Space Access Update #73  7/14/97 
                 Copyright 1997 by Space Access Society 

Stories this issue: 

 - Editorial: First X, *then* Y, or, The Effective Integration of New 
   Technologies into Advanced Aerospace Vehicles 

 - X-33 Emergency "Tiger Team" Review Results - Management Acknowledges 
   Problems, Begins Fixes 

 - SFF/NASA "Cheap Access" Symposium in DC July 21-22 

 - Mixed Results Last Week on NASA "Future X", DOD "Spaceplane" Funding 

 * Alert: NASA "Future X" Funding Part of Critical House Floor Showdown 
   Tuesday, Also In Senate Appropriations Subcommittee Markup Tuesday 


                            First X, *then* Y 


              The Effective Integration of New Technologies 
                    into Advanced Aerospace Vehicles 

(Ref "First pillage, *then* burn..."  Written for the program book of 
the July 21-22 SFF/NASA "Cheap Access" symposium.) 

X-vehicles are hot in the space business these days - fashionable and 
fundable.  It should come as no surprise then that all sorts of people 
are tagging their pet projects "X" in hopes of jumping onto the funding 
bandwagon.  But while federal funding for space X-vehicles is available, 
it's far from unlimited.  We have a strong interest in making clear what 
is and isn't actually "X", what we will and will not support the 
government doing with the available funding. 

One pseudo-X example is the X-38 ACRV, a "Y" vehicle in X clothing, a 
routine operational mission-flying vehicle project disguised as an 
advanced  experiment.  A variation on this theme is "X" projects where 
operational mission requirements are mixed willy-nilly with experimental 
goals, as with the original X-34.  Such confusion between experimental 
and operational goals led to the original X-34 project's demise, and 
causes ongoing problems for X-33. 

(Y-vehicles are prototypes of ships intended, with minor production 
refinements, to carry operational payloads and perform operational 
missions.  Repeat after us: "Prototypes" are NOT X-vehicles.) 

OK, you say, so how would we define a genuine X-vehicle.  We're glad you 
asked...  New aerospace vehicle technologies can be taken only so far in 
computer simulations and wind tunnels and test stands.  There comes a 
time when the only way to pin down the remaining uncertainties is flight 
test - the sims and ground tests are good and getting better, but there 
are always conditions the sim only approximated, interactions the 
ground-testers didn't anticipate. 

The wrong way to flight-test new technologies is to bring together a 
whole bunch of them directly into a project to build, say, a prototype 
airbreathing-to-orbit spaceplane (NASP) or (hypothetical example of 
course) an SSTO replacement for NASA's Space Shuttle.  In theory this 
approach saves time and money - skip all the intermediate flight-test 
data-gathering and debugging, and go straight to a prototype as close as 
possible to the final operational vehicle. 

There's a problem with this approach: the relatively large remaining 
uncertainties in the partially tested new technologies force the 
designers to use large safety margins, because the resulting vehicle 
MUST work, reliably over many flights - it's costing billions, it has a 
high political profile, and it has payload-carrying missions it MUST 
fly.  High risks for high payoffs are not allowed. 

The large margins translate to heavier subsystems.  The heavier 
subsystems multiply more than add: heavier tanks require heavier support 
structures require more powerful engines require larger tanks require...  
More expensive materials and more exotic manufacturing techniques are 
dragged in to try to contain the weight increases.  The vehicle size and 
cost balloon, the project bloats and stretches out, the final result is 
at best a marginally operable kluge. 

As we said, a hypothetical example only. 

The right way to flight-test new technologies is, well, to flight-test 
'em.  An X-vehicle is an ad hoc flight demonstrator, designed to find 
out as quickly and cheaply as possible what happens when one or more new 
technologies are pushed to their limits.  

X-vehicles can range in scope from a new rapidly-solidified-unobtainium 
TPS sample bolted onto a sounding rocket for a few millions, to a 
package of mostly existing plus a few new technologies bundled into an 
integrated flight test vehicle for a few hundreds of millions.  Either 
way, X-vehicles have no missions but building experience and returning 
data, and no payloads but instruments and in some cases pilots.  

X-vehicles are essentially disposable - you don't waste resources on 
production-engineering, you don't include much systems redundancy, you 
build several copies and count on breaking one or two before the test 
program's over. 

After you've built and flown an X-vehicle, THEN you have the data and 
experience to design an operational prototype.  Paradoxically, doing two 
design-build-fly cycles, X-vehicle then prototype, historically ends up 
quicker cheaper and more effective than trying to compress the process 
into one giant leap from the ground test labs to an operational vehicle. 


