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Space Science

Burt Rutan On Future Of SpaceShipOne (and Two) 182

Posted by timothy
from the high-and-dry-and-yet-to-fly dept.
Neil Halelamien writes "In a recent interview with the Desert Sun, Burt Rutan talks about the future of SpaceShipOne and SpaceShipTwo. The bad news is that SpaceShipOne will be retired straight to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, despite getting five different requests to fly suborbital payloads. The good news is that efforts are being focused on SpaceShipTwo, which will carry nine people, and fly higher and further downrange than SpaceShipOne. Virgin Galactic will purchase a fleet of five of these vehicles, which will start test flights in 2007. Virgin Galactic may end up competing with Jeff Bezos's Blue Origin, which is rumored to be developing a VTOL suborbital vehicle. Also interesting to watch will be Rutan's involvement with t/Space, one of the companies contracted by NASA to conduct concept studies for the Vision for Space Exploration."
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Burt Rutan On Future Of SpaceShipOne (and Two)

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  • by rf0 (159958) <rghf@fsck.me.uk> on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @05:22PM (#11163100) Homepage
    Could they join the 100 mile high club?

    Rus
  • Rutan is my hero. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ruprechtjones (545762) <ruprechtjones@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @05:25PM (#11163125) Homepage
    This man is an inspiration to everybody. He is innovative, intelligent, and follows through with his dreams and goals. So tell me why, WHY Dub Bush gets Time's Person of the Year and Rutan does not.

    • by hunterx11 (778171) <hunterx11&gmail,com> on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @05:41PM (#11163286) Homepage Journal
      Men in the future will stand on Rutan's shoulders and take his vision even further. God willing, Bush will leave a legacy which will never be overshadowed.
      • Stand on Rutan's shoulders? What, by building spacecraft out of epoxy? By using engines that they didn't make that have the amazing combination of both lousy ISP *And* high tank mass? And having it cost 10 times more than it should for the performance that they get out of it? What progress, exactly, are you referring to?

        I agree on the second part, though - God willing, Bush will be written up for his legacy of job loss, environmental damage, turning the world against America, and unprovoked warmongerin
    • This man is an inspiration to everybody. He is innovative, intelligent, and follows through with his dreams and goals. So tell me why, WHY Dub Bush gets Time's Person of the Year and Rutan does not.

      Relax and let history be the judge. Time's Man/Person of the Year has included every US predident going back at least to JFK. They had to do W at some point. How big of an honor can it be, anyway? Hitler was it 1938. See a list here [about.com]).

      • Exactly. It has very little to do with merit. After all, just what did Bush achieve or do in 2000 that was so exemplorary and worthy of merit to win the award in that year?

        Winning an election in which more people voted for the other guy and in which dirty tricks, family connections and ultimately heavily contested court cases were the deciding factors hardly counts as a great and noble achievement.
      • Re:Rutan is my hero. (Score:5, Informative)

        by jskiff (746548) on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @06:30PM (#11163567) Homepage
        How big of an honor can it be, anyway? Hitler was it 1938.

        Time's Person (nee Man) of the Year originally was not meant to be a "This person did the greatest things this year" award. Rather, it was about who most influenced current events that year...hence why both Hitler and Stalin recieved it.

        Many argue that the Person of the Year for 2001 should have been Osama bin Laden, rather than Rudolph Giuliani. No one is going to say that bin Laden is a nice guy...but his actions influenced 2001 more than any single person.

        Apparently Time had some pretty big arguments in-house when it came to picking the Person of the 20th Century. Again, if you're choosing Most Influential Person, it probably would have been Hitler, but in these PC days it's not something that most would find accceptable.
    • Because Bush is more controversial, and his face on the cover will sell more magazineS than somebody who has taken part in something so enormous its consequences can barely be imagined.
      • Re:That's easy (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jgalun (8930)
        Because Bush is more controversial, and his face on the cover will sell more magazineS than somebody who has taken part in something so enormous its consequences can barely be imagined.

