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Reusable Launch & Space Vehicle News
August 2004
Index Feedback

Scaled Composites photos
SpaceShipOne on its second rocket powered flight April 8, 2004.
Taken from Edwards AFB ground radar facility.
SpaceShipOne Updates

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

August 31, 2004

Alternating on alternate access... Mr. O'Keefe comments on commercial spaceflight: NASA Chief Says Return to Flight Challenges Aren't Technical - Space.com - Aug.30.04

O'Keefe also commended the recent success of private space flights such as that made by the SpaceShipOne spacecraft, developed by aviation pioneer Burt Rutan, on June 21. Such flights, he said, are the foundation for future private, commercialized vehicles that may one day be called upon to serve the space station.

"It's realistically feasible for [future] station replenishing," O'Keefe said." This was a huge breakthrough."

If he had supported the Alternate Access program, the breakthrough might have occurred already.

GoldenPalace/da Vinci updates... Problems with insurance remain: Red tape may delay rocket launch - Saskatoon StarPhoenix - Aug.31.04 (via spacetoday.net)...

... Feeney defends the "new paradigm": Astronauts Weigh Acceptable Risk - Wired - Aug.31.04 ...

News briefs... More about the Spacefleet investment ($22k) in Space Transport's suborbital quest: Briton's investment keeps West End rocketeers' eye on the X Prize - peninsuladailynews.com - Aug.30.04 (via Space Race News)...

... More about the space lift contest: 1st Space Elevator Competition Set for Mid-2005 - MyWiseCounty - Aug.30.04(via Space Race News)...

... X-43A sets air-breathing engine aircraft speed record: Guinness World Records Recognizes NASA Speed Record - NASA - Aug.30.04

August 30, 2004

Armadillo update this week reports on engine tests to determine why there are "chugging problems with the 7” engine at full throttle" - Engine Tests - Armadillo Aerospace - Aug.29.04. They want to understand this before they finish the 12" engines for the big vehicle.

Lift prize ... [In case you missed his item over in the Space Log last week] Alan Boyle reports on a X PRIZE type of contest for space elevator technology development: Space elevator contest proposed: 'Elevator:2010' aimed - MSNBC - Aug.27.04.

The Space Elevator Climber Competition is sponsored by Elevator 2010. The latter group is in turn supported by The Spaceward Foundation and Gizmonics, Inc.

News briefs... An interview with SS1 pilot Mike Melvill can be heard (real audio) online via the archive for the Dr. Sky Show (an Arizona radio program hosted by Steve Kates)...

... Still time to get your name on the X PRIZE flights of the SS1: Deadline to get a name in space extended - Alamogordo News - Aug.28.04 (via spacetoday.net) ...

... NASA continues to study the impact resistance of the Shuttle: Shuttle wing test exceeds threshold expectations - Florida Today - Aug.28.04.

August 28, 2004

August X PRIZE Newsletter is posted at Space Race News. Some particular items of interest include:

  • American Astronautics will soon begin tests on a sub-scale demonstrator.
  • ARCA, as noted here before, also has demonstrator that it will launch on Sept.8.
  • Pablo de Leon have tested there escape tower and also
  • HARC, as noted here previously, tested its capsule escape system.
  • StarChaser and Advent are both making progress on engine development.

Rocketplane Ltd. News... Space Race News has posted a series of announcements from Rocketplane. They also link to this article from July: Okla. Tax Commission Qualifies Rocketplane Ltd. As a Space Transportation Provider - RedNova News - July.20.04. See their home page for information on a engineering open house on Sept.2nd.

I also received this press release yesterday:

Rocketplane Ltd., Inc. Names Mitchell Burnside Clapp
Director of Flight Systems

Oklahoma City, 8/27/04 – Rocketplane Ltd., Inc. has appointed Mitchell Burnside Clapp Director of Flight Systems. Burnside Clapp has been an integral part of the corporation since its inception in 2001.

“I am thrilled to be using my aviation and flight test experience to help ensure that space travel becomes as easy, safe, and convenient as air travel,” Burnside Clapp said.

A graduate of the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School, Burnside Clapp invented the concept of aerial propellant transfer to enable horizontal takeoff / horizontal landing of single stage to orbit spaceplanes. He led the design effort at the U.S. Air Force’s Phillips Lab that developed the first such design for this type of vehicle, the “Black Horse” rocketplane. He then was responsible for presenting this concept to numerous high level decision making bodies and study groups throughout the Air Force, resulting in a strong recommendation by the Air Force’s “Spacecast 2020” study for a trans-atmospheric rocketplane to be developed for military purposes.

Burnside Clapp holds a Master’s degree in Aeronautics and Astronautics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He has flown more than 40 different types of military and civilian aircraft and is the only person outside McDonnell-Douglas trained to fly the DC-X single stage research demonstration vehicle. He is the author of numerous technical papers on various subjects in the space transportation realm.

“Mitchell has led teams that have won multi-million dollar aerospace proposals from the military and NASA,” said George French, president of Rocketplane Ltd. “I am extremely pleased to have Mitchell as part of the Rocketplane team.”

Rocketplane Ltd., Inc. is committed to making space travel more accessible and enabling greater commercial opportunities in space through its Rocketplane XP. The XP is a reusable launch vehicle that will take space travelers above Earth, where they can view the planet from space and experience zero gravity for three to four minutes before returning to the landing strip at the Oklahoma Spaceport in Burns Flat. The XP may also be used to carry scientific experiments into space to conduct research in zero gravity, as well as perform Earth observation for agricultural and environmental purposes.

To learn more about Rocketplane Ltd., please visit www.rocketplane.com.

August 27, 2004

Space Transport Corp. press release:

Spacefleet, Ltd. of the United Kingdom
Funds Rubicon 2 Launch

August 27, 2004

Spacefleet, Ltd. has invested the funds required to construct and launch Rubicon 2. Space Transport Corporation (STC) is thrilled to have Spacefleet as a stockholder. The investment demonstrates the high level of worldwide enthusiasm and optimism for our project and the space tourism concept in general.

Spacefleet, led by Managing Director Dr. Raymond D. Wright, is based in the United Kingdom, but brings a collaborative, international approach to private space development. STC shares this belief that collaboration is essential to cost-effective progress in the space sector. Below is a statement by Spacefleet:

"Spacefleet is creating an international space science research association. It will be a community of space technologists, scientists, and engineers, for mutual benefit, to make space transport cheaper and safer, by putting those who are looking for knowledge in touch with those who have it."

Spacefleet's website is www.spacefleet.co.uk. STC looks forward to participating in the member community on the Spacefleet website and contributing to its growth.

