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Nautilus-X: the Space Station With Rockets

CmdrTaco posted more than 3 years ago | from the out-for-a-cruise dept.

Sci-Fi 121

astroengine writes "So we have a space station, now what? We've heard some rather outlandish ideas, but this is one concept a research group in NASA is taking seriously. By retrofitting the ISS with rockets, Nautilus-X will act as an interplanetary space station of sorts, including room for 6 astronauts, an artificial gravity ring, inflatable habitats and docking for exploration spaceships. When can we take a luxury cruise to Mars? 2020 by the project's estimate. It all sounds very 2001, but the projected costs of retrofitting the space station seem a little on the low side."

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Neat (2)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 3 years ago | (#35283266)

It's a damned cool idea. Probably won't happen, but still, an awesome second life for the ISS, and one that has an actual point to it.

Re:Neat (4, Informative)

Mr.Intel (165870) | more than 3 years ago | (#35283332)

It's a damned cool idea. Probably won't happen, but still, an awesome second life for the ISS, and one that has an actual point to it.

Yes, a very cool idea. The only catch? Increased costs for resupplying the thing. Even at Earth-Moon L1, it's out much further than GEOsats, which are orders of magnitude further out than the ISS is currently at LEO. Funding the retrofit is one thing, funding resupply and ferrying in/out inhabitants is quite another. Besides, that thing would have to live outside the earth's magnetic field. Water shield or not, I'd hate to be out there during a CME or X-class flare.

Re:Neat (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | more than 3 years ago | (#35283496)

Yeah, if only we could create some sort of surface-point electromagnetic shield generator to protect the ship. Something with sensors that detect feedback when charged particles interact with the field, increasing the impedance of specific generators, and shift more power to them to increase the shielding to that area. That way they could always run low power until detecting radioactive particles, immediately responding by increasing power flow to the affected area. That would be an awesome idea, but not practical; even John Archer knows there's no such thing as some kind of magical force field thing around a star ship.

Re:Neat (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 3 years ago | (#35283694)

A magnetic shield is, in princible, doable. In practicality it'd take a ridiculously huge coil and vast amount of power. It's not going to work. Plus you'd still need two huge lumps of shielding, unless you want an aurora inside your station.

Re:Neat (1)

Script Cat (832717) | more than 3 years ago | (#35284338)

Rare earth magnets... Why would you spend electrical power to generate a DC magnetic field?
Permanent magnets are always on and draw no power.

Re:Neat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35284730)

Pretty sure you'd still have to worry about cooling. Discounting the size needed and the potential risk of living around that much rare-earth magnetism (crushing deaths come to mind, along with strains on support systems and artificial gravity in at least 2 directions for unsecured metallic objects - at least in terms of potential hazards) - rare earth magnets (and to slightly lesser extents, other types of magnets) tend to attract those particles and heat up much like (read: in the exact same manner as) electron vapor deposition. You will still need cooling and shielding actually adsorbing the incoming particles.

Re:Neat (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 3 years ago | (#35284974)

Weight. Electromagnets can produce far more field strength for their weight than even rare earth.

Re:Neat (1)

DeadboltX (751907) | more than 3 years ago | (#35285520)

How much does the electric generator weigh?

Re:Neat (1)

pyrosine (1787666) | more than 3 years ago | (#35285700)

In space? Nothing

Re:Neat (1)

Unkyjar (1148699) | more than 3 years ago | (#35287022)

Point. But an electric generator is useful for powering things besides shields, like a spinal railgun for world domination.

Re:Neat (1)

turbidostato (878842) | more than 3 years ago | (#35288124)

"Point. But an electric generator is useful for powering things besides shields, like a spinal railgun for world domination."

But I already own head-mounted lasers on sharks for that!

Re:Neat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35288556)

A magnetic shield is, in princible, doable. In practicality it'd take a ridiculously huge coil and vast amount of power.

Any chance of using fixed magnets, or superconducting current loops? I mean, the Earth has fixed magnet generating its shield.

Re:Neat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35288600)

>unless you want an aurora inside your station.

Actually that sounds pretty cool. Yes please.

Re:Neat (3, Insightful)

680x0 (467210) | more than 3 years ago | (#35283876)

You do realize that despite the resemblance, this thing is not actually a Space Station. It's a space vehicle designed for interplanetary travel.

Re:Neat (2)

plut4rch (1553209) | more than 3 years ago | (#35284374)

You do realize that despite the resemblance, this thing is not actually a Space Station.

Is it a moon?

