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Reusable Launch & Space Vehicle News
September 2004
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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

Special Topics

SpaceShipOne Flight - September 29 - Live Webcasts:


The Rocket Company

September 30, 2004

Mojave, Round One, September 29th, 2004 - Joan Horvath reports on the SpaceShipOne X PRIZE flight event.

News briefs... More SS1 articles:

... Brian Feeney reveals more details on the GoldenPalace/daVinci project: Open Letter to Da Vinci [and] Brian Feeney's Reply - Space Race News! - Sept.30.04

SpaceShipOne flight info... SS1 reached 337,500 ft.( 63.9miles, 102.9km): SpaceShipOne Surpasses 100 Km Altitude on First X-Prize Flight - Scaled Composites - Sept.29.04 ...

... Announcement of date for next flight is expected by Thursday evening.

Event and flight re-runs... Here are links to where you can watch and/or hear the whole event or just the flight:

SS1 flight news links... Here is a selection of articles and commentaries on the flight:

See Spacetoday.net and ANSARI X PRIZE Space Race News! for more article links.

New X PRIZE sponsors... Here is the official announcement of the M&M sponsership: M&M'S Brand and The Ansari X Prize announce an "out-of-this-world" partnership -- literally. - ANSARI X PRIZE - Sept.29.04. The M&M's has a XPRIZE page...

... The X PRIZE home page also shows a 7-UP Plus banner but I don't see an announcement about the sponsorship yet.

September 29, 2004

News briefs... The Mission Status Center at Spaceflight Now has excerpts from the post-flight news conference. Still no explanation for the roll...

... Jim Benson thinks SpaceDev can do better: SpaceDev founder says his craft offers better approach to tourism - SeattlePI - Sept.29.04...

... New Mexico looks forward to the XP Cup: Private space travel industry now eyes New Mexico - New Mexico Business Weekly - Sept.29.04....

... More about commercial spaceflight development: Prizes, Profit Could Fuel Private Space Race - Voice of America - Sept.29.04....

... More awards for Scaled Composites: X-Prize, Scaled Composites to Receive Awards – Space Frontier Foundation to Recognize "Revolutionary" Space Efforts - Space Frontier Foundation - Sept.27.04.

First SpaceShipOne X PRIZE Flight a Success!

Exceeds 100km limit... The cause of a fast roll at the end of the burn must be determined before a date for second flight is scheduled.

9:55am Latest updates at SS1 News - Mission Status Center at Spaceflight Now

9:30am: Melvill to pilot SS1 again... Experience counts: Melvill to fly SpaceShipOne - Spacetoday.net - Sept.29.04.

2:05am: SpaceShipOne mission schedule... Winds permitting, the flight should go as follows:

  1. White Knight with the SpaceShipOne will taxi to the runway at California's Mojave airport at 6:30 a.m. local time (9:30 a.m. EDT; 1330 GMT).
  2. Airborne around 6:45 a.m. PDT (9:45 a.m. EDT; 1345 GMT).
  3. About an hour later White Knight will reach an altitude of nearly 50,000 feet where SS1 is dropped at 7:45 a.m. PDT (10:45 a.m. EDT; 1445 GMT)
  4. and SS1 ignites its rocket engine
  5. Powered flight of about 80 seconds
  6. SpaceShipOne coasts up to an altitude of at least 62 miles and then reenters the atmosphere
  7. Glides to a landing on the Mojave runway by 8:30 a.m. PDT (11:30 a.m. EDT; 1530 GMT)

X PRIZE news briefs ... The media around the world is full of articles about the flight and the X PRIZE. Examples:

See Spacetoday.net and ANSARI X PRIZE Space Race News! for lots more...

... Alan's article reports that the American Mojave Aerospace Ventures deal with Virgin is non-exclusive. AMAV managing director David Moore said, "I've actually had four other parties approach us." ...

... The SS1 will again carry look back cameras from Ecliptic Enterprises: Ecliptic's RocketCam Featured in Live Webcast of SpaceShipOne X Prize Flight on Sep 29 - Ecliptic Enterprises - Sept.28.04. See their Gallery for a clip from the June 21st flight...

... All the publicity is starting a snowball effect. Now other sponsors want to jump in. New X Prize sponsors - Alan Boyle/Cosmic Log - Sept.28.04. Note that Melvill's release of M&Ms got the attention of Mars, Inc. (Guess they didn't want Hershey's to grab another space related publicity event: M&M's Loss Was Hershey's Gain with E.T.)

X PRIZE cup has a new web site XP CUP. The latest info about the cup is at
ANSARI X PRIZE Space Race News!

Commercial space investing... The Virgin announcement is getting the attention of investors who are wondering if space tourism will grow into a big industry: Virgin Starts (70) Mile-High Club [Motley Fool Take] - Fool.com - Sept.28.04. Not very active yet, but Motley Fool has a forum for spaceflight businesses: The Motley Fool Discussion Boards: Space Exploration & Terraforming

September 28, 2004

Space Tourism Study released... The famous Futron study with the Zogby poll showing a real and substantial market for space tourism is now available for free: Space Tourism Market Study: orbital space travel & destinations with suborbital space travel - Futron - October 2002. (Until recently it was priced in the plus thousand dollar range.) See a copy of the press release at Futron Releases Space Tourism Market Study to the General Public - Futron - Sept.28.04.

News briefs... Tonight the Space Show features "the return of Jim Benson, Founding Chairman and Chief Executive of SpaceDev, a publicly traded space development and exploration company. SpaceDev specializes in affordable, high-performance small satellites and safe, affordable hybrid-based rocket motor propulsion systems. ..." Online at Live365 at at 7-8:15pm Pacific Time...

... X-43A captive carry flight went well, so the test flight will take place in November: STATUS UPDATE: Captive Carry Rehearsal Flight Successful; Mach 10 Free Flight Next - NASA Dryden - September 28, 2004...

... The SpaceX news release on the DARPA FALCON launch contract: Spacex Selected For Responsive Space Launch Demonstration Under Darpa Falcon Program - SpaceX - Sept.20.04

Sapphire Rocket - Beyond Earth

Sky gems... I received the beautiful image above and the following news release yesterday from Joe Latrell of Beyond-Space Enterprises.

Third Time's the Charm-and Fourth

FREDERICK, OK-Beyond-Earth Enterprises, a Colorado Springs-based small payload sub-orbital launch company, proudly announces the successful launch and recovery of the first rockets of the Gem Series of launch vehicles at the Capps Space Science Center in Frederick, OK on Saturday, September 25th.

The Amethyst rocket reached an altitude of 9,347 feet then deployed two parachutes to bring it safely back to the recovery team in Frederick. The Sapphire rocket left the pad at mach 1.5, reaching an altitude well over 15,000 feet. The Sapphire rocket tested a larger engine design than the one used on Amethyst. It deployed a different parachute package and was also fully recovered by the ground team in Frederick.

These flights were considered a success by the Beyond-Earth team and the people of the Capps Space Science Center. The tests showed that multiple launches can be accomplished in a single day, using the infrastructure available in Frederick. They demonstrated that the teams from different companies and locations can work together to launch and recover the commercial payloads that Beyond-Earth will launch.

Joe Latrell, CEO of Beyond-Earth Enterprises says the company is highly motivated to encourage the average American to reach for space again. "We're on the Road to Space. With the great support we're receiving from the City of Frederick, we're now ready to pursue funding and start marketing to the public. We want [the public] to see that they can send something to space -- soon. "

Both rockets of the Gem series of Launch Craft -Mission One (LC-MO01-03) carried a simulated payload of student contest entries, commercial test materials, and other memorabilia.

About the Road to Space series-This series of rockets is prove over the next year that rockets can be at least as safe as airplanes, leading the way for Space Travel.

About Beyond-Earth Enterprises--Originally an X-Prize competitor, Beyond-Earth is leading the way to commercialization of space by providing small payload launch capabilities at affordable rates. Beyond-Earth officers are committed to revitalizing the American Public's interest in Space and conducts educational demos and lectures at area schools. The company is headquartered in Colorado Springs, Colorado with launch facilities Frederick Oklahoma. Additional information can be found at http://www.beyond-earth.com

X PRIZE TV... Don't forget the upcoming TV shows about the X PRIZE: Discovery Channel to air documentary on Mojave Aerospace Ventures team - X PRIZE - Sept.26.04. Part 1: October 3rd, 9 p.m. EST, Part 2: October 7th, 9 p.m (Check local listings for starting times in your area.).

As HS reader R. Burmeister says, "Finally! Something on the Discovery Channel that doesn't have to do with building motorcycles."

News briefs... Alan Boyle reports on the momentum building in commercial space development: Private space race reaches its height: Visionaries already looking beyond $10 millon prize - MSNBC - Sept.27.04....

...The Financial Times reports on Branson's space tourism plans: Virgin plans space tourism by 2007 - FT - Sept.27.04 * Branson aims to make space flights his star turn - Financial Times - Sept.27.04...

... Recent updates at Starchaser on their Churchill MK3 engine and
Thunderstar Capsule...

... The alternative to RLVs for lowering launch costs is to build dirt cheap expendables. Here are a couple of documents from Microcosm, which recently won a contract from DARPA, on its approach to cheap ELVs:

Suborbital legislation stalled... In a recent report from activist Charles Lurio, he notes that Branson's goal of starting space tourist flights in 2007 are "subject to the necessary safety and regulatory approvals." He worries that without the legal framework provided by HR 3752. it may not be possible even for Richard Branson to obtain such approvals.

Currently the bill is stalled and this "stalling has virtually nothing to do with the merits of the legislation itself". He says that instead it is because certain aides on the Senate Commerce Committee believe "that HR3752 is of no importance at all".

If your Senator is on this committee (see membership list), contact them to express your support for this legislation.

September 27, 2004

Researcher in search of a clue... Yet more keen insights on commercial space from the science community: Commercial space flights possible but extremely difficult: expert - SpaceDaily - Sept.27.04 (via P. Underwood). The notion that any academic with the word "space" in his or her title, in this case a space scientist specializing in solar physics and the magnetosphere, should automatically be declared an expert on space transport and the prospects for space tourism is preposterous.

It's as if in 1976 you asked some guy in the math department doing numerical analysis on IBM mainframes what he thought the chances were for a successful business in home computers and video games. He would certainly have an opinion but it would be worth little more than the bits of paper from his punch cards.

News briefs... More on the da Vinci flight delay: Last-minute delay for X Prize rival - New Scientist - Sept.27.04...

... A profile of Mojave California: Space Town: Mojave's isolation, can-do spirit work to its advantage in race to the stars. - FresnoBee.com - Sept.27.04 (via spacetoday.net)...

... More Virgin news: Branson reaches for the stars - Guardian - Sept.27.04...

... The instapundit talks about the X PRIZE: X-Prize News - MSNBC/GlennReynolds - Sept.27.04.

Virgin update... BBC reports that Branson will order five vehicles from MAV, each capable of carrying five passengers: Virgin boss in space tourism bid - BBC - Sept.27.04."The final design for the maiden ship, the VSS Enterprise, should be signed off in 2005." Also,

"Every passenger will have a spectacular view; they will have considerable windows and luxurious seats," Sir Richard said.

"Initially, they will take off from the Mojave Desert near Los Angeles. It will be a three-hour journey. Passengers would have about a week's training prior to taking off."

Virgin, known for great marketing if nothing else, finds that there is a substantial market even at $200k per ticket:

"We've done quite a lot of research; we think there are about 3,000 people out there who would want to do this," Sir Richard told the BBC.

"If it is a success, we want to move into orbital flights and then, possibly, even get a hotel up there."

... News wire report on the announcement: Virgin Galactic to Offer Public Space Flights - Space.com/AP - Sept.27.04

More news... Alan Boyle comments on the Bigelow prize: Orbital space prize proposed - Alan Boyle/Cosmic Log - Sept.27.04...

... Leonard David reports on the upcoming SS1 flight: Set to Soar: First X Prize Flight This Week By Leonard David - Space.com - Sept.27.04 ...

... More fuel for this flight: No Major Engine Changes for SpaceShipOne, Builder Says - Space.com - Sept.27.04...

... Space.com promises Full Coverage ...

... Creating Wings for civilian space explorers: New Set of Wings for a 'Milestone' - Washington Post - Sept.27.04...

... The mysteries of Slashdot. I post space related stories there occasionally and I've found it impossible to predict what will be accepted or rejected. Last night I submitted an item about the Bigelow space prize announcement and the Aviation Week article. It seemed of obvious interest but it was rejected. This wouldn't be surprising if someone else got there first but so far there is no entry about it. Maybe someday they will make their decision making process open source...

Virgin Space Tourism!

Richard Branson enters suborbital space tourism business... Richard Branson, head of Virgin Group, has made an agreement with Mojave Aerospace Ventures to build a suborbital vehicle for space tourism: Virgin boss in space tourism bid - BBC - Sept.27.04. Mojave Aerospace Ventures is the company formed by Burt Rutan and Paul Allen to exploit the SS1 technology. The deal is worth £14M [$25.2M].

The announcement was made on Monday at a joint news conference with Branson and Rutan at Royal Aeronautical Society in London.

"Virgin has been in talks with Paul Allen and Burt throughout this year and in the early hours of Saturday morning signed a historical deal to license SpaceShipOne's technology to build the world's first private spaceship to go into commercial operating service," Sir Richard said.

"Virgin Galactic will be run as a business, but a business with the sole purpose of making space travel more and more affordable."

According to the BBC, "Prices for each seat into space are expected to start at around £115,000. [$207,000]."

The web site for the company Virgin Galactic says that it "will own and operate privately built spaceships, modelled on the history-making SpaceShipOne craft. These spaceships will allow affordable sub-orbital space tourism for the first time in our history."...

... The article British Tycoon Branson Unveils Plan For Commercial Space Flights - AFP/SpaceDaily - Sept.27.04 also reports on the announcement. Branson said at the briefing,

"We plan to construct launch pads for commercial space travel in a number of countries over the next few years."

The ticket price will include "three days of flight training before taking the real trip." [The Virgin Galactic site, though, talks of six days of preparation.]

Branson also said,

"Burt and I will be fortunate enough to have fulfilled our own personal dreams and to experience all of this on the inaugural flight over Virgin Galactic's VSS Enterprise in three years' time."

... Scaled Composites press release... On the SS1 web site there is also this announcement: Virgin Group Sign Deal with Paul G. Allen’s Mojave Aerospace Licensing the Technology To Develop The World’s First Commercial Space Tourism Operator - TierOne/Scaled Composites - London, September 27th 2004.

It says that

"The licensing deal with M.A.V. [Mojave Aerosapce Ventures] could be worth up to £14 million ($21.5 million) over the next fifteen years depending on the number of spaceships built by Virgin."


"It is expected that around £60 million ($100 million) will be invested in developing the new generation of spaceships and ground infrastructure required to operate a sub orbital space tourism experience."

News briefs... John Carmack reports on the ZERO-G flight for him and his team and includes a video. He also reports on progress with reducing the uneven performance of the monopropellant engines and on work with the bipropellant systems: Zero-G, Smooth monoprop, LOX engine work - Armadillo - Sept.26.04...

... This week's Space Review includes the following space transport related articles:

  • Unsung heroes of the personal spaceflight revolution by Robin Snelson recognizes Gregg Maryniak and Bob Weiss as major forces, along with top leader Peter Diamandis, in making the X PRIZE happen.
  • Reducing launch costs: a lower limit? by Jeff Foust reports on a study by Steven Buckley of Northrop Grumman that showed that costs beyond that of just the hardware, such as range safety and launch site facilities charges, seem to conspire to keep launch prices at or above $20M.

    It will be interesting to see if SpaceX succeeds in beating this lower limit and making a profit. According to Jeff, the price given for a Falcon I launch is $5.9 million plus the range fees.

Update: GoldenPalace/da Vinci warning sign... I was wrong when I said that Brian Feeney didn't mention any potentially serious problems with the launch during his interview on the Space Show. I listen to the interviews while jogging and only got through about three quarters of the show on Friday evening.

I ran again last night and heard the last five minutes or so of the show when he said that the project was in serious need of a large scale filament winding machine to finish a tank they needed for the launch. Apparently they did not find one and this contributed to the delay in the launch.

More Bigelow info... The Aviation Week issue discussed below has three other articles about the Bigelow projects but they are in the paid subscription area (and print issue, of course). These include:

  • Bigelow Facilities Filled with Unique Technologies - The reporters saw a lot of interesting items such as full and sub-scale inflated module test hardware, ballistics test articles of the micrometerorite shield showing successful resistance to penetration, and a common berthing mechanism mock-up that could work with an America's Space Prize winner, a Soyuz, and a Chinese Shenzhou spacecraft.

  • Bigelow Using 'General Contractor' Philosophy - The company is using about 2 dozen subcontractors and often gives out 2-3 subcontracts for the same component. This is intended to build a "subcontractor base for the future and also to compare workmanship among contractors." Bigelow expects that inflatables will become commonly used for many other spacecraft for both civilian and government applications and he wants the ability "to ramp up to volume production". Some of the subcontractors are big companies (see next item) but many are small. This broadening of the base could help the whole aerospace industry.

  • EADS, Boeing Among Life-Support Subcontractors - By the end of the year, EADS will deliver a carbon-dioxide removal system. Boeing is providing a "flight ready" water handling system.

[Update: The reprint at Spaceflight Now includes these supporting articles plus a couple of pictures. Also, a reprint is available at Spaceref.]

Even more good stuff in Av Week. The article - The Commercial Space Business Lifting Off - Aviation Week - Sept.27.04 - recognizes the many commercial space projects coming from innovative new companies. These projects include the SS1 and the vehicles of the other X PRIZE teams, SpaceX and the other FALCON contractors like Air Launch, and the introduction of the new ZERO-G service....

... The last page editorial - Commercial Space At a Tipping Point - notes that there have been entrepreneurs who have long been

" saying that making human spaceflight both reliable and affordable was possible with existing technology. The problems, they said, were not technical but financial and political, even psychological."

NASA didn't help matters by competing with the private sector and "when NASA tried to develop a new, cheaper-to-operate reusable vehicle, it opted to include challenging cutting-edge technologies, making program execution difficult and expensive." This made it increasingly difficult for entrepreneurs to raise money because potential investors became even more convinced that "human spaceflight was inherently costly, dangerous and prone to failure."

"On top of that was a chicken-and-egg problem of economics. To drastically lower the costs of spaceflight, a vehicle needs to fly frequently. But to find enough customers to fly frequently, one needs to have low prices, and that requires low costs. The solution seemed to lie in new markets, and the one many believed could jump-start the private sector was 'space tourism.'"

The editorial goes on to note the success of the first SS1 flight and how that has taken the giggle factor out of low cost suborbital spaceflight projects. However, the editorial warns that failure of Congress to pass HR3752 may prevent the development of a regulatory and liability framework on which a thriving industry can grow.

News briefs ... Info on the flight day: SpaceShipOne chases $10 million: Rutan's rocket ready to go - Valley Press - Sept.26.04 (permanent copy at ANSARI X PRIZE Space Race News!)...

... The AIAA meeting Space2000 this week in San Diego will include a number of space transport related talks. See, for example, the Access sessions on the first day...

... Patricia Grace Smith of the FAA-AST gets a profile in the Washington Post: Helping New Space Industry Lift Off: FAA Official Balances Oversight, Booster Roles for Manned Commercial Flights - Washington Post - Sept.27.04...

... KSC hit again but no major damage: Space shuttles survive Jeanne; assembly building loses more panels - Florida Today - Sept.26.04

September 26, 2004

Bigelow to Announce $50M America's Space Prize

For orbital transport ... The cover article for the latest Aviation Week reports on developments at Bigelow Aerospace and says that the company will announce this week that it will sponsor a $50M contest patterned after the X PRIZE but for development of passenger orbital space transport rather than suborbital: Bigelow's Gamble: Inside the Bigelow Inflatable-Module Plant - Aviation Week - Sept.26.04.

[Update: The reprint at Spaceflight Now includes a couple of pictures. Also, a reprint is available at Spaceref.]

Items of interest include:

  • The winner must develop a commercial vehicle capable of flying 5-7 astronauts to a Bigelow inflatable space habitat by the end of this decade.
  • "winner would also be guaranteed first rights on a contract from Bigelow for ongoing orbital servicing missions to its inflatable 45 X 22-ft. "Nautilus" modules--possibly docked together as a small space station"
  • 2005 - Genesis 1/3 scale test module launch on a SpaceX Falcon V
  • 2006 - Genesis launch on a Russian Dneper
  • 2007 - two Guardian 45% scale modules on two Dneper flights
  • These test modules will remain in orbit for several years and Bigelow is offering room onboard for free to researchers.
  • Bigelow is 5 years ahead of the schedule they set out on in 1998.
  • Bigelow is working closely with NASA and has become a "mini-Skunk Works for the NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC)."
  • A Proton class vehicle will be needed to launch the first full scale Nautilus unmanned in 2008. Crew operations could begin in 2010.

Lots more in the article including news of patents on radiation shielding, markets for orbital operations, etc.

X PRIZE news briefs... Space Race News has posted the latest X PRIZE Newsletter, which includes items about several of the teams....

... Houston hears about a different space program for a change: SpaceShipOne just two flights from the X Prize: Rutan's privately built spacecraft made successful manned mission into space in June - HoustonChronicle.com - Sept.26.04 ( via spacetoday.net) ...

... This article talks about the Mojave airport and the "nine companies [...] working on space-related projects" there: Space cowboys writing next chapter in history of flight: Second trip beyond Earth's atmosphere is set for Wednesday - Tri-Valley Herald Online - Sept.26.04 ( via spacetoday.net) .

News brief... Pays to have friends in high Congressional places: Senate OKs $25M seed money to keep X-43A project alive - The Tullahoma News - Sept.25.04

September 25, 2004

More on the GoldenPalace/da Vinci flight postponement... I have still have not seen any details about the missing "few key components" that caused the delay. In Feeney's interview on the Space Show last Wednesday he talked as if the flight was on schedule. So the problems must have come up suddenly.

Here's Alan Boyle's report from yesterday Canadian space launch put on hold: Delay solidifies SpaceShipOne's lead in $10 million race - MSNBC - Sept.24.04 and the statement on the project's web site: Temporary Hold on planned Launch to Space - DA Vinci - Sept.23.04.

Spacetoday.net and Space Race News have links to many more articles.

X PRIZE news briefs... BBC profiles Burt Rutan: Rutan ready to realise vision - BBC - Sept.25.04...

... While CNN looks at the broader picture of the creation of a space tourism industry:. Space tourist industry bets on a dream: For some, blastoff may be right around the corner - CNN.com - Sept.24.04.

Alt.space education... David Luther founded the Orioncraft Aerospace Guild as a "non-profit professional and educational venture" in which "students and volunteers can experience hands on design projects, and learn about engineering and manufacturing." The program aims "to provide the tools and workers for America's new space initiatives."

The participants use suborbital spaceflight vehicles and other exciting new concepts as design projects. They have provided free drafting services to several X PRIZE and advanced rocketry teams.

Space blog reporting ... Brad Neuberg, a volunteer with the Ansari X Prize Foundation on the Media Relations team, brings up the question of giving space bloggers press credentials for the upcoming flights as well as future events: Lets Get Press Credentials for Bloggers at the X Prize Foundation Launch Attempt - Coding In Paradise - Sept.24.04.

This is obviously of interest to me and I hope something can be arranged. (I will be attending the second SS1 flight, tentatively set for the 5th and I've applied for credentials.) Many blogs and private web sites receive visitor traffic rates comparable to that of the readerships of small to medium size town newspapers. Seems arbitrary to give credentials to reporters from the former but not the latter.

Also, enthusiast publications, such as in car racing and other sports, usually get favorable treatment at events in the area of interest. For spaceflight enthusiasts, the dedicated publications are almost entirely on the web.

I can see, of course, that there are practical problems. For the print media, there are credible measures for the number of readers while for web sites there is no universal independent traffic indicator. The cost of entry in web publishing is quite low so offering credentials to anyone with a space blog or news site would produce a flood of requests.

Perhaps a ranking system could be developed. For example, the X PRIZE could ask its newsletter readers to enter a short list of their favorite sites and then the 3 or 4 with the most votes would be offered credentials.

September 24, 2004

GoldenPalace/da Vinci flight postponed... Alan Boyle reports Canadian rocket bid on hold - MSNBC/CosmicLog - Sept.24. Brian Feeney is quoted saying that the

"...launch is delayed because it could not be done safely in the previously planned time frame. "We've evaluated where we're at in the project. We're essentially short a couple of key pieces of hardware that is putting us a few weeks out of sync. Not (by) months, but not days," the Star quoted Feeney as saying."

I happened to notice earlier today that the launch clock on the da Vinci home page was on "hold" and wondered what was going on....

... The Space Show interview from Wednesday with Brian Feeney is now online.

X PRIZE news briefs... More from Eli Kintisch regarding the X PRIZE and the SS1 flight:

... SpaceDev employees sign their rocket: Poway's SpaceDev part of historic civilian launch - SignOnSanDiego Union-Tribune - Sept.24.04...

... More media attention: Final Countdown - Forbes.com - Sept.22.04.

