Reportage: where is space  




l'X33 Venturstar

Shuttles forever?

The three fundamental laws of Astronautics - by Krafft A. Ehricke

First Law: Nobody and nothing under the natural laws of this universe impose any limitations on man except man himself.

Second Law: Not only the earth, but the entire solar system, and as much of the universe as he can reach under the laws of nature, are man's rightful field of activity.

Third Law: By expanding through the universe, man fulfills his destiny as an element of life, endowed with the power of reason and the wisdom of the moral law within himself.

  1. NASA deleted the X-33 project, and plans now to use the shuttle fleet for next 20 years. What do you think about such news? Does it mean that in the next 20 years we will not have the 10-fold reduction of the cost to orbit?

  2. Is this a victory of the space bureaucrats, that in this way they assure their wages for another 20 years from public money?

  3. Was X33 such a bad project?

  4. Should we resign ourselves to follow the ISS-shuttle path for the next 15 years?

  5. What else could really be an alternative? Does some private enterprise have any chance of really competing on this ground?

  6. The news says that X33 "...relied on too many untested technologies, opponents argued, when a more practical but less glamorous design would do the job". Such a fact starts speculations about reasons and future: 

    1. is such a "SF" strategy true? 

    2. If yes, why did NASA adopt it, or never correct it? 

    3. Was NASA never really aiming to cut the cost to orbit in a short time? 

    4. And, now, will they try again with a more practical approach?
Dale M. Gray (Frontier Status - USA)

Shuttles forever? Not exactly.

The Shuttle is an evolving system.  In the current investment climate NASA is the only remaining player capable of developing a reusable spacecraft. [follows] 

Peter Wainwright (SpaceFuture - UK/JAPAN)

Shuttles forever? But Venturestar was not designed to carry passengers, anyway

It will take a lot, for NASA, to convince anyone that they are really and truly committed to reducing the cost of access to space and giving us what we all really want - space tourism. [follows]

Michael Martin-Smith (Space Age Associates - UK)

Shuttles forever? NASA reckons without its host (China).

Budget cuts will reduce the power of the bureaucrats and boost new players. Moreover, the Chinese competitor will soon break the silence. [follows]

Fabian Eilingsfeld (RocketFinance - Germany

Shuttles forever. 

The abortive launch of VentureStar/X33 "proved" that free access to space is not feasible, quod (NASA) erat demonstrandum. [follows]

Adriano Autino (Technologies of the Frontier)

Moon jazz.

The expendable rocket lobbies oppose the development of the SSTO technology, as the oil lobbies oppose the photovoltaic, both terrestrial and space based, the military lobbies keep their dominion on the access to space closed ... But we keep on dreaming of the Moon. [follows]

A Cold War 2? 

The new US Administration finds the yearly expense for civilian space exorbitant, and aims to decrease it. The US expense for civilian space is less than 5% of the military one. The US military expense is going to be increased by 50 billions US$ per year. [follows]

Tourists and frontiers.

The circum-terrestrial orbital space enters the decisional space of individuals, whether NASA likes it or not.  [follows]

An outlook on the net-media  

The Bush Administration plans a rationalization of the space programs: focus on the ISS and on Mars exploration. 
And cuts less finalized programs, namely Pluto-Kuiper Express, targeted to research the outermost planet in the solar system; and Solar Probe, a probe to study the Sun's corona. Dr. Louis Friedman, executive director of the Planetary Society, made some negative comments.

Bush to NASA: Stay local - by J. Terraciano 


4 US$ billions cost overrun for ISS: the Bush Administration cuts many space research and exploration programs. 

As usual, spring carries news about additional costs, redesigns, crossed blame and attempts to kill the ISS project, within the US Congress. But this time the change of the administration adds some political uncertainity. Dan Goldin now works (once again) for a Republican President who is attempting to govern with some modicum of bipartisan consensus.

From an article by K. Cowing - April 05, 2001 


NASA Kills X-33, X-34, Trims Space Station.
NASA cuts 1 billion US$ to Space Station in 2002. The administration aims to save, during next 5 years, 4 billions US$.

