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Space Science

SpaceShipOne to Try for Space on Monday 282

Posted by michael
from the life-insurance-paid-up-i-hope dept.
CommanderData writes "The first piloted private space flight will occur Monday at 9:30AM ET. SpaceShipOne is planning to ascend to the 62 mile (100 Km) mark and return to land at its takeoff point over the course of 90 minutes. With only a pilot (unnamed at this time) on board this does not qualify as a run for the Ansari X-Prize. If the flight is successful they will likely try for the prize soon afterward..." An anonymous reader adds: "Scaled Composites also has this page about the event."
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SpaceShipOne to Try for Space on Monday

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  • Sign me up! (Score:3, Funny)

    by Pheonix5000 (661842) on Friday June 18, 2004 @06:25PM (#9468006) Homepage
    Put me down for a window seat ;)
    • Re:Sign me up! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by l810c (551591) * on Friday June 18, 2004 @09:43PM (#9469545)
      Not much room on this thing, only 3 people.

      I wonder how much this design will scale considering it has to piggyback on an airplane before it takes off. Sure getting to space will be a nice feat, but how far along really does this propel the goal of commercial access to space. Will this thing be able to carry large payloads in the future? Dozens of people?

      I'm more interested in the teams that are going from the ground up utilizing new technologies and more innovative ideas.

      SpaceShipOne just seems like a bit of a hack to me.

      • Oh, come on - that's not fair! The only vehicle capable of carrying more than 3 people into space is the Space Shuttle. No vehicle so far was ever capable of carrying more than 7. What did you expect? These people are designing and building a first-of-a kind vehicle by only using their own money (as in "not tax-payer's money"). If they succeed, the funding for a larger scale vehicle will come along. It'll take quite some time before you can buy a ticket on a "USS Voyager" class ship.

        Give credit where cred
  • by phaetonic (621542) on Friday June 18, 2004 @06:25PM (#9468010)
    what sort of snacks could they serve once this stuff becomes mainstream
  • The pilot (Score:5, Funny)

    by Timesprout (579035) on Friday June 18, 2004 @06:27PM (#9468025)
    was last seen striding towards SpaceShipOne saying "Smoke Me A Kipper, I'll Be Back For Breakfast"
    • I'm wondering after it crash lands and burst into flames, does the pilot got a good walk figured out for walking away from it? You know, nice pair of shades, a "I'm the man walk", maybe a nice soundtrack, and of course the all american thumbs up and smile.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Or namely, if they had a pilot and two weights that approximated humans.
    • by cmowire (254489) on Friday June 18, 2004 @06:32PM (#9468073) Homepage
      They are not even trying for an X-prize run this time around. They haven't notified the judges that they are going to make an attempt.

      Which, given that they are in the lead, I iamgine that they are going to draw things out a little bit.

      I mean, if they are confident in the design, they may fly it crewed and allow a few honored folks to ride passenger (Burt Rutan, Paul Allen, etc) for the actual prize flights.

    • I'll venture my guesses for how this will unfold. It should be fun to see how many I guess correctly. These are just guesses. No inside info or anything like that.

      Prediction #1 I think Mike Melvill is going to be the first private citizen to pilot a ship into space on Monday morning. He has been with Rutan since the seventies when he was one of the few people to build a VariViggen, the first built-from-plans experimental aircraft design offered by the Rutan Aircraft Factory. He later built a Long-EZ

  • by Eberlin (570874) on Friday June 18, 2004 @06:28PM (#9468033) Homepage
    If this is the case, I wouldn't go until about version 6. Good luck nonetheless -- as this has to be one of the coolest frontiers (private spaceflight) in space travel lately.
  • Hrm? (Score:3, Funny)

    by Bob McCown (8411) on Friday June 18, 2004 @06:28PM (#9468036)
    How is this not a candidate for the X-Prize? From XPrize.org [xprize.org]:

    Launches a piloted, privately-funded spaceship, capable of carrying 3 people to 100 kilometers

    Spaceship one can do that, no? Or can it only carry one person? Thought it had room for 3.

    • Re:Hrm? (Score:3, Informative)

      by gradedcheese (173758)
      they have room but this flight will be just the pilot. later thay will carry the 3 people needed for a prize attempt.
    • I didn't read the article, but I was under the impression they actually had to launch it with those 3 people on board, not just the one pilot. And then they have to do it again 2 weeks later, or at least have it ready too. Check the xprize rules
      • They do not have to launch with three people on board. They only need to put three people in to show that they can fit comfortably. The actual flights can be done with one person and enough extra weight to simulate the other two people.
        • I have no doubt that the final qualifying flight will include passengers. But for now, they are just trying to test the equipment and make sure that the equipment works. Why endanger three people when the craft is still experimental. They are not even really trying to qualify for the X-Prize at the moment because they are going to take more than the two-week requirement before they fly Space Ship One again.

