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RLV News
Space Transport Developments & Commentary

May 2005
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Scaled Composites photos
SpaceShipOne on first rocket powered flight Dec.17th, 2003.

Space Access'05 Conference

RLV (Reusable Launch Vehicles) News offers brief articles and comments concerning developments in the area of space transport, which includes vehicles for earth launch to orbit, suborbital spaceflight, and in-space vehicles. It also provides lots of links to news articles, announcements by commercial rocket developers, NASA events, etc.

The RLV Countdown: Part 1 and Part 2 sections provide information and
links for various reusable space transportation systems around the world.

RLV Table compares a selection of space transport vehicles.

RLV History looks at earlier vehicles and designs.

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

The Space Log contains news about
amateur space activities, space businesses, etc.

RLV News Archive Directory

May 31, 2005

11:30 am: News briefs ... Alan Radecki has posted several photos of the X-37 & White Knight at the Mojave Spaceport in preparation for the drop test. (Note the new address - www.mojaveweblog.com - for Alan's photoblog.) ...

... A bit more info on ESA's funding of some studies of the Russian reusable Kliper crew module: ESA Looks East for Future Space Cooperation - SpaceNews/space.com - May.30.05.

1:45 am: News briefs ... The SpaceShow this week has several space transport related interviews scheduled:

Tuesday, May 31, 2005, 7:00-8:30 pm (Pacific Time ) - Elon Musk of SpaceX will discuss progress and plans with regard to the development of the Falcon launch vehicles. I'm sure he will comment on the recent pad test firing of the Falcon I.

Wednesday, June 1, 2005, 7-8:30 pm (Pacific Time) - George Tyson, CEO of Mojave based Orbital Commerce Project, Inc., will discuss plans to offer suborbital training to both businesses and individuals.

Thursday, June 2, 2005, 7-8:30 PM (Pacific Time) - Robert Zimmerman will review the recent ISDC conference.

Sunday, June 5, 2005, 12-1:30 PM (Pacific Time) - Dr. Brad Edwards "returns to discuss all matters relating to the space elevator."

The interviews are discussed on the Spaceshow Forum at Space Investor.

May 29, 2005

10:45 am: Falcon I test success ... The Falcon I pad test on Friday apparently went quite well. My thanks to Jon for posting a notice about the test while I was on a trip: SpaceX Hot-Fire Pad Test Successful - RocketForge - May.28.05.

NASA Watch has the SpaceX press release anda video of the firing: SpaceX Test Fires Falcon 1 Engine (Movie) - SpaceX/SpaceRef - May.28.05. Justin Ray at Spaceflight Now has a long article about the test: Privately-made Falcon 1 rocket roars on the pad - Spaceflight Now - May.27.05

Showing that this is not your usual rocket, after the test, which needed a ground crew of only seven people, the company moved the vehicle back onto its carrier trailer to return it to the factory for inspection. The SpaceX update hasn't appeared yet, perhaps so that it can include details on the condition of the engine and other systems after they look them over.

10:45 am: News briefs ... Leonard David offers a report on the X-37 and the preparations at Mojave for drop tests: White Knight Prepares For New Mission - Space.com - May.27.05 ...

... AERA Space wants to build its vehicles in Florida: Sky really is the limit for new cruise line - Florida Today - May.29.05. The company is still claiming it will be flying passengers in his suborbital rocket by the end of next year. ...

... Space Race News posts a long TV report about Rocketplane Ltd.: Rocketplane Television Coverage - Space Race News! - May.29.05 ...

... The guidelines for licensing a RLV as an experimental vehicle have now been posted at AST: Guidelines for Experimental Permits forReusable Suborbital Rockets - May, 2005 - AST/FAA. The guidelines were discussed last week by Leonard David: Interim Ground Rules Proposed For Civilian Spaceflight Industry - Leonard David /space.com - May.25.05. ...

... Alan Boyle reports on the problems that Greg Olsen is having with the Russian space doctors: What ailed space millionaire? - Cosmic Log/MSNBC.com - May.27.05. And there are still mixed signals from Russia on whether he will fly: Space tourist chair vacant in Russia spacecraft - Perminov - ITAR TASS - May.27.05 * Olsen's Trip to Outer Space Might Be Cancelled - RIA Novosti - May.29.05. (Via spacetoday.net.)

May 27, 2005

12:55 am: Going out of town... I'm leaving on a trip today, so no more postings till Sunday at the earliest. Have a great Memorial Day Weekend!

12:55 am: News briefs ... The SpaceX padtest is supposed to occur today and then the company update will be emailed out. It usually isn't posted on their website until a few days later. You can receive it by signing up on their mailing list. Usually I post a summary from Jon Goff of the highlights of each update, but since I will be gone he will post it at RocketForge. ...

... Check out Jim Muncy's interesting interview on the SpaceShow. He talked quite a bit about t/Space. One item that stood out was his statement that the carrier to be built by Burt Rutan for the CXV will also be used for SpaceShipTwo. The SS2 is considerably smaller and I was under the impression that it would use a somewhat bigger version of the White Knight.

Having one vehicle doing two tasks would seem a reasonable approach but I'm surprised that it would be economical for (eventually) daily space tourism flights to use a carrier that is a lot bigger than necessary. The Very Large Aircraft (VLA) is really, really large. Maybe the SS2 is going to be bigger than generally assumed....

... The Shuttle Discovery is back in the VAB to be refitted with a new external tank. You can get the latest reports on its preparations for flight at Spaceflight Now | STS-114 Shuttle Report | Mission Status Center.

May 26, 2005

The X-37 slung beneath the White Knight.

6:30 pm: X-37 test ... The above photo shows the DARPA X-37 attached to the Scale Composites White Knight at the Mojave Spaceport in preparation for a drop test. (Via a Mojave HS reader.)

6:30 pm: News briefs ... Robert Zimmerman detects sings of a revolution in space explorarion similar to what happened in other areas of technology: Space Watch: Signs of a renaissance - UPI/WashTimes - May.26.05 ...

... Leonard David on the GarveySpacecraft/Cal State Long Beach rocket launch: High Hopes for Low-Cost Rocket After Successful Launch Test - Space.com - May.26.05. More photos and videos, including a cool onboard view. ...

... I doubt CNN will pay for his ticket on a Soyuz going to the ISS, but maybe they will buy him a suborbital ride to space in a couple of years: Shuttle accident ends dream: CNN's Miles O'Brien was oh-so-close to being the first U.S. newsman in space. - OrlandoSentinel - May.26.05

1:30 am: News briefs ... At the news conference in Mojave following the second X PRIZE flight last October, a representative of 7UP announced that the company would sponsor a suborbital spaceflight contest. However, the contest would not start until sometime in 2005. Well, now it has officially kicked off: Buzz Aldrin Announces that the only way to go is up with the diet 7up free ticket to space sweepstakes - 7UP/Space Race News! - May.25.05. ...

... Go to the www.7up.com site and click on the "Win the First Free Ticket to Space" box and a popup window with more info and registration info will appear. ...

... More suborbital space contests listed in the Space Tourism section. ...

... Space tourism interest in India: 'There are space flights to suit every budget' - The Economic Times - May.25.05.

May 25, 2005

6:00 pm: News brief ... At tomorrow's COMSTAC meeting (agenda), AST will release its rules governing experimental-class permits for piloted RLVs: Interim Ground Rules Proposed For Civilian Spaceflight Industry - Leonard David /space.com - May.25.05.

3:25 pm: News briefs ... As indicated by a Space Adventures representative during the ISDC meeting, Greg Olsen is back in training for a Soyuz flight: Millionaire resumes space training: Greg Olsen is back in Russia, seeking trip to orbit - Alan Boyle/MSNBC - May.25.05 ...

... More about the Canadian Arrow / PlanetSpace project: Kathuria launches firm for space flight - IndiaPost - May.25.05 (via spacetoday.net) * Photos of the event at U.C. ...

.... SpaceX padfire test appears to be on for Friday: Falcon Engine Test Aborted - Astronotes/space.com - May.25.05

10:20 am: Space transport jobs ... I recently saw a Blue Origin ad for engineering jobs on the SpaceDaily website. It seems that a number of the space transport companies are looking for people. For example, during his talk last week at the ISDC, Burt Rutan said that Scaled Composites had a lot of openings for people to work on the SS2 project. Generally, if you've heard that a company has funding for a vehicle project, then it is probably hiring.

10:20 am Space cruising ... Peter Diamandis points to a convergence of rising personal wealth and advancing technology that is leading to sophisticated and ambitious private space development: Private Moon Trips Forecast - ad Astra/Space.com - May.23.05 * "We Are The Payloads Of The Future" - Transterrestrial Musings - May.24.05.

A short extrapolation of this and one can see that it is no longer in the James Bond fantasy realm to consider the possibility of a privately owned manned spacecraft or even a "space yacht". (I think it was John Spencer that I first heard talk about this.)

