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Rutan Flys Tomorrow!

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It just landed after a successful flight. They aren't sure whether it made the X Prize required altitude of 100 km, but it definitely went high enough (> 50 miles) that test pilot Mike Melville is an official astronaut!Lewis "Moose" GregoryColumbia, South CarolinaDVA 1427/Solent 644

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to qualify for the prize money they now need to repeat the feat twice more, both times in a space of no more than 2 weeks from each other and with 2 passengers on board.This was just a test flight and a PR stunt of magnitude, not a competition shot.

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PR Stunt, I doubt it. This was a test flight, but it is very very big news in the history of aviation. If you've ever heard Burt speak, you'd know he is a very "to the point" type of person.

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I don't know if it's been certified yet, but it sounds like they did hit the 100 km altitude, based on preliminary reports.Stunt? You've gotta be kidding.

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Sure it's a stunt. Even Rutan and Allen will tell you that. The X-Prize is only $10 million - a fraction of what scaled composites have already spent on the program. Spaceship One *exists* as a PR stunt - it's sole purpose is to be the "It can be done" proof-of-concept vehicle while they continue development on a truly cost-rational civilian spaceplane.They could - as BAC is doing - do the proofing on computers and in wind tunnels with models, and make their first flying vehicle a full size commercial model, rather than a 3-seat 'mini'. This way's just more fun :-)Richard

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it is a PR stunt as well as a testflight.Were it just a test flight, they'd have stuck to their standard policy working in secret and only announcing the results afterwards.This time the world was invited to come and look several weeks in advance, something Scaled has never done before.Yes it is a milestone, but they're not there yet.And after proving suborbital flights are possible they still have to make it commercial and then do the same for orbital flights before they have more than a gimmick.I hope they succeed in all that, but it will take a long time yet.

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I think that they didn't do the computer/windtunnel thing bacuse computers and windtunnels can't cover everything. Something could perform wonderfully in a controlled environment, but could fall apart in the real world (The X-33 is a good example).

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Quote..."Spaceship One *exists* as a PR stunt - it's sole purpose is to be the "It can be done" proof-of-concept vehicle while they continue development on a truly cost-rational civilian spaceplane."Richard, Respectfully and totally without malice I propose the following for your reflection ...Using your logic the Mercury and Gemini programs were "PR stunts, existing only as 'proof-of-concept...'" Sure, Mr. Rutan and Scaled Comp. built SS1 to prove a concept, an absolute necessity when pioneering new technology. They need to prove that concept not to the press or public but to the pilot and his family who expect the pilot to return safely and would protest vehemently if he were instructed to rocket into orbit in a craft that had never been flown or tested. SS1 is a first step in a new field of endeavor and was built with one purpose, to test the process of that first step. There was no publicity stunt intended, SS1 does not "exist as a PR stunt". It was and will continue to be inherently interesting for people and will draw attention from the press, but that is NOT the intention of the builders. Going into space is their only true goal and purpose and SS1 is a necessary step towards that goal. Most Respectfully,Glenn Flowers

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I think we're going to have to 'agree to disagree' here, Glenn. SS1 is a "necessary step" only from a public acceptance point of view, and to garner the 'prestige' (for want of a better word) of winning the X-prize (Certainly the $10 million prize itself doesn't justify the cost).Rutan and SC are aiming for valid commercial spaceflight. SS1 is not really a step "along" that path, it's a step to the side of it. When they finally fly a real commerial spaceplane, a look at its evolutionary history would show SS1 off on a spur, not as a true ancestor. Yes, it enables them to test some of the technologies they'll eventually use, but those could have been tested in unmanned drones at a much lower cost. Now, don't get me wrong - I'm not in any way *criticizing* SC for this "PR stunt". As I said, it may be a necessary step from a public acceptance perspective. (Plus it's fun to watch it unfold)I mean, heck, look at the history of powered flight itself. In many cases, the primary reason that we remember some of the pioneers as great innovators and others are lost in the minutia of history owes more to their relative abilities to handle PR (or the legal system) than their true contributions to flight.If Rutan wins the X-prize, future generations will probably remember him as "The father of commercial spaceflight" - even if someone like BAe actually starts commercial passenger operations first.Richard

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I agree with Glenn, if SS1 is just a "PR" stunt, then logically Mercury and Gemini were just "PR" stunts. You could even argue that Skylab was a "PR" stunt. Computers are not yet advanced enough for drones to really effectivly test new technologies. Now for the first time, yes, a drone would we best. But eventually you have to launch a manned space-craft in order to effectivly evaluate the technology you are testing. I think that thats where NASA is falling short, they are placing way to much confidence on computers instead of humans, which can do the unorthidox if situation calls for it. Another part of it is that Scaled doesn't have the idiots in Congress to deal with, but thats besides the point. SS1 would have existed even if SC had done the drones thing, the only difference would have been the time when it came.

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Rich, A good, spirited exchange of differing views has always been a benefit of real friendship. Good friends can disagree, argue, and even get angry at each other occasionally, but the friendship always prevails where there is mutual respect. So, let's agree on that and disagree a little more here, for the sake of argument.You said... "When they finally fly a real commerial spaceplane, a look at its evolutionary history would show SS1 off on a spur, not as a true ancestor."I respectfully wonder as to your thinking here... First, what spur do you envision SS1 being off on? It is a space rocket, right? Is it going to be seen as NOT the way to do it? Will a major scientific breakthrough make a rocketplane useless, impractical?Will the building and flying of SS1 cause a major setback in civilian orbital plans? I'm interested in your conclusion that it seems to be "offtrack" as is a spur? (Are you hiding some new invention that's got you so confident? Wouldn't surprise me a bit if a simmer like you or I were to rock the world of rocketry with new stuff. ;>)Second, do you sincerely believe that someone can develop a workable, real commercial spaceplane the first time out, with the first vehicle produced? Is it possible to design and build that "RCS" (real commercial spaceplane) absolutely correct and perfect enough to meet all mission demands as a "RCS" in the first attempt? (Rutan could if anyone could.) The engineer that Rutan is demands a functional, less expensive, less complex, experimental prototype to prove, in a small but persuasive way that his ideas and theories are valid and safe. Just imagine that Rutan and SC had unveiled at last year's end not SS1, but a 35 or, say, 75 passenger vehicle that they claimed could launch to orbit twice a week at 1/100 the cost of the shuttles, and was now available for immediate hire. Oh yeah, by the way, they've never actually flown it or any other space vehicle for that matter. Actually, this is their first crack at it. BUT... they exclaim, "It is, afterall, a "Real Commercial Spaceplane". How many will believe that just because they say it?This little fairytale would be stark, horrid stupidity if it weren't so logically and nessecarily avoided by SC at the most basic level. Mr. Rutan's knowledge and implementaion of safe, responsible developmental engineering, use of PROVEN construction mnethods, operational verification of newly implemented technology, preventive maintenence and TESTING of his "RCS" vehicle proves to the world that when he says it will do such and so, it has already been proven by the prototype, SS1.I guess I'm just so proud and amazed at human capabilities that I tend to challenge alternate thinkers (like Richard) just to see them defend their ideas and grow stong in their resolve.Come on Richard, make me understand your theories. I probably won't agree, but we've already agreed on that. Right?Glenn Flowers

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