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FAA Grants Sub-Orbital License to SpaceShipOne

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  • eek (Score:4, Informative)

    by iosmart (624285) on Wednesday April 07, 2004 @08:37PM (#8799038)
    <I>While the highest criteria to issue a
    license is public safety, applicants
    must undergo an extensive pre-
    application process, demonstrate
    adequate financial responsibility to
    cover any potential losses, and meet
    strict environmental requirements.</I>

    this might put a lot of people outta the runnings
    • Re:eek (Score:2, Insightful)

      by simcop2387 (703011)
      only if they launch out of the US (which i believe most of them actually are... correct me if i'm wrong) but i'm betting that if they need to all they have to do is make it to international waters, right where they held the secratariat v. tadum fight anyway
    • Re:eek (Score:5, Funny)

      by AndroidCat (229562) on Wednesday April 07, 2004 @08:43PM (#8799083) Homepage
      demonstrate adequate financial responsibility to cover any potential losses

      Can you imagine the call to the insurance company to get a policy? I don't think "saving a bundle" is one of the options.

      • Lloyd's of London (Score:5, Informative)

        by Chmcginn (201645) on Wednesday April 07, 2004 @08:59PM (#8799203) Journal
        would probably be the underwriter of choice, not Geico. They have insured almost anything. For instance, some examples [bankrate.com].
        • Re:Lloyd's of London (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Fnkmaster (89084) on Wednesday April 07, 2004 @09:52PM (#8799528)
          So they say. However, I have a friend (also a Slashdot reader) who recently started a business in New York, and Lloyds actually refused to provide him with liability insurance for his business. Mind you, this business is somewhat risky, but it is a legitimate business, and he's making quite a bit of money now.


          The thing is that Lloyds is actually a marketplace of "syndicates", not exactly a monolithic institution (at least, this is how he explained it to me). So you have to have a broker who really knows Lloyd's to figure out who the right people to approach are. And as far as I can tell, they may like taking fairly crazy sounding but actually low risk bets on actresses thighs or singer's voices, but they don't like taking higher stake bets on businesses that are hard to assess or known to be risky.

    • Re:eek (Score:5, Insightful)

      by in7ane (678796) on Wednesday April 07, 2004 @08:45PM (#8799105)
      Potential financial liability is likely to be covered by insurance (which will be costly no doubt), which anything that can reasonably be expected to fly and has adequate funding to get it to outer space should be able to afford.

      Keep in mind that stuff like this will not be launched form populated areas (deserts, etc. probably) so any liability only comes in if it can make it far enough to hit something, which in itself is a sign that it has potential, and so is more likely to be sufficiently safe. Think of it this way: conditional on it being able to make it as far as a populated area the probability that it will crash it low.
    • Re:eek (Score:5, Insightful)

      by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday April 07, 2004 @09:20PM (#8799328) Homepage
      While the highest criteria to issue a license is public safety, applicants must undergo an extensive pre-application process, demonstrate adequate financial responsibility to cover any potential losses, and meet strict environmental requirements.
      this might put a lot of people outta the runnings
      And frankly, that's a Good Thing. While I applaud and encourage the small company and backyard inventor, they should not be allowed to endanger the public any more than the big companies should. (In theory all are equal before the law, but sadly the size of the bankroll sometimes tips the scales a bit.)

      In addition, if the thing isn't safe enough to test without endangering the public, it's nowhere safe enough to fly in actual service. The thousands of homebuilt and homebrewed aircraft flying legally every day shows that safety and experiments are not mutually exclusive requirements.

  • Awesome (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheKidWho (705796) on Wednesday April 07, 2004 @08:37PM (#8799040)
    At least the government isnt getting in the way. Im for one am glad to see the X-Prize might actually have a chance of revolutionizing the space industry!
    • Re:Awesome (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Fuzzy (87584) on Wednesday April 07, 2004 @09:05PM (#8799237) Homepage Journal
      My bet is that this is the first of MANY applications that the "government" will approve. Space belongs to those who are willing/able to go there!

