Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive


Forgot your password?
Space Transportation Science

Paul Allen Launches Commercial Spaceship Project 152

smitty777 writes "The phrase 'Where do you want to go today?' takes on a whole new meaning as Paul Allen, Microsoft co-founder and the world's 57th richest man in the world, looks to create a new spaceship company. Stratolaunch Systems plans to bring 'airport like operations' to the world of private space travel. Partnering with Burt Rutan, the plan is to field a test within five years and commercially available flights within ten. Spacecraft will be air-launched from a giant, six-engined aircraft. There is more information available on the Stratolaunch homepage."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Paul Allen Launches Commercial Spaceship Project

Comments Filter:
  • by White Flame ( 1074973 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @06:59PM (#38363132)


    • "OOOooh! Am I as cool as Branson, yet!"

      • by mosb1000 ( 710161 ) <> on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @07:21PM (#38363434)

        Just so you know, Allen originally funded space ship one, so it's more like Branson copied him.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          Allen is a patent troll, and human trash. If he had no money, he'd have no friends at all.

          Branson is a shy, yet gregarious and likable kook. He actually has good intentions - not just an empty egotism.

          It's no wonder that folks wanting to take Scaled Composites work on Spaceship One to a commercial venture, sought out Virgin, rather than the man who even Bill Gates can't stand.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Anonymous Coward

            I wouldn't call Branson likeable or well-intentioned. He's a hard-nosed businessman, always out to make a profit at someone else's expense. Back in his early days as the CEO of Virgin Records (when it was a record company, not a chain of stores), he had a "standard contract" that was always offered to new artists. It was a totally one-sided contract that basically boiled down to, "If your music makes any money, you won't see any of it." Branson was asked once why he offered such a horrendously unfair contra

          • I think he might also be a closet scientologist, looking at this... []
        • Or, more like "Branson reached an agreement with Allen to license the technology"...

          • by Moofie ( 22272 )

            Or, even more like, "Both Branson and Allen contracted the same designer and aircraft factory to build airplanes for different missions". Wouldn't want to, you know, say true things or anything.

            • Well, it will be good for a friend of mine, either way. He's working on Dragon, CST-100, AND MPCV/Orion!

              Personally, I liked the bad punctuation combined with unintentionally funny line break in one article about this. It was discussing the two primary people involved, and introduced them as:

              ...Paul Allen, owner of Vulcan Inc and Burt Rutan,
              founder of Scaled Composites...

              The placement of the line break was *VERY* bad. As in, "I didn't know Allen owned Rutan!"

        • +1 FTW
    • by Fluffeh ( 1273756 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @07:30PM (#38363542)


      Don't be like that... This is much more likely...

      You will be arriving at the Moon Base in 3 hours forty five minutes...
      You will be arriving at the Moon Base in two minutes...
      You will be arriving at the Moon Base in six days and twenty three hours...
      You will be arriving at the Moon Base in calculating...
      You will be.... . .. . .. . . .

      • by ackthpt ( 218170 )


        Don't be like that... This is much more likely...

        You will be arriving at the Moon Base in 3 hours forty five minutes...
        You will be arriving at the Moon Base in two minutes...
        You will be arriving at the Moon Base in six days and twenty three hours...
        You will be arriving at the Moon Base in calculating...
        You will be.... . .. . .. . . .

        Followed by the BSoD?

        Probably be a B[HUD]oD

    • by msauve ( 701917 )

      Brings new meaning to "the blue screen of death," doesn't it?
    • by Forbman ( 794277 )

      "the Greg Oden Experience"... (sorry, just a bit bemused about how Paul Allen [and his peepz] runs the Portland Trailblazers and Seattle Seahawks...)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @07:02PM (#38363162)
    ...Department comes:
    the world's 57th richest man in the world
    • by ackthpt ( 218170 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @07:06PM (#38363224) Homepage Journal

      ...Department comes:

      the world's 57th richest man in the world

      Author probably walked through a door at the University of Notre Dame, while typing that.

      • I think you'll find you meant to say "author probably walked through a University of Notre Dame door at the University of Notre Dame while typing that."
        • Probably the guy is Argentinian...

          They used to call Maradona "one the ten greatest soccer players in the world and one of Argentina's best players."

    • What in the world are you talking about? Everyone else in the entire world thinks that's perfectly normal in the entire world! Don't you know anything worldly about the world's richest men in the world? We in this world are not talking about the world's richest men anywhere else!
    • by Muros ( 1167213 )

      ...Department comes: the world's 57th richest man in the world

      If the company is successful, he can become the moon's 57th richest man in the world!

    • by Hatta ( 162192 )

      Maybe he's the 57th person in the world to be the richest man in the world?

  • To distance himself from Microsoft, eh?

    To the Moon, Alice!

  • Pioneering? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

  • Excellent Team (Score:5, Informative)

    by DanielRavenNest ( 107550 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @07:23PM (#38363456)

    Paul Allen for the money spigot, Burt Rutan for the carrier aircraft, and Elon Musk/SpaceX for the rocket stages. When I worked on such concepts many years ago at Boeing, we generally found that launching from altitude like that doubles the payload compared to the same rocket starting from the ground, so it makes a lot of sense from an engineering and cost sense, as long as the carrier aircraft costs less than the rocket stages per flight (normally easy to do).

    This design overcomes one limitation we had at Boeing, which was the 747 was not quite large enough in it's current form. By going to six engines of the same size as the 747 uses, they solved that problem. Eventually they can also look at flying back the first rocket stage, for even more savings. Once it is empty of fuel, the rocket stage does not weigh much, so it would not take much in the way of wings, landing gear, and some small jet engines so it can fly to a landing. Without knowing how far it will go on a ballistic arc doing it's launch job, it is hard to say if it should fly back to the launch site, or fly forward to another landing location.

    • Interesting. Seems like it would be faster / easier to re engine a 747 then to create an entirely new aircraft. Maybe they could duct tape the tail end of an L1011 to the forward fuselage of a 747. That puppy ought to move.

      • by Nidi62 ( 1525137 )

        Interesting. Seems like it would be faster / easier to re engine a 747 then to create an entirely new aircraft.

        But wouldn't the addition of the extra weight on the wings (more engines) or the trust from stronger engines going to require a lot of re-engineering/redesigning of the 747 anyway? The last thing you want is to have the engines shear off inflight because it couldn't structurally handle the extra thrust.

      • I honestly can't say why that wouldn't work, but Rutan actually specifically called that out in the press conference as "a really stupid idea." I'm just going to take his word for it, although just looking at his design the problem might just be that it's not powerful enough. The thing they've designed has almost twice the wingspan and half again as many engines, for example.

    • by Nethead ( 1563 )

      Checking the specs on the SpaceX Falcon-9 and the 747-LCF it seems that the rocket would easily fit in the Dreamlifter. FAA accepted design, get Evergreen to build another and Stratolaunch has a way to get the rock back to Huntsville, or where ever they launch from. Or even just rent it from Boeing for a few days. I know I see them sitting there at Paine for weeks at a time.

      • by Moofie ( 22272 )

        You understand that this is a launch platform, not a cargo operation, right?

        • by Nethead ( 1563 )

          I was thinking ahead to get the possibly landed rocket back to the launch site for redeployment. I guess I should have made myself clear. The parent had mentioned landing the (non-payload) rocket but, due to orbital mechanics, it may not be near the launch site. It's a big object that would otherwise have to be shipped (although Boeing does run some rail cars that may handle it.)

          And yes, around where I live we do see planes on trains quite often but I think those are 757 bodies.

    • by Michael Woodhams ( 112247 ) on Wednesday December 14, 2011 @01:22AM (#38366356) Journal

      747-400 engines have thrust between 265 and 282 kN (depending on engine model). 777 engines have thrust between 338 and 514 kN. You can get more thrust out of four 777 engines than you can six 747 engines. The design has a high wing, so engine diameter isn't an issue. Why use six engines instead of four?

      (A330 and A380 engines have only a small advantage over 747, at 310-320 kN.)

      The 747-400 has been around 6 more years than the 777, and 747-300 much longer again. Maybe they can get six used 747 engines much cheaper than four used 777 engines. As a low-usage aircraft, it makes sense to have increased maintenance costs if it saves enough on capital costs.

    • Finally someone in the field!

      Maybe you can help me with this. I've always wondered why space launches have always been from a vertical take-off. From what I know about Harrier jump jets you can get a heavier payload into the air from a horizontal take-off (assisted in the Harrier's case by a ski-jump deck on the ship). When I first saw the Pegasus launch system I wondered why that hadn't been a standard launch method before. Is it down to the size of aircraft needed to get the heavy rocket stage to a hi

  • by wanzeo ( 1800058 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @07:29PM (#38363526)

    For a long time I have wondered why we don't just use massive helium balloons to carry rockets much closer to space. Even if the balloon only gets a quarter of the way to orbit, it gets through the thickest air before the rocket fires.

