View Full Version : X Prize contestants

2003-Jul-16, 10:42 PM
I read in July's Popular Science that Bart Rutan's SpaceShipOne is designed to essentially fall back to earth rather than follow a glide path. The idea was to avoid having to install expensive and heavy avionics and controls to stabilize the craft and to reduce heating.

I always thought the Space Shuttle followed a glide path to reduce heating, yet it reaches 3000 degrees F. Rutan's ship is only supposed to reach 1000 degrees, and he uses a slathered on heat shield over a carbon fiber body.

Would it heat less because it comes down quicker and so has less time to build up heat? I thought the straight fall would increase the heat, not decrease it.

Also, X15 pilots have said the 3.5 g's was hard on their hearts. SpaceShip one is supposed to produce 5.5 g's on re-entry. Does anyone know what's acceptable in g forces?

2003-Jul-18, 07:45 PM
As I understand this (which may be wrong) SpaceShip1 avoids reentry heating because it's flight path goes straight up until it runs out of fuel then it falls straight down. So it starts it's reentry at near zero velocity instead of orbital velocity of 17000 mph and doesn't have to deal with high heating from air friction.

2003-Jul-18, 08:06 PM
Yeah, it's the orbital velocity that really increases the heat problems for returning spacecraft. If they could decellerate themselves by 17,000 kph so they're just hovering above the Earth, then they wouldn't really need heat shields, but then they'd probably need enormous fuel tanks to pull that off.

I think a lot of people believe that once the X-Prize is awarded, then private human spaceflight is just around the corner, but the reality is that achieving orbit is insanely harder to do than just reaching 100 kilometres of altitude.

2003-Jul-18, 10:34 PM
Okay, I talked to Burt Rutan and here's what he had to say:

The sub-orbital SS1 goes only Mach 3.5, much slower than the Mach 25 needed to orbit the earth. The shuttle decelerates during entry for more than 20 minutes, while the SS1 decelerates for only about 70 seconds. The 5+ g of SS1 deceleration is momentary and due to the reclined orientation of the pilot it should be no more uncomfortable than typical maneuvering in a jet fighter. Burt

So, there you go. Should be a very relaxing descent. ;-)

2003-Jul-19, 01:55 AM
That is so cool, Fraser, that you call up Burt Rutan. Thanks for the answer, and thanks to all for your contributions as well.

Perhaps there will be some more posts relating to the X prize and this thread will stay open.

2003-Jul-19, 06:11 PM
Appropos X Prize...it
would be indeed interesting to hear from
Peter Diamandis as to
why one team was recently
dismissed from the
competition because they
were proposing a
non-rocket approach:
these people should have
been encouraged to try
( they paid their
entry fee and were ready
to give it their best
shot, and were summarily
shot down...does'nt
this kind of lame-ola
put-down seem disturbingly
familiar?? Would'nt y'think
that at this late date
that no one would want
to go on record excluding
any conceivable attempt...
in a similar vein NASA
canned the BPP project
which actively embraced
non-rocket approaches...
everybody who knows anything at all about
space knows you probably
cannot get there from
here anyway, but most
assuredly not using
a neolithic fire-outa-yer
butt approach...

2003-Jul-19, 06:38 PM
It's Peter's contest and he can accept or reject any entrants he likes for any reason whatsoever. If I was running the X-Prize, I would reject it too.

I think his concern wasn't about the nature of the propulsion but at the state of their entry - it wasn't a prototype, just a concept using scientifically unfounded concepts. If I say I'm going to built a rocket based on the X-2 (like the Canadian Arrow), and show that I've got an experienced team of engineers on hand, then you should say with a certain amount of certainty that what I'm attempting is going to be possible.

But if I say I'm going to levitate a team of astronauts through the power of positive thought, you're going to say to me, "prove it." "Show me how you can levitate a person, or a rock, or a piece of paper, or a grain of sand. Do that and I'll have a little more faith that you're on your way to levitating a spacecraft."

If I was the leader of the denied team, I would take it upon myself to prove that my concept works. "Look, here's a prototype of my spacecraft levitating. Here are the calculations that show this will scale up to hold 3 people." The money they save from their entrance fee will let them build a prototype even sooner.

To admit an entry would be lend it an air of credibility and legitimacy, and give the team a certain amount of press. A lot of people would think, "the X-Prize is giving this concept their stamp of approval."

The team is still able to continue working on their prototype and if they complete the X-Prize requirements before any other competitor, I don't see why they can't enter and then embarrass and humiliate "the establishment."

If you have a theory that goes against the establishment, then the onus is on you to prove your theories are correct. People should never trust a theory on faith, and if you're asking them to do that, you need to brush up on the scientific method.