          They already had a problem when it landed where the landing gear failed, but they were able to rep
    • by bennomatic (691188) on Friday June 18, 2004 @06:31PM (#9468063) Homepage
      > How is this not a candidate for the X-Prize?

      Because it's a candidate for the Darwin Awards [darwinawards.com] instead.

      Really. I mean, I think I've got a good set of cojones, but this is over the top...

    • The rules require it to have three people on board, or enough weight to simulate three people. It also requires two launches within a time frame of two weeks.
    • Re:Hrm? (Score:5, Funny)

      by Mr. Bad Example (31092) on Friday June 18, 2004 @06:32PM (#9468076) Homepage
      > Launches a piloted, privately-funded spaceship, capable of carrying 3 people to 100 kilometers

      Hell, I've got a vehicle that can do that now.

      It just does it horizontally over paved surfaces. Details.
    • Re:Hrm? (Score:2, Informative)

      by SaDan (81097)
      It has the capability to carry three people, but only one (the pilot) is going on this flight.

      You have to have three people IN the thing to qualify for the X-Prize.
      • Re:Hrm? (Score:3, Informative)

        by Phurd Phlegm (241627)

        You have to have three people IN the thing to qualify for the X-Prize.

        I'm amazed at how many people seem to believe this. You do NOT need to carry three people. You need to be able to carry three people. You must carry enough weight to simulate three people. Here's an excerpt from the rules, copied from this page [xprize.org]. The italics are mine:

        3. The flight vehicle must be flown twice within a 14-day period. Each flight must carry at least one person, to minimum altitude of 100 km (62 miles). The flight v

    • Re:Hrm? (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      For the prize, you need to carry one person, and ballast and volume for 2 more, and repeat without replacing more than 10% of the dry mass within 2 weeks. The Xprize committee needs to be notified 30 days before the first attempt.

      There was not a 30 day notifiction, and the flight will not carry the extra ballast.

      This is not a prize attempt. But the next flight probably will be.

      See rules:

      http://xprize.org/teams/guidelines.html
    • It can carry three people (one pilot, two passengers), but will only carry one pilot for this flight. This is almost certianly for safety reasons. Better one dead pilot instead of three dead astronauts.

      They'll repeat with three astronaughts, and then repeat again for the prize. Assuming none of the other teams manage to beat them first.. :)
    • Check rule 6 in the Rules section of the website you posted:

      6. Entrants must specify and provide the ANSARI X PRIZE Rules Committee with their take-off and landing location, and the date of their launch, not less than 30 days prior to any flight attempt.


      Scaled Composites did not register this flight as a prize attempt with the committee 30 days prior. They could have, but didn't, so, this is not a prize flight.

  • by eadint (156250) on Friday June 18, 2004 @06:30PM (#9468050) Homepage Journal
    As long as nasa is in charge of americas space program we will never get anywhere.
    now at least there is another way for americans to get into space.
    think back to the gouy that paied russia a couple mil to go into space, most of the experiments performed in space could be done by the lab rats themselves, why not charge people to go into space and make them work while there up to .
    the private industry would be quick to adopt this method, wheras the bubling morons at nasa would say noooo you cant do that.
    • now at least there is another way for americans to get into space.

      Actually there isnt. Whilst this is a fantastic achievement for a private endeavour, it falls well short of getting in to space proper in terms of thrust, shielding and other such party goodies.
      • Well we all want to be able to buy tickets to Earth orbit. Just because the X-Prize is for sub-orbital flights doesn't mean we aren't much closer to orbital.

        Reasoning: think of how much money is tied up in aviation. Aviation, both commercial and military, is big business. None of that money is funding non-governmental space access because there is no track record for that kind of thing. When Rutan succeeds, the image of the space entrepreneur will be considerably less flaky and investment in private projec
    • NASA is a product of our government, which is a product of voters.

      NASA's risk aversion is no worse or different than our military's risk aversion.

      Blame lack of civic duty, if anything. That means you, too.
    • by Rei (128717) on Friday June 18, 2004 @06:54PM (#9468307) Homepage
      The "bubbling morons at NASA" who sent people to the moon on the back of one of these? [neatherd.org]

      With all of the money that private space launch groups have wasted with so little to show for it despite standing on the shoulders of giants, it amazes me that people can continually insult the space agencies that have overcome such incredible problems to achieve amazing feats.

      And now some people go for a joy ride on a rocket that hardly has to suffer reentry stresses (one of the biggest challenges for cheap space flight) after spending who knows how much money, and people act like it's manna from heaven.

      I'm excited to see what happens, too. I hope they make it - it will be an amazing triumph. But, honestly, all I can say is (with no disregard to Rutan himself): It's about time. What more do all of the private space companies that were granted all of that dotcom money need to get a non-orbital spaceflight in the footsteps of NASA - explicit blueprints?
      • by nasor (690345) on Friday June 18, 2004 @07:04PM (#9468398)
        "The "bubbling morons at NASA" who sent people to the moon on the back of one of these? [neatherd.org]

        With all of the money that private space launch groups have wasted with so little to show for it despite standing on the shoulders of giants, it amazes me that people can continually insult the space agencies that have overcome such incredible problems to achieve amazing feats."


