Giant Hop for Armadillo... An Armadillo
Aerospace vertical takeoff and landing vehicle made its first
manned flight yesterday (see the image at top, captured
from the flight video). The short hop by the hydrogen peroxide
powered vehicle (dry weight of 525 pounds plus 50 pounds of peroxide)
should be the first of many flights by several different vehicles
eventually leading to an X Prize 100km vehicle.
notes that though the flight was brief, it shows that:
of the systems necessary for much more significant flights are
demonstrated. Looked at in the best light, it is a reusable, four
axis stabilized, liquid fueled, manned rocket. Our single man
suborbital space shot vehicle is expected to only be about twice
the dry mass of this vehicle (but with a LOT more propellant,
including kerosene), and will not be all that much more complex."
They will focus
next on their "tube vehicle" (a streamlined version),
which they will fly to a couple of thousand feet. Progress on
their bi-propellant 1000lb thrust engine is also proceeding well.
to John and his team!
Does Rockets & Fuel Pumps... While I've been giving
lots of attention to the CSXT and MARS advanced amateur rocket
flights, there was another recent launch of a large rocket by
a small organization that I was not aware of.
resides near San Diego, CA and primarily concentrates on computational
fluid dynamics, flow visualization and related areas.
also builds "amateur" liquid fueled rockets. They launched
a several meter long rocket
on September 22, 2002 to 20,000
ft. from the Reaction
Rocket Society site in the Mojave desert. (Checkout the launch
This is the most recent in a series
of rockets that are intended:
our rocket fuel pump technology. Our eventual goal is to reach
an altitude of 100 miles with an amateur rocket. This rocket will
be the first amatuer liquid fueled rocket with attitude control."
of a cheap but robust and powerful fuel pump has become a major
goal for low cost rocket developers. XCOR,
for example, displayed a breadboard verison of a piston
pump at the Space
Access meeting last April.
is developing an innovative dual
pistonless pump that has few moving parts yet fulfills the
role usually played by expensive turbopumps:
typically cost $1M or more and this type of pump could easily
be produced for under $50K. The weight would be the same as
a turbopump (about 10 hp/lb) it would be more reliable and easier
to start up and shut down. The design can be easily scaled for
different applications." - Flometrics
So far the rockets
have not flown with one of these pumps but that is the goal of
with students at San
Diego State University..
(My thanks to
Andrew Case for informing me about the Flometrics launch.)
Beltway Pessimist... Space News reports this week (Sept.23.02
issue, p.16) that Robert Dickman, deputy to the undersecretary
of the Air Force, doesn't believe a military RLV is viable for
at least 20 years. Instead of building any prototypes, he is recommending
that the USAF and NASA do technology development projects - hydrocarbon/LOX
engines, thermal protection, etc. - with the AF kicking in $50
to $100 million per year.
of the X-33 is held up several times as proof that the technology
not only is currently inadequate for an operational RLV but that
it's not useful even to build a sub-orbital prototype for 10 years
As shown by
remarks from an Orbital Sciences exec, it appears that
within the military-NASA-industrial complex, everyone is confirming
each other's prejudices against RLVs. After the flurry of joint
NASA -AF meetings, workshops and talk of a National Aerospace
Initiative, it looks like we are back to RLV non-development as
these grand proclaimations that RLVs are currently impossible
blithely ignore a proof of principle, the Kistler
K-1. This two stage fully reusable vehicle is 75% finished
and just laying in pieces
in a warehouse awaiting a few hundred million dollars to start
Lack of technology
did not stop its development but lack of investment after the
Iridium/Globalstar/etc. failures pulled the rug out from under
the launch market. Northrop-Grumman, one of Kistler's major contractors,
could have stepped up to the plate and funded the vehicle's completion.
We would then have an RLV flying routinely today and Northrop
would dominate all discussions on RLV programs. Instead, in typical
take-no-risks aerospace industry fashion, Northrop quickly declared
a total loss on the components it built.
