Community > Forum > Historical Ansari X Prize > Wrong Focus of the X Prize

Wrong Focus of the X Prize

Posted by: dr_david_c - Mon May 17, 2004 2:52 pm
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Wrong Focus of the X Prize 

Do you support a people focus or a payload focus?
Payload 15%  15%  [ 3 ]
People 85%  85%  [ 17 ]
Total votes : 20

Wrong Focus of the X Prize 
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Post Wrong Focus of the X Prize   Posted on: Mon May 17, 2004 2:52 pm
If I understand the rules, they stipulate that the vehicle must be able to carry 3 people (or the equivalent ballast) into space, return, and repeat in two weeks. The vehicle must have the equipment necessary to carry 3 people (seats, life support, etc.) regardless of the number actually going into space.

The goal should be the nature of the payload, not the people. The rules should be rewritten to focus on getting, say 300 kilos into space, returning, and repeating in 2 weeks, regardless of whether there are people on board or not. The requirement of a pilot or having 3 people on board places an unnecessary risk on those who would travel into space in an unproven vehicle. In fact, requiring a pilot reduces the usable payload by 90 kg. What if my payload is 250 kg and I'm willing to pay $10M to get it into space? Should a company be required to have a pilot when they can do the same thing remotely? I understand that the rules apply only to the X Prize, but let's not complicate things by designing a vehicle to win the prize and then be gutted and refitted to carry paying cargo. Let's focus on the cargo first. Once the vehicle has a proven record of success, then let's talk people.

Of course, we would all like to go into space, but the only way that's going to happen is if a company can sustain launches by carrying technical payloads for paying customers - satellites and other such devices. If someone has a 250 kg payload and wishes to use my vehicle, I'm going to remove every bit of equipment designed to sustain life onboard and do it remotely.

If someone wishes to pay the money, I suggest going with the Russians. They have a proven track record of carrying people into space.

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Post Airplanes ARE faster, better, cheaper.   Posted on: Mon May 17, 2004 3:04 pm
Not only did the X-15 program cost less than Project Mercury, it in fact cost no more than what was spent just to develop the Atlas vehicle in the first place. Yet X-15 made more spaceflights than Project Mercury and put more people into space. On more than one occasion with X-15 the fact there was a pilot on board resulted in the safe return of the vehicle rather than a loss if the equivalent incident/malfunction had occurred with a robotic ballistic rocket.


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Post Re: Wrong Focus of the X Prize   Posted on: Mon May 17, 2004 4:32 pm
dr_david_c wrote:
The goal should be the nature of the payload, not the people.


dr_david_c wrote:
but let's not complicate things by designing a vehicle to win the prize and then be gutted and refitted to carry paying cargo. Let's focus on the cargo first. Once the vehicle has a proven record of success, then let's talk people.


dr_david_c wrote:
If someone wishes to pay the money, I suggest going with the Russians.


The X-prize has focused on the payload. The payload they are focusing on is people. The goal is to make people the paying cargo. It sounds like you simply disagree with the goal of a private manned space industry. Or maybe you think the X-prize is a bad way of going about it.

If spaceshipone does safely fly once a week or so for a year (as it has been reported that they plan to do), I don't think people will be too nervous about taking rides in the ship. It's looking exciting.


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Post    Posted on: Mon May 17, 2004 9:44 pm
If the X Prize focused on payload instead of people, they'd still be struggling to get off the ground raising money and getting media interest. Plus, not all the x prize vehicles can be flown remotely, certainly not Rutan's.


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Post    Posted on: Tue May 18, 2004 7:33 pm
What are you going to do with 250kg of sub-orbital payload?

Also most teams are looking to lift in the vicinity of a tonne of life support and such.

Also the craft can be proven without the ballast (or even the pilot if its remotable) but to win you have to provide a viable tourist craft.

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Post Here we go!   Posted on: Wed May 19, 2004 4:35 pm
On one occasion, the X-15 pilot was killed when the craft became unstable and broke up on reentry. Do you want to kill one or three? How would that affect publicity and paying riders? Sure, there will always be those willing to take the risk. I'd fly on the Shuttle right now if they'd only launch one! But I think the majority of the riders might thin out dramatically if one, two or three vehicles were lost. Would the FAA then stop all passenger flights? Your only option then is to carry commercial payloads - but you didn't design your craft for that, so now your vehicle sits on the ground and your cash flow dries up.

As for remotely-piloted vehicles, why not design for that and add that 90 kg to your usable payload? Seems to me Rutan could have designed an ROV if he had wished.

