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Figure 2.4. International space plans as presented to the Space Advisory Council for the Prime Minister of Japan in 1988.

Figure 2.4. International space plans as presented to the Space Advisory Council for the Prime Minister of Japan in 1988.

Aerospace Plane. During the NASP project team visit to Japan in 1988 the Japanese concept was given significant print coverage and presented to the NASP team in considerable detail. Figure 2.3 shows an artist's rendition of the Aerospace Plane. The configuration is a slender wing-body with sharp leading edges and nose, required to minimize the low lift drag and improve the glide lift-to-drag ratio for Earth return. The plane is powered by a rocket based combined cycle (RBCC) propulsion system. The details are technically correct and indicate a competent design team working actual problems. When the NASP team visited Japan they received the view of the Space Advisory Council of the international space activities, as shown in Figure 2.4. Note that this puts into the Japanese perspective the world space plans, as they existed in 1988. In fact, the Japanese plan indicates that in 1988 there was a multinational perspective of establishing a functional space infrastructure that benefited each nation. This future is build around an orbital stations and free-flying manufacturing factories in LEO and in GSO. Deep space exploration spacecraft were planned to the Moon and planets. However problems with the engines for their H-II launcher and the downturn in their national economy put much of the Japanese vision on hold—or their vision was stretched out in time.

So have many concepts envisioning the future, but the pioneers that expanded the scope of aviation are no longer there to make the dream reality. All that remains, it seems, are the skeptics, who say it is too expensive, or too dangerous, or impractical, or irrelevant.

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