US Public wants a replacement
for the shuttle : Poll
tells NASA to keep sending ships into space - OrlandoSentinel.com
- Aug.31.03 (via spacetoday.net).
Too bad they will probably get the overpriced, underwhelming OSP
program. As indicated by the attitude in this article NASA's
spaceship crisis, pressures mirror shuttle era - Florida Today -
Aug.31.03, the dominant view in the press and among politicians
still holds that the X-33 and other projects failed because NASA
"underestimated the costs and technological barriers"
and not because the agency simply failed in planning and execution.
So there is a good chance that NASA will get its "$1.6 billion
next year and $20 billion during the next five years to safely return
the shuttles to flight and hurry development of the Orbital Space
Plane." However, at best it will result in a somewhat safer
vehicle that flies 4 or 5 times a year at a slightly lower cost,
for ~$250M a mission instead of ~$500M .
Miscellaneous other shuttle related articles of interest:
update for July has been posted.
- The upper stage propulsions tests have neared the goals set
for the system. The results indicate that SpaceX has achieved
state of the art performance :
"Delta II rocket upper stage has a specific impulse of 319s
and a mass efficiency of 86%, compared to the expected Falcon
specific impulse of 325s and mass efficiency of 91%. Our inert
mass being one third better than Boeingís is very significant
as that translates to a pound for pound improvement in actual
payload to orbit"
..."biggest single advantage we have is our use of advanced
aluminum-lithium for the propellant tanks rather than steel in
the Boeing case. We also employ a blended system of both heated
helium and gaseous oxygen to pressurize the tanks, significantly
reducing our pressurant weight."
- The parachute recovery system for the first stage is nearly
- The thrust vector control stand is now fully set up for testing
of the main engine.
- A neat animation shows the setup procedure and launch of the
Falcom at Vandenberg.
- The vertical stand at the Texas propulsion test facility is
nearly complete. Full duration firings will begin in late October
or early November.
- An addendum to Elon Musk's testimony
to Congress expresses his firm belief in the viability of a strong
"Commercial Human Spaceflight Market".
In addition, the Updates section now includes a calendar where
milestones and launch dates are posted.
Homer Hickam on the Shuttle...
In an essay
in the Wall Street Journal (subscription required), Homer
Hickam of Rocket
Boys fame says that he has come "to conclude that the Space
Shuttle is NASA's Vietnam. A generation of engineers and managers
have exhausted themselves trying to make it work and they just can't.
Why not? Because the Shuttle's engineering design, just as Vietnam's
political design, is inherently flawed."
The ex-NASA engineer doesn't buy the theory of "NASA culture"
as a culprit but he does perceive a "Shuttle cult. It is practiced
like a religion by space policy makers who simply cannot imagine
an American space agency without the Shuttle. Well, I can, and it's
a space agency which can actually fly people and cargoes into orbit
without everybody involved being terrified of imminent destruction
every time there's lift-off."
He goes on to recommend flying the shuttles just ten more times
to finish up the ISS and then stop flying it. His preferred replacement
is the spaceplane on top of an expendable launcher approach so that
crews can escape if the booster has problems.
Update: Spaceref has posted a longer version of this essay
Culture but Perhaps a Cult, Op Ed on NASA and the Shuttle by
Homer Hickam - Spaceref - Aug.29.03
by Rand Simberg on the WSJ essay.
More about the PEIS... Got
some more feedback on the recent items on Aug.21st
about the FAA-AST's
effort to obtain public input into its study of the environmental
impact of horizontal RLVs. Andrew Case posted a link to this page
over at the ARocket
forum and one participant responded with a couple of comments.
With regard to why the latest PEIS deals only with horizontal launch
the answer is "in the docs on the AST site. It has nothing
to do with Burt Rutan or anyone else. It's because they covered
vertical launch in the PEIS in 2001."
He also hopes that those who "noted the weird language about
suborbital meaning not in outer space will officially comment on
it. It's not as bad as it looks, and fixing stuff like that is why
they release a draft and ask for comments. So y'all comment. You
can bet I will be." Contribute your input at the PEIS
American Astronautics update...
has updated its team
summary (pdf) on the X
PRIZE site. The summary gives details of the 7 passenger "Spirit
of Liberty" which is the "first production unit of the
AAC Starliner Model 7S rocketship, specifically designed for commercial
operations serving the emerging commercial space tourism industry."
The system with a single vertical booster and a passenger capsule.
AAC American Eagle 1 booster, the Spirit of Liberty will weigh about
22,000 pounds at liftoff with the booster producing some 35,000
pounds of thrust. The booster uses "a single pressure-fed engine
with LOX/RP-1 propellants".
The flight is "powered for 81 seconds, with mainstage cut-off
at an altitude of about 119,000 feet and a speed exceeding Mach
4." The capsule separates from the booster and coasts to 100km.
The capsule deploys "aerobraking device [...] in a controlled
fashion to reduce its velocity to the subsonic without subjecting
the passengers to undue accelerations." Both components return
to the launch site via parafoils.
Note: It's interesting to see the different strategies towards
space tourism. XCOR is pursuing a pilot and a single passenger approach,
which the company believes is the best way to build the business
step by step. Others are going with the basic X PRIZE payload of
three seats, typically two passengers and a pilot. AAC is going
straight to a multi-passenger system and seeking economies of scale
(not quite 747 scale but the principle is the same).
