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Reusable Launch & Space Vehicle News
November 2004
Index Feedback


Scaled Composites photos
SpaceShipOne on its second rocket powered flight April 8, 2004.
Taken from Edwards AFB ground radar facility.
SpaceShipOne Updates

This section contains brief articles concerning developments in the field of reusable launch and space vehicles with links to news sources, NASA, company sites, etc.

See the Advanced Rocketery Section for entries on
advanced amateur & student rocketry, experimental rocketry,
& innovations by small rocket companies.

In addtion, the Space Log contains news about
amateur space activities, space businesses, etc.

RLV News Archive Directory

November 30, 2004

3:35 pm: News briefs... John Carmack reports on electronics and propulsion progress: Electronics work, LOX Engines - Armadillo Aerospace - Nov.30.04...

... Space Transport says on its home page that it will sell rocket motors and launch services. Their updated Products page provides info on their "scalable solid propellant (APCP) motors, suborbital rockets, and plans for orbital rockets."

10:55 am: News briefs... Though NASA plans to discontinue its support for scramjet research, the Air Force will continue with its programs to develop hypersonic missiles: Edwards may play key role for craft:Research for hypersonic flight requires corridors - L.A. Daily News - Nov.29.04 (via spacetoday.net) ...

... The Governator praises the Mojave Spaceport: Mojave Spaceport Recognized by Governor Schwarzenegger; SpaceShipOne's Triumph Acknowledged - CSA - Nov.29.04 (MS Word 168kb) ...

... Came across another SS1 photo album: Pictures of SpaceShipOne's space flights - June/September/October 2004 - Stratofox

November 29, 2004

12:05 am: News briefs... I've been in Knoxville and saw this article Sunday about a local company that built the audio system for the SS1: Sound Venture - Knoxville New Sentinel - Nov.28.04...

... Bristol Spaceplanes is still talking about suborbital tourism flights from a spaceport in Malaysia:Malaysia may be first in Asia to launch tourists into space - The Star - Nov.25.04 (via spacetoday.net) ...

... AvWeek reports that India has a long term RLV program that currently is focused on development of a recoverable spacecraft called the Space-capsule Recovery Experiment (SRE). The 500-kg. (1,100-lb.) capsule will be ready for launch in 4 years. They recently carried out atmospheric drop tests...

... AvWeek also reports that Japan is giving up on the Hope-X prototype spaceplane project due to soaring costs and a need to focus on fixing H-IIA problems...

... More about the solid rocket booster stacking for the RtF Shuttle launch: Big step taken to again fly shuttle: NASA begins assembling solid rocket boosters - The Huntsville Times - Nov.28.04...

... NASA's prize plans get some press: NASA seeking new pool of talent: Millions offered for space innovation - L.A. Daily News - Nov.27.04

November 27, 2004

3:15 pm: News briefs... GoldenPalace/daVinci plans an unmanned test launch and then a launch with Brian Feeney on board in January: da Vinci delays launch attempt to January - spacetoday.net - Nov.27.04...

... I hear there is still a chance that the commercial space bill will get a vote in the Senate when it comes back for a short session.

November 24, 2004

3:15 pm: News briefs... Glad we left early and missed traveling in the holiday crowds and rainy mess today. Here are some links gathered in a quick scan of sites...

... Leonard David reports on the FAA's seal of approval of Bigelow's Genesis spacecraft, which will test the company's inflatable structure technology: Bigelow Space Module Flight Gets Government Okay - Space.com - Nov.24.04...

... If this was the year of private suborbital space development, next year promises to be the year of private orbital space development with SpaceX launching the Falcon I and Bigelow orbiting their first test spacecraft...

... Jim Oberg reports on a clever, relatively low cost scheme proposed by Constellation Services to send a manned mission around the Moon : A trip around the moon? It could happen: Experts say it’s technically possible but expensive - Jim Oberg/MSNBC - Nov.24.04. (The article includes comments from Jon Goff, occasional contributor to HobbySpace.)...

... The APS take it for granted that the exploration initiative will need a huge increase in funding for new human spaceflight projects and that at least some of the money will come out of science funding: NASA's Moon-Mars Initiative Harms Science: American Physical Society Report - Space.com - Nov.23.04. However, this doesn't have to be the case if the program is carried out with money made available with the end of the Shuttle program and ISS construction and with smart, low cost approaches like that mentioned above ...

... This UPI article reports on the space bill saga: Space Race 2: Congress Weighs In - UPI/SpaceDaily - Nov.23.04 ...

... AvWeek article on the X-43A flight: NASA's X-43A Hyper-X Reaches Mach 10 in Flight Test: Mach 10, but now what? - Aviation Week - Nov.23.04...

... NASA continues the preparations for the Shuttle return to flight: NASA Reaches Space Shuttle Solid Rocket Booster Milestone - NASA - Nov.24.04.

November 23, 2004

2:00 am: News briefs... Alan Boyle notes a transition to a new phase in commercial spaceflight development: Second stage for the space race - Cosmic Log/MSNBC - Nov.22.40 ...

... Robert Zimmerman sees the X-43A as typical of NASA's technology development programs that don't lead to practical systems: X-43A Rockets Into Oblivion - UPI/SpaceDaily - Nov.22.04 ...

... The latest California Space Authority newsletter is available: SpotBeam California - Nov.19, 2004.

November 22, 2004

11:45 am: News briefs... Space Transport launched one of its three-stage sounding rockets successfully: Rocket boys of Forks capture a town's imagination - SeattlePI - Nov.22.04 (Via Space Race News!) ...

... This week's issue of the Space Review has a couple of space transport related articles:

... The Instapundit comments on the space bill: Another small step: Space tourism takes a step forward - GlennReynolds/MSNBC - Nov.22.04.

2:15 am: News briefs... The SS1 gets some well deserved recognition: SpaceShipOne named Time's 'Invention of the Year' - AP/Monterey Herald - Nov.21.04 ...

... The B-52 that carried the X-15 and the X-43A and a lot of other experimental aircraft in between is finally heading off for retirement: B-52B test plane flies final mission - The Washington Times - Nov.21.04 ...

... More about prize motivation: Grand Prizes: Substantial cash awards have inspired inventors and advanced technology throughout history - SanDiego Union-Tribune - Nov.21.04.