2003-Jul-21, 01:19 AM
Here's an article about the Hungarian team over on SPACE.com.

X Prize Rejects Gravity Control Rocket Group (http://space.com/businesstechnology/technology/gct_xprize_030615.html)

philip slater
2003-Jul-21, 03:22 AM
Am I right in remembering that the X-Prize has to be won by next year or not at all? If so that should help concentrate the mind on practicable efforts within the currently understood laws of physics.

It is really good to hear from Burt Rutan. I am totally biased in favour of his system, having enjoyed the visual surprise factor and 'shock of the new', followed by the gradual dawning of the design logic. A work of art, like all his designs. And it flies.

It would be a great service if Fraser could get on the phone or email to all X-Prize contestants to ask them the question "apart from your entry, which one do you like/ admire most?"

The thing is, the one which happens to be first to fly and scoop the prize may not be the one to point the way to the best long term route for private independent sub-orbital systems development.

Philip Slater


2003-Jul-21, 04:07 AM
Yeah, I think it's next year or the prize expires. You want me to call all the X-Prize contestants? Heh, that'll take some time. Maybe I'll do some stories on them, and give them a chance to answer reader questions.

2003-Jul-21, 12:08 PM
Most assuredly the X Prize
is peters pet, and,
indeed the chances of the
rejected team fielding
an actual competitive
entry was less than zero,
the problem I have with
Pete and Co. and ALL of
the space cadets in
general is the lack of
interest in pursuing
new avenues, especially
after NASA has smoked
so many folks futzing
around with Chinese
tech eons old and incompetent to take man
to the stars. Once NASA
at least pretended to
have an interest in better
ways and means, but alas
the short-lived BPP
program has been eighty-sixed...by the
way, from what I gather,
the prize is only even
at this late date funded
by an insurance policy
which shows how serious
the spacecadets of today
clearly are not. DT and
MS both self-funded their
ridez, each apparently to
the tune of TWICE the XP!
A truly serious prize
would have been to have
invited inventors with
wild ideas to sally forth
and submit same, to say
a Freeman Dyson, who
would encourage his
daughter to get the
Valley Boyz 'n' Goilz
to front the cash to
try a truly new idea or
two rather than the
XP chumpchange rehash of
the same ol trash.

Prizes with Xpiration dates ( remember CATS?)
show lack of faith on the
part of the fronters,
the X prize itself was
not a cash deal, even
with Tom Hanks and a ton
of Hollywood heavyweightz
wanting to fly a measley
10 Mil was a bridge too
far...the stars beckon
but I reckon it won't
be any of the shallowater
scuttlefish who will be
effecting THAT trek any
millenium soon...

philip slater
2003-Jul-21, 02:27 PM
Hello, chloek9

You sure said a mouthful. One thing is - in some places I know what you feel. (If I could bring myself to say, "I feel your pain" I might do it, but there are limits.) Another is that I want to have a think about what you say before I say much more.

And its great to hear Freeman Dyson mentioned. The idea that he should be contacted has been hovering around the edge of mind ever since Fraser's Forum took off. Just so we could ask "what would you really like us to do next, starting off from 2003, not from where things were when you worked on the great exploding starship concept?"


2003-Jul-21, 03:30 PM
Did you know that NASA has a division that works on advanced propulsion techniques? I'm not talking about boring old nuclear rockets and ion drives, but they're actually doing research to see if some of the cutting edge physics could lead to advances in propulsion, like dark energy.

I'm sure Peter would love to see the X-Prize won by a ship flying by anti-gravity. They asked the Hungarians to to demonstrate their technology, and they couldn't.

2003-Jul-21, 05:26 PM
Just an addition to Fraser's comment....

You can find out what they're up tohere (http://www.grc.nasa.gov/WWW/PAO/warp.htm)

philip slater
2003-Jul-22, 10:45 PM
I said I would go away and have a think and I have. I don't think any of the criticism of the X Prize amounts to a hill of beans against the fact that it exists and is the greatest door opener to space since Goddard lit a fuse or Von Braun started mixing stuff on his mama's kitchen table or whatever.

What is a source of pain is that planet Earth doesn't have a single zillionaire who has yet tipped 10m of loose change into the project, but I don't see why that is really a problem, on thinking about it, if the insurance policy does the job.

What does concern me is what becomes of all the wide range of projects the X-prize has generated after the contest ends. Any thoughts on that one, anyone?

