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Hogarth judge

February 2018



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Hogarth judge

Can Dr. Cochrane be far behind?

Well, this is about the first good news from outer space that's come down the pipe for a long time. It seems the privately funded rocket plane managed to achieve space flight and then returned safely with its pilot.

Maybe the pseudolibertarians are right, and this kind of endeavour really ought to be left in private hands. It would appear that a rocket plane may have more potential than the government Space Shuttle. I'm a bit curious as to the technology that is used on it to make a safe re-entry possible.


Falling stars

IIRC, the ship changes shape by bending in the middle, and mainly falls in for the 'rough' part of reentry (Diagram here) - a technique that's probably got a pretty strict upper weight-per-square-foot-of-wing limit.

I don't think this thing's offspring are going to be replacing the shuttle anytime soon. This design doesn't seem like the sort of thing that is going to scale up well (Imagine the torque on those wings at twice the square footage...), and planes this small don't seem exceptionally useful (They can't remain in a stable orbit, ex, or impart a stable orbit onto a satellite)

Try taking a look at This article on Space.com, particularly the section titled 'Stunt flying'.

This whole thing seems to describe the big problem with R&D by contract - You get exactly what you asked for (A machine that can go up 100km repeatedly), that's nothing like what you actually wanted (A design that can be easily scaled up enough to do something productive, for example.) Whether or not that's a fault of the people running the X-prize, or the cleverness of the folks at Scaled Composites, I can't say.

As a closing note, I think it's a real amazing feat of engineering - But IMO, it's more along the lines of a nifty hack than a breakthrough technology.
Ya, we did see it as more of an experiment... but that's what the early Wright Bros. and other flights were and people probably said the "clever hack rather than useful" thing about them too. Our position is that this is wonderful, and that we'll wait and see how it goes.