Transterrestrial Musings  

Amazon Honor System Click Here to Pay

Alan Boyle (MSNBC)
Space Politics (Jeff Foust)
Space Transport News (Clark Lindsey)
NASA Watch
NASA Space Flight
Hobby Space
A Voyage To Arcturus (Jay Manifold)
Dispatches From The Final Frontier (Michael Belfiore)
Personal Spaceflight (Jeff Foust)
Mars Blog
The Flame Trench (Florida Today)
Space Cynic
Rocket Forge (Michael Mealing)
COTS Watch (Michael Mealing)
Curmudgeon's Corner (Mark Whittington)
Selenian Boondocks
Tales of the Heliosphere
Out Of The Cradle
Space For Commerce (Brian Dunbar)
True Anomaly
Kevin Parkin
The Speculist (Phil Bowermaster)
Spacecraft (Chris Hall)
Space Pragmatism (Dan Schrimpsher)
Eternal Golden Braid (Fred Kiesche)
Carried Away (Dan Schmelzer)
Laughing Wolf (C. Blake Powers)
Chair Force Engineer (Air Force Procurement)
Saturn Follies
JesusPhreaks (Scott Bell)
The Ombudsgod
Cut On The Bias (Susanna Cornett)
Joanne Jacobs

Site designed by

Powered by
Movable Type
Biting Commentary about Infinity, and Beyond!

« "The War That Dare Not Speak Its Name" | Main | For What It's Worth »

Two Thirds Of The Way There

SpaceShipOne flew to over two hundred thousand feet today. In a sense, as Jim Oberg points out (via Alan Boyle, and by the way, congratulations on the second anniversary of Cosmic Log), at that altitude, it could be said to be the first private manned vehicle to fly into space.

It's looking more and more like that insurance company that funded the X-Prize is going to lose the bet, but I'm still hoping for an upset for the prize by some upstart.

Posted by Rand Simberg at May 13, 2004 02:07 PM
TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference this post from Transterrestrial Musings.
SpaceShip One Rock(et)s
Excerpt: [source, source] Scaled Composites of Mojave, Calif., is the builder of SpaceShipOne, an effort led by aviation innovator Burt Rutan....
Weblog: Low Earth Orbit
Tracked: May 14, 2004 04:00 PM
Closer to the Prize
Excerpt: Scaled Composites appears to have the X-Prize all but in the bag. They are making this look all too easy. I hope they have continued success, and I look forward to their next flight. This is getting some mainstream coverage,...
Weblog: TexasBestGrok
Tracked: May 14, 2004 09:37 PM

Something to ponder: Third Flight,that's two flights more than most spacecraft achieve

Posted by kert at May 13, 2004 03:02 PM

Wonder what the chances are of the SS1 pilots being recognized with astronaut wings? NASA did award wings to X-15 pilots in the 1960s who flew above a certain altitude, but in recent years they seem to have narrowed the definition to the point of denying the title "astronaut" to payload specialists and the like, even after they've flown into orbit.


Posted by Jeff Dougherty at May 13, 2004 03:03 PM

When they get high enough. The Air Force requirement is fifty miles, I believe. He was ten miles short today.

Posted by Rand Simberg at May 13, 2004 03:10 PM

I know I'm in a minority (although I suspect it's a majority position on this blog) when I say that THIS is the coolest thing happening on the planet right now.

I just hope that Scaled is doing a good job of recording all of these events for posterity. I can see them making more money off of the DVD (assuming the damn Chinese don't clone it) than they ever make off of paying passengers.

What these guys are accomplishing puts the boys at NASA to shame. When's the last time NASA did something worthy of a spot in the Smithsonian? The Shuttle? I guess there is three available. You'd think one of them would wind up on Ebay soon (kind of like the Buran).

Anyway, a pat on the back for Scaled.

Posted by Dave G at May 13, 2004 08:45 PM

At the tail end of Scaled's announcement was a remark that a notice of a media event will be sent out very soon. They have to give 30 days notice to the X-Prize contest, and it sounds like they may have done that.

Posted by Jeff Arnall at May 13, 2004 09:21 PM

I wonder if those Mexican UFOs were watching the flight?

Posted by Alan K. Henderson at May 13, 2004 09:55 PM

"Wonder what the chances are of the SS1 pilots being recognized with astronaut wings? "

Can the government award wings to private citizens who aren't employed the government?

Okay they can. But do they?

Posted by Brian at May 14, 2004 12:20 AM

They might for the first flight. After there are several dozen private astronauts, they'll complain that this is all suborbital and it just isn't the same thing. That's about the time a private concern will go orbital. After a bit of that, somebody will set up private astronaut certification.

