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Space Science Technology

SpaceShipOne Back in Action 200

JoeSilva writes "After a 3 month wait, Scaled Composites' SpaceShipOne is back in the skies above Mojave! Not only is it patched up from a failed landing gear, it's got a 'thermal protection system' installed. Looks like high temp insulation on the leading edges. Also they have a picture of it with 'the rocket motor for the flight 13p'. This was the 12th SpaceShipOne flight."
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SpaceShipOne Back in Action

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  • Minimal info (Score:5, Interesting)

    by apsmith ( 17989 ) * on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @02:58PM (#8580788) Homepage
    Looks like the flight was a few days ago (March 11) - why is this the first report? They're being very quiet about this. And how did Joe Silva track this down?
  • Global Flyer (Score:5, Interesting)

    by stoolpigeon ( 454276 ) <bittercode@gmail> on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @02:59PM (#8580804) Homepage Journal
    While you are there check out the Global Flyer [] It is just as cool in my book. The similarity in the designs of the craft are interesting. The idea of flying around the world on one tank of gas is pretty wild.

  • Looks good (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Skyshadow ( 508 ) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @03:01PM (#8580821) Homepage
    Ship looks pretty tight, IMO.

    Of course, the project we have to compare it to is John Carmack's Armadillo Aerospace venture (since they have the decency to provide week-by-week status reports, which I consider manditory Monday reading). The folks at Armadillo are still working on getting their engines to light reliably (extra important since they're using five of them) and still haven't had anything like a successful test flight.

    I dunno, man -- If I'm Carmack, I'm thinking it's time to really get at it if you're still serious about winning the X-prize. The SpaceShipOne folks seem to be putting them further and further into the rear-view. Which isn't to say they *can't* catch up; if the Armadillo team can get their engines lighting reliably, they should be about ready to bolt the thing together and start flying.

    Man, this beats the heck out of money pits like the ISS, eh? Nothing like a little old fashioned get-the-prize competition to turn up some interesting stuff. Maybe a $100 billion prize for the first company to land people on Mars and bring them back ought to be next -- get the government to cooperate with permits and NASA to share their tech. I'd bet you'd see people there inside a decade.

  • heat shielding (Score:5, Interesting)

    by black ninja ( 737113 ) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @03:01PM (#8580826)
    I'm just a lowly undergrad of physics, but won't they need more than just a heat shield on leading edges? Any aero-eng guys out there? I slow to landing speed as you come out of orbit I think you have to come in at a fairly high angle of attack so that you present a large cross-section to the air, and let the drag slow you down. That is why the space shuttles underbelly is all thermo-shield.

    Also, IMHO the ship looks like some high-school science project with way to much duct-tape with the leading edges done the way they have it.

  • Armadillo Dreamin' (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Ephboy ( 761440 ) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @03:08PM (#8580895)
    Apparently, Scaled Composites is one of two teams to have applied for a permit from the FAA [] to launch a spaceflight. The other is Armadillo Aerospace [], run by John Carmack of Doom fame. It's interesting to compare and contrast the two companies. Rutan has a sleek ship with lots of cool round windows that launches from a funky big plane, and they have some good solid live testing. The Armadillo team's site really shows you the nitty-gritty of building something that flies in your spare time, with pictures of them welding engines together, making a crew capsule out of whatever they could find, and building a landing gear with some thick cable springs. I'm guessing that Rutan will win, but I'll hold out hope that the garage engineer can pull off at least some type of flight to give courage to that old entrepreneurial spirit....
  • A good thing too (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @03:10PM (#8580913)
    They better not have any more delays like that last one, if they want to win the X-Prize. The $10 million dollar prize expires at the end of this year, and a lot of other groups are competing for it.

    I think we'll see some exciting new developments in space technology over the next few years. I'm confident someone will win the X-Prize [],(which is more a PR bonus for starting a space tourism company than anything else) the Bush Admin wants to send folks to the moon or Mars (probably using nuclear propulsion), and it's all but a foregone conclusion that someone [] will try to build a Space Elevator soon.
  • Re:heat shielding (Score:3, Interesting)

    by orac2 ( 88688 ) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @03:18PM (#8580999)
    Don't forget that Rutan's vehicle is suborbital (as are all the X-Prize contendors). The speeds of suborbital vehicles are much lower than orbital speeds: the shuttle has to dump a lot of energy in a short time when coming back from orbit and needs much more thermal protection as a result. For contrast to the shuttle, consider the X-15, which could just reach beyond the 50 mile boundary that marked whether or not you got to add U.S. astronaut to your resume: it didn't require tiles, or an ablative shield, just the careful application of iconel and other high temperature alloys.
  • by CBob ( 722532 ) <> on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @03:20PM (#8581022)
    Rutan and Scaled are prob the Ultimate Gargage Engineers. He's done stuff that "experts" called impossible for years.

    The "early" kit planes he designed are still works of "art".

    (bad news, the site is /.ed)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @03:24PM (#8581045)
    Uh, bullshit.

    Cryogenic hydrogen/oxygen (LOX/LH2) is about the best you can get without big handling difficulties. You can go with flourine combos, but that only nets another 3%-4% ISP with truely horrid handling problems.

    There's no "improvement of 2 or 3 orders of magnitude" coming anywhere.

    And LH2 has the problem with needing huge tanks because it's so non-dense. If you consider tank size, you can actually get more into orbit on a smaller/lighter vehicle using LOX/kerosene like the Saturn V. The smaller & lighter tanks offset the lower ISP.
  • Re:Minimal info (Score:1, Interesting)

    by simcop2387 ( 703011 ) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @03:26PM (#8581060) Homepage Journal
    This might seem like flamebait or a troll but i think i recall hearing rumors about SSO being partially funded by an MS co-founder. (e.g. Paul Allen) l

    i doubt microsoft has a whole lot to do with it, i think its just probably him trying to get some fame by getting them into space.
  • by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) <> on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @03:29PM (#8581082) Homepage Journal
    I wouldn't worry too much. Rutan seems to be putting on a show more than actually at a "space capable" stage. IIRC, the X-Prize requires that the craft reach 100KM. Rutan's craft has only reached ~14Km, about where a 747 flies. Actual LEO is really 200km - 1500km.

    FWIW, it looks like Carmack is taking the time to understand his engines before shooting them off and hoping they fly. This is particularly important since his Monoprop fuel has an Isp of a mere 160. (Shuttle SRBs get 250, and LHOx like the Shuttle main engines get 450.)
  • Re:heat shielding (Score:3, Interesting)

    by golgotha007 ( 62687 ) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @03:45PM (#8581273)
    consider the X-15, which could just reach beyond the 50 mile boundary

    so, basically you're saying that i can win 10 million bucks if i can reverse engineer technology developed before 1959? yes, that's 45 or more years ago.


  • Re:Global Flyer (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SB9876 ( 723368 ) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @04:34PM (#8581798)
    Just a wierd little anecdote:
    My father was working as a welder on a solar collector project back around at the time down in the Mojave desert. Since the rest of the family was back in Montana, he had lots of free time and would pass the time by driving around the area.

    One day, he happened across Scaled Compsites. He had heard of them from their work on the EZ-flyer and other projects. So, he just got out of his truck and proceeded to wander into a hanger. A couple guys looked up from their work but didn't seem to think anything of some stranger wandering around. My dad was completely mystified by the wierd, double winged airplane that was in the hanger. He decided against pushing his luck and didn't ask what the airplane was and just wandered out again. A couple weeks later, he saw that the same plane had just completed the round-the-world flight - it had been the Voyager.

    I have the feeling that Scaled Composites would take a slightly dimmer view of complete strangers wandering through their hangers these days...
  • How do you know? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mnemonic_ ( 164550 ) <(ude.hcimu) (ta) (cemaj)> on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @04:38PM (#8581827) Homepage Journal
    How do you know how what sort of cooling mechanism is in place or how effective the heat shield will be? Just looking at pictures? For all you know there could be some elaborate fluid cooling system internally distributed, making blunt edges less necessary. Or that heat shield could be more effective than what your extensive calculations and research indicate.

    My point is is that you shouldn't be so quick to judge. Or maybe you're just shoehorning some semi-related facts in an insightful-sounding post to raise your karma.

    (btw I am an aeronautical engineering major)
  • by Buran ( 150348 ) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @05:09PM (#8582213)
    I don't have every answer, but here are a few facts:

    You've got it right on the heat dissipation, though I mentioned that more to address comments that all the heat would be "taken" along the leading edges of the wings, which isn't the case even though they do tend to get pretty hot - which you can see in infrared pictures of the Shuttle as it descends.

    This isn't an orbital vehicle, no. A flight will take around half an hour and it'll reach an altitude of 100km or so - across the official space boundary, but it won't stay there long. A lot more fuel would be required to reach orbital velocity, and a lot more heat shielding to make it back.

    Re-entry profiles are usually "corridors" only a few degrees wide; come in too shallow, and you skip off the atmosphere; too steep, and you're crushed by G forces. The exact profile differs from design to design, I'd imagine.

    Most of the envelope is determined by fuel and the shape of your ship. Amazing things can be done by designing your vehicle well and taking advantage of physics... take a look at the Sanger skip bomber", a suborbital craft designed to fly once around the world and make an unpowered glide landing, "skipping" off the atmosphere like a stone off water. []

    Notice how flat the underside of the spacecraft is ...

"Well, it don't make the sun shine, but at least it don't deepen the shit." -- Straiter Empy, in _Riddley_Walker_ by Russell Hoban