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Alt.Space - Promises Kept/Broken

Posted by: Buck.Bundy - Sat Aug 25, 2007 7:24 pm
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Alt.Space - Promises Kept/Broken 

Is Buck.Bundy a troll?
Yes - He should go back to www.HobbySpace.com and bother them. 12%  12%  [ 2 ]
No- He is clearly an enlightened visionary and can lead us to Alt.Space Heaven. 24%  24%  [ 4 ]
Who is Buck.Bundy and shouldn't he be off selling shoes somewhere? 65%  65%  [ 11 ]
Moderators Help !!! - Polls with humor should be banned. 0%  0%  [ 0 ]
Total votes : 17

Alt.Space - Promises Kept/Broken 
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Post Alt.Space - Promises Kept/Broken   Posted on: Sat Aug 25, 2007 7:24 pm
With all of the banter about companies like RpK (perpetually) missing their funding milestone requirement for their Space Act Agreement (NASA's COTS initiative). I thought now might be a great time for a little walk down memory lane.

I've been getting flack from FanBoys on HobbySpace calling me a troll because I don't, blindly, believe the tripe coming from many Alt.Space companies. How dare I question RpK, Space-X, SpaceDev etc.

I'm as big a fan of Alt.Space as anybody. I just happen to think that analyzing and critiquing these companies objectively is better for the industry in the long term.

I'm tired of hearing about unrealistic goals and timelines as well as paper deals meant for nothing more than press coverage. (ie: were opening an office in country-A because of the great opportinities blah, blah, blah)

I read in a comment in another post about the 2 year factor. How many companies said they would be flying hardware in 2 years?


RPK - RocketPlane XP
Space Dev - Dreamchaser / Benson- Whatever his new vehicle is
Canadian Arrow / PlanetSpace
DaVinci Project - Powered by Not-So-Flyin Brian (probably the worst offender, but good for comic relief)
etc. . .

Finally, the Questions (you thought i'd never shut up, right?)

- Are you a FanBoy or ? (be honest)
- What company/person can do no wrong?
- What Promises have they Kept/Broken to have earned/lost your respect?

My $ 0.02 worth.

Buck.Bunny


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Post    Posted on: Sat Aug 25, 2007 7:26 pm
O.K. So I voted for myself. I knew that no one else would. :)
My $ 0.02 worth.

Buck.Bunny


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Post    Posted on: Sun Aug 26, 2007 8:21 am
You're right, for the most part imho. But naming SpaceX also in that list is a little bit beyond anyones imagination. Or worst nightmares actually. They have actually build hardware and (tried to) fly it. Though not entirely succesfull, they are well on their way to be a solid competitor from what i can tell. Bigelow should be in any alt.space list and they are doing pretty okay as well i think.

Leaves out the last odd ball in that list, SpaceDev. When i first saw Jim Benson on Discovery channel talking about El Dorado in space about an asteroid worth trillions of dollars/euros he decided to go into the spacebusiness, or so he told. I liked his approach of cheap reliable parts which actually had proven they were reliable, but apparently he cancelled his own 'dream' a long time ago. The NEAR project would have been great. But now they're just a very small-timer, and from the press releases, relying a lot on government contracts of....studies... But Benson is more a business man then anything else, so don't count him in or out, just yet.

For the rest, criticism is good, following anyone or anything blindly is stupid, by definition.


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Post    Posted on: Sun Aug 26, 2007 8:44 am
Basically you are right from my perspective. Many "promised" great stuff but disappeared. Nonetheless developments take time, so I don't take them by their promised timetables but by their goals.

So, I think a few out there are still "alive". SpaceX and Bigelow (as well as Scaled Composites) demonstrated already that they have the money, the will and the technical capabilities to succeed. They now only need a bit of further evolution and fine tuning of their hardware.

But, for "real" success, they all three depend on factors they basically can't change. Will they get (enough) customers?

SpaceX, trying to get in the most conventional market of these three, has clearly the best chances there.

Scaled/Virgin Galactic has to prove that people will continue to be interested in flights onboard SS2 after a first hype phase.

Bigelow has clearly the most difficult job there. Finding people/companies/nations/whatever you pay for using their space station(s). Again not only out of curiosity and hype but in a steady mannor. An additional problem for Bigelow is of course the dependance on external crew transport.

Coming the other alt.spacers:
Rocketplane like I already wrote in the COTS thread had in my opinion the problem with the merger with Kistler so that their Rocketplane XP was sacrificed. I think they are (apart from the three "big" ones above) the most advanced.

SpaceDev is a bit difficult to rate. On the one hand they are already an established company as a supplier for their hybrid engines on the other hand they have these ambitious goals with their DreamChaser that depends on an external launcher like Atlas.

Most others I think are in my opinion companies with great dreams but less money and technical expertise, a lot jumped onto the train with the hype from the X-Prize.

