29 thoughts on “XCOR’s Design Change”

      1. I read the article. Besides the glaring error I learned nothing new about when they expect to fly the thing. I know XCOR has the experience to build engines but it still remains to be seen if they can make the whole system work.

    1. I read VTVL as “Very Tough Very Light”, which is always the goal in aerospace materials and design, but I’m an acronymicly challenged contrarian.

  1. Vertical after takeoff is different from vertical takeoff. Vertical landing requires turning the camera 90 degrees.

  2. I think the reporter has completely misunderstood what Greason said. Greason’s quotes say that the Lynx begins to climb at “very close to vertical” 35 seconds *after* takeoff, and glides back once back in air dense enough to provide lift. And of course, If you’d doing VTVL you don’t need a runway.

    1. Will, I’m still trying to understand your comment. Did you really think this blog post was to indicate, with a straight face, that XCOR had really changed the Lynx design? It was a criticism of the clueless reporting.

      1. Rand, I’m sure you thought the original blog post was obviously sarcastic, and no reasonable person would think it was intended to say what it literally said.

        But the internets are *really* bad at conveying sarcasm.

        Can we agree to agree that the clueless reporting was clueless?


  3. Hilarious.

    I like the way XCOR regularly makes the claim that they’ll be flying four times per day.. or at least be capable of that. It’ll be fantastic if they can and it’s great that they feel they can declare that as their goal, but it seems very unlike their usual policy of underpromising and overdelivering.

    If the Lynx Mk III can fly four times per day and deliver 15 kg to orbit each time (45 kg/day), that’s comparable to SpaceX’s current launch rate (~69 kg/day). With multiple airframes, and a reusable upper stage, you can imagine an architecture to fuel a depot, say.

  4. Besides the howler about vertical takeoff, I noticed the last sentence of the story has two more artifacts of substituting spell checking for copy editing:

    What we are doing in space is just the tinniest slither of what we could or should be doing.

    Very reminiscent of some of the idiocy I see on closed caption feeds and probably derived from the same source, namely defective transcription. I used to have considerable respect for court reporters, but persistently garbled closed captioning has pretty well killed that off. But I digress. The fact that Mr. Greason speaks with an American accent and the transciber probably hears with an English accent likely didn’t help matters in this instance.

    I assume Mr. Greason actually said “tiniest sliver” instead of the nonsense actually posted.

    Layers of editors and fact-checkers dontcha know!

      1. Oops! That should be “Right you are, sir!” Gee, all by myself I’m just as good a copy editor as the entire staff of the Belfast Telegraph!

  5. VTVL, HTHL… as long as the first and third characters are the same, it’s good. It’s the VTHL that gets expensive. 🙂

    (Just to complete the quadrant… has anyone ever proposed Horizontal-Takeoff, Vertical-Landing? It seems self-evidently absurd, but lots of strange stuff got considered in the 1960s…)

  6. What’s wrong with this article? I mean, really… the vivid imagery is rather well done, such as the vehicle coming back down until it encounters enough air to FEET it. That wonderfully evokes the Flintstone’s cartoon car, for a very eclectic image of an innovative reentry technique (perhaps the heat shield is in the form of flipflops worn by the pilot?)

    So too with the fact we’re only doing the tiniest slither of what we could do in space. This is true; space flight, so far, has been sadly deficient in slither, which surely leaves all fans of the classic film “snakes on a plane” aghast. Therefor, it’s reasonable to assume that XCOR seeks to remedy this on its suborbital space flights. This would not be hard as there are plenty of rattlers at hand at Mohave field.

    Now, regarding vertical takeoff and landing. What’s the problem? With a better than 1-1 thrust ratio, they *could* take off vertically from an airport runway; they’d just trundle thing thing out onto the active runway on a strongback erector, pour a few dozen cubic yards of quick-set concrete, hoist the vehicle vertical, light the candle, and off they’d go.

