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The Private Sector Space Race

Published by Robin on Fri Oct 29, 2004 4:44 pm
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Volume 1, Issue 4 – November, 2004

The X Prize was won, but STC’s path is unchanged. STC intends to make space accessible and help humanity tap its vast potential in the 21st century. STC is primed to launch Rubicon 2. A three-stage rocket launch to space is also in the works. Success in these two efforts will supercharge STC’s development.

I. X Prize won; Publicity

The Burt Rutan / Paul Allen team picked up the $10M X Prize a few weeks ago. Noting their billionaire backing and 7-year head start, this was no surprise. The X Prize was well-covered by news media and STC did get some coverage as a David up against Goliath. See the ABC Nightline video posted in the gallery of our website – www.space-transport.com/?stc=gallery. Our progress was also well-documented by the Seattle PI and MSNBC.

Rutan/Allen’s accomplishment gives legitimacy to the concept of selling tickets for space rides. In fact, Burt Rutan has signed a contract with another billionaire , Richard Branson of Virgin Records. (Amazing how he is able to “billionaire hop” isn’t it?) The contract commits $110M to developing Rutan’s ship into a tourist-qualified vehicle for which they propose a ticket price of $210,000. With a launch-from-the-ground approach, along with in-house rocket engine manufacturing (Burt outsources his rocket engine), STC can offer a more exciting ride on a simpler, safer, more affordable rocket.

II. TSR and Rubicon 2

STC recently completed some testing that led to a significant improvement in inter-stage adapter design on the three-stage rocket (TSR). It turns out that the 1st- 2nd stage joint was susceptible to fatigue during the pre-launch spin and high loading encountered during flight. By using steel for the shearing inter-stage fasteners instead of aluminum, the joint strength is doubled and any fatigue concerns are removed.

We are committed to completing a TSR launch that provides us with impressive video footage from space.

Rubicon 2 is basically ready to launch. Final ACS checkout is under way. The R2 electronics provide a significantly more steady/accurate angular orientation tracking than did the R1 electronics. The capsule was fabricated from aluminum, saving money on raw materials (surprising, but aluminum is cheaper) manufacturing time (it’s easier to weld too).

An engine verification test was performed on September 12th. With properly mixed propellant, the engine performed as predicted. Shortly thereafter, the two engines for the R2 flight were loaded flawlessly, thanks to our fabulous manufacturing crew. See the engine test video on our website.

Clearance to launch from the Makah Tribal Reservation into the Strait of Juan de Fuca has been arranged after coordination with the Makahs, the FAA, the USCG, and the Washington State Dept. of Natural Resources (DNR). By conducting early development launches into non-Sanctuary waters, we remain on good terms with the Olympic Natural Marine Sanctuary.

The R2 launch will take place by mid-November, given reasonable weather.

III. Hybrid Rocket Engines

STC will soon begin development of hybrid rocket engine technology which could be employed in Rubicon or N-SOLV. A hybrid engine uses a solid (rubberlike) fuel and a liquid oxidizer (as opposed to a liquid-fuel / liquid-oxidizer or all-solid propellant). The benefits of hybrid rocket engines are:
- Solid engines are safe, but hybrids are safer on the ground.
- No handling requirements as with solid propellant which is classified as a low explosive.
- Hybrid engines are more suitable for orbital insertion because they can be throttled.

IV. Raising Capital

STC has received important small investments recently that have allowed us to complete preparation for R2 and continue our TSR work. After the R2 launch, regardless of the details of the outcome, STC will come up for air and map out a strategy to raise the money required to succeed in its projects. The basic approach is likely to involve raising the development funds for both the nano-satellite orbital launch vehicle (N-SOLV) and the Rubicon Suborbital Tourism Vehicle. Funding might come from stock sale or from contractual arrangements to develop one or both of the vehicles. STC will also seek customers for the TSR and solid rocket engine technology. Evel Knievel plans another attempt of Snake River canyon and might need a better rocket than last time ☺.

The Rubicon space tourism concept could grab the attention of a wealthy enthusiast, or could be funded by a wide stock offering. University small satellite research programs have already expressed significant interest N-SOLV, and STC will seek the support of university program backers who want to see a reasonable launch option for small satellites. Also, we have had some loose contact with XM Radio who could conceivable enter a contract with STC to do early development work on N-SOLV.

Another interesting development is a business contact in Japan. A Tokyo-based businessman named Hidehiro Watanabe visited us and offered his services in numerous areas including fundraising, assessing the launch demand in Japan, and translating the STC website to Japanese.

As we build a positive reputation, various opportunities are arising for STC to speak to audiences full of valuable contacts.

IV. Stevie Austin

The mannequin aboard Rubicon 1 was damaged upon ocean impact. Pictures of her derelict head ended up in several newspapers. We sold the head on eBay for $200. The buyer, an L.A.-based filmmaker, created the character “Stevie Austin”. Stevie is another of the positive outcomes of the Rubicon 1 launch. If are not aware of Stevie’s dramatic story of bravery and commitment, visit http://www.nighttrainfilms.net/StevieAustinProject/.

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