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December 19, 2016


My previous two blogs point out how big ventures may be slow on innovation and small ventures are slow to achieve funding.  I suggested a contest like the X-Prize to stimulate multiple proposals to improve launch technology.  I pointed to the possibilities of our own in line staging proposals.  However the X-Prize forgot low earth orbit and went straight to the moon.  So how do any innovative ventures get to orbit now?

Perhaps the same pressures that first sent us to the Moon are coming back on-line now.  China and Russia are making us aware of military challenges that we thought were fading into the past.  There are signs that America is recognizing shortcomings in our innovation process.  Big aerospace companies have been growing into big monopolies that are slow to innovate.  Small ventures fail to inspire confident funding and fade away.  A few wealthy men still push innovation but they may not have all the answers.

In the depression years men like Howard Hughes pushed innovation so we had some understanding when the crisis of war became real again.  Smaller companies were ready to spring into action with new systems when needed.  We may also be facing problems related to our political obsession with lobby money.  There is a chance that the Air Force may be able to change the game for space launch innovation.

Defense News published an article: “Air Force Launches Space Consortium” which describes a blend of big and small ventures.  Initially they are soliciting potential consortium managers who have the skills to lead such ventures.  Later there will be requests for proposals, and organization for contracts.  While this is all preliminary organization, the inclusion of education, small, and large ventures is a positive sign.  We really have no more old missiles for space launch, and new vehicles cannot be both expendable and affordable.  It is time for change.  the Air Force published a request for information (RFI) about their Space Enterprise Consortium.  Now they have launched a Defense Accelerator.

This looks like  light at the end of the tunnel perhaps.  Government purchases are usually published on FedBizOpps.Gov where one may age quickly seeking innovation.  How can they list ideas that they have not become aware of?  This consortium may actually lend an ear to new ideas.  I remember NASA responses sounded to me like “We at NASA already know all there is to know about aerodynamics”.  Well, not exactly those words, but pretty close in intent.  If it takes a mad Russian to revive common sense, I hope he keeps kicking shins.  Just be ready when he swings a right hook.


So, what can an unemployable draftsman do?  We assume that blueprints are the map that tells the shop what the engineers want.  That is partly true, but the engineers want a paycheck.  So before there is a blueprint, there is a feasibility study, a fake blueprint.  We don’t have all the math done yet, but based on past experience we assemble the best parts in a way the investors can learn to love.  Today designers are part of marketing.  We draw graphic illustrations that the investor’s engineers may not reject offhand.  We deliver estimated math and cost so marketing can get the buyers into the finance office.  Every new car buyer knows what happens next…but they love driving it home!


My latest new car is no longer in production, but it is a cult favorite with a huge resale value.  It is also a reliable rugged off-road workhorse; a winner.  Now that could make the investors happy if they get more than they expected.  Satellite and manned operations need low-cost and friendly insurance carriers.  Mistakes that cost money and lives are not to be the future of space launch.  So get ready to invest in reusable vehicle development costs that will pay back a long safe history of reliable launch operations.  As an artist I present the best ideas that I have seen engineers use in the past.  New ideas should be evaluated too if we want to own an advantage over other companies in the market.  If the Air Force gets this then we are coming out of the tunnel.  If not, that light may be an oncoming train wreck.


OK, we are developing a feasibility study for orbital services with many innovative solutions.  We spent  time on a prototype that is suborbital, but it reveals some of the ideas that have since been growing.  So today I want to publish some of our Ideas that can validate steps towards the orbital mission.  Our “Staging Key Initial Prototype” (SKIP) is prototype 5.  It may illustrate some features, but we expect more value for any serious investment.



Typical horizontal launch has used “piggy back” staging.  This can have issues with aerodynamics that my cause collisions when done in the atmosphere.  It certainly causes increased frontal area and turbulent drag.  This hinders efficiency when attempting to use a longer ascent with air-breathing engines.  Hiding the upper stage in the booster misses the opportunity for both sets of wings to contribute to lift.  Placing the orbiter in front increases lift without the drag penalty.



When two blended wing bodies are blended as one wing they offer more lift and less drag.  Getting a heavy load of fuel off the ground needs this efficiency.  The mass of an orbiter is shaped to be a contribution to the combined vehicles instead of being only parasite mass.



Ideally staging for an orbiter can be in space, outside the influence of atmospheric turbulence.  But we can demonstrate the potential to stage in the atmosphere in an emergency.  The shuttle had problems with boosters that damaged the orbiter because of their proximity and lack of escape systems.  Traditional rockets allowed the capsule to escape by accelerating forward.  So we stage in front of the booster to allow stage separation and escape.  The booster may be lost if it is out of balance, but payloads and passengers have a way home.  Our suborbital prototype will always stage in the atmosphere.  Orbital variants will benefit from this demonstration as well.  More redundant safety plans prevent costly shut down time and high insurance costs.



The X-37 has been doing this for years.  We have the technology.  If crew members can do a landing that’s fine.  But if they are ever disabled we can still bring them back alive as AAA used to say.  Horizontal takeoff and landing is a gentle way to deliver payloads as well.  Perhaps suborbital delivery is overrated but once it happens that may change.



I make no great claims, but a theater may deliver live images from even the early test flights.  Hollywood might have a use for such footage in their industry too.  We should at least have a documentary about the emerging space future in this.


It may be time to flight test some new materials.  Carbon foam, ceramic composites, and new thermal protection all welcome new vendors and suppliers to deliver better solutions.


Here in Wyoming we have available 100% HTP fuels and flight tested engines.  For this prototype the Frontier Astronautics monopropellant Asp engine is illustrated.  We may see innovation in air-breathing propulsion in the near future too.  There are two small PBS turbines installed with inboard stations for ram jet testing.  Inlet doors close during reentry on the engine installations.




Peroxide fuel needs no elaborate thermal insulation or heavy tanks.  With fuel pumps we can even use fuel bladders with low pressurization.  Even 30-40 psi make your car tires pretty firm.  Add that to the basic structural strength as a safety margin.  This was proposed for the Rockwell StarRaker but that required cryogenic tanks with greater mass.



Small prototypes don’t need huge buildings or workforces.  Small vendor shops have other business already so a new space company doesn’t have to keep a large workforce.  Everyone likes to get a few more jobs to keep the paychecks flowing though.  With experienced consortium managers we can keep the schedule moving and solve problems when they come up.  At times the big aerospace firms are the best place to source the tough fabrication jobs.



Spaceport New Mexico can work with the white Sands range.  They offer a sophisticated tracking camera system to launch services.  Space Florida may offer the shuttle landing strip for testing.  We also  know of an abandoned air strip on an uninhabited island that may offer a safe landing facility.  These require no one dedicated facility as vertical launch does.  How easy to shelter operations in a wartime if small launchers can use any runway.  A sniper rifle could demolish a vertical launch vehicle with one shot.  These can be moved, bunker sheltered, and launched quickly.  Even an aircraft carrier is an option here!nm3


Using the best professional consortium managers will advance good ideas and eliminate waste.  Good lessons learned make opportunities for corporations to tool up production for real value.  Investors can watch the best innovation being guided by the best experience.  The illustrations shown here are only a suggestion of what is coming off the drawing board now.  They are some new ideas and many old ideas in different combinations.  But these are already history.  Stay tuned for more news on the future…we’re just getting off the ground!



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