      The Moon, the planets, and the great unknown beyond should not be 'owned" by a government. Like the unexplored world that existed in the 1400's, they should belong to those willing to make the sacrifices, and devote the resources to explore and colonize the unknown!

      My bet is that the "governments" of the world will get out of the way and allow the exploration and colonization of the known and unknown universe. To do otherwise implies a vision and long range planning capability that does currently exist in ANY govenment that I know of.

      Space, like the "old West" of the US [my appologies to the Native Americans], belongs to those who are willing to go there!

      John [looking for Ringworld] Miller
      • Re:Awesome (Score:4, Interesting)

        by JesseL (107722) * on Thursday April 08, 2004 @04:11AM (#8801265) Homepage Journal

        You actually believe that governments will simly 'get out of the way' of anything just because it's the right thing to do? When was the last time any government failed to attempt to grasp somthing just because it was beyond their competency to to anything with it? Governments exist to perpetuate themselves and are terrified by the idea of people being able to slip comletely beond their reach.

        I do believe that ulitimatley space will belong to those who go there, but no government will let them go without a fight.

        • Actually, yes. (Score:3, Interesting)

          by tm2b (42473)
          Historically, much of the United States' expansion was preceded by individuals homesteading land before the government had legal sovereignty of that land.

          Look at the history of the westward expansion of the US, especially the way in which the Texas became a state (the land was first "colonized" by US-friendly ranchers against Mexican sovereignty), and also the annexing of Hawaii (preceded by American sugar and pineapple interests in the kingdom).

          The fact is that governments will happily allow their ci
    • Agree.... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by vwjeff (709903)
      We are at the beginning of a new revolution. Space travel for the average person is now within reason. Sadly I will never have the opportunity to travel to a distant planet but I may get to experience space travel :)
    • Re:Awesome (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dspeyer (531333)
      Why does everyne think the X-prize will revolutionize space?

      Just because someone's doing something for money they will necessarily do it well. Microsoft does stuff for money. It's not like the X-prize will turn space into a real industry -- real industries aren't dependant on private philanthropy.

      I'm all for throwing more resources into spaceflight, but having many small teams keeping secrets from eachother doesn't sound like a big improvement on having a few large teams that work together. Having many

      • Re:Awesome (Score:3, Insightful)

        by gfody (514448)
        I'm all for throwing more resources into spaceflight, but having many small teams keeping secrets from eachother doesn't sound like a big improvement on having a few large teams that work together.

        You don't know much about engineering do you? The more people that work together, the less likely it is that anything gets accomplished. Read up on competitive learning, competition in general and its role in society. Then think about where we would be today if nobody had a competitive spirit and just shared se
        • If everyone shared secrets with eachother....

          That's how the internet was built, wasn't it? All the protocols and theory and even source code getting passed freely from person to person. I'd say the internet is one of the greatest engineering achievements of the twentieth century.

          Every field of science has journals in which researchers publish results. Do you think those should be abolished?

          It's not that there was no competition is these examples, it's just that it took a different form. It recognized

      • Why does everyne think the X-prize will revolutionize space?
        Just because someone's doing something for money they will necessarily do it well.


        The X-prize itself won't revolutionize space and none of the realistic contenders are doing it just for the X-prize money. The X-prize money is a drop in the bucket compared to the costs of actually winning the prize. The X-prize is useful because it provides a goal for companies and people already interested in doing this.

        These people and companies generally are
  • what happens? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by hellmarch (721948) on Wednesday April 07, 2004 @08:41PM (#8799066)
    what happens if i were to build a big rocket and launch myself into space without telling anyone? would i get shot down by the military when they pick me up on radar?
    • Re:what happens? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Jjeff1 (636051) on Wednesday April 07, 2004 @08:46PM (#8799107)
      After reading about the problems Carmack and Armadillo Aerospace encountered trying to get H2O2, I don't think you'd be able to get enough fuel or parts to build anything un-noticed.
    • Re:what happens? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Richthofen80 (412488) on Wednesday April 07, 2004 @08:58PM (#8799191) Homepage
      No. after you came down, you'd be fined by the FAA.

