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starship-design: FW: SpaceViews -- 1999 May 15

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From: owner-spaceviews@wayback.com [mailto:owner-spaceviews@wayback.com]
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Sent: Saturday, May 15, 1999 1:09 PM
Subject: SpaceViews -- 1999 May 15

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                            S P A C E V I E W S
                             Issue 1999.05.15
				1999 May 15

*** News ***
	Hail Damage Delays Shuttle Mission
	House Committee Cuts Triana in NASA Authorization Bill
	Software Problems May Have Caused Titan 4 Centaur Failure
	ESA Approves Budget
	Rainwater Leak Delays Delta GPS Launch
	Long March Launches Two Satellites
	Amateurs Plan Space Launch
	Students Take On Mars Mission Planning
	SpaceViews Event Horizon
	Other News

*** Articles ***
	Bakersfield Hosts California Space Summit

*** Book Reviews ***
	Fly Me to the Moon: Lost in Space with the Mercury Generation

                             *** News ***

                  Hail Damage Delays Shuttle Mission

	The first shuttle mission in nearly half a year will be
delayed by another week to ten days to repair damage to the shuttle's
external tank from a recent hailstorm, NASA announced late Thursday,
May 13.

	Insulation on the external tank mated to shuttle Discovery,
scheduled for a May 20 launch on mission STS-96, suffered damage
during a hailstorm last week.  An estimated 150 divots were found in
the insulation during an inspection after the storm.

	Shuttle officials had hoped that the divots could be repaired
on the launch pad, but found that some were inaccessible from the
pad, requiring that the whole shuttle stack be rolled back to the
vehicle assembly building (VAB) so workers can access the entire

	The divots themselves pose no risk to the shuttle, since
their relatively small size -- an average diameter of 1.25 cm (0.5
in.) and a depth of no more than 0.9 cm (0.34 in.) deep -- does not
penetrate all the way through the insulation to the metal of the tank

	However, shuttle managers are concerned that ice could form
in the divots once the tanks are filled with liquid oxygen and
hydrogen.  Chunks of ice could then shake loose from the divots
during launch, striking and damaging the shuttle orbiter.

	The earliest date for the rollback is early Sunday morning,
May 16, since Discovery needs to be prepared for the rollback and
room made in the VAB for the shuttle.  Once there, repairs should
take 2-3 days, allowing the shuttle to roll back to the pad by the
middle of the week.

	If this schedule can be carried out, the launch would be
delayed by one week, with an estimated launch time of 6:48 am EDT
(1048 UT) May 27.  If more time is needed to fix the divots, however,
the launch could be pushed back an extra several days.

	STS-96 will be the first logistics and resupply mission for
the currently-uninhabited International Space Station.  A
seven-person crew led by commander Kent Rominger will bring two tons
of supplies to the station.  Two astronauts will also perform a
spacewalk to attach American and Russian cranes to the exterior of
the station to transport cargo and equipment.

	The flight will be the first shuttle mission since December,
when the shuttle Endeavour brought the Unity docking module into
orbit and attached it to the previously-launched Zarya command
module.  The gap between missions is the longest downtime in the
shuttle program since the Challenger accident.

	The rollback from the launch pad to the VAB will be the 13th
in the history of the shuttle program and the first since September
1996, when shuttle Atlantis was rolled back as a precaution because
of the threat of a hurricane.  The last time a shuttle was rolled
back for repairs was in June 1995, when Discovery was rolled back to
repair holes in the external tank's insulation caused by woodpeckers.

        House Committee Cuts Triana in NASA Authorization Bill

	The House Science Committee approved a three-year
authorization bill for NASA in a Thursday, May 13 hearing, including
passing a politically-charged amendment to cut funding for the Triana
Earth-observing program.

	H.R. 1654, which increases NASA's budget by 1% over the
President's original request, also prohibits the space agency from
spending money on TransHab, an inflatable module considered as a
potential replacement for the space station's habitation module and
future Mars missions.

