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RLV News
Space Transport Developments & Commentary

February 2005
Index Feedback

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

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

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

RLV Table compares a selection of space transport vehicles.

RLV History looks at earlier vehicles and designs.

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

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

RLV News Archive Directory

February 26, 2005

2:00 am: Going out of town ... No postings till late Monday or early Tuesday.

2:00 am: News briefs ... Burt Rutan joins the likes of "Orville Wright, Howard Hughes, Chuck Yeager, Scott Crossfield and the crew of Apollo 11": Spaceshipone Team Wins 2004 Collier Trophy - EAA - Feb.9.05 (via spacetoday.net) ...

... Now I'll have a chance to see the SS1 whenever I go downtown and visit the Mall: SpaceShipOne: Headed for Air and Space Museum - Space.com - Feb.25.05.

February 25, 2005

2:30 pm: News briefs ... The photography team of Jim Sugar and Brian Lawler has been working for several years on a one hour documentary about Burt Rutan. They were given behind-the-scenes access at Scaled Composites so they could follow developments on projects like the SS1 and Global Flyer. The article - Documenting Aviation History - Apple - Feb. 05 - describes the video project and includes some samples. The photographers' website also offers a video of the SS1 landing after the last X PRIZE flight. ...

... I wonder what the contingency plan is if the rescue shuttle also has TPS damage? Crew ready to fly, but unsure about repairs: Astronauts would rather stay on station to await rescue - Florida Today - Feb.25.05.

February 24, 2005

2:05 pm: News briefs... Robert Zimmerman reports on SMART-1 and other missions that will offer hi-res mapping of the Moon's resources: Space Watch: An oasis on the moon? - UPI- Feb.24.05 ...

... Irene Mona Klotz reports on space tourism regs: FAA: Space Tourists Fly at Own Risk - Discovery Channel - Feb.23.05.

12:35 pm: SSI update... The Space Studies Institute web site has been down for awhile. Lee Valentine informs me that SSI is doing fine but they were hit by a virus attack and in the process of recovering decided to make a "long overdue upgrade of the website." As part of this effort, they will post the entire "contents of the O'Neill library including the Space Business Archive".

This has turned into a major project that involves scanning "hundreds of thousands of pages including the results of NASA studies that can be found nowhere else." In addition, they will post an "extensive collection of slides and space art ."

12:35 pm: News briefs... The SS1 will stop in Oshkosh on its way to the Smithsonian:SpaceShipOne coming to AirVenture - Oshkosh Northwestern - Feb.23.05 ...

... Leonard David reports on the Rocketplane Ltd. project: Have Spaceplane Will Travel - Space.com - Feb.24.05...

... SolarMetrics Limited will put a radiation detector experiment on the Virgin Atlantic Global Flyer when it does it's flight around the world: Excitement builds for space weather project - SolarMetrics/SourceWire - Feb.24.05. ...

... ATK, which is involved in various hypersonics projects with the Air Force such as the X-43, announces development of a new facility for testing ramjet/scramjet systems: ATK Certifies Advanced Propulsion Research Complex for Ramjet and Scramjet Technology Demonstrations - ATK - Feb.18.05 ...

... Articles on the Space Transport situation: Plans for rocket dashed, founders leaving Forks - The Seattle Times - Feb.24.05 * Rocketeers who once dreamed of space travel in Forks leaving town - peninsuladailynews.com - Feb.22.05 (via spacetoday.net) ...

... ESA tests the procedures that will allow it to load cargo on the ATV as late as a week before a launch: Successful late access loading test for Jules Verne - ESA - Feb.23.05.

February 23, 2005

10:55 am: News brief... Alan Boyle reports on the status of Space Transport Corp.: ‘Rocket boys’ still rolling - Cosmic Log/MSNBC - Feb.22.05 ...

... Another award goes to Burt: 6th Annual Wired Rave Awards: Burt Rutan wins the industrial designer category for SpaceShipOne. -AP/ X PRIZE Space Race News! - Feb.23.05.

10:35 am: News briefs ... Burt Rutan and other commercial spaceflight leaders will speak at the National Space Society's ISDC 2005 conference during May 19-22: Leaders Of Government And Private Space Efforts To Speak At The 2005 International Space Development Conference - NSS - Feb.22.05 ...

... Leonard David reports that the giggle factor is gone from discussions of space colonization: Space Colonization: The Quiet Revolution - Space.com - Feb.23.05 ...

... Here are some presentations at a recent NASA meeting on lunar exploration that included topics such as in-situ resource utilization: Robotic & Human Lunar Exploration - Meeting Information (pdf's) - NASA Advanced Planning and Integration Office ...

... NASA is shooting insulation divots from a F-15B: Shuttle return gets a 'LIFT' from F-15B - Spaceflight Now - Feb.22.05.

February 22, 2005

1:10 pm: Kistler and station access ... Irene Mona Klotz's latest Space Race article reports on the status of Kistler and the possibility of commercial transport to the ISS: Space Race 2: NASA ups the space-ride ante - UPI/MENAFN - Feb.22.05. (Via spacetoday.net).

The article says that Kistler now has "financing lined up to emerge from bankruptcy within a month or two". I hope it happens but that kind of prediction has been coming from Kistler for a long time so I'll wait to believe when it happens.

February 21, 2005

4:00 pm: Space startup discussion... Ken Schweitzer is hosting a discussion at Space Investor Forum on the "Signal-to-Noise Ratio" paper mentioned below about space startups.


The Space Journalism Prize
The Space Journalism Prize

1:15 pm: Promoting spacefaring ... Sam Dinkin announced the debut of the 2004 Space Journalism Prize in today's issue of the Space Review. The contest will award a $1000 prize for "the best article promoting human spacefaring that appeared in a print or web publication during 2004". Sam, Jeff Foust and I will serve as the contest judges. I offer some additional comments in the Space Log.

1:15 pm: Space startup ... David Livingston of the Space Show and Thomas Olson and Paul Conuris of the Colony Fund offer a list of warning signs when evaluating the viability of an entrepreneurial space project: The "Signal-to-Noise Ratio" for New Space Startup Companies by Thomas Andrew Olson, Paul J. Contursi, and Dr. David Livingston - Colony Fund - Feb.21.05.

1:15 pm: News briefs ... Jeff Foust reviews the recent developments on the suborbital spaceflight regulation front: The safety dance - The Space Review - Feb.21.05 ...

... Taylor Dinerman looks at the obstacles in Congress this year to funding for the VSE : The 2005 NASA budget and policy shuffle - The Space Review - Feb.21.05.

