Fwd: TCR6 -- Eyes on the Prize (Part 2 of 2)

Max More (maxmore@globalpac.com)
Fri, 11 Sep 1998 12:16:36 -0700

Part 2, forwarded with permission of the author:

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>Date: Tue, 8 Sep 1998 20:39:00 EDT
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>Subject: TCR6 -- Eyes on the Prize (Part 2 of 2)
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> A Bionomic Meditation
> Number Six
> 09/08/98
> EYES ON THE PRIZE (Part 2 of 2)
>Gary Hudson's Remarkable Rotary Rocket
>The late Robert A. Heinlein, beginning in 1948, wrote a
>series of science-fiction novels for young people, lifting the
>genre out of the pulp-magazine ghetto. He put it into respectable
>hard-covers under the imprint of Scribner's (the same toney
>house that published Hemingway and Fitzgerald), and into
>the hands of every school librarian. They probably had as much
>to do with stoking the Space Age as any act of Congress.
>The first of these books (the basis for Hollywood's first realistic
>spaceflight epic, "Destination Moon," in 1950), depicted a group
>of young amateurs launching the first moon rocket in the teeth
>of nterference from sinister government agencies.
>Heinlein didn't really expect amateurs to conquer space, but
>he was an engineer who got the science right. He was also
>well aware that von Braun and his fabled German rocket team
>had been just a gang of geeky self-taught college boys building
>amateur rockets in the 30s, before Hitler drafted them into the
>At a Heinlein memorial service in 1989, the writer Tom Clancy
>bumped into a fellow Heinlein-admirer, aerospace engineer Gary
>Hudson. Hudson subsequently hit up Clancy for a million dollars
>in seed money for his presposterous-sounding new rotary-rocket
>design: the Roton.
>Instead of using heavy, failure-prone, high-pressure pumps to
>force propellants into the rocket engine, the Roton spins the entire
>engine on its vertical axis at 700 RPM, using centrifugal force for
>pumping. The airframe and fuel tanks will be made of graphite com-
>posites instead of aluminum. The goal is a machine that is sub-
>stantially lighter and more re-usable than conventional designs,
>able to carry a useful payload into orbit with a single stage instead
>of using the traditional step-rocket concept worked out by the first
>space visionaries eighty years ago.
>These are the key elements in every X-Prize contender: Cheaper,
>lighter, reusable vehicles that can be serviced and re-flown within a

>few hours or a few days by a small crew of airline-type mechanics
>instead of twice a year by an army of engineers.
>Administrator Dan Goldin, the man who runs NASA says: "Gary
>Hudson is doing something revolutionary. I love it. It's in your face.
>We don't have enough people who are willing to put their life on the
>line with original ideas....It's going to shake up this aerospace
>industry that's been too dependent on the federal government."
>And he should know.
>Burt Rutan's Plastic Fantastic Proteus
>Elbert L. "Burt" Rutan is one of the world's most innovative
>aeronautical engineers, a pioneer in the use of ultra-lightweight
>carbon-fiber materials for airframes. He was the designer/builder
>of the amazing Voyager endurance aircraft which carried a crew
>of two on a nine-day nonstop round-the-world trip in 1986, piloted
>by brother Dick Rutan and Jeanna Yeager.
>Out in the Mojave Desert (not too far from Gary Hudson's Rotary
>Rocket Company), Rutan's Scaled Composites firm is building
>Proteus, an advanced endurance aircraft that inherits some of
>the Voyager technology. It's designed to perform a variety of
>missions requiring it to loiter for many hours at high altitudes.
>First, it will be a "poor man's communications satellite," furnishing
>broadcast or wireless-relay services.
>An X-Prize version of Proteus can be configured to air-launch a
>three-man single-stage rocket for tourism or astronaut training from
>36,000 feet. Starting from seven miles up, there's not much air left
>for a rocket to punch through, and a relatively small, light vehicle
>should do the job, returned to earth by parachute.
>Proteus, which would serve as the first stage of an X-prize system,
>has actually been built. The prototype will fly this year and production
>on 100 unts will begin soon. Rutan estimates that a Proteus-based
>system, could put passengers into a suborbital flight at $50,000 per
>seat. More than the five or ten thousand some designers are
>promising, but still a small fraction of what it costs NASA to launch
>a Shuttle astronaut.
>One Small Step for Newcastle: The Starchaser Foundation
>Michael Bennett's Starchaser Foundation furnishes the most
>charming story among the registered contenders. Mr Bennett is
>an Englishman who started out as a teenager building model
>rockets. He works in northern England, where the industrial
>revolution was born. And year after year for twenty years he
>built bigger and bigger rockets.
>In 1996, Starchaser 2, a twenty-one foot tall, two-stage rocket
>was successfully launched from an army gun range near
>Newcastle in Northumberland. It ascended to almost half a
>mile and both stages were recovered intact by parachute. All of
>Bennett's rockets are reusable.
>Later that year he moved his team into the Physics Department
>of the University of Salford, where a collaborative deal provides a
>laboratory, office space and workshop facilities. They began work
>on Starchaser 3, a three-stage vehicle they hope will reach 100 km
>altitude. It could carry a small payload to 24 km. The next step

