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More Clues About Blue Origin's Space Plans 74

FleaPlus writes "Blue Origin, the secretive company started by Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, has recently released a number of new details about their suborbital launch plans and their private desert launch facility. The vehicle will be fully reusable, and similar in many ways to the vertical-takeoff-and-landing DC-X. The details were part of a 229-page environmental impact statement the company filed to comply with federal regulations. The company plans to start launching test vehicles later this year, with commercial operations beginning in 2010."
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More Clues About Blue Origin's Space Plans

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  • by Megaweapon ( 25185 ) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @06:53AM (#15611796) Homepage
    the One Click Launch?
  • Reusable! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mcai8rw2 ( 923718 ) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @06:54AM (#15611801) Homepage
    Here is a big cheer for the fact that the object is re-usable. This is fast becoming one of the more considered aspects of shuttle design, and given taht there is a "The Carbon Trust" campaign going on in the uk [and the world!] a reuable shuttle is a big bonus.
    • Re:Reusable! (Score:4, Interesting)

      by CommunistHamster ( 949406 ) <communisthamster@gmail.com> on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @07:10AM (#15611848)
      It's not just the reusability, it's how reuseable it is, in this case measured in turnaround time. The wikipedia article states that it has a turnaround time of 26 hours minimum, which is outstanding compared to the Shuttle.
      • Re:Reusable! (Score:3, Informative)

        The 26 hour turnaround was for the DC-X.

        The speed of this turnaround was mainly due to being able to take off from the same spot it landed on.
        Its like the old Lunar Lander games where you just boost back up into the sky after refueling.

        Looks very impressive.
        • Re:Reusable! (Score:4, Informative)

          by Billosaur ( 927319 ) * <{wgrother} {at} {optonline.net}> on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @08:39AM (#15612247) Journal

          The 26 hour turnaround was for the DC-X.

          And people forget that the DC-X was a concept vehicle [jerrypournelle.com], to prove that the technology existed and could be adapted to VTOL rockets [nasa.gov]. It was Pete Conrad's dream to take the DC-X and expand it, and make it a viable competitor for space commerce, a dream he saw dashed when the DC-X crashed during a test in July 1995.

        • The defeating feature of this type of vehicle is that it must carry its entire fuel load for landing as well as lifting off. The space shuttle works around the issue by dropping much of its physical structure on ascent, and gliding back with virtually no fuel. Nuclear rocket engines would completely eliminate this issue because of their much higher Specific Impulse, which is basically a measurement of thrust combined with how long that thrust can be maintained by consuming a given amount of fuel. Take a loo
    • given taht there is a "The Carbon Trust" campaign going on in the uk [and the world!] a reuable shuttle is a big bonus.
      Wouldn't a reusable vehicle rely just as much on carbon thrust (eh..) as any other?
      • the actual act of Manufacturing the parts produces substantial ammounts of greenhouse gases.

        That's one of the more interesting aspects of 4x4 (SUV) ownership - although they may use lots of fuel, often 4x4s will last years and years longer than any other car (the land rover [series/defender] is a prime example) - the ammount of damage done to the environment through fuel burning is relatively small when compared to the pollution caused by the actual manufacturing process. The same thing applies to rockets,
        • the actual act of Manufacturing the parts produces substantial ammounts of greenhouse gases.
          Really? I didn't know.
          often 4x4s will last years and years longer than any other car
          Why is that?
          • The oft-quoted statistic is that 75% of all Land Rovers ever produced are still in use today. I'd assume a similar level from many "true" 4x4s (real off-road types, rather than school run-esque designs) although my personal experience is more limited to Landies. Series/Defender Land Rovers are the easiest things to repair ever. The old-school Toyota Hi-Lux may be a decidedly average looking vehicle, but is virtually indestructable.

            Standard cars are designed for a life of... what... 6 years? maybe 10 ye
        • Re:Reusable! (Score:3, Insightful)

          Yeah, but the durability of SUVs is not in the least dependent on their crappy fuel economy. I've known people who have bought used Honda Civics (1970s and 1980s models) with almost 200,000 miles on them and then put on another 100,000 miles. And this is not unusual. A well built car need not be a gas guzzler nor expensive.

          The fact is, many if not most people in the US buy a new car because they want a new car or a different model, not because their old car has stopped running.
          • Of course there are exceptions. The old volvo estates are a good example, and I'll agree to your Civic note... but as a matter of scale, it's generally not the same. Old-school Land Rovers are very common, whereas 20, 30 or 40 year old cars are the exception rather than the norm.

