Status Report

Space Frontier Foundation Action Report (FAR) #3

By SpaceRef Editor
October 3, 2006
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At the UP Aerospace launch A vision in the desert

October 3, 2006 On Monday, September 25th, I stood in the New Mexico desert with other UP Aerospace guests as it launched its blue-tipped SpaceLoft XL rocket into a magnificent cloudless blue sky at Spaceport America. Although the rocket suffered a still-to-be determined anomaly and did not reach its intended altitude, company and spaceport officials aren’t singing the blues. As New Mexico Economic Development Secretary Rick Homans said, “Spaceport America is open for business.”

There are plenty of news reports about the mission, so I won’t repeat here what you can read elsewhere. And you can ready the company’s latest update by clicking the link below. UP Aerospace, Inc. Recovers Rocket and Payloads after the Inaugural Launch

Instead, I’d like to share my personal thoughts on the significance of the launch; its success on soaring off the launch rail, and its failure to reach altitude.

The successful launch, like that of SpaceX Corporation’s Falcon 1 in March, demonstrate the growing capabilities of America’s emerging NewSpace industry, as different companies produce varied vehicles for a wide range of payloads. The diversity and low cost of our Earthly commercial transportation industries is coming to space transportation.

The failures of SpaceLoft XL and Falcon 1 to accomplish their missions demonstrate the difficulties of Earth-to-orbit transportation, and we must stand by these companies and their brethren as they work to open the space frontier to all of us. This support is so very important, because those who wish to maintain the traditional NASA-dominated methods of space access will use these mission failures as justification to attack the NewSpace industry. You can just hear the cry, “Look what happened, these small companies just can’t do it.” Well, permit to respond with some historical perspective.

Historical Perspective #1

Commercial aviation didn’t begin with Boeing 747’s circling the globe. It was initiated with a 3.5 second, 105 ft. flight on Dec. 14, 1903. And yet, in the days before their flight, “… aviation’s man of letters, Octave Chanute, came to visit and, in ensuing conversations, he made it clear that the brothers had been wildly over-optimistic in calculating the efficiency of their drive system. Troubled by doubt, the Wrights anxiously devised a means of testing the efficiency of their transmission. The trials were conclusive. They had been right, Chanute wrong.” (Source: Kandebo, Stanley, “The Wright Brothers and The Birth of an Industry,” Aviation Week and Space Technology, Dec. 30, 2002). By 1931, commercial aviation is well established. Amelia Earhart is Vice President of Ludington Airlines, with a half-million passenger miles flown between New York and Washington.

Historical Perspective #2

“On 28 July 1960, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announced a new manned spaceflight program. Called Apollo, its aim was to put three astronauts into sustained earth orbit, or into a flight around the moon. The timing of the announcement was not auspicious. The next day, NASA’s first Mercury-Atlas (MA01) disintegrated and fell into the ocean 58 seconds after takeoff from Cape Canaveral. This disaster ushered in a bleak four months during which the test rocket Little Joe 5 joined the MA-1 in the ocean, and the first Mercury-Redstone lifted a fraction of an inch and settled back on its launch pad.” (Source: Benson, Charles D. and Faherty, William Barnaby, “Moonport: A History of Apollo Launch Facilities and Operations,” The NASA History Series, 1978).

Launching rockets is difficult.

Jeff Krukin
Executive Director
Space Frontier Foundation

SpaceRef staff editor.