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Spaceport America Begins Construction

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 5 years ago | from the scum-and-villainy-to-be-added-later dept.

Space 95

eldavojohn writes "While a lot of people are wondering if commercial spaceflight will ever make it, Spaceport America is holding its groundbreaking ceremony today. You can watch it live at their site at 11am MST. The spaceport is aiming for a diverse clientele, including the delivery of small national security purpose satellites into Earth orbit as well as research and development for scientific purposes. After getting their FAA license and securing funding, the 27 square mile development project has officially begun. The target date for completion is the end of 2010 — let's all hope for success in the milestone goal!"

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95 comments

Will it be open to the public? (2, Interesting)

vertinox (846076) | more than 5 years ago | (#28394263)

Personally, I have only seen one satellite launch as a kid when visiting Florida and I wouldn't mind coming by to gawk at any launches they may have. ;)

Re:Will it be open to the public? (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 5 years ago | (#28394303)

Well I've never seen a rocket launch in person, but I'd imagine that even if they won't let you inside you could still park on public property near enough to get a decent view.

But hey publicity is a good thing so I would bet they have an official visitor's viewing area.

Re:Will it be open to the public? (1)

conspirator57 (1123519) | more than 5 years ago | (#28394491)

and hey, if the rocket thing falls through, they can still build roller coasters and turn it into a space themed tourist draw!

Re:Will it be open to the public? (2, Informative)

Dr. Zim (21278) | more than 5 years ago | (#28398393)

Considering that I can see the shuttle launch and I live in Tampa (~100 miles from KSC) and they only have 27 square miles, which if the pad were in the center would put you 5.something miles from the pad, you'll probably get a pretty good show.

Re:Will it be open to the public? (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 5 years ago | (#28398523)

I've never seen a shuttle launch (Busch Gardens is nice though :), but I once drove past the "Future Location of Spaceport America!". The highway in NM was raised up above the large flat valley with mountains on the other side. Anywhere in that valley they put the pads, you could park on the side of the highway and watch easily.

On the topic of shuttle launches, a friend of mine is going to Florida specifically to see a shuttle launch (since there won't be many more). This got me thinking about something I heard about the shuttle a long time ago. I checked the wiki page, and all I could see was that it said the calculated minimum safe distance for NASA personnel was 3 mi. What I had heard was that the pressure wave, i.e. the noise, of the launch was so intense it killed animals within a mile of the shuttle. I've can't find anything that verifies that specifically, so I kinda think it's a mound of turtle crap, but it's almost plausible too...

Presumably difficult to defend a limit to access (3, Informative)

rwade (131726) | more than 5 years ago | (#28394425)

The State of New Mexico did provide public funding (not just financing, but funding) to the Spaceport, so I would presume that it would be a pretty big deal to wall it off. Then again, it is not unprecedented for projects to be funded with public funds with no or limited free or cheap access to the public:

-- convention centers
-- ports
-- federal buildings
-- city hall

I'm not saying it's wrong to not provide access, but such limitations may be difficult to defend.

Re:Presumably difficult to defend a limit to acces (4, Insightful)

SydShamino (547793) | more than 5 years ago | (#28395341)

They aren't that stupid. Most officials recognize that people like to view major equipment like this.

The restriction of non-travelers in airports has made it difficult to spend time watching airplanes land and take off. Rather than ignore this, airports (like DFW) have been adding viewing decks available to those outside security. You may have to watch through glass or through a screen fence, but you'll be able to sit and enjoy your pasttime.

If they do it for airplanes, they'll do it for rockets and spaceships.

Re:Presumably difficult to defend a limit to acces (1)

need4mospd (1146215) | more than 5 years ago | (#28396805)

All of those items are "necessary" for the country to function, with the exception of the convention center, though that is more accessible than the others. Most people don't expect to gain all access to a courthouse or federal building.

A Spaceport is really pushing that line of "necessary" spending by the government, though I can see the argument for it. It's better to make something like that a little more accessible so the taxpayers don't whine as much.

Re:Will it be open to the public? (2, Interesting)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 5 years ago | (#28394887)

I saw every one of the shuttle launches until Challenger blew up. I'd moved back to Illinois by then.

I loved watching those things take off, especially if I could drive to the cape and see it close up. Man, but those things are LOUD. I thought I was going to miss one as I was visiting my mom in Tampa, but it was a night liftoff and it was still visible.

Seeing rocket launches is one of the things I miss about Florida. If anyone reading this gets a chance to see one, do so! Damned impressive.

Re:Will it be open to the public? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28395625)

I saw every one of the shuttle launches until Challenger blew up. I'd moved back to Illinois by then.

You better be watching when I go up... in fact, I'll hire you just to sit there and watch my shuttle.

</superstitious>

Re:Will it be open to the public? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28395819)

You have to remember that these launches are not your typical "rocket launches". The actual spaceship is carried under a plane, so you will be essentially seeing the same thing as going to the airport...

spaceport mmmmmeh (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28395887)

I'm opening the first transdimensionalpanuniversalparallelworlds ... port.

Now you don't have to muck about with all the tedious travel preparations when visiting "New-Earth 4.59" - you can just sit back and let us do the hard work for you. BTW - can I petition the govt for some of that shovel-ready money for this project? I'm going to need to borrow California's National Ignition Facility too. And a roll of duct tape.

Maybe the situation is looking brighter (4, Interesting)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 5 years ago | (#28394321)

Back in the 1990s, one of the most realistic-seeming depictions of the rise of private spacefaring was Michael Fynn's future history beginning with Firestar [amazon.com] . Flynn made it seem as if the biggest obstacle towards getting into space was not gravity and fuel costs as much as government hassles. If Spaceport America has successfully dealt with the FAA, then I would like to think that things are looking up from here (though Flynn suggested companies like FedEx would massively support the endeavour, which seems unlikely now in the age of the internet).

Re:Maybe the situation is looking brighter (2, Insightful)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 5 years ago | (#28394385)

In the age of the commercial internet, we need shipping companies such as FedEx more than ever.

