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New Soyuz Launch Facility Near the Equator

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the wish-we-could-do-that-space-thing dept.

Space 127

tcd004 writes "Russian and French teams are currently hard at work in French Guiana on the northern coast of South America, building the first Soyuz launch facility in the Western Hemisphere. Soyuz rockets normally carry 3,500 pound payloads into orbit, but from the French Guiana spaceport, the rocket will have an added benefit of being near the equator where the Earth's spin makes launching slightly easier. This extra boost allows Soyuz to deliver a 6,600 pound payload into orbit. The first launches are scheduled for October."

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6600 lbs only? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36891434)

In other words, the same as launching 4 average weight Wal-Mart shoppers?

Re:6600 lbs only? (1)

theolein (316044) | more than 3 years ago | (#36893004)

:D

It's (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36891460)

Currently launching first posts

Building? (4, Informative)

Leuf (918654) | more than 3 years ago | (#36891468)

Considering according to TFA they had a launch dry run back in May and launching in two months I don't think there's too much building going on at this point.

In Soviet Russia (0)

Roachie (2180772) | more than 3 years ago | (#36891480)

Facility launch YOU to equator.

Obviously for the Americans, DUH! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36891500)

With the facility, they can launch 6600 pounds vs. 3600 pounds from Russia. Clearly, this is to accommodate the additional girth, err, muscle mass, of an average American.

Re:Obviously for the Americans, DUH! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36892576)

I once witnessed a fat guy raise his shirt, squeeze his lard and exclaim "All muscle... in repose".

Whoa. That's a lot more payload! (2)

WoTG (610710) | more than 3 years ago | (#36891536)

If a space shuttle was launched from French Guiana, would the payload also have gone up 86%? Or does it not quite scale that way?

Re:Whoa. That's a lot more payload! (4, Interesting)

Isaac-1 (233099) | more than 3 years ago | (#36891544)

Now can we change the orbital inclination of the ISS to something more sane?

Re:Whoa. That's a lot more payload! (1)

hackertourist (2202674) | more than 3 years ago | (#36892158)

Wouldn't that take a huge amount of fuel?

Re:Whoa. That's a lot more payload! (0)

WorBlux (1751716) | more than 3 years ago | (#36892652)

No, since your near the equator the rocket starts off moving faster than it does away from the equator. Less fuel is need to lift a payload to the same orbit.

Re:Whoa. That's a lot more payload! (1)

hackertourist (2202674) | more than 3 years ago | (#36892830)

I meant it would take a huge amount of fuel to change the orbit of the ISS.

Re:Whoa. That's a lot more payload! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36892906)

That whoosh you hear is massive engines trying to change the orbital inclination of the ISS.

Believe it or not, in space everybody can hear you whoosh.

Re:Whoa. That's a lot more payload! (1)

glwtta (532858) | more than 3 years ago | (#36893274)

I think that if the ISS is ever found to be "near the equator" it's safe to say that the project is not doing well.

Re:Whoa. That's a lot more payload! (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#36893246)

Wouldn't that take a huge amount of fuel?

You're not fighting gravity, so ultra high Isp engines will work, all of which use huge amounts of power, then again, may as well do "something" with excess electrical power...

Also ultra high ISP engines have another pleasant side effect of not really requiring a structural analysis... if the engine is only pushing with 5 pounds of force, the station is probably not going to crumble, saving a lot of structural analysis.

The problem is, to save money, everything was cut, so the only purpose left for the station after the cuts was to be someplace for the shuttle to go, and the only purpose left for the shuttle after 30 years was to go to the station. What happens now that the shuttle is gone? Hmm I'm thinking another taco bell floating landing target in the pacific ocean is in store...

Furthermore, NASA operates on a "project basis" and the ISS construction project is basically over, so its about time to deorbit the ISS. There is no ongoing purpose, all the cool ideas of things you could do with a station were all cut to save money, and you can't add them now, because the bureaucratic time required to spin them up to speed exceeds the predicted lifetime of the station . NASA does not operate on a "army base basis" where its a permanent or semi-permanent thing like Cape Canaveral. So by the time you could get the ISS into an equatorial orbit with a high Isp thruster, it would be past time to deorbit it...

Re:Whoa. That's a lot more payload! (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 3 years ago | (#36894848)

Yes, it would take a lot of fuel to change the orbit of the ISS. The real question is which orbit would you move it to? A polar orbit means that it would be passing through the polar particle streams (the Earth's magnetic field attracts charged particles and directs them to the poles. This is what causes the Auroras.). Essentially you'd be bombarding the occupants with radiation every 45 minutes. An equatorial orbit would have problems too. The earth bulges at the equator (and I imagine the atmosphere does too) so you'd have to have a higher orbit.

I vote for an orbit of 23.5 degrees, the angle of the orbital plane of most of the solar system. With some upgrades, the ISS could then become an assembly and fuelling depot for interplanetary missions. The only problem is that this orbit forces the ISS to pass through the Earth's shadow every orbit.

Re:Whoa. That's a lot more payload! (1)

thegarbz (1787294) | more than 3 years ago | (#36892194)

More sane than what?

Re:Whoa. That's a lot more payload! (1)

IrquiM (471313) | more than 3 years ago | (#36892348)

than current probably ;)

Re:Whoa. That's a lot more payload! (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#36893294)

The inclination is crazy high because the russians only had a site at something like 45 degrees (roughly as far north as Wisconsin).

There are two separate effects:

1) The closer you are to the equator the more mass you can boost because the equator is spinning rather quickly... obviously about a timezone per hour...

