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We have presented a case for horizontal launch with several notions to reduce mass.  With Hydrogen Peroxide oxidizer we still face some high takeoff weight figures.  Getting a heavy aircraft off the runway is always a challenge, especially without adding more mass for flaps and mechanisms.  We can see the Concorde as an example that made strides in that direction.

By careful shaping, the Concorde wing achieved a vortex that aided lift at a high angle of attack.  It had to accelerate up to speed sufficient to allow it to rotate on the main gear to do that.  Then we see that vortex actually being visible in many photographs.  That inspired our design to emulate this or any similar form that can enhance lift on the takeoff roll.


Since we have an in-line two stage vehicle, our challenge includes reducing the structural loads on the junction of these two aircraft.  If we considered a rail launch we might have a “sled” that could provide a cradle to support the two stages.  That would allow us to have only light weight landing gear for empty weight at the end of the mission.  We could also provide a hydraulic lift to elevate the craft to the ideal angle of attack before even starting the takeoff roll.  That will deliver the ideal angle of attack before we even start the engines.  Looking at Concorde images, that AOA appears to be between 10 and 30 degrees, so our lift can probably allow us to experiment with that in taxi testing or wind tunnel evaluation.

Now if we consider a rail launch we have other issues.  When a vertical launch fails it either explodes, or is deliberately blown up, destroying the rocket, its payload, and often the launch facility.  Such damage could also be produced by sabotage or a sniper rifle, causing long launch delays to other missions.  For our horizontal launch the vehicle might not fall directly on the rail, but it might.  A rail launching system would require a dedicated facility with considerable construction cost.  Adding that cost to the limited availability of sites and risk is not our goal.  Having a rocket sled was a fun idea in the books I grew up with though.


Other solutions have been demonstrated in the past.  The ME 163 rocket fighter used wheels only for takeoff, then they just dropped them…on whoever got in the way!  The Star-Raker proposed to do the same thing, only with much larger gear and more serious damage potential.


There is a way to do this without a dramatic increase in your insurance costs.  And Boeing is already doing this on a small scale.  Their Phantom Eye drone has a huge hydrogen fuel tank, high mass, and little tolerance for heavy landing gear.  To keep mass down they use only landing gear, leaving takeoff to a launch cart.  Nothing falls out of the sky, as the cradle stays on the runway.  This probably has an auto-pilot to stay on the runway.  That looks like a good start that we can build on.  We can add the cradle and some propulsion at the same time.


If we add electric hub motors we can begin to provide acceleration without as much fuel burn.  The cradle vehicle can be heavy enough to operate on a runway in crosswinds and still be fast.  Electric cars are demonstrating great performance potential and this is renewable energy without volatile fuels.  Notice that takeoff is not the only drain when aircraft use fuel while moving on the ground, and waiting on the runway.  The electric can wait all day without draining fuel from the flight vehicle.


Analysis of Aircraft Fuel Burn and Emissions in the Landing and Take Off Cycle using Operational Data

The launch cradle vehicle offers protection from another hazard.  The Concorde experienced a tire failure that threw debris and caused a fatal crash.  A cradle can shield the aircraft from tire and other debris that could damage thermal protection or fuel tanks.


But there are other issues to consider.  Launching an aircraft does not always happen in ideal weather conditions.  In a crosswind, takeoff and landing can be very challenging.  In flight an aircraft can “crab” of turn upwind, while the actual flight direction remains at an angle to the direction the craft is pointing.  This can be difficult when you are operating as a ground vehicle, where tire scrub would be pretty severe!


But again, solutions in the past have addressed this issue.  The Boeing B-52 has fully steerable landing gear which can crab at an angle up to 45 degrees during takeoff or landing.


So now we are getting a concept of the look of the future of horizontal launch.  With enough mass, rubber on the ground, acceleration energy, and crosswind capability we may be “go for launch”.


In the lowered position fueling, services, and payload mating can be performed in a hangar.  The vehicle can move the aircraft as needed, and wait on the runway for clearance to take off.







This may be a stretch, but driverless vehicles may add another capacity.  In an emergency, the robotic vehicle may be able to return to the upwind end of the runway and meet the combined craft for a rendezvous landing.  The robotics guys are full of tricks these days!  Has range control ever asked a malfunctioning vertical launch vehicle to return to the pad?  Boom?  How are your insurance costs?


We have not presented a completed design or even a feasibility study at this point, that will require some funding.  But we approached some of the known issues with possible solutions to make the mission.  You may recall we published this mass estimate compared to Spacecab projections.  With the energy savings of the launch cradle, we may have cut this number down to be more favorable.  If aerodynamic advantages add a little more help this may turn out to be worth evaluating properly.


Without more evaluation we cannot be sure this is the answer.  But if you review the earlier posts (and click the links at the bottom left corner of each post for the next one) you will see a lot of unique steps to shave mass and drag.  Is it time to dust off the horizontal launch concept again?

Our team is small, but growing and we may have some assets still under development.  A project as big as this needs a lot more development.  No one would object to doing this if we can offer compensation for the needed labor.  It would be wise to show that competent leadership and execution can be delivered.  We have part time help and advisers with some experience now.

We are affiliated with X-L SPACE SYSTEMS owner Michael Carden, and FRONTIER ASTRONAUTICS owner Tim Bendel in Chugwater Wyoming.  Michael is a veteran Air Force Space Systems officer with program management experience in that role.  He has also served the new space community with his firm and Beal Aerospace.  His interest in ejector ramjets has us planning more development in that area.  He also sells 100% HTP and better fuels to come.

Exodus Aerospace also has consulting engineers and retired aerospace managers now.