Re:Maybe the situation is looking brighter (1)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 5 years ago | (#28394555)

While shipping companies are important, there's no real need for them to expand into space. Who is willing to pay the enormous costs of getting a package delivered anywhere on Earth in a few hours by going into orbit, when they could just wait a bit longer and get it for remarkably cheap?

Re:Maybe the situation is looking brighter (4, Insightful)

Tangent128 (1112197) | more than 5 years ago | (#28394927)

They used the same reasoning to explain why nobody would ever pay for airplane-facilitated overnight delivery. People are impatient.

Re:Maybe the situation is looking brighter (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28395235)

Well, not all of us are living on the Earth, you inconsiderate clod!

Finally packages from Amazon...

Re:Maybe the situation is looking brighter (4, Insightful)

camperdave (969942) | more than 5 years ago | (#28395343)

Who is willing to pay the enormous costs of getting a package delivered anywhere on Earth in a few hours by going into orbit, when they could just wait a bit longer and get it for remarkably cheap?

There's a compatible donor heart for your daughter, but it's on the other side of the planet. We need to start surgery in four hours, or she'll die. We could have the heart here in two hours by rocket, or we could save you a bundle by using our overnight air service.

Re:Maybe the situation is looking brighter (3, Insightful)

Hogwash McFly (678207) | more than 5 years ago | (#28395585)

You forgot the rest:

Doctor: "But oh, wait, I forgot, this is the future where we deliver stuff by space rockets. What does your daughter prefer, sir, this ultra-reliable robotic heart, or the genetically-compatible one growing in the vat next door?"

Re:Maybe the situation is looking brighter (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28395965)

Or perhaps she could want to go all the way, and leave the ungainly flesh figure that hides our real essence?

CATCHPA: puppets

Re:Maybe the situation is looking brighter (2)

Dr. Zim (21278) | more than 5 years ago | (#28398443)

I used to think it would be cool to get in to the 'net and live as a construct. Then I wondered who'd be maintaining the equipment... would I be stored in some seedy offshore data haven? Would some PHB decide to save some money by cutting back on the air conditioning AND the off-site backups? Would some pimply faced ITT grad delete me to make room for his pr0n?

Re:Maybe the situation is looking brighter (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 5 years ago | (#28399071)

Cool. Now let's see what happens when I set $ZIMS_SEX to "tertiary concubine eggbearer" and $ZIMS_SPECIES to "amoeba".

Re:Maybe the situation is looking brighter (1)

Dr. Zim (21278) | more than 5 years ago | (#28415229)

Parse error: $ZIMS_SEX on Line 1
This feature has been depricated.

Re:Maybe the situation is looking brighter (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 5 years ago | (#28398581)

Good lord! What kind of future-doctor forgets they live in the future?! That doctor should be investigated; they might be on the sauce.

Oh, and ultra-reliable is not good enough. I have platinum card club member insurance -- get my daughter the Ludicrous-Reliable robot heart!

And laser eyes. I know insurance doesn't cover it, I've got the cash. Better for both of us if Uncle Sam doesn't know, capiche?

Re:Maybe the situation is looking brighter (1)

dwywit (1109409) | more than 5 years ago | (#28399421)

It'd be interesting to see just what affect a multi-G launch and flaming re-entry would do to that donor heart :-)

Re:Maybe the situation is looking brighter (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 5 years ago | (#28402545)

If you immerse the heart in water (or a saline solution), then the buoyant effects should counter the g forces. Also, a sub-orbital re-entry is a lot less strenuous than a re-entry from orbit. You don't have to shed nearly as much momentum because you're not getting anywhere near orbital speeds.

Re:Maybe the situation is looking brighter (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 5 years ago | (#28401767)

So organ harvesting and trafficking will flourish?

Re:Maybe the situation is looking brighter (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28410161)

So what? They can't use space rockets as publicity platforms now?

Just because you put a FedEx logo on the space shuttle doesn't mean they deliver. It's publicity targeted at people watching the space launch.

Re:Maybe the situation is looking brighter (3)

qortra (591818) | more than 5 years ago | (#28394575)

Flynn made it seem as if the biggest obstacle towards getting into space was not gravity and fuel costs as much as government hassles.

That was probably an excellent prediction, and with a publication date of 1997, he didn't even access to the largest hassle precipitating event of all time - 9.11. Think of all the hassle that you have to go through for sub-orbital vessels these days, and multiply that by 10. I bet that spacecraft will be seen by many politicians as profoundly dangerous.

Re:Maybe the situation is looking brighter (1)

seramar (655396) | more than 5 years ago | (#28402719)

I bet that spacecraft will be seen by many politicians as profoundly dangerous.

And therefore, profitable.

Re:Maybe the situation is looking brighter (2, Interesting)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 5 years ago | (#28394913)

Flynn made it seem as if the biggest obstacle towards getting into space was not gravity and fuel costs as much as government hassles.

While there is surely some insight to the idea, ultimately governments can and do change (for a wide variety of meanings of the word) over the course of only a few years, while the minimum energy required to reach orbit is unlikely to change on any practical time scale. So sure, when you aren't even allowed to get off the ground the government seems like the biggest obstacle, but when that obstacle is cleared the problem of getting out of our gravity well is right there where it always was and it's not going away.

As far as FedEx goes, I think 'space planes' like Spaceship One are what they would be after more than something that can actually reach orbit. No reason to spend the fuel to get up that high when you can already do same-day shipping to anywhere on earth, probably with a bigger payload too. *shrug*

Re:Maybe the situation is looking brighter (1)

icebrain (944107) | more than 5 years ago | (#28397857)

Getting enough energy to achieve orbit is merely a matter of money and engineering. You know it's solvable, it just takes work.

Government red tape is another matter, because governments (particularly bureaucracies like the FAA and elected officials) tend to act in irrational ways. Convincing them to allow $activity can be quite hard, if not impossible.

I'd argue that, even bigger than government, humanity's shortsightedness is probably an obstacle. Nobody wants to invest in space, because they aren't going to get a quick return. They might not see a return for 15 or 20 years. Why invest in that when the latest internet startup or "green" company is offering returns in the near term?

