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starship-design: FW: SSRT: Space Access Update no. 93 (fwd)
Space Access Update #93 4/13/00
Copyright 2000 by Space Access Society
(SAS's eighth annual conference, "Space Access 2000", will be at
the Holiday Inn Old Town in Scottsdale Arizona April 27-29 - see
http://www.space-access.org for details. Call 800 695-6995 for
a room at our $69 "space access" rate - the hotel is over 90%
full for our dates and rooms are going fast - reserve now!)
- SAU #92 Space Launch Initiative Policy Clarification
- Space Access 2000 Conference Preview
SAS's Space Launch Initiative Policy Clarification
We got a fair amount of response to our last Update, #92, (available
at http://www.space-access.org/updates/sau92.html) outlining our
initial response to NASA's proposed new five-year plan for advanced
launch development, their Space Launch Initiative (SLI). We made one
outright error, calling NASA's SLI-precursor Integrated Space
Transportation Plan "Advanced" rather than "Integrated" - it's ISTP,
not ASTP. Oops. And some of our readers were good enough to point
out places where we'd been unclear; one of these in particular is
critical, and a clarification follows.
The core of our argument is that NASA SLI is based on two incorrect
assumptions: 1), that NASA and US commercial launch technology
requirements can be successfully shotgun-wedding "converged" by NASA,
and following from this that 2), a single program centered around
forcing US commercial requirements to fit NASA's internal requirements
won't be another predictable waste of taxpayer dollars.
We pointed to history to make our case; both the disastrous pre-1986
shutdown of the US ELV industry in favor of forcing all commercial
launches onto Shuttle, and the increasingly obvious failure of the
current X-33/Venturestar NASA/commercial program, indicate major
problems with forced NASA-commercial covergence.
We did not, however, go into detail about the requirements
incompatibilities. In brief, we see them as being:
- In terms of system performance, NASA tends to require large
payloads both up to and down from the relatively difficult-to-reach
Station orbit. This biases SLI towards large, high-performance, high-
investment (multiple billions) systems and prejudices it against
smaller, relaxed-performance, lower-investment (hundreds of millions)
systems that might nevertheless find profitable commercial market
niches and serve important national low-cost launch needs.
- In terms of political control, the problem is obvious: No sensible
commercial operator wants to share a launch system with NASA when the
agency could disrupt commercial schedules for agency needs at any
time. The mass exodus by the airlines from the CRAF military-callup
program after CRAF was activated for the Gulf War is a case in point.
- In terms of staffing and costs, NASA Shuttle/Station's launch
requirements include the unspoken but very real need to maintain
something like current staff levels at the various NASA centers
involved, for bureaucratic continuity and political patronage reasons.
These staff levels, while low by historic NASA standards, are far too
high for practical commercial efforts. Put another way, NASA is more
cost-sensitive than it used to be, but is still far less so than a
profitable commercial enterprise would have to be.
We think that, in view of the preceding, the solution we offer makes
eminent good sense: Split off support for NASA launch technology
needs from support for US commercial launch technology needs - form
two distinct programs with two very different approaches - and divide
the available funding appropriately.
Space Access 2000 Conference Preview
Our eighth annual conference on radically cheaper space access is just
two weeks away, and it's about time we told you a bit more about the
presentations we've lined up.
First, though, a quick note - if what you see here sounds worthwhile,
there's still time to get that Friday off, book an affordable airfare
to Phoenix, and reserve yourself a room at our fine conference hotel.
Registration and hospitality open Thursday evening April 27th at six,
Thursday intro sessions commence at eight pm, and main sessions run
all day and evening Friday the 28th and Saturday the 29th.
If you're worried about finding a room if our hotel fills up too soon,
a quick web search reveals there are nine other hotels within a half-
mile. Mind, if you do have to book a room elsewhere, we do advise you
to check again the day you arrive; often tourist no-shows will open
rooms at the last second.
And if you're worried about spending a few days of our warm dry
Arizona spring stuck in the middle of nowhere, that quick web search
also reveals that there are 84 (no typo, that's eighty-four)
restaurants and a stunning variety of shopping within a half mile of
our conference hotel. Did we mention that our $69 hotel rate is good
three days before and after the conference? You don't really need a
rental car here; you can get in from the Phoenix aiport via cab or
"Super Shuttle" van, unless of course you want to go further afield
while you're here and explore the variety of Arizona golf courses,
horseback riding, historical sites, and scenic wonders nearby.
