Congress, NASA

Is the additional shuttle mission in jeopardy?

The Orlando Sentinel reports that the additional shuttle mission approved by Congress in the recent NASA authorization bill could be in jeopardy should NASA’s budget be cut. The concern, voiced in the article primarily by Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), is that fiscal conservatives, emboldened by victories in next Tuesday’s election that could shift control of the House and possibly the Senate to the Republicans, would seek significant budget cuts in even the FY2011 appropriations bills yet to be passed by Congress. Nelson in particular cited the desire of two fellow senators, Jim DeMint (R-SC) and Tom Coburn (R-OK) to reduce spending to FY2008 levels. “That, of course, would be devastating to NASA,” Nelson said.

If such cuts were made in FY2011 spending, one potential item that would be cut would be the additional shuttle mission, STS-135, with an estimated price tag of $500 million. Technology development and spaceport infrastructure work at KSC could also be cut, but local officials quoted in the article said they’d prefer to see the extra shuttle mission cut before losing those funds.

It’s not clear, though, just how much STS-135 is currently in danger of being cut. While Republicans are poised to win back control of the House, and at least significantly reduce the Democratic majority in the Senate, Democrats will still be in control when Congress returns in mid-November for a lame duck sessions, primarily to handle the outstanding appropriations bills. Republicans could try to slow down or block those bills, though. Recall that in 2006, after Democrats won control of the House and Senate, they decided to sweep aside the appropriations bills that had not passed for FY2007 and instead passed a year-long continuing resolution that funded agencies like NASA at FY2006 levels.

Nelson’s statement, then, could be seen as a preemptive strike of sorts, a variant of the “Washington Monument Syndrome”: since the additional shuttle mission has bipartisan support, and is eagerly anticipated on the Space Coast, where it will keep thousands of shuttle works employed for a few additional months, saying it’s in danger of being cut may be a strategy for keeping it funded.

143 comments to Is the additional shuttle mission in jeopardy?

  • GeeSpace

    Whether the STS-135 shuttle mission flys or does not fly is not important in the overall scheme of things.

    However, Senator Nelsom is correct in stating that reducing 2011 NASA budget to the FY2008 level would be devastating to NASA. And bad for the new and developing private space industry..

  • …saying it’s in danger of being cut may be a strategy for keeping it funded.

    If STS-135 flies, something for certain will be defunded to pay for it.

    Tech development, commercial crew or unmanned precursor missions?

    Pick one. You can bet your @$$ it ain’t gonna be SD-HLV!

  • GuessWho

    GeeSpace wrote @ October 29th, 2010 at 8:11 am “… Senator Nelsom is correct in stating that reducing 2011 NASA budget to the FY2008 level would be devastating to NASA. And bad for the new and developing private space industry..”

    Typical statist attitude. If the private space industry is real, they can establish and grow themselves without government funding because the market demands their services. If they are dependent upon a USG contract to survive, they are no different than ATK.

  • CharlesHouston

    This is likely a pre-emptive strike, by claiming threats to jobs in the near term. They are calling attention to the only thing which people would actually get upset about.
    The article mentioned possible threats to longer term science projects and to KSC rebuilding. The likely cuts would be to those two areas – the science projects are poorly defined and do not support a larger goal. They will be tough to defend.
    We really have three more flights from KSC and there are no more flights scheduled from there at all. Atlas, Delta, Falcon, etc all fly from the Air Force side of the causeway.
    The only work at KSC will be to demolish the Shuttle pads, one is being demolished already. So how do you defend millions to rebuild a place that may be used one day if a future program actually works? And what would that program need? Why not wait until its design is firm and then build what is needed? So look for funds to rebuild KSC to be severely cut.

  • MichaelC

    What is a “statist”?
    -Then the private space industry is not real. There is nothing that will get people into space except USG contracts. Billionaires got to be billionaires by understanding they can show off spending on a ride to a government (tax dollar) paid for ISS but actually paying for a space program is not smart.

    Which is why most of the people posting here in hatred of all things NASA are living in a fantasy world.

    The fear and loathing of HLV’s here is sad because it indicates a lack of basic critical thinking among supposedly knowledgeable people.

  • BeancounterFromDownunder

    So it’s ok for NASA to blow what $10 billion dollars on a failed space program (along with how many other failed space programs over the last 2 or 3 decades) but Congress won’t support a fledgling commercial firms who are actually able to cut metal and produce flying hardware. Sheer hipocracy. Good on ya GuessWho.

    Check the facts. Let’s look at the front runners for say commercial crew ie. SpaceX and Boeing. SpaceX has an existing launch manifest that is approx 50% commercial, has developed 2 launch vehicles to orbit, 1 space vehicle, several launch facilities 4 new engines and manufacturing and test facilities and all in less than a decade and for less than 10% of the failed Ares 1 effort. Boeing’s record in commerce speaks for itself. So a bit of money to help NASA out of a tight spot is a ‘Typical statist attitude’. Not to help commercial but actually NASA and by default the US of A.
    If you leave crew to NASA they won’t have anything affordable in the forseeable future, say another 3 decades or so.

  • MichaelC

    As for that last shuttle mission; cancel and send the damn thing to the museum.
    They have no escape system and should have been junked in favor of a shuttle C with a capsule and tower way way back when. They will go down in history as the prime example of losing lives due to cognitive dissonance at the highest levels.

  • David Davenport

    … shuttle C with a capsule and tower way way back when.

    Why manned Shuttle C instead of Orbital Space Plane or perhaps X-33 or X-37?

    Because Shuttle-derived systems would or will cost less and be more reliable? Pleez …

    X-37 — Isn’t the Air Force’s X-37 still up there? The USAF is leading the way in second generation winged spacecraft.

  • byeman

    “The fear and loathing of HLV’s here is sad because it indicates a lack of basic critical thinking among supposedly knowledgeable people.”

    Actually, it is just the opposite. The blind promotion of HLV shows the lack of basic much less critical thinking. The US can not a afford an HLV and the missions that need an HLV. Any near term use (the actual need itself is debatable) of an HLV is not for large spacecraft but for propellants in upperstages. Hence heavy lift is not required but ‘affordable’ lift is. It is cheaper to fly smaller systems more often than large systems infrequently.
    The refusal to accept this is an example of the ignorance and lack of engineering knowledge of HLV pumpers.

  • byeman

    Also being anti HLV or anti NASA managed launch vehicles is not “hatred of all things NASA”. As a NASA employee, it is an informed and rational position based on years of experience and inside knowledge of space launch, unlike the “internet schooling” of most other posters on this board who have never worked with one, let alone most of the current and past launch vehicles (including the shuttle) in the USA fleet

  • Ben Russell-Gough

    @ MichaelC

    There is no particular reason why a ‘space-plane’ should be inheritly less safe than a capsule with escape tower. The Dreamchaser will have a LAS system to push it off the LV in case of problems, making it theoretically as safe as a capsule with LAS.

    The real and unsolvable problem of the shuttle stack is that the TPS is directly in the debris fall flow from the ET. Dreamchaser and X-37 both solve this by launching in-line (with the orbiter atop the upper stage). D-SDLV Side-mount solves this by not having an exposed TPS.

    FWIW, I’m generally in favour of STS-135, so long as ET-94 can be modified for use in a LON mission. It gives that bit more cargo deliery margin for ISS before the big cargo delivery gap starts and the race is on to get CRS and IPs flying at the necessary rate to fill the gap left by the shuttle. ISS isn’t as well-set for the decade 2011-20 as the press releases suggest. The eagerness that ISSP has adopted STS-135 is one indication of that.

    @ David Davenport,

    Don’t forget that X-37 is uncrewed and is too small to carry a crew.

    There is no particular reason why a spacecraft should need to be flown during the terminal descent phase, other than a need to justify the existance of pilot astronauts when there is no landing on distant objects to require their skills. It is interesting to note that, of all the commercial crew ideas, only one is a glide-return aircraft. All the others are parachute-descent ballistic capules.

  • amightywind

    I applaud Senator’s DeMint and Colburn for their plan to restrain spending. A juicier target would be to defund ISS which few conservatives are fond of.

  • Vladislaw

    MichaelC wrote:

    “Which is why most of the people posting here in hatred of all things NASA are living in a fantasy world.

    The fear and loathing of HLV’s here is sad because it indicates a lack of basic critical thinking among supposedly knowledgeable people.”

    I have been posting here for about six years, I have yet to read someone expressing “hatred” for NASA, there may be a hatred of all the stupid things they have done to waste time and money but not a hatred for the agency. Even people who have posted they would like to see NASA disbanded it is not about hatred of the agency but the amount of money spent with their preceptions of low value returns for the funds spent.

    The only “fear” people have about a heavy lift launch vehicle is the fear it will again, waste more time and money for something not needed in the near term at all or, as many have posted, no need in the forseeable future at all. I highly doubt anyone “loathes” the idea of a HLLV other than they loath how much time and money will be wasted on the effort.

    Resorting to hyperbole only weakens any case you may try to make about the need for heavy lift.

  • Coastal Ron

    MichaelC wrote @ October 29th, 2010 at 10:41 am

    The fear and loathing of HLV’s here is sad because it indicates a lack of basic critical thinking among supposedly knowledgeable people.

    HLV promoters are of the opinion that HLV’s are the default solution – they are not.

    Perhaps HLV promoters could point out the series of funded programs that HLV’s will be needed for? And the trade-off studies that show how HLV’s are not only required, but the least costly solution?

    So far that information has been sorely lacking…

  • Robert G. Oler

    The LON is never going to fly, as I have been predicting. To much money

    Robert G. Oler

  • David Davenport

    Don’t forget that X-37 is uncrewed and is too small to carry a crew.

    But X-37 wouldn’t have to be enlarged very much to carry 4-6 crew. Old rule of thumb is that if Reynolds and Strouhal numbers stay the same order of magnitude, than aerodynamic characteristics don’t change much.

    Yes, yes, the Air Force is not asking to go into the manned space flight business.

    There is no particular reason why a spacecraft should need to be flown during the terminal descent phase, other than a need to justify the existance of pilot astronauts when there is no landing on distant objects to require their skills.

    Then why does Soyez fly with a crewperson who is, in effect, a pilot? Probably because manned spacecraft, including new crewed ballistic capsules, will always need to have a least one person aboard specialized in emergency re-entry modes and in reassuring the spacecraft’s passengers… In other words a pilot, or a combined pilot and flight attendant.

    By the way, as I recall, the X-38 Asssured Crew Return Vehicle was supposed to be able to return from the ISS to home sweet home without a pilot. Just climb in, shut the hatch, and push the big red “GO” button. The computer would pick out an appropriate runway to land on.

    It is interesting to note that, of all the commercial crew ideas, only one is a glide-return aircraft. All the others are parachute-descent ballistic capules.

    Ballistic re-entry capsules are cheaper, easier to build, and lighter, those are their strong selling points.

    Gliding re-entry has gentler deceleration and the ability to land on a runway with pax seated upright in a dignified manner, as opposed to discombobulated monkeys t*%ts up in a barrel. These are strong sales points if one wants to attract paying passengers. OK, NASA doesn’t have to worry about getting passengers to pay to ride.

    Oribital gliders can perform aerodynamic maneuvers to change their orbital plane. The Air Force may plan to do that with the X-37.

    Also, when NASA wanted the X-38, the ability to bring an injured person back to Earth on a stretcher was cited as a point in favor of the X-38.

    Landing in that big ol’ Orion capsule in the ocean may turn out to be un-fun experience. The late Gus Grissom could testify about that.

    Furthermore, fishing Orions out of the Pacific and transporting them back to Florida won’t be that easy or cheap. What aircraft do you propose to use for the Orion transporter?

    Lastly, if orbital gliders are a bad idea, why has NASA in the past wanted X-33, X-37, X-38, Orbital Space Plane, and so on?

    If you say “NASA made silly mistakes in the past,” then why should we have great confidence in NASA now?

  • MichaelC

    There are plenty of payloads for an HLV. The only reason the regulars here constantly whine about no payloads is because they can point to ULA’s advertising powerpoints for lunar missions or whatever and scream “see, see!”

    HLV’s are easy compared to these refueling depot schemes and putting things together in orbit. We already have the friction stir welding facilities, SRB’s and several types of engines to choose from.

    You cannot assemble nuclear reactors and their electric propulsion systems in orbit 25 tons at a time.

    As for payloads, the best possible payload for a HLV is solar power stations to transmit energy as the second stage of a beam propelled launch vehicle- thus making the thrice damned and too expensive HLV obsolete.

    Then you won’t have anything to whine about anymore.

  • common sense

    @ Ben Russell-Gough wrote @ October 29th, 2010 at 1:14 pm

    “There is no particular reason why a ‘space-plane’ should be inheritly less safe than a capsule with escape tower. The Dreamchaser will have a LAS system to push it off the LV in case of problems, making it theoretically as safe as a capsule with LAS.”

    Nope this statement is not true not as such anyway. A capsule with a LAS remains the safest vehicle when compared with “space-plane” (I assume you mean winged RVs?). Tractor or Pusher does not really make that much of a difference. The problem is how many Gs will the crew sustain on escape. Now don’t get me wrong. Orion+LAS on Ares-I had scenarios in excess of 15 Gs if memory serves which means a nice blended crew so to speak – like in blender. It is not as easy to escape with a “space-plane” because it has a “preferred” reentry attitude unlike a capsule or at least a capsule has much less of it – it’s a blob, okay a little better than a blob.

    “The real and unsolvable problem of the shuttle stack is that the TPS is directly in the debris fall flow from the ET. Dreamchaser and X-37 both solve this by launching in-line (with the orbiter atop the upper stage). D-SDLV Side-mount solves this by not having an exposed TPS.”

    Nope again. TPS is one major flaws of the Shuttle stack but not the only one. Solid boosters are another one for example. Dreamchaser and X-37, if crewed, may have to fly under a shroud. There are impact risks on ascent, e.g. a bird, that might still kill your exposed TPS. Water droplets from a cloud at high velocity etc. Side mount does not solve anything. It is the dangerousest possible configuration for a crew with a LAS. I already explained that multiple times so if you are interested just browse around.

    “There is no particular reason why a spacecraft should need to be flown during the terminal descent phase, other than a need to justify the existance of pilot astronauts when there is no landing on distant objects to require their skills. It is interesting to note that, of all the commercial crew ideas, only one is a glide-return aircraft. All the others are parachute-descent ballistic capules.”

    You’re essentially right here. But consider this. You are trying to sell a vehicle to NASA to fly their crews composed mostly of pilot astronauts. So if they want a stick they’ll get a stick…

  • common sense

    @ amightywind wrote @ October 29th, 2010 at 1:19 pm

    “I applaud Senator’s DeMint and Colburn for their plan to restrain spending. A juicier target would be to defund ISS which few conservatives are fond of.”

    Oh wow then NASA will have no where to go. Very cool. What is it you support exactly?

  • Michael Kent

    amightywind wrote:

    I applaud Senator’s DeMint and Colburn for their plan to restrain spending.

    And yet you think these two senators and the fiscal conservatives they represent are going to turn around and spend $35 billion to develop a new launch vehicle with the same capacity as one we already have?

    Strange.

    Mike

  • NASA Fan

    The only ‘refurbish KSC’ funds that won’t get cut will be those that are targeted at historic buildings from the Shuttle Apollo Glory Days that will be part of the new KSC Visitor Centers “KSC Tour” loop.

    I can’t see NASA spending more than that on facilities that have no requirements yet to support the future BEO mission, which isn’t defined yet.

  • Robert G. Oler

    MichaelC wrote @ October 29th, 2010 at 5:07 pm

    There are plenty of payloads for an HLV.

    ………………………………………………………

    that is the claim and yet the folks who make it can really never say what those payloads are. The folks on NASAspaceflight.com are very certain that there are all sorts of military payloads just waiting for an HLV and yet they cant say what they are…

    there are payloads that a lot of people can wish would be on an HLV but none exist, none are funded and all are very very expensive…which matches the rocket that they would ride on.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    David Davenport wrote @ October 29th, 2010 at 4:43 pm

    It would not take much to recover an Orion or really any of the capsules that are being built or thought about from a water landing.

    There are two catamaran stern enders sitting at Mobile Bay looking for clients…(they are left from the abortive Hawaiian big island ferry effort that the airlines there scuttled.

    They would do just fine…

    actually I doubt any capsule does a water landing for more then just a few test flights. They can easily be recovered at the New Mexico spaceport with not much more “mass” penalty.

    Robert G. Oler

  • MichaelC

    “I explained that multiple times if you just browse around”

    uh-huh.

    Physics have not changed and materials have changed little. The very best way to land on earth from outer space, the cheapest and safest way, is with a capsule using parachutes to land in the ocean. The best way to get away from a malfunctioning launch vehicle and not have to carry the weight all the way into orbit is a solid rocket escape tower. Just because something is different does not mean it is better than what someone else came up with originally.

    If you just “browse around” you will find that there are really only three ways to reach escape velocity that will work.

    1. A staged chemically propelled rocket.
    2. An orion type monster propelled by exploding atomic bombs.
    3. A beam propelled vehicle using an antennae field transmitting energy for the first stage and solar power satellites for the second stage.

    Chemical rockets are very expensive.
    atomic bombs in the atmosphere are not acceptable due to fallout.

    That leaves beam propulsion which requires HLV’s to assemble solar power and transmitter stations in orbit. Many, many, many HLV’s costing a really mind boggling amount of money. But once they are up then the cheap access to space will be realized and no more HLV’s need ever fly. Everything will go up in a single airliner type vehicle for prices originally quoted for the space shuttle hundreds or even thousands of times a year.

    But like a freeway, the road has to be built first. The panama canal to space. Whatever analogy you want to use.

    We have to have HLV’s.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Beancounter from Downunder wrote @ October 29th, 2010 at 4:03 am

    Agreed the first part about SpaceX but where do you figure Virgin has orbital experience.

    I dont think that they have orbital experience, but it is not a long leap from suborbital flight to orbital flight IN TERMS OF THE PAYLOAD ie the energy to get to orbital flight and return are different but once you are “there” what it takes to stay alive in orbit and on suborbital is not all that much different.

    It is a leap but the foundations once in hand are something that one can move to pretty well.

    The most important thing for the “new” folks (and I think Boeing) is that they are starting to think in a “operational” mode and almost all of that thinking seems from an observers viewpoint to be fairly sound.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Ferris Valyn

    Chemical rockets are very expensive.

    Why?

  • Martijn Meijering

    There are plenty of payloads for an HLV.

    No there aren’t. The only affordable payloads are 1) astronauts and 2) low cost payloads such as propellant, food, T-shirts, polyethylene radiation shielding slabs etc. And those also fit on existing launchers, or even on very small RLVs.

    That leaves beam propulsion which requires HLV’s to assemble solar power and transmitter stations in orbit.

    Let’s develop the beam propulsion first before we get ahead of ourselves and build an HLV. And the HLVs aren’t even needed for solar power stations, because of the following fact that you mentioned yourself:

    Many, many, many HLV’s costing a really mind boggling amount of money.

    Mind boggling amounts of money are not available. Quite the opposite actually, there are mind boggling deficits and mind boggling national debts. And building and operating HLVs means there is even less money for the payloads. The money isn’t available without the HLV, let alone with it.

    We have to have HLV’s.

    No, we have to have cheap lift, not heavy lift.

    But like a freeway, the road has to be built first. The panama canal to space. Whatever analogy you want to use.

    Cheap lift is that road. And silly unaffordable schemes like solar power beaming for launch applications won’t get us there. If you used development of a solar power station as a way to generate funding for a chemical propulsion RLV (not necessarily SSTO), then that might work, but propellant is a much cheaper and easier payload.

  • Coastal Ron

    MichaelC wrote @ October 29th, 2010 at 7:26 pm

    That leaves beam propulsion which…” is the power of the future, and probably always will be.

    Until a technology can be demonstrated in an operational way, it may be worth funding for the sake of science, but it’s not something to commit to for a operational transportation system.

    Chemical propulsion may indeed be expensive, but the costs have been dropping for $/kg to orbit, so we have not reached the limits of this tried & true propulsion technology. And also keep in mind that part of the reason for it’s current cost is that there is not a lot of demand for going to orbit, so there has not been a lot of market pressure to lower costs – the market understands the current cost structure, and compensates for it in their business plan.

    But like a freeway, the road has to be built first.

    A transportation system already exists, and works quite well. What HLV proponents want to do is abandon the system that is currently underused, and build a new one that has no known customers. Weird.

  • Coastal Ron

    MichaelC wrote @ October 29th, 2010 at 5:07 pm

    There are plenty of payloads for an HLV.

    OK – can you provide a list, with their approximate mass or dimensional sizes?

    HLV’s are easy compared to these refueling depot schemes and putting things together in orbit.

    People that make this kind of argument must buy new cars every time they run out of gas…

    Just like here on Earth, there will always be a need for supplies of every kind in space. And just like here on Earth, delivery vehicles of all sizes will be needed. So far we don’t need HLV-quantity deliveries, especially at the massive price it would take just to build vehicles.

    For instance, if NASA was given $10B, and told to get as much mass into orbit as possible, it could get over 1.6M lbs into LEO using the Delta IV Heavy. If it pored that money into building an HLV, it would have a bunch of parts sitting on the ground. I’d rather use something that is available today, than wait for the mythical “perfect” vehicle of tomorrow.

    We already have the friction stir welding facilities, SRB’s and several types of engines to choose from.

    Yes, and all of which we’re using for existing launchers. But this has no bearing on the need or the total cost of HLV’s.

    You cannot assemble nuclear reactors and their electric propulsion systems in orbit 25 tons at a time.

    Never tell an engineer they can’t do something – they’ll prove you wrong. Besides, electric propulsion engines are very small, and it’s the power sources that are potentially very large (if you need high thrust/fast transit). But we aren’t there yet, so this is a theoretical conversation. It gets back to a funded need, and we don’t have one.