Paul Allen, for example, owns three enormous sea yachts, including the "Octopus", which cost $200M and takes about $20M per year to maintain and operate. (Note that if he simply bought US Treasury notes with his fortune of $20B, give or take a few billion, his interest alone would reach over $800M per year.)

The t/Space consortium is offering to build an crew transport system for $400M that would provide regular flights to orbit for $20M. If Mr. Allen bought this and combined it with a Nautilus Moon Cruiser, as shown on the Bigelow Aerospace home page and built from the company's inflatable habitat modules, he would have his own private space fleet.

Of course, I don't think Mr. Allen, or any of the other multi-billionaires in the world, will do any such thing. But what I find amazing is that he could if he wanted to. ...

... The Wall Street Journal recently reported that the number of US households with a net worth of at least $1M (not counting their primary residence) now exceeds 7.5 million. If we use the Zogby/Futron market study results, then about 1.3M people in the US alone would be willing to spend on the order of $100K on a suborbital spaceflight.

10:20 am News briefs ... Irene Mona Klotz reports on Griffin's plans for retiring the shuttle and for hiring ISS cargo shippers: Space Race 2: After the shuttle - UPI/WashTimes - May.24.05 ...

... An astronaut joins the t/Space project: Astronaut Jim Voss to Lead Engineering for New Space Company - RedNova News - May.24.05 (via Space Race News!)

2:05 am: ISDC summary... Along with some comments on the presentations I attended last Saturday and my general impression of the meeting, I've collected all the posting about the ISDC on a single page. Continue to the ISDC section ...

May 24, 2005

10:35 am: News briefs ... If there was more arguing than before, maybe it's because there is now the possibility of real money to be made in human spaceflight: Conflict at Space Confab - Wired - May.24.05 ...

... A report from JP Aerospace on its latest high altitude balloon flight: Away 26 - JP Aerospace - May.23.05 (Via Space Race News!).

12:25 am: News briefs ... Space News follows up on Griffin's remarks last week that NASA would pay for cargo delivery to the ISS and eventually pay for crew transport as well: NASA to Seek Bids for ISS Cargo Deliveries - Space News/space.com - May.23.05 ...

... More about the Cosmos 1 solar sail: Cosmos 1 Solar Sail Spacecraft Heads to Loading Site - space.com - May.23.05 . Related links at TPS:

... India pursues hypersonic propulsion: India Unveils Hypersonic Demonstrator Model - Aviation Week - May.22.05. Related links: India soars on missile, aerospace technology - IndiaDaily - Apr.13.05 * NTI: Country Overviews: India: Missile Chronology. ...

... Delay in Discovery's return to the VAB: Rollback reset for gear check: Cracks found inside Atlantis prompt delay - Florida Today - May.23.05.

May 23, 2005

2:20: News brief ... The Cosmos 1 launch window opens on June 21: Cosmos1 Ships in Preparation for June Launch: First Solar Sail Spacecraft Ready for Daring Flight - Planetary Society - May.23.05. If if flies, it should be easy to spot from the ground. The Solar Sail Watch site will provide viewing info.

1:45 pm: News briefs ... SpaceX has rescheduled their pad test: "A facility ground valve supplying helium spinstart to the turbopump was incorrectly in the closed position, causing the vehicle computer to abort the startup sequence. Hotfire rescheduled to Friday, May 27, the next available day at Vandenberg." ...

... Leonard David reports on Elon Musk's talk on Friday at the ISDC: Private Rocketeer Looks To August Flight - ad Astra/Space.com - May.23.05 ...

... Leonard reports here on a talk by Peter Diamandis at the ISDC: Private Moon Trips Forecast - ad Astra/Space.com - May.23.05.

“I predict that within about three years of private human orbital flights…you’ll have the first private teams of people stockpiling fuel on orbit and making a bee-line for the Moon,” Diamandis said.

“They’ll not ask for permission…maybe cryptically hiding what they are doing…but there will be somebody making a bee-line to the Moon,” Diamandis said. The first private team to reach the lunar landscape will stake out the ground. “They’ll say this is ours. Stay away. I claim this for my company…my new nation,” he said.

... And there may be a orbital X PRIZE program in the making: X PRIZE to Orbit & Beyond! - Space Race News! - May.23.05 ...

... Jeff Foust reviews the talk given by Will Whitehorn, president of Virgin Galactic, at the ISDC: Virgin Galactic and the future of commercial spaceflight - Space Review - May.23.05 ...

... JP Aerospace flew one of its airships to near space over the weekend: Log at JP Aerospace * Away 26 has flown! Great mission, great recovery! - Space Race News - May.23.05.

1:45 pm: Parabolic privatization... After a decade or so of efforts, NASA is finally going to let a private company provide parabolic flights for its astronaut training and microgravity experiments: NASA (Finally) Goes Private for Parabolic Flight Services - NASA Watch - May.23.05 * NASA Solicitation: Parabolic Flight Services (Zero Gravity Corporation) - SpaceRef - May.19.05. ...

... Note that back in the 1990s, Rand Simberg led an unsuccessful effort with his Interglobal firm and Weaver Aerospace to offer parabolic flights in the US. FAA and NASA resistance blocked the project. ...

... Keith Cowing points to the Russian firm Atlas Aerospace, which offers parabolic flights. See also RusAdventures. ...

... More about weightlessness experiences for the public can be in the Space Tourism section.

2:35 am: News brief ... John Carmack posts the latest on their Engine, Gimbal, Pump - AA - May.22.05. Includes lots of photos and a couple of videos.

May 22, 2005

9:40 pm: Prospector 6 flight a success... John Garvey reports that the big Prospector 6 rocket was launched successfully on May, 21, 2005 by the Cal State Long Beach/Garvey Spacecraft group. See photos and a description of the flight in the Advanced Rocketry section. The vehicle is a full scale prototype of the NanoSat Launch Vehicle that they hope to build to put 10 kg payloads to low Earth orbit.

8:50 pm: More ISDC ... I'll eventually do a summary of Saturday's ISDC sessions but in the meantime you can check out the comments from other people who blogged the conference. Elliot Kulakow posted this ISDC 2k5: Day 1 - Space Race News! - May.21.05 and Michael Mealling had several postings at RocketForge...

... I skipped today sessions (four days of conferencing is enough for me) and unfortunately missed Michael's talk on Space Value Networks. He gave me a preview of it the other day and it seems like a cool project that could inspire a lot of interesting term papers and theses for students. I've posted a description in the Space Log, where I deal more with space business topics. ...

... Be sure to check out the many ISDC papers and slides. Here is a sampling from a quick scan:

8:50 pm: Crew access contract lever ... With regard to t/Space, I've only heard discussions about a contract from NASA for the Earth-to-LEO segment of the CEV program. Griffin has indicated that he will provide just one such contract and I suspect it will be extremely difficult for a "nontraditional" aerospace company to win even if they offer a price that's a factor of ten lower than what a "prime" offers..

However, Griffin did say he would be very interested in commercial cargo service deals and eventually he would consider buying seats on a vehicle to deliver crews to the ISS. I've not heard if t/Space would consider trying to obtain such a commercial services contract and use that as a lever to raise the $400M it needs from private sources.

Robert L. DeBiase discusses this type of approach in Jump-Starting The Space Frontier By NASA Purchase Of Crew Access - ISDC - 2005.

This level of investment is certainly not out of the question. Kistler, after all, is trying to raise just such an amount of money to complete and fly the K-1. The company hopes to obtain an ISS cargo delivery contract to use as its lever. (During the 1990s Kistler raised $600M but, unfortunately, spent $800M.)

Kistler was actually awarded such a contract for ISS cargo service in early 2004 but it was successfully challenged by SpaceX on the grounds that the award was not open to other competitors. I expect NASA this year will issue a new request for proposals and give contracts to more than one cargo delivery service. Seems like NASA could do the same thing for crew delivery services.

5:55 pm: News briefs .... ESA is seriously considering support for the Russian Kliper reusable crew module: Europe to hitch space ride on Russia's rocket - Guardian - May.22.05 (Via spacetoday.net.) ...

.... Mark Whittington lays out the story of the Shuttle program and also includes a review of other launch development programs at NASA and in the private sector: The Space Shuttle: The Solution that Failed - finetuning.com - May.22.05.

1:05 pm: News briefs .... The SpaceX hotfire test scheduled for yesterday was canceled yesterday due to a problem with the pad facility: SpaceX Falcon 1 Hotfire Scrubbed - NASA Watch - May.22.05 ...

... On the Armadillo/Space Race News forum site, John Carmack has posted a video (gimbals.mpg) of a bench test of their engine gimbal mechanism: Roll control backup - Armadillo Q&A - May.19.05 ...

... Via a posting on the aRocket forum comes this paper on paraffin based hybrid rocket engine: Design, Optimization, and Launch of a 3' Diameter N2O/Aluminized Paraffin Rocket by McCormick et al at Hybrids - Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics - 2004.

May 21, 2005

11:15 pm: News briefs ... Tomorrow I'll post a summary of my Saturday at the ISDC. For now I'll catch up on some miscellaneous news items ...

