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US Military May Resurrect X-33

Hemos posted more than 13 years ago | from the to-infinity-and-beyond dept.

Space 195

Delbert Matlock writes "The Wasington Post is running a story which hasn't yet been picked up by the other major space news carriers regarding the possibility of the Air Force taking over the X-33 program. For those who don't remember, the X-33 was a NASA program to build a single stage to orbit spacecraft. After Lockheed ran horribly over budget and behind schedule, NASA decided to can the program earlier this year. Apparently, the Air Force sees potential in this design of craft for a weapons delivery system."

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Re:I want to know... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#294044)

That was so funny I forgot to laugh. (Score:-1, Offtopic)

I want to know... (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#294045)

...is this X33 suppoced to be better than X11? In that case it is good that the project continues. Any links to rpms?

Re:US Jets (2)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 13 years ago | (#294047)

I agree with that.

I think I was wrong on that first US combat jet's name. I think it was the called the XP-59 AiraComet. The AirCobra was the Bell P-39, disliked by the Americans and Brits, it was used by the Russians as an Anti-Tank attack plane to great effect.

In spring of 41 the US got the blueprints for the Gloster E-28/29 jet prototype's engines...and that was used in the XP-59.

The Lockheed P-80A was the first US fighter to be sent to a combat zone (Italy) and then was used to great effect in Korea. It used a GE engine, not the engine the Bell XP-59 used.

US Jets (4)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 13 years ago | (#294050)

The US got rocket technology from the Germans, as did the Brits and Russians.

However...US jet technology was initially jointly developed with the British. The US did get some Me 262s late in the war and after the war from the Germans, and those engines were higher powered but had extremely short lives.

The first American combat jet was the AirCobra, but it never went into combat, then the P-80 was sent to Italy in spring of '45...but never saw combat. Had the Allied invasion of Japan taken place in Nov 45 and spring of 46 more of the more advanced P-80s would have flown in combat. But the atomic bomb ended the invasion plans.

Re:Oh no (1)

Phil-14 (1277) | more than 13 years ago | (#294051)

Eek.

I'd rather the military were spending money on projects with a greater chance of working; for high-speed "spaceplane" type stuff, Pioneer Rocketplane seems to be a much better system. I also think roton showed promise. But I don't think X-33 was even a good-faith effort, and I suspect that liquid hydrogen isn't a decent fuel for an operational vehicle.

Re:Vacations in space (1)

Phil-14 (1277) | more than 13 years ago | (#294052)

If you think the X-33 followon is going to be cheaper than the shuttle, you haven't been paying attention to either program.

Re:At least the Air Force expects results (1)

Phil-14 (1277) | more than 13 years ago | (#294053)

It's not really a third chance; when it was being run by BMDO it was effectively a different program, Lockheed was the winner with its design only after it got transferred to NASA. The MacDac design was totally different, as was Rockwell's. Of course, both of those companies are now owned by Boeing, which has a strong NIH attitude towards VTOL.

Re:Misplaced priorities (1)

Phil-14 (1277) | more than 13 years ago | (#294054)

I doubt the Russians have a plane capable of outflying the F-22; however, I appreciate your point about airframe wear.

I think a better plan would be to build a small force of F-22's, and a larger one of JSF and improved F-16's, the latter included in case it turns out F-22's or JSF's are to expensive to operate. The next war we get in, it'll probably be force with the better trained pilots that wins, not the one with the most expensive jets. And I don't think the X-33 is the way to get there.

Re:Sick of NASA's lies (1)

Phil-14 (1277) | more than 13 years ago | (#294055)

I suppose reusable SSTO is easier than everyone thinks. Getting everyone involved to shift their paradigms to those necessary to get cheap SSTO, isn't. The political problems outweigh the technical ones by a large factor.

Re:Sick of NASA's lies (1)

Psion (2244) | more than 13 years ago | (#294059)

Stonewolf, while SSTO is indeed fairly easy, the other half of the goal, reusability, is not. Still, I agree that NASA definitely went down the wrong path with VentureStar...and we see now what they got for it.

Re:Another Arms Race? (1)

Psion (2244) | more than 13 years ago | (#294060)

Every place humans have gone has been militarized. While I agree that it would be nice if we could all learn to get along, hold hands, and explore space peacefully and cooperatively, that just isn't going to happen. If the U.S. doesn't put weapons in space, someone else will (as if they weren't already there). My only hope is that the first nation to put weapons in orbit (and beyond) is benign enough to share the territory.

X-33 vs. Delta Clipper (4)

Psion (2244) | more than 13 years ago | (#294061)

While the VentureStar (X33) had some very cool features, not the least of which was the linear aerospike engine that could tune its efficiency as the vehicle gained altitude, the McDonnell Douglas had a simpler program called the Delta Clipper.

X-33 References [friends-partners.org]

The Delta Clipper (DC-X) program which MD had proposed for NASA's X-33 effort competed with several other projects, including Lockheed's Venture Star. But the Clipper had a distinct advantage: a working prototype.

Delta-Clipper Press Release [boeing.com] Based on off-the-shelf hardware, the DC-X had a fascinating capability that was straight out of 1950's science fiction: this thing could hover! The video footage I've seen of the four-story tall rocket lifting off, rising several hundred feet in the air, moving horizonatally and stopping before descending vertically and landing in the same upright position it took off from was extraordinary. During testing, there were several incidents, including one in which an explosion had occurred on the vehicle as the rockets ignited, but the remotely piloted craft actually took off and hovered before the ground crew realized it had been damaged. Ultimately, the whole program came to a halt when a landing gear failed, causing the prototype to topple over and explode.

A collection of DC-X images [seds.org]

It's a shame Clinton, Gore, and NASA decided to go with the flash and dazzle promised by Lockheed instead of investing the time and energy in a simpler project that was much further along.

Re:Misplaced priorities- are they? (3)

Svartalf (2997) | more than 13 years ago | (#294062)

I think they may be slightly misplaced, but the allure of what the project offers to the millitary (not just the Air Force).

The millitary has to fly/sail/drive troops and equipment to the locations they're needed. That takes time. They're always looking for ways to shave that time off. SSTO technologies offer the promise of the fastest way to deploy things to the front yet.

Think semiballistic flight paths not unlike an ICBM without having to "crash" into their target. This means offering insanely fast transport for stuff to wherever you want it on this planet.

Think manned troop carriers deploying shock troops to nearly anywhere in the world in 90 minutes or less.

Think of a system to deploy equipment of most any kind so long as the payload capacity isn't exceeded- to the same possible places in the same possible time.

Lockheed lapping up the public gravy (2)

A nonymous Coward (7548) | more than 13 years ago | (#294067)

Lockheed has already spent $400 million. They estimate it would cost another $400 million to finish it. What they want right now is for NASA to spend $15 million to keep the project going while the air force looks into taking it over.

I say that if Lockheed really thought that would happen, they'd front the $15 million themselves. Since they are spending their energies trying to get NASA to pay it, they must not have much confidence in the air force coming thru.

--

Real Genius? (2)

FWMiller (9925) | more than 13 years ago | (#294070)

X-33 + ABL [boeing.com] = Crossbow

AKA the space laser plane from the movie Real Genius

Re:Misplaced priorities (2)

Kope (11702) | more than 13 years ago | (#294071)

My concern is not that the military can save money by developing new systems. My concern is that the existing airframs are in dire need of replacement and we aren't spending the money to do that and are instead spending money on systems like this that, while perhaps very cool in and of themselves, don't fit into our existing strategic plan and don't serve an existing need.

Re:Aging airframes (2)

Kope (11702) | more than 13 years ago | (#294072)

I agree that the JSF is moving along. I'm not as optimistic as you about the F-22 (and I don't know if that is a good or a bad thing -- the plane flys fabulously, but it's very limited payload capacity makes it a very short-duration fighter and an ineffecient payload delivery vehicle). But that's not where the needs end.

The B-52 is out-of-date, but the B-1 is nearing the end of its usefullness and we still have tactical uses for that type of delivery. The B-2's are too few to take over the major bombing duties. And too expensive to use as replacement vehicles even if they weren't.

But we have a vast array of other needs as well. Our electronic survallence platforms are getting very out of date as airframes go. We've never really found a good replacement for the F-4s for wild weasel work. Our sub-hunter platforms (admittedly a low priority, but still important, particularly with the soviets selling off their fleet and china developing new subs) are ancient.

Air refuling vehicles are quite old. We still fly a huge number of C-130s and C-141s as our main cargo vehicles.

The list goes on and on.

I agree that it is usually easier to go through X-projects than to go through standard procurrment (one of the reasons that I think the F-22 is dead is that it is now not obtainable by that route but only through procurrement!). But just because it is easier to get something doesn't meant that we should get that something regardless of what it does nad how what it does fits in with our tactical needs and strategic vision.

I am concerned that with shrinking budgets and increasing number of replacement needs, we aren' spending the limited dollars available well. If the existing fighter fleet lasts another 5 years in combat-ready condition it will be a miricle and a testimoney to the ground crews that keep those birds in the air. But it is just not likely to happen. The attrition rate of our current air fleet is very high. The birds need to be replaced today not in 5-10 years. And that means someone needs to pony up to the table and pay for it.

Instead we are spending our money on future projects that offer limited viability in terms of our existing needs and have limited scope in terms of our future strategic concerns.

Misplaced priorities (4)

Kope (11702) | more than 13 years ago | (#294073)

It's nice to see that it isn't only business managers that get wooed by new technology and spend money on stuff they don't need. We get it in the military as well.

With the F-16, F-18's and F-14's showing their age, and the F-22 not being produced, we have a real pressing need right now for a new production air-frame. The Russian Mig-33 is capable of outflying anything we have in the sky (including the F-22!) and while it isn't in production, the possibility remains that other nations could fund the production of those planes (china anyone?!).

Outside of the fighter arena, we are flying seriously old craft in other roles as well. Our air combat support aircraft are ancient and (lacking the sex appeal of new fighters) have not been subjects of serious research in decades (the airframes not the electronic add-ons). Our bombers, with the exception of the very expensive and numerically insignicant B-2s, are on air-frames that are years beyond their expiration dates.

The airforce needs to be spending money on airframe research and replacement for those needs NOW. Any futuristic weapons delivery system like the X-33 project should be looked at as a long-term "nice to see but not necessary" expenditure that only gets funded once the immediate needs are met. Sure, it's a lot less sexy and doesn't make the areospace journal newsmen drool, but it is what is needed and what should be expected and demanded from responsible leadership.

Re:X-33 vs. Delta Clipper (2)

decaym (12155) | more than 13 years ago | (#294076)

Don't forget that after NASA took over the DC-X project from the Air Force they then proceeded to crash the craft (due to human error) and then kill it off. There were obviously some skunks in the NASA works (not to be confused with the Lockheed-Martin Skunkworks, which actually does produce interesting things).

Re:WHY????? (2)

decaym (12155) | more than 13 years ago | (#294077)

What is the military need for this? We've had two generations of bombers, the B1 and B2, that haven't seen combat and aren't going to, ever.

Both the B-1 and B-2 saw combat in the Balkans. The B-1 bombers were forward deployed, but the B-2s flew out of the US and did a 30-hour plus round trip mission.

The B-1 would have been used clear back in the Gulf War except that they were grounded at the time. I don't remember if that was the leaking fuel tanks or the engine falling off problem. The B-1 is an amazing plane, but it shows the worst of "design by committee" engineering.

The biggest reason the B-2 bombers cost so much is because so few were built. All the development costs are included in that price tag. Had more been built, the per aircraft cost would have been lower.

Re:Better Millitary than NASA (2)

decaym (12155) | more than 13 years ago | (#294078)

...build a nuclear aircraft carrier for the cost of four shuttle missions...

I'd dispute this. A shuttle mission costs around $250 million with all training and ground support. Last I heard, an aircraft carrier costs about $7 billion. I think that would come closer to 28 shuttle missions.

X-33 was more than just tanks (engines and TPS) (2)

decaym (12155) | more than 13 years ago | (#294079)

The primary technical jewel on this thing was the cryo-composite fuel tank. It failed miserably, and was going to be replaced with an aluminum tank.

I'd put the linear aerospike engines and the metallic thermal protection system pretty high on the list of technical jewels. Both of those technologies in themselves are worth pursuing.

The linear aerospike engines are lighter, require no gimbaling (hinges), and are less likely to suffer catastrophic failure compared to traditional bell engines. Their design is perfect for lifting body vehicles being that they spread the thrust across a large area rather than focusing it to a point.

The metallic thermal protection system (TPS) could replace the current ceramic tiles on the shuttle and cut it's turnaround cost considerably. The ceramic tiles have to be inspected and specially treated after every flight. Metallic TPS is more durable and easier to service.

The biggest problem with the X-33 was that it tried to test too many technologies in one place. Being that everyone new the fuel tanks were high risk, they should have built aliminum tanks to start with the intention of changing them out with composite tanks later. "Build a little, test a little" is a far safer method when you are putting all your eggs in one basket.

Re:At least its back... (3)

decaym (12155) | more than 13 years ago | (#294080)

While I hate to see the military taking over this project, at least the X-33 has a chance to fly. I just hope they'll build a couple and lob them over the fence to NASA (who did spend $400 million, after all) when they're done.

Actually, NASA spent over $1 billion. Lockheed was in it for $400 million of their own money.

The X-34 (the real plane to be built based on the X-33)...

Sorry, but you are thinking of the VentureStar [venturestar.com] . The X-34 was a technology demonstrator. It got canned because of shifting design requirements that were running the price up too high.

Re:At least the Air Force expects results (2)

Bearpaw (13080) | more than 13 years ago | (#294081)

The X-33 had a lot of promising ideas and new technologies - it's nice to see that all of that will get a second chance.

It's actually more of a third chance. Before NASA had it, it was under the auspices of the Ballistic Missle Defense Organization (under the Department of Defense), in a (relatively) low-cost/fast-track arrangement with McDonnell Douglas. Development seemed to steady and promising until it was passed over to NASA.

At this point, I just want somebody to work on it, as long as it results in a useful (and publicly available) design.

Re:WHY????? (1)

RocketRay (13092) | more than 13 years ago | (#294082)

>We've had two generations of bombers, the B1 and
>B2, that haven't seen combat and aren't going to,
>ever.

The B-2 was used against Serbia in 1999. It flew less than 5% of the missions, but dropped 25% of the guided munitions in the entire conflict. They sortied from Holliman AFB in Missouri, refueled over the Atlantic, conducted their missions in Serbia regardless of the weather, and returned to base.

The B-2 was originally designed to drop nuclear bombs on the Soviet Union. The Air Force wanted more capability, so they had Northrop redesign the plane to fly low and drop conventional weapons too (one of the reasons the thing took so long to develop).

The B-2 works. Just ask the Chinese; their embassy in Belgrade was hit by a bomb dropped by a B-2. Old map, accurate delivery, courtesy of the US Air Force.

On the other hand, the B-1 is a piece of shit. But it is impressive at air shows!

Ever hear. . . (1)

Salgak1 (20136) | more than 13 years ago | (#294087)

. . .of Colonel Buzz Aldrin ?? Colonel John Glenn ? Capt. Chuck Yeager ?? You tend to get a LOT of exploration and advancement out of military people: most of the Astronaut and Cosmonaut corps are military or ex-military. . . .

