While one can only admire Burt Rutan and his team's achievements, there must be a major question mark over the specification for these ventures. Possibly the best example is the Kremer prize for the first man-powered flight over a given course. Thirty years on there is little evidence that the winner made a major contribution to aeronautics. Similarly Rutan's sub-space flight shows no major advance towards a practical solution for a reusable vehicle.
The problem lies in the original specification against which the competition rules were set. Whoever is responsible for the next venture (and there will almost certainly will be one) should look at the outcome of the Kremer and Rutan competition and analyse the practical outcome of a new proposal. It might be argued that NASA should also review their requirements and specifications in respect of Rutan's achievement. It seems sad that such massive efforts should end up as an item in the Guinness Book of Records.
D F NEWLAND
STANMORE, MIDDLESEX, UK
Source: Flight International