The Race Is On

I noted in my Popular Mechanics piece last week that Jeff Greason was “cautiously optimistic” that XCOR would have the funds in the next few months to complete Lynx.

Well, they have a press release out today that reveals what he was optimistic about:

The Yecheon Astro Space Center announced today that it has selected XCOR Aerospace as its preferred supplier of suborbital space launch services. Operating under a wet lease model, XCOR intends to supply services to the Center using the Lynx Mark II suborbital vehicle, pending United States government approvals to station the vehicle in the Republic of Korea.

…Working closely with its partners, Yecheon Astro Space Center has formed a broad coalition of regional and national entities to fund the approximately $30 Million project to bring the Lynx to Yecheon for space tourism, educational, scientific and environmental monitoring missions, making it the early leader in commercial manned space flight in Asia. Under the envisioned arrangement, Yecheon will be the exclusive Lynx operational site in Korea.

“As part of our long term strategic plan, we have performed an extensive review of the suborbital vehicle suppliers over the past 18 months, and found XCOR’s Lynx to be the best mix of safe design, reliable clean propulsion, skilled team members, full reusability, ease of operation, turn around time, upfront cost and long term cost to operate,” said Mr Jo Jae-Seong, Founder and Chief Executive Director of Yecheon Astro Space Center. “We look forward to a long term relationship with XCOR and Lynx!”

Note that the plan is to use a Lynx Mark II. In other words, while Virgin Galactic’s Will Whitehorn has run down the Lynx in the past, claiming that it didn’t really go into space, because it didn’t make it to a hundred klicks, the Mark II will, and the new plan is for there to be a single Mark I prototype/test-vehicle, with follow-on vehicles all being spacefaring Mark IIs. Jeff said that his schedule was funding constrained, but it looks now as though, as long as they hit their milestones, that constraint has gone away. That could mean Lynx flights in a little over a year, which means that they’ll be going head to head with Virgin, schedule wise, with much lower operational costs.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that only one company will emerge. They’re different approaches, with different markets, and the markets are large and diverse enough for both.

Of course, they may run into other schedule problems in the interim, perhaps not technical — I’m sure they had to already grease the ITAR skids to do this deal, but I can still imagine potential for it to throw some sand in the gears.

Anyway, this is really great news, on the 106th anniversary of the Wright Brothers first flight. I wonder if they chose the date of the announcement deliberately, or if it was just coincidence? There’s no mention of it in the release. Of course, the release has a date of 17th/18th, because it’s already tomorrow in Korea (as it often is in California), and Jeff is reportedly over there now.

For subscribers (and if you aren’t you ought to be) Charles Lurio has a lot more info at The Lurio Report.

[Update a few minutes later]

It’s worth pointing out that XCOR plans to spend an order-of-magnitude less money in development than Virgin does (thirty million versus at least two hundred million and probably more). This means that they’ll not only have lower operations costs, but also less development cost to amortize per flight. This shouldn’t necessarily be surprising, as Virgin has a much more ambitious project, carrying more passengers, with two vehicle types, plus spaceport investments. XCOR is more of a shoestring operation, with a single-passenger vehicle. And of course, both of them make the EADS estimate of a billion dollars to develop a European suborbital rocket plane look ridiculous.

[Late afternoon update]

Clark Lindsey summarizes some of the info from Charles’ newsletter. Also, go hit his tip jar, so that he can go keep doing what he’s been doing.

[Update a few minutes later]

OK, so it looks like the next couple of years are going to be very exciting in the suborbital reusable rocket world. We now have at least five serious players, with hardware being built and scheduled test flights coming up. We have two horizontal/horizontal (VG and XCOR, with the former two stage and the latter single stage) and three vertical/vertical (Armadillo, Masten and Blue Origin). Even with XCOR’s new deal, VG ang Blue remain the ones with the deepest pockets, and the least likely to fail due to capital constraints. Armadillo comes in next, though I suspect that John is starting to think seriously about looking for other peoples’ money, because while he’s wealthy, he’s no Bezos or Branson. It’s hard to know what Blue’s schedule is because they’re so secretive, but their recent agreement to fly payloads indicates that they plan to have a lot of air under the nozzle soon. Of the three vertical contenders, they’re probably furthest along in having a space-faring vehicle, because I don’t think that Armadillo or Masten have put serious resources into aeroshells yet, which will be a key development for them to leave the atmosphere.