And from experience, there are a LOT of wannabe Space Cadets in the USAF: MOST of us, at least when I was in, wanted to go to space and explore.

In other words, perhaps you might want to examine your assupmtions about the military and its' culture, prior to lambasting it. . .

Re:Reality Check. . . . (1)

Salgak1 (20136) | more than 13 years ago | (#294088)

Minor quibble: according to Boeing [boeing.com] , the first 747 flew in 1969.

The first OPERATIONAL C-5 was delivered in the summer of 1970.
First flight was in 1968.
The original study contract came out in 1964, the contract to produce came out in 1965, according to Lockheed-Martin [lmasc.com]

Re:Aging airframes (2)

Salgak1 (20136) | more than 13 years ago | (#294089)

I've read elsewhere that it's likely that Secretary Rumsfield will cut either the F-22 or the JSF. My bet is on the F-22 being cut.

As for bombers, the B-52 is a perfectly acceptable platform. . .for standoff launching of cruise-missile type weapons. As an ex B-52 EW officer, I can say that a bomber with the radar cross-section of Saskatchewan won't last long in a modern air defense environment, unless that area has been totally sanitized of modern Air Defense assets. B-1's can do conventional, but nowehere as quickly, with as wide a range of weapons, or as effectively as the old Buffosaurus...

Air Refueling: the -R modifications have done wonderful things to the KC-135s, but still, we need more tankers. A 767 tanker mod comes to mind, as does a 767 AWACS mod (the E-3's date from the late 1970s, and have early 1960's airframes. . .).

Cargo: we need a lot more C-17s. Period. The Starlifters are ancient. . . .

Fighters: Now, for where I really piss off the fighter community. The future of air operations is in RPVs and eventually autonomous air vehicles. But, alas, the Air Force, and to a lesser extent, Naval Aviation, is run by Fighter Pilots. . .

Reality Check. . . . (3)

Salgak1 (20136) | more than 13 years ago | (#294090)

Let's look at the results of military weapons programs, shall we ??? The need for a jet cargo plane/tanker had a little spinoff called the Boeing 707. . . the plane that jump-started international passenger aviation.

Then, the US military needed a wide-bodied heavy-lift cargo craft. We got the C-5. The loser in THAT competition became the Boeing 747. Which further revolutionized air travel, AND kick-started Wide-body technology. . .

I could continue with things like helicopters, GPS, the TCP/IP protocol, and many others, which were originally developed for the US military. An organization with just as many spinoffs as NASA, just less publicity on them. . .

Re:At least the Air Force expects results (1)

Darth Hubris (26923) | more than 13 years ago | (#294099)

If the airforce gets the bugs worked out, and can deliver the actual vehicle, NASA will probably find or be given the budget to procure a few of these. I don't know if anyone remembers, but the shuttle Atlantis gets used on a regular basis by the Airforce on secret missions.

Re:Not sure it's pork (2)

Kartoffel (30238) | more than 13 years ago | (#294101)

A problem that DOD is quietly worried about is the declining number of . . . welders, pipefitters, and the like

Good point. The US performed so well in WWII because they were able to outproduce the Axis. A Liberty ship every 48 hours... Sherman tanks by the thousands, plenty of food, scrap metal, rubber, gasoline, etc.

Isn't it ironic that the greatest capitalist superpower is worried about losing the means of production? Heh. You can't outsource production of guns and bombs when the bad guys own all the factories you used to buy from.

Re: And you build rockets? (2)

Kartoffel (30238) | more than 13 years ago | (#294102)

NASA is a bunch of blundering idiots. They're the only ones in the entire world with a space program that is even worth a damn.

All things considered, NASA has a damn good space program. Rocket scientists, unfortuntately, don't make the greatest politicians. And politicians usually don't have a clue when it comes to making technical decisions.

IANAP (I am not a politician), so I can't tell you why X-33 was cancelled, or why the International Space Station is getting butchered. I can tell you that NASA has a limited budget and they have to go before Congress every year to beg and plead for what they do get.

There are three laws of government operations:

  1. The amount of sense made by any given proposal or idea is inversely proportional to its probability of being adopted
    • 1st corollary: If you want to screw something up to the maximum extent possible, let the government do it.
    • 2nd corollary: Consider only your own little corner of the world - never mind that your brilliant solution may wreck the whole system.
    • 3rd corollary: Never apply lessons learned from previous programs or mistakes.
  2. Whenever possible, the government will always strive to be penny-wise and pound-foolish
    • 1st corollary: Let someone else worry about solving the problem ten years from now - that way, the money won't come out of your budget.
    • 2nd corollary: Be success-oriented: When in doubt, assume that the system will work as advertised - all that matters is that you bring in the project on time and under cost. (In other words, "You wanted it to work too? -- That will cost extra!")
    • 3rd corollary: Crash programs are based on the theory that if you have 9 pregnant women, you will get a baby in 30 days.
  3. If you try to build something which is all things to all people, it will end up being nothing to anybody
    • 1st corollary: There is such a thing as being too generic.
    • 2nd corollary: Never let the left hand know what the right hand is doing - the communication will waste too much time.
    • 3rd corollary: Keep trying to do more with less. No one will notice that you are actually doing less with less until it is too late. By then, you will likely be gone or retired.

Re:Misplaced priorities (2)

wiredog (43288) | more than 13 years ago | (#294109)

From the Post: "While that is a large amount of money for an Air Force already struggling to buy all the weapons on its shopping list, the total is less than the cost of developing a whole new bomber program"

So your concern that the Air Force could save money by developing new systems is misplaced. Also, note that this is Lockheed, which has a record of delivering military (F-117) and intelligence aircraft (U-2, SR-71) ahead of schedule and under budget.

Aging airframes (2)

wiredog (43288) | more than 13 years ago | (#294110)

The F-22 will probably happen, and the Joint Strike Fighter, planned to replace the F-16, is moving along. The UK and other Europeans are putting money into it, so killing it would be a major diplomatic, as well as domestic, hassle. The B-52 fills a need that has disappeared. Arclight strikes aren't all that effective unless your enemy is all bunched together in a desert and strategic nuclear bombing can be handled by B-2's and missiles.

The Air Force has much better luck moving things into production via X programs than through the normal acquisitions process. The F-117 started out as Have Blue, the SR-71 as the A-12. X programs and various black programs are not subject to the various procurement rules and thus cost less. You see, the rules are intended to ensure fairness and reduce fraud. They do this by imposing tremendous paperwork requirements on the contractor. Many companies won't work for the government because of this and those that do make sure that the government picks up the extra cost. Which is why hammers can cost $100 to the government and $10 at the local hardware store.

Not sure it's pork (2)

wiredog (43288) | more than 13 years ago | (#294111)

A problem that DOD is quietly worried about is the declining number of people with the skills needed to build military equipment. I'm not talking about engineers here, but about welders, pipefitters, and the like. There's only one company building submarines, Electric Boat, and they have trouble keeping enough work to stay afloat. If they went under it could take years to re-build the know how to build subs. (Yes, I know, "afloat", "go under"). The same thing applies to military aircraft. If we don't spend the money to keep up our expertise then it won't be there when we need it. "The most expensive army in the world is the one that's second best."

Re:Not sure it's pork (2)

wiredog (43288) | more than 13 years ago | (#294112)

You can't outsource production of guns and bombs when the bad guys own all the factories you used to buy from.

Yup. Most merchant hulls are made overseas and there are very few US based merchant shippers.
Navy's really unhappy about that. We do food production very well, but the manufacturing is what's gonna get us. There's been lots of discussion over at Pournelle's site about that.

