NASA budgets for startups according
to Space.com: NASA
Seeks $16.2 Billion; Cuts Shuttle, Station, Next Generation Launch
Tech Programs - Space.com - Jan.30.04.
"The space station budget request also includes $10 million
in new funding for 'a flight demonstration initiative to pursue
launch services with emerging launch systems.' Industry and government
sources said that money is earmarked for start-up firms such as
Kistler Aerospace and Space Exploration Technologies."
Gosh, 10 whole million. Hope they do better than that.
News brief... NASA may swallow
its pride and do the sensible thing: Shuttle's
role as taxi may end: If Soyuz ferries crews, orbiter astronauts
could finish up ISS - Florida Today - Jan.29.04
More Rocket Company... Learn
about space suit choices, air supply, and low cost space toilets:
15: Webb Suit, Hard Suit, Space Suit
Japan space upgrade... Japan
is reviewing its space program and may go for a manned system: Manned
space mission on agenda - Daily Yomiuri - Jan.31.04 . Note the
item at the bottom about " cone-shaped rockets that can take
off and land vertically", referring to the RVT
project. Hope this results in some money for Prof.
News briefs... The CEV program
has been named Project Constellation: Flight
of the Constellation - MSNBC - Alan Boyle: Cosmic Log - Jan.30.04
... Mojave area getting an
aerospace college: City
helps launch aerospace school - AV Press - Jan.30.04 (via a
HS reader from Mojave)
Another X PRIZE team... The
Seattle based Space
Transport Corp. officially became an X
PRIZE Team this week. They plan to compete with their Rubicon
vehicle. They are currently working on some high altitude sounding
an '"amateur-category' three-stage rocket, was successfully flown
to 72 km in November of 2003. A follow-up flight is in the works
and to be completed before the end of February, this time with
a camera aboard to show the world the view from high altitude."
News briefs... Boeing's RS-88
engine passed some recent tests: Boeing
Successfully Tests New Engine for NASA Program - Boeing - Jan.29.04
- RS-88 (via spacetoday.net).
It will be used for Lockheed Martin's Pad
Abort Demonstration (PAD) vehicle, scheduled for launch in late
... Some interesting info about
nanotube developments with respect to space elevators:
Elevator - ScienCentral - Jan.29.04 (via spacetoday.net).
WSJ on space tourism... Todays
edition of the Wall Street Journal has an excellent article on space
tourism. Unfortunately, the Travel's
Final Frontier Government Begins to Outline Rules on Space Tourism,
With Trips as Soon as 2007 - WSJ - Jan.29.04 requires a subscription.
(Tip about the article via John
The article emphases the development of regulations for carrying
passengers the suborbital vehicles. Says that the FAA plans
"... to require training programs for crew members, and
firms will have to disclose the safety history of various spacecraft.
Flights over international waters and foreign territory may be
banned, at least in the early stages."
Composites and Armadillo
"At the forefront of the space-travel groundbreakers is
Jeff Greason, president of Xcor Aerospace, the first private rocket
firm expected to get a green light for a series of experimental
flights. Mr. Greason, who is still trying to raise $8 million
to $10 million to back his project, says he may conduct more than
50 tests before accepting passengers, and expects to start test-flying
this summer. With so many people itching to go, Mr. Greason argues,
some are ready to accept a higher level of risk to slip the earth's
gravitational bonds. 'Let passengers decide what's safe enough.'"
Nice to see these kinds of articles nowadays that treat space tourism
and suborbital programs in serious, matter-of-fact tones.
Hearing alternate views on space...
Greg Klerkx's new book, Lost in Space: The Fall of NASA and the
Dream of a New Space Age (Amazon
commission link) is receiving considerable attention.
In this Newsweek interview - How
to Fix NASA: A critic with a new book says the space agency needs
an overhaul - MSNBC - Jan.28.04 - he makes some interesting
points about the new space initiative, NASA, and the startup space
"...Can NASA do this? Do they have the technical expertise?
Do they have the organizational system in place? If you consider
the shuttle and space-station programs, it doesnít look good.
Both have been consistently mismanaged. And from what Iím reading
about how NASA is beginning to shape the new initiative, it looks
like the same players and the same way of doing business..."
"...If there is one large philosophical flaw in the Bush
plan, it is that by revisiting the kind of vision and the kind
of process that drove Apollo, you can revitalize NASA and revive
interest in human space flight. As long as people are only spectators,
they will lose interest very quickly...."
