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Reusable Launch & Space Vehicle News
November 2003

Scaled Composites photos
SpaceShipOne on glide test flight Nov.17th.

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

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

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

RLV News Archive Directory

November 30, 2003

EZ Pulse Detonation ... The October/November 2003 issue of Air & Space Magazine had a brief item about progress with Pulse Detonation Engines. The Pulse Detonation Research Facility at the Air Force Research Laboratory has several projects including the installation of a PDE on a Long-EZ (PDE FAQ). See images of the PDE on Long-EZ and an entry in this newsletter PDE on Long-EZ update - AFRL Reports - June 2003 (pdf, 1.9MB) about the project. Scaled Composites is consulting on the installation.

Apparently XCOR's EZ-Rocket has inspired others to use the Long-EZ as a testbed for new propulsion systems.

News brief... Leonard David reports on the SS1 test flight on Nov.19th: SpaceShipOne Racks Up Sixth Test Flight - Space.com - Nov.29.03

November 28, 2003

News briefs... Hope everyone had a nice Turkey Day. Here are a couple of items I'll sneak in while my wife is busy helping my Mom put up Christmas decorations (she thinks I should take a few days break from the web for some reason!)...

... HobbySpace reader Rick Boozer compliments DARPA for pursuing an incremental approach to launch vehicle development as described in this article on DARPA's Falcon program - "AT LAST a government organization that gets it!" ...

... Speaking of Falcons, the other project with that name is on its way to the capitol: SpaceX Falcon Begins Flight to Washington DC - SpaceRef - Nov.28.03. I'm looking forward to seeing the rocket in person when it's unveiled on Thursday evening.

November 26, 2003

News briefs... The team of Garvey Spacecraft and the Cal State Long Beach Aerospace Engineering Department plan on December 6th to launch another rocket with an aerospike nozzle. They believe they have corrected the problems that occurred during the first flight back in September....

... The OSP proposal requests delayed: NASA's Orbital Space Plane Project Delayed - Space.com - Nov.26.03 ...

... Review of some long term launch technologies: Looking to Lasers, Microwaves and Anti-Matter for Space Travel - Space.com - Nov.26.03

eAc update... Environmental Aeroscience isn't letting their disappointment over the SS1 propulsion contract slow them down. According to the latest news update, they have several new and continuing projects:

  • DARPA Falcon contract, with Cesaroni and Exquadrum, to develop a low cost vehicle to launch 450kg payload to LEO for $5M. (9 other contractors also chosen for Phase 1). The Kestrel is the name of their vehicle design.

  • MuLV (Micro Launch Vehicle) - small multi-stage vehicle that can place 350-1200lb into LEO. In development under an Air Force grant.

  • Aerospike nozzles for solids and hybrids. See the impressive video of a aerospike nozzle test firing.

  • Hyperon sounding rockets with hybrid propulsion. The goal is to put 100lb to 100miles. The vehicles include a "6 [inch] Hyperion HY-1 (flown at Wallops four times) and the 12[inch] Hyperion HY-2 (propulsion development completed) with a launch scheduled for mid next year." (according to Korey Kline.)

Only Scaled Composites knows for sure... This news release makes it clear that anyone outside the company claiming to know the flight schedule for the SS1/White Knight tests is talking out their rear exhaust port.

November 25, 2003

More about the Liberator rollout... Jeff Foust attended the unveiling of the HARC Liberator X PRIZE project and reports on the event:

News briefs ... SpaceX announces the details of the unveiling of the Falcon at the Smithsonian: SpaceX Falcon Rocket to Be Unveiled In Washington, DC December 4 - SpaceRef - Nov.24.03 ...

... A plea for NASA to support space travel for everyone: Public space travel and a national space vision: An open letter to NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe by Derek Webber - The Space Review - Nov.24.03 ...

... Alan Boyle compares the Enterprise move to the museum and the development of private launchers: Aerospace history and hopes - Alan Boyle's Cosmic Log - Nov.24.03

... NASA makes progress on reusable engines including the Integrated Powerhead Demonstrator (IPD) project: NASA, Air Force achieve key milestones on next-generation engine - Marshall Center Space News Release - Nov.20.03 ...