2:25 am: News briefs ... Aviation Week reports that Boeing will use the Delta IV Heavy launcher to develop "options for NASA Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) and unmanned cargo transportation architectures to the Moon and Mars, now that the massive new rocket has been flight tested." - Trial by FIre - Aviation Week - Feb.20.05 ...

... The Space Transport auction was not a going out of business sale but just a way to raise some money while they develop a plan for the future of the company: STC Update - Space Race News - Feb.20.05. Phil Storm, president of STC says, "we have no intention of calling it quits. Our small company is highly flexible and determined."

February 19, 2005

2:25 pm: News briefs ... To compliment the AST suborbital report, see these earlier, related reports:

... AERA Corporation is keeping a low profile in Temecula: Inland firm launches plan to take tourists into space - Riverside Press-Enterprise - Feb.18.05. Seems quite ambitious to talk about commercial passenger flights in 2006 before even a prototype has been built. ...

... Odyssey Spacelines says it is planning space tourism flights in the 2007 time frame but doesn't show any evidence of hardware development. All of the imagery and animation are old stuff from Pat Kelley's Vela Technology Space Cruiser project. The management lists him as an advisor but the site doesn't indicate if they are actually planning to build anything. ...

... Brad Edwards of space elevator fame is profiled in this article - Elevator Man: Bradley Edwards Reaches for the Heights - Space.com - Feb.18.05. The article mentions his new company Carbon Designs that will do R&D on "carbon nanotube-based materials to achieve tensile strength many times that of steel, polymers, or carbon composites"....

... For the latest in space elevator happenings, check out LiftWatch.org: Space Elevator News ...

... NASA is pushing for a mid-May return to flight: NASA sets May 15 launch date for shuttle - spacetoday.net - Feb.19.05 ...

... A major figure in the successful development of the Mojave Airport and Spaceport has passed away: Airport leader Sabovich dies at 79 - AV Press - Feb.19.05.

February 18, 2005

10:15 pm: AST/FAA suborbital report... AST has now posted: Suborbital Reusable Launch Vehicles and Emerging Markets - February 2005 (pdf). The 36 page report surveys proposed markets, launch vehicle companies, space tourism companies, spaceports, and then finishes with a review of several vehicles of historical interest.

11:50 am: News briefs... The in-space inspection system for the Shuttle wing panels is approved: NASA Moves Closer to Resuming Shuttle Flights - Space.com - Feb.18.05 ...

... But the TPS repair techniques continue to be worked on: Shuttle repair plans remain uncertain - Florida Today - Feb.18.05.

1:25 am: Another space tourism contest... I missed this announcement in January from Space Adventures about a Norwegian chocolate company's sponsorship of a suborbital spaceflight contest: Norwegian Chocolate Company Launches Space Ride Sweepstakes - Space Adventures - Jan.27.05.

Beginning in April, customers of chocolate bars from the Nidar company will find codes on the wrappers. These codes can then be submitted on the web site at www.spaceride.no where participants must answer some space-related questions. They can also participate via a weekly radio program. A winner will be selected in September.

This and other items can be found on the Space Adventures newsletter posted at PRIZE Space Race News.

More suborbital spaceflight contests are listed in the Space Tourism section.

1:25 am: News briefs... I remembered today that Robert Truax was originally a part of the American Astronautics project. I don't see any indication, though, that he is contributing to AERA Space ...

... The Nautilus Moon Cruiser shown on the Bigelow Aerospace home page is one impressive looking space ship. I can imagine it zooming past a NASA CEV. ...

... Unfortunately, some private space projects don't have billionaire sponsors. Space Transport is holding an auction this Saturday, February 19th to sell off equipment.

February 17, 2005

1:05 am: News briefs... Robert Zimmerman worries that the newly released RLV guidelines from the FAA indicate that the industry is now on a course towards rules that will become increasingly more complicated and restrictive, especially after an accident happens: Space Watch: Private space, more rules - UPI - Feb.17.05. ...

... Speaking of more regs, Jeff Foust reports that Rep. Oberstar's H.R. 656 with admendments to the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act is now available online: HR 656 provisions - Space Politics - Feb.16.05....

... More about the Cosmos 1 project from Nature: Space technology Setting sail for history - A small budget and big dreams make for a heady mix. But solar-sail pioneer Lou Friedman is ready for anything as spacecraft Cosmos 1 prepares to take on the Sun and the space agencies. - news @ nature.com - Feb.16.05

12:35 am: A dark horse spaceflight company emerges... I had recently noticed that the American Astronautics web site had gone dead and wondered why since I knew the former X PRIZE team led by Bill Sprague was making a serious effort. Turns out that they were up going quiet before making a dramatic reemergence under a new name - AERA Corporation - and with a promise to begin regular suborbital spaceflights in 2006.

The news release -

AERA Corporation to Become First Commercial Space Travel Provider - Company Unveils New Interactive Website; First Flight Scheduled for 2006 - Feb.15.05.

says the company has "completed the design of the safest space flight system ever created and is now working on details and logistics for its first flight scheduled for 2006." They say they have " institutional capital" and the Altairis spacecraft will "become the first space travel provider [...] two years ahead of the competition."

The Altaris will rollout at the Hayden Planetarium in New York City. There are no images of the Altairis yet on the website. The gallery only includes some promotional items. The FAQ says the "vertically launched spacecraft" will carry "six passengers and one Mission Commander".

One might guess that it will look similar to the Spirt of Liberty described in the X PRIZE team data sheet, which also was specified as a seven passenger, vertically launched vehicle. The booster and crew cabin separate and return via parafoils.

They may become an America's Space Prize contender as well: "In a few short years, AERA will follow on its success in spaceflight to offer three-day orbital vacations."

This news comes via X PRIZE Space Race News.

February 16, 2005

2:30 pm News briefs ... Brian Binnie talks about spaceflight: Former Navy Pilot shares space travel experience - Collegiate Times - Feb.16.05 ...

... Irene Mona Klotz reports on the AST/FAA spaceflight guidelines: Space Race 2: New Rules For Space Tourists - Space Race News/UPI - Feb.16.05 ...

... A HS reader points to an interesting paper by James R. Wertz of Microcosm who reports on a study of options for Mars round trips. The study focused on minimizing trip times rather than energy: Interplanetary Round Trip Mission Design - AIAA Lunchtime Seminar - Microcosm - Dec.2004 (pdf) ...

... This paper (pdf) by Captain Mike Hecker presented at NASA's recent Exploration Conference in Orlando gives concise one page summaries of the systems proposed by each of the CEV teams.

