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Paul Allen Launches Commercial Spaceship Project

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the fly-me-to-the-moon dept.

Space 152

smitty777 writes "The phrase 'Where do you want to go today?' takes on a whole new meaning as Paul Allen, Microsoft co-founder and the world's 57th richest man in the world, looks to create a new spaceship company. Stratolaunch Systems plans to bring 'airport like operations' to the world of private space travel. Partnering with Burt Rutan, the plan is to field a test within five years and commercially available flights within ten. Spacecraft will be air-launched from a giant, six-engined aircraft. There is more information available on the Stratolaunch homepage."

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Where do you want to go, toady? (4, Funny)

White Flame (1074973) | more than 2 years ago | (#38363132)

*crash*

Re:Where do you want to go, toady? (2)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | more than 2 years ago | (#38363392)

"OOOooh! Am I as cool as Branson, yet!"

Re:Where do you want to go, toady? (4, Informative)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 2 years ago | (#38363434)

Just so you know, Allen originally funded space ship one, so it's more like Branson copied him.

Re:Where do you want to go, toady? (2, Interesting)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | more than 2 years ago | (#38363560)

Allen is a patent troll, and human trash. If he had no money, he'd have no friends at all.

Branson is a shy, yet gregarious and likable kook. He actually has good intentions - not just an empty egotism.

It's no wonder that folks wanting to take Scaled Composites work on Spaceship One to a commercial venture, sought out Virgin, rather than the man who even Bill Gates can't stand.

Re:Where do you want to go, toady? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38363908)

He touched you didn't he.

Re:Where do you want to go, toady? (2)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | more than 2 years ago | (#38365396)

We don't have tomorrow, but we had yesterday...

Re:Where do you want to go, toady? (1)

Anonymous Freak (16973) | more than 2 years ago | (#38364832)

Or, more like "Branson reached an agreement with Allen to license the technology"...

Re:Where do you want to go, toady? (4, Funny)

Fluffeh (1273756) | more than 2 years ago | (#38363542)

*crash*

Don't be like that... This is much more likely...

You will be arriving at the Moon Base in 3 hours forty five minutes...
You will be arriving at the Moon Base in two minutes...
You will be arriving at the Moon Base in six days and twenty three hours...
You will be arriving at the Moon Base in calculating...
You will be.... . .. . .. . . .

Re:Where do you want to go, toady? (1)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 2 years ago | (#38363646)

*crash*

Don't be like that... This is much more likely...

You will be arriving at the Moon Base in 3 hours forty five minutes...
You will be arriving at the Moon Base in two minutes...
You will be arriving at the Moon Base in six days and twenty three hours...
You will be arriving at the Moon Base in calculating...
You will be.... . .. . .. . . .

Followed by the BSoD?

Probably be a B[HUD]oD

Re:Where do you want to go, toady? (1)

msauve (701917) | more than 2 years ago | (#38364064)

"*crash*"

Brings new meaning to "the blue screen of death," doesn't it?

Re:Where do you want to go, toady? (1)

Forbman (794277) | more than 2 years ago | (#38364466)

"the Greg Oden Experience"... (sorry, just a bit bemused about how Paul Allen [and his peepz] runs the Portland Trailblazers and Seattle Seahawks...)

Re:Where do you want to go, toady? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38364678)

Your pilots today: Microsoft Bob & Clippy

Nope (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38364736)

This has paul allen behind it, not bill gates or MS.

Re:Where do you want to go, toady? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38365620)

airport like operations

So you'll get felt up by the TSA, after you take your shoes off and send your wallet and comb and cellphone thru an xray machine, while others rifle through your luggage to pick whatever they want for themselves? (BTW, all airports ought to have windows showing all the baggage handling operations, to have passengers provide the oversight to prevent theft by baggage handlers.

Not so sure having airport like operations is a good thing.

Re:Where do you want to go, toady? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38365628)

Considering that Paul Allen left after the early days of MS, it would be...

"I feel a lot better now, Dave. Abort, Retry, Fail, Ignore?"

from the Department of Redundancy... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38363162)

...Department comes:
the world's 57th richest man in the world

Re:from the Department of Redundancy... (4, Funny)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 2 years ago | (#38363224)

...Department comes:

the world's 57th richest man in the world

Author probably walked through a door at the University of Notre Dame, while typing that.