... Hypersonic businesses change hands: ATK To Acquire Hypersonic Flight Businesses from Allied Aerospace - ATK - Nov.24.03

Andrews RLV project... I shouldn't ignore orbital RLV projects. Andrews Space, for example, continues development under a NASA contract of its two stage system. In their concept, a first stage winged booster loiters at low altitude while accumulating oxygen and liquifying it to fill its tank and a tank in the second stage. This paper - ACES-Propulsion Technology For Next Generation Space Transportation (pdf) reports on progress in the project. These images show the Gryphon system in action.


November 24, 2003

SpaceShipOne and motor tests... The SS1 test data page reports on the November 19th SS1 glide test (mentioned here earlier) and on a recent motor test. The flight was

Mike Melvill's first flight with the enlarged tails. Emergency aft CG handling qualities eval and simulated landing exercise with the new tail configuration. Airspeed and G envelop expansion and dynamic feather evaluation.

The results were satisfactory according to the flight results summary. The Spacedev motor test on November 18th is summarized as follows:

Flight motor qualification run. A ground test to validate the first two planned powered flights of SpaceShipOne. All performance requirements and safety limits were met.

Liberator rollout ... Tim Picken, Team leader/Program manager of the HARC Liberator rocket, reports that the official rollout on Saturday went very well. (See X PRIZE press release). He says:

We had a great turn out with the X-Prize folks here as well as Space Adventure folks. We were also fortunate to have Konrad Dannenberg [V2 engineer] attend. All the local media attended. We had NASA and business folks here as well. Huntsville folks really are excited about our entry into this very historic race.

See also the Huntsville Times report on the project : Firm aims for stars, and $10M High Altitude Research Corp. sets sights on X Prize - Huntsville Times - Nove.24.03 (via spacetoday.net).

ELV vs. RLV... Rocket Man Blog (Mark Oakley) writes about the economics of expendables and reusables in Rocket Man Blog: Reusable Vs. Expendable Launch Vehicles - Rocket Man Blog - Nov.23.03.

This was partly in response to my comments on his recent posting about designing flight hardware. I noted that a RLV would not require the same degree of testing as an ELV before every flight and so costs should be lower. However, he points out that there are tradeoffs such as the need for a recovery system and higher development costs that mean the price advantage for an RLV isn't so clear.

Also, until an RLV is proven more reliable than ELVs and can provide a lower launch price, then the comsat industry, currently the only highly profitable space industry, will not switch its expensive payloads to an RLV. (And such large payloads would require a large RLV, as well, which would require big money for development.) He notes that:

For an RLV to prove itself as reliable as an ELV without having paying payloads to fly is almost a cach-22, but not quite. The way around the problem is to build an RLV that first serves a function that an ELV cannot, like opening up a market for space tourism or launching small satellites. Once a design has proven itself to be reliable, it can be scaled up to the point where it can compete with ELVs and still be profitable.

I also believe an incremental approach to RLV development and pursuing new markets will bring about cheap access to space. Commercial RLV companies need high flight rates to recoup development costs and to obtain the economies of scale that bring down launch costs. Only space tourism offers a potential market big enough to demand high flight rates. Yet it is only a potential at the moment. Mark is referring to orbital launchers but I think that suborbital RLVs will begin the bootstrapping process that develops both a commercial RLV infrastructure and a space tourism market in parallel. From such an industry, orbital RLVs will eventually emerge.

Furthermore, as Rand Simberg and others have long argued, since it is a high flight rate that is the key to bringing down launch costs, we don't need exotic new technology as NASA and others so often claim. Instead, the current technology needs substantial improvement in reliability and robustness. I think that suborbital RLVs will help bring this about but that is a controversial topic. I'm working on an article that looks at whether or not suborbital spaceflight will contribute to lower cost orbital transportation. I surveyed Mark and a sampling of other aerospace gurus to get their opinions. The article should be out within a week or so.

News brief... Armadillo's latest update is posted: Vehicle modifications and tests, New engine test - Nov.22.03 .