Re:Maybe the situation is looking brighter (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 5 years ago | (#28398387)

"Matter of the money" is exactly the problem. Sure we know how to get to orbit. Done it plenty of times. It's getting there economically that's the problem, and one that isn't going to go away because even as the FAA changes and starts licensing various privately funded space companies, the PE + KE needed to orbit the earth aren't going to change barring big chunks of the earth going missing.

Red Tape may seem like the "impossible" obstacle, but once you've cut it, once the system has changed, then the obstacle is gone. The "regulations" of orbital mechanics aren't going to change, and they say getting to space is expensive no matter what the government says.

Re:Maybe the situation is looking brighter (1)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 5 years ago | (#28398659)

It's getting there economically that's the problem, and one that isn't going to go away because even as the FAA changes and starts licensing various privately funded space companies, the PE + KE needed to orbit the earth aren't going to change barring big chunks of the earth going missing.

As I've mentioned in another comment, that PE+KE cost is just about 1% of the total cost of getting to orbit on a contemporary rocket.

Re:Maybe the situation is looking brighter (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 5 years ago | (#28398817)

I'm not talking about just the energy itself I'm also talking about the mechanism by which to impart that energy to the spacecraft. Rockets are not cheap ways to lift humans or large amounts of cargo. Going into space is a tough and still expensive problem even with no interference from the government.

Re:Maybe the situation is looking brighter (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 5 years ago | (#28398805)

Red Tape may seem like the "impossible" obstacle, but once you've cut it, once the system has changed, then the obstacle is gone. The "regulations" of orbital mechanics aren't going to change, and they say getting to space is expensive no matter what the government says.

Nobody has figured out how to "cut" the bureaucracy or regulations. Most of the real regulatory problems like ITAR, treating perchlorate as an explosive that requires ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms) monitoring, and the inability to own property in space still exist.

The "regulations" of orbital mechanics just aren't that strict. If cost to low Earth orbit (LEO) was solely a function of the chemical fuel and oxidizer required to get into space it'd be around $100 per kg of payload. If cost to LEO was solely a function of the energy required to get into space it'd be around $10 per kg.

The real problem is the giant chicken and egg problem of space development. Nobody can deny that currently space activity is expensive because it takes anywhere from $5k to $20k per kg to do anything in space. Everything is expensive because of the space launch ante (as a rule of thumb, virtually everything has launch costs around 10-20% of the total cost of the mission, the exceptions are either test payloads for high risk early flights and very expensive military and telecommunications satellites that are far more expensive than normal satellites or space probes). But no current space vehicle takes proper advantage of the single most promising economy of scale, the frequency of launching vehicles into space. The simplest solution to that problem is to increase demand to the point that high launch frequency vehicles can be sustained. But to do that, we need to find enough demand to fill the new launch capability and there lies the other side of the problem. At current costs, there's not enough useful and valuable things to do in space to increase demand significantly.

There are regulatory and physical obstacles that get in the way. While I don't think cleaning up regulation would be sufficient to drive up demand to far greater levels, it would speed up the process and lower the threshold needed for a viable launch system.

Re:Maybe the situation is looking brighter (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 5 years ago | (#28401749)

Nobody has figured out how to "cut" the bureaucracy or regulations.

If you don't count Scaled Composites and SpaceX and similar ventures in other countries.

Governments change. The laws of physics don't (probably).

The "regulations" of orbital mechanics just aren't that strict. If cost to low Earth orbit (LEO) was solely a function of the chemical fuel and oxidizer required to get into space it'd be around $100 per kg of payload. If cost to LEO was solely a function of the energy required to get into space it'd be around $10 per kg.

But obviously it isn't, because that fuel and oxidizer is going to spontaneously change itself into kinetic energy directed towards orbit. Access to space wouldn't be anywhere near that cheap with zero government regulations, because it's the laws of physics that make rocket science rocket science.

Spaceship One cut through the red tape. It's nowhere near orbit. Go tell the people actually doing it that the LEO is easy and cheap if only the government weren't there. The only ones who'll agree and could actually save money are the ones eager to make unsafe and unreliable rockets.

Re:Maybe the situation is looking brighter (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 5 years ago | (#28406559)

If you don't count Scaled Composites and SpaceX and similar ventures in other countries.

Even if you do count Scaled Composites and SpaceX. The red tape isn't eliminated. They just figure out how to work with that in place. Bureacracy is a cost that doesn't go away merely because one "cuts" (or more accurately just says they do) the red tape.

The "regulations" of orbital mechanics just aren't that strict. If cost to low Earth orbit (LEO) was solely a function of the chemical fuel and oxidizer required to get into space it'd be around $100 per kg of payload. If cost to LEO was solely a function of the energy required to get into space it'd be around $10 per kg.

But obviously it isn't, because that fuel and oxidizer is going to spontaneously change itself into kinetic energy directed towards orbit. Access to space wouldn't be anywhere near that cheap with zero government regulations, because it's the laws of physics that make rocket science rocket science.

Actually, that's pretty much what happens in a properly working chemical engine on a rocket heading to orbit. There are various other considerations that drive up cost. For example, a considerable portion, if not all, of your rocket hardware is thrown away with each flight. Or it takes a lot of money to design a rocket in today's technological environment and this R&D cost is split up over relatively few launches. Rocket launches often require a lot of manpower especially if the launches are already expensive (it's not worth a lot of effort to reduce the manpower for a rocket that costs a couple hundred million per launch and only launches a few times a year). And we are working near limits of our knowledge and current materials.

Sure there are hard physical problems that help drive up the cost of rockets, but those problems aren't the hardest problems. The economics of space launch and space activities is the hardest problem.

Re:Maybe the situation is looking brighter (1, Insightful)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 5 years ago | (#28395499)

Back in the 1990s, one of the most realistic-seeming depictions of the rise of private spacefaring was Michael Fynn's future history beginning with Firestar [amazon.com] . Flynn made it seem as if the biggest obstacle towards getting into space was not gravity and fuel costs as much as government hassles. If Spaceport America has successfully dealt with the FAA, then I would like to think that things are looking up from here (though Flynn suggested companies like FedEx would massively support the endeavour, which seems unlikely now in the age of the internet).