"..Backing out of the space shuttle and the space station
may be the best thing that comes out of this plan. The space shuttle
is absolutely a dangerous, unreliable and costly vehicle. If I
had control of that project, I would make sure it never flew again..."
"[The X PRIZE flights] will definitely pique public interest.
Appetite would follow only if companies quickly use the winner
as a template for vehicles that start launching more people for
reasonable cost, and with reasonable assurances of safety. Obviously,
any fatal catastrophe wouldn't help the cause, but as long as
companies providing such services were clearly seen as paying
close attention to safety, even fatal accidents could be overcome
as they were in the early days of aviation."
News briefs ... Senate hearing
on the space initiative: Tumlinson
to Testify on Bush Space Policy at Senate Hearing - Space Frontier
Foundation - Jan.26.04....
... Shuttle derived vehicles
under discussion: NASA:
Shuttle may be reborn as rocket - Florida Today - Jan.27.04
... Going for a fall launch
Says It Is Progressing on Fall Shuttle Launching - NY Times - Jan.28.04
shuttle flight needs lots of work - Washington Times - Jan.28.04
The Hyper-X captive carry test took
place yesterday afternoon at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center
on Edwards Air Force Base in Mojave: Second
X-43 Takes a Ride Under the B-52 - DRFC - Jan.26.04. (Link via
reader C. Wilkinson)
News briefs ... Peter
Diamandis, Jeff Greason (XCOR),
and Brian Feeny (da
Vinci) are interviewed in this audio report: Space
Tourism Race Heats Up - NPR - Jan.26.04. It's mostly positive,
though the reporter seems unclear on the concept of suborbital vs.
orbital spaceflight. ...
... The shuttle program shortcomings
explored in this article: Has
the Shuttle Become NASA's '76 Dart? - NY Times - Jan.26.04
... More on the upcoming Hyper-X
X-43A to make maiden flight - The Tullahoma (Tennessee) News - Jan.26.04
Armadillo prepares prototype...
In the latest update from John Carmack - Vehicle
hot firing - Armadillo Aerospace - Jan.25.04 - he reports that
they have now assembled the full sized prototype vehicle that will
carry out hover and low altitude flight tests. They did a brief
set of engine tests over the weekend:
"...It was late, and there are several little glitches we
need to address, so we called it a night. We will be repeating
this next week when we can go through the entire process several
time. Once we have everything working perfectly, we will head
out for the captive hover test."
... I've had a report in preparation on the back burner
for several months that looks at the applications of manned suborbital
RLVs in science. As they have since the start of the space age,
sounding rockets are used in many areas of science such as astronomy,
magnetosphere studies, solar observations, microgravity, atmospheric
studies, tests and calibration of instruments intended for spacecraft.
It seems obvious that vehicles that could be used much more frequently
and for much lower costs that expendable rockets would be a boon
for scientific applications.
Unfortunately, I've had a big problem getting responses back from
scientists that I've contacted to ask if such vehicles could benefit
their work. One exception was Dan
Durda of the Southwest
Research Institute who was extremely enthusiastic about such
vehicles and how they could be used for his projects, particularly
the search for asteroids whose orbits lie inside that of Mercury
(call Vulcanoids.) For this work the observations need to be made
above the atmosphere so that they can look for the objects in the
UV spectrum. This article - Elusive
Vulcanoids: Search Reaches New Heights - Space.com - Jan.26.04
- describes a recent sounding rocket flight carrying a Vulcanoid
search experiment. It also reports on how he and SwRI director Alan
Stern are very interested in suborbital RLVs for future work.
(See also SwRI(r)
Suborbital Science Payload Gets the Goods on Mercury, Searches for
Vulcanoids - SwRI - Jan.23.04 for more about the Vulcanoid search.)
Note that while Burt Rutan has indicated that he has no intention
of commercializing the SS1, he said that following the X PRIZE missions
he would like to carry out a series of high altitude flights to
prove that such routine operations are feasible. Since there will
be no passengers on board, it would seem like a good opportunity
for some scientists to try to convince him to take along their experiments
in place of 200kg or so of ballast.
News brief ... Aviation Week
reports on the effects of the new space initiative on vehicle development
at NASA: NASA
Shifts Gears for New Space Initiative - Aviation Week - Jan.25.04
News briefs ... Additional
info on the selection of sites for the X PRIZE Cup in this press
PRIZE foundation selects florida and new mexico as finalists for
host of annual international space races - X PRIZE - Jan.21.04
... More about the upcoming
Hyper-X flight: NASA's
Second Hyper-X Ready for Captive Carry Test - Space.com - Jan.23.04
... The kind of science work
that a suborbital RLV might do (but a lot more often and more cheaply):
mission looks at Mercury, seeks Vulcanoids - Spaceflight Now - Jan.23.04
The Rocket Company... Flying
the simulator and reviewing the intricacies of GNC in Chapter
14: Guidance, Navigation, and Control.
