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Reentry is a fiery ordeal for an orbital vehicle.  But before it can experience that adventure we have to get it to space.  Not wanting to use a huge fairing for vertical launch we need to be sure we can do a horizontal launch.  We identified issues with using a mid-stage fairing previously.  Now we want to consider the aerodynamics as well.


Seeing the “V” tail so close to the leading edge of the Concorde style wing is a concern.  While this may not be the only way to cultivate a friendly vortex, we still want to make it work.  If the tails throw off their own vortexes they may interfere with this.  For this reason I chose to move the tails inboard and upright.  There are many issues, but the first one is getting off the runway in the most efficient manner.  So this is the look of the next stage of our adventure.


This long thin shape moves the tails inboard and vertical to avoid interference with the wings.  We have the tails serving as both aerodynamic and structural elements where hard point attachment is provided.


Again, there may be better wings to tame the vortex.  I suspect this wing has that “zig-zag” as a vortex producing feature.  And this engine inlet is not avoiding boundary layer air!  Smart guys may give you solutions like this as soon as you pay them!


We will need to modify the placement of control surfaces to manage pitch, roll, and yaw.  To allow full flying tail ailerons I remove two small fairings after staging.   Better than a 14,000 lb expendable fairing I should hope?


Cutting the fairings off as a flat leaves an edge to break off some boundary flow.  This may keep some thermal issues from invading the seam between the flat and the full flying tails.


We now have 20 degrees of roll control and an upper body flap to replace the old “duck tail”.  Most of our turns can be by roll and pitching up during reentry.  Rudders are less effective at high angle of attack, and the thin vertical surfaces are sheltered from most thermal issues.


On the lower surface is a lower body flap to bring the nose down at lower altitudes and speeds.  Two stub fins provide hard point attachment and also serve as landing skids as well.  In level flight the conventional rudders will be an asset in cross wind landings.


The lower side of the craft is fairly smooth and protected with fat rounded features.  As an artificial meteorite these should be good for a glorious blazing reentry.  All’s well that falls well, right?  Hopefully aerodynamic analysis will reveal enough wide and flat for the slow part of our landing as well.


This aft view reveals four extended vertical fin surfaces that double as the hard point structure for stage attachment.  This recessed engine will make thermal issues for the rear surfaces.  It may also offer a unique opportunity to provide a trick nozzle solution.  We can position a telescoping section of nozzle extension in this opening that will provide both a cooled shield and a vacuum nozzle shape. More fun to come for the engineers!


This brings us to the rough structural notions with the attachment lining our structures up between the two stages.  There will be a lot more fuel volume available in the orbiter now.


This long slim shape offers a cylindrical payload area since most are still designed to fit vertical launch rockets.  This still allows a lot of internal volume for fuel and systems.


Now we have more details to define as systems are added to the rough structural cut.  There will be more fun ahead, and more mistakes for the smart guys to fix, so stay tuned.  And just think what the draftsman has to look forward to.  When the engineers make the outer shape better we get to re-do every part that gets warped by the changes!




This week we are looking at the mid-stage fairing and seeing a mid-life crisis.  (OK, I am WAY past mid-life!)  We began the work last week looking at titanium to handle the structure joining two stages…bad idea!  This week we add cylinders to push the vehicles apart for staging, and add skins to this fairing stage.  Staging now separates the mid and second stage, then sheds the cover and the structure.  Those are expendable unless we find a way to parachute them back to earth.



Here we see the first and second stage pistons driven from their cylinders and the fairing cover ejected.



Now we really have to reduce the titanium structure mass, and add skins and covers of carbon fiber.  I tend to build on the heavy side, expecting analysis to point out where to reduce mass.  I can deliver illustrations, but validation comes from the high paid partners.  Since we have no other mechanical parts here, this is a good place to start tuning my mass estimations.  And I really need a tune up!