1:25 am Bigelow update ... The Bigelow Aerospace website has been revamped, though it doesn't yet offer much information. The Technologies page, for example, promises soon to describe the Nautilus Space Hotel. There is also a News page with a listing of media articles, most of which were linked here over the past few months.

Engineers should check out their Employment Opportunities. (If you get hired, please tell them you found the ad via HS.)

There is also a page on the America's Space Prize.

1:25 am News briefs ... At least one organization is making money from alt.space rocket transportation: SpaceShipOne souvenir sales aid community - AV Press/Space Race News- Feb.15.05. [Update 2:00 pm: changed to a permanent link.] Check out the selection of SS1 souvenirs at Rocket Boosters. Proceeds go for good causes. The store, which has been run by volunteers, will close on March 15th. ...

... Here's another article about the MXER tether project: Space tether to send satellites soaring - New Scientist - Feb.15.05.

1:25 am The Space Access '05 announcement just arrived from Henry Vanderbilt. Register soon:

Space Access Update #109 02/15/05
Copyright 2005 by Space Access Society

Space Access '05 Conference
April 28-30, Phoenix, Arizona

We have our hotel nailed down. It's the Four Points Sheraton, 10220 N Metro Parkway East, Phoenix Arizona 85051, 602 997-5900 for reservations, mention "Space Access" for our $79 conference room rate ($109 for cabana suite), rate good for up to two days before and after our conference dates of April 28th through the 30th. The Four Points is next to Phoenix's Metrocenter shopping complex, fourteen miles from the Phoenix airport, with fifty bars and restaurants and two hundred stores within walking distance. Rooms have a work desk, high-speed internet, coffee maker, etc, and hotel has a heated olympic-sized pool, spa, and fitness center, and free parking. We're quite pleased to be bringing you a newer hotel in a better location for the same rate as last year.

Our early list of confirmed presenters includes Armadillo Aerospace, FAA AST, Jim Muncy/PoliSpace, Dr. Jerry Pournelle, Rocketplane LLC, SpaceX (conditional on their having completed their current launch campaign), Henry Spencer, Andrew Case/The Suborbital Institute, TGV Rockets, and XCOR Aerospace. We are still in the process of contacting potential speakers; we expect by the time the conference rolls around we'll once again have lined up more than two dozen highly relevant presentations and panels over the course of our two-and-a-half day event. The conference gets underway 2 pm Thursday and runs through Saturday night.

This year's theme is "Still A Long Hard Road Ahead"; we plan a session on the process of turning the new Commercial Space Transportation law into practical regulations, and we're looking at a session on the new spaceports coming onto the scene. Along, of course, with the usual wide variety of progress reports, technical backgrounders, viewpoints, and new ideas from various players in this burgeoning field.

Space Access '05 will once again be a mix of the usual suspects and some interesting new additions, once again providing an intensive informal snapshot of where this fast-moving new cheap space access industry has gotten to as of spring 2005. Be there!

Space Access '05 registration once again holds steady at $100 in advance, $120 at the door, $10 off for SAS members. $30 Student rate, no member discount. Day rates available at the door only. One year's SAS membership is $30, please include your email address for Updates.

[See SAS update for the registration form.]

Space Access Society
space.access @ space-access.org

February 15, 2005

2:00 am News briefs ... The cover article for the latest issue of Popular Science is about Bigelow Aerospace and its space habitat projects. PS has generously put the article online already: The Five-Billion-Star Hotel - Popular Science - March 2005 (via spacetoday.net) ...

... A group at Tennessee Tech University is working with Tethers Unlimitied under a NASA contract to design a "Momentum-Exchange Electrodynamic Reboost" (MXER) system. MXER is a rotating tether that would grab a spacecraft in LEO and throw it to a high orbit or to escape velocity. Space Transportation Transformed with High-Tech Game of Catch and Toss - Newswise /Tennessee Tech - Feb.14 (via spacetoday.net) ...

... More on the AST/FAA spaceflight guidelines: FAA proposes rules for future spaceliners - www.GovExec.com - Feb.14.05 ...

... Robert Zimmerman will be on a special edition of the Space Show on Wednesday at 7-8:30PM Pacific Time. Among other things, he will discuss the AST meeting last week and the release of the new guidelines on suborbital RLV operations. ...

... Tuesday's show (7-8:15PM Pacific Time) features Michael Laine, President and founder of LiftPort, which was started to support and promote the business prospects for the space elevator.

February 14, 2005

11:20 pm Armadillo Aerospace update ... John Carmack reports on recent hover tests with a large prototype on a tether. See the movie.

3:15 pm Draft guidelines for commercial suborbital RLV operations are available at the AST website:

11:55 am: News briefs ... Sam Dinkin suggests to Rep. James Oberstar "some better options to try to save people from themselves": The safety lode star - The Space Review - Feb.14.05 ...

... Biophysicist John Jurist begins a series of articles on human factors issues that suborbital space tourism services will need to deal with:Human factors in commercial suborbital flight - The Space Review - Feb.14.05 ...

... Taylor Dinerman argues that NASA should reduce the vagueness surrounding the CEV and "make it clear what exactly it plans to do with the CEV". Furthermore, if the agency does not plan to make the CEV "truly multipurpose", then it will be difficult to maintain long term support for the program: CEV: let's try and clear this up once and for all - The Space Review - Feb.14.05 ...

... More on the Cosmos 1 program: Ambitious solar sail could launch this spring - Spaceflight Now - Feb.14.05. ...

... Another article about the suborbital spaceflight industry and its concerns about over-regulation: Entrepreneurs fear excessive regulation - L.A. Daily News - Feb.13.05.

February 12, 2005

7:25 pm: News briefs... Congrats to Arianespace: Ariane 5 ECA launches - spacetoday.net - Feb.12.05.

1:45 pm: News briefs ... The Ariane 5 launch is scheduled for 2:49 pm EST today. You can watch via the web cast...

... Sure seems like $145 billion could have gotten us a lot farther into space than we are today: Total Tally of Shuttle Fleet Costs Exceed Initial Estimates - Space.com - Feb.11.05 ...

... There seems some confusion about the TPS repair tests: Spaceflight Now | STS-114 Shuttle Report | 3 repair demos, not 4, planned for Discovery * Astronauts still unsure which repair plan will be tested in flight:Managers need to decide soon, Collins stresses - Florida Today - Feb.11.05. ...

... The Department of Transportation has posted the comments from Mineta about personal spaceflight guidelines: Secretary Mineta Announces Proposed Guidelines for Commercial Space Travel - DOT - Feb.10.05 ...