STC set a near-term fundraising target of $200,000 after the Rubicon 1 learning experience, a sum that will allow full-tilt development of the Rubicon X Prize vehicle including purchase of long-lead items. Several small investments have been made and STC has an eye out for more major investments.

Space Transport Corporation develops launch vehicle technologies using a practical test-oriented approach. Eric Meier and Phillip Storm are the driving force behind STC. STC is a contender for the $10 million Ansari X Prize (see www.xprize.org). The space tourism market, one of STC's ultimate targets, is worth much more than $10 million.

News briefs... GoldenPalace/daVinci must get insurance before it gets a permit for launch: Bureaucracy Pins Rocket to Earth - Wired News - Aug.27.04....

... Senator wants to see a FALCON on the Maryland coast Mikulski: $10M for Wallops - Chincoteague Beacon - Aug.26.04 (via spacetoday.net)....

... More about RtF status: NASA says it’s fixed shuttle foam problem: But astronauts can’t patch Columbia-level damage - MSNBC - Aug.26.04 * NASA Cites Progress in Columbia Board Recommendations - Space.com - Aug.26.04.

August 26, 2004

Shuttle/NASA News... Florida Today posts several stories about the return to flight program:

... Meanwhile, NASA may soon need to spend its Soyuz Frequent Flyer miles if it wants rides to the ISS for its astronauts: Long Arm of Foreign Policy: Limits to Buying Technology Could Kick U.S. Out of Space Station - Washington Post - Aug.25.04 ...

... The agency says it will launch a "stripped down CEV" four years from now though it is still doing basic design studies: Apollo Inspires New Moon Rockets by Frank Sietzen - SpaceDaily - Aug.25.04

News briefs... Looks like one skeptic has become a believer: Senator learns from former lack of vision - Alamogordo News - Aug.25.04. (via spacetoday.net)...

... HARC Space says it has finished tests of the escape system for its subscale Liberator capsule prototype: HARC Completes First Flight Tests - ANSARI X PRIZE - Aug.24.04 ...

... India planning RLV development: Reusable launch vehicle test in 5 yrs: ISRO - The Hindu News - Aug.25.04. (Why not start now with a suborbital RLV?)...

... The web page for DARPA's in space robotic service spacecraft - Orbital Express Space Operations Architecture - seems to have some new pictures since I last looked.

August 25, 2004

News briefs... A Flometrics /SDSU update from Steve Harrington is posted in Advanced Rocketry News. ("The paper shows that for a booster which uses the [pistonless] pump, the performance in terms of payload to a given deltaV is as good or better than a turbopump.") ...

... James Oberg reports on the SS1 and other suborbital projects: A Giant Leap For Commercial Space Travel: Pioneering aerospace designer Burt Rutan claims early lead in race for Ansari X Prize - IEEE Spectrum - Aug.25.04 (via Space Race News) ...

... The latest Cal Space Authority SpotBeam newsletter is available.

August 24, 2004

News briefs... A mockup of the proposed Russian Klipper tourist ship is described in this article (A translation of sorts can be obtain via Babel Fish). Here is one picture and another. (Via a sci.space.station posting) ...

... Alan Boyle talks about the new hobby of collecting parts of private spaceships that experienced sudden disassembly: Space leftovers for sale - Alan Boyle/Cosmic Log - Aug.24.04.

News briefs... Sam Dinkin looks at the question of the need for a pilot on an orbital transport: Alighting the pilot - Space Review - Aug.22.04. Note the speculation on a SpaceX Falcon I or V delivering a manned vehicle to orbit....

... Rocketplane Ltd of Oklahoma City will hold an open house on Sept. 2 (location TBA). They are hiring engineers to work on the XP (via Space Race News) ...

... TGV Rockets is another Oklahoma rocket company building a suborbital vehicle and is also looking for engineers...

.... Now posted in the Space Show archive is the recent interview with Prof. Leik Myrabo of Rensselear Polytechnic Institute and founder of Lightcraft Technologies. Inc. He talked about his ideas and experiments involving beamed energy propulsion using lasers and microwaves....

... I recently pointed to this notice from NASA management that stated that the agency would begin relying as much as possible on private commercial services for LEO operations. The notice called for input from "all sources" on all aspects of this policy except for the area of transportation services, which will be left to a separate RFI (Request for Information). NASA employees seem quite concerned about whether it means their center will be turned over to private management the way JPL is run by CalTech: Responses to NASA Special Notice: Transforming the Private Sector Role in Space Operations - SpaceRef - Aug.20.04.

August 23, 2004

News briefs... John Carmack reports on progress in building the next prototypes and with engine work: Rebuilding, Engine Development - Armadillo Aerospace - Aug.22.04 ...

... Since I've mentioned various concerns of mine and others on the dangers of riding an untested rocket, I should post what the da Vinci Project says about the risks...

... Space Race News reports on ebay auctions of an X PRIZE poster and STC Rubicon remains.

August 22, 2004

News briefs... Latest review of suborbital spaceflight racing from Alan Boyle: Space race update - Alan Boyle/Cosmic Log - Aug.20.04 ...

... Lots of info on exploring deep space with a nuclear spacecraft at Boeing's Project Prometheus web site...

... Here's a report on the latest scramjet developments: Scramjets integrate air and space - The Industrial Physicist - Aug.04 ...

... The latest on RtF: NASA engineers test final engine for Return to Flight Space Shuttle mission - SpaceRef - Aug.20.04 * Space Shuttle Processing Status Report - NASA - Aug.20.04

August 20, 2004

More articles on da Vinci risks... Space Race News posts links to two articles from The Saskatoon StarPhoenix:

News briefs.... A Q&A on the shuttle's campaign to return to space: The space shuttle's return to flight - news@nature.com - Aug.20.04...

... Via a posting by Steve Harrington of Flometrics, I heard about two meetings of interest. This session Emerging Propulsion Technologies at the Thermal & Fluids Workshop (JPL on Friday, Sept.3, 04, 8:00am-12:00) includes talks ranging from Flometrics pistonless pump to antimatter engines...

... The program at Space2004 Sept.28-30, in San Diego includes several propulsion related presentations.

GoldenPalace rocket gamble... Brian Feeney defends plans for X PRIZE flight but still doesn't reveal what testing they have done: Long-shot rocket aims for X Prize - USATODAY.com - Aug.19.04.

August 19, 2004

Space Transport investor... The STC home page says that Spacefleet Ltd (www.spacefleet.co.uk) "has become a major STC investor and ally." The chart says they still need over $175K so apparently this investor isn't funding the entire effort. (Item via Space Race News.)

News briefs... Alan Boyle reports on the da Vinci Project new sponsor: Highs and lows for space sponsor:- Alan Boyle/Cosmic Log - Aug.18.04...

... NASA RtF activity ramping up: Milestones Set the Stage for NASA Shuttle Discovery's Return to Flight - SpaceRef - Aug.18.04.

August 18, 2004

ARCA announces launch flight date for a prototype rocket that will test the engine design that will be used for its X PRIZE vehicle:

"The launch date of the Demonstrator 2B rocket was set for September 8, 2004. The unmanned launch will take place from Midia Cape Air Force launch site, on the Black Sea shore. The Demonstrator 2B will be launched at a low altitude, below 5 000 m, mainly because of the launch site restrictions. The main objective for this flight will be to qualify for flight the world first composite materials monopropellant rocket engine. The engine that will boost the rocket already completed 28 ground tests."

Your name in space... The New Mexico Museum of Space History will send your name to space on an X PRIZE rocket for $10: Names headed to space - Alamogordo News - Aug.18.04 (via spacetoday.net).

News briefs... He who pays the rocketeer calls the rocket: Da Vinci Changes Team Name, Prepares for October Launch: The da Vinci Project Team has officially changed its name to "The GoldenPalace.com Space Project: Powered by the da Vinci Project" - X PRIZE - Aug.18.04....

... Irene Klotz gives her latest report on developments with the X PRIZE and suborbital rockets (note that Rubicon I cost $20K not $20M): Space Race II Bangs, Bumps And Drops - SpaceDaily - Aug.17.04 (via R. Boozer)...

... Listen to the radio interview (RealRadio) with Eric Meier Vice-President, Space Transport Company at The Works - KUOW at Univ. of Washington....

... The latest newsletter for the California Space Authority is now available: CSA SpaceBound! Summer Fall 2004, vol. 15.

August 17, 2004

Canadian Arrow drop test pictures are now posted on their website. They say the "drop test has cleared the way for powered flights within the next few months."

See also: Another X Prize contender set to go - New Scientist - Aug.16.04

FALCON Task 2 selection.... Though not officially announced yet, the latest Space News says that the DARPA FALCON (Force Application and Launch from CONUS) program has chosen Lockheed-Martin, AirLaunch LLC (Gary Hudson & Bevin McKinney), Microcosm, and SpaceX for the Task 2 contracts out of the nine selected for the Task I.

Three out of four for the little guys ain't bad. Congrats to all.

They will get funding to refine their vehicle designs over the next 6 months before one or more contractors are eliminated depending on the money the program gets.

A Scaled orbiter was described by Burt Rutan in a recent lecture in London: One-man version of SpaceShipOne may be next stage in development of space holidays - Flight International - Aug.17-23 issue. (Link via HS reader J. Fairbairn.)

No more wimpy scramjets... The Robust Scramjet project led by the Air Force is discussed in the latest Aviation Week. The project seeks to move supersonic ramjets from the current generation of small, basic engines, which are undergoing ground tests, to next-gen engines that are 10 time larger. The 6-7 year effort seeks also engines that will provide "improved operability, lower takeover Mach numbers, and higher operating speeds."

The program seems mostly centered around hydrocarbon fueled engines and the primary goal is for hypersonic, long-range crusie missiles. The AvWeek article requires a paid subscription but some of the same info is in available here: U.S. Air Force Moves Ahead With Studies On Air-Breathing Engines - Space News - Oct.27.03.

The SED (Scramjet Engine Demonstrator) project will develop some of this technology. It will begin test flights in the 2007-2008 time frame. Similar to the X-43A approach, the vehicle will be dropped from a B-52 at high altitude and then use a rocket booster to reach Mach 4.5 where the scramjet engine will takeover. It would accelerate to Mach 6.5-7 for several minutes (as opposed to a few seconds for the X-43A) and then fall into the Pacific.

I can't keep up with all of these hypersonic programs, which seem to overlap and evolve continually into new program names and acronyms. This report gives an overview of hypersonics in the US: Hypersonic Technology Status and Development Roadmap by Dr. Kevin G. Bowcutt - Dec.18.03 (pdf).

August 16, 2004

Armadillo update... John Carmack reports on the arrival of a new rocketeer (Congraulations!!) and also offers an accounting of the crashed vehicle and its replacement: Rebuilding, New team member - Armadillo Aerospace - Aug.16.04.

A RASCAL presentation given at last week's Utah SmallSat meeting did not address reports of problems in the project, according to a person who attended the meeting. As reported here last Tuesday, Tony Tether of DARPA had hinted things were "not going well" with RASCAL.

A talk on Thursday was scheduled to be presented by DARPA's RASCAL program manager and a representative of Space Launch. However, neither showed up and instead the talk was given by someone from Booz Allen Hamilton, which is providing project management and systems engineering support for RASCAL. He would not answer questions about problems with the project and said, "I'm going to try and avoid as much as possible Dr. Tether's comments."

He did report that they had completed a series of tests of the MIPCC system using a J-85 jet (for use on T-38 trainer aircraft) on a ground test stand in Mojave and these had porduced a factor of two increase in engine thrust over that obtained without MIPCC augmentation. They have now set up a test of the larger F100 engine, which is the type of engine intend for the RASCAL vehicle, and will start running it this month.

He also said that Scaled Composites is working on the vehicle design and will use some of the lessons learned with the SS1 since the two vehicles fly in similar flight regimes. (That would tend to refute all those critics of suborbital vehicle development who said it could not contribute to orbital launch systems.)

The Space Review this week includes two space transport articles: The case for shuttle-derived heavy lift by Thomas Olson and Tile repair and shuttle return to flight by Taylor Dinerman.

New rocket company opens its doors:

Masten Space Systems Is Open for Business!

Santa Clara, CA, August 16, 2004 - A new entrant in the rapidly expanding space industry emerged today as Masten Space Systems broke its silence by unveiling its new website, www.masten-space.com, and vehicle development plans. The site contains details on the XA-1 suborbital launch vehicle the company will be developing over the next few years.

The XA-1 is a VTOL, Vertical Takeoff and Landing, spacecraft. This means that the vehicle will take off vertically, like most rockets, but will also land on its tail they way rockets landed in in old science fiction movies and the way the Apollo spacecraft landed on the moon. VTOL craft tend to be more flexible and scalable than relying on wings or other aerodynamic lifting structures

The XA-1 is strictly a suborbital rocket, meaning that it will reach an altitude of 100km but without the velocity needed to achieve orbit. While it doesn’t achieve orbit, XA-1 will be able to provide significant cost savings for science and engineering tasks that require space-like conditions for short periods of time, such as microgravity research, upper atmospheric research, and aerospace hardware flight testing.

