Thursday, August 6, 2009
This simple test rocket, in a way the biggest hobby launch ever, will be an early test of a man-rated rocket. Why is this a great rocket in my mind? Because it uses an inexpensive and fairly reliable solid rocket motor in the first stage, then more energetic liquid motors in upper stages. This is, across the board, the recipe for success in large rockets. Even the Saturn V chose a dense but low energy fuel for the first stage. This doesn't strike me as a terribly important test (more important than the recent LES test, less important that actual all up testing of the real rockets to be done in the future); but it will be very very cool. And this minor step shows that some progress is being made in what strikes me as a very good move back towards mostly expendable rockets, one with a heavy lift capacity (10 meter space telescope anyone? Or Mars mission...), and the other being a smaller cheaper rocket to carry men to space. No longer will crews and payload be mixed together. No longer will we have people flying below falling ice and foam, nor will we carry a giant glider up and back, turning one of the largest rockets ever into something that can hardly carry a school bus to orbit. In other words, the end of the Shuttle era is approaching nicely.