... It's really a microwave sail, not a solar sail: Earth To Mars In A Month With Painted Solar Sail - Technovelogy.com - Feb.9.05

February 11, 2005

1:20 pm: News briefs ... Gee, too bad they can't hire Rep. Ken Calvert as NASA head. He says all the right stuff: Rep. Calvert Addresses Commercial Space Transportation Conference - SpaceRef - Feb.10.05 ...

... More also on Mineta's comments yesterday at the AST meeting : Feds: Before entering deep space, get a physical - Reuters/CNET - Feb.11.05 ...

... Hope things go well with the Ariane 5: Expectations ride on super-rocket - BBC - Feb.11.05. Who knows? ESA might want to launch a crew on one someday.

12:50 am: News briefs ... Alan Boyle and others comment on the regulation of commercial spaceflight:

... NASA will use the first shuttle flight to test TPS repair schemes: STS-114 Shuttle Report | NASA picks shuttle repair techniques for space tests - Spaceflight Now - Feb.10.05

February 10, 2005

4:05 pm: News briefs ... Here is what Rep. Oberstar said in support of his bill: Comments on the House Floor upon Introducing a Bill to Enhance the Safety of Commercial Space Flight by Rep. James Oberstar - SpaceRef - Feb.10.04. However, I've been told that the bill has already been "sidetracked" to the relevant committee ...

... Here is a press release from the SubOrbital Institute on this week's activities in Washington D.C.:

Washington, DC (February 10, 2005) The SubOrbital Institute, an industry association for the emerging suborbital launch services industry, conducted a series of briefings for congressional staffers this week. "We need to raise awareness of this emerging high technology industry." said Andrew Case, Washington Director of the Institute.

Briefings covered a range of topics, including regulations governing hiring of rocket scientists who are non-US citizens, and educational opportunities created by low cost suborbital spaceflight. According to Case the overall response from staffers was "generally positive, though the all important Congressional committees are still in flux after the recent election, which makes it difficult to start work on new legislation until later in the session." The Institute plans further briefing events in the upcoming year.

11:15 am: News briefs ... Rand Simberg - Interesting News On The Regulatory Front - Transterrestrial Musings - Feb.10.05 - and Jeff Foust - Oberstar strikes back - Space Politics - Feb.10.05 - give their views on the Commercial Space Transportation hearing and Rep. Oberstar's regulatory zeal. ...

... Other reports on the hearing and the new space entrepreneur "federation": Space Entrepreneurs Worry About Fed Rules - AP/Yahoo! News - Feb.9.05 * Entrepreneurs Vow Outer-Space Vacations - AP/Wired - Feb.10.05 * Space tourism industry federation formed - spacetoday.net - Feb.10.0 ...

... JP Aerospace has posted several videos related to their airship and sounding rocket projects. (Via X PRIZE Space Race News!) ...

... The Planetary Society's Cosmos 1 solar sail is now scheduled to launch in April: A Pre-Launch Review by Louis Friedman - Planetary Society - Feb.9.05. Check out the photos.

2:15 am: News briefs ... Robert Zimmerman argues that NASA has the time and money to save the Hubble and that such a mission would "prove to everyone, in and out of NASA, the agency is serious when it says it wants to send humans back out into space.": Space Watch: Saving Hubble, defeating fear - UPI - Feb.10.05 ...

... You can now watch online videos of the presentations and panel discussions at the 1st Space Exploration Conference, January 30-February 1, 2005, Orlando, FL ...

... The Russian Kliper crew module prototype will be on display at the Paris Air Show in June: Russia to Present New Kliper Space Shuttle at Le Bourget Air Show - MOSNEWS.COM - Feb.9.05 * Manned multi-entry spaceship ready for Le Bourget Air Show - ITAR-TASS - Feb.9.05

2:15 am: Space travel hearing... As someone who has for many years followed space development and its impact, or lack thereof, on society, I found yesterday's House Transportation Committee hearing on Commercial Space Transportation to be quite amazing. Even just a couple of years ago, a scenario with a congressman expressing passionate views on the best approach to regulating suborbital space travel to a witness from a company named Virgin Galactic would have seemed like a wild fantasy.

And I find it a bit astonishing to hear the head of the FAA giving well-informed responses to questions about suborbital space transport. Maybe we are making progress....

... Transcripts of the hearing are now available online. Here are comments from Michael Kelly, head of the COMSTAC RLV Working Group and formerly of Kelly Space, and Mr. Will Whitehorn, President of Virgin Galactic....

... Rep. James Oberstar, D-Minn., who nearly killed the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act last year, showed that he is still intensely focused on the passenger safety issue. He wants the FAA to make their protection to be as high a priority as the safety of the uninvolved public. No one can convince him that a transition period is needed that allows passengers to take an informed risk while the technology is under development.

He feels so strongly about it, in fact, that he has introduced a bill to modify the CSLAA to do just that. Alan Boyle informed me that Oberstar has introduced H.R.656 Title: To amend title 49, United States Code, to enhance the safety of the commercial human space flight industry. (As of this time, Thomas.loc.gov recognizes the number but doesn't have the text.)

I doubt the bill has much chance if only from the fact that he is a Democrat in a Republican Congress. In addition, there certainly won't be any space activists pushing for it and I doubt many consumer safety groups will assign it a high priority.

Rep. Oberstar is making it clear, though, that he will continue to pursue the issue. I can imagine, for example, that he will try to add amendments to space legislation that comes up in the future.

February 9, 2005

1:25 pm: News briefs... I've been informed that the SpaceX Merlin-2 engine mentioned below, will not be the F-1 size engine but an intermediate model. Detailed specs will be released in a few months.

1:00 pm: News briefs ... Alan Boyle reports on the new Personal Spaceflight Industry organization and also talks with Andrew Case about the Suborbital Institute and its activities in Washington this week: Space racers unite in federation: Industry group will follow up on new law - MSNBC - Feb.8.05 ...

... Leonard David reviews the CEV spiral (i.e. incremental) development scheme: A Spiral Stairway to the Moon and Beyond - Space.com - Feb.9.05 ...

... Rand Simberg comments on using the Shuttle to save the Hubble, the shortcomings of robots, and saving vs. replacing the observatory: Hubble, Hubble, Worth the Trouble? - TCS: Tech Central Station - Feb.9.05.

1:10 am: News briefs... I should note that other brave activists will continue with Suborbital Action efforts today but I copped out. ...

... I expect that a Futron study sponsored by AST/FAA on commercial suborbital spaceflight will be released to coincide with the AST Commercial Space Transportation Conference this Thursday and Friday....