“This is the beginning of a lot of fun, but hard work. Work anyone can follow along with by visiting our blog where we will be posting regular updates of our progress, ” declared Dave Masten, CEO of Masten Space Systems. A blog is a sort of running daily diary of events that will show not only the current status of development, but where the project has been and how it has changed over time.

Masten Space System’s web site can be found at http://masten-space.com/. The for further questions please contact the company at info@masten-space.com.

In addition to Dave Masten, the team includes his fellow ERPS member Sean Lynch , Jonathan Goff, who occassionally contributes news and reports at HS, and Michael Mealling, whose blog RocketForge I often link to.

SpaceX Falcon I will head to the launch pad at Vandenberg in September for an on-pad test firing according to this article: Privately Funded Falcon-1 Rocket Nears First Flight By: By Leonard David - Space News/Space.com - Aug.16.04. If this is successful, the rocket will have its maiden launch in November. The article reports on the history of the project and the "difficult road" followed in the development of the new engines.

News briefs ... More about the Canadian Arrow test: Splashdown test buoys rocket team - TheStar.com - Aug.15.04...

... NASA gearing up for a return to flight: Space race gearing up for relaunch: Clear Lake area a hive of activity as contractors hire, plan for missions - HoustonChronicle.com - Aug.15.04

August 15, 2004

Canadian Arrow test success... The drop test of the crew cabin from a heliocopter went well. Canadian Ansari X Prize Entrant Takes the Plunge in Test - Space.com - Aug.14.04.

"The successful drop tests paves the way for a series of flight tests for Canadian Arrow in upcoming months, starting with a launch pad abort and leading up to an eventual manned launch, team members said."

Congrats to the CA team.

Update: See also the article with videos of the test - Canadian space-race team completes test run - CTV.ca - Aug.14.04 (via Space Race News.)

August 14, 2004

The new NASA? Keith Cowing posted this interesting message form NASA HQ: NASA Special Notice: Transforming the Private Sector Role in Space Operations - William F. Readdy (Associate Administrator) - NASA/Spaceref - Aug. 13.04, which includes this directive:

In NASA decisions, the preferred choice for operational activities must be competitively awarded contracts with private and non-profit organizations and NASA's role must be limited to only those areas where there is irrefutable demonstration that only government can perform the proposed activity.? One step to foster these goals would be to have operational activities done to the greatest extent possible by the private sector.

Will be great if the agency actually implements this but we will see... You can give them some encouragement to do so according to this other notice: NASA Special Notice: Expanded Use of NASA Contractual Authority to Obtain Ideas, Technologies, and Management Tools for Accomplishing Space Exploration - NASA/Spaceref - Aug.13.04.

Funny how the above directive matches so closely to what has been a constant refrain in the alt.space/space advocacy community for a decade or two.

News briefs... The Suborbital Institute makes some Comments on Recent Test Flight Incidents - Aug.12.04 ...

...The Canadian Arrow drop test should have happened today: X Prize Contenders Prepare for Drop Test - Space.com - Aug.13.04 ...

... Space Transport prepares for more prototype flight tests: Try, try again - Alan Boyle/Cosmic Log - Aug.13.04 ...

... More press attention on suborbital races and crashes: TheStar.com - X Prize rivals going through testing time:Two U.S. teams see trial flights end in crashes, Canadian entry in race to space - Toronto Star - Aug.14.04 (via spacetoday.net) ...

... Other than mixing up RLV development and EELV problems ("reusable launch program is riddled with defense contractor scandal"), this article makes a good point that the X PRIZE is far more exciting than anything NASA is doing: Space race could prove interesting - Pasadena Star - Aut.13.04...

... Meanwhile NASA tries to insulate itself from further disasters: There is Added Urgency to Shuttle Fuel Tank Repairs - Space.com - Aug.13.04 ...

... And look at things in a new way: Cameras to eye space shuttle safety - New Scientist - Aug.13.04

August 13, 2004

News briefs... Leonard David provides an interesting overview of prospects for the private manned rocket projects: Space Barnstorming: The Risk and Rewards For Private Rocketeers - Space.com - Aug.13.04 ...

... I don't know when they were posted but there have been some nice photos added to the SpaceShipOne Gallery since the last time I looked. They include aerial views of the crowd that came to see the June 21st flight...

... NASA and Lockheed-Martin work to insure that insulation does not break off and hit the shuttle again: NASA managers unveil advances in shuttle tank: New layer of foam replaces insulation ID'd as potential flaw - The Times-Picayune - Aug.13.04 (via spacetoday.net)

August 12, 2004

Canadian Arrow crew cabin test announcement:

Canadian Arrow Drop Test Scheduled for Saturday

August 12, 2004 - With good weather forecast, Canadian Arrow, a leader in the race for the $10 million X PRIZE, is going ahead with a drop test of its space craft crew cabin from a helicopter into Lake Ontario.

The test, in preparation for the start of actual test flights of the main rocket, is scheduled for this Saturday. Here are some details:

  • Coordinates of drop test are 43.36.00 79.23.00, just south of Toronto Island Airport. (See map on following page).
  • The drop will begin on Saturday August 14th at 9:00am and finish at 10:00am with a weather alternate date of August 15th at the same time.
  • Four Seasons Aviation Ltd. is providing the helicopter that will drop the crew cabin.
  • The Coast Guard will be sending out a notice to warn boats and ships to stay out of that area for the 1 hour we require. There is a notice to airmen going out to warn aircraft to stay clear of that area as well.
  • Maximum helicopter altitude is 9,000 ft with airspeed of approx 60kts.
  • The parachute will open before 8,000ft with a decent rate of 20 to 30ft per second.
  • If all goes well the splashdown of the crew cabin will be less than 5 min after release from helicopter.
  • Following the test, the crew cabin will be towed to the National Yacht Club and this will give us data on how the crew cabin will tow in the open lake.

Our lead ship is from the National Yacht club and is called the Grand National. It will be positioned on the North West edge of the drop zone at approximately 2 km and should be a good guide to where to stay for photographs and video.

Continue to full news release and description of the test ...

Armadillo developments... John Carmack talks with Alan Boyle about Armadillo's recent prototype vehicle crash and about modifications to the engines and other systems for new vehicles in development: Armadillo's next small step- Alan Boyle/Cosmic Log - Aug.11.04...

... Here also are some comments by Carmack posted on the sci.space.policy news group.....