November 23, 2003

X PRIZE action... HobbySpace reader Kaido Kert sent me news of several X PRIZE happenings:

Rocketing by the sea... I guess most people won't be impressed, but I love this video (mpg) of the RVT-9 doing its liftoff, hover, and landing trick. (Turn up the volume to get the full effect.) I really look forward to seeing the Armadillo vehicles back in action. I don't know what RLV design is most cost effective, but there's just something really, really cool about VTOL.

The video comes from this article in Japanese. I ran a machine translator on the pages but the resulting English output was so distorted, it literally gave me a headache trying to make sense of it!

Dual-ET plus Delta Clipper is a space transportation system under study by the Space Island Group. For many years the group has been pushing the idea of using Shuttle External Tanks for building large space stations and hotels in orbit. (They even hired Spacehab to do a study of an ET interior "outfitted as a pharmaceutical production area.")

One of their vehicle concepts is to replace the shuttle with a modified ET that carries cargo and/or people in what they call a dual-ET configuration (with shuttle main engines attached to the tanks). Now they want to put a DC-X type stage on top of the second ET module. Since it would now ride a first stage, it would carry a greater payload than as a SSTO and still provide vertical landing on return.

I'm sure SIG's cost estimates for their various schemes are not universally agreed upon but it's still fun to see these ideas investigated. (My thanks to HobbySpace reader Nathan for this link.)

November 22, 2003

 SS1,White Knight and the Moon
SpaceShipOne and the White Knight
chase the Moon. SS1/WK photos page.

New photos posted from the November 19th flight of the SpaceShipOne.

Attention to private space... Brad Stone reports on Spacedev and the private space development movement: Pushing That Frontier" A growing movement of tech titans believe that private companies—not stodgy government bureaucracies—will lead a new drive into space - Newsweek - Nov.21.03 (via spacetoday.net)


November 21, 2003

SS1 flew again on November 19th according to this message on the Mojave Airport Weblog - Alan Radecki. The White Knight and the SS1 created these contrails. He also took these nice photos of the November 14th flight.

The V2 roars again ... The Canadian Arrow X PRIZE team has "completed the first series of tests on our 57,000 lb thrust engine." The engine, which runs on alcohol and liquid oxygen, is similar to the engine in the original V2 rocket.

News brief ... Boeing joins the X-43C project: Boeing Joins X-43C Hypersonic Research Vehicle Team - Boeing - Nov.20.03 (via spacetoday.net). ...

... More on DARPA's Falcon program: Speed Kills, Military Wants More - Wired - Nov.20.03.

November 20, 2003

Rocket testing... Mark Oakley, who works on the Atlas V project, has written an excellent article on the rigorous and extensive testing that rocket vehicle components and systems must undergo: Designing Flight Hardware - Rocket Man Blog - Nov.19.03

As he indicates, this testing is one of the reasons space hardware is so expensive. It illustrates to me the advantages of RLVs since a vehicle only has to undergo the major structural tests during constuction rather than before every flight. Also, RLVs provide for incremental flight testing before they become operational.

Space tourism analysis... Robert A. Goehlich, whose graduate work in Germany led to a book on space tourism, is now doing his post-doc at Keio University, in Yokohama, Japan. (Long time space tourism proponent Patrick Collins also works in Japan but I don't know if they are collaborating.) He has posted several papers on various aspects of space tourism, especially with regard to suborbital projects. Some of the papers (all in pdf format) include:

He is also posting the lecture notes from a series of lectures he's giving on space tourism.

News briefs... Development of the RS-84 kerosene/LOX engine, intended for reusable vehicles, continues to progress: NASA Stennis Testing Future Flight-Engine Components - SpaceRef -Nov.19.03 ...

... Sign up for the next FAA Space Transportation Conference: 2004 Forecast conference, Feb.10-11, 2004, Wash. DC - FAA / AST. ...

... Your input wanted on space legislative priorities: CSA: 2004 Legislative/Policy Survey


November 19, 2003

A SpaceShipOne test flight took place on November 14th. According to the entry on the tests results page, it was the first SS1 flight for pilot Peter Siebold. Goals for the test included examination of the "stall performance at aft limit CG", which I take to mean that the CG was similar to that during the September 23rd flight when the vehicle pitched up and the pilot had some difficulty regaining control.

