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Northrop Grumman to own Scaled Composites

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the going-up-in-the-world dept.

Space 108

Dolphinzilla writes "According to Space.com, Northrop Grumman Corporation agreed on July 5 to increase its stake in Burt Rutan's Scaled Composites (designers of Space Ship One, Proteus) from 40 percent to 100 percent. They have purchased the company outright, marking a new future for the space pioneering firm. 'Scaled Composites currently is working with Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic venture on a vehicle designated for now as SpaceShipTwo, which would carry two pilots and six paying passengers into suborbital space for a few minutes of weightlessness. The company also is building a new carrier aircraft, dubbed WhiteKnight2, that will carry SpaceShipTwo to an altitude of 15 kilometers before releasing it to soar to suborbital space. The two companies last year formed a joint venture called the Spaceship Company to build the new vehicles.'"

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surprise, space is a business. (1)

swschrad (312009) | more than 7 years ago | (#19941157)

guess this means Bert Rutan has succeeded beyond his wildest dreams, and The Establishment has come around to his way of thinking.

this also has the faint smell of "NASA can't cut it any more, their memoes all blow up."

Re:surprise, space is a business. (2, Funny)

nacturation (646836) | more than 7 years ago | (#19941245)

this also has the faint smell of "NASA can't cut it any more, their memoes all blow up."
Memoes? Is that like Dan Quayle's "potatoe"?
 

Re:surprise, space is a business. (1)

Photonic Shadow (1119225) | more than 7 years ago | (#19941627)

Actually the potatoe was considered correct in the 19th century. Phonetically speaking the e following the o gives the o the long-o sound. PS

uhh, 20th century, too (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19943159)

FWIW, I'm from the midwest and that is the way we were taught to spell potatoe and tomatoe. I don't know if it is a rural thing, a midwest thing or what, but I never understood why folks got into such a tizzy over the spelling. And the reason is exactly as you state, it is the proper way to make the preceding vowel a long sound.

Of course, in the US electronic media, we get our "culture" (that the rest of the planet judges us by, most unfortunately) from only two places, Los Angeles/Hollywood and New York City, so that might explain it, megaurban speak -> "tuh-mate-uhh" or "puh-ta-tuh" is how they apparently pronounce them, so I guess they can throw any sort of spelling out there and it wouldn't matter a whole lot.

Heh, now in the rural south where I live now it is "materz" and "taterz", and if I had to spell them-well, I just did!

More regional linguistic *weirdness*, consider the state of Missouri (I lived there once, I found this quite funny after I moved there). Rural areas pronounce it "Mizz-urr-uhh", whereas the urban areas there pronounce it "Mizz-urr-ee", and NO where do they pronounce it "Mizz-urr-aye" which is what you would think it would be just looking at the spelling if you had never seen it or heard the name before.

Re:uhh, 20th century, too (2, Funny)

nacturation (646836) | more than 7 years ago | (#19943259)

FWIW, I'm from the midwest and that is the way we were taught to spell potatoe and tomatoe. I don't know if it is a rural thing, a midwest thing or what, but I never understood why folks got into such a tizzy over the spelling. And the reason is exactly as you state, it is the proper way to make the preceding vowel a long sound.
Soe, I guess you also goe to the store. Noe?
 

Re:uhh, 20th century, too (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19946527)

"and NO where do they pronounce it "Mizz-urr-aye" which is what you would think it would be just looking at the spelling if you had never seen it or heard the name before."

That last sentence just proves that you don't understand English, no wonder it's all so confusing for you.

Re:uhh, 20th century, too (1)

blackicye (760472) | more than 7 years ago | (#19953023)

More regional linguistic *weirdness*, consider the state of Missouri (I lived there once, I found this quite funny after I moved there). Rural areas pronounce it "Mizz-urr-uhh", whereas the urban areas there pronounce it "Mizz-urr-ee", and NO where do they pronounce it "Mizz-urr-aye" which is what you would think it would be just looking at the spelling if you had never seen it or heard the name before.


I spent 5 years in Missouri for college, 3 in a rural town (population 20,000 something) the explanation I got for the difference in pronunciation was that those who were born and raised in Missouri pronounced it "Mizz-ooo-ruh" to differentiate themselves from "city-slickers" and those who were just residents of the State of Missouri.

I'm still not sure why its the "Show Me State" though.

Re:surprise, space is a business. (1, Insightful)

J'raxis (248192) | more than 7 years ago | (#19941457)

Considering that Northrop Grumman is a government defense contractor, their buyout could be to put a competitor, one that doesn't work for the government, out of business.

Re:surprise, space is a business. (5, Insightful)

jcr (53032) | more than 7 years ago | (#19941589)

That scenario is a silly fantasy, perpetuated by people who have no idea how to run a business. If you buy a competitor just to make it go away, you realize no benefit from the purchase. Grumman bought Scaled because they want Scaled's capabilities in their toolkit. Scaled was not in the business of building fighter jets for the Navy, or bidding against Grumman on massive defense contracts. Calling them a competitor at all is a bit of a stretch.

-jcr

Re:surprise, space is a business. (5, Insightful)

kcbrown (7426) | more than 7 years ago | (#19942107)

That scenario is a silly fantasy, perpetuated by people who have no idea how to run a business. If you buy a competitor just to make it go away, you realize no benefit from the purchase.

