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Biggest Mistake If Hopes Realized
EADS repeated that it is hoping to close funding for a suborbital rocket in early 2008. I've decided I wasn't harsh enough with my last post. For $1.3 billion, one could probably buy at least seven of the following companies: Rocketplane, XCOR, The Space Ship Company, Armadillo Aerospace, Masten Space Systems, Benson, TGV and Blue Origin. That would leave enough money to send all their suborbital vehicle programs through test flights. One might even be able to use the left over money to also pick up Virgin Galactic, Incredible Adventures and Space Adventures. If you are funding the EADS suborbital rocket, consider putting out an RFP instead. Even if you are a government. You might get seven to ten local new space companies with more than one successfully entering a viable vehicle into commercial service for the price of one old-space program.Posted by Sam Dinkin at October 28, 2007 03:29 PM
The new Rocketplane design looks very similar to the EADS spaceplane, yet there is a vast difference in the cost estimates for the too projects: a factor of 20.
You seem to be implying that the true cost will be much nearer the Rocketplane figure than the EADS one. The question is, what evidence do you have for that position?
All the evidence points to billion dollar price tags.
It's 3 geo satellites or an eclipse 500 r&d program.
What I do agree with you, is that the market isn't big enough to justify a $1.3 billion price tag
The only similar evidence we have for a working suborbital spaceplane is the $20 million Tier 1 SpaceShipOne project from Mojave Aerospace Ventures.
While not suborbital, another data point is Elon Musk investing over $100 million on the Falcon I rocket program with Space Exploration Technologies and being awarded $278 million for the Dragon commercial orbital transportation services prototype.
For private spaceflight endeavors, all evidence does *not* point to billion dollar price tags.Posted by John Kavanagh at October 28, 2007 04:07 PM
Spaceshipone was an experimental craft, the others have to be operational.Posted by Seers at October 28, 2007 04:27 PM
This is not a business that EADS is setting up but a fishing expedition to see if the Eurocratic governments are going to pony up some money to counter the perceived threat of a newly invigorated U.S. aerospace sector. They have zero interest in investing in a U.S. company.
Posted by Dennis Ray Wingo at October 28, 2007 04:57 PM
So you believe that it will take 60 times more funding for Mojave Aerospace Ventures to take SpaceShipOne from three experimental suborbital flights to an "operational" mode?Posted by John Kavanagh at October 28, 2007 05:02 PM
Wingo is right. The purpose of EADS is to create jobs in Europe, preferably mostly in France. The spacecraft is just the McGuffin.Posted by Jim Bennett at October 28, 2007 05:04 PM
I acknowledge that Eurocrats are the likely funders if any. They should consider a homegrown commercial off the shelf suborobital transporation service program for suborbital for the $1.3 billion.
Seer: X-15 only cost $1.5 billion in today's dollars using 1961 technology. Scaled produced and flew Space Ship One at $100k per seat per flight marginal cost or 4% of X-15's cost per seat flight in today's dollars. The investment was about $20-30 million. That is, we could afford 25-65 New Space suborbital programs for $1.3 billion. Even if 4 out of 5 of these programs fail, that would leave us with 5-13 new vehicles.Posted by Sam Dinkin at October 28, 2007 05:33 PM
I acknowledge that Eurocrats are the likely funders if any. They should consider a homegrown commercial off the shelf suborobital transporation service program for suborbital for the $1.3 billion.
Europe does not work that way anymore, it is now a socialist/capitalist system where the governments fund industry in order to create jobs after taking money from industry and people.
Posted by at October 28, 2007 05:38 PM
EADS will get all the money it needs by receiving an exclusive deal on ferrying visitors to the spanish space hotel.
/end of sarcasm (any truths unintentional but since this concerns the EU mentality one never knows)Posted by Habitat Hermit at October 28, 2007 09:19 PM
Its impossible to take seriously anyone who says it takes $1.3Bn to build a suborbital *anything*.
What would you possibly do with all that money?
That sounds more like the total spend of *everyone* trying to build suborbital spaceplanes, through all of their vehicles being operational. But that might still be too much money by a little.
Is it possible that EADS could be less efficient than 5 or 6 different companies combined? Well, maybe...
I think EADS is trying to get a "pocket" of money with which to help Airbus' balance sheet.
