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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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  • 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.
  • 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)?
  • by Hays (409837) on Friday June 18, 2004 @06:42PM (#9468190)
    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
  • 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.
  • 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 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 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 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.
  • 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)
  • 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-)
  • 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.

  • 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 zogger (617870) on Friday June 18, 2004 @08:06PM (#9468920) Homepage Journal
    .... MOVE private funded space research to a more hospitable nation, and just ignore the united states. Pick any underfunded but enthusiastic second or third world country that needs a shot in the arm national prestige-wise and wouldn't mind being the recipient of a new global enterprise of such an import. There is bound to be a more hospitable nation that has enough resources and would embrace this enthusiastically. Hmm, how about brazil? Or on the african continent, mozambique? Does anyone else have any nations to promote who might want to do this? I initially in the last space thread mentioned russia as a possibility, because it has a national structure and resources for space research, but in a days retrospect on it, and viewing even more news from there, I just don't know if it could be pulled off there, due to...well, current business climates and political uncertainties shall we say. I wouldn't rule them out, just perhaps it might be more prudent to look elsewhere.

    Anyway, there has to be another nation that would consider this without near the amount of hassle. Perhaps even "authorising" 90% peroxide as fuel for a start.
  • Re:hmmm (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Azi Dahaka (625546) on Friday June 18, 2004 @08:21PM (#9469032)

    It's not really Open Source, but the development of Armadillo Aerospace's [armadilloaerospace.com] ship has been thoroughly documented at their site complete with a lot of information about their weekly progress, photos, and movies.

    If you had the time and money, you could probably reconstruct their ship. The hardest part would be writing the stabilization/guidance software. That part of the development appears to be closed source.

    Armadillo is doing rather well. They are the only real competition to Space Ship One. They just had a very successful launch of a test vehicle. But the engine is nearly dead from all the tinkering the did with it. They will need to create a new engine as well as the final ship before launch. John estimates it will not happen by the end of the year. They still seem to be in good spirits. I am still hoping they win, unlikely as it is now.

  • 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 Rei (128717) on Friday June 18, 2004 @08:43PM (#9469178) Homepage
    > 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 one, the US has plenty of space launches, military and commercial. Secondly, once you get below a certain threshold (usually cited as between 1-2k$/kg), a host of new space opportunies open up. Now, I'll agree with you about *manned* launches - but we put people up there mostly for PR anyway.

    > Part of the problem is that NASA did predict the specific problems, but adopted a "well it's worked so far" policy

    Which problems are you referring to about this? NASA does tons of risk assessment - every single part is evaluated. The shuttle has millions of parts.

    > in contrast to the Apollo 13 mishap

    NASA had no scenarios for what happened with Apollo 13. They just did a great job of improvising.

    > The point is not to be "better than the other guy".

    Actually, when it comes to technology, it is. If "the other guy" can't manage to do it either, it points out how hard the task is.
  • by Long-EZ (755920) on Saturday June 19, 2004 @03:32AM (#9471184)

    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 and he still flies it. In fact, a few years ago, he and Burt's brother Dick flew their Long-EZs around the world. Mike is 62, which is rare for a test pilot. "There are old pilots, and there are bold pilots, but there are no old, bold pilots."

    Prediction #2 I wouldn't be surprised to see some prominent people actually on board for the two Ansari X-Prize flights, after this full qualifying test flight. I saw Burt speaking at Oshkosh, and when asked if he'd take the suborbital flight in SpaceShipOne, he replied, "You bet your ass I would!" He's not usually given to such colorful speech, at least in that forum.

    Prediction #3 The X-Prize will be won before this year's Oshkosh Fly-In (now known as EAA Airventure), which is July 27th - August 2nd. That doesn't leave much time to provide adequate notice to the X-Prize committee, so I expect that'll be announced immediately after Monday's successful flight. Oshkosh has been a frequent target for Burt, although it certainly isn't true that anything was ever rushed or safety compromised to make that event.

    I feel like I've been waiting all my life for the privatization of space. Best of luck to the entire Scaled Composites crew for Monday morning. Despite previous Slashdot comments calling the X-Prize a stunt, I strongly believe that This Changes Everything.

  • by It'sYerMam (762418) <thefishfaceNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Saturday June 19, 2004 @05:52AM (#9471477) Homepage
    The StarChaser crew are all thinking this, as SpaceShipOne has no launch escape system, to pull the crew clear if there's a launchpad explosion, a fire mid flight, or whatever. In other words, if something goes wrong then it's bye-bye.
    I for one would not want to fly in a SpaceShip where any fault would probably be fatal.

    Then we get onto my regular complaint about how SpaceShipOne has bought the prize, etc, etc, while StarChaser waits for funding.

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