If you buy a competitor just to make it go away, then you remove some of the downward price pressure in the market and therefore make yourself more competitive in that market than you would be otherwise. The closer to a monopoly situation you can get, the more control you have over the market prices. And that is a very real benefit, because it means more profits for you.

Whether the move ends up being worth it or not depends on how much you paid to remove the competitor versus how much money you can make as a result of the increased prices (or lack of decreased prices) you can charge afterwards. If a competitor looks to be on the verge of becoming very successful (and thus wielding a lot more market clout), then it's obviously better to buy them out earlier (before they get really successful) than afterwards because it's cheaper and it heads off the changes to market expectations that a successful, scrappy player can bring.

No, I'm afraid the possibility that Grumman bought out Scaled Composites for this reason is very real. Scaled Composites is probably close to the point where they look like they can make a very real change to the expectations of the market, and that would put the traditional players like Grumman in a very bad position.

Think of it as the equivalent of IBM buying Apple right before Apple made the mass-produced personal computer a reality. Doing so probably would have given IBM another few years, at least, of dominance of the computer market with their mainframes, but it would have taken a lot of insight and foresight on the part of IBM to know to make that move. That said, it was a lot cheaper to become a successful small computer manufacturer back then (Apple got started in a garage, and started shipping product while still in the garage phase) than it is to become a successful aerospace company today, so the buyout strategy would be more expensive for the big players in the case of computers because there would be more targets they'd have to buy out.

Re:surprise, space is a business. (2, Insightful)

Pseudonym (62607) | more than 7 years ago | (#19942153)

Scaled Composites is probably close to the point where they look like they can make a very real change to the expectations of the market [...]

The simpler explanation (thank you Occam) is that Scaled Composites has created a completely new market out of thin air, and Northrop wants a bigger piece of the action.

Re:surprise, space is a business. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19947495)

The simpler explanation (thank you Occam) is that Scaled Composites has created a completely new market out of thin air, and Northrop wants a bigger piece of the action.
Yours is not a simpler explanation, because scaled composites hasn't created a completely new market yet. It just looks like they are about to with potential customers lining up.

But wanting a bigger piece of a future aerospace market is essentially what the poster you were responding to was saying. Also, part of the decision making was probably the allure of incorporating the scaled composites rapid prototyping methodology and technology into different parts of Northrop Grumman. In particular, their unmanned military programs could benefit from the type of rapid prototyping that scaled composites is doing.

Re:surprise, space is a business. (2, Insightful)

jacks0n (112153) | more than 7 years ago | (#19947599)

E.F. Northrup wrote a science fiction book about a private venture going to the moon- complete with a serious technical appendix- back in 1936, entitled "Zero to Eighty" under the amusing pseudonym "Akkad Pseudoman". It is a bizarre fake autobiographical novel, and well worth reading, if you can find it.

Maybe it is offtopic and irrelevant, but in a thread about his company looking to get into the private space industry, responding to a user with the name "pseudonym"; well I couldn't resist.

Re:surprise, space is a business. (1)

Pseudonym (62607) | more than 7 years ago | (#19949863)

Damn, you blew my cover.

Re:surprise, space is a business. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19942215)

Scaled doesn't and has never manufactured Air/Space (mostly Air) Crafts on a mass scale.
They would build prototypes based on requests that they would receive.

Grumman is buying a design firm which they themselves have used in the past.

Re:surprise, space is a business. (2, Insightful)

PopeJP3 (714468) | more than 7 years ago | (#19942229)

Except for the fact that Northrop had no space business to speak of until they bought TRW a couple of years ago exactly for that reason. And that was for satellites. The others are right. It is a new market and Northrop wants a big piece of it. This is made more obvious by the fact that they had a 40 percent stake in the company originally.

Re:surprise, space is a business. (1)

jcr (53032) | more than 7 years ago | (#19943271)

I'm afraid the possibility that Grumman bought out Scaled Composites for this reason is very real.

Perhaps you should seek professional help to deal with your unfounded fears.

-jcr

Re:surprise, space is a business. (2, Interesting)

Sperbels (1008585) | more than 7 years ago | (#19942133)

Give me a break. Scaled Composites wasn't a competitor. They've just been squashed by the military industrial complex. I expect we'll see very little from them now.

Re:surprise, space is a business. (1)

darkwhite (139802) | more than 7 years ago | (#19942539)

If you buy a competitor just to make it go away, you realize no benefit from the purchase.
What?

You can realize a huge benefit from buying out a competitor, especially in an industry which bids on government contracts, by decreasing competitive pressure and allowing you to raise bid prices. Please explain your idea, because to me you just sound stupid.

As for this deal, Northrop had already owned half of Scaled, and they were doing extensive UAV work. Had they stopped their cooperation, Scaled could very much be in the business of bidding against Northrop on massive UAV contracts, and undercutting them by a huge margin too.

Re:surprise, space is a business. (2, Interesting)

J'raxis (248192) | more than 7 years ago | (#19943211)

They're not a competitor to Northrop Grumman directly; they're a competitor to the government monopoly on space travel, however small. They're showing that an alternative to such is viable. And as I was saying, Northrop Grumman and the other big defense contractors might as well be considered an arm of the government, except perhaps on paper.

As for benefit? Uncle Sam says something like, "Buy out Scaled Composites, and we'll make sure such-and-such tax break goes through, and we'll buy an extra dozen helicopters from you this year," and there's all the benefit you need.

