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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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  • Whahhh? (Score:3, Funny)

    by Thud457 (234763) on Friday April 18, 2003 @02:42PM (#5760936) Homepage Journal
    "Mom, what is that duck doing to that other duck?!!"
  • Hmm (Score:2, Funny)

    by bravehamster (44836)
    Maybe they can use the XPrize money to replace their webserver. Anyone got any mirrors?

  • by menasius (202515) on Friday April 18, 2003 @02:44PM (#5760959)
    This just in. The government is sueing after patenting using "One" after vehicles, thus meaning SpaceShipOne is reserved for the President.

    -bort
    • I know this is a joke, but here is a question for you /.ers. I know that whatever the President is on is usually called "whatever-one". So if he's on a plane (the airforce's territory) it's "Airforce 1". If he's on a ship, it's "Navy 1", etc. But if it's not a military craft, it's "Civilian 1" or something like that, right? So my question is this: what's it called if he were to be abord a space craft? Would it be "NASA 1"? Or since NASA isn't a military organisation, would it be "Civilian 1"? Since it's abo
  • Could the lucky few who got to see that page dig through their caches and post some mirrors?
  • In space... (Score:5, Funny)

    by American AC in Paris (230456) on Friday April 18, 2003 @02:46PM (#5760977) Homepage
    ...nobody can hear your webserver scream.
  • by DesScorp (410532) <DesScorp.Gmail@com> on Friday April 18, 2003 @02:47PM (#5760989) Homepage Journal
    ...it's a stealth plane. Forget radar invisible, we can't even SEE this puppy.

    Damn, Burt Rutan is a genius.....

  • In Secret? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ItWasThem (458689) on Friday April 18, 2003 @02:49PM (#5760997)
    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?

    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?
    • Re:In Secret? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by foolish (46697) on Friday April 18, 2003 @03:03PM (#5761112)
      Did you miss the fact these ARE full scale?

      Essentially Rutan is going 'Look at what I built, we're going to launch this for the X-Prize and none of you can HOPE to catch up'

      The only things they have left are flight tests with the rocket suite. The White Knight is working and has flown some test flights... It's the SS1 that need some flight time before the X-Prize attempt.

      It'll be interesting to see what XCor does in response to this.
      • Not only that but they hardly did it in secret. I knew of this years ago, even thought of joining 'em for my working study...but then I discovered how impossible it is to get a greencard for something like that: you need one to work, but you have to have work ready to get one...Rosarian would be proud.

      • by IPFreely (47576)
        I read a Sci-Fi story a few decades ago (don't remember the name) along those lines.

        A more advanced race was visiting a planet with a primitive culture, slightly pre-industrial age. They had rules of involvement based on the advancement of the culture they were contacting. One of the thresholds of the involvement levels was space travel capability.

        So the locals tossed a man into what was the equivelant of a diving bell, set it on a powder keg and blew it into space. They then went to the representative of

    • 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?

      They probaly wanted to make sure the concept wasn't flawed before they announced it - running a few subscale tests and so on - and then announce it before they went and build the real deal. Because if they didn't announce it before they build and launch it, because if they didn't a lot of people would ca

    • Re:In Secret? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by peacefinder (469349)
      I imagine that they have gone public now because they're ready to go public. It sounds like they've done everything they can reasonably do in private.

      Probably they have reached the stage of testing where the tests can't be hidden anymore. When they send piggyback aircraft up and start separation tests, it's going to be pretty obvious what they're working on.

      He also makes it clear in the space.com article that he is not looking for funding.
      • Re:In Secret? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by The_K4 (627653)
        Yeah, if they are ready to test the orbiter (which it sounds like they are) they need to get more FAA approvals for that. They can tests airplanes without really cataching any attention. The instant they apply to tests an orbiter it'll be all over the news.
    • Re:In Secret? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Moofie (22272) <lee@noSPaM.ringofsaturn.com> on Friday April 18, 2003 @05:19PM (#5762062) Homepage
      You didn't even make a cursory inspection of the article, did you? Neither did your bone-head mods.