Re:US Jets (1)

Sam Jooky (54205) | more than 13 years ago | (#294116)

Sorry, didn't mean to refer simply to the US Military and their air power, nor to imply that we developed it. I was trying to make a point that the military (particularly in times of war) tends to take a technology and develop it very rapidly.

But your points are taken, and thanks for the cool jet info. ;)

Re:That's why these projects should be internation (3)

Sam Jooky (54205) | more than 13 years ago | (#294117)

I say more power to them. All things considered, they'll probably develop it better and faster than Lockheed would have. The military has a far greater budget (what is it this year? 200 billion?) and let's not forget their success with developing jet power rapidly in the 40s (with the help of the German military) and kickstarting the internet (without the help of Al Gore).

Re:That's why these projects should be internation (3)

Tackhead (54550) | more than 13 years ago | (#294118)

> Mainly because the peaceful project intends to save lifes, whereas the US military tries to make things that are very efficient as possible.

Whoa, dude. Stop right there. When you spend millions of dollars training pilots, and billions of dollars on developing advanced experimental aircraft, the first thing on your mind - as a general or a bean-counter - is the safety of the crew. And the best way to ensure the safety of the crew is to make goddamn sure that plane comes back in one piece.

I sense deep hostility in you towards the military. Might I suggest that the next time the .mil comes to town (airshows, Veteran's Day, etc...), that you ask a serviceman, servicewoman, or vet how they feel about their job. And that rather than telling them "what's right", you simply listen. Those who serve in the military are as interested in preventing war as you are.

Re:That's why these projects should be internation (1)

ErikZ (55491) | more than 13 years ago | (#294119)

Yeah right. The problem with the x-33 is that it's too advanced/experimental for the US. I'd love to see any other country in the world give a shot at making one that works. Cause they won't be able to.

That's why I'm not worried about the stolen nuclear bomb designs. Yeah, they can be used to make some advanced nuclear bombs. Good luck in getting the chimps you guys call scientists in actually building one.

Oh yeah, and if you manage to actually build one, you'll have to test it, to make sure you didn't screw up. Breaking the nuclear bomb test treaty with a megaton warhead is not going to endear you to the hearts of the rest of the world.

Re:Reality Check. . . . (1)

rob colonna (72681) | more than 13 years ago | (#294123)

>Then, the US military needed a wide-bodied heavy-
>lift cargo craft. We got the C-5. The loser in
>THAT competition became the Boeing 747. Which
>further revolutionized air travel, AND kick-
>started Wide-body technology. . .

While i agree with the main point of technology transfer's value, which is at best underestimated, and more often ignored, it's worth noting here that the 747 and C-5 are completely different beasts, designed for totally divergent requirements. The 747 entered service in 1966, and the first C-5 was delivered in 1970.

However, every time some big project is undertaken by the government, a lot of money is spent, yes, but a great many new things are learned, as well. We just never hear about them due to the fiasco-of-the-week involving $30k toilet seats, which is a crying shame.

Better Millitary than NASA (2)

selectspec (74651) | more than 13 years ago | (#294124)

Considering that you can build a nuclear aircraft carrier for the cost of four shuttle missions, I for one am glad the millitary is taking this project on. Better weapons in space than brocolli.

x-34 design COMPLETELY unrelated to X-33 (2)

gonar (78767) | more than 13 years ago | (#294126)

X-34 looks like a cross between a pegasus and the shuttle.

x-33 looks like 6-million dollar man lifting bodies fom 60's

x-34 uses a conventional rocket

x-33 uses linear aerospike.

x-34 is dropped from an l-1011

x-33 is ground based

the only things they have in common are reuseability.

Hear, hear!! (1)

Darth Yoshi (91228) | more than 13 years ago | (#294128)

Typical of NASA to crash and burn a successful project in favor of spending a billion dollars on smoke and mirrors.

Re:Nasa and X Programs - a skeptical view (1)

Darth Yoshi (91228) | more than 13 years ago | (#294129)

Just a note. DC-X under the DOD was a (relatively) cheap, low-profile X-project with modest, but specific, goals. Nobody expected much to come out of it. VentureStar is a much more expensive, high-visibilty project with more grandiose, but less specific, goals. Look for some serious lobbying efforts by Lockheed-Martin.

Even better... (1)

Darth Yoshi (91228) | more than 13 years ago | (#294130)

Even better is the latest SAS update here [space-access.org] .

Spin Reality check ..X-33 began military (1)

RossR (94714) | more than 13 years ago | (#294134)

For those people feeling the need to bash turing the "peace loving" X-33 over to the military. The X-33 started out military. For many years the X-33 was under SDIO. (Strategic Defense Initiate Office) AKA Star Wars. You see to launch enough missile killing satellites to do any good, a economical launch vehicle is needed. What is important to the military is results.

NASA has very little interest in being economical. Remember NASA's job is to spend money in the right congressional districts and to not publicly screw up. (Recently the purpose has been expanded a bit to include gainfully employing the Russian scientists so that the do not give any tech to "Rough"(sp?) nations) Those purposes are best server by big projects with big budgets and huge bureaucrat class. NASA has learned that to do nothing receives less public criticism then to try and fail.

The military is a much better place for cheap risky experiments. The skunk works model has produced some fabulous things at bargain prices. (think U-2, SR-75, Aurora etc...) The great thing about classifying a project is that it mandates small teams.

Re:Spin Reality check ..X-33 began military (1)

RossR (94714) | more than 13 years ago | (#294135)

My starting as a SDIO project comment was a little off. I was thinking about the Delta Clipper project.

X-33 (1)

milgram (104453) | more than 13 years ago | (#294142)

A new way to fly around the world, really quickly. I guess the USAF is more efficient than NASA, right?

U.S. Military Expenditures for 1999 (1)

Oscar26 (126520) | more than 13 years ago | (#294150)

$276.7 Billion.

NASA's proposed 2002 budget. $14.x Billion

The WHOLE Appolo Program. $25 Billion.

Granted, the U.S. Military is over 2 Million strong.

References

http://www.odci.gov/cia/publications/factbook/ge os /us.html

Don't throw away money on this -- NASA was right. (2)

small_dick (127697) | more than 13 years ago | (#294153)

The primary technical jewel on this thing was the cryo-composite fuel tank. It failed miserably, and was going to be replaced with an aluminum tank.

Other than the tank, there was little in this prototype that would truly advance the state of spaceflight.

Also, this was guaranteed -- in writing -- to fly in 2001. If they go with the aluminum tank, it will fly (possibly) in 2003. Missing time and budget is not a good way to keep a program alive.

Let this one go, build something closer to the final 'spaceplane'. America desperately needs a shuttle backup/replacement, and this prototype is too expensive and behind schedule for the technology return it would give.



Cure cancer, world peace ... (1)

porky_pig_jr (129948) | more than 13 years ago | (#294154)

with a weapon like this you can cure world peace rather quickly ...

Once Again.. (1)

antis0c (133550) | more than 13 years ago | (#294156)

The want for Power and Weapons out does the need for exploration and advancement.

Rocks are cool (2)

MongooseCN (139203) | more than 13 years ago | (#294159)

From the article:

Because the warhead would be coming from space, it would achieve enormous speed and kinetic energy on its way down -- so great that it wouldn't even need explosives on board to generate the destructive power of a small nuclear device, according to Dailey's presentation. As proof, he pointed out the huge craters that have been created by relatively small meteors.

Has anyone ever read the book The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein? In the book the people living on the moon fight for their independance by using the moons potential energy difference between the earth to drop rocks on the earth. Funny what those rocks will do when they impact at high speed...

Which brings up another question. A rock colliding with the earth can create a near nuclear explosion. So with the current ban on nuclear weapons, will we have a ban on dropping rocks from outerspace on other countries?