SS1 webcasts... For the SS1 flight on Sept. 29th, webcasting should be more elaborate and robust than for the June 21st flight when many people had trouble getting a connection. The X PRIZE will offer its own stream via the X PRIZE Webcast Page. Also, The Space Show plans to webcast again. I will keep a list of stream sites posted at the top of the page here.

News briefs... The RASCAL project has overrun problems: Defense Tech: TROUBLE FOR DARPA SPACE PROGRAM...

... More storms: Tattered KSC secures shuttle fleet - Florida Today - Sept.23.04.

September 23, 2004

X PRIZE news briefs... The revolution will be televised (at least on the Web): ANSARI X PRIZE Flight Attempt 9/29/04 X PRIZE - Sept.22.04 - AOL partners with the ANSARI X PRIZE to webcast the $10 million competition flights at www.xprize.org/webcast...

... Eli Kintisch at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch is writing an interesting series on the history of the X PRIZE beginning with yesterday's A new space race - St.Louis Dispatch - Sept.21.04. Here are today's articles:

Another article will appear tomorrow. (Links via spacetoday.net)....

... Photoshop-pers get creative, funny and weird with the SS1: SpaceShipOne gets more nitrous, thrust. Pimp it out to give it even more power - FARK.com. (Via BoingBoing)

News briefs... Captive carry test for the X-32 reschedule to Sept.27th: X-43A captive carry flight rescheduled - Spaceflight Now - Sept.22.04 ...

... Here's a well-crafted model of a possible design for the Crew Exploration Vehicle: Scratchbuilt 1/32 scale CEV "Schirra" by David Hanners

September 22, 2004

News briefs... A profile of former astronaut Rick Searfoss who works as chief judge for the X Prize competition: Space Race 2 Beyond The Final Frontier by Irene Klotz - UPI/SpaceDaily - Sept.21.04...

... Status of the GoldenPalace/da Vinci launch plans: Cape Kindersley Update - Space Race News - Sept.22.04 - “We’re expecting 10,000 to 15,000 people, a lot from Ontario, quite a few from B.C. and Alberta. We’re selling the registration packages and only have 500 to sell.” ...

... Leonard David looks at the possible effects of a successful Zero-G flight business on the development of commercial spaceflight: Zero G Flights Could Bolster Space Tourism, Research Industries by Leonard David - Space.com - Sept.22.04 ...

... A history of the X PRIZE project: A new space race - St.Louis Dispatch - Sept.21.04. "Some of the leading citizens of our community have too much money and too little sense." said the Post-Dispatch's Bill McClellan in 1996 about those investing in the project. ...

... Speaking of wild ideas, if there are people doing things like this - Man Flies with Two Jet Engines and a Nine-Foot CFRP Composite Wing - Composites News - Sept.21.04 (see video at the flying man ), then why not this? (Item via Tony Rusi)

X rockets going up all over the place... Rocket traffic jam - Alan Boyle - Sept.21.04. It's not happening, though, the way Dan Golden expected back in 1997 when he predicted NASA would "blacken the sky with X-vehicles".

X PRIZE news... Space Race News interviews Robert K. Weiss who is helping the X PRIZE organize its broadcasting and webcasting of the SS1 flights: ...

... The buildup to the countdown begins: X PRIZE countdown enters final days - X PRIZE - Sept.20.04...

Space Transport news... More about the next Rubicon launch: Space Transport plans test launch for late September - X PRIZE - Sept.20.04...

... And hear a radio interview with STC co-leader Philip Storm at www.kuow.org/program_theworks.asp?Archive=08-17 ...

... See also the latest STC press release (doc):

Rubicon 2 (R2) is coming along nicely.

The capsule is being fabricated in a Port Townsend machine shop, Reynold Grey Machining. Greg Mika, the co-owner of Reynold Grey, calls the Rubicon 2 welded aluminum capsule/nosecone a "monument to bauxite" (bauxite is aluminum ore). See nearby photo of Rubicon 2 welding work in early September. At STC's Forks headquarters, the R2 engine assembly is also basically complete.

STC conducted a successful Rubicon solid rocket motor test on the 12th of September. Several quality control measures have been implemented since the Rubicon 1 motor malfunction. See the engine test video at www.space-transport.com/?stc=gallery.

The R2 flight is scheduled for the 2nd or 3rd of October from the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State.

Many thanks to our recent French investor from Sequim, to Spacefleet for an additional $5,000 investment, and to several other small investors. We are proud to have them take part in STC and will work hard to convert their capital into a successful and valuable space transport business.

September 21, 2004

Spaceflight installment plan... Buy your suborbital spaceflight ticket a small bit at a time:

Space Adventures Unveils Its
Enables enthusiasts to work toward their dream of spaceflight

Arlington, Va. – September 21, 2004 -- Space Adventures, the world’s leading space experiences company, announced today the unveiling of their SPACEFLIGHT CLUB. The Club will be a unifying voice for the next generation of space explorers and will provide members with the tools, experience and training needed to achieve their goal of spaceflight.

With each year of membership, the Club's annual dues and a percentage of Space Adventures' program purchases will be set aside as credit toward participation in a suborbital spaceflight. In addition, members will be kept in the forefront of this new and exciting industry via newsletters, conferences and many other members-only benefits. Already, space enthusiasts are taking action to reserve their spots for suborbital spaceflights. Space Adventures is the marketing and experiences operation partner for several of the leading space vehicle manufacturing companies and is the only company currently accepting deposits from suborbital flight candidates.

"The dawn of private reusable launch vehicles is upon us. SpaceShipOne is a true triumph, when ambition, hard work and amazing technologies have demonstrated to the world that anything is possible," said Eric Anderson, president and CEO of Space Adventures. "Space Adventures' SPACEFLIGHT CLUB enables private citizens to work toward their own dream of spaceflight. The Club is the answer to many who question, now that SpaceShipOne has flown successfully, how can I be a part of private suborbital flight history?”

"I am very excited to join Space Adventures' SPACEFLIGHT CLUB. Many people, including myself, have an amazing passion for spaceflight. The Club is a perfect outlet for us to not only network, but to also share our experiences outside of the space world," said Per Wimmer, new SPACEFLIGHT CLUB member and future suborbital spaceflight client, United Kingdom. "All the Space Adventures’ clients I have met so far come from many different walks of life and it will be quite invigorating to associate myself with such a diverse and dedicated group of people as we pursue our dream of spaceflight together.”

For more information on Space Adventures’ SPACEFLIGHT CLUB, please visit http://www.spaceadventures.com/flight/spaceflightclub.

Space Adventures’ suborbital program consists of a detailed four-day flight preparation and training. This highly focused and inspiring pre-flight experience will familiarize each passenger with the flight program, critical vehicle systems, flight operations, zero-gravity conditions, in-flight accelerations and space flight safety procedures. On launch day, flight specialists will assist the passengers in suiting up and guiding each through the final checklist. Each flight will be directed by both a skilled-pilot and a precise computer controlled system. As each vehicle reaches their maximum altitude, the rocket engines will shutdown and the passengers will experience up to five minutes of continuous weightlessness, all the while gazing at the vast blackness of space set against the blue horizon of the Earth below. For more information on Space Adventures' suborbital program, please visit http://www.spaceadventures.com/flight/suborbital.

The SpaceShow this week with Brian Feeny:

The Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2004, 7-8:15 PM PDT Special Space Show features Brian Feeney, Team leader for the da Vinci Project, live from Toronto, Canada. Mr. Feeney will be discussing the da Vinci Project “go” for the X-Prize which is currently planned for Oct. 2, 2004. This program will air live from 7-8:15PM Pacific Time exactly in the same format as the regular Tuesday Space Show, including live on KKNW in Seattle and all streaming sites.

Listeners can talk to Brian Feeney or the host, or send e-mail or chat during the program using dmlivings@yahoo.com or drspace@thespaceshow.com, or chatting on AOL/ICQ Chat using the screen name “spaceshowchat.”

As this is a live taping session, this program will air in the regularly scheduled time for Sunday, Oct. 10, 2004.

Online streaming via http://www.live365.com/stations/dlivingston?site=dlivingston.

SpaceShipOne documentary... The Discovery Channel will broadcast about Burt Rutan and the SS1 project:

Black Sky: The Race for Space

For the past three decades, Burt Rutan has produced one new research airplane per year. Considered one of the most influential aircraft designers, Rutan is building SpaceShipOne, a personal space vehicle.