    Unless helium is more expensive than rocket fuel, but helium can be collected from alpha decay right, so it seems like it would be cheaper.

    Even if it isn't feasible for big payloads, there are several high class hobbyist rockets out there that can reach 100k feet. Why not ride a balloon up to 70-80k, and then launch the rocket?

    • Yeah. Thomas Goddard proved it's that thick air that keeps us earthbound. Newton, be damned. :-)

      Actually, you do have a point. Burn less expensive fuel, longer and slowly to get to the outer-edge of the stratosphere. Efficient.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @07:37PM (#38363636)

      Getting into orbit isn't about altitude - it's about velocity. If you look at the energetics of any rocket, about 95% of the energy produced goes into the kinetic energy of velocity - with only about 5% going into the potential energy of increased altitude. Having a jet impart the initial ~600mph to the rocket stage is a huge savings, particularly given the non-linear nature of the propellant economics.

      • by wanzeo ( 1800058 )

        Interesting, and that makes a good argument for the use of the jet. But how high can that jet go, and how much fuel is it using? It still seems like the rocket would burn less fuel getting to orbital velocity starting off in the stratosphere than it does starting off on the ground. Even though it would start at 0m/s, there are simply less air molecules to run into.

        • by DanielRavenNest ( 107550 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @08:55PM (#38364406)

          High bypass turbofans like the ones they will be using are about 20 times as fuel-efficient as rocket engines. For one thing, they get oxygen from the air, and then the turbine pushes 6-8 times more air with the big fan, which goes around the combustion part of the engine.

          Starting at altitude helps you in three ways: (1) the velocity and altitude you are starting at, (2) less air drag flying through the remainder of the atmosphere, and (3) less back-pressure loss in the rocket engine. At sea level, the loss is 1 atmosphere times the area of the back end of the nozzle, which is significant.

          • by strack ( 1051390 )
            dont forget increased efficiency of the rocket engines due to lower atmospheric pressure since you are able to use higher expansion ratio nozzles on the first stage.
      • Should be 5 Informative (as in understanding things others don't) not "interesting".
    • by TheSync ( 5291 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @08:12PM (#38364008) Journal

      I have wondered why we don't just use massive helium balloons to carry rockets much closer to space

      Check out JP Aerospace [] who have been working on the "Airship to Orbit" concept.

      Atmospheric airships using both buoyancy and lift go from ground to 140K feet. There they dock with "Dark Sky Stations" where cargo is transferred to the massive airship-to-orbit craft that can only exist at this altitude and will use buoyancy to rise to 200K feet, then uses electric propulsion to speed up over several days to orbital velocity.

      • by strack ( 1051390 )
        thats fucking stupid, and created by those with utterly no concept of the laws of physics. you see the dark sky in those high altitude balloon pics and you think HUUURRR ITS HALFWAY TO SPACE. you cant have buoyancy and no atmospheric drag. the only way thats gonna work is if your electric propulsion has enough thrust to lift the entire ship out of the atmosphere, at which point you may as well just launch it from the ground.
    • by Animats ( 122034 )

      Why not ride a balloon up to 70-80k, and then launch the rocket?

      That was done in the 1940s. [] It works for small rockets, but usually isn't worth the trouble.

    • For a long time I have wondered why we don't just use massive helium balloons to carry rockets much closer to space. Even if the balloon only gets a quarter of the way to orbit, it gets through the thickest air before the rocket fires.

      Unless helium is more expensive than rocket fuel, but helium can be collected from alpha decay right, so it seems like it would be cheaper.

      Even if it isn't feasible for big payloads, there are several high class hobbyist rockets out there that can reach 100k feet. Why not ride a balloon up to 70-80k, and then launch the rocket?

      We don't use helium balloons for a couple of reasons, it's getting expensive, and also because there's a shortage of it [] .

  • Having your own space flight company seems to be the new fad among todays ultra elites.

    I suppose it's better than yachting.

  • Any patents filed on this by Paul Allen yet? Quick, what have we got for prior art?

    How about a wide variety of designs through aviation history in which smaller piloted aircraft are launched from larger ones while airborne, not to mention the X-1 through X-15 programs and of course the Yokosuka MXY7 Ohka.

