5 new papers relating to the JRS Space Tourism Study Program were presented at the 7th ISCOPS held in Nagasaki July 25-28, showing that this work is advancing on all fronts, and gathering interest from an increasingly wide range of experts - as it deserves to!
- "Dynamic throttling response of LH2 rocket engine for vertical landing rocket vehicle" by Y Naruo et al discusses the technical requirements for rapid throttle response for SSTO VTOL vehicles (like Kankoh-maru) in order to avoid the need to gimbal the engines (which adds to mass and complexity), and reports on recent experiments carried out on an LH2 engine that suggests that these requirements can indeed be met with existing technology. Very encouraging for reducing vehicle costs!
- "A common cost target of space transportation for space tourism and space energy development" by M Nagatomo et al estimates the launch cost targets that must be met in order for both space tourism services and transmission of solar-generated electric power from space to be commercially attractive propositions. In both cases the target is somewhere around $100/kg to low Earth orbit - a bit higher for tourism, a bit lower for SPS. If the launch industry can meet these targets they will be in a "whole new ball-game" with essentially limitless prospects for investment and growth, since they will be tapping two of the biggest business sectors in the world economy. Until this cost target is reached, space activities will remain a burden on taxpayers. Kankoh-maru and the cargo version are being designed to meet this target.
- "The JRS space tourism study program Phase 2", by P Collins and K Isozaki describes the current state of the JRS research, now in its 5th year. The 2nd Report of the JRS Transportation Research Committee has just been published, including cost estimates for development, certification and production of Kankoh-maru. The 1st Report of the JRS Business Research Committee is due to be published soon, including discussion of operating cost targets, operation of Kankoh-maru from airports, orbital accommodation and other matters. Plans for the 3rd phase of the JRS study (now beginning) are described.
- "Orbital considerations in Kankoh-maru rendezvous operations" by T Williams et al starts to analyze the use of Kankoh-maru for making return trips to orbiting hotels. Kankoh-maru is designed primarily to take 50 passengers for a short flight in a 200 km orbit, and reaching a hotel imposes new constraints on the vehicle design and operation - particularly since hotels will probably be sited in orbits of 355 km or above. The paper is written to be easily read by non-specialists such as airline planners, and looks forward to the day when phrases like "apogee", "RBAR", "Ten-to-one-rule" and "dog-leg" are as familiar to airline flight dispatchers as "great circle", "jet-stream" and "go-around" are today. And to when "passenger load factor", "block time" and "spacecraft utilization" are equally familiar to launch vehicle designers!
- "Pilot procedures for
Kankoh-maru operations" by
Erik Anderson et al is a real "first" - the first pilot's manual for an
VTOL rocket. It discusses the need for rocket designers to adopt "aviation philosophy" if rocket transport is to become a mature business. And then goes through the procedures for a routine flight. The Appendix is a (simplified) version of a Flight Manual for the "
Kawasaki S-1", an all-purpose variant of the
Kankoh-maru. It reads like the real thing, and shows that if maintenance requirements can be brought down to reasonable levels, airlines will operate
VTOL rockets just like aircraft. It even shows how, if there had been a pilot aboard, the DC-XA accident could have been avoided. A fun read for pilots!
All in all, these papers are very encouraging to read, and show some of the widening interest in developing vehicles to provide space tourism services to the public. We hope they'll attract more researchers to join this field. For example, many university Professors, researchers and students have some flexibility to decide what subjects they will research. And as a research field space tourism has three great features - it's new, and so it's easy to do genuinely new work that is genuinely valuable - and even historic. It's fun - researchers will have no difficulty recruiting enthusiastic and able students - and getting media coverage for their work. And it's leading towards money - unlike almost all other space-related research. Tourism is one of the biggest industries in the world, it's growing fast, and it's always looking for new fields. So it's possible to do work that's not only new and fun, but also of real commercial interest.