|| Tech || Culture || Activities || Resources || Links || Weblogs || Features ||
Site Info
Links Index
RLV News
Space News
Space Blogs
Forums, etc
Living in Space
General, US

Science & Tech
Amateur Sci/Tech
More Technology
Developing Countries



Reusable Launch & Space Vehicle News

June - December 2001

Other RLV News sites:
Space Frontier Society * Space Access Society Updates *
NASA SLI News * SpaceTransportation at MSFC *
NASA Watch Launch System News * OrbiRepor
t - Space Transportation News

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.

RLV News Archive Directory

December 20, 2001

Support for high-volume human space transport... Frank Sietzen says the Bush administration is committed to carrying out the recommendations of the Commission on the Future of the Aerospace Industry if the commission brings back a "reasoned policy and budget framework". The commission is headed by Robert Walker, former chairman of the House Science Committee, and includes Buzz Aldrin and ten other members.

Sietzen reports that Aldrin's ideas on how to revitalize the space industry are getting close attention. These ideas include an emphasis on the importance of developing a "high-volume human space transportation capability".

More at The Bean Counter and the Moon Walker: Pathways to Space Vision - Part One: Buzz Aldrin and the Quest for Reusable Space - Spacelift Washington - Dec.18.01


Get Your Reusable Rocket at eBay...Robert Truax is currently offering at eBay a 3 Person Commercial Passenger Rocket for the low, low price of $50,000. The vehicle, powered by a steam rocket motor, will carry "2 passengers and 1 pilot to a height of several miles and return safely by parachute." It is "30 ft. long and weighs 5600 lbs at lift-off" and is "reusable for a very large number of flights."

Truax is a well-known rocket designer, now in his 80's, who, among many other accomplishments, built the steam rocket motor for Evel Knievel's famous jump attempt over the Snake River Canyon in 1972. Doug Malewicki describes the X-1 Skycycle and provides some info and publications on steam rockets.

News brief... NASA will fund a study by a consortium of Aeroject, Rocketdyne, and Pratt &* Whitney for a phase 1 design of an RBCC (Rocket Based Combined Cycle): NASA to award contract to industry team to design air-breathing rocket engine - NASA MSFC PR - Dec.20.01. Phase 2 would start in late 2002 and lead to an engine by 2006. Such an engine works initially as a rocket, then above Mach 2 as an airbreather, and then back to a rocket again when it leaves the atmosphere.

December 18, 2001

News brief...SLI awards more funds for RLV support technology including propulsion systems, crew-survivability and crew-escape techniques, and "architecture definition for the second-generation reusable launch vehicle" - NASA awards more than $94 million to advance next generation space transportation effort - NASA MSFC PR - Dec.17.01 * NASA Awards $94M For Work On Reusable Launch Systems - Aviation Week - Dec.18.01

December 16, 2001

December 12, 2001

News brief...Aerojet begins testing a reaction control engine funded by SLI for possible use on reusable spacecraft: Aerojet Becomes First Contractor to Test Fire Engine for NASA Space Launch Initiative - Aerojet- PR - Dec.12.01

December 10, 2001

News brief... X-33 remains will be stored by the Air Force rather than sold for scrap - X-33 Update: A Stay of Execution? - Space.com - Dec.9.01 [Not to be - X-33 Forces Lose Battle, Space Plane Scuttled - Space.com - Dec.12.01]...

Andrews Space has posted a couple of interesting RLV related papers (pdf format) in their publication section: Systems Requirements for Commercial Passenger Travel to LEO * Designing Reusable Launch Vehicles for Future Space Markets...

Oklahoma Spaceport giving support to RLV startups - Oklahoma Steps Up To Space - Space.com - Dec.10.01....

Another X-38 air drop test is planned for Dec.13: Eighth X-38 Flight Will Include Many Firsts - Dec.7.01 - Dryden * Firm sees right stuff at NASA Space station's rescue vehicle faces test this week - CBS Market Watch - Dec.10.01 [*X-38 Test Features Use Of Hybrid Synthetic Vision - Aviation Week - Dec.11.01 ]

December 7, 2001

News brief... Check out the recent articles at SpaceEquity.com on RLVs: The RLV Industry : Having a hard time getting out of the Womb by Taylor Dinerman * FAA Rulemaking and Regulatory Procedures for RLVs by Ruben Van Mitchell

December 5, 2001

New RLV Engines - an SLI Priority... Aerojet and Pratt & Whitney are working together on new RLV engine technolgy. They seek to provide the engines for NASA's Second Generation RLV. These joint projects include:

  • COBRA - a single preburner, staged, combustion hydrogen engine in the 600,000-pound thrust class. P&W lead contractor.
  • RLX - a split expander, hydrogen engine in the 300,000-pound thrust class. P&W lead contractor.
  • AJAX - a U.S.-based single preburner, staged, combustion hydrocarbon engine. Aerojet lead contractor.

Rocketdyne is working separately on a fuel-rich staged combustion engine (FRSC) The FRSC "will be a hydrogen-fueled highly reusable engine in a class similar to the Space Shuttle Main Engine (SSME) developed by Rocketdyne." In addition, the comapny will advance the design of a highly reusable oxidizer-rich staged combustion (ORSC) hydrocarbon engine.

