Sustain the Effort

To reach the goal of eventually providing regular passenger access to orbital or Lunar space, the small spaceplane development company of today must embark on a slow, steady program of incremental improvement in design and technology. Already, some companies are advertising flights to 130 km, while others are expecting a suborbital apogee of nearly three times that height, with resulting

Fig. 11.3 Teacher-in-space Christa McAuliffe experiences weightlessness in NASA's KC-135 zero-G training aircraft prior to her ill-fated mission aboard the Challenger. This clear vision will help to develop the imminent space tourism market (courtesy NASA)

longer periods of weightlessness. As suborbital flights gradually lengthen their zero-G endurances and raise their apogees, one will eventually reach orbital velocity itself. But it will require a sustained effort. It may take decades and involve the invention of new, lightweight, combined cycle engines such as the turborockets we discussed in Chap. 8.

Patience and perseverance are the twin traits of the tortoise who won the proverbial foot race, as well as of the team who wins the private space race. Unlike the tale of the tortoise and the hare, there will be many more winners, and many more losers. An ongoing incremental program of engine and airframe improvement will eventually lead to the first SSTO spaceplane. Along with these twin character traits will be the necessity of maintaining a strong faith in a concept, in a company, in a team, and in a vehicle.

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