Ragole, Michael                     

Mindt,   Michael                     

Luther, David                         

Petterson, Bob                        

Schulze, Ken                            

Peach, Robert                         

Beasley, Joseph Craig           

Booher, Troy                          

We have other vendor teams available for air advanced breathing propulsion, airframes, and guidance systems.  For prototypes we would offer design and analysis through established design firms.  Fabrication teams are available who have experience from Scaled Composites and Skunk Works projects.  These shops have facilities, skills, and human resources from their established customer businesses.  We can offer them work without causing high overhead to investment partners.

We are recruiting partners at all levels, from interns to retirees.  Mentors and advisers from the private sector or major aerospace players are welcome.  We are already gathering some valuable people but we can always use more, space is a big venture.  It’s time to start building the business and marketing plans.


Wings to space…the Wright Stuff



We went off on adventures with the upper stage, and left our booster alone in the night.  This kind of launch may take the unmanned craft on quite a trajectory, possibly making a skip across the ocean or a return to base.  At some point it needs to be called home for reentry and a landing.


Engines may be closed by the inlet cones for thermal protection.  With the orbiter gone the leading edges are largely rounded for thermal loads and drag to slow reentry speeds.


Will it be on final approach to the old shuttle landing strip?  To save mass our landing gear is reduced to a nose wheel and two skids, per the X-15.  Like that craft it will have a dedicated launch vehicle, but not one you might expect.


Gear down and near the ground.  We may again use thrusters to slow the craft and aid ground effect for a soft touchdown.  Now we can look at ground service and propulsion needs before the next mission.


We illustrate a simple cylindrical engine installation in part for fast service removal, replacement, and servicing between missions.


For a prototype, engine development may be part of the early missions.  There have been many air breathing propulsion designs proposed, but this is not an easy performance realm.  We are illustrating turbine based systems in the outboard positions for low speed and takeoff operations.  These have been reliable and efficient in the past, but they may also be a bit heavy and complex.  This may be just our crude image here, but the Concorde, XB-70, and SR-71 are all complex installations.



Even a greatly simplified view of Concorde engines suggests sophisticated understanding of shock wave and flow management.  This delivered supersonic speeds with greater fuel efficiency than rockets.


The SR-71 is a lot more complex to achieve Mach 3 performance.  this also challenges thermal loads on the airframe, so we would not want to go beyond this.  Here again, mechanisms are building a lot of mass and complexity


In 1999 Orbital Sciences did a study of modification of a D-21 drone to use for space launch.  This study proposes a cheap reuse of old tech for space launch.  It again validates Hydrogen Peroxide instead of liquid oxygen.  The proposal would use avionics from their Pegasus launcher and the X-34 for economical development.  The X-37 also demonstrates autonomous operation, so the guidance capacity is out there.  A ram jet engine is often considered for these missions.  These still require a rocket or turbine to reach operational speeds, and may still be a bit complex, but possibly lighter.  The D-21 offered enough fuel economy to reach China, where at least one crashed and is now in a museum there.


We illustrate another slightly silly vision of an ejector ramjet, which features a rocket surrounded by a ram duct.  This may increase the efficiency of a rocket and offer that propulsion when ram air is no longer available.  Ours shows a little rocket in the inlet for air compression and ignition of fuel, and a larger one aft for more thrust.  The aft engine may share an aerospike with the upper rockets for vacuum efficiency.  Don’t copy this design unless you have money to waste…it is fantasy art!


Without striving for unobtanium or hypersonic engines there may be value in the idea of applying lessons learned in historical technical solutions.  As such we have illustrated cylindrical engines where cones may be easier to manage shock and inlet issues during development.  For ease of servicing these engines are installed individually.  The possibility of various combinations of test engines remains here.

Gangs of engines in square inlet configurations are seen on the XB-70 and the Concorde.  The SR-72 has inlets and airframe configured and tuned for Aerojet turbine and scramjet engines.  Our goal is not extreme speeds until leaving the atmosphere.  To harvest atmospheric oxygen cannot come at the cost of a massive fuel burn penalty or huge development costs.  To field a serviceable test bed that can climb at supersonic speed and switch to rockets is a better goal.  Identifying efficient air breathing propulsion may require flight testing.  Our platform proposes to deliver variable test opportunities.

Engineering software and wind tunnels may not deliver all the variables that these engines will experience.  Engine performance can vary with weather, altitude, speed, and thermal loads.  In Wyoming your barbecue may be smothered without a breeze and a good hot start.  But on some days here the 80 mph winds may share your meal and glowing embers with the neighbors.  I read about a physics professor who started his barbecue with liquid oxygen.  High test peroxide would work too, but you may not be able to find your meat!






An open letter to our team, readers, and interns

I am about 70-80% done with the “paper airplane” on this blog.  It is a preview of technologies that may enable horizontal launch in the future.  It is not a complete design but it points out some possibilities to investigate.  This is a window on the next generation vision, so review our old blog posts too.  I want to offer you more in the near future.



Some of our team is retired, others working, and others are in school.  We don’t all have time to run a company or even do the analysis.  We don’t have the funding, tools, skills, or manpower to build anything like this “Paper Airplane”.  But I deliver this to illustrate the potential for the future.  That potential will belong to those with the faith to take the first steps.  But more than spaceships, this will be built on relationships.  If you have a little spare time you can begin learning how the new space world works.  Start meeting people who are working on the answers.  You will prosper when you begin to meet people who have different skills.

There are student groups and incubation efforts that include space business, marketing, investment, airframes, propulsion, avionics, and space law.  Start doing your research and make connections.  You will have skills and assets when you learn how to have paychecks.  With relationships you may gather interest in your own goals.  New Space Ventures offer an online spreadsheet listing of new ventures, and an email news list.  HobbySpace is another source for teams and dreams. Colleges have space interest groups, including the business side.  Find the solution makers early and start the conversation. 


A few years ago I was working for Hamilton Sundstrand in Connecticut.  We were designing parts for the Pratt Whitney F135 engine for the Joint Strike Fighter.  One day employees were all called to a big meeting.  We contract workers watched the direct employees going in thinking that the big pink slip was coming.  It was; but not for them.  The company laid off some of the big management and promoted young leaders into their positions.  Big shock!



Yes we want YOU to take over this company!  Oh you won’t have long to wait until I’m dead anyway…lol!  I want our group to become a team.  I know that most of you don’t have the time to quit jobs and school.  But you have experience or school resources that we need.  Part time is enough to get your brain working a little.  I want all of you to consider how we can take our first step.  I am planting seeds to draw interest, and I will finish the “paper airplane” with a big bang to bring the big bucks.  I want you to outline a first real hardware project.  A small first step.


A first prototype only needs to launch, stage, and crash nicely.  Landing nicely is optional.  It will still be the actual hardware in photographs that validate our basic premises.  We have some components available locally, and other off-the-shelf materials are available.  Let’s look at how this might happen; put on your thinking caps!


New space may require a special breed of peopleOne team met while working for Rotary Rocket, stuck together to form Xcor, and later founded Agile Aero.  They endured layoffs, changing corporate cultures, and even the loss of a team founderThey are still leading innovation in new space ventures.

We will take anyone who has a little aptitude and a lot of attitude.  You can’t be afraid to speak up or make suggestions when needed.  I hope we can find people who can meet in this area, but we will have virtual operations too.  We have vendors from Arizona to Wyoming now, and local people can help by working with partners in their area.  Remember; the project spreadsheet I shared with you team members is a source of assets which have not all been explored.  Make contact with the idea people in the industry!  Communications will be our big job.


I have non-disclosure agreements and resumes from our team now.  That’s like showing up for the job interview; an important step.  A few of you will actually show up for the first day of work, and some of you have made contributions already.  Even answering mail with suggestions counts.  I want to do more for you though.  I can spend a lot of time at locations in Wyoming and Colorado this summer with the trailer.  I can shut off the gas and electric at home to help with costs on the road.  I will make time so you can spend a day or so at the “office”.


Students:  if you leave the area during the summer break, we can still use your help recruiting more local participation while you are here.  While you are in school, consider the student clubs interested in engineering, space (SEDS), and business.  Turn people on to the blog posts of the next generation vision.  We can also watch LinkedIn for people who are “retired, seeking, unemployed, advisers, consultants”, etc.  Our blog posts have a big following on LinkedIn now.

If we find any life signs in this area, I will take another step.  I lived in this trailer for two years while finding and setting up a home near the Wyoming rocket ventures.  I can do the same to get airframes under way.  I can rent my home to ease the cost of renting on the road.  I can move to Laramie, Boulder, Arizona, or anywhere the vision finds function.  Are you ready to boldly go?


If you take the mindset of being an owner, this can be your role as a co-founder.  We have some assets to make the venture happen.  We may have only a few who can live lean in formative times, but that may not be that hard.  The team is the dream.


Yes, it is hectic doing all the different jobs that need to be done.  If you want to see a paycheck you will learn how to multi-task!  If you are an owner you have a right to expect equity rewards to grow with the venture.  You can lead the organization to assure that result.


In 2013 I launched an unsuccessful H.I.L.L.S. Kickstarter campaign.  But we had $3400 pledged and gathered interest from a drone company in Colorado.  In this wonderful new age there are crowd funding campaigns for equity and for space projects.  I know there are plans forming for more such space funding opportunities now.  If you find great candidates in business you may even be able to interest serious investment.  Can we find people on LinkedIn or at colleges who want to be part of new space capitalism?  If you deliver valid designs and testing you may demonstrate just what serious investors want to see.


A little ground work was done in the early model building phase.  CAD designs yielded flying models and three patents.  A lot of hours and cash were invested to assure ownership of the concept.  Investors can own an exclusive real solution.  We still have computers and software working towards the goal.  We need people who can contribute some basic engineering for a simple prototype.  Anyone who has access to CAE tools, or expert advice can add value now.


We all know someone who is interested in space, or has some aptitude that we can use.  We need business, computer, systems, propulsion, airframes and many other disciplines.  Oh there are very few around here in cowboy country though for sure.  But remember that Henry Ford was a farm boy, with no degree, no engineering, no business training.  Common sense is the real holy grail, so share this link to those who want to live the dream.  It won’t cost us anything to count the cost and target the rewards.  We can organize focus groups to research and report on needs and resources.


Well, we don’t pay much for facilities now, if we work from home.  We have held meetings at the Tech center at the University of Wyoming in the past.  But small groups can do some work in the trailer as well.  It has a built in generator and a wifi hot spot so the computers and CAD can run until other campers complain!  At some point we may be able to work with Frontier Astronautics or other vendors in their facilities.  If you have big funds, we can offer 56,000 sq. ft. for $50/sq. ft…Nuke hardened too!


I have a desktop, a MacBook, and a cranky Toshiba laptop that may be repairable.  They can all go on the road.  If anyone wants to dive in to CAD or CAE work on their own computer, perhaps we can help with funding for software.  This is your venture; list your needs and find the sources.


I have contacted the DAR Corporation in Kansas about design and prototypes in the past.  Now they offer aircraft design software and educational materials.  Those tools can now be linked to interact with a promising new CAD tool.  SharkCAD has more sophisticated tools than most high end systems, and adds aircraft specific tools.  Burt Rutan uses it, so it can’t be all bad.  But look at the other software offerings too, as even the small prototypes need much of this kind of analysis.  Go ahead, develop expensive tastes, then get motivated to listen to the business experts.

Perhaps we can help students get an academic license.  But we may want this for company computers as well.  It can be installed on multiple computers and isn’t all that expensive anyway.  A Professional seat of SharkCAD may run $2,295 compared to $7,000 for NX or on up to $30,000 for Catia.  We do want to look at this for the prototype design work.


No we can’t buy Teamcenter or any data management software yet.  But we can use our project Excel spreadsheets to control part number assignment and track work status.  Every nut and bolt has to be designed and have its mass managed in the assemblies.  That’s a whole lot of design management, even for a small prototype.  Careful record keeping keeps the ship on an even keel.

70000030 SHT 4


I have illustrated our “LEAP” vehicle in a scale comparison to an alternative launcher for the Dream Chaser; the Atlas 5.  Because we have air breathing engines, we carry less oxidizer fuels.  Because we use HTP, those oxidizers are more dense.  Those fuels are spread across the wing body, further reducing the length.  The result is half the length of the Atlas stack!


Now consider a competitor with a small satellite launching vehicle.  Actually this looks just like a baby Atlas.  It isn’t all that small though at 53 feet tall.  Can a winged launcher of only 20-30 feet also deliver a small satellite?  That might be a goal for a smaller “SKIP” prototype.  That might place a vehicle in the market with fully reusable economy.  That will require technology for air breathing and rocket propulsion, along with guidance, airframes, and reentry.


But first, let’s make the even smaller HOP (Highly Optimistic Prototype).  Then we can look at the Staging Key Intermediate Prototype, Junior unmanned Mission Prototype, and finally the Launcher Evolution Advanced Prototype.   We’re only a HOP, SKIP, and a JUMP away from one giant LEAP for bad acronyms, right?


VEHICLE: Highly Optimistic Prototype, the P-4 HOP!

We have two earlier designs that may point out useful ways to get a very heavy vehicle airborne.  One proposes to emulate the Concorde wing, and the other an SR-72 jog.  The old P-5 drawing has a bit of that jog.  I have scaled it down to represent the scale of the proposed P-4 below.  At 10 feet long, our first flights might be flown with jet engines under model airplane rules.  Later flights may use rocket engines if done at the White Sands range.







(dimensions in inches)



(dimensions in feet)



With these possible solutions we are ready to define a best design.  We hope to generate maximum lift without mechanical flaps or lift enhancing devices.  Low weight, low drag, and high lift is the goal here.  Are there other ways to achieve this?  We need an aerodynamic study to identify what will work best.  We also need funding and business assets to make it all work.

Can we find resources to define this simple first goal?  We hope to find affordable sources, so universities may be our first hope.  We do not need a complete study of all flight stages yet.  Our first model is not to make supersonic or orbital performances.  Our group should be able to design, refine, and test most of the other systems after this initial study yields a basic mold line.  We should be able to find modest funding for a small demonstration.  You have a free hand to design the “Wright Stuff” for the next generation of space launch.

I am challenging our group and / or our readers to organize a response to these challenges.  These old designs are history; you are free to solve the problem for this two stage launch system in your own way.  We also welcome contributions to the challenges of organization, recruiting, funding, and fabrication.




FREE INSPIRATION FREELY OFFERED…evaluate, suggest, optimize.

Our theoretical “Leap” 2 stage system is nearing completion in the 3D CAD model now.  If you have Siemens NX or other CAD with translation capacity you can view these filesSharkCAD has translation tools and interfaces with other tools if you do not have Siemens NX.  That can enable you to modify or create a new design.  We will share these files with interested parties in the United States.  (There may be ITARs issues with other nations.)

If you can flesh out the vision, actual costs can be projected.  That is the first step to funding.  There will be high value learning in this project.  You will have real numbers to project performance and market potential.  You will understand what the engineering, marketing, and management teams have to deal with.  You will learn to walk by faith if you are achieving the impossible!

I will mail a DVD copy of our NX files if you provide a mailing address to us.  You may also join the team if you are willing to send a resume and sign a non-disclosure agreement.  If you are a team member you should want to protect your own IP contributions so this is common practice.  We have patented key innovations already so we can share most of what we are doing now.

You will receive CAD files for a 115 foot long vehicle with all the latest models.  A spreadsheet will outline all the master and sub-assemblies.  There are solid models that may convert for CFD studies.  You may create your own vehicle at this scale for comparison.  Then you can scale the best mold line for testing at smaller scale, and for wind tunnel testing.

I have been harshly evaluated by some critics in the past.  I deserve some of that because I alone do not have the skills, tools, or manpower to deliver a fully designed aircraft for any mission.  You who have better assets now have a few new ideas to evaluate.  Critics may be the best engineers, if they offer constructive alternative solutions.  I don’t have all the right answers, but I may have some of the right questions.  Do you have some of the right answers?  Bank on it!

THIS IS A COMPANY that was founded in 1982 by three friends who met while attending Harvard Business School. Armed with business school studies and an initial round of financing, David Thompson, Scott Webster, and Bruce Ferguson, developed a plan for what would become their first product…





There may be more than one right way.  In the latest Aviation Week we see Spacex targeting 100 flights from each reusable booster.  That would be a major challenge to the legacy launch providers.  Vertical landing is one avenue to that kind of economy.  Another one, horizontal launch and landing, has been studied for decades by good engineers, and yet never put in service.

Rockwell proposed the Star-Raker and spent some effort on new ideas.  They did a lot of engineering and evaluation.  That was a huge vehicle and a huge fleet that was perhaps a bridge too far.  The landscape is littered with broken space planes.  And still DARPA and private ventures seek to make space from a runway.  If they deliver a reusable system with wings it may offer greater reliability, safety, and comfort than vertical lauding.

If Exodus Aerospace has even one contribution, there are many other opportunities available.  Finding the right combination may require trade studies.  Proving them will require actual flight vehicles, even if they are small prototypes.  At this point any serious launch providers need to investigate options for the next generation of space access.  Our purpose is not to promote one concept as the only way, but to illustrate possible avenues.  Others have illustrated methods of value which should be considered.

Our prototypes are just illustrations to reveal possible direction.  With funding all the required disciplines can be employed to identify the actual design.  But sometimes a new idea is not the only answer or the best answer.  Our prototype P5.31 was a suborbital concept.  We chose to model an orbital direction with prototype P7.2.  We can return with better ideas for the smaller P5 and P6 designs if we consider what may have value for orbital services.

As we saw with the QuickSat study, getting off the runway and modest fuel consumption is critical.  We considered the Concorde wing to aid takeoff, and conservative propulsion choices on P7.  When the Lockheed SR-72 was revealed, it may point out other solutions for creating a helpful vortex.  As it happens, we may have stumbled on similar opportunities with the earlier P5 design.


The SR-72 shows a “jog” in the wing that may be provided to create that vortex.    As it happens, we had a flat wing tip on P5 that may produce the same effect.  It also tips downward slightly which may (or may not?) add to lift on takeoff.  So now we have two candidates for adding lift by tuning the wings.  The Concorde was one example, and the SR-72 may offer a new technique.  There are options to evaluate.  In the 1940s we compared the elliptical wing of the Spitfire and the laminar flow of the P-51.  Our generation can still learn new things about wings today.


The SR-72 also features air inlets that do not avoid boundary layer air.  Hypersonic designs may tailor the aircraft shape carefully to contribute to the inlet flow.  That is part of the aerodynamic innovation that aerospace is developing…let’s keep them working!


Our earlier P5 chose to take boundary layer to inlets to allow doors to close those inlets during reentry and hypersonic operation.  Turbine engines in outboard stations are vulnerable to thermal damage.  For our illustrations we lack the information to get this design right, but at least we may start the conversation.  After all, Star Trek provoked some new technologies, so put this “science fiction” to work too!


Our P-7 proposed to use “Sabre” type inlets with cones that can close.  Will high tech propulsion fit in square or gang inlets better than traditional cylindrical installations?  Trade studies may compare the value of each.  At least there are some new possibilities that could keep the engineers working.


What our articles may deliver is opportunity: to shave a few ounces of mass and a slightly cleaner flight.  What remains is the hard work.  Each engineering discipline effects the others and the performance depends on the sum of the best answers.  The industry already has markets and customers.  The leaders will learn how to serve those customers with real economy and reliability.

The possibility of reusable launch vehicles is coming whether we are ready or not.  The opportunity to be competitive or even leapfrog the current reusable designs is available now.  We can be sure that options are being explored. The Air Force is aware that we need to work with new space ventures as a source of innovation.  They are proposing a space consortium to connect new and old space assets.  That may be a good answer for their needs, but private industry may be wise to apply the consortium model to their own business plans.

We know that Boeing and Sierra Nevada have winged orbiters which have and will deliver value.  Already ventures are preparing spacecraft for on orbit satellite servicing.  How much more could they offer with a fly-back vehicle to return defective satellites?  So these two ventures need to deliver their vehicles and payloads; that load which pays the bills.  A massive payload fairing is not paying the bills.

Lockheed, Boeing, and Northrop build large bombers, freighters, and hypersonic research.  Northrop owns Scaled Composites, which is already building space launch aircraft.  Pratt Whitney, General Electric, Aerojet, Spacex, and Blue Origin are exploring innovative propulsion.  With all this talent, a new design development is a still daunting investment.  Government is sometimes a fickle investor, and often lacks vision.  An idea like a space coalition is an encouraging exception to the many cancelled X-plane programs.  Perhaps industry needs not wait for government to figure it out.  They can do their own consortium if they are truly motivated to compete in the future.

It may not be necessary for traditional aerospace to take the full burden of new innovation.  If more than one venture did operate in a coalition, we may see more innovation.  United Launch Alliance is already an example of such a collaboration.  Can these ventures recognize and mentor innovative new space ventures as well?  We don’t know what arrangement Lockheed made with the founders of Xcor, but I suspect they harvested propulsion value without leaving the founders broke.

Small ventures and academia may be able to deliver early innovation, research and fabrication of prototypes.  There are small firms engaged in mission analysis, avionics, aerodynamics, propulsion, and test operations now.  These may identify value without placing burdens on the major players.  Having a mentor’s guidance may improve their operation and execution.

New space investment is gaining a lot of interest that can relieve aerospace builders.  If they see the deep experience of major aerospace firms growing new space talent, they may be encouraged.  The market is already real, and investors want to own the best tools to serve that market.  That opportunity can only grow as it becomes regular and reliable.  No one firm has to carry risk as Rockwell did with the Star-Raker.  We have help now.

As we have seen, there may be more than one “right way” to deliver the goal.  At times the old ideas may become valuable to a new mission.  In other situations, new solutions are just waiting for you to put them to work.  Our nation needs viable industries and product delivery.  We need more eyes on the goal, and ways to share the burden.  The first stage of a space mission requires the heavy boosters which deliver the big push.  The upper stages may be delivered by the fast thinking next generation of innovation.  Apart they cannot make the mission, but together they are a working system.



Our vehicle seems to be a bit overweight, but I also carry a load of doubt.  I need something like the Easter story to remind me that the joy comes in the morning.  I dived into this to make mistakes and corrections publicly so I might hope there would be an avenue or redemption sooner or later.

I launched into this investigation based on a few seemingly safe assumptions.  As a designer I have always had a lot of exposure to every intimate detail of a given geometric structure.  As such, I may be aware of opportunities of available space.  My job includes letting the engineers know about opportunities within the available geometry.  If I am aware of other opportunities in materials or vendor solutions I can also make those known.  I have worked on a couple of other space planes and these opportunities came to my attention.


Here is a shuttle on a large booster aircraft.  The wings of this shuttle aren’t working to produce lift, so they are parasite mass.  The shuttle is protruding enough to be slightly parasite drag.  By moving our orbiter to the front, the mass of its wings is working to produce lift.  This allows the booster wings to shrink, saving mass there.  The smaller craft also becomes a nose cone to the larger craft instead of increasing frontal area.  By using a blended wing body form we add the efficiency of a lifting fuselage per the concepts of Burnelli.  The lifting bodies maximize internal volume and still allow aerodynamic deceleration and runway operations.  Both were crafted to emulate the efficient wing of the Concorde, and the wave rider winglets of the XB-70.  Every element is aimed to eliminate wasted effort.  There is also a possibility for stage separation in the atmosphere in an emergency.  We may avoid aerodynamic hazards of staging if we are pushing the two craft apart vigorously.  Thus payloads may be rescued even if a booster is lost.


Still we found an issue with packaging fuel tanks in wings and flattened fuselage areas.  This led us to consider High Test Peroxide (HTP) instead of cryogenic fuels.  Like jet fuel, HTP can fit in wing tanks, but it is heavier than liquid oxygen.  Our early studies suggested that we might need as much as 1.5 times as much HTP as LOX for the mission.  And rocket formulas pointed towards a ratio of 7 or 8 parts of HTP to 1 part Jet fuel for rockets.  We have found new reports that give us better tools to target our fuel ratios.

An AFRL project was published in 2004 called Quicksat.  That was a paper airplane study like this one, but with all the heavy engineering and trade studies.  It presented us with a good trade comparing LOX and HTP for a vehicle of similar size and mission goals.  Their mission differed in using hypersonic speeds with an air breathing booster.  It used little rocket thrust on the booster stage, relying on scramjets for acceleration.  The orbiter was essentially an X-37 with strap on HTP and JP-7 boosters.  Those were expendable.  The article acknowledged “inefficiency” of the booster airfoil at low speeds.  Gross Take Off Weight (GTOW) could be nearly that of a Boeing 747 in some configurations.  Some exciting wing loading on a flying wedge could produce adventures on takeoff.  The study still has value though.


I had harvested some crude estimations from data published about the Bristol Spaceplanes Spacecab.  I estimated a ratio of 1.5 times the Spacecab cryo fuels for HTP use.  That drove mass up on the “Old” Leap (at the bottom) but it was still way less than the Quicksat.  When I projected a “new” hypersonic Leap I included some small mass advantages but still saw a huge wet mass.  To my surprise the Quicksat mass was not from HTP.  They are burning a huge amount of JP-7 in the scramjet mode.  If you feed a gas guzzler, the advantage of air-breathing systems LOX savings is negated.  Back to the drawing board.


The choice to use more conservative air breathing engines led us back to Spacecab.  That appears to be using a gang of turbine engines.  These may still yield supersonic performance without negating the value of harvesting atmospheric oxygen.  The Quicksat article did publish a table comparing HTP to LOX fuels which I used to establish a more accurate ratio for converting from the Spacecab figures.


A conversation with Michael Carden of X-L Space Systems yielded another valuable clue.  Most studies propose a 7 or 8 to 1 ratio for HTP to fuel.  Michael suggested a 5 to one ratio where their distillation yields a 100% HTP product.  That will also save us a bunch of mass.


Now we are closing in on the target and I think we can boost the payload with no strain.  We don’t mind any load that is paying.  You also see a very low estimated mass for landing gear because we have a different fix for the takeoff leg.  Every ounce counts, but that detail will be published later.


While we began with Spacecab data, we should see other savings.  HTP will have lighter tanks than cryogenics, and it is dense so vehicle size is reduced.  Since the orbiter changed we have saved some weight in that area too.  This helps us to remain reasonable about wing loading and the takeoff roll.   Now we have enough fuel tanks with volume for ullage and balance adjustment in supersonic shift.  This was also an opportunity to clean up the structural junction to the first stage.


Changes to the orbiter also aligned the fin and junction structures with structures on the booster.  We eliminated four stage pin actuators and two separation cylinders as another mass reduction.


Looking forward through part of the booster shows all the mechanisms clustered in the structures.  This is an improvement over the previous mid-stage proposal.


This series of illustrations animates the pin release and piston separation sequence.  Now the engineers can go to work shaving the un-needed mass off of my heavy-handed models!







We will explore more booster solutions soon, including some of the skins and service considerations.  This changes every week as problems and solutions are discovered.  We have seen that propulsion choices have a big influence on performance.  We want to get back to new possibilities in that area.  Is anyone out there interested in innovation in air-breathing propulsion?




Oh the adventures of space as we saw them in the days of our youth in the 1940s.  Well at least I was there in the 1940s…lol!  Still there were some real visionaries even back then.  Let’s look at my evolving vision and our stellar influences.  Buck Rogers launches our voyage into the space future.


I haven’t invented rocket guns yet, but the Russians did try a gun in some of their designs.  Nasty recoil I expect!  I did a Google search to understand that “verticle fin”, but Google just asked me if I meant vertical.  I guess they didn’t have grammar cops back then.  Or did it actually tickle?  Well, I’m tickeled anyway!  America did have big rocket cruisers with steel glass though.  Hold that thought, I will come back to it later.  At least they did seem to make a few concessions to aerodynamics beck then, not just a cone on a can.


Now Flash Gordon has a nice tail dragger design here, complete with blueprint views.  Something about that shape reminds me of…Blue Origin?  I guess the “whose is bigger” contest started way back then huh?  I went with Buck Rogers on the landing skids though,  Those wheel pants need more thermal protection.  (pants on fire!)  My own space experience didn’t start very far from this design though.



Dr. James Victor Hugo Hill invited us to help design a space ship for kit builders.  Wouldn’t that look great sitting in your garage?  I was wary of bubble canopies and started asking questions though.  I contacted people involved with the space  shuttle glass.  Guess what?  It only comes in flat panes, not in compound curves.  So I suggested a fix, and less anhedral but the boss didn’t like it.



As a self-unemployed space man I began to explore CAD, blended wing bodies, and FLAT glass.


“El Tigre” was an X-Prize idea that couldn’t move as fast as Scaled Composites.  Money helps!  But if we can’t have Flash Gordon, perhaps we can have…






Oh the sacrilege!  Or not?  Remember that steel glass idea on Buck Rogers battle cruiser?  Didn’t I warn you about the Star Trek transparent aluminum last week?  We propose to use a Surmet Alon brand Aluminum Oxynitride for this installation.  It has a “Star Trek” connection for being called “transparent aluminum”.  But it has a far more stellar performance than aluminum in optical, impact, and thermal durability.


If we offer a manned version, it will need durable high temperature windows inside and out.  Our cargo area was cylindrical for typical payloads, and this fits a pressure vessel as well.


Unfortunately the “Launcher Evolution Advanced Prototype” (LEAP) is just as tight as the old monoplanes of the 1930s.  Customer for a wide body out there?




Perhaps claustrophobia will not be a problem with a big “Vista Cruiser” view.  There should be plenty to see for passengers, whether touring or commuting to work on the moon mines.









That concludes a lot of revisions and considerations for the orbiter.  Now we need to go back to finish updates on the booster stage.  We have some improvements to stage junction and separation to update.  The booster is actually the big key to the mission.  New propulsion and potential aerodynamic advantages give a lot to the concept.  And like Flash, Buck, and Kirk we need to get this off the ground before we can put the landing skids to work.




WHY PLAY WITH MODELS?  Balsa wood is a long way from space.  But space is a long way from earth, and one must learn to deal with the ocean of atmosphere between here and there.  I believe that an aspiring pilot should get familiar with sailboats before taking on flying lessons.  Sails are airfoils and rudders guide us through waves and turbulence much like a light plane.  Part of our learning curve should be intuition mixed with education and experience.  Common sense is hard to fabricate.


Model airplanes offer a good tool for learning aircraft design and computer design tools.  Even our mistakes have to be fully detailed and developed before we know what to try next.  So now we are presenting a design study that is not yet fully analyzed or designed to explore the possible future.  We need to visualize some of the new technologies that can deliver new solutions.  This will encourage investment in validating these improvements.  Modeling the technology is part of building a better future.  But the technology still needs a reason to exist, a case for investment.  We need more than airplane models; we also need business models.

Business models look for customers with problems that have no other solution.  Investors need to know that they will own a tool that others cannot duplicate or build cheaper.  They will want solid technical people to validate real intellectual property.  There should be potential to scale up to a market that will grow into these new opportunities.  Even small prototypes should have value, but a huge market should be waiting in the wings.

Exodus Aerospace owns a small part of the answer in the patents for Horizontal In Line Launch Staging (HILLS).  Much of this design also revives many ideas from other innovators that are now valuable in this application.  This combination may allow a body of talented engineers to deliver the vision.  This will probably require a coalition of mature space firms mentoring smaller vendor teams.  We can launch the business in stages even as the prototypes grow in stages.  Low Earth Orbit (LEO) is a valuable key that may be overlooked in our passion for Mars and deep space adventures.  Affordable LEO service an crucial door to new space business success.

Gold miners rarely got rich in the gold rush, but hardware sellers always did.  In the new space race delivery depends on offering the supply of the right hardware.  Now the right hardware is the “Wright stuff”; wings to space.  If you aim to dominate this growing market to space you will need the “million motor mindset”.

This was the mindset at Honda when they went after a global market for lawnmowers.  The old flat-head lawnmower engines of the past would not make that work.  “The ME engine (G150/200) introduced in 1977 represented Honda’s effort to develop a new family of powerplants that could maintain the high quality associated with Honda products yet be affordable enough to compete in the global market. Named ME (Million Engine) as an expression of the company’s high sales expectations, the product was given a challenging mission: to help sell one million units and build the foundation on which Honda could establish Power Products as a third major operation.”  Lawn Mower Development: Global Expansion for Honda Power Products  Honda delivered serious products and serious sales, and  this world beating mindset is needed for our space future.  Our little space plane needs to take a lesson from history to make the big sale.


Aviation in the 1930s was revolutionized by all metal monoplanes like the Boeing 247, and the Lockheed Electra.  These, like the DC1 and 2 were limited to 10-12 passengers.

“The Boeing Model 247 was an early United States airliner, considered the first such aircraft to fully incorporate advances such as all-metal semimonocoque construction, a fully cantilevered wing and retractable landing gear. Other advanced features included control surface trim tabs, an autopilot and de-icing boots for the wings and tailplane.”

“The Lockheed Electra delivered real excitement to the world in pioneering aviation events.  In May 1937, H.T. “Dick” Merrill and J.S. Lambie accomplished a round-trip crossing of the Atlantic Ocean. The feat was declared the first round-trip commercial crossing of that ocean by any aircraft. It won them the Harmon Trophy.  Probably the most famous use of the Electra was the highly modified Model 10E flown by aviatrix Amelia Earhart.”  (Wikipedia)

We needed these small steps and big excitement to justify the vision that that Douglas could grow a big fat money-maker in the DC-3.   But it was a customer who motivated commercial success by asking for more room for passengers.  Size does matter!

“The DC-3 resulted from a marathon telephone call from American Airlines CEO C. R. Smith to Donald Douglas, when Smith persuaded a reluctant Douglas to design a sleeper aircraft based on the DC-2 to replace American’s Curtiss Condor II biplanes. (The DC-2’s cabin was 66 inches (1.7 m) wide, too narrow for side-by-side berths.) Douglas agreed to go ahead with development only after Smith informed him of American’s intention to purchase twenty aircraft.”  Douglas DC-3  From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Aerospace is witnessing a revolution as reusability becomes fact, not just the conjecture of dreamers.  But this is still the dawn of this new age of innovation.  Returning a vertical launch booster is a great feat, but may face more effective solutions.  We have a generation of orbiters like the shuttle and the X-37 demonstrating uses for reusable orbiting spacecraft.  A fly-back orbiter like the Dream Chaser has a lot of potential for services beyond just throwing great mass into orbit.  But these spacecraft are still hampered with heavy aerodynamic fairings and throw away boosters.  Reusable boosters and orbiters must be  part of fully reusable function.  But that function will only come with customer demand.


Small steps become big steps if they encourage faith in the vision.  Even suborbital ventures generate enthusiastic interest in the public circles.  Satellite markets already have value, and a game changing solution will have customers.  Having ownership of the key patents can make a difference that those early aviation pioneers lacked.  Our prototype is a small player in the launch market, but it has potential to grow.  There are engineering assets available to meet customer needs.  We are ready for the visionary customer who needs a world beating solution.


How much can be done with the prototype that we have been illustrating?  This vehicle may have room for a payload sized between the Orbital Sciences Pegasus and Minotaur.   That is no challenge to the heavy launch companies, but then vehicle size can be scaled up when it is proven.  The largest payload would be 66 inches in diameter by 166 inches long, or about 5 feet diameter by 14 feet long.  That allows a pretty big payload if not including a kicker motor.  We may see some limitations in payload mass though.


Unlike vertical launch we do not just kick the fairings off and boot the satellite.  We have to move the payload vertically, or lateral to the centerline after the doors open.  One might use a robotic arm, but we illustrated a simple extending arm with linear actuation.  This will still allow the satellite to be tested before it is released.  We can recover it and return it to base for servicing if needed.  This becomes more than a launch vehicle if it can also be a service system.


Smaller payloads are possible, including non-orbital experiments.  Materials, products, and biology can be tested and returned to earth.  The X-37 has orbited for as long as two years delivering classified services for the Air Force.  How many services can you imagine here?  What would be the value of returning an inoperative satellite for salvage?  Those are just a few of  the opportunities to return  payloads.  But there is also value in bringing home things that have never been to earth.  If there is any mining in space this is the safest way to bring home samples.  Would you want loads of rocks coming home on parachutes over your town?  But this alternative could be the means for regular service to runways and paying customers.


Not all satellites are all that big.  One alternative that we also show is a cube satellite dispenser.  Using a 12 inch cube we now illustrate the revolving “Gatling gun” dispenser.  This can hold 180 cubes or 60 cubes and 60 12 x 24 inch rectangular satellites.  Now it would take quite a governmental discussion to launch all that, but someone may value a super constellation.  Or possibly, the military may want a fast satellite replacement supply standing by on orbit.


How serious are we about cube satellites?  Having an orbiting dispenser one could make many orbits between launches for dispersal.  This still allows you to test satellites before launch, and you could have lots of backup on board.  Today the small customer is like a kid on a skateboard shagging a ride behind a taxi.  You have to follow the paying customer and the ride may be a bit risky.  We need to take these customers to work as valued business.


There was a little extra room under these payloads that offers another opportunity.  Along the sides at the bottom we have two tanks available for refueling satellites.  Larger tanks may be delivered for orbital refueling depots.  This can be more than a launcher, it can also be a space station and a service station.  If a small step delivers components to assemble on orbit, the vision is validated.  Regular small deliveries can be assembled for bigger missions built on orbit, or on the Moon.  While some investment is needed for development, the long term economy is real.  Deep space can be delivered without deep pockets.


This suggests establishing regular unmanned operations with many service roles.  We have witnessed launch operations growing more reliable, including the unmanned X-37 missions.  It is not unreasonable to expect such a demonstration from a new system.  Demonstrated economy, safety, and innovation are in reach now.

We are already witnessing innovation that we need for the future.  No one technology will deliver the entire solution.  Now is the time to consider new roads to the future.  We will illustrate new ideas weekly in a search for answers.  We don’t have all the answers, but we might have some of the questions.  Are you ready to boldly go?