Find more info at:

December 4, 2001

X-37 to Fly...According to Space News (Dec.3.2001issue), NASA has decided to fund the X-37 all the way to a test flight in space. The reusable space vehicle will either fly as a shuttle payload or on top of an expendable to orbit. There it will prove that it can maneuver well enough for such future applications as satellite refueling and inspection. It will then fire its engine to deorbit and glide to a landing.

The project had made several successful drops of the sub-scale X-40 version to demonstrate autonomous glide & landing capabilities. The Air Force, nevertheless, recently decided to drop out of the collaboration with NASA and Boeing, claiming that the vehicle would not demonstrate the features it wanted in a future space plane (they did not make clear exactly what those desired features were.)

Since then, Congressman Dana Rohrabacher has been pressuring NASA to use its SLI funds to continue with the project at least as far as a flight test. He wants the SLI program to emphasize vehicle flight tests and not just develop miscellaneous RLV technology.

According to the article, a flight could occur as early as 2004, two years later than the original 2002 goal, but could easily slide another year or two.

December 2, 2001

Another pioneer in RLV technology has died: Gleb Lozino-Lozinsky, Designer of Soviet-Era Shuttle Buran, Dead at 91 - Space.com - Nov.29.01

Gelb Lozino-Lozinsky was involved in efforts to develop spaceplanes in the Soviet Union for several decades, culminating in the Buran shuttle program. Previous to the Buran he worked on the ambitious Spiral OS effort to develop an orbital vehicle launched from a first stage turbofan aircraft. See Mark Wades Russian Rocketplanes for a detailed overview of this and other Soviet/Russian space plane projects. Also, NPO Molniya reviews several Soviet/Russian RLV projects.

November 28, 2001

News brief... According to Frank Sietzen, Buzz Aldrin made a good presentation in support of RLV development in his appearance at a hearing of the U.S. Aerospace Commission. The commission will give a report to the President next year that will outline the state of the US aerospace industry and what the government should do to support it. Aldrin's vision of space may have at last found a home - Spacelift Washington/ Spaceref - Nov.27.01

November 20, 2001

Max Hunter Passes Away... Hunter, the leader of the Thor missile project that later developed into the Delta rocket series, died on November 10. He was a very strong proponent of reusable rockets and played a big part in the DC-X project.

[This editor was lucky enough to have heard him give presentations at two Space Access meetings.]

See Rocket Pioneer Max Hunter Dies - Space.com - Nov.15.01 * Max Hunter, Steely-Eyed Missile Man - Rand Simberg

Subscription rocketry...Funding for X-Prize entries and other advanced rocketry projects cannot be obtained from the local bank or credit union. Self-funding is the easiest approach if you happen to be a millionaire - see Armadillo Aerospace. Otherwise, innovative fund-raising techniques must be applied.

A popular approach is to go after sponsorships. The Candian Arrow X-Prize effort, for example, has lined up a number of sponsors, as has the daVinci project.

Another approach is displayed in this month's Spaceflight magazine. Two British rocketry projects - Starchaser and Bristol Spaceplanes both posted ads urging readers to subscribe to clubs whose dues would support the projects.

The Starchaser is a X-Prize project that hopes to fly its Thunderbird by late 2003.The full page ad for the Starchaser Club offers regular members a quarterly magazine, a video, merchandise discounts and notification of launches. Gold Club members get their names on the Thunderbird and VIP tickets to the launch.

The Bristol Spacplanes' Ascender Project Club also supports an X-Prize entry and the general goal of space tourism. Members get benefits similar to the Starchaser and also an entry into a drawing for free flight on the Ascender.

While it's too early to know if the club model will succeed at raising sufficient cash to be competitive, it is nice to see these projects inviting broad public participation in such fun and exciting ventures.

News brief... Speaking of StarChaser, the company is reported to be on the verge of a test launch of the Nova vehicle, a 11 meter tall, 4 tonne precurser to the 16 meter Thunderbird. The Nova can carry a single person but this flight will be unmanned. British X-Prize Test Vehicle Ready To Go Nova - Spacedaily - Nov.20.01 [Nov.22.2001 - Rocketeer launches from Morecambe - BBC - Nov.22.01 * Rocket enthusiast preps for manned flight after test - CNN - Nov.22.01 ]

November 14, 2001

XCOR publicity rockets upward... The EZ-Rocket rollout & demo flight exhibition was a huge success for XCOR with many press outlets providing stories about the vehicle and XCOR:

Also, Time Magazine recognized the EZ-Rocket in its list of best inventions of the year: EZ-Rocket - TIME.com: Inventions of the Year -- The best inventions of 2001

For some background on the pilot Dick Rutan, see his homepage: Dick Rutan - Bio - EZ-Rocket

November 11, 2001

News briefs...XCOR now offers a page dedicated to the EZ-Rocket and provides a FAQ that outlines the goals for the test vehicle. A fourth flight took place on November 9th in preparation for the public demonstration flight at the official rollout scheduled for November 12...

The Development Schedule page at Kistler Aerospace website recently got a minor update. The first test flights are now scheduled for 2002 and full operations by 2003. However, there is nothing stated as to whether full funding has been attained or when construction on the vehicle and the Woomera launch facilities will resume.

November 9, 2001

News brief...Appears that the full SLI funding of $465 million survived the House-Senate conference bill on the NASA budget. There is $40 million for continued X-38 testing but not the $275 million needed for full scale CRV development:

November 6, 2001

A RASCAL to orbit..The latest Aviation Week describes a new DARPA project called Responsive Access, Small Cargo, Affordable Launch (RASCAL). The project aims to provide lower costs for putting microsatellites into space. DARPA helped to fund the Orbital Science Pegasus launcher over a decade ago. The Pegasus has generally been considered successful but is quite expensive on a per kg basis.

According to the DARPA Request for Information (RFI): Responsive Access, Small Cargo, Affordable Launch (RASCAL), the goal is "to launch a 50kg payload to LEO anytime at any inclination with a routine flight rate, on time performance, and low cost."

Although piggyback rides on major satellite launches are low cost, there are various drawbacks. The launch occurs according to the schedule of the main payload and the orbits available from the launch trajectory may not be ideal.

DARPA is asking contractors to examine the use of "an aircraft reusable first stage capable of exo-atmospheric flight and low cost expendable upper stages integrated to a standardized top stage avionic and control system."

The AvWeek article discusses an approach using a purely turbo-fan propulsion system for the first stage aircraft that could provide Mach 4-5 speeds. Firstly, the engine inlet would be extra large to take in more air at high altitudes. Then to increase thrust, a "coolant, such as liquid air, water or liquid oxygen" would be injected into the inlet both to add mass and to cool the air. This approach was first proposed in the 1950's, but became a "forgotten technology".

The program is looking for $10k/kg costs. This is not so different from the retail price of large payloads on the currently available large expendables. However, the goal here is for launches of just small payloads and on only 24 hour notice.

A second HyShot scramjet test will probably not occur before December according to Space News. Problems with the second stage Terrier-Orion rocket prevented the first test payload from reaching high enough altitude to provide sufficient speed on the way down to test the engine.

The second flight will test a scramjet from QinetiQ, the privatised former British Defence Evaluation and Research Agency.

HyShot team to continue scramjet research - Univ. of Queensland - 02-Nov-2001

October 31, 2001

Srcamjet launch fails...Problems with the rocket booster prevented the HyShot payload from carrying out its scramjet flight: Scramjet fails test flight - BBC - Oct.31.01 * Rocket Glitch Thwarts Test Of Hypersonic Scramjet Engine - Aviation Week - Oct.31.01

October 30, 2001

Australia goes hypersonic...The HyShot launch occurred successfully today. However, they won't know until examining the data whether the hypersonic payload that was released actually achieved positive scramjet thrust. Will take a day or so to confirm: Hyshot experiment launched 30-Oct-2001- Univ. of Queensland PR * Scramjet 'flies' in Australia - BBC- Oct.30.01

October 29, 2001

EZ-Rocket to rollout and take off...XCOR will formally introduce the EZ-Rocket to the world on November 12:

EZ-Rocket Roll Out and Demonstration Flight - XCOR Press Release - Oct.18.01

The two hour program at Mojave Airport will include a demonstration flight with Dick Rutan at the controls. (See the press release for information on obtaining an invitation to the event.)

Since the first flight last summer, flight testing has continued to expand the envelope. Virtually every flight sets a new milestone for rocketplanes. Examples include:

* First liquid-fueled rocketplane take-off from a runway since January 5, 1949 when the X-1 rocketed from Edwards Air Force Base with Chuck Yeager at the controls.

* First liquid-fueled rocketplane flight of any kind since November 26, 1975 when Thomas McMurdy piloted the X-24B after dropping from a B-52 at an altitude of approximately 30,000 feet.

[* First privately funded rocketplane to fly NOT. I was corrected by reader Martin Bayer that Fritz von Opel sponsored solid rocket propelled planes as early as the 1920s. These included flights of the "Raketen-Ente" (rocket-canard) in 1928 and the Opel Sander RAK 1 in 1929. See NASA Aeronautics and Astronautics Chronology, 1925-1929. * History of Rocketry Chapter 3 Early 20th Century - Spaceline.org.

Ernst Heinkel later sponsored the "He 176 V1" liquid fueled rocket vehicle, which made its first flight in 1939. See 1934-1939 period at Kitty Hawk -Air Force Magazine Chronology * The Mitsubishi J8M Shusui (gives background of the German rocketplanes like the He 176 and the Me 163) ]

News brief...Another privately funded rocket effort is making progress, though in a low budget rocket club approach. Check out the latest test flight videos at Armadillio Aerospace. These were shown at the recent Space Frontier Conference in LA.

October 25, 2001

News brief...The Hyshot test postponed till Oct.30 - Scramjets To Power Australian Space Odyssey This Month - Spacedaily - Oct.25.01

October 20, 2001

October 17, 2001

News brief...Check out the images and videos of a winged reusable booster called the K2GenRLV that Kelly Space developed under its NASA Space Transportation Architecture Study. The study was awarded to Kelly and four other contractors in Jan. 2000.

October 11, 2001

News brief...Check out the transcripts of the Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics hearing on Space Planes and X-Vehicles - Oct.11.01. Mitchell Clapp of Pioneer Rocketplane and others discuss what reusable spacecraft can provide for the military.

A webcast not currently available for this hearing but perhaps it will be posted eventually. See the webcast of the Hearing on Space Launch Initiative- June 20, 2001 and Hearing on Space Tourism - June 26, 2001.

October 10, 2001

News brief...Europe struggle to develop a coherent RLV strategy is described in Europe Plans Launcher Revamp - Aviation Week - Oct.9.01

October 8, 2001

Kistler stirs. The Kistler Aerospace website has been quiet since winning a SLI award back in May. This week, however, a new SLI Activities section has opened plus there were some publications made available for downloading.

The SLI Activities section describes the 13 RLV technologies that Kistler will flight demonstrate under the NASA contract. These technologies range from thermal protection materials to propellant densification. See the document "K-1 Flight Experiments Design & Requirements Document" (1.4MB pdf) for detailed descriptions of the experiments.

See also the document "Autonomous Safety and Reliability Features of the K-1 Avionics System" (3.5MB pdf) presented at the October 2001 IAF Conference in Toulouse, France.

October 4, 2001

XCOR EZ-Rocket in flight
EZ-Rocket powered by two XCOR 400N engines flies over the Mojave desert
with Dick Rutan at the controls. XCOR Press Release

XCOR Makes it look EZ...XCOR has announced the successful completion of the first phase of the flight tests for the EZ-Rocket. As discussed here earlier, the EZ-Rocket first left the ground back in July with Dick Rutan at the controls.

In this flight Rutan fired both of its rocket engines to take off and it reached a speed of 160knots and an altitude of 6200 feet. (In the first short flight back in July, only one engine was fired.)

The EZ-Rocket is a modified version of the Long-EZ homebuilt plane. The XCOR/Rutan team replaced the conventional prop engine with twin 400 lb thrust regeneratively cooled rocket engines that are fueled by isopropyl alcohol and liquid oxygen. Also, an insulated internal aluminum tank was built to hold the LOX and an composite fuel tank attached externally.

XCOR President Jeff Greason says the flight marks a significant milestone because "once you get two engines working in combination it is significantly easier to cluster more engines for larger vehicles. Second, we were able to keep the engine and fuel flow running smoothly during the flight."

The project is not intended to develop a homebuilt EZ-Rocket but to create a test bed to demonstrate safe, reliable & robust rocket propulsion. Rather, the goal is to develop reusable rocket technology that will lead next to a high altitude sub-orbital rocket vehicle for space tourism, rocket racing and the X-Prize competition.


October 3, 2001

News brief...Looks like NASA will continue with the X-37 even without Air Force support - NASA to keep experimental plane program - Huntsville Times - Oct.3.01

September 30, 2001

Interest remains for military RLV. While the Air Force recently decided not to provide funds to continue the X-33 or X-37 projects and resources for the war on terrorism will get priority, DOD and Congress nevertheless show continued interest in reusable rocket development.

According to the September 24th issue of Space News, for example, the Air Force "plans major funding for a space plane by 2004". However, the sources in the Air Force do not make clear why none of the X projects, X-33, X-34, or the X-37 (which, in fact, was a joint NASA / Air Force project) provide useful starting points despite the hundreds of millions spent on them already.

Meanwhile, Frank Sietzen reports that Senator Pete Domenici of New Mexico plans to add a rider to the DoD authorization bill that will provide $1.5 billion for RLV development: Spacelift Washington: RLV Help Proposed for FY02 DoD Budget Bill - Spaceref - Sept.29.01

[Oct.3.01 - Spacelift Washington: RLV rider dies as stripped down DoD bill passes]

September 15, 2001

Pump-and-shoot air launched RLV design: An Air Force group has proposed a flexible air launched unmanned RLV system in which the vehicle is shot from a pneumatic tube carried in a large cargo plane:

The rear doors of the bay would open in flight to let the 73-foot two-stage RLV pop out of the tube in a manner similar to submarine missile launches.

The vehicle would be facing in the same direction as the plane (the relative speed is fairly small so the vehicle still gets most of the boost of the plane's velocity in addition to being above much of the atmosphere) and its engines would fire about 5 seconds later.

Since only minor, temporary modifications are made to the plane, no dedicated carrier would be required. This should allow substantial savings over, for example, the Orbital Sciences Pegasus, whose L-1011 Stargazer carrier is not used for any other applications.

Also, unlike the Pegasus, the stages would be fully reusable. The first stage has retractable wings that deploy initially after launch, retract as altitude is gained and then deploy fully, after the second stage is release, for a glide back landing. The second stage could carry a several hundred kilogram payload to orbit and then would return to earth with a parafoil/lifting body technique similar to the X-38.

September 5, 2001

SwiftLaunch during ascent. Expendable LOX (Al-Li) tank (in brown)
and two composite RP tanks in light green. Single engine reusable module
goes to orbit and returns to earth for glide landing. Could be manned or
unmanned module.

Air launched RLV not feasible with current technology according to the paper A Study of Air Launch Methods for RLVs (PDF 542kb) presented at a recent AIAA conference by Marti Sarigul-Klijn and Nesrin Sarigul-Klijn of the University of California, Davis.