  • MichaelC

    “Chemical rockets are very expensive.
    Why?”

    A controlled explosion contained and channeled by alloys that are cooled by propellant and fed by turbines generating thousands of horsepower-l and constructed as lightly as possible. Thousands of man hours to build, test, mount, and then used once and thrown away.

    Any more questions you should know the answer to already?

  • MichaelC

    “No, we have to have cheap lift, not heavy lift.”

    I just explained to you that heavy lift comes first, then the cheap lift. How many analogies do you want? The panama canal, the autobahn, etc. etc.

    You putting the horse before the carriage as it were.

    “Mind boggling amounts of money are not available.”

    Nonsense- know what the letters D-O-D stand for?

    “silly unaffordable schemes like solar power beaming for launch applications won’t get us there.”

    You have it backwards silly. The unaffordable scheme is chemical rockets.

    “there has not been a lot of market pressure to lower costs – the market understands the current cost structure, and compensates for it in their business plan.”

    Your business plan is worthless. There is no market.

  • David Davenport

    Dreamchaser and X-37, if crewed, may have to fly under a shroud.

    The Air Force did launch its first X-37 under a fiberglass shroud of circular cross section. (They’ve announced that the AF is buying a second X-37, apparently the same size. ) The shroud makes the problem of aerodynamic stresses on a stacked/series missile go away.

    The X-37′s wingspan is 2.9 meters, so it could be enlarged considerably and still fit within a five meter shroud.

    I don’t suggest that orbital gliders are the best way to launch all possible cargo into low orbit. However, I do believe that the optimum aerospaceliner for people will land horizontally on runways.

  • Fred Willett

    Being from Australia I don’t really understand the US budget process.
    As I understand it the bill passed by congress includes, but does not fund the extra shuttle flight.
    When the appropriation (is that correct?) goes through does NASA get to choose which bits of the bill it funds with the moey its given or does the appropriation bill have to spell it out.
    In other words if there in no specific money earmarked for the last shuttle is it dead or can NASA just pinch the money from another program (like commercial crew)????????
    Someone please enlighten this ignorant antipodean.

  • Chance

    “Mind boggling amounts of money are not available.”

    “Nonsense- know what the letters D-O-D stand for? ”

    Well, I know DOD ≠ ATM.

  • common sense

    @ MichaelC wrote @ October 29th, 2010 at 7:26 pm

    Except for you HLV/beam/nuke fantasy are you arguing or abounding with me about LAS and capsules?

    @ David Davenport wrote @ October 29th, 2010 at 9:52 pm

    My argument was two fold: 1. Launch escape with a winged vehicle is a lot more complex than with a capsule and 2. the Shuttle TPS is a problem and the other vehicles will have similar exposed TPS. And btw you only included ascent exposed TPS, there is a danger as well with TPS exposed in space (MMOD). A service module hooked to the base heatshield would help with this problem. A “non-capsule” vehicle will always have exposed TPS.

    FWIW…

  • Coastal Ron

    MichaelC wrote @ October 29th, 2010 at 9:47 pm

    The unaffordable scheme is chemical rockets.

    and

    There is no market.

    You’re full of good news. Of course I think you’re wrong, but we’ll let history decide that for us.

  • Coastal Ron

    David Davenport wrote @ October 29th, 2010 at 9:52 pm

    The Air Force did launch its first X-37 under a fiberglass shroud of circular cross section.

    Here is a picture of the X-37 in it’s shroud:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:X-37_upright.jpg

    Maybe the shroud is composite, but it’s not fiberglass (usually they are aluminum).

    The X-37′s wingspan is 2.9 meters, so it could be enlarged considerably and still fit within a five meter shroud.

    The wingspan is 4.5m, and as you could see in the picture, it fits snugly in the 5m shroud, so there is no room to increase that in the same shroud.

    The X-37 was meant to be a pathfinder vehicle, so future versions could be bigger, but they have to decide how they are going to launch them. For instance, with crew or without, with a shroud or without. And it’s not known what the Air Force wants it for, but it doesn’t appear to be for people, so they may not have a need to upsize it anyways.

    The Dream Chaser, which is based on the HL series of lifting bodies, is designed for crew, so if the Air Force wanted crew, they would probably just go with that type of basic design (already lots of former research to use).

    I think the X-37 is a long-term project for the Air Force, and not crew related. Other than that, it’s a mystery…

  • BeancounterFromDownunder

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ October 29th, 2010 at 7:29 pm
    I dont think that they have orbital experience, but it is not a long leap from suborbital flight to orbital flight IN TERMS OF THE PAYLOAD ie the energy to get to orbital flight and return are different but once you are “there” what it takes to stay alive in orbit and on suborbital is not all that much different.

    It is a leap but the foundations once in hand are something that one can move to pretty well.

    The most important thing for the “new” folks (and I think Boeing) is that they are starting to think in a “operational” mode and almost all of that thinking seems from an observers viewpoint to be fairly sound.

    Robert G. Oler

    Think there’s a bit more to orbital than sub’ but anyway have to agree that you’ve hit on the difference between the ‘new’(er) companies and NASA and the more old school ones. That being the thinking in terms of ‘operational’ as opposed to test or one-off launches. SpaceX et al have started out in a manner that is operational in nature right from the beginning. Their goal up front has been to have a mature technology that is not a test flight every flight and they look very much like succeeding. Others include Virgin, Armadillo, Masten, Bigelow and so on.
    It’s an interesting time to be watching space. NASA’s going the right way to be left behind.

  • Fred Willett wrote:

    Being from Australia I don’t really understand the US budget process.

    Most people in the U.S. don’t understand it either.

    As I understand it the bill passed by congress includes, but does not fund the extra shuttle flight.
    When the appropriation (is that correct?) goes through does NASA get to choose which bits of the bill it funds with the moey its given or does the appropriation bill have to spell it out.

    Basically there are two steps, authorization and appropriation.

    We’re through the authorization phase. Authorization means that Congress approved a certain activity or program.

    Appropriation means providing the money to fund it.

    Yeah, it sounds stupid, but that’s the way it’s set up. It’s in the Constitution:

    No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law; and a regular Statement and Account of the Receipts and Expenditures of all public Money shall be published from time to time.

    Sometimes it seems like the Constitution was written to keep anything from actually happening.

  • Martijn Meijering

    I just explained to you that heavy lift comes first, then the cheap lift.

    No, you didn’t explain anything, you merely made a claim. I claim cheap lift comes first and then, perhaps, heavy lift. If we agree cheap lift is the goal then the onus is on you to explain why an HLV is the best road to get there instead of leaving things to the market, as we do with terrestrial transport.

  • Martijn Meijering

    Nonsense- know what the letters D-O-D stand for?

    DoD is facing major budget cuts. But go ahead, try to talk them into building an HLV.

  • Byeman

    “The X-37′s wingspan is 2.9 meters, so it could be enlarged considerably and still fit within a five meter shroud.”

    Incorrect, it is closer to 5 meters and would have trouble fitting in a Delta IV 5 meter fairing.

    The USAF isn’t “buying” another, the second one was built under the original contract. If the vehicle were enlarged, it would no longer be an X-37

  • Byeman

    Here are terms that are mutually exclusive:

    HLV – cheap lift
    HLV – cheap payloads
    HLV – planned/funded payloads
    HLV- near term need
    HLV- NASA’s budget for the next decade
    DOD – HLV
    HLV – MichaelC’s false analogies, panama canal, the autobahn, etc.

    WRT to launch vehicle, the cart does come first and then the horse. Fact: payloads drive new launch vehicle development. “Built it and they will come” is not applicable to launch vehicles. Proof? Next post will show history shows that I am right.

  • Byeman

    The following vehicles were developed to payload requirements:
    The vehicles are grouped by specific payload projects or types that drove the need for increase performance.

    Atlas LV-3 : SLV-3 : SLV-3A

    Atlas SLV-3 Agena : Titan 3B : Titan 34B

    Thor Agena A : Thor Agena B : SLV-2A : SLV-2G

    Thor SLV-2G: Titan 3D : Titan 34D : Titan IV

    Titan 3C : Titan 34D : Titan IV

    Delta progression through the years
    Delta II Heavy

    Atlas Centaur progression through the years (LV-3C, SLV-3C, SLV-3D, Atlas G, Atlas II, IIA, IIAS, IIIA, IIIB, V)

    Delta II (6925 : 7925)

    Titan IV : Delta IV and Atlas V

    Titan IV SRMU

    The addition of solids to Delta IV and Atlas V

    RS-68A upgrade to Delta IV heavy

  • Martijn Meijering

    HLV- NASA’s budget for the next decade

    Does that mean you are predicting the HLV will be cancelled before being completed?

  • GuessWho

    Oler – “I dont think that they have orbital experience, but it is not a long leap from suborbital flight to orbital flight IN TERMS OF THE PAYLOAD”

    Typical Oler response: It’s easy because the 2% of the problem (PAYLOAD) is essentially the same so I will just ignore the other 98% (launch vehicle).

    Talk about goofy.

  • GuessWho

    Oler – “actually I doubt any capsule does a water landing for more then just a few test flights. They can easily be recovered at the New Mexico spaceport with not much more “mass” penalty.”

    Can you show me the performance trade that supports this conclusion?

  • Anne Spudis

    Stephen C. Smith wrote @ October 30th, 2010 at 5:50 am [.....Sometimes it seems like the Constitution was written to keep anything from actually happening.]

    Often that is a very good thing.

  • amightywind

    Sometimes it seems like the Constitution was written to keep anything from actually happening.

    That darned Constitution. It keeps the Progressives from making the world a better place, thank God.

  • David Davenport

    Incorrect, it is closer to 5 meters and would have trouble fitting in a Delta IV 5 meter fairing.

    OK, good correction. X-37B is 2.9 meters tall and wingspan is under five meters.

    DIMENSIONS In Orbit

    H, 9 feet, 6 inches
    L, 29 feet, 3 inches
    Wing Span, 14 feet, 11 inches
    Experiment Bay Size 7 feet by 4 feet
    Launch Weight 11,000 pounds
    Orbit Range Low-Earth Orbit, 110 — 500 miles above Earth

    http://www.boeing.com/defense-space/ic/sis/x37b_otv/x37b_otv.html

    Incorrect, it is closer to 5 meters and would have trouble fitting in a Delta IV 5 meter fairing.

    The USAF isn’t “buying” another, the second one was built under the original contract. If the vehicle were enlarged, it would no longer be an X-37

    Are you maybe confusing X-37A with a second X-37B?

    A new $301m contract was awarded to Boeing by Nasa in November 2002 to continue work on the X-37 flight demonstrator. The contract includes the development of two vehicles – the approach and landing test vehicle (ATOL) / X-37A for Nasa, and the orbital vehicle (OV) / X-37B for the US Air Force. In September 2004, the X-37 was moved to the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

    http://www.airforce-technology.com/projects/boeing-x37/

    And it’s not known what the Air Force wants it for, but it doesn’t appear to be for people, so they may not have a need to upsize it anyways.

    The Dream Chaser, which is based on the HL series of lifting bodies, is designed for crew, so if the Air Force wanted crew, they would probably just go with that type of basic design (already lots of former research to use).

    Oh no, the Air Force is reviving Project DynaSoar! I’m sure of it. You heard it here first!

    ///////

    Look, I’m not in love with the X-37B. I’m mentioning it as an example of how events are passing NASA by.

  • David Davenport

    BH, 9 feet, 6 inches
    L, 29 feet, 3 inches
    Wing Span, 14 feet, 11 inches
    Experiment Bay Size 7 feet by 4 feet

    By the way, does anyone know the cabin diameter of the Dream Chaser? If not, can anyone suggest a useful cabin diameter for a spacecraft in this category?

  • David Davenport

    My argument was two fold: 1. Launch escape with a winged vehicle is a lot more complex than with a capsule and …

    Why is that necessarily so? Please explain.

    I assume that either a modernized space capsule* or a winged spacecraft could have a pusher escape rocket, instead of a tractor escape tower.

    And once away from its damages launch missile, a spaceplane will have more crossrange and more ability to avoid landing in mid-ocean or in the middle of a city.

    2. the Shuttle TPS is a problem and the other vehicles will have similar exposed TPS.

    Nope, not very similar. Other orbital gliders can and will have much sturdier TPS’s than the 1970′s-vintage Shuttle tiles.

    And btw you only included ascent exposed TPS, there is a danger as well with TPS exposed in space (MMOD). … A “non-capsule” vehicle will always have exposed TPS.

    Better tell the USAF about that. The X-37B has been aloft since April 20.

    The on-orbit duration of the X-37B will vary based upon mission requirements, but has the ability to perform missions lasting up to 270 days.

    http://www.boeing.com/defense-space/ic/sis/x37b_otv/x37b_otv.html

    I suggest that another advantage of a winged spaceplane compared to a capsule is that it’s easier to integrate permanently attached service module functions, including a re-usable orbital maneuvering propulsion system, on a spaceplane.

    A disposable service module is not a virtue for a vehicle optimized for frequent travel to and from and maneuvers in low Earth orbit.

    //////////

    * A modernized space capsule, as opposed to the Apollo/Saturn Historical Re-Enactment Society’s proposed design. Oh yes, NASA has its mock-up of the Orion escape tower and rocket on traveling show. Golly, how exciting.

  • Ben Russell-Gough

    Just purely FWIW, the X-37 has the same configuration as one of the OSP ideas. So, at the very least you could build a Dreamchaser-equivalent out of it. However, as I understand things, it would be limited to LEO. Whilst lifting body return vehicles can manage ‘skip’ aerocapture and re-entry from interplanetary orbits, a winged return vehicle can’t. The forces would damage the wing spars.

  • Robert G. Oler

    David Davenport wrote @ October 30th, 2010 at 12:47 pm

    I dont think that the USAF is reviving project DS…but I do think that the USAF is interested in trying to learn what it takes to make a reusable spacecraft “operational”….in terms of mission use.

    The shuttle orbiter was the right idea badly implemented in my viewpoint.

    The notion that one can save on cost by not rebuilding an entire spacecraft…is a solid one. What happened with the shuttle in my view is three fold.

    First the mission was so undefined that it forced the vehicle into a lot of compromises.

    Second the notion of a reusable spacecraft and a flying one at that came far to early in technology for it to be affordable…

    Three…NASA did not have a clue about how to make a vehicle reusable.

    I have no clue what the USAF is actually doing with the X-37 (some ideas but really no hard knowledge) in terms of what mission it is actually performing…but the fact that it has stayed operational on orbit for this long…seems to imply that they have learned some lessons in terms of systems…and if they recover it, refurbish and then relaunch it ….for a reasonable price then it is pretty clear that they have the baseline there for a vehicle that is scalable and is reusable.

    What makes the shuttle expensive is that it is not reusable…but they rebuild it after each mission. if the X-37 has moved past that…thats a big deal.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Martijn Meijering

    And once away from its damages launch missile, a spaceplane will have more crossrange and more ability to avoid landing in mid-ocean or in the middle of a city.

    I like spaceplanes, but I’m unconvinced they’re all that useful without air-breathing engines. And an airbreathing orbital spaceplane is a lot more complicated than a VTVL TSTO RLV. That would make it less likely as a first generation fully reusable RLV.

  • MichaelC

    The space plane concept has been a curse to space exploration. It was a cost saving measure and ended up crippling the entire manned space program. To hell with anything in space with wings. In any practical sense the tremendous cost of accellerating wings, landing gear etc. to orbital velocity just so it can come back down is fundamentally a poor concept. Wings in a vacuum are ridiculous. With half the world covered in water and parachutes that fold up and weigh so little, the original solution is still the best- and may remain so for centuries to come.

  • MichaelC

    “The shuttle orbiter was the right idea badly implemented in my viewpoint.”

    It was never the right idea; it was the result of applying aviation concepts to space exploration. The microgravity and vacuum in space and the gravity and ocean of air near the surface have almost nothing in common.

  • Byeman

    “I think the X-37 is a long-term project for the Air Force”

    No, not really, it was a target of opportunity after NASA dropped it.

    X-37 is a spacecraft and not a launch vehicle, and so there is little to learn from it for RLV.

  • Martijn Meijering

    Wings, landing gear and air-breathing propulsion are nice but expensive for orbital applications. A luxury if you will. On the other hand, cross-range and HTHL may have real economic benefits in the long run.

  • common sense

    @David Davenport wrote @ October 30th, 2010 at 1:44 pm

    “Why is that necessarily so? Please explain.”

    I’ll try but it is a fairly complex problem. First of all the “space plane” configuration has a preferred orientation since it wants to fly “head up” by design. That is lift is (mostly) assured by its configuration design. A capsule, like Orion is a called body of revolution, an axisymmetric vehicle where the axis passes from the center of the heat shield to the center of the apex. Therefore when a capsule flies at zero angle of attack, that is the velocity vector is parallel to the axis of symmetry, there is no preferred lift. Not quite true since lift in a body of revolution is assured by the location of the center of gravity (CG) that induces an angle of attack that is non zero. In any case as you “escape” as close to a zero angle of attack the capsule will not try to divert the whole vehicle but will mostly follow the escape tower (not as simple as it seems but you get the picture). Then you need to reorient the vehicle in the proper direction and release the launch tower or pusher. The maneuver for a capsule essentially is a flip over. And then depending on how fast/high you’re going you have to account for aerothermal environment so not to burn the vehicle. In any case GN&C Monte-Carlo studies have shown it is more difficult for anything to escape but a body of revolution. It does not mean you cannot, just that it is (a lot) more difficult.

    “I assume that either a modernized space capsule* or a winged spacecraft could have a pusher escape rocket, instead of a tractor escape tower.”

    It does not make any difference for the issue that I am stating, all being equal. Tractors have their own issues such as aerodynamic stability and pushers have their own. See the LAS vs. MLAS. For example the MLAS, a pusher, i a catastrophe waiting to happen: The thrust vector of the circumferential engines does not go through the CG. If one fails basically you kiss the crew bye-bye.

    “And once away from its damages launch missile, a spaceplane will have more crossrange and more ability to avoid landing in mid-ocean or in the middle of a city.”

    That is the before “once away” which is a big deal.

    “Nope, not very similar. Other orbital gliders can and will have much sturdier TPS’s than the 1970′s-vintage Shuttle tiles.”

    I am sorry but that does not mean anything, sturdier. The material properties are a function so to speak of your environment. So “sturdier” should relate to the ascent trajectory of the vehicle. The trajectory encompasses aerodynamic and aerothermal loads. Until you have properly defines these “sturdier” means nothing.

    “Better tell the USAF about that. The X-37B has been aloft since April 20.”

    So what? There is no one onboard the X-37 and there will never be anyone onboard.

    “The on-orbit duration of the X-37B will vary based upon mission requirements, but has the ability to perform missions lasting up to 270 days.”

    What does that have to do for the ability to sustain MMOD damages?

    “I suggest that another advantage of a winged spaceplane compared to a capsule is that it’s easier to integrate permanently attached service module functions, including a re-usable orbital maneuvering propulsion system, on a spaceplane.”

    You suggest without proof.

    “A disposable service module is not a virtue for a vehicle optimized for frequent travel to and from and maneuvers in low Earth orbit.”

    Sorry but here you really don’t know what you’re talking about.

    Hope this helps. Oh well…

  • common sense

    @ Robert G. Oler wrote @ October 30th, 2010 at 2:16 pm

    “What makes the shuttle expensive is that it is not reusable…but they rebuild it after each mission.”

    It’s because no one knows to this day how to build a “reusable” vehicle. No one, not a soul. The AF has been chasing this dream for quite some time now. Still no go. It’s also because “reusable” in most people mind means a la airliner kind and this will probably never happen for a space vehicle. Not at an affordable cost anyway and/or not in the foreseeable future. Orion, CEV then, was supposed to be reusable upwards of 10 times and I don’t know where it stands today. Smart expendable sometimes is a lot less expensive than reusable. See Soyuz for example.

  • Martijn Meijering

    It’s because no one knows to this day how to build a “reusable” vehicle.

    Are you sure about that? Isn’t it more a case of not being able to get funding for it? That is what Gary Hudson apparently was saying today.

  • common sense

    @ Martijn Meijering wrote @ October 30th, 2010 at 5:50 pm

    If you read my post… “Not at an affordable cost anyway and/or not in the foreseeable future.” So as I was saying you will not get the funding because it is not affordable… ;)

  • Martijn Meijering

    OK, but it’s an important distinction.

  • common sense

    @Martijn Meijering wrote @ October 30th, 2010 at 6:17 pm

    “OK, but it’s an important distinction.”

    Of course and I said so.

    However you need to bear in mind that reusable means different things to different people. And you have to account for the Life Cycle Cost of the thing, not the one off flight. At some point you MUST replace certain parts of the vehicle, say the tires. Well that is very important detail too. Reusable is most likely not going to happen any time soon, not as an airline operation anyway.

    And I do not mean sub-orbital of course.

  • Robert G. Oler

    common sense wrote @ October 30th, 2010 at 5:40 pm

    It’s because no one knows to this day how to build a “reusable” vehicle. ………………………….

    not so sure I agree with that. I dont think airliner when I think “reusable”.

    What defines, in my view at least, a reusable vehicle is where the cost of making a vehicle that has flown reflyable is cheaper then building a completely new one.

    Thats a very simplified one, but just sitting here taking a break from some outdoor activities…that strikes me as something quite doable.

    We know how to build avionics and other electronic systems that work over long periods of time (geo synch satellites are an example as is most of the stuff on the space station), we dont seem to know how to build a “reusable” rocket engine…but on the other hand SpaceX seems to be coming close to at least one that seems to have many “full burn” cycles on it……the materials that make the vehicle seem to be well understood…

    We will see how long and at what cost it takes Virgin to re ready a “spaceship” for flight and SpaceX to reprep a Dragon…and I assume before both of those we will see that cycle on the X-37.