Re:Sick of NASA's lies (1)

scarhill (140669) | more than 13 years ago | (#294162)

All the SSTO examples you cite are disposable. X-33 and DC-X are meant to be prototypes of a reusable SSTO, which is a much harder beast to build, but would presumably have much greater impact on costs.

The Army and Rockets (1)

HerrGlock (141750) | more than 13 years ago | (#294163)

The U.S. Army has a long history of using rockets. The minuteman, honest john, nike and others were in the inventory for quite a while. This is just a logical extension of those inventory items. What is interesting is that it's only now that the Army gets back into this.

DanH
Cav Pilot's Reference Page [cavalrypilot.com]

Re:Misplaced priorities (1)

cmat (152027) | more than 13 years ago | (#294166)

You're right when you say "misplaced priorities". But not in the way you think... maybe the US should (god forbid!) take the lead and start phasing out it's constant outreach for the next uber-weapon and focus on projects that are or more use to the populace at large... ie the pioneering of space outposts, travel, etc.

Is this probably just a pipe dream? Yes. But it would be nice to see a single stage reusable spacecraft come from the engineers of the USAF et al. Especially when in terms of populsion systems, we haven't traversed past 20th century design on most fronts! :)

Cheers,
Chris

WHY????? (2)

Ars-Fartsica (166957) | more than 13 years ago | (#294168)

Its nice to see that the military is bringing back from the dead a costly program that has already been demonstrated as a dead-end....and guess who is going to pay for it? You kiddo.

What is the military need for this? We've had two generations of bombers, the B1 and B2, that haven't seen combat and aren't going to, ever. We've spent billions on erecting advanced satellite networks for recon, and we've already got workhorses for hauling equipment and people.

There's only one explanation for this - mmmmmm pork. This has less to do with the military and more to do with military contractors generating new work for themselves.

Like the B2, this is a project without a goal, just some worthless tech designed to redirect money from the taxpayer's pocket into the contractor's pocket.

Re:At least its back... (2)

Ars-Fartsica (166957) | more than 13 years ago | (#294169)

As a community and as a species. It currently costs $10,000 USD / pound to send stuff into space.

But your presumption is that the solution must be a manned vehicle. You are not going to see SSTO in a manned vehicle unless there is a substantial breakthrough in materials research. A prominent scientist from the skunk works has gone as far to say SSTO will never happen.

Re:Sick of NASA's lies (2)

Ars-Fartsica (166957) | more than 13 years ago | (#294170)

SSTO is not hard to do folks

You're right in a sense, SSTO isn't hard, but given current technology, impossible.

None of the craft you describe on their own is suitable for hauling loads into orbit.

People have been researching useable SSTO for twenty years. Many of them have concluded that it will not happen, ever. Do the math, you just can't get there using the materials we know how to use now.

Re:Misplaced priorities (3)

Ars-Fartsica (166957) | more than 13 years ago | (#294171)

Wrong. The f-18 is in production now with advanced avionics. Its a cost effective platform.

The Russian Mig-33 is capable of outflying anything we have in the sky

Come on, no one in the strategic community looks at the technical qualities of one platform over another as being significant anymore. How many Mig33's are there? How is the supply chain for spare parts? What logistical support is there for this and other Russian products?

Re:That's why these projects should be internation (1)

CorporateProgrammerD (170692) | more than 13 years ago | (#294173)

they'll probably develop it better and faster than Lockheed would have

What? Do you really think that the U.S. military will actually have their government staff scientists and engineers doing this work?

The government writes the specs, takes bids (although in this case the spec will look suspiciously like "Make an X-33", and only Lockheed will be capable of meeting the spec, so they'll have the only bid) then the DoD FUNDS the R&D, which the vendor (Lockheed) will actually do.

Yes, there is feedback, and reports to the DoD, and there may be military personnel assigned to the effort. But Lockheed will still be developing it.

This is slightly offtopic, but...

I don't know how things work in a high profile fast-track military system like this one, but here's how the typical military contract R&D project goes:

Once approved, and the bid is accepted, the military will promise $X million for a phase of development.

Lockheed will spend a bit more than that and produce the deliverable(s).

The military will eventually approve the cost overruns.

Then the paperwork involved in actually paying those millions of dollars will disappear somewhere in a maze of procurement officers' desks for a while, 6 months perhaps or a year.

Meanwhile Lockheed is spending millions on the next phase of development. The government does pay it's bills eventually, though.

Producing hardware for the military is rather lucrative, but you need deep enough pockets to hold you through until the government actually pays.

Re:Rocks are cool (1)

Niherlas (171927) | more than 13 years ago | (#294174)

A rock colliding with the earth can create a near nuclear explosion.

Uhm... nope. The kinetic energy of the impact, given a large enough mass, can rival the energy released by a nuclear device. But the explosion itself is not generated by a nuclear reaction - you won't irradiate the area, there won't be an EMP.

Besides, Nuclear Winter sounds so much niftier than Big Rock Winter. Same end result, tho.

Makes perfect sense (2)

duvel (173522) | more than 13 years ago | (#294175)

Actually it makes perfect sense to use budget from the military to make space technology better.

After all, it's time that everyone starts to realise that, now the iron curtain is down, there are no more enemies for the US to combat. So if the military is still to be deserving a budget, they might as well spend it on stuff that has some actual use (or at least a slightly less dim chance of being used than e.g. new atomic bombs).

If the project eventually turns out to reduce the cost of getting stuff into space from 10,000 USD per pound to 1,000 USD per pound, then anything that is spent on this, is money well spent. I'd rather see my tax dollars being used on something that might improve my quality of life, than on something that is aimed at terminating my life.

Re:US Jets (2)

sane? (179855) | more than 13 years ago | (#294176)

However...US jet technology was initially jointly developed with the British. The US did get some Me 262s late in the war and after the war from the Germans, and those engines were higher powered but had extremely short lives.

Not quite, jet technology was GIVEN to the US (and the to Russians) by the UK. Take a look at http://www.midlandairmuseum.org.uk/thejet.html for more info.

Then the US turned round and locked the UK out.

Its nice to know who your friends are.

Re:Misplaced priorities (1)

richie123 (180501) | more than 13 years ago | (#294177)

I always find it intersting that Americans complain and complain about taxes (even if they have the lowest in the G7), and that the government does nothing for it's citizens, then two minutes later I hear them saying "We need to spend more money on the military".

Re:Nasa and X Programs - a skeptical view (2)

Alien54 (180860) | more than 13 years ago | (#294178)

The point being - the project did well under the military, but nasa has it's own political agenda - discussed thoroughly above, that has stopped these programs just when they needed the most success.

Check out the Vinny the Vampire [eplugz.com] comic strip

Nasa and X Programs - a skeptical view (5)

Alien54 (180860) | more than 13 years ago | (#294179)

As reported in Space Access Update #88 14.jun.1999

Space Access Update #84 6/14/99

Copyright 1999 by Space Access Society www.space-access.org [space-access.org] ;

Space Access Society's sole purpose is to promote radical reductions in the cost of reaching space. You may redistribute this Update in any medium you choose, as long as you do it unedited in its entirety.

Editorial: Right Intentions, Wrong Direction -

NASA's Destructive Approach To Cheap Access

Let us be clear from the start: NASA has screwed up the cheap access initiatives entrusted to it to date, from the mismanagement of DC-XA into a crash (we still haven't seen full public release of the predictable blame-the-contractor report on that mess) to the muddled morphing of X-33 into a half-assed Shuttle II. As far as we are concerned, the current push to do "X-Ops" reusable rocket low-cost operability demos in Future-X is NASA's last chance - if they mess this up too, come 2001 we'll be pushing hard for removal of RLV technology development responsibility from NASA entirely.