      The man said that this was "flight hardware". That means it's the actual vehicle that is going to do the mission.

      He said he wasn't soliciting money.

      It's still undergoing flight tests, but they're full-up hardware in the loop tests. Rutan is not going to make an X-Prize attempt before he's actually done it successfully more than once outside the scrutiny of the public (and the judges).

      It's a PR stunt, yes...but for somebody who actually knows something about things that go up in the air (that'd be me) it's pretty fucking impressive.
  • by Jim Hall (2985) on Friday April 18, 2003 @02:49PM (#5761000) Homepage

    Aha! Finally, it is revealed that the rutan landing at Fang Rock [bbc.co.uk], from Dr Who [bbc.co.uk], was in fact real event! The truth can come out.

    • Man that episode was awful. The budget must've been like $2.00. The "alien" was a blob of cellophane with some green yuk inside it. It was supposed to be scary because it killed people and turned 'em into electric zombies which provided about 95% of the plot.

      Tom Baker definatly was a good doctor, but you've caught him at his worst. Well, perhaps not the worst, there was that time his herpes was showing.
  • by MyNameIsFred (543994) on Friday April 18, 2003 @02:51PM (#5761014)
    The thing I like about Rutan designs is that they show some imagination. They don't look like everybody elses design. And this spacecraft design is no different. It reminds me of those futuristic designs in magazines of the 40s and 50s. Very off the wall.
    • by silentbozo (542534) on Friday April 18, 2003 @03:16PM (#5761216) Journal
      True, there's a retro-future feeling that combines the organic styling of the present with the rocket designs of the late 50's and 60's. Ironic that a basic design first proposed by private enterprise for the government (a manned booster/spaceplane competitor/forerunner of the US shuttle system), needed to wait for half a century before it could be built - not by government, but by private enterprise.

      Tom Swift would no doubt be proud of the resumption of US (and other world) efforts to open up space to everyman.
    • Rutan history (Score:3, Interesting)

      by nuntius (92696)
      Burt Rutan designed an airplane for Beech Aircraft (now Raytheon) a few years back - the Starship.

      It too looked futuristic, like nothing else.
      It was a disaster. Overpriced, noisy, slow, fuel hog...
      Only like 60 were ever built, half of them never sold, and most of the rest were quickly returned. If you walk around the plant airport, you can find them hidden in clusters of 3 (so it doesn't look as bad as a boneyard of 50 ;).

      Burt made off with a small fortune before the failure became apparent.

      Rutan's bro
      • Re:Rutan history (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Moofie (22272) <lee@noSPaM.ringofsaturn.com> on Friday April 18, 2003 @05:04PM (#5761977) Homepage
        Hold on there, skippy.

        Overpriced comes from poor cost control, not poor design.

        Noisy slow fuel hog comes from poor engine design and selection.

        The Starship was a great design that turned into a mediocre aircraft. Burt Rutan has a long history of brilliant, successful aircraft designs.
        • Re:Rutan history (Score:3, Insightful)

          by nuntius (92696)
          Disclaimer: I'm an electrical engineer, not an aero engineer.

          However, living in Wichita at the time, I knew several of the aero engineers who were working on the project. Without exception, they said the plane was horribly flawed - before it was even finished.

          Sure, the engines may have been part of the problem, but they were a small part. The main problem was the whole design. Putting the engines _behind_ the plane on the wings where they did subjected the props to large amounts of turbulence. The eng
    • 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. =)
      • 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.