Check out http://www.space-access.org/updates/sa2000.html for details
and for any last-second additions or changes. See you there!
In alphabetical order, here's our list of confirmed presentations as
of April 12th:
- Dana Andrews - Andrews Space & Technology
Dana Andrews was Boeing's longtime chief engineer for Reusable Launch
until he retired this winter and joined his son's consulting firm,
Andrews Space & Technology. (Tom Healy, formerly of Rockwell, took
over his post at Boeing. Both Dana and Tom have spoken at previous
Space Access conferences.) Dana tells us AS&T has an RLV concept that
meets current noise regs doing runway takeoff, and at 650,000 lbs
gross liftoff weight can do NASA baseline Station missions. He says,
if you want to find out how AS&T proposes to do this, catch his talk.
- Mitchell Burnside Clapp - Pioneer Rocket Plane
Mitchell Burnside Clapp is an ex-USAF flight test engineer, an
incorrigible proponent of innovative approaches to reusable space
launch, and the founder and President of Pioneer Rocket Plane, a
company pursuing an aerial propellant-transfer commercial reusable
spaceplane. Mitch will be giving two talks, one on Pioneer's status
and plans, one on "Optimizing Trajectories For Low Isp Launch
Vehicles", (or, Where Does That 1000 FPS Savings Come From Anyway?)
- Len Cormier, MMI
Mr. Cormier has dedicated much of the past 40 years to the pursuit of
lower cost access to space. He began in the space business at the
National Academy of Sciences in 1956 and at NASA headquarters in 1959.
In the early-mid 1960s he was project engineer for space transport
systems at the LA Division of North American Aviation. After that he
worked as a project engineer and program manager for Fighter Systems
at North American-Rockwell. Mr. Cormier formed his own company in
1967 to pursue commercial space launch consulting, which he has
continued ever since with a variety of projects. Len was a charter
member and a re-appointed member of the Dept. of Transportation's
Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee, COMSTAC.
Mr. Cormier will present on the Millennium Express TSTO and the
XVan2001 entry to the X PRIZE contest, and will take part in our panel
on what the government might do to help the low-cost launch industry.
- Experimental Rocket Propulsion Society
ERPS is an amateur non-profit (for the moment) rocket company run out
of the San Francisco Bay Area; they're working on small peroxide
engines and catalysts, as well as controls, guidance, tankage,
airframes, and flight-test/regulatory issues for small reusable-rocket
flight demonstrators. They'll be presenting data on a new catalyst
that works with 90% and 98% peroxide, and presenting data and showing
video from recent engine tests.
- Bill Gaubatz - Universal Space Lines
Bill Gaubatz is perhaps best known as McDonnell-Douglas's program
manager for the DC-X reusable rocket flight demonstration project. He
currently works reusable launch for USL, founded by another member of
the DC-X team, the late (and much missed) Pete Conrad. Bill will be
talking about USL's plans, including their MSX ultra-low-cost reusable
rocket operations demonstrator, a vehicle transportable in the back of
a pickup truck, intended to explore high flight-rate vertical-
takeoff/vertical-landing operations up through supersonic speeds.
- Jeff Greason - XCOR Aerospace
Jeff Greason is boss of XCOR Aerospace, founded by ex-Rotary Rocket
engineers in Mojave California - Jeff managed Rotary's rotary engine
development project - with the goal of working up to low-cost reusable
space launch incrementally. They're currently working on a project to
build a runway-capable replica of the Bell X-1 rocketplane, as a way
of both making money and demonstrating their capabilities. The
Scottsdale fire marshal willing, they should have an interesting
hardware demo for us.
- Gary Hudson - Rotary Rocket Company
Gary needs little introduction; he's the founder and CEO of Rotary
Rocket Company, which last year brought the Roton ATV landing-
mode/structures/systems testbed (for Rotary's planned Roton rocket
SSTO space transport) to successful initial flight test. Gary is a
longtime advocate of single-stage-to-orbit reusable rockets, has
founded several commercial rocket companies, and if the current
parched funding climate ever breaks, is still a good bet to be among
the first making money flying reusable rockets to orbit.
