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The Battle for Constellation Begins.

RyanCrierie

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NASA's plans to return astronauts to the moon are dead. So are the rockets being designed to take them there — that is, if President Barack Obama gets his way.

When the White House releases his budget proposal Monday, there will be no money for the Constellation program that was supposed to return humans to the moon by 2020. The troubled and expensive Ares I rocket that was to replace the space shuttle to ferry humans to space will be gone, along with money for its bigger brother, the Ares V cargo rocket that was to launch the fuel and supplies needed to take humans back to the moon.

There will be no lunar landers, no moon bases, no Constellation program at all.

In their place, according to White House insiders, agency officials, industry executives and congressional sources familiar with Obama's long-awaited plans for the space agency, NASA will look at developing a new "heavy-lift" rocket that one day will take humans and robots to explore beyond low Earth orbit. But that day will be years — possibly even a decade or more — away.

In the meantime, the White House will direct NASA to concentrate on Earth-science projects — principally, researching and monitoring climate change — and on a new technology research and development program that will one day make human exploration of asteroids and the inner solar system possible.

There will also be funding for private companies to develop capsules and rockets that can be used as space taxis to take astronauts on fixed-price contracts to and from the International Space Station — a major change in the way the agency has done business for the past 50 years.

The White House budget request, which is certain to meet fierce resistance in Congress, scraps the Bush administration's Vision for Space Exploration and signals a major reorientation of NASA, especially in the area of human spaceflight.

"We certainly don't need to go back to the moon," said one administration official.

Everyone interviewed for this article spoke on condition of anonymity, either because they are not authorized to talk for the White House or because they fear for their jobs. All are familiar with the broad sweep of Obama's budget proposal, but none would talk about specific numbers because these are being tightly held by the White House until the release of the budget.

But senior administration officials say the spending freeze for some federal agencies is not going to apply to the space agency in this budget proposal. Officials said NASA was expected to see some "modest" increase in its current $18.7 billion annual budget — possibly $200 million to $300 million more but far less than the $1 billion boost agency officials had hoped for.

They also said that the White House plans to extend the life of the International Space Station to at least 2020. One insider said there would be an "attractive sum" of money — to be spent over several years — for private companies to make rockets to carry astronauts there.

But Obama's budget freeze is likely to hamstring NASA in coming years as the spending clampdown will eventually shackle the agency and its ambitions. And this year's funding request to develop both commercial rockets and a new NASA spaceship will be less than what was recommended by a White House panel of experts last year.

That panel, led by former Lockheed Martin CEO Norm Augustine, concluded that to have a "viable" human space-exploration program, NASA needed a $3 billion annual budget hike, and that it would take as much as $5 billion distributed over five years to develop commercial rockets that could carry astronauts safely to and from the space station.

Last year, lawmakers prohibited NASA from canceling any Constellation programs and starting new ones in their place unless the cuts were approved by Congress. The provision sends a "direct message that the Congress believes Constellation is, and should remain, the future of America's human space flight program," wrote U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., last month.

Nevertheless, NASA contractors have been quietly planning on the end of Ares I, which is years behind schedule and millions of dollars over budget. NASA has already spent more than $3 billion on Ares I and more than $5 billion on the rest of Constellation.

In recent days, NASA has been soliciting concepts for a new heavy-lift rocket from major contractors, including Boeing Co., Lockheed Martin Corp. and Pratt & Whitney. Last week, a group of moonlighting NASA engineers and rocket hobbyists proposed variations on old agency designs that use the shuttle's main engines and fuel tank to launch a capsule into space. According to officials and industry executives familiar with the presentations, some of the contractor designs are very similar to the one pressed by the hobbyists.

Officially, companies such as Boeing still support Constellation and its millions of dollars of contracts. Some believe that in a battle with Congress, Ares may survive.

"I would not say Ares is dead yet," said an executive with one major NASA contractor. "It's probably more accurate to say it's on life support. We have to wait to see how the coming battle ends."

Few doubt that a fight is looming. In order to finance new science and technology programs and find money for commercial rockets, Obama will be killing off programs that have created jobs in some powerful constituencies, including the Marshall Space Flight Center in Shelby's Alabama. But the White House is said to be ready for a fight.

