VTVL Space Tourism RLVs

FutureSpaceTourist

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To complement the space tourism spaceplanes list, thought I'd start a space tourism VTVL RLVs list. This initial post in the thread contains the list and will be updated as further concepts are added to SPF.

Subsequent posts in the thread can be used to give details of additional concepts that don't warrant their own thread.

All the following concepts never achieved (or are yet to achieve) the funding required (which in some cases led to the closure of the associated companies), or the company moved on to different concepts:

The following are in active development and have significant funding in place:

Let me know of anything to add to either list.

Update 03/07/10: added Canadian Arrow and da Vinci Project
Update 04/07/10: added Flight Exploration Green Arrow
Update 11/07/10: added Vanguard Spacecraft Eagle
Update 02/09/10: added Space Transport Corporation Rubicon
Update 04/09/10: added TGV Rockets Michelle-B
Update 05/09/10: added Acceleration Engineering Lucky Seven
Update 06/09/10: added Armadillo Aerospace Black Armadillo
Update 07/09/10: added High Altitude Research Corporation Liberator
Update 11/09/10: added Aerospace Systems Universal Space System
Update 26/09/10: added American Astronautics Spirit of Liberty
Update 29/09/10: added Micro Space Crusader-X
Update 09/10/10: added Interorbital Systems Solaris X
Update 14/10/10: added ILAT Negev-5 and Negev Mk II
Update 19/10/10: added Pablo de Leon and Associates VESA
Update 20/10/10: added Orbspace Infinity
Update 31/10/10: added ARCA Orizont
Update 01/11/10: added ARCA Stabilo
Update 02/11/10: added Scaled Composites Proteus
Update 07/12/10: added Starchaser Industries Thunderbird and Thunderstar
 

FutureSpaceTourist

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In the early to mid 1980s the Phoenix VTVL SSTO was designed, based on earlier work by Philip Bono (such as the SASSTO). In 1982 Gary Hudson, and others, formed Pacific American Launch Systems to develop various versions of the Phoenix for commercial uses including Space Tourism (with Society Expeditions a potential operator).

Some links with further info:

Pictures from astronautix.
 

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FutureSpaceTourist

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The Canadian Arrow was one of the Ansari X-prize competitors. Information attached from http://space.xprize.org/ansari-x-prize/canadian-arrow.

In summary it was a 2-stage rocket based on the German WWII A4 (V2) rocket but with each stage recoverable and resuable by a parachute landing on water.

The Canandian Arrow team (originally at www.canadianarrow.com and from where the pictures below come) became part of PlantSpace, which is now developing the Silver Dart spaceplane (see http://www.secretprojects.co.uk/forum/index.php/topic,932.0.html).
 

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FutureSpaceTourist

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The da Vinci Project (http://www.davinciproject.com/) was one of the few Ansari X-prize competitors to have built and tested some significant hardware prior to SpaceShipOne claiming the prize.

The design was a two stage system with a first stage helium balloon lifting the second stage rocket to 80,000ft for ignition. A ballute would be used to protect and stabilize the rocket on re-entry, with a flyable parachute deployed at 25,000 feet.

Attached team summary info comes from http://space.xprize.org/ansari-x-prize/the-da-vinci-project and the pictures from the da Vinci Project website. Note that a detailed technical mission analysis paper is available at http://www.davinciproject.com/documents/EADSpaper_n39_2.pdf.
 

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FutureSpaceTourist

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One of the least well-known X-prize entrants was the British Flight Exploration Green Arrow rocket. It appears to have been just a token concept entry, with little real work behind it.

[quote author=http://space.xprize.org/ansari-x-prize/flight-exploration]
Propulsion: Kerosene and Hydrogen Peroxide Rockets
Ship Name: The Green Arrow
Team Leader: Dr. Graham Dorrington
Location: London, England,United Kingdom
Launch: Rocket Powered Verical Tackoff
Landing: Parachute Recovery

Flight Sequence

A simple gantry system will be used to permit the vehicle to take off vertically with a maximum acceleration of 3G's. The vehicle will use up all of its propellant and then coast up to maximum altitude of 100km. The vehicle will then free-fall back to earth and deploy a ballute/gas bag system to stabilize the descent. A drogue parachute will then pull out the main descent parachute. Final landing, about 10km downrange, will be cushioned by the gas bags.
[/quote]
 