They will broadcast this two hour program, which will focus on the June 21 flight, first on Oct. 3rd at 9 pm and repeat it on Oct 4th at 12:00 am and on Oct 10 at 04:00 PM.

They will also show a one hour update on the X PRIZE on Oct 7th at 09:00 PM and repeat it on Oct 8th at 12:00 am.

(Via an HS reader.)

SS1 site updates... HS visitor, C. Dorrough, notes that the Scaled site has updated the General Information page (I had not seen, for example, this Scaled Newsletter for the April 2003 rollout). And also the Gallery photos are nicely organized.

News briefs... Check out the impressive program for the Third International Symposium on Beamed Energy Propulsion (ISBEP 3) Troy, New York, October 11 - 14, 2004. There seems to be a lot of substantive experimental work going on all over the world...

... Alan Boyle reports on the SpaceDev launcher project: New team in space race - Alan Boyle/Cosmic Log - Sept.20.04.

Anti-general aviation bill update... The bill, mentioned here on Sept.13th, that would have put onerous security restrictions on private aviation, was withdrawn last week: Weiner Withholds "Outrageous" Anti-General Aviation Bill In House Subcommittee - EAA Members, Aviation Community Make A Difference - EAA - Sept.15.04. (Via a HS regular).

Stevie update... Stevie Austin is back together and ready for another launch into the last frontier. Check out the updated text and photos on the Project Web Site and Episode Five of the ongoing Stevie Austin Project Movie Series.

September 20, 2004

More about the SpaceDev suborbital... SpaceDev is talking about a 2008 launch date for the Dream Chaser: SpaceDev to Build Piloted Spaceship - Space.com - Sept.20.04...

... NASA announcement: NASA, SpaceDev To Collaborate On Future Space Transportation - NASA/Ames - Sept.20.04....

... By 2008 there should be at least one and maybe several suborbital vehicles flying with conventional liquid fueled engines. It will be interesting to see how the economics compare for liquid versus hybird.

"Fuel it up and fly" liquid engines potentially offer low operating costs assuming their higher complexity doesn't require more servicing and overhauls.

Hybrids are simpler and safer than liquids (at least that's the conventional wisdom. See this evidence that liquid fueled engines can also be quite safe). However, hybrids require that their fuel grain be packed for every flight, which even with an assembly line operation is likely to be considerably more expensive than filling up a tank for a flight.

SpaceDev suborbital vehicle project... SpaceDev, which is supplying the hybrid engines for the SpaceShipOne, has announced that it will begin designing its own suborbital vehicle in cooperation with NASA Ames.

The winged Dream Chaser would launch vertically using a hybrid engine and then land horizontally. SpaceDev Begins Work on ''Dream Chaser'' Space Vehicle Space Act MOU Signed with NASA Ames Research Center - SpaceDev/Yahoo! - Sept.20.04 . (Item noted by a couple of HS readers.)

Legislation update... The HR3752 bill in support of commercial suborbital spaceflight is still alive in the Senate according to Space News: House, Senate Negotiators Working To Push Suborbital Bill - Space News - Sept.20.04. If the liability waiver item is removed from the bill, that will be a severe blow since liability protection is considered by many to be crucial for obtaining insurance at reasonable rates or at all.

News briefs... GoldenPalace/da Vinci is encouraged by its recent balloon test: Canadian Ansari X Prize Team Pushes Toward First Launch - Space.com - Sept.20.04 ...

... Taylor Dinerman looks at high altitudes as the next frontier for science and warfare: "Near Space": a new area of operations or a new Pentagon buzzword? by Taylor Dinerman - The Space Review - Sept.20.04 ...

... Jeff Foust reports on a Space Elevator conference and where funding for such a system might be found: Elevators and exploration: Does a space elevator fit into the Vision for Space Exploration? by Jeff Foust - The Space Review - Sept.20.04

Armadillo update this week reports on tests of a LOX preburner system: LOX Engine - Armadillo Aerospace - Sept.19.04. The team has had trouble with rough, uneven thrust from the mixed monopropellant (hydrogen peroxide and methanol) engines that they developed in the past year or so. (This was motivated by difficulties in getting a supplier for high purity H2O2 for single propellant engines.) So they are thinking of going to bipropellant engines, e.g LOX and methanol, but they want to retain deep throttling capability.

As explained previously, the preburner burns a small amount of fuel in an oxygen rich flow so as to "to supply hot oxygen gas to a primary cooled combustion chamber." Throttling the preburner in turn throttles the overall thrust of the engine. (Carmack credits Charles Pooley for convincing him to try preburners.)

SpaceShipOne updates... Valley Press posts a couple of articles about the SS1 (or SSO, as they call it) and the recent meeting of the The Society of Experimental Test Pilots.

(Note: AV Press only posts articles for a few days. Space Race News is posting copies of the first and second articles.)...

... The Mojave Spaceport is gearing up for the first X PRIZE flight for the SS1. Here's the most recent NOTAM (Notice to Airmen) :

Mojave Airport will be engaged in spaceport operations 29 September 04 between 0500L and 1200L, with potential extensions through 13 October 04.

Aircraft will be PPR (prior permission required) for landing beginning 1600 28 September 04. Mojave Airport tower will be in operation Tuesday 28 September 04 from 0700L TO 2000L. Ramp space is extremely limited and PPR aircraft are encouraged to bring their own tiedown devices.

Mojave Airport tower will open at 0500L 29 September 04 and remain open until 1700L. Follow-me truck available on 29 September 04 between 0500-0615.

IAW FAR 91.143 Mojave Airport TFR in effect surface to 20,000 MSL, 7NM radius around KMHV. 0600L-0900L 29 September 04. Contact KMHV tower on 127.6 or Joshua approach on 133.65 for TFR updates.

Stuart Witt, General Manager

These three items via a regular HS visitor.

September 18, 2004

ARCA test launch pictures have been posted on their web site. They report, "From the data we have until now, the Demonstrator 2B flight was at the highest altitude and speed achieved in the X Prize Competition with a liquid fuel rocket vehicle launched from the ground."

Rocketplane Ltd. has spiffed up their web site. It includes, for example, additional info on their XP vehicle, flight plan, spaceport. (Item via Space Race News!).

News briefs... Mojave prepares for the next SS1 launch: Spaceport, Scaled prepare for X-Prize launches - Desert News - Sept.16.04...

... Alan Boyle reports on Space Transports Corp.'s plans for another Rubicon test launch over the weekend of Sept.25-26: Rubicon redux- Alan Boyle/Cosmic Log - Sept.17.04. (I expect Stevie will be back in shape by then.)...

... GoldenPalace/da Vinci posts their own news item about the recent balloon test...

... Masten Space Systems reports on the status of their engine igniter project: Qualified Igniter Success - Masten Space Systems Blog - Sept.18.04. Follow developments at the company via the Masten Space Systems blog

Zero-G flights looking like a winner ... so far. If they are a financial success, it will be a big boost for the alt.space movement and will strengthen expectations of a viable market for suborbital tourist flights. The crucial indicator will be whether after the initial wave of publicity flight demand remains strong. I think it will but there are no guarantees when it comes to the fickle public.

Here are some more news items about the company's debut:

September 17, 2004

FALCON contracts announced... First reported in August by Space News, it is now official that the four companies listed below have been selected by DARPA for the second round of the FALCON program - DARPA Press Release (pdf) (via spacetoday.net):

DARPA, Air Force Kick-Off Falcon Phase II
Small Launch Vehicle Effort

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the U.S. Air Force have awarded funding to four teams for the second phase of the Falcon Small Launch Vehicle (SLV) program. The goal of the Falcon SLV program is to develop and demonstrate an affordable and responsive space lift capability.

Each team was awarded an other transaction for prototypes agreement. The teams and agreement values are:

Under the newly awarded agreements, each team will conduct a 10-month phase IIa preliminary design and development effort to mature their launch vehicle designs. In addition, one of the companies, Space Exploration Technologies, will conduct an early, responsive launch demonstration. Next year, DARPA and the Air Force will select one or more of the phase IIa teams to conduct detailed design and fabrication of their launch vehicle. Phase IIb will culminate in 2007 with flight tests to launch a small satellite to validate vehicle performance.

In addition to DARPA and the Air Force, NASA has also expressed interest in the Small Launch Vehicle capability and is a formal partner in the Falcon Small Launch Vehicle development program.

I didn't realize that NASA was formally involved. Here is a FALCON Fact Sheet (pdf). Note that LockMart's contract deals with the hypersonic vehicle part of the program rather than with the small launcher (DARPA PR Aug.5.04.)

