01 December 2005

Burt Rutan: The Future of Space

This last Summer I went to the famous EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2005 with my Dad and 5 brothers. It was amazing. For those who might not know what the Oshkosh Airshow is all about-many of my friends and coworkers have never heard of it-here is the summary from Wikipedia.org:

The Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) is an international organization of aviation enthusiasts based in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. EAA was founded by Paul Poberezny. Today the organization is run by his son, Tom Poberezny. Paul still works with EAA as its Chairman of the Board. On January 26, 1953, Paul and 35 other aviation enthusiasts created the EAA in Milwaukee, Wisconsin as a club for people who were constructing their own homebuilt aircraft. Homebuilding is still a large part of EAA, but the organization has grown immensely over the years to include almost every aspect of aviation and aeronautics. Each summer EAA presents the largest annual aviation event in the world, 'EAA AirVenture Oshkosh', also known as the Oshkosh Airshow. During the airshow, the city's airport, Wittman Regional, is the busiest airport in the world. The week long event annually attracts around 10,000 planes and about 700,000 visitors to the region.
I can't really explain how big this airshow is. There are so many planes, shops, shows, booths, demos, sales, restorations, how to presentations and generally fun things to do, it's frankly overwhelming. One of the presentations I attended was one where Burt Rutan, Sir Richard Branson and Will Whitehorn talked about the Future of Space. I had my video camera with me, so I took video of the presentation. I found the presentation inspiring. I've encoded the video in a format suitable for use with the video capable iPod. Now some disclaimers about the video: The video is a bit shaky. This is because I didn't bring my tripod and I was literally holding my video camera with my hands for the whole presentation. People who have held a video camera, no matter how light, for longer than 15 minutes can understand. Because of muscle fatigue, stabilization later in the video it gets worse. I'm sorry, but the audio is still good. :) I'm constantly trying to avoid heads and moving people. I didn't get to the presentation near early enough. Each presentation in this outdoor hanger starts every 1 hour 30 minutes. I got there an hour early, but when the prior presentation finished, I think maybe 20 people of 300 left. The were all there for this presentation 1 to 2 hours early! The upshot is that unless you got there early enough to get a good seat for the prior presentation (around 2+ hours early) you basically didn't get a good seat. For this reason I'm zoomed in the full 10x optical zoom on my Canon SR10. Obviously this exacerbates the image stabilization problem. I've encoded this video as a MPEG-4 movie so you'll need to download QuickTime 7 in order to watch it. I've tried a few of the of compression options available in iMovie, but decided on the video iPod compatible format in the end. As I mentioned earlier, I have some online storage and transfer limits, so I was really looking for the best quality given these limitations. Here are some of the best parts if you don't have a spare 1 hour 5 minutes and 10 seconds. 00:00:50 - Space Ship Company founded to manufacture 5 space ships dubbed SpaceShipTwo or is it Space Ship 2? 00:01:15 - Will introduced as Paul Allan who was NOT there. :-P 00:01:50 - 30th anniversary of Brut Rutan bringing the Very EZ to Oshkosh. 00:02:41 - Able to hold on to SpaceShipOne long enough to bring it to Oshkosh. Apparently there was pressure to put it in the museum quickly to avoid putting it at risk. I love that Burt wanted to fly it, and even had an engine all prepared for his flight. 00:03:19 - It doesn't take the government to put people out side the atmosphere! 00:04:40 - Less than 450 astronauts in the last 45 years! 00:05:00 - Spaceline will only be a reality when space flight is 100 times safer. SpaceShipOne and carefree re-entry is part of that. 00:06:30 - One or two degrees loss of control with the Space Shuttle on re-entry would cause catastrophic results. SpaceShipOne attacks that problem face on. 00:07:00 - Thermal protection isn't the big danger, it's the flight control failure that are the risk with Shuttle re-entry. 00:08:00 - SpaceShipOne's hybrid motor and airlocks were big advances just like the feathered "care-free" re-entry. 00:10:00 - Great story about Burt's Dad watching an airplane take off and thinking he'd never get to fly one because he could never afford it. 00:11:30 - Mention of some secret plans for the space program once the safety of space travel is proven. I wonder what this is and why he wouldn't want to share it just yet. It's not like he has a whole bunch of imminent competition. Still interesting to speculate. 00:13:30 - His plea for key talent, what he calls, "fire-breathers" :) I love his comment that, "I will not look at your grades, but I will look into your eyes to see if you have the passion." 00:15:00 - Will's dream of space travel as a kid. Sadly, taking risks for the cause of a dream is no longer encouraged. The shuttle program didn't have a dream or a vision. 00:17:00 - Great story about Will's son getting sent out of class for telling the students, "My Daddy is going to build a spaceship." 00:19:00 - The vision is lowering the cost and as proof of this Virgin Galactic is ordering 5 Spaceships! This talk of courage, and risk and simply doing the valiant thing is what is driving these men. It's not the money and it's obvious. 00:21:00 - Sir Richard Branson talks about focusing on sub-orbital first, then orbital and then after that "other" things. 00:23:00 - Branson talks about the environmental damages caused by the Space Shuttle and commits to helping make Spaceships that are much less damaging to the environment. This is a cost of space travel that I've personally never considered before, but I'm glad that they are aware of it and think they have a solution for making less damaging space travel. 00:25:30 - Question: What is your plan for dealing the bureaucracy of certification? (Part 25 conformity in particular) 00:35:20 - Launch license for SpaceShipOne: Faith in the American government. Amazing. 00:37:00 - Funny story about British Space Program. 00:37:45 - Question: Any comment on the Shuttle foam issue? 00:38:00 - Question: Will you be going public soon? Answer: Virgin Galactic will invest all profits back into the program so the goal is space exploration, not profits. This proves the focus on exploration and not the money. Very noble in my humble opinion. 00:29:00 - Question: How does T-space relate to the SpaceShip company? 00:42:00 - Question: Honeywell employee plugs to supply parts for SpaceShipOne :/ 00:43:19 - Question: How do you address the velocity difference between orbital vs sub-orbital? 00:44:00 - Burt compares SpaceShipOne with X15. SpaceShipOne only gets up to 270 degrees on re-entry. Thermal protection is really needed for accent boost, not decent. SpaceShipOne has 10 times the thermal protection it really needs and that's only 14 pounds of thermal protection. 00:46:00 - Question: Can an non-US citizen's apply for a job? 00:49:00 - Question: How might the economy effect your venture? 00:51:30 - Question: Could this scale to intercontinental travel? 00:52:00 - Interesting note about how intercontinental travel would work. Bouncing on the upper atmosphere 00:53:00 - Question: Is debris up there a problem for sub-orbital travel? 00:55:20 - Question: 4 Phases of Innovation. Commercialization too soon? How are you going to keep government at bay to allow you to innovate? 01:00:00 - Question: Didn't the airline industry grow because people were able to get from here to there quickly, not because they got to see pretty pictures of the black sky. 01:01:40 - We have the internet because we had a decade of people buying computers, "just for fun" 01:02:15 - Airplanes for fun and how great innovation starts with just doing things for fun. "There are 5,000 pilots at Oshkosh, and I don't think they're traveling anywhere, they're having fun!" 01:02:55 - Question: Are you going to stick with the current propulsion system? The movie link: Burt Rutan: The Future of Space


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Unknown said...

A lot more pictures from AirVenture 2005, including some other pics of Burt and his siblings: