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Private space plane unveiled

Discussion in 'Channel Zero' started by Smart, Apr 19, 2003.

  1. Smart

    Smart Dirty Dozen Crew

    Joined: Apr 14, 2000 Messages: 17,017 Likes Received: 178
    Spaceplane story...

    Private manned space plane unveiled

    Fully-built spacecraft, launch system developed in secrecy
    White Knight and SpaceShipOne sit on the Mojave tarmac Friday. In front, from left, are the project's pilots: Doug Shane, Mike Melvill, Peter Siebold and Brian Binnie.

    By Jon Bonné

    MOJAVE, Calif., April 18 — Aircraft designer Burt Rutan unveiled Friday a fully-built launch system that, if flights outside the atmosphere prove successful, would be the first private manned space program. Both the spacecraft, called SpaceShipOne, and its launch platform, a futuristic jet known as the White Knight, were developed and built in secret and have already begun tests at lower altitudes.

    SOME OF THE BIGGEST names in space, including astronaut Buzz Aldrin, space tourist Dennis Tito and military officials, were on hand for Friday’s demonstration at the Mojave Airport, about 100 miles north of Los Angeles.

    In its first public flight, the White Knight lifted steeply off the windswept tarmac, framed in the distance by dozens of mothballed commercial airliners. The jet easily handled steep climbs and turns in the blue desert sky before soaring up to about 9,000 feet and slowly spiraling down to a soft, extremely short landing more befitting a glider than what Rutan described as “our own B-52,” a reference to the bomber used to carry NASA’s X-15 demonstration vehicle to its launch altitude.

    SpaceShipOne, the actual spacecraft, was not flown Friday, but its systems were demonstrated. While the release mechanism between the spacecraft and the White Knight has been tested on the ground, only the White Knight has been flight tested, beginning in August 2002.

    However, one key element of Rutan’s plan was to build a launch plane that had the same aerodynamics and electronics as the spacecraft. His team of four test pilots cross-train on both and said flying the two crafts was very similar. More importantly, both the spacecraft and the launch plane have similar glide configurations, and Rutan’s team said the White Knight’s leisurely spiral of a landing maneuver was the exact same way SpaceShipOne would land.


    Friday’s demonstration could be of profound significance to the goal of manned space flight, and for two reasons: It is a completely built system with all components in place to begin testing for space flights; and it was built entirely out from private funds.

    Initial development tests on the program began in 1999 and when Rutan decided he could move ahead, he got funding and began full development, in secret, in April 2001. His goal, he said, was to put together a space program that focused on building the actual vehicles rather than concepts.

    “There is nothing you will see today that is a mockup,” he told a crowd gathered in the hanger of his company, Scaled Composites. “I didn’t want to start the program until we knew that could happen.”

    Rutan said his interest was in pushing forward the largely stagnant effort to build new manned platforms, and to give a kick in the pants to the space industry.

    “I don’t care about the benefit,” Rutan said. “If I’m able to do it with this little company here … there’ll be a lot of other people who will say, ‘Yeah, I can do it too.’”

    He did not immediately discuss the cost of the program or the source of the funding.


    SpaceShipOne is launched in a process similar to the one used by NASA and Air Force test vehicles in the 1940s and 1950s: The spacecraft is carried by White Knight up to 50,000 feet and then it launches like an aircraft into a steep climb. It has manual stick-and-rudder controls for subsonic flight, as well as electric controls for supersonic flight and cold-gas thrusters for space flight. The thrusters are operational and were demonstrated Friday.

    On reentry, the rear portion of the spacecraft — including its twin tails and massive flaps on the trailing edge of its wing — are meant to create enormous drag and slow it down to the point that it can glide easily back to the ground in what Rutan called a “carefree reentry.” Tests have shown it has a wide margin for its reentry angle and enormous stability — with a maximum speed of 3.5 mach and an eventual descent speed of 155 knots, far easier to maneuver than the precise angling and cannonball speeds that NASA’s space shuttle requires.

    “We go straight into the atmosphere and the pilot can re-entry without touching the controls,” Rutan said.

    SpaceShipOne’s “flight profile” (what an aircraft is expected to do and how) is to reach a 54 nautical-mile maximum altitude, over a flight path (from launch off the White Knight to a ground landing) of just 35 miles. For comparison, NASA considers anyone who flies over 50 miles high an astronaut.

    The first flight tests of SpaceShipOne, expected to begin in the next month or two, will release the spacecraft over the high desert east of Mojave and allow it to float back onto the runway in front of Rutan’s offices.


    Rutan is no stranger to next-generation aerodynamics. He helped design Voyager, a super-efficient aircraft that his brother, Dick, piloted around the world in 1986, setting a record for the first unrefueled circumnavigation of the globe. Over 70 percent of Voyager’s weight was in its fuel tanks.

    Burt Rutan talks with former astronaut Buzz Aldrin, right, as Max Faget, who designed most of NASA's early rockets, looks on at the Mojave Airport on Friday.

    Rutan also designed the Beech Model 2000 Starship, a futuristic-looking eight-passenger business turboprop, that utilized rear propellers and a constantly shifting forward stabilizer. Rather than a tail, it used fins on the end of each wing to control direction.

    More recently, his company built Proteus, a high-altitude jet designed for both manned and unmanned flight. The look of Proteus was similar to many of Rutan’s designs: two tails and a second set of wing surfaces placed near the cockpit. First flown in 1998, the multiple wing structures allowed the plane to remain aloft and stable at altitudes above 60,000 feet. It also featured a modular design that allowed it to easily be reconfigured for a whole range of missions, including astmospheric research, reconnaissance and launching payloads from a high altitude.