Re:Neat (1)

680x0 (467210) | more than 3 years ago | (#35284648)

I suppose given some windows and some pantless astronauts it could be. :-)

Re:Neat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35284252)

Radiation outside earth magnetic field is only 2 times larger than radiation on low earh orbit (ISS)

Re:Neat (1)

thatskinnyguy (1129515) | more than 3 years ago | (#35284698)

Two words: Space elevator.

Re:Neat (1)

MrKaos (858439) | more than 3 years ago | (#35288176)

Two words: Space elevator.

Indeed. Focusing our effort on the last part of creating a space elevator, the long strand carbon nanotubes, would be a key part of a presence in space because it will also allow us to build larger and more massive structures in space. I'm sure there are plenty of innovative ways to build in space with our existing materials but as there is no magical shield technology, ice or regolith is more likely.

Having a building material with strength in the gigapascal range would certainly be a great starting point.

Re:Neat (1)

TheTurtlesMoves (1442727) | more than 3 years ago | (#35288404)

We have materials with tensile strength in the GPa range. Some very high strength steels even have that (~2GPa) and glass fiber does as well. Some carbon fiber is up in the 3-5GPa region. However a space elevator needs strength to weight *ratio* (steel is poor while carbon fiber is the best so far). Almost the whole structure is supporting itself.

Re:Neat (1)

MrKaos (858439) | more than 3 years ago | (#35288788)

We have materials with tensile strength in the GPa range. Some very high strength steels even have that (~2GPa) and glass fiber does as well. Some carbon fiber is up in the 3-5GPa region. However a space elevator needs strength to weight *ratio* (steel is poor while carbon fiber is the best so far). Almost the whole structure is supporting itself.

I should have been more specific. According to Bradley C. Edwards, Ph.D the author of "The Space Elevator, NIAC Phase II Final Report" a S.E needs material with 100 GPa strength. He also reports that early testing of CNT have tensile strengths of 63 GPa and a theoretical strength of 300 GPa in the 10s of grams range.

Re:Neat (1)

TheTurtlesMoves (1442727) | more than 3 years ago | (#35288394)

There is no material in existence that's strong enough for a space elevator. Sure there are some *theoretical* possibilities, but that's all they are, *theory*.

And even if we do eventually make a material with that kind of strength to weight ratio (ie more that 10x current best). It will be easy to make uber performance rockets.

A space elevator is like a bridge across the ocean. Even if you could build it. Its still cheaper to have a runway at each end and fly, than to build the bridge.

Re:Neat (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | more than 3 years ago | (#35284956)

As far as I am aware there are two main types of radiation. An electromagentic shield wouldn't be really needed, since whatever it stops could be stopped by your skin anyway. The other type you'd need a foot of lead or lots of water. I'm open to correction here but that's my understanding.

Re:Neat (1)

TheTurtlesMoves (1442727) | more than 3 years ago | (#35288424)

This is not correct. Cosmic rays have high energy and are not stopped so easily. Indeed they have so much energy that they produce massive secondary showers of high energy particles.

How long you are in space depends what you need to worry about. Long duration, cosmic rays becomes the lions share of the dose. Shorter missions the solar wind is more of a issue (IIRC). In both cases CME are a real problem--without a "bunker" shelter, your dead. The shielding requirements means that you just can't do small without pretty high doses compared to what we would endure here on earth.

Re:Neat (1)

Hylandr (813770) | more than 3 years ago | (#35285758)

Was I the only one that read "GEOsats" as "Goatsex"?

Seems just as likely to catch politicians banging a goat than exploring the universe I guess.

- Dan.

Re:Neat (4, Insightful)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | more than 3 years ago | (#35283342)

Hrm. Took me aback as well, that might just work with some serious modifications. Of course I don't see much point in going to Mars right away, we'd be better off concentrating on the mineral wealth floating around near to earth and using that to build orbital manufactories and further survey ships. Once we have a significant orbital infrastructure we can populate that level and look at going much further out, in style.

I mean I get the whole wonder of the mission and so on, but there's a reason man didn't go back to the moon. We need real economic incentives to build onwards and upwards, realistically. Once we're up there in force it's a whole lot easier to go anywhere else.

Re:Neat (2)

StikyPad (445176) | more than 3 years ago | (#35283680)

I mean I get the whole wonder of the mission and so on, but there's a reason man didn't go back to the moon.

Taking a cue from Greenland, they obviously should've referred to the moon as Cheeseland.

Re:Neat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35284478)

I think BlackJackAndHookersland would be better. Or maybe that would just make people forget about the land part, or the whole thing all together.

Re:Neat (1)

kwbauer (1677400) | more than 3 years ago | (#35286972)

Except Greenland did have a whole lot of pastureland back in the day (before the multi-century cold snap we've been in and that seems to be ending now). It is only revisionist history by the AGW crowd that claims the Greenland name was a ruse to mislead people. Kind of interesting really. Tell a lie about how others told lies to hide the fact that you are being less than honest about some aspects of your story.

Re:Neat (1)

dryeo (100693) | more than 3 years ago | (#35287314)

And of course Iceland had no pasture back then, just ice due to how cold it was back then before the multi-century warm spell most of the world (excepting the far north Atlantic) experienced.

Re:Neat (1)

bigpat (158134) | more than 3 years ago | (#35284346)

I agree. It could work and it might be nice to do. But what is the objective? To do it just because we can?

Effectively and efficiently harnessing and utilizing energy and raw materials in space and on other planets is key to further space exploration. Focusing on robotic exploration and automated mining and manufacturing would give us the type of infrastructure we need in space to build the ships and space stations that people might actually be able to live in self sustainably. And by the time that infrastructure is in place, our robotic explorers will have been continuing to explore the solar system and beyond.

These one-off very expensive missions don't scale well. But some of the types of technologies we would develop for robotic manufacturing and exploration could also be used here on Earth.

Re:Neat (1)

Unkyjar (1148699) | more than 3 years ago | (#35287084)

I don't disagree, you're right. However, I think point behind it is that if we're going to do manned exploration (regardless of whether it is smart to choose it), this would be the least expensive first step.

Re:Neat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35284418)

ALERT ALERT ALERT!!!! SPACE NUTTER DETECTED!

You have *no* idea of what the hell you're talking about. It's utterly impractical. Just not feasible! What "mineral wealth"? You mean dust spread out over the entire Solar System? A few rocks here and there? How are you going to *do* anything at all with those rocks? Describe even in vaguest terms how you are going to get there, what are you going to do once there, and after that, profit?? Come on.

Re:Neat (4, Interesting)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | more than 3 years ago | (#35284862)

Hahah, alright so. You construct an 11km high tower/launch ramp, a compressive tower the same as cell towers as a truss of smaller elements. A reasonable height-to-base ratiomight be 20:1. So a 10 km tower would have 3 base points 0.5 km apart, assuming you have a triangular cross section for the tower as a whole.
 
Each principal column would in turn be a truss with 3 sub-columns spaced 25 meters apart, which in turn are made of tertiary columns 1.2 meters apart and 0.06 meters in diameter each. The tertiary columns have a wall thickness of 0.03 meters. This puts you above the denser elements of the atmosphere. Its not nearly as hard as it seems, Frank Lloyd Wright designed mile-high skyscrapers back in the 30's.

Then you run maglev/railgun type vacuum tubes up the length of it, therefore using extremely cheap electrical energy to power the vessel through the first stage, which I think should put the ship into LEO at 7g, althoughyou'd probably still need a booster stage.

If you could launch at 10000 ft above sea level, you could reduce your velocity change to get into orbit by approx. 250 m/s. However, you need about 8000 m/s to get into orbit. A 3% improvement, which would actually be a serious improvement. A RL-10A has an Isp of about 450 seconds; thus, exhaust velocity Ve is about 4400 km/sec. Structure and payload mass fraction is exp[deltaV/Ve]; a RL-10A powered vehicle could achieve a maxium amount of structure plus payload to 8km/sec of 16.3%. Typically about 5% of this is actually payload. A 3% decrease in delta-V to orbit increases this to 17.3%. This increases the *payload* to 6% of the gross lift-off mass -- a 20% increase in payload.

Imagine the benefits of launching higher and a lot faster.

This has the effect of vastly reducing the cost to get to LEO and from there to proper orbit and eventually escape; if it was as cheap to get to orbit as it is to cross oceans, we'd already be on Mars.

So lets talk mineral wealth. The most detailed study of an asteroid, Eros, collected by NEAR shows that it contains precious metals worth at least $20 trillion. If Eros is typical of stony meteorites, then it contains about 3% metal. With the known abundance's of metals in meteorites, even a very cautious estimate suggests 20,000 million tonnes of aluminium along with similar amounts of gold, platinum and other rarer metals.

That is just in one asteroid and not a very large one at that. There are thousands of asteroids out there.

So once you make it economical to get up there, you need to build out an infrastructure. There are lots of theories on how to do this by aseroid resource extraction, I'm wavering towards the "rubble pile" asteroids which come pre-demolished, I can go into more detail if you like.

Let's be clear though, unless a launch tower would drastically lower costs to space, the initial buildout has to be for space and by space. Then once orbital manufacture has reached a sufficiently advanced level, you can send manufactured goods, worth many times their wieght in gold, straight back to earth markets.
 