Evidence? None. Sorry.Posted by MG at October 28, 2007 10:54 PM
Sam, I just can't see this as the "biggest mistake". You can always make a mistake bigger by throwing more money at it. :-)Posted by Karl Hallowell at October 29, 2007 02:23 AM
Well, given the continual effort by Newspace companies to mask upfront just how much it will cost to come up with a working, FAA approved system, I'll take a 2x overestimate to be better than the 10x underestimates rampant in the NewSpace or AltSpace sphere. What does that $1.3 Billion mean? $250-300 million for engine and propulsion system development, testing etc. $500 mil for the rest of the airframe development and flight certification of 1 prototype. $400-500 mil for training, ground infrastructure, and 3-4 working airframes. Pretty bare-bones if you ask me. ;-)Posted by tom at October 29, 2007 06:20 AM
It's just a paper project. Where are the 1.3 Billion euros now? hopes of funding in 2008? lol
I don't see Space Europe countrys investing that money on such a project, they need it for more real space programs, some very expensive (galileo, ariane...) but i could be wrong. If EADS wants to put is own euros on this, well, this is different. They have the know-how to make it happen.
My 2 euro cents from across,
1. the EADS plane (and budget) is a ten+ years project
5. a true NASA/Boeing/LockMart/Airbus level quality is VERY IMPORTANT since that planes must fly THOUSANDS passengers
"Its impossible to take seriously anyone who says it takes $1.3Bn to build a suborbital *anything*."
But they're NOT building "a suborbital *anything*"; they're developing an entirely new commercial aircraft to carry passengers. Somebody up-thread referenced the Eclipse 500 development. While a cursory Google search didn't point me to any figure for total development cost (which may be nonpublic information anyway), I did find a news article that mentioned the company had raised on the order of $500 million at some unknown mid-development point... so total program cost of >$1 billion isn't implausible. If the EADS development program for a totally new commercial aircraft in a totally new operating regime is comparable to Eclipse 500 costs within a factor of 2 or 3, I'd say they've done a pretty good job.
Comparisons to SpaceShipOne, X-15, SpaceX, etc., all miss the mark, as all of those are either experimental or unmanned, and none of them has (yet) been fully developed to enter regular commercial service. BTW, if the figure of $1.5 billion in today's dollars for X-15 is correct, that works out to $7.5 million per seat-flight for the total program!
It's real popular in alt.space circles to compare "dinosaur" development costs to the "agile" startup heroes without recognizing that most of the latter are either experimental (e.g., SS1, X-15, DC-X), unfinished (e.g., SpaceX), or essentially volunteer efforts (e.g., Armadillo). I was just reading a news story in which there was an estimate (a big number I can't recall) of what the aggregate labor for the LLC teams would be if those folks were taking normal industry salaries.
I love what Armadillo is doing, but if they're eventually going to be flying regular people for commercial fares, they're going to have to get a lot more like the EADSs and Boeings of the world than y'all would like to admit.Posted by Bill Dauphin at October 29, 2007 07:49 AM
Bill, even assuming that you're right and that the laws of physics preclude high quality at less than $1B investment, Armadillo is still "doing it right"TM. They are not flying passengers, they are learning how to make the technology run cheaply. At least for a research project, you have to admit that they have been far more effective than most existing larger companies would have been. The SS1 vs X15 analogy is really quite apt.
The problem with your thinking is that you assume that the only way to get safety is with big aerospace. What about the kit-builts? A lot of people are currently flying in things they made themselves. Not many related deaths, as I understand it...Posted by David Summers at October 29, 2007 08:14 AM
Even if it does cost what EADS claims it'll cost, there's no reason to give them the money up front for a high quality vehicle. My take is that the EADS isn't going to do better at this time than a startup which builds a riskier vehicle and then uses the cash flow and flight data to improve reliability and performance. The latter will have a working prototype and a profitable business.
gm, you throw out a bunch of unreasonable claims on your list. That first EADS prototype is going to be a "hobby-level" or even "experimental" prototype. It's myopic to invoke weak competitors like Armadillo Aerospace here rather than the serious competitors like Virgin Galactic.
Second, for thousands of passengers, you'd have to be a fool to either use NASA standards or to use commercial aerospace standards. The former is too unsafe in the long term (unless a 1-2% chance of loss of crew is ok with you) while the latter is absurdly safe for a few thousand passengers (it's a standard of safety for tens of millions of passengers). And there's no way that EADS can make a space launch vehicle that meets commercial aerospace standards and only costs $1.3 billion.
Going on, claims 7. and 8. are unsubstantiated and indicate you don't understand the business model. First, the SS2 can launch from a standard airport just like the EADS model. It'll have from the start more passengers (6+1 crew) than the EADS design (due in large part to its two vehicle design). The high risk of the early vehicle will be compensated for by the risk tolerant early adopters that will use it.
By the time the EADS vehicle is ready for commercial use, I see good chances that the more capable SS2 will have flown for years and have hundreds of flights. That's a huge headstart. The income from this business can fund better and more reliable vehicles.
"Hobby level" engines at Mojave? Why don't you come do a due diligence on the rocket companies here. Then you'll have facts and not suppositions.Posted by Aleta Jackson at October 29, 2007 09:43 AM
1. the EADS plane (and budget) is a ten+ years project
That's pretty funny. By that time suborbital will possibly be a mature industry with several innovative vendors. Cost per seat would need to be in the low 5 figures ($50k retail according to Futron in 2021). Actually EADS Astrium is claiming 4 years to first paying flight. Interestingly, EADS anticipates 50,000 flyers per year at $267,000 per flight in 2020 which is nearly 20 times the annual market size Futron predicts ($13.3 billion vs. $700 million).
2. the $1.3 Bn price include 20 (IIRC) working planes
The development cost is reported (via http://www.personalspaceflight.in fo/2007/06/14/eads-reinvents-rocketplane ) to be one billion Euros by BBC. Development is not manufacturing.
4. the EADS products' quality is at NASA/Boeing/LockMart/Airbus level, NOT any "hobby-level" engines (tested at Mojave airport) nor any exploding "lunar-landers-toys"...
Like the NASA/ATK methane engine and the Northrop Grumman Space Ship Two.
5. a true NASA/Boeing/LockMart/Airbus level quality is VERY IMPORTANT since that planes must fly THOUSANDS passengers
It will have to fly 5200 just to pay for development cost at $250k/flight with 0 ops cost. They may need a global monopoly for five years to achieve that level of demand--longer due to accrual of interest.
6. the X-15 was a single-seat plane while the EADS plane will fly 4+1 peoples per launch
I do not doubt the EADS craft will be able to fly for $250k/seat. That is moot because the market price will likely be at a lower price in 5 years or 10 years.
7. despite the $250M Virgin investment, the SS2 will be only a sligtly larger version of the experimental SSO, with "experimental-level" safety...
It's New Mexico that's investing $250M. Virgin so far has only said they invested $21M. Safety is indeed an open question, but if they don't achieve it, others may. It's like the difference between a portfolio of 100 $10 million start up companies vs. one billion dollar blue chip firm. The blue chip firm is very likely to get an average profit. Most of the startups fail, but a few might end up as $10 billion firms.
8. the two-planes SSO was an experimental vehicle, while, repeat the same design with the SS2 is WRONG... WHY do build a BIGGER (and expensive) "mother plane" (WK2) to just performs the first TEN miles of a 60-80 miles flight???
Hmmm. First grammar, then physics.Posted by Sam Dinkin at October 29, 2007 09:51 AM
Depends on the many things where the optimal point is...
It could be that it's worth it to spend huge amount of development money to make craft that have low operating costs and are quite safe. That's the airline way.
Or then it's best to develop something cheaply and quickly that then costs a lot to operate and is not that safe. The ultralight way. (AFAIK at least over here you can't charge money from ultralight plane passengers, you can't operate them as a service like that.)
What affects the location of the optimal approach, is the market and also how much capital money you have. :)
If there are others already operating and the market is proven, the airline approach could be better, you'd capture a big market share as operators and passengers would flock to your craft.
Btw how many people noticed that the Rocketplane XP was once again completely redesigned. This time they ditched the Learjet basis completely. I don't remember any price references, but it can't be very cheap to develop a new bizjet sized plane, although it can lack many of the sophistications...