    • by Forbman ( 794277 )

      Orbital Systems would seem to have lots of prior art w.r.t. the Pegasus rocket...

      • Not even close. Orbital got their tech from NASA/USAF. The ability to drop a vehicle was pioneered back in the 50's. And all that orbital did was use a dead L-1011 and somebody else's rocket (after all, OSC develops NOTHING).
  • by StefanJ ( 88986 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @07:54PM (#38363824) Homepage Journal

    Yeah, yeah, it was just a model, but they had the concept down 41 years ago:

  • by MoldySpore ( 1280634 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @07:54PM (#38363828)

    ...perhaps we should have some better places to go? All these companies are spending $ to be able to fly rich idiots into low earth orbit. So what's the next step? the ISS? Oh wait, that's not going to be around much longer. The moon? Well China will most likely be there by the time everyone else is ready. Where else?

    Fact is, we don't have the technology to reach even out into our own solar system, let alone anywhere REALLY meaningful (such as some of those "Goldilocks" planets we see millions of light years away but can't hope to get anything other than pictures of). Face it, the private space initiative if crap. It's something for the super-rich to spend their money on. Meanwhile the people who have actually been dreaming of space flight or venturing outside of our solar system, for more than the cheap thrill these private "space flight" companies are offering, for their entire lives are stuck at home in a 9-5 without any hope of being able to pay the cost of entry to the lowest form of space flight possible, or available, to the average person (a.k.a. NOT astronauts).

    Instead of this, they should be pooling their money into R&D and backing NASA to help develop the tech we need to GET OFF THIS ROCK and really explore the universe. I hate to sound like a broken record, but we literally know NOTHING about the universe we live in. How can $20,000 - $200,000 (depending on who you go with and when) for a few minutes of weightlessness be what the world is happy with? I for one expected more out of human ambition and curiosity.

    • by suomynonAyletamitlU ( 1618513 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @10:11PM (#38364968)

      ...perhaps we should have some better places to go?

      Unfortunately, it really does have to work the other way around. It's a very unfortunate Catch-22. Until getting to orbit stops breaking the bank, there's not much you can do to put a livable space in orbit, let alone the moon or mars; until there is a place to go, it's not commercially viable to research spaceflight.

      Getting to space is a cost-per-pound proposition. How many pounds of material does it take to make a sustainable habitat on the moon? How many pounds of fuel to get it there? How many pounds of fuel will they keep on the moon in reserve in case someone needs to come home? Without lifting capabilities that far surpass what we have, it won't be practical.

      That leaves us with two options for research and development: Convince government to waste money on something the majority of their constituents will never benefit from, or convince millionaires to part with their money for a joyride. As long as the latter works, more power to them. Personally, I wouldn't mind my tax dollars going to space research either, but there are a lot of people in this country who would be better served with a lower tax rate (let alone an actual public service, you know, like health care or the post office) than with space travel.

    • Really? I find it interesting that you discount private space so much, when they are obviously lightyears ahead of the vast majority of the world. As it is, the largest lifter is the Delta IV H at 22 tonnes. Heck, China is working toward Long March 5 that will send up 25 tonnes, while FH will be out around the same time with more than DOUBLE its capacity at 54 tonnes. In addition, the FH will be cheaper than any LV that does more than 15 tonnes to LEO.

      NASA is wasting money on that crap SLS by being force
      • That reminds me about an old joke during my time at school: The advisor is running to the president and proclaiming: the russians are launching to the moon to night! They plan to paint the entire moon red!
        President: Who cares? When we land next year we just paint "Coca Cola" over it!

    • You have to walk before you can run. That is why it is important. Not only that, but the stuff we could learn from it will help us greatly in improving our travel technology. How many more experiments will we be able to do in space when the cost to take stuff there drops drastically? This isn't just about rich people getting to float around. It's about rich people floating around and NASA (and other space agencies) getting to launch fuck-tons of experimental stuff into space to see what we can learn.

    • Face it, the private space initiative if crap. It's something for the super-rich to spend their money on.

      Face it, the NASA ha a budget of $18.724 in 2011 (according to wikipedia).

      The 10 richest people on the world are estimated (by Forbes):
      Bill Gates $56.0
      Warren Buffett $50.0
      Bernard Arnault $41.0
      Lawrence Ellison $39.5
      Lakshmi Mittal $31.1
      Amancio Ortega $31.0
      Batista $30.0 billion
      Mukesh Ambani $27.0
      Christy Walton $26.5
      Sum ~ 321 billion

      So the ten richest have 6 times more money than the NASA for 1 year.

