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Q&A with Gary Lantz from Rocketplane Limited, Inc
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Rob
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 31, 2006 12:11 am    Post subject: Q&A with Gary Lantz from Rocketplane Limited, Inc Reply with quote

Gary Lantz is the Lead Systems Engineer for Rocketplane Limited, Inc. RLI is building a fighter sized four-seat suborbital spaceplane, and based on their current schedule and progress to date, they are likely to be the first suborbital flight operator to get to market. You can read more about Rocketplane, and Gary's work there, in this interview over at the OotC blog.

Gary is going to be watching this thread, and will take your questions as time permits. This is your chance to ask a real aerospace engineer working in an alt.space company all those questions you've had floating around in your head!

Please add your questions for Gary to this thread.

Here's a first one to kick things off: Gary, now that NASA has announced that they will be lending Rocketplane an RS-88 rocket engine, will you be flying that on the XP, or is it just for use in helping with the design and building the actual rocket that flies?
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sgeorge1701
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 31, 2006 12:17 am    Post subject: An extra Rocket Reply with quote

Gary,

Question - do you have plans to launch smaller rockets from your space plane once you reach sub-orbital space? For added Scientific Research and possibly as to increase your profit margin.

I'm sure several schools, corporations, govts would like micro-sat access to space from a reliable/reusable launch platform.

Steve
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Rob
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 31, 2006 9:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Gary,

Over at The Space Review, Eric Hedman has an article this week where he details a number of 'tough questions' that he thinks alt.space companies should be asking (and gives an impression in doing so that he thinks that they are not).

Clark Lindsay of HobbySpace posted a good rebuttal, but as one of the engineers right at the forefront of this yourself, could you give us your view?

Thanks,
Rob.
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galantz
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 31, 2006 2:49 pm    Post subject: Re: An extra Rocket Reply with quote

sgeorge1701 wrote:
Question - do you have plans to launch smaller rockets from your space plane once you reach sub-orbital space? For added Scientific Research and possibly as to increase your profit margin.


Our current plan is to dedicate the first vehicle to space tourism, with the possibility of adding internal experiment capability.

We have looked at what it would take to add an upper stage to the current XP vehicle, however, it appears that the added complexity does not justify the risk. What we found with our current profile is that we have a peak energy of Mach 3.5-4.0 at 150,000 ft. To go to orbit even with a microsat from there still requires an external payload much larger than 3 passengers the vehicle is currently sized for, not to mention the hazards of an external payload failure that causes our vertical tails to be taken out.

However, as we move into detail design on the XP, we do have a team of designers starting to look into a second gen vehicle that will have more capabilities.
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Kelly Starks
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 12, 2006 6:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Off line for a bit and miss a interesting thread.

Gary,
Is the mid air refueling idea (the old blackhorse concept) still considered the "baseline" for future orbital craft?

It always seemed easier to me to just take off overloaded, rather then take off near emptyand top off the tanks in mid air. I know that would require thrust divertion or something to get off the ground fully loaded at a reasonable speed, or going down the runway at 400-500 by take-off, but it still seems easier then building a tanker and doing midair-refueling.
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galantz
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 12, 2006 6:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Currently, mid air refueling is not an option in our baseline configuration, and I do not believe it's even a contingency. I do know that the company "Pioneer Rocketplane" used this concept; and that we Rocketplane own the intellectual property of Pioneer; however, we are not pursuing it. I believe our analysis supports your assumptions mentioned.

Mid Air refueling is a dangerous job and as an engineer, I would limit the idea to mission ops extensions (as currently used by the military) and not a mission requirement.

We're working on getting more information on our website, but work is a higher priority. I'm trying to talk to the bosses into letting me install a webcam in our production facilities so people can watch the assembly! Maybe if I knew other people would use it; I could convince them... Wink
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galantz
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 12, 2006 6:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I wanted to add that we've adopted a very discplined approach to engineering to prevent "latching on" to a single concept. As a startup without a lot of history, we do have the ability and desire to take a serious look into unconventional ideas; but we're also in a business to make money, so we won't take risks just for the sake of being different or reusing an idea because the world looks at us that way.

A lot of startups focus on requirements such as cost, schedule, and performance. This is a huge factor in why many fail; or discover "issues" on the launch pad. We've taken the next step and evaluated safety, maintainability, quality, reusability, etc. in all of our designs; so, until we do a complete analysis; it's difficult to make any assumptions.
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Trulson
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 12, 2006 11:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
I'm trying to talk to the bosses into letting me install a webcam in our production facilities so people can watch the assembly! Maybe if I knew other people would use it; I could convince them... Wink -- Gary

Me, me...I'll watch...me!!! Embarassed
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Rob
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 12, 2006 11:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Trulson wrote:
Quote:
I'm trying to talk to the bosses into letting me install a webcam in our production facilities so people can watch the assembly! Maybe if I knew other people would use it; I could convince them... Wink -- Gary

Me, me...I'll watch...me!!! Embarassed


This is a great idea! Count me in for support as well. Even if your bosses wont let you put the images on the web, it's a great way to photo-document the project for history.

But I bet there are plenty of people like Mark and me out there who would *love* to see this. <pleading><grovelling>If you can do this, then *please* do it! </grovelling></pleading> Very Happy
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Kelly Starks
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 16, 2006 4:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ok, thanks.

galantz wrote:
I wanted to add that we've adopted a very discplined approach to engineering to prevent "latching on" to a single concept. As a startup without a lot of history, we do have the ability and desire to take a serious look into unconventional ideas; but we're also in a business to make money, so we won't take risks just for the sake of being different or reusing an idea because the world looks at us that way.


Fully agree. Its far to easy to fall in love with a concept, and kill yourself trying to make it work, long after going back to square one would be better/faster/cheeper.

Wink

As to:


galantz wrote:

A lot of startups focus on requirements such as cost, schedule, and performance. This is a huge factor in why many fail; or discover "issues" on the launch pad. We've taken the next step and evaluated safety, maintainability, quality, reusability, etc. in all of our designs; so, until we do a complete analysis; it's difficult to make any assumptions.


Sadly (though not sadly for you) few alt.space companies consider all that. Many don't even seriously think through cost and schedule, much less operational or market/profit issues. A frightening number (including NASA) get really cavalier about safty, and spend more time with excuses about dangerous frounteers - then just doing the work to get out the bugs.

Glad to see the new Pioneer is trying to be a real aerospace firm.

Wink
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galantz
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 17, 2006 3:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, we've had our own hiccups. Sometimes we have a tendancy to overdesign, but reality sets in and we can't possibly design for every single contingency... so we took the Cat I/II/III approach, all Cat I shall be designed out, Cat II & III hazards were then mitigated through operational procedures or reliabilty/probability of occurance numbers. We've already submitted our PHL to the FAA and are waiting on final submission on our Risk Mitigation, System Safety Plan, etc for their approval.

I have been very interested in chatting with other alt.space companies that are in the lead; but it seems everyone thinks their running a race alone. The way I (and many of my fellow engineers) think is that we should all work to help lay the foundation for a new industry.

When airplanes first hit the skies, there were so many different start-ups, mostly tinkerers in their garages; they all worked together with each other, shared experiences, knowledge, etc and made the industry safe. Of course they all had their hiccups, but they shared with each other. Eventually, profits became more important as the industry became established. I'm afraid that many alt.space companies are taking the modern aircraft mfg approach to an infant industry. Those are my thoughts, and I would love to find another alt.space engineer like myself willing to just chat openly about obstacles!
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Kelly Starks
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 21, 2006 6:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I could have sworn I replied to this a couple days ago??


galantz wrote:
Well, we've had our own hiccups. Sometimes we have a tendancy to overdesign, but reality sets in and we can't possibly design for every single contingency...



Oh pishaw! Just because you never did it before doesn't mean you can't study it to death until all possible problems are eliminated, and you do it perfectly the first time...

