Space Access Update #74  8/31/97 
                 Copyright 1997 by Space Access Society 

The last message we put on the net was short and simple: "We lost", on 
our web site, tagged onto the title of that mid-July alert on Future X 
funding.  We were running out the door on the first of a month's worth 
of road trips, and didn't have enough time or enough info to say more. 

We understand some people have gotten the wrong impression from our 
leaving that message up so long - decided we must be discouraged.  Nope, 
we've just been very, very busy.  Yes, that one was a tactical loss, but 
it turns out that strategically a number of good things happened - many 
because y'all made them happen.  More on that in a bit.  

We're also long overdue to take a look at the rapidly blossoming 
entrepreneurial reusable launch field,  the ultimate reason for all the 
Congressional thrashing we do.  Things are looking good, albeit far from 
unstoppable yet.  More on that this Update too. 

What were we up to on this extended road trip?  Well... This is a good 
moment to mention that, while SAS's Advisory Board overlaps with the 
Citizens' Advisory Council on National Space Policy (CACNSP, a quietly 
influential part-time space policy think-tank that's been around since 
the early eighties), and while our major policy of pushing for radically 
more affordable and reliable space launch via commercially developed and 
operated fully-reusable fast-turnaround small-groundcrew intact-abort-
capable rockets was hammered out (with our participation) by CACNSP back 
in 1988, we at SAS do not officially speak for the Council.  

Except in the cases where we do.  Said cases requiring a bit more formal 
coordination and review.  Hence some additional delay before Update #75. 

Have we got your attention?  Good.  Yes, the CACNSP has met again.  No, 
no radical new direction came out of the meeting, more a series of 
logical extensions to the existing strategy mentioned above.  The real 
news is just how mainstream our preferred national space strategy is 
becoming.  We'll just have to get used to being respectable...  More on 
who's now with us and what it buys us in #75. 

Stories this issue: 

 - Congressional Update: FY'98 NASA and DOD RLV R&D Funding Status, 
   Anticipated Alert Actions 

 - Commercial RLV (Reusable Launch Vehicle) Status Roundup, Summer '97 

 - SAS Odds & Ends 


       Congressional Update: FY'98 NASA and DOD RLV Funding Status 

Congress is nearly through its traditional August recess, a good time to 
look at what's happened so far, and at what we still hope to make happen 
before the FY '98 budget thrash winds down sometime this fall.  

For the self-starters among you, once Congress is back in session on 
September 2nd, we need to start working the likely participants in three 
different House-Senate conferences: The DOD Authorizations and DOD 
Appropriations conferences, in both cases supporting the House's higher 
$15 million funding level for Military Spaceplane tech work, and the 
HUD/VA/IA (NASA) Appropriations conference, pushing to "fence off" $40 
million within the existing NASA aeronautics/space technology budget 
line to get "Future X" underway. 

 - DOD "Spaceplane" Tech Base Funding 

Funding for USAF "Military Space Plane" (MSP) preliminary technology 
work is at $15 million in both the House DOD Authorization and the House 
DOD Appropriation bills.  (Congress usually spends money in a two-step 
process; first they come up with an "authorizations" bill, an officially 
approved shopping list, then they pass an "appropriations" bill, in 
effect actually writing the checks.) 

We're supporting USAF MSP tech demo funding because, frankly, while NASA 
is good on new technology, they seem to have cultural problems grasping 
that anyone could actually want to routinely turn reusable rockets 
around in an hour or two with a dozen greasy-coverall types.  This is 
probably because traditional NASA space operations couldn't use this 
ability if they had it.  USAF, meanwhile, seems to understand that this 
ability would be hugely useful both militarily and commercially in the 
relatively near future. 

Over in the Senate, meanwhile, there's $10 million authorized for MSP, 
but there is alas nothing in the Senate DOD Appropriation.  We'll soon 
be asking you all to work both of the House-Senate DOD funding bill 
conferences, Authorization and Appropriation, to see if we can get the 
higher House figure in both final bills.  $15 million is less than we'd 
hoped for, but it's enough to get some useful work underway.  Assuming, 
of course, we don't get hit with a line-item veto...  But we'll worry 
about that once the conferences are over. 

We should mention that USAF Phillips Labs has just awarded two contracts 
(using some of the money we all fought for last year) for startup work 
on a Military Spaceplane (MSP) Integrated Technology Testbed (ITTB), a 
ground test rig that will combine representative MSP hardware with 
computer simulations to wring out bugs as early and cheaply as possible. 
The ITTB is designed to produce useful results over a wide range of 
eventual funding, a sensible approach given past holdups and shortfalls.   

 - NASA RLV "Future X" Funding 

And that brings us to NASA RLV (Reusable Launch Vehicle) funding in the 
Federal fiscal year starting October 1st, FY '98.  Things are 
complicated...  X-33 and X-34 funding were reasonably assured from the 
start this year, barring scandal or disaster.  The real question was, 
would there be any money for additional space launch experimental flight 
test projects this year?  A lot of different people tried to come up 
with answers, generally at the last second without much coordination, 
with predictable results thus far: nada, nothing, not one red cent. 

The good news is that after a rough first half we are all more or less 
talking to each other, and chances are good we can get some modest 
startup money for NASA's "Future X" program this coming year, likely a 
few tens of millions.

("Future X" is NASA's proposed framework for an ongoing series of space 
launch technology X-projects.  The planners apparently paid attention to 
the lessons from NASA's initial space X-projects; we like what we've 
seen so far.  We do have one suggestion: Include people from the 
ultimate customers on whatever board decides which projects to spend 
limited funds on.  NASA is supposed to be supporting a new commercial 
reusable launch industry here, and according to current White House 
policy NASA is also supposed to be supporting future US military 
reusable launch technology requirements.  Project selection board 
members from USAF and from industry [especially from the startups] would 
seem a good way to make sure these customers' needs are not overlooked.)

Down to specifics: When last we communicated, we were asking you all to 
contact your representatives in support of one or more "Rohrabacher-
Roemer" amendments to the House NASA (HUD/VA/Independent Agencies) 
Appropriations bill, amendments that would forbid transferring $150 
million from other NASA accounts to pay for Space Station overruns, 
cancel an un-Authorized $100 million Station account increase for 
Russian overruns, and give $100 million new money to Future X instead.  

(Background: Representative Dana Rohrabacher [R CA] is the new head of 
the House Science Committee's Space Subcommittee, in charge of NASA 
Authorizations.  Representative Jerry Lewis [R CA] heads the House 
HUD/VA/Independent Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, in charge of 
NASA Appropriations.  Lewis has been in the Congress considerably longer 
than Rohrabacher, and has considerably more clout in NASA funding 
matters due to neglect of the NASA Authorizations process in past years.  
Rohrabacher's sponsorship of these amendments to the House version of 
the NASA Appropriations bill was a direct challenge to Lewis's hold on 
the NASA funding turf.) 

By the way, your efforts in this were quite effective.  Representative 
Rohrabacher reports that a number of his colleagues came up to him out 
of the blue and expressed support in the days before the HUD/VA/IA 
Appropriation came to the House floor, surprising him until he realized 
that we activists had been busy making the case for Future X.  

Unfortunately, the Rohrabacher-Roemer Amendments never came to a vote.  
Whether by chance or by opposition finesse, the time for offering 
amendments to the NASA portion of the bill came and went in minutes, 
several hours earlier than expected.  Representative Rohrabacher was 
away from the House floor, and could not get back in time.  Several 
others with amendments to offer are said to have been caught out the 
same way.  Science Committee Chair James Sensenbrenner was on the floor 
and we are told would have offered Rohrabacher's amendment, but was 
misinformed that the amendment was "out of order"; we're told it had in 
fact been cleared with the House Paliamentarian. 

Representative Sensenbrenner instead offered a stripped-down amendment 
that would have removed the $100 million of new money for Russian 
Station overruns without adding anything for Future X.  This amendment 
went down on a relatively close 200-227 vote; this was what "We Lost". 
There's no telling how much closer things would have been if the 
(apparently popular) funding for Future X had been linked. 

Representative Sensenbrenner did get something useful out of the mess: 
Representative Lewis agreed on the record that any reprogramming of 
funds to Station from elsewhere in NASA would have to be approved by the 
Space Subcommittee as well as Lewis's HUD/VA/IA Appropriations 
Subcommittee. This at least limits the damage that can be done to the 
rest of NASA by Station's growing problems - the latest we hear is that 
Station's accumulated overruns are up over $800 million.  

We're frankly relieved that we're back out of the business of directly 
opposing any piece of Station funding - it's a mess, but as long as it 
doesn't directly threaten our interest in cheap access, it's not our 
mess.  And while this may have been a tactical loss for the Space 
Subcommittee, between the surprising level of support you all mustered 
and the concessions gained on reprogramming oversight, this looks like 
at least a modest strategic gain.  If the lesson in watching every pitch 
when playing House floor hardball gets taken to heart, our friends in 
this matter could gain significant influence in the long run.

Meanwhile, back to what we can get done this year.  There are three 
angles to work.  First, there's the House-Senate conference on the 
HUD/VA/IA Appropriation, where we might see reallocation of some 
existing funding to get Future X started.  It can't be much, as 
Congressional rules are that conference totals can't be larger than the 
higher of the House and Senate versions coming in - but a few tens of 
millions will suffice to get useful things underway this coming year. 

Second, there's the potential for Dan Goldin using his authority as NASA 
Administrator to reallocate enough money within the appropriate NASA 
budget line to get Future X underway.  We are cautiously optimistic on 
this possibility, especially if we can get a formal expression of 
Congressional support. 

Finally, there's the strong possibility that the Senate will pass a NASA 
Authorization too once the dust has settled from this year's budget, and 
thus that we'll see a NASA Authorization actually signed into law for 
the first time in years.  This would not affect this coming year's NASA 
funding directly, though positive statements about Future X and formal 
authorization to spend money on it in FY'98 couldn't hurt.  This could 
certainly serve as a platform for defining future NASA priorities, 
though, and it would be a significant step towards regaining influence 
for the NASA authorizers. 

So stand by - as September arrives, there'll be a number of chances for 
you all to do some more good.  Thanks again for all you've done already! 

                Commercial RLV Status Roundup, Summer '97 

We have spent most of our public efforts lately jawboning the government 
about this policy or that project.  It would be easy to come away with 
the impression that we believe the government is our chief hope for 
actually producing radically cheaper more reliable space transportation 
anytime soon.  

Nope.  Not that government doesn't have a major role - it's just that 
over the last year, the sector we consider our best hope in the long 
run, the commercial startups, have been quietly taking care of business.   

It's past time though we took a look at what progress the commercial 
market reusable space launch efforts are making.  The answer is quite 
encouraging.  (No, not encouraging enough that we feel ready to abandon 
our two-pronged government+commercial strategy.  At least not yet.) 

Last year we passed an historic milepost without even noticing:  
According to a KPMG (Kemper Peat-Marwick Group) survey quoted in 
Business Week in late July, 1996 was the first year when more than half 
of worldwide space revenues ($77 billion total) came from other than 
government sources.  Post Cold War, government space is flat while 
commercial space is growing fast - the balance of power is shifting from 
the bureaucrats to the market. 

And the expanding market for space launch is key.  Until quite recently, 
conservative launch market analysts were pushing the notion that the 
market would consist mainly of government missions plus traditional GEO 
comsats for the indefinite future, and it would thus be flat or even 
decline as the comsats got longer-lived and fiber optics got cheaper.  
Thus, there would be no market driver for cheap launch, and no reason to 
invest in an RLV, absent a government commitment to force most business 
onto one chosen winner.  (We note that the rampant talk of "The RLV" 
replacing Shuttle implicitly embraces the preceding view - a view in our 
opinion both shortsighted and pernicious.  Let a hundred rockets fly!) 