The paper reviews a number of leading proposals that use an aircraft (jet and/or rocket powered) first stage for launching a payload to orbit. Kelly's Astroliner, Pioneer's Rocketplane, Andrew's Alchemist, and others all require significant advancements over current technologies to attain their stated payload to orbit goals.

The authors present their alternative SwiftLaunch design (see above), which is partially reusable (tanks are thrown away.) The vehicle is carried internally in a large aircraft such as a C-5 “Galaxy” and rides out the back on a sled that is detached and recovered at sea. The vehicle has a robust design with a single engine, low dynamic pressures, "easy" abort available since the orbiter is situated below the tank and separates in a normal staging process, etc.

This "stage and half" to orbit approach doesn't provide huge cost savings over current vehicles but is buildable with current technology. Since the vehicle rides inside the aircraft, no major modifications are needed for the carrier.

News briefs...Apparently the Air Force won't bail out the X-33 & X-34 projects afterall: U.S. Air Force Will Not Fund X-33, X-34 Vehicles - Space.com - Sept.5.01 [U.S. Air Force Won't Fund X-33, X-37 Space Planes - Aviation Week - Sept.6.01]

..NASA cancels its Next Generation Launch Services funding for small launchers. The program had been severely criticised by many of the startup launch companies for its encyclopedic sized proposal requirements that included such onerous burdens as IS0 9000 certification. Only two companies actually made proposals so NASA dropped the whole program NASA Scraps Aid For New Launchers - Aviation Week - Sept.4.01 ...

NASA & Lockheed-Martin claim they are the first to build a composite LOX tank: Composite Liquid Oxygen Tank Passes Initial Proof Tests - Aviation Week - Aug.30.01

However, Rotary Rocket demonstrated a composite LOX tank several years ago. Furthermore, the Kimbo IV suborbital rocket actually used the first composite LOX tank in a launch in June of 2000. The tank was built by Microcosm and the rocket team included Garvey Spacecraft, the Reaction Research Society and others.)

Aug 29, 2001

Another student reusable rocket. Students of the AIAA CSULB Student Chapter of California State University of Long Beach were happy to see their Kimbo VI / Prospector 1 recently complete its first successful flight. The vehicle rode to 8000ft on a 1000 lbf-thrust engine developed by CSULB. All components of the rocket were recovered undamaged.

The Kimbo series of rockets aims to develop low cost reusable technologies. The series began when John Garvey of Garvey Spacecraft Corporation sought to continue the progress made by the DC-X project but on an even lower budget.

The project also includes the amateur rocket club (Reaction Rocket Society) and the CSULB received a grant from the California Space Authority.

See also the report below about the reusable Starbooster built by students at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

More discussion about these projects in the Aug. 29,2001 Space Gazette.

Scramjet Projectile Achieves First Positive Free-flight Thrust. A 4 inch diameter bullet shaped scramjet vehicle reach Mach 7.1 at exit from a 2-stage, inert gas gun at Air Force Arnold Engineering Development Center (AEDC) in Tullahoma Tennessee. The minature vehicle then sustained that speed in free flight through a simulated high altitude atmosphere by burning a hydrocarbon fuel in a supersonic ramjet (scramjet) engine.

As reported in the Aug. 27 issue of Aviation Week, the free flight of July 26, 2001 lasted only 25 milliseconds over a 260 ft. tank. Nevertheless, the measurements indicated that the vehicle achieved a net postive thrust and overcame the air drag to reach a constant velocity.

The project overcame earlier problems with building a vehicle tough enough to withstand the 10,000g peak acceleration in the 120ft long gun barrel. The hydrocarbon-fueled scramjet projectile was developed by GASL, which has long been involved in hypersonic technology development.

Previous wind tunnel tests demonstated positive scramjet thrust but these tests showed the first free flight thrust.

The success demonstrates "that scramjet engines will provide enough thrust to power a free-flying vehicle. The demonstration also identifies gun launch as a viable method for boosting scramjet vehicles to the hypersonic speeds at which they operate."

The project's goal is to demonstrate the technology for a hypersonic missile. The test vehicle is a 20% scale version of such a weapon.

The program will continue with higher performance engines and longer flights.

News brief...The Air Force and NASA agreed to work closer on RLV development: U.S Air Force and NASA Work Closer on Strategic Space Control - Space.com - Aug.29.01

Aug 24, 2001

News brief...Aviation Week reviews plans for engine development within the Space Launch Initiative program: SLI Engines Start With Shuttle Model - Aviation Week - Aug.23.01

Aug 21, 2001

Rotary Rocket web site bites the dust. Once one of the most popular space web sites, its news and articles about the company's plan for a piloted SSTO drew hundreds of thousands of enthusiastic visitors during its heyday.

The Iridium disaster killed the company's funding hopes when the constellation satellite replacement market disappeared. Gary Hudson and most of the other employees left or were laid off by the summer of 2000 and the company later auctioned off most of its properties. Although apparently the company still exists (probably only to hold intellectual property rights such as for its composite LOX tanks), it seems no longer to be developing any products.

It's a shame that the web site could not remain on line at least for historical purposes. (A view of RLV optimism in the late 1990s.) Unfortunately, the web has become less the grand library of Berniers-Lee's dream and more a raggedly newstand where items come and go....

daVinci Gets Promoted. The Canadian X-Prize entry da Vinci Project has obtained its first major sponsor: YourLogoGoesHere Joins Space Race - Aug.15.01 . The web promotions company YourLogoGoesHere will give unspecified financial support to development of the balloon launched rocket. (Thanks to Dale Gray's Frontier Status Report for pointing out this news.)

Aug 16, 2001

Indian RLV Incarnation. Technology for the proposed Indian Avatar RLV will be tested in a ground demonstration project over the next 5 years.

The Avatar is similar to the Andrews Space's Gryphon project, which recently received SLI funding for technology development. Both vehicles take off horizontally with conventional turbofan engines and then cruise for a few hours while collecting and liquifying oxygen from the atmosphere. This is then used with fuel on board to light a rocket for reaching orbit.

The idea goes back to the 1960s but the collection/liquification systems were then too heavy for practical use. With modern materials and techniques, these groups now believe they can develop flyable systems.

Dana Andrews at the recent SAS Meeting discussed their Alchemist system that they believe will demonstrate the crucial technologies.

News briefs...The X-33 dual aerospike engine tests were completed successfully. The plan now is to move the engines into storage. Aerospike Engine Tests Prove Worth Of Critical Valve - Aviation Week - Aug.13.01 ...

RussiaSpaceWeb.com has posted a nice page about the flyback booster for the Angara launch system. Find more links on the RLV Countdown page.

Aug 8, 2001

StarBooster gets a college boost... Cal Poly Space Systems, an engineering club made up primarily of students at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, has made progress on a technology demonstrator project sponsored by NASA Langley and in cooperation with Starcraft Boosters, Inc.

They are developing sub-scale models of Buzz Aldrin's StarBooster design. Recently they launched a 10ft model, which glided back down under ground control until near to the ground when it popped a parachute for a safe landing:

Cal Poly Space Systems Successfully Flies 10-foot StarBooster Model - Cal. Space Authority Press Release - July.23.01

The video at [--Error--]StarBooster 2001-C Launch (MPEG Format) shows the vehicle initially diving vertically and then pulling up, to the cheers of onlookers, into a controled flight.

News briefs... Status of the X-37 at Boeing is discussed at Shifting X-37 To New Realities - Aviation Week - Aug.3.01 ....

The last firing in the current series of the X-33 aerospike engine tests goes sucessfully:

Aug 3, 2001

News briefs... a Canadian entry in the X-Prize contest gets some exposure - Mr. Rocketman (DaVinci X-prize entry) - National Post - Aug.2.01 ...Leonard David reviews the X-38 and X-43 projects - How Hyper-X and X-38 Will Shape the Future of Flight - Space.com - Aug.3.01

July 31, 2001

EZ-Rocket piloted by Dick Rutan
EZ-Rocket piloted by Dick Rutan. The modified EZ-Long plane
is powered by two 400 lb thrust XCOR Aerospace engines.
XCOR Photo.

Rocketship Will Tour Airshow Circuit in 2002:

Oshkosh, WI - July 28, 2001, X-Rocket Press Release

X-Rocket, LLC announced today that the world's first rocketship act is now available for airshow booking and sponsorship. "The XCOR EZ-Rocket will tour the airshow circuit during 2002, giving millions of Americans their first chance to see a fully reusable, piloted rocketship in action," said X-Rocket president Edward Wright. "X-Rocket is proud to bring this act to the American public during the 2002 airshow season."

The EZ-Rocket, built by Mojave, CA-based XCOR Aerospace, made its first test flight on July 21, 2001, under the command of test pilot Dick Rutan. Rutan, who won aviation's highest honors by piloting the Voyager on its historic round-the-world flight in 1986, said the EZ-Rocket performed smoothly and the first test flight was a resounding success. Flight testing will continue when the rocketship returns to Mojave from Oshkosh, WI, where it is currently on static display at one of the nation's largest airshows, AirVenture 2001.

Speaking at an AirVenture press conference, Wright congratulated Dick Rutan and XCOR Aerospace on their accomplishment. "X-Rocket is proud to have contributed to this project, and we are pleased to see our investment begin to pay off."

Wright said that a number of major airshows have already indicated their interest in presenting a rocketship act. Wright urged interested shows and businesses to contact X-Rocket as soon as possible. "We provide one-stop shopping for all your EZ-Rocket performance, sponsorship, and merchandise needs."

X-Rocket, LLC believes that rocket racing can become a major driver for the development of reusable rocket technology and sees the XCOR EZ-Rocket as the first step toward that goal. "Prior to World War II, air racing was the major driver for the development of aviation technology," Wright said.

X-Rocket would like to see rocket racing beginning with a vertical drag race to 100,000 feet. "The 100,000-foot time to climb record has been held by a Russian MiG-25 variant since the 1970's," Wright said. "We think it's time to bring that record home to the United States. The XCOR EZ-Rocket is the first step toward the development of such racers-racers which, in turn, will develop the technology that enables a new era of routine, affordable space travel for science, business, and personal leisure."