News briefs ... Russia, Ukraine, and two other former Soviet republics are forming a company to pursue development of the Kliper RLV: Four Countries Create Space Corporation - UPI/SpaceDaily - Sept.17.04. (An earlier report said no European or US organization had expressed interest in the project.)...

... More shuttle RtF info: Foam, not repair, key flight issue - Florida Today - Sept.17.04

SpaceShipOne collectibles... I've been informed that The Rocket Boosters (great name), formed by a coalition of nonprofit organizations in and around Mojave, CA., now include patches and pins in their lineup of Tier One merchandise..

News briefs ... From Alan Boyle (and other sources) it appears that while HR-3752 may still be breathing, it desperately needs a last minute resuscitation: Space legislation faces hurdles - Alan Boyle/Cosmic Log - Sept.16.04...

... Alan also comments on the Suborbital Corporation's plans for the Cosmopolis 21 vehicle: ‘Go’ for Russia's SpaceShipOne - Alan Boyle/Cosmic Log - Sept.16.04. He says Dennis Tito and Space Adventures are involved with the project. Eric Anderson of Space Adventures visited Australia earlier this year to look for possible spaceport sites....

... The GoldenPalace/da Vinci test of the "EO-OS SEVEN" balloon, reported on earlier, took place in Colorado: Team DA Vinci Scores Success In Test - X PRIZE - Sept.16.04...

... Here's an interesting new approach to radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs): A traveling-wave engine to power deep space travel - SpaceRef - Sept.16.04. ...

... Despite overruns and hurricanes, NASA says the shuttle return to flight program remains on schedule: Return to Flight on Track Despite Setbacks - Space.com - Sept.16.04

September 16, 2004

NASA requests commercial space transport info... If you have a rocket company and think you could supply launch services to NASA, the agency wants to hear from you. It has issued a formal RFI (Request for Information): NASA Special Notice: Commercial Space Transportation Services in Support of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration - comspacewatch - Sept.15.04. This is in response to the Aldridge Committee report that urged NASA to take full advantage of commercial space transport.

NASA says that it "seeks any and all ideas for possible ways of implementing of implementing the Commission's recommendation as it relates to NASA space transportation requirements." The RFI even includes manned launchers.

Note a couple of interesting support documents. One gives specifications for vehicles that will approach the ISS: Interface Definition Document for ISS Visiting Vehicles -ISS Program Office - Feb.10.00.

The other details what NASA considers necessary for a launcher to be considered "man-rated": Human-Rating Requirements and Guidelines for Space Flight Systems - Last update: June 25.04

News briefs... Wind tunnel tests for a scale model of the X-37 were completed: Arnold testing concludes on NASA's X-37 craft - Spaceflight Now - Sept.15.04...

... Check out the new discussion forum dedicated to hybrid rockets: Hybriddyne Forum - Hybrid Rockets...

... John Carmack reports on the ARocket forum about tests that generated "125 lbf with a preburner LOX engine". He discussed the preburner development in this week's Armadillo Update and will report on the current tests in the next update.

September 15, 2004

Stevie update... This just came in from Dr. James of the Rubicon ICU/R Facility at the Stevie Austin Project:

We have excellent news to report today:

After a grueling seven hour surgery, Stevie Austin has successfully received a Full Body Transplant. The elite Rubicon Surgical Team performed with outstanding skill and professionalism and their hopes for Stevie's complete recovery are now higher than ever.

Stevie's donor body seems to be holding with no signs of rejection at this time. Stevie will be in post-op recovery for some time during which she'll be closely monitored around the clock.

Stevie's seven hour surgery was filmed. If you care to visit the updated Stevie Austin Project Web Site, you may see still photos, text details and a new movie (37MB) documenting Stevie's complex and risky surgery.

We appreciate your support a great deal. Stevie's well being is certainly enhanced by the fact that so many good people are out there rooting for her as she endures these difficult times.

News briefs .. It's official, DARPA is taking over the X-37 program: NASA Transfers X-37 Project to DARPA - Space.com - Sept.15.04...

... Sounds like the Russian Cosmopolis suborbital/X PRIZE project might still be alive: Reusble Spacecraft for [Sub-]Orbital Tourism - RIA Novosti - Sept.9.04 * Sub-Orbital Spaceship for Tourism - Science & Technology at www.vor.ru - Sept.15.04. (via spacetoday.net)

September 14, 2004

Successful da Vinci balloon test... Alan Boyle reports that a test of the GoldenPalace/daVinci balloon last weekend went very well: Balloon passes space test- Alan Boyle/Cosmic Log - Sept.14.04. They also have gotten an insurance policy for the X PRIZE flights.

News briefs... Boy was it big mistake to forget about the X-37 link for a week. Here's yet another article about the plan to test the vehicle in Mojave: NASA Transfers X-37 to Unidentified U.S. Agency - Space.com - Sept.14.04...

... Russian cannot find any help with the Kliper: Russia has no external offers of cooperation in spaceship project - ITAR-TASS - Sept.14.04. (via spacetoday.net)

Zero-g flights... The company ZERO-G, after more than a decade of effort, has finally begun selling rides on a plane that provides micro-gravity experiences for periods of about 25 seconds as it flies a series of parabolas:

According to the Wall Street Journal article, the company "initially expected to fill two trips on their plane during the first month of operation, but through advance word of mouth and selective marketing they already sold out 20 flights before the public launch of the business. Individual tickets are $2,950 for a full day of training and the airplane ride."

Although individuals are welcome to buy rides, the company is counting on corporate incentive programs as the primary market. These programs are for rewarding employee performance and providing team activities. Companies can reserve a whole plane to carry 27 people at a time.

Peter Diamandis reported at the 2003 and 2004 Space Access Society meetings on the long struggle by himself and his partners to overcome regulatory and other challenges. An important innovation of the the company is the use of cargo planes.

They can quickly convert a plane back and forth between cargo and zero-g mode. Cargo planes normally fly at night while the zero-g flights will occur during the day. This dual use approach reduces costs considerably over that of owning a dedicated single use vehicle.

It will be interesting to see how well the company does. The market for the service will provide some indication of the market for suborbital space tourism. Also, I expect that a suborbital spaceflight package deal might include a ride on a parabolic flyer as part of the training for the climactic rocket flight.

BTW: Alan Boyle reports on similar services in Russia that are arranged in the US by adventure travel companies. He also mentions a service under development in Sweden called Xero. This is an interesting because it is supported by MirCorp.

During an interview on the Space Show last April, Walt Anderson mentioned that MirCorp was developing a service in Sweden using a Russian plane for the parabolic flights. The parent company is called, Zero Group and this announcement last year - Zero Gravity Experience Announced for Kiruna, Sweden Defy Gravity! - the Zero Group - Nov.27.03 - lists MirCorp as one of its partners.

More Mojave news... Preparations are on for the SpaceShipOne X PRIZE flights: EKAD signs deal with X-Prize promoters - Desert News - Sept.9.04 * Rocketboosters preparing for X-Prize flights - Desert News - Sept.9.04...

... Dennis Cowing reports that a NASA representative "didn't know what aircraft Scaled Composites planned to use to drop the X-37 and that he should contact them for that information".

News briefs... Contests have motivated innovations in aerospace from the early days of aviation: Space Race II Mind over matter by Irene Klotz - UPI/SpaceDaily - Sept.14.04...

... Modifications to the Shuttle ET construction process should minimize the chance of insulation chunks falling off during launch: Space Shuttle External Tank slated to fly next spring ready for foam spray on intertank; a major step to return Shuttle to flight - NASA MSFC - Sept.13.04

Good news on Stevie... Dr. James of the Rubicon ICU/R Facility reports that the Stevie Austin web site was updated with new movie footage from Episode Three as well as some new photo stills and text in the Medical Update Section. "We have some very good news to report about Stevie."

September 13, 2004

Resisting restrictions on private aerospace... I believe that the leading edge of the private sector - innovative amateur groups and small entrepreneurial companies - will make the key contributions to the development of a spacefaring civilization. That obviously assumes that the government does not restrict the private sector to a smaller and smaller area where it can operate freely and does not cripple it with unnecessary and burdensome regulations.

While not directly related to spaceflight, the following notice should be of interest to others who have a similar point of view: EAA Urges Members to Oppose Outrageous House Bill that Would Severely Restrict General Aviation - Experimental Aircraft Association - Sept.9.04. (Via a regular HS contributor.)

Like the restrictions placed on advanced amateur rocketry, these kinds of rules and regulations bring few practical benefits as far as making us safer from terrorism. They do, however, come at a big long term cost of less innovation, reduced economic activity, and less inspiration and motivation for young people to pursue education and involvement in technical fields.

