Kistling a Different Tune: Commercial Space in an Alternate Key

Post 1: Intro/Teaser
  • Hello, everyone! Welcome to yet-another @e of pi spaceflight thread. This one is going to be a bit of an experiment for me--a bit more personal, and focused on a much most recent point of departure. In fact, as everything in this timeline will be happening within the era of the "modern" internet, I'm actually experimenting a bit with format to capture the way spaceflight news is shared and discussed on the web, and the way that's evolved even in the last decade.

    I'm also experimenting a bit with my writing style and schedule. I don't have a huge buffer, instead I'm going to be trying to write as I go with shorter, more-frequent updates. I'm interested in comments on what people are curious to hear more or less about, and for comments on the scope, focus, and direction of the timeline. I'm writing this solo, but I do want to thank most of the usual suspects who've contributed to brainstorming, concept development, proofreading, and other assistance: @Workable Goblin, @Polish Eagle, @TimothyC, @Brainbin, @nixonshead. Without further ado, the first post and teaser, and I hope you enjoy!


    August 18, 2006 was a Friday. It was also a Day 3, in the strange and unusual world of this high school’s calendar, and that meant there wasn't seventh period, and the last break looped right into an hour long period for eights. For a student with an eights break, that left little for him to do. He’d finished off the last of his math homework in Spanish, the last of the Spanish in Chem, and he’d just dropped the English paper outline into the homework accordion folder in his bag to be expanded when he got home. With over an hour left before he could head home, that meant nothing to stop him from going to the library and hanging out. None of his friends had the same break, so once the passing period ended, he left their typical lunch table for the day. Once eights started and the hallways cleared out, he shouldered his bag and headed to the library to browse.

    Before checking the science fiction racks, he scanned the periodicals. Brandon Routh stared out from a cover story about his role in Superman Returns, while Meryl Streep glared with grace from a cover about her role in The Devil Wears Prada. Walking past the tabloids, he pulled down the Economist, whose latest issue featured a cartoon of a sandy maze under the headline of “Lost in the Middle East”, to study for debate.

    However, on the far side were the real prizes: the latest editions of Popular Science and Popular Mechanics. Flipping through the index revealed the promise of a couple articles on NASA, and he eagerly flipped in. He paused for a moment on a color diagram comparing the two selections NASA had announced for some sort of commercial cargo contest, looking at the two rockets. One looked like Apollo, a capsule on a tube, the other like a mutant: a coke can balanced on a thermos. He shrugged, and turned to the next page where the main article on the progress of the Constellation Program was promised to begin. He had it all planned out: he’d graduate from college just in time to go help NASA fly the landers and Shuttle-derived heavies in the slick graphics on the following pages to the moon and beyond. He walked over to an armchair and sat down, studying everything he could. The diagram and one-page article was left further behind with every turn of a page about Ares, Orion, and Altair.


    Ed. Note: The image is originally from Reuters, and I’m not sure it actually appeared in any PopSci articles around this time, though I have distinct memories of a similar article about Falcon 9 and Dragon which--much like this character--I completely skipped past.
    ARN Forums I: Kistler and Orbital Break Up
  • ARN Forums: Other American Vehicles: Rocketplane Kistler Updates/Discussion: Page ....(3)...
    ”ArnoldH (09/26/06)” said:
    New article is up about COTS and Kistler. Like the rumors we’ve been hearing up on Stage 2, looks like Orbital’s splitting off from the RpK COTS team. Not the news any of us wanted to hear about RpK’s bid, but had to write it up anyway:


    ”RocketNerd1701 (09/26/06)” said:
    Thanks for the write-up, Arnie. Like you said, not the news anybody wanted to hear so soon after the awards last month. With Orbital out of the picture, what’s it mean for RpK’s continuance with the COTS program?

    ”Downton (09/27/06)” said:
    ”RocketNerd1701 (09/26/06) said:
    With Orbital out of the picture, what’s it mean for RpK’s continuance with the COTS program?

    Did you read the article? Arnie wrote it up:
    Less than two months into the development of the latest incarnation of the Kistler K-1 for NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) contract, Orbital Sciences have announced that they will no longer be managing the development of the K-1 for Rocketplane Kistler, the new owners of the long-standing reusable rocket development program after Kistler Aerospace’s bankruptcy and corporate restructuring of recent years. “We haven’t been able to agree on all the elements of the business plan so we will not be part of the program going forward,” Orbital Sciences spokesman Barron Beneski said Sept. 25. “And of course as a result we will not be investing the $10 million.”[1]

    The implications of this move for Kistler are not fully clear at this time. Although sources have disclosed to AmericanRocketNews that Rocketplane Kistler is negotiating with alternative strategic partners, it is unclear what the effects of the loss of investment may represent for the company as they attempt to secure other investment to reach the more than $400 million they say will be required to complete vehicle development in addition to $207 million in NASA COTS funding. As the NASA funding is contingent on raising this investment, the situation will bear close monitoring in coming months.

    Edited 09/28/06: Moderator-Arnie here, please don’t quote articles in full ,it makes the server gerbils unhappy! Trimmed what I think you meant.

    ”RocketNerd1701 (09/28/06)” said:
    I saw that, I just wondered what this meant, if there was anything else on Stage 2 about it. Do they have enough money to keep going without Orbital? Are they going to go bankrupt again? Do they really have someone else ready to jump in? Is this just a happy face for the press release?

    ”Tim (09/28/06)” said:
    ”RocketNerd1701 (09/28/06)” said:
    Do they have enough money to keep going without Orbital? Are they going to go bankrupt again? Do they really have someone else ready to jump in? Is this just a happy face for the press release?

    ”RocketNerd1701 (09/28/06)” said:
    ”Tim (09/28/06)” said:
    ”RocketNerd1701 (09/28/06)” said:
    Do they have enough money to keep going without Orbital? Are they going to go bankrupt again? Do they really have someone else ready to jump in? Is this just a happy face for the press release?
    Yes to which?

    ”Tim (10/02/06)” said:

    ”Excelsior99 (11/05/06)” said:
    Finally saw this, and color me unsurprised. This kind of bad program management, schedule problems, and mismanagement is what became clear the instant they didn’t pick any proven space firms for COTS. If they wanted this done right, they should have gone to Boeing or Lockheed. Griffin wanted to prove how wrong all the NewSpace hooting is, gave them the rope to hang on, and this is it beginning. The next news is probably them admitting they can’t do it, and SpaceX will be next. Ares/Orion to the Moon and then all the way to Mars!

    [1] Taken from
    Last edited:
    Getting _A_ Band Back Together
  • ARN Forums: Other American Vehicles: Rocketplane Kistler Updates/Discussion: Page ....(4)...
    ”ArnoldH (11/08/06)” said:
    Bumping this thread as relevant. Took them long enough to get the press release out, but they finally did. Look for an article soon:
    Rocketplane Kistler and ATK Announce Agreement for K-1 Launch Vehicle and COTS Program
    ATK Will Lead Vehicle Development, Vehicle Assembly, Integration and Test, and Launch and Landing Site Operations
    OKLAHOMA CITY and SALT LAKE CITY, Nov. 8 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Rocketplane Kistler (RpK) and Alliant Techsystems (NYSE: ATK) announced today that ATK will become the lead contractor for RpK's K-1 launch vehicle, which was recently awarded a Space Act Agreement by NASA for the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program. The K-1 is a fully reusable space transportation system designed to provide cost-effective and reliable transport of cargo and science payloads to and from the International Space Station (ISS).

    Under terms of the agreement, ATK will provide launch vehicle development, assembly, integration and test of the launch system, and will conduct launch and landing site development and launch vehicle preparation for the K-1. ATK will also develop and produce critical composite structures and subsystems for the pressurized and unpressurized K-1 cargo modules, and conduct vehicle recovery and refurbishment.

    "ATK is a great partner with demonstrated experience and skills that strengthen our team," said Randy Brinkley, RpK President. "We look forward to the capabilities this partnership will contribute to the K-1 vehicle, and also the COTS program."

    "We look forward to helping RpK develop this new launch capability," said Ron Dittemore, President, ATK Launch Systems Group. "A tenet of the Space Policy encourages entrepreneurial efforts to develop commercial access to space, and it is our intention to help RpK achieve this objective."

    ”RocketNerd1701 (11/08/06)” said:
    I’ll confess I didn’t see that coming. I’m a little lost though. If ATK will do all this, what exactly is Kistler doing?

    ”Tim (11/09/06)” said:
    Raise the money. If they can.

    ”RocketNerd1701 (11/09/06)” said:
    Can they? I mean, Orbital took their $10m with them. They’ve supposedly got another $500 or so in funds to raise. Can RpK do this?

    ”Excelsior99 (2/21/06)” said:
    ”RocketNerd1701 said:
    Can RpK do this?
    They’d better figure that out fast, shouldn’t they? They’ve got some real engineering talent in their corner now, but unless they find more money, they’re still going bust. And they’ve been failing at that for more than a decade now. Who’d be dumb enough to invest now?

    [1] Historical press release quoted from one of the actual best space news sites in the world, NASASpaceFlight: [URL][/url]
    Mo' Money, Mo' Problems
  • I'd hoped for a bit more discussion on that, but I'll admit that we haven't hit the PoD yet. On that note, this time: the Point of Departure!