Blue, Armadillo and Masten are closer in technical approach than any of them are to the others, or XCOR and VG to each other, though I’m sure that there are not-insignificant differences in propellant type, propulsion design, structure, etc. The really great thing is that we’re finally going to start to try lots of different things, and let the winners be sorted out by the market, instead of multi-million cost-plus simulations and trade studies. If NASA is smart, it will be buying lots of rides on all of them, just so that it can see how well the different approaches work, and to encourage innovation and diversity. But then, if wishes were horses…

47 thoughts on “The Race Is On”

  1. I wonder where ITAR approval stands relative to release of funds. Presumably they will get some prior to approval, if they are to make that schedule.

  2. One of the things you would have known if you were a subscriber to the Lurio Report is that they got a substantive payment the same day as the SS2 rollout, just by coincidence. As I say in the report, I later found out that that’s why there were so many smiles around XCOR last week.

  3. Norks are going to have an apoplexy when the service starts and tourists begin to take pictures of the whole peninsula. I wonder how big a camera lens you can take along for the ride in Lynx.

  4. Wow. This is great news. The suborbital market seems to be developing nicely. Hopefully, this will lead (eventually) to much cheaper access to space.

  5. Note that the plan is to use a Lynx Mark II. In other words, while Virgin Galactic’s Will Whitehorn has run down the Lynx in the past, claiming that it didn’t really go into space, because it didn’t make it to a hundred klicks, the Mark II will, and the new plan is for there to be a single Mark I prototype, with follow-on vehicles all being spacefaring Mark IIs.

    This is great news for XCOR. Well done.

    I worry about the Lynx Mark II requirement. One of the strengths of the Mark I was that it didn’t have a specific performance requirement – just the simplest possible rocket plane that takes off from a runway and whatever altitude it reaches is what they would market. Now, presumably they’re committed to 100 km – an altitude that the much more experienced Scaled team needs a much more complex scheme to achieve.

    It’s curious that the 100 km altitude was insisted upon. Maybe there’s a Mark I fallback clause in there in case of difficulty.

  6. This is wonderful news. Hopefully it will help trigger interest in suborbital space on the part of other countries as well.

  7. The Lynx can do it because their propulsion is simply significantly higher Isp than the hybrid propulsion of SS2, and XCOR has demonstrated for years a very reliable ability to conduct their operations safely with multiple launches per day and many engine restarts. XCOR even has a better safety record than Scaled/VG does to date. To accomplish all this on much less capital is truly significant.

    Congratulations to XCOR on this deal, the race is indeed on.

  8. They never really were sure how much of a market there was for a Mark1, or if there was any. That it’s now characterized as a total prototype is no particular surprise.

    As to increased complexity and “the much more experienced Scaled team” with all respect to them there’s more than one way to skin the cat of reaching 100 km. The primary difference between MarKs 1 and 2 of the Lynx is how great a temperature the composites on the latter can withstand. The internals are almost identical. And you can get much the most critical chunk of test environment with Mark 1.

  9. The Air Force contract requirements for the Mark 1 is 200,000 feet altitude.
    The Mark 1 will be capable of going much higher, but it is not able to withstand re entry heating from its maximum possible altitude.

    The Mark 1 is a prototype. It uses a graphite epoxy material that is easy to modify because there will almost certainly be modifications needed to the aerodynamic design, despite the years of computational fluid dynamics and wind tunnel testing.

    The Mark 2 will be the exact size and shape as the Mark 1 once all modifications have been made to that vehicle, but it will be constructed of a different composite system able to withstand the higher temperatures of reentry from 110 kilometers. That high temperature material is not easily modifiable and so is not suitable for the prototype.

    The Lynx is single stage because of XCOR’s very high performance pump fed engine technology, demonstrated in a series of forty test flights, including seven in one day. Test data predicts that Lynx Mark 2 easily makes 100 kilometers altitude.

  10. I think that the Lynx design is sufficiently mature at this point that XCOR can have a lot of confidence in both Isp and structural weight. They probably don’t consider the Mark II to have much technical risk for a hundred kilometers with the composite structure.

  11. Hey Rand, there’s something wrong with the post. It looks like there’s part of another post about some college student that got copied in over the end of your last update.


  12. This is great news, but I think that the comments comparing this to Virgin Galactic and SpaceShipTwo are off the mark.

    The Lynx Mark II will have a capability that is comparable to SpaceShipOne (i.e. not SpaceShipTwo) in that it will be able to carry 3 or less people to 100-km altitude. The Lynx Mark II will hopefully have SpaceShipOne’s capability in 2013 which will be 10 years behind SpaceShipOne’s test flights which started in 2003.

    Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo vehicle can carry 8 people to a sub-orbital altitude of 100-km, and their passengers can leave their seats and float around the cabin, and Virgin Galactic has dramatically higher safety requirements to certify this vehicle for both routine operations and mass-production. XCOR has a different re-entry technology that arguably could be more expensive to certify and to insure than Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo.

    When XCOR rolls out its equivalent to SpaceShipTwo after the year 2020, then there will potentially be a competition. To do this, XCOR needs to build a vehicle that has a 7.5-foot diameter cabin, that is 5-times heavier, and that meets a much higher safety and performance standard. I would guess that XCOR could build this larger vehicle with larger engines if it were given over $100 Million after the year 2020 when it is technically prepared for this leap in capability.

    This is great news, but XCOR is clearly 5 to 10 years behind Virgin Galactic and Scaled Composites.

  13. This is excellent news. I’m glad to see the suborbital field getting so crowded – the more different approaches to cheap, reliable lifting, the better. I hope that this means that the orbital business is on its way to getting similarly populated in a few years. . .

  14. Anonymous,
    No, XCOR’s Lynx Mk II is competition with SS2 and not SS1, because SS1 was not an operational vehicle. It was a test vehicle that flew three spaceflights and then was retired. It really wasn’t up to being a commercially viable space vehicle. Also, remember that with competition, you don’t have to provide exactly the same services. If you offer different services at a different price point, they very well could take business away from VG.


  15. Who says that XCOR has either the desire or need to build an SS2 equivalent?

    They’re going for a different market segment with the Lynx: “Right-stuff”-like experience and near-total surround windows. Believe me on the latter, I sat in their cabin mockup, re ‘sight-seeing’ it’ll be much more dramatic than the SS2’s portholes.

    Plus the ticket price on the Lynx is less, and may come down even faster than SS2 with 4-flight-a-day cost amortization.

    Besides, with luck, by 2020 XCOR might be well on their way to their next goal – similarly lower cost, _orbital_ access. Which they’ve already done a lot of tech work for, as Jeff Greason has pointed out at meetings over the last year or so.

    Ok, so we may all be regulated out of existence in 2 years, but today’s a day to indulge in some optimism. 🙂

    Particularly since…meanwhile, it sounds like Obama may give the Europeans the job of building Lunar landers and exploration modules. I’m sure they’d be just as practical as Astrium’s $1billion suborbital proposal. 🙁

  16. Jon,

    Good comments.

    SpaceShipOne was supposed to fly over 20 times, but Rutan and Branson decided to retire it after the X-Prize flights. There has been a lot written by the Virgin Galactic Team about their decision to retire SpaceShipOne after they had originally planned to use it for early commercial service. The SpaceShipOne design did not fit what their customers wanted, so they had to spend a lot more money on time building something their customers did want. SpaceShipTwo is an order of magnitude more expensive and difficult than SpaceShipOne was, and it is 10 years ahead of what anyone else has right now (unless Bezos has put over $100 Million into Blue Origin and its DC-X design).

    If you look at the funding profile and technical base that XCOR is working with, it is almost impossible to come to any conclusion but that the Lynx Mark II may have capabilities that are 5 to 10 years behind SpaceShipTwo.

    The Lynx Mark II and SpaceShipTwo are being built to serve completely different markets at completely different price points, and they will not be competing with each other.

    I think that XCOR’s technology and business approach is impressive, and it would be great to see XCOR build a vehicle that could take 8 or more people to 100-km altitude in a large cabin with abort modes as safe as SpaceShipTwo maybe has today. Hopefully XCOR will be ready to do this some time after 2020.

    The currently-planned XCOR vehicle and services are better suited for competiton with the Masten and Armadillo vehicles, than with SpaceShipTwo. The Masten and Armadillo teams could probably reach sub-orbital 100-km altitude heights with 2 passengers, like XCOR, by 2014 if they received $30 Million, like XCOR.

    All of these companies have tremendous opportunity for continued success, but it is probably silly to think that they will be competitive with Virgin Galactic within 5 to 10 years.

  17. I’m OK if VG has essentially zero competition for 10 years, and Richard Branson and the Scaled team make ridiculously large amounts of money through their (temporary) monopoly.

    That kind of wild success will do wonders to encourage others. Keep in mind the ultimate goal is a robust market in which the price is driven down to near the cost of production but people can still make a good living. You don’t want the experience of the late nineteenth century railroads, in which the agony of cutthroat competition arguably sparked off the first wave of collectivist government intervention.

