The "I PRIZE"... While
most attention is directed towards the 3 person (or equivalent
payload) X PRIZE, it should be noted that at least three
projects aim to launch a single person to a few kilometers
by the end of this year. They are all intended as tests for
larger vehicles under development that will go much higher.
The single passenger vehicles include
Flyer - American
Astronautics, an X
PRIZE team, reportedly plans to
launch this single passenger vehicle this fall from
a location in Mexico. An earlier web page, no longer
News March 6, 2003), said the vehicle uses
TR-201 rocket engine", which is "an AAC modified
version of the Delta configuration derived from the Apollo
Lander descent engine". Note that the team includes the
famous rocket designer Robert
Truax, who has promoted single passenger vehicles for decades.
Size Earthstar - "Rocket
Guy" Brian Walker plans to launch his Half
Size Rocket this fall to about 5 km (3 miles) altitude.
It will test technologies intended for his full sized Earthstar
One, which will go to 80km (50miles). A compressed
air launch system provides an initial boost before the hydrogen
The initial velocity
also helps with vehicle stability. He will ride in
when it reaches
apogee. (He discusses this project in the recent interview on
the Space Show.) More pictures.
2 - Starchaser leader
Steve Bennett will ride the Nova II rocket, which will be powered
by five Churchill Mark 2 liquid oxygen/kerosene engines developed
the group. An unmanned Nova
I flew in November 2001 using solid
rocket motors. The Nova II will initially be tested unmanned.
tests for the capsule took place during this July in Arizona.
Knievel took a brief ride on the X1
Skycycle (designed by Truax by the way) and there have been
various rocketplanes since
the 1930's, I believe that if one of these projects succeeds,
it would be the first privately financed launch of a manned vertical
takeoff, unwinged vehicle.
capsule test drama
reader informs me that during the second drop
test of the Starchaser
capsule last week there was a brief line twist problem. Pilot
Ted Strong nearly had to bail out but the lines eventually
the rest of the flight and the landing went perfectly.
wondered why there was no statement released about a planned
third flight in which Starchaser leader Steven Bennett planned
to pilot the capsule. Apparently it never happened because of
the delay caused by the need to correct the line problems with
a minor modification to the capsule and to fit a larger drogue
about the recent decision to move the OSP target date
from 2010 to 2008 : NASA
wants space plane to start flying 2 years early - Orlando
Sentinel - July.30.03 ...
about the Kistler bankruptcy filing : Kistler
Aerospace files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy - Kirkland firm more
than a half-billion dollars
in debt - kingcountyjournal.com [Washington state] -July.30.03 (via spacetoday.net)
waiting to be tapped... The
steadfast support that the public shows toward space is remarkable
shows continued support for NASA and shuttle program - spacetoday.net
- July.29.03. Despite all the disasters, most people maintain
a bedrock belief in the validity of space development. Just think
how much more interest and support
there would be if
were instead spent effectively on exciting projects that expanded
access to space to a much larger and diverse group of people. There's
an enormous reservoir of enthusiasm for space just waiting for
private space developers to tap into.
it in the family... This
announcement - NASA
Presolicitation Notice: Design, Development, and Delivery
an Orbital Space Plane - MSFC/Spaceref - July.29.03 -
makes official what was well known : that NASA will restrict
OSP "competition" to
the same three contractor groups that had been selected previously
for SLI contracts.
jurisdiction & investment... Jeff
Foust reviews the current situation with suborbital regulation
and which part of the FAA will have jurisdiction over suborbital
RLV operations. He also reports on Tito's statements at last
week's Congressional hearing on commercial human spaceflight
concerning his investment in a suborbital RLV company: The
Space Review: The regulatory hurdles to commercial human
spaceflight - Space Review -
a point of contention within the suborbital RLV community. Those
at the hearing expressed a big worry that if
Burt Rutan succeeds in flying the SS1 as an experimental aircraft
under FAA rules, then the FAA will insist on aircraft
type certification of subsequent RLVs intended for commercial
operations. Such a certification would be prohibitively expensive.
So they hope to convince Burt to work only within the AST (the
FAA's Office of Space Transportation) and
obtain launch licenses for SS1 flights. Scaled has submitted
an application for a launch license but is also pursuing the
experimental aircraft route.
The RLV proponents
who have worked with the AST believe that it understands far
better than the aviation wing of the FAA that at this early stage
in suborbital RLV development, aircraft
level certification of the vehicles is not feasible or desirable.
A proposal at the meeting, in fact, was to move the AST out of
FAA Space Transportation Office (AST) has posted various
presentations (ppt files) about RLV regulations from the
(Commercial Space Transporation Advisory Committee) - FAA
/ AST - May 2003 RLV Meetings. There are also some
videos from Scaled Composites and Armadillo....
Future has posted this interesting talk - Space
Tourism Market Demand and the Transportation Infrastructure by
Patrick Collins - Space Future - July.17.03 - presented
at the recent ICAS Symposium "The Next 100 Years" in
honour of the Wright Brothers' First Flight, July 17, 2003,
you should checkout this paper submitted to the same symposium
First 100 Years of Public Space Travel by Derek Webber - Space
Future - July.03 ...
Planetary Society debuts a section of the Cosmos 1 solar sail
1 Solar Sail Unfurls One of its 47-Foot Blades at Centenial of
Flight in NY : Cosmos 1 at Rockefeller Center - Planetary Society
Foust notes that NASA forgot about Dennis Tito when it recently
claimed that two of its astronauts were the first Americans
to land in a foreign country in a Russian spacecraft : Forgetting
Tito - spacetoday.net - July.27.03.
