Air Force opting for Reusuable Orbiter?

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sftommy

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As Congress hashes out NASA's Human Space flight future, DoD is moving ahead with it's own launch innovations (including kerosene engines)and is seriously considering a two-stage-to-orbit reusable orbiter by 2025. While not now specified as "Human Rated", NASA will eventually inherit the technologies (or contribute to their joint development).

Complete article originally published in "Aviation Week" ;
http://www.aviationweek.com/aw/generic/ ... el=defense

Is this relevant to NASA funding and investments in 2010?
 
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vulture4

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Anyone who's been to Langley may be aware that NASA proposed this concept in the late 90's, even including the RTLS maneuver for the booster, but Bush/O'Keefe/Griffin quashed all work on reusable launch vehicles in favor of "Apollo on Steroids". The idea of reducing the cost of spaceflight to actually make it practical did not seem important to them. I wish the DOD luck but they may face funding cuts as well and may abandon this program when it has to compete with combat systems. NASA will have to beg a junior partnership, and since the program is now classified, even if it is successful it will be decades before it will be available for commercial purposes. In the meantime the lessons of Shuttle will be forgotten as the workforce is dispersed. Say, when did Congress vote to cancel the Shuttle?

Recently some brave souls at JPL and DOD proposed a low-key partnership to investigate RLVs but it has a low budget and whether it will win support from higher up remains to be seen, particularly since the program formerly called Constellation is apparently still proceeding full bore under the protection of its lobbyists.

The majority of people in the space program whom I have asked about the economics of reusable launch vehicles think that the Space Shuttle "proves" RLVs aren't practical. When I ask them why Apollo was canceled, or why we built the Shuttle in the first place, or why Shuttle costs so much more to operate than was specified, or how Constellation can ever produce a positive cash flow given its extremely high operational costs, they look at me with a blank stare. Apparently these questions don't seem important. Sorry if I sometimes seem cynical.
 
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EarthlingX

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sftommy":2k1cyfyc said:
As Congress hashes out NASA's Human Space flight future, DoD is moving ahead with it's own launch innovations (including kerosene engines)and is seriously considering a two-stage-to-orbit reusable orbiter by 2025. While not now specified as "Human Rated", NASA will eventually inherit the technologies (or contribute to their joint development).

Complete article originally published in "Aviation Week" ;
http://www.aviationweek.com : http://www.aviationweek.com/aw/generic/ ... el=defense

Is this relevant to NASA funding and investments in 2010?
There were talks about NASA and USAF space cooperation, but not recently, at least i don't know about them.
Nice plan though, good luck :)


Older news :

http://www.aviationweek.com : Doing a 180 - AFRL's Rocket-back Pathfinder
Posted by Graham Warwick
at 4/7/2010 7:52 AM CDT
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Well the Air Force Research Laboratory has just released a pre-solicitation notice for its Reusable Booster System (RBS) Pathfinder program. This is to be a subscale demonstrator for a reusable booster that would launch vertically, release an expendable upper-stage stack, and return to a horizontal landing on a runway at the launch site. The full-size RBS is envisioned as replacing Atlas and Delta EELVs some time after 2035.

The Air Force has been studying reusable boosters for a long time and has looked at first stages that glide back to base or fly back under jet or rocket power. AFRL has decided that the most promising concept for RBS is "rocket-back" - carry extra propellant and use the main rocket engines to reverse the unmanned booster's velocity then glide back to a horizontal landing.
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Flying backwards (Photo: AFRL)
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news.discovery.com : Air Force Wants Its Rockets Back
By Irene Klotz
Tue May 18, 2010 07:00 AM ET
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The Air Force estimates a reusable, fly-back booster could cut launch costs by 50 percent. Click to enlarge this image.
Starcraft Boosters
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The U.S. Air Force has a vision of the future that includes rockets that are not only reusable, but also able to fly back to Earth and land autonomously on a runway.
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Hoping to spark some technological innovation, the Air Force Research Laboratory is rolling out a $33-million pathfinder program to develop a prototype booster that can glide or fly itself back to the launch site. The first step of the program likely would be aimed at demonstrating a turn-around maneuver known as "rocket-back," whereby a rocket would use its own engines to fly back to the launch site and glide in for landing.

The first test flights are targeted for 2013.

NASA studied fly-back boosters more than a decade ago as part of a potential suite of upgrades to the space shuttles, but never pursued its development.

At least two companies hold patents for fly-back boosters: Lockheed Martin, which in 2008 quietly tested a sub-scale reusable fly-back rocket prototype and a firm known as Starcraft Boosters, founded by Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin to develop low-cost alternative launchers.
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