/borrowed from many sources, I haven't the time to do the maths right now.

Pikes Peak (1)

garyebickford (222422) | more than 3 years ago | (#35287578)

Back in the 1960s (maybe earlier) there was some talk about building such a ramp up the side of Pike's Peak. For transporting goods, I think it might work pretty well. The container vehicle might be based on a pure SCRAMjet, since the speed off the top of the peak could be Mach 5 - or, if possible, maybe the railgun could accelerate it to orbital velocity directly, so no fuel or motors required other than steering. To accomplish this in perhaps 10-15 km of track, the G forces might be too much for anything living. I'm also too lazy to figure it out.

distance equation is d = 1/2 a * t^2 + vt

If not, to reduce the mass of fuel required, perhaps the vehicle could have a minimum fuel load and be caught by an orbital vehicle, which could later slingshot it farther using collected electrical energy (an orbiting railgun)

Ahh, I found a reference. It was Heinlein. Space Launch System [ksccw.com] (a forum discussion message). Rather than a railgun, it was a magnetic launcher. This would have a much lower potential acceleration but with the height (14000 feet) and the length of the hypotenuse (the side of the mountain) the launch track, starting perhaps with a length along the flat could easily be four or five miles.

Re:Neat (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#35286552)

What "mineral wealth"? You mean dust spread out over the entire Solar System?

Some of those "dust particles" are almost 3500 km [wikipedia.org] wide.

Describe even in vaguest terms how you are going to get there, what are you going to do once there, and after that, profit??

Launch a self-replicating factory to the Moon. Geometric growth on the Moon for a period of time. Then program it to start a gold/platinum group metals mine and launch infrastructure for sending that stuff to LEO. Deorbit the stuff that you want on Earth. The total cost up to atmospheric entry is development of the factory and deployment/launch plus modest Earth-side crew that you have running operations and designing the infrastructure expansions.

Re:Neat (1)

Aighearach (97333) | more than 3 years ago | (#35283646)

It's a damned cool idea.

It's about the stupidest thing I've heard on slashdot in hours.

It's a research station. Using it as an docking station would ruin one or the other task.

And a docking station is probably better run as a business. A combined government project would be more expensive, because they'd assume the business side would be a cash cow that could subsidize the research and reduce expenditures. Then it would be too expensive to use, and it would lose the maximum possible amount of money when it sits manned and idle.

Re:Neat (1)

Brett Buck (811747) | more than 3 years ago | (#35283672)

Well, the "attach rockets to the space station" part has been around for a long time. I worked on a proposal for a boost module that, sufficiently extended, would have served the purpose here. That was even one of the parts of the study.

    That a long-duration space station would make an ideal platform for a long-duration trip to mars, etc, is also hardly new - it goes back to at least the 50's. All the same problems have to be solved for low earth orbit (for a long time) and and years-long planetary missions.

      One thing that is not the same is resupply, and that (not surprisingly) is the sticking point with all these sorts of schemes.

       

Re:Neat (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#35283762)

One thing that is not the same is resupply, and that (not surprisingly) is the sticking point with all these sorts of schemes.

Also massive thermal problems. Everything on the station was designed with one hemisphere experiencing vaguely constant room temperature radiation from the surface and the other half oscillates from deep space to direct solar every 90 minutes or so.

Deep space operations will have some pretty weird thermal effects. I suppose if you spin it fast enough...

Re:Neat (1)

strack (1051390) | more than 3 years ago | (#35287240)

skylab solved that shit with a bit of foil out a port when the main shade failed to deploy. in a few days. so i dont think its gonna be as much of a problem as you think. its all radiative heat.

Re:Neat (1)

Brett Buck (811747) | more than 3 years ago | (#35287774)

It's not much of a problem, and it's certainly a well-understood problem.

Re:Neat (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | more than 3 years ago | (#35283788)

One thing that is not the same is resupply, and that (not surprisingly) is the sticking point with all these sorts of schemes.

     

Couldn't you just fire a continuous stream of supply pods after it? You could even use them to help build up velocity if you wanted. It doesn't matter how long your supply chain is, once it is unbroken. You could even fire a cluster of them intended to end up around Mars in orbit.

Re:Neat (1)

JustNilt (984644) | more than 3 years ago | (#35284214)

I'm sure that'd be doable if we had infinite resources with which to do it. Of course, this is kind of the same issue with basic resupply: COST.

