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Intel Space Science

Just $10M Keeping "Red Neck Rocket Scientist" From Reaching Space 121

Posted by timothy
from the this-calls-for-a-roadtrip-to-arizona dept.
McGruber writes "The Arizona Republic has an update on Morris Jarvis, a Project Manager at Intel who also happens to head Space Transport and Recovery (STAR) Systems, a commercial space-travel company, out of his east Mesa, Arizona home. Jarvis has built the Hermes, a prototype, proof-of-concept model of a space shuttle, that is 27 feet long with a 21-foot wingspan. He believes that if he were to receive $10 million today, he could have the first test launch in a year. Jarvis 'envisions two tour options for his completed Hermes. In the first, a high-altitude balloon will raise the Hermes to 100,000-plus feet, where customers can see the curvature of the Earth. The second is a rocket-powered option that will put customers in a suborbital trajectory where they can experience weightlessness.' According to the Silicon Valley Watcher, Morris likes to describe himself as the 'Red Neck Rocket Scientist.' (He was interviewed in this May 24, 2011 IntelFreePress Video posted at YouTube.)"
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Just $10M Keeping "Red Neck Rocket Scientist" From Reaching Space

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  • by MagdJTK (1275470) on Sunday July 22, 2012 @02:17PM (#40731175)

    ...who also happens to Space Transport and Recovery (STAR) Systems...

    I think you accidentally a word.

    • by Hentes (2461350)

      Or he is talking about Clark Kent.

    • by FatLittleMonkey (1341387) on Sunday July 22, 2012 @06:31PM (#40732361)

      Just $10M Keeping "Red Neck Rocket Scientist" From Reaching Space

      So how much should we be spending to keep him from reaching space?

      • by Anonymous Coward

        "So how much should we be spending to keep him from reaching space?"

        Whatever it takes.

        That thing looks like The Incredible Shrinking Titanic.

        I was unable to detect anything of value other than jargon and buzzwords on the website. Maybe he's playing his cards close to his vest - I'm sure there are any number of people out there looking to steal the technology underpinning his 2" "HRPS" rocket engines and their fearsome 30 pounds of thrust...

        Remind me to contact Representative Bachmann, and ask if she'd be i

      • If you give me $1000, I would build a trebuchet to fling him so he will no longer think about space travel...

        I'll even record the flinging and upload it to YouTube as proof.

  • by bughunter (10093) <.ten.knilhtrae. .ta. .retnuhgub.> on Sunday July 22, 2012 @02:27PM (#40731239) Journal

    There's a reason NASA's Shuttle budget was immense, and that it takes a billionaire like Elon Musk to succeed at space entrepreneurism: It costs a lot of money to design, build, test, redesign, rebuild, retest, [rinse and repeat...] to the point where you're not being criminally reckless to put a human being in a space vehicle.

    And even then, deadly accidents [wikipedia.org] happen [wikipedia.org].

    The Russians do it slightly differently by emphasizing building the hardware and testing it rather than modeling, analysis and simulation, especially in the preliminary design phases. It saves a little money, but is still costly.

    Put another way, if garage-built rockets could make it into space, then we'd have orbital, Lunar and asteroid colonies by now.

    But one of these days, technology and materials will allow "garage" projects like this. Perhaps the time has come. I wish him luck. It takes cojones grandes to be the first. If he's patient, deliberate, extraordinarily cautious, and more than a little lucky then he can pull it off.

    • by AliasMarlowe (1042386) on Sunday July 22, 2012 @02:47PM (#40731329) Journal

      I wish him luck. It takes cojones grandes to be the first. If he's patient, deliberate, extraordinarily cautious, and more than a little lucky then he can pull it off.

      Yep, it sounds like he's in the running for a Darwin Award.

      • Or on the positive side he could be the precursor to Zefram Cochrane.