SpaceDev engines for the SS1 X PRIZE flights have been delivered: SpaceDev Delivers Rocket Motors for X-Prize Attempt: No “Laughing” Matter - SpaceDev - Sept.13.04. (via R. Boozer)

These are "enhanced" versions of the one used in the June 21st flight. SpaceDev "increased the amount of liquid nitrous oxide for the spacecraft's initial burn and lengthened its burn time by a few seconds": SpaceShipOne Rocket Engine Gets an Upgrade - Space.com - Sept.12.04.

Mojave news ... I nearly lost these two interesting items that arrived in my email last week while I was away from home. XCOR successfully tested its piston fuel pump developed with funds from DARPA: Mojave firm develops rocket fuel pump - Desert News - Sept.5.04....

... And Scaled's White Knight is getting a job from NASA to carry out drop tests of the X-37 next year: WhiteKnight to launch X-37 test flights - Desert News - Sept.2.04. (Both items via J.Lerch).

News briefs... In his latest Armadillo update, John Carmack reports on development of alternatives to their current mixed monopropellant propulsion system: Engine alternatives, Preburner work - Armadillo Aerospace - Sept.12.04....

... The eleven companies recently selected by NASA to develop designs for the Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) and other systems need for the Moon-Mars program are meeting in DC today to present their ideas: Firms to Detail Mars Transport Plans - Washington Post - Sept.12.04...

... Jeff Foust reports on a design using a Shuttle solid rocket booster to launch the CEV capsule: CEV: a different approach by Jeff Foust - The Space Review - Sept.13.04 ...

... Taylor Dinerman suggests that the DOD assist the suborbital RLV companies with technology development grants as a way to help its own long term launch needs: Orphan RLVs - by Taylor Dinerman - The Space Review - Sept.13.04 ...

... The Space Frontier Foundation praises rocket risk takers: Risk in Private Rocket Flights Worthwhile - Space Frontier Foundation Praises Heroes of a New Space Age - Space Frontier Foundation - Sept.10.04 ...

... X-43A drop test delay: X-43A flight rehearsal postponed - Spaceflight Now - Sept.12.04

September 12, 2004

ARCA launch pictures... As reported earlier, the Romanian ARCA X PRIZE team successfully launched a prototype vehicle last week. Their web site now has pictures from the event. (Via Space Race News!).

See also Breaking News: ARCA Team Successfully Launches Demonstrator Rocket - X PRIZE - Sept.11.04.

September 11, 2004

News briefs ... Alan posts some items on X PRIZE happenings: Space race update- Alan Boyle/Cosmic Log - Sept.10.04...

... Rocketplane Ltd. has hired Spirit Wing Aviation to help convert a Lear Jet 24 into the Rocketplane XP suborbital space vehicle: Rocketplane contract awarded - Space Race News! - Sept.10.04 ...

... Rocketplane is working with ORBITEC to develop the "RP-1/LOX cold-wall vortex engine". (See engine test photo). ORBITEC also is developing a paraffin fueled Advanced Vortex Hybrid Propulsion System (AVHPS) for the Air Force....

... John Carmack answers more questions on the Armadillo forum.

September 10, 2004

Suborbital spaceflight legislation update... As recently noted here, legislation deemed by many to be crucial to the development of a successful commercial suborbital spaceflight industry is at a critical stage in the Senate. Though there is probably no real opposition to the bill, the session will be very short and it will be difficult to find time for it in a very crowded agenda. Public support will be a great help in raising its chances for passage.

I've been informed by Charles Lurio that the Senate version of any bill dealing with commercialization of private human spaceflight would not be the previously mentioned S2772 (the 'CHASE' bill introduced by Senator Inhofe) but instead it will be under the House Bill designation, HR3752 ("The Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 2004").

This is just an accounting measure, but if you contact Congressional staff to give your support for the legislation, you should refer to HR3752 to avoid any confusion.

Note that any improvements that were incorporated into S2772 will likely be applied in HR3752 (a process known as creating a "perfected" version of the legislation.)...

... You can hear Jim Muncy, head of PoliSpace, talk about HR3752 in an interview on the Space Show recorded last Tuesday.

The DC-X in LEO... While I expect that low cost commercial passenger space transport will only emerge at the end of a long incremental development process beginning with suborbital RLVs, it's still fun to think about designs for getting to space on a shorter time frame. For example, in a recent Space Show interview, Gene Meyers of the Space Island Group (SIG) described a concept vehicle that derives from the Shuttle system.

The Dual-ET Launch Vehicle Model replaces the Orbiter with a DC-X type vertical landing vehicle mated to the top of an ET structure used for cargo or configured with living quarters for an orbital station. This two part module is then attached to an ET/SRB configuration similar to that of the shuttle except that the ET would also have its own engines.

SIG claims that the "Clipper could be ready for orbital tests in 3-4 years, at a cost of $2-$3 billion. It could carry 20-30 people up and back."

SIG has long campaigned to use the ETs to build space stations. The goal of the Dual-ET LV design is a launcher that provides the ETs in orbit but at a much lower cost than with an Orbiter system.

Exploration funding... Despite indications by Congress that it will cut next year's NASA budget and ignore the President's space initiative, several small design contracts for the new program were recently awarded. Here are explanations for how they found the money: Space Plan Takes A Tiny Step by Frank Sietzen Jr. - UPI/SpaceDaily - Sept.8.04 * Space Politics: Funding the exploration studies - Space Politics - Sept.9.04.

September 9, 2004

Successful ARCA launch of Demonstrator 2B according to a message posted on the ARCA X PRIZE forum. (Via Space Race News!) The Demonstrator 2B is a 1:2.5 scaled prototype of the Romanian team's X PRIZE vehicle. The groups says the 2B uses "the world first composite materials reusable monopropellant rocket engine." It appears they are using a mix of hydrogen peroxide 68% mixed with ethylic alcohol.

News briefs... Shuttle return-to-flight status discussed at a Senate committee meeting yesterday: Senate hearing on the shuttle program - Space Politics - Sept.8.04...

... Costs through 2008 to fulfill Columbia panel's recommendations could reach $2.2B: Fixing Shuttle Fleet Could Top $2 Billion - AP/Space.com - Sept.8....

... Weather delays tests of da Vinci balloon: X Prize test on hold - Alan Boyle/Cosmic Log - Sept.8.04.

September 8, 2004

News brief ... NASA/Northrop complete tests of a LH2 composite tank: Northrop Grumman, NASA Complete Testing of Prototype Composite Cryogenic Fuel Tank: Nine Months of Testing Proves Integrity of Tank Manufacturing Process, Boosts Confidence in Using Composite Fuel Tanks for Reusable Space Transportation Systems - Northrop Grumman - Sept.7.04....

... X-43A preparations begin for a Mach 10 flight test in late October: X-43A set for captive carry flight test - NASA-DFRC/Spaceflight Now - Sept.6.04.

Space pathfinder ... Rand Simberg lays out clearly the reasons why it currently costs so much to go to space, why this high cost is not due to any fundamental laws of physics or economics, and how the costs can be brought down significantly: The Path Not Taken - The New Atlantis - Sept.04.

News brief... GoldenPalace/da Vinci says they have found an insurance policy for their test flights: Weather hampers da Vinci test: Project team in U.S. for trial run of helium balloon - Saskatoon StarPhoenix - Sept.8.04 (via Space Race News!)...

... Brief update from Alan Boyle on the X PRIZE competition: Space race update- Alan Boyle/Cosmic Log - Sept.7.04...

... NASA must deal with yet more unexpected expenses: NASA Mum on Whether Launch Facility Damage Will Delay Next Shuttle Flight - Space.com - Sept.7.04

September 7, 2004

News brief... More press attention for the X PRIZE and private space development: Gentlemen, Start Your Rockets: The race for space is heating up as private outfits head for the launchpad - Business Week - Sept.13.04 issue.

News briefs... Space-Transport's Rubicon I failed on its first launch but it succeeded in boosting the company's funding prospects: Rocket failure refuels dream of $10 million: Pair push on in bid to beat Rutan team in space race - SignOnSanDiego.com - Sept.6.04 (via spacetoday.net) ...

... Jim Benson, founder of Spacedev, gets profiled in Fortune: Rocket Man: Space tourism and asteroid mining may seem like science fiction. For Jim Benson, they're just part of his moneymaking business plan. - Fortune - Sept.6.0 (via spacetoday.net) The article also lists some other space entrepreneurs: Fellow Travelers ...

