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Passenger-Carrying Spaceship Makes Desert Debut ^ | 04/18/03 |

Posted on 04/18/2003 1:45:40 PM PDT by Andy from Beaverton


Passenger-Carrying Spaceship Makes Desert Debut
By Leonard David
Senior Space Writer
posted: 02:00 pm ET
18 April 2003


The wraps are coming off what is billed as the "First Private Manned Space Program" and a new, never-seen spaceship.

Aggressive work on a passenger-carrying sub-orbital craft has been active and hidden from public view for two years.

Labeled as the SpaceShipOne Project, the unveiling comes courtesy of Scaled Composites, Inc. -- highly regarded as a leader in innovative aircraft development -- and based in the Mojave, California desert, about 80 miles north of Los Angeles.

Noted design wizard, Burt Rutan, is lead maverick of the space project and is the firm's president and chief executive officer. He makes no bones about what's behind the hush-hush project.


Labeled as the SpaceShipOne Project, Scaled Composites, Inc. has worked aggressively on a passenger-carrying sub-orbital craft for two years. CREDIT: Scaled Composites

Scaled Composites' SpaceShipOne (foreground, top picture) and its drop-ship the White Knight (background, top picture). The bottom image shows SpaceShipOne and the White Knight together. CREDIT: Scaled Composites

Burt Rutan's Scaled Composites group based its private manned space project on an earlier aircraft design: Proteus CREDIT: Scaled Composites

SpaceShipOne officials are reviewing use of hybrid rocket propulsion system provided by SpaceDev of Poway, California. Hybrid propulsion uses Nitrous Oxide -- also dubbed Laughing Gas -- and HTPB (tire rubber). CREDIT: SpaceDev
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Scaled Composites Website

The X PRIZE Official Website

"Scaled Composites…is tired of waiting for others to provide affordable human space access," Rutan said.

High-altitude launch

Over the last few years, considerable effort has been secretly underway at the company's desert site. Experts at Scaled Composites are confident they've designed a system that supports suborbital flight - drawing from earlier aircraft design work, particularly the high-altitude Proteus vehicle.

From behind closed hangar doors their stealthy product was rolled out today.

"The event is not about dreams, predictions or mockups," Rutan explained in a pre-debut statement. "We will show actual flight hardware: an aircraft for high-altitude airborne launch, a flight-ready manned spaceship, a new, ground-tested rocket propulsion system and much more. This is not just the development of another research aircraft, but a complete manned space program with all its support elements," he said.

Rutan makes it clear that the unveiling is not a marketing event.

"We are not seeking funding and are not selling anything. We are in the middle of an important research program…to see if manned space access can be done by other than the expensive government programs," Rutan explained.

Rutan said that after today, plans call for his group to go "back into hiding," to complete the flight tests and conduct the space flights.

Point and shoot

While details of the project are being revealed today, in past years some aspects of the direction Rutan and his fellow rocketeers were headed were openly discussed.

Using a derivative of Proteus, space-launch operations are made possible. By changing out aircraft sections and configuring the vehicle to carry large external payloads, both suborbital and orbital booster operations could be carried out.

As example, in October of 2000, the Proteus set several world records for performance in its weight class, one being flight up to 62,786 feet toting a 2,200-pound (1,000-kilogram) payload.

Vehicles launched from Proteus could take advantage of a "point and shoot" capability. This requires the carrier aircraft to be positioned to a select attitude -- including vertical for suborbital sounding rockets and astronaut flights -- before booster separation and ignition.

According to earlier thinking, this approach would allow lofting a three-person single-stage fully reusable spaceship up to 112 miles (180 kilometers), giving those onboard some five minutes of microgravity. In addition, two-stage expendable boosters could be lobbed skyward from the aircraft, placing micro-satellite payloads of up to 80 pounds (36 kilograms) into low Earth orbit.

Initially, operating cost goals for the Proteus system, including booster, were pegged at less than less than $50,000 per seat for astronauts and $500,000 per launch for micro-satellites.

