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549 comments

Whatever happened to single-stage-to-orbit? (4, Interesting)

TripMaster Monkey (862126) | more than 8 years ago | (#13220860)


As long as we're no longer trying to send up cargo along with personnel, now might be a good time to revisit single-stage-to-orbit designs such as the Delta Clipper [wikipedia.org] and the Roton [wikipedia.org].

I don't recall any debris problems with either of these designs, although the leg design seriously needs to be rethought. If you have four legs, a failure of any leg results in disaster (witness the spectacular failure of the Delta Clipper). Six legs, on the other hand, would be far more stable...you could lose any three (provided they're not all adjacent) and still pull off a successful landing.

Not Feasible (yet) (2, Informative)

everphilski (877346) | more than 8 years ago | (#13220927)

Single-Stage to orbit isnt feasible (yet). We need either a breakthrough in materials technology or propulsion performance. The rocket equation is

Delta-V = g * Isp * ln( MR )

where:
Delta-V: velocity required to achieve LEO (7.6 km/s best case scenario: but you need to add gravity and drag losses, add at least 1 km/s)
g: gravity (9.8 m/s)
Isp: Specific impulse of your propellant. This is an efficiency factor: 1 kg of propellant generates Isp kg of thrust. Hydrogen and Oxygen properly mixed generates an Isp of about 450 [seconds] in a vacuum. That is the upper level of chemical propulsion.
MR: Mass ratio. Mass that sits on the launchpad divided by the mass that achieves orbit.

Play around with that equation and you will see STS0 just doesn't work out yet. Our feasible Isp is way too low and our current material properties won't let us build a ship with a MR of over 10 that can return to earth safely.

Interesting factoid though, if you attached the space shuttle main engines to the external tank and just made that a launch vehicle, as a single stage it could put damn near 100 tons into LEO ... as a single stage ... but your not coming home. Reinforcing the ET takes such a mass penalty your payload is effectively reduced to zero.

-everphilski- -- Rocket Scientist

Re:Not Feasible (yet) (1)

TripMaster Monkey (862126) | more than 8 years ago | (#13220989)


Have you considered an alternate fuel, such as kerosene? While kerosene provides less specific impulse (I believe it's around 350 seconds versus hydrogen's 450), it's a lot easier to store...tanks for keresone are about 10% of the weight of tanks for a comparable amount of hydrogen.

Also I think I heard somewhere that good results were obtained from a propane/oxygen mix...that's another fuel that wouldn't require the excessive containment structure hydrogen demands.

Re:Not Feasible (yet) (1)

everphilski (877346) | more than 8 years ago | (#13221010)

Russians have been using chilled Kerosene (chilled to raise the density) for years. It still isn't enough.

Amateurs have been exploring propane ... but that required pressurized tanks, which raise your mass fraction.

-everphilski-

Re:Not Feasible (yet) (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 8 years ago | (#13221016)

another interesting fuel would be methane+02 right between kerosene and hydrogen in specific impulse and density. BTW the problem with hydrogen is not so much the cold but the density. A pound of kerosene is much smaller than a pound of hydrogen.

Re:Whatever happened to single-stage-to-orbit? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13220979)

Could someone please edit the Roton wiki to either include a link to "LSP" or define what it means?

Otherwise, the article is kind of useless for most people to understand what the benefit of the rocket is.

Re:Whatever happened to single-stage-to-orbit? (1)

Peyna (14792) | more than 8 years ago | (#13221037)

Ah, I just did it myself. The grammar on the page was atrocious as well. If anyone else is up to it, the entire page could use a freshening up. There is far too much passive voice, poor comma usage and various other problems that seriously affect readability.

Not to mention the use of the word "whilst." Did a Brit write this article?

Re:Whatever happened to single-stage-to-orbit? (1)

costas (38724) | more than 8 years ago | (#13221053)

What happened was that the design in the NYT article retains some of the infrastructure of the STS, meaning a lot of the jobs that are associated with that massive pork barrel that also goes into orbit.

The NYT article is basically a PR exercise by Thiokol to get the inside track for an STS replacement and it may very well work. However, look out for what Boeing and Lockheed will come up with as they too stand to lose a lot of subsidies contracts with a potential STS replacement. Having said that, the DC-X does merit a second chance...

Kind of sad... (4, Insightful)

CrazyTalk (662055) | more than 8 years ago | (#13220875)

What they are effectively saying is, the 30 year experiment that was the space shuttle was a failure. Sure, a lot was learned - but now they are going back to the basic design concepts (upgraded with new tech, of course) of the 1960s. Live and learn.

Re:Kind of sad... (2, Insightful)

Tx (96709) | more than 8 years ago | (#13220933)

Nah, what they're saying is they now realize it's stupid to try and do everything with a swiss army knife, when you can have a proper set of specialized tools instead. The fact that specialized tools came before the swiss army knife doesn't make them any less a superior solution.

Not sad, facing reality. (1)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 8 years ago | (#13220963)

Spaceplanes look cool. However spaceplanes are not what we need at this time. We were not in an advanced enough state of space usage to make good use out of it. We had far more need of speciality vehichles but speciality vehicles are BORING. NASA needed to sell itself after the spectacular moon landings. Hence we got the shuttle.

Not only did it look cool, sound cool, and appealed to geeks it appealed to Congress as they spread it out across a great many districts.

We paid the price by being locked into LEO for how many years? If it were not for the occasional Mars landing or some great deep space probes the shuttle would have killed NASA. Instead there were just enough thrilling items left in their bag of tricks to keep everyone from focusing on that fact that the golden goose wasn't so great.

So NASA is getting smarter, or at least the analyst are. Get back to space doing it cheaply with known and easily acquired, serviced, and usuable components. Then maybe we will finally do something in space. If we had this 20 years ago the ISS might have been done during the first Bush's term. (hell it might have even had been built while Reagan was around if we hadn't had to waste so much on the shuttle)

Re:Not sad, facing reality. (1)

'nother poster (700681) | more than 8 years ago | (#13221029)

What do you mean NASA is getting smarter? The original shuttle designs with the reusable launchers and such were brilliant for the times, but funding cuts and politics gave us the monstrosity we have. The shuttle as we have it with the production and support nightmare is not what NASA wanted, it's what they got.

