installment looks at some wild lunar schemes that become plausible
if LEO launch costs fall to $200 per pound: Chapter
19: Mooncars, Monks, and Monasteries: Part 1 .
boosters for Moon/Mars missions under study: Analysis:
NASA studies new booster By Frank Sietzen - UPI - Feb.27.04
Conference on Space Elevators: The
Space Elevator: 3rd Annual International Conference - June 28-30,
2004, Washington, D.C. ...
funded study of space elevators is available on
Foust comments on the Russian Kliper: Russian
Spacecraft Plans - Technology Review - Feb.27.04
that the Aerospace Industries Association
is promoting the development of the CEV
by 2010 instead of the current goal of 2014: AIA
Unveils 5-Year R&D Plan - Feb.25.04. However, the AIA is
also requesting a $4 billion a year increase in the NASA budget,
which seems unrealistic. More info at AIA
5-ear R&D Plan for American Aerospace
the shuttle back in orbit looks to take awhile: Long
road ahead: Before the next shuttle launch, NASA must solve both
technical and credibility problems - Florida Today - Feb.25.04
Rand Simberg looks at some of the political issues involved in the
Enough? - Transterrestrial Musings - Feb.25.04
Goehlich, who is teaching a course on space tourism at Keio University
in Japan, has posted several RLV related papers on his website:
including these two recent ones:
Environmental Assessment for the East Kern Airport District Launch
Site Operator License for the Mojave Airport has now been posted
at the FAA-AST site. It includes a description of the two horizontal
takeoff and landing systems that would be covered under the license...
Hudson notes that the Kliper system is similar in approach
to the system proposed by HMX
for the Alternate Access program.
more Kistler news in
this article Aerospace
Notebook: Reusable rocket still the goal: NASA wants what Kistler
hopes to build - Seattle PI - Feb.25.04 (via spacetoday.net)
more Kliper news... Here
is an artist's
rendeition of the Kliper - www.1tv.ru
and an AP/MSNBC article: Russians
to build bigger, better spaceship: Upgraded Soyuz craft could send
six people into orbit - MSNBC - Feb.17.04
Of course, I
don't expect that the Russian companies will get the money actually
to build this vehicle.
Nevertheless, I'm sure the engineering is sound and it will be interesting
to compare the Kliper design to those that will be proposed for
the earth to LEO part of NASA's Project
Wade provides more details about the proposed Russian Kliper
Clipper in the press articles) replacement for the Soyuz and adds
a drawing of how he thinks it will look. (Link via T.
about Kistler & Chapter 11...
rocket gets NASA lift: Deal may fuel Chapter 11 exit - Puget Sound
Business Journal (Seattle) - Feb.23.04 (via
provides additional info on the efforts by Kistler
to emerge from bankruptcy.
As the article
states, it is surprising that they still need so much money (~ $500M)
to get the vehicle flying considering that the firm says the vehicle
is 75% finished. Can't see that it would take more than a few tens
of millions to get the Woomera site up and running so most of the
money must be needed for the vehicle itself.
very popular among the other launch vehicle startups of the 90's
because it sucked up so much of the limited capital available for
space projects yet still didn't get anything off the ground. It
appears to me that Kistler went with a standard aerospace industry
procurement approach, e.g. contracting with companies like Northrop
for major components, rather than building very much itself or pursuing
alternative low cost solutions. Elon Musk indicated in the interview
here that the Falcon I would have been two or three times more expensive
to launch if he had contracted out its development to the major
brief... Looks like it's a nice time to be a talented
rocket scientist: SpaceX
- Rocket Man Blog - Feb.23.04
million to complete the K-1,
according to a story in the latest issue of Space News. The firm
told the bankruptcy court that since 1993 they have spent a total
of $550M. The company is asking the court and its creditors to give
it extra time to raise the money so that it can resume construction
of the K-1 and fulfill the recently upgraded contract with NASA.
(See articles below on Feb.3,
will result in up to $227M for the company but it will not get a
penny until it is out of Chapter 11 and back to building the vehicle.
