Space Access Update #81  3/5/99 
               Copyright 1999 by Space Access Society 

SAS 1999 Policy Priorities: 
    - Breaux Bill Must Not Mandate Government-Selected Winners - 
      Investor Tax Breaks Preferred Over Loan Guarantees 

    - Fund New NASA Future-X Low-Cost Reusable Rocket Operations 
      Demonstrator As Small Business Setaside 

    - Add Funds To Keep USAF "Military Spaceplane" Work Alive 

    - Finish and Fly X-33, Fund Overruns From VStar Demos If Needed 

                 SAS 1999 Policy Priorities Summary 

What effectiveness we as a movement have depends on our focussing 
our limited resources on a few clearcut issues where there's some 
reason to believe we can make a positive difference.  We at SAS try 
to avoid the shotgun approach, lest we spread ourselves too thin and 
get nothing at all done. 

Here's our list of the four key things we're pushing for this year, 
with brief explanations.  We'll be going into more depth as to why 
these (and why not others) in the discussion we expect this will 
provoke and in Updates to come. 

 ** Breaux Bill Must Not Mandate Government-Selected Winners, ** 
 ** Investor Tax Breaks Preferred Over Loan Guarantees        ** 

We have mixed feelings on the Breaux Bill, introduced last year as 
S.2121, (Senate Bill number 2121) and just last week revived as 
S.469, to provide a Federal loan guarantee fund for low-cost space 
launch developers.  On the one hand, we have a pretty good idea what 
NASA RLV contractor/consultant hired what lobbyist to foster the 
idea in Senator Breaux's office in the first place.  On the other 
hand, that's water over the dam - last year's version of the Breaux 
Bill didn't pass (we described it at the time as "..a 'gimme' for 
Lockheed-Martin's 'Venturestar' Shuttle replacement [or] for a.. 
...rebuild/upgrade of the current Space Shuttle...") and this year's 
version is just starting through the legislative mill. 

A year later, we do have to concede that the original Breaux Bill 
did have one point: "..lack of sufficient private-sector financing 
has already proven to be a major obstacle [to commercial low-cost 
launch developers.]"  Private investment in reusable space launch is 
still very hard to come by, and we would likely support government 
action to improve the investment climate.  IF, that is, said 
government action does NOT call for the government to pick winners. 

This new Breaux Bill (named for its sponsor, Senator John Breaux, D 
Louisiana) is improved somewhat over last year's version, but it 
still has a fundamental flaw: Whether it's NASA or DOT evaluating 
proposals, as Alan Greenspan recently pointed out in another 
context, in the current climate we simply cannot assume high-stakes 
economic decisions won't become politicized.  

Then too, the rocket industry is in a technological transition 
comparable to the changeover from sail to steam.  Even a 
(miraculously) totally non-politicized government panel of space-
launch experts would right now be primarily made up of the space-age 
equivalent of sailing-ship experts - hardly in a position to make 
sensible decisions about commercial steamship proposals. 

In times like these, we believe strongly that the market is the only 
reliable winner-picking mechanism: Individual investors, making the 
best-informed decisions they can, spurred on by an overall market-
wide even-handed government incentive. 

If the new Breaux Bill is to succeed in fostering a rapid-growth US 
low-cost launch industry, it cannot rely on any branch of the 
Federal government to pick aerospace winners.  Doing so on evidence 
of recent history will result in massive boondoggles, hurting the 
very industry we're trying to help. 

We have looked at ways to set up loan guarantees that don't require 
Federal winner-picking, and aside from the possibility of a strict 
matching-funds standard, where the government guarantees X dollars 
for each dollar of upfront private non-guaranteed investment, no 
other qualifications required, we've come up dry. 

We strongly urge that the Congress consider modest tax incentives 
that pass immediately through to investors as a method of 
encouraging investment without divorcing investment decisions from 
rational commercial due diligence requirements.  (We recommend that 
this approach be pushed especially vigorously on the House side, as 
being more receptive at the moment to tax-cut proposals than the 

 ** Fund New NASA Future-X Low-Cost Reusable Rocket Ops ** 
 ** Demonstrator As Small Business Setaside             ** 

NASA's Future-X program has taken a significant step towards 
better/faster/cheaper reusable-rocket aerospace advances with the 
contract award to Boeing for the X-37 "ATV" reusable upper 
stage/reentry vehicle. 

We think it's time Future-X got started on a second flight-vehicle 
project, one that will explore the other half of the reusable 
ground-to-orbit operations envelope - takeoffs, landings, high-speed 
flight, and fast low-cost ground turnarounds.  In order to keep this 
project affordable within the Future-X context, $100 million or so 
total over the life of the project, the criteria for this project 
should specify use of existing engines and the minimum necessary new 
technology overall.  This should be a reusable rocket operations 
demonstrator, not a whizbang new-technology development pusher. 

The selection criteria should not specify takeoff or landing mode, 
nor propellant choice.  The primary criteria should be how often the 
vehicle flies, how cheaply and simply and reliably, out of how 
austere and flexible a site or sites.  (Part of "reliably" should 
include at minimum long-lead spares for a second flight vehicle plus 
credible plans to build this second copy of the vehicle on short 
notice - we suggest six months - at need.) 

Secondary (NOT primary) criteria should include how high fast and 
far the vehicle flies.  Double-digit mach numbers are good, long 
distance overland flight is good, but moderate advantages in speed 
or range should not override operability considerations in the 
"Reliably" should also include some secondary weighting in favor of 
piloted vehicles, at least for flights outside the bounds of 
government test ranges, if not full-time.  The recent record is that 
initial flight tests of unmanned vehicles often fail disastrously 
because autonomous flight control systems are very difficult and 
expensive to get right the first time.  History also suggests that 
high speed long distance overland flight can be considerably safer 
if an operator is right there to deal with problems, not dependent 
on either long-range comm links or guessing the problem in advance 
and writing code to handle it.  

The selection criteria should also not specify any connection to 
hypothetical future operational space launch vehicles, beyond the 
bidder concepts' general scalability to medium-payload flexibly-
based fast-turnaround space launch vehicles. 

We would like to see Congress provide $30 million this year - $10 
million to support award of multiple phase 1 contracts, and $20 
million to get the winner(s) off to a running start before the 
fiscal year is out.  

The primary winner should be funded up to $100 million over three 
years to build vehicles and fly an initial test program of a dozen 
or more flights, with (if things go well) the option for an 
additional flight program to explore system operations at high 
flight rates for an extended period.  

The program should include the option of selecting secondary winners 
to develop and demonstrate specific subsystems of interest. 

We want this program done as a small business setaside, specifically 
in order to help the struggling reusable rocket startup companies 
gain development and operations experience that could lead to viable 
commercially funded vehicles down the line.  

We want this program done as a cooperative agreement, in order to 
minimize the paperwork burden on the contractor(s) selected.  We 
want it done with zero cash contractor contribution expected, since 
this program is aimed at helping startups that are short on capital, 
and since the vehicles involved should not be burdened with the 
additional requirement of generating commercial income to pay off 
investors within the short term. 

 ** Add Funds To Keep USAF "Military Spaceplane" Work Alive ** 

The USAF MSP program continues to do good work on a shoestring in 
the area of X-40a flight envelope expansion, support of NASA Future-
X's X-37 (aka X-40b) program, and of various low-cost space 
operations technologies.   This January they finally received the 
$10 million we spent the last two years fighting for.  Due to a 
general crunch in Air Force modernization funding, however, they've 
been once again zeroed out of next year's proposed budget. 

We would like to see $50 million added to the FY 2000 budget for 
USAF MSP, in large part to finance a second X-37 tail number, and in 
general to continue and modestly expand the useful work they've been 

 ** Finish and Fly X-33, Fund From VStar Tech Demos If Needed ** 

X-33 is in serious technical, schedule, and budget trouble.  If 
Lockheed-Martin is capable of making X-33 fly at all, it will do so 
by our best current estimate almost two years late.  The NASA 
portion of X-33 project funding is fixed and should stay so (we 
vehemently oppose any increase in this.)  If nothing changes, 
Lockheed-Martin will very likely run out of money and stop work well 
before X-33 flies. 

However, roughly a third of X-33's overall $1.2 billion budget was 
originally earmarked to demonstrate hardware specific to Lockheed-
Martin's proposed "Venturestar" Shuttle replacement.  Given X-33's 
growing troubles, spending project money on Venturestar components 
makes zero sense.  (We recommend strongly against any committment to 
Venturestar by *anyone* before we see whether Lockheed-Martin can 
build and fly the half-scale half-speed X-33 demo version.) 

Lockheed-Martin has overpromised and underperformed on X-33 from the 
start.  Let them dip into the Venturestar demo money to cover the 
overruns and fly X-33, if they must.  And if that still won't be 
enough to salvage their apparently ill-conceived approach, let them 
say so now, rather than waste more time and taxpayer dollars. 

                     Space Access '99 Conference 

Meet the people who'll be making cheap space access happen - come to 
Space Access '99, April 23-24 in Phoenix Arizona!  See for details. 

Space Access Society's sole purpose is to promote near-term radical 
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Update in any medium you choose, as long as you do it unedited and 
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 Space Access Society 

 "Reach low orbit and you're halfway to anywhere in the Solar System" 

                                        - Robert Anson Heinlein