The end of the shuttle program this year is already going to slash 7,000 jobs at Kennedy Space Center.

One administration official said the budget will send a message that it's time members of Congress recognize that NASA can't design space programs to create jobs in their districts. "That's the view of the president," the official said.
 

prolific1

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It has been my opinion for some time that the space program, particularly the manned portion, will slow to a crawl or even stop at some moment soon. At that point, commercial space programs will take over. Now that won't be entirely possible in the immediate sense due to the infantile nature of such programs and their consequent lack of proper capital investment. However over [a long] time they will catch and eventually surpass government agencies the world over - more specifically in the area of viably profitable mission architectures. Ambitious science missions will likely suffer - though Lunar ones may prosper with regard to taking advantage of mineral wealth and the like on the Moon. Even further still, missions to near Earth asteroids might be big on the [far] future agenda of commercial space interests - if for the mineral wealth alone; nevertheless science may piggyback such missions. The face of space exploration business will change as will the primary goal - but it will proceed. Unfortunately this is the transitional period we are living in so it is very...er...depressing.
 

mz

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The whole human space program is such a complicated thing that it's hard to even understand what the aims are.
Putting a man on the moon by a certain date is a clear aim but it's not a very sensible one.
Just building a big heavy lifter is pretty clear if kind of a going nowhere aim, and in my view not sensible either.
 

Steve Pace

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What we really need is an orbiting recycling vehicle to retrieve dead satellites and clean up the tons of space junk.
 

Michel Van

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i had that suspicion already in December 2008
index.php


if we are lucky ARES I & IV get kill
and Atlas 5 and Delta 4 launch Orion capsule
in long term those rockets are cluster for heavy payload
(those proposal are almost 10 years old)

If Obama kills the U.S. Manned space flight with end of ISS in 2017
then Space is for the winners: China, India, Brazil and Russia

and they look from orbit on this country Wat wend too moon
and never wend back ever...
 

prolific1

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Since the US is currently embroiled in economic turmoil, and already upset at the previous administration's bailout program and the current administration's continuation and expansion of it thereof, it is hopelessly unrealistic for anyone to expect that any ambitious (or less so) space programs will be funded; particularly when it concerns perennially dysfunctional NASA.
 

Stargazer2006

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Redefining priorities is only normal for a new government, and NASA is certainly not exempt of that.

It is not because going to the Moon would be desirable that it is necessarily viable or a priority. As Steve pointed out, NASA has plenty of work on their hands test-flying new technologies, retrieving junk from orbit, developing viable orbital transport and so forth.

And if NASA no longer goes to the Moon, who knows ? We just might see Burt Rutan develop the first civil lunar orbiter in the next ten years... ;)
 

Michel Van

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prolific1 said:
I must admit Mr. Van...I am intrigued as to what @#!% translates to. ;D

NASA had there problems with Presidents, starting with Richard M. Nixon

some guys like Thomas Paine "I want it all, and I want it now" and 2001 space infrastructur
played also a littel role

that Quote is from Archibald out Alternate Forum
 

mz

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Michel Van said:
i had that suspicion already in December 2008
index.php


if we are lucky ARES I & IV get kill
and Atlas 5 and Delta 4 launch Orion capsule
in long term those rockets are cluster for heavy payload
(those proposal are almost 10 years old)

You don't need those clusters, the heaviest real single payloads even in conservative lunar architectures are probably on the order of ten to twenty tonnes, if you don't need to lift all the liquid oxygen in one go. Current EELV:s can lift that, as could many other *existing* rockets.

The heavy lifter has basically been only for lifting a large amount of liquid oxygen, about 90 tonnes at once, mostly for the translunar injection. Its rarely rationally reasoned why this is a requirement to be done at once. One member in the Augustine panel did question it, but most went just with various levels of Apollo (as realized) mindset. You never get progress by implicitly assuming you have to do everything like you did before. Apollo might well be seen as the single most harmful thing that has happened to human spaceflight.
 

prolific1

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And if NASA no longer goes to the Moon, who knows ? We just might see Burt Rutan develop the first civil lunar orbiter in the next ten years...

