If NASA's Ares rockets are Dead, what should NASA do?

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This is the second of these threads that I hope will inspire debates on these subjects! So here goes:

Just a quick review, to bring you up to date here on why I thought that NASA’s Constellation project is eventually doomed.. From my previous thread:

(1) The combination of both the Ares I and the far larger Ares V is going to be far too expensive for Congress to want to continue to fund.

(2) One of the reasons for this extra expense is that the design is based upon the 40 year old Apollo design, And as fantastic as that design was for its time, as it got us to the moon before the 1960’s decade was out, there are (and for that matter were, if you only had more time) better designs for getting to the moon both less expensively, and more reliably also. In fact no less a rocket scientist as Wherner Von Braun was, eventually wanted this kind of design!

(3) In doing this Constellation project with the current funding available, NASA is going to have to retire the shuttles totally, and leave our astronauts with the Russians as the only way to get into space. Not only myself, but I would think that Congress also would find that unacceptable, under any circumstances. Especially for at least five years from 2010 until 2015, IF NASA is lucky and nothing goes wrong with the Ares I. And we all know that Mr. Murphy will make certain that something does go wrong (just as something seems to be going wrong just about every time I get on these boards and hear the latest of NASA’s problems with these projects)!

OK, Enough of that. I am going to make the hypothesis that either the new administration or Congress is going to kill the Constellation project. You can indeed argue (debate actually) that premise. But please do it on the first thread!

So, just what should NASA then do?

Well, I am going to step outside of the box here and say that the first thing that they need to do is to NOT kill the space shuttle until there is a viable alternative to it! Getting human beings into LEO is going to remain both expensive and dangerous for quite some time to come at best anyway, so saying that the space shuttle is both of those things, and we need to replace it is not very relevant to me at best. And at worst, just shutting it down BEFORE such a replacement is ready is the height of government stupidity and folly! So regardless of how much it takes (and the actual cost of a space shuttle flight has even gone down somewhat, as we have now pretty well amortized the original developmental costs over more than 100 flights, even with the Challenger and Columbia accidents) the space shuttle should be kept flying, as least as far as I am concerned.

So what should actually replace the space shuttles?

Well, it is going to take two basically different vehicles to replace the shuttles. One, to launch materials up to LEO, and also the ISS, and the other to launch human beings into LEO and the ISS.

The easiest of these to relatively inexpensively replace is the materials part. The space shuttle is fully capable of launching some 50,000+ pounds into LEO and the ISS. It can do this at a cost of about $500 million, which translates to some $10,000 per pound to LEO. Now the EELV program (which was not NASA’s, but the Air Forces) was to use the best rocket launch processes then available to bring that cost down considerably. COST became the God of rocket launcher designers, instead of weight and performance. Actually, it was to bring the costs of the Titan IV price down. But the Titan IV was just as expensive as the shuttle anyway, so it came out the same. Both Boeing (with the Delta IV Heavy) and LM (with the Atlas V Heavy) both succeeded in doing this cost reduction admirably. For instance a Delta IV or Atlas V Heavy launch (by the combined team of ULA) can launch the same 50,000+ pounds to LEO for just about $250 million, or some $5,000 per pound to LEO. To bust a myth here, the EELV program was never meant to bring launch costs down to a very low level. Only to improve the costs by at least half, which it has done admirably!

So, if NASA would be so humble as to take advantage of such rockets, they could launch materials to LEO and the ISS for half what the shuttle is doing now. Now, we all know that the remaining pieces of the ISS itself will have to be launched on the space shuttle anyway, but after that just getting supplies up to, and bringing back the garbage and other more valuable items back from the ISS, could indeed be far more cheaply done by this method. At least for NASA and the US programs.

Now before the alt.space types get all over my case, I have NOT forgotten spacex and Elon Musk. He may even be able to cut this expense down by at least another half with a Falcon 9, or even further out a Falcon 9 Heavy. This would include a materials only Dragon for trips to and possibly even from the ISS, with materials initially, and possibly eventually with personnel also. However, anybody that is not just a cheerleader for alt.space is fully aware that he and his fledgling company still have some time to go to even launch such rockets, let alone establish a good enough reliability record for NASA to use his companies products. And that is the simple truth despite COTS.

In point of fact both the Delta IV and the Atlas V come from a long line of very successful rocket launchers. One of the reasons why both the space shuttle and the Delta IV and Atlas V Heavies are so expensive is the additional governmental requirements that are placed upon these vehicles by such agencies as NASA and the Air Force.

Besides which, both the Delta IV and the Atlas V have been designed to be easily produced (at least for large liquid fueled rocket launchers), so their individual launch costs are greatly influenced by the number of launches. This applies even more to their Heavy versions. If these vehicles had a dozen or more launches per year, the cost of a pound to LEO on either of them could very well match the original goals of the Air Force in funding the EELV project of some $2,000 to $3,000 per pound to LEO. For a cut of another half of the per pound to LEO and the ISS costs, say down to some $2,500 per pound to LEO and the ISS.

Heck, eventually these various companies may very well come up with the true Holy Grail of such materials launches of $1,000 per pound to LEO, but I think that is some time away from now (say at least a decade, if not two).

Ok, so much for material. I will give another entire post dedicated to the personnel question. (HINT: I fully support some kind of personnel only space plane, along the designs of Burt Rutan, but as I said, later on that).

As to why I support taking up smaller quantities of materials in such rockets instead of the very large Ares V, to even get back to the moon, I would like to save that for another thread. Let us just say that at this time designing and building such rockets as the Delta IV and the Atlas V Heavies, which have for all practical purposes already been built and are now launching is certainly far cheaper than designing any new and far larger vehicles would be. And even the very real possibility of the even less expensive Falcon 9 Heavy eventually being built also, I find it less and less of a possibility of NASA building a Saturn style rocket. I just do not think that Congress is going to go for it!

I am really very sorry if this upsets some here, but I feel that we must really deal with the realities of the situation. I will be giving what I do think is a far more reliable and better manner of going back to the moon using such relatively inexpensive rockets soon. So please be patient.

Well, this has certainly been long enough to start this thread as of now, but these types of subjects are NOT sound bite types of subjects!

At any rate, everybody Have A Great Day!


First, I'm not a Scientist, Engineer, Former Space Business Employee or Highly Knowledgable Guy like most all of you. You all already know that, but I wanted to get that out there before making any comments.

First, I'd like to say that NASA needs to remain in the robotic exploration business. I think they should aggressively pursue new missions to Europa and Titan as well as other unmanned ventures. NASA/JPL clearly do these things better than anyone. Clearly.

In terms of what to "do"? Normally, I don't answer questions with questions, but in this case, I have to ask why NASA should "do" anything in terms of manned space flight. My personal opinion is that SpaceX will become the counter to Russian and Chinese Manned Launch capability.

If you lift their entire program out of Elon Musk's hands and ship everything to Houston, Florida and Alabama (I know there's other locations) and put some stickers and flags on all the stuff, you have what NASA will be attempting to do over the next 6 or 7 years.

IOW, maybe NASA should consider its options. Is it absolutely necessary for NASA to have a man-rated launcher considering SpaceX? If so, please tell me why so we can discuss it. I'm of the opintion that Taxpayer money would be better spent elsewhere.

Now before anyone has a rupture, look at the gathering picture... We have a private company that is serious about space and is proving out their launcher(s) and are FAR ahead of NASA. Another private company is far ahead of NASA in terms of Habs. Bigelow habs.

Wanna do the Moon? I personally don't, but the point is that for every $ NASA doesn't have to spend researching, developing, testing, and deploying Apollo 18, that's a $ that they COULD be spending developing the technologies and equipment that provides the vital infrastructure for manned outposts such as power plants, water and air recycling, propellant production, etc.....

If private contractors can drive us to the new house that another contractor built for us, haul our equipment there, and do it cheaper than we can do it ourselves, why not?

Another way that savings could be utilized would be in pursuit of a true SSTO vehicle. I think at the end of the day, unless or until we can lift a vehicle off of a runway, take it into space, bring it home, and have it ready to make the next delivery within 72hrs max, we're really wasting time and money. I understand how complex a vehicle an Orbiter is. I understand the required turnaround time. For its time, that all was expected and acceptable. For the future, it is not.

Space needs to become as easy as flying transcontinentally. Perpetually devoting massive resources to tin cans on top of explosive sticks is a detriment to advancement.


