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RLV News
Space Transport Developments & Commentary

July 2005
Index Feedback

SS1
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

July 31, 2005

7:00 pm: News briefs ... Griffin is showing some leadership skills: 'We're going to fix it': Griffin believes shuttles will fly before year-end - Florida Today - July.30.05 ...

... John Schwartz of the NY Times noted earlier that all the new cameras trained on the shuttle could very well exaggerate the dangers of any anomalies that are spotted: Intense Hunt for Signs of Damage Could Raise Problems of Its Own - New York Times - July.27.05

"The more NASA looks for damage, engineers and other experts say, the more it will find. And the risks of overreaction to signs of damage while the shuttle is in orbit may be just as great as the risks of playing them down."

Perhaps Schwatz is now overreacting in For NASA, Misjudgments Led to Latest Shuttle Woes - NY Times - July.31.05 when he says,

"Last Tuesday morning, NASA's contention that it had produced the safest fuel tank in shuttle history was shattered two minutes into the Discovery's mission to the International Space Station."

Griffin, in fact, still thinks it's the safest fuel tank ever (Spaceflight Now):

"Discovery is the cleanest bird we've seen," Griffin said, referring to the overall number of dents, dings and chips seen in the shuttle's heat-shield tiles. "Six times cleaner than the average across 113 (previous) missions. So the fact that we have three or four things that we still need to clean up from our first test flight in two-and-a-half years - I'm not a spin kind of a guy, you all know that - but in the world of engineering, we did pretty well." ...

... "Almost everything we did on the external tank to get it ready for flight has worked," Griffin said. "We expected and we have seen a dramatic reduction in the amount of debris that was generated. Looking at the photography we've seen so far on Discovery, we've had about 25 dings as opposed to a mission average of about 145 (in earlier flights). So the engineering work we did on the external tank has reduced scarring on the orbiter by a factor of about six. I thought all that was really kind of nice and you should know it."

It's just that past fuel tanks were a lot more dangerous than were realized. ...

... The new in-orbit inspections are also finding anomalies that may or may not be significant: Cloth Protrusions on Discovery May Constitute a Threat - New York Times - July.31.05 ...

... Gee whiz, a few pieces of foam fall off a shuttle tank and it's the end of human spaceflight! Shuttle Woes Signal Uncertain Future For Human Spaceflight - SPACE.com - July.31.05. (I'll note that the Concorde accident led eventually to the end of Concorde operations not to the end of humans flying on aircraft, supersonic or otherwise.) ...

... More Shuttle articles of interest:

... Double gee whiz! Can't NASA do better in the 21st century than Apollo-lite? NASA outlines plans for moon and Mars - Orlando Sentinel - July.31.05 ...

... Enough of this depressing government space junk. Thank goodness an alternative route to space and the Moon and beyond is opening up:

July 30, 2005

2:50 am: Stairway to the space elevator ... Brad Edwards reports on his favorite topic: A Hoist to the Heavens: A space elevator could be the biggest thing to happen since the Stone Age, but can we build one? - IEEE Spectrum - July.05.

I think it's counterproductive for him to trash rockets in an attempt to make space elevators more appealing. Rocket transport will in fact provide the crucial first steps to a space elevator.

At present, very few people outside of alt.space see a pressing need to send huge amounts of cargo and lots of humans into orbit. A bootstrapping process is required in which lower cost access to space is developed in parallel with the creation of destinations in space, such as Bigelow's space hotels, that will attract people there and require lots of cargo to build and support them. The more people that go, the higher the launch rates and the lower the costs via economies of scale. As ticket prices fall, even more people will line up to go, etc., etc.

Rocket launch costs will probably flatten out in the +$200/kg range. (No, the rocket equation doesn't outlaw this.) At that point, the high flight demand will support development of high rate systems like space elevators and laser launchers. But to get to there from here, we need to ride rockets.

2:50 am: News briefs ... I'm certainly no fan of the Shuttles, but I still like that Griffin isn't going into a panic over the debris problem: Griffin doesn't rule out quick resumption of flights - Spaceflight Now - July.29.05 ...

... But just in case there is a long delay before the next Shuttle flight, the ISS crews are grabbing all the supplies they can from Discovery: Shuttle gap sets off station scramble Scavenger hunt begins due to suspension of future flights - Jim Oberg - MSNBC - July.29.05 ...

... Tile repair procedures will be tested on a space walk today: Discovery takes a long hard look at itself - New Scientist - July.29.05.

2:50 am: Zimmerman talking space ... I've missed Bob Zimmerman's weekly articles since UPI dropped most of its science and technology columns. However, he says that he will be talking about space developments on a Coast-to-Coast radio show next week:

With Discovery in orbit, the shuttle fleet grounded, an American tourist and a Chinese crew going into space in October, and NASA's authorization winging its way through Congress, the future of space exploration looks alternatively gloomy and bright.

In an effort to bring some clarity to the situation, I have been invited to appear as a guest for a three hour radio interview on the nationally syndicated radio show, Coast-to-Coast with George Noory, this coming Monday night to Tuesday morning, August 1 to 2, from 11 am to 2 pm (PST), or 1 am to 5 am EST Tuesday.

In the Washington DC area the show airs on WMAL 630-AM. In New York it airs on WABC 770-AM. For other parts of the country you will have to do your own research.

It looks like Coast-to-Coast will archive the show if you miss the live event.

July 29, 2005

5:00 pm: News briefs ... NASA had considered three different schemes to deal with the insulation on the protuberance air load (PAL) ramp, but decided to leave it unchanged: NASA Weighed Redesigns for Shuttle's Foam - WashPost - July.29.05. ...

... A long delay will cause big problems: If grounding lingers, what's the impact? Uncertainty abounds with flights on hold again - Florida Today - July.29.05 ...

... But Griffin thinks a fix can be made fairly quickly: NASA Chief Griffin Confident Shuttle Will Resume Flying Quickly - SPACE.com - July.29.05 * NASA: Another Shuttle Could Launch Soon - AP/Yahoo - July.29.05. ...

... The Troubleshooters.Com magazine has its latest issue on the pre-launch problem: NASA's Intermittent Fuel Gauge ...

... See Kliper - RussianSpaceWeb for diagrams and tables. ...

... A resourceful reader found this paper - Spacecraft of capsule, winged and hybrid type by Vladimir S. Syromiatnikov, Space Regatta Consortium, Korolev, Russia - about the hybrid alternative design to the Kliper mentioned here on Wednesday. The paper was presented at the Moon Base - Venice Workshop, May26-27, 2005.

2:15 am: News briefs ... Despite all of the debris ruckus, Discovery makes it to the ISS without any big problems: Discovery docks with ISS - spacetoday.net - July.28.05 ...

... Eileen Collins does some fancy driving on the way: Discovery does pirouette, then docks to space station - Spaceflight Now - July.28.05 ...

... I recommend listening to this music while watching this video. ...

... See NASA's NASA - Return to Flight site for updates, images, videos, etc. ...

... Debris info:

... Russia brings an offer of help wrapped in irony: Russia to the rescue? - Cosmic Log / MSNBC.com - July.28.05 ...

... Keith Cowing gives some counterpoint to Alex Rowland: NASA Will Halt Future Space Shuttle Missions Due to Unresolved Foam Problem - Online NewsHour - July 28, 2005.

July 28, 2005

5:55 pm: News briefs ... The Space Frontier Foundation publicizes the presentation given by Chris Shanks at the RTTM conference: NASA Calls on Private Sector to Help Make Exploration Affordable - Space Frontier Foundation/Yahoo! - July.28.05 ...

... Aviation Week says that the draft of a 10-year strategic plan for the Russian Space Agency includes some funding for the Kliper but international partners will be sought to help develop it. A mock-up of the 6-seat reusable module will be displayed at an upcoming tradeshow: MAKS-2005 features mock-up of the Clipper spacecraft - RIA Novosti - July.28.05.

2:25 pm: Suborbital tourism: companies and customers ... Virgin Galactic has distributed a press release about the formation of the Spaceship Company: Branson and Rutan Form "The Spaceship Company" To Jointly Manufacture and Market Spaceships for the new Sub-Orbital Personal Spaceflight Industry - Virgin Galactic/Scaled Composites - July.27.05 ...

... The number of firm reservations for suborbital spaceflight continues to grow: Sir Richard Branson 'Takes Five': $200,000 could take you to the final frontier - Milwaukee Journal Sentenel - July.27.05 :

So far, 178 people have signed contracts to fly into space, and more than 100 have paid for their tickets.

This should be added to the numbers given out by Space Adventures: Space Cowboy - Forbes - May.9.05

Awaiting the arrival of such a spacecraft are more than a hundred Space Adventures clients who have plunked down deposits of $10,000 or more toward the $98,000 mission cost. Twenty-six Space Adventures clients have paid in full for suborbital flights, which guarantees them a spot near the front of the line.

So depending on how you count, that's between $20M and $45M in firm ticket reservations already, two years before an operational ship is flying. ...

... More here: Branson: public space travel expected in three years - Oshkosh Northwestern - July.28.05.

1:55 am: News briefs ... Persistence pays off for Greg Olsen: Space Adventures' Orbital Spaceflight Candidate, Greg Olsen, Confirmed to the Soyuz TMA-7 Crew: Third private space explorer scheduled to launch to the International Space Station this October - Space Adventures - July.27.05 ...

... Alan Boyle gives some background to the Olsen flight and the Rutan/Branson arrangements for Virgin Galactic and the Spaceship Company: Space deals confirmed - Cosmic Log / MSNBC.com - July.27.05 ...

... The foam debris is embarrassing for NASA but I doubt it will cause a long delay before the next mission: Multiple Pieces of Foam Fly in Shuttle Launch, Forcing Fleet Grounding - SPACE.com - Jully.27.05 ...

... Bill Harwood posts a more detailed report - Foam loss grounds shuttle fleet again - Spaceflight Now - July.27.05 - and some excellent PAL Ramp images. ...

... Beat swords to ploughshares and exoatmospheric kill vehicles to jumping Moon bots: 'Hopping Penguin' lunar lander may give Raytheon new space role - Arizona Daily Star - July.27.05 ...

... Another cool link from aRocket - a table of delta-V's for getting from here to the Moon and Mars: Rockets and Space Transportation - Delta-Vs - Chris Hirata.

July 27, 2005

8:55 pm: News briefs ... Orion Propulsion has posted some graphics, including an animation, of the fly-back booster concept that they are proposing to the Air Force for the Hybrid Launch Vehicle Study and Analysis program (formerly ARES Affordable Responsive Spacelift). Here "hybrid" does not refer to hybrid propulsion but to combination reusable first stage and expendable second stage.

(I should note that Orion also supported the recent Air Launch LLC/HMX engine tests.) ...

... A new Russian crew vehicle design provides an alternative to the Kliper: Russia to develop a hybrid shuttle - ITAR-TASS - July.27.05. Here they use "hybrid" to mean a "combination of spacecraft of a capsule type (Soyuz) and of a winged one (Buran)". ...

... More about the SS1 at Oshkosh: SpaceShipOne Team Makes Triumphant Arrival at AirVenture - AirVenture - July.27.05. ...

... In another report from Oshkosh sent to me by a reader, it was stated that Virgin Galactic has received over 4000 applications for the 75 or so pilots that it will need to fly its fleet of SS2s. An alternative route is to participate in a planned "reality TV show in which contestants would go through a full training program to become commercial space pilots." ...

8:55 pm: Sci-fi vs. reality... A basic premise of The Rocket Company, first published online at HobbySpace and now available in print (Amazon: US UK ), held that a rocket builder should concentrate on selling its vehicles and not get involved in operating them. Flight services should be left to firms that know best how to do that. Such specialization should produce the greatest efficiency for both manufacturer and service provider.

Now comes The Spaceship Company, which will focus on building vehicles and selling them to spaceflight operators:

"The Spaceship Company will own the intellectual property of the new spaceship design. Furthermore, the company will build spaceships -- not only for Virgin Galactic and its initial order of five spaceships and two carrier craft -- but for other customers as well, Whitehorn added." - Leonard David

4:30 pm: News briefs ... More articles now about the arrangement between Burt Rutan and Virgin Galactic. Leonard David gives details in Richard Branson and Burt Rutan Form Spacecraft Building Company - Space.com - July.27.05.

I like this item from Will Whitehorn, President of Virgin Galactic:

At least 50 to perhaps as many as 100 test flights of the new spaceship design may be undertaken at the Mojave, California spaceport. That shakeout test period would stretch out over 9 to 10 months, Whitehorn said. “There’s nothing at the moment holding us up in our tracks,” he concluded.

Fully reusable, fast-turnaround space transport lets you do lots of test flights before going into operation just as is done with a new airliner. On its 101st launch, the CEV's Stick will still be on its maiden flight.

See also Branson and Rutan Form 'The Spaceship Company' To Jointly Manufacture and Market Spaceships for the new Sub-Orbital Personal Spaceflight Industry - Business Wire - July.27.05 ...

... Congratulations to George and Loretta: Virgin Galactic Signs First Honeymoon Trip - Space.com Spacenotes - July.27.05. I heard from a friend at ISDC'05 about this trip but swore not to break the news ...

... Attaching foam securely to the ET is apparently a really tough problem: Discovery's fuel tank shed unexpectedly large pieces of foam - Orlando Sentinel - July.27.05. (Via NASA Watch.)

11:55 am: News briefs ... A reader reports that Richard Branson was at the EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2005 this week and discussed his company's space tourism plans. This article - Passenger spaceship firm set up - London Evening Standard - July.27.05 - says that Rutan and Virgin will setup a joint firm called "The Spaceship Company" to own the design of the White Knight Two/SpaceShipTwo. Virgin Galactic will order five of the seven passenger vehicles. ...

... Jack Hodgson is blogging from Oshkosh and has posted pictures from the event including this fisheye view of White Knight and SS1. (Item via Kay J.) . ...

... On its way to the ISS, astronauts begin looking at the Discovery exterior for signs of damage that might have occurred during launch: Sensor boom to scan shuttle during inspections today - Spaceflight Now - July.27.05.

1:55 am: News briefs ... See the links above for the latest updates on the Shuttle mission. Here are some reports on the debris seen during launch:

... Via an item on aRocket came the link to this informative site AEHS - Aircraft Engine Historical Society, which includes a section on Rocket Engines. See the extensive Space Shuttle Main Engine: The First Ten Years by Robert E. Biggs. ...

... I mentioned yesterday the AirLaunch LLC rocket engine tests, which were sponsored by the DARPA Falcon program. Microcosm also reports on tests of its engines for the Falcon competition: Microcosm Completes Successful Series of Tests on 20,000 lbf Low-Cost Rocket Engine - Microcosm - May.23.05 (Item via Kaido Kert) ...

... Keith Cowing of NASAWatch.com did a fine job on the The Online NewsHour: NewsHour (audio) this evening in the segment on the Discovery launch. ...

... Only two main contractors were selected in Phase II of the CEV program but there is still room for small companies to get subcontracting work: NASA Sources Sought Notice: Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) Phase II - SpaceRef - July.26.05 ...

... Frankly, I've been rather confused as to what is happening with the NASA budget, CEV/Exploration program, commercial launch services, etc. The latest Space News (print edition) has an article titled Revised White House Budget Aims to Accelerate CEV Development that seems to clarify things a bit. Here are the main points I extract from it:

  • The administration will request an additional $292M for NASA to boost the agency's CEV and "new launcher" programs. (I assume the latter refers to the shuttle derived "Stick" launcher for the CEV capsule.)
  • The Project Constellation budget would then total $1.4B. This would cover the CEV, its ELV, and robotic missions in support of the VSE like the Lunar Reconaissance Orbiter.
  • Less money will be allocated for the nuclear power and propulsion programs (e.g. Prometheus). Also, some robotic Mars missions will be delayed or canceled.
  • The two teams selected for CEV Phase II have eight months to refine the designs they submitted.
  • Plus they will have to incorporate any additional features that will come out of NASA's 60 day Exploration Systems Architecture Study, which is supposed to finish on August 1st.
  • One team will be selected in April to build the CEV.
  • After two successful shuttle missions are completed, there will be a formal announcement of a Hubble service mission.

