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RLV News
Space Transport Developments & Commentary

August 2005
Index Feedback

SS1
Scaled Composites photos
SpaceShipOne on first rocket powered flight Dec.17th, 2003.


Space Access'05 Conference

RLV (Reusable Launch Vehicles) News offers brief articles and comments concerning developments in the area of space transport, which includes vehicles for earth launch to orbit, suborbital spaceflight, and in-space vehicles. It also provides lots of links to news articles, announcements by commercial rocket developers, NASA events, etc.

The RLV Countdown: Part 1 and Part 2 sections provide information and
links for various reusable space transportation systems around the world.

RLV Table compares a selection of space transport vehicles.

RLV History looks at earlier vehicles and designs.

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

The Space Log contains news about
amateur space activities, space businesses, etc.

RLV News Archive Directory

August 31, 2005

ORIZONT Rollout - August 27th ,2005

11:15 am: ARCA rolls out ORIZONT... The Romanian ARCA organization, formerly a X PRIZE team, rolled out its ORIZONT suborbital vehicle on August 27th. Check out pictures of the event on their website.

They also offer several pdf documents describing the vehicle:

The vehicle uses an innovative variable geometry wing that adapts to each phase of the flight. It will be air launched at a low altitude and initially use a turbojet to reach 17km. The jet engine is then "detached", The wings move into a sweep-back configuration, and the rocket engine fires to send the vehicle to 100km. At apogee the wings sweep forward and the vehicle falls back in tail first mode. A parachute deploys for landing.

If I understand the documentation correctly, the cabin can detach from the vehicle in case of an emergency situation.

Engine tests will take place in this year and test flights next year. The vehicle can fly via ground control or with one pilot and one passenger.

(Item via Space Race News!)

11:15 am: XCOR methane engine ... XCOR announces the successful development of a compact methane rocket engine: XCOR Aerospace Completes Successful Development of Methane Rocket Engine: Engine seen as advantage for (RCS) and satellite maneuvering operations - XCOR - Aug.31.05

11:15 am: News briefs ... The text of the Discover magazine cover article for September about SpaceX is now available in full on the SpaceX website. ...

... The launcher for the Kliper will use an engine originally developed for the Soviet lunar program: Moonshot engine to power spacecraft - Flight International - Aug.30.05 ...

... Glenn Reynolds ponders the legal implications of a space elevator: Space Elevator: Stuck Between Floors - TCS: Tech Central Station - Aug.31.05 ...

... Just what the world and the high-power rocketry community needs, the Political Wacko's Guide to Hybrid Rockets: Manual for [Hybrid] Rocket System (link via a HS reader.)

2:45 am: DARPA wins for startups ... The latest issue of Space News reports that there are strong indications, but no confirmation yet, that Air Launch and SpaceX will win the funding for the next phase of the DARPA Falcon program. Microcosm has already starting laying off people. The other apparent loser is Lockheed-Martin but there are factions within the military who are uncomfortable with the award going to a new company and not to a familiar one like LM. So the decision might still be reversed or other money found to give to LM.

Assuming things do go as expected, Air Launch will receive about $40M to develop its vehicle and to launch a small satellite in 2007. SpaceX would get funding to develop ways to shorten the call-up time for launching a payload with the Falcon I from two weeks to 24 hours.

A public announcement from DARPA is expected soon.

2:45 am: Blue Origin news ... A couple of Blue Origin items via HS reader D. De Sloover. The company carry out some jet engine tests in 2004 at a college in Seattle: Jet engine testing creates stir on campus - South Seattle Community College - June.2006 * Picture. I'm told these were probably in preparation for test flights of a jet engine powered VTVL platform that took place at the beginning of this year. ...

... And Blue Origin paid $7.8M for a facility in Kent, Washington according to this King County real estate market report.

2:45 am: News brief ... Michael Griffin will lay out the grand NASA space transport plan today: Sneak Peek at Griffin's AIAA Speech Tomorrow - NASA Watch - Aug.30.05.

August 30, 2005

12:35 pm: News brief ... The XCOR EZ-Rocket takes off again with Dick Rutan in the cockpit: EZ-Rocket rises again - Cosmic Log/MSNBC - Aug.29.05. Former astronaut Rick Searfoss will fly it at the XP Cup: XCOR To Fly EZ Rocket at X PRIZE CUP Countdown in Las Cruces, NM - XCOR - Aug.18.05.

8:40 am: News briefs ... An update on the XP Cup Expo in October: X Prize Cup: Rocket demo flights slated - Las Cruces Sun-News - Aug.28.05 ...

... Financing and insurance services will be crucial parts of the space tourist transport industry infrastructure according to Sam Dinkin: General (Rocket) Motors - The Space Review - Aug.29.05 ...

... The Kliper will have an escape module to save the crew in an emergency situation according to this Russian SpaceNews.Ru article (via F. Novozhilov). ...

... Taylor Dinerman reports on knowledge gained from the recent Discovery mission: A few lessons from the return to flight - Space Review - Aug.29.05 ...

... India is developing technology for spacecraft reentry and recovery: Eye on space return ticket - The Telegraph - Calcutta - Aug.27.05

August 26, 2005

1:35 pm: News briefs ... Alan Boyle has a lengthy interview with Jim Benson of SpaceDev about the company and its long term plans: How one company is making space pay: SpaceDev's Jim Benson on the "killer apps" that lie beyond Earth - MSNBC.com - Aug.25.05 ...

... Dan Schrimpsher likes the agile approach of SpaceDev: SpaceDev gets Agile Development - Space Pragmatism - Aug.26.05. ...

... An essay pushing for private space development: The Space Elephant Meets the Gazelle - TheRealityCheck.Org - Aug.25.05 ...

... Here's an article about the Centennial Challenges program: Cosmic Contests - GovExec.com - Aug.15.05 ...

.... Khrunichev wants to compete with Energia and offer an alternative to the Kliper that would be based on a 100ton lifter: Angara-100 - Russian Spaceweb (via F. Novozhilov) ...

.... Another article on the India RLV-TD project: Reusable launch vehicle (TD) lift-off in 2008 - India Monitor - Aug.25.05 ...

... DVDs of presentations at the recent 6th Lunar Development 2005 Conference: Return to the Moon - Reality Check are available at www.AcceleratingMedia.com.

1:55 am: Pentagon smallsat push ... The Wall Street Journal has an article today reporting that the US military wants to give a much bigger priority to small satellites that "cost between $15 million and $30 million apiece, compared with current versions costing several hundred million dollars.": Pentagon Envisions Operations With Small Satellites: Technical, Budget Problems With Big Ones Spark Push For Cheaper, Flexible Birds - WSJ - Aug.26.05 (subscription required.)

The article discusses the "operationally responsive space" emphasis of the Air Force that has led to efforts like the DARPA Falcon program. They want the capability to launch small tactical satellites on short notice, from mobile platforms, for things like providing "targeted surveillance of nearby enemy movements over a critical few weeks or months."

There is a lot of disappointment and fatigue from dealing with large satellite programs that take forever to develop, usually experience severe overruns, and are anything but quick to launch. (Of course, some tasks like high resolution imaging with large telescopes will continue to need big spacecraft.)

If the Pentagon really does follow through with this (and it's not just some general spouting off), it could have some significant consequences for space development:

"For major U.S. aerospace contractors, beset by a string of high-profile cost overruns and embarrassing technical problems affecting some of the largest, most ambitious satellites, the shift means reduced revenue but also reduced outlay. Furthermore, the anticipated changes are likely to open the door to competition from a bevy of entrepreneurs and industry newcomers, not to mention ripples of innovation potentially affecting space tourism or other commercial endeavors."

The total funding for smallsat programs, though, will remain comparatively small: "less than $600 million on small-rocket development through the end of the decade".

The SpaceX Falcon I project is highlighted as a company that is crucial in validating the policy. The last item of the article quotes from one general who says the success of the upcoming Falcon I launch is "very important". If it is, he is confident that they ""will get more money from Congress" for the responsive launch programs.

1:55 am: News briefs ... The July/August issue of AIAA (Houston) Horizons Newsletter is now available online. It includes the article Accelerating the Crew Exploration Vehicle by Steve King. Also, there is a call by Jim Akkerman for help with his Advent launch project: Advent Launch Services Soliciting Volunteers. ...

