With the cancellation of the Ares 1 launcher (the space shuttle replacement), and the move to engage private industry in the establishment of the next generation of ‘man-rated’ launch vehicles, is it time for a step function in launcher technology? One private enterprise with an interesting proposal is Alan Bond’s Reaction Engines. The Skylon launcher is Alan’s brainchild, and is effectively a single-stage-to-orbit vehicle with aircraft-like operations (see picture gallery). Adopting such a vehicle as the shuttle replacement would be a very bold step, but it would certainly get us out of the rut of the multi-stage expendable configurations that have been with us for decades. Maybe it is time for such a bold solution to future access to orbit, but this particular promising initiative would probably suffer from the ‘not invented here’ syndrome in the USA.
Graham Swinerd - I hope to use this page to highlight current major events in space and spacececraft.