There's nothing in the article about how much money would go to the program to fund commercial ISS cargo service missions.

July 26, 2005

5:05 pm: News briefs ... .Jeff Foust reports on the NASA presentations at the RTTM conference: A vision for commercialization - The Space Review - July.25.05 ...

... Low cost operations will produce low cost access to space: Interview: two guys at the vanguard (part 3) - The Space Review - July.25.05 ...

... Taylor Dinerman reports on military interest in high altitude operations: Near space: balloons, satellites, and suborbital rockets - The Space Review - July.25.05 ...

... Rand Simberg comments on NASA's decision to launch today without fully understanding the fuel sensor problem: Yes, It's Fail Operational - Transterrestrial Musings - July.25.05. And last week there were entries on heavy lift launch vehicles and the t/Space funding strategy.

12:55 pm: Shuttle in Orbit ... Congratulations to NASA on the successful Discovery launch. See spacetoday.net for tons of links about the launch and for updates as the mission continues.

12:55 pm: News briefs ... Back in Rockville now and I'll try to catch up on postings and plus do a review of the RTTM meeting. ...

... Jonathan Goff has posted several items about the RTTM at his Selenian Boondoks weblog ...

... Alan Radecki has posted some pictures of AirLaunch LLC test facilities and of the Proteus carrying the test article for the t/Space airdrop tests: Two Different Air Launch Projects Test at Mojave - Alan's Mojave Weblog - July.25.05 (via Space Race News!) ...

... Following the link from there to AirLaunch LLC, I came across this interesting paper that I don't remember seeing before: Trade Studies for Air Launching a Small Launch Vehicle from a Cargo Aircraft by M. Sarigul-Klijn et al - AIAA-2005-0621. Also, in the news section there is a report about recent tests of a Propane/LOX engine: Airlaunchllc News- July 12, 2005 ...

... Spacetoday.net has several links on the White Knight/SS1 visit to Oshkosh, e.g. SpaceShipOne lands the future of flight in Oshkosh - Oshkosh Northwestern - July.26.05 * Historic Spaceship draws crowd: Suborbital aircraft set to retire after EAA - Post-Crescent - July.26.05 ...

... I recently saw an article (unfortunately, I lost the link [Update: 7/31: Here is the link] about astronaut Alan Bean in which he boldly predicted that lunar tourism would happen in a couple of hundred years. Well, I think it will happen a good deal sooner than that, starting with trips around the Moon in the manner of the Lunar Express flights proposed by CSI: Fly me to the moon? - Cosmic Log / MSNBC.com - July.26.05 * Space Tourism: two-week tour around the moon for $100 million - RIA Novosti - July.26.05 ...

... I hope third time will be charmed for the Planetary Society's solar sail launch efforts: Planetary Society planning another solar sail - spacetoday.net - July.26.05.

July 25, 2005

1:00 am (Pacific Time): News briefs ... Well, I tried to do my bit to help raise funding for humanity's transition into outer space. However, the $140 that I won on the slot machine falls somewhat short of what even an alt.space startup needs. So I decided instead to put it towards one of the astronomically high-priced tickets for Cirque du Soleil - KA. Didn't get us closer to space but it must certainly be one of the best shows in this region of the cosmos. ...

... Frank Sietzen and Keith Cowing continue their series of articles on the RtF and CEV programs: NASA Studying Unmanned Solution to Complete Space Station as Return to Flight Costs Grow - SpaceRef - July.24.05 ...

... Some other postings at NASA Watch last week about about the Shuttle and CEV: Kicking the Architecture Issue Down the Road - NASA Watch - July.22.05 * Sense of the Senate Regarding Shuttle and CEV - NASA Watch - July.22.05. ...

... Jeff Foust reports on the NASA authorization bill: House passes NASA authorization bill - spacetoday.net - July.23.05 * More on the authorization bill - Space Politics - July.24.05 ...

... An objectivist voice for commercial spaceflight: Privatize Space Exploration - The Ayn Rand Institute - July.21.05. ...

... Catch the SS1 at Oshkosh: Rising to the occasion: Smithsonian-bound spacecraft plans detour to mingle with WWII bombers and vintage planes at EAA - Milwaukee JS - July.24.05.

July 24, 2005

11:40 am (Pacific Time): News briefs ... Still in Las Vegas and won't get back home till late Monday night. So probably few postings till Tuesday. ...

... Jeff Foust comments on Chris Shank's presentation: Commercialization becomes essential - Space Politics - July.23.05. Check the Space Review on Monday for a longer article from Jeff about the meeting. ...

... Keith Cowing reports that the exploration architecture is still in flux: Kicking the Architecture Issue Down the Road - NASA Watch - July.23.05. ...

... Jim Muncy gave a brief but interesting summary yesterday of how he sees the situation with US space policy. He saw Shank's presentation as an indication that the long battle by the entrepreneurial space community to get commercial spaceflight companies welcomed as partners in space development has been won. However, winning a battle can actually mean tougher consequences than losing since now comes the challenge of fulfilling that partnership successfully.

Getting another "big idea" accepted is also making progress. Large scale space settlement must become the primary goal of the space program. No Antarctica-like outposts on the Moon but Las Vegas-es instead. Griffin, in fact, stated in testimony to Congress that human expansion into the solar system is his long term vision for space policy. However, this big idea is still foreign to many at NASA, in Congress, the press and the general public.

Muncy believes the advocacy community should concentrate its fight on these battles of the big ideas rather than over the details of particular projects like the Heavy Lift Vehicle and whether it will be derived from the shuttle. If the war of big ideas is won, it will become much easier to fight for the optimum hardware to implement those ideas.

July 23, 2005

9:20 am (Pacific Time): Return to the Moon: update ... Michael Mealling has posted the presentation given by Brant Sponberg yesterday: Innovative Programs announcements - Rocketforge - July.22.05. The image on the posting shows the particular slide I mentioned yesterday that outlines the areas where NASA will use service agreements and prizes to encourage development progress.

July 22, 2005

6:25 pm (Pacific Time): Return to the Moon: update ... Another impressive day at the RTTM meeting. Way too much material to cover here before I head to the conference banquet. I'll just hit some high spots. See Michael Mealling's RTTM VI Day 2 posting for pictures and more comments.

  • One of the major presentations of the day was given my Chris Shank, special advisor to the NASA Administrator. He began with a general outline of the NASA exploration program and showed a multi-year 2-D timeline chart. He stated flatly that the goals shown on the chart could not be accomplished if NASA continued "business as usual". Only with substantial innovation in the way NASA implements the plan and with far greater involvement of commercial companies will the goals be met.

    Opening ISS cargo delivery to commercial services looks to play an important part in making the plan affordable and sustainable.

    That was the good news. The bad news (in my opinion) is that he made it clear that a shuttle derived launcher for the CEV and a heavy lifter will almost certainly be included in the grand exploration scheme.

    I think Jeff Foust will provide a detailed review of Shank's talk in the Space Review either this Monday or the next.

  • Brant Sponberg of the Centennial Challenges program announced a new Space Glove competition. It will be carried out in partnership with Volanz Aerospace / Spaceflight America. Alan Boyle broke the story earlier - Building a better space glove - Cosmic Log / MSNBC - July.22.05 - and I'll note that Rand Simberg suggested such a competition when CC first solicited ideas for prizes.

  • Brant also reviewed NASA's plans for the Innovative Partnership Programs (IPP) . He showed a chart that began with Suborbital in the bottom left corner and ended with Small Lunar Transport in the top right. In between were categories like Low Cost Earth-to-Orbit, Re-entry, and Crew Transport. Each came with a set of goals that NASA hopes to achieve with the partners. NASA will manage the partnerships with service procurements, "Other Transaction Authority" (OTA), and prizes. (I hope to get a link to this slide if I can find it online.)