The last flight was 1/3 up. This one was 2/3. Yes, I think there's a good chance the next will be all the way. I haven't felt this kind of excitement for a space project since the first Shuttle flight.

Posted by VR at May 14, 2004 01:33 AM

When I read up on the X-15 program I thought that there were likely to
be setbacks and disappointments. Certainly the X-15 program never managed to do
what Rutan and all did yesterday: send up a vehicle and have it come back intact.

But Burt Rutan's group is making this look easy.


Launch conditions were 46,000 feet and 120 knots. Motor light off occurred
10 seconds after release and the vehicle boosted smoothly to 150,000 feet and
Mach 2.5. Subsequent coast to apogee of 211,400 feet. During a portion of the
boost, the flight director display was inoperative, however the pilot continued
the planned trajectory referencing the external horizon. Reaction control authority
was as predicted and the vehicle recovered in feather experiencing 1.9M and 3.5G?s.
Feather oscillations were actively damped by the pilot and the wing was de-feathered
starting at 55,000 feet. The onboard avionics was re-booted and a smooth and
uneventful landing made to Mojave.

Posted by Mark Amerman at May 14, 2004 06:28 AM

AS I recall, 40 miles is approximately the altitude at which Columbia began breaking up. Rather fitting.

Mark: Although the X-15 had its share of mishaps, including one noted and well photographed occasion when the airframe broke during an especially hard landing, it flew dozens, if not hundreds, of missions each as successful as this SS1 flight.

Posted by billg at May 14, 2004 06:52 AM

Certainly the X-15 program never managed to do
what Rutan and all did yesterday: send up a vehicle and have it come back intact.

I think that most X-15 pilots would be surprised to hear that.

Posted by Rand Simberg at May 14, 2004 06:54 AM

I wish Scaled would get another host for their website, it is sloooow......

Posted by B.Brewer at May 14, 2004 09:29 AM

>When I read up on the X-15 program I thought
>that there were likely to be setbacks and
>disappointments. Certainly the X-15 program
>never managed to do what Rutan and all did
>yesterday: send up a vehicle and have it come
>back intact.

I'll assume your kidding. The is the first time a Civilian designed/paid for vehicle has done what the X-15 did routinly, send up a vehicle and come back intact. Not the other way around.

>Although the X-15 had its share of mishaps,
>including one noted and well photographed
>occasion when the airframe broke during an
>especially hard landing, it flew dozens, if not
>hundreds, of missions each as successful as
>this SS1 flight.

199 flights. Of those 1 vehicle destroyed and the pilot killed when it went out of control during re-entry. 1 vehicle rolled after a landing skid collapsed, and the same vehicle is the one that 'broke-it's-back' during a rather hard landing. The same vehicle was re-built as the high-speed test vehicle version X-15A1 and was severly damaged when the experimental spray on heat-sheilding material did not work as expected. (Un-forseen shock-wave interaction from a dummy-scramjet on the ventral fin caused enough major damage to ground the A/C. It's the one in the Smithsonian IIRCC :o)

Prior to actual flight testing, one vehicle had an ground mishap where the motor exploded during testing. Of them all I seem to recall 1 pilot killed and 1 injured. Out of 199, that's 196 successful flights.

The major difference of course is that the X-15 WASN'T made for just altitude. It was a hypersonic, (low) speed test bed aircraft too.
Which the SS-1 is definatly not :o)


Posted by Randy Campbell at May 14, 2004 10:15 AM

Who cares about astronaut wings? Let's make a new designation, such as space man or space flight participant or such. Let astronaut and cosmonaut stand for government programs. Make a new word for the people who are paying their own way, whether by building it themselves or buying a ride.
Think about what Dick Rutan has to say(Dick built and flew the Voyager; Burt his brother designed it): "Walk into the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum and you see two airplanes: the Wright Flyer and Voyager. They both set absolute records. They're both homebuilts."

Posted by Aleta at May 14, 2004 10:45 AM

I was pleasantly surprised to see this make the front page (though not the lead story) of the local paper. They aren't very good about reporting on technical subjects, and spaceflight even more - if it isn't a big NASA mission or disaster, usually there isn't a word. It is nice to see this getting some attention from them.

Posted by VR at May 14, 2004 02:06 PM

Aleta wrote:

Who cares about astronaut wings? Let's make a new designation, such as space man or space flight participant or such. Let astronaut and cosmonaut stand for government programs. Make a new word for the people who are paying their own way, whether by building it themselves or buying a ride.

