makes the cover of Aviation Week... This article -
The SpaceX Falcon Will Challenge Orbital Sciences and Boeing By
Craig Covault - Aviation Week - Mar.28.04 - will get the attention
of those companies and the rest of the aerospace industry.
Some highlights from the article:
- The Falcon V flights will go for 60-70% less than the Boeing
Delta II and the new Delta IV Medium
- Pratt & Whitney will supply RL10 hydrogen/oxygen engines for
the second stage of the Falcon V.
- Falcon I flights will be listed at $5.9M (According to a sidebar
article the first flight will cost the Navy around $3-4M due to
the higher risk.)
- The initial version of the Falcon V will put 10K-lb payloads
into LEO for $12M. First lauch by late 2005. (This version will
use two Kestrel engines for the upper stage.)
- The RL10 version of the upper stage will put 20K-lb into LEO
or 10K-lb into GTO for $20M.
- Delta IV prices for such flights would be around $60-80M.
- The Falcon V is aimed for eventual manned missions and will
use man-rated avionics and other components from the start. The
company has had "formal discussions with NASA" on ISS
crew flights for "later versions" of the vehicle.
A couple of short sidebar articles, not accessible without an AW&T
subscription, discuss the implications of the Falcon to the military
and why the SpaceX approach is offering lower costs. One big advantage
is that SpaceX is self-financed. Elon Musk says the cost of "the
Falcon development remains under $100 million" and he has reserves
to sustain up to two failures. If the first launch goes OK, he hopes
to attract outside capital in the $50-100M range.
News briefs ... More about
the X-43 flight: NASA's
X-43A Proves Hypersonic Scramjet Flight -NASA DFRC - Mar.27.04
Research Flight - Photots at DFRC * Hyper-X
... LA Times discovers the
X PRIZE: Private
Hands Compete in the Race for Space: A foundation offers $10 million
for the first non-publicly funded trip into orbit. These days, the
project doesn't seem so far-fetched. - LA Times/AP - Mar.28.04...
... The videos aren't posted
yet for last week's session of the President's
Commission on Moon, Mars and Beyond. However, the testimony
of Peter Diamandis is now available in PDF format and also that
of Gary Payton, Buzz Aldrin, and several others. (As mentioned earlier,
the XCOR site offers the
transcript and video for Jeff Greason.)
X-43 test success... I watched
the launch via NASA TV and it appears that everything went quite
well. They stayed in contact with the Hyper-X all the way till it
hit the water. There will be a briefing on NASA
TV at 4:00pm PST. Congratulations to the X-43 team.
X-43 flight appears to be on
schedule for today according to this report.
See also this NASA
The Rocket Company flies its
first stage for the first
X-43 updates can be found here.
Coverage at NASA
TV begins at 12:00pm PST. The flight is at 1:00pm PST.
News briefs ... The X-43A flight
is still on schedule for launch tomorrow:
5,000 mph jet ready for test flight - CNN - Mar.25.04 * Speed
Demon (X-43) - Economist.com - Mar.25.04.
ISS tourist ... Keith Cowing
will announce on March 29th that it has arranged a tourist flight
to the ISS this October for Gregory Olsen, president and CEO of
News brief... Prize optimism:
Prize organizers predict space trip by summer - CTV.ca - Mar.25.04
The open project approach...
John Carmack from the beginning of Armadillo
Aerospace has posted detailed updates and hasn't been reluctant
to report on setbacks and mistakes. It has been great to follow
the progress of the project. It should be require reading for aerospace
engineering students so they can see something of the real world
process of encountering problems and overcoming them.
Elon Musk at SpaceX
doesn't do a weekly log but his monthly reports do give fairly detailed
accounting of hardware development.
In a completely different technology, CarterCopters
provides a detailed
accounting of the company's development of an innovative high
speed gyroplane. For example, see this account
of a demo flight in front of some military VIPs that went perfectly
until the landing without the gear deployed.
It would be great if more technology development projects followed
this open, inclusive approach. Many will cite the need to protect
proprietary techniques and technologies but in fact for many projects
the sensitive stuff can just be left out of the updates and avoid
any loss of intellectual property.
I notice today that Eclipse
Aviation, which is developing a low cost ($1M) business jet,
has decided to provide a regularly updated, interactive timeline
Aviation: Track Our Progress - showing the tasks and milestones
needed to reach certification by 2006. While it's not exactly a
weekly log, it shows that even a company with a high budget commercial
project in a competitive industry feels it can reveal a lot more
about the project's status without giving away any secrets.
X PRIZE buzz... A HS
reader sent me a link to this blog: X-Prize
Space Race News! I hope as the race heats up we will see more
and more web sites, forums, and blogs devoted to it....
... Florida and New Mexico
are competing neck and neck for the X PRIZE Cup site selection:
New Mexico compete to host X Prize Cup - Florida Today - Mar.25.04
... During the discussion yesterday
at the Aldrige
Commission, Peter Diamandis said that the Cup would take place
over a two week period and he expected up to 100 rocket flights
could take place over that time. (Aviation has "air shows",
will the Cup be a "space show" or maybe a "rocket
News briefs... More articles
about the commission session: Entrepreneurs
say NASA needs private-sector aid - Florida Today - Mar.25.04
sector asks NASA to share space - Atlanta Journal - Mar.24.04
Commission transcripts... The
testimonies of Musk, Diamandis, and Greason at yesterdays session
of the Aldridge
commission is not yet posted on the commission website. However,
you can find Jeff Greason's transcript at: XCOR
CEO Jeff Greason full written testimony for Presidential Commission
on Moon, Mars and Beyond - XCOR - Mar.24.04. The page also includes
some video clips of his presentation.
Peter Diamandis's testimony is available on this doc
file from the X PRIZE site.
Reaction Rockets... Via a newsgroup
posting I found this set
of recent papers by Alan Bond (of HOTOL
fame) on his Reaction
Engines web site. Last I heard, they had gotten a bit of money
to do further hardware prototyping of the precooler
(pdf) for their Sabre
engine. The Skylon design looks clever and might very well work.
However, he would need a few billion pounds to find out andEngland
is not likely to give him the money.
News briefs... Here's the Space.com
view of the entreprenours session yesterday at the Aldridge Commission:
Entrepreneurs Believe NASA Needs Their Help in Reaching Moon, Mars
- Space.com - Mar.24.04...
... Starchaser X PRIZE program
will soon offer a glossy magazine called Ignition for members
of its club. It also has initiated a major outreach program that
involves hauling its Nova
rocket around Britain to display at schools. They hope to eventually
reach 150,000 high schools students: Starchaser
Alt.space meets the space commssion...
I thought the entrepreneurial gang of three -Elon
PRIZE) and Jeff Greason (XCOR)
did an excellent job today when they testified to the President's
Commission on Moon, Mars and Beyond.
The fact that all three reported on real hardware development -
Falcon I, EZ-Rocket, and the various X PRIZE projects - gave their
testimonies real weight. Hard to judge these things but I think
they made a big impact on the panelists. If you didn't have a chance
to see the session, I strongly recommend watching the videos when
they are posted in the commission's
Reused RLV criticisms... James
Wertz of Microcosm has an editorial
in the latest issue of Space News that blames the "search for
a reusable launch vehicle [for] stifling the development of true
low-cost, responsive access to space." He presents arguments
similar to that in the paper Economic
Model of Reusable vs. Expendable Launch Vehicles (125k pdf)
Basically he says RLVs will be more expensive than cheap boosters
like his Scorpius
system because they will not fly frequently enough to pay back their
high development costs, their operations costs will be high, and
their payloads will be smaller than ELVs for the same takeoff weight.
He cites the shuttle as his primary example of the high development
and operations costs for RLVs.
I certainly agree that if an RLV flies at the same rate as a typical
ELV system, it won't offer much improvement in cost. However, the
whole point of the current RLV efforts, at least in the private
sector, is to build systems that CAN fly frequently. That is, they
will not require shuttle type of major refurbishment between flights.
There is a certain Catch-22 in all of this or at least a bootstrapping
challenge. You need a high flight rate to justify RLVs but he is
saying don't build them until you have a high flight rate.
The suborbital RLVs will help to overcome this challenge by starting
with low cost systems, low operational costs, and develop high flight
rates with space tourism and other applications. Gradually they
will work towards orbital systems. Wertz notes the suborbital projects
but cites the huge step they need to take from "Mach I to Mach
25". (More like from Mach 4 actually.) I'll point out in turn,
that for 2-stage systems, it's not such a huge step for a suborbital
to provide the first stage platform for an orbital expendable or
Regardless of whether RLVs are the best approach, as a HS
reader says, "most of the reusable research is being done by
PRIVATE MONEY. How does that "stifle" anyone?"
Fully reusable launch vehicles seem to be off the table at NASA
for the near term. I suppose one could argue that the money wasted
on the X-33, X-34, etc. would have been better spent on cheap dumb
boosters but it could have also been better spent on better RLV
I fully agree with Wertz's concluding recommendation that Congress
fund a range of low cost demonstration launcher projects, ranging
from ELVs to partially and fully reusable systems, and see which
best fulfills the needs for cheap access to space. May the best
News briefs... Update on the
X-43A flight: NASA's
X-43A Vehicle Ready For Flight - NASA - Mar.24.04 ...
... Making the Shuttle's thermal
protection not all a high tech process: Shuttle
'blankets' not exactly soft: Each hand-stitched piece critical to
thermal protection system - Florida Today - Mar.24.04 ...
... Jeff Foust reports on a
bill in the California legislature that would expand "existing
tax break for launch vehicles and spacecraft built in and launched"
from the state:. Tax
breaks, geography, and orbital mechanics - Space Politics - Mar.23.04
News briefs ... Jeff Greason
of XCOR comments
on his upcoming presentation to the Aldridge
Commssion today: XCOR
CEO Jeff Greason to Testify Before Presidential Commission on Moon,
Mars and Beyond - XCOR - Mar.23.04
test this weekend could be make or break the program: Second
test could boost or bomb NASA Langley's supersonic jet - HamptonRoads
ePilot - Mar.23.04 (via spacetoday.net)
Entrepreneurs meet the commission...