Boeing's Crew Exploration...
Boeing has posted artwork showing its "Crew Exploration System",
which it would like to see become NASA's Crew Exploration Vehicle
system. See the photos with captions listed at Photo
Releases and these thumbnails.
(My thanks to reader Nathan Rogers for these links.)
News briefs ... The lack of
shuttle rides to the ISS will have big impact on the plans of the
ISS partners: Shuttle
clouds station's future - BBC - Jan.22.04
update... The latest status report arrived this afternoon
(posting on the SpaceX web site will come in a few days.) Jonathan
Goff generously provided the following summary of the highlights:
- General Stuff:
- The Falcon I unveiling and Falcon V announcement were discussed
- Both Falcon I and Falcon V prices are based on a worst-case
that the 1st stage can't be reused after flight, but if they
are reusable, Musk
mentioned the prices of both would be slightly decreased.
- He also mentioned that due to the fact that most of the
hardware for the
Falcon V is already completed, their goal of a flight mid
2005 is fairly likely to happen.
- Elon mentioned that the Falcon V is *not* the Heavy lift
intend to develop eventually, but is merely their Medium lift
to compete with Delta II, and with the low end Atlas V and
Delta IV launches. They are planning on developing an even
bigger first stage engine, and using the Merlin and Kestrel
engines as upper stage systems.
- Elon also mentioned that the ~9250lb payload estimate for
the Falcon V is
a deliberate underestimate like they did on the Falcon I.
My personal feeling
is that the improvement likely won't be as big as it was with
Falcon I as they
have more data to base that estimate on, but we'll see.
- Also, Elon stated the goal of getting Falcon V prices below
within the a few years of operations.
- Two of the main turbopump life-issues are now ironed out
- There is still work being done on the LOX impeller, but
working on two possible solutions
- They're shooting for a hold-down test sometime in late February
- They're hiring experienced turbomachinery engineers, with
finders fee for anyone that can find someone qualified.
- They're trying to hire enough propulsion engineers to have
propulsion teams working at the same time, instead of just
- They're going to test a modified Merlin engine to see if
they can up
the efficiency a bit more.
- One of their subcontractors had some work that didn't meet
requirements, so they are having it cut out and replaced,
but structure should be ready for hold-down test in February.
- Their vertical test facility has been plumbed and wired,
with significant renovations now completed.
- Several components were finished in December
- They have 7 different methods they'll be using to track
where the 1st stage lands
- The recovery system is now built and ready--it fits in the
interstage section and includes a 75' diameter parachute.
- If recovery is succesful and the economic works out to justify
it, customers should see a modest decrease in flight prices
sometime down the road.
Armadillo tests... In a posting
at sci.space.policy, John Carmack lays out the group's general
approach and plans for this year. Engine tests and then flight tests
"We are probably going to be hot-firing all the engines
on the vehicle this weekend. If that goes well, then weather permitting,
we will do a captive hover test next week, followed by a free
flight at constant velocity, followed by accelerating flights,
followed by launch-license-limit propellant loads. If everything
went perfectly, that would be March, but things never do go perfectly."
PRIZE Cup hosts... Will we be singing Witnesses'
Waltz at Cape
Canaveral or White
Sands as we watch the X
PRIZE rockets fly? Florida,
New Mexico square off to host X Prize Cup - Florida Today - Jan.22.04
News briefs ... Mitchell Clapp
posted a link on sci.space.policy to a paper he wrote several years
on ago on the advantages of kerosene/LOX propulsion over LH2/LOX:
LO2/Kerosene SSTO Rocket Design" by Mitchell Burnside Clapp
- Google - Feb.2.97 ...
... An article from December
about the da
Vinci X PRIZE project: Rocket-Balloon
Combo- First Private Spaceship? - Nat. Geographic News - Dec.16.04
will do a captive carry test in preparation for its powered flight
on Feb. 21, 2004: Captive
Carry Test Prepares NASA For Next Hyper-X - NASA - Jan.21.04
NASA's budget gets bigger,
the OSP ends, X-37 will do drop tests, the Shuttle ends in 2010,
CEV begins who knows when: Bush
Wants Bigger NASA Budget, Official Says - NY Times - Jan.22.04
* NASA details
new space goals to staff - MSNBC - Jan.21.04
News briefs ... The Shuttle
Return to Flight
Task Group has issued an Interim
Report - Return to Flight Task Group - Jan.20.04 and says there's
plenty more work to do: Advisory
Group Says NASA Isn't Ready to Resume Shuttle Flights - NY Times
- Jan.21.04. ...
