Space Access Update #89  8/25/99 
               Copyright 1999 by Space Access Society 

Stories This Issue: 

 - Sixth Anniversary of DC-X First Flight 

 - Congress On Break Till September - Space Funding Bills Status 

 - Miscellany - Rotary Rocket Reprieve, Kistler Gets Funding & Moves 
   Forward, NASA STAS Process Underway Again, Daimler-Chrysler and 
   Boeing Reveal Reusable Launch Plans, GAO Report On X-33 Overruns 

        Editorial: Sixth Anniversary of DC-X's One Small Hop 

On August 18th, 1993, a forty-foot boilerplate traffic-cone of a 
rocket rose a hundred-fifty feet above the New Mexico desert, 
translated three hundred feet sideways, then came down to a 
precision-controlled landing.  Not much of a flight - it was 
described at the time as a "bunny-hop" - but this was still a 
revolutionary milestone, for a couple of reasons: 

One, it was a reusable rocket, designed to be flown and flown again 
in days rather than months, by a ground crew of dozens rather than 
thousands, from a site set up from a few tractor-trailers rather 
than a huge industrial complex - all key factors in getting space 
launch costs down from their traditional astronomical levels. 

Two, this had been accomplished in less than three years from go-
ahead on less than sixty million dollars to first flight - radically 
faster and cheaper than the aerospace establishment had come to 
consider possible for such projects. 

If the original DC-X/DC-Y plan had not already grounded hard on the 
shoals of politics (SDIO imprudently added to DC-Y a (grossly 
premature) 25,000 lb payload requirement, leading the Congress to 
truncate the program at DC-X), we would likely by now have seen 
flight test of an aimed-at-orbital "X" DC-Y, one with no payload but 
test gear (and test pilots?) and no purpose but exploring what 
affordable reusable rocket spaceflight takes. 

We would by now very likely be a year or two into development of 
practical low-cost reusable space transports, rather than a year 
short of, fingers crossed that nothing breaks, demonstrating high-
cost single-stage-to-Utah reusable rocket flight. 

Oh well, it's water over the dam now.  We are still better off than 
we were before DC-X.  It changed perceptions radically - reusable 
rockets are now widely seen as practical, with the debate moved on 
to who pays and what flavor(s) to build.  Low-cost rapid-paced 
experimental aerospace projects are once again accepted as doable, 
though the funding balance between a handful of these and the 
contractor-in-every-district megaprojects is still not what we'd 
like to see - NASA still hasn't figured out that sponsoring one 
"winner" in each market segment now is a way to pay monopoly prices 
later.  We think it's obvious that a policy of more DC-X class, X-34 
class RLV concept demonstrators, from a variety of vendors large and 
small, would pay off big in reduced launch costs down the line. 

It may have been three steps forward, two steps back since DC-X 
first flew, but that beats the heck out of no progress at all.  So 
spare a thought this summer day for the little rocket that could - 
and help us get more such projects funded.  Which brings us to... 

    Congress On Break Till September - Space Funding Bills Status 

As of Friday August 6th, Congress went into recess and out of DC 
until after Labor Day.  Here's the current status of the various 
funding bills we're interested in this year. 

 - The House passed its NASA Authorization a while ago, with some 
very good language on our proposed Future-X "X-Ops" program plus $30 
million new money authorized for it.  (An authorization bill is an 
officially approved shopping list; money isn't actually provided to 
a program until it's "appropriated".)  The Senate, meanwhile, almost 
certainly won't pass a NASA Authorization this year. 

 - The Defense Authorization conference took place just before the 
recess; Space Maneuver Vehicle was authorized at up to $35 million. 

 - The House and Senate have both passed their Defense 
Appropriations, the House with nothing for Space Maneuver Vehicle 
(SMV), the Senate with $25 million.  We'll be pushing for the Senate 
number when the House-Senate conference comes.  (SMV is either a 
second NASA X-37 or a first USAF X-40B, depending on who you ask - 
the AF people apparently need enough internal differences from the 
X-37 that a separate designator might make sense, but both would be 
built by the X-37 contractor with pretty much the same basic 
airframe.  Either way, it's a very useful reusable upper stage with 
non-toxic storable fuels, with considerable potential for extended 
operations in orbit before reentry, landing, and reuse.) 

 - The House Appropriations Committee marked up their NASA 
(HUD/VA/Independent Agencies) Appropriations bill with a $900 
million dollar cut (down from a $1.3 billion cut in subcommittee), 
the majority of it from space sciences, causing a considerable stir.  
Advanced space launch work had already come down $150 million this 
year from last, largely a reflection of X-33 being past its funding 
peak, and was not further reduced.  Future-X stayed level at $30 
million.  Given the massive cuts elsewhere in this version of the 
funding bill, no new reductions in advanced space launch is a 
victory of sorts - it's harder for them to further cut areas where 
there's active pressure for an increase.  Thanks, y'all. 