    The suborbital category goals included services hired for micro-gravity experiments and technology payloads. Prize competitions will be held in the areas of altitude and reusability for science experiments and development of VTVL prototypes for lunar landers.

  • Space Age Publishing has awarded SpaceDev a third contract in a series of studies for its lunar observatory project: Human Service Mission to the International Lunar Observatories - Spacedev - July.22.05.

... Lots of presentations on various business models for lunar technologies and development. Lots of discussions on NASA policy. I'll try to review these next week if Jeff or someone else doesn't in the meantime. ...

... A local story on the conference: Group promotes man’s return to the Moon - Las Vegas Sun/Space Race News! - July.21.05.

July 21, 2005

6:55 pm (Pacific Time): Return to the Moon: update... The meeting has been going quite well. Michael Mealling has posted pictures and comments at RTTM VI Day 1 - RocketForge - July.21.05.

This is my first RTTM meeting but I heard that this one is the second biggest ever in terms of registered participants. There are also a number of NASA and major aerospace company reps, which is apparently new. Several participated in the sessions.

Most of the sessions are panel discussions rather than individual presentations. There are brief overviews from each panelist and then a Q&A. This is good in that a lot of ground is covered but I wish some of the speakers had more time to give a longer account of their projects.

I don't have time to review each session, so I'll just give some random items:

  • Rick Tumlinson got things started with one of his usual rousing sermons on the need for commercial space development. I liked his analogy of Apollo to the Viking activity in the New World. Neither managed to set up a viable, commercial settlement worth fighting to maintain and so the initial effort was quickly abandoned.

  • A session on earth-to-LEO transportation included Debra Lapore of Kistler. She gave the usual info on Kistler: the K-1 is 75% complete, they will compete for ISS cargo delivery and use that to raise the money to finish the K-1. One thing new that I saw was a graphic with an image of a heavy lift version of the K-1 with a cluster of first stage boosters. (I assume all are reusable.)

  • Charles Lauer of Rocketplane talked briefly about their suborbital vehicle and said they were on track for test flights in late 2006. He then showed some graphics depicting a 2nd gen system that could be used to compete for the Bigelow Prize. It looked similar to the original orbital Rocketplane concept of a first stage fueled in-flight but it had a reusable manned second stage.

  • Jim Voss of t/Space reviewed their CXV project. At the end of the day, Bretton Alexander, VP of t/Space and a former administration official who helped craft the VSE, discussed the project as well. Unlike Kistler, t/Space will not try to develop their system with commercial money but will seek a fixed-cost contract, milestone payment approach with NASA. Alexander said that for human spaceflight there is no current commercial market and it would not be possible to raise $400M to develop a vehicle to serve an unproved market. Instead, they see the CXV as serving a specific NASA crew delivery requirement. Once the CXV is flying, they will spin off a commercial version to help develop the orbital space tourism market.

  • A session on LEO-to-the-Moon included Bruce Pitman of LunarTransportationSystems.com (affiliated with Spacehab and Kistler), Charles Miller of CSI, and Dallas Bienhoff of Boeing. Pitman's talk was quite similar to that of Tom Taylor's at SAS'05 and like David Anderman at SAS'05, Miller reported on the Lunar Express. Bienhoff discussed a number of different lunar transportation architectures that Boeing is studying, including the use of L1 as a staging area.

  • In response to a question about lunar transportation architecture, Lauer had said he favored the "dry launch" concept (mentioned by Rand Simberg at SAS'05) in which modules and fuel are launched separately. Interestingly, Bienhoff later concurred that this approach would obviate the need for development of new launchers like the shuttle derived vehicles.

  • The other sessions were more directly related to lunar operations and I will try to come back to them later, perhaps in a summary next week.

I will only be making occasional updates. My wife and her god-daughter came along so I'll be spending time enjoying the delights of the city with them rather than pounding the keyboard. In addition, there is no wireless provided by the hotel and only an expensive line connection in the room. (I've heard, though, that near the meeting room someone has set up a wireless node for the participants so I may give that a shot tomorrow.)

6:55 pm: News briefs ... The Christian Science Monitor has a good review of commercial spaceflight projects: Beyond NASA: The push to privatize spaceflight - csmonitor.com - July.20.05 (via spacetoday.net) ...

... The Discovery launch will take place next Tuesday (maybe): NASA reschedules STS-114 launch for July 26 - spacetoday.net - July.21.05 ...

... There's a report out on the Cosmos 1 launch failure but the Planetary Society says it falls short of a full and convincing picture of exactly what happened: Russians Issue Report on Failed Solar Sail Launch - SPACE.com - July.21.05 ...

... The book Space Tourism : Adventures in Earth's Orbit and Beyond by Michel van Pelt (Amazon: US) is reviewed at Space Tourism: The Road Ahead - Spacedaily - July.20.05. (Via Rick Boozer.) ...

... Unfortunately, the Mojave Air Show 05, at the Mojave Spaceport scheduled for Sept.21, 2005 has been canceled and no new date has been set yet: Mojave Airport cancels air show - AV Press - July.21.05. So to see the EZ Rocket fly you will have to go to the X PRIZE Cup exhibition in Las Cruces, New Mexico, October 4-9, 2005.

July 20, 2005

2:50 pm: Returning to the Moon ... I'm off to Las Vegas this evening to attend the Return to the Moon - RTM Conference VI, which starts tomorrow. The agenda promises a number of interesting presentations and panels. I'll try to post an occasional update from there. Regular postings will resume next Tuesday.

Michael Mealling promises to blog from the meeting at RocketForge. I'm looking forward to his session of "entrepreneurs/technology development companies talking ... about their innovative technologies. The plan is to paint a broad picture of what the private sector could offer and do so quickly."

2:50 pm: News briefs ... Rand Simberg says the success of Apollo and the failure of the Shuttle program doesn't prove that RLVs are bad and ELVs with capsules are good: The Eagle Landed - Transterrestrial Musings - July.20.05 ...

...You can buy a piece of Shuttle history at eBay: eBay: Original NASA Space Shuttle Prototype .006 Scale Convair. Check out the video report at Shuttle Prototype For Sale On eBay - WESH.com - July.19.05 (via spacetoday.net) ...

... From the title, I thought this article - The man who pioneered space travel speaks out - The Times of India - July.20.05 (via spacetoday.net) - would be about Buzz Aldrin, John Glenn, etc.

9:35 am: News briefs ... So maybe on the 56th anniversary of the first Moon landing, Google Moon will be providing higher resolution info such as directions to the nearest lunar pub or shopping mall. ...

... Jonathan Goff gives reasons why a Heavy Lift Vehicle (HLV) is not a great first step towards the creation of such a lunar community: Shuttle Derived Sillyness Part II: The Case Against Heavy Lift - Selenian Boondocks - July.18.05. (The Feedback section includes an exchange about Jon's first posting on HLVs.) ...

... Alan Boyle reports that SpaceShipOne will be formally handed over to the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum on September 28th: SpaceShipOne's last trip - Cosmic Log / MSNBC - July.19.05 ...

... Alan also provides more info about the Space Adventures deal with Florida and about other Cape Canaveral space tourism developments: Space tourism at the Cape - Cosmic Log / MSNBC.com - July.19.05 ...

... Meanwhile, it remains uncertain as to when Discovery will leave the Cape: Next Tuesday earliest launch date for shuttle - spacetoday.net - July.19.05.

July 19, 2005

2:05 am: News briefs ... Alan Boyle reviews the various criticisms of the shuttle design: Shunning the shuttle - Cosmic Log/ MSNBC - July.18.05 ...

... Meanwhile, NASA ponders what to do if it cannot soon isolate the exact cause of the fuel sensor problem: NASA mulls launch options - Spaceflight Now - July.18.05.

July 18, 2005

3:40 pm: News briefs ... Florida begins to support commercial suborbital spaceflight in cooperation with Space Adventures: Governor Bush and Space Adventures Announce the Opening of a Suborbital Vehicle and Spaceport Development Office: Kennedy Space Center will be ground-zero for Space Adventures’ suborbital spaceflight program development - Space Adventure PR - July.18.05. ...

