Space Access Update #70  10/18/96 
                 Copyright 1996 by Space Access Society 

Rumors of our demise have been greatly exaggerated. 

Yes, it's been eleven weeks since the last Update, and yes, the SAS web 
page is still a sporadically maintained construction site, and yes, 
we're way behind on answering our mail.  And no, there's been no dearth 
of news these last couple of months - quite the opposite in fact. 

But we've been trying a radical experiment in new operational styles 
here at SAS world HQ.  

We've been thinking. 

Which for us is a rather drawn-out process, because your humble servant 
the Update editor does not in fact make all this stuff up himself.  

Major SAS policies are generally a matter of consensus among members of 
our widely-scattered semi-formal mostly-anonymous SAS Advisory Board.  
(You would not believe the long-distance bills.)  And reaching consensus 
among a bunch of prima donnas like us can take a lot of thrashing even 
when we _haven't_ just seen our old main rocket fall over and catch 
fire, and our new main rocket get downselected in a manner that left a 
lot of us muttering to ourselves "that's not what we meant, dammit!" 

And now we once again think we know what's going on, and we're once 
again ready to opine on what should be done about it.  Though given the 
backlog that's built up, we're going to have to be a bit more terse than 
usual this issue.  Read on...


If you haven't guessed, we're not wildly happy with the way the X-33 
competition came out.  In brief, no, it's not a matter of religious 
fervor for one vehicle configuration over another.  We at SAS have 
consistantly favored whatever configuration lends itself to reliable 
fast turnaround ops with minimum ground crew out of austere sites - IE 
max potential for radical cost reduction at high flight rates.  We don't 
care if what does this job is a vertical-lander, a horizontal-lander, or 
a Cavourite-fuelled Winnebago, as long as it works. 

Our problem with this spring's X-33 downselect is twofold: NASA is 
showing a distressing tendency to address NASA internal agendas rather 
than the national interest, and Lockheed-Martin is showing a distressing 
tendency to try to turn this into a monopoly on the current (rather 
limited) US space launch market, rather than treating it as a chance to 
be the Boeing of a vastly expanded 21st century spaceliner market.  
Shortsighted in both cases, to say the least. 

The details could fill a book (they have, see the next item) and we're 
in a hurry, so for now we'll just say that X-33 can still be a very good 
thing for the country, given two things: Continuing competition, and 
rigorous budget/schedule oversight.  We have already begun working for 
both.  SAS's X-33 policy is one of "constructive engagement".  

(A correction to a previous Update: We wrote that Lockheed-Martin's X-33 
bid called for spending $2 billion in corporate cash on the hypothetical 
"commercial RLV" (Reusable Launch Vehicle) followon to X-33.  We heard a 
rumor, we thought we'd found backup for it, we were wrong.  L-M plans to 
put about $220 million into X-33 (about a sixth of the total cost) and 
about the same again into developing a "commercial" followon (about 5% 
of the estimated cost of developing and building three ships.)) 


               "Halfway To Anywhere" Hits The Bookstores. 

G.Harry Stine has written the best single account of the cheap space 
access movement we've seen so far.  It's called "Halfway To Anywhere - 
The Age Of Commercial Space", it's from M.Evans & Company, ISBN 0 87131 
805 9, hardback, $21.95, and it should be in bookstores now - if yours 
doesn't have it, ask them to order it for you.  Harry's added a chapter 
on the X-33 downselect since we saw the galley proofs last spring, and 
we understand it's incendiary.  Highly recommended.


                           DC-X Hits the Dirt 

Y'all likely know by now that DC-XA had a landing gear problem on its 
fourth flight (at the end of July, 12th flight for the DC-X overall), 
fell over post-landing, caught fire when the liquid oxygen tank split 
open, and was essentially destroyed.  

Another correction of a previous Update: DC-X's landing gear was 
pneumatically operated, not as we reported hydraulic.  And the "repeated 
partial gear extensions" we thought we'd spotted on the tapes of the 
last flight were in fact a spring-hinged pad-umbilical hatch cover 
flapping in the breeze.  Oh well.  (You can check the tapes yourself 
now, see the next item.) 

It turns out the reason one gear leg didn't extend was that a pneumatic 
hose was disconnected during servicing then not reconnected.  Nothing 
fancy, just a mechanic's error in a single-string no-backup system.  
Given how long the ground crew had been working ridiculous hours in 
desert heat on God's own reflector-oven of a lakebed, eight hundred 
miles from their homes and families, on a project with the axe poised 
over it, and we hear with major hiatuses in paychecks, we hereby offer 
to punch the lights out of anyone who faults them for this.

X-vehicles inherently have a lot of single-string, no-backup subsystems.  
It's a tradeoff; build it cheap, dirty, and quick and try to collect the 
data you need before it breaks.  Then you put multiple-backup landing 
gear actuator systems into the operational vehicle that comes after.

The main lesson to be learned here is already known: Build two copies of 
your X-vehicle, since you almost certainly will break at least one - 
probably in a manner that in 20-20 hindsight seems pretty dumb.  EG, the 
X-31 lost to air-data-sensor icing.  Beyond that, we'd guess that not 
jerking your field test crew around for months on end with funding 
interruptions and threatened program terminations is also a good idea. 

NASA's Brand Commission is due to come out with its formal accident 
report sometime before the end of this month.  If they say "build two 
copies, don't burn out the ground crew, don't use marginally-welded 
testing-damaged aluminum-lithium propellant tanks", we agree.  If they 
recommend microscopically comprehensive written procedures and lab-
coated clipboard-bearing hordes of overseers to enforce compliance, we 
will likely have one or two negative things to say about that opinion. 


                Revised Video Has All Twelve DC-X Flights

Late but better than never department: We now have a revised 3.1 version 
of our DC-X/SSTO 3.0 tape, with about twenty minutes of footage of all 
four DC-XA flights copied onto the end, including two views of DC-XA's 
final flight and post-landing fire.  Two hours total, includes 
animations of all three X-33 bids and considerable SSTO background 
material including aerospike engine test-stand footage.  US standard VHS 
NTSC only.  Same price as the 3.0 tape, $25 US, $20 for SAS members.  
$5 off if you've already bought the 3.0 tape - there's a lot of overlap.  
Add $8 for postage outside North America.  Mail a check to SAS, 4855 E 
Warner Rd #24-150, Phoenix AZ 85044.  


                       Space Access '97 Conference 

And earlier than ever before, we have a hotel signed up for next year's 
"Space Access '97" conference.  It'll be the last weekend in April, 
evening of Friday the 25th through evening of Sunday the 27th, at the 
same hotel as last year, the Safari Resort in downtown Scottsdale, 
Arizona, fifteen minutes from the Phoenix airport.  Room rates are $63 a 
night, up a whole dollar from last year, call 1-800-845-4356 for 
reservations and mention "Space Access" for the rate.  

This will be the fifth time we've done our annual conference on the 
technology, economics, and politics of radically cheaper space access. 
Ask anyone who's been to one already: everybody who's anybody is there, 
talking informally about the absolute latest developments in cheap 
access.  Hear more new ideas in an hour than you'll catch all weekend 
anywhere else. 

SA'97 registration is $80 through December 31st, $100 through mid-April, 
$120 at the door, $10 off for SAS members.  $50 student rate.  We're 
holding the line at last year's prices; these things are not cheap to 
put on - but they're worth it!  Mail us a check now and save. 

                           Miscellaneous News

$25m in FY'96 DOD reusable rocket finally cleared OSD (Office of the 
Secretary of Defence, where the financial comptroller seems to think he 
has a policy-making role) and got to where it's needed.  Just as well, 
as FY'97 money was reduced to $10m in the last-second scramble to make 
an election year budget.  Largely, we gather, due to the lack of a high-
profile reusable rocket program in DOD, post DC-X.  Stay tuned for more 
on this subject - FY'97 has barely begun. 

NASA's FY'97 RLV budget, meanwhile, passed essentially unchanged.  Good 
news, in that theoretically this allows the X-33 project to get off to a 
running start.  Now if only the Lockheed-Martin public affairs types 
would figure out that this is NOT a black project, that times have 
changed and they're supposed to spread info, not hide it.  We might then 
have some idea what we're getting for this year's couple of hundred 
million of our money. 