... [Update: Carmack posts a set of responses to recent questions and comments on the Armadillo page at the X PRIZE Forum."To put it in perspective, we could crash a similar vehicle every week for the next ten years and still spend less money than the Space Ship One program."]

Kistler Aerospace news release... The company officially announces the Trafton and Brinkley appointments and the election of George Mueller as chairman of the board: Kistler announces additions to senior management team - Kistler Aerospace / Spaceflight Now - Aug.11.04.

Space transportation interviews ... The Space Show has posted a recent interview with Ed Wright, who talked about suborbital spaceflight and his company X Rocket. A major goal of the company is the development of the Rocket Academy where students will train for spaceflight and will culminate their education with a ride to 60Km on the Archangel. The company has already carried out flight tests of the Maching Bird 1 demonstrator, which goes as high as 22Km. During a test they flew the vehicle four times within seven hours...

... This Sunday the Space Show guest will be Prof. Leik Myrabo of Rensselear Polytechnic Institute and founder of Lightcraft Technologies. Inc. He will talk about his ideas and experiments involving beamed energy propulsion using lasers and microwaves.

News briefs... NASA continues to fund research into innovative propulsion schemes: Redesigning Rockets: NASA Space Propulsion Finds a New Home - Space.com - Aug.11.04 ...

... The Planetary Society's solar sail project makes some progress towards an autumn flight: Cosmos 1, The World's First Solar Sail Spacecraft, Achieves Critical Milestone - Planetary Society - Aug.11.04...

... Fixing reinforced-carbon-carbon thermal protection panels in space isn't easy: NASA Abandons Rigid Overwrap For Patching RCC Holes - Aviation Week - Aug.11.04

August 11, 2004

Kistler gets new leaders... The article - Trafton, Brinkley Take Control at Kistler - Space.com - Aug.11.04 - subcription required (via spacetoday.net) - [Now there is a free article - Management Shake-Up at Kistler Aerospace - space.com - Aug.11.04] - reports that Will Trafton, a former NASA manager and current president of Boeing Launch Services, has become Chief Operating Officer of Kistler Aerospace.

He will work with CEO Randy Brinkley, who used to be president of Boeing Satellite Services. Both worked together at NASA on the ISS program during the 1990s.

George Mueller previously was the CEO. Looks like the COO position was created for Trafton.

Despite the recent cancellation of a (potentially) large NASA contract, the two seem optimistic that they can raise the $500M needed to complete the two-stage K-1 reusable rocket and get it flying. The first vehicle has been in a 70% completed state for several years as the company sought additional funding.

I recently responded very pessimistically to a reader's question about Kistler's prospects. Looks like its chances for survival have improved but it's still not out of the woods yet.

Suborbital bill update... Andrew Case, acting director of the Suborbital Institute, reports on the progress of legislation in Congress dealing with regulation of commercial suborbital spaceflight: Updated Spaceflight Bill - Transterrestrial Musings - Aug.10.04.

The bill, previously referred to by its House number HR:3752, now has Senate number 2772 and is called the Space CHASE Act, or the Space Commercial Human Ascent Serving Expeditions Act. (OK, who thought this one up and after how many beers?)

Maintaining your RLV ... Speaking of regulations, I just noticed on the Licensing and Safety page at FAA-AST the following document: Commercial RLV Operations and Maintenance Preliminary Guidelines - FAA/AST - July.1.04(pdf).

There is also a report from January dealing with maintenance of Subsystems (pdf) and one in February dealing with Operations (pdf) .

Tell the kids if they study hard they can grow up to be RAMTs and RAMIs (RLV Aerospace Maintenance Technicians and RLV Aerospace Maintenance Inspectors, resp.)

Solar sail tests all over the place... Seems odd that we had announcements on the same day of two independent tests of solar sails. The Japanese actually did it in space with two sails deployed during a high altitude suborbital flight. NASA did its tests in a vacuum chamber;:

Meanwhile, the Planetary Society's Cosmos 1 launch of a sail that will go into orbit could take place this fall.

Headline inflation... The New Scientist is one of my favorite magazines but I've often found that it's article titles go way beyond scientific exactitude. See, for example, this example: Double calamity for X Prize contenders - New Scientist - Aug.10.04. Gee, how about a little perspective. If one rocket had landed on, say, a kindergarten and the other on a hospital, then you could call them calamities. But they didn't. They were simply failed flight tests of a couple of prototypes. Each test was just one in a series of tests and what was learned will be applied to future vehicles. Seems like writers at such a magazine should know that's the way R&D happens.

News briefs ... Space Transport may actually get some money from "a slew of investors" according to this article at Space Race News! ...

... Leonard David reports on the AA crash: Armadillo Aerospace's X Prize Prototype Crashes - Space.com - Aug.10.04...

... More about the X PRIZE race: Space Race II: The Big Gamble - UPI - Aug.10.04

August 10, 2004

RASCAL problems? I just heard from someone attending the Utah SmallSat Conference about a presentation from Tony Tether of DARPA. He reviewed various DARPA sponsored space projects including FALCON but did not mention RASCAL. In the Q&A after the talk Tether was asked about RASCAL and said "It's not going very well and that's about all I can say about it."

The RASCAL ( Responsive Access, Small Cargo, Affordable Launch) program seeks to develop a system that uses a reusable first stage airplane vehicle powered by a turbojet. The propulsion is enhanced with mass injection pre-compressor cooling (MIPPC) to attain a higher speed and altitude than attainable otherwise with just a turbojet. This vehicle then launches a small expendable that can put 50 and 130 kilograms into LEO for around $20K per Kg..

Several companies participated in the first phase studies (see PR (1MB pdf) from 2002) and it was expected that two of them would be selected for the second phase that involved more advanced design and development. However, only the company Space Launch was chosen in March 2003 for phase two.

There hasn't been much news since then but here is a recent PR at Space Launch: RASCAL High-Speed Wind Tunnel Testing Successfully Completed Irvine, CA - Space Launch - July.2.04. There is also a section giving an overview and some diagrams of the system.

There will in fact be a presentation on Thursday about RASCAL from Jacob Lopata of Space Launch and Preston Carter, the DARPA program manager. It will be interesting to find out what they say about the project's status. (Here is a talk (2.6MB pdf) given by Carter in 2001 about the RASCAL design approach.)

It appears that the FALCON program is proceeding smoothly. It seeks a low cost Small Launch Vehicle (SLV) that could deliver the Common Aero Vehicle (CAV), with up to 1000 pounds of explosives, anywhere on earth. The SLV should be "responsive", i.e. available to launch on short notice, eventually in as little as two hours.