... Peter Diamandis campaigns for commercial spaceflight in Britain: Pushing for the next giant leap - BBC - July.18.05 ...

.... An update from JP Aerospace: Latest Happenings at JPA - Space Race News! - July.17.05.

2:05 pm: News briefs ... Sam Dinkin continues his interview at TGV Rockets with a focus this time on operations costs: Interview: two guys at the vanguard (part 2) - The Space Review - July.18.05 ...

... Taylor Dinerman discusses the possibility that NASA will hire commercial companies to provide ISS transportation services: Will NASA support space entrepreneurs? - The Space Review - July.18.05 ...

... John Jurist continues his series on the health effects of suborbital spaceflight: Human factors in commercial suborbital flight: Impact acceleration: an extreme skydiving experience - The Space Review - July.18.05 ...

... Col. Gary Henry of the USAF Space Command and author of The Decision Maker's Guide To Robust, Reliable, And Inexpensive Access To Space - 2003 (pdf) will be on the SpaceShow Tuesday, July 19, 2005, 7:00-8:30 pm (Pacific Time ). Since he wrote his thesis, he was stationed at Vandenberg and worked with SpaceX to prepare for the Falcon I launch. It will be interesting to hear if he still believes that only a waverider can bring significant reductions in space access costs. ...

... No solution found yet for the Discovery fuel sensor anomaly: Baffling problem could prompt shuttle fueling test - Spaceflight Now - July.17.05.

1:35 am: News briefs ... NASA may be compelled to limit the Shuttle program to no more than 15 flights before retirement: White House Memo Calls For Slashing Remaining Space Shuttle Flights - SpaceRef - July.17.05 Frank Sietzen and Keith Cowing ...

... George William Herbert and Rand Simberg explain that redundancy to achieve safe operations and redundancy to achieve cost-effective operations are not equivalent: Airlines Are Fail Operational--NASA Is Only Fail Safe - Transterrestrial Musings - July.17.05 ...

... Starchaser gearing up for its display of mockups and hardware at the new Spaceport center in Liverpool: Countdown to the opening of Merseyside's Spaceport Only 8 days to go! - Starchaser - July.18.05.

July 17, 2005

5:20 pm: News briefs ... William Harwood gives a good intro to the fuel sensor problem: Engine Cut-Off Sensor Background - Spaceflight Now - July.16.05 ...

... And here's a recent update on the status of the debugging of the problem: Shuttle's fuel sensor problem remains elusive - Spaceflight Now - July.16.05 ...

... Rand Simberg says that combining crew and cargo was not a crucial flaw in the Shuttle design as many now believe: Wrong Lesson - Transterrestrial Musings - July.17.05 ...

... I didn't know that Ecliptic Enterprises was a spinoff from the failed Blastoff! lunar project: Private space missions weighed - Pasadena Star - July.17.05.

July 16, 2005

11:40 am: News briefs ... Discovery will not launch before the end of next week: Late-week launch is 'possible': Team still working on shuttle to decode source of sensor failure - Florida Today - July.16.05 * Shuttle launch pushed back to late next week - spacetoday.net - July.15.05 ...

... As these problems indicate, the Shuttle program won't fly enough times by 2010 to finish the ISS. So NASA is considering launching some of the remaining ISS modules on other vehicles in place of the Shuttle: Boeing ISS Manager Expects Scaled Back Station Configuration - Aviation Week - July.15.05 ...

... Alan Boyle reports on the efforts to get Discovery into space: Launch pad perceptions - Cosmic Log/MSNBC.com - July.14.05 * What would Burt do? - Cosmic Log / MSNBC.com - July.15.05 ...

... Dr. Zubrin comments on CEV, HLV, etc in this interview: Interview with Dr. Robert Zubrin - SpaceAlumni.com - July.15.05 ...

... A very short story about a suborbital space ride: Out of this world: A science-fiction writer takes us on an imaginary space journey - DallasNews.com- July.15.05 ...

... An aerospace museum is planned for Mojave: Transportation museum planned for Mojave - AV Press - July.15.05 ...

... China continues its ponderous program to space: Plans come together for China's next manned flight - Spaceflight Now - July.15.05

July 15, 2005

1:40 pm: News briefs ... No word yet on when Discovery will launch: Shuttle launch pushed back to at least Sunday - spacetoday.net - July.15.05 ...

... Check out the interesting presentations at the recent Lunar Commerce Roundtable, which was sponsored by Boeing, LockMart, etc. Discussions about creating businesses around utilisation of lunar resources was not so respectable just a few years ago. (Item via Space Arena Board.)

1:35 am: News briefs ... This article talks about Pat Bahn, TGV Rockets, and the trials and tribulations of running a small business: Terrestrial concerns weigh on rocket entrepreneur - Business Gazette - July.15.05 (via spacetoday.net) ...

... Here's another article about space startups: The new space race: Entrepreneurs seek to offer flights - CNN Money - July.13.05 ...

... While this one is about Burt Rutan and space tourism: Aerospace pioneer looks to future of private space flight - Arizona Daily Star - July.13.05 (via a HS reader.)

July 14, 2005

1:05 pm: News briefs ... Elon Musk of SpaceX offers some advice to Florida on how to attract new space enterprises: CEO: Florida needs more aerospace talent: PayPal co-creator, SpaceX boss addresses state space commission - Florida Today - July.14.05 ...

... Blue Origin is briefly mentioned in this interview: Jeff Bezos Reaches for the Stars: Jeff Bezos has just launched a brand-new company, and nothing about - not the product, not the approach - "is like Amazon.com - AlwaysOn - July.14.05 (via spacetoday.net)

1:45 am News briefs ... NASA will try again in a few days: Fuel sensor glitch scrubs shuttle launch - spacetoday.net - July.13.05 ...

... Griffin says the Shuttle test program will end by 2010: Cosmic Log: Has the shuttle peaked? - Cosmic Log / MSNBC - July.13.05 ...

... I hope that by 2010 there will be several new players in the US spaceflight business: NASA not alone in shooting for the stars: Failures and delays at U.S. space agency have opened the door for businesses to enter space - Newsday.com - July.13.05 (via Space Race News!) ...

... The Eclipse 500 is one of several Very Light Jet projects trying to show that aerospace can still learn a few new tricks and reduce costs the way other industries do. This article - Eclipse 500 Program Update - Business & Commercial Aviation - July.2005 - includes a quote similar to what I've heard many rocket entrepreneurs say:

Raburn often has said that the aviation industry is so risk averse that technological progress is painfully slow, manufacturing costs are among the highest of any industry, quality is marginal and reliability is low. This is why airplane prices are so high and they cost so much to operate, according to Raburn.

1:45 am XP Cup rocket show ... I realized today that I had glossed over the XP Cup announcement last week about the participants in the October exhibition. (I still can't find anything on the X PRIZE Foundation website about the press briefing.) Here's a list of the participants so far (from the MSNBC and Space.com articles):

While not quite as dramatic as the rocket races promised for future XP Cup events, these guys should do a fine job in getting the program off the ground.

July 13, 2005

3:45 pm News briefs ... NASA may retire one of the three remaining shuttles (Discovery, Endeavour, Atlantis) in 2007 to save money: NASA and White House Discuss Early Shuttle Fleet Retirement - Frank Sietzen, Jr. and Keith L. Cowing - Spaceref - July.13.05. ...

... The Oklahoma Gazette reports on Rocketplane, which is building its vehicle in the state and plans to operate it out of the spaceport facility at Burns Flat: Space cowboys: Real rocket scientists say there’s gold in Burns Flat, where it’s flatter than a fritter. But it’ll be slim pickin’s for Oklahoma if Rocketplane doesn’t get off the ground. - Oklahoma Gazette/AltWeekles - July.13.04. [Update: 9:10 pm: changed the link to a long version of the article at AltWeeklies.]

10:40 am: News briefs ... The suspense if over - the CEV study contracts were won by the only two teams competing in the contest: NASA Awards Crew Exploration Vehicle Contracts - NASA - July.12.05 * NASA awards CEV study contracts - spacetoday.net - July.13.05 ...