The flight summary:

"Launch conditions were 47,300 feet and 115 knots. Satisfactory stability and control at aft limit CG. A notable improvement in control power, particularly in roll. Handling qualities into and out of feather remained excellent with good nose pointing ability. Adjusted landing pattern altitudes resulted in a touchdown at the targeted runway aim-point"

SS1 modifications were discussed in an article in the latest Aviation Week issue. However, it seems mostly to contain the same basic info as in the description of the Oct.17th flight on the test results page at Scaled. There is more discussion, however, of the aerodynamic effects of the modifications.

Some items of interest include:

  • The pickup truck rigged with a SS1 wing and tailbook ran tests at 50-55mph to simulate the conditions of the SS1 at 70-80 KEAS at 40K-50K ft.
  • The Oct.17th test did not repeat the same aft CG conditions as the Sept.23rd flight with the pitch up problem.
  • The pilot "conducted full-rudder sideslips without incident" and moved the tails "in and out of the wingtip vortices" without problem.
  • The pilot also put the craft in "deep-stall feather configuration and turned more aggresively than before while in a near-vertical descent". He could point the nose as desired.
  • The "rocket control system - the arm, fire, and safing switches, and the oxidizer dump valve" checked out OK.
  • They are "experimenting with different target touchdown points after hitting both short and long of the point"

News brief... A rocket debut at the Mall: Falcon Rocket Unveiling at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum at 7:00pm, December 4, 2003 - CSA - Nov.18.03


November 18, 2003

Funding space... Jeff Foust analyzes the options for raising money for commercial space projects: New ways to fund space ventures - The Space Review - Nov.17.03

Responsive launchers for the Military ... DARPA has announced the list of contractors who will receive funds for the first phase of its FALCON program: DARPA And Air Force Select Falcon Phase I Contractors - Spacedaily/DARPA PR - Nov.18.03. The FALCON architecture consists of two primary parts, a first stage booster (initially a rocket and later a hypersonic cruise vehicle) and the Common Aero Vehicle (CAV), an "unpowered, maneuverable, hypersonic glide vehicle", that carries the bomb to the target.

The long term goal of the program (2025 time frame) is to field the hypersonic cruise vehicle, which can deliver the CAV within 2 hours to any spot with 9000 miles of the launch point. The short term goal (2010 timeframe) is to develop a low-cost, responsive launch vehicle called the Small Launch Vehicle (SLV)." The SLV will "serve a two-fold function in that it will also provide a low-cost, responsive launch capability for placing small satellites into low Earth orbit." The baseline SLV goal is the placing of a 450kg (1000lb) into 100 mile LEO orbit for $5M. "Flexibility to place payloads weighing as little as 200 pounds or as much as 2,000 pounds into this same reference orbit is also desired."

More info in the FALCON fact sheet (1.4MB pdf).


November 17, 2003

The future of the status quo... Florida Today has posted a big set of articles and graphics on The Future of Human Spaceflight. They include sections on the OSP and "better spaceships" that consist of the usual NASA viewgraph fluff.

Considering all the failures at NASA and the positive developments by private space projects, this is very disappointing, especially since Florida Today generally does a good job covering space news. I know a Florida newspaper would favor the local company, but the whole thing looks like it was produced by the NASA PR department. Not a word about any space developments outside of the agency. See for example the interviews. They don't include even Robert Zubrin of the Mars Society or Brian Chase of the NSS and certainly not the more aggressive NASA critics like Rick Tumlinson.

With space tourists having gone to the ISS, Elon Musk building a launcher that has government payloads signed up, Burt Rutan test flying a suborbital spaceship, solid progess by other X PRIZE teams, and dozens of other alt.space developments in the works, they really had to try hard to ignore the space world outside of NASA' s sphere of influence. It's like a special edition in 1980 on the future of computing that totally focused on IBM's grand plans and left out any mention of Apple and other home computer companies.


November 16, 2003

Armadillo progress... Armadillo now has a reliable source of 50% hydrogen peroxide that it can use for flights (in mixed propellant mode with methanol) according to the latest update: Solvay peroxide, Misc, Welded engines - Armadillo Aerospace - Nov.16.03

"It looks like our supply problems are finally over. We have a solid engine combination, and a willing propellant supplier. Hurray! It sucked that the lack of 90% peroxide prevented us from flying any vehicles for the last eight months, but all the work that went into the mixed-monoprop propulsion system has probably been for the best anyway. The propellant is several times cheaper, gives 20% better Isp, and is generally better to work with (less caustic, and less material sensitive). The development work has also given us catalysts that we will be able to use with 98% peroxide when we are ready to work on high energy upper stage biprop engines."