                    X-33 "Tiger Team" Review Results 

Some results of last month's emergency "tiger team" review of the X-33 
program are coming out (see Space News June 23 page 2 and AW&ST June 30 
page 27).  Apparently NASA and Lockheed-Martin are no longer pretending 
everything's fine with X-33.  They're also beginning to take steps to 
deal with the problems they've identified, which gives us increased hope 
that X-33 might yet fly in some useful form.  (Somewhere inside that 
$1.2 billion "subscale Shuttle replacement prototype" we sense a $600 
million X-vehicle screaming to get out...) 

 - Weight.  The initial target for X-33's empty weight was 63,000 lbs, 
with a fully-fuelled gross liftoff weight (GLOW) of 273,000 lbs.  Empty 
weight has crept up to 80,000 lbs, with prospect of further increases as 
the design evolves.  80,000 lbs would cause X-33 to fall well short of 
the specified Mach 15 top speed, and would make it marginal at best for 
reaching Malmstrom AFB (in Montana) from Edwards (in southern 
California) on the max speed test flights.  Further increases and X-33 
definitely wouldn't make Malmstrom. 

The tiger team (actually the Technical Readiness Review Team, TRRT, with 
go-anywhere authority and members from Lockheed-Martin, McDonnell-
Douglas, and NASA's Dryden, Marshall, and Langley centers) has 
identified 10,000 pounds of potential weight reductions.  Further review  
shows that at least 5,000 lbs of this can be accomplished with no 
reduction in the scope of the project - avoiding scope reductions is a 
significant political concern; we and others feel the contractor should 
deliver what they promised to win this bid. 

 - Densified Propellants.  At 75,000 lbs dry, X-33 could still end up 
short of range for the high-speed tests if (as seems likely between now 
and design-freeze this fall) weight creeps up again.  One proposal to 
deal with this is the use of "densified" propellants, cooled down below 
the boiling point enough to be increased in density several percent - 
this would allow additional propellant in the (already fixed-size) tanks 
and provide some extra margin.  (The former Rockwell included densified 
propellants in their X-33 bid and displayed some propellant-loading heat 
exchanger hardware at their RLV Expo in spring '96.)  

This would be an additional operational complication, but we've pretty 
much given up on X-33 proving much about austere ops anyway - this is an 
interesting technology, and we have no objection in principle to adding 
it to X-33.  We are however very skeptical about doing it as an addition 
to the contract involving extra payments; it would be too easy to use as 
a backdoor way of paying for part of the likely contractor overruns.  
Better perhaps to do it as a NASA in-kind contribution to the program - 
either in-house or via a separate contractor. 

 - Cost Overruns.  Published estimates of likely X-33 cost overruns 
range from $5 million to $500 million, on a $1.2 billion total ($950m 
NASA, $250m contractor) project.  We expect the actual figure will be in 
the middle of that range, $200m - $300m, when the dust finally settles.  
Lockheed-Martin management has been saying, meanwhile, that they expect 
to complete the project without asking for any extra money, that any 
overruns will be covered by planned reserves.  

We're told this is not just talk, that they've promised Dan Goldin face-
to-face they won't ask for more money.  This seeming contradiction can 
be explained two ways: Either they're dumb enough to think that lying 
about this, now, is a good idea (highly unlikely) or they've decided to 
eat the overruns, pay for 'em out of corporate cash.  

Unprecedented, if so.  Lowballing to win a bid then making it up in the 
overruns is a time-honored tradition in the US aerospace industry.  
Administrator Goldin's recent more-restrictive rule is, cancel the 
project if overruns exceed 15%.  That still leaves room for Lockheed-
Martin to haggle for a good bit extra if project costs rise - but they 
don't seem to be haggling.  

Could the tiger-team review have turned up a smoking gun on lowballing?  
Could NASA have told LockMart their overrun margin on this one is 0%, 
not 15%?  Could we be reading far too much into sparse data?  All of 
these are possible.  Time will tell. 

 - Aerodynamics.  

