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Sticks
2007-Jun-14, 08:34 AM
From BBC News Online (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/6749873.stm)



The European aerospace giant EADS is going into the space tourism business.

Its Astrium division says it will build a space plane capable of carrying fare-paying passengers on a sub-orbital ride more than 100km above the planet.

Nicolas
2007-Jun-14, 08:43 AM
It may be just me, but isn't a rocket on the back + canards in the front a double instability along the pitch axis, making ascent quite difficult to control?

btw, Note that this would be the first manned european spacecraft if it would be built and fly over 100 km altitude once.

3rdvogon
2007-Jun-14, 08:57 AM
What bugs me about all these sort of stories is that the media constantly hint that this sort of thing is just one step away from putting fare paying passengers into orbit. They always ignore that fact that the difference between throwing a few people up to a height of 100Km, before letting them plunge back down again and true orbital flight is a very big and very costly step. That no government or company has really got any new vehicle ready to do this yet. I think the public at large are bing mislead into thinking that if they just increase the engine power or increase fule capacity of one of these sort of vehicles a little bit, then a shuttle replacement is just around the corner. When of course we all know that simply is not true and that ventures like this may be interesting novelties for rich folks to have a bit of fun but they are far from being a future LEO delivery system.

The problem with allowing this sort of idea to become fixed in the public mind is that when the reality check finally arrives they may feel that they have been conned and become even more turned off the idea of human spaceflight.

Ronald Brak
2007-Jun-14, 09:01 AM
Anyone here want to pay 200,000 euros for a sub-orbital trip? I'll mention that you can ride the vomit comet for $3,675. (I wonder if it was called the Zero-gee Comet they would charge more?)

antoniseb
2007-Jun-14, 12:24 PM
They always ignore that fact that the difference between thowing a few people up to a height of 100Km, before letting them plunge back down again and true orbital flight is a very big and very costly step.

I agree about the technology gap. I had envisioned that there would be a few steps in this process, scale-wise. Step one is this tourism thing. Personally I am surprised that a case can be made for 15,000 people/year shelling out 200,000 for such a flight, but I didn't do the feasibility study.

I imagine that the next step would be to scale it up enough that 12 to 20 people could be sent on a two-to-three-hour trans-Pacific trip. This is still less than getting into orbit, but definitely more commercial than a three-minute sight-seeing tour.

Finally, it may some day be possible to have some kind of to-orbit vehicle. I don't know when, but like you, I'm not expecting it anytime in the next twenty years.

Amber Robot
2007-Jun-14, 02:15 PM
It may be just me, but isn't a rocket on the back + canards in the front a double instability along the pitch axis, making ascent quite difficult to control?

Actually, sounding rockets are typically designed like this. The motor in back, and a boost-phase guidance section, with maneuverable canards, near the top of the rocket.

Nicolas
2007-Jun-14, 02:56 PM
OK.

Thinking about it, a rocket in itself is highly unstable, so you need powerful stabilisation software. In that case, it doesn't really matter whether your control surface is also unstable or not. The thing as a whole is unstable anyway, and the unstability addition of the canards is no issue because they're actively controlled.

btw the "on the back" part in "rocket on the back" is irrelevant if the rocket engine isn't gimballed.

Ara Pacis
2007-Jun-14, 10:58 PM
Finally, it may some day be possible to have some kind of to-orbit vehicle. I don't know when, but like you, I'm not expecting it anytime in the next twenty years.

Well, I think it is technically possible and has been for a while. Several ideas show promise if they can be developed to specification. The problem is commercial and political. No one wants to pay for R&D when the market is unstable, and currently there are too many launchers waiting for payloads. The political issues can not only prevent state-run agencies from persuing certain technologies or courses of action, but it can prevent private firms from doin it. Certain technologies are secret and not allowed into the private sector (I think the British government witheld the plans for the LACE engines) and regulations and public opinion seem to prevent the use of other technologies, such as nuclear rockets.

publiusr
2007-Jul-21, 06:19 PM
Astium may suck all the oxygen (and dollars) away from other private spaceflight ventures.