    • by History's Coming To (1059484) on Sunday July 22, 2012 @02:51PM (#40731347) Journal
      Depends on your definition of "criminally reckless" I suppose. There's a well worn meme of astronaut candidates asking if they'd be happy taking a Mars mission if there was a 50/50 chance of survival - the "correct" response is apparently "No, but if you can get it down to 90% chance of survival I'll go..."

      My point is that there's no shortage of people willing to risk their lives to go into space, and even if there was a good chance of dying there's still plenty of people who would still strap themselves in. It's not the human lives that are the issue, it's the taxpayers money and, at the end of the day, the political careers that are at stake. How long would the European discovery and colonisation of America have taken if we required a 90% survival rate on sea voyages in the 1600s?
      • by Charcharodon (611187) on Sunday July 22, 2012 @03:37PM (#40731593)
        Considering the first two coloneys had a 90-100% fatalty rate once they made it over the Atlantic, even with a 75-90% survival rate..

        The death rate due to disease, the cold, and starvation was still in the 20-30% every year by the time the Constitution was signed.

        We've become highly alergic to losses in this day and age. The ancient concept of the volunteer or the unwilling volunteer (aka convicts who owe society a debt) even does not hold water with those with the resources to put together such a project.

        • by Shavano (2541114) on Sunday July 22, 2012 @05:09PM (#40731995)

          The death rate due to disease, the cold, and starvation was still in the 20-30% every year by the time the Constitution was signed.

          If that were true, the median life span would have been between 2 and 3 years. Human existence is impossible at those attrition rates. We can't reproduce fast enough to survive as a species facing those odds.

          • by mcgrew (92797) *

            That would only be true if the majority of people were seamen, when in fact only a tiny percent of the population ever got on a boat. I'd wager that the life span of a sailor in those times was less than 30 (they didn't send infants on sea voyages).

          • You are right human existence would be impossible at those attrition rates for a static population, but the US did not have a static population. You have newly arrived immigrants and infants making up a large chunk of that number. The infant mortality rate alone was 10-20% until 1900.

            The overal death rate was in very incredibly high for the first 300 years of the American experience.

            • by Shavano (2541114)
              There's a big difference between a 10-20% infant mortality rate and a 20-30% mortality rate across the entire population. The latter has never existed in any culture that survived for a generation.
        • by Patch86 (1465427)

          If the loss of life doesn't bother you, then maybe an appeal to the cost is a better argument.

          TFA aside (he's never going to get a working rocket for $10 mill, full stop), it costs hundreds of millions to get something into space. If they blew up 90% of the time, NASA would have no money left and nothing to show for it. A manned mission to Mars would cost billions- nobody would be willing to spend billions if there was a 50:50 chance that it would achieve nothing. Not when you can spend the same limited pot

      • by Shavano (2541114) on Sunday July 22, 2012 @05:05PM (#40731973)
        The survival rate for sea voyages WAS better than 90% in the 1600s. If it weren't, international trade would have been impractical due to the cost of hiring sailors willing to undertake a worse than 90% chance of survival each time you left port.
        • by arth1 (260657)

          The survival rate for sea voyages WAS better than 90% in the 1600s. If it weren't, international trade would have been impractical due to the cost of hiring sailors willing to undertake a worse than 90% chance of survival each time you left port.

          There are always enough people who think the odds will favour them. And some who don't care.
          You had people sign up for armies back then too, despite a much higher than 10% death rate[*].

          Yes, ships got lost, and sailors died from syphilis and scurvy, but there were enough people who wanted to sign up. Because a risk of death while being fed and paid beats a much higher risk of starving to death or being hanged for stealing food or money to survive.

          [*]: As we've seen here, there are plenty of people wilin

          • by OneAhead (1495535)

            Yes, ships got lost, and sailors died from syphilis and scurvy (...)

            Ummm... you do know how syphilis is contracted, don't you? Hint: it's not from sitting on a boat with an all-male crew...

            • by arth1 (260657)

              Ummm... you do know how syphilis is contracted, don't you? Hint: it's not from sitting on a boat with an all-male crew...