... Leonard David reports on the presentation at ISDC of AST chief Patricia Grace Smith: Space Tourism: An 'Adventure Sport' In the Making - ad Astra / Space.com - May.20.05 ...

... Here are some more t/Space postings: t/Space CXV sighted at ISDC - Space Race News! - May.19.05 * tSpace Model at ISDC - NASA Watch - May.20.05 (includes pictures of the CXV mockup. ...

... Burt Rutan was heard on the radio: Space Travel Pioneer Rutan Honored - NPR - May.20.05 ...

... And here is another review of his press club speech: Space pioneer finds NASA dull -UPI/WashTimes - May.20.05 ...

... Some changes to the space transport regs: Miscellaneous Changes to Commercial Space Transportation Regulations; Proposed Rule - AST - May.19.05 (pdf) * Commercial Space Transportation - FAA / AST ...

... KSC gets the news first hand: NASA Chief to KSC: Shuttles' End is Coming - Space.com - May.20.05 ...

... Results of the Discovery ET test:NASA tests shuttle external tank - spacetoday.net - May.21.05 ...

... The Russian site Novosti-kosmonavtiki.ru posts a set of pictures of the Kliper mockup.

1:50 am: t/Space making a bid for the vision ... Before I get started on the review of my Friday at the ISDC, I will point you to the new t/Space website. They've added a lot more info on their projects and describe some hardware tests, which were carried out using only their $6M study contract money.

Some highlights include:

  • A pamphlet describes the company's proposal to build the CXV and fly it with a crew by the end of 2008 for a fixed price contract of $400M. Interim payments would be made only as they meet each of a series of milestones.

  • Once in operation, a crew mission to the ISS would cost only $20M.

  • Note the table at the bottom of the pamphlet that compares the features and costs of their vehicle vs. what is offered by the "primes".

  • "A 23% scale version of the CXV and its booster has been dropped by Scaled Composites from its Proteus aircraft, testing a new air launch release approach with significant safety improvements over the methods used in the X-15 and Pegasus systems."

  • Here are pictures of the reversible seat that I mentioned yesterday.

  • They show some preliminary artwork of the VLA (Very Large Airplane) that would carry a larger version of the QuickReach rocket. The actual VLA design has not been released by Scaled Composites but this gives an idea of the sizes involved.

It will be interesting to see how NASA and Griffin respond to this. I hope the response doesn't duplicate what happened with the Industrial Space Facility.

1:50 am: More ISDC ... As on the first day of the conference, I could only sample from the many excellent presentations available in the various parallel sessions on Friday.

In the morning I went to the panel discussion entitled "Successful Space Entrepreneuring". It was moderated by the satellite industry analyst Armand Musey and included Eric Anderson of Space Adventures, Lon Levin from Mobile Satellite Ventures (and a co-founder of XM Radio), Jim Maser (President of Sea Launch), and David Gump of t/Space.

The panel certainly showed the growing diversity of space businesses. However, they all have problems with ITAR restrictions and with insurance. They all need to work with government in some way, e.g. regulation of spectrum or indemnification from third party liability, but also need to avoid getting crushed by it.

Maser said that Sea Launch has ten people working full-time on ITAR issues and he and several other employees spend a good portion of their time on them.

Maser also made the interesting point that Sea Launch now offers half the price per pound to GEO as compared to the average price when they first started the project. However, they have seen demand drop rather than grow. This confirms what I've heard predicted: demand, and profits, will actually drop as launch prices fall and will only start to grow when prices are reduced by a factor of ten or so. ...

... I dropped in on a review by Anne Collins Goodyear of NASA's commissioning of art during its early days. Thor Hagan reported on the Space Exploration Initiative in 1989 and compared it to the current vision for space exploration (VSE) from another President Bush. ...

... I managed to get a ticket to the luncheon in which Elon Musk gave a talk about SpaceX. Some highlights included:

  • They expect to do the Falcon I pad fire on Saturday 21st, around 1pm PST
  • They expect the first flight of the Falcon I to take place in the July/August time frame.
  • The Vandenberg flight depends on when a Titan 4 rocket launches
  • It's possible the first launch may occur from their site in the Marshall Islands. The last of the concrete pours for their launch pad at Kwajalein will take place in the coming week. There may be an overlap period when they have rocket on the pad at Vandenberg and one at Kwajalein.
  • Their goal of $500/lb to LEO remains their goal and he believes it is possible by the end of the decade.
  • They do much of their development in house because of high prices of subcontractors.
  • Some aerospace subcontractors have done well, but generally they find that non-aerospace firms offer far better prices, delivery times, and quality.
  • Though the quoted prices don't depend on the reusability of the first stage booster, he has become increasingly confident that it will do fine because of its durability during tests on the outdoor firing pads.
  • After the Falcon V they will work on a heavy booster that could put 60k lbs in LEO.

... In the afternoon I mostly attended talks in the Space Tourism and Experiences session. It began with Alan Ladwig giving a vigorous recounting of the history of space tourism promotions and the public's response going back as far as Goddard's days...

... J. Moltzen (sp?), substituting for Eric Anderson, described the programs and experiences available from Space Adventures. One item of particular interest: he said Greg Olsen will probably fly to the ISS within a year or so. Apparently, the medical problem that scrubbed his original flight has been cleared up ...

... Chris Jones described the Red Planet Expeditions project that he is working on with John Spencer. This involves a simulated Mars base located in the Mojave area in which people will pay to experience what life would be like on the Red Planet...

... I missed most of it but there was a presentation by Manuel Pimenta on the Lunar-Explorer virtual reality space exploration project....

... Ed Wright gave an update on X-Rocket and the Rocket Academy. Unlike the other "space van" type of space tourism ride with 5 or 6 passengers, the emphasis at the Academy will be on a training mission experience in which the trainee flies with an instructor while wearing a space suit and interacting with the controls. Ed described the Archangel, in which the turbojet of a MiG-21UM is replaced with rocket engines made by XCOR....

... Tim Baily gave an entertaining report on ZERO-G. So far the parabolic flight company has been very busy. They have carried out flights for 3 reality TV shows, 1 TV commercial, 10 research projects, and over 1000 individuals....

... The session ended with a talk by the Tom Rogers, who has been pushing space tourism for decades.

May 20, 2005

Burt Rutan speaking to the ISDC audience. Buzz Aldrin can be
seen in profile in the bottom left and Conrad Dannenberg is seated
on the right. The silver NSS Von Braun trophy is on the table.

1:25 am: Back from the ISDC ... Not having much luck with my conference blogging. The NSS ISDC began today [Thursday May 19th] but the wi-fi at the hotel was down until the afternoon. After I finally got connected, I could download but could not ftp through the firewall. The conference has so many talks and parallel sessions, I don't have much time to go online anyway.

Note that many of the papers and or slides can be found online.

The meeting got off to a bang with a dynamite talk by Burt Rutan, who spoke after receiving the NSS Von Braun Trophy in a presentation with Conrad Dannenberg.

Burt recounted the many failures and disappointments of the US space program since Apollo and said it need not have been that way. He repeated the point several times that a development program must take risks to reduce risk.

The feathering of the SS1, for example, was a very risky technology, but it worked and greatly reduced the risks of disaster on reentry. NASA, on the other hand, spent tens of billions trying to make a fundamentally flawed Shuttle safe, when it should have taken risks in developing new vehicles with new technologies that would make flying to space both a lot safer and a lot cheaper.

When NASA did finally start building some test vehicles, it did things like canceling the X-34, despite spending a several hundred million dollars on the project. Even if a vehicle had crashed on the first flight, something would have been learned. Instead, NASA decided a failure would make the agency look bad, especially in the aftermath of two Mars mission failures during the same time period.

Despite all this, Burt is very impressed with Mike Griffin and optimistic that he can refocus the agency on doing frontier research and will leave boring stuff like launch services to commercial services.

Burt did not reveal any new details on his projects. As in previous talks, he stated his belief that the SS2 can be made as safe as the early airliners. If they can achieve this level of safety, he thinks it is reasonable to expect as many as 100,000 people to fly SS2 vehicles in the first 12 years of operations. (The modeling for this assumes about 40 vehicles flying by the end of that time span.)

After suborbital, he sees going on to orbit and beyond. Now over 60, Burt thinks he will not only fly in space before he dies, but has a good chance of going to the Moon. (Note that his father is still alive and his grandfather lived to 104.)

Here's another view of his talk: Burt Rutan Chides NASA for Dullness, Says Space should be Fun - ad Astra/Space.com - May.19.05.

Burt Rutan spoke later in the day at the National Press Club. A video of his talk will be available at CSPAN.org for a couple of weeks. Here's the AP's take on his speech: Private Spacecraft Builder Gives U.S. Tips - Guardian - May.19.05

... In the following session, Brant Sponberg of the Centennial Challenge announced a new prize contest in which teams will compete to extract oxygen from simulated lunar regolith. They must extract at least 5kg of oxygen within eight hours using equipment that weighs in total no more than 25kg. The contest deadline is June 1, 2008. The program will be carried out in collaboration with the Florida Space Research Institute (FSRI).

... In the afternoon the parallel sessions began and it became a toss of the coin(s) to decide which presentation to attend. During the lunch break I had the opportunity to meet and speak with Tim Pickens of Orion Propulsion for the first time and later attended his talk in the Power and Propulsion session. He has been and continues to be involved in an amazingly big number of propulsion projects. These include the SS1, t/Space, AirLaunch, and several others.

He also described his work with the Huntsville Alabama L5 (HAL5) group that has carried out a number of sophisticated rocket projects, including some high altitude rockoon projects. The hybrid engine designs for these projects heavily influenced the design work he did on the SS1. (Shows again the influence of activist groups on space development.) ...

... Later in the same session I heard Dae-Sung Ju of C&Space in South Korea talk about their suborbital VTHL vehicle that will be powered by a LOX/Methane engine. He said they expect first flight in 2008 and they will soon test a demo version of the engine. They have already tested a turbopump. However, they still need a partner who can build the actual vehicle. He said they will be fully funded from Korean sources and it should take about $30M to build it. ...

... Bruce Betts described the various activities of the Planetary Society and then focused on the Comos 1 solar sail project. He said they expect to fly it in June....

... I dropped in on the "Polling and Space" session to catch the talk of Geoffrey Crouch who described a sophisticated analysis of data from polling over 700 people on the appeal of space tourism. (ISDC - Marketing Research Imperatives for Space Tourism) The poll participants were given descriptions of four types of space related experiences that ranged "from high altitude jet fighter flights to zero-g flights to sub-orbital space tourism and orbital space tourism." From their responses to questions, the researchers could get some idea of the degree to which risk, price, hardships, etc. affected interest in such adventures.

The bottom line is that they see results in the 15% range for those who would be interested in suborbital flights. This is similar to the Futron/Zogby study (Janice Starzyk also talked about this study but I only caught the end of her presentation). I'll note that If 15-20% of wealthy people buy suborbital tickets, that will provide billions of dollars for the industry. ...

... Esther Dyson moderated an interesting panel discussion called "The New Entrepreneurs". The panel included David Anderman of CSI, Rich Pournelle of XCOR, Charles Lauer of Rocketplane, Jim Benson of SpaceDev, and Pat Bahn of TGV Rockets. They each described their backgrounds and their companies and then Esther and the audience asked various questions about building a business on spaceflight.

Ms. Dyson pressed them, for example, on the issue of how soon they expect to move to profitable, commercial markets that don't rely on government contracts and/or angel investors. Space tourism was held as the best chance for a large market that can bring profits and drive a cycle of better products and greater profits. Jim Benson, however, noted that his company has already achieved a profit with a diverse range of customers. Pat said its not unusual for a particular company to build a long lasting and profitable business model around a government customer. ...

... Between sessions there were exhibits to see and t/Space brought an impressive full scale model of their CXV capsule:


I'm told that some of the writeups about the CXV project that were displayed at their booth will soon be posted on their website. ...

... Gee, it's late and I gotta get up early and drive back downtown for another day packed with more reports about space topics of every sort.

1:25 am: News briefs ... More about the SA'05 meeting can be found from the Trip Report: Space Access '05 just posted by Richard Treitel...

... Robert Zimmerman finds that the 'traditional" aerospace companies want to avoid competition but may get it anyway as "nontraditional" companies try to crash their cozy cost-plus party: Space Watch: A shrinking, timid industry - UPI/WashPost - May.19.05....

... The latest SpaceX update says that Delta II launch delays have pushed the Falcon I pad test back to this Saturday...

... Congress, the Shuttle, and the CEV: Concerns aired over shuttle replacement plan - New Scientist - May.19.05. * Senate Hearing on Space Shuttle and Beyond - NASA Watch - May.19.05.

May 18, 2005

11:55 pm: Back from the crossroads... Well, unfortunately I didn't succeed in blogging from the meeting so I'll give a rough review here.

As the name suggests, the general theme of the meeting was that 2005 will bring lots of important decisions and events that will set the course for space development in the US for a long time.

The presentations consisted mostly of a series of panel discussions bracketed at the start by Representative Dave Weldon and at the end by Mike Griffin. (See the agenda.)

I'm not sure how to characterize the audience except to say that I felt a bit out of place in my brown corduroy sport coat amid a sea of gray and dark pinstripe suits. (A few other media types were casually dressed.) So it definitely seemed to be mostly a government and aerospace industry crowd. ...

... A couple of strong impressions came through. Firstly, the end of the Shuttle in 2010 is now taken for granted by everyone. Weldon wants NASA to assign a manager full-time to monitor the transition so that the community disruptions as happened after the end of the Apollo program don't hit the KSC area again.

I also noticed a widespread awareness of the existence of an entrepreneurial space industry and that it is becoming a force to reckon with....

... For me the most interesting panel was the one that discussed the question: Entrepreneurs: The Future of Space? George Whitesides (head of NSS) was the moderator and it included Debra Faktor Lepore of Kistler, David Gump of t/Space , and Rich Pournelle of XCOR. Each gave a brief review of their companies and then participated in Q&A period..

Lepore reported that Kistler had emerged from Chapter 11 and is looking for money to finish the K-1. Kistler will pursue the ISS cargo delivery and payload return business.

Gump reviewed the t/Space proposal for the CEV Earth-to-LEO system, which involves a vehicle considerably larger than the AirLaunch QuickReach. Instead of a C-17, it will be launched from a super-sized White Knight type of vehicle (Rutan's design has not been released to the public.) The crew rides in the CXV capsule.

One interesting aspect of their capsule is that it enters into the atmosphere in the same forward orientation as it leaves. Therefore, the seats need to be reversed so that the occupants experience eyes-in rather than eyes-out deceleration. They have built a full scale test system for the seats and shown that the reversal can be done in about two seconds.

Gump gave the following definition of what a "nontraditional" aerospace contractor should offer:

  • Rapid prototyping of hardware
  • Hardware meets specific milestones.
  • Fix-price contracts. This removes the need for the heavy paperwork requirements of the usual aerospace cost-plus approach. The contract is judged instead by how well the company meets its milestones.
  • The cost should be about 10% of what the traditional contractor will charge.

Rich spoke along similar lines as he emphasized that space developers need to think in terms of "products". Products get better and cheaper with each new generation as they build on what was learned with the previous one. He finished with a description and video of the XCOR composite LOX tank project. ...

... The panel on Shuttle, ISS & Beyond focused one issues related to the retirement of the shuttle in 2010, the completion of the ISS in that time frame, and the availability of a new vehicle capable of taking people to the ISS by then. ...

... The panel on US Legal Environment: Too Risky for Future Space Ventures? discussed the liability problems facing commercial space companies, especially space tourism operators. They noted the extreme difficulties in devising any sort of informed consent that would stand up in court. ...

... Griffin talked for about 30 minutes. He listed several historical events, such as the Louisiana Purchase and obtaining Alaska, that he believes parallels the space program in that they were severely criticized at the time but later accepted as wise policies. It seemed clear to me that he sees the expansion of humanity into space as profoundly important and the top long term priority for NASA.

With regard to entrepreneurial space companies, Griffin takes them very seriously. He said NASA will definitely include funds for buying cargo delivery services to the ISS. Furthermore, if a company develops a crew vehicle and shows that it is safe and reliable, then NASA will gladly buy seats on the vehicle.

On the other hand, he also made it clear that there will not be a parallel contract for a "nontraditional" company to develop a CEV system for Earth-to-LEO and back, as some have suggested. Such a company can compete for the prime contract like any other company. If it doesn't win, then it will have to develop its crew vehicle with non-NASA funding. It can then come to NASA and offer to take people to the ISS for a fee.

Robert Zubrin asked a question about when a decision would be made as to whether to develop a Shuttle derived heavy lift vehicle. Griffen wouldn't commit to any date but did say that, unlike the end of the Saturn V program, he wants to keep the tooling and assembly lines for the ET/SRBs available in case they need to start them up again.

12:45 am: Heading for the Crossroads... I will try to blog today from the Space At The Crossroads conference, assuming I can actually get in on a media pass and they have wi-fi. Otherwise, I will try to do a review on it by late evening. The rest of the week I will be at the NSS conference and will also try to blog from there.

12:45 am: News briefs ... More about the Canadian Arrow/Planetspace project: Spaceflight Partners to Offer Public Suborbital Flights by 2007 - Space.com - May.17.05 ...

... Florida wants CEV builders: Can shuttle replacement be built here? Organizations hope to lure manufacturers - Florida Today - May.17.05 ...

... The Space News article I mentioned yesterday about NASA possibly retracting some R&D contracts is now available online: NASA Rethinks Technology Needs - Space News/Space.com - May.16.05.

May 17, 2005

1:15 pm: More PLANETSPACE ... Alan Boyle reports on the new company: Space partners plan flights in 2007 MirCorp veteran joins forces with Canadian Arrow - MSNBC - May.17.05 ...

... A long article from India: Plan your visit to space @ Rs 1.12 cr - India Times - May.17.05 ...