A K-1 might
not provide every capability on a Pentagon wish-list - the laser
cannons, shields, and Spacetrooper transport will have to wait
- it could do a heck of a lot when combined at first with the
Dispenser (pdf) and later with an orbital servicing system
Orbital Express or even an unmanned
Contractors in Limbo... It is looking increasingly
likely that O'Keefe will move NASA move away from development
of a full RLV system and towards a Crew/Cargo Transfer Vehicle
(CCTV) spaceplane that can be launched on top of an expendable
booster initially (the new Atlas V and Delta 4 would be the obvious
candidates), and later on a reusable booster. (See earlier
Space News reports
(Sept.23.02 issue, p.16) that this is putting the three teams
that won the SLI
study contracts in an awkward situation. They are currently
working towards an SLI review in November that will reduce the
contest to two teams. Until they are officially told to do otherwise,
they will continue to develop their proposals for a complete shuttle
Members of the
design teams don't sound thrilled by the CCTV approach. They say
that separating booster and second stage development will cost
more in the long run. But, of course, they will do whatever NASA
Boeing is proposing
that its X-37
vehicle become the basis for a CCTV by 2008. The other teams will
modify their current crew/cargo second stage designs to fulfill
the CCTV requirements. Northop-Grumman,
however, unlike Boeing and Lockheed-Martin doesn't have an expendable
launcher of its own, so it will be at a distinct disadvantage.
Stirrings... According to Keith Cowing at NASA
Watch, the CCTV (Crew/Cargo Transfer Vehicle) will no longer
be a SLI program but will become a separate project on its own.
Also, he says that the Pratt & Whitney COBRA
Liquid Hydrogen/LOX engine project will be canceled
and SLI will concentrate on the kerosene engine projects. (No
mention of Boeing's RS-83 LH/LOX engine.)
Those Ol'Expendable Rocket Blues... As you may have
lost its chance to set the amateur rocket altitude record last
Thursday when its rocket blew up at around 3000ft. They obviously
put a huge amount of work into the project and seemed very optimistic
and confident going in. I'm sure they are all very devastated
by the failure.
more lucky. Congrats to the MARS
group for the successful launch of their latest hybrid motor powered
To me this kind
of incident reinforces the arguments that John Carmack made for
why he decided to pursue vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) vehicles.
At the Space
Access meeting in 2001, he said that he had funded
a couple of projects to win the CATS
Prize and then caught the rocket bug himself. From the experience
with expendables, though, he decided that waiting long periods
in between launches, which would often result in disappointing
failures, would take all the fun out of it.
VTOL vehicles, he could test them often, even in the parking lot
initially, without the need for long trips to remote testing grounds.
They can easily be refueled and reflown repeatedly. The incremental
approach would provide lots of feedback and by starting with cheap
prototypes it would be OK to lose a few as experience was gained.
a bit. Many of the components of rockets like those launched by
CSXT and MARS can be refurbished and reflown if not damaged, so
they aren't really expendables. But, nevertheless, their reusablity
It should be
clear to anyone following the progress of Armadillo
Aerospace that they have, in fact, made great strides in both
rocket engine and vehicle development and have had a great time
as well. While their videos show some spectacular flops, these
seem to occur as a natural part of the learning process rather
than as dramatic catastrophes.
update at Armadillo, for example, reports on some fuel tests and
lander hops with a pilot-capable vehicle flown by remote control.
Carmack reports on what each hop taught them and the adjustments
made. These flight tests were made over a 5 day period.
I really hope
more of the advanced amateur rocketry groups move to VTOL vehicles.
There's certainly no reason an ambitious operation like CSXT could
not build them. Despite his personal resources, Carmack is doing
everything as cheaply as possible - that is part of the challenge.
The Armadillo web site is open and provides a great database for
others to build on. So no one has to start from scratch.
Come on rocketeers,
give up those ELV heartbreakers and have some VTOL fun!
- John Carmack verifies my paraphrase of his remarks and he believes
the experience with Armadillo so far confirms that the path he
chose to purue was the right one. He does say, though, that reaching
100km with a VTOL will probably cost 2 to 3 times that of developing
an ELV to reach that same altitude. ]
Trys to Get an Old Elephant to Dance... Graig Couvalt
writes in the current issue of Aviation Week -
Shuttle Shakeup Eyed For Cost, Safety Goals Craig Couvalt- Aviation
Week - Sept.22.02 - that Sean O'Keefe has plans for major
changes in the way Shuttle program is run and also in the SLI
program. It could mean that the United Space Alliance (Boeing
& Lockheed-Martin) contract could be dropped and replaced
with multiple competitive outsourcing.
follows a RAND study into how to deal with "[d]ecaying infrastructure
and shuttle component obsolescence", while maintaining safe
operations. Disputing the NASA contention of that not moving along
with the current privatization plan would jeopardize safety, one
of the RAND group members said "All the Johnson team data was
skewed toward NASA's current culture--and a cultural change
in NASA is required." [My emphasis.]
The report says
that "shuttle reform would be highly synergistic to the course
of SLI." The RAND
group is currently working with a team at Langley to examine the
SLI program and they are reportedly "concerned about the
accuracy of NASA's current SLI cost estimates". These concerns
may lead to "management and contractor changes in SLI. "
Reveals New Plan for the Moon, Mars & Outward - Space.com
Frank Sietzen also reports - Spacelift
Washington: On E Street, it's the Restoration of Exploration by
Frank Sietzen - Spaceref - Sept.22.02 - that
O'Keefe is planning to move NASA away from its LEO fixation for
human spaceflight and turn towards a deep space exploration emphasis.
This would, for example, re-orient ISS away from micro-gravity
research for its own sake and towards learning how to send people
safely on long space voyages.
Japanese reusable RVT
series of vertical takeoff & landing
sub-orbital rocket vehicles.
Next Japanese RVT...Space
Future has posted an interesting paper - Flight
Demonstration and a Concept for Readiness of Fully Reusable Rocket
Vehicles by Yoshifumi Inatani - Space Future - presented at
a conference in November 2001. He reviews the history of the RVT
(reusable vehicle test) program and the plans for the future.
Results from the flights of the RVT #1 and #2 shown in the above
figure are presented.
The next vehicle
(RVT#3 in the above figure) is proposed as a "reusable sounding
rocket" that could reach 300km on a ballistic flight with
a 100kg payload. Four LOX/LH2 engines provide the thrust for vertical
takeoff and landing.
The main goal
of the program is not to lower the costs for sounding rockets,
which would be great, but to prove out a host of reusability and
I don't know
if the funding for the third vehicle has been approved. The RVT
program was developed in the ISAS,
which was renowned for doing a lot on a small amount of money.
As I understand it, the ISAS and the much larger, more bureaucratic
have been merged. I hope that the resourcefulness of the ISAS
is not smothered by this new arrangement. The RVT is very similar
to the DC-X not only in purpose but also in that it's a small
program easily crushed by large programs that feel threatened
Says Space is Expensive...Wired magazine this month
has an article about the America's
Cup sailing competition: Billionaire
Boys Cup -Wired - Oct.2002 issue. Serious money is put up
by these people:
defender and nine challengers will drop a total of about $700
million, with each team spending almost seven times what Conner's
spent 15 years ago. For some teams, R&D alone will cost $30
million to $40 million, ten times what it takes to build the
outlay of about $78 million for a boat to win a trophy (I don't
believer there is prize money for the Cup) should be compared
to the money needed to build a X Prize sub-orbital.
Many of the
X Prize entrants claim they will build their vehicle for less
than the $10 million prize and the highest I've hear is in the
few tens of millions range. Even the commerical sub-orbital companies
(TGV, Pioneer Rocketplane, etc.) say they can get into the air
with $30-50 million. The Russian Cosmopolis
21 space tourist vehicle reportedly needs $70 million
to build a fleet of vehicles.