    The X-37 will I think tell us a lot…

    A winged vehicle that is narrowly defined to “carry people” has many challenges a capsule doesnt have…mostly in the aerodynamics of lift and recovery…and of course it has to carry that mass in orbit that is not very effective..but it also has some advantages which are not easily dismissed….so I am not going to judge where the future rolls out in terms of which proves more economical in the near term (the next two decades)…

    Things evolve. In WW2 the engines of the B-29 were going less then 100 hours without overhauls… there were lots of engines and people to overhaul them…but the superfort was in all respects “reusable”…

    Robert G. oler

  • common sense

    @ Robert G. Oler wrote @ October 30th, 2010 at 6:38 pm

    “What defines, in my view at least, a reusable vehicle is where the cost of making a vehicle that has flown reflyable is cheaper then building a completely new one.”

    Yes indeed over so many flights right? So how many flights is the threshold for reusability? CEV had 10 flights way back when. And again reusable means different things to different people. Let’s assume for example that the most expensive part of your vehicle, e.g. avionics, is reusable. You could swap the avionics bay from the vehicle that just returned to a “new” vehicle. You’d already made large savings… And so on.

    “We know how to build avionics and other electronic systems that work over long periods of time (geo synch satellites are an example as is most of the stuff on the space station), we dont seem to know how to build a “reusable” rocket engine…but on the other hand SpaceX seems to be coming close to at least one that seems to have many “full burn” cycles on it……the materials that make the vehicle seem to be well understood…”

    We shall see about a reused LV soon but the whole story is far more complex than what you just mentioned… For example, what are the effects of the engine impacting the ocean on a reusable LV? Will it be reusable? Again we shall see.

    “We will see how long and at what cost it takes Virgin to re ready a “spaceship” for flight and SpaceX to reprep a Dragon…and I assume before both of those we will see that cycle on the X-37.”

    The suborbital will most likely be airline type soon. Expensive reusable but affordable. Orbital is an entirely different story.

    “A winged vehicle that is narrowly defined to “carry people” has many challenges a capsule doesnt have…mostly in the aerodynamics of lift and recovery…and of course it has to carry that mass in orbit that is not very effective..but it also has some advantages which are not easily dismissed….so I am not going to judge where the future rolls out in terms of which proves more economical in the near term (the next two decades)…”

    You don’t really need wings. Think X-38, not 37.

    Again reusable means different things to different people. ;)

  • Martijn Meijering

    The suborbital will most likely be airline type soon. Expensive reusable but affordable. Orbital is an entirely different story.

    OK, let’s lower our sights a bit then. What about an HTHL suborbital RLV with an expendable upper stage optimised for low cost and mass production?

  • Robert G. Oler

    common sense wrote @ October 30th, 2010 at 7:02 pm

    I would love to be wrong, but I think we are sometime, a really “long” time (like a decade or more) away from a launch vehicle that is significantly reusable…maybe where any parts are reusable.

    The trick there is going to be the engines…and it will be interesting to see what SpaceX’s experience is going to be with 1) recovering the first stage and 2) if they do 1, then reusing the engines….all coupled with whatever mass it takes to make recovery work.

    I dont think we are that far away from a reusable “space vehicle” to go from the Earth to LEO and back down with some payload.

    Gemini was darn near reusable…they actually reflew one, including the avionics with little or no “refurb” and my belief is that Dragon is going to quickly go to “reuse”…How many times? My belief there again is that the structure is going to be the limiting factor and I dont know what that is.

    The shuttle experience “for me” was that I left the notion of “breakthrough” technology and became firmly convinced that evolution, what works in airplanes and everything else will work in spaceflight, after all it has been a road from Syncom to the latest Geo monster.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Martijn Meijering

    I think we are sometime, a really “long” time (like a decade or more) away from a launch vehicle that is significantly reusable

    I’m afraid it will take longer than that. A decade sounds optimistic even if NASA started work on a propellant transfer based exploration architecture right now, in which case commercial propellant flights could be operational maybe as early as five years from now. I’d expect the emergence of RLVs capable of carrying people to take another ten years after that. But sadly NASA is unlikely to do anything of the sort and it might easily take at least twice as long.

  • David Davenport

    Therefore when a capsule flies at zero angle of attack, that is the velocity vector is parallel to the axis of symmetry, there is no preferred lift. Not quite true since lift in a body of revolution is assured by the location of the center of gravity (CG) that induces an angle of attack that is non zero.

    Huh? You seem to be arguing with yourself.

    In any case as you “escape” as close to a zero angle of attack the capsule will not try to divert the whole vehicle but will mostly follow the escape tower (not as simple as it seems but you get the picture).

    You are aware that both Apollo and Suyuz had and have small axial graviety gradients – axial c.g. asymmetry — built in?

    We sure do hope the capsule follows the escape tower, since the capsule is supposed to be attached to the escape tower as it pulls away from the malfuctioning missile.

    …. Then you need to reorient the vehicle in the proper direction and release the launch tower or pusher. in the proper direction and release the launch tower or pusher.

    Yes, and a vehicle with aeronautical control surfaces will be able to re-orient itself more authoritatively than a ballistic capsule, if an abort happens within the atmosphere.

    If you’re suggesting that a winged vehicle would wouldn’t stay attached to its pusher rocket during its short burn time, I’m not sure that’s true.

    Even better than a pusher rocket, our spaceplane could have a somewhat oversized, reusable orbital maneuvering system that could fulfill the emergency escape rocket function.

    A pressure-pumped hypergolic rocket motor starts up pretty fast.

    I am sorry but that does not mean anything, sturdier. The material properties are a function so to speak of your environment. So “sturdier” should relate to the ascent trajectory of the vehicle. The trajectory encompasses aerodynamic and aerothermal loads. Until you have properly defines these “sturdier” means nothing.

    Sorry, but that’s a load or pretentious blather. And is that just a typo in that paragraph, or do think the challenge for spaceplanes is thermal loads on the ascent, instead of during re-entry?

    “I suggest that another advantage of a winged spaceplane compared to a capsule is that it’s easier to integrate permanently attached service module functions, including a re-usable orbital maneuvering propulsion system, on a spaceplane.”

    You suggest without proof.

    Um, the Space Shuttle?

    ////////////////////////

    Some of you nit-pickers out there seem to insist on a distinction between winged space planes and lifting bodies. Could someone suggest a technical figure of merit to distinguish the two? Perhaps an aspect ratio, so that it’s a lifting body if the aspect ratio is lower than x.yz?

  • Well boys, the Congressional mid-term election is coming up! I will NEVER vote for any cronies of Obama. B.O. destroyed & derailed NASA and America’s manned space program. So any opponents of his agenda would do fine with me. If the right-wingers & tea partiers eventually give us back the gallant Lunar goal, electing them to Congress now, will be thoroughly worth it! Come January of 2013, some new Republican will get the Presidency, and restore America’s quest to do amazing things in space again. I hold the dream of the U.S. returning to the Moon, very dear to my heart; and I was aghast with anger when Mr. Obama finished off with everything great that NASA was at long-last doing, under Project Constellation. I call on all fans of the space program, who wish to see our astronauts leaving Low Earth Orbit in OUR working lifetimes, to vote the conservatives in on this election. This will pave the way for Congress to eventually get space exploration right & correct, once a better man makes it to the White House.

  • Larry M.

    Non-reusable is fine as long as you can build them and fly them inexpensively.

    Shuttle was definitely high tech; I’m convinced it was the best that could be done for its time. The mistake was that over 30 years we never made any serious changes to upgrade the system’s re-usability, and in the last five years we’ve completely turned away from learning from Shuttle’s lessons.

    I don’t think we are trying to learn anything from the experience.

    I’m afraid it may be too late now. We may be lucky to see the program survive.

  • K.S.

    Why the debate about HLV? I thought it was signed into law, and the description was pretty specific. Yet, I see posts talking about heavy lift not being certain. In what way do you foresee not building one? Will the next congress overturn it? Will NASA just take advantage of the “as far as practical” clause?

    I’m not trying to be sarcastic here. I really don’t know, and I would like to.

  • Martijn Meijering

    Why the debate about HLV?

    Because some people (myself included) think it is so harmful that they hope it will be cancelled. If nothing else we can still point out the harm.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Martijn Meijering wrote @ October 30th, 2010 at 9:07 pm

    other then some technology demonstrations (and perhaps development) I dont think that NASA will have a thing to do with any new launch vehicles in the future…and my impression is that the era of NASA purposely designing human space vehicles at all…is coming to an end.

    The most important thing that I HOPE that Bolden has killed is the notion that NASA HSF has to be involved in a more or less “smothering” way in terms of spacecraft development period…what I hope that we are entering into is an era where there is some economic reason for private industry to push great innovations in all phases of human spaceflight…and we have some sort of regulatory oversight of that.

    If there ever is an RLV it wont come out of a massive government “program”.

    Robert G. oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    Trent Waddington wrote @ October 31st, 2010 at 4:39 am

    Robert, XCOR = reusable engines…

    exactly. when the reusable engine comes it will come out of a company like XCOR that has evolved one…

    Robert G. Oler

  • Mr. Mark

    We need to stop the whole space plane idea. It can’t come back from lunar velocities. So basically, It’s a hop plane to orbit. Both Dragon and CST-100 can be reconfigued for BEO operations, Dreamchaser cannot. Dragon’s heat shield is already configued for lunar return. Why invest in a vehicle like Dreamchaser with limited potential that costs WAY more than the other two. It makes no sense.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Mr. Mark wrote @ October 31st, 2010 at 11:33 am

    no sustainable lunar exploration program has a “lunar return” direct to Earth. Robert G. Oler

  • Martijn Meijering

    What’s wrong with specialised Earth to orbit crew transport? We also want a capsule, yes.

  • Larry M

    “We need to stop the whole space plane idea.”

    I only foresee needing to come back at escape velocity if you are throwing away your BEO spacecraft at the end of the mission. If you go to new propulsion systems, depots, etc, then throwing away your spacecraft is something you should not have to do. You should be beginning and ending BEO missions at a space station and the entire in space system ought to be maintainable over long term and available for multiuse missions.

    Mir and ISS were and are the technology prototypes.

    The logic: if you cannot maintain and reuse your in-space spacecraft, then the entire proposition is unaffordable and we will not go anywhere. Apollo was just about a minimum sized BEO throwaway system, Apollo was not affordable and could not be sustained. It also did not have the levels of redundancy and safety margins you would want to have. So any system that can do more and has additional margins will need to be less expensive over the long term, or it is unaffordable. You cannot do that if you throw it away each mission.

  • Martijn Meijering

    If you go to new propulsion systems, depots, etc, then throwing away your spacecraft is something you should not have to do.

