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Intel Space Science

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

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 bughunter ( 10093 ) <bughunter@@@earthlink...net> on Sunday July 22, 2012 @03:27PM (#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 History's Coming To ( 1059484 ) on Sunday July 22, 2012 @03:51PM (#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 techno-vampire ( 666512 ) on Sunday July 22, 2012 @04:29PM (#40731539) Homepage
    You need a tower to hold it upright, and a launch pad.

    As it happens, you don't need a tower if you use the right design. [wikipedia.org] And, you also don't need those expensive, fragile tiles or an army of engineers manning Mission Control.
  • by Charcharodon ( 611187 ) on Sunday July 22, 2012 @04:37PM (#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 __aaltlg1547 ( 2541114 ) on Sunday July 22, 2012 @06:09PM (#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 ModernGeek ( 601932 ) on Sunday July 22, 2012 @07:08PM (#40732231)
    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).

It is not for me to attempt to fathom the inscrutable workings of Providence. -- The Earl of Birkenhead