The chosen X-33 lifting-body configuration turns out to have control 
problems at various points during its flight profile, in pitch during 
the transition from supersonic to subsonic during descent, and laterally 
at landing.  Canards, small nose-mounted control surfaces, are one 
possibility to cure the transonic instabilities.  They'd have to be 
retractable though, with additional weight, cost and reliability impact, 
or they'd burn off during reentry as well as exacerbate control problems 
at landing.  Another possibility is to increase the vertical stabilizer 
size for better lateral stibility at landing, and cant them inwards as 
with the F-18 for better transonic stability.  The tip fins on the 
lifting body, meanwhile, have grown large enough that they might as well 
be (and are being called) wings.  All of this adds weight, drag, and 
expense both manufacturing and operating. 
Aside from the specifics of the weight reductions identified (more on 
those when we know more) the biggest change being made is in program 
organization: From being spread all over the map, project management is 
being concentrated again in Palmdale at the actual Skunkworks.  We-told-
you-so department: In SAU #62, April 1996, we said: "Lockheed-
Martin(s)... ..last major public move was the Lockheed-Martin merger, 
which we understand caused pieces of their X-33 bid to be spread all 
over the map rather than kept concentrated at the old Lockheed Advanced 
Development shop, better known as the 'Skunk Works'.  Handing out pieces 
of the project.. ...seems likely to be a minus in terms of maintaining 
the proven closely-integrated Skunk Works structure."  

From Aviation Week & Space Technology of 30 June 1997, page 27, "All 
told there are 29 organizations in 16 states working on X-33/RLV".  From 
Space News of June 23rd, page 2, "As part of its effort to resolve the 
engineering problems, Lockheed Martin has decided to centralize 
management of the program at the company's Skunk Works facility in 
Palmdale California."  Ken Mattingly in suburban DC is out and Jerry 
Rising in Palmdale is in as project boss, the systems integration 
engineering team is being reinforced 50% and moved from Denver to 
Palmdale...  These are steps in the right direction at least. 

One last thought for now: Some are already saying that X-33's weight 
growth problems "prove" SSTO is impractical.  To which we say, nonsense!  
We've been saying all along that practical SSTO will be a major 
engineering challenge and that the best way to do it is with a small, 
highly skilled, tightly integrated engineering team of the sort the old 
Skunk Works (among others) was known for.  

All X-33's early problems prove is what we've been saying all along: 
Business-as-usual mass-assault contractor-in-every-district engineering 
- however politically expedient - isn't good enough.  This plug-in-the-
disposable-personnel style of project management is *precisely* what the 
TRRT "tiger team" found was the major cause of X-33's weight growth.  A 
skilled highly integrated development team is a whole greater than the 
sum of its parts.  If the US government aerospace complex (re)learns 
that one lesson and no other from X-33, the project will have paid for 
itself many times over. 


           SFF/NASA "Cheap Access" Symposium in DC July 21-22 

Space Frontier Foundation is running a NASA sponsored "Cheap Access" 
symposium at the Hyatt Regency Capitol Hill (400 New Jersey Ave NW in 
Washington DC, $79/night summer rate available) Monday July 21st and 
Tuesday July 22nd.  Admission is free, NASA's paying the expenses.  This 
looks like being heavily weighted towards major aerospace and DC 
insiders; cheap access activists who can attend will leaven the mix.  
We'll be on a Tuesday afternoon panel on X-vehicles.  Info and online 
registration at 


  Mixed Results Last Week on NASA "Future X", DOD "Spaceplane" Funding 

First, our thanks to everyone who called or faxed the Congress in 
response to our alert last week.  We're going to ask you to do it again 
this week, and this time get a friend or two to also.  More on that in 
the next section. 

The results last week were mixed.  On the DOD "military spaceplane" 
(MSP) R&D funding side, the best info we have is that the House 
Appropriations DOD Subcommittee matched the House DOD Authorizations 
amount of $15 million, while the Senate DOD Appropriations Subcommittee 
zeroed MSP despite $10 million in the Senate DOD Authorization.  We 
flat-out fell behind the curve on the Senate Defense Appropriation; the 
bill is on the Senate floor and near a final vote as we write.  We don't 
know what's in it for MSP, but unless something behind-the-scenes worked 
out, we suspect still zero.  Our next chance to affect the issue is in 
the House-Senate conference this fall. 

Regarding NASA "Future X" funding, things are getting complicated. 

(background: "Future X" is NASA's proposed program to follow up X-33 
with an ongoing series of smaller space launch X-projects, less 
ambitious (and far less expensive) individually but with potential for 
far more total impact in the long run.  The Future X people seem to have 
learned from X-33 that you can go for far higher gains if you divide 
your risk among a bunch of smaller projects rather than gamble 
everything on a single large one.  We agree, and we're supporting 
efforts to get NASA Future X funded next year.) 
(background: Congressional "Authorizations" bills are roughly equivalent 
to an authorized shopping list.  "Appropriations" bills are where the 
checks are actually written.  In theory both are necessary before any 
Federal money can be spent.) 

