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Sub-Sub-Orbital flight

Posted by: Andy Hill - Sun Mar 18, 2007 10:59 am
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Sub-Sub-Orbital flight 
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Post Sub-Sub-Orbital flight   Posted on: Sun Mar 18, 2007 10:59 am
I was thinking that there might be a market for rocket flights that didn't reach space. At the moment most companies seemed to be focused on a destination as the goal (orbital, sub-orbital, point-to-point) what I am proposing is that a financial goal is used. For instance what can be offered for a ticket price of £10k.

My reasoning is this: there are a small number of people who can afford an orbital ticket at £15M, there are more who could pay £4M. For sub-orbital maybe a few 10s of thousands can afford £100K. But how many would pay for a rocket trip to say 100,000 feet for example?

Although some people would see reaching space as the necessary achievement many others would see a much cheaper rocket flight as being something they would like to do. A passenger would get most of the same thrill as a normal-sub-orbital flight, all but for a lesser duration, but at a much reduced cost.

Such a market could use less capable craft with less efficient rocket motors. Competition would lead to companies offering higher and higher flights until someone reached space for £10k.

What do you think, does such a market exist and if so why has no one tapped into it?

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Post    Posted on: Sun Mar 18, 2007 12:26 pm
That's maybe a market for JP aerospace. Extremely-high altitude balloonflights. Almost the exact view as from 'suborbit'. I bet that a rocket-driven vehicle to an altitude of 100k feet is overkill. But spending 10k (if you say pounds thats 15k euro and more or less 20K US dollars) on a flight, i'm not sure how interesting that is. You'll have to have a brilliant marketing strategy to get people to spend people a lot of money in order to get a 'bit' higher then airliners.


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Post    Posted on: Sun Mar 18, 2007 3:11 pm
Again its not the height that is important so much as being able to fly in a rocket. Even the £10k is not important just an example, what I was getting at was selecting a reasonable price that a lot of people would be able to afford and then tailoring your rocket trip to what that would finance.

If you pitch something cheap enough (price of a small car?) then it opens up a much bigger market. For instance people pay to fly on MIG fighters but they go to about the same altitude as commercial aircraft, its all about the thrill.

As a means of getting to space balloons seem to be as good a method as any but to give the kick in the pants accelleration a rocket has to win every time.

What I wanted to discuss was starting with a low cost flight and then expanding the flight envelope until you reach space as opposed to starting with an expensive sub-orbital space flight and then gradually making it cheaper.

The advantage of using price as the starting point rather than reaching space is that you can develop your vehicle much more cheaply (dont have to worry about all the pesky details like having a means of doing re-entry, higher heating effect and having to think about manouvering without an atmosphere to push against). You are also able to develop your infrastructure and vehicle processing as you continue to make flights so that by the time you get to space all this has been worked out and should be pretty streamlined.

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Post    Posted on: Sun Mar 18, 2007 3:22 pm
More incremental steps is not very cost-effective, so i doubt it's cheaper in the long term. Besides, if you only see it as a thrill ride, why even go up then? You can buy a F1-ride in an former f1 car for below 10k.

Imo, if i wanted to go into space it was first for the view and secondly to live there if that was an option. I don't care how i got there or how much adrenaline would flow through my body in that process.

If you just want to offer thrill rides on rockets, then thats a whole different ball game and has imo nothing to do with space itself. But using the price as a starting point is also kinda ridiculous. If you have a set price with a set margin, you probably gonna have to costs sooner or later. And safety should still be the highest priority.

I think Ekkehard could have some more economic insights in this one though. I very much t doubt that incremental steps is the way to go contrary larger incremental steps. But somehow i think you don't 'realise' how many millionairs we have out there who can pay for the mere 200k price-tag for virgin gallactic.

Off course, for the mere mortals like (probably) me and you, we simply have to wait a few more years and then make a choice if you want to pay a sum up to 50k for that ride of your life. Or wait longer.

A bit the same with computers. We know that next year everything will be better and cheaper, but if we constantly keep waiting on the price to fall, we're getting nowhere and we would all still be using the first processor ever built.

Anyway, if the market wants it, someone oughta do it. If the market doesn't want it, don't waste your time on it. Virgin should have done an inquirie on this question.