        With all due respect, I think Bush has had a far greater impact on the world that Rutan will. Bush invaded Afghanistan, instituted massive tax cuts, racked up huge government deficits, added prescription drug benefits to Medicare, invaded Iraq, and made huge changes in US policy towards Israel/Palestine and North Korea. By
    • You do realize a lot of dictators made "man of the year" too?

      Even if you don't like Bush, you have to realise that he was the most influential person (publicly) for last year.

    • Re:Rutan is my hero. (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Time's Person of the Year is about who changed the world the most, not who is most popular. As an example, Adolf Hitler was Time's Person of the Year back in 1938.
    • Cause' rutan only launched one missile.

      -g

    • sad though it may seem, 60 Million Bad Apples is a bigger story than "first privately funded space flight".
  • The more participants in the fray, the better. May the fit survive and the fittest flourish!

    As anyone who has watched Open Source software development can attest, the wider field of ideas tried yields the best results.

    http://ars.userfriendly.org/cartoons/?id=20041024& mode=classic [userfriendly.org]

    Bob-

    • However unlike open source, I don't think the release early and release often is a good idea for manned space travel.

      People's lives and billion dollar equiptment is not something I'd want to see being tested in such a manner.
      • So long as no one uses force to make you get on the spacecraft, why not?

        People die climbing mountains, swimming rivers, racing cars. They also die in bed, old and feeble. Fact is, people die and nothing can stop it (yet).

        So be polite and let people choose to risk their own lives if they want to. The only restriction I would place on it would be to demand full disclosure about any system I am interested in using.

        But if you want to use "closed source" spaceflight, that's your choice to make.

        Bob-
      • However unlike open source, I don't think the release early and release often is a good idea for manned space travel.

        Just because a spacecraft can carry passengers, doesn't mean that it must carry passengers on each flight.

        Beta versions are rarely tested in production environment; and passenger-capable spacecraft will propably be tested with crash test dummies and auto-pilot.

        People's lives and billion dollar equiptment is not something I'd want to see being tested in such a manner.

        Their lives, t

    • I think the barrier to entry for spaceflight is slightly higher than an old 486 and a cheapbytes linux CD.

      -- Greg

  • VTOL? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ivan256 (17499) * on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @05:28PM (#11163169)
    VTOL seems like such a bad idea to me. Not only do you have to cary fuel for liftoff, but for landing as well. What's the benefit?
    • by rf0 (159958)
      You don't need a runway and can (theoertically) take off from any bit of flat ground

      Rus
    • Re:VTOL? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Waffle Iron (339739)
      Not only do you have to cary fuel for liftoff, but for landing as well. What's the benefit?

      It's possible that the extra fuel weighs less than heat-shielded wings and a tail plus wheeled landing gear.

      • It's possible that the extra fuel weighs less than heat-shielded wings and a tail plus wheeled landing gear.

        What about the tried and true capsule with no wings or a tail to heat shield, just one insulated surface and a parachute?
    • Re:VTOL? (Score:5, Informative)

      by cmowire (254489) on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @06:41PM (#11163669) Homepage
      Because you don't need wings starting around Mach 2-3. After that point, they become dead weight and add drag.

      A lot of folks think that the mass penalty of carying extra fuel for landing is less than the mass penalty of carying wings (a penalty which includes extra fuel and engine mass to compensate for the increased drag).

      If you are doing SSTO, you can have much less sophisticated heat shielding because the requirements of heat shielding decrease as you get less dense. At reentry, a SSTO is not very dense at all, so it's easier. Also, there's some arguments about reentering tail-first and using the engines to reduce the heat loading, which hasn't yet been tested.

      Furthermore, range safety is simpler with VTOL. You have to assume that, at any point, your spacecraft could explode, raining parts down on populated land. Less gliding means less area to wory about. Airliners don't need to wory about such things, but airliners also have a good track record of not blowing up. Spacecraft don't have that record yet.

      Ejection seats and escape capsules aren't very heavy, if they are included in the design early (They are now saying that, given that both the Challenger and Columbia's crew cabin survived the explosion intact, that they really could have made it removable for a minimum weight penalty. However, it's too late to do that now.)

