A MOON TOO FAR?
This is one of the first models I ever built, and now I have a new copy of that same model. Pretty wild looking idea huh? But this concept was advanced by Wernher Von Braun more than 15 years before a real rocket landed on the moon. This is how he moved a concept with great illustrations to television shows and on to reality.
In the early 1950s concept art launched America’s imagination in the direction that would become our moon program. Rockets had emerged as weapons in WWII so now the possibility of space seemed real. The story began as magazine articles in “Colliers“.
Before long Von Braun was contributing to television shows with Walt Disney. These technically sound steps led to real space program developments after the Russians launched a real satellite. By 1969 a real moon mission was accomplished.
There were many steps on the way to that goal, and the actual rocket bore little resemblance to the early illustrations. But much of the science had basis in previous lessons, and grew with every launch and design improvement. A lot of small steps went into that.
Well now here comes Exodus Aerospace venture with a slightly smaller VISION.
While this is even more unlikely than Von Braun’s presentation, our modern age is delivering a lot of amazing opportunities. Every day a handful of new space companies come on line. Investors are flocking to a growing market and government is no longer the only source. The problem is that most ventures want to find a ride to space, not to provide one. That price tag moves investors off to a safe distance. (As it should!)
The landscape IS littered with broken space companies, so we are in no hurry.
We are looking at a more comfortable path to validation. While my “VISION” article looks ahead to a space future, wings offer us an opportunity to go to market before we go to space. With wings we have other opportunities IN the atmosphere.
Growing interest in unmanned cargo aircraft gives us a market before we go to space. Our in-line staging can deliver cargo across oceans at huge fuel savings. We can prototype a demonstration at much lower cost than space launchers, and still deliver a great market. There are few companies planning to enter this market, and we can offer lower costs.
Most fuel burn occurs on takeoff and climb, so a booster can deliver that.
Then our second stage is much smaller and optimized for efficient cruise. Another efficient opportunity is available through hybrid solar electric power. Larger versions may offer greater cargo capacity with turbine or other types of propulsion. With a booster we can also offer an alternative upper stage for suborbital cargo flight or atmospheric research. At some point that can lead to orbital launches too. Our first staged unmanned system will already be a big validation for growing missions and markets. That can be a low cost step to big returns.
This is not a race to space, but perhaps it’s a sensible walk. We are talking to spaceports for point to point operations. Our early atmospheric flights are easier to clear with the FAA and still establishes our business with spaceports. Real cargoes do need long range routes and low prices as much as we need paying customers. Market trumps Mars here.
So we are building a team from young engineers in Laramie and Boulder and a few retired aerospace guys. We have retirees and a number of young engineers and interns available to outline technical and business plans. We expect our engineers to deliver an airframe design soon.
We do need help with the business side, and we are recruiting some entrepreneurial talent now. Incubators are often overwhelmed by the cost of a launcher program, so we broke this into self-funding growth steps. I asked our team to look at the competition in unmanned cargo markets. We see other ventures with small beginnings, big dreams, and bigger hurdles to come. We hope to land somewhere in the middle of these with a solid plan for technology, business, and adventure.
So what will the actual mission vehicle look like? Probably nothing like our own fantastic conceptual art. But we may actually not be far from one of Von Braun’s concepts.
Those canards are really popular today, especially in general aviation and kit planes. One great development today is a hybrid electric aircraft from Raptor Aircraft. They have been working hard on aerodynamics and efficient propulsion with great promise.
That aircraft could represent a role model for our unmanned cargo vehicles.
We may still investigate blended wing bodies though. We actually did design a model airplane with canards previously. Will this point the way to our first application? Let’s wait for our engineers to fix my mistakes!
Now look at Sabrewing, one of the best long range drone prototypes. Notice the very clean aerodynamics and the level of effort for guidance and avionics. Vendors for propulsion and other components are listed among their sponsors. Consider any value that may add to our efforts. Should we consider finding this kind of expertise to reach our goals?
We are not the only unmanned cargo venture with an eye on future space applications. I guess we are just backwards because we started looking at that first!
This is the container ship of the air…and land and sea too! Here containers become part of the air / space craft structure for mass reduction. Study their site for a visionary plan!
Exodus Aerospace will target smaller vehicles in the early stages.
Actually the Raptor promises a 1600 lb. payload for 3600 mile range at 260 mph. If we can approach that, a booster may should add another 100 miles more range with no drain on the upper stage. If we add solar cells we will add even more to that. The potential is there to cross oceans, not just spaceport hops.
These boosters should also be designed to accommodate the next steps.
Upper stages may offer rocket or air breathing propulsion for sub orbital research. So the boosters may have to be ready for rocket propulsion as well. Actually, getting the unusual staging operational is the first important step in itself. Cargo is a valid demonstration, but suborbital research and small satellites offer more incentive to keep the engineers motivated!
Regulatory issues may also motivate design considerations.
Can unmanned operations ease the issues of regulations for the FAA? Suborbital operations between spaceports may avoid a lot of air traffic issues. Most traffic will be below 40,000 feet. Perhaps supersonic craft can operate at 60,000 feet or more.
How many ways can we have fun with this? If we see reliable communications and stable flight, can this flight investigate storms without risking a crew? Upper stage vehicles have been proposed to perform high altitude long endurance missions. With a booster, a lightly built upper stage can enjoy both a quick climb and structural reinforcement in turbulent conditions.
The same booster can deliver both stealth and supersonic features.
Even a very small version could deliver a replacements for Stinger missiles that need not be carried by troops on the ground. With supersonic response they could be positioned behind the lines and provide an immediate response to air or ground threats.
If flight is proven to be reliable and routine, another potential market is growing now. Supersonic passenger service is reasonable, and suborbital passenger service is also being suggested. If this system is becoming a regular customer at spaceports, manned versions will offer proven reliability. Winged vehicles will offer greater economy, comfort and safety for commercial flights. By flying in suborbital space, these aircraft will avoid sonic boom issues.
All of this represents opportunities for investment plans with multiple exit strategies. Unlike small vertical launch ideas, they can grow in low cost low altitude applications. If suborbital and cube satellite markets remain strong, those too can help fund more growth. But horizontal launch is not tied to space to reach markets.
For us this is a space pace, not a space race. There is plenty of customer value close to the earth, so we have time to get it right. Our team will grow along with the need and the investment returns. We may see big aerospace partners pick up the engineering that needs their expertise. Vendor teams are already gaining experience and offering product solutions for new space use.
Horizontal In Line Launch Staging (H.I.L.L.S) offers full reusability with emergency payload or crew recovery options. In-line staging for horizontal launch can improve aerodynamics and safety with air breathing efficiency and full reusability. We own three patents on this now.
PATENT US 8528853 B2 http://www.google.nl/patents/US8528853
Our concepts and team are coming together now.
Art work can only point out opportunities that exist in physics. The work of our effort depends on teamwork with customers, backers, and a willing workforce. The experience of the past contributes hope to our next efforts.
KEY EXODUS TEAM PARTNERS, AND ADVISERS:
Cunningham, Jon David
Beasley, Joseph Craig
Once again illustrations of vision prepare us to boldly go!
DAVID I. LUTHER
EXODUS AEROSPACE LLC
905 15TH ST WHEATLAND, WY 82201