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Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Space Transport Corporation: Three-stage rocket development
chabot imageSpace Transport Corporation reported today; At the crack of dawn on Monday the 29th of March, STC launched another three-stage rocket from the usual remote launch site.
The rocket was of the standard three-stage configuration and inter-stage coast periods were set such that, if the vehicle stayed on course, it was capable of reaching 62 miles high. The sky was around 75% clear of clouds. Wind was calm at surface. Launcher was aimed at 4 degrees from vertical on an azimuth of 290 degrees.
Unexpectedly high winds were present beginning a few thousand feet above ground. As the rocket roared skyward, these winds apparently altered the course of the rocket, resulting in an abort.
The flight electronics performed properly. A glitch in the ground electronics did result in a limited quantity of information, making payload location difficult.
Another flight is planned in around two weeks. Upper atmospheric wind data will be evaluated prior to flight. Also, inter-stage coast periods will be shortened to limit the effects of wind on the flight. This will result in a lower peak altitude – perhaps around 35 miles – a sacrifice necessary to produce results without waiting for the perfect windless day. Note that the “active” attitude control system of STC’s Rubicon X PRIZE vehicle allows more flexibility for the vehicle to handle various wind situations. Essentially, the Rubicon should be more of a “slam-dunk” than the tricky three-stage rocket. Read More (Word doc file)

Monday, March 29, 2004

Space Adventures: Scientist-CEO to be Third Space Tourist
chabot imageSpace Adventures®, Ltd., the world's leading space experiences company, announced today that American technology entrepreneur Gregory Olsen, Ph.D. will be the next private space explorer client. The company which organized the space flights for the world's first private space explorers, American businessman Dennis Tito in 2001, and the first African in space, Mark Shuttleworth, in 2002, disclosed Dr. Olsen's identity and his mission objectives during a press conference today in New York City.
The mission continues Space Adventures’ ongoing effort to open the space frontier to more than just career astronauts and cosmonauts. Dr. Olsen is set to begin cosmonaut training next month at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia, with the launch date for the expedition currently planned for April 2005. Read More
Space Adventures is also in the running for the X-Prize, a $10 million purse offered to the first private company to build and fly a three-person space vehicle to an altitude of 62.5 miles twice within a two-week period and return safely to earth.
More Info: Space Adventure WebSite Vehicles

Armadillo Aerospace News: Good warmup test
chabot imageWe tried building another 7” engine with only 600 grams of ring catalyst in the hot pack, since the 700 gram engine from last week seemed to still be running at full temperature after the screen burned away and let the rings jump around. The engine came up to temperature fine, but on throttle up it lost a lot of temperature and never gained it back. We decided to stick with 700 grams of rings in the hot packs.
We built up a complete ship set of engines like this, and tested them individually. They all make a bit over 800 lbf at 250 psi feed pressure, generally losing about 18 psi through the hot pack and 36 psi through the plumbing / spreading plate / cold pack. The temperatures still aren’t quite as high as the engine that burned the retaining screen (the stainless burning may well have added the extra heat), but they are plenty good enough. Two of the engines are running a bit rough, probably because the rings weren’t able to be packed as solidly in the recycled engine chambers with stubs of old plates still on the sides. The next time we build fresh engines, we are probably going to try vibration settling, then weld the retaining plate on top under a fair amount of hydraulic pressure. Read More

Selling dreams: the promise and challenge of space tourism
Two years ago the prospects for space tourism looked quite promising. By early 2002 one space tourist, Dennis Tito, had already flown to the International Space Station while a second, Mark Shuttleworth, was in the final stages of preparations for his flight. Moreover, at least two people—Lori “AstroMom” Garver and pop star Lance Bass—were vying to fly on the next Soyuz flight to the station in the fall of 2002. At the same time, there was growing interest in suborbital space tourism, with the hopes that a vehicle would soon win the X Prize and offer tourist services.
The events of the last two years, though, have been at least a little sobering to space tourism advocates. Neither Garver nor Bass flew in space because of an inability to work out sufficient sponsorship and other funding deals to pay for the trip. The Columbia accident the following February put a temporary halt to space tourist flight opportunities as the Soyuz taxi missions instead became the means for rotating crews on the ISS. On the suborbital front, several ventures have made significant progress towards winning the X Prize, with a strong possibility that one team will win this year—before the prize expires at the end of the year—but when such flights will be available to paying passengers remains uncertain. Read More