    ARN Forums: Other American Vehicles: Rocketplane Kistler Updates/Discussion: Page ....(5)...
    ArnoldH (04/18/07) said:
    Partial answer in today’s press release, seems like what we saw chatter about on Stage Two. At least they were more timely with this one:[1]
    Rocketplance and ATK Announce New Investments in Kistler K-1 Vehicle
    ATK, Others Will Invest to Continue Production of Space Station Transport

    OKLAHOMA CITY and SALT LAKE CITY, April 18 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Rocketplane Kistler (RpK) and Alliant Techsystems (NYSE: ATK) announced today that ATK will invest up to $150 million to further the development of RpK’s K-1 launch vehicle, which was recently awarded a Space Act Agreement by NASA for the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program. The K-1 is a fully reusable space transportation system designed to provide cost-effective and reliable transport of cargo and science payloads to and from the International Space Station (ISS). ATK became a partner with RpK last fall, and is leading vehicle development, vehicle assembly, integration and test, and launch and landing site operations

    Under the new agreement, ATK will initially invest $25 million, with total investments of $100 million to follow upon further development. Rocketplane has also raised an additional $400 million from further private investors to aid in meeting NASA matching requirements. ATK’s investment is expected to spur further outside investment.

    "The encouragement of entrepreneurial efforts to develop commercial space access is a tenet of Space Policy,” said Ron Dittemore, President, ATK Launch Systems Group. "We intend to do what we can to partner with RpK and achieve these objectives.”

    “ATK’s ongoing support for innovation in spaceflight is greatly appreciated,” said Randy Brinkley, RpK President. “We look forward to continuing our close partnership with ATK as we move forward on preparing the K-1 for its first flight.”

    PressToLaunch (04/18/07) said:
    Arnie, this sounds a bit like a lead in to a buyout. “Close partnerships” and “ongoing support” and all that in these denominations? A little suspicious. Any rumors of that?

    Excelsior99 (04/19/07) said:
    I can’t see that, if they wanted a buyout they’d just do it. This sounds like ATK just making sure they can suck as much money out of RpK’s COTS contract as they can without Kistler collapsing again (or simply before they do this time?).

    Downton (4/19/07) said:
    Wish we had more news of them bending metal and less about financial shenanigans. Has anyone heard what’s up with the actual hardware with all this going on? I thought that’s what we’re really interested in?

    Tim (04/20/07) said:
    It’s mostly still at MAF, no major work. And you can’t build a rocket if you’re broke.

    [1] This is the point of departure. ATK basically decides to take a risk they didn’t IOTL and put up initial stakes. This is combined with their historical funding raised at the time--$100 million from MacDonald, Dettwiler, and Associates, and $200 million from the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan. With ATK committed for half of the remaining $200 million, they’re able to leverage momentum to raise the last $100m, and meet the revised/consolidated Milestone 4.
    COTS at Two: February 2008
  • Commercial Orbital Transport at Two: NASA Eyes Schedule as Competitors Bend Metal

    --by Arnold Holmes (American Rocket News, February 2008)​

    Two years ago, NASA announced that it would accept proposals from commercial companies to provide the transportation of cargo to the international space station to augment the upmass capabilities of the existing supply fleet, including the venerable Space Shuttle, the European ATV, the Japanese HTV, and the Russian Progress. Two American companies were selected to develop their proposed vehicles under the contract in August of 2006: Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) of Hawthorne, California for their Falcon 9/Dragon system and Rocketplane Kistler (RpK) of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma for their Kistler K-1 system. In the year and a half since, both competitors have passed important milestones along their path to space, but both have also encountered their share of challenges which have some at NASA concerned and the Commercial Crew and Cargo Program Office (C3PO) eyeing the schedule for the commercial partnerships.

    Both competitors have made good progress on program management milestones, with both RpK and SpaceX completing important preliminary design reviews and raising the matching funds required by the COTS program Space Act Agreements.

    SpaceX and C3PO certified the completion of the Preliminary Design Review for their Demonstration Mission 1 (SPX-1) one year ago in February 2007, with the SPX-1 System Critical Design Review occurring late last year in August 2007. Demonstration Missions 2 and 3 are also proceeding along program reviews, with Demonstration Mission 2 completing Preliminary Design Review just over a month ago and Demonstration 3 completing System Requirements Review last October.

    Rocketplane Kistler and C3PO have completed the K-1’s System Requirements Review last February and its Pressurized and Unpressurized Cargo Module (PCM/UCM) Critical Design Reviews in October of last year. Its most recent reviews have paved the way for its path to station with its ISS Test Readiness Review two months ago in December 2007. Test firings of engines for its Launch Assist Platform and Orbital Vehicle were anticipated to begin at Aerojet this month, but have been delayed until later in the spring.

    Both companies have completed funding rounds, with SpaceX completing Financing Round 1 and beginning Financing Round 2 fund raising. Kistler has already completed Financing Round 2, in part thanks to assistance from their system development partner Alliant Techsystems (ATK) of Salt Lake City, Utah.

    When it comes to hardware, though both teams have made significant strides, both are still trailing where they and C3PO had originally planned to be, raising concerns about the ability of the programs to meet the required performance. SpaceX’s Merlin 1 rocket engine had already made its flight debut aboard their Falcon 1 launcher before they won their COTS contract and completed a full first-stage burn aboard that rocket’s second flight from Kwajalein atoll last spring. However, neither of those two flights have succeeded in reaching orbit. Falcon 1’s maiden flight failed roughly 30 seconds into the launch due to corrosion on a nut in the engine’s fuel lines which caused the vehicle to oscillate rapidly after launch, then pitch over and impact the reefs off the island. One year later, Falcon 1 returned to the pad, lifting off March 21, 2007. While the first stage completed its entire burn successfully and the second stage engine ignited, a pitch induced in the first stage exceeded limits, and led the interstage to physically contact the delicate niobium nozzle of the Kestrel upper stage engine. A roll control oscillation manifested as the vehicle flew on through second stage flight, eventually resulting in a loss of the mission at T+7:30 according to the company’s founder, Elon Musk. According to his statements, the roll would normally have been damped by the stage’s Thrust Vector Control system, but the system was overcompensating due to the damage caused by the impact. A third flight is anticipated later this year, which SpaceX hopes will resolve the issues and give the company their first successful orbital mission.

    Work is also proceeding at SpaceX on the preparations for the larger Falcon 9 which will lift their Dragon capsule to station. The large “tripod” test stand at their test site in MacGregor, Texas, has already seen the first multiple engine test, with two Merlin engines being fired together as preparation for the nine clustered Merlins which will carry the Falcon 9--a cluster which Musk has stressed will give the rocket so-called “engine out” capability, the ability to lose an engine in-flight and continue to complete its mission to orbit. Mr. Musk has described this as a capability lost since the last Apollo launch in 1976, however, a similar engine-out ability has been demonstrated aboard the Space Shuttle in Challenger’s STS-51-F mission, which lost its center engine at T+3:31 into the mission but was able to continue on to a successful mission (though a lower-than-planned orbit) thanks to quick work by flight controllers in Houston, particularly Booster Systems Engineer Jenny M. Howard [1].

    Though SpaceX is making progress towards flight, their own experience with aborted launches and failed missions, as well as the complexity of the Falcon 9 vehicle and Dragon capsule, have put them behind their planned schedule. Though it was hoped that they would have their maiden demonstration of cargo delivery to ISS by September of next year, this schedule appears likely to slip based on public information and information made available on AmericanRocketNews’s Stage 2.

    Rocketplane Kistler and their integration partner ATK have had less practical hardware to show for their efforts. The last ten months since ATK replaced Orbital in RpK’s technical partnerships have been largely focused on completing critical NASA-funded project review milestones, but another complicating factor has been getting a supply chain arranged for the production of the Kistler K-1 vehicle fleet of three Launch Assist Platforms (LAPs) and two Orbital Vehicles (OVs). Though Kistler has long noted that they had assembled 75% of their leading vehicle’s hardware by weight as early as 1998, the last near-decade has seen many changes in the firm’s situation, and left ATK in their role as integration lead to rearrange contracts with suppliers for critical tankage and other system hardware.

    For some systems like flight avionics and interstages, no hardware had yet been assembled at all, and thus ATK has had to work with RpK to finish their design and arrange subcontractors to deliver these systems for the entire K-1 fleet. The result has been that in the last year, the first K-1 has progressed only slightly towards flight, with some of the tanks stored at the Michoud Assembly Facility being opened up and re-inspected as part of recontracting and the beginnings of preparations for integration tooling and test equipment. Kistler and ATK have recently announced they now have all major integration tooling and 80% of the hardware for the initial vehicle in hand, and anticipate the beginning of vehicle integration no later than the end of the summer. However, this likely puts them almost six months behind schedule, currently tracking a first risk-reduction launch NET July 2009, with some at C3PO expressing concerns that this could slip further as the testing of the AJ-26 engines (re-inspected NK-33 and NK-43 engines from the Soviet N-1 moon rocket) and other systems has yet to begin.

    The most visible progress for RpK came last fall, when they laid some of the first foundations for their new launch and recovery facility in Woomera, Australia in the heat of a southern hemisphere summer. Woomera is no stranger to the roar of rockets, having hosted testing of the Blue Streak and Europa rockets, as well as the only all-British satellite launch with the launch of the X-3 Prospero satellite from the site on 28 October 1971. Australian officials at the event were pleased to welcome the return of orbital launch to Woomera, and the beginning of real construction on the site since ground was officially broken by Kistler in July of 1998, almost a decade ago. Woomera is the first of two planned launch sites for the company, as RpK has continued discussions about locating a second launch site in the continental United States, either at the originally planned site in Nevada or at an alternate site like the Oklahoma Air & Space Port, an unused pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, or a newly developed pad at the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. While both of the latter would reduce the significant regulatory challenges Kistler and Rocketplane Kistler have encountered in attempting to fly reusable rockets over inhabited portions of the United States, RpK notes that they would limit available inclinations from the sites, requiring all polar launches to continue to be made from Woomera, and hopes that after significant flight history is accumulated at Woomera they may be able to gain FAA approval for a broader range of launch sites than has traditionally been possible for orbital rockets in the United States.

