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Notes on Rutan presentations at EAA Oshkosh

Published by Sigurd De Keyser on Mon Aug 1, 2005 1:06 am
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A Slashdot user made some notes about Rutan presentations at EAA Oshkosh:

Here are some more or less random factoids that were discussed in detail at Oshkosh:

1) The White Knight with attached SpaceShip One were remarkably graceful in flight, far more so than the videos I had seen would have suggested.

2) Allen said that the cost of the entire SpaceShip One program were about the same as a ride to the ISS on Soyuz, i.e. on the order of $20 million dollars.

3) Rutan and his people reveled a number of problems that I had not seen in the press prior to this week. For example, on one of the early White Knight flights one of the nose wheels struck a rough spot in the runway during the take off roll. This nose wheel shimmied to the point were the nose wheel detached from the airframe. White Knight had to make a three wheel one stump landing.

4) The first flight into space exceeded 100km of altitude by only a little more than 100 meters. There was great concern that the motor didn’t have sufficient impulse to attain the X-Prize goal of 100km altitude when carrying one human pilot and two passengers or 400 pounds of ballast. They went so far as to buy solid rocket booster motors from Thiokol. In the end they were able to improve the performance of the basic engine without needing these extra boosters. Rutan was coy about exactly how this was done, but the two official X Prize flights did exceed 100Km by comfortable margins. He did mention that engineers from both the winning motor company, SpaceDev of California, and the losing company, EAC of Florida, assisted in improving the motor. They have one more complete motor that was not used.

5) The maximum temperature during reentry was on the order of 200F. The craft experienced greater heating on ascent rather than descent. This heat was control by 14 pounds of Scaled proprietary thermal protection material on the leading edges of the wing.

6) Both pilots were effusive in their praise of the “care free” feathered reentry system. They both said that flying the ascent was very demanding, but that during re-entry they had nothing to do except enjoy the ride.

7) SpaceShip Two will be “one hundred times safer than any previous manned space system” according to Rutan. His goal is to attain a safety level equivalent to the airliners of the late 1920s and early 1930s.

8) Scaled Composites will design SpaceShip Two. The SpaceShip Company will manufacture the craft, Scaled will test and certify the craft. Spacelines such as Virgin Galactic will purchase and operate SpaceShip Two and its carrier aircraft.

10) Each SpaceShip Two and carrier will be individually flight tested and certified. This is an approved alternate certification method to that used for mass produced aircraft. By testing each craft individually, they do not have to provide conformity data back to raw materials as is done with airliners.

11) Rutan anticipates 50 to 100 test flights prior to certification and paid passenger travel. Rutan will fly on some of these flights. In fact, he expects that during the test phase, prior to paid passenger flights, more people will fly into space on SpaceShip Two than have ever flown in space by all other craft.

11) SpaceShip One flew straight up, and recovered straight down. SpaceShip Two will fly 200 to 300 miles down range. Rutan anticipates that Virgin will launch SpaceShip Two over the Pacific Ocean and recovering it at Mohave. This will provide several minutes of atmospheric flight at Mach 2-3 during ascent and descent, providing a Concorde like experience.

12) Like SpaceShip One and White Knight, SpaceShip Two and its carrier aircraft will share a common fuselage. Passengers will ride up to 50,000 feet in the carrier and view a launch prior to their own spaceflight.

13) SpaceShip Two will experience about five minutes of zero-g. Passengers will NOT be strapped down during this phase, they will be allowed to float around. (My speculation: They will use a seat similar to that recently announced by TSpace Corporation.) Each passenger will have a large window.

14) The first passengers on the first Virgin Galactic revenue flight will include Richard Branson, his wife, and his children.

15) Rutan says he will go to orbit and to the Moon and Mars, but he’s not ready to go to orbit yet. He says he needs three break-throughs, of which he has accomplished one. He didn’t say what the break-throughs were.

16) At every presentation, Rutan and the other Scaled people emphasized over and over again that they are in a massive hiring mode right now. They don’t care about your grades, they want people who are supercharged with enthusiasm for space travel. If you have a skill that could be used in a space program, forget Google, send your resume to Scaled Composites.

Source: http://science.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=157540&threshold=1&commentsort=0&tid=160&tid=1&mode=thread&cid=13205378

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