Hybrid rocket propulsion

Scaled Composites has been working with SpaceDev of Poway, California to evaluate use of a hybrid rocket propulsion system for the SpaceShipOne program.

Jim Benson, founding chairman and chief executive of SpaceDev, told that hybrid rocket propulsion is a safe and low-cost capability. Work on an advanced hybrid rocket motor has resulted in successful test firings, he said.

Benson said the company's motor design is thought to be the largest of its type in the world. It uses clean and inexpensive propellants, namely Nitrous Oxide (Laughing Gas) and HTPB (tire rubber).

For sub-orbital manned vehicles, Benson said, hybrid is ideal, not only for reaching the desired altitude, but due to propulsion system safety features. They far outweigh the higher performance of dangerous liquid or solid rocket motors, he said, which, unlike hybrids, can explode.

Hybrid rockets are non-explosive, and their responsiveness, affordability and simplicity of operation make them ideal for high-reliability manned or unmanned, orbital or sub-orbital applications, Benson said.

Eyes on the prize

One clear ambition of Rutan is to snag the X Prize purse of $10 million. The competition is patterned from the more than 100 aviation prizes offered in the early 20th Century. Those purses kick-started today's $300 billion-dollar commercial air transport industry.

The most significant of these prizes was the Orteig Prize, won by Charles Lindbergh for his 1927 flight from New York to Paris.

To win the X Prize, private teams must finance, build and fly a three-person spacecraft 62 miles (100 km) to the edge of space, return safely, and then demonstrate the reusability of their vehicle by flying it again within two-weeks.

The goal of the St. Louis, Missouri-based X Prize Foundation is to make space travel frequent and affordable for the general public.

Based on an earlier statement, Rutan has clearly been keeping his eyes on the prize.

"It would not be an understatement to say that the X Prize has already had an effect on me. I have never been as creative as I have been in the past few months," Rutan explains on the X Prize web site.

"The X Prize competition, more than anything else on this Earth, has the ability to help make private spaceflight and space tourism a reality. By creating the X Prize, the St. Louis leaders have taken an important page from aviation history and created an opportunity for a modern day Orteig to step forward and open the door to a whole new industry," Rutan said.

TOPICS: Front Page News; Miscellaneous
KEYWORDS: reusablerocket; reusablespacecraft; space; spaceflight; spacepassengers; spaceshuttle
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To: demosthenes the elder
Rutan has a proven track record for pulling innovative designs that work better and cost less than conventional ones.

Have any of Rutin's designs been translated to a successful commercial product?

21 posted on 04/18/2003 3:02:38 PM PDT by been_lurking
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To: Brett66
First time I read the headline I completely misparsed it, thought it was about a person in the desert carrying a spaceship. I need some rest.
22 posted on 04/18/2003 3:05:45 PM PDT by discostu (I have not yet begun to drink)
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To: Thud
Check out the full picture here.
23 posted on 04/18/2003 3:16:58 PM PDT by Dark Wing
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To: been_lurking
Have any of Rutin's designs been translated to a successful commercial product?

Like the E-Z and Stretch E-Z kit planes?

24 posted on 04/18/2003 3:19:53 PM PDT by RightWhale (Theorems link concepts; proofs establish links)
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To: Brett66
Thanks for the ping. :-) Looks a wee bit different than the rockets/shuttles I have worked with!
25 posted on 04/18/2003 3:22:31 PM PDT by RadioAstronomer
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To: Andy from Beaverton
Might work. Note it is "sub" orbital. The engine is a dog, performance wise. Very low specific impulse, which will limit the delta-V and hence prevent reaching orbit.

I knew a guy who made a hybrid from roofing tarpaper and liquid oxygen. Worked great--until (yup) it blew up.


26 posted on 04/18/2003 3:38:50 PM PDT by boris (Education is always painful; pain is always educational)
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He'll have this 10 million in his account before the other guys even get off the drawing board !

But I wonder what this project, when completed, will have cost.....that stuff ain't cheap!

27 posted on 04/18/2003 3:40:26 PM PDT by TheBattman (Kid Control, not Gun Control)
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To: RadioAstronomer
I wonder when Rutan will build one of these?

This is the picture I made with Lightwave and posted at desktop starships.

Desktop Starships

28 posted on 04/18/2003 3:46:12 PM PDT by Brett66
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To: Andy from Beaverton
With all due respect to Burt Rutan, he has inhaled too much epoxy hardener over the years.

I have his original Long-EZ videos, and have built a fiberglass airplane myself. I used his techniques every step of the way. (I went to the same College he did, too.)

I flew to Mohave Hangar 77 to see the Voyager before it flew. I held up the movers - wouldn't let them pack the TV set - so I could watch the voyager land on Christmas Eve 1986. I have some Voyager world flight engine oil in a little vial on my desk here. should I put this... I am skeptical of this project. The Long EZ was the last commercial success that Burt had.

29 posted on 04/18/2003 3:47:03 PM PDT by snopercod
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To: Brett66
Aw, hell yeah. That's what I'm talking about.
30 posted on 04/18/2003 4:23:36 PM PDT by B-Chan (Catholic and Monarchist)
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To: Andy from Beaverton
Found another article on MSNBC's website that gives more information on it. That carrier plane will carry Space Ship One to 50,000 ft. before releasing it.

Private manned space plane unveiled

31 posted on 04/18/2003 5:06:29 PM PDT by Brett66
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To: Sam Cree
Wonder if Niven knows about this, it's right up his alley.

in "Fallen Angels" (discussed on another thread) Niven and Pournelle end the chase of the heros with a Rutan built space ship held in a museum being used to escape the eco-nazi's and get back to orbit. If I need to put my money on anyone getting to space without government backing it's Burt Rutan.

Niven knows about this. Bet on it.

32 posted on 04/18/2003 5:07:16 PM PDT by Phsstpok
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To: Phsstpok
Phoenix. That's cool.
33 posted on 04/18/2003 5:13:35 PM PDT by Sam Cree (liberals are the axis of evil)
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To: Sam Cree
Hoping here that it works as well! Even if this one isn't everything, the next one will be even better and do even more, I'm sure.
34 posted on 04/18/2003 5:17:34 PM PDT by Bear_in_RoseBear (The sentiments of men are known not only by what they receive, but what they reject also. -Jefferson)
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To: Sam Cree; Phsstpok
Looks like quite a few well known people were there:

Burt Rutan talks with former astronaut
Buzz Aldrin, right, as Max Faget,
who designed most of NASA's early
rockets, looks on at the Mojave Airport on Friday.

35 posted on 04/18/2003 5:18:28 PM PDT by Brett66
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To: Brett66
I met Buzz Aldrin at a book signing, part of the 20th anniversary celebration of Apollo 11 at Huntsville. I got a chance to spend some time talking to Gene Cernan as part of the 30th anniversary at KSC. I am impressed by Buzz Aldrin. I am in awe of Gene Cernan.
36 posted on 04/18/2003 5:36:54 PM PDT by Phsstpok
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To: Bear_in_RoseBear
It's suddenly dawning on me that your dream of going to space isn't so farfetched after all.
37 posted on 04/18/2003 6:12:57 PM PDT by Sam Cree (liberals are the axis of evil)
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To: Brett66
Some impressive guys are interested, looks like.
38 posted on 04/18/2003 6:13:59 PM PDT by Sam Cree (liberals are the axis of evil)
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To: Andy from Beaverton
Ohhhh, I like..

Now watch FEDGOV shut him down over an endangered sandworm or something.

39 posted on 04/18/2003 6:19:34 PM PDT by Jhoffa_ (It's called "adoption" Perhaps you've heard of it?)
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To: Sam Cree
Wow.... ditto those hopes and prayers... I read this and was looking for the "got ya, only kidding!" It sounds like SF - the good kind!
40 posted on 04/18/2003 6:23:23 PM PDT by JenB
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