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Reusable Launch & Space Vehicle News
October 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

October 31, 2004

Space adventure preparation ... In response to the progress in the development of a space tourism industry, ETC Space, a "world leader in aeromedical training for more than 35 years", is starting a program that will offer similar training to space adventurers: ETC's EnTCo Announces Space Adventure Entertainment Product Line - ETC Space - Oct.29.04.

Candidate astronauts will be able to experience "re-entry G exposure, the effects of reduced atmospheric pressure, escape from a malfunctioning space vehicle, weightlessness, and reentry vehicle recovery." I imagine the "Ejection Seat Simulator (ESS)" would be especially educational. (Via Space Race News.)

October 30, 2004

News briefs... Alan Boyle reports that GoldenPalace/daVinci won't be launching anything anytime soon. Space race update - Alan Boyle/Cosmic Log - Oct.29.04. He also gives an update on the suborbital spaceflight legislation....

... The reusable Kliper is apparently included in long term Russian space program plans: New Spaceship And Launch Vehicle The Foundation Of Russian Space Program - RIA Novosti - Oct.29.04...

... Via a newsgroup I came across this brief report about a talk given by Blue Origin representatives on their project but no details of what they said: Blue Origin: A Vision for Private Space Development - Georgia Tech AiAA News - Sept.28.04...

... Shuttle to fly next May - NASA Picks May 2005 for Launch Date - Space.com - Oct.29.04 - but what happens after that is still a big unknown: Debate About Shuttle's Future Heats Up - Space.com - Oct.29.04 * NASA looks at less flights: Plans encourage full schedule; shuttle launch goal still mid-May - Florida Today - Oct.29.04

October 29, 2004

The Space-Transport launch of its Rubicon 2 vehicle will be "upcoming" and a video of the flight will be made available shortly afterwards. According to a press release:

"The launch will take place in the near future, on a date to be determined shortly, from a site on the Makah Reservation near Neah Bay, Washington. Immediately following the launch, launch coverage will be made available on the Internet by the Seattle firm, Digicast Corp. The launch, due to logistical concerns will be closed to the public, but will be immediately available by Digicast via webcast."

The Digicast website: www.digicastondemand.com. [Update Oct.31: PR at Space Race News.]

News briefs... The Romanian ORCA project says that "the construction of Orizont vehicle is underway."...

... Still difficult after the SS1 success for other companies to obtain money for suborbital spaceflight projects: Space Race Focuses on Money - Wired - Oct.29.04....

... Regulatory problems also stand in the way: A lot of ground to be covered before space tourism can fly - USATODAY.com - Oct.28.04.

X PRIZE award ceremony is open to the public:

ANSARI X PRIZE to be awarded Nov. 6 to SpaceShipOne Team
St. Louis Science Center site for award ceremony and rally

(St. Louis, MO. Oct. 29, 2004) The $10 million ANSARI X PRIZE will be awarded to Scaled Composites, LLC, creators of SpaceShipOne, during a special ceremony and public rally Sat., Nov. 6, 2004, 10-11:30 am, at St. Louis University High School's athletic field next to the St. Louis Science Center, 5050 Oakland Ave., St. Louis, MO. Burt Rutan, Scaled Composite's team leader, will accept the check from Peter Diamandis, MD, chairman of the X PRIZE Foundation.

Visitors should begin arriving at 9:30 am for a rally to greet the Scaled Composites' team. The entire team, from engineers and builders to the pilots, will attend. Check presentation ceremony is 10:30 am followed by a full day of activities at the Science Center. From approximately 11 am-3:30 pm visitors can meet the Scaled Composites team, including Burt Rutan and pilots Brian Binnie and Mike Melvill, get their autographs, and take photos.

In addition to meeting the team members at the Science Center, visitors can participate in numerous hands-on activities related to space flight, sign a giant congratulations banner for the Scaled Composites team, see demonstrations of rocket launches, and take your photo alongside an image of SpaceShipOne.

Paul Allen, chairman of Charter Communications and co-founder of Microsoft, will attend the ceremonies along with Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group. Allen partnered with Rutan to form Mojave Aerospace Ventures to fund the Scaled Composites team. Branson's Virgin Galactic will sell sub-orbital space rides for about $200,000 per person utilizing SpaceShipOne's technology. Branson has pledged to reinvest any profits from Virgin Galactic into developing other space tourism business.

In order to win the $10 million ANSARI X PRIZE, SpaceShipOne successfully completed two manned flights, to a minimum of 100km (62.5 miles), into space within a 14 day time period. SpaceShipOne completed the first flight Wed., Sept. 29, and the second flight Mon., Oct. 4 to capture the prize.

The ANSARI X PRIZE was founded by the New Spirit of St. Louis members who created the prize to further commercial space endeavors. The Ansari family is the title sponsor of the prize. Sponsors of the weekend ceremonies include: St. Louis Science Center, X PRIZE Foundation, Champ Car World Series, 7-Up, M&Ms Chocolate Candies, Enterprise Financial Services Corporation, and Regional Chamber and Growth Association (RCGA). Media partners are St. Louis Post-Dispatch and St. Louis Commerce Magazine.

News briefs ... More talk of an early Shuttle shutdown. James Oberg reports on NASA internal studies into whether the 28 Shuttle flights supposedly needed to finish the ISS by 2010 can be significantly reduced: NASA mulls early retirement for space shuttle: Preliminary studies look at off-loading station building to rockets - James Oberg/MSNBC - Oct.28.04...

... The last X-43A flight will " fly no earlier than Nov. 8": NASA Schedules Hypersonic X-43a, Mach-10 Flight Press Briefing - NASA - Oct.28.04....

... NASA scramjet funding woes: NASA scramjets starved of oxygen - e4engineering.com - Oct.22.04.

October 28, 2004

Shuttles will return but to what future?... The Shuttle return-to-flight campaign must deal with the risk of a third vehicle loss: NASA Works to Lower Shuttle, ISS Flight Risk - Space.com - Oct.27.04. ...

... A Shuttle manager talks about degrees of risk and how each launch will involve "Ten thousand gray choices": Letter to the NASA Space Shuttle Team From Wayne Hale on Risk - NASA JSC/Spaceref - Oct.26..04...

... Hale defines courage as the willingness to die for a cause one believes in. Expanding humanity's presence into space is certainly such a worthy cause but is the Shuttle program also one? Who wants to be the last one to die for a failed launch system?...

... OKeefe says NASA will "keep pushing return to flight back” until the proper safety review organization is in place: NASA Chief: Public Approval, Independent Safety Group Key for Shuttle Return to Flight - Space.com - Oct.28.04...

... A policy paper floating around DC suggested that a Kerry administration would try to retire the Shuttles after a few flights to finish the ISS but John Glenn says there is no such plan: Kerry's vision for space: Democrat would strongly back NASA's future by John Glenn - Florida Today - Oct.27.04...

... A brief policy statement on the John Kerry web site doesn't mention the shuttle: Keith Cowing comments....

... Meanwhile, the military is proving that it is just as able as NASA at making space transport incredibly expensive: Air Force: 2 rocket fleets vital: Study examines whether paying only for 1 wise - Florida Today - Oct.27.04

October 27, 2004

A man on a 5 year mission... Burt Rutan plans to stop working on aircraft and concentrate on spaceships: Space Race 2: Flying High Beyond The Sky - UPI/SpaceDaily - Oct.27.04. He says the space tourism vehicle for Virgin Galactic will differ considerably from the SS1:

The backbone of the Branson venture, called Virgin Galactic, will be five ships, each capable of flying at least five and more likely around eight people at one time. SpaceShipTwo will not look anything like its predecessor.

For one thing, Rutan must fix a stability problem caused by SpaceShipOne's high upswept wings. For another, Rutan and Branson plan a ship of luxury, with service and amenities that at least match Virgin Atlantic's upper-class travel service. And that, as any airline flier knows, starts with leg room.

Rutan said SpaceShipTwo will have about the same diameter crew cabin as a Gulfstream V business jet, which measures slightly more than 6 feet in height and 7 feet in width (1.9 meters by 2.2 meters.) Seats will fully recline so that even elderly passengers - Rutan plans to fly his 88-year-old father - will be able to handle the expected force of six times Earth's gravity upon descent.

The G-forces are higher than what SpaceShipOne's pilot experienced, but that is because Rutan is aiming for a top altitude of between 84 miles and 87 miles (135 kilometers and 140 kilometers), rather than the 62-mile, (100 kilometer) target required to win the Ansari X Prize competition.

The extra altitude will add about another 90 seconds of weightlessness for passengers to enjoy. Travelers will be able to do more than watch how candy flies around in space - they can fly themselves.

Armadillo update... John Carmack reports on progress with construction of a large vehicle and on development of a bi-propellant engine: Vehicle work, Regen lox engine - Armadillo Aerospace - Oct.27.04.

Chasing the X-34 dream... Last month SpaceDev announced that it would begin a project to design a space tourism vehicle called the Dream Chaser. The vehicle would use the company's hybrid propulsion technology like the engine the company supplied for the SpaceShipOne.

SpaceDev will collaborate on the design with NASA Ames and they will base the design on NASA's X-34: Scrapped X-34 to be reborn - Florida Today - Oct.27.04. You can hear Jim Benson, head of SpaceDev, speak about the project in his recent interviews on the Space Show on Sept. 28th and Oct.19th.

As it turns out, Rand Simberg postulated four years ago the possibility of a suborbital space tourism vehicle based on a modified X-34 vehicle in his report: Near-Term Prospects For Space Tourism - June 8, 2000 (rtf). However, he presented this more as a proof-of-principle concept that as a practical suggestion. He thought clean-sheet designs would be significantly cheaper to build and operate.

It doesn't appear that SpaceDev will try to modify and fly the existing prototypes but simply start the design process from the X-34 database. In addition to a different propulsion system, the Dream Chaser will launch vertically while the X-34 was to be air launched from Orbital Science's L-1011 aircraft. The X-34 was an unmanned vehicle that would reach Mach 8 while the Dream Chaser will carry three people and need only to reach Mach 3 or 4 to attain the +100km target altitude. (X-34 at NASA History.)

It will be interesting to watch how the Dream Chaser project fares, both technically and as a NASA/private company collaboration. Many space advocates have urged that NASA return to the style of its predecessor, the NACA, and work in support of private space transport companies rather than treating them as competitors or just as contractors hired to build NASA designs.

News briefs ... Alan Boyle discusses the composition of the exhaust of the SpaceShipOne hybrid engine and its possible environmental effects: How do private spaceflights affect environment?: The greening of rocketry - MSNBC/Cosmic Log - Oct.26.04....

... Wernher von Braun's serious rocketry work actually began outside of government and industry with his involvement in the amateur German Verein fur Raumschifffahrt (Rocket Society). Though he came to symbolize giant military and government rocket projects, I think he would be extremely pleased to see the development of low budget, low cost private spaceflight via the X PRIZE and the SS1: Burt Rutan takes a V2-powered wander down memory lane - The Register - Oct.26.04

October 26, 2004

News briefs... Starchaser continues to pursue its suborbital spaceflight project despite the end of the X PRIZE. Here are some recent news items (via Space Race News):

... Virgin Galactic and its long term goals: Branson aiming to build hotel in space - Scotsman - Oct.26.04 ...

... The WTN X PRIZE seeks to motivate pursuits of scientific and technological 'Holy Grails': Ultimate Prize Fights by Dominic Basulto - Tech Central Station - Oct.25.04 (via HS reader S. Starr).

News briefs ... Even if you can't afford the tickets to the X PRIZE Award Gala, you can still see the ceremony where they will give the $10M check and the trophy to the SpaceShipOne team: X Prize party for the public - Alan Boyle/Cosmic Log - Oct.25.04...

... The Cal State Long Beach/Garvey Spacecraft group carried out a static firing test of their LOX/propyline engine last Saturday October 23th at the Mojave test site owned and operated by the Reaction Research Society: Oct.25.04 - LOX/propylene static fire test ...

... The latest newsletter from the Cal Space Authority: SpotBeam California - CSA - Oct.25.04

October 25, 2004

"Six months ahead three months into the schedule"... Burt Rutan gave a lengthy informal talk at the recent Space Frontier Foundation conference in which he spoke extensively about the SpaceShipOne project as well as other topics such as his plans for new vehicles. Jeff Foust recorded the talk and has now posted text excerpts of the presentation: Burt Rutan, in his own words - The Space Review - Oct.25.04.

On the importance of starting with suborbital spaceflight:

"I recognized that if there was going to be space tourism so that we can all fly that we have to make these vehicles extremely robust and safe compared to any other manned spacecraft. Now certainly that enormous step towards making them safe is to not go to orbit first but to fly the Alan Shepard and Joe Walker flights. With suborbital you get about the same view and you get the experience of weightlessness. I tried to convince myself that this was good enough as a first effort."

Where he wants to end up:

"I put out there that before I die I want to see affordable travel to the Moon, that’s essentially where I’m going. What I mean by affordable is not what Houston talks about affordable; I’m talking about where a third of the people in this room can afford to go to the Moon when I finally kick off. That’s my vision."

He also explains why he thinks a vehicle certification process is crucial for commercial suborbital space tourism and says it won't be as expensive as many fear it will be....

.... Vanna Bonta writes about the "most precious payload" carried by SpaceShipOne: Space: what love's got to do with it - The Space Review - Oct.25.04 ...

... More about Rutan's visit to Huntsville: Rutan meets his rocket heroes - BBC - Oct.25.04.

News briefs... Mark Shuttleworth sees suborbital vehicles as laying the groundwork for private space flight: Next challenge for space industry: Space tourist: "We're on the cusp of a new era" - CNN.com - Oct 25, 2004 (Via two HS readers)...

... Dumping the shuttle as soon as possible is a priority in a draft space policy paper for a possible Kerry administration but there doesn't seem to be much about private companies offering alternative space transport: Draft Paper Provides Insight Into NASA Space Policy Options by Keith Cowing/NASA Watch - SpaceRef - Oct.24.04. (From his editorials and from quotes in articles, my impression is that John Logsdon is critical, if not dismissive, of the importance of private space transport development.)

News briefs... Space tourist rides via Rocketplane Ltd. in Oklahoma: Path to the final frontier may lead through Burns Flat - The Oklahoman - Oct.24.04. (Via spacetoday.net)...

... Scaled has posted some pictures from the first X PRIZE flight.

October 24, 2004

The Armadillo forum has this latest Q&A entry from John Carmack.

News briefs... More about the strong early signs that space tourism is a real business: Branson's space gamble pays off - The Guardian - Oct.22.04 ...

... British reporter locates someone in Mojave who isn't impressed with all this space stuff: Branson plays space invaders in California desert - Independent - Oct.23.04...

... Burt Rutan ventures into a NASA town to spread the word of a new way to do space: X-Prize winner says NASA needs another von Braun: Burt Rutan speaks at Space Center, to talk at Moontown - Huntsville Times - Oct.23.04

(Links via spacetoday.net).

October 23, 2004

News briefs... Will Wild Fire fly before Kindersley freezes over? Launch Deadlines Won’t Cancel Private Spaceflight, Canadian Says - Space.com - Oct.22.04...

... A committee of space notables organized by the Planetary Society releases a study of technological and strategic options for implementing a manned exploration policy: Extending Human Presence into the Solar System: An Independent Study for The Planetary Society on Strategy for the Proposed U.S. Space Exploration Policy - Planetary Society - Oct.04 (pdf)

October 22, 2004

News briefs... Have you bought your X PRIZE dinner ticket yet? Invitation to attend $10M Ansari X PRIZE Award GALA November 6th, 2004 - X PRIZE Space Race News! - Oct.21.04 ...

... Alan Boyle talks about the party X Prize party news - Alan Boyle/Cosmic Log - Oct.20.04 plus he gives an update on GoldenPalace/daVinci and Space Transport's rocket flight plans...

... Here's more on da Vinci: Private Spaceship Faces Deadline - Discovery Channel - Oct.22.04 ...

... Sure wish all of the Enterprise's sister ships were safe and sound in museums: Space shuttle Enterprise is centerpiece of museum - Scripps-Howard - Oct.21.04

Good Galactic omens... Encouraging signs of strong enthusiasm for Virgin Galactic 's suborbital space tourism flights:

"In all, more than $1.45 billion (£800 million) has been pledged -- years before the Virgin Galactic spaceship is even built, Branson said."

No telling how many of these 7000 astronaut hopefuls will really put down their cash when rides are avalable but if only a thousand do that would still provide a healthy ~$100M profit on a ~$100M investment.

(Links via spacetoday.net).

Multi-talented nuclear rocket... Bruce Behrhorst interviews Russell Joyner of the Propulsion Systems Analysis group at Pratt & Whitney about a design (created in collaboration with several collaborators at other organizations) of an innovative thermal nuclear rocket for in-space propulsion: Pratt &Whitney Thermal Nuclear Rocket Entry: Triton - NuclearSpace.com.

The Triton can perform in two propulsion modes. In high efficiency, medium thrust mode, hydrogen is gasified by the high temperature of the "fast-spectrum beryllium-reflected CERMET-fueled nuclear reactor" and the gaseous hydrogen is accelerated out through the nozzle giving an Isp of greater that 900 seconds.

The second mode uses thrust augmentation with Liquid Oxygen (LOX) to provide double the thrust. "The LOX is combusted with gaseous hydrogen that has exited the reactor core supersonically downstream of 'the throat' at optimum injection points within the regenerative section of the nozzle."

In addition, the reactor can provide power for the spacecraft. It could provide a long duration Mars mission with 25-100 kW electric.

October 21, 2004

News briefs ... XCOR Aerospace announces progress in its piston-pump project: XCOR Makes Progress On DARPA-Funded Pump-Fed Rocket Program - XCOR - Oct.21.04 (Includes a video of the pump in action.) ...

... Lompoc, California, home to Vandenberg Air Force Base, wants some of the suborbital space tourism action: The stuff of big dreams - The Lompoc Record - Oct.20.04.

October 20, 2004

Da Vinci update... GoldinPalace/daVinci has 10 days left on its current launch permit: Da Vinci X Prize Project Faces Final Insurance Deadline - UPI/SpaceDaily - Oct.19.04.

Senate intentions... The cover story in this week's Space News is about HR 3752. Not a whole lot new except for a conversation with one of the Senate Commerce Committee staffers. The staffer was reported to have said that

"it was not the committee's intention to required the FAA to absolutely guarantee passenger and crew safety before licensing suborbital operators. However, the staffer said, the committee does not want the FAA to be entirely silent on passenger safety either."

The staffer believed there was time left this year to pass a bill that was crafted to "mitigate inaccurate interpretation of our intent".

SAS update on spaceflight legislation... Here's the latest message from Henry Vanderbilt of the Space Access Society:

Space Access Update #105 10/19/04
Copyright 2004 by Space Access Society

If you've begun to detect a pattern in the intros to our last few Updates, you're not alone. Once again we write in extreme haste, and have to pass over much good and interesting news - this time to cover a subject of considerable urgency.

Contents this issue:
     - HR 3752 In Jeopardy - License To Fly, Or Death Of An Industry?

HR 3752 Current Status

(See our Update #102, at http://www.space-access.org/updates/sau102, for some background on Federal regulation of the promising new US private passenger-carrying spaceflight industry.)
A law usefully clarifying current Federal commercial launch regulations as they affect carrying commercial passengers, HR 3752, The Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 2004, has been working its way through the Congress since last winter. In brief, HR 3752 alters existing law to both allow and encourage the Federal Aviation Administration's Advanced Space Transportation division (FAA AST) to license low-cost reusable commercial passenger-carrying space vehicles on an informed- consent-to-risk basis that gives the new industry a chance to grow, rather than strangling it in the cradle with unrealistically rigid standards that the new technology cannot yet support.

HR 3752 passed the House by a vote of 402-1 this summer, in a form that wasn't perfect (it created considerable uncertainty via a too-narrow definition of "suborbital rocket" that excluded some serious current design approaches) but that with a bit of common sense from the FAA might have worked reasonably well.