    You don’t even need new propulsion system and dedicated depots if you return to a Lagrange point. Propulsive return is easy enough that way, even with storable propellant for which propellant transfer is proven technology. There was a session at the space manufacturing conference that produced a top ten list of technologies needed for reusable cis-lunar technologies. They managed to produce a list of admittedly useful technologies none of which is actually required! Gary Hudson on the other hand hit the mark when he stated that we don’t need new technologies, but traffic.

    With such a Lagrange point based strategy you would still require a capsule that is capable of returning from lunar-equivalent velocities, but not one capable of hyperbolic reentry. Then again, with transpiration cooling dialing it reentry capability is easy enough, another point made by Hudson.

  • Coastal Ron

    K.S. wrote @ October 31st, 2010 at 10:42 am

    Why the debate about HLV? I thought it was signed into law, and the description was pretty specific.

    Good question, and there are a couple of arguments that play into this:

    1. Are HLV’s needed? Congress authorized NASA to build the SLS (Space Launch System), which is to be capable of at least 70 tons to orbit, although there are no firm or funded programs that require such capacity. Delta IV Heavy, our largest existing launcher, is capable of 25 tons, and is not used very much. Larger launchers, like Atlas V Heavy (32 tons), do not have any customer orders.

    2. How capable should the Congressionally mandated SLS be? The minimum is supposedly 70 tons, but many argue that 100 tons or more is required for future missions (none which exist or are funded).

    3. What technologies should the SLS use? Congress clearly wanted NASA to consider Space Shuttle and Constellation hardware for parts of the SLS, but they also left legal wiggle room to allow NASA to no use them. Many people love the Shuttle SRB’s, others think they are too expensive (as I do).

    Related to all of this is money issues:

    A. The economy stinks, and the next Congress may cut NASA’s budget. Does the SLS get priority over smaller science programs, or is the SLS program stretched out to become a forever-future jobs program.

    B. NASA was struggling to build a Delta IV Heavy equivalent (Ares I), and would have needed another $25B or more. Could a new HLV be built for less than Ares I?

    C. Constellation was cancelled in part because it was way over budget and way over schedule. The issues that caused those two conditions have not been addressed and fixed, so who is to say the SLS won’t experience the same issues, and ultimately need to be killed by a future administration or Congress?

    I hope that helps to answer your question.

  • Martijn Meijering

    Another advantage of reusable systems is that they trade higher construction costs for throwaway spacecraft for more propellant launches. Initially (before the availability of lunar ISRU) that will roughly cancel out, but the benefit to the launch industry is much greater with more propellant launches. And since high launch costs are the main obstacle to commercial manned spaceflight and exploration, not amortised construction costs of reusable spacecraft, this will give a much bigger boost to both exploration and commercial manned spaceflight.

  • Coastal Ron

    David Davenport wrote @ October 30th, 2010 at 9:13 pm

    Yes, and a vehicle with aeronautical control surfaces will be able to re-orient itself more authoritatively than a ballistic capsule, if an abort happens within the atmosphere.

    I think you’re missing the point here.

    During ascent, a capsule’s design means that it doesn’t have a preferred orientation when it’s on top of the launcher (everything A-OK) or when it’s following the LAS (something went wrong). If you have seen the Orion LAS flight path, the Orion gets flung around a lot, and the only way that’s possible is that the capsule does not have a preferred direction to travel – no control surfaces.

    For a winged vehicle on top of a launcher, the control surfaces dictate the preferred direction of travel. There is already debate about putting control surfaces on the front end of a launcher (like feathers on the front of an arrow). Once an emergency abort happens, the winged vehicle can only maneuver to the extent of it’s control surface capabilities. Where a capsule could slew sideways easily, a winged vehicle cannot. In fact, depending on the size of the control surfaces, they could be ripped off in such a unusual attitude depending on speed and air density.

    Bottom line, a winged vehicle has a preferred path of travel, and a capsule doesn’t. We still need to work out how to deal with that.

  • Vladislaw

    Chris Castro wrote

    “If the right-wingers & tea partiers eventually give us back the gallant Lunar goal, electing them to Congress now, will be thoroughly worth it!”

    Ya a return to the moon has been the number one talking point for the tea party.They have held how many “return to the moon” rallies so far?

  • Mr. Mark

    We can see what a winged vehicle encounters with the Challenger disaster. The side mounted shuttle blew apart leaving only the crew compartment to survive. The crew died on impact, at least some of them. Sad yes, but possibly preventable with a different design. If that were a capsule there is a far better chance of survival. Especially with a capsule mounted LAS system such as Spacex is designing.

  • The “Additional Shuttle Mission” should be in jeopardy. Seems like the plan is to come up with money to keep Shuttle Operations going, and then to try to invent some justification for the mission. As I’ve said a million times, we really oug…ht to use the last ET/SRB stack with Atlantis aboard to INTENTIONALLY test RTLS – maybe with a remote control device to lower the landing gear on a Shuttle that can otherwise automatically land itself without pilots. Sending Atlantis up just for the heck of it without a stated mission requirement already in existence is just my beloved one-flight Six-day Challenger Veteran Astronaut Senior Senator from Florida running his mouth again and hoping pork comes from it. REMEMBER how it works with NASA. X-40A and other programs cut to support the infrastructure of keeping the Shuttle flying. Any money for STS-135 will be taken away from programs needed to design and build tomorrow’s generation of space vehicles. It’s really as simple as that. Bill Nelson as always is just full of it, especially given that what little Congressional support already exists for NASA happens to reside in States controlled by both parties of the House and Senate with one common goal: Federal NASA pork goes to those States and Districts. Except for Congresswoman Giffords who happens to have a husband going to space and his brother already in space, it’s all about NASA as a pork problem on Earth, not an adventure in Space.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Mr. Mark wrote @ October 31st, 2010 at 2:41 pm

    the survival problems with Challenger had more to do with the side mount config and the use of solids rather then the type of vehicle…

    Robert G. Oler

  • K.S.

    I know there are many technical and cost arguments, and they have been fleshed out very thoroughly on this site. Regardless of all these arguments, it seems that the law says that have to build one. What I was asking is, how would a cancellation of the HLV be realized? How would NASA get around it? Was there enough wiggle room to allow it? Will the future congress just outright cut it?

    I gather from you that there is enough wiggle room legally, and NASA will take advantage of it. Or maybe once it gets started and begins to overrun costs so bad we’ll go through “Augustine: The Sequel”.

    Anyway, thanks for the answer(s).

  • Chris Castro wrote:

    B.O. destroyed & derailed NASA and America’s manned space program.

    Obama increased the NASA budget by $2 billion and extended the life of the space station to at least 2020. Don’t make things up.

  • Coastal Ron

    K.S. wrote @ October 31st, 2010 at 3:35 pm

    What I was asking is, how would a cancellation of the HLV be realized? How would NASA get around it? Was there enough wiggle room to allow it? Will the future congress just outright cut it?

    Well first of all, NASA has to follow what Congress has passed. The original Obama NASA plan had an HLV in it’s long-term plans, so this just moves those plans up. I have no doubt that an HLV of some sort will be started.

    The real question becomes what the design will be, because the unintended consequences of those decisions will decide the fate of the HLV program.

    If they stay with the smallest capacity version, even with Shuttle legacy parts, then I give it a 50% chance of becoming operational. If they decide to upsize the capacity, and go with new technology (like Constellation parts), then I give it only a 25% chance of becoming operational.

    If, however, they were to shed the Shuttle and Constellation heritage parts, and they stick with the lower end of capacity, I think that would be because they farm it out to an outside company to build and operate it, like ULA or whoever wins an open competition. I see a slim chance of that occurring, but if they did, then I would give a 75% chance of the launcher becoming operational before having the funds cut (cost or schedule overruns most likely).

    My $0.02

  • Vladislaw

    What i would like to see is NASA show 4-6 items that are going to be funded that would need to be launched in 70 ton payloads. Then just ask for a competitive bid from LM, Boeing and spaceX for a 70 ton launcher and stay the hell out of the way and instead focus on their freakin payloads.

  • Beancounter from Downunder

    Yep, show me the payload(s)? Then I’ll think about an HLV, not before.

  • @ Vladislaw & Stephen C. Smith;….Obama DESTROYED the Constellation Moon goal, making the Moon a forbidden planet, effectively. He listened to the damned Planetary Society who want the Moon to never never get re-visited. He listened to the Zubrinites who condemned renewed Lunar exploration endlessly. He listened to the Trekkies & the even-more-delusioned sci-fi crowd. Point #two: True, the Tea Party do not currently care about space exploration any more than the Dems, but recall that when an oppositionist party re-takes the White House (and/or the overall control of Congress), there is always the probability that these Republicans will later move to change the space policy of the party with which they are in opposition to. [ Consider how Mr. Obama glee-fully killed the grand space project of his predecessor, George Bush, as part of his break with the long-term plans of the conservative partisans.] So there is likelihood that when a Mitt Romney or another Republican arrives at the White House front door, a big change in space policy could be in the works.

  • Vladislaw, don’t be silly, that would mean actually describing a space program worthy of a great nation. That might actually involve *vision*.

  • Space Cadet

    “If they are dependent upon a USG contract to survive, they are no different than ATK.”

    They are different in the one way that is the entire point of the change: how they get paid. COTS and CCDEV companies are paid fixed sums for accomplishing milestones, under Space Act Agreements rather than cost-plus contracts. They therefore have an incentive to reduce costs.

    ATK is paid on a cost-plus contract and therefore has an incentive to increase costs.

  • amightywind

    Bottom line, a winged vehicle has a preferred path of travel, and a capsule doesn’t. We still need to work out how to deal with that.

    A truly idiotic statement. All aerodynamic vehicles have a center of pressure which dictates its stability, or as you say, its preferred path or travel. The further behind the center of mass that is, the more stable the vehicle. Now, if you suggest a capsule’s more rugged design is more suited to recover stability in high speed flight compared to a winged vehicle, you would have a point.

    ATK is paid on a cost-plus contract and therefore has an incentive to increase costs

    ATK has ever been the friend of the American taxpayer.

  • Coastal Ron

    Space Cadet wrote @ November 1st, 2010 at 10:47 am

    ATK is paid on a cost-plus contract and therefore has an incentive to increase costs.

    I’m no fan of using ATK SRB’s for future launchers, but I did want to make sure we’re not mixing up too many issues.

    For the ongoing part of the Shuttle program, ATK had fixed-price contracts for SRB’s. For instance, in 2002 it was announced that NASA extended the ATK contract, and that it was then priced at $2.4B for 35 sets of SRB’s (70 motors total). Doing the math, that means $68.6M for each set, which covers production and refurbishment.

    For myself, I think the limitations that SRB’s impose throughout the whole launcher eco-system are greater than the comparable limitations with liquid-fueled launchers. Shuttle SRB’s are pre-fueled, and require complex handling to ensure you don’t ignite before launch, and because of their large fueled weight (1,300,000 lb each), transporting them requires complex systems too.

  • Martijn Meijering

    ATK is paid on a cost-plus contract and therefore has an incentive to increase costs.

    They also have a monopoly on SRMs for the Shuttle / SDLV. As an aside: why is it that those who say it doesn’t matter who gets the money still seem to have a preference for ATK?