Exactly the point I was making. Commercial/civilian space programs may/will succeed government ones in time. The motivation may be different however. It will be profit based rather than politically or scientifically driven. ;D
 

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In my view, the first step towards and foundation for any truly sustainable space policy must be to develop, implement, and operate space transportation systems that reliably and cost effectively provide essential capabilities for multiple users and applications, including assured access to and from low Earth orbit for passengers and cargo. NASA’s focus must change from an obsessive fixation on crewed missions to solving this issue first, since reliable crewed space access will be a natural by product of any truly reusable launch vehicle. Only once this first step to orbit is reliably mastered once and for all does it make sense to start contemplating a return to the Moon or going on to Mars, since any space architecture based on expendable launch vehicles will ultimately rest on clay feet.

Martin
 

prolific1

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Bravo...well spoken Martinbayer.

I not only agree but I also feel that this will applicable to any future mission architectures as well - like those to the Moon and the Red Planet. That is the crux for my belief that any Manned Mars mission will not take place for many decades (far in excess of current estimates) due to the need to make it a more efficient and repeatable process. The current climate of the Space Program, Manned or otherwise, is due in no small part to the legacy of the race to the Moon; the Space Shuttle and its supposed cheaper reusability notwithstanding.
 

Stargazer2006

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Excellent analysis, martinbayer. I think you are absolutely right on this. Plus the benefit of getting the interplanetary spaceships to take off from space stations orbiting the Earth will be enormous, especially fuel-wise.
 

Orionblamblam

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martinbayer said:
In my view, the first step towards and foundation for any truly sustainable space policy must be to develop, implement, and operate space transportation systems that reliably and cost effectively provide essential capabilities for multiple users and applications, including assured access to and from low Earth orbit for passengers and cargo.

Cart before the horse. With nowhere to go, no launcher will be developed.

NASA’s focus must change from an obsessive fixation on crewed missions to solving this issue first, since reliable crewed space access will be a natural by product of any truly reusable launch vehicle.

Incorrect. For starters, there's no reason to assume that a truly reusable launcher will have the paylaod capability to send up passengers. Second, *landing* with a cargo bay full of passengers may be a problem. Third, there's no good reason to assume that the cheapest spaceflight will neccesarily require fully reusable launchers. Fourth, without manned missions, NASA is wasting its time. that's what they're *for.*

Only once this first step to orbit is reliably mastered once and for all does it make sense to start contemplating a return to the Moon or going on to Mars

Indeed, just as it was folly to colonize the New World prior to the invention of trans-Atlantic jetliners.
 

prolific1

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Scott's points are equally poignant.

I understand that reusability isn't necessarily cheaper as evidenced by my cheap shot at the shuttle. ;D I will say that repeatability might be valuable for any manned Mars missions since putting in a great effort only to not return for more than half a century (or not at all now I guess) is just as big a setback.
 

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"Cart before the horse. With nowhere to go, no launcher will be developed."

There's lots of destinations to go (although they may just not offer any amenities and accommodations at the moment - remember these RLVs are also supposed to support lunar and Mars architecture deployment) - just going to low orbit for a few spins is for example good enough for orbital space tourism, for starters. And any in space infrastructure needed for *any* large scale space project is also best deployed in the most efficient way feasible. This discussion is more about what ideally *should* happen than what actually *will* happen due to political pressures, budget limitations etc..

"Incorrect. For starters, there's no reason to assume that a truly reusable launcher will have the paylaod capability to send up passengers."

The vast majority of RLVs proposed so far would have that capability mass wise, due to economies of scale as well as market capture considerations.

"Second, *landing* with a cargo bay full of passengers may be a problem."

That would be the indication of a pretty bad design. Any RLV should be able to perform intact ascent aborts over at least the majority of the flight envelope and thus safely return its payload, whether it's cargo or people.

"Third, there's no good reason to assume that the cheapest spaceflight will neccesarily require fully reusable launchers."

That certainly depends on the launch rate, but I am convinced that from a certain launch volume and technology maturity onwards full reusability (as opposed to salvageability like the current STS SRBs) *will* ultimately yield the cheapest space launch option. Admittedly this might not happen with the first generation of true RLVs, but the sooner we get started on that path and work our way up the learning curve, the faster we'll get there.

