some PR items about the Orbital Space Plane and the Next Gen Launch Technology (NGLT) development program:

The NGLT program will concentrate on "reusable kerosene engine designs and — in concert with Department of Defense initiatives — on a variety of launch system technologies, including development of air-breathing hypersonic propulsion systems. Within two years, NASA expects to decide how it will pursue development of a reusable launch vehicle." For more info, see NASA engine projects, e.g the RS-84, and the various X-43 hypersonic vehicle projects.

Defense wants new expendables & reusables... The Boeing and Lockheed-Martin will be glad to hear they will get a bonus for staying in the EELV business : Pentagon willing to fund two EELV companies - spacetoday.net - Feb.13.03.

While the Air Force Undersecretary for Space Peter Teets wants a new "operationally responsive" expendable :New Expendable Rocket Needed To Supplement EELV, Teets Says - Aviation Week - Feb.13.03. He wants a vehicle that could be ready in days rather than months to launch.

However, Teets also said that "further down the road" the Defense Department should commit to developing RLV systems and he will create a "technology roadmap" that will lead to an SSTO RLV. "We're not going to be truly, fully operationally responsive until we do have fully reusable launch systems...I think we need that technology roadmap, and I'm determined to get our arms around it."

Columbia alternatives ... NASA will again look at modifications to the shuttles to make them safer : NASA To Re-Examine Crew Escape System For Shuttle, O'Keefe Tells Congress - Aviation Week - Feb.13.03 .

But to me the shuttles are a lost cause. I prefer the type of plan advocated by the science writer Oliver Morton. In his essay at the Edge he states that we should shut down the shuttle program and mothball the ISS and use the money to develop a whole set of vehicles and spacecraft to do serious exploration and development in the solar system. The hardware would range from heavy lift launchers to space nuclear power systems and be used to develop rotating systems for artificial gravity, manned bases on Mars and other projects.

In the same page, check out the views of other deep thinkers such as Piet Hut, Gregory Benford, Martin Rees at The Crew of the Space Shuttle Columbia -Edge - Feb.12.03.

February 12, 2003

This Article Gets it Right... One of the best post-Columbia articles in a major publication that I've seen about the alternative path to space via a private suborbital industry is Countdown for Rocket Planes By David Chandler - Technology Review - Feb.7.03 (link found at Spacetoday.net).

The extensive article focuses on XCOR but also mentions several other projects and gives a good background review. Unfortunately he ignores VTOL approaches but the thrust (so to speak) of the piece is right-on : suborbitals offer a realistic path to fully reusable vehicles that eventually will lead to low cost orbital flight. I sure hope that some science reporters in the general press read this article.

News brief... I was just informed about this site Astrium Space Propulsion that provides lots of information and specs on various propulsion systems built by Astrium....

... The Investment Capital Conference on March 12, 2003 in Los Angeles is a "well attended, high-level event for investors and companies seeking investment." This years speakers include a presentation by Elon Musk of SpaceX.

The Space Frontier Foundation "participates each year with the Los Angeles Venture Association (LAVA) in several events." Bob Hillhouse of the SFF's Space Enterprise Project says that "if you are a company seeking investors, or wanting to learn more about seeking capital, this is a great event to attend, and I encourage you to register for it."

Members of Space Frontier Foundation! can obtain a $40 discount. Register online today at icc.lava.org.

February 11, 2003

Love & Rockets: Suborbitals on the Hill... The newly formed Suborbital Institute carried out its first campaign on Capitol Hill yesterday. Beginning with a breakfast in the Russell Senate Office Building, members of the group and volunteers (including this editor) fanned out during the rest of the day to give briefings to over two dozen congressional staff members.

The primary goal was to raise awareness of the existence of the infant suborbital reusable launch vehicle industry and to ensure that heavy regulations don't strangle it in the crib. The campaign was labeled "Love & Rockets" in recognition both of Valentines Day this week and the passion with which many people hold for rockets and space exploration.