... Plus here is the major part of a second press release from Planetspace:

PLANETSPACE and the University Of Chicago are Holding a Panel Discussion On Space Tourism May 18th

On the panel will be Canadian Arrow President Geoff Sheerin and Dr. Chirinjeev Kathuria, along with the test pilot astronauts who will fly Canadian Arrow on its first manned missions and University of Chicago faculty. Discussions will start at 11:00am at the University of Chicago International house 1414 east 59th St.

Also on display will be the 54ft long Canadian Arrow rocket in its new PLANETSPACE identity. Invited to this discussion are members of the media, university students and the general public. Also invited are some local schools to view the rocket and meet the Canadian Arrow Astronauts.

The University of Chicago has invited children and young adults to this event for the purposes of inspiring a new generation to become excited about the opportunities that space travel can provide. Just the sight of the PLANETSPACE Canadian Arrow full scale rocket is enough to inspire a young boy or girl to become an aerospace engineer or even an astronaut. We know that from other expositions that this rocket has attended, the response from these groups has been profound.

Panel Discussion on Space Tourism

Panel Members:

  • Faculty from the University of Chicago
  • Dr Chirinjeev Kathuria Chairman PLANETSPACE
    Dr. Chirinjeev Kathuria, M.D., M.B.A., has had measurable success in building innovative technology and healthcare businesses. He was a founding director of MirCorp, the company that made history on April 4th, 2000 when it launched the world's first privately funded manned space program and signed up Dennis Tito as the world's first "citizen explorer."
  • Geoff Sheerin President and CEO PLANETSPACE
  • Jason Dyer Astronaut Canadian Arrow
  • Terry Wong Astronaut Canadian Arrow

Canadian Arrow, a Canadian company originally formed to compete for the $10 million Ansari X PRIZE, has continued its progress toward building a spacecraft that will take passengers into sub-orbital flight.

After opening announcements there will be presentations from some of the panel members and ending in an open discussion on space tourism.

  • Why PLANETSPACE was formed. (Dr Chirinjeev Kathuria)

  • Overall review of Canadian Arrow and V-2 rocket technology to be used to fly first commercial passengers to space. (Geoff Sheerin)

  • Presentation of the PLANETSPACE educational initiative that allows schools and universities to fly all types of experiments into space. (Jason Dyer & Captain Terry Wong)

11:55 am: PLANETSPACE to fly in 2 years ... Canadian Arrow and Dr. Chirinjeev Kathuria have released more details about their partnership, which they had announced on May 4th. The press release posted on the Planetspace home page includes the following details:

Geoff Sheerin, President of Canadian Arrow and Dr. Chirinjeev Kathuria have announced that they have joined forces to form a new corporation called PLANETSPACE that will complete construction and testing of its first suborbital rocket called the Canadian Arrow. The goal of the company is to make space flight available to the public within 24 months.

PLANETSPACE expects to fly almost 2,000 new astronauts in the first five years of flying and generate revenue from suborbital flights of USD $200 million in the fifth year. Fares will start at USD $250,000 for a suborbital flight, including fourteen days training.

There was a press conference today in London Ontario. If you live near Chicago, you might want to attend this event:

On May 18th The University of Chicago will be holding a Panel discussion on space tourism. This Panel will consist of Planetspace management, Canadian Arrow astronauts and faculty from the University of Chicago.

Geoff Sheerin also has posted a statement of his own.

2:00 am: News briefs ... Congratulations to Jim Benson and SpaceDev. Dan Shrimpsher pointed me to the company's Quarterly Report and noted that at least one alt.space firm has reported a profit: SpaceDev made money - Space Pragmatism - May.16.05. And the trend has been upward for awhile according to the plots on SpaceDev's Investor Relations page. The $100k income isn't quite at Boeing or Lockmart levels but it does makes the company infinitely more profitable that 90% of those dot coms that got billions of dollars of investment during the time SpaceDev was getting started ...

... In the latest Space News there is a rather worrisome article about NASA deciding to review a billion dollars worth of R&D grants that it awarded late last year. Griffin wants them reevaluated to see if they support the exploration imperative. If not, then NASA will retract the award. The reevaluation will even include contracts that NASA has already signed such as the one with XCOR for composite fuel tanks and Andrews Space for its solar-electric spacetug (see next item). ...

... The Andrews contract will provide up to $18.7M to "design, develop, launch, and operate a small spacecraft, called SmallTug, that will demonstrate key technologies and advanced orbital mechanics for application to NASA’s human and robotic exploration of the Moon and Mars." The first flight would go from LEO to L-1 and back. Andrews Space, Inc. Wins $18.7M Contract To Build And Fly Technology Demonstration Spacecraft - Andrews Space - Apr.15.05 ...

.... Bruce Behrhorst at nuclearspace.com comments on NASA's nuclear power and propulsion plans: NASA Prometheus 1 Nuclear Fission: A First Step Public Comment - NuclearSpace.com - by Bruce Behrhorst -May.11.05

May 16, 2005

1:25 pm: News briefs ... CNN interviews Burt Rutan: The dawn of a new space age - CNN.com - May.16.05 ...

... New Scientist reports on the t/Space proposal for a crew transport system for the CEV progam: Replacement shuttle: Astronauts not included - New Scientist - May.16.05

11:40 am: News briefs ... In the second part of his report on the Space Access'05 conference, Jeff Foust looks at the various regulatory and policy issues that were discussed: Entrepreneurial space and policy - Space Review - May.16.05 ...

... The issue of ITAR restrictions on sharing space technology was discussed at SA'05. Taylor Dinerman looks at it in: Fixing ITAR: the saga continues - Space Review - May.16.05. ...

... Sam Dinkin examines the challenges of using a lottery to fund a space tourism business: Virgin lottery territory - Space Review - May.16.05. ...

... Eric Hedman offers reasons for Why technology projects fail - Space Review - May.16.05. ...

... Charles Pooley has posted some of his presentation given at SA'05 on Microlaunchers.

May 14, 2005

1:45 am: News briefs ... The Falcon I pad test delayed according to the latest update:"May 13: Due to continued Delta II launch delays, the hotfire has been rescheduled for next Thursday." ...

... Leonard David gives a very interesting review of the challenges facing space tourism businesses: Confessions of a Space Tourism Operator - Space.com - May.13.05. ...

.... The White Knight is an ace. More pictures from a typical Thursday at Mojave.

May 13, 2005

3:55 pm: AST/AIAA collaboration ... On May 3rd, I mentioned that FAA-AST had posted the document: Guide to the Identification of Safety-Critical Hardware Items for Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV) Developers. I forgot to mention that it was developed in collaboration with the AIAA and it was announced during the SA'05 meeting. AIAA served as the "facilitator" between AST and an industry working group. More about this on the AIAA - RLV Guide page and in the news release: AIAA Releases Important Guidelines for RLV Design - AIAA - Apr.29. 05 (pdf).

1:15 pm: Space tourism roster ... Here is a list of the firms that now claim to have obtained full funding to build vehicles for suborbital space tourism and have specified (or soon will) a date for when they will start service:

Company Vehicle # Crew + Passengers First Flights
AERA Space VT + parafoil landing 1+6 Late 2006,
early 2007
Canadian Arrow / PlanetSpace VT + parafoil landing 1+2 TBA May 18th*
Mojave Aerospace Ventures - (Scaled Composites + Virgin Galactic ) Air launch + glide landing 1+ ~6 ** 2008
Rocketplane Ltd. HTHL 1+3 2007
VT - vertical takeoff. HT - horizontal takeoff, HL - Horizontal landing.
* Date of the the Canadian Arrow / PlanetSpace news conference.
** I've heard passenger numbers in the 5 to 8 range mentioned for the SS2.

Several other companies who are known to have money may also enter the business in the coming years. Examples include:

  • Armadillo Aerospace is fully funded but currently focused on R&D for VTVL vehicles.
  • Blue Origin is fully funded but has given only a vague description of its vehicle and long term plans.
  • TGV Rockets has several million dollars in funding to develop its VTVL vehicle but has no plans to enter the tourist business.
  • Jeff Greason of XCOR, which recently won a large contract from NASA for composite tank R&D, indicated at SA'05 that he is now quite optimistic about obtaining funding for the Xerus (1+1) vehicle.
  • See the list of other firms pursuing suborbital space transport.

Delays to carrying ticketed passengers could be caused by the government licensing process (I think Canada will follow a similar licensing procedure as in the US) and by difficulties in obtaining insurance for second party liability.

Thus far, about 250 people have committed to paying $100K to $200K fares for suborbital flights. A hand-waving guess of about $200M for the sum of the investment by the above companies implies that only about two to three thousand such people need to be found to cover this investment and provide a tidy profit. (I'm assuming low operations costs.)

So things look quite good for the creation of the very first commercial industry based on human spaceflight. Real vehicles will be flying real people who will be paying real money from their own pockets.

11:35 am News briefs ... The Canadian Arrow home page says that on May 12th their "engine successfully tested at 50,000 lbs thrust". Videos are available. This follows the recent announcement that they had reached 45K lbs. The design goal is 57K....