    While both the SpaceX and Rocketplane Kistler teams have made significant progress towards flight, they are both running behind their anticipated schedules. While NASA’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Program Office believes that they remain on track to conduct cargo deliveries to the International Space Station, they will not do so until some time after the originally planned dates. Both teams have significant challenges yet to face and NASA continues to carefully monitor their progress at COTS advances to flight in the coming years.

    ----Want to learn more? Join the best space news site on the planet! Our FORUMS ARE HERE, and for even more insight you are GO FOR STAGE TWO!----

    [1] Elon Musk quoted from this article:
  • ARN Forums: Other American Vehicles: Rocketplane Kistler Updates/Discussion: Page ....(6)...

    PressToLaunch (06/15/08) said:
    So...quiet around here? Has anyone heard anything new? Are they starting assembly yet? Falcon’s been doing multiple engine firings, and I haven’t heard a peep out of Kistler. Weren’t they supposed to have their funding announcement, too?
    Downton (06/17/08) said:
    There’s some pictures up on Stage Two, looks like they’re finally starting to put things together at Michoud. On money...I hadn’t heard anything.
    Excelsior99 (06/18/08) said:
    They’re supposed to have some major event happening here at Michoud next week relating to that, their team have had to stop work to prepare for it. Probably announcing they’re going bankrupt given their record to date, not anything less than what I’d expect.
    Fully Funded, Assembly Begins
  • The corner of Michoud Assembly Facility devoted to Kistler’s vehicles was small, dwarfed by the manufacturing complex tasked to turn out the gigantic External Tanks for the Space Shuttle program. Until very recently, it’d also been dormant, the large structures of the fuel and LOX tanks on their transport dollies standing alone and untouched for months and even years on end. On more than one occasion, it has seemed like the quiet of the crypt or a battlefield after a defeat. In the last few months, though, it’s become a hive of activity. Day by day, new components have arrived, and the concrete floors echo with the steel-toed bustle of a dozen or more technicians. The tanks already present have been checked and rechecked, and they’ve been joined by more. Smaller components fill pallets stashed on newly-sprouting racks rising towards the amber brightness of the overhead lights, and place of pride is given to the large skeletal build stands which will cradle the Launch Assist Platform and Orbital Vehicle as they’re assembled. A month ago, the smaller set of stands began to be put to work. The first tanks and intertanks were moved into place, and the assembly of structural elements has painstakingly begun. Just in the last few days, the larger build stand was judged ready, and the largest tank in the Kistler area of Michoud was moved into its embrace. The newly-delivered intertank was brought over, and the first weld completed. And then the technicians had put down their tools and carefully capped tanks, sealed any ports, and put up portable fencing around the workstations. A field day with cloths, brooms later, and a field of folding chairs take up some of the remaining open floor space near the build stands.

    Today is Monday, June 25, 2008. The work has stopped, and instead of technicians there are clumps circulating in the wake of senior engineers playing tour guide. The assembly team leader has emerged from his planning office to personally lead the COTS contract manager and a small huddle of suited Canadians, representatives of the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan, as the critical stakeholders in Kistler inspect what their money is paying for. Other stockholders in Kistler and ATK rub elbows with representatives from the Louisiana congressional delegation. Press trail more junior members of the team, escorted carefully by Kistler, ATK, and NASA communications officials, asking questions and taking pictures. Finally, the events concludes with the Kistler, ATK, and NASA managers arranged at the impromptu stage, investors and politicians given a place of pride in the seats, surrounded by press and enough interested Kistler, ATK, and even general Michoud technical staff to ensure every seat in visible on the press stream is full.

    “Thank you all for coming,” George French said. “We’re pleased you could make it, and to welcome you here to to Michoud. This historic facility has played a critical role in America’s lunar program as the home of Saturn V assembly, and in the Space Shuttle with the external tank. Kistler could not be more proud to have you as our partners as we begin to put together the next generation in spaceflight. Today, we’re pleased to announce two key facts: first, as of today, final assembly is officially underway on the first flight set of both of our vehicles, putting us on schedule for our first flight next fall. Second, we’re pleased to announce that all required funding to reach that point has been secured, thanks to our investment partners who are here today. We thank you for your trust, and we look forward to showing you what we can do. Thank you for your time.”

    More speeches followed, but the key points had been made. And once the visitors left, the stage was cleaned up, the barriers removed, and the assembly areas carefully swept for any potential foreign object debris, the technicians would be able to resume their interrupted work of making it more than just talk. There were still months, even years of work left to do.

    Last edited:
    Stupid Planes?
  • So why is this thread tagged "stupid planes' anyway? Find out...tonight!

    ---------- Digsby LOG, August 1, 2008 8:42 PM EST----------

    e of pi: So, I'm trying to figure out this whole suborbital thing.

    Brainbin--gtalk: Well, good evening to you too!

    e of pi: Sorry, yeah, good evening. How're you?

    Brainbin--gtalk: Bored.

    Did you know today is the first time Obama has been seen with coffee since he won the nomination?

    I've only read it on the last ten sites I've gone to.

    e of pi: It's a bit much, I know, you'll just have to excuse us. We’re full of hope, don’t you know?

    Brainbin--gtalk: I tell you.

    You'll NEVER see a Canadian PM be so image-obsessed.

    e of pi: Of course not, you can only make a parka so stylish. :p

    Brainbin--gtalk: Har har.

    Okay, let's circle back round here.

    What about this whole suborbital thing are you trying to figure out?

    You seem to understand it better than most people.

    e of pi: I'm just...trying to figure out what's going on with it. I mean, compared to orbit, it's just not _that_ hard, but it's been four years since the Xprize, and it's....super slow.

    Have I linked yo uthe Futron study before?

    Brainbin--gtalk: Is this the one with the diagrams?

    e of pi: I think it's the other one:

    Brainbin--gtalk: Oh right, the one that's 79 PAGES.

    How could I forget.

    e of pi: Sorry, page 10 of the PDF is the one I was thinking of.

    The top graph on that page...and I guess the description of it at the bottom of page 9.

    Brainbin--gtalk: Oh, a parabolic projection graph.

    Funny how everyone predicts those things and they never seem to happen.

    e of pi: "Suborbital space travel is a promising market — Futron's forecast for suborbital space travel projects that by 2021, over 15,000 passengers could be flying annually, representing revenues in excess of US$700 million"

    I'm just trying to figure out with all that money on the table, why everyone's being so slow about it.

    And then all the approaches are different, too.

    Virgin's basically scaling up SpaceShipOne to make SpaceShipTwo, except that they unveiled it three years ago and they're only just now finalizing the design.

    They've at rolled out White Knight Two, the carrier, but for having the space ship “60%” done in January I certainly haven’t seen much of it...

    And then there’s the engine. I haven't seen anything on that since they blew one up on the stand a few years ago.

    And then there's other people who aren't using a carrier at all.

    XCOR's doing something smaller, like a little baby airplane with a rocket stuffed into it. They light it on the runway, and bam zap-straight to the moon.

    Brainbin--gtalk: We've been over this, though.

    We were supposed to have moon colonies by now.

    Lost in Space was set in 1997. They were going to Alpha Centauri.

    e of pi: Hey, we still might! Ares V is coming, and the latest Altair images look pretty slick.

    Brainbin--gtalk: That would be nice.

    Think of the advertising.

    e of pi:

    Brainbin--gtalk: Hey, there you go.

    There's hope for you.

    Futurama is back.

    I mean, only in movie form, but still. They might make new episodes too.

    e of pi: We can hope, we’re all doing this at Fox:

    e of pi: It'll be cool to see. Maybe we can get Firefly back too--BSG is getting all set up to go out with a bang--can’t wait for Season 4.5! Maybe Sci Fi can pick it up from Fox to fill the hole? Dr. Horrible was really awesome, you know?

    Brainbin--gtalk: Argh.

    Yes, of course, Dr. Horrible, the latest creation by the Great and Powerful Whedon, the greatest writer in the history of the English language including Shakespeare. Spare me, I get enough of that on TVTropes. You know, there is no possible way this Dollhouse show can POSSIBLY be as good as everyone is hoping it is, you know that, right?

    e of pi: We'll see. :)

    But then there's the whole thing with Rocketplane--you know, the other half of Kistler?

    Brainbin--gtalk: So wait, is that suborbital too?

    e of pi: It's confusing.

    They're "Rocketplane Kistler," and the Kistler part is orbital, and supposed to go the the station.

    Rocketplane is supposed to, a Learjet with a rocket in the back. Take off like a plane, fly up to altitude like where Virgin drops their SpaceShips, and then light it and go to space.

    It sounds easy, but they've been pretty quiet. Maybe they're just busy with the orbital stuff?

    I don't know, it's just a lot of variables--drop-plane or no? Where do you light the rocket?

    _What_ rocket? XCOR and Rocketplane are both liquids, but Virgin's a hybrid.

    Brainbin--gtalk: So wait.

    It flies into the stratosphere (probably higher, I know, but roll with me here) and THEN blasts off?

    e of pi: Yeah.

    Just like where SpaceShip one drops of the plane.


    Because it's suborbital, you need a lot less speed. Like, a fifth of the velocity of orbital.

    So the speed you can get from a plane is actually helpful, and the height helps too.

    It wouldn't matter if it was orbital, unless it was something like Skylon.

    But jets are just way better than pure rockets.

    More of what I don't get--XCOR takes off on rockets the whole way and loses that benefit.