        Yes, NASA accomplished great things back in the 1960s, but that doesn't excuse them from the horrific behavior that they've demonstrated since then. Most Americans would be horrified if they knew how much money NASA really wastes, and how much harm it does to the commercial space industry. Don't get me wrong, I'm not anti-NASA because I'm against space exploration; quite the opposite. I dislike NASA precisely because I care about space exploration, and they've done a criminally poor job of it since the 1970s.

        Consider the space shuttle, which is an especially low point even for NASA: The shuttle was built to replace the Saturn family of launch vehicles. The Shuttle can launch about 60,000 lbs into orbit for a price of around $8,000/lb. The Saturn, on the other hand, could launch about 212,000 lbs into orbit or 100,000 lbs to the moon for a cost of only about $5,000/lb after adjusting for inflation to 2004 dollar. Yes, NASA spent a colossal amount of time and money to build a launch vehicle that was ¼ as powerful and much more expensive.

        Even today, there are commercial disposable rockets (like the newest Titan and Delta classes) that can launch virtually any commercial satellite payloads for 'only' $170 million, vs. the average $500 million cost of a shuttle launch. But why, you probably wonder, would anyone use the shuttle if such inexpensive alternatives exist? The answer is the NASA has spent years subsidizing the shuttle costs, only charging around $80 million to launch satellites for people. This has been absolutely devastating to the companies that manufacture commercial spacecraft (Boeing, Lockheed, and Orbital Sciences) since even though they have far superior products, they can't compete with a NASA that is willing to launch payloads at enormous loss. NASA has basically been using taxpayer money to kill a vital U.S. industry.

        By far the most horrific part of the whole thing is that NASA has spent years using 'science' to justify their $500 million shuttle launches. Sorry, but with a very few exceptions there aren't any science experiments conducted on the shuttle that justify that kind of expense. While things are undoubtedly learned, it's small potatoes compared to the sort of scientific research that you could conduct here on earth with a comparable amount of money. If you submitted a grant request to the National Science Foundation for $500 million to perform the sorts of experiments that they do on the shuttle, they would laugh their heads off at you.
        • by Rei (128717) on Friday June 18, 2004 @07:36PM (#9468679) Homepage
          Most people think NASA spends a lot more than it actually does. So, no, they would be pleasantly surprised. Back in the 60s, they had about twice the funding, too, when you adjust for inflation.

          NASA has accomplished amazing things in the present, too. I am amazed by the stuff coming back from Cassini and the rovers. They're doing a lot more pure science nowadays than they used to be when running their (in modern dollar equivalent, multibillion) dollar moon excursions. Science is not as glitzy, but it's a good thing.

          Criminally poor? Ok, YOU design a cheaper space vehicle. How dare you call it "criminally poor"? Are you aware of how difficult of a task developing a reusable man-capable orbital launch vehicle is? Name someone else who has done it better and cheaper. How would YOU have predicted the specific problems that would occur in a spacecraft with millions of parts reentering the atmosphere? How would YOU decide which ones would be troublemakers? And lets not forget that Nixon cut the shuttle project's budget in the middle of development....

          Saturn benefitted greatly from scale; as Truax loved to point out when promoting Sea Dragon, most rockets get cheaper per kg the larger you make them, because the number of parts doesn't tend to increase, only their size.

          NASA has subsidized the shuttle because they'll lose funding if they don't. Your complaint isn't with NASA - it's with the stupid American public who wants to see a fully crewed shuttle with every mission.

          Want to look at other nation's space agencies? What do you think of the lovely Ariane? Not only has the Ariane 5 blown up on 3 out of 18 launches, the whole project had to have a big bailout and they cancelled their Hermes vehicle to carry people up. India and China are doing better thanks to cheap labor, but they're still newcomers to the field.

          So, please keep your criticisms to yourself. Unless you can point to how NASA should have known what technical problems, of the millions of possibilities, would actually occur on the shuttle beforehand, you have no ground to stand on. Likewise, if you can point to how NASA can afford the political capital to stop sending people into space with every mission and stop using the shuttle...
          • by nasor (690345) on Friday June 18, 2004 @07:59PM (#9468852)
            "NASA has accomplished amazing things in the present, too. I am amazed by the stuff coming back from Cassini and the rovers."

            Contrary to popular belief, the Cassini missions are run by JPL, which is a federally funded research facility that has close ties to NASA, but isn't actually a part of NASA.

            "Criminally poor? Ok, YOU design a cheaper space vehicle. How dare you call it "criminally poor"? Are you aware of how difficult of a task developing a reusable man-capable orbital launch vehicle is? Name someone else who has done it better and cheaper. How would YOU have predicted the specific problems that would occur in a spacecraft with millions of parts reentering the atmosphere?"

