Looks Like Spaceship One was successful!

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Chr$

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Just watched the landing on CNN. It appears that Burt Rutan's team did it.
 

cydermaster

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I was watching it courtesy of the BBC.

:D FANTASTIC!!!! :D

Congrats to all involved: History has been made.
 

Chr$

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They didn't actually say they hit 100km but they eluded to it. Just wanting to be sure, I guess. good enough for me.
 

Mike

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Finally got a weblink through the BBC, missed the landing but got to the world's first private astronaut emerge! Loved his M&Ms comment to the press!
 

Mike

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Awesome, I just saw a bit of footage from onboard SpaceShipOne, the view was amazing.
 

illini

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Man, I can't get the theme music from The Right Stuff out of my head now. Da da bum bum bum de daaaaa, bum bum da de da de daaaaaa.

Friend of mine from grad school called me over lunch (we're both non-practicing aero engineers). As we discussed the beauty of this event, we came across quotes in one of the news reports from a guy at NASA HQ who was talking about how NASA's interested. We were dying because we went to school with this guy (a known suck up). Dude, forget your interest and get back to the business of doing amazingly little with my tax dollars. Leave ol' Burt alone! He's doing fine without you!!!
 

rstaff3

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I am so happy about Bert & co.'s accomplishment that I'm beyond words. This is the start of a new era!

Now, here's some personal opinion, please don't flame me (too badly :)) My personal feeling is that NASA needs to get better and hopefully do some wonderful things. There is no way to shed the bureacracy, however, that's a fact of life. Despite all of SS1's accomplishment, they are decades away from approaching anything NASA can do. I believe however, that they need to be left alone to do what they do. If the government or big contracting sneaks in with 'help', the effort may soon be indistinguishable from a NASA program. The most NASA should do is throw a party, give some medals, make Mike Melvill an honorary astronut, or whatever. Comments?
 

DynaSoar

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Originally posted by rstaff3
I am so happy about Bert & co.'s accomplishment that I'm beyond words. This is the start of a new era!

Now, here's some personal opinion, please don't flame me (too badly :)) My personal feeling is that NASA needs to get better and hopefully do some wonderful things. There is no way to shed the bureacracy, however, that's a fact of life. Despite all of SS1's accomplishment, they are decades away from approaching anything NASA can do. I believe however, that they need to be left alone to do what they do. If the government or big contracting sneaks in with 'help', the effort may soon be indistinguishable from a NASA program. The most NASA should do is throw a party, give some medals, make Mike Melvill an honorary astronut, or whatever. Comments?
NASA doesn't pronounce people as astronauts. In the US, FAA does based on FAI rules. Mike gets his on Wednesday.

You've got it backwards. Rutan has already done what NASA could never have done -- run it like a business. NASA *could* do it, if it were allowed to (such as maintain licensing on its patents) and if the right kind of people -- engineers -- were put in charge. Engineers got us to the moon. Administrators got us "My God, Thiokol, what do you want me to do, wait until April to launch?", as well as the government subsidies for poor performance known as "expected cost over-runs".
 

rstaff3

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I don't think I have it at all backwards. I am well aware of NASA's problems having been a contractor for 20+ years. My main point was commenting on illini's statement that NASA is now 'interested'. I just hope their interest doesn't lead to invovlement that will spoil/taint the effort. I was wondering what people thought of the prospect of NASA getting involved with Rutan's effort.

I agree with your statements on NASA's problems. Keeping their patents is only one small factor. And what you need to manage projects is good managers. People don't like to hear that, but I've seen many great engineers screw up projects royally. That's not to say you want bureaucrats/politicians running the show. What you also need for NASA to run as a business in near-term (I won't try to define this) profitability, and unfortunately that is not there in the space business. Not many private companies have billions to invest for possible returns in 20+ years. For the near term NASA is all we've got for efforts like Mars and the Moon.

Rutan had run it like a bankrolled start-up company sure, but we we'll have to wait to see where it goes from here. To continue being run as a business, profits will have to be added to the equation.

My hopes are that these efforts expand beyond a business that just transports space tourists into near space. If they spent 25M on the effort thus far (I heard this somewhere, the real number could be a lot more) they should expect to spend much much more to get into low earth orbit. But I truely hope they press on. AND that a couple more of the X-prize teams continue their efforts!