Commission on Moon, Mars and Beyond will hold another of its
public meetings this Wednesday and Thursday, this time in Atlanta:
Labor Representatives, Engineers And Media To Testify In Atlanta"
(item via RocketForge)
PRIZE) and Jeff Greason (XCOR)
are first on the agenda.
It will be broadcast/webcast live on NASA
TV. Later the videos can be found in the commission's
News briefs ... ARCA reports
on development of a flight computer for its demonstrator vehicle:
Flight Computer development - Mar.20.04 ...
... The shuttle is still a
vehicle in the shakedown phase: Shuttle
Flew for Decades With Potentially Fatal Flaw - NY Times - Mar.23.04
News brief ... Southern California
hosts several suborbital RLV projects: Reach
for the sky: Area firms pursue suborbital flight, $10 million prize
- PE.com - Mar.22.04 - registration required (via spacetoday.net)
Armadillo engine progress...
John Carmack reports in his latest update that they have now overcome
various problems in getting reliable ignition and performance from
their engines: Working
engines - Armadillo Aerospace - Mar.20.04.
They will therefore soon return to vehicle tests:
"We have all the materials to put together a ship set of
engines with the new design, so we are shooting for another full
vehicle warmup test next weekend. If that works, we will be aiming
for a hover test the following week."
NASA/Military space trans...
The House Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics heard testimony
yesterday about the status of collaborations between NASA and the
military in development of space transportation. Jeff Foust reports
of the House space transportation hearing - Space Politics .
Spaceref has posted the testimonies of
News brief ... The da
Vinci project gets more help from a sponsor: The
da Vinci Project Implements Additional ANSYS Software in Quest to
Win International X PRIZE Competition - da Vinci Project - Mar.18.04
Prize suggestions... Korey
Kline, whose eAc
company builds hybrid rockets, has some ideas for what challenges
should be included in NASA's new Centennial
Challenge prize program:
NASA's Centennial Challenge
Starting next year NASA intends to offer prize money to encourage
entrepreneurial companies to develop various "Fundamental Space
Technologies" useful towards expanding the access to space. The
program appears to be closely modeled after the X-Prize and the
DARPA Robot Challenge and satisfies to some degree the calls by
the Alt.Space movement to engage small commercial space start-up
in Space.com] states that the prize money next year available
is $250K per challenge and has narrowed down the list from 129
to 15 candidate challenges.
I certainly encourage this idea and believe it is long over due!
If it has half the effect of other competition prizes, it will
give direction to many of the small start-ups companies towards
useful technologies with the goal of Cheap Access To Space (CATS).
Not to make a big point of this, I wonder why the Alt. Space community
wasn't directly asked for input from their point of view as to
what challenges might be practical? Originally I was hearing thoughts
about offering an award for accomplished goals such as; A probe
to Mars, the Moon, an Asteroid; A satellite, payload in orbit;
A supply capsule to the Space Station; Crew Escape Capsule for
ISS and the like. Clearly a $250K prize would be insignificant
as motivation to pursue these targets considering the X-Prize
is a 10 Million award for manned sub-orbital space flight! Considering
that with very few exceptions, no X-Prize or Sub-Orbital Team
has launched a rocket to 100K feet and absolutely no one has launched
a rocket to space (100 ilometers), What challenges are actually
attainable within a few years with a $250K prize as motivation?
Looking at Rutan's SS1 X-Prize vehicle as a model for a successful
program, we have a company with 100 employees, the most famous
aeronautical engineer alive Burt Rutan, as well as the third richest
man in the world's 20 million dollars, all to win a $10 million
dollar prize. So NASA would get a 2 to 1 cost advantage and the
benefit that it only pays upon successful completion. A great
deal if you ask me!
I don't expect any body will be making a significant profit with
a $250K prize, but I do know from experience that it's enough
to "boot strap" a small team of rocket enthusiasts into potentially
a real space business. For this to be worthwhile long term to
the CATS concept, it needs to be a real business, with a business
plan, real life things like a product and real life expenses like
overhead & salaries. Again, long term, a bunch of volunteers working
out of someone's garage isn't going to "Open the Frontiers of
Space", but it could plant the seeds of change.
What I hope to do with this post is have people on this forum
"the cream of the crop rocketeers" make suggestions of what could/should
actually be accomplished with a $250K prize as motivation. Setting
the goals too high will only give fodder to the people who say
"That's why we give all the money to the big companies". Hopefully
somebody with more clout than myself, can get these ideas to whom
ever can make these challenges happen as a stepping stone to greater
A few of my thoughts include:
- Have an "Oshkosh","LDRS" like event at Wallops Island or
- Fly a Sounding Rocket to 100 Km, 250Km, 500Km
- Demonstrate ultra low cost 5 K rocket motor (Max Budget $5,000)
- Demonstrate a turbopump feed 5K motor with low cost turbopump
- Very low rocket construction ($?/Lb)
- Fly a Sounding Rocket 5K class > 80% propellant fraction
- Highest altitude per pound of propellant
- Demonstrate true re-usability by flying twice in 24 Hrs.
