The Latest Smear On Space Tourism

Clark Lindsey responds.

[Update a while later]

You know, when supposed captains of the European space industry are both able and willing to submit such an ignorant and illogical piece to a major industry publication, and it’s willing to run it, it tells us something about how screwed up that industry is, and explains why we’ve made so little progress in opening up space after over half a century.

10 thoughts on “The Latest Smear On Space Tourism”

  1. Perhaps they’re referring to the EADS Astrium space tourism hoax. That one was 100% snake oil, designed, IMNSHO, to cast aspersions on the actual suborbital tourist industry. If you recall, EADS’ announcement took great pains to say that they had studied the problem extensively, and concluded that there is a market at a price point of $200K per ticket. However, unlike their rube competition, EADS realized that it would actually take and investment of more than $1 billion to get there. They had the design, and all they were waiting for was someone to put up the $1 billion.

    Their “design” was a bizjet with big windows and a rocket nozzle sticking out the back. An untrained observer would have noticed that there wasn’t room for propellant.

    I believe it was a way to say to the world that a “real” aerospace company has looked at this problem, and concluded that it would cost $1 billion. So don’t believe — and above all don’t invest — in any of those upstart American companies. Lockheed-Martin did the same thing, on a much larger scale, with X-33. Having lived through what that did to kill investment in private space transportation, I can say that it’s an effective tactic.

    This commentary is just a more direct, ham-handed way to achieve the same end.

  2. Hmm. And what have these ‘peans actually accomplished in space? Besides occupying it on earth?

    OK, they can launch spacecraft with some regularity, at some economic point that is attractive. How long has the US (and Russia for that matter) been launching before they got in?

  3. I looked at both the original post at Space News, and read Lindsey’s post and the comments there. Maybe I’m not taking the original post seriously enough, but it looks to me like a couple of civil-service socialists hating on Capitalism.

  4. IMO their article contains a number of truths, but makes the wrong conclusions.

    Just because something is not an orbital flight does not mean no one is willing to pay for it: I know people who have flown backseat on paid jet fighter flights. If the experience provides something different it will sell. I remember reading about balloon tourists being mostly interested in the experience of the flight itself, seeing the view from up there, rather than actually going places.

    They really should read “The Innovator’s Dilemma”. Disruptive technology often seems to have inferior performance or features at first glance. Then things change. The people from Abu Dhabi have expressed interest in using SS2 technology for space launches. It is not hard to see the technology developed for SS2 can easily be applied to make a small, Pegasus like, launcher in an expedient fashion.

    ESA was burned in the Hermes project. This explains much of their reluctance on designing RLVs. The project was more of a management failure than anything else, and ended up producing reams of paper at a cost of $2 billion. They have seen both NASA and JAXA fail at several RLV projects in a row too, so are not in much of a rush for RLVs.
    ESA members have done small experiments in technology required for a reusable launcher since then however. They participated in the X-38 project where they developed a carbon-carbon nose and flaps. DLR used the Phoenix to test automated landings similar to some X-37 tests. But this is work for the long term. I suspect one of the reasons Ariane 6 has reduced payload requirements is not just for the economical reasons commonly pointed, but because they perceive that launch vehicle size class to be more amenable, let us say less expensive, to develop an RLV for. But it is useless to design and dream of RLVs without adequate propulsion technology. ESA repeatedly point to this as a reason not to go for RLVs in their next generation. They do not have an equivalent of the SSME/RD-0120, nor have an equivalent of the RL-10, although they are working on both: Veda and Vinci. Once they have those engines working properly, once they test IXV and EXPERT, they may start considering doing an RLV. But it should be post Ariane 6.

  5. You see, this is what passes for competition in government–trash the opposition with lies, distortions, etc.

  6. MfK, don’t mistake mere scamming for conspiracy. The EADS Astrium proposal was bullshit, of course, but it was bullshit of a very familiar sort if you are familiar with the EU. It was just a scam to get development money out of the EU, and the argument was the familiar one: Great powers have space tourism vehicles, Europe must be a great power, so Europe needs its own space tourism vehicle, and the EU must fund a lavish project to close the space tourism gap. Of course the estimate was absurdly high, but no more so than the GPS knockoff project or the military transport project, both of which are bogged down, grossly over-budget, and entirely without justification except for the Glory of Europe argument.

  7. I will take Europe’s comments about space toruism seriously when they orbit their own Astronaut in their own vehicle.

    The bitter truth is Elon Musk will orbit a SpaceX employee before a Euronaut rides to orbit on an Ariane booster.

  8. How long has the US (and Russia for that matter) been launching before they got in?

    Google is your friend, and I think you did mean “had”?

    France launched their first sat in 1965, Britain in 1971.

    The bitter truth is Elon Musk will orbit a SpaceX employee before a Euronaut rides to orbit on an Ariane booster.

    True, yes. Bitter? Why? The probability of anybody EVER launching on an Ariane is pretty low.

    Europe/European government is/are more likely to purchase seats from SpaceX – which is, IMO, actually the sensible thing. Assuming the price points people have been talking about, it’s still going to be a mega-rich/government pastime.

    As for the rest, some of their statements are incorrect, but there are a lot of facts in their too. Too many attempts to open up space have fallen foul of a Pollyanna like attitude to the challenges faced.

  9. Obviously, the authors felt their case was strong enough that they didn’t have to point out the absolute dearth of private airplane and yacht manufacturers and operators. I’ve been in one of those private airplanes. It could even go cross-country on a tank of gas! We just took off, circled in the area of the airport, and landed. And apparently the damn things are more dangerous than airliners! No wonder nobody makes the damn things – I’m glad the free market put a stop to all that.

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