Re:surprise, space is a business. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19951695)

Lets see the market conditions are
1. Very few players
2. Entrance cost are extremely high in terms of both money, time and skill. Tell me exactly how many Burt Rutans are there out there?

Hummm, gee I think it makes a lot of sense to kill a competitor. Especially if your competitors goal is to lower the cost of getting into space.

A few minutes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19941193)

I'd seriously want at least 15 minutes. Granted, I will never have the money for something like this until I'm very old(if it becomes cheap).

Re:A few minutes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19941441)

I pity you. I'm booked already.

You're already booked? (1)

A nonymous Coward (7548) | more than 7 years ago | (#19942195)

Probably at the county jail, being anonymous and all.

Re:A few minutes? (1)

hyc (241590) | more than 7 years ago | (#19942883)

Don't worry. You'd probably just wind up in the Land of the Giants if you went...

This is unfortunate (5, Insightful)

Zebra_X (13249) | more than 7 years ago | (#19941205)

While this is probably great for Scaled from a cash perspective - it is truly saddening for the space industry. Scaled has been for nearly the last decade pushing into areas where private firms have not been able to go in the past. They innovated and created a workable solution for "mass" sub orbital flights. Ultimately the next steps are going to be push to LEO - and beyond. I fear however that the innovation and creative problem solving that has defined Scaled to date is no longer going to continue. Despite the company's best wishes - they will no longer have the ability to take the risks and make the decisions necessary to continue innovating.

We will most likley see Scaled develop into a robust provider for Sub Orbital flights but I doubt that they will attempt to push further.

Re:This is unfortunate (1)

TobiasS (967473) | more than 7 years ago | (#19941227)

On the other hand it is a huge validation for the remaining private firms and money will keep pouring (probably even more than before this acquisition) into the sector.

Re:This is unfortunate (5, Interesting)

cyclone96 (129449) | more than 7 years ago | (#19941467)

I fear however that the innovation and creative problem solving that has defined Scaled to date is no longer going to continue.

I'm not sure it's quite as bad as you fear, it's possible that Northrup-Grumman will continue in that tradition.

The challenge with these very small, innovative space companies is that their model (which is a small group of really smart guys working very hard without a lot of support overhead) can only scale up so far. At some point the products they are creating get complex enough where you hit critical mass and start needing groups to specialize in things like analysis, integration, customer support, systems integration, etc.

This is what large aerospace companies are good at. You might call this a bloated support structure, but it's the only way that the industry has found to develop really big, complex, and profitable aircraft and spacecraft (which is what a passenger ship to LEO would be). They haven't yet found a way to build a high complexity, profitable product like a Boeing 777 airliner or a Boeing 702 satellite with a small shop.

Orbital Sciences, for example, has evolved from a small company with a few neat ideas back in the 80's (in particular, the air launched Pegasus) into a major player in the aerospace world, and it is structured like Boeing, Northrup, and LockMart today.

I consider this a positive evolution of the great ideas Scaled Composites has demonstrated into something that can be built and be a commercial success.

Re:This is unfortunate (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19943449)

They haven't yet found a way to build a high complexity, profitable product like a Boeing 777 airliner or a Boeing 702 satellite with a small shop.

I hate to spoil your optimistic view of the world, but it ain't so.

Boeing has a million people working on the 777 because they're a big company. Yeah, it's practically a tautology. If you ever worked there, you know it's a total Initech. The way to build a product like the 777 with a smaller shop is simply ... fire half (or more) of the people there. It'd be just as good, and get done faster. The amount of needless process to get anything done is obscene. (When you're dealing with systems that affect lives, a certain amount of paperwork is needed. But they go above and beyond the call of duty here, drowning everybody in layers of process that have no possible benefit.)

Boeing has no reason to fire half their workforce. The market is gladly paying what they're asking for a 777. And a good part of the reason they can do it at that price is because of all the government tax breaks they get for keeping that many jobs in Washington. Clever, no?

They're a big company, which happens to also sell airplanes. If you're drawing a state-diagram of this, "selling airplanes" does not lead to "big company". "Big company" leads back to "big company", and "selling airplanes" leads to "revenue".

Maybe Burt needs more smart people, but he doesn't need a Northrop of them. They're doing this to get access to technology, and probably patents. It isn't because Burt will get SS2 up faster if he had more paper pushers.

Re:This is unfortunate (1)

salec (791463) | more than 7 years ago | (#19953451)

But they go above and beyond the call of duty here, drowning everybody in layers of process that have no possible benefit.)
I haven't been to Boeing, but this may have something to do with fact that today none knows how to recreate e.g. Apollo project because too many knowledge resided only in heads of employees, who were subsequently fired, retired or died of old age. Sometimes the benefits of paperwork and "process" are neither immediate nor certain to surface ... ever, but these things may make difference between "can do" and "can not do" in some indefinite point in future. IMHO, collecting experience in non-volatile recordings is essential for a high tech business that as its core values has reliability and safety.

Re:This is unfortunate (1)

Original Replica (908688) | more than 7 years ago | (#19941561)

Scaled has been for nearly the last decade pushing into areas where private firms have not been able to go in the past.
Perhaps that is part of why they were bought out by the military. Maybe private firms are not welcome in the space industry. I'm not making accusations, but examining likely possiblities. If 50 years from now a private firm wanted to start it's own space station or extraterrestrial colony whose jurisdiction would it fall under? The whole worlds population is under one government or another, I think that is how politicians prefer things. A innovative, functioning private space firm would be too likely to jeopardize that in the future. Just look at what happened to Minerva http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Republic_of_Minerva [wikipedia.org] They raised their own island from below sealevel and as soon as they announced the founding of a new country they were annexed by the nearest more powerful country (Tonga) This would be more difficult in space, so it is being headed off by not allowing private access to space.

Re:This is unfortunate (1)

jcr (53032) | more than 7 years ago | (#19941661)

Perhaps that is part of why they were bought out by the military

They weren't bought out by the military. They were bought by a larger private company. If you want to own Scaled Composites yourself, then raise a mid-sized private equity fund and buy them out. They're only worth about $27 billion, which is about what Apple gained in market capitalization over the last couple of months.

-jcr

Re:This is unfortunate (1)

Original Replica (908688) | more than 7 years ago | (#19941775)

Northrop Grumman isn't technically a branch of the military, but they will do exactly as they are told by the high ranking brass or the right senator. When 97% of your business comes from one customer, and that customer is the US Military, you are a part of the US Military. I grew up close to the Newport News Shipyard, owned by Northrop Grumman. There were mostly civilians working there, but they worked closely with Navy personnelle, and it was the Navy that gave the orders. Why were Navy officers calling the shots for civilians? Because there is only one real customer for that shipyard, the US Navy. I don't think that's a bad thing at all, for that shipyard. But it spells tight government control for Scaled Composites. I have no doubt that Air Force brass have already been given the grand tour of the facilties.

Re:This is unfortunate (1)

jcr (53032) | more than 7 years ago | (#19941611)

it is truly saddening for the space industry

Nonsense. Scaled now gets access to the resources of a far larger company, which increases the scope of the projects they can attempt.

-jcr

Re:This is unfortunate (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19942713)

Nonsense. Scaled now gets access to the resources of a far larger company, which increases the scope of the projects they can attempt.
And it is wholly inevitable that large corporation-style management will creep in and undermine the type of independent thinking and lack of committee-oriented product development that sets Scaled apart. I'm not saying everything good about Scaled will be lost, but some of it absolutely will.

Take it from an Aerospace Engineer who has done his time in the Industry.

Re:This is unfortunate (1)

jcr (53032) | more than 7 years ago | (#19943293)

Kelly Johnson kept the bureaucrats at bay for a pretty long time. I wouldn't give up on Scaled just yet.

-jcr

Maybe they've had all their good ideas (1)

Quadraginta (902985) | more than 7 years ago | (#19941657)

Well, Scaled specialized in suborbital, and suborbital is a bit of a dead end without any clear relationship to orbital flight. Suborbital is all about launching as straight up as possible, and achieving maximum altitude with minimum expenditure of energy. You don't particularly care how fast you're going, so long as you reach your altitude.

But getting to orbit is defined by achieving orbital velocity, not any particular altitude. (You can achieve orbital velocity at ground level if you want to, if you have the thermal protection to survive the subsequent scorching transit of the atmosphere.) My impression is that Rutan and Scaled used their natural strengths -- designs that are very efficient at staying up in the air with minimum energy -- in the race for suborbital. But those natural strengths don't really apply to orbital flight, where the issues revolve around achieving economical hypersonic velocities and finding good but sturdy and cheap thermal protection systems.

So perhaps Rutan and the senior leadership concluded that they'd done all the innovating they could see their way clear to, in suborbital flight, and it was time to sell and move on, leaving behind a capable but fairly boring suborbital company. That might be a wise move. A man who doesn't know his limits can easily take his company, very successful in limited area X, and pilot it straight into the ground pursuing quixotic goal Y.

Re:Maybe they've had all their good ideas (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19941703)

quixotic??? wow. kudos. haven't seen that word in a while.

Re:This is unfortunate (2, Insightful)

onion_joe (625886) | more than 7 years ago | (#19941971)

I tend to agree with several other posters in that this is potentially not nearly as bad as feared. We are not talking Microsoft here :-)

Perhaps the best example I can cite is the Lockheed (now Lockheed-Martin) Skunkworks http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skunkworks [wikipedia.org] . In short, Skunkworks was essentially as company within a company, with its own budget and most importantly, corporate mentality.

If The Management at NG do not recognize the value of this type of organizational structure within their advanced research division, well, let both Burt Rutan and NG collapse.

I hardly think Rutan was in this venture to make money. And now he's got the resources to make everyday space travel a reality.

Hats off to you, good sir.

spacedev (1)

garyrich (30652) | more than 7 years ago | (#19942255)

Spacedev is still out there. They first came to my attention a few months ago when they agreed to house Bussard's electrostatic fusion experimental rig. No idea if they still have it, but it's an interesting little space company in the same general niche that SC is/was

Re:This is unfortunate (1)

wikinerd (809585) | more than 7 years ago | (#19943987)

it is truly saddening for the space industry

I think Northrop Grumman, albeit a large company, still has the creativity to innovate and seek interesting solutions to engineering problems. I also think that the flying wing concept has not received the attention it deserves. I find the marriage between Scaled and Northrop an interesting development which may be good or bad, but we don't know that yet. We have to wait to see how Northrop is going to utilise Scaled within its family of engineers, and how much contact there is going to be between Northrop and Scaled people. I am optimistic that Northrop may make good use of Scaled and develop something interesting.