    In the space community, Scaled may be best known for its work on the DC-X, a demonstration project for NASA meant to show the potential for a single-stage reusable rocket engine. Though the DC-X program was canceled after several successful flight tests, it was widely considered to have the potential to prove the single-stage technology. They also helped build NASA’s X-38 crew return vehicle, which was constructed to prove technology for an evacuation reentry vehicle for the international space station.


    But those efforts were all eventually cancelled, which apparently magnified Rutan’s frustration with the progress of space flight. He pointed out that between the time the Wright Brothers developed their workhorse 1908 Flyer and 1912, the aviation community grew from 10 pilots to over 1,000 — driven by entrepreneurs and the goal of building the industry. By comparison, he said, the race — if that word can still be used — for manned space flight has all but stalled.

    “Space has had more than three years, it’s had 42,” Rutan said. “We seem to be making acronyms for engineer welfare instead of having the courage to fly something.”

    One possible key to SpaceShipOne’s success is its eligibility for the X Prize, a $10 million bounty for any private firm that can build a reusable manned space vehicle, fly it to the suborbital altitude of 62 miles and then repeat the mission within two weeks. Considered a key litmus test for the viability of manned commercial space flight, the X Prize remains unclaimed after nearly a decade. X Prize founder Dr. Peter Diamandis was at the unveiling Friday and got hearty praise from Rutan for pushing to keep the momentum for a private space industry.

    But most X Prize hopefuls, and there have been several over the years, have abandoned their plans for lack of funding. Ventures such as the Roton faded away for lack of investment.


    For now, the main purpose of Rutan’s program appears to be proving he can really send his pilots into space. There are no plans for passenger flights or government certification. The craft can fit three, though it’s possible only one will go at a time.

    But military officials watched the presentation with great interest, and indicated that Rutan’s new launch system could be adapted to other uses as well, such as launching tiny “microsatellites” and giving military space programs far more flexibility.

    “It has enormous potential,” said U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Simon “Pete” Worden, who seeks out new initiatives for U.S. Space Command. “Space has always been a rich man’s business. Now it would be more like airplanes.”
  2. loudhardfast

    loudhardfast Member

    Joined: May 15, 2002 Messages: 737 Likes Received: 0
    but does it have cup holders?
  3. Smart

    Smart Dirty Dozen Crew

    Joined: Apr 14, 2000 Messages: 17,017 Likes Received: 178
    well, apart from 'Faget"... I think 'Spaceshiponer' is kinda weak... it's like a freakin 12oz screen name...
  4. effyoo

    effyoo Elite Member

    Joined: Sep 2, 2002 Messages: 4,703 Likes Received: 0
    That would be great if in my lifetime I could pay someone a few thousand bucks to go to space
    and see what only 20 or 30 people have seen in the entire course of human history:
  5. Smart

    Smart Dirty Dozen Crew

    Joined: Apr 14, 2000 Messages: 17,017 Likes Received: 178
    I'm gonna own like 10 of these things!

    It's a 3 seater that 1 person can drive... so, first I'll promote space weddings, and then I'll start my internet site 'Bangbus: Outerspace'

    I'll drive around with my film crew and pick up chicks that will get freaky for a space ride, then sex it up in zero g!
  6. suburbian bum

    suburbian bum 12oz Loyalist

    Joined: Jan 30, 2001 Messages: 14,673 Likes Received: 3
    They never landed on the moon.
    But they have been in space.
  7. effyoo

    effyoo Elite Member

    Joined: Sep 2, 2002 Messages: 4,703 Likes Received: 0
    This is why I'm not a millionaire. I just can't think "outside the atmosphere"
  8. Kes_One_HTFD

    Kes_One_HTFD Member

    Joined: Oct 18, 2002 Messages: 659 Likes Received: 0
    i would go into space and find the twelve breasted alien with 20 vaginas that looks like tera patrick. That would be some seriously ill shit, cause in space.....no one can hear you scream!!!!!!!!!!!:D
  9. Intangible

    Intangible 12oz Legend

    Joined: Jul 9, 2001 Messages: 17,479 Likes Received: 7
  10. When

    When 12oz Loyalist

    Joined: May 4, 2000 Messages: 10,294 Likes Received: 3
    hey if its good enough for max faget its good enough for me.

    now if i could only afford an airplane
  11. Smart

    Smart Dirty Dozen Crew

    Joined: Apr 14, 2000 Messages: 17,017 Likes Received: 178
    wh... eh... Didn't you read the article?!? Airplanes are for the POOR! Pretty soon, bums will be landing in your front yard and asking if you have any 'spare' change... If you want an airplane so bad, you can just steal one of theirs...
  12. Smart

    Smart Dirty Dozen Crew

    Joined: Apr 14, 2000 Messages: 17,017 Likes Received: 178
    HEY! I know Max Faget, and you're NO Max Faget!

    you're more of a medium faggot I guess...
  13. When

    When 12oz Loyalist

    Joined: May 4, 2000 Messages: 10,294 Likes Received: 3
    but the point is i want one now
    that way when spaceships are the in thing
    i can trade in my airplane to the airplane dealership to buy a spaceship
    and talk about the good old days of flying my airplane around
    instead of the new fangled space travel the young punks are all about

    then ill steal a bums airplane
  14. Smart

    Smart Dirty Dozen Crew

    Joined: Apr 14, 2000 Messages: 17,017 Likes Received: 178
    SpaceshipOner, don't sleep!
  15. ctrl+alt+del

    ctrl+alt+del Guest


    thats an ill design