I don't personally think it makes sense to start a billion dollar megaproject for a suborbital tourism craft at present, like EADS has proposed. There needs to be a lot more hands on practice in the art...Posted by mz at October 29, 2007 10:43 AM
"Bill, even assuming that you're right and that the laws of physics preclude high quality at less than $1B investment..."
Who said anything about the laws of physics? I'm talking about the nature of their enterprise: When you're talking about developing a commercial vehicle to put into regular service with paying customers, you get into a whole realm of legal and business realities -- aspects of producibility, operational safety, regulatory compliance, passenger ergonomics, marketability (i.e., product aesthetics), etc. -- that have little if anything to do with "the laws of physics," but which definitely DO affect the total development cost.
"Armadillo is still 'doing it right'TM."
I absolutely agree that Armadillo is "doing it right"... I just think what they're doing is *different* from what EADS is proposing to do.
"The SS1 vs X15 analogy is really quite apt."
Comparing SS1 and X-15 to each other IS perfectly appropriate; comparing either of them to development of a full-fledged, operational commercial aerospace plane is not so useful. The ongoing SS2 program would be a better benchmark, but of course it remains to be seen what that will cost.
"The problem with your thinking is that you assume that the only way to get safety is with big aerospace. What about the kit-builts? A lot of people are currently flying in things they made themselves."
Yah... but how many *paying passengers* are flying around in kit-built aircraft? How many kit-builts are being used to fly middle managers to the conference in Dayton, or families to their Caribbean vacation resort? Kitplanes are really cool. I'm thrilled they exist, and probably someone (perhaps John Carmack) will end up being to personal spaceflight what the early Burt Rutan was to general aviation. (As an aside, someone will probably end up being the Jim Bede of personal spaceflight, as well.) But there's a *difference* between kits and finished products, and there's also a difference between personal transportation vehicles and common carrier vehicles. There are lots of kit-built *cars* on the road, but (AFAIK) no kit-built city buses or long-haul trucks.
And re "big aerospace," that's exactly why I thought Eclipse Aviation was an apt comparison: Eclipse is NOT a big aerospace "dinosaur." In fact, on the airplane side of this conversation, it's considered one of those small, agile, paradigm-breaking "mammals" everyone professes to be so fond of. We're not talking about Boeing here. And if EADS could pull off developing a new aircraft that will, of necessity, be bigger and heavier than the Eclipse 500, have twice as many propulsion systems, have twice as many flight control systems, additional requirements for passenger safety and comfort, etc., and do it for within a factor of 2 or 3 times the development costs of the Eclipse 500, shouldn't we congratulate them for getting mammal-like results from their dinosaur selves?
Please understand that nothing I've said here is meant to denigrate the work going on in Mojave and Texas and Alabama... but the "if Burt can do SS1 for $20 million, what can EADS *possibly* spend $1.3 billion on?" line of argument misses the point that what Burt did with SS1 and what EADS proposes to do involve ENTIRELY different scopes of work.
It's really not necessary to trash everyone else in order to praise the good folks doing cool stuff in the desert.Posted by Bill Dauphin at October 29, 2007 12:00 PM
Sam, Virgin is planning to invest a few hunderd million dollars: "Backed by Sir Richard and Virgin Group, Virgin Galactic is investing between $200 million and $240 million to build five SpaceShipTwo vehicles, with a first flight planned in 2008 or 2009 -- a year or two later than originally planned." http://www.space.com/spacenews/businessmonday_060403.html I have no doubt this has only gone up with the delays and the recent accident.Posted by vrigininvesting at October 29, 2007 12:02 PM
Check you data. Virgin Galactic estimated they were going to need to spend at least $250 million to get to operational level.
Virgin Galactic: Anatomy of a Business Model
[[["And that's going to cost money as well. I believe we'll spend between $225 million and $250 million" to reach that operating point, Tai said, perhaps staring in 2009 but also depending on how the testing program goes.]]]
This is on top of the $250 million New Mexico is spending to build a spaceport for the. So we are up to $500 million. And this was before the accident at Mojave. So if anything the price will likely go up.
So EADS spending twice as much for what likely to be a far more capable design (no air launch needed) is not unreasonable. And quite honestly their entering the field gives it much needed creditability in the business world. Much as if Boeing announced it was developing a Suborbital Tourist Vehicle (STV). This should help, not hurt firms in fund raising IF they are able to explain why to investors that are able to do it for a lot less then an established aerospace firm.
