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

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frodo1008

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OK, I started this thread over on M&L also, but I think I will get more of a response here. If the MODS do not like this sort of thing, then I will finish this series here on free space only. Can I here from some MODS on this?

So here goes it anyway:

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!
 
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dragon04

Guest
Stick to one Forum. And THIS is not the proper Forum for this topic.
 
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frodo1008

Guest
Well, I have since noticed that ZenGalacticore was correct, you get far more of a response here (and I do think that these subjects are far too important and difficult to start, not to get a good response on) than you do over on M&L.

I personally think that is most unfortunate, but it does seem to be true none the less!

So, if the MODS have no actual objections, I would like to post on both forums!

After all, even though this is free space, it is still space.com. And in fact, I have had this very thing powerfully pointed out to me in the past!

MODS, how about an answer to that?
 
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jimglenn

Guest
Frodo your thread is wonderful and I hope to get the time to read and digest it all.

Nasa is lucky to have any money considering the problems the country is having.
Your detailed analysis left out what I see as a big mistake, flying people on solid rockets.
You know that was a compromise by the bean counters who are not Rocket Scientists.

Tell me I am rite. I'm the only Internet Rocket Scientist around! :)
 
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R1

Guest
Wow, it sure is a lot of information, and I believe I just found lots more.
This appears to be a government accountability report scheduled for release approximately
a year ago:

http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d08186t.pdf



A quote from pg 21 near the end :

It may well be the last opportunity to make significant adjustments before billions of dollars are spent and long term commitments become solidified.
 
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frodo1008

Guest
jimglenn: To me at least, and once again, Wernher Von Braun, who insisted that the great Saturn V be almost totally powered by liquid rocket engines for the generally same reason that I will now give you, large solid rocket motors should never be used to place human beings into space.

Oh, I know that I am going to get jumped on for that statement, especially as for most of my career I worked at Rocketdyne, which was the free world's largest supplier of large liquid rocket engines. In fact all of the engines that powered the Apollo moon landing except one, were manufactured by Rocketdyne, and the only solids on the Saturn V were the ullage motors, and the escape tower (which was certainly hoped would never have to work!). To my knowledge there was only one engine failure on a Saturn launch, and even it did not affect the mission.

I am now going to make a statement from my knowledge of both large solid and large liquid rocket engines. Yes while I have never worked on large solids, I have studied their workings and designs extensively as part of my own studies of the space shuttle and the total STS transportation system. The statement is: Once the initial bugs had been worked out of the large liquid rocket engines they became inherently far safer than any large solid motors could ever be!

Oh boy, am I probably going to be jumped on for that statement! In the first place is is indeed somewhat true that if you apply the Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS) principle to such propulsion systems the solids win the safety contest hands down! As I said, I have studied both systems extensively, so I am well aware of this fact.

However, there is a counter issue that totally overcomes this for liquid engines regardless of how complex they are.

That is, when you test a solid rocket motor (large or small, it does not matter in this case) the particular motor that you have just tested is history, it is gone forever, regardless of just how good your test was. So what ATK or any other manufacturer of large solids must to is to depend almost totally upon highly complex and sophisticated Total Quality Management (TQM), which in turn must depend upon Statistical Process Control (SPC) methods, to ensure that every production large solid motor that follows the successful testing of such a motor is EXACTLY the same as the test motor.
Otherwise, you risk a very large KABOOM!

Now, ATK is to be really complimented (and thank God they have done this!) on their truly excellent efforts along these lines! And the Challenger problem was NOT of this type at all. But at any time even the slightest slip up and your KABOOM is going to happen, it is inherent in solid motors, even after the particular design has been well established. This is a fact that I do not think that either NASA, nor ATK would want out to the general joe sixpack public!