Scifi tends to attract people with a diverse libertarian bent. Socially liberal with dirty minds (looking at you, Heinlein), but also a lot of support for Randian concepts of scientific supermen who could work miracles if only they weren't held down by governments and the mediocre.

Spaceflight is hard. While FAA red tape can be daunting, the science is still the hard part. And just remember when you hear people arguing about government red tape, inspection and regulation is supposed to protect the public. If you want to see what deregulation brings, just look at our financial crisis. Government wasn't the problem, government abdication of responsibility was the problem.

Re:Maybe the situation is looking brighter (3, Informative)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 5 years ago | (#28396083)

And just remember when you hear people arguing about government red tape, inspection and regulation is supposed to protect the public.

Could you elaborate on how burdensome over-regulation like this helps protect the public?

http://hobbyspace.com/nucleus/?itemid=13078 [hobbyspace.com]

The other article - SpaceX Cuts Cost By Battling Bureaucracy (subscription required) - gives a lengthy report on SpaceX and its efforts to keep costs down. It begins with an example of a crane needed for their Cape Canaveral pad for which bids came back in the $2M range. Investigating why they were so high, they found the contractors were working according to "requirements for fail-safe redundancies and safety controls" from 30 years that were now made obsolete by smart systems instrumentation and other technologies. Working with the contractors and the range safety office eventually resulted in a $300k crane.

Pushing for these sorts of cost savings across the board add up. Also, Elon Musk cites design choices, such as using the same propellants for both stages (and not using expensive hydrogen) for making the vehicle competitive even with Indian and Chinese launchers.

At the end of the article, there is a brief report on the upcoming Falcon I launch of the Malaysian RazakSAT imaging satellite. Turns out that ITAR rules were a major factor in the recent delay.
Technicians discovered the satellite and the Falcon 1 upper stage rocket share a nearly identical vibrational mode, which could set up a damaging resonance. SpaceX is bound by ITAR restrictions from assisting with any technical problems on the foreign-owned payload, so the company delayed the launch to add some vibration isolation equipment between the rocketâ(TM)s upper stage and the payload adapter.

âoeThe easiest thing would actually be to make some adjustment to the satellite . . . but thatâ(TM)s not allowed,â Musk says.

http://rescommunis.wordpress.com/2008/04/28/interview-mike-gold-corporate-counsel-bigelow-aerospace/ [wordpress.com]

Gold: Absolutely. For example, if you look specifically at the provisos that are written into technical assistance agreements, if the licensing officers were instructed by the Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC) to discern between sensitive, military technologies, and those that are widely available in the commercial marketplace, and not request monitoring and Technology Transfer Control Plans in those instances, that alone could go a long way toward resolving many of these problems. An example is the Genesis test stand. It was a round metal sheet that had several legs sticking out from the bottom. If it was flipped upside down, had a tablecloth and some cups placed on it, the stand would be indistinguishable from a coffee tableâ"it was literally a metal coffee table. Yet, this coffee table was subject to the ITAR. It had to be monitored. We were required to have not one, but two guards to keep an eye on this "vital" technology. I can only imagine the national security repercussions if this technology should leak to the Chinese or the Iranians. They could serve coffeeâ"or in a worst case scenarioâ"even tea on it. The inability to distinguish metal coffee tables from actual militarily sensitive space technology that does deserve protection, demonstrates the broken and counterproductive nature of our export control process. If the system and implementation of the United States Munitions List is so overly broad that it canâ(TM)t distinguish a table from sensitive technology, then I think it is obvious that there is a problem here.

Re:Maybe the situation is looking brighter (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28397169)

So your argument is because two results of aerospace regulations are bad, all aerospace regulations are bad?

Re:Maybe the situation is looking brighter (1)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 5 years ago | (#28397773)

So your argument is because two results of aerospace regulations are bad, all aerospace regulations are bad?

No. The point is that many (not all) aerospace regulations, particularly things like International Traffic in Arms Regulations [wikipedia.org] , are overburdensome and contribute to the high cost of spaceflight.

Re:Maybe the situation is looking brighter (1)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 5 years ago | (#28395611)

You know, Firestar was ... um, I'm not sure how to break this to you, so I'll just come right out and say it ... fiction.

I enjoyed the novel, and there are a lot of interesting ideas in it (as well as some things Flynn got so wrong it was almost hilarious) but it is not, and should not be taken as, a realistic study of the way large-scale commercialized space flight will eventually work.

Re:Maybe the situation is looking brighter (1)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 5 years ago | (#28395843)

Science fiction is speculative fiction. Comparing classic works of times passed to how things turned out is a popular pastime, and the possibility that all that dreaming about new gadgetry and godlike powers might come true inspires all nerds.

Re:Maybe the situation is looking brighter (1)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 5 years ago | (#28396135)

I completely agree. But OP and many of the responders sounded to me like they were uncritically accepting Flynn's thesis, and that's just silly. While it's perfectly reasonable to say, "There's a really cool idea in this story and it would be great if we could make it happen," it's absurd to say, "The way things work in this story provide valid assumptions about the real world." If you're basing your ideas about economics on Atlas Shrugged, your ideas about genetic engineering on Gattaca and Jurassic Park, or your ideas about space travel on Star Trek, you are liable to be deeply, drastically wrong.

Re:Maybe the situation is looking brighter (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28395673)

Flynn made it seem as if the biggest obstacle towards getting into space was not gravity and fuel costs as much as government hassles.

The simple reason for that is that any organization capable of launching a payload into space is - by extension - capable of delivering a nuclear warhead anywhere on the planet.
And that tends to complicate things...

Re:Maybe the situation is looking brighter (1)

Ifandbut (1328775) | more than 5 years ago | (#28441779)

Any organization capable of launching a payload into space is - by extension - capable of delivering that mass anywhere on the planet.

It dies not have to be nuclear to cause large amounts of damage.