  • Robert G. Oler

    amightywind wrote @ November 1st, 2010 at 12:57 pm


    A truly idiotic statement. All aerodynamic vehicles have a center of pressure which dictates its stability, or as you say, its preferred path or travel. The further behind the center of mass that is, the more stable the vehicle.

    that is simplistic as well and the last sentence fundamentally wrong as the distance between mass and pressure can get so far that the vehicle cannot be controlled with the aerodynamic surfaces.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Coastal Ron

    GuessWho wrote @ October 29th, 2010 at 9:49 am

    If the private space industry is real, they can establish and grow themselves without government funding because the market demands their services. If they are dependent upon a USG contract to survive, they are no different than ATK.

    This is one of the silliest arguments I hear.

    Except for the Shuttle, which Congress is ending after 30 years, NASA does not have a way to get anything into space. NASA has always used the “private space industry” to put payloads into space, so you’re argument is false just based on that.

    NASA uses the NASA Launch Services (NLS) Contract to buy launch services from a variety of suppliers, which provides “a broad range of launch services for NASA’s planetary, Earth-observing, exploration and scientific satellites.” Included in the latest contract are Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Orbital Sciences, SpaceX and ULA, and the contract is for up to 70 launches and $15B in value over 10 years.

    The real issue is whether NASA should do everything themselves. They don’t build and operate their own fleet of airliners to transport employees around the world, and they don’t have their own trucking fleet to move all their equipment around. Why is this any different than them buying crew transportation services?

    If NASA builds and operates their own astronaut LEO transportation system, it will cost the U.S. Taxpayers far more than it would cost to buy those services from the “private space industry”. The U.S. military does not build any of their own equipment, and they don’t have a problem with that model, so why should NASA?

    Now I do agree that one source of supply does not a market make, but right now NASA is the only funded source of demand for crew to LEO, and they have an opportunity to create the marketplace in such a way that their overall costs are lowered, and their overall service levels are increased over Soyuz and Shuttle. I think that’s worth the relatively low amount of up front investment, especially since it benefits American companies at a time where we need more jobs. And once that transportation system is in place, we already know that other American companies will try them out, which will eventually create a robust and diversified marketplace.

    It’s old “give a man a fish vs teaching them how to fish” choice. You don’t want to keep renting Soyuz do you?

  • Martijn Meijering

    All aerodynamic vehicles have a center of pressure which dictates its stability, or as you say, its preferred path or travel.

    HA! I give you the fabled spherical horse in a vacuum. Now tell me, what is its preferred path of travel? ;-)

  • byeman

    “$2.4B for 35 sets of SRB’s (70 motors total).”

    ATK produces SRM’s and not SRB’s. There is still a lot more work and money to make an SRM into an SRB. All you get for $69 million is 8 segments with nozzles on two of them. No TVC system, avionics, recovery system, RSS, sep motors, ET attach hardware, cable runs, aft skirt, TPS, etc

  • Vladislaw

    the payloads i would like to see, but i doubt that would be funded is:

    Inflatable free flying fuel depot that would be primarily commercial but NASA provide some of the start up funds.

    New 18 meter, segmented, optical telescope, designed for docking and repair at a lagrange point with a free flying sun shade for planet hunting.

    A jupiter icey moons type mission that was canceled utilizing nuclear power and either nuclear propulsion or a test of the VASIMR.

    Reusable EDS based on the ACES design.

    A lunar orbital module that would do an aerocapture earth return to test that system instead of doing the capsule ballistic return that Apollo used.

    What we will get instead is a bloated NASA heavy lift ‘program’, utilizing junk from the shuttle program, for launching the orion that will be for LEO only and never get BEO.

  • Vladislaw

    Coastal Ron wrote:

    “Now I do agree that one source of supply does not a market make, but right now NASA is the only funded source of demand for crew to LEO, and they have an opportunity to create the marketplace in such a way that their overall costs are lowered, and their overall service levels are increased over Soyuz and Shuttle.”

    I believe that Bigelow is going to be the real market maker in this. Jeff Foust has a great review in today’s space review along with a great article by Rand Simberg at PM.

    Bigelow is looking at a need for 24 launches a year in very near terms.

    Bigelow still thinks big

  • Martijn Meijering

    Except for the telescope none of these require an HLV.

  • Vladislaw

    I realize that Martijn and agree we don’t need it but we will be getting one if we like it or not. So if that is going to be the case what to use it for.

  • MichaelC

    “All you get for $69 million is 8 segments with nozzles on two of them.”

    And 6 million pounds of thrust you cannot get anywhere else.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Vladislaw wrote @ November 1st, 2010 at 2:29 pm

    Bigelow will only be a player if the cost of up/down coupled with time on the space station can be measured in say the 50 million dollar range (for say about two months)… I think that is manageable…and if it is then the primary customer he will have wont be overseas…it will be US academic and business customers.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    MichaelC wrote @ November 1st, 2010 at 3:21 pm

    “All you get for $69 million is 8 segments with nozzles on two of them.”

    And 6 million pounds of thrust you cannot get anywhere else….

    no you dont get that…you get something that a lot more money needs to go into to make something useful out of it. Robert G. Oler

  • Coastal Ron

    MichaelC wrote @ November 1st, 2010 at 3:21 pm

    And 6 million pounds of thrust you cannot get anywhere else.

    Uh, you should really research your absolutes before hitting “submit”.

    In our past, the Saturn V had 7,648,000 lbs of thrust in it’s five engine first stage, and since Shuttle SRB’s are soon to be historical too, it’s a fair comparison. If we wanted to use modern engines, all we would need is four RD-170′s to exceed 6M lbs of thrust that two Shuttle SRB’s produce. No big deal.

    Building big motors is not the issue here, it’s the cost that matters – how much does it cost to get $/kg into orbit. And it’s not just the cost of the motor, but the entire operational and life cycle costs that matter, and Shuttle SRB’s put a lot of extra requirements on the design, infrastructure and operations costs side of the house.

  • Coastal Ron

    Vladislaw wrote @ November 1st, 2010 at 2:29 pm

    I believe that Bigelow is going to be the real market maker in this.

    Lots of people have plans, but only NASA has a funded need to put crew in space. IF they get commercial crew going, then everyone else can leverage off of their investment, but no one so far has stepped forward to say that they will provide the funding needed for one, much less two, LEO crew providers.

    That makes NASA the linchpin to getting commercial use of space going.

  • Coastal Ron

    byeman wrote @ November 1st, 2010 at 2:11 pm

    There is still a lot more work and money to make an SRM into an SRB.

    You have highlighted this previously, and I guess it’s a matter of knowing where the costs are allocated for the SRM to SRB work. Is that done by ATK? If so, is it done under their SRM contract?

    I’ve been trying to corral the Shuttle costs by finding specific contract awards, and the 2002 ATK contract is the only one I can point to with confidence. Do you know of any other relevant ones?

  • Byeman

    “And 6 million pounds of thrust you cannot get anywhere else.“

    Are you blind? 69 million doesn’t get you anything that flies. Add 1 to 2 times more and then you get SRB’s. Guess what then? No more cheaper than some LRB’s.

  • Byeman

    USA makes the SRM’s into SRB ‘s and contracts ATK for some help

  • MichaelC

    “No more cheaper than some LRB’s.”

    Don’t think so. For one thing you cannot put a price on something that does not exist. There are no 3 million plus pound LRBs.

    How many LRB’s does it take to equal 2 SRB’s?

  • amightywind

    Oler wrote:

    that is simplistic as well and the last sentence fundamentally wrong as the distance between mass and pressure can get so far that the vehicle cannot be controlled with the aerodynamic surfaces.

    Stick to left wing politics. It hides your general confusion. Whether a vehicle will reorient itself under dynamic pressure is the topic at hand. Controllability depends on many factors, particularly the density of the fluid, speed, the area of the aerosurface, its distance from the center of pressure, etc..

  • common sense

    Re: Launch Abort for capsule vs. winged vehicle.

    See people I tried to give you a simplified view of what it takes to abort a capsule or a “winged” vehicle. You want to learn more well just go and try. As I said a capsule under/over a LAS is much easier to handle than a winged vehicle. There is a relation on the CG-center-of-pressure that is required for stability. An offset CG is what gives a capsule (a symmetric body of revolution) an angle of attack hence some lift, not its design, not really. For abort you have to account for all the aerodynamic and thermal loads on the structure of the vehicle as well as what a crew can withstand. The position of the crew with regard to acceleration is paramount for survival.

    Anyway, it takes far more than a blog entry to explain the whole thing. But you are free to believe what you want.

  • Coastal Ron

    Byeman wrote @ November 1st, 2010 at 7:20 pm

    USA makes the SRM’s into SRB ‘s and contracts ATK for some help

    So, “some assembly required” past the $68.6M in SRM components in order to make flight-ready SRB’s. Too bad the USA contract is too generic to get a breakout of the individual parts & labor.

  • Beancounter from Downunder

    Have to disagree Robert but if Bigelow can make the price (and indications are so far that he can) then he has worldwide interest and potential customers. In fact he’s recently signed EOI with 6 countries other than the U.S. including Australia.

  • Beancounter from Downunder

    Coastal Ron wrote @ November 1st, 2010 at 4:22 pm
    Vladislaw wrote @ November 1st, 2010 at 2:29 pm

    “I believe that Bigelow is going to be the real market maker in this.”

    Lots of people have plans, but only NASA has a funded need to put crew in space. IF they get commercial crew going, then everyone else can leverage off of their investment, but no one so far has stepped forward to say that they will provide the funding needed for one, much less two, LEO crew providers.

    That makes NASA the linchpin to getting commercial use of space going.’

    SpaceX have publicly stated that they’ll do commercial crew with or without government assistance. It’ll just take longer without.
    And Bigelow needs a crew transport. He can’t use the Russians since they don’t (at this point) have the capacity so if NASA doesn’t go down the track of providing sufficient funding for at least one provider then I’ll bet he’ll add more money to the pot.
    JM2CW.

  • Vladislaw

    Coastal Ron wrote:

    “Lots of people have plans…”

    I agree and that is why I have advocated for NASA to fund commercial crew for so long. But I believe the question was who will be a market maker after commercial access has been started. I have a feeling Bigelow will be the bigger market. If NASA does go with a fuel station/depot then I believe NASA will be a big market in commercial cargo for fuel payloads.

    NASA would only need two flights a year for commercial crew to swap out ISS crew and fulfill putting our partners up. It is my understanding that unless they add more square footage, or shorten the duration not many more can goto the ISS, unless I have my facts wrong.

    So NASA won’t be the big market for commercial crew. Where as Bigelow announced that he added a lot more options including shorter stays and smaller leasing area. If the six MOUs are a sign of the future, i believe he would be the main market for commercial crew.

    With the shuttle NASA said it was 67 pounds per day to keep a crew member in space. When the shuttle is done i saw it would be 46 pounds per day. I have not seen anything from Bigelow and I have a feeling NASA is going to come in higher than commercial. So no clue who will need the most cargo runs or what BEO will mean in terms of cargo/crew.