- Jordin Kare - Laser Launch: A Near-Term Approach
Jordin Kare has degrees in physics and electrical engineering from
MIT, and a Ph.D. in Astrophysics from UC Berkeley. He became a
designer of advanced space systems during 11 years at the Lawrence
Livermore National Laboratory, which included 5 years as the head of
the SDIO Laser Propulsion Program. He left LLNL in 1996 to become
chief scientist for RDL Space, a startup attempting to build a
commercial synthetic aperture radar satellite system. Since 1997 he
has been a freelance consultant to the aerospace industry and
government - contact email@example.com. His talk will describe an
approach to laser-powered ground-to-orbit launch that parallels other
CATS concepts -- not necessarily the most elegant approach, but cheap
and doable now.
- Kelly Space & Technology
Founded by Michael Kelly, an ex-TRW space systems engineer, KS&T is
best known for pursuing the "Eclipse" towed air-start reusable winged
rocket approach to low-cost space launch. While this project is
moving forward about as fast - not very - as the various other
entrepreneurial RLV projects in the current dry funding climate, KS&T
has also pursued various consulting projects, including NASA's ongoing
Space Transportation Architecture Studies (STAS), and Mike tells us
that KS&T expects to be in the black this year.
- Tim Kyger - Universal Space Network
Universal Space Network, a sister company to USL, is proving that the
best space business to be in at current launch costs is still the one
that involves a massless product, space communications. USN has
contracts in hand plus a recent infusion of $15 million in venture
capital, and is rapidly expanding its capabilities for low-cost
flexible spacecraft communications. Tim Kyger is the Washington
political liaison for the USL group of companies and does marketing
for USN. In previous lives he's been a space political activist and a
Congressional space staffer. He'll be presenting on USN, and taking
part in panel discussions.
- Dr. John S. Lewis, University of Arizona
John Lewis is a noted planetary scientist and author (Mining The Sky,
Rain Of Iron And Ice, Resources Of Near Earth Space, others) who will
be talking to us on the subject of What Can Be Done With Cosmic
Rocks?: Recent Advances, so if we do manage to get off this particular
rock anytime soon, we might have some idea what to do next.
- Charles Miller, CSI
Chaz Miller is a longtime space activist, founder and former head of
the ProSpace lobbying organization, and current entrepreneur and CEO
of CSI, a company working on getting into the on-orbit operations
business. Chaz will be presenting on The Market Economics Of On-Orbit
- Elaine Walker-Mullen, Zia
Elaine Walker-Mullen is founding member of the pro-space-electronic-
pop band, ZIA, and president of the New York City Chapter of the
National Space Society. Elaine will be taking us to the stars (or at
least Low Earth Orbit) as she sings, evenings in our hospitality
- Leik Myrabo, RPI
We aren't even going to try to spell what RPI stands for, but it's
upstate New York's answer to MIT, and Leik Myrabo is a professor there
who specializes in very, very advanced propulsion methods. If you
ever wondered where SF/technothriller author Dean Ing gets those wild
ideas, Myrabo and Ing coauthored a classic book called "The Future Of
Flight" back around 1980 or so, a book that described a number of very
advanced ways of getting there from here *fast* that physics said were
possible but that engineering state-of-the-art said "not yet".
Engineering has been catching up - Leik Myrabo has recently had access
to a 10 kilowatt laser at White Sands Missile Range to work on laser
thermal propulsion, and a 100 kilowatt laser at Wright-Patterson Air
Force Base to do the first-ever demo of direct light-pressure "light
sail" propulsion, displacing a JPL-developed carbon-fiber mesh
suspended in a vacuum with no measurable mass-loss to the mesh.
Myrabo is also doing "MHD Slipstream Accelerator" work at RPI, which
as we understand it involves electrically directing and accelerating
plasma flows around hypersonic vehicles. He'll be talking about what
he's up to in all of these areas.