I like the way the market is bringing out a diversity of designs,
a subset of which will eventually be judged most fit by the votes
of customers' pocketbooks rather than by the vote of a committee
da Vinci interview... The X
PRIZE competitor the daVinci
Project has posted a thirty minute streamed interview
on the Canadian "Report on Business" show with project
leader Brian Feeney. Highlights include:
- Over 100,000 person hours of labor have been contributed to
the project by over 200 volunteers.
- They are close to raising the CA$5 million they need for the
- Approval from Canadian authorities for the flights should come
- Feeney is 100% certain they will do the X PRIZE flights during
News briefs ... This article
next generation: The shuttle will have to fly again if the space
station is ever to be completed. But Nasa needs to come up with
a new space vehicle - and quickly. - Guardian - Aug.28.03 is
the usual type that tells us that only NASA, and more funding, can
overcome the technological hurdles that caused NASA's previous efforts
to overcome technological hurdles to fail. ...
... More of the same in Report
turns spotlight on shuttle successor - BBC - Aug.28.03
... Upcoming meetings of interest
on the Future of Space Tourism - SpaceRef Calendar of Events
Space Elevator 2nd Annual International Conference - SpaceRef Calendar
of Events ...
Right Stuff: The post-Columbia space program by Rand Simberg - National
Review Online - Aug.28.03
Media mostly in the dark ...
An electrical storm here in Maryland on Tuesday evening left our
apartment and about 100,000 other homes without power for over a
day. So just when the CAIB report was released and articles soon
appeared on every news media outlet in the world, I was stuck reading
the Washington Post and listening to the radio.
However, I get the feeling I didn't really miss all that much.
After the lights finally came back on tonight and I got reconnected,
I found about two hundred links for Wednesday over at spacetoday.net.
(SpaceRef also has a long Columbia
related link list.) Almost all of the articles deal with how
to reform NASA so that it doesn't screw up yet again or how to keep
the shuttle flying for another decade or whether spaceflight is
simply too dangerous for people. There were only a handful of articles
and discussions dealing with overturning the whole way that NASA
does vehicle development and operations.
The SFF, for example, makes the case for private development :
More Excuses: Cancel the Shuttle! - Space Frontier Foundation -
Aug.27.03 and Rand
Simberg comments on sections of the report dealing with Shuttle
replacement efforts. And Ronald Baily advocates letting the
private sector take the risks: Making
Spaceflight Too Safe? - Reason Online - Aug.27.03
The only mainstream media outlet that I found that "really
gets it" is the Economist,
as proven by this article : Lost
in space: The future of NASA - Economist.com - Aug.27.03 (Unfortunately,
the page is currently only available to subscribers. Go to a library
or newsstand and read it this weekend). It could have been written
by a Space Access Society true believer.
[Update Aug.31.03: The Economist piece I discuss here is an article
rather than an editorial so I've replaced those terms. An editorial
in the same issue also promotes the same general ideas about grounding
the shuttle and using private space transportation.]
The article begins by reviewing the report's condemnation of the
now famous NASA cultural defects that led to the Columbia accident
and how NASA failed to appreciate the fragility of the shuttle.
"As an experimental vehicle, the shuttle is a collection
of accidents waiting to happen..."
"... the shuttle is a bad design, full of compromises, too
risky, hopelessly optimistic and trying to be too many things
to too many people."
The article criticises the committee for falling short in its
recommendations for reforming NASA and stopping the shuttle program.
Instead of simply stating that it is hopeless to ever make the shuttle
a practical and safe system, the committee talks about too little
Yet in one of its observations, the board is being naive. Dr
Logsdon and his colleagues lament the shuttle's ' fixed budget'.
But this misses the point. No organisation can defy economic gravity
and operate without budgetary constraints. In any case, according
to Dr [Roger] Pielke, throughout the shuttle programme's 31-year
history, America's Congress has provided NASA with more funding
for it than the agency has requested. If $500m per launch is not
enough to ensure safety, what is? The Russians manage to launch
people at a mere $60m a pop, and have fewer accidents to boot.
The Economist instead recommends that if "America is to continue
to be involved in manned spaceflight, a radical rethink is clearly
necessary." The article advocates "contracting out the
more routine tasks of lifting stuff into ' near space' " and
cites Rick Tumlinson: "NASA should learn to be a spaceflight
customer, and stop trying to be a provider and a socialist monopoly
In defense of the capabilities of private companies to develop
low cost space transportation, the Economist offers the case of
The firm, according to its chief engineer, Dan DeLong, has designed
and built four generations of reliable rocket engines for a vehicle
that cost $500,000 to design and build. They are, he admits, very
small, but the company's plan is to 'make it cheap first, then
make it more capable'. According to Dr DeLong, one of NASA's problems
is that its design philosophy is the wrong way round. First, it
builds something huge and complex, such as the shuttle. Then it
tries to make it cheaper.
The article notes the X PRIZE projects and the funding of various
"alt.space" projects by rich IT entreprenours. The OSP,
on the other hand, is almost certain to be another bureaucratic
Whichever of these approaches works, there seems little hope
that NASA, left to itself, will get it right next time. Of the
mooted interim replacement to the shuttle, Dr [Jeffrey] Bell says
that the basic concept "is so stupid that every knowledgeable
person involved in it must be perfectly aware that it will never
The Economist is an influential magazine. I certainly hope in this
case that its views influence the debate about the future of US
News briefs ... More exposure
for Armadillo : Strap
In, Shut Up, and Blast Off: Famous software developer setting sights
on the stars and $10 million X Prize - TechTV - Aug.27.03 (includes
... OSP article at Space
plane idea gets new push - MyInKy - Aug.27.03
Suborbital definitions ...
I received some interesting feedback about a recent
item on the FAA-AST's
page concerning public input to the study of the environmental
impact of horizontal RLVs. (I see that now the page has been split
into several subpages and pdf files.)
I wondered why it looked only at the horizontal sub-category of
RLVs and one reader noted that the emphasis on horizontal RLVs was
probably due to the perceived lead by Burt Rutan's SpaceShipOne
Two other readers pointed out this highly debatable entry in the
* What is the difference between launches on orbital and
Vehicles that are launched on orbital trajectories reach outer
space or Earth orbit and reenter through the atmosphere during
their return to Earth. Vehicles that are launched on suborbital
trajectories do not leave the Earth's atmosphere or enter outer
space. Suborbital trajectory refers to the intentional
flight path of a launch vehicle, reentry vehicle, or any portion
thereof whose vacuum instantaneous impact point, which is the
location where an airborne mass would impact in the absence of
atmospheric (e.g., wind), aerodynamic, or continuing propulsive
effects, does not leave the surface of the Earth. Launches
along suborbital trajectories consist of a launch and landing;
however, reentry does not occur because the vehicle does not reach
outer space or Earth orbit. [Emphasis added]
The readers point out that this means no "no 'astronaut wings'
for any suborbital passenger or pilot" and "Looks like
they have never heard of Mercury flights of Shepard and Grissom".
It might seem more logical that suborbital spaceflight be defined
as any flight that goes above a recognized space boundary limit,
such as 100km, and does not go all the way around the earth. If
it goes around once or more, it is an orbital spaceflight.
However, despite the common belief that the US "official"
border to space is 50 miles (80.5km), this entry
in the rocketry section explains that the US does not
in fact recognize any such boundary. For various treaty and political
reasons, this probably won't change for a long time, if ever. So
the AST must define
suborbital in a strained, contorted way that's going to cause lots
One reader is disappointed in the AST
in general and believes that the FAA's AVR
section, which deals with aviation regulation, would better serve
the suborbital industry (this is Burt Rutan's apparent belief, as
The AST doesn't "realize [what] they are doing is inhibiting
the possibility of any future transport or 'business jet' boost-glider
becoming a reality. It is utterly impractical to fly such things
under AST rules....[the AVR can] issue experimental certificates
for suborbital vehicles....AST simply does not recognize the need
for the equivalent type of permit, i.e., experimental rocketplanes.
As far as the complaint that AVR will require a certification regime
for suborbital passenger flights that could take years and hundreds
of millions of dollars to win, this reader goes on to state:
...the FAA/AVR has steps they can take, too. For example, giving
" restricted" rather than full certification. This was
used for the Guppy aircraft that carried Saturn stages. They direct
that you can't fly anywhere, but rather
over certain routes and from certain airports. That would work
for the suborbital tourist market. None of what AVR does is a
'major federal action' as AST claims for all their approvals,
thus the EIS goes away as one benefit.
...it is false to argue that certification costs hundreds of
millions. It can for Part 121 transports, yet new light aircraft
(Cirrus for one, Lancair Columbia for another) have been certified
for much, much less...i.e., millions. Certification is also as
'tailorable' a process as anything AST has said must be done.
And at least it has the intermediate step of 'experimental' certification,
whereas AST has NOTHING and can't be bothered to provide for such.
I don't pretend to understand all the legal and political aspects
concerning the regulation of suborbital RLV flights but I can predict
there's going to be quite a fight about them.
The Sunshine State wants the X PRIZE Cup...
Space Authority, which promotes commercial space activities
in the state, wants to host the X PRIZE Cup competitions :
Florida in running to host rocket contest: First team in space wins
$10 million - Florida Today - Aug.26.03. These annual events,
which will come after the X PRIZE has been won and could begin as
early as 2006, will see suborbital rocket vehicles competing "in
categories such as maximum altitude, fastest flight time, total
number of passengers carried in two weeks and maximum number of
passengers carried in one flight."
Where's the Asian X PRIZE entry?...
This article reports on the X PRIZE and briefly reviews Asian interest
in space development: Where
there is space, there's hope - and $10m - Asia Times - Aug.27.03
It's interesting that despite the wealth and high tech capabilities
of East Asia, there is no X PRIZE entry from that area.
NY Times discovers the X PRIZE ...
The paper's Science Times section finally looks at the X PRIZE and
talks with several participants (note that one figure caption imports
StarChaser into the Candian Arrow project) - Eyes
on a Prize, Entrepreneurs Seek to Launch a New Industry - NY Times
- Aug.25.03. They also visit Armadillo Aerospace - Inside
the Clubhouse, a Rocket Is Being Built - NY Times - Aug.25.03.
German Phoenix to rise, then drop ...
Phoenix RLV demonstrator spaceplane project plans a drop
test from a helicopter of the 7 meter long PHOENIX in early summer
2004. This news release Phoenix
- DLR - Aug.20.03 (in German) includes some images of a wind
tunnel test model. There is also some info here : Raumtransporter
der Zukunft (Space transport for the Future) - ESA - Mar.11.03 (in
German) (Links via a slashdot
Try the Google
translator if you don't read German. (Note that it results in
some odd phrasing such as reusable becoming "Again usable"
and the drop test is described as "thrown off a helicopter.")