PS thanks for the clarification on who gives astronaut status - I think I had heard this but forgot as I was typing the original message. They (NASA) can still spend my tax dollars to recognize him in some way.
 

illini

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Originally posted by rstaff3
Now, here's some personal opinion, please don't flame me (too badly :)) My personal feeling is that NASA needs to get better and hopefully do some wonderful things. There is no way to shed the bureacracy, however, that's a fact of life. Despite all of SS1's accomplishment, they are decades away from approaching anything NASA can do. I believe however, that they need to be left alone to do what they do. If the government or big contracting sneaks in with 'help', the effort may soon be indistinguishable from a NASA program. The most NASA should do is throw a party, give some medals, make Mike Melvill an honorary astronut, or whatever. Comments?
Flame you??? Man, I *agree* with you. The future of space is clearly with people like Burt Rutan. No, they aren't where the multi-billion dollar bureaucracy is yet, but not bad for $20 million and change. NASA needs to leave Burt alone to do his thing. Keep the gov't money away. Let him build an industry with private investment. NASA should be concerned with pushing the frontier and doing the things that industry *can't* do. Whether they're capable of that is another question.
 

illini

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Originally posted by DynaSoar
NASA *could* do it, if it were allowed to (such as maintain licensing on its patents) and if the right kind of people -- engineers -- were put in charge. Engineers got us to the moon. Administrators got us "My God, Thiokol, what do you want me to do, wait until April to launch?", as well as the government subsidies for poor performance known as "expected cost over-runs".
As an engineer, and as one who has worked in the propulsion industry (not going to specify where, but have much familiarity with a company you name above), engineers often make lousy managers. This isn't always the case. My friend who called me today (see post above) is a fantastic manager...in government no less! If he was in NASA I'd actually have hope. But alas, he is the exception. It takes both excellent management and excellent engineering to do what NASA wants and needs to do. I question how much of either they have. I know at least at the company I worked at, they tended to promote engineers to management positions based on seniority. Bad, BAD, BAD idea!
 

wwattles

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Having been on the payroll of the world's largest bureaucracy for the last 11 years, I can tell you that if the US government were to start operating like a business, one of two things would happen:

1) They would go out of business

or

2) They would suddenly become a lot more effective, a lot more fiscally responsible, and a lot more productive!

While NASA has accomplished many good things, such as the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, and Shuttle programs, there have been quite a few other good ideas that failed simply because they weren't managed properly.

Scaled Composites has hopefully reminded the world that it doesn't take vast infrastructure to reach lofty heights.

WW
 

shrox

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Only the local news here in Eureka led with a story about Spaceship One. CNN didn't even mention it in their top of the hour headlines!

shrox
 

Leo

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Congrats to all involved :)

Anyone have links on the web to some flight footage that I could look at?
 

illini

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Originally posted by Leo
Anyone have links on the web to some flight footage that I could look at?
Leo,

On the MSNBC website I think they have some links to takeoff and landing video.
 

Leo

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Thanks Mike!

and the site also has a nice background description :)
 

Chilly

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Originally posted by shrox
Only the local news here in Eureka led with a story about Spaceship One. CNN didn't even mention it in their top of the hour headlines!
All of CNN's coverage was during and immediately after the flight. They probably devoted a good hour to it, altogether.

We always seem to get some good discussions going when talking about alt.space vs. NASA. Has anyone read the Aldridge commission report yet? I've only seen summaries, no time to read the whole thing. But it sounds like they recognize the private sector will probably be able to provide regular, cheap LEO access within the next decade and that NASA needs to be completely reorganized. Kind of along the lines I've hoped for: let us private-sector types get you to orbit, and let the gov't pave the way beyond.
 

illini

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I've not read the Aldridge report yet either. Just seen the highlights and headlines on NASA Watch. But, seems at least part of it deals with this issue of reorganizing NASA and the way it does business with industry. A key issue is that quite often government appears to be competing with industry. This happens in NASA. It happens in DoD. It happens everywhere you find a government lab. And, in my view, it is WRONG. The government labs (including NASA) should be breaking the new ground, reducing the risk for industry to mature the technology. This implies a partnership with industry that just plain doesn't exist today. In government R&D circles you'll hear people talking about 6.1, 6.2, 6.3 research and beyond. In principle, 6.1 is basic research, 6.2 is applied research, 6.3 is early prototype, 6.4 and beyond get into development. Government labs should be doing 6.1 and 6.2 research, partnering with industry as much as possible, then let industry take it from 6.3/6.4 on out. I worked in a government lab for 5 years. What I saw was a lot of 6.3, 6.4 work that was being labeled 6.1/6.2, and this work was directly in conflict with work being done (usually better) in industry. It was so pervasive that whenever anyone proposed a *true* program of 6.2 research it didn't have a chance of being funded, mostly because it looked out of place compared with other programs competing for the same dollars. i.e., nobody in government (and mine was a supposedly prestigious lab) recognizes what 6.1/6.2 research looks like anymore. So, why doesn't government get back to the business of doing 6.1/6.2 research (instead of just relabeling 6.3/6.4 as 6.2)? A big part of the issue is that 6.1/6.2 research is hard work requiring skilled researchers. Those people are rarely found in government labs for a lot of reasons (not the least of which is the inability to get *true* research programs funded). My former employer (once a prestigious lab) now looks like a mediocre version of Lockheed or Boeing, doing the same things they do, but with much less effectiveness. Before long, the civil servants recognize their inability to compete with the big primes, so they learn the jargon of civil servant as a defense mechanism, lacing their speech with epithets like "slimy contractor," etc. No question that NASA *should* be breaking the new ground that industry can't do. The real question is, *can* NASA reform itself into an organization that is capable of breaking new ground? We all hope they can, but my guess is that Newton's first law holds in this situation.
 