Philip Slater


2003-Jul-23, 12:26 AM
I would think and hope that these people who don't win aren't exactly going to give up. The prize was the catalyst but once you've started to build your very own sub-orbital space craft it's not like you're just going to shelf it once someone else wins. You're going to fly that damn thing!
It seems that a few of the entrants are going to finish quite close to each other.
I also hope that a lot of the entrants go on to start up their own relatively low costing tourism companies. Then the x-prize would have fulfilled its goal. The goal was never to see who could win but to open up the industry.

philip slater
2003-Jul-23, 01:03 AM
I hope you're right, Josh. So if we are going to have a choice of rides, consumer pressure will start to call for a trip which doesn't demand that we have to get too fit. So maybe its about time someone who knows about such things had a go at answering the second part of knealy's question, the bit about g forces.

Also, X15 pilots have said the 3.5 g's was hard on their hearts. SpaceShip one is supposed to produce 5.5 g's on re-entry. Does anyone know what's acceptable in g forces?

Does anyone know what's acceptable for ordinarily fit people up to say the age that John Glenn was the last time he flew?


2003-Jul-24, 05:26 AM
In response to what
happens to the also-rans
after the x prize closes
out with no winner, I say
Who Cares. All of these
projects are simply
old wine put up in new
bottles. Space will
never ever BE done by
Pyro's. Mark Millis
gives a crackerjack
breakdown about what
has to be done and how
all comes down to
propulsion, which is
energy which heretofore
has relied exclusively
on pyrotechnics... and
from what I gather is
intended to remain that
way, and MUST remain so
as long as anyone with
a new idea is told not
to let the door hit em
in the *** on their way
out which is precisely
what happened to antigravity dreamers.
Of course they lack the
warez, but then again
the Rutan clan will never
do a double hundred clicks
in two weeks no matter
how much ca$h Paul Allen
dumps into the attempt.
The insurance company
backing the prize ran the
numbers and rightly
concluded that space is
only just-barely done
by professionals with
limitless budgets, what
amateur is going to do
it. Its not just the
first 100 clicks that are
the real problem, its
the second...Pete has em
all in the bag with
the reprise portion of
the challenge.

The ONLY way space will
be done is when someone
adopts a first principles
analysis ( Mark M tells
the inventor what has to
be done, and even gives
broad clues to those
capable of running the
analogues, and plying the
morphs...there are ways
that no rocket scientist
could ever dream of since
it appears to be undoable
otherwise.) NASA 86ed
the BPP project for
good reasons, but should
not have for the same
reason the antigravity
fantasists were barred.
Every entrant should be
permitted to fail in the
process of mounting an
authentic attempt, and
not be rejected
by a rocketscientist who
lacks the essentialz to
spot whats wrong with
every space picture he
ever saw, or helped to
create! Jeff Bezos is
apparently at least looking in other directions
and thus might-maybe
stumble across a suitable
alternative to pyro
DOA's...if you care about
space start thinking of
ways to do it some other
way than as now its done-
so fuelishly....

philip slater
2003-Jul-24, 01:20 PM
Hi, chloek9.

At the moment all we have that can get us into space is the demonstrable fact that in our locality every force usually seems to have an equal and opposite reaction. Are you saying that we shouldn't use reactionary systems at all, and should not go beyond the daytime sky at all until we have mastered the use of antigravity systems and modified our understanding of the laws of physics accordingly?

Philip Slater


2003-Jul-24, 04:11 PM
Obviously no matter what
the approach Newton 2/3
will obtain; all I am
suggesting is that something other than
pyro approach be considered, which is not
being done today--even
though every rocketeer
knows that rockets cannot
cut the distance down
to manageable proportions.
When a given approach
fails to deliver, the
undaunted start to cast
their nets into new
seas in hopes of unearthing something not
heretofore considered.
NASA had no real interest
in BPP from the git-go
because any approach other
than rockets carries with
the clear implication
that maybe we have been
all these years maddogs
howling at the moon, which
is precisely what the
result would be were a
make its way into the
arena; which might be the
case were not for the
fact that rocketeers
become obsolete as soon
as a non-pyro-thruster
appears, so nonpyroz need
not apply. How does that
old line go; << Only a crazyman does the same
thing over and over again
always expecting a new
and different outcome.>>

2003-Jul-24, 05:43 PM
I can&#39;t see why NASA wouldn&#39;t want to use a new propulsion technique. The only really feasible one right now is nuclear rockets, and they are experimenting with them. But, nuclear rockets are tremendously controversal. They&#39;re working on scramjets, and even some more experimental techniques.

A success with a new type of propulsion would revolutionize NASA&#39;s ability to get things into space. I&#39;m sure they would love to move beyond, but they have so many existing obligations and people to keep employed, so they have to fight their current momentum.

philip slater
2003-Jul-25, 12:03 AM
Let us hope that NASA does keep on honouring its obligations even if that does mean sticking for a while to the only proven technology currently available.