- Deploy recoverable payload from space to launch site using
- Demonstrate guidance control (pitch, roll, yaw) with hovering
- Takeoff & land rocket (DCX style) with a Single Pilot to 100
- Demonstrate Sea Level Isp over 225 (235,250,265,275,300) @
the 5K level
- Highest Isp demonstrated 5K class with commercially available
- Highest Isp demonstrated 5K class with commercially available
- Demonstrate Vertical Takeoff and Horizontal glide Landing
All technologies demonstrated should be scaleable towards human
Banning bashing private spacers... The
head of the NASA union that published the diatribe
against commercial suborbital spaceflight (see below) has sent a
nasty letter to Keith Cowing about his comments (see NASA
Watch.) This is all rather funny, but as Keith points out, it
hardly seems proper to use government property to attack a private
It also brings up the serious topic of the brother-in-law
effect commonly cited by space startup companies. A potential investor
initially shows great enthusiasm and seems ready to write a check
but a few days later backs off after talking to a brother-in-law
or other contact who works at NASA. The NASA person typically knows
little about the project but bashes it anyway and influences the
investor against it.
I've heard that the military has rules forbidding employees from
expressing any such personal judgments about commercial products
of possible military use because of potential conflicts of interest.
Similar rules should be placed into the next NASA budget authorization.
News brief... More about the
X-43C and RS-84 engine project cancellations: X-43C,
RS-84 Engine Among Casualties Of NASA Review - Aviation Week - Mar.19.04
Projects canceled ... Jeff
Foust reports that NASA will drop out of its collaboration with
the Air Force on the X-43C
hypersonic vehicle program and it will also end the development
of the reusable RS-84
RP-1/LOX engine: NASA
cancels technology development programs - spacetoday.net - Mar.19.04.
Not too surprised by the X-43C decision. The military seems increasingly
enthusiastic about hypersonic missiles so they can carry on with
the R&D in this area. I am disappointed with the RS-84 cancellation.
Seems like it is the kind of expensive technology development that
NASA should be doing. However, as Rand Simberg mentioned
yesterday in a different context, NASA seems to have decided that
RLVs are decades away. Now they seem to be trying hard to fulfill
Suborbital bashing ... Keith
Cowing at NASA Watch
handily dispatches this oddly strident attack on suborbital RLV
projects by a NASA employee: A
Word from the Know-Nothing Bureaucrats - LESA BULLETIN 2004-002:
IFPTE LOCAL 28/SpaceRef - Mar.19.04.
I don't want to to get worked up about such silly bombast. Rutan
and the rest will let their vehicles speak for themselves. I will
note this quote:"There
is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.” – Ken
Olson, President, Chairman and Founder of Digital
Equipment Corporation, 1977.
And that we seem to be in phase two of Arthur C. Clarke's Law
of Revolutionary New Ideas.
X PRIZE team status... The
X-PRIZE site has updated the team
listings. They indicate which ones have new information. Several
teams indicate that they expect to do flights soon either with their
primary vehicle or a test vehicle. American
Astronautics, for example, says their American Eagle I booster
will launch a "40 pound flight instrumentation payload on board
to an altitude of 120 km" in early 2004. (I cannot find further
details on the AA
News brief ... NASA will try
a flight of the Hyper-X (X-43A)
on March 27th. They will hold a press conference this week to discuss
the flight: NASA
Announces Press Conference For Hyper-X Flight - NASA -Mar.17.04
Space Access Update... Henry
Vanderbilt has distributed the latest
update on the Space Access '04 Conference. The preliminary
list of presentations includes:
- Pat Bahn, TGV
- Update From Oklahoma, or Propulsion On The Plains
- John Carmack, Armadillo
- Mitchell Burnside Clapp, Pioneer
- Len Cormier - X-Van
- Experimental Rocket
- FAA AST
- Jeff Greason of XCOR
- An Informal Workshop On The FAA AST License Process
- John Hare
- Minimum Requirements For Useful Airbreathing Propulsion
And A Possible Approach
- George William Herbert, Retro
- You're Going To Burn It Anyway: Expendable Bulk Cargo Lift
- Orbital Space, Plain: Crewed Utility Vehicle
- Jordin Kare
- Recent Progress In Heat-Exchanger Laser Propulsion
- Leik Myrabo, Professor at RPI & CEO Lightcraft
- Beamed Energy Propulsion Survey
- Update On The Lightcraft Project
- John Powell, JP
- Brant Sponberg, Program Manager, NASA Office Of Exploration
- Introduction To NASA's Centennial Challenges Program
- Brian "Rocket
- Various Subjects Of His Choosing
- A Survey Of Potential Launch Sites
- Henry Vanderbilt, Space Access Society
- Laurie Wiggins, ToSpace
- XCOR Aerospace
- Potentially Useful Political Initiatives
- Liability & Insurance Issues For Commercial Suborbital Operations
News briefs ... Morale booster:
nice to see Alan Boyle at MSNBC commenting on various suborbital
spaceflight developments and linking to RLV News: Handicapping
the private space race - Cosmic Log - Mar.12.04....