With my typical bulkhead and skin thickness being quickly carved, this will be a very heavy piece of airframe.  It produces details that are visible in renderings, but overweight in the flesh.  Too strong is not always bad though.  Our model was plywood and fiberglass.  The glass was so strong I had to cut a lot of structures out  to reduce weight.  It completed a good flight, and then two less good flights.  The second crash was a power dive from 300 feet while still attached to the carrier aircraft.  The fiberglass never cracked, and it is taped up and on display today…we thank Performance One Aviation of Mesa Arizona for super duty body work!




This study did generate some numbers, and we can be sure it needs some mass reduction work.  We know that the big space plane projects are being done mostly of composites now.  So these lessons can tune our mass estimates more accurately.  This is not a one material target though.  We see carbon fiber and titanium in the model.  There are also some thermal protection material, wiring harnesses, fasteners and other materials mixed in.  that means we can factor the material densities a bit in either direction when the total assembly is considered.  It certainly seems to need some work.  The initial mass figures indicate a lead barge…36,435 lbs!


Now my thick carbon fiber skins are a bit much, but the shuttle thermal tiles were very light.  Their density was only .005-.007 lb./cu. in. so we can factor that in.  Other TPS may not offer that low density so we can’t get carried away if we want the most economical solutions.  Another area for reduction may be the titanium structure.  (gee, it’s only 23,032 lbs!)  It can likely be a mix with carbon fiber parts.  Titanium is now available with new manufacturing methods too.  It is possible to use 3D printing, or additive manufacturing.  As much as I chopped this model up to reduce weight, we can better target stress areas and cut down low stress areas.  How much would this help here?  Take a look at the potential of these parts:



I believe that there are smart people out there who can deliver strong parts with low mass.  My next run at cutting mass divided the structure up with a lot less titanium and a lot more thin carbon fiber.  Oh, gee, we carved it down to “only” 15,427 lbs!


Even this requires drastic measures, as even small units of titanium are a lot heavier than carbon fiber.  the new images show a lot more nice dark carbon and less metal…not so shiny.  Possibly not too bright either though.


This is why Dan Raymer warns us not to fall in love with your CAD models and drawings.  They are so pretty, but the engineers will always be changing them…usually for good reason.  Other problems with this fairing include eight servos and four big gas cylinders.  This mid-stage may be just a bridge too far.  I am inspired to revert to some older ideas that worked better.


If I refer to our suborbital version, we had no mid-bridge and used part of the tail structure as hard points.  We can eliminate four servos and two cylinders along with a lot of messy mass.  Now I can look forward to a redesign of the second stage and a lot more weirdness to come.  But perhaps not as much as we see in this image!


So now you may be wondering how a one-man design can look so much like a committee creation.  Just remember, the boss always has the right to be wrong.  This is a real-time design so we can get used to going back to the drawing board at times.  Bad ideas are the seeds of tomorrow’s better ideas.  Stay tuned for more of those…?

WELCOME TO THE WEIRD… and wonderful!


I have a problem here.  Last week we discovered a weighty problem with our fuel load, and we are unlikely to cram enough into the second stage.  But our empty weight estimates were based on historical designs with more metal than composites.  We will begin to seek mass reduction in the structural area to begin with.  Later we can explore the potential of new propulsion technology.

As we said this will not produce an actual design, but it will produce a CAD model that can help predict structural mass.  The models will be edited for mass data that reports total mass and the center of gravity.  From one solid model I do a lot of carving to emulate a complex structural assembly with a single model.  The first basic model is fun, but it never ends as we strive to shave off weight.




It looks a little breezy now, but we can cover it later with lightweight skins and thermal protection.  There are a lot of details to add as mechanisms and payload are considered.  All have to have mass data entered and analyzed.

Looking at our Concorde role model, we see a simplified representation of the delta wing with spaces for fuel tanks and a big opening for landing gear.  There is both a problem and an opportunity in that.  The wing spars pass their loads under the fuselage and bulkheads.  Where there are few spaces for spars not filled with fuel, an opening for landing gear is another gap in available structures.


The reality is a bit more complex in the complete structure.  The thin airfoils offer only a low height for spars, and they meet the fuselage abruptly, preventing the deeper section of a blended body.



Here is a good example of a wing blended into the fuselage.  This allows tall bulkhead sections and smooth transitions that distribute stresses over and under the fuselage.  Again we see a gap at the landing gear.