(These links via spacetoday.net)

November 21, 2004

12:45 pm: The Senate, as mentioned below, will return for a short session after Thanksgiving. There is a small chance the space bill will then get a vote.

I remember George Schultz, former Secretary of State in the Reagan administration, once saying that the thing he hates most about Washington is that nobody there ever gives up on anything.

This case certainly illustrates the good and the bad about such political tenacity. On the one hand, I find it remarkable and admirable how the proponents of the space bill kept it going even when all hope seemed lost.

On the other hand, I'm amazed and disappointed that despite two overwhelming votes in the House in favor of the legislation and with passage in the Senate all but certain, opponents still would not give up and instead used a procedural trick to block it.

It's like every piece of legislation, no matter how technical or obscure, becomes a fight to the death with no quarter given by either side.

(Well, OK, maybe the bill was blocked for reasons unrelated to its specific content, but with Senate rules and confidentiality being what they are, we may never know. The above comments still hold for much of what goes on in Congress these days.)

... Meanwhile, NASA was one of the few agencies to get the budget it requested. This will be very important for getting the new space initiative off the ground. As with the election, this President Bush succeeded where his father did not.

The Congress in 1993 went out of its way to zero out any funds whatsoever for the original Space Exploration Initiative. Most probably a similar zeroing out would have happened in 2005 with a Kerry administration. Now NASA will have four years to fully entrench a deep space exploration orientation to its structure and operations that will remain in place long after this president leaves office.

Jeff Foust offers comments and links about the budget:

1:15am: The Senate has apparently shut down for the evening and perhaps for the year. From what I've heard, the space bill had been on the way to unanimous consent passage when a "hold" was put on it. Any senator can use this technique to keep a bill from coming up for a vote.

A lot of other bills were blocked, especially those originating from the House. So the block may not have been due to specific problems with this particular bill. On the other hand, there may have been someone who wanted to stop it, e.g. a sore loser on the House side could have asked a friend in the Senate to place the hold.

The Senate may come back for a brief session after Thanksgiving to vote on a major Intelligence reform bill. At that time, there might be a chance of passing the space bill.

If it doesn't pass this year, then the commercial space legislation is dead and the whole process must start from square one in the new Congress. However, the FAA and AST may take HR3752/HR5382 as the general intent of Congress, especially with the two large votes in the House in favor of them.

This means that the legislation would guide their regulatory approach to suborbital spaceflight until they were told to do otherwise in a bill that was actually passed by the whole Congress. So at least not all would be lost after all the work that a lot of people put into passing this bill...

... See also House Passes Private Spaceflight Bill - Space.com - Nov.20.04.

November 20, 2004

7:45 pm: Senate vote might happen tonight according to another source.

7:35pm: Space bill status... Just got back home and don't see any sign that the Senate has voted on the bill yet. Currently on C-SPAN there is a tribute to outgoing Senator John Breaux taking place in the Senate Chamber.

Jeff Greason sent a message after I left and said, "Anyone who supports this bill should now call their Senator and urge swift passage."

Alan Boyle has a longer summary of the House action: Space tourism legislation makes comeback: After ups and downs, House revives and approves bill - MSNBC - Nov.20.04.

Here's an AP report: Safety rules for space tourists ahead FAA can issue regulations in 8 years - AP/CNN - Nov.20.04.

Jeff Foust at SpacePolitics.com: HR 5382 passes the House.

I've also heard it's possible that the Senate vote might not happen for a few days, perhaps not till after Thanksgiving. Gee, I think I would actually prefer to watch sausage being made...

3:40pm: Commercial Space Bill passes house!! The bill finally got through the House. Now the Senate must vote on it for it to become law: House Passes Commercial Space Bill: Legislation Establishes Clear Regulatory Framework for Emerging Industry - House Science Committee/SpaceRef - Nov.20.04 + House OKs suborbital bill - Alan Boyle/MSNBC - Nov.20.40 ...

... Here is the most recent message from Henry Vanderbilt:

Things ran a bit slower than expected and the House recessed Friday night without voting on HR 5382. They're back in session and voting on "A Motion To Suspend The Rules And Pass" 5382 right now - this looks like passing by a healthy but far from unanimous margin; the current tally is 269 for, 117 against, 47 not yet voted.

OK, the motion got the required 2/3rds majority; the House has passed HR 5382.

Our thanks to everybody who called and helped out - we'll be writing about what comes next (presumably Senate action) as soon as we have details.

Henry Vanderbilt
Space Access Society

2:15 pm: Space bills update... The NASA did get its full $16.2B budget: Comments from Frank Sietzen on NASA Budget - NASA Watch - Nov.20.04....

... Still no word on the status of the commercial spaceflgith bill. Here is a message from around noon today from Henry Vanderbilt of the of the Space Access Society (The link is down at the moment.):

Latest on all this: The House called it a night before getting to HR 5382 Friday night. Current best guess is they'll get to it sometime today. They're currently in session, working on various bills. Calls (and faxes) asking Representatives to vote for HR 5382 are definitely in order during the day today, Saturday 11/20/04. Thanks!

(Note that you too can follow all this - the House session is broadcast live on C-Span 1.)

10:50am: Space bills status... Haven't heard yet if the commercial spaceflight bill has come up for a vote. Jeff Foust reports here on the situation: Last call for HR 5382 - Space Politics - Nov.20.04...

... NASA may get its full budget request after all: Extra money for NASA? - Space Politics - Nov.20.04. This could determine whether companies like XCOR actually get the exploration study grants that they were awarded.

News briefs... Alan Boyle reports on the latest news from JP Aerospace: Ups and downs for space balloon: - Cosmic Log/MSNBC - Nov.19.04...

... No news about a launch by GoldenPalace/da Vinci. However, I've heard a rumor that they decided to build their own paraffin fueled hybrid rocket engine rather than buying an engine from a commercial firm ...

... SpaceDev gets the interest of a stock analyst: Rocket Maker, Rule Breaker?- Motley Fool - Nov.19.04...

... SpaceX has four firm launch orders so far: SpaceX lands 1st launch orders: Private El Segundo company founded two years ago will get a chance to put its low-cost rockets to the test. - DailyBreeze - Nov.19.04...

... Burt Rutan communicates his vision of the future of spaceflight to UCLA students: Space cowboy envisions new frontier: Maverick aviator seeks to launch travel, tourism into Earth orbit - Chicago Tribune - Nov.20.04...

... Sigourney Weaver thinks a suborbital spaceflight ticket is worth the price: Is she pining for Alien? - The Sun Newspaper Online - Nov.19.04....

... More on the X-43 flight: NASA X-43A rockets to Mach 9.8 at Edwards - Air Force Link - Nov.19.04 * 'X-43A' built here roars to new speed record - The Tullahoma News - Nov.19.04.

November 19. 2004

11:00 pm: More on the bill's status from Alan Boyle: Suborbital showdown - Cosmic Log/MSNBC - Nov.19.04 * Closing arguments - Cosmic/Log - Nov.19.04.

10:50pm: Space bill vote on Saturday... I've been out for the evening so I'm a bit late in posting all this. First, here's the latest from Jim Muncy via NASAWatch:

Update: "The House Leadership just announced that there would be no more votes tonight. The House of Representatives will convene at 9am on Saturday morning to consider outstanding votes plus the Omnibus approps bill, etc... so phone calls, faxes, and emails to House Members, especially House Democrats, should continue until at least mid-morning Eastern Time on Saturday. Remember: HR 5382 is a *bipartisan* bill that was developed as a compromise between the House-passed HR3752 and the Senate Commerce Committee's Democratic Staffers. So nobody should think it is a partisan issue or a pro-Republican bill."

Then here is the latest from Henry Vanderbilt of the Space Access Society:

Space Access Update #106 11/19/04
Copyright 2004 by Space Access Society

URGENT! Call your Congressman TONIGHT, Friday 11/19, and ask them to support HR 5382, The Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act, when it comes up for a vote by the full House - probably late tonight. If you don't know who your Congressman is, or if you don't have the phone number of their DC office handy, log on to http://www.vote-smart.org and enter your nine-digit zip code in the Find Your Representatives box. Then phone their Washington DC office (the area code 202 number) IMMEDIATELY - minutes may count - and tell whoever answers that you're from , and you're calling to ask Representative to vote for HR 5382. If they ask you for more info, do your best to provide it (take a quick look at the info below - the short version is "because it's important for the success of the new commercial space flight industry") then thank them for their time and ring off.

EVERBODY reading this who votes in the US needs to do this - every vote counts, as the way to get the Senate to also pass HR 5382 in the very short time remaining in this Congress is for the House to pass it by an overwhelming margin. As soon as we've sent this out, we're going to go look up the number and make the call - you do it too!

Background

HR 3752, which provided important regulatory support for a new commercial space flight industry, has widely been reported dead in the last day or two, and it almost was. It has been reintroduced in the House of Representatives as HR 5382, it was debated today, and it should be up for a vote by the full House sometime in tonight's extended session - possibly as early as 8 pm EST, possibly well into the small hours of tomorrow morning.

For more info on the history and content of HR 3752, see http://www.space-access.org/updates/sau105.htm. HR 5382 is the latest hard-fought compromise version of HR 3752 that everyone interested had finally agreed on. The current problem is largely a matter of a few who hadn't been following the issue closely not understanding why certain features of the bill are necessary for the healthy birth of the new industry. A letter from the head of the House Science Committee summarizing the issues follows:

Dear Colleague:

A few minutes ago you received a letter from congressman Oberstar about H.R. 5382 which will be before the house shortly. Mr. Oberstars objection to the bill is well intentioned but reflects fundamental misunderstandings about the bill. Here are some facts:

The house passed earlier this year by a vote of 402 to 1 and earlier version of this bill (HR 3752) that gave the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) less regulatory authority over commercial human space flights than does the bill before us today.

The Science Committee which has primary jurisdiction over this bill which was given the sole initial referral had several hearings on the bill and has talked about it frequently with the press, engendering more public discussion.

This bill concerns the commercial space flight industry, an industry that is now of interest only to entrepreneurs and daredevils and should not be regulated as if it were a commercial airline acting as common carrier, which is basically what Mr. Oberstar is advocating.

The bill does give FAA unlimited authority to regulate these new rockets to ensure that they do not harm anyone on the ground and to ensure that the industry is learning from any failures. The bill also gives FAA additional authority after 8 years by which time the industry should be less experimental.

The Oberstar approach would be the equivalent of not letting the Wright Brothers test their ideas without first convincing federal officials that nothing could go wrong.

Without this Bill the FAA will continue to license private space flights without adequate authority to protect either the safety of the public or the finances of the government.

Please support HR 5382, just as you voted for the initial version in March. Todays bill is an equivalent of a conference report as it reflects bipartisan negotiations with the Senate.

Sincerely,

SHERWOOD BOEHLERT

So - again, we ask you ALL to call, tonight, and ask your Congressman to vote for HR 5382. This is important. Thanks!
_____________

Space Access Society
www.space-access.org

Space bill vote... Just got this message:

HR 3752 has been superseded by HR 5382, which is coming up for a vote in the House this afternoon. Please call your Congressperson immediately and ask them to vote yes on HR 5382.

Randall Clague
Government Liaison
XCOR Aerospace

[Update 5:40pm: Jim Muncy's Thoughts on HR 5382 - NASA Watch]

More on rocket safety from David Masten of Masten Space Systems: Going to Space - The Right Way - Catallarchy - Nov.19.04. (Includes a cool graphic of the XA-1.0 vehicle.)

Commercial space bill still breathes.... Alan Boyle reports that the Senate Transportation Committee has relented and will let the commercial spaceflight bill proceed. (See related items on Wednesday.) However, there is a Democratic representative who is threatening to block unanimous consent passage due to his objection to the limits on crew/passenger safety regulations: Space tourism backers keep hope alive: Legislation revived, but obstacles loom large - MSNBC - Nov.18.04.