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FutureSpaceTourist

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Space Transport Corporation (STC) was another X-prize entrant. It was founded in 2002 and folded in 2005. Their X-prize suborbital tourism vehicle was called Rubicon. Some details from the now defunct www.space-transport.com website:

Two important features of STC's Rubicon concept are:

- Simple operation -- liftoff directly from the ground and recovery by parachute, and

- In-house main propulsion development -- intimacy with the main propulsion systems is advantageous

Power is provided by seven identical solid rocket engines – each is 12 inches in diameter and approximately 10 feet long. Six of the engines are in a ring configuration around the seventh central engine. For liftoff, four engines will be ignited. After first stage burnout, the two remaining outer engines will be fired for a second stage. The central engine is fired alone for the third stage. The vehicle is almost completely reusable – the engines are cleaned and repacked for the next flight. The vehicle’s Attitude Control System (ACS) consists of attitude/position sensing equipment, compressed air jets to provide attitude adjustment as requested by the electronics. Loaded and fueled, the vehicle will weigh approximately 5500 lbs and stand 23 feet high.

STC did get as far as building some flight hardware and beginning flight testing. However, on the 8th August 2004 one of two SRBs on the test flight malfunctioned resulting in loss of the vehicle. Couple of press reports at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/3549552.stm and http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/5642831/ns/technology_and_science-space/.

STC never obtained sufficient funding subsequently to progress development.
 

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FutureSpaceTourist

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TGV rockets (www.tgv-rockets.com) had an X-prize entry called Michelle-B (Modular Incremental Compact High Energy Low-cost Launch Example).

Details from 2004 below and images attached. (At the time, Len Cormier was their chief engineer.) Also attached is the team information from the original X-prize site at http://space.xprize.org/files/downloads/ansari/tgv.pdf.

[quote author=TGV website in 2004]
Introducing Michelle-B

This is the Michelle-B, TGV Rockets' inexpensive, reliable, reusable, suborbital launch vehicle -- a mini van to space. Or, rather, an elevator to space. It is a small, lightweight vehicle with a high flight rate that operates vertically from any place in the world.

Michelle-B is the size and shape of a standard cargo container: 40 feet tall and 8 feet in diameter. Its modular design permits easy upgrades to all of the vehicle's systems. It weighs eight tons dry and 28 tons wet. The use of an industrial standard form factor allows easy handling and transport by sea, land, and air using common, commercial equipment.

Michelle-B is fully reusable, consuming only propellant during flight. It was designed for minimizing operating costs. All of its components are available off the shelf. This holds mission costs to a minimum.

The reusability increases reliability. The first time any new system is operated, there will always be bugs. By the hundredth time, one has a certain confidence in the system.

Michelle-B takes off vertically on her 200-second ride to a height of 100 kilometers. Her payload capacity is one metric ton. The vehicle is fully transportable, so it can fly from nearly anywhere on land or sea, not just from a few missile test ranges like the current, expendable launch vehicles.

Michelle-B spends 200 seconds in micro-gravity, where objects are nearly weightless. This is when the crew performs customer tasks.

Michelle-B never exceeds 5 Gs during its entire flight. This is well within common, civil aircraft flight conditions.

Michelle-B descends the 100 kilometers to Earth vertically in about 200 seconds. A drag shield shaped like a badminton shuttlecock slows the vehicle for most of the descent. At about a mile up, the pilot lights the engines to further slow the vehicle to landing speed.

Michelle-B lands vertically on the landing legs.

Michelle-B can be ready to fly again in a few hours. The small ground crew inspects and services the vehicle for rapid turnaround.

Michelle-B allows any person or organization to participate in space activities with minimal cost and maximum utility. Our simple mini van will do for aerospace what the PC did for computing.
[/quote]

TGV were continuing to work on Michelle-B as recently as a couple of years ago (see http://www.livescience.com/space/080428-busmon-tgv-michelle.html).
 

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FutureSpaceTourist

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Acceleration Engineering was an early X-prize entrant (registering in October 1996). However, it was a one-man-band and although construction was underway progress was halted due to lack of funds.

Attached team summary info comes from http://space.xprize.org/ansari-x-prize/acceleration-engineering and the attached picture is also from the team summary.

