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« Back At The Keyboard | Main | Andrews Space »

Rocketplane Kistler and Andrews

The first session on Friday morning will be kicked off by Chuck Lauer from RpK, and Dana Andrews of Andrews Aerospace.


Chuck is introducing George French, III (son of RpK chairman) to give the talk. Describing how he got interested in space when he went to Space Camp at age 9 with his father, where they both became committed to it. He also realized at that age that he wasn't going to become an astronaut. Was the only ten-year-old kid with a mockup of the solar system, including every exploratory probe with descriptions. Got into an argument with his science teacher about how the moon wasn't habitable. He brought in the space binder that he and his dad had been collecting and presented it to the class. George the second started investing in various companies--OSC, Pioneer Rocketplane, Kistler--and the original Space Camp trip eventually led to him becoming CEO of RpK.

RpK only company with two separate reusable concepts--one suborbital and one orbital. On schedule for first suborbital flight in 2009. Same date for orbital system. Finishing CDR on engine injector for suborbital XP by end of March, avionics defined and under design, at PDR level for ECLSS. Moog doing actuators for flight control system. Built six models for wind-tunnel testing. Well along through AST licensing process, just need to do safety review and expected casualty calculation--don't think that licensing is on the current critical path. Will be able to handle payload modules for microgravity experiments as well as passengers.

Both their launch sites--Burns Flat, OK for XP and Woomera (Down Under) for the orbital K-1--are very flat. Still looking around for spaceport for K-1 in the US. K-1 is meeting COTS milestones, though no details provided in this talk (will provide information later if asked). Structural fab nearly complete.

Will be able to deliver payloads to and from space, unlike most launch systems. Will be able to carry both pressurized and unpressurized cargo.

Here's news: they've signed a letter of intent with Bigelow to carry passengers by 2012. Also have a deal with Microsoft to give away an XP ride as a prize associated with their Vanishing Point game (part of the Vista rollout). Using Abercrombie and Kent to market their services.

Summary--they believe that they will help peoples' dreams of traveling in space come true.

Charles Lurio asks if they can complete the program if NASA fails to complete funding on COTS. Answer is that they have other funding sources, sufficient to complete K-1, even if NASA reneges. Good news, if true. When asked about the Bigelow deal, don't want to give any more details, because Bigelow will be making an announcement at the National Space Symposium in early April.

Posted by Rand Simberg at March 23, 2007 08:29 AM
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If both SpaceX and RpK deliver on all their promises, which has the superior product? Does the Falcon's modularity, scalability, and very low overhead beat the K-1's full reusability and roundtrip capability? I wonder under what scenarios they could both share the market, delivering to different types of customers and services.

Posted by Brian Swiderski at March 23, 2007 11:52 AM

Good questions. It looks increasingly likely that we'll have empirical answers to all within three years.

Posted by Dick Eagleson at March 23, 2007 12:46 PM

I wish we knew more how Kistler is going to test the K-1, considering that SpaceX already had two unsuccessful test flights on a precursor vehicle (I mean, they were successful as test flights but unsuccessful as missions). In short, what is going to happen if they crash a K-1 in a test flight? I understand that they might want to launch just the first stage initially, let it fly around a bit, expand the envelope... Yet even test airplanes continue to crash these days. I'm concerned for them, frankly. Fortunately, I'm only a layman.

Posted by Pete Zaitcev at March 23, 2007 02:00 PM

Yes, that concerns me too. I would hope that RpK isn't just strawman competition for SpaceX, and actually has a product with real potential. If not, there are several other companies who could have used the COTS money instead, perhaps to much greater effect and significance. The K-1 is undoubtedly an impressive design on paper, but will the economics hold up? Will the business model hold up, with all these contracts winding through Old Space and Middle Space (Andrews)? I await the answers to these questions with hope and trepidation.

Posted by Brian Swiderski at March 23, 2007 02:55 PM

Brian: It should be noted that the Falcon 9/Dragon also will be reusable and will provide down-mass.

Posted by Daniel Schmelzer at March 23, 2007 03:03 PM

Falcon 9 will be fully reusable?

Posted by Brian Swiderski at March 26, 2007 12:12 PM

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