Also for their 10 year time line this is not unreasonable. Its already been 3 years since the X-prize flights and Burt Rutan started on SpaceShipOne in the late 1990's. So its already been 8 years with no commercial flights in sight yet for Spaceshipone. Or any of the numerous competitors.
Add to that this interesting statement in the yesterday’s London Times by Virgin Galatic.
[[[So, how long will we have to wait? Virgin reckons on daily flights to space from spaceports in California, Sweden and Scotland within six years from the first launch, at a cost that will drop to £37,500.]]]
IF their first flight is in 2009 that would put daily flights in the 2015 time frame. Given the numerous slips in AltSpace schedules the industry will likely still be in the innovator stage when this EADS vehicle flys.
This is also not unreasonable time line even for comemrcial aircraft like business jets.
The only reason I see for such a harsh reaction to EADS by the AltSpace folks is that it serves as a reality check on what is likely to be actually needed for a practical, safe, STV.
BTW I had to delete the links to the articles because it won’t let me post if I include them.
TomPosted by Tom Matula at October 29, 2007 12:14 PM
I agree that there will probably be overruns if EADS develops its suborbital rocketplane as a commercial jet. This is unwise as a production run of 5-25 rocketplanes does not justify the immense expense on overengineering that a fleet of 500 or 1000 craft does. Fuel economy is not that important here. Fuel will be a negligible share of seat price. Performance is not as important as most spacecraft. We are not trying to get these craft to orbit, just 100 km.
EADS has indeed done a great job. If they built this in 2000, it might even have been profitable. But there are already a bunch of low-cost concepts that are much much cheaper and more suitable to the anticipated market size.
Rocketplane has announced in the past that it could get to the start of testing with the money it had. That was before it spent its money to merge with/apply for COTS with Kistler. They expected to get to the start of testing for something more than $45 million. Not sure how much Branson is paying for its fleet, but probably a lot less than New Mexico is paying for its airport. Other programs have said they can get developed, tested and manufactured for low to high tens of millions. I think it's delightful EADS is coming to the party. It just seems they are doing so late, with bad market data, a rotten business plan and an approach that is dominated by simply buying all of the other competitors.Posted by Sam Dinkin at October 29, 2007 12:22 PM
Thanks for the cite to the $225-$250 million number. Still 1/5 EADS. Since it can take off from existing spaceports, I don't think it makes sense to include the $250 million for the new space port.Posted by Sam Dinkin at October 29, 2007 12:26 PM
Sure Sam, people can say a lot of things about their future developments and claim they can do a lot for very little, but should you believe em?
In a sense, this could make it harder for new startups as investors would say "Hey, EADS said it costs over a billion dollars, why should I believe you when you say you can do it a lot cheaper." That's why some newspace guys have seen it as FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt, a tactic that Microsoft uses often to confuse customers about open source software by having unfounded claims).
I have a bit of a mixed feeling about it.
I personally think suborbital tourism will eventually most probably be done with liquid fueled VTVL ships, Armadillo style. Or DC-X, RVT, you name the secret DoD project...
But I'm not so certain about it... there are quite many alternatives...
"And quite honestly [EADS'] entering the field gives it much needed creditability in the business world. Much as if Boeing announced it was developing a Suborbital Tourist Vehicle (STV). "
This is a great point: Alt.space folks are fond of using the personal computer industry as a model. Well, as an early adopter, I can well recall how universally my Apple ][ (along with my friends' Commodore and Tandy machines) was dismissed as a "toy"... UNTIL IBM changed its formerly derisive postion on PCs and decided to get into the microcomputer business. Suddenly, institutional customers took PCs seriously and started buying them. THAT was when PCs went from beeing a high-end hobby/niche product to a mainstream tool.
One of the "big aerospace" companies taking suborbital flight seriously is certainly a step in the right direction.Posted by Bill Dauphin at October 29, 2007 01:01 PM
"One of the "big aerospace" companies taking suborbital flight seriously is certainly a step in the right direction."
Northrop Grumman's acquisition of Scaled Composites meets this definition.Posted by Jim Bennett at October 29, 2007 01:53 PM
I recently interviewed Rocketplane Global and funnily enough they mentioned the EADS design. They stressed that a similar design just adds value to the concept. There was no thought of it being more competition.