    I dunno. It just seems like it's all coming so slow, I wonder why? Are they just not spending enough, or is this really hard?

    And I'm looking forward a lot to a year or three when they're all flying.

    Brainbin--gtalk: Or five.

    Or ten.

    e of pi: I don't think it's _that_ hard.

    ...I should really stop ranting and focus on this physics writeup, but I just needed to figure this out.

    Brainbin--gtalk: Not as hard as physics, anyway.


    It's worse than that, it's physics, Jim!

    e of pi: Oh, god. Do we want to have the trailer talk again?

    Brainbin--gtalk: I will concede, as pleased as I am to see Kirk back in his rightful place as the one and only Captain of the Enterprise, I am not looking forward to the next trailer.

    e of pi: I don't get why they're building the ship on the ground.

    Is the SIF field on? Or what?

    Spaceships belong in space.

    I don't know, I'll probably go see it if it gets good reviews--I saw Nemesis in theaters.


    And that was NEM.

    So...we’ll see.

    I’d need a pretty good reason, I think.
    Falcon 1 Flight 3
  • ARN Forums: Other American Vehicles: SpaceX Falcon 1 Flight 3 : Page ....(8)...
    ArnoldH (08/02/2008 07:35 PM) said:
    Webcast is back, still waiting to come out of the hold.
    Excalibur99 (08/02/2008 07:36 PM) said:
    You'd think for their third time, they'd be better at keeping the webcast synchronized and working.
    UniversalSteve (08/02/2008 07:37 PM) said:
    Excalibur99 (08/02/2008 07:36 PM) said:
    You'd think for their third time, they'd be better at keeping the webcast synchronized and working.
    Give them a break, it's from the middle of the Pacific.
    Downton (08/02/2008 07:38 PM) said:
    Let's just hope for their third launch they're better at keeping the rocket flying!
    ArnoldH (08/02/2008 07:44 PM) said:
    Polling to come out of the hold…
    ArnoldH (08/02/2008 07:45 PM) said:
    GO, T-55 and counting.
    RocketNerd1701 (08/02/2008 08:03 PM) said:
    Sequence seems more automated, has Elon done everything with computers? Seems pretty advanced
    Tim (08/02/2008 08:09 PM) said:
    Just like everyone else
    Downton (08/02/2008 08:24 PM) said:
    And HOLD at T-16. Helium problem, I thought I heard?
    ArnoldH (08/02/2008 08:24 PM) said:
    HOLD! Helium pressurant not loading well, holding at T-16.
    PressToLaunch (08/02/2008 08:25 PM) said:
    Recycling to T-55, detanking. Still time left in the window…
    RocketNerd1701 (08/02/2008 08:26 PM) said:
    Lost the webcast and they scrubbed again. What is this, the third time today?
    Tim (08/02/2008 08:27 PM) said:
    RocketNerd1701 (08/02/2008 08:26 PM) said:
    Lost the webcast and they scrubbed again.
    That wasn't a scrub.
    Excalibur99 (08/02/2008 08:28 PM) said:
    What else do you expect from them? They can't blow up if they don't make it off the pad…Just like all new-space.
    RocketNerd1701 (08/02/2008 08:30 PM) said:
    Tim (08/02/2008 08:27 PM) said:
    RocketNerd1701 (08/02/2008 08:26 AM) said:
    Lost the webcast and they scrubbed again.
    That wasn't a scrub.
    ...They stopped the count?
    Tim (08/02/2008 08:35 PM) said:
    RocketNerd1701 (08/02/2008 08:30 PM) said:
    Tim (08/02/2008 08:27 PM) said:
    RocketNerd1701 (08/02/2008 08:26 PM) said:
    Lost the webcast and they scrubbed again.
    That wasn't a scrub.
    ...They stopped the count?
    A scrub ends the day.
    ArnoldH (08/02/2008 08:57 PM) said:
    Sounds like they worked it, we're counting at T-55. SpaceX says loading fuel, I think they mean LOX?
    ArnoldH (08/02/2008 09:06 PM) said:
    Fuel loading.
    ArnoldH (08/02/2008 09:08 PM) said:
    Topping LOX!
    PressToLaunch (08/02/2008 09:11 PM) said:
    Fuel loaded, T-33 and counting!
    UniversalSteve (08/02/2008 09:12 PM) said:
    Wind looks like it's picking up, do we know the limits? Also, that seemed like a really fast fuel load! Any new technology there?
    Tim (08/02/2008 09:15 PM) said:
    UniversalSteve (08/02/2008 09:12 PM) said:
    Wind looks like it's picking up, do we know the limits? Also, that seemed like a really fast fuel load! Any new technology there?
    PressToLaunch (08/02/2008 09:16 PM) said:
    GNC: Weather is green, a little more clouds, GO to continue at T-28 and counting!
    ArnoldH (08/02/2008 09:19 PM) said:
    T-25 minutes, hosts are back
    RocketNerd1701 (08/02/2008 09:20 PM) said:
    More footage with Elon, showing off the plant.
    Downton (08/02/2008 09:26 PM) said:
    HAH! Quicktime crashed again, getting a stream of their desktop!
    ArnoldH (08/02/2008 09:27 PM) said:
    Now, now, Downton--Steve Jobs isn't exactly a rocket scientist.
    RocketNerd1701 (08/02/2008 09:27 PM) said:
    Are they still counting!?
    PressToLaunch (08/02/2008 09:28 PM) said:
    GO at T-16, while they fix the webcast
    PressToLaunch (08/02/2008 09:29 PM) said:
    No hold, propellant load is complete! Ready for 10-minute autosequence. Step 110 complete, reported as good to launch.
    ArnoldH (08/02/2008 09:37 PM) said:
    Strongback retract…
    ArnoldH (08/02/2008 09:39 PM) said:
    All right, T-5. Please try to control the chatter until after the launch. We've got good text updates, post pictures if you get screenshots.
    PressToLaunch (08/02/2008 09:40 PM) said:
    Helium topping ended, fuel bleed endings, T-4.
    ArnoldH (08/02/2008 09:41 PM) said:
    Ignition enabled.
    ArnoldH (08/02/2008 09:42 PM) said:
    LOX topping closed out.
    PressToLaunch (08/02/2008 09:42 PM) said:
    T-2 minutes. Range is GO, SpaceX is GO.
    PressToLaunch (08/02/2008 09:43 PM) said:
    T-1 minute. Go Falcon 1!
    ArnoldH (08/02/2008 09:44 PM) said:
    PressToLaunch (08/02/2008 09:45 PM) said:
    Some kind of ignition, ABORT at T-0. Vehicle safing.
    UniversalSteve (08/02/2008 09:47 PM) said:
    I like this rocket, it's exciting!
    PressToLaunch (08/02/2008 09:48 PM) said:
    Strong back back up. SpaceX says "we've had an abort and are looking at the data. The Vehicle and pad systems are fine. Please stay tuned, liftoff could still occur tonight."
    ArnoldH (08/02/2008 09:53 PM) said:
    Clock reset to T-11 minutes and we are still holding.
    Downton (08/02/2008 09:54 PM) said:
    One parameter 1% out of range. Countdown restart from T-10 minutes instead of T-55 possible.
    Excalibur99 (08/02/2008 09:54 PM) said:
    Anyone here think they know a curse when they see one? NewSpace strikes again…
    Downton (08/02/2008 10:04 PM) said:
    Apparently turobopump purge pressure 0.5 psi off, adjusting the limits. Countdown resuming in 15 minutes from T-10 minutes.
    PressToLaunch (08/02/2008 10:07 PM) said:
    T-11 minutes and COUNTING!
    ArnoldH (08/02/2008 10:08 PM) said:
    Terminal count starting…
    PressToLaunch (08/02/2008 09:09 PM) said:
    Strongback retract (again)…
    Downton (08/02/2008 09:11 PM) said:
    This is exciting. Second ground firing in such a short time, a launch, or a scrub. A bunch of steely-eyed missile men out of Kwaj right now!
    PressToLaunch (08/02/2008 10:13 PM) said:
    T-5 minutes…still GO. Fuel bleed on.
    PressToLaunch (08/02/2008 10:14 PM) said:
    Battery heating ending.
    ArnoldH (08/02/2008 10:15 PM) said:
    Cheering on the SpaceX mics. Ignition enabled, LOX top ending.
    PressToLaunch (08/02/2008 10:16 PM) said:
    T-2 minutes and counting. Battery charge complete.
    PressToLaunch (08/02/2008 10:16 PM) said:
    LD --SpaceX is GO
    RCO-- Range is green.
    ArnoldH (08/02/2008 10:16 PM) said:
    Vehicle on internal power...
    PressToLaunch (08/02/2008 10:17 PM) said:
    T-30, everything is go.
    ArnoldH (08/02/2008 10:18 PM) said:
    PressToLaunch (08/02/2008 10:18 PM) said:
    Ignition and liftoff! Into first stage…
    PressToLaunch (08/02/2008 10:19 PM) said:
    Look at it go…
    ArnoldH (08/02/2008 10:19 PM) said:
    Everything nominal, Mach 1
    PressToLaunch (08/02/2008 10:19 PM) said:
    Max-Q, still going…
    ArnoldH (08/02/2008 10:20 PM) said:
    A little bit of roll, coming up on staging…
    PressToLaunch (08/02/2008 10:20 PM) said:
    Tipping over, working on downrange velocity…
    RocketNerd1701 (08/02/2008 10:20 PM) said:
    Lost the feed!?
    ArnoldH (08/02/2008 10:20 PM) said:
    PressToLaunch (08/02/2008 10:20 PM) said:
    Anomaly in vehicle, they cut the feed.
    UniversalSteve (08/02/2008 10:21 PM) said:
    Excalibur99 (08/02/2008 10:22 PM) said:
    0 for 3, how're New Space looking now? COTS is history.
    Excalibur99 (08/02/2008 10:24 PM) said:
    Unprofessional to hide their failures like that. Take your lumps in realtime…
    inDIRECT (08/02/2008 10:24 PM) said:
    Oh, that's trashy! Detect a vehicle anomaly and just pull the video feed and cut to adverts? REALLY BAD FORM from Space-X. With coverage that poor, I don't think they're going to keep their current levels of public support for long.
    ArnoldH (08/02/2008 10:25 PM) said:
    Everyone else cuts failures, too. SeaLaunch, Russia…
    RocketNerd1701 (08/02/2008 10:26 PM) said:
    Bummer…was it to roll occilations?
    Downton (08/02/2008 10:26 PM) said:
    I didn't see those roll occilations last time. Cause of failure? EDIT: Beter luck next time.
    ArnoldH (08/02/2008 10:26 PM) said:
    Working on the video now.
    UniversalSteve (08/02/2008 10:28 PM) said:
    God, three times now. How much longer can they keep this up? And just think about F-9...
    ArnoldH (08/02/2008 10:28 PM) said:
    SpaceX blogger from the island saying anomaly in vehicle, but they have two more launches right behind this one, no matter what happened.
    PressToLaunch (08/02/2008 10:29 PM) said:
    Can we chill with the comments? Speculation is all well and good, but if I have to prune comments about "the day died" from one more thread I'm not going to stop with two beers today…cut them some slack.
    ArnoldH (08/02/2008 11:32 PM) said:
    Elon's saying it was a stage separation issue. Not roll, something didn't separate correctly. We're going to see what else we can find out. I didn't want to write this article again...
    Excalibur99 (08/02/2008 11:52 PM) said:
    No, I won't give them slack. They bring this on themselves when they, and all of New Space, spin on cost and reliability. First perform, then pound your chest.
    PressToLaunch (08/02/2008 11:57 PM) said:
    Okay, that's it, this thread is getting locked until morning...[/quote

