[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

starship-design: FW: SSRT: Space Access Update no. 83 (fwd)

-----Original Message-----
From: listserv@ds.cc.utexas.edu [mailto:listserv@ds.cc.utexas.edu] On
Behalf Of Chris W. Johnson
Sent: Friday, June 04, 1999 4:15 PM
To: Single Stage Rocket Technology News
Subject: SSRT: Space Access Update no. 83 (fwd)

Date: Fri, 4 Jun 1999 16:23:20 -0400 (EDT)
From: Donald L Doughty <spacelst@world.std.com>
To: DC-X <delta-clipper@world.std.com>
Subject: Space Access Update #83  6/3/99 (fwd)
Reply-To: delta-clipper@world.std.com

                  Space Access Update #83  6/3/99
               Copyright 1999 by Space Access Society

Stories This Issue

 - Congressional Update: So Far, So Good on NASA X-Ops, DOD
   Spaceplane Funding

 - News Roundup: FAA AST Reentry NPRM Out, NASA STAS Results Out,
   Kistler Gets More Financing, Rotary Begins ATV Systems Tests

                        Congressional Update

The House NASA Authorization was amended and passed in floor action
in late May; text is available at http://thomas.loc.gov as HR-1654
and  Report 106-145.  We got what we needed in this bill, additional
money over the next few years, specifically designated for Future-X
tests of low-cost operations, with language urging NASA to avoid
overemphasis on bleeding-edge technology and to give consideration
to the startups.  This is short of the explicit small-business
setaside we'd like to see, but it's not bad.  Our thanks to everyone
who helped make this happen, with a special tip of the hat to some
who worked very hard indeed.

The Senate NASA Authorization is out of committee but still has not
reached the Senate floor - this version, as we mentioned last week,
adds money for "future planning (space launch)" but it's not clear
yet what that will turn out to be.

Interesting features of the two NASA authorization versions include:

 - House defunding of the "Triana" solar-observatory/Earth-view
satellite along partisan lines.  We note that numerous activists
were involved in this one and caution that taking sides in such
partisan issues can be counterproductive in the long run.  In this
particular case, we further note that much misinformation seems to
have been circulating.  Complicating the issue, a story on
spacer.com floated a trial balloon for the idea of trading a
restoral of Triana funding for, of all things, support for Future-X
X-ops funding.  We think X-ops can stand on its own merits, but we'd
have no objection to such a trade - we're neutral on Triana.  We do
suspect that regardless of whether that particular horse-trade gets
made, Triana funding will end up back in the final budget, given the
combination of Administration and Senate support - some sort of deal
will likely be made.

 - Senate capping of Space Station's budget at $2.1 billion per
year.  Given the recently revealed overruns and the current crucial
stage of the project, NASA, the White House, and much of the
Congress have reached a consensus that going some half billion per
year over the previously agreed $2 billion/year for the next couple
years is the least bad thing to do.  The Senate Commerce Committee
led by Senator McCain do not agree, and inserted the cap in their
version.  It is unclear whether this cap would survive on the Senate
floor or in conference with the House, but it's quite clear the
White House won't sign a bill with such a cap.  It is quite possible
NASA will once again be operating without a final authorization bill
next year, as it has been (apparently quite happily) for most of
this decade.

It might seem from the previous that our efforts to affect the NASA
Authorizations bill have been a waste, if it likely will never
become signed law.  Not so - authorizations in general are
expressions of Congressional intent, and thus can have a useful
effect on both the agency involved and on the appropriators who
actually decide what will be spent, even if the Authorization bill
never does grind through to the end of the process.

Speaking of appropriations...  The House NASA Appropriation is we
are told not likely to be considered until September.  The Senate
NASA Appropriation may be introduced in committee in June, but also
will not likely hit the Senate floor until September.  We may want
to work the Senate appropriators soon - stand by on this one.

Meanwhile, over on the defense budget side, we've had some good
results in both House and Senate DOD Authorizations.  The House
added $5 million for Military Spaceplane to the program element
where SMV (Space Maneuver Vehicle, the X-40, closely related to
NASA's X-37) lives, while the Senate added $35 million to be used
specifically for building a second, USAF-version copy of the X-37.

                            News Roundup

 - FAA AST Reentry NPRM Out

The FAA's Advanced Space Transportation office released a Notice of
Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) dealing with reentry of reusable launch
vehicles at the end of April.  An NPRM is one of the last stages
before proposed Federal regulations become final and have the power
of law - after NPRM release, there's a statutory 90-day comment
period (the clock is ticking.)  The regulatory agency has to record
and respond to all comments then publish the results before the new
regulations can go into effect - sometimes the comments result in
changes to the NPRM version, sometimes not.

