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Space The Almighty Buck Science

SpaceShipOne 100 km Attempt Slated for June 21 345

Posted by timothy
from the good-luck-to-the-crew dept.
apsmith writes "Scaled Composites has just announced their first attempt at breaking 100 km, scheduled for June 21. This would make it the first commercial manned vehicle to officially enter space. This is not quite an Ansari X prize attempt since it will carry only one person without the extra mass corresponding to the 3-person prize requirement; they have to give at least 30 days' notice for that. Past flight history is available from their site; the Discovery Channel is producing a documentary on the whole project, 'Rutan's Race For Space.'" Roger_Explosion adds "If successful, the craft - named Space Ship One - will become the world's first commercial manned space vehicle. Space Ship One will temporarily leave the earth's atmosphere, and the pilot (yet to be announced) will experience about three minutes of weightlessness."
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SpaceShipOne 100 km Attempt Slated for June 21

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  • I say... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by MachineShedFred (621896) on Wednesday June 02, 2004 @12:04PM (#9316339) Journal
    Good luck, SpaceShip One; and Godspeed.

    This could be the beginning of the next Space Age.
  • BOOOOOOOOM! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by stratjakt (596332) on Wednesday June 02, 2004 @12:09PM (#9316420) Journal
    Enough said.

    Does the Russian's new policy of sending up folks for big amounts of cash (the Japanese reporter, etc) not count as commercial flight?

  • by kzinti (9651) on Wednesday June 02, 2004 @12:19PM (#9316547) Homepage Journal
    If successful, the craft - named Space Ship One - will become the world's first commercial manned space vehicle.

    I believe that distinction goes to the Russians, who are the first to fly a paying customer in the flesh. It would be more correct to say that Space Ship One is the first privately developed manned craft to reach space. Until they fly a paying customer, I don't count Space Ship One as a vehicle of commerce. Just splitting hairs...
  • Re:BOOOOOOOOM! (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 02, 2004 @12:19PM (#9316553)
    why is this insightful? it's obvious the troll didn't even pause to read the article.

    i dislike nonsense moderation.
  • by twostar (675002) on Wednesday June 02, 2004 @12:22PM (#9316600) Journal
    Except that they are not carrying the required three passengers on this flight. Depending on the outcome of this flight they will then plan for the Xprize.

    This is still experimental flight and they're minimizing personel risks.
  • Re:I say... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by October_30th (531777) on Wednesday June 02, 2004 @12:22PM (#9316602) Homepage Journal
    This could be the beginning of the next Space Age.

    Perhaps, although I'm not so sure we should be so happy about corporations owning the space.

  • by dgrgich (179442) * <drew&grgich,org> on Wednesday June 02, 2004 @12:23PM (#9316619) Homepage
    Remember though - this story announces that the June 21st flight doesn't qualify them for the X Prize. They'll need to have two trips within two weeks that meet the mass requirements. This trip will not count. I highly doubt that they'll be able to get two more flights that do meet mass requirements within the two weeks prior to 7/4/2004.
  • Re:BOOOOOOOOM! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Long-EZ (755920) on Wednesday June 02, 2004 @12:25PM (#9316644)
    I hope you were referring to the two small sonic books that SpaceShipOne makes on reentry. The SS1 rocket design is a very safe solid rocket system using rubber as the fuel and nitrous oxide as the oxidizer. It's been tested as well as it can be, both on the ground and in flight. So far, zero problems.

    Yes, the Russian tourist flights were commercial flights, but they were done by a government. This is the first private venture into space. In a year or so, when the technology is more established, it will be possible to go into space for A LOT less than the $20 million that the Russians have been charging. The goal is to provide space tourism for about the cost of a luxury ocean cruise.

  • Re:I say... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hpulley (587866) <hpulley4@Nospam.yahoo.com> on Wednesday June 02, 2004 @12:25PM (#9316650) Homepage
    Perhaps, although I'm not so sure we should be so happy about corporations owning the space.

    We've already seen how the gov't owned it. Just how would "the people" own it instead of the gov't or a corporation?

  • by mbessey (304651) on Wednesday June 02, 2004 @12:25PM (#9316652) Homepage Journal
    You've got to hand it to Paul Allen - here's a guy who knows what to do with more money than he could ever spend in his lifetime. Making it possible for other people to pursue their dreams and possibly improve the world for everyone is just about the best possible use for all that wealth.

    -Mark

  • Re:more adds (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Chairboy (88841) on Wednesday June 02, 2004 @12:35PM (#9316765) Homepage
    Corporations have been going into space since the 1960s. Did you think that your DirecTV dish is picking up signals from NASA?

    The reason this is big is that this is private manned spaceflight. As long as the government has a stranglehold on who does and doesn't qualify for space, then there can be no real human expansion. The sooner private interests are getting into space (eventually it'll be orbit, then beyond) the sooner we'll have meaningful colonization of places like the moon and Mars. This is vital to the survival of the species, as long as we're all stuck on this rock, the next comet or solar flare can wipe us all out.
  • by WegianWarrior (649800) on Wednesday June 02, 2004 @12:44PM (#9316882) Journal

    It is a start. Once you have something like this, hopefully flying paying passangers on suborbital flights, you have proven that there is a marked for commercal, manned access to space (there allready exists commercal launcers for unmanned sattelites and probes - Sea Launch is one). Once you proven that, companies will start sinking real cash into it - perhaps taking the logical next step and build a 'space hotel' and a shuttle able to ferry more than three people up and down at a time.

    One has to prove that a marked exist before the big corps are willing to put money on the table; to suggest that they should go ahead and build a launcer able to put 100 metric tons in LEO is like saying NASA shouldn't have wasted time on Mercury and Gemini, but gone straight to the moon. You must learn to walk before you can run.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 02, 2004 @12:49PM (#9316946)
    This is not correct - the ship carries no cargo nor paying passengers so it's not "commercial".

    "Private space craft" would be a more correct term.
  • by Sylink (763414) on Wednesday June 02, 2004 @12:50PM (#9316979)
    cause you know, world hunger, poverty, and the uneducated masses dont mean shit.....
  • by el-spectre (668104) on Wednesday June 02, 2004 @12:56PM (#9317059) Journal
    Well, on the train you don't feel any acceleration once you've reached crusing speed, do you? It's kind of similar, but in a perpendicular sense.

    If there was no gravity (acceleration), you'd be "weightless", relative to the acceleration of the train. This is why it's harder to walk forward on an accelerating train than one that is moving steadily... you're not fighing the acceleration.
  • by Teahouse (267087) on Wednesday June 02, 2004 @01:01PM (#9317114)
    Remember, we are talking about commercial space travel starting from the same point as NASA's Mercury program. They are taking evolutionery steps just like NASA did. Currently, the X-Prize is for a sub-orbital system. Once that has been accomplished, I have heard that they plan on offering a $20 mill prize for the first orbital flight.

    Just like the beginning fo powered flight, governments have held all the cards and technology till now. What you are seeing is the highly efficent start of commercial space ventures. They will evolve through vehicles much faster than NASA did because they already have more knowledge to build on, and they also have the ability to make changes and adjustments faster and cheaper than a bureauracy like NASA. NASA isn't projected to have a new man-rated vehicle for another decade, and at the cost of BILLIONS. It is likely that before they accomplish that, the commercial industry will catch up and have a 4-man orbital vehicle by the end of this decade.

    Finally, the dollars will be there. Right now, if you asked NASA to get you into a sub-orbital launch, it would probably cost them $100 million minimum in development to get you there. Your price tag might be as high as 10-15 million. Rutan is doing it for less than 5 million (that's including vehicle development) and your price (once operable) will be about $80-100K per launch. Once these cheap methods are solidified, I could see an orbital flight dropping down to a $10-12K price tag for 4-5 orbits. If they get it that low, then space tourism will be the economic demand this industry is hoping. Hell, I would pay $20k to go into orbit!