And what am I going to do with 250 kg of sub-orbital payload? Make sure that 100kg of that is booster rocket so I can get my 150kg payload into orbit!

Again, the tourist aspect is a nice gimmick, but in the long run, it's going to be commercial payloads that will pay the bills. While all the comercial airlines are struggling, the cargo services (FedEx, UPS) seem to be doing okay.

How about a nice, little suborbital recon sat for the NSA to watch a new hotspot instead of tasking a more valuable orbital satellite that has a limited tasking ability?


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Post Re: Here we go!   Posted on: Wed May 19, 2004 5:38 pm
dr_david_c wrote:
On one occasion, the X-15 pilot was killed when the craft became unstable and broke up on reentry. Do you want to kill one or three? How would that affect publicity and paying riders? Sure, there will always be those willing to take the risk. I'd fly on the Shuttle right now if they'd only launch one! But I think the majority of the riders might thin out dramatically if one, two or three vehicles were lost. Would the FAA then stop all passenger flights? Your only option then is to carry commercial payloads - but you didn't design your craft for that, so now your vehicle sits on the ground and your cash flow dries up.

As for remotely-piloted vehicles, why not design for that and add that 90 kg to your usable payload? Seems to me Rutan could have designed an ROV if he had wished.

And what am I going to do with 250 kg of sub-orbital payload? Make sure that 100kg of that is booster rocket so I can get my 150kg payload into orbit!

Again, the tourist aspect is a nice gimmick, but in the long run, it's going to be commercial payloads that will pay the bills. While all the comercial airlines are struggling, the cargo services (FedEx, UPS) seem to be doing okay.

How about a nice, little suborbital recon sat for the NSA to watch a new hotspot instead of tasking a more valuable orbital satellite that has a limited tasking ability?


The X-15 was upsidedown in a dive with no spin when the breakup occurred. If the pilot had not been disoriented from vertigo (as detailed in the new book "Hypersonic" as well as Milt Thompson's book on the X-15) he could have recovered the aircraft by rolling it upright and pulling out of the dive. This incident was probably a key influence in the design of SpaceShipOne.


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Post    Posted on: Thu May 20, 2004 6:01 pm
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How about a nice, little suborbital recon sat for the NSA to watch a new hotspot instead of tasking a more valuable orbital satellite that has a limited tasking ability?


We had one, it was called the SR71. I don't really think ISR is one of the roles the military is interested in suborbital craft to do. We have plenty of UAV's with varying capabilities to do this. Global strike is another matter.


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Post U wanna go HOW fast?????   Posted on: Thu May 20, 2004 9:58 pm
Bullspace wrote, "We had one, it was called the SR71. I don't really think ISR is one of the roles the military is interested in suborbital craft to do. We have plenty of UAV's with varying capabilities to do this."

I would imagine that the security agencies and the militrary would prefer a vehicle that can loiter a teeny bit longer than the SR71. And while there are a number of UAVs available, proximity to the area of interest, as well as loitering time, remain as constraints.

We might wish to use a vehicle to enter suborbital space, drop a payload, say a newer breed of UAV that relys on a high-altitude loitering platform (think Pathfinder) as the relay for data or even data-collecting itself, and then returns to safe airspace. Think launching from California, overflying North Korea, dropping the payload, then returning to the States.

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Post Re: Here we go!   Posted on: Thu May 20, 2004 11:04 pm
dr_david_c wrote:
Again, the tourist aspect is a nice gimmick, but in the long run, it's going to be commercial payloads that will pay the bills. While all the comercial airlines are struggling, the cargo services (FedEx, UPS) seem to be doing okay.

So you don't like the goal of a private manned space industry, or don't think it will be successful, or you think now is not the right time. You might be right, but if everyone thought like you we still wouldn't have an airline industry. I'm sure glad there are people out there with vision that are willing to take risks for progress. You think space tourism is a gimmick, but luckily some people see it as a great potential.


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Post    Posted on: Fri May 21, 2004 3:25 pm
Sending people up is important. space turism is a gimmik all right. but in the future it might be as important as airlplane tourism. The important thing is the cultural aspect to get the space race restarted. People need to get interested.

Also peolpe make up a difficult cargo (people are valuable and fragile) so the response is better rockets as the engeneers make more progress due to the challenge. And we come up with more science: aerospace medicine, better life support sistems, etc. This will maque future antipodal flight viable and revolutionice transport. This will make future spaceborn troops viable and will revolutionice peace operations. There are various payoffs for the risk.

Yes it's a risk. And people will die sooner or later. But it's well worth it. After all, society needs to take risks and steel it's resolve. That's what I mean with cultural impact of endevours like X Prize. The "Can Do" culture. The astronaut is needed, payloads will bring the money, but astronauts will make people care, and invest.


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Post Some odd ideas   Posted on: Fri May 21, 2004 4:09 pm
George, you're correct about space tourism being a gimmick, but the people who need to get interested are already interested - those who wish to put commercial payloads into space as cheaply as possible.

People are a difficult cargo. So is a satellite. In fact, EVERY item of cargo represents unique challenges and has to be treated as if it were in fact a human.

George seems quite cavalier with the notion of risk. I wonder how he would feel if it's his life on the line on the first try to get into space?

Astronauts will make the general public take notice, most likely from expecting a disaster to occur (after all, we go to car races hoping to see a really good NON_FATAL crash, and hockey games to see the fights) but it's going to be those who need to put payloads into space cheaply who will invest. If George were correct, then why wasn't the X Prize fully funded with days or weeks of its announcement? Why haven't the public been stampeding to fund one of these teams? Because the public realizes that they likely will never have the spare cash to take one of those rides.

The only time the public really got interested in space tourism was when Justin Timberlake wanted to go with the Russians, and I think the majority were hoping he wouldn't make it back!


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Post For those who voted   Posted on: Fri May 21, 2004 4:13 pm
The voters seem to think that people should be the focus. Okay now, be honest - how many would change their vote if 2 of their children were REQURIED to be passengers on each of the entries' first try? Or maybe their spouse and one of their children? Or their parents?

It's easy to risk the lives of OTHER people.

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Post Re: For those who voted   Posted on: Fri May 21, 2004 5:36 pm
dr_david_c wrote:
The voters seem to think that people should be the focus. Okay now, be honest - how many would change their vote if 2 of their children were REQURIED to be passengers on each of the entries' first try? Or maybe their spouse and one of their children? Or their parents?

It's easy to risk the lives of OTHER people.

It would be their free choise.. If I get the chance.. I would love to be one of the passengers.. every person has the right and should have the right to chose for himself.
And sorry.. but if everything has to be safe... living just isn't... you even die with it.. and with a 100% dead rate ;)

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Post Re: Some odd ideas   Posted on: Fri May 21, 2004 7:23 pm
dr_david_c wrote:
People are a difficult cargo. So is a satellite. In fact, EVERY item of cargo represents unique challenges and has to be treated as if it were in fact a human.

George seems quite cavalier with the notion of risk. I wonder how he would feel if it's his life on the line on the first try to get into space?


Thanks for calling mi notion of risk cavalier! Most people call me mad! Seriously, I'm an ex soldier and now I want to work on peace operations so my entire view on risk is uncomon. There are good reasons to risk your life, and being a test pilot is one of them.

For regular people this is hard to understand. I see it all the time. I know bunches of military/peace ops/aid worker types and they all have stories of dead/crippled friends. I went to my master's class witha a man that lost his legs to a light antitank mine. We all think it just goes with the territory, but all the moms I've talked to have a different opinion. A World War II Vet told me he's mom thought fighting the Nazy was reckless, not brave.

Astronauts and pilots all have this problem. Even flying a humble ultralight has serious risk. I don't pilot anything (but I've done lots of flying and even jumped out of parachute training tower) I know it's not for everyone, but I belive astronauts are important, and worth the risk. The conquest of space, as envisioned by Von Broun (moon bases etc) is a riskworthy goal, just like developing aviation. More worthy than say extreme sports. But if space tourism (itself a form of extreme sport) gets us there, then it's a good thing.

That's why I think being a test pilot (like the Rutan brothers) is a good thing, even with the big risk.

As for payloads, of course they all have difficulties, just getting to space is hard. My interest in seeing maned space flight is in the development of space medicine and life support sistems. These are complex things. Today they might only be aplicable in space, but if you develop a complex technology, soon you will have offshoots for other sectors (like underwater life support technology).
Also manned space flight is actually safer, and eventually should be cheaper. It puts a man in the loop capacity. In emergencies, the astronaut can save the ship (of course he can also die) so manned sistems are safer and more reliable than unmanned ones. If you want cheap payloads, you want reliability, like airplanes. The pilots make the planes safer in case of failure. If your rocket is to be cheap, it must be safe so you can use it constantly, like an airline uses a plane. The astronaut will help there.

A good description of this idea (manned=safer) is seen in THE ROCKET COMPANY by Stiennon and Hoerr, the fictional acount of the development of a rehusable space vehicle designed for cheap payloads. You can find it at www.hobbyspace.com It's a great read.


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