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The Rocketplane XP developed from Learjet-25

hesham

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Hi,

The Rocketplane XP vehicle is a four seat fighter-sized fitted with
delta wing and a V-tail which provide good flight characteristics
both subsonically and supersonically and give an excellent view to
the Earth from space.It is developed from Learjet-25 as spacecraft.
 

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elmayerle

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My only thought is that I would've used a later Model 25 fuselage from after they were modified for operation at 51,000 ft (the most noticeable difference being the smaller windows on the later ones). The changes involved would likely help this bird given it's operational environment. I believe this is a first step toward what Pioneer Rocketpane is/was aiming for.
 

FutureSpaceTourist

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Just to bring things a bit more upto date:

RocketPlane abandoned the use of a LearJet as uneconomic (not enough passengers per flight to generate required revenue). Instead they switched to an all new design with a six person cabin (see attached pictures taken from Space Access 2009 presentation
http://www.flightglobal.com/airspace/media/chuck_lauer_presentation_4_apr_09/emptys/29317/lauer-sas-presentation-4-apr-09.pdf
).

The economic crisis then hit and funding dried-up. As a result the company has been in virtual suspended animation for well over a year now, with Chuck Lauer (one of the original founders) the only remaining employee.

More background on some historical issues within the company can be found in the separate thread http://www.secretprojects.co.uk/forum/index.php/topic,2301.0.

At Space Access 2010 Chuck Lauer gave a presentation saying that they're working with an investment bank to obtain about $300M funding to develop both the suborbital vehicle and a mass market tourist ground site. With funding hope to fly in 2013.

[Special thanks to Clark Lindsey for his Space Access summaries at hobbyspace.com]
 

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blackstar

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FutureSpaceTourist said:
At Space Access 2010 Chuck Lauer gave a presentation saying that they're working with an investment bank to obtain about $300M funding to develop both the suborbital vehicle and a mass market tourist ground site. With funding hope to fly in 2013.

So all they need is for somebody to loan them $300 million for an industry with no track record.
 

FutureSpaceTourist

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blackstar said:
So all they need is for somebody to loan them $300 million for an industry with no track record.

Absolutely, as Blackadder might have said "it's just a bit of loose change" :)

Due diligence must be interesting. I wonder how much emphasis is on the ground based tourism?

Of course Aabar spent $280M on a 32% stake in Virgin Galactic (with a further $100M promised to develop a satellite launcher and further funds for a UAE spaceport). However, Scaled obviously have much more of track record and VG have reasonable indications of demand through initial sales. Even so I think the Aabar deal took a lot of people by surprise - a VG valuation of $900M at least 2 years prior to passenger service?!
 

blackstar

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FutureSpaceTourist said:
1-Due diligence must be interesting. I wonder how much emphasis is on the ground based tourism?

2-Of course Aabar spent $280M on a 32% stake in Virgin Galactic (with a further $100M promised to develop a satellite launcher and further funds for a UAE spaceport). However, Scaled obviously have much more of track record and VG have reasonable indications of demand through initial sales. Even so I think the Aabar deal took a lot of people by surprise - a VG valuation of $900M at least 2 years prior to passenger service?!

1-I think most of the companies will fail the due diligence test. It's easy to issue press releases that make it look like you're active, but once the lawyers and accountants come in to look at your books, you've got to be honest with them or they walk.

2-Yeah, but we now know that these sovereign wealth funds in the Gulf are built on a lot of debt. Maybe they are serious and will follow through, but I would not bank on that money being solid. At least not yet.
 

mz

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I think it's not smart trying to build something commercial straight away. You need prototypes first, as something like this has never operated. The first iterations will be "hangar queens", unfit for profitable service.
 

FutureSpaceTourist

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mz said:
I think it's not smart trying to build something commercial straight away. You need prototypes first, as something like this has never operated. The first iterations will be "hangar queens", unfit for profitable service.
I agree. Even with full funding 2013 is completely unrealistic.

The biggest single advantage Virgin Galactic has is the use of proven technology. (Which they point out in their NASA suborbital RFI submission.) Even with that advantage, and adequate funding, it's taking them a lot longer to get operational.
 

mz

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Well, even Virgin Galactic is treading unknown territory. Such big hybrid systems have not been done before, as far as I know. Especially with N2O which can work as a monopropellant. In small pipes it will self-quench but, like the Scaled cold flow test stand explosion that killed three people showed, it's not simple in a large scale.
 

blackstar

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"Everything always takes longer and costs more" is one of the longstanding rules of spaceflight. The New Space enthusiasts always trumpet how much greater these paper programs are, but they rarely acknowledge that a) the vast majority of these projects have failed before ever getting anything even to testbench stage, and b) the few that have gotten to actual flight testing have been years behind their schedule. (As wonderful as I think SpaceX is, people should not forget that they are still not at the point where they said they would be back in 2008 of flying Falcon 9.)