            I don't need to develop better launch vehicles - many aerospace corporations have already done that. There were better launch vehicles around when they built the shuttle. The availability of better launch vehicles isn't the problem; the problem is getting NASA to swallow their pride and actually use the better launch vehicles. And in answer to your other questions, there were many engineers who pointed out the egregious flaws in the shuttle all through its development process. NASA just didn't listen to them. You seem to be under the impression that no one could have anticipated the problems, that NASA has run into with the shuttle, but virtually all of them were foreseeable. Check out http://www.spacedaily.com/news/oped-03l.html for an extensive list of the shuttle flaws that NASA knew about when they approved the construction.

            "NASA has subsidized the shuttle because they'll lose funding if they don't. Your complaint isn't with NASA - it's with the stupid American public who wants to see a fully crewed shuttle with every mission."

            Actually NASA has to subsidize the shuttle because they can't afford to let the vehicle that they spend billions developing and years hyping sit around on the launch pad without being used. While it hurts NASA to spend such a huge amount on shuttle subsidies, it would hurt them even more to admit that the shuttle is such a dismal failure.
            • by Rei (128717) on Friday June 18, 2004 @08:30PM (#9469089) Homepage
              > There were better launch vehicles around when they build the shuttle.

              And the shuttle was supposed to be even better cheaper. That is the goal of technological advancement, right? Unfortunately, they failed. Failure is incredibly common in the space industry; the Soviets had an even worse failure rate than us. It's even more common, by the way, in the private space industry ;) Many of them don't even get off the ground.

              Your article shows that they *should* have chosen a different engine in afterthought, but that they *could* have chosen that engine and decided not to, due to lack of experience with it. That is a perfectly logical decision. In *retrospect*, they should have gone with a different engine; not so at the time.

              One thing the author doesn't mention is that SRBs were chosen because of budget cuts in the development phase. NASA originally planned to use LOX/LH2 boosters as well, (and planned for the boosters to be reusable).

              The author does *not* state that virtually all of the problems were forseable. The author's point is about as different as you can get: that NASA should have, in retrospect, chosen LOX/Kerosene, which I'd agree with. I'll also ask you again: of the millions of potential problems in the millions of parts, how would you decide which were to cause problems and which weren't?

              > Actually NASA has to subsidize the shuttle because they can't afford to let the vehicle that they spend billions developing and years hyping sit around on the launch pad without being used

              And... how exactly would they get people into space? They would have to either take another nation's manned spacecraft, or stop the PR-gaining manned space missions. Both are political suicide. I'm sure NASA would gladly wipe their hands of it if they could. NASA has been working on replacements for quite a while ;) Unfortunately, in the goal of trying to make reusable spaceflight cheaper, the new designs have hit their *own* technological challenges. Why? Because space flight is *very difficult*.
          • by GileadGreene (539584) on Friday June 18, 2004 @08:01PM (#9468881) Homepage
            NASA has accomplished amazing things in the present, too. I am amazed by the stuff coming back from Cassini and the rovers.

            Which is all well and good, but has very little to do with the manned spaceflight or launch issues that the parent post was concerned with. I'll note here that MER launched on a Delta II rocket, while Cassini launched on a Titan IV - neither of which, you will notice, is the much vaunted "reusable" shuttle.

            Ok, YOU design a cheaper space vehicle. How dare you call it "criminally poor"? Are you aware of how difficult of a task developing a reusable man-capable orbital launch vehicle is? Name someone else who has done it better and cheaper.

            Why make it reusable? The Russian Space Agency still uses expendable Soyuz capsules, and has a per-launch cost significantly below anything in the West. Reusability only makes sense if you have a high enough flight rate to make it cost-effective, and the sad fact is that right now we simply don't have anywhere near those kind of flight rates for manned launches.

            How would YOU have predicted the specific problems that would occur in a spacecraft with millions of parts reentering the atmosphere? How would YOU decide which ones would be troublemakers?

            Part of the problem is that NASA did predict the specific problems, but adopted a "well it's worked so far" policy, and did not bother to address what might happen if it didn't work. Given the cost of a shuttle (not to mention the lives of the crew) it seems silly to not have at least considered the possible failure scenarios, and what might be done about them (in contrast to the Apollo 13 mishap, in which the crew was saved due to recovery procedures that had been developed in the years preceding the actual lunar landings).

            Want to look at other nation's space agencies?

            Not really. The point is not to be "better than the other guy", the point is to do things right.

            So, please keep your criticisms to yourself.

            Criticism is part of good engineering. There's a reason that things like design reviews are held. If you can't objectively evaluate a system (be it a launch vehicle, or an organization), or take the time to consider alternative approaches, you will never improve. You will also be that much more likely to kill people.

            • by Rei (128717)
              > manned spaceflight or launch issues that the parent post was concerned with

              The parent targetted NASA in general. I responded about NASA in general.

