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Alternative Orion Missions Proposed

timothy posted about 5 years ago | from the things-I-did-not-ask-for dept.

Space 137

skywatcher2501 writes "Lockheed Martin, the company producing NASA's new Orion spacecraft, published three videos (news article in German) showing alternative Orion missions. Great efforts are made to show Orion's flexibility as a space transportation system beyond the goals of the Constellation program." The three videos, respectively, illustrate ISS missions with cargo in low-Earth orbit; autonomous use of the service module; and maintenance missions from low-earth orbit to geosynchronous orbit.

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Boring ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29140443)

How about using it to invade some of our galactic neighbours, subduing them with our huge western cocks ... err, guts, and then making them into slaves making iPods for us?

Re:Boring ... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29140557)

That leads me to another question. Why are there so many niggers on TV? They're only 13% of the population! Seriously, WTF?

Re:Boring ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29143925)

everytime someone says the "n" word another one is put on the air. SO STOP SAYING IT!

Maintenance in GEO would be pretty useful (4, Insightful)

localroger (258128) | about 5 years ago | (#29140477)

I always thought it was kind of stupid that our premier post-Apollo launch system couldn't get beyond LEO. Maintenance of GEO sats would probably be more useful than putting more footprints on Luna in terms of short-term returns.

Re:Maintenance in GEO would be a game changer... (4, Interesting)

mikelieman (35628) | about 5 years ago | (#29140707)

If you can maintain satellites in GEO, you can BUILD satellites in GEO. Hello Space Based Solar/Beamed Microwave, and We Win The Game! Pournelle has written extensively on this, e.g.:

Prizes reduce market uncertainties by providing a floor. If the US were to offer a $1 billion prize for the first American company to fly a ship to orbit and bring it home 6 times in one year, we would probably have reusable space ships within five years, possibly sooner: a billion is a pretty good market incentive. And if the US were to offer $10 billion prize for the first American company to put 31 Americans on the surface of the Moon and keep them there alive and well for 3 years and a day, we would have a Lunar Colony within 7 years and probably sooner.

The neat thing about prizes is that we spend no money unless someone wins.

Re:Maintenance in GEO would be a game changer... (1)

An Ominous Cow Erred (28892) | about 5 years ago | (#29140961)

If you can maintain satellites in GEO, you can BUILD satellites in GEO. Hello Space Based Solar/Beamed Microwave, and We Win The Game! Pournelle has written extensively on this, e.g.:

For some reason I read that as "Hello Kitty" satellites.

That, and you made me lose the game. =(

Re:Maintenance in GEO would be a game changer... (1)

Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) | about 5 years ago | (#29143767)

The lunar base isn't going to happen. There isn't a market. The space tourism for the ultrarich is in its infancy. I doubt there are enough to keep the lunar base in business.

Re:Maintenance in GEO would be a game changer... (1)

mikelieman (35628) | about 5 years ago | (#29144743)

When you have construction crews in GEO building power stations, where exactly do you think they're going to go on long weekends and vacation?

Re:Maintenance in GEO would be a game changer... (1)

Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) | about 5 years ago | (#29146799)

Earth? I mean at least until the casinos open up on the moon.

Re:Maintenance in GEO would be a game changer... (4, Insightful)

serviscope_minor (664417) | about 5 years ago | (#29143853)

Pournelle has written extensively on this, e.g.:

Stating opinions as facts does not make them facts. Let's assemble some actual facts:

1 There are a lot of commercial satellites
2 There is a market for commercial launches
3 There have been a few sucessful commercial launches
4 Commercial companies have not taken over the scene
5 The space shuttle is the only vehicle which has ever been capable of servicing Hubble.

I do not know where this bizarre delusion that all commercial companies must be necessarily better than all governments comes from. I can only assume it's by people who have never worked for a large company. Or at a small/medium sized one for that matter...

Re:Maintenance in GEO would be a game changer... (3, Informative)

vbraga (228124) | about 5 years ago | (#29144621)

3 There have been a few sucessful commercial launches

No, there's a plenty of commercial satelittes launches every single year. ULA [ulalaunch.com] , EADS Astrium [eads.com] , Orbital [orbital.com] to name a few.

I don't know where to get statistics for this but a commercial launch is something very common place.

Re:Maintenance in GEO would be a game changer... (1)

khallow (566160) | about 5 years ago | (#29145503)

As the other poster noted, your "facts" aren't really facts. Also, I wonder why you bothered to take that last bash at private enterprise. Among other things, it completely mischaracterizes the benefits of private industry over public. Private industry isn't better because it is always better than the corresponding government agency. It is better because 1) The profit motive means they have incentive to reduce costs and provide useful services, especially in a competitive environment, and 2) we don't have to care if it succeeds or not unless we happen to be buying the product or chose to have a stake in the business.

Not stupid (2, Informative)

S-100 (1295224) | about 5 years ago | (#29142921)

There was and is a good reason to keep manned spacecraft in LEO. Radiation. Geosynchronous satellites are outside the protection of the Van Allen radiation belts, and any astronauts traveling outside that protection are subject to high doses of pretty nasty radiation under normal circumstances, and outright lethal doses when solar storms occur.

We still don't have a good solution to the radiation problem, which is one of the major obstacles to practical moon bases and Mars missions. Leave the satellite maintenance to robots. How about a robotic craft that could grab a satellite and ferry it to the ISS for repair? Now THAT'S a worthwhile mission...

Pick a new name assholes (3, Funny)

SBrach (1073190) | about 5 years ago | (#29140491)

Every time I see an Orion story I think project Orion. Actually don't pick a new name, just scrap Constellation and bring back the real Orion.

Re:Pick a new name assholes (4, Insightful)

wizardforce (1005805) | about 5 years ago | (#29140615)

The real Orion unfortunately can't exist due to the cold war era treaty banning nuclear tests in space. Orion based on closed nuclear reactor designs on the other hand may do the trick. Even using a decent sized reactor to power either plasma or ion engines would likely get around the treaty restriction.

Re:Pick a new name assholes (2, Insightful)

QuantumG (50515) | about 5 years ago | (#29140863)

Yeah, cause the US gives a shit about international treaties.

Re:Pick a new name assholes (1)

BerntB (584621) | about 5 years ago | (#29140925)

Not this one. The Russians make a point about being pissy about any details that shows them to not be the Soviet Union, anymore... :-)

(Excuses in advance if I mangled the slang idiom.)

All non-democratic states needs to get external enemies, so it is generally a good idea not to give them excuses. (Unless the local democratic leader also needs a conflict, sigh.)

Re:Pick a new name assholes (1)

gnick (1211984) | about 5 years ago | (#29140937)

At a minimum it doesn't publicize violations. And, when violating them publicly, it announces the fact rather than getting caught with its pants down. Play fair. The US does give a shit about appearing to honor international treaties.

Re:Pick a new name assholes (4, Interesting)

Kratisto (1080113) | about 5 years ago | (#29140907)

Ion engines would be impractical for a launch system, since they don't function in an atmosphere. I imagine that the vast majority of fuel used by a rocket is used escaping from Earth's gravity, rather than outside of the atmosphere where ion drives are viable.

Re:Pick a new name assholes (2, Informative)

wizardforce (1005805) | about 5 years ago | (#29141323)

Orion [the original project] was never designed to reach orbit from Earth but in fact was only meant for space travel owing to its use of nuclear weapons being detonated behind the ship sequentially.

Re:Pick a new name assholes (4, Informative)

Atlantis-Rising (857278) | about 5 years ago | (#29141933)

Project Orion was certainly designed for planetary launch. They even did an analysis of how many people it would kill per launch due to fallout.

Re:Pick a new name assholes (1)

NonSequor (230139) | about 5 years ago | (#29141959)

Project Orion was certainly designed for planetary launch. They even did an analysis of how many people it would kill per launch due to fallout.

That's so metal.

Re:Pick a new name assholes (1)

Atlantis-Rising (857278) | about 5 years ago | (#29141977)

I believe the estimate was something like 10 people would die per launch, but I'd have to find the figures.

Re:Pick a new name assholes (1)

qazxsw (207003) | about 5 years ago | (#29142387)

Actually it was estimated at the time that one person would die from an Orion vessel going to Mars.

Re:Pick a new name assholes (3, Informative)

fredrik70 (161208) | about 5 years ago | (#29145145)

according to this site [oriondrive.com] . you're correct. I quote:

"In the early 1960s, Freeman Dyson estimated that each launch from Earth would cause, on average, 10 fatal human cancers among the population of the entire planet (some people argue that these figures may be an over estimate because of the particular mathematical model used). "

From what I recall from the Project Orion book, they managed to get the estimated death down a bit, but still. A solution would be to only use the orion drive while in space, and only when outside earth's van allen belt as the magnetic field would drag some of the fallout back to earth.

Re:Pick a new name assholes (2)

MichaelSmith (789609) | about 5 years ago | (#29142727)

Project Orion was certainly designed for planetary launch. They even did an analysis of how many people it would kill per launch due to fallout.

That's so metal.

God was knockin', and he wanted in bad...

Re:Pick a new name assholes (1)

Kazymyr (190114) | about 5 years ago | (#29144723)

God was knockin', and he wanted in bad...

Wham! Wham! Wham! Wham!

Glad I'm not the only Footfall fan out there.

Re:Pick a new name assholes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29142307)

Ion engines would be impractical for a launch system, since they don't function in an atmosphere.

AFAIK, Ion drives can work [youtube.com] in the atmosphere, it's just they're far too weak (thrust is measured in microNewtons) to be useful as a lift mechanism.

Re:Pick a new name assholes (3, Informative)

Nyeerrmm (940927) | about 5 years ago | (#29143279)

Its a little more complicated than that. The reason you use a lot more fuel to get out of the atmosphere than you use once you make orbit, even on interplanetary missions, is that you've got to carry all that fuel with you out of the atmosphere.

Spacecraft sizing is like a Russian nesting doll. If you required a 4:1 ratio of propellant to spacecraft mass to get to the moon, and you were able to reduce it to 2:1 propellant ratio, you could get away with about half the launch vehicle because you don't need to launch all that propellant. The equations defining this (Tsiolkovsky's rocket equation) are all exponential with Delta-V.

Now as you can imagine, doing a return trip is even harder... imagine a Mars sample return mission. You have to have enough fuel in Martian orbit to get your sample and re-entry vehicle from there back to Earth. You have to have enough fuel on the surface to get that fuel and the sample into orbit. This means you have to send all of that fuel to the surface in the first place (requiring more for the entry burns), and of course this defines the amount of fuel required to leave Earth and get to Mars, which in turn defines the size of the initial launch vehicle. Minimizing one of the steps is enough to fit the mission onto a much smaller LV. This is why concepts like using ion engines, leaving return vehicles in orbit (like in Apollo), and extracting fuel from the target (ISRU) are so important, even though the amounts of propellant are small compared to the initial LV.

Re:Pick a new name assholes (1)

tagno25 (1518033) | about 5 years ago | (#29144331)

For a Mars return trip they could get some Ice from the cap and convert it in to hydrogen and oxygen via electrolysis getting power from solar. Then burn the hydrogen, mixing with the oxygen, to lift off of Mars and then return to Earth via ion drive.

Re:Pick a new name assholes (2, Interesting)

Nyeerrmm (940927) | about 5 years ago | (#29143453)

Treaties aren't natural law, they can be changed. I'd imagine you could get it amended to allow nuclear tests beyond a given distance (say GEO), particularly if you made it an international mission with Russia as a partner.

And you're absolutely correct, a fission powered spacecraft would have no trouble with the atmospheric test ban treaty, since you're not detonating weapons above ground. The similarity between a fission reactor and a fusion bomb is about the same as the comparison between a gasoline engine and napalm.