The conservatives have finally begun to notice the huge new market 
presented by the multitude of new LEO comsat systems.  They could hardly 
avoid doing so any longer, given that the leading edge of this new wave 
has already pushed existing launch capacity to its limits.  The new 
conservative line seems to be that this is just a temporary blip, that 
in a few years things will fall back to the way they've always been, a 
few dozen expendable launches a year, forever and ever amen.  Telling 
the current powers that be what they want to hear about the status quo 
is one way to make a living, we observe - but it's suddenly a perilous 
way, now that the real status quo is becoming rapid change. 

In the real world, the first of the LEO comms networks are bought, paid 
for, partially launched, and due online within a year, and the 
followons, expansions, and supplements are already being financed.  One 
system developer alone recently briefed launch companies on their need 
for as many as 500 launches through the early part of next century.  

We're told that historically, there's no such thing as communications 
overcapacity - that every time a new technology has come along to 
increase capacity, demand has risen to fill the new capacity and more.  
We see no reason to think LEO comms will be the exception.  

LEO commsats alone are likely to require thousands of launches over the 
next decade or two, far more than existing launch systems can handle.  
Our rough estimate is that this market alone is going to rise to well 
over a hundred sats a year around the turn of the century, and stay 
there or rise slowly for the forseeable future, between replacements, 
modernizations, and expansions.  There's no such thing as communications 

So what does all this mean for commercial cheap launch?  A gathering 
groundswell of commercial investment in new launch capacity - big money 
into a few relatively low-risk upgrades of existing expendable systems, 
mixed-source investment into several projects to field new-design 
moderate-cost (~$1K/lb) "industrial" expendables, plus significant 
amounts of private risk capital going into a half-dozen startup outfits 
aiming at fielding partially or wholly reusable launch systems.  

We think the upgrades of existing expendables, the Atlas 2AS and Delta 3 
and Boeing Zenit Sea-Launch, are interesting primarily as proofs that 
commercial finance in the high hundreds of millions can now be readily 
found for space-launch projects perceived as low-risk.  Technologically, 
these are only a modest step toward a high-volume low-cost market. 

The various new "industrial" medium-cost expendables all have to strike 
a delicate balance of weight, reliability, and ease of operation against 
manufacturing cost to get prices down to the thousand dollars a pound 
ballpark they're aiming at.  It can be done - the Russians seem to have 
pulled it off with a number of launchers - but it's not easy. 

Our estimate is that the hard cost floor for expendable boosters isn't 
much under $1000 per pound of payload to low orbit.  This is why we 
don't spend a lot of effort on supporting such projects, however 
substantial the savings over current expendables could be - the 
improvement is certainly worthwhile, and might well find a profitable 
market niche for a time, but it isn't the revolutionary cost reduction 
that is our raison d'etre.  Five times cheaper is nice - but we want 
potential for one-hundredfold or greater cost reductions. 

Our expectation is that, once one or more fast-turnaround reusables are 
flying, the operators will start selling excess capacity at a near-
marginal-cost discount to build up their cashflow, opening up new low-
cost high-volume markets - point-to-point express/passenger, short-
notice university science sats, space tourism - whatever pays.  At that 
point we will be able to retire in good conscience, our job done. 

Anyway, now that we've rambled on so in our intro, here's a quick survey 
of the reusable players we know about.  The criteria we used for 
inclusion here were raising enough money to come up with a detailed 
design, plus an approach with significant potential for reduced cost as 
compared to current expendables, plus serious intent to compete in the 
commercial market.  We expect we've overlooked some players - but we 
can't write about what we haven't heard about.  Talk to us. 

The technical data that follows we're fairly sure of - funding data is 
much harder to come by, and where mentioned should be taken as best-
guess estimates based on scraps, hearsay and rumors unless indicated 
otherwise.  (We *knew* things were getting serious a couple years ago 
when a lot of old friends started watching what they said - a sure sign 
real money had arrived.) 