... Speaking of DARPA programs, I've not been able to find out any info on the status of the X-37 drop tests at Mojave. Someone, however, was kind enough to send an image of the cool looking patch for the project:

... Sounds like Zero-G is doing well: Firm offers weightless flights: Zero Gravity starts trips here in November - Florida Today - Aug.25.05.I think this is the first article on this topic that doesn't mention airsickness. This schoolteacher 's experience seems to be the more common effect of microgravity:

"She was supposed to conduct some experiments onboard during the weightless periods, but she got caught up in the moment and was having so much fun that she didn't get everything done."

... New Mexico is getting into gear on its spaceport development: New Mexico Charts Future of Spaceport - SPACE.com - Aug.25.05.

August 25, 2005

11:40 am: News briefs ... NASA Watch reports that the cost for the new exploration plan is encountering some resistance in the White House: Rollout Plan for Griffin's Architecture Stumbles - NASA Watch - Aug.25.05 ...

... India is planning to test a demonstrator for a reusable launch system: Reusable launch vehicle (TD) lift-off in 2008 - The Hindu - Aug.25.05 (Via F. Novozhilov). The unmanned winged RLV-TD will be launched on an expendable solid rocket booster called the S-9. The suborbital flight will test technologies for reentry and hypersonic flight. More info at ISRO's RLV Project - V. Kthakur - Nov.28.04. ...

... More on possible European involvement in the Kliper: Space-ferry may be ready by 2010 - New Scientist - Aug.25.05 ...

... Alan Boyle says the ceremony for the installation of the SS1 into the Smithsonian will take place on October 5th: A date with SpaceShipOne - Cosmic Log/MSNBC.com - Aug.24.05 ...

... Jon Goff has been reading the t/Space report found in the list of studies at NASA - Exploration Systems - Reports from the Concept Exploration & Refinement Broad Agency Announcement (CE&R) BAA, He found their analysis of the potential size of the orbital space tourism market to be of particular interest: Interesting Orbital Space Tourism Numbers - Selenian Boondocks - Aug.24.05 ...

... Jon also examines possible applications of the Spacehab Apex series of modular spacecraft mentioned here yesterday : SpaceHab Announcement and Launch Services Ideas - Selenian Boondocks - Aug.24.05

August 24, 2005

4:40 pm: News briefs ... Spacehab plans to offer a set of modular spacecraft for carrying cargo and eventually people to orbit. The modules could be launched by different rockets: Spacehab Aims High with Apex Spacecraft Trio - SPACE.com - Aug.24.05. Here's a previous article by Alan Boyle: Swiss-knife spacecraft - Cosmic Log/MSNBC - July.12.05. ...

... Leonard David reports on the Kliper: Russian Clipper Ship Draws European Interest - SPACE.com - Aug.24.05 ...

... The cover article for the September issue of Discover Magazine is about SpaceX and Elon Musk: Shooting the Moon: Internet multimillionaire Elon Musk bets his entire fortune developing a subcompact rocket that could make outer space as accessible as cyberspace. - Discover - Sept.05 (need subscription to read full article.)

2:05 pm: News briefs ... Low cost space tourism (as compared to the Soyuz) may reach orbit sooner rather than later: Space tourism companies aiming for orbit - New Scientist - Aug.24.05 ...

... Several space transport sessions will be included in the upcoming AIAA Space 2005 - Long Beach, California - Aug.30-Sept.1.05 * Agenda ...

... Glenn Reynolds sees progress in space development: Space Program: Looking Up - Tech Central Station - Aug.24.05 ...

... NASA looks on the positive side and says the Discovery flight actually went really well: A Spectacular Test Flight - NASA - Aug.23.05

August 23, 2005

11:20 am: News brief ... NASA will go with the in-line design for the heavy lifter: NASA picks rocket for return to Moon: Agency opts for 100t launcher using Shuttle technology - Flight International - Aug.23.05. (Via Space Pragmatism.)

10:40 am: Inflatable reentry system ... According to this Russian article - Space "Parachute" to Fly in September - SpaceNews.RU - Aug.23.05 - there will be another test of the inflatable reentry system by the IRDT (Inflatable Reentry Descent Technology) project. IRDT, which is operated by a collaboration of S.A.Lavochkina and EADS. They have carried out three previous tests, the first was a partial success but the second two failed because of launch vehicle problems.

The system could provide a low cost way to return cargo from space. (How about products from the Moon like platinum?) Also, their light weight makes them suitable for sample return missions from Mars and elsewhere. Crew rescue is another target application.

More info:

(This item via F. Novozhilov).

9:55 am: News briefs ... Scaled/Virgin will go to orbit after SS2: SpaceShipThree poised to follow if SS2 succeeds - Flight International - Aug.23.05 (via NASA Watch) ...

... NASA suborbital spaceflight pilots finally get the astronaut wings they deserved (though too late for two of them): NASA X-15 pilots awarded astronaut wings - collectSPACE - Aug.23.05 ...

... Masten Space Systems will be one of the sponsors of the X-PRIZE Cup in October: Masten Space Systems Announces XPrize Cup Sponsorship - Masten Space Systems - Aug.23.05 ...

... Here's an update on the space elevator competition sponsored by Centennial Challenges and the Spaceward Foundation: Space Elevator Update - Spaceward Foundation/SpaceRef - Aug.22.05. Several university and hobbyist teams are competing for the prize: Elevator 2010 Teams

August 22, 2005

12:35 pm: WSJ space post ... In response to Requiem for the Future: Where Are the Interplanetary Wonders We Read About When We Were Kids? - by Tim Hanrah & Jason Fry - Real Time/WSJ - Aug.15.05, I sent an email to the authors that offered a more optimistic view of space development. They received a record number of reader comments on the article and posted a number of them today and kindly included my entire message.

I can't find today's piece in the free section at WSJ, so I''ll show here what I wrote:

You are greatly exaggerating the death of the future; and wildly exaggerating the death of humanity's expansion into outer space. While it's true that space development is far behind where it could have been, please don't hold to the false logic that "if it hasn't happened by now, then it can't happen."

We are, in fact, well into the start of a private-industry-led revolution in space development. Like the PC revolution, it will take place in an evolutionary way, starting with very simple systems and applications. (Remember that for the first decade or so after the Altair, the main apps for PCs were games.) Private space will be mainly self-financed as it proceeds through step-by-step improvements in capability, each step paid for by profits from the previous one.

There are at least a half-dozen serious companies developing vehicles for suborbital spaceflight. Within two to three years they will be flying payloads and passengers routinely up to and back down from 100 km in altitude. The leading company, of course, is the collaboration of Burt Rutan and Richard Branson. Virgin Galactic (www.virgingalactic.com) will begin flying seven passengers at a time on their SpaceShipTwo vehicles in 2008. Already well into an incremental development process, this vehicle will be the second-generation of the SpaceShipOne that won the X Prize last year.

Even before the vehicle's debut, Virgin Galactic has gotten deposits on or the full amount of the $200,000 price tag for tickets from more than 150 people. More than 30,000 people have indicated a strong interest in tickets when flights become available. Space Adventures similarly has gotten payments from more than 100 people towards a suborbital ride when it becomes available.

(With regards to space being only for "techno-zillionaires," come on. You of all people should know that almost every product or service imaginable -- cars, airline flights, DVD players, etc. -- starts off being affordable only to the rich. Gradually, economies of scale bring the price down to where everyone else can afford them. The rich are essential to initiating the bootstrapping process that reduces the price.)

You may scoff at suborbital spaceflight as falling far short of interplanetary travel, but so what? PC's were scoffed at as toys by top computer-industry gurus right up until the early 1990s. What is important is whether a big enough market will appear that can sustain the companies and allow them to recycle a portion of their profits back into incremental improvements just as the PC companies did. So far, the market for suborbital spaceflight looks plenty big enough to do that.

Suborbital spaceflight is not the only area, however, where private spaceflight development is heating up. For example, Elon Musk's SpaceX (www.spacex.com) plans the first flight of its low-cost launcher early this fall. The company now has at least six customers for its first-generation launcher and is well into development of a second-generation vehicle. Though the company will start with spacecraft payloads, Musk has made it very clear that human spaceflight is a primary goal for the company and Mars is the long-term target.

T/Space (www.transformspace.com), a collaboration of several firms including Rutan's, is proposing to NASA a cargo- and crew-delivery system for the International Space Station. They are offering to do this for one-tenth of what NASA expects to pay for its planned Crew Exploration Vehicle. Unlike the cost-plus approach of mainstream aerospace companies, t/Space wants a fixed-price contract and will only take payments incrementally as it meets each of a clear set of milestones.