  • by ohnocitizen ( 1951674 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @07:59PM (#38363884)

    plans to bring 'airport like operations' to the world of private space travel.

    Where do you want to be strip searched today?

    • Where do you want to be strip searched today?

      why in a strip club of course. And by the girls that are there.

  • ... for his administration making the policy and (I presume) regulatory changes that have allowed this flowering of commercial space transportation.

    We'll never beat the Chinese on labor costs. But I imagine Chinese bureaucracies are as inefficient at American ones so putting their government up against our entrepreneurs gives us a chance.

    • Actually, the time is coming when the west will no longer accept China's cheating on everything. Once that happens, China will have to honor all of the treaties and in particular, allow labor and money to float by market rate. Once that happens, then their costs will skyrocket.
      • Why do you think so? Labour costs has nothing to do with fixed exchange rates of your currency.
        The topic is far mroe complex or every western country had more or less the same labout costs, which is in fact not the case. And every western country had the same cost of production for a certain piece of technology, which is also not the case.

  • The launch aircraft has enough range to transport the rocket to an equatorial launch point, which I've read can allow up to a 25% increase in payload

    .This might improve on the project's economic chances.

  • Fuck Paul Allen.

    Screw him and his 'all you code are belong to us' brigade

  • I would be interested in a breakdown of the advantages of such launch technology. I understand the flexibility aspect, and the advantage of moving toward the equator - although that is only a plus for certain launch trajectories. How much is saved by starting at altitude? What is the value of starting at 500 mph? How does this all affect the bottom line? Adding a reusable first stage is nice, but are we talking 10% savings? 20? I saw nothing about the real economics on the trite website.

    • According to musk, 90% of the rocket launch is the labor and rocket costs. The more of it that is re-usable, the cheaper that it is.
      • "90% of the cost is the labor and rocket costs" answers none of the posed questions. Moreover, reusability in of itself does not mean less expensive per use (shuttle, anyone?).

        Please post again when you have some actual content to contribute.

  • Mach 6 at 60,000 feet gives you 6% of the energy you need to to orbit. A carrier airplane isn't worth the effort.

    Nobody wants to tell him that because...why turn off the money? Another thing poor old Paul isn`t being told:

    Q: How do you make a small fortune in aerospace?

    A: Start with a large fortune.

    These guys are all the hot-air balloonists who were playing around while Orville and Wilbur were doing the real deal. What the brothers did was hard. Think of it in modern terms: what if there wer

    • by 0123456 ( 636235 )

      Mach 6 at 60,000 feet gives you 6% of the energy you need to to orbit. A carrier airplane isn't worth the effort.

      Uh, yes it is. I don't know about this specific design, but the two usual reasons for wanting to start from high altitude are to use vacuum-rated nozzles which have a significantly higher ISP, and to avoid drag early in the flight.

      This is very little to do with altitude or velocity, it's primarily air pressure.

      • The question you need to ask with regards to a carrier plane is, what fraction of the propellant mass becomes unnecessary, and can you really carry the rest on with a carrier plane? Remember that the Shuttle took two large solid rockets, and a huge tank of liquid rocket fuel just to get to orbit. Nobody in their right mind would suggest, let alone fund, a project where you launched that off the back of another flying craft.

        Orbit is all about the velocity--the kinetic energy put into the vessel. You might

        • The fact is that the amount of LOX to get to 50K/500 MPH is not that much. The real ECONOMIC issue is re-usability. As it is, the spaceX rocket appears to be an F 5, not an F9.
    • Of course, the ability to launch over and over quickly and from all over the US or any location would not have any value? Likewise, by building the carrier, it can be used for cargo crafts at other times.
    • A lot of people don't understand that getting to 'space' doesn't mean much unless you have enough energy to get out of the gravity well, or at least up to a useful orbit. Unscrupulous 'visionaries' have been capitalizing on that misunderstanding for years.

    • Re:The 666 Rule (Score:4, Informative)

      by DanielRavenNest ( 107550 ) on Wednesday December 14, 2011 @12:34AM (#38366038)

      You are incorrect. A carrier aircraft doubles the payload to orbit relative to the same rocket starting from the ground. The energy and fuel saved might be only 3%, but if your payload to orbit of the rocket is 3% to start with, then saving 3% will double the payload to 6%.

