One of the most important factors in ensuring the success of any business is a clear and correct vision. In the space business especially, only a clear vision of the future will allow one to sustain the effort required to reach a clearly defined goal. That goal may be the eventual development of an orbital spaceplane from a suborbital one, or it may involve perching a small spaceplane atop a ballistic booster. Establishing the correct vision is at least as important as forming a clear one. If the vision is fuzzy, then goals will be difficult to set. If the vision is unrealistic, for technical, financial, or other reasons, then the goals will never be reached. The vision must be both clear and correct to ensure success (Fig. 11.1).
An example from the nascent electrical industry may serve as an object lesson. When the first electrical lines were being strung, there was debate over whether electricity should be delivered to the consumer as a direct current (DC) or as an alternating current (AC). Large sums of money were involved, and fortunes would depend on the outcome. Only one of these competing visions was correct. We now know that AC distribution systems allow the transmission of high-voltage low-current
M.A. Bentley, Spaceplanes: From Airport to Spaceport, 173
doi:10.1007/978-0-387-76510-5_11, © Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2009
Fig. 11.1 This artist's rendering of the Skylon spaceplane cruising through the atmosphere is a good example of a clear vision of the future (courtesy Reaction Engines Limited)
power over long distances, something that is impossible for DC. Those who clung to the DC vision lost, because they had the wrong vision of the future.
In the same way, we have competing visions for the future of space access, and there are many visions at this point in history. This book presents only one of these, along with some compelling reasons for its implementation. Asking the right questions, and trying to determine the correct answers, is part of the process of making the proper choices, as the wise reader will shortly see.
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