... Jon Goff has posted an update on recent happenings at Masten Space Systems ...

... The Fourth International Symposium on Beamed Energy Propulsion (ISBEP 4) will take place November 15-18, 2005 in Nara, Japan...

... Alan Boyle comments on the Volvo contest/commercial: Boldly going, and going, and going - Cosmic Log/MSNBC - Feb.8.05.

February 8, 2005

10:05 pm: News briefs ... Robert Zimmerman examines the NASA budget: Analysis: A promising NASA budget? - UPI - Feb.8.05. He believes the budget indicates that maybe NASA is changing:

In the past, much of this research money would have disappeared into the black hole of corporate welfare, producing little that could be used by NASA to further space exploration.

With this budget, however, the president's space initiative has brought a remarkable focus to NASA. Unlike the past, every project has been required to justify its relevance to the goal of exploring the solar system. Whether this demand finally forces NASA to produce new and innovative space technologies -- something the agency generally has failed to do in recent decades -- remains as yet an unanswered question.

... Irene Mona Klotz reports on the Volvo space prize and the Super Bowl commercial about it: Space Race 2: Spaceflight ad hits TV - UPI/Washington Times - Feb.8.05.

9:20 pm: The latest SpaceX update just appeared and Jon Goff has already provided a nice summary:

Falcon I News:

  • Engine development for the Falcon I is drawing to a close. It turns out that the pintle on the Merlin-1A wasn't able to deliver the mixing efficiency they were hoping for at higher flow rates, so they missed their Isp target by about 6s (304s vs 310s planned). They've upped the thrust in the chamber to slightly compensate. Also, the Kestrel, being lower pressure actually exceeded their expectations by 2s (327s vs 325s planned), which should also help things out.

  • Structural testing for Falcon I is almost completed. Their first stage tank has over 160 full cycles on it with no signs of fatigue, and the upper stage has undergone several pressurization cycles too. Ground wind tests have verified that if you can stand up vertically at the launch site, the winds aren't too high to launch in. A test to mimic conditions at maximum angle of attack and max-Q have been performed with a 23% margin of safety over the limit case. Only the maximum g-load at first stage burnout test remains.

  • Elon comments that due to the environmental tests and structural tests they've done on the first stage, he's very optimistic that the Falcon I will be at least as reusable as the Space Shuttle. He mentioned as he had previously that if they can reuse parts of the first stage, that the $5.9M price tag for the Falcon I will go down. I wish them a lot of luck on that, because even though it isn't a purist RLV, its an excellent step in the right direction.

  • Avionics testing is done including thermal cycling, vibration, shock, acceleration, and salt fog tests. Also, their TVC "hardware-in-loop" simulator is completed. This simulator is used to verify their flight control software.

Falcon V News:

  • The aluminum for the Falcon V tanks should be arriving in the near future. They'll be using a friction-stir welding process for the tank once they have the circumferential stir welding machine in later this year. Delta II and Delta IV also use some friction stir-welding as I understand it, but Falcon V will be the first rocket with fully stir welded tanks according to Elon.

  • The Merlin-1Bs for the Falcon V first stage will be finished by about June, at which time they will start testing on their large tripod test stand.

  • Avionics will be a triply redundant version of the Falcon I avionics, with upgraded (and retested) software, and will use more digital sensors and controls to cut down on the wiring.

  • Most of the launch infrastructure for the Falcon V is in place, though they will need to build a new mobile launcher for a 12ft wide rocket.

Other Cool Stuff:

  • The coolest new news in their update is the announcement of the Merlin-2 engine. This engine will be in the F-1 size range (1,500,000lbf!), will operate at higher pressures than the Merlin-1A and 1B, and serious development will start on that in a few years (probably after the uprated Falcon V is in operational service). Target performance numbers will be released this spring.

    [Feb.9.04 Correction: The Merlin-2 will not be the F-1 size engine but an intermediate model. Detailed specs will be released in a few months.]

  • Due to pintle woes, they'll be developing some in-house injectors, using a unique variant of the coaxial injector that is commonly used in many rockets today. They hope to have some test data on that later this year.

  • They're up to four rocket engine test stands, with their biggest being a massive tripod stand capable of tests of up to 3,000,000lbf!

  • They have a new FAQ page as well as some cool movies of their tests.

Anyhow, all of this is pretty exciting news, and it's good to see that after all the hard work they've been putting in, that they're getting pretty close to the home-stretch.

7:45 pm: Political action ... The first day of the Suborbital Action Days went well. We briefed a number of Congressional staff members on issues of importance to the suborbital spaceflight industry. These issues include ameliorating the difficulties caused by ITAR, pushing NASA to buy launch services (this also applies to orbital transport) and to take advantage of the scientific and educational benefits offered by the new suborbital space vehicles. ...

... Similar efforts for many years by space activists to push NASA to purchase commercial launch services, as opposed to dictating how launch vehicles are to be built and operated, may be making progress. This article - Cuts target shuttles, defense - Florida Today - Feb.8.05 - on the budget notes the following:

Gaining less notice: $160 million included to buy cargo and crew delivery services from other countries or private companies. The idea: Shift supply runs from the shuttle to less-expensive space freighters and station crew changeovers to the Russians' Soyuz, which has done the job while the U.S. fleet was grounded the past two years. [my emphasis]

I think this is intended mostly to encourage the private companies since the Soyuz has Congressional restrictions on its use by NASA.....

... Several of the new space companies are working together to develop high safety standards: Space Entrepreneurs Resolve To Create Industry Group to Promote Safety Standards and Growth of the Personal Spaceflight Industry - Space Race News/Business Wire - Feb.8.05 ...

... Don't forget to watch the webcast of the Commercial Space Transportation hearing at 2:00 pm (EST) tomorrow.

7:45 pm: News briefs ... Peter Diamandis gets a well deserved award: Distinguished Service Award to Peter Diamandis - Space Race News - Feb.8.05...

... In an interview in the latest Space News, Peter says that ZERO-G is doing better than expected. They had 30 flights in the first four months of operation. They were able to raise prices because of the demand. Here's a nice multimedia Zero g Achieved! - Space.com presentation about a flight...

... Peter also said the first X PRIZE Cup event would be in 2006, though the "maximum number of X Cup teams" won't compete until 2007...

... Neil Halelamien has posted Images from Virgin Galactic promo video mentioned below...

... Ken Schweitzer sent me this link about a test of a hybrid engine for one of the contractors in the DARPA Falcon program: Hybrid rocket successfully tested - Air Force Link - Feb.4.05 (Not sure which company this is.)

1:05 am: Suborbital action ... Heading to Capitol Hill to do my part in the first Suborbital Action Day of 2005. Organized regularly by the Suborbital Institute, participants meet with congressional staff members to inform them about the commercial suborbital spaceflight industry and the various political issues that affect its growth.

Previous Action Days contributed to the successful effort to pass the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act. This year we will focus "on reforming ITAR, which currently prevents US companies from exporting certain space related technologies to other countries, including US allies with similar levels of technology."

1:05 am: News briefs ... Speaking of Congress and space, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will hold a hearing on Wednesday Feb. 9th on the topic of private space transport: Future Of Commercial Space Transportation To Be Focus Of Congressional Hearing - House Committee on Transportation - Feb.7.05. The president of Virgin Galactic will be on the witness. A webcast of the hearing at 2:00 pm (EST) will be available here. ...

... Neil Halelamien points to the animation (at bottom of the page) at Virgin Galactic that provides a nice demonstration of the SS1/SS2 flight profile and at the end show "CG snapshots of a Virgin Galactic craft docked at an orbital space station. It looks a little bit like a combination of a Bigelow inflatable module and a small O'Neill-style torus."...

... The open-source flight simulator FlightGear offers an X-15 and a shuttle module in the downloads section.

February 7, 2005

12:05 pm: News briefs ... Stephen Ashworth argues that government and commercial space development efforts "must travel in tandem at each step of the cosmic staircase.": The mission, the business, and the tandem (part 2) - The Space Review - Feb.7.05...

... However, some worry about the influence of "space libertarians": EELVs Are A Bad Deal by Jeff Wright - SpaceDaily - Feb.4.05...

... Sam Dinkin reviews the large space habitat concepts promoted by Gerard O'Neill and suggests incremental, "spiral development" of space technologies could "hasten the day that an L5 colony will be funded and succeed": The high risk frontier - The Space Review - Feb.7.05...

... Bill Harwood posts an in-depth report on the efforts at NASA to develop on-orbit thermal protection repair techniques: Engineers, astronauts debate shuttle repair ideas - Spaceflight Now - Feb.6.05....

... Note that Spaceflight Now is posting regular updates on progress in the RtF program at STS-114 Shuttle Report.

1:45 am: News briefs... The X PRIZE Space Race News! has been a great resource in the past year for news, information and discussions about the X PRIZE and, after the SS1 triumph, of other suborbital spaceflight projects. Unfortunately, it has run into funding problems: Financial Difficulties: Advertisement for Hosting - X PRIZE Space Race News! - Feb.6.05. If you can help with advertising or other support, please contact them ...

... I saw the Volvo commercial last night during the Super Bowl about their new car and the space tourism contest in support of it (www.boldlygo.com.) It was OK but it went by very quickly early in the game and didn't stand out. I doubt if very many people heard the part near the end of the commercial about the contest. The Wall Street Journal review of the Super Bowl commercials said the Volvo ad "seemed to lack rocket fuel." ...

... Get ready for a big controversy over launching the Shuttle without all of the review board's recommendations fully implemented: Critics Question NASA on Safety of the Shuttles - NY Times - Feb.7.05.

February 6, 2005

1:05 am: News briefs... It was announced back in December that Scaled Composites and the X PRIZE Foundation would be sponsoring an educational project in which students would build full-size mockups of the SpaceShipOne. Here is a report on the project, which is now underway: Students creating SpaceShipOne replicas - L.A. Daily News - Feb.5.05...

... In response to a reader's question, I collected several links in the Space Models section to sites offering paper card, plastic, and prebuilt SpaceShipOne models ...

... The RC Flight simulaor PRE-Flight now includes a SpaceShipOne model and screensaver (zip). You need PRE-Flight installed to run both but if you don't own the program, a free demo is available for downloading. A Space Shuttle Columbia model is also available ...

... A cosmonaut suggests smaller shuttle crews if NASA expects to use the ISS as a refuge in case of trouble: Cosmonaut criticizes "safe haven" plan - spacetoday.net - Feb.5.05.

February 4, 2005

12:15 pm: News briefs... Here's a long and interesting article about Elon Musk and SpaceX: Hondas in Space: The ex-CEO of PayPal is spending a fortune to prove you can build rockets faster, cheaper, and better. Innovation, it seems, isn't always rocket science. - Fast Company - Feb.05. (Via spacetoday.net) ...

... In response to my note about the EADS suborbital.com domain, Jens Lerch reminded me of reports back in 2003 that EADS was studying the development of a 12 seat MIG-31 that could reach Mach 3 and 30km in altitude. The riders would experience about a minute of low gravity. Jens says that one proposed flight plan would go from Munich to the resort island of Mallorca.

The plan is described in Tourists get chance of flying to 82,000 feet - RedNova News - Aug.22.03 and a July 2003 article in German. (Try the Google translator). I haven't heard anything about the project recently.

12:45 am: News briefs ... In this week's column, Robert Zimmerman maps out the players, shifting alliances, and surprising strategies in the upcoming NASA budget battles: Space Watch: Turf war heating up - UPI - Feb.3.05 ...

... More about the Volvo space tourism contest: Volvo and Virgin Galactic Team Up in Space: Richard Branson in Volvo's first-ever Super Bowl ad. Viewers can win a trip to space on Branson's space craft at www.boldlygo.com this Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 6th. - PR Newswire/Volvo - Feb.3.05. (Via spacetoday.net) ...

... Note that since the SS1 won the X PRIZE, three suborbital space tourism contests sponsored by major companies have been announced:

... Burt Rutan continues to spread the word about the promise of private spaceflight: Space travel pioneer says he reached new heights to win X Prize - mcall.com (Allentown PA) - Feb.3.05. (Via spacetoday.net)...

... This kind of thing should also help inspire public interest in spaceflight: NFL Players Turn Astronauts for a Day As They Go for Zero With Diet Rite and ZERO-G - PR Newswire/ZERO-G - Feb.3.05.

February 3, 2005

1:30 pm: News briefs ... To promote its XC90 V8 model, Volvo will broadcast a commercial during the Super Bowl that will announce a suborbital space tourism contest: Volvo Sees Liftoff During Super Bowl - Space Race News - Feb.3.05. You will be able to sign up for a chance to fly on the SS2 at www.boldlygo.com. ...

... Via the article Games Join Space Race - Wired - Feb.3.05, I found the web site of DigitalSpace Commons, which develops sophisticated 3D modeling and simulation tools and applications. These include some CEV related projects:

... Also, Vision Videogames is working with Raytheon on CEV simulation projects:
Vision Videogames Assists Raytheon in NASA Initiative to Develop Virtual Moon Vehicle - Vision Videogames -Jan.18.05 ...