Most of the money, in fact, will only be paid when several flights
are successful. NASA is particularly interested in using the K-1
for returning cargo from the station in addition to its orbital
trying to arrange the financing is very optimistic and claims that
the capital markets are in the best shape they have been in for
several years. Some
creditors seem willing to listen to Kistler's plan for generating
a return on their investment while others have essentially given
up on the company.
I think what
will be of particular importance will be the actions of the vendor
creditors. There are several companies that built parts for the
K-1 but never got paid. If these companies, which are in the aerospace
business, don't show confidence in the firm, it will be unlikely
that non-aerospace investors will be enthusiastic to lend to it.
John Carmack reports on continuing engine development : Flameholders
- Armadillo Aerospace - Feb.22.04 ...
Florida Today looks at the potential for SpaceX
and other companies to make a business with small, low cost rockets:
rockets hold big potential - FLorida Today - Feb.23.04 ...
finds interesting engineering but not so much drama in The
Rocket Company - The Space Review: Review - Feb.23.04. I'll
note that the book is patterned after books like The Soul of
a New Machine that delve fairly deeply into the technical aspects
of a particular engineering project along with portrayals of the
people and organization involved. The Rocket Company is in
sort of a new Technical Fact & Fiction category that
places factual discussion of a technical subject within a fictional
plot. Since getting a rocket built and launched depends as much
on money as engineering, I think this book succeeds at presenting
a believable scenario where the funding to get such a RLV built
might just happen.
will be coming in. When the book is done, Patrick can respond here
to their comments then if he wishes.
Space Launch Amendment Act of 2004 (H.R. 3752) may pass the
House in March: House
vote on HR 3752 expected next month - Space Politics - Feb.21.04
Engineering has done some RLV design studies for NASA such as
3rd Gen RLV and Air-Launch-To-Orbit
... Here is
Marshall Institute - Evaluating the New Space Policy: A Panel Discussion
where Jeff Foust reported on the comments from DARPA about experiments
on the SS1...
[only slightly different] brief report on the Clipper: Russia
Develops Principally New Shuttle-Type Spaceship - RIA Novosti -
commissioning SpaceShipOne... Jeff Foust reports that
working with Burt Rutan to fly some experiments on the SS1.
Initially they would do some telemetry trials and then fly some
miniature synthetic aperture radar (SAR) instruments. The projects
would support development of a lunar smallsat project.
Sounds to me,
though, like they are also thinking of investigating suborbital
vehicles as reconaissance platforms. This is something Pat Bahn
at TGV Rockets
has long promoted.
Back in January
I suggested that the SS1 would be a good platform for science experiments.
Now that DARPA is giving credibility to this idea, maybe the science
community will wake up to the possibilities. I've had only limited
success in getting responses from a sampling of scientists to my
questions about whether suborbital platforms could benefit their
a mockup and goes for a designer crew compartment. The latest installment
also looks at the pilot and passenger survival system, carrying
cargo, smallsats for solar system exploration, and a nanosat that
would inspect the exterior of the second stage while in orbit: Chapter
18: Pilots, Payloads, and Passengers
briefs... The proposed Russian 6 passenger vehicle gets
a name: Soyuz
to Give Way to Clipper by 2010 - Ria Novosti - Feb.20.04 (via
begins to understand the external tank insulation problem: External
tank modifications more complex than expected - Spaceflight Now
- Feb.20.04 ...
also a tail rudder problem: Repairs
and Need for Rescue Craft Pushed Back Shuttle Timetable - NY Times
at Blue Origin are availble for undergraduates for June-August
study and participate in real engineering design projects related
to the development and construction of a manned launch vehicle.
Interns will work directly with program staff, contributing to
project goals in fields of aerodynamics, rocket propulsion, flight
controls, human safety and systems engineering.
focusing on careers in science and technology are invited to apply
for this 10-week summer program that will start in early June
and end in August. Specific program dates are flexible and adjustments
will be made to fit the academic schedules of selected interns.
listing also seems a bit longer than the last time I looked.
till 2010... Spaceref has posted links to several presentations
made at the Shuttle Launch Extension Program (SLEP) summit
this week: NASA
Updates Space Shuttle Return to Flight Plans - SpaceRef - Feb.19.04.
For example, see the Crew
Survivability (pdf). See
Priorities on Road to Shuttle Return to Flight - Space.com - Feb.20.04
briefs... The latest X PRIZE newsletter
is now available for February
workers get a reprieve: NASA
plane jobs may stay in place: Contract extended 90 days to ease
project's transition - Huntsville Times - Feb.19.04
delay ... The next shuttle flight won't happen before
entrepreneurs on business show... The Nightly
Business Report on public TV has a series this week on "Space:
The Next Step". Last night's episode, called "Entrepreneurs
& Astronauts", included a piece on Environmental
Aerosciences (eAc) and a brief interview with eAc chief Korey
He made the
important point that various technologies have developed to the
level that startups "can now take that technology and manipulate
that technology and actually make products from it. It`s no longer
superscience in a NASA laboratory."
The report also
nicely summarized the X PRIZE contest and the promise of suborbital
space tourism. It also listed space projects funded by "deep-pocketed
technology mavens" but erred in saying that Elon Musk's SpaceX
and Jeff Bezos's Blue Origin were in the competition.
As the token
critic, John Pike contributed this sound bite -
are not engineering problems which can be improved with time.
But the basic efficiency of rocket technology was fully realized
four decades ago. They`re going up against the physics of spaceflight
that the efficiency of rocket engines, the mass fraction of the
boosters, simply cannot be improved as a way of making spaceflight
- which is,
in the words
of Wolfgang Pauli, "so bad it's not even wrong." I don't
know of any startup rocket company currently trying to push ISP
beyond standard levels or to build a SSTO. The emphasis is completely
on robustness, reusability, and cheap operations so that over many
flights the investment can be amortized and that economies of scale
kick in - i.e. each additional flight gets cheaper and cheaper.
The challenge for these companies has nothing to do with physics
but everything to do with markets - they must find one that can
supply enough demand to generate a high enough flight rate to bring
down costs. The one that looks very promising is space tourism.
See this article
for more about how the suborbital projects can benefit development
of low cost orbital vehicles.
certainly doesn't preclude the development of a SSTO. There is plenty
of work to make them practical but the vehicle development over
the next few years will do just that.
brief... OSP bites the space dust: Space
plane cancellation made official: 300 Huntsville jobs involved in
project to replace shuttles - Huntsville Times - Feb.18.04
FAA/AST space trans review is now available. The 2004
U.S. Commercial Space Transportation Developments and Concepts:
Vehicles, Technologies, and Spaceports reports on the status
and prospects for US ELVs, RLVs (including several X PRIZE vehicles),
hypersonic projects, and spaceports.
briefs... Nice that
we've reached a point where we see newspaper editorials discussing
the different approaches to regulating manned RLVs: Commercial
space flights - The Washington Times - Feb.17.04 ...
escape pod for the shuttle not feasible by the end of the program
in 2010: Shuttle
crew escape system not practical, NASA says - Florida Today - Feb.18.04
rules out astronaut ejection system - HoustonChronicle.com - Feb.18.04...
Bush should have built his space initiative around the new generation
of space companies such as XCOR
Composites, and SpaceX
instead of NASA according to this essay: Our
Future in Space, by Frederick Giarrusso - The Independent Institute
- Feb.17.04 (via spacetoday.net)
points out that the various proposals for building "a launch
vehicle by cobbling together components from other vehicles"
are often unrealistic and seriously flawed: "Off
The Shelf" To Orbit Doesn't Exist - Rocket Man Blog - Feb.17.04
Shuttle launch slipping:
Planning to Move Next Shuttle Mission to 2005 - SpaceRef - Feb.17.04
Contract modification with extreme prejudice:
Development, and Delivery of an Orbital Space Plane: Modification
to a Previous NASA Presolicitation Notice - SpaceRef - Feb.17.04
briefs... The Russian
Aerospace Agency and RKK
Energia propose a new manned spacecraft:Russia
says it will build new manned spacecraft: Upgrade to Soyuz will
be able to carry 6 cosmonauts - Florida Today - Feb.17.04 ...
