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Competition to Build the Space Shuttle's Successor

CmdrTaco posted more than 8 years ago | from the strap-a-rocket-to-a-dodge-dart dept.

Space 345

Neil Halelamien writes "The competition for the prime contract to build the Crew Exploration Vehicle, the successor to the Space Shuttle, is ramping up. Currently, 11 different companies are creating preliminary designs for systems and vehicles which could be useful in implementing NASA's Vision for Space Exploration. By the end of the year, NASA will select two teams to independently develop and build a CEV design. The two teams will launch competing unmanned prototypes in 2008, at which point NASA will award a final winning contract. Aerospace giants Boeing and Northrop Grumman have formed one team. Another "all-star" team, announced a couple of days ago, is headed by Lockheed Martin. A third team in the running is underdog t/Space, a company with a free enterprise approach to space exploration, which includes notable figures from the commercial spaceflight arena, such as Burt Rutan and Gary Hudson. There is concern that a NASA budget boost to help pay for the exploration program could draw some opposition, as most other government programs are anticipating budget cuts."

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foist poist (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#11549848)

bleh!

Re:foist poist (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#11549890)

So long Micheal.
Now that you are gone I no longer have to read at -1 especially when related to any story you were an "editor"

Well well well (0, Flamebait)

bozer82 (855683) | more than 8 years ago | (#11549853)

Here's rooting for the underdog. I think in an area of this magnitude it's good to see that there is something out there worth rooting for, rather than pretending that they can "rescue" people in case (for example) NASA pulls another "blow up on re-entry". Which I think is total bullshit.

Re:Well well well (3, Insightful)

The_Mr_Flibble (738358) | more than 8 years ago | (#11549873)

No doubt the underdog will come up with a far cheaper design that would save Nasa millions, however how many congresional panels will the underdogs be able to control to win this ?

Re:Well well well (1)

bozer82 (855683) | more than 8 years ago | (#11549884)

Good question, they'll have to jump hurdles in order to get over the clear "favorite" that is NASA. Realistically though, if they aren't given the opportunity, I think they'll still make an attempt on their level.

Re:Well well well (1)

NeuroAcid (806498) | more than 8 years ago | (#11550246)

If a small unknown company can successfully make a useable, safe, reliable CEV, I highly doubt they would want to "sell" it to our government. They would just use it themselves and make billions in the process. If, however, a small unknown company successfully makes a somewhat useable, not all that safe, piece of junk, then yes, they would jump all the hurdles they can to sell it to the idiots currently defiling the once proud position of public servant.

Re:Well well well (3, Insightful)

Dashing Leech (688077) | more than 8 years ago | (#11550274)

"No doubt the underdog will come up with a far cheaper design that would save Nasa millions"

Cheap only accounts for one small criterion in the selection. I would imagine that experience would be of far greater importance. Not that the underdog shouldn't win, or doesn't have any experience, but if you were hiring someone to manage a critical huge project for your company would you hire somebody with 20 years experience doing this type of work or a new kid out of school who built a toy model of what you need for a science fair?

Maybe an underdog can win (4, Insightful)

olderphart (787517) | more than 8 years ago | (#11549941)

The primes (Lockheed, Boeing) know only how to burn money and koff koff manage customer relationships koff koff. I should know, I watched them do it on the X33 up close & personal. We should select Rutan as our stand in for old man Harriman. (obRAH reference) -- OPh

Re:Maybe an underdog can win (2, Insightful)

essreenim (647659) | more than 8 years ago | (#11549985)

We should select Rutan as our stand in for old man Harriman. (obRAH reference) -- OPh

Be carefull. Rutan and Scaled Composites are better than Nasa because they are cheaper, no government intervention to screw everything up.

I think rutan would be making a mistake getting in bed with anything that is even remotely government sponsored. He should keep working on private ventures. et la Virgin etc.

Re:Maybe an underdog can win (1)

bozer82 (855683) | more than 8 years ago | (#11550015)

Definitely agree with that.

Successor (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#11549859)

How about just using a big bomb to kill the astronauts ?

Enough with the links already... (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#11549861)

At a certain point it becomes counter-productive. Just tell me which one to click on to get the article.

Re:Enough with the links already... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#11549894)

Hello Citizen. We apologize for causing you confusion. Please click on The Link [marxists.org] and do not worry yourself with choices.

Re:Enough with the links already... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#11549902)

It's about time someone told me what to do - I almost had to think for myself.

RTFA???? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#11549940)

You mean you actually want to read the article???

It writes itself (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#11549862)

By the end of the year, NASA will select two teams to independently develop and build a CEV design

I've got $100 on the YF-19 !

Re:It writes itself (1)

essreenim (647659) | more than 8 years ago | (#11549931)

No, my money's on the flying portaloo. [wikipedia.org]

But seriously, anything that features Scaled Compoites ought to be way ahead of the competition in terms of cost, and superior design. Although I have to admit their earth-to-low-earth-orbit vehicle will never be as sexy looking as Space Ship 1 - the nicest looking craft man ghas ever built in my view

Re:It writes itself (2, Insightful)

TheKidWho (705796) | more than 8 years ago | (#11549984)

Umm... I dunno, but I doubt scaled composites has the resources to design a successor to the spaceshuttle. Especially one that is going to have to have as many roles as the CEV.

