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The special keynote speaker at BEA World today was Burt Rutan. Rutan was introduced on video by Richard Branson (as Virgin Mobile uses BEA's platform, as well as Branson's Virgin Galactic buying SpaceShipTwo from Rutan...).

The following are my notes from Rutan's presentation.

[introductory video]
A man who came to fly airplanes - and ended up designing over 40 aircraft.

The success of SpaceShipOne - the key was high drag, high trim supersonically.

[Burt Rutan]
When Can We See The Black Sky?

A good question to ask back in 1973. The answer was "We're working on it, it'll be about thirty years". But 30 years later, if you ask the question now the answer is "We're working on it, it'll be about thirty years". Still. They're not really working on it. And 30 years is not the answer you want when you're 60...

NASA = NaySay

NASA learnt about SpaceShipOne at the same time as everyone else...

There is a breakthrough ahead - the development of a high-volume private space flight industry. 20 to 30% of the audience here should get into space. Sub-orbital ships to get over 100,000 people into space in the first 12 years of operation. You'll get to see why astronauts say this is life changing.

We need new things. It's part of what defines us, our dreams and making them happen. Research needs to lead to breakthroughs. You need to have confidence in nonsense. That's where breakthroughs come from. The inspiration to take risks starts young, from 3 to 14.

We need to have progress to inspire our children. This is our responsibility. We need to get the dream back. There were three periods of great innovation.

Aviation's renaissance. By 1908 there had been less than 12 pilots. By 1912 there had been hundreds of aircraft types and thousands of pilots. Air shows inspired kids. These were the people who inspired Rutan - they were all kids who were inspired then.

The period when Rutan grew up - the start of the jet age, the start of the missile age, the Disney Tomorrowland specials, the Von Braun plan. There was a huge jump in performance. And this is why he felt he could do big things.

Military and civil are flying the same speed now (more or less) as in the 1960s - 43 years of no real progress. The Blackbird and Concorde are aberrations.

The US space renaissance. 1961 to 1973. All the parts were there, but the Russians did it first, so there was a need to restore national pride. JFK was as mad as hell.

To go to the moon was really hard. It was a wild ride to do that. Enormous courage and huge risks. Apollo 8 was the first manned launch for Saturn 5.

There was a collapse after after 1973. A risk averse program was in place.

American manned launch systems - were abandoned when a more expensive one became available - not matured for affordability.

There's a 40 year cycle for the development of higher speed travel over the last century - but the most recent cycle is missing. The Airbus 380 and the Boeing 787 are the same speed as the DC8 - from 1958.

Innovation doesn't occur in government development or use. There's an enormous growth in activity in the private sector.

There were 5 manned space flights in 1962. In 2004 there were 5 - 3 of them were SpaceShipOne!

Governments are risk averse. Few concepts have been tried. the Russians one, the US two - airplanes have been through thousands of concepts to see what is best.

Manned space flight for the last 44 years has been extremely primitive.

The shuttle is the most complex, costly thing built that will ever fly. The entire 42 year time of manned space flight has the same safety record as 1910...

Is it possible to have a space renaissance? Yes - we need a 1909 environment.

Our goal is fun, to enjoy this view...

SpaceShipOne. The White Knight has the same components as the SpaceShipOne. The only difference is really the rocket engine! The White Knight can be used a flight training aircraft. SpaceShipOne is a very simple glider.

Feathering is the key. It is immune to accidents caused by entry flight controls. SpaceShipOne - no one has to fly it for re-entry - no people, no computers - it's in the aerodynamics.

The rocket engine - one room temperature valve to turn on the laughing gas. It's hard to start - but there's nothing toxic about it. The fuel is nothing but rubber.

A new capitalist's "space race"? We've lost it so far - the milestones have been Dennis Tito and the 2008 moon flight. Two tickets 100M$ cost on Russian equipment.

It's a JFK-like challenge - to show we're better entrepreneurs than our old rivals! So that's what I am doing - making it safe enough and affordable enough to get space lines off the ground. It will be developed with affordable operating costs.

Next steps - you won't see SpaceShipTwo until its ready to fly. It will have big windows, and will give you at least 5 minutes of weightless - and yes, you could bring your cat!

The next stage after proving a profitable business - which will lead to orbital hotels, and moon excursions.

The big problem is safety. Your risk of dying in manned space flight is currently 1 in 62. The early airliners were 1 in 31,000 - and so the goal is at least that.

Trajectories - initially over the desert - very vertical for X-Prize. However it will be different for commercial - launch over ocean.

You'll be able to buy a ticket and go faster than the fighter jocks! Which will led to a jump in performance for the military as well. There will be sub-orbital military aircraft very soon.

Just for millionaires? Just for fun?

The internet example.

We justified personal computers just for fun! Then came the internet. So it's OK to have a major industry for a decade or two just for fun!

SpaceShipOne will be unveiled on Wednesday at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum next to the X1 and the Spirit of St Louis...

The prize was 40% of Paul Allen's investment...

[Rutan narrates a video of the first flight to space]
Start early because the air is stiller. The pilot is at sea level pressure. He fires the rocket. Gets up to 3Gs... There's a lot of acceleration to get more than Mach 3. It's quiet in there - you can hear the M&Ms bouncing off the walls. There's 5Gs of deceleration. SpaceShipTwo will pull 7Gs...

We applaud when it touches down - NASA applaud when they clear the tower! The bored guys in the control room? The FAA regulators!

[Standing Ovation]

(an experiment in pseudo-live blogging)


( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Sep. 28th, 2005 10:00 am (UTC)
Very cool. I almost feel like I was there. Better start saving for my SS2 ticket!

I have to say I have more confidence in people like Ruton taking us back to the moon than NASA and the CEV.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )