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RLV News Special Edition:
Scaled Composites
SpaceShipOne & White Knight

Updates April 22,03 - December 23, 2003


This section contains a compilation of articles and links from RLV News about the SpaceShipOne/White Knight program since the rollout on April 18.03.

Note that the Scaled Composites web site provides a wide range of images and documents about the project.

The White Knight

RLV News Archive Directory

December 23, 2003

SS1 brief... The test data report has been posted for last week's rocket powered supersonic flight. Repairs from the landing mishap will take "approximately three weeks to complete."

December 22, 2003

More SS1 supersonic flight info is provided in the latest issue of Aviation Week. Some of the highlights include:

  • Data gathered during the rocket firing and afterwards showed "no showstoppers like flutter at high speeds".

  • Some slight roll oscillations between Mach 0.9 and 1.0 faded away with higher speeds. They might not try to fix this since "it could be a fun feature to let you know you're going through the speed of sound" according to Burt.

  • The light load for this mission resulted in what should be the "wildest ride" in the whole program. Only a third of the nitrous oxide and half of the solid fuel for a 100km altitude flight were loaded. Since the nitrous oxide pressure drops as it is used, the thrust will drop as well and so the acceleration in an operational flight will decrease as the fuel is used up. In this flight the light load at the start resulted in a maximum acceleration about 30% higher than for a flight with a complete fuel load.

  • Also, in this flight the nitrous oxide was shut off abruptly, resulting in a 1.5g eyes-out deceleration. In an operational flight the acceleration will die off much more gradually.

  • The pilot said that in the approach to the runway there were roll oscillations "that felt close to wing stall started when he tried to flare the glider" and this led to the hard landing.

  • Repairs from the landing accident will take 2 to 4 weeks.

  • The total cost for the project will be around $25M
December 20, 2003

More SpaceShipOne flight photos are now posted at the SpaceShipOne web site. They come from a video but I've not seen a link to an on line video file.

December 19, 2003

SS1 & HARC connection... Tim Pickens of HARC assisted Scaled Composites with the design of the SpaceShipOne propulsion system: HARC Has a Hand in SpaceShipOne's Supersonic Success - Tim Pickens, HARC's X PRIZE Team Leader, hand picked by Burt Rutan for SpaceShipOne Project - HARC - Dec.19.03

SS1 briefs... From the ERPS Forum, read one eyewitness account of an interesting day at the Mojave Airport....

... First private rocket ship goes supersonic - New Scientist - Dec.18.03

December 18, 2003

Scaled Composites posts some photos of Burt, Paul Allen, and Brian Binnie. Also, they offer some bigger versions of the ignition image shown below....

... Even the Washington Posts' Kathy Sawyer notes this non-governmental project: Private Rocket Plane Breaks Sound Barrier - Washingtonpost.com - Dec.18.03. Haven't seen anything yet at the NY Times.

SS1 photos are posted on Alan Radecki's web site, including a sequence showing the landing mishap. Sure glad it didn't flip. In this shot it has a wounded bird look. (Burt's designs are so wonderfully animate.) Or just real tired after its splendid feat.

SS1 flight aftermath... The full implications of this event will take some time to develop. Here are some miscellaneous items:

  • Paul Allen, the billionaire Microsoft co-founder, did in fact turn out to be the SS1 investor as had been suspected: Paul G. Allen Confirmed as Long-Rumored Sponsor of SpaceShipOne - Business Wire - Dec.17.03

  • The press release, or info derived from it, has been posted at Space.com and other sites but I've not seen much new info yet. I would expect more to come out today. I hope more pictures and perhaps a video will be released soon.

  • I saw the announcement on some of the bottom screen scrollers at CNN and Fox News television channels but no live reports as of late last night.

December 17, 2003

SpaceShipOne Rocket Fired in Flight!

SpaceShipOne Breaks the Sound Barrier
Scaled Composites Press Release

Today, a significant milestone was achieved by Scaled Composites: The first manned supersonic flight by an aircraft developed by a small company's private, non-government effort.

In 1947, fifty-six years ago, history's first supersonic flight was flown by Chuck Yeager in the Bell X-1 rocket under a U.S. Government research program. Since then, many supersonic aircraft have been developed for research, military and, in the case of the recently retired Concorde, commercial applications. All these efforts were developed by large aerospace prime companies, using extensive government resources.

Our flight this morning by SpaceShipOne demonstrated that supersonic flight is now the domain of a small company doing privately-funded research, without government help. The flight also represents an important milestone in our efforts to demonstrate that truly low-cost space access is feasible.

