coming to Space
Access '03 ...
to present at Space
Access 03 It's that time of year again! The Space
Access Society's annual meeting will be taking place on April
24th through the 27th, 2003 in Phoenix, Arizona. XCOR founders
Jeff Greason, Dan DeLong and Aleta Jackson will make presentations
on various aspects of XCOR's development, including new rocket
engines, progress on the Xerus suborbital vehicle project and
related techonology. CEO Jeff Greason will also give a seperate
presentation about reusable rocket design considerations and tradeoffs."
Space Access Society's purpose is to promote radically cheaper
access to space. Space Access '03 will begin on Thursday evening
April 24th, 2003, and all day and evening on Friday the 25th and
Saturday the 26th. Registration is $100 in advance, $120 at the
door and a $30 student rate at the door only. More information
on the conference can be found at Space Access Society web site,
or by calling 602-431-9283."
Successfully Tests New Engine...
XCOR today announced
that "it has successfully completed multiple test firings of
their new LOX/kerosene rocket engine, the XR-4K5. The new engine
is considerably more powerful than the previous isopropyl alcohol
fueled rocket engine used in the EZ-Rocket. The new engine produces
1,800 pounds of thrust, and runs at two and a half times the chamber
pressure of the previous engine."
The engine uses
a new igniter that is "smaller and lighter than previous generations.”
This is also XCOR's first LOX/kerosene engine.
says " “We are very excited about the new engine since it moves
us closer to our goal of a reliable and economical vehicle for space
tourism as well as educational and commercial uses. The more powerful
engine and use of readily available and nontoxic fuels is a notable
development in reliability and cost control of operating suborbital
vehicles. XCOR is developing the XR-4K5 for future applications,
including the propulsion system for the Xerus
Presse Release - Mar.31.03
Note: The "Mojave
Civilian Flight Test Center" mentioned in the engine test photo
captions is the official name of the Mojave
Airport. XCOR is located in a facility
at the airport. As can be seen in the photos, they use a mobile
test stand. For new engines they test at a site also on the airport
grounds with a nearby bunker. When the fire marshal is satisfied
that it's safe, they test in the parking lot by their building.
amateur rocket motor test ... See
Log item about a 80,000 Ns P motor test in preparation
for a launch this month.
brief ... Making at least the first stage reusable :
Universal Reusable First Stage: The Next 'Stage' In Space Transport
by Kenneth Schweitzer - SpaceDaily - Mar.28.03
The Air Force
wants fast access to space but doesn't expect it with RLVs anytime
Force to Focus on Quick Reaction Spacelift Vehicles - Space.com
Rutan's mystery plane... Someone mentioned to
me a recent Popular Mechanics article that indicated that the Scaled
plane was the first stage of their X PRIZE system. However,
the plane was first mentioned in Aviation Week last summer (see
RLV News items from August.02
and many speculated at the time as to whether it was for the X PRIZE.
I've not seen the PM article but I believe they were just speculating
like everyone else. We shall soon see if it really is so.
X PRIZE Vehicle debut?... There are rumors that Scaled
Composites will roll out its X-PRIZE
vehicle in early April.
RVT development ... The Japanese continue work with the
(Reusable Vehicle Test), which is a DC-X
type single stage suborbital - Firing
Test of Reusable Rocket Engine RVT-7 - ISAS - Feb.20.03.
The RVT-6 flew
low altitude flights in the summer of 2001. As this report - Flight
Demonstration and a Concept for Readiness of Fully Reusable Rocket
Vehicles by Yoshifumi Inatani - Space Future - Nov.01 - indicates,
this low budget project will follow a step-by-step approach, gradually
developing higher altitudes. Note that in the section "Second
Flight Test RVT#2", the vehicle shown has the RVT-6 logo. So
that implies that RVT-7 corresponds to the "(2002) RVT#3"
vehicle in the evolution chart. This vehicle will use composite
tanks, test in-flight engine restarts, and carry out flight envelope
Nice to see
that the RVT project is still in business despite budget problems
in Japan and the merging of the ISAS
with the much larger NASDA.