I don&#39;t think that, from a world perspective the problem discussed is within NASA. The problem is that without NASA there is nothing worth getting excited about which is not in some way dependent on NASA technology or funding.

In other words, the whole planet-wide effort spaceward is dependent on the American taxpayer.

If every other country had as good a governmental space agency and spent the same proportion of its GDP on space technology as America there would be opportunities for every inventor or conceptualiser of state-of-tomorrow&#39;s-art propulsion systems to get initial project evaluation funding from somewhere or other.

Don&#39;t hold your breath until that stage and age of enlightenment dawns. However, there is no reason why every democracy in the world can&#39;t have their own national, independent space agency by 2008 capable of evaluating the really way- out concepts and pressuring governments into getting some of their tax take invested into the most promising long term sector on offer at the moment. The X-prize is a great pointer in the right direction - opening doors to public participation and doing things outside the big bureaucracies, governmental or corporate.

Philip Slater


2003-Jul-25, 01:14 PM
It is not until one
approaches NASA AS a
proposer of altflightprotocol and is
dimissed that one recognizes they, like
some here, believe pyro
is the ONLY way to go.
I think the expression
is << scriptkiddies >>
those who embrace the
party-line with total
confidence in the right-headedness of the
prefered protocol in place.
I would remind all that NASA
is an organization who
once was torn between
two options << Meterstick,
or, Yardstick, Hmmmmm, oh
we&#39;ll do BOTH&#33; >> Remember
the Mars mismeasurement
mission dismemberment?
OF course you do. This is
the same crackerjack operation that considers
solarsailing a viable option and plans to effect
a softlanding on Mars via
bouncing ball.
Neanderthal approaches
endemic to the NASA organization is only
possible when funding is
as it now is, far in excess of what is actually
needed were the proper
apprach adopted. The
NASA approach is as it
has always been the
quintessential example
of inverse occamism, revelling in the mobettayetbellsnwhistlestheory&#33; NASA should have
regrouped and retooled
years ago, should have
done so out of sheer
embarassment at being so
conceptually lame, and substantially
less than expert in the
goal acquisition process.
So long as the uppityupz
at NASA and elsewhere
continue to hold that pyro
is the only way to go we
will continue to go where
now we go, in circles,
local circumferations
leading nowhere...if only they would sweep the floor&#33;
Now that BPP is kaput
where do think the new
ideas are gonna come from?
Alcubierre--handsdown the
jazziest of the technodreamerz, but alas
a protocol demanding vast amounts of
truest Unobtainium of all-- Negative
Energy ( which is...exactly, whaaat???)

In order to turn this thing around we must look
to the private sector,
which means USns here.
ALL the various space
interest groups need to
unanimously demand the
institution of a civilian
version of BPP, an open
solicitation of newideas
with a reasonable Prize
( 1 Billion is low but
should be do-able and
should be done. Bill(ionairehead) Gates
could do it alone...).
The military has to be
kept out otherwise newtek
will be ripped by whatever
branch of the government
first gets their
hands around the inventors neck&#33;
For those unfamiliar with
the realities of inventing
far-out propenergy tech
Google patent secrecy and
you&#39;ll immediately see
why pyro rulez&#33; Always
has, probably always will&#33;

philip slater
2003-Jul-26, 05:16 PM
Hi, chloek9. You state :

It is not until one
approaches NASA AS a
proposer of altflightprotocol and is
dimissed that one recognizes they, like
some here, believe pyro
is the ONLY way to go.

If by "like some here" you mean persons within the borders of Fraserland it would be good if you could name names and give details of the places in which their views can be found. This would help a lot in getting a serious discussion going with them. One thing that seems certain is that, looking at the time available, there is no real prospect of a non-rocket winner of the X-prize. Getting the independent (non-governmental, non-megacorp) space sector over this first hurdle may seem a small step to some people, but it is surely the next one to take in improving on some of the not quite perfect choices of way to go to spacefly that have been made by the mere mortals thus far.


2003-Jul-27, 01:09 AM
No gainsaying that it
is unlikely that any
non-pyro player will
bag the prize since no
non-pyro will be
allowed to participate.
And here&#39;s why...just
suppose for the moment
I cook up a new device
which is non-pyro,
probably it is very
quiet, << stealthy >>
as they like to say,
whatcha think the
chances are before
Pete notifies the fedz
who will, descend and
and push the kill-switch.
I&#39;d do the same in their
place. Since 911
even rubber-rafts have
been secretized. Even
Pyroz are concerned,
Dennis T has reluctantly
decided to re-enter the
rocket arena this time
as a player and not a
rider...he has several
times gently suggested
that it ain&#39;t real likely
that the fedz are going
to yield the high frontier to competitors
who can only realisticly
do space at a profit by
fielding wholly new
mechanisms, which means
NONPYRO...this space
thing can ONLY work when
all the spacecadettes
put their little heads
together, lean on the
Gates&#39; Hanks Spielbergs
Paul Allens etc etc to
kick in some major bucks
to fund a Billion Dollar
building fund for a slamdunk winner AND
guarantee that the project will be done
off-shore so as not to
<< violate >> US aerospace. You do not
have to be a UFO nut to
suspect that there must
be a better way of
doing this stuff, and if
you are one who wonders
how those fakers came
up with all those odd
objects maneuvering with
such consumate aplomb
topside, noiselessly,
then I guess you gotta
conclude that its already
been done, just not by
US...not yet, and at the
rate things are progressing, not ever&#33;
So long as we hand out
prizes to amateurs for
joyriding joyriding will
be regarded as a worthwhile pursuit...which
is why NASA is still

philip slater
2003-Jul-29, 10:54 PM
Hello, chloek9,

I&#39;m impressed by the broadminded nature of your analysis. Being able to be equally negative about both NASA and the X-prize folk shows an extraordinarily balanced approach.

But of course, they all stand condemned on account of still using old-fashioned rocketry to take us above the atmosphere.

You believe that we should cease and desist from all space travel now, so that we can concentrate all our efforts on developing a better way of doing the job that has greater potential in the long run.

To me that offers up a big clue that you must know something we don’t about a soon-to-be-revealed novel system for overcoming the effects of gravity maybe or of giving objects a really impressive velocity safely and cheaply.

Now might be as good a time as any to share the news with us. Once its in the public domain loads of investors will rush to help in a totally altruistic way and all governmental agencies everywhere will just have to accept that once every one on the UT Forums knows the technical details it just won&#39;t be possible to suppress the technology or keep it for their own dark purposes.

Also, if you hurry, there might just be time to get together an X-prize entry, although whoever gets their name on this new system won&#39;t have the spare time or any necessity to pick up the cheque


2003-Aug-05, 10:37 AM
Being clearly in the
minority in having less
than no enthusiasm with
pyro approaches to doing
space, and indeed I am
not a fan of Sean or Pete&#39;s transfixtion with
blastmode...and since
this seems to be held to
be the only approach, then
it shall remain the ONLY
approach actually deployed. This will not
change so long as alternative approaches
are summarily dismissed
from competing in the
Rocketeer Prize ( aka X ).
Even in the unliklihood
that anyone IS able to
do the required double-boost this
is unlikely to usher in
a new era in spaceflight
since the challengers are
simply puddlejumping and
can in no way be construed
to be spacefarers-any
more than NASA is doing
manned-space. This might
change IF guys like Bezos
can resist pyro and seek
after a new piper to lead
the way into space...otherwise it will
be the proverbial: same
&#39;ol, same &#39;ol&#39; the only
news being when theres
the inevitable crashnburn&#33;

philip slater
2003-Aug-06, 11:13 AM
Hi Knealy

Regarding your initial questions and the first responses to them from mto and fraser it seems clear that it’s a good plan, when considering the problem of getting down from space to a gentle touchdown, to divide it up into bite-size chunks.

If you get rid of unwanted velocity by means of aerobraking in the planet’s atmosphere you still have a chunk of potential energy to dispose of before you arrive at sea level or whatever is the altitude of your landing or collision point on the ground.

Below is a recent report on work currently being done looking at an old idea with the benefit of 21st Century know-how to investigate the long-evolved principle of the wing to fly a life-support capsule back to home base after a trip into space:
Starchaser Complete 2nd Successful Flight Test of Rocket Capsule.

Starchaser Industries have successfully completed two manned parachute drop tests of their NOVA 2 rocket capsule.
The manned drop tests were carried out at the Red Lake drop zone in Arizona USA on the 22nd and 24th July 2003. The capsule was deployed from the rear cargo door of a Fairchild C123K aircraft at an altitude of 10,000 feet.
The capsule was put through a number of manoeuvres during its descent to fully validate the steerable ram-air parachute canopy that made it possible to fly the craft like a glider. Nova 2 was then brought in for a precision landing. Steve Bennett, Managing Director of Starchaser Industries, said; “We are pleased with how the capsule has performed, we’ve completed two very successful flights. These drop tests mark a significant milestone in Starchaser Industries manned space programme. We have proved the different key systems in our rocket programme and now have the technology to push forward in our bid to win the X PRIZE”
Weighing in at 250 kg and measuring 3-meters in length, the single seat Nova 2 capsule has become Britain’s first manned rocket capsule and has been developed to test a variety of systems for use in project Thunderbird; Starchaser Industries entry into the US &#036;10 million X PRIZE, which is on offer to the first non-governmental organisation capable of launching three people into space.
Steve Bennett is available for comment following the success of the manned drop tests, video footage and digital stills are available, please contact Lee Kirby on 08700 278766288 or email lee@starchaser.co.uk