      The biggest problem is that NASA spent all of their time between the 1980s and today designing a bunch of different concepts for spacecraft, none of which have actually flown enough to be able to contribute factual data about all of this except for a few low-altitude hops made by the DC-X that made the VTOL model seem rather reasonable.
  • Wonder if they had anything to do at all with the development design of Spaceshiptwo. Or would they just have an "interested hand" instead of a full blown sponsorship.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I don't trust private space-flight at all.

    It's kind of trusting law-enforcement or health-care to private corporations. Way too important to be trusted to people who only understand profit.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      What exactly do governments understand? Power is about all I can think of.
    • And the government only understands flying it's own to space. NASA will never deliver on affordable spaceflight for the rest of us. If you take a moment to follow Rutan's interview his motivation is clear - and it is not profit - although he understand running a business fine without spending taxpayer money.

      His drive is to fulfill a life-long goal of traveling to space. I bet many slashdotters share that desire.
    • by cmowire (254489) on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @06:48PM (#11163738) Homepage
      No, it sounds like trusting a private corporation to get me in one piece from one place to another using aircraft.

      Are you afraid of airliners, too?
      • No, it sounds like trusting a private corporation to get me in one piece from one place to another using aircraft.

        Without government meddling, I wouldn't trust air flight to corporations either. All they know is profit. If it's cheaper to kill a few people now and then, they'll do it.

        Air travel is too difficult and expensive for private enterprise to offer it to the masses safely without government services (like ATC) and oversight (like the FAA).

        But, NASA isn't developing space flight in the public int
        • See, I think you are placing too much faith in the government. Now, I'm a political moderate, not a liberatarian who's going to tell you that all government besides the bedrock requirements is bad.

          The problem is, almost inevitably, private industry can do "things" more efficently than the government. This is the same reason why a monopoly is bad -- because there's no competition, people stop improving stuff.

          Thus, one of the goals of a good government is to provide structure, where necessary, to grow ind
    • Airliners are private.
      Health care seems private from this end - most people I know takes at least one type of medicine he buys himself (homeopathic or prescribed non-free medicine).
      We have medical plans, payed by docking our salary. If I need a major surgery, I pay some of it and my financed-out-of-my-salary insurance pays the rest. Nothing here is government, nor profit-free.
      Same for accidents insurance, in my history. I was the cause of the accident so I had to pay, despite insurance. No government protec
  • These stories (Private spaceflight) are one of the few things that strike me as awesome. Simply because of all the science fiction I have read, and interest in space flight...

    It's amazing how fast it's coming along since the X-Prize, with some great (and very rich!) minds at the forefront.

    The future in this area looks good
  • Bad news? WTF? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by brunes69 (86786) <slashdot@keirste ... minus physicist> on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @05:32PM (#11163200) Homepage

    The bad news is that SpaceShipOne will be retired straight to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum...

    This has to be the stupidest comment I have seen in a /. article posting in a long time. Does this person have any regard at all for the enormous historical value this space ship has?

    Imagine it was *not* retired, then went down in flames in a subsequent mission. A very important part of humanity's history would be lost, forever.

    Try to think beyond the next few years for once in your life. You can send up payloads in SpaceShipTwo, or SpaceShipThree, or SpaceShipNineteen. But there is only one SpaceShipOne. And I for one would like it to still be around in 80 years, so I can go to the museum with my great-grandchildren and say "Look what some people of my generation accomplished".

    • Historical value isn't necessarily the most important consideration. I think it would also have enourmous value as a working spaceship. Spaceship two, etc. are not yet built. Why not try out One's legs a bit more, work out some more kinks to make Two and Three and the rest that much better that much quicker?
    • Agreed. As long as they can afford it, it seems to make sense to retire SS1 and use the expertise they gained to build SS2.