... I just noticed that GoldenPalace/da Vinci posted a Team Summary Sheet dated August 2004 on their homepage. It includes the latest design specs.

September 6, 2004

In the latest Armadillo update, John Carmack reports on a NOI (Notification of Intent to submit) to NASA that was rejected. He also discusses miscellaneous engine development problems and possible solutions: Rejected NASA NOI, Miscellaneous - Armadillo Aerospace - Sept.5.04.

September 5, 2004

News briefs... This article includes John Carmack's views on the da Vinci launch prospects: X-Prize Long Shots Still in Play - Wired - Sept.4.04....

... The suggestion that there exists a direct step-by-step path from the SS1 to a Bigelow space lodge is slowly losing its giggle effect: Holidays in space are on the horizon - New Scientist - Sept.4.04 ...

... NASA wants to start a venture capital firm. Oddly, it's not for investing in space startups but in companies involved in "nanotechnology, robotics, intelligent systems and high-speed networking and communication": NASA Presolicitation Notice: Legal Services (creation of The Mercury Fund) - ComSpaceWatch.com - Sept.3.04

Shuttle thinking... Frank Sietzen reports on the Shuttle return-to-flight program and efforts to incorporate "new thinking" into the agency:

The last article includes a section with comments from "Mike McCulley, a former shuttle astronaut who now heads United Space Alliance, the firm that operates the shuttles for NASA."

"... All of us wish (the shuttle) was less complicated, less risky business than it is, but the fact is the first question I ask those guys (in Congress) is, 'Hey, are we a human spaceflight exploration nation or not and are we going to continue to be?'

If the answer to the question is yes, McCulley said, then the shuttle is the nation's access to space, at least for a while.

It would take 50 years, he said, to reconstruct the capability of the shuttles."

This deserves some kind of prize for the most self-serving, ridiculous exaggeration of the year.

It would certainly mean great short term difficulty for the agency to ground the Shuttles permanently, but this pales in comparison to what the loss of a third vehicle will mean for the agency, the country, and the families of the lost astronauts.

While tragedies could happen with new vehicles, as well, at least these would happen in the cause of advancing space development and not in the cause of giving a bureacracy a reason for its existence.

Truly new thinking would accept the unthinkable: the Shuttles must be moved to the museums where they belong. Nothing that the shuttles will do in their final twenty or so flights is worth the risk of yet another disaster. The agency and the US space industry should be freed from this awful albatross.

September 3, 2004

Suborbital legislation is reported to be close to passage but only if time on the Congressional agenda can be found for it during the short session starting next week.

Space advocate Charles Lurio sent me the following information and perspective on the status of the legislation and how you can help.

Hope or Hoopla for Private Human Spaceflight?

Item: The fall Congressional session is scheduled for Sept. 7th to Oct. 1st only.

Item: Even the most optimistic sources estimate that the chances of reintroducing and passing 'infant industry' legislation for private human spaceflight next year are, for various procedural, non-partisan reasons, essentially zero.

Item: Yesterday, from an observer close to relevant events:

"Tangible issues regarding the legislation essential to opening private human spaceflight markets (a version of HR 3752 and/or it's recent Senate companion, S.2772) have become virtually trivial,--

"And the only thing preventing the passage this fall of such a Bill is that it will likely just not be given high enough priority in time for action."

There will no doubt be (deserved) extensive coverage of Mr. Rutan et al taking a shot at the X-Prize, presently scheduled for September 29th and October 4th. If the legislation has not been passed by then, however, even the most wildly successful Prize flights will likely be a tragedy masquerading as a triumph.

Finally, the Hill is enmeshed in the latest act of the decades-long drama, "How do we wrench an affordable human exploration program out of the NASA behemoth?"

Shouldn't Congress give a moment's attention to passing the private human spaceflight enabling Bill? It includes virtually no controversy, may profoundly improve the cost and safety of all human spaceflight, and doesn't cost the taxpayers a dime.

Target Senate Commerce Committee

[You should] contact the full Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation to urge them to take action that will allow Congress to complete passage this fall of legislation allowing commercialization of private human spaceflight (on the heels of the Xprize). If they are asked about or wish to reference a bill number, people can say something like 'a version of S.2772 or HR3752'.

McCain is the chair of the committee, Hollings is minority leader.

People should/can contact:

a) the committee office: 508 Dirksen Senate Office Bldg | Washington, DC 20510-6125 | Tel: 202-224-5115

b) McCain's and (if possible) Hollings's offices - (commerce.senate.gov/about/membership.html).

c) their own senator's office if that person's on the committee (see same linked page as in 'b')

Of course email is probably a waste. The next easiest thing is to call the appropriate office. Writing via paper followed by a call would of course be the ideal but given the short time available the main thing is to get the message recorded to raise the visibility, and if more than a couple of folks call they may actually start keeping track of it.

If it gets to that, the key parts of the bill are the infant industry provisions, which include reasonable licensing requirements, passenger liability sign-offs while protecting uninvolved public, etc.

Of course, the Bill's other selling point is that a Member can do something virtually instantly this fall that has the potential of greatly aiding the future of all human spaceflight while not costing a dime and not getting caught up in the controversies over the NASA exploration proposals.

There's nothing more important for the future of spaceflight than getting this legislation through - and when it can be gotten through.

See also Back to the Space CHASE - Alan Boyle/Cosmic Log - Sept.2.04.

T/Space connections... Via Space Race News came this press release from Transformational Space Corporation about its award from NASA for $3M "to develop a comprehensive plan for renewed lunar exploration and development". Interestingly, this company is headed by David Gump, who remains listed as president of LunaCorp, a firm that has long sought to launch a commercial lunar rover project.

The t/Space team includes several companies including Scaled Composites and AirLaunch, LLC. Gump is involved with the latter company, which was founded by Gary Hudson and Bevin Mckinney. AirLaunch recently was reported to be one of the companies to win a second round contract from the DARPA FALCON program for design of a low cost, rapid access small launcher.

News briefs... Alan Boyle reports that 300 people have paid $10 each to put their name on the next SS1 fight: Put your name on a spaceship - Alan Boyle/Cosmic Log - Sept.2.04 ...

... An optimistic endorsement of commercial launch development: Calling Flash Gordon: The final frontier is closer than you think. - Fort Worth Weekly Online - Sept.1.04

September 2, 2004

News briefs... This is why Space-Transport released the statement about the environmental impact of the Rubicon: Rocketeer says launches are environmentally friendly, but marine sanctuary may prosecute over Aug. 8 launch - Peninsula Daily News - Sept.1.04....

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

... ComSpaceWatch.com (part of Spaceref.com) includes a page on X-Prize News.

Kistler updates... The Kistler Aerospace web site had posted some new and not so new materials:

Bottom line figures released:

  • Raised $600M
  • Spent $800M
  • Need $450M more to finish K-1 and fly it

Vision for Space Exploration contracts... The first contracts related to the President's space initiative have been awarded. A mix of large and small companies are splitting $27M for 6 month studies in the areas of human lunar exploration and development of the CEV (Crew Exploration Vehicle): NASA Selects Contractors for Exploration Studies - Spaceref - Sept.1.04 (via NASA Watch.)

September 1 , 2004

News brief... Irene Klotz's latest article on the X PRIZE reports on the insurance policy used to raise the $10M for the contest purse: Space Race II Looking for a hole in one - UPI/SpaceDaily - Sept.1.04.

That's one tough lady... Space Transport's test pilot, though "severely injured" (I'll say) in the first test of the Rubicon, battles to return to flight status as reported in The Stevie Austin Project. The video (wmv) shows that when it comes to cool bravery and determination, Stevie is way a-head of the rest...

... On a more serious note, STC defends its environmental policies in Rubicon Project is Environmentally Sound - STC - Aug.31.04 ....

... The company also released this statement on its new major investor: Spacefleet, Ltd. of the United Kingdom Funds Rubicon 2 Launch - STC - Aug.27.04

News briefs ... HARC posts some videos of an engine test, an annimation (mov) of its Liberator in action, and of some cool rocket bikes...

... More on da Vinci's insurance search and test plans: Space racer fights back - Alan Boyle/Cosmic Log - Aug.31.04....

... Check out the new look for Keith Cowing's NASA Watch. Great that it now includes permalinks so I can link directly to items of interest. There is also the new Commercial Space Watch and other pages in the works...

... Shuttles will continue to land at Kennedy: NASA will keep KSC as main landing site: Other paths just as risky, agency decides - Florida Today - Aug.30.04

Continue to August 2004

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