NASA and the
big time aerospace firms, however, often display this kind of
obtuseness when it comes to giving proper credit to participants
in alt.space, using the term coined by Rick Tumlinson
for the alternative private space movement.
on June 3, 2000 Microcosm and Garvey
Spacecraft launched a sounding rocket with a composite LOX
summary at Garvey and picture
of tanks at Microcosm.) So not only did they built a composite
LOX tank of significant size but they actually launched one successfully.
year later, though, we find NASA and Lockheed-Martin claiming
had developed "the first sub-scale cryogenic composite tank
that is compatible with liquid oxygen" in this article
2001. (This is doubly odd, because I believe at least some
of Microcosm's funding came from NASA.)
claimed on January 28, 2002 that its RS-68 for
the Delta IV, which began test
firings in early 2001, was the first large liquid fueled
rocket developed in the US since the shuttle main engine.
Yet this ignores the event on March 4, 2000 when "Beal Aerospace
fired the largest liquid rocket engine built since the Apollo
BA-2 and BA-3200 at
Astronautix.) There is more than a little irony in this since
the government's heavy funding of the EELV program was one
of the main reasons Andrew Beal canceled his project.
While one can
argue these are unintended oversights of poorly informed public
relations staffs, I think they illustrate the culture and mindset
within NASA and its main contractors who disregard any accomplishments
by those outside their club. Thus it's hardly surprising that
when one proposes to them that a small private space company
can develop a low cost RLV or, in the case of Kistler's K-1,
point to one all but sitting right in front of their eyes, they
continue right along as always, blindly oblivious to any alternatives
to their own well publicised and protected projects.
to fly hypersonic prototype by November : X-43A:
High Hopes For Return to Flight By Leonard David - Space.com
has posted an update on
its two recent capsule drop tests (the third test with Steve
Bennet in the capsule apparently didn't happen) ...
Aerospace update is on line.
almost funded ... Jeff
Foust reports on the recent Congressional hearing on commercial
human spaceflight : Space
entrepreneurs seek regulatory relief by Jeff Foust - Spaceflight
Now - July.26.03. Note that he says
mentioned he was willing to invest in a suborbital RLV company;
sources later said that he has already selected a company to
invest in, and is waiting for improvements in the regulatory
environment before taking the plunge."
I wonder who
the lucky (almost) company is?
briefs ... Starchaser
of the recent drop tests of a piloted capsule, which lands with
a steerable canopy. ...
rides to 20km for a dozen people in a glass pod - EADS
May Put Tourists in Stratosphere - Moscow Times - July.22.03
Encounter to unveil solar
sail built by L'Garde
with help from NASA Langley. Microsat
Systems is building the spacecraft bus. Humanity's
First Starship Brings Science Fiction into Science Reality - Team
Encounter PR/Spaceref - July.25.03
July 25, 2003
to the family and friends of Dave Thompson who died recently during
the first flight of his airplane. He was in charge of rocket engine
development for the SpaceShipOne. See the notice at Scaled
Composites and the article at Newsday.
about the commercial space hearing... Here
are some follow up comments on the hearing yesterday:
briefs ... Boeing & NASA
finish X-37 structure tests : X-37
Technology Demonstrator Completes Structural Tests in Preparation
for Atmospheric Flight Text Program - MSFC/Spaceref - July.24.03
can hope so : Space
Elevators Maybe Closer To Reality Than Imagined by Richard Daily
- Spacedaily - July.25.03 ...
Tito ready to invest if ...
From Dennis Tito's testimony
(pdf) given today at the Congressional hearing on Commercial
Human Spaceflight :
years ago, when I testified before the House Science Committee,
I was asked if I would invest in a reusable launch vehicle company.
At the time I said 'no', and that was the right answer… then.
But today, after talking to thousands of people who want to fly
into space and seeing the progress that’s been made, my answer
would be different. Today I would say 'quite possibly.'
is, however, one barrier that keeps me – and probably many others
– from writing out a check to fund the development of a commercial
suborbital RLV. This stumbling block can only be overcome by
who work in this city, because the problem itself is located
Tito Ready to Invest in Suborbital Rocket, But Wary of Gov't. Regulations
- Space.com - July.24.03
PRIZE forum.. The
X PRIZE site has opened a Message
Board if you want to discuss various topics related to the competition.
to discuss suborbital space travel... The
hearing today on commercial human spaceflight (see previous
item) will focus on regulations affecting the nascent
suborbital industry. See the committee hearing charter
(pdf, 48kb), which provides a nice overview of the state of
the suborbital projects and the regulatory problems that could inhibit
to the Commercial Human Spaceflight hearing are now available on
I can't find
it yet but the video of the hearing should come on line eventually.
press release... This PR is dated July 15th but was only
posted on their site today : Kistler
Corporation Restructures its Finances to Achieve the Reusable Launch
Vehicles First Flight - Kistler - July.15.03.
News briefs ...
Rand Simberg gives his take on the suborbital RLV regulations situation:
- Transterrestrial Musings - July.24.03 or
A report from the propulsion
conference taking place this week in Huntsville : Rocket
scientists want to launch 2nd space age: Propulsion meeting here
helps experts compare notes - Huntsville Times - July.23.03
Foust reviews the recent panel discussion (see previous
item) on Capitol Hill on the OSP: Two
options emerge for NASA's Orbital Space Plane by Jeff Foust - Spaceflight
Now - July.23.03.... See
also the Space.com article: Debate
Intensifies for Simple Vs. Advanced OSP Design - Space.com - July.24.03
releases official report on the X-43a failure - NASA
Mishap Board Identifies Cause Of X-43a Failure - NASA - July.23.03
on the Starchaser Nova 2 capsule test mentioned here earlier
Prize Entry Starchaser Successfully Test Drops Piloted Capsule -
Space.com - July.24.03
SpaceDev launcher... Based
on the hybrid
propulsion technology that it developed for the SpaceShipOne,
SpaceDev recently won an Air Force contract to design and begin
development of a small a launcher called the Streaker™.