That said, heavy lifters for bulk, small light cheap for sattilites, and reusables for the ability to bring things back would be a good idea if you ask me, which no one did.

(No I didn't RTFA. I don't do NYT. I hate feeling dirty aftrewards.)

Re:Kind of sad... (1)

hackus (159037) | more than 8 years ago | (#13220983)

Human Exploration of space stopped in the 70's. I think that is the true failure here.

That doesn't mean however the shuttle was a failure.

We have learned a great deal with how to design vehicles that can interoperate between low earth orbit and on the ground.

Two of the most difficult aspects that needed to be understood before taking our next step.

NASA seems to have a problem deciding though what that is going to be.

I personally think we need to get rid of this idea of rockets, and start thinking about more fundamental engines built around magnetic/gravity principles.

Rockets where OK because they are fairly easy to understand, build and use while learning about airfoil design and basic mechanics.

What we need is better propulsion system for this stuff.

-Hack

Re:Kind of sad... (1)

orin (113079) | more than 8 years ago | (#13221030)

Well you could say that the experiement was a success - they learned that you probably shouldn't do it that way. The experiment continued until almost everyone could see that this is not the way to do it. If the shuttle program had been cancelled after Challenger, you'd still be getting spaceplane proposals.

Re:Kind of sad... (1)

LnxAddct (679316) | more than 8 years ago | (#13221042)

Its not sad. The experiment wasn't a failure, we got a reusable space exploration vehicle and used it hundreds of times for the first time in history. Unfortunately, it was still costing way too much money just to get the thing up. Sure the idea is cool, and the shuttle looks cool, but then reality hits and cargo needs to go up and personnel need to go up as cheap & safe as possible. NASA has alot of different things it needs to spend money on. This new shuttle design will allow them to lift 5 times as much weight (100 tons versus 20 tons) for less money then was spent on one launch before. I'd rather see them do this for a bit rather than burn through their budget and go the way of other space agencies around the world. Oh and for those who are thinking this is just old technology, if you read the article you'd see that just like new jets resemble old jets, but new jets are significantly different, this new shuttle design resembles the old one, yet is much more advanced and improved.
Regards,
Steve

Re:Kind of sad... (1)

dfenstrate (202098) | more than 8 years ago | (#13221043)

I'm sorry, but what kind of 'expirement' was ever a failure? The point of one is to learn, and that happens regardless of wether or not you get the expected outcome.

Won't fix the problem (2, Informative)

Se7enLC (714730) | more than 8 years ago | (#13220877)

NASA claims that the tile gap filler that has come loose was a result of vibrations on liftoff, NOT the result of falling debris...

So moving the return capsule up to the nose of the craft will prevent repeats of 1986 and 2003, but won't fix every problem. They should instead be trying to build a shuttle that won't rattle apart on takeoff.

Re:Won't fix the problem (1)

lucabrasi999 (585141) | more than 8 years ago | (#13220910)

They should instead be trying to build a shuttle that won't rattle apart on takeoff.

And why should they do that? That is a very, very expensive goal that is almost impossible to achieve. It is much more cost effective to simply go back to the way we used to launch spacecraft (and, note that old way is the way the Russians still launch their spacecraft).

Re:Won't fix the problem (1)

Vo0k (760020) | more than 8 years ago | (#13220965)

Actually, they can do this easily.
Just make the whole friggin' thing lighter. Less weight, less fuel, less thrust, less force, vibrations weaker and easier to dampen. And less stuff to fall off, so it can be attached better too. One of reasons shuttle vibrates so much is that it's so damn big. Make it a good solid brick, surviving in all conditions, instead of a sleek glider that can get blown to pieces by stronger wind. True shuttles are prettier that Sayuz capsules, but they suck at durability.

Re:Won't fix the problem (1)

lucabrasi999 (585141) | more than 8 years ago | (#13221008)

just make the whole friggin' thing lighter. Less weight, less fuel, less thrust, less force, vibrations weaker and easier to dampen.

IANA Physicist, but "less thrust" and "less force" to me means you aren't taking much up into space with you. If you can't take material with you, why would you want to go to space? Especially since (as the FA points out) it is much cheaper to use "older" technology to carry over 100 tons up each time (compared with the 20 tons the shuttle presently carries).

And less stuff to fall off, so it can be attached better too.

The temperature of the fuel that is used to launch the shuttle has to be kept well below zero. The only way to keep the fuel that cold is to insulate the fuel tank. Whatever the size and weight of a future shuttle, you are required to have insulation on the fuel tank, otherwise, you can't lift off. That insulation will always be a risk to a shuttle. That is why the proposed design puts the payload on TOP of the rocket. To avoid the insulation.

Non-Registration (1)

droptone (798379) | more than 8 years ago | (#13220878)

Redesign Is Seen for Next Craft, NASA Aides Say
August 2, 2005
By WILLIAM J. BROAD


For its next generation of space vehicles, NASA has decided to abandon the design principles that went into the aging space shuttle, agency officials and private experts say.

Instead, they say, the new vehicles will rearrange the shuttle's components into a safer, more powerful family of traditional rockets.

The plan would separate the jobs of hauling people and cargo into orbit and would put the payloads on top of the rockets - as far as possible from the dangers of firing engines and falling debris, which were responsible for the accidents that destroyed the shuttle Challenger in 1986 and the Columbia in 2003.

By making the rockets from shuttle parts, the new plan would draw on the shuttle's existing network of thousands of contractors and technologies, in theory speeding its completion and lowering its price.

"The existing components offer us huge cost advantages as opposed to starting from a clean sheet of paper," the new administrator of NASA, Michael D. Griffin, told reporters on Friday.

The plan, whose origins go back two and a half years, is emerging at a time when it may help deflect attention from the current troubles of the shuttle fleet.

The Discovery's astronauts are to make a spacewalk tomorrow to fix a potentially hazardous problem with cloth filler on its belly.

Future missions have been indefinitely suspended while NASA tries to solve the persistent shedding of foam from the external fuel tank at liftoff.

The plan for new vehicles is to be formally unveiled this month. Its outlines were gleaned from interviews and reviews of trade reports, Congressional testimony and official statements. Some details were reported on Sunday in The Orlando Sentinel.

