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Reusable Launch & Space Vehicle News
June 2003
Index

X PRIZE Trajectory
Copyright ofX PRIZE

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 Advanced Rocketery Section for entries on
advanced amateur & student rocketry, experimental rocketry,
& innovations by small rocket companies.

In addtion, the Space Log contains news about
amateur space activities, space businesses, etc.

RLV News Archive Directory

June 30, 2003

PBS reports on the rocketeers... The PBS News Hour had a nice segment tonight on private spaceflight projects with a focus on Burt Rutan and the X PRIZE. The reporter interviewed Burt and also Peter Diamandis. He generally gave an accurate description of the competition and its feasibility and made the usual comparison to the early aviation prizes. There was also an examination of Sea Launch as the first totally privately financed launch system.

[July 1.03: The report is now available on line : Transcript, Audio .]

Ed.: Gee, maybe next even the New York Times or Washington Post will recognise that there is more to human spaceflight than NASA.

Dennis Tito joins X PRIZE Board... The X PRIZE announced today that

"Southern California Businessman and private space travel pioneer Dennis Tito has been elected to the X PRIZE Foundation Board of Trustees. "I'm joining the X PRIZE Foundation Board of Trustees because I'd like to see a new generation of privately owned and operated spaceships. These are the ships that will fly thousands of people into space on an annual basis."

Mr. Tito is one of two civilian space travelers who have ridden with the Russian Space Agency to the International Space Station. Tito explains “Millions of people could easily be qualified for space. Once the price of traveling to space comes down to the price of an SUV, I think we'll see thousands of people sign up.”

Founder and Chairman of the X PRIZE Foundation and fellow California businessman Dr. Peter Diamandis stated "We are very excited to have Dennis join our Board of Trustees. His dedication to this field and position as a spokesperson for this emerging public space travel industry will help make X PRIZE a visible and global success."

"The X PRIZE has done an excellent job of capturing the public imagination and stimulating dozens of teams to design and develop new low-cost methods of traveling on sub-orbital trips into space." - Dennis Tito.

Dennis Tito became the first private citizen to travel into space when he boarded the International Space Station on April 28, 2001. The world's first private space explorer, Mr. Tito is the Founder, Chairman, and CEO of Wilshire Associates. He began his career in 1964 when he joined NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, where he worked for five years. While there, he helped design trajectories for the Mariner 4 and 9 missions to Mars and the Mariner 5 mission to Venus.

In 1972, he left NASA's JPL and began using his mathematical and engineering knowledge to develop new approaches in the analysis of stock market risks. He then worked on Wall Street as an investment management consultant. In the early 1970s, he founded Wilshire Associates, an investment management consulting firm based in Santa Monica, California. Wilshire integrated computers with engineering and investment concepts and developed portfolio management tools. Mr. Tito created the Wilshire 5000 stock index, the broadest indicator of US stock market activity. By 1998, Wilshire Associates was the third-largest investment management consulting firm in the U.S. -- its 250 specialists advised clients with a total of half a trillion dollars in assets. Since the early 1990s, Mr. Tito has concentrated on philanthropic projects, such as building a medical research facility at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Mr. Tito received his B.S. from New York University College of Engineering in astronautics and aeronautics in 1962 and an M.S. in Engineering Science from Renssalaer Polytechnic Institute in 1964. He resides in Santa Monica, California.

Also elected to the X PRIZE Board was Diane Murphy, Vice President, Communications at the European Aeronautical Defense & Space Company (EADS) and Barry Thompson, career entrepreneur and CTO of JBThompson, LLC.

Ed.: This is great news. Mr. Tito was dismissive of suborbital tourism during Q&A after a lecture he gave at the National Air & Space Museum last year, saying that few would pay for such "joy rides". It's encouraging that he is willing to change his mind and get involved in such a promising approach to the incremental development of a true public space transportation system.

X PRIZE chief judge announced... The X PRIZE has selected Space Shuttle Commander Richard Searfoss as Chief Judge of the X PRIZE competition. According to the press release,

"The Chief Judge's initial duty is to complete the development of a pool of world-renowned aviation and space experts to judge the X PRIZE Competition. The judges will ensure that the $10 Million X PRIZE is awarded to the first team to fly a privately financed reusable three-person spaceship to an altitude of 62 miles-and repeat the trip within two weeks."

"'The competition is heating up. We could see a winner within the next 12 months. It’s time to complete our judging panel. Rick Searfoss' extensive career in aviation and space, linked with his skills as a professional speaker make him the perfect candidate to be our Chief Judge'explains Dr. Peter Diamandis, Founder and Chairman of the X PRIZE Foundation."

"Colonel Rick Searfoss is an Astronaut and Shuttle Commander. Throughout his career as an astronaut, test pilot, and fighter pilot, he has logged over 5000 flying hours in 60 different types of aircraft and nearly 1000 hours in space. In addition to commanding the Neurolab team (STS-90) he piloted two previous space flights, one of which was a joint Russian-American mission to the International Space Station."