      The article was hardly the stupidest thing I've seen, but I agree that it's hardly bad news to retire it. It has done what it was built to do. The investment was in the design, not the construction. Construct a new one, a better one, and let the prototype become an artifact.
    • Woah now! I'm the original submitter. I really should've put some quotes around "bad news" to show that I was trying to be amusingly flippant. I didn't think anyone would actually think I seriously thought that putting SpaceShipOne in a museum for future generations to admire was some sort of tragedy.

      Granted, it would have been exciting to see the craft launch again, but they've presumably learned all they need to learn from SpaceShipOne. Their knowledge will go into SpaceShipTwo, which will be better and
    • Its not about historical value, the damn thing is a death trap. The documentary the Discovery channel showed exactly how dangerous that thing is and how lucky Rutan got. Its not worth attempting to fly again. They won the prize and so far no one has died. Mission accomplished.

      Its really a proof of concept rocket. "Can we build a cheap-ish rocket out of composites and get into space?" Yes, they did. And it was risky. So off to the museum it goes while they build a much safer and profitable flyer.
    • "You went up in that thing? You're braver than I though."
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @05:37PM (#11163245)
    ...SpaceShipThree.One.
  • So for now, it sounds like it will be exploited as a very expensive roller-coaster ride, not a mode of transportation...

    But then, it is hard to imagine what kind of profit flying payloads could make, it seems like it is a long way to go up, in order to go a (relatively) short distance across/around...

    Is anyone else having flashbacks to Heinlein novels?

    Pixie
    • So for now, it sounds like it will be exploited as a very expensive roller-coaster ride, not a mode of transportation...

      Actually, I'm going to wait and see how long the actual maximum downrange will be on SpaceShipTwo. It's quite possible that it might also be evolveable into a point-to-point transportation vehicle.
  • Good Decision (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ZPO (465615) on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @05:40PM (#11163273)
    I applaud his decision to send it straight to the Smithsonian. It shows he's a realist and understands the experimental nature of the project.

    SpaceshipOne was a concept demonstrator. For him, its time to move on to the production version.

  • Personally... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jd (1658) <imipak@nOSPam.yahoo.com> on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @05:47PM (#11163335) Homepage Journal
    I think it's a little stupid to retire it to the museum. Sure, it's a valuable piece of history, but there are plenty of things that they could have done with it that would have improved awareness and possibly increased sponsorship efforts.


    Here are a few random thoughts on what I would have considered doing, had I been in charge:


    • A tour of airshows, possibly even marking the "start" or "close" of the airshow by having SpaceShipOne dropped at a fairly low altitude & speed, to glide in. There's always some risk with flight in general, so there's some chance of an accident, but getting the "unwashed masses" up close to SpaceShipOne will reinforce the idea that space travel could become within the reach of anyone. A static display would be safer, but wouldn't require the real thing either. It also wouldn't have the same impact.
    • SpaceShipOne can carry three people. A top-notch celebrity, or top-ranking politician would likely pay very big money to be taken on a simple flight (go up a bit, no rockets, just glide down). Photo ops tend to revolve around celebs getting out of aircraft, so the lack of any really dangerous stuff would be irrelevent to them.
    • There are usually "special" amateur rocket events in many countries. Can you imagine what impact it would have on the sport, if SpaceShipOne was trucked in? Not launched, but just there for the gawp value?

    • Re:Personally... (Score:4, Informative)

      by voidptr (609) on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @06:35PM (#11163620) Homepage Journal
      SpaceShipOne can carry three people. A top-notch celebrity, or top-ranking politician would likely pay very big money to be taken on a simple flight (go up a bit, no rockets, just glide down). Photo ops tend to revolve around celebs getting out of aircraft, so the lack of any really dangerous stuff would be irrelevent to them.

      One problem is SS1 is still an experimental aircraft. Under FAA regulations, you can't use it in a for-hire operation. That means you can't just start selling tickets for SS1 rides.

      Scaled would have to make SS1 into a certificated airframe first, which is a horrendously expensive and lengthy process, and doesn't make sense with SS1 being a one of a kind technology prototype. My guess is with SS2 they're going to work on certification from the beginning, and given that it'll carry 9 people and they'll build more than one of them, the certification costs can be spread out more and be recovered easier.
    • No Thanks. But, I do see a future for you in marketing.