We reluctantly came to this conclusion last fall, and started working quietly behind the scenes to advance Future-X X-Ops work. Why are we going public now? Because over the last two months the evidence has become overwhelming that NASA is reverting to malign old habits - they are once again pushing their internal agendas with reckless disregard for the interests of US industry and of the country as a whole, to the point of actively attacking the credibility and investment-worthiness of the reusable-launch startups. They have done so repeatedly, and (under the most charitable interpretation) factually incorrectly.

This must stop, NOW. If NACA in 1930 had been allowed to tell potential investors that Douglas and Boeing couldn't possibly build robust all-metal monoplane airliners without ten additional years of massive NACA research funding, we'd all still be taking trains. Assuming, of course that we survived WW II at all.

If NASA can neither usefully support entrepreneurial low-cost launch ventures, nor at minimum shut up and stay out of their way, then it's time to start looking carefully at the parts of NASA involved, constraining the ones still needed, and defunding the rest.

Why?

NASA is doing this to advance two major agendas that we see. One is to maintain the JSC/KSC manned-space Station/Shuttle bloatocracy into the indefinite future, by preempting all possible alternatives to some sort of massive full-employment Shuttle Upgrade or Shuttle Followon project.

The other is to fund a wish-list of blue sky launch technology projects (including hypersonic airbreathing launch vehicles - NASP II, anyone?) from most of the other NASA centers under the name "Spaceliner 100", by attacking current (rocket) technologies as simply not good enough.

That's our merely best estimate of their motives, mind. It's always possible NASA is attacking the commercial RLV outfits out of sheer random institutional bloodymindedness. But attacking they are - and in general, the main content of their attacks is, uh, incorrect.

In evidence, point #1

- The April 8th speech by Administrator Goldin to the US Space Foundation, in the context of supporting yet another expensive push for hypersonic "RBCC" (Rocket-Based Combined Cycle) airbreathers. (We suspect Dan Goldin has been getting very bad advice lately.) "At NASA, the technology barrier is the rocket." He goes on to state, more or less correctly, that Shuttle launch costs are about $10,000 per pound, and then says "Expendable vehicles are not significantly cheaper" (with the unspoken corollary that reusable rockets can't possibly be much better.)

It depends on your definition of "significantly", we guess - aside from the Titan 4, which involves almost as much bureaucracy as Shuttle, current medium-to-heavy commercial expendables cost from about half (Delta 2, Atlas 2) to about one fifth (ILS Proton) of $10K per pound to LEO. NASA's recent line that even reusable rockets can't make more than a factor of ten reduction over Shuttle launch costs looks pretty foolish when decades-old expendable designs already undercut Shuttle by factors of two to five. And at least two credible current expendable ventures are shooting for that factor of ten reduction.

It is indeed possible that rockets, *as conceived by NASA*, can never get much cheaper than Shuttle. There's considerable evidence to support this in NASA's recent RLV efforts. But, if we can keep NASA from strangling the innovative RLV startups in their cradles, there is no fundamental law of physics preventing clever engineers without NASA's forty years of bureaucratic baggage from undercutting Shuttle costs by factors of ten right from the start, getting down to factors of as much as a hundred once experience refines systems and flight rates rise.

In evidence, point #2:

- May 8th "New Scientist" magazine - from an article on Richard (Virgin Atlantic Airways) Branson's investment negotiations with Rotary Rocket Company, a quote from a top-level NASA official dismissing Roton and other such reusable rocket concepts as "...system gimmicks to overcome the unbelieveable lack of technology they [the startup reusable rocket companies] have."

Hmm. NASA, by implication, has far better technology. Oh, really. Who has full-scale graphite-epoxy LOX tanks? Who has access to the best (Russian) rocket engines in the world? Who can build composite fuel tanks, liquid hydrogen or plain old kerosene, that *don't* leak like sieves? Who knows how to tow-launch high wing-loading vehicles? Who has the biggest concentration of expertise in the world on vertical-landing rockets? On aerial cryo-propellant transfer? On rapid prototyping of high-strength ultra-light composites? On high-performance non-toxic storable propellants?

If you answered "NASA" to any of the above, you are *wrong*, chucko. The answer in every case is "private industry", and in most cases the startups. NASA still has pockets of excellence, but they float in a sea of mediocrity. NASA slamming the startups' technology in order to get more funding for their own endless noodling is, frankly nauseating.

That said, precisely what is wrong with "system gimmicks" if they *work*? Are they somehow impure, unclean, unworthy of the true scientific guardians of higher-tech-at-all-costs? A case in point: Modern military aircraft require a base with a ten thousand-foot concrete runway to operate effectively, right? No possible way to cut that to one-tenth the size and, better yet make it mobile, short of some ultra-advanced technology like anti-gravity? Right?

Uh... What is an aircraft carrier but a collection of "system gimmicks" - massive victorian-tech steam catapults for takeoffs, arrestor wires and tailhooks and mirror-and-light path indicators for landings, angled flight decks to allow both at once, plus the accumulated operational expertise to make it all work, a mobile airbase a tenth the size of fixed landbased versions. If the "system gimmick" RLV startups can make a major dent in launch costs, and it looks as if, given a chance, they can, we do not give two figs how "gimmicky" their technology is. To quote some anonymous Cold War weapons designer, "'better' is the enemy of 'good enough'".

In evidence, point #3:

This week's "Space News" - "Reusable Launch Vehicles A Decade Away, NASA Says." We mentioned in Update #83 that the results of an industry study on what to do about Shuttle (STAS, the Space Transportation Architecture Study) were out, and that while many of the proposals were (predictably) for massively expensive one-size- fits-all Shuttle replacements, at least some of the conclusions were sensible, IE gradually replace Shuttle with an EELV/CTV system that would meet NASA manned-space's basic needs with a relatively small investment while having (a major point to us) negligible impact on the commercial markets.

Now it seems the NASA/Aerospace Corp response to the various STAS reports has been leaked to Space News, and the gist of it is: NASA slams the various RLV proposals as unrealistic regarding schedule and budget (not surprising if they're geared to actually getting a contract to replace Shuttle; spending too much money over too long a time in all the right districts is an unspoken requirement for any would-be Shuttle replacement - still, it seems unfair to slam the proposals for soft-pedalling these unspoken specs) and proposes that NASA essentially micromanage a drawn-out process to eventually replace Shuttle sometime in the 2010's.

Previous intentions to encourage commercial RLV developments have evaporated; NASA Shuttle II will be the only game in town, at least by this tell-the-customer-what-they-want-to-hear custom blueprint.

Mind, we haven't seen this study ourselves yet; we're going on Space News's reading - but this agrees with the other recent evidence. By essentially dismissing the chances any of the current crop of RLV startups could succeed and thus position themselves to meet a significant part of NASA manned space's launch needs, NASA significantly reduces their chances of getting the investment they need to succeed, in a fine example of pernicious self-fulfilling prophecy. Meanwhile, by ignoring the meet-JSC's-needs-and-no-more EELV/CTV approach in favor of some flavor of massive-overcapacity Shuttle II, this study continues NASA's implicit threat of a subsidized grab of the core of the existing commercial launch demand, adversely affecting the investment climate for commercial space launch in general.

This is rapidly approaching the point where we'll be able to make a convincing case that this nation's future in space would be better served by a radically reduced NASA. We'd rather not find that road the only one left to us.

Fixing the problem

For starters, we'd like to see whoever's peddling this line at NASA HQ fired, or at least transferred to counting seabirds at some remote tracking station. Not that the person in question is more than a representative of widespread NASA tendencies, but it will at least serve as an example to the rest.

We'd like to hear an unambiguous repudiation of the totally unacceptable anti-RLV startup investment advice voiced in the May 8th New Scientist article.

