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X-37 Flies but Runs Off Runway

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  • well... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Proof_of_death (718276) on Friday April 07, 2006 @09:34PM (#15089135)
    It took off, it didn't explode ... two out of three aint bad, right?
  • by gihan_ripper (785510) on Friday April 07, 2006 @09:36PM (#15089144) Homepage
    I hadn't heard about this new project till I read the article. It's neat that Spaceship One's "White Knight" is being used to haul a DARPA-sponsored project into the Ether! This truly heralds a new age of independent aeronautics.
    • It's too bad this craft never flew in space. It is one of several similar projects that NASA gave up on over the last ten years. Very sad.

      On a positive note, there are some excellent pictures of the White Knight and X-37 at Alan's Mojave Weblog [mojaveweblog.com].

    • by Waffle Iron (339739) on Friday April 07, 2006 @10:15PM (#15089252)
      This truly heralds a new age of independent aeronautics.

      Independent how? Scaled Composites has already done enough Pentagon projects to fully qualify as a member of the Military Industrial Complex.

      Other than market share, are they really different from Boeing in any significant way? Both companies make civilian aircraft and rockets, and both do defense contracting.

      • Independent how? Scaled Composites has already done enough Pentagon projects to fully qualify as a member of the Military Industrial Complex.
        Not to mention this... [aviationnow.com]
      • Other than market share, are they really different from Boeing in any significant way? Both companies make civilian aircraft and rockets, and both do defense contracting.

        Yes. Boeing makes high reliability commercial aircraft while Scaled Composites specializes in experimental prototypes and airplane kits for hobbyists. Boeing also picks up a lot more pork (ie, public funding with little risk or strings attached).

      • by Quadraginta (902985) on Saturday April 08, 2006 @04:49AM (#15090055)
        Both companies make civilian aircraft and rockets, and both do defense contracting.

        Sure, and both have vowels in their corporate name, and both are run by men who wear pants to work and not togas. But on what many see as the key point of whether a company is willing to try radically new and different ways of getting into space, ways independent of the heavy hand of NASA bureaucratic design requirements -- and this is the "independent" I suspect the OP meant -- they're as different as chalk and cheese.

        Boeing, like all aerospace majors, has tended to be very cautious about space vehicle design, perhaps in part simply because the cost-plus nature of major NASA and DoD contracts has meant there's less incentive to innovate. Why try some weird new design that may fail if the same old boring design, just multiplied by sixty, will work fine? So what if costs $bazillions? Your profit margin is guaranteed no matter how bloated the budget gets. And that does not even get into micromanagement by Congress, changing the mission requirements every 9 months at random, and institutional conservatism in NASA/DoD.

        What many people hope is that a small company that is independent of this process, in the sense that they don't have any long history with the Feds, or gigantic conventional-warfare contracts to preserve, can be more innovative, and break the apparent barrier to lowering access to space costs that seems to have solidified in the past 20 years. It seems to these people incredible that it costs no less (or at least not much less) to put x pounds in orbit in 2006 than it did in 1969. They suggest it arises from fossilization in the big aerospace industry, fused with too-close a relationship to NASA/DoD, who are themselves paralyzed by the fickleness of Congress' support and the lack of any clear vision from the President.

        Whether this is a true diagnosis of the situation remains to be seen, and people like Scaled, SpaceX, X-Cor, Virgin Galactic, et cetera will prove it one way or the other fairly soon.
        • What many people hope is that a small company that is independent of this process, in the sense that they don't have any long history with the Feds, or gigantic conventional-warfare contracts to preserve, can be more innovative, and break the apparent barrier to lowering access to space costs that seems to have solidified in the past 20 years

          Innovation? In aerospace, where everything positively has to have wings, including spacecraft? I'll tell you the innovation I' like to see: standard buses for satelli
          • Academia uses non-rad-hardened stuff due to cost. If you don't need it to last for X years, and you don't mind it resetting occasionally at random intervals when the RAM glitches, and you don't mind the odd bit of noise on your CCD, then you can make your microsat for several orders of magnitude less. This is important for academia, which doesn't have the pork budget that defense does.

            Wings are only important as a way of getting down safely. Chutes are OK but there are problems steering them to land at a
        • Boeing, like all aerospace majors, has tended to be very cautious about space vehicle design, perhaps in part simply because the cost-plus nature of major NASA and DoD contracts has meant there's less incentive to innovate. Why try some weird new design that may fail if the same old boring design, just multiplied by sixty, will work fine? So what if costs $bazillions? Your profit margin is guaranteed no matter how bloated the budget gets.

          Actually, when I worked for the DoD, "cost-plus" contracts (short for
          • Hey, thanks for the insider's perspective. It was very interesting reading. One of the reasons I enjoy /. at random moments.