      • It had better be a long way in the future. The character Stef from User Friendly is all too close to actual marketroids. I'd rather listen to Vogon poetry than be stuck with that crowd.
    • Well, when you pony up $20 million to build a cool new spaceship you can do whatever you like with it afterwards. Allen ponied up the money and it's HIS.
  • I was actually talking about this a few dats agi with a co-worker. I'm hoping that by the time you can purchase tickets for this, I'll have the funds to do so. I plan on being the first man to consume hallucinogens in suborbit. Take a small syrette with some LSD along, hit it while preparing to depart, and enjoy the trip.

    And, yes, I know I'm weird. Thanks for calling.

  • Virgin Orbit sounds more likely in the near term.
  • The cost is all in the intellectual work to create the design and prove it works. The airframe itself is on the order of $1 to 3 million for materials and labor.

    IT IS INTERESTING that a brilliant engineer like Rutan would be moving to a completely new 9 passenger SpaceShip2 instead of putting airframe #1 of SS1 into the Smithsonian and selling hops on her sister ships.Though he does seem to reveal there was an internal discussion...

    Flying the design again has nothing to do with any of the previous post

  • t/Space Gets It (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Baldrson (78598) on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @08:48PM (#11164609) Homepage Journal
    When t/Space says [transformspace.com]:
    NASA becomes the first bold customer for commercial services.
    they clearly get the idea I was trying to put across to Congress in my testimony before the House subcommittee on space when I said over a decade ago [geocities.com]:
    Americans need a frontier, not a program.

    Incentives open frontiers, not plans.

    If this Subcommittee hears no other message through the barrage of studies, projections and policy recommendations, it must hear this message. A reformed space policy focused on opening the space frontier through commercial incentives will make all the difference to our future as a world, a nation and as individuals.

    Let's hope NASA gets the idea before its too late.
  • Ah, rich people, is there anything they can't do?

    Enough rich people are willing to pay 200.000$ to get to space that a huge company decides it's worthwhile to spend millions building ships that'll fly to space.

    When that's done, they'll realise enough people are willing to pay for actually staying a while in space, and enough can be profited by research in space, that they'll build private space stations.
  • dont bet on virgin (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Dr.Knackerator (755466) on Wednesday December 22, 2004 @09:25PM (#11164856) Journal
    its pretty easy to make a press release - that costs no money. virgin is an interesting company having as many bad ideas as good. branson seems to jump on bandwagons and push the 'maximum publicity' button at any oppertunity.

    virgin rail was launched in a blaze of media coverage with branman waving from trains etc. promising the earth. years later fares are much higher and the service seems to be much worse from what i read.

    a few years ago i believe he had to sell 49% of virgin atlantic, it was the only thing making any money. needed the cash to pay off debts.

    so whatever you do please just dont quote this ludicrous plan (and a ludicrous name- galactic? we havent even got there yet!) and give him more bloody free publicity. only mention it when it becomes a reality.
    • just to clarify, when i say 'ludicrous' i mean not that the idea of selling space flight is bad, it is the level of involvment that virgin would actually have.

      chances are it would just be a licensing deal like virgin cola or virgin mobile. i dont believe they have the money to fund something that big. he would be sent into space grinning like a looney in a chunky jumper (as usual) and the ships would be read. that's really about it.

      i don't know what you think of him in the states but really anybody with a

  • Take such Saiuz from Russians. No doubt it starts vertically. All of them do. Then the capsule lands on parachutes, mostly vertically too. Only shuttles don't land vertically. So essentially most of our spaceships are VTOL.
  • Question: What's on the horizon in terms of future interests?

    Answer: Well, I think I will spend a large percentage if not all of my main efforts for the rest of my career on manned-space travel. I think we can, if we do it right, be within 20 to 25 years of being able to visit hotels in orbit and many thousands of people being able to afford to do that. I would like to see affordable travel to the moon before I die, so I am starting relatively soon on developments for orbital-space tourism.


    Better get th

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