Tuesday, April 27, 2010

I for one welcome our suborbital overloads

…. and have been since 2004 when the Ansari X-Prize was won and nothing happened. 5.5 years and counting. It’d be nice if this supposed “race” would heat up a little. It really does seem that everyone assumes Virgin Galactic / Scaled Composites is so far ahead that they can never be caught.. despite all the evidence to the contrary.

Did you happen to catch the Armadillo Aerospace yearly video:



This is last year’s video:



Did you think the same thing as me: “That’s it?”

Rocket Racing League. Methane/LOX engines for NASA. Lunar Lander Challenge. So the only new thing is the low altitude hops. (Speaking of which, break the DC-X altitude record of 3.14km already!) At Space Access, after the grumblings about being trumped on the LLC, Carmack made the pledge that this year they’ll be doing something new. Here’s hoping it involves *people*.

And while I’m being critical.. which, I know, I do too much.. What’s next for Masten? More hops? Can we count on you to beat Armadillo to that DC-X altitude record?

And yes, XCOR.. smart about their “don’t talk until you have something to report” policy, but unfortunately they still don’t have anything to report. Back at the start of the year Greason suggested that there would be something to report this year.. and so we wait.

I think it is fair to say that no suborbital tourism will be flying this year, or next year. We might see some interesting test flights, but that’s about it. Maybe 2012?

My point, (sorry, did I forget I had one? /rant) is that this stuff seems to be hard.. it seems to be a long bet.. so you can’t really crystal ball it. For all we know suborbital tourism will die out, perhaps with a bang, perhaps with a whimper. But we can hope, so long as you can stand Jeff Bell’s ridicule.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Let's Focus On The Gap

The gap is unfortunate, but its a product of the previous administration, not a choice of the current one. The retirement date for the shuttle? An overdue decision finally made in 2003. The continual redesign of Ares 1 and the Orion capsule? Thank you Mr Griffin. If the simple safe soon replacement vehicle for the shuttle had been funded back in 2003 when it was supposed to be, and not co-opted for Apollo On Foodstamps, then it would be flying by now.. on existing launch vehicles. Instead we got the Constellation train wreck.

So what has this administration decided to do? Close the gap by engaging *multiple* commercial providers. So if one vehicle fails, or retires, NASA can keep flying on another. There will never be a gap again. Basically what they should have done back in 2003 but without the cost plus pork.

In the mean time, NASA astronauts will continue flying to the ISS on the Soyuz.. as nearly every expedition crew member flies to the station now. The only change is that the shuttle won't be taking 6 to 7 people there 3 times a year to do assembly work.. because the station will be complete.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Sadly, SpaceX Schedule Slips Seem So Systematic

Once again, SpaceX's launch schedule has slipped, this time to no earlier than May 8, 2010.  The previous date was April 12, but it seems they were never going to hit that date.  Of course, this doesn't mean the date hasn't been widely circulated.  The upcoming "space summit", at which President Obama is reportedly going to rally the troops to get behind commercial crew, was planned for 3 days after the launch.  For those out there who would assign some intricate public relations oriented reasoning to SpaceX's latest schedule slip, I'd like to remind them that slippages are nothing new for SpaceX.  The simple fact is, SpaceX has no idea what they're doing when it comes to PR.  If they did, they would have *made it clear* that they were not going to take advantage of the April 12 launch date long before now.  They would issue press releases about what the public is interested in, not about contracts they've signed for missions that are contingent on the success of their current activities.  Mr Musk, you're spending millions to get the hardware right, you're lining the pockets of lobbyists, for god's sake, high a professional ad agency to take care of PR, before its too late.