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Reusable Launch & Space Vehicle News
June 2004
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Scaled Composites photos
SpaceShipOne on its second rocket powered flight April 8, 2004.
Taken from Edwards AFB ground radar facility.
SpaceShipOne Updates

This section contains brief articles concerning developments in the field of reusable launch and space vehicles with links to news sources, NASA, company sites, etc.

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

In addtion, the Space Log contains news about
amateur space activities, space businesses, etc.

RLV News Archive Directory

June 30, 2004

News briefs... Sci-Fi writer Robert Sawyer sees aspects of the Salvage 1 program in the SS1 and other private rocket developments: The bottom line at zero gravity by Robert Sawyer - The Globe and Mail - June.29.04 (via spacetoday.net)...

...Maybe the giggle factor is slowly decreasing for the Space Elevator: Space Elevator: Momentum Building by Leonard David - Space.com - June.29.04...

.... Russia asks Europe to collaborate on the Clipper RLV project: Russia suggests that ESA take part in new spaceship project - ITAR-TASS - June.29.04 (via NASA Watch)...

... Research on the Columbia disaster continues and is revealing important information on the effects of reentry on various types of materials, especially composites: Understanding Columbia: Experts Piece Together a Telling Tale by Leonard David - Space.com - June.30.04 ...

... An interesting essay appeared in today's Wall Street Journal that points to the need for the US government to spare private space development from over-regulation, especially after the first accident occurs: The Future of Space Travel . . . by Holma W. Jenkins - WSJ.com - June.30.04 (subscription required.)

June 29, 2004

SS1 news... Scaled has posted a video page that includes a nice one made by Paul Allen's Vulcan Productions. Plus there are links to videos at LA Times and MSNBC....

... Check out a big set of pictures at the Mojave Pictorial: Two Parties and a Launch - Samizdata.net - Dale Amon (via Transterrestrial)....

... Irene Klotz, who seems to be writing a lot on space these days, profiles the Mojave Spaceport in Space Race II: Paving a new path to space - UPI - June.28.04....

... Sure nice, and very unusual, to hear a commentator admit he was wrong to ridicule a space project: For St. Louis, spaceflight prize is the X factor - STLtoday - June.28.04

Boeing CEV resources... Boeing posts a new section dedicated to the its proposals for the Space Exploration System.

June 28, 2004

Suborbital clarification ... After seeing the quote taken from Aviation Week, Elon Musk sent the following note:

Let me clarify my comment about SS1 in AvWeek. When I said SS1 didn't solve the fundamental problems required for orbit, I refer to the two fundamental contributors to the rocket equation, as well as orbit insertion accuracy. In other words, it has not achieved:

1. Isp sufficient for orbit.
2. Mass fraction sufficient for orbit.
3. Guidance & control needed for a specific orbit (vs. a variable inclination/perigee/apogee)

There are other critical problems that are being addressed, such as operability, cost, overcoming regulatory hurdles, etc., which you describe in your December article. Rutan's achievement has also had a very positive effect in reducing the sense of impossibility associated with space travel.

I've been asked many times about the difference between Burt's (very significant) achievement and orbit. It has been hard to convey the difference without sounding like I'm attacking SS1, which I'm definitely not. I'm one of the financial backers of the Ansari X Prize and consider what Scaled has done to be awesome and of great historical importance.

SS1 pictures... Collections of photos from the SS1 space flight are now available at

News briefs... John Carmack's weekly update reports on the discovery of the cause of a persistent electronics problem: Inductive kick, Miscellaneous - Armadillo Aerospace -June.27.04 ...

... Derek Webber predicts that the SS1 flight will be seen as "the true beginning of the new space era, a turning point for mankind." The future starts here by Derek Webber - The Space Review - June.28.04 ...

... Tim Pickens, who helped design the SS1 propulsion system, says his company "will build rockets for food.": Madison man a real rocket entrepreneur: Tim Pickens led propulsion design for SpaceShipOne - Huntsville Times - June.27.04 (via spacetoday.net) ...

... My suggestion for pegging the Moon-Mars program to space transport costs: Pay as you go - at the right price - Space Log - June.28.04

AW&ST reports on the SS1... Well, I lost my bet that the SS1 would be on the cover of the next issue of Aviation Week. Nevertheless, there is a long article describing the flight and the program. Here are some highlights:

  • The left roll that started about 7sec after ignition was due to a 60kt. wind shear.
  • Melvill responded with the rudder and it rolled to the right but then again to the left until finally leveling about 19secs after ignition. These "trajectory excursions" reduced the apogee by about 30k ft.
  • Roughly 68 secs after ignition, Melvill began to counter the effects of nozzle erosion with trim that eventually "hit the stop, tripping the thermal overload breaker." It needed 3 secs to reset before providing trim control again.
  • A left roll occurred over the next 15 secs, a period during which the engine shut off 76secs after ignition.
  • With the trim motor available again he was able to removes some of the roll and "exit the atmosphere in relative stability."
  • Avoiding the trim limits and the 3 sec dead time on future flights is a priority for the engineers.
  • The hurricane-like sound during the Mach 2.9 reentry was the most frightening segment of the flight for Melvill.
  • A glide ratio of 7:1 allowed Melvill easily to reach the desired runway despite the fact that the accumulated anomalies knocked him off the target box by 26 miles.
  • The fairing under the nozzle that buckled most likely suffered from heat radiated from the engine. The buckling probably produced the loud bang that Melvill heard during the flight.
  • On the Tonight Show the following day, Rutan told Jay Leno:
    • "Right now, I don't care if you're a billionaire, you cannot buy a ticket [to space] in America"..."A billionaire can go to Russia and pay $20 million to get one ride. But Paul Allen, he didn't go over there and get a ride, he took that money and he sent it to Mojave . . . . Because he did that we, all of us, are a lot closer to being able to buy that ticket, and we're damn close."
  • Rutan is serious about an orbital vehicle and is currently at a point similar to where he was "8-9 years ago with the suborbital 100-km. plan--evaluating concepts and doing significant planning."

A second article by Craig Covault talks about the big differences between suborbital and orbital flight. He quotes Elon Musk:

"SpaceShipOne is a cool and marvelous airplane. But it is an airplane, not a spacecraft," Musk said. "And many people do not quite appreciate the magnitude of that difference. In the context of human rocketry, Rutan is not solving any fundamental problems."

See this article for alternative views. [See note from Elon above.]

Constellation news ... Aviation Week also reports on plans at NASA with regard to the Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV). Development is supposed to start in 2005 and they are now doing a broad "trade study" that will look at a range of systems options including the EELV, shuttle-derived vehicles, and even foreign launchers.

After collecting all this data they will put out a request for proposals (RFP) in January. This seems ambitious to me since they don't seem to know yet what they want:

Garry Lyles, who heads Project Constellation in NASA's new exploration systems office. "We don't have specific requirements. We don't know how much mass that we want to carry to orbit yet, so we're looking at trades anywhere within the current capability of our systems to larger systems, and what we would have to modify to get the larger systems."

Nevertheless, some proposals bouncing around include a shuttle derived vehicle that could put 160,000 lb. to LEO and be ready by 2010. There's even a design with a "cryogenic upper stage powered by a variant of the Rocketdyne J-2 engine used in the upper stages of the Saturn V moon rocket." ...

... James Burk has revamped his ProjectConstellaion.us web log. He provides an introduction to the CEV and this CEV Concept Gallery that will be updated as new designs are presented.

News briefs... The Huntsville Times examines how commercial rocket development might affect the biggest local employer: Tourism in space closer to countdown: Private effort unlikely to hurt NASA, but its expertise is helpful - Huntsville Times - June.27.04 (via spacetoday.net)...

... FunTechSystems, which provided the Flight Navigation Unit for the SS1, has posted more information about its other projects. These include its own Aurora Space Plane entry in the X PRIZE and a 1/10 scale version of the Aurora called the Research Rocket Plane....

.... Good selection of SS1 project pictures: Slide Show for album :: SpaceShipOne, Burt Rutan's entry for the X-Prize (via Transterrestrial Musings).