There goes innovation... (4, Insightful)

b0s0z0ku (752509) | more than 7 years ago | (#19941219)

I suspect that Scaled will become less innovative under the management of a large, established company, unfortunately. Them with the money calls the shots :(


Best of luck to Rutan with establishing another aero company if he wants to...


-b.

Re:There goes innovation... (1)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 7 years ago | (#19941349)

There goes innovation...

Here comes a great movie [youtube.com]

Re:There goes innovation... (1)

Zantetsuken (935350) | more than 7 years ago | (#19944115)

Ya, because Northrop/Grumman *NEVER* innovated anything - only the FCS for the Apache gunship, AEGIS missile defense system, experimental 747-ABL laser missile defense system, or the B-2 Spirit nuclear bomber. Or what about the Nimitz class carriers?

And that's just the 2 listed on Wikipedia's article on "northrop grumman" - the other 3 are only a few that caught my eye on the first page (A) of _how_many_ products they make or are researching?

IMHO, Rutan entrusted his company to the right people - and if he didn't, well he got massive amounts of corporate funding once, who's to say he wouldn't be able to do it again?

Rutan is getting old ... (1)

everphilski (877346) | more than 7 years ago | (#19947569)

... I don't know his motives, exactly, but I'm sure his age factors into it.

Great, but... (3, Insightful)

qazsedcft (911254) | more than 7 years ago | (#19941241)

I applaud attempts to create a tourism of space, but so far there is nothing especially interesting in the presented solutions. They are just building smaller and cheaper rockets. These "space ships" don't even achieve stable orbits. They're basically only throwing a large object high enough that it needs a few minutes to fall back. So besides the nice view and the temporary weightlessness (which can be achieved by an airplane), there's nothing special about it.

What I would like to see is some truly innovative solutions. Things that bring us closer to a conquest of space. Contests such as the X Prize should focus on that instead of giving money away for stuff that's been done 50 years ago.

Re:Great, but... (1)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 7 years ago | (#19941475)

I applaud attempts to create a tourism of space, but so far there is nothing especially interesting in the presented solutions. They are just building smaller and cheaper rockets. These "space ships" don't even achieve stable orbits.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SpaceX#Future_develop ment [wikipedia.org]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bigelow_Aerospace [wikipedia.org]

What I would like to see is some truly innovative solutions.

Innovation isn't necessarily the issue. The science of rocketry is now fairly well-understood, but up until companies like SpaceX and Bigelow Aerospace came around, cost-efficiency in space systems was sort of an after-thought.

Re:Great, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19943479)

You sir, are a moron.

The design behind WhiteKnight and SpaceShipOne is truely innovative. Show me the last two part launch system where both vehicles are recoverable AND relaunch capable in less then a week.

The options for launching satellites alone is astounding.

It would not take much of a design change to be able to hit LEO and/or higher orbits. Mainly a more energetic rocket on SpaceShipOne and you have it. (Think fully liquid rocket or a better hybrid). The possibilities of specialized SS1s are endless. As material becomes lighter/stronger and rockets more powerful this launch system will make more and more sense.

Crackers`n`Soup
Posting AC -- What is a password??

Re:Great, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19944305)

You are a burger flipper, aren't you?

How are you going to put a "more energetic rocket" on SS1? Are you going to strap an Atlas stage to it? Inane "reasonings" like this only show your ignorance.

Go back to your menial job and live science to scientists.

Burger flipper.

Re:Great, but... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19945369)

You know jack shit about rocket science. To enter LEO, you need FAR more energy than required to reach 100km altitude. You need tangential velocity, not radial, and you need a minimum of 200 km of perigee or atmospheric drag will deorbit you soon enough.

And have you stopped to consider HOW would SS1 survive an atmospheric re-entry from orbital velocity? Its heat shield can handle falling down from 100km up, there's not that much energy to dissipate, but from orbit you're coming down a Mach 25+ and the only way to get rid of that energy is by atmospheric braking. You can't take a ballistic trajectory with SS1, it would rip the structure apart. You can't take lifting re-entry like with Gemini-Apollo-Soyuz, either, a capsule can take it but not SS1. Forget the Shuttle-like re-entry too, it doesn't have a heatshield that can stand it.

You can't put a stronger heatshield on it for the same reason you can't put a more powerful engine on it: the cold rocket equations. They mass more, and the more mass you put on, the more thrust you need. The new craft would be far heavier than SS1 and you would need a bigger plane. At this point you would actually save money by going the rocket/capsule way and be done with it.

By the way, what SS1 accomplished has already been done by NASA in the '60s. Google for X-15.

You have no idea what you're talking about. Sorry to kick your puppy. Now don't cry like a baby.

My dad works for Northrop Grumman (0, Offtopic)

katterjohn (726348) | more than 7 years ago | (#19941275)

..under contract through the USPS; he works with mainframes.

But of course, anytime he has a problem with his PC, he comes to me :)

Re:My dad works for Northrop Grumman (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19941305)

And? Most. Worthless. Post. Ever.

love the names (0, Offtopic)

xSauronx (608805) | more than 7 years ago | (#19941361)

the lack of creativity is astounding.

Re:love the names (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19941621)

what have you ever done in your life besides bitch like a little fag on slashdot?

