Space Access Update #83  6/3/99 
               Copyright 1999 by Space Access Society 

Stories This Issue 

 - Congressional Update: So Far, So Good on NASA X-Ops, DOD 
   Spaceplane Funding 

 - News Roundup: FAA AST Reentry NPRM Out, NASA STAS Results Out, 
   Kistler Gets More Financing, Rotary Begins ATV Systems Tests 

                        Congressional Update 

The House NASA Authorization was amended and passed in floor action 
in late May; text is available at as HR-1654 
and  Report 106-145.  We got what we needed in this bill, additional 
money over the next few years, specifically designated for Future-X 
tests of low-cost operations, with language urging NASA to avoid 
overemphasis on bleeding-edge technology and to give consideration 
to the startups.  This is short of the explicit small-business 
setaside we'd like to see, but it's not bad.  Our thanks to everyone 
who helped make this happen, with a special tip of the hat to some 
who worked very hard indeed. 

The Senate NASA Authorization is out of committee but still has not 
reached the Senate floor - this version, as we mentioned last week, 
adds money for "future planning (space launch)" but it's not clear 
yet what that will turn out to be.

Interesting features of the two NASA authorization versions include:

 - House defunding of the "Triana" solar-observatory/Earth-view 
satellite along partisan lines.  We note that numerous activists 
were involved in this one and caution that taking sides in such 
partisan issues can be counterproductive in the long run.  In this 
particular case, we further note that much misinformation seems to 
have been circulating.  Complicating the issue, a story on floated a trial balloon for the idea of trading a 
restoral of Triana funding for, of all things, support for Future-X 
X-ops funding.  We think X-ops can stand on its own merits, but we'd 
have no objection to such a trade - we're neutral on Triana.  We do 
suspect that regardless of whether that particular horse-trade gets 
made, Triana funding will end up back in the final budget, given the 
combination of Administration and Senate support - some sort of deal 
will likely be made.  

 - Senate capping of Space Station's budget at $2.1 billion per 
year.  Given the recently revealed overruns and the current crucial 
stage of the project, NASA, the White House, and much of the 
Congress have reached a consensus that going some half billion per 
year over the previously agreed $2 billion/year for the next couple 
years is the least bad thing to do.  The Senate Commerce Committee 
led by Senator McCain do not agree, and inserted the cap in their 
version.  It is unclear whether this cap would survive on the Senate 
floor or in conference with the House, but it's quite clear the 
White House won't sign a bill with such a cap.  It is quite possible 
NASA will once again be operating without a final authorization bill 
next year, as it has been (apparently quite happily) for most of 
this decade. 

It might seem from the previous that our efforts to affect the NASA 
Authorizations bill have been a waste, if it likely will never 
become signed law.  Not so - authorizations in general are 
expressions of Congressional intent, and thus can have a useful 
effect on both the agency involved and on the appropriators who 
actually decide what will be spent, even if the Authorization bill 
never does grind through to the end of the process. 

Speaking of appropriations...  The House NASA Appropriation is we 
are told not likely to be considered until September.  The Senate 
NASA Appropriation may be introduced in committee in June, but also 
will not likely hit the Senate floor until September.  We may want 
to work the Senate appropriators soon - stand by on this one. 

Meanwhile, over on the defense budget side, we've had some good 
results in both House and Senate DOD Authorizations.  The House 
added $5 million for Military Spaceplane to the program element 
where SMV (Space Maneuver Vehicle, the X-40, closely related to 
NASA's X-37) lives, while the Senate added $35 million to be used 
specifically for building a second, USAF-version copy of the X-37. 

                            News Roundup 

 - FAA AST Reentry NPRM Out 

The FAA's Advanced Space Transportation office released a Notice of 
Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) dealing with reentry of reusable launch 
vehicles at the end of April.  An NPRM is one of the last stages 
before proposed Federal regulations become final and have the power 
of law - after NPRM release, there's a statutory 90-day comment 
period (the clock is ticking.)  The regulatory agency has to record 
and respond to all comments then publish the results before the new 
regulations can go into effect - sometimes the comments result in 
changes to the NPRM version, sometimes not. 

This NPRM, in .pdf format, can be found at: 

We're still looking it over; so far our only criticism is that the 
inspection access provisions seem a bit draconian.  Early word from 
our friends in the industry is that this NPRM looks OK.  But if you 
have an interest in the results of this process, read the NPRM for 
yourself, and get your comments in to FAA AST before the clock runs 
out in late July.  Speak now or live with the results. 