The industry trade organization was formed by several suborbital companies and supporters including Jeff Greason (XCOR Aerospace), John Carmack (Armadilo Aerospace), Ed Wright (Rocket Racing Inc), and Patrick Bahn (TGV).

The breakfast audience included congressional staff, journalists, and a number of space advocates.

FAA & Suborbitals

At the breakfast Kelvin Coleman of the FAA's office of the Associate Administrator of Commercial Space Transportation (AST) spoke about the efforts of AST to support the industry while also pursuing its obligations to ensure public health and safety. He reviewed the history of the office's work with the commercial orbital RLV projects of the late 1990s and indicated that suborbitals will be included under the same regulatory framework.

He said the FAA recognized that suborbital RLVs lie somewhere between aircraft and orbital rockets, but exactly where the line is drawn has been a subject of great debate within the department. The AST knows that applying a strict aircraft type regulatory regime to these vehicles could kill the companies but many on the aviation side of the FAA believe that vehicles which fly the same airspace and use the same air traffic control system should be treated in the same way as aircraft. So where the line will be set has not yet been decided.

Flight Testing Suborbitals

When XCOR began flying its EZ-Rocket, the company decided to fly under an experimental aircraft licences rather than seek a license from AST, whose main job is to issue launch licences for orbital rockets. However, a license usually must be obtained for each launch, but this isn't practical for fast turnaround RLVs.

Since then the licensing framework for suborbital RLVs during flight testing has developed considerably and Jeff Greason said that if they were starting out today they probably would seek an AST license. Jeff said that in general XCOR was quite pleased with the progress made in a relatively short time in developing a regulatory regime for suborbitals.

Commerce & Suborbitals

Paula Trimble of the Department of Commerce's Office of Space Commercialization talked about their recent report - Suborbital Reusable Launch Vehicles and Applicable Markets (see RLV News - Dec.5.02) -and their continuing efforts to boost the industry. They hope, for example, to carry out various market studies and to look at financing and insurance issues.

The Suborbital Route to Space

Pat Bahn compared the industry to the early days of aviation which was sustained by commercial activities such as barnstorming and air racing and by air mail delivery. Suborbitals will allow for rocket based vehicles to develop in an incremental, self-financed approach that will eventually lead to low cost orbital vehicles.

Marching Orders

After the breakfast, the true believers set out to educate staff members about the industry and to emphasize a few basic needs:

  • Regulatory Realism - Suborbitals should not be put under the same regulatory regime as aircraft like business jets. The $100-200 million cost for certification would far excede the costs of the vehicles ( $10 to $50 million depending on the payload and design) and what the companies could raise.

  • Gapfiller Insurance - The companies can raise $1 or $2 million insurance policies for flights but the "Most Probable Loss" requirement is around $10 million. Some sort of gapfiller fund should be developed, perhaps jointly with industry and government.

  • New SpacePorts - the federal government should support the creation of local spaceports rather than relying on a single "national" spaceport.

Friendly Response

We broke up into small teams that met individually with legislative aides to members of Congress (usually those who were on committees with impact on the Department of Commerce and the FAA.) I was teamed with Lee Valentine, a physician and a director at the Space Studies Institute, who gave eloquent presentations of our case while I occasionally chimed in with supporting, and occasionally coherent, remarks.

In general, the response was quite good with particular enthusiasm shown for the possibility of developing low cost spaceflight that was self-supporting rather than government financed. The other teams also reported positive feedback and plans are on for future campaigns to keep up the momentum.

Earlier entries about the Suborbital Institute:

Thinking Beyond NASA... This article - Thinking Beyond the Shuttle - NY Times - Feb.11.03 - illustrates the type of thinking that will unfortunately dominate the coming discussion on what to do with about the shuttle:

The debaters will ignore any commercial alternatives. They will declaim that the X-33 failure proves that significant advancements in fully reusable systems are out of reach. Exotic futuristic technologies will be held as the only hope for big reductions in launch costs. The arguments will mostly focus on how much NASA has underestimated the cost and completion time of the OSP. And John Pike will provide articulate confirmations that we have no other choices.

