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Space Science

The Rutan SpaceShipOne Revealed 404

Posted by michael
from the look-out-below dept.
smartalix writes "Burt Rutan's company, Scaled Composites, announced that they have been developing a commercial manned space program in secret for the past two years. The system consists of a carrier vehicle called the White Knight and a piggyback (actually underslung) orbital spaceplane called SpaceShipOne. My money is on this effort capturing the X Prize." Well, it's pretty, whatever it is. Space.com has a story with pictures for those of you who weren't quick enough to hit scaled.com before it melted.
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The Rutan SpaceShipOne Revealed

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  • Mirror (Score:0, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 18, 2003 @02:54PM (#5761042)
    click [angelfire.com]
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 18, 2003 @02:57PM (#5761065)
    Only one measly picture, but better than nothing for the impatient..

    http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewnews.html?id=80 5
  • And the FAQ: (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 18, 2003 @03:05PM (#5761128)
    Frequently Asked Questions

    VISION
    What does Burt Rutan think of the other X-Prize designs?
    Burt prefers to discuss this only after the X-Prize is won.

    How long has Burt been working on all this?
    The concept dates back to April 1996. Design work and some limited testing was started 3.5 years ago. The full development program began in May 2001.

    What's going to be next in Burt's bag of tricks?
    Scaled has completed 34 manned research aircraft and none were announced until they were ready to fly.

    BUSINESS
    How much does it all cost?
    This is generally not known until the program is complete, but projections place it close to a Soyuz ride.

    How much will it cost to get a ride into space?
    Rides will not be offered in SpaceShipOne. The price of a ride will have to take in consideration the cost of certification and establishing an airliner-like operation. One goal of this research program is to see how low it might be without the burden of regulatory costs. At program completion we will have good data for operational costs and may publish them.

    Is it physically stressful?
    It is expected to be on the order of some modern theme park rides. The highest forces occur during reentry but build up gradually and peak near 6 G's for less than 10 seconds. With the pilot and passengers reclined, these forces should be quite tolerable for anyone in reasonable health.

    Is Burt Rutan going to ride in the vehicle?
    Yes, as soon as the opportunity presents itself.

    WHITE KNIGHT
    Why did the first flight last only 2 minutes?
    The airplane had outboard spoilers on the wings to help improve roll control in the event of gusty cross wind landings. They were pneumatically actuated (using the same tanks, valves and fittings as the RCS system on SpaceShipOne) and returned to recesses in the wings by springs. On the first flight, the low air pressure, at rotation was sufficient to "suck" the spoilers out which killed the lift and caused the return springs to slam them closed. Four of these surfaces chattering out on the wingtips during the climb out produced significant airframe vibrations and the pilot elected to turn downwind and land immediately rather than aggravate the condition any longer than necessary.

    How can you see where you're going?
    The visibility is actually much better than you might imagine. By moving your head slightly you can piece together an acceptable picture of the outside world and maintain adequate "situational awareness". What is more difficult is spotting other airborne traffic. However, between radar advisories from ground controllers and an onboard traffic alert system called "Skywatch," this limitation is minimized.

    Isn't it hard to land with all those wheels?
    No. The pilot doesn't notice that he has two nose wheels up front and with excellent elevator control
    he can hold them off until about 45 knots during the landing roll.

    Why is the cockpit called a "pressure vessel"?
    The cockpit is airtight and the air is not freely exchanged with the outside air. So like a submarine the structure must be able to withstand large forces due to the pressure differential. In the case of this vehicle, there is high pressure air inside compared to the near vacuum outside.

    How do you keep the air breathable?
    There are three components to keeping the cockpit environment suitable for flight. One, oxygen needs to be added at a small rate for that used by breathing. This is done with a small bottle carried in the cabin. Two, the carbon dioxide from the exhaled air needs to be removed and this is done by means of a substance called "Sodasorb". Finally, the humidity is controlled by another substance called "3X"that removes water vapor, keeping the cabin cool and dry.