I'm sorry, I think I was possesed by a lawyer or NASA exec there for a bit.

;0

Again - at least your trying to get a couple orders of magnitude more safety then current launchers. [Not that, that isn't really nessisary.] You can be forgiven for not getting up to current biz jet standards on your first try.


galantz wrote:
I have been very interested in chatting with other alt.space companies that are in the lead; but it seems everyone thinks their running a race alone. The way I (and many of my fellow engineers) think is that we should all work to help lay the foundation for a new industry.
...


That amazes me. Even mature industries have users groups, or professional societies to discus/resolve issues of common interest?

It does make it sound like they all have serious "not invented here" syndrom. Reminds me of the old saw about all the Alt.spacers could agree on was that everyone but them was doing it wrong. All investors heard was everyone was thought incompetent by almost everyone in the field.

;/



Topic change!
I heard you guys were thinking about suborbital transport as a busness. This makes sence. The SST biz jet folks expect to sell a couple hundred SSTs because they can get another .2-.25 Mach in speed over biz jets. So half a day off that 10,000 mile hop must be worth some serious bucks.

I was wondering what kind of hop you could expect to do? Does reentry g loads get nasty over long hops - i.e. high ballistic arcs?
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galantz
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 21, 2006 7:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Good question...

Technically speaking, there is a small group of us with a lot of conceptual design experience, and we are always looking at the "what-if's"; so we have some pretty cool things that we've been thinking about... reentry loads will be a function of L/D and will probably be controlled by what type of delivery (e.g. passenger or packages); we have talked to shipping companies about package deliveries, but I can't go into that in a public forum.

IMO the biggest problem is going to be ITAR restrictions. A business jet already has a precedence of FAA/JAA relationship, there are identified pieces of hardware that are controlled, however, the overall architecture doesn't fall in the realm of military capabilities. Once the alt.space industry becomes established, I can see an avenue being opened to at minimum provide services, but I bet it will be a long time before the US Gov will allow a US company to design/build a vehicle that could deliver something across the world in a short time period and sell it to just anyone.

I did see that Space Adventures is teaming up with a Russian company to launch out of the UAE; that will be interesting to track because they won't be under the same government control as the US companies.


Last edited by galantz on Tue Apr 11, 2006 8:13 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Kelly Starks
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 21, 2006 7:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ironic that IAR could push such craft completly out of any US control.

I supposed you could do a intercontinental air taxi service? Given the speed a couple craft could nearly serve a world market if you can get fuel depots everywhere...


I know FedEx was talking to McDac back in the '80's when NASP was going. They were so hot for fast long cargo delivery they were trying to buy up the Concords, and were considered a better market for SSTs/HSTs then passenger trafic? They also were speculating about a hyperfast suborbital service for extream rush deliveries for small items. I suppose the 2 would suggest a suborbital air/space-taxi market.



I suppose the L/D would help more on long suborbital hops - hence shallow angles. Possibly do a couple skips off the air like Sangers "silver bird" idea. Someone was pushing a waverider design like that for cargo a couple years back?

Lewis?
Larence Livermore?
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galantz
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 22, 2006 5:25 am    Post subject: Re: Q&A with Gary Lantz from Rocketplane Limited, Inc Reply with quote

I realized I never answered your first question!
Rob wrote:
Here's a first one to kick things off: Gary, now that NASA has announced that they will be lending Rocketplane an RS-88 rocket engine, will you be flying that on the XP, or is it just for use in helping with the design and building the actual rocket that flies?


The intention of the RS-88 is to use it as a test bed for validating structure and to do some earlier flight tests. The size and thrust is about the same as our operational engine, but the performance isn't quite enough to get us to our apogee.

We will take a known engine with a lot of history to do our preliminary flights with; this will allow us to flush out any issues without adding a risky variable to the mix. Once we have confident flight test data on the entire vehicle system, then we'll swap out the test rocket with the production rocket and do a flight test build-up.

Considering the high risk factors of rockets, we determined this would be the safest route to get us into operations.
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