It would put 1000lb (455kg) into low earth orbit - SpaceDev
Wins Small Launch Vehicle Contract - SpaceDev - July.18.03.
This would be the first hybrid powered vehicle to reach orbit.
Note that the payload is similar to that of the SpaceX
News briefs ... This article
provides a good accounting (at least for a mainstream paper) of
NASA vehicle development fiascos : Failures
leave NASA lacking new way to fly - HoustonChronicle - July.23.03
... The SpaceNews article on
Kistler has gone on line - Kistler
Aerospace Files for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Protection - Space.com
- July.23.03 ...
... Space.com reviews the
military's hypersonic missile plans - Going
Hypersonic: Flying FALCON for Defense - Space.com - July.23.03
... and interviews Robert
Godwin about the Dyna-Soar project and his new book about it - Dyna-Soar:
Hypersonic Strategic Weapons System - Space.com - July.23.03 - interview
with Robert Godwin
OSP panel discussion video
is available temporarily (~15 days) at CSPAN
in this RealMedia
file. The Capitol Hill panel discussion was hosted by the U.S.
House Aerospace Caucus and sponsored by the National
Space Society, the Space
Foundation, and Women
The discussion was entitled The
Orbital Space Plane: How Did We Get Here & Where Are We Going? Panelists
included former Congressman Bob Walker (Chairman of the Commission
on the Future
of the U.S. Aerospace Industry), former astronaut Dr. Sam Durrance
(currently Executive Director of the Florida Space Research
and leading space analyst Phil McAlister (Director, Space & Telecommunications,
Starchaser capsule drop test successful...
The Starchaser X PRIZE project reports
on the success of the first of the test drops of its Nova 2 space
capsule from a Fairchild C123K aircraft flying from Kingman, Arizona.
The capsule was released at 10k ft (~3km) and used a drogue chute
and then a steerable canopy to land.
This capsule will not be used for the X PRIZE attempt but for a
one person flight on the Starchaser 4 rocket this fall that will
take the capsule to 30k ft (~10km).
Hearing on Commercial Human Spaceflight...
The Senate Subcommittee on Science, Technology, and Space and the
House Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics will hold a joint hearing
Human Spaceflight starting at 10am on July 24th. Invited guests
include Elon Musk of SpaceX,
Jeff Greason of XCOR, and Dennis
Tito of space tourist fame. (Item submitted by a reader).
X Cup developments... Plans
for a post-X PRIZE program of rocket competitions (see earlier
item) seems to be getting firmer : X
Prize Looks to Spaceports for Rocket Races By Leonard David - Space.com
- July.22.03 . (Note the sub-section in the Future
Space section about Rocket
More info in this PR - X
PRIZE Cup Seeks Spaceport Partnership - X PRIZE - July.22.03
(link via a reader).
Armadillo's mixed success ...
In the latest Armadillo
Aerospace update, John Carmack reports on several successful
engine tests using a "mixed mono-propellant" of hydrogen
peroxide and methanol combined in the same fuel tank.
This could provide a solution to the fuel shortage they ran into
during the past year. As reported before,
obtaining 90% H2O2 has
become very difficult for amateur rocketry groups and small
companies like Armadillo due to the liability concerns of the
remaining companies that sell it. The mixed technique, however,
uses "food grade" 50% H2O2, which is readily available.
The H2O2 and methanol both decompose on a platinum catalyst
and provide an Isp "a good deal better than anything we have seen
with 90% peroxide alone, and the Isp will go up more when we get
full 50%, tweak the mixture ratio, and increase the chamber pressure." (The
H2O2 they obtained was nominally rated at 50% but measurements
showed it closer to 40%.)
In response to an email question, he said that they probably
will go with the mixed monoprop for the X PRIZE vehicle: "We
may do a full duration (100+ seconds) burn test this weekend,
are getting quotes for the catalyst for 5,000 lbf engines."
As discussed in the update, the catalyst needs pre-heating by propane
for proper performance but this is not a big problem:
"It will be necessary
as part of the ground support equipment, but it
doesn't fly on the rocket. The catalyst will not autoignite the
unless it is raised to a high temperature first. If you just flow
mixture over a room temperature catalyst, the peroxide still decomposes,
but at 50% concentration, the temperature is only just at the
of water, so the free oxygen and methanol do not burn. With the
heated up in the 1400+ degree range, the oxygen and methanol ignite,
raises the bulk mixture temperature to 1800 F or so, giving the
Kistler enters Chapter 11... This
week's issue of SpaceNews reports that Kistler
Aerospace has entered into Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
The company has $600 million in debts and still no funding to finish
The collapse of the LEO comsat constellation projects, which were
to have been the K-1's main market, led to a halt in construction
several years ago after about 75% of the vehicle was completed.
Private investors kept the company afloat while it sought funding.
Kistler did get a SLI
contract from NASA for a study of cargo delivery to the ISS
with the K-1. However, most of the money in the $135 million contract
would only appear after the vehicle began operations.
The company says it will continue operations under Ch. 11 protection
from its creditors and focus on working with NASA to use the K-1
for the ISS cargo role.
Note: With NASA trying to convince Congress to spend several billion
dollars for the OSP, I think the last thing the agency wants to
hear about is a fully reusable vehicle, even an unmanned one in
the K-1 case, that could be available within 2 years for just a
few hundred million dollars. I expect that it was NASA's decision
to cancel the Alternate Access to Space program that convinced the
Kistler investor's finally to give up on the company.
SpaceX update... The latest
SpaceX update, covering events
through June, just arrived. Jonathan
Goff, a student at BYU, again provides a nice summary of the
- As I guessed, they're looking at $10M for their Falcon Heavy,
and about 4000lbs to LEO (with some GTO/GEO, and even earth escape
- Their first customer is making an upgrade to their satellite,
which will push the first launch to January, but they plan on
unveiling a completed rocket at the Smithsonian in DC this year
(if they can get all the needed permits to bring a 60-70' rocket
- They've tested the flight-weight ablative chamber, and while
they had some issues with the inner O-ring on the flange between
the headend dome and the ablative chamber (which they're fixing
with a metal O-ring), everything is within spec so far.
- Turbopump issues are moving along, with the pump up to 90% capacity
now, and they've startedrunning it with the gas generator. They've
even had a full 60 second run.
- Their avionics system had some issues with how the gyros sent
their data, but they have a solution to the problem that may help
them test out a new piece of computer hardware that they wanted
to test out anyhow.
- They've submitted flight trajectory info to the Air Force (in
a nice set of volumes thicker than two LA phone directories.....),
including worst-case turns analyses.
- Their range safety
system is coming along, with the explosives locations now determined,
and the approved hardware now in, but
as they point out "it is a bit sad to spend so much money and
effort on a system that we hope will never be used."
- Their TVC system uses an innovative trick (tapping off a little
from the high pressure kerosene line in the turbopump and then
discharging that into the low-pressure inlet line) that should
avoid the problem that killed a Delta III a few years back.
- High pressure Helium tanks are in, and according to the manufacturer's
data, should be able to withstand much higher impact forces then
they'll see during first stage water recovery (but SpaceX plans
to verify that themselves).
- Environmental reports have been submitted to the Air Force (and
the long list of other state, local, and federal government agencies
that require copies).
The SpaceX update page includes
some pictures and a video of an engine test.
More on suborbital rules confusion...
Leonard David provides some background - Freedom
to Fly? Civilian Rocketeers Face Regulatory Roadblocks by Leonard
David - Space.com - July.21.03 - to the recent announcement
from a group of suborbital RLV supporters requesting clarification
from the FAA on a regulatory framework.
News briefs ... The Buran approach
might be the way to go according to this editorial - On
Wings Of...? Or A Giant Leap Ballistic - Spacedaily - July.21.03.
... Just about every type
of propulsion under the sun, including solar sails, will be discussed
at this week's 39th
AIAA/ASME/SAE/ASEE Joint Propulsion Conference - Huntsville Ala.
- July.20-23.03 - Agenda.
News briefs ... The Advanced
Rocketry section now includes a sub-section with links
to various open
source rocketry projects in both software and hardware
... The Canadian Arrow XPRIZE
team now lists 40
sponsors and the da
Vinci project lists 24. The British Starchaser lists 12
sponsors. I've not done a systematic study but I don't believe
any of the US projects come close to these teams in attracting sponsorships.
News briefs ... The
reason the X-43 failed has been determined : Cause
of X-43A Hyper-X Crash Identified By Leonard David - Space.com -
... The design of the reusable
engine from Rocketdyne (Boeing) passes a review - One
step closer to next-generation spaceflight: RS-84 engine passes
preliminary design milestone - NASA - July.15.03. First full
scale prototype test in 2007....
Simberg reviews the state of space development, government vs
private, in light of the 34th year anniversary this Sunday of the
Apollo 11 landing - Celebrate
the Future - FOXNews.com - July.17.03 ...
... Perhaps it's just my imagination
but the job
listing at Blue
Origin looks longer than the last time I checked.
Space added value... At the
Access ' 03 meeting, Laurie Wiggins of TOSPACE
offered to pay good money to any launch company that could take
payloads of various types of memorabilia to 100km or higher. Many
of the companies present seemed quite surprised by this offer. She
said that her firm had a number of deals with space toy makers and
others who believe a certificate showing that an item has actually
been in space will considerably enhance its value.
Don't know if they contracted with TOSPACE but Interorbital
Systems looks to be doing such a business. It will send
dolls and other toys to space and back on a sounding rocket
this September. It also is offering an ocean
cruise to watch the launch of the Neutrino
Find tips on scratch modeling a SS1 at this Rocketry
Formula X... Peter
Diamandis is planning for a X PRIZE follown on program of bi-annual
at spaceports among rocket teams for cash prizes in events
such as "Highest altitude reached; time-to-climb; time between reflight;
total number of people carried" - Rocketeers…Start
Your Engines! X Prize Cup Planned - Space.com astronotes -
Note that Peter briefly mentioned the X PRIZE Cup concept in my
Gee whiz, NOW they start catching on ...
Coming a day after Loral declared bankruptcy, this article At
Sea or on Safari, Satellite Phones Hook Users - NY Times - July.17.03
gushes irony. Debt from its Globalstar investment led directly to
Loral's Chapter 11 predicament.
article inspires a lot of "what if's" with regard
to the satellite phone business. If the LEO constellations
launched in the early or mid-90s, they might very well have
cell phones, just as satellite TV does effectively today with
cable. Low prices and worldwide availability of cell phones
did not happen
until the late 1990s. By that time their lead was too great
for the first generation sat phones to compete in the mass
the 2nd gen cell phones.
Launch availability and costs were not the crucial factors in the
sat phone business failures, but certainly if cheap and frequent
RLV flights had been available at the time, it definitely would
have speeded up development. The spacecraft, for example, could
have been built with a lot less redundancy and gold plating since
those that went bad could be replaced quickly.
Oh well, I just hope the current sat
phone systems can prosper in these niche markets. I definitely
think there is a market LEO mini-constellation satellite based messaging
and tracking services.
