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SFS News: "MICROLAUNCHERS" Discuss Their Plans Wit

Posted by: Rob Goldsmith - Tue Jun 03, 2008 7:55 pm
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SFS News: "MICROLAUNCHERS" Discuss Their Plans Wit 
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Post SFS News: "MICROLAUNCHERS" Discuss Their Plans Wit   Posted on: Tue Jun 03, 2008 7:55 pm
We recently got talking with Microlaunchers a US based company aiming to get to make space access cheaper by using smaller craft.

Charles Pooley brought us up to date with their progress by doing an introductory Q&A session with myself. Charles and Blair Gordon have also joined the Space Fellowship with an official forum now located at http://spacefellowship.com/Forum/viewforum.php?f=50
The forum will be a place where Space Fellowship members and ask the team questions and learn more about their ambitions and goals.

The Q&A:

What is Microlaunchers?

Microlaunchers is an idea begun 12 years ago, to create a new pathway to entrepreneurial space start-ups.

The problem then and now is that space exploration is the province of large impersonal organizations. People have little chance for direct involvement other than as employees of large contractors like Boeing, Lockheed, or NASA itself.

The situation was seen as analogous to the early state of computers in the mainframe era before the advent of ALTAIR, IMSAI and the wave of microcomputers. The idea is to try to do with space exploration what the microcomputer did for computer access.

This is to take the form of initially developing a very small vertically integrated launcher/spacecraft system, and having as a baseline, or starting point, of exceeding escape velocity to reach the inner solar system and lunar surface.


What do you want to achieve?

A working vertically integrated launcher (which might be called ML-1) and stimulate large scale involvement by lowering the "entry cost" of participating, and then to create a number of application companies to exploit economic Opportunities such as "space burials" souvenir flights, lunar regolith return for sale, turnkey lease of launcher kits.
Success would be a situation where there are a number of separate companies doing this and Microlaunchers being one of them.


How do you plan to achieve this?

Mainly by a bootstrap process: finding an initial set of partners, angel investors, to start with the development of the initial elements of the systems.


What work have you done already, towards achieving your goals?

For over 12 years, studied the technologies required, creating a website http://www.microlaunchers.com/ , searching for a core group of motivated "believers".


When will you achieve your goals or milestones?

To start of significant hardware portions: engine type, laser comm, guidance, vehicle stages within one year of setting up physical facilities in a suitable part of the US.


What do you see as the biggest hurdle in achieving your goals?

Finding an initial funding means to cover a financial threshold required to move to a location, lease facilities, acquire tooling, hire core group.


Will you share your progress with the Space Fellowship Community?

On an ongoing basis. Only some proprietary IP will be protected. Activity, and some technical details will be published.


Have you got any media or presentations that our community can view?

So far, only the two websites http://www.microlaunchers.com/ and http://generationspace.org/ and links from those sites so far. There have been two interviews on the Space Show http://thespaceshow.com/ Nov 16 2005 and March 4 2008, an three presentations, at Space Access Society, The Citizen Scientist, AIAA.

The Space Fellowship would like to thank both Blair and Charles on helping us put this story together. We would also like to encourage Space Fellowship members to welcome them to the Fellowship and feel free to openly ask any questions they have about their plans.

Copyright 2008 The International Space Fellowship. All rights reserved.
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.

Feel free to discuss this article in the newly created Official Microlaunchers forum…

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Post    Posted on: Tue Jun 10, 2008 7:17 pm
I have a few questions. Allthough understand the idea behinde the N-prize, i wonder if that same market it's meant for can't launch on existing launches with multiple of these tiny satelites. Also, since the satelites have to be tiny in volume and leightweight, how much can be done with that? In other words, is achieving orbit for such a small thing even necessary? Just a few minutes or hours in space could do the same if you want a few readings.

Plus, the biggest issue in the end is off course making profit. It's fun and all to built rockets (heck, it's awesome) but you want to make a living doing it. We have these small payloads made by customers with no money. So okay you have a cheap rocket which can do exactly as advertised for a low price. A low price means a low profit in asbolut terms. So you would have to sell a lot of rides. Do you have any marketstudies that show that there is a high volume market? market comparable to what Virgin Galactic is reaching out to?

I just wonder, i know building rockets is just awesome, wouldn't it be more constructive to built leightweight and cheap flighthardware? That's just barely non-existent (except for micro-space) It could be used in space as well as down here and potentially everything you create has limitless applications.


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Post    Posted on: Tue Jun 10, 2008 7:29 pm
The wright brothers didn't build a 747, they built what was needed to get into the air.
We believe we can make a viable business with small payloads, including space burial, cube sat launch for educational institutes.
The cost can be kept almost to a family affordable level, almost.
But, it doesn't have to stay small, it's inherently simpler to engineer larger once you have perfected a smaller design so scaling up our designs to lift larger payloads is simpler.
What about swarms of rovers exploring Near earth asteroids, sure current launch systems can do it but not at the price point MicroLaunchers can.
I hope this helps, hopefully Charles posts and can explain in a far more technical term than i can


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Post MicroLaunchers Artwork   Posted on: Tue Jun 10, 2008 8:17 pm
Image


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Post    Posted on: Tue Jun 10, 2008 8:21 pm
Blair,

If you get the full size poster online anywhere be sure to post the link here!