Student rocket VTOL vehicles... Sounding similar to the Armadillo approach, the Cornell ASTRO project, which currently involves about 35 students along with faculty support, plans

"to build a reusable, autonomous, rocket powered vehicle that can lift off under its own power, hover at a low altitude to display its stability, and land safely without damage. After the completed testing of the first generation ALV [Autonomous Launch Vehicle], a new ALV will be designed and fabricated each year, building upon prior versions and improving ALV performance. ASTRO will build and launch its first functional ALV by the Spring of 2004."

They recently carried out some engine tests.

News briefs... Rand Simberg read this article and was not pleased: Still on the Wrong Track - Transterrestrial Musings - Nov.16.03....

... Dave Berry analyzes the space elevator: Elevator to Heaven: In space, no one could hear the screams of those idiots who hold the doors open - Washington Post - Nov.16.03


November 14, 2003

The SpaceX update for October just arrived in my email box [Nov.16.03 - update now on line]. Here are some highlights:

  • The first Falcon will be unveiled outside the Smithsonian Air & Space museum on Dec. 4th.
  • SpaceX has won a phase one contract from the DARPA/Air Force Falcon program (same name as the SpaceX vehicle by coincidence) that is supporting the development of low cost launchers.
  • Most of the manufacturing of the Falcon components will be done in house using sophisticated computer controlled machining technology.
  • For the first time They lost an engine during tests: "A fuel valve actuator failed to open properly, allowing liquid oxygen to flow back up the fuel injector and ignite inside the engine plumbing." They feel confident, however, that they understand the problem and that it cannot occur during launch conditions. New firing tests were underway within a week.
  • The first stage and the inter-stage are going through final assembly. "[B]y the end of the month, the first Falcon rocket will roll off the assembly line, be mounted on the mobile launcher and sent to Washington DC."
  • They "finished coding of the Falcon vehicle flight simulator."

Waverider test... According to the latest Aviation Week, the Sub-orbital Aerodynamic Reentry Experiments (SOAREX-3) program tested a subscale hypersonic waverider structure on a sounding rocket flight on Oct.24th at Wallops Island. The goal of the Ames Research Center project was to study whether the wedge shaped structure could acheive lift by riding on a hypersonic shockwave like a surfer rides an ocean wave.

The test achieved a "lift over drag ratio of 3.5 at Mach 5 with a 35-kg (77-lb.) wedge" when it entered the atmosphere at a 10deg angle of attack. They plan another flight next year to "reach 'significant' lift and demonstrate subsonic flight control".

I've not found much other info on the test but the flight is briefly mentioned in this Wallops Island newsletter from Oct.27. Also, a SOAREX-2 flight took place on Dec.18th, 2002 according to this press release. ...

... BTW: This Wallops Island newsletter (pdf) from Nov. 3rd also reports on the launch of a Terrier MK 70 Orion 5A that provided a successful test flight for a "scramjet surrogate payload" on October 18. The payload was part of a DARPA project.

News brief... Latest California Space Authority newsletter: CSA: SpotBeam California - November 13, 2003


November 13, 2003

Government vs private small sat launcher... According to a recent Space News (Nov.3 issue), the Europea/Italian Vega small satellite launcher will cost about 350M Euros (~$400M) total and will fly for the first time in mid-2006. They hope to market launches of 1500kg payloads to 700km polar orbit for about 18M Euros (~$21M) per flight.

In a different article in the same issue they report that SpaceX hopes to have a more powerful version of the Falcon ready by 2005 that can launch 2200kgs to LEO. No data on what payload it can put into a 700km polar orbit but probably not so far from the Vega. Also no word on what price they will charge (the first generation Falcon will put 450kg into LEO for $6M). It will be interesting to see how a privately financed vehicle will compare in price/performance to this government funded vehicle.