[quote author=Mission Specifications]
· Ascent Method: Vertical launch ground
· Max. Accel. Force on Ascent: 3 G
· Alt. at Engine Cut-off: 32 miles (52 km)
· Time at Engine Cut-off: 90 seconds
· Max. Speed: 3,300 fps (1,000 m/s, local Mach 3)
· Max. Altitude: 62 miles (100 km)
· Time in Weightless Conditions: 200 seconds
· Reentry Method: Ballistic reentry
· Accel. Forces on Descent: 4.5 G peak
· Landing Method: Guided, parafoil descent to a vertical landing
· Total Duration: Approximately 12 minutes
· Landing Distance from Take-off Location: <1 km
· Time Between Missions: Not yet disclosed
[/quote]
 

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FutureSpaceTourist

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High Altitude Research Corporation (HARC - www.harcspace.com) was I believe the last X-prize entrant, in November 2003.

The team was led by Tim Pickins, who led Scaled's initial rocket motor work on SpaceShipOne and founded Orion Propulsion. Their proposed vehicle was called the Liberator:

[quote author=HARC press release]
Named the Liberator, HARC’s X-Prize entry is based on proven technology, Space America, Inc.’s, Block I Engine heritage. Much of the hardware has already been built and tested. The launch vehicle uses LOX-Kerosene regenerative cooled engines that are pressure-fed and lightweight. There are no rotating parts or expensive turbo-pumps. The Liberator is launched from an ocean going vessel and reaches an altitude of approximately 70 miles. “Launching from sea gives us many advantages such as longer launch windows, lower range costs and smoother FAA/AST licensing procedures. It also holds the risk to population centers to nearly zero,” said Tim Pickens.

“It is our capsule that really sets the Liberator apart,” said Greg Allison, HARC President. “Our first priority is passenger safety, followed closely by passenger comfort.” The Liberator capsule is constructed of lightweight but durable aerospace materials and has two safety systems. A rocket similar to the Mercury Gemini and Apollo rockets is used to remove the capsule from any danger if the boost vehicle malfunctions. The capsule will then parachute safely to splashdown down range from the launch platform. If the capsule's redundant parachute systems fail, the capsule shell can be jettisoned and the crew can parachute individually to safety. “Some of our X-Prize competitors have not addressed the passenger safety issue,” said Tim Pickens. “HARC realizes space flight is risky and wants to provide the safest possible ride.” The three crew members, wearing pressure suits, sit tandem with their backs toward the ground to help handle the G loads during the 2.5G liftoff. Windows are positioned on either side of each passenger allowing for maximum viewing during the ride. The capsule returns to earth by the traditional means of parachute with a water landing.
[/quote]

Attached press release and pictures come from the HARC website in 2004.
 

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FutureSpaceTourist

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Matej said:
What about the really big spaceliner?

Thanks, wasn't aware of that one! A very quick web search throws up the following: http://www.cruiser.nichost.ru/old/e-contents1.htm and http://ollleg.blogspot.com/2010_07_01_archive.html (see attached picture). The former, I think from 2001?, says:

Universal Space System (USS), the project developed by Cruise Service, is aimed at establishing space tour business in Russia with support from foreign investors. Provisions are made in the project for building universal cruise modules which will be able to dock with themselves thus allowing to be launched with the use of various launchers, for example, Space Shuttle, Zenit, Soyuz. Real “space hotels” with any accommodation capacity can be built in the orbit on the basis of such modules.

The company decided to start implementing the Universal Space System project with participation in the X-Prize content (Astronautics News No. 8, 2001, p. 15) where it intends to demonstrate the capabilities of its system. With regular suborbital flights to the altitude of over 150 km under the Sea Launch Cruiser the cost of one passenger seat is expected to go down to 10,000 USD with the passenger capacity of one module reaching 150 to 200 persons!

Passenger safety is a serious consideration at all flight stages. Due to three spare parachute sets, a powerful, a powerful SAS and a triple system backup the safety of the Universal Space System can exceed that of passenger planes.

Unit A (the first stage of Energiya launch vehicle) designed for multiple use is planned to be used as the launch vehicle in suborbital cruises. The Universal Space System will be launched from the Sea Launch platform, and the company intends to combine high profile sea cruises with exotic space travel.

Just imagine a luxurious cruiser slowly mooring at the Sea Launch platform where a not less luxurious suborbital spacecraft is waiting for the lucky ones whose health and wallet allow to pay for the additional service.

But the company will go beyond suborbital cruises. The modules are originally designed as universal orbital units that can be placed into the cargo module of a shuttle. They will be equipped with a docking system with additional fuel modules and engines which will allow to fly round the Moon as early as in 2008 (a module with the passenger capacity of 35 persons for the price of 20 mln USD for each).!