              > Why make it reusable? The Russian Space Agency still uses expendable Soyuz capsules, and has a per-launch cost significantly below anything in the West.

              They also have labor costs a tiny fraction of what our labor costs are.

              > Reusability only makes sense if you have a high enough flight rate to make it cost effective

              Two issues are here. For on
              • The parent targetted NASA in general. I responded about NASA in general.

                The parent targetted launch issues - specifically the debacle known as the shuttle, and the effects of shuttle subsidies on the commercial launch market - not NASA in general.

                They also have labor costs a tiny fraction of what our labor costs are.

                I won't argue that the labor cost issue helps significantly. However, they also benefit from using a robust, flight-proven design with an extremely good record of reliability, and a variety o

  • I'll be there (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Thagg (9904) <thadbeier@gmail.com> on Friday June 18, 2004 @06:34PM (#9468097) Journal
    I loved the fact that the Scaled Composite site says that "especially kids" are welcome, they want to introduce the next generation to private space flight. I'm taking my 14 year old daughter and two of her friends.

    We're currently planning on camping at the Tehachapi glider park Sunday night, then driving to Mojave at 4:00 Monday morning. We'll see if that works -- there is so much publicity here and at other sites that it may be insanely crowded.

    I've been a fan of Rutan since the '79 Popular Science cover of the VariEze, and I've got a copy of the plans for his LongEZ (too big a job for me to complete, though...) I have been looking forward to this event for a long time, I can't wait!

    Thad
    • I, too, will be there.

      We're driving there after dinner from Ventura because we figure that the line is going to be starting before 3:00 AM. ;)
  • by techno-vampire (666512) on Friday June 18, 2004 @06:35PM (#9468123) Homepage
    As I understand it, this ship can't make orbit, couldn't come back from one if it did, and has no clear path to an orbital vehicle. It's designed to win the prize and nothing else. Not that it's not an important milestone, mind you, but it's just a dead-end.

    The real import of this is that people are trying to get to space without the government getting in their way, and willing to risk failure. They're doing things themselves instead of sitting on their hands waiting for somebody else to do something. It's this pioneering attitude that will take us into space to stay, not the NASA mindset of "risk nothing, even if it means nothing gets done."

    • As I understand it, this ship can't make orbit, couldn't come back from one if it did, and has no clear path to an orbital vehicle.


      So was the German V2. Yet, it was a V2 (renamed to "Redstone"), plus a lot of small solid-fuel rockets, that put the first American satellite in orbit.

      • The main problem, I gather, is that the fuel used just doesn't have the delta-V needed. Another poster mentions using the technology to put up satilites, but unless my very well informed source Jerry Pournelle [jerrypournelle.com] is wrong, that's not going to happen.
        • It's merely a scaling problem. More propellant = more delta-V.

          The fuel is of the same level of efficency as most other common rocket fuels (solid / LOX+Kerosine).

          So really all you need is more propellant, and a better heat shield, both of which are "solved" technology.

          The thing is, Pournelle tends to be of the opinion that TSTO was the better idea and I tend to agree with him. The neat thing about SS1/WK is that improvements in either craft mean better performance. One of Rutan's rumored projects is a
          • I gather that the problem here is the ammount of dead weight needed to contain and support the additional fuel rises faster than the advantage from that fuel. Always a problem, of course, but more so when the ship is designed to be launched from an airplane. You can't get the ship so heavy that the launching plane can't lift it. I don't know if that's the issue or what, but I can certainly imagine it becoming one eventually.
    • just because it doesn't reach orbit doesn't mean there's no value to it.

      There's a whole lot of space science that happens in the altitude range that spaceship one will reach.

      http://www.wff.nasa.gov/pages/soundingrockets.ht ml
      • I never said it has no value, only that its value is limited. Expecting more from it than is possible is just setting yourself up to be dissapointed. Celebrate the achievement for what it is, as I will, but be realistic. Not only is it usefull for high altitude research, it may well inspire somebody to build a ship that can reach orbit. If so, it will have justified itself 100 times.
    • It's important as Proof It Can Be Done. Even though this vehicle has no clear path to an orbital version, it'll be much easier for any proposal for a bigger, more powerful, more practical vehicle to get sponsorship or funding from commercial interests. Before X-prize ships started doing test flights, most companies would think you'd be crazy offering them service to space for payloads, but I bet a successful 100km flight will change alot of minds and open them to the possibility.
    • by noahbagels (177540) on Friday June 18, 2004 @06:43PM (#9468208)
      Dude - this is a pretty darn lame comment.

      Do you ever watch the discovery channel? Ever heard of the X-Planes? There were what, 15+ of them, and none of them could carry 3 people nor carry out a useful 'mission'. It's called research.

      The X-Prize is not about building a hypersonic airliner, nor about going to the moon. It's a prize that at this appropriate time in man-machine innovation encouraged some awesome engineers and pioneers to break the old mold of waiting for the government to 'do the big things'.

      Don't know about you, but I think 3 minutes of weightlessness in a super-efficient aircraft making sub-orbital flight, done by private individuals is not dead-end. The first (few) that accomplish this feat will likely prove to NASA and the ESA that single gigantic booster rockets are neither efficient nor as re-usable as we were all lead to believe.

      Rock on Scaled Composits!
      • by techno-vampire (666512) on Friday June 18, 2004 @06:58PM (#9468344) Homepage
        You make an important point, but misunderstand mine. I'm not knocking the achievement, just pointing out its limits. This ship was designed to win the prize and nothing else. It wasn't designed to reach orbit because the terms on the prize didn't specify that. All I'm asking is that you be realistic about this, and not expect it to do things it was never intended for.

        As far as the X projects, I probably know more about them than most people, because I know people who worked on them. This prize is very much in their tradition, and I hope the tradition continues.

        Once this prize is won, we need another, specifying that the same vehicle reaches orbit, returns to Earth and then does it again within a limited time frame. I hope somebody will have the vision to offer one.

        • by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Friday June 18, 2004 @07:18PM (#9468529) Journal
          You make an important point, but misunderstand mine. I'm not knocking the achievement, just pointing out its limits.

          You gotta learn to walk before you learn run. You gotta learn to take the first step when learning to walk.

          This is "One small step for a civilian, a giant leap for mankind."

          This ship was designed to win the prize and nothing else. It wasn't designed to reach orbit because the terms on the prize didn't specify that. All I'm asking is that you be realistic about this, and not expect it to do things it was never intended for.

          The sub-orbital, super-atmospheric shot is the logical first step for any family of spacecraft designs - including those for inexpensive reusable craft. There are three steps:

          1) Getting out of the atmosphere.
          2) Getting to low orbit.
          3) Getting anywhere else.

          2) gets you halfway to anywhere (in terms of delta-v), and gets you over the really hard part. The second half of the trip can be taken at your leisure, while the first half involves getting through an atmosphere before the one-G field sucks you back.

          1) is most of the work of 2) It gets you out of the atmosphere - now all you have to do is get going FAST while you're out there.

          Yes, you have to combine 2) with a modification of 1) to get to LEO (unless you went FAR out of the atmosphere with LOTS of fuel and reaction mass to spend). But once you've got a device capable of 1) it's a LOT less than doubling the engineering to upgrade it for 2).

          Meanwhile: If the private space race stalls after the X prize is won, look for a Y prize. B-)
          • You gotta learn to walk before you learn run. You gotta learn to take the first step when learning to walk.

            Yes, and this is a grand first step. And that's exactly what it was designed to be: a first step, and nothing more. You make some great points about the next steps. Thanks for your insigtful, informative input.

          • 1) Getting out of the atmosphere.
            2) Getting to low orbit.
            3) Getting anywhere else.

            4) Getting back.

            (I don't mean this as a "funny" post. Doesn't getting back to Earth involve a huge number of problems? Such as: atmosphere; avoidance of crash landings in civilized areas; and a few other things that don't matter if you just intend to land on the moon or Mars.)

          • by RayBender (525745) on Friday June 18, 2004 @09:08PM (#9469304) Homepage
            1) is most of the work of 2) It gets you out of the atmosphere - now all you have to do is get going FAST while you're out there.[...]But once you've got a device capable of 1) it's a LOT less than doubling the engineering to upgrade it for 2).

            No. Most of the work is getting to a velocity of 8 km/sec. That's 90% of the required total energy. Getting to altitude is 10%. So SpaceShipOne is 10% of the way to orbit (in terms of energy). The additional difficulty of going into orbit is considerably greater than twice the effort: you have to carry 10 times the fuel fraction, and you have to be capable of re-entry, on-orbit maneuvering, etc etc.. It's a lot harder than just going up in a big arc for 5 minutes.

            SpaceShipOne is a lot closer to a Cessna than it is to a Space Shuttle. Seriously.

      • Don't know about you, but I think 3 minutes of weightlessness in a super-efficient aircraft making sub-orbital flight, done by private individuals is not dead-end. The first (few) that accomplish this feat will likely prove to NASA and the ESA that single gigantic booster rockets are neither efficient nor as re-usable as we were all lead to believe.

        Ditto my brother. I think the things that can be learned from this will be beyond comprehension. It will have researchers around the world going "wow, I nev
        • "Dead-end" is such a harsh term.

          I think you're reading a little too much into the term. What I meant by it is that this particular way to get a ship to 100 km can't be extended into one that can reach orbit, or descend from orbit if it were there. The hot air balloon could be considered a dead end too, if you want to stretch things, but look what came from it. The value of this flight will be in what it inspires as much as in what it does and I honor the people who designed it for that.

    • It's designed to win the prize and nothing else. Not that it's not an important milestone, mind you, but it's just a dead-end.