Such funds, nomore destined for “pharaonic” projects, as X-33 and X-44, will now be available, within the Space Launch Initiative, to more motivated enterprises, as Kistler and Kelly Aerospace. But: the Single Stage To Orbit vehicle seems to go back in the realm of science fiction.

Bush budget boosts Mars, sets spaceflight review. Shuttle flights cut, but basic station design remains intact. 

From an article by Frank Morring, Jr./Washington 

FLORIDA TODAY  May 1, 2001

Military's interest in space is on rise

by Steven Siceloff

President Bush asked the Congress to increase the military budget of the 4% for 2002. Pentagono ask for 300 billions US$ in next six years. 
Space shield, anti-satellite weapons, spy satellites, interference-resistant receivers and transmitters for satellites and ground stations, among the technologies to be developed. 

Air Force could also pay Lockheed Martin to terminate the X33 test, a fully automated SSTO. A small-scale Delta Clipper flew tests in the mid-1990s and could be resurrected for Air Force use. 

Is it a Cold War 2? When will they start building new Berlin walls?


NASA: Limited Missions Not Enough to Fuel Public's Imagination

NASA between the devil of the budget cuts asked by Bush and the deep blue sea of the need to keep the public imagination alive.

By Steven Siceloff - 05 April 2001

America's space program should embark on a plan to explore the solar system if it wants to keep the public excited and interested, space experts said this week. Sending humans to the Moon, Mars and Jupiter's moon Europa, which scientists suspect is covered with water, could recapture the public's interest and enthusiasm for space exploration. It also could solve an age-old mystery: Are we alone in the universe?

Science fiction author Allen Steele also told the committee that NASA will be ready to send people to Mars soon after Alpha's completion. 

"...Such a mission would be a major boost to both space science and international relations," he told the committee.


An overview on the discussion about the additional costs of the ISS, held in april 2001 by the science committee of the US Congress.


Scientists Press NASA To Reconsider Luna - by Leonard David 30/03/01

A petition was circulated among some 1,200 space scientists at the recent 32nd Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC), held March 12-16 at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. The open letter was addressed to NASA’s head of space science, Edward Weiler. It urged the space agency "to consider lunar sample-return missions as a very high priority and an essential element in the future scientific exploration of the solar system." Recent robotic probes that have gone the lunar distance – the U.S. Pentagon’s Clementine spacecraft in 1994 and NASA’s Lunar Prospector in 1998 – have both sent back data showing the Moon to be a world of vacuum-sealed secrets.


NASA puts astronaut applications on hold indefinitely - by Kelly Young

Bruce Mahone, president of the Aerospace Industries Association: “…the new administration has not made their intentions clear in civilian space…” Nearly half of corps have never flown.

A similar decision has happened only twice before: once in 1988 and in 1986 because of the Challenger disaster. This year's decision also comes after major budget cuts and overspending on space station Alpha. 

"There are a number of factors for this: space station overruns and a smaller space station crew; we do not have a new NASA administrator; and the fact that the new administration has not made their intentions clear in civilian space," Mahone said. "It's similar to investors: it is uncertain so they will sit it out and see what happens."


NASA Pulls Plug on X-33 Spacecraft 

By MATT CRENSON AP National Writer 
NASA and the space contractor had spent four years and $1.25 billion on the controversial X-33, which never had a test flight. Critics of the agency said the design was far too ambitious to succeed. "It's not surprising that this happened. The vehicle was essentially programmed for failure,'' said Charles Lurio, an aerospace consultant in Brookline, Mass. 

The X-33 was envisioned as a reliable, reusable spacecraft that could cut the shuttle's $10,000-a-pound launch costs to $1,000-a-pound or less by 2006 or 2007. But it relied on too many untested technologies, opponents argued, when a more practical but less glamorous design would do the job. 

The space agency plans to develop that technology through the Space Launch Initiative, a multibillion dollar engineering program scheduled to develop the next generation of reusable spacecraft early in the next decade. 


Time for NASA to adopt policy on space tourism

A FLORIDA TODAY editorial - March 30, 2001 

California investment tycoon Dennis Tito has coughed up $20 million for the joy ride of all joy rides: A trip aboard a Russian rocket piloted by two cosmonauts to the International Space Station for a five-day visit that would make him the world's first space tourist.