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Space Transportation Technology

Spaceport America Begins Construction 95

eldavojohn writes "While a lot of people are wondering if commercial spaceflight will ever make it, Spaceport America is holding its groundbreaking ceremony today. You can watch it live at their site at 11am MST. The spaceport is aiming for a diverse clientele, including the delivery of small national security purpose satellites into Earth orbit as well as research and development for scientific purposes. After getting their FAA license and securing funding, the 27 square mile development project has officially begun. The target date for completion is the end of 2010 — let's all hope for success in the milestone goal!"
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Spaceport America Begins Construction

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  • by Yvan256 ( 722131 ) on Friday June 19, 2009 @03:45PM (#28394385) Homepage Journal

    In the age of the commercial internet, we need shipping companies such as FedEx more than ever.

  • by Tangent128 ( 1112197 ) on Friday June 19, 2009 @04:14PM (#28394927)
    They used the same reasoning to explain why nobody would ever pay for airplane-facilitated overnight delivery. People are impatient.
  • by SydShamino ( 547793 ) on Friday June 19, 2009 @04:37PM (#28395341)

    They aren't that stupid. Most officials recognize that people like to view major equipment like this.

    The restriction of non-travelers in airports has made it difficult to spend time watching airplanes land and take off. Rather than ignore this, airports (like DFW) have been adding viewing decks available to those outside security. You may have to watch through glass or through a screen fence, but you'll be able to sit and enjoy your pasttime.

    If they do it for airplanes, they'll do it for rockets and spaceships.

  • by camperdave ( 969942 ) on Friday June 19, 2009 @04:37PM (#28395343) Journal
    Who is willing to pay the enormous costs of getting a package delivered anywhere on Earth in a few hours by going into orbit, when they could just wait a bit longer and get it for remarkably cheap?

    There's a compatible donor heart for your daughter, but it's on the other side of the planet. We need to start surgery in four hours, or she'll die. We could have the heart here in two hours by rocket, or we could save you a bundle by using our overnight air service.
  • by jollyreaper ( 513215 ) on Friday June 19, 2009 @04:48PM (#28395499)

    Back in the 1990s, one of the most realistic-seeming depictions of the rise of private spacefaring was Michael Fynn's future history beginning with Firestar [] . Flynn made it seem as if the biggest obstacle towards getting into space was not gravity and fuel costs as much as government hassles. If Spaceport America has successfully dealt with the FAA, then I would like to think that things are looking up from here (though Flynn suggested companies like FedEx would massively support the endeavour, which seems unlikely now in the age of the internet).

    Scifi tends to attract people with a diverse libertarian bent. Socially liberal with dirty minds (looking at you, Heinlein), but also a lot of support for Randian concepts of scientific supermen who could work miracles if only they weren't held down by governments and the mediocre.

    Spaceflight is hard. While FAA red tape can be daunting, the science is still the hard part. And just remember when you hear people arguing about government red tape, inspection and regulation is supposed to protect the public. If you want to see what deregulation brings, just look at our financial crisis. Government wasn't the problem, government abdication of responsibility was the problem.

  • by Hogwash McFly ( 678207 ) on Friday June 19, 2009 @04:53PM (#28395585)

    You forgot the rest:

    Doctor: "But oh, wait, I forgot, this is the future where we deliver stuff by space rockets. What does your daughter prefer, sir, this ultra-reliable robotic heart, or the genetically-compatible one growing in the vat next door?"

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 19, 2009 @04:59PM (#28395673)

    Flynn made it seem as if the biggest obstacle towards getting into space was not gravity and fuel costs as much as government hassles.

    The simple reason for that is that any organization capable of launching a payload into space is - by extension - capable of delivering a nuclear warhead anywhere on the planet.
    And that tends to complicate things...

  • by FleaPlus ( 6935 ) on Friday June 19, 2009 @05:33PM (#28396131) Journal

    Couldn't we just use a Scramjet until it becomes inefficient and then a rocket for the rest of the way? It would still get us up to 25% of the way there and that is a large amount of rocket fuel (and cost) you've just saved.

    You'd save money on fuel, but contrary to popular belief, fuel (even though there's quite a bit of it) is just ~1% of the total cost of flying a rocket. So you've basically ended up taking a chunk out of that tiny 1%, while in turn significantly increasing engine and production costs, which are a far larger chunk of the total cost.

  • by Chris Burke ( 6130 ) on Friday June 19, 2009 @07:11PM (#28397229) Homepage

    The SR-71 Blackbird had a combination jet/ramjet engine, where the turbines were used at lower speeds, and then once it broke supersonic it became a ramjet using bypasses that directed the air (compressed by the cones on front of the engine) around the turbines which comprise most of the volume of the huge engine cylinders.

    Not only is the SR-71 anything but an economical bird, it was also terribly complex to design, ridiculously inefficient while using the turbine (without even accounting for the fact that until air friction caused its panels to expand and seal it leaked fuel literally like a sieve), and very heavy. Tacking a rocket onto that kind of system to reach space sounds all kind of inefficient and uneconomical. I'm no aerospace engineer, but I wouldn't be surprised if designing the engine to seal off the front and use an internal oxidizer was infeasible and the rockets had to essentially be a whole separate system.

    Frankly as far as hybrid systems go, I still like the Spaceship One/White Knight approach. A separate carrier vehicle can take the spacecraft up to high-ish altitudes, and then when the space craft takes ignites its rockets and takes off, it doesn't have to carry the carrier vehicle's jet engines with it. But who knows if that can be scaled up to something capable of carrying an orbit-capable vehicle plus a significant payload? Well, Burt Rutan I'd imagine.

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