Once upon a time the Americans and possibly also the Russians looked at this possibility using the materials and control techniques available half a century or so ago. One of the many good things flowing from the X-prize competition is that a whole broad range of possibilities can be considered, or reconsidered within the independent space sector. As they would have said back in the first blaze of glory of space exploration – cool. Just as we can now say again, as we all work to initiate space travel&#39;s second stage ignition, using, of course, whatever available technology anybody is prepared to let us know about. Excellent.


philip slater
2003-Aug-13, 12:17 AM
Hi chloek9,

Please do something for me. On the most recent Universe Today News slot, take a look at the picture of SpaceShipOne and then let us know - even for you, the most noted pyrophobic of our day- isn&#39;t that just the most beautiful sight, SpaceShipOne carrying out its first drop test successfully against a lovely blue close-in-to-the-planet sky?

Even in the most tightly policed command economy I can&#39;t imagine Burt Rutan and his team being prevailed upon to lay off what they are doing and spend their time working on the Hungarian anti-grav system or other advanced solutions to the problem of getting from down here to up there. They are not consuming resources that could be redeployed to other projects.

Let us suppose that in twenty years time Burt Rutan&#39;s hope has come true:

Our message at the April 18th 2003 unveiling of the Tier One program
Flight research has always been Scaled Composites&#39; forte. For the 21 years since Scaled&#39;s founding, we have designed, built and flight tested 23 unique manned research aircraft types and developed over 40 unmanned products. Counting the homebuilt and milestone aircraft developed earlier by Rutan Aircraft Factory, 38 different types of Rutan-designed manned aircraft have flown research test programs. None have had a significant accident or pilot injury during flight test activity. Our flight safety approach of "question, never defend" has allowed us to take courageous steps by safely flying new ideas and new performance envelopes. We are now focusing on the big step of developing a high-altitude supersonic light aircraft. This program, if successful, will result in the first non-government manned space flight (above 100 km altitude).
Sub-orbital manned space flights have been done before by Redstone - Mercury in 1961 and by the B-52 - X-15 in 1963. Even though the experience, as described by Alan Shepard, Gus Grissom and Joe Walker was awe-inspiring, sub-orbital space flights were ignored for the next 40 years. The view from the apex of a sub-orbital flight is similar to being in orbit, but the cost and risk is far less.
Our goal is to demonstrate that non-government manned space flight operations are not only feasible, but can be done at very low costs. Safety, of course is paramount, but minimum cost is critical. We look to the future, hopefully within ten years, when ordinary people, for the cost of a luxury cruise, can experience a rocket flight into the black sky above the earth&#39;s atmosphere, enjoy a few minutes of weightless excitement, then feel the thunderous deceleration of the aerodynamic drag on entry.
Our plan involves flight in a 3-place spaceship, initially attached to a turbojet launch aircraft while climbing for an hour to 50,000 feet, above 85% of the atmosphere. The spaceship then drops into gliding flight and fires its rocket motor while climbing steeply for more than a minute, reaching a speed of 2,500 mph. The ship coasts up to 100 km (62 miles) altitude, then falls back into the atmosphere. The coast and fall are under weightless conditions for more than three minutes. During weightless flight, the spaceship converts to a high-drag configuration to allow a safe, stable atmospheric entry. After the entry deceleration which takes more than a minute, the ship converts back to a conventional glider, allowing a leisurely 17 minute glide from 80,000 feet altitude down to a runway where a landing is made at lightplane speeds.
Our concept design work began in 1996 and some preliminary development began in 1999. Our full development program began in secrecy in April 2001. This extensive experimental research effort is a complete manned space program. It consists of all new hardware including a launch aircraft (the White Knight), a three-place spaceship (the SpaceShipOne), a hybrid rocket propulsion system, a mobile propulsion test facility, a flight simulator, an inertial-nav flight director, a mobile mission control center, all spacecraft systems, a pilot training program and a complete flight test program. All our hardware components are full-scale, full space-capable performance, not mockups or interim vehicles.
The hardware, technical descriptions and a flight demonstration of the White Knight were revealed to the press on April 18th. We are now back into hiding, to complete the rocket development and flight tests. We will provide progress reports monthly via test reports posted in the "test updates" section of this site. We will again invite the press when we fly the first flight above 100-km altitude. This milestone will be significant in that it will represent the making of the first non-government Astronaut, and it will be flown on a system that shows the level of affordability needed for future space tourism.
I strongly feel that, if we are successful, our program will mark the beginning of a renaissance for manned space flight. This might even be similar to that wonderful time period between 1908 and 1912 when the world went from a total of ten airplane pilots to hundreds of airplane types and thousands of pilots in 39 countries. We need affordable space travel to inspire our youth, to let them know that they can experience their dreams, can set significant goals and be in a position to lead all of us to future progress in exploration, discovery and fun.
Burt Rutan