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Post    Posted on: Sun Mar 18, 2007 3:48 pm
guys
I recently filled out a Starchaser questionnaire and one of the questions asked if i would be interested in high altitude flights. MAybe theyre thinking along the same lines!
I wrote No however lol!
Rob :wink:

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Post    Posted on: Sun Mar 18, 2007 5:59 pm
Stefan Sigwarth wrote:
More incremental steps is not very cost-effective, so i doubt it's cheaper in the long term. Besides, if you only see it as a thrill ride, why even go up then? You can buy a F1-ride in an former f1 car for below 10k..


We've been waiting for the big breakthrough that gets us all into space for years but it still hasn't happened. What I am talking about is companies having to make improvements to cheaper vehicles to offer better value for money than their competitors. So a single company would not be making all the steps, a group would be pushing the boundary.

Stefan Sigwarth wrote:
Imo, if i wanted to go into space it was first for the view and secondly to live there if that was an option. I don't care how i got there or how much adrenaline would flow through my body in that process.


I agree with you on this but there are a lot of adrenaline junkies out there who I think would pay for such a ride and money coming in to develop cheap passenger carrying rockets can only be a good thing. Appealing to people who are not necessarily into space itself will increase the number investing in the industry.

Stefan Sigwarth wrote:
If you just want to offer thrill rides on rockets, then thats a whole different ball game and has imo nothing to do with space itself.


Thrill rides on rockets nothing to do with space, you've got to be kidding. :)

Stefan Sigwarth wrote:
But using the price as a starting point is also kinda ridiculous. If you have a set price with a set margin, you probably gonna have to costs sooner or later. And safety should still be the highest priority.


Dont you think exactly this is happening or will happen when sub-orbital flights start. Killing people on any rocket craft will not be good for business irrepective of how high the vehicle goes.

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Post    Posted on: Sun Mar 18, 2007 6:23 pm
True, true, true. But imo the big break-through is/was the x-prize flight(s) of Burt Rutan. Plus, they didn't use many new techniques for building it. So the break-through could have happened perhaps 10 years earlier.

But about rocket-thrill-rides. They will be very short considering a low price. I mean, ss1 had a burn time of 87 seconds. I won't pay 5k for a 87 second thrill ride :P Plus it needed a pilot which also adds to the costs. Which you absolutely don't want on a cheap rocket.

Rockets have a high energy output in a very short time. That's why they go so fast. But for longer thrill rides, they're imo pretty useless.

Cheap rockets could be made, but i think this market you are talking about is very small. In other words, a niche market. And in niche markets, the prices are high and the proiftmargins are also high. That's why they can still make a lot of money without selling a whole lot more. Look at Alienware computers. They are top-notch with a custom made tower. But the price is usually more or less plus 300-500 euro above normal prices.

But i would be interested in the engineering/techincal solutions you may have in mind on how to create a cheap rocket. I mean, cheaper then that spacedev hybrid is not very likely. Developments costs for a new rocket isn't helping the ticketprice.

Btw, i want to be wrong on this subject, but i just see to many cons instead of pros.


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Post    Posted on: Sun Mar 18, 2007 7:29 pm
Spaceship One's flight was perhaps a land mark in showing what was possible but I havent seen a deluge of sub-orbital flights yet, most companies are quoting a 2008/2009 time frame. It will have taken 4 or 5 years to realise space hops for the very rich if they remain on track and as we have all seen this industry is prone to delay. I think that the break through allowing us less well off individuals into space is still to come.

As for comparing the price tag of SpaceDev's engine to one that would be mass produced for hundreds or thousands of rides I think it could be made considerably cheaper. SS1's engine cost included the developement cost to produce a handful of units.

With regard to technical details, this is really not the section for that discussion (and I havent really thought about it in that level anyway) and I was just considering that there might be a different approach to getting people building craft.

In broad terms what I was thinking about (at least initially) was something like a rocket powered plane (almost like a plane from the rocket racing league only with stubby wings) that would take off vertically and glide back to a runway. As for an engine maybe a small solid that could be built into a unit that could be easily attached to the craft within an hour. The engine module would have an umbilical cable interfacing to the craft for all the control signals. A 30 second burn would get you pretty high.

I think that we have the formula 1s of the rocket world with government sponsored vehicles and that the privates are building the Ferrari's and Lamborghinis, I was just asking if there was any room for the Fords and GMs.