On Friday, Dr. Griffin emphasized the plan's safety, telling reporters that the new generation of rockets would have their payloads up high to avoid the kinds of dangers that doomed the Columbia two and a half years ago and threatened the Discovery last week when insulating foam broke off its fuel tank shortly after liftoff.

"As long as we put the crew and the valuable cargo up above wherever the tanks are, we don't care what they shed," he said. "They can have dandruff all day long."

Congress would have to approve the initiative, and many questions remain. John E. Pike, the director of GlobalSecurity.org, a private Washington research group on military and space topics, said he wondered how NASA could remain within its budget while continuing to pay billions of dollars for the shuttle and building a new generation of rockets and capsules.

Alex Roland, a former historian of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration who now teaches at Duke University and is a frequent critic of the space program, said the plan had "the aroma of a quick and dirty solution to a big problem."

But supporters say it will let astronauts move expeditiously back into the business of exploration rather than endlessly circling the home planet, and do so fairly quickly.

"The shuttle is not a lemon," Scott J. Horowitz, an aerospace engineer and former astronaut who helped develop the new plan, said in an interview. "It's just too complicated. I know from flying it four times. It's an amazing engineering feat. But there's a better way."

Dr. Horowitz was one of a small group of astronauts, shaken by the Columbia disaster, who took it upon themselves in 2003 to come up with a safer approach to exploring space. Their effort, conceived while they were in Lufkin, Tex., helping search for shuttle wreckage, became part of the NASA program to design a successor to the shuttle fleet.

The three remaining shuttles are to be retired by 2010 under the Bush administration's plan for space exploration, which is intended to return humans to the Moon and eventually Mars.

The new vehicles would sidestep the foam threat altogether, and its supporters say they would have other advantages as well. The larger of the vehicles, for lifting heavy cargoes but not people, would be some 350 feet tall, rivaling the Saturn 5 rockets that sent astronauts to the Moon.

The smaller one, for carrying people, would still dwarf the shuttle, which stands 184 feet high with its attached rockets and fuel tank.

The spaceships would no longer look like airplanes. Their payloads, whether humans or cargo, would ride in capsules at the top rather than alongside the fuel tank - standard practice until the shuttle era. Rather than gliding back to Earth, they would deploy parachutes and land on the ground in the Western United States.

"The goal is not how good the stuff looks," said John M. Logsdon, director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University. "It's results. The goal is to get people back to the Moon and eventually onto Mars. And this system, given the budget constraints, is a reasonable way to go."

A main advantage, supporters say, is that the big rocket could lift five or six times as much cargo as the shuttle (roughly 100 tons versus 20 tons), making it the world's most powerful space vehicle. In theory, it would be strong enough to haul into orbit whole spaceships destined for the Moon, Mars and beyond.

Just as important, officials and private experts say, the small rocket for astronauts would be at least 10 times as safe as the shuttle, whose odds of disaster are estimated at roughly 1 in 100. The crew capsule atop the rocket would rendezvous in orbit with gear and spaceships that the bigger rocket ferried aloft, or with the International Space Station.

"It's safe, simple and soon," said Dr. Horowitz, an industry executive since he left the astronaut corps in October. "And it should cost less money" than the shuttles. Their reusability over 100 missions was originally meant to slash expenses but the cost per flight ended up being roughly $1 billion.

"We need to get this as simple and affordable as possible," Dr. Horowitz said, "because there's a lot of other things we need to spend our money on when it comes to exploration."

Asked whether the new designs meant NASA was going back to the future, he replied, "You can say, 'Hey, that looks pretty retro,' " but he drew an analogy to passenger jets from decades ago and those of today. "They look the same," he said, "but are completely different."

By drawing on existing technology, the plan is meant to speed President Bush's goal of revitalizing human space exploration. At the same time, it would upend the strategy of NASA's previous administrator, Sean O'Keefe, who wanted to discard the shuttle in favor of military rockets, which would have required costly upgrades to make them safe for humans. And their payloads would have been relatively small, requiring strings of multiple rocket launchings.

Dr. Horowitz said he and two fellow astronauts ended up endorsing the traditional idea of putting payloads atop the rocket instead of on its side, as far as possible from the dangers below. They also envisioned an escape system that would lift the crew capsule out of harm's way if serious trouble arose.

After January 2004, when Mr. Bush announced a national effort to "extend a human presence across our solar system," Dr. Horowitz hit on the idea of using the shuttle's booster rocket as a first stage. He did the math and found it ideal. Moreover, the booster rocket was already approved for human flight and - despite its role in the 1986 Challenger disaster - had earned an excellent safety record.

The second stage of the crew rocket would feature a updated version of the J-2 engine, which in the 1960's and 1970's helped propel the astronauts to the Moon.

Dr. Horowitz said industry studies put the risk of catastrophic failure for the newly envisioned crew rocket at 1 in 1,000 to 3,000. "It's never going to be like driving your car," he said. "But it's a huge step in the right direction."

After leaving the astronaut corps, he went to work for the booster maker, ATK Thiokol, where he now leads the company's effort to develop the new family of rockets. An ATK Web site, www.safesimplesoon.com, discusses the shuttle-derived vehicles. The giant cargo rocket would feature a large fuel tank atop throwaway shuttle engines and, hanging on its side, a pair of shuttle booster rockets.

Several analysts said that retaining the shuttle contractors would probably help the effort not only financially, but also politically. In Florida alone, a state with blood ties to the White House, the shuttle program employs some 14,000 technicians and engineers, managers and contractors.

Re:Non-Registration (1)

droptone (798379) | more than 8 years ago | (#13220908)

Don't mod this up too high, I forgot the Post Anonymously button =/

Re:Non-Registration (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13220922)

No you didn't. You're just a karma whore. Die.

Re:Non-Registration (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13220990)

I will one day. Thanks for the encouragement though!

A bit too enthusiastic IMO.. (1)

BlackCobra43 (596714) | more than 8 years ago | (#13220884)

From TFA "As long as we put the crew and the valuable cargo up above wherever the tanks are, we don't care what they shed," he said. "They can have dandruff all day long." That's pushing it a bit, insn't it? This is insulating foa mwe'Re talkikng about, wouldn't the rockets possibly overheat and explode? IANARS but I don't know about this...

Typo city (1)

BlackCobra43 (596714) | more than 8 years ago | (#13220909)

Guess my "don't spellcheck" policy came back to bite me in the arse. I obviously meant "is insulating foam we're talking about" and not that gibberish.

Re:A bit too enthusiastic IMO.. (1)

Se7enLC (714730) | more than 8 years ago | (#13220949)

Yeah, I agree. I understand that the idea of having disposable parts will save money, and keeping the astronauts as far away from the less-trusted parts is a good idea...

To say "we don't care if it just falls apart" is a little concerning, however. If something goes wrong with the fuel tank, it can EXPLODE. I don't care where you put the capsule, an explosion can still kill the astronauts.

Re:A bit too enthusiastic IMO.. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13220958)

The foam isn't to stop anything from overheating, it's to stop the liquid hydrogen and oxygen in the fuel tank from causing the humid Florida air to condense and form ice on the outside of the tank.

Re:A bit too enthusiastic IMO.. (1)

vandon (233276) | more than 8 years ago | (#13220987)

The foam isn't to stop anything from overheating, it's to stop the liquid hydrogen and oxygen in the fuel tank from causing the humid Florida air to condense and form ice on the outside of the tank.


Have they thought about moving the launches to Arizona, New Mexico, or Nevada?

Re:A bit too enthusiastic IMO.. (1)

TripMaster Monkey (862126) | more than 8 years ago | (#13221021)


The launches are done in Florida so the craft can be over water almost immediately after takeoff...that big tank's gotta fall somewhere...

Re:A bit too enthusiastic IMO.. (1)

BlackCobra43 (596714) | more than 8 years ago | (#13220996)

Interesting. What would be the result of the formation of ice? Would it just look frosty or adversely affect the rocket's flight?

Ice falls off and hits the shuttle. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13221018)

The main reason they insulate the tanks with the external foam is to keep ice from forming on the outside of the tank.

Ice on the outside of the tank could fall off and strike the underside of the shuttle and damage the tiles, or strike the wings and damage them (see Columbia).

Watch an old Saturn launch sometime, huge sheets of ice come falling away from the thing during it's intial climbout from the tower, but they don't care, because there's nothing important/dagnerous for the ice to hit.

Re:A bit too enthusiastic IMO.. (1)

Jivecat (836356) | more than 8 years ago | (#13221027)

Well, ice is heavy, for one thing. So it would definitely adversely affect the rocket's performance. A lesser issue might be the possibility of damage to the rocket when it sloughs off.

Anyone else... (1, Funny)

daveschroeder (516195) | more than 8 years ago | (#13220887)

...see this as a bit, er, optimistic?

By making the rockets from shuttle parts, the new plan would draw on the shuttle's existing network of thousands of contractors and technologies, in theory speeding its completion and lowering its price.

Well, I guess they did say "in theory"...

Yup. It's true. (1)

everphilski (877346) | more than 8 years ago | (#13220951)

The most expensive part of the shuttle stack is the orbiter. Re-using the ET and the solid rocket boosters would save years of development time and yes, money.

They need to stick the Shuttle in the smithsonian and stick with the pieces that work.

-everphilski-

What's old is new (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13220892)

The "cargo on top" is more or less the old Shuttle-C configuration. Not a bad idea, really.

The Shuttle is actually a pretty good launch vehicle. To an uneducated observer such as myself, most of the problems seem to stem from having such a large orbiter which then needs to be strapped onto the side.

And if the crew vehicle (CEV) launches atop an SRB-derived booster, I guess it could actually be pretty cost effective, especially compared to the current Shuttle system.

It's not about safer, it's about cheaper (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 8 years ago | (#13220895)

Safer comes along with the cheaper in this seperation of designs, but it certianly is a return of the Super-apollo designs at the end of the 60's beginning of the 70's.

Personally It looks like that NASA is at the end of their run in innovations of getting to space, they are damned good at exploring other planets and science in general but all of our hope of getting a real reuseable and safe space delivery systems lies completely in the Commercial sector.

Here's hope that someone in industry finds a really good reason to go into space regularly.

Re:It's not about safer, it's about cheaper (1)

timster (32400) | more than 8 years ago | (#13220950)

I think NASA has spent enough subsidizing technological development. For decades that was seen as part of their purpose, so they pushed for cutting-edge advancements like reusable spacecraft. Now we have lots of technology and it's time to get down to the business of exploring space. Enough of new rockets.

Shuttle ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13220897)

Why call them hew Shuttle ? They look just like an old style rockets, and work like ones.
And it seems that there are no reusable parts on this vehicle also.
But anyway, it is goog that the common sense finally works. Efficient designs work better than cool looking ones ...

Re:Shuttle ? (1)

madman101 (571954) | more than 8 years ago | (#13220978)

The side boosters are the same as the shuttles', just with one more section added. Since they are safely reused now, they certainly should be able to be reused in the future.

Tweety: I thought I saw a fuel tank? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13220900)

"The payloads are riding up top to avoid debris."

Bird Strikes may continue to be a problem.

Account #1 (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13220905)

pidmeoff pidmeoff1234

First Design! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13220907)

First Design!

Nasa says looks are not important... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13220911)

... but does the main tank really have to be brown?

Re:Nasa says looks are not important... (1)

natron 2.0 (615149) | more than 8 years ago | (#13220939)

IIRC, they painted the main tanks on the first 2 shuttle launches, but it was determined that all the white paint they appied to the main tank added to much wieght to it so they went back to brown unpainted tanks.

Apollo? (1)

I_am_Rambi (536614) | more than 8 years ago | (#13220913)

Wasn't the reason that NASA went to a shuttle was for reuse? To me, this "new" design looks like the apollo capsules. What is there for reuse and how will they reuse it? And then there is landing....

Back to the future. (1)

StrawberryFrog (67065) | more than 8 years ago | (#13220945)

Wasn't the reason that NASA went to a shuttle was for reuse?

Yes. It was supposed to same money. It didn't.

To me, this "new" design looks like the apollo capsules.

Me to. So?

What is there for reuse and how will they reuse it?

Not much, and they won't.

And then there is landing....

See also: Apollo.

You could have RTFA.