Boeing engine... Boeing to test 250K pound thrust engine: Boeing to test experimental rocket engine - Spaceflight Now - Nov.18.04. NASA and the Air Force are funding the project, which is called the Integrated Powerhead Demonstration, or IPD. Other info on the IPD:

  • IPD at Air Force Research Laboratory : "The first goal is to increase turbine life by using a full flow cycle staged Integrated Powerhead Demonstrationcombustion design. This is achieved by lowering operating temperatures by using pre-burners. The second goal is to increase bearing lifetime and reduce their wear by incorporating hydrostatic bearing technology in the powerhead or pumping portion of a rocket engine."
  • Ronald Sega's comments to Congress on NASA-Air Force joint projects - March.18.04 : "This new liquid engine cycle should enable a 25% increase in rocket engine reliability, a 200-mission life for the engine, and a reduction in maintenance time and cost."

Suborbital spaceflight safety... Rand Simberg responds to the Tabarrok article: Not Unsafe At Any Speed - TCS: Tech Central Station - Nov.19.04.

Here also are two discussions on Rand's blog: Not Unsafe At Any Speed - Transterrestrial Musings - Nov. 18.04 + Unsafe At Any Speed? - Transterrestrial Musings - Nov.18.04

News briefs... More on Mike Melvill's visit to Florida: Famed pilot still looking up: America's first commercial astronaut visits Brevard - Florida Today - Nov.17.04...

... Looks like lots of interesting SPACE stuff in the December issue of Wired: Director James Cameron Guest Edits WIRED Magazine, Unveils the New Age of Space & Deep Sea Exploration in December Issue - SpaceRef - Nov.18.04...

... Discussions in Russia about space tourism: Space Privatization Underway- RIA Novosti - Nov.18.04...

... An additional commercial payload for the first Falcon I flight: Falcon 1's "Loved Ones" Flight - Space.com/Astronotes - Nov.18.04

November 18. 2004

Probably wrong... If statistics were a child, Alexander Tabarrok would be arrested for abuse: Is Space Tourism Ready for Takeoff? Probably Not - TCS: Tech Central Station - Nov.18.04.

Aerospace engineers can comment more knowledgeably on his analysis than I can but here are some points to consider:

  • He relies on a lump of technology fallacy in which rocket vehicles of all manner of designs and configurations and that were developed and launched over many decades are all lumped together. From this lump he draws conclusions on a new suborbital vehicle that uses a design and a propulsion system quite different from what those vehicles used. (Not that I believe conventional liquid fueled engines are incapable of achieving high safety levels.)

  • How can expendable orbital rockets be compared to a reusable suborbital vehicles?

  • How can the massive, hyper-complex, hyper-fragile, first-of-a-kind shuttle be compared to a small, Mach 3 suborbital?

  • He cites problems that occurred during the initial test flights of the SS1 and implies that these prove the SS1's unreliability. This is misleading in two ways:

    • Finding problems is what a test phase is supposed to do. You gradually push the envelope, find problems and fix them. That is HOW you make a vehicle reliable. That is HOW you build in the margins that lead to high reliability and safety.

    • Despite the problems like the spin on the first X PRIZE flight, the SS1 survived without any damage to the vehicle or pilot. This would indicate that even at this early stage, the vehicle has substantial margins and is remarkably robust considering that it is a whole new type of vehicle.

  • Burt Rutan believes the SS2 can achieve the safety levels of the first generation of airliners. He wants to follow a certification process similar to what airplanes must follow. This will certainly mean a significant number of test flights before paying passengers start flying. From a large sample of flights, one can then make a reasonable estimate of reliability.

  • Comparing the first space tourism vehicles to current airliner safety is silly. Achieving current safety levels took many decades and many accidents to learn from.

  • There's nothing in his analysis that proves that there are fundamental reasons the first generation of space tourism vehicles cannot provide as good or better safety as that found with other common adventure tourism activities such as parachuting, scuba diving, mountain climbing, etc. These are carried out by many thousands of people daily despite the occasional fatal accident.

[Update: Here are some stats on mountain climbing risks provided by David Nishimura. Link via Instapundit.]

Shuttle sims... Just downloaded the Space Shuttle Simulator by Mike Lundberg. Its currently just "10%" complete but nevertheless displays impressive detail and strong graphics. See also the Orbiter simulation and other shuttle sims.

News briefs... Comments from Jeff Foust about the fate of the commercial spaceflight bill: RIP HR 3752. Or not? - Space Politics - Nov.17.04...

... NASA gets a budget increase but it may be eaten up by the Shuttle return-to-flight and Hubble rescue programs: Report: Congress settles on $15.9 billion NASA budget - spacetoday.net - Nov.17.04...

... Elon Musk is pursuing sub-$1,000 per pound launch to orbit costs: Space Pioneer Musk Betting $100 Million - Investors Business Daily/Space Race News! - Nov.17.04 ...

... Boeing will apply X-43 data to military scramjet programs: Boeing to use X-43A results for future hypersonic ideas - Spaceflight Now - Nov.17.04...

... Mike Melvill flies the Proteus in Florda: Pioneer commercial astronaut makes stop in Melbourne - Florida Today - Nov.17.04.

November 17. 2004

Legislative launch failure... Alan Boyle this evening posted a lengthy review of what happened to to HR:3752 when it got to the Senate Transportation Committee: Private spaceflight legislation fizzles out: Clock runs out as House panel raises concerns - Alan Boyle/MSNBC - Nov.17.04.

A compromise had been worked out to overcome the main roadblock that had held up passage of the bill. New language instructed the FAA to consider crew and passenger safety only if a serious problem arose and to focus, as every agrees it should, on safety for the uninvolved public. This would hold for eight years, giving time for the new industry to mature and to develop the technology to a higher, safer level.

However, this compromise language "stuck out like a red flag" when the bill got to the Transportation Committee and there wasn't time left in the short session to decide if they could accept it.

As Alan indicates, "barring a miraculous revival" it looks like a goner for this year.

Commercial spaceflight bill dies.... Back to square zero next year for legislation to regulate commercial suborbital manned spaceflight: Senate Gives Final Passage To Bill Extending Protection For Satellite Launches; House Committee Kills Commercial Space Bill Deal - House Committee on Science - Nov.17.04 [Via NASA Watch]

[Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY)] said, “I’m very disappointed that this bill, on which Dana Rohrabacher and I have labored so long and hard, is not going to be signed into law. Dana has convinced all of us of the importance of this bill, of its potential to help get a new industry off the ground and to spur technology development. I hope we will be able to revive the bill next year. But everyone should understand that the final deal was a delicate, carefully calibrated compromise on precisely how much regulation was appropriate, and when. Those kinds of carefully tuned instruments tend to decay pretty rapidly over time. I fear that we’re going to have to start all over next year.”

