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Alternative Launcher For Returning To the Moon

kdawson posted more than 7 years ago | from the up-up-and-away dept.

116

DIRECT Launcher writes, "A grass-roots effort, based around a group of engineers, managers, and others involved in the US space program, is proposing an alternative launch vehicle for NASA to adopt for the new Lunar Exploration program. The new vehicle offers serious performance and cost savings totaling $35 billion over the next twenty years. The proposal was presented to NASA last week. The concept would make possible future Hubble Space Telescope servicing missions after Shuttle has retired, allow for all the remaining ISS elements to be launched after all, free up cash to fund the JIMO mission again, and also allow NASA to return to the moon three years early."

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A note about the song (0, Offtopic)

tkrotchko (124118) | more than 7 years ago | (#16638092)

Here's more info on the Song:
      http://www.dailymotion.com/tag/Wig/video/xb1fs_wig -wam-eurovision-2005 [dailymotion.com]

Terrific for all you fans of Hair Nation! Not what you'd expect from the Norwegians.

Note: About this post. NOT offtopic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16640303)

If you don't read the article it appears this way, but if you go to the site, there is a video that shows how this concept would work. As the video plays, a song plays in the background. The post is about the song.

C'mon mods it is interesting background to the article. It is most assuredly not offtopic.

Save even more money, ditch the project (1, Interesting)

Salvance (1014001) | more than 7 years ago | (#16638098)

I can understand why we'd want to go to Mars, but why try to scrounge up existing resources to get to the Moon? Sure, saving $35 Billion sounds great, but that's $35 Billion out of an estimated $108 Billion [cbsnews.com] , which really means $200 Billion. The first time we went, we gained an unprecedented amount of technical knowledge, global press, and renewed patriotism from our people. The second time, we're planning on reusing parts to duplicate what's already been done. Who's going to care? And who's going to benefit other than the defense contractors?

This whole thing feels like when my wife comes home and says "look, I just saved $30 on this new pair of shoes" ... yeah, but you still spent $120 to make an addition to your 27 pair collection.

Re:Save even more money, ditch the project (1)

creimer (824291) | more than 7 years ago | (#16638148)

Because the Chinese are going to the moon. A lot of U.S. politicians would argue why go to Mars when the moon was "lost" to the communists?

Re:Save even more money, ditch the project (1)

Reality Master 101 (179095) | more than 7 years ago | (#16638873)

Because the Chinese are going to the moon.

The Chinese claim they want to go to the moon. So did the Russians, who never managed to put humans there, despite a very advanced space program. The Chinese could do it, but talk is cheap, and the moon is expensive.

In any case, the world is different. I highly doubt anyone would care if the Chinese went to the moon and we weren't actively going. The US has already been there, done that; no one doubts we could do it again if we had an important reason.

High ground (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16640237)

China will hold the high ground. It's easier to launch ICBMs from the moon than from earth :-P

Re:High ground (1)

Brunellus (875635) | more than 7 years ago | (#16642793)

There were actually plans during the cold war to put nuclear weapons on the moon and have orbiting, nuclear-armed satellites. These plans were scrapped with the adoption of the Outer Space Treaty [unoosa.org] , which affirms that "the common interest of all mankind in the progress of the exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes."

Re:Save even more money, ditch the project (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 7 years ago | (#16638889)

Because the Chinese are going to the moon. A lot of U.S. politicians would argue why go to Mars when the moon was "lost" to the communists?

At their current launch rate of half a dozen rockets per year, they'll get there eventually. But they aren't a serious contender.

Re:Save even more money, ditch the project (1)

TGTilde (874930) | more than 7 years ago | (#16638170)

There is a decent argument of using it as a dry space-dock where we could build and launch deeper space exploration vehicles for less fuel costs. Of course we still have to lift the materials off the earth to get them to the moon assuming that we don't quickly come up with a space mining program. Oh man moon trips are sounding smarter and smarter by the minute =\

Re:Save even more money, ditch the project (2, Informative)

Megane (129182) | more than 7 years ago | (#16638401)

There is a decent argument of using it as a dry space-dock where we could build and launch deeper space exploration vehicles for less fuel costs.

That would be great... if the ISS were on a more equitorial orbit. As it is, it's on a rather inclined orbit, chosen to make it easier for Russian launches.

Re:Save even more money, ditch the project (2, Informative)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 7 years ago | (#16638531)

That would be great... if the ISS were on a more equitorial orbit.

Who mentioned the ISS? They were talking about construction yards on the Moon.

As for the ISS, it's too bad that it's a political boondoggle. It's essentially worthless right now, but at least allows us to fly the flag. (Hey look! We got a Space Station!) Once the Ares V comes online, the ISS will be worthless, useless, and easily replaceable. Being able to launch 130 metric tonnes to LEO means that we could launch a complete ISS replacement in only two launches! It has taken 17 shuttle flights to get the ISS to its currently incomplete state. In that time, the hardware that's already in space has been deteriorating due to the difficulties in maintaining the build/maintenance schedules, and compatibility issues between American and Russian hardware.

If we wanted to fly JIMO, we'd take the money out of the ISS's budget. It's too bad that would effectively kill the Shuttle Program. Killing the Shuttle Program would mean political suicide for manned flight, which would lead to the implosion of the CEV program.

Stupid politics.

Re:Save even more money, ditch the project (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 7 years ago | (#16638913)

Actually, the ISS is in a great orbit for tourists and Earth-oriented science. The high inclination orbit means you'll see a lot of the Earth in passing. Being serviceable by Russian rockets is great too. Not much else it's good for in that orbit.

Re:Save even more money, ditch the project (1)

RuBLed (995686) | more than 7 years ago | (#16638278)

or they could put advertisements on the shuttle like this..

(see the first result)

Space Shuttle Advertisements [google.com]

(sorry, it's just in the google cache.. source site seems to be down already)

Re:Save even more money, ditch the project (1)

JonLatane (750195) | more than 7 years ago | (#16638288)

27? Wow, you must have her on a tight leash.

I thought the same... (1)

hummassa (157160) | more than 7 years ago | (#16640779)

my wife's shoe pair count is around 150 ...

Re:Save even more money, ditch the project (1)

Henry V .009 (518000) | more than 7 years ago | (#16638333)

The real point of this project is to ditch the shuttle while keeping everybody who works on it for NASA employeed. (Guess which is the real albatross.) They could save a lot more money by firing a lot of people.

Re:Save even more money, ditch the project (1)

CosmeticLobotamy (155360) | more than 7 years ago | (#16638505)

That's brilliant! If everyone would just fire all their employees, the cost of running a business would drop to almost $0. Nothing but profit from then on! Managers should really get on this.

Re:Save even more money, ditch the project (1)

Henry V .009 (518000) | more than 7 years ago | (#16638523)

NASA is a bloated bureaucracy like numerous other government agencies. I don't understand why you're surprised by the fact.

