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Sunday, July 18, 2004

ANSARI X PRIZE Space Race News! moved to http://www.XPrizeNews.org
We have moved to http://www.XPrizeNews.org.

Saturday, July 17, 2004

Coming Soon: www.XPrizeNews.org
chabot imageA new web url has been registrated: http://www.xprizenews.org.

You can expect a "new" website on that address in a few hours/days.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

English Rocket Company Moves to Cruces
chabot imageLouie Gilot, El Paso Times
A British company chose Las Cruces to reach for the stars.
Starchaser Industries, one of the contenders for the $10 million Ansari X Prize, will open an office in Las Cruces next month and begin launch tests at White Sands later this year, company officials said. Starchaser is building a small, reusable passenger spacecraft.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Space bill movement...
According to the latest Space News (print edition) Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma plans to release his hold on the Commercial Space Launch Admendments Act (H.R.3752) by July 23rd. He put the hold on because of the concerns of Rocketplane Limited, based in Oklahoma, that the bill would relegate its vehicle to FAA aviation certification procedures rather than to the AST launch licensing regime. The XP spends most of its time under turbojet power before it fires a rocket to go to 100km.
Rocketplane lobbyist Kevin Kelly said, "We're getting close to resolving the whole thing." Unfortunately, time is getting very short before Congress takes a six week break. The bill's backers hope a deal can be made by July 20 when the Senate Commerce Committee will hold a mark up session.

No, the sky is not the limit for the private sector
The flight of SpaceShipOne should have gotten more attention.
It's flight is on a par with Charles Lindbergh's Atlantic crossing in 1927, the efforts of Amelia Earhart and the pioneering flights of astronauts Alan Shepard and John Glenn. Maybe even the flight of the Wright brothers.
Test pilot Mike Melvill flew SpaceShipOne to a record-breaking altitude of 328,491 feet -- just beyond 62 miles, the internationally recognized boundary of outer space.

House Science Committee Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics to Examine Role of Contests and Prizes in Space Exploration
chabot imageChairman of X Prize Foundation to Testify  
WASHINGTON, D.C. - On Thursday, July 15, 2004, the Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics will hold a hearing to examine whether and how federally sponsored prizes could be an effective tool to spur innovation and encourage commercial participation in the development of advanced space technologies.
NASA has recently begun a small prize program, but has proposed that Congress provide it with authority to offer larger prizes.

Perspective: Actually, It Really is Rocket Science
chabot imageBirmingham Post; Birmingham (UK)
The hottest topic in aviation today is the Ansari X-Prize. So what is it, who's going to win and what will they do next?
The Ansari X Prize represents a reward of $10 million for the first team to fly a piloted spacecraft beyond the earth's atmosphere. When it was first announced, many in the industry dismissed the whole idea as gimmick. A few weeks ago, all that began to change.

Armadillo Aerospace News: Electronics Failures
chabot imageWe set up for another captive hover test of the big vehicle on Tuesday. Everything proceeded well, but as I started the flight control software up to warm the engine, the self-test failed because one of the jet vane actuators was not responding. The automated self test on every startup now is a Very Good Thing, because I very likely would have missed this condition, as the vane position graphs aren’t on the first visible page of telemetry results. On the driver board, two actuator bit LED’s seemed to be stuck on We connected the ribbon cable to a brand new driver board, and found that they were still on, so the fault was in the AccessIO A/D + DIO board. We had moved to a Diamond A/D + DIO board for the A/D, since we had fried four of the AccessIO boards (probably from the motor inductive kicks, in hindsight), but the digital IO pinout was completely different, so we had been continuing to use the AccessIO board to run the motor drives, because the DIO part seemed to still be functioning fine, even though the A/D was fried. Apparently this wasn’t a great idea. It is odd that it seemed to give up sometime late in the vehicle pressurization, because I had started it and let it pass self test several times during the loading process. Read More

Monday, July 12, 2004

Self-Taught Pilot Going to Space
chabot imageCompetitors and organizers of the Ansari X Prize -- the international race to create and fly a privately financed rocket ship for space tourists -- like to talk about launching a new era of barnstorming.