    My thanks to the NSF forum for helping archive these events. Some posts are lightly fictionalized versions of real posts. It was remarkable reading this and getting excited, even knowing what was coming.
    Last edited:
    End of 2008
  • Year in Review: New-Space Rockets Aim for Space
    --by Arnold Holmes (American Rocket News, December 23, 2008)

    If 2008, in the future, is not seen as the Year of Commercial Spaceflight, then it must certainly be the year which laid the groundwork for the Year of Commercial Spaceflight. From suborbital to orbit, “newspace” rockets proved their mettle and took important steps on the road to new commercial spaceflight applications. The headline news certainly was the long-anticipated success of Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) Falcon 1 rocket, the first privately developed liquid-propelled launch vehicle to reach orbit. After a failed launch in August, SpaceX placed a demonstration payload into orbit just a month later. A fifth flight of the small launcher is anticipated next year. Moreover, the company made important strides in the preparation of their Falcon 9 launch vehicle for NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transport Services contract, demonstrating multiple engine firings and building up to a full 9-engine. They plan to erect a full Falcon 9 stack at the Cape over the coming weeks to help inform the process of readying the launch site at LC-40 for orbital missions of the new medium-lift vehicle, and work on the Dragon capsule they plan to use to service the station is ongoing (go for Stage 2 for exclusive interviews with Elon Musk!).

    If the theme for commercial spaceflight in 2008 was fulfilling promises and making progress on more, even SpaceX’s achievements must bow before the progress made by Rocketplane Kistler, the other major player in commercial spaceflight this year. After more than a decade of efforts, the Kistler K-1 vehicle has begun to come together, with progress reported regularly on the integration of both the “Launch Assist Platform” first stage and the Orbital Vehicle. Their integration partner, ATK, has begun work to secure long-lead items for all three payload modules they will require, beginning with the Pressurized Payload Module which will be used to transfer upmass cargo for the station’s interior and then proceeding with the Unpressurized Payload Module which will allow transfer of International Space Station external payloads up and down which previously could be carried only by the Space Shuttle (see our article on this year’s four exciting space station assembly missions!). Another promise of even older vintage is on the verge of coming together with the long-delayed maiden flight of the NK-33 and NK-43 engines originally developed in the Soviet Union for their answer to Apollo. Demonstration firings of the first flight set of rebranded “AJ-26” engines has been concluded by Kistler’s subcontractor Aerojet, and the flight engines are on-site at Michoud according to sources of American Rocket News (see images on Stage 2!). Rocketplane has also issued statements surrounding the recent advances in their suborbital RocketPlane XP spaceplane, with integration of the first airframe of their revised design beginning at their headquarters at the Oklahoma Air & Space Port. Engine testing is anticipated next year, and Rocketplane believes they are well on their way to a maiden flight of the Rocketplane XP early in 2010, joining their operational fleet at roughly the same time as they begin orbital missions to the space station with the K-1.

    They face competition not only in orbit, of course, but in the suborbital sector. Oklahoma’s Air & Space Port will vie with Mojave Air and Space Port to be home to the first suborbital commercial flights, with both Virgin Galactic and XCOR making progress on their own suborbital vehicles. XCOR, with their engine and vehicle experience from the Rocket Racing League, has announced their Lynx spaceplane, consisting of a higher-performance derivative of their Rocket Racing League design, and Virgin Galactic has made significant progress on their Tier Two system. Only a week ago, their first White Knight Two carrier aircraft, named “Eve” for Richard Branson’s mother, took to the skies to begin its flight test process. During the ceremony, Virgin Galactic and Scaled Composites announced that the first SpaceShipTwo vehicle is “75% complete,” putting them on target for beginning test flights of the inert spaceplane by the end of next year. Their rocket development efforts continue, with Scaled and Spacedev having recovered from the tragic test stand explosion last summer with a series of subscale tests over the course of 2008. The first firing of the full scale engine is anticipated shortly, with the companies aiming to have the fully developed engine ready for Virgin Galactic’s test flights by the end of 2009.
    Last edited:
    DIRECT in Popular Science
  • Thursday, January 15th, 2009 was a Day 2--in its first week, the strange world of the school’s calendar hadn’t had time since the start of semester to diverge from normal expectations. With period 6 and 8 breaks this semester, a student had plenty of time to kill in the middle of the day, especially as teachers were still working into assigning homework. With more than two and a half hours to kill, he’d headed to the library to check the periodicals. Today brought luck--the new issues of Popular Science and Popular Mechanics had finally been put out. The former featured a couple articles that raised eyebrows--a large picture labeled “Sneak Attack: America’s Next Stealth Bomber” took up most of the cover, with smaller writing in the corner asking “Are These Guys Crazy? A Ragtag Start-Up’s Plan to Crack Nuclear Fusion”. A quick inspection showed it as a story of a pair of engineers in Canada working out a warehouse on something called “General Fusion.” The promise of that succeeding seemed to pale beside the the cover article from Popular Mechanics this month. Over a massive render of the business end of a rocket, flames spewing from solid rocket boosters and the engines on the tail of the orange core. To the uninformed eye, it took the headline to indicate what separated this obviously Shuttle-related rocket from Ares V: “A Smarter Rocket? Renegade Engineers Say They Have a Better Plan for NASA’s Coming Moon Mission. The Brass Says No. INSIDE THE BATTLE OVER THE FUTURE OF SPACEFLIGHT.” The student grabbed both, and went to see if he could read through them in detail before his stomach drew him to the cafeteria for lunch. As it turned out, he could, but only because a link in the cover article dragged him into the computer lab until the bell for the start of 7th period dragged him back down to Earth. This “American Rocket News” forum seemed worth reading more of…

    The issues in question:

    Popular Mechanics
    Popular Sciences
    DIRECT V2 Thread February 15, 2009
  • ARN Forums: Heavy Lift Vehicles: DIRECT V2.0 Thread 2: Page ....(85)...
    UniversalSteve (08/02/2008) said:
    Congratulations on the cover story in Popular Mechanics, DIRECT team! I saw it at the newstand at the airport this morning.
    inDIRECT (02/15/2009) said:
    Thanks Downton. I wish they'd gone more into the technical details than they did--they didn't really talk about how much this saves or why, so it comes off a little ambivalent. I think the big thing in it is the quote from Kutter about the upper stage. A lot of NASA's objections in their critique we're working on responding to are about the mass margins for the upper stage, and for the director of ACES development for ULA to give that quote publically that he thinks if anything our numbers are conservative means a lot to making the case that our technical analysis for the vehicle's performance is correct.
    Excalibur99 (02/15/2009) said:
    Do you think being published like this will matter? Ares V is the program of record, and they're going to the moon with it. It's like the article says: this is an interesting proposal, but it might be Houbolt and LOR, or it might be McDonnell and Lunar Gemini.
    inDIRECT (02/15/2009) said:
    Ares V has serious problems, I think everyone within NASA knows that. The 10 meter tanks cost a lot of time and effort to convert from the Shuttle heritage 8.4 meter tanks, and the five-segment solid rocket boosters take a lot of effort, too. Having the entirety of Ares I to develop, too, doesn't help--we could be using commercial vehicles for some of that role, and for lunar operations two of our Jupiter rockets can serve as well as an Ares I plus an Ares V--we actually have slightly more throw weight to LEO, and the Centaur-style/ACES-derived upper stage should be much lighter than the stage they propose for Ares V. Because of all of those changes, Ares I and Ares V have both been behind schedule, and the spending there is money which can't be spent on other parts of the architecture and the lunar program.