... Meanwhile, engines tests
Engines Reach for Million Second Milestone - Space.com - Jan.21.04
with Yoshifumi Inatani - leader
of the Japanese RVT
(Reusable Vehicle Testing) Project, which has successfully flown
a prototype LH2/LOX powered RLV in a series of low altitude flights.
Now in its third configuration, the RVT vehicle has tested technologies
and operational techniques that practical suborbital and orbital
RLVs will need.
Armadillo tests ... John Carmack
reports on significant progress with their engine development: Big
thrust gains - Armadillo Aerospace - Jan.18.04. He says: "This
combination is more than what we needed for flying the vehicle,
so we started building a full ship-set of engines in this style.
With any kind of luck, we will be hot-firing the complete vehicle
Fuel depot economics... Tom
Hill proposes orbiting water-to-fuel depots as a way to reduce the
cost of deep space missions and also to encourage development of
cheaper launch systems that supply the depots: Let's
add a wrinkle...by Tom Hill - The Space Review - Jan.19.04 *
Supply Depots by Tom Hill - AIAA paper.
The selection of a CEV design promises to be contentious: A
spaceship is much easier to propose than to produce - USATODAY.com
Rocket Company Chapter
13 looks at design reviews, prototyping, and the landing
News brief ... Time gives a
blurb about private space travel: Space
Biz: So you want to be an astronaut? - TIME Magazine - Jan.18.04
News briefs ... Congressman
Dave Weldon (R-Fla.) pushes for Apollo capsule approach to CEV:
Wants Capsule-Shaped Replacement for Shuttle - Space.com - Jan.16.04
... Old rocket engine stand
from the Apollo era at Edwards renovated: Huge
Rocket Component Test Stand Completed (2A) - CSA - Jan.14.04
News briefs... Agreeing to
give up the shuttle was traumatic for NASA. For more about the development
of the new space initiative and how cutting the shuttle was a key
component, read: Beyond
the Moon: Inside Bush's space plan (part 2 of 3) by Frank Sietzen
Jr. and Keith L. Cowing - SpaceRef - Jan.16.04....
Adams suggests NASA could benefit from the X PRIZE and
other private projects - It
Doesn't Take a Rocket Scientist by Constance Adams - Popular Science
- Feb.04 issue (More discussion of the article in the Space
... Meanwhile, it sounds like
no other company needs to bother applying for the CEV work: OSP
Contractors To Begin Working On CEV Requirements, NASA Says - Aviation
Week - Jan.16.04. ...
... Jeff Greason of XCOR
speculates about the CEV design in this sci.space.policy
... Marshall wonders about
its role in the new space program: Huntsville
space plane program to change course: No information yet as to effect
on local jobs, officials say - Huntsville Times - Jan.15.04
... Still don't have a real
web log setup with a comments section (maybe somethine this year.)
In the meantime, I'll post a selection of feedback
comments here. (If you send me a message and don't want
it posted or not have your name included, let me know.)
Military & commercial villians ...
Here I've been blaming NASA for its numerous launch vehicle
development failures such as the X-33, X-34, X-38, etc. According
to Kathy Sawyer - Visions
of Liftoff, Grounded in Political Reality By Kathy Sawyer - Washington
Post - Jan.15.04 - the real problem is just that NASA hung around
with the wrong crowds:
"...development of such a vehicle [CEV] might be taken out
of NASA hands and given to the military or done in partnership
with the commercial sector -- a course that has led to multiple
costly failures in the past with such experimental projects as
the National Aerospace Plane and the X-33."
Rand Simberg points
out that this assertion is not true. The companies involved
in the X-33 and X-34 were just contractors working for NASA. The
agency wasn't helping the companies develop commercial systems.
Even if it were true, there could be many other reasons those programs
Besides, the X-38 did not involve either commercial companies or
the military and NASA still managed to screw it up. Even if technically
it was doing OK, after spending several hundred million dollars
and then just dropping the program, this certainly shows some serious
I would also add that even if Pegasus and EELV aren't the most
ideal launch systems, the military did manage to get them launched.