Meanwhile, Bigelow Aerospace (www.bigelowaerospace.com), funded by Robert Bigelow of Budget Suites, is well on its way to developing low-cost but large and roomy orbital habitats using an inflatable-materials technology that it is working on with NASA. The first launch of a prototype module will take place early next year. Bigelow is also funding a $50 million prize contest for the first private firm to put a crew into orbit by 2010. Furthermore, the winner will get a contract to bring passengers to his orbital habitat, i.e. space hotel.

So the lunar fly-by mission proposed by Space Adventures is just the most ambitious of a wide range of vibrant and viable private-spaceflight activities now in gear. Things may not be advancing nearly as fast as you want, but things are definitely moving along. I once read an article about Alan Bean, who walked on the Moon during Apollo 12, in which he said he expected that lunar tourism wouldn't happen for at least 200 years. Well, we now know that he was off by about 200 years. That seems like progress to me.

12:35 pm: News briefs ... Here is a recent posting by Jerry Pournelle on his suggestions for developing space transport: NASA and the Dream, and How To Get Back To The Moon - Jerry Pournelle - July.27.05. Reader responses are available at
Mail 372 July 25 - 31, 2005 ...

... The Brad Edwards article in IEEE Spectrum about space elevators that I commented on back in July got a revival in the Blogosphere yesterday when it was posted by Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit. Rand Simberg finds that Edwards exaggerates the limitations of rockets: Too Strong A Claim - Transterrestrial Musings - Aug.21.05 ...

... Here is a nice collection of pictures taken during a recent aerospace trade show in Russia: Airbase Forums - Aug.20.05 (via F. Novozhilov). Photos of the Kliper mockup are midway down the page. ...

... This Florida Today editorial talks about NASA's "shuttle woes": On life support: NASA's shuttle woes get much worse, and so does the program's credibility - Florida Today - Aug.21.05

August 21, 2005

1:50 am: News briefs ... ARCA says on its homepage that it will roll out its suborbital ORIZONT spaceship on August 27th: ORIZONT vehicle rollout - ARCA News - Aug.20.05 ...

... With its NASA Exploration contract, Spacehab developed a modular and fairly straightforward approach to the CEV and lunar exploration systems. The page Exploration Initatives - Concept Exploration and Refinement includes the presentation CE&R Lunar Exploration System of Systems Overview (4.5ppt), which outlines their scheme (link via N. Rogers). On the plus side, they only need currently available ELV launchers; no new heavy lifter required. However, huge amounts of stuff are thrown away. Why not collect all those used modules in LEO? If nothing else, they could be useful later for spare parts and radiation shielding mass. ...

... Dwayne Day gives an interesting report about a 1992 NASA study done with several former Apollo astronauts to obtain practical advice about what is needed to live and work on the lunar surface: Working on the Moon - Space Review - Aug.22.05. ...

... Taylor Dinerman sees the recent announcement of a lunar tourist trip based on Russian hardware as another sign of the vigor and commercial adroitness of the Russian space industry: Russia, space tourism, and exploration - Space Review - Aug.22.05 ...

... China meanwhile continues a slow but steady pace in development of its own space program. Jeff Foust reviews the book - China’s Space Program: From Conception to Manned Spaceflight by Brian Harvey: Review: China’s Space Program - Space Review - Aug.22. 05. ...

... Sam Dinkin thinks big when it comes to space settlement: Next Trillion Dollar Colonization - Transterrestrial Musings - Aug.20.05. If the money won't come from the government, he suggests that you can make a significant contribution towards the effort as your last wish: Building a foundation for space settlement - Space Review - Aug.22.05 ...

... Jonathan Coopersmith suggests laser launching nuclear waste into space: Nuclear waste in space? Monday, Aug.22.05. Talk about a really tough sell. Many people can't even be convinced that it is possible to build nuclear containers tough enough to withstand derailments and truck crashes on the highway, much less reentry into the atmosphere.

August 20, 2005

10:35 am: Russian space tug ... Speaking of Russian projects, Energia proposed back in May the development of a space tug called "Ferry" that would replace the Progress modules: New Russian system " Ferry " to replace "Progress" Spacecraft - Space Inform - May.19.05 (Russian article link via F. Novozhilov).

From the rough translations via an online tool, it appears that the tug would rendezvous with cargo and fuel containers placed into temporary 200km orbits and take them up to the ISS or other destinations. 30Kt could be moved this way as compared to 2.5t with Progress alone. (Any launcher could put a container into the temporary transfer orbit.) The Kliper/Ferry combo would provide for a flexible system that would include, for example, return of cargo and crew via the Kliper.

2:20 am: Kliper news ... The author of this article is very sure of European support for the Kliper: Europe to Join Russia in Building Next Space Shuttle: Development agreement takes shape during the Paris Air Show - IEEE Spectrum - Aug.20.05. (There is a set of pictures of the latest Kliper mockup at the Russian Spaceweb.)

I certainly hope it is true (the more reusable spacecraft development the better) but I have my doubts that it is a done deal. This article, for example, Europe envisages cooperation on new Russian space plane - ESA - July.1.05 says that "the key decision on Europe's future involvement in Kliper could be made in December."

ESA can provide some study money on its own but obtaining hundreds of millions or billions of Euros for a project of any kind is not something that happens overnight. Whenever you hear that a crucial decision has been made on some project in Europe, you later find out that actually there is yet another ministerial meeting at the next higher level that needs to sign off on it.

For example, I'm fairly sure that the Galileo GPS system has gotten the final stamp of approval but I've been thinking that for several years and it never quite seems to be completely off the ground. Check out the following sample of headlines:

It also took a major effort over a long period for Italy to get backing from other EU countries for its Vega launcher and its cost is only in the 300M Euro range.

Anyway, maybe things will fall into place more quickly for the Kliper.

2:20 am: AST feedback ... The AST (FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation) website offers a lot of informative documents ranging from regulatory materials to the COMSTAC working group presentations to commercial launch reports.

They also seem to be quite interested in interacting with the launch industry and the wider community that supports it. For example, I recently mentioned the AST 3rd Quarter Launch Report, whose title I thought was a bit odd since the 3rd quarter isn't over yet. Paula Trimble, a space transportation analyst at AST, responded to this and also to my suggestion of a price/wt estimate in the table of launches:

I am pleased that you have found the FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation's Quarterly Launch Report useful and I appreciate your comments. AST produces reports such as these to assist industry, so we always seize opportunities to gain feedback and insight into how we can improve the data we provide.

The title of the report may at first appear confusing. The title indicates the quarter in which the report is published. The launch data for the previous quarter, in this case the 2nd Quarter 2005, become available after the quarter closes, which is during the 3rd Quarter 2005. The report, which includes forecasts for the two future quarters, is a snapshot in time, and is accurate as of a point of time in that quarter. Given that launch dates are often subject to change, the title denotes when that information was compiled and accurate. An archive of all of AST's Quarterly Launch Reports is available at http://ast.faa.gov/rep_study/qlr.htm.

In your posting, you also said you would like payload mass data, which you would like to use with the estimated launch prices to calculate the launch price per kilogram or pound. In future reports, we can provide the payload weights, if there is a strong desire for this data. However, there are some considerations for how to apply this data. The launch prices provided in our reports are estimates rather than prices reported by the companies themselves. Often, these launch prices are given as a range of estimated prices, and the price of any launch is negotiable. Using the launch prices and payload masses to calculate price per kilogram or pound would yield another estimate. In addition, a given payload or payloads may not use the full capacity of a launch vehicle, so the price per kilogram calculated could vary widely for the same vehicle.

(Posted with her permission.)

Yes, I should have noted that it's probably unrealistic to get good price/wt numbers for most launches since many companies are secretive about their launch deals. I suggested to her that maybe future reports could include a separate listing of price/wt for those cases, such as the Falcon I launches, where numbers are available. This might encourage the others guys to be more open about their prices.

My thanks to Paula for the quick feedback. If you have suggestions and/or comments about the launch reports, I can pass along her contact information.

(BTW: George Nield, Deputy Associate Administrator for AST, was interviewed on the Spaceshow recently.)

August 19, 2005

12:45 pm: News briefs ... Microgravity research does, in fact, have value and significance as this direct spinoff shows: The True Potential of Space Life Science Research - NASAWatch - Aug.19.05 * Microgravity tech could sway stem cell debate - CNET News - Aug.18.05. If space access became significantly cheaper (factor of ~10), it really would make sense to do all kinds of basic research on the ISS. ...

... Meanwhile, the available alternative access to the ISS gets more expensive for NASA: Soyuz spacecraft to cost NASA $65 million - RIA Novosti - Aug.18.05 (via NASA Watch). ...

... Does this minority report - Panel members criticize NASA return to flight work - spacetoday.net - Aug.18.05 - predict an abbreviated future for the Shuttle program? Solve the problems Our position: NASA should take seriously the new criticism leveled against it - Orlando Sentinel - Aug.19.05 * Mismanaging the Shuttle Fixes - New York Times - Aug.19.05. ...

... This report doesn't encourage much confidence in even a March launch: Michaud not sure when they'll get tanks or what they'll do - New Orleans Times-Picayune - Aug.19.05 (via spacetoday.net).

1:55 am: Spacecast news ... I missed the live broadcast of the Spaceshow tonight but I heard from a HS reader that Joe Latrell of Beyond Earth Enterprises (a HS advertiser) announced that they will launch a 17-foot, two-thirds scale version of their unmanned suborbital vehicle at the X Prize Cup in October. The will fly below a 24,000 foot limit allowed by an amateur waiver from the FAA.

Several other recent space transport related interviews on the Spaceshow include:

As I mentioned earlier, Pat Bahn of TGV Rockets was on a Oklahoma radio show: Pat Bahn interview - Oklahoma "Innovations" ' Radio - August 8.05 (They start talking with Pat about 9 minutes into the broadcast.)

1:55 am: Space Adventure news... Check out the Deep Space Expeditions (DSE) website set up by Space Adventures to advertise its commercial lunar mission. A video animation nicely illustrates the mission (I wonder, though, why the vehicle is spinning as it approaches and as it leaves the Moon?)

[Update: 11:30am: A reader tells me the spinning is probably "the famous 'barbeque roll' to even out the thermal stresses on the spacecraft. No earth-shadow to spend half its time in."] ...

... Today Space Adventures also announced a partnership with a huge Japanese travel agency (16,000 employees and $12B annual revenue). See the press release:

Space Adventures Announces Exclusive Marketing Agreement
with Travel Agency, JTB Corp.

Tokyo - August 18, 2005 -- Space Adventures, Ltd., the world's leading space experiences company, announced today a partnership with Tokyo-based travel agency, JTB Corp., to exclusively market Space Adventures' diverse range of experiences in Japan. The company, which organized spaceflights for the world's first private space explorers, American businessman Dennis Tito and the 'First African in Space' Mark Shuttleworth, disclosed the details of the agreement during a press conference.
continue ...

Leonard David also reports on the announcement: Japan Embraces Space Tourism - SPACE.com - Aug.18.05.

1:55 am: News briefs ... Alan Boyle gets the status of PlanetSpace and the project's plans to test launch their vehicle's escape system this fall at the Cape Rich site in Ontario: Red tape and rockets - Cosmic Log / MSNBC.com - Aug.18.05. ...

... Dan Schrimpsher expands on his comparison of space hardware development with software development techniques used to make program modules more flexible and reusable: Agile Space Mission Development Part 1 - Quality Infrastructure - SpacePragmatism - Aug.18.05....

... Meanwhile, the less than flexible and reusable Shuttle program gets another big delay: Next shuttle launch: March 2006 - Spaceflight Now - Aug.18.05.

August 18, 2005

12:15 pm: News briefs ... Jon Goff continues on a space blogging roll. In SpaceX and Learning Curves - Selenian Boondocks - Aug.17.05 he responds to what he considers unfair bashing of private companies like SpaceX . In Musings About Agile Space - Selenian Boondocks - Aug.17.05 he warns that we should avoid rigid, top-down unitary space development schemes and instead focus on "incrementalism and modularity". And in A Battle of Memes? - Selenian Boondocks - Aug.17.05, he finds that arguments about space development often center around different world views regarding the capabilities of private companies versus NASA ...

... Rand Simberg comments on the recent discussions about dry-launch: Wring It Out - Transterrestrial Musings - Aug.18.05 ...

... Michael Belfiore reports on NASA's Innovative Programs plan (see the Return to the Moon review and this graph) to use "nontraditional" funding approaches to take advantage of private space development: NASA Launches Startups for Ships - Wired - Aug.18.05 ...

... This seems optimistic: Russia's Clipper spacecraft to be launched in 2012 - ITAR-TASS - Aug.18.05. Even with $65 dollar a barrel oil, I'm not sure Russia could develop the Kliper without an EU partnership, and there's no agreement on that yet. ...

... So there has been at least one suborbital spaceflight passenger who has paid his way: SpaceShipOne's Extra Passenger Auctioned Off - SPACE.com /Astronotes - Aug.17.05.

1:15 am: News briefs ... XCOR will fly the EZ Rocket at the XP Cup Expo this October: XCOR To Fly EZ Rocket at X PRIZE CUP Countdown in Las Cruces, NM - XCOR - Aug.17.05 ...

... A reader points me to this interesting weblog posting: 4 segments + 1 segment = 1 real problem - Chair Force Engineer - Aug.10.05. It says that a 5 segment version of the SRB will sink so low in the water that divers will violate OSHA regulations on working depths when they put the plug in the nozzle. Probably cheaper just to let the things sink to the bottom anyway but then that will probably violate EPA regulations. ...

... The title of this document - Quarterly Launch Report - 3rd Quarter 2005 - from AST/FAA is a bit confusing. It gives a summary of launches worldwide during the 2nd quarter of 2005 and forecasts for launches during the 3rd and 4th quarters of 2005. Anyway, it has some interesting plots and tables, including one showing the price for each launch (Too bad the payload weights were not included so price/kg could be calculated.)

August 17, 2005

4:50 pm: News briefs ... In response to Jon Goff's article, Dan Schrimpsher says dry-launch would allow for an agile development process that adapts quickly to changes in technologies, new priorities and requirements as they inevitably appear: Agile Space Mission Development - Space Pragmatism - Aug.17.05 ...

... I wonder if ATK would propose a SRB based vehicle on its own if it had to compete on price and performance against commercial launch companies rather than getting picked by a NASA committee? NASA Successfully Competes Solid Rocket Motor Test - SpaceRef - Aug.16.05 ...

... The Stafford-Covey Return to Flight Task Group (SCTG) releases its final report: Executive Summary: Return to Flight Task Group Final Report - SpacerRef.com - Aug.17.05.

1:15 am: Fueling a space town ... Apparently not yet giving up hope, Jon Goff suggests that Dr. Griffin forget the Shuttle derived heavy-lifters and go with the "dry-launch" approach in which the various VSE spacecraft are launched empty (and light) and fueled in space via tanks brought to orbit. As Boeing has said, this could all be done with existing and near-future launch vehicles: Some Constructive Suggestions for NASA - Selenian Boondocks - Aug.16.05.

Jon points out that this approach has a number of advantages. For example, it encourages competition among the launch services who will supply the fuel and this will bring costs down over time. If the launch vehicle for one of these suppliers is grounded for some reason, there will be other providers available to take up the slack. It means the lunar program can get started now instead of waiting several years for the SDVs to come on line.

I think an orbiting fuel depot also has the potential to become the nucleus of a genuine space frontier town. First it will supply fuel, then water, then spare parts, then all sorts of other goods and services. Next a habitat is added so that there are people on hand to do maintenance on the growing facility. They will be joined by astronauts passing through on the way to the Moon and by a stream of tourists. Before long, you got a real live community in space.

This kind of organic growth nurtured by commerce is the normal way that frontier settlement happens. What's neat is that this could actually get started now with the technology on hand and within the NASA budget. What's disappointing is that NASA has decided to take a different route to the Moon and Mars; one that is longer and more expensive and much less conducive to space settlement.

2:15 am: News briefs... Alan Boyle reports on the Russian Kliper project: Russia’s shuttle reloaded - Cosmic Log/MSNBC - Aug.16.05 ...

... He also reports that the installation of SpaceShipOne into the Smithsonian's Milestones of Flight gallery has been pushed back to the first week of October: Spaceship schedules shift - Cosmic Log/MSNBC - Aug.16.05. That's getting uncomfortably close to the XP Cup Expo.

August 15, 2005

5:25 pm: Virgin progress ... Virgin Galactic gets ITAR clearance for obtaining technical info from Scaled Composites: U.S. Okays Virgin Galactic Spaceship Plans By Leonard David - Space.com - Aug.15.05. Will Whitehorn, President of Virgin Galactic said, “It allows us to activate all the parts of the project”.

I think this is a further sign that ITAR is not an impenetrable barrier but rather a hurdle to be jumped. That's not a good thing either since some companies may not have the financial wherewithal of Virgin to hire the lawyers to do the jumping. It does show, however, that ITAR can be overcome with time and money. ...

... This sure sounds like a good sign of the existence of a suborbital spaceflight market:

“We have a significant level of deposits now…nearly $10 million worth,” Whitehorn said. Some people are paying the full price to be founders and some are putting down deposits to fly in the future, he said.

“We’ll be in the position by the time we actually launch this business…I’m sure we would have sold out at least the first couple of years by the time we start flying,” Whitehorn speculated.

5:25 pm: The ISS tourist bus ... Jeff Foust talks about the NY Times anti-ISS/Shuttle editorial: NY Times on the ISS - Space Politics - Aug.14.05. See also the entry by Dwayne Day in the comments section. He notes that the NY Times, as do many others, confuses the lifetime cost of the station with the amount spent already.

I would propose that the lifetime cost could go down significantly if transportation costs to the station could go down significantly, e.g. by retiring the Shuttle and switching to private transport like that proposed by t/Space. Several other companies, e.g. Kistler and SpaceX, have also indicated manned orbital operations by 2010.

Furthermore, I would push for at least partial privatization of the ISS. Attaching a Bigelow habitat for use by space tourists would quickly create a viable space hotel. As Henry Spencer has long pointed out, the ISS orbit is ideal for sightseeing since it crosses lots of land (as opposed to an equatorial orbit that crosses mostly ocean). Tito said he never tired of watching the infinitely varied patterns of the Earth seen through the observation window.

No, this is not trivializing anything. It's OK to go to space for sightseeing just as it is OK to go to the Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls, Yosemite, the Great Wall, Tahiti, Antarctica, the Amazon, etc. just to see beautiful and amazing sights. In the process sightseers create profitable businesses with lots of employment. I don't see a problem with that.

12:20 pm: News briefs ... Business Week looks at entrepreneurial space companies: Billionaires Blasting Off: Space Adventures, which is selling around-the-moon jaunts for $100 million, is but one of several privately funded outfits in the space race - Business Week - Aug.15.05 (via spacetoday.net). ...

... Pat Bahn talks about TGV Rockets and suborbital spaceflight in this interview: Pat Bahn interview - Oklahoma "Innovations" ' Radio - August 8.05 (They start talking with Pat about 9 minutes into the show.) ...

... ATK will prosper from NASA's SDV plans: ATK likely to continue with NASA: Utah firm: Ex-astronauts push for it to give a boost to future space shuttles - Salt Lake Tribune - Aug.15.05.

1:30 am: News briefs ... Sam Dinkin talks with a grandma who is going to space: Go granny go! - The Space Review - Aug.15.05 ...

... John Jurist talks about range of safey issues facing suborbital spaceflight operators: Human factors in commercial suborbital flight: Failure modes and survival strategies - The Space Review - Aug.15.05 ...

... T.L. James gives a review of the talk by Chris Shank of NASA at last week's Mars Society conference: Chris Shank on VSE - MarsBlog - Aug.13.05. (See the reviews of a similar talk he gave at the Return to the Moon conference back in July.)

August 14, 2005

4:00 pm: Launch costs and regulations ... Thomas Olson has posted a couple of interesting papers in the Colony Fund reading room. They include the paper about launch costs, which was the basis of a discussion panel at the Space Access '05 meeting last April: "When Physics, Economics and Reality Collide: The Challenge of Cheap Space Access", by Jurist, Dinkin and Livingston - John M. Jurist, M.D. Sam Dinkin, Ph.D David Livingston, DBA, (first presented April, 2005).

There is also this long paper on regulatory issues facing RLVs: “So You Want to Launch a Rocket?” : An Analysis of FAA Licensing Requirements with a Focus on the Legal and Regulatory Issues Created by the New Generation of Launch Vehicles - by Nathanael Horsley (Full paper in pdf).

A discussion page has been started at the Space Investor Forum.

4:00 pm: News briefs ... In this article - The New Astronaut: Plays Well With Robots - NY Times - Aug.14.05 - I find at least one thing on which I agree with Prof. Logsdon:

John M. Logsdon, director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University, recalled a recent talk with a graduate student who had asked what steps to take to become an astronaut. He walked the student through the dismal math: the reduction in shuttle flights from 28 to as few as 15, a space station that can take only a few people at a time and reserves some slots for non-Americans, and possible trips to the Moon. Considering those odds, he recalled telling the student, "If I wanted to go into orbit, I'd go to work for Richard Branson" - the businessman who is pursuing a private program to send people into space.

His student should know, however, that there are already 4000 applications for 75 pilot positions at Virgin Galatic according to a report of statements by Branson at Oshkosh. ...

... Eric Anderson continues proselytizing for space tourism: The Last Word: Eric Anderson - Newsweek - Aug.22.05 issue ...

... Small pieces of foam can have big consequences: More than shuttle lies idle: Station parts, workers waiting - Florida Today - Aug.14.05 ...

... Maybe real big if they end up destroying support for both the Shuttle and the ISS: Is the Space Station Necessary? - NY Times - Aug.14.05. See comments and discussions by Sam Dinkin and Rand Simberg.

2:30 am: News briefs ... The site NasaSpaceFlight.com has posted a set of images and documents "showing NASA's plans for the Shuttle-Derived Launch Vehicle (SDLV) concepts". An introduction is at SDLV/CEV exclusive images and info by Chris Bergin, Jason Harrison, Matt Davids - NasaSpaceFlight.com - Aug.13.05. and document text and images are in the forum section.

Looks similar to what was described in the article posted at Spaceref last Monday, but the text and graphics come directly from the original NASA study documents.

(Item via a HS reader) ...

... The August issue of AIAA Aerospace America - August 2005 includes the article Private Launch Plans Aim Higher - AIAA Aerospace America - Aug.2005, which talks about entrepreneurial launch companies in general and then focuses on Kistler, SpaceX, and Rocketplane. Nothing new about the latter two, but the article does report that Kistler says it will build two K-1 vehicles by 2007 and after proving the vehicles reliability with unmanned flights, it will offer crewed flights. Nothing about whether Kistler has actually raised the money to do any of this. ...

... Also, the Aerosapce America issue includes the article: Creating a space exploration industry by Marco Cáceres (Teal Group), which calls for a new NASA that will

"... accept a diminished role in space activities. It can play a critical part in providing incentives and eliminating roadblocks to the industry’s growth. It is already playing the most critical role—that of defining the new vision for space. But it is private industry that will have to decide what to do with that vision."

...

... The next shuttle launch may not happen till March: STS-121 in March 2006? - NASA Watch - Aug.13.05....

... Via a forum came this link to a page with pictures of the Starchaser project: Starchaser Rocket from Tameside Area Photo Gallery by Jean Fitzhugh at pbase.com.

August 13, 2005

2:05 am: News briefs ... Jon Goff notes that Michael Griffin originally discounted the relevance of "man-rating" the EELVs before launching a crew capsule: Griffin on "Man-Rating" - Selenian Boondocks - Aug.12.05. I'll note that Rand Simberg often criticizes the man-rating concept as a leftover from the missile-to-launch-vehicle days of the early 1960s (e.g. see Transterrestrial Musings - May.4.2002). ...

... I wonder if the Shuttle will fly even in November: No Quick Fix Likely For Shuttle Tank Foam Problem, NASA Says - Aviation Week - Aug.12.05 ...

... Southern California is a hotbed of entrepreneurial space companies: Local companies gamble on low-Earth orbit space travel - San Diego Source - Aug.12.05. (Note that he is missing a factor of ten in the "cost of rocket travel".)

August 12, 2005

4:00 pm: News briefs ... Leonard David has a lengthy article about SpaceX: SpaceX Private Rocket Shifts to Island Launch - SPACE.com - Aug.12.05. Some items of interest include:

  • There may be a nasty battle brewing with Vandenberg AFB over the SpaceX launch facility there. "After spending an estimated $7 million on its Vandenberg Air Force Base facilities, the private rocket company is being told to get out of its Complex 3 West launch site." This is due to "Lockheed Martin moving back to use a Complex 3 East site at Vandenberg for Atlas 5 launches." However, the AF tells David that no decision has been made yet to evict SpaceX.

  • There is a discussion of the advantages (fewer regulations) and the disadvantages (a "perfect environment" for corrosion) of using Kwajalein as a launch site.

  • The new launch contracts are coming from the Swedish Space Corporation, MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd (MDA) of Canada, and an unnamed US company.

  • "In the next few weeks, Musk said, plans beyond Falcon 5 are to be announced, “and some of them are going to be some pretty significant announcements…it’s going to make a big splash." [See recent item about the Falcon heavy.]

  • Musk's long term goal is Martian settlement.

... And another SpaceX article here, which includes a video report: Space X - ScienCentral - Aug.12.05 ...

... LockMart and its employees hope the CEV will keep the company's Louisiana factory in operation: Crew Exploration Vehicle could be next challenge for Michoud - Slidell Sentry - Aug.12.05 ...

... Tim Pickens talks about Orion Propulsion and his involvement with SpaceShipOne: Dreams put Orion on track for stars - Huntsville Times - Aug.12.05 (via Space Race News! ).

I should use some of his quotes in support of the HobbySpace credo: "A hard-core enthusiast can do this stuff, if you have enough passion" and "The HAL5 Society was my passion for years. I became a project engineer as a hobby.'"

12:45 am: News briefs ... NASA will be calling for improvements in the CEV in Phase II of the proposal process: NASA JSC Presolicitation Notice: Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) Phase II Call for Improvements - SpaceRef - Aug.11.05 ...

... No Shuttle launch till November at the earliest: NASA: Foam Problems Make September Launch for Atlantis Unlikely - SPACE.com - Aug.11.05 ...

... As usual, Bill Harwood gives a nicely detailed and understandable description of the foam problems: September launch all but ruled out - Spaceflight Now - Aug.11.05 ...

... A reader sent a link to this article - Rain puts Discovery on a California course - The Australian - Aug.10.05 - and pointed to this vivid quote from Dana Rohrabacher:

"You can have only so much faith in people who have all the money and time and still don't do the job," Republican congressman Dana Rohrabacher said. "That big plume of flame coming out of it (the shuttle), those are $1000 bills being burnt."

August 11, 2005

3:15 pm: News briefs ... A couple more good articles about the lunar tourist trip: Space tourists aim for dark side of the Moon - New Scientist - Aug.11.05 (includes comments from Andrew Case of the Suborbital Institute) * Sinatra, eat your heart out: Got $100m? Then an American firm can fly you to the moon - The Economist - Aug.11.05. ...

... The X PRIZE Cup website offers this slick brochure about the upcoming exhibition. ...

... Speaking of the Suborbital Institute, I occasionally update the FAQ section there that deals with suborbital spaceflight.

12:50 pm: Lunar opportunities ... As I told a reader, I doubt the Energia/Space Adventure's lunar tourist trip will ever happen but it's fantastic to know we've reached the point where it COULD happen. According to the company there are several hundred people worldwide who could afford a $100M ticket.

It would seem, though, that the offer would appeal more to countries than individuals, particularly those countries without a manned spaceflight program. The flight could easily be developed as a scientific mission with some instrumentation taken along but it would mostly be a "We are in space too" statement.

The country I would most like to see take advantage of this opportunity is Taiwan. I think it would be great to see a representative of this democratic country reach the Moon before its big bullying autocratic neighbor does.

Firm Plans Private Moon Tours: Space Adventures seeks to charge $100 million per seat for the lunar voyage but there won't be any moonwalks - Red Herring - Aug.10.05

1:45 am: News briefs ... Looks like NASA will soon get formal approval of its plans for Shuttle derived vehicles: Pentagon Signs Off on NASA Launcher Plans - SPACE.com - Aug.10.05 * Shuttle-derived: a done deal - Space Politics - Aug.10.05 ...

... I wonder how $100M compares to the funding (corrected for inflation, spending power, etc.) spent by private groups on exploration of the North and South poles in the early 1900s? $100 Million Moon Trip: Space Tourism's Hot Ticket? - National Geographic - Aug.10.05 ...

... Michael Kelly, formerly of Kelly Space and recently head of the COMSTAC RLV Working Group becomes an X-PRIZE-er: Michael S. Kelly joins the X PRIZE Foundation as Vice President of Operations for the X PRIZE CUP - Space Race News! - Aug.10.05

August 10, 2005

Update 4:15 pm: News briefs ... I forgot that Jim Oberg had a story last fall about a possible Russia/private company partnership for a lunar space tourist mission: A trip around the moon? It could happen MSNBC.com - Nov.23.05. However, CSI got bumped by Space Adventures. ...

... Alan Boyle comments on the story: Moon trips marketed - Cosmic Log/MSNBC.com - Aug.10.05.

2:55 pm: News briefs ... Looks like I misunderstood; each seat to the Moon is actually $100M each: Space Adventures Offers Private Voyage to the Moon: First and only company to launch private explorers to space partners with the Russian space agency and RSC Energia to offer an expedition to the lunar far side - Space Adventures - Aug.10.05. Maybe if you bring a coupon from the newspaper you can get half price... ...

... This debate reminds me of one of those old Ray Harryhausen movies where two unconvincing dinosaurs wrestle: Shuttle Discovery Lands Safely - Online NewsHour - Aug.9.05.

10:30 am: News briefs ... Now that Discovery is back on land, the big question is how soon will Atlantis fly?

... JP Aerospace is attracting student groups for its Pongsat near space flights not just from the US but from overseas as well: SP. ACE - Secondary School Students flying... up, up and away. Education may never become a hugely lucrative market, but, as I've said many times before, a side business of carrying student payloads on suborbital RLVs could grow to a level that provides some significant income. Masten Space Systems, in fact, sees it as the primary market for their VTOL rocket vehicle, which they hope to fly for as little as $25,000 per flight. ...

... The British Interplanetary Society is sponsoring the two day UK Spaceplanes meeting at the RAF Museum Cosford, Shifnal, Shropshire on 17-18 September 2005. Presentation topics will range from historical spaceplane designs such as the Saenger-Bredt ‘Antipodal Rocket Bomber' to current projects like the Skylon and Burt Rutan's VSS Enterprise for Virgin Galactic.

August 9, 2005

9:15 pm: News brief ... Space Adventures is arranging a deal with the Russians for a CSI Lunar Express type of mission (but without CSI) to send two private individuals around the Moon as early as 2008: Private Company Plans $100 Million Tour Around the Moon - NY Times - Aug.9.05 (via a HS reader.) This assumes two customers with $50M apiece can be found. ...

... Meanwhile, NASA is rolling out its own Moon travel plans: Griffin Exploration Rollout Plan - NASA Watch - Aug.9.05. ...

... The Space Frontier Foundation wants to push NASA to include private companies in its plans: Advocacy Group Considers New Ways to Open Space Frontier - Space Frontier/Space Race News! - Aug.9.05.

11:55 am: News briefs ... Congratulations to NASA and the crew of Discovery: Shuttle lands in California - spacetoday.net - Aug.9.05. Hope this begins the steady countdown of missions to the successful retirement of the Shuttle program. ...

... Jeff Foust is blogging from the Utah Smallsat meeting. His first report is about the keynote address by a NASA rep on the agency's approach to smallsat programs and how to launch them: Science, the Vision, and Smallsats -Space Politics - Aug.9.05. ...

... A reader pointed me to a NASA web page that actually shows an appreciation of incremental commercial development starting with suborbital. I've had a link to the Space Settlement section at Ames in my Space Colonization section but I've not seen the site lately. Other pages such as the Why and Where are nicely done. Though it is apparently the work of an individual (Al Globus), rather than an expression of NASA policy, it's still encouraging that an alt.space meme might be spreading in the agency.

1:15 am: News briefs ... Check the Spaceflight Now - STS-114 Shuttle - Mission Status Center for the latest on the Discovery landing. Landing reset for Tuesday: Discovery crew will stay extra day because of weather - Florida Today - Aug.8.05 ...

... NASA doesn't want to lose momentum after Discovery: NASA still planning September launch of Atlantis - spacetoday.net - Aug.7.05 ...

... Not space transport related, but this article - Shakeout: Too many companies for too few deals jolt satellite-imaging industry - Rocky Mountain News - Aug.8.05 - illustrates some of the differences between the entrepreneurial approach to space and that of the mainstream aerospace companies. Some examples of the reasons why Space Imaging, jointly owned by Lockheed and Raytheon, lost two major contracts include:

"That wasn't Space Imaging's fault. Space Imaging didn't have the support of their ownership," said Satterlee [of DigitalGlobe]. "That was tragic."

---

DigitalGlobe and Orbimage, in contrast, showed more entrepreneurial zeal focused on serving the customer's needs - such as delivering a satellite within the time frame stipulated by Uncle Sam.

---

"It was run like an aerospace company," another former Space Imaging employee said of the company. "It couldn't run fast and light."