Re:from the Department of Redundancy... (1)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | more than 2 years ago | (#38363426)

I think you'll find you meant to say "author probably walked through a University of Notre Dame door at the University of Notre Dame while typing that."

Re:from the Department of Redundancy... (1)

jelizondo (183861) | more than 2 years ago | (#38363592)

Probably the guy is Argentinian...

They used to call Maradona "one the ten greatest soccer players in the world and one of Argentina's best players."

Re:from the Department of Redundancy... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38364236)

That's more of a boast than redundancy.

Re:from the Department of Redundancy... (2)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | more than 2 years ago | (#38363408)

What in the world are you talking about? Everyone else in the entire world thinks that's perfectly normal in the entire world! Don't you know anything worldly about the world's richest men in the world? We in this world are not talking about the world's richest men anywhere else!

Re:from the Department of Redundancy... (1)

Muros (1167213) | more than 2 years ago | (#38363874)

...Department comes: the world's 57th richest man in the world

If the company is successful, he can become the moon's 57th richest man in the world!

Re:from the Department of Redundancy... (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#38363890)

Maybe he's the 57th person in the world to be the richest man in the world?

Oh boy (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38363184)

Another senile old man with too much time and money on his hands trying to relive the Space Age. It's as dead as he'll be soon. Why doesn't he invest in anti-aging and life extension instead? That can at least benefit more people than just the handful that can afford a 5 minute blip into the upper atmsophere.

Re:Oh boy (1)

M0j0_j0j0 (1250800) | more than 2 years ago | (#38363344)

You should thank these kind of "senile" old man for putting a bet in innovation , people, work and society, instead of financing CDS and wars.

Re:Oh boy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38364398)

Yes, "innovation" in the shape of 40 year old daydreams? That can only "benefit" a vanishingly small portion of the population and feed the delusional beliefs of the geeks? Oh wow, gee, a tin can that goes up and then comes down! We're totally at Star Trek level now! Idiots. Mod me down as much as you want you delusional fruitcakes, in ten years you'll be forgotten. There will never be "private space". There will be "investor fraud" and "amusement park rides".

Anything .. (1)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 2 years ago | (#38363200)

To distance himself from Microsoft, eh?

To the Moon, Alice!

7km/s (0, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38363218)

Space does not begin at an altitude of 100km. Space begins at a velocity of 7km/s.

Re:7km/s (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 2 years ago | (#38363472)

You can get to anywhere in the universe at 1m/s if you have enough fuel and time.

Re:7km/s (1)

FrankSchwab (675585) | more than 2 years ago | (#38363784)

Not in an expanding universe you can't.

Pioneering? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38363314)

http://www.airlaunch.ru/index.htm

super-rich sure take their of themselves (0)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | more than 2 years ago | (#38363384)

and their buddies.

hey, this is money well spent. those billionaires work hard for their space travel. they deserve a break every now and then.

Re:super-rich sure take their of themselves (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38363420)

I take their of myself too!

Re:super-rich sure take their of themselves (2)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 2 years ago | (#38363494)

and their buddies.

hey, this is money well spent. those billionaires work hard for their space travel. they deserve a break every now and then.

Think of it as the real Trickle-down in action - super rich entrepeneur puts hundreds of people to work, designing, crafting, building, wiring and so on. It's a good thing©

Re:super-rich sure take their of themselves (1)

amicusNYCL (1538833) | more than 2 years ago | (#38363736)

Who else is going to fund private space travel, you?

Re:super-rich sure take their of themselves (2)

tsotha (720379) | more than 2 years ago | (#38364362)

I don't see a problem. He's welcome to spend his own money in any manner he pleases as long as it's legal.

worlds! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38363410)

in the world of the world!

bit off a bit more than usual? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38363430)

I never want to under-estimate Rutan, but he wants to glue two 747 fuselages together and have them flying in 5 years? Like, above houses where people live? Okey doke.

Re:bit off a bit more than usual? (2)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 2 years ago | (#38363532)

I never want to under-estimate Rutan, but he wants to glue two 747 fuselages together and have them flying in 5 years? Like, above houses where people live? Okey doke.