The bill then went to the Senate Commerce Committee, where it ran into its first major snag - a Senator from a state hosting a reusable rocket company whose design fell outside the "suborbital rocket" definition put a hold on the bill. This part of the story has a happy ending; the FAA division that had previously refused to budge on that overly narrow definition eventually budged, and a new expanded definition was written into the Senate version of HR 3752.

By then though two more months had passed, the elections were close at hand, and the practical options for passing HR 3752 had narrowed down to Senate Commerce Committee staffers working out an acceptable version with their House counterparts, then both Senate and House passing identical new versions under fast-track "unanimous consent" rules. This should have been no problem; we're told the House was (and is) happy with the revised more-inclusive definition of a suborbital rocket.

But someone, for whatever reason, threw a spanner in the works, altering another section of the bill that defined allowable levels of risk in a manner that would have killed the budding new industry stone dead. Briefly, HR 3752 said that risk to uninvolved members of the public had to be kept many-nines low, risk to crewmembers was a matter for FAA AST to work out with individual companies as part of the licensing process, while passengers simply had to be fully informed of the risks involved. The change was a simple one - FAA AST was to become responsible for ensuring the same many-nines level of safety for crew and passengers of the new vehicles as that required for uninvolved bystanders.

This may even have been well-intentioned; it could have sounded reasonable to someone not well-informed about the field. But the practical effect would be to require astronomical numbers of successful test flights of any new vehicle to statistically prove a many-nines reliability level, before either passengers or crew would be allowed on board. The relatively immature state of reusable rocket technology aside, no unpiloted or remote-piloted vehicle has ever come close to that reliability level. This change was an industry-killer.

The bill as fatally altered was set to move out of the Senate Commerce Committee for quick unanimous-consent passage by the Senate at the start of October. Only another hold by a Senator on the Committee stopped this at the last second, at which point the various parties agreed to sit down and work out differences over the election break, and if a version could be agreed on, pass it by unanimous consent in the final post-election session of this Congress. That's where things stand now.

What To Do

If you're a US citizen from one of the fifty states, you have two Senators. Fax or phone them in DC, or contact them back at home if the election campaign gives you a chance, and ask them to support a version of HR 3752 acceptable to the FAA and to the members of the new reusable rocket industry. If appropriate, go on to give a very brief supporting pitch, to the effect that this new industry has huge promise for the US, that it's appropriate to have the FAA stringently regulate risk to the general public, but that industry participants have to be able to take some risks in these early days in order to learn enough so that rockets can eventually be as safe as airplanes only got after generations of accumulated aviation experience.

For contact info, go to http://www.vote-smart.org and enter your nine- digit zip code (look at one of your bills) in the Find Your Representatives box. Scan down to your two Senators, click on their names, and you should have all the info you need.

If you fax, be polite, brief, and straightforward - keep it well under one page of reasonably large and readable print (a paragraph that's read is better than an essay that isn't), make your basic point at the start, support it briefly, then sign it with your name, city, and state and send it. (No paper-mail letters - word is those currently are backed up for months by security checks - and email comes in such volumes that individual emails carry almost zero weight. If you want to write, fax it.)

If you phone, ask to speak to whoever handles commercial space matters for your Senator, then when you're connected to that staffer (or more likely their voicemail) do the same as for a fax - make the basic support request, then if appropriate back it up briefly, thank them for their time, and ring off. If they have questions, do your best to answer them - briefly! - you might want to go over the background here and in SAU #102 before calling - then once done, thank them and ring off.

Don't assume because you didn't read this until a week or two after we sent it out that it's no longer urgent. The window for effective action on this will likely be open well into November. Stay tuned for further word; we'll report as soon as we know anything. Meanwhile - fax and call!

Space Access Society's sole purpose is to promote radical reductions in the cost of reaching space. You may redistribute this Update in any medium you choose, as long as you do it unedited in its entirety. You may reproduce sections of this Update beyond obvious "fair use" quotes if you credit the source and include a pointer to our website.

Space Access Society

"Reach low orbit and you're halfway to anywhere in the Solar System"
- Robert A. Heinlein

October 19, 2004

News briefs... More SS1 articles:

... Plus another space tourism article: Final frontier: Space tourism - Boston Globe - Oct.18.04. This author definitely understands the plan:

"The road from here to fully reusable orbital rockets, though, can be accomplished entirely in the tried-and-true aviation tradition of build a little, test a little, learning new lessons along the way and applying them to the next test vehicle."

Exploration studies... NASA announced the contracts for the Space Exploration Studies back on Sept. 1. Spaceref has posted the presentations (in PDF format) given by the teams on their proposed designs: NASA: Taking the Vision to the Next Step - NASA/Spaceref - Oct.18.04.

I've not read all of them but the t/Space presentation is particularly interesting. For example, these Safety & human rated vehicle bullet points are right on:

  • Safety results from design choices, not oversight
    • Attempting to produce safety by inspection, quality control, documentation, meetings, etc., is ineffective and costly
    • The right choices include a robust and resilient concept, vehicles with ample margins and reserves, and high flight rates using smaller vehicles
  • Flight history determines if a vehicle is "human rated"
    • Requires hundreds of flights for statistical validity
    • "Determination-by-analysis" is just an estimate
  • Cost is an object
    • Expensive systems have too few units built to give resiliency to the architecture, and/or high operating costs lead to unsafe low flight rates.


News briefs... The Space Show this evening will once again feature Jim Benson of SpaceDev who "will be discussing new projects and the SpaceDev participation in the X-Prize flights with SpaceShipOne." ...

... Aerospace engineers can apply for rocket regulating jobs at AST: Commercial Space Transportation - FAA / AST....

... More on Winglee's MagBeam space transport: Magnetic beams could power swifter spacecraft - New Scientist - Oct.18.04 ...

... More good press for space tourism: Space tours pique public's interest - Florida Today - Oct.17.04....

... While at Mojave for the SS1 flight I noticed activity around Orbital Science's L-1011 Stargazer, which is used to launch Pegasus rockets. I now know why: Stargazer Departs for DART Mission - Alan's Mojave Airport Weblog - Oct.18.04 * NASA Announces Dart Launch Schedule - NASA - Oct. 18.04. See also DART - MSFC and DART - NASA HQ.

October 18, 2004

SS1 briefs ... Scaled has updated the SpaceShipOne / White Knight flight log with entries for the September 29th and October 4th X PRIZE flights. (Via a HS reader)...

... The Rocket Boosters have done quite well for local Mojave charities: Rocket Boosters to share success - Antelope Valley Press/Space Race News Oct.15.04...

... The latest issue of Aviation Week includes the interesting article: Pilots Reflect on SpaceShipOne Development. Unfortunately it's only available by paid subscription so far. Some of the highlights include:

  • Neither SpaceDev nor eAc produced motors with the thrust profiles that Scaled wanted for the SS1. Scaled wanted a
    • "slow ramp-up to give the pilot time to pull the nose to a vertical ascent before full thrust started, so that impulse was not wasted in the horizontal direction ...."
    • " [Then] maximum thrust to get acceleration done quickly while still in the atmosphere so aerodynamic controls would be effective to counter thrust asymmetries."
    • "[And finally] a tailoff of thrust that matched the craft slipping out of the atmosphere, to get the last bit of impulse with thrust low enough to be countered by declining aerodynamics. With the ideal profile, this tailoff would start at 140,000 ft. at 80 kt. equivalent airspeed (KEAS)."

  • A chart shows big discrepancies between the profiles of the two motors from the companies and this ideal profile SpaceDev won the contract mostly because the eAc motor required a longer burn time to reach the desired altitude.

  • Handling in the in the first 10-15 sec after ignition is particularly difficult and in general the Work load on the pilots was very high. E.g. Mike Melvill said:
    • "On my first powered flight there wasn't enough mental bandwidth...I didn't hear or feel anything, I just focused on the display. By the third time I noticed a lot more. The rocket made a weird howling noise at high altitude; I didn't notice that on the first flight."

  • The simulator was less than perfect, e.g.
    • "'hard to remember that the sim doesn't fly exactly like the real aircraft,' [Pete] Siebold says. 'It's harder when the sim teaches you techniques that just don't work in the aircraft.'"

  • During the design phase
    • "the pilots wanted stability augmentation, but Rutan wanted simple, reliable manual cable controls. SpaceShipOne has achieved its goal of being the first private spaceship ... but only through a high level of pilot skill, courage, and training."

  • Virgin Galactic wants the SS2 to be "very straightforward to handle" and "the Scaled pilots are sure that means the next craft will have stability augmentation."

News briefs ... John Carmack reports on the progress in building their next large vehicle and with the bi-propellant engine development: SFF '04, Vehicle base, LOX engine work - Armadillo Aerospace - Oct.17.04...

...Here is a profile of Peter Diamandis: A Lone Dreamer Fuels A New Space Age - AP/TBO.com - Oct.16.04 ...

... Here's some guy's comments on prizes for technology inducement: On the Contrary: Do Good! Win a Prize! - The New York Times - Oct.17.04...

... More on space tourism safety: Safety weighs heavily on space tourism: Space tourism is beginning to take off, but who will protect the paying astronauts -- and the rest of us here on the ground? - Miami Herald.com - Oct.17.04

October 15, 2004

A real space business... This article looks at the prospects for Richard Branson's space tourism startup: Virgin Galactic's Space Odyssey: Richard Branson's plans for suborbital tourism may sound pie-in-the-sky, but he has details all worked out - Business Week - OCt.15.04

I think it's starting to sink in that suborbital space tourism is not like the "factories in low earth orbit" type of hand-waving of the 1980s.

  • There is now an actual working prototype vehicle that proves the concept.

  • There are high-quality market studies showing a sufficient number of customers to support a business plan based on such a vehicle.

  • One company (Space Adventures) has taken deposits for suborbtial space flights already from several dozen people and another company (Virgin Galactic) has had people trying to make reservations even before the company is ready to take them.

There's certainly no proof that it will be a multi-billion dollar business very soon. However, suborbital space tourism looks like it can produce profits in the multi-tens of millions and possibly multi-hundreds of millions of dollars.

Of course, nothing is guaranteed. Regulatory and liability roadblocks could delay flights for many years. A serious recession could greatly diminish the market.