In addition, the military did an excellent job with the DC-X. It
was NASA that failed to keep the program going when it took it over.
Sawyer failed to see the Falcon I when it was parked on Independence
Avenue. Not surprising she manages to avoid seeing all the other
positive developments in the commercial space industry.
Suborbital downunder... Alan
that Eric Anderson of Space
Adventures is looking at sites in Australia to build a spaceport
for suborbital tourist rides. He is particularly interested in basing
the Russian C-21
(Cosmopolis XXI) Aerospace System there. An Australian site
would avoid various legal and technology transfer problems that
would occur in the US. "A decision on where to build the private
space facility would come 'definitely this year,' he told MSNBC.com."
Composite tank making without
an autoclave (see yesterday's item)
is discussed futher in this article RLV
Work For NASA Has Application To Moon/Mars Mission, NG Says - Aviation
Week - Jan.14.04
News brief... Possible postponement
of shuttle return to flight: Shuttle
missions may wait until 2005: Shuttles await required inspection
device before returning to flight - Florida Today - Jan.13.04
Yet another hypersonic program
from the Pentagon. I have not previously heard of the Endothermically
Fueled Scramjet Engine Flight Demonstrator (EFSEFD) project,
also known as the Scramjet Engine Demonstrator - WaveRider (SED-WR)
Force Selects Pratt & Whitney and Boeing Team For the Scramjet
Flight Demonstrator Program - Pratt & Whitney - Jan.13.04
section does have links to the HyTech
project and some waverider
News briefs... Pioneer
Rocketplane finally updated their homepage but other than adding
the recent news release,
I don't see any other new info yet....
... Exactly when the shuttles
goes to pasture isn't clear: Bush
Policy to Retire Shuttle Begs Additional Details - Space.com - Jan.13.04
... Came across this interesting
Launch Vehicle Reliability by I-Shih Chang - Crosslink - Winter
2001 issue via the SpaceX
Composite tank advance... Lightweight
composite fuel tanks are often cited as very advantageous for RLVs,
and will probably be required for single stage to orbit designs.
However, there is the problem of finding a big enough autoclave
in which to fit large tanks. However, Northrop has now made progress
with a composite making system that does not required an autoclave:
Grumman Delivers Composite Fuel Tank Half to NASA: Non-autoclave
manufacturing process proven viable for making large, reusable fuel
tanks - Northrop Grumman - Jan.12.04 (via spacetoday.net)
The latest Rocket
is entitled "Gasoline,
Alchol, Kerosene, or Liquid Methane" and, not surprisingly,
it discusses propellant choices for the company's two stage RLV.
News briefs... The latest update
from Armadillo reports on inital tests of the large engines that
will be needed for high altitude operations: 2500
lbf, Pressure ratios - Armadillo Aerospace - Jan.11.04. Includes
(11MB) showing the preparations for the test and then the firings.
argues that by first concentrating on lowering launch costs, the
missions in the new space policy become far more affordable: Putting
The Cart Before The Horse - Rocket Man Blog - Jan.11.04...
... I missed this earlier announcement
from the Israel IL
Technologies X PRIZE team: IL
Aerospace Technologies Revises its Vehicle Configutratoin for X
PRIZE Attempt - X P R I Z E - Dec.31.04. Still a rockoon system
but they will go with a different kind of balloon and they will
use a solid rocket motor instead of a hybrid since the former is
now available and the hybrid isn't.
More Falcon V details are now
posted on the SpaceX
web site. See the Falcon
Overview, which includes a comparison of the Falcon V with the
Falcon I (due to launch in April.) The Falcon V would be the first
launch vehicle since the Saturn V with the capability to lose power
from an engine during launch and still get to orbit.
They also posted this formal announcement of the Falcon V last
the Falcon V Launch Vehicle from SpaceX - SpaceX - Jan.7.04
News briefs... The shuttle's
days are numbered: Bush
plan may spell shuttle's end: Sheer cost might make continuance
of fleet unaffordable - Huntsville Times - Jan.10.04...
... The formal OSP program
looks dead but the momentum looks to continue for some sort of capsule
to fly on an EELV:
Back to the Future: NASA: Space-plane bidder puts winglets on vintage
capsule design. - Popular Science - Feb.04 issue
Suborbital tourism is discussed
among other things in this interesting Interview
With Eric Anderson - Spacedaily - Jan.9.04:
- I've not heard anything about the project
since it was first
announced but Anderson says "the team behind the Russian
Cosmopolis sub-orbital vehicle has made a lot of progress."