Re:Back to the future. (1)

Skye16 (685048) | more than 8 years ago | (#13221026)

As parent says, the idea of reuse was solely to make things cheaper. Each shuttle flight ended up costing over $1b (according to the article). I have a difficult time calling that "cheap", especially when the Soyuz FG costs $50 million per launch. Now, this new design is apparently going to be MUCH more powerful than the Soyuz, but I seriously doubt it would come in line with the $1b/flight price tag.

Re:Apollo? (1)

Eccles (932) | more than 8 years ago | (#13220982)

The SRBs would be reused. I looks like the crew and equipment containers would not. But the idea here is to at least have a safer, interim system to get into space. One could later enhance the design with a reusable, winged crew vehicle, and possibly cargo container (although the latter might be worth keeping in space for raw materials.)

Re:Apollo? (1)

Sketch (2817) | more than 8 years ago | (#13221020)

Wasn't the reason that NASA went to a shuttle was for reuse? To me, this "new" design looks like the apollo capsules. What is there for reuse and how will they reuse it? And then there is landing....

NASA sold the shuttle program to congress on the concept of re-use. To safely fly the shuttle requires it to be nearly rebuilt after every flight at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars each time. I seem to recall an article saying that it ended up costing just as much as sending up a new rocket each time.

Also, the functional parts of this rocket are based on the current shuttle booster rockets. The ones that fall to earth halfway through the launch, as does large external the fuel tank that powers them. Note that these are picked up and reused. I'm sure NASA will continue this practice, if they go with this "new" design.

I imagine the landing will work just like it did with the Apollo capsules, which I imagine is similar to how the Russians are still doing it. And last I heard, they have not lost any craft on re-entry in recent years, unlike us.

Efficient,reliable,cheap - chose any 2 :-) (1)

OrangeSpyderMan (589635) | more than 8 years ago | (#13220917)

From TFA : By making the rockets from shuttle parts, the new plan would draw on the shuttle's existing network of thousands of contractors and technologies, in theory speeding its completion and lowering its price.

Yes thereby ensuring that all the "keep prices down" corner cutting that got the shuttle where it is today doesn't go to waste either :-)

Re:Efficient,reliable,cheap - chose any 2 :-) (1)

Tune (17738) | more than 8 years ago | (#13221012)

From TFA: [...] in theory speeding its completion and lowering its price.

That, indeed is why NASA is the leading agency for doing efficient, reliable and cheap innovation -- in theory. That is why Burt Rutan's SS1 project went over budget, it was irrisponsible, it did not win the Ansari X price and -- in fact -- it crashed. Whaha.

--
In theory, there is no difference between practice and theory.

Nothing new here... (1)

haakondahl (893488) | more than 8 years ago | (#13220918)

...these are ancient designs which can be implemented using decades-old technology. The only interesting thing is that now NASA has killed enough people to shift the bureaucracy off its ass. We don't need the Battlestar Galactica hardware to do Apollo missions.

A Room Full Of Monkeys... (1)

creimer (824291) | more than 8 years ago | (#13220919)

That's the shortest but barely literate article summary that I've seen in a long time. Does anyone know what it means?

Re:A Room Full Of Monkeys... (1)

millennial (830897) | more than 8 years ago | (#13220935)

For this summary, you need approximately 1.5 rooms full of infinite numbers of monkeys, but only 10% of infinite time. It's just that brief.

When posting NYT links... (0, Offtopic)

SenorAmor (719735) | more than 8 years ago | (#13220920)

.. and links to other sites that require registration, why not just include a BugMeNot username/password combo in the spoiler text?

Re:When posting NYT links... (1)

lucabrasi999 (585141) | more than 8 years ago | (#13221035)

why not just include a BugMeNot username/password combo in the spoiler text?

Or, you could do what 90% of us already do, we use a fake (or secondary) e-mail address to register an account with the NYT.

Another idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13221038)

Why not just fill the registration with bogus information, get the cookie and/or username and/or password, and never be bothered with it again??

Two words... (1)

Engineer Chris (891425) | more than 8 years ago | (#13220923)

Space [space.com] elevator [wikipedia.org].

They're cheaper, safer, better, awesomer, and nowhere near as Rube Goldberg-esque as the shuttle. Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars [amazon.com] trilogy explores the topic of a space elevator on Mars in some depth. There it's a problem because it makes space travel too easy.

What happens when... (1)

bigweenie (73456) | more than 8 years ago | (#13221034)

the cable breaks?

Simple designs are sometimes dumb designs too, failure is not reserved for complicated solutions. Perhaps I do not know enough about this topic, but I would guess that cable failure could pose a serious risk to the terrestrial bound.

Please advise.
Thanks.

Looks good. (1)

loic_2003 (707722) | more than 8 years ago | (#13220929)

To me it seems the US has gone back to the K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Stupid) strategy that the Russians have always adopted. To me it never made sense to have the shuttle strapped right next to the fuel and solid rockets. I believe it wasn't ever intended to in the original design...

This way they'll be able to have an escape capsule thus giving them half a chance in the case of a launch error. The shuttle is amazing, but the sooner it's retired to a museum, the better, IMO.

Full Article Text ... (-1, Redundant)

pjammer (90700) | more than 8 years ago | (#13220937)

Redesign Is Seen for Next Craft, NASA Aides Say

By WILLIAM J. BROAD
For its next generation of space vehicles, NASA has decided to abandon the design principles that went into the aging space shuttle, agency officials and private experts say.

Instead, they say, the new vehicles will rearrange the shuttle's components into a safer, more powerful family of traditional rockets.

The plan would separate the jobs of hauling people and cargo into orbit and would put the payloads on top of the rockets - as far as possible from the dangers of firing engines and falling debris, which were responsible for the accidents that destroyed the shuttle Challenger in 1986 and the Columbia in 2003.

By making the rockets from shuttle parts, the new plan would draw on the shuttle's existing network of thousands of contractors and technologies, in theory speeding its completion and lowering its price.

"The existing components offer us huge cost advantages as opposed to starting from a clean sheet of paper," the new administrator of NASA, Michael D. Griffin, told reporters on Friday.

The plan, whose origins go back two and a half years, is emerging at a time when it may help deflect attention from the current troubles of the shuttle fleet.

The Discovery's astronauts are to make a spacewalk tomorrow to fix a potentially hazardous problem with cloth filler on its belly.