We'd like to see a firm NASA commitment to "X-Ops", supporting interested startups in proving out and refining their low-cost launch approaches via low-cost subscale flight demonstrations on NASA's dime, in order to get them to the point where they are unmistakeably ready to raise commercial funds to develop full-scale commercial vehicles on an acceptable commercial timescale.

Under those circumstances, we would find it appropriate to support a minimal-investment approach to guaranteeing Shuttle's NASA-unique missions, and to support a moderate level of investment in getting the various "Spaceliner 100" technologies closer to ready for prime time - we note that the proposed RBCC engine in particular has huge remaining unknowns in terms of weight, cost, and speed range, and much work needs to be done before any Trailblazer-class (~$500m) flight vehicle program is appropriate. In other words, "show us the engine!" - given X-33's develop-a-whole-new-engine problems, this should go without saying, but it apparently doesn't.

We can understand why there might be disillusion with reusable rockets at top levels in NASA, given the reluctance of the post- consolidation aerospace majors to compete with themselves by commiting significant resources, and given the NASA managerial-level cluelessness in efforts to date. But stomping the startups in an effort to fund NASP II is not the answer.

Give the startups a real chance now - tight funding. tight schedule, tight accounting, but minimal engineering elbow-joggling - and in three years, we'll know what's really possible.

Stick with business as usual, and sooner or later the country will realize what damage NASA is doing, and will act appropriately.

Space Access Society's sole purpose is to promote radical reductions in the cost of reaching space. You may redistribute this Update in any medium you choose, as long as you do it unedited in its entirety.

Space Access Society http://www.space-access.org space.access@space-access.org

"Reach low orbit and you're halfway to anywhere in the Solar System" - Robert A.Heinlein

Space Access Society www.space-access.org [space-access.org] ;

Check out the Vinny the Vampire [eplugz.com] comic strip

Star Wars Project (1)

jmu1 (183541) | more than 13 years ago | (#294181)

Sounds like to me they are looking for a way to revamp the good 'ol Regan project by the name of Star Wars. Get those satellites up there as quick as possible... and hey, while we are cluttering up the skyways, let's put some low-orbit fighters that just sit in orbit, waiting for the chance to wax an opponent. Blach!

Re:US Jets (1)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 13 years ago | (#294183)

. The Lockheed P-80A was the first US fighter to
> be sent to a combat zone (Italy) and then was
> used to great effect in Korea.

At least until the USSR backed China's counter-
offensive and the P-80 pilots were shocked to
find themselves outclassed by the Soviets'
shiny new MiG-15s. But then our pilots got F-86
Sabres which evened things up nicely. "All we
want for Christmas is our wings swept back..."

Chris Mattern

Back to throwing stones! (1)

outofoptions (199169) | more than 13 years ago | (#294185)

No explosives needed? Just use the kinetic energy from a rock? This is wild. Billions of dollars to throw a rock at someone. ;-)

Originally a USAF project anyway (1)

Planesdragon (210349) | more than 13 years ago | (#294188)

Back in the late 1980s my father worked at the HQ for NASP--the "National Aero Space Plane", in Wright-Patt, AFB, Ohio. He brought home some press releases that were -*gasp*- identical in concept and rough design to the X-33.

Saying they can use it for a weapon is just a good way to get funding--and, really, the X-33 design of the NASP has enough problems it needed to get scrappd. I can't wait to see if they can finish what was started 15 years ago.

Re:Another Arms Race? (1)

Xuther (223012) | more than 13 years ago | (#294192)

The air force has been looking at doing a space plane for a while now. They've already been undergoing changes from an aerospace force to a space-air force. Whoever has military craft in space, has a much longer reach. I wouldn't be too surprised if they started trying to put together a stealth space-plane that could go anywhere in the world within a few hours. In fact I'd be really surprised if something like that isn't already on the boards or in test flight production runs.

Re:That's the military! (1)

Mr. Bob Arctor (223605) | more than 13 years ago | (#294193)

I've got a few jobs on my desk which are overbudget and behind schedule...anyone in the military care to take care of 'em?

Hmmm... (1)

James Foster (226728) | more than 13 years ago | (#294194)

I'll bet the Chinese are just drooling at the prospect of capturing one of these babies!! ;]

Oh no (1)

trolebus (234192) | more than 13 years ago | (#294199)

The return of the X-33 would have been the best thing to ever happen to manned spaceflight, provided we got it right the second time and provided it was NASA not the USAF that picked it up. For humanity to progress in space we need civilian missions designed to explore, not missions designed to bomb a country back to the stone age. I wish I could be happy about this but if anything its a step backwards in space exploration.

Maybe we should just get to work on a space elevator

You are right... (1)

stonewolf (234392) | more than 13 years ago | (#294200)

I am not a rocket scientist, but I am married to a rocket scientist who has helped design both orbital and suborbital vehicles. I trust here judgement.

Re:Sick of NASA's lies (1)

stonewolf (234392) | more than 13 years ago | (#294201)

You are right and wrong. Atlas was disposable, the modified Saturn was NOT intended to be disposable and is the great great great grandfather of the DC-X.

Lumping X-33 and DC-X together is interesting. X-33 was a political move diesgined to discredit DC-X. DC-X might actually work. But, notice that the X-33 has hypersonic glide cabability, just like the shuttle. You need hypersonic glide in military applications. DC-X has no hypersonic glide capability. And was skillfully killed.

StoneWolf

Re:Sick of NASA's lies (1)

stonewolf (234392) | more than 13 years ago | (#294202)

Other people point out that it has already been done with 35 year old technology. I have done the math and lived the history. You might want to read some of the history of SSTO systems.

Sick of NASA's lies (3)

stonewolf (234392) | more than 13 years ago | (#294203)

I am so so so sick of NASA's lies. They have blocked every attempt to build cheap reliable space launch technology. X-33 was known to be so risky that very few in the aerospace industry ever expected it to fly. The tanks that failed were of a design that was rated as one of the highest risks in the entire program. That was known from the very first.

SSTO is not hard to do folks. Remember Mercury capsules from the early '60s? Launched on an Atlas missle developed in the '50s? Tha Atlas was nearly SSTO capable in 1960. The second stage of the Starun V, you remember, the moon rocket? WAS SSTO CAPABLE in the middle 1960s. The first proposal for a man carrying SSTO was a version of the Staturn V third stage that was sligthly longer and had a crew cabin. It could have been flying in the early '70s...

I could go on... Why is the tooling needed to build space shuttles owned by the US-DOD and not NASA?

Why is space transport the only socialist program left in the US federal government?

If you want to go into space, you have to hate NASA. If you hate the way NASA wastes money, then you have to hate NASA.

StoneWolf

china (1)

ekephart (256467) | more than 13 years ago | (#294209)

at least they won't have to worry about mid-air collisions...
--------------------------

Re:At least its back... (1)

majestyk2000 (256822) | more than 13 years ago | (#294210)

"Or I could lob up a couple microsats for my weekly salerie..."

Unless you're talking about SERIOUSLY micro sats, I think I hate you...;-)

And you build rockets? (2)

El Camino SS (264212) | more than 13 years ago | (#294212)

Yes, you're exactly right. NASA is a bunch of blundering idiots. They're the only ones in the entire world with a space program that is even worth a damn. ARE YOU WORKING AT NASA? These people are smart, and if the program was behind time and off schedule, then it was probably politicians, or better yet, critical piece of technology that they can't overcome yet. Navigating an atmosphere at orbital speeds is not easy, at least the last time I checked. I AM NOT A ROCKET SCIENTIST, you probably aren't either, but I know that NASA doesn't hire idiots. Just because I can dream it up in the 70's does't mean that we can even produce it in 2001. I am tired of /. conspiracy theories. You could be livin' in a country like China, where you get around by bicycle and the bus is considered making it, instead of pining for the X-33.