- NASA Future-X
The NASA MSFC "Future-X" X-37 project will be sending someone out to
talk to us about goals and progress. X-37 is an autonomous reusable
upper stage testbed, derived from the USAF AFRL Phillips X-40a,
designed to have considerable ability to reach orbit (given a boost a
good part of the way), conduct maneuvers there, then reenter and land.
- Orbital Sciences Corp
OSC will be sending someone out to talk about their "Future-X" X-34
project to build an autonomous, air-launched mach 8 winged reusable
rocket testbed, and about their NASA "Space Transportation
Architecture Studies" (STAS) results so far - Orbital is advocating a
flexibly-launched general-purpose "Space Taxi" Crew and Cargo Transfer
Vehicle as the next step in increasing manned-space flexibility and
assuring NASA Human Spaceflight's continued ability to do its job.
- Jim Ransom, Ransom Systems Engineering
Jim Ransom is a consultant who has worked for the Air Force Space and
Missiles Center and for various RLV startups; his presentation, Lean
Development: Doing Better Faster Cheaper Right, is a how-to applicable
to lean fast-paced technology developments in general.
- Bob Ray, TGV Rockets
TGV Rockets was founded to pursue cheap space access in an
incremental, bottom-up manner. They've chosen a reusable medium-
payload transportable sounding rocket as their initial commercial
- Dave Salt
Dave has been at various times associated with British Aerospace and
with the European Space Agency; he comes over to talk to us about The
Year In European Space, how things are going over there, just so we
don't feel so bad about how hard RLV funding is to come by over here.
- Space Access LLC
No relation, honest! SA LLC is a Palmdale California based reusable
launch company that is pursuing an airbreathing runway-takeoff
hypersonic aircraft approach to low-cost space launch.
- Henry Spencer
Henry Spencer is a systems programmer, long-time space enthusiast, and
amateur space historian of note ("I corrected Henry" t-shirts take
considerable earning). He was head of mission planning for the late
lamented Canadian Solar Sail Project, and software architect for the
MOST astronomy satellite ("Canada's first space telescope"). He'll be
giving his by-now traditional Thursday evening talk, Introduction To
Space & Continuing Controversies.
- Henry Vanderbilt, SAS
Henry Vanderbilt is founder and Executive Director of Space Access
Society. He used to be involved in electronics hardware and software
engineering, but he made the mistake of taking up writing about space
for a new on-line network in 1985, then took a job at L-5 Society HQ
and then at National Space Society, then went back to software for a
few years while he worked with the CACNSP, studied, and thought things
over. In 1992 he made the additional mistake of being underemployed
and having the right experience mix when it became far too obvious
that full-time focussed advocacy was essential on the vital central
question of affordable space access. Thus SAS was born on the Fourth
of July, 1992.
Vanderbilt looks forward to the day when he'll have old friends he can
bum a ride to orbit from - at that point, his job will be done and he
can go back to making money, having health insurance, and not living
like a starving student anymore. He will at some point talk about
SAS's perspective on The Current Scene, conduct an Ask The Executive
Director session for SAS members, and take part in a panel or two.
- Panel: What Can (Or Should) the Government Do To Help?
Government played a large role in the advancement of aeronautics in
the US. Are they currently doing anything analogous for space
transportation? If not, could they? Would doing nothing at all be
better that their current efforts? Our panel (TBA) deliberates.
- Panel: The Current RLV Investment Climate: What Now?
Thus far, most money available for cheap launch ventures has been of
the individual-investor "angel" sort, and it hasn't been enough yet to
get any reusable rockets to orbit. What will it take to turn average
investors aside from the dot-com lemming rush and lure them into a
cheap-launch lemming rush? Our panel of entrepreneurs, tech
investors, and political mavens ponder this question.
- Mitchell Burnside Clapp, Low-Cost Launch Entrepreneur
- Stephen Fleming, Alliance Technology Ventures
- Gary Hudson, Low-Cost Launch Entrepreneur
- Tim Kyger, Beltway Space Politics Wonk
- Joe Pistritto, Technology Investor
- Henry Vanderbilt, Space Technology & Policy Wonk
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 in its entirety.
Space Access Society
"Reach low orbit and you're halfway to anywhere in the Solar System"
- Robert A. Heinlein