RLV Potpourri

Clark Lindsey has a lot of good stuff today over at RLV news, including SpaceShipOne’s first in-flight test of their rocket engine, the SpaceX extravaganza in Washington, and some promising developments by the Japanese (perhaps I was a little too hasty in dissing them–we’ll see if they allow this effort to flower).

I do want to clarify one point, though.

…I’m sure that Elon would agree with Rand Simberg and others who say that man-rating is an obsolete term. All vehicles should be built to the highest degree to not fail, regardless of whether the payload includes people or not.

To be precise, all reusable vehicles should be built to the highest degree not to fail. Optimal reliability for an expendable is an economic trade based on payload value and insurance rates, so it may still make sense to talk about man or (to use the current PC NASA term) human rating of the Delta IV and Atlas V for OSP. It’s pretty clear, at least to me, that for a number of reasons, neither of those vehicles are going to be usable off the shelf for that mission, despite public impressions to the contrary.