If we can't
get the billionaire boys interested in sub-orbitals, maybe they
would be attracted to a solar sail race : The
Wind From the Sun.
Hope but Japan's Spaceplane Development Goes On...Inspired
Week's review (Sept. 16.02 issue, pp.63-64) of Japan's spaceplane
program, I'll give an overview here.
In the late
1980's Japan formed plans to build the Hope
(H-II Orbital Plane Experiment) vehicle that would ride atop the
expendable H-II rocket to take crews and cargo to the ISS for
the Japan Experiment Module (JEM).
A sequence of prototypes would be build to test technologies and
techniques for the vehicle.
problems and overruns of both programs, the Hope program was scaled
back and instead the unmanned Hope-X prototype would be developed
for ISS cargo resupply. (The H-II evolved into the H-IIA,
which recently had a successful launch.)
But the Hope-X
also exceeded its budget and the project was "frozen",
though not officially canceled. Despite this, the spaceplane proponents
were able to convince the government to continue with basic technology
development. The budgets are fairly small and off-the-shelf
technology is used as much as possible.
space agency NASDA
and the National Aerospace Laboratory (NAL) work together on the
High Speed Flight Demonstration (HSFD) program:
So far the prototype
(Orbital Re-entry Experiment) - this capsule was intended to
test various re-entry technologies such as thermal protection
materials and GPS tracking. In Feb. 1994 it was successfully
launched on an H-II and after one orbit re-entered the atmosphere
and provided significant telemetry during its descent.
(Hypersonic Flight Experiment) - tested various technologies for
hypersonic flight such as thermal protection, atitude control,
etc. Was successfully launched on a J-I
rocket in February 1996 but after landing safely at sea it sank
due to a failed floatation device and was not recovered.
(Automatic Landing Flight Experiment) - in summer of 1996 the
ALFLEX vehicle carried out 13 sucessful autonomous landings after
drops from a helicopter.
Currently, there are two new
vehicles in development. As
flight tests of the Phase
I vehicle (not yet given a more interesting name) will take
place this month on Christmas
Island. Instead of dropping from a helicopter, this vehicle,
which has a refined Hope design, has its own jet engine for autonomous
takeoff and landing. The flight will follow a 50km course at a top
speed no higher than Mach 0.7 and stay below 8000m altitude. The
goal is to prove out the autonomous systems.
II vehicle will test supersonic behavior of the Hope design.
Next year tests of the vehicle will take place at the Esrange
center in northern Sweden. The vehicle will be taken by balloon
up to 30km and dropped. When its speed reaches Mach 1.2 it will
flare to maintain that speed for about 10 secs and then it will
come in for a landing with the aid of parachutes and airbags.
The agencies hope (no pun intended)
that if these program are successful, they will be able to build
support for development of orbital RLVs.
Rescue Vehicle Rescued (Maybe)... If Congress provides
the money, NASA hopes to restore the crew rescue vehicle (CRV)
and advanced life support development (needed for a full 6 member
ISS crew) cut last year after the revelation of big overruns :
would restore cuts to space station: Agency hopes Congress will
fund 3 programs worked on at Marshall - Huntsville Times - Sept.13.02
(Thanks to Jeff
Foust's Spacetoday.net for pointing out this story)
Not clear how
this will jive with O'Keefe's preference for SLI to develop a
vehicle that serves as both a CRV and crew taxi. Why ask for new
money if SLI is going to build it anyway out of its budget?
Watch is reporting (Sept.12) that a special meeting will be
held on September 16th with Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld to "decide
the future of NAI (National Aerospace Initiative)". The NAI
is a proposal within DOD to expand its RLV and other space efforts
and could include a merger with NASA's SLI.
(See related entries on May.21.02
BIG MOTHERship... Boeing is studying the possibility
of developing a gigantic plane that would fly via ground
effect at altitudes as low as 7m while over the ocean and
at more normal altitudes while over land.
Ultra Large Transport Aircraft (ULTRA) would be about 100m long
and have a wingspan over 150m and could carry 1400 tons of payload.
It's range would be "10,000 nautical miles over water and
6,500 nautical miles over land."
The main target
market is long range heavy cargo delivery, which is currently
being done mostly by container ships. However, the Boeing spokesman
also says that the vehicle "...is attracting
interest as a potential first-stage platform for piggybacking
reusable space vehicles to an appropriate launch altitude."
Martin Rees Sees Private Space Approaching...The BBC
reports on a speech made by the famous astronomer Martin Rees at
a science meeting in England in which he predicts that progress
in space may actually be led by non-government groups:
to push space frontier - BBC - Sept.11.02
He says that the examples of
Tito and Shuttleworth show that there are lots of people willing
to pay to go into space and this will lead to lower cost technology
as companies seek to serve this market.
"What may then happen as
costs come down is that space exploration ceases to be something
done as national and international programmes but becomes something
that is done in more boisterous and disorganised ways by
private consortia and even individuals.
"If that is the case, it
will be done even more cheaply because risks could be taken
that could not be taken by a national or international body."
- Sir Marin Rees [My emphasis.]
Goes for the Record... Later this month the British MARS
amateur rocketry group will try to break the amateur rocketry high
altitude record with their Deimos
Odyssey, "a reuseable off-the-shelf sounding rocket"
rocket team ready to make bid for new record... next
stop space - MARS PR/HobbySpace - Sept. 10, 2002
The Odyssey is made of aluminium
and carbon fiber and stands over 24ft (7.3m) tall. It uses a hybrid
motor with nitric oxide and solid polyethylene propellants that
will provide 500lb thrust for 25secs. This should send the rocket
far above their previous record of 35k ft (10.7km).
If this flight is a success,
they will attempt to break the 100km border with their next rocket,
Deimos 3, and
become the first amateur group to reach space.
The team plans to launch the
Odyssey at an unnamed remote desert site in California on September
20th or 21st.
rocket goes for record - BBC - Sept.12.02]
month for amateur rocketry... As mentioned here earlier,
Space Exploration Team will also be going for the amateur altitude
record this month and the 100km threshold. Amateur
rocket [CSXT] to attempt space record - CNN.com - Sept.11.02.
The competition in advanced
amateur rocketry is heating up.
on the Upswing?...HyperSoar
seemed to be one of those vaporware vehicle designs that occasionally
leaps out of a government lab PR department to make a splash in
Aviation Week (Sept.7, 1998) and then soon disappears into a file
cabinet in a nether
room of said lab.
In this case,
though, AvWeek (Sept.9,2002, p.81) reports that the HyperSoar concept
from Lawrence Livermore Laboratory is getting renewed interest from
as a fast transport to anywhere in the world.
is not intended for orbit but skips repeatedly along the top of
the atmosphere at speeds ranging from Mach 5 to Mach 12. [It could,
of course, release a second stage that goes to orbit.]
is said to be very efficient with a rocket/turbojet combined cycle
engine firing briefly only during the low altitude periods (~35km)
in the sinusoidal
trajectory. The vehicle would take off from a conventional runway
and reach anywhere in the world in two hours. It is not exactly
but would have a similar design. (photos)
While DARPA is currently only
exploring the concept for possible development, it can only help
that the primary HyperSoar designer, Preston Carter (yes, the same
Carter who gave the RASCAL presentation discussed below),
is a manager at DARPA's Tactical
Technology Office that is in charge of the study.
Space Tourism Study... Robert
Goehlich is doing graduate work
in Berlin on space tourism and has
recently published the book Space
Tourism: Economic & Technical Evaluation of Suborbital Space
Flight for Tourism. Unfortunately for us Yanks, it's
currently only available in Europe, e.g. Amazon.de.
I hope to get my hands on a copy soon. (If
you want to buy his book and
are attending the WSC meeting
in Houston, you can look him up. He says he is bringing some copies
Learning Reusable Rocketry...The Aerospace
Engineering department at Cal State University at Long Beach
is collaborating with Garvey
Spacecraft Corporation to develop reusable rockets and supporting
technology, while also training students for careers in rocketry.