A final and smaller section of the alt.spacers are imo such guys like Armadillo or Masten. They imo try to increase their technical capabilities first before going on with great goals. This is an interesting approach.

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Post    Posted on: Mon Aug 27, 2007 6:03 am
I've had issues with RpK for years now. I've been following the company since about 1999. And for at least 5-6 years they have claimed that their first reusable launch vehicle is "75% complete". Well, then where is it? Why do they not show any photos on their website? All they show is CAD models and animation. In 1997 the company I work for, Space Systems Loral, signed a launch contract with Kistler. Obviously, that contract has fallen by the way side.

http://www.rocketplanekistler.com/newsi ... 12897.html

As for SpaceDev they seem to focusing on rocket engines and small government satellites. I know for a while they were pumping up their Dream Chaser. I found it curious that Benson Space Company was separated form SpaceDev to develop up their sub orbital vehicle. To me this is clear indication that SpaceDev wants to keep focusing on their other business. This makes sense. Manned space vehicles are the "hot and sexy" items but as of today there is more money to be made in satellites. There are several small satellite companies out there. My compnay manufactures large geosynchronous telecommunications satellites though they may enter the small satellite business in the near future.

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Post    Posted on: Tue Aug 28, 2007 3:41 am
to me it is simple...
These companies go bad at what point?

They go bad when they lose the balance of deliveing real goods for the promises made.
Basicaly they just start constantly talking and setting milestons for
more and more outlandish plans with no results.
But more specificaly I would say the problem is based in the voice of the company and leadership.

and I will not mention any names....you know who you are.


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Post    Posted on: Wed Oct 31, 2007 2:19 pm
It's odd isn't it? Starchaser have gone very quiet and yet I still trust them to be getting on with making and testing hardware. They appear to be following what would have been a textbook and sensible development plan for scaling up what was essentially, hobby rocketers for the X-Prize, into a realistic alt.space company. I hope they make it.

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Post    Posted on: Fri Nov 09, 2007 9:38 pm
luke.r wrote:
It's odd isn't it? Starchaser have gone very quiet and yet I still trust them to be getting on with making and testing hardware. They appear to be following what would have been a textbook and sensible development plan for scaling up what was essentially, hobby rocketers for the X-Prize, into a realistic alt.space company. I hope they make it.

What is strange is that the Starchaser design has gone through considerable design changes. It was originally based on the NASA HL-20. Now, the new design is based on the X-15. I wonder why the change?

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Post    Posted on: Sat Nov 10, 2007 1:06 am
Rocket Scientist wrote:
What is strange is that the Starchaser design has gone through considerable design changes. It was originally based on the NASA HL-20. Now, the new design is based on the X-15. I wonder why the change?


Isn't it SpaceDev/Benson Aero... that is doing the HL-20 "DreamChaser" now x-15 wannabe?

I though Steve Bennet was working on a ballistic rocket/capsule vehicle.

My $ 0.02 worth.

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Post    Posted on: Sat Nov 10, 2007 2:11 am
The company I can't figure out is PlanetSpace/Canadian Arrow.

From what I can tell Canadian Arrow was bought/merged/absobed into PlanetSpace back in 2005. (Does anyone have the actual particulars of this deal ?) Canadian Arrow had been doing REAL work and making progress during X-Prize 1.0 and basically stopped doing anything after the PlanetSpace thing even though PlanetSpace committed to flying people in 24 months since they had found their Paul Allen. (Dr. Chirinjeev Kathuria)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PlanetSpace

They went on to submit a proposal for COTS-1.0 and did not make the finalist list. They then when on to announce . . . well there's too much to list here.

The thing that I didn't understand was when there was a news story about LockMart and the Canadian Federal Govenment supporting PlanetSpace's Launch site in Nova Scotia and Mention of LockMart's Athena launcher.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Athena_%28rocket%29

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/ ... y/National

The next day a spokesperson for the Federal Minister of industry says they never had ANY discussions and NEVER would. (Saturday no less and then again on Monday by ANOTHER spokesperson)

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/ ... y/National

http://canadianpress.google.com/article ... PyCk361big

There has been NO clarification from the company.

I had thought since NASA had signed an unfunded COTS-1.0 SAA with these people that they were credible.

It appears they are still in negotions for the property to build the launch site on based on an interview with a provincial employee even though they have a milestone (for June) that says they have title to the property.

http://www.nasa.gov/centers/johnson/pdf ... ce_SAA.pdf

June 2007 - Milestone 5: Select Launch site in Nova Scotia

Description: Selection of actual real-estate for development as a Nova Scotia launch site.

Success Criteria: Executed document showing title to parcel of land in Cape Breton for orbital launch complex.