X-Rocket, LLC (aka The Experimental Rocket Racing Association, LLC)
9609 NE 195th Circle #L-11
Bothell, WA 98011

Find more rocket racing info and links in the Future section.

July 30, 2001

News briefs... The military is considering the development of a sub-orbital bomber that could reach anywhere in the world within 30minutes. It might be derived from the X-33: US investigates space bomber - BBC - July.29.01 (the original article was in the LA Times but their links always break after a week or so.)....

Aviation Week discusses the SLI awards and reviews the various designs under study such as the bimese 2-stage vehicles, the Orbital Science's space taxi, etc.: NASA Looks Beyond Big Boys for SLI Ideas - Aviation Week - July.27.01

July 25, 2001

EZ-Rocket debuts - XCOR Aerospace and Dick Rutan have begun flight tests of a modifed Long-EZ airplane that is powered with two 400 pound thrust rocket engines from XCOR.

According to XCOR president Jeff Greason the EZ-Rocket is intended as a R&D testbed: "The primary purpose of the EZ-Rocket is to measure and drive down the operating costs of reusable rocket vehicles. XCOR Aerospace is developing reusable rocket propulsion for commercial rocket applications where our customers require inexpensive and safe operations."

A news conference concerning the plane will take place July 28 at the 2001 AirVenture air show in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

News briefs... The X-33 aerospike engine tests continue: X-33 Engine Tests: Two Down, One to Go - Space.com - July.24.01 ... Tech Review has a short review of NASA RLV efforts: Space Planes, Cheap - Technology Review - July.17.01

July 17, 2001

News brief... The X-33 aerospike engine tests have begun: Former X-33 aerospike engine continues test firings - Spaceflight Now - July.17.01 * Aerospike Engine Component Passes First Hot-Fire Test - Aviation Week - July.16.01....

The House VA-HUD subcommittee increased NASA 2002 budget markup by about $400 million, which will, among other things, pay for the X-38/Crew Rescue Vehicle program. The White House had proposed to kill this program due to the large Space Station overruns.

July 13, 2001

India is designing a RLV that would collect oxygen for liquification while cruising at low altitudes (similar to Andrews Space Technology's Alchemist concept) and then use a scramjet/rocket propulsion system to go to orbit: [--Link Dead--]
India unveils 'Avatar' - The Hindu - July.11.01

X-33 & X-38 live on...It's often said that no government program ever really dies. Supposedly, the X-33 was canceled back in March and ISS overruns later killed the X-38/Crew Rescue Vehicle program. However, the Air Force may takeover the X-33 project and NASA has now resumed testing of the X-33 engines -

[--Error--]X-33 Engines Slated For Thursday Hot Fire - Space.com - July.11.01
{[--Error--]X-33 Engines Ignited Late Thursday - Space.com - July.13.01

The X-38, as well, continues a successful run of drop tests -

Seventh X-38 Flight Proves New Technologies for Space Rescues - Dryden PR - July.10.01.

Perhaps next the X-34 will rise from the grave...

July 7, 2001

Japan's RVT (Reusable Vehicle Test) rises vertically
a short distance and then returns for landing.
Video available at ISAS and Spaceref.com.

Japanese VTVL successfully completes test campaign. According to a press release from Japan's ISAS agency :

Japan's Reusable Rocket Vehicle Test (RVT) Makes Second Test Flight - I S A S Press Release - July.6.01

the RVT completed a test "campaign" (referred to as VT-6) during June that consisted of 3 short flights. Similar to the DC-X, though smaller, the vehicle is intended to test technology and operations for "flight on demand, quick turnaround, higher performance, light weight structures and materials and so on." Nothing is said about future flights.

X-38/Crew Rescue Vehicle status still uncertain. NASA continues to try to find long term funding for the X-38 in Europe and scrapped up enough its own money to resume test flight drops (although a test last week was halted due to a communications problem.) Without a CRV, only 3 crew members can stay on the ISS without a shuttle docked.

Increasing concern about the detrimental affects on the science program with only 3 crew members, has led some in Congress to propose funding targeted just for the CRV program:

Congress Eyes Extra $400M For Station Crew Vehicle - Aviation Week - July.5.01

News brief... The X-37 project, which is building a prototype of a military space maneuvering vehicle, may expand to two flight vehicles : [--Error--]NASA Reviews Proposal Expanding X-37 Project - Space.com - July.6.01

June 26, 2001

Japanese VTVL takes test hop. According to spacetoday.net, the Japanese ISAS agency reported the vertical-takeoff-vertical-landing RVT last week rose 9m and then settled safely back down. The test vehicle (discussed previously in RLVNews.; see April and November of 2000) has goals like the similar but larger DC-X in that it will test RLV technologies and operations. Several more test flights are planned.

News briefs... Space News reports in the latest issue (June 25, 2001) that X-33 aerospike engine tests may soon resume. The funding would be provided by NASA and is not directly related to the efforts to resurrect the X-33 under the Air Force. Instead the aim is to gain experience with the electromechanical actuators that control the fuel flow instead of the usual hydraulic system...