Nine companies are involved in the first phase studies, including SpaceX, which happens by chance to be using Falcon as the name for its vehicle. The phase 2 FALCON launch vehicle contracts are apparently due to be awarded as soon as this week.

News briefs... The Rubicon launch failure got an amazing amount of press coverage as seen by the links below. Here's another one: X-prize contender rocket explodes - BBC - Aug.9.04. The field of private low cost space launch is certainly getting a lot of attention. I'm sure STC wished the attention had gone to a successful flight but maybe all this publicity will attract someone who will help them out with their funding needs.

Here is a press release from STC: Rubicon 1 Launch Results - Space Transport Corp - August 9, 2004 (pdf) (or doc)

There is a brief video of the launch posted at Catch a falling rocket - Alan Boyle/Cosmic Log - Aug.9.04

News briefs... I've been informed that the X PRIZE movie by Conti Film mentioned below has been in development for several years. In fact, at the Space Access Society meeting in 2001, Mitchell Burnside Clapp showed the video short. (Either my memory really is completely gone or I was out of the room at the time.) ...

... Burt and Dick go to Scotland to talk about the SS1 and play golf: Space tourism 'two years away' - Scotsman - Aug.9.04 (via X PRIZE Space Race News!)

August 9, 2004

News briefs... Space Review offers two excellent articles on suborbital spaceflight:

... More info and pictures on the Space Transport launch: Underdogs' spacecraft explodes on 1st launch - The Seattle Times - Aug.9.04 * Local Private Rocket Crash Lands - komo news - Aug.8.04 (Both via spacetoday.net)

Update: Article by Alan Boyle who attended the Space Transport launch: Engine flaw dooms space-race rocket Low-budget launch vehicle blows up on Washington coast - MSNBC - Aug.9.04.

News flash: Developing new rockets is hard... Space Transport Rubicon flight test failed: Wash. State Team's Private Rocket Explodes - AP/TimesDaily.com - Aug.8.04 (via ANSARI X PRIZE Space Race News!)...

... And an Armadillo rocket leaves without enough gas for the VL part of VTVL: Good tests, Complete loss of vehicle - Armadillo Aerospace - Aug.8.04...

... But both teams will learn from these tests and return to fly again.

SS1 flight details are given in the latest issue of Aviation Week: Exclusive Chart Shows How SpaceShipOne Left, Reentered The Atmosphere - Aviation Week - Aug.9.04 (subscription required). The chart (which I can't legally reprint here) shows altitude, speed, pitch and other parameters versus time.

An interesting aspect of the flight involves how they deal with the asymmetric thrust caused by uneven erosion of the nozzle. They compensate for this with aerodynamic trim, which works as long as there is sufficient atmosphere and speed relative to it. (Vectoring of the engine was not implemented so as to keep things simple and low weight.)

"The trick is to have the thrust taper off as the craft eases out of the atmosphere, slowly enough so that the pilot can keep up with the trim changes as the airspeed drops. Making the engine burn as long as possible reduces the g forces and speed of events the pilot has to cope with. The natural falloff of thrust due to the oxidizer transition from liquid to gas is suited to these control requirements. If one wanted to double the apogee, it would have to be done by doubling the thrust, not doubling the length of the burn."

News briefs... Gerald Smith of Positronics, who formerly was head of the physics department at Penn State and has spoken at some of the annual Space Access Society meetings, is mentioned in this article on research into practical uses of antimatter such as propulsion: Interstellar travel is just an antimatter of time / Energy from particle annihilation could cut voyages by light years - Houston Chronicle - Aug.8.04...

... Assembling shuttle engines in Florida: First shuttle main engine fully assembled at KSC - Spaceflight Now - Aug.7.04

August 7, 2004

A rocket race movie is in development: Film based on ANSARI X PRIZE in development: 'First Flight' - Space Race News! - Aug.6.04. The company
Conti Film is developing a "sexy, romantic, adventure" based on the X PRIZE. Called First Flight, the test film (Windows Media, 11MB) shows high quality special effects but has a disappointingly downbeat climax.

The other Canadian team... The Canadian Arrow project has been doing engine tests and will begin unmanned vehicle tests within two weeks according to Arrow team still confident in space race - London Free Press - Aug.7.04 (via Spacetoday.net). "After four months of test flights, the Canadian Arrow team plans on launching its competitive flights from a barge in Lake Huron, near Sarnia."

Recent rocket happenings are reviewed by Alan Boyle: Rocket-race remainders - Alan Boyle/MSNBC - Aug.5.04

August 6, 2004

Concerning da Vinci... Alan Boyle gives a good review of the da Vinci Project and yesterday's announcement that they plan to make X PRIZE flights in October: Online casino bets on Canadian space racers: Da Vinci Project to go against SpaceShipOne with Oct. 2 launch by Alan Boyle - MSNBC - Aug.6.04.

It's reassuring (if true) that the Wildfire will be powered by a hybrid engine built by eAc. Hybrids are generally quite safe and reliable and the company, led by Korey Kline, extensively tested an engine for the SpaceShipOne competition. Burt Rutan says that SpaceDev just barely beat out eAc for the SS1 contract.

However, we all know that there are many ways for a rocket launch and recovery to fail. There are even more ways for a rocket launched from a balloon to fail. I have to say that I'm flabbergasted that the Wildfire will fly with a person on board without any prior full system flight tests.

Up till now I've been impressed with the DA Vinci project. It is a large scale volunteer effort, which is obviously in the HobbySpace spirit. And I really like the way they attracted a large number of sponsors. Private spaceflight will greatly benefit if it develops a sponsorship tradition along the lines of the auto racing industry.

The project has not released much info on their hardware development but it seemed to be progressing. I would have thought they would now begin an incremental testing program, starting with launches of unmanned prototypes from the ground to low altitudes and then a series of unmanned balloon launches. If the vehicle requires a pilot, then this is even more of a reason to start with low altitude tests.

One of the greatest advantages of a reusable vehicle, after all, is the fact that it can do incremental testing and work out the bugs in the system just the way it has long been done with new airplane designs.

I know it would be great to win $10M and gain fame and glory but I just don't understand why they are taking this big of a risk. If they just continue on a sensible course of development, they could have a safe and reliable spaceship by sometime next year.

It's fine with me if adults engage in death defying stunts. It's just that I'm primarily interested in seeing the development of a commercial manned spaceflight industry that the public comes to believe is safe and routine. I don't believe the benefits to this cause are worth the risks of these Wildfire flights.

A bug in the X PRIZE is its lack of a second place prize. From the beginning, most people informed about the contest knew that Scaled Composites would be the leading candidate to win. It's been very encouraging that despite this expectation, a strong second tier (so to speak) of teams emerged. There are six or seven organizations in this group that are building viable vehicles but unfortunately they need another year or so before they can do high altitude flights. They deserve a prize of their own to compete for.

I think DA Vinci belongs in this latter group but they obviously believe they are ready to go directly to 100km. I sure hope they know what they are doing and that the flights are complete successes. (I'm not qualified to judge their project on technical grounds but I know of at least one person who is.)

See Throwing Their Hat In The Ring -Transterrestrial Musings for a discussion of the DA Vinci announcement.

Spacetoday.net and Space Race News link to several other DA Vinci related articles such as: Casino bets big on space flight : Online gaming funds Toronto man's space race Team hopes to win $10M (U.S.) prize for private flight - Toronto Star - Aug.6.04.

The X PRIZE effect... The contest may lead to a "boom market" for suborbital spaceflight: Eyes on the Space Prize: Fat cash awards may be just the ticket to privatize the space industry. Many wonder what took so long. - Technology Review - Aug.8.04 (via a HS reader.)

Space Transport launch press release:

Supersonic Test Launch of Space Transport's Rubicon X PRIZE Vehicle on Sunday August 8th
STC - Aug.5.04

On Sunday, August 8th, Space Transport Corporation (STC) plans to launch their Rubicon Suborbital Tourism Vehicle in a partially fueled test flight. The launch will, of course, depend on weather and other factors, so please monitor launch status on the STC website, www.space-transport.com. Members of the news media should coordinate directly with Pat Soderlind if you would like to attend and you will be provided with attendance information that is NOT TO BE PUBLICLY DISCLOSED.

Accompanying this press release, please find a full description of Sunday's Rubicon launch, a description of the full-altitude (100 kilometer / 62 mile) flight, and an overview of STC.

Rubicon will be launched from private property on the Olympic Peninsula coast, about an hour drive south of Forks. The launch will take place in the afternoon. Observers will congregate at the designated location and head to the launch site as a group. STC will hold a short conference / Q&A session at the launch site. For media purposes, cameras can be set up at the site prior to the launch. Observers will then head to a viewing point, which is about ½ mile from the launch point.

Rubicon will be powered for 14 seconds by two solid propellant rocket engines. The rocket will launch from a bluff and will reach supersonic speeds, over 1100 mph (Mach 1.4), on its way to an altitude of near 20,000 feet. 600 pounds of ballast weight will be carried as required for the Ansari X Prize flight. An onboard video camera will capture the view out of Rubicon's window, and capture the sure-to-be-profound expressions of the mannequin crew.

Space Transport Corporation develops launch vehicle technologies using a practical test-oriented approach. Eric Meier and Phillip Storm are the driving force behind STC. STC is a contender for the $10 million Ansari X Prize (see www.xprize.org). The space tourism market, one of STC's ultimate targets, is worth much more than $10 million.

See the "Rubicon 1" Mission Description and the STC Company Overview.

SpaceX contract... The latest issue of Space News reports that the Air Force plans to award SpaceX a five year contract for an unspecifed number of flights. Tt could range from one to several according to company president Elon Musk.

It will be awarded on a sole source basis. Though SpaceX won a protest this year against a sole source NASA contract to Kistler Aerospace, the Air Force claims it is justified here because SpaceX is the only company available that can launch their payloads for $5M-10M per flight.

Update #2: I've been informed by Elon Musk that SpaceX explicitly requested that the AF not give them the contract on a sole source basis. They were "very surprised to see the notice of sole source after our request that it be fully competed, so I think it might have just been a genuine miscommunication."

Update: My thanks to a couple of people who corrected me on this item. The AF changed its collective mind and will compete this contract: USAF Pulls Sole Source Launch Contract Offer - Space News - July.29.04 (subscription required). The request for proposals will go out on Aug.16th. (I also realized that I was looking at the July 26th Space News rather than the latest issue.)

See also this related article: Air Force Seeking Support For Making 'TacSat-2' A Concept Demo - Inside the Pentagon - May.13.04 (posted at SpaceX).

News briefs... Alan Boyle interviews Eric Anderson of Space Adventures about the X PRIZE and the prospects for suborbital and orbital space tourism: The road ahead for space tourists - Alan Boyle/MSNBC - Aug.5.04...

... More articles about the da Vinci launch announcement: Second team goes for space prize - BBC - Aug.5.04 * Da Vinci Gambles on X Prize - Wired News - Aug.5.04. (I would guess that Golden Palace has already gotten several hundred thousand dollars worth of publicity out of this sponsorship.)...

... Profile of John Carmack, video game programmer and rocket builder extraordinaire: In the Background, a Man in the Gaming Forefront - NY Times - Aug.5.04

August 5, 2004

US-Canadian space race... Looks like there will an actual race for the X PRIZE after all. The da Vinci project just announced it has obtained funding from the Internet casino comapny GoldenPalace.com to carry out two flights in October:

Burt's going to space... Burt Rutan plans to ride in the SS1: Rutan aims to be on X-Prize flight - BBC - Aug.5.04. "...I am going to be one of the first passengers, for sure".

August 4, 2004

Space Adventures press release from July 30:

Space Adventures Considers Australia as Location
for Suborbital Spaceport

Space Adventures, Ltd., the world's leading space experiences company, continues scouting potential locations around the world for a suborbital spaceport, but considers Australia as the leading contender.

"Numerous government authorities in Australia view the construction and operation of a suborbital spaceport as a truly unique opportunity to bring numerous jobs and, eventually, thousands of tourists to the area," said Chuck Sammons, vice president of Suborbital Spaceflight and Spaceport Development for Space Adventures. "We, at Space Adventures, continue to strive to bring private space travel to all private citizens worldwide. Selecting a viable location for our spaceport is another step in making commercial suborbital spaceflight a reality."

SS1 briefs... Here's an informal report on Burt Rutan's presentations at Oshkosh...

... Rutan pushes for access to space sooner than the constant 30 years from now: Rutan says NASA should hurry: Aviation legend pushes private space travel - Florida Today - Aug.3.04:

"And if the business-as-usual space developers continue their decades-long pace, they will be gazing from the slow lane as we speed into the new Space Age -- this time not for prestige, but this time to fulfill people's dreams."

News briefs... Check out the Nanosat Launch Vehicle Mockup built by Garvey Spacecraft and a student team at Cal State Long Beach...

... Alan Boyle speculates on what the "major announcement " could be that the da Vinci Project says it will make tomorrow: Another boost for rocket race - Alan Boyle/MSNBC - Aug.3.04 ...