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Post    Posted on: Sun Mar 18, 2007 7:45 pm
Andy Hill wrote:
Spaceship One's flight was perhaps a land mark in showing what was possible but I havent seen a deluge of sub-orbital flights yet, most companies are quoting a 2008/2009 time frame. It will have taken 4 or 5 years to realise space hops for the very rich if they remain on track and as we have all seen this industry is prone to delay. I think that the break through allowing us less well off individuals into space is still to come.

True, but there was no sub-orbital things, let alone talks about space-tourism (or at least concrete talks). Not only engineering break-throughs, but also a shift in thinking. That's the real breakthrough imo.

Quote:
As for comparing the price tag of SpaceDev's engine to one that would be mass produced for hundreds or thousands of rides I think it could be made considerably cheaper. SS1's engine cost included the developement cost to produce a handful of units.

True, i agree.

Quote:
With regard to technical details, this is really not the section for that discussion (and I havent really thought about it in that level anyway) and I was just considering that there might be a different approach to getting people building craft.

There are always different approaches to building something ;)

Quote:
In broad terms what I was thinking about (at least initially) was something like a rocket powered plane (almost like a plane from the rocket racing league only with stubby wings) that would take off vertically and glide back to a runway. As for an engine maybe a small solid that could be built into a unit that could be easily attached to the craft within an hour. The engine module would have an umbilical cable interfacing to the craft for all the control signals. A 30 second burn would get you pretty high.

Okay, but a vertical liftoff takes a lot of energy in its first few meters.

Quote:
I think that we have the formula 1s of the rocket world with government sponsored vehicles and that the privates are building the Ferrari's and Lamborghinis, I was just asking if there was any room for the Fords and GMs.

Sure, there is room for Fords, GM's, Seats, Renaults and what not, but imo a car is destination driven. A race-car is more for thrills imho. (you probably wanna kill me by now ;) ) We need a Ford-like rocket to get cheaply into space. Preferably on a SMART.

But, you would have pretty much the same obstacles as scale has for suborbit. The only way this might succeed is if scaled, or spacedev for that matter, decides to scale down a version of ss1/ss2 for the budget market. But the pricetag would still be as high as 50k imo.


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Post    Posted on: Mon Mar 19, 2007 12:42 am
You can have flights on Russian fighter aircraft, e.g. on Mig-25 Foxbats up to an altitude of 32 kilometers. So you already have a kind of sub-sub-orbital flights.
These flights would be a very strong competitor to potential expanding-envelope rocket flights.
The thrill on such a fighter craft is not only longer but also more extreme, e.g. flying high-g maneuvers.

In 30 kilometers altitude you also have already some kind of "space view" and the costs are moderate, e.g. for the Mig-25 EUR16.700.

(The link to a german site offering flights on several Russian aircraft with some nice pictures: http://www.space-travellers.de)

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Post    Posted on: Mon Mar 19, 2007 11:03 am
I think you get to fly it yourself as well... only SS1 could beat that experience :)


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Post    Posted on: Wed Mar 21, 2007 5:20 pm
Stefan Sigwarth wrote:
More incremental steps is not very cost-effective, so i doubt it's cheaper in the long term. Besides, if you only see it as a thrill ride, why even go up then? You can buy a F1-ride in an former f1 car for below 10k.

Imo, if i wanted to go into space it was first for the view and secondly to live there if that was an option. I don't care how i got there or how much adrenaline would flow through my body in that process.

If you just want to offer thrill rides on rockets, then thats a whole different ball game and has imo nothing to do with space itself. But using the price as a starting point is also kinda ridiculous. If you have a set price with a set margin, you probably gonna have to costs sooner or later. And safety should still be the highest priority.

I think Ekkehard could have some more economic insights in this one though. I very much t doubt that incremental steps is the way to go contrary larger incremental steps. But somehow i think you don't 'realise' how many millionairs we have out there who can pay for the mere 200k price-tag for virgin gallactic.

Off course, for the mere mortals like (probably) me and you, we simply have to wait a few more years and then make a choice if you want to pay a sum up to 50k for that ride of your life. Or wait longer.

A bit the same with computers. We know that next year everything will be better and cheaper, but if we constantly keep waiting on the price to fall, we're getting nowhere and we would all still be using the first processor ever built.

Anyway, if the market wants it, someone oughta do it. If the market doesn't want it, don't waste your time on it. Virgin should have done an inquirie on this question.


I concur on just about all the points.

It is an interesting question that deserves some study though.

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