      Remember that story [snopes.com] about the guy who rode a lawn chair with weather balloons into the sky? He was fined something like $4000 for his unauthorized flight. I think they'd hardly take military action, and they could hardly intercept in the time the flight would take place. (from what I've read all these X-Prize style trips would be less than thirty minutes, I could be wrong)

      Anyways, I'm glad the FAA did this. Go SpaceShipOne!

      • Re:what happens? (Score:2, Interesting)

        by El Cubano (631386)

        No. after you came down, you'd be fined by the FAA.

        No disrespect to the FAA, but shouldn't something like this that potentially affects other countries involve the ICAO [icao.org] or another internationally recognized body?

        Please, no flames. I am American and am in no way saying that we should subordinate to others. But something that could impact others really should involve those others. Really, anything (especially not military) approaching orbital altitudes should not be done unilaterally.

        • Re:what happens? (Score:3, Interesting)

          by voidptr (609)
          We're talking about a flight soley in US airspace, which extends up to the orbital threshold, even if we don't routinely send aircraft that high right now. Why would it be in international jurisdiction?
      • Re:what happens? (Score:2, Interesting)

        by the pickle (261584)
        This happened pretty recently [9news.com] in Colorado, too. Some genius in a hot-air balloon decided it would be fun to try to set an altitude record without bothering to tell the FAA he would be drifting through Denver International Airport restricted airspace.

        Assuming you (grandparent poster) *had* a pilot's licence that would make it legal for you to operate a manned rocket, you *wouldn't* have it after you got done with that little stunt.

        p
      • "Remember that story about the guy who rode a lawn chair with weather balloons into the sky?"

        A guy with balloons tied to his lawn chair wouldn't have a ballistic flightpath and wouldn't reach altitudes that would get NORAD's attention.

        On the other hand, you should be able to land relatively alright so long as NMD hasn't been finished yet.
      • They even made a movie inspired by it

        Danny Deckchair [imdb.com]

        Cheers
        VikingBrad

      • and they could hardly intercept in the time the flight would take place

        You must have never seen military jets scramble.

        When I was a kid, we lived on base only a few hundred yards off (and well below) the end of the runways in Iceland. Every few days the Russians would send Bears towards or into Icelandic airspace to test our response time. My father worked in Air Ops so I heard about this all the time. Once the USAF post at Hofn had a positive ID, it was only about three minutes before a pair of F4's wer
  • A good thing. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 07, 2004 @08:44PM (#8799097)
    Corporate and private interest in space is always a good thing. The driving force behind alot of innovation in the last half of the 20th century has been, for better or worse, corporate greed. Innovation in space travel is A GOOD THING, and so this IS A GOOD THING.
  • by RobertB-DC (622190) * on Wednesday April 07, 2004 @08:44PM (#8799098) Homepage Journal
    Interesting difference in dates:

    Press Release
    Contact: Henry J. Price
    Date Posted: April 7, 2004


    But further down:

    The license was issued April 1 by the
    Federal Aviation Administration's
    Office of Commercial Space
    Transportation to Scaled Composites of
    Mojave, Calif., headed by aviation
    record-holder Burt Rutan, for a
    sequence of sub-orbital flights
    spanning a one-year period.


    As fun as it is to slam "the government", somebody was very much on the ball to realize that it would be a bad idea to release this news on April Fool's Day!
  • License Requirements (Score:3, Informative)

    by mauthbaux (652274) on Wednesday April 07, 2004 @08:46PM (#8799110) Homepage
    I was kinda wondering; what are the requirements for a launch licence for a series of sub-orbital flights over a one-year period? Other than the obvious: being able to get it up that high, and promising not to mess with anything on the way there and back.

  • Come on (Score:2, Insightful)

    by seanmcelroy (207852)
    I heard this story on NPR driving home just a few hours ago. They headlined it as "bringing space flight into the reach of ordinary Americans". Come on... considering raw costs alone, it'll be decades before 'ordinary Americans' can afford this kind of luxury travel.

    (Especially if they're all out of work because their jobs went overseas! ;P jk)
    • Re:Come on (Score:5, Informative)

      by Coryoth (254751) on Wednesday April 07, 2004 @09:05PM (#8799239) Homepage Journal
      I heard this story on NPR driving home just a few hours ago. They headlined it as "bringing space flight into the reach of ordinary Americans". Come on... considering raw costs alone, it'll be decades before 'ordinary Americans' can afford this kind of luxury travel.

      You might be surprised. One of the main points of the X-Prize is not that it is done by private companies instead of the government, but rather that the craft be highly reusable. You can only change 10% of the non fuel mass of the craft between the 2 launches required to claim the X-Prize, and those 2 launches have to have a quick turnaround time (matter of weeks).

      Basically that means once you've built a winning X-Prize craft, the only real relaunch costs are fuel. Compare that to the massive cost of each shuttle launch (between 3 and 5 hundred million dollars per launch), and you're talking about reduing launch costs by a factor of 100 or more.

      If they can pull that off, I suspect they can quickly get plenty of funding to push the technology further and make it more efficient. I really do believe basic space travel could be affordable by ordinary Americans (expensive, yes, but affordable) inside of a decade - 2 at the most.

      Don't underestimate what a leap an efficiency the X-Prize represents.

      Jedidiah.
      • Re:Come on (Score:5, Insightful)

        by fucksl4shd0t (630000) on Wednesday April 07, 2004 @09:21PM (#8799332) Homepage Journal

        Don't underestimate what a leap an efficiency the X-Prize represents.

        Not that I disagree with you, just keep one foot in the part of reality that remembers that X-prize isn't going to LEO, and isn't even getting close to LEO. Unless you hit LEO, your reusable spacecraft is just a great ride. :)

        Don't get me wrong, though. After they've hit the low target they've set with the reusable requirements they've got I expect the design to be pushed to LEO pretty quickly, pretty much as soon as it gets covered up with funding from both the X-prize itself and all the VCs and other investors that learn by virtue of the X-prize that you have a viable technology.

      • Re:Come on (Score:5, Insightful)

        by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday April 07, 2004 @09:30PM (#8799389) Homepage
        Basically that means once you've built a winning X-Prize craft, the only real relaunch costs are fuel. Compare that to the massive cost of each shuttle launch (between 3 and 5 hundred million dollars per launch), and you're talking about reduing launch costs by a factor of 100 or more.
        You are also reducing the capabilities you get for your money by a thousand times or more. The Shuttle is orbital (with all the problems that all orbital craft have), an X-prize vehicle is suborbital. The Shuttle has 60,000lbs of cargo capacity and up to 9 passengers/crew, an X-prize vehicle has essentially no cargo capacity and up to 4 passengers/crew.

        Not to mention the fact that the Shuttle launch costs you note covers more than fuel, it also covers all the maintenance, prepation, testing, etc. that a craft in service must have, while a vehicle that only has to fly twice can get away with far, far less infrastructure. (The key to reducing costs isn't reducing vehicle costs as many believe, but in flying the hell out of the vehicle and spreading the costs across many vehicles and flights. Ask the airlines.)

        Don't underestimate what a leap an efficiency the X-Prize represents.
        Don't overestimate it either. The X-Prize vehicles are highly specialized test and experimental vehicles, it's a long leap from there to vehicles capable of routine operations. (Not just in general concept, but in raw performance.) Consider the long step between the Wright Flyer and the Ford Tri-Motor or the DC-3. That's how far the X-prize vehicles are from useful and cheap space transports.
        • Re:Come on (Score:5, Interesting)

          by extra the woos (601736) on Wednesday April 07, 2004 @09:56PM (#8799570)
          "Consider the long step between the Wright Flyer and the Ford Tri-Motor or the DC-3. That's how far the X-prize vehicles are from useful and cheap space transports."