... Efforts to convince the Europeans to take over the X-38/Crew rescue vehicle project are not proceeding smoothly. The $4 billion ISS overrun caused NASA to discontinue its support of the project, but without a CRV the station can house only a crew of three. This is insufficient to do maintenance and also carry out a full scientific program. The Europeans were contributing about $150 million in technology development to the $1 billion project and say they don't have the funds available to take over the whole project.

June 25, 2001

Canadian V-2 derived X-Vehicle model on display. A full size engineering model of the Canadian Arrow reusable spacecraft is being displayed at several Canadian air shows this summer. The vehicle will be similar to the German V-2 but with a crew compartment and many modern enhancements.

... Study of whether to resurrect the X-33 for military use continues: [--Error--]NASA, Air Force Form X-33 Study Team - Space.com - June.20.01 ...

...at last week's Paris Air Show a NASA official discussed the development of a maintenance, repair and overhaul industry for RLVs similar to that for airplanes:
Reusable Launch Vehicles To Spark Space MRO Industry - Aviation Week - June.21.01 ...

...a Congressional committee hearing discussed the status and plans for NASA's Space Launch Initiative:
NASA to employ new strategy with Space Launch Initiative - Program not without risks, says GAO - Spaceref.com - June 20, 2001 [Webcast - Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics – Hearing on Space Launch Initiative: A Program Review ]

June 20, 2001

Russian flyback booster promoted at Paris Air Show. Khrunichev Space displayed a full-scale, 27.-m (88ft) model (see photo) of the reusable, unmanned first stage. They hope the vehicle will make its maiden flight in 2004. The winged booster is powered by a LOX/Kerosene RD-191 engine during the ascent phase. At 60km the booster will separate and then use a jet engine to return for a horizontal landing.

The Baikal is a part of the Angara launch family which will initially include only expendables. However, the company will probably need outside investors to make the Baikal a reality.

Tax credits proposed for new launchers. Legislation to give tax credits to investors in commercial launch companies has been introduced in Congress. This would allow investors to receive credits against their tax bill in proportion to their investment. The bill includes separate credits for investments in small startups and large established firms:

Reps. Calvert and Ortiz Introduce "Invest in Space Now" Act (H.R. 2177) - Offers Tax Credit to Investors in Commercial Space Launch Vehicle Companies - Spaceref/ProSpace PR - June.15.01

Oversupply of launchers, however, will make new private launchers an even tougher sell. Due mainly to the LEO constellation failures, there are more expendable launchers than expected payloads for the next few years. Expendables have been subsidized by many governments as national assets resulting in an oversupply. This can only make the fund raising challenges for private RLV companies, i.e. Kistler, even harder:

June 14, 2001

Back to the Future rocket engines. The Aviation Week offers a long article this week about the X-40a and X-37 projects.

X-40A Paves the Way For X-37 Testing - Aviation Week - June.11.01

The X-40a drop tests went very well and X-37 development is now well underway. First drop tests of the X-37 should occur in late 2001 and a flight to orbit will occur on either a shuttle or EELV in late 2003 or so.

When in orbit (for up to 3 weeks) the X-37 will use its

"...Rocketdyne kerosene-hydrogen peroxide AR2-3 engine with about 6,000 lb. of thrust. The engine, originally developed by Rocketdyne in the 1950s, would be used for a deorbit burn as well as any large translational maneuvers in orbit."

This return to 1950s rocketry technology and stable fuels has become increasingly common as RLV developers find that operational features are often more important than ultra-performance. This has been a popular theme at the SAS meetings where rocket experts like Jeff Gleason of XCOR and Henry Spencer have repeatedly emphasized the need to re-learn many of the rocketry techniques and technologies developed in the pre-MoonRace days.

Note that Aerojet also has a contract to develop a H2O2 engine for the SMV, (Space Maneuvering Vehicle), which would be the operational vehicle that comes after the X-37. According to the press release, this engine should be ready in 2005.

June 8, 2001

News briefs... The Hyper-X flight failure investigation begins - Search begins for cause of X-43A launch malfunction - Spaceflight Now - June.4.01 . Videos of the flight available now - X-43A launch failure - video - Spaceflight Now - June.4.01 ...

Khrunichev is serious about developing a Flyback booster for the Angara launch system but funding remains a big problem - Khrunichev Eyes Wider Market for Flyback Booster - Aviation Week - June.4.01 ...

...a European perspective on RLV prospects given in this report - European launchers after Ariane 5 - by Fredrick Engström, ESA Director of Launchers

...pop-out inflatable wings might bring a craft back to earth (or to surface of Mars) - Blowing Up An Aircraft - Beyond 2000 - June.8.01

June 3, 2001

The First X-43 flight fails. Early reports indicate that the Pegasus booster swerved out of control and the vehicle destroyed by flight controllers. NASA's X-43A craft destroyed in launch failure - Spaceflight Now - June.3.01.




RLV related discussion groups:
Space Propulsion, The VentureStar Club & Advanced Space Transport Science at Yahoo Clubs

Space Frontier - CATS Bulletin Board



Home  |  Directory  |  Advertising  |  About  |  Contact  |  Disclaimer
© 1999-2020 HobbySpace, All Rights Reserved.
HobbySpace is a part of Space-H Services.