Now that's not to say that none of these ideas have merit. And it is certainly possible to make improvements over the existing systems and to do things cheaper. But we should never forget that there is an awful lot of hype to wade through in order to reach the truth.
 

mz

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Eh, you'd be hard pressed to find a "newspace enthusiast" praising rocketplane. I consider myself one.
 

blackstar

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Not now. But go back several years and all you would find would be praise. The enthusiast community is either cheerleading, or silent. They don't critique the field. And as a result, when projects fail, it always seems sudden and unexpected because nobody has bothered to provide a realistic critique. If you went and looked at everything ever written on a site like Hobbyspace, you would not find much criticism of all the ridiculous proposals made over the years that ultimately failed. Meanwhile, NASA is subjected to whithering criticism.
 

mz

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I think the current NASA plans have received quite a lot of praise, actually...
 

blackstar

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FutureSpaceTourist said:
The various Rocketplane companies filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy (ie liquidation) last month http://www.okgazette.com/p/12776/a/6691/Default.aspx. Sad, but not a surprise.

Somebody should compile a comprehensive list of these companies and what has happened to them over the years. Some of them just seem to fade away, never to be heard of again. Remember how a few years ago tSpace was getting a fair amount of attention? Now they're gone. And TGV Rockets fired some rocket engines, but hasn't been visible doing anything for a few years now. There's a bunch others. Canadian Arrow, etc.
 

XP67_Moonbat

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I wonder how much I could fetch for the Rocketplane freebies I picked up at the '06 X-Prize Cup?
 

blackstar

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XP67_Moonbat said:
I wonder how much I could fetch for the Rocketplane freebies I picked up at the '06 X-Prize Cup?

Give it a try. Put them on eBay.

But I would bet that they're not worth much. Their lack of success leads to lack of excitement as well as name recognition. Who is really going to be excited enough to pay good money?

Another suggestion: if you have any paper handouts that they gave out, you could scan them and put them online and donate the originals to NASA's history office, which has a great archive (although not a lot of NewSpace stuff). The National Air and Space Museum is another option, although not as good because they don't have a really good paper collection. They might be interested in the artifacts, however.
 

FutureSpaceTourist

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blackstar said:
Somebody should compile a comprehensive list of these companies and what has happened to them over the years.

I'm trying to do something related, by compiling lists of space tourism vehicle designs/concepts. There's a separate spaceplanes list and rocket list (the latter is currently missing a number of X-prize entries). Both lists are ordered by company.

The vehicle specific posts, referenced from the lists, sometimes give some basic company info. Perhaps it would be a useful starting point for others to add more?
 

blackstar

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Someone should get a screencap of the CSI Miami spaceplane that they used in an episode. It was clearly modeled on RXP's Learjet.
 

FutureSpaceTourist

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There's an interesting article: 'Financial meltdown scuttles dreams of Green Bay's rocket man' on George French and his involvement with Rocketplane and Kistler at http://www.jsonline.com/business/111734559.html. Gives a summary of the some of the financing (and other) issues behind Rocketplane, with some quotes from a couple of people involved (including John Herrington).
 

blackstar

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I think I mentioned this elsewhere, but Leonard David is working on a book about Kistler. Dunno the ETA.
 

Archibald

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Ah, Kistler... they had the *perfect* RLV concept, but the wrong business case for it. I tend to think that Kistler always lacked the last 200 million dollars to finish their K-1 or COTS or something else.
Kind of money pit.
But the K-1 is still the most realistic, near-term RLV concept on hand. No heavy wings, undercarriage, tail, manned cockpit. Just airbags and parachutes, and a bit of fuel left to return the first stage to the launch site. Brilliant.
In some way the K-1 was what the original shuttle intented to be - nothing surprising since George Mueller was involved in both projects.
 

Archibald

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blackstar said:
FutureSpaceTourist said:
The various Rocketplane companies filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy (ie liquidation) last month http://www.okgazette.com/p/12776/a/6691/Default.aspx. Sad, but not a surprise.

Somebody should compile a comprehensive list of these companies and what has happened to them over the years. Some of them just seem to fade away, never to be heard of again. Remember how a few years ago tSpace was getting a fair amount of attention? Now they're gone. And TGV Rockets fired some rocket engines, but hasn't been visible doing anything for a few years now. There's a bunch others. Canadian Arrow, etc.

I'm not an absolute fan of SpaceX. I hate hype, and VASIMR supporters tends to anger me ;)
But I think Elon Musk certainly thouroughly analyzed failures like AMROC, Space Services.inc, OTRAG, Kistler... before starting SpaceX.
Most of the rocket builders financially depended from a *Sugar daddy* that retracted after the rocket initial failure, leading to bankrupcy.
Musk decided he would fund its rocket bussiness by itself.

Other rocket plumbers failed because of bad relations with a major contractor.
Musk decided to build everything by himself. Event if that meant reinventing the wheel - Merlin is akin to Rocktdyne good old RS-27.

Other rocket bussinesses failed because they had the wrong business plan from the start - or because they settled on non traditional, new, risky markets. Best example is the satellite constellation hype of the late 90's, that burst in 2000.

Other rocket bussiness thrusted too much NASA - and failed when the space agency shifted its main effort from RLV to the Moon, then to Mars, then to a space station, then to something else.

Musk again targeted a "classical" market, one that is proven to be profitable - communication satellites, then thrown a bit of NASA into the mix - COTS contract.

So, to make it short: Musk build a classic rocket (no shiny RLV) for a classic market (satellites) using proven technology (low tech LOX kerosene rocket engines)

To make it even shorter: after a careful analysis of previous failures, he chose the most conservative approach ever. He also accepted some early failures, but yet again he could afford that, since he was his own funder. No worried sugar daddy to deal with :D

That conservative approach looks as if it might work, at least until now. PErhaps Musk heard of this document one day http://www.kelthaven.org/papers/rlvheuristics.pdf
 

FutureSpaceTourist

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Archibald said:
So, to make it short: Musk build a classic rocket (no shiny RLV) for a classic market (satellites) using proven technology (low tech LOX kerosene rocket engines)

Of course his stated aim is RLV, but seems to have a business case that isn't reliant on it (although I'm not sure where SpaceX would be without the $1.6B ISS contract from NASA and related COTS funding to cover some development ...). I hope the recent Dragon flight has given SpaceX the much needed first stage data to try and work out why they haven't been able to recover one yet!

My guess is that if SpaceX is commercially successful, they'll end up doing something similar to what Kistler had hoped to do.
 

hagaricus

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blackstar said:
Someone should get a screencap of the CSI Miami spaceplane that they used in an episode. It was clearly modeled on RXP's Learjet.

I just rewatched that after reading this.. apart from the totally improbable craft & story (it's almost all cabin & spends 10 days in orbit from a runway takeoff) The thing that bugged me was that they could afford this great mockup, but not a real trip in a vomit comet. (they supposedly use it to recreate the crime scene)

screencaps attached
 

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hesham

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Hi,

http://archive.aviationweek.com/image/spread/20050328/10/2
 

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Archibald

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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rocketplane_Global_Inc.

Ok, so let's put the record straight...

1993: Kistler Aerospace. Their project: the K-1 two stage rocket, stage recovery by airbags and parachutes. Got their K-1 vehicle 75% build before going bankrupt in 2001 after the dot-com boom.
Founders: Walt Kistler, Bob Citron. Hired George Mueller.

1996: Pioneer Rocketplane. Their project: Pathfinder a Mach 12 jets-and-rocket airplane, with aerial refueling and a kick stage. Founders: Bob Zubrin, Mitchell Burnside Clapp, Chuck Lauer.

2001: Rocketplane limited. Their project: the XP a Learjet-with-a-rocket-in-the-tail. An X-prize contender. Founder: George R. French, Jr. - De Pere / Green Bay, Wisconsin.

That's the THREE SEPARATE ORIGINAL companies.

Now what happened was the following.

1 - Lauer and French met circa 1999 and the two companies merged. George French Rocketplane limited took over Pioneer. The Learjet and Pathfinder had some interesting features in common.

2 - In 2006 Rocketplane Limited took over the bankrupt Kistler and hastily mounted a bid for COTS with the mostly finished K-1. The whole thing was rebranded Rocketplane Kistler. The Pathfinder was put on the backburner for the K-1, the XP suborbital Learjet hanged on.
Despite burning a crapload of money, they failed and the contract went to OSC with their Cygnus and Antares.

3 - in 2010 Rocketplane Kistler went bankrupt but the very George French bought the pieces through Space Assets, LLC. The entire company was renamed Rocketplane Global, and inside it, Kistler was rebranded as Kistler Space Systems.

And now I need some aspirin to cure that mounting headache...
 

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Archibald said:
And now I need some aspirin to cure that mounting headache...

Imagine driving 2000 miles to get paid peanuts to be the very first employee hired by Pioneer Rocketplane, eventually getting paid in stock, and then watching the company implode from within due to whackadoo personality issues.

Sigh.
 

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Orionblamblam

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You're telling me. I was there listening to the phone call that probably killed PR: Northrop wanted to invest $30 million which would have given the company its chance. But *one* *guy* lost his damnfool mind and decided that NorGrum was playing some devious game; he actually screamed paranoid nuttery at the potential investors on the phone. So... they invested $30 million in Kistler instead.

Guh.

That's both the glory and the downfall of startups. One guy, if that one guy is good, can take a tiny little joke of a company and through sheer force of will build it up into an organization that revolutionizes the launch market and stands a shockingly realistic chance of actually making humanity multiplanetary. Or one guy can take a concept with a lot of merit and turn all the studies into toilet paper.
 

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Ok this looks to be the "least old" of these threads and I didn't find anything else so....

Apparently they are "mostly dead" with an attempt to cover "most" of their roots?

XP (http://www.rocketplaneglobal.com/spec_and_description.html) is still the rocket powered Learjet while XS, (http://www.rocketplaneglobal.com/IndexXS.html) is the Pioneer/Black Horse concept.

No real 'activity' that I've seen but they are still advertised on the "Incredible Adventures" site: https://www.incredible-adventures.com/rocketplane-xp.html

YMMV :)

Randy
 

Archibald

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This has been going in circles since the early days of Kistler, in 1995. It will never die unless you lodge a wooden stick into their hearts, also use garlic and silver bullets and holy water. George French and Chuck Lauer are not honest, on this...
 
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