So what would be so different in the testing of large (or small) liquid rocket engines? Well, liquids are all homogeneous in nature. That is simply for instance that liquid oxygen is always liquid oxygen regardless of time or place. So what this allows the liquid rocket engine manufacturer to do is simply to test every single engine that manufacturer ever makes. And when that particular engine has passed that test it can then be run as the very engine that is going to launch the vehicles into space! This is also done with the liquid fueled aircraft power plants that literally millions of passengers depend upon for their very lives numerous times very day! Heck, I would even imagine that the manufactures of automobile and truck engines also take advantage of this fact of liquid fuels!

For instance, to my own knowledge (at least while I was working there up until the year 2000, and I see absolutely no reason why this does not continue) Rocketdyne has run what is known as a "Green run" on every rocket engine it has ever made. It is called a "Green run" as a whole lot of running parameters on a large liquid rocket engine must still be well within their green and safe operating areas for at least a full minute of run time during a test.

And no, a "Green run" has nothing in particular to do with the environment!! However, I must say that in particular in the case of liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen fueled engines, they are far better for the environment than aluminum perchlorate powered large solids are! That may not be a problem right now, but we all hope to see a future with far more rocket launches than are now being made, and then it may be a very limiting factor for such large solids!

Now, while there is absolutely no way of ever ensuring that any machinery built and operated in the real world by the hand of man is going to be absolutely safe. There just isn't, and it is part of the reasons that placing humanity into the incredibly harsh realm of outer space is never going to be totally safe, but then neither is driving your car out of your drive way ever going to be totally safe either! Not only does this "Green run" go a long way toward the inheritance of the safety for large liquid rocket engines, it also gives the engineers and test personnel of this process a time in which to tweak the engines run parameters into giving the absolute best performance that the particular rocket engine is capable of! A total win situation for not only the manufacturer, but also for the customer that is is impossible to achieve with solids, large or small.

As for the magnificent SSME's, they are not only given just one such test, but many, all the way up to the full 8.5 minutes that they are expected to run during a space shuttle flight! And for this, every engine on the shuttle has done its job (despite running as close to the absolute limit of most rocket engine parameters) in every flight of the shuttle. And as there are three such engines on every flight that comes out to well over 300 flights! They have been very truthfully called the greatest single piece of machinery ever built by the hand of mankind!

To my knowledge, there has never been a failure of Rocketdyne's RS27A engines used on the venerable Delta II either. And NASA has had such confidence in that particular rocket that it has been used in by far the greatest number of Mars and other deep space probes. After all, NASA has enough troubles with the payloads of such vehicles after they are on their merry way. To NASA not having the launch rocket system even deliver the payload to its starting point is absolutely NOT an option!

And now NASA is expecting the newer 5.5 segment solid rocket motors to be the only source of power to place Americans on their way towards the moon. Sorry, but to this particular retired aerospace worker, that is sheer folly at best! NASA would be far better off from a pure safety standpoint to wait long enough and "man rate" the Delta IV, or the Atlas V, or even wait until we actually find out if Elon Musk and spacex can reduce the costs of their future Falcon 9 Heavy as much as they say they can.

I mean, just what is this "man rating" worth any how? We did not "Man rate" any of the earlier manned space shot rockets, and as I remember they worked perfectly fine anyway! In fact they were all originally. the Redstone, the Atlas, and the Titan rockets, and even the Saturn rockets, never "man rated" as far as this fellow that actually was active in the program remembers it anyway! Heck, the first three were originally Intercontinental missile rockets of the military! And the military did not even design such rockets with manned launches in mind anyway!

Well, anyway those are my facts and my opinions of the interpretations of those facts.

So onwards we go!
 
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frodo1008

Guest
R1, I could not agree more. While no large and technologically challenging project is ever a total waste of time and wealth. It has evidently (thanks for the link) become evident to such an impartial organization as the Governmental Accounting Office that NASA's entire Constellation project is headed towards at least fiscal disaster, if not actual physical disaster as well!

Hopefully, this new committee, impartial and not beholding for its job to NASA, and chaired by the relatively hard nosed Norman Augustine, will find that out, and put an end to the insanity. Too bad that such a truly great member of the original Rogers commission on the Challenger disaster as Richard Feynman was, is not still around! I do hope that there will be at least one pure physical scientist on the new committee at least!