"Colonel Searfoss was the number one graduate in his United States Air Force Academy and Air Force Squadron Officer School classes and earned a graduate degree from the California Institute of Technology, which he attended on a National Science Foundation fellowship. He was selected for Outstanding Young Men of America and is a distinguished graduate of the U.S. Air Force Fighter Weapons (Topgun) School and Naval Test Pilot School. His numerous other awards include USAF F-111 Instructor Pilot of the Year, Distinguished Flying Cross, Legion of Merit, and NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal."

News briefs ... The da Vinci project decides to launch from Kindersley, Saskatchewan : X Prize Contestant Chooses Launch Site - Space.com - June.30.03 ...

Armadillo Aerospace will begin drop tests from a helicopter of its parachute system as early as this weekend according to the latest update.

NASA/Columbia/Shuttle Program...

June 29, 2003

Columbia/Shuttle Program...

June 28, 2003

DARPA seeks hypersonic cruiser... The Force Application and Launch from CONUS (FALCON) - DARPA solicitation looks to develop a "reusable Hypersonic Cruise Vehicle (HCV). This autonomous aircraft would be capable of taking off from a conventional military runway and striking targets 9,000 nautical miles distant in less than two hours." It also could "potentially provide the first stage of a two-stage access to space vehicle."

Columbia/Shuttle Program...

June 27, 2003

Space Trans Policy Proposal... The Space Frontier Foundation issued a Space Transportation Policy proposal that emphasizes private development of launch vehicles and to re-orient NASA towards contracting out such projects rather than dominating them in house. They hope to influence the "current White House policy review, ordered by President Bush before the loss of the shuttle orbiter Columbia, [and] underway within the Space Policy Coordinating Committee". Space Frontier Foundation Proposes Space Policy - SFF - June.23.03.

On line discussion of the policy is at A New US Space Transportation Policy - Frontier Files Online - June.26.03

News briefs ... The Cosmos 1 solar sail, funded by the Planetary Society and Cosmos Studios, assembly is proceeding towards completion in July and launch in September. [Via Kaido Kert] ...

... More about the Canadian Arrow astronauts : Astronauts race to fly rocket first - London Free Press - June.27.03 * Canada's Arrow 'has right stuff' for space race Ontario team announces crew in contest to send first private-sector rocket to edge of outer space: 5 countries vying for US$10M - National Post - June.27.03 [Both links via spacetoday.net]

Aerospike update... The recent aerospike engine test by a group at Cal State University Long Beach (CSULB) and Garvey Spacecraft followed a previous test in April of 2002, which ran for 200ms before the plug broke off.

John Garvey tells me that the redesigned engine "managed to get us past the point where the engine failed during the our first test of this kind of engine." (The recent firing lasted for 4 seconds.) He says that "[h]opefully we will get a similar burn when we attempt to launch it on the Prospector 2 later this summer."

Although aerospikes engines were tested by Rocketdyne in the 1960s and later for the X-33 program, no liquid fueled aerospike engine has ever actually powered a rocket in flight. Aerospike engines are ideal for single-stage-to-orbit (SSTO) vehicles since they automatically compensate for air pressure changes to maintain efficient performance.

More about the test at Successful Aerospike Engine Static Fire Test by CSU Long Beach and Garvey Spacecraft - Cal Space Authority - June.21.03.

X PRIZE double win... The X PRIZE project and its founder Peter Diamandis both received awards at the 2003 World Technology Summit & Awards meeting held in San Francisco this week : Peter Diamandis & X PRIZE Receive World Technology Award - X P R I Z E - June.26.03.

It was given for "the non-profit foundation's tireless efforts to spawn a new groundbreaking industry and educate the public about commercial space travel." and for Peter's efforts in this and other space development projects. This was the "first time in the history of the World Technology Awards that a Company and its Chairman have been selected as winners in the same year."

A big guy thinking small? ... It was revealed during the recent Paris Airshow that Scaled Composites is now nearly half owned by Northrop Grumman: Northrop Acquires Share of Scaled Composites - Aviation Week/PARIS 2003 - June.03. While Northorp's primary interest is probably in the company's composite technology and UAV projects, the item suggests that Northrop may also be interested in the company's "small space vehicles, including Scaled's own Tier One suborbital vehicle -- unveiled in April -- and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency RASCAL small launcher program."

If so, I hope Northrop shows more staying power than it did with Kistler. If Northrop had stepped up and funded the completion of the K-1 back in 1999 when Kistler's resources dried up after the LEO constellation market collapsed, the company would now control the leading launcher technology in the world and would be sending regular cargo shipments to the ISS. Instead they wrote off their investment and waited for Kistler to find other funding sources.

Columbia/Shuttle Program...