    Let the robust competition come, but slowly enough that the first risk-takers are amply rewarded for their daring and vision.

  18. The real metric is not the number of passengers per flight. It is the cost per passenger. Lower cost permits lower prices and an expansion of the market beyond the rich early adopters.

    The Lynx’s high flight rate allows rapid vehicle amortization and lowers the associated interest cost.

    The per passenger cost is a combination of fuel cost, maintenance man hours, insurance, pilot salary, landing fees and vehicle amorization.

    XCOR has accurate numbers for all of those based on exhaustive flight test data from the X Racer.

    I suspect the next ten years in space development will surprise many people.

  19. Anom,
    I really don’t think Scaled/VG is 10 years ahead of XCOR. They’re really good at airframe stuff, but they don’t really have their propulsion act together. Sure they’re building bigger engines, but the XCOR ones are higher performance, and safer. And as others have pointed out, for competition, the price point is going to be more important than the number of people flying. You don’t need to be able to haul 6 participants to provide an enjoyable flight experience. Two would probably be better. The reason Burt and Branson went with 6 passengers was because that’s how many they had to fly to make their business case close due to the higher overhead of a two-vehicle system.

    If XCOR beats VG to commercial service, I don’t think anyone is going to seriously ding them for having a smaller, cheaper, quicker to turn around, and more operable craft. They’ll be taking customers away from VG if they can do that, regardless of how many more seats SS2 has.


  20. Fantastic news, and hearty congratulations to everyone at XCOR!

    The rumors about Obama increasing NASA funding, if true, will finally give me something to give the President credit for. The way prior administrations have been willing to preen at NASA successes without giving the agency proper missions and/or funding has been disgusting; hearing that “there’s a budget crisis” since 1969 which limited any NASA increases to a minimum has gotten past ridiculous. We’d better start some serious R&D and establish a sustainable exploitation of the bounty that surrounds our planet while we still have any ability to do so. We’ve seen recently how quickly economic disasters can happen; a grip on the resources ‘out there’ would be an enormous buffer, one which eliminates totally the NIMBY problem as well!

    It’s time. Let’s build us a railroad.

  21. Jon,

    I agree with your points, but I would also say that you and others on this blog are starting to make arguments about market, product, pricing, investment, and other business decisions in which people at Virgin Galactic may have completely different opinions and may have come to completely opposite conclusions. The Virgin Galactic people probably know and respect the XCOR people, and the Virgin Galactic people probably came to different conclusions than some of the people on this blog for very good business, market, product, and pricing reasons.

    From what I understand, XCOR has stated in the past that 1 person could fly as a passenger for ~ $100,000 on the Lynx Mark II, versus Virgin Galactic saying that 6 people could fly as passengers for ~ $100,000 on SpaceShipTwo after they recoup some of their early investment and after they start using an upgraded cheaper (possibly an all liquid bi-propellant) engine technology. VG is probably using a 75,000-lb or higher thrust engine for SpaceShipTwo, so XCOR would probably have to build a 5-engine cluster of 15,000-lbs thrust engines (i.e. an order of magnitude higher than what XCOR plans to use on its Lynx Mark II) in order to provide a liquid bi-propellant alternative to VG’s current use of SpaceDev’s (Sierra Nevada’s)hybrid engine. VG/Scaled may want XCOR to be its future engine vendor, but XCOR is at least 5 or 10 years away from being able to support VG/Scaled SpaceShipTwo performance capabilities.

    Virgin has a lot of experience flying passengers, and Branson has a lot of experience in marketing and pricing new products. I don’t think that the Lynx Mark II is offering a product or pricing that is competitive with the similiar pricing and vastly superior tourism/entertainment product that Branson is offering with SpaceShipTwo. Many of the arguments on this blog were probably analyzed 5 years ago by VG, and nothing has changed since then to make VG think that XCOR is ready to offer a competitive technology.

    It does not matter if my assumptions are wrong, because Virgin/Scaled/Branson could buy XCOR’s engines to upgrade SpaceShipTwo or could buy spacecraft from XCOR if they start building products that Virgin Galactic could use. Burt Rutan’s brother was XCOR’s lead test pilot, and XCOR uses Rutan’s air frames. Rutan would probably love to use XCOR’s engines instead of SpaceDev if XCOR had something he could use.