The Artist Concept (4, Interesting)

qortra (591818) | more than 5 years ago | (#28394435)

The Artist Concept of the spaceport [space.com] is really quite stunning.

Re:The Artist Concept (2, Informative)

timpdx (1473923) | more than 5 years ago | (#28394613)

Foster & Partners usually does a good job. The Millau Bridge is Foster, as is the Gherkin in London other Foster projects http://www.pixelmap.com/dma_foster.html [pixelmap.com] I think the thing is quite stunning myself.

I'm not too impressed with artistic concepts. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28394687)

I would prefer illustrations be equate to actual existing structure, like the one showing the berthen vessel interacting with the port of entry as in this picture. [4chan.org] If engineers would only model more structures after nature, this planet would be a lot more safe and with less research and development costs.

Re:I'm not too impressed with artistic concepts. (1)

badboy_tw2002 (524611) | more than 5 years ago | (#28395419)

Yeah, honestly they should of just gone with the honeycomb nature of the nest of the West African Suborbital Honey Bee for a better design. "Nature's suborbital launch station" is what we call it in the bio world, so it really is a perfect fit.

Re:The Artist Concept (1)

smallshot (1202439) | more than 5 years ago | (#28394905)

I absolutely love the artist's concept, but I sincerely doubt it will look much like that by the time the engineers and builders get finished with it. It doesn't look very cost effective.

Midday and different angle of spaceport concept art [space.com]

Re:The Artist Concept (1)

asc99c (938635) | more than 5 years ago | (#28395927)

I think they are already considering practical issues in the current design. Not long ago, my brother was extremely excited to be working on a siphonic drainage system for this place, and the plans looked just like this concept. So already this isn't pure concept but has plenty of realism behind the design.

Re:The Artist Concept (1)

boris111 (837756) | more than 5 years ago | (#28395709)

Looks like they owe Blizzard some money. Does this say Protoss to anyone? Wonder where they'll get enough Vespene gas to build it.

Re:The Artist Concept (1)

wonmon (1214678) | more than 5 years ago | (#28396281)

To me it says "alien civilization living at the bottom of the ocean"

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0096754/ [imdb.com]

Re:The Artist Concept (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28396545)

Looks bland to me. It's a circle with some blue lights, what is so stunning about that?

Oh, I see, it's the sunset.

Re:The Artist Concept (1)

5of0 (935391) | more than 5 years ago | (#28399485)

Wow, that is stunning. And it reminds me of Larry Niven's description of the Tanith spaceport from Brenda. I was just reading N-Space the other day, and the picture reminded me of this passage:

The wrecked ships that had haloed the planet after the Battle of Tanith were long gone. Shuttle #1 descended through a sky that seemed curiously empty. What had been the Tanith spaceport still glared like a polished steel dish. Seen from low angle the crater became a glowing eye with a bright pupil. ... A new port had grown around the crater's eastern rim. Terry and Charley, riding as passengers while Sharon flew, picked out a dozen big aircraft, then a horde of lighter craft. The crater must make a convenient airfield. The gleaming center was a small lake. Have to avoid that.

Considering it was published in 1988, it beats Blizzard even existing by three years. It's highly improbable, but it's fun to think that the artist was inspired by the story, anyway.

So much for catching it live... (1)

NevarMore (248971) | more than 5 years ago | (#28394439)

Posted: Friday June 19, @03:34PM (I'm in EDT)

Story was posted to the front page about an hour and a half AFTER the 11AM live broadcast. Whoops.

Re:So much for catching it live... (1)

snowraver1 (1052510) | more than 5 years ago | (#28394497)

Actually 2.5 hours. It's 1:50 MDT now.

Re:So much for catching it live... (1)

NevarMore (248971) | more than 5 years ago | (#28395775)

Ah, my bad. Summary said MST, assumed they were in AZ which doesn't observe daylight savings.

spaceport - mmmmmeh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28394519)

I'm opening the first transdimensionalpanuniversalparallelworlds ... port.

Now you don't have to muck about with all that tedious travel preparations when visiting "New-Earth 4.59" - you can just sit back and let us do the hard work for you. BTW - can I petition the govt for some of that shovel-ready money for this project? I'm going to need to borrow California's National Ignition Facility too. And a roll of duct tape.

The obvious question (1)

ravenspear (756059) | more than 5 years ago | (#28394535)

Will Republic credits be accepted for passage aboard space vessels in such a deserted region as Mohave?

Re:The obvious question (1)

TurboNed (1370389) | more than 5 years ago | (#28395475)

It's Mojave [google.com] , you insensitive clod.

Re:The obvious question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28397419)

It's Mojave [google.com] , you insensitive clod.

Wait, I thought that was re-branded Windows Vista, I'm so confused...

Why no space planes? (1)

Manip (656104) | more than 5 years ago | (#28394777)

So something I've been wondering for a while. Why haven't space planes been developed? Is it just lack of an engine?
  - Rotary = efficient at low altitudes
  - Jet = efficient at medium
  - ?? = high to orbital?

Couldn't we just use a Scramjet until it becomes inefficient and then a rocket for the rest of the way? It would still get us up to 25% of the way there and that is a large amount of rocket fuel (and cost) you've just saved. It would have a weight associated with it but it might still be less than carrying up to 20%~ less rocket fuel for part of the trip.

Re:Why no space planes? (2, Interesting)

ravenspear (756059) | more than 5 years ago | (#28395019)

Problem is you have to be at speeds greater than mach 5-6 to ignite a scramjet engine. And the current prototypes have achieved that speed with, you guessed it, rockets.

So you aren't really saving that much rocket fuel unless we build some kind of super powerful regular jet capable of getting to that speed. At that point though you have a vehicle with a very complex jet, scramjet, and rocket which would probably be so elaborate to design and construct that it would be prohibitively expensive.

Re:Why no space planes? (4, Insightful)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 5 years ago | (#28397229)

The SR-71 Blackbird had a combination jet/ramjet engine, where the turbines were used at lower speeds, and then once it broke supersonic it became a ramjet using bypasses that directed the air (compressed by the cones on front of the engine) around the turbines which comprise most of the volume of the huge engine cylinders.