... Irene Mona Klotz reports on the Canadian Arrow and its new space angel: Space Tourism Competition Heats Up - Discovery Channel - May.11.05 (via Space Race News) ...

... More about Griffin's plans for NASA and the CEV:

2:05 am: News brief ... Mike Griffin makes it very clear that he wants to retire the Shuttles by 2010 and to have an Earth-to-LEO capable CEV core module by then:

May 12, 2005

7:30 pm: News brief ... John Carmack reports on progress at Armadillo and includes a video of a recent bi-prop engine test: Engines, Gimbals, Vehicle - Armadillo Aerospace - May.12.05. (Via a HS reader.)

2:30 pm: News brief ... The Falcon I pad test moved to Saturday according to the latest update: " May 12: Hotfire rescheduled for May 14 due to the Delta II launch delay. SpaceX update will be sent out as soon as the hotfire is done."

11:55 am: News briefs ... Looks like SpaceDev could make a good run for the America's Space Prize if it can raise the money to build its Dream Chaser: SpaceDev Dream Chaser-TM- Human Space Transport System Designed - USA Today - May.12.05. The NASA involvement in the design, though, would probably eliminate it from the contest. SpaceDev could still make money from ISS crew transport and from a contract with Bigelow to deliver passengers to an orbiting hotel. (Item via a HS reader.) ...

... In an interview with Alan Boyle, AERA Space founder Bill Sprague implies that the firm has now gotten the funding it needs to build its vehicle and start passenger fights by the end of 2006: Entrepreneurs put space tickets on sale: Aera Corp. joins race to attract suborbital passengers - MSNBC - May.12.05. The company sent out a press release today announcing that they will begin selling tickets for flights. See www.aeraspacetours.com. It's sure going to be a busy year and a half for them. They need to build the vehicle, test it, and get an AST license plus insurance.. ...

... And yet another space tourism item. This one about Chirinjeev Kathuria and his collaboration with Canadian Arrow to form the PlanetSpace space tourism firm: Indian American entrepreneur to sell space tourism - WebIndia - May.12.05 (via spacetoday.net.)

3:00 am: News briefs ... Burt Rutan will inform the general press establishment about the entrepreneural space world: "Spaceflight Entrepreneur Burt Rutan to Address National Press Club on the Future of Space Travel" - U.S. Newswire - May.11.05 ...

... Tim Pickens shows the Discovery Channel his rockets for biking and space travel: Rocket Bikes & Beyond - Space Race News! - May.11.05 ...

... Well, I hope NASA doesn't form a commission to investigate the threat to spaceflight of silicone wristbands : Klyde Morris (via a HS reader).

May 11, 2005

12:15 pm: News brief ... Robert Zimmerman spots signs of a worldwide effort to colonize space: Space Watch: The new colonial movement - UPI - Mar.11.05.

11:35 am: German/Swiss private rocket project ... Project Enterprise is an alliance of the German TALIS-Institute and the Swiss Propulsion Laboratory (SPL) and is supported by the VEGA aerospace consulting firm. The project will develop a two stage rocket with LOX/Kerosene engines that is capable of placing 250kg to 500kg microsats into orbit:

... the booster rocket Enterprise will be available starting from 2008 with transport of commercial and scientific satellites and also for manned suborbitale missions with science astronauts or space tourists.

[Update May.12.05: I'm told that the text on the English page was incorrect in implying that the manned suborbital version will be available at the same time as the unmanned version, which starts to fly in 2008. They have not yet announced a date for debut of the manned version]

It will be entirely funded with private investment and no state money. The total cost is expected to be 18M euros (~ US$23M).

Much of the documentation is in German, such as these articles in a journal published by TALIS, but this site describes the project in English. This report (pdf), which is also in English, reviews other low cost rocket projects and then describes the project. See also this animation (38.1MB mpg) of a launch from an oil platform. This graphic shows a version with a capsule for suborbital space tourism.

My thanks to Jens Lerch for info on this project.

11:35 am: News brief ... In another example of European private space development, the English Starchaser project unveiled its 33K pound thrust liquid propellant engine today: 'Space Tourism' Rocket to Be Unveiled - Scotsman - May.11.05 * Starchaser Press Release - May.9.05

1:55 am: News briefs ... Space Adventures says it currently has a total of $2M in deposits for suborbital space flights (full ticket price now at $102K). The company is getting a strong response in Japan where it has opened a new office: Space Adventures Opens Tokyo Office in Response to Overwhelming Interest in Commercial Space Travel: Over 25 percent of suborbital spaceflight clients from Asia-Pacific region - Space Adventures - May.11.05 ...

... Now here is one gorgeous suborbital transport (and it's well armed too): Sentimental Journey - Alan [Radecki]'s Mojave Airport Weblog - May.9.05 (Via an HS reader in Mojave) ...

... Some of the links in my X-37 section were dead but a resourceful reader was able to track down a new URL for this one: X-37 Demonstrator to Test Future Launch Technologies in Orbit and Reentry Environments - MSFC FactSheet - May.03. (Note the optimistic schedule.) ...

... Guess I'm wimpy and old fashioned but calling O'Keefe an idiot seems way out of line to me. That's why I didn't get past that part in CEV: The Last Battlestar? - SpaceDaily - May.10.05 but maybe others care what the author has to say.

May 10, 2005

X-37 at the Mojave Spaceport

3:05 pm: News brief ... A HS reader in Mojave sent the above photo and says the X-37 is "being integrated with the White Knight but today it's too windy to be outside."

12:35 pm: News brief ... Irene Mona Klotz reports on the t/Space proposal: Space Race 2: Son of shuttle - ScienceDaily/UPI - May.10.05.

11:35 am: News briefs ... I had forgotten that Scale Composites was going to do some drop tests for the X-37 program, which was transferred last year from NASA to DARPA: Rutan to test Boeing X-37: 3 drops planned from jet that launched spaceship - L.A. Daily News - May.10.05 (via spacetoday.net) ...

... Rand Simberg wonders if Griffin will push NASA back to a 1960s approach to space development: A New Sheriff In Town - TCS - May.10.05 ...

... Aerojet gets a contract to develop a high power Hall Thruster:Aerojet Wins Contract to Develop Propulsion System for Future Space Cargo Vehicles - Aerojet- May.9.05

2:35 am: News briefs ... Like SpaceX, Orbital Sciences also gets a "$100 million indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity (IDIQ) contract": Orbital Awarded Contract By U.S. Air Force To Provide Responsive Launch Vehicles: Company to Offer Two Air-Launched Raptor Vehicles Based on Flight-Proven Launch Technology - Orbital - May.9.05. Note that Orbital is planning an air-launched vehicle carried by a C-17 as is also proposed for the QuickReach vehicle from AirLaunch LLC. ...

... Starchaser will take the wraps off its large bi-propellant engine this week: The Unveiling of the Churchill Mk3 Liquid Propellant Rocket Engine - Starchaser - May.11.05 - May.9.05

May 9, 2005

8:55 am: News briefs ... NASA is showing some interest in the proposal from t/Space in which the company would develop a 4-passenger capsule called the CXV that would launch on a larger version of the QuickReach vehicle from AirLaunch. The CXV would provide earth to LEO transport while the CEV, to be built by the LockMart or Northrop teams, would serve as Earth-Moon transportation: t/Space Offers an Option for Closing Shuttle, CEV Gap - Space News/Space.com. Perhaps the most radical aspect of the t/SPace proposal is that it would be developed under a fixed price contract instead of the usual cost-plus arrangement. ...

... Jeff Foust posts part one of his review of the Space Access'05 meeting: The post-X Prize hangover - The Space Review - May.9.05.

12:25 am: News briefs... Looking for work for Michoud, Lockheed may build the K-1 for Kistler: BACK DOWN TO EARTH With the end in sight for NASA's shuttle program, the Michoud Assembly Facility is turning to other projects - The Times Picayune - May.8.05

And Lockheed recently renewed talks with Kistler Aerospace Corp. about possibly building the company's K-1 rocket at Michoud. The K-1 would be capable of delivering commercial, military and NASA payloads in orbit around the Earth.

Kistler initially talked to Lockheed about the rocket several years ago, but the private company put the project on hold after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Kistler, which is still operating, said in March that it was preparing to emerge from the bankruptcy process.

... The Washington Post follows NASA Watch: NASA Chief Speeds Plan For Spacecraft: Griffin Wants to Launch Shuttle Replacement by 2010 - WashPost - May.9.05 * Washington Post (Finally) Picks up on NASA CEV Acceleration Efforts - NASA Watch - May.8.05.

May 8, 2005

3:25 pm: Space Access ' 05 Summary ... I finally finished my wrap up of the meeting.