Re:Save even more money, ditch the project (1)

CosmeticLobotamy (155360) | more than 7 years ago | (#16638605)

I just like that 1 ten-billionth of the government's wasted money goes toward building interesting toys and keeping people with doctorates from having to send in better resumes than mine for toilet cleanliness technician jobs.

Re:Save even more money, ditch the project (1, Interesting)

east coast (590680) | more than 7 years ago | (#16638341)

The moon is a better test bed; less gravity, faster travel time from earth to target, easier to get there if there would happen to be a systems failure and we needed to rescue... We need to learn a bit more about remote lift offs and terrestrial bases on foreign bodies. The moon is a fine location. Besides, knowing as much as we do about it compared to Mars makes even more reason to go there for testing.

we also have a number of interests on the moon including mining and a space based observatory that will be cheaper and better than hubble if we can even get a small manned base going. It would probably be cheaper for these two projects than the HST and ISS infact.

Re:Save even more money, ditch the project (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 7 years ago | (#16638947)

As I mentioned in another reply, the Moon is a great place to colonize, but it's not that helpful to Mars exploration. A lot of the stuff you mention can be tested on an even cheaper location, Earth. Ultimately, it'll probably be cheaper to test on Mars rather than on the disimilar environment of the Moon.

Re:Save even more money, ditch the project (1)

inviolet (797804) | more than 7 years ago | (#16640737)

The moon is a better test bed; less gravity, faster travel time from earth to target, easier to get there if there would happen to be a systems failure and we needed to rescue... We need to learn a bit more about remote lift offs and terrestrial bases on foreign bodies. The moon is a fine location.

The moon has a severe problem with abrasive microdust. The problem may be completely insurmountable. I think it's called lunar regolith. Read up on it before you suggest that the moon is a good place to do anything.

Re:Save even more money, ditch the project (1)

east coast (590680) | more than 7 years ago | (#16640891)

I think it's called lunar regolith. Read up on it before you...

That's fairly bold; you don't even know what regolith is and you're suggesting I should read up on it? LOL! In any case, if you really think this is less of a problem on Mars where they have known windstorms that make hurricans seem like a summer breeze than I'm sorry but you're out of your mind.

Re:Save even more money, ditch the project (1)

inviolet (797804) | more than 7 years ago | (#16641337)

That's fairly bold; you don't even know what regolith is and you're suggesting I should read up on it? LOL! In any case, if you really think this is less of a problem on Mars where they have known windstorms that make hurricans seem like a summer breeze than I'm sorry but you're out of your mind.

Full information about the hazard of lunar dust is here [wired.com] .

The windstorms on Mars are what make its dust less of a problem. Lunar dust is abrasive because there isn't any weather to wear down the particles' sharp edges.

Re:Save even more money, ditch the project (1)

east coast (590680) | more than 7 years ago | (#16641757)

Yeah, I'm glad that Wired has insight into issues that NASA hasn't considered. Thanks for the info.

Re:Save even more money, ditch the project (1)

inviolet (797804) | more than 7 years ago | (#16641941)

Yeah, I'm glad that Wired has insight into issues that NASA hasn't considered. Thanks for the info.

I did a quick search on nasa.gov for 'lunar dust' and got a whole page of hits. As you would've too, if you'd cared to investigate before posting yet another hollow, shoot-from-the-hip reply.

It turns out that NASA has thought [nasa.gov] quite [nasa.gov] a lot [nasa.gov] about the problem.

From the latter:

Although simple dust mitigation measures were sufficient to mitigate some of the problems (i.e., loss of traction), it was found that these measures were ineffective to mitigate many of the more serious problems (i.e., clogging, abrasion, dimished heat rejection). The severity of the dust problems were consistently underestimated by ground tests, indicating a need to develop better simulation facitilities and procedures.

Re:Save even more money, ditch the project (1)

east coast (590680) | more than 7 years ago | (#16642845)

No, it wasn't "another hollow shoot-from-the-hip reply". It was a responce to the likes of Wired magazine and Slashdotters who think that they can poke holes in the best laid plans of seasoned engineers who actually work in the field. If you take the pains of translating your own selected quote: "The severity of the dust problems were consistently underestimated by ground tests, indicating a need to develop better simulation facitilities and procedures." and take the time to understand an engineering mentality this directly translates into : "We need to do more testing with an appropriate test bed".

Why is this so hard for you to understand?

I never said we were ready to go today. Either you're making a far fetched assumption or you can't see the truth of space exploration being a process of testing and retesting.

Re:Save even more money, ditch the project (1)

BritImp (795629) | more than 7 years ago | (#16638753)

The moon is just a testbed for Mars. It's three days away, not 9 months away. Lets make sure we can survive that long locally before just setting off... And don't forget that the Shuttle will be retired in about three years. If NASA doesn't make *something* very soon, the US drops out of the list of nations capable of exploiting space, at just the time when China and India are building their programs up, and churning out many more engineers and scientists from their universities. A robust US space program may help inspire a new generation of US engineers, mathematicians, chemists and physicists. That would be invaluable on its own.

Re:Save even more money, ditch the project (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 7 years ago | (#16638921)

Mars would be a cheaper testbed. I side with Robert Zubrin on this issue. Building a lunar base to help you on Mars is a non sequitur. The two environments are nothing alike. I happen to think that building a lunar base would be a great idea, but we shouldn't pretend it'll help people on Mars significantly.

Re:Save even more money, ditch the project (1)

yoprst (944706) | more than 7 years ago | (#16639049)

You do understand why we want to go to Mars? Good for you. I don't. Robots are so much better for any kind of space mission (except for space lifeboats, but we're centuries away from that), that sending humans anywhere seems downright silly.

Re:Save even more money, ditch the project (1)

The One and Only (691315) | more than 7 years ago | (#16639203)

All of a sudden we need a reason to go land a crew of humans on the planet Mars? The way I see it, going and landing on Mars is a matter of getting all the best engineers together and doing something just as an exercise in doing something. We'll invent some sort of research mission on the way, because by god, that's how they did the Apollo program!

Re:Save even more money, ditch the project (1)

yoprst (944706) | more than 7 years ago | (#16639551)

Appolo was done in the days when robots were nearly usless. They aren't now. And even then it was like 90% show-off, 10% science (not that other human flights starting from very first one were any different). Best engineers can spend those billions much better by building and launching unmanned space probes and space telescopes.

Re:Save even more money, ditch the project (1)

The One and Only (691315) | more than 7 years ago | (#16640073)

I think showing off is an important purpose of space exploration. I'm not saying not to use robots. But there's too much perceived need to justify things like this before they happen. It is just as worthy to accomplish great tasks because they are great, and because by accomplishing them we leave monuments to our own ability to accomplish. We still remember the Egyptians because they built gigantic pyramids to bury their dead kings. We marvel and we wonder at how they accomplished that feat. Landing men on Mars might have little practical purpose, but it's one of the greatest accomplishments possible to our civilization.

Re:Save even more money, ditch the project (1)

yoprst (944706) | more than 7 years ago | (#16642455)

There aren't any Egyptians anymore. There are Arabs living in Egypt. And they haven't built any pyramids. Not exactly a coincidence, if you ask me.

Re:Save even more money, ditch the project (1)

Salvance (1014001) | more than 7 years ago | (#16639209)

Oh, I DEFINITELY agree that robots are better ... and think we should be sending much bigger and better robots to Mars instead of people. But if we feel we must send people, the moon seems like a pretty silly place to put them.

Because.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16639599)

...we've never really been on the moon ? (conspiracy off)

Apart from that, the proposal is probably having a secret part, in which the committee is told that the real reason of saving billions of dollars is that they would simply film the whole event in a studio somewhere :)

Re:Save even more money, ditch the project (1)

TheLink (130905) | more than 7 years ago | (#16639633)

I agree - why waste time doing about the same things over and over again.

Since Bush likes going to the moon so much, save even more money- Send G W Bush to the moon ;).

While you are at it, set up a way for US citizens to vote politicians off the planet - with options - return / 1 way.

Think of it as the next Survivor series. I bet the voter turn out will be great, and even one of those reality TV shows can probably come up with a voting system that works better than Diebold's.

Yes, yes, but..... (1)

crhylove (205956) | more than 7 years ago | (#16639671)

Maybe THIS time we'll actually go!

"pair" is not the unit (2, Funny)

real gumby (11516) | more than 7 years ago | (#16641597)

For women's shoes the standard unit of measure is the Imelda [wikipedia.org] . In your wife's case that would be a bit over 2%. [lycos.co.uk]

(My wife and her friends refer to anyone with more than about .025 imelda as a "shoe whore", a term they don't seem to consider in any way uncomplimentary.)

Yeah this post seems off-topic, but what the hell, it's a math post, and math is pretty important to celestial navigation!

Is reuse limiting ourselves? (4, Insightful)

Kell Bengal (711123) | more than 7 years ago | (#16638112)

I notice there's a lot of talk for reusing orbiter (like DIRECT) and Apollo technology. Now, I'm all for reuse of facilities and technology, but I can't help but think that we're undercutting ourselves by not developing new technology and capability that will last into the future. It's as if no one ever wanted to develop further than 1920's cars, since they did the job 'well enough'. Is this going to cost us when, in three decades, the new vehicles are hitting end-of-service and suddenly we're stuck with infrastructure that is half a century out of date?

Re:Is reuse limiting ourselves? (1)

creimer (824291) | more than 7 years ago | (#16638176)

There's a political boondoggle to maintain by still using the old technology in whatever shape and form. A politician can't go back home to explain that new technology is being developed as jobs are lost as the old technology is shut down. If the government was building cars, the 1920's models would still be good enough.

Re:Is reuse limiting ourselves? (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 7 years ago | (#16640023)

If the government was building cars, the 1920's models would still be good enough.

Why am I suddenly reminded of Cuba?

Re:Is reuse limiting ourselves? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16638224)

I agree. If we ever want to go to Mars or make a sizable Moon base we will need a heavy lift rocket. This rocket that covers everything will carry less weight than a Saturn V. That is unsatisfactory. While I think the Ares I is fairly foolish (we could modify a Delta IV or even an Arianne V cheaper), the Ares V is a piece of must-have technology. The Ares V will be able to toss 130 tons (and perhaps as much as 170 tons) into LEO. And it won't have to be man-rated thereby reducing its cost. It seems to me that if the DIRECT people were serious they would have proposed that the Ares V do all of this since it is already set to be built. But instead they propose their own pet rocket.

All that this is going to do is divert US space exploration. We really don't need any more diversions considering we haven't been on the Moon in 35 years.

Re:Is reuse limiting ourselves? (1)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 7 years ago | (#16638461)

Mod parent up. (What's with the AC post?)

Limiting ourselves to this design means severely limiting our throw power, limiting our hardware options, and limiting the mindset of those in the Space Program. Think about that last one for a moment. The mindset for the last 20 years has been "it *must* be the Space Shuttle". If you build this craft, then you'll get the mindset, "It *must* be the DIRECT."

As we introduce new and varied space vehicle, we can help break that mindset and push launch technology forward. As the parent said, a modified Delta or Atlas could easily meet the needs of the Aries I. If we have separate crew vs. cargo craft, then there can finally be a push to reach a more flexible mindset.

We must not tie ourselves to any one space technology. Build what we need to, but leave the door open for new innovations.

Re:Is reuse limiting ourselves? (1)

BritImp (795629) | more than 7 years ago | (#16638637)

The limit is that the US can't afford to make a 'clean sheet' booster anyway. So re-use is all there is. The true limit is whether the second vehicle gets cancelled and strands us all in Low Earth Orbit for the next 30 years, while China plods on towards the moon anyway.

"last into the future"? (1)

Chuck Chunder (21021) | more than 7 years ago | (#16638731)

undercutting ourselves by not developing new technology and capability that will last into the future
What do you mean "last into the future"? Isn't that exactly what the current technology they are aiming to reuse now is doing? If we do create something new now that will "last into the future" will there be someone (perhaps a descendant of yours!) suggesting that we should make something new anyway so we aren't "undercutting ourselves by not developing new technology and capability that will last into the future".

For me I guess it would be a question of what is the "interesting" work to be done and spending the money there. Perhaps the "getting to space" part isn't as interesting as it once. Perhaps the interesting part is doing stuff once we're there and the funds should be directed accordingly.

If whatever we want to do needs a bigger/better launch technology then so be it but otherwise what is the point? To continue to stretch your car analogy, UPS vans don't have the state of the art engineering excellence of Formula 1 cars but they don't need it to perform their role well.

Re:"last into the future"? (1)

Kell Bengal (711123) | more than 7 years ago | (#16639253)

By 'last into the future' I'm talking about systems that will continue to advance technology, rather than stagnate it. An example of this is the Apollo infrastructure that is reused by the shuttle - it has demonstrated its longevity, but it's pretty hard to improve on a launchpad. The technology in avionics, materials and mechatronics has moved on since the 80s. I agree that we should use what is useful, but my comment was addressed to the idea of specifically designing craft to reuse previous technology when new/better technology exists. There is a huge difference between UPS vans and the shuttle - as the recent trouble with the system has demonstrated, space-flight remains a decidedly non-routine endeavour, and anything that can improve performance and safety ought to be considered. Even UPS trucks can use modern efficient engines and anti-lock brakes.

Re:Is reuse limiting ourselves? (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 7 years ago | (#16638841)

Let's be realistic. NASA has developed a lot of new technology. It usually gets ignored since no one can use it. The big problem here is that there's this huge gap between the technology we can explore and the technology we can use. My hope is that NASA's next launch vehicles are obseleted before they first launch by commercial technology. For example, the Atlas V is a little shy of Ares I capability (within a factor of two IIRC). There's no obvious reason that Lockheed Martin couldn't build a next generation Atlas that obseletes the Ares I. Then NASA could use commercial vehicles in its big projects and promote space development, one of its key goals. I think that sort of activity would result in more rapid development of launch vehicles than another big and distracting NASA project.

Finally some good news for the US space program (1)

TGTilde (874930) | more than 7 years ago | (#16638118)

I must say that this is wonderful. This is exactly what engineers are supposed to do: Take what you have and use it in the most efficient ways possible. I'm glad some people stepped up to such a huge challenge and, at least from their propaganda, have created a viable system that could really help one of this country's, IMHO, failing organizations. Kudos to that group. But we will see how the GOP really lets that extra 35 billion get spent, new launch systems for STAR WARS enabled satellites?

Re:Finally some good news for the US space program (1)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 7 years ago | (#16638393)

I must say that this is wonderful.

No, this is a very bad idea. Hasn't the Space Shuttle proven anything? If you build a space vehicle that's the jack of all trades, you end up with a vehicle that's the master of none.

A lot of people would point to the Saturn V as a successful implementation of the DIRECT concept. Indeed, it would appear to have been an exceptional program, capable of carrying both humans and cargo depending on the configuration. What those same people don't realize, however, is that operating the Saturn V as a crew vehicle was incredibly expensive. Far more expensive than simple space shots with lighter rockets. At the time it made sense, because the end goal was a single moonshot. We didn't particularly care that we were wasting thousands of tonnes of hardware just to bring back a tonne or two after each flight. We got to the f**king moon, man!

Unfortunately, the scientists and engineers working at NASA in those days knew that such expensive flights were unsustainable. Thus the ideas of the Space Shuttle and Big Gemini [wikipedia.org] were proposed. The latter offered more crew per launch, meaning that it could effectively staff a space station for costs competitive with the then current two/three man launches. The former would have been able to handle a smaller crew, but at a drastically reduced launch cost.

Enter politics. The idea of two vehicles was killed by the Nixon administration, and the Space Shuttle was forced to become the jack of all trades. The result was a vehicle so expensive to fly, that it offered no actual savings over the previous Saturn V flights. It would seem that Super Boosters are expensive to fly. So it should have taught us to make sure that each kilogram our Super Boosters carry is worth the cost of flying it. (The Space Shuttle wastes the majority of its Super Booster power on its own bulk.)

When Mike Griffin took control of NASA, he was well aware of this issue. So he worked with the engineers to develop a separate rocket for crew, and a separate rocket for cargo. The two would be based on the same technology (for cost savings), but would have wildly different certifications and cost per launch figures. They would also offer the flexibility of launching massive amounts of cargo (far in excess of the DIRECT plan) that could be utilized by the astronauts flying on the cheaper vehicle. Concepts like a single-launch space station, or pre-fabbed Mars vehicle were reasonble cargos for this vehicle.

Now the DIRECT concept wants to revive all the same mistakes made with the Shuttle. It seems like a very bad idea to me. Maybe I'll change my mind as I review more and more of the information on the proposal, but my gut says that we shouldn't mess with the CEV program. We've got a good thing going there, so we need to get it done. Not reinvent the concept every few years in typical NASA fashion. :(

Direct has best chance. (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 7 years ago | (#16639007)

First off, keep in mind, that almost certainly any system not fully developed by 2010 will be killed. Why? Because we will have a new admin, and because we will have new launch capabilities via private enterprise. In addition, for going to both the moon and mars, we will end up using BA-330 (or bigger). We will find it far cheaper. All in all, the CEV will not be the norm for traveling out of orbit.

DIRECT and the Ares system both offer a heavy launcher. Ares V is able to handle more, while the Ares I handles far less. But Ares I has direct (and cheaper) competition in other current and new launchers. That leaves Ares V. There is nothing of its size. OTH, DIRECT can do 2/3 of the weight for a fraction of the cost of development as well as cheaper to launch. DIRECT will not be the jack of all trade. It will be consider the heavy weight launcher that we lost when we gave up saturn. I suspect that when private enterprise finally goes to the moon or mars, the heavy launcher will take priority. In particular, it will allow for sending up a larger version of the BA-330 (perhaps the BA-500 with lots of fuel and supplies).

Offhand, I would guess that DIRECT is exactly what we need.

Re:Direct has best chance. (1)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 7 years ago | (#16639079)

OTH, DIRECT can do 2/3 of the weight for a fraction of the cost of development as well as cheaper to launch.

It does this on paper, not with figures that can be easily backed up. The Space Shuttle was supposed to save massive amounts of cash on launches as well. Notice how well that prediction worked out.

DIRECT will not be the jack of all trade.

That is what it is being sold as. If you sell this to Congress and renege, they'll come back and demand to know why it isn't being used as the jack of all trades. It's almost guaranteed that the DIRECT would be forced into multiple roles.

In addition, the massive cost savings that you see (on paper) are a result of combining the Ares-I and Ares-V development into a single vehicle. If you go off and man-rate some other vehicle, then you're back to where you started in respect to costs. The costs may even increase, since you'd be developing a vehicle that's more complicated than is required by the mission profile. (i.e. Why do you need a complex staged design if you're never going to launch a single-stage version?)

In particular, it will allow for sending up a larger version of the BA-330 (perhaps the BA-500 with lots of fuel and supplies).

You could build a very large inflatible space station with the cargo capacity of either of these rockets. Where you actually need the capacity is for vehicles that depart low earth orbit. Heavy things like Lunar Landers, Mars Orbiters, Mars Landers, Asteroid Mining Missions, Moon Base Supplies, etc.

Offhand, I would guess that DIRECT is exactly what we need.

That's exactly the problem. Offhand it looks great. It's only once you dig in that it becomes clear that the idea is unsound. For example, why the use of the RS-68 engines? They're not rated for manned flight, and were not going to be used on the Ares-I. Rating these engines for the intended use would likely delay the DIRECT program past the 2010 deadline. As you said yourself, if we're not flying, then the manned space program is dead.

The CEV Program ensures space access by reserving the RS-68 for the larger Ares-V. The Ares-I would require NO new technology, making it more likely to fly by 2010. Even if the Ares-V isn't. As I said, the CEV Program is the more pragmatic approach. Warts and all.

Re:Direct has best chance. (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 7 years ago | (#16639215)

You could build a very large inflatible space station with the cargo capacity of either of these rockets. Where you actually need the capacity is for vehicles that depart low earth orbit. Heavy things like Lunar Landers, Mars Orbiters, Mars Landers, Asteroid Mining Missions, Moon Base Supplies, etc.

Who said the BA-330 is just a space station? They are looking to use it for transportation to other places. In particular, if this can survive space, then it should be able to survive the moon. Simply chop the bottom (???) off and place a rocket there to allow the craft to land (once). This is perfect for building a base on the moon or a even on an asteroid. Maybe even Mars (IANAE).