>after that: the first amateur satellite into Low Earth Orbit.
>Starchaser 3 is in the competition for another prize, the
>$ 200,000 CATS prize (Cheap Access to Space) for the first
>(unmanned) amateur rocket to carry 2kg of payloadto 200 km.
>Team Starchaser is the most ambitious European amateur
>project, locked in competition with other top amateur builders
>in America and Australia.
>Bennett's X-Prize concept -- Thunderbird -- involves a very
>conventional rocket lifted by a first-stage of airbreathing turbofans,
>like the engines that lift vertical take-off aircraft such as the
>Marince Corps Harrier jet fighter. Thunderbird seems audacious
>to the point of fantasy for a little crew of amateurs. But Bennett
>already has some small commercial sponsors. If he can find a
>big one to front him a few million, who knows? consider what
>he's already done with almost nothing.
>Bennett builds real rockets that do what they're supposed to do.
>Unlike NASA, he will be very happy to re-name Thunderbird to suit
>a sponsor, and he will gladly paint your logo on the side of his
>spaceship in any color you like.
>Celestis -- The Final Option
>If the X-Prize and the free market aren't permitted to create real
>space travel in the near future, then one doleful option remains
>for aging armchair astronauts.
>Still another entrepreneur has calculated that, even at a ridiculous
>cost-per-pound, civilians can still be safely and economically put
>into space, as long as they happen to be dead.
>The Celestis Corporation has twice successfully launched the
>powdered remains of deceased space enthusiasts. If you or a
>loved one would enjoy circling the earth fourteen times a day in
>a near-polar orbit (followed by a satisfyingly fiery re-entry) you
>may wish to get in touch with these folks.
>NASA Gets Religion?
>NASA-watchers may feel that the agency got some rough
>handling in this essay.
>They may point out that in the post-Cold War era, with
>even Congress pretending to worry about budget-balancing,
>NASA has got religion.
>They have, at least on paper, farmed out shuttle operations
>to a private firm. They have inherited a project from DOD
>to design a prototype SSTO (single-stage-to-orbit) vehicle
>that will get right everything that the STS (so-called space
>shuttle) system got wrong, and are doling out cash to the
>traditional aerospace contractors (these are the X-33 and
>X-34 projects, as the aficionados know them, including the
>DC-X prototype).
>Maybe everything will work just fine this time, but we think
>there is room for skepticism. For one thing, the fabulous
>intetnational space station keeps ballooning in cost, and
>eating out NASA's budget for other projects.
>For another, we doubt if NASA has gotten any better at
>balancing budgets, politics, and commercial sense than
>they were in the early 70s when the shuttle system was
>designed to, supposedly, do everything in space that
>anyone would ever want to do, AND be economically
>viable. The French, Chinese, and others got into the