And I have been actually driven from a general supporter of this folly, to this conclusion!

And that is strangely enough, NOT a happy thing for me to have to admit!
 
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drwayne

Guest
"To my knowledge there was only one engine failure on a Saturn launch, and even it did not affect the mission."

Another second or two and it would have affected it big time.

But I get your point.

"We did not "Man rate" any of the earlier manned space shot rockets"

I believe the Air Force was stuck with an exercise to man rate the Titan, which was quite an undertaking,
as it had POGO tendencies big time.

Wayne
 
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frodo1008

Guest
Well the air force must have done a pretty good job, as there were no failures of the Titan II used for the Gemini flights. Although there were some exciting moments in LEO itself!

My main point is that I do not think that this so called "man-rating" is of such a nature as to exclude the use of the Delta IV or the Atlas V, or even the Future Falcon 9, from being able at a reasonable cost from even being used for manned missions, let alone materials flights.

This would have to be far less expensive that the continued development of an entirely new systems such as the Ares I, and eventually the far larger Ares V represent!
 
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drwayne

Guest
Given the number of failures that occured in the last unmanned test of the Saturn 5, I wonder
if it would be considered "man-rated" today.
 
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rubicondsrv

Guest
drwayne":vkpbeu96 said:
Given the number of failures that occured in the last unmanned test of the Saturn 5, I wonder
if it would be considered "man-rated" today.
the current requirements for aries were written as to disqualify anything currently existing.
they are also not based on flight records but certian design features.
 
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frodo1008

Guest
So this "man rating" is just another way for NASA to say, "Do it our way or don't it at all!"?

I have always supported NASA, and probably always will, but that is just not acceptable, especially in these particular economic times!
 
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jimglenn

Guest
Lot's of interesting info, Frodo. What was the engine you guys did not build? Those little quad reaction
nozzle clusters on the CM? An amateur got a hold of a couple, and ran in a test stand. Don't know if
he ever flew it.

Solids have to be less reliable, for the reasons you state, and gut feeling. You simply can't control them
once lit, unless a hybrid, which are doing great in our hobby rockets, though I have seen of them mess up.
Chuffing mainly, or ignition problems, need a shot of O2. The O-ring problems they had on the SRB is a
clue that the design is faulty. Parker Hannifin here in cleveland at the time said Nasa was not using the
rings properly! I do not have the details, but I heard the joints were accidently designed upside down,
thus collecting water, mil motors of the same type are pointing down, so it drains out.

I just don't like the beancounter aspect of the SRB's. They clearly are taking a Kmart approach. Which is
silly and dangerous. The congressmen who approved it should be required to fly it 25 times.
 
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frodo1008

Guest
It was either the ascent engine or the decent engine for the Lunar Module, I am not sure which. It was a good engine, and I think it was built by TRW, which is an aerospace company that I don't think even exists anymore, but do not quote me on that for I am not sure.

And you are correct, that is another aspect of the large solid boosters that I do not like. And that is that they are so very uncontrollable. I wonder just how NASA plans on getting the Ares I through the area of maximum dynamic pressure, where they now have the SSME's throttle down?

Unless the large solids have changed considerably, there is no way of throttling them down at all! You light them up, and they go full blast until they run out of propellants!

I would however, be more than happy to learn that they now have a method of doing this kind of throttling. Or could this actually be one of the reasons for NASA's problem with the extreme shaking of the capsule on top of just such large solid boosters?

Just asking, is all?
 
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scottb50

Guest
frodo1008":1u6jpudl said:
It was either the ascent engine or the decent engine for the Lunar Module, I am not sure which. It was a good engine, and I think it was built by TRW, which is an aerospace company that I don't think even exists anymore, but do not quote me on that for I am not sure.

And you are correct, that is another aspect of the large solid boosters that I do not like. And that is that they are so very uncontrollable. I wonder just how NASA plans on getting the Ares I through the area of maximum dynamic pressure, where they now have the SSME's throttle down?