            I don't live in the US :)

            Well, in my experience - having lived in both urban, suburban and rural Britain, there are two types of "suv" - a "proper" 4x4 designed for use in the country, on farms, and for off-roading - typically, L
            • When I was little one of my favorite shows was Daktari [imdb.com], and I even had a Daktari Land Rover Corgi car in my toy car collection. Every now and then I see one of these driving about Los Angeles. I think maybe it's an old desert rat come into town for supplies. I'd like to own a vehicle like that, with or without the zebra stripes.

              OTOH, I see all too many bling SUVs, with big flashy spinning rims that probably have trouble going up a driveway, let alone getting into the dirt and mud. (I'm surprised I haven't s
    • The Carbon Trust? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by amightywind ( 691887 ) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @08:03AM (#15612069) Journal

      Here is a big cheer for the fact that the object is re-usable. This is fast becoming one of the more considered aspects of shuttle design, and given taht there is a "The Carbon Trust" campaign going on in the uk [and the world!] a reuable shuttle is a big bonus.

      The DC-X and space shuttle are not at all comparable. The DC-X has about 1/100th the performance of the shuttle. The use of decent engines if frivolously wasteful. I am not surprised Bezos is attracted to it. The weight penalty imposed on the space shuttle for reusability, wings, wheels, thermal protection is huge. Strip all of that away and use a simple aerodynamic shape and you have the NASA CEV [nasa.gov].

      What does "Carbon Trust" have anything to do with vehicles that use LOX and LH2 for fuel and are built out of Li-Al?

      • What does "Carbon Trust" have anything to do with vehicles that use LOX and LH2 for fuel and are built out of Li-Al?

        All the CO2 dumped into the atmosphere when making the electricity to generate these for starters.

        • How silly and petty you Kyotoists are. Do you propose that we build rockets out of recycled plastic bottles? This is why your movement is dying. You are irresponsible. There would be a lot less CO2 if you held your breath.

          • LOL!

            Especially the last!
            • This comment is kind of extreme but it is not intended as flamebait. It is to highlight some of the absurdity in the thinking of the envonmentalist response. I am not sure if you are laughing with me or at me.

      • The use of decent engines if frivolously wasteful. I am not surprised Bezos is attracted to it.

        No, because descent engines just reduce per-flight payload and use fuel. Payload can be increased by using a larger rocket or making more flights, and fuel is cheap.

        Unlike fuel, orbital rockets are expensive. Throwing away a whole launch vehicle on every flight is wasteful. I am not surprised that cost-plus launch contractors are attracted to it.
      • by Rei ( 128717 )
        I agree with the first part, but not the latter. Yes, DC-X had lousy performance. So does this; I was very disappointed to hear that Bezos was simply building a same-old, same-old craft for the fictional market of large numbers of people with hundreds of thousands of disposable dollars that are eagerly waiting to waste it on a few minute joyride.

        However, wings are not an inherent penalty to a spacecraft. They allow you to lower your reentry beta, give you good subsonic maneuverability, and probably most
        • However, wings are not an inherent penalty to a spacecraft. They allow you to lower your reentry beta, give you good subsonic maneuverability, and probably most important, give you more surface area to dissipate heat on. Furthermore, it's not like the space inside the wings goes to waste.

          If cross range reentry is a requirement, fine. The shuttle has never made use of its maximum cross range of 1100 miles. It still gets hung up in space due to tight weather restrictions on landing. Ballistic reentry vehicl

          • If cross range reentry is a requirement, fine.

            That's not what I said; I didn't even mention cross range. Please don't argue against straw men.

            I mentioned:

            1) Low Beta entry
            2) Large surface are
            3) Low speed maneuverability

            Low beta can imply significant crossrange, but the real advantage of it is that you have more time to radiate off your heat.

            Ballistic reentry vehicles are not as constrained by ground level winds.

            Yes, but they also do lovely things like crash through frozen lakes and nearly roll off cliffs (
            • Low beta can imply significant crossrange, but the real advantage of it is that you have more time to radiate off your heat.

              This is of no real value in terms of weight or reusability.

              Yes, but they also do lovely things like crash through frozen lakes and nearly roll off cliffs (see Soyuz). Steerable chutes are definitely an improvement, but they're not a catchall. And, unlike wings, all the mass of a chute is wasted; they don't give you more surface area, more storage space, etc.

              Not very likely given

              • I probably should keep my yap shut, but this one struck me at an odd angle:

                During the last shuttle launch the ET impacted with a turkey vulture. Had the strike occured at a higher speed and altitude the vehicle could have been brought down.

                Fair enough. But think about it for a second.

                Turkey Vultures don't go that high (best I could find was 100m). Since the Shuttle is accelerating from the ground, it isn't going that fast as it passes 100 meters. So therefore, there's not a good probability that the shut

  • Given the spread of suborbital spacecraft, isn't now a good time to take a fresh look at the rotavator idea?