... The HARC project posts pictures of some subscale model tests of their escape capsule. (Also, a rocket powered bike - perhaps for a future Tour de Mars.)...

... The Shuttle program continues to eat away at NASA's budget: Cost of Shuttle's Return Escalates - Washington Post - Aug.4.04.

August 3, 2004

News briefs... The X PRIZE has a Flash-y new web site. (Hope you have broadband.) ...

... Space Race News posts the August X PRIZE Newsletter. Includes updates on several teams....

... John Carmack responds to questions and comments on the Armadillo forum.

Rocketplane press release for July 30, 2004:

Rocketplane Ltd., Inc. Names David Urie
Vice-President and Program Manager

Oklahoma City, 7/30/04 – Rocketplane Ltd., Inc. has chosen David Urie as its Vice-President and Program Manager. Urie will use his extensive aerospace and engineering expertise to oversee the production and operations of the company’s Rocketplane XP sub-orbital launch vehicle.

Urie will manage the design, production, and flight testing of the Rocketplane XP. He is also assembling a core team of engineers and designers to carry out the company’s program development plan, as well as developing production facilities in Oklahoma City and Burns Flat, Okla.

“I expect our development effort to be as exhilarating as a ride in our finished bird,” Urie said.

Prior to joining Rocketplane Ltd. team, Urie served as president of Concept Fusion, Inc., providing technical development services to established companies and start-up organizations. During his 30-year career with the Lockheed Martin Corporation , Urie led teams on Lockheed’s X-30 National Aerospace Plane and the HL-20 Personnel Launch System. He was Chief Engineer and then Program Manager of the SR-71 reconnaissance system before initiating and heading the Single Stage to Orbit (SSTO) and X-33 Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV) Programs.

As a Director of the Lockheed-Martin Skunk Works SSTO/RLV Advanced Technology Demonstration Program, Urie conceived and developed the aero-spike rocket propelled lifting body that was selected by NASA as winner of the X-33 competition. He holds the patent on the design, and he formed and headed a multi-company team encompassing all aspects of SSTO/RLV.

Urie was also Program Manager of the Trans Atmospheric Vehicle (TAV). His team built and successfully tested a large-scale cross section Mach 25 structure. He served on several advanced development projects in Flight Sciences and Operations Analysis.

Throughout his distinguished career, Urie has received numerous honors and awards, including the prestigious Engineer of the Year award from the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA). He has published many articles, prepared and taught several short courses, given various lectures and presentations, and served as aerospace engineering curricula advisor to two universities.

“David Urie is the premier aerospace engineer in the nation,” said George French, president of Rocketplane Ltd. “We are thrilled to have him onboard.”

SS1 news... Burt Rutan and Mike Melvill wow the audience at Oshkosh.Rutan and Melvill Tell SpaceShipOne Story - EAA AirVenture - July.31.04 (link via a HS reader). Some items from the article:

He said he had thought that it would be easier to develop the suborbital system than it turned out to be. “For example,” he said, “I didn’t know I would have to build a rocket system.”
“We had two small shops competing against each other in the hope one of them could do it.” In the end both shops delivered usable systems, and the one that was selected was only better by a few percent.
Rutan spoke about how the program is now over a year behind schedule. “But no one knew it, because I never told anyone what the schedule was.” His advice: “Don’t even tell your customer what your schedule is.”
The audience was delighted when Rutan described his idea of bringing the White Knight and SpaceShipOne to a future EAA AirVenture. A lottery would be held and two lucky attendees would get to take a ride into space, which would launch from the Wittman runway at the start of the afternoon air show, rocket into space over Lake Winnebago midway through the show, and recover in front of the crowd at the end.

... The SS1 may carry passengers instead of ballast on the second flight: Space Race II: A ticket to ride - UPI - Aug.3.04 -

Burt Rutan said the passenger list is quite long. "There are some significant opportunities and some significant folks who are on that list," he said. "Hopefully, we'll be able to talk about that later on. There is an enormous passion for people to fly, not just citizens, but journalists and scientists."

In addition to passengers, Rutan also is considering flying small payloads. Four organizations, including the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, have approached Scaled Composites about flying items aboard SpaceShipOne.

Although it is a prototype headed for the Smithsonian, I think this very first manned suborbital spaceship already could start making real money by selling rides to orbit for scientific and engineering payloads.

That brings up an interesting question. If a scientist rides along to monitor and control a payload, is he or she counted as a paying passenger by FAA-AST or as a crew member? I believe the regulations that apply are different.

The da Vinci Project news conference on Thursday will "make major announcements related to its pursuit of the $10 million ANSARI X PRIZE. Journalists will be provided: a sneak peak of the Canadian spacecraft called Wild Fire Mk Vl".

News briefs... Unfortunately, they won't be on line for long but here are a couple of nice articles from the Antelope Valley Press about SS1 inspired merchandising in Mojave: SpaceShipOne mania! T-shirts, hats flying off shelves * Souvenir rock from launch site sells on eBay (links via a HS reader)...

... The Wirral Rocketry Society posts pictures from a visit to the Starchaser project: Starchaser Weekend - WRS - May.17.04...

... Alan Boyles readers comment on the SS1 and the X PRIZE: How does the X Prize rate? - Alan Boyle/MSNBC - July.30.04

Back in Rockville now and I hope soon to be back up to speed. Here are a few items skimmed from Spacetoday.net, Transterrestrial Musings and Space Race News.

Armadillo hovering success... Armadillo continues to make progress with their VTOL rockets using jet vanes for control. Last week they had "the very first 100% successful test of a big vehicle" : Flawless big hover, Propellant disposal, 7" engine tests - Armadillo Aerospace - Aug.1.04.

They soon "expect to do one more hover test, then a boosted hop", followed by a long duration (60+sec) endurance hover test. The latter will demonstrate capabilities needed for high altitude FAA waivered test flights.

News briefs... Times are a-changing. A year or so ago, there was no way that Nature would have reported on a manned suborbital rocket project by a low budget semi-amateur group:Wild Fire joins private space race - news@nature.com - Aug.2.04. With a bit of luck, in a couple of years Nature and Roger Launius will be bragging that they knew all along that manned suborbital vehicles could make enormous contributions to a broad range of sciences including atmospheric studies, magnetospherics, remote sensing, space science, etc....

... Space Transport will test their big Rubicon vehicle soon: Rubicon launch a week away - peninsuladailynews.com - Forks - Aug.1.04. ...

... A review of scramjets: Scramjets integrate air and space - The Industrial Physicist - Aug.04 (via Andrew Case).

Continue to July 2004

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