The BA-xxx will make the perfect vehicle for constant transportation to the moon with larger crew than what is on the CEV. For long-term transport to mars, it will require this. Otherwise, we will have to build something like a small station.

As to which craft can fly sooner, IIRC, there was a number of papers coming from NASA that indicated the Ares V would be 2016 or so.

Hmm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16638128)

That looks a lot like an Energia rocket stack. NIH?

Re:Hmm... (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 7 years ago | (#16639129)

Sure, just add the shuttle(bruan) on the side and change the boosters to liquid. And then it is similar. But then again, the Energia is an admitted rip-off of the shuttle (with some smart changes). And of course, the shuttle borrows heavily from Saturn which borrows heavily from .....

We are all standing on the shoulders of giants.

To go to the moon? Bah! (1)

Stormwatch (703920) | more than 7 years ago | (#16638132)

I'd rather have a sinister device to blow up the moon! [newgrounds.com]

Re:To go to the moon? Bah! (1)

AEton (654737) | more than 7 years ago | (#16638178)

Careful there.

People on the moon might throw rocks at you.

Re:To go to the moon? Bah! (1)

myowntrueself (607117) | more than 7 years ago | (#16638645)

People on the moon might throw rocks at you.

It'd be an interesting call as to who'd win that war of attrition.

On the one hand, the moon has much less gravity so it takes less energy for the Mooninites to hurl a rock at the Earthlings.

The Earthlings may require more energy to hurl their earth-rocks at the moon but there are so many more earth-rocks than moon-rocks that the Earthlings are much less likely to run out of ammunition.

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16638983)

Whooosh!

Re:To go to the moon? Bah! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16642013)

Why can't the moon people throw rocks back that the earth people threw at them?

Re:To go to the moon? Bah! (1)

techno-vampire (666512) | more than 7 years ago | (#16639187)

Why should we blow up the Moon? It's not like it's obstructing our view of the planet Venus or anything.

A bridge in Brooklyn (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 7 years ago | (#16638541)

From TFA(summary):
 
The new vehicle offers serious performance and cost savings totaling $35 billion over the next twenty years.

It offer the potential for savings - as nobody knows how much it will save until its built and flying. (And aerospace cost estimates are notoriously unreliable - we simply don't do enough of them to build an experience base.
 
From the website:
 
This architecture completely removes the costs & risks associated with developing and operating a second launcher system, saving NASA $19 Billion in development costs, and a further $16 Billion in operational costs over the next 20 years.

Which is at least partially nonsense - because even a brief examination of the imagery they present shows that they are proposing to use two different launcher systems - with less than you might think different between them. (In fact, the only unchanged component between the two are the SRB's.)
 
That being said - this system will still end up being more expensive than it should be, because it still relies on the standing army at the Cape and the antiquated production methods at Michoud.

Re:A Traffic Cone on the Information Super Highway (1)

BritImp (795629) | more than 7 years ago | (#16638719)

Thats just an optional upper stage with aero shroud on top in the picture on the right. The Core vehicle and SRB's are actually identical on both of those launchers. The Proposal on the site explains it.

Re:A Traffic Cone on the Information Super Highway (2, Insightful)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 7 years ago | (#16639303)

Thats just an optional upper stage with aero shroud on top in the picture on the right.

As this system is intended to replace both Ares vehicles - the cargo variant is not optional, it's a requirement. (Their own proposal and examples show the cargo variant as part of the mission architecture.)
 
 
The Core vehicle and SRB's are actually identical on both of those launchers.

They won't end up identical - I'd bet large, large, sums of money on it. The requirements of the two vehicles demand they end up not identical. NASA man-rating requirements alone will cause a drift between the two types - which will be further emphasized by the different performance requirements for each type.

You guys are missing the most important point... (2, Interesting)

skogs (628589) | more than 7 years ago | (#16638547)

Everybody so far commenting is simply complaining about wasting money, cutting jobs, reusing old stuff, rebuilding new stuff....you are missing the most incredible part of their proposal:

70 metric tons to orbit base
98 metric tons to orbit cargo vehicle

This compares to the current shuttle lift capacity of 16+ metric ton.

Son, packaged correctly, you could launch the entire remaining ISS sections into space at one time.

This is simply reusing some very basic lift parts and redesigning some new engines for the base of the fuel tank. Probably some reinforcement to the tank too for the added weight on top. Some new control and piping to the top for the rest of the vehicle....

I frankly don't know how they plan to get that much more thrust and lift capability out of those SRBs and new engines...but if they think they can do it, I'd be inclined to support them whole heartedly.

Even if they only made half their expected lift capacity, it would still a significant improvement.

How about launching 4 or 5 GPS satellites and a spy satellite all on one mission?

How about building a moon base?

How about putting a decent sized nuclear reactor in space to provide unlimited power instead of relying on solar panels?

Tonnage gets you everything.

   

Re:You guys are missing the most important point.. (2, Informative)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 7 years ago | (#16638623)

I think added capacity is the simplest part to explain...

Removing the shuttle saves 68 tons for the thing empty, 108 tons loaded.

Add in the 25 tons that's the maximum payload the shuttle can lift, and it gets real easy to believe they can lift almost a 100 tons by redesigning the shuttle lift platform a bit to remove the need for the shuttle. You loose some tons because one of the things they have to do is move the shuttle's engines to the central tank.

There's no practical reason why we couldn't make a space station type module, or even a Bigelow one, into a satellite servicer with the addition of thrusters, which could be refueled by supply missions.

You don't do lab work in a 'shuttle', you do it on a station which stays up there. You launch and recover people using lighter and therefore cheaper vehicles.

Re:You guys are missing the most important point.. (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 7 years ago | (#16638655)

I frankly don't know how they plan to get that much more thrust and lift capability out of those SRBs and new engines...but if they think they can do it, I'd be inclined to support them whole heartedly.

Glancing around, it appears that 70 tons to orbit is a slight but nice improvement on the Shuttle C [nasaspaceflight.com] . 98 tons is a big improvement.

How about putting a decent sized nuclear reactor in space to provide unlimited power instead of relying on solar panels?

What's wrong with relying on solar panels to provide unlimited power? The only place it matters is when you're in a place (eg, virtually all of the lunar surface, or well beyond the orbit of Mars) where solar power either isn't available for a period of time or is attenuated due to distance.

Re:You guys are missing the most important point.. (4, Insightful)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 7 years ago | (#16638701)

This compares to the current shuttle lift capacity of 16+ metric ton.

The shuttle has an absolute lift power of ~120 metric tonnes. The fact that the majority of the lift power is used in lifting the Space Shuttle itself brings the maximum cargo lift weight down to ~25 metric tonnes.

Son, packaged correctly, you could launch the entire remaining ISS sections into space at one time.

Why wouldn't the 130 metric tonne to LEO Ares V do the same? With the DIRECT, you could finish the Space Station. (A useless piece of junk in the wrong orbit.) With the Ares V, you could launch a new one in only two flights.

I frankly don't know how they plan to get that much more thrust and lift capability out of those SRBs and new engines...but if they think they can do it, I'd be inclined to support them whole heartedly.

All these technologies are "shuttle derived". Which means that the Super Booster capabilities of the Shuttle are separated from the Space Shuttle vehicle, and placed into a more traditional stack. Through the use of more engines and staging, NASA plans to launch more absolute weight with the Ares V than the Shuttle can launch today. The DIRECT would actually scale back the absolute weight.

The Ares has an upgrade path (read: even more tonnage per launch) through the development of better engines. The DIRECT design anticipates those engines, and demands that they be manrated before they are ready. Which should raise a lot of red flags.

Basically, the DIRECT design stands out as a beautiful paper concept. It all seems to come together into the perfect solution, but ignores the realities of the situation. More likely than not, we'd never get a craft off the ground if we went with the DIRECT design. Warts or not, the CEV is the pragmatic solution. We need to follow the program through to conclusion, and not get distracted by the paper ideas that jump out at us.

Re:You guys are missing the most important point.. (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 7 years ago | (#16638823)

All these technologies are "shuttle derived". Which means that the Super Booster capabilities of the Shuttle are separated from the Space Shuttle vehicle, and placed into a more traditional stack. Through the use of more engines and staging, NASA plans to launch more absolute weight with the Ares V than the Shuttle can launch today. The DIRECT would actually scale back the absolute weight.

NASA doesn't need the extra weight that the Ares V can throw. And since their plans call for four launches per year of the Ares V, it's not going to ever be a cheap platform, just due to low launch frequency. At least, here, they would have a greater frequency of launches which would use that launch crew a little better. Further, this launch platform is more likely to be replaced by commercial launch capability than the Ares V. This would hasten NASA's exodus from the launch market.

The Ares has an upgrade path (read: even more tonnage per launch) through the development of better engines. The DIRECT design anticipates those engines, and demands that they be manrated before they are ready. Which should raise a lot of red flags.

I'm missing something here. Glancing at the DIRECT design, I don't see why it would require an engine to be man-rated before it is "ready". After all, they could test new design changes by launching cargo. Most launch platforms have multiple configurations. It seems to me that you would start with a configuration that isn't man-rated and work out the problems with relatively low-value cargo launches.

Basically, the DIRECT design stands out as a beautiful paper concept. It all seems to come together into the perfect solution, but ignores the realities of the situation. More likely than not, we'd never get a craft off the ground if we went with the DIRECT design. Warts or not, the CEV is the pragmatic solution. We need to follow the program through to conclusion, and not get distracted by the paper ideas that jump out at us.

But the CEV is vehicle agnostic, right? I don't see any problem with launching it on a DIRECT rocket or some commercial vehicle, should one of sufficient capability come out while the CEV is still in service.

Re:You guys are missing the most important point.. (1)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 7 years ago | (#16638979)

NASA doesn't need the extra weight that the Ares V can throw.

And you know that... how? In fact, NASA will need all the weight it can throw going forward. Sure, a simple moon mission might not require it, but what about a Mars mission? There will need to be significantly more fuel and hardware boosted for that operation. And what about a lunar transfer point in LEO? That was one of the original intentions of the ISS. The DIRECT would require at least three flights to lift the weight of the current ISS design, while the Ares-V could do it in two. More advanced concepts (e.g. a spinning station) would require even larger tonnage. I won't even get into the issue of launching materials for a moon or Mars base, much less an asteroid mining operation.

Further, this launch platform is more likely to be replaced by commercial launch capability than the Ares V. This would hasten NASA's exodus from the launch market.

Currently, there are no commercial launchers that can even touch either the DIRECT or the Ares-V designs. It's unlikely that this will change, leaving NASA (and the military by extension) severely underpowered for space operations.

I'm missing something here. Glancing at the DIRECT design, I don't see why it would require an engine to be man-rated before it is "ready". After all, they could test new design changes by launching cargo.

You are missing something. The RS-68 has flown only six times, with mixed results. To "man-rate" the vehicle, it would need to fly a lot more. The CEV Program addresses this issue by flying the RS-68 on a cargo-only craft. The man-rated craft will fly with the highly reliable J-2 engines used in the Saturn V. The J-2 is designed for in-flight restart, a key feature in these plans. AFAIK, the RS-68 is not designed for restarts, nor has it been tested for such.

There was a crash program [af.mil] underway to design a restart system for the RS-68, but NASA found the use of the J-2 to be a safer and more economical solution.

It seems to me that you would start with a configuration that isn't man-rated and work out the problems with relatively low-value cargo launches.

Launching what exactly? The DIRECT program does away with manned space travel until the RS-68 is man-rated. However, Project Constellation calls for the cargo booster and passenger vehicle to be used in conjunction. If there are no people to launch, there is no cargo to launch. Especially for something as powerful as a Super Booster. I suppose we could lift weapons platforms [wikipedia.org] like the Russians did, but I doubt that the international community would be very happy.

But the CEV is vehicle agnostic, right?

The Orion is (theoretically) vehicle agnostic. The CEV Program is the plan to build the Ares-I, the Ares-V, and the Orion.

I don't see any problem with launching it on a DIRECT rocket or some commercial vehicle, should one of sufficient capability come out while the CEV is still in service.

I don't see a problem with a commercial vehicle, either. I *do* see a lot of problems with the DIRECT plan, as outlined above.

Re:You guys are missing the most important point.. (2, Insightful)

UnderCoverPenguin (1001627) | more than 7 years ago | (#16639393)

The Ares I also proposes a new, not yet man-rated engine: The 5 segment SRB. Maybe that could get man-rated faster than the RS-68. As for the RS-68 not being restartable, neither is the SSME. The proposed applications of either engine (in either proposal) does not require a restartable engine.


Seems to me that the Direct proposal could initially use SSMEs, then upgrade to the RS-68s, later.


Also, FWIW, the military commissioned the Titan IV as a backup to the shuttle - one of the available payload shrouds is designed to accept even the largest shuttle payload. I do not know if a Titan IV launch would be too harsh for ISS modules, but, so far, the military has not permitted civilian use. I do recall, however, that the Artemis Project had a proposal to use a pair of Titan IV launches to get the 2 halves of their spacecraft into orbit.

Re:You guys are missing the most important point.. (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 7 years ago | (#16639075)

Why wouldn't the 130 metric tonne to LEO Ares V do the same? With the DIRECT, you could finish the Space Station.

Ares V could do it. But the problem is that it is not slated to be operational UNTIL after 2016 i.e. about the time that the ISS is expected to decommision. Instead, DIRECT would be ready in either 2010 or 2011. Big difference.

As to the upgrade path, I would not worry about it. After 2012, I am betting that the next big upgrade will come out of Scaled Composite (not just in tonnage, but in very low costs). DIRECT gives us a nice stepping point.