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher's Space Subcommittee of the House Science 
Committee put $300 million for an X-33 followon (this was before NASA's 
"Future X" plans had gone public) in the House NASA Authorization bill, 
and Rep. James Sensenbrenner, head of the full House Science Committee, 
backed him up - Rohrabacher's NASA Authorization then passed the full 
House by a large margin. 

(background: Congressional appropriators in recent years have routinely 
ignored the NASA authorizers.  Often Congress didn't even bother to pass 
a final NASA Authorization bill.  This is changing under the new chief 
NASA authorizer, Space Subcommittee Chairman Rohrabacher.  There are 
signs that the Senate NASA Authorizers under Senator John McCain may 
also take a more active interest this year.  A major turf battle with 
the Appropriators is brewing.) 

Meanwhile, Rep. Jerry Lewis's HUD/VA/IA (NASA) Subcommittee of the House 
Appropriations Committee both ignored the Future X authorization and 
provided NASA a pair of escape routes past the $2.1 billion annual 
spending cap on the Space Station program - $100 million in extra cash 
to cover Russian overruns, plus $150 million in "raiding authority", 
permission for NASA to transfer up to $150 million from other NASA 
projects to Station.  

(background: NASA Station was near defunding a couple years back; the 
$2.1 billion spending cap was a major element of the deal that kept it 
going.  It's all over Washington now though that Station has been 
sweeping overruns under the rug ever since, and that there's no way to 
hide them any more - the total overrun by next year is expected to be 
near a half billion dollars.  Shuttle ate everyone else's lunch within 
NASA for most of a decade, and people remember.  Making sure Station 
won't repeat this history was key to the deal that kept it alive.) 
The full Appropriations Committee backed Rep. Lewis's NASA Appropriation 
last week - Future X got nothing, and meanwhile Station was both being 
given extra money over the agreed limit, and also being given permission 
to raid other NASA projects to pay for Station overruns.  We're very 
unhappy about zero for Future X, and a whole lot of people are unhappy 
about busting the $2.1 billion Station spending cap, most especially 
about the $150 million internal raiding authority.  The 800 pound 
gorrilla is starting to eye everyone else's lunch again... At the very 
least, this shouldn't happen without hearings to establish why. 

So now the HUD/VA/Independent Agencies Appropriation (NASA is by far the 
largest of the "Independent Agencies" covered) goes to the full House 
for floor debate, amendments, and final passage, likely starting the 
evening of Tuesday the 15th, tomorrow.  And there will be amendments 
offered by Rep. Rohrabacher and others to fix the Future X and Station 
problems, and the result will be a test of strength between the House 
NASA appropriators and authorizers. 

The main amendment sponsors will be Representative Dana Rohrabacher and 
Representative Tim Roemer - Roemer is a long-time critic of Space 
Station.  We don't know the exact structure of the amendments to be 
offered (there will be more than one) but our current information is as 
follows, subject to last-second changes: 

 -- The $150 million in "raiding permission" will be dealt with 
procedurally rather than via amendment. 

 -- One "Rohrabacher-Roemer" amendment will transfer $100 million from 
NASA's "Human Spaceflight" account to the account that covers reusable 
launch vehicle work, the intent being to cancel the $100 million new 
money for Russian Station overruns and provide $100 million startup 
funding for NASA Future X. 

 -- A second Rohrabacher-Roemer amendment will limit overall Station 
construction and operations spending next year to the previously agreed 
$2.1 billion cap, preventing raids on Shuttle funding or on Station 
science funding to pay for Station construction cost overruns. 

We're supporting both Rohrabacher-Roemer amendments, and asking you to 
do the same.  The reason for supporting the reusable launch/Future X 
funding amendment is obvious.  

The reasons for supporting the Station funding limits amendment are a 
bit less obvious.  In part, it's a matter of supporting people who are 
supporting us, of an ad hoc coalition.  Then too, the rest of NASA has 
had to live with tight fiscal discipline for years now.  Why should the 
Station project be rewarded for overruns by being given permission to 
raid projects that have succeeded within their new limits?  Especially 
when some of the projects at risk might eventually be cheap access 
related ones, of far more long-term benefit to the nation than the 
current expensive-access constrained Station project. 