Sunday, March 28, 2004

Space Transport Corporation: Successful 12-inch engine test
chabot imageAt their Forks, Washington facility, Space Transport Corporation (STC) successfully tested the full-scale solid-propellant rocket engine for their Suborbital Tourism Vehicle which will be used in the X PRIZE competition. The engine tipped the scales at the expected 12,000 pounds of force during the 14-second static test event.
After some trials to perfect the engine manufacturing procedure, STC is thrilled with this result and is enthusiastic about the next phase of their quest to develop the Suborbital Tourism Vehicle (STV), which is designed to take three passengers to 100 km (62 mile) altitude and return them safely to earth. The next step in development of this vehicle is an unmanned flight in May.
Stay tuned for results of a three-stage rocket flight which should occur in a few days. The flight will hopefully result in dazzling pictures of earth from space. Read More (Word DOC file)

Saturday, March 27, 2004

Private Industry Could Aid NASA with Space Station, Moon & Mars Missions
chabot imageNASA could jumpstart a large-scale, commercial space industry, with private companies servicing the International Space Station (ISS) in as little as three years if the agency makes it a priority under its new space vision, market and industry analysts told a presidential commission this week. A panel of aerospace professionals and analyst said that in order for space commerce to thrive, NASA must look toward alternative long-range launch transport services in the private sector. Read More

Friday, March 26, 2004

Starchaser Touches Down in London
London was given a glimpse of a stellar future today with the arrival of a rocket promoting Britain's attempt at manned space flight. The 40-foot Nova rocket, part of the UK based "Starchaser" team which hopes to put a man in space next year, drove into town and parked up next to the Millennium Eye. Later the privately-built spacecraft made its way through London to visit the headquarters of firms in the city, going via Parliament Square. The Metropolitian must have been warned that a huge missile was coming past Parliament on the back of a lorry, as officers looked on apparently 'unphased'.
Read More>>

Thursday, March 25, 2004

XP Cup Update: Florida, New Mexico compete to host X Prize Cup
chabot imageIn the home stretch of its bid to host the X Prize Cup, Florida Space Authority board members expressed a determination to beat out fellow finalist New Mexico. Hurdles remain to convince Gov. Jeb Bush as Florida tweaks its final pitch. "I personally would consider this a must win," said Deborah Barnhart, a board of supervisors member for the authority and vice president with Honeywell International. A final decision by the X Prize Foundation, sponsor of the $10 million competition for private manned space flight, is expected in mid-April. The cup is designed to motivate the 27 teams from seven countries now competing for the X Prize to continue their work. Tracy Hegler, the manager of spaceport transportation planning for the Space Authority, said New Mexico's bid includes a $9 million commitment to build infrastructure and market the annual competition. Furthermore, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson has met with X Prize officials and publicly supported his state's effort. "I think all they really need is a hug from the governor," said Kenneth Haiko, vice chair of the Space Authority board, and accounts manager for Sun Container Inc. Pam Dana, director of the Office of Tourism, Trade and Economic Development, said Bush needed to have questions answered before he could do that. "I'm not going to put that governor in any precarious position," Dana said. "I don't need to be a naysayer, but there are some big issues here." Read More
Original Announcement: X-Prize foundation selects Florida and New Mexico as finalists

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Space Entrepreneurs Believe NASA Needs Their Help in Reaching Moon, Mars
chabot imageNASA must look to private space enterprises for support in future exploration missions, a panel of aerospace professionals and researchers told the President's Commission for the Implementation of United States Space Exploration Policy on Wednesday.
In a hearing before the commission tasked with shaping NASA's exploration aims, space entrepreneurs encouraged commissioners to embrace private access-to-space efforts and contests, such as the $10 million X Prize competition to spur interest in space travel. Read More

