Monday, July 20, 2009

3 Months to go and beyond.

The 2009 NG-LLC ends on October 31st, just over three months from now. Seems like a long time but it will go by in a flash. This week I’m cleaning up the blue ball  removing some excess wiring, freshening the cat pack etc. If all goes well we will try a 90 second Tethered hover on Saturday.

I think we can be ready for the 90 second flight before the deadline. getting ready for the 180 second flight will be harder. If the current silver ball does not have the necessary performance we are basically done for the year.

What happens after 2009? If the any of the 180 second prizes are un-won we will obviously attempt that. Beyond that we want to work toward a reusable sub-orbital vehicle.  Anything that can do the 180 second flight should be able to get to over 100K ft with just a tiny bit of Aerodynamic cleanup. Or success of failure at claiming the prize $ will set the pace on that effort.

Looking forward low cost access to space is a civilization changing event. Today you have a few well funded efforts in that direction SpaceX Blue Origin , Virgin Galactic/Scaled. You have a bunch of bootstrap organizations, Armadillo, Masten, Xcor, JP Aerospace etc... You have a few that failed along the way, Kistler, Beal(I really like Beals technical approach), and some that were absorbed into the edges of traditional aerospace such as  orbital.

  As a somewhat successful business man  with a passion for space I’ve burned a lot of hours thinking about how to build a space company that makes business sense.  It is a significant chicken and the egg problem. No matter how well thought out my business plan is no one is going to hand me a 100M blank check to go chase after spacex.  Yet without real commercial market driven, bare knuckle no holds bared competition in space access we are all stuck on this rock.

  It may be possible to slowly build up and bootstrap a company from marginally profitable sub-orbital to something orbital, but it will take tens of years and I’m just not sure I have the energy to put 200% into this for that long.  On the flip side I don’t see anything else that is really worth doing. That dilemma, understanding the magnitude of the task and at the same time seeing it as a truly worthy task actually has me a bit depressed.

Some days I see the people sitting on the beach with a beer in hand and ’m jealous, other days I see that as a waste of human potential. My wife thinks this whole project has driven me over the edge from committed to obsessed. What can I say, I’m an unreasonable man.








David said...

Thank you for the update. I can see your best chance is the 90 second attempt where you may be competing with Masten. I would be surprised if the second level 2 prise was taken this year - again it would be yourself or Masten though both of you have new craft to build/perfect. In this case you appear to be ahead (though using an unproven [possibly under performing] new engine). Maybe a LOX/Alcohol engine would be better (and easier to get the required performance).

As far as your future goals - I say 'Yaaahoooo'. I am biased as I have learned a great deal and have been inspired by your efforts. It would be great to see you keep moving forward with new goals. Having said that I can perfectly understand your wife's position.

Making a business out of this effort has to be a harder prospect. Business talent you have so I would not be surprised if you find that you can make it work. I personally believe its up to unreasonable people like yourself to get through to the next step. Fingers crossed you find the strength and finances to continue.

Anonymous said...

keep rockin' it, brother

Anonymous said...

One thing that you could do with your technology would be a "soft landing kit".

The idea is to have a way to soft-land an object with known mass and moments of inertia by attaching a completely self-contained propulsion system with a mass of maybe <0.1 of the object itself.

The problem is hard from a control systems point of view, and it requires very reliable engines. But it does not demand incredibly high isp or impossible mass fractions.

The obvious space application would be to soft-land empty rocket stages such as the falcon 1 first stage.

But the USAF might be interested in this as well for precision air dropping of cargo.

simon said...

There's no reason why you can't continue to build rockets, and yet take a rest on the beach with a beer every now and then.

Your rockets aren't rated for 100% duty cycle and neither are most people. Plan a couple weeks' getaway and you'll avoid burnout.

heroineworshipper said...

All the commercial ones get all their money from something other than a space program: dot coms, inheritances, real estate. They don't get anywhere close on launch fees. Today's Twitter Tiddy Bear is tomorrow's space program.

Sebastian said...

This soft landing kit seems to be a good idea -- dropping things from a plane without parachute seems to be a thing with some good application. But it's a side step from the path to space.

Other idea might be just making rockets themselves for sale -- this is John Carmacks idea in fact, but maybe you could compete with somewhat lower price (Armadillo's price is AFAIR half a megabuck)

Stevo Harrington said...

Collaboration is the key to future competition. If everyone tries to make his own rocket, no-one will achieve much, but if the rocket nuts work together on a commonly agreed project, they can create a business space that may be large enough for the individuals to compete for parts of it. There are people who will build a space hotel if there is a decent rocket and capsule to take tourists up. A safe orbital rocket takes a lot of smart people who work well together.

Anonymous said...

Buy an RV you can work in at the beach with WiFi. Have that beer as you unlax, the wife and kids (?) can then appreciate your husbandly dadsmanship as you work while they play and you can play a little because all work and no play makes Paul a dull boy.

Jesse said...

Light the candle.

You've done a lot of great work, we're all pulling for you!