AIRPLANE MODEL, CAD MODEL, BUSINESS MODEL
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?