    Have there been any surprises during flight test?
    Right from the start the White Knight has been one of Scaled's best handling aircraft. It has good control harmony and is surprisingly responsive for a large airplane. Despite its high wing,
  • Dyna Soar Projects (Score:3, Informative)

    by Shadow Wrought (586631) <{shadow.wrought} {at} {gmail.com}> on Friday April 18, 2003 @03:06PM (#5761137) Homepage Journal
    It looks like the re-entry orbital vehicle borrowed heavily from the NASA program on rentry. Cool to see another application of the technology!
  • by fgodfrey (116175) <fgodfrey@bigw.org> on Friday April 18, 2003 @03:08PM (#5761148) Homepage
    Err, escape *velocity* is always high regardless of what kind of flight you are using. You need to reach a certain speed to achieve orbit. What I think you were trying to say is that the forces the craft absorbs (ie, the acceleration) only are massive if you have to blast the thing into orbit. Once you've used the aerodynamic lift to get into the upper atmosphere, there's less wind drag and you're already moving at some amount of speed so you need less fuel to accelerate to orbital velocity and there's less stress put on the craft by air moving over it.


    Your example of going 1mph all the way to "orbit" doesn't work 'cause you won't *be* in orbit at 1mph. Being in space and being in orbit are two very different things.

  • Re:Ho Hum. (Score:3, Informative)

    by smartalix (84502) <smartalix AT yahoo DOT com> on Friday April 18, 2003 @03:18PM (#5761227) Homepage
    If it can get into space, it's a spacecraft. Orbit is another thing entirely. The first American spaceflight by Alan Shepard was sub-orbital, you know. (But you obviously don't, or you wouldn't have made the above comment.)

  • by scd (541350) <scottdp&gmail,com> on Friday April 18, 2003 @03:26PM (#5761279)

    You are also confused. Escape velocity is the velocity at which an object with no attached propulsion needs to be launched from the surface of Earth in order that the object will never fall back down to the surface due to Earth's gravity. Often explained as the velocity need for an object to reach infinite distance from another object.

    It is true that you won't be orbitting at 1mph. However, if you consider the the velocity vector that is perpendicular to the Earth's surface, it is most certainly possible to reach orbit with a vertical velocity of only 1mph. Not fuel-efficient, of course.

  • by jafac (1449) on Friday April 18, 2003 @03:33PM (#5761318) Homepage
    Escape velocity is NOT the same as what's required to reach orbit.

    Escape Velocity is what's required to escape the earth's gravity.

    Reaching Earth Orbit is NOT escaping earth's gravity.
  • Data From Web Site (Score:5, Informative)

    by ChangeOnInstall (589099) on Friday April 18, 2003 @03:33PM (#5761321)
    The Press Release

    Mojave, California, April 18, 2003:
    Scaled Composites today unveiled the existence of a commercial manned space program. This previously hidden, active research program has been in the works at its facility for two years. This program includes an airborne launcher (the White Knight), a space ship (SpaceShipOne), rocket propulsion, avionics, simulator and ground support elements.
    Master of Ceremonies, Cliff Robertson, introduced Burt Rutan who explained the history and the components of the program. Other dignitaries who attended the event were Dr. Maxim Faget (pioneer configuratioin designer of the early NASA space program from the Mercury through the Apollo programs), Erik Lindbergh (grandson of Charles Lindbergh and President of the Lindbergh Foundation), and Dennis Tito (Soyuz space tourist).
    Further information about the space program and high-resolution photographs are available at the Scaled Composites website: www.scaled.com.

    The FAQ

    Frequently Asked Questions

    VISION
    What does Burt Rutan think of the other X-Prize designs?
    Burt prefers to discuss this only after the X-Prize is won.

    How long has Burt been working on all this?
    The concept dates back to April 1996. Design work and some limited testing was started 3.5 years ago. The full development program began in May 2001.

    What's going to be next in Burt's bag of tricks?
    Scaled has completed 34 manned research aircraft and none were announced until they were ready to fly.

    BUSINESS
    How much does it all cost?
    This is generally not known until the program is complete, but projections place it close to a Soyuz ride.

    How much will it cost to get a ride into space?
    Rides will not be offered in SpaceShipOne. The price of a ride will have to take in consideration the cost of certification and establishing an airliner-like operation. One goal of this research program is to see how low it might be without the burden of regulatory costs. At program completion we will have good data for operational costs and may publish them.

    Is it physically stressful?
    It is expected to be on the order of some modern theme park rides. The highest forces occur during reentry but build up gradually and peak near 6 G's for less than 10 seconds. With the pilot and passengers reclined, these forces should be quite tolerable for anyone in reasonable health.

    Is Burt Rutan going to ride in the vehicle?
    Yes, as soon as the opportunity presents itself.