Like during the early days of aviation, they see pilots at the controls of experimental craft taking to the heavens by the dozens or hundreds. Mike Melvill became the first people's astronaut last month when he flew Burt Rutan's SpaceShipOne to an altitude of 100 kilometers over Mojave, California. That marked the first time a civilian pilot at the controls of a privately built spacecraft had flown to space.

Now, a self-taught Canadian engineer leading a group of volunteers is determined to become space barnstormer No. 2.

Melvill's feat made Rutan's team the favorite to win the X Prize's $10 million jackpot when it launches its next flight later this year. But so far, no one has publicly given the required 60-day notice for a prize attempt. And Brian Feeney, the leader of a Canadian team that plans to blast a spherical capsule called Wild Fire into space, says he'll give SpaceShipOne a run for its money.


Last time Brian Feeney claimed he was going to announce launch plans at an event, he didn't, but as Scaled gets ready to fly, he doesn't really have any choice if he wants to be in the competition. July 21 should be interesting.

We are revamping the ANSARI X-PRIZE news website, and we need help.
That's right, we need YOUR help. If you can host us, want to have your site design used by us (and supposedly get an x-prize t-shirt signed by all the news staff somehow), or just want to be a reporter, please email Sigurd at xprize@gmail.com or me at terramars@gmail.com, comment on this post, or reply on the messageboard topic about this. Regardless of how you want to help, you can find Sigurd's announcement on the messageboard here, with lots of details and things we're not quite sure about.

Friday, July 09, 2004

X Prize attempt in late September
chabot imageLori Smith wrote: If you’re still kicking yourself for missing SpaceShipOne’s historic flight last month, you might pencil in a trip to Mojave for late September. That’s when, according to SpaceShipOne pilot Mike Melvill, the same team is going to launch their bid for the $10 million Ansari X Prize.

Appearing on MSNBC’s "Deborah Norville Tonight" Thursday, Melvill confirmed earlier reports that Scaled Composites is closing in on an official try, which requires 60-day notice.
“We plan on [trying] toward the end of September this year,” said Melvill, adding that he didn’t know who would be the pilot for that attempt.
“I’m hoping to encourage another individual to do it, but I’ll be standing by in case they need me,” he told Norville.
A video clip of Melvill talking about the attempt (including some mild trash-talking) can be watched on the MSNBC site. Read More

Thursday, July 08, 2004

SpaceShipOne back on course.
chabot imageX Prize contender Burt Rutan says his team has solved a control problem that threw its spacecraft off course during a historic flight last month and that the next time the ship flies it will be to capture the $10 million space jackpot.

"That's a complete, entire yes," Rutan said when asked whether his Scaled Composites team had gotten to the bottom of a trim-control problem experienced during SpaceShipOne's voyage to an altitude of 100 kilometers on June 21.

After the flight -- the first time a civilian flew a private craft into space -- pilot Mike Melvill said a control needed to steer SpaceShipOne at supersonic speeds malfunctioned. The problem caused him to veer more than 20 miles outside the flight's planned re-entry zone over Southern California's Mojave Desert.

But Melvill was able to use a backup system to control the craft and made a perfect landing after gliding back to the ship's base at the Mojave Airport. At the time, Rutan said the problem was the most serious safety issue encountered during the development of SpaceShipOne.

"There is no way we will fly again without knowing the cause and without assuring that we fixed it," he said at a press conference following the flight.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Interorbital Systems WebSite Update
chabot imageInterorbital Systems updated their website with a lot more information, pictures, ... you can visit it over here.

They are using "graphics" for their website (not that bad), but the usage of "BMP" forum is a little annoying...

Some info:
NANO SLV: Competing to be the world's first private-sector satelite launch vehicle. Launches are scheduled to begin in 2005.
NEPTUNE OLV: Competing to be the world's first private-sector manned orbital launch vehicle. Launches are scheduled to begin in 2006 (note, those are only the beginning of test flights, not directly manned flights to orbit).