How about keeping the shuttle flying, and using the SRB stick idea to lift cargo. This would cut down the time needed to develop a manned Ares 1 (which we could start later). I think relying on others for ISS resupply was a pretty big mistake, because it left us two steps behind on being able to move people. If we could have contracted the Delta 4 as a resupply vehicle, it would be easier to now convert it to manned missions. But it is not too late I suppose. I would recomment flying the space shuttle for two or three more years, and flying a couple basic resupply missions with a simplified cargo carrying Ares I. Also, start contracting the Delta 4 for resupply, and start on man rating it. In a way, this would put us further forward on maintaining our presence in space than Constellation would, because we would be building some redundancy into our capabilities. And this way, when the shuttle retires, we will only need to convert the Ares 1 or Delta 4 Cargo to take people, not develop a whole new system.


A long time ago, I said that Elon Musk and Robert Bigelow will beat NASA back to the moon and be the first on Mars. Now, I am an alt.space cheerleader but I cheer with a lot of nervousness. They are certainly not proven but we've seen nothing yet that says they can't achieve their company objectives. Constellation will be cancelled, especially considering the Federal Budget environment that we are in. Zero point six percent of the budget is peanuts but it looks good politically to chop it down. It will become a campaign issue in 2012.

IMHO, Here's what should happen...

SpaceX, Bigelow, Armadillo, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic become successful and profitable. There are many others and I hope they come along for the ride as well but I like these companies right now for manned spaceflight in the next decade. NASA becomes a customer for the private industry to do research in LEO, Luna, and Mars. Tourism becomes a financial reality and drives much of peripheral technology to improve the quality of life in space. NASA's role in exploration is to finance new forms of propulsion (especially nuclear) that private industry cannot yet realistically invest in. This way, NASA is still relevant and forms a symbiotic relationship with private space.

Wildcard Alert!!! Don't count out nuclear fusion. There's lots of exciting non-Tokamak research happening right now that could make this whole conversation moot. Compact, ultra - high power, ultra - low radiation fusion is a game changer and our entire economy and government priorities start a shift into a much different future.



Dragon: While I am not happy with the Ares I design, I do find your rather extreme confidence in spacex to be almost as misplaced as the confidence that some have in NASA itself. I can easily believe that Elon Musk himself fully realizes the truth of that.

Let us just take a more realistic look at what spacex has on its plate, OK?

First of all not only must you launch rockets, you must establish that you can do so with a high degree of reliability before even the commercial satellite makers, let alone NASA will be comfortable with using your launchers. I doubt if you could even get insurance for a brand new launch system! This takes at least a dozen or so launches that are successful without any ones that are a disaster. Spacex so far has some 4 total launches of a rocket the approximate size of the WWII German V2. Of those only the last one reached orbit as was originally planned for the other three also. While that is certainly not too bad for a start up company (most of which have yet to get beyond the PowerPoint presentation stage) it is far from even establishing the reliability of the Falcon I. That is a fact that I am certain that Elon Musk himself is more than willing to admit.

Now, it looks like spacex will hopefully be able to launch its first Falcon 9 this year, and I truly do hope that it is totally successful! They really, really need that success. But that is in itself a long way from establishing a reliability record that even commercial satellite people are going to be happy with. Not only that but the standard Falcon 9 is NOT the vehicle that is going to have to be used to get the Dragon capsule (in even its materials only configuration) up to the ISS. That particular feat can only be done with a Delta IV Heavy, an Atlas V Heavy, or the Heavy version of the Falcon 9. Just how far away from launching such a vehicle reliably is spacex? I would be quite conservative in calling it at least three years. And that is IF everything goes very well.

In fact, I do believe that NASA has already insisted that the Dragon capsule be fully integrated with such other launchers as the Heavy versions of those from ULA, especially as the Delta IV is already in the process of establishing such a needed reliability record at this very time.

On top of this please realize that the Dragon capsule being funded by NASA through its COTS program is not a manned version. It, like the Progress vehicles is a materials only version. While this is at least a start, it is going to take far more funding and time to bring it up to speed as a manned version. After all, just because it would be manufactured by a pure private alt.space company would not mean that it too would have to be "man-rated" just like any other craft that NASA would use to get astronauts into orbit!

Now, please do not get me wrong here, I too have very high hopes for spacex and Elon Musk, and Burt Rutan and t-space, and Robert Bigelow and Bigelow Aerospace. But none of these people are miracle workers that can just wave a magic wand and are going to take over from even the more established aerospace companies, let alone from NASA.

Besides which, I absolutely prefer a balanced approach by NASA, it will not do to just have NASA abandon manned flight, and turn their entire program budget over to robotics, anymore than it would do to cut or even restrict the robotic probes scientific missions for the manned programs either!

And I can even fully respect your somewhat transparent pro private industry, anti governmental conservative approach here. But it will not work out nearly so well as in other governmental areas. Try to realize that if NASA just even seems to be abandoning the manned portion of space exploration, the budget cutters of Congress will have a field day with even the more scientific portions of their already limited budgets as well! To turn things around a bit, if there are no Buck Rogers, there will be no bucks either! The astronauts are still the greatest group of heroes that we still have left in this country, and the average Joe six pack out there is still aware of this. Even if he is aware that he will never be able to reach that high himself, he can still hope his children and grand children just might, Heck, dragon, I can even hope for that for my own grand children!

So even with its flaws, I would rather see NASA continue with even the Ares I and Ares V plans, if for no other reason than NASA is the insurance policy that at least something will get done. It is just that I feel there are better ways to go back to the moon and on to Mars. And I will be starting a thread soon on just what I mean by that for at least the moon. And guess what? I will show that I do have confidence that if given the help they need, Burt Rutan, Elon Musk, and Robert Bigelow, should all be able to play very significant roses in the methodologies to get back to the moon that I am going to point out!

I have already pointed out on this thread where I do believe that spacex, along with ULA should be given the task of further bringing down the costs of getting materials form the Earth to a high LEO orbit. Then I also pointed out where I truly like the general ideas of Burt Rutan for doing the same with a significant number of personnel. Next, I hope on another thread to show where these efforts along with Bigelow's inflatable ideas can get us back to the moon with far less costs, and at far less risk than NASA's current plans!

IN the meantime, as I stated I would very much like to see NASA be made to keep the shuttles flying at least until an accelerated COTS effort provides a way to reduce the costs of both materials and personnel being placed into orbit.

But as it now stands the shuttles will have been retired for at the very least three years , and quite possibly up until some five years before ANY kind of replacement for them is available, and I (and quite probably Congress also) find that to be quite unacceptable!

So we are not really that far apart here after all! Which is the general purpose of my even starting such threads as this one!

So, Have A Great Day!


Reading the first half of the OP left me almost too apathetic to form an opinion on the second :)

Why would it be so bad if america messed up and couldnt get anyone to the ISS? It would be hugely embarrassing to national pride, but that might be a good thing. If Russia got into another sqabble with the US and wouldnt ferry americans there, that would really get america motivated again. We could get a mars base out of an ego that injured! in any case, a committment to trump the russians AND the previous apollo missions.

The shuttle is a beautiful machine but it seems to me it was a prototype forced to be a workhorse. I would much prefer to see a much more conservative rocket that can actually get significant payloads to the moon (or anywhere where they do not fall down again), or perhaps many iterations of smaller, experimental craft.

There is also a lot to do right here on earth. If nasa had no manned space ability at all for twenty years it could still make fantastic progress towards making us a spacefaring race if it were given moderate money to prove moon and mars bases right here in controlled environments. I actually consider this the more important goal. If we could point to a base and say "Look, this is ten thousand or a hundred thousand, or a million tonnes, but it is self sufficient. people can not only live in here, they can duplicate every single part in this base from local resources. Put this on another world and eventually that world will be a colonised world", then you have a real motivation for big rockets.


One thing NASA must do is stop dithering! I am all for this upcoming review by the new Augustine Commission, if it comes up with some concrete answers that are not simply a rehash of past plattitudes and statistics conjured up to suit some preconceived non-objective "objective"!

One conclusion I sincerely hope the new commission can come to is that our immediate national objective for human exploration of space is as follows:

(1) Maintain our capability to reach the ISS with astronauts and cargo until the next system of spacecraft and boosters reaches Full Operational Capability. If this means stretching out the Space Shuttle withOUT increasing the number of scheduled missions beyond the currently planned (including the lifting of the Alpha Spectrometer or whatever), then the 2010 grounding of the STS system should be lifted.

(2) Set a goal of returning a human crew to the surface of the Moon (with return) NLT July 2022 (my 80th birthday!) WITH THE OBJECTIVE OF ESTABLISHING MAN-TENDED BASES AS SOON THEREAFTER AS PRACTICABLE! If this means soliciting the involvement of other nations, including China, FINE!

(3) Encourage and SUPPORT to the extent possible, commercial development to take over transport and support of the ISS, and then Lunar-base exploration and DEVELOPMENT with an eye toward commercialization of the Moon.

(4) Set as a long term goal, with no set date, the landing and return of human exploration missions on Mars NLT 2050.

Budget constraints have to be taken into consideration, certainly! But we must get out of the mode of, "Well, we've already spent so much on Ares I that we "can't afford" to discontinue it, even if it will ultimately cost more than going to something else...IF that proves to be a necessary conclusion of the Augustine Commission.

Presuming that the Orion spacecraft is a viable option, which I believe it is, IF a suitable booster can be found to lift it to the ISS AND take it to the Moon, then whatever "bone and muscle" has been taken out in order to fit Ares I should be restored!

The current money spent on Ares I is NOT totally irrecoverable. The Ares-I-X can still prove the capability of the Escape System, regardless of what alternative booster might be chosen. Likewise, the J-2X, currently in development should continue until an operational engine is brought into production.

So far as members I would appoint to the commision, I would like to recommend one for certain: Jay Barbree, the Dean of Space Correspondents/Reporters. He has seen more launches, talked with more people and knows how to present correct facts to the public that no one else I know can do!

I have more thoughts on this, having just returned from the Cape, but time limits me right now!

Ad LEO! Ad Luna! Ad Ares! Ad Astra!


Frodo, your ideas are on the mark. Each dollar that goes into NASA must produce more than a dollar in new science and technology. Practical access to LEO is needed before we can afford human flight beyond it. "2001" might have had the right idea about getting to the moon and beyond. Unless each stage of the journey can be made affordable, we cannot get the needed resources to the next stage. So we need practical, fully reusable launch vehicles. To do this we need a technology base; a variety of vehicles that allow us to get real flight experience with new technologies, so we won't run into the problems we had with Shuttle. Unmanned suborbital vehicles are the fastest and least expensive way to accomplish this. Unpiloted vehicles are also ideal for R&D in aeronautics, an area where NASA is rapidly falling behind the industry it's supposed to lead.

The Shuttle and ISS were intended to work together until at least 2020. Unfortunately the previous administrator did a pretty good job of mortally wounding the Shuttle by cutting off its logistics four years ago. That doesn't mean the decision was right, only that it may be hard to get an organization with so much inertia to change course. The administration has pretty much agreed to one additional shuttle flight ; for more than that we will have a tough battle.

For interim human flight to LEO, ULA has offered more than once to add human launch capability for the Delta at CX-37, and even a second pad if a higher flight rate is needed. The Delta would be considerably less expensive than Ares and could certainly, with the planned upgrades, launch even the Orion capsule. And it is operational, which the Ares is not. For backup access, with some additional funding SpaceX could accomplish the 8-10 launches needed to work the bugs out of the Falcon 9 in two or three years. Ocean recovery of manned capsules is more cumbersome and expensive than Apollo fans remember; I hope SpaceX considers that. Additional access to ISS could be provided by China pretty quickly, and Orbital Sciences and ESA also have the capability. The ISS can serve as intended, as a transportation hub, catalyst for international cooperation and even a laboratory, though without Shuttle this capability will be limited.

But we need investment in science, which Constellation has trounced. Griffin wanted to drop even the AMS, which is already built. The only scientific advantage to having ISS in high inclination orbit is earth observation, and the LVLH orbital attitude is ideal for this, yet we have no instruments for it.

Finally, we need to invest more in research that actually has practical benefits, and almost all of this has to be done on the ground. There really are people at NASA facilities who can improve our lives in every field from aviation to medicine. I know some of them. But NASA needs to get beyond the myth that practical benefits are free "spin-off" of going to the moon. They're not. Most of the claims that NASA has benefited medicine are likewise myths. Research at NASA gets no support unless it can make a claim (generally exaggerated) that humans can't survive on the moon without it. Real research in aeronautics, engineering, and life sciences can be done by many talented people at NASA facilities and can be of great and practical benefit to America, but only if it is a primary organizational objective.