... JP Aerospace has finally
updated their website
after a long dry spell and now includes pictures of their prototype
high altitude airship. (Doesn't say anything there but I believe
the demo flight for the Air Force has been postponed to the summer.)
Space Transport update... The
X PRIZE team Space
Transport says in their latest
update (doc file) that in early March they launched a 3
stage sounding rocket in an attempt to reach 100km. However,
"[in-flight] vibration evidently caused power failure, which
ended communication with the rocket. Locating the landed rocket
is extremely difficult in this situation". By the end of this
month they plan "to conduct another three-stage rocket flight
to near 100 km with camera onboard."
They also had problems with the 12" rocket engines during
tests but believe they understand the problem and will resume tests
this month. The update includes a picture of a test of the 12"
engine. Such engines will be used on their X
Suborbital space tourist port...
is looking for a place to build a spaceport facility: Space
Adventures Scouting Potential Locations For Sub-Orbital Spaceport
Various global locations considered - Space Adventures - Mar.16.04.
They plan to put each astro-tourist (astourist?) through a
"...detailed four-day flight preparation and training experience.
The highly focused and inspiring pre-flight agenda will familiarize
each passenger with the flight program, critical vehicle systems,
flight operations, zero gravity conditions, in-flight accelerations,
and space flight safety procedures. On launch day, flight specialists
will assist the passengers in suiting up and guiding each through
the final checklist.
Each flight will be directed by both a skilled-pilot and a precise
computer controlled system. As each vehicle reaches their maximum
altitude, the rocket engines will shutdown and the passengers
will experience up to five minutes of continuous weightlessness,
all the while gazing at the vast blackness of space set against
the blue horizon of the Earth below."
Kistler down under... Another
article about Kistler appears in the Australian press - NASA
has high hopes for troubled rocket - News in Science - Mar.15.04
(via NASA Watch)
- but it reports nothing beyond the known facts about Kistler's
attempt to use the NASA contract to emerge from bankruptcy.
News briefs... Work continues
at Armadillo on engine development - Still
not there - Armadillo Aerospace - Mar.14.04 - particularly with
respect to the ignition system. Parts
for the 12" engines are getting built...
... David Ashford of Bristol
Spaceplanes predicts low cost access to space within 15 years
or so: Flying
into the Future: Spaceflight Revolution by David Ashford (738KB,
pdf) "excerpted from 100 Years of Powered Flight 1903-2003,
Brigade 2000 Ltd in association with the Royal Aeronautical Socety."...
... Review of the Commercial
Space Launch Amendments Act of 2004 is given in Analysis:
Bill clears sky for space rides - UPI/SpaceDaily - Mar.12.04
Pat Rawlings "X PRIZE"
New Mexico will fund X
PRIZE Cup if
it is chosen to host the rocket games. According to this article
Mexico Aims to Be Location for Aerospace Competition - YellowBrix
- Mar.10.04 - (via the X
PRIZE home page), the New Mexico legislature recently allocated
$9M for the competition on the condition that New Mexico beats out
Florida for the event. In addition, it is reported that a "private
company in New Mexico is considering a seven-figure cash prize [for]
the runner up of the X Prize Cup."
The Cup would take place at the Southwest
Regional Spaceport, which lies near the White
Sands Missile Range.
Mexico Office for Space Commercialization is organizing the
effort to be chosen for the competition. Note that, as implied by
the Office's RLV
page, the Armadillo
Aerospace team will probably do their high altitude flights
from White Sands.
Starchaser updates... The British
PRIZE team reports that their application to the Australian
government to launch from the Woomera
launch site has been accepted "as a basis of full Space
Launch Licence application.". Space
License Application 10th March 2004 - starchaser.co.uk - Commercial
They also have made progress with development of their Launch
Escape System (LES) for their Thunderstar
News briefs... Australia hopes
Kistler makes it to Woomera as well: Outback
shot at space test - The Australian - Mar.15.04 (via spacetoday.net)
... More about job selection
in the new alt.space world: Definitely
Not The Way Most People Get New Jobs - Rocket Man Blog - Mar.13.04
SpaceShipOne flies again... The
SS1 returned to the skies yesterday in a drop test from the White
The twelfth flight of SpaceShipOne. Objectives included: pilot
proficiency, reaction control system functionality check and stability
and control and performance of the vehicle with the airframe thermal
protection system installed. This was an unpowered glide test.
page shows a picture of the rocket motor for flight 13p and
of the airframe with the thermal protection system now installed.
Since this test was flight "12g" (12th SS1 flight, glide
mode) the "13p" indicates that the next flight will be
SpaceX update for Jan/Feb
04 is now available on line. The site also includes a reprint
of the interesting article: Changing
the Low-Cost Launch Game: SpaceX’s new blood has set out to revitalize
an old business—and may succeed in altering the commercial space
landscape permanently - Aerospace America - Feb.04. In particular,
see the launch costs table at the bottom.
Update: I've been informed that the table in the Aerospace
America article is out of date. From SpaceX I was sent a copy
of a recent NASA table of cost estimates for the following types
of missions if they wanted to launch in Oct. 2005:
Pegasus (Vandenberg) - $29M
Pegasus (Cape Canaveral) - $30M
Pegasus (Equitorial) -
Taurus (Cape Canaveral) - $50M
These estimates include "costs for the launch vehicle, a
nominal allocation for mission unique requirements, LV telemetry
support, and launch site processing."
News brief... NASA plans for
CEV discussed with the NASA advisory council: Significant
role ahead for Marshall on new craft - Huntsville Times - Mar.12.04
Serious rocket business... Rocket
Man, otherwise known as Mark Oakley, announces that he has taken
a job with TGV Rockets
and will soon move to Norman Oklahoma where the company is headquartered:
Rockets - Rocket Man Blog - Mar.11.04. You can tell that the
suborbital RLV launch business is getting serious when people of
Mark's caliber leave secure jobs at companies like LockMart to go
work in this exciting new industry.
Henry Vanderbilt makes a similar point in his recent interview
with David Livingston. A lot of people who a few years ago at the
Space Access meetings were sketching rocket designs on napkins during
lunch have now obtained real money to design, build, and fly real
honest-to-God reusable rocketships. (Come to the Space
Access' 04 meeting to hear the latest on their progress.)
News brief ... Shuttle's return
to flight may be delayed a few more months: Brake
cracks may stall next shuttle flight - Huntsville Times - Mar.11.04
Phoenix rolling... The German
conglomerate EADS has carried out taxi tests of its mini-spaceplane
in preparation for drop tests in May: PHOENIX
final rehearsal goes well - EADS SPACE - Mar.10.04. This vehicle
is only intended for atmospheric tests. It will provide data for
sled launched orbital vehicle, which, if approved, would launch
in the 2020 timeframe.
Other Phoenix press releases: Reusable
orbital glider PHOENIX undergoes wind tunnel testing - EADS - Aug.20.03
prospects in space transport through reusable launch systems - EADS
News briefs ... The Romania
X PRIZE team ARCA
Space reports on the status of their hydrogen peroxide engines:
News about Orizont Vehicle - X PRIZE/ARCA PR - Mar.8.04
... Space Frontier expresses
support for the Commercial
Space Launch Act in its latest press release: Congratulations
to the House for Landslide Vote Supporting New Commercial Space!
Now it's Time for the Senate to Step Up to the Plate - Space Frontier
Foundation -Mar.9.04 ...
... Keith Cowing at NASA
Watch reports that NASA is considering a "fly-off of two
competing CEV designs sometime in CY 2008." As Keith indicates,
that would be remarkably fast for a NASA timescale
... Andrew Case will be posting
items about suborbital spaceflight and other topics at the TransTerrestrial
is this Case fellow, anyway? - Transterrestrial Musings - Mar.10.04
(TM is expanding from Rand Simberg to more of a group blog)
News brief ... Mark Wade at
Astronautix has updated his section on the proposed Russian
Kliper manned spacecraft with more info and new diagrams. (Via
HS reader C. Wilkinson)
X PRIZE gets major sponsorship... The
X PRIZE has obtained
a major sponsor for the competition: Champ
Car World Series to Sponsor X PRIZE $10M New Race to Space - X PRIZE
As part of the sponsorship, the Champ Car World Series logo will
be placed on all X PRIZE spaceships and the series will be the
primary corporate sponsor of the X PRIZE flights. In addition,
Champ Car World Series co-owner Kevin Kalkhoven will participate
as a spokesperson during attempts to claim the $10 million prize.
Mr. Kalkhoven will also be joining the X PRIZE Board of Trustees.
For more information on the Champ Car World Series please visit
This seems a perfect match. Car racing has long depended on sponsorships
and they know how to keep sponsors despite the dangers involved
and the occasional deadly accident.
News brief ... John Carmack
gives the latest on engine studies and landing simulations: Temperature
probes, Powered landing sim - Armadillo Aerospace - Mar.8.04
Sci-Am commercial launchers article...
Joan Horvath of Takeoff
Technologies and Global
Space League has an article about the new private launch companies
in the April issue of Scientific
American: Blastoffs on a Budget - "Private ventures
seeking to make access to space easy and affordable see a big potential
in small vehicles."