Meanwhile, in the commercial world... 

Kistler Aerospace's engine contractor has taken delivery of the first 
three shipsets of Russian NK-33 engines for Kistler's planned commercial 
reusable medium-lift two-stage-to-orbit cargo ship.  

Kelly Space & Technology has taken delivery of two surplus F-106's (a 
fifties-vintage delta winged long range interceptor with a 15' by 3' 
internal missile bay) they plan to use for proof-of-concept demos of 
their proposed "Eclipse" winged air-launched (towed by a 747) reusable 
medium-lift cargo ship.  Motorola announced they're buying options on 
ten Eclipse satellite launches for 1999-2000, valued at $8.9 million.  
This can't hurt in Kelly obtaining development financing.  No word on 
how much Motorola has paid for the options.   

The Boeing-Zenit Sea Launch project (Boeing will fly Ukranian SL-16 
Zenit boosters off a mobile ocean platform) is moving forward briskly, 
as are McDonnell-Douglas's Delta 3 and Lockheed-Martin's Atlas 2AR.  All 
of these are essentially commercially financed expendable booster 
projects, intended to compete for commercial launches.  Not yet cheap 
access, but the fact that commercial funding is available for well over 
a billion dollars of new launch projects is extremely encouraging.  
Between these (and several new/surplus-military small boosters coming 
soon) and the various medium-launch reusable companies starting to get 
financing, we see the beginnings of a major commercial space expansion 
that will be financing, building, and flying low-cost commercial 
reusable ships a whole lot sooner than most people expect.

We like it.

-----------------------(SAS Policy Boilerplate)------------------------

Space Access Update is Space Access Society's when-there's-news 
publication. Space Access Society's goal is to promote affordable access 
to space for all, period.  We believe in concentrating our resources at 
whatever point looks like yielding maximum progress toward this goal.  

Right now, we think this means working our tails off trying to get the 
government to build and fly high-speed reusable rocket demonstrators, 
"X-rockets", in the next three years, in order to quickly build up both 
experience with and confidence in reusable Single-Stage To Orbit (SSTO) 
technology.  The idea is to reduce SSTO technical uncertainty (and thus 
development risk and cost) while at the same time increasing investor 
confidence, to the point where SSTO will make sense as a private 
commercial investment.  We have reason to believe we're getting close. 

With luck and hard work, we should see fully-reusable rocket testbeds 
flying into space well before the end of this decade, with practical 
radically cheaper orbital transports following right after. 

Space Access Society won't accept donations from government launch 
contractors - it would limit our freedom to do what's needed.  We 
survive on member dues and contributions, plus what we make selling 
tapes and running our annual conference.  

Join us, and help us make it happen.  

            Henry Vanderbilt, Executive Director, Space Access Society 

To join Space Access Society or buy the SSTO/DC-X V 3.1 video we have 
for sale (Two hours, includes all twelve DC-X/XA flights, X-33 
animations, X-33, DC-X and SSTO backgrounders, aerospike engine test-
stand footage, plus White Sands Missile Range DC-X ops site footage) 
mail a check to:  SAS, 4855 E Warner Rd #24-150, Phoenix AZ 85044.  SAS 
membership with direct email of Space Access Updates is $30 US per year; 
the SSTO V 3.0 video is $25, $5 off for SAS members, $5 off for previous 
version 3.0 purchasers, $8 extra for shipping outside North America, US 
standard VHS NTSC only.  SA'97 conference registration (April 25-27 
1997, at the Safari Resort in Scottsdale Arizona) is $80 through 
December 31st, $10 off for SAS members.  $50 SA'97 student rate. 

 Space Access Society      "Reach low orbit and you're halfway to anywhere 
 4855 E Warner Rd #24-150               in the Solar System." 
 Phoenix AZ 85044                               - Robert A. Heinlein 
 602 431-9283 voice/fax                     "You can't get there from here."                          - Anonymous 

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