Life Extension Program Summit in Galveston is happening this
to pinpoint shuttle upgrades: Local workers face uncertain future
- Florida Today - Feb.17.04
test flight has been delayed:
21st reflight of NASA's X-43A hypersonic research vehicle appears
to have been delayed for at least a week due to a booster software
issue. Designed to demonstrate air-breathing engine technology
at speeds above Mach 5, the unmanned X-43A is now scheduled to
fly no earlier than February 28th.
On launch day, observers may be able to spot the contrails from
the F-18 chase planes and the B-52 bomber carrying the X-43A/Pegasus
booster combination as they fly from Edwards AFB to the launch
point offshore. The contrails from the chase planes and mother
ship may also be visible as they return to Edwards.
There's a good chance that favorably placed observers will also
see the smoke trail from the Pegasus booster as it pushes the
X-43A to its operating altitude of 95,000 feet. In addition, suitably
equipped radio enthusiasts across a wide area should be able to
hear radio communications from the F-18s and the B-52.
The X-43's first flight occurred in June of 2001. The release
from the B-52 was normal, but the flight was terminated by ground
controllers when the Pegasus booster/X-43A went out of control
shortly after booster ignition.
brief... John Carmack's latest update tells of work in
various areas of hardware development: 63"
Bulkhead, Custom boards, Engine work - Armadillo Aerospace - Feb.15.04
installment looks at the tradeoffs between landing the first stage
with rockets or jets: Chapter
17: Rockets, Jets, and Soft Landings
briefs... GAO comments on shuttle upgrades: Space
Shuttle: Further Improvements Needed in NASA's Modernization Efforts.
GAO-04-203 - SpaceRef - Feb.13.04
Titan did its job but at shuttle level costs: Titan's
time nears end: Satellite rockets proved costlier than first billed
- Florida Today - Feb.13.04
brief... Shuttle launches not till in 2005? Tests
Likely to Delay Next Shuttle Launch Foam Insulation, Sensor Not
Certified - Washington Post - Feb.13.04
spacers go alt... Guess we will soon see a mini-stampede
of space policy gurus into the RLV regulation fracas. Most either
ignored or disparaged the startup suborbital launch companies for
years but now that they look viable the gurus know just what they
space tourism: Not an extreme sport - The Hill - Feb.11.04 (via
gravity & paperwork... Not sure if an OSHA
for RLVs is really needed this early in the development of the suborbital
Commercial Space Office Developing Crew Safety Guidelines For RLVs
- Aviation Week - Feb.12.04.
briefs... NASA continues with X-37 technology development:
Awards Goodrich Contract to Provide High Temperature Composite Technology
on Reusable Launch Vehicle Demonstrator - Goodrich - Feb.11.04
Meier of Space
Transport says that in addition to the tests of the engines
intended for their large vehicle (see yesterday's item), they still
plan to carry out a high altitude flight for their 3-stage
sounding rocket. "Our goal on the upcoming flight is to
reach 50 km and recover a camera that has recorded digital still
photos from apogee. Sending it as high as 100 km presents recovery
challenges that we would rather not face at this time."
Transport, a new X
PRIZE team, recently began tests of their new 12-inch engines
that will be used on the STV
(Suborbital Tourist Vehicle). On Feb. 3 the engine "over-pressurized
resulting in a bulkhead blowout." However, they say they've
seen this problem with smaller engines and believe they can overcome
it and continue tests by the end of the month. (This item via J.
at least they spelled XCOR correctly... According to
a person at XCOR, the article Decision
Near on Licensing for Private Space Flights - NY Times - Feb.10.04
- misstated why XCOR did not enter the X PRIZE contest. "It's
not in our business plan, not because we have 'some small government
contracts'". Note also that USA
Today has the XERUS heading to the moon (see picture caption;
actually, I count at least 3 errors in that one little sentence.)
briefs... An extensive profile of Burt Rutan that includes
a discussion of the SS1 project: Rocket
Man - csmonitor.com - Feb.11.04 (via spacetoday.net)....
Alan Boyle talks with Eric Anderson of Space
Adventures about prospects for space tourism: Space
for sale - Alan Boyle: Cosmic Log - Feb.10.04 - about Eric Anderson
Access Society update arrived
yesterday from Henry Vanderbilt: Space
Access Update #102 2/9/04. He gives a "RLV News Roundup",
reports on "The New White House NASA Policy: Initial Impressions",
and discusses "HR 3752, 'The Commercial Space Launch Amendments
Act of 2004'".