YOU FUCKING FUCKS. All your base are belong to us. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#11549869)

You fags are all cunting homosexuals. Heil Hitler! Niggaz.

Re:YOU FUCKING FUCKS. All your base are belong to (0, Offtopic)

stupidfoo (836212) | more than 8 years ago | (#11549952)

hey hey... simmer down!

Michael Sims is gone!

Common sense prevails at last! (3, Insightful)

Illserve (56215) | more than 8 years ago | (#11549877)

"However, it is likely that the CEV will follow the module and capsule design principles used in the Apollo, Gemini, Soyuz and Shenzhou systems, instead of the reusable spaceplane design principle used in the space shuttle system"

Hoo-ray for NASA! There's hope for them yet.

Re:Common sense prevails at last! (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#11549935)

As I understand it, the reason you can't use anything similar to SpaceShipOne for orbital missions is the weight of the heat shielding. But a capsule like this still has to carry that shielding up to orbit, right?

I don't really see why a spaceplane design is out of the question. The shuttle was hugely complex compared to SpaceShipOne. Couldn't a more modern design of the shuttle still be useful?

Re:Common sense prevails at last! (4, Interesting)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 8 years ago | (#11549977)

I don't really see why a spaceplane design is out of the question. The shuttle was hugely complex compared to SpaceShipOne. Couldn't a more modern design of the shuttle still be useful?

The trouble with a spaceplane is its inefficiency. Too much of the energy expended in a Shuttle launch goes to carry the orbiter's main engines, wings and other structure into orbit. If you could leave those off, with a capsule design, you could either save a whole lot of fuel and get a cheaper launch, or use the same amount of fuel and carry a much larger payload.

The idea behind the Shuttle was that the engines were worth keeping, and reusing them could save money. Apollo used to drop its main engines into the sea... But it turns out that there are plenty of factories on Earth capable of producing rocket engines very cheaply, so that economy didn't really work out.

Re:Common sense prevails at last! (1, Interesting)

essreenim (647659) | more than 8 years ago | (#11550055)

The trouble with a spaceplane is its inefficiency.

Spoken like a true Nasa zealot. It took the guys at Scaled composites to show you that they could build a cheap light, ingenious low-earth-orbit vehicle and launch it cheaply from its mother plane.

Sadly, it seems that once again it will take private venture to show us that a highly efficient fully fledged orbital insertion space plane is doable, and at a much cheaper cost than anything Nasa could come up with.

And less complex than the space shuttle??? The space shuttle may be complex but it's just a big rocket propelled glider. Space Ship One [scientium.com] utilises a far more complex design princple. It does much much more with far less..

Re:Common sense prevails at last! (4, Informative)

stevelinton (4044) | more than 8 years ago | (#11550123)

SpaceShipOne was NOT an LEO vehicle. It got to 100km, which is the easy part
but didn't make any attempt to get to orbital velocity, which is what takes most of the fuel, and imposes most of the mass restrictions. Boosting a set of wings and an undercarriage up to orbital velocity just so you can slow them down again and then land on a runway consumes an insane amount of fuel for too little purpose. Until we find a lauch fuel significantly more energy dense than LH2 and LO2 then the dry mass cost of wings and wheels will always be too high.

The Scaled Composites people are involved in one of the bids and they are not proposing a space plane.

Re:Common sense prevails at last! (3, Funny)

Fred_A (10934) | more than 8 years ago | (#11550164)

Actually, work is underway on a design that makes do without engines alltogether. This reduces cost dramatically since the payload is now mostly the crew.

You can see images of preliminary crew training here [extremedreams.co.uk] .

Re:Common sense prevails at last! (1)

Eunuchswear (210685) | more than 8 years ago | (#11550200)

Space Ship One utilises a far more complex design princple. It does much much more with far less..
No, you made a typo there. Space Ship One does much much less with far less.

It doesn't get into orbit.

What use are wings in space?

Re:Common sense prevails at last! (5, Insightful)

Waffle Iron (339739) | more than 8 years ago | (#11550214)

It took the guys at Scaled composites to show you that they could build a cheap light, ingenious low-earth-orbit vehicle and launch it cheaply from its mother plane.

From an energy standpoint, Space Ship One only got 3% of the way to low-earth-orbit. They still have 97% more work to do. It design is totally unsuitable for going into or out of orbit; at hypersonic speeds it would snap apart like a toothpick an burn up. Scaled Composites is basically at square one with respect to an orbital vehicle.

Re:Common sense prevails at last! (3, Interesting)

TheGavster (774657) | more than 8 years ago | (#11550195)

The reason that the shuttle was inefficient is that it was designed to land without crossing the Soviet Union, not because spaceplanes in general are inefficient. You can make it rather better if you allow for a longer glide path.