              In a way, it is. Because once they got to port after months at sea, they didn't usually head straight for the library.

              The leading theory of how syphilis got to Europe was though sailors on Colombus' ships. One of the (many) past names for syphilis was "sailor's pox".

              "Next I remember I woke in the morn
              On a the three skysail yarder bound south round Cape Horn
              With an old set of oilskins and two pair of socks
              And a blooming great head and a case of the pox
              And it's row, row bullies row

      • Actually... (Score:5, Funny)

        by tlambert (566799) on Monday July 23, 2012 @03:02AM (#40734331)

        All of those who left on sea voyages on the 1600s are dead.

    • by Zadaz (950521) on Sunday July 22, 2012 @02:58PM (#40731383)

      I've seen their "shuttle" in person. The workmanship is incredibly poor. I mean even poor for a home-built spaceship mockup. Structurally and aerodynamically it was crap. They are, at best, hobbyists with big dreams. Poke around their web site and look for drop tests or wind-tunnel tests of their flight system. They only thing they have is a video of testing at 2" rocket motor that generates "~30lbs of thrust" for 5 seconds. Good luck getting to space on that. (For comparrison a single Estes E9 rocket motor that sells for $5 at the hobby store can generate 5lbs of thrust for 3 seconds.)

      I'm not saying that's it's impossible to go from zero to orbit on $10 million (though it probably is, at least in 2012) but I am saying I wouldn't invest a bent penny to Space Transport and Recovery Systems.

      At the same event I saw their mockup I talked with a few guys from Copenhagen Suborbitals. Those guys are the real deal. They've got the skills, the passion, and are working up a pretty substantial track record of successes.

      • by bughunter (10093)

        +1: Interesting.

        And thanks for the reference to Copenhagen Suborbitals. It does indeed look like the real thing.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Charcharodon (611187)
        you get a fictional -1 mod point for being well....stupid.

        If you are going to 100,000 feet by balloon, exactly how aerodynamic and structurally stout does it need to be? They could have just made their first one a big cube for all it would matter. Go up look around, enough structure to have a 18,000 ft cabin pressure (suplimental O2 for the passengers would be required), insulation to keep the temperature above 0C, and to survive a 700-800mph "re-entry" with a parachute landing.

        Even a small boost by

      • by Anonymous Coward

        a year ago, i also got to see his "spaceplane" as well. The thing is a joke. it uses the same construction techniques as normal avionics so it is pretty dang heavy. the avionics are non-existent. he's currently using off the shelf electronics that aren't certified for spaceflight environments and there was no flight software to speak of. to bad from him, hopes and dreams don't get you to orbit.

        disclaimer - I work on rockets for a living. I may be a little biased...

    • by AmiMoJo (196126)

      I question anyone's ability to do it for $10m, safely or otherwise. To put something that size you you need a fairly big rocket and a lot of fuel. You need a tower to hold it upright, and a launch pad. You could rent one, but it won't be cheap. You need tracking systems around the world to stay in constant contact with the vehicle in orbit.

      Even arranging management of the airspace around the launch site costs money. In fact even just the tiles on the Shuttle that prevent it from burning up on re-entry cost

    • Put another way, if garage-built rockets could make it into space, then we'd have orbital, Lunar and asteroid colonies by now.

      Yes, the engineering is fantastic, yes, building a space vehicle is going to be expensive and difficult, but I wouldn't go so far to say that it couldn't be a private effort for a fraction of the cost. The Wright's had a high-school education and DIY engineering background. Today we have supercomputers on our desks, access to infinite amounts of knowledge, and engineering tools that the Wright brothers could never have dreamed of.

      I think it's fair to say that a lot of low hanging fruit still exists that

      • SpaceX already managed to do their rockets for like a tenth what the NASA cost models predicted [nasa.gov]. So there is room to do things a lot cheaper.
        • by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater@gmFREEBSDail.com minus bsd> on Sunday July 22, 2012 @11:38PM (#40733703) Homepage

          What I find interesting is the default assumption is that NASA is wrong - nobody ever wonders if it SpaceX cut any corners that will come back to bite them in the butt.