The Falcon Falcon heavy will attach two strap-on liquid boosters to the two stage Falcon, which also uses liquid fueled engines. The Vega consists of four stages, the first 3 use solid rocket moters and the 4th uses a liquid fueled engine.

News briefs... This JAXA page is in Japanese but it has more pictures and diagrams (some in English) about the RVT and the recent flights....

... Reusable Zarya capsule design recommended as the basis for a Russian RLV: Does Russia Need a Space Shuttle? - RIA Novosti - Nov.12.03 (via spacetoday.net) ...

... Proceedings now available for the Second International Symposium on Beamed Energy Propulsion held inSendai, Japan on Oct.20-23,2003


November 12, 2003

Development of Gun launchers to shoot payloads to high altitude and eventually to orbit is the goal of the Canadian company Columbiad. The group has several Launch Systems in development. For example, their mobile Industrial Sound System (ISS) will launch the Arrow vehicle to 100km with a 1.5kg payload. (See the history of Gun-launched projects at Astronautix.)

The company is currently marketing its Starburst Memorials Services to place "cremains (up to 3kg) into space where they will scatter and drift back down to Earth" for $12,500: . A lower altitude Wayfarer Memorial will send ashes to 100km for $500. Releasing ashes at high altitudes could be another market for suborbital RLV companies, as well.

News brief... Buying hardware and flights for space research missions is starting to become more common. Maybe this will also lead to the buying of launch services for all types of space missions, manned & unmanned: Spacecraft Dealers - Space Log - Nov.12.03. [Update Nov.13.03 : I should have mentioned that SpaceX, a privately funded project, is already getting some government payloads for its unmanned Falcon.]

November 11, 2003

First RLV commercial launch license... XCOR Aerospace has received an official letter from AST stating that their application for a commercial space launch license has been deemed 'sufficiently complete'” and AST must either award them the license within 180 days or explain to Congress why not: XCOR passes major milestone on DARPA contract - XCOR - Nov.10.03 (See previous item about this.)

More XCOR... The Space Show this Sunday, November 16, 2003 at 12:00-1:30 PM Pacific Time will feature Rich Pournelle, Director of Investor Relations for XCOR Aerospace.

Official Liberator press release: HARC Enters Manned Commercial Space Race: Company Continues Huntsville’s Space Tradition by Entering International X Prize Competition – Nov.8.03 - HARC (747KB, pdf) (via RocketMan Blog) See previous item.

Burt Rutan wins another award: Burt Rutan Named "Business Leader in Aerospace" on the "Scientific American 50" - Scaled Composites - Nov.10.03

News brief... Came across some interesting publications posted at Andrews Space including a couple on horizontal takeoff and landing RLVs.

November 9, 2003

RVT tests summary has been posted on the JAXA site: Reusable Vehicle Flight Experiment at Noshiro Testing Center - JAXA - Nov.7.03. It includes several photos of the three short flights and says the tests have helped with development of composite fuel tanks and systems for fast turnaround.

It also says that they have proposed to build an "exo-atmospheric ballistic flight vehicle based on the present concept". (That is, a high alititude suborbital version.) See this report - Flight Demonstration and a Concept for Readiness of Fully Reusable Rocket Vehicles by Yoshifumi Inatani - Space Future - for an overview of the project and where they would like to go if they get the money.

News briefs... The latest update from Armadillo Aerospace reports on tests of a 1000 lbf Mixed Monoprop engine. ...

... The White Knight/SpaceShipOne project wins the Grand Award for Popular Science's 2003 Best of What's New...

... John Carmack gives his views on the chances for some of the other competitors to win the X PRIZE by the end of 2004: Comments on an X-Prize Question - John Carmack - Frontier Files Online - Nov.2.03 ...

... The JP Aerospace Ascender high altitude platform project makes progress: Ascender 1.0 update by Alfred Differ (JP Aerospace) - Frontier Files Online - Nov.5.03


November 8, 2003

The Liberator X PRIZE vehicle is described in the newly updated HARC web site. (Heard about it from Jeff Foust.) The shiny vehicle will blast off from a ship at sea on a booster powered by two "LOX-Kerosene regeneratively cooled engines that are pressure-fed". After the booster shuts down, the capsule separates and coasts to 100km altitude. Both parts splashdown via parachutes. The capsule includes a hybrid escape motor in case of problems during launch.

