Space Access Update #75  9/23/97 
                 Copyright 1997 by Space Access Society 

We've had a number of comments about our Updates running both too long 
and too infrequently.  We're going to lean toward "Better is the enemy 
of Good Enough" for a while and try to get news out the door faster. 

stories this issue: 

 - DOD MSP Gets $10 million in FY'98 Defense Appropriation Conference 

 - NASA News 
     - "Future X", RLV Work In Doubt as NASA Faces Funding Crunch 
     -  X-33 Aerodynamic Configuration Still Evolving
     -  X-34, Bantam News 

(Space Access Society's sole purpose is to promote near-term radical 
reductions in the cost of reaching space.  You may redistribute this 
Update in any medium you choose, as long as you do it whole and intact.  
Contact us for permission to use excerpts beyond "fair use" limits.) 

       Military "Spaceplane" (MSP) Funded at $10 million in FY'98 

Our thanks to everyone who responded to part 1 of our 9/10/97 political 
alert supporting preliminary technology work on fast-turnaround, small-
groundcrew reusable space vehicles within the USAF.  We think it's a 
necessary hedge to the NASA RLV bet, and we're very glad to say that the 
House-Senate Defence Appropriations conference finished up last Friday 
with a bill that includes $10 million for this work.  It may not sound 
like much, but then it's going to many of the same people who built and 
flew DC-X for less than $70 million total.  It's a start. 

A related piece of good news: The USAF FY'99 budget request will, for 
the very first time, actually include funding for MSP work.  The amount 
asked for is token, $5 million.  The significance of this news is that 
up till now, all DOD money for this sort of work has been unrequested, 
added later by the Congress.  Now someone in DOD is finally admitting 
that reusable rockets matter.  It'll still be a fight to get funding, 
but now we have a hook to hang it from. 


                  NASA "Future X", RLV Funding In Doubt 

In the short term, NASA "Future X" funding is in doubt - last we heard 
the HUD/VA/IA (NASA) Appropriations conference preparations are still 
grinding on, but we understand there's overwhelming pressure to find 
money elsewhere in NASA to cover the accumulated Space Station overruns 
- $430 million needed in FY'98 is the latest figure we've seen.  

We asked for support for the higher House total NASA appropriation in 
the conference, and for $15 million to be reallocated for "Future X" 
reusable launch experiments out of this.  (See part 2 of our 9/10/97 
political alert at for details.) 

If you haven't yet acted on that alert, or if you came up with an 
ongoing contact out of it, please ask for this in addition to what's in 
the alert: A statement of support for NASA "Future X" in the HUD/VA 
Appropriation "statement of managers" (the explanatory report language 
that accompanies the "conference report", the actual bill.)  It can't 
hurt, it might help, it costs nothing - and given the Station funding 
overruns, costing nothing is a considerable virtue.

We understand the HUD/VA Appropriations conference will take place 
tomorrow, Wednesday 9/24/97 - try to get your two cents worth in tonight 
or tomorrow morning, if you haven't already.  Thanks! 

                NASA Funding Crunch Gets Worse Next Year 

The FY'98 funding process is winding down, and already the first steps 
in the FY'99 federal budget are happening.  We understand that White 
House OMB (Office of Management and Budget) has set NASA's FY'99 budget 
request cap at $12.6 billion, down 6.7% from this year's $13.5 billion. 
We hear that NASA HQ thinks this isn't enough to continue doing all the 
things NASA currently does, and that they are working on a list of cuts 
that includes just about all RLV work other than X-33. 

To a considerable extent, this is a ritual - OMB threatens cuts, 
agencies claim they'll have to dump programs under such severe cuts and 
spread rumors about killing projects they think will generate political 
fuss and thus pressure on OMB to cut less.  This is still months from 
being NASA's formal budget request; much will change. 

However, despite all promises to the contrary, Station overruns look 
like eating a lot of other projects' lunches within NASA in FY'98, and 
even if OMB relents somewhat on the reduced NASA budget ceiling, things 
will likely get worse rather than better in FY'99.  Absent radical 
change, anything we can get done at NASA in the next couple years will 
be around the margins, low-budget stuff - we don't anticipate any major 
new starts, and we expect considerable pressure on existing projects. 

Just as well there are signs of life among the startup companies in the 
commercial RLV sector.  In that regard, we should mention that we've  
come upon indications that at least one additional outfit, our near-
namesake Space Access Inc, of Palmdale CA, has found sufficient funding 
to have engineers on staff doing design work.  SA Inc is we hear working 
on a partially airbreathing approach.   (See for 
SAU #74 with more on the other five funded RLV startups we know of.) 

                 Senate NASA Authorization In The Works 

Meanwhile, we hear the Senate Commerce Committee's Space & Technology 
Subcommittee is still working on their first NASA Authorization bill in 
years, and that there will very likely be a final Authorization, though 
if so, not till very late in this year's session.  One interesting thing 
we hear: Senator John McCain, chairman of the overall Commerce 
Committee, has spoken in favor of writing the current informal $2.1 
billion annual cap on Station into law in this Authorization.  This 
would definitely make life interesting for NASA HQ and the Station 
project if it ended up in the final version - and McCain's record is 
that he's both tight with a buck, and a very determined man indeed once 
he makes up his mind. 

              X-33 Aerodynamic Configuration Still Evolving 

We hear that X-33's low-speed stability problems still aren't solved, 
and that there's some disagreement as to the best way to solve them - 
some of the aerodynamicists think that small forward "canard" control 
surfaces are the way to go, but the main approach is still further 
increases in the size of the tail fins.  (No cheap shots about Detroit 
in '57, please...) 

(One of our advisors points out that the Russians solved similar 
lifting-body low-speed handling problems with a flat "shovel-nose" shape 
for the forward fuselage.  We would assume this approach has already 
been looked at for X-33, but we thought we'd mention it, just in case.  
Given the amount of standoff structure that's already crept in from 
aerodynamic changes, and given the need to add ballast to the nose 
anyway, the weight of such a change shouldn't be a show-stopper.)

                                X-34 News 

X-34 is actually going pretty well, from what we hear - the design has 
been frozen for a while now, and airframe construction is underway.  
Flight test site preparations at White Sands in New Mexico are also 

We do note that X-34's primary engine, the MSFC "FasTrac" design 
project, seems to still be having its problems.  NASA Marshall isn't 
saying much about this, but we note what they don't say speaks volumes: 
Their announcement of a full-duration test-stand firing of the FasTrac 
combustion chamber and nozzle says nothing about status of the injectors 
and propellant pumps.  We hope the X-34 contractor has kept the option 
for a Russian backup engine alive despite the apparent political 
pressure to the contrary. 

                               Bantam News 

The NASA Bantam project awarded four $2 million preliminary contracts 
earlier this year, the object being to support development of components 
for new low-cost lightsat launchers.  We understand the Bantam project 
is on hold, due to a losing bidder (Microcosm, we hear) protesting the 
awards.  Given NASA's growing budget crunch, it's possible we'll see 
this leading to Bantam being killed entirely or radically restructured. 
Which would be a shame, for although Bantam isn't exactly how we'd have 
gone about encouraging startups in the cheap launch business, it's a lot 
better than nothing. 

And that's all for this week... 

 Space Access Society 

 "Reach low orbit and you're halfway to anywhere in the Solar System"
                                        - Robert Anson Heinlein