    The Jupiter 120 and 232 have almost none of those problems--that's the whole idea, a directly Shuttle derived booster. We can use the SRBs unchanged with no problems, we don't need to spend the time and money developing 5-seg. We can use the tank production from the ET unchanged, too. The analysis from some of our team at Marshall shows that--it might only give us a 10% structural margin instead of the 20% we'd prefer, but with the flight heritage of those tanks it's sufficient. The only real risk is the RS-68 engines, and Ares V is no better there than we are--and we've been thinking about how to address that, too. We're trying to ensure NASA knows that in our response to their criticisms of DIRECT V2, because the launch vehicle changes everything, particularly when it soaks up all the oxygen in the room from the rest of the program. All those problems are known, but for now we're just trying to changes minds at NASA. Everyone inside and outside the agency is just sitting around holding their breath to see what will happen with the PoR and the new administration. If Constellation is going to succeed, it can't do it with both Ares V and Ares I. Everyone knows that who's paying attention and really matters. Something will need to change--either they do something that will help address the gap and the program cost like DIRECT, or they give up a pretense of Constellation. We're just trying to help people see the better path--the "good enough" direct path.
    UniversalSteve (02/16/2009) said:
    Anything but that! Let's hope they can accept what's better!
    Last edited:
    ARN STage 2: RPK Assembly Progress
  • ARN Forums: STAGE TWO!: Commercial Vehicles: Rocketplane and Kistler Updates: Page ....(14)...
    GF3 (2/20/08) said:
    A very good week for us! ATK and our team have completed all the structural components of final assembly of the first LAP down at Michoud. I'll be flying in later and we might have some images we can release before the official presser, but while this is a big step, there's a lot left still. Probably another 3 months or so of getting all the systems powered on and tested before we're ready to roll out and ship to Woomera, but the K-1 is coming together.
    downton (2/20/09) said:
    To put it in the way you've been trying to avoid since you bought the company, would you now be willing to describe the progress as 99% structurally complete? :)
    GF3 (2/22/08) said:
    You said it, not me.
    banderchuk (2/23/09) said:
    Corporate had me down in Oklahoma again this last week, and I was meeting up with my friend again. He mentioned that the K-1 system isn't the only thing that's been moving along. Polaris had their first test-fire of the AR-36 for the Rocketplane, so things are at least on track there (modulo everything we've been hearing about their avionics issues and the landing gear redesign, both of which he says are being played up a bit in discussions).
    ArnoldH (2/24/09) said:
    Bill, thanks for that. We've got some pictures of the assembly progress, so we'll see about putting an article together on everything.
    Stupid Planes, Part Two
  • Fired Up, Suborbital Space Race Gets Ready to Go

    --by Arnold Holmes (American Rocket News, February 23, 2009)

    Almost half a century ago, preparations were underway for the flight of the first suborbital rocketplane to reach space, the NASA X-15 test aircraft. Over 199 flights, the reusable vehicle would fly beyond the Von Karman line on just two occasions. Five years ago, teams at Scaled Composites were preparing for their second powered flights, on their way to the two flights above 100 kilometers in two weeks required to win the Ansari X Prize later that year. Today, multiple teams are hard at work following in this rich legacy, with the goal of making significant progress over the next year towards seeing not just a few flights to space flown, but dozens or hundreds, and carrying not experienced test pilots but paying tourists, eager for an experience few before them have been able to enjoy. It is a dream many companies have proposed to make a reality, but currently there are two that undoubtedly lead in this new suborbital space race: Scaled Composite, producing SpaceShipTwo for Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, and Rocketplane Kistler, heir of Pioneer Rocketplane and Kistler Aerospace, producing the Rocketplane XP. Both vehicles are making substantial steps towards flight testing, with both aiming for test flights next year. In just the last month, both have moved into a new phase of hardware ground-testing, with the test firing of the engines which will carry their rocketplanes along the arc of history already carved by SpaceShipOne and the X-15.

    Rocketplane Kistler’s suborbital efforts rest on a rich heritage. Pioneer Rocketplane, the company’s corporate predecessor, began with Robert Zubrin’s “Black Horse” concept, a 1993 napkin sketch of a rocketplane single-stage-to-orbit (SSTO) aircraft which would take off under jet power, fly to altitude, then top off kerosene and hydrogen peroxide propellant via aerial refueling before powering on to orbit. When the concept was rejected by the Air Force, Zubrin developed the concept further as the suborbital “Black Colt”. Black Colt, named as it was roughly half the size of the full Black Horse vehicle, would use a Star 48 stage to place roughly 453 kg (1,000 lbs) into orbit. In 1996, Mitchell Burnside Clapp (one of the other developers of the Black Horse concept) left the Air Force to found Pioneer Rocketplane and develop the idea. In order to begin proving the concept, they developed the “Pathfinder” concept, a vehicle which would require no new engine development. A converted 20-series Learjet would serve as the basis for the airframe, with jets and wings for air breathing and gliding portions of the flight, and an off-the-shelf kerosene/oxygen rocket engine would power the vehicle using propellant tanks mounting inside the Learjet fuselage. After the incorporation of Pioneer Rocketplane into Rocketplane Limited in 2001, a revised management team lead by George French began leading the development of the Pathfinder concept into a flying vehicle, resulting after the acquisition of Kistler Aerospace in 2006 in the modern Rocketplane Kistler.

    The design underwent multiple major revisions, with the current design announced in October 2007. The new design shares an overall similarity to the original Black Horse and Pathfinder concepts, but many details have changed. It will no longer uses a modified Learjet fuselage, engines, or wings. Instead, the fuselage will be custom-designed to house the passenger compartment and propellant tanks, the airbreathing propulsion will be GE J-85 afterburning turbojet engines, and the wings will be custom-designed delta wings with a conventional tail. A customized fly-by-wire system will control the vehicle. The AR-36 rocket engine will be provided by Polaris Industries. The Polaris AR-36 is a pump-fed engine, driven by decomposing hydrogen peroxide (as with the Soyuz rocket engine) with helium pressurization of the propellants producing 160 kN (36,000 lbf). This week, American Rocket News became aware that the first hotfires of the AR-36 engine have taken place, beginning the process of working to full-scale, full-thrust tests in advance of flight. In the meantime, work continues on the first airframe, which is under assembly at the company’s headquarters in Oklahoma. Rocketplane Kistler anticipates being able to roll out the first vehicle for taxi trials and jet-powered flights next winter, while Polaris’ engine tests may be ongoing until rocket-powered flights..

    The main competitor in the race for first to commercial operations is the heir of SpaceShipOne’s success with the Ansari X Prize, Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic and Scaled Composites. The TierTwo system, as finalized in January of 2008, involves two vehicles as did the TierOne system that won the X Prize. The first is the carrier aircraft WhiteKnightTwo, which will carry the rocketplane SpaceShipTwo to altitude before the rocketplane is dropped and fires its motors onto a parabolic flight above the Von Karman line. WhiteKnightTwo is a twin-fuselage aircraft, with one fuselage to be fitted as a training cabin matching SpaceShipTwo for suborbital tourists and the other containing the flight crew. Four turbojet engines power the plane, which made its first flight two months ago. SpaceShip Two features a delta wing with tip-mounted rudders, which folds to provide the same “feathered” stability mode for entry as used by SpaceShip One. The designers assert that this provides for a more stable entry than a traditional delta wing, similar to a conventional capsule, but capable of gliding like an airplane once the wings once again unfold from the feather position. This is critical, as the SpaceShipTwo design will be less automated than the Rocketplane XP.

