January 29, 2007

The Awe and the Mystery

Via Instapundit, I found this majestic speech by Michael Griffin. This encapsulates, very clearly, what I feel about the space program, and also why I think that it will be private interests rather than NASA who get us into space permanently and for anyone who wants to go.

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January 9, 2007

Encyclopedia Astronautica

In case you were unaware, and a propos of nothing, the best resource on space vehicles, personalities and plans is Encyclopedia Astronautica. Why, yes, I did just spend over an hour browsing at near-random after looking something up. Why do you ask?

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December 6, 2006

And not with the Girl

I'm in lust.

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August 20, 2006

Wake me When we Get There

I've been looking at NASA's plans to get us back to the Moon, and prospectively on to Mars. A few thoughts:

1. So much for imagination. The Shuttle was imaginative; it was something new. Deeply flawed, as it turned out, because of politically-mandated compromises, but nonetheless new. This plan is, more or less, where we would have been in 1975-1980 if we had kept expanding Apollo and not gotten sidetracked by the Shuttle program.

2. I'm not convinced imagination is all it's cracked up to be. Certainly, for an engineer, it is better to build on what you know works than to start over. In that sense, I applaud NASA for putting aside Shuttle, which was a dead-end road because we could never get the launch rates to where they needed to be. It's a shame we wasted 30 years, but that time is sunk; let's get on with it.

3. But really, all that is fairly irrelevant these days. What NASA produces is plans and budgets and other useful artifacts; useful, that is, from the standpoint of guaranteeing future funding at a slightly declining rate (real terms) while not actually engaging in any risky endeavors. Bureaucracies are not well suited to exploration work. NASA was successful at Apollo because it had all of the characteristics that bureaucracies generally lack: minimal oversight, young average staff age, time-limited mission, clearly-defined and simple to gauge success criteria, driving ambition to reach a goal. I'm sorry, but those are gone now, and they won't be back to NASA any time soon. Or ever, probably.

4. So might it work anyway? Maybe. It's possible that we can get back to 1975 with some success. We might even land a few missions on the Moon. If we are successful, we might (at great cost) even land a few missions on Mars. But here's the thing: we aren't going to stay. And as long as we are going for flags and footprints, that is what we will get. The government is constrained by inclination and by treaty from doing more than that. Worse yet, you can't get elected spending money on the Moon, while the nice gentleman from the state Capitol will be happy to fund you generously if you would just consider a tiny investment in his home district, Senator.

5. So, how do we get into space to stay? Frankly, without government. We will do it with privately-funded ventures, going for self-aggradizement at first, and profit next. We will have companies that form for the sole purpose of going to the Moon and mining it of everything useful that it contains. And they will have competition. And those companies will establish company towns, and those towns will draw in the wretched refuse of humanity, because they won't have a way back (that's reserved for the precious cargo, not the expendable humans) and there's nothing for them to lose here on Earth. And in near-total freedom, they will build what we cannot now even imagine. At least, that's been the history of the West so far, and I see no reason why that should stop now.

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January 28, 2006

The Task of the Living

Nemo and Brian have both noted the terrible anniversaries this week brings: the losses of Apollo 1, Challenger, and Columbia. For anyone who believes, as I do, that we must go into space, as a species, in order to survive, in order to thrive, these are terrible dates to remember, indeed. But there are other dates of equal terror: April 23, the loss of Vladimir Komarov when his parachute failed to open on re-entry; June 30, the loss of three cosmonauts on board Soyuz 11, when a stuck valve suffocated them; and there may be others shrouded in the old Soviet programs' secrecy. These dates are terrible because they are the dates when brave men and women were lost in the exploration of space.

Their reasons for going were a complex mix of national pride, a sense of duty, a sense of adventure, a desire to advance mankind and countless other reasons. But above all, they died to advance an idea: that we need not live in a demon-haunted world; that our powers of reason are sufficient to overcome any obstacle; that man can be better tomorrow than today. These ideas, all of them, are undergoing the sternest challenge that they have faced since their spectacular rise during the Enlightenment, and possibly their sternest challenge since the barbarians, with the help of the indolent and pampered Romans themselves, overran Rome and brought a thousand years of darkness to the world. This challenge is being brought by the jihadis, and by the indolent and pampered in our own society. Their shared idea is that nothing is real and meaningful in this world; they differ only in thinking this is because only their god and his invariant commandments are real and meaningful, or that it is because nothing is meaningful at all except their own selfish lives. As Wretchard notes, a great many of us are embracing the coming darkness.