Re:You guys are missing the most important point.. (1)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 7 years ago | (#16639099)

Instead, DIRECT would be ready in either 2010 or 2011. Big difference.

You shouldn't put so much stock in what it says on paper. If the DIRECT program goes forward, it will NOT be flying by 2010. Nor 2011. In fact, we'll be lucky if it's flying by 2016. After all, it's based on the same technology as the Ares-V. Simply scaling it back does little to improve the schedule of the program. It may seem like it on paper, but the reality of this has never held true.

Looks like a solid rocket boosted crew capsule. (1)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 7 years ago | (#16640217)

That part of the proposal will probably get the focus from the naysayers so they can continue on the with the current methods and ideas they have.

While reuse is nice; it rarely is as easy as pdf's make it out to be. As for the weight, that is a great part of the proposal. Too bad the costs associated put it outside of a non-government group. Would be nice to see a private company built around the concept of putting stuff into space on a large scale.

Re:You guys are missing the most important point.. (1)

Phanatic1a (413374) | more than 7 years ago | (#16642513)


70 metric tons to orbit base
98 metric tons to orbit cargo vehicle


Ooooooh, color me completely unimpressed.

There've been some Project Orion documents declassified and published recently. Take a look [flickr.com] .

Specifically, look at these numbers [flickr.com] .

For the uninitiated, Orion's a nuclear pulse rocket. You have a big baseplate. You have your payload on top of the plate. You set atomic bombs off under the plate. Plate moves.

Their advanced interplanetary design had a deliverable payload the moon of 5700 tons; that's about the mass of a Los Angeles-class submarine, easily enough for a permanent manned lunar base. And not just in a single launch, in a single stage. Instead of putting men on the moon and returning them to earth by 1970, we'd have had a manned mission to Saturn (and back) by 1970.

"Oh, but you'd pollute the whole planet!" Feh. Again, look at the numbers. For the big interplanetary class, the bomb you set off at sea level is .35 kilotons. By the time you leave atmosphere, you've set off an in-atmosphere total yield of 250 kilotons.

250 kilotons is nothing. During the course of above-ground nuclear testing, the US set off a 15-megaton bomb, 60 times larger. The Soviets detonated a 50-megaton bomb. Hell, the US set off a one megaton pure fission bomb, purely to see if they could do it.

You'd launch this thing once, from a big barge in the middle of the Pacific. We'd be all over the solar system by now, instead of struggling to reinvent Apollo to go back to a place we abandoned over 30 years ago, instead of wasting hundreds of billions and too many years on a white-elephant shuttle design whose principal achievement (repairing the Hubble) would pale in comparison to the slightest thing you could do with a spacecraft capable of delivering 1300 tons to Saturn's orbit.

Feh. In the words of Old Man Murray, "It's not a lack of knowledge holding you people back, it's a lack of will."

That's going to be the epitaph for humanity.

RS-68? (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 7 years ago | (#16638585)

But that isn't man rated.
How much would making it man rated add to the cost of development?
That is one of the reasons they are going with the J-2x.
I would love to see a real heavy lift launch vehicle built.
Something like a new and improved Saturn V. All the current ideas remind me of the Saturn 1. They are put together out of spare parts of other rockets.

Re:RS-68? (1)

BritImp (795629) | more than 7 years ago | (#16638671)

The RS-68 only needs an extra layer of redundancy in systems such as the actuators. And an independant NASA qualification program. The engine already has a max burn time somewhere around 8000seconds, so it's well proven already. And NASA's already planning on using RS-68 for the *man-rated* Ares-V "big brother" - assuming it is ever built.

Re:RS-68? (1)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 7 years ago | (#16638751)

And NASA's already planning on using RS-68 for the *man-rated* Ares-V "big brother" - assuming it is ever built.

The Ares-V *is* the big brother. To the best of my knowledge, it will not be man-rated. It is intended as a purely cargo-carrying craft used to deliver raw materials, space platforms, and interplanetary vehicles into orbit. The man-rated vehicle will be the Ares-I, which will use the classic J-2 engines for reliability, weight, and and restart capabilities. It will carry the crew to the various destinations and vehicles that the Ares-V will lift.

Re:RS-68? (1)

BritImp (795629) | more than 7 years ago | (#16638787)

Ares-V *is* to be fully man rated.

Single-flight Lunar missions in the same style as Apollo are planned - mainly to be used for Crew Rotation to the planned Lunar science base.

Also potentially for some near-Earth asteroid visits if there's any money available (Griffin spoke at GRC recently and said the US won't have any spare money and needed International investment to really use the new program).

But there's nothing Ares-V can do which DIRECT couldn't also do, without the huge development cost.

Re:RS-68? (2, Informative)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 7 years ago | (#16638865)

Single-flight Lunar missions in the same style as Apollo are planned - mainly to be used for Crew Rotation to the planned Lunar science base.

Got a link? The last plan that NASA announced was to launch the Lunar Lander + Moon Booster as cargo, then have the Orion dock with the lunar module. This was what was shown in NASA's presentation video [youtube.com] . This plan did NOT call for the Ares-V to be man-rated.

If that's changed, then you should probably update the Wikipedia Info [wikipedia.org] on Project Constellation. Remember to cite your sources.

Re:RS-68? (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 7 years ago | (#16638715)

Man-rating seems to be one of those things that people aren't sure really exists. Once your rocket engine can achieve a comfortable acceleration profile and failure rate (ie, less than 1 in 100 or so catastrophic failures that risk the crew), you've achieved whatever man-rating would achieve. As I understand it, the RS-68 can achieve that. If man-rating an existing, reliable rocket engine is prohibitively expensive, then it indicates a problem in the rating process not in the rocket. In other words, if the Space Shuttle Main Engines, one of the most expensive engines known to Man, can be man-rated, just about anything can be man-rated.

Re:RS-68? (1)

BritImp (795629) | more than 7 years ago | (#16638817)

NASA need to test the system under failure conditions to generate shutdown procedures which 'safe' an engine in failure modes. For satellite launches, it doesn't matter much *how* it fails, just *that* it fails.

For manned flights you need to know exactly how the engine reacts when it does give up, because you want a crew to survive any failures. So destructive testing is a big part of man-rating.

There's also an issue with responsibility. If a Delta-IV satellite launcher engine were to go bang, Pratt & Whitney, Rocketdyne would be blamed for the failure. If a crew were lost on the same vehicle *NASA* would get the blame.

So, if the buck stops with them, they want their own independant test program to their own, very particular, standards.

But having an engine which has passed satellite launcher testing, puts it well ahead of the game for manned use too.

Re:RS-68? (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 7 years ago | (#16640531)

The 'man-rated' Saturn V was still coming close to a destructive breakup due to engine problems as late as Apollo 13. 'Man-rating' basically seems to be the NASA equivalent of 'NIH'... if they designed it it's 'man-rated', if someone else designed it, it's not.