2) Out of inclination launches are possible, but they waste tons of fuel. You can launch into any inclination orbit from any latitude, it just costs a ton of fuel.

Go play with Orbiter for awhile, get a feel for orbital mechanics.

http://orbit.medphys.ucl.ac.uk/ [ucl.ac.uk]

Re:Whoa. That's a lot more payload! (1)

Aqualung812 (959532) | more than 3 years ago | (#36894618)

obviously about a timezone per hour...

I know what you're trying to say, but everywhere on earth moves at one timezone per hour.

The point is, at the equator, the timezones are wider than anywhere else on earth.

Re:Whoa. That's a lot more payload! (1)

coinreturn (617535) | more than 3 years ago | (#36894822)

obviously about a timezone per hour...

I know what you're trying to say, but everywhere on earth moves at one timezone per hour.

The point is, at the equator, the timezones are wider than anywhere else on earth.

I know what you're saying, but what about at the poles?

Re:Whoa. That's a lot more payload! (2)

AlphaFreak (646767) | more than 3 years ago | (#36892272)

The Guyana Soyuz launch facility is not prepared to launch Soyuz spacecrafts. It's prepared to launch Soyuz ROCKETS. The manned spacecraft and the rocket share the Soyuz name (and, of course, the Soyuz capsule is launched atop of a Soyuz rocket). Right now, there will be no manned launches from Guyana. So the ISS must keep its current orbit by now.

Re:Whoa. That's a lot more payload! (2)

Teancum (67324) | more than 3 years ago | (#36893058)

Not quite. The reason why trips to the ISS are going to continue to be launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome is because the orbital inclination of the ISS was designed explicitly for vehicles launched from Kazakhstan. For crewed flights leaving from French Guyana, it would actually require even more fuel for the launch than if they left from Baikonur. This is called orbital mechanics, so not all things are equal.

The reason why the Space Shuttle can make it to the ISS is because it has extra fuel that can make the trip, and a whole lot of reserve capacity, not to mention that KSC isn't quite on the equator either. It takes a little extra fuel, but it isn't too bad. BTW, changing the orbital inclination of the ISS at this point would need an act of God or some other divine miracle. The mass of that station alone would preclude any sort of substantial changes of its orbital characteristics. About the only change that I've heard about is to try and boost the ISS to a slightly higher orbit so it can avoid more atmosphere... something that is routinely done anyway at the moment and the Soyuz spacecraft can make it to a slightly higher orbit.

For GEO or equatorial flights, there is a huge benefit for launching from near the equator, not to mention that this move is being done explicitly to allow RKK Energia (the company who makes the Soyuz rockets) the opportunity to go after the international satellite market.... worth several billion per year at the moment.

Adding the extra facilities for crewed launches is comparatively trivial and certainly could be done, and I haven't heard that the idea is being ruled out completely either. The problem would be, where would the ultimate destination be if you launched from there? Perhaps if Robert Bigelow gets his space stations going or there is some increased demand for flights to the Moon (Soyuz spacecraft was originally designed for the Soviet lunar program) you might see some crewed flights from that location. At the moment, you are correct that flights from there will only be unmanned flights.

Clarkes 3rd law (2)

rossdee (243626) | more than 3 years ago | (#36894076)

"BTW, changing the orbital inclination of the ISS at this point would need an act of God or some other divine miracle. "

Or significantly advanced technology. - the original NCC1701 Enterprise could do it probably, and certainly the Next Generation Starfleet ships would have no problems

Re:Clarkes 3rd law (1)

Teancum (67324) | more than 3 years ago | (#36894156)

Wake me up when we have more than a gram of anti-matter to make that possible.

Re:Whoa. That's a lot more payload! (2)

Vecanti (2384840) | more than 3 years ago | (#36891546)

Exactly, and does that mean it would be impossible to launch a Soyuz rocket from the south pole?

Re:Whoa. That's a lot more payload! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36891588)

well, it would be a lot harder. i am pretty sure that the fuel load is the limiting factor here. and seeing as it would need to be a lot more when starting from the northpole, it is likely that at the very least, it will not be cost effective enough to be done.

Re:Whoa. That's a lot more payload! (1)

MacTO (1161105) | more than 3 years ago | (#36891598)

The Soviets definitely had the launch capabilities for high northern latitudes (they launched satellites at 62.8 degress North). Whether Soyuz could do that with its typical payload, I don't know.

Re:Whoa. That's a lot more payload! (1)

SharpFang (651121) | more than 3 years ago | (#36891908)

If you want it to hit Washington, then definitely yes. Russians have that variant covered to perfection.

Re:Whoa. That's a lot more payload! (1)

agentgonzo (1026204) | more than 3 years ago | (#36892344)

No, you could launch a soyuz into polar orbit from the south pole. TFA doesn't state whether 'orbit' is low earth orbit or geostationary orbit. GEO from the south pole would be crazy anyway as GEO always ends up directly over the equator.

Re:Whoa. That's a lot more payload! (1)

EdZ (755139) | more than 3 years ago | (#36892886)

It depends on whether you mean a geostationary orbit, or a geosynchronousorbit. Geostationary means you're limited to a circular orbit with a single inclination, geosynchronous can be any inclination and/or eccentricity, as long as a period is 24 hours.

Re:Whoa. That's a lot more payload! (1)

strack (1051390) | more than 3 years ago | (#36891644)

i think its some sort of squared relation. i believe launching from the equator gives you about a 1000mph speed boost, and small amounts of added speed lead to large reductions in propellant mass.

Re:Whoa. That's a lot more payload! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36891948)

Cosine of latitude gives the relative speed from an equatorial launch. Roughly times 1000 is rotational speed.

Re:Whoa. That's a lot more payload! (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36891652)

Well, Cape Canaveral [wikipedia.org] is about 28 degrees latitude, while the Baikonur Cosmodrome [wikipedia.org] in Kazahkstan is 46 degrees. We'd gain something by going to the French Guiana facility's 5 degrees, but nowhere near as much. (The extra velocity kick from Earth's rotation is proportional to the cosine of latitude.)

Re:Whoa. That's a lot more payload! (3, Funny)

daem0n1x (748565) | more than 3 years ago | (#36892452)

Soyuz rockets normally carry 3,500 pound payloads into orbit.

This extra boost allows Soyuz to deliver a 6,600 pound payload into orbit.

What's puzzling me is, why would someone want to send all that money into orbit? And, if it's in French Guiana, why do they send British Pounds instead of Euros?

Re:Whoa. That's a lot more payload! (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 3 years ago | (#36892926)

Its even better then burning down all the forests.

Re:Whoa. That's a lot more payload! (1)

s122604 (1018036) | more than 3 years ago | (#36893602)

Probably not nearly as much as a difference, Cape Canaveral Florida is a lot closer to the equator than the Russians' facility.
although there would be some difference

Re:Whoa. That's a lot more payload! (1)

scharkalvin (72228) | more than 3 years ago | (#36893980)

The increase stated is the difference from launching in Russia. The Kennedy space center is about half way between the two so it already gets a good boost from the earth's spin. (Jules Vern knew this, that's why he had his space cannon located in Florida at almost the exact same spot in the novel "from the earth to the moon").

A bit ironic ... (3, Interesting)

MacTO (1161105) | more than 3 years ago | (#36891562)

I know that it is far too early to tell what's going to happen with the U.S. space program, but I find it quite ironic that Russia managed to rebuild their manned and civilian space program within years of the political and economic collapse of the U.S.S.R. and that the U.S.A. is depending upon them even though the American economic collapse is minor in comparison.

Now I've been out of the space exploration loop for a few years, but it strikes me that the U.S.A. does not have civilian or manned launch capabilities at the moment. That leaves the civilian program contracting out launches to the Russians, E.S.A., and their military. And quite frankly I don't see that changing in the near future since I don't think that they have the political will to change it.

Re:A bit ironic ... (2)

icebike (68054) | more than 3 years ago | (#36891688)

I know that it is far too early to tell what's going to happen with the U.S. space program, but I find it quite ironic that Russia managed to rebuild their manned and civilian space program within years of the political and economic collapse of the U.S.S.R. and that the U.S.A. is depending upon them even though the American economic collapse is minor in comparison.

The difference is that the US has chosen not to pursue the Shuttle program, so that the money can be spent on never ending social programs.
Its purely a political choice, not a technical one. There is nothing preventing the US fro building additional shuttles with upgraded components, other than those that see it as a waste of money.

Saturn V payload to low earth orbit was 262,000 lbs. Energia payload to LEO 220,462 lb, Shuttle payload to LEO is 53,600 lbs. Compared to Soyuz's 6,600 lbs, (even on the equator). The trend is smaller and cheaper.

There is a great deal of heavy lifting that simply has no platform these days.

Re:A bit ironic ... (1)

Vectormatic (1759674) | more than 3 years ago | (#36891758)

you are mixing the wrong types of payload. you are comparing Saturn V the rocket, with Soyuz the capsule. Soyuz the rocket can take 16.000 lbs to LEO even from baikonur. The capacity mentioned in the article is the amount of payload that can be taken on board the soyuz capsule. Which also means that there isnt a 86% increase in payload, since you are conveniently forgetting the capsule it rides in.

Also, if you want to talk about ironic, consider this, The ISS is placed in an orbit which was a compromise in terms of inclination between the shuttle and the soyuz ideal orbits, this means both craft have reduced capacity / longer flight paths to get there. Moments after the shuttle kicks it, the russians gain launch capability much closer to the shuttle's ideal inclination.

Re:A bit ironic ... (2)

tp1024 (2409684) | more than 3 years ago | (#36892060)

Still wrong. It's all about commercial payloads, which usually go to the GTO - Geostationary Transition Orbit. The satellite will then use its own fuel to reach the geostationary orbit.

The increase in payload is all down to not needing an additional plane-change maneuver - which very taxing in terms of fuel - and some slight gains through additional rotational velocity of the earth at the equator.

The Soyuz payload to low earth orbit (LEO) is roughly 9t vs. 25t for the Shuttle.However, on average the Shuttle had a payload of less than 12t on board. It could carry a third stage in its cargo bay to lift satellites into GTO, but in this case the satellites were limited to something on the order of 3t - not much more than Soyuz.

Also, for comparison: An Ariane 5 can carry about 10t into GTO or 20t into LEO and costs about $200mio per launch. If Falcon Heavy works out as planned, it will carry up to 19t into GTO or 53t into LEO for $100mio (+/- 20%) per launch. Even if they miss the projected cost by a factor of two, it's still very competitive. (It helps a lot to build a rocket in one facility, instead of half a dozen or so in as many countries spread all over Europe and using standardized parts everywhere instead of differing technologies for each stage.)

Re:A bit ironic ... (0)

strack (1051390) | more than 3 years ago | (#36892294)

at about a billion per launch, its fucking insulting to the american taxpayer that the shuttle isnt stuffed to the hilt with satellites and supplies every damn time it lifts off. 12tonnes? thats fucking ridiculous. fucking waste of money.

Re:A bit ironic ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36893902)

You tell'em, Sparky!

Re:A bit ironic ... (1)

Tekfactory (937086) | more than 3 years ago | (#36894174)

Not that you need to be spun up further, but NASA also used to load LEAD onto the Shuttle to keep the ass end down on reentry. Over the lifetime of the program there have been tons and tons of lead flown into space on the shuttle so that it could keep a stable profile on reentry. Again more interesting tidbits from the MIT open courseware Aerospace lecture series with the shuttle's designers and engineers.

Re:A bit ironic ... (1)

k6mfw (1182893) | more than 3 years ago | (#36895474)

>"interesting tidbits from the MIT open courseware Aerospace lecture series with the shuttle's designers and engineers."

what?!? Any books,articles, overheads, pdfs from these guys? It sounds like their presentations bring to light many reasons why the Shuttle was made the way it is. If many of us knew these reasons, then we can at least make intelligent posts instead of moronic ones.

Re:A bit ironic ... (2)

0123456 (636235) | more than 3 years ago | (#36891806)

There is nothing preventing the US fro building additional shuttles with upgraded components, other than those that see it as a waste of money.

That and because it would be insane as anything other than a jobs program.

Re:A bit ironic ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36893130)

Well, the Department of Defense could always use another spy satelite in orbit. Let's not forget that a lot of shuttle missions were classified military missions. And NASA's origins were in the military: repurposed missles, air force pilots, funding, etc.

Re:A bit ironic ... (1)

coinreturn (617535) | more than 3 years ago | (#36894890)

Well, the Department of Defense could always use another spy satelite in orbit. Let's not forget that a lot of shuttle missions were classified military missions. And NASA's origins were in the military: repurposed missles, air force pilots, funding, etc.

I'm sure they have other ways of launching their spy satellites.

Re:A bit ironic ... (2)

bluemonq (812827) | more than 3 years ago | (#36891862)

The modern Soyuz-2 rocket has a payload of roughly 16,000 pounds from its current facilities. No idea where the 3,500 pounds is coming from.

Re:A bit ironic ... (1)

bluemonq (812827) | more than 3 years ago | (#36891890)

Got cut off. Anyhow, if you want heavy-lift today, Proton gets you 45,000 pounds of payload up north. Beyond that, the Angara family is coming online in a few more years, getting you to 89,000 pounds. And if SpaceX is to be believed, they'll have a 120,000 pound lift ready for you around the same time.

Re:A bit ironic ... (2)

hackertourist (2202674) | more than 3 years ago | (#36892180)

The difference is that the US has chosen not to pursue the Shuttle program, so that the money can be spent on never ending social programs.

Yes, social programs like 2 simultaneous wars halfway across the globe, and paying interest on the national debt.

There ware good technical reasons to end the Shuttle program. The Shuttle configuration is flawed, and no amount of updated components is going to change that. It was time for a clean sheet.

The US is on its way to being able to provide Saturn V-class launches again. Only this time it's a private company instead of NASA. That's not a bad thing.

Re:A bit ironic ... (1)

Tomato42 (2416694) | more than 3 years ago | (#36892516)

2011 NASA budget: 19 billion
2011 DoD budget: 708 billion

Re:A bit ironic ... (2)

Teancum (67324) | more than 3 years ago | (#36893154)

I don't know the current budget, but some estimates [armscontrolwonk.com] of the NRO (National Reconnaissance Office) may be as high as $40 billion, with more realistic numbers being perhaps closer to $15-$20 billion. Keep in mind that nearly everything that the NRO does is for stuff that goes into space, and that the USAF has other vehicles which goes into space too that is beyond the NRO programs as well. This is "the other space agency" which is seldom talked about. Other federal departments also have their own independent projects in space, like NOAA and their weather satellites.

Also keep in mind that not everything that NASA does goes into space, as there is the aviation research arm and some other activities they perform as well.

Re:A bit ironic ... (1)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 3 years ago | (#36892346)

The difference is that the US has chosen not to pursue the Shuttle program, so that the money can be spent on never ending social programs.

Nice flamebait, except that Russia has many more of those - it kept a lot which were inherited from the USSR, and is only slowly migrating them to something more "free market" (and even that doesn't go well with the populace - or at least the groups affected at any given time).

Re:A bit ironic ... (2)

IrquiM (471313) | more than 3 years ago | (#36892356)

No, the difference is that Russia scrapped their shuttle programme, and continued with something cheaper they knew did the job required.

Re:A bit ironic ... (1)

thrich81 (1357561) | more than 3 years ago | (#36894500)

I've never said this before, but mod this guy up! Exactly right -- the Russians built a vehicle that was damn near to a copy of the Shuttle, flew it once, then went back to building Soyuzes. They made their programmatic decision, the US made a different one. For everyone who bemoans the US shutting down the Shuttle and saying, "Now we have to have to buy rides from the Russians!", there is your reason. Now the US is making a similar decision, 30 years later.

Re:A bit ironic ... (1)

prefec2 (875483) | more than 3 years ago | (#36892400)

As a government when I have to decide to provide health care to everyone or fly to the moon. I would decide for the health care plan. But the space program is not that expensive, that its cancellation can contribute much to social benefits. If the US want to save money they have to cut back their military budget. For a good figure on how big the budget should be in comparison to the GDP have a look at France, UK or Germany.

Re:A bit ironic ... (1)

Teancum (67324) | more than 3 years ago | (#36893102)

The difference is that the US has chosen not to pursue the Shuttle program, so that the money can be spent on never ending social programs.

The money has been there for American crewed spaceflight, and in fact nearly $100 billion have been spent on trying to come up with a successor to the Space Shuttle over the past four decades. Mind you that is on top of Shuttle operations and other parts of the manned spaceflight program. The problem is the lack of leadership to get something built as each new presidential administration seems to have its own idea on how to move on with crewed spaceflight. The list of vehicles that could have been used ought to be legendary and it is a train wreck in terms of getting something done. The American people ought to be screaming with the utter waste of resources and talented engineers spinning their wheels on powerpoint presentations.

The Russian/Soviet space program, on the other hand, pretty much stuck with the old lunar program they had going in the late 1960's and has been doing gradual refinements of the spacecraft design over the years to the point they have a pretty solid design with hundreds of launches to back up their engineering decisions. Rather than trying to come up with the next sexy design, the Russians stuck with something that worked and saved that mountain of money.

Re:A bit ironic ... (1)

coinreturn (617535) | more than 3 years ago | (#36894880)

The difference is that the US has chosen not to pursue the Shuttle program, so that the money can be spent on never ending wars.

There, I fixed that for you.

Re:A bit ironic ... (1)

Mt._Honkey (514673) | more than 3 years ago | (#36891766)

Now I've been out of the space exploration loop for a few years, but it strikes me that the U.S.A. does not have civilian or manned launch capabilities at the moment. That leaves the civilian program contracting out launches to the Russians, E.S.A., and their military. And quite frankly I don't see that changing in the near future since I don't think that they have the political will to change it.

I think what you are trying to say is that the US has no capacity to put anything at all into orbit, which is just false. For example, Boeing and Lockheed [wikipedia.org] make [wikipedia.org] a variety [wikipedia.org] of rockets [wikipedia.org] which are frequently launched from within the US. Space X is also entering [wikipedia.org] the market [wikipedia.org] , and will soon be launching manned spacecraft [wikipedia.org] . The US only needs to contract out manned launches, and only for a short while until Dragon is ready.

Re:A bit ironic ... (1)

MacTO (1161105) | more than 3 years ago | (#36891946)

I was under the distinct impression that the US civilian space program was entirely reliant upon the space shuttle, and perfectly aware that the US military had launch capabilities (thus the 'and their military'). Of course I could be wrong about the US civilian space program because I've been cynical about anything coming out of NASA for two decades.

As for NASA's ability to depend upon up and coming private contractors, I'll believe it when it happens. My apologies for the cynicism, but NASA is encased in politics and anyone wanting to launch rockets into orbit has to deal with international regulations. The former means that they don't always mean what they say, the latter means that they can't always live up to it if they mean it. (The latter is also why they depend upon large military contractors.)

That being said, I will be happily impressed if companies like SpaceX are viable in the long term.

Re:A bit ironic ... (1)

Teancum (67324) | more than 3 years ago | (#36893248)

Since the Challenger explosion, almost all payloads which could be placed upon EELVs (the Delta and Atlas series of rockets) has been pretty much standard practice for some time. Nearly all unmanned flights have been on these other launchers with the Shuttle being used most recently for things which simply require an astronaut.

Yes, back in the early 1980's there was an effort to essentially kill almost all other launchers in favor of just using the Shuttle, under the unrealistic presumption that the Shuttle program was thought to be cheaper than other launch systems. That proved not to be the case and was more wishful thinking on the part of mission planners of the era. It was a huge political empire building exercise that ultimately failed in a big way, and also took a whole bunch of people with it as it killed some efforts to privatize spaceflight back in the 1980s. If your memories are from the propaganda being spread around by NASA from this era, what you are saying was the "conventional wisdom" of the time that the whole of the U.S. civilian (and even military) space program was to use the Shuttle.

Even now, trying to nail down how much it cost to fly the Space Shuttle is so slippery that you can't really get the cost down to within an order of magnitude from multiple sources, and nearly every estimate I've seen is substantially different from the next one. About the only thing I've seen in universal agreement, however, is that flying on the Shuttle proved to be incredibly expensive and much more so than was originally promised.

The one thing that private launchers have going for them now as opposed to a couple of decades ago is the FAA-AST [faa.gov] or "Office of Commercial Spaceflight". Simply put, the whole regulatory regime has been pulled completely away from NASA altogether and put under the direct authority of the Department of Transportation through the FAA. All of the "international regulations" and other requirements like insurance (in case the rocket lands on somebody's house) and licensing spaceports is done through this office. Anybody who has received a flight worthiness certificate from this office clearly has their act together and in some ways I think are much better than the vehicles which were designed for NASA. I certainly would trust riding in something certified by the FAA than something "blessed" by the political mess which is NASA.

Re:A bit ironic ... (4, Funny)

Frangible (881728) | more than 3 years ago | (#36891776)

This is because Russia has a superior and far more efficient form of government than we do.

Head of space appropriations committee... Vladimir Putin
Head of Federal Space Agency... Vladimir Putin
Head of Department of Revenue... Vladimir Putin
Space Agency Oversight Committee... Vladimir Putin
Director of Cosmodrone Development... Vladimir Putin
Soyuz Launch Officer... Vladimir Putin
Cosmonauts No. 1 - 6... Vladimir Putin
Women's Tennis Quality Oversight... Vladimir Putin

And that, comrade, is why Russia won the space race.

Re:A bit ironic ... (1)

Uzull (16705) | more than 3 years ago | (#36892120)

Even more ironic would be when US Cosmonauts have to enter French territory (French Guyana is part of France) and board a Russian launch vehicle.
Do you have the appropriate travel documents???

Re:A bit ironic ... (-1, Troll)

Kashgarinn (1036758) | more than 3 years ago | (#36892212)

The US is slowly falling from grace. And that's a good thing. I'll rejoice the day when you're broke enough to leave the rest of the world alone, not there yet, but soon.

Atlas V, Delta IV, Delta II, Falcon 9? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36892276)

The United States has at least 3 rocket manufacturers that can put payloads into orbit. The United Launch Alliance, Orbital Sciences, and the famous Space X. The United States continues to put space probes into orbit, many on American rockets.

Now, if you were refering to the MANNED space program, then yes, the USA does not have any rockets which it believes are safe enough to put humans into outer space. With 2011 technology, putting humans into outer space is of questionable value. I hope the United States gets out of the manned space business.

Re:A bit ironic ... (1)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 3 years ago | (#36892316)

That's easy to explain, we haven't yet HAD our collapse as we have been throwing money at it trying to keep the inevitable from becoming. You still have the student loan bubble yet to burst, and with so many students going from graduation to the unemployment line I figure it won't be long now, and then there is all the old retirees that got their nest eggs eaten up by Wall Street to deal with.

Another poster talks about "never ending social programs" but I would argue that is the ONLY thing keeping us from our own Arab spring. When you have NO job, NO prospects,NO savings, and a pile of debt you will NEVER get out from under? you have the makings of our very own Arab spring but the government checks are keeping people from starving and thus rioting. I have a feeling when the student loan bubble bursts we are gonna have to write off a hell of a lot more than 700 billion as the piling debt on our young workers will take an entire generation effectively out of the game.

As for TFA? maybe we should just man rate the Delta IV if we wanna get back out there, or hell just buy a Soyuz or two from the Russians, I'm sure they'd be willing to cut a deal. But frankly until we stop the bleeding we shouldn't even be thinking about space. We have lost more than 41,000 factories in a SINGLE decade, if you look at the REAL numbers not the shit the fed feeds you you're looking at close to 25% unemployment, and meanwhile we have the republicans marching out of talks at just the thought of raising taxes on the 1%ers. We just ain't got the money folks, sorry.

Re:A bit ironic ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36893272)

meanwhile we have the republicans marching out of talks at just the thought of raising taxes on the 1%ers.

Except that it wasn't just the "1%ers" that would be getting tax hikes. it would be EVERYONE.

Understand, the top 3% of our country pay over 75% of the taxes, both personal and corporate. The US has close to the highest corporate tax rates on the PLANET, and our upper tier income tax brackets extend all the way down to the upper limits of the middle class. We are being slowly taxed TO DEATH and yet Obama wants to raise taxes EVEN MORE. It's fucking insane. You cannot tax and spend yourself out of a recession. You have to GROW out, and ONLY the private sector can do that. This is basic Econ 101.

Oh, and the Democrats? Until Harry Reid was basically forced into creating one, the Democrats hadn't created a budget or a plan to deal with the debt problem in over 800 DAYS, despite having total control of BOTH houses of Congress from 2006 to 2010, and TOTAL control of both Congress and the White House since 2008. The Dems have had FOUR YEARS to come up with a plan and so far have given us bupkiss.

The Republicans, on the other hand, have proposed numerous solutions, and have actually passed not one, but TWO budget bills designed to deal with the debt crisis in less than 6 months. BOTH have been, not voted down on the merits, but TABLED by Reid et al without even getting to the floor for a vote. But somehow it's the REPUBLICANS who aren't serious about dealing with the debt? ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?????

Obama keeps asking for confiscatory middle class taxes and an unlimited credit card. The Senate Democrats are basically sitting on their collective asses and not doing shit. You might not agree with the approach the GOP is taking, but AT LEAST they are trying to do something constructive.

I say, DE-table the GOP's "Cap, Cut, and Balance" plan that calls for a spending cap, serious cuts to ALL budgetary items, and a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution and have an open, public debate on it's merits on the senate floor during prime-time coverage with all the networks there to film the proceedings. No more back-room deals, and up or down vote on the ONLY serious plan proposed so far conducted in full view of the public and let the chips fall where they may/

Re:A bit ironic ... (1)

d3ac0n (715594) | more than 3 years ago | (#36894018)

meanwhile we have the republicans marching out of talks at just the thought of raising taxes on the 1%ers.

Except that it wasn't just the "1%ers" that would be getting tax hikes. it would be EVERYONE.

Understand, the top 3% of our country pay over 75% of the taxes, both personal and corporate. The US has close to the highest corporate tax rates on the PLANET, and our upper tier income tax brackets extend all the way down to the upper limits of the middle class. We are being slowly taxed TO DEATH and yet Obama wants to raise taxes EVEN MORE. It's fucking insane. You cannot tax and spend yourself out of a recession. You have to GROW out, and ONLY the private sector can do that. This is basic Econ 101.

Oh, and the Democrats? Until Harry Reid was basically forced into creating one, the Democrats hadn't created a budget or a plan to deal with the debt problem in over 800 DAYS, despite having total control of BOTH houses of Congress from 2006 to 2010, and TOTAL control of both Congress and the White House since 2008. The Dems have had FOUR YEARS to come up with a plan and so far have given us bupkiss.

The Republicans, on the other hand, have proposed numerous solutions, and have actually passed not one, but TWO budget bills designed to deal with the debt crisis in less than 6 months. BOTH have been, not voted down on the merits, but TABLED by Reid et al without even getting to the floor for a vote. But somehow it's the REPUBLICANS who aren't serious about dealing with the debt? ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?????

Obama keeps asking for confiscatory middle class taxes and an unlimited credit card. The Senate Democrats are basically sitting on their collective asses and not doing shit. You might not agree with the approach the GOP is taking, but AT LEAST they are trying to do something constructive.

I say, DE-table the GOP's "Cap, Cut, and Balance" plan that calls for a spending cap, serious cuts to ALL budgetary items, and a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution and have an open, public debate on it's merits on the senate floor during prime-time coverage with all the networks there to film the proceedings. No more back-room deals, and up or down vote on the ONLY serious plan proposed so far conducted in full view of the public and let the chips fall where they may.

Well said. It should also be noted, that Ried's plan is incredibly bad. It not only doesn't actually deal with the issue, all of the taxes are front-loaded (everybody's taxes go up right away) and the "cuts" are mostly either to the military, or cute accounting tricks that aren't cuts at all. It's essentially more of the status quo.

The problem we are facing is of "greece" proportions. As the GP stated, we simply do not have the money for any of this any more. The dream of the Nanny-state is dead. It's time to either move into the Capitalist future or go extinct. There are no other choices.

Re:A bit ironic ... (1)

scharkalvin (72228) | more than 3 years ago | (#36894272)

As the poster that YOU replied to has noted the 'social programs' (especially medicare and social security) are critical to the well being (even to the very existence) of many people in this country and cutting these benefits must be OFF THE TABLE for any deal. That doesn't mean that there isn't waste to be cut, we can probably manage to maintain the same level of services and pay less for them if we look carefully at what the money is buying. As for taxes, as has been pointed out many CEO's (Warren Buffett and others) have complained that their secretaries are paying more taxes than THEY are due to loopholes and such. Let's use a stick and carrot on business, give those that actually create jobs a break while putting EXTRA taxes on companies that lay off workers just to boost the bottom line for their stock holders.

If congress won't get the job done by Aug 2, I hope the president will take the bull by the horns by citing the 14th amendment and raise the dept ceiling by presidential decree. He should then stop payment for the salaries on all government employees in the Legislative, Judicial, and Administrative branches of government until a suitable bill is drafted. (Yes he should withhold is own salary too).

Re:A bit ironic ... (1)

SteveFoerster (136027) | more than 3 years ago | (#36895824)

As the poster that YOU replied to has noted the 'social programs' (especially medicare and social security) are critical to the well being (even to the very existence) of many people in this country and cutting these benefits must be OFF THE TABLE for any deal.

Or, they could be means tested, so that they could serve their safety net function while still being dramatically cut. Poor people may need Social Security, but rich people do not.

Re:A bit ironic ... (1)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 3 years ago | (#36892334)

Rebuilding, yes. Advancing past the original line seems to be much harder, though. I have it from people I know who worked in that area only recently that they are really, really short of people qualified to do advanced engineering and science required to move on - because pay is shit (as it always is in Russia if you're a government worker), and all but the most patriotic would rather seek employment in Western countries. So don't worry too much. Brain drain is still there, and still does its job.

Re:A bit ironic ... (1)

prefec2 (875483) | more than 3 years ago | (#36892352)

The US works hard on its next economic collapse. Maybe they are just preparing for a greater disaster. ;-)

Re:A bit ironic ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36893252)

Another thing that's ironic is that most people that have spent any amount of time in space are americans. Those people, mostly, have profound realisations about "how small the earth is" and "how we're all the same" and "how national borders don't mean much" (etc). Yet most Americans are still petrified of anyone else helping them out.

Go figure...?

Re:A bit ironic ... (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 3 years ago | (#36894158)

The difference is that the USA is now just entering their political and economic collapse, which is why you see them shutting down their space program. Wait 20 years until the US is out of the mess they are in, and maybe they will revive their space program.

Re:A bit ironic ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36895400)

The American economic collapse is still going on.

False equivalence? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36891626)

Didn't the US invade Grenada because Cubans built an airport?
Reagan must be spinning in his ziggurat over this one and Monroe might just claw his way out!

Re:False equivalence? (1)

Alex Belits (437) | more than 3 years ago | (#36891720)

How your plans for Venezuela invasion are doing, bitches?

Re:False equivalence? (1)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 3 years ago | (#36891840)

Don't joke about that! I have visions of Obama tapping his shoe on the UN security council table tomorrow morning, demanding that the French remove the Russian Rockets ASAP from the American continent, or there will be food renamings!

Re:False equivalence? (1)

prefec2 (875483) | more than 3 years ago | (#36892448)

That would be great. Call them Belgian Fries. At least that would be the historical correct name. ;-) But I guess Obama has other things to do than to "invade" French Guiana. He has to prepare for bankruptcy. As the political class of the US tries to win this years "Most egotistic politician award". While French and German conservatives have shown great achievements in that area (e.g. selling weapons to Qaddafi and now bombing him. Or the great "our nuclear plants are save" talk which switched over night to "our nuclear plants are dangerous"). But it looks like the US parties are planning to top it.

Nike Zoom Kobe, New Models (-1, Offtopic)

hanxueli (2422072) | more than 3 years ago | (#36891732)

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Re:Nike Zoom Kobe, New Models (1)

subk (551165) | more than 3 years ago | (#36892078)

Delete this treasonous piece of tripe.

Re:Nike Zoom Kobe, New Models (1)

damn_registrars (1103043) | more than 3 years ago | (#36893646)

Unless you can get scientology to sue slashdot over it, the piece you refer to will stay. It has already been down moderated so as to not be seen (he's referring to a spam comment) but that is as far as it will go here.

Retard system (5, Insightful)

andresambrois (1235832) | more than 3 years ago | (#36891852)

I find it baffling that, in this day and age, one can still read news articles using the imperial system. About space travel, of all things.

Re:Retard system (3, Insightful)

oobayly (1056050) | more than 3 years ago | (#36892044)

Why, both systems work. In school we only used SI units, at home we used both (my Dad is a farmer and even though the Department of Agriculture used imperial, he used SI as he had a lot of German equipment). In uni (Aero engineering) I was taught both. Sure it can be an arse-ache to convert mass to volume in imperial, but you get a feel for the numbers.
Besides, as long as you state what units you use, you can use any mixture safely* - I've described something as a metre by a yard (it wasn't quite square), and got some strange looks, but it was the most accurate description. I also calculate my fuel consumption in miles per litre.(about 8 is good for me). I describe my mass & height in kilos & centimetres, but if I measure something short I'll use my thumb and estimate it in inches.

* Safely, but maybe not conveniently.

Re:Retard system (1)

welshie (796807) | more than 3 years ago | (#36892486)

Stating the units used: This doesn't stop the brain-dead UK Department of Transport stating that road signs denoting distance to road works should be measured in metres, and placed at 100 metre intervals, but stating the distance is yards, when it is in fact, metres. Still, I guess it's safer - metres are longer than yards, so if you stretch the definition of a yard to be 1 metre, the drivers get a few seconds more to react. This seems to have gone off-topic and road works signage is of little relevance to space projects.

Re:Retard system (1)

mbone (558574) | more than 3 years ago | (#36892626)

Why, both systems work.

You have obviously never had to deal with slugs or poundals, which means you haven't done much spaceflight math with English Units.

Re:Retard system (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36892824)

AAAAHHHHHH!!!!! I remember those bastard units (poundals etc) from my early teenage years, despite that I do my best to forget them. Go metric, GO METRIC - it is so friggin easy compared to imperial. Geeze any idiot, including me, can multiply and divide by powers of 10. And, more to the point, consistently get the correct answer.

Re:Retard system (1)

oobayly (1056050) | more than 3 years ago | (#36893432)

Assumption fail - they were regularly used and we were examined in both Imperial & SI. Maybe the reason I'm fairly happy using both is because I was too cheap to buy the newest edition of the textbooks for my course - I checked out old editions (aerodynamics, thermodynamics & structures) week after week for 2 years, and nobody else ever requested them as they were "out of date". The only difference was the units: slug, Rankine, psi etc. The format and layouts were almost identical.

Out of my year, I'd say I was one of the best at knowing whether a number was in the right ball park as I was used to expecting values in both sets of units. One of my lectures had a go at us as somebody handed in a course work calculating a drag coefficient as 30, rather than 0.03 - he said that if he had his way we'd be using slide rules, as that way one would know what magnitude the result should be before you started.

Lets see: Lift coefficient of a fully laden C152 at stall speed:
Cl = 1670lb / (.5 * 2.379E-3 slug/ft^3 * (43kts / .592 kts/ft/s)^2 * 160ft^2) = 1.66
Cl = 9.806m/s^2 * 757kg / (.5 * 1.226kg/m^3 * (79km/h / 3.6 km/h/m/s)^2 * 14.9m^2) = 1.69
2% error for imprecise conversion of units on Wikipedia.

I don't disagree that SI is easier, but I certainly don't regret learning both, in fact I appreciate the additional knowledge.
<snob alert>If you're unable to convert slug to kg, lbf to Newton, ft/s to m/s, you shouldn't be involved in engineering.</snob alert>

Re:Retard system (4, Insightful)

Laser Dan (707106) | more than 3 years ago | (#36892056)

I find it baffling that, in this day and age, one can still read news articles using the imperial system. About space travel, of all things.

Well 6,600 pounds is 2,994 kg, so I suspect that the actual value is 3,000 kg and it has been converted to pounds for for certain poor backwards readers.

Re:Retard system (0)

HyperQuantum (1032422) | more than 3 years ago | (#36893042)

Now where is the 'Like' button when you need one? ^^

Re:Retard system (2)

alex67500 (1609333) | more than 3 years ago | (#36895384)

1) It's called the moderation system, and
2) "Like" is deprecated. It's "+1" you're looking for.

Re:Retard system (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36894482)

There's always someone bitching about this. We're sick of hearing it. STFU already.

Re:Retard system (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36895066)

I find people that bring up the metric system in comments to be baffling.

I do have to wonder (1)

ThatsNotPudding (1045640) | more than 3 years ago | (#36893028)

what experience the Russians have with corrosion in tropical environments. Perhaps they can bring along some Cuban advisors.

Re:I do have to wonder (1)

alex67500 (1609333) | more than 3 years ago | (#36895452)

This is why the French, in French Guiana, are offering their assistance. We have quite a long experience of launching payload into orbit from Kourou with Ariane...

Get it from ESA (1)

womullan (764729) | more than 3 years ago | (#36893114)

As commented by others the dry run was done - the building is finished and we use metric .. Here is the dry run news item: http://www.esa.int/SPECIALS/Launchers_Home/SEMYBDZ57NG_0.html [esa.int] There should be a launch before the end of the year.

When was our last human rocket launch? (1)

damn_registrars (1103043) | more than 3 years ago | (#36893754)

I've tried to find an answer to this, but I haven't had much luck. Have we not launched an astronaut on a rocket since the start of the space shuttle program? I understand that the current NASA rockets carry only non-human payloads, but how long has it been since a NASA rocket last carried a human into space?
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