    What I am saying is that you need to be a little patient. These companies will get you there far cheaper than NASA, and in a much shorter amount of time. This is just the beginning, but all things will come.

    An old NASA saying is "space is difficult", it should really be "space is easy, bureauracy is difficult".

  • by LWATCDR (28044) on Wednesday June 02, 2004 @01:21PM (#9317341) Homepage Journal
    Worried about world hunger, poverty, and the uneducated masses. Sell your computer and give the money to them. Really the problems of world hunger, poverty, and the uneducated masses will not be solved by throwing money at them. Most hunger is not caused by lack of money to feed people. It is caused by politics, poverty? There will always be poor but the crushing poverty that you often see is not going to be solved by throwing money at the problem. The uneducated masses? Truth is books are pretty cheap these days and you do not have broadband and P4s to be educated. The old "we can put a man on the moon but we can't...feed the poor, cure the common cold, or take your pick" statment is old and tired. How about this on. "We can't put a man on the moon any more! Are you happy!"
  • Re:I say... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by HeghmoH (13204) on Wednesday June 02, 2004 @01:34PM (#9317466) Homepage Journal
    You're aware that "corporation" is just a legal code-word for "a bunch of people working together", aren't you? Slashdot's rabid, emotional anti-corporatism is as bad as the environmental movement's knee-jerk anti-nuclear stance.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 02, 2004 @01:56PM (#9317691)

    This is not correct - the ship carries no cargo nor paying passengers so it's not "commercial".


    Just because the cargo gives a thumbs up before the flight doesn't mean it isn't cargo.

    The company is attempting to haul 3 people (cargo) into suborbital flight twice in two weeks to collect a pile of money.

    Sounds like a commercial enterprise to me.
  • by cmowire (254489) on Wednesday June 02, 2004 @01:59PM (#9317732) Homepage
    Actually, what SS1 brings to the table over the the shuttle is that it's far far cheaper to build and fly than *anything* else. Millions instead of billions.

    The big thing is not the winner of the prize. It's what happens *after* the prize. Most of the other plans for reusable boosters (Roton, Phoenix, etc) never got to suborbit.

    The big potential here is that most of the big issues to make a pretty cheap booster for at least microsats have been solved and there's signifigant *new* engineering expertise in a bunch of people who are used to building stuff in new ways. Even if some of the leading contenders don't make the X-prize in time but does manage to get some flying in, it's much more likely that they will be able to attract investers and/or throw some more money at the problem, and start making products.
  • by jmorris42 (1458) * <jmorris.beau@org> on Wednesday June 02, 2004 @02:07PM (#9317796)
    > It's main bit of usefullness will be to get Scaled Composites investors
    > for a real, useful, spacecraft.

    Which is useful indeed. To put it in language understandable to the slashdot crowd, what it demonstrates is the potential of the effort in exactly the way that ESR postulates that a successful Open Source project generally requires one or a small group of developers to produce enough of a new project to demonstrate to potential contributers that the project has potential to succeed.

    A winning XPrize craft isn't useful for any other purpose than to demonstrate to investors that a) you are serious b) you have already put in the effort to develop the skills needed to attempt actual spaceflight.
    Because the only major thing seperating an X-prize craft from an actual spaceship is budget. The idea was to set the bar low enough that a small group could attain it but high enough that only a serious effort, one able to springboard from XPrize to real commercial spaceflight, would succeed.
  • by jmichaelg (148257) on Wednesday June 02, 2004 @02:32PM (#9318064) Journal
    You're right that they don't have to carry 3 people for the Ansari X Prize flights - ballast will do. Nonetheless, they're not even doing that on June 21. From the faq:
    Based on the success of the June space flight attempt, SpaceShipOne will later compete for the Ansari X Prize, an international competition to create a reusable aircraft that can launch three passengers into sub-orbital space, return them safely home, then repeat the launch within two weeks with the same vehicle.
    If you look at the project's test history, it's been incremental, usually testing just one change at a time. Going for 100K and 3 passengers in the same flight would be uncharacteristic given the pattern Rutan has laid down so far.