Another Arms Race? (2)

nanojath (265940) | more than 13 years ago | (#294213)

No doubt Pentagon officials feel totally on home turf with a project characterized by the aerospace industry delivering compromised solutions at several times the original projected cost.

On the serious side: the United States is on the verge of crossing some real lines in the issue of space-based weaponry, and this is part and parcel of that questionable policy. Half a century ago we did this with nuclear weapons: without treaty, international dialog or significant civilian control we rushed pel-mel to build the nuclear arsenal. And while one can argue the value of this arsenal as a deterrent, I think reasonable and intelligent representatives of hawks and doves alike can recognize that what we ended up with is not an asset. There are too many weapons which are too difficult to dispose of, there are too many insufficiently controlled or uncontrolled weapons, there is too much potential for the uncontrolled loss, theft, or sale of fissionable materials and technology. Are we going to do the same thing with the arms race in space?

The argument some will make against controlling and managing offensive space technology is that the US has too much vital technology in space, and is too dependent on this technology for civil as well as military applications, to NOT move forward in building a space-ready armament. THis is a valid argument and there is probably little chance to stop the further encroachment of military technologies into space, but at the same time, even putting aside the arguments of preventing another arms race and fostering international peace, there are completely pragmatic military reasons for proceeding with caution. Just do a Google search on Space Debris for one very real consequence of a shooting war in space.

Nuclear arms may very well have a deterrent capacity but they still represent a terrible danger to human civilisation and life on earth, and in the final analysis it is not bombs but sane international policy, the promotion of peaceful international relations, and diplomacy that have prevented a nuclear war so far. Please think carefully about the space-based arms race when you vote and when you communicate with your elected representatives.

At least its back... (2)

merlin_jim (302773) | more than 13 years ago | (#294216)

While I hate to see the military taking over this project, at least the X-33 has a chance to fly. I just hope they'll build a couple and lob them over the fence to NASA (who did spend $400 million, after all) when they're done.

We seriously need this technology. As a community and as a species. It currently costs $10,000 USD / pound to send stuff into space. That's just plain old too expensive. How is space supposed to open up and be profitable at that price level? Thank god for the cold war, or the US wouldn't even have the aging shuttle fleet it has now.

The X-34 (the real plane to be built based on the X-33) is supposed to bring that cost down to about $1000 USD / pound (including development costs). Lots of companies can afford that kind of price tag. For $30,000, you can lob up a decent geosync satellite. Or I could lob up a couple microsats for my weekly salerie...

Hey, I like that idea. What do you think? maybe an integrated imaging array, ala BEAM? Or a laser? Solar cells would be most of the weight for a laser, and I'd need a decent thermal mass to help cool off the laser... or just make sure it's in the shade.

At least the Air Force expects results (2)

cryptochrome (303529) | more than 13 years ago | (#294217)

Why not? The US military has very sophisticated research programs and is also less sensitive to individual failures and to some degree political bickering than NASA. Furthermore, they have a very long history of innovation and invention, much of which has been transfered to the public sector. Thus if the Air Force can successfully complete it, it will probably see use in NASA and other programs anyway. The X-33 had a lot of promising ideas and new technologies - it's nice to see that all of that will get a second chance.

cryptochrome

Re:X-33 vs. Delta Clipper (1)

tb3 (313150) | more than 13 years ago | (#294220)

I went into shock when Gore annouced that the "smoke and mirrors" VentureStar had been selected over the DCX when the DCX already had a working prototype, and the VentureStar was nothing but talk and a bunch of CGI clips. I bet a lot of pork-barreling was going on.
And now it will continue...
-----------------

NASA, Air Force, what's the diff? (1)

tb3 (313150) | more than 13 years ago | (#294221)

Everything has a defense/intelligence slant to it. Case in point, the space shuttle was designed to go into Low Earth Orbit, and has to 'kick' research sattelites into High Earth Orbit. Why? Because the Space Shuttle cargo bay is the exact shape and size for a KH-11 spy sattelite, which goes into Low Earth Orbit.
The Space Shuttle was designed to deliver spy sats to orbit, everything else is secondary.
-----------------

Re:That's why these projects should be internation (1)

Ubi_NL (313657) | more than 13 years ago | (#294222)

indeed, "the difference is the value they place on human life. "

Mainly because the peaceful project intends to save lifes, whereas the US military tries to make things that are very efficient as possible.

So I'm not interested whether the project will be more succesfull when run by the military. Because it then no longer has its original purpose. All we end up with is another weapon

That's why these projects should be international (2)

Ubi_NL (313657) | more than 13 years ago | (#294223)

Isn't this just brilliant
A bunch of scientists working on a craft that will enable cheap space flight (so we can cure cancer, world peace, blah blah), and now that it's not going as well as planned, the project is taken over by US military so they can make yet another weapon out of it. If I was one of these original engineers, I'd be pissed off!

To ensure that this doesn't happen, all space projects should me international (and open source as far as that is possible) so no countries can use methods of peace for war

That's the military! (4)

BillyGoatThree (324006) | more than 13 years ago | (#294226)

"After Lockheed ran horribly over budget and behind schedule, NASA decided to can the program earlier this year. Apparently, the Air Force sees potential in this design of craft for a weapons delivery system."

It used to be bad enough: all military projects run over budget and behind schedule. Now it turns out worse: all over budget and behind schedule projects get taken over by the military.
--

Re:yep (1)

Guppy06 (410832) | more than 13 years ago | (#294228)

cough Navy cough

Vacations in space (1)

Punikki (413668) | more than 13 years ago | (#294230)

I wish NASA would get a massive budget and invent the damn thing, and refine it. Those X33s are 10x cheaper than the shuttles. I want to go to a space vacation before I die! Grrr, Grr! Bark Bark!

Re:WHY????? (1)

Gates_throws_tantrum (415905) | more than 13 years ago | (#294231)

Giving a Recon package suprise look down capacity in just 45 mind from launch to look down. Anywhere on the globe.

Speed kills. It's true in intell also.
--

Re:That's why these projects should be internation (1)

Tech187 (416303) | more than 13 years ago | (#294232)

The people who stole the nuclear bomb designs
will conduct their tests in a tug boat off the
coast of Long Island. That's why it concerns a
lot of us.

Re:meanwhile, children starve in teh ghetto (1)

Tech187 (416303) | more than 13 years ago | (#294233)

Yep. It's all somebody else's fault.

Hating Whitey. (the title of an excellent book
by David Horowitz, incidentally)

Re:Misplaced priorities (1)

Tech187 (416303) | more than 13 years ago | (#294234)

Don't you mean it gives rogue military forces
(the opposite of 'the people') a better chance?

Re:Misplaced priorities (1)

Tech187 (416303) | more than 13 years ago | (#294235)

We actually need to spend more money on the
Military while at the same time cutting taxes.

I guess that means pumping less money down the
Social Spending sinkhole.

Get those leeches mining ore to produce the metal
needed, I guess. It's a win-win situation
(unless you're one of the leeches)

Overbudget? (1)

subnet-zero (419905) | more than 13 years ago | (#294237)

I guess it makes sense, since "overbudget" never stopped a military contractor before . . .

X33 revives USAF (1)

nycoward (443034) | more than 13 years ago | (#294238)

This could never happen:

L-M SVP: Hey, George, guess what? We got the X33 contract!
USAF General: That's great, Charlie. Hey, ya know what would be hilarious? You guys log huge overruns so that NASA cancels the program. Then the AF comes in and restarts it. We buy it cheap since NASA already paid for it, and you guys get to bill twice for the same project!! What a laff!!
Both: Let's DO IT!!!
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