But it is the task of the living to make meaningful the sacrifices of the dead, and so it is to my mind the most fitting memorial to those who sacrificed for knowledge and meaning and light, to commit to the advancement of those great principles, and to stand against ignorance and debasement and darkness. That is the way to make their sacrifice meaningful.

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Remembering Challenger

President Ronald Reagan:

The crew of the space shuttle Challenger honored us by the manner in which they lived their lives. We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved good-bye and "slipped the surly bonds of earth" to "touch the face of God."

I think it's safe to say that Challenger is my generation's "where were you when ___?" moment. I was a freshman in college when Challenger went up. We heard the news on a break from class. At first, some were convinced it was a cruel joke. We were quite simply shocked to learn different.

Our instructor didn't bother with the second half of class. Students gathered in the Union watching the replays on the big screen as they played it over and over. I think I must have sat there for over an hour watching.

I didn't bother with the rest of classes that day - I'm not even sure if they were held or not. I went home, and just sat transfixed - stunned.

My main fear that day was that we would stop moving forward with manned space travel. Twenty years later, I almost think my fears have come partially true. NASA seems locked into an aging shuttle fleet, leaving it to private efforts like SpaceShipOne to pick up the effort.

I can only hope that the next twenty years bring more for space travel than the last. The Challenger crew certainly deserve it.

Posted by Nemo at 10:38 AM | TrackBack

In Memoriam

They gave their lives in service to their country in the ongoing exploration of humankind's final frontier. Remember them not for how they died but for those ideals for which they lived.

Thirty-nine years ago yesterday, the crew of Apollo I, Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee, died during a training exercise.

We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and "slipped the surly bonds of earth" to "touch the face of God."

Twenty years ago today, the crew of Challenger, Dick Scobee, Michael J. Smith, Judith Resnik, Ellison Onizuka, Ronald McNair, Gregory Jarvis and Christa McAuliffe, died shortly after liftoff.

The same Creator who names the stars also knows the names of the seven souls we mourn today. The crew of the shuttle Columbia did not return safely to Earth; yet we can pray that all are safely home.

Three years ago on Wednesday, the crew of Columbia, Rick Husband, Willie McCool, Michael Anderson, Ilan Ramon, Kalpana Chawla, David Brown and Laurel Clark, died during reentry.

In an age when space flight has come to seem almost routine, it is easy to overlook the dangers of travel by rocket, and the difficulties of navigating the fierce outer atmosphere of the Earth. These astronauts knew the dangers, and they faced them willingly, knowing they had a high and noble purpose in life. Because of their courage and daring and idealism, we will miss them all the more.

The cause in which they died will continue. Mankind is led into the darkness beyond our world by the inspiration of discovery and the longing to understand. Our journey into space will go on.

Lastly, now is a good time to read Bill Whittle's COURAGE, even if you've read it before.

Posted by Brian at 1:25 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 13, 2005

Chinese Send Second Crew into Orbit

The Chinese have sent a second crew of astronauts into orbit. Good for them.

Jay Tea worries:

A lot of people are saying it's nothing to worry about, as all they're achieving is things we did nearly fifty years ago, and they have a LONG way to go to catch up.


China is going to be our next great rival, and possibly adversary. It's no secret that much of their strategic planning revolves around countering us, overtaking us, even defeating us. And this is one more step we should watch very, very carefully.

Well, I think we've already proven we can build the world's best socialist space program. And like all socialist programs, the one we built had its great, momentary success, then went off to die in the field of broken dreams and could have beens. Frankly, I'm far more interested in the fact that we are now engaged in an effort, as individuals rather than as a bureaucracy, to prove that a capitalist space program can succeed.

And when we do so, the Chinese will be even further behind, relatively, than they were before they started their manned program.

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September 20, 2005

Back to the Future

Transterrestrial Musings has a link to pictures — big ones — of NASA's return to the Moon spacecraft. Wait a moment: where have I seen these before? It looks (not just from the pictures, but from what details have emerged of the plan) like this is going to be a pure rework of Apollo, but NEW! and DIFFERENT!. In other words, the marketing guys have taken over the planning.