      I agree with your first statement, but not your second. Just because a specific vehicle isn't designed to go into orbit, doesn't mean it's a dead end. Firstly, they're planning on sub-orbital flights, mostly for tourism. Secondly, the technologies used may be scalable to a larger, orbital model. Think of a smaller, design prototype. You have to demonstrate the smaller model wo
    • by TrevorB (57780) on Friday June 18, 2004 @06:50PM (#9468276) Homepage
      More susinctly: SpaceShipOne is as much of a dead end as Mercury-Redstone was.
      • No. Mercury-Redstone had a clear design path leading to the Moon: first single manned flights, then pairs of astronauts, then three together, until they had a capsule that could reach the moon, land and return. The fuel this ship uses simply isn't powerfull enough to reach orbit and it can't be changed to a different fuel without a complete redesign. Accept the fact that even though it's limited to sub-orbital flight it's an important milestone on the path to space.
      • More susinctly: SpaceShipOne is as much of a dead end as Mercury-Redstone was.

        Nope. SS1 is a dead end, utterly. It's completely unsuited to fly much higher or faster than it will on Monday. There is no upgrade path to do so either. It's not a matter of building a bigger or better White Knight. It's a matter of replacing SS1 with a nearly completely different craft.

        On the other hand, by replacing the Redstone with an Atlas you transformed a suborbital craft into an orbital one without changing the cra

    • It's this pioneering attitude that will take us into space to stay, not the NASA mindset of "risk nothing, even if it means nothing gets done."

      That's a little ironic when considering that the reason the US beat the Soviets to putting humans on the moon was precisely because the Soviet's line of thinking was exactly that, and NASA had cut a lot of corners to get there.
      • NASA may have cut corners to get us to the moon, but they've been out of the risk business for years. There was no reason to stop the shuttle for over two years after the Challanger crash, except for NASA's desire to make spaceflight risk free.
      • Actually, the Russians were far more cavalier about safety than the Americans were.

        The main reason why we beat them to the moon was because we had less infighting throughout, because we had smaller boosters at the beginning (which forced us to shrink the size of our electronics), and because we were able to pull off making the Saturn V (Wheras the Proton was too small and the N1 was too broken because of infighting).

        Oddly enough, the Russian way of doing things actually has worked out well for them, once
    • by Anonymous Coward
      The engine used in this mission is going to be reused by SpaceDev as an upper stage to put things and maybe people into orbit. Without SpaceShipOne, this wouldn't have happened. Rutan is very talented. I expect that he already has more designs ready.

      http://www.spacedev.com/newsite/templates/subpag e_ article.php?pid=475

      Look at the bottom of that article.
    • by Tackhead (54550) on Friday June 18, 2004 @07:19PM (#9468536)
      > As I understand it, this ship can't make orbit, couldn't come back from one if it did, and has no clear path to an orbital vehicle. It's designed to win the prize and nothing else. Not that it's not an important milestone, mind you, but it's just a dead-end.

      As I understand it, this ship is so laden down with fuel that it can barely make it off the runway, and with only a single engine and single pilot, has no clear path to being able to carry passengers or transatlantic mail. It's designed to win the $25,000 Orteig Prize and nothing else. Not that it's not an important milestone, mind you, but it's just a dead-end [charleslindbergh.com].

  • I love it (Score:4, Insightful)

    by TheAdventurer (779556) on Friday June 18, 2004 @06:39PM (#9468156)
    It is great to see private individuals reach for achievements such as this. I hope it goes well for them. Personally, I find the private space race to be quite compelling and inspiring. It is a testament to ingenuity and individualism (i.e. we don't need a big collective or nebulous government agency to achieve somethign great. Rather, just the vision of an intelligent individual and his or her ability to organize and lead a talented team).
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 18, 2004 @06:39PM (#9468159)
    The technology used in this launch is going to be reused by SpaceDev to put satellites up for only $5 million a piece. This illustrates the direct effect of the X-prize.

    Currently, satellite launches can cost in the hundreds of millions.

    Now if only their were more prizes.
    • How hard would it be to put up a competitor to Iridium, but using more current electronics and a cheaper system like this? The satellites wouldn't have to be nearly so sophisticated and LEO would be more than sufficient.

      That is just one of several businesses that currently are locked out of space because of the current government monopoly on spaceflight. Here is a toast to the commercial spaceflight. **Cheers**
  • Planet Express (Score:5, Interesting)

    by deathcloset (626704) on Friday June 18, 2004 @06:42PM (#9468188) Journal
    I wonder; what kind of approval do you need in order to fly into space? Is there some governmental green light?

    I ask because it seems to me that a private, reusable, unmanned delivery spacecraft could be a valuable commodity in certain instances. It could certainly get to space and back much faster than something requiring full-fledged life support.