    As for vertical landing, yes, the Lynx has that inherent capacity. It’s coming in as a glider, so they’d do a straight-in approach instead of flying the pattern, right? So, how does one do a straight-in approach? One way is you come in high, then increase your glide-path angle a bit to 90 degrees as you near the runway threshold, and you’ll land vertically, right on the numbers. The vehicle definitely has the capability, though utilizing it often might make re-usability problematic, as well as potentially negatively impacting ticket sales.

    1. What if you took the innovative approach of a vertical landing in the upward direction by coming in hot, straight toward El Capitan, and then pulling up so you touch the cliff right at the apex of the zoom climb, and then have the vehicle latch on near the top, perhaps by draping El Capitan with Velcro? Has any aerospace firm done a design study of such a landing system?

      1. That could actually be done. The Ryan X-13 Vertijet was a plane that flew off a vertical launching stand, flew up and out, and then returned to the vertical launching stand and latched on, 57 years ago. You could try your suggested maneuver, though the Park Service may treat you less kindly than they do the Base Jumpers.


      2. The landing difficulties with the Vertijet is why I argue that it would be better to have a rocket stage take-off and land oriented horizontally, like a Harrier or F-35. The weight penalty of the extra engines is small and they could be distributed along the length of the rocket, providing much more control authority and a more stable landing configuration. The handling advantages become more and more pronounced as the stage gets longer and longer, because tall skinny things are inherently hard to work on.

      3. George, such a system would indeed have many benefits, not the least of which would be to make even the landing and deplaning very exciting. I can see it now… “Okay, ladies and gentlemen, thank you for flying XCOR, and before disembarking, please ensure that your bungee cords are properly attached…. “

  7. Interestingly, albeit OT, the American and British accents didn’t diverge until after the Revolution, and according to many sources (Google it yourself) it was the British accent that diverged from ours. Pre-Revolution, the Brits and Americans sounded more like modern Americans, and it was Britain that affected the non-rhotic (not pronouncing “R”) style. Were it not for the Revolution, therefore, we’d have Toys “AH” Us, with no ability to have the cute backwards R.

    Also, it’s clear that the Romans couldn’t have spoken with modern British accents, as they do in every movie and TV series about Rome. What is it about an Italian accent that is so incongruous with Rome, anyway?

    1. Your “accents” point and the one about Rome can actually be connected.

      I was looking at a book called “The History of Spanish” which pointed out that being one of the earlier areas conquered outside Italy, Hispania retained the use of older Latin words. Not only did Roman writers remark on this during the Principate, but there are words in Spanish descended from this ‘archaic’ Latin today that are not found analogously in Italian.

      So there’s a long history of the “colony” retaining early word-forms (and we can’t tell for Roman times, but I’d bet pronunciation too) longer than the “mother” country.

      The long history of film/tv use of Brit accents for Romans obviously is for the sake of evoking the “imperial” idea, which still attaches more to Britain than the US. As to why Italian accents are considered incongruous with Rome… well, sadly, the stereotypes of Italians over the last (say) couple of centuries don’t fit well with the idea of the conquering Romans, at least to Northern Europeans and their branch countries (e.g., the US).


      I wonder, though, if the French have a different view, given that Napoleon was Italian… ok Corsican, so the accent was probably a lot different.

    2. Rome was Latin. Italians are mostly cultural descendants of Lombards, Goths, and every other conqueror since Theodoric put paid to the western empire. They speak a Latinate language, but are not Romans.

  8. Trent,

    four flights a day IS under promising. That’s with a single ground crew, with time off for lunch and breaks.

    Lynx turn around time should be less than one hour. Recall, the X Racer turn around was less than nine minutes. In 2008, the X Racer did seven flights in a day.

    We expect to demonstrate ten flights in one day during the Lynx flight test program.


    1. Your ground crew only gets breaks?!

      With the SLS flight schedule, the ground crews could go on vacations, if not sabbaticals to Tibet, if not for the task of having to build and integrate a new Space Shuttle propulsion and guidance system for every flight, along with an upper stage, and then scrounging around for a payload.

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