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SpaceShipOne Gets a Bigger Rocket.
SpaceShipOne is getting a boost that will give it a little extra help winning the $10 million X-Prize: a bigger engine. Built by SpaceDev, this new hybrid rocket engine will burn stronger and a for a few seconds longer than the engine that took SpaceShipOne into space earlier this year. If all goes well, SpaceShipOne will make its first attempt on September 29 from the Mojave Spaceport in California. To win the $10 million prize, it'll need to be carrying the equivalent weight of three people, and then repeat the feat within two weeks.
SpaceDev after recently completing work on a full duration, maximum energy, ground test firing of a more powerful version of the rocket motors destined for SpaceShipOne, SpaceDev has assembled and shipped the rocket motors that will be used for the upcoming historic attempt by SpaceShipOne to win the $10 million Ansari X-Prize. The hybrid rocket motors burn rubber and laughing gas (HTPB and N2O),
At its facility in Poway, CA, near San Diego, SpaceDev has finished casting the HTPB fuel into three discardable motor cases, assembled and integrated SpaceDev’s proprietary technology into the motors, and has shipped them to Mojave, CA in preparation for the upcoming flights. A less powerful version of this motor powered SpaceShipOne to fly well beyond 50 miles altitude, and created the world’s first private sector Astronaut on June 21, 2004.
The two X-Prize launches are currently scheduled for September 29, and October 4, 2004. The Discovery Channel is planning to air a two-hour special about the project on October 2nd.
Paul Allen’s SpaceShipOne uses proprietary propulsion technology developed by SpaceDev. SpaceDev is working on various propulsion projects, including SpaceShipOne, the SpaceDev Streaker™ family of small expendable unmanned launch vehicles for small satellites, SpaceDev’s proposed reusable manned space ship, and a scalable space tug, all being worked on under various private sector and government contracts.
"SpaceDev is ushering in a new era, 'The Era of the Non-Exploding Rocket Motor’," said Jim Benson, founding chairman and chief executive of SpaceDev. "During hearings on President Bush’s Commission on Implementation of U.S. Space exploration (the "Aldridge Commission"), a representative of a large aerospace company stated that they had developed the only new rocket motor in the U.S. in the last thirty years and that it only cost $500 million, and it only took five years. Furthermore, they wanted $200 million more to "man-rate" it. SpaceDev testified that SpaceDev had helped develop a new rocket motor for a manned application. The new motor was developed for less that $10 million and the program took less that two years. These big companies simply cannot compete with revolutionary, lower cost technology produced by fast moving, entrepreneurial companies like SpaceDev."
"This is like the microcomputer revolution," said Benson "with SpaceDev helping to revolutionize the $100 billion space industry with microsatellites, and with hybrid-based propulsion systems for delivering cargo and people to space, safely and affordably."
Under a separate government contract, SpaceDev is developing the SpaceDev Streaker™ - a family of small, responsive and affordable launch vehicles, using non-exploding hybrid rocket motor technology developed by SpaceDev with higher performance than the ones developed for SpaceShipOne or other traditional hybrid rocket motors. The single-stage SpaceDev Streaker™ is planned as a target or sounding rocket, and is expected to be priced below existing competition. The three-stage version is being designed to launch a microsat, similar to SpaceDev’s revolutionary CHIPSat, from anywhere in the world, on 24-hour notice, from a C-17A cargo plane. The four-stage mobile ground launched version of the SpaceDev Streaker™ is being developed to put 1,000 pounds of payload into low Earth orbit, and is expected to be priced below currently planned or existing domestic small launch vehicles.
SpaceDev, using government projects, internal funding, and capital from the Laurus Master Funds of New York, is developing what SpaceDev believes is a practical concept for safe, affordable, fully integrated manned space flight systems for both sub-orbital and orbital applications. With the potential that NASA will follow the Aldridge Commission recommendations to better utilize private sector companies, there may be new contract and funding opportunities for concepts and innovative space technology being developed by SpaceDev.
"We believe that these safe, lower-cost, replaceable hybrid rocket motors are the largest rocket motors of this type ever developed, and are the first hybrid motors ever used for manned space flight. This is the beginning of the Second Space Age," continued Mr. Benson. "Manned flights using our propulsion technology have demonstrated that the private sector can develop safe human space flight faster and perhaps better than larger, more expensive government programs. This is a major breakthrough for the private sector, and could trigger a private sector space race. We believe that the old space paradigm is broken and is being replaced by a better one."
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