  • Offer an S-Prize to anyone who can figure out how to fix the slashdot effect. philej.
  • 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
  • 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!
  • If this program captures the x-prize, I think that Burt Rutan will securely surpass "Kelly" Johnson as the cleverest engineer in aviation history. :)

    Good work and good luck!
  • Fuel (Score:5, Funny)

    by effer (155937) on Friday April 18, 2003 @03:09PM (#5761161)
    "SpaceShipOne officials are reviewing use of hybrid rocket propulsion system provided by SpaceDev of Poway, California. Hybrid propulsion uses Nitrous Oxide -- also dubbed Laughing Gas -- and HTPB (tire rubber)."

    Laughing gas, tire rubber, and flames! A recipe for hilinks!!
    • 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.
      • Re:Fuel (Score:3, Interesting)

        The impression that I got was that the Nitrous Oxide was used instead of pure O2 because it's stable and easy to store, and won't oxidize with the solid fuel until sufficient heat is present to start the reaction. The Nitrogen might also impart additional energy, but it really seemed to me from the documentation on the site that stability of storage was the important reason for the choice of that particular chemical for use in the hybrid motor.
        • 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)
  • Back Into Hiding (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Tackhead (54550) on Friday April 18, 2003 @03:14PM (#5761198)
    > "We are not seeking funding and are not selling anything. We are in the middle of an important research program - to see if manned space access can be done by other than the expensive government programs," Rutan explained.
    >
    >Rutan said that after today, plans call for his group to go "back into hiding," to complete the flight tests and conduct the space flights.

    I don't blame him. If I threatened doom for six billion dollars a year of NASA Shuttle Pork, I'd want to be in hiding, too! :)

    Burt - you rock. You rock in the way that NASA used to rock. You rock in the way most NASA engineers would love to be allowed to rock.

    No matter what NASA does to try and shut you down, please don't stop.

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

      by Syncdata (596941)
      Burt - you rock. You rock in the way that NASA used to rock. You rock in the way most NASA engineers would love to be allowed to rock.
      Classic. I'm sure there's a nasa engineer out there somewhere paraphrasing the words of Homer Simpson
      "I used to rock and roll all night, and party every day, then it was every other day, and now I'm lucky if I can find one night per week with which to get funky."
      The quote that thrilled me the most in the article though was that Mssr. Rutan and co. were not looking for addit
  • Contact (Score:5, Funny)

    by telstar (236404) on Friday April 18, 2003 @03:17PM (#5761220)
    "Burt Rutan's company, Scaled Composites, announced that they have been developing a commercial manned space program in secret for the past two years."
    • I though they were supposed to wait for the religious freaks to blow up the first one before letting Jodi Foster know this one existed.

  • by AndroidCat (229562) on Friday April 18, 2003 @03:18PM (#5761228) Homepage
    "SpaceShipOne officials are reviewing use of hybrid rocket propulsion system provided by SpaceDev of Poway, California. Hybrid propulsion uses Nitrous Oxide -- also dubbed Laughing Gas -- and HTPB (tire rubber)."

    Burning rubber to orbit, laughing all the way? (Yeah yeah, it's sub-orbital -- for now.)

    • Re:That's some fuel! (Score:3, Interesting)

      by SuperBanana (662181)
      Burning rubber to orbit, laughing all the way?

      Amusing, but on a more serious note, didn't anyone find the following just the least bit suspicious?

      "Benson said the company's motor design is thought to be the largest of its type in the world. It uses clean and inexpensive propellants, namely Nitrous Oxide (Laughing Gas) and HTPB (tire rubber)."

      Burning rubber is -incredibly- toxic. Note the pictures of the rocket firing? Lots of yellow flame(meaning low-temperature, incomplete combustion- watch the s

  • Text of main page (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MsWillow (17812) on Friday April 18, 2003 @03:19PM (#5761237) Homepage Journal
    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.
  • by Brigadier (12956) on Friday April 18, 2003 @03:23PM (#5761251)


