SpaceShipTwo? Some intriguing artwork shown by Burt Rutan
at the recent SETP symposium. (Via the article
by Jeff Foust)
SS1 update... Jeff Foust reviews
the update on the SpaceShipOne
project given last week by Burt Rutan at the annual symposium of
the Society of Experimental Test Pilots (SETP: SpaceShipOne:
A progress report - The Space Review - Sept.29.03. Includes
more info about the problems on the Sept.22 test flight.
Spaceshow rocket guest...
The Tuesday, September 30, 2003, 7 PM - 8 PM Pacific Time, Space
Show will feature Tim Pickens who is currently a propulsion
engineer working for Plasma Processes and runs his own propulsion
test company, Orion
Propulsion located in Gurley, Alabama. Mr. Pickens has designed
and built a rocket-powered bike featured in Custom Bike magazine,
and he is currently working on a “James Bond” type rocket belt.
Mr. Pickens, who began his serious hybrid rocket work with the
HALO Program, has since worked on such noted rocket engines as
the RL-10, Fast-Track, the Space Shuttle Main Engines (SSME),
and Space America’s 4000-50,000 pound thrust LOX/Kerosene engines.
Mr. Pickens also worked with Burt Rutan of Scaled Composites in
Mojave, California on the SpaceShipOne and is still a consultant
for this project.
Available on line via www.live365.com
News briefs... The MSNBC/AP
article about the X PRIZE mentioned below
now has a correction about the Mojave spaceport and AST flight license
approvals (item via Centurian509)...
X PRIZE team has gotten a sponsor for the parachutes which will
bring its boosters and spacecraft back to earth: Vanguard
Secures Sponsorship - Vanguard/X PRIZE - Sept.29.03....
... Teen to raise money
for suborbital space ride: Interorbital
System to Launch First Teenager to Space: Teen to Fly on Second
X Prize Competition Flight - Interorbital PR/X PRIZE - Sept.29.03
will test fire the Churchill 2 rocket during Oct 7-9. A webcast
will be available to members of the Starchaser
Club.(link via Centurian509)...
... The marriage is
Martin, Northrop Grumman Join Forces to Develop NASA's Orbital Space
Plane - SpaceRef - Sept.29.03 ...
... Check out this potentially
low cost reentry systems: RRSS
- Return & Rescue - Space Systems GmbH (related links)
SS1 drop test difficulties... The
latest drop test of SpaceShipOne
had some severe problems before recovering according to this article:
Go to Space! One hundred years after the Wright brothers’ famous
flight, a new breed of entrepreneur is pushing new technologies
to their limits, turning science fiction into reality - Newsweek/MSNBC
- Sept.28.03 (via reader Centurian509).
BTW: A XCOR friend
points out that the article doesn't mention the EZ-Rocket, which
has been flying for two years, and that in fact the company is not
"totally broke." For example, see the recent news about
A reader also notes that the article reports on interesting action
on the suborbital regulatory front: Dennis Tito has hired a lobbyist
to work full time on getting FAA-AST
rather than the aviation section put in charge of the flights. Also,
AST will try to get its definition of suborbital spaceflight put
explicitly into its reauthorization legislation. The definition
requires that the spacecraft have more thrust than lift for a majority
of the powered phase of the flight and that it follows a suborbital
trajectory, which is defined as one whose instantaneous impact
point (IIP) does not leave the surface of the earth.
SpaceX Falcon customers... Elon
Musk has said that for several months that SpaceX
has two paying customers lined up for its first two launches but
he could not yet name them. Space News now reports
(link via Centurian509) that the first payload for the Falcon launcher
will be the TacSat-1 satellite from the [Navy - corrected from the
Air Force as originally reported. - Oct.3.03]. (I assume it's not
a restored TACSAT-1
from 1969!) The second customer is expected to be the Malaysian
Google hit: This Vandenburg
Base Bulletin (pdf)
announced a meeting on August 6th with a "special Falcon TACSAT-1
presentation by Gwen Gurevich of Space Exploration Technologies".
New briefs ... The latest
Armadillo update discusses progress with the mixed monopropellant
and legs for the full scale vehicle....
... More OSP: NASA
Presents New Space Taxi Designs - ABCNEWS.com - Sept.29.03
New brief ... Orbital Science
may also team up with Lockheed along with Northrop (see previous
item) on the OSP: Space
firms may team up - L.A. Daily News - Sept.26.03 (Link via spacetoday.net.)
The X PRIZE race... The reader
(Centurian509) who submitted this link - Private
space race nears its climax: Scaled Composites, Armadillo are favorites
to win $10 million prize in the next 9 to 12 months - AP/MSNBC -
Sept.26.03 - notes that it's nice to see more publicity for
the X PRIZE but the reporter leaps to some unexpected assertions:
"A MOJAVE DESERT airport in California has already been
approved for use as a launch pad for the suborbital missions."
"Federal officials said that the applications of the two
rocket teams [Scaled and Armadillo] have already been approved
by the FAA."
As far as I know, Mojave has only just
submitted its application to become a spaceport and only
for air-launched space vehicles. And I do believe that both teams
are still working and arguing with FAA-AST and/or FAA-AVR over the
regulation of their high-altitude flights. (If someone knows otherwise,
please let me know.)