Unless the large solids have changed considerably, there is no way of throttling them down at all! You light them up, and they go full blast until they run out of propellants!

I would however, be more than happy to learn that they now have a method of doing this kind of throttling. Or could this actually be one of the reasons for NASA's problem with the extreme shaking of the capsule on top of just such large solid boosters?

Just asking, is all?
As I understand it by varying the internal pathway shapes and using different grain configurations they can design in the equivalent of throttling. An SRB is quite a bit more sophisticated then a bottle rocket.
 
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R1

Guest
I found what I think is one of the latest updates on the [Jupiter ?] Direct launch system:

http://www.launchcomplexmodels.com/Direct/documents/DIRECT_Summary_v2.0.2.pdf


I don't think the Ares technology is dead entirely, but I really like
this Jupiter concept. I believe the Jupiters can also be ready sooner, also. Lots of diagrams, charts and
imgs. on the link; I wish I could bring the diagrams, but it may be that I can only link you.
The link above was found through the directlauncher.com site.
 
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R1

Guest
I found what I think is one of the latest updates on the [Jupiter ?] Direct launch system:

http://www.launchcomplexmodels.com/Direct/documents/DIRECT_Summary_v2.0.2.pdf


I don't think the Ares technology is dead entirely, but I really like
this Jupiter concept. I believe the Jupiters can also be ready sooner, also. Lots of diagrams, charts and
imgs. on the link; I wish I could bring the diagrams, but it may be that I can only link you.
The link above was found through the directlauncher.com site.
 
R

R1

Guest
I found what I think is one of the latest updates on the [Jupiter ?] Direct launch system:

http://www.launchcomplexmodels.com/Direct/documents/DIRECT_Summary_v2.0.2.pdf


I don't think the Ares technology is dead entirely, but I really like
this Jupiter concept. I believe the Jupiters can also be ready sooner, also. Lots of diagrams, charts and
imgs. on the link; I wish I could bring the diagrams, but it may be that I can only link you.
The link above was found through the directlauncher.com site.
 
R

R1

Guest
I found what I think is one of the latest updates on the [Jupiter ?] Direct launch system:

http://www.launchcomplexmodels.com/Direct/documents/DIRECT_Summary_v2.0.2.pdf


I don't think the Ares technology is dead entirely, but I really like
this Jupiter concept. I believe the Jupiters can also be ready sooner, also. Lots of diagrams, charts and
imgs. on the link; I wish I could bring the diagrams, but it may be that I can only link you.
The link above was found through the directlauncher.com site.
 
R

R1

Guest
I found what I think is one of the latest updates on the [Jupiter ?] Direct launch system:

http://www.launchcomplexmodels.com/Direct/documents/DIRECT_Summary_v2.0.2.pdf


I don't think the Ares technology is dead entirely, but I really like
this Jupiter concept. I believe the Jupiters can also be ready sooner, also. Lots of diagrams, charts and
imgs. on the link; I wish I could bring the diagrams, but it may be that I can only link you.
The link above was found through the directlauncher.com site.
 
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scottb50

Guest
R1":31spjmrl said:
I found what I think is one of the latest updates on the [Jupiter ?] Direct launch system:

http://www.launchcomplexmodels.com/Direct/documents/DIRECT_Summary_v2.0.2.pdf


I don't think the Ares technology is dead entirely, but I really like
this Jupiter concept. I believe the Jupiters can also be ready sooner, also. Lots of diagrams, charts and
imgs. on the link; I wish I could bring the diagrams, but it may be that I can only link you.
The link above was found through the directlauncher.com site.
Thank you for your support; The SDC Department of Redundant Redundancy.
 
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frodo1008

Guest
Dwayne: when you state:

"Given the number of failures that occurred in the last unmanned test of the Saturn 5, I wonder
if it would be considered "man-rated" today."