This must have been a challenge with the thin wing leading edge.  The “Y” at the rear still offers little path for stresses over the center.  But that “bridge” structure over the engines is a nice fix.  May I suspect that it could offer a service access to the engines?


Here the F-35 Joint Strike fighter again displays a nice load distribution over and under the fuselage and engine.  Fighters have a huge “G” force loading in combat so this is a tough solution to deliver.


I believe the center structure is a large titanium part, possibly machined from a solid block.  That is a heroic large investment but it is light and strong.  We may see new technologies that can deliver a similar but cheaper result.  I expect much lower stresses on our little orbiter, so we have a use for that.

What can we do about heavy landing gear?  We may steal some ideas from the past again.  Here is a very light weight landing gear on a space plane from days of old.  Hard to take off on those though!


A space plane that never got off the ground may yet launch some good solutions.  The Rockwell Star-Raker was a bridge too far in its day, but pieces look valuable today.  We can use fuel under pressure as a way to bolster lighter bulkheads and spars.  It was a technical challenge for cryogenic fuels, but we see it available with HTP and jet fuel.


JETTISONABLE LAUNCH GEAR?  The Germans did that in WWII but I hate bombing civilians with aircraft wheels!  We like light landing gear but we have a very different takeoff gear in mind for later.  These are little bits that can add up to big mass savings.  Takeoff gear for a bird this big is a mass we can do without.  Landing skids can fit in those narrow gaps shown below.


So we target mass reduction while delivering conceptual mechanisms for in-line staging.  We don’t show the top and bottom flanges of bulkheads or lightening holes yet.  But fuel tanks now have made openings in the first stage frame.  This leaves two very deep spar sections all the way across the fuselage.  Between the stages is an expendable stage with a sturdy structure.


Eight worm drive servos pin the structures at four points on each stage.  Later a gas piston system will motivate stage separation with vigor.


Four aerodynamic spar fins offer tapered holes as hard point attachment.  If any should jam, pyrotechnic devices can blow the joints in an emergency.  Better to damage a booster and save the payload or crew.






Our forces should be less than a combat aircraft, so a titanium structure should again be adequate for this installation. (can you see a CAD error in this image?)  A Boeing patent shows two smaller vehicles joined by four folding inter-stage spars.  I think we can do this with one good solid structure.


CAD designers can picture things like this, but aircraft designers have to think about making it work.  Here is one I found online which suggests a similar idea where wings do not operate in close harmony.  It also points out the issue with landing gear.  Three sets of landing gear?  How does this aircraft rotate on takeoff to achieve the angle of attack for flight?  Well, Dan Raymer’s Aircraft Design book tells us not to fall in love with our CAD images.  Take breaks often!


Here we may begin to flesh out the vehicle and its upper stage.  Well, I am still trying to earn my weirdness merit badge.  How am I doing so far?  Remember, I am illustrating the questions and there are more solutions that I don’t know about yet.  I am challenging innovators and vendors to inform us of better methods and products.  Aircraft designers and rocket guys bring your ideas!  Aero and Space have not been talking for a while now.  We may assume that additive manufacturing has ideas about those titanium structures.  There are also new technologies for thermal protection and propulsion.  You are all invited to contribute on our Facebook group and publish to “Wings to Space” blog.



This Launcher Evolution Advanced Prototype (LEAP) is a feasibility study, not a finished design.  It will change as the design evolves.  As such we are harvesting ideas and data from other projects and publications.  Seeking the best of this we may use some estimation to project possible value.  Again we offer the question; is this concept worth evaluation?  The answers will require funding to motivate qualified analysis.  By offering these ideas on an open forum we allow you to observe as we discover ideas and barriers along the way.

We are able to aim at best models and seek compromises that move past the observed problems.  There are a lot of ideas out there that may open doors if we find the right combinations.  Trade studies offer comparisons of these combinations to validate best opportunities.  Our aerodynamic ideal will have to accommodate compromises with other issues like mass, thermal heating, and structures.