June 26, 2003

Canadian Arrow astronauts revealed... The Canadian Arrow X PRIZE project has announced the 6 people selected to become the astronaut crews for its first two flights. Two "pilot astronauts" will fly on each mission and so two of the six will serve as backups. (I assume the third "person" required by the X PRIZE rules will be ballast, which is allowed.)

Team leader Geoff Sheerin indicates that the Arrow may "launch by the end of the year, although there are still engine tests to perform" according to the article Prize's Canadian Arrow Announces its First Astronauts - Space.com - June.26.03.

One candidate is a former astronaut with the Ukraine National Space Agency and trained with NASA as backup for a shuttle mission : Astronaut joins private space race - CNN.com - Jun. 26, 2003.

Suborbital Institute Press Release:

Suborbital Institute Applauds Administration
Space Commercialization Action

BETHESDA, MD. June 25, 2003 -- The SubOrbital Institute today praised the Bush Administration for appointing an acting director for the Department of Commerce's Office of Space Commercialization ("DoT/OSC"). "We're extremely pleased to finally see some movement on this issue," said Pat Bahn, Washington representative of the SubOrbital Institute. "The Office of Space Commercialization has been without a permanent director off and on now for two or so years. The SubOrbital Institute has worked very hard over the past several weeks trying to get the Administration to appoint at least an acting director to fill this empty job slot. So we're quite happy and thankful that an acting director has now been appointed," Bahn continued.

The new acting director is Dr. Gary Gravatt. Dr. Gravatt was Deputy Director of DoT/OSC under Secretary Malcolm Baldridge, and has extensive experience throughout the Department of Commerce. "We believe his experience and history, such as his distinguished service on the Landsat interagency commercialization team, will be vital in rebuilding DoT/OSC," said Ed Wright, Executive Director of the SubOrbital Institute.

The mission of the Office of Space Commercialization is to foster an economic and policy environment that ensures the growth and international competitiveness of the U.S. commercial space industry. It is thus one of the most important points of contact between the emerging suborbital launch services industry and the federal government.

Suborbital flight is a small market of huge strategic and economic importance. The suborbital market exists in the gap between airplanes and orbital spacecraft. Suborbital vehicles share some characteristics with airplanes, some others with orbital spacecraft, and still others with launch vehicles; but they are also different in many significant ways. Suborbital spaceflight presents a number of extremely interesting business opportunities with important economic and national security implications, in areas as diverse as imaging, science, and tourism.

"Since this office is so important to our nascent industry," Ed Wright said, "it's imperative that it finally have appointed to run it be a permanent director. That's what the SubOrbital Institute will start to work on next," he stated.

The SubOrbital Institute is also vitally concerned with achieving full staffing for DoT/OSC. "DoT/OSC is currently fully funded and authorized to have a staffing level of three FTEs, but it only has one employee at this time," said Wright. "The Department of Commerce clearly needs to fix this situation. Unless it is rectified, DoT/OSC simply won't have the manpower to conduct a study on the obstacles to the further development of a suborbital launch services industry, as it has wanted to. This is a study we view as vital," he concluded.

"We're glad DoT/OSC finally has someone at their helm. Now it's time to also get come crew aboard, too," Bahn finished.

Founded in 2002 by several new, entrepreneurial commercial space companies, The SubOrbital Institute's mission is to promote regulatory and legislative initiatives it finds to be important to the promotion of a robust suborbital industry. It is headquartered in Bethesda, MD and may be reached at 301/913-0071.

My notes:

  1. See the excellent report Suborbital Reusable Launch Vehicles and Applicable Markets - Oct.02(pdf, 1.8MB) produced by the DoT/OSC last fall.
  2. The institute has a web site - www.suborbitalinstitute.org - but it is not yet activated.

June 25, 2003

News briefs... According to the latest update, the HSFD (High Speed Flight Demonstration) Phase 2 Drop Test at Esrange in northern Sweden should begin any day now. [Via Kaido Kert] ...

... As noted here earlier, SpaceX will fly out of Cape Canaveral in addition to Vandenberg : SpaceX to Fly from Florida Space Authority Launch Pad - Space.com Astronotes - June.25.03 ...

... Elon Musk is certainly not keeping a low profile. Besides the National Space Club talk in Florida mentioned in the previous link, he will speak at the Mars Society's next conference in Eugene Oregon, August 14-17. ...

... The two companies in competition for the SpaceShipOne propulsion contract carried out a couple of tests this month according to the latest update at Scaled.com. Spacedev and eAc have each done four tests since last November.

Columbia/Shuttle Program...