And if there is nothing to hamper the implementation of suborbital flights under the Sea Launch Cruiser project, space in the shuttle cargo module will have be leased so that Universal Space System modules can be taken to the orbit. It should also be taken into account that, as a rule, the cargo capacity of shuttles is under-utilised by 10% to 60%. Accommodating Universal Space System modules as an additional cargo in flights to the International Space Station can reduce ISS logistics costs by 3 to 5 times.

According to the estimates made by specialists, the reconstruction of Energiya-Buran, the similar Russian system, will be possible, if about 10 bln USD of investment is available. Should it be possible to reconstruct the Energiya-Buran system for 2 to 3 bln USD, the project will be quite realistic without the need for using a US shuttle.

Currently Cruise Service has a specific plan for raising investment for the project. Nonetheless, the company is inviting all interested organisations and individuals to cooperate with the project.

Do you have any more info?
 

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Micro Space was a small X-prize team led by Richard Speck developing a 3 person VTVL vehicle called the Crusader-X. Attached PDF information is from their page at the original X-prize website: http://space.xprize.org/ansari-x-prize/micro-space-inc.

There was a very basic website at http://www.micro-space.com/, although the news page never got beyond 'Under Construction' and a link to their X-prize page was removed (but not the page, see below).

You'd need an adventurous spirit to fly their vehicle:

[quote author=http://space.xprize.org/ansari-x-prize/micro-space-inc]
The most critical flight step will be donning, sealing and testing the Personal Life Support unit with backup parachute, communications, and GPS gear.

The Crusader X uses a lightweight core frame with seats and windshield resembling a bobsled or undersea sled. Propulsion modules are strapped onto the sides which are retained for the entire flight. Life support equipment is worn by the crew. The core holds the attitude control jets, tiny flight controller, and parachute packages.
[/quote]

Further information from the Micro Space's own X-prize page (which has not been updated for years):

[quote author=http://www.entrespace.org/MICRO_X.html]
Many of the X PRIZE entries are elegant concepts: Micro-Space's is not. Ours is an assemblage rather that a unique design, since our only hope of rapid success lies in using what we have already developed.

[...]

The Micro-Space suborbital vehicle is assembled from the modular propulsion units which are used in our other designs. It uses a cockpit core much like a bobsled into which three pressure suited men can squeeze. Various configurations of propulsion strap-ons are possible. To have a shot at winning the X PRIZE it will be necessary to use a large cluster of the 4 inch diameter propulsion modules we are now flight testing. Later flights will be able to use a small number of larger diameter modules as illustrated. There is actually little engineering benefit from the larger size units, as dry weight scales linearly with fuel weight.

Complexity troubles many, and our assembly looks complex. Yet using a large number of motor units can greatly increase reliability. In our designs, the motors have no moving parts, and all are brought up to full thrust while the vehicle is still locked into its launch tower. The propulsion modules are more like big propane torches than "engines". Only after stabilization of all the propulsion units is there a commitment to flight, then the lock down clamps are blown, and the flight begins.
[/quote]

Finally some specification details from the attached PDF:

VEHICLE SPECIFICATIONS
· Name: Crusader X
· Diameter: Approximately 5 feet
· Height: Approximately 25 feet
· GTOW: Approximately 5,000 lbm
· Dry Weight: Approximately 600 lbm
· Crew Environment: To be determined.
· Payload Capacity: 270 kg
· No. of Engines: TBD
· Propulsion System: Pressure fed
· Fuel: Methyl Alcohol
· Oxidizer: Hydrogen Peroxide
· Total Thrust: Approximately 12,000 lbf
· Reaction Control System: Thrust deflector vanes.

MISSION SPECIFICATIONS

· Ascent Method: Vertical take-off from ground
· Max. Accel. Force on Ascent: 4 G
· Alt. at Engine Cut-off: 40 km
· Time at Engine Cut-off: 60 seconds
· Max. Speed: Approximately 4,000 feet per second
· Max. Altitude: 120 km
· Time in Weightless Conditions: 4 minutes
· Reentry Method: Ballistic, ballute reentry
· Accel. Forces on Descent: Approximately 3-4 G
· Landing Method: Parafoil deployed at 10 km
· Total Duration: Approximately 15 minutes
· Landing Distance from Take-off Location: TBD
· Time Between Missions: 1-2 days

Update: It seems that Micro-Space were also an entrant in the lunar lander competition eventually won by Armadillo Aerospace and Masten Space Systems, see http://www.denverpost.com/headlines/ci_4494989
 

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FutureSpaceTourist

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Pablo de Leon and Associates was the Argentinian X-prize team developing a 3 person VTVL vehicle called VESA (Vehiculo Espacial Suborbital Argentino), nickname Gauchito (little cowboy). Attached PDF information is from their page at the original X-prize website: http://space.xprize.org/ansari-x-prize/pablo-de-leon-and-associates.