In a sense, it's kind of inevitable that NASA should go this way, and it's not altogether bad, either. Inevitable because the chief determinant of the mission's structure is not technological, nor based on long-term planning, but political: this is just more flags and footprints. Admittedly, more footprints made over more days, but essentially the same idea. There is apparently some desire to work towards a long-range capability to sustain a lunar base, and to try out technologies for a manned mission to Mars, but Apollo had those too. Not altogether bad, because the primary new idea is combining Earth Orbit Rendezvous — now well-practiced, unlike in the Apollo days — with the rest of the Apollo structure; thus it is likely that this plan will work quite smoothly, assuming funding and focus are maintained.

On the other hand, it's not likely that this program will survive more landings than Apollo, and for much the same reasons, and it's exceedingly unlikely that this will lead to a permanent manned presence on the Moon or Mars, or at least, not such a presence that is available to ordinary (non-government employee) mortals. Nor will the cost structure be likely to approach the low numbers that will be necessary to make an outmigration possible.

So, pretty, and I'll be watching, but I'm still betting on the private space industry to be the ones to make human settlement of space possible.

UPDATE: Interesting and somewhat related discussion at Econbrowser. The comments are good, even with massive amounts of missing the point.

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August 2, 2005

Space Exploration Questions

Brian had some questions about space exploration, and as I am trained as a rocket scientist (though I have never practiced as such), and since space exploration is one of my big interests, here you go:

Where should we be going in regards to privatizing space exploration? Should we be talking about eliminating government's role entirely or any at all?

There is something I heard once that really stuck with me: the Apollo program was our competition with the Soviets to see who could run a better socialist space program. The government is capable of doing great deeds when called upon: witness Mercury, Gemini and Apollo in the space program. The problem is that the government doesn't see space exploration as fundamentally different from corn subsidies: each represents an expenditure of money whose return is a certain amount of votes for the supporters of the program, coupled with an occasional big payoff in prestige (in the case of the space program, just having a manned space program is a sign of being a major power). Texas is a beef state, and NASA competes with ranchers for the favors of our representatives. NASA does worse in places where NASA isn't as obvious as it is in Texas or Florida.

So in the end, the government is simply not capable of doing great things over a long period of time: there's no sustained motivation for it. Government is good for stunts and policy, but not action. It's really amazing that our military functions as well as it does, given that it is almost as bureaucratically overrun as the civilian parts of the government; I guess dying if you mess up does impart a certain degree of reality control that working on, say, Indian affairs doesn't.

If we should be looking to a much greater role for private industry, is it realistic to expect it to happen anytime soon?

If not the government, then whom? Part of the problem with answering that for the last 50 years has been that "then nobody" is the best answer. It is so expensive to get into space and to do anything in space that only government expenditures were capable of doing it. Except that lately we've been learning that the government model is fundamentally unsound: it does big events, but they're not repeatable; we've spent the last 25 years puttering about in low Earth orbit, learning almost nothing that we didn't already know by 1979 (big exception: construction techniques in space were worked out). But Space Ship One cost less for the entire program than does a Shuttle's landing gear! Admittedly, the programs aren't comparable, but NASA could not have done SS1: they have an expensive mindset that doesn't allow for failure, and thus doesn't allow for learning. (Failure doesn't look good to the taxpayer.)

So now we see that it is possible for private individuals to finance low-energy suborbital space flight. Within the next few years, a corporation will finance high-energy suborbital space flight, and within perhaps a decade, private industry will finance orbital flight. The difference will be that each of these goals will be cheaply repeatable: they will be run closer to airlines than to NASA. And this has a huge impact, because it means that commercial services can be established. Reliability, repeatability and low cost mean that it is possible to build a business model, and if the market is large enough, to make a profit.

It's not likely that SS1 could have made a profit. It's possible SS2 will be able to, with Virgin Galactic offering suborbital flights for something like $200000 per ride. It is very likely that the first reliable private orbiter will be capable of turning a profit. While the systems get more expensive as they increase in requirements, and orbital is hard, the systems get less expensive with lessons learned and with repeated flights. But none of this is exploration; this is just getting private space flight to the point that it is practical and sustainable.