- He says that suborbital tourism will become available in "two
to three years" and "[t]here should be at least one
licensed tourist vehicle operating by late 2006."
Few details yet about the CEV... This
Plan Envisions Apollo As Model - washingtonpost.com - Jan.10.04
says it will "represent a 21st-century version of the venerable
Apollo rocket and capsule." It also describes a NASA study
of the Apollo capsule approach.
Pioneer-ing Oklahoma... I
was just noticing the other day that the Pioneer
Rocketplane website had been unchanged for almost two years
and wondered if they were still alive. Now comes this press release
(thanks to Joan
Horvath who passed it along) from the the State of Oklahoma
and Rocketplane Ltd (they apparently have dropped the Pioneer):
Space travel firm to
locate in Oklahoma
Oklahoma State Senate Communications Division
State Capitol, Oklahoma City, OK 73105
January 9, 2004
Members of the public could soon have the opportunity to fly
into space and back from the Oklahoma Spaceport in Burns Flat.
Rocketplane Limited Inc. will soon begin work on development and
operation of a reusable launch vehicle, Senate Aerospace and Technology
Committee Chairman Gilmer Capps and company officials announced
at the Oklahoma State Capitol Friday.
"Oklahoma is on the cutting edge in this new field of civil and
commercial space transportation. Reusable launch vehicles will
bring down the cost of the space travel experience and could eventually
make Oklahoma a hub for commercial space activity," said Capps,
D-Snyder. American Dennis Tito and South African Mark Shuttleworth
have both paid the Russian space agency $20 million for a trip
into space on a conventional expendable launch vehicle. Rocketplane
Limited will offer suborbital trips to space for approximately
$100,000, said George French, company president.
The Rocketplane XP launch vehicle will take off and land like
an airplane, but it will also have a reusable rocket engine that
will propel it from 30,000 feet to over 60 miles in altitude.
Rocketplane Limited will take space travelers 60 miles above Earth
where they can experience zero gravity for three to four minutes
before returning to the landing strip at Burns Flat.
The reusable launch vehicles can also carry scientific experiments
into space to perform research in zero gravity or to qualify experiments
for use on the International Space Station. Additionally, the
rocketplanes will provide a platform for observation of earth
for agricultural and environmental purposes.
French said Rocketplane Limited chose Oklahoma because of spaceport
infrastructure and Oklahoma's commitment to a space launch vehicle.
The company was certified as a qualified space transportation
vehicle by the Oklahoma Department of Commerce, the Oklahoma Space
Development Authority and the Oklahoma Tax Commission. Certification
means investors in Rocketplane Limited will be eligible to receive
state tax credits.
Capps, Rep. James Covey, D-Custer City and Rep. Jack Bonny, D-Burns
Flat, were the authors of the legislation that created the tax
credits. Under the statute, investors in the company can receive
up to 59.9 percent tax credit on the value of their investment
in Rocketplane Limited.
Capps also authored the legislation that created the Oklahoma
Space Industry Development Authority, a seven-member board which
oversees development and operations of the spaceport at Clinton-Sherman
Industrial Airpark in Burns Flat.
Under the direction of Rocketplane Limited's officers and Board
of Directors, including Gen. Merrill McPeak, Dr. James Stuart,
Dr. William Byrd, Dr. Eric Rice, George French, Mitchell Burnside
Clapp, David Urie and Charles Lauer, the company hopes to commence
flights in September of 2006.
OSIDA Chairman Gen. Ken McGill said: "The leaders of Rocketplane
Limited have exhibited tenacity, creativity and a belief in Oklahoma's
role as an aerospace leader. At OSIDA, we feel confident that
this company's presence at the Oklahoma Spaceport gives us a big
advantage in meeting our goals of job creation in the aerospace
"This is a great opportunity for Oklahoma to embark on a new
business frontier which will continue to solidify Oklahoma's role
as a leader in the aerospace industry as well as create new and
exciting opportunities for all Oklahomans," said OSIDA Deputy
Director Bill Khourie. Governor Brad Henry congratulated Rocketplane
Limited officials and Capps on the announcement.
"This is exciting news for all of Oklahoma. This announcement
is further proof of our state's dynamic and always-growing aviation
and aerospace industry. There are many public officials who deserve
thanks for this economic boost, particularly Sen. Gilmer Capps
and Rep. Jack Bonny," Henry said.
An official ribbon cutting for Rocketplane Limited will be held
at the Oklahoma
Spaceport in Burns Flat at 10:30 a.m. Monday, Jan. 12.