NASA sure got rules ... NASA
lays out what human-rated spacecraft need to prove before they fly
Requirements and Guidelines for Space Flight Systems (via Spaceref).
[Update : Chris
Hall informs me that he has converted the above file to pdf
and posted it along with a large number of other NASA Space Design
Guidelines in pdf format at www.aoe.vt.edu/~cdhall/courses/aoe4065/NASADesignSPs.]
Suborbital Needs Rules ...
A group of rocketeers, space activists and policy analysts issued
a call today for the FAA to make clear that the AST alone has jurisdiction
over suborbital RLVs : Rocket
Industry Leaders Look to Congress to Solve Regulatory Logjam at
FAA - XCOR - July.16.03.
Apparently there is growing fear that the battles between AST
and the aviation side of the agency could continue indefinitely
and stall the development of the industry. Those signing the statement
include John Carmack, Dennis Tito, Brian Chase of the NSS, Eric
Anderson of Space Adventures, Jeff Greason and several other notables.
OSP sooner ... O'Keefe commands
his troops to produce the OSP for crew rescue duty by 2008 instead
of 2010 : NASA
to Accelerate Orbital Space Plane Schedule - Space.com - July.15.03.
Scuttle the old ways of thinking ... For
most of us who have closely followed the "alternate"
private space developments of the past decade or so, there are a
few issues that are "settled" :
- Development of space transportation can be pursued far more
cheaply than the way the government agencies and large aerospace
conglomerates are doing it.
- Small companies such as Kistler, SpaceX, XCOR, Scaled Composites,
and others have proven that they can build sophisticated space
hardware and for lower cost than the government agencies and conglomerates.
- The only thing slowing down the development of robust and low
cost orbital space vehicles by these companies is a lack of funding,
not technology. If the LEO comsat constellation companies had
not collapsed, a diverse fleet of privately built RLVs would have
reached orbit by now. If the government needs space transportation,
it's obvious it should just offer these companies the modest funding
they need to build (or finish in Kistler's case) their RLVs and
start flying them.
- High flight rates bring low costs and safety, not exotic new
technologies yet to be discovered.
So, like Rand
Simberg, I find some nits to pick in this announcement- Scuttle
the Shuttle! Foundation Urges - Space Frontier Foundation PR/SpaceRef
- July.14.03 - but generally it seems a perfectly reasonable
set of recommendations in the context of the above "truisms".
However, when Keith
Cowing reads it, he finds it "full of contradictions and
nutty conclusions". His statements remind us that the world
views (or space views) of most people remain far from the above
description. However, just as space tourism went overnight from
a nutty fantasy to a $20 million reality, the flights of SS1, FalconX
and other private vehicles may finally prove to the broader aerospace
community that private spaceflight doesn't require any "magic",
just some funding.
News briefs ... The Air Force
project completes testing on its kerosene fueled scramjet - Flight-Type
Scramjet Completes Historic Test Series - Pratt & Whitney -
Next they will build and test a completely self-contained engine.
Then a version will power the X-43C later in the decade.
... Via Transterrestrial
Musings I found this excellent new Spacecraft
Weblog by Prof. Chris Hall of Virginia Tech that will focus
on Spacecraft Design, Dynamics & Control, & News (Must
be an excellent site since he links to HobbySpace!)
Jordin Kare on the radio on
Tuesday at The Space Show
for Tuesday, July 15, 2003 features Dr. Jordin Kare discussing the
technology and facts of laser launch.
Dr. Kare received his Ph.D. in Astrophysics from the University
of California, Berkeley, in 1984. From 1985 to 1996 he was a member
of the Special Projects Group at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
At Livermore, he became involved in a number of space-related
projects, ranging from mission planning for the Clementine lunar
mapping mission to designing Mockingbird, a miniature reusable
launch vehicle with a dry weight of 150 lbs.
Since 1997, he has operated an independent consulting service,
Kare Technical Consulting, providing technical support to large
and small aerospace companies interested in applying new technology
to space missions.
In 1986, while at Livermore, Dr. Kare became interested in the
concept of laser launch ( the main subject of our program today).
In 1986, he organized a national Workshop on Laser Propulsion,
and from 1987 to 1991 he ran the Laser Propulsion Program for
the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization (SDIO). Since then
he has continued to work on laser propulsion, and recently served
on the Program Committee of the First International Symposium
on Beamed Energy Propulsion.
Dr. Kare is also a
writer and performer of songs about space, science, and science
fiction; his song, "Fire In The Sky" was
quoted by Buzz Aldrin on national television in the wake of the
Listeners can talk
to Dr. Kare or send him e-mail during the program by calling
at toll free 1-866-687-7223 or by using firstname.lastname@example.org
or email@example.com. You can also use AOL IM by using
the ScreenName "spaceshowchat."
Hear the show online at http://www.live365.com/stations/dlivingston?site=dlivingston
and in the Seattle area at KKNW 1150AM in Seattle and their live
internet streaming of the program at http://www.newschannel1150.com/.
See the Filk
section for some of the space music albums that include
songs written by Dr. Kare such as Fire in the Sky
(mp3 at MP3.com
) and Fly Columbia (mp3 at Jerry
News briefs ... Space.com reports
on space tourism and suborbital rides as the steppingstone to orbital
Entrepreneurs Starry-Eyed Over Potential of Space Tourism - Space
News - July.14.03 ...
... They also report on the
military's plans for new launchers: U.S.
Air Force Sees Quick and Frequent Launches in its Future - Space
News - July.14.03 ...