Not only is the SR-71 anything but an economical bird, it was also terribly complex to design, ridiculously inefficient while using the turbine (without even accounting for the fact that until air friction caused its panels to expand and seal it leaked fuel literally like a sieve), and very heavy. Tacking a rocket onto that kind of system to reach space sounds all kind of inefficient and uneconomical. I'm no aerospace engineer, but I wouldn't be surprised if designing the engine to seal off the front and use an internal oxidizer was infeasible and the rockets had to essentially be a whole separate system.

Frankly as far as hybrid systems go, I still like the Spaceship One/White Knight approach. A separate carrier vehicle can take the spacecraft up to high-ish altitudes, and then when the space craft takes ignites its rockets and takes off, it doesn't have to carry the carrier vehicle's jet engines with it. But who knows if that can be scaled up to something capable of carrying an orbit-capable vehicle plus a significant payload? Well, Burt Rutan I'd imagine.

Re:Why no space planes? (2, Informative)

diskofish (1037768) | more than 5 years ago | (#28395023)

A space plane is basically what the White Knight [wikipedia.org] is.

My guess for the reason why they designed it this way is that combining everything into one package would increase the weight of the space vessel, so splitting it up into two separate "stages" if you will, makes good sense.

Re:Why no space planes? (2, Informative)

chaim79 (898507) | more than 5 years ago | (#28395027)

That's what Virgin Galactic is doing with White Knight and Spaceship One. White Knight is jet propelled and carries Spaceship One to a high altitude, at that point Spaceship One drops, ignites it's rocket, and heads up to the stars.

Re:Why no space planes? (1)

Yetihehe (971185) | more than 5 years ago | (#28395041)

Maybe we could even make this part with low altitude engine separate just before launching main rocket? Something like SpaceKnightTwo...

Re:Why no space planes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28395099)

Because...why? Other than launching satellites and another thing for multi-millionaires to blow their money on, there seems to be little need for still-pretty-damn-expensive spaceflight.

Also, 1) those wings are entirely useless or worse past a certain altitude. And 2) escape velocity is about mach 34. You're talking expending a lot of energy to reach a tiny fraction of that speed.

Re:Why no space planes? (1, Informative)

TurboNed (1370389) | more than 5 years ago | (#28395583)

Mach is a measurement of speed relative to the speed of sound - thus Mach 1 is different (in terms of miles per hour) at sea level than it is at 50,000 feet. Escape velocity isn't a relative speed though. So - what are you referring to? Mach 34 at sea level? Then it's meaningless because nobody accelerates to that velocity in atmosphere that dense. Mach 34 at 50 miles up? Well now the atmosphere is so thin that Mach 34 is pretty darn slow (in terms of miles per hour thanks to slow speed of sound) and achievable (thanks to less drag because of less atmosphere).

Re:Why no space planes? (1)

toppavak (943659) | more than 5 years ago | (#28395113)

I'm sure someone else can explain this better than I, but I believe it has a great deal to do with the weight of redundancy. Every additional propulsion modality adds weight not just from the hardware itself but from the different fuels that each modality would require and, even if the fuel is the same, providing the differing fuel pressures required by the different modalities (jet engine vs liquid-fueled rocket motor). I imagine its still cheaper to use a propulsion method that is highly efficient across a limited range of altitudes because the weight savings make up for the extra fuel burnt at non-ideal altitudes.

Re:Why no space planes? (4, Informative)

wowbagger (69688) | more than 5 years ago | (#28395145)

"...Why haven't space planes been developed?...Couldn't we just use a Scramjet until it becomes inefficient and then a rocket for the rest of the way?...."

First of all: we really don't have a production ready scramjet yet. There have been a few prototypes, but nothing that is ready to be built and bolted onto an aircraft carrying people. Making an engine that can "burn" fuel while that fuel-air mix is moving at speeds above the speed of sound relative to the engine, without blowing out, is not yet something we have mastered well enough to rely upon.

And that's the biggie right there: making a man-rated craft is HARD. You cannot tolerate any failures that can lead to loss of crew - look at how much crap NASA has taken (and justifiably so, to an extent) over the loss of 2 shuttles. You have to design EVERYTHING so that when it fails ("when", not "if") it fails in a way that allows the crew to make it home. Much of the design decisions on Orion vs. the Shuttle - the decisions that have many people crying "WE ARE GOING BACKWARDS! ORION IS TEH FAIL!" - are because the Shuttle way of doing things is a fail-unsafe and the Orion way is fail-safe.

Now, to address your question of "why not use jets, then scramjets, then rockets" - that is being discussed, but keep in mind that an engine you aren't using RIGHT NOW is just dead weight where cargo could be. There are good reasons to drop of the bits of the craft you aren't going to use anymore - hauling them the rest of the way up is just wasting fuel.

Then there is the problem that getting into "space" is only "hard", but getting into orbit is REALLY HARD. It takes roughly an order of magnitude more delta-V to get to a stable orbit than to just "get into space" like SpaceShip1 did.

That's why the idea of using a reusable vehicle (let alone a MAN RATED reusable vehicle) just to launch cargo is about as stupid as using a Lamborghini to move cattle - IMHO NASA should have built 2 systems: a man-rated shuttle just for moving people and a disposable cargo vehicle that shared many of the components of the shuttle to move freight - yes, you might have been "throwing away" big chunks of your cargo vehicle every launch, but the cost (in terms of "weight-that-isn't-cargo" as well as in terms of money) of re-usability vs. the cost of throwing it away is such that throwing it away makes more sense. I don't try to "re-use" snot-filled facial tissues as it doesn't make fiscal sense - same thing for ships.

Re:Why no space planes? (2, Interesting)

recharged95 (782975) | more than 5 years ago | (#28397769)

I don't know, but the Russians cared more about their vehicles than the people/crew. And for some reason they don't have the problems we do with vehicles breaking apart from foam. And their stuff lasts almost forever, and no one gets hurt as a result.

.