	The focus of the debate on the legislation, though, was on an
amendment offered by Reps. Dave Weldon (R-FL) and George Nethercutt
(R-WA) to cut funding for the Triana mission and move $32.6 million
allocated to it in the 2000 budget to life and microgravity sciences.

	The mission, proposed by Vice President Al Gore last year,
will return high-resolution images from the Earth-Sun L1 point 1.5
million km (900,000 miles) from Earth, and also study the Sun.  The
program has been attacked by Republicans for its perceived failure to
follow scientific peer-review guidelines in favor of political

	In the hearing, Weldon suggested that the program was being
forced upon NASA by Gore as a way to support Gore's 2000 presidential
campaign.  "Maybe NASA can't stand up to the White House," he said,
"but Congress certainly can."

	Democrats strongly rejected claims that Triana was designed
to politically support the Vice President.  "Somehow I don't think
the Vice President needs to rely on a little remote sensing satellite
to get elected," said Rep. Bart Gordon (D-TN).

	Gordon also told the committee that he spoke with NASA
administrator Dan Goldin, who said he would recommend to President
Clinton that the authorization bill be vetoed if funding for Triana
was not included.

	"I can't believe... the administration is willing to sink an
entire NASA authorization bill," said committee chairman Rep. James
Sensenbrenner (R-WI). "Their priorities are completely mixed up."

	The amendment was approved by a 21-18 vote that fell along
party lines, while the overall authorization bill was approved by a
27-13 vote.

	The bill authorizes $13.625 billion in funding for NASA in
fiscal year 2000, a figure that rises to $13.839 billion in 2002.
This represents increase of approximately one percent over the
original NASA budget proposed by President Clinton in February.

	The bill includes increases in funding for several projects,
including a $7-million increase for near-Earth object studies (to $10
million a year), and a $12-million line item for space solar power
studies.  The bill also includes nearly $300 million over the next
three years for advanced space transportation technology.

	The authorization also sets down definitions for
commercialization versus privatization in NASA programs and requires
NASA to conduct a study of various space shuttle upgrades as well as
potential uses for the shuttle's external tank in orbit.

	However, H.R. 1654 includes a provision to prevent NASA from
spending money on TransHab, a proposed inflatable habitation module.
TransHab was originally designed for use on potential future human
Mars missions, but has more recently been considered as a replacement
for the habitation module under development for the International
Space Station.

	In a statement issued after passage of the authorization
bill, Sensenbrenner said the TransHab provision was added as a
cost-saving measure to keep ISS costs down.

	The committee's approval of the authorization bill is only an
early step in the budget process.  The bill must be approved by the
full House and reconciled with the Senate's version, which passed
through the Commerce, Science, and Transportation committee May 5
with no amendment to cut Triana.  Moreover, appropriations bills
which actually fund the space agency have yet to be considered.

      Software Problems May Have Caused Titan 4 Centaur Failure

	Corrupted software may have been the cause of the April 30
failure of the Centaur upper stage on a Titan 4B booster, Aviation
Week and Space Technology reports.

	In an article published in their Monday, May 10 issue, the
magazine says that software uploaded into the control system for the
Centaur upper stage malfunctioned, causing the stage to misfire and
place its payload, a Milstar military communications satellite into
the wrong orbit.

	Problems with the Centaur began about nine minutes after
launch, during the first of three Centaur burns, when the Centaur
went off course.  The software may have also caused two later
misfirings of the centaur and the premature deployment of the Milstar

	If correct, the failure suggests quality control problems at
Lockheed Martin Astronautics, the division of the firm that built the
Centaur upper stage.  Less than a week earlier, a Lockheed Martin
Athena 2 booster failed to place the Ikonos 1 satellite into orbit
when the payload fairing did not separate, making the upper stage too
heavy to reach orbital velocity.

	The software problem also means the failure is likely
unrelated to the failure four days later of a Delta 3 upper stage to
place the Orion 3 satellite into the proper orbit.  That launch
failed when the second stage of the Delta 3 did not make the second
of two planned burns.