I find that I agree with you so much that I have come to wonder just why it is that NASA now seems to want to put any and all barriers up for stopping human progress in space. Believe me, it hurts this idealistic space cadet a whole lot to even admit to such a feeling!

And I must now admit to being somewhat in error in thinking that the alt.space companies might not be able to make as much progress as NASA, even though I still fully support NASA, I have to admit that also. Heck, if NASA does not change its attitudes at the top, then I am afraid it is going to find itself sitting by the wayside wondering just what happened.

I do not like to feel that way, but it is what the top management of NASA has forced upon me!
 
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frodo1008

Guest
Hey come on scott50, please do not post such a sarcastic statement as:

"Thank you for your support; The SDC Department of Redundant Redundancy."

We should really make an effort to keep our debates on a nicer level that that!

Besides which, being as dense as I am, I really did not understand your reference there. It would automatically be less sarcastic if you would take the time to explain.

Besides which, I am more than happy to entertain any and all suggestions. And R1 was merely pointing out other possibilities here.
 
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frodo1008

Guest
OK, people, things seem to be moving much faster, and in possibly even different directions that I originally thought they would. No, that is NOT a bad thing to me, just different, which can be quite a good thing!

So I will now drop the other shoe, and start to discuss just how I think that Cheap Access To Space (CATS) should work for placing human beings into space.

So, to bring us up to speed here.

One: I personally think that the Constellation project consisting of Ares I and Ares V of NASA is doomed. That has been covered in the first threads of this series. So don't argue the point here, just go to those threads.

Two: I personally also think the the space shuttle should be kept launching until such time as a truly viable and inexpensive methodology of placing human beings into orbit is fully operational.

Three: I also fully support whatever it takes to get COTS launching Dragon capsules, either with Delta IV Heavy, Atlas V Heavy, of Falcon 9 Heavy rockets for propulsion up and flying both materials and personnel up to the ISS!

Hopefully, this new committee will also see these things, and not only prevail upon NASA to change, but also prevail upon Congress to come up with what little funding would be required to go in this direction.

However, I also fully realize that this is not the ultimate and even near term answer to getting humanity into space.

So just what would the characteristics of such a system be to get that most immediate of tasks done?

I know that this is indeed just my own opinion, but I have come (after a lot of study of this situation) to believe that the one person that has both the vision and the former success to make this happen is Burt Rutan!

And I would think that he would go along with the characteristics that I am now going to state.

In fact, most of the characteristics are what the STS system should have been from the beginning. Before the military insisted that in order to give NASA its support for the system that NASA had to add all these other items that have made the shuttle the expensive system that it eventually became!

(1) Such a system should NOT be carrying any large amounts of materials into LEO! Like airliners, a certain reasonable amount of luggage would be allowed, but like the air freighters these air liners of space access should not be carrying large amounts of materials into space. That duty I covered in my first post on this tread.

(2) Like the shuttle such a system should be as reusable as is possible. In fact, it should be almost totally reusable!
This would rule out almost any type of capsule system. Not only are space planes far more elegant, they can also be made almost totally reusable and far less expensive. As magnificent as the "Ugly Duckling" of the space shuttle is and was, it was a kluge, and that is one of the main things that makes it economically nonviable.

(3) Obviously, such a craft should have a reasonable ability to place a reasonable amount of human beings into LEO, for each launch. I like a number of some 10 people plus a space craft commander, and a space craft pilot. This could then be called a "Space Taxi" kind of vehicle. And eventually to bring down the cost per person to LEO much further, some kind of "Space Bus' with a capacity of from 50 to even 100 passengers to LEO. But that would be for the more far future I would think.

OK. so what do I like about Rutan's ideas here?

In the first place he is well aware that we are not at the point of being able to design and build a relatively inexpensive single stage to orbit type of space plane. This IS the eventual Holy Grail of such efforts, but it is some decades up into the future. This is why he has had his sub-orbital craft carried up to an altitude and initial speed by a mother type of ship. I really, really, really LIKE that idea! And I do think that he and Virgin Galactic are going to be immanently successful in their sub orbital space tourist business.