NASA and the general US/EU space communities are playing too much PR and public opinion vs. getting the job done. Should they're using public money, but how many wars have we had or been involved in since 1960?

Re:Why no space planes? (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 5 years ago | (#28399295)

It takes roughly an order of magnitude more delta-V to get to a stable orbit than to just "get into space" like SpaceShip1 did.

I ran the calculation [transterrestrial.com] some time ago. SpaceShipOne had roughly a quarter (for motor alone) to a third (for motor and launch from vehicle traveling almost at the speed of sound) of the necessary delta v. The final speed at the peak is only part of it. You also needed delta v to reach that height and some delta v was lost due to gravity losses.

That's why the idea of using a reusable vehicle (let alone a MAN RATED reusable vehicle) just to launch cargo is about as stupid as using a Lamborghini to move cattle - IMHO NASA should have built 2 systems: a man-rated shuttle just for moving people and a disposable cargo vehicle that shared many of the components of the shuttle to move freight - yes, you might have been "throwing away" big chunks of your cargo vehicle every launch, but the cost (in terms of "weight-that-isn't-cargo" as well as in terms of money) of re-usability vs. the cost of throwing it away is such that throwing it away makes more sense. I don't try to "re-use" snot-filled facial tissues as it doesn't make fiscal sense - same thing for ships.

While this has a lot of appeal, it's worth remembering that a lot of payloads are higher value and more delicate than human passengers. What that means is that "man-rating" just isn't that important. A cargo vehicle which handles expensive payloads will have most man-rating requirements (at least the ones that make sense). Even the abort modes traditionally found with manned vehicles could be used to save a $5 billion satellite.

Re:Why no space planes? (1)

hcdejong (561314) | more than 5 years ago | (#28403537)

...is about as stupid as using a Lamborghini to move cattle

Ahem [lamborghini-tractors.com]

Re:Why no space planes? (1)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 5 years ago | (#28395435)

I don't want to see space planes. Or, more accurately, I don't want to see time, research, money, and blood, sweat and tears, spent on space planes, that could be spent on outer space. The space elevator idea seems to be much more appropriate, IMHO. http://science.slashdot.org/story/09/06/08/1924233/Inflatable-Tower-Could-Climb-To-the-Edge-of-Space?art_pos=1 [slashdot.org]

The goal is not to waste energy transporting junk from one point on earth to another point on earth, rather the goal should be to put men "out there", to live, work, study, and to make new homes for man.

Space planes may be alright, when we are ready to put people onto another planet. They can fly down to the surface, instead of being dropped like a box of rocks. Floating down on wings is likely to prove more survivable.

Re:Why no space planes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28395459)

"Couldn't we just use a Scramjet..."

As long as we're using our imaginations, we can just use matter/anti-matter engines...

X-15, X-20, X-24 (1)

tekrat (242117) | more than 5 years ago | (#28395703)

Please google Dyna-Soar.

We had space planes in the 60's, and we had space planes on the drawing boards that would have essentially been the forerunners of the Space Shuttle. But then the Russians launched Sputnik and the game changed on the Air Force. Suddenly the government wanted spam in a can, monkey in a missle. yadda yadda garbage.

See "The Right Stuff" If we had continued the X-plane research, we would have gotten to pure space planes alright. But the pentagon switched gears suddenly, and everything became about rockets. We spent a lot of time and money to play catch up with the Soviet Union, when we should have simply developed better planes.

The X-15 was already close enough that it needed control thrusters after reaching apogee, and the pilots were weightless. Many from the X-15 program were awarded astronaut wings (But Alan Shepard is considered the first American in space, and Yuri Gagarin the first man, although I believe the X-15 pilots beat them both to that record).

Admittedly, Gagarin orbited, while the X-15 pilots did not. Still, with a little more time and money, it probably could have been done. We would have needed a little more research into the ablative coating, and if the X-15 had had a titanium skin, it probably would have been very doable.

Re:X-15, X-20, X-24 (1)

bitrex (859228) | more than 5 years ago | (#28398839)

As amazing the X program accomplishments were, they were a long way from getting into orbit. It's relatively trivial to just get into space, but getting the tangential velocity to achieve orbit is a whole other matter. Single-stage to orbit is a really hard problem from an aerospace design point because, at least with chemical rocket technology where you have to carry your fuel with you, you're running up against the limits of the famous Tsiolkovsky "ideal rocket" differential equation. The problem is that as you carry more fuel in your single stage to propel you faster, you need more structure to carry that fuel, which requires more fuel to propel the mass of the structure, which requires even more fuel to propel the mass of the fuel you haven't burned yet, etc. You can mitigate this to some extent by dropping stages, which nearly all rocket systems do. It is theoretically possible to build a single stage to orbit rocket, but with propellants limited to the maximum specific impulse of chemical energy the spacecraft would have a very limited payload capability, and the structure would have to be so light that there isn't really a material yet known that would be up to the job. In addition, you can't even get the maximum theoretical specific impulse of chemical rockets (hydrogen/oxygen combustion) in the real world because hydrogen/oxygen engines have to run fuel-rich; if they ran at the normal stoichometric ratio no engine bell material could withstand the temperature. Of course, with some kind of revolution in propulsion that could much greater specific impulses with lower weight all bets would be off. They wanted to do single stage to orbit in the 70s with the shuttle, but the current stage-and-a-half was the closest that was possible as the technology wasn't there for SSTO. Unfortunately, it still isn't - the SSMEs are still considered cutting edge for chemical rocket propulsion.