 - NASA Space Transportation Architecture Study (STAS) Results Out 

Last year, NASA contracted with a number of aerospace outfits, 
established and startup both, to look at what to do about continuing 
to meet NASA's manned space transportation needs, IE to continue 
supporting the missions currently flown (expensively) by Shuttle. 

The recently published STAS results vary from the ultra-conservative 
(decades of incremental Shuttle upgrades and rebuilds) to 
recommendations for various ultra-advanced Shuttle replacements.  
The one we like the most involves developing a Crew Transfer Vehicle 
(CTV) to be launched with an in-line cargo carrier on the heavier 
versions of the USAF/commercial Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle, 
EELV, also known as Delta 4 and Atlas 5.  This would be phased in 
gradually as a supplement to Shuttle, eventually replacing it. 

This would save money over the next couple decades - NASA JSC & 
friends *will* fly their six-to-eight missions a year, and a 
hundred-million-dollar EELV plus a reusable CTV would have a hard 
time costing more than a half-billion dollar Shuttle flight.  This 
approach to replacing Shuttle would avoid massive up-front 
government expense - even NASA would have a hard time spending more 
than a billion or two developing a simple CTV, whereas the advanced 
Shuttle replacements would require several times that.  This would 
reduce technical risk - a simple CTV has got to be easier to develop 
than some flavor of massive Shuttle-replacement reusable spaceplane. 

Most important from our point of view, this approach meets NASA 
JSC's needs while avoiding disruption of the commercial launch 
market.  Privatized Shuttle upgrades or VentureStar-class Shuttle 
replacements both have a major problem: They would have significant 
capacity beyond NASA requirements that would almost certainly end up 
"dumped" at subsidized prices on the commercial market.  Government 
financed vehicles creaming off the most lucrative core of the launch 
market is a show-stopper for potential investors in private low-cost 
launch - who in their right mind wants to compete with the 

An EELV-launched CTV would conclusively avoid this problem - why 
would commercial users pay the extra cost of the CTV when they could 
just buy an EELV commercially?  Any subsidy that made a CTV/EELV 
cheaper to commercial customers than an EELV alone would be far too 
obvious to get away with.  Reusable launch investors would then face 
the much more predictable environment of having to compete with 
commercial expendables, and reusable launch ventures could then 
succeed or fail on their own merits, rather than being strangled in 
the cradle by government-subsidized grabs of the core launch 

The various STAS public results (much is still being held 
proprietary) can be seen at: 
 - Kistler Gets More Financing

First Northrop-Grumman effectively bought into Kistler's two-stage 
reusable launcher project, and now a Taiwanese bank has announced a 
$50 million additional investment from a consortium of regional 
banks.  Kistler still doesn't have all the money they need to do 
flight tests and proceed to commercial operations, but they're 
significantly closer.  One curious note in the story we saw 
mentioned technology transfers as part of the deal - this seems a 
little odd, in the current very restrictive tech-export climate. 

 - Rotary Begins ATV Systems Tests

Rotary Rocket did the first all-up systems test of their "ATV" 
atmosphere test vehicle on May 22nd.  The ATV is designed to prove 
out both the general Roton configuration and construction, and the 
final rotor-borne apporach and landing segment of an operational 
Roton mission.  The ATV is a full-sized composite structure with 
many of the orbital Roton's internal features, but lacking the main 
rocket engine.  The ATV will take off and climb to 10,000 feet 
powered by 300-lb thrust peroxide monopropellant thrusters on the 
rotor blade tips, then fly a standard helicopter-style autorotation 
descent, with the peroxide thrusters to provide extra maneuvering 
margin.  The Rotary test pilots have described the challenge as 
rather like flying a conventional helicopter with a large load slung 

The May 22nd test saw the vehicle rolled out and tied down solidly 
to the ground; then the rotors were spun up using the tip jets.  A 
rotor RPM sensor failed and the system was shut down, ending the 
test.  According to a Rotary press release, all-up ground tests will 
resume once the rotor systems have been thoroughly inspected and if 
necessary repaired.  Once successful full-duration ground systems 
tests have been completed, the ATV will begin flight test.  Non-
rotor systems test are meanwhile going forward. 

In other Rotary news, rumors are circulating that Rotary is looking 
at a lower-cost alternative to the Russian engine baselined for 
their suborbital PTV-1 test vehicle.  Maximum performance is not 
vital in this application, while development money is tight - a few 
million here, a few million there, soon it adds up to real money...

                     That's all for this issue! 

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 "Reach low orbit and you're halfway to anywhere in the Solar System" 
                                        - Robert A. Heinlein