Perhaps in the meantime the suborbital companies will all agree to a common set of proposals on how to proceed, especially with respect to the question of AST licensing vs. a FAA aviation-style certification for passenger vehicles.

[Well, like ET, Alan Boyle says there is still a faint glow of life: Suborbital bill on deathbed - Cosmic Log/MSNBC - 2;10 pm, Nov.17.04

Update 5:15pm - Charles Lurio also says the bill still alive. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher is appealing to the leaders of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to let it pass.

Charles says at this point the public also needs to appeal to this committee to let the bill through.

]

Get your 2005 SpaceShipOne calendar now available at Rocketboosters.org: Officially Licensed SpaceShipOne Mechandise - 2005 12 month Calendar.

More X-43 news... This BBC page also includes a video report on the flight: Superfast Nasa jet pushes Mach 10 - BBC - Nov.17.04. A summary and more article links at Final X-43 flight a success - spacetoday.net - Nov.17.04.

News briefs... Wired reports on the SpaceVision 2004 Conference held last week at MIT: The Final Capitalist Frontier - Wired - Nov.17.04...

... UPI report on the Centennial Challenges Day: NASA Gets Back Into The Rocket Science Game - UPI/SpaceDaily - Nov.16.04.

Suborbital spaceflight bill status... Looks like the commercial space launch amendments act HR:3752, which has serious implications for the development of the suborbital spaceflight industry, still has a chance of passage during the upcoming brief Congressional session. Alan Boyle reports on the status of the bill: Politics of the final frontier - Alan Boyle/Cosmic Log - Nov.16.04. See also comments by Jeff Foust at SpacePolitics.com.

Exploration grants... NASA's Exploration Systems office announces awards to 70 proposals that "support the research and technology goals and objectives of the Vision for Space Exploration". See the announcement at NASA Selects Exploration Systems Proposals - NASA/SpaceRef - Nov.16.04 and the list of awards.

Most of the awards go to the big mainstream aerospace firms but several small companies also won some of them. Examples of these include:

  • XCOR - $1.07M for Long-Life Lightweight Oxidation- Resistant Cryogen Tank
  • Andrews Space - $2.67M for SmallTug: Miniature Flight Experiment Demonstrating Cislunar Cargo Tug Technologies
  • Space Works Engineering (the group also includes the X PRIZE Foundation) $1.04M - Economic Development of Space: Examination & Simulation.

where the company listed is the leader of a group of organizations. A number of university led groups also received grants.

News briefs ... The X-43 reached its target Mach 10 speed: NASA's X-43A Scramjet Breaks Speed Record - NASA - Nov.16.04...

... Dr. Thomas Matula, a professor at the School of Business at the University of Houston, offers his "Space Markets Act of 2005 (ww.spacemarkets.org) with lots of ideas for how the government could encourage the development of space commerce. (His interview from Tuesday's Space Show should be in the archive there soon.).

November 16. 2004

5:38 pm: X-43 flight appears to be a success... Congrats to the X-43 team and NASA. See the post-flight briefing on NASA TV.

X-43 in the air... The B-52 with the X-43 has taken off and should launch in about half an hour. Watch the event on NASA TV and follow the updates at Spaceflight Now status page.

News briefs... The Dryden X-43 page says the "launch window for the X-43A/Pegasus combination will be from 2-4 p.m., PST. [5-7 p.m. EST]"...

... Centennial Challenges wants to give bigger space prizes: NASA Lobbying For Authority To Grant Prizes Above $250K - Aviation Week - Nov.16.04...

... ARCA posts photos from the X PRIZE award gala: Photos From X Prize Gala - St. Louis, - ARCA - Nov.6.04.

European re-entry tests... The European Aurora program, considered a response to the recent US exploration initiative, is starting some projects to test re-entry designs: European Space Industry To Develop Re-Entry Vehicles - SpaceDaily - Nov.15.04. [Nov.16 - Correction: Aurora has been around for about 3 years so obviously it's not a response to the US initiative. However, I believe it can be said that Aurora was re-invigorated by the US exploration plans.]

Here is a picture of the EADS PRE-X atmospheric re-entry and one of the PRE-X recovery at sea. According to this press release, "the Pre-X family of reentry vehicles [are intended ] to validate hypersonic aerodynamics, hot structures and thermal protection."

The German projects tie in with the Phoenix/Hopper RLV studies: PHOENIX: Future prospects in space transport through reusable launch systems - EADS - May.10.04. See pictures in the EADS gallery.

The COLIBRI (Concept of a Lifting Body for Reentry Investigations) is an earlier (1994-1997) German re-entry concept. This brochure from the Univ. of Stuttgart describes a more recent project called DESIRE (Demonstrator Satellite for Reentry Experiments), referred to as a "Lifting Body Reentry Demonstrator to prove Technologies!".

(This item via a HS reader in Poland)

News briefs... The Centennial Challenges Day meeting took place yesterday. Here is Brant Sponberg's opening presentation (pdf). There is also an archived webcast of the meeting. (Links via NASA Watch) ...

... Some lame responses to the WTN X PRIZE program that will award money for technology advancements: X Prize offers big bucks for big science / Sponsors ask public to suggest ideas -- critics aren't so sure - SF Chronicle - Nov.15.04

November 15. 2004

X-43 update... The flight was postponed till tomorrow due to delays caused by glitches in the X-43A avionics. See the Spaceflight Now Mission Status page for details.

X-43 flight status... Looks like the launch time is at 5 p.m. EST instead of 7pm (that's the time for the post-flight briefing). Sorry about that. See the Mission Status page at Spacefight Now for updates. NASA TV will also broadcast the flight. (Correction via a HS reader.)

News briefs... John Carmak reports on various engine projects in his latest update: Hydrogen preheat, Pancake preburner - Armadillo Aerospace - Nov.14.04....

... The X-43 flight is scheduled for today at 4 p.m. Pacific time (7 p.m. EST) . The event will be webcast from www.nasa.gov/multimedia/nasatv/. Check the NASA X-43 page for the latest updates...