News briefs... Jeff Foust examines
an official study of commercial space currently underway and asks
why they are ignoring the vibrant startup sector: Can
the OECD figure out commercial space? - The Space Review - Aug.25.03
... The latest Armadillo
update tells of progress with the full size X
PRIZE vehicle and also about restoring a used space
... Interesting report on a
launch of the Pegasus : Launching
Satellites Into Space From an Aircraft Has Special Challenges -
Aviation Week - Aug.24.03
with Elon Musk - Founder
and CEO of SpaceX,
Elon Musk answers questions from HobbySpace
about the history and status of the company and the Falcon orbital
More about the EADS MIG passenger module project : EADS,
MiG to Offer Tourists Joy: Flights on Russian Fighter Jets - e-tournews
News briefs... CNN
Money looks at the prospects for space related tourism ranging from
parabolic flights to Mars trips: Space
on Sale: The final travel frontier: Mars is closer than it's been
in 60,000 years, but don't plan a visit any time soon. - CNN Money
- Aug. 22.03 *...
... Profile of John
Carmack in Doom
and rocket science: id Software's John Carmack tackles - and conquers
- both - CNN Money - Aug. 22, 2003 *...
... Brief article
on Starchaser activities and plans: $10M
prize in his sight [Steve Bennett of Starchaser] - Tameside Advertiser
- Aug.22.03 *...
[* These three items were contributed by a HS reader.]
project will test OSP rendezvous systems: U.S.
space rendezvous system passes design review - Spaceflight Now -
... More about suborbital
regulations : XCOR
chief slams FAA jurisdictional fight - AV Press - Aug.21.03
(short term link)
SS1 drop test analysis...
The latest issue of Aviation Week includes an article giving details
of the recent drop test of the SpaceShipOne. Here are some highlights
from the article:
- Chief test pilot Michael W. Melvill flew the SS1 rocket ship;
test pilot Brian Binnie flew the White Knight ; White Knight project
engineer Cory Bird was flight-test engineer.
- The SS1 oxidizer tank was empty and had no rocket motor case.
A dummy rocket nozzle included 140lb of ballast. When the SS1
carries oxidizer and a fully fueled rocket engine it will weigh
about twice the drop test weight; estimated by an outside expert
at around 3600 lb. The total takeoff weight of the WK/SS1 combo
at around 19k lb is roughly 25% more than during this test .
- After release from the WK, "Melvill pushed the stick to
ensure rapid clearance and was rewarded with a brief negative
0.2g that caused a few test cards to float."
- During the flight Melvill explored the envelope a bit. It glided
level at around 100kt. He slowed to near stall speed at 77kt before
"the stick began to rumble". He accelerated to 150kt.
and did some sideslips and moved the rudders outward as speed
brakes. The SS1 upper limit is set at 260kt.
- The lift-to-drag ration was a bit higher than expect and is
- Touchdown speed was 74kt. There was some slight damage to the
fuselage when the left main landing gear door flew quickly backwards
from the airstream pressure and hit the fuselage with its tip.
- The flight lasted 19 minutes and the average sink rate was 2,300
feet per min.
- The author said the SS1 looked ready for another flight when
he inspected it a few days later. The feather mechanism may be
tested during the next flight. Future flights will go to 182kt,
do "more aggressive stalls", and include oxidizer in
the tank. (Oxidizer was loaded and dumped during the July 29th
captive carry flight.)
In addition, the article says that both hybrid rocket competitors
have carried out full duration firings (92secs) and one of the companies
will be selected soon.
Scaled itself makes the case-throat-nozzle structure, which consists
of an "inner layer of silica phenolic insulator and an outer
graphite epoxy structural case." Burn-throughs of the insulator
occurred in five firings but did not reach the sensor layer of fiber-optic
cable between the insulator and case. They want to do a test in
which they fire the engine until a burn-through reaches the sensor
layer and it triggers a shutdown.
The initial powered tests of the SS1 will fire the engine for 15-30secs.
The vehicle will reach Mach 1.7 for a 30sec firing. Subsequent flights
will gradually increase the firing times until they reach the 92secs
needed to reach the 100km goal.
impact... The FAA Space Transportation Office has
opened the FAA
PEIS Web Site to provide info on the " Programmatic Environmental
Impact Statement (PEIS) for licensing the launch of horizontally
launched vehicles and the reentry of reentry vehicles." (I
guess the FAA certifies the flight of flight vehicles and the landing
of landing vehicles...)
The process covers both orbital and suborbital vehicles:
"The proposed action is to license the launch and landing
of horizontally launched vehicles and the reentry of reentry vehicles.
Reentry vehicles are defined as vehicles designed to return from
Earth orbit or outer space to Earth; or reusable launch vehicles
designed to return substantially intact from Earth orbit or outer
space to Earth. A launch is defined as to place or try to place
a launch vehicle or reentry vehicle and any payload from Earth
(A) in a suborbital trajectory; (B) in Earth orbit in outer space;
or (C) otherwise in outer space, including activities involved
in the preparation of a launch vehicle or payload for launch."
Not clear to me, though, why it is limited to horizontal takeoff
Note that doing nothing is an option:
"Alternatives to the proposed action may include activities
such as not licensing horizontal launches, not licensing vertical
reentries, not licensing horizontal reentries, not licensing powered
reentries, and not licensing unpowered reentries. FAA exercises
licensing authority in accordance with the Commercial Space Launch
Act and Commercial Space Transportation Licensing Regulations,
14 CFR Ch.III, which authorize FAA to license the launch of a
launch vehicle when conducted within the U.S. and those operated
by U.S. citizens abroad. The scope of the PEIS would include launches
on both orbital and suborbital trajectories."
The page provides a FAQ and definitions of the legal terms. During
the public comment period, you can submit your two cents via an
Rocket regulators needed...
The AST has several
openings for aerospace
engineers to support its expendable and reusable launch vehicle
on its first unpowered flight. (Scaled Composites image)
More SS1 photos from
test on August 7th are now posted at the Scaled Composites photos
News brief... The
reader who submitted this article - Is
The Air Force The Enemy Of Space? - SpaceDaily - Aug.20.03 -
says it has "elements of truth in it, but placing most of the
blame for NASA's space vehicle dilemma on the Air Force is a bit
of a stretch!" I agree.
SpaceEquity RLV articles...
The latest issue of SpaceEquity looks at RLV development:
News briefs... At
the recent Mars Society conference, Elon Musk gave a presentation
about SpaceX and
also briefly discussed Blue Origin (says their vehicle is similar
to the DC-X)
and other projects. Thomas James gives an extensive review of the
talk at Musk
on SpaceX Falcon by T. L. James - Louisiana Mars Society - Aug.18.03
... John Carmack
compares the rocketship and computer games industries in A
Conversation with John Carmack - GameSpy.com - Aug.03 (via a
RLV News regular)...
... According to
a note from Bruce Cranford, his International
Spacecraft and Launch Vehicle Names Glossary now offers
over 6500 satellites and spacecraft launched through 2002 in an
alphabetized listing for fast lookup.
News briefs... Armadillo
up - Armadillo
Aerospace Update - Aug.18.03 ...
... Meanwhile, Brian
Feeney of the da
Vinci X PRIZE project says in an ARocket
posting that they will go with a Gemini type suit that uses netting
over a pressure garment, which they say provides good mobility.
(item via Andrew Case.)
Boeing OSP capsule ...
Links to this page of Boeing
Photo Releases, which include artists' renderings of an OSP
capsule design under study, were posted at a sci.space newsgroup
News brief... How
do you say "viewgraph prototype" in Russian: Russia
designing hyper-sonic space shuttle - The Hindu - Aug.16.03
X PRIZE changing paradigms...
Rand Simberg discusses in this article Eyes
on the X-Prize - TCS - Aug.15.03 how the development of
manned suborbital RLVs by small private organizations could soon
produce a world wide impact as many nations come to realize that
they also can build such vehicles.
Traditionally governments have aped each other's space and rocketry
programs. The US, for example, used modified missiles to launch
payloads (rather than pursuing an X-15 rocketplane approach) just
as Russia had done with Sputnik and Russia later built the Buran,
which was a near duplicate of the Shuttle. Europe, Japan, China
and other countries took it for granted that the only way to get
to space was with a modified missile or a gigantically expensive
shuttle type program. Maybe suborbital RLVs will finally bring a
new approach into their view.
Why would any country develop a suborbital RLV? One killer app
is neighbor-watching. Pat Bahn of TGV
Rockets has long proposed such vehicles for reconnaisance purposes.
A vehicle launched to 100km above Tawain, for example, can see deep
into China and far along the coast. It could be launched at any
time of the day or night, whereas LEO satellites only cross at certain
predictable times. (And Tawain doesn't have a spy satellite anyway.)
Similarly, India and Pakistan could monitor each other with regular
popups. As with spysats in the cold war, such surveillance helps
to preserve peace since troop buildups and sneak attacks become
much harder to carry out.
If a small private
group in Romania can make a serious effort at a suborbital RLV,
then certainly governments of many countries could do the same.
Fly the White Knight
via the PRE-Flight
freeware PRE-Flight 2.00 from Simtel
Model from PreflightSim.com.
After installing the simulator, open the SS1 zip file into the Model
subdirectory. Run the simulator and click on the Model menu and
then choose Load and select the ss1.3dm file. The SS1 can be dropped
and its engine fired.
This simulator is apparently aimed towards RC hobbyists who can
configure their system to operate the simulator with RC transmitters
to test the flying of their models. However, it wll also work with
a joystick or keyboard.
The latest Pop Sci issue includes an article about pulse-detonation
propulsion - After
Combustion: Detonation! - Popular Science - Aug.03. Companies
like GE and Pratt & Whitney have become very serious about the
concept and have made significant hardware progress in the past
few years. Most of the piece concerns how PDEs (Pulse Detonation
Engines) could provide big increases in efficiencies for jet turbines
but they could also provide for a first stage booster for a launch
Engineers wanted for private rocket
projects... A SpaceX
ad in the latest Aviation Week announced the company's search for
king of the hill engineering talent. If you are interested, send
your resume and a "brief description of why you believe you
rank among the top 1% of aerospace, mechanical, electrical or manufacturing
engineers" to the company per instructions at SpaceX.com.
also began hiring
recently for their Oklahoma facility. The firm is signing contracts
for flights on its MICHELLE-
B vehicle starting in the first quarter of 2006.
And Jeff Bezo's mysterious Blue Origin project is looking for a
few good engineers with a passion
[Other rocket companies looking for people are welcome to post
the info here.]
NSS pushes suborbital...
In the latest Ad Astra magazine from the National
Space Society, Brian
Chase writes that the NSS will take an active role to
help suborbital RLV companies overcome regulatory hurdles. He goes
on to laud the prospects for these companies and their contribution
to the development of space tourism and eventually orbital transportation.
