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starship-design: FW: SSRT: Space Access Update no. 81 (fwd)

-----Original Message-----
From: listserv@ds.cc.utexas.edu [mailto:listserv@ds.cc.utexas.edu] On
Behalf Of Chris W. Johnson
Sent: Monday, March 08, 1999 3:34 PM
To: Single Stage Rocket Technology News
Subject: SSRT: Space Access Update no. 81 (fwd)

Date: Fri, 5 Mar 1999 19:56:18 -0500 (EST)
From: Donald L Doughty <spacelst@world.std.com>
To: DC-X <delta-clipper@world.std.com>
Subject: Space Access Update #81  3/5/99 (fwd)
Reply-To: delta-clipper@world.std.com

                  Space Access Update #81  3/5/99
               Copyright 1999 by Space Access Society

SAS 1999 Policy Priorities:

    - Breaux Bill Must Not Mandate Government-Selected Winners -
      Investor Tax Breaks Preferred Over Loan Guarantees

    - Fund New NASA Future-X Low-Cost Reusable Rocket Operations
      Demonstrator As Small Business Setaside

    - Add Funds To Keep USAF "Military Spaceplane" Work Alive

    - Finish and Fly X-33, Fund Overruns From VStar Demos If Needed

                 SAS 1999 Policy Priorities Summary

What effectiveness we as a movement have depends on our focussing
our limited resources on a few clearcut issues where there's some
reason to believe we can make a positive difference.  We at SAS try
to avoid the shotgun approach, lest we spread ourselves too thin and
get nothing at all done.

Here's our list of the four key things we're pushing for this year,
with brief explanations.  We'll be going into more depth as to why
these (and why not others) in the discussion we expect this will
provoke and in Updates to come.

 ** Breaux Bill Must Not Mandate Government-Selected Winners, **
 ** Investor Tax Breaks Preferred Over Loan Guarantees        **

We have mixed feelings on the Breaux Bill, introduced last year as
S.2121, (Senate Bill number 2121) and just last week revived as
S.469, to provide a Federal loan guarantee fund for low-cost space
launch developers.  On the one hand, we have a pretty good idea what
NASA RLV contractor/consultant hired what lobbyist to foster the
idea in Senator Breaux's office in the first place.  On the other
hand, that's water over the dam - last year's version of the Breaux
Bill didn't pass (we described it at the time as "..a 'gimme' for
Lockheed-Martin's 'Venturestar' Shuttle replacement [or] for a..
...rebuild/upgrade of the current Space Shuttle...") and this year's
version is just starting through the legislative mill.

A year later, we do have to concede that the original Breaux Bill
did have one point: "..lack of sufficient private-sector financing
has already proven to be a major obstacle [to commercial low-cost
launch developers.]"  Private investment in reusable space launch is
still very hard to come by, and we would likely support government
action to improve the investment climate.  IF, that is, said
government action does NOT call for the government to pick winners.

This new Breaux Bill (named for its sponsor, Senator John Breaux, D
Louisiana) is improved somewhat over last year's version, but it
still has a fundamental flaw: Whether it's NASA or DOT evaluating
proposals, as Alan Greenspan recently pointed out in another
context, in the current climate we simply cannot assume high-stakes
economic decisions won't become politicized.

Then too, the rocket industry is in a technological transition
comparable to the changeover from sail to steam.  Even a
(miraculously) totally non-politicized government panel of space-
launch experts would right now be primarily made up of the space-age
equivalent of sailing-ship experts - hardly in a position to make
sensible decisions about commercial steamship proposals.

In times like these, we believe strongly that the market is the only
reliable winner-picking mechanism: Individual investors, making the
best-informed decisions they can, spurred on by an overall market-
wide even-handed government incentive.

If the new Breaux Bill is to succeed in fostering a rapid-growth US
low-cost launch industry, it cannot rely on any branch of the
Federal government to pick aerospace winners.  Doing so on evidence
of recent history will result in massive boondoggles, hurting the
very industry we're trying to help.

We have looked at ways to set up loan guarantees that don't require
Federal winner-picking, and aside from the possibility of a strict
matching-funds standard, where the government guarantees X dollars
for each dollar of upfront private non-guaranteed investment, no
other qualifications required, we've come up dry.

We strongly urge that the Congress consider modest tax incentives
that pass immediately through to investors as a method of
encouraging investment without divorcing investment decisions from
rational commercial due diligence requirements.  (We recommend that
this approach be pushed especially vigorously on the House side, as
being more receptive at the moment to tax-cut proposals than the

 ** Fund New NASA Future-X Low-Cost Reusable Rocket Ops **
 ** Demonstrator As Small Business Setaside             **

NASA's Future-X program has taken a significant step towards
better/faster/cheaper reusable-rocket aerospace advances with the
contract award to Boeing for the X-37 "ATV" reusable upper
stage/reentry vehicle.

