back to article So, rocket boffin Dr Adam Baker: Will we live long and prosper in SPACE?

Recently, El Reg gave you a rundown of the key players in the new commercial space race: companies like Armadillo, Bigelow, Mars One and Virgin Galactic, which are chasing the space-tourist dollar, and the likes of Excalibur Almaz, Masten Space Systems, Reaction Engines and SpaceX, which have more serious applications in mind. …

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Silver badge

Give this guy some venture funding. Sounds like he knows how to spend it.

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Small launcher space port - Thunderbirds are go!

This in my opinion is a great thing to strive for. If we build a small luncher space-port then you can almost guarantee that in the future investment into the area in the UK will increase (my opinion as I would if able invest in it).

In turn this should allow us to build on the small launch capabilities to allow bigger launches.

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Re: Small launcher space port - Thunderbirds are go!

But (as has been said before when we discussed Skylon) Britain is in the wrong place on the globe. If we want to launch to equatorial orbits we have to launch over Europe, not good for dropping stages or other problems. Our best option is Ascension Island, slap on the equator and a couple of thousand miles of sea before you hit Africa.

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Re: Small launcher space port - Thunderbirds are go!

It's just France and Spain below us isn't it?

More seriously you're right. Ascension Island would be a good place, although not in the UK still a British territory.

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Wouldn't launching from the coast of Scotland (or England) add significantly to the cost of reaching orbit, compared with a tropical launch point?

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"Wouldn't launching from the coast of Scotland (or England) add significantly to the cost of reaching orbit, compared with a tropical launch point?"

Probably, but it should reduce the cost of launches into highly inclined or polar orbits.

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Silver badge

Good point. In fact you'd probably want to launch northwards. One reason that Cape Canaveral Kennedy Canaveral and Kourou were chosen as launch spots is that there's several thousand miles of blue water to the east. An aborted launch vehicle coming down in mainland Europe doesn't sound too attractive.

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Mushroom

Beyond the sky

Go for it, Adam!

There's bound to be a knighthood on the cards in rocketry, somewhere. There was for Hugo Drax.

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Gold badge
Unhappy

There's a reason why the OSC Pegasus has an empty manifest.

It's f**king expensive.

It's got the highest Kg/$ to orbit of (AFAIK) any LV.

Perhaps the fact it's #1 supplier also owns a big stake in it and the costs to a supplier are not govt limited (unlike the profit they can earn from US govt launches, which by US law cannot be penalized for being US govt launches) might have something to do with it.

Somewhat like the companies that lease rolling stock to UK rail operators that are financed by merchant banks and whose price is not capped by the UK govt (but who don't AFAIK own any actual rail operating companies, because they don't care who pays through the nose, just as long as they do).

Pretty much everyone else flies as secondary payloads on the big boys like Ariane, F9 and (in principal) Delta IV and Atlas V. Costs seem to run about $100k/ payload not per Kg.

So this UK LV is the "anchor tenant" for the UK spaceport?

So whose the "anchor tenant" for the launcher?

In the US DARPA was for Pegasus, but they already had artillery ranges launch pads to use (actually the UK does as well, but Quintiq own and operate them).

BTW Kourou gets about 300m/s free delta v from it's location. Ascension Island is about the nearest UK plot of land that could do as well.

Not-so-incedentally the solid 3rd stage of the Black Arrow LV was critical to putting Prospero into orbit. Despite the 1st 2 stages being similar the 1st stage only contributed about 1100 m/s. It's real purpose was to get the LV off the Aus mainland and over the sea.

Lots of Peroxide lovers drop it once they read the relevant JBIS special issue.

Today I'd expect an HTP stage to get a T/W ratio of about 4x what BA got (160:1 Vs 40:1 as it was designed for a reusable aircraft booster app) and a GNC package < 1/10 the original. BL didn't even have an on board computer, just a timer and and gyros to keep it pointing in the right direction till burn out. Weighed about 200lb.

The world is not short of small payload launch capacity

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Holmes

Re: There's a reason why the OSC Pegasus has an empty manifest.

Calm down, John.

It's quite true many smallsats are launched as secondary payloads on big launchers, but that only works if all you need to be is somewhere in space. The trend towards sophisticated nanosatellites with demanding missions brings with it a need to launch these things into dedicated orbits - say sun-syncronous low earth orbits or suchlike - and there are considerably fewer opportunities there. So yes, there will be demand for a micro launcher at some point. How big, and at what price point? Dunno, let the experts figure it out.

BTW, for a micro launcher of today, I'm not sure you'd need much in terms of on-board computer. Maybe a new market for the Rasperry Pi-in-the-Sky?

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Happy

Re: There's a reason why the OSC Pegasus has an empty manifest.

"It's quite true many smallsats are launched as secondary payloads on big launchers, but that only works if all you need to be is somewhere in space."

Actually some of those nanosats are starting to come with their own albeit limited propulsion systems.

Given the bulk of normal missions will be to GTO such systems can be tailored to drop off somewhere along the way and then start firing to re-shape the orbit.

It's not likely to be quick, and there will be limits to how far you can push it, but I suspect the range is a bit wider than you might expect.

"BTW, for a micro launcher of today, I'm not sure you'd need much in terms of on-board computer."

True, as I said Black Arrow had no OBC, and what it did have was pretty heavy, hence my comment that any successor could do much better.

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Bronze badge

Re: There's a reason why the OSC Pegasus has an empty manifest.

"Maybe a new market for the Rasperry Pi-in-the-Sky?"

Doubtful. Too thin a mask, too thin the shielding.

There's a *reason* that the space shuttle flew with an embarrassing amount of CPU and memory. Radiation.

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Thumb Down

Re: Re: There's a reason why the OSC Pegasus has an empty manifest.

"here's a *reason* that the space shuttle flew with an embarrassing amount of CPU and memory. Radiation."

That's Space Shuttle, 80's technology. These days, you simply wouldn't go down that route anymore. The trend in satellites and launch vehicles alike (like the Falcon and Japan's Epsilon) is to use decent CPUs and pack them in several mm of metal against the radiation. Incidentally, one reason for that is you can't get the old stuff anymore.

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Holmes

Re: There's a reason why the OSC Pegasus has an empty manifest.

"Actually some of those nanosats are starting to come with their own albeit limited propulsion systems."

Yep. very limited. Too limited for moving from GTO to LEO. Learn your orbital dynamics.

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Bronze badge

Re: There's a reason why the OSC Pegasus has an empty manifest.

" Too limited for moving from GTO to LEO. Learn your orbital dynamics"

A few hours on Kerbal Space Programs should teach the basics :)

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Rockets are so 1950s, someone said recently - and that's true. The going rate for launch-to-LEO is between $8K/Kg and $15K/Kg - say $12K/Kg average. The sad fact is that right now we have the tech to reduce that figure to less than $5/Kg and launch multiple times per day without destroying any hardware in the process. It's called a railgun, and for my money, it's the only worthy game in town. The ideal location is equatorial and uses a few Km of track for gee-hardened cargo launches, or over 100 Km for more sedate passenger launches. The US Airforce and Navy have been messing with this, but they are really only interested in making ballistic weapons, so they use insane energy densities - about 100x more than a commercial launch outfit needs. The principle is sound, and lacks only investment. Ecuador is a good spot - there are flat stretches leading to useful mountains to angle the launch correctly.

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