    Let's take delivery of donor organs. Correct me if I'm wrong (I'm used to it), certain organs must be transplanted very soon after the host dies. So if someone in Japan needs said organ and someone in New York is killed in a motorcycle accident, a private company could ultra-priority ship this organ overseas via a 90 minute sub-orbital flight.

    Or would such a market just be too niche to be viable?

    What other kinds of things would someone be willing to pay any price (exorbitant to be sure) to get something somewhere ASAsoP (As Soon As Sub-Orbitally Possible)?
    • You need a *lot* of approvals to operate even experimentally in space. Rutan has been going on in public about how this is only a prototype and there's no way in hell he's going to be able to do it commercially because the differences in regulation.

      The problem is that the past experience with boosters is ~95% reliability, which means that every 20th rocket blows up, usually catastrophically. So folks aren't going to be comfortable until we've got more of an airliner-like reliability going.

      The whole sub-
    • by HopeOS (74340) on Friday June 18, 2004 @07:57PM (#9468836)
      You need to convince AST, the department of the FAA that is tasked with granting your launch license, that you are safe enough for the general civilian population. They do not care if you kill yourself or even members of your own team, just so long as the public at large is safe from your launch vehicle, its exhaust, re-entering expendable components, toxic propellent, etc. There's the additional burden of not landing on an endangered mouse or historical monument.

      As you might guess, launching from a scorching empty desert with non-toxic propellents and nothing that separates and falls back to earth is going to be easier to license.

      As an aside, most of the convincing AST needs is hand-waving and postering, but a good bit of it is also mathematical. "If the craft does not explode and creates an impact zone of this size with a maximum flight radius of this size, there are is 1 in 5 million chance of hitting Bob who has a trailer sitting out in the middle of desert. Since that's less likely than the established 30 x 10 ^ -6 expected causalties, we should be able to fly." Response: "OK, you're on; try not to hit Bob."

      -Hope
  • by corngrower (738661) on Friday June 18, 2004 @06:52PM (#9468289) Journal
    Did anyone else read the article about the type of
    rocket fuel that Space Ship One uses? It's a solid fueled rocket with a gas oxidizer. I'm sure you'll get a laugh out of it.
    Here's the link [space.com]
  • On TV Live? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by TrevorB (57780) on Friday June 18, 2004 @06:53PM (#9468303) Homepage
    Does anyone know if this will be aired live? CNN? BBC News? Local Cable Access 4?

    How about streamed on the net?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 18, 2004 @07:00PM (#9468368)
    http://scaled.com/projects/tierone/info.htm

  • If they succeed (Score:3, Interesting)

    by _ph1ux_ (216706) on Friday June 18, 2004 @07:06PM (#9468417)
    This will prove how much of a bumbling group of incompetant morons work at NASA. The fact that nasa has made almost zero progress in the last 25 years with regards to opening up space as a more affordable frontier is laughable. Contempable even.

    The amount of corruption and coverup that takes place within all arms of NASA is a reflection of the incompetance and idiocy that is now the symbol for America at all levels.

    Hopefully in the event that SpaceShipOne is not sabotaged into failure, we will see a renewal of space interest - and a cleaning of house at all levels of government where responsibility for oppressed civil space programs reside.

    (yes you fools it IS a conspiracy)
  • 6:30 AM Pacific (Score:5, Informative)

    by richmaine (128733) on Friday June 18, 2004 @07:14PM (#9468490)
    If you do intend to go, you might note that, while the cited 9:30 ET time is corect, the launch site is not on Eastern time. Might be easy to miss that
    and assume that the cited time is launch site local. If you arrive at 9:30 local time, it will be long over. :-(

    That's 6:30 AM Pacific (local) time.
  • I hope it goes perfectly and they go for the prize soon.
  • hmmm (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 18, 2004 @07:26PM (#9468606)
    Now correct me if I am wrong... but isn't spaceship one funded by Paul Allen? And if so... ack... where is the open source contingent that will make an attempt!

    It seems that Open source ideology should be applied to space.

    I dunnknow...the idea of Allen Spaceport scares the hell outa me....
  • I will be there (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Teahouse (267087) on Friday June 18, 2004 @07:35PM (#9468671)
    I am leaving tonight to get a campsite. I will take lots of pics on Monday. I plan on posting them for those of you unable to attend.

  • Shotgun! (Score:3, Funny)

    by constantnormal (512494) on Friday June 18, 2004 @08:02PM (#9468884)
    ... if Paul Allen doesn't claim one of the 2 potential passenger seats for the X-Prize qualifier, I'll never understand why not.

    After all, he's already paid for it.
  • Stratofox has put together a page with advice for SS1 launch attendees...

    Quick summary:

    • Bring extra bottled water to share with others.
    • Bring an ice chest for yourself or your group.
    • Get all your supplies before entering the Antelope Valley.
    • Have patience - don't expect to get on the airport grounds.
    • Cell phone service may be strained.
    • Bring a radio scanner.
    • Bring binoculars.
    • Wear a hat.

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