I concur. Let's brain storm:
(I admit that I prefer the PC incorrect "man" to
person etc, etc)

* Privateer (arrrr mate-y)
* RocketMan
* TopNaut
* Spaceman
* Spacenaut
* Person of Space (Politically Correct?)

Space Tourist kind of captures things nicely too.

Posted by Fred K at May 14, 2004 02:10 PM

While XCOR has no official position on the question of "what do we call them", I have a personal opinion.

Titles like "aeronaut", "astronaut", "cosmonaut", and "aviatrix" are symptoms of the infancy of a given activity. When spaceflight is mature, we'll call them "pilots" if they wiggle the stick, and "passengers" if they don't.

Posted by Jeff Greason at May 14, 2004 02:37 PM

Yes, when it is mature, of course. But people know the term "astronaut" and the folks that want to do this sort of thing always dreamed of being one. For the first few hundred flights, I would give everyone who passed pre-flight training and flies on the Xerus a high quality, signed "Private Astronaut" certificate complete with mission number. Separate, of course, from a "Private Astronaut Pilot" certificate. It's called "Marketing." Some of us would care even though we KNEW it was marketing.

Posted by VR at May 14, 2004 05:06 PM

Thank for filling in the facts, Randy. I was too lazy to look them up.

I have since, and it is worth noting that the X-15's maximum speed was Mach 6.7, 4250 mph, and maximum altitude was 354,200 feet, or just about 67 miles. Not bad for a thing with wings, eh?

Posted by billg at May 14, 2004 05:49 PM

Well I sure managed to express myself poorly. What I meant was that no X-15
flew up to this sort of altitude and came back undamaged. They always required
repair, often major repair.

Today, after 120 flights, and accumulated flying time of two hours at speeds above
3000 mph, the three X-15 airplanes show the effects of having pushed past man's
complete understanding. Wrinkles and buckles mar the once-sleek fuselages. Gaps have
been cut elsewhere. Scars are visible where the skin of the wings has been hammered
back in place. The three X-15's appear old and tired after many pioneering flights.
One of them has a vertical tail with a razor-sharp leading edge, a radical departure
from the others. None of them has the vertical tail with which it first flew. Other
changes are hidden, such as the added structure that stiffens the fuselage and vertical
tail, and the electronics that now help operate the controls.

A most important contribution to mission success is the "blood, sweat, and tears" of
the men who work to get the X-15 off the ground. An unsung effort, averaging 30 days
in duration, is required to prepare and checkout the airplane and systems for every flight.
Many of the systems and subsystems were taking a larger than normal step into unknown
areas. Inevitable compromises during design and construction resulted in an extensive
development effort for many components and subsystems, as part of the flight-research

Thus, hypersonic flow has yet to reveal all its secrets. Enough is known, though,
to provide a basic understanding of the pressures and heat input along the wing and the
fuselage. In localized areas with large discontinuities interference effects, the flow
is too complex to yield to a generalized analysis. For example, the wing-fuselage juncture,
tail-fuselage juncture, and canopy obstruction create chaotic combinations of multiple
shock waves and cross-flow conditions, especially at high angle of attack. Since these
effects are synonymous with uneven pressure and heating, the loads and thermal stresses
are equally obscure. Sometimes the magnitude of the unknowns was uncovered only when
localized structural failures occurred, unexpectedly and dramatically upsetting the
tempo of the flight program.

The structural engineer is faced with another formidable design task in dealing with
aeroclastic and aerothermoelastic problems. The root cause is the flexibility of the
structure and the deflection that accompanies each stress. Although the X-15 isn't as
flexible as the wing of a jet transport, the effects on it of even minute distortion
can be far-reaching. The difficulty is that though structural deflection is not
objectionable, it induces additional aerodynamic forces from the change in angle between
the structure and the airflow. This redistributes the airload and results in a further
change in pressure forces and deflection, which continues until the aerodynamic forces
and structural resistance are in equilibrium.

At high speeds, the large forces acting on surfaces require the designer to analyze more
and more exactly these elastic deformations. Yet the solution for complex flow patterns
and deflection from thermal expansion often does not yield to analysis. Another consequence
of flight to speeds above the transonic region is that the airflow is characteristically
fluctuating, and causes buffeting and vibrations. In some instances, resonances, or
self-excited oscillations between airflow and structure, are encountered. This phenomenon,
called flutter, is extremely complicated, since resonances are possible in any
combination of bending and torsional oscillations.

from Wendell H. Stillwell's accout

Posted by Mark Amerman at May 14, 2004 09:12 PM

Post a comment

Email Address: