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ESA Unveils Re-Entry Module

CmdrTaco posted more than 5 years ago | from the isn't-that-exciting dept.

Space 101

bmcage writes "The ESA unveiled the Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle, a real re-entry vehicle. Although it will not be reused, it has a better geometry than NASA's Orion or the Russian Soyuz, giving better lift, and control. This is not done by the addition of useless wings, but by using two brakes. Finally a departure from the Apollo design that is actually better?"

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101 comments

Cheaper Model? (1)

mfh (56) | more than 5 years ago | (#25640153)

How much for the one you can use more than once? I would rather not have to float home, after making my first trip to hyperspace. Is there a DIY guide available? :P

Re:Cheaper Model? (1)

Narishma (822073) | more than 5 years ago | (#25645699)

This is an unmanned vehicle designed to test new technologies that would be used on a future larger vehicle. It doesn't even have any cargo.

Too little, too late (1)

ShadowWraith (1322747) | more than 5 years ago | (#25640343)

They're planning on launching this in 2012, and it's just a test. What with delays, bureaucracy and imminent lack of funding due to the world economy, you can't expect Europe to get actual people into space until at best 2018, at which point American private companies, Russia, and China will be headed for the moon, if not already there. The Orion program seems much the same to me.

Re:Too little, too late (2, Interesting)

vally_manea (911530) | more than 5 years ago | (#25641281)

You're somehow assuming that bureaucracy and lack of imminent funding won't affect Rusia, China and American private companies...As far as I understood it Russia's space program is severely under-funded and China's most optimist schedule is man in space in 2012 so maybe it's not that bad.

Re:Too little, too late (3, Informative)

TorKlingberg (599697) | more than 5 years ago | (#25643789)

China has launched men into space since 2003 (again in 2005 and September this year). ESA's plans for it's own manned space launches are little more than concepts at this time and would require much more funding from the European governments unless they want to cut all the robotic missions. ESA does have it's own astronauts who ride on American or Russian launchers, and ESA built and owns parts of the ISS.

IXV that this article is about is a small testing platform, not a manned spacecraft.

Re:Too little, too late (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25644299)

I must disagree. The ESA programme is designed to improve spaceflight in small steps. They try to be very cost effective. And this path has brought them the biggest market share in space cargo delivery (in form of Ariane Space).

ESA has also a Mars programme called Aurora, which includes the delivery and return of humans. But before going there, technologies have to developed which can transport objects into space and safely return them. And because the Europeans do not think they are participators in a race, they just do one step after the other. A little less ego and a little bit more engineering.

And the thing with the funding is already fixed. ESA already has the money to do this test flight.

The launcher Vega is there coming up cheap delivery system for smaller payloads. So it is quite logic to use it for the test instead of developing a special rocket just for this technology demonstrator.

Furthermore the Ariane 5 is already designed to transport reentry vehicles (have a look at the Hermes project). However the European reentry vehicle Hermes was never build because it was too expensive and would have eaten up all funding for ESA. While ESA and the national space agencies in Europe have in total only half of the funding of NASA, they couldn't afford such expensive technology. SO they are looking for a cheap and reliable transportation device.

And from my point of view, I don't care if they get to the moon 1 or 20 year after the Chinese as long as they get there.

Looks like a penguin (4, Funny)

VincenzoRomano (881055) | more than 5 years ago | (#25640379)

Also penguins rely on better geometry and not on useless wings!

Re:Looks like a penguin (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25641315)

Yeah, but does a penguin run Linux?

Re:Looks like a penguin (2, Funny)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#25641685)

Yeah, they rely on their small size, highly efficient shape and and their high resistance to viruses and other foreign invaders. That and funding from billionaires in South Africa.

Re:Looks like a penguin (3, Funny)

ozamosi (615254) | more than 5 years ago | (#25643583)

So, it's like Yet Another Tuxracer fork, but in space?

ultimate symbol of our throw away culture (1)

jabjoe (1042100) | more than 5 years ago | (#25640433)

Depresses me seeing all the big bits fall away. Fingers crossed for the descendants of SpaceShipOne to replace this throw away tech....

Re:ultimate symbol of our throw away culture (3, Insightful)

pushing-robot (1037830) | more than 5 years ago | (#25644377)

SpaceShipOne and SpaceShipTwo were purely sub-orbital; they were glorified rocket planes that didn't carry anywhere near the fuel necessary to reach orbital velocity. SpaceShipThree, on the other hand, will reach orbit, but it will almost certainly be a multi-stage craft.

And while discarding empty fuel tanks may be wasteful, it would be far more wasteful to expend the enormous amount of fuel required to carry the entire craft to orbit.

Until we find a better means of propulsion than rocket fuel, multi-stage craft are the most resource-efficient means of attaining orbit.

Re:ultimate symbol of our throw away culture (1)

Nyeerrmm (940927) | more than 5 years ago | (#25647301)

Its not even more wasteful to do a single-stage to orbit vehicle, with current specific-impulse propellants, around 450s for the SSME, its basically impossible.

Re:ultimate symbol of our throw away culture (1)

ozbird (127571) | more than 5 years ago | (#25647385)

SpaceShipOne and SpaceShipTwo were purely sub-orbital ...

Was? AFAIK, SpaceShipTwo hasn't even flown yet.

Re:ultimate symbol of our throw away culture (1)

pushing-robot (1037830) | more than 5 years ago | (#25648755)

Oops, yeah, I meant to say "are".

Maybe after I heard the SS2 won't be pushing the envelope any further than the SS1 I subconsciously started considering it old news.

Re:ultimate symbol of our throw away culture (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25649357)

SpaceShipThree, on the other hand, will reach orbit, but it will almost certainly be a multi-stage craft.

Realistically, SpaceshipOne/Two are both multistage, but both stages are fully reusable.

However, what I really wanted to point out is that there is no SpaceShipThree at the present time. There have been no parts built, no designs produced, and no definite plans revealed. SpaceShipThree only exists as a hypothetical next step if SpaceShipTwo is successful enough, and nothing has been said about it for the last three years. If Virgin or The Spaceship Company does commit to a SpaceShipThree, the much more extreme performance requirements will result in something completely different than either one or two.

To tie this into the GP's comment, there is no feasible technological path from SpaceShipOne to an orbital vehicle.

Re:ultimate symbol of our throw away culture (1)

rbanffy (584143) | more than 5 years ago | (#25649563)

"Until we find a better means of propulsion than rocket fuel, multi-stage craft are the most resource-efficient means of attaining orbit."

Like, say, nuclear-thermal?

FYI (4, Funny)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 5 years ago | (#25640495)

> it has a better geometry than NASA's Orion or the Russian Soyuz, giving better lift, and control. This is not done by the addition of useless wings, but by using two brakes.

In case you're interested: The brakes are controlled separately. One applies to the front directing cilindrical sustainer, the other to the rear main power.

The optimal braking is then executed applying the force in a 3/7 proportion, to avoid unnecessary drifting.

Further investigations are studying the possibility of changing the current power source. So the astronauts don't get so tired.

Re:FYI (1)

Agronomist Cowherd (948449) | more than 5 years ago | (#25641197)

To the moderators (currently +4 Interesting): Whoosh!

If I had mod points today I'd give this what it deserves. :-)

Re:FYI (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25642891)

Because +funny does not grant karma, we give a +interesting to worthy comments to increase karma then switch it to +funny.

The Mod Squad

Re:FYI (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25643963)

Nah, it's mostly just because modding a funny post as informative often adds to the joke.

With apologies to Bugs Bunny... (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25640501)

They must be air brakes.

It's a lifting body (5, Informative)

phayes (202222) | more than 5 years ago | (#25640695)

Bmcage needs to look into what lifting bodies are -- they do not need wings.

Wings were added to the shuttle to respond to the the USAF's crossrange requirements & some of the early shuttle plans looked a lot like this.

Re:It's a lifting body (4, Informative)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 5 years ago | (#25641499)

Pretty much. And frankly wings are not that heavy. The shuttle didn't just have a very large crossrange requirement but also a huge bring back capability.
The Shuttle is capable of bringing the Hubble back to be worked on if needed. In fact the plan was for the Shuttle to bring back the Hubble so it could sit in a museum when it's life is over.
It is a capability that has never really been used except for the SpaceLab flights.
Frankly the Shuttle was an attempt to jump from the Wright Flyer to a 707. We really needed to build a Ford Trimotor and a DC-3 first.

Re:It's a lifting body (3, Interesting)

confused one (671304) | more than 5 years ago | (#25641855)

Frankly the Shuttle was an attempt to jump from the Wright Flyer to a 707. We really needed to build a Ford Trimotor and a DC-3 first.

apt summary. Now that we have the Shuttle experience, however, can we skip the Trimotor and go for the DC-3. They were pretty damn reliable and some are still in use today...

Re:It's a lifting body (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 5 years ago | (#25642177)

There is still a few tri-motors flying. But I fear we are going farther back then a DC-3 to be honest.

Re:It's a lifting body (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25642365)

[Shuttle bring back] is a capability that has never really been used except for the SpaceLab flights.

Also, there was the Long Duration Exposure Facility. [wikipedia.org] It taught us a lot of what we know about how materials react to the space environment.

Regardless of what I think of the shuttle, LDEF was Good Science.

Re:It's a lifting body (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 5 years ago | (#25648499)

[Shuttle cargo return] is a capability that has never really been used except for the SpaceLab flights.

There was also the Long Delay Exposure Facility [wikipedia.org] . They've also returned the work platforms, fixtures, and special tools used for Hubble repair. They've also returned the the Spacehab cargo containers (pressurized and unpressurized) used for delivering cargo to the ISS. They've also returned the MPLM [wikipedia.org] s used for cargo delivery to the ISS - the only system capable of delivering full sized equipment racks. The SRTM [wikipedia.org] flown on STS-99 was built by modifying the SIR-C [nasa.gov] hardware which flew on both STS-59 [wikipedia.org] and on STS-68 [wikipedia.org]

Re:It's a lifting body (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 5 years ago | (#25652215)

But did any of them weigh close to the bring back limit? I don't think so.

Re:It's a lifting body (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 5 years ago | (#25656893)

Ah yes, when proven wrong introduce a new (and pointless) criteria ex post facto. Just like on the playground in 5th grade.

Re:It's a lifting body (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 5 years ago | (#25661367)

Not exactly. I probably should have made the statment clearer. The shuttle has an excessive bring back capability that is hardly ever needed.
Every space craft has some bring back capability. The shuttle's is HUGE and as I said hardly ever used to it's maximum.
The shuttle could have been lighter if the it had a reduced bring back capability.
Of course you do loose another capability and that is a safe abort that saves the vehicle.
If the shuttle couldn't land with a full load then if an abort happened the crew would have to bail out and loose the ship.
Of course we have never had an abort yet.

Re:It's a lifting body (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 5 years ago | (#25662177)

The shuttle could have been lighter if the it had a reduced bring back capability. Of course you do loose another capability and that is a safe abort that saves the vehicle.

If you reduce bring back capacity you also reduce lift capacity, the two are directly related.
 

Of course we have never had an abort yet.

Wrong again, STS-51F executed an ATO. STS-93 came close to requiring an ATO.

Re:It's a lifting body (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 5 years ago | (#25662257)

"If you reduce bring back capacity you also reduce lift capacity, the two are directly related."
No they are not. The bring back is limited by the lift of the wings and the strength of the landing gear.
Lift is limited by thrust.
A prime example is many airliners can take off with a lot more weight than they can land with.
And man you are nit picking.
I was speaking of an abort to Kennedy. Which would be very clear since a mentioned that you would still be overweight to land. In an ATO you could dump your cargo and make a normal landing.

Re:It's a lifting body (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 5 years ago | (#25663483)

"If you reduce bring back capacity you also reduce lift capacity, the two are directly related."
No they are not. The bring back is limited by the lift of the wings and the strength of the landing gear.

Ah yes, the strength of the rest of the structure has no bearing.
 
 

Lift is limited by thrust. A prime example is many airliners can take off with a lot more weight than they can land with.

Rockets aren't airliners. Lift is equivalent to thrust, lift capacity is constrained by numerous factors - of which thrust is only one.
 
 

And man you are nit picking. I was speaking of an abort to Kennedy. I was speaking of an abort to Kennedy. Which would be very clear since a mentioned that you would still be overweight to land.

No I'm not being nit picky, I'm using the proper terminology rather than handwaving and using vague generalities. Details matter.

Re:It's a lifting body (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 5 years ago | (#25663825)

"Rockets aren't airliners. Lift is equivalent to thrust, lift capacity is constrained by numerous factors - of which thrust is only one."
None of which have a lot to do with an aero dynamic bring back.
The shuttle isn't just a rocket. It is a rocket and a glider combined.
The shuttle's bring back is limited by the strength of the landing gear and the structure that supports it. Like the wing spars.
It is also limited by the wing loading since that has an impact on the landing speed and landing stresses.
So no in this case your incorrect decreasing the shuttles bring back doesn't have to decrease it's lift capacity.

If they had reduced the shuttle's bring back they could have saved weight on the landing gear and the wing structure.
It would have only had a positive effect on the shuttle's cargo capacity since the resulting shuttle would be lighter.
In fact with a smaller cross range requirement and a lower bring back requirement the shuttle could have easily been a lifting body.

Re:It's a lifting body (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25661931)

well, you know, that is because this is a discussion, not a paper exchange.

Re:It's a lifting body (2, Funny)

bickerdyke (670000) | more than 5 years ago | (#25643261)

Bmcage needs to look into what lifting bodies are

Those things that almost killed Steve Austin?

Re:It's a lifting body (1)

CDS (143158) | more than 5 years ago | (#25648905)

Aah but he came out ahead on that one... A new man - nay, A rebuilt man. Better, stronger, faster.

Re:It's a lifting body (1)

rbanffy (584143) | more than 5 years ago | (#25649639)

He got fixed, after all. And at a bargain price.

Re:It's a lifting body (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 5 years ago | (#25644455)

Wings were added to the shuttle to respond to the the USAF's crossrange requirements & some of the early shuttle plans looked a lot like this.

By the time the USAF came aboard, the lifting body shuttle had been long abandoned (and had only briefly been considered in the first place) and wings to provide crossrange were already a key feature of the design. What meeting the USAF requirements entailed was to modify the planform, more of a major adjustment than a radical redesign.
 
bmcage also needs to learn the difference between flaps and brakes.

Re:It's a lifting body (1)

J05H (5625) | more than 5 years ago | (#25654237)

Is the IRV somewhat derived from AMRV and the DC-Y design?

It seems very smart to be focusing on next-generation reentry design and engineering instead of reusability. Interesting viewgraph for now - but ESA did successfully test the ARD inflatable.

Re:It's a lifting body (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 5 years ago | (#25656927)

I can't speak to the AMRV, but the DC-Y was intended to enter nose first.

The only ESA ARD [eads.net] with which I am familiar was not inflatable.

Thoughts (2, Informative)

Thelasko (1196535) | more than 5 years ago | (#25640725)

I know it's an experimental craft, but there doesn't seem to be much room left over for a crew. It looks like the parachutes take up one third of the vehicle.

It kinda reminds me of a cross between an X-37 [wikipedia.org] and an X-38. [wikipedia.org] Mostly the X-38.

It doesn't seem to have enough control surfaces or reaction control devices.

Re:Thoughts (4, Informative)

necro81 (917438) | more than 5 years ago | (#25641019)

Mostly it is a testbed of the design and aeronautical controls. Looking at the movie's many exploded and shaded CAD views (nice touch, guys), it appears to have no cargo space whatsoever. It doesn't look to me like that's what they have in mind - they just want to show that the flight fundamentals of the design are sound. They can work on building a larger one for cargo and/or humans if they manage this first significant milestone.

Re:Thoughts (2, Interesting)

prgrmr (568806) | more than 5 years ago | (#25641539)

There also doesn't appear to be any redundancy, which has long been a design contention in the US and Russian schools of thoughts. I don't know where the ESA is, philosophically, on this issue. But, the absense of thrusters in the nose leaves few options if the brakes fail or are damaged.

Re:Thoughts (4, Interesting)

YA_Python_dev (885173) | more than 5 years ago | (#25645003)

There also doesn't appear to be any redundancy, which has long been a design contention in the US and Russian schools of thoughts. I don't know where the ESA is, philosophically, on this issue.

This is easy: ESA has designed and is building and flying the most redundant and fault-tolerant unmanned spacecraft ever seen on this small planet: the ATV [esa.int] .

In an extreme case these things are able of successfully completing their missions with half of the solar panels and fuel tanks and 2/3 of everything else (including computers, antennas, sensors, fuel lines, thrusters, actuators, electrical lines, etc...) completely damaged. Of course this is theoretical, since they would abort the mission in these circumstances, to keep the ISS safe. But still as demonstrated by the first ATV, the Jules Verne, they can successfully complete a mission with any single failure in any subsystem except the main fuel tanks.

But, the absense of thrusters in the nose leaves few options if the brakes fail or are damaged.

Hmm... I'm not a rocket scientist, but you seem to know even less than me about this. Anyway this is only a technology demonstrator and one-time test.

Re:Thoughts (1)

Lars T. (470328) | more than 5 years ago | (#25645181)

There also doesn't appear to be any redundancy, which has long been a design contention in the US and Russian schools of thoughts. I don't know where the ESA is, philosophically, on this issue. But, the absense of thrusters in the nose leaves few options if the brakes fail or are damaged.

ESA's philosophy is: don't add redundancy for pretty much the only thing your going to test.

Re:Thoughts (1)

rbanffy (584143) | more than 5 years ago | (#25649717)

If a shuttle loses a wing, it's pretty much doomed already.

And ESA can think of redundancy on human-rated vehicles. There's still a lot of time until those things get people inside.

Re:Thoughts (1)

Thelasko (1196535) | more than 5 years ago | (#25641961)

They can work on building a larger one for cargo and/or humans if they manage this first significant milestone.

When they scale the vehicle up, how will the systems scale up with it? Will they simply be left with a larger vehicle that also has no cargo space?

Re:Thoughts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25646243)

When they scale the vehicle up, how will the systems scale up with it? Will they simply be left with a larger vehicle that also has no cargo space?

They probably would not design their _experimental vehicle_ in a way that couldn't scale up to the projected size of their design target for the parameters they are interested in... but then, i'm an engineer, not a rocket scientist.

Did they actually publish in a more sober way what they want to target with this vehicle, or is it all this glitzy P.R. stuff?

Re:Thoughts (1)

TorKlingberg (599697) | more than 5 years ago | (#25641385)

It is launched with the small Vega rocket so IXV is probably too small for humans anyway.

Re:Thoughts (2, Informative)

confused one (671304) | more than 5 years ago | (#25641447)

It appears to be a scaled down test bed. The "full size" manned version will undoubtedly be much larger.

It's SMALL [Re:Thoughts] (1)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | more than 5 years ago | (#25648865)

Cute! It's really a nice looking experiment.

However, note that it's launched on a Vega. That's the new small European vehicle. The thing is tiny.

It's a test article, that's all.

Overall, it looks a lot like a revised and updated version of the cancelled Hermes [wikipedia.org] spaceplane. The Hermes wings are deleted, and a parachute substituted for the final descent.

Finally? (2, Insightful)

Smilodon (66992) | more than 5 years ago | (#25640963)

"A REAL re-entry vehicle" (that exists only on paper)? "Finally?" "Useless wings?"

Good grief, who writes this stuff anymore? I'm sure ESA's ideas are interesting and innovative, but making this out to be the savior of the manned space program is a bit facetious to say the least.

Is it not essentially a lifting body (in spite of some new ideas)? NASA pioneered this concept, which was intended to be applied to reentry vehicles at some point. The concept was most recently expressed in the X38B crew return vehicle.

Admittedly, the X38 was canceled, but due to budgetary reasons, not because it was a bad idea. And this program was well along (with real flight hardware) when canceled.

Re:Finally? (1)

bmcage (785177) | more than 5 years ago | (#25651239)

It's called 'Writing an abstract that can be accepted by the editors.' You should try it too. Anyway, sorry, I know it's sensationalism, but this is a good thread, and that's why we are here, no?

ESA? (1)

Hemogoblin (982564) | more than 5 years ago | (#25641075)

Re-entry vehicle? Getting a little far away from our core competencies are we, the ESA? Oh... we're not talking about videogames. [theesa.com]

was that supposed to be music? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25641263)

Interesting video, but what was up with the music? It sounded like some highschooler makinh MIDI music found the crossfade command...

Trollish Summary (1)

Sheik Yerbouti (96423) | more than 5 years ago | (#25641305)

Since when have wings become useless? Also looks to me like it is based very much on the Apollo program in terms of technology. Vertical lift multistage chemical rocket. Small capsule on top etc...

The real innovation in this space is coming from private companies like Burt Rutan's Scaled Composites. By doing things like using useless wings to get up to altitude before launch thus requiring less propellant. And using useless reconfigurable wings to act as air brakes etc..

What an absolutely trollish summary

Re:Trollish Summary (4, Informative)

vlm (69642) | more than 5 years ago | (#25642443)

By doing things like using useless wings to get up to altitude before launch thus requiring less propellant.

No, that doesn't work. The cheapest part of a spacecraft is its propellants, second cheapest is the propellant tanks, third cheapest is to buy or design a bigger engine at the start of the design process (kind of difficult later on in the development cycle). The most expensive part of a spacecraft is systems integration, and adding wings and horizontal flight is hard to integrate. The aerodynamics of ultra high speed wings is a huge pain, and simply isn't needed, so why bother.

You are probably not aware of the 666 rule... Not to keep you in suspense, mach 6 at 60,000 feet (thats 20 kilometers in the civilized world) is a whopping 6% of total orbital energy. An impossible speed at an impossible altitude provides practically no advantage over a simpler ballistic design with tanks that are about 1/20th bigger. Most people have the peculiar idea that a civilian airliner at cruise is "almost in orbit" and the slightest push is all that is needed for a 747 to reach the ISS, and that couldn't be further from the truth.

Making an airplane that flies at mach 6 and 60Kft is no laughing matter, and then making it also a spacecraft is simply unrealistic. On the other hand making the fuel tanks a bit larger is no big deal.

There are three advantages to air launch that apply in almost no situations. One is the obvious lack of ground support, don't need to license a "spaceport" just another airport, however the EPA, FAA, USAF, NORAD, BATF, etc are going to harass you just the same anyway so this is again another way to get a small advantage at a huge cost. I guess Rutan and friends thought it was worth it, but thats a regulation and political decision not a technological decision. The other advantage is for military purposes you can assume a large fleet of aircraft could simultaneously launch an even larger number of rocket vehicles from anywhere an airplane can fly, possibly at great surprise to the enemy, this is the nuclear tipped cruise missile idea applied to a suborbital ballistic trajectory, which isn't such a bad idea but never got much traction, at least in the USA. Maybe Rutan daydreamed of selling hundreds of his vehicles to the USAF for recon purposes or something. There is a third reason to airlaunch, if you're basically making a circus carnival ride as opposed to a real vehicle, then air launch makes the roller coaster ride even more spectacular.

Re:Trollish Summary (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 5 years ago | (#25644029)

There are three advantages to air launch that apply in almost no situations

Err I forgot there is a fourth theoretical advantage which relates to failure modes. 99.999% of serious launch failures will result in a giant fireball, an aluminum lawn dart, or a square mile debris field, but for that tiny fraction of survivable disasters, the more complicated air launch system can always glide home at any stage of the flight. Vertical launch systems almost always have a region at low enough altitude where a failure can't be survived. However, it's hard to find a failure mode that is bad enough you'll have to glide home but is minor enough that the vehicle wouldn't be utterly destroyed before you can glide home.

Realistically you're far better off putting the engineering work of an air launch system into a more reliable and more redundant launch system. An example of this thought process is civilian jet aircraft, which put their engineering money into ultra reliable engines instead of parachutes.

More advantages of air launch (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25644793)

You should also add that air launch is inherently reusable, that its cost is dramatically lower, that the carrier vehicle does not degrade in operation and could be ready for the next launch immediately, that in the event of post-detach launch failure the carrier provides observer and pursuit capability without extra air deployments, and possibly most important, that most of the dense atmospheric stresses are bypassed so everything can be lighter.

Re:More advantages of air launch (2, Interesting)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | more than 5 years ago | (#25649369)

You should also add that air launch is inherently reusable, that its cost is dramatically lower, that the carrier vehicle does not degrade in operation and could be ready for the next launch immediately, that in the event of post-detach launch failure the carrier provides observer and pursuit capability without extra air deployments, and possibly most important, that most of the dense atmospheric stresses are bypassed so everything can be lighter.

None of these things are proven, and most of them depend on the details of the system chosen.

Air launch does have some significant advantages, though; most notably in the way of range safety: you don't light the rocket until you're in a clear space, well away from ground assets.

Air launch == low takeoff mass == low cost (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25645953)

Launch costs rise fairly linear with peak power, so low takeoff mass has a direct impact on bringing costs down. While large tanks and propellants are cheap, avoiding the peak power requirements that they entail can reduce your overall air launch cost to a mere 1/10th of ground launch cost.

This is pretty clearly examined in this reference [uiuc.edu] on the subject.

Re:Trollish Summary (0)

Sheik Yerbouti (96423) | more than 5 years ago | (#25646671)

Oh boy tell that to the Challenger crew oh yeah their dead. Some biggish roman candles that can not be shut off once lit killed them. The shuttle has a 1 in 55 failure rate but is still safer than a throw away which is 1 in 20. We are talking about cheaper safer manned flight. And clearly Rutan's design doesn't work that's been proven right? Also doctor Robert Zubrin must be out to lunch too because he also wanted to build a rocket plane.

minimizing the rocket burn by getting to altitude first is safer. Also not using solid fuel rockets and using liquid fuel aerospike motors only which perform better at altitude and can be shut off is safer. Big aluminum lawn darts that go boom a lot are not.

references

http://en.wikipedia.or/wiki/Blackstar_(spaceplane)

http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/11.05/moon.html

http://www.scaled.com/projects/tierone/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pioneer_Rocketplane

Re:Trollish Summary (1)

Nyeerrmm (940927) | more than 5 years ago | (#25647719)

SpaceShipOne has been proven to work, but thats not a very good argument, since it was never intended to scale up to an orbital vehicle. The difference in energy required for that flight and an orbital flight is about 1:10, meaning that an air-launch reduces the energy cost by ~50% for a sub-orbital flight rather than ~5% for an orbital flight, making it much more worthwhile. This is why Rutan did it this way, but I'm pretty sure if he's considering SS3 much right now, he'll go with a very different architecture.

Now, with all respect for Rob Zubrin, Mars Direct is an interesting idea, as are many of his other concepts... but they have yet to be hit with the cold hard facts of real engineering, where things start to go wrong. Given what the parent says about integration being the major cost, and this being the component Zubrin has the least experience with, I'd take it with a grain of salt.

And yes, I agree that solid's are a bad idea, but their use is more a historical artifact of the fact that the US is better at solids (we built lots of them for ICBM's). Notice how the Buran used liquid boosters, since the Russians were better with those. It doesn't mean that air-launch is necessarily better, the disadvantages make it a very hard thing to justify.

Re:Trollish Summary (1)

Sheik Yerbouti (96423) | more than 5 years ago | (#25654645)

Well my point still stands this ESA module has a lot in common with the Apollo program.

And that the really innovative thinking is in the private sector right now. I doubt though can not prove that ballistic rocket with capsules or reentry vehicles or what have you will NOT be what lowers the cost of access to space and will NOT be safe anytime soon. It will take someone like Rutan or Zubrin to challenge traditional thinking with a new idea.

Three stage jet/scramjet/rocket plane perhaps? Who knows as we can't really predict what SS3 will look like. mid air refueling is a proven technology that could also be utilized and has yet to be. Wings by their very nature are useful I.E. provide lift and as Rutan proved can be reconfigured to act as reentry brakes are far from useless so the summary IS quite trollish.

air breathing first stage? (1)

scharkalvin (72228) | more than 5 years ago | (#25648651)

The first stage of an air launch vehicle does not need to carry it's own oxidizer as it can use air breathing engines, and some of the weight (lift) is carried by aerodynamics (wings) instead of pure rocket power. I don't think there are any air breathing engines (jet) with enough thrust to work in a pure vertical liftoff first stage, but if that were possible then some of the weight (oxidizer) could be saved in a re-usable first stage.

Re:air breathing first stage? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25652725)

Everybody's talking about kids stuff as far rocket science goes here. All of this has been known by NASA, ESA, and Burt Rutan since they each got into the business. Every rocket design starts with an architecture study where they tradeoff fuels, engines, stage sizes, etc, until they get one that gives them the payload/orbit optimization/safety/cost etc. they deem necessary. Then they start the hard part of detailed design.

ESA is changing none of that. All we have here is an experimental re-entry capsule design. That involves it's own architecture study, etc, but it has nothing to do with air launch versus ground launch, etc. People are getting confused by wandering off topic.

Gemini (2, Insightful)

phrostie (121428) | more than 5 years ago | (#25641473)

looks like they are taking a step backwards to a more Gemini/lifting body approach.
i've always thought that was a better configuration, but it's hardly new.

i like it.
i think they should have taken that path with Orion.

The intermediate stage looks... (1)

thered2001 (1257950) | more than 5 years ago | (#25641653)

...um...well...quite phallic. Won't all the other space-faring countries be snickering when the ESA launches it?

Duh! (1)

denzacar (181829) | more than 5 years ago | (#25647091)

Its a rocket.

They are inherently phallic.
Its not like we had Borg technology or something similar so that we could make our space-vehicles squared.

Re-entrant? (4, Funny)

gotem (678274) | more than 5 years ago | (#25641671)

So that means it's thread safe?

Re:Re-entrant? (1)

argent (18001) | more than 5 years ago | (#25642427)

So that means it's thread safe?

I hope so, given all the threads in all those drogue chutes before they deploy the main chute.

Re:Re-entrant? (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 5 years ago | (#25642697)

Only if escorted by dragons.

Shuttle, Not Mobile Space Station (1)

Loopy1492 (1308571) | more than 5 years ago | (#25642207)

I think the ESA is on the right track. A shuttle like this should be small and cheap with no real facilities except for transport. All of the scientific and life-support facilities should be on the space station. Shuttles should just transport cargo and/or crew.

Re:Shuttle, Not Mobile Space Station (1)

Jesus_666 (702802) | more than 5 years ago | (#25645425)

Well, some life-support is neccessary - not only does the shuttle need a bit of time to reach the space station, there might also be a problem that keeps the shuttle from immediately re-entering/reaching the station.

Think of the Space Shuttle Columbia: It would have been possible (and was recommended by certain people) to check the hull of the shuttle before entering the athmosphere and, in case of a fault (which we now know existed) attempt a rough patch-up or wait for another shuttle to rescue the astronauts. Any shuttle could find itself in a similar situation and it needs to be able to sustain life onboard for a few days longer than strictly neccessary so the engineers on the ground can attempt to find a solution besides "suffocate" and "burn up".

Re:Shuttle, Not Mobile Space Station (1)

Loopy1492 (1308571) | more than 5 years ago | (#25660759)

By "life support", I mean bunks, full-size toilets, the whole 9 yards. I think that if there's a problem with the new shuttle, just docking with the space station (or doing a spacewalk to the station) is their best bet. But, you really can't plan for everything.

Idle questions for in-the-know Rocket Scientists! (1)

wisebabo (638845) | more than 5 years ago | (#25642325)

1) So does it use the same sort of heat resistant but very fragile tiles that the space shuttle uses? Is that why it has a shroud covering it during launch (adding weight and complexity)?

2) Will this be able to work at very high re-entry speeds not just from earth orbit but from lunar/mars return missions? The video (at the very end) seems to imply this. (Couldn't tell from the wind tunnel footage; shows only shock waves at Mach 1.4. And no CFD simulations!).

3) Does this thing really need a FOUR stage rocket to get it into space (and it is not even shown completing one orbit!). Has Europe never been interested in SSTO (single stage to orbit) concepts?

4) As another poster mentioned, it looks reminiscent of a lifting body. Does it actually generate lift or is the shape purely for control?

Re:Idle questions for in-the-know Rocket Scientist (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25644921)

5) Does anybody here really bother to read the ESA article?

Answers:
1. http://www.esa.int/TEC/Thermal_control/SEMFZKBE8YE_0.html
Therefore it is not the same technology used for the space shuttle.
2. No. The IXV is a technology demonstrator. It is for low earth orbit.
3. Vega is a three stage rocket designed to deliver small payloads. The "fourth" stage is there to maneuver the payload around. In this special mission to position the demonstrator. http://www.esa.int/SPECIALS/Launchers_Access_to_Space/ASEKMU0TCNC_0.html

The Ariane 5 is closer to an SSTO concept. However SSTO is not very cost effective, because you have to lift all the mass to orbit. Moving around big empty tanks suits no purpose. Therefore it is logical to through them away whem they are no longer needed.

The space shuttle for instance throws away its solid boosters very soon after liftoff.

A SSTO concept would make sense when the whole craft is reused (like an airplane). However todays space technology based on chemical propulsion is too bulky to be cost effective in a reusable design.

4. The IXV is only shaped that way to guarantee save re-entry.

Re:Idle questions for in-the-know Rocket Scientist (4, Insightful)

mapsjanhere (1130359) | more than 5 years ago | (#25645057)

Since it's not reusable, the fragile heat resistant tiles are not a problem. The shroud is for aerodynamic control during launch, you can see in the video that the vehicle is a lifting body; have it sit exposed on top of the rocket would give you huge off-axis forces due to drag/lift.
Single stage to orbit doesn't make sense from a fuel economy point, you need a lot of big engine at the beginning, why accelerate all that mass into orbit? Ditto on reentry, you have to bleed off all that additional energy you put in, requiring lots more of those fragile heat shield tiles.

Re:Idle questions for in-the-know Rocket Scientist (1)

icebrain (944107) | more than 5 years ago | (#25654211)

SSTO only really becomes viable when you're talking about reusable vehicles operating at high flight rates, like better than once a week.

Space access will be routine when your launch vehicle can be prepped in a winter snowstorm by hung-over ground crews tired from fighting with their spouses the night before, and when they can take the abuse dished out by swarms of small-children passengers. The current clean-room-and-army-of-men-in-bunny-suits method just isn't economical. Unfortunately, it will take a massive infusion of cash to move to the more reliable method.

Why All The Control? (2, Insightful)

Toad-san (64810) | more than 5 years ago | (#25642405)

We aren't talking about making a runway approach here, so who needs all this control (besides some frustrated pilot astronaut)? No control needed to hit the Pacific or even Central Asia; just timing.

I am also concerned about the total reliance on one big honker parachute, and wonder what the vehicle's speed will be (slowed by pure air drag alone?) when that main has to deploy. I'd feel a LOT better with a wee drag chute out the back (in case of control and/or parachute failure), and at least an escape hatch with personnel chutes for the crew. Yeah, I know, more weight, more parts. But (after a career watching Army heavy drop loads come hurtling in) one chute sure worries me.

Re:Why All The Control? (2, Informative)

argent (18001) | more than 5 years ago | (#25642559)

I am also concerned about the total reliance on one big honker parachute, and wonder what the vehicle's speed will be (slowed by pure air drag alone?) when that main has to deploy.

Watch the video, there's three drogues before the main cute is popped.

Why a chute at all? (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 5 years ago | (#25643333)

I'm wondering why have a 'chute at all? Why not use a parafoil? That would allow the craft to come to a controlled landing.

Re:Why a chute at all? (1)

suburbanmediocrity (810207) | more than 5 years ago | (#25648713)

Too complicated and prone to failure.

Re:Why a chute at all? (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 5 years ago | (#25652899)

Complicated? I don't see how it's much more complicated than a parachute with a winch on a couple of the lines. Prone to failure? Practically all modern sport parachuting is done with parafoils. If they were more prone to failure than a standard dome chute, they wouldn't be used.

Re:Why a chute at all? (1)

suburbanmediocrity (810207) | more than 5 years ago | (#25654149)

I think you answered your own question with not "much more complicated". This still implies that it is more complicated and you have to weigh the added risks with the added benefits and the design goal.

Re:Why a chute at all? (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 5 years ago | (#25656341)

No, I haven't. A parafoil is only slightly more complicated than a parachute and gives you the tremendous benefits of controlled descent, and directional control. With a parafoil you can land the capsule on a helicopter pad on a rooftop, or directly on the deck of an aircraft carrier, or right in front of the hanger at the spaceport. With a parachute, you have no control whatsoever. You land wherever the wind takes you, and you have little control over how hard you land. If you open a little late, you land hard. If you open too soon, you drift miles off course.

So, practically identical in complexity, less prone to failure, and it gives you significant control over where and how you land. It seems obvious to me that a parafoil is the way to go.

Re:Why All The Control? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25643869)

This experimental vehicle is only a tech demonstrator. They try to prove a concept. It is not designed to bring people back, but to test a set of technologies which will probably be used later spacecraft to bring back cargo and humans.

Re:Why All The Control? (2, Insightful)

mapsjanhere (1130359) | more than 5 years ago | (#25645209)

You need the control to make sure your "lander" doesn't roll. You only have one side of the vehicle protected via tiles, if you expose the other side you get fried astronaut with your fire work.
In regards to the chute, weight is everything at the orbiter stage, and landing gear adds a lot of weight. And if the main chute fails, I doubt you could manually exit the vehicle in a supersonic slip stream without ejection seats (which again are way to heavy).

Re:Why All The Control? (1)

denzacar (181829) | more than 5 years ago | (#25647213)

I am also concerned about the total reliance on one big honker parachute

Ask Russian cosmonauts [suzymchale.com] how they feel landing with just one parachute - on the hard Kazakhstan ground, not water.

Re:Why All The Control? (1)

SoupIsGoodFood_42 (521389) | more than 5 years ago | (#25654805)

You're right. What were they thinking! Those ESA engineers should come to Slashdot for their advice. We clearly have a better understanding of things than they do.

Seriously, though, would you want to re-enter earth with your heat shield above you? Or perhaps you'd rather add lots of weight by covering the whole thing in heat shielding? I'm sure they included a back-up chute.

Better Geometry? (1)

PalmHair (1222728) | more than 5 years ago | (#25643171)

"it has a better geometry than NASA's Orion or the Russian Soyuz" - is that because the Europeans use the Riemannian geometry instead of the Euclidean or is it merely thanks to a more consistent use of the metric system?

Emergency Parachutes, Good Idea (1)

LifesABeach (234436) | more than 5 years ago | (#25643331)

I think the idea of being able to exit an aircraft before it incinerates, or craters, is a good idea. But I think that the Engineers have missed a major flaw in Land-To-Space design. Burt Rutan's [typepad.com] solution allows for a more simple, graceful recovery of malfunctioning LTS Assemblies. Half the cost of an LTS project is the cost of Insurance for a second chance. By lifting parts of the project, and applying Final, and Trim Assembly in a stable earth orbit, one can reduce the overall project cost, and handle the issue of Module Replacement at lower cost levels. I know ISS was not designed for this type of mission. But an Space Assembly Yard in a parallel flight path of the ISS would give the Project Assembly Cost a smaller foot print.

Obligatory remark... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25644653)

Hmph, maybe it has better geometry but what about its theology?

sexual frustration? (0, Troll)

GanjaManja (946130) | more than 5 years ago | (#25645123)

That was the most sexually charged space video I've ever seen.
My wife wants one.

Not too bad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25647857)

A good sound design. Lifting body design gives good cross range performance and maneuverability. I would however like a system that does use deployable wings at subsonic velocities, to enable a rolling touchdown. So much weight is used up in the shuttle by building strong hypersonic wings, that could be saved by just making wings enough for subsonic landings, and stored internally until needed. Enable crew Zero-Zero Ejection seats in case the wings fail in their deployment, giving a backup.

This looks like a bad design from so many aspects (1)

suburbanmediocrity (810207) | more than 5 years ago | (#25648697)

Why control when a (mostly) ballistic entry would work? Seems like just a newly introduced unnecessary point of failure.

A cylinder is a much less efficient shape than a sphere (or cone).

And didn't the Russians test a lifting body like 20 years ago that was dynamically stable all of the way through re-entry?

Familiar shape (1)

dmitriy (40004) | more than 5 years ago | (#25653065)

Looks a lot like Spiral [wikipedia.org] without wings (or Spiral with wings folded during reentry)

Already been researched. (1)

p51d007 (656414) | more than 5 years ago | (#25655513)

Google the old NASA Dyna-Soar research vehicles of the 60's. This is nothing more than a lifting body. Computer controlled, but still nothing more than a lifting body, add wings and you would have a mini space shuttle.
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