    WHITE KNIGHT
    Why did the first flight last only 2 minutes?
    The airplane had outboard spoilers on the wings to help improve roll control in the event of gusty cross wind landings. They were pneumatically actuated (using the same tanks, valves and fittings as the RCS system on SpaceShipOne) and returned to recesses in the wings by springs. On the first flight, the low air pressure, at rotation was sufficient to "suck" the spoilers out which killed the lift and caused the return springs to slam them closed. Four of these surfaces chattering out on the wingtips during the climb out produced significant airframe vibrations and the pilot elected to turn downwind and land immediately rather than aggravate the condition any longer than necessary.

    How can you see where you're going?
    The visibility is actually much better than you might imagine. By moving your head slightly you can piece together an acceptable picture of the outside world and maintain adequate "situational awareness". What is more difficult is spotting other airborne traffic. However, between radar advisories from ground controllers and an onboard traffic alert system called "Skywatch," this limitation is minimized.

    Isn't it hard to land with all those wheels?
    No. The pilot doesn't notice that he has two nose wheels up front and with excellent elevator control
    he can hold them off until about 45 knots during the landing roll.

    Why is the cockpit called a "pressure vessel"?
    The cockpit is airtight and
  • by sprprsnmn (619113) on Friday April 18, 2003 @04:10PM (#5761569) Homepage Journal
    Yeah, but Lindbergh was the first to fly SOLO, NON-STOP across the Atlantic. That's a pretty significant achievment.
  • Re:Return Ticket (Score:3, Informative)

    by RetroGeek (206522) on Friday April 18, 2003 @04:15PM (#5761623) Homepage
    I read a Sci-Fi story a few decades ago (don't remember the name) along those lines.

    King David's Spaceship (Jerry Pournelle)
  • Re:Hmm (Score:3, Informative)

    by mr_compsci (667057) on Friday April 18, 2003 @04:24PM (#5761682)
    I managed to mirror most of the site.. the mirror will stay up until you guys destroy my web server... http://www.happyfunland.org/spaceshipone/projects/ tierone/
  • Re:Hmm (Score:2, Informative)

    by mr_compsci (667057) on Friday April 18, 2003 @04:29PM (#5761721)
    of course, take out the extra space in that url and it'll work better... http://www.happyfunland.org/spaceshipone/projects/ tierone/ [happyfunland.org]
  • FYI (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 18, 2003 @04:36PM (#5761772)
    His name is Yossarian.
  • by DJTodd242 (560481) on Friday April 18, 2003 @04:38PM (#5761786) Homepage
    Actually, it wasn't "herpes" ... He was in a pub and was playing with a crew members dog. Apparently this dog went nuts when he heard the sound when you pop your mouth (think pop goes the weasel) and the dog jumped up and bit him on the lip.

    This was covered for at the beginning of The Ribos Operation by showing a shot of him banging his face on the TARDIS console by accident.

    I was I could get a job spouting useless Dr. Who information...
  • by Flamerule (467257) on Friday April 18, 2003 @04:39PM (#5761790)
    There is lots of stuff 80,000 miles up with a ground speed of zero that has me worried now. Why isn't it falling back down?
    Dude, what are you talking about? "Ground speed"? If you mean an object in space that stays above the same point on the Earth, that's geosynchronous orbit, and said object would have to be 35,786 kilometers = 22,241 miles up, and the point must be on the equator. An object in said orbit would have a velocity of 3339 m/s.
  • by John Carmack (101025) on Friday April 18, 2003 @04:39PM (#5761791)
    We have obviously been eagerly waiting for this unveiling. Nobody has denied that Rutan is the odds-on favorite for the X-Prize, but I take a positive thing away from this unveiling -- I have always contended that being an "airplane guy" is going to hurt Rutan in the X-Prize, and this is definitely a "winged thing". I would have been more concerned if it was just a purely ballistic capsule being air launched. I have little doubt that they will fairly rapidly have successful zoom climbs to somewhat above 100,000', but it is far from the simplest design to go to 350,000'. It is certainly true that complex designs can be made to work with enough talent, experience, testing, and money, which Rutan has all of, but there is plenty of room for things to screw up.

    I don't expect that they will make any flights to 100km this year, but I can certainly be proven wrong...

    I am quite happy with our current design, and we are committed to following through irrespective of what Rutan does. Even if he makes it, we have a different ecological niche in terms of vehicle capabilities -- our entire launch infrastructure can be towed by a light truck, and launched from anywhere. If he does win the X-Prize before us, we will ditch the monopropellant propulsion system and move to something more cost effective (at the expense of more development time) for the long term. We may be forced to do that anyway, if our peroxide situation doesn't resolve itself.