... The Shuttle Return-to-Flight campaign promises to be tumultuous: Fears rise over cuts, shuttle schedule: Interviews, documents show managers' concern - Orlando Sentinel - Nov.14.04...

... Heres a new space tourism blog from Chris Sherman, who is also helping to organize a conference on the topic.

November 13. 2004

News briefs... Here's Robert Zimmerman calls the Boeing/Northrop CEV design "remarkably timid": Big or Small NASA Space Vision? - UPI/TechNewsworld - Nov.11.04 ...

... X-43 flight on for Monday: X-43A Status Update: X-43A Mach 10 Flight on Schedule For Nov. 15 - Dryden FRC - Nov.12.04 ...

... SpaceX has posted videos of various engine firings and other tests: Gallery SpaceX ...

... Here's a transcript of a roundtable discussion last August on Nuclear Propulsion and Power for Space, sponsored by the AIAA (via Bruce Behrhorst).

November 12, 2004

Rocket reliability study... SpaceX has posted a study that it commissioned from Futron on what were the primary causes of launch failures of US vehicles and what these imply for the reliability of the Falcon vehicle designs: Design Reliability Comparison for SpaceX Falcon Vehicles - Futron/SpaceX -Nov.24.04 (pdf).

Here's an interesting excerpt:

"For launches of US-built vehicles in the last 20 years, problems with the propulsion system caused 52 percent of all failures. Six of the 13 propulsion failures involved liquid engines and the other seven failures involved solid motors. After propulsion, the second most common cause of launch failures was separation events, which were responsible for 28 percent of all failures. Separation failures included staging, payload separation, or fairing separation. The remaining 20 percent of all failures occurred in the avionics or electrical subsystems and at least one failure was blamed on a lightning strike."

November 11, 2004

News briefs... Here's a report on SpaceX developments: Space Race 2: Half-Price Rockets - UPI/Spacedaily - Nov.10.04 ...

... Bristol Spaceplanes is looking for a spaceport in Asia: Asian Lift-off for British Space Holidays - Scotsman - Nov.10.04 (via Space Race News). ...

... SS1 and tests of a new radar system: Space Ship One may help flight test - Hilltop Times - Nov.11.04 ...

... More about the Northrop Grumman / Boeing collaboration: Firms look to shuttle successor - BBC - Nov.10.04 * (B)old new frontiers : Design of Space Vehicle - Newsday.com - Nov.10.04 ...

... And more on the X-43A flight: NASA to Attempt Mach 10 Flight - Wired - Nov.11.04

November 10, 2004

Space Access Midterm Report... The recent Space Frontier Foundation Conference held in Long Beach, California included a "Space Access Track" with presentations on the latest in space transportation development, especially at small entrepreneurial companies. This is a mid-year update between the Space Access Society meetings held each April in Phoenix, Arizona.

I could not attend the meeting but Jonathan Goff of Masten Space System generously agreed to do a writeup on the presentations and has now posted his Notes From Space Frontier Conference 13. He reports on talks by John Carmack of Armadillo Aerospace, Jeff Greason of XCOR, and others involved directly and indirectly in the development of low cost space transport.

News briefs... Jeff Bezos actually mentions Blue Origin in public but doesn't say much: Amazon CEO Wants to Go Into Space on Own Rocket - Reuters/UK - Nov.10.04. (Via Space Race News) ...

... More about the X-43A flight: With 'Scramjet,' NASA Shoots for Mach 10 - Washington Post - Nov.10.04....

... The Planetary Society's Cosmos 1 solar sail now has a firm launch period set between March 1 to April 7, 2005:

November 9, 2004


November 6, 2004: Burt Rutan, American Mojave Aerospace Ventures Team Leader, accepts $10 million ANSARI X PRIZE check. From left to right - Burt Rutan, American Mojave Aerospace Ventures Team Leader; Gregg Maryniak, Executive Director, X PRIZE Foundation; Paul G. Allen, Founder & Chair, Vulcan Inc.; Robert K. Weiss, Vice Chairman, X PRIZE Foundation; Peter H. Diamandis, Founder & Chair, X PRIZE Foundation. (Photo - X PRIZE)

News briefs... Northrop and Boeing team up on the CEV (Crew Exploration Vehicle) design proposal: Northrop Grumman, Boeing Plan Space Exploration Team - Northrop Grumman - Nov.8.04 * Boeing to Join Northrop Bid for NASA's New Spacecraft- Bloomberg News - Nov.9.04 ...

... America's Space Prize gets the attention of Nature magazine: Rules outlined for $50-million space prize - news@Nature - Nov.9.04. (via spacetoday.net)...

... The Russian space program now has sufficient funds to develop improved versions of its vehicles so this may indicate that their RLV development plans like, the Kliper, are not beyond reach: Soyuz 2 test launch a success - spacetoday.net - Nov.9.04.

November 8, 2004

News briefs... This report - Winging It: Black Sky - Astrobiology Magazine - Nov.8.04 - on comments made by Burt Rutan while in Alabama includes this interesting factoid: "I bought the engines for $65,000 each." ...

... Background on the upcoming "bittersweet" Mach 10 flight of the X-43: The final flight of X-43A - HamptonRoads.com/Pilot Online - Nov.8.04.

(Both links via spacetoday.net)

America's Space Prize rules ... Robert Bigelow has announced the rules for his contest that will award $50M for the successful development of a crewed orbital launcher by 2010: Rules Set for $50 Million 'America’s Space Prize' by Leonard David - SpaceNews/Space.com - Nov.8.04.

Rutan and the SS1 on 60 Minutes... The segment was really terrific. They concentrated on Burt Rutan but with a strong emphasis on the SS1 flights and the development of a private spaceflight industry. See pictures and text at Next Space Race Under Way - CBS News - Nov.7.04

60 Minutes is one of the most watched programs on US TV. While many people saw snippets of the flights on the daily news shows, this broadcast will give a much bigger audience the story of what the flights were really all about. Can't imagine the alt.space movement getting a better publicity boost.

News briefs... More on the X PRIZE awards ceremony: Winners of X Prize get their reward - St. Louis Post Dispatch - Nov.7.04...

... MOON Bahamas is an elaborate resort and real estate development with a space/scifi theme. It probably will never get off the ground but such a resort would be a great place to base a ZERO G type parabolic flight service and eventually a space tourism company like Virgin Galactic.

