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July 21, 2013

I find that new ideas are often greeted by slings and arrows.  Engineers can always see the dumb ideas from a distance.  But they often can’t see the good solutions until they are getting a paycheck.  As a designer I worked on a lot of dumb ideas and a few good ones over the years.  I try to follow good ideas and consider how they might be applied to other missions.  Thus I see potential for wing bodies in horizontal launch applications.  We have seen good engineers like Burnelli, Horten, and Northrop producing novel solutions.  Boeing and NASA are enthusiastic about wing bodies.  While they may not yet fit well in airline terminals they could be great booster stages for horizontal launch.

My notions of staging these craft in-line will face challenges, but may offer more drag reduction.  Perhaps they will allow a smaller booster stage.  Trade studies by qualified professionals may reveal solutions that make this possible.  I seem to have a problem communicating with aerospace professionals though.  I do not produce scholarly documents for the AIAA so I may not be speaking the language.

Perhaps my ideas seem arrogant or silly to the real experts in these fields.  Still we have seen a lot of experimental programs come and go at NASA and in industry.  Some of those might have been dumb ideas and perhaps a few still linger in the works.  Still they pay the bills for a while so the work goes on.  So my offering may only be one more dumb idea, and it might employ a few engineers if it had funding.  If I am poor I am crazy, but if I am wealthy I am only eccentric!

If a poor guy proposes another crazy idea he really fits in at the patent office.  I hear that doing something the same way as before while expecting different results is considered crazy.  That sounds like congress telling NASA to resurrect Saturn type vehicles and expecting affordable results.  I guess you don’t have to be poor to be crazy.  But then a lot of patents are crazy enough to leave their authors poor too.

So I want to use this end of my career to suggest possible solutions without being dismissed as a nut case.  Most of the basics of horizontal launch keep resurfacing over many decades.  Some recent ones are not widely different from my own.  I retain hope for a two stage to orbit space plane.  I hope to deliver s slight aerodynamic advantage that will also reduce mass slightly.  I am warned about structural challenges.  Those are targets for more innovative solutions.

This is where my patents are limited.  I own a basic concept which the whole world can view on line.  The art is already obsolete, and was always generally vague.  Hard solutions have to remain in-house for secrecy.  In effect I bought the land at the narrow point in the canyon.  The blueprints for a dam remain company property though.  I think we know that water goes downhill, so this will be the property to build a dam on.  I can keep folks off the land, but dam building is more technical so I keep that in-house.

I see direction for space access moving to safe winged systems for human flight.  I bought a solution to improve efficiency a bit.  I am making test models to demonstrate and illustrate more solutions to qualified investors.  I can afford to build the small projects and they cover some of the concerns for space launch.  Other design issues require skilled analysis.  If we sell a few small projects along the way we may be ready to bring those experts in.

As discussions with others grow I have to try to focus on the best available solutions.  Some good new ideas are available, and some still need more development.  I have to focus on airframes while considering the best propulsion solutions.  Communication between propulsion and aerodynamic expertise has to be open and free.  I also have to watch the dynamics of the business development.  Good teams can be changed by the needs of the investors.

We need to have a team with a common goal that will not deviate with every new wind of doctrine.  There is no advantage to cutting corners that cut the legs off the table.  More than one venture has been commandeered by investors in the past.  Steve Jobs was redeemed by Apple, but that was a rare case.  I want to give this proposal a fair evaluation before it is vectored off on a different technology path.

We cannot be cast in stone early in concept design, so some change is needed for a good final design.  We should try to identify the core values we want to evaluate, refine, and take to market.  Those should be preserved through the evolution of a good orbital launch technology.  For me the in-line staging is my contribution that I hold to be a valuable contribution.

I invested deeply in the patent, and I hope to see more great solutions go to patent later.  Others may make these contributions and they will hold those valuable properties themselves.  I can’t suggest that they give up all rights for their work for an “open source” philosophy.  At some point workers need to own some rewards for their family and retirement.

Open source developments may appeal to some, but eventually highly skilled personnel may have to pay off a student loan.  I have been told by one individual that he would feel free to use any of my ideas that he sees for his later ventures.  That’s why you see only the obsolete art in the patent applications.

I have known of workers who brought boxes of information from former employers to their new jobs.  Loyalty is an issue today, especially where so many firms want to use temporary help.  One firm wondered why they had no fresh ideas when 90% of their work force was ineligible for the suggestion plan rewards.  Duh!  At least one new space venture is getting a reputation for quickly using and losing their young engineers.  They also depend heavily on proprietary information protection instead of patents.  Will it work?

So space industry faces moral issues on both sides.  I want to be able to stand by employees with a rewarding career path.  We need to expect a little loyalty in return; especially around expensive research discoveries.  I think employees need to share the rewards of patents to motivate better protection of those contributions.  Whatever we do as a company should reflect relationships for life as well as for making a living.  Enterprise is more than a starship; it’s a fellowship.

I may be a little old to follow this dream to a full scale manufacturing and marketing venture.  I expect some young blood to pick up the scent of a good opportunity here.  I will have fun with the smallest development projects because I enjoy putting a dream together.  But I will have to build the dream for someone else.  That is what my whole career has been; putting someone else’s dream together.  Some of those ideas are rusting away in junk yards near you today!

There is room for many skills and dreams in this venture.  Students in business, law, engineering, science, and marketing should be watching for open doors like this.  A few of us older professionals might be able to point out an opportunity but this will be a long term development.  My patent is good for seventeen years; are you?

Older professionals are needed to guide this effort now.  I am sure there are a few unemployed engineers out there.  You have surely worked for at least one nut in your previous employment.  Perhaps you can help me to graduate to “eccentric” as we move this towards real customers.  We especially need to begin early evaluation of orbital mechanics, propulsion, aerodynamics, and structures.

By the way, I’m not too proud to accept contribution from my critics too.  Some of you are good at shooting us down; can you get us back in the air too?  Dad was an engineer, and when he saw my proposal he suggested that I need professional help.  I think he meant engineering professionals, but I will take all the help I can get.

A FEW SMALL STEPS TODAY:  A fast build plywood model






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