Future missions have been indefinitely suspended while NASA tries to solve the persistent shedding of foam from the external fuel tank at liftoff.

The plan for new vehicles is to be formally unveiled this month. Its outlines were gleaned from interviews and reviews of trade reports, Congressional testimony and official statements. Some details were reported on Sunday in The Orlando Sentinel.

On Friday, Dr. Griffin emphasized the plan's safety, telling reporters that the new generation of rockets would have their payloads up high to avoid the kinds of dangers that doomed the Columbia two and a half years ago and threatened the Discovery last week when insulating foam broke off its fuel tank shortly after liftoff.

"As long as we put the crew and the valuable cargo up above wherever the tanks are, we don't care what they shed," he said. "They can have dandruff all day long."

Congress would have to approve the initiative, and many questions remain. John E. Pike, the director of GlobalSecurity.org, a private Washington research group on military and space topics, said he wondered how NASA could remain within its budget while continuing to pay billions of dollars for the shuttle and building a new generation of rockets and capsules.

Alex Roland, a former historian of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration who now teaches at Duke University and is a frequent critic of the space program, said the plan had "the aroma of a quick and dirty solution to a big problem."

But supporters say it will let astronauts move expeditiously back into the business of exploration rather than endlessly circling the home planet, and do so fairly quickly.

"The shuttle is not a lemon," Scott J. Horowitz, an aerospace engineer and former astronaut who helped develop the new plan, said in an interview. "It's just too complicated. I know from flying it four times. It's an amazing engineering feat. But there's a better way."

Dr. Horowitz was one of a small group of astronauts, shaken by the Columbia disaster, who took it upon themselves in 2003 to come up with a safer approach to exploring space. Their effort, conceived while they were in Lufkin, Tex., helping search for shuttle wreckage, became part of the NASA program to design a successor to the shuttle fleet.

The three remaining shuttles are to be retired by 2010 under the Bush administration's plan for space exploration, which is intended to return humans to the Moon and eventually Mars.

The new vehicles would sidestep the foam threat altogether, and its supporters say they would have other advantages as well. The larger of the vehicles, for lifting heavy cargoes but not people, would be some 350 feet tall, rivaling the Saturn 5 rockets that sent astronauts to the Moon.

The smaller one, for carrying people, would still dwarf the shuttle, which stands 184 feet high with its attached rockets and fuel tank.

The spaceships would no longer look like airplanes. Their payloads, whether humans or cargo, would ride in capsules at the top rather than alongside the fuel tank - standard practice until the shuttle era. Rather than gliding back to Earth, they would deploy parachutes and land on the ground in the Western United States.

"The goal is not how good the stuff looks," said John M. Logsdon, director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University. "It's results. The goal is to get people back to the Moon and eventually onto Mars. And this system, given the budget constraints, is a reasonable way to go."

A main advantage, supporters say, is that the big rocket could lift five or six times as much cargo as the shuttle (roughly 100 tons versus 20 tons), making it the world's most powerful space vehicle. In theory, it would be strong enough to haul into orbit whole spaceships destined for the Moon, Mars and beyond.

Just as important, officials and private experts say, the small rocket for astronauts would be at least 10 times as safe as the shuttle, whose odds of disaster are estimated at roughly 1 in 100. The crew capsule atop the rocket would rendezvous in orbit with gear and spaceships that the bigger rocket ferried aloft, or with the International Space Station.

"It's safe, simple and soon," said Dr. Horowitz, an industry executive since he left the astronaut corps in October. "And it should cost less money" than the shuttles. Their reusability over 100 missions was originally meant to slash expenses but the cost per flight ended up being roughly $1 billion.

"We need to get this as simple and affordable as possible," Dr. Horowitz said, "because there's a lot of other things we need to spend our money on when it comes to exploration."

Asked whether the new designs meant NASA was going back to the future, he replied, "You can say, 'Hey, that looks pretty retro,' " but he drew an analogy to passenger jets from decades ago and those of today. "They look the same," he said, "but are completely different."

By drawing on existing technology, the plan is meant to speed President Bush's goal of revitalizing human space exploration. At the same time, it would upend the strategy of NASA's previous administrator, Sean O'Keefe, who wanted to discard the shuttle in favor of military rockets, which would have required costly upgrades to make them safe for humans. And their payloads would have been relatively small, requiring strings of multiple rocket launchings.

Dr. Horowitz said he and two fellow astronauts ended up endorsing the traditional idea of putting payloads atop the rocket instead of on its side, as far as possible from the dangers below. They also envisioned an escape system that would lift the crew capsule out of harm's way if serious trouble arose.

After January 2004, when Mr. Bush announced a national effort to "extend a human presence across our solar system," Dr. Horowitz hit on the idea of using the shuttle's booster rocket as a first stage. He did the math and found it ideal. Moreover, the booster rocket was already approved for human flight and - despite its role in the 1986 Challenger disaster - had earned an excellent safety record.

The second stage of the crew rocket would feature a updated version of the J-2 engine, which in the 1960's and 1970's helped propel the astronauts to the Moon.

Dr. Horowitz said industry studies put the risk of catastrophic failure for the newly envisioned crew rocket at 1 in 1,000 to 3,000. "It's never going to be like driving your car," he said. "But it's a huge step in the right direction."

After leaving the astronaut corps, he went to work for the booster maker, ATK Thiokol, where he now leads the company's effort to develop the new family of rockets. An ATK Web site, www.safesimplesoon.com, discusses the shuttle-derived vehicles. The giant cargo rocket would feature a large fuel tank atop throwaway shuttle engines and, hanging on its side, a pair of shuttle booster rockets.

Several analysts said that retaining the shuttle contractors would probably help the effort not only financially, but also politically. In Florida alone, a state with blood ties to the White House, the shuttle program employs some 14,000 technicians and engineers, managers and contractors.

Cow's gone, close the door. (1)

bigtallmofo (695287) | more than 8 years ago | (#13220938)

The payloads are riding up top to avoid debris.

The proverbial cow has left the barn, time to close the barn door.

Don't worry about the hole in the wall until chickens start escaping.

When will NASA start anticipating problems instead of just overreacting to previous ones?

Re:Cow's gone, close the door. (1)

everphilski (877346) | more than 8 years ago | (#13220970)

You have to insulate tanks. Tanks have been insulated since cryogenic propellants have been used.

You can either insulate them from the outside or the inside. Outside you get debris. Inside you get debris. If your vehicle is on top, we don't care about debris outside. Inside, debris clogs our turbopumps and causes us to abort. And insulating the outside is cheaper.

Think of it as the lesser of two evils.

-everphilski-

Overly fragile? (2, Interesting)

Aumaden (598628) | more than 8 years ago | (#13220943)

Is the whole design of the shuttle overly fragile?

I understand that there are some sizable forces acting on the launch vehicle, but how can insulating foam do so much damage?

And, if insulating foam can damage the tiles, what about micro meteors or drifting debris from previous flights?

Isn't there a way to put a shrouding over the tiles that would be jettisoned with the fuel tank? Protect the tiles until the shuttle is free of the fuel tank and solid rocket motors.

Re:Overly fragile? (1)

Vo0k (760020) | more than 8 years ago | (#13221040)

Is the whole design of the shuttle overly fragile?
Extremely.
At least on launch.
The liquid propellant container is made of layer of metal thin like tinfoil. Internal pressure keeps it from bending and breaking, but a small point pressure (bird's beak? Air gun dart?) is enough to pierce it - and make it explode.
The shuttle itself is much more durable, but the foam remember that E=mv^2 so even small m at speeds the shuttle is going creates huge E, capable of seriously damaging it.
Micrometeors and tiniest debris will just pierce tiny holes. Possible to repair (or not, depends where they happen), but unless a human or essential piece of electronics happens on the way, mostly harmless. Bigger meteors or pieces - hard luck, you're screwed.

back to basics? (1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 8 years ago | (#13220948)

It is strange that the new "shuttle" is not going to use something more interesting than just a rocket to lift off, like a SCRAM jet. I thought a SCRAM jet could lift a small new crew vehicle up above 50km and then the crew vehicle with 2 small boosters would disconnect from the jet and use the boosters to accelerate to the necessary speed, discard the boosters and use the remaining shuttle boosters to operate in the orbit. But they are going with another rocket design. Oh well, we just have to wait for the space elevator to be built to have more exotic means of space transportation I guess.

The Shuttle Problems are a Sham (3, Funny)

eno2001 (527078) | more than 8 years ago | (#13220952)

I can't believe that people are still denying the truth. Just yesterday, there was a SECOND article about the discover of Planet X. Planet X is returning on it's 4000 year orbit, which means that the race that enslaved us nearly 4000 years ago, the Niburu are coming back. It's not a surprise that we haven't had a successful manned space mission in the last few years. The Bush administration, NASA, the U.S. military and some of the most powerful corporations on the planet are covering this up. Why, you may ask? Because, they have a deal with the Niburu to spare their families from the enslavement when they arrive in a few years time. It is as it was written by the Sumerians and as Zecharaiah Sitchin translated (he is the only man on Earth who can read ancient Sumerian properly).

One of the requirements that the Niburu required as part of the deal is that humans will not make any manned flights off of the planet anymore. This is why we haven't been able to get a shuttle off the ground for so long. NASA talks about the supposed failures of various systems, but it's just a cover-up. Just like the cover-up they pulled off when the manned space station jsut a couple years ago hear strange sounds coming from the outside. The sounds were the sounds of a Niburu operative crawling around on the outside of the station. NASA later claimed it was just a bit of casing that had been damaged and needed to be fixed. What really happened? The anstronauts were reprogrammed to become Niburu operatives and came back to Earth to infiltrate NASA.

What about the dead astronaut found in the Arabian dessert? What? You didn't hear about that? Maybe it's because the Niburu controlled media don't want you to hear about it. They've been stirring things up on the global front to get the commoners at each other's throats so that we are in disarray when they arrive to enslave us. The real story is that a dead astronaut was found in the Arabian dessert after he had unwittingly announced the discovery of Planet X back in the 90s when that comet was going to slam into Jupiter. Why didn't Jupiter ignite into a big sun when that happened? Because the Niburu prevented the ignition with their awesome mind control. But they didn't do it to protect us out of goodness. They did it to protect us as property. So, this dead astronaut was found in the Arabian dessert. And that's why.

Don't fall for the cover-ups. Read the teachings of Zecharaiah Sitchin. And prepare for the intergalactic battle with the Niburu. Our politicians, military and business men have sold us out, so it's up to us to get armed to the teeth and fight when the invasion force comes. One of the most imporatant weapons you can get right now is a telescope and some astrophotography gear. Print out the photos of the impending approach of Planet X and post them everywhere online and in real life. Make sure that everyone knows about the conspiracy. This ain't no time to go wastin' away in Margaritaville.

Re:The Shuttle Problems are a Sham (1)

Danathar (267989) | more than 8 years ago | (#13221057)

Wow...reading that was like going to the movies! If you had a paypal account I'd almost consider sending $7.50 for the satisfying read!

Kind of old news.... (1)

dschuetz (10924) | more than 8 years ago | (#13220959)

This has been discussed a lot lately, with a leak / release (I don't remember which) back in April. This article makes it sound like the official announcement is closer, and still close to the details we heard in April. For a good overview, here [wikipedia.org] is the WP entry.

What this essentially is saying is that NASA is deciding, now, that the booster for the next-gen vehicles will be Shuttle-derived. There'd been talk about using the Delta-4 instead. What this doesn't describe is the capsule itself (the Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) [wikipedia.org], which will get figured out next year.

Personally, I thought the Delta-4 approach showed a lot of promise, but I can see the argument for using current technology (engines, boosters, etc.) because of familiarity and the ability to more easily integrate it into the current assembly process. I'd bet that changing over to Delta hardware would require a lot more work at the VAB and on the pad (not that moving to this would be easy).

This stat HAS to be wrong (1)

ShieldWolf (20476) | more than 8 years ago | (#13220969)

From the article:

"Just as important, officials and private experts say, the small rocket for astronauts would be at least 10 times as safe as the shuttle, whose odds of disaster are estimated at roughly 1 in 100."

So the odds of a shuttle flight ending in disaster are 1 in 10!?!?

We've had two shuttle disasters, which by their calculations would mean we've had 20 flights. Columbia's fateful flight was number 113, the current one is 114. That has odds of less than two percent of a disaster by my reckoning.

Where did they get their numbers?

Re:This stat HAS to be wrong (1)

everphilski (877346) | more than 8 years ago | (#13220988)

I think you misread. The article says odds are 1 in 100. Shuttle odds (according to the engineers - the bese people to ask) are roughly 1/100. A little better than that, actually. The new shuttle derived vehicles are looking to be 1/400.

-everphilski-

Re:This stat HAS to be wrong (1)

goldspider (445116) | more than 8 years ago | (#13221002)

"So the odds of a shuttle flight ending in disaster are 1 in 10!?!?

FTFA: "..the shuttle, whose odds of disaster are estimated at roughly 1 in 100."

Mod parent -1: Poor Reading Comprehension Skills

I think you're used to "Slashdot grammar" (1)

flimflam (21332) | more than 8 years ago | (#13221019)

This sentence is actually intelligible to people who know proper English.

Just as important, officials and private experts say, the small rocket for astronauts would be at least 10 times as safe as the shuttle, whose odds of disaster are estimated at roughly 1 in 100.

The whose in this sentence refers to the Shuttle, meaning that it's the Shuttle which has 1 in 100 odds of disaster, not the replacement.
 

Re:This stat HAS to be wrong (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 8 years ago | (#13221050)

Simple, you count only the 20 flights that surround the two disasters.

Duh, don't you know anything about statistics? you can easily find data to support your point in anything.

Too Simple, Really (3, Interesting)

Spencerian (465343) | more than 8 years ago | (#13220976)

I know they're falling back to the Apollo-style basics here, but this is still, in some ways, compromising efficiency and performance in light of crew safety, which is important. However:

"A ship in a harbor is safe. But this is not what ships are built for."

I would be fine with the new design concepts if we use a Crew Return Vehicle design. One, it can carry more people and a small amount of cargo. Two, it can also be placed atop like an Apollo-style capsule. Three, it is more reusable. Think of it as a mini-Orbiter.

Reusing and readapting the ET/SRB devices is a frugal idea as well. We just need something to routine get up and back to the ISS. Perhaps we should also look into making an in-orbit shuttle that stays in space and can move between LEO, the ISS, and the moon.

Debris caused challenger disaster? (1)

Cocoronixx (551128) | more than 8 years ago | (#13220993)

FTA:
...as far as possible from the dangers of firing engines and falling debris, which were responsible for the accidents that destroyed the shuttle Challenger in 1986 and the Columbia in 2003.
Now, If I recall correctly, it was a faulty o-ring that caused a fuel leak, which was blamed on a managerial decision to go ahead with a launch in temperatures colder than all previous launches. The cold air caused the o-ring to be brittle and not seal properly. This is a pretty major fact screw up for the NYT! A reference with correct info:

http://www.engineering.com/content/ContentDisplay? contentId=41009024 [engineering.com]

Re:Debris caused challenger disaster? (1)

ausoleil (322752) | more than 8 years ago | (#13221017)

You are correct. Challenger's SSRB failure was caused by a faulty O-ring, the failure of which was caused by cold weather and temperature cycling. Basically, it was a materials engineering issue.


Amazing to me how many people seem to have an incorrect grasp on history.

Re:Debris caused challenger disaster? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13221055)

Actually, after hitting submit (as is always the case) the NYT artical does mention 'engines', but (in my defense :) they do make it seem offhand.

It looks like Star Trek! (1)

hexalite (904492) | more than 8 years ago | (#13221000)

The new design looks like something out of Star Trek, you have your warp engines at the bottom and on the side there, and now all you need is a frisbee shaped crew capsule! I can't wait to meet a Romulan female!

Debris fixation? (1)

iammaxus (683241) | more than 8 years ago | (#13221005)

It is very frustrating how people get fixated on the wrong things when something bad happens. As far as I know, debris falling from a spacecraft have caused 1 accident ever (someone please correct me if I'm wrong). That's out of hundreds of previous accidents. Though I'm sure the designs main goal was not to eliminate this problem, it annoys me how they try to sell it on that point.

Rather Disappointed (1)

Fringex (711655) | more than 8 years ago | (#13221009)

That the shuttle program is nearing its death date. All the money for building and design are basically being thrown away for a grand return to rockets.

Quite honestly it is upsetting to me that over the past 30 or so years of shuttle experimentation. That the best design they could come up with now is a beefed up Saturn V.

Final Landing of the Shuttle... (1)

haakondahl (893488) | more than 8 years ago | (#13221013)

...I'm surprised I haven't seen this elsewhere in the comments for the earlier stories--but does anyone else think the upcoming landing (fingers crossed!) will be the last one no matter how well it goes? Lots of people talking about if it goes poorly, but I will wager that even after a happy ending, in the attempt to chase down myriad problems to the new standard of acceptable risk, NASA will keep running up against the conceptual flaws in the Orbiter+Tank+Boosters design.
I'm not bagging on NASA--this stuff is dangerous no matter what, and they've done a yeoman's job keeping this rig upright, so to speak. But there have been some very bad priorities pushing development over there (external & internal).
Sorry, I'm tired and rambling, but I feel we may have seen the last Shuttle Launch.

Isn't the article a little premature? (1)

ctetc007 (875050) | more than 8 years ago | (#13221024)

I'm not sure, but I think it is. We are still in the competition phase for the new CEV (Crew Exploration Vehicle) contract, and the final award won't be presented until January of next year. The design shown in the NYT article is the one proposed by Northrop-Grumman, but Lockheed Martin is also developing a CEV, one that more resembles a space plane. You can read the article at http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/space/1534 782.html?page=1&c=y [popularmechanics.com] for more. It doesn't seem like they say much about how it's going to get into orbit though.

Bah! Humbug! (1)

burtdub (903121) | more than 8 years ago | (#13221039)

This sounds to me like a NASA conspiracy to generate exciting headlines. I even heard they've already sold the story rights to Ron Howard.

big dumb booster (1)

mattdm (1931) | more than 8 years ago | (#13221048)

This sounds a lot like the "Big Dumb Booster" design -- a big rocket made of repurposed shuttle parts -- from Stephen Baxter's hard sci-fi Manifold [livejournal.com] trilogy.

Nice to know someone at NASA is doing their reading. :)
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