    The engine, as with the rest of the design, is derived from the proven work on SpaceShipOne. Developed by SpaceDev, who also provided the engine for SpaceShipOne, RocketMotorTwo is a hybrid engine, using nitrous oxide and a rubber-like HTPB fuel. This should grant the throttle control and performance of a liquid engine with the simplicity and reliability of a solid. As previously reported, SpaceDev has been conducting small-scale development tests for several years, a testing campaign which saw the tragic explosion of a nitrous oxide tank in 2007, killing three employees. Though the explosion did not involve the actual engine, Scaled slowed development such that it has only recently moved closer to full-scale engine tests. The roll-out of SpaceShipTwo for testing is anticipated later this year. As with Rocketplane XP, testing of vehicle mating, taxi, captive carry, and glide tests can be performed while development of the engine is finalized. Assembly of the first SpaceShipTwo is understood to be 75% complete according to Scaled, and at this time it remains to be seen which of the two leaders, Rocketplane XP and SpaceShipTwo, will be the first to carry passengers beyond the Von Karman line. As with the testing of the X-15 fifty years ago, a new era is dawning and a race is on.
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    4/20 Launch It?
  • ARN Forums: News and Policy: News Discussion: Aerospace Corp Study Finds EELV Capable of Orion Role as Griffin Claims Alternatives Are Fiction--ARTCICLE Page ....(8)...
    ArnoldH (04/20/09) 10:10 AM said:
    New article is up about Ares I problems and commercial alternatives. It’ll be interesting to see where this all shakes out with the rumors we’ve been hearing on Stage 2 about new directions for NASA...
    Downton (04/20/09) 10:25 AM said: in spite of what Griffin’s been saying (and is continuing to say), the EELV Heavies could indeed carry Orion, like everyone’s been saying. Delta IV Heavy, and Atlas V Heavy. So Ares I is for...what, exactly? Spending an extra few billion on J-2X, a whole custom upper stage shared with nothing else, and probing new grounds in the field of solid rocket thrust oscillation and its effects on astronauts? Focus on Ares V, or whatever HLV DIRECT is proposing this month. Heck, add propellant depots to that, throw some bones to RPK and Space-X for some extra tonnage and do you even need a heavy lifter?
    UniversalSteve (04/20/09) 10:30 AM said:
    I think you do! You couldn’t do Apollo without Saturn V!
    inDIRECT (04/20/09) 11:35 AM said:
    Steve, maybe we could have, maybe we couldn’t have--maybe we would have been better off, with a more sustainable infrastructure. That’s what DIRECT is about, a first interim vehicle that we can get flying with as little money as possible, so we can focus on the payloads. And this is good news for that, because it means as soon as possible we can stop flying Jupiter to LEO, and replace it with something better suited. Jupiter and EELV make a much better--and more readily available--pair than Ares I and Ares V. Especially now that we’re thinking of going back to SSME for the core and RL-10 for the upper stages. A lot more cost-effective, and no new engine development.
    With all those savings, we have the chance to really develop “path breaking technologies” like larger reusables, propellant depots, and nuclear power for stations and propulsion. It’s good to see that others are starting to come around to this, and we’ll have to see where this pays off in the next few months. Obama's talking a lot, and Griffin seems to be imaging he's saying good things, but it sounds a lot like trying to let Constellation die of neglect in the absence of setting real policy...
    The last line brought a frown, but then the bell rang, and the student hurriedly looked up from the library computer. Calc next, and that meant the end of his time on ARN’s forums until he got home. Still, as he slung his bag over his shoulder and headed out into the press of students, he couldn’t help wondering...Apollo without Saturn?
    Augustine Commission Begins
  • ARN Forums: News and Policy: News Discussion: NASA Announces Blue Ribbon Panel to Review Spaceflight Options Page(1)...
    Downton said:
    It's finally official! Norm Augustine is back, and NASA needs his input again. Important bits:
    WASHINGTON – The Obama Administration today announced the launch of an independent review of planned U.S. human space flight activities with the goal of ensuring that the nation is on a vigorous and sustainable path to achieving its boldest aspirations in space. The review will be conducted by a blue-ribbon panel of experts led by Norman Augustine, the former CEO of Lockheed Martin, who served on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology under Democratic and Republican presidents and led the 1990 Advisory Committee on the Future of the U.S. Space Program and the 2007 National Academies commission that produced the landmark report, Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future, as well as a number of other high-profile national commissions. The "Review of United States Human Space Flight Plans" is to examine ongoing and planned National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) development activities, as well as potential alternatives, and present options for advancing a safe, innovative, affordable, and sustainable human space flight program in the years following Space Shuttle retirement. The panel will work closely with NASA and will seek input from Congress, the White House, the public, industry, and international partners as it develops its options. It is to present its results in time to support an Administration decision on the way forward by August 2009....

    The review panel will assess a number of architecture options, taking into account such objectives as: 1) expediting a new U.S. capability to support use of the International Space Station; 2) supporting missions to the Moon and other destinations beyond low Earth orbit; 3) stimulating commercial space flight capabilities; and 4) fitting within the current budget profile for NASA exploration activities. Among the parameters to be considered in the course of its review are crew and mission safety, life-cycle costs, development time, national space industrial base impacts, potential to spur innovation and encourage competition, and the implications and impacts of transitioning from current human space flight systems. The review will consider the appropriate amounts of R&D and complementary robotic activity necessary to support various human space flight activities, as well as the capabilities that are likely to be enabled by each of the potential architectures under consideration. It will also explore options for extending International Space Station operations beyond 2016.
    UniversalSteve said:
    Congratulations DIRECT! You made the review happen!
    inDIRECT said:
    Thank you, Steve. It's been a lot of work, but we have indeed been invited to present to the commission, and we're trying to figure out how that works with the big upcoming presentation of Direct V3.0--the SSME and RL-10 based architecture. The commission is, as Downton quotes, specifically authorized to look at alternatives, and I believe we'll have a good shot at a fair hearing.
    Excalibur99 said:
    I think this analysis will serve to put to rest any concern that what the program of record needs is anything other than the money to make it work and an absence of obstruction from those both inside and outside NASA who have critiqued it. Ares I and Ares V are good rockets, Orion is a good capsule, and Altair can and will get us to the moon if people give them the money and get out of their way! NASA is better than anyone at this, they proved it with Apollo. Does Musk or Kistler think they can match that with private funding?
    Tim said:
    Not going to happen
    Excalibur99 said:
    I know, right? and the "commercial uber alles" crowd needs to accept that they just can't deliver. The program of record is what it is, commercial can't fight that, even if Space-X and Kistler manage to actually bring rockets to the pad. ULA knows where it's at, which is why they're not fighting alongside any of the people saying they should replace Ares. They know which side their bread is buttered on.
    Tim said:
    I meant the budget increase. Something will have to give.
    RocketNerd1701 said:
    I'll be really excited to see what options they consider. People around here talk a lot comparing Ares, DIRECT, and sidemount around here, and how commercial could play into that (ULA, Space-X, RPK, and the like), but this will be a real review of it all by some really sharp people. I wonder what their conclusions will be?
    Tim said:
    It might as well be the 1990 report with the dates changed. NASA needs to spend money better, and until then they're being too ambitious.
    ArnoldH said:
    It remains to be seen how this plays out, but to step away from neutrality for a moment to offer my own congratulations, inDIRECT! It's been amazing watching DIRECT come out of our forums, and I think everyone wishes your team the best. Obviously, we'll be covering this a lot in the coming months, so this may be an exciting year as we see what the new President thinks about spaceflight.
    July 3, 2009: LAP-1 Rollout at Michoud
  • ARN Forums: STAGE TWO!: Commercial Vehicles: Rocketplane and Kistler Updates: Page ....(16)...

    GF3 (06/23/09) said:
    Successful completion of all power-on tests on LAP-1. Keep your eyes out for a press announcement in the coming week or two.

    July 3, 2009. It was a sweltering day to be outside. The heat and smothering humidity promised rain, but the light cloud cover promised that neither would the rain come soon, nor would it bring much enough rain to really break the back of the humidity. While the planners and the press cameras appreciated the lack of weather, it pressed down the mood of the engineers and technicians circulating, watching as a tug slowly pulled a transporter trailer out of one of Michoud’s massive shipping doors. The engineers who were able to brave the heat and the lethargy of the Friday before a three day holiday weekend walked alongside the transporter, watching with furrowed brows and crossed arms as technicians scurried to check the rolling assembly. As the press swarmed, cameras clicking, the dignitaries descended on the vehicle atop the transporter. It was massive in diameter, towering over the engineers and technicians who worked around it as it left the shadow of the assembly hall, but oddly stumpy. Like much of the K-1 vehicle, it had geometry only an engineer could love--little of the elegant length of a Saturn or even of the Space Shuttle External Tanks which most commonly used this massive door, nor did it quite share their size. Despite this, for those gathered to aid in the unveiling of the first K-1 Launch Assistance Platform to the public, this was a momentous occasion, one worth the fireworks, drinking, and feasting of this weekend all on its own.

    A naysayer to Kistler would have had little trouble finding a past target. George French was front and center, sharing an apparently friendly huddle with Acting NASA Administrator Scolese and his full-time replacement, the nominated (and rumored to be shortly confirmed) General Bolden. As press watched, they were joined by the cheerfully bespeckled but increasingly frail figure of another figure with proud NASA credentials when George Mueller joined the group, offering a hand to French as the vehicle Mueller had worked to make a reality rolled out of Michoud after more than a decade on a path paved by (or, as some alleged more correct, with) French’s investors. Mueller wasn’t the only representative of past Kistler incarnations circulating in the crowd of dignitaries, and Walter Kistler himself soon emerged to join the quickly swelling crowd around French. Others past and present circulated, including Debra Faktor Lapore, who had helped bring the NK-33 to the awareness of American engineers, watched as the rocket which would hopefully carry “the engine that came in from the cold” finally on the path to space was dragged to the assembled microphones of the podium. There, willing to wait for the vehicle and French’s growing circus of experienced engineers and program managers acting like schoolchildren to make their way over, was Randy Brinkley--former head of the International Space Station program and now one of the senior leaders of the Kistler vehicle program at RPK. It was rumored even Gary Hudson had received an invitation, though he had apparently replied that he was regrettably unable to attend. The joke that had circulated on the Kistler assembly stands was that he had simply been unable to arrange a non-stop flight while booking tickets.

    The barrel-shaped stage rolled on, the three Russian engines with their nozzle covers carefully in place seeming almost lonely on the base of a stage nearly the diameter of the Space Shuttle’s ET. The bare space around the line of three engines on its base only emphasized the short length of the stage, driven by the wide diameter. Still, even if it looked not quite like any vehicle that had gone before, LAP-1 looked handsome enough .The paint on the repeating pattern of “K-1” stencils around the middle of the stage, just above the lettering “RPK”, was fresh and cheerful blue, and the rocket first stage looked as perfect as it could be touched up to appear. It wasn’t quite flight-ready--a few more days of work were anticipated after the ceremony before the chartered Airbus Beluga could arrive to carry the stage (and the first of the detachable payload modules) to Woomera to begin checking out ground support equipment at the constructed but as yet untested integration and launch facilities there. For many of the components, delivered to Michoud in the late nineties, this roll into the sunlight in search of better speech photography backdrops was their first time leaving the facility in more than a decade. For others like the tanks which had been assembled by Lockheed Martin within Michoud itself in 1998, these were the very first miles of the thousands that would be hopefully follow. That kind of payoff tomore than a decade and a half of work, it was generally agreed, was definitely worth working in this weather in exchange for something like a half day, ahead of a three day weekend. The sun beat down through the patchy, close-pressed clouds, and everything seemed bright.
    American Rocket News July 20, 2009: Kistler Takes Flight, Travels to Space
  • Rocketplane Kistler Takes Flight, Travels to Space

    --by Arnold Holmes (American Rocket News, July 20, 2009)

    Rocketplane Kistler (RPK) has taken major steps in the past week to deliver on the promise of their Kistler K-1 launch vehicle, which have seen two major components of their architecture take flight headed to the launch pad and to space. Following its roll-out and public unveiling two weeks ago, the first stage “Launch Assistance Platform” (LAP) has been delivered to RPK’s Woomera launch site, continuing Kistler’s process of activating the facility. Also shipped was the first of the three Payload Modules which the second-stage “Orbiter Vehicles” will carry to space. While these shipments lay the groundwork for the activation of Kistler’s launch site and the maiden launch of the Kistler rocket, RPK has already seen its first bit of hardware carried to space as the Space Shuttle Endeavour launched on July 15 on the STS-127 mission to the International Space Station.

