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May 6, 2017


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…




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