Northrop Grumman's acquisition of Scaled Composites meets this definition.
Not necessarily. My understanding is that the acquisition was primarily for aviation purposes, and the suborbital business just came along for the ride. The Virgin contract is a pretty small part of Scaled's business.Posted by Rand Simberg at October 29, 2007 02:43 PM
You are correct. Northrop-Grumman is purusuing a number of large USAF UAV contracts based on Scaled Composities designs. Spaceshiptwo to them is just a side show. As long as Branson keeps the money flowing they will work it like any contract. But if the funding stops, it stops.Posted by Thomas Matula at October 29, 2007 04:29 PM
Spaceshiptwo requires a dedicated facility. That is because the facility and surrounding airspace must be shut down to air traffic for several hours a day around the launch window. This is why Mojave didn't pursue it. They'll let Burt test it there, but that field is too valuable to be shut down on a regular basis when operational flights start. So including the $250 million in the cost for Spaceshiptwo is proper accounting as its part of the total system cost.
Since the EADS craft has jet engines it appears it won't need to have the field closed but would likely fit in normal operating pattern. WHich means it won't need a dedicated spaceport. So again the cost of the spaceport is justified as part of the cost of the Spaceshiptwo system.
As for the rest of the systems, once they actually build something we will see what their costs actually are. Look at how the costs of the K-1 have soared since it was first proposed in the early 1990's, and its still not flying.
Also I expect when you drill down you will see the major difference between EADS and the AltSpace firms is their accounting systems and means of assigning cost. EADS most likely adds a set of overhead percentage to its estimates. Also they have standard costs for salaries and cost of capital. AltSpace firms don't have the same structured accounting system or apply overhead in the same way. If you did apply the same accounting model to Spaceshiptwo I expect a large part of the cost difference would disappear.
Spaceshiptwo requires a dedicated facility. That is because the facility and surrounding airspace must be shut down to air traffic for several hours a day around the launch window.
Tom, as far as I know (from Stu Witt himself), this is complete nonsense (among other things, there is no such thing as a "launch window"). Do you have any basis for it?
This might be true for vertical operations, but not SS2.Posted by Rand Simberg at October 29, 2007 04:58 PM
I agree with Rand here. Move White Knight away from the airport and major air lanes (which I gather would be done anyway). Then launch. It especially doesn't make sense to block large regions off since SS2 would launch above almost all air traffic. As long as they don't launch in restricted air space, I really don't see the problem.
Lets not ignore the brontosaurus in the middle of the supersized room: EADS wants all their money up front. Big money, right now, or they walk.
Nothing remotely mammalian about that. Nothing clever or inspiring. Nothing that makes novel solutions likely. Nothing limber and swift, just one whopping huge brontosaurus who feels left out and wants to enter the mammalian burrow where all the interesting sounds emanate from.
Isn't "rocketplane" a misnomer for both the EADS and Rocketplane designs? To the best of my knowledge only the XCOR Xerus suborbital design is a true rocketplane. As we all probably know XCOR has recently flown a non-suborbital rocketplane so they've obviously been picking up heaps of experience already. The Frankenstein approach of EADS & Rocketplane should be called something else... tandem-propulsion planes? Sequential-propulsion planes?Posted by Habitat Hermit at October 29, 2007 08:01 PM
Correction: I should have said "...XCOR has recently flown yet another non-suborbital rocketplane..." above since their EZ Rocket has been flying for a while already.Posted by Habitat Hermit at October 29, 2007 08:15 PM
That is not in line with what happened with Spaceshipone.
[[[XCOR raised the closing of runways at Mojave Airport for the landing of SpaceShipOne as an example of the FAA not permitting overflight because of concerns of any impact. The runways were closed not because of potential crashes during overflight as XCOR suggests, but because of the need to account for the debris of a potential impact on landing. Runways that intersected the landing runway also had to be closed so that no planes would enter the landing location.]]]
[[[Sec. 437.61 Landing and impact locations.
