XCOR and other Space Access highlights

The high point, arguably, Friday at Space Access ’09 was a presentation by Jeff Greason, president of XCOR Aerospace. There were no major announcements in his talk (a contrast to last year, when XCOR spoke at Space Access immediately after announcing their Lynx suborbital vehicle) but there were some items of note:

  • Their engine development work is going quite well, with Greason saying that it was not a “rate-limiting” step. What has turned out to be more of a challenge, he said, was the reaction control system, with small thrusters that you would think not to be a big deal to build but are more of a challenge.
  • Greason shared some insights into XCOR’s long-term vision of what an orbital vehicle would be like. He said a system would have to be a two-stage system (SSTO is too hard); in such a case, you really want both stages to return to the launch site to avoid the costs and other complexities of ferrying. That’s more of a challenge for the first stage, which drives the need for wings to allow the stage, after boost, to turn and fly back to the landing site. Greason said what XCOR is envisioning is winged reusable first stage and an upper stage that might initially be expendable: similar to some of the “hybrid” launch system designs studied by the Air Force in recent years.
  • Greason also addressed regulatory issues, noting that while he believed several years ago that the industry would be largely self-regulating, there does need to be more efforts made in sharing safety-related information by industry, as well as more of an effort by government (namely FAA/AST) to request and disseminate that data. I’ll cover that in more detail in a later post.

The other interesting highlight from Friday’s sessions was a presentation by Scott Zeeb and Todd Squires of TrueZer0, the team that competed in the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge last October. They said that they’re not likely to compete for Level 1 again, concluding that the cost and effort needed to do so was not worth the $150,000 second prize. They are, though, planning to compete for Level 2, but not until 2010.

Coming up today in the last day of Space Access ’09 will be some presentations by Rocketplane Global, Armadillo Aerospace, and Masten Space Systems, among others.

1 comment to XCOR and other Space Access highlights

  • Lee Valentine

    To clarify a bit,Jeff Greason was describing two different systems.

    The first XCOR system capable of orbit is one using the Lynx Mark 2 with the expendable Lynx Cub upper stage. Lynx Cub is designed to launch 10-15 kg into a low Earth orbit of the customer’s choice on short notice. The Lynx/Lynx Cub will be available in about three years.

    The second is a piloted, two stage, orbital vehicle. It needs a larger, and still to be developed, piloted, horizontal takeoff booster stage. That capability is farther in the future.

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