XCOR pump progress... XCOR
reports on progress made in developing the piston fuel pump that
DARPA is funding: XCOR
Passes Major Milestone on DARPA Piston Pump Contract - XCOR - Sept.2.03
Rocket Man Blog reviews
the Black Armadillo and
includes comments from John Carmack.
Romanian rocket rollout... The
Romanian X PRIZE team ARCA
will rollout a 1:2.5 scale X PRIZE demonstrator rocket on Saturday
Presents Flight Test Hardware - X PRIZE - Sept.23.03. The hydrogen
peroxide monopropellant powered vehicle will begin flight tests
this fall and should reach about 9km altitude. In the Spring they
will go to a hybrid propulsion system of"hydrogen peroxide
70% as an oxidizer, in combination with polyethylene" that
will take the vehicle to 20km.
News brief ... The battle for
OSPork begins: Florida
vies to land builder of space plane: State vies against Alabama
vie for assembly plant - Florida Today - Sept.25.03
News brief... But which shape?
plane taking shape: in Huntsville NASA releases requirements, emphasizes
safety - Huntsville Times - Sept.24.03 (Link via spacetoday.net.)
And then there were two...
Space News reports that the Northrop-Grumman/Orbital Science team
in competition for the OSP has broken up. Northrop is apparently
trying now to team with Lockheed-Martin on its design, which will
compete with Boeing's: Northrop
Grumman, Lockheed Martin to Collaborate on Orbital Space Plane -
Space.com - Sept.25.03 * Likely
Bidder Pool for Orbital Space Plane Contract to Shrink- Space News
- Sept.24.03 (subscription required). Link via spacetoday.net....
plus a lot ... Rand Simberg explains how aerospace contracting
works to crank up the costs: Living
Down to Expectations - Transterrestrial Musings - Sept.24.03.
We can now watch Boeing and Lockmart play the system like they did
...Smiling anacondas ... This
plot, developed by XCOR intern Adrian Perez, shows that the
competition in the aerospace industry is not exactly getting stiffer.
The Pentagon pushed for this consolidation during the 1990s. Maybe
it helps with weapon systems but difficult to see how it will ever
lead to lower cost access to space.
eAc press release... Korey
Kline of eAc comments on the competition to provide the propulsion
system for SpaceShipOne:
Corp. (eAc) would like to thank Burt Rutan and the “Angel
Investor” for the opportunity to participate in this historic
attempt at civilian space flight. While we regret not being able
to play a more significant roll in this project, we are pleased
with the ground testing that was conducted and the selection of
our forward bulkhead assembly for use on SpaceShipOne. We have
the highest confidence that the SpaceShipOne team will successfully
place a civilian into space and open this frontier for everyone.
While the press coverage of the program has been significant,
one thing missing is a listing of the people who are making this
all possible. There are always a handful of dedicated engineers
that are directly responsible for making someone’s dream come
true. These engineers make things happen and are key with any
project of this significance. eAc would like to specifically congratulate
the winning propulsion team lead by Frank Macklin with engineering
support from Chris Grainger, Mike Veno, Jeff Hickerson, Harvey
Jewett. Good job guys, it was a close competition; prove to the
world that Hybrids are the best choice for civilian space applications!
eAc is a very small innovative company and is proud to have its
roots in the amateur/experimental rocketry world. eAc pioneered
the use of Nitrous as an oxidizer for Hybrid propulsion in 1989
and flew the first Hybrid sounding rocket “Hyperion” to a record
setting altitude in 1996. For eAc as a team, having been selected
as one of the two vendors in this competition was quite an honor.
We were successful in all ground firings, and exceeded all performance
requirements. To have competed to a near tie with a California-based
publicly-traded satellite manufacturer with four times the employees
and significantly greater resources, gives me great confidence
that space is no longer only the realm of big business. We participated
in this program because of our love of rockets and space travel,
not for market share, stock value or notoriety. We believe that
other grass roots teams of dreamers and builders will also have
a significant affect in the future of space flight. “We are truly
in the Wright Brothers’ days of Civilian Space flight”
Early in the program Scaled selected the eAc developed forward
bulkhead assembly. eAc has successfully designed and operated
simple and innovative Nitrous Oxide systems since 1994. Our bulkhead
design was based on these many test firings and flight experiences.
Scaled Composites was confident of the design and therefore readily
selected a single vendor for this sub-system. This assembly allows
the oxidizer tank to be filled, vented, and dumped remotely with
N2O in a lightweight reliable package. Along with our hearts and
dreams, we at least know that we have some small part in the historic
X-Prize attempts by SpaceShipOne. eAc will continue to innovate
new propulsion systems for future manned space travel and other
I would also like to thank the eAc team for giving a significant
part of their lives to this project for the past 24 months. Derek
Deville-Systems Integration and Ignition; Debbie Sifford- Project
Management; Alex Espinosa- Flight Motor Controller and Valve design;
Ed Ampuero-Bulkhead and Injector design. A special thanks to Kevin
Smith and Tom Bales for their futuristic vision and financial
backing to support eAc during this long program.
Korey R Kline
Vice President of R&D
NASA No, Startups Yes... Robert
Zimmerman discusses the failure of NASA to develop new vehicles
and its refusal to take advantage of the capabilities of private
no to NASA, yes to private companies - USA Today - Sept.24.03
Astronaut blasts OSP... Former
astronaut Don Peterson finds
no redeeming value in the OSP: The
Orbital Space Plane: NASA Racing On A Dead-End Street - Spaceref
- Sept. 23.03.
"because, (1) other than crew transport, the Orbital Space
Plane will not have a single capability that supports the goals,
missions, current activities or future plans that make the Human
Space Flight Program worthwhile, (2) it will not produce any new
technology or materials, (3) it will fly too late to meet the
most critical ISS needs, and (4) it will consume funds and workforce
resources that could be much better used elsewhere."
Instead of funding the OSP he wants a replacement that's as big
as the shuttle so it can "deliver large modules, new equipment
(augmentation for the life support system for example), replacements
for malfunctioning equipment, and needed quantities of expendables.
The Shuttle is also essential to ferry ISS experiments intact to
and from orbit."
So he wants NASA to keep the Shuttle running, along with extra
Soyuz vehicles, while NASA looks for "new technology and materials
that will be needed to develop a true Shuttle replacement system."
He also recommends "creation of a special ISS module that
would serve as a prototype 'Deep Space Vehicle' where integrated
[tests] of systems, technology, and procedures to support deep space
human flights ... could be conducted in the actual space environment."
OSP by 2010... But NASA aims
instead to accelerate the program: NASA
speeds effort to create space plane - Houston Chronicle - Sept.23.03
Ejection seats & escape pods for Shuttles
almost seem plausible after reading this article by Keith
Panel to NASA: Build a "Full Envelope" Shuttle Escape System - SpaceRef
- Sept.23.03. Of course, if the shuttles are sitting in museums
where they should be, escape systems really aren't necessary.
& JP Aerospace.. Jane's Defense Weekly notes work
on very high altitude platforms by JP
Aerospace, the startup that pursues rockoons, sounding rockets,
Air Force eyes 'near space' vehicle - Jane's - Sept.19.03 (Via
Files Online, which is managed by Alfred
Differ of JP Aerospace.)
Just what the OSP needs...
NASA completes a Level 2 review of the OSP design requirements:
Completes Orbital Space Plane Design Review - NASA - Sept.23.03
* OSP Level
2 Requirements Executive Summary (pdf). See also the Level
News briefs... Transportation
problems make things tougher for the spacecraft designer than the
submarine designer: Submersible
Hardware vs. Space Hardware - RocketMan - Sept.23.03
... More elevator stories:
Science Fiction: An Elevator to Space - NY Times - Sept.22.03
XCOR on Flight Fantastic.. The
third episode of Flight
Fantastic on the Travel
Channel includes XCOR
in its look at the future of flight. The show is scheduled for Saturday
Sept.27th at 8pm EST in the US. (Via a HS
Photo by Tony Richards
First liquid propellant
aerospike powered rocket flight!
The team of Garvey
Spacecraft and the students of the Cal
State Long Beach Aerospace Engineering Department launched an
aerospike powered rocket last Saturday. More info and pictures in
Rocketry News section and at CSULB/GSC
Team Conducts First Powered Liquid Propellant Aerospike Flight Test
- Eric Besnard
DARPA wants quick access... The
cover article of the latest Aviation Week gives an indepth review
of DARPA's various space launcher projects: Darpa
Pursues Quick, Low-Cost Access to Space - Aviation Week - Sept.21.03
News briefs... Jeff Foust continues
his review of space elevators: The
space elevator: going up? part 2 by Jeff Foust - The Space Review
- Sept.22.03 * Part1...
... Several sites have referenced
this summary of recent articles and commentaries on prospects for
near term space development and commercialization: Making
Space Work: 2 Missing Pieces - Winds of Change.NET - Sept.22.03
Reusable space capsule in 1966... Gerald
Nordley points out one
example of re-flying a space capsule in a discussion on the
mailing list about reusing space capsules. Apparently, the Gemini
capsules were, in fact, designed
X PRIZE visibility... While
it's hardly surprising that Alan Boyle has a X PRIZE article - And
the winning rocket is ... Alan Boyle's Cosmic Log - Sept.18.03
- it's nice to see mainstream media starting to pick up on it as
illustrated by this article - Space
flight could take private twist - The Times and Democrat (South
Carolina) - Sept.20.03 (via spacetoday.net).
Spacedev & the SS1 motor...
The company's statement on the SS1 contract: SpaceDvev's
Hybrid Rocket Propulsion Wins Scaled Composite's SpaceShipOne Motor
Contract - Sept.19.03
eAc fires hybrid with aerospike nozzle..
eAc may have missed out on the SS1 contract but they
have other business. See this item
in Advance Rocketry News.
hybrid motor test - larger
NASA's Dilemma... Rand Simberg
explains why the OSP cannot possibly reduce launch costs in this
Non-Innovator's Dilemma - Tech Central Station - Sept.19.03.
News briefs... Check out the
nice photos by Alan Radecki of the White
Knight/SS1 flights (via HS reader Centurion509)...
