Wednesday, February 1, 2012

New Space Ship Designs

Current Projects
Winner of the $10m Ansari X-Prize, this suborbital passenger-carrying spaceplane was designed by Burt Rutan's Scaled Composites, famous for graphite composites, and also the integrating contractor for the former Roton. Following their successful bid to win the X-Prize, Scaled Composites are now turning their eyes to the next step: the development of a commecially viable passenger-carrying suborbital space vehicle.
SpaceShipOne features a rubber-nitrous oxide hybrid rocket engine and cold gas attitude control thrusters; a graphite/epoxy primary structure; 3-place, sea-level, shirt-sleeve cabin environment; a low maintenance thermal protection system; and a unique feathered reentry system.
The spaceplane is carried under the belly of Scaled Composites' White Knightcarrier aircraft. The White Knight is a piloted, twin-turbojet research aircraft derived from the Proteus intended for high-altitude missions. Its first flight was on August 1, 2002. It provides a high-altitude airborne launch of SpaceShipOne. The White Knight is also equipped to flight-qualify all the SpaceShipOne systems, except rocket propulsion. The aircraft's cockpit, avionics, life support systems, pneumatics, trim servos, data system, and electrical system components are identical to those installed in SpaceShipOne.
The White Knight drops SpaceShipOne at 50,000 ft. SpaceShipOne then climbs nearly vertically under power at a 3-4g acceleration. The hybrid engine burns out at Mach 3.5, 65 seconds after ignition. The spaceplane coasts to approximately 100 km. (328,000 ft.) before free-falling back to earth. Pilot and passengers experience microgravity above the atmosphere for 3.5 minutes.
Before reentry, the pilot raises SpaceShipOne's twin tails to vertical. This feathering approach stabilizes the spaceplane without need of pilot input. Reentry deceleration is up to 5gs. After reentry, the pilot returns the twin tails to horizontal, andSpaceShipOne glides to a runway landing.

SpaceShipTwo is the commercial follow-on to SpaceShipOne, designed to carry two pilots and six passengers on a suborbital space trip lasting two and a half hours. A scaled up version of its predecessor, SpaceShipTwo is dropped from beneath a larger version of the White Knight, dubbed White Knight Two. An order for five SpaceShipTwo/WK2 spacecraft was placed by Virgin Galactic in July of 2005.
Following on from SpaceShipTwo is SpaceShipThree, the ultimate objective: aHTOL TSTO spacecraft capable of reaching orbit.
A passenger-carrying reusable SSTO VTOL rocket designed to carry 50 passengers to 200 km Earth orbit started as part of a study program by the Japanese Rocket Society. Since none of the space agencies of the world were studying how to make launch services available to the general public, the JRS started a Space Tourism Study Program in 1993, with the objective of getting the price of a flight to orbit down to around $10,000 per passenger. Work on Kankoh-maru has grown steadily in depth and breadth ever since, and has helped to accelerate the acceptance of space tourism as the direction for space development work today.
Based loosely on earlier designs such as the " Phoenix", the design has been described in a number of publications (many by Isozaki), and is currently being further refined in the third phase of the JRS study (See: The JRS Space Tourism Study Program Phase 2).
(In Japanese, "Kankoh" means tourism, and "Maru" means circle, symbol of Japan. Most ships are called "Something-Maru" so Kankoh-maru means roughly "SS Tourism". In 1852 the Dutch government gave the Japanese government its first modern ship, a steam and sail-powered ship. This was called " Kankoh-maru", though at that time the implication of the name is said to have been more nearly "Light of the Nation".)
SpaceX's Dragon is a small orbital spacecraft designed for transporting people and goods to and from the ISS. It has two configurations, an unmanned cargo configuration, and a crew/passenger configuration capable of transporting up to seven people. It is being built by a consortium led by SpaceX under NASA'sCommercial Orbital Transportation Services ( COTS) initiative. Dragon is also equipped with an ISS-compatible dock that is exposed through a removable nosecone. Return to the Earth's surface is achieved through a parachute-assisted splashdown and recovery.
Dragon is delivered into orbit on top of the Falcon 9 two-stage launch vehicle, an expanded version of the Falcon 1 rocket that completed a successful test launch to orbit on 28 September 2008 (after three prior failures). Both stages of the Falcon 9are intended to be reusable.
The intended use for the combined vehicle is primarily to serve as a replacement for the Shuttle fleet after their retirement, so space tourism is not an overt goal. Unlike vehicles aimed explicitly at the space tourism market, the Dragon/Falcon 9combination is not fully reusable, and so is unlikely to withstand competition from a fully reusable orbital vehicle such as those proposed by Scaled Composites and others. However, until such time as such vehicles become available it may be the first privately financed space vehicle to be capable of delivering people, space tourists or otherwise, to orbit.

A suborbital VTOL vehicle being developed by Blue Origin, along similar lines to the former ROTON and Phoenix projects and also to Kankoh-Maru, although unlike these vehicles it is not designed to take passengers into orbit. Blue Origin, founded by Amazon tycoon Jeff Bezos, is famously secretive about its plans and progress, so while it is reasonable to suppose that New Shepard would be the basis for a further orbital design analogous to Kanoh-Maru, the company have not announced one.
The New Shepard is named for Alan Shepard, the first American in space. Blue Origin test launched a demonstrator vehicle in 2006 called Goddard (shown), similarly named for rocket pioneer Robert Goddard.

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