Mars Panel Sees Affordable Space Travel
chabot imageThe meeting at the Georgia Institute of Technology is part of a series of public hearings before a presidential commission about the feasibility of the moon-Mars idea. The commission will report back to the president in June.
The panel said NASA should bid out many of its needs to private industry.
"We're looking for the model by which the private sector would invest in this," said commission chairman Pete Aldridge. "It does have something of value to the entrepreneurial spirit." If private companies get involved in space travel, technology and safety will advance more quickly than it would relying on NASA alone, Diamondis said. Read More

chabot imageThe England-based Starchaser Team has initiated a major educational outreach program to connect with more than 150,000 high school students throughout the UK. The prime objective of the Starchaser Educational Outreach Program is to enthuse and inspire the next generation of scientists, engineers and astronauts. The "star of the show" is the company's record-breaking Nova rocket, which at 11 metres (37 feet) in length qualifies as the largest rocket ever to be launched from the British mainland. Nova is transported to each venue and then elevated from the horizontal to a vertical flight orientation for maximum dramatic effect. For more information on this program and on progress at Team Starchaser click here.

chabot imageX Prize President Peter Diamandis will be speaking to the 'Presidential Commission for Moon, Mars and Beyond' in Atlanta today. To download and read his testimony, click here.
Mr. Chairman, members of the Commission, it’s my honor to be here.
Today I wish to brief you on three subjects: First, the X PRIZE Competition; Second, the critical need to support an emerging new crop of space entrepreneurs; and third, the need to embrace an increased level of risk in our exploration of space. X PRIZE:
There is little doubt that there is a large and vibrant marketplace of individuals willing to pay for the opportunity to fly into space. Most recent surveys consistently indicate that over 60% of the U.S. public would welcome the opportunity to take such a trip, and the most recent Futron study quantifies this public spaceflight market at over $1 billion dollars per year during the next twenty years. Read More (Word Document)

Associated Press: X Prize organizers predict space trip by summer
chabot imageST. LOUIS — The reward is high, but so is the risk as some of the 27 teams pursuing a $10-million US prize for the first privately funded manned spaceflight near a goal that once seemed outlandish. Organizers of the X Prize believe that teams could attempt the space trip as early as this summer. When the competition was announced eight years ago, many were skeptical that any privately financed team could meet the requirements to collect the prize: Build a spacecraft capable of taking three passengers 100 kilometres above the planet, then make a second successful suborbital trip within two weeks. "It's going to happen in 2004. Someone will win it," said Gregg Maryniak, director of the St. Louis-based X Prize Foundation, a group created to spark development of reusable spacecraft that can take average citizens into space. Read More

XCOR CEO Jeff Greason to Testify Before Presidential Commission
chabot image"I am here today because I have seen signs of hope. There is an awareness
that we cannot succeed by re-creating Apollo. When President Kennedy set
America on a course for the Moon, America had launched one human being on a
fifteen-minute suborbital flight. It is very likely that before this year is
out, one or more private companies will launch human beings on suborbital
flights with private funding, as part of the X-Prize Foundation effort." Read More

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Popular Science: A conversation with spaceshipone test pilot Brian Binnie
chabot imagePopular Science:What were the big lessons from the flight?
Brian Binnie: The motor had no trouble lighting off at altitude, which we'd never done before. The performance was pretty darn close to the simulator predictions. So our drag models are close to real life.
Popular Science: Describe the ascent.
Brian Binnie: You flick the fire switch, the motor takes less than a second to ignite, and it's like winging open the gate at a rodeo. Boom! You and the bull are off! When the motor shut down, I found that I was breathing really hard.
Read More (at the bottom of the page)

Times-Standard.com: Who needs LNG? Let's build a spaceport
chabot imageMy friend Justin and I went out to the dolos at the end of the North Jetty one recent Sunday. He'd never been out there.
The gray, mossy oblong forms of the dolos jut in irregular lines toward the sky. To those willing to walk the quarter-mile stretch of pier at the risk of getting swamped by a rogue wave, the dolos provide a comforting sense of isolation and enigma, like those stone faces on Easter Island. Across the harbor entrance, a foghorn's persistent wail adds to the otherworldly atmosphere.
In one of those random twists of conversation, Justin and I started talking about outer space.
"Do you think they'll ever have commercial space travel?" I asked.
"I'd like to go, if I could afford it," Justin said.
"Imagine a six-day, seven-night package," I said. "You'd have an orbit around the planet, a moon landing, dinner in the 'Zero Gravity Lounge.'" Read More