... Beamed powered conference
in Sendai, Japan this year: Second
International Symposium on Beamed Energy Propulsion - Oct.20-23,
... Not quite for orbit but
still kind of neat. This article reports on a laser delivering power
to a model plane via solar cells: NASA
experiments with laser-powered aircraft - Huntsville Times - Sept.19.03
... The Rocket
Man blogger, who works on rockets in his day
job, reviews the X
PRIZE and next week will begin reviewing individual X PRIZE
SpaceShipOne Propulsion Contract
Scaled Composites completes the development
phase for the SpaceShipOne rocket propulsion system and selects
a motor component vendor for the flight test phase.
Four years ago, Scaled conducted a study of rocket engine technologies
that were appropriate for its future manned sub-orbital spaceship
design. The results of this study were that a hybrid configuration
using nitrous oxide (liquid N2O) and HTPB (rubber) propellants
would likely provide the safest solution with operating characteristics
that would complement the intended mission.
In Jan 2000, Scaled defined a new integrated concept for the
hybrid motor that allowed the entire propulsion system to be mounted
to the spaceship by simple skirt flanges on the oxidizer tank.
This concept, which cantilevers the case and nozzle directly to
the tank, required an advanced all-composite design approach.
By early 2001, Scaled had committed to developing the two main
motor composite components in-house: The first is the nitrous
oxide tank, a composite liner laid up onto titanium flanges, with
a graphite over-wrap provided by Thiokol. The second is a unitized
fuel case/nozzle component fabricated using a high-temperature
composite insulator with a graphite/epoxy structure laid up onto
an ablative nozzle supplied by AAE Aerospace.
In mid 2001, Scaled awarded contracts to two competing small
businesses for the “rocket science”. Each company was independently
responsible for the development of the motor’s ignition system,
main control valve, injector, tank bulkheads, electronic controls,
fill/dump/vent systems and fuel casting. The vendors, Environmental
Aeroscience Corporation (eAc)
of Miami and SpaceDev
(SD) of San Diego, were also tasked with conducting the ground
firing tests of their motor systems in Scaled’s test facility
during the development phase.
In June 2002, Scaled selected eAc to supply the components at
the tanks’ front end: the nitrous fill, vent and dump system components
and associated plumbing. Both vendors continued the development
of all the other propulsion components.
The ground firing development program started in November 2002
with a 15 second run by the SpaceDev team and ended early this
month with a 90-second run by eAc. Both vendors demonstrated full
design-duration firings during the nine-month development phase.
All tests have exclusively used 100% flight hardware, with no
boilerplate components and both vendors’ motor systems met the
contracted performance. The tests validated the inherent safety
of hybrid type motors, with no instances of structural failure,
hot-gas breach, explosion or other anomaly that would have put
SpaceShipOne in jeopardy.
Because both teams were so closely matched, and since both have
developed satisfactory motors the process to select one of these
vendors to enter the motor qualification and flight test phase
was difficult. However, today, Scaled is pleased to announce that
it has awarded the contract for propulsion support for the SpaceShipOne
flight test phase to SpaceDev, of San Diego.
Scaled now looks forward to entering into the historic phase
of private manned space flight.
Scaled does not pre-announce the specific flight test plans for
the space program, however completed accomplishments are updated
as they happen at our website: www.scaled.com/projects/tierone/index.htm.
The website also provides downloadable photos and technical descriptions
of the rocket motor system and motor test hardware.
Another advanced amateur rocketry launch
this week. See this item
about the MARS shot at a UK/Europe team high altitude record this
week at Black Rock, Nevada.
Lifting OSP prospects ....
Dave Ketchledge sent this essay
about options for the OSP design starting with a look at the background
of spaceplane concepts and the Shuttle.
Nuclear transport ... If you
are in Houston, Texas on October 16th, check out the lecture
at the Rice Space Instituteby Franklin Chang-Diaz on his Variable
Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket Engine (VASIMR) propulsion
Spaceplane vs Capsule... This
article lays out the arguments against a horizontal takeoff/landing
design for the OSP (or OST - Orbital Space Transport): Designing
America's Next Taxpayer Funded Spaceship by Jeff Bell - SpaceDaily
Boston University aerospike project...
in Advanced Rocketry News about an aerospike motor developed,
built, and tested by students at Boston University.
RLVs - Reusable Lift Vehicles...
Jeff Foust offers an interesting review of the Space Elevator concept:
space elevator: going up? by Jeff Foust - The Space Review - Sept.15.03.
See also this article at Wired that includes a reference to Jordan
Kare and his criticism's of aspects of the concept: Critics
Jump on Space Elevator - Wired - Sept.16.03
Senate Roundtable on Suborbital Space
Flight tomorrow morning. This announcement from ProSpace.org:
The Space Roundtable at the United States Senate, announces the
10th in our series of programs. This event, titled Suborbital
Space Flight: The Premise and The Promise, will explore exciting
new developments in this field and their benefit to the nation
and our efforts in space. The program will be held on Tuesday,
September 16th at 8:30am.
View the live
broadcast of the Space Roundtable.(requires Real Video)
Roundtable Events Guide (16k PDF)
about SubOrbital Space Flight (550k PDF)
This program is sponsored by the Aerospace States Association
and will be moderated by that organization’s chair, the Honorable
Mary Fallin, Lt. Governor of Oklahoma. It will be hosted by Marc
Schlather, executive director of the Roundtable and president
of ProSpace. Senator Sam Brownback is the Sponsoring Chair, joining
the ten other members of the Senate who serve as Honorary Chairs
of the Roundtable.
