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I've just watched the Hazegrayart "Kistler reusable spacecraft - a spacex competitor", and I have... a few questions. Like:

What was the spacecraft called?

How far did the project get?

Did it progress to become the design for the K-1, or did the K-1 become the (Insert unknown spacecraft name here)?

Has the depicted method of staging with been considered elsewhere?

enter image description here

Basically any info anyone has...

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    $\begingroup$ God help you if you're on that thing when an engine fails. $\endgroup$
    – GdD
    Commented Jun 19, 2023 at 8:05
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    $\begingroup$ I didn't watch the video - life's too short - but the real Kistler K-1 was a fairly conventional looking design attempt at reusability. It never flew and the wikipedia articles on it are pretty good en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kistler_K-1 It looked nothing like that fever dream. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 19, 2023 at 11:10

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This was Kistler's K-1 actually.

In short:

What was the spacecraft called?

K-1

How far did the project get?

Hardware prototype around 1995. Did not fly. Cancelled mid development.

Did it progress to become the design for the K-1, or did the K-1 become the (Insert unknown spacecraft name here)?

This version of the K-1 was cancelled, a new design team was brought in and the more conventional design, also named K-1, was the result.

Has the depicted method of staging with been considered elsewhere?

Not that I've seen. It was apparently dreamt up by the start-up co-founder himself.

.......

TL;DR:

This concept lived for about 2-3 years.

Around 1993, at the companies start-up, this is what they started with.

Post-1995, they had a shake-up and with an injection of ex-NASA staffers and the more conventional K-1 (again) was proposed instead.

Walt Kistler (d.2015), formerly involved with projects like the SpaceHab project for the Space Shuttle Orbiter Payload Bay, apparently designed the flying bedpost design himself.

Kistler K-1, 2, 3 family circa 1993:

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Kistler K-0 hardware prototype circa 1995:

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Kistler K-1 circa 1995 onwards:

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More images:

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Background info:

Kistler Aerospace Corporation (KAC) was created in the fall of 1993 in Redmond, Washington, with the aim of contributing to the design, development and profitable operation of a fleet of fully reusable vehicles

Kistler's radical approach consisted of a "4-poster-bed" style first stage launch platform on which would sit a small unmanned second stage that would fire up and go to orbit. After releasing a payload, the second stage would return to earth, landing vertically onto a net. A series of conical vehicles of different sizes and capacity were to be built.

HMX Inc. was doing engine development work for them under contract

the K-1, with a payload of 2000 pounds to LEO starting around the turn of the century, and the K-2 which would carry 6000 pounds a starting a few years later. Eventually, Kistler also wanted to build the K-3, which could launch 20,000 lbs.

in the fall of 1995, work was going forward on the K-0 a subscale engineering test vehicle, a low-altitude proof-of-capability demonstrator

Scaled Composites was selected to work on the prototype's assembly and testing. Hardware tests for the K-0 were conducted, and it was expected to fly sometime late in 1995

After cancellation of the K-0 program and the falling out with Scaled Composites, Kistler had to reconsider its options and quickly find an efficient way to get its space venture restarted.

outside consultants were brought in and they convinced Mr. Kistler to drop this approach and to replace his original team with one consisting of several well known former NASA engineers, including George Mueller, former head of the Apollo project. The new team developed a more conventional design, though still an unmanned two stage system.

Links:

http://stargazer2006.online.fr/space/pages/kistler.htm

https://www.hobbyspace.com/AAdmin/archive/RLV/2003/RLVNews2003-08.html

http://stargazer2006.online.fr/space/pages/kistler2.htm

http://www.transterrestrial.com/archives/002861.html#002861

https://ronroesch.blogspot.com/2023/03/bio.html

Further info:

One of the comments on the video (which does not clarify that this was the first version of the K-1, and not the one that was used to secure funding later) says:

Jackalope Wright

I was at Scaled when we built the structure for the prototype Kistler. Like the Roton, it was a fantastically naive design that we had no design role in except to build structure. The primary structure of the prototype was complete when one of my colleagues, out of sheer frustration, and having done his PhD in hypersonics, did some back of the envelope calculations and in 3 hours proved that this design was incapable of overcoming its own transonic wave drag. As a courtesy, we shared this with the customer, which had us scrap the prototype about a month later. Its really incredible to me that investors are willing to put tons of money into things like this and Roton that haven't even passed basic analysis while economically viable, less sexy concepts, remain unfunded.

(Note: Roton - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rotary_Rocket)

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    $\begingroup$ That's wild. By "fully reuseable", did they intend to somehow land the first stage too? I can't imagine how they thought that was going to go. $\endgroup$
    – Cadence
    Commented Jun 19, 2023 at 22:28
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    $\begingroup$ Wow, I never heard all this backstory. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 20, 2023 at 1:08
  • $\begingroup$ yeah Kistler was pretty awesome, and falls into the category of "chronically ignored". they made some very impressive paper designs. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 24, 2023 at 6:01
  • $\begingroup$ @Cadence It was indeed intended to be fully reusable. Both the later version stages, the stacked one, would land on parachutes and airbags. The first stage of the earlier version would land on it's launch platform again, as it was to be an ASSTO, not an SSTO or a recoverable TSTO, and under rocket power. The second stage was in the shape of a manned capsule, and had a heat shield at the base, with a single central engine inside of a hatch. This would descend without parachutes, fire the engine to slow down and then would be caught in a recovery net similar to SpaceX's barges, but on land. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 24, 2023 at 6:06
  • $\begingroup$ The Hazegrayart vid was surprisingly accurate. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 24, 2023 at 6:07

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