Rocket Fuel can be bulky and heavy when so much energy is needed to achieve orbit.  We need to make some estimates that can fit the aerodynamic model.  Since I can’t pay rocket scientists, I gather any published data from other projects.  They may not be perfect, but they are probably better that my best guess work.  We gathered published information about the Bristol Spaceplanes Space Cab for comparisons.  We assumed the cryogenic fuels and the volumes they projected.  Similarly we compared to other aircraft for mass estimates.  We end up generating a unique solution as we progressed.  Now we need to explain the high mass of our fuel load indicated here.


Cryogenic rocket fuels are hard to fit in an aerodynamic airfoil shape.  They are usually cylindrical or spherical as the most mass efficient container for high pressures.  For the Rockwell Star-Raker they proposed to make shaped tanks with shared flat sides.  They had problems with that on the X-33, and I am not sure we can do that now.  As such the best shape is a tapered cylinder like the Soyuz, which can fit an airfoil shape better.  I did try simple flat tank proposal to fit our wing though.



The Rockwell Star-Raker proposed an “air mattress” shape with flat sides to strengthen its wings.  We proposed a little less bold application by placing tanks between linear structural members.  We have to reserve space for structures in our proposal too.  This structural shape is still just an estimate that targets known needs for landing gear and propulsion forces.

Tanks can add structural value when filled under pressure.  A beer can with the top sealed can take a big load if you want to stand on it.  After you pop the top is easily crushed.  But the strength is a little less in lateral forces, as it can be dented even when filled.  This benefits the Atlas rocket, and Star-Raker proposed to use this to reinforce wings.  We only proposed to squeeze tanks in line with linear structures for some advantage.  It isn’t an easy thing to do.


We can’t really pack tanks that tight because we have to clear landing gear and the taper of the airfoil.  And attempts to build complex tanks were not too successful on the X-33 program.  We can squeeze more, but there will still be unused volume.


When mating these tanks to a winged vehicle, even a simple modification of flat sides still leaves a lot of space un-used.  Jet fuel can fit in wing tanks, but cryogenic tanks are bulky.


Unfortunately cryogenic tanks aren’t flat sided yet, and still tend to fit this form, which is harder to package within an optimized blended wing body.


There will be an increase in mass once fuel tanks materials and insulation are factored in.  There may be advantages to propulsion if we can overcome this though.  We are considering new air breathing engine technology.  The Air Force wants to test a small version of the Sabre engine as shown here.  This initially interested us for our airframe.



I think we can see more mass than a comparable turbine engine but there may be enough thrust and oxidizer load reduction to justify that.  This may justify using cryogenic fuels, but we don’t have a good way to package without the less efficient fat fuselage.  We may need to consider a different solution though.


We wanted to show a better proposal than what the Air force is now considering.  In-line staging can reduce drag, increase lift, and offers other mass reduction methods.  this may be critical to launching from a runway.


Our first design was far short of the volume needed for cryogenic fuels.  We can try to cram more in, but there is a big gap to close.  We should look at an all new HTP version next.  Here we can see that our wing body is far short of the fuel load of the Space Cab.



We can build shape conforming tanks with non-cryogenic fuels, but they still offer challenges.  Hydrogen Peroxide is an alternative but it has much greater density and mass.  Now we need to compare thrust and mass properties to consider feasibility.  Can we make the mission with these alternative fuels?  (Or are they an alternative reality?)

SpaceCab and LEAP have similar empty mass, but we need more oxidizer mass.  We observed data from the British Black Arrow HTP rockets and compared them to cryogenic vehicles to generate a factor comparing performance.  Our spreadsheet magic predicted a need for 25% more fuel mass than a cryogenic system, not counting tank mass differences.  To be conservative, we targeted 50% more fuel.  Better to have extra tank volume if needed to balance in flight.  Lighter tanks will recover some of that, and they can fill all the available volume in an airfoil shape.

This NASA technical report confirmed our interest in HTP.  “Summary and Conclusions  A trade study considering two alternate oxidizers, liquid oxygen or 90% hydrogen peroxide, for a rocket based combined cycle demonstrator vehicle was completed. Given the limited energy requirement (AV) of the demonstrator vehicle (Mach 0.7 to 7), the higher density and mass ratio of 90% hydrogen peroxide yielded similar vehicle performance when compared to LOX. Additionally, hydrogen peroxide provided system simplification, increased flight safety and packaging advantages. After consideration of the technical and programmatic details, 90% hydrogen peroxide was selected over liquid oxygen for use in the ISTAR program.”




With HTP we can effectively fill the gaps between the structures and follow the airfoil form fully.  This delivers the required fuel for the mission and allows vacant tank volume for in-flight balance in supersonic flight.  We will also maintain low pressure (30 psi) in these tanks, so structural strength is aided, and mass is reduced.  The Star-Raker concept lives again!


What does a heavy fuel load mean to our mission?  We have to remember that the fuel load will drop quickly during takeoff.  Compared to commercial craft we will not nurse the fuel in a long cruise.  Indeed this is a space mission where a lot will come from thrust.  But wing loading is not too unreasonable in historical comparisons.


So fuel will shape the mission and the vehicle.  But it will also affect costs in shipping and storage.  Peroxide also comes off as a fairly clean fuel.


Rocket cost can’t be divorced from the storage and transportation of rocket fuel.  This is what you can expect with cryogenic fuels; not a cheap plan to deliver cold fuels.


Hydrogen peroxide and jet fuel are room temperature low cost storage issues.  Thin tanks and fuel bladders work in about any shape.  Even plastic water tanks work, as seen here at Frontier Astronautics’ facility in Wyoming.


If we can build around the fuel load we can go on designing tanks, airframe, and mechanisms.  All this will feed data as the CAD tools will record mass and balance data.  While this not a final design, it may provide a fair prediction of good design.  That comes when we can make paychecks.  There is a lot more innovation coming that can justify that investment…stay tuned!



PAPER AIRPLANE:  a civilian space consortium…JOIN THE VOYAGE!

Exodus Aerospace is a very small entity.  This is mostly this old mechanical designer enjoying his retirement, but a few engineers have contributed along the way.  Actually I have contributed design and drafting to four different horizontal launch ventures in addition to my own.  One of those engineers suggested that we should be looking at orbital ventures instead of the suborbital and tourist ventures.  That provoked me into seeking better ways to do horizontal launch to LEO.  I invested time and money in patents that may be part of the solution.

But going to orbit requires a lot of good ideas to work.  Getting there by horizontal launch has been analyzed for decades and is still needing a lot more good ideas.  Fortunately there have been a few good ideas that were overlooked in the past.  In the right combination they may lead to a workable solutionI don’t have all the answers, but I may have some of the questions.  You may have a few yourself, so I am going to present my studies in an open online forum.  All are free to follow our design process and contribute ideas and your own business assets to the process.

We are not pushing for investment, but this may be worth watching.  Everyone can learn from watching the design process unfold.  This is a paper airplane now, but the ideas will be provocative.  We should target a system that will be more than an answer; it should be the answer.  If innovative thinking is focused we will outline real high value solutions.

Questions that merit more evaluation may lead to a viable business.  Engineers and managers need paychecks to point to the future of space launch.  A good design outline can draw the investment to launch a real industry.  This is our opportunity to flesh out a totally new kind of space launch system.  This may prove to be the key to safe affordable space access.  We welcome criticism because it reveals weaknesses that need to be fixed.  We also welcome new ideas that can solve those problems.

Our Computer aided drafting (CAD) tools are a window on the future.  Beyond the blueprint that is a map for the shop, these models are a window to the future.  Because they are built on accurate measuring tools they gather data beyond mere illustrations.  It is possible to make a rough model that tracks mass and balance data to tailor performance.  Engines, mechanisms, structures, and fuel tanks can be planned to fit the best aerodynamic shapes.  Ideas that cut mass and drag can come together in the virtual world with no major cost.  These are more than just pretty pictures.

We have flown model airplanes that provided some lessons already.  Now the virtual model allows us to do trade studies of a variety of new ideas.  We have a few ideas now, but inventors and vendors around us have a lot of ideas we have not yet considered.  All of you have experience that may shape the future of aerospace.  Everyone may make suggestions, and vendor advertisements are welcome.  We have a flexible forum available.