    The main payload of the STS-127 mission is the Exposed Facility of the Japanese Experiment Module (JEM). Accessed through the airlock included on JEM’s Pressurized Module, this exposed facility acts as a “terrace” for holding experiments which require exposure to the vacuum of space. It will be tended by the JEM Remote Manipulator System (JEMRMS), a small robotic arm which can conduct operations near the exposed facility without tying up the station’s main Canadarm2 manipulator. Also aboard were test installations of the proximity detection systems for both Commercial Orbital Transfer Services (COTS) competitors. During Endeavour’s rendezvous and docking operations with the ISS on July 17, both SpaceX’s DragonEye LIDAR and RPK’s Kistler Proximity Operations Detection System (K-PODS) were tested, backing up the Space Shuttle’s Kurs system to provide a real-life performance test of their ability to navigate their respective vehicles to deliver payload to the station. The K-PODS is a two-element system, with dissimilar redundancy for maximum resistance to system failures. It consists of a combination of a license-built copy of the Space Shuttle Kurs system and the Canadian-designed TriDAR system, which like the SpaceX DragonEye uses LIDAR to actively detect and model the shape of the object being approached, working much as a human pilot would to calculate attitude and distance from the shape and size of the returned profile for complete three dimensional autonomous navigation.

    For initial K-1 missions, Kurs will serve as the primary element of K-PODS, while the TriDAR system provides close-up accuracy during operations in the ISS Keep Out Sphere (KOS). In the future, TriDAR and may take over as the primary component of the K-PODS if it proves suitable, though RPK anticipates retaining Kurs indefinitely as a backup as their system provides nearly 50% surplus payload above COTS requirement per flight to the International Space Station and the additional safety to both the K-1 OV and the station itself is a first priority for RPK engineers. For Rocketplane Kistler, it is the first time any of their products have flown in space, while for SpaceX is is only the third, after the avionics and second stages of Falcon 1 Flight 4 and Flight 5. It is understood both systems performed within expectations, and data has been provided to both companies to allow for refinement ahead of the two company’s COTS Demo flights to the station, anticipated to occur next spring for Rocketplane and next fall for SpaceX. The K-PODS unit brought to space by Endeavour is in fact the unit which is to be installed on RPK’s first Kistler test flights. Further tests of both DragonEye and K-PODS will occur on future Space Shuttle missions as payload capability and mission planning allows.

    While the K-PODS system was being tested in space, other RPK hardware was in the air on its own path to space. The “Launch Assistance Platform” is the first stage of the K-1 launcher, and serves much like a conventional first stage during the initial ascent of the vehicle. After separating the first stage, however, the first stage turns and re-lights its center AJ-26-59 restartable engine to perform a “lob-retro” maneuver, increasing its apogee and boosting it back uprange to return to the K-1 launch site via parachutes. The first LAP of two to be built, which will be used for all of the COTS demonstration flights and the initial operational cargo delivery missions, was rolled out from Michoud Assembly Facility in Louisiana two and a half weeks ago on July 3, 2009. It has now shipped, via an Airbus Beluga oversized cargo transporter, to RPK’s Woomera launch site, and been unloaded into the integration hangar there. This airborne transportation method draws parallels to past rocket programs. The Airbus Beluga is the modern replacement for the venerable Super Guppy, which were leased in their post-Apollo era by Airbus to move components of their airliners between European factories. After building two Super Guppies of their own to meet their needs, Airbus’s Beluga is a similar concept based on their own A300-600 widebody jet, replacing the long out of production Boeing-built turboprop C-97 Turbo Stratocruiser which is the base of the Super Guppy. The K-1, for its part, sees its dimensions put onlookers in some mind of a half-scale S-IB stage from the Saturn IB rocket, which also saw its upper stage, the S-IVB, carried when required by air aboard the original Super Guppy and Pregnant Guppy aircraft.

    Also aboard this delivery flight was the first of four Payload Modules (PM) which will serve RPK’s orbital launches. Each launch of a LAP first stage and OV second stage sees a PM complete the vehicle. The Payload Module forms the K-1 vehicle’s distinctive blunt-nose, made up of the rocket’s heat shield. The heat shield is actuated, and when moved can expose payload held within the PM to space. In cargo launches to the ISS, the Pressurized Payload Module (PPM) and Unpressurized Payload Module (UPM) will carry additional maneuvering thrusters to help the vehicle maneuver in proximity to the station and will hide a Common Berthing Mechanism (CBM) port behind the heat shield hatch. A pressurized module fills the remaining space in the PPM, allowing transport of standard ISS Payload racks and cargo bags, while the UPM uses an additional side hatch to expose a payload bay much like the eagerly anticipated Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV) which can transport American ExPRESS Logistics Carriers and Japanese Exposed Facility Units, as well as other hardware which requires mounting to the outside of the station. Unlike the HTV, which can only carry such payloads to orbit, the K-1 UPM will also enable the return of these units to Earth, as is possible aboard the Space Shuttle. The Payload Module shipped this week to Woomera, the first to be completed, is the third type of the four four Kistler plans to construct, the Expandable Payload Module. This module is almost twice as long as either of the ISS Payload Modules, and consists of the standard heat shield hatch, mounted to a telescoping outer payload fairing. When retracted, the EPM is the same size and has the same TPS as the other Payload Modules, but extended for launch offers twice the payload volume for customers to use. The two ISS Payload modules are undergoing testing by RPK’s integration partner ATK at Michoud and will then require testing at NASA’s Plum Brook vacuum chamber at the Glenn Research Center to confirm their readiness to go to the station, but the simpler EPM has already been qualified to ship with LAP-1 to Woomera

    With the arrival of the first major launch vehicle component and orbital element of the K-1 rocket, RPK is now ready to begin actively commissioning the Woomera launch facilities, which largely completed construction this spring. The presence of LAP-1 will enable testing of fueling systems at the pad and will let RPK and ATK begin testing operations of the processing systems and turnaround for the reusable vehicle, while the presence of the EPM will allow them to conduct test runs of the loading and unloading of customer payloads and the checkout of the K-1 for orbital flight. The first second stage OV, OV-1, is understood by American Rocket New’s STAGE TWO to be completing integration ahead of rollout, and should ship to Woomera within a month to complete the first operational Kistler vehicle at the pad. Such milestones, along with the ongoing testing and integration of the RPK suborbital XP-1 spaceplane and its Polaris AR-36 engine, should continue to make 2009 a banner year for Rocketplane Kistler and for commercial spaceflight as a whole!
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    July-August 2009: Stage 2 Kistler Discussion, OV Shipment to Woomera and vehicle delays...
  • ARN Forums: STAGE TWO!: Commercial Vehicles: Rocketplane and Kistler Updates: Page ....(17)...
    Excalibur99 (07/30/2009) said:
    Less fanfare than the last shipment, but ATK just finished with the testing on OV-1 here. They're going to load it onto the Beluga as soon as it lands next Monday. ATK really wants to start production on LAP-2 and OV-2, but RPK is sending up hold flags.
    Downton (07/30/2009) said:
    Great to hear we'll see the first stack in Woomera soon! Look forward to seeing that all together. Any idea what the holdup is on starting production of the second vehicle set?
    Excalibur99 (08/05/2009) said:
    I'm not totally sure--ATK wants to go full-steam ahead but I think RPK is having (what else) money trouble.
    Excalibur99 (08/10/2009) said:
    Beluga came and went with OV-1 aboard. The Kistler portion of the facility is pretty dead right now--just a few of the long lead stuff left. Looks a lot like five or ten years ago now--anyone want to take bets on how long before their finances do too?
    GF3 (08/12/2009) said:
    We appreciate the concern from people following along with our progress, but everything's looking just fine. We're proud to have the full stack for our demonstration and first operational flight to the international Space Station on-site at Woomera as of this week, and we're tracking well to the updated schedule for our first wet dress rehersal of a full stack.

    ATK has been a great partner for getting LAP-1 and OV-1 put together, but we can't start LAP-2 and OV-2 integration just yet. First, we want to see if there's any design modifications after the first flights we'd like to incorporate into LAP-2 or OV-2 and OV-3. Second, we've moved a lot of the assembly technicians temporarily to Woomera to help troubleshoot any issues that develop during integration and preflight testing. Third is a strategic focus with RPK on balancing our investments in the orbital and suborbital sides of the house--we need to also see that the XP-1 makes its way towards flight on schedule to satisfy our long term plans. There's some pressure to begin construction on LAP-2 and OV-2 now that the bays and technical resources are available, but it's not time yet.
    ArnoldH (08/12/09) said:
    Thanks for the clarifications, George. Any word on when the time will be? There's a lot of long lead items, I'd imagine, if it's anything like the build out of the Shuttles.
    GF3 (08/17/2009) said:
    Not yet. We're focusing on first orbital mission and getting the XP-1 ready for test flights. Most of our investors are onboard with that plan.