Would make a cool DVD cover down the line!

;)

Rob

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Post Stefan's N Prize questions   Posted on: Wed Jun 11, 2008 5:36 am
The N Prize isn't aimed at a market. It is a stunt, a contest, as was the X Prize and many before going back to the Orteig Prize (Crossing the Atlantic).

This prize differs in that is a lot smaller, simpler. It can, and as in our case, stimulate interest in merely doing it. It's very low cost, prize amount give it charm in a way. But the significance of competing in it even if not winning it is that it stimulates interest in trying to find ways to spark something.

The X Prize greatly accelerated the level of interest in space tourism. This can draw attention to the possibilities of being able to start on a very small scale.

Starting on a big scale isn't working so far. Elon Musk has invested several hundred million on 2 attempts at launching a "standard size" satellite.

The message of Microlaunchers has always been that maybe non-government space exploration has to start on a very small scale. A scale small enough to enable more to get directly involved than now possible. Just as it was with computers until the advent of the microcomputers.

And it isn't so much what those little "toys" themselves could do (with 4 kilobytes of memory etc) but to create excitement and the involvement of many by lowering the price of participating. Then the Altair and its kind evolved into what I type this on.

So it can be with Microlaunchers, or N Prize launchers. A tiny rocket can be built. Elon Musk has so far not gotten a big one to work. And when he does, not many will have an opportunity to get involved (but he is hiring, I've heard).

Market? There just may be one. A N Prize launcher could later be converted to launcher kits, available to university groups, limited only by imagination and regulations.

Market studies? To misquote a famous line from an old movie: "market study? I don't need no stinkin' market study!"

Finding ways to explore space is a dream. How do you make a business plan of that?


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Post    Posted on: Wed Jun 11, 2008 7:30 am
Thanks for your quick answers.

From my perspective and from the marketing speeches done by Peter Diamandis (hope i wright this correctly), he claimed that the intention of the x-prize was to create a fleet of different kind of suborbital crafts to bring you and me for a 'low' price into space. Allthough he got only one usable craft out of it, and i know Virgin likes to invest in extreme things like this, they allready had a few tens of million in cash deposits. So yes, the market is there. It can be seen as a stunt, but if Virgin can actually pull this off, how can it be a stunt any longer?

Elon Musk did a pretty good job thusfar imho. He just couldn't start any smaller then the Falcon 1. His first launch was pretty soon over, but the second was a good one. We'll see how he does in the third launch which he will do pretty soon. Besides, it's better that he can do it on his own money then purely on investors money, they would have shut him down long ago.

I agree that space exploration has to start small, like as you point out with the computers, but we're beyond that stage. And if you can't have a market for small things, how do you want to get the money to develope any larger things? The roadmap is full of (enormous) holes and not a smooth line like with the computers.

I know that for the common man like us, or at least me, space exploration is a dream, but it is not impossible to make a business plan for that. Biggest problem is funding. If anyone could reel in a billionair, a lot of beautifull things can be done. If you have the millions yourself, like Elon Musk, you can do even better. But yes, i believe a solid business plan can be made. Like Jim Benson said: "If we're going to space to stay, space has to pay". With that, i can only agree, but it takes courage to do it. There are many many millionaires and billionaires out there who can pay and want to pay an x amount of their wealth to go into space and perhaps to stay there. Or create a business. And the courage is lacking at the moment.

I hope this post isn't regarded as negative, critique or any form of demeaning towards what you're doing. Hell, i wish i could join in with some people from where i come from (well, not a bad idea). I just like to hear the opinions and reasons why people join in on this.

Great luck with building your rockets (i hope plenty of rockets).


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Post    Posted on: Wed Oct 08, 2008 8:26 am
Hey, Guy's
Microlaunchers just steped up there logo and website on the N-Prize teams listing check it out!
http://www.n-prize.com/teams.html
Good Luck! It looks good!

Monroe
Team Prometheus

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Post    Posted on: Wed Oct 08, 2008 4:31 pm
Good spot Monroe, hopefully Blair and Charles can share some of their progress with us soon, I hear things are going well for them right now!

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Post    Posted on: Wed Oct 08, 2008 11:36 pm
Wow, that's really good news! maybe we can get something going around here! I really like their attitude.

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Post    Posted on: Sun Nov 02, 2008 3:32 pm
Charles,

What's the situation with Microlaunchers right now? i hear you have been helping a few teams out with other rocketry plans. Have you moved forward with your N-Prize rocket?

Rob

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