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Author Topic: Could private space flight have taken off earlier? Why now?  (Read 1463 times)

Offline briligg

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I watched Niel Degrasse Tyson the other day say private space flight should have happened a long time ago. He's an expert, but i still kind of wonder if that is unfair.
Space X, the Skylon project, XCOR, Virgin Galactic, Planetary Resources, Orbital Sciences (although they have been around for a while and seem pretty old guard) - why is this happening now?


Offline CliffordK

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When is "earlier"?

1940, jets were more of a concept than reality.  Rockets were being used for bombs, but people.
1950, first commercial jets.
1957 Sputnik
1959 to 1970, X-15
Late 60's, early 70's, Apollo missions.
70's Skylab
1970 to 2003, Concorde
1986-2001 Russian space station Mir

I'm not quite sure where private enterprise would have entered the space race.  The early attempts were being financed by the government with very deep pockets.  And, they were dangerous.

Although, in a sense, you could say that many of the aircraft and rockets were being developed by private corporations receiving US Government funding.  Likewise, Space-X, and others have also received government support.

Perhaps the X-15 era could have ushered in private enterprise, but it was still very experimental at the time.  Classified?

One might consider the Concorde as bringing in the equivalent of space travel to the people, and it was not cheap.

Are there any passenger space flights yet?  It may well go through a boom & bust.  Will the demand of $1 Million per flight keep up?  Even after a few billionaires are killed?

Perhaps what we need rather than passenger space travel is Vomit Comet Airlines.  Imagine the thrill of going through repeated weightless parabolas for a flight between the USA and Europe.  [8D]  If you did one every 2 minutes, or about 30 an hour, one would get in over 300 parabolas in a 10 hour flight  :o  Oh, apparently a company is now offering parabolic flights, although I don't think the design is for combining travel and Zero-G.  This could have been introduced decades ago.  Were the people ready?

Offline briligg

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Jeff Greason, founder of XCOR, said this of the Challenger disaster:
"As a student at CalTech, with no special expertise in the area, I had heard of the problem with the O-rings. When the Challenger disaster occurred, i said, 'that looks like an O-ring problem. But it can't be - they already solved that problem."
He then goes on to talk of his feeling of frustration with the culture of NASA and the American aerospace industry that inspired him to found XCOR. Elon Musk talks of similar frustration. Both men left the computer / internet industry to found rocket companies. Both men feel that the approach NASA and companies like Boeing were taking to reaching space was fundamentally flawed. Musk is focussing on reuseable rockets, Greason and Burt Rutan are focussing on space planes.
Both these tactics seem like things that could have been developed a long time ago. Was there some reason they couldn't be?
DeGrasse Tyson referred specifically to hauling freight to LEO, that it should have been a job handed over to private industry long ago. I'm not sure what video i saw that in, but i believe he said 'decades' ago. He doesn't believe for a second that SpaceX or anyone else in private industry can get to Mars, much less establish a colony. That he still feels requires much deeper pockets and the ability to take risk that only a government can endure
How long ago did launching satellites for private groups develop into a profitable endeavour? Is that what made the difference?

Offline alancalverd

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Imagine the thrill of going through repeated weightless parabolas for a flight between the USA and Europe.

Or just sign up for the aerobatics course at your local flying club. Scare yourself stupid, clean up your own vomit (why not take it home as a souvenir?), and no passport or security queues. 

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