Marcus Lindroos created this nicely organized
archive of materials describing many of the "future
launch vehicle" designs proposed from the early
years of the Space Age till the start of this
century. Includes categories:
Early American Reusable Launch Vehicle
THE SPACE SHUTTLE -- From Dream to Reality
THE 1970s -- Solar Power Satellites and
Advanced Launch Vehicles (1973-80
NASA "Shuttle II" Advanced Manned Launch
System studies (1978-89) 5. Military Spaceplanes
History of Private/Commercial
Orbital RLV & Rocketplane Projects in US
Launch Services (Civilian Astronaut Corp) - planned
to take reservations for space tourism flights were
dropped in April 99 (62 people had put down deposits
but they needed 2000 to fund the vehicle.) Continues
as a vehicle development effort.
This organization has gone through several transformations
over the years:
In the 1990s it began as Pioneer Rocketplane
and it pursued a system that consisted of
a suborbital spaceplane that would be refueled
in flight and used for launching small comsats
via an unmanned second stage.
Founders included Mitch Burnside-Clapp,
Charles Lauer, and Robert Zurbrin. Only Lauer
lasted till the end of teh company
In early 2000s it changed into a company
focused on suborbital space tourism with a
vehicle called the Rocketplane XP based on
a modified Learjet airframe.
In 2006 the firm bought Kistler Aerospace
and won a COTS contract to demonstrate ISS
resupply with the K-1 vehicle.
The company divided itself into two parts:
Rocketplane-Kistler to develop the K-1 and
Rocketplane-Global to pursue the suborbital
tourism market with the XP.
In 2007 the company unveiled a totally new
design for the suborbital vehicle with an
airframe built from scratch rather than from
The company's COTS contract was terminated
in late 2007 after the company failed to raise
$500M in private capital.
Rocketplane attempted to continue with a
suborbital vehicle program but could not raise
May 2010 - Company liquidated in Chapter
Rotary shut down all of its projects by the
end of 2000. Gary Hudson left the company earlier
to work at HMX
and to pursue other interests. The Mojave facility
was closed after an auction of most of its contents.
Rights to the various technologies, e.g. composite
fuel tanks, that were developed by the company
were sold to XCOR, a company founded by several
former Rotary employees.
Great? or Just Plain Insane? - Wired 4.05 - May.96
- this article was the first public airing of
the Roton concept. Note that the vehicle described
was much smaller than the vehicle built by Rotary.
The larger size was deemed necessary to serve
the comsat constellation market. However, Gary
Hudson says it turned out to be a big mistake
to go to a bigger vehicle. Made everything much
harder and marginal.
Space Access, LLC
- last entry Feb.2004) - this company had a scramjet/rocket
combo design for the first stage vehicle that would
carry a rocket powered booster to take a payload to
orbit. The firm was run by well-respected people from
the hypersonics research field. They needed a multi-billion
dollar investment, however, to get it to fly.
Long articles in Aviation Week, March 30, 1998
and Popular Science, June 1999.
Space Access Space Transportation Architecture
study for NASA
- Transformational Space - collaboration of several
companies proposed a low cost orbital/lunar building
block approach for ISS crew/cargo resupply. Won $6M
in study contracts with NASA. However, after failing
to win COTS contract, the effort was suspended. In
2010 they also put in a proposal for the commercial
crew program but also failed to receive a grant.
CXV - reusable capsule proposed
for the earth to LEO part of the CEV project. Rides
an air launched booster derived from the QuickReach
vehicle built by AirLaunch
LLC and developed under a DARPA Falcon project.
Benson Space Company
- Spinoff from SpaceDev
formed to develop a suborbital vehicle for space tourism
market. See SpaceDev/Dream
Chaser entry above in orbital projects. The project
was canceled when Jim Benson became seriously ill.
He later died in October 2008.
Orignally, the plan was to use the Dream
Chaser /HL-20 design but in 2007 they changed
to a new design.
The team developed a V2 derived vehicle for
the X-Prize competition but have not flown it
as of December 2006. They are now folded into
to combine the Canadian Arrow vehicle with the
Silver Dart lifting body and use the system for
both suborbital and orbital flights. See PlanetSpace
In our second segment of this 1 hour
42 minute program, we talked about the DC-X
as Nino worked on that program when he was with
McDonnell Douglas. DC-X is having their 20th
reunion this August in New Mexico, an event
which Nino talked about during our discussion.
We also talked about the DC-X vehicle, its problems,
the plans to scale up the demo to the two more
advanced models, and ultimately its cancellation
and the NASA selection of the X-33. Nino also
took some questions about the possibility of
a single stage to orbit vehicle with a useful
Orbital Space Plane (OSP)
- Canceled in favor of CEV program
This vehicle was to become the main goal of
NASA's space transportation development plans.
It would provide for crew return from the ISS
as of 2010 and carry out crew transfers to the
ISS by 2012. It will initially be launched atop
document - Johnson Space Center contains
the Space Act agreements between NASA and Rocketplane
Kistler (page 1) and between NASA and SpaceX
(page 54). It includes the terms of the contracts
(e.g. intellectual property rights), summaries
of the proposals, and a list of the milestones
for each company and how much each will be paid
as it achieves each milestone.