"Fourth, without manned missions, NASA is wasting its time. that's what they're *for.*"

Manned missions are only part of what NASA does and is tasked to do. It's admittedly a highly visible part, but if those missions are ultimately much better and cheaper performed by RLVs, developing those RLVs is in the long run anything but wasting time (and money).

"Indeed, just as it was folly to colonize the New World prior to the invention of trans-Atlantic jetliners."

Even the Mayflower was fully reusable, as far as I'm aware of...

Martin
 

RyanCrierie

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A lot of manned (and unmanned) missions need truly heavy lift; Constellation will put 400,000+ lbs of stuff into LEO (vs 200,000 lbs for Saturn V) with Ares V. That would be highly useful for building say, a Mars mission -- or putting a huge space telescope into orbit at a Lagrange Point that's 2,000 times more sensitive than Hubble -- and other various things.
 

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RyanCrierie,

there have been and are lots of exploration and other in space architecture approaches that obviate the need for heavy lifters by breaking the systems down into modular chunks that can be handled by medium sized expendable or reusable launchers in a larger number of flights and subsequent orbital assembly and integration.

Martin
 

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martinbayer said:
RyanCrierie,

there have been and are lots of exploration and other in space architecture approaches that obviate the need for heavy lifters by breaking the systems down into modular chunks that can be handled by medium sized expendable or reusable launchers in a larger number of flights and subsequent orbital assembly and integration.

Martin

There's actually no way you can get around the need for some heavy lifters. You can only break things down so far. In addition, multiple launches can tend to be more expensive overall, certainly are more complex and have a greater chance of something going wrong. Then, you got to put the thing together in space once you get the parts up there. There's a crossover point where if you don't have heavy lift, you just don't do it.

Of course, for now this is probably moot since reports are that it was confirmed Thursday that Obama canceled Constellation. Unless Congress chooses to do something, this is one giant kick of the can a long way down the road.
 

martinbayer

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F-14D,

the smallest possible module size is certainly debatable, but from everything I've seen over the years it is *notably* below anything of the size of Ares V. The overall in space system will get larger and heavier, but total cost may actually be cheaper, if lots of identical smaller modules for example for propellant tanks instead of one monolithic block are developed, built and deployed. Also, in case of a loss the replacement of a single module is much easier and cheaper than the replacement of a singular large item. And smaller individual payloads would allow the use of RLVs, which should have notably lower specific transportation costs and higher launch reliability than an HLLV that does only a small number of missions. Here are a few links with associated information:
http://www.hobbyspace.com/nucleus/index.php?itemid=293
http://www.thespacereview.com/article/146/1
http://www.space.com/adastra/adastra_mega-modules2_051013.html

Martin
 

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martinbayer said:
"Cart before the horse. With nowhere to go, no launcher will be developed."

There's lots of destinations to go...

At the moment, no, there aren't. There's LEO, to visit the ISS and launch/service satellites, and there... ummm... well, that's it. You can just assume that a nw launch vehicle will be used to service a Mars mission... because a Mars mission requires the development of a vast amount of Stuff that currently does not exist.


"Incorrect. For starters, there's no reason to assume that a truly reusable launcher will have the paylaod capability to send up passengers."

The vast majority of RLVs proposed so far would have that capability mass wise, due to economies of scale as well as market capture considerations.

Define "proposed." Many of them, such as the X-34A and B models, were unmanned, and had quite small payloads.


"Second, *landing* with a cargo bay full of passengers may be a problem."

That would be the indication of a pretty bad design.

No, it would not. The Shuttle is an anomaly... a vehicle designed to bring back approximately what it could take up. But there's fairly little reason to do that, since, with the arguable exception of human passengers, there is *no* payload floating around in space that would b more valuable if brought back to Earth. Even the Shuttle was not exactly ready to return everythign it launched... had there beena problem during the launch of Chandra, and the Shuttle had to do a runway landing with Chandra still in the bay, chances are good it would've snapped in half on touchdown.

Any RLV should be able to perform intact ascent aborts over at least the majority of the flight envelope and thus safely return its payload, whether it's cargo or people.