    I think that XCOR is probably 5 or 10 years away from having the 15,000-lb class thrust engines and the aerodynamic structures experience to be able to support Virgin Galactic’s requirements. I think that the Rocket Racing League’s addition of non-XCOR aero-frames (originally designed by Rutan and manufactured by that Florida company) and non-XCOR engines (from Armadillo) should be an indicator that XCOR needs more time and money to produce products competitive with Rutan and Virgin Galactic.

    I think that when Masten produces its 3,000-lb class thrust engine, that Masten may have technology and capabilities on a level with XCOR just like Armadillo does. Comparing this level of technology to VG/Scaled is probably an order of magnitude and 5 to 10 years off.

    XCOR, Masten, and Armadillo are fantastic companies that will continue to develop their aerodynamic and propulsion technologies to be able to meet existing and future customer’s requirements.

    I think that Virgin Galactic, Scaled Composites, and others will be able to use XCOR as a propulsion vendor and maybe as a vehicle builder in 5 to 10 years if XCOR can make the order of magnitude leap that it would require for it to be able to sell products in the category of Virgin or Scaled.

    XCOR has a bright future, and in 5 or 10 years this discussion of XCOR being competitive with Virgin Galactic or SpaceShipTwo might make some sense from a business, market, and product point of view.

  22. Brad,


    “The real metric is not the number of passengers per flight. It is the cost per passenger.”

    Exactly right.


    No. Exactly wrong.

    The number of passengers per flight, and the experience that each passenger is able to have will determine the price that VG can charge. Price is different than cost. It does not matter what XCOR’s cost are if customers do not want to pay their price for the XCOR experience.

    I think that customers will want to pay XCOR for its experience. Unfortunately XCOR gets paid one passenger at a time per vehicle flight, and the passenger can not leave their seat and float around the cabin.

    I think that VG will be able to charge a similar price to XCOR, because VG can fly more passengers to cover its overhead costs. I think that at this similiar price, that VG offers a dramatically better experience, and that VG will have the option to keep prices higher than XCOR, and that VG will not have to lower prices due to XCOR’s non-existent competition.

    XCOR’s costs per passenger are probably not lower than VG, because VG flies more people per flight.

    The real issue, however, is the price that VG and XCOR can charge for their products, and VG’s cost/experience mix is probably in a completely different league than XCOR.

    XCOR should be successful, but it has little to no impact on VG, because it is not competitive and it is not taking market share away.

  23. BTW, the reason for the 100 km altitude is simple. It is Space by official definition. They would lose business, perhaps a lot of business, if they weren’t actually putting people into space, even if it’s just for a few seconds.

  24. I don’t follow your insistence that these two products do not share a market. To first order they share the market of “suborbital tourism.” If someone is looking for a suborbital flight experience, a group experience with the ability to float around the cabin ala VG at one price point or a more personal immersive experience ala XCOR at a different price point would be personal decision which will ultimately be made by the individual. The market may or may not be big enough for this competition to matter, but insisting that it doesn’t exist is silly.

  25. What’s with all of the VG Fanboi-ism, Anom? Nobody put down VG, and nobody is saying that they hope that XCOR puts VG out of business. Yet you seem hell-bent on being a marketing mouthpiece for VG while putting down XCOR at every other turn.

    In this world, there is a market for Lamborghinis and a market for Lincoln Towncars. That doesn’t mean that either one of them is an inherently flawed or shoddy vehicle. They’re different vehicles that cater to different price points and different segments of the same market.

    And Lamborghini and Lincoln are both still in business. Even Kia is still in business, and I, for one, am hopefuly that there will some day be a Kia-equivalent segment in the space market, because that means we’d be at a point for low-cost, robust accessibility to space.

  26. Anon,
    I think VG’s choice of propulsion is a big issue. After their fatal accident Burt claimed that in the interests of supporting the industry they would be public about the cause of the accident. They have since released a document talking about how they will mitigate the nitrous hazards, yet nothing about the cause of the accident. The only possible conclusion that does not include deceit is that they don’t know the cause of the accident.

    If the propulsion system on SS2 randomly goes boom for no explainable reason that will be “bad” for business. I don’t think the VG project or the SS2 crew would survive an in flight explosion of SS2.

    No commercial launcher uses hybrid propulsion. There is a reason for this. Clearly VG has the aircraft side of the project well in hand, and I’d claim that Xcor has more experience with Rocket motors and their risk is probably on the airframe side of the house.

    In any real competition the company with the lowest incremental cost has a huge advantage. If Xcor can make its system work its incremental cost per flight per passenger will be an order of magnitude lower than VG.

