|Re: OT: Spaceship One claims the $10 Million X-Prize!|
Message #5 Posted by bill platt on 6 Oct 2004, 9:39 a.m.,
in response to message #3 by Thomas Cox
To me, the interesting thing to realize is that this business of "getting to space" (meaning merely going high up) is really not so terribly difficult today, relatively speaking. The fact is, there has simply not been a commercially viable reason to try before now--and that is the only real reason nobody tried to do this before the X-prize was introduced.
The real challenge is getting into orbit---and especially back again--and so by that measure, only the Soviet space programme and NASA can claim to be truly space-capable.
How fast did Spaceshipeone go relative to earth? 2800 MPH? (Maybe not even that fast, as they are powering during a significant portion of the climb, so the velocity to achieve altitude is less than that due merely to the gravitational acceleration vis-a-vis "exit velocity").
I'm not sure exactly, but that seems about right.
By contrast, to achieve orbit,, one needs to get up to approximately 18000 mph (depending on altitude). In terms of kinetic energy, that is 18000^2 / 2800^2 = 41 times more energy.
This is not to belittle Mr. Rutan's accomplishment--I am elated by the success.
"Scaled Composites" not only won the Ansari X-prize--they did it with real style, élan, poise.
The "ships" they built are beautiful. The approach so well thought out and thorough---I love the identical cockpits of the White Knight and the spaceship---even the names are good--White Knight looks like a knight with his jousting lance.
It will be interesting to see if Mr. Rutan and his team have a simple solution to the de-orbit problem capable of trumping the government-sponsored programs of the past.
Edited: 6 Oct 2004, 9:49 a.m.