Also participating in the program are:
Patricia Grace Smith, Assoc. Administrator for Space Trans.,
Jeff Greason, XCOR Aerospace
Dr. Steven Walker, DARPA
Troy Thrash, Futron Corporation
George French, Pioneer Rocketplane
James Muncy, PoliSpace
Brian Chase, National Space Society
The particulars for the program are as follows:
Date: Tuesday, September 16th Time: 8:30am
Location: Dirksen Senate Office Building, Room 192
For further information, please contact
Marc Schlather via email at: email@example.com.
Mojave Spaceport application...
The Mojave airport has submitted its environmental impact statement
for becoming a spaceport for horizontal takeoff & landing vehicles
(links via a HobbySpace reader):
Update: AST vs. AVR...Dan DeLong
has posted XCOR's
response to Mitch's proposition that AVR should be the predominate
regulator of suborbital spaceflight. Since Dan's posting won't be
available for awhile in the Google archive, you can see their postings
side by side here.
Mitchell Burnside Clapp of Pioneer
Rocketplane has opened an interesting discussion
over at sci.space.policy on the issue of whether suborbital vehicles
should fall under the regulatory regimes of the FAA's AST
(Commercial Space Transportation) or the FAA's AVR
(Aviation Regulation and Certification) sections.
NASA as a partner, not competitor...
Ken Schweitzer reminded me of his posting a few months ago at SpaceDaily
of the editorial NASA
As an Equity Partner (a shorter version of which was also
in the Space News print publication.) He suggests that NASA invest
in the startup launch companies as a way to obtain its space transportation
Upcoming aerospike launch...
John Garvey says that "plans are still on for the Prospector
2 flight test of the ablative aerospike engine this coming Saturday/Sunday
(20-21 September) out at the Mojave
Test Area. We only received a solid confirmation about the availability
of the launch site (and more specifically a launch rail) this past
weekend, so we are only now really gearing up for it."
More info about the aerospike project at Garvey
Spacecraft and Cal
State at Long Beach. See, for example, this
page with pictures of the engine and the vehicle.
This will be the first launch of a liquid fueled aerospike engine.
It's like running in deep white sands
to get through all the bureaucracy in this country.
Spaceport may have serious problems getting clearance from its
environmental review for rocket flights due to a significant number
of people now living on and near the former Air Force base. Armadillo
Aerospace therefore began to look at alternatives and considered
the White Sands
Missile Range to be a strong possibility. The latest update,
however, reports that things are not so simple there either:
"[WSMR isn't] really sure they want to be involved with
commercial manned rocket ships. We have some good supporters there,
but they consider flying something before the end of 2004 a 'very
aggressive schedule' just to get all the paperwork done. Cost
may also be an issue – a test taking full advantage of all the
range facilities, like tracking, telemetry, flight termination,
and other services, can cost $180,000 per test flight. That is
a lot more than our entire vehicle costs, so we clearly aren’t
interested at that level."
They may shift from parachute landing to powered landing since
one of WMSR's primary concerns is that under some worst case scenarios
the vehicle could drift for long distances while returning under
the main parachute.
"...Powered landing instead of parachute landing is still
where we want to go in the future, and we will probably do some
testing with it on the current vehicle. This is somewhat higher
in priority than it used to be, because getting flight clearance
for 100km turns out to be a lot easier if we don’t have to worry
about parachute drift. The downside is that it would be a lot
scarier for the pilot."
Get a business to LEO & you're halfway
to a million... The Robert
A. and Virginia Heinlein Prize for Accomplishments in Commercial
Space Activities will provide a "cash award of $500,000
to an individual or individuals for practical accomplishments in
the field of commercial space activities. The establishment of the
Heinlein Prize and details of its application process will be announced
at the 54th International Astronautics Federation Congress in Bremen,
Germany on Monday, September 29, 2003."
Sci-Fi consultant... I came
across this item My
Relationship to Blue Origin LLC by Neal Stephenson. From what
he says on his home
page, I don't think you should bother asking Mr. Stephenson
for more details.
Space act: just a wish list or a step
in the right direction?... A reader wrote in to point
out that the H.
R. 3057 "Space Exploration Act of 2003", Rep. Lampson - Spaceref
- Sept.12.03. mentioned on Sept.
12.03 does not provide any funding for the RLVs and other
projects that it lists. He states that the bill, which was also
introduced in 2002, is not an appropriations bill but just "an
authorization bill. Everyone on the Hill knows that it is worthless
and does nothing except placate constituents by making it appear
that something is doing something."
My response is that the bill is still a worthwhile effort.
The wording of the act is quite explicit that it is just setting
long term goals for NASA and not giving it money. I also know about
the history of this bill and similar ones (see Space
Legislation in the Activism section for a listing of
various proposed space legislation.)
The fact that it's getting more attention this year... continues
in the feedback section
SpaceX progress ... The
SpaceX update for
August came in the email Friday (not yet posted on their website
as of the moment). The highlights include:
- The turbo-pump for the first stage Merlin engine successfully
reached full power and shaft rpm. They tested it for a full duty
cycle of 180 seconds and it passed with "flying colors".
See the video
of a pump test.
- They want "Merlin to be the best performing engine of its
class (LOX/Kerosene, GG cycle turbo-pump)" ever made and
they will continue to refine and tune the system. In particular,
they want to improve the LOX flow in the turbo-pump.
- "Development and testing of the thrust vector control (TVC)
system that steers the main engine is now complete." See
the cool video
of the hydraulics moving the mass simulator at very high speeds.
It has to move the whole engine several times per second since
the rocket is dynamically unstable.
- With the turbopump and TVC testing done, and also the completion
of the thrust chamber assembly, they have now cleared the major
hurdles on all three subsystems of the Merlin engine."
- The next big milestone will involve "integrating those
three subsystems together and attaching Merlin to the Falcon stage
1 primary flight structure". This will lead to a "first
stage hold-down flight simulation firing in late October or early
November", which would be "as close to an actual launch
as the vehicle will get before the real thing."
Rocket shows... John Carmack
about the X Prize Cup concept that Peter Diamandis wants to pursue
after the X PRIZE is won. I agree that it will be difficult to come
up with interesting competitions among so many different vehicle
designs and approaches. I would argue more for the air
show approach promoted by Ed Wright, where having lots of different
vehicles makes an exhibition that much more interesting and compelling
I don't think we will soon see FAA-AST giving X PRIZE class vehicles
permission to launch at state fairs. However, gathering a group
of vehicles at a coastal spaceport such as Cape Canaveral could
probably be done in a manner that keeps spectators at a safe distance
but close enough to get a decent view of launches and landings.
Regardless of the arguments over horizontal vs vertical designs
with regards to performance, I think Vertical-TakeOff-and-Landing
vehicles would easily win the sexiest of the show award. That's
the way people expect rockets to fly after seeing all those sci-fi
Just imagine how spectacular a night launch and powered landing
SS1 engine tests... Leonard
David reports on a full duration test on Sept.4th by eAc
of the company's rocket that is in competition with Spacedev
for the SS1 propulsion system: Hybrid
Rocket Motor for X Prize Entry SpaceShipOne Tested - Space.com -
Senate OSP skeptics... The
Senate appropriations Committee has doubts about NASA's programs
1584 [Report No. 108-143], FY 2004 NASA Excerpts, Senate Appropriations
Committee - Spaceref - Sept.12.03. Unfortunately, this doesn't
lead them to recommend privately developed RLVs.
The Committee understands that the role of the OSP is to provide
a crew return capability from the ISS by approximately 2010. Once
this occurs, it will then evolve into a complement to the Shuttle
for taking crew into space, and will enable a transition path
to future reusable launch vehicle systems. It is expected that
the OSP program will provide the opportunity to support crew transport
to and from space by 2012. It is clear to the Committee that some
type of vehicle will be necessary to supplement the aging Shuttle
fleet, and that such a vehicle should be made available as quickly,
and as safely as possible.
The Committee is skeptical that the OSP is the only approach
for NASA to move astronauts to and from the ISS. As previously
noted, the ISS is currently being serviced, and crews are being
transferred using Russian vehicles. This technology has been employed
by NASA for a number of missions, and the ISS has relied on these
vehicles since the Columbia tragedy and we continue to expect
to rely on these Russian vehicles at least for the near term.
Therefore, NASA should not limit itself to RLV technology alone,
but should also explore other future options for servicing the
ISS in light of the loss of Columbia.
The Committee does not want to repeat the mistakes of the Space
Station, where poor management and lack of independent oversight
resulted in major cost overruns, to occur with the Orbital Space
Plane. Therefore, the Committee directs the Administrator to create
an independent oversight committee, modeled after the International
Space Station Management and Cost Evaluation Task Force, to examine
the design, technology readiness and cost estimates for the Orbital
RLVs for the L1/L2, the Moon, and beyond...
A reader notes the laudable goals in the act introduced
by Nick Lampson (D-Texas) - H.
R. 3057 "Space Exploration Act of 2003", Rep. Lampson - Spaceref
- Sept.12.03. Among other things, the act instructs NASA to
develop several types of reusable vehicles capable of deep space
access. I agree with the reader that this might work "IF NASA
would just let true private competition determine the resulting
vehicles without their usual over-specification and microcontrol!"
The act does, though, encourage NASA to use competitions:
COMPETITIONS- The Administrator shall establish a process for
conducting competitions for innovative, cost-efficient mission
concepts to accomplish each of the goals stated in subsection
(a). The competitions shall be open to entities or consortia from
industry, academia, nongovernmental research organizations, National
Aeronautics and Space Administration Centers, and other governmental
organizations. Mission concepts may include the provision of a
commercial item or service sufficient to accomplish all or part
of the relevant goal. Mission concepts that include international
participation and cost-sharing shall be encouraged.
Flight as a feather... Scaled
has posted a couple more images
from the recent SpaceShipOne
drop test, including this sequence
from a video showing the feather
RASCAL info... I haven't checked
the Space Launch Corp
website for awhile and I see they now have more details on their
project than the last time I looked. They won the Phase II contract
last March to do an 18
month design study of the air launched, small payload orbital
delivery system. The goal is the capability to put a 75-kilogram
payload into a 500-kilometer sun-synchronous orbit at a cost of
$750,000 per launch. And they should be able to do it again within
They will have to build a whole new aircraft that uses Mass
Injection Pre-Compressor Cooling (MIPCC) to enhance the turbofan
engines. It will need this extra boost to allow it to reach an altitude
of 200kft (61km) where it will release a 2 stage rocket as shown
in this mission
stages diagram. The RASCAL
Overview and Facts
pages only show a generic looking cartoon for the aircraft. I couldn't
find a detailed design drawing. The rocket will use a hybrid first
stage and a solid second stage.