Oklahoma could be on its way to becoming a real player in the new
commercial space industry. As I've mentioned, TGV
Rockets has also recently established itself in Norman and is
hiring engineers for its suborbital rocket project.
A new space policy will be
unveiled soon by President Bush according to this article: Bush
OKs new moon missions by Frank Sietzen & Keith Cowing - UPI/InterestAlert
- Jan.8.04. Highlights include:
- NASA will be given the goals of reaching the Moon by early in
the next decade and then going on to Mars.
- NASA would receive an increase in its budget of $800 million
for 2005 and then get 5% increases per year for five years. That
would result in a yearly budget of well over $20B.
- The shuttle program will be shut down as soon as the ISS is
completed. The article doesn't define whether this means the full
ISS configuration with 6 crew members or the abbreviated version.
I suspect the latter.
- The OSP program will change to the "crew exploration vehicle"
- The CEV sounds like it is based on an Apollo capsule type system
but it will have different configurations according to whether
it is used for launching or for transportation in space such as
going to the Moon or Mars. Test flights of a prototype will begin
as early as 2007.
- Ariane rockets and Soyuz capsules will be used for access to
the ISS while waiting for completion of the CEV.
- An external commission will monitor NASA's progress and implementation
of these plans.
Sounds like a nice plan and it will be interesting to see what
Congress does with it. If the economy continues to strengthen then
it has a fighting chance.
I sure hope, though, that it also instructs NASA to support and
take advantage of the capabilities of the new commercial space companies,
especially for reaching and exploiting the LEO to GEO realm. If,
for example, by 2006 we have reusable suborbitals flying weekly
to +100km, SpaceX's
Falcon V is flying and selling rides at a fraction of the cost per
kg of other launchers, and Orbital
Recovery has its space tug in operation, it will look prepostrous
for NASA to continue to insist that such firms cannot produce viable
launchers and spacecraft.
I also agree with Rand Simberg - To
the Moon, Alice - Transterrestrial Musings - Jan.8.04 - that
just setting destinations won't make the policy compelling or viable.
Science alone cannot justify these budgets. President Bush must
make the opening of space to human settlement as the ultimate goal.
P.S. Kudos to Frank and Keith for their work on this scoop. Check
News Brief ... The company
has posted a reprint of this article about their rocket projects:
show public dream capsule to space - Peninsula Daily News - Peninsula
Daily News, (Port Angeles, WA) - Dec.18.03 (147KB doc file)
News briefs... NASA fixing
ET insulation problems: NASA
To Deliver Redesigned Shuttle Fuel Tank In May - Aviation Week -
... Shuttle return to flight
Shuttle Return to Flight under the microscope at Space at the Crossroads
conference - Space Foundation - Jan.6.04 (via spacetoday.net)
Boosters, a Buzz Aldrin led company, has posted slides
(1.1MB pdf) from a presentation by Theodore Talay at the recent
Next Century of Flight Space Imperatives Conference on Dec. 18th
in Washington D.C. He describes their Aquila concept. The
Aquila combines parts of the Shuttle and EELV (Atlas V and Delta
4) systems. The orbiter is replaced with a pod while with
three EELV RS-68 engines are mounted beneath a modified ET. The
solid rocket boosters are still included. The pod comes in different
configurations depending on whether it is used for transport of
crew or cargo.
Origin home page has changed a bit. A short paragraph
describes their plans, which include the statement: "We are
currently working to develop a crewed, suborbital launch system
that emphasizes safety and low cost of operations."
Rocket Company latest addition:
11: Enthusiasm Bubbles, Ejections, and Topping Cycles
reviews regulatory challenges, ejection seat systems for both stages
of the vehicle, reentry protection for ejection from the orbital
stage, engine selection (review of LH2/LOX engine designs), and
overflight risk calculations
News brief ... Jeff Foust review
of 2003 includes examination of developments in space transport
including suborbitals: The
lessons we (should have) learned in 2003 - The Space Review - Jan.5.04
... More engine development
at Armadillo: Engine
work - Armadillo Aerospace - Jan.3.04
Hypersonics in India... Via
a posting at Slashdot
comes word of a hypersonic aircraft project in India: India
aims to fly hypersonic plane - HindustanTimes.com - Jan.1.04
aims to fly hypersonic plane in 2007 - Redifff.com - Jan.1.04
aircraft soon: Ground trials on the new engine will commence next
year and the first actual flight may take off by 2007 - Deccan Herald
Happy New Year! Thanks for
visiting RLV News during 2003. I hope you continue to visit this
page regularly during the coming year. I'll try to keep up with
the rapid-fire developments I expect will occur in 2004, especially
by the numerous private RLV projects. (See my summary
of 2003 progess in the Space Log
Here are some observations and speculations:
is definitely in the lead for the X PRIZE but even if it falters
one of the other groups will win the X
PRIZE before the Jan.1.05 deadline.