Re:RS-68? (2)

Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) | more than 7 years ago | (#16638797)

I'm worried about the SRBs. Once upon a time, a rocket you couldn't shut off in an emergency was considered bad for manned flight. "The DIRECT approach calls for a single launch vehicle, based on the very reliable and already man-rated 4-segment Solid Rocket Boosters (SRB) used on the Space Shuttle today", they say, describing a system with one total loss of vehicle and crew on its record and at least one near miss.

Re:RS-68? (1)

BritImp (795629) | more than 7 years ago | (#16638827)

The SRBs which fly today on Shuttle are NOT the same ones as flew before Challenger.

They have a 100% perfect flight record since that redesign - 182 back-to-back manned flights.

Use Russian Technology. (0, Flamebait)

Horar (521864) | more than 7 years ago | (#16638775)

The Russians have always done space better than the Americans and probably always will. It's typical American arrogance and stupidity to be wasting money trying to reinvent the wheel when you could just buy the technology from the people who already have it.

http://www.energia.ru/english/ [energia.ru]

Re:Use Russian Technology. (1)

Ninjaesque One (902204) | more than 7 years ago | (#16638969)

They haven't gotten to the moon yet. RTFC, if you can't RTFA.

Re:Use Russian Technology. (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 7 years ago | (#16638993)

One concern here is what is Russia doing to maintain that lead? I actually think that US companies, often in partnership with Russian counterparts, are driving some of the most aggressive new space technologies out there. For example, if you look at the "alt.space" phenonmenon, it's driven by US-based businesses (though a lot of the leaders and experience comes from elsewhere). Who's trying to build a space tether or other wild-eyed idea? I think there's a good chance that the US takes the lead in space solely because of it's growing commercial development of space. In turn, Russia, Canada, the UK, and Astralia (in particular) will get a piece of this action as probably will China, India, and some other countries with the right stuff.

Buy moon rocks (1)

Baldrson (78598) | more than 7 years ago | (#16639053)

Rather than undo the lesson of decades of failure of government chosen launch technologies, NASA should buy moon rocks, measurements, and the like from the private sector.

This would be the market support for the development of a lunar mission capability without risk to the taxpayer.

Re:Buy moon rocks (1)

SnarfQuest (469614) | more than 7 years ago | (#16639205)

Just go to downtown New York, and you can buy your genuine moonrocks from the same guy that sells those genuine Rolex watches.

Re:Buy moon rocks (1)

Baldrson (78598) | more than 7 years ago | (#16639311)

How much money do you think it would cost to come up with a fool-proof means of verifying the origin of said rocks?

How much money do you think NASA is going to spend "returning to the Moon"?

These are rational questions posed to an irrational person of course -- so consider them rheotorical.

Re:Buy moon rocks (1)

dunkelfalke (91624) | more than 7 years ago | (#16639583)

private sector seldom does basic research - too costly, no immediate profit.

Money better spent to fund X-Prize (1)

llZENll (545605) | more than 7 years ago | (#16639067)

Imagine how much you would get with a 1 Billion dollar X Prize, we would be on Mars probably. NASAs time has passed, time to can everyone and move on.

Does it need to be this complex? (1)

jonwil (467024) | more than 7 years ago | (#16639473)

Why not take existing proven rocket engines (such as those used on the Titan booster, the Saturn rocket, the shuttle, the Delta rocket, whatever the russians use to launch soyuz or whatever it is) and strap it to the rear end of a big fuel tank with the payload (ISS module or whatever else) strapped to the nose or something.
No new technologies or anything, just use what we have now and know works.
If takeoff weight is an issue, do what the russians did with Sputnik or what was done with the Saturn 5 and just have more rocket engines firing at once.
Then, once you have it working, you can go forward and say "ok, this works, lets design a new rocket engine that can plug into this launch vehicle but would provide more takeoff weight" or whatever.

Of course, IANARS (I am not a rocket scientist) so I dont know exactly how feesable this idea is.

Another idea that has come up is to simply take the shuttle SRBs and external tank as they are now (or replace the shuttle SRBs with liquid rockets) and strap a set of rocket engines on to the rear end of the external tank (to substitute for the shuttle main engines) and strap a payload in (on top of it or on the back in place of the orbiter).

Re:Does it need to be this complex? (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 7 years ago | (#16639657)

Another idea that has come up is to simply take the shuttle SRBs and external tank as they are now (or replace the shuttle SRBs with liquid rockets) and strap a set of rocket engines on to the rear end of the external tank (to substitute for the shuttle main engines) and strap a payload in (on top of it or on the back in place of the orbiter).

This is the Big Dumb Booster which Stephen Baxter has popularised in several of his books. As you imply there are lots of components available and lots of ways of putting them together.

Doing it without spending $1000 per kilo to orbit is another matter. The biggest cost of the shuttle is the workforce required on the ground all the time. Shuttle derivatives have a reputation as existing only to keep shuttle workers employed.

70 millitesla? (1)

Dr. Hok (702268) | more than 7 years ago | (#16639811)

...to lift over 70mT...

Wouldn't a unit of mass be more suitable here?

Re:70 millitesla? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16642681)

uh... 70mT = 70,000 kg.

Is mass.

DIRECT not so direct (1)

J05H (5625) | more than 7 years ago | (#16641599)

I'm all for alternative architecture, but DIRECT has several problems. The main issue is that it only "saves" money in the area of eliminating development of a second VSE rocket: the Crew Launch Vehicle AKA the Stick. It delibrately maintains the standing army of workers, which is the main cost issue with NASA manned space hardware. DIRECT tries to preserve all those jobs, while modern rockets (Atlas, Delta, Zenit and Falcon) all use radically fewer construction and deployment personell. DIRECT also has the issue of trying to make something work in an unintended way, and it requires development of a new version of the RS68. Not so direct.

Simpler modifications and evolution of existing launchers (Atlas, Delta) will achieve better results in both time and cost, IMHO.

We're discussing DIRECT on the uplink forums, too:
http://uplink.space.com/showflat.php?Cat=&Board=mi ssions&Number=606289&page=0&view=collapsed&sb=5&o= 0&fpart= [space.com]

josh

Re:DIRECT not so direct (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16642303)

Part of the contstraint NASA is forced to work under is precisely that: Retain the workforce. If they propose a plan that eliminates 10's of thousands of jobs, congress would slash the budget. By re-using as much existing technology & infrastructure as possible, this direct rocket plays into that mandate actually BETTER than NASA's currently proposed Ares I & V.

hmmm (1)

argStyopa (232550) | more than 7 years ago | (#16642613)

Practical, cheaper, reliable, reuses established components? Congress (ie the congressmen responsible for the district in which these subcontracting firms sit) would NEVER stand for such an outrage.

Only communists would try to make such a direct assault on the jobs of American workers!*

* jobs not actually filled by American workers
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