3:25 pm: Hybrids, AMROC, and busting bootstraps ... Yesterday while jogging I listened to the Space Show interview with Jim Benson of SpaceDev. (The SpaceShow is great for my cardiovascular system!) Mr. Benson made some interesting comments about their hybrid propulsion program. Supported by funding from the Air Force, SpaceDev this year will be testing enhancements to their hybrid engines that he said could bring their performance up to that of solids and could surpass pressure fed LOX-Kerosene

SpaceDev's hybrid systems were "derived from the initial knowledge base produced by American Rocket Company (AMROC)." AMROC was one of those startup space companies that are typically dismissed as miserable failures because they burned up a lot of money and never got anything into space. However, AMROC and many of those other long gone space firms made crucial contributions to the creation of an entrepreneurial space industry.

The companies created new technology and the quality of that technology gradually raised the credibility and visibility of non-mainstream-aerospace. A cadre of engineering talent available for startups has slowly grown via these projects. The number of non-technical participants who were knowledgeable about entrepreneurial space expanded and eventually came to include a number of high wealth angel investors.

We still don't have cheap access to orbit but we are getting there step by step, and (necessarily) misstep by misstep. I can't think of anything more excruciatingly difficult than the bootstrapping vertical climb from the 1970s, when space development by small companies was considered a ludicrous fantasy, to the point we are at today with startup firms on the verge of flying people routinely to near space and of delivering payloads to orbit at a budget price.

I expect that within a decade there will be a grand opening of an orbiting space habitat owned by a private firm or consortium. I hope one of the first toasts will be in tribute to the blood, sweat and tears of all those fallen AMROCs that made it possible.

3:25 pm: News briefs... More about the shuttle RtF: Discovery to Switch to New Fuel Tank for July Launch - Space.com - May.7.05 * Morale High Despite Shuttle Flight Delay - Space.com - May.6.05 ...

... This rocket boy ain't no shuttle fan:

"I hate the space shuttle. Every once in a while, they (NASA) will rattle my cage enough for me to write an editorial in The Wall Street Journal, and I'll recommend over and over again that they get rid of the shuttle. I think it's an engineering embarrassment, and it will kill again."

Hickam on his childhood - and beyond - Birmingham News - May.8.05....

... While Florida watches, support for the X Cup grows in New Mexico: X Prize committee to form - Alamogordo News - May.7.05. (Via spacetoday.net.)

3:15 am: Launching tourists from the Sunshine State ... At least some people in Florida think the state should do more to support space tourism:

May 7, 2005

2:55 am: News briefs ... The shuttle Discovery launch is pushed back to July. The vehicle will return to the VAB for restacking with new ET and SRBs: STS-114 Shuttle Report | NASA managers meet to settle shuttle schedule issues - Spaceflight Now - May.6.05...

... Rocketplane posts its first newsletter: The Navigator - Volume 1, Issue 1 - May.5.05 (via Space Race News.) ...

... Masten Space Systems makes progress with their ignitor project: Igniter Tests on Cinco de Mayo - Masten Space Systems blog - May.6.05.(I had missed the posting of their April 2005 Update - Masten Space Systems - Apr.27.05) ...

... Here's a Powerpoint file by Brad Edwards on the space elevator concept and targeted for a general audience: Space Elevator PPT Presentation - SpaceElevator.com (via spaceelevator.com.)...

... Jeff Foust points to a Capitol Hill forum hosted by the AIAA on May 10th that will focus on the topic of public and private collaborations in aerospace: Public-private partnerships forum - Space Politics - May.6.05. Here's the announcement in PDF.

May 6, 2005

5:35 pm: Falcon I pad test date... Elon Musk says, "Pad hotfire scheduled for Friday the 13th :)  Hopefully, there will be reverse bad luck for SpaceX."

In case you were interested in going to see it, I asked if there were any visitor accessible areas at VAFB where outsiders could view the firing and he replied that unfortunately there were not.

3:25 pm: News briefs ... SpaceX delays pad hotfire test: "May 4: Hotfire delayed by one to two weeks, pending reschedule with Vandenberg Air Force Base. SpaceX update will be sent out as soon as the hotfire is done." ...

... NASA's exploration program is undergoing significant revisions, especially with regard to eliminating the famous 4 year gap in human spaceflight capability:

... 20 by 20 meter solar sail tested in a giant vacuum chamber at NASA Glenn RC: ATK and NASA Successfully Test First Solar Sail Propulsion System: ATK Solar Sail Technology Will Enable Solar-powered Interplanetary Probes and Solar Observatories - ATK - Ma.6.05

2:50 pm: Canadian Arrow engine test ...

Canadian Arrow rocket engine successfully tested at 45,000 lbs thrust - moving private space company closer to flight status

May 5, 2005 - Canadian Arrow has successfully tested their main engine designed to produce the thrust required for liftoff of the rocket.

The test, conducted on May 5th at a site north of London, is the latest in a series completed on the rocket engine for the Canadian Arrow launch vehicle.

“Canadian Arrow now has an engine with the thrust required to launch passengers to space,” said Canadian Arrow president and CEO Geoff Sheerin.

The engine, designed for 57,000 pounds of thrust at sea level, is a reproduction of the V-2 engine flown by the Germans during the WWII and later by the USA and Russians in the early days of the cold war. It became the genesis of each country’s present space programs. It is fueled by a mixture of liquid oxygen and ethyl alcohol and, at full pressure, consumes approximately 250 pounds of propellant per second. Thursday’s test was a significant milestone in the test of this actual flight hardware.

The engine and test stand are part of a 45 ft. tall structure that is surrounded on three sides by concrete walls that are two feet thick. Large earth berms stand between the engine test structure and the control centre that is built into the ground, and is where the team electronically directed and monitored the test.

“The decision to rebuild the V-2 engine was a good one” said Sheerin. “We now have an engine that we know works from the launch pad all the way into space.”

Over the next few months additional tests will be performed that will bring the engine to optimal performance. The engine will then be removed in preparation for its installation in a Canadian Arrow booster. The booster will then be tested on the ground for a full duration burn in preparation for its first flight into space.

Video of the test is available to the media at:

1:55 pm: Back online ... The automatic domain renewal process by my website hosting service (Earthlink) failed to work properly yesterday when HobbySpace.com was set to expire. The name temporarily referred to a filler site. Earthlink warned that it could take from 24 to 72 hours to fix but the renewal seems to have gone through this morning OK.

Sorry about that. Believe me, I was more shocked than anybody!

May 5, 2005

2:30 pm: Back to the Moon meeting... Conference manager Jeff Feige urges everyone to consider attending the Return to the Moon - RTM Conference VI, "Reality Check", July 21-23 at The Flamingo, Las Vegas, Nevada.

Recognizing the critical nature of this discussion to the country's future, the Space Frontier Foundation presents Return to the Moon VI, "Reality Check." This conference will be the point where the entrepreneurial space development community and NASA's exploration agenda intersect. All discussions will be focused on what we are doing and what we can do in space within the next decade; leaving longer, idealized concepts behind, hence the, "Reality Check."

2:25 pm: News briefs ... The latest edition of Rockets Away! offers an interview with Jeff Greason of XCOR and Dick Rutan ...

... Maybe an anti-ITAR meme is finally starting to spread: Space Race - Investor's Business Daily - May.5.05 ...

... Alan Boyle reports on shuttle launch schedule changes: Shuffling the shuttles - Cosmic Log/MSNBC - May.4.05 (See also the schedule revisions posted at NASA Watch.) ...

... SpaceDev gets a grant to develop "standardized, miniaturized, lower cost avionics for small launch vehicles, such as SpaceDev Streaker": SpaceDev Awarded Air Force Research Laboratory Phase I Innovation Research Contract - SpaceDev - May.5.05

2:20 pm: Weighty decisions ... Dan Shrimpsher warns that NASA and the exploration program may get bogged down with endless debate over whether to build a new heavy lift launch vehicle (HLLV): Space Community Infighting revisited - Space Pragmatism - May.5.05.

It's certainly reasonable to set a decision deadline. Many parts of the program will need to know what launcher(s) to plan for before they can move forward.

However, I sure hope NASA decides not to start a HLLV project until the exploration program is much farther along. Henry Spencer pointed out at the Space Access meeting last week, that it is inevitable that after you fix a size for the HLLV, its launch capacity will soon be exceeded by weight growth in payload hardware. Since you will end up needing to do in-space assembly anyway, you might as well accept it from the beginning and go with the launchers you have rather than using up a lot of time and money on a new one.

May 4, 2005

9:40 pm: Canadian Arrow going commercial with a new name ...

Canadian Arrow Partners with Leading American Entrepreneur to

Two companies at the forefront of the 'race to space' have announced they are joining forces to complete and fly a spacecraft capable of carrying passengers into suborbital space. Canadian Arrow has announced that it is partnering with an American businessman, Dr. Chirinjeev Kathuria, to form a new Canadian corporation called PLANETSPACE. The goal of the company is to make space flight available to the public.

Canadian Arrow, a Canadian company originally formed to compete for the $10 million Ansari X PRIZE, has continued its progress toward building a spacecraft that will take passengers into sub-orbital flight.

