Buzz Aldrin – Founder, Starcraft Boosters, Inc.
One of Buzz’s prime directives is to launch humanity into a new era of affordable access to space. In 1996 he put together a dedicated team of experienced rocket engineers and aerospace entrepreneurs to form the rocket design company, Starcraft Boosters, Inc. (SBI), and develop next-generation space launch systems that would reduce launch costs and build upon existing and emerging technologies.
The SBI team’s first initiative was to develop the “StarBooster” family of reusable flyback rocket boosters. A vertically launched two-stage-to-orbit system, the StarBooster design is essentially a hollow aircraft-type airframe into which a booster rocket propulsion module (such as a liquid-fueled Atlas V, Delta IV or Zenit) is inserted in order to launch a payload. Configured in a progressive series from the “200” (roughly the size of a Boeing 737) to heavier lift models up to the “1600” – each StarBooster launches an upper stage and payload under the firepower of the booster rocket housed within. After separating from the upper stage and payload, the StarBooster air-starts its own engines and flies the spent booster rocket contained inside back to the launch site to be reused for another launch.
The StarBooster approach facilitates major launch cost savings utilizing currently existing expendable rocket technology and effectively transforming such rockets into a reusable first stage booster launch system – with the added side effect of tripling the payload capacity. This StarBooster reusable first stage can then be matched with the SBI-designed StarBird or StarEagle reusable manned orbiters to result in a completely reusable space transportation system capable of sending an astronaut crew into Earth orbit, helping to launch missions back to the moon, or leading to the development of 100-seat airline capacity commercial tourism spaceflights. Overall, the StarBooster family is a worthy next-generation alternative to the fleet of expendable launch vehicles used by NASA today.
In response to NASA Langley Research Center’s interest in seeing a small scale flight demonstration of StarBooster, Cal Poly Space Systems (CPSS) undertook the StarBooster Project from 1999 to 2001 to perform proof of concept work. The effort culminated in multiple successful launches of 5-foot and 10-foot demonstration models of the StarBooster configuration. In 2002, SBI was awarded a Phase I Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract funded by the Air Force Research Laboratory. In 2003, a US patent was issued to Buzz Aldrin and Hu Davis for the StarBooster design of a flyback booster first stage launch vehicle with a removable rocket propulsion module.
Based in Houston, Texas, the SBI team includes Buzz’s long-time friend and colleague, Hubert Davis (a key NASA engineer and manager in charge of developing and testing systems for the Apollo spacecraft in the 1960’s-70’s) as VP of Engineering, Art Dula (aerospace and patent attorney) as VP of Legal, and Lt. General Dirk Jameson (USAF retired) as President and CEO.
StarBooster 30, 200, 350, 700, 1600 models – a family of resuable rocket launcher booster vehicles that use from 30 to 1600 short tons of propellants in the propulsion module.
Military version of a small rapid response launcher for the Air Force
Combination of StarBooster with expendable upper stage for commercial missions.
A heavy lift family using larger StarBooster to raise the level of payload into orbit.
Suborbital mission oriented primarily towards space tourism.
StarBird & Star Eagle
Upper stage orbiters to send humans into orbit and serve as a space carrier – up to 100 people at a time.
- “Flyback Booster with Removable Rocket Propulsion Module” Unites States Patent No. 6,612,522. Inventor Buzz Aldrin and Hubert P. David 2 Sep 2003
- “Starcraft Boosters, Inc. Awards SBIR Phase I Contract” spaceref.com, SBI Press Release 24 Jun 2002
- “StarBooster Project” Cal Poly Space Systems, 2001
- “Who Needs Nasa? Do-it-yourself astropreneurs are bucking the system to put a schmo in orbit” [Except on Buzz Aldrin] Wired, Jan 2000
- “The StarBooster System: A Cargo Aircraft for Space” Starcraft Boosters, Inc. Report submitted to Nasa’s Marshall Spaceflight Center 27 Oct 1999
- “Starcraft Boosters seeks Partners” Flight International, 26 May 1999
- “Reusable Launch Vehicles: StarBooster Summary” Space and Tech, 1999
- “I am Buzz Lightyear! Thirty years after he walked on the moon, Buzz Aldrin wants to send the rest of us” [Starcraft Boosters excerpt] salon.com, 20 Jul 1999
- “A Replacement for the Shuttle. Former Astronaut Buzz Aldrin defines a way to get America moving again in space” suite101.com, 2 Apr 1999