Space Review debut... Jeff Foust has just opened a new site called The Space Review which will provide "essays and commentary about the final frontier". The new site will complement the daily news listings of Jeff's Spacetoday.net. He wants to focus on the "fundamental problems with how we approach space today". These problems include space transportation but many others as well.

February 9, 2003

Space Access Society Bulletin... Henry Vanderbilt released the latest Space Access Update yesterday. Items include:

  • Suborbital Institute's First DC Lobbying Project This Week
  • Space Access '03 Conference Info & Rates (Unchanged!)
  • Columbia Lost With All Hands - Where To Now? A First Look

Columbia vehicle related links...

Russian/Soviet spaceplanes... The NPO Molniya site offers quite a bit of information about the various Russian/Soviet spaceplane projects over the years including Buran, Spiral, and MAKS.

February 8, 2003

News briefs... The rocket man talks about Columbia and his suggestions on a replacement for the shuttles; The Space Shuttle Columbia: Goodbye to A Good Old Girl by Homer Hickam - SpaceRef/WSJ - Feb.7.03 ...

... Came across this item via Transterrestrial Musings on how far space transportation needs to go to match aviation safety: Aircraft and Space Shuttle Accident Rates - FuturePundit.com - Feb.5.03.

February 7, 2003

Correction: The X-4 Spirit of Liberty vehicle of the new X Prize team American Astronautics was designed by the whole team and not just Robert Truax as I had reported. Bill Sprague says:

"Mr. Truax was responsible for the design in an earlier project denoted as the 'X-3' which was conducted under his company, Truax Engineering, Inc. While Mr. Truax is currently a member of our X PRIZE team, our vehicle is a design resulting from activities within American Astronautics Corporation."

Sorry about that...

Kistler silence... Jon Bonne of MSNBC was kind enough to exchange a few emails with me after I sent him a note correcting the statements in his article Ambition and frustration at NASA - MSNBC - Feb.6.03 about the Kistler K-1 being partially reusable. He has been checking occasionally on the status of private launch development for several years and doesn't see much progress. I tried to convince him that at least with respect to suborbitals there are a lot of positive things happening.

He said that Kistler Aerospace had refused to grant him an interview (he had also tried to talk with them a few years ago without success.) I'm surprised that Kistler wants to keep such a low profile. Perhaps they don't want to be seen as taking advantage of the Columbia tragedy in any way (the company includes several former NASA employees such as CEO George Mueller who was lead engineer of the Apollo program.)

However, they in general don't say much publically. At the six or so Space Access Society meetings I've attended, for example, they have never sent a rep to talk, while most of the other startup launch companies did.

I don't hold the K-1 to be the ultimate in RLV designs but its high level of development is a proof of principle that we are not decades away from fully reusable vehicles, unmanned or manned. (See my comments below on what the K-1 implies.) As the debate begins on what to do about replacing the shuttle, it would help if the company spoke out and let more people know about the K-1 and what it proves about the state of RLV technology.

News briefs... Appears that Columbia's leading edge had a structural breach - USAF Imagery Confirms Columbia Wing Damaged - Pictures from ground camera in Southwest shortly before breakup show jagged edge on shuttle’s wing - Aviation Week - Feb.6.03...

... Starfire Optical Range image of Columbia and its damaged wing...

... More discussions in the press about replacing the shuttles - Where will NASA go next? - USATODAY.com - Feb.6.03

News briefs... Appears as that Columbia's leading edge had a structural breach - USAF Imagery Confirms Columbia Wing Damaged - Pictures from ground camera in Southwest shortly before breakup show jagged edge on shuttle’s wing - Aviation Week - Feb.6.03.

February 6, 2003

News briefs... X Prize Teams Vow to Continue the 'Conquest of Space' Twenty-four teams from Seven Nations honor the legacy of Columbia’s crew by forging ahead - X Prize Press Release - Feb.6.03...