Jeff Foust wrote an article back in October on the Liberator after he heard it described during the recent Space Frontier Foundation conference. The project is led by Gregory Allison, the president of HARC, and Tim Picken, of Orion Propulsion.

Much of the hardware for the Liberator derives from an earlier commerical orbital launch project called Space America. The site includes photos and videos showing engine tests that indicate that they are well along in development.

The project is not yet included on the X PRIZE team list but I expect it will be soon.

November 7, 2003

November 6, 2003

A Mojave portal to space gets assessed environmentally. I scanned through the 5MB draft study - Draft Environmental Assessment / Initial Study for the East Kern Airport District Launch Site Operator License for the Mojave Airport.- FAA / AST - Nov.5.03 - and found most of it a perfect antidote for insomnia. But there are some interesting sections such as the one on estimates of the number of suborbital space flights per year from the port.

Summaries of the space tourism hearing yesterday:


November 5, 2003

Space tourism and other aspects of the Commercial Space Act of 2003 are the focus of today's hearing at the House Committee on Science. Web cast begins at 10:30am EST: House Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics Hearing: What is the Best Way to Regulate the Space Tourism Industry? - SpaceRef - Nov.5.03

Update: Spaceref has posted the Hearing Charter and the written testimonies in html;

(Lot of talk about space these days. Tomorrow there will be a web cast of a Senate hearing on Lunar Exploration,: Thursday, November 6 2003 - 2:30 PM - SR- 253 - US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, & Transportation)

News brief... More progress on paraffin based hybrid engines: Candle wax is rocket science: Paraffin fuels test launch - Stanford Report - Nov.5.03 via spacetoday.net


November 4, 2003

X consolation PRIZE... Alan Boyle reports that the X PRIZE organization is trying to raise money for a second place prize or a first place prize if no one wins the competition by January 1, 2005 and an insurance company takes the premium: A prize for runner-up rocketeers - Cosmic Log - Nov.4.03

Status report on suborbital rules is given by Jeff Foust: Easing regulatory uncertainty - The Space Review - Nov.3.03

The Pad Abort Demonstration, or PAD, is one of the lesser known SLI/OSP projects. (DART is another.) It is a Lockheed project to develop technologies to provide for crew rescue from booster failures while on the launch pad or soon after launch. See the PAD Fact Sheet (1.5MB pdf) .

The small vehicle (~11m high, ~5m diameter) will fly to an altitude of approximately 2 km with four liquid oxygen and ethanol fueled engines. A drogue chute will stabilize and slow it down and then it will land via a parafoil. (See the flight sequence diagram.) The vehicle will include "fully instrumented space-age crash test dummies in its crew cabin to measure acceleration and motion" that might detrimentally affect human crews. First flight is planned for 2005.

This week Lockheed said that wind tunnel tests indicate that the vehicle design is "stable under the maneuvering required to escape from a catastrophic launch vehicle event": Lockheed Martin Achieves Key Milestone in Crew Escape Demonstration: Pad Abort Demonstration Program Demonstrates Stability in Wind Tunnel Testing - Lockheed Martin - Nov.3.03

TGV MICHELLE-B review by Rocketman Blog (Mark Oakley) is now on line: The MICHELLE-B - Rocket Man Blog - Nov.3.03. This is the fourth in his series of X PRIZE competitor reviews: The Ascender, The Black Armadillo, The SabreRocket.

Upcoming Space Show programs:

The Tuesday, November 4, 2003, 7-8:15 PM Pacific Time. Space Show features John Powell, President of JP Aerospace. For the past 24 years as President of JP Aerospace, John Powell and the JPA team has been giving NASA competition. His work has included a wide variety of development projects and flight systems including Orbital transfer vehicles, micro-satellites, rockets, balloon based rocket launch systems and high altitude airships. JP has over eighty flight missions under his belt. The JPA team has made the edge of space their playground. Mr. Powell is both a pilot and submarine builder and lives in Placerville, California.