 - Kistler Aerospace 

Kistler is based in Washington state, and currently plans to fly out of 
DOE's Nevada Test Site, Woomera Australia, or both.  Their "K1" ship is 
a two-stage inline-stacked-cylinders fully reusable (both stages are 
recovered), designed more for ruggedness and simplicity than for extreme 
high flight-rate potential.  

The advantage to this approach is reduced risk, reduced development 
cost, and quick entry onto the market - Kistler's first test flight is 
scheduled for late 1998, with commercial service in early '99. 

The disadvantage is the relatively limited flight rate, with potential 
for eventual price undercutting from more sophisticated reusable 
vehicles.  Nevertheless, being there first could be worth a lot to 
Kistler - they're at least a year ahead of any of the other reusable 
launch outfits, and they should be able to undercut significantly any of 
the existing expendables once they're rolling. 

The K1 first stage is powered by three Russian NK-33 LOX-kerosene 
engines, stored surplus from the old Soviet N-1 moon rocket program, 
tested and supported by the established US engine comany Aerojet.  The 
first stage relights one of these engines after separation and flies 
back toward the launch site, where it is recovered by a combination of 
steerable parachutes and airbags.  The second stage uses a single 
similar NK-43 engine and flies all the way to orbit with the payload, 
then reenters after payload separation and is also recovered at the 
launch site via steerable parachutes and airbags.  Max payload to LEO is 
expected to be around ten thousand pounds due east, near Delta 2 class. 

Kistler is said to have received something close to half the ~$250 
million total financing they say they'll need to fly - the remainder is 
said to be lined up.  The financing is, we hear, Hong Kong based.  
Kistler's web site is at 

 - Kelly Space & Technology/Eclipse Launch Services 

Kelly S&T is based in southern California.  Their "Eclipse" concept is 
to tow a winged rocket to altitude behind a large subsonic jet transport 
aircraft, cut loose, start the rocket, and fly into space.  Reentry and 
landing would be as a conventional winged glider.   The initial proposed 
"Eclipse" would be a suborbital vehicle, able to pop up to orbital 
altitude and deploy a lightsat payload plus upper stage; the upper stage 
would then boost the payload to orbital speed while the "Eclipse" 
spaceplane reenters and lands.  Longer term, Kelly plans lighter higher-
performance versions that would ascend directly to orbit after release 
from the tow plane. 

Kelly S&T is currently working on a proof-of-concept demonstration, 
funded at least in part by government research grants, and supported 
with in-kind resources by both USAF and NASA's Dryden flight test 
center, much of the support a matter of coordinating chase plane and 
heavy transport test flights that would have occurred regardless. 

(We approve of this sort of flexible in-kind support for reusable launch 
developers, and now that it's been demonstrated, we'd like to see it 
applied to outfits less blessed in their local congressional delegations 
- Kelly's operation spans George Brown's and Jerry Lewis's districts.  
We see nothing improper in this, mind - the new support approach had to 
be tested somewhere.  It apparently works, and now we'd like to see the 
method extended as appropriate to other outfits.) 

Kelly's proof-of-concept is to take a retired USAF F-106, restore it to 
flightworthiness, then one step at a time, modify it for towing aloft, 
for rocket power, and for reentry heat protection.  The F-106 is a large 
1960's-vintage Mach 2+ delta-winged interceptor with an internal missile 
bay 3' wide by 15' long - in theory, if all works out as planned, it'd 
be able to loft small test payloads (a couple hundred pounds max) plus 
upper stage to orbit if all the modifications are done. 

Current project status is that the F-106 has been flying since this 
spring (bringing thirty-year-old airframes up to snuff turns out to be 
non-trivial) and has spent much of this summer flying formation behind 
USAF C-141 transports and NASA 747's, measuring airflow at various 
positions and accumulating data for use in Eclipse computational design 
tools.  Initial towed flight test for the Kelly F-106 is tentatively 
scheduled for mid-October. 

On the business front, earlier this summer Kelly formed Eclipse Launch 
Services to operate the vehicles once they're ready.  Kelly signed a 
deal last winter with Motorola for ten launches of two satellites each 
at $8.9 million per launch, for a potential total of $89 million.  The 
deal is contingent on Kelly having the ability to launch, and no money 
changes hands till then - but it should increase investor confidence. 