Re:Common sense prevails at last! (2, Interesting)

Illserve (56215) | more than 8 years ago | (#11550178)

A capsule has a much smaller reentry profile, accordingly it needs to protect a much smaller area. Hence a much smaller amount of heat shielding is required.

Further, a Capsule falling through atmosphere is kept in the proper orientation through simple newtonian mechanics, it requires no gadgetry to keep it stable, unlike a spaceplane, which is an inherently unstable reentry vehicle.

The capsule is the way to go for cheap and reliable missions.

Re:Common sense prevails at last! (1)

CrazyTalk (662055) | more than 8 years ago | (#11549983)

Hoo-ray? In a sense it seems like a giant step backwards to 1960s technology. That may be fine for retro looking cars, but not space vehicles. Whatever happened to NASP (National Aerospace Plane) and all the high-tech and, more importantly, affordable to orbit vehicles that were under development before the rampant budget cuts?

Re:Common sense prevails at last! (3, Funny)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 8 years ago | (#11550017)

The NASP is still in pre-production, and will be ready soon.
Right now, if you purchase a flying car, you get a voucher for a ticket on one of them, and also a preview beta version of Duke Nukem as well :)

Re:Common sense prevails at last! (1)

leinhos (143965) | more than 8 years ago | (#11550103)

It seems that the practical physics of the NASP made it impractical. See this [fas.org] for a good history of the NASP. In most cases, the "spaceplane" concept is driven by 1950s science fiction, rather than actual science.

Re:Common sense prevails at last! (1)

JQuick (411434) | more than 8 years ago | (#11550112)

Hypersonic air breathing vehicles are not viable in the short term. Scram jets, for instance, in small prototype vehicles have burn times measured in seconds not minutes.

With the demise of the shuttle, relying on exotic technologies is a bad plan. We need simple, reliable tech as soon as possible. Space planes are not the answer to that.

Re:Common sense prevails at last! (3, Insightful)

Illserve (56215) | more than 8 years ago | (#11550236)

Whatever happened to NASP (National Aerospace Plane) and all the high-tech and, more importantly, affordable to orbit vehicles that were under development before the rampant budget cuts?

Hopefully those designs have been put in the circular file drawer where they belong. 100 years from now, our fascination with space-planes will be seen as a great folly of the later 1900's.

Capsules are a superior re-entry vehicle in every way, and cheaper too, when you factor in maintenance costs on reusable space vehicles (with the exception of the suborbital "toys" that we hear so much about, but they won't get huge wings into LEO and back again cheaply).

NASA knew this simple truth back in the day when they were the crackinest aerospace research agency in the world. They had blank checks for designing ugly but functional space vehicles and boy did they. Aesthetics didn't enter to into the design of the capsule and LEM then, and shouldn't now.

Re:Common sense prevails at last! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#11550382)

"crackinest"?

Re:Common sense prevails at last! (4, Insightful)

OwnedByTwoCats (124103) | more than 8 years ago | (#11550035)

The shuttle had a mission: drive the cost of getting to Low Earth Orbit down by reusing the vehicle. To be a "space truck". At that, it failed miserably.

The mission for the CEV, "to boost national security by providing a presence in space" is so bland, so wishy-washy, so unmeasurable, that there will never be an accounting.

Oh, and Bush says we need to hack $300 Billion out of the budget to cut the deficit in half without raising taxes or undoing his precioussss tax cuts. Oh, and Defense is excluded. How big is the discretionary, non-defense budget? $440.9 Billion.

Let me guess (0)

geoffspear (692508) | more than 8 years ago | (#11549878)

The administrator of NASA will announce his retirement 1 week after the winning team is selected, and he will coincidentally be given a job as the CEO of Boeing or Lockheed a month later.

Re:Let me guess (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#11549964)

We just got a new CEO at Lockheed.

Where's the money going? (2, Interesting)

DoubleDangerClub (855480) | more than 8 years ago | (#11549881)

After ShuttleOne went up for backing as little as $20 million, is it just me or is NASA throwing around too much money to make this happen? I'd like to see someone else make the new crew vehicle and sell it back to NASA. I guess the other side of the coin is the German's saying Mars by 2009. *shrug* I guess when you have nothing substantial in your space program in the past, you've got nothing to lose with ridiculous goals for the future?

Re:Where's the money going? (4, Informative)

I confirm I'm not a (720413) | more than 8 years ago | (#11549939)

I guess the other side of the coin is the German's saying Mars by 2009. *shrug* I guess when you have nothing substantial in your space program in the past, you've got nothing to lose with ridiculous goals for the future?

Uh, Wernher von Braun [wikipedia.org] ring any bells?
From Wikipedia: "In the United States, he is regarded as a hero of the space program."

Re:Where's the money going? (1)

DoubleDangerClub (855480) | more than 8 years ago | (#11549970)

Thank you for the link. Though, I was speaking about any space travel. Rockets don't really make for a "space program"...in that case, if it did...telecommunications companies would say "look at our awesome space program."

Re:Where's the money going? (1)

Scarblac (122480) | more than 8 years ago | (#11549987)

Yeah, but you count a $20 million dollar plane that goes 100km up, a feat that has almost nothing to do with building orbital vehicles let alone things that can go further, as a serious comparison to the Shuttle.

Re:Where's the money going? (-1, Redundant)

DoubleDangerClub (855480) | more than 8 years ago | (#11550034)

ShuttleOne counted as a huge stepping stone to orbital vehicles, as you can see in their newer ventures toward such a project. Look at Virgin, they've already been making plans to team up and make sub-orbital and soon orbital flights. So it does have quite a bit to do with building orbital vehicles.

Re:Where's the money going? (1)

Minna Kirai (624281) | more than 8 years ago | (#11550241)


ShuttleOne counted as a huge stepping stone to orbital vehicles, as you can see in their newer ventures toward such a project.


There is no such thing as "ShuttleOne" [google.com] . If you just make-up space project names from your own imagination, don't be surprised if no one takes you seriously.

So it does have quite a bit to do with building orbital vehicles.

If, on the other hand, you meant to say "SpaceShipOne [scaled.com] , and you're actually suggesting that the project had any relationship at all to reaching orbit, then you also appear too ignorant to deserve a serious response.

Re:Where's the money going? (2, Interesting)

hcdejong (561314) | more than 8 years ago | (#11550289)

No. The X-prize parameters were set so you'd avoid many of the Big Problems in building a spacecraft. SS1's max speed was about Mach 3, way less than reentry speed of an orbital craft. This means SS1's designers didn't need to worry about heat shielding. Also, the thermal loads on the structure are less than on an orbital craft.
And with the short flights of SS1 you can get away with a lower fuel fraction than is needed to achieve orbt.

Re:Where's the money going? (2, Interesting)

grumbel (592662) | more than 8 years ago | (#11550062)

First of that thing is called SpaceshipOne [wikipedia.org] , secondly it did go nowwhere near where the shuttle went. SpaceshipOne did a little hop out of the atmosphere and then got back, didn't even need a heatshield for that. Bringing something into a stable orbit is a whole different beast (100km vs 400km + heck a lot more speed). The NASA did basically the same as SpaceShipOne in the 1960s with its X-15 [wikipedia.org] .

That said, yes, the NASA could probally be a lot more cost effective, but just saying SpaceShipOne did for 20mio$ what the Shuttle does is way off and basically just wrong. SpaceShipOne will never be capable todo what the shuttle does, to accomplish that they have design a completle new vehicle.

Re:Where's the money going? (1)

VanillaCoke420 (662576) | more than 8 years ago | (#11550251)

SpaceShipOne and the shuttle are two different vehicles when it comes to purpose, size and capacity. SpaceShipOne can do suborbital hops, while the space shuttle can reach 400 km orbit. SS1 takes three passengers and no cargo, while the shuttle can take a crew of seven and plenty of cargo. The shuttle was developed during the 70's, being a huge jump from the small capsules that were in use before that, so that it took a lot of cash to develop should surprise no one. The SpaceShipOne and the shuttle are very different, developed under different circumstances for different purposes.

I can see.... (1)

millahtime (710421) | more than 8 years ago | (#11549883)

I can see the underdog putting up a good fight as most government contractors are bogged down under "red tape" that causes prices to sky rocket. If they run lean on overhead BS they have a shot. Well, as long as the product is good from more aspects than functionality (reliable, maintainable, safe)

Re:I can see.... (2, Interesting)

SIGPUNKT (853627) | more than 8 years ago | (#11549986)

Actually, it's the "red tape" that makes the smaller contractors certain to lose. You need a small army of people just to manage the blizzard of forms and documents required, let alone do the real work of researching and developing a vehicle. And don't think that NASA's going to let them get away with a bunch of FEAs and flight sims, they're genna have to build and crush a few airframes to get real data. Parent's not entirely wrong, though, a smaller company won't have to share the overhead of managing other divisions and projects as well as pay the salaries of people who have been since wings were made of fabric....

Isn't having a goal more important than a vehicle? (5, Insightful)

bigtallmofo (695287) | more than 8 years ago | (#11549886)

Is NASA putting the cart before the horse here? Don't we need a coherent goal to shoot for before designing a vehicle? The goal as stated on NASA's site is:

"The fundamental goal of this vision is to advance U.S. scientific, security, and economic interests through a robust space exploration program."

Could they be any more vague? Whatever happened to the days of "land a man on the moon and return him safely to the Earth." You know, goals that people actually knew what the heck you were talking about?

decision making (3, Interesting)

millahtime (710421) | more than 8 years ago | (#11549913)

This does show a fundamental lack of decision making going on in many branches of government leadership. No one wants to put forth a goal and be the leader who didn't make it. So, they don't make a goal so that way they just keep the status quo as long as they can and hope the next guy deals with it. No one or agency wants to look bad so to them it's safer to not do anything at all.

Re:decision making (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#11549981)

You're exactly right...we need to kill Bush so it doesn't matter if we make it to Mars or not.

That's what happened with Kennedy...oh wait, people actually *liked* him. Well, maybe more people will like Bush after he's dead, I know I'd like him posthumulously ;-)

Re:decision making (1)

Oxy the moron (770724) | more than 8 years ago | (#11550013)

I'll take you a step further and say that is the approach many American "leaders" take nowadays. This is true from government agencies (like our great NASA example here), corporations ("our goal is to raise profits and make more money for the shareholders"), and even religious groups ("our goal is to find more people and convert them to our beliefs"). It may be prevalent in other countries as well (I'm sure it is) but I'm not really an expert on foreign matters.

The fact is, in America it's becoming disgustingly difficult to find someone who is:

  • innovative enough to come up with a brilliant goal
  • has the chutzpah to stand behind that goal
  • has the charisma and leadership necessary to drive others towards that goal

As a generalization, American "leaders" are terribly bland.

Re:Isn't having a goal more important than a vehic (3, Informative)

JediTrainer (314273) | more than 8 years ago | (#11549955)

Could they be any more vague? Whatever happened to the days of "land a man on the moon and return him safely to the Earth." You know, goals that people actually knew what the heck you were talking about?

I thought the Wikipedia article above was very clear on what the CEV is supposed to be able to do. It mentions it's likely it'll follow the module-and-capsule approach, and is supposed to be capable of getting to LEO while also taking part in the assembly of lunar expeditions while in orbit (and, presumably Mars too, since that's a listed goal as well). Reusability is apparently desirable, but not essential to win the contract.

Having the wrong goal is worse than no goal (5, Interesting)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 8 years ago | (#11549973)

The worst thing about Apollo was that its goal, though of course ambitious for the time, was too shallow. Land a man on the moon and safely return him to earth we did, and then ran out of goal and the motivation to go any farther. If the goal is not to establish a viable self-sustaining human presence in space, a permanent colony away from the perils of Earth, there is no point in sending more people out there. If the goal is just scientific exploration, robots are 1000 times more cost-effective.

Bruce

Re:Having the wrong goal is worse than no goal (2, Insightful)

mattdm (1931) | more than 8 years ago | (#11550190)

If the goal is just scientific exploration, robots are 1000 times more cost-effective.

Not to mention slightly safer.

Re:Having the wrong goal is worse than no goal (2, Informative)

wolf31o2 (778801) | more than 8 years ago | (#11550312)

I couldn't agree more. There are very few things that humans can do in space that cannot be done by a robot more efficiently and safer. However, the one thing that humans can give is their perception of what they see and feel. This sort of information is something that no robot can possibly provide us.

I completely agree that our goal should be to establish a permanent off-world presence. We honestly have no idea how much we would learn from being out exploring, but most of the advances of our race have come from exploring the unknown and taking risks.

A Replacement for the Shuttle (2, Insightful)

Dagny Taggert (785517) | more than 8 years ago | (#11549901)

A replacement for the Shuttle is needed, but is NASA working on our heavy-lift capabilities? It seems to me that there is still a need for a Saturn V-type rocket to put the big stuff into orbit. After all, while orbital assembly may seem cool, it doesn't seem very cost-effective yet.

Re: A Replacement for the Shuttle (2, Interesting)

Ironsides (739422) | more than 8 years ago | (#11550344)

After all, while orbital assembly may seem cool, it doesn't seem very cost-effective yet.

It will work a whole hell of a lot better than on earth assembly. To get to lunar orbit, you don't have to worry about earth gravity or anything. You won't need a smooth skin either. It could look like a flying pig and be as ugly as you wanted. You also don't have to worry about the thing staying intact and not getting damaged on the way up.

As for a heavy lifter, That might be what heavy rockets are for. Though I wouldn't mind this: http://nuclearspace.com/a_liberty_ship.htm [nuclearspace.com]

My plan (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#11549924)

My plan is to cut out the middle man, and the preliminary stages. For the low, low price of 500,000 dollars, I will scatter shards of molten metal and assorted body parts over sizeable parts of West Texas.

Good Designs (4, Interesting)

NardofDoom (821951) | more than 8 years ago | (#11549944)

I'm happy to see they're moving away from the "spaceplane" idea and getting back to capsules. In most ways they're superior to shuttle-like designs.

For example, they self-orient on reentry, they don't have expensive and heavy control surfaces or landing gear, and from their position on the top of the rocket they can use escape systems like those in the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs.

About the only thing they can't do is bring things back down from orbit. But, really, if we want a real future in space the biggest issue is getting things up there.

Re:Good Designs (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 8 years ago | (#11550180)

Actually I am sad to see this move away from the space plane idea. Capsules superior to shuttle-like designs? Simple yes. Cheap to develop yes. Better?
the shuttle was at least something new. If you go and look at some of the early shuttle designs they where much more likely to offer long term cheap access to space than the shuttles we have now. Why where they not built? Because the development cost would have been much higher. NASA did not want to use SRBs. Going with solids was an idea the military pushed because the would be cheaper to develop. No SRBs no Challenger accident. Other Nasa designs did not use an ET. The I would like to see a new Shuttle using new technology but with similar goals. Replace the SRBs with fly back liquid boosters. Ditch the apus and go totally electric. Replace the OMS with one that uses "safe" fuels. Up graded heat protection based on what they developed for the x-33. Finally develop an airspike replacement for the SSMEs.
The Shuttle was the first. Think of it as the Comet of space craft. Now it is time to work on the 707.