For a nominal or any contingency abort landing of a reusable suborbital rocket, or for any nominal or contingency impact or landing of a component of that rocket, a permittee must use a location that--
(a) Is big enough to contain an impact, including debris dispersion upon impact; and
(b) At the time of landing or impact, does not contain any members of the public. ]]]
Also remember, as a glider SpaceShipOne has only one shot of landing, just as the Space Shuttle. EADS has engines, its able to go around or fly a pattern. You will see the FAA close the runways to all traffic (public) not related to the test again from the time White Knight 2 takes off until Spaceshiptwo is cleared from the runway. And probably follow the same practice when commercial operations start. I know AltSpacers will argue againist it, but the FAA will error on the side of safety when dealing with a glider full of passengers.Posted by Thomas Matula at October 29, 2007 11:36 PM
"Isn't 'rocketplane' a misnomer for both the EADS and Rocketplane designs? To the best of my knowledge only the XCOR Xerus suborbital design is a true rocketplane. As we all probably know XCOR has recently flown a non-suborbital rocketplane so they've obviously been picking up heaps of experience already. The Frankenstein approach of EADS & Rocketplane should be called something else... tandem-propulsion planes? Sequential-propulsion planes?"
"Rocketplane" may or may not be a misnomer, but the key discriminator here is flight regime, not propulsion: Rocketplane's and EADS' designs are (along with XCOR's Xerus) spacecraft because they're designed to fly in space; the EZ-Rocket and the rocket racers are airplanes because they are designed for only atmospheric, wingborne flight. Admittedly, the fact that the latter use a spaceflight-relevant propulsion mode makes them interesting to space enthusiasts... but the thing I really care about is spaceflight, and at the end of the day I don't care what the propulsion mode (or mix) is. If you could get me to space by capturing the morning dew in glass globes, that'd be fine, too.
 OK, I realize that's probably an obscure reference for non-Lit Majors. For a hint, look here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyrano_de_BergeracPosted by Bill Dauphin at October 30, 2007 05:11 AM
Dew in glass globes is nice, but I prefer the engine powered by "negative" feathers used on the trading voyage to the Moon.(The Consolidator, Daniel Defoe, 1785)
Posted by Thomas Matula at October 30, 2007 07:05 AM
I'll suggest you look into the terms Scaled Composites built
It's good business to get front money.Posted by anonymous at October 30, 2007 05:20 PM
anonymous, sure I can't blame EADS for wanting a lot of easy money up front. But who really thinks EADS with their deep connections to government will get a Scaled Composites style contract?Posted by Karl Hallowell at October 30, 2007 06:34 PM
Thomas: I agree with you that you should amortize the spaceport, but not a brand new one. The Burns Flat former SAC base is nearly free for example. The only way New Mexico could outbid free was to build something as good and cooler. It counts in New Mexico's (aggressive) business plan, not Virgin's--they aren't paying much--$1 million only pays interest on less than 1/10 of the construction debt. You can certainly subtract the extra revenue VG would be getting from being at a cool new spaceport vs. the middle of nowhere, for the business plan sans sugar daddy. But how would you account for the stadiums that cities build for football teams? If the football teams had to pay for them, they wouldn't get built.Posted by Sam Dinkin at October 30, 2007 06:54 PM
I guess its a question of looking at the total economic costs, including those contributed by governent, or only the accounting costs. But its always nice when the government subsidizes your business venture.
But if Virgin Galactic wanted an ex-USAF base for their venture they could have gotten Roswell just as a easily. They are going for a clean sheet dedicated facility because SpaceShipTwo doesn't mix well with other air traffic. And there is none where Spaceport America is as its under a call-up zone for White Sand Missile Base airspace.
The EADS design appears more flexible in this area.Posted by Thomas Matula at October 31, 2007 11:56 AM
Heh, I don't blame EADS for trying anonymous (at October 30, 2007 05:20 PM), not at all.
Incrementally establishing a proof of concept utilizing new solutions, winning a significant prize with it, and then aiming to supply a nascent industry (Scaled's approach) is just fundamentally different from doing it "Great Leap"-style more or less directly from powerpoint presentations of a somewhat unoriginal idea without any obvious solutions to increased efficiency or safety (EADS' approach).
Asking for 1.3+ billion up front for a non-established market is big, it's dinosaur size and it's dinosaur mentality.Posted by Habitat Hermit at October 31, 2007 10:18 PM
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