Mission planning-wise, I wouldn't say that the two are very comparable either. An ion drive has a specific impulse of around 4000s, and something like VASMIR will give you 15000s (if I remember correctly, haven't looked in a long time). However, something like Orion, where you're detonating explosives against a big plate, has an estimated specific impulse around a millions seconds, again if I remember correctly. The scales are so different you're talking about the difference between 10-person missions and 1,000-person colonies.

Re:Pick a new name assholes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29144577)

Orion?

You mean Raumpatroullie Orion [youtube.com] ?

I was thinking the exact same thing :-( (1)

BerntB (584621) | about 5 years ago | (#29140859)

I was going to post the exact same thing. :-(

It would be hard to use for launches today, because it'd fry some satellites, but check this [nextbigfuture.com] out, if you haven't seen it.

Call it ULC (1)

QuantumG (50515) | about 5 years ago | (#29140987)

Unnecessarily Large Capsule.

The only Orion I care about (2, Informative)

Hubbell (850646) | about 5 years ago | (#29140521)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Orion_(nuclear_propulsion) [wikipedia.org]

Of course this type of nuclear propulsion is just made of lulz, NERVA's are the way to go.

Re:The only Orion I care about (2, Interesting)

camperdave (969942) | about 5 years ago | (#29141509)

What you really want is a gas core nuclear rocket [nuclearspace.com] . Because the core is gas, as opposed to solid or liquid, it cannot melt down. It can also reach higher operating temperatures, meaning more energy into the propellant.

Re:The only Orion I care about (2, Interesting)

Rakishi (759894) | about 5 years ago | (#29142269)

Actually, Orion is downright sane compared to something like a nuclear salt-water rocket [wikipedia.org] .

It's like Orion with a single continuous nuclear explosion. Inside the ship.

KeepSold (1)

CoverStory (1020095) | about 5 years ago | (#29140537)

Love the video file names... KeepSoldPart1,2 and 3.

Welcome to the Moon! (2, Interesting)

pjt48108 (321212) | about 5 years ago | (#29140563)

As much of a fan of NASA as I am (and have been, since the mid-70s), I am seriously beginning to doubt the agency's ability to get back into the business of taking big trips. Even if NASA gets us back to the moon, we're likely to be greeted by the Chinese, or some commercial operation's management (welcome to Bigelow at Tranquility!).

It seems almost silly to be developing a return to space program, when commercial space is doing the same thing, for less money, and is closer to actually ACHIEVING it.

Re:Welcome to the Moon! (3, Informative)

jamstar7 (694492) | about 5 years ago | (#29140649)

As much of a fan of NASA as I am (and have been, since the mid-70s), I am seriously beginning to doubt the agency's ability to get back into the business of taking big trips. Even if NASA gets us back to the moon, we're likely to be greeted by the Chinese, or some commercial operation's management (welcome to Bigelow at Tranquility!).

It seems almost silly to be developing a return to space program, when commercial space is doing the same thing, for less money, and is closer to actually ACHIEVING it.

Funny you should mention this [newscientist.com] . Per this source, American manned space flight is in serious doubt. If true, I'd say even unmanned American space flight is in jeopardy as well. Why buy space toys when you can buy votes?

Re:Welcome to the Moon! (4, Insightful)

QuantumG (50515) | about 5 years ago | (#29141243)

Uh huh. The news reporting on the HSF review committee has been horrid. The committee has the duty of reporting the options to Congress and the President. Some of those options are affordable, some of them are not, and doing all of some of them isn't affordable either. The mouth breather journalists don't understand the discussion so they latch onto the word "budget" and write a the-sky-is-falling article.

The cheapest option, that no-one is considering btw, is to just give SpaceX the $300m for crew transfer to LEO that they were promised and wait 2.5 years, then pay $20m/seat.. if you want to spend a little more, buy seats from the Russians at $53m/seat. If you want to spend a little more, keep flying the shuttle beyond the current manifest (and hope it doesn't explode). If you want to placate your international partners, keep flying the ISS until 2020, by then it'll be completely unusable, but hey. And after doing *all* that you'll have some money left over to launch an unnecessarily large capsule towards the Moon. But just forget about Mars for now because we don't have the skill or the technology (just don't tell Zubrin that).
 

Re:Welcome to the Moon! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29143825)

What's "$300m" supposed to be, a measure for the width of the yellow brick road?

m = meter!

Sorry for the OT outburst, but my eyes bleed every time people use "m" for million...

Re:Welcome to the Moon! (1)

FTWinston (1332785) | about 5 years ago | (#29144811)

Actually, if the unit really were dollar-metres, only a lunatic would put one part at the front, and the other at the end.

What you actually have here is 300 millidollars ... also known as 30 cents.

All in all, not a bad investment!

Re:Welcome to the Moon! (2, Insightful)

khallow (566160) | about 5 years ago | (#29145593)

The cheapest option, that no-one is considering btw, is to just give SpaceX the $300m for crew transfer to LEO that they were promised and wait 2.5 years, then pay $20m/seat.

It's not the cheapest option, if they can't deliver. They haven't even launched the Falcon 9 yet. I don't believe this magic 2.5 year claim that keeps surfacing like a mushroom. No offense to SpaceX, but they need to demonstrate first that they can launch people into space reliably before they'll be servicing the ISS.

Re:Welcome to the Moon! (1)

confused one (671304) | about 5 years ago | (#29145823)

The cheapest option, that no-one is considering btw, is to just give SpaceX the $300m for crew transfer to LEO

Actually, it has been discussed by the committee. It is the commercial option for launching humans to LEO suggested in several of their presentations; and, SpaceX is specifically mentioned as a viable option

If you want to go to Mars (1)

symbolset (646467) | about 5 years ago | (#29140787)

Stop by the Chinese embassy first and get a tourist visa. You need to purchase round trip tickets and environment staples in advance. Emigrants from outside PRC are forbidden.

Re:Welcome to the Moon! (2, Interesting)

Darkness404 (1287218) | about 5 years ago | (#29140791)

The problem is NASA has a ton of data that is of course funded by -our- tax dollars but is locked away, lost (remember the moon tapes?), forgotten, or otherwise not allowed for everyone to see. Because of this either A) All info NASA has researched should be released to all US citizens (unlikely due to the similarities between ICBMs and spacecraft, though philosophically ideal) B) NASA releases most of its information to US contractors (Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Virgin US, etc) to get commercial spacecraft off the ground than fades in the background or C) NASA continues to do its thing and private companies continue to do their thing.

Commercial space travel has made great strides in recent year but ends up having to deal with all the problems that plagued even government spaceflight, only with a lot less funding and must be a lot more safe than government spaceflight because they have to make a profit and people are more apt to sue.

Re:Welcome to the Moon! (1)

mrsquid0 (1335303) | about 5 years ago | (#29140801)

This is because NASA is badly underfunded for the current lunar programme. At least now there has been a public acknowledgement of that by the Augustine Commission, so perhaps something will be done about it.

Re:Welcome to the Moon! (2, Insightful)

Kratisto (1080113) | about 5 years ago | (#29140955)

While NASA is plainly losing its edge, we shouldn't be so quick to turn to commercial means of space travel. Corporations are ultimately concerned only with turning a profit, not with the exploration of the Universe. We need NASA to be a science and research-centric agency. I don't want to live in a world where I must pay for the Hubble's incredible images, or one in which the Hubble doesn't exist at all due to a lack of profitability. If NASA were to end their manned missions program, I wouldn't shed a tear, but its robotics are invaluable.

Re:Welcome to the Moon! (1)

FleaPlus (6935) | about 5 years ago | (#29141279)

While NASA is plainly losing its edge, we shouldn't be so quick to turn to commercial means of space travel. Corporations are ultimately concerned only with turning a profit, not with the exploration of the Universe. We need NASA to be a science and research-centric agency.

The problem is that the current NASA has largely cut back on science and R&D, instead spending the money on trying to build rockets to compete with the commercial sector. What many are suggesting NASA do (including the White House's Augustine Committee) is purchase from the commercial sector for sending cargo (and eventually people) to orbit instead of building its own transportation system, so that NASA can use the money to focus on actual science and exploration beyond LEO.

Your comment is actually a little confusing -- could you elaborate on why NASA shouldn't turn towards the commercial sector for transportation? Why should we object to transportation companies making a profit if they're transporting cheaply and reliably?

Re:Welcome to the Moon! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29141945)

The problem is that the current NASA has largely cut back on science and R&D, instead spending the money on trying to build rockets to compete with the commercial sector.

Ummm... NASA does not build its own rockets. NASA pays the commercial sector to build rockets.

Re:Welcome to the Moon! (2, Insightful)

chadplusplus (1432889) | about 5 years ago | (#29146079)

Maybe I'm wrong, but doesn't NASA pay the commercial sector to build rockets to its own specifications?

NASA: We need a big rocket to send things into space. But it has to have these 15 compromises so that all the various military branches are happy and these 22 senators get contracts in their distrits.
Private contractors: Ok. Here's 10 different ways of using a big freaking rocket to shoot things into space. None of which are anything revolutionary... mainly because you're still asking us for big freakin' rockets.

I think the idea of going to corporations for transport is thus: NASA says, "Ok, as soon as one of you private companies gives us a reliable and safe means of transport to orbit, we'll use your services and give you a prize check for $x,000,000,000." Then all the individual companies are free to come up with their own ideas of how to do that, whether its Virgin's big plane to rocketship plan or a space elevator or whatever. The patents that company will earn during that R&D will lock them in as potential monopoly for a number of years increasing their incentive to "win".

My history is probably way off here, but it took state incentivized individual entrepreneurship to get us to the new world. It took state incentivized individual entrepreneurship to get the transcontinental railroad laid.

Re:Welcome to the Moon! (1)

WindBourne (631190) | about 5 years ago | (#29142769)

What many are suggesting NASA do (including the White House's Augustine Committee) is purchase from the commercial sector for sending cargo (and eventually people) to orbit instead of building its own transportation system, so that NASA can use the money to focus on actual science and exploration beyond LEO.
Perhaps more important is having MULTIPLE sources of launching, living, lunar access, etc. Ideally, we need to limit monopolies and count on competition to work. And this can actually LOWER the costs all around. For starters, once SpaceX is launching regularly, hopefully, it will be half the price to launch a solar bound sat. That will lead to ULA and other to provide even lower cost launchers. I fully expect Scaled/Northup to get a CHEAP launcher for humans followed by cheap launching of cargo (much smaller amounts, but a nice way to send up sats that can be moved around by a tug).

Re:Welcome to the Moon! (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29141579)

As much of a fan of NASA as I am (and have been, since the mid-70s), I am seriously beginning to doubt the agency's ability to get back into the business of taking big trips.

Well, since NASA had a funding level of 5% of the federal budget back in the Apoillo days, and its been cut down to less than 0.5% today, that's not too surprising that they don't have the same level of effort.

Re:Welcome to the Moon! (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29141775)

I am a fan of commercial space as much as the next guy, but they have yet to put a single person in orbit, yet alone get to the moon. Even the Dragon spacecraft cannot handle a re-entry from the moon.

Re:Welcome to the Moon! (3, Interesting)

WindBourne (631190) | about 5 years ago | (#29142477)

Even if NASA gets us back to the moon, we're likely to be greeted by the Chinese, or some commercial operation's management (welcome to Bigelow at Tranquility!).

We had 5 long years in which W and 3 years of neo-cons, as well as 2 years of both parties elected to underfund NASA. Now that we are in SERIOUS economic jepordy, we need to decide WHO we want to meet on the moon; The Chinese OR one of our companies. With Chinese military putting multiple space stations up there (and 1 civilian spacecraft), I think I would rather meet western companies. I have been saying for a long time that we must provide more funding for these companies ESP. Bigelow as well as Armadillo and blue origin. Bigelow is able to provide not just a local space station, but also a living quarters to move between here and the moon. All that it needs it a tug. Likewise, it can provide living quarters on the moon. Importantly, Bigelow WANTS to do this and is funding it. Armadillo and Blue origin have the PERFECT crafts for working on the moon. If we really want to get there SOONER, rather than latter, we will have to have the gov work with private enterprise to build these. That means that we need 1-2 billion to flow to these companies NOW. Fortunately, Augustine sees this and will be pushing it.
So, what do we need?
  1. First, spend some more money on getting launchers into space. We need it for cargo AND humans.
  2. Once started, they need a place to go in addition, to NASA to make money. That means that we need to get another space station or two up there. Buy a bigelow sundancer and attach it to the ISS, followed by a BA-330. Use the Sundancer for storage. This will allow Bigelow to start the production line.
  3. To get to the moon as well as GEO cheaply and constantly, we need a tug and fuel depot. Come up with specs for tugs that can work our orbit and another for lunar work (perhaps the same, but I do not think so). The orbital tugs can clean up OUR junk in orbit. Ideally, other nations and companies will pay to clean up their junk.
  4. Pay Armadillo and Blue origin to get working systems to land and take off from the moon. That should be far less than what we paid for COTs.

Basically, with 1-2 Billion NOW, we can be back on the moon BEFORE 2015.

Re:Welcome to the Moon! (3, Interesting)

Nyeerrmm (940927) | about 5 years ago | (#29143341)

I don't think you can count on corporations to do pure scientific exploration, as there is little profit in it initially. I think you'll always need the government there to perform the "Lewis and Clark" role.

NASA's problem is that it isn't trying to just do the exploration, they're trying to do every single part of it. Space launch is well-enough developed at this point that they should be using commercial offerings at fixed contract prices to get to orbit, and then doing the high-risk exploration thing from there. Anything else is like asking Lewis and Clark to design their own canoe before heading off down the river.

The inefficient cost-plus contracts made sense in Apollo: it was a high-risk, low-reward game at the time. But now that we now its possible to get to orbit, and that there are many profitable reasons to do so, it makes no sense for NASA to develop its own LV... especially after its proven that its so inept at it without much larger budgets.

Re:Welcome to the Moon! (1)

feronti (413011) | about 5 years ago | (#29147255)

Interestingly (and off-topic), Lewis and Clark did design their own canoe... a folding cast-iron boat:

"In February 1803 Congress approved Jefferson's request to fund an expedition. By mid-March Lewis was on his way from Washington DC, to the US Arsenal at Harpers Ferry, in present-day West Virginia, to gather military hardware for the trip.........."

"Lewis also wanted the arsenal workers to do him a special favor. He asked them to build a collapsible iron-framed boat he designed himself. Lewis referred to this as" my darling project," but the armory workers had difficulty
executing Lewis' design for the boat, and the endeavor wound up keeping Lewis in Harpers Ferry for more than a month. When it was finished, however , Lewis was pleased. The frame weighed just 100 pounds but the completed craft would be capable of carrying about 1700 pounds!

I'd attribute the source, but I don't know it:)

Re:Welcome to the Moon! (4, Interesting)

serviscope_minor (664417) | about 5 years ago | (#29143871)

I am seriously beginning to doubt the agency's ability to get back into the business of taking big trips.

Spirit? Oppertunity? There have been NASA build robots trundling around on Mars for several years! Their ability of the people and teams at NASA is not the problem. The problem is inteference from higher managment and the legislature wanting their pound of flesh. This problem is shared among many of the national labs (especially Los Alamos). The people doing the good work are generally there for the love of science and engineering. The people running in it for themselves.

Re:Welcome to the Moon! (2, Funny)

lxs (131946) | about 5 years ago | (#29144757)

NASA rockets. Designed by robots for robots. Don't accept cheap imitations.

Re:Welcome to the Moon! (2, Interesting)

johannesg (664142) | about 5 years ago | (#29144017)

As much of a fan of NASA as I am (and have been, since the mid-70s), I am seriously beginning to doubt the agency's ability to get back into the business of taking big trips. Even if NASA gets us back to the moon, we're likely to be greeted by the Chinese, or some commercial operation's management (welcome to Bigelow at Tranquility!).

It seems almost silly to be developing a return to space program, when commercial space is doing the same thing, for less money, and is closer to actually ACHIEVING it.

How can commercial entities, who have so far demonstrated only toy rockets, possibly be closer to achieving space flight than NASA, who demonstrated that capability decades ago and has since done it countless times? If it were so easy for commercial entities to do this, why aren't the skies bustling with commercial space stations and commercial flights?

You are arguing to stop investing _before_ there is a credible alternative. The only result of that will be the total loss of access to space for your country.

Re:Welcome to the Moon! (1)

savuporo (658486) | about 5 years ago | (#29145767)

Which commercial toy rockets do you refer to ? Delta IV, Ariane 5, Atlas V, Zenit or Proton ?

Do you want to compare these toys to spectacular successes of NASA-designed NASP, X-33, X-34, X-38, 2GRLV , Shuttle-II ?

Re:Welcome to the Moon! (1)

johannesg (664142) | about 5 years ago | (#29146017)

Which commercial toy rockets do you refer to ? Delta IV, Ariane 5, Atlas V, Zenit or Proton ?

Do you want to compare these toys to spectacular successes of NASA-designed NASP, X-33, X-34, X-38, 2GRLV , Shuttle-II ?

Delta 4, Atlas 5: paid for by US taxpayers.
Ariane 5: paid for by european taxpayers.
Zenit, Proton: paid for by USSR taxpayers.

It is not commercial development if it is the taxpayer footing the bill. Show me a company that invested its own money.

Re:Welcome to the Moon! (1)

confused one (671304) | about 5 years ago | (#29145963)

NASA doesn't build the rockets. They have an army of contractors who build them. Sure, they assemble the shuttle in the VAB; but, the components were almost exclusively all built by someone, not NASA. The shuttle orbiter itself was built by Rockwell and Boeing.

The reason you've not seen a commercial entity launching big rockets, is there's no money in it. The money is, right now, in participating as the contractors to the government which supply the components for the big rocket. IF the economic model changes, because the factors driving it change, then the landscape will change. IF NASA decides to buy seats from commercial companies instead of launching it's own vehicles, then companies will line up with options for providing that service. Lockheed, Boeing, and SpaceX have all expressed interest providing this service to LEO. The price would have to be right though: These are companies whose goal is ultimately to make a profit. At a minimum, they'd have to break even on the manned vehicle launches.

Re:Welcome to the Moon! (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 5 years ago | (#29146689)

How can commercial entities, who have so far demonstrated only toy rockets, possibly be closer to achieving space flight than NASA

Huh? Maybe you should look up who builds the Atlas [lockheedmartin.com] and Delta [boeing.com] boosters. Commercial entities have been flying rockets, *big* rockets, for decades.

Why Bother Advertising ISS Missions? (1)

Nethemas the Great (909900) | about 5 years ago | (#29140713)

What's the point of advertising missions to the ISS? The ISS is supposedly being decommissioned a little more than a year after the first manned test flights of Orion begin.

Re:Why Bother Advertising ISS Missions? (1)

confused one (671304) | about 5 years ago | (#29146161)

The political reality is that this is very unlikely to happen.

The US has proposed de-orbiting it in 2016, because we are spending $1.5B/year in support of it's operations (not including the shuttle launches); and, given NASA's current budget, they long ago admitted they could not continue to support the ISS and meet their other objectives.

We are only part owner (a major part) of the ISS. Russia laid the cornerstone, Zarya, along with the US module, Unity. Russia, Japan, Canada, ESA (representing several European contributors) all own major components. All of the major players have said they do not support decommissioning the ISS before 2020. Russia has indicated it should be operational well beyond that date. They have all already started applying political pressure.

It was also recommended in the Augustine Committee report that ISS be funded at least through 2020.

Wow! (2, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 5 years ago | (#29140891)

A company has issued a press release that speaks of its product in complimentary terms and suggests that we should buy more.

Shocking.

Recycled Rocketry (3, Interesting)

DynaSoar (714234) | about 5 years ago | (#29141103)

A relevant piece of a recently submitted and rejected article on lessons from post-Apollo to Orion/Constellation. There were many suggestions on Apollo derivatives and follow ups, but only Skylab and Apollo-Soyuz made the cut. Many more could have flown. That fact in itself is a valuable lesson -- build for adaptability.

"With the Apollo 11 lunar landing nostalgia wave over, and the ongoing discussions about keeping, changing or abandoning designs and plans for Constellation, the new Ares rocket and the very Apollo-looking Orion crew vehicle, it is interesting to examine the development, evolution (including evolutionary dead ends) and the many never-were projected possibilities for the Apollo and Saturn components. Encyclopedia Astronautica offers a feast of details about Apollo developments, both successes and failure, in The Apollo Development Diaries http://www.astronautix.com/articles/apoaries.htm [astronautix.com] . Plans for the vehicles were later not so much lost as is claimed now, but were abandoned as unfeasible, unnecessary, and in the cases of some such as the high jumping Lunar Leaper and slithering Lunar Worm vehicles, just too weird http://www.astronautix.com/craftfam/apollo.htm [astronautix.com] .

As for the actual Lockheed Martin piece referenced in TFA, it's pure PR. But since they feel the need to waive their flag, perhaps there are rumbles from within NASA that they might consider alternatives.

Re:Recycled Rocketry (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 5 years ago | (#29146751)

A relevant piece of a recently submitted and rejected article on lessons from post-Apollo to Orion/Constellation. There were many suggestions on Apollo derivatives and follow ups, but only Skylab and Apollo-Soyuz made the cut. Many more could have flown. That fact in itself is a valuable lesson -- build for adaptability.

That's more like a badly learned lesson, as Apollo was more than sufficiently adaptable to the tasks demanded of it. Skylab made the cut because it could use hardware made surplus by canceling two landing missions, ASTP made the cut because it could use leftover hardware floating around NASA warehouses. (See the pattern?)

Why the obsession with "unmanned" missions? (2, Insightful)

Ozlanthos (1172125) | about 5 years ago | (#29141209)

I've never understood this. We should be out there en masse by now. You want to do something about world hunger? How about a way to shrink the populace? That's right folks! Train the homeless to live and work in SPACE!!!!! Then send them to places we might be interested in living, or can make money from exploiting! What a concept eh? Too bad it isn't original. The Americas, Australia, New Zealand, all started with prisoners, the homeless, and other social malcontents. I think we are due for yet another culling of this sort. You don't know how safe the mine is til you take a canary down it. We won't know what riches and wonders are out there, or how we will be able to use it for fun, knowledge, and profit until we get some more bodies up there!

-Oz

Re:Why the obsession with "unmanned" missions? (1)

Earthquake Retrofit (1372207) | about 5 years ago | (#29141885)

I've never understood this. We should be out there en masse by now.

The answer is war, first Vietnam and now the current unpleasantness.

Steve

Re:Why the obsession with "unmanned" missions? (1)

Nyeerrmm (940927) | about 5 years ago | (#29143029)

While I'm all for expanding the frontier and moving more people into orbit (I'm heavily involved in a couple of advocacy groups, pursuing a master's degree in aerospace engineering, and job hunting specifically in the space industry), I don't think that space colonies could ever provide that kind of overpopulation escape valve.

Even with a working space elevator, you would be limited to thousands of persons to orbit per day. That's far fewer than the hundred-thousand new persons we have on Earth every day ((birth rate - death rate)/365 days, numbers from wikipedia). Without something beyond my wildest imagination (which granted isn't impossible), space colonies cannot be an escape valve like the America's and Australia were for Europe in the past. If we're going to save our civilization on Earth from ourselves, we have to do it here. (Note this is a central theme of the Red Mars trilogy... a theme which I've shamelessly restated since it makes sense to me.)

Of course, there's a big difference between saving humanity on Earth and saving humanity.

Shuttle Derived Vehicles are much more interesting (4, Interesting)

Pvt_Waldo (459439) | about 5 years ago | (#29141339)

The idea of a SDV (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shuttle-Derived_Launch_Vehicle [wikipedia.org] ) seems a lot better idea to me than this massive new launcher. Builds on known technology, a lot less up-front cost, fewer unknowns, etc.

To me, these "other uses" are simply PR that's trying to salvage a program concept that's in deep trouble.

Re:Shuttle Derived Vehicles are much more interest (1)

FleaPlus (6935) | about 5 years ago | (#29141473)

The idea of a SDV (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shuttle-Derived_Launch_Vehicle [wikipedia.org] [wikipedia.org]) seems a lot better idea to me than this massive new launcher. Builds on known technology, a lot less up-front cost, fewer unknowns, etc.

A clarification: Orion is a capsule, not a launcher. NASA's current launcher is the Ares I, which has been having some major development problems (and many say fundamental design flaws), and looking likely to be cancelled. However, the Orion can also potentially be launched on a Shuttle-Derived Vehicle, or even a commercial launcher.

Dragon Orion (1)

sadler121 (735320) | about 5 years ago | (#29141681)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SpaceX_Dragon [wikipedia.org]

Or cut Orion and just give SpaceX $40 million a launch. With that kind of money other companies could be formed that would compete with SpaceX for the contract of launching cargo and manned missions.

Re:Dragon Orion (1)

Waste55 (1003084) | about 5 years ago | (#29145923)

IIRC, the Dragon cannot handle a re-entry from straight from the moon. It just isnt built for it. Plus there is this snippet for the article you linked too:

On August 18, 2006, NASA announced that SpaceX had been chosen, along with Kistler Aerospace, to develop crew and cargo launch services for the International Space Station. The plan using SpaceX's Dragon capsule calls for demonstration flights between 2008 and 2010. SpaceX may receive up to $278 million if they meet all NASA milestones. Kistler failed to meet its obligations with NASA, and its contract was terminated in 2007.[4][5][6] NASA decided to re-award its contract after a competition.[7] On February 19, 2008 NASA announced that it had chosen Orbital Sciences as the new winner.[8]

I don't fully understand the Space-X hype. They don't have a good record at all really. Why does everyone want to trust the entire future of manned spaceflight to this one particular group?

Re:Shuttle Derived Vehicles are much more interest (1)

Pvt_Waldo (459439) | about 5 years ago | (#29143223)

Good point. The Orion itself is a nice little pod for sending up a group of people. The catch is getting that little pod up there! And as another poster points out, there's the Dragon module.

We'll get there, Directly! (1)

camperdave (969942) | about 5 years ago | (#29141653)

The idea of a SDV (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shuttle-Derived_Launch_Vehicle [wikipedia.org] ) seems a lot better idea to me than this massive new launcher.

Indeed! Stick the shuttle engines on the bottom. Put the Orion capsule on the top, and voila [wikipedia.org] , a simple, cheap Shuttle Derived Launch Vehicle. The bulk of the systems are already human rated, and there are parts for several of these rockets ready to go. No need to retool any factories. No need to build new crawlers and crawlerways. No need for a new barge.

Re:Shuttle Derived Vehicles are much more interest (1)

Captain Nitpick (16515) | about 5 years ago | (#29145505)

The idea of a SDV (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shuttle-Derived_Launch_Vehicle [wikipedia.org] [wikipedia.org]) seems a lot better idea to me than this massive new launcher

You know that the "massive new launcher" is the Ares series listed on the page you linked to, right?

Re:Shuttle Derived Vehicles are much more interest (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29145631)

The launch vehicle in question, as has been pointed out, _is_ an SDV. This is part of the problem. The Shuttle has a lot of hardware problems that are being carried over. Some are being made noticeably worse (the extended stack SRBs is a case in point), which is a major reason the entire Constellation project is in such a bad position.

Orion is not the problem (4, Informative)

actionbastard (1206160) | about 5 years ago | (#29141523)

The Orion spacecraft is not the problem with the current NASA Constellation program. The Ares I launch vehicle is. It does not have the lifting capability, among other problems, to meet the goals of the program so they keep cutting back on the capability of the one thing that its supposed to lift to orbit, the Orion crew capsule.

It's called what? (0, Offtopic)

tufa.king.nerdy (1622029) | about 5 years ago | (#29141993)

Orion should have laser guns, not parachutes?!? I guess it's only a spacecraft until reentry.

Underfunded? (0, Offtopic)

amightywind (691887) | about 5 years ago | (#29142143)

The $3 billion that Obama just set alight with the 'cash for clunkers' program could have been used to accelerate the Constellation program, not to mention the hundreds of billions pissed away on the 'porkulus'. Perhaps some of it can be rescinded by the next congress and transfered to NASA.

Re:Underfunded? (0, Troll)

jameskojiro (705701) | about 5 years ago | (#29142253)

But white trash people in the south need new cars!!!!!

Re:Underfunded? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29142529)

But white trash people in the south need new cars!!!!!

Really? So white trash people are traveling to New York City [wardsauto.com] in order to buy cars in the cash for clunkers deal? No. Apparently most of them are traveling all the way to California [latimes.com] since that's where the largest number of cash for clunkers sales transactions are. (According to that article "In California, which tops the list of states in terms of clunker transactions, most dealerships appear to be sticking with the program")

Those white trash people in the south must have more money on them than I thought. The "recession" must not be hurting them at all.

Re:Underfunded? (1)

Nyeerrmm (940927) | about 5 years ago | (#29143181)

If NASA requires additional funding to achieve its goals, there are going to be problems. The current level of funding is even with what its been historically since the end of Apollo. It seems to me that the current level of funding is the level thats politically sustainable.

Since space projects take years and often decades, any plan that depends on extra funding that is politically advantageous at the time is destined to either fail or be a flags-and-footprints dead end. Programs like Apollo are finished as soon as the symbolic goal is achieved... those who extrapolated from Apollo were sorely disappointed. Programs like every post-shuttle spacecraft design haven't gotten off the ground because after the Cold War there's no way to fund it politically.

If NASA is going to achieve its goals in human exploration, its going to have to take a new approach, learning to live within its means and not saying "well, we could do this if we had $3B more a year," because its not going to happen (at least it won't stay that high for over a decade). To me that means that they need to consider EELV's or truly shuttle-derived systems, limited-but-new goals such as Mars orbit or asteroids, and new contracting methods that involve purchasing services, not funding development.

* Plus I wouldn't say 'cash for clunkers' was setting the money alight. It improved the fuel economy of the average car in the US (not by much, but its something), it helped tide a domestic industry through a hard time in a much more reasonable way than handing the money directly to GM and Chrysler, and it multiplied itself in the amount of money input into the economy since people still had to spend their own money in purchasing the vehicles. Overall a good and creative bit of legislation in my book.

Re:Underfunded? (1)

lxs (131946) | about 5 years ago | (#29144779)

Under this program, how much cash can NASA get for the remaining shuttles?

Boldly going........Into a slightly higher orbit.. (1)

jameskojiro (705701) | about 5 years ago | (#29142247)

I thought they were ripping off the Apollo program, seems like they are going to end up copying Gemini.....

Re:Boldly going........Into a slightly higher orbi (1)

jpmorgan (517966) | about 5 years ago | (#29142413)

They're not doing either, they're doing something far more interesting. Orion is a simple capsule, and in that sense it's similar to Gemini. But the point of Orion is that it's a lot more flexible than any previous space capsule. Apollo got to the moon by assembling the entire capsule, lander and earth departure stage on earth and putting them on top of a giant rocket. Constellation promises to produce another giant rocket (Ares V), but you no longer have to cram everything onto the top of it because you can assemble everything in space. So where Apollo was limited by the lifting capacity of the Saturn V, you can launch several large components on top of several Ares V's, assemble them all in space into a much larger vehicle, and only at the very end launch your crew up to it in an Orion capsule.

Modular construction is fantastic, and could prove to be a huge advance in human spaceflight.

Here is my dream: a Mars transport vehicle, assembled in space, consisting of a nuclear reactor and VASIMR or ion engines. You can fly this thing to and from Mars over and over, and all you have to do is launch up a tank of propellant on board an Ares V every trip. There's no need to throw the thing away since it's not tied to a crew module, or anything else.

Re:Boldly going........Into a slightly higher orbi (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | about 5 years ago | (#29142783)

I don't Orion is very different from Apollo in that respect. Apollo orbital missions were launched without the Saturn V. The CSM-LM cluster was assembled on the way to the moon. Apollo serviced skylab successfully.

Re:Boldly going........Into a slightly higher orbi (1)

Yergle143 (848772) | about 5 years ago | (#29144037)

I think what's interesting in the vids is the proposal to service Hubble -- again. The fix the satellite biz never panned out for the Shuttle but from a pure science perspective the fix of Hubble is among the biggest science return of anything NASA has ever done. Humans in space can build and service stuff, we have an entire century of planet hunting to do...with limited budgets we ought to go with our strengths. --5-3-7

If only (1)

chucklebutte (921447) | about 5 years ago | (#29142397)

we dumped as much money into NASA as we do for defense and campaigning for public office we could quite possibly be on Mars by now...

They Built The Wrong Orion (1)

w0mprat (1317953) | about 5 years ago | (#29143075)

This is the Orion spacecraft they *SHOULD* be building:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Orion [wikipedia.org]

It's not only cool because it was quite a developed idea, and feasible, but because it was delightfully absurd.

Please please PLEASE stop linking to Wikipedia. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29143501)

That pile of instantly-updated-with-bullshit garbage website doesn't need MORE fucking Google juice.

There are perfectly good websites for Lockheed Martin and the Orion project, with real information that wasn't put there by a ten-year-old who wishes you to know that Lockheed is first in the production of COCKS or that the Orion will go 5.5 times the speed of light.

More dangerously, we have the idiots who spend hour after hour making sure that we don't call Macedonia "Macedonia," the idiots who spend hour after hour trying to get global warming to coincide with the views of the oil companies, or the idiots who spend hour after hour adding New Age religious bullshit to science articles.

So. Stop. For the good of that child in Africa that Jim Wales is always bullshitting about.

Re:Please please PLEASE stop linking to Wikipedia. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29144075)

Macedonia is a bit ambiguous. It can mean "FYR Macedonia", "The Greek Province of Macedonia" or the "Macedonian state from which Alexander came from".

Thus with respect to Macedonia, I think that disambiguating the name is only prudent, otherwise, what the heck are you meaning when you write "XXX in Macedonia".

NASA Does It Again (1)

hyades1 (1149581) | about 5 years ago | (#29143691)

Yeah, let's waste another 40 years fucking around in Low Earth Orbit. NASA needs to hire the Duke Nukem team to help them get their useless asses in gear. The Duke wankers only spent 10 years pulling their pricks. That makes them four times less worthless than NASA.

A mission to a near-Earth asteroid (1)

mithridatesVIEupator (1093077) | about 5 years ago | (#29144825)

is what I'm most looking forward to. Two Orion modules together would be enough for a mission lasting a few weeks, the almost complete lack of gravity would mean no lander would be necessary nor a rocket for the way back, and it would technically be the farthest we had ever gone. Plus the fact that understanding asteroids will help them not kill us. A binary asteroid would be best.

Take the Fithp (1)

rossdee (243626) | about 5 years ago | (#29145745)

The real mission for an Orion style spacecraft is to defend against aliens from Alpha Centauri, who come via Saturn.

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