We think it's time Future-X got started on a second flight-vehicle
project, one that will explore the other half of the reusable
ground-to-orbit operations envelope - takeoffs, landings, high-speed
flight, and fast low-cost ground turnarounds.  In order to keep this
project affordable within the Future-X context, $100 million or so
total over the life of the project, the criteria for this project
should specify use of existing engines and the minimum necessary new
technology overall.  This should be a reusable rocket operations
demonstrator, not a whizbang new-technology development pusher.

The selection criteria should not specify takeoff or landing mode,
nor propellant choice.  The primary criteria should be how often the
vehicle flies, how cheaply and simply and reliably, out of how
austere and flexible a site or sites.  (Part of "reliably" should
include at minimum long-lead spares for a second flight vehicle plus
credible plans to build this second copy of the vehicle on short
notice - we suggest six months - at need.)

Secondary (NOT primary) criteria should include how high fast and
far the vehicle flies.  Double-digit mach numbers are good, long
distance overland flight is good, but moderate advantages in speed
or range should not override operability considerations in the

"Reliably" should also include some secondary weighting in favor of
piloted vehicles, at least for flights outside the bounds of
government test ranges, if not full-time.  The recent record is that
initial flight tests of unmanned vehicles often fail disastrously
because autonomous flight control systems are very difficult and
expensive to get right the first time.  History also suggests that
high speed long distance overland flight can be considerably safer
if an operator is right there to deal with problems, not dependent
on either long-range comm links or guessing the problem in advance
and writing code to handle it.

The selection criteria should also not specify any connection to
hypothetical future operational space launch vehicles, beyond the
bidder concepts' general scalability to medium-payload flexibly-
based fast-turnaround space launch vehicles.

We would like to see Congress provide $30 million this year - $10
million to support award of multiple phase 1 contracts, and $20
million to get the winner(s) off to a running start before the
fiscal year is out.

The primary winner should be funded up to $100 million over three
years to build vehicles and fly an initial test program of a dozen
or more flights, with (if things go well) the option for an
additional flight program to explore system operations at high
flight rates for an extended period.

The program should include the option of selecting secondary winners
to develop and demonstrate specific subsystems of interest.

We want this program done as a small business setaside, specifically
in order to help the struggling reusable rocket startup companies
gain development and operations experience that could lead to viable
commercially funded vehicles down the line.

We want this program done as a cooperative agreement, in order to
minimize the paperwork burden on the contractor(s) selected.  We
want it done with zero cash contractor contribution expected, since
this program is aimed at helping startups that are short on capital,
and since the vehicles involved should not be burdened with the
additional requirement of generating commercial income to pay off
investors within the short term.

 ** Add Funds To Keep USAF "Military Spaceplane" Work Alive **

The USAF MSP program continues to do good work on a shoestring in
the area of X-40a flight envelope expansion, support of NASA Future-
X's X-37 (aka X-40b) program, and of various low-cost space
operations technologies.   This January they finally received the
$10 million we spent the last two years fighting for.  Due to a
general crunch in Air Force modernization funding, however, they've
been once again zeroed out of next year's proposed budget.

We would like to see $50 million added to the FY 2000 budget for
USAF MSP, in large part to finance a second X-37 tail number, and in
general to continue and modestly expand the useful work they've been

 ** Finish and Fly X-33, Fund From VStar Tech Demos If Needed **

X-33 is in serious technical, schedule, and budget trouble.  If
Lockheed-Martin is capable of making X-33 fly at all, it will do so
by our best current estimate almost two years late.  The NASA
portion of X-33 project funding is fixed and should stay so (we
vehemently oppose any increase in this.)  If nothing changes,
Lockheed-Martin will very likely run out of money and stop work well
before X-33 flies.

However, roughly a third of X-33's overall $1.2 billion budget was
originally earmarked to demonstrate hardware specific to Lockheed-
Martin's proposed "Venturestar" Shuttle replacement.  Given X-33's
growing troubles, spending project money on Venturestar components
makes zero sense.  (We recommend strongly against any committment to
Venturestar by *anyone* before we see whether Lockheed-Martin can
build and fly the half-scale half-speed X-33 demo version.)

Lockheed-Martin has overpromised and underperformed on X-33 from the
start.  Let them dip into the Venturestar demo money to cover the
overruns and fly X-33, if they must.  And if that still won't be
enough to salvage their apparently ill-conceived approach, let them
say so now, rather than waste more time and taxpayer dollars.

                     Space Access '99 Conference

Meet the people who'll be making cheap space access happen - come to
Space Access '99, April 23-24 in Phoenix Arizona!  See www.space-
access.org for details.

Space Access Society's sole purpose is to promote near-term radical
reductions in the cost of reaching space.  You may redistribute this
Update in any medium you choose, as long as you do it unedited and
in its entirety.

 Space Access Society

 "Reach low orbit and you're halfway to anywhere in the Solar System"

                                        - Robert Anson Heinlein