    It doesn't require the same ridiculously exotic materials as a fully-fledged space elevator, and couldn't it potentially turn spacecraft like this and SpaceShipOne into orbital craft?
    • Re:Rotavators? (Score:3, Interesting)

      Given the spread of suborbital spacecraft, isn't now a good time to take a fresh look at the rotavator idea?

      Without a really good heavy lift system the rotavator won't get started at all. The best prospect was the Shuttle ET based big dumb booster, but no more ET's are going to be built now.

      Perhaps somebody can come up with a plan to use all those shuttle main engines which will be left at the end of the Shuttle program.

      • It would be worth developing a heavy lift system just to provide a rotavator. If one or more governments could cover the cost of getting the thing up there, then it might allow private enterprise to actually do some serious work in space.
  • 30 Billion to get to Mars...

    Another 30 billion to just get into space...

    Yet another 30 billion just to say you'll go back into space...

    Watching a first time yuppie from a dot-com industry spend...well... NOT 90 billion.... Pricel^H^H^H^H... it ain't 90 BILLION,/b>



    (Note: I just pulled that 90 billion from my posterior... it could well be more or less).
    • That first time yuppie can do it without having to support a huge bureaucratic infrastructure like NASA.

      And these guys are HUNGRY. They haven't had the luxury of resting on their laurels for the last 30 years.

      Go ahead and mod me down, NASA lovers. In your heart you still know it's true.

      -Eric

    • Bezos doesn't have $90 billion. Amazon's total market cap is $15.24 billion ( http://finance.yahoo.com/q?s=AMZN [yahoo.com] ). Bezos is not the sole owner of Amazon. I could believe $9 billion, but he would be completely broke afterward.

      Of course, Paul Allen is one of Bezos' partners in Blue Origin, and Allen's a bit richer. Still, I think that Blue Origin's business model only works if they can get the initial launch off for quite a bit less than the $30 billion that other initial launches cost (subsequent launche
  • Xenu (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @07:10AM (#15611851)
    At least it's not replica of a DC-8 [wikipedia.org]
    • At least it's not replica of a DC-8
      I for one, am a fan of the DC-3 [wikipedia.org] and'd (you really can't say that, can you?) love to see a spacecraft version?
      • I for one, am a fan of the DC-3

        Have you heard the legend of the Black Dac? It is seen on rare occasions in remote parts of Australia, travelling more or less at tree top level in places where you could reasonable expect not to be seen at all.

        Painted entirely black with no ID, or course.

        • Have you heard the legend of the Black Dac? It is seen on rare occasions in remote parts of Australia, travelling more or less at tree top level in places where you could reasonable expect not to be seen at all.
          I'm afraid I haven't. Are you the one flying it? ;-) I have seen one going very low over where I live (Sweden), though. What's a "dac", btw?
  • Batcave? (Score:5, Funny)

    by RDW ( 41497 ) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @07:24AM (#15611907)
    "The acreage also has...a bat cave".

    A secretive billionaire with advanced aerospace technology and a Batcave? Holy Amazon, Batman!
  • the planet ... I mean, go to mars or something.
  • by Cicero382 ( 913621 ) <[clancyj] [at] [tiscali.co.uk]> on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @07:47AM (#15611996)
    I've been an avid follower of space exploration for... well, all of my life. Hell, my father even woke me up at 3 AM so I could watch Armstrong do his stuff (I was eight) - he didn't dare *not* let me watch - the whinging would've been awful.

    In those days, youngsters like me *knew* that we would have a base on the Moon in 10 years and another on Mars a few years after that. The excitement!

    Oh, dear...

    OK. I know now that it was all a "Get there before the Commies", but it *was* done. (BTW. To all you Yanks reading this - I think you guys made the greatest achievement of the human race, to date, happen. The reasons aren't important - you should be very proud).

    Now look at it. It's starting again, but this time on many fronts - this isn't the only initiative. I'm eight years old again. The only difference is that I'm too old to play a part.

    • BTW. To all you Yanks reading this - I think you guys made the greatest achievement of the human race, to date, happen. The reasons aren't important - you should be very proud.

      It was not Americans. Even if they like to point out the exelence of Armstrong or Kennedy, the real innovation and work was done by German people. Let's see how space.com puts it in its articleRemembering Wernher von Braun's German Rocket Team [space.com]:

      Walter Jacobi, one of the few remaining German technicians whose genius helped put American
      • It was not Americans. Even if they like to point out the exelence of Armstrong or Kennedy, the real innovation and work was done by German people. Let's see how space.com puts it in its articleRemembering Wernher von Braun's German Rocket Team:

        Fascinating. Does this mean that, if not for the Nazis, Germany would be the Space Empire by now ? Or, if Hitler had been somewhat sane and had not attacked Russia before finishing Britain, he'd be the ruler of the universe by now ?

        Such little things fate hangs

      • Dont say that to Max Faget, John Holboldt or Tom Kelly... Many Americans made huge contributions to the Lunar program, more than can be mentioned or linked to here. Von Braun and the rest of the Germans were a guiding light (VB was the public face, he was very charismatic, great at PR and politics), but by no means did they alone get the job done. Take a little more than 15 minute of Google/wiki to do a little research.

        Either way you split it up, the Germans never would have gotten there without the Amer
    • I'm disappointed in NASA's failures, but happy to see private industry taking up the slack. It was never very likely that pure curiosity would drive space travel, since it'd always be a low priority for governments; going into space took another motivation. Profit's an enticing one.

      Unfortunately, some scientists are still working to crush kids' dreams. When Stephen Hawking spoke about space colonization [cnn.com] recently, MIT scientists came forward to say it was "very far off." Way to encourage the next generatio
  • by Dekortage ( 697532 ) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @07:55AM (#15612027) Homepage

    I hope it includes this quote from the article: "[the] most significant man-made feature of the area from a visual-aesthetic perspective is State Highway 54, a two-lane blacktop that connects Interstate 10 to State Highways 62 and 180." Bring your cameras when you go.

    Plus, if you sign up now, you can get a ninety-day free trial of New Shephard Prime -- no minumum flights required, free shipping to and from the launch site (including your remains if you don't make it back in one piece), and you can share your flight with up to four family members.

  • That doesn't sound correct. Spaceship One needed to reach a max speed of 3,518 km/h (mach 3.09) to get to the 100km mark. To cover 200km (up and down) in 10 minutes this vehicle would average 1,200 km/h and would be stationary 3 times en route.
    • this is a rocket not a glorified airplane the space shuttle goes 27,875 km/h.
    • In the interest of not reading the article and thus providing the right amount of fuel needed for a lame question or joke...

      What do you mean by "stationary 3 times en route". The thing is going to go from whatever bat-out-of-hell speed it's traveling, to a dead stop - not once, but 3 TIMES during the ascent?

      Cartoon physics aside (which are hillariously significant), doesn't subjecting the human body to such rigors resemble something akin to "bug on windshield"?

      If that's the case, then we will not only have
      • not once, but 3 TIMES during the ascent

        nope, what i meant was it starts off stationary, comes very close to stopping fully at the highest point (there might be some lateral movement), and stops at the end of the trip.

    • Do the Math!!

      Velocity is the first derivative of Location. Accel is the second, and Jerk is the third. Solve the jerk for zeros. This locates the minimum and maximum velocity points. Plug in the location vector and get the actual maximum velocity. The magnitude of the velocity is speed. This number will be on the order of 3500 km/h on accent and probably 300 km/h decending - I do not know the drag coffecents.
      • I didn't do the math, but your numbers are close to my instinctive guess. Even at 600km/h during descent it will take 10 minutes to get back to terra firma and I'd advise slowing the rocket down a bit during the last few kms. The article said the entire trip would take 10 minutes, which I'm 99% sure is incorrect. That was the point of my post btw.
  • Could the age of Cold War driven, government-sponsored, bureacratic space exploration be coming to an end?

    If I worked at NASA, I might be updating my resume right now.

    -Eric

  • I think it's great to see the DCX back on the planning boards, when I heard about it a few years back I thought that would be THE thing that would take us to and from the Moon and Mars (Fancy glider entry does not seem to work on the moon all that well).

    I'm sure with commercial development they will work out the problems of the landing statem.

    • (Fancy glider entry does not seem to work on the moon all that well).

      Since Moon is vacuum, could you simply make your orbit more and more elliptical, until one end was close enough to lunar surface (a few meters) to drop a wheeled vechile that would then brake normally ?

      How flat are those "seas", and what would the minimum orbital speed required be ? Remember, there's no atmosphere, so it's enough if your orbit just clears the highest mountaintops on your path.

      Heck, while it isn't feasible right now

  • Is that like Xenu's DC-10s with rockets? [skeptictank.org] Are we seeing the second coming of Xenu? Is this Scientologies apocolypse?

    Scientology MUST stop this DCX in the courts before it comes to pass!
  • ICBM = Intercontinental Book Missile
  • but the headline made me start singing the blues clues theme song;)
  • This would be the very first unpiloted passenger carrying air or space craft ever.

    Getting the technology to the point where you would be willing to put your Mom into a craft and just sit back and watch it fly her around without a human pilot is really a much bigger accomplishment than going to 100km. Assuming you love your Mom of course.

    This DC-X approach is very high risk compared to the much more conservative Scaled Composite X-15 style craft.

    I'd let my Mom ride on Space Ship 2, but not New Shepard.

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