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NASA Engineers Work On Alternative Moon Rocket

timothy posted about 6 years ago | from the doesn't-even-have-a-hybrid-engine dept.

NASA 340

Gibson writes "A team of 57 engineers at NASA's Marshall Spaceflight center feel that the Ares rocket is not the best solution for launching the new CEV. They are currently working on their own time developing an alternative launch system known as Jupiter. The 131 page proposal, along with other information, is available on the project website. Proponents of the project say that it is 'simpler, safer, and sooner' than the Ares project, predicting the ability for a return to the moon in 2017, two years before the current goal. Ares management has so far dismissed the proposal as a 'napkin drawing.'"

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340 comments

Yes, because we all know.... (5, Insightful)

mlwmohawk (801821) | about 6 years ago | (#24198807)

That a "napkin drawing" by engineers never amount to anything.

Re:Yes, because we all know.... (5, Funny)

MadRocketScientist (792254) | about 6 years ago | (#24198887)

Does the napkin drawing include a doodle of the engineer as a cowboy?

Re:Yes, because we all know.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24199095)

Is it because it is hard to write in Copperplate Gothic Bold on a napkin?

(See http://ubersoft.net/ for explanation)

Re:Yes, because we all know.... (4, Insightful)

ari_j (90255) | about 6 years ago | (#24199211)

The problem is keeping all 131 napkins in order and intact.

Re:Yes, because we all know.... (1)

bonehead (6382) | about 6 years ago | (#24199593)

For God's sake, Don't Spill Your Coffee!!!

Re:Yes, because we all know.... (1)

failedlogic (627314) | about 6 years ago | (#24199687)

Duh ... That's what page numbers are for! ;)

Re:Yes, because we all know.... (1)

charleste (537078) | about 6 years ago | (#24199761)

Hey, if Kurt Vonnegut could do it while writing a NOVEL, why can't engineers do it for a proposal?

Re:Yes, because we all know.... (2, Funny)

QuantumRiff (120817) | about 6 years ago | (#24199291)

Yeah, its not like its rocket science or anything.. Oh, wait!

Re:Yes, because we all know.... (1)

mlwmohawk (801821) | about 6 years ago | (#24199511)

All I can think of is, in the TV show "Big Bang" was Sheldon's embarrassment when his sister says he's a "rocket scientist or something."

LOL. literal "Rocket Science" isn't figurative "rocket science."

Re:Yes, because we all know.... (2, Informative)

locokamil (850008) | about 6 years ago | (#24199555)

Didn't the guy who invented ethernet sketch out his idea on the back of a napkin back in the day?

Re:Yes, because we all know.... (3, Funny)

tgd (2822) | about 6 years ago | (#24199975)

It sure almost worked for Richard Pryor -- he damn near killed Superman with a computer drawn on the back of napkins.

"A Napkin Drawing?" (5, Insightful)

Illbay (700081) | about 6 years ago | (#24198817)

How can anyone whose project is in the design stage, scoff at another that is in the conceptual stage? Neither of them EXIST yet!

Where is Ares? Oh, it's in AUTOCAD! Well, that makes ALL the difference!

Meanwhile, their brilliant project isn't expected to get anyone to the moon before, what, twenty years?

Sheesh.

Re:"A Napkin Drawing?" (0, Troll)

l2718 (514756) | about 6 years ago | (#24198867)

Meanwhile, their brilliant project isn't expected to get anyone to the moon before, what, twenty years?

Eleven years, actually (till 2019). It will take longer in practice, I'm sure, but you should check your figures before posting.

Re:"A Napkin Drawing?" (3, Funny)

SomeJoel (1061138) | about 6 years ago | (#24199015)

Eleven years, actually (till 2019). It will take longer in practice, I'm sure, but you should check your figures before posting.

He wasn't quoting a figure, he was asking a question. But don't let that stop you from answering his question in a condescending and arrogant manner.

Re:"A Napkin Drawing?" (3, Insightful)

RockClimbingFool (692426) | about 6 years ago | (#24199199)

Well, considering the original post was written in a condescending and arrogant manner, I think the response fits just fine.

Re:"A Napkin Drawing?" (1, Offtopic)

SomeJoel (1061138) | about 6 years ago | (#24199373)

You're right, of course. There certainly appears to be an abundance of condescension and arrogance on slashdot.

Re:"A Napkin Drawing?" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24199825)

You must be new here...

Re:"A Napkin Drawing?" (4, Interesting)

MightyYar (622222) | about 6 years ago | (#24199067)

While I'm sure that it would cost less to have one vehicle instead of two, I disagree with their safety and "simpler" claim.

I'm no rocket scientist (though I am an engineer), but a simple look at the NASA plan shows that the crew vehicle is much simpler than this Jupiter plan. The Jupiter are looking to use 2 shuttle boosters and the center fuel tank with shuttle engines mounted on it to put a crew into space, while NASA is using only one booster and one engine for the 2nd stage.

Do I have this right? Seems to me that NASA's solution for the crew vehicle is simpler (and thus probably safer). Especially considering that there's never been a booster failure, has there? Though Challenger was arguably a booster failure, would it have been catastrophic without the center fuel tank explosion?

Re:"A Napkin Drawing?" (4, Insightful)

camperdave (969942) | about 6 years ago | (#24199461)

Though Challenger was arguably a booster failure, would it have been catastrophic without the center fuel tank explosion?

A better question would be: would a center fuel tank explosion cause a catastrophic loss of the crew module if the module were at the top of the stack, rather than at the side (especially if the crew module has abort rocket that can pull it away from the stack)?

Re:"A Napkin Drawing?" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24199495)

From what I read, the existing CEV design is to be re-used between the two projects, so the crew vehicle is as complex (or simple) between Jupiter and Ares.

As far as simplicity, I believe the argument is it's simpler to re-use our existing equipment and infrastructure, with minor modifications, than it is to completely re-tool. Re-use of the ground-based infrastructure, re-use of the existing booster technology, re-use, re-use, re-use. What's complex about that?

"Simplicity" shouldn't be seen with "pureness of design" glasses but overall project implementation complexity.

Re:"A Napkin Drawing?" (3, Funny)

Intron (870560) | about 6 years ago | (#24199655)

My design is much safer since no fuel is carried on board. It requires a long-barelled cannon packed with guncotton.

Simple, as in "leverages existing systems" (5, Informative)

OmniGeek (72743) | about 6 years ago | (#24199695)

I *am* a rocket scientist, BTW. I read the Jupiter concept doc a few months ago, and I find it reasonably persuasive. The thing that makes the Jupiter concept "simpler" is that it reuses existing designs (specifically, main engine systems and fuel tanks) that have already been fully developed and put into use, rather than designing new ones that employ untested techniques.

What makes a design safer isn't necessarily lowest component count; in the space business, proven designs count for a LOT in risk mitigation. Consider the Russian Proton rocket: not modern, not the most efficient, but a very reliable system that gets its job done at low cost (assuming that the recent Soyuz QA problems don't mean that their whole production infrastructure has gone rotten from lack of funds). Incremental changes are almost always faster, better, and cheaper than radical design departures (at least until the radical tech is fully worked out, which takes time).

Indeed, a big part of the argument here is that Ares junks an existing manufacturing infrastructure THAT WORKS, just like NASA did after the Apollo program. Jupiter, on the other hand, maintains the current Shuttle-related tech base and builds on it. Having a functional tech infrastructure to build on, with suppliers who've been designing and delivering product based on the same design for many years, is an immense advantage in terms of cost, lead time, and reliability. Folks who've made the same system dozens of times make fewer mistakes than those building something brand-new with no comparable predecessor product.

Re:"A Napkin Drawing?" (5, Informative)

everphilski (877346) | about 6 years ago | (#24199071)

Where is Ares? Oh, it's in AUTOCAD! Well, that makes ALL the difference!

Guess I'd beg to differ, having seen metal cut for Ares I-X. Just do a google image search and see for yourself.

And by the way, the Ares side of things is, to the best of my knowledge, on schedule to launch in 2009. If you have facts to differ, please let me know. The one thing that will probably delay them is the upcoming Hubble mission - until they vacate pad 39B, the appropriate pad modifications can't be made, so it's a day-for-day slip as the Hubble mission slips.

Re:"A Napkin Drawing?" (2, Insightful)

jandrese (485) | about 6 years ago | (#24199421)

2009? If that's true color me shocked. I though it would take much longer.

Re:"A Napkin Drawing?" (5, Informative)

notadoctor (1296593) | about 6 years ago | (#24199775)

The Ares I-X has no commonality with the actual Ares I. It will still use a four segment solid rocket motor from the space shuttle, instead of the five segment one (a $2 billion dollar development project) that the real Ares I will use, and will have a dummy fifth segment and dummy upperstage. The actual Ares I-Y (a closer test vehicle that uses the proper solid rocket motor) won't fly until 2013, and the real Ares I won't fly until 2015 at the earliest and can't fly earlier because the upper stage engine won't be ready until around that time. The flight next year is more of a political stunt by NASA to give the appearance of progress. It's like driving out a Ferrari, but the body is plastic, and there's a Ford engine and a one gear forward only transmission under the hood.

Re:"A Napkin Drawing?" (4, Interesting)

scuba_steve_1 (849912) | about 6 years ago | (#24199107)

Design phase means they have requirements. Most likely detailed requirements...with detailed interface specifications between thousands of systems. Design of a system like Ares is not just industrial engineering. There are most likely a myriad of electrical, computer, and software systems being designed in parallel. Most likely thousands of items in fact.