Why? People can come down separate.

"Third, there's no good reason to assume that the cheapest spaceflight will neccesarily require fully reusable launchers."

That certainly depends on the launch rate, but I am convinced that from a certain launch volume and technology maturity onwards full reusability (as opposed to salvageability like the current STS SRBs) *will* ultimately yield the cheapest space launch option.

One of these days, maybe. But most payloads, especially if you mean to have a serious space infrastructure, woudl be ralatively "dumb." Water, aluminum, solar panels, that sort of thing. In that case, the actual dollar value of an as-yet unlaunched paylaod is pretty minimal. So if you have an "Aquarius" style launcher that blows up 10% of the time, but costs 1% as much as a more complex vehicle... then, hell, do that, it's cheaper. Humans can go up much more rarely on the much more expensive, safer vehicles.

Admittedly this might not happen with the first generation of true RLVs, but the sooner we get started on that path and work our way up the learning curve, the faster we'll get there.

"Fourth, without manned missions, NASA is wasting its time. that's what they're *for.*"

Manned missions are only part of what NASA does and is tasked to do. It's admittedly a highly visible part, but if those missions are ultimately much better and cheaper performed by RLVs...


that-word-inigo-montoya-word-think-means-princess-bride-mand-demotivational-poster-1260739585.jpg


"Indeed, just as it was folly to colonize the New World prior to the invention of trans-Atlantic jetliners."

Even the Mayflower was fully reusable, as far as I'm aware of...

2430Hunt%20for%20Red%20Octobe003.jpg

... would like to have a word with you about Cortez's fleet.
 

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"You can [sic] just assume that a nw launch vehicle will be used to service a Mars mission... because a Mars mission requires the development of a vast amount of Stuff that currently does not exist."

That is precisely why it makes sense to develop RLVs as the first enabling step for *any* large scale space endeavor, irrespective of what the ultimate destination is. It wouldn't make sense to develop a LEO, lunar, Mars or any other in space architecture first and only then develop the launchers to deploy it.

"Define "proposed.""

Look for example at the list at http://www.astronautix.com/lvfam/winged.htm. Most of the orbital designs would be able to carry people in terms of payload capability.

"People can come down separate."

They could, but why should they? Unmanned cargo would in all likelihood stay in the vehicle during an abort, since you wouldn't want to lose or eject it simply because for example an engine out situation. For a truly operational and reliable RLV, a people pod would just be another cargo, so there's no reason to assume different abort scenarios.

"So if you have an "Aquarius" style launcher that blows up 10% of the time, but costs 1% as much as a more complex vehicle... then, hell, do that, it's cheaper. Humans can go up much more rarely on the much more expensive, safer vehicles."

If Aquarius procurement costs only 1% of a more complex vehicle, but needs to be replaced every time and blows up every tenth launch, an RLV with say an operational life of 500 missions and a loss rate of 1 in 5000 will still be more attractive for any payload with respect to pure launch cost. Depending on development costs, it may take a while to break even in life cycle cost, but at high enough launch rates and total number of launches the RLV will eventually win out.

Martin
 

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Removed two posts by Bagera3005 and banned him from posting for 5 days. This is a borderline topic that clearly crosses into politics but please consider what you say.
 

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martinbayer said:
That is precisely why it makes sense to develop RLVs as the first enabling step for *any* large scale space endeavor...

No. You need *both.* Why develop the launch vehicle if you have no role for it? Why develop a Mars mission without a launcher? You need both, at the same time.

Keep in mind, this in directed specifically at Gubmint missions. Some rich guy wants to develop an RLV just for giggles, more power to him. But if NASA tried it, Congress would gut 'em.


Look for example at the list at http://www.astronautix.com/lvfam/winged.htm. Most of the orbital designs would be able to carry people in terms of payload capability.

I note that you selected the "winged" section, as opposed to the equally likley unwinged RLVs.


"People can come down separate."

They could, but why should they?

Safety. A crippled SSTO seems a highly dubious vehicle to ride all the way down. Capsules or HL-10/20-style lifting bodies, carried as payload on the SSTO, would be a far safer approach.