	Both the Centaur and the Delta 3 upper stage use versions of
the RL-10 rocket engine built by Pratt and Whitney.  However, the
boosters themselves are different enough that they likely use
different software for their control systems.

                         ESA Approves Budget

	European space ministers approved a multiyear budget for the
European Space Agency (ESA) this week that includes funding for Earth
and space science, improvements to the Ariane 5, and a competitor to

	The ministers from ESA's member nations approved a budget of
2.1 billion euros (US$2.25 billion) for the period 1999-2002.  This
amount, ESA officials said, is sufficient for it to carry out its
planned scientific programs, including the Mars Express mission in

	The budget also included an emphasis in new projects for the
space agency.  Ministers budgeted 593 million euros (US$635 million)
through 2001 for its new "Living Earth" program of Earth studies from

	"The agreement to embark on the Living Planet Program is the
first step towards providing an assured long-term program of research
which looks at the Earth and its environment from space," said UK
space minister Lord Sainsbury, who was elected chairman of the ESA
Ministerial Council. "We are putting Earth sciences on a more equal
footing with ESA's traditional strengths in scientific research."

	Ministers also agreed to spend 58.4 million euros (US$62.5
million) through 2001 on a definition study of the proposed "Galileo"
navigation satellite project.  This system of navigation satellites
would serve the same role as American GPS satellites, but is looked
upon more favorably by European nations since Galileo would not be
controlled by the American military, unlike GPS.

	Upgrades to the Ariane 5 booster were also included in the
budget.  ESA will spend 533 million euros (US$570 million) until 2001
on the Ariane-5 Plus program to improve the performance of the
heavy-lift booster.  An additional 54 million euros (US$57.8 million)
will be spent on studies of future launch systems.

	The budget agreement is the last financial hurdle for the
Mars Express project, ESA's first mission to Mars.  The project had
been threatened by stringent science funding for ESA that threatened
either to squeeze out funding for the 150-million euro (US$160
million) project, or delay or cancel other ESA programs to support
the mission.

	The project still needs funding, through, for the Beagle 2
rover that will fly on the Mars Express lander.  The British
government has made no announcement whether it will fund the
25-million pound (US$40.5 million) rover.  Colin Pillinger, lead
scientist for the mission at Britain's Open University, told the BBC
he is optimistic finding can be found for the rover by summer.

                Rainwater Leak Delays Delta GPS Launch

	A leak of rainwater into a Global Positioning System (GPS)
satellite atop a Delta 2 rocket has delayed its launch for at least
eight days, Air Force officials announced Monday, May 10.

	A Delta 2 was scheduled to launch on the evening of Saturday,
May 15, from Cape Canaveral, Florida, carrying the Navstar 2R-3 GPS
satellite into orbit.

	Technicians were working on the satellite in a clean room
that is part of the launch tower at Pad 17A.  The technicians were
forced to leave the clean room when a heavy thunderstorm hit the
launch site on the afternoon of Saturday, May 8.  When they returned,
they found that rainwater had leaked into the clean room, and
moisture was found on the satellite.

	How rainwater managed to leak into the clean room is under
investigation.  The Air Force has decided to move the satellite back
to a processing facility at the launch site to assess any damage done
to it by the rain. Even if no damage is done to the satellite, the
process of moving the satellite from and back to the launch site
would delay the launch a minimum of eight days.

	The Delta 2 had recently been given a green light by
investigators looking into the cause of the failure of a Delta 3
launch May 4.  Investigators determined late last week that the
problems that caused the Delta 3 to strand the Orion 3 satellite into
a useless low orbit were not common to the Delta 2, which uses a
different upper stage.

                  Long March Launches Two Satellites

	A new variant of China's Long March booster launched weather
and science satellites early Monday, May 10.

	A Long March 4B lifted off at 9:33 pm EDT Sunday, May 9 (0133
UT May 10) from the Taiyuan in eastern China.  There were no problems
with the launch, Chinese officials reported, and both satellites were
successfully placed in polar orbit.

	The Long March carried into orbit the Feng Yun ("Wind and
Cloud") 1C weather satellite.  The satellite began to return images
and data within a day of launch.  The rocket also launched the Shi
Jian ("Practice") 5 scientific satellite.

	The launch was the first for the Long March 4B, a variant of
the Long March 4A (CZ-4A).  Little is known specifically about the
4B, but it is thought to be substantially similar to the CZ-4A, a
three-stage booster that uses nitrogen tetraoxide and unsymmetrical
dimethyl hydrazine propellants.  It can place up to 1,500 kg (3,300
lbs.) into polar orbit.

	The launch was the first for a Chinese booster this year.  A
Long March 2C/SD is planned to launch two replacement Iridium
satellites some time next month.

                      Amateurs Plan Space Launch

	A group of amateur rocketeers plan to launch later this month
a rocket which, if successful, will be the first amateur booster to
fly into space.

	JP Aerospace, a California-based amateur organization, plans
to launch a rocket from a balloon the weekend of May 22-23 which they
believe should reach an altitude of at least 100 km (60 miles), high
enough to pass internationally-accepted boundaries marking the
beginning of space.

	The rocket, christened "Spirit of Freedom 7" in honor of the
late Alan Shepard, the first American to fly into space, will be
carried aloft by a cluster of 10 helium-filled weather balloons to an
altitude of approximately 30,000 meters (100,000 feet.)  Liftoff will
take place from the Black Rock Desert in northwestern Nevada.

	At that point, about ninety minutes after leaving the ground,
the rocket separates from the balloons and ignites its engine.  The
motor burns for five seconds, accelerating the rocket to Mach 3.7.
The rocket then coasts to a peak of altitude of about 100 km (60
miles) before deploying a parachute and slowly descending to Earth.

	The rocket itself is 2.23 meters (88 inches) long and 7.5 cm
(3 inches) in diameter, and weighs 7.7 kg (17 lbs.), of which a
little over half is taken up by the motor.

	The launch attempt is the cumulation of several years of work
by the amateur group, who has tested various versions of the rocket
and balloon system since 1993.  A previous attempt at a space launch
in September 1998 was aborted when a tether snapped minutes before
balloon liftoff.

	This is not the first attempt by an amateur group -- one not
funded by a corporation or government agency -- to launch a rocket
into orbit.  The High-Altitude Lift-Off (HALO) project, by HAL-5, the
Huntsville, Alabama chapter of the National Space Society, developed
a similar "rockoon" system, although with a different type of rocket.

	A May 1997 launch by Project HALO sent a rocket to an
altitude of approximately 65 km (40 mi.), despite a premature rupture
of the balloon.  However, an attempt to launch a rocket into space in
June 1998 failed when a tether snagged on the rocket as the balloon
lifted off from a barge in the Gulf of Mexico, knocking the rocket
out of launch cradle and onto the deck of the barge.  Additional
attempts have been stymied by a lack of money.

	While these amateur efforts are typically attempted to prove
it can be done, there may be money for a future success.  The Space
Frontier Foundation is sponsoring the Cheap Access To Space (CATS)
Prize, which will award $250,000 to the first amateur rocket to
launch a 2-kg (4.4-lb.) payload to an altitude of at least 200 km
(120 mi.) by November 8, 2000.

                Students Take On Mars Mission Planning

	Once strictly the province of NASA experts, students are
becoming increasingly involved with the development of credible,
innovative proposals for human missions to Mars, as the efforts of
two recent groups show.

	While a team of California Institute of Technology students,
affiliated with the Mars Society, develops a new proposal for sending
humans to the Red Planet, a group at the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology and Harvard University is putting together a business plan
to finance such a mission.

	Caltech's Mars Society Mission, unveiled in public
presentations earlier this month, is a mission architecture that
strikes a compromise between NASA's existing Design Reference Mission
and the Mars Direct proposal developed and advocated by Mars Society
founder Robert Zubrin.

	Under the Caltech proposal, two spacecraft would be launched
in the 2011 launch window, using a new heavy-lift booster named
Qahira (Arabic for "Mars"), based on Boeing's Delta IV.  One would
carry an Earth-return vehicle that would be parked in orbit around
Mars, while the other, nearly identical vehicle would land on the
surface and start generating propellant for a future trip into Mars

	In early 2014 two more launches would take place: one of a
spare Mars ascent/Earth return vehicle, and a separate crew habitat
vehicle that would take five people to Mars and land them on the
surface on May 25, 2014.  After spending over 600 days on the
surface, the crew would return to Mars orbit using the fueled-up
ascent vehicle, and then rendezvous with the Earth return vehicle in
Mars orbit for the trip home.

	The mission proposal takes a middle path between the Mars
Direct mission and its four-person crew and the NASA plans, which
call for a six-person crew.  "The Mars Society Mission fixes the
problems with these plans by avoiding over-optimistic assumptions and
politically sensitive technologies, such as nuclear thermal
rocketry," said team member Nathan Brown.  In addition, the team
says, built in redundancy makes their proposal safer for the crew
than previous plans.

	While the Caltech group develops a new way to send people to
Mars, a group of students at MIT and Harvard are coming up with new
ways to pay for the mission.  The "Think Mars" project is an effort
to develop a business plan that would find private funding for a Mars

	Using the NASA reference mission model as the basis for the
mission, the team is exploring a number of avenues to fund the
estimated $50 billion mission.  Those plans range from Olympic-style
sponsorships to the sale of television and Internet rights of mission

	The business plan was originally developed as part of a
NASA-sponsored competition to develop such plans.  After being
selected as one of six finalists, the Think Mars team decided to take
their efforts even further, and have enlisted new members from
outside MIT and Harvard to develop the plan into a viable business.

	"The pool of people who can join is literally anyone who has
access to the Internet," noted Think Mars co-founder Justin

	Think Mars submitted its business plan to MIT's "$50K"
Entrepreneurship Competition, a contest that has helped start a
number of new high technology businesses.  The plan was selected as
one of 39 semifinalists, alongside biotech and Internet startups.

	The team plans to present its plan to NASA officials in May
at a final meeting with other schools participating.  However, the
project plans to continue, with Congressional outreach meetings
planned for the summer and an educational "Mars Week" to be held at
MIT in October.

                       SpaceViews Event Horizon

May 18		Pegasus XL launch of the TERRIERS and MUBLCOM
		 satellites, staged from Vandenberg Air Force Base,
		 California, at 1:05 am EDT (0505 UT).

May 20		Proton launch of the Nimiq-1 comsat from Baikonur,

May 23 (NET)	Delta 2 launch of Navstar 2R-3 GPS satellite from
		 Cape Canaveral, Florida (under review)

May 27 (NET)	Launch of the space shuttle Discovery on mission
		 STS-96 from Kennedy Space Center, Florida.

May 27-31	International Space Development Conference, Houston,

May TBD		Atlas 2A launch of the GOES-L weather satellite from
		 Cape Canaveral, Florida (under review)

June 7		Long March 2C/SD launch of two Iridium satellites
		 from Taiyuan, China

June 23-24	First U.S. Space Tourism Conference, Washington, DC

June TBD	Titan 4B launch of the Lacrosse F4 satellite from
		 Vandenberg Air Force Base, California (under review)

NET = Not Earlier Than

                              Other News

ISS Costs Rise:  Russian contingency planning and overruns by the
prime contractor are driving up the costs of the International Space
Station, the General Accounting Office reports.  In recently-released
testimony from a Senate hearing last month, GAO associate director
Allen Li said NASA will have to spend an additional $1.2 billion in
Russian contingency planning, including the development of a
propulsion module should Russia be unable to build Progress
spacecraft to reboost the station.  Li also said Boeing's cost
overrun on the space station prime contract is now nearly $1 billion,
up from $783 million last June.  The GAO is also concerned about a
lack of shielding for orbital debris on the Russian service module,
Li said, noting that is the module is depressurized by a collision
the entire station might have to be evacuated.

Spacecraft Ready for Y2K:  NASA, military, and commercial spacecraft
should not suffer problems from the "Y2K bug" on January 1, a panel
of experts told a House committee May 12.  All of NASA's
mission-critical systems, except for the SOHO spacecraft, are
Y2K-compliant already, and SOHO and other non-critical systems will
be compliant in a few months.  The only problems may stem from older
commercial GPS receivers, which may not be able to deal with both Y2K
and a "week number rollover" August 21, when the week number, used by
GPS to keep track of time, rolls over from 1,023 to 0.  GPS
satellites and ground stations will be unaffected by the rollover,
panelists said.

Jupiter's Supersonic Winds: Astronomers have found evidence that
winds at Jupiter's poles reach speeds of 10,000 km/h (6,000 mph),
according to a paper published in the May 13 issue of Nature.  The
winds are driven by Jupiter's aurorae, which in turn come from an
interaction with the planet's powerful magnetic field.  Friction
between the fast "auroral electrojet" and slower winds may explain
why Jupiter's upper atmosphere is much warmer than can be explained
by solar heating alone.

Brown Dwarf Weather: Australian astronomers have found evidence that
brown dwarfs -- objects more massive than planets but too small to
become stars -- may have clouds and weather patterns like planets.
Astronomers found variations in the brightness of one brown dwarf at
a wavelength of light associated with titanium oxide, a compound
linked in theory with cloud formation at the 2000-degree temperatures
found in brown dwarfs.  The astronomers plan to look at other brown
dwarfs to see if they also exhibit weather patterns.

Space Imaging Plans: Space Imaging plans to launch its Ikonos-2
satellite -- a twin to the Ikonos-1 high-resolution Earth-imaging
satellite that failed to reach orbit last month -- as soon as July, a
company official said this week.  Mark Brender, director of
Washington operations for the company, said engineers believe a wire
failed to transmit a signal to trigger explosive bolts on the payload
fairing of the Athena II rocket during its April 27 launch, keeping
the nose cone in place, which in turn kept the payload too massive
from reaching orbit.  Brender said the company could launch Ikonos-2,
which was already completed prior to the launch of Ikonos-1, as soon
as July 20.

Briefly: You've got satellites?  America Online (AOL) may invest $1
billion in Hughes' Spaceway system of communications satellites
designed to deliver high-speed data, Reuters reported May 14.  AOL is
reportedly interested in getting high-speed access to homes by means
other than cable, where deals by AT&T, Microsoft, and others have
locked AOL out.  Someone should remind AOL's Steve Case that for a
little bit more, he could invest in a launch company to cheaply
deliver such satellites... China is planning a test flight of a
spacecraft that could carry humans into space as early as October,
the BBC reported.  The flight of the "Project 921" capsule, based on
the Russian Soyuz, would coincide with 50th anniversary celebrations
of the People's Republic.  If successful, a human spaceflight would
shortly follow... AeroAstro has won a contract to build what it bills
as the first commercial interplanetary spacecraft.  The "Encounter
2001" spacecraft will fly as a secondary payload on an Ariane 5 in
late 2001 and swingby Jupiter on its way out of the solar system.
The spacecraft will carry photos, messages, and DNA samples from
thousands of customers... Remember all those missions that carry
CD-ROM's filled with names, photos, and the like?  Salon Magazine
notes that the harsh radiation environment in places like the surface
of Mars would destroy the CD in a matter of days.  A radiation-proof
case is possible, but unaffordable by projects like the Mars 2001
lander.  At least, the magazine notes, you don't have to worry about
your name getting put on a hit list when the Martians invade...

                           *** Articles ***

              Bakersfield Hosts California Space Summit
                         by Neil E. Michaels

	Bakersfield, California has long had an image as a home as a
nondescript city in the southern end of the San Juaquin Valley, home
to agriculture, oil workers, country music, and little else.  Yet, to
those who live and work there -- and who move away only to come back
-- Bakersfield is the "center of the universe".

	There are a growing number of people and businesses, though,
who would like to make Bakersfield and the surrounding region of Kern
County, which includes Edwards Air Force Base, more of a center of
the commercial space universe.  Against this backdrop, the California
Space Development Council (CSDC) -- composed of representatives from
the various California chapters of the National Space Society --
rolled into Kern County on May 1 for a weekend "Space Summit" at
California State University Bakersfield.

	Hosted by the National Space Society's Western Spaceport
Chapter, the event drew space buffs from around the state to discuss
the latest technology and spread the word about the future of space
travel to the media, local political leaders and the general public
at large.  Over 60 participants came from as far south as San Diego
and Orange County, to as far north as Sacramento and the Bay area;
from Santa Maria to the west and Mojave/Lancaster/Palmdale in the

	"There's no good reason why the human race has to stay locked
on the Earth forever," said Donald Johnson, CSDC Vice President of
events. CSDC has been working since the mid-80s to create a
space-friendly mindset among the general public, which Johnson called
the biggest challenge to creating extraterrestrial communities.
"It's not science fiction," Johnson said, "since the technology is
almost at hand."

X-34 Tug-of-War

	A key speaker at the conference represented government and
aerospace: California state Senator and former X-15 test pilot
William "Pete" Knight. Knight's participation was the central point
to the Space Summit; it was an extension to two earlier events he had
hosted in the cities of Lancaster and Ridgecrest to address the
aerospace issues that are critically important to the economic growth
of California.

	Knight used the talk to push for moving the planned test
flights later this year of NASA's X-34 from Holloman Air Force Base
in New Mexico to Edwards, where much of the X-34's early drop tests
have been held.  Knight noted that Holloman can only support flights
to speeds of Mach 2 to 3, well below the X-34's designed limit of
Mach 8.

	"It doesn't make any sense to have a test program with all
the elements based out here in California go somewhere else," Knight
emphatically stated.  "There is no reason for it to go anywhere
else," Knight said. "This is where it is supposed to be."

	Testing for the X-34 has been up in the air since March, when
Acting Secretary of the Air Force F. Whitten Peters expressed concern
that X-34 testing would interfere with operations at Holloman AFB in
New Mexico.  NASA said it would move the testing to the Dryden Flight
Research Center at Edwards AFB, but that move has set off a political
tug-of-war between the New Mexico and California congressional

Regional Commercial Space Efforts

	Much of the conference was devoted to plans by regional
businesses to take advantage of the growing commercial space market,
from the development of new launch vehicles to services that would
take advantage of those launchers.

	NSS member Randa Milliron from InterOrbital Systems and
TransLunar Research is one of the many start-ups taking root in Kern
County who are trying to make the rocket business work by making
their products more affordable.  "We're going for cheap," Milliron
said. "Cheap, cheap, cheap."

	Part of her company's plans call for launching a rocket,
appropriately called "Neptune" directly from the sea -- without the
expensive infrastructure currently being used by the multinational
Sea Launch project.  The Neptune design is nothing more than a "Big
Dumb Booster" using off-the-shelf hardware to save costs, she said.
"The technology is proven," Milliron explained.  "It draws directly
from the earlier work of rocket pioneer Bob Truax."

	"Small businesses will be crucial to the effort," said John
Powell, president of JP Aerospace in Davis, CA.  "It's going to be
the small, unknown group -- the people you haven't heard about yet."
Powell's amateur organization plans to launch the first-ever amateur
rocket into space from Black Rock, Nevada on May 22.

A "Good Houskeeping Seal" for RLVs?

	Still other private enterprise rocket builders like Stephen
Wurst wants a kind of "Good Housekeeping Seal" of approval from the
Federal Aviation Administration for his spaceship and others like
it.  "An FAA licensing standard for reusable launch vehicles could
provide the boost of credibility that serious start-up companies
need," said Wurst, president of Palmdale-based Space Access, LLC.

	The space entrepreneur explained to attendees that he had
just returned that Saturday morning after spending the previous week
in Washington, D.C. at FAA headquarters going through the licensing
process as kind of a test case.  "I'm totally impressed with their
objectivity and their enthusiasm in working with us," Wurst said of
the FAA.

	The proposed process of FAA criteria would create certain
safety and reliability levels for RLV launches. "The result wouldn't
be a rating," Wurst stated, "but simply a thumbs up or thumbs down
response."  But Wurst wants to take the process one step further.  He
wants the government to be required to purchase some launches from
FAA-approved companies.

	Wurst and others want the government to regulate and promote
but also allow the emerging private industry to spur new
development.  With about a dozen start-up companies, Wurst feels
there is enough competition in the private sector.  "They are not
going to drop a system like the space shuttle overnight," Wurst
stated, "But the government needs to let go."

	"Let's say the space shuttle and us," Wurst said. "We're not
saying give us all the business -- but give us some portion of the

Local Reaction

	"The comments I heard and personally received from others
were highly favorable," exclaimed Jim Spellman, local director of the
NSS/Western Spaceport Chapter and CSDC President.  "More than one
person was amazed at the turnout and interest shown by the local
general public. Although I can't vouch for the attendance figures at
Ridgecrest's Space Summit, I'm certain our "head count" was much
higher than the Space Summit I attended last March in Lancaster."

	Seeing and touching actual hardware and learning how
interconnected the roles of various private aerospace companies based
in Kern County are helping to open up the space frontier seems to
make the dream of space travel for the average person that much
closer to becoming reality.

	So how much longer will the dream take?  "An optimist would
say 20 years," CSDC VP Donald Johnson said.  "I don't know.  I've
been involved with the movement for about 30 (years), since I was in

	"But it's coming."

Neil E. Michaels is a member of the NSS's Western Spaceport chapter.
For more information about the next CSDC meeting, August 7-8 in
Oakland, contact Jeanmarie Walker at jeanmariew@mindspring.com or go
to the CSDC website for schedule updates at:

                         *** Book Reviews ***
                            by Jeff Foust

                          Fly Me to the Moon

Fly Me to the Moon: Lost in Space with the Mercury Generation
by Bryan Ethier
McGregor Publishing, 1999
hardcover, 240 pp.
ISBN 0-9653846-5-9

Buy this book at Amazon.com:

	The early days of NASA -- from the first Mercury flights
through the Apollo landing -- had a tremendous impact not only on the
national in general, but upon the children of the era, whose
impressions of space flight and exploration were molded by those
programs.  Today, those children are now approaching middle-age, with
families of their own, and often wonder if their children will
experience and appreciate space in the same way.  Bryan Ethier, a
writer who grew up in the 1960s, tells his and others' stories in
"Fly Me to the Moon: Lost in Space with the Mercury Generation."

	Ethier's book is more than just a personal memoir of growing
up during NASA's heyday in the 1960s.  He combines stories and
accounts from a wide range of people, from Mercury 7 astronauts like
John Glenn and the late Alan Shepard to others who grew up inspired
by the space program, including some who went on to become astronauts
and mission controllers.

	The book is almost written in a stream-of-consciousness
style, mixing in the memories and stories from himself and others to
show how that early era of spaceflight shaped the lives of a whole
generation of people.  Interwoven nostalgia is all Ethier needs to
make his book compelling, though.

	This book is especially valuable because the "Mercury
Generation" is now in middle age.  The next generation, the putative
"Generation X", has no recollection of Mercury or even Apollo --
their formative space memory is the Challenger accident, coloring
their perceptions of space accordingly.  "Generation Y", the younger
successors to Generation X, are too young to even remember
Challenger, and have experienced no comparable event.  A book like
"Fly Me to the Moon" can help rekindle those fond memories of the
past, and perhaps help instill a little of that vision into the next

[Editor's Note: Look for more book and Web site reviews in the May 22

	This has been the May 15, 1999, issue of SpaceViews.
SpaceViews is also available on the World Wide web from the
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