I just got my copy in the mail and the article is an excellent
overview of the field. She discusses the history of private launch
projects, suborbital RLVs, the X PRIZE, regulation and liability
challenges, and more. (Her resources section includes a link to
HobbySpace so it's definitely a fine
Furthermore, the issue's editorial is one of the few I've seen
anywhere that gives a fair and informed view of the President's
new initiative (i.e. it points out correctly that the big numbers
cited for its cost are bogus). It says that if NASA cannot reform
itself to implement the program efficiently, "the country should
consider founding a new agency or a public-private partnership or
even multiple organizations to stir up competition. The private
sector can't do it on its own, at least not yet [cites Horvath's
SAS chief on the Space
Tuesday, March 9, 2004 - 7-8:15PM Pacific Time
- Space Show features Henry Vanderbilt. Henry Vanderbilt figured
out nobody was going to pay for him to go to space when he was
six, watching John Glenn's flight on the black&white TV and someone
mentioned that the rocket cost ten million dollars and they throw
it away each flight.
Nothing changed through the mid-eighties, when his ongoing intense
amateur interest in spaceflight caused him to jump laterally out
of a techy career into successive opportunities to write online
about space and then to work in space politics. He immediately
discovered that everybody had grand schemes about what to do in
space, none of which first solved how to get there affordably,
none of them thus ever going anywhere.
He got involved in efforts to solve the transportation problem,
continued to find that the ball was being dropped through lack
of continuous focus, and finally ended up founding Space
Access Society in 1992 for the sole purpose of promoting radically
cheaper practical space transportation.
He's run it ever since, putting out semi-regular Space Access
Update newsletters and political alerts, and running the annual
"Space Access" conference (best described as "Hackers" for rocket
people). See http://www.space-access.org
for more information and conference
details for April 22-24, 2004.
Mr. Vanderbilt will discuss the exciting state of affairs in
space transport currently - new private startups all over the
place, X-Prize on the home stretch, real alternatives to the NASA-Industrial
complex finally starting to happen. Not "2001" yet, but significant
steps in that direction. Maybe a quick look at the new White House
NASA policy too; the reforms if carried through would be radical
- all from the perspective of Henry Vanderbilt!
News briefs ... Talor Dinerman
looks at the NASA office in charge of both the CEV and the Prometheus
T: goals, decisions and technology by Taylor Dinerman - The Space
Review - Mar.8.04 ...
... Review of the new
NASA prize program: NASA's
Centennial Challenges Program To Offer Cash Prizes - Space News
Global Flyer debut... Burt
Rutan is a busy man these days. The Virgin
Global Flyer made its first
flight on Friday.This is the plane that will attempt to fly
a single person around the world without refueling. See also the
great pictures at Alan's
Mojave Airport Weblog - Mar.5.04
SpaceX & Falcon I status ... The
SpaceX update for
Jan/Feb just came out. It should appear on their website in a day
or two. Here are some highlights:
- Entering "final stretch". Most of the development
on major components - engines, structures, avionics, etc - is
- A few weeks ago the first stage was installed in the test stand
in Texas and filled with kerosene and liquid nitrogen (replacing
LOX for safety reasons). The pressurization tests went just fine,
validating their FEA models.
- The next major milestone is the first stage hold down test,
which is a static firing of the complete, fully integrated first
stage. "Should happen in the next four to six weeks."
- Regulators gave them "approval to fly the rocket with only
thrust cutoff, rather than explosive termination."... "[This]
improves hazardous procedures in transportation, on the launch
pad and particularly on recovery of the first stage." This
was allowed "due to the all liquid fuel configuration and
six-fold valve redundancy."
- Kestrel upper stage engine reaches 96.4% efficiency and 327s
- Attaining "significant cavitation margin" on the liquid
oxygen inducer/impeller in the turbo-pump for the Merlin first
stage engine is the last big issue for the propulsion system.
- Extensive CFD processing being done on a 48 processor Beowulf
- Guidance system simulation tests look good over a broad range
of Vandenberg weather conditions.
- There have been several potential customers interested in the
Falcon I and Falcon V. Barring a launch accident on its maiden
flight, they have as many as 4+ potential customers next year.
As it is, they may have three or four launch contracts signed
by the time of their maiden launch. [That's already comparable
to the Orbital Sciences Pegasus flight rate.]
- There is a Falcon User's Conference coming up on March 25/26
in El Segundo for anybody interested in using the Falcon I or
Falcon V launch vehicles. Contact Gwynne at email@example.com
for an invitation to the event.
- Currently they are "on track for a maiden launch around
the middle of this year."
- Though this is a bit later than their original goal of last
December, it may still be within 2 years of incorporating, so
this is no small feat.
[Updated with input from J. Goff.]
More on the commercial launch bill:
Suborbital advocacy... As noted
by Andrew Case, the Suborbital
Institute will launch another Suborbital Action Day campaign
on Capitol Hill on May 17-18th. Participants will inform Congressional
staff members about the nascent suborbital RLV industry and discuss
issues important to its development. If you would like to participate,
one of the organizers.
Suborbital FAQ... Here's a
set of Frequently
Asked Questions about various aspects of commercial suborbital
spaceflight that I worked on with help from Pat Bahn. If you have
corrections, suggestions, additional questions for the list, etc.,
let me know.
