Jeff Bezos of Amazon fame is moving his spaceship company, Blue Origin, forward through the high hurdles race called government regulations.
The Blue Origin craft is slated to fly regularly by 2010. While this is indeed an aggressive schedule, I find it more reasonable now that I know a bit about the spaceship. It is the next step in development of the McDonnell-Douglas DCX. The test article for this was built and flown at White Sands for under $60M in under two years by Dr. Gaubatz and his team in the early to mid nineties. Takeoffs required a ground crew of less than a dozen people and they were perhaps the first to ever fly a Vertical Takeoff/Vertical Landing craft or “A spacehip like God and Robert Hienlein intended”, as one pundit put it, multiple times in a day. They also proved DCX could carry out a safe emergency landing after a major problem on takeoff and proved out the flight software for the complex flipover maneuver to rotate from pointy end first flight to ass end first for landing.
For those interested in such things, the McDonnell-Douglas master control console inside the single control van on site was… an Apple computer.
I am now wondering if Blue Origin will show up at Las Cruces this fall to compete for the NASA moon lander technology challenge prize I wrote of a few months ago. The beauty of a VTVL spacehsip is it works anywhere, whereas spaceplanes are rather limited in their choice of landing worlds. I know Dr. Gaubatz is going to be there and if they do, I am sure he will shed a tear of grandfatherly pride.
Hot Jets and Good Luck to Blue Origin!