For a truly operational and reliable RLV, a people pod would just be another cargo, so there's no reason to assume different abort scenarios.

Indeed so. In an abort, you eject the peoplepod, which coes down under chutes.

If Aquarius procurement costs only 1% of a more complex vehicle, but needs to be replaced every time and blows up every tenth launch, an RLV with say an operational life of 500 missions and a loss rate of 1 in 5000 will still be more attractive for any payload with respect to pure launch cost.

It would take a *long* time to prove out a 500-mission safety record. By which time you will ahve tinkered witht he Aquarius so that it no loses one flight in ten, but one in 200.

Additionally, if an Aquarius costs less to build than the RLV costs to maintain between launches, then the Aquaris has a permanent advantage.

Depending on development costs, it may take a while to break even in life cycle cost, but at high enough launch rates and total number of launches the RLV will eventually win out.

Not necessarily. "Cheap" has a definite advantage over "elegant" sometimes..
 

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"Why develop the launch vehicle if you have no role for it?"

Satellite and uncrewed spacecraft launches as well as ISS missions are markets that exist *today*, and orbital space tourism shows promise - remember Bigelow is looking for a launcher to service the modules he wants to deploy.

"Keep in mind, this in directed specifically at Gubmint missions."

No, this would be directed at *all* types of missions, commercial, civilian and military payloads.

"But if NASA tried it, Congress would gut 'em."

Probably - nobody ever claimed congress makes wise decisions.

"I note that you selected the "winged" section, as opposed to the equally likley unwinged RLVs."

Ballistic RLVs are pretty much designed for the same payload classes as winged ones, so have your pick.

"A crippled SSTO seems a highly dubious vehicle to ride all the way down."

SSTOs per se are highly dubious vehicles to start with - no jumping to conclusion please. I believe any RLVs will be of the TSTO persuasion for a loooong time to come.

"Capsules or HL-10/20-style lifting bodies, carried as payload on the SSTO, would be a far safer approach."

The key is that an RLV should be safe in and of itself to begin with, since it's not conducive to business to lose your vehicle and/or your customer's payload.

"In an abort, you eject the peoplepod, which coes down under chutes."

Once again, the RLV orbiter would for commercial reasons already be designed to be able to safely abort and return intact from any point up to payload deployment without loss of vehicle *or* payload, so there's simply no need to eject the crew pod.

"It would take a *long* time to prove out a 500-mission safety record. By which time you will ahve tinkered witht he Aquarius so that it no loses one flight in ten, but one in 200."

And the tinkering would drive up Aquarius cost as well. Remember that so far Aquarius is no less vaporware than any RLV.

"Additionally, if an Aquarius costs less to build than the RLV costs to maintain between launches, then the Aquaris has a permanent advantage."

True, that's why maintainability will be a major RLV design driver.

"Not necessarily. "Cheap" has a definite advantage over "elegant" sometimes."

Ahem - the point was that over a sufficient number of launches that allow amortization of development cost the RLV would be *cheaper*.

Martin
 

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martinbayer said:
"Why develop the launch vehicle if you have no role for it?"

Satellite and uncrewed spacecraft launches as well as ISS missions are markets that exist *today*

And are not big enough markets to justify developing a new, large, fully reusable launch system.


The key is that an RLV should be safe in and of itself to begin with, since it's not conducive to business to lose your vehicle and/or your customer's payload.

So, it'll be terribly expensive.


Once again, the RLV orbiter would for commercial reasons already be designed to be able to safely abort and return intact from any point up to payload deployment without loss of vehicle *or* payload, so there's simply no need to eject the crew pod.

Great. Wing snaps off. How ya bringiing the crew home?

And the tinkering would drive up Aquarius cost as well.

Not necessarily. Figuring out to rigger the thingummy need not drive up production or operations costs notably.

Remember that so far Aquarius is no less vaporware than any RLV.

Except that it's far, far simpler, and based on wholly understood tech.

Ahem - the point was that over a sufficient number of launches that allow amortization of development cost the RLV would be *cheaper*.

Just like Shuttle got cheaper?
 

martinbayer

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"And are not big enough markets to justify developing a new, large, fully reusable launch system."

