A cheap and easy way to space.

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halman

Guest
Many people seem to be unaware of this, but when the National Aeronautics and Space Administration set out to build a space shuttle, they only wanted a small vehicle to haul people to orbit. There was no intent of building a giant space craft that could carry boxcar-sized payloads weighing thousands of pounds into orbits hundreds of miles high. Just a nice little space plane for carrying a dozen people into space, that was totally reusable, and could be launched in less than perfect weather conditions. Bringing down the cost of space flight meant creating vehicles that were specialized, not general purpose vehicles.

We need to re-visit those goals, to seek a cheap, reliable, simple way of getting people into orbit. This is what I believe should be the emphasis of NASA’s research at this time, a launch system that can put people in orbit on a regular basis, which can be eventually turned over to the private sector. But we have got to get rid of many of the prejudices and misconceptions that have developed over the last 20 years. We need to examine novel methods, to recognize that we are still in the infancy of space flight, and that the ways that things now are done are often the result of there being few alternatives when we started to do those things.

If we accept a vehicle that is designed solely and specifically for carrying a small number of people into Low Earth Orbit, we remove many constraints that we have become used to dealing with. We can consider airborne launching; where the first stage of the launch vehicle is an aircraft, which will be flown back to the launch site for reuse. We can examine using fuels which are easy to handle, cheap to produce, and are not the most powerful available. We can entertain the idea that adding weight to improve certain aspects of the mission is worthwhile; instead of seeking every possible means of reducing the vehicle weight. We can explore launch techniques which do not require large numbers of technicians monitoring every aspect of the launch vehicle.

NASA engineers in the late 1960’s were riding high on the popularity of the space exploration program with many Americans. They believed that our activities in space would expand, and that ferrying people to and from space was the single greatest challenge in spaceflight technology. Rockets are simply not the best way to put stuff in orbit, but they were the only way at the time. But the engineers at NASA believed that they knew a better way. It took advantage of the nature of the atmosphere, instead of working against it, it used parts that were radically different for the different phases of the mission, and it was what they believed was essential to making spaceflight sustainable.

What those engineers came up with was a two-stage to-orbit launch system, which incorporated two totally reusable vehicles. The first stage was an aircraft, which launched horizontally, and carried the other vehicle, the orbiter, on its back.. The carrier wing would haul the spacecraft to about an altitude of 50,000 feet, and then the orbiter would fly off of the back of the wing. The orbiter would climb at a shallow angle, accelerating all the way, until it had left the atmosphere and reached orbit. To return, the orbiter used atmospheric braking to slow down enough to land on a runway at the launch site, to be prepared for the next mission.

Obviously, some elements of those original plans survived, in some form or another, with the current Space Transportation System. But the original concept of only carrying people into space was lost, and the vehicle grew too large to launch from an aircraft. Compromises were made in order to keep the program alive, and, eventually, the space shuttle flew. But it has been an unpopular program with many people, and not productive of very much, through no fault of NASA. The shuttles have become focal points of criticism of the space program, as a result of the decisions that were made to keep that space program from being shut down completely.

Some people have begun to question the worth of NASA in our space exploration efforts, believing that the private sector will fund any necessary development. But developing a new kind of launch vehicle is not likely to be profitable for some time, while being very expensive for a single company. This the role that NASA is supposed to fill, the developer of new technology. The step rocket is understood well enough that NASA has no business messing with them. But the step rocket is probably not the best method of putting people into space.

The design that the engineers of old favored avoided the demanding vertical launch that all our spacecraft currently use. By using aerodynamic lift to carry the orbiter through the dense, lower atmosphere, it is possible to lift it with much less power than is needed to lift it vertically. The ability to use the atmospheric oxygen reduces the takeoff weight of the vehicle, and the difficulties associated with aerodynamic turbulence in the lower atmosphere are avoided. The first stage does not have to climb as fast as possible, because it is supported by wings, instead of rockets.

For the orbiter, take off is a simple matter of starting the engines and flying towards the horizon, climbing gradually. As the vehicles speed increases, the planet begins to curve away beneath it faster and faster, which increases the altitude while the vehicle increases its speed. And speed is what the whole thing is about. 5 miles per second, 17,500 miles per hour, that is what it takes to go into orbit. If we were to take off from a planet with no atmosphere, we would have our rockets lying on their sides, so that every bit of power that they produce would go into increasing their speed. Our atmosphere demands that we climb some distance before we start going really fast.