  1. EXODUS AEROSPACE, Introducing a unique horizontal launch technology is our development blog. Here you can track our initial concepts and consider new ideas.  We have described a small vehicle for suborbital development in past posts.  Before we propose prototypes with little market value, we want to look at a goal with much bigger payoffs.  That has to be a reasonable future that is reachable and affordable as well.

The Launcher Evolution Advanced Prototype (LEAP) will be a radical look at the future of space.  Jeff Greason once called my patent “weird”.  It occurred to me that Burt Rutan might say that it isn’t weird enough.  Together we can fix that!  We don’t care if your ideas come from Kerbal Space, X-Plane, Star Trek, universities, or NASA…bring them all!  The Air Force is starting a “Space Consortium” of small and large ventures.  We may contribute, but we don’t have to wait for the government to get organized.  (Is that even possible?)  We are free to launch our own consortium now.

  1. ORIONCRAFT AEROSPACE INCUBATION is our Facebook group where you can join in. You may participate as fans or jump in to join the pit crew.  Some day we may have some deep secrets that require a non-disclosure agreement.  But most of our data is new combinations of old ideas or patented so the world already knows a lot of this.  It is the new combinations that may rock the launch industry.  On Facebook you can chime in with ideas, questions, chat or just watch the fun.
  1. WINGS TO SPACE…THE WRIGHT STUFF is for the serious writers and new products. If you want to write a promotion of your horizontal launch technologies or products this advocates all avenues to horizontal launch.  We have already published articles about Triton Systems Stellar-J and Bristol Spaceplanes among others.  There are also historical articles about designs from the past.  Elements of all of these may open doors to the future.

LOOK OVER THESE LINKS AND CONSIDER WHAT YOU HAVE TO OFFER.  Consider what we may have to offer as well.  If we plant the right seeds, you may be a founder, an employee, or a key product vendor.  The real key is desire.  If you want a better future you can build it.  This is an open invitation to innovation so abandon you doubts and fears and step out.  ARE YOU READY TO BOLDLY GO?


Ragole,  Michael

Mindt,   Michael

Luther, David

Petterson, Bob

Schulze, Ken 

Peach, Robert



905 15TH ST WHEATLAND, WY 82201

PHONE 307-331-6448





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!



I am a semi-retired designer with some notions about improved methods of space launch.  We may need to provide a better path for younger idea men to build our future though.


I published a blog and shared on LinkedIn about limitations of current paths to LEO; “You Can’t Get There From Here”.  I may have oversimplified, but we may be able to do more.

Actually, we do get there, but with high costs and low flight rates.  I have been contributing drafting services to many space ventures and these provoked some patents for horizontal launch solutions.  Over time smarter people have contributed to improvements and we may see a viable answer taking shape.

I am concerned about the landscape littered with broken new space companies.  There is evidence that the business boosters (funding sources) may be as volatile as vehicle boosters.  In some cases, investors and management are capable of throwing the baby out with the bath water.  Others are destructive in other ways that hinder innovation.

Government (SBIRs) only shops for ideas that they know about, and may miss unique solutions that are unknown to them.  Some private investors may not understand how to survive in this tough market.  Competition may be unfair if a less effective concept has government or billionaire funding.  In some cases, big aerospace companies may devour small ventures and run away with IP while killing the creative work.  Sadly a partner may cause damage by stealing IP, harming everyone.  Many threats make it hard to get innovation moving.

Before aerospace companies began merging we had more parties capable of competing for design contracts.  In our current political environment, a lobby may be more important than engineering or bidding.  We witness more cost overruns and uncertain technical value.  Do we have an environment that can still produce good technologies for future needs?

Having a small venture with big ideas we see a huge challenge  to present new ideas for serious funding.  We are cautioned by the demise of so many small ventures, but motivated by apparent needs.  I am nearly 70 years old so this is a venture for those who will live to see it through.  I am learning a lot from other partners about possible solutions though.