Re:Neat (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | more than 3 years ago | (#35284592)

Energy is basically free, you have the sun right there. The main cost after building it is getting the stuff from the earth to the launcher, I'm envisioning some sort of two stage railgun apparatus here.

Whaddaya mean "Buried in Space"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35288690)

One thing that is not the same is resupply, and that (not surprisingly) is the sticking point with all these sorts of schemes.

Main problem with resupply is: why we need resupply? It is outrageous that we are wasting rocket fuel to send up something that will ultimately become space junk, and will need to go back down and burn on reentry. Without autonomy, our vessels are hopelessly tied in our planet's orbit.

So, first task is developing extreme waste recycling technologies of life-supporting necessities (except energy, which is to be harvested from the Sun) for space station environment, some sort of biosphere capsule.

However, living of daily rations of phytoplankton and worms' soup, fortified with chemically extracted essential mineral salts, all harvested from a muck tank, for prolonged period, is not going to be very pleasant experience.

Furthermore, since all of the resources would be precious, nothing should be wasted, ejected into space. Everyone will have signed contract that says that, should you die on the journey, you agree to your body being completely recycled into drinking water and food.

Deep space exploration requires tough stomachs and a dose of cynicism.

Second, the ship must be equipped to almost completely replicate, or at the very least reform, most of itself, to create patches to the damaged hull or solar sail (if it is going to have one, and I believe it should), reform structural beams, etc. New techniques and materials will probably need to be devised for this.

Comforting thought is that technological advances needed for all this would probably help us reduce our environmental footprint down here on Spaceship Earth.

Wonderful idea (1)

symbolset (646467) | more than 3 years ago | (#35283304)

Waste not, want not.

Fuel Costs (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35283316)

I wonder what the fuel budget for moving from Earth orbit to Mars orbit is, compared to moving from the surface of Earth to the Surface of Mars is? I'd imagine it's a small fraction.

It would be great (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35283324)

We can already do a lot more in space than we are doing. If only NASA's budget get increased... This space station looks amazing compared to what we currently have, but we already have everything needed to build it. It will be hard, it will take time and money, but it will work. We should already have space station like that one.

It's very nice, I love the concept.

But I'm dreaming of space hotels for a dozens of people at least.... Following a similar design.

When the quote fits the article (2)

MikeDirnt69 (1105185) | more than 3 years ago | (#35283326)

"Given the choice between accomplishing something and just lying around, I'd rather lie around. No contest." -- Eric Clapton

Money (2)

tripleevenfall (1990004) | more than 3 years ago | (#35283328)

With government shutdowns impending and with budget shrinking, not growing, over the next several years - I doubt we can afford this, and I doubt if anyone will consider it seriously.

We can definitely afford it (0)

mozumder (178398) | more than 3 years ago | (#35283560)

All you need to do is raise taxes.

Problem: Solved.

Re:Money (4, Insightful)

similar_name (1164087) | more than 3 years ago | (#35283608)

I doubt we can afford this

NASA's budget for 2010 was ~18 billion dollars of a 3.55 trillion dollar budget. Making up a mighty half a percent of our budget. We can certainly afford it, even in these rough times. Whether it's a priority or not is up for debate.

I doubt if anyone will consider it seriously.

You are probably correct.

Inaccurate title. Read the @!#$&*$ article. (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35283362)

Actually, the Nautilus -X plan doesn't propose fitting "the" space station rockets and sending it to other planets (which would require making a goddamn huge rocket!), it proposes building "a" space station with rockets and sending it to other planets. The idea is to use a modular system that's actually built in space like the ISS to go to other worlds. Pay attention.

The only possible way (3, Insightful)

mozumder (178398) | more than 3 years ago | (#35283364)

for long distance human travel is if we already had massive space stations at destination orbits.

You would only need to move human transport shuttles between stations, instead of transporting entire launch-shuttle-landing systems.

Re:The only possible way (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35288758)

You wouldn't board a dingy to cross an ocean, would you? Space-station-like ship is needed to accommodate the crew during a several hundred days trip. Your idea would work fine if we had propulsion that would allow "human transport shuttles" to get from ISS to Mars Orbital SS in at most a handful of days.

Babylon 4 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35283382)

It's Babylon 4. Will we stop this one from being stolen by Valin to fight the shadows?

Re:Babylon 4 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35284058)

if we prevent the theft of Babylon 4 then the shadows will be more powerful and we will lose the coming shadow war.

Re:Babylon 4 (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35285248)

Zathras warn, but no, no one listen to poor Zathras, no.