... Northrop Grumman announces
progress on construction of large lightweight composite fuel tanks
without the need for an autoclave : Northrop
Grumman Moves Composite Fuel Tanks Closer to Launch Pad with New
Award:New Manufacturing Approach Promises Larger Payloads, Reduced
Operating Costs - Northrop Grumman - July.14.03 (via spacetoday.net)
Second SS1 captive carry... The "Test Updates" section
at the SpaceShipOne
site reports that a second captive carry flight took place successfully
on July 3rd. It also reports that from June 24 to July 3rd they
completed tests of the landing gear, flight control system and structural
qualification. (Via a reader.)
[ July.14.03 - Correction -
the SS1 news page has changed to show that this flight actually
involved only the White Knight and the goal was to test glide flight
profiles. There were also some more WK flights recently. (Via a
Buying an X-37 ... NASA says
it will sole source the X-37
from Boeing - NASA
Presolicitation Notice: X-37 Long Duration Orbital Vehicle - SpaceRef
- July.11.03. In the latest issue of Aviation Week, an article
described a serious design flaw where the wing spar attached to
the fuselage. A structural weakness at a step in the thickness would
have resulted in strength below the expected load. Extra layers
of carbon fiber bonded to the area fixed the problem.
The same article said the first B-52 drop test will occur in 2004
(a 3 year slip from the original plans) and first orbital test in
2006 (a 4 year slip). It will be launched on an ELV, but whether
it's a Delta 4 or Atlas 5 has yet to be decided. NASA switched the
contract in 2002 to a cost-plus arrangement so the agency will pay
extra for the above fix, the delays, and other problems.
News briefs ... Starchaser
has posted new
pictures of its Churchhill II engine
... Space.com reports on IL
Aerospace : Israeli
X Prize Entry Has High Altitude Hopes - Space.com - July.10.03
(via a reader) ...
... Space.com has also posted
various X PRIZE pictures in its gallery.
(via a reader) ...
... More hypersonic dreaming
Dreams: 'Two Hours to Any Target' - ABCNEWS.com - July.11.03
Announcements from two X PRIZE contestants:
Private space gets a royal endorsement...
Surprisingly, one of the strongest endorsements from a high visibility
public figure for private space development has been coming from
Rees, Britain's official Astronomer Royal. As in this article
mission is brought to you by... : Forget Nasa. Only private money
can fuel a new space age. by Martin Rees - Guardian - July.10.03
- he promotes the view that space tourism and other commerical ventures
will lead the way to low cost manned missions to the Moon and Mars.
He highlights the investments of moguls like Jeff Bezos and Elon
Musk in new vehicles.
As is required for mainstream scientists, he discounts the need
for humans to carry out science in space and finds little use for
the current government manned programs. However, in his new book
Our Final Hour: A Scientist's Warning: How Terror, Error, and
Environmental Disaster Threaten Humankind's Future In This Century--On
Earth and Beyond (Amazon
commission link) he proposes that settlement of space
offers a haven for humanity and civilisation if and when disasters
threaten their existence on earth.
a bit odd that a left of center Britain believes far more
strongly in the capabilities
of private space companies than many
Republican "conservative" Congresspersons from places
like Texas and Florida...
Other Rees articles:
Rutans' Ez Birthday ... Over
100 canard aircraft converged on Mojave Airport on June 28th for
Birthday Bash - Contact Magazine - June.03. (Dick is approaching
65 and Burt 60.) The event included lots of discussion of the
Knight/SS1 and even an "air show" by a "tissue paper
and balsa R/C model of SpaceShipOne, powered by an electric motor." (Link
via a reader.)
News brief ... John Carmack
discussed the plans for Armadillo in this posting
at sci.space.policy - July.8.03. ...
... This long editorial piece
focuses on the flaws of the OSP program and urges a simple Apollo
style capsule approach instead - The
End Of US Manned Spaceflight Looms Ever Closer - SpaceDaily - July.10.03
... But the OSP will probably
continue regardless for reasons like those illustrated in these
two links: Lockheed
in $10B race: Spacecraft [OSP] deal would bring at least 200 jobs
to state - Rocky Mountain News - July.10.03 * NASA's
orbital space plane [contracts] - Rocky Mountain News - July.10.03
(links via spacetoday.net)
Science in near space... This
article - Rocket
Telescope Gest Closest Look at the Sun - GSFC - July.9.03 (via
- illustrates the kind of top quality scientific research provided
by sounding rockets. I'm sure this group and others like it would
jump at the chance to fly every month on a reliable suborbital RLV
instead of an unreliable sounding rocket every few years. I think
they would also appreciate the opportunity to accompany their telescope
or other instrument and to monitor and adjust it for maximum performance.
I can't prove it yet but I believe there is a substantial market
of scientific applications for suborbital RLVs in areas such as
solar physics, magnetospherics, astronomy, atmospheric sciences,
remote sensing, and, of course, microgravity. (See the earlier
item about the recommendation of the National Academy
of Science that NASA revitalize its sounding rocket program.)
Those damn imperialist parachutes... The
French praise the flight but blame the bad landing on the "dysfunction
of the american parachute" - Japanese
flight demonstrator undergoes drop tests from CNES balloons - CNES
July.7.03 (via spacetoday.net)
News briefs ... I'm told by
a reader that in addition to the XCOR report mentioned previously,
Geographic Today television program will focus on X PRIZE contenders
all week. ...
... and the latest report is
13's Wally Funk Fights for Her Place in Space - Nat. Geo. - July.9.03,
which discusses Wally Funk's struggles to become an astronaut. It
also talks about Funk becoming the pilot for the Solaris
X, which is Interorbital
Systems X PRIZE entry. ...
... This SpaceX
article - Falcon
rocket may save money - Florida Today - July.9.03 - indicates
the vehicle may attract another 3 payloads in addition to the two
missions already announced .
News briefs ... The National
Geographic Today television program has now posted an article dealing
with the report mentioned earlier
about XCOR and the X PRIZE - Edge-of-Space
Ship Designers Vie for Sky-High Prize - National Geographic Today
- July.7.03. However, it doesn't appear that they offer a streamed
video of the segement.
XCOR tells me that "the rocket engine the
reporter is holding [in the show] IS NOT AN EZ-ROCKET ENGINE, which
he said it was[.] It's a real LOX/kerosene engine that was fired
but wasn't used on the EZ-Rocket: the EZ-Rocket's engines are LOX/alcohol.
And the bell on that engine is a mock-up, not real."] ...
... USA Today backs the OSP
as an economical (sigh...) alternative to the shuttle - Simpler
plan would let NASA move forward - USATODAY.com - July.7.03.
In response, Rep. Nick Lampson (D-Texas) says the X-38 should be
brought back to life - Too
far over the horizon by By Nick Lampson - USATODAY.com - July.7.03
... Leonard David on the Armadillo
test - X
Prize Entry Undergoes Drop Test - Space.com - July.7.03
... The drop
tests for the Starchaser Nova 2 capsule are scheduled for July
21-25 in Arizona. ...
... The new Vanguard
X PRIZE team has posted a team
briefing (pdf, 122kb).
SS1 rocket consultant... The
could make space history - Huntsville Times - July.7.03 (via
is about Tim Pickens who consults with Scaled Composites on the
hybrid rocket for the SpaceShipOne. (The article doesn't make it
clear but I assume he is not so much designing the engine as he
is helping the company choose between eAc and Spacedev, who are
the two contractors seeking to supply the engine.)
Successful Armadillo Drop Test...
Congratulations to the Armadillo Aerospace team on their
yesterday of the parachute recovery system with the full size
(and weight) X PRIZE prototype. A Sikorsky helicopter took the vehicle
by a tether to 2000 ft (600m) and released it. A drogue chute then
pulled the main canopy out from the propulsion end of the vehicle
and the vehicle landing on the crush cone at a slight angle. Impact
effects were generally within expected bounds.
Be sure to checkout their video
(23 MB mpg) if you have a fast link.
website & AAS... A
reader pointed out the Kistler
web site remake and also the new missions
section such as ISS
resupply. I mentioned the remake
earlier but it bears repeating. It doesn't mean they are any closer
to flying but at least it's a sign they are still alive.
Speaking of ISS transportation, on July
1 a NY
Times article about the OSP program reported that Sean
O'Keefe said "he wanted industry to use simple off-the-shelf technology
for the new system. 'We are not trying to push the envelope here,'
he said. "We are taking the `KISS and tell' approach: Keep
It Simple, Stupid, and tell us the best way to get what we
I found it a bit ironic that Space News published that same week
an editorial by Gary
Hudson in which he lambasted NASA for its failure
to take advantage of the capabilties of the startup space transportation
companies and instead "first sandbagged and then canceled
the Alternate Access to Space (AAS) effort."
Kistler, and other companies began participation in AAS
in 2000 and "offered practical and cost effective means to achieve
the essential goals of the OSP without spending even a few percent
of the projected budget of $13 billion." (HMX also offered
a manned version of its capsule.) If NASA had vigorously pursued
the AAS, one or more of the proposed vehicles would be flying
despite what O'Keefe says, NASA prefers a "KISSING and
don't tell" strategy : Keep It Simple Stupid but In NASA's
Grasp and don't tell us about low cost alternatives.
News brief ... The X-43
is scheduled to fly in the autumn: NASA's
Hypersonic X-Vehicle Ready for Reflight - Space.com - Astronotes
Suborbital Legislation... The
Institute's latest press release:
Moves in Congress
BETHESDA, MD. July
4, 2003 - The SubOrbital Institute today praised the Senate
for including legislative language in S. 1260,
Space Transportation Act of 2003," dealing with the regulation
of commercial suborbital spaceflight. "Senator John McCain and
Senator Sam Brownback, by authoring this bill, have shown they
are men of vision," said Pat Bahn, Washington representative of
the SubOrbital Institute. "Fully one quarter of this proposed
legislation deals with suborbital industry issues," Bahn continued.
"They and their colleagues are to be commended for being proactive
and forward looking."
S. 1260 was passed by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science,
and Transportation (chaired by Senator McCain) Thursday, June
19th, 2003. "We don't yet know exactly when the full Senate will
vote on this bill," said Ed Wright, Executive Director of the
SubOrbital Institute, "but we feel certain it will act quickly
so that S. 1260 may then be considered in a conference with parallel
legislation from the House of Representatives," he continued.
A possible parallel House legislative vehicle for conference might
be H.R. 1085, the "NASA Flexibility Act of 2003," passed by the
House Committee on Science's Subcommittee on Space and Aviation
Thursday, June 26th, 2003.
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.
Section 4 of S. 1260, "Suborbital Vehicle Regulations," states,
"Not later than 6 months after the date of enactment of this
Act, the Secretary of Transportation shall submit to Congress
on the need for a distinct regulatory regime for suborbital vehicles
taking into account the unique characteristics and purposes of
The Commercial Space Launch Act of 1984 gives the Secretary of
Transportation the authority to regulate U.S. commercial space
launch activity. An entity within the FAA is charged to carry
out this authority -- the office of the Associate Administrator
for Commercial Space Transportation, or "FAA/AST." "FAA/AST has
been studying what they have to do to regulate commercial suborbital
flight operations," Pat Bahn stated, "and after consultation with
industry they've come up with what we think are very good working
definitions of just what exactly constitutes a "suborbital rocket"
and a "suborbital trajectory." We want to see these definitions
made official, which would be a strong, positive action with respect
to our industry," Bahn stated.
"These definitions could be inserted into a bill during a House-Senate
legislative conference," Wright explained. "The SubOrbital Institute
strongly supports inclusion of these FAA/AST definitions into
S. 1260 or into H.R. 1085, and we'll work doggedly to make that
happen," he avowed.
"S. 1260 as currently written is a great first step, but it is
vital that a clear definition of just what exactly constitutes
a "suborbital rocket" and a "suborbital trajectory" be made a
part of an improved regulatory mechanism for commercial suborbital
activities - and quickly!" concluded Jeff Greason, president
and CEO of XCOR Aerospace, and member of The SubOrbital Institute's
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.
News briefs... A reader submitted
the following items: the Da
Vinci Project X-Prize Team has posted a well produced video
on line about the project....
... The SS1 is NASA's Picture
of the Day for July 1st. ...
... and the Aviation Week
says that Burt Rutan expects to carry out another captive
carry test soon. Also, it reports that AST's Chuck Kline
they are "'aware of the schedule [Rutan] is trying to
achieve, and we're optimistic that we can meet that.' The
expected date for
the first space flight attempt is by mid-December, Kline said.
He anticipates no 'showstoppers' during the licensing process."
Licensing SpaceShipOne ...
Aviation Week reports that Burt Rutan has submitted an application
for a launch license for the SpaceShipOne
Composites Files Application For SpaceShipOne Launch License - Aviation
Week - July.3.03
he indicated that he would go only for a standard FAA experimental
aircraft license. This would be the FAA-AST's
first RLV launch flight license. However, he will continue negotiations
with the FAA to see if there are alternatives to a launch license.
There are also worries about whether Mojave Airport will need to
carry out extensive environmental impact studies to qualify as a
So the SS1 looks to break new ground in a number of areas.
Adventures of Widget... The
Armadillo mascot has had to panhandle
for H2O2 but now looks to enjoy
XCOR on National Geographic ... I
got the following heads-up from XCOR:
Sam Burbank's 5 minute piece for the National
Geographic channel will be airing on July 7th at 7pm, on a
show called National
Geographic Today, which is a news/variety show. The show actually
airs several times during the day but the most important slot
is the 7pm slot.
The XCOR segment is one of three segments on new start rocket
companies and X-Prize contenders.
On the 8th and the 9th in the same time slot, the other two shows
will air, and then on the 10th there will be a recap piece featuring
more XCOR footage.
It appears that the program also streams
some of its segments. So if you don't have the National Geo Channel,
perhaps these XCOR pieces will become available on line.
A light force or not?... Prof.
Thomas Gold, a top caliber physicist who became famous during the
space race days for predicting that Moon dust tracked into the lunar
module by the astronauts might explode when it interacted with oxygen
during pressurization, now says solar sails cannot fly:Solar
sailing breaks laws of physics - EurekAlert - July.2.03
However, his proposition seems at odds with measurements of laser
light pressure done by Prof. Leik Myrabo and collaborators : JPL
Accomplishes Laser Sail First - Space.com - Mar.1.03 * Sail
Technology beamed to future space exploration - JPL - July.5.00.
By focusing a laser on a "pendulum that had a swatch of super-lightweight
carbon mesh attached to the end" they found that "[b]y
throttling the laser we were able to get it to a steady-state
case the pressure was caused by some other effect like
ablation, the team "took extensive precautions to eliminate the possibility
that any other forces were acting on the on the sail" and believed
that there was "no question that the sail was really being
moved by the pressure of the laser light."
I can't think of any reason off-hand why incoherent light from
the Sun should act any differently in this regard than coherent
laser light. Seems that it's up to Prof. Gold to explain why this
Landis & Henry
Spencer on sci.space.policy point out that the Doppler
shift provides for the conservation of energy. The reflected
from an object moving away from it so the frequency is downshifted
and thus of lower energy (i.e. of lower temperature). Also,
Henry points out that light pressure has long been an issue
station-keeping. He notes "that nearly 2/3 of Radarsat's stationkeeping
fuel goes to fight light-pressure drag" since its orbit
keeps it in nearly constant sunlight.
Armadillo update ... John Carmack
says in a sci.space.policy
posting that he has "good confidence" that Armadillo
will "conduct a manned flight in a full size vehicle this year.
It will be at the limit of what we can do without a launch license
-- 200,000 lb-sec of total impulse." Red tape at White
Sands Missile Range, however, may delay a high altitude X PRIZE
until as late as 2005 (after the payout deadline) but they
to speed that up.
He also posted a link to a picture of
the vehicle that will undergo a drop from "a cargo helicopter
in a couple days to test the main canopy and crush cone combination
in real world use (ballasted to full X-Prize weight)".
Peter Diamandis takes the message to JPL - X
Prize creator envisions cheap, private space flight - Pasadena Star-
July.2.03 (via spacetoday.net)
Japanese prototype spaceplane crashes...
The Japanese Phase
II spaceplane prototype crashed during drop
tests from a high altitude balloon at the Esrange
in northern Sweden:
[Links via spacetoday.net]
Amateur rocketships... Andrew
Case discusses the state of amateur manned rockets in The
promise of amateur suborbital spaceflight : Homebuilt spacecraft
could soon take to the skies - The Space Review - June.30.03.
He also put some additional info and links at Rocketforge
where comments on the article can be posted.
Hypersonic news... The BBC
finds the DARPA announcement mentioned earlier
plans hypersonic bomber : The US is planning a number of other hypersonic
planes The United States is planning to build an unmanned hypersonic
aircraft capable of striking any target in the world within two
hours. - BBC - July.1.03
to June 2003