01 March 1999
Today's rollout of the Rotary Rocket Company's Atmospheric Test Vehicle (ATV) in Mojave, California, marks a historic step in the development of spaceflight technology. Innovative designs and the promise of a robust commercial space industry in the new millennium are key in driving down the cost of getting to orbit. This in turn will accelerate development of the space frontier.
Rotary Rocket is the first of the new, commercial space vehicle builders to open the hanger and prepare for testing of its reusable space vehicle. The first of two test vehicles, the ATV will begin a year of flight tests in the next few weeks. The ATV is expected to make about 20 test flights during the next year. The vehicle cost $2.8 million and was constructed in seven months. Each test flight will cost $60,000.
This will be followed by a prototype test vehicle which could make an orbital flight in 2000. Commercial service could be offered as early as 2001.
The Roton launch vehicle is designed to put 3,175 kilograms into a 50-degree 160 nautical mile orbit. The cost of a dedicated launch will be about $7 million dollars, about $2,200 per kilogram.
Congratulating the Rotary Rocket Company, NSS Executive Director Pat Dasch said "Today, Rotary Rocket is opening the door to an exciting future in space. This generation of launch vehicles will open space for routine travel -- for business and recreation. These new reusable launch vehicles will revolutionize space launch operations, reducing turnaround time and cost until the flights are much like airline operations. Space will then be accessible to all who want to go. TodayŠs rollout of the ATV in California indicates that day is fast approaching.
The National Space Society, founded in 1974, is an independent, nonprofit space advocacy organization headquartered in Washington, DC. Its 20,000 members and 75 chapters around the world actively promote a spacefaring civilization. Information on NSS and space exploration is available at http://www.nss.org/.