June 24, 2003

New X PRIZE team... A team called Vanguard Spacecraft has joined the X PRIZE competition. Led by Steve McGrath of Bridgewater, Massachusetts the team will build a 3-stage vehicle called the Vanguard Eagle. It consists of two booster stages and an unpowered capsule (it has a reaction control system to maneuver for reentry) . The boosters use both liquid and solid fuel propulsion systems. Each of the stages lands via parachute into the water (see diagram)

Student aerospike test success... The Cal State University, Long Beach Aerospace Engineering Department rocketry group posted this news yesterday:

A team from California State University, Long Beach, in partnership with Garvey Spacecraft Corporation (GSC), successfully conducted a static fire test of a 1000 lbf ablative annular aerospike rocket engine in the Mojave desert on June 21, 2003 using LOX and ethanol. The engine ran successfully for the planned 4 seconds. The test also demonstrated the avionics architecture to be used in subsequent Prospector-3 flights as part of the development of a low cost thrust vector control system.

The posting includes more information about the engine and pictures and a video of the test. They hope to power a Prospector with an aerospike this summer.

Congratulations to the CSULB / Garvey team!

Columbia/Shuttle Program...

June 23, 2003

Canadian Arrow update... I received the following press release from Geoff Sheerin, Team Leader of the Canadian Arrow X PRIZE entry:

Canadian Arrow to Introduce Astronauts

June 16, 2003 - The Canadian Arrow Team has selected six individuals who will train to become X PRIZE astronauts.

The six individuals will be introduced at a news conference on Thursday, June 26th at 11:30 a.m. and will take part in a gala fundraiser for Canadian Arrow that evening.

Canadian Arrow Team Leader Geoff Sheerin says he received more than 200 inquiries and applications from over 100 highly qualified individuals from around the world.

Fighter pilots, engineers, and people who are already working for space-related organizations were among the applicants, according to Sheerin, who says they also heard from many everyday people such as teachers, software engineers and a taxi driver.

"It has confirmed for me that there are people in every walk of life who want to travel to space," said Sheerin. "While the people we've chosen to fly our X PRIZE flights are more highly qualified, it does tell us there will be many people ready to join us when we begin taking passengers."

The Canadian Arrow is a passenger space rocket that is being built by a London-based team of engineers and designers. It is one of 20 space vehicles that are registered in a competition for the $10 million X PRIZE. The X PRIZE will be awarded to the first team that creates a flight vehicle that can achieve two manned space flights with a 14-day period. Each flight must carry at least one person to minimum altitude of 100 kilometres.

Four of the six Canadian Arrow astronauts will fly the two X PRIZE flights (two on each) and the other two will be trained as backups.

Date & time: Thursday, June 26th - 11:30 a.m.
Location: Four Points Sheraton
1150 Wellington Road South, London

For more information call:
Ann Hutchison (519) 858-0972
Canadian Arrow Communications

www.canadianarrow.com
www. astronaut.ca

Columbia/Shuttle Program...

June 22, 2003

Columbia/Shuttle Program...

June 21, 2003

News briefs ... The Starchaser X PRIZE project will conduct "the Nova mark 2 drop tests from the Red Lake drop zone, Arizona between 21st-25th July 2003." This test will use an actual flight capsule. Previous tests used an ATV. ...

... This sidebar to the recent Popular Science article on Burt Rutan presents comments from other X PRIZE competitors on the SS1.

[These two items suggested by a RLV News reader.]

June 20, 2003

Scramjet progress... The HyTECH scramjet project reaches a milestone: World's First Flight-Weight, Hydrocarbon-Fueled Scramjet Completes Mach 4.5 Testing, Running at Mach 6.5 - P & W - June.19.03

Regulating roadblock? ... Rand Simberg has a post about a possibly serious conflict between Burt Rutan and regulators over the test flights of the White Knight/ SpaceShipOne.

Note that their are two players within the FAA that are involved - the dominant aviation part, which, among other things, "certifies" planes for passenger flight, and the much, much smaller Space Transportation Office (AST), which licenses rockets for launch.

At the SA'2003 meeting, the AST representatives generally gave the impression that they wanted to work with the suborbital companies and help the industry develop. (For example, they said "certification" was not in their vocabulary.) I believe Rand is expressing this positive impression and suggesting that Burt give AST a chance. He could apply for a multi-launch license and see how it goes rather than rejecting that process out of hand.

[One very knowledgeable source counters that the AST also seemed to be working well with orbital RLV companies a few years ago but once the AST lawyers got involved, the actual regulations issued were "onerous, ill-considered, counterproductive and idiotic." So maybe it's a good idea for Burt to keep the pressure on.]

Columbia/Shuttle Program...

June 19, 2003

Senate wants suborbital regs... Keith Cowing at NASA Watch today highlighted S. 1260 Commercial Space Transportation Act of 2003 (introduced in the Senate on June 13th), which explicitly instructs that within 6 months the Department of Transportation must "submit to Congress a report on the need for a distinct regulatory regime for suborbital vehicles taking into account the unique characteristics and purposes of these vehicles."

This could be another benefit of the Suborbital Institute's recent campaigns (in February and May) for progress on a suborbital RLV regulatory framework.