It will be a long time before private space exploration will be possible - perhaps 20 years to get a good start on it - but once begun the process will be inexorable, and the rate of progress will increase continually once profits are demonstrated. The biggest problem with private exploration is, believe it or not, legal. There is a treaty (colloquially called the Moon treaty) that prohibits claims of ownership on extraterrestrial bodies. This means that you could not exercise true private property rights on an extraterrestrial body, because legally such rights don't exist. Of course, once people begin to build functioning and self-sufficient colonies on the Moon and Mars and other places - even in orbit - my bet is that the legal problems go away fast, either because no one will enforce the limitations or because those colonies will declare themselves independent and not bound by terrestrial law.

Once that happens, space exploration will progress rapidly through the usable areas of the solar system. It would not surprise me if there were people born on the Moon within the next 50 years, and Mars in a similar timeframe. It would not surprise me if there were people living more or less permanently off Earth in the next 30 years. But it won't be because of the government.

If it's not realistic or if government is still to
play a significant role for a while, what role should NASA play? What should our focus be? What should we be doing more of? Less of?

The best thing that the government could do would be to turn back the clock, and have NASA become once more a purely research organization, with no operational responsibilities at all. That way, NASA could develop technology and share it with all comers, as NACA did before it became NASA. That way, we'd spend less tax money on the program, for similar spin-off technologies and a greater return of useful information. I would not be saying this if I thought NASA capable of doing real exploration over a long time frame, and opening it up to private individuals.
Is orbital flight, vis-a-vis the Space Shuttle and eventually the CEV, and what comes of it scientifically, worth the cost incurred? How much of that should we be doing compared with both manned and unmanned missions to other celestial bodies?

One of the problems that we have is that we keep looking at space as a scientific endeavor. And in that light, the manned program has assuredly not been worth the investment. The robotic program has done a lot of good science, and the manned program has done a bit (particularly on the latter Moon landings), but that has paled in comparison to the money we've spent tooling around in LEO. The exploration of space is not a scientific endeavor - the science comes later or alongside - but a human endeavor. Mankind is meant to explore, to reach beyond itself, to go to new places and expand our minds thereby. That is why space exploration is so wonderful and engaging, and why the NASA channel generally puts people to sleep (and for that matter, why the news media doesn't much cover NASA except for launches and problems).

We've still got a lot to learn in space, but we aren't going to learn it efficiently by sitting parked in low orbit, spending most of our time just feeding ourselves or launching satellites. I fully support the manned exploration of the Moon and Mars by the government, and of the outer planets and other solar system bodies by robotic means. I don't think that NASA is very good at it, but while I'm waiting for private enterprise to get to the point that such exploration is practical, NASA is the best we've got.

But I'll tell you what NASA could have done that would have been worthwhile. If NASA had maintained Saturn V as a heavy lift vehicle, and built a small craft specifically for getting men into orbit, it could have been a fraction the size and cost of Shuttle, with a much more rapid turnaround, and gotten the needed information on reusable vehicles and flown re-entry. And it could have done this with much higher flight rates. That would have made a real space station practical: lift big parts on Saturn V or evolved vehicles, and lift the people on little space planes. And a good-sized space station capable of holding enough people to do more than just keep themselves fed and the place clean would be a useful stepping stone to anywhere else in the solar system, in a sustainable way (ie, not just putting flags and footprints out there). NASA grabbed for too much with Shuttle, and had so much invested that they couldn't back off and try again. Bureaucratic mentality again.

What should our goal be in regards to the moon in the near term?

That very question illustrates the massive failure of our space vision caused by Apollo: why should we have only one goal? The assumptions built in about cost and focus and control are huge, and rarely examined. I have a better question: what's your goal? What are everyone's goals who want to go into space? Me? I'd like to go to Mars. You don't have to bring me back; just keep sending supplies so I don't starve or run out of what I can't get locally.

This is, in the end, why private enterprise - not the government - will truly open up space. Private enterprise doesn't have a monolithic mind set, and the government does.

Posted by jeff at 7:20 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

August 23, 2003

Alannis Morisette, Call Your Office

Note: this is a post recovered from my old blog, before it died of an insufficient backup. Any comments/trackbacks on it have not been brought over, but can be seen with the original. The date is that of the original posting.

I think it's terribly ironic that the money spent to do this faux space ride, $100 million, would have been sufficient to do this actual spacecraft program three to five times. Even rides of the NASA philisophy cost too much.