Nevertheless, it sure seems to me that big progress is being made. Within just a few years we have seen proposals of human spaceflight businesses go from wild fantasies to a real market in which serious money is being invested by hard-nosed business people who believe a decent return can be made on that investment.

DaVinci news... GoldenPalace/daVinci says they still plan to launch soon: A da Vinci Project Update for Canadian Town - Space.com - Oct.15.04. However, as this article indicates - Little spaceport on the prairie - Wired - Oct.15.04 (starts midway down the page) - their government launch permit is only good through Nov. 1.

News briefs... Andrew Pakahomov's laser propulsion group at the University of Alabama gives a micro-craft a micro-boost: One wee hop for a laser 'craft' might also be a giant leap - Univ. of Alabama at Huntsville - Oct.1 04 ...

... Robert Winglee at the University of Washington gets NASA funds to study his Magnetized Beamed Plasma Propulsion(MagBeam) propulsion concept that could provide for quick interplanetary flights: New propulsion concept could make 90-day Mars round trip possible - Univ. Washington - Oct.14.04 * Ride the mag-beam to Mars - Alan Boyle/Cosmic Log - Oct.14.04 ...

... Maybe with all that oil money coming in, Russia will spend some on rocket development: Russia Prepares Launch of New Space Shuttle - MOSNEWS.COM - Sept.16.04....

... MSS gives an update on their igniter project: Second Generation Igniter Progress - Masten Space Systems - Oct.14.04....

... Another AP report on the status of the suborbital legislation: Senate Dispute May Scuttle Space Tourism Bill - AP/Space.com - Oct.14.04...

... Burt Rutan and his SS1 team get to appreciate a fine automobile: From Elsie to Elise: Spaceshipone designer Burt Rutan takes the latest Lotus out for a spin - AutoWeek - Sept.27.04 (via Cosmic Log) ...

... At the Space Frontier meeting last weekend, the SS1 project and the X PRIZE received honarary awards: X-Prize, SpaceShipOne Receive Awards – Pair "Blew the Hinges Off the Door to the Frontier" - SFF - Oct. 14.04...

... After accepting the award, Burt Rutan proceeded to give an informal talk at the banquet that lasted for more than an hour and half. He spoke about the SS1 project and also on other topics such as how he got interested in spaceflight originally. (One attendee told me that this talk alone was worth the cross-country trip to Long Beach.) Jeff Foust will be reporting on it in one of his upcoming Space Review issues.

October 14, 2004

News briefs... Leonard David spoke with Burt Rutan the day after the final SS1 X PRIZE flight: Burt Rutan: Building 'Tomorrowland' One Launch at a Time - interview with Leonard David - Space.com - Oct.14...

... More about Burt Rutan here: Focus on SpaceShipOne's creator - AFP/iafrica.com - Oct.14.04 (via spacetoday.net) ...

... The final X-43A flight to occur next month: MACH 10 Free Flight of Hypersonic X-43A Slated for November - NASA Dryden - Oct.13.04...

... Note the Exploring and Privateering Space Conference in Huntsville, Alabama, Nov.12-14, 2004 that I posted above (via Space Race News).

News briefs... AP reports on the status of the suborbital legislation: Dispute may scuttle space tourism bill - AP/CentreDaily - Oct.13.04 (via spacetoday.net) ...

... Alan Boyle gives the latest on the SpaceX launch schedule and Burt Rutan's lunar travel plans in The rocket report - Alan Boyle/Cosmic Log - Oct.13.04...

... The Space Tourism Initiative organization is sponsoring both an industry summit and a public conference: Space Tourism Initiative Announces Trade-Only Space Tourism Summit - SpaceDaily - Oct.12.04.

HS visibility... It's always great to get a plug in Alan Boyle's weblog and to see HS on his link list. Another morale boost came with the latest issue of Space News. Brian Berger has an article about Gary Hudson, whose Air Launch and t/Space startups won $14M in government funding this year. He includes a quote from the interview I did with Gary last year in which Gary said "someone needs to spank NASA..." Berger refers to HobbySpace.com as "an online publication that caters to the entrepreneurial crowd". Glad to hear it has become a crowd.

October 13, 2004

News briefs... Armadillo Aerospace has posted on their home page a video shown at the recent Space Frontier Foundation meeting. Along with some cool animation, it shows lots of clips of rocket tests and other development work carried out by the team over the past year or two...

... Irene Klotz reports on the X PRIZE Cup and regulation challenges facing suborbital space transport companies: Space Race 2: After The X Prize by Irene Mona Klotz - UPI/SpaceDaily - Oct.12.04 (I think the flight path restrictions issue is another reason Rutan is not happy with AST.) ...

... Jeff Foust reports on the indemnification issue: Saving commercial launch indemnification - Space Politics - Oct.12.04.

The SpaceX update for August/September is now posted. I reported earlier oon developments at their Vandenberg pad.. Here are some highlights from the technical updates section:

  • Aluminum was replaced on the engine fuel manifold with inconel to prevent a cracking problem.
  • The Merlin engine produces 81,000 lb thrust and "in fact the engine has to be detuned to bring thrust down to within specifications for Falcon I."
  • " All major launch pad construction is complete..."
  • The pad infrastructure is much simpler than most other US facilities and "bears a closer resemblance to the current Russian/Ukrainian approach or the early US Thor architecture."
  • Replacing the aluminum interstage with an optimized carbon fiber/honeycomb design saved both weight and costs.
  • There has been some growth in engine mass but it still appears that the first stage will meet their propellant mass fraction target of 94%.

News briefs... Space Transport has rescheduled the Rubicon-2 flight to October 24th but will fire a Three-Stage Rocket on the 17th ...

... Space elevator companies are seeking intermediate applications to achieve incremental development of the technology: Space elevator effort starting on ground floor: Evangelists focus on down-to-earth realities, not sky-high dreams by Alan Boyle - MSNBC - Oct.12.04 ...

... The Third International Symposium on Beamed Energy Propulsion (ISBEP 3) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York on October 11 - 14, 2004 gets some publicity: Scientists shine a light on lasers in spaceflight: RPI gathers experts for symposium on "beamed energy propulsion" - timesunion.com (Albany, N.Y.) - Oct.12.03...

... Another article on the Air Force radar that tracked the SS1: Edwards system monitors SpaceShipOne during flights - Spaceflight Now - Oct.11.04....

... The Demonstration for Autonomous Rendezvous Technology (DART) will be launched later this month: NASA spacecraft moves one step closer to fall launch - NASA MSFC - Sept.30.04

Galactic enthusiasm ... The Virgin Galactic web site has gotten 7.5 million visitors since it opened a couple of weeks ago. About 185 people came in person to the office seeking more information and asking about making reservations: Space adventurers race to get aboard Virgin ship - CNET News.com - Oct.12.04.

Certification issues... I mentioned below that Burt Rutan has said for his next generation SS2 he will pursue a flight certification from the aviation side of the FAA rather than a launch license from the AST office in the FAA. In response to that entry, a HS reader sent me a link to the history of the Beechcraft/Raytheon Starship, which Scaled Composites helped to design and for which it built an 85% scale prototype. The article describes the long and difficult process forced upon the companies by the FAA to certify this radical (at the time), all-composite vehicle.

So I find it rather surprising that Burt believes that certification will be the faster regulatory approach for a spaceship. In this interview he doesn't talk about certification, but perhaps it is his experiences with lawsuits arising from his kitplanes (see the Q&A midway down on this page) that have convinced him that certification is the best defense if a SS2 accident leads to a similar court case. (Or perhaps the insurance companies that he has talked to believe that it is.)

On the other hand, many of the smaller companies building manned suborbital rocket vehicles are very worried that a certification process would be far more expensive and time consuming than they could possibly absorb at this early stage. Each company's vehicle will be unique and so each would require a certification process starting from scratch, or nearly so. Companies struggling to raise a few tens of millions of dollars to design and build a vehicle will obviously be in trouble if they need a hundred million dollars to certify it.

They would prefer the HR3752 regulatory approach, which offers a passenger "consent form" style waiver protection. However, whether this would actually provide an effective shield from lawsuits is not a sure thing either.

(BTW: the August/September 2004 issue of the Smithsonian Air & Space Magazine has an excellent article on the many trials and tribulations that occurred in the development of the Starship, which has now been discontinued by Raytheon.) ...

... The Instapundit discusses commercial space regulation: Good News and Bad News for Commercial Space by Glenn H. Reynolds- Tech Central Station - Oct.12.04

October 12, 2004

Supply-side rockets... I was so preoccupied last week with the SS1 flight that I forgot to highlight this article at the Space Review: A "Moore's Law" for space transportation: what will it take? by David Hoerr - The Space Review - Oct.4.04. David looks at the possibility of generating a Moore's Law type of process in which lower orbital launch costs attract more and more users who in turn drive the development of even lower cost rides.

The usual scenario for producing lower costs to orbit involves a private company designing and building a vehicle, making two or three of them, and then selling rides to orbit for payloads and people (e.g. Kistler Aerospace.) David, a co-author of The Rocket Company, suggests a different approach, one similar to that presented in the book, in which a company concentrates just on building vehicles and then sells as many vehicles as possible to spaceline companies and other countries (assuming ITAR issues can be dealt with) who focus on using them for transporting cargo and people to orbit.

He suggests starting off with a "small, flexible, affordable vehicle", which would most likely use a two-stage-to-orbit (TSTO) design and provide a payload capability in the four or five thousand kilogram range. This is similar to the payload of the DC-3 that created a viable commercial air transportation industry.

In the early decades of aviation, the only people making money were the ones building and selling airplanes. People bought airplanes before they had any profitable use for them. As more airplanes were sold, more people could experiment with them to figure out how to make money, and the airplane manufacturers could use those revenues and attract additional investments to pay for the enhancements, improvements, and technology developments that reduced costs and ultimately gave us the air transportation industry that we have today. The supply of airplanes led to the development of the demand for air transportation services. Let’s take a similar “supply-side” approach to opening the space frontier!

News briefs... The Space Transport home page says that they will try a launch of the Rubicon-2 demonstrator this weekend...

... GoldenPalace/daVinci is still dealing with development issues and has not yet announced when its first flight will take place: Canadian spaceship representative visits Sask. to prepare for launch - Saskatoon StarPhoenix - Oct.11.04 ( via spacetoday.net)....

... AP report on the Space Frontier meeting: Space Tourism Seeking Public Investors - AP/NY Times - Oct.12.04....

... Civilian space wings (for pilots and crew only): Now Earning Wings, a New Kind of Astronaut - NY Times - Oct.12.04.

SS1 briefs... The Scaled Composites web site had posted special pages dedicated to the first and second X PRIZE flights...

... This multimedia viewer - AOL Research and Learn : Ansari X Prize - presents the X PRIZE flight at different angles.

October 11, 2004

News briefs... The latest edition of the Space Review includes the following articles of interest:

... A video of the second SS1 X PRIZE flight has been posted on the Tier One site. (Via a HS reader.)

Regulation notes... The Space Review also has this discussion of the suborbital regulation bill situation: When good legislation goes bad by Jeff Foust - The Space Review - Oct.11.04. Jeff includes links to the original HR3752 and a copy of the Senate version posted at SpaceWatch....

... In a recent Arocket posting, John Carmack reports on a discussion with Burt Rutan about dealing with regulations on suborbitals. Burt said that he plans to certify his next vehicles rather than get AST launch licenses as he did with the SS1. Though he has never certified an aircraft he apparently has such strong objections to the current AST regulation regime that he wants to go the certification route instead.

Certification in this context refers to the process that the FAA uses to judge a model of aircraft as safe for paying passengers. I know little about the certification procedure but I've heard that it is especially time-consuming and expensive for a completely new aircraft model as opposed to that for a modified version of a previously certified aircraft.

I wonder how the aviation section of the FAA will deal with a completely new type of craft that is rocket powered and operates in both air and space? I assume Burt has gotten some indication from them that certification is doable in a reasonably finite time. Otherwise, it seems like a huge gamble to go this route.

On the other hand, I've been told that certification is the best defense in law suits arising from vehicle accidents. While not 100% effective, it is a big help to tell a jury that the vehicle in question was certified by the FAA to be designed and built with sound engineering practices and technology. ( For liability protection, the current suborbital legislation relies on waivers signed by the passengers.)

SS1 roll problem in the first X PRIZE flight is explained in more detail by an article in the latest Aviation Week: SpaceShipOne Wins Ansari X Prize - Aviation Week - Oct.10.04. (A photo of the earth taken by Brian Binnie near apogee is on the cover.)

A slightly negative angle of attack (AOA) at high Mach reduced the directional stability and the SS1 yawed about 8 deg. Then a "strong dihedral effect coupled the yaw into roll, and the nose pitched up about 15 deg. as well, starting a snap roll motion that was uncomfortable for Melvill."

That soon settled into a pure roll at about 180deg./sec. Before aerodynamic controls became useless due to the thinning atmosphere, Melvill was able to reduce the roll to about 140deg./sec using left rudder and rudder trim.

After the engine was shut down and the feather deployed, he was able to use the cold-gas reaction control system to eliminate the roll completely. Rutan was glad to see this tested but noted that it used up most of the gas and said "we don't need to try that again."

For the second flight, a positive AOA was maintained. However, you don't want too much else the craft goes on its back. So a less aggressive pullup was done. These measures successfuly prevented the roll problem.

One other interesting item in the article. With the licensing money from Virgin Galactic plus the X PRIZE purse, the return will nearly match Paul Allen's total investment in the SS1 project. (At the post-flight news conference, however, there was mentioned the possibility that at least some of the purse will be split into bonuses for the Scale Composites team members.)

October 10, 2004

Space Frontier reports... Michael Mealling continues his posting of brief summaries of talks at the Space Frontier meeting in Long Beach this weekend.

BTW: I was amazed yesterday when I happened to hear one of the hourly five minute news report on NPR (National Public Radio) and it ended with a brief item about the Space Frontier Conference. The announcer said that commercial space development was being discussed and then mentioned the recent X PRIZE flights.

Unusual, to say the least, for a space advocacy meeting to get attention like that. The times seem to be changing.

Radio space reports... NPR has also posted several of its reports on the X PRIZE, SpaceShipOne and commercial space development. This includes an interesting hour long show from the latest Science Friday in which "The Future of Private Space Travel" was discussed. Guests included Rick Tumlinson and Bob Haltermann (former executive director, Space Travel and Tourism Division at the Space Transportation Association).

News briefs ... Various articles on commercial spaceflight developments (via spacetoday.net):

... Plans continue to develop for the Russian Kliper RLV: New Reusable Spacecraft To Lift Off After 2012 - Novosti RIA - Oct.9.04 (Now it's a question of whether the funding will grow!) ...

... The EELV program is no bargain for the military: Rocket program deep in the red: Military miscalculations combined with depressed commercial market lead to $14.4 billion overrun - Florida Today - Oct.10.04 * Most defense space projects over budget - Florida Today - Oct.10.04

October 9, 2004

Blue Kremlinology ... Hard to discern what's happening behind the high azure walls at Blue Origin but I just thought I'd pass along this tidbit. It appears that the blurb on the homepage about the jobs available has changed recently. (At least according to my link checker, my lousy memory, and the last entry at archive.org.) It says that since June 2003 they doubled the size of the "Seattle-based design team" and it lists the names of several companies, e.g. Kistler, DC-X, Sea Launch, etc., where the personnel previously played "key roles".

Suborbital legislation... It ain't over till it's over, as they say in sports. There is still a remote chance that HR-3752 will be resurrected in the short lame duck session of Congress after the election: Good intentions, bad legislation - Space Politics - Oct.8.04.

If some Senators actually do get involved with the bill rather than letting some staffers decide on their own the future of an entire industry, then something good might come out of all this afterall....

... Michael Mealling also is posting summaries of talks at the Space Frontier meeting in Long Beach this weekend and gives this report on Jim Muncy's presentation: Jim Muncy talks about the bill - RocketForge - Oct.7.04 ...

... Meanwhile, the big guys make sure they get their priorities attended to: House Passes Bill Extending Protection for Satellite Launches - SpaceRef/House Science Committee - Oct.8.04 ...

... Alan Boyle reflects on the legislative disappointment at the end of an otherwise glorious week for the fledgling private spaceflight industry: Hands off our spaceships! - Alan Boyle/Cosmic Log - Oct.8.04

News briefs ... The Air Force awards a contract to SpaceDev for continued design of a small launcher based on the company's hybrid engine technology: SpaceDev Awarded $1.5M Phase II Small Launch Vehicle Contract - SpaceDev - Oct.7.04....

... The agenda for the next AST COMSTAC meeting has been posted: Agenda for COMSTAC (Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee) meeting Oct.27-28 - FAA / AST ...

... Alan Boyle profiles Interorbital Systems as an example of an ex-X PRIZE team dealing with the end of the race: Space racers set sights on orbital frontier: After X Prize, some rivals seek more lucrative payoff by Alan Boyle - MSNBC - Oct.8.04 ...

... National Geographic provides a list of fun factoids about the SS1 project: SpaceShipOne Burns Rubber, Laughing Gas - More Fun Facts - National Geographic - Oct.7.04...

... Here's more about the radar tracking system used by the Air Force to follow the SS1: Edwards system monitors SpaceShipOne during flights - Air Force Link - Oct.8.04

October 8, 2004

SS1 articles ... Jeff Foust has posted a special issue of the Space Review in response to the success of the SS1 flight:

Space tourism notes... Here is the kind of customer the alternative space companies need more of: San Diego flight fans hope to find the right stuff in zero-gravity ride - SignOnSanDiego.com - Oct.8.04.

Like many Americans who are considered middle class, if his house is included then his net worth most likely reaches to a few hundred thousand dollars. So while the initial $200k price for a flight on the SS2 would be outside his reach, if the price came down to the $50K range, a flight enthusiast like him would jump at the chance for the experience of a lifetime. And it wouldn't threaten his economic situation any more than if he bought a BMW as a second or third family car.

Despite all the whining, the American middle class is incredibly wealthy both in relative and absolute terms. Per capita GDP has nearly tripled since the start of the Space Age in 1957. See this article and this one for some perspective. ...

... Customers are already lining up for the SS2: First Edinburgh man in space - New Scotsman - Oct.8.04 -

"We’ve had people literally coming up to our doors with cheques for the first flights as well, even though we aren’t taking bookings or deposits yet. Trevor Beattie, who is a very well known advertising guru, actually came out to the Mojave Desert and wrote Richard out a cheque, and we’ve also had Gene Simmons from the rock band Kiss who asked where he could send the money.

"We even had Captain Kirk himself - William Shatner - who said he wanted to be a part of this. It’s been an unbelievable reaction.

... The US has a window of opportunity to take advantage of the technologies created by companies like Scaled Composites but eventually other countries will catch up: Does U.S. have right stuff for space tourism? - baltimoresun.com - Oct.8.04

Suborbital bill crashes, industry survives... According to Alan Boyle at MSNBC - Suborbital legislation suddenly sinks: Amended bill said to carry ‘poison pill’ for spaceflight - MSNBC - Oct.7.04 - Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California has managed to get HR-3752 withdrawn from consideration. This kills the legislation for this year but it avoids the negative consequences of a potentially deadly mandate inserted into the bill at the last minute.

(See the discussion at Legislative Emergency - Transterrestrial Musings - Oct.7.04.)

I'm not a lawyer or an expert on this bill but here is how I understand the problem. The part of the legislation in question deals with the required level of safety these vehicles must provide with respect to three groups:

  1. The uninvolved public - i.e. people on the ground in schools, cars, houses, etc. who have nothing to do with the operation of the vehicle in any way. (Not clear to me if people attending a "rocket air show" are completely uninvolved but that's a separate matter.)
  2. Paying passengers
  3. Crew members

Everyone agrees that vehicle operations should achieve the very highest level of safety possible for the uninvolved public. Generally, this is obtained by launching in remote areas and arranging a flight so that a failure at any point along the trajectory will avoid damage to populated areas. The licenses for test operations obtained by Scaled Composites and XCOR required a huge amount of study of a wide range of potential disaster scenarios and they had to show that the probability that these would result in injuries to people on the ground was extremely low.

With the current AST licenses for test flights, the crew (i.e.the pilot and any other company employees on board) are allowed to take personal risks as they see fit.

Under the original HR-3752 legislation, paying passengers, who are labeled as "space flight participants, would be fully informed of the dangers of the flight and they would supply "written informed consent".

It's a big source of argument as to how much protection such consent agreements would provide if, say, family members of a person killed in a crash decided to sue the company who built the vehicle. I tend to believe they are a good deal better than nothing but some knowledgeable people disagree.

The mandate inserted into the legislation would have required that the licensed vehicles provide both passengers AND crew the same level of protection as that required for the uninvolved public. That's obviously impossible. To prove that kind of safety, you would need to fly a vehicle thousands of times to build up the statistical base. But how can you do that for an SS1 type vehicle without a pilot? You can't get there from here.

At least this particular threat is gone now that the bill is withdrawn. However, it's difficult to see where things will go from here. There is a lot of disagreement among the suborbital companies as to how best to protect the industry from lawsuits and how to attract affordable insurance rates. Burt Rutan, for example, was not a supporter of HR-3752 (though I don't believe he was an active opponent either). Ideally, the suborbital vehicle companies would come together and agree on a common approach but that's very unlikely due to various competitive and personal disagreements.

So stay tuned. The regulatory and liability problems are going to be at least as tough to solve as the financial and technical challenges over the next couple of years.

Black Sky is excellent... Tonight I saw the Discovery Channel program "Black Sky: The Race for Space" about the SS1 project and, as Burt Rutan indicated at the press conference, it really is super. Gives a marvelous insider's view of the struggles and triumphs of the project. It will be shown again on October 10th.

See also Alan Boyle's comments at New light on 'Black Sky' - Alan Boyle/Cosmic Log - Oct.7.04. I also ordered my DVD at Black Sky: The Race for Space DVD -- Discovery Channel Store -- 713826.

Putting your payload on the Falcon... Check out the Payload Users Guide - Falcon Launch Vehicle - Oct.2004 now available on the SpaceX website.

News briefs... Here's an AP report on the regulation issues: Space Tourism Faces Safety Regulations - AP/Space.com - Oct.7.04...

... At least Congress could manage to pass a bill honoring the SS1 team: House Passes Resolution Honoring X Prize Recipients - ComSpaceWatch -Oct.7.04...

... L.A. discovers Mojave: Mojave, California: Spaceport - LA CityBEAT / Valley BEAT - Oct.7.04....

... SpaceDev touts its hybrid propulsion system on the SS1: SpaceDev Powers SpaceShipOne To Historic Heights As Well As The Ansari X-Prize Victory - SpaceDev - Oct.4.04.

October 7, 2004

Suborbital bill hijacked... Just got this message Jeff Greason of XCOR Aerospace that the current legislation to assist the development of the suborbital spaceflight industry has been distorted by Senate staffers into something that will instead smother the industry in the cradle:

There is a last-minute move by some staffers in the Senate to heavily amend HR 3752. The amendments would completely change the charter of the office of commercial space transportation (AST), placing the safety of the crew and passengers on equal footing with the safety of the uninvolved public. Since that is well beyond present technology, it would effectively stop development of the industry in the U.S.. It is too late to fix the bill before the session adjourns, but not too late to stop it. If you or people you know have connections to any Senator, please ask them to put a "hold" on HR 3752. That prevents it from passing by unanimous consent. We may have less than 24 hours.

If the bill is "held" there may be opportunity to fix it in a post-election session -- but if not, we would still rather the bill die than pass with these poison-pill amendments.

If your Senator is on the Commerce Committee, that's even better: commerce.senate.gov/about/membership.html

Suborbital science market opening... I've written several times about my efforts to contact various scientists to question them about how they might take advantage of low cost, reusable suborbital spacecraft like the SS1. Unfortunately, most either did not respond at all or gave me a brush-off. Van Allen, for example, sent a canned anti-manned spaceflight response.

One space scientist, who puts experiments on sounding rockets, responded to my specification of a one week turnaround and a $200k price tag with "I don't believe these numbers (either the turnaround or the cost). Similar promises were made about the space shuttle 30 years ago, and they turned out to be grossly overoptimistic."

Now that such performance has in fact been proven by the SpaceShipOne, these kinds of knee-jerk rejections will gradually be replaced by enthusiasm for the new vehicles. Substantially lower costs, rapid re-flight opportunities, safe return of payloads, and nearby operator monitoring will make them irresistible.

Researchers working with sounding rockets in areas such as atmospheric sciences, magnetospherics, astronomy, microgravity, and remote sensing will want to use them. Also, those developing sensors and other equipment for orbital and deep space vehicles will want to carry out suborbital flight tests. (Of course, those who absolutely have go substantially higher than 100-150km will still be stuck with sounding rockets.)

For now, though, their experiments won't be riding on the SS1. Rutan has decided to turn down requests for such services so that he can concentrate on using the vehicle to test technologies for the SS2: 'No experiments' for SpaceShipOne - BBC - Oct.7.04. This leaves an opening for those who are developing vehicles with similar capabilities.

Currently NASA provides only a few tens of millions of dollars for sounding rockets, but that's still a decent sized market for vehicles that are developed for only a few tens of millions of dollars. In addition, other agencies like NOAA and DOD want to fly suborbital experiments. DARPA, for example, was one of those trying to arrange for rides on the SS1.

While waiting for the regulation/liability situation with regard to passenger flight to work itself out, science/engineering payloads could offer a substantial interim bridge market.

Tracking and filming the SS1... Ron Dantowitz and Marek Kozubal are known here for their detailed photos of spacecraft in orbit with ground based amateur telescopes. They were able use those same skills to track and film the SS1. Here are their web pages about the September 29th flight and the October 4th flight and they also got on the radio: Filming the X-Prize, from Far Below - NPR - Oct.5.04.

News briefs... Irene Klotz reports on the next Rutan spaceship: The Birth of SpaceShipTwo - SpaceDaily - Oct.5.04 ...

... Columnist Max Boot notes the success of the private space entrepreneurs: Space, the Final Free Market: The success of SpaceShipOne means the sky's no limit for the private sector. - LA Times - Oct.7.04 ...

... Similar comments at The Triumph of Truth and Technology by Michael Potter and Rick Tumlinson - SpaceDaily - Oct.6.04 ...

... The complete broadcast of the SpaceShow from Mojave on Oct. 5th for the second X PRIZE flight is now online at SS1 X2 Flight - The Space Show with Dr. David Livingston and Patrick Beatty, Thomas A. Olson ...

... Rand Simberg answers questions about the significance of the flight in this 6 minute interview with Warren Olney: Radio Interview Link - Transterrestrial Musings - Oct.6.04 ...

... The X PRIZE Cup has its first major corporate sponsor: International Fuel Technology Looks to the Stars as the First Major Sponsor of the X PRIZE CUP - International Fuel Technology Oc.4.04 ...

... Tech moguls are funding the new space movement: Geeks in space - CNET - Oct.6.04.

October 6, 2004

SS1 impressions... Joan Horvath posts her report on SpaceShipOne's prize winning flight. This is the third in her series on the SS1 flights in which she has focused on the people and the mood of the events. See the previous reports from June 21st and the first X PRIZE flight on Sept.29th.

XCOR party... I saw Joan at the XCOR part on Sunday night, where she did a fine job pushing the firing button on the company's famous Tea Cart Engine:

Tea Cart Engine Setup
Doug Jones (seated) sets up the Tea Cart engine while Joan (standing) watches carefully.

Tea Cart Engine Firing
Joan fires the engine. Excuse the blurred image. The noise was blowing out my ears at the time.

My thanks to XCOR for the excellent party and the open house access to the EZ-Rocket and their other fine creations.

EZ Rocket and Andrew Case
Andrew Case stands by the business end
of the EZ-Rocket.

SS1 flight news... This Thursday the Discovery Channel to Air Exclusive Footage of Aviation Pioneer Burt Rutan's SpaceShipOne Capturing the $10 Million X Prize - SpaceRef - Oct.5.04...

... Burt Rutan is now racing to develop a safe, low cost space tourism vehicle: Branson says space tourism is three years away - Spaceflight Now - Oct.4.04 ...

... 7 UP will release details in 2005 about its space tourism contest but it did give out a cute flyer at the post-flight news conference: 7 UP to Offer Free Space Flight - X PRIZE Space Race News! - Oct.4.04

SS1 X2 flight pictures:

Suborbital legislation... In his latest newsletter, Charles Lurio says that a Senate Commerce staffer has gone beyond eliminating the liability waiver item and actually inserted specific safety mandates into the legislation for suborbital passenger vehicles. At this very early stage in the development of the industry, this could smother it completely. ...

... Alan Boyle notes the importance of regulation in creating a space tourism industry: Regulating the rockets - Alan Boyle/Cosmic Log - Oct.4.04

X PRIZE Cup news... Here are some articles about the X PRIZE Cup:

America's Space Prize status... Rumor has it that NASA was going to split the expense of the $50M purse with Bigelow but the agency got "cold feet" at the last moment. An official announcement about the contest is now postponed to late November: America's Space Prize: Reaching Higher Than Sub-Orbit - Space.com - Oct.6.04

News briefs... Canadian Arrow shows pictures on its home page of the flight qualification tests of its 57,000 lb thrust main engine posted on Oct.2.04...

... Space Transport congratulates Scaled Composites and promises to continue its own program to develop space tourism technology. Due to bad weather expected this weekend, the Rubicon 2 launch will take place "on the 16th or 17th of October from a site on the Makah Reservation near Neah Bay, Washington": STC Focuses On Future Markets After SS1 Wins X PRIZE - STC - Oct.4.04 (MS Word file) ...

... John Carmack answers questions about the Armadillo program on the X PRIZE - Official Armadillo Q&A thread...

... Rocketplane Ltd. arranges for a space tourism reservation program: Rocketplane and Incredible Adventures to Offer Suborbital Flights - Rocketplane Limited, Inc. - Oct.4.04.