X PRIZE news... The X
PRIZE home page has posted links to a couple of news items:
Rayburn To Produce Webcasts Of Attempts To Win $10 Million X PRIZE
For Private Space Travel - Streaming Media - Mar.1.04 * Rocket
Ride: Randa Relick Milliron In Conversation With R.U. Sirius - The
NeoFiles - Mar.4.04
Commercial launch bill passes House...
Space Launch Amendments Act of 2004 gets House approval and
goes the Senate: Space
Bill Rockets Toward Congressional Approval - Washington D. C., Mar.4.04.
X Rocket progress... The X
Rocket web site has been revamped. It now includes information
on their Archangel
Aerospace Trainer, which will go as high as 60km, and its precurser
the Maching Bird
1. (Heads up via J. Goff.)
The ride on a Archangel should be a thrilling one according to
A Rocket Academy
concept is being developed around these vehicles. The facility
will offer a range of services that include space camp type experiences
for the public, spaceflight adventures (i.e. riding the Archangel),
professional level courses and training, a museum, flight opportunities
for researchers, etc.
Update: The home page now reports:
"Lastest News: Maching Bird 1 has successfully completed
a high-rate sortie test—four flights in under seven hours—helping
to validate our high-flight-rate operating model for Archangel."
I'm looking forward to the presentation by Ed Wright (chief of
X Rocket) at Space
Commercial space act update...
Space Launch Amendments Act of 2004 will probably be passed
in the House this year. Getting it through the Senate will be a
lot harder. A summary of the bill is available in HTML.(PDF
version is not yet on line.) The summary
of major provisions of the bill lists:
- Assigns all commercial space flight regulatory authority, including
authority over commercial human space flight, to AST.
- Allows AST to issue experimental permits for reusable suborbital
rockets that can be granted more quickly and with fewer requirements
- Requires that experimental permits allow an unlimited number
of experimental flights for a particular vehicle design.
- Requires AST to issue regulations for crew relating to training
and medical condition.
- Requires AST to issue regulations for space flight participants,
but limits requirements to space flight participants being informed
of the risks of their participation and providing written, informed
- Requires both crew and paying passengers to execute mutual waivers
of liability with licensees (or experimental permit holders) and
the federal government.
- Extends the existing liability indemnification regime for the
entire commercial space transportation industry (including licensed,
non-experimental commercial human space launches) for a period
of three years, but excludes launches performed pursuant to an
- Requires a study on how best to gradually eliminate the liability
indemnification regime for the commercial space transportation
industry by 2008 or as soon as possible thereafter.
- Authorizes to AST such sums as may be necessary for fiscal years
2005, 2006, and 2007.
Institute web site has been updated.
NASA exploration outline is
provided in the Briefing
Charts: NASA Associate Administrator Craig Steidle, Office of Exploration
Systems - SpaceRef - .3.04, which links to this 3.5
MB Powerpoint file.
For the Crew
Exploration Vehicle the timeline goes as
- 2008: Initial flight test of CEV
- 2008: Launch first lunar robotic orbiter
- 2011: First Unmanned CEV flight
- 2014: First crewed CEV flight
- 2015: Jupiter Icy Moon Orbiter (JIMO)/Prometheus
- 2015-2020: First human mission to the Moon
The presentation also discuss the Centennial Challenge prize program.
The program grew out of the 2003 NASA Space Architect study. Using
input from the X PRIZE Foundation, they gathered 129 potential challenges
and then winnowed them down to 15. From these they estimated the
purse sizes and time scale needed.
For the Centennial program they will begin with:
- Spring workshop to solicit external challenge ideas and refine
- A website will be provided for submitting challenge ideas
- Press announcement on workshop and website expected shortly
The challenges will be initiated annually:
- FY 2004 cycle limited to existing authority ($250K or less purses)
- FY 2005 and later cycles to include larger purses (2005 NASA
- Repeat workshops annually and solicit external idea
JP gets near space... Here
is a long article about John Powell and JP
mind NASA Sacramento inventor and would-be astronaut John Powell
has designed a balloon that just may get him into space.- NewsReview.com
News brief... John Carmack
reports on further engine development activities: Flameholder
engines - Armadillo Aerospace - Mar.1.04
Zero point hope... The latest
issue of Aviation Week has a long article about attempts to use
point energy for practical purposes such as spacecraft propulsion.
(Subscription required: Aerospace
Giants Eye Zero Point Energy: Zero point energy emerges from realm
of science fiction, may be key to deep-space travel - Aviation Week
Studies were funded until recently by NASA's NASA
Breakthrough Propulsion Physics (BPP) Project program. However,
that program has now been shut down. Some companies such as BAE
Systems seem to be continuing the studies at a modest level.
The group at Quantum
Fields is mentioned in the article.
Although the article starts off dramatically, it really doesn't
say much more than how great it would be if the ZPE reservoir could
be tapped and that legitimate researchers are studying the subject.
But there is no indication yet that it can be used in any practical
Continue to February 2004