By the time the Hungarian - or some other exotic system - is up and running and ready to go into production thousands of plain folk will have home recordings of their trip or toedip into space and be much more inclined to vote for budgets for the way-out systems than they would be if we all just gave up space exploration until such time as the really effective systems are ready to roll.


2003-Aug-13, 05:35 AM
This is a wonderful, active forum...

Of course we should be looking at new concepts for propulsion, transport or re-location whatever it might be. The immediate problem is should I not drive my car until Hydrogen Fueled Engines are available? I think not. The roaring beasties must continue to be used for productive space programs until alternate forms of propulsion (or relocation) are developed. Now it was 50 year to the day nearly from the first test of Goddard&#39;s rocket motors in Worcester Mass to the landing of Apollo on the moon. The period of development for new technology may not be as long (could be longer even&#33;) but it will be a period of otherwise inactive space exploration if we decided to drop "pyro" of a sudden.

The "use it before it is ready and tested" syndrome is universal in the arena of Civil Experimental Aerospace. I have a test report of one static test of an SSME (Shuttle engine), it is 250 pages long&#33; It is longer than all the combined websites full of information on the X Prize, likely. Safety testing is rarely done and "off-limits" testing never. A "complete" development job is years even in the planning.

But it has not stopped us before. But lacking a concept, even (is that true?), I see the prediction of a working method of non-pyro space launch being impossible to nail to a date, a year or even a decade.

Given one, you will see a huge rush to employ as in the search for "zero point" energy.

2003-Aug-13, 05:16 PM
I&#39;m not sure if everyone&#39;s aware, but NASA has a whole group of people trying to figure out new propulsion systems based on some of the most bleeding edge ideas in physics. They would absolutely love to figure out a way to use some kind of propulsion other than chemical rockets, but the discovery and engineering just takes so long.

philip slater
2003-Aug-15, 02:23 AM
Welcome on board rocketa. Couldn&#39;t agree more. Your points and Fraser&#39;s most recent post just about wraps up the alternative approach question for me. Unless chloek9 or anyone else has got a new line of argument or some new info let&#39;s say we have a consensus to bang on with rockets until something better comes along in a ready-to-use state of development.

Which means we can all now sit back and enjoy (or roll up our sleeves and get stuck in helping) the all-time-great X-prize show. For me it does offer the opportunity of really rethinking the whole of the ways and means of going to space and what we do when we get there and why.

Fraser has predicted a take-off for the whole of the space age stage 2 and now here we go.

I have just happened across six pages of useful info updating the exploits of some of the X-Prize Contestants as far as July 2003 in an article entitled:

THE RIGHT STUFF. FORGET CYBERSPACE. GEEKS ARE ABOUT TO CONQUER OUTER SPACE. AND THE &#036;10 MILLION X PRIZE IS JUST THE BEGINNING by Carl Hoffman at wired (http://wired.com/wired/archive/11.07/space.html)

Lovely picture of Burt and an even lovelier one of White Knight.


philip slater
2003-Aug-17, 10:41 PM
In "Discussion: SpaceShipOne Completes First Drop" in Story Comments, Fraser says:
Here are some more details. Sorry I couldn&#39;t give a better link, they don&#39;t do a good job of putting press releases on the Scaled site.

Flight 30L / 03G-1
Date: 7-Aug-03
Flight Time: 1.1 hours / 19 minutes
White Knight
- Pilot: Binnie
- Copilot: Bird
- Pilot: Melvill
Objectives: First glide flight of SpaceShipOne.

Does anyone know of a link that could take us to the full story and some pictures of this milestone event?


John Dedes
2003-Aug-20, 01:47 PM
would anyone believe me that a BALLON would able to re-enter and fly into space because it meets 2 criteria 1) it levitates 2) It can re-enter because it will re-enter relative to the mass around it. The inside of the balloon can also be used in space and rotated like a planet for heating/cooling, it could also be placed in orbit and it could land on the moon or some planets and take off again without expensive launch capabilities.... The ballon can rotate independently from the "capsule" similar to a spinning top to disperse its mass 90degrees to gravity to reduce the weight further....it would probably be cheaper than anything else and quicker as well believe it or not. Saucer shaped ballons would be most benefical because the curvature would give it better aerodynamics in the strato and troposphere, and elevator and aileron control systems could be attached for controlled flight, these would have to be ultra light weight, whilst in space the tilted flat surface facing the sun could have solar cells accumulating energy to drive electrical and micro engine systems. Does anyone else agrees?

philip slater
2003-Aug-24, 01:33 AM
Some info and pics on the first drop test of SpaceShipOne from White Knight has now been located.