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July 23, 2003

Settling Space

Note: this is a post recovered from my old blog, before it died of an insufficient backup. Any comments/trackbacks on it have not been brought over, but can be seen with the original. The date is that of the original posting.

In the early days of aviation, it was not uncommon for the government to offer prizes for accomplishing certain feats. Private people and organizations were also involved. Today, the X-Prize foundation is attempting to take that idea into the space age, with a $10 million prize for the first 3-person craft to fly to 100km altitude twice in 2 weeks.

It's a laudable goal, but only half of the equation. The government is too busy repeating itself to even take a good look at what our goals in space should be. Given the nature of government and bureaucracy, it's not surprising that NASA has become an organization whose primary use is to extract more funding, turning it into jobs (and thus votes) in key congressional districts. However, the government could quite easily get a lot done in space, for significantly less money than is currently being invested, if it wanted to. It could do this by offering prizes for a variety of tasks which do not require research to attempt, because that has already been done. For example:

1. The international space station could be awarded to the first private group which puts a person on board the station. This has the added benefit of getting that white elephant off the taxpayers' backs.
2. The X-Prize could be matched with government money, radically altering the cost equation and bringing more competitors into the field. Alternatively, the money could be used to extend the timeline of the X-Prize.
3. A prize of $50 million could be offered for the first private manned flight to LEO, and a further $100 million for the first private manned flight to GEO.
4. A prize of $250 million could be offered for the first private lunar surface probe, a further prize of $2 billion for the first private person to get to the moon, and finally a prize of $3 billion for the first private person to get to the moon and stay there for 1 year.
5. Similar prizes for Mars, but with larger payouts ($30 billion for the first person, another $20 billion if they stay for at least 1 Earth year, etc), could be offered.

The key would be to force the prize winners to make their designs public, and allow royalty-free use of their patents after they are awarded the prize. This would advance the state of the art, as well as likely providing a market for NASA to cheaply obtain needed equipment to fulfill whatever goals the government finds useful. Finally, this concept would start the exploration of space in earnest. (I'd bet you that someone would come up with a ship that could take a crew to Mars for a year, and use it to try to collect all of the prizes. Heck, I'd be looking for funding, because I think it could be done for less than the amounts specified above: there's not much new science here, and the engineering is well-understood.)

It'll never happen, of course, because the government is a control freak by nature, but it's nice to contemplate.

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May 24, 2003

Apollo Redux? Not Likely

Note: this is a post recovered from my old blog, before it died of an insufficient backup. Any comments/trackbacks on it have not been brought over, but can be seen with the original. The date is that of the original posting.

Transterrestrial Musings talks about NASA's plans for the Orbital Space Plane, which is "intended to provide crew and limited cargo access to and from the International Space Station." Apparently, NASA is considering an Apollo CM-inspired design, because of all of the problems that NASA has had with winged orbiters and OSP designs.

The problem is, you see, that this is not just an upgraded Apollo CM. It would be a completely new design, that happened to be a capsule with the same pitch as the Apollo CM. The structure would be new, the controls new, the atmospheric system new, the heat shield new and so on. While this would still likely be cheaper than a fully-reusable winged system (and that should scare you if you pay US taxes!), the real problem is not with the wings. The problem is that NASA has forgotten how to design effective spacecraft. No matter what the technical requirements are, the primary drivers of any NASA program are political: what will offer the best shot at keeping NASA funded, and preferably increasing the budget.

As a result, it is almost a guarantee that any large NASA program will fail. Only small programs (like the "faster, better, cheaper" missions) have a chance of escaping notice long enough to succeed. The history has been that as soon as they succeed, they get escalated into big follow-on programs which generally fail. I don't see that this will be any different. Indeed, the visual similarity to Apollo is most likely more showmanship than technical requirement. Apollo has a good legacy, so clearly it's in NASA's interest to play up that angle. In real terms though, given the mission requirements, a split-pitch capsule (with barely-sloping sides near the base, then sharply-sloping sides further up) would likely provide a better ballistic shape.

But that is probably all academic, since it is likely that NASA will add a significant cross-range requirement to the project, in order to provide flexibility. At that point, a capsule can't meet the requirement.

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April 22, 2003

Regulations and Space Flight

Note: this is a post recovered from my old blog, before it died of an insufficient backup. Any comments/trackbacks on it have not been brought over, but can be seen with the original. The date is that of the original posting.

Transterrestrial Musings linked to this MSNBC article, which talks a bit about the regulatory hurdles to space flight. Here is an interesting paragraph, bearing on the costs of certification I discussed below (in the comments).

Another savvy decision by Rutan: He won't put SpaceShipOne through the FAA certification necessary for commercial aircraft to carry passengers. That process, which can take years, has cost firms like Boeing and Airbus up to 10 times the price of development.

This is a problem, it should be noted, in civil aviation as well as in civil spacefaring. I understand the need for safety — heck, as an aspiring pilot I demand it — but I wonder how much of the aircraft certification process has to do with safety, and how much with bureaucracy.

Posted by jeff at 8:42 AM | TrackBack

April 20, 2003

Space Ship One

Note: this is a post recovered from my old blog, before it died of an insufficient backup. Any comments/trackbacks on it have not been brought over, but can be seen with the original. The date is that of the original posting.

It has long been obvious, to many people, that the government cannot establish the kind of low-cost access to space that will be necessary for mass exploitation of space. The reason for this is that all of the incentives for the government and its contractors are to make getting to space, and operating there, as expensive, difficult and time-consuming as possible, so as to preserve their jobs (in the government/NASA) or profits (in the space contracting businesses). The necessary goal, for mass exploitation to be possible, is to have flying into space be not much more rare, expensive or dangerous than flying from city to city.

This vision is still some ways off, but it has gotten perhaps a bit closer to reality. Scaled Composites, the company headed by Burt Rutan, and whose Voyager was the first aircraft to fly around the world without refueling, has developed Space Ship One. Developed entirely with private funding, this craft is designed for sub-orbital flights, but above the customary 50 mile boundary. In other words, making a trip on this spacecraft would make you officially an astronaut. This also makes the craft a contender for the $10 million X Prize, offered to the first team which gets the same 3-person vehicle to 100km altitude twice safely within two weeks.

Like Pioneer's Pathfinder, Space Ship One is attempting to solve the hardest problem, that of getting out of most of the Earth's atmosphere, by using the atmosphere, rather than fighting it. In a traditional rocket, 90% or so of its launch weight is oxidizer, and most of the rest is fuel. As the rocket's throw weight - that is, the payload weight to a given place - grows, the amount of fuel and oxidizer needed also grows, and along with that the weight of the rocket's structure grows. This means that a small increase in throw weight requires a large increase in rocket size. The Pathfinder lessens this problem by using both jets and rockets. The jets power to Pathfinder to altitude, at which point it meets up with a tanker, takes on oxidizer, then points its nose skywards and lights the rockets. This design means that for all practical purposes, Pathfinder is really a specialized aircraft. Space Ship One also uses jets to get out of the lower atmosphere, but in this case the jets are mounted on a carrier aircraft called White Knight. The spacecraft carries its fuel/oxidizer with it, but doesn't have to have the structure to fight through the lower atmosphere, so it is very small and light.

There are a number of interesting design features, including a hybrid rocket motor that burns tire rubber (HTPB) and laughing gas (NO2); tilting wingtips that "shuttlecock" the craft, for a low-speed reentry which makes reentry heating much less problematic; the development not of prototypes, but of working test articles; and the choice of viewport designs. The vehicle is designed for very low-cost operations, on the order of a Soyuz flight. With the ability to carry (externally) boosters to put microsats into orbit, the vehicle could have a built-in market ready to go (a lot of news organizations, for instance, would love to have additional capacity cheaply on call for satellite phones; and the military could probably use such a capability as well). I don't know how well this design will scale - can you use a larger version to orbit? - but I do know that if anyone can make this concept work, it's Rutan.

Since there is not any apparent attempt to actually use this spacecraft to start a space launch business, my guess is that Rutan intends to sell them to those organizations who could make use of them. In other words, he'll sell them like aircraft, albeit expensive and specialized aircraft.

More coverage here and here (read the comments).

UPDATE (4/21): More detail, for those who care about design, here

UPDATE (8/2): FlugRevue has some summary information of interest. And here is some (old) information on Proteus. You can clearly see the heritage of White Knight in the picture.

And here are the test updates.

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