The Sunday, November 9, 2003: 12:00-1:30 PM Pacific Time: Space Show will feature Tony Webb, founder of eSpaceLotto for international space tourism. Mr. Webb became the youngest agency owner in the nation for Exxon Office Systems Company, a subsidiary of Exxon Enterprises. He competed against IBM, Wang, DEC, & Lanier for dedicated word processing and FAX industry. His experience also includes expertise in database informational services and software development used by the U.S. Senate. Mr. Webb is known for the innovative usage of technology for small business development and has presented his work at the Association of Small Business Development Centers National Conference. In 2002, Mr. Webb spoke at the International Space Development Conference and presented his concept for the international space tourism lottery. His space tourism lottery is well along in the development phase and will most likely take place first in Europe. This is an exciting space tourism program with incredible potential to be a significant contributor to building a space tourism industry.

[Note that a lottery is often suggested as a way to support private space development. A percentage of eSpaceLotto proceeds will in fact go to several launch companies.]

[Update Nov.26.08: Tony informs me that the eSpaceLotto program was ended after the Columbia accident. The eSpaceTickets.com program is now the focus of his space tourism efforts.]

Listeners can talk to either the guest or the host, or send e-mail or chat during the program by calling toll free 1 (866) 687-7223, using dmlivings@yahoo.com or drspace@thespaceshow.com, or chatting on AOL IM using the screen name spaceshowchat.  Streamed shows can be heard via www.live365.com/stations/dlivingston?site=dlivingston

News briefs... Boeing brings synergy to launch technology: Boeing Establishes Orbital Space Program Office - Boeing - Nov.3.03 (via spacetoday.net) ...

... Astronautix (Mark Wade) posts an overview of Von Braun's rocket & space development plans....

... but some are not impressed: The Von Braun Master Plan: National Dream or National Nightmare? by Jeffrey F. Bell - Spacedaily - Nov.3.03 ...

... A Russian group dreams of a big space plane: Russian Unique Space-Plane Project Presented at Aviation and Astronautics 2003 Show - RIA Novosti - Nov.3.03 (via spacetoday.net)


November 3, 2003

SS1 test flight update ... Leonard David provides more details about the recent drop test of the SpaceShipOne and the modifications and tests prior to the flight: Private Spaceship Control Problems Prompt Fixes - Space.com - Nov.3.03

News briefs... Robert Zubrin apparently made quite an impression with his performance last week at the Senate Science committee hearing on the Future of NASA. Afterwards he was invited to speak with an administration official working on space policy: Zubrin's Take on the Congressional Hearing - Louisiana Mars Society Weblog (T.L. James] - Nov.2.03

... Armadillo Aerospace latest update reports on a fuel tank pressure test and on continuing engine development....

...The National Space Society is maintaining this page on Space Tourism and Suborbital Launches - NSS....

... Texas wants spaceports: Officials consider spaceport location - thefacts.com [Brazoria County, Texas] - Nov.2.03 via spacetoday.net

November 2, 2003

A new Canadian spaceport will be in Kindersley, Saskatchewan according to an announcement on the da Vinci news page. Possibly the first manned launch from Canadian territory will begin at the Kinderseley Municipal Airport. Kindersley is a bit east of Calgary and west of Saskatoon. For us geographically-challenged Americans, it can be located via this map - click on province for the big picture.

News brief...You can see the recent Senate Science committee hearing on Future of NASA via a link on this C-SPAN video page. (Note that the entry will shift over time to one of the "next pages" until if finally disappears. C-SPAN seems to keep videos of hearings for a few months at most.)

November 1, 2003

German X PRIZE project... Reader Clayton Wilson in the Netherlands told me about the plans of a German company called EuroMold to enter the X PRIZE competition. The EuroMold X-Prize page invites other German and European participants to join their team.The company runs a yearly conference on "Moldmaking and Tooling, Design and Application Development" and perhaps they see the competition as a way to exercise these technologies. I don't see any info on the site about a particular vehicle design and the project is not yet officially on the X PRIZE team list.

Third flight of the Japanese RVT-9 within a week took place yesterday according to a brief report (in Japanese; includes a photo) on the JAXA news page. A crude translation indicates that the flight lasted 17secs again and went to 42 m. It also seems to indicate that this is the final flight in this experiment series.


Continue to October 2003

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