Our White Knight turbojet launch aircraft, flown by Test Pilot Peter Siebold, carried research rocket plane SpaceShipOne to 48,000 feet altitude, near the desert town of California City. At 8:15 a.m. PDT, Cory Bird, the White Knight Flight Engineer, pulled a handle to release SpaceShipOne. SpaceShipOne Test Pilot, Brian Binnie then flew the ship to a stable, 0.55 mach gliding flight condition, started a pull-up, and fired its hybrid rocket motor. Nine seconds later, SpaceShipOne broke the sound barrier and continued its steep powered ascent. The climb was very aggressive, accelerating forward at more than 3-g while pulling upward at more than 2.5-g. At motor shutdown, 15 seconds after ignition, SpaceShipOne was climbing at a 60-degree angle and flying near 1.2 Mach (930 mph). Brian then continued the maneuver to a vertical climb, achieving zero speed at an altitude of 68,000 feet. He then configured the ship in its high-drag "feathered" shape to simulate the condition it will experience when it enters the atmosphere after a space flight. At apogee, SpaceShipOne was in near-weightless conditions, emulating the characteristics it will later encounter during the planned space flights in which it will be at zero-g for more than three minutes. After descending in feathered flight for about a minute, Brian reconfigured the ship to its conventional glider shape and flew a 12-minute glide to landing at Scaled's home airport of Mojave. The landing was not without incident as the left landing gear retracted at touchdown causing the ship to veer to the left and leave the runway with its left wing down. Damage from the landing incident was minor and will easily be repaired. There were no injuries.

The milestone of private supersonic flight was not an easy task. It involved the development of a new propulsion system, the first rocket motor developed for manned space flights in several decades. The new hybrid motor was developed in-house at Scaled with first firings in November 2002. The motor uses an ablative nozzle supplied by AAE and operating components supplied by SpaceDev. FunTech teamed with Scaled to develop a new Inertial Navigation flight director. The first flight of the White Knight launch aircraft was in August 2002 and SpaceShipOne began its glide tests in August 2003.

Scaled does not pre-announce the specific flight test plans for its manned space program, however completed accomplishments are updated as they happen at our website:
www.scaled.com/projects/tierone/index.htm. The website also provides downloadable photos and technical descriptions of the rocket motor system and motor test hardware.

Scaled Composites, LLC, is an aerospace research company located on the Mojave Airport:
1624 Flight Line, Mojave California 93501
Voice (661) 824-4541
Fax (661) 824-4174
Email: info@scaled.com

An incredible sight, exclaims Jim Benson: SpaceDev Powers SpaceShipOne to Break Sound Barrier Flight on Historic 100th Anniversary of Wright Bros. - SpaceDev - Dec.17.03

December 11, 2003

SpaceShipOne motor ground test... SpaceDev says they carried out a SS1 motor test at "about one-half the total capacity of the motor. The purpose of the test was to qualify the exact configuration of the motor to be used for SpaceShipOne's first powered test flight." SpaceDev Tests Rocket Motor for Powered Spaceshipone Flight - Spacedev PR - Dec.11.03 (via spacetoday.net)

December 9, 2003

Spaceshipone glide test flight on December 4th included cold flowing of nitrous oxide through the propulsion system according to the latest posting on the WK/SS1 Data page. This apparently looked like an engine firing from the ground. See this photo and others posted from the flight.

In addition, the "feather was extended after a 4G pull-up to the vertical at 24,500 feet and rudder used to induce sideslip and yaw rates while 'going-over-the-top'. The vehicle recovered to a stable attitude and descent after only a single oscillation."

There are rumors of a flight scheduled for December 17th, the Wright Brother's flight anniversary day, but we'll just have to wait and see if that's when they do the first test firing of the rocket engine.


December 5, 2003

SpaceShipOne fired its engine in flight yesterday according to Alan Radecki's Mojave Airport blog: "SpaceShipOne flew again this morning [Dec.4.03], this time firing its rocket engine for the first time (in horizonal flight)." No news or photos on the SS1 website yet.

Update: I've now heard it was not actually an engine firing but a test of some sort. I hope we will hear details sooner rather than later.

November 24, 2003

SpaceShipOne and motor tests... The SS1 test data page reports on the November 19th SS1 glide test (mentioned here earlier) and on a recent motor test. The flight was

Mike Melvill's first flight with the enlarged tails. Emergency aft CG handling qualities eval and simulated landing exercise with the new tail configuration. Airspeed and G envelop expansion and dynamic feather evaluation.

The results were satisfactory according to the flight results summary. The Spacedev motor test on November 18th is summarized as follows:

Flight motor qualification run. A ground test to validate the first two planned powered flights of SpaceShipOne. All performance requirements and safety limits were met.

 SS1,White Knight and the Moon
SpaceShipOne and the White Knight
chase the Moon. SS1/WK photos page.

New photos posted from the November 19th flight of the SpaceShipOne.

November 19, 2003

A SpaceShipOne test flight took place on November 14th. According to the entry on the tests results page, it was the first SS1 flight for pilot Peter Siebold. Goals for the test included examination of the "stall performance at aft limit CG", which I take to mean that the CG was similar to that during the September 23rd flight when the vehicle pitched up and the pilot had some difficulty regaining control.

The flight summary:

"Launch conditions were 47,300 feet and 115 knots. Satisfactory stability and control at aft limit CG. A notable improvement in control power, particularly in roll. Handling qualities into and out of feather remained excellent with good nose pointing ability. Adjusted landing pattern altitudes resulted in a touchdown at the targeted runway aim-point"

SS1 modifications were discussed in an article in the latest Aviation Week issue. However, it seems mostly to contain the same basic info as in the description of the Oct.17th flight on the test results page at Scaled. There is more discussion, however, of the aerodynamic effects of the modifications.

Some items of interest include:

  • The pickup truck rigged with a SS1 wing and tailbook ran tests at 50-55mph to simulate the conditions of the SS1 at 70-80 KEAS at 40K-50K ft.
  • The Oct.17th test did not repeat the same aft CG conditions as the Sept.23rd flight with the pitch up problem.
  • The pilot "conducted full-rudder sideslips without incident" and moved the tails "in and out of the wingtip vortices" without problem.
  • The pilot also put the craft in "deep-stall feather configuration and turned more aggresively than before while in a near-vertical descent". He could point the noise as desired.
  • The "rocket control system - the arm, fire, and safing switches, and the oxidizer dump valve" checked out OK.
  • They are "experimenting with different target touchdown points after hitting both short and long of the point".

November 11, 2003

Burt Rutan wins another award: Burt Rutan Named "Business Leader in Aerospace" on the "Scientific American 50" - Scaled Composites - Nov.10.03

November 9, 2003

The White Knight/SpaceShipOne project wins the Grand Award for Popular Science's 2003 Best of What's New.

November 6, 2003

A Mojave portal to space gets assessed environmentally. I scanned through the 5MB draft study - Draft Environmental Assessment / Initial Study for the East Kern Airport District Launch Site Operator License for the Mojave Airport.- FAA / AST - Nov.5.03 - and found most of it a perfect antidote for insomnia. But there are some interesting sections such as the one on estimates of the number of suborbital space flights per year from the port.

November 3, 2003

SS1 test flight update ... Leonard David provides more details about the recent drop test of the SpaceShipOne and the modifications and tests prior to the flight: Private Spaceship Control Problems Prompt Fixes - Space.com - Nov.3.03

October 27, 2003

Latest SS1 test flight... According to the Scaled Composites test flights page, the SpaceShipOne was dropped from the White Knight on Oct.17th at 46,200 feet. The goal of the test was to check on "the effects of horizontal tail modifications at both forward and mid-range CG locations (obtained by dumping water from an aft ballast tank between test points)." The previous flight on September 23 saw "un-commanded nose rise" and the pilot had difficulty in recovering control.

The new configuration seems to have fixed the problem:

"No vehicle pitch up tendency was noted as the main wing now stalls first. Real time video of the tufted tails fed back down to mission control helped considerably in assessing the performance of these aerodynamic improvements. More aggressive maneuvering in the feather made it evident that the pilot could readily point the vehicle's nose where desired and all rocket motor functionality tests were satisfactory."

The fixes were first tested with ground tests that included "full-scale 'wind tunnel' tests of the SS1 boom-tail using a modified Ford-250 pickup truck to provide the necessary flow field." (Maybe this technique should be called "testing with the Bubba tunnel.")

Sounds like the SS1 project is back on track (or the road).

October 7, 2003

SS1 updates... The latest issue of Aviation Week contains an article about the recent drop test "hiccups" of the SpaceShipOne. Some of the items of note include:

  • The pitchup problem occurred at 85kts, 15kts above the stall speed in the previous test.
  • The 20 degree pitchup could not be corrected "despite full nose down elevator and nose down trim". Only by "rolling to the left with the rudder", causing the "nose to slice toward the ground", did the pilot Michael Melvill regain control.
  • Even with the ballast added during this flight, which moved the center of gravity aft, the operational configuration with fully loaded propellants would double the weight, making "pitchup and recovery much more dangerous".
  • Scaled doesn't yet know if the fix will be big or small.
  • The landing also caused a surprise. Forward doors had been added to the rear legs since the last flight and their drag turned out to be about twice what was expected. So when he extended the gear the SS1 "sank like a rock". He came in about a 1000ft short of the original aim point.
  • The goal of a 100km flight by the end of the year will be tough to meet if the fix takes a while. They had planned "big jumps in performance" from one test flight to the next. Now they may have to move in smaller increments.

....The SpaceShipOne photos page has some new entries.

September 30, 2003

Scaled Composites artwork
SpaceShipTwo? Some intriguing artwork shown by Burt Rutan
at the recent SETP symposium. (Via the article by Jeff Foust)

SS1 update... Jeff Foust reviews the update on the SpaceShipOne project given last week by Burt Rutan at the annual symposium of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots (SETP: SpaceShipOne: A progress report - The Space Review - Sept.29.03. Includes more info about the problems on the Sept.22 test flight.

September 29, 2003

SS1 drop test difficulties... The latest drop test of SpaceShipOne had some severe problems before recovering according to this article: Let’s Go to Space! One hundred years after the Wright brothers’ famous flight, a new breed of entrepreneur is pushing new technologies to their limits, turning science fiction into reality - Newsweek/MSNBC - Sept.28.03 (via reader Centurian509).

BTW: A XCOR friend points out that the article doesn't mention the EZ-Rocket, which has been flying for two years, and that in fact the company is not "totally broke." For example, see the recent news about their DARPA contract.

A reader also notes that the article reports on interesting action on the suborbital regulatory front: Dennis Tito has hired a lobbyist to work full time on getting FAA-AST rather than the aviation section put in charge of the flights. Also, AST will try to get its definition of suborbital spaceflight put explicitly into its reauthorization legislation. The definition requires that the spacecraft have more thrust than lift for a majority of the powered phase of the flight and that it follows a suborbital trajectory, which is defined as one whose instantaneous impact point (IIP) does not leave the surface of the earth.

September 27, 2003

The X PRIZE race... The reader (Centurian509) who submitted this link - Private space race nears its climax: Scaled Composites, Armadillo are favorites to win $10 million prize in the next 9 to 12 months - AP/MSNBC - Sept.26.03 - notes that it's nice to see more publicity for the X PRIZE but the reporter leaps to some unexpected assertions:

"A MOJAVE DESERT airport in California has already been approved for use as a launch pad for the suborbital missions."


"Federal officials said that the applications of the two rocket teams [Scaled and Armadillo] have already been approved by the FAA."

As far as I know, Mojave has only just submitted its application to become a spaceport and only for air-launched space vehicles. And I do believe that both teams are still working and arguing with FAA-AST and/or FAA-AVR over the regulation of their high-altitude flights. (If someone knows otherwise, please let me know.) [See correction Oct.1.03]

September 24, 2003

eAc press release... Korey Kline of eAc comments on the competition to provide the propulsion system for SpaceShipOne:

SpaceShipOne Propulsion System Selection

Environmental Aeroscience Corp. (eAc) would like to thank Burt Rutan and the “Angel Investor” for the opportunity to participate in this historic attempt at civilian space flight. While we regret not being able to play a more significant roll in this project, we are pleased with the ground testing that was conducted and the selection of our forward bulkhead assembly for use on SpaceShipOne. We have the highest confidence that the SpaceShipOne team will successfully place a civilian into space and open this frontier for everyone.

While the press coverage of the program has been significant, one thing missing is a listing of the people who are making this all possible. There are always a handful of dedicated engineers that are directly responsible for making someone’s dream come true. These engineers make things happen and are key with any project of this significance. eAc would like to specifically congratulate the winning propulsion team lead by Frank Macklin with engineering support from Chris Grainger, Mike Veno, Jeff Hickerson, Harvey Jewett. Good job guys, it was a close competition; prove to the world that Hybrids are the best choice for civilian space applications!

eAc is a very small innovative company and is proud to have its roots in the amateur/experimental rocketry world. eAc pioneered the use of Nitrous as an oxidizer for Hybrid propulsion in 1989 and flew the first Hybrid sounding rocket “Hyperion” to a record setting altitude in 1996. For eAc as a team, having been selected as one of the two vendors in this competition was quite an honor. We were successful in all ground firings, and exceeded all performance requirements. To have competed to a near tie with a California-based publicly-traded satellite manufacturer with four times the employees and significantly greater resources, gives me great confidence that space is no longer only the realm of big business. We participated in this program because of our love of rockets and space travel, not for market share, stock value or notoriety. We believe that other grass roots teams of dreamers and builders will also have a significant affect in the future of space flight. “We are truly in the Wright Brothers’ days of Civilian Space flight”

Early in the program Scaled selected the eAc developed forward bulkhead assembly. eAc has successfully designed and operated simple and innovative Nitrous Oxide systems since 1994. Our bulkhead design was based on these many test firings and flight experiences. Scaled Composites was confident of the design and therefore readily selected a single vendor for this sub-system. This assembly allows the oxidizer tank to be filled, vented, and dumped remotely with N2O in a lightweight reliable package. Along with our hearts and dreams, we at least know that we have some small part in the historic X-Prize attempts by SpaceShipOne. eAc will continue to innovate new propulsion systems for future manned space travel and other orbital applications.

I would also like to thank the eAc team for giving a significant part of their lives to this project for the past 24 months. Derek Deville-Systems Integration and Ignition; Debbie Sifford- Project Management; Alex Espinosa- Flight Motor Controller and Valve design; Ed Ampuero-Bulkhead and Injector design. A special thanks to Kevin Smith and Tom Bales for their futuristic vision and financial backing to support eAc during this long program.

Korey R Kline
Propulsion Designer
Vice President of R&D

September 18, 2003

 SpaceDev Wins SpaceShipOne Propulsion Contract

Scaled Composites press release:

Scaled Composites completes the development phase for the SpaceShipOne rocket propulsion system and selects a motor component vendor for the flight test phase.