3:00 am - Even more commercial space progress... I will post more on the SS1 launch in the morning but just got a preview of the next SpaceX update and want to give you a peek. These pictures show the Falcon I on its mobile launcher and a view of the rocket on its launch pad at Vandenberg:

Some highlights from the update:

  • "Time to rotate vertical is about 15 minutes" and will get faster with practice.
  • Circular white building in lower right picture is a retractable hanger that provides shelter while the vehicle is worked on. It moves back shortly before launch.
  • Other milestones that remain include:
    • Complete flight qualification of the engines.
    • Range safety approval for launch
    • Full vehicle hold down firing
    • Integrat the TacSat-1 satellite
    • Launch to 500km orbit
  • "first available launch window that works for both SpaceX and Vandenberg is mid to late January."

The Falcon V design has been modified. The upper stage will use a single Merlin engine rather than two Kestrel engines. This has "major effect on mass to orbit due to improved mass fraction, higher specific Impulse and better staging efficiency." This and other improvements give the following boosts in payload for the new design vs the old one.

Orbit Payload (New) Payload (Old)
200 km, 28.5 deg

6020 kg

4,200 kg

400 km, 51 deg

5450 kg

3,570 kg

700 km, sun-synch

4780 kg

3,000 kg

GTO 9 deg

1920 kg

1,250 kg

Escape velocity

1200 kg

840 kg

October 5, 2004

On the road... Connected to a wireless network at Long Beach Airport. Really amazing to get a broadband link just sitting here waiting to board. (Hope I'm not taking back lots of worms and viruses as souveniers!). [1:30am Oct.6th - Well, not totally amazing. I could download material but couldn't upload anything for some reason. Anyway, now that I'm back home I will upload this before beginning today's updates.]

At the press conference, Burt Rutan couldn't say enough good things about the Discovery Channel documentary - Black Sky: The Race for Space - on the SS1 project. He had his whole team over to watch it at his home on Sunday night. (The vehicles were all preped, fueled and ready to go the next morning.) He said the program captured the essence of what an incredibly tough job it was to develop the Tier One project.

Unfortunately, I didn't get to see it but it looks like it will be repeated next Sunday. There will also be an update on the X PRIZE this Thursday: Race for Space - Discovery Channel for time info.

I just looked at spacetoday.net and there are three and half pages of links for today and they are almost all about the SS1 flight. These two chosen at random are quite interesting: Left in the dust - Florida Today - Oct.05.04 * Space invaders: SpaceShipOne wins the X-Prize: SpaceShipOne has become the first privately funded craft to reach space. It could be your turn next - Economist.com - Oct.5.04

Boarding is about to start so I will log off. Regular posting tomorrow and more comments about the X2 flight.

October 4, 2004

Some SS1 snapshots... Manage to get a pass into the VIP area along with a couple of thousand other people:

... This sequence shows the contrail of the SS1 splitting off from that of the White Knight. The small contrail is that of one of the three chase planes.

SS1 Ignites
SS1 Accelerating
SS1  higher...
and higher


In the SS1 newsroom... Alan Boyle and Leonard David are sitting a couple of tables away in the media room so I should probably link to their stories: SpaceShipOne wins $10 million X Prize Flight also bests X-15 altitude record - MSNBC - Oct.4.04 * SpaceShipOne Wins $10 Million Ansari X Prize in Historic 2nd Trip to Space - Space.com - Oct.4.04.

And Bill Harwood is sitting a few meters away form me: SpaceShipOne soars to $10 million X Prize - Spaceflight Now - Oct.4.04. I just met Maggie McKee of New Scientist: SpaceShipOne wins X Prize for spaceflight - New Scientist * Oct.4.04...

... More links at Space Race News and spacetoday.net....

... John Carmack reflects on Armadillo's X PRIZE efforts in his latest update: X-Prize, Engine work, Vehicle work - Armadillo Aerospace - Oct.3.04...

... Here are Jeff Foust's photos from the first flight and comments on the event.

Risky undercurrent... The unexpectedly rapid rolling in the Sept.29th flight left a lot of people a bit worried about the next flight. I think Burt in turn was annoyed that reporters made such a big deal about it. When today's flight went so flawlessly it seemed almost anticlimatic. In the press conference, Burt said that his goal for the vehicle for Virgin Galactic is to achieve reliabilty higher than that of the first commercial airliners.

Here Jeff Foust comments on the risks that the suborbital industry must deal with: Dealing with the risks of space tourism - The Space Review - Oct.4.04.

SpaceShipOne Wins the X PRIZE!!

SS1 does it again... I saw history in the making today. It was a marvelous experience to be here to witness such a flawless spaceflight. The roll problem from Wednesday was fixed (a report on the technical details about changes in the trajectory and other operations will be released later) and the vehicle reached a record setting altitude - 367,442 ft (112km), beating the highest altitude flown by the X-15.

At the news conference, X PRIZE judge Rick Searfoss said that the SS1 fulfilled all the competition requirements to win the full $10M purse. The money and trophy will be awarded at an official ceremony in St. Louis on Nov. 6th. The X PRIZE contest was inaugurated in St. Louis on May 18, 1996.

What a great feeling. Like many space enthusiasts from the 60s, I've waited a long, long time to observe a genuine victory in the long struggle to bring spaceflight closer to the reach of the private individual. This was really a big step towards making that happen.

I'm heading to a victory party now and will try to add updates later today. Regular postings will continue on Wednesday.

Jeff Foust has posted lots of links to articles about the flight.

October 3, 2004

Heading to Mojave... I hope that I can find a connection while I'm there and can post on the pre-flight happenings as well as the flight itself. See the above list of webcasters for video, audio, and text reports during the flight.

The procedure should go as before:

  1. White Knight with the SpaceShipOne will takeoff from the Mojave Spaceport at 7:00 a.m. local time (10.00 a.m. EDT; 1400 GMT).
  2. About an hour later White Knight will reach an altitude of nearly 50,000 feet where SS1 is dropped at 8:00 a.m. PDT (11:00 a.m. EDT; 1500 GMT)
  3. and SS1 ignites its rocket engine
  4. Powered flight of about 80 seconds
  5. SpaceShipOne coasts up to an altitude of at least 62 miles and then reenters the atmosphere
  6. Glides to a landing on the Mojave runway by 8:30 a.m. PDT (11:30 a.m. EDT; 1530 GMT)

A press conference will be at 10:30 a.m. PDT (1:30p.m. EDT, 1730 GMT).


SS1 news briefs... Scaled has posted a video of the September 29th flight...

... Lots of school kids coming to watch the flight: 40 buses heading for SpaceShipOne liftoff - AV Press - Oct.2.04 (via a HS reader) ...

... Private space companies are getting down to business: Can Do Private Space Companies Set Tone for Future Spaceflight - SpaceRef - Oct.2.04 ...

... More on the SS1 roll: SpaceShipOne Rolling Rumors: Rutan Sets the Record Straight by Leonard David - Space.com - Oct.2.04 * Why SpaceShipOne spun - Alan Boyle/Cosmic Log - Oct.2.04...

... Another report on the SS1 program: SpaceShipOne: One down, one to go: A private rocket takes its first flight toward winning the $10 million X-Prize by Bill McCoy - Astronomy -Oct.2.04 (Via spacetoday.net)

October 2, 2004

The Stevie Austin saga continues... Check out the latest update to the Stevie Austin Project. From the latest report,

"Stevie returned to us briefly today, looking very well rested and ready for her next launch. She brought along the core members of the STC Team, for an in-person meeting with Dr. James and a tour of the Rubicon ICU/R Facility."

"Dr. James examined Stevie one last time to ensure that she is fully prepared for the Rubicon II Mission, which is currently scheduled for launch on the weekend of October 9 & 10, 2004. Stevie is more than ready. This important Mission will blast Stevie and the Rubicon II Rocket to an altitude of approximately 4 miles high - which will fully test all vital rocket systems, including launch, flight, and a very exciting Apollo-style ocean splash down by parachute (where Stevie and the Rubicon Space Capsule will be recovered from the ocean by boat.) Dr. James has agreed to attend the launch as Mission Medical Specialist to make sure Stevie stays in top shape throughout her Mission."

Episode Six will include "action-packed footage of the Launch, the Flight, the Splash Down and the Capsule Recovery from the ocean."

News briefs... NASA TV will definitely provide a webcast of Monday's flight. (via a HS reader.) ...

... Alan Boyle gives a list of books coming out about the X PRIZE and some of the rocket projects: Real-life rocket tales - CosmicLog/MSNBC - Oct.1.04.

Hurricanes delay shuttle return to flight: Storms snag shuttle plan: Earliest return to flight would be May, NASA says - Florida Today - Oct.2.04...

... According to the event organizers, "Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator Marion C. Blakey and FAA Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation Patricia Grace Smith are planning to attend the preparation and launch of SpaceShipOne..."

SS1 roll report... Once Mike Melvill used the reaction control system thrusters (RCS), the rolling stopped: Burt provides some preliminary information about the rolling motions seen on the First X-Prize Flight - Scaled Composites - Oct.1.04. (Via a HS reader.)

SS1 webcasts... A HS reader notes that NASA TV may not webcast flight 2 as it did with flight 2 since there is a Soyuz Expedition 10 press conference scheduled for Monday morning. However, another alternative stream is from the Science Channel.

Da Vinci launch permit... More about the GoldenPalace/daVinci launch permit: Canada Still Has Eyes on X Prize - Wired - Oct.1.04...

... Here's the official statement: Da Vinci Team Application Approved By Transport Canada - Transport Canada - Oct.1.04. (Via Space Race News).

Space Access Update... The latest update from Henry Vanderbilt hasn't been posted yet at the Space Acces Society web site so I will post it here:

Space Access Update #104
Copyright 2004 by Space Access Society


These last few years, we've gone from our spring Space Access conference straight to working hard for a living. This year it's been harder work than ever, because we're finally rearranging things to spread the load out so we'll no longer have to vanish from the scene for months at a time. We still have a couple months to go in this year's (hopefully final) marathon - but sometimes history calls too loudly to ignore. Forgive the haste of what follows...