Re:Good Designs (1)

EnglishTim (9662) | more than 8 years ago | (#11550345)

The Shuttle was the first. Think of it as the Comet of space craft.

Well, it might be the Comet - but what if it's actually the Spruce Goose of space craft...?

Re:Good Designs (1)

NeuroAcid (806498) | more than 8 years ago | (#11550198)

Why can't they bring things back from orbit? They bring people up, and return with people inside. Why can't we just replace people with stuff. Oh wait, they already do. If you were talking about bringing the Hubble back or something large, then that is a different story. We can't do that now with capsules, obviously. So we just either need to get a bigger capsule, or understand that when we build stuff for space, it should be meant for space and should be built so that it would not need to come back. With the exception of humans, I see no need to bring back anything that we spend the time and money to get up there in the first place. Keep all the junk up there, strap it together, stick a rocket on the back, and we have our Mars ship.

Re:Good Designs (1)

wolf31o2 (778801) | more than 8 years ago | (#11550338)

About the only thing they can't do is bring things back down from orbit.

This one is easy. Refit the shuttle to be remote controlled from the ground. The Soviets were able to do it with Buran, I'm sure we could do it ourselves, or even easier with the help of Energia.

lack of funds (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#11549951)

Do these anticipated cuts have anything to do with the Bush administration? If it doesn't have to do with Jesus or oil, this administration doesn't seem to want to fund it.

Thanks a lot hicks of middle America!

Re:lack of funds (2, Informative)

Dagny Taggert (785517) | more than 8 years ago | (#11550009)

Considering that President Bush was the first President since his father to mention any sort of NASA initiative (and NASA funding was cut during the Clinton admin.), maybe you need to re-think your small-minded, uninformed comment.

Re:lack of funds (1)

Sophrosyne (630428) | more than 8 years ago | (#11550194)

The only reason is that the economy has fallen apart and he is looking to pork barrel his way out... War, Nasa-- it's like the 80's all over again.

Re:lack of funds (1)

Dagny Taggert (785517) | more than 8 years ago | (#11550337)

"the economy has fallen apart"...by what measure? Or is this just a hit and run that we are supposed to accept without question?

Re:lack of funds (1)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 8 years ago | (#11550025)

Thanks a lot hicks of middle America!

Actually, please come back, Hicks of middle America. Bill, that is. Your country needs you...

Re:lack of funds (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#11550029)

You are very welcome - it was a privilege. Voting in 2004 was a twofer for me - not only did I get to help send traitor John Kerry to the political ash heap of history, I got the marvelous opportunity to once again shove my figurative steel-toed made-in-America boot right up the puckered assholes of the perfidious French and other whining Europeans.

I enjoy voting for wise and principled men, for my doing so invariably drives the likes of you absolutely batshit. And that is always a good thing.

MOD PARENT UP (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#11550209)

You whining hippie pinko commies.

I probably fail it (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#11549954)

First post! Or maybe not, nevermind.

I've always thought the linear aerospike (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#11549962)

...would be a good choice for engine on the next gen space shuttle. Here's a brief introduction [aerospaceweb.org] .

Re:I've always thought the linear aerospike (1)

NardofDoom (821951) | more than 8 years ago | (#11549979)

I like the radial aerospike better. Instead of big heavy turbopumps all you need to do is spin the engine.

Lemme guess (0, Flamebait)

TheKidWho (705796) | more than 8 years ago | (#11549967)

Boeing and Lockheed?

Not a Shuttle Replacement (1)

KavanaghNY (246972) | more than 8 years ago | (#11549971)

The CEV is intended to only partially replace the space shuttle. It will provide crew transport from Earth to LEO as the shuttle does. However, it will not be a cargo transport and assembly platform as the space shuttle is.

Re:Not a Shuttle Replacement (1)

TheKidWho (705796) | more than 8 years ago | (#11550072)

Umm, one of the main goals of the CEV is to get it to the moon... not just to LEO.

Back to the drawing board? (1)

leinhos (143965) | more than 8 years ago | (#11549999)

This reminds me of when they were first planning the space shuttle (when it was riding on the back of a 747 for initial testing). It's too bad NASA couldn't bring itself to dump the space plane concept earlier so that we're not waiting another 30 years for a viable replacement.

Re:Back to the drawing board? (3, Interesting)

TheKidWho (705796) | more than 8 years ago | (#11550087)

The space plane concept wasn't bad, and it still isnt. One of the main problems with it though was because of constant budget cuts to the program NASA had to keep on taking out certain features of the shuttle which eventually made it what it is now. Some of the original concepts for the spaceshuttle were truly fascinating and much more effecient then the current shuttle.

Re:Back to the drawing board? (1)

leinhos (143965) | more than 8 years ago | (#11550347)

While I'm not so sure about the space plane concept, this [afa.org] is a good history of the research to date. It seems that as speeds increase beyone mach 5-8, thermal management becomes an issue. In most cases, the additional complexity and weight of an active thermal management system renders the current implementations less effective than conventional rocket-based systems.

NASA Can't get their head out of their ass (-1, Troll)

Walkingshark (711886) | more than 8 years ago | (#11550011)

What makes anyone think they'll be able to get a new rocket into orbit?

Mabie if we find some evidence that jesus was... (-1, Troll)

jonwil (467024) | more than 8 years ago | (#11550019)

really an alien from outer space, we might be able to convince GWB to fund NASA.

Or mabie if we can show that there is oil on the moon...

Unfortunatly, the US government (bush in particular) seems too focused on oil, wars no-one really wants, not catching the people who need to be captured (bin laden etc), catching people who arent a threat (most of the people in the cuban camps, people pirating music and movies online etc) and generally doing stupid things.

The only reason GWB can get away with all these stupid things is because he does just enough good things (anti-gay things, anti-abortion things, farm subsidies, various religious things that totally defly the so-called seperation of church and state, tax cuts designed to look good without actually doing anything etc) to keep the american voters happy.

Benefits (1, Insightful)

RasendeRutje (829555) | more than 8 years ago | (#11550059)

What I've never understood: what are the benefits of space exploration? Sure it gives information about space, but what's the use?
Is there anything they discovered that improved the qauality of life, in return for the zillions of dolars?

Re:Benefits (0)

Sophrosyne (630428) | more than 8 years ago | (#11550165)

The benefits are Reaganomically fantastical to Thatcheristic proportions!!

Re:Benefits (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#11550255)

"What I've never understood: what are the benefits of space exploration? Sure it gives information about space, but what's the use?"

Does there need to be a point? We're a curious species - it's part of what makes humans human. Not only that but we'll take risks for the satisfaction of adventuring somewhere we've never been before, or don't belong.

There doesn't need to be a point in the short term. There's no telling what you might find if you spent ages on the moon or mars. For all we know rubbing moondust on your genetalia kills cancer. Have you tried it? Fact of the matter is, we won't know the benefits of doing it until we do it. That's the point in experimenting. And looking at how global warming is gonna sky rocket in the within a few generations I think it's prudent that we find someplace else to live should the Earth become uninhabitable. Or smacked by a meteor. This shit takes alot of time. Could you forsee humans living on the moon in significant numbers within 100 years? I can't, and I expect that with the way we're ruining our planet and politicians refusing to do anything substancial about it, we'd better start looking for alternatives and fast. Before we're flashfried on the earth.

Re:Benefits (0, Troll)

Lafe (595258) | more than 8 years ago | (#11550383)

You're probably trolling, since this question has come up and been answered over and over and over again. So, I'll spare you the full explanation as it can be found in full elsewhere.

If the given reasons don't seem adequate to you, just accept that you're part of that (significant) fraction of the population that lacks the foresight and imagination to understand why we need to explore space, and every other frontier that is left to us. No amount of my explaining this to you is likely to make a difference.

There were folks who were sure that Columbus was insane for making his journey, and Columbus's journey resulted in a hugely important and un-anticipated discovery as well as enormous benefit. Do you think his exploration was worthless? Would you have thought so before his journey?

Bah.

Monkeys and dogs will not be used for testing. (2, Funny)

Fitzroy_Doll (834282) | more than 8 years ago | (#11550063)

It's been reported that monkeys and dogs have declined to test this round of space vehicles, seeing as there is no ice cream in space.

Article summary repost with important points added (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#11550067)

"The competition for the prime contract to build the Crew Exploration Vehicle, the successor to the Space Shuttle, is ramping up. Michael Sims has been fired. Currently, 11 different companies are creating preliminary designs for systems and vehicles which could be useful in implementing NASA's Vision for Space Exploration. Michael Sims has been fired. By the end of the year, NASA will select two teams to independently develop and build a CEV design. Michael Sims has been fired. The two teams will launch competing unmanned prototypes in 2008, at which point NASA will award a final winning contract. Aerospace giants Boeing and Northrop Grumman have formed one team. Michael Sims has been fired. Another "all-star" team, announced a couple of days ago, is headed by Lockheed Martin. A third team in the running is underdog t/Space, a company with a free enterprise approach to space exploration, which includes notable figures from the commercial spaceflight arena, such as Burt Rutan and Gary Hudson. Michael Sims has been fired. There is concern that a NASA budget boost to help pay for the exploration program could draw some opposition, as most other government programs are anticipating budget cuts."
Michael Sims has been fired.

Military (2, Insightful)

jeffkjo1 (663413) | more than 8 years ago | (#11550113)

I can only hope that NASA is allowed to make the final decision on this spacecraft, and is not forced to make concessions to every government department under the sun like happened with the shuttle.