Re:Babylon 4 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35287744)

Idiot. It was Zathras who said that. Don't you know anything?

in other news: airships are making a come back! (1)

buback (144189) | more than 3 years ago | (#35283452)

seriously, it would be great, but it's not going to happen at that cost, in that time frame.

at best, Ad Astra will be allowed to put a VASIMR on it and boost it to a geosync orbit.

not reusing the ISS (3, Informative)

buback (144189) | more than 3 years ago | (#35283546)

they aren't going to actually reuse the ISS, btw. They just put that in the article for people with no imagination, for which every modular spacecraft looks like the ISS.
A truss, with a VASIMR and a bunch of Bigalow inflatable modules attached is what they are proposing, as a lunar transfer ferry.

That might (probably will) happen SOME day, but i doubt by 2020.

Back-ronym (3, Insightful)

Ruke (857276) | more than 3 years ago | (#35283474)

The summary leaves out the most important part of the story: Nautilus-X is an acronym for "Non-Atmospheric Universal Transport Intended for Lengthy United States eXploration".

Re:Back-ronym (0)

BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) | more than 3 years ago | (#35284270)

That's just a standard acronym, not a backronym. Backronyms use the acronym as a word in the full phrase. For example: WINE: WINE Is Not an Emulator.

Re:Back-ronym (3, Informative)

LateArthurDent (1403947) | more than 3 years ago | (#35284500)

That's just a standard acronym, not a backronym. Backronyms use the acronym as a word in the full phrase. For example: WINE: WINE Is Not an Emulator.

No. Backronyms are acronyms where the phrase was created such that it fits whatever the acronym they desired happened to be, instead of actually appropriately naming something and then figuring out what the acronym is.

What you're thinking of is a recursive acronym. You can also have recursive backronyms.

Re:Back-ronym (1)

MrKaos (858439) | more than 3 years ago | (#35287570)

Backronyms are acronyms where the phrase was created such that it fits whatever the acronym they desired happened to be, instead of actually appropriately naming something and then figuring out what the acronym is.

What you're thinking of is a recursive acronym. You can also have recursive backronyms.

But can you have precursive backronyms?

Read the article. (1, Redundant)

qbasicjedi (1247790) | more than 3 years ago | (#35283480)

The Nautliux-X design doesn't propose fitting "the" space station with a rocket and sending it to other planets, it proposes building "a" space station with rockets and sending it to other planets. The idea is to use a modular design like the ISS that is built in orbit and use it as the vehicle for interplanetary missions. The modular design cuts costs and enables NASA to customize the design for different missions.

Cow? (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | more than 3 years ago | (#35283532)

Is... is that a cow?

Re:Cow? (2)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 3 years ago | (#35283586)

Depends. Did you just put Wirt's leg with a book of town portal inside a cube?

Re:Cow? (1)

Danimoth (852665) | more than 3 years ago | (#35287602)

Yep, that's a cow alright.

Inflatable habitats? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35283574)

What about all those micro-meteorites and radiation?

What about the fact that every time NASA launches something, it exerts a force on our planet and little by little pushes it out of its natural orbit? Is NASA to blame for global warming? Are we getting closer to the sun?

Re:Inflatable habitats? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35283732)

Yes, nothing to see here. Move along.

bad article & summary (3, Informative)

cratermoon (765155) | more than 3 years ago | (#35283592)

Bad summary of what Nautilus-X is about, but the article itself fails in the opening paragraphs as well.

A better summary of the idea from physorg of the Multi-Mission Space Exploration Vehicle [physorg.com] .

The idea is NOT about taking the existing ISS and strapping rockets to it. Nautilus-X IS about building something that would ride permanently in space out of technologies similar to what was used in ISS, along with inflatable modules such as Bigelow Aerospace's expandable space habitats. Separate crew modules would provide the ability to land and lift off from planets.

About the only part ISS itself would play is hosting a demonstration version of the ring centrifuge.

Pretty much the "real" interplanetary spacecraft as it has been discussed for decades, but Nautilus-X would be built with mostly known technologies.

Re:bad article & summary (0)

qbasicjedi (1247790) | more than 3 years ago | (#35283620)

That's what I tried to tell everyone, but no one listened to me. :(

Re:bad article & summary (1)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 3 years ago | (#35288554)

the catch with the bad summary is that the bad summary is a lot more interesting since it involves a platform already lifted quite high.

because otherwise it's just "hey let's build a modular space ship with 200 million!" which is a neat idea.. but an idea that gets thrown pretty often and lacks the key question of how to get the stuff to space for that cheap.

About time (4, Insightful)

oic0 (1864384) | more than 3 years ago | (#35283594)

I keep waiting for us to do something halfway exciting in space. Instead we blow our money on being world police. Screw all that. Cut the military budget in half and we could have a colony on mars.

Re:About time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35283790)

So abandon the Earth in exchange for the Galaxy and universe at large? Sounds like a good plan for USA! Maybe things would get more peaceful around here if they left :D

Re:About time (1)

oic0 (1864384) | more than 3 years ago | (#35284414)

Nah, we never leave an area completely. We will leave some military bases and politicians behind to impose our will.

Re:About time (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#35283806)

I keep waiting for us to do something halfway exciting in space. Instead we blow our money on being world police. Screw all that. Cut the military budget in half and we could have a colony on mars.

How would a mars base support using fear to control the populace? The ole Australia gambit, be good or we ship you far away?

Re:About time (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35284122)

Well, it would make mutually assured destruction slightly harder to maintain, if one side had a colony that was out of ICBM range.

Re:About time (2)

ArsonSmith (13997) | more than 3 years ago | (#35285590)

And the arms race can move on to IPBMs.

Re:About time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35284666)

Worked for the Australians!

Re:About time (1)

jklovanc (1603149) | more than 3 years ago | (#35285148)

How about using the money saved to do other things than create a cool colony that will not significantly impact life on earth. How about we use it to do other things like solve the energy crisis, solve the food problem, solve the growing water problem.

The comments for a Mars colony are very slim.

Life boat;
Tiny population + radiation and other harsh conditions = inbreeding and mutation = non-human life if they survived at all. A tiny colony will not save the human race.

Minerals.
Considering the billions of dollars it would take to get miners there and the material back, mining mars is not economically viable.

Re:About time (1)

istartedi (132515) | more than 3 years ago | (#35284750)

Yes! Use the resources of the empire to establish colonies. No more war--wait... ummm... we might have a problem here...

Re:About time (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 3 years ago | (#35285432)

A manned mission to Mars in 1989 was estimated to cost 500 billion dollars. An inflation calculator brings that up to 854.14 billion in 2009.

The cost estimates of ISS range between 35 billion to 160 billion dollars in 2005 dollars.

The total DoD budget for 2011 is 721.3 billion dollars

Re:About time (1)

Eclipse-now (987359) | more than 3 years ago | (#35288050)

"Cut the military budget in half and we could have a colony on mars." I'm with you all the way *after* America switches over to non-oil transport. Then you'll be far less likely to get into REAL wars over the remaining black stuff after we hit peak oil! So, roll out the fast-rail, electric cars, and GenIV nukes. Start eating up some of that nuclear 'waste' (which is actually fuel that could run the world for 500 years).

Once you are off the oil you'll save yourselves $600 billion a year in imported oil. If you think that's expensive, once production peaks and the terminal decline sets in it could double in cost. We're talking a ballpark figure of over a trillion dollars a year! Yes, a million million dollars a year. If America can wean off the oil FAST you may just save yourselves from entering a REAL oil war (with China?) and you will not NEED half your armed forces anyway.

I'm all for a war-time economy to get us off the oil and prevent some of the darker peak oil scenarios.

Then it's time for Mars!

Good idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35283704)

In hindsight... this should have been planned from the get-go. The costs of building a space station are so huge that it can barely be done. The added cost of making this possible would have been small compared to building a second space station.

flywheels (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35283842)

what if they had flyweels for energy storage? because in a vacuum it ought to be possible to obtain large rpms.

Space Station (1)

BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) | more than 3 years ago | (#35283906)

The only difference between a space station and a space exploration spacecraft is which body it is orbiting.

Wonder how they would assemble it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35284008)

I would think they'd assemble it in LEO, use an ion drive/solar sail to slowly move it to a higher orbit, launch the astronauts to board it, and finally fire the main engines.

Re:Wonder how they would assemble it? (1)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 3 years ago | (#35284302)

But... doesn't moving it out of LEO void the warranty?

A more reasonable approach (1)

NEDHead (1651195) | more than 3 years ago | (#35284232)

We go to the airport in a car, then get on the plane. This sort of craft should be dedicated to the bulk travel, and not stop at either end. A smaller resupply shuttle to transit on & off would save all sorts of energy, rather than stopping & starting this huge system twice for every round trip.

Re:A more reasonable approach (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35284416)

If we did air travel the way we do space travel then we would launch from an airport and drop you off at your exact destination, not another airport, by landing vertically not refuelling and taking back off and landing in the middle of the ocean.