The program receives funding from the state-funded California
Launch Vehicle Education Initiative (CALVEIN):
VI / Prospector 1 completed a successful flight in June 2001.
The vehicle flew to 8000ft on an ethanol/LOX 1000
lbf-thrust engine developed by the students of CSULB.
All components of the rocket were recovered undamaged.
2 flew in February 2002 and was also recovered undamage. It
will be refurbrished for a second flight in the fall. In fact, the
said the vehicle "could have been flown the same day".
A Prospector-3 vehicle is now
under development that will use a student developed thrust
In addition, an aerospike engine
development program is underway. Aerospike
Engine Engine Runs for 200 ms Before Plug Breaks-off - CalState
Long Beach/Garvey Spacecraft - Apr.28.02.
Note that the group also works
with the Reaction
Rocket Society and uses the Society's facilities for engine
tests and rocket flights.
Rapid Access, Small Cargo, Affordable Launch - Preston H. Carter
II, DARPA/TTO (pdf)
A launch with the two stage
RASCAL system begins with a ZOOM maneuver
in which the aircraft goes from ~10km and Mach ~1 to greater than
30km and Mach 2.5 before releasing its ELV.
last Spring's NASA
National University Satellite Program Workshop - April 4-5, 2002
a detailed presentation was made on DARPA's RASCAL
Rapid Access, Small Cargo, Affordable Launch - Preston H. Carter,
mentioned here in April,
the program seeks to develop a partially reusable system for delivering
small payloads to orbit. The first stage consists of a reusable
aircraft that can reach greater than Mach 2.5 and 30km altitude
before releasing its expendable rocket to take at least 50kg to
ZOOM maneuver, see above, sends the aircraft above most of the atmosphere.
Staging occurs at a considerably higher altitude and speed than
similar systems such as the Pegasus and ASAT.
Exo-atmospheric release offers a number of advantages including
smoother staging, smaller ELV mass, no ELV faring needed, etc.
The presentation discusses
the mass-injection and pre-cooling techniques for augmenting an
existing turbojet to provide much greater short term thrust for
higher speed and higher altitude flight.
Six teams were selected for
the first stage study period. A down select to two teams will occur
in 2003 and then a winner chosen in 2004, leading to first flight
of smallsats awaiting...The
conference site NASA
National University Satellite Program Workshop - April 4-5, 2002
mentioned above also provides a number of presentations
on small satellites built by students
and others. This
meeting and the yearly Utah
State Annual AAIA Small Satellite Conference indicate that there
are dozens of small satellites needing rides to space but that they
have great difficulty finding a suitable launch at a reasonable
Even smallsats reserved for
the huge shuttle payload can get bumped for long periods. The Starshine
4 student satellite will be delayed by as much
as 3 years. (NASA should justify this to the thousands
of kids who helped polish the mirrors on the spacecraft.)
Many students, who are absolutely
thrilled to be working on something that will actually go into space,
find that they must graduate before they can see their handiwork
fly. There would probably be hundreds of student nanosats each year
if there were cheap flights available.
While waiting for RASCAL and
other low cost orbital systems to arrive, sub-orbital rockets and
even high altitude balloons could offer a low cost alternative (e.g.
see the Near
Space section.) The student smallsat market won't be
huge but it will offer yet another income stream for the private
sub-orbital RLV companies.
for X-43 Variants...The X-43 program actually encompasses
several vehicles that vary considerably in size, design and performance.
They are tied together by the common goal of developing hypersonic
Here is a listing of the projects:
or Hyper-X, program led by NASA has recieved the most publicity.
The primary goals are to reach Mach 7 and Mach 10 speeds on successive
flights of the one-use test vehicles, which are lost at sea. The
launch attempt failed due to a malfunction in its Orbital Science's
& BLS are scaled down (~3m) models of the X-43 vehicles
for investigating low speed (LS) flight conditions. Accurate
program, funded under SBIR
grants from NASA, builds and flies the models to develop neural
network adaptive controls and other technologies for autonomous
operations. (An earlier LoFLYTE
project investigated waverider technology.)
will test NASA's ISTAR (also called "strutjet")
engine. The initial acceleration comes from hydrocarben liquid rocket
propulsion. After reaching Mach 2.5, ramjet propulsion accelerates
the vehicle to Mach 5 when scramjet action then begins and pushes
the craft to Mach 7. The vehicle, which would be considerably larger
than the X-43A, could make its first flight late this decade.
will test the Air Force's HyTech
hydrocarbon fueled scramjet. First flight could occur in 2008.
assuming the previous programs are successful, this vehicle would
aim to reach Mach 15 with a hydrogen scramjet.
Briefs... The High
Speed Flight Demonstration (HSFD) program at Japan's NASDA/National
Aerospace Lab will begin tests next month of autonomous
takeoffs and landings by an unmanned sub-scale HOPE-X vehicle.
The flights will take place on Christmas
Island in the Republic of Kiribati, about 2,000km south of the
Hawaiian Islands. Japan
to Test Shuttle Technology - LA Times/AP - Sept.5.02 * [Japan
to test shuttle technology - CNN.com - Sept.7.02].
the HOPE-X project is officially on hold, other basic RLV technology
development work continues : Development
of HOPE-X All-Composite Prototype Structure - NAL Newsletter - Spring.02
about the SLI-funded COBRA engine (LH2/LOX) at COBRA
Engine Could Power the Next Generation Shuttle - Space.com - Sept.4.02
has posted a fact sheet comparing the four candidate engines - COBRA,
RS-83, RS-84, TR107 - for the next-gen RLV: Main
Engine Candidates for a Second Generation Reusable Launch Vehicle
- SLI - Sept.02 (pdf)
Recovery Corporation has announced the development of a satellite
"tugboat" that will dock with aging comsats in geostationary
orbit that are running out of fuel and extend their useful life
for several more years:
The definition phase for the
Spacecraft Life Extension System (SLES) has been completed and
the company is now organizing a team of contractors to build it
for initial deployment in 2004. The company has "identified
more than 40 telecommunications satellites currently in orbit that
are candidates for life extension using the SLES. "
The company was formed by Dennis
Wingo and Walt
also runs Skycorp that
aims to assemble low cost satellites on the ISS for a communications
satellite constellation. This effort, however, has apparently been
dropped for the time being after failing to attract investors. Anderson
previously funded Rotary
Rocket and MirCorp.
Hypersonics... The latest issue of Aviation Week provides
additional info about the hypersonic programs in the Air Force and
Navy that were mentioned here earlier:
Powerplant Key To Missile Demonstrator - Aviation Week - Sept.3.02.
The DARPA/Navy/Boeing HyFly
program is pursuing a dual combustion engine approach. Air enters
one port and in ramjet fashion is slowed to subsonic speeds and
ignited. Supersonic air travels through a second port and mixes
with the combustion products from the output of the other chamber
and the fuel is then completely burned. This approach overcomes
the drop in thrust in normal ramjets at around Mach 5. The HyFly
technology is intended just for one-time use, i.e. missiles only.
The Air Force HyTech
program seeks to provide scramjet engine technology useful for both
missiles and reusable vehicles. Usually only hydrogen is considered
as a fuel for scramjets due to the brief time available for combustion
(~1millisec). This program, however, uses conventional jet fuel
(e.g. JP7) but takes advantage of the heat generated in the walls
of the combustion chamber to "crack" the fuel into lighter
and more volatile elements that enter the supersonic flow and burn
quickly enough to generate positive thrust at Mach 6 and higher.
brief... Check out the progress made over at Armadillo
with their engines and VTVL prototype: Armadillo
Aerospace News Archive - Aug.31.02
See previous articles in the