Monday, March 22, 2004

International Space Development Conference 2004
chabot imageYou can be a part of the future! Join us and up to 800 other space enthusiasts as we chart the course for the future of space travel. Hear presentations from the leading experts in space related subjects such as Space Law, Engineering and Marketing. Discuss the current and future prospects for space travel as well as a host of other space issues. Tour local facilities and see the past, present, and future of spaceflight. Planned trips include visits to the Oklahoma Spaceport, the Cosmosphere, and the Omniplex museum.
The Conference will be held on May 27 - 31, 2004.

Find out more.

Engineers say safety issues can be addressed
chabot imageThe X Prize competition has 27 teams scrambling to prove that suborbital space travel is accessible and affordable to the general public.
But just how safe can passengers be aboard rockets not built and tested with billion-dollar budgets? The task isn't as daunting as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration would have people believe, X Prize engineers insist.
Read More

Kelly Space & Technology Inc.: Reach for the sky
chabot imageMichael J. Gallo wants to go into space in the worst way.
I'm going. That's for sure," said Gallo, the dapper, mustachioed president and CEO of Kelly Space & Technology Inc. in San Bernardino.
Gallo isn't talking about becoming a NASA astronaut or someday riding first class on a space transport.
He and a handful of seasoned aerospace engineers want to build their own rocket ship - dubbed "Sprint" - and ride it on a sub-orbital flight into history.
Gallo's group is competing against 26 privately funded teams from seven countries for the $10 million X Prize, manned space flight's latest Holy Grail. A winner is expected by summer's end.
Read More

X-Prize domain problems fixed
chabot imageFor all who noticed it, the problem with the domain names linking to the wrong page on the official xprize website has been fixed.

More Info

Entrepreneurs, Labor Representatives, Engineers And Media To Testify In Atlanta
Arlington, Virginia
The President's Commission on Moon, Mars and Beyond has invited experts from organized labor, the media, the Aerospace Engineering department of Georgia Tech, and the world of space commerce to testify at a public hearing March 24 and 25, 2004. The hearing will be held at the Georgia Centers for Advanced Telecommunications Technology (GCATT) Auditorium on the campus of the Georgia Institute of Technology, 250 14th Street, NW, Atlanta, Georgia.

Find out more about this hearing here.

Sunday, March 21, 2004

Armadillo Aerospace News: Working engines
chabot imageWe finally have a solid engine configuration!
The angle bar flameholders were causing combustion instability at high thrust and melting things underneath them, so we focused on using the heavy perforated metal plates as flameholders. A single plate retaining the cold pack with the spark plug underneath it worked ok, but if we added a second one right below the spark plug, we got much stronger and more even flameholding. We also started using the longest reach spark plugs I could find – NGK PLFR5A-11, which gives over an inch of reach to get it past the 5.5” to 7” step transition. This would light reliably if the pack was completely cold, but it still had problems when we tried to light it a second time. Read More

Saturday, March 20, 2004

ARCA News: The work to the flight computer of the monopropellant demonstrator vehicle is underway
chabot imageThe work to the flight computer of the monopropellant demonstrator vehicle is underway. The computer will control all the flight procedures of the vehicle from the start of the countdown until the main parachute ejection. The computer architecture and construction are integrally made by ARCA.

Read More

Blue Ridge Nebula Airlines News: First public display of our 3-4 passenger, 14 foot diameter, Flying Saucer airframe.
chabot imageFirst public display of our 3-4 passenger, 14 foot diameter, Flying Saucer airframe March 20th Metropolitan State College, we will land in the hart of Down-Town Denver 10:00am - 3:30pm, Space X-prize and moon race media press conference at 8:30 am in the Physical Education Building.
More Info

Friday, March 19, 2004

X-43C, RS-84 Engine Among Casualties Of NASA Review
By Jefferson Morris

NASA's X-43C hypersonic demonstrator and RS-84 reusable engine program have been canceled following a review of 140 programs inherited by the agency's new Office of Exploration Systems.