Based on the comments from; (Globe & Mail Oct.26, 07)

"A spokeswoman for Nova Scotia Business Inc. confirmed that the government agency is in discussions with PlanetSpace to provide land for the launch site. It was reported last year
that NSB Inc. planned to provide 120 hectares of land for the project, but spokeswoman Sarah Levy said there are still many "moving parts" in the negotiations and that numbers are
not final."

WTF.

SnakeOil Sheerin has as credibility as Not-so-Flyin Brian Feeney, and turned Cape Breton, Nova Scotia into as cruel a punchline as Feeney did to Kindersley, Sasketchewan.

Pity. Neither Kindersley, Cape Breton nor the fledgling Alt.Space industry deserve the likes of these.

My $ 0.02 worth.

Buck.Bundy


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Post    Posted on: Sat Nov 10, 2007 2:22 am
While I'm at it, RiPK (O.K. it's RockePlane Global but RiPK is too good to let die) has shown their new revision of RocketPlane XP.
(Because it's an entirely new vehicle shouldn't it at least get a new name so that people can differentiate it from the old XP?)

They UPDATED the engines form CJ-610's to more powerful J-85's.

UPDATED, seriously, http://www.geae.com/engines/military/j85/index.html

introduced in 1960. These things are fuel pigs. If they want to show a new design that is credible, show a modern engine that has doesn't swill Jet-A like these things do.

It looks like George French Fried-III can join Sheerin & Feeney in the poser club.

My $ 0.02 worth

Buck.Bundy


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Post    Posted on: Sat Nov 10, 2007 8:00 am
Buck.Bundy wrote:
Rocket Scientist wrote:
What is strange is that the Starchaser design has gone through considerable design changes. It was originally based on the NASA HL-20. Now, the new design is based on the X-15. I wonder why the change?


Isn't it SpaceDev/Benson Aero... that is doing the HL-20 "DreamChaser" now x-15 wannabe?

I though Steve Bennet was working on a ballistic rocket/capsule vehicle.

My $ 0.02 worth.

Buck.Bundy

Oh yeah, I got confused. Dreamchaser, Starchaser...all sounds the same...

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Post    Posted on: Sat Nov 10, 2007 8:55 am
I could have sworn Zubrins original rocket plane was going to use F135's...

I have to go dig out my copy of Entering Space...

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Post    Posted on: Mon Nov 12, 2007 5:32 am
I'm no rocket scientist, but a few things seem to me to be obvious from my surrvey of who's doing what.

I, for example can go into the local fireworks shop and buy something on a stick tha will put a payload of fireworks 30 feet into the air quite successfully.
Total cost - a couple of dollars.
For a few thousand you can knock up something that will fly up to 10,000 feet or so.
Or fly in the lunar lander challenge maybe, if you put in enough work.

But beyond that prices go up like --- a rocket.
(sorry)
Musk invested $100M to get Falcon 1 & 9 designed and neither has yet got a successful flight under their belt. (though I would bet they soon will)

But consider what Musk bought for his investment.
Both F1 & F9 share an incredible amount of comonality in design and development. F1 and F9 are both extensions of existing design work. Neither contains anything particularly exotic or innovative. The point was to try and avoid reinventing wheels and to build something cheap, simple and reliable. The main innovations are in the systems that support a simple robust rocket.

And it still cost over $100M

Most alt space companies do not have anything like the resources to get their ideas into space.

Further more most of the ideas - especially those involving space planes - would require hundreds of mil in development work before they even looked like getting anywhere simply because they all want to go out and invent some new sort of wheel. Like a square one, maybe.

Yet there are some good alt space companies.
Bigelow is well positioned because he didn't try and reinvent inflatable habitats. he just brought the design work already done by NASA and extended it. All he needs is the launch vehicle and that is someone elses problem.

SpaceX ditto. The basic engine idea was flown on the lunar lander. They've developed, extended and updated. While it's a new set of engines their history is proven. No new wheels. No exotic technologies to suck up the money.

With these models I still have hope

Fred

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Post    Posted on: Wed Nov 14, 2007 6:15 pm
I have a bit of a different take on the whole thing. I don't see it in terms of promises made and broken. I see it as grand challenges attempted and failed. This is the strength of the alt space community. The willingness to try, to attempt to make something that has never existed before. To fail over and over again till someone gets it right.

We all want to join in the excitement. We want the folks making the grand, over the top, nearly imposable attempts to tell us what they're up to. We want to go along for the ride. However, we should not then complain when they fail. We were not promised anything. I've heard the complaint; "they told us they were going to make it". Of course they did! If you don't have unstoppable faith in your own project you will never succeed.

I want to hear about it all the up and downs. The brilliant insights and the stupid mistakes. I want people to try big, wild imposable things like space travel. Most will fail. I'm grateful that they try.

JP
www.jpaerospace.com


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