SPACEPORT TONGA: Located in the South Pacific just below the equator, the Kingdom of Tonga is the ideal location for conducting orbital rocket launches, Unpopulated, Land-free open ocean provides safe stage drop zones for both polar and 21 degree orbital flight trajectories. The first launch of the IOS Nano SLV is scheduled to take place from Spaceport Tonga in 2005.

A large text related to Interorbital Systems committed to commercial manned orbital space flight. http://www.interorbital.com/Manned%20Space%20Ops%20Page_1.htm

chabot imageIn celebration of July 4th, Space Transport Corporation (STC) launched a two-stage rocket to 56,000 feet (17.0 kilometers). This flight proved out the recovery system and resulted in excellent high-altitude digital pictures. STC plans a three-stage rocket launch to 60 kilometers later this month. This two-stage launch was, in a way, a final tuning flight prior to a 60 kilometer shot. The two- and three-stage rockets are four inches in diameter. The 60-kilometer flight test is separate from the Rubicon launch, which will stay on track for a launch in the second half of July. Pictures from the flight are appended to this press release. The picture at lower left is the best shot from near apogee. The onboard camera took pictures every 4 seconds throughout the flight. Apogee was achieved approximately 50 seconds after liftoff. The peak speed was 2450 mph or Mach 3.4. The expected slight ablation (when material “melts away” during high-speed flight through the atmosphere) was seen on the rocket’s nosecone. Space Transport Corporation develops launch vehicle technologies using a practical test-oriented approach. Eric Meier and Phillip Storm are the driving force behind STC. STC is a contender for the $10 million Ansari X Prize (see www.xprize.org). The space tourism market, one of STC’s ultimate targets, is worth much more than $10 million. For more information about STC activities, please visit www.space-transport.com.

Monday, July 05, 2004

Armadillo Aerospace News: Ready to fly
chabot imageAs far as we know, everything is completely ready for flight testing on the big vehicle, but we weren’t able to get our usual lift truck for testing on Saturday. We did a lot of other miscellaneous stuff, but we are definitely looking forward to our tests on Tuesday.
The shock absorbers for the big vehicle are in ( mc64100-1 from http://www.parker.com/cylinder/cat/english/102202.pdf ). I need to buy a 2mm thread mill so I can cut nice thick mounting blocks for these in the future, but for this vehicle I made some plates that capture the jam nut and let us screw the shocks through a form fitting tube and hard up against the base mount. We need to land pretty straight with these, but they are only a third the weight of the big wire rope isolators, and they don’t have any spring back on landing.


We anchored a piece of road plate on the concrete so we won’t chew it up any more during hover tests.


We have modified the metal vehicle stands with some side legs, which we plan on using instead of the messy foam blocks for the first elevated hanging test, but after that proves out, we will do a ground liftoff while tethered under the crane. After that, we will head to the 100 acres for a boosted hop. Read More

Space Woodstock: Memories of a Party in the Desert
chabot imageAlan's Mojave weblog: Now that things around Mojave have settled down a bit and everyone has seen plenty of pictures of the launch hardware, I've gone back through the photos from Space Day and found a number that commemorate the unique feel of what went on there. Reports are that the crowd numbered between 11,000 and 15,000, and it was a uniquely American small-town morning.
In an afternoon, the town of Mojave's population almost doubled, and would double again the next morning. RVers line up for Mojave's first Space Party
Not quite knowing what to expect, and not wanting to be caught off-guard, the Kern Sheriff's Department was out in big numbers, including an air unit. One officer later commented that it was about the tamest crowd he'd ever seen. That's what happens when a bunch of space nerds all get together...lots of fun, no headaches.
Even the folks at NASA didn't want to miss this event. Buzz Aldrin watched from the VIP area. It's not known whether this was his means of arrival, but Ship 66 was parked amongst all the other transients that had arrived for the show.
Mojave's never seen this much press. Numerous live broadcasts put our little town on the map!
For pictures and the whole text, visit mojavebooks.com

Saturday, July 03, 2004

Fundamental Technology Systems: WebSite Finaly Up
chabot imageFundamental Technology Systems created a website, check it out.

Some info about their Research Rocket Plane:
The Research Rocket Plane Tested Vehicle is being developed to
1.) demonstrate engine catalist bed design,
2.) validate guidance computer software,
3.) validate vertical takeoff - horizontal landing configuration, and
4.) validate performance models. It is powered by a 1/10 scale Aurora kerosene and hydrogen peroxide rocket motor providing 1000 lbf.
Following erection on the mobile TEL the RRP is lanched and boosts for 100 seconds to 49,900 feet at 1000 fps velocity. Following boost, the RRP climbs to apogee at 62,000 feet, executes a pitch-over maneuver. At T+130 seconds the RRP flight control system deploys the wings and rolls out the RRP to glide back home. Waypoint guidance is used during the 38 psf descent glide at ~190 KTAS. The mission is complete at T+51 minutes with a flare and horizontal landing at ~86 KTAS. Com includes 1 UHF telemetry downlink and 1 UHF command uplink.

Two RRPs are in fabrication and each offers the opportunity for customers to test payloads installed in the RRP payload bay. The RRP provides investment opportunities for interested parties to benefit from the development and sales of reuseable experimantal rockets and test support service.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Pablo De Leon and Associates News Update
chabot imageNewThe Argentinian ANSARI X PRIZE entry, is working to complete the first test of their escape system. This escape system is designed to lift the crew capsule to safety in case of malfunction of the main launch vehicle. The escape system is basically three solid-propellant rockets attached to a tower at 120 degrees each, on top of the capsule. In the test, the escape rockets will ignite and lift the capsule to a safe distance from the launch rocket. The test will be performed in the Province of Buenos Aires, in a secure test area. If successful, this test will allow De Leon to continue development and ensure safer flights tests.

Space Transport Corporation News Update
chabot imageForks, WA-based Space Transport Corporation has had their Rubicon ANSARI X PRIZE vehicle on display locally and in Seattle at The Museum of Flight during the month of June. The 22-foot tall Rubicon, complete with orange nosecone, guidance system and seven-engine rocket cluster (unfueled), was mounted in the guide rails of STC's mobile launch trailer. STC has launched multiple three-stage rockets in the past two months, one reaching 50 kilometers. STC expects to launch Rubicon to 15,000 feet on its maiden flight in mid-July from a location on the Olympic Peninsula near Forks.

ARCA News Update
chabot imageARCA Team Leader Dumitru Popescu announced that his ANSARI X PRIZE demonstrator vehicle is moving forward to the flight test stage. According to the team's June 5 press release, the "World's first composite materials reusable monopropellant rocket engine will be flight tested in July on board the Demonstrator 2-B rocket. The first flight will be made below 10 km, mainly because of the launch site restrictions." ARCA plans for this technology to be used on the ORIZONT, its ANSARI X PRIZE vehicle, with manned flights starting with the next year.

HARC News Update
chabot imageThe Alabama-based HARC Team is developing and following a new business model based on Escape Tower Rocket Motor (ETRoM) driven capsule launching. Having completed the final design of the ETRoM , HARC has begun construction on the stand-alone capsule systems (SACS). The ETRoM driven SACS is expected to produce the Team's first rocket business profit center. In order to help validate capsule stability associated with capsule geometry, winds, tip-off, etc., HARC designed and constructed a sub-scale flight model SACS and ETRoM. These systems are being used for flight-testing that produces real results, instead of relying solely on simulations. The flight model has offered HARC the ability to fly frequently with minimal operational costs. Utilizing state of the art fuel regression techniques, according to Team Leader Don Robinson, "HARC was able to achieve over 7000 pounds of thrust in a motor that is only 10 inches in diameter by 36 inches long. The beauty of this motor system is that it is extremely low cost, efficient, and easy to reload for successive flights."

da Vinci Project News Update
chabot imageCanadian da Vinci Project Team is set to move into its new location at Downsview Park in North West Toronto. In the 1920's fabric aircraft were built at this location, along with Canada's first satellite in 1962. Downsview Park and its buildings were formerly a military base and today are part of an area also used by Bombardier Aerospace. Their new facility faces an active runway that is owned and operated by Bombardier. Across the driveway from da Vinci's new building is the Toronto Aviation Museum, the original home of The de Havilland Aircraft of Canada Ltd., one of Canada's most successful aircraft manufacturers. da Vinci plans to complete its move before the end of June so that it can continue uninterrupted development and testing work on its ANSARI X PRIZE vehicle, "Wildfire."

Interorbital Systems News Update
chabot imageThe Solaris X three-person X PRIZE design has now been switched over to its original configuration as the upper stage of the Neptune-Solaris Orbital Spaceliner, a two-stage stack carrying an eight-person space tourism capsule. Interorbital Systems has been an advocate of orbital tourism and on-orbit human-presence activities since the company's founding in 1996. In a parallel project, Interorbital Systems is completing work on the third stage of a nanosatellite launch vehicle. IOS is competing to become the first purely private-sector rocket company to launch a privately funded satellite into orbit.

chabot imageTHE X PRIZE FOUNDATION NEWSLETTER : June 30, 2004

The X PRIZE Foundation released their latest newsletter.

You can read the newsletter by clicking here.

The next stage for private spaceflight
chabot imageInfant industry capitalizes on success of SpaceShipOne;
By Alan Boyle Science editor MSNBC

MOJAVE, Calif. - SpaceShipOne’s milestone flight last week instantly transformed private-sector space travel from a rocket geek’s fantasy into reality.
One man's flight, however, does not an industry make. Not even the rocket plane's designer, Burt Rutan, or billionaire backer Paul Allen claim that SpaceShipOne in its current form could be a profit-making venture.
So now it's up a wide spectrum of players in the field to figure out how to make piloted suborbital flights profitable. Although they may differ over the best way to do that, nearly all agree that last week's flight to the 100-kilometer mark eliminated their biggest obstacle.
"Burt Rutan has destroyed the giggle factor in this business forever," said Pat Bahn, who is the Washington director of the Suborbital Institute as well as president of Oklahoma-based TGV Rockets. TGV is developing its own vertical-takeoff, vertical-landing vertical landing for suborbital space flights.
At the Mojave Airport, where SpaceShipOne was developed and flown, eight companies are working on space projects, said Stuart Witt, the airport's general manager. And just days after the airport was designated a commercial spaceport, Witt said a $100 million proposal for yet another Mojave space venture was sitting on his desk.
"They're just looking for the name to put on the check," Witt told MSNBC.com.
One of the other tenants at the Mojave Airport is XCOR Aerospace, which plans to build a suborbital space plane called the Xerus. XCOR's president, Jeff Greason, and company spokesman Rich Pournelle marveled at how quickly perceptions were changing. Read More

A Few other articles:
United Press International: Space Race II: Paving a new path to space
tehachapinews.com: Tehachapi pilot rockets into history
Financial Times: Mission achieved through genius and hard work

chabot imageThe X PRIZE Foundation has been granted the honor of carrying The Explorers Club flag on the spacecraft that wins the ANSARI X PRIZE. This flag represents an impressive history of courage and accomplishment and has been carried on hundreds of expeditions by Club members since 1918 (www.explorers.org). The Explorers Club flag has been proudly flown from the depths of the ocean to the lunar surface demonstrating the spirit of exploration of the men and women who put it there. The weight of the Flag will be credited as payload/passenger ballast. The X PRIZE Foundation will coordinate with teams to place the Flag aboard all official attempts to win the prize. Credit for arranging his honor goes to X PRIZE Advisor Jonathan Conrad and Special Ops member Nick Skytland (pictured with Peter Diamandis).

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