We must emphasize that this House NASA appropriation with its large 
cuts is an interim result, a side-effect of the tax-cut/budget-caps 
fight between Congress and the White House.  Chances are that fight 
will be settled in some sort of compromise in the next month or so, 
with a significant part of the NASA cuts restored and with some room 
for minor increases in high priority areas.  We are working hard to 
see that Future-X X-Ops is treated as such a priority - this year. 

 - The Senate still hasn't started the process on their NASA 
(HUD/VA) Appropriation; the sequence would be markup by the Senate 
Appropriations Committee's HUD/VA subcommittee, then markup by the 
full Committee, then a Senate floor vote.  The Senate seems to be 
holding off to see how things shake out in the budget-caps/tax-cut 
fight with the White House.  Our guess is that, if a compromise is 
reached in the budget fight, the NASA budget fixes will happen in 
the Senate HUD/VA Appropriation and the House will then accede to 
them in conference.  (You self-starters out there, work Senate 
HUD/VA appropriators to add $50 million for NASA Future-X X-Ops.) 

Once Congress gets back in session, things will start happening fast 
- stand by for political action alerts on the Senate HUD/VA markups, 
on the Defense Appropriations conference, and on the HUD/VA 
Appropriations conference.  Meanwhile, a good summer to all of you! 


 - Rotary Rocket Reprieve

Gary Hudson confirmed the other day that Rotary Rocket has gotten 
financial backing from an undisclosed source ( implies it's 
Tom Clancy) at least through completion of the ATV "Aerial Test 
Vehicle" flight test program.  We also think we've put two and two 
together regarding Rotary's plans for engining the space test 
version of their Roton reusable launcher with a derivative of NASA's 
"Fastrac" cheap-but-too-heavy engine - Space America, of Huntsville 
Alabama, recently won a NASA contract for just under a million 
dollars to develop a propellant-cooled nozzle for Fastrac, much 
lighter than the initial low-cost ablatively cooled nozzle. 

 - Kistler Gets Funding & Moves Forward

George Mueller in an interview with Aviation Week Online last month 
said that Kistler had obtained funding from Saudi Arabian sources 
that would see the company through flight test of their two-stage 
reusable K-1 launcher.  We've seen no official confirmation of this 
since, but if it's true, it would also set into motion previously-
negotiated conditional backing from structures subcontractor 
Northrop Grumman and from a Taiwanese-led investor consortium.  
Indications are that Kistler's plans to conduct test flights out of 
Australia and commercial operations out of Nevada are moving 

 - NASA STAS Process Underway Again

The week before last, NASA held a short-notice meeting in Washington 
DC.  The subject was continuation of the Space Transportation 
Architecture Study (STAS) process, the effort to define just what 
NASA should do next in light of an aging and expensive Shuttle 
fleet.  Another round of STAS meetings is taking place this week in 
the Los Angeles area.  So far, we've seen some hopeful signs - the 
various RLV startups were recruited strongly to attend the DC 
meeting, one of the draft papers NASA passed around was "Crew/Cargo 
Transfer Vehicle Preliminary Requirements" indicating one of the 
more sensible options is still alive, and trial balloons were 
floated about steering some funding to the RLV startups.  It's 
possible that the ankle-biting we've been doing these last few 
months is having some effect.  More when we know more. 

 - Daimler-Chrysler and Boeing Reveal Reusable Launch Plans 

This is relatively old news, weeks in the case of Boeing and a 
couple months in the case of Daimler-Chrysler Aerospace (DASA), but 
we think there's an interesting trend here.  Both companies have 
expressed official interest in doing next-generation reusable 
launchers on a commercial basis in the coming decade, and both are 
looking at incremental approaches to technically conservative two-
stage reusable designs.  While neither aerospace giant has made a 
major commitment yet, it looks like reduced-cost reusable launch is 
beginning to get commercially respectable. 

 - GAO Reports X-33 Cost Overruns

The government's General Accounting Office has been looking into 
X-33 for a while now, and apparently their report is now in.  We 
hear, in addition to the obvious - X-33 is behind schedule and has 
technical problems - that GAO thinks that actual NASA cost for X-33 
has grown to almost one and a quarter billion dollars, 30% higher 
than the nominal NASA cost-share of $941 million.  So much for 
putting all your eggs into one big basket - we said at the time and 
we'll say again that multiple awards for smaller less all-
encompassing projects would have been a far better use of the funds 
available.  X-33 is what we've got, and it should be finished and 
flown (with NO more additional public money) but in future NASA 
should heed this lesson: Award monopoly projects and you'll get 
monopoly results.  Fostering multiple competitors is far better in 
the long run - cheaper for NASA as competition drives down launch 
costs, and better for the country as a whole as space industry 
growth rates climb. 

Space Access Society's sole purpose is to promote radical reductions 
in the cost of reaching space.  You may redistribute this Update in 
any medium you choose, as long as you do it unedited in its entirety.

 Space Access Society 

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