The review, completed last week, assessed each program for its applicability to NASA's new space exploration goals (DAILY, March 18.) The X-43C "did not fit our particular needs at this particular point for an exploration systems development program," exploration office head Rear Adm. Craig Steidle told lawmakers during a House Space and Aeronautics subcommittee hearing in Washington March 18.

Read More

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Space Adventures Company Considers Oklahoma for Site of Tourism Spaceport
chabot imageSpace Adventures Company Considers Oklahoma for Site of Tourism Spaceport
The company that sent two multimillionaires to the International Space Station put Oklahoma on its list of possible sites for its space tourism spaceport this week.
The move comes as a bill to regulate the space tourism industry is making its way through the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee.
Space Adventures is in the running for the X-Prize, a $10 million purse offered to the first private company to build and fly a three-person space vehicle to an altitude of 62.5 miles twice within a two-week period and return safely to earth. Read More
Company Website

da Vinci Project News: ANSYS Increases Sponsorship Role in the da Vinci Project
chabot imageThe da Vinci Project recently implemented CFX, computational fluid dynamics (CFD) software, to aid in the development of processes involving fluid flow, heat transfer and chemical reaction. Also added from the ANSYS software suite was ANSYS ICEM CFD, a post-processing tool to help streamline product development. More...

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

X-Prize website Team news section updated
Click here to learn more about the progress made by the X PRIZE teams in late 2003 and early 2004. Team progress will be updated regularly in 2004, so be sure to visit the site regularly to keep up with the latest news

Monday, March 15, 2004

Space Transport Corp. News: Development Activity Update
chabot imageIn early March, STC launched a three-stage rocket (which can carry a 1-lb payload to 100 km). In-flight vibration evidently caused power failure, which ended communication with the rocket. Locating the landed rocket is extremely difficult in this situation.
Also in early March, STC conducted a second ground test of their 12” rocket engine, the engine that will power their X PRIZE vehicle. This engine operated properly for around 1.5 seconds (see picture nearby) before over-pressurizing and rupturing the casing. An undisclosed manufacturing improvement is expected to solve the problem.
You can read more in the word document they released.

Sunday, March 14, 2004

Armadillo Aerospace News: Still not there
chabot imageA short report this time, because I have a cold, and we still haven’t gotten perfect success with the spark ignition.
We switched to the MSD-10pro ignition system, which has a nearly 5x hotter spark, but that doesn’t seem to effect anything.
We have the data acquisition system set up so we can monitor two temperatures and two pressures simultaneously, but we have been focusing on open catalyst ignition tests lately.
We tried some longer reach spark plugs, with no real benefit. Read More

Saturday, March 13, 2004

chabot imageThe New Mexico Legislature, shortly before it adjourned on Feb. 19, approved the conditional use of $9 million to help stage the X Prize Cup if New Mexico is selected by the PRIZE Foundation. New Mexico and Florida are the remaining two states competing to become the location where teams and companies will compete in a yearly event to promote private space travel. The final decision as to where the annual competition will be held will be made soon by the X PRIZE Foundation. For the complete story, click here.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

chabot imageScaled Composite's X PRIZE entry "SpaceShipOne" vehicle flew its twelfth test flight over the Mojave Desert on March 11. The objectives of the flight were to help train a new pilot, to test the reaction control system, and to verify stability and performance of the vehicle with the newly installed airframe thermal protection system. According to a company spokesperson, "Launch conditions [from the White Knight carrier aircraft] were 48,500 feet and 125 knots. All systems performed as expected and the vehicle landed successfully while demonstrating the maximum cross wind landing capability." For additional details click here.

chabot imageStarchaser Industries are pleased to announce that an initial submission for permissions to use Australia’s Woomera launch site has been made.
The company has received notification that pending minor changes, this document will be accepted as a basis of full Space Launch Licence application.
More Info

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

chabot imageA recent press release from ARCA notes that in mid November 2003 the Romanian Team conducted a series of engine tests with Light Propulsion Test Platform in the monopropellant mode, with hydrogen peroxide 60% as fuel. The success of those tests led to the idea of using this fuel (in a higher concentration-not yet disclosed) for the ORIZONT vehicle. ARCA calculations indicate that it is possible to meet the X Prize specifications with a monopropellant system, but only with a vehicle launched from a higher altitude. The new final configuration of the ORIZONT vehicle will be presented after the flight test of the monopropellant system. Click here for complete story.

chabot imageProfessor David Ashford, Leader of the Bristol Spaceplanes X PRIZE team, has published an article on the future of space travel entitled, "Flying Into The Future: Spaceflight Revolution". He is also the author of the book on the subject entitled "Spaceflight Revolution," published in 2002 by Imperial College Press. An excerpt: "A revolution in spaceflight is likely soon, leading to everyday access to orbit and large-scale space tourism within fifteen years. Costly launch vehicles based on ballistic missiles are likely to be replaced by spaceplanes, using technology that exists today. A spaceplane prototype could be built within five years and, with a further ten years of detailed development, the design could approach airliner maturity. The resulting mature spaceplane would reduce the cost of sending people into space some one thousand times" For more information, download a pdf here.

Sunday, March 07, 2004

chabot imageA race for the stars is going on and the Champ Car World Series has just become a key part of it. The open-wheel racing series announced today that it would become the presenting sponsor of the X PRIZE Competition, an international race offering $10 million to the first privately funded group to fly a manned spaceship. Read more.

Armadillo Aerospace News: Temperature probes, Powered landing sim
chabot imageWe finally started logging thermocouple data to help us get to the bottom of our engine warmup issues. What we did was drill the swagelok fittings on the engines all the way through, so a 1/8" pipe can pass completely through it instead of butting up against the internal stop. We then took an immersion thermocouple with a 1/8" shaft, put the swagelok ferules around that, inserted it all the way into the motor, and tightened the swaging nut to lock the ferules on the TC shaft.
We can now interchangeably put either a pressure transducer or a thermocouple at any port, which is very handy. Conveniently, a 1000C thermocouple (K type) and amplifier exactly fits our engine operating temperatures. We get up to about 1800F under well mixed conditions, but it does go higher under the flameholders where the water isn't mixed well with the flame. Read More

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

chabot imageRanda Milliron of Interorbital predicted "first unmanned launches of [their X PRIZE vehicle] Solaris X somewhere around the last part of 2004" in an interview with the internet magazine NeoFiles. Milliron added, "We're really focused. We've got a really fantastic team. Our pilots are ready. Our subcontractors are ready to build the entire competitive spacecraft... People who have worked in the industry come and work for us for nothing essentially - for stock - because they want to do hands-on work. They don't want to spend the rest of their lives just designing one bolt or daydreaming about space." For the whole interview, click here.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

chabot imageThe X PRIZE Foundation today announced that it has secured Dan Rayburn to produce a series of live webcasts of the X PRIZE competition. Whenever a team is ready to make its attempt, the X PRIZE Foundation will be onsite with webcast production teams producing two 3-hour live webcasts. "The X PRIZE webcasts will show the public not only the latest advancements in space travel but also the latest Internet technology available today to make it viewable to a worldwide audience", said Dr. Peter Diamandis, Founder and Chairman of the X PRIZE Foundation. For more information, click here.

Monday, March 01, 2004

Starchaser News: LAUNCH ESCAPE SYSTEM (LES) Update
chabot imageWe are currently taking delivery of various LES components and we are conducting evaluative small thruster test firings. All this is leading up to a full-scale programme of static LES test firings. We have organised the use of a test facility and if all goes according to plan a full-scale launch escape test flight, simulating a launch pad escape scenario, will be conducted from a UK site within the next six months.
This test will be spectacular! The LES has been designed to generate approximately 6000kg (6 tonnes) of thrust for a minimum duration of 4 seconds. This will provide enough impulse to pull the 1 tonne THUNDERSTAR capsule to a minimum altitude of 3000ft, AGL.
More Info

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