If the Phase II study is deemed successful, Phase III would proceed
with construction of the system, test flights in 2005, and first
orbital launch in 2006. The total cost of the program I believe
is around $90M.
Nanosat apps... Speaking of
small satellites, Jeff Foust discusses a possible "killer app"
for small sats like those that RASCAL will launch. In
satellites Is the inspection and servicing of spacecraft the killer
app for smallsats?
- Space Review - Sept.9.03 he reports on projects that involve
sending small sats to rendesvous with large satellites for inspection,
reboost, and other tasks.
Zubrin promotes Shuttle Z ...
Robert Zubrin urges that NASA go with a capsule OSP for passenger
launch and build an unmanned heavy lifter out of the shuttle system.
"Shuttle Z, analyzed by NASA and the Martin Marietta company
in the late 1980's, [would be] capable of launching 120 tonnes to
Earth orbit or sending payloads in the 40 to 50 tonne class on direct
trajectories to the Moon or Mars." Convert
the Shuttle - Mars Society - Sept.10.03 * SDV
on Capitol Hill - Marsblog - Sept.10.03
News briefs ... Time Magazine
looks at a possible Apollo capsule redux: A
Return to Apollo? Searching for alternatives to the Space Shuttle,
NASA looks back to an old friend - TIME - Sept.2.03 (via Slashdot)....
... Some of the other X PRIZE
projects could learn from the blue
haired Starchasers and their project's energetic public outreach
Chuting Rockets... The Canadian
Arrow X PRIZE project has suggested spacediving
as a possible high altitude sport that manned suborbital vehicles
could support. Others are also looking into similar possibilties.
Tonyi Rusi of American Astronautics, for example, sent me a link
to this Russian project - First
stage - Shuttlecock First stage - Jump from outer space. Their
"inflatable brake device", which acts in a similar way
as a badminton shuttlecock, would provide a person a safe re-entry
from high altitudes (or even from orbit) down to an altitude where
a parachute could be opened for landing. This could be used for
deliberate jumps or as an emergency rescue system.
Lower altitude rocket schemes are also under development. Rusi
also tells me that American Astronautics is working on "a system
called SCRAMS that can rocket propel a human being from the ground
to 15,000 ft." Brian Walker, aka Rocket
Guy, during a recent interview
on the Space Show discussed plans to develop his first generation
into an alternative to planes for carrying skydivers to typical
jump altitudes. He believes that a multi-passenger version could
be competitive with planes and certainly offer a more thrilling
Space diaries ... John Carmack
will now post regular entries about Armadillo Aerospace developments
in a diary
page at Frontier Files
Online (maintained by the Space
Frontier Foundation.) In the latest Armadillo
update, he says that he gets "a lot of useful suggestions
from people by email, but it will probably be interesting to let
everyone publicly discuss Armadillo technical issues, and my replies
to specific comments will probably be of interest to more people
than just the comment author."
Al Differ of JP
Aerospace is also maintaining a diary
on that organization's projects. (This is good since the JP site
is seldom updated.)
$200 Million OSP rides... Craig
Covault reports on ground tests of the first Delta IV Heavy: First
Boeing Delta IV Heavy Candidate to Launch the OSP Is Assembled for
Tests - Aviation Week - Sept.7.03 . The vehicle can put "50,000
lb. in low-Earth orbit and nearly 30,000 lb. into geosynchronous-transfer
orbit. Once fully stacked and loaded with propellant, the vehicle
will stand 235 ft. tall and weigh more than 1.6 million lb."
And all that hardware gets thrown away for each flight to put 4
people on the ISS.
"The Delta IV Heavy's payload capability is somewhat greater
than the Lockheed Martin Titan IVB/Centaur. But at under $200 million
[per flight], the major benefit of the Delta IV Heavy is its much
greater reliability with less complex processing at only about half
of Titan's cost." Gosh, such progress...
XCOR Library ... XCOR has posted
Reference Library, which is an expanded version of Jeff Greason's
recommended reading list mentioned at the recent Space Access Society
meeting. It's divided into several categories of topics related
to RLV development such as Rocket Engine Design, Aircraft Design:
Sonic boom reduction... Speaking
of aircraft design, looks like there is progress in mitigating sonic
Opens New Chapter in Supersonic Flight - NASA Langley- Sept.4.03.
(Rand Simberg gave a talk a few years ago at a Space Access Society
meeting about this subject, though I don't know if this test involves
the techniques he discussed.)
More about the program in these links:
News briefs ... This kind of
utilization of commercial transportation is what NASA should do
more of (or entirely) : NASA
Selects Commercial Space Ride For Technology Experiment - NASA -
... Haven't tried them but
apparently the Orbiter freeware space simulator now includes some
"addon" modules for the X-20 Dynasoar, HopeX, X-34 &
News briefs ... USA Today offers
an intersting article on IT moguls pursuing space projects at Star-gazing
tech titans put money where dreams are - USATODAY.com - Sept.3.03
and lists short bios of several moguls at Tech
execs blast off - USATODAY.com - Sept.3.03 (via Spacetoday.net)
... Leonard David on the SS1
test : Testing
Continues for Scaled Composites' SpaceShipOne - Space.com - Sept.3.03
... The Space
Frontier Foundation - Space Frontier Conference XII, in Los
Angeles, California, on Oct. 10 - 12, 2003, will focus on the new
space transportation companies....
... Support your favorite
RLV company by shopping at their on
line shops such as the new da
Vinci Project Store. ...
... Michael Mealling at Rocketforge
campaigns for a new King
SS1 getting towed back home after its second drop test on Aug.27,
in which it executed the feathering maneuver. (Photo courtesy
Scaled tests SS1 feathering...
did another drop
test of the SpaceShipOne
last Wednesday (Aug.27th) that included "commanding the full
feathered mode (65 deg wing/tail jackknife)." Falling from
an altitude of 43k feet down to 30k feet, the "[o]bservers
in the chase Starship were treated to a closeup bizarre view of
the spaceship plunging downward in a rock-stable near vertical feathered
descent." Several other maneuvers were executed successfully
during the eventful flight.
Videos of the flight will be shown at the annual Society
of Experimental Test Pilots (SETP) symposium in Los Angeles
An alternative approach ...
Just for the fun of it, I outline below how I would reform the space
program if I were declared King of NASA:
- Stop the Shuttle program and send the remaining vehicles to
- Cancel the OSP program.
- $3 billion bought no more than six Shuttle flights a year.
Below I list how I would spend this money in units of Space Shuttle
Equivalent => $SE = $500M.
- 1.0 $SE => For an interim period, contract for more Soyuz
and Progress vehicles to serve the ISS. (The President is
allowed to circumvent legislative restrictions on purchases
of Russian hardware by declaring the action a response to
- Keep 2 Soyuz vehicles docked to allow for 6 crew members
on board the station for at least a couple of months at
- 0.5 $SE => contract for a RLV system to provide 5 cargo
deliveries and retrievals to/from the ISS per year starting
in 2006. The deal would last for three years. Presumably Kistler
would win this contract but it would be open to other bidders.
- If deliveries start before August 2006, a bonus of up
to 0.5 $E would be awarded depending on how many months
before that date the launches begin.
- 0.5 $SE - goes towards a "revitalized"
suborbital science program as recommended by the
National Academy of Science but with an emphasis on the use
of suborbital RLVs for frequent and routine flights. This
would provide great science and also give the nascent suborbital
RLV industry a substantial financial basis on which to build
while the potentially much larger market in space tourism
- 1.0 $SE => a program to award contracts for science and
technology research with small satellites and deep space probes
built by universities, reseach institutes, and companies.
This would include data purchases from private missions such
as TransOrbital's TrailBlazer
- 0.5 $SE of this goes to bulk purchases of launches by
small, low cost vehicles that can put ~700kg into LEO.
This would include, say, 50 launches per year at $5M per
launch split among two or three companies such as SpaceX
- 1.0 $SE => to NASA for X vehicle projects to develop
and test particular launch technologies (but not intended
to lead to operational vehicles.)
- 1.0$SE => to NASA to develop innovative space technologies
to support eventual large scale space settlement such as rotating
free-flyers for testing artificial gravity and minimal mass
shielding designs for radiation exposure reduction. (The ISS
science emphasis would shift towards this priority as well.)
- 1.0$SE => expanded development of deep space transports
for access to the Moon, Mars and asteroids.
For 2008 a contract for 2.0$SE per year for three years would be
awarded to the company that can provide transportation to and from
the ISS for 24 people, e.g. 6 flights with 4 passengers each.
The rest of the human spaceflight budget would go towards NASA's
new long term focus on the development of lunar and Mars bases and
large scale habitats in space.
[Update: If you would like to comment on this outline, I'd suggest
doing it here
at Rand Simberg's weblog.
It will be awhile before I have time to set up RLV News as a real
blog that allows for easy commenting.]
News brief... Jeff Foust expands
on his earlier article at SpaceEquity.com : Is
there a business case for RLVs? by Jeff Foust - Space Review - Sept.2.03
News briefs... The latest Armadillo
Aerospace update reports on progress in obtaining hydrogen peroxide,
in building a spring loaded parachute launcher, and in other areas
... The OSP by 2008: NASA
Plans Light Craft for Space Trips - AP/RedNova - Aug.31.03
Show programs related
to space transportation include an interview on Sept. 7th at 12-1:30pm
PDT with John Cserep, the Chairman of the Message and Policy Committee
and an Advocate for the Space
Frontier Foundation , who will discuss the SFF's policy towards
the Orbital Space Plane.
On Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2003, Dr. Space will interview Tim Pickens,
a RLV and space engineering consultant.
recent programs now available in the archive include
with Pat Kelly of Vela
Technology on August 10th who talked about various issues related
to building a suborbital space tourism business such as obtaining
Andrews of Andrews
Space & Technology on August 5th discussed his companies
projects and studies related to commercial space development....
Allison of the Huntsville
Alabama L5 Society (HAL5) discussed on July 29th the group's
amateur advanced rocketry projects.
to August 2003