 * Alert: NASA "Future X" Funding in Critical House Floor Showdown, 
   Vote Likely Tuesday Evening July 15th 

We want all of you to call, fax, or telegraph your Representative and 
ask them to support the Rohrabacher-Roemer amendments to the HUD/VA 
Appropriations bill.  Emphasize your support for $100 million for NASA 
"Future X" reusable launch research, and if you're comfortable with it 
also mention your opposition to letting Station break its agreed-on 
spending cap. 

You can look up your Representative's local district office in the 
Federal government section of the "blue pages" of your local phone book.  
If you're not sure which of several Representatives listed is yours, 
your local library information desk can likely help you.  We recommend 
that you contact your Representative's Washington office directly - but 
if you do call or fax the local office, try to do so well before close 
of business Tuesday, so they can let their Washington counterparts know 
that they've heard from constituents on the matter before the floor 
votes happen. 

Better you should ask the local office for your Representative's 
Washington office phone (or fax) number, or you can call the US Capitol 
switchboard at 1 202 224-3121 and get switched through (maybe - they can 
get pretty overloaded), or you can use the Representative locator 
available at to find out who your 
representative is and get their DC office phone and fax numbers. 

If you phone, ask for the LA (Legislative Assistant) who deals with NASA 
Appropriations, then when you get either them or their voicemail, 
identify yourself briefly as a constituent ("Hi, my name is Bill Smith, 
and I'm from East Peoria") then tell them what you want ("I'm calling to 
ask Representative Jones to support the Rohrabacher-Roemer amendments to 
the NASA Appropriation bill") then tell them briefly why (EG, "I think 
funding for Future X at NASA is a vital investment in our country's 
future technological competitiveness") then, if they don't have any 
questions, thank them and ring off.

If you write or fax, tell them the same basic things, but spend a few 
more words on why you think it's a good idea.  Keep it well under a page 
though.  And of course, always keep it clear and keep it polite.  The 
staffer reading it is likely overworked already, and if you annoy them 
the last thing they're going to do is go to bat for your pet program. 

 * Alert: Senate Appropriations VA/HUD/IA Subcommittee Marks Up NASA 
   Appropriation bill Tuesday July 15th 4 pm 

If any of the following Senators is from your state, we ask that you 
contact them and ask them to support $300 million for NASA "Future X" in 
the Senate VA/HUD Appropriations bill.  Our latest info is that the 
Subcommittee will begin marking up at 4 pm tomorrow, Tuesday the 15th. 

                                         voice     fax 
 Bond, Christopher (R MO, Chair)  (202) 224-5042  224-0139 
 Burns, Conrad (R MT)                   224-2644  224-8594 
 Stevens, Ted (R AK)                    224-3004  224-2354 
 Shelby, Richard (R AL)                 224-5744  224-3416 
 Campbell, Ben Nighthorse (R CO)        224-5852  224-1933  
 Craig, Larry (R ID)                    224-2752  224-2573 
 Mikulski, Barbara (D MD)               224-4654  224-2626 
 Leahy, Patrick (D VT)                  224-4242  224-3595 
 Lautenberg, Frank (D NJ)               224-4744  224-9707 
 Harkin, Tom (D IA)                     224-3254  224-9369 
 Boxer, Barbara (D CA)                  224-3553 
 Byrd, Robert (D WV)                    224-3954  228-0002 
That's all for now.  Go get 'em! 

-----------------------(SAS Policy Boilerplate)------------------------

Space Access Update is Space Access Society's when-there's-news 
publication. Space Access Society's goal is to promote affordable access 
to space for all, period.  We believe in concentrating our resources at 
whatever point looks like yielding maximum progress toward this goal.  

Right now, we think this means working our tails off trying to get the 
government to build and fly multiple quick-and-dirty high-speed reusable 
"X-rocket" demonstrators in the next three years, in order to quickly 
build up both experience with and confidence in reusable Single-Stage To 
Orbit (SSTO) technology.  The idea is to reduce SSTO technical 
uncertainty (and thus development risk and cost) while at the same time 
increasing investor confidence, to the point where SSTO will make sense 
as a private commercial investment.  We're not far from that point. 

With luck and hard work, we should see fully-reusable rocket testbeds 
flying into space before the end of this decade, with practical 
radically cheaper orbital transports following soon after. 

Space Access Society won't accept donations from government launch 
developers or contractors - it would limit our freedom to do what's 
needed.  We survive on member dues and contributions, plus what we make 
selling tapes and running our annual conference.  

Join us, and help us make it happen.  

            Henry Vanderbilt, Executive Director, Space Access Society 

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