June 27, 2004

SS1 news ... The NSS offers a way for you to say Congratulations, Burt! - Send Congratulations to Burt Rutan!

Other items:

News brief... The English version of the pages are not available, but a Russian HS reader tells me that the RLV Ajax design, which built on the ealier RLV Neva, offered some interesting ideas on hypersonic transprot. (You can try the translator at Babel Fish)

June 26, 2004

News briefs ... This report gives details of the insurance arrangement to fund the X PRIZE purse: They fueled the flight - MSNBC - June.25.04 ...

... Leonard David reports on the SS1 mission data: SpaceShipOne Data Shows Vessel Took a 'Trajectory Excursion' - Space.com - June.25.04

June 25, 2004

Capability vs requirements... Worstall's article, mentioned below, about unexpected benefits of a new technology goes well with an excerpt (p.30) in Stepping-Stones to the Future of Space Exploration: A Workshop Report - Nat'l Academies Press - 2004, which I heard about via HS reader M. Antoniewicz.

Brad Parkinson, who helped to invent the GPS system, was on a panel called "Technology as a Driver for Capability Transformation" and he held up GPS as an example of a capability transformer. I was unaware that the GPS system had ever been anything but wildly popular with the Air Force. He said that

"GPS was canceled by the Air Force on four separate occasions. Fortunately, civil leaders with more authority stepped in to prevent that from happening."

Parkinson argued that for a technology to be useful it needs the focus of a mission, have the time to mature, and

"...leadership from someone who understands how much time it will take to achieve a disruptive technology and who as the courage to stand up to the mainstream world, which is saying it can't be done."

He noted that since the Air Force didn't think it wanted the GPS, it didn't weigh him down with requirements and he could focus on what was achievable within available funding and time. He generalizes this nicely in the following sentence (highlighted by Antoniewicz):

"...the idea of capability is more helpful than the idea of a requirement, because often requirements are defined so rigidly that they can never be achieved at a reasonable cost."

This reminds me of the DARPA RASCAL project, which insisted on a particular technology for the first stage of a small-sat launcher. Why not instead ask for the capability and let industry make a range of proposals as to how best to provide that capability?

This is also the fundamental problem with the way NASA has pursued space transport development. It always lays out an encyclopedic set of rigid requirements and specifications rather than defining a general capability that it needs and letting others find a "good" (maybe not perfect) way to fulfill the ultimate goal, e.g. ISS cargo resupply or crew replacement.

SS1 news ... The log entry for flight 60L/15P has been posted at Scaled Composites. ...

... The altitude as measured by the on board GPS system has now been confirmed: Altitude for SpaceShipOne flight confirmed - L.A. Daily News - June.25.04 (I assume this is from Edwards radar measurements but neither the article or log says.) ...

... I like this article Spaceship One-derful by By Tim Worstall -TCS: Tech Central Station - June.25.04 (via HS reader D. Starr). It emphasizes that it's impossible to predict what new ideas will arise when a new capability like suborbital spaceflight is proven and which of them will find a market. Expect to be surprised....

... I'm getting indications that the other suborbital projects are getting positive spinoffs from the SS1 flight such as more investor interest and big jumps in web site traffic.

Airship setback... JP Aerospace had a bad day in Texas according to Alan Boyle: Balloon test goes bust- Alan Boyle/MSNBC - June.24.04. They were pushed by the Air Force to fly in wind conditions far higher than suitable for their system and it didn't work.

However, it sounds like they will try again soon. It's obvious that the Air Force really wants a system like this that that can monitor hotspots in Iraq.

News briefs ...The Economist gives an excellent report on the SS1 and the implications for space tourism and private space enterprise: Manned spaceflight: The Starship Free Enterprise - Economist.com - June.24.04. See the discussion at Transterrestrial Musings ...

...Leonard David reviews future high tech transportation systems: The Future of Travel: Aquatic to Cosmic Destinations - space.com - June.23.04 ...

... A new space transport blog is opened by Derek Lyons: Spaceship Summer ...

... Alan Boyle reports on the detailed requirements for the official X PRIZE flights: X Prize countdown - Alan Boyle/MSNBC - June.24.04 ...

... FunTech Systems shows the Flight Navigation Unit (FNU) model that flew on the SS1 and containd GPS and ring laser gyro systems to provide "full six degree of freedom navigation, guidance, and flight control data."...

... I missed quite a party it seems: Space Commodity - LA Weekly - June.25.04 ...

... Another cool cartoon: Heh - RocketForge.

June 24, 2004

An SS1 report from Jeff Foust, who attended the launch, discusses the problems encountered: SpaceShipOne makes history — barely - The Space Review - June.24.04....

... Andrew Case notes that at a dinner last night with Jeff, Pat Bahn, Phil Smith, and myself one topic of discussion was how important the pilot had been in saving the vehicle during the flight test program. This is a whole new type of vehicle and problems during testing should be expected. The adaptability and experience of the pilots have been crucial in keeping the program on track....

... When the SS1 was first introduced last year, Burt Rutan indicated that after the initial flight test program was completed he would like to fly the vehicle regularly over a long period to prove the robustness and reliability of the system. I don't know if this is still in his plans but I think it's a great idea. For space tourism to be practical and available to as big a market as possible, the vehicles will need to fly many times between major overhauls and will need to operate with minimal costs. Demonstrating this would be another huge contribution to the creation of this industry by the SS1. (Actually the current SS1 should go to the Smithsonian and a duplicate used for operations studies.)

The final frontier, or there abouts... Jeff also talks about the arbitrariness of the 100km altitude as the "boundary to space." He points to an interesting page at the FAI that recounts the history of the 100km "Karman line", which was invented by a group led by the famous Theodore von Karman to protect aeronautical records for speed and altitude from the performances of spacecraft.

Seth Shostak of the SETI Instiute discusses the space border issue at The Final Frontier: Where Does it Really Begin? By Seth Shostak - Space.com - June.24.04. There's also some background here in the Advance Rocketry Records section.

Spacedev's rockets are dicussed in this aarticle: SpaceDev Rockets In To Space With Paul Allen's Team - CNNMoney/DJ Newswires - June.22.04. Note that it briefly reports on Richard Branson's space plans near the end. (Item via HS reader J. Roche.)

Apparently the motors could come down significantly in price: "Benson further said his motor is priced low enough not to hinder a tour operator from one day offering space travel tickets for $10,000 each."

There's also this PR from SpaceDev: SpaceDev Technology Powers SpaceShipOne In History Making Flight to Create World’s First Private Sector Astronaut - SpaceDev - June.21.04

NASA drops Kistler contract after protest by SpaceX. Claiming that it was just an extension of a previous SLI contract, NASA in February committed to paying Kistler Aerospace $227.4 million for flight data from the K-1 if the company successfully emerged intact from Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings and got the vehicle flying. The K-1 is reported to be about 80% complete. NASA said it would use the data to evaluate whether other vehicles besides the shuttle and the Russian Progress could resupply the ISS

SpaceX complained that the contract should have been awarded according to an open competition in which it could participate. The General Accounting Office informed NASA, Kistler and SpaceX in a conference call on June 17th that NASA would probably lose the protest. As is usual after such warnings to a government agency, NASA dropped the contract.

NASA has not said if it will hold a competition for a contract to provide such flight data or just go directly to a request for proposals for ISS resupply.

George Mueller, chief of Kistler, had recently said in an interview that he was optimistic that the company would raise the money needed to make the company solvent again. However, without this NASA contract in hand, it would seem that this task will now be extremely difficult.

NASA Rescinds Kistler Flight Demo Award - Space News - June.23.04 (subscription required.) - (Link via spacetoday.net).

Space Transport news...The Space Transport Corporation displayed their Rubicon X PRIZE vehicle in Seattle at The Museum of Flight last weekend. See the pictures in Update - Display Success at The Museum of Flight - Space Transport - June.23.04 (pdf). STC expects to launch Rubicon to 15,000 feet on its maiden flight in mid-July from a location on the Olympic Peninsula near Forks, Washington.

