SpaceShipOne Launches Monday

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BDub's picture
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On Monday, June 21 at 6:30 AM PST (That's 9:30 AM EST), SpaceShipOne is expected to launch from the Mojave Airport. I'm sure I can't be the only person on Applefritter who's excited to see how this turns out. Mike Melvill will be piloting the craft on a flight that's aiming to hit the edge of space.

Private manned space flight folks. I for one am planning to watch the CNN coverage of it. What does everyone here think of this effort? Will it succeed or fail? Is it important? How long do you think until private manned orbital vehicles will be developed?

What do you think?

More information available at Scaled Composites

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tmtomh's picture
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Wow!

I'd read about this and other efforts a few months ago but had not heard any updates.

Thanks for the heads-up--I'll be tuning in to CNN, definitely.

Matt

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Yup, it's very important. Th

Yup, it's very important. Though I think whether this flight succeeds or fails, the ball is rolling. I'm very excited and I'm just ticked off to see that at that time I'm going to have to be driving to a doctor's appointment.

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eeun's picture
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Go Rutan!

I've been a fan of Rutan's aircraft designs for over a decade. When I started reading up on the X-Prize, and saw he was in the running, I figured if anyone could take the prize, it'd be him.

And that ship/mothership combo...sheer beauty.

I really hope this helps open the door to private space travel. It really needs to be removed from the exclusive domain of the government, which only seems interested in space when it can buy votes.

I figure it'll still be a while before true private space ventures come into being. Near-space tourism is almost guaranteed to be the first push. After that...who knows. Private satellite launches? It comes down to what aspects of space travel and exploration can bring a profit, and in space travel, the initial investment will be substantial, and the payoff likely long-term, so it will need to be a high payoff.

But that's all armchair speculation on my part. Yes, this launch is incredibly important, especially for us old-timers who remember the long-delayed promise of what "the future" would hold.

"A new life awaits you in the off-world colonies. The chance to begin again in a golden land of opportunity and adventure!"
-Blade Runner

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BDub's picture
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It's off the ground

White Knight took off with SpaceShipOne at about 6:48 this morning. 50 minutes now, we'll see the exhaust as she lights up her engine. CNN anchors are hillarious when they want to rush the segment to a finish.

/me keeps watching the TV

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And it's a success! Does

And it's a success!

Does anyone else think it was odd to put, on a spacecraft, an armhole for giving a thumbs-up to the crowd?

I hope they get this taken care of:

"Melvill said he heard a loud bang during the flight and did not know what it was. But he pointed to a place at the rear of the spacecraft where a part of the structure covering the nozzle had buckled, suggesting it may have been the source of the noise."

With so much crap going on in the world, it's nice to see something like this.

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performaman's picture
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I just hope it works in 2 wee

I just hope it works in 2 weeks when they go up again.
And this means that 4 groups have sent people into space: Russia, the US, China and Scaled Composites.

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BDub's picture
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Two Weeks?

I'm curious as to where you got a two week figure from? If there's a news release that I haven't seen, please link to it! If you're thinking two weeks, because it's an XPrize requirement, this flight didn't fulfill the XPrize req's anyways. He would have had to carry the weight of two additional passangers (or actual passangers). Without this, even while breaking the 100km limit, the flight is not valid for the XPrize.

That being said, it'd be awesome if they did do it again in two weeks, this time with all the requirements. If they could launch, say 3 times in 4 weeks, that would be way too cool.

-Bob

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I just read about this today

I just read about this today at msn.com. Awesome stuff that the flight was a sucess.

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eeun's picture
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Video of launch?

For those who couldn't watch it live, here's a link from the BBC.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/3829489.stm

Thunderbirds are go!

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More interesting information

More interesting information on the problems experienced on the flight here.

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jt
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Remember the Puffin?

Thanks for the links guys, this is exciting stuff! I've been following prize flights of Macready and Rutan since the Gossamer Condor was a pipe dream on the pages of PopSci.

jt

p.s. interesting linkage:

http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/j_d_mcintyre/links.htm

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The best part is the cost. I

The best part is the cost. I forget the exact millions, but it sure wasn't the billions used by govt efforts.

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It cost...

... $20 million.

Matt

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cost vs. functionality

Keep in mind the much cheaper price tag comes with more limited capabilities. It's sub-orbital and doesn't carry more than a few people. If they had to design something with the capabilities of the Space Shuttle, maybe they would be able to do it cheaper, but it wouldn't be the same magnitude of cheaper. Of course it could be argued that that isn't the point- the point being that with payload launching being so cheap, we don't necessarily need something like the Space Shuttle. The most cost effective option would be to launch satellites and space station sections and supplies by rocket, and get the people up and down with something lighter like SpaceShipOne.

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Exactly. Payloads don't need

Exactly. Payloads don't need a "cushy" ride quite like people do, though you can't just lob 'em into orbit. The SS is a mis-targeted black hole for money and effort. It costs much more per shuttle launch than it should for the payloads that they carry up. If it were designed for people and only support payloads it would be a much smaller craft, and hence, cheaper to operate.

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"If it were designed for peop

"If it were designed for people and only support payloads it would be a much smaller craft, and hence, cheaper to operate."
As opposed to the DoD doing a snatch of a Russian satelite or launching a SDI component?

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Exactly, exactly!

The shuttle was over-engineered, like the Homermobile. Too many middle managers (like myself Smile) adding features along the way, running up the cost, and trying to make a vehicle that does everything adequately, but nothing efficiently.

After the terrible loss of the Columbia - or heck, after the loss of the Challenger - NASA should have scrapped the shuttles, and kept to launching satellites with dumb rockets and stuck more money into the X-planes for 'live' payloads.