          • Like what? If they were really interested in cutting corners they would not be developing superdraco engines for the CCDev escape system proposal. The Shuttle had no escape system at all and NASA flew it. They could be flying manned flights today if they just added some seats and a life support system to their capsule which is not a particularly hard thing to do. From my experience working for other large well established companies where it is common to outsource everything supposedly to cut costs it comes
            • Like what? If they were really interested in cutting corners they would not be developing superdraco engines for the CCDev escape system proposal. The Shuttle had no escape system at all and NASA flew it.

              Because the specification demands an escape system - duh.

              It does not seem like they are cutting corners to me.

              Just because it doesn't seem like they're cutting corners doesn't mean they aren't being cut - not all corners are visible to an outside observer. (Heck, even the big players have lost boo

    • by Fuzzums (250400)

      I'm just waiting for one of those DIY space thingies to land on my roof. It's instant profit. For me. If I'm not at home, that is.
      Actually, the mere thought of such a thing landing on my roof scares the #()$*&) out of me. I can't sleep at night. Ah! Profit!!

    • by nospam007 (722110) * on Sunday July 22, 2012 @04:00PM (#40731687)

      "Put another way, if garage-built rockets could make it into space, then we'd have orbital, Lunar and asteroid colonies by now."

      OTOH in 1969, people thought, If computers could be built in a garage, in 40 years everybody would have one in their pocket.

    • Uh Elon is not a billionarie. He put like $100M of his own money on SpaceX.
      • by bughunter (10093)

        Uh Elon is not a billionarie.

        Citation: Elon Musk Estimated Net Worth: $2B [therichest.org]. American engineer, entrepreneur and philanthropist, Elon Musk, has an estimated net worth of $2 billion as of March 2012 according to Forbes rich list.

        Sounds like a billionaire to me... but maybe not a billionarie?

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by cheesybagel (670288)
          Wow Elon is a billionaire now? He wasn't one at the time he started Tesla and SpaceX. One rumor is his first wife divorced him some time back because he was having a cash flow problem at the time. I knew he was doing better now that Tesla actually sells cars and SpaceX got all those launch contracts and Falcon 9 is flying but that is certainly interesting to know. You can check out his previous track record [about.com]. AFAIK he had ~200 million at the time.
    • by jamstar7 (694492)

      Put another way, if garage-built rockets could make it into space, then we'd have orbital, Lunar and asteroid colonies by now.

      But one of these days, technology and materials will allow "garage" projects like this. Perhaps the time has come. I wish him luck. It takes cojones grandes to be the first. If he's patient, deliberate, extraordinarily cautious, and more than a little lucky then he can pull it off.

      Damn, I hope I live long enough to see 'garage project' spacecraft head for space. That would be so damned cool.

      My problem is, I'll be way old to build one for myself.

      • by mcgrew (92797) *

        Damn, I hope I live long enough to see 'garage project' spacecraft head for space. That would be so damned cool. My problem is, I'll be way old to build one for myself.

        That depends on how old you are. I was 12 when I saw my first computer at a tech show in 1962. At the time they cost millions each and took an entire building to house, and were about as powerful as a TS-1000. Nobody thought that within our lifetimes we'd all have one on our desks an order of magnatude more powerful, and would cost a couple h

    • > The Russians do it slightly differently by

      ...not telling anyone when it goes wrong. Let's not forget, folks, we're all certain that Gagarin was the first man to return from space; what we're less sure about is whether he was the first to go there, or to attempt to go there. If you spent half your national space budget on propoganda and control of the media, you'd have a pretty successful space programme too.

      • by tragedy (27079)

        At this late date, would there be any reason to expect that such things would still be kept secret?

  • He'll have the funds to retire^Wfly to space in no time.
  • by dirtyhippie (259852) on Sunday July 22, 2012 @02:42PM (#40731307) Homepage

    this guy's offer sucks. if you give ME $10 million today, i GUARANTEE YOU that i WILL have my first test launch of a mission to jupiter. so what if it's made of rubber bands and has no chance of making it! then on to my next problem: what to do with $9,999,997 =)

    • by arobatino (46791)

      Bender's guarantee [quickmeme.com]

  • by Anonymous Coward

    He only needs one million people to give him $10 each.

    • by McGruber (1417641)

      He only needs one million people to give him $10 each.

      Actually, he already was on Kickstarter. He raised $20,843 from 321 supporters:

      http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/hermesspace/hermes-spacecraft

  • by jklovanc (1603149) on Sunday July 22, 2012 @02:50PM (#40731343)

    Is the Red Neck Rocket Scientist thinking about using the phrase "Hey Bubba, watch this!!" just before he hits the launch button?

    • by Occams (2422082)
      He can't really afford a red button. The procedure is actually to light the blue touch-paper, grab your beer, jump back in the pick-up truck, and get the hell outa therel.
  • What's that in BitCoins... this project should appeal to the same characters.
  • by Bromskloss (750445) <auxiliary.addres ... l.com ['mai' in > on Sunday July 22, 2012 @04:04PM (#40731711)

    Just $10M Keeping "Red Neck Rocket Scientist" From Reaching Space

    - Good day, I'd like to keep the red neck rocket scientist from reaching space.

    - That would be ten million dollars, please.

  • ...would like a word with you [nationalgeographic.com], sir.

  • by JoeMerchant (803320) on Sunday July 22, 2012 @04:35PM (#40731827)

    For $10M, I think I could build a really big weather balloon and gondola too...

  • by Grayhand (2610049) on Sunday July 22, 2012 @04:59PM (#40731947)
    I guess part of it will be going for a lawn chair and a match.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    ...Staring Andy Griffith, called Salvage 1.

    The secret to getting into space is to accelerate gradually.

  • by ModernGeek (601932) on Sunday July 22, 2012 @06:08PM (#40732231) Homepage
    The first thing I noticed was the shape of the windows. Notice the sharp edges, and the shape. Looking at the windows on modern spacecraft [nasa.gov] (in this case, this is a part of the Orion MPCV before being welded together [nasa.gov], one can see that there is a large support structure around the window, all of which adds a tremendous amount of weight.

    An aerodynamic clone of the space shuttle, such as Buran [wikipedia.org], must retain the shape in it's exactness, or else it will ruin the design without a lot of testing.

    If anything, they could do what Boeing is doing with the X-37C [wikipedia.org], and scale down the shuttle (though it differentiates from the design slightly).

    I see a lot of fundamental flaws. Their idea isn't impossible, but they should focus more on copying what's out there in the public domain before trying to improve the cockpit by adding big protruding windows to the cabin, which will make this thing a deathtrap. To keep costs down, nothing new should be added to this spacecraft that hasn't already been tested by a government over and over (the most expensive part of spaceflight). Normally a space system one or two new technologies to it. If one were to be a scaled copy (say a shuttle designed for two people), it could be done for significantly less.

    Personally, if I had $10 million to develop a shuttle, I'd clone three SSMEs, make an orbiter that held two people (scale down of the current orbiter), and make it work without Solid Rocket Motors. I'd also make sure to use the new PICA heat shield tiles (the old orbiters only got new tiles if one fell off).
    • by AK Marc (707885)
      Flat windows are stronger. Curved windows may be necessary for aerodynamics.
    • I always wondered why they bother with windows on spaceships these days (cue jokes about bsod and crashing) - why don't they just stick cameras on the outside and screens of some sort on the inside, or even a projector so you could make the 'window' as big as you want.. saves all that structural complication associated with having holes in the hull. I suppose they would drain power but they only need to be on when you actually want to look out.