Starchaser news...The Starchaser project in the UK announced that it has found a sponsor to fund development of the Launch Escape System (LES). for its Thunderstar vehicle.Consultancy sponsors UK's "X prize" entry - E-consultancy.com - June.23.04.The project also plans to open a branch office in New Mexico where it plans to do test flights: British space firm to open New Mexico office - New Mexico Business Weekly - June.23.04. (These links came via X PRIZE Space Race News)

SS1 News...

The suborbital road... Prof. Chris Hall says in his SpaceCraft blog that my article "Suborbital spaceflight: a road to orbit or a dead end? does a very nice job of presenting the issues and the various schools of thought regarding the answer to that question." It's also rewarding to find that Dwayne Day says it was a "a well-researched article".

June 23, 2004

More SS1 News... Alan Boyle provides an interesting perspective on the flight and the aftermath: Spacemen meet the stars - Alan Boyle/MSNBC - June.23.04 ...

... Dwayne Day argues that suborbital spaceflights will finally make a space themed reality show a viable proposition: The reality space race - The Space Review - June.21.04 ...

... At spacetoday.net there are two or three dozen links to SS1 flight related articles and editorials. Seems that the significance of the event is starting to sink in....

... Looks like the Cosmopolis suborbital project still hasn't gotten past the mockup stage: Russian suborbital spaceship being developed - Interfax - June.22.04 ...

... Melvill sure seems to be a very open and talented fellow: At One Point, 'I Was Deathly Afraid,' New Space Visitor Admits - NY Times - June.23.04. See the poignant picture of him and his wife just before the flight in this CS monitor article.

EELV redundancies... The Air Force may eliminate one of the two EELV suppliers: Air Force to consider EELV downselect - spacetoday.net - Juhe.23.04. This would be done on the basis of cost savings. So what if SpaceX comes along with the Falcon V and offers a significant discount for launching mid-sized and smaller payloads? How would the AF justify not taking advantage of this cost savings?

News briefs... Sounds like Congress might expand the prize amounts that NASA could reward for technical accomplishments beyond what the Centennial Challenges originally expected to provide: NASA Mulls Cash Prizes for Private Spaceflight Milestones - Space.com - June.23.04 ...

... This commentator argues for the prize alternative approach to space funding: Challenge Me to the Moon: The government should encourage the private sector to get into space - by Eli Lehrer - National Review Online - June.22.04 ...

... The possibility of the shuttle flying by next spring looks bleak: Space Shuttle Safety Modifications Proving Difficult - VOANews.com - June.23.04

Latest SS1 news... The X PRIZE Space Race News has a big set of links including videos at BBC for the whole broadcast (52min Real Audio) and for the flight (1min 50 sec Real Audio). The latter includes shots from the SS1 in space....

... A wild bet says Aviation Week will show the SS1 on its next cover: SpaceShipOne Makes First Private Suborbital Space Flight - Aviation Now - June.22.04....

... The Canadian Arrow team is inspired now to go fly to space as well: U.S. rocket launch spurs Canadian's hopes - CTV.ca - June.22.04

Spaceship development as it should be... Aren't "reusable" (I'll have to drop that word soon) rocket vehicles great? You get to test incrementally and to fix problems as they appear with each expansion of the envelope. Just look at the SS1 experience as given by the Test Log. There were lots of minor problems encountered, and several serious ones as well, but the team overcame each one in a systematic manner.

For example, during the drop test of flight 37L/06G, the vehicle unexpectedly pitched up and wouldn't respond to the controls ("stall entry maneuver resulted in an un-commanded nose rise"). The pilot eventually regained control and managed to land safely. By employing a "Bubba wind tunnel" with a Ford-250 pickup truck (see Ground Test Log) the team "validated several aerodynamic fixes to solve the tail stall problem" and the following flight went well.

The first powered flight on December 17th 2004 also went well until the landing when "touchdown caused the left main gear to collapse and the vehicle rolled to a stop off the runway in the soft sand." (See photos made by Alan Radecki.) I can't find any details but I believe there were some hardware mods and changes in the approach procedure to prevent this from happening again.

In Monday's flight there was a serious failure of the flight control system but a backup allowed the pilot to continue and to complete a successful mission. (A dent in a fairing around the nozzle looks to be a less serious problem.) While this has delayed the announcement of the X PRIZE flights, no doubt this problem will also be solved presently. I'm sure there will also be improvements made throughout the vehicle based on the data from the flight.

To airplane builders, of course, this is all typical of the normal, everyday incremental testing procedure for a new vehicle design. Sure is nice to find here at the start of the 21st century that a spaceship is finally being developed in this manner as well.

June 22, 2004

Armadillo Aerospace plans... On the Armadillo message board, John Carmack answered several questions on Monday about vehicle development plans. He confirmed what he had indicated previously with regard to the X PRIZE: the team will now focus on smaller test vehicles:

"Now that it looks like Scaled has a lock on it, we are definitely scaling down the vehicle. We aren't even going to look at 100km flights until a commercial spaceport that we can use is licensed (we can't use Mojave, because they are only for HTHL vehicles). I'm not going to give White Sands over a million dollars to allow us to test our vehicles just for grins. We will concentrate on getting rock solid reliability within the limits of waivered flights instead of licensed flights. "

On the very long term, the goal is an orbital system and currently he favors the DH-1 design described in "The Rocket Company" novel by Patrick J. G. Stiennon and David M. Hoerr and serialized here:

"My pet plan for orbital has been "boosted SSTO" for quite some time. This is basically the plan described in "The Rocket Company" serial on Hobby Space -- a straight up / straight down booster, and a very high performance upper stage. I think there are strong engineering and operational reasons for this, even though it looks like an inefficient staging point at first glance."

(Item via HS reader M. Böller)

Special Report: Joan Horvath sent in this first hand report on the SpaceShipOne flight:

Dateline Mojave, June 21, 2004

By the time you read this all the facts and figures and details will have been laid out for you by the major media. I'm sure, though, that the readers of this website are also interested in an answer to the simple question: what was it like to BE there? I was fortunate enough to be in the press area, due to some other projects of mine, and so these observations are both on the event itself and also on some of the reaction of the "mainstream" media to the concept of entrepreneurial space.

Sunday, June 20: Flight Eve

The heat (and a slightly nervous anticipation) made Sunday a fairly subdued day, much more so than I was expecting. People were excited, but also reflective (photo top) as was this a space fan thinking her own thoughts while looking out over a Mojave runway. continue...

BTW: Joan will be on the Space Show this Sunday, June 27, 12-1:30pm Pacific Time. See the Space Show Newsletter for a biography of Joan. Tune in online at Live365.

SS1 flight details... Here's a lengthy and interesting article by William Harwood - SpaceShipOne rockets into history by William Harwood - Spaceflight Now - June.21.04 ...

... I heard a remark from Burt Rutan on TV that a space tourist vehicle should go to 150km instead of 100km so as to provide a longer period of weightlessness. Also, he thinks each passenger should have a big window to privde a really good view.

Even more SS1... Tons of SS1 related links at spacetoday.net. Here is a sampling:

More SS1.... Nice sets of pictures at LAUNCH! - Alan's Mojave Airport Weblog - June.21.04 and MSNBC - Private rocket ship breaks space barrier....

... A personal log of the event at Viewing Space Ship One Launch - The Interocitor (Kevin Murphy) - June.21.04 (via Transterrestrial Musings)....

... News reports:

Armadillo Aerospace had one of those learning experience type of days: Good intentions, bad results - Armadillo Aerospace - June.20.04

June 21, 2004

19:45 Even more SS1.... Leonard David reports on the technical problems that occurred during the flight: SpaceShipOne Makes History with First Manned Private Spaceflight - Space.com...

... Mike Melvill took some memorabilia and M&Ms to the space today., according to Robert Pearlman of collectSpace. Robert also provides some pictures of the event: Private spacecraft to launch June 21 - collectSpace

17:10: More SS1... Pictures from Mojave from Michael Mealling of Rocketforge....

... Now I understand the Tier 1 name:

Rutan made an "allusion to the Tier 3 orbital space-vehicle program that he is reportedly involved in. The SpaceShipOne program is known as Tier 1, and Tier 2 would be a tour-bus-like version of the same concept, a vehicle capable of carrying up to 10 passengers on suborbital space flights." - SpaceShipOne Soars - Popular Science ...

... Buy your SS1 souvenirs at Officially Licensed SpaceShipOne Merchandise - t-shirts, posters and more! ...

... Scaled press release: SpaceShipOne Makes History: First Private Manned Mission to Space

16:45: A robust little spaceship... Despite some fairly serious problems, the SS1 succeed in its mission today. During the news conference Rutan said about the flight control system failure that "The anomaly we had today is the most serious flight system safety problem we have had in the entire program".

Plus there was "a roll of the rocket plane during its ascent" and then "an unexpected booming sound." This "was apparently caused by the buckling of a fairing that was added to the rocket plane's engine nozzle for this record-setting flight."

They had hoped to set a date for the X PRIZE flights but Rutan said "SpaceShipOne would not fly again until the source of the flight control problem was identified and fixed."

13:50: Spaceflight Now has some updates from the news conference:

  • Apogee was 100.1241 km
  • That makes "Mike Melvill an astronaut" and he received his commemorative wings in a ceremony during the news conference.
  • A control system malfunction caused the SS1 "to miss its reentry box by 22 miles."

12:45 Faring damage... Jeff Foust reports that "The vehicle suffered some minor damage during the flight when a fairing near the engine nozzle partially collapsed, leaving a large dent on the underside of the vehicle." Melvill mentioned a loud bang durng the return. I assume this is related to that....

... I've seen estimates of crowd size of around 10k-15k. Less than the big number speculations but not bad for an event that started at 6:30 on a Monday morning in the middle of the desert.

12:25: Fast turnaround... In this pre-flight report - Prelude to history? - The Space Review - June.21.04 , Jeff Foust reported on comments made at a news conference on Sunday. Hightlights include:

  • The May flight to 40 miles was more risky and settled crucial questions, particularly about the feathered reentry. Rutan said, "I believe the risks we face tomorrow are small compared to the risks we took in May.”
  • With regard to subsequent flights, they believe the turnaround time for the SS1 "will be well under one week, they should be able to make three flights during the two-week window required to perform two flights to win the $10-million prize."
  • The SS1 rocket has power to spare. Burt "said that if Melvill doesn’t turn off the engine Monday at the specified time, the vehicle would fly to nearly 130 kilometers."
  • No passengers in the near future. Continued testing and flight envelope expansion.
  • "Rutan noted that he and Allen formed a company, Mojave Aerospace, which actually owns the intellectual property associated with SpaceShipOne."
  • Rutan expects a "barnstorming" phase of passenger flights at $100k per seat in the near future but " a mature space tourism industry" will need ticket prices in the $30k-50k range that would come with second gen vehicles.
  • He will be presenting a new model design soon.
  • Rutan also said “we’re heading for orbit sooner than you think.”

12:10 More SS1:

11:45: Send a congrats to Mike Melvill.

11:35: Reports:

11:25: Yeeeesssssssss.....

SpaceShipOne Reaches Space
and Lands Safely!

10:55: Rocket firing complete. Latest word from pilot is that things are going good.

10:40: Spaceflight Now is providing regular text updates.

10:30: Finally got a stream via BBC - news.bbc.co.uk. So far things are looking good.

9:50: Takeoff just occurred. Happened a few minutes later than scheduled. I've not been able to connect to any of the streamed broadcasts. Guess there are lots of people all over the world trying to connect.

Thankfully, all three cable networks are doing fairly good coverage. Though during the one hour ascent to 50k feet they will be switching to other news.

9:37: Rand says the rave went on through the night at the Mojave airport.

2:45 SS1 blogging.. Rand Simberg will be blogging from Mojave.

1:35: News briefs... I've been disappointed not to see very much written yet about last week's Centennial Challenges Workshop. Here, though, is a short but nice report: Centennial Challenges Workshop Summary - Space Race News! - Jan.20.04...

... John Carmack and Neil Milburn of Armadillo Aerospace have been responding to questions at the Official Armadillo Q&A thread.

1:25am: Canadian Arrow news... The X PRIZE team Canadian Arrow is showing a picture of their vehicle on their home page with the statement that they will "start test flights this August." They also have updated the pages on their Space Centre, engine test stand (that's a good sized engine), and propulsion.

1:15am: Countdown at Space.com

1:10am: The Space Show - Mojave update... David Livingston has arranged to broadcast the even with John McKnight in Mojave and David in San Francisco:

The Space Show plans to begin the streaming broadcast of this event between 5:30 - 5:45AM [Pacific TIme 8:30-8;45 EDT] Monday, June 21. The actual take-off of the carrier plane, White Knight, is scheduled for 6:30am EDT. Space Ship One breaks free of White Knight about an hour later, ignites its rocket engine and then travels to 62 miles (100 kilometers). The entire flight to landing of both Space Ship One and White Knight should take approximately 90 minutes from the initial take-off of White Knight.

As our reporter in the field, John Carter McKnight, will be using a cell phone, we will be going back and forth to John during this time as events are unfolding and to allow us to conserve cell phone battery power to take us through the entire launch and landing sequence.

Updated information will be posted to this site approximately 11:30PM PDT on Sunday, June 20th. Space Show listeners are welcome to contact drspace@thespaceshow.com or dmlivings@yahoo.com with any questions or comments you might have about this special live broadcast of the Space Ship One launch. All efforts will be made to respond to any e-mail questions prior to the Sunday night update per above. In addition, while streaming this live broadcast, The Space Show will continue to accept chat comments, questions and feedback from the listeners at "spaceshowchat" for those with IM and ICQ.

June 20, 2004

The SS1 pilot will be Mike Melvill: Melvill selected to pilot SpaceShipOne - spacetoday.net - June.20.04. He flew the most recent mission in May....

.. A new page has been posted with Press Kit info...

... Long article from the Telegraph about the SS1 and other X PRIZE teams: Up tiddlee up up - Telegraph - June.20.04

SS1 updates: Long lists of articles are available at spacetoday.net and X PRIZE Space Race News. Here is a sample:

June 19, 2004

SS1 updates: More articles collected from spacetoday.net, X PRIZE Space Race News, and elsewhere:

X PRIZE home page says "There are 500 media representatives signed up to cover Monday's event."

Countdown to historic space trip - BBC - June.19.04 - long article about the mission

Monday's Private Spaceflight: Historical Milestone or Stunt Flying? - Space.com - June.19.04 - Sounds similar to a typical headline from 1977: "Apple II: A computng milestone or a toy?"

SpaceShipOne: Soaring Toward Tomorrow - Space.com - compilation of articles on the event.

Viewer's Guide to Monday's First Piloted Private Space Flight - Space.com - info on viewing in Mojave or from elsewhere

Allen pushes envelope on space tourism - Seattle PI - June.19.04 - I didn't know Kistler was involved with the X PRIZE:

Another local X Prize supporter who will be down there applauding the Rutan-Allen team is Walter Kistler. The retired founder of Redmond-based Kistler Aerospace is one of the major donors funding the award. His company has struggled financially but it stubbornly persists in its attempt to make re-usable rockets commercially viable.

Kistler, a Swiss-born scientist who at age 16 burned off his eyebrows while making rocket fuel on the family stove, said private industry must jump with both feet into space. "The only way this is going to happen is if entrepreneurs do it," he said.

Voyage to edge of space: Civilian pioneers prepare for launch - Toronto Star - June.19.04 - I like this part:

Many of those counting down to Monday's 6:30 a.m. (PDT) launch believe this flight could be the thin edge of the wedge that opens the very heavens to private enterprise. And, ultimately, opens them to you.

"That's right, you — the person reading this sentence, at this precise moment, wearing exactly what you've got on.

Business implications of the flight are discussed in Final Frontier: Private Enterprise Counts Down For Space Travel - Investor's Business Daily - June.21.04 (via spacetoday.net) ...

... And the flight seems to be boosting SpaceDev: SpaceDev Shares Soar Along With SpaceShipOne - SANDIEGO.COM - June.18.04 (via X PRIZE Space Race News).

Mojave spaceport ... More about the licensing: New spaceport set for milestone mission by Alan Boyle - MSNBC - June.18.04.

News briefs... The Space Transport team carries out another sounding rocket test flight:Space race encounters forks in road - SeattlePI - June.19.04 (Nothing yet on their News page, however.) ...

... I don't see any announcement on the ARCA web site but the X PRIZE home page quotes a press release as saying that ""World's first composite materials reusable monopropellant rocket engine will be flight tested in July on board the Demonstrator 2-B rocket. The first flight will be made below 10 km, mainly because of the launch site restrictions." ...

... Return to flight in March may happen without the inspection boom: Plans to Launch the Shuttle Are Dogged by Stubborn Safety Boom - The New York Times - June.19.04

Free live stream from MSNBC for the full hour and half mission time! Just got the word from Alan Boyle. Not yet clear if the TV coverage will span the whole period but the streaming should be a better anyway since it will be devoted to the mission while the network TV will be jumping back and forth with other news.

News briefs... Alan does his own survey of space tourism interests: Who wants to go to space? - Alan Boyle/MSNBC - June.18.04 ...

... Latest weblog updates from Alan Radecki at BoingBoing: Reports for June 18th. ...

... Alan has also posted pictures of the celebrations for the spaceport licensing. (Via X PRIZE Space Race News).

June 18, 2004

The Space Show in Mojave... The SpaceShow with substitute host John Carter McKnight will provide a live webcast on the internet at www.live365.com/stations/dlivingston?site=dlivingston. [Regular host David Livingston had a prior commitment.]

In addition, an additional streaming site has been provided Space Show listeners by Jeff Birk at Pioneer Radio in the UK. The tentative URL for this additional site is usa.rolo.net:8008/listen.pls.

Further details will be available over the weekend on the Space Show Newsletter page.

Branson goes galactic, again... As mentioned here recently, billionaire Richard Branson has indicated he will soon make a space related announcement of some sort. A few years ago he registered a company called Virgin Galactic Airways and expressed an intention of pursuing a space tourism type of business (e.g see this article from 1999). However, it seemed he had dropped the idea.

A HS reader - B. Freebairn - noticed that the business registration with the UK government was re-activated on May 20, 2004. (I assume the listed nature of the business as "Hairdressing & other beauty treatment" is meant to show a wry sense of humor.) The web address www.virgingalacticairways.com currently goes to the main Virgin home page.

Perhaps next week after the SS1 flight we will hear what he has in mind for the company. Maybe it's related to the larger vehicle that Burt Rutan has suggested for a tourism business.

Webcast coverage... Looks like there will be an alternative to CNN (especially if it has to cover some other breaking story.) Just got this message from Robert Burmeister:

I called KLOA FM and they told me that the City of Ridgecrest website [ci.ridgecrest.ca.us/spaceship1/] will be providing one hour of audio webcast for the Burt Rutan SS1 flight.

By the end of day Friday, the link will be posted at www.kloafm.com

KLOA FM (Thunder Country 104.9) has exclusive rights to the audio for the flight. This will also include the audio coming from the cockpit during the flight.

Some potential space tourists, who have each put their money where their passion is, respond in interesting ways to a Space Adventures poll: Space Adventures Announces Results of Suborbital Client Survey Close to 70% would fly on the inaugural SpaceShipOne suborbital spaceflight - Space Adventures - June.18.04

SS1 updates... More articles:

Space Race II: A 'private' astronaut - UPI - June.18.04 - profile of Peter Diamandis

Private rocket aims for the stars: SpaceShipOne flight heralds attempt on $10-million X prize. - Nature - June.19.04 - Maybe if the mainstream science journals start to take suborbital space transport seriously, I can finally get some intelligent responses from the scientists to whom I've sent queries as to how they might use such vehicles for their research. Generally, most scientists (with some welcomed exceptions) need confirmation and validation from their peers before they will make the effort to examine something as radical as manned suborbital.

World: First Private Manned Space Mission Set To Blast Off - Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty - June.18.04 - John Pike finally gets to put in his two cents. (Actually, that vastly exaggerates the value of his opinion on space transport.)

Commercial space travel next leap for mankind? Private manned flight test may launch new era in aviation - CNN.com - Jun 18, 2004

Big Secret: Who Will Fly SpaceShipOne? - Space.com - June.18.04

It's now official and they have the license to prove it:

Mojave Spaceport
America's First Inland Spaceport Launch Site
Operator License # LSO 04 009

(Item via Aleta Jackson.)

Update: 5:55pm: Ready for Historic Launch: FAA Grants Mojave Airport First Inland Spaceport License - Space.com - June.18.04

SS1 updates... Here are some links I gathered mostly from spacetoday.net:

News brief... This article talks about the daVinci Project in Canada: Space flight: the new extreme sport - Imprint [Waterloo Univ.] - June.18.04.

June 17, 2004

SS1 updates... Looks like there will even be quite a few people going to Mojave a few days before the launch. For example, the popular Boing Boing web log has a poster [Alan Radecki] who has arrived in Mojave and will be sending reports on happenings up to the day of the launch: Special BoingBoing report: Live from SpaceShip One - June.17.04 * Boing Boing: SpaceShipOne blog, part two ...

... Jeff Foust in this Space Politics posting points out the editorial in yesterday's Christian Science Monitor that advocates tax breaks to encourage development of private space transport: Tax Breaks for Private Spaceships - csmonitor.com - June.16.04. Today there was also this article: Out on the Mojave: space shot for the common man - csmonitor.com - June.17.04 ...

... Here's an article in Wired: Regular Folks to Kiss the Sky - Wired News - June.17.04

News briefs ... Via a link on sci.space.policy I came across another report on military RLVs: Future Launch Systems - Aerospace Corp - Winter 2004 ...

... NASA still seems to be holding to the March 2005 return to flight goal: NASA Presents Return To Flight Update - NASA - June.17.04.

Oklahoma flight demonstrations... Via Joan Horvath comes this announcement:

Frederick, Oklahoma announces formation of the Capps Space Science Center and July 4 flight demonstrations

Frederick, Oklahoma, June 17, 2004. Today a consortium of Frederick-based entities announces the formation of the Capps Space Science Center at Frederick. This Center will have as its mission partnerships between educational and scientific institutions and entrepreneurs developing new types of flying vehicles.

A first example of this type of partnership is a joint endeavor between Frederick-based HighShips, Inc and the Robotic Systems Laboratory of Silicon Valley's Santa Clara University. Through the support of investors and donors in California and Montana, the HighShips' highly maneuverable small airship program has begun. Over the next few weeks, HighShips will be flying a camera in a tethered flight test for Evergreen Films, a Hollywood production company, to provide unique aerial point of view for an upcoming project. The prototype of a more sophisticated robot airship is planned for tests this fall for search and rescue applications in Montana and possibly in support of paleontologists' dinosaur digs in the Southwest.

A second partnership for the Capps Space Science Center is the move of Beyond-Earth Enterprises' launch operations to Frederick. In partnership with Frederick-based Global Space League, student payloads will be gathered for flights of its LC-series rockets. Says Beyond-Earth's CEO Joe Latrell, "We have been impressed by the pragmatism of the Frederick group, and we look forward a long-term relationship with the growing pool of expertise and connections they are gathering."

At Frederick's 4th of July Celebration 2004, pending final regulatory clearances and weather, Beyond-Earth plans to display their full-scale LC rocket and launch a one-third-scale version. (The full scale version is planned to be launched from Frederick later this summer.) In addition HighShips will have the first airship tethered on display. Kids of all ages will be able to come into a "Super Top Secret Area 57 Rocket Scientists Only" play area where they will be allowed to make secret messages to fly on HighShips' and Beyond-Earth vehicles, create their own fizzing rockets, and ask questions of a real astronomer and rocket scientist from California. Detailed schedules, parking and camping fees, and similar information can be obtained from the Frederick Chamber of Commerce at the number above.