Re:X-15, X-20, X-24 (1)

Bureaucromancer (1303477) | more than 5 years ago | (#28399055)

No, the X-15 did not beat Mercury to space. For that matter, Mercury was in orbit monthes before the first X-15 flight to the US definition of space (50 miles vs the international 100 km). In fact, the X-15 only had a grand totla of two flights beyond 100 km. In any case, Alan Sheppard flew suborbitally in May '61 and John Glenn made three orbits in Feb '62, Robert White got an X-15 to ~60 miles in July '62, and Joe Walker exceeded 100km in July '63 while the Mercury program ended in May '63. All in all Mercury wasn't so much a turning point as a sideshow to the spaceplance program untill the Moon program was launched, at which point capsules were the only realistic way to do anything in the timeline proposed. As for an orbital X-15, the X-15B proposal was probably about as far as the airframe could have been pushed. It would have gotten a single orbit out of an X-15 launched on a Navaho, and required the pilot to bail out over the Gulf of Mexico ala Vostok. The X-20 itself was a great program IMO, but realistically we wouldn't have done nearly as much anywhere near as fast if we'd gone that route. The vehicle was supposed to fly (suborbitally ) in 1966 and wouldn't have made a multi orbit flight untill the end of 1968. Given the complexity and technology involved, plus the lack of experience, I seriously doubt it could possibly have stayed on schedule. In the end we woud have gained, in the same timeline capsules went to the moon, a vehicle roughly comparable to Gemini in capability, considerably heavier and more complex with the only real difference being a runway landing. It's hard to say what would have happened next, but I have my own suspicions things wouldn't have been terribly different; the results would have stayed classifiied so its not like some great private space industry would have emerged from Dyna-Soar. There would probably have been something along the lines of Skylab (maybe more like a cross between MOL and Skylab, but nontheless), Nixon still would have cut the bone and the shuttle would still have been the cost saving measure. There might have been a more realistic appraisal of the Shuttle's capabilities, and we might have gotten a marginally better vehicle, but honestly it would still have been an experimental and ill conceived all in one launch system. To sum up, yes, there was a spaceplane program, but no, it's not really some great lost "other option" for the space program. Capsules were ultimately the right way to get to the Moon in the 60s, and the Moon was probably the most productive thing we could have done with manned space at the time. If the program had had a great deal more money it is interesting to think about what we might have gotten from Apollo PLUS Dyna-Soar, but really whats a more exciting alternative history? Apollo extended into the 70s with a real exploration program plus Skylab like work, maybe reaching Mars in the late 80s early 90s or a space shuttle that flies a few years earlier and is maybe a slightly better system in a world where we never reached the moon (or more likely where we built a space station and the Russians landed on the moon instead of building Mir)?

Re:Why no space planes? (2, Insightful)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 5 years ago | (#28396131)

Couldn't we just use a Scramjet until it becomes inefficient and then a rocket for the rest of the way? It would still get us up to 25% of the way there and that is a large amount of rocket fuel (and cost) you've just saved.

You'd save money on fuel, but contrary to popular belief, fuel (even though there's quite a bit of it) is just ~1% of the total cost of flying a rocket. So you've basically ended up taking a chunk out of that tiny 1%, while in turn significantly increasing engine and production costs, which are a far larger chunk of the total cost.

Re:Why no space planes? (1)

funkboy (71672) | more than 5 years ago | (#28397815)

You'd save money on fuel, but contrary to popular belief, fuel (even though there's quite a bit of it) is just ~1% of the total cost of flying a rocket. So you've basically ended up taking a chunk out of that tiny 1%, while in turn significantly increasing engine and production costs, which are a far larger chunk of the total cost.

You got some stats on that? All the different fuels in the Shuttle ain't cheap...

Re:Why no space planes? (3, Informative)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 5 years ago | (#28398645)

You got some stats on that? All the different fuels in the Shuttle ain't cheap...

They're pretty darned cheap compared to the overall cost of the shuttle. According to this NASA publication [74.125.155.132] , the Space Shuttle main external tank uses 141,750 gallons of liquid oxygen ("LOX") and 384,071 gallons of liquid hydrogen ("LH2") as propellant. The price of LOX is $0.67/gallon, and the price of LH2 is $0.98/gallon (at least in 2001). Putting the numbers together gives a LOX+LH2 cost of $471,362.08 per launch.

That's half a million dollars for the liquid fuels, compared to (depending on how you calculate it) the 0.5-2 billion dollars required for each shuttle launch.

Sorry... (1)

SnarfQuest (469614) | more than 5 years ago | (#28395043)

The spaceport has been replaced by a hyperspace bypass...

I saw the location earlier this year in person. (1)

gblackwo (1087063) | more than 5 years ago | (#28395781)

I saw the location earlier this year (drove right by the exit), and while New Mexico is possibly my favorite state especially for it's scenery- I wasn't real impressed with the location. Maybe once they build the facilities, but I enjoyed the look of the spaceport in Iowa in the new startrek film much more (yes, i know is fictional).

Mos Eisley? (0)

tekrat (242117) | more than 5 years ago | (#28395791)

"Spaceport America" is such a dull name. What, would Lucas have threatened to sue if they named it something like "Mos Eisley". I mean, just think of the T-Shirt potential in the duty-free zone!

Re:Mos Eisley? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28396505)

A dull name now means opportunity to sell naming rights in the future. I predict the successful bidder will be the corporation created by merging UPS and Daisy.

Welcome to the "UPS a Daisy" Spaceport of America.

Re:Mos Eisley? (1)

bitrex (859228) | more than 5 years ago | (#28398699)

Name it "Verizon Spaceport We've Got A Goddamned Spaceport, Bitches, What've You Got Fuck Yeah Go America!

I can't wait (1)

Datamonstar (845886) | more than 5 years ago | (#28397077)

... to be old and grizzled, sitting down at a dimly lit table hugging a filthy glass of Tekravian whiskey and retelling my horrific experiences as a crew member aboard the the first Durnigan-class commercial cruiser, and how we ended up stranded in the Telmos sector. AFTER it had been declared a red zone due to the 100 year long Dar'mra mating cycle. Let me tell you... there's a whole lot of them in that sector and boy do they mean business!

Yeah, that story always gets me at least a drink and a girl for the night. Good times.

The market is very small. (1)

Metasquares (555685) | more than 5 years ago | (#28398819)

The size of the market for commercial spaceflight is limited by the lack of destinations.

Spaceport Prices ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28400155)

If you thought airport prices for a sandwich were outrageously stupid, the spaceports prices for the same sandwich is out of this world!!!!

national security purpose (1)

tenco (773732) | more than 5 years ago | (#28400871)

Nice euphemism for "military".
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