Four years ago, Scaled conducted a study of rocket engine technologies that were appropriate for its future manned sub-orbital spaceship design. The results of this study were that a hybrid configuration using nitrous oxide (liquid N2O) and HTPB (rubber) propellants would likely provide the safest solution with operating characteristics that would complement the intended mission.

In Jan 2000, Scaled defined a new integrated concept for the hybrid motor that allowed the entire propulsion system to be mounted to the spaceship by simple skirt flanges on the oxidizer tank. This concept, which cantilevers the case and nozzle directly to the tank, required an advanced all-composite design approach. By early 2001, Scaled had committed to developing the two main motor composite components in-house: The first is the nitrous oxide tank, a composite liner laid up onto titanium flanges, with a graphite over-wrap provided by Thiokol. The second is a unitized fuel case/nozzle component fabricated using a high-temperature composite insulator with a graphite/epoxy structure laid up onto an ablative nozzle supplied by AAE Aerospace.

In mid 2001, Scaled awarded contracts to two competing small businesses for the “rocket science”. Each company was independently responsible for the development of the motor’s ignition system, main control valve, injector, tank bulkheads, electronic controls, fill/dump/vent systems and fuel casting. The vendors, Environmental Aeroscience Corporation (eAc) of Miami and SpaceDev (SD) of San Diego, were also tasked with conducting the ground firing tests of their motor systems in Scaled’s test facility during the development phase.

In June 2002, Scaled selected eAc to supply the components at the tanks’ front end: the nitrous fill, vent and dump system components and associated plumbing. Both vendors continued the development of all the other propulsion components.

The ground firing development program started in November 2002 with a 15 second run by the SpaceDev team and ended early this month with a 90-second run by eAc. Both vendors demonstrated full design-duration firings during the nine-month development phase. All tests have exclusively used 100% flight hardware, with no boilerplate components and both vendors’ motor systems met the contracted performance. The tests validated the inherent safety of hybrid type motors, with no instances of structural failure, hot-gas breach, explosion or other anomaly that would have put SpaceShipOne in jeopardy.

Because both teams were so closely matched, and since both have developed satisfactory motors the process to select one of these vendors to enter the motor qualification and flight test phase was difficult. However, today, Scaled is pleased to announce that it has awarded the contract for propulsion support for the SpaceShipOne flight test phase to SpaceDev, of San Diego.

Scaled now looks forward to entering into the historic phase of private manned space flight.

Scaled does not pre-announce the specific flight test plans for the space program, however completed accomplishments are updated as they happen at our website: www.scaled.com/projects/tierone/index.htm. The website also provides downloadable photos and technical descriptions of the rocket motor system and motor test hardware.

September 12, 2003

SS1 engine tests... Leonard David reports on a full duration test on Sept.4th by eAc of the company's rocket that is in competition with Spacedev for the SS1 propulsion system: Hybrid Rocket Motor for X Prize Entry SpaceShipOne Tested - Space.com - Sept.12.03

September 11, 2003

Flight as a feather... Scaled has posted a couple more images from the recent SpaceShipOne drop test, including this sequence from a video showing the feather in action

September 3, 2003

News briefs ... Leonard David on the SS1 test : Testing Continues for Scaled Composites' SpaceShipOne - Space.com - Sept.3.03

September 2, 2003

SS1 landing
SS1 lands after its second drop test on Aug.27, 2003in which it
executed the feathering maneuver. (Photo courtesy Aleta Jackson)

Scaled tests SS1 feathering... Scaled Composites did another drop test of the SpaceShipOne last Wednesday (Aug.27th) that included "commanding the full feathered mode (65 deg wing/tail jackknife)." Falling from an altitude of 43k feet down to 30k feet, the "[o]bservers in the chase Starship were treated to a closeup bizarre view of the spaceship plunging downward in a rock-stable near vertical feathered descent." Several other maneuvers were executed successfully during the eventful flight.


Videos of the flight will be shown at the annual Society of Experimental Test Pilots (SETP) symposium in Los Angeles on Sept.26th.

August 20, 2003

SS1 in flight
SpaceShipOne in its first flight. (Scaled Composites image)

More SS1 photos from the drop test on August 7th are now posted at the Scaled Composites photos page.

August 15, 2003

Fly the White Knight via the PRE-Flight Simulator. Download freeware PRE-Flight 2.00 from Simtel and SS1 Model from PreflightSim.com. After installing the simulator, open the SS1 zip file into the Model subdirectory. Run the simulator and click on the Model menu and then choose Load and select the ss1.3dm file. The SS1 can be dropped and its engine fired.

This simulator is apparently aimed towards RC hobbyists who can configure their system to operate the simulator with RC transmitters to test the flying of their models. However, it wll also work with a joystick or keyboard.

August 11, 2003

Earlier SS1 flight... Either I missed it or it's been added since the other day, the White Knight/SS1 flight data page has an entry describing a captive carry flight on July 29th. All the systems were tested in preparation for the drop test on August 7th.

Also, the page indicates that eAc did a test of its hybrid motor in July in addition to the SpaceDev test, which they announced last week.

August 10, 2003

News briefs... Leonard David on the SS1 test: XM announces plans for new satellite, launch - spacetoday.net - Aug.9.03

August 8, 2003

Info & photos for the SS1 drop test are now posted on the SpaceShipOne web pages. The description of the test tells of a very smooth separation and flight. Performance matched well with the simulator for the subsonic range up to 150 knots. The photos show the SS1 before the drop (with a Starship chase plane!) and during flight and landing. In my highly technical judgement, it's all so COOOOL!!

August 7, 2003

Successful SS1 drop test... Messages flying around the net report that the SpaceShipOne, piloted by Mike Melvill, was dropped today from the White Knight at 45k feet (~15km) and landed safely at Mojave. Videos and pictures should appear eventually on the Scaled site. Congratulations to the SS1 team!

August 5, 2003

SpaceDev tests SS1 rocket... SpaceDev announces a successful full duration test of its hybrid rocket motor that is a candidate to power the SpaceShipOne: SpaceDev Performs Successful Rocket Motor Test - SpaceDev PR/Yahoo - Aug.6.03 (via spacetoday.net).

August 4, 2003

News brief... Burt talks about the reality of private suborbital flight: Eye on the prize: Aviation pioneer angling to send civilians into space tells EAA it's no pipe dream - Milwaukee Journal - Aug.3.03 (via spacetoday.net)

July 16, 2003

SpaceshipOne-24th scale... Find tips on scratch modeling a SS1 at this Rocketry Forum thread.

July 11, 2003

Second SS1 captive carry... The "Test Updates" section at the SpaceShipOne site reports that a second captive carry flight took place successfully on July 3rd. It also reports that from June 24 to July 3rd they completed tests of the landing gear, flight control system and structural qualification. (Via a reader.)

[ July.14.03 - Correction - the SS1 news page has changed to show that this flight actually involved only the White Knight and the goal was to test glide flight profiles. There were also some more WK flights recently. (Via a reader)].

July 4, 2003

Licensing SpaceShipOne ... Aviation Week reports that Burt Rutan has submitted an application for a launch license for the SpaceShipOne : Scaled Composites Files Application For SpaceShipOne Launch License - Aviation Week - July.3.03

Earlier he indicated that he would go only for a standard FAA experimental aircraft license. This would be the FAA-AST's first RLV launch flight license. However, he will continue negotiations with the FAA to see if there are alternatives to a launch license. There are also worries about whether Mojave Airport will need to carry out extensive environmental impact studies to qualify as a spaceport.

So the SS1 looks to break new ground in a number of areas.

News item ... The SS1 is NASA's Picture of the Day for July 1st.

June 30, 2003

PBS reports on the rocketeers... The PBS News Hour had a nice segment tonight on private spaceflight projects with a focus on Burt Rutan and the X PRIZE. The reporter interviewed Burt and also Peter Diamandis. He generally gave an accurate description of the competition and its feasibility and made the usual comparison to the early aviation prizes. There was also an examination of Sea Launch as the first totally privately financed launch system.

[July 1.03: The report is now available on line : Transcript, Audio .]

June 27, 2003

A big guy thinking small? ... It was revealed during the recent Paris Airshow that Scaled Composites is now nearly half owned by Northrop Grumman: Northrop Acquires Share of Scaled Composites - Aviation Week/PARIS 2003 - June.03. While Northorp's primary interest is probably in the company's composite technology and UAV projects, the item suggests that Northrop may also be interested in the company's "small space vehicles, including Scaled's own Tier One suborbital vehicle -- unveiled in April -- and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency RASCAL small launcher program."

If so, I hope Northrop shows more staying power than it did with Kistler. If Northrop had stepped up and funded the completion of the K-1 back in 1999 when Kistler's resources dried up after the LEO constellation market collapsed, the company would now control the leading launcher technology in the world and would be sending regular cargo shipments to the ISS. Instead they wrote off their investment and waited for Kistler to find other funding sources.

June 25, 2003

News briefs... The two companies in competition for the SpaceShipOne propulsion contract carried out a couple of tests this month according to the latest update at Scaled.com. Spacedev and eAc have each done four tests since last November.

June 20, 2003

Regulating roadblock? ... Rand Simberg has a post about a possibly serious conflict between Burt Rutan and regulators over the test flights of the White Knight/ SpaceShipOne.

Note that their are two players within the FAA that are involved - the dominant aviation part, which, among other things, "certifies" planes for passenger flight, and the much, much smaller Space Transportation Office (AST), which licenses rockets for launch.

At the SA'2003 meeting, the AST representatives generally gave the impression that they wanted to work with the suborbital companies and help the industry develop. (For example, they said "certification" was not in their vocabulary.) I believe Rand is expressing this positive impression and suggesting that Burt give AST a chance. He could apply for a multi-launch license and see how it goes rather than rejecting that process out of hand.

[One very knowledgeable source counters that the AST also seemed to be working well with orbital RLV companies a few years ago but once the AST lawyers got involved, the actual regulations issued were "onerous, ill-considered, counterproductive and idiotic." So maybe it's a good idea for Burt to keep the pressure on.

June 16, 2003

News item ... The SpaceShipOne cover article for the July issue of Popular Science is now on line: Burt Builds Your Ride to Space - Popular Science - June.16.03 along with Is ex-Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen backing Rutan? More on the Silicon Valley connection - PopSci Exclusive - July.03.

June 12, 2003

SS1/WK news item... The photos page now includes two images of the first captive carry test and one of the SS1 undergoing vibration tests.

June 10, 2003

Wired on Rutan & the X PRIZE... The cover article for the July issue of Wired magazine reports on the X PRIZE with an emphasis on Burt Rutan's SS1 project : The Right Stuff Forget cyberspace. Geeks are about to conquer outer space. And the $10 million X Prize is just the beginning - Wired - July.03 issue.

There's also a sidebar about Bezos and his Blue Origin company : Amazon Enters the Space Race Jeff Bezos blasts off with his own jet propulsion laboratory. - Wired - July.03 issue. Another sidebar gives brief descriptions of other IT moguls pursuing space projects: Techies Go Trekky - Wired - July.03. issue.

June 2, 2003

White Knight/SS1 Updates Online... Scaled is now posting descriptions of each test flight, going back to the first White Knight flight last August. See the Test Updates page. It also includes info on the SS1 ground tests and the rocket motor tests. (Via sci.space.tech)

May 31, 2003

Suborbital soundings ... People working at the Mojave airport occasionally hear the rumblings from static tests of the SS1 engines.

May 28, 2003

SS1 flight update ... The latest issue of Aviation Week has a one page story about the recent captive carry flight of the SpaceShipOne with the White Knight. Highlights include:

  • The flight reached 50k ft, lasted an hour and 45 minutes, and was "solid as a rock" according to Burt Rutan, meeting all performance expectations.
  • Two test pilots guided the White Knight but only ballast rode in the SS1.
  • No fuel was in the SS1 hybrid motor so the total SS1/White Knight weight was estimated to be about 20% lower than for an operational flight.
  • The SS1 is undergoing vibration tests and flights will resume when these finish.
  • Next flight will be another captive carry but with a pilot in the SS1 and with most systems active.
  • A glide flight may then occur, followed by a second glide flight to test the feather.
  • They hope to do a 100km flight by the end of the year.

May 21, 2003

Successful SpaceShipOne captive flight ... As indicated here earlier, Scaled Composites flew the White Knight with the SpaceShipOne on its first captive flight this week. See the the announcement on the X PRIZE site and also SpaceShipOne makes first captive carry flight - Spacetoday.net - May.21.03, which says that Peter Diamandis mentioned the flight during a presentation at the COMSTAC meeting today.

May 19, 2003

First SS1 Captive Carry Flight... I've heard that Scaled Composite plans soon to fly the White Knight with SpaceShipOne for the first time, perhaps as early as Tuesday.

May 8, 2003

SpaceShipOne briefs... London takes notice - Three-seater powers up for cheap space trip - Times Online - May.8.03 (link found at spacetoday.net)...

... The Scaled Composites entry page at the X PRIZE has, not surprisingly, been updated and includes a new team briefing (pdf, 284kb). No new info from what's on the Scaled website but does provide the essential info in a nicely compact form.

May 7, 2003

SpaceShipOne briefs... London takes notice - Three-seater powers up for cheap space trip - Times Online - May.8.03 (link found at spacetoday.net)...

... The Scaled Composites entry page at the X PRIZE has, not surprisingly, been updated and includes a new team briefing (pdf, 284kb). No new info from whats on the Scaled website but does provide the essential info in a nicely compact format.

May 6, 2003

Another article about the SS1 - Not Just for Millionaires and Pop Stars: A private company reveals its craft for sending tourists to space - Astronomy - May.6.03

May 1, 2003

SpaceDev hybrid engine test
Test firing of SpaceDev's hybrid engine.

SpaceDev SS1 engine photos... I had missed this earlier press release (April 18th) at SpaceDev. It includes photos and videos of their hybrid engine that is competing with eAc to win the Scaled SS1 propulsion contract (see the eAc press release below.)

April 30, 2003

Space Access'03 Review included some SS1 related topics.

News briefs ... Jeff Foust discusses RLV regulations and issues, relevant to the SS1, brought up at the Space Access'03 meeting : RLV regulation: licensing vs. certification - The Space Review - Apr.28.03 ...