Thanks go to
Kaido Kert for the RVT engine test link. He also notes this news
from 2001 - Cryogenic
Propellant Composite Tank Test for Reusable Launch Vehicles - ISAS
about the progress at ISAS with composite LOX and LH2 tanks. This
item says they were "able to pressurize the liquid hydrogen
tank to its maximum capacity and the liquid oxygen to its proof
pressure loaded with actual liquids."
tool at the ISAS site brings up a couple of other RVT related items
but they are in Japanse, which I cannot read. If anyone can read
the items and let me know if they say anything significant, I would
briefs ... Water employed for thermal protection - Water
could replace spacecraft heat shield tiles - New Scientist - Mar.26.03.
(I've heard of using water as part of a TPS before but perhaps the
implementation here is novel.)...
More about SpaceX in
Spacex Succeed where Beal failed? by Alan Breakstone - Space Future
articles ... The SpaceX website has posted reprints of
a couple of articles about Elon Musk and his rocket company:
going on an EELV... This week's Space News cover article
discusses the decision by NASA and Boeing to switch the launcher
for the X-37
from a Delta II to a Delta IV or Atlas 5. The weight growth is nearing
the limit of the Delta II and the price difference would be minimal
since the Delta II would require one-time modifications anyway.
not yet decided involves whether to launch with the X-37 inside
a shroud or not. A shroud would eliminate various aerodynamic and
structural issues but eliminates learning anything that could apply
to the OSP. The much larger OSP won't fit in a shroud and will need
to deal with aerodynamic stresses put on the launcher by a winged
(or lifting body) vehicle sitting on top of it. ( Of course, if
the OSP becomes a capsule, this is no longer a problem.)
million man and woman march to space
- The Space Review - Mar.25.03
- I wrote this essay about the need to create a community of space
enthusiasts large enough to sustain space ventures, such as suborbital
RLVs, regardless of the interest in space by the general public.
memories... The Buran may have patterned itself after
the wrong role model, but it did have many fine features all its
own. This nicely designed site - Buran
- Russia's Shuttle - gives the Buran the respect it deserves.
See also Jeff Wright's essay - Cut
The Umbilical Cord And Roar Into Space - SpaceDaily - Mar.24.03
along year after year... Keith Cowing reports on the
recent NASA Space
Shuttle Service Life Extension Program Summit March 19-20, 2003
and Replacing NASA's Space Shuttle: Ideas? Yes. Funds? No. by Keith
Cowing - Mar.24.03.
Cowing's questions at the meeting, it's clear that NASA has no idea
where it will fine the money to run the shuttle, carry out major
upgrades, and also fund the OSP. Furthermore, this ignores the need
for cargo delivery to the ISS:
OSP seemed to be taking on the Shuttle's crew carrying role (but
not completely), nothing seemed to be in place to taken on the
cargo role given that the Alternate Access portion of the Space
Launch Initiative (SLI). 'Alt Access' was designed to examine
unmanned and commercial alternatives to ISS resupply however,
it is being ended in July 2003. I asked Kostelnik if he was not
able to speak to this issue in an integrated fashion, who could?
He passed on suggesting who could address this, noting that "this
will be a continuing debate" that will go on in the coming months..
Aerospace updates... The latest AA
posting discusses a pressure test of the crew cabin of their
X PRIZE system and two hover tests of the subscale version. The
hover tests failed due to continued problems with miscellaneous
electrical and controls problems. The tether prevented serious damage,
though, and the more tests upcoming.
will be a guest
at the upcoming I-CON
22 sci-fi meeting in Stony Brook, New York on March 28-30. (My
thanks to T.J. Allcot for this item.)
briefs... In Opening
the Next Frontier Anthony Tate makes the case for a nuclear
powered RLV. (My thanks to T.J. Allcot for this item.) ...
More about resistance to the OSP in the Advisory Council - NASA
Advisory Council expresses skepticism about OSP - spacetoday.net
Storm for AAS... An article in the March 17th issue of
Space News discussed the recent campaign on Capitol Hill by the
space advocacy group ProSpace
that focused on saving the Alternate Access to Space program.