Excuse me for resurrecting my hoary old tune about the Kistler K-1, but this reminds me of how Northrop fell over itself in a rush to declare its investment in Kistler a loss when Kistler ran into a cash crunch back in 2001. If it had instead stepped in and funded the completion of the K-1, Northrop would now own the ISS cargo delivery service. It would be the only firm in the world with experience operating a fully reusable rocket system and would be in a great position to build a RLV for ISS crew transport and for orbital tourism. Instead it acted " like an aerospace company" and got out as soon as some risks needed to be taken.

August 8, 2005

8:00 pm: News briefs ... A HS reader pointed me to this article from back in July, which provides a substantive look at the situation with entrepreneurial launch companies, including a discussion of the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act: Race for the stars: Although the Ansari X-Prize has been won, the contest to offer the first space tourism flights is hotter than ever. And now there's even talk of starting a suborbital racing series... - Flight International - July.6.05 ...

... Space News (print edition) says in this week's issue that SpaceX is expected soon to announce up to four new orders for launches on the Falcon I. If all the deals come through, that would make a total of seven launches on its backlog. ...

... The orders could be another sign of a resurgence in small satellite payloads. The annual Utah Smallsat meeting will break attendance records this week with over 800 people registered: Logan conference growing: Small-satellite event will have larger attendance - StandardNET/Standard-Examiner [Utah] - Aug.8.05 (via spacetoday.net.). I went to the meeting several years and really enjoyed it. I especially liked seeing the participation of a lot of students, e.g. see the abstracts for this year's student competition session ...

... In a separate section on smallsats, Space News talks about the launch access challenges for small satellite projects: Hopes rekindled for Low-cost Launches. There will be a lot of hope from the smallsat community riding along on the first Falcon I launch in September. Currently there is no low cost small payload launcher available outside of Russia. Even SpaceDev, which is developing its own Streaker launch vehicle, is seriously considering buying multiple rides on the Falcon I for its microsatellites since the Streaker won't fly for about three years. ...

... If NASA and the Air Force do start to support more smallsat programs, it would benefit the manned suborbital RLV projects that have plans to add an expendable second stage to send small payloads to orbit. ...

... BTW: The article says the Falcon I first stage left August 2nd on a ship for a 28-day cruise to Kwajalein while the second stage will go by C-17 later this month.

1:45 am: News briefs ... Sam Dinkin interviews Richard Garriott, the computer games and space tourism pioneer: Richard Garriott and the beginnings of space tourism - The Space Review - Aug.8.05 ...

... After seeing SpaceShipOne at Oshkosh. Eric Hedman considers "the tradeoffs between simplicity and complexity' when comparing the SS1 and the Space Shuttle: Engineering simple solutions to complex problems - The Space Review - Aug.8.05 ...

... Hedman also offers some pictures from the event: Photo Gallery: SpaceShipOne at Oshkosh

August 7, 2005

10:45 pm: News briefs ... Frank Sietzen and Keith Cowing post the second part of their detailed report on the NASA study of the various Shuttle and EELV derived launch systems in support the exploration program: NASA's New Launch Systems May Include the Return of the Space Tug - SpaceRef - Aug.7.05. The first part of their report came last week. ...

... Discovery plans to land early Monday morning: Discovery Set for Monday Landing, NASA Flight Director Says - SPACE.com - Aug.7.05 * Discovery heads for predawn touchdown in Florida - Spaceflight Now - Aug.7.05. ...

... Scott Lowther posts a marvelous set of Discovery pictures from the mission.

3:55 pm: News briefs ... Jeff Foust discusses the expected announcement of NASA's exploration system plans: Rolling out the new architecture - Space Politics - Aug.6.05 ...

... The Kliper will be 30 times cheaper to operate (not counting investment payback) than the Shuttle according to RSC Energia chief Nikolay Sevastianov as reported in this Russian article: RKK Lunar Power Station - ScienceRF.ru - July.28.05. - Try the Babel Fish Translator. (Link via F. Novoshilov) ...

... The White Knight and SpaceShipOne continue their trek across the country: Local couple meet pilot of SpaceShipOne - Bartlesville [OK] Examiner-Enterprise - Aug.7.05. ...

... The BBC is in West Texas reporting on Jeff Bezos and Blue Origin according to the Van Horn Advocate. (Unfortunately, the newspaper's archive system is broken and the older articles about Bezos aren't accessible.) It said that the visit "was in conjunction with other filming in the U.S. on the burgeoning civilian space industry and the race toward space." ...

... Following up on the previous items about Discovery's Prandtl-Glauert ring, here's a big collection of images and links about the phenomena: Prandtl-Glauert Condensation Clouds, 1st Collection - ChamorroBible.org

1:50 am: News briefs ... Jon Goff finishes up his RTM review with two final postings: Last RTM Session: Space Law and Property Rights - Selenian Boondocks - Aug.6.05 and RTM Summary - Selenian Boondocks - Aug.6.05. ...

... Another sighting of the urban space myth that the failure of the Shuttle program proves that RLVs are impractical and so we are forced to return to capsules on expendables: NASA's next generation of spacecraft in the works: New design unlike shuttles -- more like earlier models - SF Chronicle - Aug.7.05. See Rand Simberg's False Choice - Transterrestrial Musings - Aug.2.05 for a different point of view.

August 6, 2005

2:10 pm: News briefs ... Jon Goff has posted a couple more items about the Return to the Moon conference: More RTM Stuff: In-Space Business Models - Selenian Boondocks - Aug.5.05 * Brant Sponberg: Centennial Challenges/Innovative Programs - Selenian Boondocks - Aug.5.05 ...

... Keith Cowing says on Aug. 15th NASA will start to release the results of its 60-day exploration architecture studies: Griffin Exploration Rollout Plan - NASA Watch - Aug.6.05. ...

... Smithsonian Air & Space Magazine displays a set of RSS feeds at AIR&SPACE Web News. It includes a Race to Space feed from Space Race News!.

August 5, 2005

5:05 pm: News briefs... The X PRIZE Cup (note the updated website) is gearing up for the 2006 Inaugural X PRIZE CUP and Personal Spaceflight Expo during October 4-9: Space fans can buy tickets next week - Las Cruces Sun-News - Aug.5.05. Here's the schedule. ...

... Bill Boland of the Space-Fronter Foundation and Forever Bound says he is signed up to fly with Virgin Galactic: Corning native eyes place in space: Boland signs up to fly in space tourism project. - Star-Gazette [NY] - Aug.5.05 ...

... Here is a collection of pictures of the White Knight/SpaceShipOne at Oshkosh 2005. I'm told that the L5 t-shirt is signed by such notables as Scott Crossfield, Gilbert Levin, Wendel Wendel, Burt Rutan, Mike Melvill, and others. ...

... Here's another image of a rocket producing a Prandtl-Glauert Condensation Cloud.

10:25 am: Falcon heavy ... During a visit to an Air Force base, Elon Musk mentioned a possible long term upgrade version of the Falcon rocket series called the Falcon IX, according to the blogger "MJ": Rocket Booster - Chair Force Booster - July.27.05 .

"It's essentially a Falcon V with four more engines on the first stage, plus a larger 5 meter payload. ... If Falcon V is Musk's replacement for the Delta II, Falcon IX is the competitor to Delta IV and Atlas V. The Falcon IX can also be clustered into a "heavy" variant, akin to the Delta IV Heavy."

This link came via Jon Goff: Falcon IX? - Selenian Boondocks - Aug.5.05. ...

... During his luncheon talk at the NSS ISDC'05 conference, Elon mentioned that they had a long term heavy version in mind but didn't give any details. I don't remember his exact words but he said something to the effect that until the Falcon I flies there will be understandable skepticism towards such ambitious plans. ...

... At the end of his posting, MJ wonders about the Falcon I first stage recovery operations. This Sept.03 SpaceX update includes an item about the company hired to do the recovery. Note also that Elon has always stated that reusability, which would include the engine if possible, will be a bonus. The current launch price does not assume reuse of any components.

12:55 am: News briefs ... John Carmack reports on the latest developments at Armadillo: Servo regulator, Throatless engines, Hold down test - Armadillo Aerospace - Aug.4.05 ...

... Jason Andrews of Andrews Space, Inc. will be on a special version of the SpaceShow today at 9:30-11:00 am (Pacific Time ). The Sunday show (12:00-1:30 pm PT) will include Ben Shelef, one of the founders of Spaceward Foundation, which is a co-sponsor of the space elevator climber contest with NASA's Centennial Challenges. ...