illini

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What is discussed in this article is, I think, a reasonable way for NASA to encourage private development without stifling innovation. When I read Lembeck's words yesterday about NASA being "interested" in Spaceship One I was afraid NASA would pollute the enterprise by seeking a contract with Rutan (which would come along with a pile of requirements that would quickly transform this into a NASA boondoggle). In this new article, Lembeck clarifies that NASA might be interested in offering incentives similar to the X-Prize in order to encourage expansion of private capabilities. I like this idea.
 

rstaff3

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Earlier I was thinking about posting a rant about why I don't think a purely commercial LEO service won't happen in 10 years.
One of my thoughts was to do an x-prize type thing, with a much larger carrot than what's in the article. That is, a prize that would realistically pay for the development with some hope of of a profit. A 'couple of hundred million' might actually be getting close to the right ball park. I wonder if Lockmart would finish theirs for that payback?

This article gives me hope that maybe I'm wrong. Wouldn't it be sweet if Scaled smoked a company like Lockmart!
 

illini

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Originally posted by rstaff3
Wouldn't it be sweet if Scaled smoked a company like Lockmart!
It would indeed! And I hope they do. Its not that I have anything against LockMart (although I wouldn't want to work for them). Its just that the big primes are so entrenched in the current business of government contracting (and the associated requirements) that innovation is difficult for such an organization. I'd *love* to see Scaled and the other X-Prize contenders continue to innovate. The key is to provide the incentive without the intrusion of big bureaucracy. Lembeck seems to get that (not bad for an Illini).
 

OccamMD

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I fully agree w/these prize issues. If NASA put out a $200 M prize for LEO tourism. It would most likely happen.

Like DARPA and the grand challenge, I almost entered that last year but you are talking about taking a pretty big financial risk of giving up a few year's worth of salary to develop something like this. Mostly the universities can do it on cheap labor w/the profs continuing to get paid. It's reportedly up to $2M next year.

These types of incentive programs bring out the best in America and inventors. There is no doubt that igniting garage shop inventiveness to tackle some bigger problems is the way to go. The passion is infective.
 

rstaff3

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Originally posted by illini868891
It would indeed! And I hope they do. Its not that I have anything against LockMart (although I wouldn't want to work for them). Its just that the big primes are so entrenched in the current business of government contracting (and the associated requirements) that innovation is difficult for such an organization. I'd *love* to see Scaled and the other X-Prize contenders continue to innovate. The key is to provide the incentive without the intrusion of big bureaucracy. Lembeck seems to get that (not bad for an Illini).
I worked for LockMart for a while after they gobbled up my part of Loral (who had gobbled Ford Aero). Of the three they seemed to value their employees the least, but I still I want them to prosper as I still have a small portion of my 401K in their stock. Of course I worked in a sector that wasn't a pimple on their bottom line, maybe they treat other sectors better. But I digress. One of my worries is that NASA would go into requirements generation mode and kill many trees just to write the requirements for the resulting capability. Requirements that Lockmart is better suited to addressing than Scaled.
 

Chilly

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A really good all-round source of information is The Space Review website. Jeff Foust's writeup of yesterday's flight and it's long-term implications is pretty evenhanded.
Short version is, Rutan & Allen have A LOT up their sleeves. They flat out said they're a lot closer to achieving orbit than anyone realizes...apparently there are other craft already in the works that haven't been made public yet.
One thing Rutan is working on is called RASCAL, which was featured in Aviation Week (& classified technology) a few months ago. It's a DARPA project for a near-suborbital aircraft that can launch microsats into orbit. It uses existing F-15 engines and mass-injection pre-compressor cooling to zoom-climb to about 200,000', then releases an expendable upper stage with the satellite. The launcher's flown by two pilots and they're actually cutting metal.
 

OccamMD

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I had always wished the "Kelly" of our times would be found, maybe this is him. The guy seems to be genius in his designs and I love his simplicity (hence my screen name)
 

illini

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Originally posted by rstaff3
One of my worries is that NASA would go into requirements generation mode and kill many trees just to write the requirements for the resulting capability. Requirements that Lockmart is better suited to addressing than Scaled.
Count on it! That's why I like the prize/incentive idea. Keeps the gov't requirements out of it, but still recognizes significant achievements.
 

illini

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Originally posted by Chilly
Short version is, Rutan & Allen have A LOT up their sleeves. They flat out said they're a lot closer to achieving orbit than anyone realizes...apparently there are other craft already in the works that haven't been made public yet.
Somehow, that doesn't surprise me. Their motor technology is directly descended from AMROC, who was doing some pretty sophisticated hybrid work in the early '90s. I don't doubt Rutan could scale up to orbital flight relatively easily, but the huge speed differential from where he's been to where orbit lives (~17,000 mph) means he now has to get into the nasty business of heat shields. Not something he can't solve, but there is a technology gap to be addressed.
 
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