- The large number of suborbital RLV projects working at an advanced
level of engineering and professionalism is very encouraging.
Most indicate that they plan to continue development regardless
of whether someone else wins the X PRIZE or not.
- Nevertheless, it would be a great contribution to the development
of a robust private launch industry if someone like Paul Allen
kicked in a couple of million bucks into a pot for a second
prize if the SS1 wins early in the year.
- A successful launch in April of the SpaceX
Falcon I will be a tremendous boost to the credibility of commercial
space development. It will be the first orbital launch vehicle
developed from scratch with only private funds. (Sea Launch uses
a booster derived from a government system.)
- If the launch fails, it is significant that the project
has the financial wherewithal to continue regardless. This
differs from previous startup projects, such as with the AMROC,
where weak financial underpinnings meant that an early failure
killed the whole enterprise.
- Perhaps Blue
Origin, funded by Jeff Bezos of Amazon, will reveal its mystery
vehicle this year. A competitive fellow like Mr. Bezos may feel
compelled to respond to the progress made by projects funded by
fellow high-tech moguls Paul Allen and Elon Musk.
- I still feel comfortable with the predictions of the Commercial
Space Development Timeline. If the above events occur
this year, we could even be a little bit ahead of schedule.
News briefs... Joe Latrell
of Beyond Earth
Enterprises, a HobbySpace sponsor, notes the need for a place
to buy parts for rocket projects: Wanted:
'Space Depot' For The Rocket Builders by Joe Latrell - SpaceDaily
... Burt Rutan receives the
"Antelope Valley Press 'Newsmaker of the Year' recognition...
designer of the globe-girdling Voyager aircraft and the revolutionary
SpaceShipOne, the first private venture spacecraft judged likely
to reach the heavens"- The
Valley Press article (unfortunately their links disappear after
a short time.) Item via a regular RLV News reader in Mojave.
RLV tutorials... If you haven't
been keeping up with the saga of the Rocket
Company, you are missing a good course in how to build
an RLV. Each of the chapters deals with some technical, business,
or management aspect of such a project. For example, Chapter
9 gives an excellent introduction to the issues of thermal
protection for a vehicle that must weigh as little as possible.
Here are brief summaries of the topics in each chapter so far:
1: Seven Billionaires and One Big Problem
A group of wealthy investors decide to tackle the challenge of
drastically lowering the cost of access to space. The question
of why launch costs remain so high is discussed.
2: Big Telescopes, Hot Rodders, and Librarians
The group puts together an engineering
team. The skills and experience necessary for such a team are
discussed. Extensive research into prior work is a key part of
starting the project.
Jobses, and the Laureates' Lemma
What lessons can be learned from
technological revolutions such as with the personal computer that
can help to open the space frontier?
Big, Build Many, or Use It Again
Comparison of lowering launch costs
with a big dumb booster, with mass production of
ELVs as done with Russian boosters, and with a fully reusable
vehicle. Vehicles should be designed for minimum operating cost
rather than minimum launch weight. Building RLVs and selling them
to others is offered as the primary market, following the model
of the airline industry.
Market, Small Payload, but not a Toy
They decide on the goals for the
total vehicle price tag, payload size, and the operating cost
per pound to LEO for their piloted vehicle.
Mistrust, and Trust
A review of engineering for large
projects. Systems engineering, in particular, is found
often to have caused more problems than it solved.
A detailed overview of the challenges
of getting to orbit is given. The implications of the rocket equation,
mass ratios, ISP, GLOW, and staging are presented. They decide
to go with a two-stage rather than a single stage to orbit design.
The first stage is powered with liquid methane/LOX and the second
stage with LH2/LOX. The first stage will use powered landing while
the orbital stage will use a parawing.
Stops Cords, and Skunk Workers
Project management issues as the
project transitions from design to construction.
Tanks, Heat Shields, and Fire Walls
Extensive discussion of thermal protection
issues and how they effect the design of the vehicle structures.
Tanks, Fracture Mechanics, and Friction Stir Welding
Why fuel tanks don't need to use
composites, how to avoid cracks, and building a rocket tank like
Continue to December 2003