(I'd like to think my article
contributed to this new emphasis by the NSS but it obviously comes
from the real hardware progress made at companies like XCOR and
News briefs... Space
Frontier Foundation urges the lowering of regulatory barriers to
suborbital RLV operations: Congress
Should Cut the Red Tape Grounding Reusable Rockets - Space Frontier
Foundation - Aug.11.03 ...
... From the recent
OSP event on Capitol hill, these sets of slides gives some background:
Orbital Space Plane: How Did We Get Here & Where Are We Going?
- Dr. Sam Durrance - Florida SRI - July.03 and Orbital
Space Plane Orbital Space Plane How Did We Get Here and Why? Philip
McAlister - Futron - July 21, 2003 ...
... Once upon a
time there was great optimism we were on the verge of a revolutionary
advance in access to space: 26
years since the first flight of NASA's "Enterprise" by
Keith Cowing - SpaceRef - Aug.13.03
News brief... Launching
the X-37 and OSP may be even more expensive than expected because
of Boeing misdeeds: Boeing's
sanctions may hurt progress of X-37 at Marshall: Company can't vie
for contracts until Air Force gives OK - Huntsville Times - Aug.12.03
SpaceX fires 2nd stage engine...
SpaceX achieves a significant milestone with the firing of its second
stage "Kestral" engine: SpaceX
Launch Vehicle on Track for First Launch; SpaceX Successfully Fires
Falcon Rocket Upper Stage Engine - SpaceX PR/Spaceref - Aug.11.03
This link came via a regular HS contributor who also noted that
the "Falcon will have a payload of "over 1400 lbs,"
which is much higher than either the preliminary 1000lb estimate
or the 1250lb estimate reported in SpaceX's April update."
See a video of a Kestral firing in the SpaceX
Action on the regulatory front ...
SpaceNews also reports on the controversy over whether suborbital
RLVs should fall under the FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation
(AST) or under the
aviation certification section of the FAA. Some in Congress are
following the recommendations of the Suborbital Institute and other
lobbying groups to force the FAA to put the RLVs in the AST domain:
"Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif), congressional sources said,
intends to introduce [the House version of a bill renewing the Commerical
Space Act that] would establish a legal definition of sub-orbital
rockets and give the Office of Commercial Space Transportation clear
authority for licensing such craft." (Noted by a regular HS
NASA visits Kistler ...
According to an article in this week's SpaceNews (and a shorter
item at Space.com), a "dozen NASA officials" visited
Kistler's headquarters in Kirkland, Washington on July 16th to hear
the company's proposal for flying the K-1 as a cargo delivery system
to the ISS. The company did not ask for direct funding but instead
asked that NASA give a firm commitment to exercise its options to
purchase the flight data for 12 missions under the SLI
contract made with Kistler
in 2001. With such a committment, the company believes it can raise
the money to finish the K-1,
which is 75% complete, and begin flying 12 to 18 months from the
time it receives the money.
Kistler would not comment (as usual) on the meeting and a NASA
rep basically said that it was just a fact finding trip and no contract
decisions were made.
I would expect that the OSP teams would go into major combat mode
if NASA actually tried to pursue this approach. A low cost, fully
reusable vehicle available in a little over a year would clearly
undercut support in Congress for spending several billion dollars
and several years on a partially reusable OSP (even if the K-1 is
News briefs... Romanian
X PRIZE team reports on recent progress with pressure tests of a
composite fuel tank for their half scale demonstrator
vehicle. (Update via Kaido Kert) ...
... New Scientist
reports on the SS1 flight: Private
spacecraft performs crucial test flight - New Scientist - Aug.11.03
(link via a regular HS contributor)...
... The latest SpaceNews
also reports that the US Marines want a manned space plane by 2025
that could deploy a small group of leathernecks anywhere in the
world within 2 hours.
Earlier SS1 flight...
Either I missed it or it's been added since the other day, the White
Knight/SS1 flight data page has an entry describing a captive
carry flight on July 29th. All the systems were tested in preparation
for the drop test on August 7th.
Also, the page indicates that eAc
did a test of its hybrid motor in July in addition to the SpaceDev
test, which they announced last week.
The Search for small launch prices
for small sats... This year's Utah
State/AIAA Small Satellite Conference focuses on finding "affordable
and timely access to space" for the many student and research
satellites under development. SpaceX, XCOR, DARPA, and other players
in the development of low cost launchers will give talks
this week. Small
Industry Looks for Solutions to a Big Problem Entrepreneurs Offer
a Glimmer of Hope - Space News - Aug.8.03.
Show & tell fundraisers...
The Starchaser X PRIZE project recently announced that it will host
another of its Open
Day events on August 24-25. If they are having another one so
soon, similar events earlier in the year must have been successes.
I notice that they are now charging an entrance fee, which I don't
believe they did before. This seems to me to be a great idea for
raising money for other rocket projects as well. Once enough hardware
has been developed, particularly a full scale rocket vehicle (even
if only a prototype), such an event should be able to draw a good
sized crowd. Combine the hardware with some hands-on displays, such
as PCs running space simulations, and include lecture and multimedia
presentations, it would be a fun and educational event that benefits
News briefs... Leonard David
on the SS1 test: XM
announces plans for new satellite, launch - spacetoday.net - Aug.9.03
... The kerosene fueled RS-84
engine project continues to move along: Marshall
developing a reusable light rocket: Engine [RS-84] could save NASA
millions, make travel safer - Huntsville Times - Aug.8.03
Jon Goff's Summer Rocket Trip: Aerospace
student Jonathan Goff visited XCOR
and the Experimental
Rocket Propulsion Society (ERPS) this July and has written an
extensive and very interesting report on his experiences: Notes
from my California Rocket Trip by Jonathan A. Goff - Aug.7.03.