This goal of this program was to examine concepts from various startup
launch companies to determine if they could provide low cost cargo
delivery to the Space Station.
As mentioned in the recent
item here about the AAS proposal of HMX,
Gary Hudson said that NASA had undermined the program from the beginning
and intended to discontinue it to obtain funds for the OSP. The
Phase I studies from the four companies will be accepted in July
and then apparently shoved into a drawer.
forty ProSpace volunteers used its annual March Storm campaign on
March 10-12 to try to convince Congress to force NASA to restore
the program and to take the proposals seriously.
other companies involved in the AAS include Constellation
Services International (CSI), Andrews
Space & Technology, and Kistler
emergencies driving force behind building space plane: First design
requirement is that it hold four astronauts, including one lying
down - Huntsville Times - Mar.21.03 ...
...The Texas based Amateur
Spaceflight Association receives some publicity for its advanced
rocketry projects - High-flying
ambition: Race is on to build first amateur rocket to reach space
- HoustonChronicle.com - Mar.23.03 (link found at spacetoday.net)
Access '03 Conference April 24-26, 2003, in Scottsdale Arizona...
update on the upcoming meeting has been released. Speakers this
discussions on Low Cost Launch Finance/Markets, Regulatory Considerations,
and Politics, and possibly a special panel on the loss of Columbia."
briefs ... Calpoly
Space Systems has posted pictures
of the January flight of their scale model version of the Starbooster
RLV system (Buzz Aldrin's concept). It is a a 1/3 scale version
of the Starbooster
for which the company got an Air Force SBIR grant last year. [My
thanks to Kaido Kert for this item.] ...
The latest issue of SpaceEquity.com
includes this reprint of an essay from the late Max Hunter - The
SSX Design for Flight Safety - Jan.2000 (See the RLV History
section for more SSX
Council wants a shuttle replacement - Space
plane runs into criticism - Orlando Sentinel - Mar.21.03.
of SpaceX engine test...
Spaceref has some photos
of the engine test mentioned below. Nothing yet about the test
on the SpaceX site.
SpaceX engine test...
[Modified - 19:00] Elon Musk's Space
Exploration Technologies company
announces a test of their first stage main engine: Performs
First Rocket Engine Firing: Successful Internet Entrepreneur Now
Targets Space Industry - SpaceX PR/Yahoo - Mar.19.03 :
and spacecraft urgently need a more reliable and cost- effective
launch vehicle than the options available today. SpaceX is confident
that our Falcon rocket will achieve that end in the near future,"
said Elon Musk, SpaceX Chairman and CEO. "In only nine months
we've designed, built and initiated testing of our rocket's main
engine, which is a testament to the capability and determination
of the SpaceX team to deliver on promised goals in record time."
"This is the
most successful engine test program I have managed in more than
15 years of rocket engine development," said Tom Mueller, SpaceX
Vice President of Propulsion and former head of liquid rocket
propulsion development at TRW Space and Electronics(TM). "It is
all the more exceptional given that the engine is a clean sheet
design with several new technology innovations."
tests, the liquid oxygen and kerosene engine, named Merlin, achieved
full expected thrust of 60,000 lbs and a combustion efficiency
of 93%. With further testing, the company expects to exceed a
96% efficiency level. This compares well with the much larger
Saturn V Moon rocket's F-1 engine, which used the same propellant
combination, but achieved only 93.5% efficiency....
noted in a previous
update, they are doing the tests at a former Naval engine
test site in Texas where Beal also tested his engines. (XCOR did
not build the test stand as I reported earlier.)
company hopes to launch its new vehicle by the end of THIS year.
They will charge $6 million to put 450-1,350 kgs in LEO.
for this news.]
brief ... Jeff
Foust discusses the drought in payloads : The
launch industry depression: when will it end? - Space Review - Mar.17.03
Interview with Brian Chase, Executive Director of
the National Space Society.
