[FPSPACE] a new Swiss wannabe

Keith Gottschalk kgottschalk at uwc.ac.za
Sat Sep 27 07:56:41 EDT 2014

Yesterday, Friday 26th, al-Jazeera English channel broadcast an interview with a Swiss start-up whose name I didn't catch. 

     The start-up proposes to use an Airbus with a winged upper stage rocket clamped onto its roof, in principle similar to the Sanger project of the 1960s or 1970s.  At the Airbus's highest altitude, the winged upper stage rocket is ignited, to either take passengers across the North Atlantic in two hours; or to in turn go to its highest altitude, from where it launches satellites, each attached to a third stage. The broadcast showed a computer animation of this, plus a one metre scale model in a wind tunnel.  What immediately aroused my skepticism was that:

1) Although I do not have a B.Eng (Aeronautics) I spotted that they do not propose to remove the Airbus tail fin right behind their winged upper stage, & replace it with two tail fins, each (say) five metres or so to the side of the fuselage. This leaves them with no safety margin for winged staging in the atmosphere.

2) Although I do not have a B.Com I spotted that their upper stage looks unlikely to seat more than 4 or 6 passengers. To hire an Airbus jumbojet to send say 6 passengers from Zurich to New York - what air fares are we looking at per passenger? To merely save four hours on a flight?

3) Their proposal for air-launched satellites appears to be the only viable part of their business plan. But they will be competing against Virgin Galactic & others for a share of the micro- and midi-satellite market.

4) The broadcast was just gee-whiz techno, but gave no indication of their success in raising capital, compared to any of, say,  SpaceX, or Blue Origin.

    All in all, I don't think that we will hear of them again.

warm regards, Keith.

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