The Capps Space Science Center is a project managed jointly by Frederick-based Global Space League, Inc., the Frederick Chamber of Commerce, Takeoff Technologies LLC, the Frederick Airport Commission and the City of Frederick. Founding vehicle providers are HighShips, Inc. and Colorado Springs-based Beyond-Earth Enterprises.

SS1 updates... MSNBC offers this page - The New Space Race - which holds links to its articles on the SS1 and other X PRIZE related events...

... Scaled Composites has nicely revamped its SS1 web pages, which are entitled: Tier One: Private Manned Space Program....

... Profile of the SpaceShipOne builder: Burt Rutan: Aviation pioneer - BBC - June.17...

... Cruising to space and then Alaska: Celebrity Cruises Hosts Aviation Legend on Heels of Historic Space Flight - Celebrity Cruises - June 16.04 (via Alan Boyle and Robert Pearlman)

News briefs... Starchaser has posted updates on progress with the Environmental Control Life Support System (ECLSS) and capsule for its Thunderstar vehicle ( via X PRIZE Space Race News). ...

... Leonard David reports on the Armadillo flight: Armadillo Scores Test Liftoff Success In Bid For X Prize - Space.com - June.17.04

Destination Mojave ... To complete our rush to the future, I suggest that when the SS1 spaceman emerges from his exotic looking rocketship he have this ray gun strapped to his belt.

SS1 flight memorabilia could become a top collectable for space enthusiasts according to Robert Pearlman of collectSpace. He tells Alan Boyle - Space race update - Alan Boyle/MSNBC - June.16.04 -

"The appeal of philatelic material or other collectibles (mini SS1 models, medallions, patches, etc.), not to mention any piece of the actual craft that is expendable/replaceable, will be of interest to space collectors..."

Perhaps Laura Wiggins of ToSpace has arranged for a payload. At SA ' 04 she reported that she had so far put collectibles on one high altitude unmanned rocket flight and was looking to charter more rides. (I expect she also had a payload on the CSXT amateur record altitude flight in May.)

... More flight updates:

News briefs... Rand Simberg discusses how the commercial space transport business might develop: Spacelines - Transterrestrial Musings - June.16.04...

... James Burk at Project Constellation seems to have rounded up most of the articles, commentaries, and background info on the Aldridge Committee report.....

... And Thomas James is providing condensed versions of the findings and recommendations. (Via Transterrestrial Musings.)

A resuable military space plane is now feasible according to this announcement from Northrop - Northrop Grumman Outlines Test Program to Advance Military Space Plane - Northrop Grumman -June.16.04 (via spacetoday.net).-

"Over the past three years, Northrop Grumman has successfully developed and demonstrated key structural and vehicle health-management technologies required to build, launch and operate an affordable and reusable military space plane," said Doug Young, director of space programs for Northrop Grumman's Integrated Systems sector. "An integrated ground demonstration system would help identify and remove technical and financial barriers to producing, integrating and deploying this critical space asset."

The company is pursuing a system that would fulfill the goals of programs like FALCON and RASCAL that seek to provide payload delivery to orbit on short notice.

RMLS - Reusable Military Launch Systems - is a new acronym for me. I was looking for background info on the above Northrop article and came across a presentation entitled Near-Term RLV Options (ppt and a HTML conversion at Google) given at a AIA meeting in 2003 by Alicia Hartong of the Air Force. Like Northrop, she concludes that "Technology is available NOW to initiate RLVs".

June 16, 2004

Mojave space extravaganza... Via a Mojavian comes this local report on preparations for the SS1 flight event next Monday: SpaceShipOne preping for space - AV Press - June.16.04 (short-lived link.) Some highlights:

  • "Organizers are preparing for 30,000 visitors"
  • "On the day of the flight's announcement, the Scaled Composites Web site received millions of queries"
  • "Hotels in Mojave are already booked solid, with rooms filling up in more distant communities such as Lancaster."
  • "A camping area has been cleared to park 250 self-contained recreational vehicles, with campers allowed to enter the grounds beginning Saturday night. Reservations are required for these $40 spots, and they are filling fast. As of Tuesday afternoon, 160 spots remained."
  • "Already, "space groupies" have requested permission for a concert in the camping area Sunday night, adding to the festival-like atmosphere." [Maybe this is the rave that Leonard David referred to.]
  • "Ridgecrest radio station KLOA 104.9 FM will provide a play-by-play broadcast of the flight and traffic reports for those heading to the airport."
  • "For those unable to attend, the flight will be covered live by numerous broadcasters, including CNN and the national networks. Some 400 different media outlets from around the world are expected to cover the event, Rice said." - [I hope Alan Boyle is planning to broadcast on MSNBC.]


Copyright Armadillo Aerospace
An Armadillo Aerospace rocket comes in for a landing.

Rocketing to perfection.... Armadillo Aerospace executes a Perfect test flight - Armadillo Aerospace - June.15.04. A rare mid-week update from John Carmack reports on a beautiful "boosted hop" of the 300lb streamlined rocket followed by a pinpoint landing. The video (7.1MB mpg) is a wonder to behold.

Congrats to John and his team. He will be responding to questions about the flight at the Official Armadillo Q&A forum.

SS1 articles:

Prize money... Aviation week reports on the upcoming Centennial Challenge Workshop: NASA And Industry Brainstorm Aerospace Prize Ideas - Aviation Week - June.16.04 -

"[Senator] Brownback said that he hoped NASA would consider a $100 million "Glenn Prize," named after astronaut John Glenn, to be awarded to the first private team to send a human being on multiple orbits of the Earth."

... While the Space Frontier Foundation says it should lead to much bigger things: NASA's Budget is No Prize! Space Frontier Foundation Calls for NASA to Greatly Expand "Centennial Challenges" Project = Space Frontier Foundation - June.15.04

News briefs... This report on National Public Radio - Race for Private Space Craft - NPR - June.15.04 - puts too much emphasis on the need for a magic technology to reduce LEO launch costs. One interviewee does point out the need for lowering labor and operations costs but there's no mention of high flight rates as the real key to making this happen....

... Russian continues to consider possible development of a flyback booster: Come Back Big Baikal Booster - Spacedaily - June.15.04....

... The X PRIZE team High Altitude Research Corporation (HARC) site has a new picture on the home page but so far there's no news posted on what's happening with the project.(Item via X PRIZE Space Race News).

June 15, 2004

News briefs... Alan Boyle comments on the economics of commercial space tourism: Space race economics - Alan Boyle/MSNBC - June.15.04...

... Via Alan's site, here is a free reprint of yesterday's WSJ article: Private Space Mission Is Ready for Takeoff - SFGate/WSJ.com - June.14.04 ...

... John Carmack will now respond to questions and comments at a forum on the X PRIZE site: Official Armadillo Q&A - X PRIZE Forums (via X PRIZE Space Race News) ...

... NASA astronauts are not enthusiastic about riding on EELVs according to a report in the latest Aviation Week. Rand Simberg comments on this in It's Not Just About You - Transterrestrial Musings - June.15.04

Amateur rocket team reaches 37km... The Dragoon II rocket launched by Paragon Astronautics on June 7th didn't make it to their goal of 100km but 37km ain't bad. This puts them third on our list of amateur rocket altitude records.

This comes just a month after another amateur group - CXST - reached 124km. Hope this is an indication that the average set of skills and capabilities of amateur/ student/ small company organizations in rocketry is also rising higher and higher.

More in Advanced Rocketry News.

Lots of SS1 articles out today included several forwarded to me by HS readers:

Aviation Week editoral in the latest edition urges Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) to remove the hold that he placed on HR-3752 - The Comercial Space Launch Act Amendments. Rocketplane Ltd. is based in Oklahoma and received tax credits from the state to help it build a suborbital vehicle. The company asked Inhofe to place the hold because of uncertainty as to whether the bill properly includes in its definition of a suborbital space vehicle the type that the company is developing - one that takes off under turbojet power, at 50k feet fires a rocket to reach 350k feet, reenters and lands with turbojets turned back on.

Backers of the bill believe only fairly minor changes are required to include this type of vehicle and are willing to make them. However, there seems to be a lack of communication among the parties involved and the bill remains stuck. Time available to get the bill passed is getting very tight.

Aviation Week pleads:

"For those of us who seek to foster development of commercial human spaceflight, never have so many stars been in alignment as in 2004. It would be tragic if a piece of legislation essential for putting a new industry on a solid regulatory footing were scuttled by dithering prompted by one of the very entrepreneurs trying to turn the dream of commercial spaceflight into reality. Please, Senator Inhofe, get this bill moving-for the benefit of the embryonic spaceflight industry in your state and everywhere. "

I'll note that another suborbital rocket builder - TGV Rockets - has also moved to Oklahoma. TGV has not gotten tax credits but is working closely with the University of Oklahoma Aerospace Department in Norman. Pat Bahn is chief of TGV and also head of the Suborbital Institute, which has made passage of 3752 a high priority.

CNN will broadcast the SS1 flight according to an update on the Scaled Composites site. (Via HS reader R. Burmeister)

Potential space tourist market grows... The Wall Street Journal today says [subscription required] that the newly released 2004 World Wealth Report claims that the number of "'high-net-worth individuals' in the U.S., or those with at least $1 million in financial or liquid assets, jumped to 2.27 million last year, up from two million in 2002." The number in Europe is even larger. It also states that "more than half of the high-net-worth individuals in the U.S. were 'new money,' or self-made millionaires. Inherited money is declining as a share of wealth in the U.S., according to the study, accounting for less than 20% of high-net-worth individuals in 2002."

The 2002 Futron/Zogby poll indicated that 19% of such individuals are interested in suborbital flights. That means a market of up to 430,000 people.

The article doesn't include a figure for the number of millionaires if house value is included. This would surely be several times the 2.3M number. This is relevant because someone with, say, a $750k house and $600k in liquid assets might also be someone willing to spend $50k-$100k for a once in a lifetime suborbital spaceflight.

News briefs... The X PRIZE home page has several news items including one about the Mojave spaceport preparations for the SS1 flight, a presentation by Peter Diamandis at the Centennial Challenges Workshop, and this announcement from the Micro-Space competitor: Team Micro-Space Successfully Tests Propulsion Modules - - Ansari X PRIZE - June.6.04 ...

... Pablo De León X PRIZE team update presented at the 41st Space Congress back in April is now online (pdf). (Item via X PRIZE Space Race News).

June 14, 2004

Lots of SS1 articles today and there will surely be many more as the flight day approaches. Spacetoday.net will be listing them all so here I'll just try to cherry pick some of the more interesting ones. Here are today's picks:

SS1 flight costs... Michael Mealling takes a shot at estimating the operating cost for a SS1 flight: Space Ship One Cost Estimates - RocketForge - June.12.04. Seems reasonable, especially considering the quote from Burt Rutan.

Note that this is purely the operating costs and so doesn't include the amortization of the cost of the vehicle and its development. That wouldn't be known anyway until there is data on how many flights a vehicle can make before it undergoes a major overhaul or retirement....

... Sam Dinkins estimates that three firms will eventually dominate suborbital space tourism services: How many winners? - The Space Review - June.14.04

Space elevator news... This article - Going Up? : And you think your industry is risky. - Inc.com - June.04 - talks about the challenges of building a space elevator business and also gives some background of the split between Brad Edwards, now at ISR in West Virginia, and Michael Laine of LiftPort...

... Learn all about space lifts at The Space Elevator: 3rd Annual International Conference - July 28-30, 2004 in Washington D.C.

Armadillo hover tests of a streamlined subscale vehicle were successful according to the latest update: Streamlined hovers and landings - Armadillo Aerospace - June.13.04. Check out the cool video (4.1MB mpg).

The NY Times reports on the SS1 flight: Private Space Travel? Dreamers Hope a Catalyst Will Rise From the Mojave Desert - New York Times - June.14.04 ...

... And the NY Post reports on Paul Allen: Rocket Booster - New York Post - June.13.04

June 12, 2004

Front page SpaceShipOne article in the Washington Post is quite interesting: A Rocket Flight for the Common Man? Leader in Private Space Race Predicts New Era of Tourism - Washington Post - June.12.04. It includes this passage:

"Rutan, who gained widespread renown in 1986 when his Voyager became the first aircraft to circumnavigate the globe without refueling, estimates that commercial suborbital flights could cost $30,000 to $50,000 'initially,' and as little as $7,000 to $12,000 in a 'second generation.'"

The $30k-50k is the lowest price range I've seen for a first generation system.

The article also mentions other competitors like the da Vinci project and it discusses the X PRIZE and the prize approach to motivating lower cost space development as with the Centennial Challenge program at NASA....

... Commentator Jake Halpern says his grandfather, who was an early space tourist enthusiast, would have been thrilled with the SS1: The First Commercial Space Flight: Commentary by Jake Halpern - National Public Radio - June.11.04.(via spacetoday.net)...

... Alan Boyle notes that the SS1 spaceflight shapes up to be milestone event in at least three ways: Watch for space stars - Alan Boyle/MSNBC - June.11.04.

June 11, 2004

More Virgin news... This is a longer article about Branson's space interests: Branson reaches for the stars - Guardian Unlimited - June.10.04 (via X PRIZE Space Race News).But there are no details on what exactly he is planning to announce. Looks like he is timing it according to the SS1 flight.

The Space Adventures newsletter will tell the tale of space tourism: Introducing the Story of Space Tourism - Space Adventures Newsletter - June.04 (via spacetoday.net).

News briefs... Rand Simberg writes about Reagan's impact on commercial space transport: Space Pioneer: Reagan’s real space innovation was in the commercial launch industry - National Review - June.10.04 ...

... Shuttle booster test went well: Successful test leads way for safer Shuttle Solid Rocket Motor -NASA MSFC - June.10.04 * Rocket science? Matter of fact, yes - The Salt Lake Tribune - June.11.04 (via spacetoday.net).

June 10, 2004

Virgin space tourism... Richard Branson has apparently been involved in other activities in Mojave besides the Global Flyer: Branson Hopes to Offer Tourist Space Flights - Scotsman - June.10.04.(Link via Ken Schweitzer).

I remember years ago that he talked about pursuing space projects but no news since. Now it sounds like he has something real to announce.

No NSS raving... I've been infomed that there will not, in fact, be a NSS sponsored rave at Mojave on the eve of the SS1 flight as Leonard reported. [Though it sounds like a good idea to me!] If you are looking for space raves in the desert, you might contact these guys.

News briefs... Leonard David reports on the space fest developing in Mojave for the SS1 flight: Mojave Prepares to Make Space History - Space.com - June.10.04...

... An excellent article about the SS1 and the X PRIZE, and also XCOR: Space Cowboys - LA CityBEAT / Valley BEAT - June.10.04 (via X PRIZE Space Race News).

June 9, 2004

Rocket Man returns... Mark Oakley is back on line after his job switch to TGV Rockets from LockMart: In Oklahoma - Rocket Man Blog - June.4.08. He will blog about the company (within certain guidelines) and continue with general discussions about how access to space can be made cheaper, e.g. Operational Costs - Rocket Man Blog - June.7.04.

More SS1 models... Check out the Space ShipOne and Carrier Aircraft resin model kit at Unicraft Models. There is also the Scaled Composites SpaceShipOne paper model at Currel Graphics.

News briefs... Jeff Foust notes that the SS1 may inspire considerably more excitement about space with the general public than what NASA is able to do: "We all wanted to go" - Space Politics - June.8.04 ...