A couple of
Rocketplane has enough funding to build its suborbital Rocketplane
XP with "$10m in assets with $30m in Oklahoma state tax
credit investment support." (The recent press
release about the tax credit didn't mention dollar
figures.) They will build a "rewinged Lear 24 with a rocket
motor added". Development time is 26 months.
- Jeff Greason
of XCOR will run "an informal workshop on his experiences
with the FAA AST licensing process at Space
Be sure to make
your reservations for the conference Space
Access'04: Thursday afternoon April 22nd through Saturday night
April 24th, 2004, at the Ramada Hotel Downtown at the center of
P.S. My thanks
to Henry for recommending RLV News.
in the news... Apparently
the AST office or
the X PRIZE organization
sent out a PR yesterday because this morning I've seen several newspaper
sites with either an AP article or their own story about the X PRIZE
and today's COMSTAC meeting.
Space Transportation - FAA / AST - Feb.10-11.04 for the agenda
of the meeting.
Mueller of Kistler
Aerospace seems optimistic about raising the capital needed
to emerge from Chapter 11 to take advantage of the expanded
contract from NASA. This older
article at Space.com doesn't include Mueller's comments but
in the print version of this week's Space News he said that "Our
chief financier, Bay Harbor, has told us they are able to raise
the funding and are in the process of doing so." He also said
that they would fulfill the NASA contract with five flights from
Australia launch site.
brief... While dense fuel (e.g. kerosene) engines have
become popular in designs of RLVs, RocketMan blog says the advantages
of LH2 should not be discounted: Don't
Reflexively Dismiss Hydrogen - Rocket Man Blog - Feb.10.04
Carmack's latest update reports on delays in rocket hover tests
due to problems with engine performance: Electronics
work, Engine problems - Armadillo Aerospace - Feb.8.04...
looks to a reusable vehicle for transport back and forth from the
lunar surface to an space station in orbit around the Moon.: Many
happy returns - e4engineering.com - Feb.9.04 (via Project
Man continues a discussion about low cost launchers and the need
for more robust, long lived engines: It's
Never As Easy As It Sounds - Rocket Man Blog - Feb.7.04
- a vast right wing conspiracy? As
recommended in this posting Book,
Single Stage to Orbit - ERPS - Feb.7.04, the book Single
Stage to Orbit: Politics, Space Technology, and the Quest for Reusable
Rocketry by Andrew J. Butrica - John Hopkins Press sounds really
interesting. However, the book's on line description includes items
like "conservative space agenda" and other red flags that
warn this may be your usual hackneyed political screed shoehorned
into a discussion of a technical subject. I think I'll wait for
some additional reviews before I shell out $45 for it.
Rocket Company latest
chapter deals with the challenges of making money in the aerospace
16: Markets, Philosophy, Techniques, and Approaches
lauds the first step of H.R.
3752, The Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 2004 as
it makes its way through Congress: Another
step towards space: House Science Committee Passes Commercial Space
Launch Amendments Act of 2004 - XCOR - Feb.6.04
history & news... James
Burk at NewMars.com
offers this history of vehicle development that led up to the CEV
New Constellation And Its Legacy - New Mars - Feb.5.04. He has
also begun a weblog - ProjectConstellation.us
- devoted to the topic.
Blog allows Kelly Starks to present a long article on lowering launch
Readers Rebuttal - Rocket Man Blog - Feb.5.04....
RTF costs growing: Shuttles
top $400 million: NASA's return-to-flight tab jumps 44 percent;
estimate should go up - Florida Today - Feb.6.04
newsgroup posting provided the link to this site at Lockheed-Martin
on their CEV concepts
revised shuttle return to flight plan: NASA’s
Implementation Plan for Space Shuttle Return to Flight and Beyond,
Vol.1, revision 1.2 - Jan.30.04 248 page pdf file 1.2
grand plan for developing new vehicles: NASA
Budget Lays Out CEV Spiral Development - Aviation Week - Feb.4.04
The House Science committee clears H.R.