Now, like myself I am certain that Burt Rutan is well aware of the relatively vast differences in requirements for a space taxi to get people up to LEO, over his sub-orbital efforts. There is the large difference in velocities required. This in turn results in the thermal problems, especially coming back to the Earth. Going into orbit even results in a far greater life support system. After all being in space for even just one orbit requires a system capable of keeping its occupants alive for at least 90 minutes or so, as opposed to some 10 minutes of so for a sub orbital craft. And every additional orbit is another 90 minutes!

Can the new composite materials that he is using for his sub orbital craft stand up to what is needed for a true orbital craft? I must admit that I do not know, but I am certain that Rutan will be working on it at least!

What do I think that he is going to need for such an orbital system? Well, for one thing a very much larger carrying aircraft than even his SpaceShipTwo mother craft. Just as we originally needed the far larger Atlas launch vehicle when we first launched Mercury Capsules into LEO, over the much smaller Redstone for just the first sub orbital launches, so is Rutan going to need a far larger craft to also get people up to LEO. That isn't politics or even funding, it is simple and logical physics.

Heck, he has the basis of such a large carrying craft up right at the Mojave airport right now. Just take a couple of 747's, carefully cut off a right and left wing of each, replace these with a large central wing, do the same for the tail structure, retaining the 50,000 lbs thrust fan engines on the outer wings, and you now have a VERY large carrying craft indeed!

A craft capable of carrying a taxi type of the lifting body principle, even with an initial booster capable of getting such a craft up to the 15 mach range or so. Then using something like an internal propellant aerospike rocket engine, similar to those built for the defunct x33, (which by the way, was a great tragedy that it was not completed, Rutan and others could certainly have used the data obtained by such a craft for this kind of effort) which can be made to actually fit into the fuselage shape of the taxi craft. This does not even have to be a very powerful engine, all it would need to do is to propel the craft the final bit up to an orbital velocity of some 25 mach. I see no reason why such a craft could not get up to at least the altitude that the Hubble is now at (some 400 miles).

But more on the usefulness of getting to such an altitude later. As a hint, let us just say that an orbital craft at that altitude, or just as importantly a space station at that altitude, does not have to be rebusted nearly as much as the ISS does at its operating altitude of some 200 miles. Besides which such a craft or space station would be above by far the most of the space debris that is now causing such problems for the ISS.

In fact, as I remember the original articles inspired by the ideas of Von Braun, and written by that truly great space subjects writer in Willy Ley, and illustrated by the truly great space illustrator Chestley Bonestell in the Colliers Magazine. Heck, I even had a copy of the truly great book that this generated called "The Conquest of Space", which was very inspirational to this then young boy, and eventually made me into the kind of idealistic space cadet I became over the years since!! At any rate in those articles and eventual book Von Braun's ideal type of wheel shaped space station was to be located at an altitude of some 1,060 miles! So a 400 mile altitude certainly would not be too much of a stretch of the imagination, I should not think!

I am certain that Rutan already has his own ideas on this, so this was just what I thought they might in general at least even possibly be, but I certainly do not think that I am in his class as an engineer, I am just a dreamer somewhat left over from the great decade of such dreamers in the 1960's. However, from everything I have ever heard of Rutan, I think he might just respect that to some extent at least!

I am also certain that there are a whole lot of other ideas out there, all far better than what NASA is currently pursuing. IF we do not get a CATS type of system to get from the Earth's surface to a high LEO orbit, then we are quite frankly never going to be able to truly support either moon or Mars bases or even extensive explorations. To say nothing of all the other efforts that mankind should be making with human beings in space. Further, it is even more sadly certain that if we do not make this initial reduction in the cost of placing both materials and human beings into at least such a high LEO orbit at a far less expensive rate, there will NEVER be a true space faring civilization, and eventually humanity will be doomed also! Not the legacy that I want to leave for my decedents, that is for sure!

OK people, so once again off the box, and Have A Great Day!!
 
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