Kelly S&T has also cut a deal with the New Jersey Economic Development 
Authority and the local airport authority to fly Eclipse launch missions 
out of the Atlantic City Airport, which has a 10,000 foot runway and (as 
best we can tell from available maps) a flight path for the towed 
combination that doesn't pass over heavily inhabited areas.  We'd guess 
this will ease FAA AST licensing, an open question still for all the 
startups.  (Launch licensing has been transferred from Commerce 
Department OCST to the Federal Aviation Administration's AST [Advanced 
Space Transportation] department.  Details are still being thrashed.) 

See for more. 

 - Pioneer Rocketplane 

Pioneer is based in Colorado, and is setting up an operation in Southern 
California as we type.  Company officials respond to queries as to how 
much funding they have by saying "enough" - we're reasonably sure they 
got at least enough private funding last winter to take them through 
detail design of their Pathfinder vehicle, at a guess several million 
dollars, and they're also one of four NASA "Bantam-X" lightsat-launcher 
technology project first-round winners, a contract worth two million 
dollars.  The naming of recently retired USAF General Tony McPeak 
(former USAF Chief of Staff) to their board of directors doesn't hurt 
their credibility either. 

Pioneer's Pathfinder concept is a winged vehicle that would take off 
from a runway powered by a pair of surplus fighter turbofan engines, 
fully fueled but with no oxidiser on board.  At altitude the Pathfinder 
would rendezvous with a tanker aircraft carrying liquid oxygen, tank up, 
then shut down the turbofans, light a rocket engine, and fly into space 
on a suborbital trajectory.  It would then drop off a payload plus upper 
stage before reentering; the upper stage would boost the payload on into 
orbit.  Payload to orbit is currently planned as 2000-4000 lbs.  
Pathfinder will have two pilots (plus a jumpseat) from the start.  The 
jumpseat may yet be an aid in attracting investment... 
Pioneer announced last month a deal with Thiokol to provide a range of 
solid and liquid rocket upper stages, first for Pathfinder test flights 
and then for a range of operational Pathfinder payload sizes.  The solid 
stages are to be variants of existing Thiokol upper-stage motors, the 
liquid stages are to be developed as part of the NASA Bantam program. 

A significant Pathfinder configuration change announced last month was 
moving the two turbofan engines up from the wing roots to the base of 
the vertical tail.  This is said to simplify the structure and reduce 
the need for inlet shielding for the turbofans, as the inlets will be in 
the lee of the fuselage during reentry. 

Major anticipated Pathfinder advantages are airbreathing self-ferry with 
payload between payload-processing, launch, and landing sites, plus 
ability to operate out of conventional airports under conventional air 
traffic rules for both takeoff and landing. 

See for more.  

 - Rotary Rocket Company 

Rotary Rocket of California publicly acknowledges having six million in 
funding; we're told it came from two private individuals last fall.  The 
company is rumored to actually have an amount in the high tens of 
millions of financing lined up, out of a total vehicle development and 
test requirement in the low hundreds of millions.  Detail design and 
preliminary hardware fabrication and tests are underway at the company's 
Redwood City and Mojave facilities. 

Rotary's "Roton" configuration has changed considerably in the year and 
a half since an article on it appeared in "Wired" magazine.  As it was 
described to us last month, the vehicle is a very compact (about 225,000 
lbs liftoff weight) SSTO, with a fallback option of suborbital "pop-up" 
launch if there's a performance shortfall.  The main vehicle body is a 
squat cylinder, topped with a narrower cylindrical payload section.  

Takeoff is vertical, powered by a "rotary" rocket engine inside the base 
of the vehicle.  How to describe the (patent-pending) engine... Picture 
a wagon wheel, with propellant feed in through the hub and out the 
spokes to combustion chambers aimed sideways from the rim.  Propellant 
pumping is centrifugal via engine rotation, powered we assume by slight 
offset from vertical of the rocket chambers.  Chamber pressure is down 
considerably from the original Roton's blade-tip engines' 6000 psi. The 
reduced pressure is practical because the new setup can use the base of 
the vehicle in an "aerospike" nozzle configuration to make up low-
altitude efficiency losses, and because taking the engines off the rotor 
tips reduces the premium on compactness. 