    As a side note the document that Scaled released says they are going to a metal lined nitrous tank. That tank is very integral to the SS2 airframe, all commercial metal lined composite pressure tanks I know of have a specified life limit as the tank metal fatigues, if this means that the SS2 only has a limited life it adds even more weight to Xcors marginal cost advantages. Anon talked about a possible bi-prop future for SS2, Scaled has ZERO experience with cryogenic or metal structures so there is a learning curve there as well.

    This whole conversation could be rendered moot by a Blueorigin, from what we know they are using traditional rocket technology and have a budget as big or bigger than VG.

  27. No commercial launcher uses hybrid propulsion. There is a reason for this.

    It’s probably not the reason you think it is. Nitrous oxide can unstable, but they wouldn’t have that problem with LOX. The hybrid problem has traditionally been that it is long (as in long, thin tube), there are some burn through problems, and has a slightly lower ISP than a liquid propellant engine using similar propellants. But better properties than a solid rocket motor of the same size.

    For example, the Shuttle’s SRB tubes would be ideal for a hybrid motor. Maybe put a LOX feed in at the top of the tube (let’s call it a hybrid rocket booster or HRB) and pump the LOX down through the center of the tube from the external tank (ET). Should be able to similar thrust and better ISP than an SRB for a somewhat longer time (since you effectively have more propellant involved by using LOX from the ET).

  28. I’ve personally set up and fired a 20K lb Hybrid, I’m very aware of the issues. ISP is proportional to chamber pressure. If your going to build a high performance hybrid one needs an oxidizer pump, the oxidizer pump is the hard part of building a hydrocarbon bi-prop pump, the fuel pump (for non hydrogen motors) is relatively easy. The other drawback with a hybrid is that your fuel tank must withstand both full chamber pressure and combustion temperatures. The only advantage I see to a hybrid over a solid is in the safety realm, it has similar ISP to a solid, its just safer until the oxidizer is loaded. Meaning its easier to transport and keep people around until the Oxidizer is loaded.

    One might find that the theroretical ISP of a hybrid is higher than a solid, but its much much harder to maintain the mixture ratio as that is set by the grain regression rate, not as well controlled as the component proportions in a solid or the flow orifices in a liquid.

  29. Anon talked about a possible bi-prop future for SS2, Scaled has ZERO experience with cryogenic or metal structures so there is a learning curve there as well.

    Why would it have to be cryogenic? Why not peroxide + methanol or kerosene? They might hire the services of someone we know for the peroxide. 😉

  30. If they get “burned” by Nitrous the odds of them choosing another monoprop as one of their propellants is probably zero.

    On the other hand if they just need more performance/density than nitrous and all their other systems are working well then a peroxide version would be a good idea.

  31. Is there any reason for them to stick with hybrids? If you were to do bipropellant work would you stick with peroxide as an oxidiser?

  32. I like bi-prop’s not hybrids. Peroxide makes the tanks and valves and pumps easier, lox is slightly less hazardous, easier to get and cheaper,
    pick your risks…..

    I’ve used both oxidizers and could make arguments either way. I’m probably more likely to be in the peroxide camp at this moment.

  33. Congrats to XCOR!!!!

    The Norks are gonna shit mal-nourished Kittens over this!

    Hope you have your chaff dispensers picked out Aleta! ;p

  34. Paul, Iit’s too bad that SORAC (Suborbital Rocket, Amateur Class) appears gone. It was perhaps the world leader in hybrid rocket technology for a few decades. Someone from there would be able to discuss how serious these problems are. I haven’t fired a hybrid personally, but I got the impression it isn’t something you get right with a few firings (yet another problem with hybrids is the learning curve).

    It’s not a good idea to get in a fight with someone who has done a lot more rocketry than I have, so I’ll just say that SORAC seemed to have licked a lot of these problems. And maybe someone who specializes in building and operating hybrid motors (like SpaceDev which apparently is now part of Sierra Nevada Corporation?) can indeed near the theoretical optimal performance for those engines.

  35. Anon

    You keep inventing facts to suit your odd position. The fact is XCOR has claimed a ticket price half of what VG is charging. Will VG customers be willing to pay double the price for floating around a cabin? Maybe. It’s just as likely customers would prefer the superior view from the XCOR cabin.

    But the bottom line is XCOR is less expensive. That puts XCOR ahead of VG, not ‘behind 5 to 10 year” as you claim.

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