Dr. Chirinjeev Kathuria, M.D., M.B.A., has had measurable success in building innovative technology and healthcare businesses. He was a founding director of MirCorp, the company that made history on April 4th, 2000 when it launched the world's first privately funded manned space program and signed up Dennis Tito as the world's first "citizen explorer."

Canadian Arrow President Geoff Sheerin and Dr. Chirinjeev Kathuria, along with the test pilot astronauts who will fly Canadian Arrow on its first manned missions will be holding a news conference on May 18th at 11:00am at the Science and Industry Museum in Chicago, Illinois to announce details of the company's plans along with the unveiling of the Canadian Arrow rocket with its new PLANETSPACE identity. Their will also be a press conference on May 17th at 11:00am at the Canadian Arrow Space Center in London Ontario Canada before departure of the rocket for the Chicago event the next day.

Dr. Kathuria is quite an interesting person. Here's some background info via Google: Reaching Out to Stars - Chirinjeev Kathuria * Dr. Chirinjeev Kathuria For Lt. Governor [Illinois] 2006 * The Chirinjeev Kathuria Chat - rediff.com - 2001.

9:40 pm: News briefs ... Robert Zimmerman argues that providing exciting space projects to inspire engineering research and to attract new students into the field is just as important as space science: Space Watch: The engineering crisis redux - UPI - May.5.05. "[N]o scientific research can occur if there are no engineers to design, build and launch the rockets and space probes the scientists use." (More about science and space in the Space Controversies section.) ...

... The Australian HyShot hypersonic vehicle project has a cool new website with a bulletin board format: www.hyshot.info.

2:15 pm: News briefs ... Mike Griffin talked about a lot of issues, including the CEV and heavy lift vehicles, yesterday on Capitol Hill: Breakfast with NASA Administrator Mike Griffin - by Keith Cowing - SpaceRef - May.3.05 * Griffin: NASA Will Pick Cheapest Option For Boosting CEV - AvWeek - May.4.05 ...

... Dan Shrimpsher comments on Giffin's remarks about NASA public relations: PR at NASA - Space Pragmatism - May.4.05

12:15 pm: News briefs ... Sam Dinkin opens a discussion of the Boeing concept for a commercially supplied fuel depot in LEO: Launch Dry - Transterrestrial Musings - May.3.05e (Rand Simberg, who is currently consulting at Boeing, gave a brief presentation on this at SA'05.) ...

... Sam linked to an interesting set of slides shown by Boeing at a NASA meeting last December, which discussed concepts like dry launch: Space Exploration Systems - Boeing - Dec.1.04 - report to NASA ...

... Tim Pickens, who helped Burt Rutan design the propulsion system for SpaceShipOne, gives his kid a boost(er): Rocket Bike - Popular Mechanics - Mar.05 (via Space Race News!)

May 3, 2005

3:40 pm: News briefs ... Irene Mona Klotz profiles XCOR: Space Race 2: A little help from Uncle Sam - UPI/WashTimes - May.3.05 ...

... Turns out that David Livingston recorded a show at the SA'05 meeting. He has now posted it online: The Space Show Recorded at the Space Access Society Conference - April 30th.

2:00 pm: RLV safety guide ... The AST office has posted the following 60 page document: Guide to the Identification of Safety-Critical Hardware Items for Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV) Developers - 1 May 2005- (pdf). The document:

provides guidelines for the identification of potentially safety-critical hardware items in RLV designs. Possible risk-mitigating design strategies that may be incorporated into designs are also included. Such risk reduction measures may be necessary if vehicle operation poses risk to the uninvolved public beyond established thresholds of acceptability. The sole purposes of this document are to:

  • assist developers by illustrating a systematic approach to identifying and mitigating the risk associated with safety-critical items;
  • identify relevant and more in-depth documentation; and
  • enhance understanding and communication.

It is expected that this document will be used by RLV developers in the design process to initiate the identification of potentially safety-critical items early in the development cycle. With this knowledge in mind, sufficient actions can be taken early in a program to bring the risk to the uninvolved public associated with a safety-critical item to an acceptable level.

I haven't read it but the explanation of how they do things like the "Expected Casualty Analysis" looks interesting.

2:00 pm: News briefs ... Speaking of regulations, this article from today's business section of the Washington Post gives the industry a positive spin: Giving a Fledgling Industry Space to Breathe - Washington Post - May.3.05. One more nudge towards greater credibility for the new commercial spaceflight business. ...

... Tales of the Heliosphere offers another blog report on the Space Access ' 05 meeting. Check it out for more space blogging in the future. ...

... BTW: I plan soon to add some additional info and concluding remarks to my SA'05 report. ...

... I missed this article from last week about the Falcon I test: Low-cost rocket gets test - Lompoc Record - Apr.27.05. It says the pad test will happen today but I haven't seen any confirmation. ...

... More about the LockMart CEV design at NASA Receives Crew Exploration Vehicle Proposals - Space.com - May.3.05 * Lockheed offers space-vehicle bid - DenverPost - May.3.05 (HS reader Rick Boozer notes a resemblance to the Russian Kliper design.) Lots of comments on the design at Transterrestrial.

2:35 am: Congrats to SpaceX for Big AF Win... The Air Force decides that SpaceX is responsive enough for now: Spacex Awarded $100 Million Dollar Contract By U.S. Air Force For Falcon I - SpaceX - May.2.05. The contract requires SpaceX

to provide low cost orbital launch vehicles and responsive (launch 12 months from award of basic contract) launch services, on a recurring basis, using a mature vehicle design and a commercially derived booster to meet mission/payload requirements.

It think this contract could have a big impact on the space world. It means that all the players in the launch business must eventually meet the SpaceX price/performance standards. Even if there are problems with the initial launch(es), this contract should give SpaceX the means to achieve its goals for Falcon I (670kg/$5.9M) and Falcon V (6,020 kg/$15.8M). ...

... It will be interesting to see how this contract affects the DARPA Falcon program, which is funding SpaceX, Air Launch, Microcosm, and LockMart to develop a Small Launch Vehicle (SLV) that can launch 1000 pounds (~500kg) to LEO for $5M. I would hope that the AF splits off SpaceX into the above operational program while continuing to do R&D with these other companies to nurture alternative technologies ...

... First heard the SpaceX news from Dan Shrimpsher when I got back late tonight. He comments on the news here: Whole Bag o' Stuff - Space Pragmatism - May.2.05.

2:35 am: News briefs ... While competition enters at the low end of the payload range, it exits at the top end: Boeing, Lockheed form EELV joint venture - spacetoday.net - May.2.05 * .Boeing, Lockheed Join to Build Rockets - Forbes.com - May.2.05. I know there are practical justifications for this (e.g. the desire to maintain two independent launch systems when there are only a small number of launches per year), but it still doesn't seem quite right. ...

... The LockMart CEV design is revealed at Popular Mechanics: Lockheed CEV Proposed Shuttle Replacement - Popular Mechanics - June.04 issue (via A Peek At The Future? - Transterrestrial Musings - May.2.05)...

... This has probably been around for awhile but I just noticed this nicely done tribute to the SS1 at AvWeek: SpaceShipOne Team Hits New Heights - 2004 Collier Trophy Winner - Aviation Week (pdf) ...

... Irene Mona Klotz reports again about Virgin Galactic's stumble into the ITAR bramble: US export rules frustrate Virgin - BBC - May.2.05.

May 2 , 2005

8:05 am: News briefs ... I will spend most of today traveling back home from Phoenix. So postings won't return to normal (whatever that is) till tomorrow....

... The latest Space Review offers four interesting articles:

... Here are more details regarding Griffin's cancellation of the request for proposals for systems engineering and integration (SE&I) to support the exploration initiative - NASA's Griffin Cancels Planned Exploration Procurement - Aviation Week - May.1.05.

1:25 am: Conference News ... The last day of the conference included several presentations about companies with exciting projects in development. There were also sessions dealing with politics and with the strategies needed to promote commercial space.

As on the previous days, both Rand Simberg at Transterrestrial and Michael Mealling at Rocketforge blogged the sessions.

Here are short summaries of Saturday's talks ... continue to the Space Access 2005 Conference page

1:25 am: News briefs ... Genetics guru Craig Venter, space tourism innovator Eric Anderson, and Japanese businessman Takafumi Horie join the X PRIZE board Innovative Businessmen Join X PRIZE Foundation Board of Trustees - X PRIZE / BusinessWire - Apr.29.05...

... Speaking of Eric Anderson: Space Cowboy - Forbes.com - May.05 ...

... NASA funds research into space sails: Testing a Sun-Powered Space Sail - Wired - May.1.05 ...

... So it looks likely that Griffin will go for a shuttle Hubble repair mission: NASA to start planning for shuttle Hubble mission - spacetoday.net - May.1.05

May 1 , 2005

8:35 pm: Conference brief ... Another great Space Access ' 05 Conference finished late last night. I decided to do a bit of schmoozing at the after-conference parties rather than do my reviews of Saturday's talks. Also, today I will drive up to Prescott to visit friends. I hope to wrap up the conference summary tonight.

Continue to April 2005

Archives Index for 1999 - present


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