3752, The Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 2004, which
offers new rules and guidance for suborbital vehicle regulations
and liability: Science
Committee Clears Six Bills - Bills addressing transportation R&D,
space tourism, among the legislation approved today - House Committee
on Science - Feb.4.04 (via spacetoday.net)...
discusses the NASA space prizes program: Eyes
on the Prize - Transterrestrial Musings - Feb.4.04....
More on the reallocation of money within NASA's vehicle programs:
Budget Details Shifting Of Funds To Exploration - Aviation Week
contract details are
available in NASA
Presolicitation Notice: Kistler K-1 Pre-Flight and Post-flight Data
- SpaceRef - Feb.3.04. Highlights include:
NASA needs more
LEO carrying capacity:
during the period 2006-2010 there is more projected demand to
return cargo from the ISS than can be supported by the Shuttle."
has a requirement for data to demonstrate the ability of commercial
launch systems to support ISS with up-and down-mass capability
as soon as practical. To meet the schedule directed by the President
for this new direction, NASA needs these data by the end of CY
2006...." [my emphasis]
Kistler contract is to fulfill the previous one for SLI
technology tests, not for delivery of cargo to the ISS. This
technology will also benefit the new deep space missions needs:
innovative new modular architectural approaches under consideration
by NASA to accomplish exploration missions beyond low Earth orbit
will require launch systems with autonomous rendezvous and proximity
operations (ARPO) capability to enable the modules to stage and
service themselves in low Earth orbit prior to embarking on deep
space missions. NASA needs flight data demonstrating ARPO technology..."
needs to raise private funding to come out of Chapter 11. This is
perhaps why there has been no announcement from the company (though
it tends to be stand-offish in general):
K-1 launch system, which is expected to achieve a first flight
within approximately 18 months of authority to proceed
with the modified contract. The K-1 launch system will have a
payload capability of approximately 7,000 pounds up-mass and 2,000
pounds down-mass to the ISS. Authority to proceed with work under
this contract modification will be contingent on a successful
conclusion of the contractor's Chapter 11 proceedings that results
in Kistler having sufficient additional private funding
to complete the K-1 development. NASA funding will not be provided
for development of the K-1 launch system. Payment of NASA funding
will be made only upon timely delivery and Government acceptance
of the data required under the contract. This contract modification
is for a continuation of data acquisition. The K-1 launch system
design includes a number of embedded technologies that will directly
benefit launch system development, including an integrated vehicle
health management system, advanced checkout and control systems,
and a fully autonomous guidance, navigation and control system...."
Note that the
contract is for delivery of data. This kind of data purchase approach
to space development has been one advocated by space activists for
many years. NASA should focus on the result and let private companies
decide on the way to implement it:
will exercise these options, and will add four additional ARPO
experiments to the contract, thus acquiring data from a total
of 5 flights of the K-1 launch system. The series of flights,
including a progressively more complex series of ARPO experiments,
will provide the data necessary to adequately demonstrate these
new technologies. In addition, the series of ARPO experiments
should be adequate to demonstrate the capability of a commercial
provider to support the ISS with cargo re-supply and return services..."
Kistler is the only company that currently can fulfill these missions
commercially developed launch system with ARPO capability is known
to exist or be planned for flight in the timeframe required. Because
a significant portion of the Kistler launch vehicle has been fabricated
and an inventory of flight engines has been acquired, Kistler
Aerospace Corporation is the only known identifiable path to achieving
these objectives as early as 2006..."
will have a brief opportunity to argue they can do it as well:
research shows that the data to be delivered by the modification
is not available from any other source. Interested organizations
may submit their capabilities and qualifications to perform the
effort in writing to the identified point of contact not later
than 4:30 p.m. local time on February 17, 2004. Such capabilities/qualifications
will be evaluated solely for the purpose of determining whether
or not to conduct this procurement on a competitive basis."
like I was one of the last to see the Space.com
article: both RocketForge
Corner saw it. T.L.
James thinks it implies that we will soon see farm animals darting
about the sky. I expect more comments to come in as the day proceeds.
As anyone who
has followed this column for the past few years will remember, I
have several times listed positive news articles about Kistler,
such as reports that it had succeeded in raising enough capital
to restart K-1 assembly, only to find that nothing came of them.