... Rutan's SS1 and regulation questions : Private Innovation, Public Stagnation by Rand Simberg - FOXNews.com - Apr.25.03 ...

... More about SS1 and SpaceDev : A quest to bring space within reach: Designer betting a reusable winged rocket just the vehicle - SignOnSanDiego - Apr.29.03.

April 23, 2003

Environmental Aerosciences - SS1 Propulsion Development
SS1 Test Stand Trailer
Test Stand Trailer
White Knight takes off
Test firing Jan.16.03

The White Knight lands
eAC team with Burt Rutan

Photos courtesty eAc
More photos in eAc gallery

Environmental Aerosciences press release:

Environmental Aeroscience Corporation (eAc) announces selection as a team member providing the hybrid rocket propulsion system for
Burt Rutan’s Manned Space Program
Miami Florida - April 22, 2003

Founded in 1994, eAc has pioneered the development of nitrous oxide hybrid propulsion including the first ever sounding rocket flight of such a system from a NASA launch facility. eAc has been designing, testing, and flying hybrid rocket motors for tactical missiles, sounding rockets, and satellite launch applications; and with this announcement, space tourism. After two years of secret development with Scaled Composites, we are proud to announce our involvement as a vendor for the propulsion system for SpaceShipOne.

We are excited to have participated in the unveiling of this historic program on Friday, April 18, 2003. “Even though they are a tiny company … they’ve fired over a thousand hybrid motors, and that’s why they were selected,” said Burt Rutan at the event. Korey Kline, eAc Director of R&D was quoted as saying “These are the Wright Brothers days of Civilian Space Flight”.

Several developmental firings at our test facility in Miami were conducted in support of the SpaceShipOne propulsion system. The experiences of the South Florida testing allowed eAc to bring to Scaled a functional and proven system resulting in the efficient execution of the first successful static test in Mojave. eAc’s forward bulkhead with the SpaceShipOne oxidizer filling and vent systems was selected and qualified thru a competition with another vendor and will be used for all ground and flight testing. The hybrid rocket design represents the state of the art in low recurring cost nitrous oxide hybrid propulsion for space tourism applications.

eAc is currently working on advanced hybrid propulsion developments with AFRL and DARPA, including the world's smallest orbital launch vehicle, the MuLV. The MuLV is a safe, responsive, and affordable launch system that will carry 350-1200lb payloads into low earth orbit. A turbo-pump fed 30,000 lb thrust common-core booster design is used to lower development costs. A single motor system is designed and used for the central booster motor, with a variety of combinations of strap-on boosters of the same design. The lifting capacity is determined by this first stage configuration. Developmental firings include a 16” diameter nitrous hybrid that has produced 11,000 lbs thrust levels. The first series of nine test firings on this scale have been very successful allowing us to fine-tune the fuel grain geometry and injector design..

SpaceShipOne simulations... An Aviation Week reporter takes the SS1 to space and back in this detailed account of his simulator piloting : Flying Scaled Composites' SpaceShipOne Simulator - Aviation Week - Apr.21.03 ...

... Scaled apparently uses the X-Plane simulator. See the White Knight X-Plane simulation at X-Plane.org....

... A somewhat more modest SS1 simulation is included in this Java applet at SpaceTethers.com.

April 22, 2003

More SS1 info ... Jeff Foust writes more about the SS1 rollout- Rutan aims for space: A look at SpaceShipOne - The Space Review - Apr.21.03 ...

... In his latest update, John Carmack comments on the SS1 and how it will affect (or not) the plans at Armadillo Aerospace for the X PRIZE competition.

Spacedev launcher... SpaceDev has announced that it will begin development of a small launcher - 1000lb to orbit - based on the hybrid propulsion system developed for the SpaceShipOne program - SpaceDev Announces Streaker Launch Vehicle : SpaceDev Propulsion Technology Spin-offs from SpaceShipOne Program - SpaceDev - Apr.22.03.

SpaceDev's hybrid development began after it purchased the rights to the AMROC technology. The company is also developing an orbital transfer “space tug” for the Air Force called the Maneuvering and Transfer Vehicle (MTV™) that also uses hybrid propulsion.

Good press for the SS1... Jon Bonné at MSNBC has written a couple of excellent articles about Rutan's spaceship (found the links via Transterrestrial Musings). The article - Flying to space: A cockpit view : A trip 62 miles high and back down, all in 90 minutes - MSNBC - Apr.21.03 - gives a nice overview of what a flight would be like.

The other article - Private space race, public hurdles : Regulations may hampter efforts to prove technology - MSNBC - Apr.21.03 - discusses potential regulatory roadblocks for suborbital tourism and possible solutions.

Note: I exchanged some emails with Mr. Bonné a couple of months ago, first about the Kistler K-1 and then about private suborbital rocket development and the X PRIZE. He was very skeptical and indicated that he didn't think there had been much progress since the competition was first announced back in 1996. He now seems to be much more positive.

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