... If you watch the "Discovery Launches!" video in the Discovery video archive, near the end you can see a wispy white ring around the orbiter. This is apparently a Prandtl-Glauert Condensation Cloud. More about the sighting at Space Shuttle Discovery generates a Prandtl-Glauert cloud - Linkfilter - July.27.05 and Boing Boing: Shuttle makes spooky-cool Prandtl-Glauert condensation cloud - BoingBoing - July.27.05 ...

... Allen Ury of Fantastic Plastic sure did a nice job building his Lockheed-Martin Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) from a kit available at PartTime Models.

August 4, 2005

3:55 pm: News briefs ... SpaceX says on its update page that the Falcon I will launch on Sept. 30th.

"Target launch date for Falcon I maiden flight is September 30 from our island launch complex in the Kwajalein Atoll. The customer for this mission is DARPA and the payload will be FalconSat-2, part of the Air Force Academy’s satellite program that will measure space plasma phenomena, which can adversely affect space-based communications, including GPS and other civil and military communications. Our second mission carrying TacSat-1 for the Naval Research Laboratory will follow the last Titan IV launch from VAFB."

... Transformational Space reports of another drop test: Next-Generation Space Vehicle Tested in Pacific Ocean Drop - t/Space - Aug.4.05.This test deals with the water return capability of the capsule. There are photos and video available.

From the Rapid Prototyping page it says:

"In August, 2005 t/Space carried out a second phase of flight testing by dropping a full-size test article of the CXV. Lofted by helicopter, the CXV Drop Test Article accurately tested the parachute stability and water-entry physics of the actual CXV.

"It was constructed in Mojave, CA, with a water tank for ballast. The tank was positioned so that it created the same offset center of gravity that an actual CXV will have; and offset center of gravity results in the CXV capsule generating some lift during entry, which limits the rate of deceleration and thus the "g" forces that will be felt by the crew. Occupants of the CXV are predicted to experience somewhat more g's than the shuttle (about four and a half g's), but less than both the Mercury and Gemini capsules."

The press release also says t/Space will pursue a NASA contract for ISS crew delivery:

"NASA plans a competition this fall to select a new vehicle to carry crew to the Space Station. t/Space will offer its four-person CXV. NASA also is moving forward with a separate effort to create a new Crew Exploration Vehicle for Moon and Mars Exploration."

(Both news items via HS reader D. Cockerill.)

11:55 am: News briefs ... Various Discovery items today include a NY Times article about a report citing shortcomings in Lockheed-Martin's management of the ET foam application: 2004 Report Found Faults in Use of Shuttle Foam - NY Times - Aug.4.05 ...

... NASA still looking at whether a section of the thermal protection blanket puffed out near the Shuttle window will need to be clipped: Spacewalk to fix damaged blanket a 'remote' possibility - Spaceflight Now - Aug.3.05 * Discovery's Damaged Blanket Prompts Wind Tunnel Tests - SPACE.com - Aug.3.05 * Emergency test at Ames for Discovery NASA conducts wind-tunnel experiment to decide if shuttle is safe for return flight - SF Chronicle - Aug.4.05 ...

... The inspection boom used to examine the shuttle exterior seems to be working well: New Sensor Boom Provides Confidence in Thermal Protection System - Aviation Week - July.31.05

August 3, 2005

1:35 pm: News briefs ... Looks like the tile filler repair went well: Shuttle repair spacewalk ends in success - New Scientist - Aug.3.05 * Astronaut easily extracts two gap fillers: High-flying heat shield repair takes 10 minutes - Florida Today - Aug.3.05 ...

... Another article on NASA's plans for shuttle-derived launchers: The Future of NASA's Human Spaceflight: Shuttle-Derived Technology Takes the Lead - SPACE.com - Aug.3.05 ...

... Tim Pickens gives a talk about the SpaceShipOne and its propulsion system that he helped to design: SpaceShipOne engineer to speak - Decatur Daily (AL) - Aug.3.05 (via spacetoday.net). ...

... An reporters view of the Return to the Moon meeting: Final Frontier: Las Vegas Space Conference attendees explore lunar manifest destiny - Las Vegas City Life - Aug.05 (via spacetoday.net).

1:45 am: News briefs ... If it's not one thermal protection thing, it's another: NASA assesses threat posed by cockpit window blanket - Spaceflight Now - Aug.2.05 ...

... Stephen Robinson will display some human powers of adaptability in space today: Astronauts confident about spacewalk fix-it mission - Spaceflight Now - Aug.2.05 * NASA plans gap filler repair after successful gyro work - spacetoday.net - Aug.2.05....

... More Keith Cowing on the News Hour.

August 2, 2005

6:05 pm: News briefs ... Rand Simberg examines this NY Times article on NASA's SDV plans and finds some serious flaws in the assumptions made: False Choice - Transterrestrial Musings - Aug.2.05 ...

... Some nice photos of the WK2/SS1 visit to Oshkosh: SpaceshipOne Pics From this Morning - Instapundit.com - Aug.1.05 ...

... Check out the auction of Star Wars souvenirs that flew on the SS1...

... Inspired by this article - Starfire polymer passes its first test in space -- Times Union (Albany, NY) - Aug.2.05 (via spacetoday.net) - I tracked down the site for Starfire Systems, which sells some interesting ceramic materials for aerospace applications.

1:45 am: News briefs ... NY Times reports on the shuttle-derived CEV: Redesign Is Seen for Next Craft, NASA Aides Say - NY Times - Aug.2.05...

... And there's a Mars sim-naut columnist on the editorial page: Mars or Bust by John Tierney - Aug.2.05. (See also Over the Moon By John Tierney - New York Times - July.30.05.)

12:55 am: News briefs ... NASA decides to go trim the filler: NASA Sets Spacewalk to Repair Discovery's Heat Shield - Space.com - Aug.1.05 * NASA gives go-ahead to spacewalk repair work - Spaceflight Now - Aug.1.05 ...

... Russians can take well-deserved pride in their Soyuz spacecraft: Discovery's Difficulties Make Russians Proud of Soyuz Workhorse - AP/Space.com - Aug.1.05. ...

... More about the Rutan/Branson/SS1 visit to Oshkosh: Notes on Rutan presentations at EAA Oshkosh - Space Race News! - Aug.1.05.

August 1, 2005

3:00 pm: RTTM Summary ... I have finally posted a review of the Return to the Moon conference. It includes my comments plus links to articles and postings by other people, especially those of Jonathan Goff.

Just today Jon posted an item about his tour of Bigelow Aerospace during a break from the conference: Bigelow Aerospace Tour - Jon Goff.

3:05 am: News briefs ... Frank Sietzen and Keith Cowing provide an extensive review of NASA's studies of possible CEV launch systems: NASA's New CEV Launcher to Maximize Use of Space Shuttle Components - SpaceRef -July.31.05 - Frank Sietzen, Jr. and Keith L. Cowing ...

... Taylor Dinerman reports on the Pentagon's views towards NASA's launcher plans: A tentative ceasefire in the trans-Potomac launcher wars - The Space Review ...

... The astronauts may trim the extruding tile gap filler during one of their previously scheduled spacewalks: NASA Studies Potential Fix for Discovery's Heat Shield - SPACE.com - July.31.05 * Shuttle mission extended to give bonus day at station - Spaceflight Now - July.31.05 ...

... The possibility of foam debris from the PAL was reported to the CAIB: Foam and the limits of foresight- by Dwayne A. Day and Christopher Kirchhoff - The Space Review: ...

... Griffin faces not only tough engineering and safety issues but must deal with complex political forces when making decisions about the Shuttle program: NASA's Leader, a Man of Logic, Faces Decisions Enmeshed in Another Realm: Politics - New York Times - Aug.1.05 ...

... The SS1 made a big impact on this year's Oshkosh gathering: The past meets the future in Oshkosh - by Eric R. Hedman - The Space Review ...

... On the last day at Oshkosh, Burt got to hear the theme music to to the DVD "Mojave Magic: A Turtle's Eye View of SpaceShipOne" (Amazon: US ): It's music to ears of SpaceShipOne team - AV Press - July.31.05. ...

... Sam Dinkin finishes up his interview with the TGV Rockets team: Interview: two guys at the vanguard (part 4) - The Space Review.


Continue to July 2005

Archives Index for 1999 - present

 

The Art of C. Sergent Lindsey
New Space Watch

 

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Universe Today

X PRIZE
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X-Prize Space Race News!
X-Prize News@ComSpace

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