    Whenever I look at the entries for this competition I can't help but wonder why they all have this sci fi look to them. ie something out of start trek. I always have this image of some guy of a err more feminine persuasion flailing his hands and going " it justht doesnt look spathy enough.... more spathy people ...."
  • by CommieLib (468883) on Friday April 18, 2003 @03:25PM (#5761267) Homepage
    Between the article and the qualifications [xprize.org] of the X-Prize, we can cobble together what the minimum performance levels of this craft are:

    From the XPrize site:

    • able to carry three people to 100 kilometers (62.5 miles)
    • Returns safely to Earth (duh)
    • Repeats the launch with the same ship within 2 weeks
    While the article notes a higher performance level:

    a three-person single-stage fully reusable spaceship up to 112 miles (180 kilometers), giving those onboard some five minutes of microgravity. In addition, two-stage expendable boosters could be lobbed skyward from the aircraft, placing micro-satellite payloads of up to 80 pounds (36 kilograms) into low Earth orbit.

    So we're talking about a total 700 pound payload including crew, capable of traveling to low earth orbit, where many satellites travel. I wonder if you exchanged a crewman and the microsattelite payload, you might have enough fuel to de-orbit with a satellite (though you'd have to have a bay large enough to take it).

    If nothing else, I can see a satellite repair / refueling service come out of this in no time. Seems like the next step is to deploy a ferry to LEO that can truck the payload to GEO and beyond.
    • Actually, doesn't it say it can launch microsatellites into orbit? I'm guessing the micros would have their own booster rockets and would be boosted from a high non-orbital trajectory. In other words, there's nothing there saying this thing can orbit, even without a satellite payload.
      • Ah...yeah, I think you're right. It would take a parabolic trajectory whose zenith intersected LEO. Sort of kills the satellite maintenance biz idea.

        Maybe you could just strap on a mini-SRB to get it to LEO. I guess the problem at that point would be the de-orbital burn. Anyhow, this could be an interesting system depending on how flexible the system is.
    • 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).

  • 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
  • Come on, /.ers! While we're waiting for Rutan's (yes, I instantly saw the Doctor Who connection too) server to stop trembling in fear, let's spend the time coming up with some more interesting names to pitch to him.

    I mean, 'SpaceShip One'? Guy, intercaps are *so* dotcom-era...

  • by Agar (105254) on Friday April 18, 2003 @03:40PM (#5761355)
    While I realize that a paint job can cover many ills, it does appear that Rutan is significantly farther along in constructing his X-Prize vehicle than Carmack.

    Comparing pictures, you see:
    Armadillo Aerospace Launch Vehicle [armadilloaerospace.com]
    vs.
    Scaled Composites aircraft and drop ship [space.com]

    Perhaps one of the issues is that Armadillo publishes their status (and myriad problems) openly (see the latest update [armadilloaerospace.com] for example). No one knows what issues Scaled Composites has had as they worked in secret, but it's easy to feel like Rutan's running a professional company while Carmack is leading a group of (brilliant, talented) hobbyists.

    I'd be interested in hearing Armadillo/Carmack's perspective on the competitive landscape, now that this new player has made an announcement.
    • 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
      • 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.

  • by Kevin Burtch (13372) on Friday April 18, 2003 @03:44PM (#5761385)

    no... really! (read the article)
    Wierdest fuel I've ever heard of!
  • by Opiuman (172825) <redbeard AT gmail DOT com> on Friday April 18, 2003 @03:46PM (#5761396) Homepage
    The Firestar saga is about a billinaire industrialist who starts her own space program. However, her main motive is fear of killer astroids, not scientific curiosity.
  • by Analog Squirrel (547794) on Friday April 18, 2003 @03:48PM (#5761417) Homepage
    I know that their design [xcor.com] is a long way off, but they have been spending lots of time on a their motor designs. They've even been testing them on a Rutan designed Long EZ [xcor.com](modified, of course). Does anyone know if XCOR is officially an X-prize [xprize.org] team? They're not on the list [xprize.org]...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 18, 2003 @04:01PM (#5761516)
    ... this [scaled.com] image appears to have been fiddled with. Look at the red engine exhaust nozzle. Clearly been image-manip'ed.
  • by FWMiller (9925) on Friday April 18, 2003 @04:07PM (#5761553) Homepage

    Note that Max Faget is involved in this endeavor. He is widely recognized as being responsible for the basic configuration of the Space Shuttle when he was with NASA. I met him once years ago when I was working on the Space Station. He was involved in the then termed Assured Crew Return Vehicle (ACRV), the lifeboat, I don't know what they are calling it now. You could really sense the frustration in him in the system and how he really wanted to have another oppurtunity to build something. Looks like he found another chance!

    • Note that Max Faget is involved in this endeavor.

      Never in a thousand years could I imagine a worse name to grow up with. His school years must make prison look like playschool.
    • 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 BluedemonX (198949) on Friday April 18, 2003 @04:12PM (#5761589)
    the Sontaran empire is trying to catch up.....
  • by Dr. Zowie (109983) <slashdot@nospAm.deforest.org> on Friday April 18, 2003 @04:14PM (#5761620)
    The scaled.com website has several high-resolution photos of the SpaceShipOne and the launch vehicle. They all look pretty real, except that the red rocket nozzle is pretty clearly pasted on in photoshop.

    The 3/4 front view that's posted in the article appears to have a real "not-for-flight" mockup nozzle, but the shape and color are different than the rear-view photos. The rocket nozzles in the rear-view shots have clear cut-and-paste artifacts around them.

    It's arguably OK to have a mockup nozzle -- it's a longstanding convention that red "not-for-flight" mockup parts get put on during construction and design, and there's no reason to have the real rocket motor on the device for an aerodynamic flight test. But photoshopping a more realistic nozzle is not OK.

    Burt, burt, burt -- don't blow it like that!

    • I was pretty impressed with their info and site until you pointed this out and I took a look. My experience in graphics programs stops at PaintShop Pro and using it to change resolutions/image types/sizes, etc. But I could tell that the several pixles surrounding the nozle were obviously artifacts of image insertion.

      I am disappointed that any agency seeking credibility would do that. But time will tell the merits of their work.

      robi
    • by RedWizzard (192002) on Friday April 18, 2003 @07:51PM (#5762810)
      Take a look at this [scaled.com] picture and note the position of the shadow on the rocket nozzle and the shadow of the launch vehicle cockpit of the landing gear on the right. Now compare to the picture at the bottom of this page [scaled.com]. Note that the shadow of the cockpit is identical to the first picture, as are other shadows cast by the vehicle. But in that picture the nozzle is completely in shadow. One of the pictures must be altered.

      In fact the first picture seems to be an altered version of the second picture. What's different:

      • The rocket nozzle.
      • In the first pic SpaceShipOne is mated to the launcher, in the second pic SpaceShipOne is resting on it's own landing gear.
      • In the second pic the launcher does not have it's jet engines installed (in fact those jet engines are not installed in any of the ground based pictures I've seen except the first pic).
      What's the same:
      • The shadows are in exactly the same positions (so the pictures where taken at the same time of day, to within a few minutes).
      • The cracks in the ground are exactly the same so the vehicles have been places in the same position, despite major work having been performed (the jet engines, the mating superstructure).
      • The backgrounds are identical, right down to another vehicle on the tarmac obscured in exactly the same way by the landing gear on the right. All the other planes in the background are also in the same locations.
      IMO, the picture of the mated vehicles has been faked from the picture of the separate vehicles. SpaceShipOne's landing gear has been removed (suspiciously leaving no hatch for it to emerge from), the mating superstructure has been added, and the launcher's jet engines have been added. I can only imagine this has been done to make it appear that they are further advanced than they actually are.
      • Busted! (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Dr. Zowie (109983)
        The "mated" image includes the shadows of the landing gear from the non-mated image in the litho.

        Well spotted!

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