Personally, I was stunned the first time I saw a space shuttle astride a 747. Looked completely ungainly, but those babies have some carrying capacity!

I curious why they don't latch onto some old B52s and bring them up to date. Quite amazing themselves.

Excellent Team (5, Informative)

DanielRavenNest (107550) | more than 2 years ago | (#38363456)

Paul Allen for the money spigot, Burt Rutan for the carrier aircraft, and Elon Musk/SpaceX for the rocket stages. When I worked on such concepts many years ago at Boeing, we generally found that launching from altitude like that doubles the payload compared to the same rocket starting from the ground, so it makes a lot of sense from an engineering and cost sense, as long as the carrier aircraft costs less than the rocket stages per flight (normally easy to do).

This design overcomes one limitation we had at Boeing, which was the 747 was not quite large enough in it's current form. By going to six engines of the same size as the 747 uses, they solved that problem. Eventually they can also look at flying back the first rocket stage, for even more savings. Once it is empty of fuel, the rocket stage does not weigh much, so it would not take much in the way of wings, landing gear, and some small jet engines so it can fly to a landing. Without knowing how far it will go on a ballistic arc doing it's launch job, it is hard to say if it should fly back to the launch site, or fly forward to another landing location.

Re:Excellent Team (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#38363722)

Interesting. Seems like it would be faster / easier to re engine a 747 then to create an entirely new aircraft. Maybe they could duct tape the tail end of an L1011 to the forward fuselage of a 747. That puppy ought to move.

Re:Excellent Team (1)

Nidi62 (1525137) | more than 2 years ago | (#38363932)

Interesting. Seems like it would be faster / easier to re engine a 747 then to create an entirely new aircraft.

But wouldn't the addition of the extra weight on the wings (more engines) or the trust from stronger engines going to require a lot of re-engineering/redesigning of the 747 anyway? The last thing you want is to have the engines shear off inflight because it couldn't structurally handle the extra thrust.

Re:Excellent Team (1)

Nethead (1563) | more than 2 years ago | (#38365322)

Checking the specs on the SpaceX Falcon-9 and the 747-LCF it seems that the rocket would easily fit in the Dreamlifter. FAA accepted design, get Evergreen to build another and Stratolaunch has a way to get the rock back to Huntsville, or where ever they launch from. Or even just rent it from Boeing for a few days. I know I see them sitting there at Paine for weeks at a time.

Paul Allen (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38363474)

Builds America's next space shuttle and its a doozie.

Why not use a balloon? (2)

wanzeo (1800058) | more than 2 years ago | (#38363526)

For a long time I have wondered why we don't just use massive helium balloons to carry rockets much closer to space. Even if the balloon only gets a quarter of the way to orbit, it gets through the thickest air before the rocket fires.

Unless helium is more expensive than rocket fuel, but helium can be collected from alpha decay right, so it seems like it would be cheaper.

Even if it isn't feasible for big payloads, there are several high class hobbyist rockets out there that can reach 100k feet. Why not ride a balloon up to 70-80k, and then launch the rocket?

Re:Why not use a balloon? (1)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | more than 2 years ago | (#38363610)

Yeah. Thomas Goddard proved it's that thick air that keeps us earthbound. Newton, be damned. :-)

Actually, you do have a point. Burn less expensive fuel, longer and slowly to get to the outer-edge of the stratosphere. Efficient.

Re:Why not use a balloon? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38363762)

I'd build a giant cannon. Or better yet, a railgun. There's absolutely no need to send humans into space. Like this, cargo would get into orbit quick and cheap and instead of investing billions into creating a safe environment in space for humans, getting them there and back safely it would only take a fraction of the cost to create the software to control that cargo.

Re:Why not use a balloon? (1)

wanzeo (1800058) | more than 2 years ago | (#38363816)

That's another possibility, but you still run into the problems associated with launching from the ground. So the projectile has the most energy when the air is the thickest. There is also the G forces, even if you aren't sending humans, I'm sure there are spacecraft components that won't tolerate the acceleration that would be required.

Re:Why not use a balloon? (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38363636)

Getting into orbit isn't about altitude - it's about velocity. If you look at the energetics of any rocket, about 95% of the energy produced goes into the kinetic energy of velocity - with only about 5% going into the potential energy of increased altitude. Having a jet impart the initial ~600mph to the rocket stage is a huge savings, particularly given the non-linear nature of the propellant economics.

Re:Why not use a balloon? (1)

wanzeo (1800058) | more than 2 years ago | (#38363734)

Interesting, and that makes a good argument for the use of the jet. But how high can that jet go, and how much fuel is it using? It still seems like the rocket would burn less fuel getting to orbital velocity starting off in the stratosphere than it does starting off on the ground. Even though it would start at 0m/s, there are simply less air molecules to run into.

Re:Why not use a balloon? (3, Informative)

DanielRavenNest (107550) | more than 2 years ago | (#38364406)

High bypass turbofans like the ones they will be using are about 20 times as fuel-efficient as rocket engines. For one thing, they get oxygen from the air, and then the turbine pushes 6-8 times more air with the big fan, which goes around the combustion part of the engine.

Starting at altitude helps you in three ways: (1) the velocity and altitude you are starting at, (2) less air drag flying through the remainder of the atmosphere, and (3) less back-pressure loss in the rocket engine. At sea level, the loss is 1 atmosphere times the area of the back end of the nozzle, which is significant.

Re:Why not use a balloon? (1)

strack (1051390) | more than 2 years ago | (#38365740)

dont forget increased efficiency of the rocket engines due to lower atmospheric pressure since you are able to use higher expansion ratio nozzles on the first stage.

Re:Why not use a balloon? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38365196)

It's partially about altitude, and not just in terms of potential energy. At different atmospheric pressures, different types of rocket engines are required. In fact, the equation for effective exhaust velocity of any rocket engine contains a term proportional to the difference between the gas pressure at the nozzle exit and the ambient pressure. Starting at a higher altitude can help tremendously.

Re:Why not use a balloon? (1)

Em Adespoton (792954) | more than 2 years ago | (#38363684)

This is exactly what one of the X-Prize contenders set out to do; I never did hear how that team fared in the long run.
The other great thing is that to bring the rig back down, you just compress the helium (instead of letting it loose).

Re:Why not use a balloon? (4, Interesting)

TheSync (5291) | more than 2 years ago | (#38364008)

I have wondered why we don't just use massive helium balloons to carry rockets much closer to space

Check out JP Aerospace [jpaerospace.com] who have been working on the "Airship to Orbit" concept.

Atmospheric airships using both buoyancy and lift go from ground to 140K feet. There they dock with "Dark Sky Stations" where cargo is transferred to the massive airship-to-orbit craft that can only exist at this altitude and will use buoyancy to rise to 200K feet, then uses electric propulsion to speed up over several days to orbital velocity.

Re:Why not use a balloon? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38366058)

The glorious Romanian Space Agency does that with their Stabilo rocket.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ARCA_(NGO) [wikipedia.org]

Blue Screen of Death (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38363626)

Written in the clouds, "Where do you want to return to today?".

Just so many "blue screen of death" jokes, it's hard to choose.

I have a new hobby... (1)

allcoolnameswheretak (1102727) | more than 2 years ago | (#38363732)

Having your own space flight company seems to be the new fad among todays ultra elites.

I suppose it's better than yachting.

Lets hope so (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 2 years ago | (#38365962)

If somebody like gates will pour some money into it, but do it in the west, rather than China, perhaps we can get some thing going.

Prior Art: Prevent Paul From Suing The World Again (1)

Freshly Exhumed (105597) | more than 2 years ago | (#38363770)

Any patents filed on this by Paul Allen yet? Quick, what have we got for prior art?

How about a wide variety of designs through aviation history in which smaller piloted aircraft are launched from larger ones while airborne, not to mention the X-1 through X-15 programs and of course the Yokosuka MXY7 Ohka.

Re:Prior Art: Prevent Paul From Suing The World Ag (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38364118)

I thought the same thing. I'm sure the attorney's are working their fingertips to the bone for Allen.

Group 1: Filling out patent applications.

Group 2: Filing law suites and CD orders against NASA and SpaceX for their launch platforms.

Re:Prior Art: Prevent Paul From Suing The World Ag (1)

Forbman (794277) | more than 2 years ago | (#38364508)

Orbital Systems would seem to have lots of prior art w.r.t. the Pegasus rocket...

Re:Prior Art: Prevent Paul From Suing The World Ag (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 2 years ago | (#38365958)

Not even close. Orbital got their tech from NASA/USAF. The ability to drop a vehicle was pioneered back in the 50's. And all that orbital did was use a dead L-1011 and somebody else's rocket (after all, OSC develops NOTHING).

What? (0)

Konster (252488) | more than 2 years ago | (#38363780)

Stratolaunch Systems? ...stratosphere? That won't even get you into LEO.

Re:What? (1)

NameIsDavid (945872) | more than 2 years ago | (#38364078)

Stratolaunch: Launch from the stratosphere. Seems apropos to me!

Heck, I flew one of these in the mid 70s! (2)

StefanJ (88986) | more than 2 years ago | (#38363824)

Yeah, yeah, it was just a model, but they had the concept down 41 years ago:

http://www.ninfinger.org/rockets/nostalgia/70estf.html

http://www.ninfinger.org/rockets/nostalgia/70est020.html

Before You Commericalize Space Flight... (2)

MoldySpore (1280634) | more than 2 years ago | (#38363828)

...perhaps we should have some better places to go? All these companies are spending $ to be able to fly rich idiots into low earth orbit. So what's the next step? the ISS? Oh wait, that's not going to be around much longer. The moon? Well China will most likely be there by the time everyone else is ready. Where else?

Fact is, we don't have the technology to reach even out into our own solar system, let alone anywhere REALLY meaningful (such as some of those "Goldilocks" planets we see millions of light years away but can't hope to get anything other than pictures of). Face it, the private space initiative if crap. It's something for the super-rich to spend their money on. Meanwhile the people who have actually been dreaming of space flight or venturing outside of our solar system, for more than the cheap thrill these private "space flight" companies are offering, for their entire lives are stuck at home in a 9-5 without any hope of being able to pay the cost of entry to the lowest form of space flight possible, or available, to the average person (a.k.a. NOT astronauts).

Instead of this, they should be pooling their money into R&D and backing NASA to help develop the tech we need to GET OFF THIS ROCK and really explore the universe. I hate to sound like a broken record, but we literally know NOTHING about the universe we live in. How can $20,000 - $200,000 (depending on who you go with and when) for a few minutes of weightlessness be what the world is happy with? I for one expected more out of human ambition and curiosity.

Re:Before You Commericalize Space Flight... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38364072)

Remember though, for many technologies it's been the rich "early adopters" who have paved the way for the rest of us plebs. They're not only getting the messy beta testing out of the way for us, they're also helping drive economies of scale.

Also, even though private space flight looks like it's going nowhere (if we consider LEO "nowhere") remember that they're still providing essential research into making spacecraft safer and more comfortable for human flight. That's going to be necessary in 200 years when we're building the first Starship Enterprise.

Re:Before You Commericalize Space Flight... (1)

NameIsDavid (945872) | more than 2 years ago | (#38364106)

It makes far more sense for private industry to focus on where they can make money - transporting cargo such as satellites into orbit. That is, they become orbital trucks. This frees up NASA to work on visionary projects that aren't currently commercially viable: we the people funding, though tax dollars, the learning necessary for our long-term futures.

Re:Before You Commericalize Space Flight... (4, Insightful)

suomynonAyletamitlU (1618513) | more than 2 years ago | (#38364968)

...perhaps we should have some better places to go?

Unfortunately, it really does have to work the other way around. It's a very unfortunate Catch-22. Until getting to orbit stops breaking the bank, there's not much you can do to put a livable space in orbit, let alone the moon or mars; until there is a place to go, it's not commercially viable to research spaceflight.

Getting to space is a cost-per-pound proposition. How many pounds of material does it take to make a sustainable habitat on the moon? How many pounds of fuel to get it there? How many pounds of fuel will they keep on the moon in reserve in case someone needs to come home? Without lifting capabilities that far surpass what we have, it won't be practical.

That leaves us with two options for research and development: Convince government to waste money on something the majority of their constituents will never benefit from, or convince millionaires to part with their money for a joyride. As long as the latter works, more power to them. Personally, I wouldn't mind my tax dollars going to space research either, but there are a lot of people in this country who would be better served with a lower tax rate (let alone an actual public service, you know, like health care or the post office) than with space travel.

Re:Before You Commericalize Space Flight... (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 2 years ago | (#38365188)

Really? I find it interesting that you discount private space so much, when they are obviously lightyears ahead of the vast majority of the world. As it is, the largest lifter is the Delta IV H at 22 tonnes. Heck, China is working toward Long March 5 that will send up 25 tonnes, while FH will be out around the same time with more than DOUBLE its capacity at 54 tonnes. In addition, the FH will be cheaper than any LV that does more than 15 tonnes to LEO.

NASA is wasting money on that crap SLS by being forced to create a neo-con jobs bill. The good news is that it will be dead shortly after FH launches. Between FH, and something like this, SLS will die its death.

And as far as China owning the moon, even in spite of the neo-cons attempting to destroy private space, I would hazard that America will be on the moon before 2020. The fact is, that private space wants to go there. And once BA makes a run for it, every nation will want to pay to be on the moon as quickly as possible. And that will be with private space.

Re:Before You Commericalize Space Flight... (1)

Goboxer (1821502) | more than 2 years ago | (#38365552)

You have to walk before you can run. That is why it is important. Not only that, but the stuff we could learn from it will help us greatly in improving our travel technology. How many more experiments will we be able to do in space when the cost to take stuff there drops drastically? This isn't just about rich people getting to float around. It's about rich people floating around and NASA (and other space agencies) getting to launch fuck-tons of experimental stuff into space to see what we can learn.

Airport Like Operations, Yay! (2)

ohnocitizen (1951674) | more than 2 years ago | (#38363884)

plans to bring 'airport like operations' to the world of private space travel.

Where do you want to be strip searched today?

Re:Airport Like Operations, Yay! (1)

drcheap (1897540) | more than 2 years ago | (#38364150)

Yeah...I read that part and was thinking...what exactly about airport operations is appealing to customers?

Re:Airport Like Operations, Yay! (1)

Spy Handler (822350) | more than 2 years ago | (#38364672)

When they say airport operations, they're not talking about TSA strip searches. They're talking about running day-to-day operations efficiently (like an airline) to save money. That pretty much boils down to:

  • Re-using the craft -- a 747 doesn't jettison and throw away its engines or aeroshell or anything else after each flight, everything gets reused
  • Making refueling cheaper -- most rocket fuels are hard to handle and requires exotic equipment and lots of personnel to service. Which is why RP-1 (kerosene) is the way to go. SpaceX uses RP-1 on all the Falcons for this reason
  • Landing the craft where you want it, like an airliner -- if you can land back at the same place you launch from, that results in huge savings. If you have to splash down in the middle of the Pacific, like NASA capsules, you need dozens of ships and thousands of Navy personnel to find and retrieve you. That's very expensive. Or in the case of the Shuttle, launching from Florida and landing in California means you have to lug that huge orbiter 3000 miles every time you fly.

Re:Airport Like Operations, Yay! (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 2 years ago | (#38365192)

Where do you want to be strip searched today?

why in a strip club of course. And by the girls that are there.

Give Obama credit... (1)

wisebabo (638845) | more than 2 years ago | (#38364048)

... for his administration making the policy and (I presume) regulatory changes that have allowed this flowering of commercial space transportation.

We'll never beat the Chinese on labor costs. But I imagine Chinese bureaucracies are as inefficient at American ones so putting their government up against our entrepreneurs gives us a chance.

Re:Give Obama credit... (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 2 years ago | (#38365208)

Actually, the time is coming when the west will no longer accept China's cheating on everything. Once that happens, China will have to honor all of the treaties and in particular, allow labor and money to float by market rate. Once that happens, then their costs will skyrocket.

Equatorial Launch (2)

godel_56 (1287256) | more than 2 years ago | (#38364108)

The launch aircraft has enough range to transport the rocket to an equatorial launch point, which I've read can allow up to a 25% increase in payload

.This might improve on the project's economic chances.

3 Words (1)

andydread (758754) | more than 2 years ago | (#38364306)

Fuck Paul Allen.