    I just booked the last 5 rooms in one of the motels in Mojave. I'm taking a lot of kids to see this one.

  • by reallocate (142797) on Wednesday June 02, 2004 @04:13PM (#9319273)
    That's because they aren't being paid to launch people into space (discounting management of Shuttle launches).

    The pertinent point of the X-Prize efforts isn't putting people into space. We know how to do that. It's putting people into space at an affordable and profitable price, not for the tens of billions NASA spends to do it.
  • by tekrat (242117) on Wednesday June 02, 2004 @04:26PM (#9319448) Homepage Journal
    People who ask this probably have a poor understanding of aviation history.

    Let me ask you:
    Was the Wright brothers' plane a special purpose vehicle or a general lift vehicle?

    Was the 'Spirit of St. Louis' scalable to larger flights with more people/cargo, or once it was proven that you could fly to France, did other people build craft that would do the job?

    Was the Bell X-1 scaled up to accomodate more than just the test pilot?

    Consider that breaking the sound barrier was first done in a rocket-plane, something that has NEVER been used for large passenger carrying craft. The Concorde flew Mach2 on jet engines, not rockets.

    The purpose, as I see it, of SS1 and the X-Prize in general, is to spurr activity in this sector of engineering, which will hopefully lead to revolutionary new craft and even perhaps some new and exciting propulsion systems, advanced materials for absorbing and disappating heat, rapid prototyping, and more rugged avionics.

    Once it's been proven that space can be reached relatively cheaply, it's only a matter of time before companies spring up to take advantage of this opportunity.

    This vehicle is a test-craft, much like the original Wright-flyer. It's a proof of concept. It's the next step in aviation.

    And if nothing else, imagine if Rutan offered a kit version, like the Long EZ, that you could purchase for ... say... 20 million.

    I'd start saving my pennies if I were you.

    Also please remember that once upon a time, flying by jet was horribly expensive compared to prop-aircraft, hence the term "jet set" to describe rich people.

    Eventually, development in this area reduced the cost of flying by jet, and now, you can hop a plane to just about anywhere in the world for a reasonable amount.

    Space travel or Suborbital travel will start out expensive, but over time, as there is more development, it will eventually get cheaper.

    I think FEDEX will invest in such a system before airlines do, but if you can get a package from NYC to Hong Kong in 3 hours, it's only a matter of time before companies start trying to get their executives from NYC to Hong Kong in 3 hours.

    SS1 is the start of all this. It's not meant to be the final design of a larger craft any more than the X-1 was the final design for some larger supersonic craft.

    Instead, SS1 is the stepping stone for design work to bring us that larger suborbital craft, that may be based on entirely different technology.

    I hope this answers your question.
  • Re:I say... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by shadow_slicer (607649) on Wednesday June 02, 2004 @05:35PM (#9320117)
    You're aware that "corporation" is just a legal code-word for "a bunch of people working together", aren't you?

    Actually that's cooperation.

    Google says: [google.com]
    A legal entity, allowed by legislation, which permits a group of people, as shareholders (for-profit companies) or members (non-profit companies), to create an organization, which can then focus on pursuing set objectives, and empowered with legal rights which are usually only reserved for individuals, such as to sue and be sued, own property, hire employees or loan and borrow money. Also known as a "company." The primary advantage of for profit corporations is that it provides its shareholders with a right to participate in the profits (by dividends)
    without any personal liability because the company absorbs the entire liability of the organization.
    (emphasis mine)

    The blessing and curse of corporations is that the owner's are not responsible for the actions of the corporation.
    So who is responsible? No one. The lowly workers are responsible to their managers, the managers to the executives, and the executives to the stockholders, but the stockholders aren't responsible to anyone but themselves.

    I can think of another class of people [google.com] that aren't responsible to anyone but themselves. (but of course that doesn't mean they can't sometimes be benevolent)

    I'm not saying corporations are evil [abac.com], but just that you can't trust them as you would an individual or cooperative group.

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