Their website is still up at http://www.pablodeleon.com/ but doesn't appear to have been updated since late 2004. Attached images are from the website.

Vehicle and mission specifications in the attached PDF are:

VEHICLE SPECIFICATIONS
· Name: Gauchito (non-official name, each experimental flight will have an official name)
· Length: 12 m [39.37 ft] (not including escape tower)
· Diameter: 2.20 m [7.28 ft] (Body), 6.60 m [21.65 ft] Total (Including Fins)
· GTOW: 8000 Kg [17,637 lb]
· Dry Weight: 2400 Kg [5,291 lb]
· Crew Environment: Nitrogen-Oxygen environment. Crew members will use pressurized suits at pure oxygen atmosphere during all the flight duration.
· Payload Capacity: 3 crewmembers, or 300 kg of payload.
· No. of Engines: 4
· Propulsion System: Throttleable, pressure fed
· Fuel: Hybrid Solid (Polyester Resin)
· Oxidizer: Liquid Oxygen (LOX)
· Total Thrust: 250,000 N [52,910 lb]
· Reaction Control System: Aerodynamic and micro jet (monopropulsion)

MISSION SPECIFICATIONS
· Launch Method: Vertical take -off from ground
· Max. Accel. Force on Ascent: 3 Gs
· Time and Alt. at 1st Stage Engine Cut-off: 60 seconds at 36 kilometers altitude
· Max. Speed: 1200 m/sec
· Max. Altitude: 108 kilometers
· Time in Weightless Conditions: 240 seconds
· Reentry Method: Ballistic reentry with parachute landing system
· Accel. Forces on Descent: 4 Gs (peaks)
· Landing Method: Parachute landing into water
· Total Duration: 17 minutes
· Landing Dis tance from Take-off Location: 80 km (approx.)
· Time Between Missions: Less than 2 weeks
 

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[I thought I'd already posted this, but I can't find it so may be not!]

Burt Rutan's original design for a suborbital space tourism vehicle was a rocket, which would be air-launched from Proteus. The rocket would descend by parachute, with a mid-air capture by helicopter ...

The attached slide comes from a Scaled presentation on Proteus (that was originally posted on their website) IIRC from 1999. There are some further details in Dan Linehan's SpaceShipOne book.
 

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martinbayer

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FutureSpaceTourist,

since Rutan's concept would have been air launched, it doesn't belong in the VTVL category (although it might technically still have performed a vertical landing despite the air capture, thanks to the helicopter).

Martin
 

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martinbayer said:
since Rutan's concept would have been air launched, it doesn't belong in the VTVL category

True, I guess I wasn't sure where else to put it! Doesn't feel significant enough to me to warrant its own thread.
 

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Not knowing where to post this, I'm posting this here. It is a still that passes for a split second during a Scaled Composites presentation video (http://www.compositestoday.com/2012/04/what-the-employees-at-scaled-composites-do-for-fun/).

What it shows is unknown to me. I know that the Proteus was tested with various pods and radomes, and that it also carried the X-37A vehicle at some point... but this? Reminds me a bit of the AGM-129A though I know it's not quite the same. Any idea?
 

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fightingirish said:

Nice try, but I'm not 100% sure...

The "pod" in the MR-RTIP looks less streamlined. The object in my screen capture looks slimmer and it has small wings on the sides and what appears to be an exhaust at the back, hence my categorizing it as a drone. Yet I agree that both look generally similar...


timthumb.php
 

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publiusr

The Anti-Proxmire
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Bill Sprague had the pressure fed Liberty XPrize concept. He and Jon London of LEO ON THE CHEAP lamented how Rutan’s winged designs were killing ballistic recovery.

How the worm has turned.

Truax’s son and Robbie Kinevel at least got the Snake River Canyon jumped with Skycycle II…the smallest pressure fed vehicle.
 

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