"X Prize Contestant Scaled Composites&#39; SpaceShipOne Flies", by Leonard David, Space.com, 9th Aug 2003 (http://www.space.com/businesstechnology/technology/spaceshipone_tested_030809.html)

And, in EAA Air Venture Today, Aug 3rd 2003, "SpaceShipOne Will Offer Affordable Space Travel", by Barbara A. Schmitz. (http://www.airventure.org/2003/sunaug3/spaceshipone.html)

The not very aware television news management folk in the UK missed the opportunity of showing anything about it, or if they did they didn’t bother to tell me.

And, hi, John. If your contribution had been made within the rules of the game of a synectics-based concept generation session there are some interesting areas you touch on. Maybe we’ll get the chance to do some work in that more structured way at some point. In the meantime, it might be interesting to have a look at the history of inflatables in space. NASA archive should have something on the first ever, which I think might have been called Echo. It was used to passively bounce radio signals from one point on the Earth’s surface to another. I suppose it was the Mother and Father of all communications satellites from one point of view.


philip slater
2003-Sep-16, 01:07 AM
Originally posted by knealy@Jul 19 2003, 01:55 AM
That is so cool, Fraser, that you call up Burt Rutan. Thanks for the answer, and thanks to all for your contributions as well.

Perhaps there will be some more posts relating to the X prize and this thread will stay open.
To my mind, knealy, the thread you started has already done a great job in stimulating thinking and discussion in and around the area of getting safely up through the atmosphere - and safely back down to Earth again.

I hope it&#39;s not tempting fate to point out how amazingly safe space travel has been to date. I hope no-one responsible for safety in space will relax just because I remind all the people who have been complaining about &#39;the unacceptable dangers of spaceflight&#39; that there has not yet, touch wood and thank whatever deity one believes in, been a fatal accident outside our own Earth&#39;s atmosphere. Challenger and Columbia and all their brave crews were lost in aviation accidents, during what amounts for spaceplanes to the take off and landing phases.

The whole X-Prize adventure has set in motion the beginnings of a genuine independent (non-governmental) and, quite deliberately, non-megacorp, space sector. It was absolutely right to restrict this first step to the demanding but entirely possible task of getting a privately funded space ship to demonstrate sub-orbital space flight.

It is excellent that the discussion has had an info input direct from a leading X-Prize contender, Burt Rutan. It would be great if we could have a few more inputs from competitors, busy though they are and of course accepting that they need to keep their cards close to their chests at this stage of the competition.

What would be really interesting to hear from X-Prize contenders would be an answer to the question "What can the members of Universe Today forums (those who support the aims of the X-Prize foundation) do to support your efforts from now till the end of the competition?"

How can we get that question to as many contestants as possible? And make it worth their while to take the time out to respond?


2003-Oct-10, 09:10 AM
Thought some of you wanted to know that they made another droptest of SpaceShipOne:
http://www.space.com/businesstechnology/te...est_031009.html (http://www.space.com/businesstechnology/technology/rutan_test_031009.html)

2003-Nov-26, 09:46 AM
A new team joins the contest with its Liberator spacecraft: http://www.harcspace.com/2004/liberator.ph...?page=liberator (http://www.harcspace.com/2004/liberator.php?page=liberator).

2003-Dec-13, 02:11 AM
I see that team Starchaser is moving along towards the XPrize, with the design of their Thunderstar is almost complete. More is to read here (http://www.starchaser.co.uk/latest_news/index.asp). One of my favorite teams that have a good chance of winning this.

2004-Jan-02, 10:54 PM
I think that the only candidate that has a real chance to go beyond 100 km before 2005 is ss1. The others simply don&#39;t have the money. But i fear ss1 will stay a research project and will never become a commercial vehicle. But maybe they use the 10 million dollar prize to start a commercial service. I certainly hope so.

2004-Jan-06, 03:33 PM
so do i, but unfortunately a lot of these ideas remain just that...ideas.

2004-Feb-04, 11:09 PM
What has happened to Spaceship One? In november and december they had a lot of test flights. But it has been rather quiet in the last month. Was their more damage than they expected when SS1 made a bad landing? Or is it taking a lot of time to refurbish the rocket motor of SS1? They will have to become faster at refurbishing SS1 to win the X-prize because you have to make two flights in two weeks.