Returning from space means getting rid of all of that energy that has been pumped into the vehicle, slowly, gradually, so that it can be dissipated without damaging the vehicle. Then, the vehicle has to return to the launch site, to be prepared for the next mission, by landing on a runway. So the orbiter must be more than just engines and fuel tanks, it also has to be an airplane. And this airplane should be one that is easy to fly, has good performance, and can land in most conditions. In order for this space transportation system to sustainable, it has to be reliable.

More than anything else at this time, I believe that NASA should be working on developing safe, reliable, cheap transportation to and from space. Overcoming this challenge will do more to open up space for development and exploitation than any other mission, in my opinion, because this is a problem which is simply too expensive for the private sector to take on. Once the system has been proven, then the private sector will be willing to operate it, for a profit.
 
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Booban

Guest
Isn't that how SpaceshipOne(two?) works? Only it doesn't yet go quite as high. Otherwise I think people are waiting for scramjet technology for this, from what I've read it seems to be the 'only' way. Although if that's the case, how did the engineers think to do it with the initial shuttle plans (mini version).

Ares 1 seems to be getting canceled just because it will only go to LEO when there is no space station any longer. And many have questioned the usefulness of a space station in LEO and would rather do away with it entirely, or at least build a new one further away.

So I don't get it, are we always going to have a LEO space station or not? Is there a point to manned LEO access without a space station?

We are just talking about LEO aren't we? Because I was under the impression that getting to LEO or further required totally different vehicles.
 
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radarredux

Guest
Booban":3siwbd6t said:
Ares 1 seems to be getting canceled just because it will only go to LEO when there is no space station any longer.
That is certainly a major factor. My knee-jerk reaction is halt development of Ares I and focus NASA's energy and budget on developing an HLV cargo vehicle. If, as the HLV comes online there isn't an acceptable alternative to getting Americans into LEO (SpaceX, Atlas, Orbital Sciences, ESA's Arian, ...), then NASA re-starts its Ares I effort.

Booban":3siwbd6t said:
So I don't get it, are we always going to have a LEO space station or not? Is there a point to manned LEO access without a space station?
Well, NASA justified its manned access to LEO via the shuttle for most of its life without a space station. But I think the real answer is in the "article" -- is it a definite article as in "the space station" or an indefinite article as in "a space station". The former implies the ISS, the latter implies a sequel, probably smaller, less expensive to operate, and probably built by someone other than NASA (Bigelow, Russia, Dragon Lab, ...).
 
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halman

Guest
Booban,

Space Ship One (and Space Ship Two, when it flies,) is dropped from its carrier aircraft at an altitude of 50,000 feet. Engine is started after drop, and the vehicle pulls up and begins to climb. But it loses 15,000 feet of altitude in the process, which is why carrying the orbiter on TOP of the carrier wing is desirable.

Yes, a lot of people seem to think that scramjets will replace the rockets on the orbiter, but that means that the orbiter has to be accelerated to a velocity high enough to get the scramjets to work, which the carrier wing will never be able to do. Good old fashioned rockets will suffice to accelerate the orbiter to the velocity needed to maintain orbit. Once the orbiter lights up, it can use the lift provided by its own wings to climb, as well as the rocket power, so huge amounts of power are not required, just a steady push for a little while.

Ultimately, I believe that the lowest space stations will be higher than the International Space Station, which will necessitate having some kind of orbital transfer vehicle meeting the orbiter in orbit at about 120 miles. That is high enough to maintain a stable orbit for some time, yet is also the lowest that a docking is realistic.

Yes, the ISS is not in an optimal orbit, but putting it higher would have severely restricted the size of the payloads that the shuttle could carry to it. And, as far as the science goes, it does not make that much difference. What we are facing in regards to the Ares-I development is an either-or situation, where we must choose between keeping the space station and building the Ares. There is just not enough money in the projected budgets to do both. Throwing away the space station so that NASA will have enough money to build a rocket with technology that is at least 20 years old makes no sense to me, when what we are learning on the station is going to influence the development and utilization of many space stations.