... RLVs not a priority in the Defense Dept. and they may cut one of the EELV programs - Pentagon Eyes Cuts To 'Assured Access' - Aviation Week - Feb.6.03 ...

... There's a lengthy article at MSNBC on NASA's efforts to replace the shuttle - Ambition and frustration at NASA - MSNBC - Feb.6.03. (Note that the Kistler K-1 is fully reusable, not "partially" as reported in the article. And most of the Kistler SLI contract is only paid after it starts flying.)...

... Rand Simberg reports that Mike Gallo of Kelly Space and Earl Renaud from TGV Rockets were on yesterday's Neil Cavuto show on Fox News. Apparently, though, they just talked about spaceflight dangers.

Wall Street Journal discovers the X Prize... A generally friendly and positive report on the X Prize was in yesterday's WSJ - Disaster Doesn't Deter Teams in Space Race Teams Vie for $10 Million in Competition To Build, Launch Manned Space Vehicle - WSJ - Feb.5.03 (paid subscription required.). It focused mostly on the contrast between space looking more dangerous than ever versus the undaunted enthusiasm of the X Prize teams, but gave a good review of the project.

It mentions a handful of the teams, e.g. the Canadian Arrow, the da Vinci and Rutan, and includes comments from Peter Diamandis.

[Thanks to Jeff at Spacetoday.net for spotting this link. I subscribe to WSJ and visit it frequently but somehow missed this article.]

February 5, 2003

X Prize Press Releases: A couple of press releases have been sent out today:

Shuttle Forum Webcast... Andrew Case forwarded an announcement of a Space Shuttle Technology Forum at the University of Maryland tomorrow at 2:00 - 4:00 p.m EST. :

The tragic loss of the Columbia and its crew has prompted a broad review of the technologies that underpin the shuttle and the manned exploration of space. At this Forum, Clark School faculty and research staff will share first hand experience and knowledge of these technologies and the trade-offs and risks inherent in the development of spacecraft. Following a series of brief presentations, the Forum will open for questions and comments from the audience. The entire University community as well as the general public are welcome.

It will be webcast at www.enme.umd.edu/shuttle

Columbia, the OSP, & Spaceports... The effects of the Columbia disaster on the Orbital Space Plane and on commercial spaceports are starting to be discussed:

Orbital Sciences OSP... Find info on Orbital's OSP design at Orbital Space Plane - Orbital Sciences and in the Fact Sheet (pdf,669kb).

More Columbia vehicle related links:

Feedback: TPS and Replacing the Shuttle... Dave Ketledge who has for many years studied re-entry systems and lifting body designs, sent me some interesting information about thermal protection issues and also responded to my entry below "Ten Years and $35 Billion? Here is an excerpt:

...In my Microshuttle work I spent a chapter on the subject of aerothermodynamics stating that the Ceramic tile system on the Shuttle was
poorly bonded to the vehicle and was time consuming to keep in operation. My suggestion which I own a copyright on is a foaminated boron silicate glass with a pyrolized graphite skin panel. While heavier than a shuttle tile, the graphite/glass matrix offered outstanding ability in mechanical and thermal conditions. Current NASA R&D with metal heat shielding such as ARMOR would be essential on a next generation orbital space plane.

The issues in reentry are vehicle surface area, wing loading (weight/area ) and air density. The shuttle with a high wing loading flies a profile lower in the atmosphere with a higher BTU transfer rate over time. Lifting body vehicles with higher surface areas offer lower heating rates and support metal thermal protection except for leading edges where carbon-carbon-silica carbide is required. Subsonic L/D values from 4-7 are possible with the right design. The X-20 Dyna Soar or Hope-X programs offer good airframes for consideration in the OSP programs. The X-43 with its stubby wings does not support the metal reentry tile concept due to a low surface area. Its manufacturer needs to go back to the drafting board and rethink its OSP submittals with aerothermodynamics in mind.

The nation needs to consider retiring the shuttles and use the Delta IV for now to launch the OSP and can do so in 5 years if the funding is there. Using the K-1 would also be an idea. And other vendors such as AST offer outstanding concepts well worth consideration.

NASA should look at its prior research efforts and have a focus group with the Air Force and ISS partners to hammed a design out. With the right design, we will arrive with an ISS rescue craft, a manned transport vehicle and can use the remaining shuttle parts for cargo lifting even for a real Mars program at a fraction of a cost. But government has to think out of the box and embrace rapid design and development found in industry to gain success while remaining safety focused.

Continue to the complete message...

Suborbital vehicle developments... How the Columbia disaster affects the development of a suborbital vehicle industry will be among the topics discussed this Sunday on the Space Show when David Livingston interviews Pat Bahn of TGV Rockets. Press release:

The Sunday Space Show
Sunday, Feb. 9, 2003
5:30PM-6:45PM PSTime

The Sunday Space Show will feature Pat Bahn, CEO of TGV Rockets and the Washington director of the Suborbital Institute, a trade association aimed at promoting the nascent suborbital launch industry. TGV Rockets is planning a piloted reusable suborbital launch vehicle, thus bringing to the market a new class and generation of rocket that will facilitate the development of space commercialization.

Pat will be joining the Sunday Space Show, along with some of the other participants of the Suborbital Institute, immediately after their meeting. We will be discussing FAA Reform, including working toward having Congress encourage "licensing" of suborbital vehicles and how best to get the FAA to assist in this activity.

We will also talk about ITARS which have restrictions that limit access of this industry to international resources, insurance issues and encouraging the Department of Commerce to provide third party inability insurance for suborbital launchers, and inland spaceport licensing as this new and growing industry needs both the spaceports and wide spread support.

The impact and aftermath of the Columbia Shuttle disaster on the suborbital launch industry will be discussed in detail.

Listeners are encouraged to call or e-mail questions or comments to the guest or the host either before or during the show. To speak to with Pat Bahn or the host during the program, please call the toll free number, 1 866-687-7223. Please use the e-mail addresses below either before or during the program should you wish to participate using e-mail. This show will air at the special time Sunday, Feb. 9, 2003 from 5:30PM-6:45PM Pacific Standard Time to allow Pat and his associates to complete their Suborbital Institute Meeting.

Send question & comments during the program to dmlivings@yahoo.com or drspace@thespaceshow.com.

Webcast on Live365.com at http://www.live365.com/stations/dlivingston?site=dlivingston.

 

February 4, 2003

The Comet and the Shuttle... The shuttle reminds me of the De Havilland Comet, the first turbojet powered passenger airline introduced in 1949 just a few years after jet powered military planes appeared. It was considered the pride and hope of the British aerospace industry. However, within just two years after it began passenger service in 1952 three vehicles had disintegrated in flight, each with the loss of all aboard. (See Comet Crash- Carol Judkins and Ch. 13 - Quest for Performance by Laurence K. Loftin, Jr- NASA)

The Comet was withdrawn from service, re-engineered and in 1958 re-introduced as the Comet 4. However, new airliners like the Boeing 707 had appeared by then and the Comet failed in the passenger market.

While metal fatigue was the primary cause of the Comet disasters, complexity fatigue could be said to be the shuttle's fatal flaw. This first partially reusable launch vehicle (actually, refurbishable is a better term) is so complex and fragile, that even an army of several thousand support personnel cannot keep it flying safely. There are just too many ways for it to fail.

We must replace the shuttle as quickly as possible, else the shuttle will not be the Comet that initiated routine spaceflight but the Hindenburg that ended spaceflight for generations.

Replace the shuttle... Last night on the PBS Newshour program - Unanswered Questions - PBS Online NewsHour: - Feb.3.03 - there was an interesting discussion with Donna Shirley, former JPL manager of the Mars Pathfinder mission, John Logsdon, director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University, and Gregg Easterbrook.

Easterbrook, the well known science writer, repeated his view as stated in the article The Space Shuttle Must Be Stopped by Gregg Easterbrook - TIME.com - Feb.10.03 issue mention below, that the shuttle should not fly again. He supports building a new replacement vehicle but doesn't see the need for a big rush to do so.

Logsdon repeated the Beltway mantra that it will take at least 10 years to build a replacement.

Shirley was more optimistic and, surprisingly to me, emphasized that new companies could offer a faster alternative: "it is time to really start incentivizing private enterprise to fill in gaps in space transportation that is currently just a monopoly of a few big companies."

Further, she said the US could give "the struggling fledgling private aerospace industry the same deal that [the government] did with the early aviation industry, like mail contracts, for air mail contracts, for example, [...] there could exist within a few years a viable private industry.."

Easterbrook responded that "several companies [..] attempted to build private rockets in the 1990s and the early attempts were not successful."

He should have noted that it was not the failure of their technology but the failure of the satellite constellation market (i.e. Iridium and Globalstar) on which they depended that made their efforts unsuccessful.

Ten years & $35 billion??... In the coming debate over what to do about the shuttle we will frequently hear statements like Logsdon's above that it will take 10 years and at least $35 billion to build a replacement vehicle such as the Orbital Space Plane (OSP).

A month or so ago I sent a letter to the Space News editorial page in response to the widespread pessimism about the state of RLV technology. It seems quite relevant now and since it doesn't appear that it will be published (thus continuing my long unbroken string of unaccepted letters to the editors of various newspapers and magazines - I'm starting to know how Snoopy feels!), I include it below, along with some hyperlinks added:

As a humble space enthusiast I claim no expertise in the design of launch vehicles, propulsion systems, or reusable launch vehicles. In fact, like many other space fans, I'm rather confused at the moment about the state of these technologies and wish that someone at NASA, the Pentagon, or a major aerospace company would answer a few questions to enlighten me.

For example, managers from such institutions have claimed in Space News editorials (e.g. "No Time for RLVs?" by Antonio Elias of Orbital Sciences on Aug.26.02) and articles (e.g."USAF Space Deputy Says Operational RLV 20 Years Away", Sept.23.02) that fully reusable launch systems lie beyond our current capabilities and will remain so until at least 2020 or later. Yet, how does that square with the Kistler K-1, which according to that company is more than 75% complete and could, with the availability of funding, fly within two years? This 2-stage vehicle can deliver 2500kg of cargo to the ISS and return with up to 900kg. Kistler claims a flight will cost $17 million and allow for a turnaround time of 9 days.

The Iridium/Globalstar failures pulled the market out from under Kistler and it lacks a few hundred million dollars to get a K-1 to operational status. So why doesn't NASA or the Pentagon simply fund the completion of the K-1 and take advantage of its capabilities and the opportunity to learn what is needed for more advanced RLVs? The money is not trivial but is a fraction of the funding planned for the Orbital Space Plane and seems modest compared to the extra billion dollars going to a couple of companies to insure the profitability of their EELVs.

I'm well aware that the unmanned K-1 is not a shuttle replacement (why the first RLV needs to be shuttle-size is a separate question) and does not provide every feature needed for every conceivable military mission, but it would seem to me to be a fine system to start with. Would not a K-1 provide real world data on operational costs and on the robustness of hardware undergoing routine flights? I guess I was out sick the day it was explained where the fatal flaw in the K-1 lies.

Perhaps some other private firm could produce a vehicle even more capable and cost effective than the K-1. I have never heard a good explanation as to why NASA doesn't simply put out a one page solicitation that promises, say, a billion dollars a year to anyone that can deliver X amount of cargo to LEO and the ISS. (I know that Kistler received a contract from SLI that promises around a hundred million dollars once the K-1 starts flying but that promise has been insufficient to attract the private investment it needs.)

Other such questions come to mind. For example, I see repeated claims that the cancellations of the X-33 and X-34 projects prove that RLV technology is beyond our grasp, especially for single stage to orbit (SSTO) capability. But how do we know this? As far as I can tell, NASA has never published a full and detailed summary of what was accomplished by these projects, where they fell short, why they were canceled, and what this tells us about the state of RLV technologies.

For example, the review committee report on the de-lamination of the X-33 composite liquid hydrogen tank didn't state that such a tank was impossible to build but instead provided details on serious mistakes made during the construction and listed corrective actions. So how can it be said that the X-33 proves one way or the other that the low mass structures needed for SSTO are unattainable?

Similarly, the cost overrun of the X-34 apparently had little to do with shortcomings in its core RLV technologies. As I understand it, costs escalated dramatically after a project review was ordered in the aftermath of the Mars probes disasters. The expensive additional measures required to ensure against any possible failure pushed the project's cost above NASA's overrun threshold. These extra measures were demanded despite the fact that, in true X project spirit, three vehicles were in construction for protection against the loss of one or two vehicles.

I've also heard that the X-34 cancellation involved the Fastrac engine, or the lack thereof. It's rumored that NASA insisted that Orbital Sciences use NASA's Fastrac engine rather than a preferred Russian engine. Was the delay in the Fastrac development thus the main reason that the X-34 was canceled? Was an operational Fastrac engine ever built? How much money was spent on Fastrac? Does the failure of the Fastrac project mean that turbo-pumped rocket engines are also beyond our current capabilities?

Perhaps such stories are spurious but how would I know? These supposedly public projects are veiled in obscurity and secrecy. Again and again we've seen hundreds of millions and even billions of dollars go to projects and programs that are started with great fanfare and then vanish with no clear and definitive report (or even a web page) ever made available on where the money went, on what basis important decisions were made, and, most importantly, on what mistakes were made so they are not repeated again and again.

Today I read that estimates have gone from the six billion dollar range for the SSTO VentureStar to $35 billion for a two stage to orbit RLV. Sean O'Keefe says that four independent study groups brought him similar estimates. Will these studies ever be published? Will we know who were in these groups? Did they include anyone from the "independent" launch vehicle companies? Exactly which technologies require $29 billion more than experts estimated in earlier studies?

To reach operational status, the K-1 program would probably total around a billion dollars (including the private money spent up till now.) OK, I'm no rocket scientist but should I blindly accept the proclamations that it must cost 30 to 40 times as much to build a somewhat more powerful second generation version of the K-1 with a second stage that can carry a crew of 3 or 4?

Unfortunately, I don't think anyone in Washington or big time aerospace will ever answer these questions. Instead, I think the answer to low cost access to space will come from small independent companies that cannot afford to waste so much time and money.

February 3, 2003

More Columbia vehicle links...

General issues:

RLV & SSTO at Chaos Manor... Jerry Pournelle in the course of discussing Columbia is also discussing RLVs and SSTOs. His report from last year - Getting To Space - Jerry Pournelle - July.22.02 - offers a good review of the history of RLV concepts.

Pournelle was deeply involved with the efforts to get the DC-X project going. The DC-X was a scale model of the SSX concept, which he and others developed in 1989.

See also How to Get To Space: an affordable prize system.

Armadillo status... Recent updates at Armadillo Aerospace indicate progress with both construction of a small test vehicle and with development of their X Prize vehicle that is following a parallel track. The latest report provides an intriguing artist composite image of how the X Prize vehicle will look. See image at top.

Hybrid progress ... Successful test of a hybrid motor powered sounding rocket by Lockheed Martin suggests new applications for hybrid motors including possible use in a crew escape system for the OSP during launch - Test Puts Hybrid Rockets Back On The Table - Aviation Week - Feb.3.03. The sounding rockets will be particularly useful for testing of hypersonic components and systems.

February 2, 2003

Columbia aftermath... I don't really feel like saying much yet about the implications of this disaster on vehicle development. So for now I'll just post some links to vehicle related articles:


Continue to Jan. 2003

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