Screw him and his 'all you code are belong to us' brigade

Advantages? (1)

NEDHead (1651195) | more than 2 years ago | (#38364348)

I would be interested in a breakdown of the advantages of such launch technology. I understand the flexibility aspect, and the advantage of moving toward the equator - although that is only a plus for certain launch trajectories. How much is saved by starting at altitude? What is the value of starting at 500 mph? How does this all affect the bottom line? Adding a reusable first stage is nice, but are we talking 10% savings? 20? I saw nothing about the real economics on the trite website.

Re:Advantages? (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 2 years ago | (#38365230)

According to musk, 90% of the rocket launch is the labor and rocket costs. The more of it that is re-usable, the cheaper that it is.

The 666 Rule (1)

florescent_beige (608235) | more than 2 years ago | (#38364458)

Mach 6 at 60,000 feet gives you 6% of the energy you need to to orbit. A carrier airplane isn't worth the effort.

Nobody wants to tell him that because...why turn off the money? Another thing poor old Paul isn`t being told:

Q: How do you make a small fortune in aerospace?

A: Start with a large fortune.

These guys are all playing...like the hot-air balloonists who were playing around while Orville and Wilbur were doing the real deal. What the brothers did was hard. Think of it in modern terms: what if there were two guys, one who could cobble together the hardware software and physics to simulate hypersonic flow, and the other guy who could beg borrow steal or pyrolize enough carbon/carbon and titanium to make a scram SSTO. It's almost unimaginable, just like what Orville and Wilbur did. We don't yet know if those two guys will ever exist.

Re:The 666 Rule (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 2 years ago | (#38364790)

Mach 6 at 60,000 feet gives you 6% of the energy you need to to orbit. A carrier airplane isn't worth the effort.

Uh, yes it is. I don't know about this specific design, but the two usual reasons for wanting to start from high altitude are to use vacuum-rated nozzles which have a significantly higher ISP, and to avoid drag early in the flight.

This is very little to do with altitude or velocity, it's primarily air pressure.

Re:The 666 Rule (1)

suomynonAyletamitlU (1618513) | more than 2 years ago | (#38365134)

The question you need to ask with regards to a carrier plane is, what fraction of the propellant mass becomes unnecessary, and can you really carry the rest on with a carrier plane? Remember that the Shuttle took two large solid rockets, and a huge tank of liquid rocket fuel just to get to orbit. Nobody in their right mind would suggest, let alone fund, a project where you launched that off the back of another flying craft.

Orbit is all about the velocity--the kinetic energy put into the vessel. You might get advantages from the high altitude, but unless they make an amazingly huge difference to the amount of propellant used, it's not going to be worth the money spent engineering the plane and the rocket.

Also understand, planes have issues with vibration and turbulence. So do rockets, but a rocket travels forward; this rocket will be strapped horizontally, parallel to travel and perpendicular to turbulence. If it hits a patch of bad air, it will have lateral gee stresses that I'm fairly sure no rocket to date has had to withstand.

NOTA (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 2 years ago | (#38365252)

The fact is that the amount of LOX to get to 50K/500 MPH is not that much. The real ECONOMIC issue is re-usability. As it is, the spaceX rocket appears to be an F 5, not an F9.

Re:The 666 Rule (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 2 years ago | (#38365010)

Of course, the ability to launch over and over quickly and from all over the US or any location would not have any value? Likewise, by building the carrier, it can be used for cargo crafts at other times.

Re:The 666 Rule (1)

shadowofwind (1209890) | more than 2 years ago | (#38365770)

A lot of people don't understand that getting to 'space' doesn't mean much unless you have enough energy to get out of the gravity well, or at least up to a useful orbit. Unscrupulous 'visionaries' have been capitalizing on that misunderstanding for years.

Re:The 666 Rule (3, Informative)

DanielRavenNest (107550) | more than 2 years ago | (#38366038)

You are incorrect. A carrier aircraft doubles the payload to orbit relative to the same rocket starting from the ground. The energy and fuel saved might be only 3%, but if your payload to orbit of the rocket is 3% to start with, then saving 3% will double the payload to 6%.

A carrier aircraft helps in several ways:

* The actual altitude and velocity at the time you light up the rocket
* Reduced g-losses. A conventional rocket starts by going straight up in order to get above most of the atmosphere quickly. When you are thrusting up, gravity fights you by trying to pull you down. This is lost energy. When you thrust horizontally, gravity is perpendicular so does not slow you down. With air-launch, you spend more of your thrust near horizontal
* Reduced drag loss. You are starting above about 80% of the atmosphere, so reduce drag by that much.
* Reduced pressure loss in the rocket nozzle. At sea level, you have to fight 1 atmosphere of air times the area of the nozzle exit. It reduces the rocket engine thrust by that amount. Starting up higher gives you more thrust for the same fuel used.

You need to factor in all of those items to find out the true value of getting launched off an aircraft.

Slashdot, still shit. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38364574)

It's "What do you want to do today?" you fucking morons.

Patent Troll... (1)

mbourgon (186257) | more than 2 years ago | (#38364764)

So I guess his patent troll profits are being used for something...

Pegasus XL scaled up (1)

amightywind (691887) | more than 2 years ago | (#38364950)

It is Pegasus XL [orbital.com] scaled up. Orbital has moved away from the air launched Pegasus in favor of the land launched Taurus. Handling LOX at altitude will be non-trivial. Basically a dumb idea. SpaceX would be wiser to develop solid rocket boosters to heave the F9 to altitude. But if they are only investing private funds, more power to them.

Not really (2)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 2 years ago | (#38365276)

Pegasus was simply grabbing a USAF/NASA project and scaling it down (both in size and economics). They used an L-1011 and creating that. The problem is that Orbital designed poorly. OTH, Scaled has done a number of launches from their system and showed that it worked well. As such, Allen is willing to fund it. I am also going to guess that within 1 year, we will hear that he is funding Bigelow or IDC Dover to put a private space station.

Interesting (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 2 years ago | (#38364986)

How soon will Allen put money into something like Bigelow or IDC Dover? Basically, to make this profitable, he will want to have multiple destinations to go to. Of course, they could rent out the carrier since it will have some impressive cargo capability.

But I really think that Allen's goal is to do for Space what Allen's charter did for internet over cable, or musk's tesla did for electric cars. Allen will likely want to hurry BA or IDC along.

From an economic POV, this should be excellent. (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 2 years ago | (#38365110)

the reason is that the real costs of space systems are human costs and system costs. Humans are easy to lower esp. when you have a system rigged for that. Well, aviation is rigged for that. Likewise, when you take the expensive portion, the first stage and make it a re-usable airplane, you change the economics dramatically. Will this be more efficient in terms of energy? I seriously doubt it. However, at some point, we will have hypersonic flight in which crafts are doing mach 10 or more at 90K feet. If this can become the next stage, then we are looking at cheap access to space. Probably cheaper than skylon.

Looks like a copy of the Hughes Herculese (1)

inflex (123318) | more than 2 years ago | (#38365130)

Anyone else notice that the fuselage has a passing similarity in appearance to the Howard Hughes Herculese (Spruce Goose as it was insultingly called too).

Mr. Allen's bucket list (0)

baldmenRsexy (731455) | more than 2 years ago | (#38365372)

- Build rocket ship that gets to the edge of space - DONE - SpaceShip One, 2004
- Own a company named after Star Trek universe - DONE - Vulcan, Inc is mine, all mine!
- Lose $8 billion when cable company goes bust - DONE - Charter Communications, 2009
- Build the world's largest trebuchet - IN PROGRESS - Stratolaunch, ~2015

(Info on bucket list from WSJ article http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203518404577096493595261190.html?mod=djemTECH_h [wsj.com] )

Re:Mr. Allen's bucket list (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 2 years ago | (#38365926)

What is missing is building the world's first private space station. My guess is that he will back something from BA or IDC Dover in the next year.

And Charter was not so much about making loads of money, but about getting Cable industry to carry internet. And he succeeded at that.

News Blurb (3, Insightful)

brusewitz (1510021) | more than 2 years ago | (#38365476)

Just saw an interview on the news with Burt and Paul. Paul made a point of saying he would not be one of the first to go up. In fact he would wait for many launches before he would go. I guess he learned something from his time at Microsoft!
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