    John Carmack
  • by MtViewGuy (197597) on Friday April 18, 2003 @04:43PM (#5761826)
    Actually, Rutan's concept with SpaceShipOne uses a lot of the technology pioneered first in the UK but perfected in Germany for one large airplane carrying only a slightly smaller plane and launching the smaller airplane once the larger plane needs to return to base. (Note: this idea is much more complicated than a large bomber dropping a small plane like what the US did with its X-plane launches from modified B-29's and B-52's.)

    Late in World War II, the Junkers company built a number of specially-modified Ju 88 bombers that had a large explosive warhead fitted in place of the four-man cockpit. Junkers fitted special brace mounts on top of this modified Ju 88 so accommodated a small fighter like an Me 109G or Fw 190A series fighter airplane. The whole composite flying unit (called Mistel) was guided by the pilot in the fighter until near the final dive into the target, where the fighter separated from the Ju 88 to escape while the bomber flew straight into the target. Mistel was used late in World War II, though its success was marginal at best.

    Very late in World War II, engineers at Daimler-Benz took the idea of Mistel to the next level with their A composite flying machine project proposal. It was essentially a large jet-powered airplane with relatively tall fixed undercarriage that had a smaller jet powered bomber slung underneath. This allowed the smaller bomber to fly much further than possible, since the smaller bomber didn't need to consume fuel on the way to the target.

    Essentially, the Rutan SpaceShipOne unveiled today uses the same technological ideas pioneered on the Daimler-Benz A project, but with modern aerospace materials and engines the whole composite flying unit is vastly lighter than the German project.

    Just FYI. =)
  • by Dr. Zowie (109983) <slashdot@NOSPaM.deforest.org> on Friday April 18, 2003 @05:00PM (#5761954)
    Most folks don't realize the enormous difficulty of getting into orbit, compared to getting into space. Just lifting yourself up 150 miles or so is no big deal compared to getting up the tremendous speed required to orbit the Earth. For example, when the Space Shuttle launches, it start out straight up, then rapidly tilts over to thrust eastward, then continues onward, rockets firing, past the horizon. Think about that. In order to go under the horizon, rockets firing, it must now be thrusting slightly downward compared to the original launch. By far the largest part of the effort of a satellite launch is developing orbital speed (order of 5 miles per second); compared to that, tiny things like getting out of the atmosphere are trivial.

    A manned orbital vehicle would have to have a completely different shape than the SpaceShipOne -- the rocket motor assembly would be more than 50x bigger than the passengers, rather than comparable to them in size. (For example, compare the boosters used for the Mercury/Redstone flights and the Mercury orbital flights).

  • by orac2 (88688) on Friday April 18, 2003 @05:17PM (#5762052)
    Well, you have to be a little careful regarding Faget and the shuttle, given that his short winged 'DC-3' design was on the losing side of the compromise with the Air Force regarding the shuttle's cross range capability. Additionally, the DC-3 looked like it would have suffered from severe heating and aerodynamic instability problems on re-entry. Unlike the Mercury/Apollo era, where Faget's word was the only word, industry pushed back with their own spacecraft designs for the shuttle program and largely won -- the idea for a planform orbiter and a drop tank came from outside his team.

    However, to be fair, after the DC-3 battle, Faget's team did have the crucial insight that the external tank could serve a structural function as the backbone of the shuttle stack, instead of just hanging off it, and their MSC-040 orbiter design was the baseline for the production orbiters.
  • by K. (10774) on Friday April 18, 2003 @05:18PM (#5762059) Homepage Journal
    There were also a couple of US parasite fighters slung off bombers and airships in the 30s. And there were a few Russian air-launch spacecraft projects, though I can't remember any names at the moment.

  • Re:Back Into Hiding (Score:3, Informative)

    by orac2 (88688) on Friday April 18, 2003 @05:26PM (#5762106)
    As I noted below:

    You have to be a little careful regarding Faget and the shuttle, given that his short winged 'DC-3' design was on the losing side of the compromise with the Air Force regarding the shuttle's cross range capability. Additionally, the DC-3 looked like it would have suffered from severe heating and aerodynamic instability problems on re-entry. Unlike the Mercury/Apollo era, where Faget's word was the only word, industry pushed back with their own spacecraft designs for the shuttle program and largely won -- the idea for a planform orbiter and a drop tank came from outside his team.

    However, to be fair, after the DC-3 battle, Faget's team did have the crucial insight that the external tank could serve a structural function as the backbone of the shuttle stack, instead of just hanging off it, and their MSC-040 orbiter design was the baseline for the production orbiters.
  • by smartalix (84502) <smartalix AT yahoo DOT com> on Friday April 18, 2003 @05:41PM (#5762188) Homepage
    The site plainly states that the rocket engine has not yet been selected. That means that there is no nozzle yet on the craft. Obviously, to prevent morons from pointing and saying "it has no engine!" even though it has already been explained that there isn't one yet, a nozzle was added in the photos for cosmetic purposes.
  • Re:Fuel (Score:5, Informative)

    by carambola5 (456983) on Friday April 18, 2003 @06:11PM (#5762378) Homepage
    Actually, I just gave a demonstration on a hybrid rocket last week at my university... make that multiple demonstrations.

    It's very interesting that they actually used tire rubber for the following reason:
    While explaining the rocket to everyone, I mentioned that our particular rocket uses acrylic as the fuel because it looks cool (ie: transparent) and that in industry, they would use something similar to tire rubber. Not really surprised it was used here... it's just cool that we were dead on.

    Nitrous Oxide... that's interesting. We used pure oxygen. Wonder what kind of extra boost the Nitrous gives you.

    On to some more pertinent information:
    Hybrid rockets are hybrid because they use a fluid oxydizer and a solid fuel.

    With a solid rocket engine (both components solid), you can't stop the thing. Once you light it, it'll burn til it runs out of its fuel/oxydizer mix. Whereas with a fluid (aka: liquid) rocket, you can shut it off. Unfortunately, you also have a lot of moving parts.... which are bad.

    A hybrid rocket is the best of both worlds. You can shut it off, but it has half as many moving parts as a fluid rocket.

    Cool stuff. Though I think their version can outpower our whimpy 8 lbs. thrust engine.
  • We may be forced to do that anyway, if our peroxide situation doesn't resolve itself.

    Have you looked into this guy [tecaeromex.com]? It looks like he has Peroxide concentrators ready to go. I think you bought one of his engines, didn't you?

    It might not be a high volume, long-term solution, but it might at least get you flying again.

  • Re:In Secret? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Just Another Perl Ha (7483) on Friday April 18, 2003 @08:13PM (#5762892) Journal
    ...Rosarian would be proud.

    If you're talking about the character from Heller's Catch-22, then I believe his name was "Yossarian".

  • Re:In Secret? (Score:2, Informative)

    by netringer (319831) <maaddr-slashdot@ya[ ].com ['hoo' in gap]> on Friday April 18, 2003 @10:40PM (#5763414) Journal
    What surprises me is that they went for 2 years developing this project "in secret"... why would they want to do that? It's neat to see that they've already done some rocket testing and all, but why announce now after two years when they don't even have a full scale version done? What did they get by waiting to announce?
    1 - Because the X-pize is a competition2 - The X-prize didn't have the $10 million for the prize until recently.

    It wasn't that much of a secret. Rutan let it be known that the long-flying Proteus was (the prototype of) the launch vehicle. They are also two full scale aircraft. One has been flying already.

    I could understand the secrecy if they wanted to develop the whole thing first to avoid the vaporware critiques, and then bam they come out with a ready-to-use orbiter, man that'd be sweet huh? But why announce in the middle of it? Need funding? Sick of keeping it quiet? Poor planning? Any ideas?
    Yeah, that's it. The article also says they don't need or want outside funding, but to know that and the above you would have had to have read the article.
  • Re:Fuel (Score:4, Informative)

    by Muhammar (659468) on Saturday April 19, 2003 @12:54AM (#5763803)
    N2O is great deal less effective than LOX: by factor 2-3. But if you subtract the complication with cold-resistant turbopumps handling LOX or high pressure cylinder storing non-cryogenic oxygen, N2O may come out just fine. Higher oxides, namely NO2
    would be more effective (they have been used in Titan rockets), but the high toxicity/corrosivity of these is serious trouble.

    The most thrust/weight ratio could be obtained with ozone/oxygen mix (which is spectacularily nasty and explosive), then the next best oxidant is oxygen difluoride. (Another nasty boy, potentialy useful as chemical warfare agent)

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