Of course, the real issue is most likely that people have a vested personal interest in the current direction...and perhaps congressional support for tasks being performed (or that will be performed) in their districts.

Of course, I am just guessing. I don't build rockets...but I do work on software systems that have 5-10 million LOC...and there is a heck of a lot of work that is performed before coding starts...so I wouldn't assume that they don't have much invested in Ares yet just because they are not yet building...unless they are performing extreme agile spiral rocket building. ;)

Of course, good ideas should not be dismissed...and given the size of this contingent, their proposal almost certainly warrants further investigation. Napkin drawing? Some of the most creative ideas in the world started in this fashion...and 57 engineers with a 100+ page white paper and a website is one hell of a napkin. Of course, it's almost certainly orders of magnitude less mature than the Ares design, but I think that the idea at least warrants a DAR.

What happened the last time that NASA ignored a bunch of their engineers? I think they had plenty of time to reconsider while they were picking up Shuttle parts all over the western US.

Re:"A Napkin Drawing?" (1)

Thelasko (1196535) | about 6 years ago | (#24199915)

If it's in AUTOCAD, then NASA needs to really get out of the 80's and into the 21st century. It's all NX5 [siemens.com] and CATIA [3ds.com] now a days.

Napkin Drawing (4, Funny)

jeffy210 (214759) | about 6 years ago | (#24198869)

The 131 page proposal

That's a hell of a lot of napkins...

Re:Napkin Drawing (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24199253)

Mod parent up more. If 57 NASA Engineers (best ones out there) say something, they likely are correct. Especially when this plan really seems saner with less risks (reusing old reliable parts) and seems more independent (not bigmoney.com'ish project). That plan was made by people who care, and contains well founded criticism towards Ares.

Re:Napkin Drawing (1)

devnullkac (223246) | about 6 years ago | (#24199589)

This is why we glorify the mental prowess of "rocket scientists". They consider a 131 page proposal with this level of detail to be the equivalent of a napkin drawing.

Frankly, Ares management is probably right, but that's not the reason this idea won't fly, as it were. The real reason, depending on your level of cynicism, is that either (a) it has arrived too late or (b) it doesn't justify enough spending.

Re:Napkin Drawing (4, Funny)

Tumbleweed (3706) | about 6 years ago | (#24199731)

>> The 131 page proposal

> That's a hell of a lot of napkins...

Hardly. That's like two visits to Taco Bell.

$35 Billion (3, Funny)

Illbay (700081) | about 6 years ago | (#24198873)

From the project website:

This change to NASA's 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.

$35 Billion in savings? How much is that in napkins?

Re:$35 Billion (1)

Creepy Crawler (680178) | about 6 years ago | (#24199009)

> $35 Billion in savings? How much is that in napkins?

It's governmental napkins. The study cost $34.9 billion and $.1 billion for Halliburton making them.

Re:$35 Billion (2, Funny)

yukk (638002) | about 6 years ago | (#24199251)

It's about 45 football fields of napkins stacked vertically.

Re:$35 Billion (2, Funny)

shawn(at)fsu (447153) | about 6 years ago | (#24199785)

I need this figure in LOC's or it's useless to me.

Does it come with a funky robot? (2, Funny)

ricebowl (999467) | about 6 years ago | (#24198903)

They are currently working on their own time developing an alternative launch system known as Jupiter

After reading the summary the only thing that went through my head was memories of Matt Le Blanc, and the urge to cry: "Danger, Will Robinson!"

I could probably do with a rest...

It is all of those things, but (1)

Iowan41 (1139959) | about 6 years ago | (#24198913)

it still uses solids for a human launch vehicle. That is a really stupid thing, which was known before Congress limited the Shuttle design, forcing the move to SRBs, and which caused the Challenger accident and loss of 7 crew.

Re:It is all of those things, but (1)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | about 6 years ago | (#24199113)

NEWS BULLETIN: Flying into space in any kind of rocket is dangerous. Sometimes, even practicing [wikipedia.org] is.

Re:It is all of those things, but (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24199301)

Flying into space in any kind of rocket is dangerous

True, but in your quest to belittle the original poster, you fail to address his (completely legitimate) concerns:

1.) SRBs can't easily be throttled

2.) SRBs can't be shut down in flight

Even had the Challenger crew known about the O-ring breach that was burning holes in the external tank, there'd have been exactly dick they could have done about it short of trying to blow the orbiter off the stack and hoping it remained controllable. Liquid fueled rockets are *much* safer once you're in the air, and "space flight is already dangerous" is not a good reason to avoid mitigation of risk whenever possible.

Re:It is all of those things, but (1)

notadoctor (1296593) | about 6 years ago | (#24199843)

The space shuttle also didn't have an escape system. The Orion capsule will. It is safer to use liquid fueled engines that can be shut down, but if the space shuttle had been designed in such a way that the astronauts could separate their vehicle from the rocket, the Challenger crew might still have survived, even with the solid boosters on the side.

Re:It is all of those things, but (1)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | about 6 years ago | (#24199879)

I reject your premise. 1) Liquid fueled rockets are only throttled for a softer liftoff than SRBs provide. Once you're clear of the tower, it's balls-out until you run out of fuel. 2) SRBs can't be shut down in flight, yes. And you would want to shut down a liquid fueled booster halfway to orbit exactly why? Challenger blew up only incidentally due to O-rings. The real cause was a middle manager screaming "What do you mean I can't ship on time???" - happens every day in factories all around the world. The notion that "Liquid fueled rockets are *much* safer once you're in the air" has no basis in fact. Your choices are a) go to orbit, b) abort & eject, or c) blow up and die. The fact is, SRBs are cheaper and MORE reliable (no moving parts) than liquid for first (and second) stage.

Re:It is all of those things, but (4, Insightful)

director_mr (1144369) | about 6 years ago | (#24199453)

Solid fuel launches with the shuttle seem fine from a safety standpoint. The one danger that did in a shuttle (falling Ice) came from the liquid oxygen tank, no the solid fuel. The other failure was of an O-ring connecting the booster to the liquid fuel tank. That failure was addressed.

The falling ice problem is addressed by putting the cargo above the boosters. The O-ring has already been addressed. So the new proposal seems even safer than the shuttle. I fail to see how solid fuel rockets are inherently more dangerous than liquid fuel ones.

Solid fuel rockets can't stop, and they have to be carefully made so there isn't any open pockets of no fuel or they explode. But if you carefully make them (Nasa has) and engineer the launch system to take into account the thing won't turn off (Nasa has), it is a great system. Liquid Fuel can be throttled or turned off, but requires a very complex (read point of failure possibility) pump system to work properly. That has its drawbacks as well. In summary Liquid Fuel and Solid Fuel have different strengths and weaknesses, and when the vehicle is engineered to handle them, it shouldn't exclude either from being used the human passengers.

Build Both (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24198921)

Why build one when you can build two for twice the price?

A bit disingenuous (2, Interesting)

amliebsch (724858) | about 6 years ago | (#24198943)

I scoffed a bit at their description of the excess payload capacity of the crew-launch configuration as "free." I mean, you still pay for that capacity in fuel and delivery. You're not getting something for nothing. The Ares CLV has far less capacity but it should be far less expensive as well. And I'm not entirely persuaded that the costs of operating two launch systems will be that much greater than one combined system. We currently launch a wide variety of rockets for different purposes without it being cost-prohibitive. On the other hand, the Ares CLV really seems to be cutting to the bone, to the point where they've cut land-based recovery. If your goal is efficiency, reducing your CLV capacity to the point that you can only ever do expensive seaborne recovery seems like a false savings.

Re:A bit disingenuous (1)

notadoctor (1296593) | about 6 years ago | (#24199863)

The per launch cost of the DIRECT launcher would be lower than that of the Ares I, so in comparison, it would be free payload.

I love it... (4, Funny)

camperdave (969942) | about 6 years ago | (#24198977)

You got to love it: By day, they are mild mannered engineers. By night, they are undercover rocket scientists who are building a rocket to go to the moon! It sounds like a pulp sci-fi story.

Engineers vs management (4, Insightful)

Fastfwd (44389) | about 6 years ago | (#24198985)

It's the old engineers vs management debate on who gets to make the decision. Seeing as both cost and speed are on the engineer's side I don't see why management would be against.

oh wait I know

Because it will make them look like they have been wasting time and money and they would rather waste even more money while looking like they are not.

Re:Engineers vs management (4, Insightful)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 6 years ago | (#24199317)

It was engineers who did the ground work for Ares - it's not like management created the booster out of thin air and in secrecy and isolation.
 
I often wonder how today's space fans would have reacted back in the 1960's - when the Saturn (V) initially ended up nearly a third larger than the Nova booster that was supposedly sufficient for a lunar landing mission... and then required a 20% performance increase on top of that in order to be barely able to conduct the mission.
 
Everything is cheap and fast and easy - on paper. When you start getting off the page and bending real metal, they usually turn out not be fast, cheap, or easy.

Re:Engineers vs management (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24199801)

Uh, no, actually that's exactly what happened. Griffin and Horowitz (the PHB's) came up with their Ares plan many years ago, did a 60 day "study" that came back with the recommendation to follow their plan, and ordered the MSFC engineers to build their designs, rather than the engineers' long standing plans to develop more conventional and cost-effective derivatives of the Shuttle (NLS/Magnum) or EELV.

Back in the '60s, the NASA PHB's were at least smart enough to see that John Houbolt had come up with a solution to fix their performance gap. Today, the PHB's are too busy doing political spin to promote their preferred solution and hide the 7mT performance shortfall, the 6 year spaceflight gap, and the $1.4 billion to $2 billion per launch total cost.

Thats one heckuva' job Mikey.

Re:Engineers vs management (1)

notadoctor (1296593) | about 6 years ago | (#24199931)

It's the management that actually chose the configuration. Most of the engineers are busting their brains trying to make the concept work, wondering why their managers didn't pick a more workable and affordable concept.

Bad name. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24198997)

Am I the only one who thinks naming rockets after planets totally unrelated to their mission is stupid? Not that naming them after planets they are going to would be better...

Maybe they could, you know, not name them after planets at all?

Danger, danger...Will Robinson! (1)

PortHaven (242123) | about 6 years ago | (#24199629)

Worked for "Lost In Space"

Re:Bad name. (1)

OldeTimeGeek (725417) | about 6 years ago | (#24200013)

Because they wanted to make a Jupiter 2?

bad use of the word "alternative" (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24199013)

"alternative" is a noun, not an adjective.

If not public, then...? (2, Interesting)

ultraexactzz (546422) | about 6 years ago | (#24199033)

If NASA is unwilling to consider Jupiter as an alternative to Ares, then would there be private corporations willing to invest in what appears to be a good heavy-lift flight system? You might even find Russia or the ESA willing to purchase flights, either to service the ISS in the pre-Ares years, or to service an ISS v2, if and when. Pie in the Sky, perhaps, but I'm finding this to be an intriquing proposal, and it'd be a shame if it didn't end up flying.

Why so little tech recycling currently? (1)

sokoban (142301) | about 6 years ago | (#24199035)

Can anyone explain why so little technology is recycled from current and previous generation spacecraft in designing the new generation craft.

It makes sense to use as much shuttle technology and durable facilities in constructing the next heavy lifting vehicle as the Jupiter people are proposing, so why wasn't that a goal from the start? The proven technology is well tested, and is well known by the folks who work on it, so why is there such a desire to change it?

Also, why are the scaled composites tier 1b and tier 2 vehicles not being considered for delivering crew to orbit, to the ISS, or to a separately launched craft for lunar expeditions?

Re:Why so little tech recycling currently? (1)

amliebsch (724858) | about 6 years ago | (#24199337)

One reason more shuttle components are re-used (like the main shuttle engine) is cost - the shuttle components were quite expensive. Another is different design requirements, e.g., a main shuttle engine designed to run on liquid fuel and be started at 1 atmosphere is inappropriate for a rocket whose liquid-fuel engines have to be started in space.

Re:Why so little tech recycling currently? (1)

nospam007 (722110) | about 6 years ago | (#24199499)

>Can anyone explain why so little technology is recycled from current and previous generation spacecraft in designing the new generation craft.

Shuttles and priors are 70ies tech, they can't read the tapes anymore.

Re:Why so little tech recycling currently? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24199507)

why are the scaled composites tier 1b and tier 2 vehicles not being considered

Because they are SUB-orbital craft. That means they can't actually orbit the Earth. Kinda useless for reaching ISS which is... in orbit.

o.O

What Scaled Composites is working toward is essentially unrelated to anything NASA might need. SpaceShipX exposure to space is measured in seconds.

Re:Why so little tech recycling currently? (5, Informative)

Burdell (228580) | about 6 years ago | (#24199535)

You should check the designs before you criticize them. Ares I uses an extended solid rocket booster (upgraded from the Shuttle) and a J-2X engine (upgraded from the Saturn V second and third stages). Ares V uses extended SRBs and RS-68 engines (from the Delta IV).

The Shuttle main engines (SSMEs) were considered instead of the J-2X and/or the RS-68, but the cost was too high. The SSME is a high performance engine, but it is an expensive engine. Also, one concern for using it for the Ares I is that the liquid engine is the second stage engine, which will be started in-flight and at high altitude. The SSME has never been tried like that (nor was it designed for that), while the J-2 was used that way in the Saturn.

As for Scaled Composites Tier 1b, it is a sub-orbital vehicle (good for nothing but tourists and hype). IIRC Tier 2 may be an orbital vehicle, but that is a long way off as well, since Scaled is working on Tier 1b (Ares is much further along in development).

marketing (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24199833)

20 years ago we had a shitload of cars that could do better than 40 mpg, now they say they can't do it without studies and mumbling hydrogen and saying maybe in 10 years or something and the price will be triple.

Re:Why so little tech recycling currently? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24199873)

Several factors:
1) Lack of documentation or suppliers. No drawings exist for, e.g., Saturn V. Mfrs of various parts are long out of business.
2) Technology has advanced. Shuttle was designed in the 60s and 70s. Materials, etc., have improved a lot in the last 30 years. Manufacturing technology has certainly improved (CNC, etc.)
3) Shuttle engines are probably one of the highest performance, most efficient rocket engines ever made. They are incredibly expensive to make and maintain. Maybe a bit less performance and simpler designs might be a better "systems engineering" choice? Think race tuned Ferrari engine vs cast iron Chevy small block V8.

IIRC Scaled Composites vehicles don't have the mass to orbit capability needed. Take a look at SpaceX's Dragon for a more practical alternative.

LOL... Shuttle Workers Want to Keep Jobs (1)

tjstork (137384) | about 6 years ago | (#24199041)

Read about the argument for this chumpy:

# Delete all risks associated with a second new launch vehicle
# Delete all costs associated with a second new launch vehicle
# Optimum use of the existing NASA & contractor experience
# Enable multiple upgrade paths

Basically, "hey, we're NASA, we're too stupid to design a new rocket, and let's just use the shuttle that, um, we already have."

I thought the whole point of Constellation was that the shuttle sucks. If the engineers had gotten the shuttle off the ground correctly to begin with, we wouldn't be having this conversation now, would we?

Never underestimate a motivated engineer (5, Interesting)

schwit1 (797399) | about 6 years ago | (#24199055)

A handful of engineers and a stenographer cooped up in a hotel room over a weekend, designed and developed the B52 [boeing.com] . And its still going strong 50 years later.

After all, it not rocket surgery.

Re:Never underestimate a motivated engineer (3, Funny)

mazarin5 (309432) | about 6 years ago | (#24199607)

After all, it not rocket surgery.

So easy, even a caveman could do it?

The moon and beyond... (1)

xpuppykickerx (1290760) | about 6 years ago | (#24199091)

The only reason to go to the Moon is to construct a base to launch further into space. Do we honestly need more rock?

The reason for the Moon base is so these giant rockets don't use all there fuel just escaping Earth's atmosphere and gravity. Launching from the Moon would reduce the fuel use and make us that much closer to Mars and such. But I guess they need to agree on a shuttle first.

Re:The moon and beyond... (2, Insightful)

mudetroit (855132) | about 6 years ago | (#24199835)

The concept of using the Moon as a launching pad to go further into space is almost completely broken from the start. What fuel source for launching rockets is present on the moon to take advantage of? None really, so it becomes an excercise of launching from earth, using more fuel to slow it down and land it on the moon, and then yet more fuel to have it take off again.

Explain why this is a good plan again?

Re:The moon and beyond... (1)

initdeep (1073290) | about 6 years ago | (#24200037)

except of course the thought that the surface of the moon (and mars too) could actually be used to create the required fuel.

of course this is conjecture and not definitive yet.

but it would allow for less fuel if possible.

Re:The moon and beyond... (1)

camperdave (969942) | about 6 years ago | (#24199847)

The reason for the Moon base is so these giant rockets don't use all there fuel just escaping Earth's atmosphere and gravity. Launching from the Moon would reduce the fuel use and make us that much closer to Mars and such. But I guess they need to agree on a shuttle first.

That makes absolutely no sense. Where are you going to get fuel on the Moon? There is none there. You'd have to bring it all from Earth. So why bring stuff up from Earth, and then down to the Moon, only to have to bring it up from the Moon, to go down to Mars, when you could just bring it up from Earth and then go down to Mars. Earth orbit is the cheapest place to launch from. Going to the Moon puts you farther away from Mars.

Re:The moon and beyond... (1)

xpuppykickerx (1290760) | about 6 years ago | (#24199963)

way more than two jedi and sith btw.

Moon not only goal (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24199117)

Relative to the Ares I and V system, the proposed alternative "Jupiter" lacks the small lifter. Every launch, therefore, is a costly heavy lift.

I suppose that's an improvement if your only goal is the Moon. NASA, however, has other obligations. They need a small, cheap lifter to crew and service ISS and perform other LEO only missions.

So, yeah, you chop out half the program and save billions...

Doesn't matter in the end. Obama will gut Ares; Ares I will be built for ISS use and Ares V will never get beyond drawings.

There are other small lifters. (1)

argent (18001) | about 6 years ago | (#24199703)

But there are other small lifters, if launching something the size of the shuttle is wasteful. Some aren't even Russian!

Of course launching something the size of the shuttle is the only current option, isn't it?

We Already Have a Moon Rocket (1)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | about 6 years ago | (#24199127)

We already have a man-rated safe moon rocket. It's called Saturn V.

Re:We Already Have a Moon Rocket (3, Informative)

Nimey (114278) | about 6 years ago | (#24199225)

No, actually we don't. The tooling's been long-since destroyed, and there are no blueprints for many of the parts because they were farmed out to contractors, let alone information on things like what precise alloys to use for said parts, and other methods of manufacture.

There are a couple Saturn Vs left, yes, but they were left out to the elements for many years and may have been scavenged for parts.

Re:We Already Have a Moon Rocket (1)

Amouth (879122) | about 6 years ago | (#24199669)

i higly doubt that that is the case - i have seen alot of the work that was done on the Saturn V - there is no doubt in my mind that if they wanted to build another they would know exactly what to make and how to make it and how to put it together.

Re:We Already Have a Moon Rocket (5, Informative)

willith (218835) | about 6 years ago | (#24199919)

No, actually we don't. The tooling's been long-since destroyed, and there are no blueprints for many of the parts because they were farmed out to contractors, let alone information on things like what precise alloys to use for said parts, and other methods of manufacture.

You are wrong. The blueprints for everything, down to the last nut and bolt, are on file at MSFC. Source. [space.com]

There are a couple Saturn Vs left, yes, but they were left out to the elements for many years and may have been scavenged for parts.

You are wrong. There are three, but none of them is "one" rocket. The one at the Johnson space center, made up of three flight-rated stages from different rockets, was left out for 20+ years but has been restored to pristine (though obviously not flight-worthy) condition. The one at MSFC is all static test stages and has been similarly restored. The one at KSC is two flight stages and one test stage, and has been kept in perfect (but again, obviously not flight-worthy) condition since the day it was rolled in. NONE of the rockets were ever "scavenged" for parts--they're all property of the Smithsonian and are maintained in trust as artifacts by NASA.

Recreating a Saturn V isn't impossible because we don't have the plans--it's impossible because the blueprints call for standard parts and items that don't exist any more (like a left-handed widget with widget gauge #12, which was used by, say, Boeing in 1960, but not any more).

Re:We Already Have a Moon Rocket (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24199313)

We already have a man-rated safe moon rocket. It's called Saturn V.

Actually no. Many of the original design files were lost. Engineers are disassembling and analyzing the Saturn V in order to rebuild them.

How something was designed is not as important as why it was designed that way.

Re:We Already Have a Moon Rocket (1)

johnny cashed (590023) | about 6 years ago | (#24199323)

Not only that, but we used to have one example of flight rated Saturn V hardware. Of course, it had been stored outdoors for several decades, so I don't think it would be flight rated anymore. There are a few other bits and pieces of other Saturn V hardware around, but not all of it was flight rated.

Re:We Already Have a Moon Rocket (1)

Extremus (1043274) | about 6 years ago | (#24199325)

I don't know if it could be rated as SAFE. In fact, all this man-to-the-moon adventure some times sounds to me as a cheese version of that cake lie [wikipedia.org] .

Well, when the Jupiter 2 is built. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24199135)

They need to be careful that it doesn't get lost in space.

Hope this project isn't lost. (1)

Bocaj (84920) | about 6 years ago | (#24199177)

Some of our best innovations come from engineers that are driven to do something different. It usually doesn't come from a corporate cog. I just hope this Jupiter isn't lost in the space between NASA directors ears.

NASA will crash this into the moon (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24199207)

It will probably crash into the moon. Notice the units in the presentation are a mix of english (pounds per square foot) and metric (kilograms). Last time they did this they crashed a probe into Mars.

Why not make it a real alternative (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24199249)

... and stick NERVA or DUMBO on it? Let's get rid of the excessive propellant to cargo ratios.

This &is goatLsex (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24199259)

in time. For all community at is the worst off perform keeping Let's keep to worthwhile. So I minutes. At home, real problems that may do, may not 8uch as Windows are looking very we need to address that should be happen. 'At least Grandstanders, the You all is to let it was fun. If I'm can connect to DOG THAT IT IS. IT code.' Don't United States of was in the tea I BSD sux0rs. What to deliver what, are a few good Is the group that OF AMERICA) today,

There is benefits from this even if never used (1)

director_mr (1144369) | about 6 years ago | (#24199319)

The beauty of this proposal is that even if it is never used, it will pressure the ares developers to do even better. Competing designs tend to improve end products.

Delta IV (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24199379)

I don't understand why they don't upgrade an existing and proven system like Delta IV for a crew launch vehicle... why design a new launcher at all?

It is a better system than Aries (1, Redundant)

caseih (160668) | about 6 years ago | (#24199429)

If you look at the overviews of their ideas, you can tell right away that this launch system would have several advantages over Aries. It does not require a modification of the boosters, which is one of the more significant design challenges that Aries, especially the crew lift system, is facing. Additionally they don't call for a significantly different vehicle to lift the crew. While they do propose a few different systems for lifting cargo vs lifting cargo and people, the base vehicle engineering is the same, unlike the Aries system. In short, it really looks like this Jupiter system is more flexible, maybe cheaper, and certainly easier than Aries is turning out to be. I also think that Jupiter could be built, tested, and launched quicker than Aries.

This group's ideas are not new though, they proposed them a few years back, but NASA seemed to be set on Aries from almost the very start for some odd reason.

Re:It is a better system than Aries (1)

99luftballon (838486) | about 6 years ago | (#24199501)

Agreed, the basic principles look sound and it reuses working technology rather than the Ares probe, which seems to be about reinventing the Saturn system 50 years down the line. But I fear Nasa bureaucracy will chew this idea and spit it out, because it isn't Ares and look, they have all these lovely pictures of how it might work, ten or so years down the line. Besides, engineers never have good idea, that's for officials to do.

One more.... (5, Insightful)

mlwmohawk (801821) | about 6 years ago | (#24199603)

After getting most prized "first post" position, I have one more...

I would trust a set of napkin drawings from dedicated engineers more than I'd trust a polished proposal from a committee of military contractors and NASA administrators.

Think of it this way, the latter said the O rings were safe, the former tried to warn everyone of the danger.

PDF's and .MOV's don't help with the presentation (-1, Troll)

ClarisseMcClellan (1286192) | about 6 years ago | (#24199635)

Drat. The proposal is in Pointless Document Format (PDF) and the animations are in penguin unfriendly 'Apple' format. What's wrong with HTML and uploading to Youtube?
Niggles aside, the FREE simulator sounds cool: http://www.launchcomplexmodels.com/Direct/orbiter.htm [launchcomplexmodels.com] Must give that a go when I fire up Windows...
One idea that is missing from the proposal is a living module filled with fuel, to be abandoned somewhere in space, once the fuel/oxidiser has been used. This could be a way to build a space-hotel with extra rooms getting sent up with every launch.

I don't get it... (1)

coolmoose25 (1057210) | about 6 years ago | (#24199665)

Basically as I understand it, this Jupiter thing is essentially the same rocket as the Ares V... Both would be heavy lift boosters in the Saturn V/Energia class... So while NASA wants to build an additional simplified Ares 1 that only lifts the crew module, the Jupiter people want to essentially put the crew module on top of the EDS and put it up in one shot - ala Saturn V... But what is so different from Ares V and Jupiter? They both seem to use both SRB and Liquid rockets... Basically it seems that they are against Ares 1 - for whatever reason, they don't like having the CEV on top of a modified SRB... But lets face it, the SRB's have essentially been flawless... (Okay, I'll get modded down and pounced on by the "Don't you know that the SRB caused the Challenger to explode!" crowd. But if you think about that failure, the SRB was only the match. It cooked off the liquid propellent tank after gasses escaped through the o-ring... but Ares 1 won't have anything hooked up to its side... an o-ring leak would not be catastrophic... the cause of Challenger's problem was having an SRB NEXT TO the liquid propellent external tank... Isn't that what both Jupiter and Ares V are set up for? And if so, do you want the PEOPLE riding on that, or just the machine to take them to the moon???)

Outsource it to Burt Ratan, Problem Solved. (1)

deweycheetham (1124655) | about 6 years ago | (#24199699)

Why don't they just outsource it to Burt Rutan and get out of his way. I don't trust NASA to manage its back to the moon. Their track record hasn't been that good as of the last 20 years.

You know who else... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24199723)

...wrote his project for humanity on a napkin?

Jupiter plan? (0)

192939495969798999 (58312) | about 6 years ago | (#24199839)

I had a Jupiter plan for putting stuff in space on a napkin too, but mine was just throwing a rope out around the planet Jupiter, and using it as a pulley to hoist the stuff into space.

I'm holding out for the first remodel . . . (1)

indytx (825419) | about 6 years ago | (#24199857)

The Jupiter 2.

Alternatives (1)

Kamineko (851857) | about 6 years ago | (#24199945)

Is this alternative moon rocket going to aimed at an alternative moon [wikipedia.org] ?

Not going to happen (3, Insightful)

Animats (122034) | about 6 years ago | (#24199949)

The US can't afford a manned space program any more. The Iraq war has cost $3 trillion, we're headed into a recession, and it's going to take years to unwind the housing bubble. The next administration is going to have to focus on digging out of the hole left by the Bush administration.

And, face it, sending a few more people to the Moon on chemical rockets doesn't really get us anywhere. Been there, done that, know what the Lunar surface is like.

If fusion power ever works, space is worth revisiting, but with chemical rockets, we hit the limits a long time ago.

The REAL problem is: Jupiter is cheaper (1)

sehlat (180760) | about 6 years ago | (#24199973)

Which means less pork to ladle out in key congressional districts, and a smaller effort required, which means NASA bureaucrats can't hike their status using Parkinson's Law.

The question is... (1)

Thelasko (1196535) | about 6 years ago | (#24200009)

why doesn't the NASA management support this plan?

All TFA says is:

"It's not feasible. We said, 'It doesn't work' and moved on,'" Cook said.

I also want to know if the skid they plan to use to maintain Hubble is reusable, or does it burn up on reentry?

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