This report is certainly the most promising since the project ground
to halt in the aftermath of the Iridium/Globalstar failures (they
were to provide Kistler's market for replacement satellites) but
we still must wait to see if the company can raise the several hundred
million needed to complete the K-1.
I've also advocated
here many times that NASA and/or the AF fund the K-1. Of the private
RLV projects in the late 1990s, it got the closest to flight. The
K-1 is 75% finished according to the company and it just seems a
tremendous waste not to get it flying. Even if it doesn't achieve
the launch costs and flight rate that Kistler promises, a huge amount
will still be learned and it will prove once and for all that fully
reusable vehicles can reach orbit with practical sized payloads.
gets NASA contract!! Well
I am truly flabbergasted. NASA is going to give Kistler
a contract with real money: NASA
Contract Could Jumpstart Rocket Start Up - Space.com - Feb.3.04.
It will add up to $227.4 million and derives from the old SLI
contract that Kistler got back in 2001.
means that "$54.2 million of the contract is payable to Kistler
before conducting its first launch. The remaining $173.2 million,
Mathews said, is tied to the successful conduct of flight demonstrations."
Just this afternoon
to a reader about the Alternate Access program, Kistler and the
SLI contract. Looks like NASA took another look at alternatives.
I hope enough
of Kistler remains for it to get back up to speed. If they do, this
will mean that by 2006 we could see a fully reusable 2-stage unmanned
orbital RLV in business plus the the Falcon
V refurbishable medium heavy launcher plus several manned suborbitals
- all by private companies. The timetable
is looking good.
Reader J. Shields pointed out more info available on the "N
Prize" via the NASA
2005 Budget page. Under the Centennial Challenge section of
the file Human
& Robotic Technology(pdf) the following description is given:
Challenges program will establish a series of annual prizes for
revolutionary, breakthrough accomplishments that advance solar
system exploration and other NASA priorities. Some of the most
difficult technical challenges in solar system exploration will
require very novel solutions from non-traditional sources of innovation.
By making awards based on actual achievements, instead of proposals,
NASA will tap innovators in academia, industry and the public
that do not normally work on NASA issues. Centennial Challenges
will be modeled on past successes, including 19th century navigation
prizes, early 20th century aviation prizes, and more recent prizes
offered by the US government and private sector. Examples of potential
Challenges include very low-cost robotic space missions; contests
to demonstrate rover systems that are highly mobile, capable,
and survivable; and fundamental advances in technical areas like
lander navigation, spacecraft power systems, life detection sensors,
The Centennial Challenges program will issue challenges on annual
cycles in key solar system exploration and other NASA technical
areas. Prize purses for each challenge will remain available until
awarded or for the duration of that challenge. Challenges will
be open to U.S. citizens who are not government employees or as
otherwise detailed in the rules of the individual challenge.
The Centennial Challenges program plans to conduct annual workshops
to solicit and examine ideas for specific challenge ideas. Initial
challenges are expected to be issued in the areas of low-cost
robotic space missions; highly mobile, capable, and survivable
rover systems; and fundamental advances in key spacecraft technologies.
The Centennial Challenges program will work closely with other
Exploration Systems programs and with other NASA Enterprises to
ensure that individual challenges align with NASA goals and possess
an appropriate level of difficulty.
NASA expects the Centennial Challenges program to generate innovative
solutions to solar system exploration and other NASA technical
issues that would not be invented or demonstrated through standard
NASA procurement processes. By issuing challenges without judging
or proscribing their solution, NASA will attract diverse teams
applying multiple, unconventional, low-cost approaches from non-traditional
sources to NASA's engineering problems.
link ... Taylor
Dinerman also notes the lack of emphasis on lower cost earth to
LEO transport in the new space policy: Earth-to-orbit
transport: the missing ingredient in Bush's space policy recipe
by Taylor Dinerman- The Space Review - Feb.2.04
the launch costs stupid... Rocket
Man reminds us that regardless of dramatic initiatives promising
grand space schemes "none of these things will be possible
until the cost of space access comes down."
