to talk about what I believe is a wonderful opportunity
for Japan. It is very sad to me that at present
the Japanese government does not seem to want
to do it. But I think if more Japanese people
learn about it they will agree that it would be
in the interests of the Japanese people.
a market research survey was performed in Japan
- the first time in the world that people were
asked if they would like to travel to space.
It was found that most people would like to take
a trip to space - and almost all young people.
As you know, everyone who has been to space says
that it is indeed the best experience of their
life. In 1995 similar surveys were done in the
USA and Germany with much the same results. It
was found that most people said they would spend
even a few months salary for a space trip. And
in every country a few percent even said they
would spend one year's salary or more!
Now it would
cost at least several thousand okuen to develop
a passenger vehicle to take people to orbit. So
in 1996 some people started what is called the
"X Prize" - a prize of $10 million for the first
team to carry 3 people up to 100 km and back.
The atmosphere ends at about 20 km, and so this
would be a space flight - though it would last
only a few minutes - like the first American in
space, Alan Shepard.
of such a project is that it is very much easier
to reach 100 km and come back down again than
to accelerate to orbit. The necessary velocity
is only 1 km/sec, or 1/8 of the 8 km/sec needed
to get to orbit. And the energy needed, and so
the propulsive energy, the propellants needed,
and the size of the propellant tanks are therefore
only about 1/64 of what is needed to get to orbit.
Also, the energy that the vehicle must dissipate
in order to slow down to land, is 1/64 of a vehicle
returning from orbit, and so the re-entry heating
- which destroyed the space shuttle columbia for
example - is far less severe. There would be
no need for special materials or maintenance,
and so the vehicle operator could land, refill
and take off again straight away.
You may say,
Is a 5 minute trip to space interesting? Well,
a survey was done in the USA by Futron Inc for
Nasa, and they found it is very popular. The service
will comprise a few days of preparation and training.
And then the flight itself will involve acceleration
at 3G lying on your back; and then floating for
3 minutes looking outside at space and Earth views,
and then re-entry at 5G for a few seconds, and
landing. My guess is that such a unique service
will be very popular - once the price comes down
to say 50 mannenn.
it happens, there is a team in Japan ready to
build such a vehicle. Starting in 1998 they built
a fully reusable vertical take-off and landing
rocket. Currently it is unique in the world;
it has performed three series of test flights
flawlessly; and it has cost just about 1 okuen
in total over 6 years. That's less than 1/10,000
of the amount that the government has spent on
space activities since 1998.
The RVT team
is led by very experienced engineers at ISAS (JAXA).
Unfortunately it is not part of ISAS's job to
plan passenger space-lines. And JAXA (ex NASDA
and NAL) refuse to. So an independent group has
proposed the 宇宙丸 project. This is a small, piloted,
sub-orbital rocket vehicle that could carry 5
people to 100 km and back. It could be used initially
for research - researchers could travel to space
and back with their experiment - and then for
winners of student competitions, young people,
"space scouts". And then, once there have been
enough test flights, it could start space flight
services for the general public like an airline.
We have discussed
the 宇宙丸 project. Based on their experience with
RVT design and operations, RVT team could certainly
build 宇宙丸 in 3 years for suujyuu-okuen. Of course
that's a lot of money - but it would be less than
several % of the government's space budget ! I
am sure that if the general public were allowed
to vote on it, they would vote for the 宇宙丸 project