The technology has so far surpassed the complex, wasteful shuttles, that it's like sending out square-riggers to sea when the factory next door is turning out boiler-plate and steam. Pick your own romantic metaphor if you don't like that one.

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Climbing a tree to get to the moon

"The technology has so far surpassed the complex, wasteful shuttles..."

I'm as thrilled about the SpaceShipOne flight as the next person, but... we need to maintain a sense of reality here.

The performance envelope of this vehicle is sufficient to win the "X-Prize", but anyone who thinks this same machine is a stepping stone to cheap orbital flights needs to step back a bit and take stock. It's amazing, certainly, that you can duplicate (roughly) the flight of a 1959 vintage X-15 rocket plane with a vehicle that weighs 1/15th as much, and was undoubtedly *much* cheaper to deploy. However, getting to orbit is a whole other ball of wax.

You can to some extent when comparing the SpaceShipOne to the X-15 fairly argue that they "cheated". The vehicle is *much* lighter, *much* slower (less then half as fast), and uses a "tumbling" re-entry designed to minimize the heat buildup. It's cute, but the X-15, on the other hand, was designed to probe the sort of forces a vehicle would experience on orbital re-entry. (And even then, they managed to nearly melt the tail off the aircraft once while traveling at Mach 6.7.)

You're not going to be able to "cheat" your way into space the same way. The cost of admission is achieving a 17,500 MPH orbital insertion speed, and of course the violent re-entry that speed implies when coming back down again. The Space Shuttle may look like crude "Brute-Force" engineering, but it was designed to deal with what may be described as "Brute-Force" environments. "Flying" a vehicle down to earth from orbit isn't the "easy" thing to do. It's the *hard" thing to do. The Shuttle was ill-concieved from the start for that reason. Even with the substantial advances in materials technologies over the last few decades we're still rather lacking in substances which can withstand sustain multi-thousand degree temperatures for minutes at a time.

Frankly, the most elegant way of dealing with the problem yet devised is that used by good old-fashioned Gemini/Apollo/Soyuz-era space capsules. Instead of trying to "fly" back down, you just drop through it like a rock and burn up something disposable doing it. It's a bumpier ride, and reusability of the vehicle is a problem, but it's an approach that's within the limits of our technology. Burt Rutan and friends really are probably barking up the wrong tree, if getting into *space* cheaply is the goal.

Winning the X-Prize shouldn't be a problem, of course.

--Peace

jt
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Well said . . .

. . . as always, Eudi, this thing is the spacegoing equivalent of the Gossamer Condor. The next level prize flight will need to come a lot closer to being a "real" spacecraft. The Gossamer Albatross was much closer to being a "real" aircraft, but was by no stretch of the imagination a "practical" design.

Practicality isn't in the equation for winning the X-Prize and as far as the shuttle went, it was about the only thing that mattered.

Didn't turn out that way, of course, but how often do government run programs manage to succeed at all? Keep in mind that the earliest work for the shuttle project was probably done on slide rules and that all hindsight is 20/20, gang!

jt

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Space And Orbit

I'll admit that as big of a fan as I am of SS1, there is that big old difference between space and orbit. Space is an arbitrary point we picked, and though it's a high one, it certainly doesn't offer us a lot of options once we're there.

Orbit, on the other hand is something like throwing yourself at the ground and then missing. I may have paraphrased some British author there, but I'm far too lazy to look up the quote.

Here's why I think SS1 is important, in regards to getting the human race farther than it was before.

1) It's private industry. These folks don't have unlimited money, or even anywhere near what NASA has. These folks have to focus and be efficient.

2) There's an actual eventual goal. I think if space tourism is going to work, it's going to involve low earth orbit in the least. It's not multipurpose. My swiss army knife is a beautiful thing, but sometimes I just need to cut a steak.

3) They're showing that we don't just have one trick, the space shuttle. I don't care what gets designed by these folks, so long as there's diversity and interesting ideas. So what if it flutters down? That's just a different way to land. It might not work so well from higher altitudes, but I'm sure they'll find a way to use what they learn here. It's about the learning, not just the pretty pictures.

When I say we, by the way, I mean everyone who's interested in this. I'm Canadian, so it's not like this is some American pride thing.

Once I get home, I'll post a quote from Spider Robinson's book, Callahans Key, where he reflects on space travel. Possibly one of the most beautiful descriptions I've ever read.

-Bob

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Re: Space And Orbit

BDub wrote:

is something like throwing yourself at the ground and then missing. I may have paraphrased some British author there, but I'm far too lazy to look up the quote.

I believe that's Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy?

It seems the thing everyone is buzzing about after this trip is space tourism, since that is the most immediate thing that would pay for a private investment. I wonder when a private space station will come along? That would really give the ISS a run for it's money, since it was breaking down and needing maintanance before it even was really fully operational. Although this vehicle and the X prize's goal are somewhat limited, I have no doubt that this is the direction it's headed. With governments unwilling to make the kind of investments they made in the 60s, I don't doubt that private enterprise will overtake governments' efforts in another, say, 20-50 years.

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Re: Space And Orbit

dead_elvis wrote:

I believe that's Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy?

So, I wrote that comment, just wondering how fast someone would have to rush in and be specific. Yeah, it is.

Anyhow, here's the promised quote from Spider Robinson's book, Callahan's Key. If you've never read anything by him, go out and buy a book. They're great.

Quote:

I could not believe they proposed to hurl that enormous massive object into the air, so high that it wouldn't come down until it was damn good and ready. I felt an enormous thrill of pride to belong to a species at could even conceive of a thing so splendidly arrogant - let alone even pull it off.

Callahan's Key
Page 131, Bantam Spectra paperback edition/May 2001
Copyright 2000, Spider Robinson

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