In order to keep the orbiter that I am advocating small enough to be launched by aircraft, its maximum service altitude is going to be quite low. But it will be in space, which is what we are trying to achieve. The higher that the orbiter has to travel, the more propellant it must carry, which means its take off weight increases. Keeping the design requirements to the absolute minimum is the key to cheap and reliable operations, because less engine power is needed.

radarredux,

NASA has already learned how to build heavy lift launch vehicles, so that knowledge should be passed on the private sector. Maybe some financial assistance will be needed to make the private sector willing to undertake the development of a launch vehicle which will have few jobs for a while. And, if it comes to a choice between hiring the Russians to launch our cargo or using government funds to build a new rocket, I say let the Russians do it.

Where our resources should be going is towards making space more accessible, by reducing the energy requirements needed to get there. This is a whole different type of launch system than a step rocket, one which is likely to be in use for many years. Because getting people into space and back will always be a major part of any exploration program. Learning to do it without launching a big rocket every time would be part and parcel to opening up off-planet exploration.

What keeps drawing me to this idea is that the smart people at NASA saw this as the most desirable way of ferrying people to and from space, and that they considered it attainable in the late 1960's. Nothing that has happened since then has changed the solution significantly.
 
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aphh

Guest
The small shuttle for crew transport, HL-20, was nearing completion when funding was pulled and the design put aside. SpaceDev then took the design and announced project called DreamChaser.

There is mention of DreamChaser from last February on SpaceDev's website, that DreamChaser is still being investigated as future RLV: http://www.spacedev.com/press_more_info.php?id=292
 
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access

Guest
Firstly look up avatar (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AVATAR_(spacecraft)) which is being developed by ISRO. It's very similar to your proposal.
Secondly I would agree that cheap access to space is what nasa should look into but at this point there are to many proposals and nasa first needs to research proposals which means longer before any actual spaceflight occurs. For every year Nasa doesn't send people up the public is less interested so there really needs to be an interim.
 
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scottb50

Guest
halman":3gpdyg8t said:
Booban,

Space Ship One (and Space Ship Two, when it flies,) is dropped from its carrier aircraft at an altitude of 50,000 feet. Engine is started after drop, and the vehicle pulls up and begins to climb. But it loses 15,000 feet of altitude in the process, which is why carrying the orbiter on TOP of the carrier wing is desirable.

Yes, a lot of people seem to think that scramjets will replace the rockets on the orbiter, but that means that the orbiter has to be accelerated to a velocity high enough to get the scramjets to work, which the carrier wing will never be able to do. Good old fashioned rockets will suffice to accelerate the orbiter to the velocity needed to maintain orbit. Once the orbiter lights up, it can use the lift provided by its own wings to climb, as well as the rocket power, so huge amounts of power are not required, just a steady push for a little while.

Ultimately, I believe that the lowest space stations will be higher than the International Space Station, which will necessitate having some kind of orbital transfer vehicle meeting the orbiter in orbit at about 120 miles. That is high enough to maintain a stable orbit for some time, yet is also the lowest that a docking is realistic.

Yes, the ISS is not in an optimal orbit, but putting it higher would have severely restricted the size of the payloads that the shuttle could carry to it. And, as far as the science goes, it does not make that much difference. What we are facing in regards to the Ares-I development is an either-or situation, where we must choose between keeping the space station and building the Ares. There is just not enough money in the projected budgets to do both. Throwing away the space station so that NASA will have enough money to build a rocket with technology that is at least 20 years old makes no sense to me, when what we are learning on the station is going to influence the development and utilization of many space stations.

In order to keep the orbiter that I am advocating small enough to be launched by aircraft, its maximum service altitude is going to be quite low. But it will be in space, which is what we are trying to achieve. The higher that the orbiter has to travel, the more propellant it must carry, which means its take off weight increases. Keeping the design requirements to the absolute minimum is the key to cheap and reliable operations, because less engine power is needed.

radarredux,

NASA has already learned how to build heavy lift launch vehicles, so that knowledge should be passed on the private sector. Maybe some financial assistance will be needed to make the private sector willing to undertake the development of a launch vehicle which will have few jobs for a while. And, if it comes to a choice between hiring the Russians to launch our cargo or using government funds to build a new rocket, I say let the Russians do it.

Where our resources should be going is towards making space more accessible, by reducing the energy requirements needed to get there. This is a whole different type of launch system than a step rocket, one which is likely to be in use for many years. Because getting people into space and back will always be a major part of any exploration program. Learning to do it without launching a big rocket every time would be part and parcel to opening up off-planet exploration.

What keeps drawing me to this idea is that the smart people at NASA saw this as the most desirable way of ferrying people to and from space, and that they considered it attainable in the late 1960's. Nothing that has happened since then has changed the solution significantly.
The biggest problem with the ISS is it is an orbit that caters to, the Russians. If it had been put into a lower inclination orbit the Shuttle could take up heavier payloads and probably be viable for years. That the ISS orbit had no basis in efficiency, just political accommodation, limits it's capabilities. Now the Russians can exact high prices for access because they have more advantageous launch capabilities.

That the Shuttles are compromised because of their stresses is another matter. Launch loads, as applied to the crew or the vehicle are not extreme, TPS can be replaced as needed so the actual life of a Shuttle is well beyond what they have flown, the biggest problem is the risks implicit with the original design. On orbit stresses are minimal, launch and landing are not that removed from an airliner that can last for many more cycles then the existing orbiters have been subjected to.
 
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bdewoody

Guest
Speaking of a cheap and easy way to get to orbit, what ever happened to the idea of using a rail that gradually increases in angle with a magnetic drive that accelerates the vehicle to mach speed and then the vehicle uses it's own power to accereate the rest of the way into orbit.
 
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scottb50

Guest
bdewoody":2h4fqsz4 said:
Speaking of a cheap and easy way to get to orbit, what ever happened to the idea of using a rail that gradually increases in angle with a magnetic drive that accelerates the vehicle to mach speed and then the vehicle uses it's own power to accereate the rest of the way into orbit.
While often proposed the only results have been on a pretty small scale. It seems to be harder to do then proposed, especially on a large scale like you are talking about.

For the near future conventional rocket engines seem to be the only available option. Aerospike engines might increase efficiency, somewhat, but nothing else remotely possible seems to be in the offing. The biggest problem I see is Shuttle 1.0 and the currently flying 1.5 versions. Keeping them going stopped development of 2.0 which could have addressed the problems that have shown up. First there needs to be an escape system that would have saved both the lost crews. The F-111 had the whole crew module as an escape system as an example. Foam in areas that could impact the Shuttle could have been eliminated or changed, instead we keep the same system and inspect it repeatedly.

Just look at the RTLS option, if multiple engines fail, it's all theoretical. From engine start to MECO it's planned out but not proven.
 
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halman

Guest
For all of the talk about going to the Moon, and to Mars, we are still neophytes, barely able to get off of the planet. Everyone is very anxious to move on to big things, but we still don't have the basics down very well. If we must delay further the return to the Moon so that we can develop a launch/return system that is cheap, reliable, and safe, than i say so be it. Hop-scotching back and forth from insane daring to timid inaction is what has caused the greatest delay in our progress. Not long ago, I was advocating a return to the Moon as soon as possible, but I have been forced to change my point of view, in part by the way that we are approaching continuing our exploration.

The private sector is now building rockets, which means that our access to space is more assured. But we still have not developed a better system for reaching space, which I am convinced exists, based upon what engineers 40 years ago were proposing to do to. And our technology has improved considerably since those proposals were made, in areas such as aircraft engines, materials science, and aerodynamics. If those engineers were confident that they could succeed in building an air-launched, two-stage to-orbit system, than I have no doubt that we could do it, and probably fairly cheaply.

All of our exploration proposals are foundering on the most basic of the space technologies, access to space. We can continue to use primitive, but proven technology, even though it is dangerous, and expensive, or we can hold off on moving outward until we can get people into orbit cheaply and easily. But we as a country must decide what role we wish to take in off-planet exploration; Do we want to be followers, hitching rides with others, or do we want to be leaders, developing the technologies which will be in use for years and years to come?
 
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Booban

Guest
I agree with Halman on the safety issue. Am I wrong or does Soyuz have an escape system? It doesn't explode, why would you need one. There are no 'independent escape system' for commercial airlines, people die all the time. But over all, we don't plan on them blowing up. Might as well make an escape system for the escape system too :D.

Safety means making a spaceship that doesn't blow up, not what to do when it happens.
 
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MeteorWayne

Guest
Booban":1g3ul4rj said:
I agree with Halman on the safety issue. Am I wrong or does Soyuz have an escape system? It doesn't explode, why would you need one. There are no 'independent escape system' for commercial airlines, people die all the time. But over all, we don't plan on them blowing up. Might as well make an escape system for the escape system too :D.

Safety means making a spaceship that doesn't blow up, not what to do when it happens.
But that's unrealistic. A rocket is basically an explosion that you try and control in two ways. You hope to control the rate of explosion, and you hope to direct the force of the explosion in one direction so that Newton's laws push you up into space, than fast enough sideways that you reach orbital velocity.

It's a fine line.

If we are going to wait for space elevators... if you think the gap between the STS and what follows afterward is long (using chemical rockets), the wait for realistic space elvators is decades longer.
 
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Booban

Guest
I don't want to wait around for anything no, but are you then saying that it is not possible to build a intrinsically safe rocket?

The combustion engine is also a series of explosions, but they only explode in hollywood when you shoot at 'em...for the most part. The 2 shuttle disasters didn't have anything to do with the rocket, did it? It was the tiles, and ice.

I have to keep reminding myself that I am not a rocket scientist, but I can't see why, with enough iterations and testing of a rocket/space ship design, it can't be made so safe an escape system would be redundant. I don't think we should be sending up people in space in a system so dangerous that such an escape system is necessary.

And space elevator? oh gosh, awesome idea, but frankly it terrifies me much more than a rocket.
 
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halman

Guest
Somehow, one of my posts seems to have been mislaid. In it, I said something to the effect that there is no escape system that we know of that would have saved the crew of Columbia, because they were too high and too fast for any kind of ejection system. From what I understand, building the crew compartment of the shuttle as a module that could be ejected would effectively use up all of the vehicles payload capacity.

But airborne launching avoids the whole problem of a failure such as the Challenger experienced. A horizontal take off allows several abort options, starting with the catapult reversing its thrust to bring the stack to a stop, to a vehicle separation and fly back to launch point after take off. By having the carrier wing fly opposite the orbiter’s eventual direction of travel, so that it is going ‘uprange’ so to speak, the Return To Launch Site option is kept open for most of the ascent after launch.

Vertical launching used to be the only method of reaching orbit, but that is no longer true. We have the technology to build an aircraft large enough to carry a small, self-contained orbiter to 50,000 feet, and the technology to build that orbiter. We no longer have to use the most powerful engines that we can develop, because we no longer have to reach orbit in the shortest time possible. We will continue to launch big payloads vertically, at least for many years to come, because that is the only way that will work. But we can avoid the safety issues of vertical launching when we send people into orbit by air borne launching.
 
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EarthlingX

Guest
I would suggest, as a bridging solution, to use what we have and make the most of it. This includes SDVs, commercial launchers, redesigned military rockets and so on.
If Shuttle was in constant slow evolution mode, it would by now at least have changed computers, thermal shielding, probably some hint of an escape system, liquid fueled winged boosters, usable fuel tank, perhaps aerospike engines, better foam protection, less ground crew, less engine refurbishing requirement, etc.
That is, if there were not for politics.
I don't really understand, how is it possible, that all that billions of $ circling Earth in a form of satellites, don't somehow draw attention from companies with maintenance orientation ? Is there not such a thing ? Is it cheaper to rebuild satellite than to extend it's functionality ?
I think, if there were such activities, it would enlarge space traffic, which is already quite impressive.

Am i fuel depot obsessed ? :oops:
 
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tanstaafl76

Guest
The cheap and easy way to get humans to LEO is have a private sector company that is forced to consider its bottom line use simple, proven, and reliable kerosene-fueled rockets to put them there. We don't need the complexities and ineffeciencies of a large government space agency to do it. In fact, having NASA work on it almost guarantees that it will neither be cheap or easy because that is not how they design things.

What we DO need NASA for is the things that we haven't discovered yet. New technologies, new frontiers, new planets, new science. These are things that are difficult for the private sector to finance because there is often no profit horizon, making the attainment of investment capital problematic.
 
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halman

Guest
EarthlingX,

I am not sure, but I believe that the computers on the shuttle were upgraded back in the early 1990's, around the same time as the 'glass cockpit' was installed. There simply has not been enough money to redesign, test, and install new Thermal Protection System tiles, nor any other major modifications to the Space Transportation System.

Probably all the satellite owners would love to have a system whereby their equipment could be refueled, if nothing else. But the cost of a mission, even if we had the vehicle, just to refuel one satellite would be several times the cost of replacing it. Until we have the ability to work from orbit to do satellite maintenance, there is almost no chance that anything in the Clarke orbit (geosynchronous) will be visited by a manned vehicle.
 
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halman

Guest
Tanstaafl76,

Yes, the cheapest way to get people into Low Earth Orbit right now is, as you say, to have the lowest bidder haul them up there on the cheapest rocket that can be built. But it still is going to be expensive, dangerous, and require absolutely perfect conditions for launch, as well as a large number of people needed to launch the rocket. But step rockets launched vertically are almost certainly NOT the best possible way of putting people into orbit.

I am not advocating that NASA build the system that I propose to compete with the private sector, I am advocating that NASA develop the technology, perfect it, and then turn it over to the private sector to operate. That is what NASA, and government in general, is supposed to do, to develop things which offer no return initially, so that they can be made available to the private sector. Although there is nothing about the launch system which I am championing which could not be built by Boeing, for instance, it would cost a lot of money to design and build, and would take several years. Boeing might be the primary contractor, but they would not be putting up the money needed to make the project work.

I am not suggesting that we halt our off planet activities while this new launch system is developed, certainly not! But I strongly believe that developing this launch system would substantially lower the cost of putting a person in orbit, as well as making the process much safer. And I am certain that this system would be able to operate in weather conditions of all sorts, which I doubt any vertically launched vehicle is going to be able to do for some time.

We need to forget that we have been to the Moon and concentrate on the fundamentals of space flight, the passage through the atmosphere, the construction in orbit of space stations, the development of ways to keep people alive in space for extended periods of time, without their being totally dependent upon the Earth for everything.

The United States demonstrated incredible technical skill in sending people to the Moon, and in the construction of the Space Shuttle. But we fell down when it came to actually learning to live and work in space. The engineers at NASA had ideas on how to get people into orbit without throwing away the vehicles that were used, but those ideas were never properly developed, just as the ideas for space stations were never followed up on. But, at some point in time, we have to do these things, in order to make space exploration safe, reliable, and relatively cheap.
 
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EarthlingX

Guest
halman":rgtm6yyu said:
EarthlingX,

I am not sure, but I believe that the computers on the shuttle were upgraded back in the early 1990's, around the same time as the 'glass cockpit' was installed. There simply has not been enough money to redesign, test, and install new Thermal Protection System tiles, nor any other major modifications to the Space Transportation System.

Probably all the satellite owners would love to have a system whereby their equipment could be refueled, if nothing else. But the cost of a mission, even if we had the vehicle, just to refuel one satellite would be several times the cost of replacing it. Until we have the ability to work from orbit to do satellite maintenance, there is almost no chance that anything in the Clarke orbit (geosynchronous) will be visited by a manned vehicle.
This is exactly my point. Why is that ? Computers on the shuttle are a museum piece, not a bleeding tech edge as they should probably be, if i'm not going into details about other things and non-existent capabilities.
From 90's there was hardly any upgrade to the stack, beside some minor details (foam, procedures) and SSME monitoring. A tiny bit of paranoia might push you into 'anti-space conspiracy' thinking and i would prefer not to take that road.
 
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bpg131313

Guest
halman":2qex60j2 said:
We can continue to use primitive, but proven technology, even though it is dangerous, and expensive, or we can hold off on moving outward until we can get people into orbit cheaply and easily. But we as a country must decide what role we wish to take in off-planet exploration; Do we want to be followers, hitching rides with others, or do we want to be leaders, developing the technologies which will be in use for years and years to come?
Halman, I enjoy your posts and thank you for sharing your ideas and opinions with us all. I, for the record, would opt for the more dangerous and expensive technology because we currently have it and we can currently use it to get into space. Sure it's dangerous, so is driving your car to work every day. Danger is a part of life, and the people choosing to sit atop a rocket system know full well that things could go very badly, very quickly. It's a risk, and most humans accept risk if it's involved in what they really want to do. I'm not saying it's for everyone, but there are lots of people out there willing to take the risk if it means getting to fly.

The other problem is that the other safer, cheaper technologies aren't actually here today. If they were, we'd have already seen them heading up to space to do all the stuff our Shuttle can't. That stuff is currently fiction. I'm not willing to wait around for a hypothetical when I have something that works right now. I think getting to space is something that shouldn't be waited on. We've all waited long enough. It's time to press on and do what needs to be done. If people die, even if it's me, they died doing something they loved. It's no different than an athlete dying playing the sport they love. As for the expense, the more people doing this, the more the costs will come down. I say we get up to space and while we're there we develop new technologies that make everything easier, and cheaper, and safer. I certainly don't advocate waiting. Everything from the end of the Apollo program until now has been a letdown to the spirit of exploration. Everyone dropped the ball way back then. We've got to pick up that ball, and no matter what, never, ever, drop that ball again!
 
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halman

Guest
EarthlingX

I am not sure that the shuttle is suffering because it does not have the cutting edge computers. Even in the early 90’s, computers were very powerful. Of course, they can’t run fat, Microslop operating systems very well, but that is not what the shuttle computers are for. The stack hasn’t changed because there has been no money to make any modifications., because it WORKS. Yes, it could be better, but we could also have a liquid fueled booster for the Constellation program, too.

Paranoia has not had any effect upon my thinking, it is a gradual realization that we are still in the stages of off-planet exploration which we were in 40 years ago, but we are not trying to send anybody 250,000 miles on a shoestring, either. Someday, we have to develop the most basic of all space technologies, that of just getting into space, the transition from a standing start to 17,500 miles per hour, 120 miles plus straight up. We are still approaching that problem like Lindbergh crossing the Atlantic. We can do it, but the chances are good we won’t make it unless everything works perfectly. So, we are very cautious about flying.

That has to change if we are going see an industrial revolution happen up there, which is what this planet needs very badly to happen, for economic reasons, for environmental reasons, and for our spiritual future. Space is our salvation, if we can pass the test of being able to utilize it. We need to become active in space so that we can have some idea of what rocks are in our neighborhood, and maybe even be able to do something about it if one of them starts coming our way.. We need to become active in space so that we wake up the rest of humanity to the fact this planet is not limitless, and that we will use up its resources very quickly if we try to bring the rest of humanity up to anything near the standard of living that the US enjoys.

I want space to be a sustainable, big business playground, so that I will be absolutely positive that the human race will have access to space from now on. That is the only way we can create the demand for the launch systems which will make it possible to have commerce with the Moon, and, someday, Mars., as well as Mercury, the Jupiter system, and what ever else we want to call home in this solar system. Despite all that we have accomplished, we know next to nothing about getting around just our little Earth-Moon system. Travel to other planets is effectively beyond our proven capability, and proving that capability is going to take some time. Off planet exploration is far too important to treat as a romantic enterprise aimed at creating fantasy colonies of distant planets. Those colonies will only became possible if we can move a large part of our industry to the other side of the sky.
 
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halman

Guest
bg131313,

I completely agree with you that we cannot afford to wait around for a better and safer launch system to be developed. I strongly advocate keeping the shuttles flying for at least another 10 years, because they are a wonderful tool for building on-orbit. But I don’t think that NASA needs to be the one flying them, nor do I think that NASA should be wasting its time building a launch vehicle which will compete with the step rockets being built by the private sector.

The role that NASA is supposed to play is that of the pioneer, the developer of the cutting edge technology.. NASA should have developed a second generation booster system, liquid fueled, and then turned the whole thing over to private industry 15 years ago. NASA is not supposed to be in the launch business, because it is a business, not research.

Right now, I would feel safer riding the shuttle than I would riding in car in medium sized city for any length of time. Actually, I think I would rather ride in one the trains that go 350 miles per hour than ride in car. Yeah, the French have built a train which rolls on steel wheels against steel rails, no maglev, antigrav, or any other super technology. The French have developed a technology which is still in its infancy in the US, where our trains have basically not changed since the 1880’s. This is the kind of advance we need to make in access to space.

The International Space Station is a critical step in helping industry get off planet, and duplicating aspects of the ISS will be some of the first steps which industry takes. This is an outpost which has been continuously since some time back in the 1990’s, if I remember correctly. It has not suffered any catastrophic failures, fires, or freak outs, and we are FINALLY starting to be able to do real science up there, because we can support a crew large enough to run experiments and keep the place operating at the same time. The ISS is much larger than Mir, the next biggest space station, and is the first true international venture off planet. We must support it, keep it up there, and learn from it.
 
H

halman

Guest
What will building the launch system I propose involve? There are three major components; A catapult capable of accelerating a mass of 1 million kilograms to a speed of 400 kilometers per hour, while supporting that mass completely; a carrier wing capable of lifting 500,000 kilograms to an altitude of 15,000 meters, and then flying under power to the launch site to land on its own under carriage; a rocket powered, kerosene and lox fueled, lifting-body space craft, capable of carrying 12 people to an altitude of 230 kilometers, and carrying the same number back to land on a runway at the launch site. A processing facility for a number of orbiters would also be required, and at least three carrier wings should be available. This system would have turnaround times of less than a few hours for the catapult, about 8 hours for the carry wing, and a week to ten days for routine orbiter turnarounds, longer for periodic maintenance.

The catapult will be long enough to be able to bring the entire stack safely to a stop after reaching take-off speed. The stall speed for the fully loaded wing shall not exceed 300 kph, and restraints will hold down the stack until significant lift is achieved. The catapult will face up range, to allow for return to launch site aborts by the orbiter. Orbiter main engines will be operated for several seconds before separation from the carrier wing. The wing will assume a nose-up attitude prior to separation, of between 10 and 20 degrees. The orbiter will accelerate at separation at a minimum of 1.5 gravities while climbing at an angle of at least 10 degrees. Engines will be throttled back or shut down to prevent exceeding 5 gravities.

By staggering the beginning of work on each element, design and development costs can be spread out over several years, while still allowing for feedback in the design process. Energy generation and collection facilities can be constructed first, and surplus energy sold to help offset some costs. Aerodynamic testing of the wing can be carried out on the catapult, without the wing being launched. Flight testing of the wing can be performed using ballast which can be jettisoned and retrieved. Gliding tests of the orbiter can be performed using the carrier wing and the catapult for launch. The system can be designed in stages, with informed decisions made at each stage. Risk is minimized by progressively testing the systems elements alone and together, and actual space flight is delayed until all in-atmosphere phases have been solved. Initial space flights can be performed with prototypes utilizing a crew compartment which can be ejected and is capable of independent re-entry.

Initial capitalization of between 5 and 7 billion US dollars would allow for design and construction of catapult and design of carrier wing. A continuing investment of 1.5 to 2 billion per year for 7 years would achieve completion of prototype tests in actual orbital flights. Additional capitalization of 4 billion per year for three years would enable construction of 10 orbiters and two carrier wings. Flight rates are unlikely to reach break-even point for minimum of ten years after regular service is begun, barring large scale investment off-planet. Ten year program costs 35 billion dollars, which is comparable to opening a new deep-water petroleum field. System can be enlarged as designs are perfected, or flight rate can be increased.
 
S

samkent

Guest
All of these wonderful ideas pre supposes that there is a reason to go to LEO.

Just as soon as there is money to be made up there private industry will take over the task.
 
H

halman

Guest
samkent,

The reason to go to Low Earth Orbit is that that is the place where space begins, and that is the place where we should transfer to space vehicles designed to travel exclusively in an airless environment. The current shuttle is a all-purpose vehicle, designed to reach altitudes of hundreds of miles, while carrying large payloads. We have to get away from that concept if we are going to lower the cost of putting people into space. And it is those costs which are the greatest impediment to progress off-planet right now.
 

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