One item of particular note: XCOR's $750K contract with DARPA for
a piston fuel pump was recently finalized and signed. After experiencing
a very challenging startup period, it's great to see them get a
good sized contract like this.
Info & photos for the SS1 drop test
are now posted on the SpaceShipOne
web pages. The description
of the test tells of a very smooth separation and flight. Performance
matched well with the simulator for the subsonic range up to 150
knots. The photos
show the SS1 before the drop (with a Starship
chase plane!) and during flight and landing. In my highly technical
judgement, it's all so COOOOL!!
News brief... Keith
Cowing noticed that a White House representative is well aware
of the X PRIZE: Presentation
by Richard M. Russell, OSTP, at AIAA/ICAS International Air & Space
Symposium and Exposition - SpaceRef - Aug.8.03
Successful SS1 drop test...
Messages flying around the net report that the SpaceShipOne,
piloted by Mike Melvill, was dropped today from the White Knight
at 45k feet (~15km) and landed safely at Mojave. Videos and pictures
should appear eventually on the Scaled site. Congratulations to
the SS1 team!
News briefs... Signs of life
at X PRIZE team Lone
Star Space with a new web site....
... Garvey Space/Cal State
Long Beach aerospike powered rocket launch scheduled for August
Prepare for the First Flight Powered by an Aerospike Engine Using
Liquid Propellants - CSULB - Aug.6.04 ...
... Rand Simberg comments on
in The Independent, mentioned below, about the X PRIZE and suborbital
rocket projects: In
Search of Intelligent Reporting - Transterrestrial Musings - Aug.6.03
and on Jeff
Foust's article about the OSP design controversy: Wings
or Not--Who Cares? - Transterrestrial Musings - Aug.6.03
SpaceDev tests SS1 rocket...
a successful full duration test of its hybrid rocket motor that
is a candidate to power the SpaceShipOne:
Performs Successful Rocket Motor Test - SpaceDev PR/Yahoo - Aug.6.03
Plane or capsule... Jeff Foust
looks at the arguments over whether the OSP should be a plane or
a capsule: Two
directions for OSP - The Space Review - Aug.4.03
Private space ... This article
give a bit of info about Blue Orgin and other other private space
projects : Galaxy
quest: Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, has launched his own space
programme and wants to send tourists into orbit. He is not alone
- entrepreneurs across the United States are reaching for the sky.
What is it with rich men and rockets? - The Independent - Aug.5.03
[Alternative link Galaxy
quest - The Millennium/The Independent - Aug.5.03]
Oddly, this British article says nothing about the British X PRIZE
teams Starchaser and
Alan Bond rants against suborbital projects (in other words "Give
me money for my SKYLON
instead.") He notes that engines should be tested many times
to prove their reliability. But that is exactly what suborbital
flights will do. They will test not only engines but other hardware
such as lightweight structures and also operational techniques over
many flights and allow the companies to develop them incrementally
and prove their robustness. If nothing else, a suborbital vehicle
can become the first stage of a two stage RLV.
American Astronautics update...
I recently mentioned
the single passenger Freedom Flyer vehicle that American
Astronautics Corporation (AAC) said would fly in the fall as
a prototype for their X
PRIZE project. However, Bill Sprague, the chief of AAC, tells
me that the Freedom Flyer is now on the back burner while they focus
on their 7 passenger vehicle, the first unit of which they
will fly as their X PRIZE vehicle:
The Freedom Flyer is a precursor to a 3-passenger version
that was to be our X Prize entry. However, the X Prize board issued
a ruling to us stating that a propulsion system based on the TR-201
engine would be disqualified unless we could demonstrate additional
sourcing and general commercial availability for the engine. The
original manufacturer, TRW, is not willing to invest the resources
necessary to quote restarting production unless we are seriously
considering an actual buy, which we are not.
Therefore, we are now concentrating our efforts on our 7 passenger
vehicle, based on our American Eagle booster which utilizes
an AAC designed and built engine. This vehicle was specifically
designed for actual commercial operations in the public space
tourism industry. We will be utilizing this vehicle for the X
Prize competition, the first production unit now named the Spirit
of Liberty. So where does that leave the Freedom Flyer
and all those TR-201 engines we have? Well, we are continuing
work on the Flyer, but as a much lesser priority, and there
will not be a 3 passenger version. Additionally, we have allowed
the flight date to slip to allocate the majority of our resources
towards the Spirit of Liberty and the X Prize competition.
RLV developers on the Space Show...
Jason Andrews, CEO of Andrews
Space will be a guest on The
Space Show tonight. Andrews Space has a number of vehicle related
projects. The interview will at 7-8 PM PDT live on KKNW 1150 AM
Seattle and via the web at the streaming site www.live365.com.
On Sunday, August 10, Pat Kelley, President of Vela Technology,
will be on the show live at 4-5:15 PM PDT at www.live365.com/stations/dlivingston?site=dlivingston.
Mr. Kelley has been involved in various vehicle and space tourism
projects for several years.
News brief... Burt
talks about the reality of private suborbital flight: Eye
on the prize: Aviation pioneer angling to send civilians into space
tells EAA it's no pipe dream - Milwaukee Journal - Aug.3.03
X PRIZE press... The
Baltimore Sun looks at the X PRIZE in this article: Prize
lifts would-be spacefarers - Baltimore Sun - Aug.3.03 (via spacetoday.net).
It includes a report on what Jim Akkerman and his Advent
X PRIZE entry are up to.
Cool photos... The
at the top of the page showing the White Knight carrying the SpaceShipOne
(No, this is not Burt Rutan leading a clone army against Washington
regulators! ;-> ) comes from the Mojave
Airport gallery. Find more photos there involving Rutan
and the recent aborted attempt to move the Roton
ATV to a museum.
See the pictures in the Advanced
Rocketry News section of the Garvey Space/Cal State Long
Beach aerospike engine installed on the Prospector 2 rocket in preparation
for a launch in the next month.
Alternate Access extension...
Space News reports in this week's issue that the Alternate Access
to Space program will be extended until November. The program was
forced on NASA in 2000 by Congress in hopes that the agency would
take advantage of new ideas for low cost space transportation to
provide cargo supplies to the ISS. Though four teams won funding
and developed detailed proposals, the agency ignored the program
and recently sought formally to end it.
This extension looks to be nothing but a bone thrown to members
of Congress and space activists who have urged the agency to continue
the program. The extension will not include any extra funding for
the participants and most of the people in NASA's AAS office have
already been transferred elsewhere according to ProSpace President
Marc Schlather. (ProSpace
has campaigned to save the program.) So there apparently won't be
anyone around to read the reports when the teams turn them in.
Until there is a direct and open confrontation with NASA by Congress
over the agency's ingrained insistence that that it will only fund
construction of vehicle designs that it develops in house, alternatives
will always be ignored. Just as everyone at NASA knew that
foam couldn't significantly damage the thermal protection system,
everyone at NASA knows that there cannot be cheaper vehicles
designed by outsiders, especially small startup companies. Perhaps
when the suborbital RLVs and SpaceX's Falcon start flying, they
will give proponents of alternatives enough evidence to prove that
NASA's view is a bias and not a fact.
Rand Simberg's comments on the Kistler
Aerospace bankruptcy - Another
one bites the dust? - Transterrestrial Musings - July.30.03
- reminded me that many in the alt.space community never
had great enthusiasm for the company. Since I often hold the K-1
up as an example of a privately developed system that NASA should
take advantage of, I thought I would review the Kistler project.
As Rand mentions, the company started out with a radical approach
that consisted of a "4-poster-bed" style first stage launch
platform on which would sit a small unmanned second stage that would
fire up and go to orbit. After releasing a payload, the second stage
would return to earth, landing vertically onto a net:
Original Kistler concept with launch platform and K-0 second stage.
Prototype K-0 shown on far right.
I don't know the exact story but apparently outside consultants
were brought in and they convinced Mr. Kistler to drop this approach
and to replace his original team with one consisting of several
well known former NASA engineers, including George
Mueller, former head of the Apollo project. The new team developed
a more conventional design, though still an unmanned two stage system.
Probably this transformation was carried out as much for reasons
of fund raising as it was to enhance the engineering. A management
full of former NASA bigwigs would obviously make a good impression
on potential investors.
The project in fact did manage to raise several hundred million
dollars, broke ground on a launch site in Woomera, Australia, bought
up all the NK-33 engines in Russia, and got about 75% of the vehicle
components built using outside contractors such as Northrop and
Aerojet. (See this cutaway
view (pdf) showing the status of different components.) Then
the Iridium/Globalstar/ICO failures occurred and investors stopped
providing funding because the target market in delivering replacment
satellites for these constellations had vanished.
Since then the company would occasionally announce that it had
found new funding and would soon restart development of the vehicle
but then nothing would happen. They did win an SLI
grant of $135 million for developing the K-1 for Space Station
cargo delivery but most of this money would only appear after the
company got the vehicle built and flying on its own.
After the cancellation of the X-33, X-34 projects, you would often
hear statements from NASA and various honchos in mainstream aerospace
claiming that fully reusable launch vehicles were decades and tens
of billions of dollars away. I've been surprised that activists
haven't countered these remarks by pointing to the K-1, which is
just a year or two and a couple of hundred million dollars away
I believe the lack of support for Kistler is due to several reasons:
- There's resentment that Kistler absorbed most of the capital
available for private space projects in the late 1990s and still
didn't get anything flying. Other orbital projects such as Pioneer
Rocketplane, Kelly Space, and Rotary, which needed $200 to $300
million dollars, found little money left for their projects.
- The K-1 is unmanned and so could not serve a space tourist market
that looks to be the one market that can drive high launch rates
and really bring down costs. As I recall from articles I've read
over the years, the company has no interest in making the vehicle
- The company has kept a very low profile. An MSNBC
reporter told me, for example, that the company would
not give him an interview. Instead of loudly promoting the K-1
as a cargo carrier for the Space Station in the aftermath of Columbia
when everyone was discussing options, Kistler has remained quiet
- In general, the company has not interacted with the activist
community. For example, in the five Space Access Society meetings
that I have attended, the company never gave a presentation.
- In retrospect, it looks as if running the company with ex-NASA
staff was a strategic mistake. They brought with them the same
disdain that NASA has for outsiders, i.e. space activists and
other startup RLV companies. Plus they can't bring themselves
to criticize NASA and raise hell about the agency's refusal to
use vehicles designed outside of its own centers.
I've never considered the K-1 as the ultimate in RLV design but
it does prove that RLVs are within reach. Unfortunately, unless
something dramatic happens during the Chapter 11 restructuring and
new funding is finally found to complete the vehicle, it will just
be sold for scrap and an opportunity will be lost.
to July 2003