November 7, 2004

SS1 news... The SS1 team got their trophy and check yesterday:

Here is the official press release:

X PRIZE Foundation Awards $10 Million Check Today
to Historic Winners of the ANSARI X PRIZE

$10 million check given to American Mojave Aerospace Ventures Team at the St. Louis Science Center for their successful suborbital space flights Sept. 29 and Oct. 4

St. Louis, MO. (November 6, 2004) - Ten million dollars was awarded at 10:30 a.m. (CT) today to the American Mojave Aerospace Team, led by research aircraft developer Burt Rutan, and financier Paul Allen, for its successful completion of the history making ANSARI X PRIZE. The team prevailed over 25 additional teams from across the globe in developing and flying a privately financed, manned spaceship to an altitude above 100km. The criteria called for the spacecraft to fly twice, within a two-week period, before the December 31 deadline, with a pilot and the weight equivalent of two additional people. Ceremonies were held at the St. Louis Science Center, a major supporter of the Foundation and St. Louis University High School in St. Louis, Missouri.

“We are very excited to be able to celebrate this extraordinary accomplishment here in St. Louis, the birth place of Charles Lindbergh's flight and home of the X PRIZE Foundation,” said Gregg Maryniak, Executive Director, X PRIZE Foundation. “The ANSARI X PRIZE was the first step for people to realize their dream of space travel and has since sparked a number of new creative endeavors including the upcoming X PRIZE CUP in New Mexico.”

After the team's second successful sub orbital space flight October 4, Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Atlantic Airways Founder, announced his plans to partner with the American Mojave Aerospace Ventures Team to develop a fleet of five passenger space ships modeled from Burt Rutan's White Knight & SpaceShipOne vehicles.

“There is no question that the ANSARI X PRIZE was instrumental in helping to inspire a new space renaissance,” said Burt Rutan, American Mojave Aerospace Ventures Team Leader. “The entire team anticipates an exciting decade ahead, which will provide space access for those for whom it was previously only a dream.”

In addition to receiving a $10 million check, the American Mojave Aerospace Ventures Team also was awarded an impressive five-foot, 200 lb bronze trophy created by sculptor, James Todd of Troy, Michigan. Francis G. Slay, Mayor, City of St. Louis, proclaimed Nov. 6, 2004 “Space Flight Day” and designated the first week in October as “Aviation History Week” to commemorate the second flight of SpaceShipOne on October 4, 2004. With blue skies overhead, the presentation ceremony was concluded as pilot and astronaut Mike Melvill and pilot Robert Scherer flew overhead in the Beechcraft Starship, one of the chase planes that accompanied SpaceShipOne on its flights.

Dignitaries attending the event included Paul G. Allen, Founder and Chair, Vulcan Inc.; Congressman Richard Gephardt, (D) Missouri; Congressman Todd Akin, (R) Missouri; Francis G. Slay, Mayor of St. Louis; William Readdy, NASA Associate Administrator, Space Operations Mission Directorate; Byron Lichtenberg, PhD, X PRIZE Board of Trustees and astronaut; John-David Bartoe, astronaut; Richard Fleming, President and CEO, St. Louis Regional Chamber and Growth Association; Erik Lindbergh, Director, Lindbergh Foundation; Amir Ansari, Technology Entrepreneur; Dr. Peter H. Diamandis, Founder and Chair, X PRIZE Foundation; Robert K. Weiss, Vice Chairman, X PRIZE Foundation and Hollywood Producer, and Douglas R. King, President, St. Louis Science Center. Additional attendees of the ceremonies included many of the 26 competitors including: ARCA, Da Vinci/Golden Palace, Pablo de Leon & Associates, Pioneer Rocketplane, TGV Rockets, Inc., Vanguard Spacecraft, High Altitude Research Corporation (HARC), and Suborbital Corporation.

... The two DVDs with the Black Sky programs about the SpaceShipOne and the X PRIZE, and shown recently on the Discovery Channel, are now shipping from the Discovery Store. (Just got word that my set is in the mail.) ...

... Meanwhile, don't forget the 60 Minutes show tonight with a segment about Burt Rutan.

News briefs... Article on XCOR's piston pump project: XCOR successfully demonstrates new liquid oxygen pump - AV Press - Nov.6.04...

... NY Times Sunday magazine has this brief interview with Richard Branson in which thre is some discussion of space tourism at the end: Questions for Richard Branson: Virgin Territory - The New York Times - Nov.7.04.

November 5, 2004

News briefs... Robert Zimmerman finds shortcomings in the Shuttle return to flight preparations: Analysis: Shuttle's safe return illusory - Robert Zimmerman/UPI - Nov.5.04...

... On the other hand, NASA certainly seems to be trying to find ways to reduce damage to the shuttles during launch: NASA grows ice for space shuttle testing - NASA/Spaceflight Now - Nov.5.04 ...

... Latest on the upcoming X-43 flight: X-43A Launch, Pre-Flight Briefing Rescheduled - NASA - Nov.5.04...

... With the Russian economy recovering, their space program may recover as well from over a decade of decline and penury: New Space Program: The Period Of Survival Is Over - RIA Novosti - Nov.4.04

60 Minutes profiles Burt Rutan on November 7th:

THE NEXT SPACE RACE - The private sector's race to space is being led by maverick aeronautical engineer Burt Rutan, who foresees thousands of people enjoying the view from space in the very near future. Ed Bradley reports.

(Via a HS reader)

Centennial Challenges Day... NASA's Centennial Challenges program, which will be awarding prizes for successful development of space related technology projects, is holding a meeting about its efforts to get more input from the community:

Centennial Challenges Day
November 15, 2004

At a special announcement event, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) will present an overview of the Centennial Challenges program and an explanation of two Requests For Information (RFI) and one Announcement of Partnership Opportunity (APO).

The event will be conducted on November 15, 2004, at NASA Headquarters, James E. Webb Auditorium, 300 E Street SW, Washington DC from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

Agenda:

  • Introduction of Brant Sponberg
  • Welcoming Remarks
  • Introduction to Centennial Challenges
  • Description of RFI for Flagship and Keystone Challenge Support
  • Description of RFI for Quest Challenge Support
  • Description of APO for Co-Sponsorship and Alliance Challenges
  • Question and Answer Session
  • Adjournment

The RFIs and APO are available at:

You can pre-register online or at the door. The event will be webcast (see meeting page for streaming link).