I proposed a typical path of small prototypes that would struggle to find funding but be feasible for small build groups.  The SBIR path never hits the right needs at the right time, and private funding seeks fast results.  Aerospace is not a low-cost fast return venture like software though.  There is interest but it requires an experienced team and heavy investment.  That at least might present as being scalable to bigger markets.

A good solution should target the needs of customers in the real markets.  So we are looking ahead to a future vehicle that would be built around customer needs.  I have a meeting with a satellite customer this month to learn more about satellite customer needs.  Our “paper airplane” study already has our patented in-line staging and seven pages of new technology topics.  The potential is to deliver smooth safe reusable launchers with redundant recovery options to reduce insurance costs.  The Greater value may apply with later manned applications.  I know better than to present this to investors now, but someday space access may need new ideas.  Some features may be invalid, while others may merit new patents.  This looks for a path to validate a wide range of ideas and that takes more money than most national budgets can give.

Surprisingly private ventures are delivering new rockets with millions instead of billions today.  It’s too bad that business incubators rarely know how to connect aerospace innovation with that class of investment.  Additionally, they are often fighting for only one state instead of united states.  No one state has enough resources to gather every asset for a vehicle program.  Big space might have a lock on big ideas for now, but there may be a way for the future.

There is interest in space growing all over America, but incubators can only launch small ventures that cannot do a whole vehicle program.  But the interest even manifests in business, medicine, engineering, and other fields that are all needed.  As a draftsman, I cannot deliver nearly enough to make one giant venture like SpaceX or Virgin Galactic.  But a draftsman is in a unique position.

We do deliver drawings to the shop when there is a company with paychecks.  But early on we also deliver the feasibility study, an illustration of the future.  That has drawn a number of people who do have some credentials, but little free time.  Their help is presenting a preliminary design.  There are other good ideas in America, but little hope of delivering a big change in aerospace markets.  Still, if the concepts were presented to others who have skills and interest, subgroups may contribute elements that illustrate and validate potential solutions.  That can be done at small local incubators.

A design challenge might identify several competing vehicle concepts.  Perhaps we cannot launch a mega corporation with local incubators, but we may launch technical and business elements that can add up to one.  A paper airplane may deliver real investment.  Could this be a valuable target for an “X Prize” type competition?  Local state incubators could mentor the business, marketing, technical, legal, and maker spaces to better flesh out subtopics at a manageable level.  Individual states could gather those new industries while getting the advantages from other states ventures at the same time.  I like United States, and we should work together.

This might discover new ideas that leave our own proposal in the dust, but that is not all bad.  We need better answers going ahead.  But without all those assets let’s look at our own modest proposal.  The future should be even better!

Suppose a lifting body orbiter had a horizontal launch booster that would deliver it to space without the massive payload fairing of the Atlas or Arianne boosters.  What if it could rescue payloads or crews and deliver smooth missions and return inoperative satellites?


If a booster has advanced air breathing and aerospike technologies, it could be near SSTO in performance.  A mid-stage fairing connection blends a lifting body orbiter to operate as one vehicle at launch.  The potential to launch and service satellites could begin with a small prototype.  Every payload can be tested before release and returned if inoperative.  Returning minerals from space mining would be safer with winged orbiters.  And we have heard that wings are a comfort to returning astronauts.  The ability to escape booster malfunctions and land the orbiter payload safely is also an asset.

This is one notion with many details that need engineers and paychecks to analyze and revise.  But there should be a lot more in the future if the road is paved instead of blocked.  Biplanes were great but we have learned a little since the beginning.  Wings to space, the Wright stuff.

If there are dozens of potential technical solutions, we need as many political and business solutions.  We need to pave the way for future innovation; we have the technology.  I am working with Wyoming business initiatives now, and have proposed student design projects at the University of Colorado in the past.  Wyoming and Colorado have shared assets already so I am traveling in this area for meetings this month.  I hope to see this “space corner” as a starting point to lubricate innovation.  I am writing this in a fevered late night brainstorm that may need a better guidance system.  I am not an engineer, but I may be an Imagineer.  I don’t have all the answers, but I might have some of the questions.  Are we ready to boldly go?