... I accidentally discovered that a former rocketry store domain - www.suborbital.com - is now an "EADS SPACE Transportation Web site." I wonder if EADS (I actually prefer to call it EgADS) has some suborbital space transportation plans beyond the Phoenix/Hopper projects?

February 2, 2005

8:30 pm: News briefs... Eric Meier and Phillip Storm have decided to put the Space Transport project into hibernation while they try to find long term funding: Financing woes leave ambitious Forks space commercialization project up in the air - Space Race News/Peninsula Daily News - Feb.2.05....

... Wikipedia is the "Free Encyclopedia" in which users can edit the pages and add content. It seems to be growing in popularity as the content expands. For example, there is now quite a lot of space related material. For example, check out the pages on:

2:35 pm: RASCAL Canceled... DARPA has ended the RASCAL smallsat launcher program: Pentagon Cancels RASCAL Small Launcher Effort - Space News - Feb.2.05 (subscription only). No reasons were given. Last August I noted a report from the Utah SmallSat meeting that a DARPA representative had indicated serious problems with the program. However, no specifics were given. I later heard a rumor that cost overruns were the primary hangup.

The RASCAL program required that the system use a first stage air launch from a jet that used Mass Injection Pre-Compressor Cooling, or MIPCC, to achieve a high altitude. The jet would then release an ELV to take a 150 kg payload to orbit. Space Launch Corp reported last November that it had successfully completed Phase II of the program.

DARPA will now focus on the Falcon Small Launch Vehicle (SLV) program. In this program, DARPA has not specified the type of technology to use but just requires that the SLV should be able to launch

"a small satellite weighing approximately 1,000 pounds into a reference orbit defined as circular, 100 nautical mile altitude, due east, and launched from 28.5o north latitude for a total launch cost of less than $5 million (excluding payload and payload integration costs)."

Last September DARPA awarded second round Falcon contracts to four companies: Lockheed-Martin, Microcosm , AirLaunch LLC (Gary Hudson & Bevin McKinney), and SpaceX. (It's a coincidence that the SpaceX launcher line is also called Falcon.) ...

2:35 pm: SpaceX and Northrop drop lawsuits ... Space News also reports that SpaceX and Northrop have dropped lawsuits against each other over improper access to each other's technologies: SpaceX, Northrop Grumman Drop Legal Dispute Over Falcon - Space News - Feb.2.05 (subscription only). The dispute was originally reported in the Wall Street Journal but the article can be found reprinted here: Can defense contractors police their rivals? - Military & Aerospace Electronics Magazine - Dec.28.04. ...

... The above two items come via spacetoday.net.

1:20 am: News brief... Irene Mona Klotz reports on SpaceX and its plans to use Complex 36 at Cape Canaveral: Space Race 2: New life for old pads - UPI/Washington Times- Feb.1.05.

February 1, 2005

3:00 pm: Space Access Society news... Henry Vanderbilt reports on the latest SAS news and space transport developments:

Space Access Update #108 01/31/05
Copyright 2004 by Space Access Society

Contents this issue:

  • Space Access '05 Conference Set For Phoenix AZ, April 28-30 2005
  • New Administration Space Transportation Policy
  • Who Will Run NASA?

Coming soon:

  • What A Difference A Year Makes: Industry Roundup
  • Space Access '05 Preliminary Speakers List

Space Access '05 Conference, April 28-30, Phoenix Arizona

We've gotten a number of queries as to whether our conference is happening this year, if so when, where's the hotel, and so forth. We're actually pretty close to our usual just-in-time pace on pinning down and publicizing these things, but to reassure y'all (and let you start to make travel plans) here's where we stand right now, three months out:

We've narrowed our list of a dozen possible hotels down to a primary and an alternate, and our hotel liaison is currently working out a contract with the primary. Both primary and alternate are newer hotels than last year's, at about the same room rate - both have, in response to numerous requests, high-speed internet - and both have the space we need open for our dates (as do several tertiary backups) so we can guarantee the conference will take place starting 2 pm Thursday April 28th, running through Saturday night April 30th, within a moderate cab or shuttle-van ride of the Phoenix airport. Both hotels are great sites - the primary has a wide variety of nearby places to eat drink and shop, the alternate is a really nice self-contained resort, and either would work well for our conference. We expect we'll have a contract signed in the next week or so, at which point we'll publish the hotel details.

Take a look at http://www.space-access.org/updates/sa04prgb.doc for our 2004 conference program book to give you an idea what sort of conference we put together just-in-time last year. This year's conference will be broadly similar, modulo a year's rapid progress in the field of radically cheaper space transportation.

Space Access '05 conference registration remains at $100 in advance, $120 at the door, mail checks to (note new address!)

Space Access '05
5515 N 7th st #5-348
Phoenix AZ 85014

New Administration Space Transportation Policy

The President signed off on a new national space transportation policy at the end of last year, and there's a lot to like in it. (Summary at http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewsr.html?pid=15010) It formally gets rid of the mid-nineties division of labor that gave NASA a monopoly on reusable rocket development (which NASA proceeded to expensively botch) while confining DOD to expendables; each now can develop to meet its own space transport needs. It also mandates NASA develop new capabilities only where its needs can't be met by capabilities already in use in the defense or commercial sectors. It acknowledges the importance of the US commercial space transportation sector in general, mandates a supportive government-purchase, regulatory and launch-range environment for the commercial sector, and specifically supports commercial human spaceflight efforts. It says the US government "must provide sufficient and stable funding for acquisition of US space transportation capabilities in order to create a climate in which a robust space transportation industrial and technology base can flourish", and cites fundamental transformation of capabilities and capitalizing on the entrepreneurial spirit of the US private sector in that context, which implies that at least some share of the funding should go to the innovative startups.

Have we died and gone to heaven? Well, no, not exactly. The policy necessarily spends considerable time dealing with various aspects of the legacy space establishment - keep both EELV's until further notice, return Shuttle to flight then retire it when Station is complete, and so forth. And it mandates a massive DOD/NASA/industry central-planning exercise for "next-generation space transportation capabilities" that we suspect has far too good a chance of turning about as many billions into as many viewgraphs over as many years as most previous such efforts.

But this policy allows for and by implication encourages a lot of smaller efforts, defense and commercial, outside the old-space megalith project complex. Mammals scurrying around under the dinosaurs' feet, if you will. And it does tell the dinosaurs NOT to go out of their way to step on the new arrivals, though absent ongoing adult supervision from the top political levels we wouldn't bet the mortgage on that being scrupulously observed.