Contents this issue:

- X-Prize Half-Won, Orbital Prize, Tourism Company In The Works

- HR 3752 In Senatorial Limbo - License To Fly - Call or Fax!

- SAS Runs "Alt Space Access" Sessions Friday Oct 8th At Upcoming Space Frontier Foundation Conference, Oct 8-10 in Long Beach CA


X-Prize Half-Won, Orbital Prize, Tourism Company In The Works

When the world changes, sometimes it changes fast.

The Scaled Composites SpaceShip One today succeeded in making the first of the two official flights required to win the X-Prize. The flight was not uneventful - SS1 got into a high-rate roll partway through the rocket burn and did not stabilize again till after the motor was shut down, but the altitude goal was achieved and the reentry and glide landing went smoothly. Mike Melville, the pilot, has said the roll might have been his fault; we expect it'll be a while before definitive word on what the problem was comes out. We will say that finishing the flight successfully speaks well for both the robustness of the system and the skill of the pilot.

SS1's second offical X-Prize flight was tentatively scheduled for Monday October 4th before today - we understand more definite word on the second flight should be out tomorrow.

Meanwhile, Aviation Week & Space Technology reports that Robert Bigelow, founder of the orbital inflatable habitat builder Bigelow Aerospace, plans to announce a new $50 million prize for the first private passenger-carrying orbital ship. Bigelow reportedly will provide $25 million of the prize funding to get things rolling, and will be seeking a co-sponsor or sponsors for the new prize. (Part of the huge amount of news from this summer we need to write about Real Soon Now is that Bigelow Aerospace will be doing a series of flight tests of their habitat modules over the next few years, component tests, then subscale, then full scale.)

And finally, Richard Branson of Virgin Atlantic Airlines has announced he will be licensing SpaceShip One technology in order to start a suborbital tourism spaceline within three years. The really amazing thing here is that the cable business show report on this we caught today took it seriously, with a minimum of boggling and only a couple bad jokes.

The times, they are a-changing. Fast.

There is far more going on than just these three things, but we have no more time to report on them tonight. RSN, sigh... Or come out to the Queen Mary in Long Beach a week from Friday! (See our last news item for details.)


HR 3752 In Senatorial Limbo - License To Fly - Call or Fax!

See our Update #102 (http://www.space-access.org/updates/sau102) for details of HR 3752, The Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 2004 - in brief, it's a new law that allows the FAA to license low-cost reusable commercial space vehicles on a basis that gives the new industry a chance to grow, rather than strangling it in the cradle.

HR 3752 passed the House by a vote of 402-1. It is neither partisan nor controversial. It is currently stuck in the Senate Commerce Committee for no good reason anyone can tell us, and may well die there when the 108th Congress ends later this year. If that happens, all the hard work and progress to date is wiped out, and it has to start all over again next year.

We apologize for not doing a really detailed piece on how to affect this, but time is tight, both for us tonight and for this bill.

Please, check http://commerce.senate.gov/about/membership.html and see if a Senator from your state is on the list. If so, phone their office (the numbers are there) or fax a short note (you'll have to dig for fax numbers, but faxes are considered more effective) and ask them to report HR 3752 favorably out of committee, so the Senate can pass this beneficial and non-controversial bill and the US private space industry can get rolling. (No paper letters - word is those currently are backed up for months, and this session of Congress has only days to run before they recess pre-election.) (There will probably be a "lame duck" session post-election, which will be the final chance to pass this bill this year, so keep working this over the election recess if HR 3752 doesn't move before then.)


SAS Runs "Alt Space Access" Sessions Friday Oct 8th At Upcoming
Space Frontier Foundation Conference, Oct 8-10 in Long Beach CA

Our friends at the SFF asked us if we'd put together a "mini-Space Access Conference" to run Friday of their upcoming annual Space Frontier Conference, and we failed to say no. Friday October 8th, 9 am to noon, 2 pm to 5, get a taste of what we do for two and a half days every spring. Confirmed presentations: AirLaunch LLC, Andrews Space & Technology, Armadillo Aerospace, JP Aerospace, Rocketplane Ltd, XCOR Aerospace, plus FAA AST Regs Discussion and A Special Surprise Presentation. Catch a cross-section of the players in this exciting new low-cost launch industry!

The conference will be on the Queen Mary hotel in Long Beach California. See
for details on hotel rooms and conference rates. See you there! (If we live through this next week's work...)


Space Access Society's sole purpose is to promote radical reductions in the cost of reaching space. You may redistribute this Update in any medium you choose, as long as you do it unedited in its entirety. You may reproduce sections of this Update beyond obvious "fair use" quotes if you credit the source and include a pointer to our website.


Space Access Society

"Reach low orbit and you're halfway to anywhere in the Solar System"
- Robert A. Heinlein

October 1, 2004

News briefs... GoldenPalace/daVinci receives government permission for manned flights: Canadian Ansari X PRIZE Team Receives Government Approval to launch into Space - daVinci - Oct.1.04 ...

... Here's a very nice video of the SS1 flight that includes shots from the onboard camera: www.spaceflightnow.com/launch.mov. (Via Coding In Paradise) ...

... Jim Benson of SpaceDev talks about the SS1 engine and the Dream Chaser suborbital vehicle project in a SpaceShow interview on Sept.28th...

... This article gives a brief explanation of the dihedral effect and how it might have caused the SS1 roll: SpaceShipOne: Monday Launch Is On - Wired - Oct.1.04...

... More NASA response: NASA Official Sees Role in Space for Private Companies - VOA - Oct.1.04 * NASA Brass Laud X Prize as Natural Extention of Agency's Work by Leonard David - Space.com - Oct.1.04...

... More pictures of SS1 flight one by Alan Radecki: page 1, page 2.

News briefs ... The official altitude for SS1 and Mike Melvill: It's Official: X-Prize officials say Mike Melvill climbed to 337,500 feet this morning - X PRIZE - Sept.30.04 ...

... Here's an interesting report from the Cal Space Authority on the sophisticated radar system used to track the SS1: SPADS Parallels Pioneering Effort of SpaceShipOne as SS1 Clears the First Hurdle - CSA - Sept.30.04...

... Speaking of the CSA, their latest newsletter is posted: SpotBeam California - September 30, 2004...

... Sean O'Keefe congratulates the SS1 team: NASA Salutes Spaceshipone Team After Second Flight - NASA HQ - Sept.29.04....

... I didn't know till afterwards that NASA TV was also webcasting the flight. I assume they will do it again on Monday. Here is the NASA TV main page ...

... CSA has also posted the Request For Information from NASA on the issue of how commercial firms might provide space transportation services to the agency: NASA Special Notice: Commercial Space Transportation Services in Support of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration - CSA. I mentioned the RFI previously (via NASA Watch), but it seems just now to be getting attention in the media. Info is due by Oct.15th.

Heading for Mojave... I will be attending the flight on Monday and will try to post from there if possible. Unfortunately, I have not been given press credentials (blog discrimination!) but expect it will be a great experience regardless of where I watch it from. [Update: Looks like I am in fact on the media list. Got a Press Info Sheet in the email today. Just need to get there in time on Sunday to register.] ...

.... See you at the "all night" Rock Concert sponsored by Apogee Books for members of the National Space Society (do I have to bring my NSS ID?). They are showcasing the new book Space Tourism by John Spencer.

More SS1 news... Here are additional articles (mostly via spacetoday.net) on the announcement of the second flight:

Second X PRIZE Flight - Monday October 4th

No delay for space flight... Just got this message via the X PRIZE newsletter distribution:

Dear X PRIZE Members-

As you may know, yesterday, Burt Rutan's Mojave Aerospace Ventures Team successfully reached an altitude of 337,500 feet with Mike Melvill (the pilot) onboard plus ballast (approx. 180 Kg). This flight was deemed by the Judges as a successful first flight for the $10 million Ansari X PRIZE.

We have just received official notice from Burt Rutan that SpaceShipOne's second flight (X2) will take place Monday morning, October 4th. Expected flight timeline:

* Takeoff at 7am PT
* Ignition at 8am PT
* Landing at 8:30am PT
* Press Conference to announce official Altitude at 10:30am PT

The entire flight can be viewed LIVE at www.xprize.org on our global webcast.

Please spread the word to your friends. Tune in and help us celebrate the birth of the Personal Spaceflight Revolution!


Peter H. Diamandis
Chairman & Founder X PRIZE Foundation

More SS1 news... Apparently there was no information released with the announcement of Monday's flight about the analysis of the roll on the SS1 flight...

... Alan Boyle reports on the announcement: All systems go for prize-winning space launch SpaceShipOne to go ahead with planned Monday flight - MSNBC Sept.30.04...

... October 4th will be the 47th anniversary of the launch of Sputnik, the first artificial satellite. By chance, in my Sputnik links I had this article from 1997 by Alan: Sputnik started space race, anxiety: 40 years later, Cold War rivals cooperate in space ventures - MSNBC - Oct.4.97.

Flawed suborbital legislation may pass... In his latest newsletter, Charles Lurio says that there is still a chance that HR3752 may pass in this session but unfortunately a crucial liability protection provision may be removed.

The provision that a passenger "flies at his/her own risk, given that he/she is informed about the vehicle's test/operations record" was intended to provide at least some protection from runinous lawsuits if an accident occurs. Some former proponents of the legislation believe that it would be "far better to kill the Bill" than let it pass without this provision.

News briefs... Alan Boyle ponders the future of spaceflight in the aftermath of the SS1 X PRIZE flight:The space road ahead - Alan Boyle/Cosmic Log - Sept.30.04 ...

... Brad Stone at Newsweek wants prices for suborbital flights to come down: A Small Step for Private Space Travel: SpaceShipOne rolled to victory today, but the nascent space-tourism industry hasn't soared yet. Increased competition could help the business get off the ground - MSNBC/Newsweek - Sept.29.04 ....

... The Economist reports on Virgin space tourism: Space tourism: Virgin Territory: Sir Richard Branson aims for the moon - Economist.com - Sept.30.04...

... This article looks at the risks of these early days of commercial spaceflight: Want to travel on a private space jet? Pack nerves of steel. - csmonitor.com - Sept.30.04.

Continue to September 2004

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