            As a taxpayer and space enthusiast from the Apollo days, I'm not that unhappy with government and NASA. I figure they do pretty much as best as they can, given what Congress and by extension we the people tell 'em to do.

            Now I'm older, and have experienced more government for myself, I think maybe it just has to go into private hands. You need someone like Musk or Branson at the top
    • I'll bet that the White Knight is expensive to operate. Maybe NASA should use the X-4000 [uncoveror.com] to launch the X-37 once they are done with these tests.
    • Ether? So it's going from the minds of rocket scientists, to reality, and then to the minds of 19th century physicists [wikipedia.org] and scholars from ancient greece [wikipedia.org]? Impressive!
  • by TechnoGuyRob (926031) on Friday April 07, 2006 @09:43PM (#15089158) Homepage
    The author was insuccessful in spelling "successful."
  • by angrychimp (885088) on Friday April 07, 2006 @10:00PM (#15089216)
    Obviously the runway wasn't long enough.
  • "Brakes? We don't need no stinkin' brakes!"
    • Yes. You are damn right actually.

      The shuttle has no breaks, neither does SpaceShip 1. Extra weight which has no or little use. The former uses parachutes to break and the latter uses a slide instead of a front wheel which doubles up as a friction break. Dunno about Buran, but I would not be surprised if it has no breaks either.
      • The Shuttle definitely uses brakes as well as a parachute. See this NASA page [nasa.gov].
      • The shuttle has no breaks,

        Actually, yes it does [nasa.gov].

        The former [the Shuttle] uses parachutes to break and the latter uses a slide instead of a front wheel which doubles up as a friction break.

        Actually, the parachute the Shuttle deploys on landing serves mostly to keep the nose landing gear off the ground until the Shuttle slows, it's quite capable of landing without it. (The parachute was added after the Shuttle was flying.) This reduces the loading on the rather fragile nose gear.

      • "Brakes? We don't need no stinkin' brakes!"

        The shuttle has no breaks, neither does SpaceShip 1. Extra weight which has no or little use. The former uses parachutes to break and the latter uses a slide instead of a front wheel which doubles up as a friction break. Dunno about Buran, but I would not be surprised if it has no breaks either.

        How did you manage to misspell "brake" when the post you were replying to even supplied the correct spelling?

        Also, all of those examples you gave actually do have wheel

        • breaks... brakes... breaks... brakes...

          Actually, the grandparent post was about as close to a literal LOL as I allow myself at work.

          I pictured an unmanned space object at the end of its life being deorbited, and then as it enters the atmosphere, shooting parachutes out from all sides like some bizarre space flower. The resulting stresses shatter the spacecraft into pieces, therefore it "uses parachutes to break".
    • Maybe they weren't expecting it to make it back :)
  • i mean come on worse things have been marketed and sold to us :D
  • any landing (Score:4, Insightful)

    by VolciMaster (821873) on Saturday April 08, 2006 @01:06AM (#15089655) Homepage
    you can walk away from is a good landing
    • a great landing is one where you can fly the plane the next day
    • I suppose then that seaplanes that safely land in the middle of the Pacific aren't good then?
      • seaplanes that safely land in the middle of the Pacific

        Well, if they can't leave again, then you're kinda stuck, and you might as well have crashed [:^}

    • you can walk away from is a good landing

      True as that may be, I will always prefer a nice smooth touchdown and a leisurely taxi to the gate as opposed to trying that cool looking slide with the sounds and lights of emergency vehicles.

      Air travel is bad enough without lowering the bar any further. ;-)
  • When they set it free, they said "Fly! Fly!".
    It didn't want to stop flying.
  • Since the flight took place at Edwards AFB where the laid runways are several miles long and the rest of the desert is smooth and flat for miles around, either running out of runway was a non-event, or else it has a landing run of a hundred miles or more... which might need some work to fix. Like fitting brakes.
    • One look ath this beastie's tiny wings and it seems likely that it has to land a lot faster than a conventional plane or risk stalling. The space shuttle lands at about 200 knots, and this thing probably is even faster.

      So, if they were approaching at something like 250 knots, they're eating a mile about every twelve seconds or so. It'd be easy to to overshoot their intended landing point by a few miles, and since they don't have the option of aborting the landing and coming around for another try, it's no
  • by MrYotsuya (27522)
    "It had a successful flight but it ran off the end of the runway."

    These guys need the White House spin doctors to make this look good...

    "The test was successful because it ran off the end of the runway, after all, isn't "run" the operative word here?"
  • Stuart Witt, manager of the Mojave Airport, was clearly pleased ... "It's been good to see synergistic tests springboard off previous successes and capitalize on national assets like the White Knight for other uses," Witt said.
    This guy must've managed a dotbomb company before taking a job at the airport.
  • It had a successful flight but it ran off the end of the runway.

    It's not a bug, it's a feature!

  • Just make the runway longer.

One small step for man, one giant stumble for mankind.

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