Ultimately, any such policy depends more on continuing top-level political support for its effectiveness than it does on the finicky details of this paragraph or that subclause. Recent history gives us some cause for optimism here - we'd estimate that the amount of government space funding (out of thirty billion or more overall) actually going in what we regard as the right general direction to produce a space transportation revolution has risen to a decent fraction of 1%. That doesn't sound like much - but the whole point of our revolution is that it doesn't cost much, done right.

Give us a full 1% for reusable rocket R&D and we'll change the world - and under this Administration and this policy, we might just get that 1%.

Who Will Run NASA?

It is no denigration of Sean O'Keefe to say that he leaves NASA still short of being a useful and efficient government space exploration agency. Given how wilfully dysfunctional major parts of the organization were a few years ago, the fact that all of the agency's centers now have some handle on what they're spending and pay some attention to what NASA HQ tells them is a triumph. We thank Mr. O'Keefe for the considerable progress, and we wish him well in his new job.

But the major strides NASA has made in accounting and accountability are, we believe, only a start. If the agency is indeed to take the lead in resuming outward human space exploration progress without radical budget increase, it is going to have to undergo radical transformation. Much of what it does now will have to be shut down to free up the needed resources. More vitally, much of HOW it does things now will have to be set aside. Much accreted bureaucracy from the last thirty years has to go, organizationally AND conceptually.

We will not presume to tell the White House who they should pick to succeed O'Keefe. Indeed, this close to his departure, we suspect they may well have already made up their mind. But we will, on the off chance someone might be listening, say a few things about what sort of person we think should take over at NASA.

He should have a thick skin. He'll be making painful changes and he's going to take considerable flack. (For the same reasons, he should also have the confidence and ongoing support of the White House. Strong Congressional support, away from existing NASA centers, wouldn't hurt either.)

He should be well-grounded (or at least extremely and independently well-advised) in space technology. He'll be making important technical decisions, and the old NASA bureaucracy has a long history of trying to stack the deck in their advice on such.

He should probably not be from within NASA. The old-line NASA bureaucracy demonstrably has a number of pernicious technological and organizational prejudices; the average career NASA person will tend to have internalized far too much of this baggage.

He should be bureaucratically astute (or at least extremely well- advised). His main job will be not so much conducting future human space exploration, but rather finishing the transformation of NASA into an organization capable of conducting that future exploration.

That is still a long shot at this point. We'd be satisfied if NASA ends up merely getting out of the way of the radically cheaper space transportation revolution we push for. But if NASA can actually be rehabilitated to the point where it recommences useful outward expansion of the human frontier later this decade, we wouldn't mind at all.

Space Access Society

"Reach low orbit and you're halfway to anywhere in the Solar System"
- Robert A. Heinlein

2:20 pm: News briefs ... The webcast today of the "Discussion Panel: Project Constellation & Crew Exploration Vehicle" at the AIAA 1st Space Exploration Conference was quite interesting. Hope it becomes available in an archive. Really sounds like NASA is trying to find new approaches to procurement that will bring lower costs and faster development. It seemed to me, though, like the NASA speakers were treating the t/Space concepts of commercialized services and fix priced contracts for space transportation as something very strange and unknown. ...

... With regard to my comments below on Taylor Dinerman's ISS article, I should have noted that Bob Zimmerman a couple of weeks ago also examined NASA's ISS transportation conundrum: Space Watch: Cooperation's failure at ISS - UPI - Jan.20.05 ...

... Alan Boyle comments on the AIAA conference and other Lunar project related topics: Looking to the moon - Cosmic Log/MSNBC - Feb.1.05 ...

... The Shuttle RtF is approaching: Countdown ticks for shuttle liftoff - Florida Today - Jan.31.05. ...

... A space tourism base in Asia may open up in a few years: Malaysia may be hub for space travel - Space Race News - Feb.1.05.

1:45 am: Riding a microwave beam ... Gregory Benford and his brother James have developed a clever scheme for a microwave beam driven light sail: Solar super-sail could reach Mars in a month - New Scientist - Jan.29.05. In addition to the usual light propulsion effect, heating of paint by the beam causes the desorption of the paint molecules from the material and these in turn produce thrust.

James runs the company Microwave Sciences, which does High Power Microwaves (HPM) development. A writeup of the basic scheme is given in Desorption Propulsion And Deployment (this deals with suborbital lifters rather in space transport.) See also Near-Term Beamed Sail Propulsion Missions: Cosmos-1 and Sun-Diver from 2002 and other articles in the papers section.

12:55 am: News briefs ... John Carmack reports on preparations for hover tests of a large prototype. The first test may take place today: Progress - Armadillo Aerospace - Jan.31.05. Earlier, fellow Armadillian Matthew Ross posted a brief status report on the X PRIZE forum: Armadillo Aerospace News Update - Space Race News! - Jan.31.05...

... X PRIZE Space Race News also provides an update from JP Aerospace on recent high altitude balloon platform tests: JP Aerospace News Update - Space Race News! - Jan.31.05 ...

... The Japanese will begin flying the HTV spacecraft in 2009 to supplement the Russian Progress and European ATV vehicles for cargo delivery to the ISS: HTV spacecraft eyed as supply vehicle - Daily Yomiuri - Feb.1.05 ....

12:55 am: ISS: where's it going? Looks like the US is working hard to finish the ISS in time to turn it over to Russia: What do we do with the ISS? by Taylor Dinerman - The Space Review - Jan.31.05.

Taylor points out that according to the current plan when the shuttle retires in 2010 there will be no NASA vehicle available to take crews to the ISS. Furthermore, even though the CEV starts manned operations in 2014, crew transport to the ISS is not currently included in the CEV mission requirements.

So with only the Soyuz available for crew transport, human access to the ISS, which was 80% paid for by the US, becomes controlled by Russia. An odd situation indeed.

With regard to whether a US commercial crew transport vehicle could be ready by 2010, Taylor is very pessimistic:

Will the US be able to find a commercially-viable, human-rated, private sector alternative to the shuttle, within the required timeframe? This is highly doubtful: though Robert Bigelow’s America’s Space Prize might produce a suitable vehicle, no one should count on such an outcome. Another possibility is that whoever is developing the NASA CEV might decide to build a privately-financed, quick and dirty version of this manned spacecraft. Such a vehicle and its launch system would lack all the features of the fully-developed Spiral 1 system, but it might be barely acceptable as an alternative to the Soyuz or its successor, the Clipper.

Continue to January 2005

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