A Thousand Flowers Bloom - Rocket Man Blog - Feb.2.04
N Prize... I
missed this one. A HS reader (R. Rowland)
pointed out to me that the 2005 NASA budget includes $20M for prizes.
Under Exploratory System in Overview
of NASA's FY 2005 Budget - Spaceref - Feb.2.04 it says:
$20 million for an interesting new approach for funding ideas
that will use up to $20 million in prizes along the lines that
the X Prize and DARPA have been using."
I don't see
this explicitly in the 2005
NASA Budget at OMB (pdf)) - it probably goes under the
"Innovative Technology Transfer Partnerships" funding
- but near the end it says:
for announced prizes otherwise authorized shall remain available,
without fiscal year limitation, until the prize is claimed or
the offer is withdrawn."
to think of what $20M prize could go for. Too small for orbital
launchers, even unmanned. Probably also too small for an asteroid
mission like SpaceDev's
Maybe a lunar mission.
brief... How to keep them running 6 more years: 2004
NASA Shuttle Service Life Extension Summit. - Feb.16-18.04 - Galveston,
Budget ... Keith
Cowing gives an Overview
of NASA's FY 2005 Budget - Spaceref - Feb.2.04. (Data directly
available from 2005
NASA Budget at OMB (pdf)) He took part in a briefing
last week by NASA Comptroller Steve Isakowitz. Some hightlights
Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) will be developed under Project
Constellation. More than just a super-sized version of the Orbital
Space Plane (OSP), the CEV is envisioned as a collection of modular
systems that will allow human missions to low Earth orbit, the
Moon and beyond. While resembling some of the mission architecture
embodied by the Apollo program this vehicle will truly be a 21st
century spacecraft - not a recreation of something from a half
a century earlier.
of the CEV will probably be unmanned, with human rating coming
the time that the shuttle fleet is retired and a new American
human spaceflight capability is developed, the U.S. will rely
upon Russian Soyuz vehicles."
asked if the Alternate Access program, which sought to develop
alternatives to Shuttle cargo transportation would be continued,
Isakowitz said that it would not, He did say that the ISS program
would be looking at its cargo needs and that there was a possibility
that some commercial solutions might be sought if the aforementioned
systems cannot provide adequate coverage. To cover this there
will be some funds to purchase ISS resupply in the Office of Space
Flight's budget. Isakowitz made it clear that he did not expect
NASA to be funding the development of any new systems as was the
case with SLI's Alt Access program."
of Space Flight: $1.9 billion for ISS - a 24% increase; $4.3
billion for Shuttle a 9% increase (includes Return to Flight Investments,
and $10 million to demonstrate emerging launch system concepts...."
The latter $10M
is apparently the token amount thrown in to respond to pressure
to give support for the startup launch companies. Those companies
don't need direct subsidies, but they do need contracts that will
provide substantial funds if they supply launch services such as
taking cargo to the station. Kistler,
for example, needs to raise at least two or three hundred million
dollars to finish the K1 so a $10M contract certainly won't do much
to attract investors. Not surprisingly, the Wall Street Journal
reports today that the
Pentagon space budget will include an extra several hundred million
dollars to support the Boeing and Lockheed EELV programs.
Note that it
will take at least several months to enact the budget. If SpaceX
succeeds in launching the Falcon I this spring, then advocates for
the alternative launch industry will finally have some live ammunition
with which to fight for greater participation in the new space initiative.
Until there is hard, in-their-face proof, however, that the new
companies can build and launch hardware, such advocacy will continue
to be ignored.
doesn't get much press but it has been doing scramjet and other
propulsion research for decades. It gets a profile in this article:
Dream Team A local lab tests engines that could power the next generation
of space travel - ctnow.com - Feb.2.04 (via spacetoday.net)...
of work left to do to get the shuttles back in action by the fall:
ticks on next launch: End of September is a 'flexible' benchmark;
safety is first, NASA says - Huntsville Times - Feb.1.04 ...
one artful way to support an X PRIZE team: Limited
edition print entitled "daVinci I" by Laurie Besplug - Garden Gallery
continue for hover tests of the full sized Armadillo prototype according
to the latest update from John Carmack: Vehicle
work - Armadillo Aerospace - Jan.31.04
Continue to January 2004