In summary, NASA can return to its real original mission, and start developing useful technology and discovering important science. Or we could just stay on the course we're on, putting a few people on the moon at immense cost and hoping to entertain the public so effectively they will give us an unlimited supply of tax dollars.


1: Scrap Ares 1 immediately and move a FULL-featured Orion to the man-rated, RS-68A-powered Delta IV-Heavy.

2: Utilise I.S.S. till at least 2020 and invest more heavily in attendant COTS programs.

3: Downscale Ares V (90-100 metric tons to LEO) to enable a proper 2-launch lunar mission architecture, using the existing KSC infrastructure and equipment. Inline design if deemed affordable, if not: a "Shuttle-B" config as a backup.

4: Develop an Altair lander capable of full 14-day Sortie missions to anywhere on the lunar surface. Look forward to
Enhanced Altair for dual-lander 'Outpost-Lite' missions lasting for one month or more. 'Scar' vehicle design for possible upgrade for Mars missions.

5: Invest HEAVILY in technologies for developing In-Situ Resource Utilisation and nuclear power systems for the Moon & Mars. Without a working knowledge of how to 'live off the land' from the Solar System's resources, most manned missions may be doomed to 'Flags & Footprints'.

6: Propose eventual "One-Percent For Space" legislation, that may eventually provide a permanent, 1% percent of the Federal Budget for the taxpayer-funded portion of the U.S. Space Program. That way, during good economic times or bad, the U.S. would get a fair number of missions accomplished for a fair, fixed price -- boom or bust. And with the slow but sure growth in 'Private Space', we will see those technological investors and their private space programs eventually overtake the Government Space program.


To me, it seems interesting how quickly some people veer off from dealing with the failure of the Ares l to what we should do about getting to the Moon and to Mars. Apparently, some of you are not listening, because Low Earth Orbit is still the goal, given that we are retiring the only system we have of getting there. We can talk about going to Mars all we want, but, if we can't get to LEO, then we aren't going anywhere.

Even if the Ares 1 is a complete success, we still will have a launch system which requires large numbers of people to launch, but which carries a small number of people to orbit per launch, and requires that the Navy be called out to recover the capsule on its return. This is not a system which is going to be useful for very long.

What we need in the long term is a system which only requires 5 or 6 people to launch, that can carry as many as 10 people, plus the crew, into orbit, and which can land at the take off point. It should be completely reusable, and should not require hundreds of hours of work on each turnaround. Which means that the engines have got to be run at something less than absolute maximum potential, as well as the thermal protection system system being integrated into the skin of the vehicle.

These are the goals that we must focus on right now, not dreaming about going to the Moon or to Mars.


We should not be dreaming about Moon and Mars: in this rapidly going-by 21st Century, we should be DOING. And that could happen with a flat, 1% percent of the U.S. Federal Budget if NASA were allowed to have that.

"Goals we should focus on". By 'we', do you mean private industries developing the cheaper means to get to and from LEO? Don't expect Goverment to be able to do that anymore.


So... how is Dr. Ning Li's (circa October 1999) super-conductive gravity shield technology developing - especially in light of the discovery of 'dark energy' (anti-gravity) ? That technology should be about due to be online by now.


I only have one word...


It's controversial and NASA has shut it down time and time again, but I truly believe in DIRECT and I think it is our solution to Ares I and its failures. Cancel Ares I and begin development of DIRECT.


Well mattblack and halman: Both of you have always been very intelligent and knowledgeable posters here and in other places. And you are both essentially saying just what I have been saying. And although I have given methodologies for going back to the moon and even on to Mars, I too fully believe that we must first have a truly low cost type of CATS system, before any going further out is even possible to any great degree!

I also think that either the EELV's or the Direct systems are both far better than the Ares I would be. In the meantime, I think we also must keep the shuttles flying until we can get these other systems fully on line with even capsule technologies. But in the long run it is going to take some kind of space plane types of technologies to truly bring down the cost of a pound (either materials or personnel) to LEO.

So, (to me at least) NASA should:

(1) Keep the shuttles flying even at a reduced rate, at least in continuance to the ISS.

(2) Abandon the extremely flawed Ares I.

(3) Substitute the Delta IV Heavy and/or the Atlas V Heavy, for the shuttles in tune with the Dragon and/or other capsule designs to bring both materials and personnel up to the ISS. When this is done (and only when it is fully operational) we can fully retire the shuttles.

(4) Fully support such private efforts as spacex with the Falcon 9 Heavy, and then use it also for space delivery. And if it is truly as inexpensive as spacex thinks it will be, then use it almost exclusively for such deliveries.

(5) Fully investigate the possibilities of the Direct II system, and if it is truly as feasible as it seems to be, then also include it in these operating systems. This would give the US at the least some four entire systems to work on both materials and CATS for the immediate future!

(6) Fully work with such people as Burt Rutan to develop a fully reusable space plane type of system for the delivery of at least 10 people to LEO at a price of less than $1,000 per pound to LEO.

(7) All of these things should be done while still maintaining a fully operations robotic explorations program!

Congress needs to continually raise the budget of NASA by at least some 10% per year above the inflation rate in order to do all of these things in a reasonable and orderly manner. As I have said over and over again, the companies and countries that have the long range foresight to do these things will eventually reap orders of magnitude more back in wealth and economies than they have ever put into such programs. Heck, not only Europe and Russia, but China, India, and even Brazil and Australia realize this. So do we in the US? I certainly hope so!!!!


Larryman":2qwyp0mn said:
So... how is Dr. Ning Li's (circa October 1999) super-conductive gravity shield technology developing - especially in light of the discovery of 'dark energy' (anti-gravity) ? That technology should be about due to be online by now.


This post is off topic for this thread. Provide immediate scientific support for your assertion or this post will be removed.

If you wish, you can create a thread in The Unexplained or Science Fiction fora to discuss it

Moderator Meteor Wayne



Well, if Ares is dead, the Air Force is still building the X37B. The most interesting part of this article, to me, is the "highly durable, high-temperature thermal protection system"

Any word on just what this is? How much will this decrease turn around costs and so on. It would be nice to be able to pound on a space ships hull and not damage it, given the nature of launches and space flight.



The X-37 is an exciting craft, but it is not a launch vehicle. Nor does it provide manned capability, which is what the uproar is about. We have plenty of un-manned capability right now, but our manned space exploration program is facing what could be a fatal grounding. The retirement of the space shuttle forces NASA to come up with an alternative method of getting people into orbit, and, so far, they have not had encouraging progress. The basic launch vehicle that is the core of the Ares-1 rocket is an adaptation of the space shuttle Solid Rocket Booster, using 5 segments instead of 4, with a second stage sitting on top of that, and a capsule sitting on top of the second stage.

Apart from the massive cost increases that have appeared out of nowhere, there is concern that the solid fueled, multi-segment rocket motor may not be suitable for use as a first stage. Without any structure to solidify the launch vehicle, the segments of the rocket are subject to forces which could cause the segments to separate. These forces are amplified by the perching of a heavy weight at the top of the stack of segments. There are many engineers who have grave reservations about the reliability of the solid rocket under these conditions, even though no flight test data is available even after several years of development.

Even if the initial flights go well, it will not be until the second stage is flown on top of the stack of segments that we will really start getting answers to the questions that the engineers have. If it turns out that the solid rocket design is just not going to work, what should NASA do? Should more money be spent in the hopes that the problem(s) can be solved? Should a fresh start, with a new design for a step rocket be taken? Should the mission be re-assigned to one of the existing launch vehicles, either the Delta or the Atlas? Should NASA simply give up on manned space exploration if the Ares-1 does not work? Should NASA spend the money to duplicate an existing cabability, even though it is not ours? Should NASA begin development of a second generation of space plane, with a different method of getting it to altitude rather than relying on its own engines?

The course that American space exploration will take over the next quarter century will be heavily influenced by the events of the next few months, or year, whenever the Ares-1 is ready for testing. We should be informed of our options through our own efforts by that time, rather than waiting for the government to decide what it wants to do. We should be able to tell the government what it needs to do in order to continue manned space exploration, so that the debate of what role NASA should play in opening up off-planet resources is not a stumbling block in making policy.

