Monday, January 31, 2011


Xcor Aerospace is a company founded by Jeff Greason. This company has been around since 1998 using research and development to determine all challenges to creating a fully reusable launch system to get payloads into sub-orbit. Their motto has been to focus on solving all the prolbems for a resuable vehicle. They started their early develobment with a small rocket engine with only 15 lbs of thrust. From this small beginning they have worked their way up to building a rocket powered plane named the X-Racer. In this development process they have claimed the title of most liquid fueled rocket firings in the world and over doubling NASA in a distant second place. They have also developed piston pumps for rocket fuel and a light weight fireproof material for constructing fuel and LOX tanks. They are currently in the design and construction of their suborbital vehicle named Lynx. Greason recently mentioned Xcor would further research into a 2 stage orbital rocket where the second stage would be able return to it's point of origin (presumably with wings).

Xcor has some strengths and weaknesses in their company that I would like to point out. Xcor's main strength is rocket engines. They have consistently produced lighter weight easier maintence rocket engines through a method of under promising and over delivering. They started small and consistenly created larger systems and have worked with a variety of different fuels. I think it is fair to say that this company knows more about rocket engine design for small to medium rockets than any other company to date. This company has been working mainly off of R&D contracts to fund their development and progress. They havent run into any serious funding problems as of yet but that might have to do with their track record of consistently putting out results. Xcor's current biggest weakness is that they know very little of aerospace design from the ground up. Their previous vehicles were modified kit planes. I think this will cause their development of the sub-orbital space plane to take an extended length of time. Smartly Jeff Greason has not put any kind of time-line on their development and flight testing. If all else fails for the company the will still be the leading manufacturer of rocket engines.

Sunday, January 30, 2011


Space Exploration Technologies Corp. otherwise known as SpaceX is a commercial space company founded and operated by Elon Musk. Musk has a vision of lowering the cost of creating single use expendable vehicles. This company has had the achievements of  being the first corporation to put a rocket into orbit and their most recent achievement of being the the first company to recover a capsule from orbit. Also they appear to be one of the few commercial space endeavors to achieve a profitable position at this time.

Now as for my opinion on the company has both positive and negative aspects of it. They are doing a lot of things quite well. Musk was smart enough to find some people with quite a bit of experience in liquid rocket engine development to design and build his Merlin rocket engine. The repetitiveness of the design was also a good call as to increase manufacturing speed. Also repeating his design of the main set of engines with his boosters for the proposed Falcon 9 Heavy will allow him to manufacture the same piece multiple times for relatively low cost. The business plan looks to be pretty solid with only relying on NASA for what appears to be about half of its contracts (too much reliance on NASA put the company at the mercy of politics). I do see Elon Musk's push for human space flight as a short lived victory. If SpaceX gets contracts from NASA to carry humans to space then they most likely will be the first company to put humans into orbit. The competition of current suborbital space flight companies will in about 10 to 15 years drive that cost well out of SpaceX's reach. One point I would like to say is that if SpaceX was wise after they develop their heavy lift vehicle they should try to build a fuel station in orbit to sell fuel in space for what would be a huge profit. Maybe even create a 2 vehicle ferry service for that fuel station to support other distant exploration projects. I think that would guarantee SpaceX's long term survival in the future of space.

Rocket Power

In considering rocket engines I think the research and development has a serious gap. With the invention of the liquid fueled rocket by Robert Goddard we have had around 90 years to research rocketry. There was some small engine development the the years of the world wars. Then the next major development in rocker engine was during the space race of the 60's and 70's. There was a large leap in the size of rockets being built and the fuel for our mordern space machines was switched to hydrogen. Hydrogen has a higher specific impulse than other fuels but come across more logistical prolbems such as keeping it cold to keep in liquid form. when dealing with rockets the weight of the engine and vehicle is the largest factor. That has to cautiously weighed against the specific impulse of the fuels.

The space race caused a gap in the gradual development in the size of rocket engines. The demand of the space race calling to put a man on the moon demanded larger rockets to be developed. With that call there was a lack of development of small to mid size rockets. I am of the opinion that small to medium sized rockets will be the ones to transfer the crews to orbit and the lager rockets will be for heavy lifting and cargo transportation. In the future the people will be moving in and out of space quite a bit where the cargo will be shot up in large loads at regular intervals. I think that the various new space companies are going fill specific roles. I will comment later on the positions of the various positions of the new companies and their roles in the future of space.

 Comments are encouraged on my opinions, but in leaving comments please use references for information as to encourage more learning and understanding of this subject.