          That's what excites me. Look at how cheap and safe air travel is now. Wright brother's flight was in 1903, right? In less than 20 years you had airplanes EVERYWHERE. In less than 40 years there were jets. (July '42 for the first real jet fighter, yes yes I know there were actually jet engines in the 30's but come on).

          Today, 100 years later, I can buy an airplane ticket for a couple day's worth of barely-better-than minimum wage barely-part-time college work.

          If this is like the Wright brother's flight, then we're in for one hell of a century, and it's gonna be a good one.
          • Re:Come on (Score:3, Insightful)

            by DerekLyons (302214)

            That's what excites me. Look at how cheap and safe air travel is now. Wright brother's flight was in 1903, right? In less than 20 years you had airplanes EVERYWHERE.

            Certainly you had airplanes 'everywhere', but great deal of them were barnstormers or air mail. Travel by air was limited to major cities and wealthy individuals. Air travel for the masses didn't become common until the mid-late 1960's and didn't really become affordable until deregulation in the 1980's.

            Today, 100 years later, I can buy an

            • Certainly you had airplanes 'everywhere', but great deal of them were barnstormers or air mail. Travel by air was limited to major cities and wealthy individuals.

              So..what...on our space-travel timeline, the Wright brothers is 50s/60s progressing to 20-30 years later when it's limited to governments and wealthy individuals..
              It's short-sighted to rule out the possibility that space-travel can't progress in the same way as flight.

              That's because of the great demand, intense competition, and decades of the air

        • Yeah, but the Shuttle is a crappy design. The ceramic tiles are widely recognised to be a big mistake.

          That's how far the X-prize vehicles are from useful and cheap space transports.

          I think the X-prize vehicles are about 1/3 of the way to orbit. Not in terms of delta-v; but in terms of sheer mind share. It opens people's eyes to the fact that this rocketry stuff really isn't that hard; that the underlying costs are potentially pretty low, and that businesses really can sensibly tackle it, not just governm

          • Re:Come on (Score:3, Informative)

            by DerekLyons (302214)

            Yeah, but the Shuttle is a crappy design. The ceramic tiles are widely recognised to be a big mistake.

            Not by professionals in the field. For re-useables the only other option is metallic TPS, which is not without significant problems.

            I think the X-prize vehicles are about 1/3 of the way to orbit. Not in terms of delta-v; but in terms of sheer mind share. It opens people's eyes to the fact that this rocketry stuff really isn't that hard; that the underlying costs are potentially pretty low, and that busi

        • Re:Come on (Score:5, Insightful)

          by GileadGreene (539584) on Wednesday April 07, 2004 @11:26PM (#8800117) Homepage
          The Shuttle has 60,000lbs of cargo capacity and up to 9 passengers/crew

          The shuttle's 60,000 lb cargo capacity is wasteful and useless. It costs more per pound (even accounting for inflation) to launch on the shuttle than it did to launch on the Saturn V. It'd be fine if the shuttle provided an economical way to launch bulk cargo, but it doesn't. Better to stick with unmanned expendables for that kind of stuff - at least for the time being. As for the 9 passengers/crew, they cost so much per person to launch that only a small elite are permitted to fly. The 4 passengers on an X-Prize vehicle may only be going suborbital (for now), but at least they're going.

          The key to reducing costs isn't reducing vehicle costs as many believe, but in flying the hell out of the vehicle and spreading the costs across many vehicles and flights.

          True. But that's part of the point of the X-Prize. The shuttle design simply cannot support a flight rate sufficient to make its costs reasonable. Plus it requires a standing army of several thousand just to operate it. The shuttle is not capable of operating in an airline mode. The X-Prize is encouraging designs that are capable of rapid turn-around (and thus high flight rate), and require minimal infrastructure. The X-Prize designs will (hopefully) be capable of airline-like operations.

          Consider the long step between the Wright Flyer and the Ford Tri-Motor or the DC-3. That's how far the X-prize vehicles are from useful and cheap space transports.

          The first flight of the Wright Flyer involved a mere 12 seconds of flying time (the third and longest flight of the day attained a whopping 59 seconds). Only 10 years later the airplane was a major player in the Great War. Ok, the world had to wait another ~20 years for the DC-3. But commercial aviation was already well-established before the DC-3 came along. Useful and cheap are relative terms. The X-Prize vehicles may be closer to both of them than you think.

          • The shuttle's 60,000 lb cargo capacity is wasteful and useless. It costs more per pound (even accounting for inflation) to launch on the shuttle than it did to launch on the Saturn V.

            Frankly, that depends on what set of numbers you use. If you use the same numbers, the Shuttle comes out considerably cheaper. (Most S-V costings don't account for the overhead and infrastructure cost, while every Shuttle one does.) The reality is that the marginal cost for a Shuttle flight is around 150 million a flight,

            • Re:Come on (Score:4, Insightful)

              by GileadGreene (539584) on Thursday April 08, 2004 @03:05AM (#8801066) Homepage
              Most S-V costings don't account for the overhead and infrastructure cost, while every Shuttle one does.

              I'd be willing to debate both of those assertions. However, I do agree that it depends a lot on what you include in your launch cost roll-up (and what you define as "overhead" and "infrastructure cost")

              The reality is that the marginal cost for a Shuttle flight is around 150 million a flight, but the overhead kills it when spread across so few flights.

              The reality is that the shuttle cannot support a higher flight rate, so the marginal cost is somewhat meaningless (and is dominated by the fixed costs anyway).

              The passengers on an X-Prize vehicle are no more going somewhere than are the riders of a roller coaster.

              Cute analogy. But you are conveniently missing the point. The X-Prize passengers will be going into space, a realm that has, until now, been restricted to hand-picked astronauts, self-made multi-millionaires, and congressmen on junkets. So what if it's only sub-orbital for now. That at least puts them on a par with the early Mercury flights. The Wright Flyer flew only a few hundred feet to begin with. That doesn't detract from the fact that it flew.

              Like every aviation prize before it, the X-prize is encouraging vehicles designed specifically to win the prize.

              And the prize is specifically designed to encourage vehicles that support fast-turnaround with minimal infrastructure. Those two features are essentially what the launch vehicle community is referring to when they talk about "airline-like" operations (and relative to the way launch vehicles are currently operated they do represent something much more like the way an airline operates). Ok, so you won't be using an X-Prize competitor like an actual modern airliner. But as you say "It took the airlines and manufacturers decades to achieve those levels." They did it by trying lots of different stuff, discarding what failed, and keeping what worked. The beauty of the X-Prize is that we're finally getting away from NASA's stale "one true way" of doing manned launch, and experimenting with a variety of approaches. All of these approaches must, as a result of the competition rules, give at least some consideration to reusability and operability. Some will work. Some will fail. We'll learn from them all, and probably learn a lot more than we would from the endless paper studies that characterize NASA's attempts at manned launch. The current crop of X-Prize contenders may not be the equivalent of a space-going DC-3, but they sow the seeds from which such a craft can eventually emerge.

          • Re:Come on (Score:3, Insightful)

            by AGMW (594303)
            The shuttle's 60,000 lb cargo capacity is wasteful and useless.

            In my book we'd be looking at two distinct types of craft. Lets build something specifically for shifting stuff into orbit as cheaply as possible, and then lets build something else for shifting people.

            I'd wondered about a massive rail gun that could fire small-ish canisters into orbit, where they could be caught by a space station somehow. This setup could potentially fire a canister every few minutes containing unbreakable commodities - ox

      • http://groups.google.com/groups?selm=c0e0a1dd.0310 311328.99308bf%40posting.google.com&output=gpl ain

        "This is not intuitively obvious, but the cost of propellant is basically NOTHING compared to the system support issues with a launch vehicle."
  • by j_cavera (758777) on Wednesday April 07, 2004 @08:47PM (#8799123)
    > what happens if i were to build a big rocket and launch myself into space without telling anyone? would i get shot down by the military when they pick me up on radar?

    Yes. Having worked with a (unmanned) launch services firm, getting permission can be the most difficult part of the process. Building the rocket and payload is just rocket science. Getting permission is *legal-stuff* .

    Six years ago, we had estimated that launching a satellite required permits, lawyers and insurance in excess of twice the cost of the launch vehicle. The gov't is truly being kind to Mr. Rutan.

  • by falken0905 (624713) on Wednesday April 07, 2004 @08:51PM (#8799141)
    Gee, i wonder if the FAA issues 'vanity plates'? I also wonder if the license plate will be made of low-drag material. Do they have to display inspection stickers on the windshield? So many questions come to mind. Ponderous.
  • by Mad Man (166674) on Wednesday April 07, 2004 @08:57PM (#8799185)
    A fictional novel of a privately built launch vehicle, and what the government does to stop it.

    Available for free at http://netassetsbook.com/ [netassetsbook.com]. I'd suggest the PDF version (1 MB), since some of the formatting in the HTML version is screwed up, and makes reading some parts difficult (mainly forgetting /I tags).

    "Once upon a time, there was an agency of the American government called the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. NASA was tasked with the exploration and development of space. Being a government agency, it was very bad at the job. But also, being a government agency, NASA made damned sure that no one else would do a better job.

    "And then the bureacrats' world came to an end."
    • re: Fiction: "Net Assets" [slashdot.org]

      I should also have added that the "Net" in the title is not only a business term, but (I believe) a reference to the Internet. The "Assets" are space enthusiasts. Much of the design work for the spaceship in the novel is "open source" in order to keep costs down. The Launcher Company solicited help on its web site, where the merits were openly debated on the forums. The comany's engineers would read the forums, looking for good ideas. Anyone whose idea was used was paid som
    • I enjoyed it.
      Another book, with a more technical bent is "The Rocket Company" which is presently being serialized at Hobby Space [hobbyspace.com]
  • by Anonymous Coward
    This is how space will become cheap.. Check this out, boys, creative engineering at work:
    http://www.scaled.com/projects/tierone/New_ Index/p hotos/images/800/wind_tunnel_800.jpg
  • Burt Rutan (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 07, 2004 @09:27PM (#8799367)
    I first noticed Burt Rutan because of a homebuilt plane that he designed. It was composite construction (fiberglass and foam) and extremely strong. It was a canard (it had a lifting surface on the nose) and therefore very stable. Some time later he built the first plane to fly around the world without refueling.

    The guy is a genius and an innovator in a field that does its best to discourage innovation.

    If I have understood correctly, lawsuits have basically killed innovation in general aviation. Check it out the next time you are airside: most of the designs of small aircraft are fifty years old. I wonder if we will be saying the same thing about software in fifty years.

    www.centennialofflight.gov/essay/GENERAL_AVIATIO N/ rutan/GA15.htm
    • Re:Burt Rutan (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      This url gives some details of Rutan's problems:

      http://www.dailyobjectivist.com/
      Heroes/BurtRu t an.asp

      "In 1972, he founded Rutan Aircraft Factory, which sold plans and kits for Rutan-designed aircraft. His science-fiction-like aircraft designs were considered "risky" by established aircraft manufacturers, who made sure that the regulators of the Federal Aviation Administration were aware of their "concerns."

      He successfully sold a number of different unique designs. Then, frustrated by the litigious regul
    • The lawsuit problem is slowly becoming less problematic. The new problem is "security". After 9/11/2001, general aviatioon simply got more difficult to get past government authorities. But general aviation is still present: A co-worker of mine flies a homebuilt aircraft. It's a fabulous hobby, but like anyone whose life is on the line, he takes safety way seriously. (paraphrasing his commentary) Airplanes, even the "little ones" in general aviation, balance many variables. Get one or a few wrong, and
    • Re:Burt Rutan (Score:4, Interesting)

      by bwy (726112) on Wednesday April 07, 2004 @11:48PM (#8800254)
      Yeah, you're exactly right. Cessna almost went out of business because of law suits and if you see a Cessna today chances are probably 9 out of 10 that its a 152 or 172 that is decades old.

      And it is truely a god-damned shame. The fact that all these aircraft are around today and flying after 50 years ought to say something. I mean, you don't see a lot of Ford Pintos on the road anymore, do you? It amazes me how long something can last when it is designed correctly and cared for by professionals. Look at the fleet of B-52s... Anyway, now you can't pick up a new single engine Cessna for less than 158K [cessna.com]
      • Single Engine planes (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Nick Driver (238034) on Thursday April 08, 2004 @12:36AM (#8800518)
        Anyway, now you can't pick up a new single engine Cessna for less than 158K

        And you can still pick up a decent used, older single-engine plane that has decades more life left in it for under $30K. A brand new GMC pickup truck costs more than I paid for my Piper Cherokee. Why people shell out over an eighth of a million dollars for a new C172, I don't understand. If I had ~$160K to spend on an airplane, I'd much rather buy an older, bigger, plane like a T210 or perhaps even a Skymaster 337 inline twin in that price range.
      • People who drive ford pintos aren't required by LAW to do full engine/body checkups after 1000 hours, and complete engine overhauls after 5000hours of driving.

        The maintenance that goes in to airplanes is pretty crazy, and expensive. The engine overhauls for a small single engine Piper can cost upwards of $20,000 CDN.

  • Since there's no FAA up here, I wonder what licenses the Canadian entries will have to get.. if any! Considering our government hasn't launched its own rocket into space... Do they go to the CSA? Transport Canada? Do Canadian Content Laws apply in space? ;-)

    Cool, private citizens might get into space before their government does!
  • by jemenake (595948) on Wednesday April 07, 2004 @10:15PM (#8799703)
    Is X Prize finally entering the end-game?
    Well, seeing as how we're also trying to recruit people who talk like chimps [slashdot.org], the "payload" is being taken care of as we speak.

    Of course, the American chimp-speakers will undoubtedly demand too high of a salary, so they'll probably just teach someone from an Indian call center how to speak chimp as well as they speak English and save a bundle.
  • by kevlar (13509) on Wednesday April 07, 2004 @10:15PM (#8799704)
    My understanding is that anything above 60,000 ft the FAA doesn't care about (nor should they even be bothered with).

    I wonder how much money they dished out for a license that they never needed in the first place...
    • by voidptr (609)
      How do you get to 60,001 feet without climbing through the first sixty thousand? If we could just magically apear above restricted (and everything from 1200 feet to 60,000 is restricted to some degree) airspace, it'd be kind of a moot contest.
  • Ah yes... (Score:3, Funny)

    by fireman sam (662213) on Wednesday April 07, 2004 @10:35PM (#8799832) Homepage Journal
    ... but is it compatible with the GPL, if not, we cannot support it.

  • Range Safety (Score:3, Informative)

    by Detritus (11846) on Wednesday April 07, 2004 @10:41PM (#8799871) Homepage
    A critical part of any effort to launch rockets is range safety. This ensures that the rocket either follows a safe trajectory or the flight is terminated (boom). Part of getting a license is convincing the government that your launch operations are not going to be a hazard to your fellow human beings. The more powerful the rocket, the more danger it poses to other people.
  • X-Prize and space (Score:4, Insightful)

    by robert.broome (583624) on Wednesday April 07, 2004 @10:44PM (#8799891)
    Remember though that the X-Prize is for suborbital flight. The height isn't important-it is the speed. Spaceship 1 won't have to deal with reentry temperatures, making it MUCH simpler to build and fly. If X-Prize was for an orbital flight, or any Mach 25 flight, there wouldn't be any entries. Is it the first step to cheap flight or just a cheap flight? Only a real reentry system will tell.

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