Reentry is ballistic using the base of the vehicle as the main heat 
shield.  Initial heat shielding will be passive, with transition to 
active cooling planned once sufficient flight-testing has been done. 
Final approach and landing is unpowered, using semi-retractable rotor 
blades in the nose to do a helicopter engine-out style autorotation 
landing, as in the original Roton design, eliminating the need for 
either landing propellant or last-second engine relight. 

Rotary's approach has in our estimation the highest medium-term 
potential payoff in operating cost floor, if they succeed in keeping 
weights down enough to achieve SSTO performance with a useful payload.  
If (as is often the case in new aeospace vehicles) weights grow, they 
still should be competitive in the suborbital pop-up payload market.

See for more. 

 - Universal Space Lines 

Universal Space Lines is a bit different from the other startups.  They 
aren't primarily interested in developing reusable launchers, though 
they say they'll do it if they have to.  They'd prefer someone else did 
that though, so they can do what they really want to: Operate commercial 
space ships.  Pete Conrad, their CEO, described the sort of ships they'd 
like to be able to buy at last fall's SFF conference, and it's a pretty 
close fit with what we've been pushing for: fast-turnaround, small 
groundcrew, fully reusable - the sort of ship with a lot of schedule 
flexibility, and a lot of room for increasing revenue by raising the 
low-marginal-cost flight rate. 

USL meanwhile pursues a two-pronged strategy - offering their in-house 
ground-control/flight-control/operational skills (they have described 
themselves in public as "really the DC-X team"; many if not most of 
their people indeed worked on DC-X then DC-XA until the project was 
finally shut down) as a subcontractor on various other companies' space-
launch and satellite projects, and honing their vehicle skills for a 
possible eventual RLV development of their own with a NASA "Bantam-X" 
lightsat launch technology contract.  They along with Pioneer 
Rocketplane are one of four $2 million Bantam initial phase winners. 

USL doesn't yet have a web site - we understand they've been too busy 
working subcontracts to set one up. 

It's not quite time to put all our eggs in the commercial RLV basket - 
but at least there is a basket now.  We do see two ways the government 
could still screw this up: One, announce subsidised competition that 
scares away investors, EG developing new LRB's (Liquid Rocket Boosters) 
then allowing the USA Shuttle operating consortium to carry commercial 
payloads at less than fully amortised prices, or for that matter giving 
in to Lockheed-Martin on a VentureStar "anchor-tenant" or development-
cost loan guarantee deal.  Two, more subtly, cripple the new market by 
failure to make appropriate reforms to current space launch and reentry 
regulations.  We'll be watching these issues closely - but we've made 
huge progress for these to even *be* issues!  Life is good. 


                            SAS Odds 'n Ends 

Honest - we WILL ship the videotapes that are up to four months past 
due.  The records are all here, but are completely buried and will take 
a couple days we just haven't had lately to dig out and organize.  Our 
humblest and most abject apologies.  And if you've written us a check in 
the last few months, don't assume we've lost it - we'll undoubtedly 
deposit it at the most inconvenient time possible, soon. 

On the positive side, we've signed a hotel contract for next spring's 
Space Access '98 conference.  It'll be at the Safari Resort in 
Scottsdale Arizona once again, Friday evening April 17th through Sunday 
evening April 19th, 1998.  Make your plans early, save on airfares, and 
be there with the heart of the coming cheap launch industry once again. 


Space Access Society's sole purpose is to get the cost of reaching space 
radically cheaper, soon.  You may redistribute this Update in any medium 
you choose, as long as you do it whole and intact. 

 Space Access Society

 "Reach low orbit and you're halfway to anywhere in the Solar System"
                                        - Robert Anson Heinlein 

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