>satellite-launching business in large part because the
>shuttle provided mch too little capacity at much too high
>a cost.
>The shuttle was supposed to provide high flight rates, low
>operating costs, and a high level of maintainability. The
>shuttle fleet was originally supposed to provide 715 flights
>between 1978 and 1990. That's about 3 per month, or 33 per
>year. What we actually got was about 5 per year. Meanwhile,
>of course, the super-duper shuttle by its very existence,
>pre-empted any attempt by other governments, or private
>firms to meet the same needs, and that was part of its
>NASA will tell you that there were good reasons for the
>relative failure of the shuttle (and there were), and that
>this time they'll get it right. But the SSTO as they envision
>it involves such exotic, state-of-ofthe-art engineering that
>we doubt, on purely commonsensical grounds, that it will
>serve the needs of space tourism or basic frieight-hauling
>in the near future -- the early market just won't be able to
>pay for it. What it will do, again, is help to pre-empt and
>discourage anyone who would like to try to do it in a
>cheaper, more profit-conscious fashion.
>But what do we know? We are not, as we said ealier,
>rocket scientists.
>Postscript: A Great Window Opening:
> Free societies are the exception in human history -- they have
> only existed during the four centuries of frontier expansion of the
> West -- a brief shining moment in an otherwise endless chronicle
> of human misery. That history is now over... a new frontier must
> be opened. Mars beckons.
> -- Robert Zubrin,
> "The Significance of the Martian Frontier." 1997
> 'In a little while men who will know how to bear the strange
> gravitations, the altered pressures, the attenuated, unfamiliar
> gases and all the fearful strangenesses of space will be venturing
> out from this earth. This ball will be no longer enough for us; our
> spirit will reach out.... Cannot you see how that little argosy will
> go glittering up into the sky, twinkling and glittering smaller and
> smaller until the blue swallows it up. They may succeed out there;
> they may perish, but other men will follow them....'It is as if a great
> window opened,' said Karenin.
> -- H. G. Wells
>The World Set Free (1914)
>1.. Gary Hudson
> A 1996 press release from the X-Prize foundation announced
> Gary Hudon's Roton as the second "potential competitor"
> for the X-Prize, but he does not appear on the current list
> of official "registered" competitors on the website.. We don't
> know what this means, but we will consider him sufficiently
> "official" for our purposes.
> Mr Hudson's corporate partnet in the Roton project is HMX Corp.
> The Roton section of their corporate website is at:
> http://www.hmx.com/roton.html
> And includes links to other stuff, including a detailed conceptual
> article by Mr Hudson.

> "Rocket Revolutionary" by Ben Ionetta appeard in the 8/1/98
> issue of the excellent British magazine New Scientist, and
> describes the engineering of Hudson's amazing rotary rocket
> in some detail. Includes the Heinlein/Hudson/Clancy anecdote.
> Text and a nice graphic on the Web at:
> http://www.newscientist.com/ns/980801/features.html
>2. Burt Rutan
> Americans persist in reading about a sorry mountebank like
> Bill Clinton, which makes them feel bad about themselves.
> and their country, when they ought to read about people like
> Rutan, which will have the opposite effect. Rutan is a genius
> who has designed, among other things, the revolutionary
> wing-sail that propelled a recent America's Cup boat, the
> gondola for an around-the-world balloon, the wings for a
> space vehicle, and a desert pyramid house. Made lot of money,
> too. Someone just wrote a book about him: Jet pilots, beauti-
> ful women, amazing adventures. It's what we need in an
> election year.
> _Burt Rutan: Reinventing the Airplane_, by Vera Foster Rollo
> 300 pp., List $24.50, Hardback. Available from Maryland
> Historical Press, 9205 Tuckerman Street, Lanham, MD 20706
> (301) 577-5308 FAX (301) 577-8711, email: mhpress@erols.com.
> Orcheck their web page at:
> http://www.avialantic.com/mhp/rutan.html
> Available at the same price from Amazon.com:
> http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0917882334/002-
> 7280872-0567402
> Information about Scaled Composites and the Proteus can be
> found at the company's web site:
> www.scaled.com/
>3.. Michael Bennett -- Starchaser Foundation. See:
> http://www.starchaser.co.uk/
>4. An article in the February 1997 issue of Scientific American
> discusses the development of really big "model" rockets and
> the CATS Prize (also referred to as the FINDS Prize, after
> Foundation for the International Nongovernmental Development
> of Space, the sponsoring group). No mention of the Starchaser
> group, but it touches on rockets of comparable size, including
> Korey Kline of Miami who launched his 16-ft tall Hyperion to
> an altitude of 36 km in January of last year. "Taking Back the
> Final Frontier" by Shawn Carlson is online at::
> http://www.sciam.com/1297issue/1297amsci.html
>5. The Commercial Space Transportation Study, a report prepared
> for NASA in 1994 by a group of aerospace industry experts is
> avilable at:
> It contains all the charts, graphs, price-elasticity estimates copious
> appendices and other consultant-type stuff anyone could ask for. The
> section dealing specifically with space tourism is sec 3.5.6.
> Go directly to:

> http://stp.msfc.nasa.gov/stpweb/CommSpaceTrans/
> SpaceCommTransSec35/CommSpacTransSec35.html#3_5_6
> Two British researchers presented a shorter paper on space tourism
> to a congress of the International Astronautics Association in 1989.
> It came to similar conclusions as to the importance of ST as an
> economic driver. The paper is online at::
> http://www.spacefuture.com/archive/potential_economic_
> implications_of_the_development_of_space_tourism.shtml
> Mr Jim Kingdon is an amateur space policy analyst who
> thinks that some of the NASA CSTS conclusions are too
> conservative. He maintains an up-to-date site looking at
> the prospects for space commerce using the market
> segments established by the NASA study: His site, with
> some good links is at:
> http://www.cyclic.com/~kingdon/space/markets.html
>6. Celestis Corporation presents its wares at:
> www.celestis.com
> It includes obituaries ("flight bios") for some of the Celestis
> volunteers, including celebrities like Gene Roddenberry and
> Timothy Leary, but also some more obscure but equally
> fascinating folks.
>7. There is a vast amount of stuff about NASA on the Web,
> much of it brought to us by NASA. Their PR folks are nothing
> if not industrious, notwithstanding the fact that they have
> still, somehow, made mankind's greatest adventure about as
> exciting as eight hours of C-SPAN. But here's a good place
> to keep up with the agency's triumphs and failures: The Space
> Access Society, Henry Vanderbilt, Executive Director. The
> Web site is at:
> www.space-access.org
>8. Robert Zubrin
> The quote is from "The Significance of the Martian Frontier,"
> available at:
> http://www.chron.com/content/interactive/space/exploration/
> mars/980817a.html
> Dr Zubrin is the founder of the Mars Society and the
> author of _The Case For Mars: The Plan to Settle the
> Red Planet, and Why We Must_ (1997), published by
> Simon and Schuster. $10.40 in trade paperback
> http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0684835509/
> o/qid=904431466/sr=2-1/002-7280872-0567402
> The founding meeting of The Mars Society took place just
> two weeks ago at the University of Colorado at Boulder and
> received major media coverage.
> In 1990, NASA estimated that it would take thirty years and
> $450 billion to put humans on Mars, dismissing it as impossibly
> expensive. Mr Zubrin, a former space engineer for Lockheed
> Martin submitted his Mars Direct program to NASA in 1993,
> which NASA costed at $50 billion. Mr Zubrn insists it can be
> done within ten years for only $20 billion to $30 billion.
> Dr Zubrin is, himself, a registered X-Prize contender.his
> concept involves aerial refueling of a winged spaceplane.
> Not quite a single-stage-to-orbit, more of stage-and-a-half.

> He hasattracted an impressive roster to his company,
> including a former Air Force Chief of Staff as board director.
> The site for his Pioneer Rocketplane Corporation is:
> www.rocketplane.com
>9. H. G. Wells' novel _The World Set Free_ (1914) is one
> of his more obscure but fascinating tales. In it, he
> predicts the use of atomic bombs to destroy whole
> cities. Written in 1913, before the beginning of WW
> One, Wells, in effect, sets the beginning of the catastrophe
> forward some forty years, to 1956. He says he did this
> partly to avoid shocking skeptical readers who might not
> have believed the kind of destruction he envisioned could
> have happened earlier, and partly, as he said, "to allow the
> chemist to get well forward with his discovery of the release
> of atomic energy. 1956--or for that matter 2056--may be
> none too late for that." . Out of print, but available online at::
> ftp://uiarchive.cso.uiuc.edu/pub/etext/gutenberg/
> etext97/twsfr10.txt
> Wells, of course, was an implacable socialist, who would
> probably have disdained the notion of private, profit-seeking
> ventures into space, or anywhere else.
>10. Finally, for fans of classic, old-fashioned, hardware-and-derring-do
> science fiction, Mr Victor Korman has written a novel called _Kings
> of the High Frontier_ that revolves around the conflict of entre-
> preneurial vs state-sponsored space travel. Gary Hudson's Roton
> makes an appearnance. It ain't Heinlein, but it's pretty entertaining.
> Available only as a downloadable file for a very reasonable $3.50
> from the Pulpless Fiction web site, and you can read a sample
> chapter for free.
> http://www.pulpless.com/king.html
>TCR is published by Steve Hyde and John LeGere, and written,
>more often than not, by John LeGere
>Comments, sneers, and inquiries can be addressed to
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