      A carrier aircraft helps in several ways:

      * The actual altitude and velocity at the time you light up the rocket
      * Reduced g-losses. A conventional rocket starts by going straight up in order to get above most of the atmosphere quickly. When you are thrusting up, gravity fights you by trying to pull you down. This is lost energy. When you thrust horizontally, gravity is perpendicular so does not slow you down. With air-launch, you spend more of your thrust near horizontal
      * Reduced drag loss. You are starting above about 80% of the atmosphere, so reduce drag by that much.
      * Reduced pressure loss in the rocket nozzle. At sea level, you have to fight 1 atmosphere of air times the area of the nozzle exit. It reduces the rocket engine thrust by that amount. Starting up higher gives you more thrust for the same fuel used.

      You need to factor in all of those items to find out the true value of getting launched off an aircraft.

      • Hmm yeah that makes sense. I guess that's why Burt is out there building rocketplanes and making millions of dollars, and slashdot posters are... doing whatever it is they do in their basement :P

        Googling for some data here -- a 747 weighs about 400,000 pounds empty and can carry its own weight, so a six-engine 747 should be able to haul 600,000 pounds.

        Now a Falcon 9 weighs 735,000 pounds at launch, with a 23,000 pound payload -- 3.1%. With some Rutan composite skillz the Stratolaunch plane should be able to

        • That's an amazingly good guess for the payload of a six engine jet. The Antonov 225 [] (currently the largest aircraft in the world) has six engines as well, and it has a max payload of 550,000. Still, there are a couple of things that could balance out this number. The spacecraft might make some aerodynamic compromises in order to hold the spaceship (lessening the payload). Just look at the shape of the carrier compared with the An225. However, one could also argue that the engines for the spaceship migh

      • If you're saving the weight on the first stage, though, only about 1/5 of the weight saved goes to payload (this one reason why Musk doesn't mind spending weight on recovery hardware for the stage). Even so, based on Rutan's comments today, a vehicle this size could still get a 5-10% payload gain from the air launch, so the other considerations (as you mention) are apparently fairly considerable.

      • You might double the payload fraction of the rocket part of the system, but that is not the only part of the flight vehicle. The ride up to 40 000 ft isn't free. So you haven't halved the launch costs per lb of payload as your simple analysis might imply. The costs of designing, building, maintaining, and operating the winged component aren't known but are unlikely to be negligible.

        Your point about the g-losses is strange. Rockets follow a ballistic trajectory which goes straight-ish up at the beginning at

  • So I guess his patent troll profits are being used for something...

  • How soon will Allen put money into something like Bigelow or IDC Dover? Basically, to make this profitable, he will want to have multiple destinations to go to. Of course, they could rent out the carrier since it will have some impressive cargo capability.

    But I really think that Allen's goal is to do for Space what Allen's charter did for internet over cable, or musk's tesla did for electric cars. Allen will likely want to hurry BA or IDC along.
  • the reason is that the real costs of space systems are human costs and system costs. Humans are easy to lower esp. when you have a system rigged for that. Well, aviation is rigged for that. Likewise, when you take the expensive portion, the first stage and make it a re-usable airplane, you change the economics dramatically. Will this be more efficient in terms of energy? I seriously doubt it. However, at some point, we will have hypersonic flight in which crafts are doing mach 10 or more at 90K feet. If thi
    • The next step would be to make the first rocket stage fly back. Once it is empty, it will not weigh much, so adding some wings, landing gear, and small jet engines to it will not be that difficult.

      Beyond that, using electric propulsion once in space, getting to Near Earth Asteroids, and hauling some of it back to Earth orbit can give 20-50 times mass return. If you can learn to extract Oxygen from the raw rock (which actually is not hard), you can use that as more fuel for the electric thruster, making it

      • the first stage DOES flyback. It is the airplane.
        However, look carefully at the second stage. That is SpaceX's F5. But you notice the wings in the back? That is to make it easy enought to turn upwards, and perhaps to fly it back.
  • Anyone else notice that the fuselage has a passing similarity in appearance to the Howard Hughes Herculese (Spruce Goose as it was insultingly called too).

  • News Blurb (Score:3, Insightful)

    by brusewitz ( 1510021 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @11:16PM (#38365476)
    Just saw an interview on the news with Burt and Paul. Paul made a point of saying he would not be one of the first to go up. In fact he would wait for many launches before he would go. I guess he learned something from his time at Microsoft!

Perfection is acheived only on the point of collapse. - C. N. Parkinson