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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Pre-flight parties

I have just returned from the National Space Society and Space Frontier Society’s’ outdoor disco’s. They have a light show projected on a hanger wall and a corral of RV’s enclosing and sort of protecting the party area from the wind-blown sand. There is a thumping beat of good loud 21st Century music, food, talk and dancing. I’ll supply photos when I get them developed… assuming my camera managed to take something from which image enhancement can recover something useful.

The party looks like it will go on most of the night, but I am sleeping in the XCOR office, so I thought it best to get back here and get a couple hours of sleep. The wakeup call to travel to the viewing area will come all too soon.

Aleta Jackson is one of the people organizing ‘the show’ and deserves kudos for her awesome job on short notice… although I expect sleep would be more appreciated. It does not look like she will be getting any tonight. She is out in the hanger taking care of people as they wander in from the NSS party or wherever, and has to have breakfast organized for the XCOR guest locusts after the flight.

Earlier there was a barbecue outside the XCOR hanger. It was like a high school reunion party; I saw people I had not seen in years. I also met a few people I have known for years over the internet but never met face to face. I also got to watch and be deafened by the XCOR teacart engine. They ran several shows just outside the hanger door.

Everyone who counts in private space is here or else will be in tomorror… er I mean later this morning. Takeoff if 06:30 PST if the bleeding wind drops off. The current conditions are not what I would call conducive to safe landings in a glider. There are hours to go though, and dawn is usually a period of calm so I am hoping for the best. If worst comes to worst, I have planned my return flights with several day’s of leeway. I have been around the rocket scene for far too long to have done otherwise.

I will post again in the morning, probably after the flight.

6 comments to Pre-flight parties

  • Cydonia

    I wish them all well, but isn’t this a bit of a dead-end route? The difference with the Wright brothers was that their technique could be scaled up. But even in theory, can this technique be scaled up from Mach 3 to the Mach 25 (needed for orbit)? And if it can’t, what does it prove? The ability to do short sub-orbital hops at mach 3 is interesting but hardly epoch making.

  • Johnathan

    Cydonia, that is bunkum, to put it politely. What the X-prize is showing is that non-state space flight can work and is doable on a relatively affordable basis. It helps break us out of the ghastly NASA dominated straitjacket and gets people to realise that free enterprise offers a viable way forward. It is also a wonderful story for people to feel good about with so much miserable news around, too.

    Thanks for the reports, Dale. Looking forward to some great pictures.

  • Cydonia

    Thanks Johnathan, but precisely why is my point bunkum? The NASA dominated straitjacket is not in relation to sub-orbital hops, but in relation to orbital and extra-orbital launches. If there is a technological path from this project to orbital flight, then I will happily concede I am wrong, but as far as I can tell, there isn’t.

  • Johnathan

    Cydonia, I think you missed my point about the private enteprise side of all this. Technically, you point is 100 pct correct but surely it is critical, and “epoch-making” that at least serious private sector money is getting into the space flight business. Orbital flight will surely follow if the momentum of this event is sustained. Sorry if I appeared to be rather blunt but your comment struck me as a tad on the snarky side.

  • Cydonia


    “surely it is critical, and “epoch-making” that at least serious private sector money is getting into the space flight business”

    I believe that much of the investment in this has come from Paul Allen of Microsoft. I doubt that profit is his motivation. It is probably more akin to philanthropy

    “Orbital flight will surely follow if the momentum of this event is sustained”

    This is wishful thinking. The market (if there is one) for short sub-orbital hops has nothing in common with the market for orbital launches, as far as I can see. Unless this can scale up to orbital flight, the business plan will basically consist of providing an adventure for millionaires who want to experience a minute or two of weightlesness. No doubt many will want to do so, but I don’t see that this takes private exploration of space much further forward.

    Don’t get me wrong. I am not decrying the achievement. But space exploration has gone down so many blind alleys in the past, that scepticism (what you call “snarky”) has to be the order of the day.

  • Bruce Hoult

    What is the clear path from the Wright brothers’ flight to the 747? Or from the post WWI barnstormers to the 747, for that matter?

    Salaries aren’t exactly high in NZ (or Ireland), but this trip has only cost me something like a week’s pretax salary (or 10 days post tax). Ordinary people being able to afford on a whim to jump on a 747 to the far side of the world would have been simply unimaginable in either 1903 or 1923.

    What is the path from SS1 to orbital flight? That’s easy. You fly straight up and down. Then you fly maybe 500 km (which SS1 could probably nearly do now, with a different trajectory). Then you fly trans-continent or trans-Atlantic. Then you fly trans-Pacific. Then you fly to the antipodes. By then you’re within about 10% of being able to fly into orbit.

    It seems very likely that simple up and down flights can be sold to a *lot* of people. Fast transportation over several thousand km is also obviously something with a potential market, for both people (e.g. executives) and urgent packages. It’s all a question of whether the price can be made low enough to get customers, and whether the number of customers is enough to bring in enough cashflow to support a business.

    That point is certainly debatable, but it will only be answered by people trying.