  • By the way, I DO agree with some of you panelists, that it is NOT a winged vehicle that we need, but a capsule-type vehicle. Capsule vehicles can be adapted most readily to the rigors of cislunar travel, and the high-velocity earth atmospheric re-entrys. Even in the case of an aero-capture for the earth-return phase, capsules & modules are far more versatile and durable as space-crafts; and will be just what the doctor ordered for a 21st century Lunar Return program. By contrast, a winged, airplane-like craft is clearly ONLY designed for LEO station applications, and getting out of LEO as soon as possible should be the name of the game, in my view. The Space Shuttle was incapable of flying anywhere but LEO, and hence led to the 30-year stagnation that NASA has gloomily been under—April 1981-April 2011.

  • Vladislaw

    Robert G. Oler wrote:

    “Bigelow will only be a player if the cost of up/down coupled with time on the space station can be measured in say the 50 million dollar range (for say about two months)… I think that is manageable…and if it is then the primary customer he will have wont be overseas…it will be US academic and business customers.”

    At 50 mil who are those customers?

    He had said it would be 20 million the first month and 3mil per month after. That does not include any floorspace though. Unless someone sets up a hotel you can not just go there as far as I understand from the clips i listened to.

    Price wise he is still at 88 mil a year for a BA 330 and 54 mil a year for 1/2, these were based on a minimum three year lease. From what it said in the article in space review he was going to shorten lease times and how much space you had to lease. A third tier national space program will need about 150 mil per year to keep a person in space with a crew swap every six months and some floorspace. 150 mil a year is doable for about 80-90 countries. A relatively cheap national prestige builder.

    So i believe Bigelow will not be worried about pure tourism until someone leases a module and provides the service. He will be focused on his sov. client group.

  • MichaelC

    “Are you blind?”
    No.

  • byeman

    “How many LRB’s does it take to equal 2 SRB’s?”

    False logic. Zero, there is no need for SRB’s in the first place. An HLV is not needed in the near term nor can the payloads for it be afforded much less the HLV itself.

    However, Atlas V CCB’s can replace the need for SRB’s easily. Since they are more efficient and lighter, they don’t need the same thrust levels as an SRB’s

  • David Davenport

    Once an emergency abort happens, the winged vehicle can only maneuver to the extent of it’s control surface capabilities.

    I presume that the winged vehicle’s escape rocket will start the crew vehicle on a course divergent from the path of the launch missile.

    Even if the vehicle is an Orion or SpacweX capsule, surely they don’t plan to have an unguided tractor escape rocket that might stay in the path of the malfunctioning missile.

    Where a capsule could slew sideways easily,

    How could a capsule slew sideways easily? Furthermore, if the escape is at low altitude, the capsule is going to need a means to orient itself quickly for parachute opening, which implies additional control rockets, vernier rockets. I guess that’s what you mean by slewing sideways easily.

    … a winged vehicle cannot. In fact, depending on the size of the control surfaces, they could be ripped off in such a unusual attitude depending on speed and air density.

    If the abort is at low altitude, velocities will be subsonic. Stresses on the winged spacecraft should be tolerable. If at hi Mach numbers, altitude will be high, so dynamic pressure on the lifting surfaces should still be within design limits.

    After all, orbital gliders glide at hypersonic velocities during re-entry, and the wings are not expected to break off.

  • MichaelC

    “Atlas V CCB’s can replace the need for SRB’s easily. ”

    Uh-huh. How many would that take by the way?

  • MichaelC

    “Atlas V CCB’s can replace the need for SRB’s easily. ”

    Since there is no Atlas “heavy” with 3 CBC’s, what are you talking about?

    If my math is correct it would require no less than 8 Atlas CBC’s to equal the thrust of 2 5 segment SRB’s.
    That would be 16 thrust bells and a real monstrosity.

    Not easy.

  • Coastal Ron

    Vladislaw wrote @ November 2nd, 2010 at 1:28 am

    But I believe the question was who will be a market maker after commercial access has been started. I have a feeling Bigelow will be the bigger market.

    I would agree with that.

  • Coastal Ron

    David Davenport wrote @ November 2nd, 2010 at 11:28 am

    How could a capsule slew sideways easily?

    I guess you’ve never seen the Orion LAS demo. Here is a description that was given prior to the test they did:

    Barely 10 seconds after launching, the attitude control motor will pivot the Orion capsule around to fly backwards.

    The capsule was to be pivoted around quite a bit to maneuver it away from any potential debris fields.

    If the abort is at low altitude…

    One of the problems with the Shuttle was that it had safe abort zones during launch, but not 100% coverage. Yes, low speed aborts for a winged vehicle should work, but what if you’re going at high speed?

    It’s not that there isn’t an answer to these problems, but that we haven’t addressed them yet. I hope there is a solution, because I would rather land on wheels than water, but it’s cheaper to go back to the basics until we get enough traffic to warrant winged transportation.

  • Coastal Ron

    MichaelC wrote @ November 2nd, 2010 at 2:22 pm

    Since there is no Atlas “heavy” with 3 CBC’s, what are you talking about?

    ULA advertises the Atlas V Heavy on their website, so there is a product, but it is on hold for customer orders. They said they can have it ready for launch in 30 months, so it is a near-term solution when needed. But no one needs 32 ton to LEO capability (including the USAF), so they haven’t had a reason to finish it.

    If my math is correct it would require no less than 8 Atlas CBC’s to equal the thrust of 2 5 segment SRB’s.

    You need to focus on $/lb to orbit rather than just maximum thrust. Solid fueled motors have their uses, but liquid-fueled motors are more flexible, and are typically less costly for the end product, which is getting payload to orbit.

    If you haven’t gotten the political message of the year, money matters, and Congress is getting ready to cut back on spending, so NASA will likely have to make do with less. SRB’s are not that solution.

  • common sense

    @ Coastal Ron wrote @ November 2nd, 2010 at 5:02 pm

    “One of the problems with the Shuttle was that it had safe abort zones during launch, but not 100% coverage. Yes, low speed aborts for a winged vehicle should work, but what if you’re going at high speed?”

    Not so easy even at low speed. For example max dynamic pressure usually is around Mach 1.3. Even Apollo had a major issue at this speed. Separation of the Apollo+LES (LEV) was not guaranteed and they had to enforce pitch to get it to go in a stable manner. A winged vehicle might very well rip off its wings under tremendous loads.

    “It’s not that there isn’t an answer to these problems, but that we haven’t addressed them yet. I hope there is a solution, because I would rather land on wheels than water, but it’s cheaper to go back to the basics until we get enough traffic to warrant winged transportation.”

    Actually yes “we” addressed some of these problems ann I believe their are AIAA papers of old available (for a fee?) or NASA papers.

  • Coastal Ron

    common sense wrote @ November 2nd, 2010 at 5:23 pm

    Actually yes “we” addressed some of these problems ann I believe their are AIAA papers of old available (for a fee?) or NASA papers.

    Good point. I guess I was talking about future vehicles and transportation systems, but the physics involved don’t change, only the attempted solutions.

  • MichaelC

    “You need to focus on $/lb to orbit rather than just maximum thrust. Solid fueled motors have their uses, but liquid-fueled motors are more flexible, and are typically less costly for the end product, which is getting payload to orbit.”

    The bigger the launcher the less it will cost per pound to orbit. The regulars here scream bloody murder when HLV’s are promoted and the simple truth of economy of scale is held up for others to see. All the advertising and double talk that flows onto this board when someone starts saying bigger is better is amazing. The more that goes up in a single launch, the cheaper it will be in the long run. The shuttle is held up as the argument against HLV but in fact the shuttle was payload, making the SRB’s and hydrogen second stage components the most fully evolved heavy lift hardware there is. Only idiots- or people trying to rip off the taxpayer, would just dump that infrastructure.

    YOU need to focus on reality; as I just posted, it would take a 16 nozzle monster to equal the lift of two 5 segment SRB’s. The SRB’s are simple, resuable, and come loaded from the factory. The way you people talk about them you would think they are junk. They are not. They work. They are now, not 30 months from now (if you believe that figure).

  • Vladislaw

    “The bigger the launcher the less it will cost per pound to orbit. The regulars here scream bloody murder when HLV’s are promoted and the simple truth of economy of scale is held up for others to see.”

    That is only true if the development costs are ignored. Once you factor in the all costs it changes the game. Also, unless you have a lot of payloads for the rocket to launch, it just sits there with an expensive ground crew doing nothing, again costs you are not accounting for.

  • Martijn Meijering

    That is only true if the development costs are ignored.

    Even then it seems doubtful. There are many potential forms of economies of scale and HLV is just one of them. Mass production would be enother economy of scale and so would massive reuse of a single reusable vehicle.

  • Coastal Ron

    MichaelC wrote @ November 2nd, 2010 at 6:58 pm

    The bigger the launcher the less it will cost per pound to orbit.

    As Vladislaw points out, you need to take into account more than just the marginal cost of the launcher.

    Any government-run HLV is going to have a standing army of personnel that only supports the HLV, regardless how many times it launches (or not), or how much payload it sends to orbit. There are no funded programs, and since part of NASA’s budget will be consumed in just supporting the HLV program, NASA will have less budget to do real stuff in space. Not good.

    Pretend like NASA has a set amount of money to work with (which it does) – how much could it do in space? With $10B, they could build part of an HLV (certainly not finish a 100 ton version). With that same money, they could put more than 1.6M lbs into LEO using existing launchers – that’s the equivalent to two of the current ISS.

    We have the ability to put lots of mass into space, with money left over for payloads. Sure those payloads will be modular, but modular construction has lots of benefits, and along the way we’ll learn what the next larger size is we want to build.

    There is nothing holding us back from doing stuff in space, except for lack of money – which is what HLV’s excel at sucking up and not returning.

  • Byeman

    MichaelC get a clue and now something before posting. Economy of scale is not applicable to HLV. LV are not bulk carriers.

    1. HLV’s cost more to operate than existing vehicles because they are bigger and have low flight rates

    2. Large payloads cost more per lb because of complexity

    3. HLV payloads are too expensive and NASA can’t afford them. NASA can only fly one flagship per decade.

    4. Only delusional fools think NASA funding will be increased

  • MC

    It’s because no one knows to this day how to build a “reusable” vehicle.
    “The [Almaz] reusable return vehicles (RRVs) went through nine flight tests, with two RRVs flown to orbit several times, demonstrating their reusability. ” – http://excaliburalmaz.com/SP1/spacecraft-history.php

  • common sense

    @ MC wrote @ November 3rd, 2010 at 3:19 pm

    Yeah well we shall see when they come alive and what “reusability” actually means. Nothing is on their website. So if I reuse the astronaut couch does that make it a reusable vehicle? I know I exaggerate but you get the point. And as I already said multiple times at what cost? If cost is not an issue I can tell you we could build a darn good reusable vehicle with vertical landing and abort modes…

    And wait until NASA or the FAA defines “reusability”…

    Oh well…

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