... See the set of links on top for the latest updates on the launch of Discovery ...

... Final article in the Florida Today series on Columbia and the return to flight campaign: Chapter 11: Time for a gut check: Once 'go' is given, nothing left to do but wait - Florida Today - July.12.05 ...

... Alan Boyle gives some background on how the press reports on the Shuttle flights: Guide to the shuttlesphere - Cosmic Log/ MSNBC - July.12.05.

July 12, 2005

3:45 pm: News briefs ... This announcement - NASA Engineers, Tennessee College Students Successfully Demonstrate Catch Mechanism for Future Space Tether - NASA - July.6.05 - describes development of a rotating tether system for grabbing payloads from low orbit and throwing them to high orbit. See Momentum-Exchange Electrodynamic Reboost (MXER) Tether Fact Sheet - MSFC NASA - May.2005 (pdf) and MXER at Tethers Unlimited for an explanation of the system and how the tether regains its orbit.

Some nice animations are available at MXER group at Tennessee Tech University. The project is funded by NASA In-Space Propulsion ...

... Andrews Space gives a contract to SpaceDev for design of its SmallTug demonstration spacecraft: SpaceDev Microsat to Travel InterPlanetary Superhighway to The Moon - Yahoo!/Spacedev - July.12.05. NASA gave Andrews an $18.7M grant in April for the SmallTug project, which would "demonstrate key technologies and advanced orbital mechanics for application to NASA’s human and robotic exploration of the Moon and Mars." ...

... Sam DInkin reports that Oklahoma has made progress in getting FAA approval for its spaceport: OK Spaceport OK in 2005 - Transterrestrial Musings - July.12.05 ...

... Starchaser news at Starchaser update - Space Race News - July.11.05 and Starchaser Launch Escape Hardware Tested - Space Race News/Space.com - July.12.05.

11:45 am: News briefs ... The C&Space website has been updated, including the page on the Proteus. Note that they are now separately marketing their Chase-10 LOX/LNG Engine. ...

... I don't see anything about it yet on the Spacehab website but the company has begun to offer a modular set of spacecraft called Apex. A small version could fit on a Falcon I while a large one could match with a Delta 4 size launcher: Swiss-knife spacecraft - Cosmic Log / MSNBC - July.11.05 * Spacehab proposes ISS cargo spacecraft - spacetoday.net - July.12.05. This seems somewhat similar to the adaptable cargo canisters proposed by CSI. ...

... Another shuttle waits in line to orbit: Chapter 10: Atlantis’ team stands ready. ...

... I just noticed the videos in the Transformational Space Media Gallery. I can't help but think of Wile E. Coyote riding on the test article when I see at the end the little puff of dust.

July 11, 2005

4:35 pm: ORION reusable Bat... Tim Pickens of Orion Propulsion has unveiled a fly-back booster concept at an AIAA meeting: Bat Ship Begins by Robin Snelson - Space Race News! - July.11.05.

The vehicle is proposed for the Air Force Hybrid Launch Vehicle Study and Analysis program, which was formerly called ARES (Affordable Responsive Spacelift). They are after a 2-stage vehicle with a reusable first stage. Tim's booster takes off like a typical vertical rocket but after releasing the second stage it rolls out two wings from its side and flies back to base under jet power. See the picture in the article. (I don't see any images on the Orion site yet.)

4:35 pm: Shuttle briefs ... Bill Harwood has posted a 10 part series on the preparations for the Discovery flight: STS-114 Shuttle Report | NASA sets sights on next space shuttle flight - Spaceflight Now ...

... Here are the latest two parts in the Florida Today series: Chapter 8: Coming together: Despite storms' setbacks, things fall into place for Stephanie Stilson * Chapter 9: As tragedy shifts mission, crew feels pressure: Dress rehearsals prepare astronauts to perform new in-orbit maneuvers.

2:25 pm: Turbopump defense ... In response to my item about Robert Truax's criticism of turbopumped engines, Elon Musk says that turbopumps, in fact, saved them money:

"The early SpaceX analysis showed that, for an orbital vehicle, it would have been much more expensive to scale up the vehicle than add a turbopump. With the benefit of three years of rocket development experience, I believe that the initial analysis was correct."

He does agree with the general point that government programs designed for performance and tended to maximize rather than minimize costs. ...

... Microcosm is also currently in the Phase II of the DARPA Falcon project. It will be interesting to see if they can achieve their performance/cost goals with pressure fed systems and if they can compete with turbopumped vehicles. This paper describes their approach: Responsive Access to Space – The Scorpius® Low-Cost Launch System - by Shyama Chakroborty, Robert E. Conger, James R. Wertz - IAF, Oct.2004.

2:25 pm: News briefs ... Sam Dinkin interviews Dr. Earl Renaud, chief operating officer of TGV Rockets, about space tourism, insurance, suborbital reconnaissance, etc: Interview: two guys at the vanguard (part 1) - The Space Review - July.11.05 ...

... Taylor Dinerman ponders whether NASA can complete the final phase of the Shuttle program successfully: Return to flight: has NASA changed enough? - The Space Review - July.11.05 ...

... Speaking of Robert Truax, here is an article from 1979 about his design for a suborbital tourist vehicle: A Ticket to Space - Spaceflight / epizodsspace.testpilot.ru - Mar. 1979. ...

... The SpaceShow will interview Charles Miller, CEO of Constellation Services International, next Sunday at 12-1:30 PM Pacific Time. (BTW: CSI is also a partner in t/Space) ...

... The SpaceShow interview with George Nield of AST/FAA is now online, as is the one with Tim Pickens.

3:15 am: Shuttle briefs ... Craig Covault at Aviation Week reports on the significance of the upcoming Discovery flight: Flight of the Phoenix: Shuttle's Safe Return Key to Space Program's Future - Aviation Week - July.10.05 ...

... And he discusses the extensive efforts made by NASA to raise the reliability of the propulsion system: Roaring Comeback: Space Shuttle Main Engine and solid rocket testing doubled to buttress launch safety - AvWeek/NASA Watch - July. 10.05 ...

... Also in AvWeek is the article - Shuttle Main Engine Design Remains Exploration Candidate (subscription required), which says that the SSME might be used for the CEV program. "[O]ne NASA option is to reinitiate SSME production to use it as a throw-away, as opposed to a reusable, powerplant for NASA's new heavy-lift booster." Though it is "the most highly efficient liquid rocket engine ever developed", it is difficult to believe it could be economical to use even for a true RLV, much less for a throw-away. ...

... Alan Boyle, Jim Oberg, et al at MSNBC - Space News will be posting lots of shuttle stories this week. ...

... Rick Tumlinson and the Space Frontier Foundation don't exactly see the Discovery launch as a big step back into space:

Scuttle the Shuttle!
Space Shuttle is a Dangerous Waste of Taxpayer Funds

Space Frontier Foundation

Los Angeles, July 11, 2005 - In anticipation of this week's planned return to flight of NASA's Space Shuttle Discovery, the Space Frontier Foundation renewed its call for the orbiters to be retired. The Foundation, which for over 15 years has criticized the Shuttle system as too costly, urged NASA and the Congress to announce a firm date when the last orbiter will fly.

“If it were up to us the shuttle would never have flown in the first place,” said the Foundation's Rick Tumlinson. “Far from opening space to the American people, it has weighed down our space program with its bloated budgets, massive support network and tragic cost in terms of human life. It's time is passed. We should kill it as soon as possible, before more money gets wasted and, heaven forbid, anyone else gets hurt.”

continue ...

July 10, 2005

12:55 pm: Big vehicles + less performance => low costs ... I've had a link to this 1999 article - The Future of Earth-to-Orbit Propulsion, by Robert Truax - in the RLV links section for a long time but after seeing it posted on aRocket yesterday, I thought it was well worth highlighting here again.

Truax makes a number of interesting points about why launch costs remain so high but the the fundamental one is that government funded programs have always designed for performance rather than for low cost:

"Most often [the engineers who led the programs] neither knew nor cared about the cost impact of their designs. High performance and light weight invariably led to complication and high cost. No development really focused on the economic aspects of high performance. No one wanted to. The engineering of complex systems is fun, and most programs were done on almost inexhaustible budgets. No one bothered to ask, 'Is it worth the price?'"

Turbopumps exemplify this emphasis on performance over cost. Truax says that "turbopump engines, whether high pressure or low, were a mistake from the very beginning." Pressure fed engines are simpler, cheaper, and safer. (See this paper: Using Pressure-Fed Propulsion Technology to Lower Space by Charkoborty & Bauer, Microcosm - AIAA July 2004) He argues that the performance lost in giving up turbopumps can be regained by going to a larger, but much simpler, vehicle.

He discusses other issues such as wings and water landings that lead to all sorts of counter arguments. (Note that he was writing when the X-33 program was still in gear.) However, his emphasis on designing for cost holds regardless.

12:55 pm: Advanced dreams ... Slashdot had a posting yesterday about this article - Positron Drive: Fill 'er Up For Pluto - Universe Today - June.30.05 -, which discusses the efforts by Positronics Research, via Air Force grants, to develop storage traps for positrons so they can be used for propulsion and other applications. (I've always been impressed that Gerald Smith gave up a full professorship at Penn State to pursue this commercially.)

See this NIAC abstract for a description of their latest project: Positron Propelled and Powered Space Transport Vehicle for Planetary Missions - Dr. Gerald Smith - Positronics Research - NIAC Abstract - Spring 2005. There is also this article from last year: Interstellar travel is just an antimatter of time / Energy from particle annihilation could cut voyages by light years - SF Chronicle - Aug.8.04 .

The NIAC has sponsored studies of a number of other interesting technologies. See this page - NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts -- Funded Studies - for links to reports on them.

For example, this report - Modular Laser Launch Architecture:Analysis and Beam Module Design - NIAC Phase I Meeting - March 2004 - gives the slide presentation by Jordin Kare of his laser propulsion scheme.

Another antimatter study by Hbar Technologies, LLC involves gathering antiprotons in space: Antimatter Harvesting in Space - Gerald Jackson - Hbar Technologies LLC - NIAC abstract .

Robert Winglee at the University of Washington looked at sending beams of plasma to spacecraft, which would in turn use the plasma for propulsion: MagBeam - R. Winglee et al - NIAC Report - March 2005 * Magnetized Beamed Plasma Propulsion (MagBeam) - NIAC FInal Report - Winglee & Ziemba - April-05

12:55 pm: News briefs ... You can get updates on the preparations for Wednesday's launch of Discovery at Spaceflight Now | STS-114 Shuttle Report | Mission Status Center ...

... More about last week's X PRIZE Cup announcement: X PRIZE Cup Participants Countdown To October - Space Race News! - July.9.05

July 9, 2005

11:00 am: News briefs ... Alan Boyle reports on the issue of liability insurance for suborbital space tourism projects and talks with Pat Bahn of TGV-Rockets about it: Final-frontier insurance - Cosmic Log/MSNBC - July.8.05 ...

... If you need a long flat stretch of concrete on which to land your spaceship, NASA wants to talk to you: KSC offers landing strip to public - Florida Today - July.9.05 * NASA Solicitation: Request for Information for Use of the Shuttle Landing Facility at NASA Kennedy Space Center - SpaceRef - July.8.05. ...

... Storms added to NASA's RtF problems: Chapter 7: 2004 hurricanes caused frustration: KSC workers suspend return to flight efforts, pray orbiters remain safe - Florida Today - July.9.05.

July 8, 2005

8:10 pm: News briefs ... The organizations participatiing in the rocket exhibition at the XP CUP meeting, October 4-9, 2005, Las Cruces, NM., were announced today: Rocket lineup revealed for X Prize Cup: October exhibition in New Mexico to feature blasts, demos - MSNBC.com - July.8.05 * X Prize Cup Starts Countdown For October Liftoff - SPACE.com - July.8.05. ...

... I just noticed that AST-FAA has posted the minutes (pdf) of the May 28th COMSTAC meeting and the presentations (PowerPoint files). The agenda included a number of interesting topics such as space insurance, commercial space transportation market forecasts, and satellite financing (by a rep from www.nearearthllc.com) ....

... Don't miss the Return to the Moon - RTM Conference VI, July 21-23 at The Flamingo, Las Vegas, Nevada. The agenda with the speakers listed is now available. Here is a press release posted today: Commerical Space Sector Uses Las Vegas Conference to "Call" NASA Leaders on True Earth-to-Moon Business Oportunities - SpaceRef - July.8.05

3:55 pm: News briefs ... Jonathan Goff analyzes the assumptions behind, and the pitfalls awaiting, a Shuttle derived CEV program: Shuttle Derived Sillyness Part I: Getting Shafted by "The Stick" - Selenian Boondocks - July.7.05 ...

... Speaking of which, New Scientist reports on the SDVs: New NASA launchers based on shuttle booster - New Scientist - July.8.05 ...

... On orbit repairs to the thermal protection system turned out to be a lot harder than expected: Chapter 6: The shuttle tiles: In-space repairs become an impossible mission - Florida Today - July.8.05. (See Florida Today Columbia series for links to the previous chapters.) ...

... The latest issue of Popular Science has a long article on the high power rocketry community: The Biggest Bang: Welcome to the Large Dangerous Rocket Ship launch, where even failure is fun, if the explosion's big enough - Popular Science - July.05 issue.

July 7, 2005

4:20 pm: News briefs ... TGV-Rockets recently underwent a system design review in which the plans for its suborbital vehicle were carefully examined by an independently selected group of experienced engineers. No significant problems were found and the project is on track for its first launch. [Update July.8.05: I corrected "preliminary design review" to "system design review".]...

... The next entry in the Florida Today series: Chapter 5: Striving for accountability: NASA's procedures, culture under fire - Florida Today - July.7.05 ...

... I wonder if the SRBs on all those SDVs will produce lots of SDP (Shuttle Derived Pollution): NRL Study Finds Shuttle Exhaust Is Source Of Mysterious Clouds In Antarctica - NRL/ScienceDaily - July.6.05 ...

... Following up on a previous posting about reserving a seat on a SS2, Sam Dinkin gets a copy of the deposit form from Virgin Galactic: Virgin Galactic OK - Transterrestrial Musings - July.7.05.

1:15 am: News brief ... The CEV architecture is starting to look a lot like Apollo, i.e. expendable launchers and capsules. However, for Robert Zubrin, the comparison isn't quite close enough. He wants the capsules to hold 3-4 persons instead of 5-6: The Case for a Small CEV - The Mars Society/Space News editorial - July.4.05.

A central tenet of Zubrin's argument against small launchers and in-space assembly is that with more launches there is a greater chance of one of them failing. And he assumes this will result in the failure of the whole mission. Also, he assumes that launches are expensive and so the fewer the better.

However, this is a self-fulfilling arrangement. If you don't fly a lot, you never get highly reliable launchers and you never achieve the economies of scale that produce low cost launchers.

July 6, 2005

6:15 pm: News brief ... Rocketplane encountering big liability insurance obstacles: Sub-orbital flights on time for 2007 - NewsOK.com - July.5.05 -

Due to the risky nature of the company's venture, subcontractors are "nervous" and demanding staggering insurance amounts, Rocketplane Limited Inc. Vice President David Urie said. Rocketdyne, the company's rocket engine supplier, is asking $100 million for ground testing alone, he said.

3:25 pm: News briefs ... The latest in the Florida Today series: Chapter 4: A sudden change: The shuttle shuffle: Discovery gets the call - Florida Today - July.6.05 ...

... NASA will use 107 cameras to watch Discovery during launch for signs of debris damage: Shuttle return to flight: The most closely watched in history * 16:09 06 July 2005 * NewScientist.com ...

... I think the dogged persistence of Greg Olsen to go to space is an indication of just how powerful will be the attraction for space tourism for many people: Deal signed to put Olsen in space - BBC - July.6.05 * Roskosmos signs contract for Olsen flight- spacetoday.net - July.6.05 ...