Not as a fully commercial venture. That's why it would make sense for NASA to get involved.

"So, it'll be terribly expensive."

Define *terribly*. But yes, you will have to pay a price for starting the learning curve. Once again, that's why it would make sense for NASA to get involved.

"Great. Wing snaps off. How ya bringiing the crew home?"

Same way you bring the crew and passengers home if a wing snaps off on an A 340, or a fin off your HL-20 crew return vehicle - you don't. Thankfully, just like for airplanes, a wing snapping off is not a typical RLV failure mode, assuming you avoid expendable external tanks (which a true RLV wouldn't have anyway) that shed foam insulation and impact a brittle TPS.

"Not necessarily. Figuring out to rigger the thingummy need not drive up production or operations costs notably."

Figuring *anything* in the area of spaceflight out has always proved to come with a *development* cost so far. There's no reason to believe Aquarius would be an exception to that rule.

"Just like Shuttle got cheaper?"

This is about getting cheaper with increasing launch rate and launch volume. The Shuttle is a reusable/expendable bastard, but it did indeed illustrate that a reduction in launch rate drives launch cost up, so it's certainly reasonable (and in accordance with basic logic) to assume that that gradient works in the other direction as well.

Martin
 

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martinbayer said:
Same way you bring the crew and passengers home if a wing snaps off on an A 340, or a fin off your HL-20 crew return vehicle - you don't. Thankfully, just like for airplanes, a wing snapping off is not a typical RLV failure mode...

We've lost precisely one manned reusable launch vehicle after attaining orbit. The failure more was not dissimialr to having its wing snapped off.


assuming you avoid expendable external tanks (which a true RLV wouldn't have anyway)

Unsupported assumption.

that shed foam insulation and impact a brittle TPS.

Birds. Rocks. Space junk. Rain. Hail. Wind shear. Sheer dumb luck.


Figuring *anything* in the area of spaceflight out has always proved to come with a *development* cost so far. There's no reason to believe Aquarius would be an exception to that rule.

Except that it would of necessity have a far higher flightrate than your large RLV, as well as far lower development and operational costs.

This is about getting cheaper with increasing launch rate and launch volume. The Shuttle is a reusable/expendable bastard, but it did indeed illustrate that a reduction in launch rate drives launch cost up...

And it was the "resuability" and "manned" requirements that drove down the flight rate.
 

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Was it me, or was there a time when our country actually gave a damn about our space program?

Were all screwed.
 

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"We've lost precisely one manned reusable launch vehicle after attaining orbit. The failure more was not dissimialr to having its wing snapped off."

Yep. Because, as I explained, of an *expendable* component, which by definition would not be part of an RLV.

*Unsupported assumption.*

No, elementary logic. You can't have a true *reusable* launch vehicle that prominently features expendable elements - otherwise it's an ELV/RLV bastard like the Shuttle.

"Birds. Rocks. Space junk. Rain. Hail. Wind shear. Sheer dumb luck."

*Any* vehicle (even a Toyota) will always have some failure modes that may be fatal in a small number of cases. But for NASA astronauts that are currently still willing to entrust their life to the Shuttle with nothing but a piddly sliding pole (if they even still fly with that thing) as a sorry excuse for a rescue system, even a truly crummy RLV with a loss rate of 1 in 200 would be a step up. Note also that Rutan's suborbital SS2, which is explicitly designed for space tourism, doesn't include any rescue system, even though the pivoting wing has potential failure modes for example by getting stuck in shuttlecock mode during reentry.

"Except that it would of necessity have a far higher flightrate than your large RLV, as well as far lower development and operational costs."

The operational costs would certainly be lower in *absolute* numbers, but it's highly doubtful, to say the least, whether the same would be true in relative terms ($/lb of payload) for a system that needs to be built anew for each and every launch vs. a *fully* reusable one. And Aquarius would be very limited in the size of payloads it can bring up. For water and propellant that might be absolutely fine, but for things like pressurized crew modules perhaps not so much. The jury is still out on what the actual mix of high vs. low value and small vs. even mid size modular payloads for any future space architecture will be.

"And it was the "resuability" and "manned" requirements that drove down the flight rate."