My Idea for the shuttle replacement (3, Funny)

Sophrosyne (630428) | more than 8 years ago | (#11550119)

It should look state of the art with straight-lines, a red stripe down the side... Here are some preliminary designs for NASA:
Image Here [starfleet-museum.org]
Now if we could only get Majel Barrett to do the voice-over for the computer :(

The Rutan plan (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#11550148)

For a good overview of the Rutan proposal, check this pdf [transformspace.com] at their website. It's a heckuva read...they advocate building a real frontier which ultimately generates tax revenues. They want to use flotillas of vehicles for redundancy, and keep it simple...eg., to land on the moon, just burn more fuel and land the whole vehicle, instead of just a separate lander. Less development time, less to go wrong, and for the first 20 to 40 flights it's cheaper that way. They also ding NASA for micromanaging...they say engineers should question everything, and you can't do that if you have to justify every deviation from the written plan to NASA's managers.

NASA Budget (3, Insightful)

ibm1130 (123012) | more than 8 years ago | (#11550163)

The total NASA budget ( $15+ Billion ) is a very small sub 1% fraction of US Gummint spending. Unfortunately it is in the discretionary category and lumped in with some agencies that often have a rancorous debate attached to their estimates. If other gummint agencies' budgets had been constrained the way NASA has been for the last 15 years or so, we probably wouldn't have a deficit, War On Terror notwithstanding.

get the priorities right (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#11550174)

Why are they wasting money on this stupid idea, when there are so many needy and poor in the country?
So many elderly who do not have medicare. So many homeless shivering during the cold winters?
Why do they not feed the hungry first?

One space vehicle, hold the politics (1, Flamebait)

EaterOfDog (759681) | more than 8 years ago | (#11550269)

The politicians will f*ck this up like everything else. Remember the booster rockets for the shuttle had to be made in California? And they were too long to ship, so they had to be built in sections rather than in one piece? Then the gasket between the sections failed and caused the first shuttle accident? Because some politician had to be sure his state got a slice of the pie. And here we go again.

Space Tug Boat. (3, Insightful)

Doverite (720459) | more than 8 years ago | (#11550282)

Why not build a small powerful space tug boat instead of a truck. Large payloads could be launched into space unmanned. Then the tug could pull them over and attach them to the ISS and leave them there, or drop them over the ocean when done if need be. The ISS gets completed faster and we have a small reusable space plane that could be used more efficiently and more frequently and it wouldn't need crew quarters or sleeping quarters it would use the ISS as a base station. It could be fitted with a smaller crew and quarters for higher missions such as to the Hubble if it is still there or whatever. We don't have to keep dragging tons of equipment back and forth to orbit. Part of the danger of the shuttle is its size so keep the reusable part smaller and safer. We could even build an unmanned parachuting return vehicle for bringing large equipment back down.

Not Addressing The Real Problem (5, Insightful)

FireIron (838223) | more than 8 years ago | (#11550313)

Unfortunately, neither the new Bush space initiatives, nor a new spaceship design will fix all the things that are wrong with the federal space program. Key among these problems is the lack of clear leadership and good management on NASA's Board of Directors, a.k.a. the US Congress.

Congress has never been able to give NASA a set of clear goals, and then provided it with the long-term funding to meet those goals. This has forced NASA into sort of bureaucratic survival mode, lurching along from fiscal year to fiscal year, trying to keep moving the ball forward without a long-term roadmap to follow.

Orbital is with Lockheed Martin for the CEV (0)

MtbRocket (748338) | more than 8 years ago | (#11550350)

I just wanted to mention that Orbital has joined the "all star" team with Lockheed on the CEV.

Awesome... (2, Insightful)

Chanc_Gorkon (94133) | more than 8 years ago | (#11550354)

FINALLY! This will be some exciting times in the aerospace community. I don't hold hope for Burt Rutan to be able to top Northup Grumman/Boeing or Lockheed Martins team but I sure as heck hope that the follwing things are considered:

1. Modern, yet tested hardware for the flight computers and a way to upgrade them easily should they be needed. I still like the idea of multiple redundant computers and a voting structure that the shuttle uses for it's flight computers.

2. Reuseablity is nice, but can be expensive as the shuttle has pointed out. If we do go reusable, I hope we find some new heat shielding that is less fragile.

3. Ejection seets for the crew or a crew module rescue system of some sort.

4. Sensor the HECK out of it. Put little cameras in the superstructure and have one monitor cycle through them on both launch and landing. If teh crew sees something the least bit suspicious, they can initiate a emergency eject.

5. Make it FAST to launch another incase there's damage to one crew module. Maybe make it so that we launch 2 at the same time with both being capable of holding the whole crew in a emergency landing situation. You could even make sure one is always on orbit and is in good shape(docked at ISS or whatever).

6. Make it REPAIRABLE in space either via ISS assistance or a small repair kit heald on board.

I could go on, but this is the opportunity to make a funcitonal system that is much safer then the shuttle. Consider that the shuttle's design is almost 30-40 years old and BOTH planes and cars are MUCH safer today then ones designed that long ago.
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