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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: Brett66
I was heading to Mammoth about a year ago and picked up a local Mojave paper with an article on rutan testing a new rocket engine( the one mentioned in the article) but he had it hooked up to a "Long easy" and was screaming around the skys with it. I just shook my head and said "this guy is the Tesla of flight. " And he is .
41 posted on 04/18/2003 6:38:03 PM PDT by Walkingfeather
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To: JenB
Yeah, it does sound like that, it's kind of exciting, making me happy thinking about it.
42 posted on 04/18/2003 6:43:03 PM PDT by Sam Cree (liberals are the axis of evil)
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To: mvpel
Yes, Scaled Composites did the structure for Rotary Rocket's Roton test vehicle. I actually got a rare tour of both Scaled Composites and Rotary Rocket's facilities and got to see the structure and engines being built. Of course I had to sign a non-disclosure document, but since Rotary is defunct I can at least acknowledge that I was there when history was stillborn. D@mn shame that poor financial management doomed a otherwise cool rocket.

Hope Burt makes a go of this. If anyone can, he can.

As an aerospace engineer specializing in composite structures, Rutan was a living legend and hero to those of us that wished we could work the magic that he does routinely. I still remember seeing his Voyager round-the-World plane as a teenager in Mojave after the flight and before they sent it to the Smithsonian Air and Space museum.
43 posted on 04/18/2003 9:17:42 PM PDT by anymouse
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To: RightWhale
Actually SpaceDev is the weakest link in this project. The good thing is that they pretty much aquired the mature hybrid engine tech, so it should be a cake walk for them. I hope that it will be good for their stock, as I bought it years ago at $2.50 and I am pissed at Jim Benson for hyping the stock amoungst many people that trusted him and lost money they shouldn't have invested in such a risky business.
44 posted on 04/18/2003 9:23:34 PM PDT by anymouse
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To: Brett66
That now looks great on my desktop...thanks!
45 posted on 04/18/2003 9:26:39 PM PDT by TheLion
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To: Jhoffa_
Now watch FEDGOV shut him down over an endangered sandworm or something.

This is pretty likely. Think of what the reaction would be if any serf, oops, citizen, can go into space, which is the private reserve of government employees and properly vetted guests. They'll likely let him do some test flights to get the performance data and then come down on the operation like a ton of bricks and seize everything.

46 posted on 04/18/2003 9:34:38 PM PDT by adx (Will produce tag lines for beer)
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To: adx
"Now watch FEDGOV shut him down over an endangered sandworm or something"

Sandworms? Eeek. Sounds like Rutan had better give Burt Gummer a call.

Seriously though, should he find his work running afoul of Federales, couldn't he just pack up and get the hell out of the U.S. for a less restricted locale, like Australia or maybe Mexico? It's a lead pipe cinch that they would love to have the cash his operation would provide.
47 posted on 04/18/2003 9:49:40 PM PDT by Rasputin_TheMadMonk (Yes I am a bastard, but I'm a free, white, gun owning bastard. Just ask my exwife.)
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To: adx
If I were this guy and they pulled that, I'd immediately move the operation offshore and rub their noses in it.
48 posted on 04/18/2003 9:50:19 PM PDT by Windcatcher ("So what did Doug use?" "He used...sarcasm!")
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To: Sam Cree
your dream of going to space isn't so farfetched after all.

Heh, all it's going to take is getting the government out of the way. Maybe by the time I'm ready to retire they'll be offering vacation packages to take a trip into orbit.... They still have 25 years to make it happen, so I haven't given up hope yet! :)

49 posted on 04/19/2003 6:28:46 AM 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: anymouse
hyping the stock amoungst many people that trusted him and lost money they shouldn't have invested in such a risky business.

You're kidding, I hope. Asteroid mining as a risky investment. Interesting.

Secure private property rights to celestial resources; open a Federal Land Office to record claims.

50 posted on 04/19/2003 10:45:29 AM PDT by RightWhale (Theorems link concepts; proofs establish links)
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To: RightWhale
thanks for answering.
It is kinda wierd to look at the business planes, Voyager, Proteus, and now this suborbital bird and dimly remember how Rutan stated out in the early '80's with single-seater kit planes with snowmobile engines.
51 posted on 04/19/2003 11:07:57 AM PDT by demosthenes the elder (If *I* can afford $5/month to support FR: SO CAN YOU)
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To: Jhoffa_
Now watch FEDGOV shut him down

He will have a lot of allies, but the Feds own everything, especially the air and the water. If he can get to space without burning through the air, he might make it. The king does not like to lose subjects.

52 posted on 04/19/2003 11:18:56 AM PDT by RightWhale (Theorems link concepts; proofs establish links)
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To: mvpel
I don't know about their involvement in the rotary rocket, but they did contribute components to the Delta Clipper one-stage-to-orbit demonstrator (the one that blew up when a landing footpod failed to deploy... fell over, went boom)
53 posted on 04/19/2003 11:20:42 AM PDT by demosthenes the elder (If *I* can afford $5/month to support FR: SO CAN YOU)
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To: brityank
Good ol' Burt Rutan. If anyone can do it, he can!
54 posted on 04/19/2003 3:11:15 PM PDT by Budge (God Bless FReepers!)
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To: glock rocks
I was looking for this link the other day when I gave you a couple of links over in the situation room thread. You might enjoy it.
55 posted on 04/21/2003 6:00:50 PM PDT by TheLion
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To: TheLion
thank you. nitrous and tire rubber! amazing.
56 posted on 04/22/2003 7:47:39 AM PDT by glock rocks ( pray for our men and women in harms way -- God bless America)
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