This could be a big boon to Rutan (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19941481)

If Northrop Grumman puts its resources behind him, he will have the backing of one of the three largest defense contractors in the United States. This could be a very big coup for him, as it would allow him to dip into not only their resources, but ability to get support from the US military and intelligence services, both of which have many good reasons to support his work.

"Defense" in the U.S. government means killing. (0, Troll)

Futurepower(R) (558542) | more than 7 years ago | (#19941595)

"... one of the three largest defense contractors in the United States."

That means, "one of the three largest organizations that make tools for killing other people [krysstal.com] ".

Organizations that support killing other people are never creative. They survive in the murky secret world of government contracts, where it is corruption that wins, never idealism.

Combining a highly creative company with a company whose purpose is largely to make violence more efficient will only destroy the creativity.

"If Northrop Grumman puts its resources behind him..."

They are not putting resources behind him. They bought the company. Burt Rutan is now just one of the resources. If he is like other executives of bought companies, he will leave within two years.

Re:"Defense" in the U.S. government means killing. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19941765)

But you have to admit it takes creativity to come up with new ways to kill people. Right now I just invented 17 ways I would like to try killing you.

Re:This could be a big boon to Rutan (1)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 7 years ago | (#19941925)

Rutan already has that support. He is a regular participant in many military conferences and design studies.

B3? (1)

dammy (131759) | more than 7 years ago | (#19945657)

What I'm wondering is how related this full buyout is for defense related projects. USAF's B3 budget went black several years ago (YF03?) and this year USMC called for sub orbital troop transports (most be a few fans of "Aliens" in USMC think tanks;) means a defense contractor looking for contract would eye Scaled as critical to their proposal. OTOH, having such contracts paying for multi use technology would put NG into a prime position for civilian space transportation manufacturing. I'd say it's a huge win for NG, I'm not too sure on how well it goes for Burt, if he remains.

Translation: The beginning of the end for Scaled C (4, Insightful)

Futurepower(R) (558542) | more than 7 years ago | (#19941497)

The Slashdot story needs translation. Probably something like this, in my opinion:

"Northrop Grumman Corporation top managers decided they were bored with their regular business. They decided to buy a business they can talk about at parties. Of course, they have nothing creative to contribute. They are contributing only money. So, they will degrade Burt Rutan's Scaled Composites with their company politics, their need to be seen as important, and their general disinterest in doing the real work."

Re:Translation: The beginning of the end for Scale (3, Insightful)

swordgeek (112599) | more than 7 years ago | (#19942433)

Ah yes, because nothing improves news more than pointless conjecture and outright fiction.

Re:Translation: The beginning of the end for Scale (1)

DustyShadow (691635) | more than 7 years ago | (#19942681)

Rutan has been doing work for Northrop for many years. I believe as far back as the 80s. This deal is no surprise.

Re:Translation: The beginning of the end for Scale (1)

Yehooti (816574) | more than 7 years ago | (#19943283)

But now he has to deal with 6-Sigma. Innovation is discarded.

Re:Translation: The beginning of the end for Scale (1)

eclectro (227083) | more than 7 years ago | (#19943447)

You know, I really was wondering what Northrop Grumman was doing buying this company. Because by any measure the number of people able or wanting to go to LEO has to be very limited. And I question the viability (or ROI) of using scaled composites as an advertising platform.

The only other thing I can think of was the developement of future military air/spacecraft, where this technology would have obvious applications.

Re:Translation: The beginning of the end for Scale (1)

jcnnghm (538570) | more than 7 years ago | (#19950563)

Yes, owning only 40% of the company previously didn't give the executives enough to talk about at cocktail parties. NG does tons of real work.

It has happened before, many times. (1)

Futurepower(R) (558542) | more than 7 years ago | (#19953351)

This kind of thing has happened hundreds of times. My understanding is that historically in the last 20 years, when the buying company becomes an owner, and not just an investor:

1) The original executives of the bought company eventually leave, usually within 2 years.

2) The bought company declines rapidly.

If 1 happens, my understanding is that 2 will certainly happen. Hard to imagine Burt Rutan's Scaled Composites without Burt Rutan. His is a highly technical business that depends on accurate day-to-day management. Or can NG find a replacement for Burt Rutan? If they did find a replacement, would NG give enough power to that person?

Is Burt staying with the business? (1)

sizzzzlerz (714878) | more than 7 years ago | (#19941571)

Given that he is a bit of a free-thinker and visionary, it will be interesting to see whether he can succeed in the world of a large defense contractor who is more concerned with profit over innovation. Once the bean-counters arrive, Scaled Composites is going to be a much different place.

In any case, keep at it, Burt.

Re:Is Burt staying with the business? (1)

Zibblsnrt (125875) | more than 7 years ago | (#19947283)

If he's not "promoted" to Global Visionary and shuffled into a basement office somewhere in the next year or three, I'll be astonished.

consolidations (0, Offtopic)

e**(i pi)-1 (462311) | more than 7 years ago | (#19941729)

Seems like a consolidation also in the manufacturing business. Not a good thing. In the last few years, the focus definitely has not been on anti trust issues:
  • Graphic software: Adobe, is now practically a monopoly. Prizes have become insane since.
  • Media consolidation: Murdoch owns 175 newspapers. Big media are now allowed to become even bigger. Wall street journal is next.
  • Chips: down to 2: Intel and AMD. If AMD would drop the towel, there would be a monopoly. Prizes are still reasonable. Imagine Intel alone.
  • Internet access: in many areas monopoly. Prizes are still high.
  • Operating systems: still a MS quasi-monopoly. Hopefully Apple and OS operating systems will pick up.
  • Phone companies: soon an ATT monopoly?
  • Airline companies: serious consolidation. Delta--American Air-AmericaWest-USAir etc Airline prizes will certainly go up.
  • Search engines: hopefully the competition to google will stay. A monopolistic search engine would not be good, but it would not be surprising if google would be allowed to buy yahoo in the current clima.

Re:consolidations (2, Funny)

deimtee (762122) | more than 7 years ago | (#19941837)

prizes

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Re:consolidations (1)

calethix (537786) | more than 7 years ago | (#19942549)

shoot. and here I thought Adobe was going to give out little cheap plastic toys with Photoshop to encourage all the pirates to buy a legitimate copy.

On a side note, I used to use Painter a lot several years ago and was surprised to see it's still around.

Re:consolidations (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19942641)

Even if English isn't your first language (and if it is, shame on you), the plural of 'price' is 'prices'.

He's worked for them before. (1)

Nim82 (838705) | more than 7 years ago | (#19941825)

Rutan has done a lot of work for Northrop before, he built scaled RCS models of the B2 bomber, for example.

Given that is *highly* classified work there must have been close ties, and high levels of trust involved between both parties for some time. This could be good news, to open up space proper the bigger aerospace companies need to get in on the act - just hope they don't stifle Rutan's creativity in the process.

That's a shame. (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19941851)

I work for one of the other mega-aerospace companies, and it's a wonder that anything we build ever flies after it's been through the cogs of the bureaucracy (to say nothing of the added blanket of the government customer). It's a shame that an outfit as innovative and down to earth (if you'll forgive the analogy) as Scaled Composites will inevitably be larded down with all the little empires and big nonsense of aero-bureaucracy.

Re:That's a shame. (1)

macintush (1131525) | more than 7 years ago | (#19946115)

I agree to a large extent, except that Grumman Northrop already owned 40%, and of all remaining big military contractors, N/G has always been the most creative in design. Maybe with Rutan "owned" by them, we'll finally get some decent new designs for military, commercial, and maybe even G/A aircraft. Who knows?

Re:That's a shame. (1)

dbrutus (71639) | more than 7 years ago | (#19951763)

The big guys keep buying up the small companies in just about every field and very smart people keep making small companies worth buying. Scaled Composites didn't win by much and the big guys don't have enough money to buy out all the small companies. At a certain point, somebody's going to figure out how to stay independent and consistently win against the entrenched incumbents and they simply won't sell, taking the bigger payments that staying independent will provide.

That's neither here nor there, we still will get to space faster due to the X-Prize competition.

Cool. Think of the possibilities... (1)

DaveAtFraud (460127) | more than 7 years ago | (#19941879)

Possibilities like, Space Ship 3 is stealthy and doesn't carry passengers... I think my NOC stock just went up.

Cheers,
Dave

Scaled composites (3, Insightful)

waterdude (1131293) | more than 7 years ago | (#19942047)

Having worked at Scaled Composites in Montrose, CO I must say that the writing is probably on the wall for the Mojave Company. You probably haven't heard of a Montrose branch. That's because after having trouble with our bottom line being in cahoots with Burt Rutan we found a large company to buy us out and when our bottom line failed to improve we were bought out by another larger company. When the bottom line failed to satisfy the larger company we closed our doors and a fine r&d company with a lot of talented engineers and fabricators ceased to exist. Burt Rutan and many other people including some of our engineers are cutting edge innovators and people like them are the reason our country is so great but they are finding it harder and harder to develop new technologies and to be inventive because the big money companies that now own almost everything squeeze them out of their budgets. I think the solution is for the small companies to resist selling out to large corporations and continue their cutting edge work while taking on enough boring jobs to keep their bills and workforce paid. Too often today, companies are formed with the idea that if they show promise and profitability, they can sell out for a profit. I hope that Burt Rutan can continue to do what he does best and I'm fairly confident that, given his drive, talent, and inteligence he'll do whatever he needs to go on innovating and exploring new things.

Nice while it lasted. (1)

Sperbels (1008585) | more than 7 years ago | (#19942091)

They might as well have been purchased by the US Government. I guess we'll never see private space flight.

Northrop Grumman's "Skunk Works" equivalent? (3, Interesting)

argent (18001) | more than 7 years ago | (#19942307)

You hear a lot about Lockheed Martin's "Skunk Works", but Northrop Grumman keeps a lower profile in the "Crazy Ideas That Just Might Work" department. Perhaps they're looking to change that.

Re:Northrop Grumman's "Skunk Works" equivalent? (1)

mikelieman (35628) | more than 7 years ago | (#19944673)

Quick question:

What was the last REALLY GOOD product Northrop Grumman came up with?

Re:Northrop Grumman's "Skunk Works" equivalent? (1)

TREETOP (614689) | more than 7 years ago | (#19945187)

I know! I know! pick me. pick me. I know. Uhhhhh.... those little US Mail trucks? The little white ones?

Re:Northrop Grumman's "Skunk Works" equivalent? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19946143)

"What was the last REALLY GOOD product Northrop Grumman came up with?"

The Apollo LEM.

Alright! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19942387)

YAY! My Employer bought them!

Now to get a transfer!!!

Re:Alright! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19943057)

(Posted Anonymously since I modded you funny earlier...)

When you get your dream job there, just don't forget the little people -- like those who mod you "funny."

Re:Alright! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19943089)

Nevermind. Mod points went "zip" when I posted that last comment. Oh well. Kinda like corporate politics in a way, I guess.

Re:Alright! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19946157)

Sorry, but if you already work for NGC, then you are, by default, not smart enough to work for Rutan

proof of concepts (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19942671)

Rutan is a great "proof of concept" guy, but given personal experiences with some of his products, he really does need to hand off development of finished systems to someone else. Not to say northrop is the answer, just that doing your drawings on the back of a cocktail napkin only gets you so far.. even 80% of the way, but that last 20% has to have a lot more rigor.

Compete with Lockheed? (5, Interesting)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | more than 7 years ago | (#19942829)

Didn't Lockheed win the contract to build the Space Shuttle replacement vehicle? If so, this could be Northrop's bid to compete by pursuing the commercial sector...

Kind of a bummer (2, Informative)

rastoboy29 (807168) | more than 7 years ago | (#19942949)

I know Mr. Rutan deserves whatever he gets, but still it's a bummer to me. I had kindof liked the idea of young whippersnapper companies being the ones to crack open mass market space travel.

Still, it was probably inevitable, and I certainly still wish them all the best luck possible.

Selling out.... (2, Insightful)

borgheron (172546) | more than 7 years ago | (#19943237)

So, basically, what you're saying is that a new, fresh company sold out to and older behemoth. Does this mean the end of new, fresh ideas from Burt Rutan?

GJC

Re:Selling out.... (1)

everphilski (877346) | more than 7 years ago | (#19947679)

Rutan is well along in years. He was born in 43, that makes him ... 64? Retirement, baby.

Selling out, or selling up? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19945133)

Rutan himself said a while back the aerospace industry is going to hell, particularly in the commercial passenger aircraft category. While air taxi services may survive, the big airlines are doomed. The reason he says this is his profound belief in the future of VR/AR for business purposes. Once the bandwidth, protocols, and horsepower exist then business air travel will evaporate, and those big airlines are then screwed with little revenue and huge pension plans. Big aerospace will follow suit as the design groups necessary for large aircraft cease to be neccessary. The only things left then are airfreight, and giant IT/ERP/knowledgebase/CADCAM efforts to computerize the work of humans so they can lay them off and still have the engineering prowess necssary to make complex systems. Most of those efforts will go belly up though, since it's still a hard problem.

Now, Scaled was involved with some interesting work regarding short production run aircraft and single use manufacturing tools. Very interesting if you have a few dozen million dollars, and need to make something with very little paper trail.

I'm curious as to where exactly did Rutan's VR investment money went...

Welcome To (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19945787)


The militarization [whitehouse.org] of space.

Do the math, people (1)

deblau (68023) | more than 7 years ago | (#19946223)

Everyone who is worried that NG will have some sweeping new influence at Scaled needs to read more carefully.

Northrop Grumman Corporation agreed on July 5 to increase its stake ... from 40 percent to 100 percent
They already owned 40%, which in any company would give them a loud voice at Board of Directors meetings.

What awful news (1)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 7 years ago | (#19947805)

Anyone else thinking Scaled Composites is now fuxx0red?

Scaled's business structure (2, Informative)

willboy42 (448908) | more than 7 years ago | (#19948171)

Scaled Composites has been a wholly-owned entity of larger companies in the past: it was Beechcraft around the time Scaled was working on the Starship prototype, and Wyman-Gordon soon thereafter. The prototype output from the shop has been pretty consistent throughout the history of the company, so I highly doubt there'll be much change there. Both NG and Scaled have supposedly said as much in their announcements of the deal.

Northrop Grumman has been heavily involved in the Proteus program for several years now, and was looking at using an unmanned Proteus in production as their response for some DoD RFQ [wikipedia.org] a short while back . And as previously noted, they did have 40% ownership prior to this announcement, and that would buy a fair amount of influence if that's what they were going for.

My guess is that NG wanted Scaled so they could wrap up Proteus whole cloth, and who knows, maybe even resurrect some older programs like ARES or ATTT, that Scaled had trouble getting DoD attention for back in the day. And with the cash infusion, Scaled will get the capital it probably needs to keep the SS2 program moving along and into low volume production, something you don't typicallly have to worry about with one-off prototypes that are their bread and butter.

So much for cheap spaceflight (1)

Stephen Samuel (106962) | more than 7 years ago | (#19948707)

.... Unless your definiton of 'cheap spaceflight' is limited to suborbital flight.

One of the few companies likely to have the knowledge and balls to make cheap space flight possible is now owned by a company that has a real bottom-line incentive to keep spaceflight from getting too cheap.

I guess I'll be hoisting one for US aerospace (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19952659)

I thought that Bert really hit the nail on the head. While he won the X-Prize with SS1, I think that White Knight represented the real innovation. Unfortunately, in the US if you want to make the big bucks you need to invent a more expensive weapon so it looks like his work will be turned to the detriment of Man. Ah well, maybe the Chinese will do some good with the idea.

In the meantime, Bert, thank you for letting us dream for a while.
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