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Scaled Tier 2!?

Posted by: Rob Goldsmith - Thu Jun 24, 2004 12:27 pm
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Scaled Tier 2!? 
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Post    Posted on: Tue Aug 10, 2004 9:22 am
I wonder if they will keep White Knight for a SS2.
White Knight herited a lot from the proteus (cfr. http://www.aerofiles.com/rutan-proteus.jpg ) so that was the easy part, but I still wonder if they made the White Knight with only SS1 in mind.

Tier2 could also mean a SS2 similar in size as SS1 but able to cover some horizontal distance.


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Post    Posted on: Tue Aug 10, 2004 6:53 pm
SawSS1Jun21 wrote:
Scaled has in the past participated in the (currently) most successful SSTO VTOL experiment, the DC-X (Armadillo fans take note), and is presently contributing to a similar program at XCOR. (i.e. I am guessing Burt knows how to SHOOT payloads into orbit as well)

Fly or shoot? There's a reason Burt will probably choose to fly. The real trick in affordable space access (excluding the elevator, which is a great idea but still a LONG WAY off) is air-breathing hypersonic scramjet engines. The government body X-prizers love to hate has recently pulled this stunt off, flying a scale model scramjet ship at Mach 7... a Mach 10 test is forthcoming. This was accomplished by flying the boost phase from a specially modified Pegasus rocket. The Hyper-X ship is designed entirely by CFD (just like SS1) out at NASA Dryden (where Burt used to work...). Again, all roads lead to Mojave Aerospace.

I don't presume to have all of the facts, but the ones I can find point to Mojave Aerospace Ventures as not only the short-odds horse to win the X-prize, but almost certainly to be the defining leader of the commercial manned space industry for years to come.

...And I am quite certain that armatures if not fully molded composite structures for a Tier Two vehicle are secreted away in some hangar in Mojave!


I'm sure that Burt's connection to the DC-X has given him plenty of connections if he decides to go ballistic. I do wonder what if any involvement he may have had with the SSX concept that was related to the DC-X.

As for NASA's work with supersonic scramjet engines, sorry I don't think much will come of that before an X-Prize team gets to orbit. It looks like a nice concept but their first ship was a total loss and at this time I don't think it's any more promising than someone building a practical fusion reactor. Maybe in 20 or 30 years or maybe in less than 15 if it gets developed as a black X-Plane type of craft by the Air Force with zero NASA involvement. NASA's track record when it comes to building and flying stuff for the past few decades is pretty dismal even with the X-43. Besides I think the guys at JP Aerospace would disagree with you about the key to orbit.


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Post    Posted on: Tue Aug 10, 2004 8:43 pm
Actually, I strongly suspect that (DoD/USAF "black" project) is exactly what is happening... The Pentagon has recently gotten really interested in "cheap spacelift," and not for the purposes of lofting spy satellites. The integration of C3IC technologies with GPS and existing space-based surveillance has given rise to the notion of "realtime force-on-target" applications. These guys are talking about "a warehouse of bombs in orbit," a model in which a conveniently large number of GPS-guided JDAMS are placed in LEO for the purposes of "fast-reaction" precision attacks against targets of opportunity. This essentially would give them the ability to find out where some target was having dinner and put bombs on it in a matter of minutes, without having to sortie any aircraft.

It would be impractical to fill LEO with a large number of weapons, even if you could do it for $1K per pound, so what you would want would be a relatively inconspicuous and very flexible light-to-medium launch platform, something like Pegasus but bigger or cheaper.

My guess is that x-43 is the product of "fallout" from that type of project which happens to be "lying around" Dryden.


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Post    Posted on: Tue Aug 10, 2004 10:20 pm
Actually I would say that the desire to have a warehouse of orbiting weapons is probably a big reason why the Air Force is funding a lot of JP Aerospace's work. The possibility of lowering the payload cost to orbit to one dollar per ton/mile (whatever that truly means :? ) probably has many military types practically drooling.


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Post misconceptions   Posted on: Wed Aug 11, 2004 4:45 pm
A few comments on SawSS1Jun21's research:

"Scaled is currently contributing to a similar (VTVL) project with XCOR"

Incorrect. I asked Jeff Greason at XCOR about it (I'm an investor in XCOR) after reading your message.

"The real trick in affordable space access is scramjets"

Ugh. I would be happy to have a detailed technical debate on this if the board would enjoy it and someone is actually willing to stand up for scramjets, but the basic point is that there is NO evidence whatsoever that scramjets are going to lower the cost of access to space. Scramjets will make good cruise missiles, not good space boosters. Trading the reduction (not elimination -- you still need final orbital insertion) of an oxidizer tank (LOX is pennies a pound, it isn't worth saving) for having to fly a bad trajectory inside the atmosphere with a poor mass fraction vehicle made out of the most exotic materials possible is Not A Good Idea.

"Actually, I strongly suspect that (DoD/USAF "black" project) is exactly what is happening"

I can't authoritatively say that there isn't a black project going on, but we do have an ongoing conversation with Jess Sponable (of DC-X fame) about the AF's upcoming development hopes. RASCAL and FALCON are the current projects, but they are trying to acquire budget for additional programs targeting responcive space access. One of the proposals is a "mach 6" prize, which Burt has indeed expressed interest in, but don't think that he is actually working on it before the budget appears.

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Post    Posted on: Wed Aug 11, 2004 4:54 pm
Apologies, John... the XCOR statement was based on a news item which apparently confused the ROTON project with XCOR. My bad.

I was sorry to hear about the troubles you had with the last boosted hop test, I am sure that you will make good use of what data you were able to collect from the test.

I agree with you that efficient spacelift is all about mass, I just feel that making the atmosphere work for you is a better idea than fighting it all the way... isn't an inclined plane the simplest machine known to man?

To be sure, it will take a lot of breakthrough technology, but the same could be said of VTOL SSTO, don't you think?

Best of luck, John. You are an inspiration to all of us codemonkeys!


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Post    Posted on: Wed Aug 11, 2004 5:44 pm
SawSS1Jun21 wrote:
I agree with you that efficient spacelift is all about mass, I just feel that making the atmosphere work for you is a better idea than fighting it all the way... isn't an inclined plane the simplest machine known to man?

To be sure, it will take a lot of breakthrough technology, but the same could be said of VTOL SSTO, don't you think?


Incorrect. Check out the document kept here: http://www.xprize.org/downloads/FMMSRLVLR200301.pdf. A spaceplane (especially a hypersonic) is necessarily far less efficient than a vertical-launch rocket. The sole advantage is that it requires no new infrastructure, in that it can launch from any suitable airport.

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Post    Posted on: Wed Aug 11, 2004 6:16 pm
The good Doctors at UC Davis don't mention the Pegasus in thier report (presumably because it is neither manned nor reusable), but it is both efficient and hypersonic.

The report does effectively eliminate horizontal ground-lauched single-stage suborbital flight (a no-brainer, as far as I am concerned), but it then goes on to imply that anything other than vertical launch is not practicable. Yet the X-prize (the specific topic of the report)will almost certainly be won by an air-launched winged craft (or at the very least, an air-launch rather than a vertical ground launch)

The analysis contained in the report is quite good, however, and I am looking forward to digesting it more completely.


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Post    Posted on: Wed Aug 11, 2004 6:31 pm
If Scaled plans to go orbital, they need to develop an entirely new vehicle, totally different from Spaceship one.The carrier aircraft White Knight could possibly be scaled up to carry a heavier second stage, but that second stage will need a much more powerful rocket engine and proper heat shielding. It will be at the very least 4 times heavier than SS1 for the same payload.

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Post    Posted on: Wed Aug 11, 2004 6:41 pm
Oh, it will have about the same amount in common with SS1 as does a Learjet to the Wright Flyer. I don't dispute that in the least. And there is very little question about the fact that if any private enterprise is sucessful in making manned orbital flights in the near future, it will be accomplished in a craft which is primarily non-reusable.

I would really be excited to learn that I was wrong about the latter statement, however.


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Post    Posted on: Wed Aug 11, 2004 6:59 pm
Ah, I spoke in error. The UC Davis report does mention Pegasus, there is a spot in the discussion of propellant mass fractions where the Pegasus is mentioned in conjunction with other launch systems. Pegasus rates similarly to other vertical launch platforms in mass fraction.

See, wings don't necessarily have to be a bad thing, they just need to be in the right place at the right time.


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Post    Posted on: Mon Aug 16, 2004 2:16 am
I got a simple question and I hope it does not sound too stupid.

Why did Scaled build the White Knight carrier? Could the SS1 be carried on a B-52 like the X-15 or a L1011 like the Orbital vehicle? It seems to be a more simple idea that to build a whole new vehicle like WK and you could put a whole team to monitor the spacecraft in the cargo area.

The problem of a larger carrier for SS2/3 vehicle would also be solved right from the beginning.


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Post    Posted on: Mon Aug 16, 2004 3:09 am
1. B-52 is illegal for a private organization or individual to own.
2. The L-1011 is obsolete and quite probably more expensive than the White Knight.

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Post    Posted on: Mon Aug 16, 2004 3:13 am
Cadet wrote:
1. B-52 is illegal for a private organization or individual to own.
2. The L-1011 is obsolete and quite probably more expensive than the White Knight.


OK thanks. How abt any other type of commercial carrier? AN-124?


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Post    Posted on: Mon Aug 16, 2004 5:04 am
I think that it was probably cheaper to build White Knight than buy something, given that the whole project was $20 million.

Also remember that not only is WhiteKnight a carrier aircraft, it's also a avionics test aircraft and landing simulator, in the same veign as the Shuttle Training Aircraft that NASA uses.

The initial plan was just to use Proteus, but that's not big enough.

I dono. I'm a wings sort of guy myself, mainly out of a paranoid sense of safety. Unless you've got a good balistic parachute, when you run out of gas / lose too many engines, etc. you pancake, as what happened to John's rocket lately. With wings, you have a good passive gliding option.

Of course, that the Shuttle has pretty piss-poor emergency options and a VTVL craft could probably give you more options for most failures, is entirely another matter... ;)

Incidentally, there was a proposal floted, by Jerry Pournelle no less, to create an orbiting array of tungsten rods with a small rocket and guidance package on them. It was pointed out as a "once we get the DC-X working, here's what we can do with it." mission. One of those suckers going at above orbital velocity means that it packs a big punch without resorting to explosives....


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