Actually, it was 1) the decision to go with an ELV/RLV bastard instead of a fully reusable system to reduce development cost in order to stay within annual budget ceilings, knowing full well (but blissfully ignoring) that this would drive up turn around effort and ops cost, and 2) the decision to make the crew an integral part of every mission instead of an optional payload.

Martin
 

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martinbayer said:
The operational costs would certainly be lower in *absolute* numbers, but it's highly doubtful, to say the least, whether the same would be true in relative terms ($/lb of payload) for a system that needs to be built anew for each and every launch vs. a *fully* reusable one.

And that is where you have made your biggest unsupported assumption. A vehicle specifically designed to be thrown away, AND specifically designed to be mass produced AND designed to "shipyard tolerances" can be *vastly* cheap. While it's nice to hope for a reusable oribtal launch vehicle that can be serviced like a small civil airplane, the experience to date indicates that such vehicles will be terribly complex, and very fragile.
 

martinbayer

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"And that is where you have made your biggest unsupported assumption. A vehicle specifically designed to be thrown away, AND specifically designed to be mass produced AND designed to "shipyard tolerances" can be *vastly* cheap. While it's nice to hope for a reusable oribtal launch vehicle that can be serviced like a small civil airplane, the experience to date indicates that such vehicles will be terribly complex, and very fragile."

Well, using your own number of a factor of 100 difference in relative vehicle production cost you postulated in an earlier post, an RLV able to do 500 missions still has a production cost *per flight* that is five times lower than Aquarius, not even taking into account the Aquarius loss rate of 1 in 10. But even if your factor of 100 was meant to be in relation to an ELV and you quadruple that factor for a corresponding RLV to account for higher complexity and dry mass factor, lower payload fraction and lower production rate, the RLV *still* wins out.

I'll grant you that the first true RLV may well be more a learning experience than anything else, but if we don't start, we'll definitely never get there. Commercial airplanes started out as pretty fragile constructions with accident and loss rates that would now be simply unacceptable, but today airliners have reached a level of maturity that makes them the safest form of travel despite the fact that they are vastly more complex than say a Ford Tri-Motor.

Martin
 

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martinbayer said:
Well, using your own number of a factor of 100 difference in relative production cost you postulated in an earlier post, an RLV able to do 500 missions still has a production cost *per flight* that is five times lower than Aquarius...

You've forgotten operational costs. A properly designed and operated Aquarius is virtually a wooden roound... you build it, and then you ignore it until needed, at which time you send airmen Skippy and Chuckles to load it up and fire it off. No need for detailed examination, no need for post-fligh exams, tests, and refurb.

When RLVs get to the point where they can be operated like Cessnas, then Aquarius' day will be done.
 

martinbayer

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"You've forgotten operational costs. A properly designed and operated Aquarius is virtually a wooden roound... you build it, and then you ignore it until needed, at which time you send airmen Skippy and Chuckles to load it up and fire it off. No need for detailed examination, no need for post-fligh exams, tests, and refurb."

Forgive my skepticism, but the proof of such bare bones operations would be in the pudding. Since Aquarius uses LOX/LH2, propellant loading is for example a bit trickier than filling up a pick up truck. You also still need for example avionics for guidance, and I'm not sure whether airmen Skippy and Chuckles would be qualified to program them on the spot, or whether that needs to be done by somebody a little more qualified. BTW I've seen Aquarius failure rate estimates of 1 in 3, for example here: http://www.astronautix.com/lvs/aquarius.htm. On the other hand, the reduction of refurbishment efforts would certainly be a design driver for any RLV, and automated test and checkout equipment would reduce the number of ground crew required, so it's anything but clear cut that Aquarius would have lower ops cost per successfully delivered payload mass.

Martin
 

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martinbayer said:
"You've forgotten operational costs. A properly designed and operated Aquarius is virtually a wooden roound... you build it, and then you ignore it until needed, at which time you send airmen Skippy and Chuckles to load it up and fire it off. No need for detailed examination, no need for post-fligh exams, tests, and refurb."

Forgive my skepticism, but the proof of such bare bones operations would be in the pudding.

Now apply that to vastly more complex RLV operations.
 

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