Oh, by the way, I don't think that the article you linked to was referring to any existent thermal protection system, only that the X-37 would be an excellent test bed for such technologies. We will be constrained by weight from building robust, sturdy vehicles for some time, so figuring out a TPS that does not weigh a lot is important. However, testing such devices on a manned craft is rather dangerous, so an unmanned space plane is an ideal way of trying different approaches to the problem.


As usual halman, an excellent and intelligent post! I am very encouraged that the Air Force is going to continue the X-37 program! The Air Force actually has far more funding for space than NASA does, and so can do things such as the EELV program, and the continuing space plane effort of the X-37. To me at least, it was both short sided and tragic that NASA dropped the X-33 program!

It too, would have been a truly great platform for testing the newer technologies for building a true low cost space plane type of vehicle for Earth to LEO, or even a High LEO orbit.

A forty year old capsule design, mounted on top of a giant fire cracker is NOT the future of such a manned transportation system. And there is absolutely no doubt that one of the greatest of our original rocket scientists in Von Braun, was totally against using solids for launching human beings into space, under ANY circumstances! And the sooner NASA realizes this, the sooner we will have a true CATS type of system!

I fully realize that the Air Force's goals are generally military in nature, but I have come to the belief that sort of thing may not be just an evil in itself. Even if the material is classified in the beginning, like most things military it will not always remain so. And when the technologies so developed get out to such private space craft builders as Burt Rutan, the resulting explosion in inexpensively getting people into space will be the first step in building a true space faring civilization!

I mean, just look at that X-37, it is exactly what I started this thread about! Its shape will indeed allow it to plane back to the Earth without the penalty of the heavy wings that the shuttle now pays for, the small (possibly even retractable) wing types of surface should very well enable it to land just about anywhere it wants to. Heck, for safety in these early types of tests, it is even remotely controlled, not needing to even risk even a single pilot in such tests! And it is being built by Boeing, a company that has by far the most experience in building such craft in perhaps the entire world! Like the space shuttle itself, it is truly a beautiful "Ugly Duckling!". that to a true manned space buff like myself will eventually turn into the most beautiful swan imaginable!

Besides, protecting the entire Earth and humanity itself from the uncontrolled violence of our universe in such things as NEO's, IS a military type of responsibility. Perhaps, our more far seeing Air Force military types are showing that they truly realize this, and therefore want to be able to inexpensively get out to LEO with the means to protect us as quickly as possible. If so, GOOD for them!!!

For THAT particular goal, I actually support the militarization of space!! :D


Halman getting to the point as usual, you noted the following.....

"Oh, by the way, I don't think that the article you linked to was referring to any existent thermal protection system, only that the X-37 would be an excellent test bed for such technologies. We will be constrained by weight from building robust, sturdy vehicles for some time, so figuring out a TPS that does not weigh a lot is important. However, testing such devices on a manned craft is rather dangerous, so an unmanned space plane is an ideal way of trying different approaches to the problem."

Oh really.

So what TPS are they going to use on the X37B? They ARE going to use a TPS, I am quite sure. And the X37 is already built. The article is referring to a new TPS. Is that actually the case? or are they using the STS system??

The rest of it I already knew. A lightweight durable TPS would be great.

Finally, it does not matter that the X37 is unmanned. It is not ever going to lift much into orbit as a practical platform. It is only a test platform for a larger vehicle.

To repeat, just what TPS are they going to use on the X37B? That was my only question. The rest depends on the answer to that question.


Regarding the X-37, "The fuselage is constructed of Graphite Bismaleimide, a high temperature composite material that can handle temperatures higher than the current aluminum structure of the space shuttle. The material will allow for a thinner and lighter thermal protection system, saving weight, Boeing officials said. "

The new composite material used for the skin of the X-37 can apparently tolerate about 400F, while aluminum is usually limited to 300F. This would reduce the demands on the heat shield somewhat. Of course the RCC used on the Shuttle leading edges is also a composite and can take much higher temperatures, but it is too brittle and heavy to be used as a skin material for large areas.


Yes, the structure is graphite. What is the TPS, I now have two sources that say they will be flying a new material. ( in addition to RCC used in some areas )
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