Mr. Chase talked with me about space activism, space policy, the
Columbia aftermath and efforts to replace the Shuttle, the Alternate
Access to Space program, and other issues.
updates ... Armadillo
has continued posting regular updates on their progress. The latest
posting includes a video of a manned drop test of the full sized
(for the X PRIZE vehicle) crush cone that will cushion the parachute
landing. The test pilot survived in good shape.
is also a video of a brief hover test of a 2 foot diameter vehicle
that failed because the inertial measurement unit went dead. However,
the vehicle was on a crane tether and no extensive damage occurred.
They will re-test when they get a new or repaired IMU.
brief ... Elon
Musk will speak about the SpaceX
project at the National
Space Symposium in Colorado Springs in April : Space
X Leader to Speak at CSBR [Colorado Space Business Roundtable] Luncheon
[Apr.9.03] - Space Foundation - Mar.14.03
Launch gets RASCAL contract....
has selected the Space
Launch Corporation for phase 2 of the Responsive Access Small
Cargo Affordable Launch (RASCAL)
For this 18
month stage of the program the company will "design, develop
and reduce the risk of critical technology" for the two stage
system capable of launching 75kg to 500km sun-synchronous orbit.
The program required that the first stage use a plane with a "mass
injection pre-compressor cooled turbojet engine". The second
stage will be a small EELV.
contractors were to be chosen in the down-select from Phase 1 but
apparently to save money they only chose one. If Phase 2 is successful,
the company would then get a Phase 3 contract to build hardware
and carry out a first launch by 2006.
[Thanks to Spacetoday.net
where I first saw this new.]
An article in this week's Space News issue discusses
the possibility that an "Apollo-style capsule" design
might become the preference for the OSP, despite the P for Plane.
O'Keefe made clear that he is open to the idea and the recent clarifications
to the OSP Level 1 requirements allow for a capsule design.
is some worry that a capsule won't be sexy enough and not appeal
to the public. Bruce Mahone of the AIA
says it might be analogous to the President driving "around
in a Volkswagen beetle instead of a limousine." California
representative Dana Rohrabacher, not known for understatement, used
words like "flying trashcan", "bath tub", "suitcase"
and "trunk" to describe a capsule, which he believes is
less amenable to reusability than a plane design.
the term Orbital Space Plane apparently came from O'Keefe himself.
He wanted to avoid NASA's predilection for "inscrutable acronyms".
on sci.space.policy for Gary Hudson's responses to comments
and questions about the HMX proposal
for the Alternate Access to Space program. (See below.)
The following gives an indication of what small contractors like
HMX are up against when trying to swim through the NASA red tape
Notice: Root Cause Analysis for Future Reusable Launch Systems -
NASA/Spaceref - Mar.12.03.
briefs ... In Space
entrepreneurship, buy the book - The Space Review - Mar.10.03,
Jeff Foust reviews the books "They All Laughed at Christopher
Columbus : An Incurable Dreamer Builds the First Civilian Spaceship"
by Elizabeth Weil and "Making Space Happen: Private Space Ventures
and the Visionaries Behind Them" by Paula Berinstein.
... Now available in the SpaceShow archive - Interview
with Jeff Greason of XCOR on The Space Show - Feb.26.03
... Arguing for a real spaceship:
Case For Orion by Wayne Smith - SpaceDaily - Mar.12.03
commercial space exploration - check out my interview
with Paul Blase, co-founder and CTO of TransOrbital,
which plans to launch its TrailBlazer spacecraft to the Moon this
autumn. Last December the company successfully launched a test spacecraft
on a Dnepr rocket and last August received all necessary licenses
for the lunar mission.
Mr. Blase discussed
with me the status of the project, the challenges of getting such
a mission underway, how activists can contribute to space hardware
development, and what TrailBlazer will mean for commercial exploration
and development of space.
While not directly
related to vehicle development, TransOrbital provides an example
of the kind of entrepreneurial space projects that could appear
with the availablity of low cost access to space. Despite all the
legal hassles of launching on the Dnepr, a converted Ukrainian ICBM,
its low launch price made it all worthwhile.
Blase says there is extra
room on the Dnepr for a small payload. If you know of
a university project or other group in need of a ride for a nanosat,
tell them to contact Paul
Blase for more information.
energy proceedings ... The proceedings
of the First
International Symposium on Beamed Energy Propulsion, November 5-7,
2002, Huntsville, Alabama, are now available
for order. See RLV News items for Nov.4,
2002 and Nov.5,
on the next meeting now available at : Second
International Symposium on Beamed Energy Propulsion, Sendai, Japan
- Oct.20-23, 2003.
Astronautics test flight in September... The X
PRIZE team American
Astronautics plans to launch its single passenger Freedom
Flyer vehicle this fall from a location in Mexico. The web page
says the vehicle uses a "man-rated, TR-201 rocket engine",
which is "an AAC modified version of the Delta configuration
derived from the Apollo Lunar Lander descent engine". (Saw
this news via a posting at sci.space.policy.)
things perfectly clear... NASA has posted a lengthy interpretation
document that explains in detail what the recently released OSP
requirements actually mean - Orbital
Space Plane (OSP) Level I Requirements Program Interpretation Document
(Text version) - MSFC/Spaceref - Mar.6.03
vehicle design review... My thanks go to Nesrin Sarigul-Klijn
for letting me know about her and her husband's excellent review
of suborbital RLV designs. They examine a wide range of launch and
recovery systems previously used and make some conclusions on which
would produce an X PRIZE winner and a successful space tourism vehicle.
is the abstract:
Mechanics of Manned Sub-Orbital Reusable Launch Vehicles
with Recommendations for Launch and Recovery
Marti Sarigul-Klijn, Ph.D. and Nesrin Sarigul-Klijn*, Ph.D.
Mechanical & Aeronautical Engineering Dept., Univ. of Calif.,
paper 2003-0909 (pdf, 910kb) [updated version Mar.31.03]
of every significant method of launch and recovery for manned
sub-orbital Reusable Launch Vehicles (RLV) is presented here.
Launch methods are categorized as vertical takeoff, horizontal
takeoff, and air launch. Recovery methods are categorized as
wings, aerodynamic decelerators, rockets, and rotors.
that both vertical takeoff and some air launch methods are viable
means of attaining sub-orbital altitudes and wings and aerodynamic
decelerators are viable methods for recovery based on statistical
methods using historical data coupled with time-stepped integration
of the trajectory equations of motion.
conclude that the preferred architecture for a manned sub-orbital
RLV is Vertical Takeoff using hybrid rocket motor propulsion
and winged un-powered Horizontal Landing onto a runway (VTHL)
based on the additional factors of safety, customer acceptance,
been renewed interest in civilian manned sub-orbital space flight
due in part to the X-Prize competition, which has the goal of
building a RLV that can carry three people to a sub-orbital
altitude and back using private funds only. The X-Prize website
shows that there are over 20 teams registered: yet none have
chosen a winged VTHL configuration that lands on a runway.
briefs ... Thinking about disasters and new ideas : Thinking
the Unthinkable - Transterrestrial Musings - Mar.6.03
NASA funding air breathers - Sources
sought for engineering capabilities for airbreathing propulsion,
applied to future space launch vehicles - Glenn RC/SpaceRef - Mar.5.03
If a space elevator could really be built for ~$10 billion, then
I guess maybe all these launcher designs and arguments become irrelevant
(but I hope the rocket engineers don't stop working just yet!) :
of the book The Space Elevator by Brad Edwards and Eric Westling-
Slashdot - Mar.6.03.
The HMX XV reusable space transfer vehicle concept.
Access, Alternate Future... Gary Hudson told me know
today that he has posted on the HMX
site the presentation that HMX made back in 2000 in its successful
bid for a study contract with the Alternate Access to Space
program. (Thanks Gary! He also said the site will soon undergo a
major upgrade with a lot of "past papers, briefings, images,
(pdf, 5.5Mb) is quite large so for those with slow links I've quoted
here in its entirety the new preface in which Gary explains what
happened with the program and what might have been:
PowerPoint file represents a distillation of the Alternate Access
to Space (AAS) final report presented November 6, 2000 under contract
to the NASA Marshall Spaceflight Center. Out of a field of 17
small business bidders, HMX, Microcosm, Andrews Space & Tech,
and Kistler Aerospace were selected to perform concept studies
of alternate methods for "contingency" resupply of the International
Space Station. (Other contracts, to Boeing, Lockheed, Orbital
and Coleman were awarded non-competitively.) Per the NASA Act
of 1958, this information should have been made publicly available
but the results were largely suppressed in order to kill the AAS
program, which had been imposed on NASA by OMB and the Congress
against NASA's will.
opposed to AAS was the Johnson Space Flight Center, on the grounds
that any alternate to the Space Shuttle would reduce the need
for expensive and dangerous Shuttle missions, and reduce the available
flights for the large pool of unflown NASA astronauts. Also strongly
obstructionist was Marshall's Dennis Smith, then SLI program manager
and now in charge of the Orbital Space Plane (OSP) who simply
wanted the money to be used for his massive Space Launch Initiative
determined that use of a fully proven launcher, the Titan II,
would have allowed AAS missions to the station to begin in 2003
for half the money approved by OMB for this program. Instead of
acting, NASA/ MSFC delayed the AAS program, and watered it down
until for all practical purposes it became a technology research
effort on the methods of docking unmanned vehicles to the ISS.
While small follow-on contracts have been awarded, the program
is set to terminate in early summer, and the OSP project will
absorb the remaining funds.
"While the AAS program never intended the resupply vehicle
to be crewed, HMX found that the only way to perform the mission
was to build a reusable AAS transfer vehicle (designated the XV).
This approach was also adopted by other AAS contractors. Reuse
of the XV reduced per flight costs and enhanced reliability, but
it also meant that the vehicle could serve as both a lifeboat
for the ISS and also carry crews to orbit. Of course, given the
vicious opposition to AAS on the part of JSC, HMX never briefed
the manned option, but the last slide in this presentation illustrates
one version of a crewed XV.
"It is ironic, in light of the Columbia disaster, that this
capability would just now be coming on line if NASA had not badly
bungled the entire program. Given NASA's track record of not being
able to successfully complete a single space transportation project
(e.g., X-33, X-34, X-37, X-43, X-38 and the SLI program) in the
past twenty years, plus their mismanagement of the Shuttle program,
one wonders why they should be entrusted with the development
of the OSP. Only Congress can answer that question."
- Gary C. Hudson, CEO, HMX March 1, 2003
The XV with a crew of four.
looks at small launchers... The latest issue of Space
News (March 3, 2003) reports
(abbreviated online version) that the Department of Defense
is looking seriously at Microcosm's
Scorpius/Sprite low cost ELV system. DOD has requested $25M
to fund a program called Operationally Responsive Space-lift
that will examine the Scorpius and other systems that could provide
space access on the order of days and even hours when needed for
launching small reconnaissance spacecraft.
has been surviving on small grants for several years and has launched
a couple of sounding rockets. Initally prodded by a group of Congressional
members, the Pentagon got more serious when an independent review
team said the Sprite 3-stage system could send 275kg to LEO for
$5M per launch.
actually claims they can do it for $2.5M but even the $5M is about
third of the Orbital
Pegasus, which currently provides the capability closest to
what DOD wants. Microcosm says they can develop an operational launcher
within 3 years for $90M.
DOD decides to go for such a system, they will hold a competition.
Besides the Sprite and Pegasus, Elon Musk's SpaceX
Falcon would probably compete for the contract.
on the Diamandis interview and other recent topics.
with the Rocket Equation ... Joel
has informed me about his nice little utility program - Joyride!
Spaceship Designer Sketchpad
- which you can use to do "back of the envelope" estimates
by varying values of payload (including vehicle structure), delta-v,
ISP, and GLOW.
also the Rocketry
section for links to other rocketry
1 , 2003
Interview with Peter Diamandis
: Founder and President of the X
PRIZE Foundation - Peter talks about a number of topics
including the funding of the prize, the sub-orbital approach to
developing spaceflight, regulatory issues, and follow-on contests.
briefs... Ralph Hall still upset about the X-38 cancellation:
Statement by Rep. Ralph Hall - SpaceRef - Feb.27.03 ...
Can do or wishful thinking? A
patchwork plan for space rescue - MSNBC - Feb.28.03
to February 28, 2003