This NPRM, in .pdf format, can be found at:

We're still looking it over; so far our only criticism is that the
inspection access provisions seem a bit draconian.  Early word from
our friends in the industry is that this NPRM looks OK.  But if you
have an interest in the results of this process, read the NPRM for
yourself, and get your comments in to FAA AST before the clock runs
out in late July.  Speak now or live with the results.

 - NASA Space Transportation Architecture Study (STAS) Results Out

Last year, NASA contracted with a number of aerospace outfits,
established and startup both, to look at what to do about continuing
to meet NASA's manned space transportation needs, IE to continue
supporting the missions currently flown (expensively) by Shuttle.

The recently published STAS results vary from the ultra-conservative
(decades of incremental Shuttle upgrades and rebuilds) to
recommendations for various ultra-advanced Shuttle replacements.
The one we like the most involves developing a Crew Transfer Vehicle
(CTV) to be launched with an in-line cargo carrier on the heavier
versions of the USAF/commercial Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle,
EELV, also known as Delta 4 and Atlas 5.  This would be phased in
gradually as a supplement to Shuttle, eventually replacing it.

This would save money over the next couple decades - NASA JSC &
friends *will* fly their six-to-eight missions a year, and a
hundred-million-dollar EELV plus a reusable CTV would have a hard
time costing more than a half-billion dollar Shuttle flight.  This
approach to replacing Shuttle would avoid massive up-front
government expense - even NASA would have a hard time spending more
than a billion or two developing a simple CTV, whereas the advanced
Shuttle replacements would require several times that.  This would
reduce technical risk - a simple CTV has got to be easier to develop
than some flavor of massive Shuttle-replacement reusable spaceplane.

Most important from our point of view, this approach meets NASA
JSC's needs while avoiding disruption of the commercial launch
market.  Privatized Shuttle upgrades or VentureStar-class Shuttle
replacements both have a major problem: They would have significant
capacity beyond NASA requirements that would almost certainly end up
"dumped" at subsidized prices on the commercial market.  Government
financed vehicles creaming off the most lucrative core of the launch
market is a show-stopper for potential investors in private low-cost
launch - who in their right mind wants to compete with the

An EELV-launched CTV would conclusively avoid this problem - why
would commercial users pay the extra cost of the CTV when they could
just buy an EELV commercially?  Any subsidy that made a CTV/EELV
cheaper to commercial customers than an EELV alone would be far too
obvious to get away with.  Reusable launch investors would then face
the much more predictable environment of having to compete with
commercial expendables, and reusable launch ventures could then
succeed or fail on their own merits, rather than being strangled in
the cradle by government-subsidized grabs of the core launch

The various STAS public results (much is still being held
proprietary) can be seen at:

 - Kistler Gets More Financing

First Northrop-Grumman effectively bought into Kistler's two-stage
reusable launcher project, and now a Taiwanese bank has announced a
$50 million additional investment from a consortium of regional
banks.  Kistler still doesn't have all the money they need to do
flight tests and proceed to commercial operations, but they're
significantly closer.  One curious note in the story we saw
mentioned technology transfers as part of the deal - this seems a
little odd, in the current very restrictive tech-export climate.

 - Rotary Begins ATV Systems Tests

Rotary Rocket did the first all-up systems test of their "ATV"
atmosphere test vehicle on May 22nd.  The ATV is designed to prove
out both the general Roton configuration and construction, and the
final rotor-borne apporach and landing segment of an operational
Roton mission.  The ATV is a full-sized composite structure with
many of the orbital Roton's internal features, but lacking the main
rocket engine.  The ATV will take off and climb to 10,000 feet
powered by 300-lb thrust peroxide monopropellant thrusters on the
rotor blade tips, then fly a standard helicopter-style autorotation
descent, with the peroxide thrusters to provide extra maneuvering
margin.  The Rotary test pilots have described the challenge as
rather like flying a conventional helicopter with a large load slung

The May 22nd test saw the vehicle rolled out and tied down solidly
to the ground; then the rotors were spun up using the tip jets.  A
rotor RPM sensor failed and the system was shut down, ending the
test.  According to a Rotary press release, all-up ground tests will
resume once the rotor systems have been thoroughly inspected and if
necessary repaired.  Once successful full-duration ground systems
tests have been completed, the ATV will begin flight test.  Non-
rotor systems test are meanwhile going forward.

In other Rotary news, rumors are circulating that Rotary is looking
at a lower-cost alternative to the Russian engine baselined for
their suborbital PTV-1 test vehicle.  Maximum performance is not
vital in this application, while development money is tight - a few
million here, a few million there, soon it adds up to real money...

                     That's all for this issue!

Space Access Society's sole purpose is to promote 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

 Space Access Society

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