See the meeting web page for further details, registration info, maps, etc.

XCOR sponsors pump contest... XCOR Aerospace is sponsoring a contest to design and build a "four cylinder piston machine that operates four water pump modules (provided by XCOR)." The rules and specs are given at Steam Engine Contest: $11,000.00 total prize money for three places - Nov.5.04. There is also a discussion forum.

November 4, 2004

SS1 articles in the November issue of Sports Aviation include this interesting behind the scenes report by EAA President Tom Poberezny who visited Scaled Composites the day before the Sept.29th launch: “SpaceShipOne — Cleared to Land” by Tom Poberezny - EAA Sports Aviation - Nov.04 (pdf).

Though not available online, the issue also includes the article: Inside SpaceShipOne: Innovation-and a few dicey moments-highlight the first private space program - Sport Aviation Magazine - Nov.04. (Item via HS reader D. Hoerr.)

News briefs ... China copies not only the NASA style, big-government space program model, but even copies the rhetoric. Here it duplicates the standard NASA promise, given since the 1960s, that in 20 years its efforts will lead to commercialized spaceflight: China eyes commercial space flights in 20 years - AFP/SpaceDaily - Nov.3.04....

... The X-43A Mach 10 flight won't happen before Nov. 15th: Hypersonic X-43A Takes Flight - NASA - Nov.3.04...

... Here are a couple of profiles of engineers working on the X-43 project: Enthusiasm for Flight Propels Researcher's Interest in X-43A - NASA - Oct.27.04 * From the Start: NASA Researcher Involved in X-43A Flight Program Since its Beginning - NASA - Oct.15.04 ...

... Robert Goehlich is posting the lectures from his current Space Tourism course.

November 3, 2004

News briefs ... The latest X PRIZE newsletter is now available: X PRIZE NEWSLETTER : November 2, 2004...

... More space tourism press: The future of space tourism is looking up - Chicago Tribune - Nov.1.04...

... Eli Kintisch reports on the upcoming X PRIZE awards event: .Ansari X Prize will be awarded Saturday in ceremony - St. Louis Post Dispatch - Nov.11.04 ...

... The latest NASA Shuttle launch schedule: ISS Launch Date Planning - NASA Watch - Nov.1.04...

... The latest CSA newsletter: SpotBeam California - Cal Space Authority - October 25, 2004.

November 2, 2004

Suborbital orbital spinoff... AvWeek reports that the SpaceShipOne is having a positive impact on the RASCAL program: SpaceShipOne Lessons Feeding Into RASCAL Aircraft - Aviation Week - Nov.1.04 -

"Lessons and technology from Scaled Composites' SpaceShipOne are being applied to the supersonic manned aircraft the company is developing for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's (DARPA) RASCAL program, according to Jacob Lopata, chief executive officer for RASCAL prime contractor Space Launch Corp."

How can this be? Numerous talking aero-heads have made categorical claims that nothing significant can be learned from X PRIZE class suborbital vehicles that will apply to orbital systems. But as we see here (and also mentioned in this report), if nothing else, suborbital vehicle technology can be applied to the development of a robust, reliable, low cost first stage of a two or three stage orbital system.

Kistler tries to emerge from bankruptcy... According to the latest issue of Space News (there's also currently an item in the online Space News Briefs), Kistler Aerospace has filed a restructuring plan with its bankruptcy court that would allow it to emerge from Chapter 11 in January. The Bay Harbour Management private-equity firm, which has long been involved with Kistler, would become majority owner. They would "restart the K-1 program with $50 million in debt financing."

An additional $450 million would still be needed to finish the K-1. They say it could fly within 18 months after obtaining the funding.

November 1, 2004

Armadillo update... John Carmack reports on progress with the assembly of a large text vehicle and with the bi-propellant engine development: Vehicle work, Lox engine work - Armadillo Aerospace - Nov.1.04.

News briefs... Burt Rutan is helping to inspire a new generation of students on the excitement of space: Spaceship designer boosts innovation: Speaker hopes to spark kids' interest in space exploration - The Daily Texan - Nov.1.04...

... If nothing else, NASA helps to maintain a spaceflight industrial infrastructure: Matrix does its part for shuttle: Company one of hundreds of small contractors - Florida Today - Oct.31.04.

Proposed scramjet first stage by 2015... The current issue of Aviation Week has an article titled: X-43A team claims $500-million air-breathing first stage could handle 80% of payloads (subcription required.) A reusable Mach 7 first stage using a scramjet engine would be derived from X-43A technology. A paper about the design was given at the recent International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Vancouver. The team claims such a system could start putting 10K kg payloads into low-Earth orbit (LEO) by 2015 or so.

The successful, though very brief, test flight last March of an X-43A vehicle has given the team confidence that Mach 7 is a speed that is achievable for a practical vehicle on a 10 year timeframe. Usually proposed hypersonic vehicles are designed to reach Mach 12 or higher.

They propose a $500M project that would deliver payloads to orbit for around $800 per kg. The baseline system assumes an expendable upper stage. The vehicle would takeoff horizontally using turbojets:

"Turbine-Based Combined Cycle (TBCC) engine burning hydrocarbon fuel for the turbojet and liquid hydrogen for the ramjet/scramjet phase of flight. The turbojets--a variant of the F135 or F110 engine--would push the first stage, an expendable upper stage and the payload from horizontal takeoff to about Mach 2.5. At that speed the transition to ramjet/scramjet operations is less challenging than at the higher Mach 3.5-4 transition speeds needed for a Mach 12-15 first stage."

The X-43A project plans its final flight later this month. As a result of the resetting of priorities after the announcement of the President's space initiative, NASA decided to severely reduce its hypersonics R&D and it cancelled a project to follow the X-43. (There is still considerable activity by the military, which wants to use scramjets for missiles.)

The aeronautics side of the agency, which is in charge of the hypersonics program, is apparently responding with this proposal to show that a practical scramjet powered vehicle is feasible on a much shorter time scale than previously thought.


Continue to October 2004

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