... The latest I hear about HR-3752 is that it is still on hold because of the issue of whether it covers systems like Rocketplane's that have both an airplane phase and a suborbital rocket phase. Unfortunately, the remaining time within legislative calendar to accomplish anything this year is getting shorter and shorter.

June 8, 2004

A SpaceShipOne article in the latest Aviation Week is quite interesting but unfortunately not available on line without a subscription. Here are some highlights:

  • The June 21st flight will carry out a full-duration 80-sec burn of the engine.
  • The speed should reach Mach 3.5. Peak equivalent airspeed, however, will not exceed the previous flight since the air pressure will drop so much.
  • The engine will use a larger nozzle that has not flown before.
  • The engine will undergo higher temperatures, higher speed, and lower dynamic pressure at burnout.
  • The previous two flights carried full fuel loads but the liquid nitrous oxide was turned off early to terminate the burn.
  • A ground firing flowed oxidizer for 100-sec. This consumed all of the fuel plus some of the phenolic liner and caused even the outer casing made of carbon fiber/epoxy to start smoking but it didn't result in a burn through.
  • The new nozzle provides a larger expansion ratio needed for good thrust and efficiency at the higher altitudes. This means, however, that it hasn't been tested on the ground since the higher atmospheiric pressure causes flow to separate from the walls and become turbulent.
  • Sensors and temperature-sensitive paint indicated in the last flight that temperatures were a bit lower than expected. None of the thermal protection coating was damaged. (This photo shows the red TPS coatings.)
  • In the June 21 flight, however, it is expected that the coating will be damaged and need replacement before the next flight.
  • The last flight did a supersonic reentry, reaching Mach 1.9 in feather mode.
  • Mike Melvill manually damped oscillations in feather mode. The oscillations may have been due to sloshing in the tank but in the June 21 flight all the oxidizer will be burned.
  • Asymmetries in the thrust due to possible erosion in the nozzle near the end of the burn could be difficult to compensate since the very low pressure provides weak control authority. The cold gas attitude control thrusters are "very weak compared to a conventional surface biting into thick air."
  • "The computational fluid dynamics says it is OK but the pilot will be earning his salary."
  • In the last flight the instrument display went dark about one third of the way through the rocket firing. Nevertheless, Melvill was able to navigate by viewing the horizon through the windows and still reached the target altitude. The problem is believed to have been caused by a potentiometer affected by the acceleration and has been fixed.

News briefs... A good article on the SS1 and private space development: Space Race II: Not NASA's space program - UPI - June.7.04 ...

... Perhaps delivering water to orbit will become a lucrative market someday: Water to Boost Satellite Snooping - Wired News - June.8.04 * TTO Programs - Water Rocket...

... NASA will test an improved solid rocket motor segment: Test of a safer propellant design for Space Shuttle's Solid Rocket Motor forward segment set for Thursday in Utah - NASA/MSFC - June.7.04

June 7, 2004

News briefs... Armadillo prepares its large test vehicle for hover tests this week: Streamlined vehicle fabrication - Armadillo Aerospace - June.6.04 ...

... A song for the X PRIZE pioneers: Aiming High by Mark Horning - rec.music.filk-May.31.04...

... Jeff Foust tours the Oklahoma Spaceport: Little spaceport on the prairie - The Space Review - June.7.04...

... Sam Dinkin proposes an innovative space funding approach: Space tourism co-op - The Space Review - June.7.04

June 5, 2004

Alt.space Woodstock... I hear that the motels in the Mojave area were quickly booked solid for the SS1 flight and I know of at least one hangar that will be packed with people. ...

... Space Adventures PR: Space Adventures Salutes Paul Allen, Burt Rutan and Scaled Composites for the Anticipated First Commercial Suborbital Flight - Space Adventures - June.4.04

Centennial Challenges Workshop presentation agenda now posted: NASA Announces Centennial Challenges Workshop Agenda - NASA - June.3.04. More info at The space challengers - Alan Boyle/MSNBC - June.3.04

ARCA announcement on the recent engine test is available at XPRIZE.org: Romanian Engine Achieves Full Thrust - ARCA/X PRIZE - June.4.04

June 4, 2004

SS1 briefs... Jeff Foust is interviewed in this article: Paul Allen's SpaceShipOne Sets Date with Space - Technology News - June.3.04. The following articles have a few tidbits of info not included in the many other articles (e.g. see the news list at spacetoday.net) that mostly repeat the Scaled Composites press release.

June 3, 2004

SS1 & the X PRIZE race... Alan Boyle finds that other teams are not throwing in the towel on the X PRIZE: Handicapping the Space Race - Alan Boyle/MSNBC - June.2.04. Even after this flight, the SS1 will still need to prove that it can carry an additional 200kg to 100km. Nevertheless, the SS1 is obviously running fast coming into the home stretch....

... See also Alan's updated report: Milestone flight set for private spaceship: SpaceShipOne due for suborbital space shot June 21 - MSNBC - June.2.04 and comments at The Date Is Set - Transterrestrial Musings - June.2.04 ...

... Depending on how much press attention it gets, I think the number of observers in Mojave on June 21 could span a wide range from a low of a few tens of thousands to a high of a few hundred thousand. It's short notice but the space advocate groups should get involved and promote this event like crazy, especially within California. Somebody, for example, should get Kristoph Klover to come down the night before and sing some space songs like Witnesses' Waltz to the happy campers....

... Note that for those considering attending the event, the SS1 FAQ has a lot of travel info....

... Rand Simberg has been after to me to change the name of this page from RLV News to Space Transport News. Not quite ready to do that but I will promise to refer to the SS1 missions as "flights" rather than "launches". I suggest that all you alt.spacers out there take the pledge as well. Time that we transition out of thinking of spaceflight as a series of one-offs and start thinking in terms of spaceship departures and arrivals instead.

June 2, 2004

Scaled Composites is going for it...

Historic Space Launch Attempt Scheduled for June 21
Paul G. Allen and Burt Rutan Announce Plans for
First Non-Government, Privately Funded Manned Space Flight
- Scaled Composites - June.2.04

... Leonard David reports: Private Spacecraft's Inaugural Launch Set for June 21 - Space.com - June.2.04

Russian designs... The Russian firm ZAO - Aerospace Systems is proposing suborbital passenger flights using a vehicle based on the Sea Launch system: Seal Launch Cruiser - Aerospace Systems * Aerospace Systems : Projects : "Astronaut Wings" for 10,000 USD. The company will launch a small spacecraft this month - AKS-1 technological satellite - to test its solar sail technology. (Item via a HS reader.)

News briefs... The daVinci Project plans to launch this summer: Sask. could be launch pad for space travel - Saskatoon StarPhoenix - June .2.04 (via spacetoday.net) ...

... NASA may drop most scramjet funding despite recent X-43a test flight success: NASA's 'scramjet' funding in jeopardy: The successful flight of the experimental X-43a shows promise, but future backing is unclear. - Daily Press (VA) - June.2.04 (via NASA Watch)

June 1, 2004

News briefs... The daVinci Project announces arrangements with three companies to provide various support services for its upcoming launch activities in Kindersley, Canada: Da Vinci Space Project Signs Kindersley Transport, Hinz Automation and Titan Crane - daVinci PR/X PRIZE- June.1.04 (doc file) ( via X PRIZE)...

... The Romanian ARCA team has carried out tests of its new engine that uses composite parts: Engine Test - Arca - May.30.04 (via X PRIZE Space Race News)

News briefs ... Jeff Foust hears that not only is there a good chance that recent obstacles will be overcome but HR 3752 might even get the President's signature within a month or so: A solution for HR 3752? - Space Politics - May.31.04 ...

... Space tourism, X PRIZE and other alt.space projects getting more mainstream press attention: Taking tourists into space - USNews.com - June.7.04 issue (via spacetoday.net) ...

... The status of Kistler and SpaceX and the latter's protest of a NASA contract with the former are discussed in Entrepreneurial Rocket Firms Face Different Hurdles - space.com/Space News - May.31.04 ...

... This week's issue of The Space Review has four space transport related articles:

Continue to May 2004

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