Re:A more reasonable approach (2)

cratermoon (765155) | more than 3 years ago | (#35284662)

Agreed, but until we get a build system at the destination, we don't have a place to transit to. Much like the early European sailing explorers, we need to take our whole big ship full of stuff with us at first, then begin to build infrastructure at the destination. One aspect of Nautilus-X that makes sense compared to say Orion is that the long-distance craft is a ferry for a smaller landing craft. Instead of beaching a whole ship on the shore and then dragging it off when it's time to do, anchor out in the bay and send a rowboat or two to the land.

Comments on TFA (3, Interesting)

BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) | more than 3 years ago | (#35284620)

So, the author of TFA has some interesting thoughts, but I doubt he's researched them very thoroughly.

He says:

The Nautilus has a huge deep-space antenna where laser transmission may make more sense. It also has a shuttle-derived remote manipulator arm which also seems like excess weight.

...which sounds good from a layman's standpoint, but isn't necessarily true. Laser communications cost a lot in terms of power budget. If you are going to be strapping multiple laser communication systems (for redundancy) onto a deep space mission, you are going to need to scale up the size of the solar arrays quite a bit. It is very likely that the extra mass needed for extra solar arrays is greater than that needed for a high power radio antenna. The folks at NASA get paid to crunch numbers for trade studies like this, and I would wager they took that into account.

As for the manipulator arm, yes, it is excess weight. Excess weight isn't necessarily a bad thing if you are already going to be lifting a lot of mass to orbit. If, say, one launch for constructing this vehicle required a Dragon, HTV, Progress, or some other supply vehicle to be lifted (for the purposes of a lifeboat, or some such thing), one could piggy back the manipulator arm on as an extra payload and outfit it to the new spacecraft. If the arm would require an extra launch then, yes, it is an expensive addition. However, in the event that this spacecraft would be landing a crew and then picking them back up again, the manipulator arm would not be unnecessary mass, but, in that case, a critical system for redocking surface-to-orbit ferries.

The oddest thing about that assessment by the author is when he says this previously in the article:

To significantly lower mass and therefore reduce transit time, why not simply send unmanned landers ahead and put them into a parking orbit to wait until the crew arrives.

If the spacecraft is supposed to be linking up with landers in a parking orbit at the destination, you can bet your sweet ass that a manipulator arm will be necessary to capture the landers. Of course, alternatively, the crew could also take a ferry to the on-orbit lander modules instead, but then you'd be carrying around the crew ferries rather than the landers and/or the arm, which means, again, a trade study should be conducted and the folks at NASA have probably already done so.

One other thing to consider is that while a higher mass requires a higher delta-v to hop from orbit to orbit, if the excess mass is a small enough fraction, it may not make a practical difference. Rocket engines that are in production produce a certain amount of thrust. If that thrust can boost "up to X many kg of mass to this delta-v" then reducing your mass below X is somewhat unnecessary, unless you need or want a higher delta-v margin.


It's important to remember that the first European colonists to North America didn't land on the East Coast and then drag race to the Pacific. Rather, they established a colonial foothold in the East first (like we should in LEO) and then, after developing their on-continent infrastructure some, they set off to explore further. Baby-steps lead towards progress. One off, epic publicity stunts lead to debt.

The ring would have to be huge (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35284824)

Imagine a small rotating ring, as seen in 2001. Imagine yourself crouching near the floor, then suddenly standing up. Conservation of rotational momentum would accelerate you in the direction of rotation, hard, and maybe give you vertigo as well. So you'd puke, fall down, slide in it for several feet. To be practical the ring would have to be about a mile in diameter.

Stupid fanboi wank (0, Flamebait)

benjfowler (239527) | more than 3 years ago | (#35285336)

Can't work, won't work -- and there's no money in any case.

Some basement dweller needs to get a girlfriend. And a smack around the head for wasting everyone's time for even suggesting it.

There are some excellent reasons why this stupid idea (literally) won't fly:

The station is designed to have a very limited lifetime of 20 years.
It's designed to be serviced, refueled and resupplied by LEO spacecraft (Shuttle, Soyuz, visiting vehicles). Without regular resupply, it's useless
Shielding. Move it too far, and shielding wouldn't be adequate for protecting human occupants. Adding shielding is a total non starter.
Thermal issues: the station is very carefully designed to cope with the thermal environment of it's low Earth orbit. Move it too far, it'll overheat quickly. It's flat-out radiating away heat from Station systems as it is without being exposed to the full brunt of the Sun 24/7.

Send the shuttle instead (1)

gr8_phk (621180) | more than 3 years ago | (#35287198)

Or put rockets on an orbiting shuttle and send it interplanetary. Add some tundra tires and land it on Mars!

One word... (1)

Boawk (525582) | more than 3 years ago | (#35287870)

Raccoon [theonion.com]
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