    • by dbIII (701233)

      Notice the sharp edges, and the shape.

      Stars above! With windows like that it should fly like a Comet!
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/De_Havilland_Comet
      That aircraft was probably the last pressurised aircraft with sharp corners in the windows due to cracks starting in the corners and growing each time it was pressurised.

      • by dbIII (701233)
        OK, I just read the post by hermesspace below and see that it's a mockup with perspex windows that's just designed to be looked at and is never going to be pressurised anyway. A real prototype would be different.
        • As you saw already, the rectangular windows are largely a function of it being a prototype. The windows themselves are just plexiglass, the surrounding molding a regular plastic, and the vehicle is not currently pressurized. That is the biggest problem with using rectangle windows... the pressure delta leads to more stress on the corners and the pressure cycling will eventually lead to failure at those points.

          When we create our space-rated vehicle, we are looking into a couple of different options for the w

  • by jd2112 (1535857) on Sunday July 22, 2012 @07:20PM (#40732575)
    Even if the rocket doesn't get to orbit the pilot surely will...
  • by hermesspace (2690215) on Sunday July 22, 2012 @09:01PM (#40733081)

    Hi everyone,

    I've been working on the Hermes Spacecraft for about 1.5 years now. I'd like to clear up a few things for you.

    Like everything else in our project so far, the vehicle you see is a prototype. It is flight worthy, with some work, but NOT space worthy. If we had full funding immediately, we would set aside the current vehicle and use it for promotion, to send out to schools and other interested parties.

    The prototype is made of aircraft composite skins with chrome-moly steel. This makes the craft much heaver and not as robust, but, its significantly cheaper than space rated materials. Revision two, the actual Hermes Spacecraft, will consist of: Chrome-Moly Steel and aluminum airframe, Inconel Standoffs to support outer skin from the fuselage, Carbon-Carbon Skin where needed, etc. etc.

    The cockpit, and windows, are not pressurized currently. The windows are just standard plexiglass as is. Again, it boils down to working with the materials that we have, and working towards getting the funding we need. A garage spacecraft cannot support space rated materials unless you're a millionaire/billionaire :)
    The reason the prototype was built in the first place is, when Morris Jarvis (the creator/owner of the Hermes) went to seek funding several years ago, he made no progress because he had no prototype/mockup. The decision was then made to create a near-full scale replica of what the vehicle would look like. And here we are...

    The wings currently DO fold up. That was a logistics requirement, not a design feature. The prototype had requirements to travel, it's been to California and Texas. With the wings folded up, the craft fits in a standard sized trailer, that can be towed cross country. In the space-rated version, the body and planform would be a single piece.

    We successfully raised 20k on Kickstarter to progress our propulsion development. We have a few design iterations to go, but our plan is to use our hybrid propulsion technology to take us to our mission altitude. Our mantra is "build a little, test a lot"; we will be doing a lot of testing for our engines, but we have some unique ideas that will hopefully benefit us. There are a couple guys A LOT smarter than me who are volunteering some of their time for materials selection and propellant combination testing.

    I am a huge fan of Copenhagen Suborbitals. I wish them the best.

    I'll be happy to answer any questions you guys have. All I ask is that you give us a look and consider supporting us. We're aerospace entrepreneurs. We're used to working with no money, little materials, and making progress. Our passion is space. Our mantra is "Space for All". If you feel the same way, join us!

    -Mark

  • Really good movie... I've seen it several times.
    • by hughk (248126)
      Yes, loved the film too. But didn't the hero there get his hands on a lot of surplus parts? Many of which now would be mega-restricted in real life now.
  • I'm sure 10M$ is enough and he is using proper technologies: http://dilbert.com/strips/comic/1994-01-24/ [dilbert.com]
  • This reminds me of the TV series "Salvage One" that played a long time ago. They developed monohydrazene fuel and built a self contained reusable rocket ship from junkyard parts :-) I think Andy Griffith was the main dude :-)

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