News brief ... Progress on rocket/ramjet/scramjet combo system (Rocket Based Combined Cycle or RBCC): Aerojet Successfully Tests RBCC Single Thruster, Demonstrating Tri-Fluid Rocket Injector Capabilities - Aerojet - June.19.03

Columbia/Shuttle Program...

June 18, 2003

Can't keep a good business down... Space Adventures and the Russian Aviation and Space Agency have agreed to send two tourists to the ISS in 2004-2005. For Those Who Can Afford It, 2 New Chances to Fly to Space - NY Times - June.18.03.

Rocket Available: Explorers Wanted - Space Adventures Announces First Commercial Mission to the International Space Station - Space Adventures - June.18.03

Note that the mission involves "two explorers to the ISS aboard a new Soyuz TMA spacecraft." The previous missions used the one spare seat when two Cosmonauts were sent to the ISS. The vehicle will be "self-sufficient, bringing its own food, water and medical supplies and that it may transport supplemental supplies for the resident crew aboard the ISS."

More at Tourist-Class Soyuz Seats Open for International Space Station Trip - Space.com - June.18.03. Space Adventures says they have 10 candidates in "various stages of being ready for orbital flight." See also : For Those Who Can Afford It, 2 New Chances to Fly to Space - NY Times - June.18.03.

More at Tourist-Class Soyuz Seats Open for International Space Station Trip - Space.com - June.18.03. Space Adventures says they have 10 candidates in "various stages of being ready for orbital flight."

Note that this evidence of a strong market for orbital tourism even at these high ticket prices (~$20M) should have a big positive effect on raising interest and funding for passenger friendly RLVs for both suborbital and orbital trips.

Giving RLVs a boost... More about the Tethers Unlimited proposal, recently awarded a NASA grant, for a rotating tether system to grab a payload from a RLV in very low orbit and throwing it to a higher one: Tether Technology: A New Spin on Space Propulsion - Space.com - June.18.03

Buy a ticket & (maybe) get a refund.... If you buy a ticket for the remaining seat on Starchaser's X PRIZE second flight, you will get your money back if they win the competition: Buy a Ticket into Space! - Starchaser - June.03

News brief ... It's not only the little guys who are developing hydrogen-peroxide engines: Northrop Grumman Achieves Significant Milestone in Missile Defense Agency's Liquid Booster Development Program - Northrop-Grumman - June.18.03

June 17, 2003

News brief ... NASA handing out OSP contracts : Analex Receives New NASA Tasks On Orbital Space Plane - Analex/Spaceref - June.17.03

SpaceShow RLV highlights... David Livingston will interview Dr. John Brossard on the SpaceShow tonight (Tuesday 7:00-8:15PM PDT on www.live365.com) to discuss, among other things, his Air Turbo Rocket propulsion system. See this older writeup on the design - Rocket Turbine Powerplant Nears Completion - Aviation Week (reprint) - Oct.5.98. ...

... On Sunday (June 22, 2003, 8-9:15 PM PDT) David will interview John B. Barber, founder and President of Modern Transport Systems Corp. (MTSC), on using a maglev system for boosting a launch vehicle.

... Check out the recent interviews, now available in the archive, with Brian Walker, aka Rocket Guy, and Rand Simberg.

Columbia/Shuttle Program...

June 16, 2003

News brief ... The SpaceShipOne article for the July issue of Popular Science, mentioned earlier, is now on line: Burt Builds Your Ride to Space - Popular Science - June.16.03 along with the article about who is backing the project. ...

... Rule 1: No magic allowed : X Prize Rejects Gravity Control Rocket Group - June.15.03.

Columbia/Shuttle Program...

June 15, 2003

Half Scale Gauchito Fully Destroyed... The following notice was posted at espacial.com by the De Leon group (X PRIZE page) :

Press Release De Leon and Associates.
Buenos Aires, Argentina.
June 11, 2003

Today June 11, 2003 the first launch test of the Suborbital Launch Vehicle of De Leon and Associates, Argentine competitors for the X Prize, ended in failure when an explosion completely destroyed the rocket in the pad at the launch site, at 100 miles south of Buenos Aires. The rocket was a half scale vehicle of the original design to compete for the X Prize. Pablo de Leon, Team Leader of the Argentine effort said; “ This is a new rocket and new rockets trend to explode. Every test is a learning and with this particular vehicle we learned a lot. We worked hard with our launch vehicle and it was sad to see it blow up, but there is nothing else we can do, but to learn of our mistakes and make a new launch vehicle as soon as we can. A failure will not stop us. These things happens, and since the only thing destroyed was the vehicle, in a few months we will test another rocket, and another, and another, until the flights are successful”.

For more information about the test, still photos or videos please e-mail to: info@aate.org

The page includes a couple of pre-explosion photos. [News item via Andrew Case]

News brief ... SpaceX offered a free pad at Cape Canaveral : Tycoon taps into small rockets: Businessman could launch $6 million device by year's end - Florida Today - June.14.03

These non-sequitur times ... In the coming months we can expect to read more articles like this one - Report on Shuttle Likely to Leave Important Questions Unanswered - NY Times - June.14.03 - which postulates that the Shuttle disasters prove that reusables are more dangerous than expendables!

June 14, 2003

Columbia/Shuttle Program...

June 13, 2003

News briefs ... More X PRIZE press. The cover article for the July issue of Popular Science is about the SpaceShipOne. [The article is not on line yet but they do offer this speculation on IT moguls & space: Is ex-Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen backing Rutan? More on the Silicon Valley connection - PopSci Exclusive - July.03.] The May issue also had a long article on Armadillo and other competitors . ...

... Rand Simberg says that we may be entering the Cambrian age of RLV development.

Columbia/Shuttle Program...

June 12, 2003

SS1/WhiteKnight news item... The photos page now includes two images of the first captive carry test and one of the SS1 undergoing vibration tests.

News briefs ... More about the faster (or less slow) OSP development : Space plane push eyed to aid station: New rescue vehicle needed to expand crew, council told - Huntsville Times - June.11.03 ...

... X PRIZE press in India: Ready for a private space mission? - Business Standard - June.12.03 (via spacetoday.net) ...

... Comments by Rand Simberg on my interview with Gary Hudson.

Columbia/Shuttle Program...

June 11, 2003

SpaceX highlights... Jonathan Goff came across the latest update at SpaceX and he sent me the following summary :

  • Lots of progress on their turbopump system. After initial snags, they are now up past 2/3 the expected performance.
  • They're looking at full duration testing of their flight-weight ablative chamber soon.
  • They're looking at (maybe next month) starting testing of their 2nd stage engine (I think they called it Kestrel).
  • They're looking at using a similar Li-Al alloy to what the shuttle ET uses for the second stage (and if they can work out production issues, the 1st stage too).
  • They're moving along their environmental paperwork for a pad at VAF. He said they ran into a lot of snags, but it is still moving forward.
  • Barring anything surprising popping up, they're still planning for a Dec 17 launch from VAF (they've filed for a launch on that date, but it still depends on them getting everything working by then, as well as weather).
  • Elon stressed that fact that his vehicle is not an expendable. Over 80% of the mass will be recovered from the ocean after each launch (the first stage). This is compared to 90% for the shuttle.
  • They've got their telemetry system up and running for the first few flights.

What a ride ... I watched the Mars Spirit launch yesterday via a web cast and as I was admiring the beautiful view from the "look back" camera of the ocean and the earth's curvature I heard the announcer say that the vehicle had reached 30 miles in altitude. Gee, it was only half way to where an X PRIZE vehicle will travel and it already felt really, really high. I guess that's the difference between knowing something as a fact and internalizing it at a gut level. Even if it only lasts half an hour, a suborbital rocket ride to 62 miles is going to be one of the most intense and spectacular experiences of anyone's life.

SS1/WK news items... I've begun collecting SpaceShipOne/White Knight news items at SpaceShipOne - Updates. News items about the rollout and the aftermath are collected at SpaceShipOne Rollout - Special Edition. (There's some overlap between them.)

Civilian astronaut waiting list... The Canadian Arrow got hundreds of applicants to join the crew for its vehicle according to this article on the X PRIZE: After Columbia, X Prize Entrants Remain Committed to Space -Space.com - June.11.03

OSP accelerating ... NASA may be responding to the criticism that it canceled the X-38/CRV project only to replace it with a project with a much longer development time : NASA to hurry space station crew rescue vehicle: Orbital plane aimed for 2008 instead of 2010, O'Keefe says - Huntsville Times - June.10.03 (via spacetoday.net)

Columbia/Shuttle Program...

June 10, 2003

Wired on Rutan & the X PRIZE... The cover article for the July issue of Wired magazine reports on the X PRIZE with an emphasis on Burt Rutan's SS1 project : The Right Stuff Forget cyberspace. Geeks are about to conquer outer space. And the $10 million X Prize is just the beginning - Wired - July.03 issue.

There's also a sidebar about Bezos and his Blue Origin company : Amazon Enters the Space Race Jeff Bezos blasts off with his own jet propulsion laboratory. - Wired - July.03 issue. Another sidebar gives brief descriptions of other IT moguls pursuing space projects: Techies Go Trekky - Wired - July.03. issue.

Hope-X prototype tests... NASDA offers more info on the upcoming high altitude drop tests in Sweden of a scale spaceplane prototype:

News brief... The FAA AST office has posted powerpoint presentations and other files from the recent May 2003 COMSTAC and RLV working group meeting.

June 9, 2003

Interview with Gary Hudson - I talk with the long time RLV advocate about the history of RLV development, the Rotary Rocket failure, battles with NASA, sub-orbital RLV prospects, and some of the current projects with his company HMX.

EZ Rocket in Sports Aviation... The cover story for the June issue of Sport Aviation is about the XCOR EZ-Rocket : The EZ-Rocket No, really, we’re not kidding! - Sports Aviation - June.03 (pdf, 212kb) . The article includes some interesting details on the XCOR rocket designs.

SpaceX ramps up its lobbying... SpaceX hires Frank Sietzen to lead its new DC office: SpaceX Announces Opening of Washington, DC Office - SpaceX/SpaceRef - June.9.03. Frank is head of the Space Transportation Associaton [this link is down, I assume temporarily], an industry group. He is also the editor of the National Space Society's Ad Astra magazine and writes the Spacelift Washington column at Spaceref....

Half H2O2 better than none... As reported here a few times, it's become a big problem for small rocket organizations to obtain significant quantities of 90% pure hydrogen peroxide, which provides for a fairly straightforward, non-cryogenic monopropellent propulsion system. In the latest Armadillo Aerospace update, John Carmack reports on progress with 50% peroxide using a "platinum impregnated ceramic monolith catalyst" combined with methanol in bi-prop mode. He says:

"Throttling may not be as good as the screen pack monoprops, but the plumbing is exactly the same, the thrust to weight is much better, the Isp should be much better, and the propellant cost is about 1/10th that of 90% peroxide, with no availability problems. It is also more gratifying to see flames come out of your rocket engines."

June 8, 2003

News briefs... The X-38 discussion is still not over : Lawmakers urge resurrection of X-38 space lifeboat - HoustonChronicle.com - June.7.03 (via spacetoday.net) ...

... Pat Bahn reports that the Office of Space Commercialization in the Commerce Department has named an acting Director. This was a top goal of the recent campaign on Capitol Hill by the Suborbital Institute....

... Getting the shuttles back to space is looking harder all the time : Costs and Risk Clouding Plans to Fix Shuttles - NY Times - June.7.03

June 7, 2003

Japanese spaceplane prototype test... Japan's National Aerospace Lab and the French Space Agency (CNES) will carry out high altitude drop tests at the Esrange test site in Sweden this month of the Phase II spaceplane prototype:

These tests are part of a series of High-Speed Flight Demonstrations that began with the Phase I test on Christmas Island in the Pacific of a subsonic vehicle that carried out an autonomous takeoff and landing flight. The goal is the eventual orbital flight of the Hope-X spaceplane.

Columbia/Shuttle Program...

June 6, 2003

Space acts ... Some tax credit help may come for small RLV startups : Calvert and Ortiz Introduce "Invest in Space Now" Act - SpaceRef - June.5.03. I can't find the bill number for this legislation but I did find the Zero Gravity, Zero Tax Act of 2003 introduced in the House by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA).

See the Space Activsm - Space Legislation section for more about these and other space laws and proposed legislation.

[Kenneth Schwietzer, a HobbySpace advertiser, notes that his book Made In Space, discusses how companies and investors will benefit from these two pieces of legislation.]

Orbital RLV prize... Mark Whittington speaks up for a billion dollar prize to motivate low cost RLV development : Summoning the Future by Mark R. Whittington - The Washington Dispatch - June.5.03 ... But Rand Simberg says the big guys would try to block such a proposal.

Spaceshows of interest... Speaking of Rand, the audio of his interview on the SpaceShow is now on line.... Other upcoming rocketeers include:

Columbia/Shuttle Program...

June 5, 2003

An Interview with Larry Young - OK, I will abuse my RLV News page again to hawk my latest interview. However, I do talk about suborbital flights with Larry Young, the creator and writer of the Astronauts in Trouble comic book series (also called graphic novels by adults wanting to read comic books). The series follows a near-future approach to space sci-fi and does it in away that's fun and appealing for all ages.

News briefs... The latest issue of Aviation Week has an article about progress in the NASA/Air Force hydrocarbon fueled scramjet project - Researchers plan civil and military scramjet flight tests - Aviation Week - June.4.03. Primarily about the X-43C and HyTech programs, the article reports on a growing effort to expand research into using the engines for missiles.

Columbia/Shuttle Program...

June 4, 2003

News briefs ... The audio of the Science Friday program on May 30th about the X PRIZE and private spaceflight is now online...

... The X PRIZE is the cover story of the new Wired magazine and White Knight is on the cover itself....

... Brian Walker gives an update on the status of the Half Sized Test Rocket and the Full Sized EarthStar One, which he now plans to ride to 50 miles altitude in 2004.

Columbia/Shuttle Program...

June 3, 2003

Columbia/Shuttle Program...

Engine test using EZ-Rocket Engine test using EZ-Rocket
Photos - Aleta Jackson
XCOR continues to use the the EZ-Rocket for engine tests. These pictures are from the first test at their new hangar. Apparently, some of the static test rumblings at the Mojave Airport are not just from the SS1!

 

X PRIZE updates ... The X PRIZE site recently added documents to the Teams List page with tables summarizing various aspects of the entrants such as vehicle configurations, propellants, hardware status, and status of the pilots. The chronology (pdf, 123kb) includes what's happened with teams in the past and also a schedule of upcoming events.

News briefs... Mitchell Clapp takes issue with various aspects of the Sarigul-Klijn paper : Critique of Sarigul-Klijn paper, Mitchell Burnside Clapp - sci.space.policy / Google archive - June.2.03....

... The SpaceShow has posted the audio for David Livingston's recent interview with David Ashford, Managing Director of Bristol Spaceplanes, which has entered its Ascender vehicle in the X PRIZE competition. Ashford is also author of Spaceflight Revolution, 2003 (Amazon affiliate links US UK )....

... Pat Bahn of TGV Rockets and Neil Milburn of Armadillo Aerospace recently were guests on the show to talk about suborbital RLV regulations....

... Tonight's SpaceShow (Tuesday, June 3) interview will be with Rand Simberg, a space entrepreneur and commentator on space issues and launch vehicle development via his webblog and column at Fox News.

June 2, 2003

White Knight/SS1 Updates Online... Scaled is now posting descriptions of each test flight, going back to the first White Knight flight last August. See the Test Updates page. It also includes info on the SS1 ground tests and the rocket motor tests. (Via sci.space.tech)

NASA X deja vu... X-37 starting to sound like other NASA X vehicle projects : Potential Problems With X-37 Testing by NASA? Keith Cowing, NASA Watch - June0.03.

Pressure grows for change... Looking less likely that things at NASA will return to business as usual - Flights Likely to Resume, but NASA Itself May Enter New Orbit - WashingtonPost - June.2.03 * NASA plans to re-examine shuttle fleet's durability - Orlando Sentinel - June.2.03

Beamed Energy Symposium Announcement:

Second International Symposium on Beamed Energy Propulsion (ISBEP2)

Beamed Energy Propulsion (BEP) is a concept of generating an impulsive force using energy not carried by propellant itself but through beamed light/electromagnetic wave irradiation. It has a potential of hatching epoch-making flight and transportation technologies in the new century. For example, when applied to space transportation, it will promote space activities of humankind by reducing the cost of transportation.

The research of BEP has gained its momentum due to the increase of the number of scientists conducting research on the subject and the volume of the activities. The most significant event of the last year, 2002 was the 1st International Symposium on Beamed Energy Propulsion (ISBEP I) held in Huntsville, Alabama, U.S.A. The second ISBEP will be held October 20-23, 2003, in Sendai, Japan.

The scope of the BEP applications has also evolved in the recent years from atmospheric condition to the near earth orbit and even to the interstellar space or to micron-size inner space. "Beamed Energy" includes all kinds of physical entities such as light, microwaves, x-ray and particle beams. As practical R&D has begun, interdisciplinary collaboration among hydro-dynamics, beam transportation and energy driver science/technology will become crucial. The symposium intends to provide a wide range of specialists who might not otherwise meet with a unique international forum for exchange ideas and information on every aspect of BEP technology.

All papers related to but not limited to the following subjects of BEP are solicited. * Beamed energy propulsion science and technology * Application of BEP technology * Beaming science and technology * Beam driver science and technology

Abstracts should be submitted not later than July 25, 2003. For further details, please visit the symposium web site: http://nana.ifs.tohoku.ac.jp/isbep2/

June 1, 2003

Jousting at NASA... HMX, headed by Gary Hudson, protested to the GAO the rejection by NASA in 2002 of the HMX proposal for a flight demonstration under the SLI program (the TA-10 contracts). The GAO denied the protest last November and the documentation was recently made public.

In wading through the legal mumbo jumbo, it looks to me like the protest basically argued that NASA should just order launch services as instructed by the Commercial Space Act rather than demanding a specific vehicle implementation and requiring a company reveal lots of proprietary information. The GAO ruled, however, that submitting a bid meant that HMX had to play by NASA's rules regardless of that act. And under those rules, NASA gave the proposal a low score and rejected it, which GAO accepted.

See the HMX Alternate Access to Space proposal(5.5 MB pdf) for more about their concept of using a Titan II expendable first stage.

[June 2: More about this next week in an interview with Gary.]

News briefs... Leonard David reports on the recent White Knight/SS1 captive carry flight - Private Spaceship Undergoes Sky-High Test - Space.com - May.31.03 ...

... Some OSP PR items have been posted recently at SLI : X-37 fact sheet (05/03), Orbital Space Place fact sheet (05/03), and OSP Quick Facts (128kb pdf)


Continue to May 2003

Archives Index for 1999 - present

 

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