... The SpaceShow interview with Tim Pickens is now online. ...

... As I've noted many times with projects like those at JP Aerospace, Near Space is growing in importance for the military: Air Force testing high-altitude balloons: Balloons could help intelligence, communications - CNN.com - July.5.05 (via a HS reader.) This will probably eventually include reconnaissance with suborbital RLVs, e.g. see the Space Review article by Sam Dinkin.

July 5, 2005

3:40 pm: News briefs ... The June/July issue of Air & Space Magazine has an interesting article by Brian Binnie on his two SS1 rocket powered flights and the embarrassment of the landing mishap on the first one. There is also an article on the Hyper-X (X-43A). ...

... Jeff Foust says the Commerce Department's Office of Space Commercialization may be coming back to life.

11:10 am: News briefs ... This week's Space Review includes two space transport related articles:

... Dwayne Day responds to a recent Space Review series by Alan Wasser claiming that space development was halted by passage of the Outer Space Treaty and its restrictions on space property ownership: Big claims, little evidence - The Space Review - July.5.05. Sam takes issue with Day's generalization that physics, as expressed in high launch costs, rather than policy prevents lunar commerce: Saturn V a Cost Barrier? - Transterrestrial Musings - July.5.05 ...

... The latest in the Florida Today series on the Columbia aftermath: Chapter 3: Fixing the foam: Preventing disaster, getting clear picture - Florida Today - July.5.05 ...

... More about NASA's post-Shuttle plans: As NASA evolves, what will replace the shuttle? - Houston Chronicle - July.4.05.

3:05 am: Expendable programs ... Authorization bills merely set guidelines for budget appropriations and are often not passed by the full Congress. But the relative ease with which the NASA budget authorization was approved in the House science subcommittee seems to indicate solid support there for the long term Moon/Mars program. NASA's Moon Plans Shift into High Gear - Space News/Space.com - July.4.05

I think this also signals that NASA will eventually get its requested budget appropriated and probably will for many years. As I've indicated before, my main concern is not that the VSE inspired program will be shut down by a future administration but that we will see another Shuttle-like program that is flawed from the start and unstoppable for decades.

An expendable crew launcher plus an expendable heavy lifter will not provide low cost access to space or low cost operations in space. They will offer lower costs than the shuttle perhaps but not the big reductions needed to encourage large scale, long term development in space.

Fortunately, we are now seeing real progress made towards creation of a private space transport industry. It also appears that some fraction of NASA's funding will go towards buying ISS cargo and crew delivery services from commercial providers. So regardless of what is achieved directly by the agency's primary programs, as a side effect they may help launch the means to make true space development a reality.

3:05 am: News briefs ... I missed the repeat on Sunday of the CBS 60 Minutes segment about Burt Rutan and the SS1 but here is the online page about it: Next Space Race Under Way - CBS News - July.3.05 ...

... Florida Today is presenting a series of articles on the Columbia disaster and its aftereffects. Here are the first two entries:Chapter One: The Worst Day: 02.01.03: The day spaceflight changed forever * Chapter Two: Picking up the Pieces - Solving the Columbia mystery ...

... Starchaser is contributing rocket related items to Spaceport, which seems to be both a space themed adventure park and an education center run by a collaboration of a commercial company and a university: Countdown to the opening of Merseyside's Spaceport -Starchaser - July.4.05 (Item via Space Race News!) ...

... Another article about the move of the first Falcon launch to Kwajalein:Titan 4 delay bumps Falcon - Space Race News! - July.4.05

3:05 am: The SpaceShow this week:

Tuesday, July 5, 2005, 7:00-8:30 pm (Pacific Time ) - Tim Pickens, CEO of Orion Propulsion, has been developing innovative propulsion systems for many years. For example, he was the top propulsion designer for Burt Rutan on the SS1 project. He led development of a balloon launched hybrid rocket vehicle with the Huntsville Alabama L5 Society (HAL5) that reached 36 miles in altitude, a record at the time for an amateur group. Orion is currently designing and building thrust stands (20k lb and 200k lb) for AirLaunch.

Tim has a a reusable fly-back booster proposal submitted to the “Hybrid Launch Vehicle” program. "This concept is a highly responsive vehicle (launch turn around time of 24-48 hours), and will reduce the cost of what is currently available by a factor of 3-6."

Sunday, July 10, 2005, 12-1:30 pm (Pacific Time ) - Dr. George C. Nield, Deputy Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation FAA/AST. Dr. George C. Nield is the Deputy Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation at the FAA. He has over 30 years of aerospace experience with the Air Force, at NASA, and in private industry.

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

July 4, 2005

2:25 am: News briefs ... Just watched the initial images from the Deep Impact strike on Tempel 1. Quite a show. Meanwhile, the space transport news has been a bit sparse this holiday weekend but here are some items of interest. ...

... John Carmack posted the latest Armadillo update: Spherical tanks, vehicle work, engine work - Armadillo Aerospace - July.3.05. ...

... It's too bad the Challenger investigation committtee didn't come to the conclusion that that the Shuttle had to be replaced: Investigator calls for replacement of 'dangerous' NASA shuttle fleet - HoustonChronicle.com - July.1.05 ...

... There were certainly a lot of close calls before the Challenger and up to the loss of Columbia: NASA reviews past close calls: As shuttle flight looms, near-disasters get second look - FLorida Today - July.2.05 ...

... And there's always the possibility of a problem with an SSME: Powerful propulsion system poses risks - Orlando Sentinel - July.3.05 ...

... Here's one safe way to ride a Shuttle: Space center to launch fun ride: Attraction to simulate space shuttle experience - Orlando Sentinel - July.2.05 ...

... A new reality show on the Sci-Fi Channel called Master Blasters [wa]s casting for "amateur rocket scientists" in the Dallas/ Fort Worth area. The catch [wa]s that they must be "attractive men and women with outgoing personalities". (Item via R. Nech.) [Updated: 6:15 pm]

July 1, 2005

8:10 pm: News brief ... Keith Cowing reports that NASA has definitely decided to go with the two shuttle derived vehicles (SDV) previously rumored to be under consideration, i.e. the "stick" CEV launcher and an "in line" heavy lifter: NASA Plans to Build Two New Shuttle-derived Launch Vehicles - SpaceRef - July.1.05. Keith comments on the difficulties NASA will face in funding the projects. Perhaps Griffin will also try some new contracting/management approaches to keep the costs down.

3:00 pm: News briefs ... Leonard David reviews what is known so far about the Blue Origin project: Details Emerge on Jeff Bezos' Space Plans - SPACE.com - July.1.05 ...

... Sam Dinkin reports on an update he received from Virgin Galactic, where he is registered as a potential passenger: Virgin Galactic Update - Transterrestrial Musings - July.1.05 ...

... The ESA will decide in December whether to participate in building the Russian Kliper reusable crew module that will be launched on an upgraded Soyuz ELV: Europe envisages cooperation on new Russian space plane - ESA - July.1.05 * Images

The key decision on Europe's future involvement in Kliper could be made in December. European government ministers responsible for space will be meeting to consider ESA's programme of space exploration.

ESA's Director of Human Spaceflight, Microgravity and Exploration Programmes is confident that the response will be positive. "It is not just that Kliper is a good political deal, or that it provides us with a powerful piece of technology," said Daniel Sacotte. "It will give us a vision, a scientific goal that young Europeans badly need today."

1:30 am: News briefs ... A news program on a Sacramento TV station did a nice piece about JP Aerospace and its Pongsat project. You can see it online by selecting the Tuesday June 28, 2005 entry on the list of videos at News10 - KXTV - Sacramento-Stockton-Modesto. ...

... Discovery could be heading to space in less than two weeks: STS-114 launch set for July 13 - spacetoday.net - June.30.05 ...

... Story Musgrave "was never comfortable with the shuttle" but thinks "this current launch will be as safe as any they've ever done.": Interview with Story Musgrave - Universe Today - June.30.05.


Continue to June 2005

Archives Index for 1999 - present

 

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